Summary: After getting a new partner, Scully and Mulder go on a ghost hunt in a haunted house. Things don't turn out the way the expect and naturally, Mulder ends up getting hurt. Mulder-torture and some angst thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!
"STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES
J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington D.C.
The day had begun with a bang. Quite literally. A blown-out tire later, Skinner wasn't in the best of moods and when his counterpart from Spokane showed up in his office, he felt that life couldn't become more complicated. John Goldberg was the kind of guy who only showed up in person when something was wrong.
"Walter, good to see you," he said, shaking hands with Skinner in his overly animated fashion.
Skinner disengaged his hand before the other man could shake it of his arm. "John," he said a little curtly and settled back on his chair. "To what do I owe this honor?" he added in a slightly sarcastic tone of voice.
Goldberg sat down across from him, folded his hands and leaned forward. "Walter, I have a problem." His tone of voice was low and his grey eyes piercing. Skinner couldn't help thinking that the man was going to shove a scorpion down his collar. Figuratively speaking, of course. "A big one."
"Don't we all," Skinner commented dryly, not really interested in Goldberg's problems. 'I have enough of my own', he thought with a scowl at the reports he had yet to read and sign lying in a pile on the corner of his desk.
Goldberg glanced at them as well, then smiled. "As you're the unfortunate A.D. who has Agent Mulder under his wing, I think you will understand the dilemma I'm in," he started. "I've got a problem that is so big, I have to do something about it."
Skinner thought he knew what came next. And he didn't like it one bit. "Does that problem have a name?" he wanted to know, well aware that Goldberg was talking about one of his agents. It was so like the man not to get to point at once.
"Oh yeah. Tesla Jezek. And she's causing so much friction, I'm afraid one of the other agents may very well put a gun to her head and pull the trigger. I need to get rid of her. Stat," Goldberg explained, his expression a bit sour.
Skinner raised an eyebrow. "Psycho?" he asked, thoughtlessly using the nickname that Tesla Jezek had earned for herself. She was certainly not someone he would consider hiring. Jezek was more trouble than she was worth. She received a lot of goodwill from her colleagues, but she also managed to piss people off. Severely.
"Yeah, Psycho," Goldberg interrupted his train of thought. "What I was thinking was that you have Mulder and I've got Jezek. You get Jezek and I want your Agent Scully in return. Then you can put Mulder and Jezek together and see what happens."
Skinner had known all along that Goldberg didn't give anything for nothing. And the thought of having to transfer Scully out of here made him shiver inside. "Not a chance, Goldberg. She's the only thing keeping Mulder in line. So forget about it."
"Look, Walter, I know you think that she's got an influence on the man, but I know enough of Mulder to know that he does what he wants. No matter what Agent Scully has to say about it. So why not? It would do her reputation good to get away from him, anyway." Goldberg was really desperate. He was trying really hard to push his wish through.
Skinner's expression told Goldberg that he didn't have a leg to stand on. "If Jezek is what you offer me in return for Scully you can forget it. She's a good agent and I wouldn't part with her on any account." He shook his head. "I will take Jezek off your hands if you're really desperate to get rid of her, but you're not getting Scully."
Goldberg took a moment to think it through, then sighed. "Okay, Walt. You win. You get Jezek and you can keep Scully. Too bad her reputation is being ruined by that lunatic." With that, Goldberg rose, mock-saluted Skinner and strode out of the office.
Skinner sat back on his chair and exhaled. This was not good. He didn't want another loose canon making life hard for him and that was what he would get from Jezek. He had never actually met the woman in person, but her reputation among his colleagues and his superiors was not good. Most department heads feared getting someone like her on their staff. Mainly because she had no scruples, no respect for authorities and seemed to believe that rules were made to be broken. So she broke them over and over again. Reprimands did no good and for some obscure reason Skinner couldn't fathom, she hadn't been fired yet. Someone on the inside was protecting her. Well, now that he was getting her, there would be changes in the way she was allowed to behave. If she stepped over the line, he would ship her straight to Alaska or some other remote place. Maybe that would teach her some manners. But he knew where to put her for the time being. He thumbed the intercom on. "Kimberly. Find Agent Mulder and get him up here at once," he growled.
"Yes sir," his secretary answered promptly.
Basement 08.30 a.m.
Mulder had just arrived to find an empty office. That was quite a surprise. Scully was usually always there before him. No matter when he came in. With a frown he draped his coat over the back of his chair and looked around. The absence of his partner gave him a bad feeling and he just considered calling her when the phone rang. He picked it up, anticipating Scully's voice. Instead he heard the crisp voice of Skinner's secretary, Kimberly.
"Agent Mulder? A.D. Skinner would like to see you in his office," she said.
Mulder briefly wondered why. "I just have to make a phone call. Then I'll be up," he told her.
"He would like to see you at once, Agent Mulder. And he's not in a good mood," Kim replied, then hung up.
Mulder looked at the receiver in his hand as if he thought it might bite him, then hung up as well. Skinner wasn't in a good mood? What had he done now? Shaking his head, he decided to call Scully later. There was no sense in upsetting the man more than necessary.
Just as he got up, Scully came in the door. "Sorry I'm late. Car trouble," she said, sounding a little out of breath. "I'm going to kill whoever thinks its fun to let the air out of peoples tires," she added and dropped her brief case on her desk. Then she noted Mulder's expression and the fact that he was on his way out the door. "What's up?"
"Skinner want's to see me. Kim said he's not in a good mood," he countered, looking a little concerned. Mainly because he had no idea what was wrong.
Scully leaned her head to one side, giving him her usual look when he was in trouble. "What did you do?" she wanted to know.
"That's the fun part of it. Nothing," he replied. "See you later," he added and strode out the door.
"Yeah - if he doesn't fire you on the spot," Scully mumbled under her breath, thinking that Skinner would at one point get enough of Mulder and just throw him out of the Bureau.
"I heard that," Mulder said and left.
A.D. Skinner's office 08.35 a.m.
Mulder unconsciously straightened his tie when he stepped into the front office. Skinner's secretary looked up from her work and nodded to him. "Go right in. He's expecting you," she said and returned to her work, aware of that Skinner might start yelling at the man soon.
The expression on her face told Mulder much more than words would have and for the first time in his career under Skinner he felt apprehensive about going into that office, mainly because he had the same idea Scully had. It was a matter of time before he stepped over that one particular line where Skinner's patience snapped. He pushed the door open and could tell by the expression on Skinner's face that things weren't good. And all the while he was frantically trying to figure out what he had done wrong this time. Not even the last case had been something he thought Skinner would get upset about. "You wanted to see me?" he asked.
"Sit down, Agent Mulder," Skinner said brusquely and Mulder complied. Skinner looked him over for a second, his expression not wavering from the dooms-day look, then he sighed heavily. "You are getting a second partner, Agent Mulder."
Mulder's expression revealed his surprise. Basically, his jaw dropped. "I am?" he then asked and Skinner nodded.
"Yes. A Tesla Jezek. I'm sure you've heard of her. Her reputation is far worse than yours," the Assistant Director said. "We've been asked to take her in since the Spokane-office can no longer deal with her. So we get her and if that doesn't work out, she'll probably be asked to leave the Bureau for good. I'm not sure what she's been doing so far. She'll be here within the next week or so." Skinner hesitated, wondering if there was anything else he needed to tell Mulder.
Mulder starred at him. Yes, he had heard of Tesla "Psycho" Jezek. The woman was a time bomb ready to go off. She could blow a fuse over nothing - or so he had heard. "Okay," he finally said, not knowing what else to say. If she would be a part of the group, that was it. He couldn't object to it.
"That's all," Skinner told him, looking at him as if he was daring him to make a fuzz. When he realized that Mulder wouldn't, he relaxed a little. If anyone in his department would be able to deal with Jezek's arrival, it would have to be Mulder. That - and that alone had made him decide to shove her into the X-Files department. Not because Mulder and Scully needed the backup, but because the two of them would probably be the only ones ready to accept her.
Mulder got up and left the office again, feeling slightly silly because of his previous concern and more than just a little surprised. A second partner? He realized that Skinner had not assigned Jezek to the X-Files because they needed the man power. The only reason he could come up with was that if they were working together, Skinner always knew where they were.
Basement 09.00 a.m.
Scully looked up from the file she had been going over when Mulder came back in. By the look on his face she judged that something had happened, but that it wasn't bad. "So?" she asked.
"We're getting a new partner," Mulder replied and dropped down on his chair. "Psycho Jezek is being transferred to our department and we get the honor of her company." He couldn't help himself from using the nickname. According to those that knew her, she was actually proud of it.
"Psycho Jezek?" Scully asked, putting pressure on the nickname. That was someone she had never heard of before. "Who's that?"
Mulder made a face. "I've never actually met the woman, but she's said to take chances nobody else would touch with a ten-foot pole," he said and with a sly grin, he just had to add, "and if you think I'm bad, wait till you meet her. She's worse."
Scully's immediate reaction to that was disbelief. It had never dawned on her that there could be an agent more extreme than Mulder. "Worse?" she asked, sounding dubious. "That's hard to imagine."
Assistant Director Skinner's office
Skinner looked up when there was a knock on his door. "Come in," he said, wondering who would bother him this early. Even his otherwise ever present secretary wasn't in this early.
The door opened and what he for a second considered to be an apparition strode into the office. She was tall, blond and blue-eyed. A pair of tight jeans left fairly little to the imagination and a tight-fitting turtle neck sweater revealed a rather voluminous chest. Cowboy boots and a leather jacket made him think of a rampaging teenager. All she was missing was a gum or a cigarette. Every man's dream girl. That thought drifted through his mind and he quickly suppressed it. That was no way to think of a visitor. "Morning," she said. Her voice was deep and almost raw, but her tone left something to be desired. She sounded bored.
"Morning. Can I help you?" he asked, still starring at her as if he had never seen anything like her before.
"Yeah, I guess you can. I'm Jezek. Tesla Jezek," she introduced herself, leaving the Assistant Director of the F.B.I. in want of words. All he could do was stare at her. Jezek starred back for a moment, then spread out her arms rather forcefully. "What?" she wanted to know.
Skinner finally managed to find his voice again. "Agent Jezek?" he asked and she nodded. "Why are you here so early? I didn't expect you before noon," he went on, still starring at her. This was supposed to be the famous trouble-maker?
"Sorry to disappoint you... sir." The last she said with an almost-sneer. Her lack of respect should have made him react, but he didn't. "I got in early and I don't like waltzing into an office building like this in the middle of the day. Not the first day, anyway."
Waving at a chair, he motioned for her to sit down. She didn't comply. "Sit down," he said, causing her to glace at the chair, again without complying. "Or stand," he added. "You have a reputation, Agent Jezek. A bad one. One that I hope you will keep to a minimum while you're working for me."
At his words, she dropped down on the chair. She wasn't lady-like or cute or anything else. She didn't even seem to be very professional. "Yeah, I've got a reputation. I've got a problem accepting orders." Leaning forward, she rested her elbows on her knees and folded her hands. "I'm a trouble maker, a suicidal maniac, a lunatic, a creep. You name it. I've heard it all before and I don't give a shit. Spokane doesn't want me because my behavior rubs off on the other agents. I'd be surprised if I last long here. I have no intention of groveling before you or anybody else. I like what I am. I do my job and that should - after all - be what counts. Right?"
Skinner didn't quite know how to react to all this. He couldn't help feeling a little intimidated by this woman. She had an exceptionally strong will. It literally emanated from her in thick, heavy waves. He pulled himself together and his eyes narrowed slightly. "Agent Jezek. I will not tolerate any kind of subordination from you. I know your reputation and I don't much care for it. I usually don't pay any attention to that. In your case, though, I'll be keeping an eye on you. If you step over the line, I will have to act. I can't have agents going their own ways if that means they jeopardize their partners."
Jezek looked a little surprised at that. "You've actually found someone who wants to work with me?" she asked and there was a certain amount of surprise in her voice as well.
"I have assigned you to the X-Files department. I have no idea what you've done so far and I don't care, to be honest. You will work together with Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Their office is in the basement. You should have no trouble finding it," Skinner droned, eyeing her closely for any signs of recognition.
"Agent Fox Mulder? Spooky Mulder?" she asked, then leaned back on the chair, a content look on her incredibly pretty face. "That's cute. I've always wanted to meet him. He's an idol of mine."
'Oh great', Skinner thought, just barely preventing himself from rolling his eyes. Mulder was getting a fan club. "Yes, the same," he agreed. "And - Agent Jezek? We have a dress code here. You can't go to work in clothes like that."
She looked down herself, a smile on her lips. "Why? Are you afraid I might upset the boys?" she countered.
"Frankly - yes. Dress conservatively - if you know how. If not, ask Agent Scully for help. What else you need to know you can learn from Scully and Mulder. Any questions?" Skinner was about to wrap this conversation up. He wanted this woman out of his office so he could think clearly again.
"Naw," she replied, getting up. "Nice meeting you... sir." Again the latter came reluctantly, but Skinner knew he had won some ground with her already. She wasn't going to be too much trouble. Or so he hoped.
Basement 08.00 a.m.
Mulder had met Scully in the garage and when they entered the office together, both were slightly surprised by the blond biker-woman sitting on Mulder's chair, her boots resting on the edge of the desk. Mulder's jaw dropped and Scully felt inclined to jab him in the ribs. He looked silly.
The woman looked up and smiled wryly. "Morning," she said and that was it.
"Ahem..." Mulder started and realized he didn't know what to say. That was a first. He glanced at Scully, who had already dropped her briefcase on her desk and turned to eye the newcomer.
"I'm Dana Scully. You must be Tesla Jezek," Scully said matter-of-fact like, her arms crossed over her chest.
"Good guess, sister," Jezek replied, then turned her attention to Mulder. "And you must be Fox Mulder," she added, giving him an appraising look. "Hmm! Not bad," she then said. "Not bad at all."
All he could do was keep starring at her. Somehow, when a woman showed him this kind of interest, he either made a fool out of himself by saying things he didn't mean or he couldn't find words. He was grateful that it was the latter that applied in this situation. Scully gave him an annoyed look. What was it with men and blonds? she wondered. "Well, A.D. Skinner informed us that you would turn up. What have you been doing so far?" she asked, taking the lead since her dumb-struck partner couldn't seem to loosen his otherwise very loose tongue.
Jezek pursed her lips and kept on starring back at Mulder. "Everything. I haven't had the honor of working with the X-Files before, though," she said and finally looked back at Scully. "I know what they are, of course. And I have heard about him," she added and jabbed a thumb in Mulder's direction. With a mocking smile, she glanced over at him again. "I just got the impression that he was a bit more chatty."
That almost caused Scully to smile because he started to blush. "Ahem," he tried again and cleared his throat. "Sorry about that. I was just - ahem - surprised." Waving at her, indicating her attire, he glanced at Scully for help and didn't get any. "You're not exactly dressed like an FBI- agent."
Jezek looked at him with a smile, then chuckled under her breath at his feeble excuse. "Men," she said with a shake of the head. "Anyway, I've been assigned to work with you guys because nobody else wants me. So! There you have it."
Scully shook her head, too. Sometimes she just didn't understand men. They were so full of it sometimes. Although Mulder in many ways was different than your general man, he did have an obnoxious habit of falling into this standard category from time to time. And when he did, she felt like kicking him. "Do we have anything waiting for us to begin on, Mulder?" she asked pointedly.
He heaved a deep sigh, knowing he had once again stepped in it and got a grip on himself. "Yeah, I think I do." He went straight over to his desk. "Do you mind?" he asked Jezek, who pulled her feet off the desk and got up. "Thanks," he added, sat down and started rooting through the piles on the desk.
Jezek joined Scully and watched him for a moment. "Cute, ain't he?" she asked, causing Scully to give her a sharp look. "Don't worry. I can be professional when I have to."
January 13 08.00 a.m.
After having worked with Jezek for over two months, Mulder and Scully both agreed that they could trust her. She had come through for both of them a couple of times and Mulder thought that she wouldn't have if she was working for the bad guys. As it turned out, she wasn't. She was supportive of them the whole way through and even got into several arguments with Skinner in an attempt to defend their way of reasoning. As Mulder realized rather quickly, her reputation was indeed worse than his. But, and this was something he had to learn to live with, her reputation gave her a kind of respect rather than the ridicule he received.
Looking up from a report he was reading, he noted that Scully and Jezek once again arrived together and they were engrossed in conversation. Scully gave him a quick wave. "Sorry we're late," she said, smiling sweetly. Her whole disposition had changed since Jezek had joined them. No matter how rebellious Jezek was, the two of them got along just fine. Although Scully did think Jezek was a little too disrespectful and could do with learning some manners. That always amused Mulder to no end. He found the conversations between the two of them of extreme interest since they were as different as two people could get without wanting to kill each other over these differences.
"Differences or no differences. I don't care. It doesn't make a difference to me," Jezek said and dropped down on a chair with a yawn.
Scully shook her head. "That's the problem, Tesla. It doesn't make a difference to you, so you don't know what's going on," she countered.
Mulder was disappointed that he hadn't heard the start of their discussion. "What differences?" he asked, looking from one to the other.
They pointedly ignored him. "I do know what's going on, Dana. That's not the point. The point is that their differences are what keeps them apart and eventually kills them. Simple as that. The rest is mumbo-jumbo," Jezek said, glanced at Mulder and winked at him. Now he was interested for real. "Who got killed?" he wanted to know.
Scully glanced at him. "Romeo and Juliet," she then said.
Confusion made him look from one to the other once again. "Romeo and..." he began, then trailed off. "Oh," he then said, shook his head and returned his attention to the file again. This wasn't as interesting as he had hoped for.
"Never the less, Tesla," Scully went on and sat down on her chair, "this is a love story. They have their differences and that's what attracts them to each other. But the relationship is doomed from the start. They have too many things against them to ever become truly happy. Especially in those times."
Jezek spread out her arms and made a face. "They are fiction, Dana. Fiction. They never lived," she said, sounding exasperated.
"But they could have," Scully argued.
"Enough, already," Mulder interrupted them. "If you want to have cultural conversations, do it when we're off work. Okay?"
Jezek grabbed a coffee mug and filled it with hot coffee. Then she jabbed a thumb in Mulder's general direction. "Look who's talking," she said with a smile, causing Scully to answer it with one of her own.
"Yeah, sure. Just gang up on me again," he mumbled and turned his chair so he had his back to both of them.
"Ohhh. Poor baby," Jezek cooed, got up and handed him the cup. "Here. Have some brew. That might make you feel better."
He glared at her for a moment, then the corner of his mouth twitched. "I do understand why the Spokane office didn't want you around any more. You probably annoyed somebody who was going to kill you."
Jezek sat down on the edge of his desk. "No," she then said. "Somebody was going to kill me because I annoyed them. You have to work on your sentences, baby." She barely got out of his way when he lashed out at her.
"What's on the agenda?" Scully wanted to know as she poured herself a cup of coffee, too.
Mulder grabbed the file he had been reading and held it up. "This is," he said. "A small but neat case. Should be over fast. Nothing fancy." With a look on his face which Scully knew only too well, he gave the file to Jezek because she was the closest to him. "Just a little creature-hunting."
With an almost exasperated sigh, Scully let her head drop. "What kind of creature? Ghouls? Demons? Gargoyles?" she wanted to know without really wanting to know.
"Ghosts," he replied. "We've got to figure out why this old mansion is being terrorized by unknown aggressors. The owner has had the police on the site with no luck. They can't determine what causes the incidents - which by the way take place only when the owner is alone in the house."
Jezek closed the file and gave it to Scully. "What makes you think that these ghosts are going to reveal themselves to us, then?" she wanted to know. "Well," Mulder said. "Because the police wasn't in the house at night. We, however, will be." He flashed a smile at Scully, who responded by rolling her eyes.
"You are so full of it sometimes," she told him and returned his smile. "Okay, so let's go bust some ghosts. I guess it could be fun."
The Parker Wilson Estate
Mulder stood next to the car, starring up at a building he deemed as being utterly too much for one person to live in. The house was huge by any standards. It looked inviting enough with the grounds surrounding it trimmed and ordered to a degree that made them look unnatural, but the house itself emanated an air of hostility. As if the house itself did not like to have company.
"Nice place," Jezek commented dryly and headed toward the flight of stairs leading up to the entrance. "Are you coming?" she called over her shoulder.
Mulder glanced over at Scully, who stood on the other side of the car, a concerned look on her face. "I don't like this place," she said and returned his stare.
"Me neither. Let's catch up with Tess before she does something stupid," he replied and they started toward the house and the eerie atmosphere it gave off.
Parker Wilson was in his late eighties and not at all happy about all the attention his house was getting. He received the FBI-agents with mixed feelings, not quite certain what they were going to accomplish. He had asked for an exorcist to get rid of these meddling spirits which saw fit to haunt his premises. If he could, he would have sued the pants off the ghosts. But instead his lawyer had sent him the FBI. Glaring at them, he briefly wondered how two so beautiful women could stand being employed in such a meddling organization as the Bureau.
"Well, I hope you have luck finding these damned spooks. I want'em out of my house," he said and stabbed the floor with his cane.
Mulder glanced around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing but the distinct indication of power and money judging by the expensive looking paintings and artifacts which basically littered the entrance hall. "How long have you been bothered by it?" he then asked the angry looking old man.
"Bothered? The damned spooks have been around ever since this place was built in the early 20s. It hasn't bothered me before. Half a year ago, it started throwing things at me, though, and two months ago, she killed my wife." He glared at them, daring them to oppose what he had said, then shook his head sadly. "Just rid the place of this so I can live the remaining years of my life in peace." He again stabbed the floor with his cane, the gesture less forceful than the first time.
"She killed your wife?" Mulder asked, sounding a little surprised. "I was under the impression that we would be dealing with a male spirit." The reason for, that the FBI had become involved in this, was because the death of Eleanor Wilson had been so brutal, that the local police force did not want to touch it. It had landed in Mulder's lap like most of the other cases had, though he was still wondering why. This wasn't the usual type of case. A haunting wasn't something he considered to be part of the government conspiracy.
"Yes, she," Wilson interrupted his train of thought. "She's been after my wife for many years. She's bothered her and played tricks on her. He, on the other hand, has only been on my case about everything for about half a year. I don't care who they are or what causes them to haunt this house. I just want them out. Eleanor was the only thing that mattered in my life and they took her away from me." With that, he walked past them toward the door, leaning heavily on his cane, followed closely by what appeared to be his butler.
Jezek looked after him for a moment, then followed him briskly. "Mr. Wilson, sir," she said, gently taking his arm. "I know this must be traumatic for you and we would love nothing better than to help you. But in order for us to do that, you must give us some information. Now, you said that the female ghost started throwing things at you?" The old man nodded. "What things?"
Wilson shrugged. "Anything that was handy. And actually it wasn't the female ghost. It was the male ghost. She killed my Eleanor. He throws things at me. I've never seen them. Just heard them. Eleanor was the one who could see them. She even talked to the male ghost. I would often find her engrossed in a conversation with him, but he always vanished when I came in. Somehow I always believed he had the hots for her." A smile slipped over his face at that. "She was pretty good-looking for a woman her age. Strong and able she was. And beautiful. After all these years, she was still beautiful."
"So, the female ghost was never violent towards you?" Jezek inquired and glanced over at Mulder and Scully. The two of them listened intently to the conversation. Wilson shook his head, a gleam in his eyes Jezek couldn't interpret. "So, you had trouble with the male ghost and your wife had trouble with the female ghost. Both get physical when they throw things. Both are able to move things."
"Damned right they are. She dropped the chandelier on Eleanor and then strangled her." Glancing at first Jezek and then Scully, he shook his head again. "Two lovely ladies like yourself should not be here. You might get into trouble," he added, grabbed his butler's arm and headed out the front door. On the steps, he once again turned around. "You will have to take care of yourselves while you're here. None of my other servants wanted to stay. Anything you buy you can charge to my account. Just rid the house of these bloody ghosts."
The large door swung shut behind them and that was it. "Damn. I was hoping for some service here," Mulder commented with a little smile.
"Oh, be quiet," Scully mumbled. A cold shiver ran up her spine as she looked around the hall. The furniture was old, but in good condition. So were the paintings and the rugs and everything else. But there was a feel to this house. Something she couldn't place. A lot of bad things had taken place here and she felt uncomfortable if not even unwelcome here.
Mulder put a hand on her shoulder. "You okay?" he wanted to know, the concern in his voice pretty striking.
Scully glanced at him and nodded. "Yes, I'm fine. I just don't like this place. It's..." she hesitated, then added with a smile of her own "... spooky."
