Title: The Ghost of Christopher Robin
Author: Patti Murphy
Disclaimer: If I had thought up Mulder, Scully and AD Skinner myself, do you really think I would still have this day job? I don't think so. They really belong to Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions, but then, everybody knows that. No copyright infringement is intended. I have nothing to sue for anyway. Furthermore, all quotes from "Winnie-the-Pooh" are taken from the book by the same name, which belongs to A. A. Milne, as far as I know

Summary: A good old-fashioned ghost story, where the spook in question may be the ghost of someone who was blessed with a famous literary name.

" ...Eeyore was saying to himself, "This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it." -- from Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne.

No, not a "Winnie-the-Pooh-X-Files" crossover...it's really a good old fashioned ghost story, where the spook in question may be the ghost of someone who was blessed with a famous literary name. There's lots of Pooh references, buckets of UST, a mystery to solve, plenty of witty banter between our heroes and of course action, intrigue, thrills and chills. All this *and* the funky black coats.


"Christopher Robin was sitting outside his door, putting on
his Big Boots. As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew
that an Adventure was going to happen..."
-- from Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne


As soon as she had pushed open the door to Mulder's subterranean office and had taken in the darkened room and the whistling whine of the slide projector, she had known that they were on a case.

Only, she'd never expected this.

"Hey, Scully, I'm glad you're here. I was looking for you," Mulder said as she entered the murky office and shut the door.

"Yeah, I heard," she said. "What's up?"

Mulder's white shirt was almost glowing in the half-light, and Scully could see that he was leaning way back in his chair, his feet propped on his desk. He twirled a pencil absently.

"What does that look like to you?" he asked. He gestured towards the water-coloured slide image on the opposite wall, over a low bookcase that was sagging under the weight of piles of binders and files.

Scully's eyes warily left his face and travelled to the scene that was projected onto the wall. A staircase. Dark, highly polished wood. A spacious landing with an ornate Oriental rug. And a huge blob of light.

Her eyes flicked back to his face. He was checking her reaction.

She crossed her arms, sagged against the door and braced herself for the debate. "Well, it's indoors, so I'm assuming that you don't think it's a UFO," she said, not attempting to disguise the sarcasm.

He didn't say anything, just watched her steadily and waited.

She glanced back at the image, hovering there on the wall, feeling the first roots of annoyance taking hold. "It could be the reflection of the flash, or maybe a chemical reaction with the film in the developing process." She fixed her sights back on Mulder. "Maybe it's just somebody holding a really big flashlight."

"But what does it look like?" Mulder asked.

She let her eyes wander over the image again, then she looked back at Mulder, her face blank, her tone flat. "It looks like a light."

He was up out of his seat, now. "Don't you see the outline of a face?" he asked, tracing his finger along some faint gradations in the light, looking back over his shoulder at her, his expression earnest. "See? Right there?"

She didn't bother to look again. "No," she said, "I don't see a face there."

He framed a section of the picture with his two hands. "Right there," he insisted. "A nose...a chin? Do you see it now?"

"No, but last night when I was standing in line at the supermarket, I did notice a tabloid headline that said that the Hubble telescope had taken a photograph of heaven." She smirked. "I almost got it for you." In the light from the projector's beam, she saw a grin tug at Mulder's mouth.

"You really don't see the face, do you?" he asked, standing back from the wall to study the slide.

"Sorry, Mulder, I don't."

He picked up the remote and flipped slowly through three more shots of the brilliant blob of light, but in other settings. By a window. In a corner, near an open door. In a hallway. All shapeless bursts of light, like something had misted the lens.

"Are you going to keep me in suspense much longer, Mulder, or are you going to tell me what this is about?"

"Have you ever heard of Henry Friar?" he asked.

"The writer?" Her eyebrows went up. "What does this have to do with him?"

"He took these pictures in his home, just outside of Newnham, Massachusetts." He looked over at her, his expression as neutral as ever. "He thinks it's a ghost."

"A ghost?" She rolled her eyes. "The world's most prolific writer of horror stories thinks he has a ghost living in his house?"

"Technically, Stephen King is more prolific, and I think they prefer the term `speculative fiction'..."

She cocked an eyebrow at him. "He wouldn't happen to have a book coming out soon, would he?"

"A hardcover in April, a paperback in May and a movie in June. The sequel to `The Corpse'. Apparently it's going to be scarier than the first one."

Scully leaned her head against the door. "Mulder, can't you see what's happening here? He's using this to get some free publicity for his book, and if the Bureau approved the 302 on this, they're just trying to give you enough rope so that you can save them the trouble and hang yourself."

"You're wrong, Scully," he replied, studying the watery image on the wall. "There was no 302."

"Then this hasn't been authorized?"

"Actually it has. Apparently, Henry Friar has some influential friends in Washington, who put him in contact with me. We have everybody's off-the-record approval, but there's no paperwork."

She frowned. "His friends must be very influential."

"And he specifically requested that this be kept quiet. He wants to avoid any publicity." Mulder gave her a steady look. "He insisted on it."

Her frown gave way to a scowl. "So we're supposed to go running up to Massachusetts on Bureau time?" She waved her hand in the direction of the light. "On the basis of a few fogged pieces of film?"

"There's more." He pointed to a file on the corner of his desk.

Scully sighed, and didn't move for a moment, knowing that in crossing the room she was somehow committing to being part of this ridiculous project. Of course, the best way to prove that this was in fact ridiculous and not worthy of an investigation was to debate away whatever evidence Mulder thought he had. She shook her head and sighed again, trying to remember why it was that she'd agreed to leave the labs at Quantico, then strode across to Mulder's desk, her pumps clicking loudly on the tile floor, punctuating her annoyance.

The file contained more pictures of the light, less mysterious somehow in black and white eight by tens. There were also some negatives and a police report on a fire.

The letterhead from the Hammersmith County Coroner's Office caught her eye.

"An autopsy?" She looked up at Mulder, but he was still staring at the projected image like it was communicating the secrets of the universe directly to him.

She skimmed the coroner's report.

"The deceased was Christopher Robin Friar, age twenty four," she said. "Is that his son?"

Mulder nodded.

"Christopher Robin?" Scully stifled a smile. "As in, Winnie-the-Pooh?" Uttering those words, standing here in the basement of FBI headquarters, somehow made her feel very silly.

"His mother, Henry's first wife, was a professor of English, with a specialty in children's literature and an apparent fondness for A.A. Milne." Mulder continued to stare at the picture. "I'll bet that Christopher Robin Friar got his share of bloody noses in the schoolyard over that name."

"Are you speaking from experience....Fox?"

He acknowledged her with the softest chuckle, but didn't look over. She went back to the report.

"It says here that his death was ruled a suicide. He took an overdose of amitriptyline."

"What is that, exactly?" Mulder asked.

"A tricyclic anti-depressant. It's commonly prescribed to treat depression."

"Well, in this case, it appears that the treatment was less than effective because he killed himself at his father's house six weeks ago. Strange things began happening right after that."

"Strange things?" She leaned against his desk.

"Unexplained sounds, objects out of place, apparitions like these lights. Your average classic haunting." He grinned slyly. "Or if you prefer the scientific term used by the American Society for Psychical Research, your average localized psi effect."

She ignored the jab. "So how does this involve us?"

"Well, after the first two weeks, the classic haunting wasn't so classic, anymore. There was an unexplained fire in the kitchen. No one was hurt, but the fire investigators still aren't sure what caused it. Shortly after that, Friar's second wife, Jill Shepard, woke up, choking and coughing as if someone had been strangling her. Four nights ago, Ms. Shepard was pushed down a flight of stairs. She suffered a concussion and a sprained wrist. There was no one else on the stairs with her at the time."

"Sounds like one very disgruntled poltergeist," Scully said.

"I'd say you were correct, except the literature shows that poltergeist hauntings tend to be diurnal," Mulder said.

"The literature also shows that these episodes of poltergeist activity or `recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis` as it's referred to in the research journals, tend to cease as soon as any paranormal research team shows up, suggesting that the reported phenomenon was either exaggerated or a hoax."

Mulder pulled his eyes away from the slide to look at her. He pointed the remote in her direction. "You've been studying," he said.

She allowed the slightest smile. "My father always said the best tactic was to know your opponent better than he knows himself."

Mulder clutched one hand to his chest, and tried to look wounded.

"So what are you expecting to find, Mulder?"

"I don't know yet. Maybe nothing." He turned off the slide projector and the room slipped further into darkness. "But you have to admit that it's intriguing, Scully."

She was already headed for the light switch by the door, unaccountably anxious to turn on the cold overhead fluorescents.

"You don't actually think that the tortured spirit of Christopher Robin Friar is haunting his father's house, do you?"

"Maybe. I think we'll know more when we find out why he killed himself." Mulder bent over the slide carousel and jiggled it loose from the projector. Scully watched him work, processing the fact that they were going to visit a haunted house in Newnham, Massachusetts.

"You know, these people don't need the FBI. What they really need is an exorcist," she said. "Know any priests, Mulder?"

He looked up from the projector and gave her his best enigmatic look.

"I might surprise you Scully," he said.

She felt herself smile, hoped that her admiration wasn't too evident. "You always do, Mulder. You always do."


"Going on an Expotition?" asked Pooh, eagerly. "I don't
think I've ever been on one of those. Where are we going on
this Expotition?"

"Expedition, silly old Bear. It's got an X in it."

"Oh," said Pooh. "I know." But he didn't really.

-- from Winnie-the-Pooh


"Yeah?"

The woman's voice crackled over the intercom, tinny and thin.

"Special Agents Mulder and Scully to see Henry Friar," Mulder said, leaning out the car window and directing his words to the little metal box.

"Oh, right. Yeah. Come on in."

The metal latch on the wrought iron gate clicked loudly and the gate drifted open. Mulder drove through.

It had been a twenty minute drive from Newnham, a small college town. Streets of undergraduates on bicycles and rollerblades had quickly given way to bare farmland and trees that were still dreaming of leaves. Here and there, the ghosts of snowbanks held their ground by the side of the road, stubbornly refusing to melt. The sky was a bowl of dead grey, uncertain as to whether or not it should rain. Spring had not yet gotten a foothold in New England.

The grounds of Henry Friar's home were carefully manicured, but everything looked dead, like it was holding its breath and waiting for the warm touch of the sun. Scully watched out her window as they drove towards the house, spotting what looked like a huge orchard of fruit trees off to the right.

Mulder's whistle pulled her attention back to the scene ahead of them.

"If this place isn't haunted, it should be," he said.

The house was huge, a Tudor style with a field stone foundation, and massive leaded windows on all floors. Scully studied it, found herself wondering how you could ever have enough furniture to fill it.

Mulder parked the car and they rang the bell. A few moments later, it was opened by a tiny woman in jeans and a sweatshirt. She had short, dark hair that curled a little around her ears and coffee coloured eyes that darted back and forth between the two agents, taking everything in, with a sceptical look.

"So, you must be the ghostbusters," she said.

Scully felt herself cringe as she held up her badge for inspection. The woman waved them off.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure you're who you say you are," she said, ushering them in. "I'm Ainsley Wallace. I'm Henry's researcher, personal assistant and all round gopher. Henry's been expecting you."

She shut the door and led them down the hall at a fair clip, past several rooms. Scully glanced in as they passed a very formal sitting room and what looked like a library. Ainsley stopped at a set of French doors, rapped quickly with a knuckle, then entered.

"Henry, your Feds are here," she announced.

Henry Friar looked up from his computer screen, then got to his feet. He crossed the room, hand extended, warm smile in place. "Agent Mulder?" he asked. "Thank you so much for coming."

Mulder shook his hand, then gestured to Scully.

"This is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully."

They shook hands. Henry Friar was a gentle looking man, with pale blue eyes and a flushed complexion that suggested he either had high blood pressure or drank too much. What little hair he had was mostly grey, and he wore chinos, a button down shirt and a pair of worn topsiders without socks. A paunch was starting to grow over his belt.

Friar motioned for them to sit down. "Can I get you something? Coffee?" he asked.

"That would be fine," Scully said. Mulder nodded.

"I'll send Eddie," Ainsley said and then she was gone.

Friar waited until Scully and Mulder had settled into armchairs before he sat down opposite them on the sofa. The room where they sat was large, with palatial ceilings, and Scully spotted four or five pieces that she was sure were fine antiques. A massive leaded window overlooked a hibernating garden. Directly opposite was a fieldstone fireplace, where a fire had been lit to fight the chill. Scully decided she was glad she'd kept her coat. The chill was winning.

"I can't express my gratitude to you for accepting this case," Friar said. "I didn't know who else to turn to." He studied both Mulder and Scully for a moment, as if he was reading something on their faces. "I've heard that you're very good... at this sort of thing."

Mulder moved his head in what might have been a nod.

"My friends assured me that this would be kept in the strictest confidence," he continued, glancing back and forth between Mulder and Scully. "There are people who would have a field day with this, what with Chris's death and all. I just don't have the stomach for it. It's been hard enough as it is. I don't want to have to beat the tabloid press off my front door any more. Bunch of damn vultures..." He ran his hand over his face, wearily. "And now with Jill getting hurt...well, I just didn't know what else to do."

The French doors opened and a man whisked into the room, wiping his hands on a checkered dish towel. He was tall and very thin, with close-cropped silver hair and dark eyes that settled only briefly on Scully as he entered, gracing her with a polite smile and nod, before tracking the room until they stopped dead on Mulder.

"This is Eddie Glassman," Friar said. "He's our cook. Eddie, Agents Scully and Mulder."

"Hello." He had a smooth, deep voice that sounded like he was about to quote Shakespeare.

Scully guessed that he was probably over fifty but extremely well preserved. She watched him long enough to realize that Eddie's gaze was resting squarely on Mulder. He had that look that people get when they see something that they like.

"Ainsley said you might like some coffee. Can I get you anything else?" he asked.

Friar waved a hand. "Whatever you've got."

He nodded. "I'll throw something together," he said, then left.

Scully glanced at Mulder, checking to see if he'd caught Eddie's gaze, but Mulder was already focussed on Friar.

"Mr. Friar, you mentioned your son's death. Is that when things first started happening?"

Friar nodded, a tiredness descending on him, suddenly. "I was away when Chris...when they found him. I got home the very next day and that's when it started."

"What sort of things did you first notice?"

"Sounds, mostly. Footsteps. Assorted bangs. But it's a very big, very old house and I think we sort of dismissed them. The first really weird thing happened the day after Chris's funeral. I was sitting in my office, which is at the back of the house. The house was very quiet and I was the only one home. I was just sitting there in my chair, having a drink, and I heard these footsteps, like someone was running upstairs through the hall. At first it didn't register, because it didn't seem out of place, but then it hit me." He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "You know how you learn the rhythm of somebody's footsteps? When you live with them, and you hear them all the time? You come to recognize the syncopation...you can tell who it is before they come in the room?"

Mulder nodded.

"It just hit me. It didn't seem out of place because it was Chris. It was Chris, running up the stairs and down the hall to his room." He lingered in the memory for a moment, then sank back into the sofa. "Of course, I checked all the rooms, and there was nobody here but me."

"What other sorts of sounds have you heard?"

"Sometimes there's laughter. Like a little kid laughing. Sometimes it sounds like there's more than one child."

"Are these phenomenon restricted to certain areas of the house, or do you observe them all over?" Scully asked.

"Well, the fire was in the kitchen, but mostly the noises have sounded like they were on the second and third floors."

"What about the apparitions?"

Friar drew in a deep breath before he answered. "Those are just about always on the third floor. And always at night."

"Are there ever any other phenomenon that occur with them? Sounds? Changes in temperature?" Mulder asked.

He shook his head. "Not that I've noticed, but to tell you the truth, they kind of rattled us, so we might not have noticed."