Giving her a wry smile in return, Mulder made a sweeping gesture with one arm. "That's what we're here for, isn't it? To rid this place of the spooks?" He released his hold on her shoulder and headed toward one of the big, wooden doors. "One thing I have to say about this place, though. It's got plenty of space."
Scully shook her head and realized that she was loosening up already. Maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe it could even be fun to stick around this house for a few days. "We should have brought an exorcist," she said, causing Jezek to give her a startled look. "For the spooks," she added in an attempt to explain herself and the joke she was making.
Jezek snickered. "Yeah, good idea, Dana. But that might also exorcize him," she replied, jabbing a thumb toward Mulder.
"Ha-ha. Very funny," he mumbled under his breath and entered the astounding library. "Wow, take a look at this," he commented.
Scully turned up behind him, giving the room an appreciative look. "Nice place. At least I won't get bored while we're here," she said and pushed past him to inspect one of the rows of books that was at eye level. The whole room was one big book shelve from floor to ceiling. Considering that the ceiling was at least fifteen feet away, that made up for a lot of books.
"Bored? I don't think any of us will get bored if these ghosts are as active as Wilson wants us to believe," Mulder inserted and walked to the middle of the room. Craning his neck, he looked up to the upper row of books and wondered what the man did with all this literature. He didn't run around reading them all the time, did he?
"Do you really believe that a ghost killed his wife?" Scully asked, then, upon seeing the look on his face, she shook her head. "Why do I ask?" she mumbled. "I believe that the chandelier wasn't screwed down right, so it fell on her and killed her. End of story. Mr. Wilson is at least ninety if not more. He's probably a little senile and that would account for his hearing voices. As he said, he hasn't seen them."
Mulder shrugged. "Well, anything's possible for those who believe," he replied cryptically. "Let's get comfy," he added and shrugged out of his coat. "I'll find a room and change into something more comfortable. You wanna come?"
Scully gave him a look that he couldn't interpret, a snide little grin on her lips. "Can't you pick out your own clothes anymore? Should I be worried?" she countered, causing him to make a face at her.
"You know what I mean," he said, sounding just a little bit offended. Scully had become quite big on humor since Jezek had joined them. Probably because Jezek was always quick with a sharp remark or a biting comment.
Scully strode over to her hurt-looking partner, took his arm in a friendly way and smiled sweetly. "Of course I do. Let's find those rooms," she said, trying to soothe him.
Jezek had gone upstairs to check out the location of possible bed rooms for them and had found three adjoining rooms. When she heard Mulder and Scully coming up the stairs, she stepped out into the hallway to wave them over. "Look what I found, guys. Adjoining rooms with doors between them. Now we can have a real slumber party," she said with a big grin.
Mulder gave her a look. "I'm locking at least one door," he announced. "Where do you want us?"
Jezek's smile became a little bit vicious. "You in the middle," she said, pointing at the door next to the room she had already picked out.
Scully tugged at Mulder's sleeve and leaned in close. "I suppose you won't lock the door to my room?" she asked quietly.
"I don't fear any physical attack from you, Scully," he countered, his eyes never leaving Jezek.
What neither of them knew was that Jezek seemingly had a mission in life. One she had gotten the moment she had met the two of them. She wanted to see how much she could push them before they ended up in each others arms. And she didn't have a nice, little, friendly hug in mind. With a crooked smile, she turned and went back into the room to get out of the office clothes and into something she could move in.
Mulder had seen the look in her eyes. After getting to know her, he wasn't so sure he could trust her. Whatever was brewing in her mind, she was always scheming and she was definitely putting a lot of effort into making the whole thing seem like a joke. Just because of that, he was certain she was planning something other than just working on getting the ghosts off the premises. He just didn't want to know what it was. "Let's settle in," he told Scully and went toward the door Jezek had indicated.
Scully smiled. Being a woman, she had an idea about what Jezek was up to. She sure wouldn't make it easy for her to get her way, whatever that was. She knew it included herself and Mulder, but she couldn't grasp the depth of Jezek's plan. But she was prepared for it. She opened the door to the third room and instantly fell in love with the place. The bed dominated the room and could easily have held the three of them with no trouble. With a snort, she wondered where that thought had come from and dropped her little suitcase on the bed. A tentative knock on the door to the adjoining room snapped her out of that train of thought. "Come in," she said.
Mulder opened the door and looked around. "These rooms are really something. Makes me feel like I'm in an ancient castle in Europe somewhere," he said.
Scully turned to face him and smiled. "I think that's the point, Mulder," she told him. "Is your room the same?"
"Yup. - Well, I'll leave you to it. See you down stairs in half an hour?" When she nodded, he returned to his room and closed the door behind him.
The Library 10.00 a.m.
Mulder took his time to look at some of the books on the shelves. They seemed to follow some kind of system with the newest of them on the lower shelves and the older ones up above. A ladder with wheels gave access to the upper shelves, but he wasn't about to climb up there. He didn't really like heights. Especially not in a haunted house.
"Find anything interesting?" Jezek asked from the door and strolled into the room. "Pretty impressive, isn't it?" she asked, looking around.
"Yeah," he replied, starring at her. He didn't often get the chance to see Jezek in jeans these days. Despite her rebellious nature, she had followed Skinner's admonishment and was wearing basically the same clothes to work that Scully wore. They both looked damned good in their own way and he sometimes wondered what he had done to deserve the company of two such lovely creatures.
Jezek glanced at him and smiled. "Stop starring, Fox. You're getting bug-eyes," she said, causing him to look away at once. She chuckled under her breath, always pleased when she managed to catch the ever-so-cool Agent Mulder off guard.
"So, what do you think? Are we going to see ghosts today?" he asked and casually pulled a book from a shelve. The book turned out to be THE CASANOVA COMPLEX and he quickly replaced it and took another.
"Today?" Jezek asked and plopped down on a high-backed arm chair standing beside the fire place. "I thought they only came out at night!"
Mulder leafed through the book he was holding and realized that it was written in Spanish. This was no good. He replaced that and took another. MOBY DICK. Now there was something familiar. "Oh no. If this place is haunted - and Scully would tan my hide for saying it was - they're around even now. They may not be aware of our presence here, but if they're as cozy with the inhabitants here as Wilson claims, they should be aware of us by now."
Jezek glanced around the libary and shook herself. "Nice thought, that," she said, then smiled broadly. "I read a weird story once. In one of the tabloids, of course. A woman claimed she was having sex with a ghost just about every night. Do you think that could happen?"
"What could happen?" Scully asked from the door. She was dressed much like they were in jeans and a sweater with her hair harnessed in a ponytail.
Mulder gave her an appreciative look, then nodded at Jezek. "She read a story about a woman who says she had sex with a ghost," he repeated, making it sound as if he thought Jezek had just crossed the line between sanity and the looney-bin.
"Right," Scully said. "So, what are we going to do while we wait for the ghosts to make an appearance?" She slumped into the other high-backed chair across from Jezek and let out a satisfied sigh. In her present opinion this case was going to be a breeze.
"We just sit around and wait. Maybe take a walk through the house. And avoid the chandeliers," Mulder said and winked at her.
The dining room 08.00 p.m.
With a bit of inventive searching, Jezek had managed to find something edible and had thrown a meal together for the three of them. They needed it after having trailed around the house all day, seeing and hearing nothing out of the ordinary. Although Scully didn't want to admit it, the house had her spooked. There was something in the atmosphere. But she had gotten as far as not being afraid of it any more. It just made her uncomfortable.
"Great grub," Mulder commented. "Where did you find something as inventive as duck?" He was genuinely impressed by Jezek's cooking.
"Yes, it does taste like a meal you would get in one of the better restaurants in town. Where have you learned to cook like this?" Scully inserted and smiled. This was very good food indeed.
"It's a natural gift. I was born with a spoon in my hand," Jezek claimed, not at all unaffected by their praise. She smiled slyly.
"Talk about someone who knows how to accept a compliment," Mulder said to Scully and she nodded.
"Thank you for your praise. It means a lot to me," Jezek instantly said and blew him a kiss.
Mulder merely shook his head. "Are we going to eat like this all while we're here?"
Jezek chuckled. "I don't remember volunteering to cook every night. Besides, we'll probably not stay around for long."
"I don't know," Mulder mumbled and took a sip of the water. They had all agreed on that staying out of Wilson's wine cellar might be a good idea. They needed to be clear headed if and - in Mulder's opinion - when the ghosts made an appearance.
"They're pretty elusive, those ghosts, aren't they?" Scully commented after a moment and leaned back on her chair. She wouldn't be able to eat another bite if somebody paid her.
Jezek pushed a piece of bone around on her plate and seemed lost in thought for a moment. "Maybe they don't want to turn up because we expect them to. Better be careful tonight," she finally said and looked up with a crooked smile. "You might find yourself in bed with someone other than Mulder."
Mulder almost chocked on the last piece of duck and Scully's face flushed instantly. "What are you talking about?" she wanted to know while she was clapping Mulder on the back, trying to get him to breath rather than cough.
"Well, with you guys being such good friends and all... never mind. Forget I mentioned it," Jezek replied, looking as innocent as an angle.
"Very funny," Mulder rasped. "Do me a favor. Warn me the next time you drop a bomb like that or at least wait until I've swallowed." He wiped a tear from the edge of one eye and took a sip of water.
Jezek met his eyes and there was something mocking about her. "You're so easy," she claimed and started clearing the table.
Scully didn't really know why she had reacted the way she had. Maybe because it could happen. Maybe...! No, she told herself as she looked at Mulder. Neither of them had time or room in their lives for an affair. She padded Mulder's shoulder and sat down again. Most of the time she felt like a sister to him. She couldn't deny being jealous on certain occasions. His reaction to Jezek the first time he had seen her had made her feel ill at ease. But she figured that was a natural reaction. At least for their kind of friendship. Over the last four-five years together they had basically breathed the same air 24 hours per day most of the time. No wonder they got a little possessive of each other.
Jezek once again craned her neck to look up at the upper row of books, something she had done several times during the hours they had spent in this room. Nothing was going on. Nothing at all. "I'm beginning to wonder," she finally said and looked over at Mulder, who was trying to get a fire going.
"About what?" he asked and put the poker back on the rack.
"Whether there really are ghosts here." Her statement made him shake his head, but she ignored him for a moment. "Maybe they're demons. That could account for that we haven't seen them yet. They may be very aware of our presence here."
"Yeah, and maybe it's Wilson's presence here that triggers them. We might not see them at all. We might not even hear them while we're here," he agreed somewhat reluctantly.
Scully, who had been reading a book, looked up over the rim of her glasses and frowned. These two were so alike yet so different. Jezek had a certain something that made her wonder on occasion whether Mulder's claim of extra terrestrials could be true after all. Jezek didn't seem quite human sometimes. "Are you going to tell me that you really believe in ghosts?" she asked, looking from one to the other. They both gave her a look that made her shake her head. "Why do I ask?" she asked and rolled her eyes. "I'm going to bed. I'm tired," she then added, closed the book and got up. "Are you going to roam the house for the rest of the night?"
Jezek glanced over at Mulder. "Why?" she wanted to know.
Scully gave her a smile. "I wouldn't want to mistake you for the ghosts," she replied and strode out the door before either of them could answer.
Jezek let out a short laugh. "Talk about a disbeliever," she said. "Well, I'll follow her example and turn in. How about you?"
Mulder looked into the fire place for a moment, then shrugged. "I can't get the fire going anyway. So why not," he said. He followed her out of the room and closed the door behind him. Just then, the light in the room dimmed and flames rose in the fire place for just a second before they died down again.
Thinking that he would have a sleepless night ahead of him, Mulder had snatched a book which he intended to read. Having settled down comfortably in a big arm chair by the window, his feet resting on the bed, he had read half a chapter and fallen asleep. At two in the morning, he was stirred awake by a strange sound. He could hear footsteps coming up the main stairs. Starring intently at the door to the corridor, he listened as the footsteps approached and stop right in front of his door. He held his breath, listening and waiting, not certain he wanted the door to open. Suddenly he wasn't so keen on being in this house. His eyes trailed down the door to the small space between it and the floor and settled on the shadow he could see there. Nothing he could identify, but only knowing that someone... or something was standing outside his door was enough to give him the jitters. He had never considered himself as being afraid of ghosts before. But, then again, he had never really met any in person.
After a moment, where Mulder thought he could hear heavy breathing on the other side of the door, whoever was on the other side started to hammer heavily on it. So heavily that the already heavy oak door shuddered in its frame. Mulder pulled his feet of the bed and sat up straight in the chair, unconsciously pulling back as far as he could. The hammering went on for a few seconds, then stopped as suddenly as it had started.
It was only after a while that he realized his heart was racing and his hands were ice-cold. "Jesus," he whispered, not daring to take his eyes off the door for just one moment. There was something so utterly terrifying about an aggressor you could not see. And being in a house that had belonged to these ghosts for almost a century made him suddenly question his own sanity in even taking up this case.
Then his thoughts snapped back into their analytical track and he instantly worried about Scully and Jezek. But there were no sounds from either bed room and that again made him wonder if these sounds had been meant only for him. Thinking about it didn't help him much. It only made the feeling that he wasn't supposed to be here become stronger. He decided to go to bed, but not to turn off the light. Just in case.
Mulder leaned back on the chair, leaned his head back and starred up at the elaborate ceiling painting. Intricate patterns were interwoven, some of them resembling Celtic sighs that he recognized as having seen before, others making no sense at all. But none of them made him think of witchcraft or curses. Although that could be what was wrong with this house. If it wasn't haunted by ordinary ghosts -- and he was beginning to think that it wasn't -- then this might stem from a curse cast on the Wilson-family centuries ago. Or at least as long ago as this house had existed.
He turned his head and smiled at Scully. "Naw, just admiring the artwork," he countered. "Where's Tesla?"
Scully shrugged. "Still upstairs. I think she's still sleeping. Not an early riser that one." She looked at her partner for a moment while a frown crept over her pretty face. "You look like you haven't slept all night."
Mulder raised his head and blinked. He was tried. He had to admit that. "I was kind of woken up about two this morning by someone banging on my door." Glancing at Scully, he saw the expected reaction.
One eyebrow raised, she starred at him in disbelief. "Someone was banging on your door last night?" He nodded in response to her question. "Who was it?" she wanted to know.
"I don't know. I wasn't about to open the door. The banging was quite loud and I think that whoever was out there wasn't there for a friendly visit." Turning to fully face her, he couldn't help grinning helplessly a the look in her eyes. The utter disbelief he saw there.
"And how come I didn't hear it? Or Tesla, for that matter?"
"Didn't hear what?" Jezek asked from the door, rubbing the heel of one hand against one eye. She looked like she hadn't slept enough either. She yawned heartily and strode into the room.
"Somebody knocked on Mulder's door last night. Only he says it was very loud," Scully told her.
Jezek's eyebrows went up in surprise. "One of the ghosts actually banged on your door last night?" she asked, starring at Mulder.
"I would think so, yes," he said, his smile a little more secure now that at least one of them believed him.
"Wow," Jezek countered and dropped down on a chair next to him. "You didn't open, did you?"
Scully rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen to find something edible. Mulder shook his head at Jezek's question. "No, of course not. It didn't sound friendly." Thinking the night's events over, he wondered if he would hear it again. "It was such a strange occurrence," he added. "I don't know why it knocked on my door, though. Must have something to do with the room."
Jezek starred at him for a moment. "Or you," she countered.
Mulder looked back at her, a little surprised. "Why should it have something to do with me?" he wanted to know, a little baffled.
Shrugging, Jezek glanced around the dining room. It was a beautiful room and was obviously the place where Eleanor Wilson had worked her wonders. "Because the ghost has killed the woman in the house and now wants to get rid of the man." Blinking, she looked back at Mulder. "It's just a theory, but if they can't distinguish between humans, they may just go after you because you're the man."
Mulder frowned at her, wondering if she knew more about haunted houses than she let on. "That sounds kind of.... spacy," he countered after a moment.
Again, Jezek shrugged. "Maybe. As I said, it was just a theory."
February 16 01.00 a.m.
The day had passed without any events taking place and when they were finally ready to turn in, Mulder was disappointed. If the ghosts only banged on doors, he would have to give up right there. Not that he had any idea how to handle a haunting as such. But it intrigued him. After getting undressed, he plopped down on his bed, closed his eyes and draped an arm over his face. He counted on another night of unrest. It took him a long time to fall asleep and when he finally did, he woke up several times because he thought he was somewhere else.
Mulder had slept uneasily and was annoyed to find that it was only five in the morning when he glanced at his watch. Five in the morning and bright enough for him to see his watch. With a frown he slowly sat up. Usually, it didn't get light until around nine at this time of year. As he sat up, the covers slipped off him and he just barely managed to grab them before they landed on the floor. For some reason, he was lying on the outermost edge of the right side of the bed and had pulled the covers with him. Shuddering in the low temperatures of the room, he pulled the covers around him again. For a moment, he contemplated going back to sleep, but found that he was far too awake to do that when he remembered the previous night's disruption of his sleep. So he decided to get up and get dressed. He reached for his sweater and pulled it over his head, pulled on his jeans and stuck his bare feet into his shoes. The temperatures in the room were so low that even his clothes were icy to the touch. Breathing deeply, he expelled the air from his lungs and was appalled to see his breath in the air before him. Pretty cold. And he couldn't for the life of him remember that it had been that cold the evening before.
Stuffing his left hand into the pocket of his jeans, he walked up to the door, grabbed the door knob and twisted it. He had considered taking a look around the house, which was quiet as the grave, but nothing happened when he turned the door knob. He tried again with the same result. "What the hell?" he mumbled, frowning at the obstinate door. Twisting the knob the other way did nothing either. He shook his head, turned and walked over to the door leading into Scully's room. The key was on his side of the door, but the door didn't budge either. With a distinct feeling of discomfort, he walked over to the door leading into Jezek's room and tried that. Nothing. All three doors were apparently locked. Deciding that Scully's annoyance at getting woken at this hour was better than staying locked up in this room, he walked back to the door leading into her room and raised his fist to knock.
The air in front of him shimmered for a second and then he was knocked off his feet by an unseen force. He landed hard on the floor, had to catch his breath for a second and struggled back to his feet. The unseen attacker struck again, seemingly pushing him hard. He reeled toward the bed and his back impacted with the edge of it when he lost his balance, sending a scream of pain through him which stole his breath. He gasped and couldn't move for a while. Moaning he slipped down onto the floor. Through the veil of tears in his eyes he noticed the shimmer in the air again, but as long as he stayed down, there was no further attack.
The air in the room was cold enough for the skin on his face to hurt and the mood of the thing was definitely hateful. With an effort, Mulder pushed himself up on the bed and although he saw the attack coming this time, he could do nothing to ward it off. The blow sent him flying over the bed and he collided with a chair standing near the window across from the arm chair. One part of his mind marveled that it didn't break when he slammed down on it, pulling it down on top of him. He also decided to stay down. Whatever the ghost wanted, it didn't touch him when he was down. Or so he thought. The thought had barely formed in his mind before unseen hands grabbed him and hurtled him across the room so hard, he collided with the door to Jezek's room.
A banging from the other side ended the ghostly visitation. He heard the key turn in the door, then felt the pressure of the door against his back, but he didn't have the strength to move. He could barely breath. Jezek pushed harder and managed to push him a little out of the way so she could squeeze through. "Jesus, Mulder. What happened?" she asked, startled by the paleness of his skin and the wheezing of his breath. She knelt down beside him.
"Ghost," he rasped and heaved a deep breath, which was followed by a cough. "The ghost is real. At least one of them."
Jezek helped him up, actually a little frightened when he winced. "You're bleeding," she said, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth with her thumb.
"What's going on in here?" Scully asked, blinking tiredly as she entered from her room. Her eyes widened, all fatigue gone, when she saw Mulder. "My God, Mulder. What happened?"
Jezek helped him ease down on the edge of the bed where he tried to crumble up. "The ghost. It threw me around a bit," he told her with a smile on his lips.
"You were thrown around and you're smiling?" Scully asked sternly. "Are you hurt?"
"My back," he told her and swallowed hard.
"Let me see," Scully countered and carefully pulled his sweater up to take a look at it. "Oh my God," she said, starring at the bruise already forming there. It formed a horizontal line across his back just below his waistline, red and swelling. "We need some ice for this. Tess, would you do the honors?"
"Sure thing. Be right back." Jezek was up and running, but didn't get very far. "Hey," she grumbled and fought the door.
"What's wrong?" Scully asked without looking at her, still examining Mulder's back.
"Oh, nothing," Jezek replied. "I just can't open the damned door."
Scully, who had one knee on the bed beside Mulder and was still holding his sweater up, looked over at the door. Her eyes shifted to Jezek, who had after all been the first one in the room, and she wondered for a brief second, although her thoughts made no sense.
"Don't look at me like that," Jezek countered, noticing her stare. "Would I be able to throw him around like that?" she added, fully aware of what Scully must be thinking.
"Scully, she didn't do it. I couldn't see who did it. Or rather what," Mulder inserted, a little annoyed at Scully's lack of belief.
Scully looked from one to the other, then shrugged. "Did I say anything?" she asked sternly. "Maybe we should get you to a hospital. This might be more serious than it looks," she added, turning her attention fully to Mulder.
He waved a hand at her and slowly got up. "No, no. I'm fine. I just need some ice on this and I'll be fine," he countered.
"Yes," Scully said with a sigh. "You'll be fine. You'll always be fine." Since Jezek seemed incapable of getting the ice, Scully decided to do it herself. Slightly angry, she walked up to the door, twisted the knob and opened it. With a saying glance at Jezek, who looked utterly surprised, she stalked out of the room and went downstairs to the kitchen to find a bag and some ice. There were no ghosts in her way at any point. She didn't feel any strange drafts or heard weird noises and she briefly wondered if Mulder and Jezek weren't inciting each other to believe in the presence of these -- spooks. Almost a little angrily she tosssed ice cubes into the plastic bag she had found, trying to find a reasonable explanation for what had happened to Mulder. Sure, she didn't believe that Jezek could throw him around and Jezek didn't have a reason to, either, but he might have stumbled and hit his back against the edge of the bed. But then there were the sounds from his room which had woken her. It had distinctly sounded as if somebody had been thrown around in there. Shaking her head, she tied a knot in the bag, wrapped a dish towel around it and went back upstairs. Mulder was standing at the foot of his bed, both hands on his back. He looked pained. Jezek was nowhere in sight. "Lie down," she ordered him a little brusquely.
He complied and she carefully slipped the bag of ice under his sweater. He hissed when it touched the sore spot. "Thanks, Scully."
She sat down next to him and arranged the bag properly so it could cover all of the bruise. "You're welcome, Mulder. Just leave it there for a while."
"Okay," he said and shuddered. "Damn, it's cold."
"Yes, it is." She couldn't keep a lid on her feelings over this one. "Mulder, what are we doing here?" she suddenly asked, sounding both annoyed and a little frightened.
He shifted so he could turn his head and look at her without the bag of ice slipping off his back. "What do you mean? We're on a case," he said.
"I know we're on a case, but this is not something that is inside the jurisdiction of the FBI. If this house is really haunted -- and I have yet to see signs of that -- then they should have called a priest or an exorcist or something. Not FBI agents."
Mulder looked up at her for a moment before responding. "You don't believe this place is haunted, do you?" he asked and she grumbled a no. "Well, how do you explain what happened to me, then? I mean, I don't go around throwing myself against edges of beds to make a believer out of you. This hurts like hell and I'd rather be without it." Now he sounded annoyed.
Scully closed her eyes for a moment, her hands resting in her lap. "I realize that, Mulder. That's not the point. We have no business being here. If there really are ghosts here, then they have proven to be vengeful or just plain aggressive. Are you willing to go through this kind of treatment again?"
"No, of course not. But we've been sent here, Scully. We could of course call Skinner and tell him that we can't do anything here. Then it would become just another case we never found an answer for." He turned a little too quickly and winced at the pain that caused from his bruised back muscles. "I think we have a chance of actually solving this one, Scully. Give it a chance. If for nothing else than to help old Mr. Wilson solve the death of his wife."
"That's another thing about all this that bothers me. I can understand why we got involved when it comes to Mrs. Wilson's death. There's definitely something wrong about that. I read through the file and it said that not only was she more or less crushed under a chandelier that should have been able to hang from that ceiling for the next fifty years, she was also strangled. And the strangulation was what killed her. The marks were unmistakable."