"Has anything else been happening?" Mulder asked. He was leaned forward now, watching Friar intently.

"Oh, there are always doors slamming somewhere in the house. One morning we got up and all the pictures on the second floor had fallen off their hooks. And then of course, there's Edward."

Scully gave him a questioning look. "The cook?"

"Oh, no, no. Not Eddie. I mean Edward Bear. He's a teddy bear that Chris had as a child. His mother bought it for him the day that she found out she was pregnant. He always slept with it when he was a little boy. Anyway, a few days after Chris died, we started finding Edward in strange places. On my desk. In the kitchen cupboards. All over the house, really." He massaged his neck with one hand. "At first, it was kind of intriguing...you know, where will we find Edward today?"

"But then...?" Mulder prompted.

Friar blew out a frustrated breath. "Then, the night that Jill fell down the stairs, after I got back from the hospital, I found the damn bear on the landing, right where she'd fallen."

Scully eyed him carefully. "Mr. Friar, are you telling us that you think the teddy bear had something to do with your wife falling down the stairs?"

Friar shook his head, chuckled a little. "No, I don't think that Edward pushed her, if that's what you're asking. But it was eerie finding him there." He examined their expressions, measured what he saw. "I know how crazy this sounds," he said.

Mulder's nod was perfunctory.

"You seem to feel, Mr. Friar, that this is in some way connected with your son. Why is that?"

Friar stared at the fire, gathering his thoughts for a long time before he answered. Somewhere in the house, a clock chimed the hour, adding to the mausoleum feeling. Scully rubbed her hands together and wished they'd turn up the heat a little.

"It's hard to describe, really," Friar said. "There's an intangible element to it. This presence just feels familiar somehow." He rubbed his face with both hands, dry-washing away his fatigue. "And then there's the fact that it has zeroed in on Jill."

Scully sat forward. "How do you mean?"

"She was the only one in the house the day the fire started. And then the next week, it tried to choke her in her sleep." He shook his head. "By then, she was terrified. She didn't want to stay in the house alone. I told her she was overreacting." He looked squarely at them, his eyes showing a mixture of sadness and anger. "But the night it pushed her down the stairs...well, that convinced me."

"Did you witness this...thing...push Ms Shepard down the stairs?" Scully asked.

He nodded. "I was standing at the bottom. One minute she was walking down the stairs and then the next minute, she just suddenly flung forward as if someone had taken a run at her." He shook his head ruefully. "She could have broken her neck."

Eddie breezed into the room with a huge tray laden with cups, a carafe of coffee and plates of fruit and cookies. He laid everything out on the low coffeetable between them, then poured them each a cup of strong, dark coffee. Scully sipped immediately at the steaming liquid, then wrapped her cold hands gratefully around the cup. Once everything had been arranged and fussed over, Eddie surveyed his handiwork.

"If there's anything else that you need, just let me know," he said. Scully was certain that his last little smile was directed at Mulder. She glanced over at her partner, and saw that he was not only oblivious to Eddie's attention, but that he was ignoring the cup of coffee in front of him, eager to continue listening to Friar.

"So, how exactly does that connect these events with your son?" Mulder was asking.

"Chris didn't get along very well with Jill..." he began, then stopped and frowned. "To be completely truthful, he hated her. Did everything he could to make her life miserable."

"How long ago did you first meet Ms Shepard?" Mulder asked.

"About five years after Emily died. I was in bad shape. Drinking too much, not even writing by then. Emily had been my whole life. When she died, it was like there was no reason to get up in the morning anymore. Jill gave me that reason again."

"How did Chris cope with his mother's death?" Scully asked.

"He was devastated. They were very close. Emily had given up her position at the college when Chris was born so that she could stay home with him. They had a bond that I don't pretend to understand, even now. Emily used to say that we were all very old souls, who'd travelled together a long time." His face softened as he spoke, the pale blue eyes smiling sadly at the memory.

"How did your wife die, Mr. Friar?" Scully asked.

"Leukemia. They did everything they could to treat it, but it ravaged her in a matter of months. It was all very hard on Chris. When he turned thirteen, he started to really fall apart. By the time I met Jill, he was completely uncontrollable. Doing drugs, going out and not coming back for days. I tried threats, shrinks, private schools...but nothing helped." He looked down at his coffee cup, studied the contents, as he spoke. "I don't know. I've always felt guilty about it. Emily would've known how to handle him." He looked up from his cup suddenly, dragging himself back to the present. "Anyway, when he was eighteen, he just left one day and didn't come back. I tried to find him, filed a missing person's report, hired investigators...nothing. Then one day last fall, he called from San Francisco. Sobbing on the phone, wanting to know if he could come home. I flew out to get him, put him in a rehab clinic the next day. He'd been clean and sober for four months when he killed himself."

The fire in the hearth snapped loudly in the silence that followed, while Henry Friar contemplated what he'd just said. Scully and Mulder waited.

"We were doing well, you know? Working things out. He was talking about going to college in the fall. He'd been playing some pickup rugby with some kids from the college..." His voice trailed off and he lowered his eyes. When he raised them again, they were brimming with sadness. "I had just gotten my son back and then I lost him again." He tried to sip his coffee, lowered the cup again, stared at it. "I can't help but think that this is some sort of punishment for being a terrible father."

There was a sharp rap on the door, and Ainsley's head poked through.

"Henry, I'm sorry to interrupt but I've got Bruce on the phone, threatening to have an embolism if he doesn't speak to you right away," she said. "Want me to tell him to go ahead and blow a blood vessel?"

Friar's shoulders slumped. "Lawyers," he said, apologetically, to Mulder and Scully. "I'd better take it."

"Mind if we have a look around?" Mulder was already on his feet, chomping at the bit. Scully reluctantly put down her coffee and stood up.

"Sure, sure. Go ahead," Friar said, as he moved towards the phone. "Do you want Ainsley to show you around?"

"No, that's fine. We'll just wander around," Mulder answered, his hand at Scully's elbow.

"The kitchen's at the back, and that's where I'll be if you need anything," Ainsley said, once they were in the spacious hallway. "But right now, I've gotta go. I've got some faxes coming in, and if I leave Eddie alone with the fax machine, there's no telling what he'll do." She started to move, then paused, as if she was drawn back to them. "So you guys are really cops? I mean, the FBI really investigates this kind of shit?"

Scully felt herself hovering somewhere between amused and annoyed. "Strange, but true," she said, with a sigh.

Ainsley looked them both over again, eyes twinkling, a grin spreading on her face. "Amazing," she said, before she turned and sprinted down the hall.

 


It took thirty minutes to complete a full circuit of the second and third floors. Scully counted eight bedrooms, each with a bathroom, in addition to a variety of other sitting rooms. One of the bedrooms was easily identifiable as Chris's room -- a strange combination of items from his childhood, adolescence and adulthood. A Boston Red Sox pennant hung alongside posters of a rock group that Scully couldn't name. The bookcase held dozens of science-fiction and fantasy books and a dog eared player's guide to Dungeons and Dragons. One whole shelf was devoted to books on body-building and nutrition. Scully slid out a volume and absently leafed through several pages on tricep isolating exercises, then stuck it back in place.

Mulder appeared in the doorway, stood on the threshold and surveyed the room.

"Is this where they found him?" he asked.

"I think so," Scully said. She picked up the file with the police report from the bed where she'd left it when she'd entered. "Yeah, it is. Ms. Shepard said that she peeked into his room before she left for a late luncheon date and that she saw him lying on the bed. She thought that he was sleeping, so she didn't disturb him. When she came back, around six p.m., and she realized that he hadn't moved, she became concerned. That's when she discovered that he was dead."

"No one else was home?" Mulder asked. He was in the room now, running his hands over the bedside table, peering in drawers.

"No. Friar was on a publicity tour on the west coast, Ainsley was with him, and it was Eddie's day off."

She sat down on the edge of the bed and watched Mulder prowl around the room. He picked up a framed photograph and studied it, then turned it towards Scully.

"Christopher Robin and his mother?" he asked.

Emily Friar looked positively ethereal, Scully decided. Long wavy red hair, green eyes and milky skin. Her long, slender arms were wrapped around a fiery-haired little boy. They were laughing conspiratorially at something, maybe the photographer.

"You know, something doesn't make sense here, Mulder," Scully said, leaning an elbow on her crossed legs. "Chris Friar was a grown man. Everything we've heard about this ghost so far has made it sound like a child."

Mulder paused, a desk drawer ajar, and shot a look at his partner.

"Careful, Scully. You're talking about this ghost as if you believe it exists." He rooted around in the drawer then shut it. "You attributing motives to it. Next, you'll be psychoanalysing it."

She directed her scowl at him. "Don't push your luck, Mulder. I'm already here under protest," she said.

"Noted." He continued wandering around the room, touching objects, peering at trophies, books, posters. "But hypothetically speaking, we're all really just children walking around in grown up bodies, aren't we?"

"Some of us more than others," she said, drily.

He either ignored it, or didn't realize who she meant. "Think about it, Scully," he went on, "when we're most stressed or depressed, what do we do? We revert to childish ways, we seek out some familiar stimulus from our happy childhood days and try to recapture the security and love that we felt."

Scully watched him run his hand along the shelf of body- building books and wondered what Mulder could possibly know about a happy childhood.

"Cinnamon toast," she said, softly.

He gave her a sidelong glance. "Beg your pardon?"

"Cinnamon toast," she repeated, with a self-conscious chuckle. "When I was little, if I was sick or just feeling miserable, my mother would make me cinnamon toast, with brown sugar. It always made me feel better, somehow." She looked over at Mulder, saw that he was listening attentively. "Now whenever I come home from a really bad day, I go straight to my kitchen and make myself some cinnamon toast."

She waited for him to spar with her, braced herself for a the next volley of teasing. But he only nodded slightly and turned back to the bookshelf. Had he looked sad or was she imagining it?

"So am I to understand that your theory is that the ghost of the grown up Chris Friar is homesick and has come back here to recapture the halcyon days of his childhood?" she asked.

He turned to face her, hands on his hips and nodded. "That's my theory for the moment. You got a better one?"

"Not yet," she said, getting to her feet and gracing him with a smile, "but that one shouldn't be too hard to beat."

She caught him smiling just before she turned and strode out.


"Well," said Owl, "the customary procedure in such cases is
as follows."

"What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?" said Pooh. "For I
am a Bear of Very Little Brain and long words Bother me."

"It means the Thing to Do."

"As long as it means that, I don't mind," said Pooh humbly.

-- from Winnie-the-Pooh


Mulder spent the afternoon walking through the major incidents with Friar, going over the details again and again, then drawing up extensive floor plans that meticulously documented the various lights, sounds and events. Scully worked in the sitting room where they'd first met with Friar, her Powerbook connected, as if by umbilical cord, to the massive databases at FBI headquarters. She did search after search on Henry Friar and anyone else she could think of who was connected with him, downloading the larger files to disk to read more carefully later. She was just pulling up Edward Glassman's records at the DMV when Mulder swept into the room to discuss some possible locations for the night's stakeout. Although Mulder's expression suggested to her that food was a foreign and unnecessary concept at this point, Scully was starting to feel the lack of lunch. The debate was short and she won. First a motel to freshen up, and then some supper.

They arrived back at the Friar residence at seven, having registered at the Minute Man Motor Lodge in Newnham and having eaten supper at some fast food establishment that was crawling with college students. There was a silver Mercedes parked in the circular drive in front of the house when they arrived. Scully noticed, as she got out of their rental car, that the dull twilight made the house seem dead and empty. There was no light slipping through the curtained windows, welcoming them in from the evening chill. She was glad she'd brought an extra sweater with her this time. It promised to be a long, cold night.

Ainsley answered the door.

"Is that your car?" Mulder asked, jerking a thumb in the direction of the sleek machine parked next to their very practical Taurus.

The tiny woman rolled her eyes at him. "I wish," she said, as she swung the huge front door shut. "She Who Must Be Obeyed is back." She caught Scully's uncertain look and added, "Jill's home."

Mulder regarded her with an amused look. "I take it you and Ms. Shepard don't exchange coffee cake recipes?"

Ainsley snorted. "Do I look like I have a coffee cake recipe?" Her expression changed suddenly as she took in their jeans and jackets. "Hey, does J. Edgar Hoover know that you're out of uniform?"

"Actually, I'm quite certain that Mr. Hoover would approve of what I'm wearing," Mulder said, his face immobile. "I've got pantyhose underneath these jeans."

Ainsley barely cracked a smile. "A federal employee with a sense of humour. What will they think of next?" She shook her head. "Come on, I'll take you to see Henry and the little woman."

She led them back to the sitting room at her usual pace. This time, she knocked and waited for a muffled answer from within before she pushed open the door.

"Your ghost cops are back," she said.

Friar was on his feet, struggling to keep a convincing smile on his face. "Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, this is my wife, Jill," he was saying.

The woman sitting on the sofa got to her feet and Scully suddenly felt very short and frumpy. Jill Shepard was a statuesque woman, thin but amply curved, with long ash blonde hair and perfectly sculpted features. She clutched a fistful of sodden tissues and Scully took the tiniest comfort in the fact that her makeup had been ruined by her tears. A supermodel having a rough day.

Jill pulled herself together and shook Mulder's hand, then Scully's, giving them each an embarrassed little smile.

"I'm sorry," she said, fiddling with the tissues, "I must look a mess."

Scully noticed that Mulder gave her a reassuring look.

"Jill is feeling a little uneasy about staying in the house," Friar said. He looked anxious himself, hovering there, rubbing his hands together.

"I can understand why," Mulder said in that sleepy voice that made him sound like he was just about to nod off. "You've been through some rather upsetting experiences here lately."

Scully saw the creases in Jill Shepard's face start to smooth out, watched as her partner's voice soothed and calmed her. Scully wanted to smile. He'd have made a great therapist.

"You think there's something to this, don't you?" Jill asked, wadding the tissues up some more. "I mean, you wouldn't be here if you didn't think there was a... that we have a ..."

"Ghost?" Mulder smiled gently.

She nodded sheepishly.

"You're right, my partner and I think there is something worth investigating, or else we wouldn't be here. But we need to gather as much information as we can before we make any determinations." He gestured for her to sit down, took the armchair across from her. "It would be very helpful if you could tell us what you've seen and heard."

She was watching Mulder with wide eyes now, hypnotized by his voice. Scully shifted from foot to foot, wanting to sit down, but not wanting to interrupt the rhythm that Mulder had established. She opted for silently edging closer to the fireplace, where she could warm herself.

For the next half hour, Jill talked and wept, Friar paced and looked worried, and Mulder nodded slowly, inserting a gentle question every so often. Scully watched the flames lick at the fieldstone hearth and listened. Jill recounted how she'd woken up with icy hands clutching at her throat, squeezing the life out of her. How she always felt like something was watching her, following her from room to room. How, the second before she'd been pushed down the stairs, she'd known that someone was on the landing with her.

"Can you describe what that felt like?" Mulder asked.

"It was strange," she said, knotting her fingers together in her lap. "You know how you can walk into a room sometimes and there's been an argument and you just know it? It's like you can still feel the anger in the air."

Mulder considered this a moment. "Did you sense anger from this presence?"

Scully shifted and fought the urge to roll her eyes.

Jill nodded. "Yes," she said. "Whatever it is, it's very angry with me."

"Like Chris was?"

Scully turned at Mulder's question, to watch Jill Shepard's face.

The woman's shoulders slumped and she closed her eyes, wrestled with a sob. "Yes," she whispered. "Just like Chris."

Friar strode over and sat down next to her, quickly wrapping his arms around her, mumbling soothing words to her.

Mulder waited, eyes downcast. Scully turned back to the fireplace, held her hands closer to the flames.