Mulder nodded. "That's what Wilson said, Scully. That the ghost dropped the chandelier on her and when that didn't kill her, she strangled her," he countered.
"Yes, that's what an almost ninety-year-old man says, Mulder. And don't get me wrong. I don't think Wilson did it. I don't think he killed his wife. He's not able to do that. But I couldn't help noticing the butler. I think he's involved. Now all I need is a motive." She sighed heavily and glanced at her watch. "And some more sleep," she added. "Can you manage on your own or..." she began, but trailed off, not really knowing where she was going with that question.
Mulder glanced up at her then smiled. "I'll be fine. Don't worry," he told her. "Where's Tess?" he added.
"I don't know. She probably went back to bed. If she's smart," Scully said and rose. She walked over to the half open door into Jezek's room, glanced inside and nodded at Mulder. "Yep, she's asleep. Do the same if you can."
"Yes, mommy," he said, smiling.
Scully shook her head and went back to her own bed to catch a couple of hours of sleep.
Scully opened the door to Mulder's room and found him fast asleep, lying on his stomach, his face halfway buried in the pillows. She sat down on the edge of the bed, glancing at his bare back and the swelling. "Good morning," she said, touching his shoulder.
With a half moan he woke up. His back felt sore from his neck down and he was reluctant to move at first. "Hi," he mumbled. "What time is it?"
"Ten," Scully countered. "Tess made some breakfast. Do you want some or..."
Mulder carefully rolled onto his side and sat up with a sigh. "Yeah, sure. I'll be down in a moment, okay?" "How's your back?" Scully couldn't hide her concern. He was moving very stiffly.
"It's sore, but otherwise fine. I just have to wake up properly," he countered, not wanting to let her know just how much it hurt. "Go on down. I'll be there in a minute," he added.
Scully felt that he didn't want her to fuzz over him and decided to give him some space. "Okay, see you in a bit," she said, got up and walked out the door again, closing it behind her. But she didn't continue down the corridor to the stairs. She waited, listening. And sure enough he moaned when he got out of bed. Shaking her head, she went downstairs to join Jezek.
It took him more time than he had thought to get up and get going. Moving was a nightmare at first. Once he got moving, though, and the muscles in his back were warmed up, it wasn't so bad. He just had to be careful when turning his upper body. Taking the stairs slowly, he glanced around the fascinating hall and the decor which spoke of a lot of money. There was very little style in the combinations of the various art forms that decorated the walls and floors. Greek sculptures clashed with paintings by Chagall, odd undefinable sculptures of rust-marred iron belittled the beautiful paintings by Monet. A copy of the Mona Lisa hung too high up to be truly admired. He stopped halfway down, wondering what it would have been like to be a child in this house. To be brought up by eccentric parents who worshiped art without understanding it. The rendering of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol seemed completely out of place here, but so did most of the odd or newer things. The house was just too old for that kind of decor. The Monet-paintings were the only things that seemed even vaguely in place. And then there was the famous Sunflower painting by Gouging, which fit in perfectly. He continued down the stairs, taking all this in. This house contained treasures. It was a virtual mine of goods. Although most of the paintings and sculptures were probably copies of the originals, they were still worth a lot of money and would fetch a fair price for any art thief who knew how to sell things like this. Shaking his head, he had to smile. He continued down the stairs and ended up in the dining room.
"Good morning, Ladies," he greeted Jezek and Scully cheerfully.
Both looked up and Jezek smiled. "How are you? You're moving like an old man, my friend," she told him.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he mumbled and eased down on a chair. "If you had ever worked out a day in your life, Tess, you would know that bruised muscles hurt a lot. And that's what I've got. Bruised muscles." His tone was defensive, his eyes on everything other than hers.
Jezek eyed him for a second, then grinned. "Whatever you say," she told him.
He made a face, not intending to get involved in a discussion with her about whether or not he was feeling fine. Scully poured him a cup of coffee and handed it to him, her eyes constantly examining him. "Scully, I'm fine," he insisted.
"And that's why you moaned and groaned that way when you got out of bed?" she wanted to know, knowing that he wasn't going to take the bait. He was too smart for her sometimes. "Anyway, you can move and that's a good sign."
Mulder glanced at Jezek, giving her a I-told-you-so look and suppressed a shudder. "So, you didn't hear anything after this morning's disturbances?" he asked, directing the question to either of them.
"I heard nothing I couldn't identify," Scully countered, indicating that he had been complaining a lot. Not loudly and definitely in his sleep, but she had been awake most of the time, listening. Just in case he needed her help. "So, now that you're convinced that this place is haunted, can we leave here and leave it to some kind of professional to deal with it?" she wanted to know.
"We don't know anything yet," Mulder countered. "The attack doesn't prove that this is anything other than a haunting. That I was the one to be thrown around could be a coincidence."
"Right, and pigs can fly," Jezek countered, not so happy about it any more. "Damn it, Mulder. That think almost broke your back this morning. What kind of proof do you need?" she added, suddenly a little angry.
"It's not that bad," he grumbled. "Besides, I don't know that the bed room I'm in isn't Wilson's. The ghost might think I'm him." He was annoyed that Jezek seemingly had turned her back on him and had joined sides with Scully.
Starring intently at him, her blue eyes drilling into his, she shook her head lightly. "This isn't a game any more. This isn't funny. As long as they keep it to banging on doors and throwing things around, I'm game. But when they start to physically attacking us, that's when the fun ends. We don't have the expertise to deal with this, Mulder."
"Exactly," Scully inserted. "If you won't listen to me, at least listen to Tess. We're not trying to undermine you, Mulder." She reached out and put her hand on his arm. "We're trying to prevent you from getting hurt more seriously."
For a moment, he felt cornered. Then he realized the childishness of his reaction and was glad that he hadn't given vent to it yet. Heaving a deep breath, he tried to come up with a way to stay. "Look, I'll just change rooms. I'll find a different room. And if that doesn't do it, then we leave. Agreed?" He looked from one to the other, then finally fixed his stare on Scully. "Let's stay one more night."
Scully could see the plea in his eyes and could have kicked herself repeatedly for falling for it again. He always did this to her when he wanted something she had deemed as too dangerous for him. He looked at her that way with that hurt-little-boy-look in his eyes and she melted. She could deny him nothing when he looked at her that way. Against her better judgement, she nodded. "Okay. One more night. If anything else happens to you, we leave first thing tomorrow morning." That made him smile and she quickly looked away, picking up her cup in the process. If anything got to her more than that look, it was his smile.
Mulder glanced at Jezek, who shrugged. "Fine with me. It's your back," she countered and slouched back in the chair.
Another day passed uneventfully. Scully had combed through most of the house, having nothing better to do, and despite the lingering eerie feeling of this place, she liked it more and more. It was beautiful in its own strange way and she loved the serenity with which Eleanor Wilson had equipped certain rooms. It was obvious to her that the Lady of the house had been in possession of a greater knowledge of art than her husband. On the first floor, she opened a door leading to a staircase going up. There was another door at the top of the stairs, but this was locked and there was no key to be found. Shrugging, Scully turned around and walked back down. The attic was probably just full of dusty, cob-webbed old junk anyway.
Ending up in the dining room just in time for dinner, she smiled when she realized that Jezek had done wonders again. "Ah, you have outdone yourself," she said, starring at the various Chinese dishes that were already set out on the table.
Jezek grinned. "Thanks," she countered and set a small bottle on the table. "And to top it off, Sake," she added.
"Where on Earth did you get that from?" Scully wanted to know. "Do you think it's wise? I mean, it is alcohol."
"I got it from the wine cellar. Nothing's missing down there. And, yeah, it's alcohol. I think we could all benefit from a bit of the strong stuff. Especially our delightful friend, Mulder. Where is he, by the way?" Jezek looked around with a frown.
Scully opened the door out to the main hall and looked around the hall and then upward toward the first-floor landing. "I don't know," she said, a vague feeling of unrest overcoming her. "Mulder?" she called. The door to the library stood slightly ajar and Scully could have sworn that she had closed it a little while ago. Walking briskly across the hall, she pushed it open and stopped short in the doorway. "Found him," she called back over her shoulder and walked over to her partner. He was slouched on one of the armchairs, feet resting on the other, asleep with a book in his lap. Scully hunkered down beside him, putting her hands on the arm of the chair to steady herself. For a moment, she watched him, never really having the opportunity to study his beautiful face without it seeming too forward. Then she reached out and brushed her fingertips over his cheek. "Hey, sleepyhead," she said quietly. He stirred awake, blinking sluggishly at her. "Dinner's ready."
He smiled, then groaned lightly as he sat up. "I feel like I've been hauling timber all day," he complained and got to his feet.
"Come on. Tess has outdone herself," she said and started toward the door again. "Chinese. That must be right up your alley," she added with a smile.
Mulder followed her, one hand pressed against his back, trying to find a way to move which didn't strain his aching muscles too much. "Oh yeah, I love Chinese," he countered.
Mulder was about ready to turn in when the clock in the hall struck ten. He was wasted and he knew why. His back was a knot of tension and it drained his energy. He took his leave of the women and headed toward the staircase, his mind on the bed waiting for him. Then he stopped short. "Ah, damn it," he mumbled. He had forgotten that he had promised Scully he would change rooms. Thinking it over, he figured that he could spend this one night in that room without getting into trouble. All he had to do was avoid getting up. And the way he felt right now, he didn't think that would be a problem.
He gave a start, then turned around to face Scully who had followed him out. "I forgot to find a new room," he countered, looking defiantly at her for a moment. "And my back is killing me," he added, his tone of voice a little whiney. He knew it would get to her.
Scully starred back at him, wondering for a moment what it was about him she found so damned attractive, especially when he was hurt, and decided that she was suffering from what in layman's terms was called the Florence Nightingale-syndrom. It just brought up the mother-instinct in her when he was hurt. She wanted to take care of him and make him better. Then she sighed. "I think what you need is a massage and a good night's rest. I can provide the first," she said, with a look daring him to make an inappropriate comment. He didn't though. "All you have to do is stay in bed for the rest of the night. Do you think you can do that?" He nodded. "You are going to change bedrooms, though. You'll sleep in my room. I'll take yours," she added and waved toward the stairs.
Mulder turned and started up the stairs, aware that he shouldn't push his luck. She had that slightly commanding tone to her voice and he knew better than to argue with her when she was like that. Once upstairs, he plopped down on her bed, stretching out on his stomach, trying to loosen up a bit. It proved to be much more difficult than he had thought. Scully rummaged through her suitcase for a moment, found what she was looking for and came over to the bed. "Take your sweater and your t-shirt off," she told him. He complied, finding it a little more difficult than he wanted to admit. He would rather suffer than tell her how badly his back was really hurting. After doffing his sweater and t-shirt, he stretched out on the bed again, easing his arms up over his head. "Now, relax," Scully told him, climbed up on the bed and straddled him. She poured some massage-oil into her cupped hand and rubbed it out on her hands first. Then she started massaging his shoulders and slowly worked her way down his back, never once getting near the red swelling across his lower back. She didn't like the way it looked, but the fact that he was able to move without any other indication of pain than a groan set her mind at ease. By the time she was done, she realized that he had fallen asleep. Smiling to herself, she got off the bed, draped a blanket over him, turned off the lights and went into the adjoining room to get ready for bed herself.
February 17 03.40 a.m.
He woke up with a start. Pushing himself up on his elbows, he listened intently into the silent house, trying to distinguish what has aroused him from his almost comatose sleep. After a moment where nothing happened, he blinked heavily and slowly eased down on the bed again, burying his face in the pillow with a heartfelt sigh. Then he froze. He could hear it clearly now. Although the call was faint, it was very clear.
There was panic in the childish voice calling his name. Panic he knew only too well. Before he knew what he was doing, he was out of bed, his heart racing away in his chest, his breath stuck in his throat.
"Fox. Help me."
He closed his eyes hard for a moment, then opened them again. "No," he whispered, shaking his head. It was the right voice, but the wrong surroundings. Pinching himself he tried to figure out if he was sleeping or not. But it hurt. With wide eyes, he raised his head again and starred at the door.
"Fox, please. Don't let them take me away."
The voice became more frantic and he became more nervous, taking a hesitant step toward the door leading out into the corridor beyond. "No," he repeated more firmly. Trickery. That was what this was.
Then the girl screamed. The fear was overwhelming. She was terrified and the memory of that voice and his inability to help her clouded his mind. The spell was upon him and he raced out the door and into the corridor, briefly hesitating to orient himself, then ran away from the stairs leading down to the ground floor, along the corridor to the last door. He ripped it open and the screams of fear and terror became more potent. He pounded up the stairs, unaware of any pain from his back, and reached the same door that had stopped Scully earlier. Now it was unlocked. He ripped it open and continued his hazardous ascent toward the attic. He nearly tripped over the last step, hitting his toes painfully hard against the wood.
Wincing, he limped into the attic and looked around, scanning every crevasse he could see for the source of that scream, not thinking clearly any more. And then he saw her. Floating in the air like she had then, screaming his name in terror. For the first time since it had happened twenty-four years ago, he broke the spell and ran toward her. His hands found her arm and he ripped her out of the beam of light and into his arms, stumbling backward a few steps until he nearly lost his balance and came down hard on one knee. Holding her little body tightly against him, he sobbed in relief when the light died and she was still with him.
Her voice in his ear, her arms around his neck. He held onto her for dear life, the tears cruising down his face. "Samantha," he countered hoarsely, holding her, squeezing her to him. "I've got you. You're okay." Words he had longed to say. Words that had burnt their way into his heart, into the very core of his soul. Those words he had wanted to say twenty-four years ago.
"Fox, why didn't you come?" The whispered words burnt him.
Freezing to the spot, his eyes widened in shock. "But you're okay, Sam. I'm right here. I've got you," he insisted.
"Why didn't you help me, Fox?" There was pain in that voice. Resentment. Emotions that did not belong in the voice of an eight-year-old girl.
Mulder slowly shifted his hands up her back to her shoulders and very slowly pulled her away from him.
"Why? I counted on you. I needed you, but you didn't do anything." The words held disappointment and they came from the skeletal mouth of the bones he held in his arms. The bones of a little girl in a dirty, faded nightgown with a heart-shaped hole right over where her heart had been.
And that was when he screamed. He just couldn't keep the horror at bay as he flung the skeleton from him, got staggering to his feet and backed up. "NO. NO!"
"I counted on you, Fox." The voice was his father's and it came from somewhere to his right.
With the back of his clenched fist pressed against his mouth to keep any further sounds of terror at bay, he turned his head and saw his father standing there, much like he had when Mulder had been a kid, the resentment, the anger in those eyes burning holes into his soul. He shook his head, staggering sideways away from the apparition of his father.
"I counted on you to take care of your sister. And now look what you've done. You've killed her." Bill Mulder's eyes burnt angrily down at his son. "You've killed your sister, Fox."
"No, dad. Please," he begged, completely lost in the scenario, unable to fathom that this wasn't real. That he was re-experiencing his childhood trauma in a highly exaggerated manner. "No, I didn't. I didn't kill her. I..." he began, but his father cut him off by lashing out at him. "Get away from me, you ungrateful brat," Bill Mulder hissed. "You've taken the only joy I ever had from me. My daughter. The only thing I ever cared about."
"No, dad," he whimpered, backing away a little.
The apparition of his father faded away.
"You've destroyed the family, Fox." Those words came from his mother, who had taken his father's place, hurt and angry eyes starring at him with the accusations unspoken for so many years. "You've destroyed it. I can never forgive you for all the evil you've done to this family. Never."
He stumbled over his own feet and hit the floor sideways, bruising his left shoulder without feeling it. Instead of trying to get up again, he crumbled up, wrapping both arms over his head to avoid looking at the cold, hard eyes of his mother. And all the while, Samantha's helpless cries rang on in his head, driving him insane. "Mom, no," he sobbed. "Not again. Please, no more."
The pain from his back and the cold of the attic enveloped him, wrapped around him and forced him to curl up on himself. After a long while, the attic finally fell silent again, all the taunting, hateful voices of his past subsiding into the whisper of the wind around the gable of the mansion, and all he could do was lie there and cry. He cried like he hadn't cried since he was a kid. All those things he had thought about when he had been twelve and later when his parents had split up. My fault, it rang in his head. My fault, my fault, my fault. "No," he begged in a hoarse whisper.
Scully jerked awake, frowning in confusion. Blinking, she glanced around the room, then remembered where she was. With a sigh, she eased back down on the bed and closed her eyes for a moment. Life could be better, she thought. But it could definitely also be worse. Draping an arm over her face, she sighed again. It was only six and she couldn't sleep any more.
Then it slowly started seeping in what had aroused her. Frowning again, she pulled her arm away from her face, trying to estimate what that strange feeling against her lower back was. Sticking her hand under her back, she touched the moist spot, a thousand thoughts rolling through her head at once, trying to explain what it could be. She pulled her hand out again and raised it. "Oh my God," she snapped and sat bolt upright, starring in horror at her bloodied hand.
Pushing away from the spot, she turned to look down at a wide-spread blotch of blood on the sheet. Her immediate reaction was to reach behind her and touch her back, feeling for any cuts, but found none. Although her pyjamas was moist from the blood, she didn't believe it came from her back. Horrified, she looked down herself, trying to figure out if she had suffered a hemorrhage during the night, but allowing herself a moment to sense her own body, she didn't feel as if she had lost any blood. And there was a lot of blood on the sheet.
With a shiver running through her, she slipped off the bed and hurried to the bathroom, where she checked herself out more thoroughly. No indication of any injuries or busted blood vessels anywhere. Her period wasn't due for another two weeks either and she certainly didn't bleed that much. She pulled her pyjamas top off to get a better look at the fabric and frowned. There was no sign of the blood. With a kind of detached feeling of silliness, she raised her right hand which had previously been covered in blood and saw that it wasn't any more.
She smiled uncertainly and gingerly touched the fabric of her pyjamas top and sensed no moisture there. "What is this?" she whispered, not certain she wanted to know. Putting the top back on, she returned to the room only to find no trace of the rather big blood stain in the center of the bed. "What the hell is going on here?" she whispered, looking around the room for a moment.
A sudden uneasy feeling made her stride quickly toward the door to the next room and open it. She stepped through, already knowing that her partner would not be in his bed. And he wasn't. The covers had been thrown aside and the door to the corridor stood ajar. Following a hunch, she opened the door fully and stepped back out in the corridor, looking either way. Under any other circumstances she would have thought that he had taken a walk through the house because he couldn't sleep. But she had a bad feeling about this and that made her think differently. "Mulder?" she called.
Hugging herself in the chilly air, she listened for a response, for any sound, and wasn't surprised when all that greeted her was silence. "Mulder?" she called again, more loudly. Still nothing. Heaving a deep breath, she tried to think where he might have gone and what could have persuaded him to go exploring. "Mulder?" Uncertain about what to do, she stood there for a moment, then decided to get dressed first and then set out to look for him. He had to be somewhere in the house.
Jezek jumped when Scully touched her shoulder, trying to wake her up. "What?" she almost gasped, looking around her room in confusion for a second, then fixed her eyes on Scully. "What's up?" she asked, looking a little unraveled.
"Mulder has disappeared," Scully countered, already dressed. "I'm going to try and find him. I just wanted you to know so you don't worry about us."
Jezek starred at her for a second, then let out a suffering sigh and dropped back down on her bed. "And you wake me up at this god-forsaken time of day to tell me that?" she moaned. "Jeez, Dana, he's probably found Wilson's porno collection or something."
Scully couldn't help smiling. Jezek really didn't like getting up early. "Yeah, maybe, but just in case he hasn't, I'm going to look for him." With no mention of her odd experience earlier, Scully turned around and went back out into the corridor, closing the door behind her. She looked toward the stairs leading down and frowned. Somehow, she had the distinct feeling that he would be anywhere but downstairs. Turning a little, she looked toward the other end of the corridor and first then noticed the open door up to the attic. "Mulder?" she called and started toward it. She stopped when she reached the stairs and looked up at the next door, which was wide open. Obviously, he had found the key. She started up the stairs, listening intently to her surroundings. There was no sound to be heard.
She reached the top after a moment and stopped to look around. The attic was huge and rather empty. No cobwebs, loads of dust and hardly anything stashed away up here. Frowning, she took a few steps forward, her eyes trailing over the interior. And then she saw him. He was sitting on the floor near a small window in the gable, his knees hugged to his chest, his face pressed against his knees. "Mulder?" she asked and started toward him. One thing was that he was up here. She would have expected that. But not like this. She stopped in front of him, starring down at him with a feeling of dread steadily building in the pit of her stomach. "Mulder," she tried again and squatted down. She reached a hand out to touch his hair and felt the tremor going through him. It was cold up here and he was dressed only in his sweat pants. "Mulder, what are you doing up here?" she wanted to know. He didn't move. Running a hand through his hair, she tried to estimate his state of mind and could only determine that he was either severely depressed or unaware of his surroundings. "Mulder, look at me," she urged him. He stirred, then slowly raised his head to stare at her. The look in his eyes made her almost recoil. He was depressed. That was for sure. So depressed that she felt her heart tighten in her chest. "What happened? Why are you up here?" she wanted to know, making a feeble sweep toward the attic.
"I heard her calling me," he whispered incoherently, the look in his eyes becoming distant.
Scully frowned, but had a pretty good idea who he was talking about. "Who, Mulder? Who was calling you?" "Samantha," he countered and tears welled up in his eyes again.
"Mulder, Samantha isn't here. Whatever you thought you heard, it wasn't true," she tried to sooth him without knowing exactly what had transpired up here.
His eyes focused on her and a single tear broke loose and cruised down his cheek. "It was so real. I could feel her. I was holding her and I could feel her."
Scully reached out and wiped the tear away from his cheek, her expression serious. "It may have felt that way, but it wasn't. Do you hear me? It wasn't real."
His next action was one she had not anticipated, but had to admit that she didn't mind it, either. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him with a painful sigh. For the first time in the five years they had known each other, he didn't let go after a moment again. He clung to her, holding on for dear life, more than ever feeling that she was the only thing still keeping him sane. He knew, somewhere deep down, that what he had experienced here had not been true. But -- and this was the most important aspect -- it had hurt nonetheless. Having your deepest fears pulled out of their hiding place and paraded in front of you, true or not, was never a good thing.
Scully just held onto him, one arm around his shoulders, her other hand pressing his head lightly against her chest. And she let him cry without saying a word. She knew he was aware that it hadn't been real, but he was hurting. Hurting so badly it made her want to find who or whatever had done this to him and beat the crap out of it.
Jezek wandered through the house, looking for her partners. She knew they were supposed to be there somewhere, but didn't know where to look. Smirking to herself, she wondered if they were involved in less partner-like activities than before. She reached the closed door to the library and frowned briefly when she thought she heard voices from inside. Then, grinning in the belief that she had found her partners, she opened the door. The grin on her face froze and oozed away as she starred at the scene unfolding before her with disbelief.
Scully gently ran a hand over his hair, wondering if he was ever going to speak again. The attic was cold, slightly drafty, and her somewhat awkward position was really starting to put a strain on her back. "Mulder, let's go back downstairs," she finally said. "It's cold up here and you're not really wearing anything," she added.
With a sigh, he slowly released her and pulled back a little, letting her get up. He sat back on the floor, glancing up at her. "I feel stupid," he mumbled.
Scully reached a hand down to him and he took it, letting her pull him gently to his feet. "You're not stupid, Mulder. You're anything but," she told him, reaching up to brush the knuckles of her right hand over his cheek. "I'm not entirely sure what happened here, but I know one thing. It wasn't real. Nothing in this house seems real."
Blinking at his partner's statement, Mulder finally met her eyes. "What do you mean?" he wanted to know, grateful that she was giving him something else to think about.
"I mean, it dawned on me this morning when I woke up. This odd feeling I've had ever since we came here. I thought it was..." She hesitated, searching for the right word, then shrugged "... in want of a better word... eerie. But now I know that it's because this place doesn't feel real. It's like a dream, somehow. I can't explain it." Shaking her head, she took his hand. "Come on, let's go back downstairs before you end up with pneumonia."
Mulder willingly let her pull him along, a frown on his face. "Like a dream, huh?" he mumbled. He was still not out of the depression that had hit him full force during this mind-game the ghosts had played on him. "Like what I just experienced. That was like a dream, too. Like a nightmare-come-true."
Scully led the way down the stairs, never once letting go of his hand, and only once glanced back at him. "You should talk about it. Tell me what you saw. What happened," she insisted, somehow already knowing that he wouldn't. Whether it was because it hurt too much or because he was embarrassed or something else she didn't know. But she was accustomed to having him not talk to her about his deepest fears.
And, quite right, he had no intention of talking about it. For his own reasons. "Maybe later," he said, shaking his head. 'Maybe never,' he thought, not wanting to draw her into his little paranoid universe any more than he already had. He didn't want her worrying over him. He didn't want her to fuzz over him. He was afraid of his own feelings, of how she made him feel sometimes. When she had held him up there, the feeling that he would never let her go again had overwhelmed him. Deeper feelings toward a woman always made him hesitate and pull back. Bad experiences in his past had made him weary of displaying his feelings. He didn't think that Scully would ever hurt him in any way, but he hadn't thought that about Phoebe Green either.
Once back in his room, he pulled his sweatshirt over his head, ignoring his still sore back with a vengeance. He realized how cold he really was and that he had a dry spot in the back of his throat, indicating that he was coming down with something. Sighing at the prospect, he slipped out of the sweat pants and into his jeans, pulled his socks on and stuck his feet into his shoes. First then did he realized that something was wrong. There was an ever so light tremble to the floor. If felt like a diesel-engine running somewhere nearby. Frowning, he looked down at the floor while rubbing his lower back absentmindedly. "Scully?" he called.
She turned up in the door way to her room almost at once. "What?" she wanted to know after making sure he wasn't in trouble or in pain.
"Do you feel that?" he asked, looking over at her.
Scully frowned, looking a little confused for a moment, then she raised an eyebrow. "The floor's trembling," she finally said. "They don't have earthquakes in this area, do they?" she added, looked a little concerned.
"No, not as far as I know. This doesn't feel like an earthquake, though." He walked toward the door, attempting to hear any sounds, but there were none to be heard.
Scully eyed him curiously, aware that he had fully managed to push the incident from earlier aside and that once again made her wonder where he put all these feelings she knew he had. It would be a miracle if they didn't explode in his face one day. "It feels more like an engine, doesn't it?" she countered after a moment. "Let's go downstairs, find Tess and see if we can't get the hell out of here. I've had enough of this place." Mulder nodded. For the first time he didn't argue with her because he knew she was right. He'd had quite enough of this place, too, thank you very much. "Okay," he said and opened the door to the corridor beyond.
Scully shook her head in annoyance, standing in the middle of the library with her hands on her hips. "I don't get it. Where is she?"
Mulder kept looking around and up all the time as if he expected to see her on the upper shelves. "I have no idea," he mumbled. "And I would really like to get out of here," he added after a moment.
Scully realized instantly that he was very uncomfortable about being here. Not that she blamed him. Whatever had transpired in that attic, it had frayed his nerves. "Me, too," she consented, looking around for a moment. "But we can't leave without Tess."
Folding his arms over his chest, Mulder looked toward the door for a moment. "Let's check outside, then. Maybe she went for a walk," he said after a moment's thought.
Scully nodded. "Okay," she countered and walked up to the door. The entrance hall was quiet as the grave and Scully at first couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then she realized that the old grandfather clock had stopped running. The steady ticking was gone. Not thinking any further about it, she walked down the short little hallway to the front door, grabbed the doorhandle and pulled. Nothing happened. The door didn't budge. Frowning, she turned the key in the lock and tried again with the same result.
"Scully," Mulder called.
Scully turned, not liking the tone of his voice. He sounded scared. She briskly walked back to the entrance hall and stopped short at the peculiar look of fascination and dread on his face. Turning her head, she followed his line of sight and found that he was starring at the grandfather clock. At first she couldn't see what was so horrible about it, then she noted that the pendulum, which was visible through the glass-door of the clock, had not just stopped. It was stuck in an odd position, pointing to the left. She walked over to the clock, opened the door and took a hold of the pendulum. It was completely and utterly stuck. Leaning in a little, she looked up into the clock and could see no plausible explanation for why the pendulum seemed frozen in time. And that was when it hit her. For the first time in her life she was consciously aware of the birth of an new thought. Swallowing, she almost gently let go of the pendulum, closed the door and backed up until she more or less bumped into Mulder. "What's going on here?" she wanted to know, not taking her eyes of the clock.
"I don't know, but we're leaving. Now," Mulder countered as he put both hands on her shoulders, his tone of voice displaying his state of mind.
"What about Tess?" Scully countered, still trying to force her mind to act rationally. It was getting harder by the second.
"If she hasn't left already, I don't think we'll find her here anyway," he said, his words making no sense to her.
"The front door is stuck," she said, glancing up at him.
"Shit," he countered, still starring at the clock. "Let's try the garden doors, then. If that doesn't work, we'll have to smash a window. I just know one thing. I'm not staying here."
Half an hour later, they were both ready to loose it. Scully not so much as Mulder. No attempt they had made at either forcing doors open or shattering windows had been successful. Mulder was standing at the garden doors in a greenhouse-like room, looking out into the lush garden, trying hard to keep from hyper-ventilating. He did not want Scully to know how scared he really was. The fact that they were caught in the belly of this house, unable to get out, unable to contact the outside world, and with Jezek missing, he felt that they may as well be dead.
"Let's look at the bright side," Scully said after a moment, still trying hard to be the voice of reason as she sat there on a couch a few steps behind him among flowers of all kinds. "Apart from the fact that we obviously can't get out of this house and that the clock is stuck at an odd angle, nothing else has happened."
Mulder turned around, his hands clenched into fists, and starred at her. "Aren't you forgetting that Tess is missing?" he countered, his tone of voice a little strained.
"No," she said, trying to stay calm. "I'm not forgetting that. We just don't know that she is missing yet. She may, as you said, have taken a walk." The almost frantic look in his eyes did not escape her.
Shaking his head, he turned back to the unbreakable glass doors leading out into the garden, fighting to stay calm. "Scully," he said after a moment. "I can't stay here. Not after what happened this morning." She got up and stepped up behind him, trying to convey her understanding to him through her nearness. "I know, Mulder, but what can we do? We've tried everything," she said, wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her cheek against his back. For the first time she could remember, she was afraid of the unexplainable. Whatever it was that prevented them from leaving this house. And she knew that if she felt that way, he felt it twice as strongly.
Mulder grabbed her hands with both of his in a fierce grip while he kept starring out into the garden. He had the distinct feeling that Jezek was still somewhere in this house. Why he felt that way, he didn't know. He just knew, somehow, that the house would not willingly let any of them go. Craning his neck, he looked up at the ceiling and sent a silent prayer out to the house and whatever it contained to at least let Scully go. Naturally, he received no answer.
The day seeped by like molasses on a hot summer day. Nothing happened all day and when the sun started setting, Mulder realized that the electricity in the house no longer worked. No lights. And the sky outside was clouded over, which meant that not even the light of the stars or the moon would reach them. Scully found matches and several candles, but quickly realized that the matches didn't work. Neither did the lighter she found.
Pacing the length of the dining room, Mulder kept glancing at the darkening sky outside through the large windows, cursing whatever instinct had brought him to this place. He didn't want to be here. And he certainly didn't want Scully to be here, either. This situation could become potentially dangerous for both of them, seeing as it had already turned bad for Jezek.
"Mulder." Scully interrupted his pacing by stepping into his path. "We need something to eat," she told him after having contemplated that they had actually eaten nothing all day.
Glancing at the door to the kitchen, Mulder nodded. "Yeah, we do," he agreed. She walked ahead of him and pushed the door to the kitchen open. After finding that everything in the refrigerator had gone bad within the short time there had been no electricity, they found some bread and more durable food in the pantry. Scully starred at the rather limited pile of edible things they had found and couldn't help shivering. "What happens if we can't get out of the house within the next couple of days?" she asked, glancing up at her increasingly tense-looking partner.
He was starring at the food, too, unable to give her the reply she wanted to hear. "We'll find a way to get out of here. Tomorrow. Right now, I think we should take some of this stuff upstairs and lock the doors of whatever room we decide to stay in. And, no offence, Scully, but I don't think we should separate at any time."
She nodded. "I agree," she countered and went in search of a pitcher to carry water in. After finding one, she filled it, then turned around to face Mulder. "I'm not sure what's going on here, Mulder," she confessed, "and somehow, I don't want to know."
He starred back at her for a moment, then smiled weakly and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Don't worry about it. We'll get out of this one, too."
Time had lost its meaning since all clocks and watches within the house had stopped. That applied to their wristwatches as well. Mulder estimated that it was close to midnight, but it was hard to tell. The room, the one that Scully had originally chosen, was pitch dark. The connecting door to the other room was closed and locked and so was the door to the corridor. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, his feet planted squarely on the floor, and he was listening to their surroundings. He could sense Scully's discomfort as she sat on the bed behind him, her left knee touching his back. They couldn't see each other and the only way they could know where they had each other without talking was by touching in some way.
"This is silly," Scully mumbled after a while. "This can't be happening."
He reached behind him, patting her leg. "We'll get through this," he assured her, not at all certain that they would. After the almost mind-shattering event in the attic the previous morning, he wasn't sure of anything any more. Not when it came to this house. This wasn't a haunting in the general sense. Not like any haunting he had ever heard of. This wasn't a poltergeist event either. Although he had been aroused by heavy pounding on his door and had been thrown around a bit, he applied that to the room he had stayed in that first night. Wondering briefly, he turned a little, his hand still on her leg. "Did you experience anything odd in the other room?" he wanted to know.
Scully was silent for a while, then sighed. "Yes," she finally said. "I woke up in a pool of blood. I thought..." She shook her head, not knowing what to think any more. "I don't know what I thought. I got up and ran to the bathroom, only to find that the blood which had stained my pyjamas and my hand was gone. When I went back into the room, the stain in the center of the bed was gone, too." Reaching down, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it hard. "And I'm certain that I saw the blood. One hundred percent certain."
He nodded, knowing full well that she couldn't see him. "I think that this room next door is the center of events. In some way. Maybe somebody got killed in there. Probably due to an affair or something."
"Strong feelings," Scully said, frowning into the darkness. She kept holding his hand, afraid to let go. Afraid he might not be there anymore when she reached for him again. "What are we going to do?" She felt intimidated in the light of this new knowledge she was acquiring. That not everything was as easily explained as she had always thought.
"We'll get through this," he countered in a low tone of voice.
Scully suddenly became very aware of his tone of voice, the underlying fear and his continued insistence that they would be fine and it hit her full force that he didn't believe it. For the first time since she had known him, he didn't believe they would make it. And that, in a sense, scared her a lot more than what this house had to hide. Starring at a spot in the darkness where she knew he was, she tried desperately to hide her own fears from him. It was odd in a way, but she knew that she would have to be the strong one this time. That she would have to be the one to care about his mental stability and not him worrying about hers. She squeezed his hand hard, forcing herself to smile despite the fact that he couldn't see it. "Of course we will," she said after a moment, in full control of herself.
And then the grandfather clock down in the hall started striking, the tones sounding hollow and eerie in the otherwise silent house. They both automatically held their breathes, silently counting along.
At the strike of twelve, all hell broke loose. The house was suddenly an inferno of noise. Screams of pure terror, voices begging for release of the eternal pain that hell was bestowing on their souls, hateful laughter, inarticulate, animal-like screams, and to top it off, a thundering, eardrum-splitting banging had started from that end of the corridor, where the staircase up to the attic was. It came closer and closer, each impact making the already heavy doors shudder in their frames.
Mulder pulled back at the same time that Scully jerked forward, each seeking the other's presence for protection and comfort. She no longer just held his hand, but had wrapped her arms around him, her breath coming in shallow gasps of pure fear. Her, being the strong one? She almost laughed. Knew she would have if she hadn't been so scared. His left hand was squeezing hers so hard it hurt, but she had no sense for the pain. All she had sense for was the mind-shattering banging which came closer and closer, making the door to the corridor rattle.
The fingers of Scully's right hand clawed into his chest and he was leaning back against her, wishing by God they were somewhere else. A good, old-fashioned surveillance case. Anything was better than whatever was approaching the room. Using his superior strength, he started pushing her back over the bed. "Get down behind the bed," he told her, having to raise his voice to let her know what he wanted her to do. She slipped smoothly off the bed and onto the floor, not once letting go of him. "Lie down," he added. She did and he stretched out beside her, pushing her as close to the bed as he could. The general idea was the same as when he had been a kid and had been scared of the dark. Hide and it can't find you. He knew the reasoning of that idea was way off, but right now it didn't matter. Closing his eyes hard, he barely prevented himself from covering his ears against the noise. And then the hammering stopped. So did every other sound. The silence was breathtaking and somehow more threatening than the noise. After a moment's worth of it, they both slowly sat up, listening intently into the darkness surrounding them.
So suddenly that Scully was unable to contain a scream of shock, something powerful and highly aggressive started hammering on the door from the corridor, the noise accompanied by the sound of something sniffing the door. Scully had never in her life been afraid of ghosts because she had never believed they existed. Now she thought differently and that knowledge made her curl up against her partner, hiding her face against his broad chest. He pushed them both down behind the bed again, his arms wrapped tightly around her, his fear as touchable as hers.
The wood of the door shrieked and started splintering, the hammering and sniffing now accompanied by the sound of what Mulder could only identify as claws ripping the wood apart from the other side. It was with the greatest effort that he suppressed the whimper which might otherwise have escaped him. And he was only able to do so because he had Scully in his arms and knew she was as scared of this as he was. If not more.
And then it stopped. As suddenly as it had begun, the hammering, the sniffing, the scratching stopped. Almost not daring to breath in case it started again, they both lay curled up against each other, not moving for a very long time.
Scully hated herself for her weakness, but nevertheless she cried. They were silent tears, not accompanied by any sound and all she could do was to cling to Mulder, keep her eyes closed and wish them both away from this place.
Mulder in turn was glad that she couldn't see his face right now. Treacherous tears had soaked into the carpet where he had laid his head and it was only due to the fact that he was hardly breathing at all that she didn't notice how scared he really was. He held her hard enough to almost hurt her, but she made no move or sound to pull away.
After what seemed like forever, Mulder finally opened his eyes, slowly relaxing from the cramped up position he had been in. Blinking, he became aware of the faint light in the room, which came from the curtain-covered windows behind them. Raising his head, he turned it and looked up at the gray flicker of light seeping into the room and he almost started crying again. This time from pure relief, though. "Scully," he said, turning his head back to look down at her. "It's getting light outside. We made it."
She slowly raised her head, her eyes bloodshot and puffy, and looked up at him for a moment. Then she glanced at the window and smiled. "No ghosts in the daylight," she almost whispered.
February 18 06.53 a.m.
After they had taken some time to recuperate from the night's events, Scully started feeling restless. She wanted to know what had happened. After the sounds and the fear had abated, she felt more than ever that this had to be a joke. A cruel one, but a joke nonetheless. She left Mulder sitting on the bed and slowly approached the door. Reaching for the door handle, she pushed it down and pulled the door open after turning the key in the lock. The fact that the door was basically ripped to shreds on the outside did little for her already unsteady belief in the sanity of the world and made her hesitantly take a step back, her eyes glued to the ripped-up, wooden surface. Perhaps this wasn't a joke after all, she thought. After getting over the initial shock at seeing that whatever had scared the life out of her during this night had not just been a figment of her's and Mulder's imagination, but a real, tangible thing, she took a step forward again, glancing out into the corridor. There was nothing out there. Except definite signs of the destruction which had taken place during the night. Pictures lay shattered and mauled on the floor. The wall paper all the way down to the stairs leading up to the attic had been shredded in a long, narrow, horizontal line.
After a glance back at her partner, who was sitting on the bed, head in hands, his elbows resting on his knees, she took a step out into the corridor. They both needed time to get over this one. That was for certain. And to think that she would be sharing his nightmares this time around made her shiver involuntarily. She glanced down the corridor toward the main stairs and saw no sign of destruction that way. Whatever it had been, it had come from the attic and it had been after them. Slowly, she turned, inspecting the destruction of the wall. Her eyes followed the trail all the way to the open door to the attic staircase, trying to figure out what had done this. As she focused on the doorway, her expression froze and her eyes widened in shock. Finding herself unable to move, her complexion turned white as her breath got stuck in her throat. "MULDER," she managed to scream before an unseen force slammed the door to the room she had just left shut.
Mulder was up and running for the door before she had finished screaming his name, but he couldn't get the door open. Hammering on it, ripping frantically at the door handle, he felt so utterly helpless as the pounding out there picked up again. "SCULLY!" He kept hammering on the door, frustrated. "RUN!"
Outside in the corridor, that single word released her from her paralysis. She turned and raced toward the main stairs, took two steps down and lost her footing. Using her training, she managed to arrive at the foot of the stairs with minimal bruising and although the fall had knocked the air out of her, she still found the strength to get up and run. Because that thing was after her and it was gaining.
Mulder kept tearing and pulling at the door with all his might, hoping that it would somehow open. What did happen, though, was that the door, weakened severely by the nightly attack, suddenly cracked in two, breaking down the middle. He lost his balance and sat down hard on the floor, the impact sending a jolt of pain through his still sore back. Before he had a chance to prevent it, that part of the door that wasn't attached to the frame fell forward and slammed down on top of him, the wood heavy enough to nearly knock him out. Dazed, he shoved the half door aside and scrambled back to his feet, his only thoughts concerning Scully and whatever it was that had made her scream like that. With a hand pressed against his forehead, he pushed through the opening and out into the corridor, cursing silently when he realized he was bleeding from a head wound the door had obviously given him. But he didn't have time to concentrate on it. "SCULLY!" he yelled, hoping that somehow he would distract the thing hunting her. At the same time he winced at the pain this caused his already thudding head. He started toward the main stairs. "SCULLY!" There was no reply and no sounds indicating that she had heard him. He reached the banister of the wide staircase going down and stopped to stare down into the main hall. No sign of anything out of the ordinary. Keeping a firm grip on the bannister, he more or less stumbled down the stairs, slowly becoming aware that he probably had a concussion. His vision was a little blurry and his head hurt ferociously. At the foot of the stairs he paused, covering his eyes with both hands to just take a moment to compose himself. His lower back hurt again and his head was killing him. "SCULLY!" he yelled again.
A crashing sound made him look around, uncertain what could have caused it and where it came from. There wasn't anything to be seen, though. With a determination which had previously gotten him through weird situations like this, he moved through the downstairs rooms, looking for Scully and finding nothing. He was at the end of his wits when it suddenly hit him that there was one place he hadn't checked. One place they hadn't even thought of looking for Jezek in, either. He was certain that Scully had run downstairs. As she wasn't in any of the rooms, there was only one other option. The basement. He remembered the staircase leading down from the kitchen and walked as fast as his already crippled condition allowed into the kitchen. Stopping briefly, he grabbed a dishtowel and pressed it against the gash on his forehead. He wasn't too sure that he would be conscious for much longer if the dizziness kept increasing as it did and he wanted to find Scully before he passed out. After stanching the flow of blood from his head, he grabbed the door handle and pulled the heavy oak door open. Hesitating for a moment, he looked down into the darkness below, then took the first step down the stairs. He didn't quite remember where this apprehension toward basements came from, but he wasn't too keen on walking around in dark, dank-smelling cellars with an aching back and a bleeding head wound. "Scully?" he called, somehow unable to convince himself that he might have to shout to make her hear him. There was a creepy feeling about this staircase and the darkness beyond.
Every step down into the darkness gave him the creeps. Every inch he came closer to the bottom made him feel colder. "Scully?" he called again, trying to see something. He finally reached the last step and stopped, his left hand pressed against the chalked wall, his right holding the dish towel almost forcefully against his forehead. "Scully? Where are you?" Blinking, he tried to force his eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness and wished again that his head didn't hurt so badly.
Slowly, he walked on down the corridor with no other light than what seeped down here from the kitchen above. Breathing deeply, he stopped briefly and closed his eyes, trying to force himself beyond the pain. "Scully," he tried again and pushed on. There was something down here with him. He could virtually feel the presence. And it wasn't Scully. That much he knew.
The corridor widened into what seemed like an oversized basement room. He had passed the door to the wine cellar a few moments before and frowned into the darkness, causing himself unnecessary pain. Hissing, he cursed under his breath and fumbled along the wall. There had to be a light switch somewhere. He found it and flipped it up and found that he was more relieved than he would have thought when the lights came on. The room was big and the corridor continued across from where he stood. At one end of the room, a workbench with everything ever needed on and around a workbench took up almost the entire length of the end wall. The other side was shelves with lots of what Mulder considered to be cellar-things, such as buckets of old paint, crates with books and other kinds of belongings. There was a whole life down here, he mused. And then some. The space was pretty open and easy to overview and gave no indication of having been used in a long time. Only the dust on the floor had been disturbed.
Crouching down, Mulder took a closer look at the faint foot prints he could see there. One set belonged to Scully. There was no doubt about that. The second pair made his blood run cold. This thing, this ghost, was more material than any ghost he had ever heard of in his life. This ghost left foot prints and they were definitely not human.
Briefly distracting himself, he lowered the now bloodied dish towel and gingerly touched the sore cut. It had stopped bleeding and he decided that it wasn't so bad. The impact had given him the headache, the concussion. But he doubted he was in any danger of passing out any more. Gingerly, he got back to his feet, easing into the stretch with care. His back was aching badly again and he could almost hear Jezek's words: You're moving like an old man, my friend. "Hell of a friend I am," he grumbled under his breath, thinking that he was putting a hell of a lot more effort into finding Scully than he had put into finding Jezek. "SCULLY!" he then yelled. Only silence answered him.
For a brief, scary moment, the light flickered, then steadied again. He unconsciously sighed in relief, then started through the room toward the opposite corridor. The further he advanced into this basement, the more he felt at risk. He constantly had the feeling that somebody or something was watching him and that anything he did to find his partner would be in vain.
After rounding a corner of the corridor which he couldn't really fit into the above floor plan, he stopped short. There was something... someone lying on the floor further down this corridor. "Scully?" he almost whispered and hurried his steps toward the figure. The light was faint here, playing havoc with his senses and he couldn't really make out if it was her or not. Going down on one knee, he reached out to touch the human-sized bundle on the floor and all he felt was squishy flesh. No resistance. No bones. With an inhuman effort, he pressed the back of his left hand against his mouth, trying hard to keep a grip on reality, as he dug his fingers into the slippery material and hauled the bundle around. For a long moment, he starred, unable to react, then he closed his eyes and rocked back a little. Not squishy flesh. Damp and half-rotten canvas and whatever this oversized doll was stuffed with. Pressing both hands over his mouth and nose, he almost laughed. "Jesus," he mumbled and got back to his feet. "It's a damned doll." A moaning sound made him jerk and stare down toward the end of the corridor. The end was pitch dark and the moan had definitely come from there. "Scully?" he called, stepped over the doll and started down toward the complete darkness. "Scully. Where are you?" His pace slowed the closer he got to the mouth of the corridor, not certain he wanted to know what was beyond that blanket of darkness down there. It didn't look natural. He pushed past crates stocked along the walls, hindering his passage a little. "Scully," he called again. He was just about to pass another crate when something grabbed his ankle. With a yelp of pure fear, he ripped free and collided with the wall opposite the crate, starring at the shadow moving among shadows. He hardly breathed for the moment it took the shadow to move forward into the faint light. Then he sighed with relief once more. "Scully." Dropping down on his knees in front of her, he couldn't help noticing the frantic, panicky look in her eyes. The fact that she was in shock. He grabbed her arms and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her shivering, cold body. "It's okay. It's okay," he hushed her despite the fact that she uttered no sound.
With an effort, he got them both back to their feet and quickly retreated back the way they'd come. He didn't know what was waiting down there at the end of the corridor, but once he glanced back over his shoulder before rounding the corner again, he thought, just for a second, that he saw glowing eyes down there. Inhuman eyes.
The greenhouse-like room seemed to be the only place which felt reasonably normal and that was where Mulder had taken Scully after getting her out of the basement. On the way up, he had grabbed a hammer, a box of nails and two boards standing in the corner of the first room with the intention of nailing the door to the basement shut. He wasn't sure, though, that this thing was down there and if it was, he wasn't at all sure it couldn't get out anyway. He just had to think about the deep gashes in the wood of the upstairs bedroom door. He had put it off, though, because he still thought that Jezek may be down there somewhere. And he definitely didn't want to lock her in with that thing.
Scully was sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, knees pulled up to her chest, starring numbly ahead of herself. He hadn't managed to get a word out of her yet, but he figured that she would come around soon enough. Until then, he would stay with her. He was sitting next to her, his right hand resting on her knee, his mind working frantically at getting them out of this place. He just couldn't see how. With his thundering headache and aching back, he couldn't really concentrate on anything they hadn't tried yet. Instead the omnipresent guilt settled in. "I'm sorry, Scully. I shouldn't have dragged you and Tess into this."