Jill pulled away from her husband's arms and ripped more tissues from the box on the coffeetable, desperately trying to compose herself.

Friar sighed heavily. "Jill feels....responsible for Chris's suicide," he said.

"How so?"

"I was certain that he was off his medication," she said, as she wiped her eyes with the tissue. "I just knew he wasn't taking it. But he hated me so much that I figured if I said anything to him, he'd just explode and leave again." She took a shaky breath and pulled herself back together. "I was going to tell Henry about it the next day. He was on a book tour and I didn't want to worry him, but I needed to know what to do."

"What medication was he on?" Mulder asked.

"Elavil," Friar replied, his eyes on his wife. "Chris had terrible depressions. The drugs helped a lot, especially since he'd been out of rehab."

"If I'd told you sooner, there might have been something you could have done," Jill said. She teetered on the brink of tears.

Mulder waited until she'd gotten a grip on herself again. "Ms. Shepard, why do you think Chris was so angry with you? Did he ever talk about it?"

She smiled sadly and looked down at her hands. "He always said it was one thing or another, but the fact is that I wasn't his mother." She looked up and met Mulder's eyes. "His mother was dead and I was alive. I think that's mostly what it was."

Mulder nodded thoughtfully.

"Do you think you can find out what this thing is?" There was desperation in her voice. "I mean, can you make it go away?"

Scully's eyes flicked to Mulder's face, waited for his reply.

"We'll see what we can find out," he said.

Jill Shepard did not look reassured.

Mulder walked Scully to the door of Chris's bedroom.

"Henry said that there's been a lot of activity in and near this room," Mulder said. "I think it makes sense to cover it."

"And what am I supposed to do again if I run into this ghost?" Scully asked, as she pushed the door open and flicked on the light. "Hold him for questioning? Read him his rights?"

"I'll go up to the third floor," Mulder continued, but she could hear the smile in his voice. "I'm going to set up in the hallway with a clear view of the stairs."

She put her Powerbook down on the desk, dropped her briefcase on the bed. He was still standing in the doorway, watching her.

"Don't you find this the least bit intriguing?" he asked, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

She shook her head as she slipped off her jacket. "Not really."

"Then why did you come?" he asked. "Are you just humouring me?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am," she replied. She leaned against the desk and crossed her arms. "It's in my job description."

Mulder shook his head in good-humoured disgust. "I'll see you later. Shout if you see anything."

"You'll be the first to know," she said. She listened to his soft footsteps recede down the hall and she realized that it had never occurred to her not to come with him.


Scully read the files that she'd downloaded until her eyes stung from squinting at her computer screen. She tried reading without her glasses for a while, but that only made it worse.

She glanced at her watch. Eleven forty. Time for a break.

She padded quietly down the hall and climbed the stairs to the third floor. Mulder was sitting at the end of the hall, in an antique armchair with ornate carved legs. A file was open on his lap and he held a bag of sunflower seeds in one hand. A camera and a handheld tape recorder lay on the floor beside him.

He glanced up hopefully as she appeared. "Anything?"

"Not a sound," she said and watched his expression fade. "I was just going to go down and make myself a cup of tea. Can I get you something?"

"No, I'm fine. Thanks anyway."

She paused, feeling the slightest tug to stay and talk, but he was already turning his attention back to the file, cracking another seed.

She headed back down the stairs, shaking her head.

The kitchen was silent and dimly lit by a single fixture that hung over the huge island in the center of the room. She looked around in the half light, located a bright red kettle on the range, filled it with water and set it to boil. It was a huge, well-appointed kitchen that made Scully feel like she was standing in a spread from Architectural Digest. Stainless steel appliances, hand carved cupboards and splashes of expensive colours. She found the tea pot easily enough, but had to go rooting for a cup and saucer.

Suddenly, the stark overhead lights snapped on.

She gasped before she could stop herself and spun around. Eddie stood just inside the door, his hand on the light switch.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," he said.

Scully dismissed his apology with a wave and tried to find her voice. "That's all right," she said. "I was just ... looking for a tea cup."

Eddie tightened the belt on his bathrobe, then moved through the kitchen with obvious relief. "Here," he said, "let me. It'll give me something to do." He opened a cupboard, got down two cups and saucers, then pulled down several boxes of cookies. "All this waiting around for the next disaster. It's driving me crazy."

Scully leaned against the counter beside him, watched his precise, efficient movements. There was something slightly aristocratic about him, maybe a trace of an English accent. Like he was an actor cast in the role of the gentleman's gentleman. "Have you witnessed any of the ...events?" she asked.

"Enough of them to know that something's going on," he said, arranging cookies on a plate.

"Something. But not necessarily a ghost?" Scully asked.

Eddie glanced over at her, tried to measure her expression. "You're really FBI?" he asked, incredulously.

Scully sighed. "Afraid so."

"I had no idea that you investigated things like this. I thought you people ran around chasing gangsters and terrorists."

"Well, there are different branches within the Bureau. Mulder and I tend to be assigned some of the more unusual cases," she replied. She watched him fussing with the cookies. "You didn't say what you think might account for the strange noises and lights."

He paused and took a deep breath. "I'm not somebody who believes in this sort of thing. I mean, I read my horoscope. But this..." He sighed. "You can feel it. There's something here."

Scully waited, her face impassive, while he re-sealed the boxes of cookies.

"I wasn't here the night that Jill was being choked but I was here when she fell down the stairs. And I've heard the footsteps. The little kids laughing."

"See any lights?"

He shook his head. "No, but that's mostly because I avoid the third floor like the plague. I have rooms just off the kitchen and I tend to stay down here."

He carried the plate of cookies over to the island and pulled a couple of stools out for them to sit on. Scully sat down and helped herself to a chocolate cookie. The kettle sang and Eddie went to snatch it off the burner.

He glanced over his shoulder at her, clouds of steam rising from the teapot. "Chris and I had started a midnight tea ritual," he said, with a sad smile. "When he was first home from rehab, he was having trouble sleeping. He used to slip down here and we'd have tea and talk." He put the kettle back on the range. "It was nice. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed him."

"How long have you worked for Mr. Friar?" Scully asked, nibbling at her cookie.

"I started just after Emily got pregnant with Chris," he said. "I had been working at the faculty club of the college and got to know Emily there. When she and Henry decided that they wanted somebody to live in and cook for them, she approached me. Made me a generous offer. I couldn't refuse."

He brought their cups over to the island, then the teapot. He climbed up on the other stool.

"I've been like part of the family, I guess. Some sort of twisted old uncle." He picked up a cookie, but didn't eat it. "I watched Chris grow up, I watched Emily die, and then I watched Henry and Chris both go right off the deep end." He shook his head. "And now Chris taking his life. I still can't believe it."

"Henry says that he suffered from depressions," Scully said. She helped herself to an Oreo and fought the urge to open it and eat the icing first.

"Something terrible, poor kid. But the drugs really seemed to be helping. He was really coming around. He'd even put back on a little weight. He was trying to get back up to his rugby weight." He tried to smile, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "He had me making all these protein shakes for him and he was forever dousing everything he ate with all these vitamins and concoctions. In fact, the morning of the day they found him, I'd left a huge lunch for him to eat for when he came back from his game."

"I thought you were off that day," Scully said.

Eddie reached for the teapot. "I was, but I'd stayed here the night before. I was on my way into town later, but I made him lunch first and left it in the fridge because I knew he'd be starving." He filled the dainty china cup with tea and handed it to Scully. "I can't believe that he was getting ready to kill himself." He poured tea into his own cup then sat there, staring at the amber liquid. Scully sipped her tea and waited for the warmth to spread within her. God, why didn't they turn up the heat in this place?

"Ms. Shepard thinks that these events have something to do with Chris," Scully said, wrapping her hands around her cup. "She said that Chris really hated her."

Eddie stirred out of his reverie. "They didn't get along," he said quietly.

"What about you?"

He met her eyes, looked startled. "Me?"

"Would you say that you and Ms. Shepard get along well?"

Scully studied his face as he considered his tea again, searched carefully for his words.

"She's very particular about things, but we get along fine," he said. There was something tightly reigned in about his voice. "She's just not Emily."

"What about Ainsley?" Scully asked. "She didn't strike me as being terribly fond of Ms. Shepard."

Eddie's face softened into a teasing grin. "Agent Scully, is this an interrogation? Should I be contacting my attorney?"

Scully smiled sheepishly, and grabbed another cookie. "It's more of a fishing expedition than an interrogation," she admitted. Eddie chuckled. "Well, then let me tell you that the good Lord himself couldn't get along with Ainsley when she gets her knickers in a twist about something." He sipped his tea, contemplated the question some more. "They're both headstrong. Ainsley has to keep Henry on schedule and sometimes that interferes with Jill's plans."

They drank their tea in silence for a few moments.

"So, what do you think it is?" Eddie asked, after a while.

Scully paused, her cup halfway to her lips. "I don't know, yet," she replied, finally.

"Your partner thinks that it's a ghost. You don't agree with him?" he asked, his eyes locked on her face.

Scully finished her tea and put her cup gently down on the saucer.

"My partner's ideas may sound a little unusual," she said, "but I've learned from experience that no matter how outlandish his theories may seem, he's generally on to something. Not necessarily a ghost, but something." She slipped off the stool. "Thanks a lot for the tea."

She'd only gotten a few steps when Eddie called her name. She turned, a questioning expression on her face.

"Here," he said, holding up the plate of cookies. "Take these with you. It's going to be a long night."

She didn't refuse.

She sat in the straight backed wooden chair at the desk, reading for another hour or so, going over the coroner's report again. Time of death had been established by examining the stomach contents of the deceased. The slightly digested roast beef sandwich, cherry pie, apple, cookies and chocolate milkshake that Chris Friar had eaten for lunch had helped to fix the time at approximately two o'clock.

Scully flipped back to Jill Shepard's statement and noted that she'd looked in on Chris around three, before she left the house. Even with some give and take on the coroner's estimate, in all likelihood, Chris was already dead before Jill left for her luncheon date.

She turned back to the autopsy. The coroner had measured the amount of amitriptyline in his blood stream and found that Chris had ingested nearly fifty times the recommended highest dose. Death had occurred when the amitriptyline significantly altered his cardiac rhythm and sent his blood pressure shooting off the scale. It was hard to say if the heart attack or the stroke had killed him first. Fifteen to forty minutes after ingestion, he'd been unconscious anyway, so it probably hadn't mattered to Chris. He'd never even been aware of it.

Scully took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

She looked around Chris's bedroom and tried to imagine what he had been thinking that day. What thoughts had raced through his mind as the pills started to take effect? He'd left no note, so all she could do was speculate as to why this young man who appeared to be slowly regaining his health and equilibrium would suddenly decide to end his life. There must have been a reason.

Scully's gaze fell on the books that were neatly stowed on the bottom shelf of the bedside table. Old volumes, but carefully preserved. She got up and went over, bent down to examine the titles. "Winnie-the-Pooh", "The House at Pooh Corner", "When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six", all by A.A. Milne. She selected the first book, sat down on the bed and flipped through a few pages.

"Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin...."

She shook the pillow loose from the bedspread, wedged it up against the headboard, leaned back and began to read.

She didn't remember falling asleep, but the fact that she suddenly found herself at a picnic by a river with Mulder, her father, Assistant Director Skinner and several stuffed toys, suggested to her that she was dreaming. Some part of her brain frowned, because she knew she was supposed to be awake and she probably had work to do, but the blanket they were sitting on had the most beautiful pattern on it, and the sun was lulling her into the most delicious sleepy state. Her father and Mulder were laughing at something and now the Assistant Director was joining in. The part of her brain that disproved of the whole affair reminded her that A.D. Skinner did not laugh, but she silenced the meddling brain cells and let herself drift on all the good feelings.

But then she was in a forest where the sunlight couldn't reach her and a cold wind was starting to blow. There was no one with her now, yet she felt like there was something, just outside her ring of perception, watching her. It made her heart beat faster. She looked around, eyes scanning the forest edge, as the wind wailed and howled, drove icy spikes into her. She shivered convulsively, so cold now. And then the light came.

A single thought slammed into her mind, shaking the dreams from her head. She sat up suddenly, eyes wide, pulse hammering in her ears.

Why had Christopher Robin Friar bothered to have a huge lunch only a half hour before he planned to kill himself?

The room was deathly still and offered no answers.


"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet,
"what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say
Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today,"
said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.

-- from Winnie-the-Pooh


The bell on the coffee shop door tinkled brightly over the clatter of the lunchtime crowd and Scully looked up from her notes. She saw Mulder, standing at the door, in a dark suit and an unusually subdued tie, scanning the restaurant for her. She waved to catch his attention. When their eyes met, she saw his expression change, softening the slightest bit. Scully found herself smiling back at him as he approached.

"Sleep well?" she asked.

"Yeah...all three hours or so," he said, sliding into the booth opposite her. A clean, soapy scent washed across the table as he sat. His face was pale, and his hazel eyes, which seemed darker than usual, peered out from under heavy lids. He grabbed the menu card from its resting place beside the salt and pepper shakers, cast a glance at it, then looked back her. "You look well rested," he added, before he turned his attention back to the list of food.

Scully considered mentioning that she'd slept part of the night in Chris's room but decided against it. Instead, she gave him an ambiguous little smile that she hoped didn't look too forced. The arrival of the waitress, a young woman dressed in a brown gingham uniform, saved her.

She slammed a plate of food down in front of Scully, then dropped a cup for Mulder and filled it with coffee as she spoke. "You know what you want, sir?" she asked.

Mulder pointed at Scully's plate. "I'll have one of those," he said.

The waitress nodded, scribbled on a little pad. "One Paul Revere, poached with piggies. You want brown or white?"

"Both," Mulder said. The waitress nodded and flew off.

Mulder grabbed a piece of toast from Scully's plate, while she was still fussing with her cutlery. She cocked an eyebrow at him.

"I'll pay you back," he said.

She chuckled and shook her head.

"So," he said, between bites, "you've got that look this morning."

"What look?"

"That look you always get when you're going to try to convince me that we're wasting valuable tax dollars chasing some ridiculous creature that exists only in my imagination." He pushed the rest of the toast into his mouth and eyed her breakfast some more.

"Oh. That look." She sipped her coffee then carefully wiped her mouth with her napkin. "You're wrong. I am going to try to convince you of something, but not what you think. I think there is something here to investigate."

Mulder leaned back in his chair and waited.

"I spent the morning on the phone," she said. "First, I spoke to Christopher Friar's family doctor, who said that Chris had been in for a check-up two weeks before he committed suicide. The doctor said that she didn't observe any signs of a worsening depression, or any indication that Christopher might be contemplating suicide. Next, I checked with his psychiatrist and his rehab counsellor. They had both spoken to him a few days before he died and they both said that he had been in good spirits and seemed to be coping well. Again, no sign that he might be planning to kill himself."

"That doesn't necessarily mean anything, Scully," Mulder said. "Often people who are suicidal don't give any indication that they're contemplating ending their lives." He glanced towards the kitchen, hoping to see his breakfast approaching. "And anyway, the fact that he was coming out of a depression could mean that he was more likely to kill himself. People who are at the very bottom of a depression rarely kill themselves. It may sound ironic, but they're just too depressed to act. It's the people who are just starting to come out of a depression who are at the higher risk."

Scully grabbed a file off the chair beside her. "Maybe so, but I thought this was weird and so I double checked it with the county coroner this morning." She flipped the file open and shuffled through the photos and pages. She read off the coroner's description of Chris's stomach contents and looked over the top of the page at Mulder. "Why would he eat such a huge lunch right before he was going to kill himself?"

Mulder shrugged and stared in the direction of the kitchen. "Who knows? Maybe he didn't want to raise anybody's suspicion."