Scully finally focused on him. "It's not your fault," she countered in a low tone of voice.
Mulder looked at her, a little surprised that she was this much together. "Are you okay?" he wanted to know.
"No, Mulder. I'm not okay. I just saw something I can find no words for. I don't know if I'll ever be able to sleep again." She shook her head, her movements a little sluggish. "I don't think I've ever been this scared in my life. Except..." She trailed off, the look in her eyes becoming distant.
Mulder eyed her thoughtfully, trying not to give in to his need to frown. It would only hurt if he did. "Except what?" he wanted to know.
Her eyes flicked to his face for a second, then she looked down and wrapped her arms around her legs. "I remember," she mumbled.
Now he did frown and he even managed to ignore the stinging pain from the gash in his forehead. "You remember what?" he asked. "My abduction, Mulder," she said, raising her head to meet his eyes. "Something about being this scared pulled the plug out of that cesspool. It's actually strange, you know. I was more scared of my memories than of this thing chasing me around the house." With a shivering sigh, she pressed her hands over her face. "The foundation of my life has been pulled away beneath my feet. Don't expect me to be happy about it."
Reaching out, he grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands away from her face. "I don't expect you to be happy about it, Scully. It makes for a whole lot more trouble that you do remember. We have to talk about this at some point. We have to... " he paused and closed his eyes for a brief moment, overcome with dizziness, "... you have to find a way to deal with this. I'm here if you need me."
Starring at him, she wondered silently about him, about his life, about her feelings for him, and felt tears rising in her eyes. Whimpering, she reached both arms out to him and slipped smoothly into his arms. She knew he was hurt but she couldn't see beyond her own fears right now. Once she had a grip on herself, she would find out how she dealt best with what she remembered. It had shaken her world more severely than anything they had seen during their five years together. Because she now knew that he was right. This wasn't just a government conspiracy any more. This wasn't just him being paranoid. Right now all she needed was to be held and that was what he did. With a cynical, little smile, she figured she would tell her brother one day what it was that she and Mulder could do for each other. That it wasn't a question of him being responsible for all the things that happened to her. No, it was a question of being there for each other when it really counted. And for a brief moment she bemoaned the fact that they could be no more than that. But she wouldn't trade his friendship for anything in the world and she had learned from bitter experience that nothing killed a friendship faster than taking it one step further.
Washington D.C. J. Edgar Hoover building 01.15 p.m.
Annoyed, Assistant Director Skinner glanced at his watch, then at the phone. "When is that man ever going to learn to keep an appointment?" he growled, then thumbed the intercom on. "Kimberly, try to get in touch with Agent Mulder or Agent Scully again. I want to know what is going on."
"Yes, sir," she replied immediately.
Pursing his lips, he leaned back on his chair and folded his arms over his chest. One of the reasons he had allowed them to go on that crazy case was because he had made it clear to Mulder that he wanted them to report in every day. He hadn't heard anything from any of them since they had called and let him know they had arrived safely. The door to his office opened a moment later and Kimberly peeked in. "Sir?" she said and stepped inside. "All I get is static."
Frowning, the AD leaned forward again. "What do you mean, all you get is static?" he wanted to know.
"I've tried dialing all of them, both Agent Mulder, Agent Scully and Agent Jezek's mobile and all of them give me static. It's like the connection to them is broken off."
That didn't sound so good. "Have you tried calling the Wilson Estate?"
"Yes, sir. And I get nothing but static there, too. To make sure that the lines to Bemis aren't down, I called the local police station there, but there's no problem," Kimberly replied.
"Call them again and have them find out if the lines between Bemis and the Wilson Estate are down." His frown deepened when something occurred to him. "That shouldn't affect the cell-phones, though," he added thoughtfully. "And I refuse to believe that all three of them are on the blink. Call the police station back and ask them go out to the Wilson Estate and check that everything is in order."
Kimberly nodded and retreated back to the front office again. Skinner got off his chair and looked out the window up at a clear blue sky, wondering what the hell was going on out there. This was beginning to look like one of these creepy cases Mulder sometimes brought back with him. Where the hell he found them was beyond Skinner. With a heavy sigh, he had to admit that he was worried about them. Mostly about Mulder because the man had a habit of getting in over his head. He was only glad that Scully and Jezek were there with him. Hopefully, that meant they would keep an eye on Mulder.
Bemis Police Station 02.30 p.m.
Officer Pete Jackson came back into the station after having been out at the Wilson Estate. He went straight to the sherif's office. "Sir, there's nothing going on out there. Nobody's home. I knocked several times. The door bell didn't work, so I used a little force. But nobody came around to answer."
Sherif Michaelson frowned at the younger man, noting the distinct paleness of his complexion. "Did you go around the house? Check the garden doors?" he wanted to know, already knowing the answer.
"Uhm..." Jackson answered, nervously turning his hat in his hands. "I... kinda... you know... figured that by the way I was banging on the door, they ought to have heard me and... well... I didn't think there was much..." he began explaining, but Michaelson interrupted him.
"What's wrong, Pete? You look like you've seen a ghost or something." He knew his men well enough to know if something was up. And this wasn't how Pete Jackson normally behaved. The man was a model in up keeping the law and would never ignore an important procedure like this.
Jackson focused on his boss, then swallowed hard before speaking, afraid he might sound like a cook. "That house is creepy, sir. I've thought so before, but it has never bothered me before. But today... man, I swear that house wanted me to leave. I know how that sounds. And I'm a little afraid for my sanity here, but that's the impression I got. There was nothing when I arrived, but when I banged on that door, I got the feeling that I was not wanted there. I've never..." Trailing off, Jackson dropped down on a chair in front of Michaelson's desk, shaking his head. "I feel like a god-damned fool, sir."
Michaelson leaned back on his chair, his expression thoughtful. "You know, that house has always had a reputation of being spooky. They say it's haunted. I'm not sure I believe that, but... you know what they say. Just because we don't' believe doesn't mean it ain't so. Did you see any sign of anybody around there, Pete, or did that old mansion just have you spooked?"
Almost shivering, Jackson glanced out the window. "For a moment there, I thought I saw a face in one of the basement windows. All white and scared, but it vanished when I blinked, so I figure I just let the atmosphere get to me. I'd say I was just spooked is all."
Michaelson sighed. "I don't think the Bureau is gonna be too happy about it, but what can we do? If there's nobody home, there's nobody home. If they don't believe it, they can come out here and check for themselves." With that, he picked up the phone and dialed the number he had been asked to call back on. "Yeah, this is Sherif Michaelson from Bemis, ma'am. My deputy just got back from the Wilson Estate and there was nobody out there." Kimberly sighed at the other end. "Just one minute, Sherif. I'll transfer you to Assistant Director Skinner." There was a click and then the gruff voice of a man took over.
"Sherif Michaelson? Assistant Director Walter Skinner here. What's this about nobody being home?"
Michaelson made a face. "Well, sir, one of my deputies went out there to check and he says nobody answered when he knocked. He tried repeatedly, but there was no reply. The phone lines between here and the house are fine, too. Where all that static comes from is anybody's guess." He could hear Skinner grumble under his breath.
"Would you do me the favor of going out there again and double-check? I've got three agents out there and I'm not too thrilled about being told that there's nobody out there when that's where they're supposed to be. Call me back when you know more." With that, Skinner hung up.
Michaelson glared at the phone for a moment, then hung up again. "Okay, we're taking another trip out there. This time, I'm coming along. You feel up to it, Pete?"
Jackson shrugged, not looking too happy about it. "I guess," he countered.
The Wilson Estate 02.35 p.m.
Mulder had drifted off, tried as he was after a night with no sleep, and when he woke up again, Scully wasn't next to him any more. Sitting up straight on the couch, he looked around the greenhouse with a frown. "Scully?" he called. "Scully?" He got up and went in search of his partner, feeling that the house had lost a lot of its eeriness. The first place he went was into the kitchen. The door to the basement was closed and locked from the outside, which gave him enough of an indication that she hadn't gone down there. Whatever she should have gone down there for he didn't know. He trailed through the downstairs, trying to figure out why he felt so different. He couldn't quite get a grasp on it.
Not finding Scully anywhere downstairs, he went upstairs, moving gingerly due to his aching back and sore head. Looking down the corridor toward their rooms, he frowned. The destruction which had so clearly marked the corridor earlier was gone. "Scully?" Somehow, he couldn't get himself to raise his voice. To have her disappear again would be the worst thing that could happen right now. He didn't think he could handle being here alone, knowing that both Scully and Jezek had vanished in this house. He stopped in front of the door to Scully's room and was more than surprised to see that the door was intact and closed. Reaching out, he touched the wood and felt nothing out of the ordinary. Then he opened the door to the next room which had been his and stepped inside. Nothing wrong here. The connecting doors to both the other rooms were closed. Mulder grabbed the handle of the door to Jezek's room and opened it, stepping through with a feeling of unreality. Something was wrong with this picture and he couldn't for the life of him figure out what it was.
He turned his head, inspecting the room and then froze to the spot, the reason for this unreality-feeling hitting him like a ton of bricks. There was Jezek, sitting cross-legged on her bed, reading a book. She looked up and smiled. "Hi there," she said, then noted the look on his face. "What's up? You look like you've seen a ghost," she added, grinning at her own joke. "Not that it would be a difficult task in this mansion of creepiness."
Starring at her, he took a step toward the bed, unable to comprehend that she was here. "Tesla?" he asked her, not sure it could really be her. "Yes?" she replied, looking up at him with a frown. "Fox, are you all right? You're not running a fever or something, are you?"
"No, not that I know of. Where have you been?" he wanted to know, completely ignoring that she was, once again, calling him by his first name despite his repeated requests for her not to.
"Been? What do you mean?" she wanted to know, her frown deepening. "I said I was going upstairs to read a book. Where else should I be?"
This made no sense to him whatsoever. Something was wrong here. Something so utterly wrong that he felt a little queasy due to it. "But... you were missing," he said after a moment.
Raising an eyebrow, the pretty blonde starred at him with a definite lack of comprehension. "I was?" she countered. "Since when?"
"Since yesterday morning. And... and... uhm... we looked for you everywhere and couldn't find you," he tried to explain, realizing how lame it sounded right now.
Closing the book, Jezek leaned her head to one side, inspecting his face thoughtfully. "Have you been into Wilson's liquor?" she asked with an almost overbearing smile. "Are you drunk, Fox? I thought you didn't drink?"
"I don't drink. I'm not drunk, Tesla. You were missing. You've been missing for more than twenty-four hours," he insisted.
"Why don't we ask Dana if I've been missing, okay?" she countered.
"That's just the thing, Scully's missing now. I can't find her anywhere," he said, sounding a little defiant. This was starting to bother him to no end. If there was one thing he had always been able to rely on, it had been his memory. Now he wasn't so sure.
"Missing? Well, then she's gone missing within the last ten minutes. Because I just talked to her. She said she'd left you down in the greenhouse, where you had fallen asleep on that comfy couch. So she wanted to take a nap herself," Jezek counted. "DANA?" she then called loudly. A door opened somewhere and Scully turned up in the doorway.
"Yeah?" she asked, looking like she had just woken up. She blinked, met Mulder's confused stare for a moment, then looked back at Jezek, yawning. "What is it?"
"Our Fox here has lost his marbles. He says we're both missing," Jezek said with a grin.
Scully closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. "We're missing, are we?" she then said, directing this to Mulder. "Do I look like I'm missing? Does Tesla look like she's missing? What is wrong with you? Nobody's missing. We're all here. Nothing's going on. Can I go back to sleep now?"
Starring at her with confusion printed on his face, he had the distinct sense that this was a dream. Or maybe the first part of it had been a dream? If so, he could definitely live with that. "I'm..." he began, but didn't know what to say. Instead, he dropped down on the edge of Jezek's bed, covered his face with both hands and rested his elbows on his knees. "I'm losing it," he mumbled.
Scully softened a little at seeing her partner so distressed. "What do you mean, you're losing it, Mulder? Why would you think that we were missing in the first place?" she wanted to know and squatted down in front of him, her hands on his knees.
With a heartfelt sigh, he removed his hands again and starred at her. "Because it was so real. It must have been a dream, though. I just..." He shook his head, afraid that his assumption was right. That he was losing his mind. Without thinking about what he was doing, he wrapped both hands around her face. "I lost you," he almost whispered.
Scully smiled a little. "Well, I'm not lost, Mulder. I'm right here. And I'm not going anywhere, okay?" she countered, reaching up to cover his hands with her own.
Shaking his head, he couldn't quite understand which reality was the right one. "I feel silly," he mumbled.
Jezek chuckled. "Don't. That's what we expect of you, after all. If you didn't live up to your reputation of being spooky, we'd start to worry," she said, wrapped her arms around him from behind and kissed the right side of his neck. "You look wasted, hon. Why don't you take a nap?" she added, leaning sideways to get a better look at his face.
"You do look tired," Scully consented. "We all need to relax a while. Let's all take some time out, okay?"
Pursing his lips, he finally managed to smile a little. "Okay," he said, grabbing Jezek's right arm with his right hand and Scully's with his left. "I'm glad it was only a dream. I'm glad nothing's wrong with you two. I couldn't stand it if it was true."
Scully smiled sweetly at him and Jezek planted another kiss on his neck. "Go to bed, Mulder. You're delirious," Jezek said with a grin and released him again.
He got up and wrapped an arm around Scully's shoulders. "I think I could sleep for about a year now," he finally confessed, grinning.
Closing the door to Jezek's room behind them, Scully turned a little and hugged him. "I don't know what this house is doing to you, Mulder, but it has me worried. I just think we should leave. As soon as possible," she said and pulled back a little.
"Yeah, I agree. Let's leave before it gets dark, okay?" he countered, wanting nothing more than to be gone, either. "This house needs something we don't have."
Scully frowned. "Like what?" she wanted to know.
"An exorcist," he replied with a wry smile and pushed her toward her door. "Go back to your nap. When we all feel more awake, we leave. We go home."
Smiling, she walked over to the door and glanced back at him. "Sounds good to me, Spooky," she said with a wink and closed the door behind her.
With a sigh which displayed his utter contentment at the way things were turning out, he dropped down on his bed and hissed in annoyance at the pain from his back. He reached up to scratch a sore spot on his forehead and froze at the sense of the wound there. Abruptly he sat up again, feeling cold all over. If he had the cut on his forehead, he had been hit on the head by the broken door. As a matter of fact, he felt rather dizzy and a little nauseous, indicating that he had a concussion. Looking around the room he was in, he got the bad feeling that what he had just experienced had been an elaborate hoax orchestrated by the ghosts or whatever the hell they were. Wincing at the mere prospect, he basically jumped off the bed and ripped the door to the next bed room open, closing his eyes in the process. Standing there for a second, he hoped to hear Scully's voice, asking him firmly what he was doing. But there was not a sound. Slowly, he opened his eyes and saw the broken door on the floor. It was the utmost test of strength to throw what he wanted the most at him and then rip it away again. Frantic now, he turned and ran back to the other door, opened it and stepped through. Nobody there. The room was as abandoned as it had been ever since Jezek vanished. Breathing hard, he fought to keep his hands from shaking too badly. "Oh God," he mumbled, opened the door to the corridor and raced toward the stairs. "SCULLY?" he yelled.
"Mulder," came her reply immediately and she turned up in the dining room doorway. "Where were you?" she added, taking a step toward the staircase. But then she froze, her eyes widening. "WATCH OUT," she screamed, pointing.
He didn't have time to turn around to see what was onto him before he received a powerful shove in the back which sent him reeling over the edge of the stairs. He lost his footing and tumbled down the stairs, landing face-down on his right arm with a sickening snap. He just barely contained a cry of pain, gasping for the air the fall had stolen. In an attempt to get a look at what had attacked him, he rolled over on his back and nearly passed out from the pain radiating through him from his right arm and side. Due to the excruciating pain from his arm, he hadn't noticed the ribs he had bruised. With an almost inhuman effort, he reached across himself with his left arm, grabbed the broken limb and pulled it up on his chest just when Scully reached him.
"Oh God," she whispered, starring down at him for a moment, then glanced up the stairs again. Whatever that shadow had been, it was gone again. She hadn't gotten a good look at it. The blurry outline of the thing had renewed her fear of the basement and what it contained. She knelt down beside her hurt partner, who gasped in pain when she helped him get back to his feet. With tears of frustration and fear rising in her eyes, she guided him back to the greenhouse and helped him ease down on the couch. The first thing she did was use her skills as a doctor and her imagination to wrap up his arm so he could at least release it. She went to the kitchen to get some dish towels and whatever else she could find and returned with a complexion close to the whiteness of the towels she had brought with her.
"What... did you... see?" he wanted to know, barely able to speak over the pain.
"Nothing," she countered and went about bandaging him up.
For the next half hour, he was too wrapped up in being in pain to worry about why she looked so scared. After she had bandaged his arm and put it in a sling around his neck, she had ordered him to lie down. Using a wrung-out wet dishtowel to cool his already burning brow, she finally settled down next to him, leaned back and closed her eyes for a moment. "It's trying to get out," she said. "I heard it sniffing at the door."
Mulder looked up at her, his expression pained, yet attentive. "What was it?" he wanted to know.
Scully's eyes were looking at something he couldn't see. Her expression was oddly placid. "The... monster from the basement." Somehow, that made her laugh. It was a bitter, scared sound. "One of the places we stayed during my childhood, on base, had a basement. Most of these places don't have one. But this one did. And I was scared of it. I must have been about five or six at the time." She shook her head, needing to get this off her chest because she hoped that it would make that memory less threatening and thereby make that thing go away. "Anyway, Missy was always making fun of me because I didn't want to go down there when the lights were off. The switch was not working properly and ever so often, the lights didn't turn on. And my mom kept stuff down there. The washing machine was down there, too. I had a vivid imagination as kid. I... believed that a monster was living down there. A big, scary monster. Not hairy or anything. I had a perfect mental picture of it. And that's what hunted me down into the basement earlier. That's what I heard sniffing around the basement door out there." Biting her lower lip, she didn't know whether to laugh or cry right then. "My childhood fears have come back to haunt me. This house knows what we're afraid of and it's using it against us," she added and closed her eyes. She hated saying it because she didn't believe. No, she corrected herself mentally, she didn't want to believe. But as things were, it was hard to ignore the certain truths of what she had just said herself. The house was an entity. And it knew what they feared.
Starring at her, Mulder couldn't really believe what she was saying. She was actually claiming to have seen a figment of her imagination. "Yeah," he whispered. "And we still have to find a way to get out of here before either of us gets killed."
She nodded. "That's right. This whole thing is insane. Wilson said that there were two ghosts. Male and female. If the female is after me and the male is after you, that makes him a whole lot less imaginative than her. On the other hand he's a lot more violent that she is." Shaking her head again, she looked down at him. "You know, in the beginning when we started working together, I was inclined to agree with the others. That you were slightly nuts. But now I know you're not. Now I know that your view on the world is the right one." Wrapping her arms around herself, she looked up at the ceiling with a shudder. "That's one scary view you've got on this world," she added.
He didn't have a reply for that one. It was a bit painful to think that she had to stare a ghost in the eye before she actually believed it existed. But on the other hand, he couldn't blame her for clinging to the picture of a perfect world. He would like to do that himself. He just couldn't.
Outside the Wilson Estate 03.35 p.m.
Sherif Michaelson and Officer Jackson got out of the police cruiser and looked up at the house. There was something forbidding about it. Although the house looked very ordinary at first glance, it took on an eerie, heavy atmosphere if one looked at it for any longer than that.
"I sure don't like this place, sir," Jackson said, his tone of voice timid.
Michaelson nodded. He didn't much care for the place either. Although he in general was inclined to believe that ghosts was something other people imagined because they were scared, he wasn't able to ignore the definitely hostile atmosphere surrounding this house. "Well, let's go up and knock," he said after a moment and went up to the front door. He hammered his fist against it a few times. "Hello?" he hollered. "Anybody home?"
Inside the Wilson Estate
Scully shot up from the couch, starring toward the doorway leading into the house. "Somebody's at the door," she said, her tone breathless. "I'll go check."
"NO," Mulder almost snapped, struggling to sit up. "None of us goes anywhere alone in this place. It's trying to break us apart, Scully." He winced at the pain from his arm and chest, but finally managed to sit up anyway. Scully starred at him for a second, the looked toward the doorway again when there was another pounding on the front door. "Mulder, you're in no condition to go walking around anywhere. Just stay here. I'll be right back," she insisted.
"No. You're not going out there alone, Scully," he countered stubbornly.
Uncertain of what to do, she eventually grabbed his outstretched hand and helped him to his feet. "Well, come on, then. We don't want them to leave again," she said and guided him toward the doorway. Outside the Wilson Estate
Jackson shuffled his feet, sending nervous glances toward the basement windows. "Sir, nobody's here. Don't you think they would have reacted by now?"
Michaelson sighed. "Okay, we go around back. We'll just take a look and if there's no sign of them... well, then we'll just have to go back to town and call that Assistant Director and tell him his agents have obviously gone AWOL."
Jackson nodded, more afraid of the house than he cared to admit. "Right."
Together, the two men circled around the house to the garden doors and peeked inside.
Inside the Wilson Estate
When they reached the mouth of the corridor leading to the front door, Scully stopped. "You stay here. You're in no condition for this," she told Mulder and released him. "Just stay here. I'll be right back," she insisted when she saw the opposition in his expression.
Too tired to argue, and too much in pain to move much more, he nodded and eased his back up against the wall. However much he wanted to close his eyes, he kept them open so he could keep an eye on Scully as she walked briskly toward the front door.
Grabbing the doorhandle, she pulled at the heavy door. It didn't budge. "Hello?" she yelled. There was no sound from out there. Slapping a flat hand against the door a few times, she hoped to attract the attention of whoever was out there.
Mulder watched her for a moment, then suddenly froze. Swallowing hard, he slowly turned his head to look back into the entrance hall. An icy breeze had touched him. What he saw now was a blurry outline of something coming down the stairs. It was impossible to tell what it was supposed to be. "Scully," he almost whispered. Running the tip of his tongue over his suddenly very dry lips, he starred at the apparition as it came to a stop at the foot of the stairs. An ear-splitting scream followed that, which naturally caused Scully to turned around and stare toward the entrance hall. Mulder waved her over, cautioning her to be quiet.
Outside the Wilson Estate
Michaelson sighed heavily. "Right. Nobody's here. Let's go back home," he said, turning around to face Jackson. "You know, we could break down the door, but I'm not keen on doing that without Mr. Wilson's permission. And I doubt he would give it anyway. He was pissed enough as it were that we sent him the FBI and not an exorcist. Let's just find out what the feds want to do about this." Padding Jackson on the shoulder, he started back toward the cruiser.
Jackson nodded, gratefully following his boss back to the car.
Inside the Wilson Estate
The scream was followed by another, this one outraged, hateful. "You bastard." The words were very clear, the voice definitely female. "You stinking bastard. I'll get you for this." Another outline appeared at the top of the stairs. The one already downstairs turned in one swift movement. "You got what was coming to you, you wore," a man's voice roared. "You and your little bastards. None of those brats were mine. All bred in sin. Now they reside in Hell where they belong."
The female uttered a horrendous scream, full of hatred and vengeance. "You killed my children. Your own flesh and blood," she screamed.
Scully was pressing up against Mulder, watching the scene with wide eyes. None of them heard the engine of the car outside. The spectacle before them was a distraction. Mulder wrapped his arm around her although every movement was a pain. She was scared stiff by what she was seeing and he knew how it affected people when they became believers. He had seen it happen before.
"Not mine," the male ghost countered angrily. "Never mine. They were bred in sin. And you will rot in this house with their corpses. You will never leave here." The curse was made, laid upon a woman who's children had been slaughtered in their beds by their own father.
The female ghost screamed in rage and took two steps down. "And nor will you, you murderer. You will burn in Hell for all eternity. You will walk the rooms of this house until it comes down around your ears. I curse you, Joshua Wilson. I curse you."
As abruptly as they had appeared, they vanished again. For a long while, the two Federal Agents didn't move. Then Mulder closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall. "Well," he sighed. "At least now we know why this place is haunted. They cursed each other to haunt this place until it ends."
Scully blinked. This had to be a joke. A dream, perhaps. A... ! She shook her head. No, no dream. She had seen it. She had heard it. For the first time in her life, she couldn't push the incident aside. Because she had seen it. And it was making a believer out of her. "You need to lie down," she finally said, sounding discouraged.
"What about whoever knocked on the door?" Mulder countered, not thinking too clearly.
"They're gone, Mulder. If they were ever there. These two ghosts made certain we were distracted long enough for them to leave."
They were heading back toward the greenhouse when a door slamming upstairs made them both stop and glance wearily up toward the first floor landing. "Fucking house." The voice was unmistakable. Although sounding rather shaken and a little raw, it was Jezek. "God damned death trap," she went on cursing while they heard her footsteps approaching down the corridor toward the stairs.
Scully looked up at Mulder, who in turn looked anything but happy, and frowned. "What?" she wanted to know.
"I've seen her once before. Before I was pushed down the stairs. For a moment there I thought everything was back to normal. You were both upstairs. There were no signs of destruction. Then you both vanished again," he told her, sounding slightly incoherent, his eyes never leaving the first floor landing. Then Jezek came into view at the top of the stairs. She stopped short, obviously disoriented, then let her eyes drift down and caught sight of her partners. "Hi, guys," she said, sounding tired. She was a mess. Her clothes were in shreds, her hair ruffed up to a point where it would take her days to get through it with a brush. Her face and neck were covered with scratches and bruises and the dark patches under her eyes proved her fatigue. She slowly came down the stairs, walking carefully as if it was a painful procedure.
Scully, still holding onto Mulder, starred at her in disbelief. "Where the hell have you been, Tess? We've been worried sick about you."
Jezek shrugged and winced at the pain it caused her. "I have no idea. All I know is I suddenly find myself in this... closet or whatever the hell it was and I have no idea how I got there or why the hell I feel like I've been run over by a steam-roller." Her eyes focused on Mulder. "What the hell happened to you?"
"I was pushed down the stairs. Broke my arm," he countered obviously in much more pain than he should be.
"Then why the hell are you both still here?" Jezek countered, looking from one to the other.
"We can't get out," Scully told her. "We've tried for... two days now."
Something about what Scully had just said made Jezek start. "I've been gone for two days?" she asked, starring at Scully in wonder. "Where the hell have I been for the past two days?"
"That's what we would like to know," Mulder countered, then tightened his grip on Scully's shoulder. "I need to lie down," he whispered hoarsely.
Jezek was by his other side immediately. "You look like it, too," she told him and helped Scully get him back to the greenhouse and the couch. After making sure he was as comfortable as he could be, Scully decided that she was going to search for some kind of medication. Wilson was an old man with a failing health. There had to be something around.
"You stay with Mulder. I want to know where both of you are," she said to Jezek.
"No chance, honey. I'm not letting you walk around this ghost ship on your own," Jezek countered stubbornly. "Besides, I need to find some clothes before I loose whatever dignity I have left," she added with a sheepish grin.
Scully glanced at Mulder, who had more or less passed out from the pain, and sighed. "This seems to be the safest place in the house. I guess we can leave him alone here for a bit," she finally said, grabbed Jezek's arm and headed out toward the entrance hall again.
Upstairs, Jezek starred at her reflection in the mirror of the master bath room, appalled by the way she looked. Scully stood behind her with her back to Jezek, rooting through the medicine cabinet. "I look like I've been through a meat grinder," Jezek said after a moment, without success trying to run her hands through her hair. "Damn this place," she added in a low tone of voice.
"Don't say that. This place has been damned enough. If you start putting curses on it, Tess, then we'll never get out of here," Scully replied and picked up a pill bottle. She studied the label for a moment, then nodded. "This ought to do it," she mumbled and turned around to face Jezek.
The other woman starred at her with obvious surprise. "This place has been cursed?" she asked. "How do you know that?"
Scully sighed deeply. "The ghosts put on a show for us to distract us from someone who came knocking on the door. Skinner probably got worried and sent the local police force out to check on us. I just hope that's not the end of it. If they don't come back, we're screwed."
"Eloquent as ever, my dear," Jezek countered, removed what was left of her sweater and put on a new one she had picked up from her room. "But I get your point. I don't think Skinner will back down, though. He's not the type," she added thoughtfully, then hissed when she tried to get out of what was left of her jeans. "Damn, I hurt all over."
Scully starred in shock at the other woman's bruised thighs when she finally managed to wiggle out of the remains of her jeans. Jezek starred down herself for a moment, then slowly raised her head to look at Scully. "If I didn't know better I'd say that these bruises look like..." she began, but trailed off, looking very uneasy all of a sudden. To confirm or deny her suspicion, she pulled her sweater up again and took a closer look at her bruised torso as well. "Jesus," she mumbled, starring at her reflection in the mirror. "This can't be happening."
Scully put a hand on her shoulder, starring at the reflection of Jezek's battered body. "Do you feel like..." she began, but was unable to finish. Saying it out loud would make it so much more real.
Jezek took a moment to analyze how she felt, then shook her head. "No, I don't. I just feel as if I've been beaten up with a baseball bat," she finally countered. "Which is bad enough, mind you," she added. Ignoring the latent implications of her state, she pulled her sweater back down and pulled her new jeans on, stuck her feet into her sneakers and smiled at Scully. "Come on. Let's rejoin our friend Mulder before something decides to take another swing at him."
Scully wished she hadn't said that because Jezek's words were followed by a loud noise from downstairs. Both women were out of the bathroom and running toward the stairs before the noise had died down. Scully raced down the stairs, taking two steps at a time, her only concern that Mulder might be in trouble. She skittered across the floor and headed toward the greenhouse. Whatever the sound had been, she didn't care about it. The only thing that mattered was Mulder.
Jezek was hot on her heels, not wanting to be left behind. She frowned briefly at how elegantly Scully managed to avoid the fallen grandfather clock. She sped up when a cold breeze touched the back of her neck. She was determined on getting out of this place as fast as possible.
Scully cleared the doorway to the greenhouse and came to stop, breathing heavily. Mulder was still there, asleep on the couch. With a sigh, she dropped down into a crouch.
"It was the clock. One of the spooks tipped over the clock," Jezek told her, leaning against the door frame. "I think we should try to get the hell out of here."
Scully looked up at her. "How? We've tried everything. We've tried breaking every window in the house. It doesn't work. We can't get out. Who or whatever these ghosts are, they won't let us leave."
"I don't care how," Jezek countered a little aggressively. "We better think of a way, though. One of us is bound to bite the dust if this keeps up. And I think I know who. Although Mrs. Wilson died under that chandelier, Dana, the female ghost hasn't proven to be as vindictive as the male."
Starring up at her, Scully tried to figure out if Jezek was repressing memories of what had happened to her or if she was honest. "Hasn't she?" she asked.
Jezek shook her head. "I'm not sure what happened, Dana, but I haven't been raped. I should know. I've been there," she said, her tone of voice slightly cold. "And this is not how it feels. I've been beaten up and that could as easily have been the male ghost as the female." Shaking her head again, she closed her eyes for a moment. "Or entity. Or whatever the hell you want to call these two apparitions."
Scully starred up at her for a long moment, now fully aware why Jezek was the way she was. Her care-free behavior, her love for her nickname, her ability to handle any given situation with a grin. It all had root in the fact that she had been raped and that nothing she had experienced since had been able to overshadow that event. "Who did it?" she wanted to know.
Jezek sat down on the floor, looking a little annoyed. "My ex. He got pissed when I left him. So pissed that he beat the crap out of me and raped me just for good measure. Nothing ever happened about it, though. The police told me to take my stories elsewhere and since then, I haven't had the greatest respect for law enforcement." A cynical smile spread over her lips. "Rather funny, considering that I used to be a cop and I'm now working for the FBI. I used to have great faith in this lunatic asylum we call the government. It's all a fucking joke, though. A charade."
Scully was appalled. "He went free?" she wanted to know, sounding slightly angry. Jezek's reaction to that, however, surprised her. She grinned.
"No, he didn't. After he was done I attacked him. He ended up in the hospital and eventually died of his injuries. I was let off the hook because I acted in self-defense. Didn't get any compensation, but I got everything I wanted out of that case. The bastard died without his pecker," she said, folding her arms over her chest.
The more she learned about Jezek, the less Scully understood her. For a moment there, she had thought that she knew exactly where Jezek came from. But obviously the rape had not been as traumatic for her as it in general was for other women.
At seeing her expression, Jezek grinned broadly. "Don't worry. I didn't bite it off. I was just wearing pretty heavy work boots and for some reason he couldn't stand being kicked by them," she said, then sighed, growing serious. "I know how I sound, Dana. Believe me, I know. But I can't help feeling some kind of sick, perverted joy over the way he went. I wasn't the first he did that to. I wouldn't have been the last. At least I did my bit to prevent any other woman from suffering under him. He kicked the crap out of me for not getting dinner ready on time. He kicked the crap out of me whenever I didn't dress the way he wanted me to. I was so low, I was dirt. I was less than dirt. I had no self-esteem. When I finally made up my mind to leave, I was scared shitless that he would find out before I managed to get out. But of course he did. And then he kicked the crap out of me once more. The beatings I could take. To just think that I would be out of there after he was done helped me get through that. But then he raped me. And that set me off. I don't know what happened. I stopped being timid right then and there. I hated him and only him. I know that not all men are like him and I've had tons of fun with other guys since. But I'm never getting married again. The appeal of that worthless little ceremony has paled considerably. It's not because I compare being married to being beaten up and treated like a doormat. It just reminds me too much of him. I want to have fun. I want to enjoy myself. I don't wanna be tied down. That's all there is to it."
Scully nodded and settled down on the floor, glancing out at the darkening sky. "I dare say you got your revenge, huh?" she countered and glanced back at Jezek. "I think we should stay here tonight. This does seem like the safest place in the house."
Jezek smiled a little. "Sure thing," she replied and glanced around. "Maybe you and I should go get some blankets or something. Just so we don't have to lie on the floor and our friend Mulder here doesn't get the chills tonight. He's in pretty bad shape," she countered.
Bemis Police Station 07.10 p.m.
Sherif Michaelson had postponed calling the FBI again because he wanted to get it straight what he had to tell these people. Besides, he had spent most of the afternoon trying to get a hold of Mr. Wilson. Just to let him know what was going on out there. But the old man was nowhere to be found. Eventually, Michaelson found himself with no further excuses to push off the inevitable. Reluctantly, he picked up the phone and dialed the number, silently wishing that they had gone home already. No such luck. He was immediately transferred to Skinner, who demanded to know what was going on.
"Sir, we've been out there, checked out the surroundings and the house again and nobody's there. From what we could see, nobody's been there since Mr. Wilson left."
Skinner was silent for a moment, then sighed. "All right. First thing tomorrow morning, I'm going to come out there with a team. We're going to take a look at the house and you better get a hold of Mr. Wilson before then. Otherwise we'll have to break down the door."
Shaking his head with a weak smile, Michaelson closed his eyes. "Look, Assistant Director Skinner," he said, his tone of voice calm and explanatory. "I don't know how you do business in a big town like Washington, but where we don't go breaking down doors without notifying the owner first." A patch of silence followed that one. "Are you still there?"
"Yes, Sherif, I'm still here. I was just trying to find a fitting reply to that one." Skinner sounded angry. "As you well know, three of my agents have gone missing, and they're supposed to be in that house. If you don't get a hold of Mr. Wilson by tomorrow morning, I'll personally see to it that the house is taken apart bit by bit until we find out what the hell happened to my agents. Do I make myself clear?"
Michaelson was taken aback by the tone of the man and figured he had better play ball. He didn't want to end up without a job because he had stepped on some high-profile toes. "Sure thing. I'll see what I can do," he countered, sounding as timid as he felt.
"That's better. I will see you in the morning. Eight sharp." With that, the connection broke.
Michaelson leaned back on his chair and sighed again. "Feds," he mumbled, then decided to go home. There wasn't any more he could do and his wife was after all waiting for him.
The Wilson Estate 09.30 p.m.
The house was eerily quiet and dark since the sun had set. The only place where the full moon had any influence seemed to the be in the greenhouse where the three of them had settled in for the night. Scully had settled down on one of the mattresses that Jezek had insisted they bring down from upstairs along with blankets and pillows and most of their belongings. Mulder had been awake briefly and she had managed to get him to take one of the pills she had found. It would lessen the pain and give him a better chance at getting some proper rest. With a broken arm and what she considered to be at least severely bruised ribs, he was bound to be aching. The swelling on his back hadn't gone down enough for her to stop worrying about that, either, and the gash on his forehead was lightly infected. She figured that it would be a day to remember if they could go on a case like this without him getting hurt in some way. Closing her eyes, she realized how tired she really was. Fatigued was more like it, she corrected herself silently. Jezek had more or less passed out immediately after having fought her stubborn hair for almost an hour. She had actually managed to look human by the time she had settled down for the night. With those thoughts rumbling around her head and an odd feeling in her guts, she finally slipped off to sleep.
February 19 Past midnight
Something woke him up. He couldn't quite get a grasp on it, though. The pill Scully had given him had knocked him clean out and it was making his otherwise clear thought-process rather muddled. Turning his head a little, he winced at the soreness of his body and the dull throb of his right arm. "Scully?" he whispered into the darkness. There was no reply.
As his thoughts became clearer, he got the distinct impression that he was alone. And he had the bad feeling that he wasn't where he thought he should be. In the greenhouse. Holding his breath, he padded whatever he was lying on. It wasn't the couch. It was a bed. A quiet whimper escaped him as he struggled to sit up, his stubborn, aching muscles not wanting to play along without putting him through hell. He tried to see something but couldn't. There simply wasn't enough light.
"Scully?" he called. The bed beneath him was moist to the touch. Licking his lips nervously, he raised his hand up and sniffed at it. The distinct scent of blood hit his nostrils. For a moment, he felt panic rise in him, thinking that it was his blood, but after he managed to calm himself down a little, he realized that although he was aching like never before, he didn't feel the depletion that blood loss always brought with it. "Shit," he mumbled, felt for the edge of the bed and heaved himself off it. With an effort that almost took his breath away, he got to his feet and fretfully wiped his hand on his pants.
Orienting himself despite his lack of vision, he felt for the bed, then turned his back to it and walked straight ahead, his left hand stretched out, feeling for the door. He found it, too, but the texture of the door wasn't what he had expected. It was warm, pulsing, almost alive beneath his hand. Moaning in fear, he pulled his hand back and backed up again until he hit the edge of the bed and sat down painfully hard. Something touched his back and this time he had no trouble getting off the bed again.
A hand had touched the small of his back and he was certain that it hadn't been the hand of an adult. Afraid that the spirits in this house would taunt him with his missing sister again, he tried to concentrate on where he could go. He found the wall behind the bed and felt along it to the connecting door. This door felt right, at least. Before he had a chance to try to doorhandle, it started to become lighter in the room. Blinking, he looked over at the now unfamiliar setting of the room. Three beds, all made for children, took up various positions in the room. The big bed was gone. Starring at the three figures in the beds, he frowned in confusion, hissing briefly at the pain from the cut on his forehead. Then it suddenly hit him. These were the Wilson children and they were about to get murdered. His eyes trailed over the children, the two girls and the boy, and he wished he could get out of the room. He had no desire to see the father kill these kids, even though the event was probably almost a hundred years old. It didn't make it any less frightening. And then the door to the corridor opened.
For the first time, Mulder got a clear view of Joshua Wilson, the man who had murdered his own children and cursed his wife to walk this house forever. The man looked mad. Tall, broad-shouldered, with a shock of black hair framing a gaunt, sharp-cut face with deep-lying, pale blue eyes, he stood there in the doorway, dressed in the garb of that time, with a hatchet in one hand. "Damned bastards," he growled and walked into the room, determined on killing the brats.
Mulder found himself clinging to the doorknob of the connecting door, frantically trying to open it. But it just wouldn't give. Joshua Wilson's ghost came to a stop and he turned his head to stare at the intruder. "Now you will witness true justice," he said, grinning hatefully. "And when I'm done with the brats, I'll come for you."
Starring into those eyes, Mulder was unable to move. This was definitely no ordinary haunting. Somehow, that man had become a demon. One very much aware of its surroundings.
"Thought me to be a ghost, did you?" Wilson asked mockingly. "Thought that bitch of a wife of mine could curse me?" He laughed. It was a hollow, frightening sound. "She's got no power. I cursed her to walk this house forever. Me, however, I chose it. Because then I could relive this night over and over again." With determination, the demon strode forward, raising the hatchet.
Mulder had slipped to the floor and was covering his head with his left arm, not wanting to see. But he could not close out the sounds. The first child made no sound. But the others were awaken by the cracking of the first one's scull and they screamed. One of the girls begged her father not to hurt her, her whimpering little voice cutting through Mulder with an intensity he had not thought possible.
After a moment, the third child finally stopped screaming. Mulder didn't dare look up. He knew what was coming and there was nothing he could do about it. He was frozen in fear. Paralyzed by the pain. He heard the footsteps approaching, then stop.
"Stop, you murderer." The female's voice rose in a high pitch.
Mulder dared to glance toward the door to the corridor and saw what he first thought was Jezek. But the dress didn't fit and there was something distinctly transparent about her.
"Haven't you killed enough, Joshua Wilson? Must you keep repeating your evil deeds and make the dead ashamed of you?" she screamed, raising both hands.
"Trollop," Wilson spat. "I'll be rid of you soon enough."
"Never. I will haunt this house forever. Just as you commanded." With the looks of a wild virago about her, she stepped forward. "You have killed my children. You will kill no more," she spat back, raised a hatchet of her own and buried it in the scull of her ghostly husband. Then her blue, blue eyes turned on Mulder. "Run while you still can. Get back to your friends. Stay in the greenhouse," she said frantically. "Go! Go!"
The door gave in as he pulled himself up again, his eyes on her. With a tremendous effort and the fear of dying spurring him on, he stumbled through Scully's former room and out into the corridor toward the main stairs. Wincing in pain, he hauled himself down the steps, not daring to look back. He was halfway down when a roar of anger rose from the room above. A roar so loud, the house trembled.
"For pity's sake, hurry," he heard the woman scream. "I can hold him no longer."
Scully and Jezek both woke with a start when the roar trembled through the house. One glance was enough to tell Scully that Mulder was once again in trouble. She was up and moving before she even had a clear idea about where to start. Then she heard a woman's voice screaming at someone to hurry.
"Entrance hall," Jezek yelled and ran out there. She was halfway up the stairs toward Mulder before Scully had reached the base of the stairs. Jezek took one look at the approaching whirlwind of hatred, grabbed Mulder and more or less hurdled them both down the stairs. They crashed into Scully, who by some miracle was able to keep them all on their feet.
"Greenhouse," Mulder gasped. "Get back to the greenhouse."
With their combined strength, they managed to get back to the greenhouse and slam the door on the approaching demon.
Mulder collapsed with a pained sigh onto the nearest mattress, scared out of his mind, fighting to regain control over his breathing. Jezek locked the door while Scully dropped down on her knees beside him, starring in obvious fear at her partner. He was covered in blood. "My God," she whispered. "How the hell did you get up there?"
Swallowing hard, he tried to speak, but had to make the attempt a second time before he was able to say anything. "Don't know. I woke up upstairs."
"Are you hurt?" she demanded to know, gingerly touching his blood soaked sweater.
"No more than before. The bed I woke up on was covered in blood, though," he explained, then closed his eyes. "We'll be safe here," he added after having regained his breath.
"Says who?" Scully countered, sounding almost a little angry.
"You'll be safe here," a voice whispered. It came out of nowhere, an eerie distance to it.
Scully starred up at the ceiling for a moment, then blinked heavily. "Tess, could you hand me a glass of water and the pill bottle, please?" she said, looking over her shoulder at a stunned Jezek, completely ignoring the current events.
Jezek looked at her for a moment, then did as she was asked without comment. She didn't want to know where Scully got the stamina from to ignore something like this, but she admired her for it.
Mulder shook his head. "No," he mumbled. "No more pills."
"Shut up, Mulder, and take the pill. I don't care if I have to sit up all night and watch over you. But you're not going to suffer while we sleep. Got that?" Scully countered gruffly and more or less shoved the pill into his mouth. Pushing a hand behind his head, she lifted it up a bit and held the glass against his lips. He drank without comment, swallowing the pill. Now gently brushing a strand of hair away from his brow, she smiled weakly. "It'll be okay. I'm sure we'll get out of here tomorrow. And when we do, we won't look back. We'll get you to a hospital and get you fixed up. You'll be fine."
"Scully," he interrupted her, his tone of voice drowsy, "you're babbling."
"Sure. You're lying here, half dead, and accuse me of babbling," she grumbled and pulled a blanket over him. "Go to sleep. You need your rest."
Jezek dropped down on the couch. "Let's all get some rest," she countered. "Heaven knows we need it."
Scully nodded. "I'll take the couch. I'm smaller."
After a short while, both Jezek and Mulder were once again sleeping peacefully, but Scully found that she couldn't. Not that she wasn't tired. But the fact that Mulder had, in some odd manner, found his way upstairs without knowing how worried her. She decided to stay up and keep an eye on him.
The house around them wasn't exactly silent. Bumps and crashing sounds chased each other combined with moans and whimpers of undeterminable origin. The very structure of the building seemed to be moaning at regular intervals. Scully leaned her head on one side, listening intently to the sounds. What would life be like when this was all over, she wondered. The foundation of her life had been moved from the light into the shadows. Things she had previously taken for granted weren't such a sure thing any more. Things she had actually scoffed were suddenly not so ridiculous after all. Was this how Mulder lived every day of his life? Listening to the things that went bump in the night and imagining some frightening entity, which would devour your soul if you got too close to it? A shudder ran through her and she hugged herself in the chilly night. If that was life, then she preferred to view the world through tinted glasses. Looking down at her battered partner, she wondered about him. His view on the world was laughed at by most of his colleagues. As a matter of fact, Scully had met only few who shared his paranoid look on things. But maybe, just maybe, his idea of how things were was the right one. He might be one of the few who were granted a look at how things really were. Maybe he was not walking through life with tunnel vision, seeing only the exquisite, little things that pleased the eye and the mind. Maybe his horizon was a whole lot wider than anybody else's. Smiling a little, she sighed. And maybe he was just about as screwed up as a person could get. She briefly wondered if the right woman would change his outlook on things. If he had love in his life, maybe he wouldn't be so damned set on self-destruction.
A loud crash close to the door made her jerk. Sending a quick glance to her sleeping companions, she focused on the sounds out there and once again heard the sniffing. The thing from the basement, her greatest childhood fear, was once again stalking her. Heaving a deep breath, she closed her eyes, pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms tightly around them. "Go away," she whispered. "You're not real." At first it didn't help. Then, slowly, as she steadily convinced herself, the sounds out there became lower and fainter and eventually disappeared. Content that she still had a whole lot of control over her own mind, she smiled again. This place wasn't going to get the better of her.
With a resounding crash, something hit the door full force. Scully helplessly let out a yelp as the others jerked awake, Jezek with some confusion, Mulder in pain. "What was that?" Jezek wanted to know, closer to the door than either of them. Whatever it was, it hit again. The door shuddered in its frame, the wood creaking under the pressure put on it. Jezek, always seemingly in control, scrambled backward away from the door until she hit the couch Scully was sitting on and quickly climbed up on it. "What the hell is that?" she demanded loudly.
Scully slipped off the couch to join Mulder, not wanting him to feel vulnerable because he was on the floor and she and Jezek were on the couch. Helping him to sit up, she eased in behind him, giving him something to lean against. "Must be him," he mumbled, blinking heavily.
Another impact broke the lock and the door slammed against the wall. Just outside the door, they saw what appeared to be a genuine monster. Short, stocky, fat, green, with a huge maw full of razor sharp teeth. It had small, piercing, red pig's eyes. A long tongue lolled in and out of the maw and a long naked tail whipped back and forth behind it. It's long arms ended in four-fingered hands with inch-long claws bigger than any predator's walking the Earth. It didn't move, just stood there and starred in at them with hatred emanating from it in waves.
Mulder knew immediately what it was and that it couldn't reach them. Glancing up at Scully, he couldn't help a small smile. "Boy, you sure... have a hell... of an imagination, Scully. I never suspected," he told her, his breathing a little labored.
Scully looked down at him for a second, suddenly seeing the funny side of this. It felt almost as if someone had flipped a switch in her brain. Raising her eyes to meet those of the monster which had haunted her dreams for years, she started laughing. "He's ugly," she countered, unable to stop laughing again.