"Or maybe he was murdered." She waited for him to swing his gaze back to her.

"You think he was murdered because he ate lunch?"

"I know it's not as compelling as a bunch of blurry photographs with mysterious lights, but I think it's worth checking out," she said. She waited for his reaction, but he only chuckled.

"OK, so how do you think he was dosed?"

She slid a pair of black and white photos across the table. The body in them had been bleached white by the harsh flash, but the milky skin was discoloured here and there, in uneven patches.

"Look at the bruises," Scully said. "It's possible that he was restrained while the drug was administered."

Mulder glanced at the pictures and began to look less anxious for his breakfast. "Hadn't he played rugby that morning?" He pushed the pictures back at her.

"So?"

"You ever been at the bottom of a rugby scrum, Scully?"

"Can't say that I've had the pleasure."

"It's one of those manly, testosterone kinds of things. Could account for the bruising." He studied her plate of food, hardly touched, then motioned at the toast. "You gonna eat that?"

She shook her head. "Help yourself."

He grabbed two little packets of strawberry jam and slathered them onto the bread before he folded it in half and shoved it into his mouth. "Do you think someone slipped it into his food?" he asked, when the rest of the piece of toast had disappeared. "In the milkshake maybe? Would it be detectable?"

Scully nodded. "I think so. Especially the amount that he seems to have ingested. He'd probably have been able to taste it."

"Injection?"

"There was a tiny amount still found in his stomach contents, which means that at least part of the dose had to have been taken orally."

The waitress returned with a huge plate of food for Mulder and he watched her approach like she was some sort of polyester clad messiah. She dropped Mulder's plate in front of him, sloshed coffee into both of their cups, threw a handful of creamers onto the table and tore off.

Scully ate and watched Mulder demolish his breakfast for a full ten minutes. When half his stack of toast was gone and his pace had slowed perceptibly, he asked, "So, who do you think did it?"

Scully bit her lip thoughtfully before she answered. "I don't know yet. We need more to go on."

Mulder nodded, gulped the rest of his coffee and looked around for the waitress to signal for a refill. "All right, let's stay on it. In the meantime, no matter how Christopher Robin died, we still have a ghost to bust."

Scully rolled her eyes. "Sorry for distracting you with this little murder investigation," she said.

Mulder chuckled. "If you're trying to hurt my feelings, you should know, I've been ridiculed by the best."

The waitress roared past their table, slowing only long enough to dump more coffee in their cups.

"Aren't you supposed to be busy shooting down my ghost theory, Scully?" Mulder asked, after he'd drained half the new cup.

She tried to look smug. "I'm working on it. In fact, I have an appointment in two hours with a research librarian over at Newnham College which should give me the ammunition I need to blow your theory out of the water."

Mulder was cleaning up the last drops of yolk from his plate with a piece of toast. "I won't ask and spoil the surprise," he said.

Scully watched him push away the empty plate and signal for the bill, wondering again where he put all that food.


Scully left Mulder at the gates to Henry Friar's house, and as she turned the car around and headed for town, she could see him in the rear view mirror, wandering off into the still sleeping orchard, his black coat an ink blot on the page of faded green grass.

Newnham College looked like it had been erected as a movie set of a 1950's college, complete with limestone buildings, climbing vines that promised ivy, and wholesome looking undergraduates with orthodontically engineered smiles. It took her twenty minutes to find a parking spot and another five to find a directory of the campus that showed her the way to Stauffer Library. By the time she'd spoken to the young lady at the information desk, the young man at the research desk and the young man at the special collections desk, she'd been "ma'ammed" so many times, she was beginning to feel like a grandmother. She waited at the special collections desk for the librarian, and resolved to start using that wrinkle cream around her eyes more often.

When the research librarian turned out to be a woman about her age, Scully nearly sighed with relief. The woman introduced herself as Mary Ann Peck and told Scully that she'd already located some maps that would provide the information she'd called about. Down the hall, through a set of glass doors with a brass plaque that said "Map Room", where the librarian produced huge maps which she laid out carefully on a table. Scully studied each of them for a few minutes, running her hand across the swirling pale blues and greens, jotting down notes. She asked Mary Ann a few questions about local geography which the librarian happily answered.

When Scully finished perusing the maps, she tapped the top one lightly with a finger. "Would it be possible to get some sort of copy of this?" she asked. Scully could see that the librarian was just barely containing her own curiosity and had to physically stop herself from asking why the FBI needed maps of underground streams in the area.

"I believe so," Mary Ann said instead, as she gathered up the map. "It'll take a few minutes, though."

Scully followed her back down the hall to the special collections room and waited at the desk while the librarian disappeared into a back room with the map.

The special collections room had a cathedral ceiling, with a huge stained glass window at one end. Weak spring sunshine was struggling to illuminate the college crest which had been rendered in vivid red, yellow and blue glass. The arched window and the reverential hush made the room feel like a church, despite the addition of an incongruous purple carpet.

There was an odd sort of familiarity about it that made Scully feel at home. She thought about the countless hours she'd spent in rooms like this one, bleary-eyed and exhausted, poring over text books and scribbled lecture notes, a thermos of contra- band coffee hidden in her knapsack. Maybe it was just an issue of perspective, but it seemed that life was a lot simpler then.

Across the room a woman got up from a table and went to the shelves behind her. Scully watched as she ran a hand along the row of books and pulled out a huge volume. She returned to her seat, the book open, reading as she walked.

Ainsley.

Scully ran her tongue unconsciously over her upper lip. If anyone knew what went on in that house, it was Ainsley.

The gaudy carpet muffled her footsteps as she approached.

"Hi," Scully said, half in whisper.

Ainsley's eyes darted up from the text and a fleeting look of surprise shot across her face. The next instant, the composure was back, tightly in place. She gave Scully a cursory nod, but a smile lurked nearby.

"Well, well. Agent Scully." She shot a look at the desk. "Where's Remington Steele this morning?"

Scully stared at her. "I beg your pardon?"

"Your partner in paranormal crime-fighting," Ainsley said. "Did you leave him back at the haunted house?"

Scully smiled a little as she pulled out a chair and sat down. She scanned the titles of the books that lay around, then picked one up and looked at Ainsley, her eyebrows arched. "A Manual of Medieval Torture?"

Ainsley nodded, a sardonic grin springing to her face. "My job is never boring."

"Research for Henry?" Scully asked, lifting a few more books and reading the titles.

"Yes, but it does make me very popular at cocktail parties. You'd be surprised how many people find vivisection absolutely fascinating."

Scully gave a mirthless chuckle. "Actually, I probably wouldn't be surprised at all."

Ainsley leaned her chair back on two legs and folded her arms across her chest. "So, isn't it customary to get the person you're about to question a cup of coffee? You know, to set them at ease, establish trust? Or is that just a TV cop thing?"

Scully realized that she'd be lucky to get in a question the way things were going. "What makes you think that I'm about to question you?"

"Well, you're here to give me the same interrogation you gave Eddie last night, aren't you?" The smile lurked closer now, made her dark eyes dance a little. "And if the taxpayers of this fine country are going to buy me a coffee, they may as well make it a latte. Come on. I know a place." She got up and slipped her knapsack off the back of the chair, then weaved her way through the dark wood study carrels, towards the door. Scully followed.

The grad club was the bottom floor of an old brick house that had been renovated to look like an English pub. The lunch crowd had thinned, but there were still a few people sitting at the tables that were scattered throughout the downstairs rooms. Ainsley led the way to a table in a private corner of what must have been a formal sitting room in the original house. Heads turned as the two women entered, and Scully could have sworn she heard someone mutter the word "narc" as they passed by. She tried not to flash her holster and gun as she took off her coat and sat down.

A young man in jeans and flannel shirt appeared at their table to take their order and a few minutes later reappeared with two bowl-sized cups of froth-topped coffee.

Ainsley dumped several packets of sugar into hers, took a long draught, then watched Scully stir the foam into her coffee. "Now, that's interesting. I wouldn't have pegged you as a cinnamon sprinkles. I would have said chocolate."

"I guess you really can't read a book by its cover, can you?" Scully said, with the tiniest smile.

Ainsley took another long drink of her coffee and then put the cup back onto its saucer. "OK," she said, "let me save you some time." She counted off items on her fingers. "First, I haven't seen any lights or floating daggers or anything else that would lead me to believe that Chris's ghost is attempting to wreak supernatural havoc on the place, but then I don't usually sleep there. I have heard some doors slam and some general creaking and groaning, but hey, it's an old house, everyone should just chill. I will admit, however, that the fact that it's freaking out Jill gives me no end of pleasure. Second, yes, I think she's a bitch, but she's my boss' wife and could have my ass out of there in two minutes if she wanted, so, as hard as it may be to imagine, I don't shoot my mouth off around her. Third, and before you ask, no, I did not have a thing going with Chris. He was probably going to be a nice person when he grew up, but frankly, he was a little screwed up and besides, I have way too much to do." She smiled sweetly. "Did I miss anything?"

Scully leaned back in her chair, and gave Ainsley an appraising look. "Just one thing: who would stand to benefit from Chris Friar's death?"

Ainsley's smile faded as she processed the question. "How could anyone benefit from this poor kid's suicide?"

Scully's gaze didn't waver. "I don't know. That's why I'm asking you."

"No, you're asking me if I think he was murdered."

Scully said nothing. Ainsley lowered her eyes and poked her spoon in and out of the foam on her coffee. After a few minutes, Scully said, "You don't think he killed himself, do you?"

Ainsley's eyes flicked up and met Scully's cool, steady stare. Ainsley looked away again. "I'm not paid to think about those things, Agent Scully. You are."

Scully waited, sipped her coffee.

"I have a dream job, here, you know?" Ainsley said, suddenly. "I work for one of the best selling writers in the world. He pays me an obscene amount of money to help him write his books. The contacts that I'm making in the publishing industry and now with film companies are absolutely priceless." She stared hard at Scully and there was no sign of the smile. "I'm not going to risk that."

"Even if there's been a crime committed?" Scully asked.

Ainsley sighed and sat back heavily in her chair. "Look, Agent Scully, Chris is dead. It's sad, but probably no sadder than the last few years of his life. Nothing I say or you do at this point is going to change that." She paused, contemplated her half-empty cup. "And anyway, who's to say he's not better off?"

She started to gather up her knapsack but Scully's voice pinned her in place. "He didn't kill himself, did he, Ainsley?"

The young woman sat there, staring down at the table top, debating with herself. Scully grabbed the opportunity.

"Doesn't it bother you that someone may have killed Chris Friar and now is walking away scot free?"

"Ah, appeal to her sense of justice, make it a moral issue," Ainsley said and she tried to generate a smile but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Look, Agent Scully, I'm not trying to be coy. I don't know anything that can help you in this little game of Clue that you're playing. All I know is that it wasn't the research assistant in the library with the candlestick." She sank back in her chair, a sulky expression on her face. "It's more just a feeling, you know? That something wasn't quite right. I spend a lot of time out at that place and I'd gotten to know Chris a bit. He was a nice guy. He was a lot like Henry, actually. And when I heard that he'd killed himself, it just didn't make sense."

"How so?"

"Well for one thing, he was just starting to make all these plans. He was training like a mad man and eating vitamins by the handful, trying to get in shape to play rugby on the college team, and he was talking about taking some courses this summer. And he'd started writing, did Henry tell you that?"

Scully shook her head. "No, he didn't mention it. What was he writing?"

"All kinds of stuff. He showed me one short piece that he'd written, wanted to know what I thought." She shook her head and smiled at the memory. "Henry got him a lap top and he would sit and hammer at that thing all day. He was becoming his father's son."

Scully leaned forward, rested her elbows on the table. "So who could possibly benefit from his death?"

Ainsley stared off across the sitting room with sightless eyes. When she finally shook her head, she seemed smaller to Scully somehow. "I don't know," she said. "I wish I could help you, but I just don't know."

Mulder's notes and sketches were spread out all over the harvest table in the kitchen, a cup of coffee sitting untouched at his elbow. His head was bent low over his scribbled notes and he didn't look up when Scully entered. A white enamel stock pot simmered contentedly on the range, filling the kitchen with the smell of garlic and basil. Scully tossed the rolled up map onto the table before she even took off her coat.

Mulder looked at the paper tube under his nose and dragged himself back to his surroundings. "What's this?" he asked, still not looking up at her.

"It's a map," Scully said, as she dropped her coat over the back of a chair.

"A map of what?" He reached for it and pulled off the elastic band.

"Subterranean waterways in this part of the county," she replied. She helped him to unroll the map and pinned down a corner with one hand. "See that red circle? That's this house."

Mulder surveyed the pale colours, his eyes travelling methodically over every inch. Scully wondered if he was committing it to memory.

"OK, so why should I care about underground streams in Harrowsmith county?" He turned those hazel eyes on her and Scully thought she might have glimpsed the slightest hint of admiration.

She made herself redirect her focus to the map. "You should care because there are three fairly large streams that pass very close to this house." She traced the paths of the streams with her finger, while Mulder watched.

"So?"

"A recent journal article published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal said that they studied twenty five cases of alleged hauntings in London, and found that twenty of those were in homes that were atop or near subterranean waterways."

He crossed his arms and leaned back, listening intently. She thought she detected the beginning of a smile and decided to ignore it.

"Furthermore, they found a significant relationship between reported hauntings and heavy rainfall, which led one researcher to propose the theory that these hauntings are no more than the building up and easing of immense hydraulic pressures under the houses."

"I've read that study," Mulder said. "They thought that the increase in subterranean water following a rainstorm or a melt, effectively jacked up a building and caused it to tilt slightly. When the pressure eased, the house settled, creating the loud noises and even moving objects that are associated with hauntings and poltergeists."

Scully felt a tiny bit of wind leave her sails. "Well, what do you think?"

He rocked his chair back on two legs and thought. "I don't know. It still doesn't account for the lights or the apparent attacks on Jill."

Scully pulled out a chair and sat down, heaving a sigh. "We have no hard evidence to substantiate any of those incidents Mulder. For all we know, they might be nothing more than subconsciously created perceptual illusions." She lowered her voice. "They may be simply what Henry needs right now -- some sort of contact with his dead son."

"But what about Jill and Eddie? They've both experienced various elements of this phenomenon, too. Are they all just dreaming it up together?"

"There have been documented cases of mass hallucinations," Scully countered, but Mulder was shaking his head vigorously.

"No, I don't buy it. I think these people have seen and heard something...whether it's the disembodied spirit of Chris Friar or some other paranormal event, I don't know. But I do know that it's not just some underground stream that's making the house settle and I also know that if we stick around long enough, we'll see it, too."

Scully slumped back into her chair and crossed her arms. They sat for a while, arms tightly locked in front of them, staring at each other.

"So, what now?" Scully asked, finally.

"We keep waiting and watching for Casper the not-so-friendly ghost to show up and we keep trying to figure out who had a reason to kill Chris Friar."

Eddie glided into the kitchen just then. His smile for Scully was warm and genuine. "Agent Scully, can I get you anything? I was just about to make a fresh pot of coffee."

"Thanks, that would be nice," she replied, returning his smile.

"Agent Mulder, how about you?" Eddie asked. "Another cup?"

"Sure," Mulder said. "It's not like I'm going to sleep tonight."

Eddie moved around the kitchen with a relaxed familiarity, his movements graceful and efficient. Mulder's attention drifted back to his notes. Scully watched Eddie pour water into the coffee maker and spoon coffee into the filter basket.

"I hope you'll stay for supper," he said, as he brought the sugar bowl and creamer to the table. "Nothing fancy, but it's got to be better than hotel food." He smiled hopefully at Mulder, who was so engrossed in his scribbled diagrams that he took no notice.

Scully caught herself smiling apologetically. "Thank you. It's kind of you to invite us."

Eddie peeked under the lid of the sugar bowl, found it empty. He turned and headed for the cupboards to the right of the sink. "Does all the travel get to be bothersome after a while, or do you still enjoy it?" he asked over his shoulder, as he swung the cupboard door open and searched for the bag of sugar.

"Actually, you just get used to it..." Scully started to say. Her words trailed off as her eyes settled on several huge jars of vitamins and protein supplements. She was on her feet and across the room before Eddie realized she'd stopped talking. "Are these Chris's?" she asked, pulling down a jar that sported a label with a picture of a beefy weightlifter flexing his chiselled pecs.

Eddie looked downcast. "Yeah, they're his. I haven't been able to bring myself to throw them out yet."

Scully quickly unscrewed the lid of the jar and peered inside. It contained a grey powder that smelled strongly of yeast. She put the lid back on and looked at the other jars in the cupboard.

"Are any of these in capsule form, by any chance?" she asked.

Eddie frowned and studied the row of colourful labels. "A couple of them are, I think. One of the vitamins. The B complex one. And that other weird one. I forget the name." He moved a few items, grabbed a huge brown glass jar and handed it to Scully. "And this one. He would take these by the handful," he said. "I think they were ground up tiger's testicles, or some damn thing."

Scully took off the lid and peered inside. The bottle was half full of red gelatin capsules. She carefully poured a few out onto the counter and studied them.

"Mulder," she said. "I think I've got something."

As Mulder got to his feet, a thunderous, floor-shaking rumble and crash rolled from the front of the house to the kitchen, like someone had driven a truck through the house. Eddie grabbed the counter to steady himself as the shock wave ripped through the floorboards. Scully stood, jar in hand, her mouth open in surprise, eyes locked with Mulder's.

"What the hell was...?" Her question was punctuated by a scream that froze the words in her throat.

Mulder beat her to the hall by a stride and they both sprinted full tilt down the darkly paneled hallway, past the eighteenth century desk and the discretely lit paintings, following the howling screams. Scully's pulse thudded in her ears but she could make out another voice under the descant of the screams, a deeper, though no less calm voice, which was shouting something incomprehensible. Mulder was kicking open the French doors to the sitting room and Scully saw that he had drawn his gun. She snatched her own from its holster and flew through the doors on Mulder's heels.

A cold blast of air hit her face and the first thing that registered was the tatters of rich green fabric, that had once been drapes, which were fluttering around the window frame like the tails of kites. Glass crunched underfoot as she stepped into the room and she realized that the ten by ten leaded window was gone. Another piercing wail and Mulder yelled "Scully, over here!"

He was kneeling down behind one of the couches, a few feet from the gaping hole in the wall where previously there had been a window. As she rounded the couch, her foot hit something slick and she slid. One arm flailed and then grabbed the sofa to steady her.

Henry and Mulder were both bent over a form on the floor and a slowly creeping pool of blood was spreading around them. Henry was howling and sobbing and Scully grabbed his shoulder and pulled him out of her way. Jill Shephard lay in the crimson puddle, her face a mask, her eyes frozen open in utter disbelief. She was a mass of cuts, some trickling dark blood, others with shards of glass still imbedded. Scully zeroed in on the wound on her left thigh which was pumping out a steady wave of bright red blood and instantly clamped her hand down on it.

"That's an artery. We've got to get her to a hospital right away," she said to Mulder, who was trying to wrestle Henry away from his wife's body.

"I'll call an ambulance!" Eddie shouted from the door.

"No, there isn't time!" Scully said. She cast a quick glance around the room, spotted the curtains. "Eddie, rip off a couple of long strips of curtain."

Eddie stood transfixed, in the doorway. Scully, on her hands and knees in the puddle of Jill's warm blood, craned her neck to look over her shoulder at him. "I need it now!" she yelled.

The man was in motion before the echo of her voice had died. He raced over to the window and tore off several strips of fabric, then hurried over to Scully with them.

She grabbed them without a word and wound one around Jill's leg, above the cut, knotting and twisting the piece of drapery into a tourniquet. Keeping one hand tightly clamped on the gash in Jill's thigh, Scully quickly checked for other lacerations. There was another deep one on her left arm. Eddie was still hovering over her and when Scully looked up at his face, she saw that he was terrified.

"Eddie, I need you to apply pressure to this cut," she said, forcing herself to speak slowly and calmly.

He hesitated.

"I'll show you what to do. Just kneel down." Eddie did as he was instructed, and Scully directed him with her free hand to the cut and placed his hand over it. "Now press down. Hard."

Eddie nodded, his eyes wide with fear, and leaned into Jill's arm.

"Good," Scully said. "Just keep doing that." Scully lifted her head, tried to locate Mulder. He was across the room, standing over Henry, who was slumped in a chair, sobbing into his hands.

"Is he all right?" Scully asked.

Mulder nodded. "Just a few cuts. Nothing serious."

"We've got to move her right away. Can you find a blanket or something that we can use as a stretcher?"

Mulder scanned the room and spotted a woven blanket over the arm of a chair. He grabbed it, then turned to Henry and said something in a low voice that Scully couldn't hear. Henry nodded vigorously and wiped his face with his hands. He followed Mulder over to where Scully and Eddie knelt, helped him to lay the blanket out beside them. She instructed Henry and Mulder on how to lift Jill onto the blanket and warned Eddie not to move his hand from the cut on Jill's arm. The four of them moved her, gingerly raising her a few inches off the floor and then lowering her to the blanket. Mulder and Henry lifted the blanket and with Eddie and Scully shuffling alongside, they made their way down the long hall to the foyer and out to the rental car.


"Hallo!" said Piglet, "what are you doing?"

"Tracking something," said Winnie-the-Pooh, very
mysteriously.

"Tracking what?" asked Piglet, coming closer.

"That's just what I ask myself. I ask myself, what?"

"What do you think you'll answer?"

"I shall have to wait until I catch up with it," said
Winnie-the-Pooh.

-- from Winnie-the-Pooh


The waiting room at Newnham Hospital was down a narrow hallway from the reception desk of the emergency ward, but from where she sat, Scully could see the swinging door that led to the examination rooms. She considered the styrofoam cup in her hand and tried to imagine exactly how such truly terrible coffee was made. She'd never actually tasted dishwater, but she was willing to bet that it had been involved in the process at some point. There were only two other people in the waiting area besides Mulder and herself, a pair of college aged kids both wearing rollerblades, presumably awaiting news on a fellow skater. Scully could feel their eyes on her every time she looked away and she'd spent the last ten minutes trying to determine exactly what they were staring at. It was then that she had realized, somewhat sheepishly, that she was wearing a significant amount of Jill Shepard's blood on her dove grey suit. The stains, which had once been the bright red of arterial blood, were now darkening blots on her pants and jacket. Scully discreetly touched her forehead and cheeks where it felt sticky, wondering if any had sprayed onto her face. She relaxed when her hand came away clean. She sat up a bit, recrossed her ankles and tried not to think about the dry cleaning bill.

Beside her, Mulder was slumped in the uncomfortable chair, his legs splayed out in front of him. He was meditatively shelling seeds and dropping the bits of shell into an empty styrofoam cup. He was quiet and withdrawn and Scully knew that he was thinking. He would talk to her when he was ready and no amount of probing or prodding on her part would make that happen faster. She idly wished she could change her clothes.

The ER door swung open and Ainsley headed down the hall towards them, in a characteristic bustle. She dropped down into a chair beside Scully.

"The plastic surgeon is still with them," she said. "He thinks that the damage to her face is minimal and even the bigger cuts won't scar by the time he's done with them."

"How's Henry?" Scully asked.

"He's OK. They must've given him something to calm him down," Ainsley replied. She glanced around at the rollerblading pair, then back at Mulder and Scully. "Where's Eddie?"

Mulder nodded in the direction of the men's room.

"Again?" Ainsley said, shaking her head. "Jesus, how many times can he wash his hands?" She looked Scully's suit up and down and frowned. "These things never happened to Nancy Drew, you know."

Scully sighed. "Thanks. I know."

Ainsley examined their expressions for a moment, then gave them a sidelong look. "The doctor said that Jill could have bled to death in a few minutes if it hadn't been for you." She smiled, but there was no sarcasm in her voice. "You guys are practically superheroes, aren't you?"

Scully chuckled. Mulder continued shelling and dropping seeds, his eyes far away.

Ainsley swivelled around to look for Eddie. "I've got to get back to the house. I was supposed to meet the glazier there a half hour ago." She glanced at her watch, fidgeted in her seat and then sighed.

Down the hall, the main doors flew open and a man strode up to the reception desk. He was tall, with wavy black hair, and a neatly trimmed beard. His suit was a shade darker than olive and was an expensive cut. He had already handed the nurse at the desk his card by the time Ainsley groaned.

"What?" Scully asked.

"You know that line from Shakespeare about killing all the lawyers?"

Scully nodded.

"*He's* the one we should start with."

Filtered conversation floated down the hall. "No, I don't think you understand..." he was telling the nurse.

"Who is he?"

"Bruce Ferguson. Henry's manager-slash-lawyer. An old college buddy." She watched him steadily as he haggled with the nurse, tried to bully her. "The man is a parasite and an asshole. Other than that, he's great."

At the admitting desk, Bruce continued badgering. "I'm his attorney," he was saying in an officious tone, "and it's imperative that I see him immediately."

Ainsley sighed and got to her feet. "Bruce!" she called.

The red-faced nurse said something quietly and Bruce threw up his hands in exasperation. "I want the name of your supervisor!" he said loudly, whipping out a pen and a notepad.

Ainsley cupped her hands to her mouth. "Bruce!" she shouted.

He turned and stared at her, recognition dawning a moment later. He hustled down the sterile hall, the tassels on his Italian loafers bouncing with each step.

"What the hell happened? How's Jill? Is Henry with her? What in God's name is going on?" The words spewed out in a single sentence.

Ainsley held her hands up to deflect him. "Jill's fine, Henry's in there with her. They're going to admit her but she'll be okay."

Bruce started to register Mulder and Scully who were getting to their feet, behind Ainsley. Scully watched his eyes travel from her shoes to her head and then skip quickly to Mulder.

"You're the FBI agent?" he asked, extending his hand over Ainsley's shoulder to shake Mulder's hand.

Mulder nodded at Scully and said, "This is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully."

Bruce glanced at Scully and then fixed his gaze on Mulder again. "What the hell happened?" he asked.

"We're not sure yet," Mulder said. "It appears that, for whatever reason, the leaded window in the living room shattered. Ms. Shepard was cut by some of the pieces."

Bruce ran a hand over his face and looked ashen. "Jesus Christ," he said. "But she's all right?"

Mulder nodded. "Thanks to Agent Scully, we were able to get Ms. Shepard to the hospital safely, and in time."

Bruce shook his head, his eyes never leaving Mulder's face. "It's just one goddam thing after another out at that place. Have you figured out what's going on yet?"

"We're investigating several possibilities..." Mulder started.

"Well, Jesus Christ, get on it," Bruce said, cutting him off. "You've got to get to the bottom of this insanity. This has got to stop."

Mulder nodded slightly, the tight line of his lips telling Scully that he was probably biting his tongue. For once.

Scully crossed her arms and fixed her sights on Bruce. "Have you witnessed any of the events yourself, Mr. Ferguson?" she asked, all warmth bled from her tone.

Bruce stared at her, seemingly startled that she could speak. He looked her up and down again with a faint expression of disdain on his face, as if he could smell something bad.

"Uh, no. No, I haven't," he replied, and he appeared to be struggling not to take a step back. "Of course, Henry's told me all about it. I supported his decision to contact you."

"But you haven't actually been present when any of these incidents have occured?" Scully asked.

Bruce smoothed his tie unconsciously. "I don't have occasion to go out to the house much."

"So you have no idea what could account for the sounds, or the lights? No idea what could be causing these accidents?"

"You're making me feel like I'm being interrogated, Agent... uh..."

"Scully," she said, with a tight smile that was clearly a formality.

One manicured hand stroked his beard, as he tried to generate a wise tone. "Agent Scully, I don't have a clue what's causing all of this craziness but I will tell you this: I am going to advise Henry not to go back to that tomb. It's turning into the goddam Amittyville Horror for Chrissake!"

"Well, I'm sure Henry will be happy to pay you $300 an hour for that opinion," Ainsley said, "but right now, I've got a hundred square foot hole in the side of the house that needs fixing, so I've got to go meet the glazier."

"I'd like to look around the room before you clean up the glass," Mulder said.

"Knock yourself out, Sherlock," Ainsley said. She nodded to Bruce. "It's been a thin slice of heaven, as always." She strode off towards the men's washroom, to hammer on the door for Eddie.

Bruce excused himself and scurried back down the hall to renew his threats to the young nurse behind the admitting desk.

Mulder watched him for a moment, hands on his hips. He bent his head close to Scully's ear.

"Come on, let's swing by the motel first so that you can change." He picked up his jacket and they started down the hall.

"Hey Scully, have you heard the one about the lawyer, the shark and the pitbull?"

Scully smiled and shook her head, as they fell into stride.

"A lawyer, a shark and a pitbull walk into a bar, and the shark says..."

The glazier had hammered up six huge sheets of plywood in the space where the window had been and had left with a promise to return early the next morning to replace the glass. The boarded up space somehow loomed ominously over the room and Scully noticed that Ainsley kept glancing over her shoulder at it. Mulder and Scully viewed the room from every possible angle, documented it with a roll and a half of film and collected some of the razor sharp spears of glass, then helped Ainsley to mop up the worst of the mess. Eddie stayed as busy as possible in the kitchen under the guise of preparing supper.

"He doesn't handle blood so well," Ainsley said, sweeping another load of debris into a dustpan. "I'm surprised that you didn't have two bodies on your hands when he caught sight of all this blood."

Scully was stowing the camera equipment in its case when Mulder glided up behind her and touched her elbow.

"I'm going to take the flashlight and go have a look around the outside of the window," he said.

Scully nodded. "Keep an eye out for footprints," she said.

"And what kind of shoes do you think our ghost wears, Scully? Keds?" He was so close to her that he was looking straight down at her and his eyes were glittering with the effort of holding back a smile.

"Mulder," she said, impatience and laughter mingling in her voice. She shook her head and turned her attention back to the camera.

He let the smile surface, then headed off.

A moment later, Scully realized that Ainsley wasn't sweeping anymore. The young woman's appraising gaze was resting on her. Scully stopped fiddling with the camera.

"What?" she asked.

"Can I ask you something?" Ainsley asked, leaning on the broom handle.

"If I said no, would it stop you?" Scully replied.

"Probably not."

"Well, then... ask."

Ainsley narrowed her eyes at Scully. "Are you two sleeping together?"

"Mulder and I?" Scully heard the slightly hysterical note in her own voice and cleared her throat, tried to summon up some nonchalance.

"Yes. Who else would I mean?" Ainsley's expression was alert, and her gaze measured Scully's reaction.

Scully had to force herself to return her attention to the camera bag. Her cheeks suddenly felt warm and she fervently hoped that she wasn't blushing.

"Sorry to disappoint you," she said, taking great care with the zoom lens and willing her voice to sound casual, "but we're not. Not that it's any of your business."

Ainsley processed this first bit of information, and completely ignored the second. "Don't try to tell me that you haven't considered it," she said. "I mean, you have eyes, don't you?"

Scully paused in mid zip. "What do you mean?"

"Well, for one thing, he's gorgeous. I mean, that mouth? Those eyes? If they put him on the recruiting posters, there'd be women running to join the FBI."

Scully tried not to smile. "It might surprise you to know that a lot of women do join the FBI every year, and I don't think a single one of them signed up so that they could work with Mulder."