The creature in the doorway dissolved into nothing. Scully's realization that her greatest fear was unfounded had made the being obsolete and thereby removed the threat. And she knew that she could thank Mulder for that insight. If he had not made that sarcastic remark, she might never have realized that it actually was funny to be afraid of something that looked so much like a cartoon figure.
Jezek looked over at her, her expression disclosing her confusion. "That's funny?" she wanted to know. "A damned monster more or less tears down the door and that's funny?"
"Don't you see?" Scully countered, serious again. "That... thing was a childhood fear of mine. Something I had conjured up because I had never gotten over it. Whatever you're afraid of, this house will use against you." The laughter was all gone now.
Mulder closed his eyes, wishing that he could disembody his fears as easily. He suspected that there were other things that Scully was afraid of which would not be as easy to expel, but for now, they had their triumph.
Jezek's eyes narrowed. "So, it will make your fears come true?" she wanted to know as she got off the couch and quickly closed the door again, leaning her back against it. Scully nodded. For a long moment, Jezek said nothing, then a quiet "uh-oh" escaped her.
Both Mulder and Scully could not help but notice the odd tone to her voice and both starred at her. "Uh-oh?" Scully asked. "What do you mean, uh-oh?"
"Just uh-oh. That's a bad thing, right?" Jezek wanted to know, giving Scully a half smile.
Scully nodded. "Yes, that's a bad thing. What are you afraid of?" she wanted to know. "I mean, Mulder has already faced his fears. And I've faced mine. What are you afraid of?"
Jezek frowned, giving that some thought for a minute. "Uhm..." she said, looking a little surprised. "Nothing, really. Nothing I can put a finger on, anyway."
"Weren't you afraid of something as a child? Like darkness? Or monsters? Something like that?" Scully asked.
Jezek starred back at her, her expression unreadable. "No," she finally countered, suddenly very curt, not wanting to disclose to Scully that she'd had her share of childhood fears.
Scully glanced down at Mulder, who was leaning more heavily against her, and noticed that he had either fallen asleep or passed out. "Everybody is afraid of something," she countered, looking up to stare at Jezek again. "Everybody has fears." Eyeing the other woman cautiously, Scully briefly wondered about something. It was ridiculous, but she would love to know how Jezek would react to it. As it were, they knew very little about Jezek's past. It was an undiscovered country since Jezek never spoke about it and they had never asked. "You were a kid, weren't you?" she asked, half joking. Jezek blinked, focused briefly on her, then looked away. Typical guilty behavior. "Everybody has had a childhood, Tess," Scully insisted, a little nervous now.
"I'm not everybody," Jezek replied. "Now, could we please leave it alone? I don't want to talk about it." In general, Jezek had always felt that her childhood was best left forgotten. In an attempt to do so, she had subconsciously blocked out anything from her childhood and her ex-husband's rape of her had only increased the invisible fortress raised around her.
Not wanting to accept the obvious implications of Jezek's statement, Scully eased her sleeping partner down on the mattress and got up. "Did you have an accident as a child? Something that caused amnesia?"
Jezek focused on her again, something slightly hostile about her for a second. Then she sighed deeply. "Just... forget about it, okay, Dana? I really don't want to talk about it." Turning her head a little, she listened to the now quiet house. "We've got to concentrate on getting out of this dump before it kills him," she added, nodding toward Mulder.
Scully put a hand on his shoulder, almost a little protectively, and nodded. "All right. But one day you tell me, okay?"
Jezek just stared back at her, not making any promises at first. "If we don't get out of here tomorrow, I'll tell you all about it. Because, if we don't make it out of here by tomorrow, we're all going to end up dead." With those words, she dropped down on the floor, her back still against the door, her arms folded defensively over her chest. "Life's a bitch," she mumbled, then grinned joylessly. "And then you die."
"Good night, Tess," Scully countered. Instead of going back to the couch, she settled down next to Mulder and wrapped her arms around him, wanting to know where he was at all times.
Bemis Police Station 08.00 a.m.
A.D. Skinner stood starring at the local Sherif with an expression that could mean anything. Michaelson was convinced, though, that it meant pure murder if he didn't get moving soon. "Uhm..." he said, aimlessly searching through some papers on his desk. "We haven't been able to reach Mr. Wilson and I must admit that I'm rather reluctant to do anything until we've succeeded in finding him."
"I don't want to hear excuses, Sherif. We're going out there right now and if we can't get into the house any other way, we'll break down the door. There are three people out there who may be in trouble. Now, let's get moving," Skinner countered gruffly. He was as fed up with local law enforcement as he could get.
Michaelson starred at him for a second, then sighed again. "Look, A.D. Skinner. I'm aware that you're worried about your people. I don't blame you. But... and this is said with the greatest respect for your abilities... I don't think they're out there any more. Quite frankly, I have the distinct impression that they may have gone AWOL."
Heaving a deep breath, Skinner attempted to stay calm. Under the current circumstances, that proved to be rather difficult, though. "This is not the army, Michaelson. Federal Agents don't go AWOL. Secondly, I know these people well enough to know that they would report in under any circumstances. The fact that they haven't since they arrived proves only one thing to me. Something's wrong. And I want to know what." Turning around, he stepped toward the door of Michaelson's office. "Right now," he added when Michaelson made no attempt to follow him.
With a sigh, Michaelson got off his chair, shrugged into his jacket and followed Skinner out into the front office. "No offence, sir, but we have to live here afterward. You can go back home. I would prefer to do this the right way."
Skinner stopped, having to remind himself to stay calm, then turned to face the man. "Now you listen to me and you listen carefully, Sherif," he growled, angry now. "It seems that you don't understand the seriousness of this. Three of my agents are missing in action. They've gone missing in your backyard. And all you're worried about is how Wilson will react to a broken down front door? Let me tell you something. I'll tear down that damned house if I have to. If that's what it takes to find the three of them, then that's what we will do. I don't care about politics. I don't care about local customs. What I care about is finding these three. Preferably alive." Starring at Michaelson, he actually needed to say no more, but he had to get this off his chest. "Now, I respect your opinions, but I'm not going to turn around and forget about three people's welfare because you don't want to break down a door. One more word of this and I'm going to make sure you end up behind bars for obstructing justice. Do I make myself clear?"
Michaelson was slightly stunned and nodded. "Yes, sir. I understand," was all he managed to say to that. Skinner's authority was not easily overridden. And when he got angry, most people preferred to get out of the way.
The Wilson Estate 08.15 a.m.
Scully glanced out at the brightening sky and sighed. Another morning. Another attempt at getting out of this place. With a sigh, she disengaged her arms from her still sleeping partner and got up, heeding a call of nature. She cautiously stepped into the entrance hall, looking around and listening for any disturbances. The house was quiet as the grave. Although she still had her share of trouble believing in what was happening here, she could no more deny it than she could deny thirst or hunger. Edging along the wall, keeping her senses alert, she headed toward the downstairs bathroom. With some difficulty, she managed to get past the fallen grandfather clock without leaving the safety the wall offered, but when she finally reached the door to the bathroom, nothing had happened. With a sigh of relief, she slipped into the bathroom, closed and locked the door and took a moment to stare at her reflection in the mirror. Things could look better, she decided, critically examining her pale, fatigued-looking face.
After taking care of herself for a brief while, she let herself out of the bathroom again, this time not paying very much attention to her surroundings. She stepped out of the bathroom, turned halfway to close the door and then turned back to the entrance hall. With a halfhearted scream, she acknowledged that her fears were not as easily overcome as she had assumed. The ugly troll she had feared for most of her childhood and which she had laughed at the night before stood there in front of her, its tongue lolling in and out of its maw. It growled, lashed out and grabbed her ankles. Powerful hands pulled her feet away from under her and she crashed to the floor, hitting her head in the process. "Let go of me. You're not real," she screamed at it, trying to kick herself free, but the hands wrapped around her ankles held her in a steel grip. "TESS! MULDER!" Without any effort, the troll turned her over on her stomach and started pulling her along, giving her no opportunity to try and get out of its grip. She clawed at the floor, grabbed out for things to hold her back, but all was in vain. It pulled her through the doors to the kitchen and over the slick floor, the sound of her fingernails scraping over the smooth surface following them all the way to the basement stairs. "MULDER!" she screamed one final time before the door to the basement slammed shut and cut off any further screams. Mulder fought to get up at the same time as Jezek ripped at the door, trying to get it to open. Scully's screams for help had them both agitated and although he could barely move from the pain and stiffness of his battered body, Mulder fought to get up nonetheless.
Jezek tore at the door for a second longer, then stumbled backward when it suddenly gave way. In the meantime, the screams had subsided. She had lost her balance and had sat down on the floor rather hard, but got back to her feet and raced out into the entrance hall within moments. "DANA?" she hollered. "DANA. ANSWER ME!" She turned in a slow circle, scanning her surroundings, trying to figure out what had happened and where Scully might be. "DA..." she started yelling again, but the words got stuck in her throat as her eyes widened.
"Come to me and play with me!" The ugly, lisping voice, full of scorn and hatred, made her flesh crawl. Jezek starred at her only fear as it skipped toward her, chanting that song which had given her countless sleepless nights as a child, and swallowed hard. The clown. The only thing that had ever managed to scare the shit out of her apart from her ex-husband when he'd had one of his tantrums. Purple hair, badly painted face, big red nose, the dirty clown suit in tatters, exposing the rotting corpse beneath. She didn't scream. She more or less moaned in anguish and took a step back. Exposing a set of teeth badly in need of attention and smelling of rot, the creature of her nightmares stuck a rotting tongue out at her. "Come to the basement with me, little Tesla. I have something for you," it leered, reaching out for her with less than white gloves that were full of holes and showed the rotting flesh underneath. When the hands closed around her upper arms, hurting her in the process, that was when she screamed. Putting up a fight that would have knocked anybody else over, she kicked out at the clown and twisted in his grip as he carried her toward the kitchen and the basement stairs. But to no avail. The door once again slammed shut, cutting off any other noise.
The door to the greenhouse had slammed shut once more, cutting Mulder off from seeing what was going on. He had almost reached the door, too. Wincing, he reached out for the doorhandle and pushed it down, pulling lightly. But the door didn't budge. He heard Jezek scream like an angry cat for a moment, then she was cut off and then nothing. The house had turned utterly silent again. Virtually unable to stand up, he groaned under his breath as he doubled up, his broken ribs and broken arm causing him nothing but pain. He briefly thought about getting the pain killers, but figured that passing out right now might not be such a good idea. Although he couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't pass out if he didn't take them.
Then the door ahead of him started to tremble. Starring at it, he noticed the increasing glow of light pushing past the edges, increasing steadily. The scene had an eerie feeling of deja-vu to it. In his shaky state of health, backing up proved to be a difficult thing. But he did it nonetheless while the light around the edges of the door increased. The door was now positively rattling in its frame and suddenly it jumped open, spilling blinding light into the greenhouse.
Mulder ripped his left arm up to protect his eyes, a move he regretted the instant he performed it. With a helpless yelp of pain, he ceased moving for a moment, trying to regain his breath all while he watched the eerie glow, which of course wasn't supposed to come from the inside of the house. But, knowing this did little to dampen his fear. Because, in the center of the light, the long-limbed outline of an alien had appeared. The one he had feared and hoped to see since Samantha had been taken. He had seen it once since, but could remember almost nothing about the encounter. The shape in the light beckoned to him, wanting him to come closer, but he could barely move in the first place and he was not about to go running into any lights as it were. "No," he whispered hoarsely. But something about this whole scene made him feel like going forward after all. The fact that both Scully and Jezek had been dragged off, screaming, by whatever their fears had manifested as pushed him forward. And knowing that they were gone, he didn't see much sense in sticking around any more. The only thing that matter to him in this screwed up world was gone somewhere in this house.
With an effort he had not thought possible only moments before, he straightened his back as much as his broken ribs would allow and took a shaky step forward. It was not with the greatest sense of confidence that he approached his fate, but he did it nonetheless, walking slowly toward the open door and the light beyond, feeling that he had no other option.
Outside the Wilson Estate 08.45 a.m.
Three cars pulled up in front of the Wilson Estate just as the light from the greenhouse flickered off. Birds were chirping happily at the new day, unaware and uncaring about what went on inside the house.
Skinner got out of the car and looked up at the house, every fiber of his body telling him that this place was up to no good. Although he was not prone to chasing after nightmares, he had seen the old woman in his dreams again last night. Recognizing her as an omen of bad things to come rather than a demon trying to drive him mad, he knew something was going on. And he knew that it wasn't good. Seeing the Wilson Estate in person made him understand why. The house emanated an evil atmosphere. Glancing across the car at Special Agent Coltrane, he tried to estimate if the man was susceptible to the vibrations. If he was, it wasn't obvious. But when he glanced over at Michaelson and his deputy, there was no doubt in his mind that these two men knew what this house was all about.
Ignoring the deep-lying warning bells which had gone off in his head, he walked up to the front door and banged heavily on it. "Agent Mulder?" he called. "Agent Scully?" No reply. No nothing. He tried knocking harder and called for Jezek, too, with the same result. Frowning, he turned to face Coltrane, who had come up behind him. "If they're here, they're not answering," he growled.
"If being the imperative word here, sir," Coltrane countered, glancing upward for a moment. "This place has got one bad atmosphere," he added thoughtfully, then grinned sheepishly when he realized he had said it out loud.
Skinner didn't return his grin. "Let's try around back," he said, stepping past Coltrane. "Jansen, McGuire," he called, waving the other two Special Agents over. "Stay here and keep an eye on things. We're going to take a look around the back of the house." The two men nodded, very obviously unhappy about this place.
Skinner strode around the house, trying to take everything in, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise. This place gave him the jitters and the sooner he was away from here again, he better he would feel.
Coltrane followed in his footsteps, inspecting the house and keeping a cool distance to what he thought he was feeling. He wasn't big on imagination as it were and he couldn't help thinking that he could be doing some more important work than chasing after Spooky again. But Skinner had insisted that he come along and he had done so willingly because of Scully and Jezek. He would never dare express this to his boss, but he thought it was a damned shame and highly irresponsible to send two so lovely creatures off with Spooky. They were bound to get hurt in the process.
Skinner slowed down when they reached the glass-addition to the house. The greenhouse was something extra which had been added some years ago. Taking a peek through the windows, it was obvious that somebody had been staying there. The two mattresses lying one the ground proved this. Skinner briskly walked up to the door and tried to open it. It was locked, though. Leaning closer to the glass, he starred in at the mattresses, trying to see anything odd. And he saw something he didn't like, all right. A bloodied dishtowel was lying on the floor next to the closest mattress.
"They seem to have been here, at least," Coltrane commented, starring in at the same scene. "What is our next move, sir?" he then wanted to know when Skinner made no move to reply.
For a long moment, the Assistant Director starred thoughtfully at the scene, then he made a face. "We try to get in," he countered and walked back the way they'd come, Coltrane hot on his heels.
Skinner found it very hard to contain his frustration. Not only didn't the damned door want to give in to their attempts at picking the lock and breaking it open with a tire iron, none of the windows seems to be made of breakable glass, either. For a long moment, he stood in front of the obstinate door, starring angrily and utterly helplessly at the lock, then he hissed a quiet curse, pulled out his gun and blew the lock to bits. It was the first step in the right direction, he thought, starring at the smoking remains of the lock. But the door still didn't budge. Turning to Coltrane, he hoped the man didn't think he had gone nuts. "Get the shotgun from the car," he growled. "If we have to shoot this door down, so be it."
Coltrane was hyped up over the action and didn't argue the fact that his boss was behaving rather unprofessionally. This was too much fun. He ran back to the car, got the twelve gauge and hurried back to his boss.
Skinner loaded the riffle, aimed it at the door and blew a fist-sized hole in the wood. Michaelson watched the whole thing with a bleeding heart, knowing what kind of trouble he would be in once Mr. Wilson got word of this. But he had to abide by the higher authority and he would make that damned clear to Wilson. If the old man should sue anybody, it would have to be the FBI and A.D. Skinner in particular.
After six more shots, not even the door of a haunted house could hold up any more. Skinner had hit it at the right points, shooting out the hinges and all four corners. When he then gave the remains of the door a powerful kick, it simply fell into the house with a resounding crash. Growling in contentment, Skinner handed the riffle to Coltrane and took the lead into the house. There was a hushed silence over the old building and Skinner wondered if that meant that nobody was here. But he got the distinct impression that they weren't alone.
Coltrane, Jansen, McGuire and Sherif Michaelson and his deputy followed him into the house, spreading out to look around. Jansen was the first one to find a clue. Squatting down next to the door to the downstairs bathroom, he looked thoughtfully down at a dark spot on the dark wood of the floor. "Sir?" he called. Skinner came toward him. Touching the spot, Jansen's fingers came away blood. "Sir, this is blood and it's fresh," he said, holding his fingers up.
Skinner crouched down to get a better look and reached down to pick something up. Two single strands of red hair made him sneer in frustration. "I believe that at least Agent Scully is somewhere in this house. Find her," he said.
They spread out and searched the house in twos. Skinner and Coltrane took the upstairs, Michaelson and his deputy took the attic and Jansen and McGuire took care of the ground floor.
Skinner paused at the broken down door to what had been Scully's room and frowned. "What the hell did that?" he wanted to know, not asking anybody in particular.
Coltrane was starting to feel a little ill at ease as he stared at the torn-up wood of the former door. The ripped-up wall paper leading up to the doorway where Michaelson and his deputy had vanished upstairs didn't help things, either. He cautiously pushed the door to the next room open and starred in at the room with wide eyes. "Sir, I think you wanna see this," he called.
Skinner abandoned the explanation he was trying to find for the demolished door and stepped up beside Coltrane. The room was a mess. Blood was oozing thickly down the walls and the air was cold as ice. Looking around with a tight expression, Skinner once again had to acknowledge that Mulder's view on things wasn't always so completely off center as others wanted to believe. "Forget about this. Let's find those three so we can get out of here. This place gives me the creeps," he growled.
"You and me both," Coltrane agreed.
Michaelson and his deputy came back down, shaking their heads the moment they saw Skinner and Coltrane. "Nothing up there," Michaelson reported.
"Nothing here either," Skinner grumbled. "Except for bleeding walls, that is," he added, feeling the need to laugh at this without being able to. "Let's join up with the others."
They went back downstairs and found that Jansen and McGuire had found nothing either. Except for the obvious fact that all three of them, Mulder, Scully and Jezek, had taken up residence in the greenhouse for some odd reason. Once again back in the entrance hall, they all waited for further orders from Skinner.
Coltrane looked around, his eyes grazing the downed grandfather clock a few times. "What I don't get is why they didn't leave," he mumbled.
Skinner gave him a sideways look that could mean a lot of things. "Don't you think that they might have had the same trouble getting out as we had getting in?" he asked, not expecting an answer. "Now there's only the basement left," he added. "Where are the stairs?"
"Kitchen," Michaelson replied, waving toward the swinging doors leading into the rustic kitchen. Everybody followed him when he pushed them open and stepped inside. He pointed to a closed oak door. "There."
Skinner nodded, grabbed the handle and pulled. Nothing happened. The key stuck in the keyhole brought no results when turned either. Frowning, Skinner made another effort to open the door, then sighed in annoyance. Taking the shotgun from Coltrane, he aimed at the door and shot out the hinges and the lock. One gentle tug was all it took to bring the door crashing down on the kitchen floor after that. At the look on Michaelson's face, Skinner knew what the man was thinking, but he neither had time nor any particular need to make excuses for his actions right now. He was too pissed off for that. As the electricity didn't seem to work in the basement, they pulled out their flashlights and headed down into the maw of darkness. The cold down there was breathtaking, but Skinner pushed on, oblivious to the hostile atmosphere down here. He didn't give a damn what was hiding in the shadows. Skinner had never been afraid of the dark and he was not about to begin now.
"Sir?" Coltrane asked from right behind him. "This place is a lot bigger than the house upstairs."
"So I've noticed," Skinner growled and opened the first door to find the wine cellar. He quickly went through the rows, looking for a sign of anybody, but found nobody. Returning to the others, who looked a lot more scared than he had felt at any given time, he gave them a grumpy look, then continued down the corridor to the storage and work room. Glancing around, they found nothing there, either.
After a moment, they continued down the corridor on the opposite side, moving briskly from room to room, finding a lot of rotting timber and other things that should have been thrown out years ago. The only thing they didn't find were what they had come for. Starting to get pretty annoyed, Skinner pushed some crates out of the way and nearly stepped on something lying on the floor. Frowning, he shone his flashlight at it and grumbled an angry curse. Reaching down, he grabbed the arm of the human-sized rag doll and tossed it onto one of the crates before continuing down the corridor toward the darkness at the end. There was no hesitation in his movements, no doubt in his mind. He reached the end of the corridor and stopped in front of a pitch-black curtain. Glaring at it, he knew he could not see beyond his own anger at this intolerable situation and pushed the black fabric aside. Beyond was more darkness. Growling, he stepped through and shone his flashlight over the interior of the room he had come to. It was obvious that this place had been used for some kind of ritual long ago. Now it was collecting dust.
Slowly moving the cone of light over the room, the light caught something in passing and he swung it back to that point, finding the limp figure of someone lying on the floor. He reached back behind him, grabbed a hold of the curtain and yanked it from its rod, letting in some more light.
He walked over to the figure and squatted down, grabbing a hold of her shoulder. "Scully," he said, cautiously turning her over. She had bruises on her face and quite a bump on her forehead. Searching for a pulse, he was relieved to find it strong and steady. Then he gently patted her face. "Scully," he repeated, more insistently.
So suddenly that it even made the A.D. jerk back, Scully's eyes snapped open and she sat bolt upright, looking terrified for a moment. "Oh my God," she breathed. "Where am I?" Then she realized that she wasn't alone. Turning her head, she looked up at Skinner and frowned.
Skinner smiled. "Are you all right?" he wanted to know. At least one of them was found with minimal damage.
"I found Jezek," Jansen announced, having searched on from where Skinner had stopped. "She's out cold."
"Am not," Jezek's voice interrupted him. She sat up with a groan, glanced around and cursed quite strongly.
Scully moaned as she touched her forehead gingerly. Then something occurred to her and she looked around almost frantically. "Mulder?" she called, struggling to her feet with Skinner's help. "Mulder?"
McGuire was the one to find Mulder. "Over here," he called, waving them over to the furthest corner of the room.
Scully pushed past all of them and dropped down on her knees next to her partner, reaching trembling hands out to search for life. She sighed audibly when she found it. "Mulder," she whispered. "Mulder, wake up."
Skinner grabbed her shoulder. "Let's get you out of here," he said, then turned to Coltrane. "Go upstairs and call the paramedics. Tell them to get here on the double."
Coltrane nodded and hurried back the way they'd come. Jansen smiled at Scully as he helped her back to her feet. "Come on, Dana," he said. "Let's get you back upstairs. You're a mess."
"No, I can't leave Mulder," she said, struggling to get back to her downed partner.
"Scully, go upstairs with Jansen. I'll keep an eye on Mulder until the paramedics arrive," Skinner told her, gently but firmly pushing her toward the exit.
She met his eyes in the dim light for a moment, then reluctantly went with Jansen, constantly looking back over her shoulder at Mulder.
Skinner turned to Jezek, who looked a little less battered than Scully, although that didn't say too much. "McGuire, take Jezek upstairs. And I don't want any trouble out of you, Jezek," he said, eying her thoughtfully. "As you also seem to be one who's most together here, I expect you to tell me what happened here."
Jezek met his eyes for a moment, then slowly shook her head, looking down at Mulder. "You won't believe it," she stated.
"You'll be amazed at what I believe," Skinner countered. "Now, get out of here," he added, waving her away. McGuire lead her out of the basement room and they vanished around the corner moments later with Jezek grumbling under her breath. Skinner turned to Michaelson, who looked ill at ease. "I believe that these latest injuries of theirs could have been prevented if someone had acted sooner," he growled. "This will not go unnoticed, Sherif."
Once the first ambulance arrived, the paramedics were quickly guided down into the basement, where they estimated their patient's state of health. One of the two young men took Mulder's pulse, then looked up at the other paramedic. "He's got trouble breathing and his heartbeat's irregular. We gotta move him out of here now," he said, his tone of voice a little strained.
The other one nodded. With the utmost care, they loaded the unconscious man onto the stretcher, secured him and carried him back upstairs. While one of them pushed the stretcher into the back of the ambulance, the other paramedic ran to the front and radioed for a rescue chopper.
Skinner frowned. "What's going on?" he wanted to know, asking the man who had remained with Mulder and was hooking him up to an IV.
"We need to get him to the hospital as fast as possible and we can't do that in the ambulance," he countered, not looking away from his work.