"That's not all," Ainsley said. "Don't you see the way he looks at you? I mean...holy hormones, Batman!" Ainsley stared at her, wide-eyed, incredulous. Scully's hands fumbled with the zipper on the camera bag.

"Mulder and I have a good working relationship based on mutual respect and..."

Ainsley cut her off. "Agent Scully, you two exude a sexual tension that is so thick, it's palpable. I think you should both just give in to it and get it over with."

Scully knew she must be blushing now. She pulled herself up to her full height and swung the camera bag over her shoulder.

"Well, thank you for your advice, Ainsley, but I think that Agent Mulder and I can best do our jobs if we maintain a solid professional relationship."

Ainsley hiked an sceptical eyebrow at her and resumed sweeping. "It's your loss."

"I think I can live with it," Scully replied.

Ainsley swept the last of the nuggets of glass into a tidy little pile. "Actually, you may have a point. After all, look at what happened to "Moonlighting" after Bruce and Maddie started doing the wild thing." She bent down to pick up the dust pan and Scully seized the opportunity to snatch up her computer case and beat a hasty retreat.

Eddie stood over the steaming stock pot, with a spoon in one hand, an empty wine glass in the other and an absent look on his face. The smell of garlic, basil and bread baking had drawn Scully to the kitchen, and as she set her Powerbook case down on the table, she realized that she was very hungry.

"Smells great," she said and Eddie whirled around, startled. The glass hit the floor and shattered.

"I'm sorry," Scully said. "I didn't mean to frighten you." She crossed the kitchen quickly to help him pick up the pieces, but he waved her off.

"No, no, it's not your fault. It's me. I'm as jumpy as a cat." He bent down and retrieved the fractured chunks of stem and bowl. "It's this place... it's starting to give me the creeps."

Scully didn't answer, barely suppressing an urge to glance over her shoulder at the darkened windows. She was not going to let herself get caught up in this hysteria.

"I think I'm going to have another glass of wine," Eddie said, when he straightened up. "Can I tempt you? It's a lovely little Chardonnay."

Scully shook her head. "No, thanks. I've still got work to do."

"Supper shouldn't be too much longer," Eddie said. He tossed the remains of the wine glass into the trash and reached into the cupboard for a fresh glass.

Scully unpacked her Powerbook from its imitation leather case, concluding once again that she should have splurged and gotten the real leather. Except that the real leather case cost more than most of her suits and she hadn't been able to justify dressing her laptop that much more expensively than she dressed herself.

Ainsley bustled into the kitchen. "Hey, did I miss happy hour?" she asked, spotting Eddie with the wine bottle.

"As always, you're right on time, my dear," he said. He reached for another glass and poured a generous amount into it, then handed it to her.

"Agent Scully, you're not joining us?" Ainsley asked.

Scully smiled politely and shook her head as she attached the last cable to her computer and plugged it in.

Ainsley lifted her glass. "Well, a toast. To the ghost of Christopher Robin Friar, resident spook and wreaker of supernatural havoc."

"Ainsley!" Eddie said, a deep frown wrinkling his forehead.

"What?"

He huffed sharply at her, then grabbed the wooden spoon and gave the minestrone a violent stir.

"What?" Ainsley was all wide eyes and innocence.

"Honestly," Eddie said, sharply. "Sometimes I don't know what's the matter with you." He kept his back to her and his posture was stiff, stirring the soup with choppy strokes.

Scully started to reconsider her decision to work in the kitchen.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Eddie, lighten up!" Ainsley said. "It was just a joke."

"Lighten up?" Eddie turned and glared. "Lighten up?"

"I was kidding."

"So you think it's funny that Jill is laying in a hospital bed with God knows how many stitches..."

Scully started to tune them out, reached for the power button on her laptop and waited for the good natured little chirp that would announce that the machine was booting.

Instead, there was a hiss and a loud popping noise. A shower of sparks suddenly shot out of the keyboard. Scully gasped and pulled her hand away. A puff of sickly yellow smoke drifted up from the Powerbook and as Scully stared, open-mouthed, the screen burst into flames.

"Jesus Christ! Eddie, where's the fire extinguisher? Get the fire extinguisher!" Ainsley was shouting and Eddie was racing around the kitchen, throwing open cupboard doors. He located the little red extinguisher in a cupboard over the range, and fumbled with the release pin, his eyes on the growing inferno on the kitchen table. Scully edged around to the far side of the table where she had plugged the computer in, and yanked the power cord from the outlet then strode over to Eddie and took the extinguisher out of his hands. She slid the pin out, aimed the nozzle and fired the extinguisher at her melting Powerbook. The smouldering computer fizzled and sparked. Scully squeezed off another blast and the fire was smothered.

The three of them stood motionless, staring at the pool of foam on the table, the air acrid and electric with smoke.

"Jesus H. Christ on crutches," Ainsley said.

 


Mulder lifted the edge of the melted Powerbook with the blade of a butterknife and peered under it.

"I think we'd better bag it as evidence," he said.

"You're not serious," Scully said. She was leaned against the island, arms crossed, an incredulous look on her face.

He peered over his shoulder at her and nodded.

"Mulder, it was a power surge or something," she said. She gestured at the walls. "It's an old house. The wiring is probably a hundred years old."

He continued to study the blob of grey plastic. "You think it was a power surge that blew the window out, too?"

She took a deep breath. "Mulder," she said, with what she hoped was a neutral voice, "I know there are some things that have happened here that I can't explain, but not everything that occurs in this house has to be the work of this alleged ghost. There's a lot more chaos in the universe than you think."

Mulder never lifted his eyes from the Powerbook. "That theory can be proven in my apartment, alone," he said, flatly. He stood up and gave her his full attention. "All right, how about this? Until we can prove that this was caused by a power surge or a malfunction in the computer itself, let's just bag it as evidence. If it turns out to be just one of those chaotic things, then we're no further behind."

She heaved a sigh and fell back against the counter again. "Fine. All right. But this still leaves me without my computer."

Eddie came into the kitchen. "Oh, there's probably another computer around here that you could use. Henry's got a couple of older ones. And Chris had one of those little briefcase ones."

"A laptop?" Scully asked.

Eddie nodded. "Henry got it for him a few months ago. Right after he got out of rehab."

"Do you know where it is?"

"Probably up in his room somewhere. Come on. We can go find it."

The laptop was in a carrying case, which Scully noted was not imitation leather, on the top shelf of the closet in Christopher Robin Friar's room.

Eddie retrieved it and handed it to Scully. She laid the case on the bed and started to unzip it.

"Do you know what he was using it for? What kind of files he might have been keeping on it?" she asked.

"Well, he'd started writing. That's the main reason that Henry got it, I think. He was absolutely in love with the idea of Chris becoming a writer." Eddie smiled as he watched her hook it up. "He never said so directly, but I also think he had started to keep a journal. I think it was a carryover from rehab. Self-knowledge is power and all that."

It was an IBM Thinkpad and it took Scully a moment to find the appropriate power outlets and plug it in. She pressed the power button and unconsciously stepped back. The computer started to boot.

"Wait a minute." Her forehead puckered as she studied the screen. She turned to Eddie. "Has anybody else touched this since Chris died?"

Eddie shrugged. "I don't know. Probably not. Why?"

Scully ran her tongue along her lip as she thought.

"Agent Scully? What is it?" He looked at the screen then back at her face. "Why do you want to know that?"

"Somebody's wiped the hard drive clean. Everything's been erased."

Mulder flicked off his cellular phone and slid it back into his pocket. "The Boston field office is sending a courier first thing in the morning to pick it up."

He and Scully sat at the harvest table. Between them, in large ziploc bags were the remains of Scully's Powerbook and Chris's Thinkpad.

She felt Mulder's eyes on her before he spoke.

"You don't think this was a power surge, too, do you?"

She wasn't sure from his tone whether that was a question or a statement. She shook her head. "I don't think so. I think somebody reformatted the hard drive."

"Why? Because there was something incriminating on it?"

"I can't think why else someone would bother to do that."

Mulder rubbed his chin. "That suggests a fairly small circle of potential suspects."

Scully nodded.

"Well, we'll know more once the lab guys see if they can piece together anything that may be left on the memory." He got to his feet and shuffled together the papers he'd been studying.

"Where are you going?" Scully asked.

He flashed her a grin. "Upstairs. The witching hour is about to begin and I don't want to miss the first act."

Scully watched him getting his things together, with the enthusiasm of a little leaguer on the way to his first major league game.

"What?" Mulder asked, looking up briefly.

Scully smiled and shook her head. "Nothing. You just never fail to amaze me."

He stopped shuffling and met her gaze. "What do you mean?"

Scully thought she glimpsed a flicker of uncertainty in his face. She chose her words carefully. "You're very persistent. I admire that."

"Even when you think I'm wrong?"

She chuckled, and ducked her head. "Especially then."

His smile blossomed against his will and he tapped the pencil he held on the table top, not looking at her. The moment passed slowly and Scully had just started to wish that she hadn't said anything, when Mulder spoke.

"Come on, if we don't hurry, we'll lose our front row seats."

She followed him out of the kitchen.

He stopped so suddenly at the door to the living room, that she nearly bumped into him. Her heart rate instantly picked up the pace.

"What?" she asked.

He walked slowly into the dimly lit room, without answering her, his eyes glued to a point on the far wall.

"Mulder, what are you...?" She stopped when she saw it.

On the wall, beside the sheets of nailed up plywood, there was a blot of something dark that had trickled down the creamy wall, leaving inky tracks. Mulder moved closer, turning on lights as he went.

She followed and as the room became illuminated, the splotches took on a rusty hue. Mulder stopped a foot or so from the wall and peered at it.

"Scully, I think it's blood."

She came and stood beside him, watched while he touched the wet spot with the tip of his index finger. He stared at the muddy red liquid, rubbed it between his finger and thumb and then looked down at Scully. He held his finger out for her inspection.

"But...I was here when Ainsley finished cleaning up." Scully turned and looked at the floor where Jill had laid bleeding and there was no trace of blood left. She looked back at the wall in front of them which was slick with blood. "Mulder, there wasn't any blood on this wall. I'm certain."

Mulder's eyes were on the blood stained wall, but his thoughts were far away. "Can you get a sample of this? Enough to have it analyzed?"

She nodded, but he had already turned and headed for the door.

"What are you going to do?"

"Find out where Eddie and Ainsley have been for the past two hours." He strode out of the living room and down the hall.

Scully looked for another long moment at the streaky tails of blood that had trickled down the wall, then set her mind to the task of collecting a sample. She decided she'd need some equipment from the car. She had just opened the front door, and still had one hand on the door knob, when she hesitated. The doorway cast a skewed rectangle of golden light out onto the driveway, but everywhere else, the darkness was complete.

She halted in mid-stride, suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable, standing there, framed in the door. She pressed her elbow against the comforting lump of her gun and holster, then took a breath and tried to shake off the feeling of being watched.

Scully glanced at her watch for the third time in ten minutes, saw again that it was just after two a.m.. The house was as silent as a tomb, Ainsley and Eddie having retired hours ago after a couple of games of Scrabble in Eddie's room, where they'd been all evening. She got up from Chris's desk, where she'd been trying to force herself to read over the coroner's notes again, and drifted to the bookcase. She had to stay awake tonight, but without her computer, there was nothing to do, nothing to focus on to keep herself alert. She skimmed the titles again, pulled out a few volumes, but found nothing remotely appealing. Christopher Robin's library was comprised largely of science fiction books which featured sword-toting men with bulging biceps and scantily-dressed but extremely well- endowed women in some submissive pose on the cover.

She walked listlessly around the room again, thought about going down for a cup of tea, but decided not to. She'd probably just wake up Eddie and scare him half to death.

She sighed and sat down heavily on the bed. The copy of "Winnie the Pooh" that she'd been reading the night before when she fell asleep lay beside the bed where it must have fallen when she drifted off. She thought about reading some more, but she knew she had to stay awake tonight. She looked at her watch again. It was going to be four more hours before the courier arrived to pick up the computers and the sample she'd taken from the substance on the living room wall. The time stretched before her unappealingly and she sighed again. Her eyes were tired and burning and she wanted just to close them for a while, but she knew she would be asleep in two minutes if she did. She had to focus on something.

She picked up "Winnie the Pooh" and leafed through it, tried to remember where she'd stopped last night. She mustn't have gotten very far because only the first two chapters were fresh in her memory. She leaned the pillow against the headboard, sat back and opened the book.

"Chapter Three, In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle...."

Scully realized that she was asleep as soon as she started to dream, but she couldn't seem to summon up the will to do anything about it. It was warm where she was and the sunlight that slipped through the treetops was dappled and soothing. Everything around her glowed the delicate green of new spring leaves. She was sleepy and longed to lie down on the grass and close her eyes, but she knew she wasn't supposed to because she was wearing her best Sunday dress and white knee socks and her mother would be furious if she got grass stains on them.

But she was so tired and the breeze was rustling the leaves above her, lulling her to sleep, coaxing her to lie down.

Maybe if she was very careful.

The grass was soft and warm against her cheek, and it felt like a blanket beneath her as she curled up and closed her eyes.

She could hear the trees whispering to her, could feel them close by, watching her. And then the familiar sound of her mother, beside her, humming softly the way she would when she rocked her. A soft hand caressing her cheek, pushing her hair back gently.

Scully sighed and stopped struggling to stay awake. She felt herself starting to slide.

Suddenly the touch turned icy.

Scully's eyes flew open at the sound of the scream.

Everything was dark. Her mind reeled, tried to get a fix on where she was. Heart slamming against her ribs, she groped around, grabbing for the lamp, her gun. There was a crash, and in the hallway, hurried footsteps coming closer.

Light flooded the room, blinding white light that made her wince and squint.

"Scully? Are you all right?" Mulder was in the doorway, Smith and Wesson in hand, his body coiled and tense, one hand on the light switch.

She hoisted herself onto her elbows and looked around, still dazed with sleep. She'd knocked the bedside lamp over. It lay on the floor beside the discarded copy of "Winnie the Pooh".

The last wisps of her dream brushed against her mind and were gone. What had startled her so much? She tried to remember.

"Scully?" Mulder's voice was gentle and he was beside her, sitting on the edge of the bed, now. "What happened? I heard you scream."

Scully ran a hand over her face, then struggled to sit up. "I don't know. I ... I was dreaming, I guess. I must've fallen asleep."

Her heart was beginning to slow down, but her breath was still coming in gasps.

"Are you all right?" Mulder asked, and she felt a warm hand on her arm.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," she said airily, waving away his concern. She pulled herself upright and willed herself to relax. When she'd caught her breath, she looked sheepishly over at Mulder. "Sorry I fell asleep," she said.

"Don't worry about it," he said, as he stood up and slid his weapon back into his holster. "I don't think you missed much." He headed for the door. "I'm going to go make some coffee. It looks like the ghost isn't going to show, and the courier will be here soon."

"Soon?" Scully said. She looked at her watch, which indicated that it was five thirty. She rubbed her eyes. "I must've been out longer than I thought."

"Well I'm glad one of us caught some sleep. At least the night wasn't a total waste." He stopped in the doorway and looked back at her. "But one thing, Scully."

"What?"

"Don't you think that you're a little old to be sleeping with a teddy bear?" He pointed past her to the other side of the bed.

Puzzled, she turned to look.

Edward Bear sat on the pillow beside her, his huge belly distended with stuffing, a stitched grin on his golden face.

Scully stared at the stuffed toy, then looked back at Mulder, confusion and embarrassment mingling on her face.

"Don't worry," he said, "I won't tell anybody back at the Bureau. It'll be our little secret." He smiled almost imperceptibly then headed off down the hall.

As soon as he had turned the corner, Scully spilled out of the bed and stood across the room, in the opposite corner. She stared at the smiling bear for a long time.

The courier came early and left with instructions to deliver the two laptops and the picnic cooler with the refrigerated blood sample to the sci-crime labs of the Boston field office. The van hadn't left the property before Mulder had retreated to one of the guest bedrooms to get some sleep.

Scully, who felt considerably more rested and a little sheepish for having fallen asleep again, showered and changed, then wandered downstairs to the kitchen. Ainsley was punching numbers on the fax machine in between long draughts from a pottery mug. She looked wired and alert, but then, Scully thought, she'd had a full night's sleep. Eddie greeted Scully with a smile and a pot of coffee. She gratefully accepted both and settled in at the table.

"I didn't expect you up so soon," he said, as he placed a mug in front of her and filled it with steaming, dark coffee. "I thought that you might be catching a little shut eye, like Agent Mulder."

"I took a nap earlier," Scully replied.

"Don't you know, Eddie? Our fearless superheroes don't need sleep!" Ainsley said, over the buzzes and beeps of the fax machine. She grinned at Scully. "I'm guessing that you don't go to the bathroom, either."

Eddie patted Scully's arm. "Just ignore her, Agent Scully. It's what I do."

Scully surveyed the bagels, cream cheese, jam and orange juice that were set out on the table and chose a sesame seed bagel. She had barely managed to slice it in half when Ainsley slid into the chair beside her.

"I've been thinking," she said. "About Chris's computer."

"Oh?" Scully tried to sound uninterested and gave her full attention to the knife that she was using to spread the cream cheese.

"You think that whoever killed Chris also wiped the hard drive on his lap top because there was something incriminating on it, right?"

Scully kept her face immobile. "I suppose that's a possibility."

"I hope you play poker Agent Scully because it would be a shame to waste that face," Ainsley said. She studied Scully a moment longer, waited for some reaction. When she got none, she grabbed a bagel from the basket, pulled it apart and spooned jam onto one of the pieces. "Anyway, what I was thinking was this: I know that Chris kept his work backed up on disk..."

"How do you know that?" Scully watched Ainsley's wide, dark eyes carefully.

"Because I remember the first day that his computer ate some short story he'd been working on... he bitched and kvetched and I told him it was his own fault for not backing it up." Ainsley chewed thoughtfully on her bagel, clearly enjoying Scully's undivided attention. "Henry was the same way. Always losing whole chapters because he only saved it on the hard drive. Anyway, I saw Chris back stuff up, lots of times, after that."

"Do you know where he kept those disks?"

"Well, that's the thing. I'm pretty sure that he kept them in his desk upstairs, but whoever trashed his hard drive probably just destroyed the disks, too."

Scully nibbled at her bagel. She thought, but didn't say, that she'd come to the same conclusion.

Ainsley put down her breakfast and leaned forward. "But what if he'd hidden some back up copies of whatever it was that was so important?"

"Why would he feel he had to do that?" Eddie asked, joining them at the table with his cup of coffee. "What was so important that he'd have to hide a back up disk?"

"We won't know until we find it," Ainsley said, "but I'll bet my next two paycheques that if we can find it, we'll know who killed him."

Eddie stared sullenly at his coffee. "I still don't believe that someone killed him," he said. He glanced over at Scully with a pleading look. "Maybe there's some other explanation."

"Yeah, the other explanation is that he killed himself," Ainsley said, "and you didn't like that one much either." She turned her gaze on Scully. "So, what do you think? Am I on to something? Should we start searching for Chris's hiding spot?"

Scully took a drink of coffee and stalled for time. "The computer technicians at the field office will probably be able to recover enough information from the hard drive to give us an idea of what was on there..."

"Oh, come on. There's no telling how long that could take," Ainsley argued.

Scully hesitated.

"It's not like you've got a hundred other good leads to chase down," Ainsley said.

Scully ran the tip of her tongue along her upper lip. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to be thorough..."

"All right!" Ainsley was on her feet, clearing dishes off the table. "I think we should start in Chris's room."

Scully took a last sip of coffee and reluctantly got to her feet.

"You know, this detective stuff isn't so hard," Ainsley said, as she followed Scully out of the kitchen, towards the stairs.

"Oh, it isn't?"

"Hell, no. I just asked myself, if this was a murder mystery and I was writing it, what would I have my characters do next?"

Scully held back her smile as she trudged up the stairs.

 


The hunt had progressed to the third floor by the time Mulder appeared in the hallway, sleepy-eyed, his hair sticking up at spiky angles.

"What's going on?" he asked.

Scully told him about Chris's back up disks, then sighed. "I must admit though, it's beginning to look like whoever wiped the drive just took them."

Mulder nodded as they both watched Ainsley go through the drawers of an antique bureau. "I'll go shower and then come help you look." He padded down the hallway, his footsteps swallowed by the thick Persian carpets. Partway, he stopped and turned. "Did the lab call yet? About the blood sample?"

Scully stifled the urge to tell him that they didn't know whether or not it was blood. "Not yet," was all she said.

He nodded thoughtfully and padded off down the hall.

Scully watched him go and wondered what he wasn't saying.

Their search was interrupted shortly after noon by Henry's arrival. Mulder, Scully and Ainsley were in the living room regrouping when he came in, crossed to an armchair and threw himself down in it. His face was grey and drawn, his eyes red- rimmed and he sank down into the chair, exhausted.

"How's Jill this morning?" Mulder asked.

Henry sat silently for several moments, staring sightlessly ahead, until Scully started to wonder if he'd heard Mulder's words.

When he spoke, his voice was low and flat. "She's resting comfortably," he said. He dragged his gaze to rest on Mulder's face. "Any news? Any idea what happened yesterday?"

"Actually, there are a few things that we need to discuss with you, Henry," Mulder said. Scully noticed that it was the soothing therapist voice, a good choice for the news that had to be delivered.

Before Mulder could begin, Eddie's footsteps came pounding down the hall. He appeared, breathless, in the doorway.

"Sorry to interrupt, but that damn fax machine is howling and buzzing and I don't know what to do."

Ainsley rolled her eyes as she got up and followed him out of the room.

"So, what is it? What do we need to discuss?" Henry asked.

Mulder spoke slowly and quietly. "We have reason to believe that your son may not have committed suicide," he said.

Henry stared blankly at him. "What?"

"We think he may have been murdered."

There was only the briefest pause while the words sunk in. The colour returned suddenly to his face and his cheeks flushed a hot crimson.

"Chris?" The grip he had on the arms of his chair turned his knuckles white. "Who could do such a thing?"

Mulder described their investigation from the coroner's report of Chris's stomach contents and the vitamin capsules that Scully suspected had been used to deliver the lethal dose, to the damage to Chris's Thinkpad and the missing back up disks.

When Mulder finished, Henry studied Mulder and Scully with narrowed eyes.

"You're suggesting that someone here did this," he said. "Someone in this house."

"The M.O. does suggest that the killer had fairly intimate access to Chris."

Henry sucked in a breath and rubbed his face with the palms of his hands. He shook his head. "I can't believe it. That's insane... I mean it's just not possible."

Mulder and Scully waited, let him reel under the weight of the news.

"Whom do you suspect?" he asked, finally, with a pained expression.

Scully glanced at her partner, anxious to see if Mulder would reveal what he'd been quietly mulling over the past two days.

He shook his head, eyes downcast, his face closed off. "We haven't gathered enough evidence to be able to determine that yet." Therapist voice again, caressing, reassuring.

Ainsley returned with a handful of slippery fax paper. "It's for you guys," she said.

Scully accepted the fax with a nod of thanks, then quickly skimmed the contents.

Her insides tightened.

"What is it?" Mulder asked, leaning closer to look over her shoulder at the fax.

"It's the report from the lab on the sample I got from the wall," she said. The pages hung limply in her numb hands.

"What do they say?" Mulder asked.

She pulled her eyes back to the report, read the critical sentences again to herself, then looked up in disbelief.

"Well, they think it's human blood," she said, "but there must be some mistake..." Her eyes darted through the information again.

"They found evidence of leukemia, didn't they?" Mulder's voice was maddeningly neutral.

Scully's eyes flicked up to his face. "Could I speak to you for a minute?" She gave Henry an apologetic glance and then was on her feet, headed for the hall before Mulder could even nod.

She wheeled on him the moment they were a discrete distance from the living room.

"Mulder, what the hell is going on? Where are you going with this?" she asked.

"Did the blood sample show evidence of leukemia?"

"Yes," she said, and she was surprised to find her breath coming in little gasps. "Mulder, how did you know that?"

"I don't think it's the ghost of Christopher Robin Friar who's causing the lights and the sounds and the accidents," he said, his voice low and reigned in. "I think it's his mother."

Scully stared at him. "His mother," she repeated.

Mulder nodded. "I think that somebody murdered her son and now she's here to avenge the murder."

Scully crossed her arms and sighed. "Mulder, do you hear what you're saying? You're telling me that a woman who's been dead for fifteen years caused that window to explode yesterday. It's ridiculous. There's absolutely no evidence to support..."

Mulder pointed at the fistful of fax paper that she clutched.

"Oh, come on. This has to be a testing error. The sample was contaminated or..."

"Emily Friar died of leukemia in 1981," Mulder said.

"That proves nothing."

"It's an awfully big coincidence, then, don't you think?"

"Yes, that's just what it is. It's a coincidence," she said. "A coincidence based on some random error in the analysis of that sample."

"Are you saying that the window just randomly exploded the other day? And that it was random blood on the wall?"

She pursed her lips and didn't answer right away. "I can't explain that yet," she said finally, but Mulder was already galloping off on a different path.

"Could we request a DNA analysis of that sample?" he asked. "If we could compare it with..."

"Mulder," she said, flatly, "nobody is going to believe that the ghost of Emily Friar is haunting this house and frankly, it doesn't matter. The crime that's been committed here is murder, and I don't think that Chris was killed by a ghost."

"No," he said and his eyes were faraway, looking over her head, but seeing only the trails and landscapes that were forming in his mind. She knew that look.

"What?" she prompted, hands on her hips.

"No, she didn't kill him, but I think she's trying to tell us who did."

Scully eyes searched his face for the answer.

"Think about it, Scully. There's one person who's consistently been the target of the attacks."

"You think Jill killed Chris?" Scully said, dubiously.

"She would have had access to his medication and to those vitamins he was taking."

"But why? Mulder, we have no motive."

"Then that's what we have to figure out," he said.

A polite cough a few feet away made them both turn. Ainsley and Eddie were standing in the hall, looking at once triumphant and sheepish.

"Is this a bad time?" Eddie asked. "If it is, we can..."

"We found it," Ainsley blurted out, barely able to contain her glee. She held up a computer disk.

"Where was it?" Scully asked.

Ainsley shot a look at Eddie, who reluctantly held up Edward Bear, his huge golden belly unsewn and spilling stuffing.

"It was in the bear?" Scully asked, incredulous.

They both nodded.

Mulder and Scully exchanged looks.

"Well, come on! Let's see what's on it!" Ainsley said.

They clustered around Henry's computer, peering intently at the screen. Scully's fingers flew across the keys, pulling the files up in WordPerfect. There were twenty nine files, each with the letters "JNL" and a date. Scully hit the key to retrieve the first file. The screen prompted her for a password.

"Shit!" Ainsley said. "They're password protected."

Scully went down the columns trying each file in turn. "They're all locked. We'll have to send it to the lab."

Mulder whipped out his cell phone. "I'll get somebody from the field office out here to pick it up."

Scully stared at the screen and thought. "When was his birthday?" she asked.

"Chris?" Henry asked. "It was April 28, 1972."

Scully typed in combinations of numbers, then shook her head.

"Try POOHBEAR," Ainsley said, and she hunched down to watch the screen, while Scully typed.

"How about EDWARDBEAR, or EMILY?" Eddie asked.

"Try RUGBYSCRUM," Henry suggested.

Scully dutifully tried each password, but the files remained locked.

In a half hour, they had exhausted their guesses. By then, Eddie had drifted back to the kitchen, Henry had gone to shower and change and Mulder was arguing on the phone with someone from the Boston field office.

Scully looked up at Ainsley, who still stood beside her, staring sullenly at the screen.

"I guess this detective stuff is a little harder than I thought," Ainsley said.

"Oh?"

She nodded. "By now, I would have had my characters crack the password and charge off to arrest the bad guys."

Scully smiled. "I'm afraid it only happens like that on TV."

"Yeah, well, reality is highly overrated, in my humble opinion." Ainsley sighed and looked at her watch. "I'd better go round up Henry. I have a ton of work for him to do. With all this excitement, he's getting behind on his deadlines."

Scully watched her leave, then listened briefly while Mulder tried to convince some administrative assistant to send another courier out to rural Massachussetts. She glanced back at the screen where the cursor flashed impatiently and wondered how to spell Eeyore.


"That Accounts for a Good Deal," said Eeyore, gloomily. "It
Explains Everything. No Wonder."
-- from Winnie-the-Pooh


Henry left for the hospital around six, with Ainsley trailing after him with lists of work that still needed his attention. Scully gave up on the password when she realized that she was typing in random letters. She withdrew to Chris's room to gather up her files and to try to figure out what information had been lost on her Powerbook's hard drive. She was sitting on the bed, papers spread out across it like some chaotic game of solitaire when Eddie knocked softly.

"No luck on the password thing?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No, but the computer guys at the Boston field office will get into the files in no time."

He leaned against the doorjamb. "What are you expecting to find in the files?"

Scully paused, papers in hand. "I don't really know," she said, with an apologetic smile.

Eddie took this in and stared at the carpet for a few moments. When he looked up, his eyes were dull and sad. "You suspect Jill killed Chris, don't you?"

Scully's mouth tightened into a thin line. "Eddie, I'm sorry, but I can't really discuss..."

He waved her off. "I know, I know. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked." He pulled in a breath, and blew it out, tried to shake off the mood. "Anyway, that's not why I came up here. I came up to tell you that Agent Mulder would like you to come and have a look at some phone records that he just got faxed to him."

Scully nodded. "Okay. Thanks, Eddie." She dropped the last of the papers on the appropriate piles and stood up.

"He's working in the kitchen," Eddie said, as they headed down the hall towards the staircase.

The thick, sweet smell of baking reached them at the first landing.

"Eddie, that smells wonderful," Scully said. "What are you making?"

"A couple of apple pies. Could I tempt you with a piece?"

Scully stopped in the middle of the staircase, one hand on the railing and stared at Eddie. "Pie," she said, absently.

"Un-hunh. Should be ready in a couple of minutes."

Scully suddenly turned and sprinted back up the stairs to Chris's room. Eddie called after her, but she couldn't make out the words.

The book was on the floor beside the bed. She snatched it up and fanned through the pages, skimming, searching. In another moment, she found the page and hurried back downstairs.

She had booted Henry's computer and was pulling up the WordPerfect files when Mulder strode into the living room, sleeves rolled up, papers in hand and a puzzled look on his face.

"Scully, is everything all right? Eddie said you were acting strangely," he said.

Scully peeked over the top of the computer. "Cottleston Pie, Mulder."

He watched her for a moment. "Beg your pardon?"

"I'm playing a hunch," she said, her eyes flicking back and forth between Mulder and the glowing blue screen. "Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie, a fly can't bird, but a bird can fly. Ask me a riddle and I will reply, Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie."

Mulder nodded in recognition and crossed the room while Scully input the password.

The file opened and a journal entry appeared on the screen.

They both leaned forward and rapidly read through the text.

"All right. *This* time I'm gonna back up these damn entries. If I'm gonna take the time to write them, I might as well save them. Regular day today. Worked out, had lunch with Dad. Talked to the dean of the writing program at Newnham college about auditing some courses in the summer. He said yes so fast and was all slimy nice. He must think that Dad is going to make another donation. I only had two stories to show him and one of them is a piece of shit, so I know it wasn't my throbbing raw talent that caught his eye. It's still hard to concentrate sometimes, to really get the vision in my head down on paper. I re-read one of Dad's early unpublished novels yesterday and it wasn't so great either. He said these things take time..."