"How bad is it?" Skinner demanded.
The young man paused, glancing over at him, then down at his patient. "He's dying," he said and continued working on hooking Mulder up to a heart-rate monitor. "He'll die if we don't get him into surgery A.S.A.P."
Skinner appreciated the frankness of the young man's words, but not the meaning. Starring in at Mulder for a moment, he made himself a silent promise that he would not allow Mulder to go on any more of these cases if he made it out alive. He also knew that he wouldn't be able to keep that promise because Mulder was exceptionally good at convincing him otherwise. Heaving a deep breath, he stayed with the ambulance until the rescue chopper turned up. As there was plenty of space to land on, getting the chopper to the ground was no problem. Skinner stepped back and watched as they loaded Mulder onto the chopper and took off again. Scully turned up beside Skinner, looking after the quickly shrinking dot. "He's in bad shape, isn't he?" she asked.
Skinner glanced down at her, then put an arm around her shoulders and guided her back to the second ambulance. "Yes, he is," he agreed. "And so are you. You need medical attention, as well. Let the paramedics do their job, Scully."
Grabbing Skinner's arm before he had a chance to leave, she looked up at him with a pained expression. "Where are they taking him?"
"Rockingham Memorial. Same place you're going," he countered. "Go with them, Scully. I'll see you at the hospital." With that, Skinner returned to his car and got in. He was fully aware that Scully knew how badly Mulder was really faring. He didn't want to aggravate her condition by telling her straight out that Mulder might not be there any more when they arrived at the hospital. Watching the ambulances pull out and drive away, two of them with the lights flashing, the third quietly, he hit his steering wheel with one fist. "God damn it," he grumbled and glanced over at the house for a moment. "Coltrane, get in," he then yelled and put the car in gear.
The Wilson Estate stood there in the sunlight of a new day, quietly watching the people who had disturbed its peace leave. In the attic window, had anybody been around to see it, the shape of Joshua Wilson watched intently as the cars pulled away. Red glowing eyes full of hatred and contempt watched the world outside which was no longer a part of his existence and cursed it all to Hell.
In the open doorway, the shape of the woman followed the departure of the cars as well, her blue eyes filled with a mixture of sadness and joy. The mortals had made it out in one piece and they had managed to destroy some of 'his' defenses. Which meant she could do what she had always wanted to do. A quite solid box of matches appeared in her ghostly hands and she struck one match, admiring the clear flame. She dropped it on the rug of the corridor leading to the entrance hall and watched with satisfaction as the flame caught hold of the old, dusty carpet and lit it on fire. The flames spread rapidly throughout the house, licking up the walls, devouring everything in their path. Although she was no longer visible, her laughter rang through the house, answered by the outraged, inarticulate cries of her husband. She was putting an end to the curse herself, having found the way now, and knew that he would have to move on to the other plain now. The one where she wouldn't go. And that made her laugh. Mary Wilson, estranged wife and heart-broken mother, would finally get the peace she deserved. She would finally be reunited with her three children and know that her husband's evil soul would reside in Hell forever.
Rockingham Memorial Hospital Harrisonburg Room 1014 03.13 p.m.
Dana Scully fought to get rid of the nurse trying to hold her back from leaving her room. "Ms. Scully, please," the nurse insisted. "You have a concussion. You're not supposed to be up."
"I want to see Fox Mulder," Scully growled, aware that her insensitive manner was provoked solely by the thundering headache and the inability to think beyond this one goal right now. "Get out of my way," she added angrily, not giving in.
The nurse had counted on wearing down her resistence so she could escort her patient back to bed, but this did not appear to be her lucky day. "Mr. Mulder is still in surgery, Ms. Scully. He won't be out for another hour or so."
Scully starred at her, for some reason certain that the nurse was merely saying this to pacify her. A stab of unbearable pain flashed through her head, making her cringe and almost double up.
"That does it. If you don't go back to bed on your own, I'm going to have to force you," the nurse said sternly. "You are in no condition to walk around, Ms. Scully."
"Don't you think you better listen to the nurse, Scully?"
Skinner's voice broke through the haze in her head and she raised her head a little to stare up at him. "I just want to see Mulder. I need to know how he's doing," Scully said, sounding a little whiny now.
Skinner took a gentle hold of her arm and led her back to the bed. "Go back to bed, Scully. That's an order," he told her.
With a sigh, she allowed him to help her back into bed and pull the covers over her. "Why won't you tell me how he's doing?" she demanded in a feeble voice.
Skinner met her eyes for a moment, then glanced back at the nurse. "I'll take it from here," he told her and the nurse nodded, leaving with relief painted all over her face. Returning his attention to the troublesome patient, Skinner considered what to say and what not and decided that being honest with her would get him the furthest. "The nurse was right. He's still in surgery. Apparently one of his broken ribs penetrated his right lung. The other one very nearly pierced his heart. They're repairing the damage now. All we can do is hope for the best."
Scully looked up at him, feeling tears rising in her eyes. This couldn't be happening. "How bad is it? What's his prognosis?" she wanted to know, trying to focus around the pain in her head.
"You shouldn't..." Skinner began, but broke off again. It was no good to lie to her. She would eventually find out and he disliked the idea of having her mad at him for that. It would hurt enough if this turned out the wrong way. She didn't need to feel betrayed by her friends as well. "It's not good," he finally said. "His right lung collapsed... and his heart has sustained a lot of damage. What the outcome will be is anybodies guess right now."
Biting her lower lip, Scully tried to suppress the feelings of dread. "Will this nightmare never end?" she whispered hoarsely and closed her eyes.
"Get some rest, Scully. You need it. He needs you to be there for him when he gets out of surgery." He knew she was asleep before he had finished speaking. Giving her hand a light squeeze, he shook his head. This could turn out to be one hell of a sad day.
Jezek was sitting on a chair in the corridor when Skinner came out of Scully's room. Frowning, he stopped next to her. "What are you doing up?" he wanted to know, afraid he might have to escort another of his agents back to bed.
Jezek glanced up at him and made a face. Though battered and bruised, she was the one who had gotten away with the least problems. "I'm not supposed to stay in bed," she countered. "I don't have any severe injuries."
Skinner sat down next to her, folded his hands and starred at the opposite wall for a moment. "You should be happy about that."
Starring at the wall, too, Jezek sighed. "Should I? If Mulder dies, I'll... I don't know," she said after a moment, shaking her head in despair. "He's the best friend I've ever had. He's one hell of a knockout. It's not fair that a gorgeous man like him should suffer so much."
Skinner pursed his lips and nodded. "It's not fair. I'll grant you that. But that's just the way of things, isn't it? Besides, Mulder has a knack for getting himself into situations like that. He'll make it. He always does."
Jezek turned her head and looked straight at him. "And what if he doesn't? What if his luck has finally run out? What then? Scully is more or less dependent on him now. I don't know how else to explain it, but I have a feeling that she's not going to take his imminent demise very well."
Skinner sighed deeply and briefly closed his eyes. He was tired, fed up and unhappy about the way things had turned out. He knew a few hides to tan if Mulder did die. He would still tan some hides if he didn't. Just not right now. "Would you please keep an open mind here?" he admonished Jezek. "I have known Mulder a lot longer than you have and he's pulled through some pretty hopeless situations. He's going to pull through this one as well." He spoke with a confidence he didn't feel, but knew that he would have to keep Jezek's moral up. If she hit rock bottom, it was sure to rub off on Scully. And he hated to think what might happen if that became the case. "Just keep an open mind," he repeated.
Room 1013 05.30 p.m.
After nearly three hours of surgery, Mulder was finally put in a room where Scully could be near him. Sitting on a chair on the left side of the bed, she gingerly held his hand in both of hers, starring at him for a long while. He was hooked up to a heart-rate monitor, which sent out a slow but steady ping, a brain-wave monitor, which gave an absolute minimum of oscillation, a nutrition drop and a plasma drop. All hooked up in different places. His right arm was bandaged and so was his chest and the cut on his forehead had been stitched back together. The paleness of his skin combined with the bruises and the fact that one of the nurses had told Scully that he was on the verge of pneumonia didn't make things any better. He was in bad shape and the next twenty-four hours would decide whether he would live or die. Despite her own injuries, which were by far less poignant than any of his, she had decided to stay by his side until that time when he himself decided which way to go. She would make damned sure that he knew how she felt about this whole thing, though.
Leaning back a little, she tried to relax without letting go of his hand. The surgery had gone well, the doctors had told her, but it was a matter of will power and strength on his side whether he got through this okay. The doctor who had informed her of this had made no secret of what he thought. The prognosis wasn't good and according to that doctor, it wouldn't become any better. "You will pull through this," she whispered. "I'll never forgive you if you don't."
February 20 09.35 a.m.
Scully woke up with a start, glancing around her for a moment. Her headache was not as bad as the day before and she figured she had to be grateful for small favors. Leaning forward, she noted that she was still holding Mulder's hand. "Good morning," she whispered. She pressed the back of his cool hand against her cheek, hoping that he could feel her near. Glancing at the various machines watching over him, she noted no considerable change in their oscillation and sighed. "Are you going to pull through this today?" she asked, looking back at his face. The tubes sticking out of him made her feel a little sick to her stomach. This trip had started out as a sort of picnic. It had certainly ended in a nightmare. "Mulder, can you hear me?" she wanted to know. "If you can, squeeze my hand." Nothing. "Nobody said it had to be hard. Just move your fingers a little." Again nothing. With another sigh, she brushed his hair back from his forehead and planted a kiss on his brow. "Please, wake up." When he didn't, she settled back down on the chair, still holding on to his hand. "I'm right here with you," she added.
Jezek walked quietly into the hospital room and stopped short, starring at the scene before her. Scully was asleep in her chair, holding onto Mulder's hand with determination. Jezek smiled a little, but didn't manage to put much happiness into that smile. Walking up to the foot of the bed, she starred at Mulder. "You know, hotshot. You can't do this to us. If you don't wake up soon, I'll throw a fit," she told him quietly and grinned crookedly at her own comment.
"That's not going to help," Scully countered, blinking sleepily at her.
Jezek's grin mellowed into a smile. "Yes, it will," she said. "Anyway, how are you feeling, Dana? You look like shit," she added, inspecting Scully thoughtfully. "To hell with how I feel," Scully muttered and returned her attention to her partner. "All I care about right now is how he's doing and he isn't doing too good."
Jezek walked around the bed on the right side and looked down at Mulder for a moment. "He'll pull through. He's a tough cookie," she finally said.
Scully, still holding his hand in hers, eyed him thoughtfully. "I hope so," she said quietly and reached out to stroke his cheek. "I really hope so."
February 22 08.34 a.m.
He was stuck in a nightmare, filled with dread of what had happened to him even though he could hardly recall the actual event that had put him in this state. He remembered the feel of the eager little hands that had grabbed him and dragged him roughly along, hurting him in the process. He hadn't been able to see because the light was so bright that his eyes watered. And then the light had vanished and he had found himself on the edge of the upper step of the basement stairs. Before he could do anything to steady his position, something had hit him hard in the back and sent him flying down the stairs. When he hit the floor below, his broken arm had nearly killed him and his ribs... something had happened with his broken ribs. It had suddenly become incredibly hard to breath and his chest had hurt ferociously.
Now he was beginning to hurt again. He could somehow tell that it had been a while since he had been awake and he wasn't yet ready to open his eyes and face the world again. Attempting to swallow, he almost gagged, feeling that something was stuck in his throat. A cool hand touched his brow, causing him to flinch. "Easy. Let the machine do its job, Mulder. Relax." Her voice was calming, soothing. "Shhh," she shushed him. "It's okay. Just take it easy."
Groaning, he wanted to speak, but couldn't due to the tube from the respirator going down his throat. The attempt caused him to gag again. Scully tried to calm him down, but no matter what she said, he became more frantic by the second. Instead of trying to deal with the situation herself, she pressed the call button. Two nurses came rushing in at the same time, called in by the frantically beeping heart-monitor. They shooed Scully away and took over, working fast and professionally. Mainly because his weakened condition at this point could easily cause him to have a heart attack. They gave him a cursory examination, decided that he would be able to breathe without the respirator and went about removing the tube.
"Calm down, Mr. Mulder. Just take it easy. We're going to remove the tube," the older nurse said, smiling calmly at him. She detached the tube from where it was stuck to his cheek, wrapped a piece of gauze around it and nodded to the other nurse, who was keeping his shoulders pressed down against the mattress. "Take a deep breath now," she said and watched him intently as he did, his eyes closed hard against the alien, intrusive feeling of the tube. "Now, when I tell you to, you breathe out hard and I'm going to pull the tube out," she added. "Now." He expelled a breath with fairly little strength behind it, but it was enough for her to removed the tube without hurting him too much. "Very good, Mr. Mulder," she praised him, her tone the same she would use toward an unruly child.
Scully resented the way she talked to him, but said nothing. After the tube was out, Mulder started coughing uncontrollably, gasping for air between coughs. Instead of waiting for the nurses to finish, she pushed in front of the older nurse, blocking his view of her. Smiling weakly, she took his hand and brushed his hair back from his forehead. "Easy now. Try to stifle your need to cough," she urged him. Tears were trickling in a steady stream from the corners of his eyes and she was fully aware of the unbearable pain he was in from his damaged lung and broken ribs. "Would you just give him something for the pain?" Scully virtually snapped at the younger nurse, who instantly complied, looking a little intimidated.
As soon as the sedative kicked in, he started calming down. His breath came in wheezing gasps and for a moment Scully was afraid he wouldn't be able to breathe on his own after all. But he kept on drawing breath after laborious breath into his lungs, putting her worries to rest. The nurses left again, the younger one glancing nervously at Scully before leaving. She wasn't used to patients talking to her like that. She knew Scully was a doctor, but that didn't help her much. Scully once again pulled a chair over and sat down, not releasing his hand at any moment. "You'll be all right," she assured him. "Just take it slow."
After a while, he got his breathing fully under control, well knowing that he wouldn't have been able to do so without the sedative. Finding it difficult to keep his eyes open, he blinked heavily at Scully. "Where..." he managed to whisper, wincing at the grating of his voice.
"Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg. You've been here for three days. You've been pretty far out." Keeping his hand in hers, she gently caressed his palm with her thumb. Reaching out to caress his cheek, she smiled weakly. "Try to sleep some more. You need your rest."
After he had fallen asleep again, she went back to her own room to get some rest herself. Despite everything, her headache was taking its toll and she knew she needed to rest up if she was to be there for him over the coming days.
Mulder woke up again because he couldn't breathe. Gasping, he tried to force air into his restricted lungs, clawing at his throat with no result. Apparently the machine which kept an eye on his vital signs had alerted the nurses, because two of them came rushing in. He didn't know if they were the same as before and he didn't care. The first one, a mousy grey woman, leaned over him, quickly estimating his general state of health. "They took him off the respirator too soon," she announced to her colleague. "We'll have to hook him up again." The mere thought of having that tube shoved down his throat again made him almost lose it. His throat was sore enough as it was and he was certain that he would suffocate if they forced that thing down his throat again. In his weakened condition and near inability to speak, he found it very hard to make it clear to the nurse that he didn't want that, so he put a lot of physical effort into it.
"Mr. Mulder, you have to stop fighting this," the nurse admonished him, sounding slightly annoyed. "You'll suffocate without it," she added, trying to force him to stay still so she could re-insert the intrusive tube.
A hand grabbed her wrist, forcing the tube back. "Leave him alone," Scully snapped, pushing the nurse out of the way. She leaned over Mulder, felt for the center of the upper edge of his collarbone and applied a light pressure for a second, forcing his cramped up muscles there to realx. When she removed her fingers again, air rushed into his lungs with a pained gasp. Caressing his cheek for a moment, she smiled reassuringly at him. Then she turned to the nurse. "Stay out of here unless I call you," she told her harshly.
The nurse starred at her in surprise. "Ms. Scully, we were trying to save his life," she countered, sounding annoyed, still holding the tube in one hand.
"No, you were not. He was panicking and that was all there was to it. Calming him down is a whole lot better than trying to shove a tube down his throat. Now, get out of here," Scully informed her, waving toward the door.
Both nurses turned to leave, but the mousy one looked back over her shoulder, her expression tight. "Dr. Graham will hear of this," she growled and left.
Scully starred after her for a moment, then sighed. "I sure hope he will," she mumbled, then looked back down at Mulder. "What was that all about?" she wanted to know.
Closing his eyes, he tried to concentrate. "Don't... know," he croaked. "Couldn't... breathe."
She took his left hand and squeezed. "I'm sorry I wasn't here. I won't leave your side again until you're able to fend for yourself," she promised, meaning it. She was going to insist on having a bed moved into this room if that was what it took. The insensitive behavior of that nurse would be something she would take up with his doctor as soon as she could. Right now, she needed to stay with her partner and make sure he was okay.
An hour later, Dr. Graham walked through the door, looking both concerned and angry. "Ms. Scully, could I have a word with you outside?" he virtually demanded, his tone of voice chilly.
Scully starred sternly at him for a second, then glanced back at Mulder. "I'm not leaving him alone for one minute. Not while you have such irresponsible nurses on your staff," she countered, sounding just as cold. Graham raised an eyebrow. "I take it that your nurse forgot to mention that she nearly scared my partner here half to death," she added crisply.
"What on Earth are you talking about?" Graham wanted to know, stepping up to the foot of the bed.
With a sigh, Scully leaned back. "I came into this room an hour ago, finding that one of your nurses was about to shove a respirator-tube down Mr. Mulder's at that point constricted throat. I find it rather irresponsible that she would attempt such a thing without examining him first. She could have bruised or even damage his throat severely by that action."
Dr. Graham looked a little perplexed by that. "I find that rather hard to believe. All the nurses on this staff are very professional."
"That may be, Dr. Graham," Scully countered. "But I know what I saw. The fact that I was able to relieve him of any discomfort simply by helping him relax his throat proved to me that she had not taken the necessary time to make sure that the tube was necessary. I don't want her anywhere near Mr. Mulder until he is able to fend for himself." Glancing over at her once again sleeping partner, she sighed again. "He has been hurt enough," she added.
Dr. Graham eyed the patient for a moment, noting that the man still had a good deal of trouble breathing, then nodded. "All right. I'll tell Nurse Gallagher to stay away from your partner for now. And I will have a word with her about this," he finally said, thereby more or less giving in to what Scully had just told him. He knew Nurse Gallagher's ability to take things into her own hands and he had already thought about moving her to a ward where she could do less to scare the patients. But he just didn't know where.
Scully nodded. "Thank you. And could you please arrange for an extra bed to be set up in here? I'm not leaving him alone any longer than I have to," she added, fatigued.
Dr. Graham eyed her closely for a moment. "Certainly. As soon as I can get a hold of an orderly," he said, then frowned. "You shouldn't be up, Ms. Scully, if you don't mind my saying so. Your concussion can become worse if you don't take care of yourself."
"I don't care about my concussion. I'll survive," she growled, not wanting to discuss her own condition. "What matters to me is that my partner here receives the best possible care and if staying with him around the clock is the only way of assuring that, then I will do it."
"Me, too," a voice said from the doorway. Jezek strode into the room, glanced at Mulder, then turned to Graham. "I suggest that you fire Nurse Gallagher or you will find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit, Dr. Graham," she added, thereby letting both of them know that she had overheard most of their conversation.
Pursing his lips in annoyance, Graham starred at her for a moment. "Ladies," he said curtly, turned and left.
"Tess," Scully acknowledged her. "Where have you been?"
"At home. Under orders from Skinner. But I can't sit around at home and wait to hear news. I'll stay here with the two of you. I can relieve you whenever you need some downtime. How about it?"
Sighing deeply, Scully smiled. "That sounds great. I could use some sleep right about now," she countered and got up. "Keep an eye on him. If anything happens, I'm next door."
"Don't worry," Tess said with a grin. "I'll take care of our Fox here."
Scully left the room again to return to her own bed and get some sleep, well aware that Jezek would look after Mulder with a ferocity she herself wouldn't be able to show at the moment.
Jezek looked after her until she had closed the door, then turned around to face Mulder, who was still sleeping, breathing laboriously. "You are such a mess, my friend," she whispered, starring intently at him for a moment. Heaving a deep breath, she dropped down on the chair Scully had abandoned and leaned back. "You'll be fine," she added.
February 23 06.47 a.m.
Mulder woke up slowly, realizing that something had changed. He was certain that several days had passed because the weight had been lifted from his chest and he could breathe again without having to struggle so much. His broken ribs still hurt badly and so did his right arm. The cast around it was too heavy for him to lift at the moment, a fact he became aware of when he tried to do just that.
"Hey there, hotshot." He looked around at Jezek's voice and managed a weak smile. "How are you feeling, huh? Any better?" She grinned broadly at him.
"Better," he confirmed in a near whisper. "How... long... have I been out?"
"Oh, since last night. I guess you were just a little too hyped when that bitch tried to tube you again... or whatever it's called," she said, smiling to take the edge of her words. She pressed a hand against his brow. "Dana's sleeping. She was about ready to pass out when I came in. I should have been here earlier. I'm sorry about that. Anyway, how's the arm?"
Mulder briefly closed his eyes, then sighed lightly. "It hurts," he groaned, wishing she had not reminded him of the aching limb.
Jezek reached out to touch the plaster surrounding his arm. "Man, that thing looks heavy. How can you move it?" she wanted to know.
"I... can't... and I... don't want to... either," he told her, still having slight difficulty in speaking without losing his breath. "Tess?"
"I'm right here," she said, looking a little concerned at his breathless-sounding voice.
"What about... the ghosts?" he wanted to know. "The... Wilson Estate?"
She carefully sat down on the edge of the bed and took his left hand in hers, squeezing it. "It's gone. The Wilson Estate, that is. According to Skinner, something set it on fire right after we left and the whole spook-central burned to the ground in less than an hour. I would say that the ghosts have been released from their century-long haunting of that place. If it is no more, they can't haunt it, right?"
Closing his eyes, Mulder tried to think clearly. It was so hard when everything hurt as it did right now. "Wrong," he countered and said nothing more. If his assumptions were correct, and he was afraid they might be, the haunting of the Wilson Estate had been no ordinary haunting. The male ghost had been nothing short of a demon and as far as he knew, demons were not bound to a place. It was possible that the female ghost had been released by the eradication of the building, but he doubted severely that the male ghost was gone.
"Wrong?" Jezek asked, raising an eyebrow. "What do you mean, wrong, Fox?" she wanted to know.
"Later," he mumbled. "I... can't..." Letting his eyelids slide shut, he didn't even try to stay awake. He needed to sleep so badly, he could almost taste it. Jezek eyed him for a moment, then shrugged. "Whatever," she said, gave his hand another squeeze and slipped off the bed again. Dropping back down on the chair, she steepled her fingers, her elbows resting on the arms of the chair, and starred ahead of herself. Unfortunately she had to agree with Mulder. Although she didn't really understand why he would think that the ghosts were still out there, she had to admit that she thought it would be way too easy if they were just gone after the havoc they had created. Hauntings were usually very hard to get rid of, or so she'd heard. "We'll talk about this later," she said quietly and smiled.
Bemis Cheat Mountain February 24 10.00 a.m.
The still smoldering remains of the Wilson Estate were nothing much to look at. For some reason that neither the local police nor the fire department could explain, the fire had not spread to the surrounding trees and bushes. As a matter of fact, the house had virtually been obliterated, but the bushes next to the house were still standing, alas scorched, but still alive.
Parker Wilson stood next to his car, starring at what was left of his home with a surly expression on his old face. "Damn it all to hell," he mumbled, then glanced over at his butler. "How much have I lost here?" he wanted to know.
The butler, who had also been starring at the remains of the house, shrugged. "About a million," he countered, looking like that wasn't a big deal. And, in fact, it wasn't.
"That's all, huh?" Wilson countered. "Ah well. Guess we couldn't have gotten rid of the spooks any other way. Let's get out of here. This place depresses me," he added and climbed back into the back of the big, black Sedan.
"Me, personally, I get the creeps from this place," the butler mumbled, got in the car and drove them out of there toward one of the other houses, that Parker Wilson owned.
A soft breeze rocked the nearby trees gently, but there was no sound after the car had left again. No birds chirped, not sounds from little animals scurrying through the undergrowth of the nearby forest. Everything was quiet. For a brief moment, the complete silence was interrupted by a sound from the remains of the basement, the sound of boards being moved, then everything fell silent once more. In the darkest corner of what remained of the Wilson Estate, two red patches glowed briefly, then vanished again.
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