Scully scrolled down through the text, and then on through the next two files. Chris detailed each day, describing rugby practice, weight lifting, after care appointments.

"Try something closer to mid-February," Mulder suggested.

Scully pulled up a file dated one week before Chris's death.

"That fucking bitch. I can't fucking believe it. Right in the goddam house... in his own fucking bed! What a bitch. The look on their faces when I walked in. Finally, I can prove to Dad what she's been up to this whole time. And with Bruce. Not that it should have surprised me. The man is a scum-sucking bottom dweller. Dad's trusted friend. Christ. Screwing his wife, in his own bed. Poor Dad."

Scully sank back in the chair, with a tired sigh.

"What's the last entry?" Mulder asked.

Scully opened the last file.

"I don't quite know what to think. Two days of Jill begging me not to tell Dad, promising she'd break it off, yatta yatta yatta. I suppose I should feel happy that Dad's finally gonna know the truth and that we'll be rid of her, but I feel... I don't know...sad. Because I know how hurt he's gonna be. But it's for the best really. He needs to know. And then this afternoon, I answered the phone and it's the passport office, asking for Jill. What the hell is she up to now? I don't think she'd be skipping the country unless she knew she could bring a big chunk of Dad's money with her. I wonder if I should call Dad now and tell him. I don't want to tell him on the phone."

"He was right," Mulder said, and he spread out some pages across the keyboard and desk. "These are the phone records for this residence. See that number? There's two, three calls a day to it."

Scully nodded.

"It's Bruce Ferguson's cellular number."

"But he's Henry's manager. It makes sense that there'd be calls to him."

"Do you see the dates when all these calls were made?" Mulder asked. He ran his finger along a column of numbers. "They coincide with Henry's west coast book tour. He wasn't even here."

Scully pursed her lips and watched while Mulder laid out more papers.

"And these are the records of the calls made from Bruce's cellular phone. After Henry's number, the most popular numbers are to two addresses in the Cayman Islands."

Scully raised her eyebrows. "Banks?"

Mulder nodded. "I've got Danny checking, but so far, Bruce has been calling that number several times a week for three years."

"That might be for another client. Or maybe he just does his banking there. This is still not a smoking gun, Mulder."

"Maybe not, but I think we may have what you wanted Scully. A motive." He straightened up, started to roll down his sleeves. "How about we go have a chat with Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Shepard?"

 


"Hush!" said Christopher Robin, turning round to Pooh,
"we're just coming to a Dangerous Place."
-- from Winnie-the-Pooh


A phone call to Bruce Ferguson's home revealed that he was at a meeting with a client, but would be phoning in for his messages shortly. Scully slipped her cell phone back into the pocket of her overcoat and pulled the lapels close up around her face to ward off the chill of the car.

"Are you in a betting mood, Scully?" Mulder asked.

"Maybe. What are we betting on?"

"Finding Bruce Ferguson at the hospital."

"I'd say that's a sucker's bet, Mulder."

He chuckled as he wheeled the car through the front gates and onto the road. Scully shivered and leaned forward and fiddled with the heater controls, jacked it up to high. "God, it's cold. Aren't you cold?" she asked.

He shook his head.

They wound through the countryside, the headlights clearing a stark thin path ahead of them, the heater slowly warming the cabin. Outside, the wind whipped through the naked trees, made them bend and moan.

Scully glanced over at her partner, his face illuminated by the glow of the dashlights.

"Do you really think that the ghost of Emily Friar is haunting that house?" she asked.

A hint of a smile and the line of his jaw softened. "It's only slightly more absurd than your underground stream theory," he said.

"Well, at least my theory is based on observable evidence, Mulder. Your ghost is predicated on some blurry photos and a handful of coincidences."

"They say nothing is stronger than maternal instinct, Scully. I think Emily Friar is just doing what any mother would want to do when her child has been harmed." He took his eyes off the road to look at her. "Take revenge."

Scully hiked a sceptical eyebrow and looked out her window.

"Do you think you have that kind of murderous rage in you, Scully?" He was teasing, only half-serious, but full earnest.

Scully turned, a flippant answer on her lips, but stopped suddenly. A flash of Mulder, laying on a dock, shot and bleeding, and the sound of her own voice, howling with barely checked pain and fear. She felt herself flush suddenly and was glad that the car was dark.

She looked down at her hands for a long moment before she answered.

"I don't know," she said. "Maybe."

With their black coats streaming behind them, billowing with each hurried stride, Scully felt like some sort of power-suited angel of death invading the antiseptic pastel halls of the hospital. In the elevator on the way up to the third floor, Mulder checked the clip on his gun.

"Mulder, I think we should be careful not to spook him," Scully said.

"They both know we've found the disk and that it's just a matter of time until we get into Chris's files. I have a feeling he won't be surprised to see us," Mulder said grimly, staring up at the numbers.

The elevator heralded their arrival with a good natured tone. Scully had to hurry to match Mulder's stride down the hallway and around the corner.

Henry and Bruce were standing outside the door to Jill's room, thirty yards away. Scully saw Bruce's eyes snap up from Henry's face and begin tracking them. He took a tentative step backwards.

Mulder reached for his badge. "Mr. Ferguson, we'd like to talk to you for a minute," he said.

The panic descended on Bruce Ferguson's face like a curtain falling after the last act. He looked frantically from side to side, hesitated for a heartbeat and then bolted down the hall, away from Mulder and Scully.

"Damn it!" Scully said and they broke into a run.

Henry's expression was confused as they sprinted by. "Call security!" Mulder shouted at him.

Ahead of them, Ferguson careened around a corner. Scully and Mulder closed in, rounding the corner only a dozen strides behind him. Mulder drew his gun, but the hallway was crowded with visitors and staff all of whom seemed to be pushing metals carts with trays of meals and pills.

Through the obstacle course of people and equipment, Scully saw Ainsley. She was walking towards them, head down, reading something. Ferguson grabbed her arm and Ainsley looked up, startled. The next instant, she'd yanked her arm out of his grasp and was glaring stubbornly at him.

"Ainsley!" Scully shouted and reached for her gun.

Her head turned towards the call, and Ferguson slammed her into the wall. She hit face first then started to slide as her knees buckled. In a fluid motion, Ferguson reached into his jacket with one hand and dragged Ainsley to her feet with the other. Scully saw the cold glint of black metal. She felt Mulder tense beside her, raise his gun too late.

"He's got a gun! Get down! Get down!" someone was shouting and the hall became a frantic tangle of people scrambling to get out of the way.

Ferguson was backing away from them, one nervous step at a time, his eyes darting around the hall, looking for an escape. He held Ainsley in front of him, like a shield, one arm locked around her neck.

"Mr. Ferguson, we just need to ask you some questions," Mulder said, easing forward. "Let her go and we'll talk."

Scully kept pace with Mulder, gaining a few steps, closing the distance. Blood was trickling from Ainsley's nose and dripping onto her white sweater, staining it crimson. Her eyes were wide and dark and terrified.

"Why don't you just let her go and we can all sit down and talk about this," Mulder said, his therapist tone charged slightly with adrenaline.

Ferguson didn't answer, just continued backing away.

Mulder took a step forward.

Ferguson whipped the gun out from behind Ainsley and pressed the barrel to her temple.

"You take one more goddam step and I'll kill her," he said, his voice quavering with panic as he spoke. Ainsley was drawing in jagged breaths now, trying to stifle sobs. Scully could see Mulder hesitating over the next step.

Ferguson cocked the gun and the click echoed in the deserted hallway.

Mulder froze. "Okay, okay. We're not moving," he said, holding up a hand, and lowering his gun.

Scully stopped a step behind Mulder, to his left, but kept her weapon trained on Ferguson.

"Look, nobody has to be hurt..." Mulder said.

"Oh, spare me the pep talk, Agent Mulder," Ferguson spat back. "It's a little late for that."

He edged backwards a little further, his eyes darting about until they landed on a door directly to his right. He glanced back at Mulder and Scully, then leaped for the doorknob, hauling Ainsley along with him.

Scully tensed, watched for a clear shot.

He yanked open the door and slipped through, keeping Ainsley between them the whole time.

The door swung shut and Scully saw the stencilled sign that indicated the stairwell.

They both rushed forward, pressing themselves against the wall on either side of the door. Mulder cracked the door open and peeked up. A single shot ricocheted and reverberated in the empty stairwell and Mulder pulled back quickly.

"He's going up. I'll follow," Mulder said. "See if you can cut him off on the next floor."

Scully nodded tersely and sprinted down the hall, heart thudding in her ears.

Two wrong turns later, she located another stairwell and raced up two flights to the next floor. She burst through the door, into another antiseptic hallway full of visitors and patients. Holding her badge aloft, she ran down the hall, found the door for the stairs and listened. Faint noises. She pulled the door open and gingerly peeked in. She could hear shouts from higher in the stairs, the slapping sound of shoes on concrete steps. She turned and retraced her steps to the other stairwell.

Two more flights and then a huge grey door marked "Roof Access". She pushed through it and kept low.

The wind was roaring like a freight train, sending dark clouds scudding across the moonless sky. She cocked her head and tried to listen for Mulder or Ferguson but only heard the rush and howl of the wind in her ears.

She moved cautiously, almost doubled over, every sense alert. A movement to her right caught her eye and she slipped into a crouch behind a huge ventilation unit. A voice, carried from somewhere on the wind, reached her ears. She slipped noiselessly towards the end of the unit and realized that it ended a few feet from the edge of the building. Scattered words came to her, Mulder's voice, shouting over the wind. She balanced herself with one hand and peered down the alley between the two foot ledge at the edge of the roof and the ventilation unit.

Ferguson held Ainsley in front of him and was standing at the ledge, the back of his legs pressed against it. As Scully watched, he climbed up onto the ledge, clumsily dragging Ainsley with him, his attention riveted on Mulder. He was shouting at Mulder, but the wind tore his words away, sent them spiralling away from Scully.

Scully crept out into the space between the ledge and the ventilation unit, keeping low in the shadows, and edged forward, her eyes on Ferguson. He was still yelling at Mulder, and yanking Ainsley off her feet, keeping her off balance. She clutched with both hands the forearm that was locked around her neck. Scully tried not to look at her, to keep her focus on Ferguson. She had a clear shot at his side, but he was moving too much and Ainsley was too close to risk it from this range. She had to get closer and then get him to turn away from her. She crept forward, staying low.

Suddenly, as Scully watched, Ferguson's head snapped back and he lost his footing on the ledge. Scully froze as he righted himself, then turned and stared, confused, in her direction. She pressed herself even lower, her chin tucked against her knees, and waited, her eyes on him.

Another snap of the head, harder this time and his gun slipped out of his hand. Scully tensed and raised her gun.

Ferguson was looking all around him, now, bracing himself and shouting at Mulder to get back. Suddenly, his whole body jerked, as if he'd been tackled. He let go of Ainsley, teetering on the edge, his arms swinging wildly, clawing at the air to right himself.

He screamed as he started to fall.

Scully stood up and ran.

At the last moment, Ferguson clapped a hand on Ainsley's shoulder. They both toppled over backwards, Ainsley throwing herself forward, frantically grabbing for the ledge as they went.

Ten long strides and Scully was there, with Mulder. Ainsley clung to the concrete ledge with both arms, her legs dangling, her screams piercing the wind. Scully dropped her gun and she and Mulder hauled Ainsley up over the ledge to safety. Ainsley collapsed against Scully, burrowing into her arms, sobbing. Scully gently lowered her to the gravel rooftop, wrapping her coat around the shaking woman. She kept a tight arm around her while she looked up at Mulder, who was peering over the side of the building. His face was hard and drawn when she caught his eye. He shook his head.

Scully wrapped both arms around Ainsley. "It's okay. You're all right," she said in soothing tones. "It's over."


"Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear!"
from "Winnie-the-Pooh"


Dusty beams of weak sunlight slipped through the blinds and into Ainsley's hospital room as Mulder and Scully pushed open the door, late the next afternoon. Ainsley was sitting up in bed, bent over a notebook, scribbling furiously.

"You're supposed to be resting," Scully said.

Ainsley looked up. Her face was obscured by a swath of bandages and surgical tape that covered her nose, but above the white dressings, her dark eyes were smiling.

"Hey! The ghostbusters!" she said.

Scully smiled as she perched on the side of the bed to examine her face more closely. "How are you feeling today?"

"As good as someone with a broken nose can feel, I suppose," she said. "Yet another reason to dislike that bastard." Ainsley glanced over at Mulder, who was standing with his hands deep in the pockets of his trenchcoat. "I am sorry I missed Jill being arrested, though."

"How's Henry taking it?" Mulder asked.

Ainsley shrugged. "His wife and his best friend killed his son, were having an affair and had embezzled seven million dollars from him. He's not so great."

Scully frowned. "Actually, we just found out that the number is up to nine million," she said. "They're still following the paper trail."

Ainsley shook her head, sadly. "Not much of a happy ending for him, I suppose. But I'm feeling pretty grateful. If you guys hadn't moved so fast, I'd have been road kill down there in the parking lot like Bruce." She looked from Mulder to Scully and back again. "I still don't know how you moved fast enough to catch me."

"Catch you?" Scully glanced over at Mulder, who looked equally puzzled.

"Yeah. I was in mid air and going down when I felt you guys grab me and pull me toward the ledge so I could hang on."

Scully said nothing, but felt Mulder beside her formulating questions.

"Sometimes a trauma like that can distort your memory a bit," she said quickly. "You were pretty badly in shock." She shot a look at Mulder. He met her gaze and held it for a moment.

"The important thing is that you're okay," he said, finally. "After all, horror fans everywhere depend on you to keep Henry at his word processor pumping out those books and movies."

"Actually, he prefers the term `speculative fiction', but you're right, it's an onerous task, and one that I may soon be abandoning to pursue my own work."

"Really?" Mulder asked. He nodded in the direction of her notebook. "Is that what you're working on?"

She nodded vigorously. "I've got this fabulous idea for a series of novels. Something new."

"What's that?"

"A hybrid genre, a cross over between mystery and science fiction. See, it's about these two federal agents who specialize in paranormal cases. Really scary shit, based on actual documented incidents, but with all the detective stuff thrown in." She grinned pointedly at Scully. "I'm envisioning a really charged relationship between the two protagonists. A lot of unresolved sexual tension." The grin spread, made her eyes twinkle. "Something for everybody."

"Well, we'd better leave you to it," Scully said, as she stood up.

"Listen, is it okay if I call you guys? For research questions and stuff?" Ainsley asked.

"Sure," Mulder said. "Just ask for the basement dwellers. They'll know who you mean."

Ainsley beamed. "Thanks," she said. "For everything."

Scully smiled and gave her a little wave. Mulder held the door for her and ushered her into the hallway.

"Do you really think anybody would want to read that kind of thing?" she asked as they fell into step.

Mulder shrugged. "There's no accounting for taste."

She was pondering this when she felt his hand on her elbow.

"Hey, Scully, can I borrow your cell phone for a minute? I must've left mine in the car," Mulder said.

"Sure," she said, reaching into her overcoat and feeling around for the tiny phone. "Who do you need to call?"

"I thought I might call my mom," he said, averting his eyes from her face. "I haven't spoken to her in quite a while."

Scully smiled and handed him her phone, then decided that when he was done, she might just give her mom a call, too.

The End


Thanks to Sonia for issuing death threats to motivate me to finish this.

Thanks also to all the wonderful people who e-mail with comments. Much appreciated.

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