Title: Gray Ghosts
Summary: Mulder and Scully do some ghost-busting at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Oh yeah, and then there's the romance. :-)
Author's Note: Kudos to Shoshana and Fabulous Monster for scrupulous editing and some great suggestions, and to TBishop who continues to encourage me, probably against her better judgment. Thanks also to Ms. Lodge at the West Point visitor center for answering a number of questions that probably seemed pretty odd to her.
I remember as a youth going to Annapolis to visit my big brother Bill who was a Midshipman at the Naval Academy. On these trips, my Dad, a naval officer himself, visibly burst with pride that his eldest son had chosen to follow him to his alma mater and into such a noble profession. My Mom mostly worried that Bill wasn't eating enough. He was painfully thin in those days.
My big sister, Missy, hated those trips. She was in her rebellious stage and hated the 'military-industrial complex,' at least as much as a Navy brat can without being disowned. Charlie, the youngest of us, thought Bill was God and couldn't wait to grow up and follow in his footsteps.
My own feelings about those trips had little to do with Bill. I remember standing with my family and hundreds of other spectators, watching the Brigade of Midshipmen pass in review on Farragut Field. I didn't understand the feelings and thoughts that raced through my heart and mind during those times, but I do now. It was patriotism, pure and simple. The sights and sounds of an Academy parade stirred my love for country to such an extent that I think it would be fair to call it my first passion. Before medicine. Before the X-Files. Before Mulder.
For a time I toyed with applying to the Academy myself. My parents were cautiously supportive. My sister was disdainful. My brothers, especially Bill, thought it was the most hilarious idea they'd ever heard. When Bill graduated, women were still relatively new at the Academy and hadn't yet been accepted by the male midshipmen. Bill was no exception. Ultimately, I decided I was too small, too fragile, too feminine for the life of a midshipman. God, how things change. I would never think of myself that way now.
Despite my decision not to apply to the Academy, I think I knew I was destined to serve my country in some capacity. Perhaps it was this inborn patriotism that led me to apply to the FBI. Perhaps I had decided it was time to prove to Bill and Charlie, and to myself, that I wasn't too small to do big things. Perhaps destiny had things in store for me that hadn't even occurred to me yet.
This thought moves me to look to the man standing beside me. I've come to realize that Fox Mulder is my destiny, and has been my whole life. What else can explain this unbreakable connection between us? Nothing, and I mean nothing, can sever our bond. It weakens occasionally, it's tested constantly, but it's always there, and I know it always will be. I am destined to be Spock to his Kirk, the loyal and logical right arm. Mulder would probably call me Jekyll to his Hyde, his touchstone to sanity and the mundane world. We're equals in every respect, yet at times I'm painfully consumed and overshadowed by him. I have always feared losing myself in another person, but Mulder understands, and when he senses I've had too much he waits patiently for me to regain my equilibrium.
The little-boy look on his face reminds me where we are and I turn to look out across The Plain. The entire Corps of Cadets of the United States Military Academy is arrayed before us, passing in review in honor of the 1900 Centennial Class. With their tarbuckets and plumes and fixed bayonets, the cadets look as though they've stepped out of another century. As a Navy brat, I'm almost ashamed to admit how thrilling it is to watch.
Looking at Mulder now, I see the same patriotism racing through him that I feel myself. Given his broad streak of cynicism and paranoia, it's difficult to imagine that Fox Mulder is, at heart, an extremely patriotic man. He loves his country and he'll be damned if he'll let a bunch of power-hungry conspirators destroy it.
It was pure luck that we arrived in time to see this. Mulder called me early this morning and told me to pack and be ready to catch a flight in an hour. I napped during most of the flight and the drive up here from the Newark airport. I was struck dumb when I realized that Mulder had booked us a room at the Hotel Thayer, right on the West Point campus. It's several dozen cuts above his usual choice of accommodations. I've noticed lately that as Mulder gets older, he's willing to spend more on our comfort. On the other hand, he didn't bother with the subterfuge and expense of taking two rooms.
Mistaking us for tourists, the hotel staff encouraged us to hurry down to The Plain to watch the parade. All Mulder had to hear was the word 'parade' and he turned into a ten-year-old. We didn't even bother to take our bags to the room, leaving them with the concierge instead. We hopped on the next hotel shuttle and arrived just in time to see the Colors pass the reviewing stand.
My mind wanders while the Corps continues its fancy maneuvering. We know little about why we're here. Assistant Director Skinner had called Mulder before dawn and told him to get up here. The Commandant of Cadets is a personal friend of Skinner's and he needs help with something. Skinner had said nothing more.
Mulder assumes there's a 'monster' loose at the Point, so naturally the FBI is sending 'Monster Boy' to the rescue. It's so like Mulder to underestimate his ... rather, our ... value to the FBI. Lately I've noticed that we've become Skinner's personal hit squad. We get the toughest cases, whether they're X-Files or not. Mulder would say Skinner is punishing us for some past transgressions, and God knows there's been many; but I can read Skinner better than Mulder can, and I know what's going on behind those wire-rimmed glasses. Skinner sends us on the toughest cases because we can solve them when others can't. We make him look good. For every favor Skinner has had to cash in to save our asses, he's gathered at least three for the services of his wunderkind.
The review is winding down now and Mulder turns to look down at me, a broad smile still plastered on his face.
"Brings back memories," I say and then laugh at his puzzled look. I can see his brain racing through the database of information he has gathered about me in the last seven years, and I doubt he can find 'West Point' anywhere. His brow furrows and he struggles to formulate an appropriate question.
"The Naval Academy, " I say before he has time to ask. "Watching the Brigade of Midshipmen march in review." His face shows his understanding and another piece of information about me is stored away for posterity. "This was much flashier, though," I add. "The Brigade is downright dull compared to the pomp and ceremony of the Corps of Cadets."
Mulder sets his hand against the small of my back and nudges me gently away from The Plain and towards the towering West Point buildings. The campus is breathtaking. Unlike the Naval Academy, which looks more like a small, private liberal arts college, West Point is a fortress, with large, imposing stone buildings overlooking the Hudson River.
"Where are we going?" I ask.
"Commandant's office. Skinner told him we'd be there around lunch time." I look at my watch. It's a little after noon. Perfect timing.
As we walk to Washington Hall, I notice that Mulder is looking pensive. When we reach the Washington Monument he stops me and leans into my space, signaling his need to get serious. I am distracted for a moment by the father of our country on horseback towering over us. When I turn back to look at Mulder I can see he's troubled.
"What is it, Mulder?" I ask softly.
"About last night, Scully--"
"Scully, I'm sorry," he says after a moment, and I can tell by his eyes that he truly is. But then, I never doubted that he would regret the sharp words we had exchanged last night. However, I should be the one to apologize.
"Mulder, I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have made you leave. I wasn't thinking clearly. I promise not to shut you out like that again, no matter how angry I might be."
He grants me a little smile. "We'll talk about it later, okay?" I nod and touch my hand briefly to his cheek to let him know I really am okay. "I just didn't want it on our minds all day," he says. Poor Mulder. He's probably been thinking about our spat all morning and took my napping during the trip up here to mean I was still angry at him.
This is the Mulder I love. The sensitive, intuitive Mulder. The Mulder who cares, sometimes too much, for people in general, and me in particular. But I love the other Mulder too. The one who is so passionate, so single-minded, that he sometimes treads on people, including me, in his pursuit of the truth. Last night, by letting my anger get personal, by making him leave my apartment, I violated his trust. It was the first night we've spent apart since..., well, since we started spending our nights together nearly two months ago.
I'm not even sure what the argument was about. We were discussing our recent case in California and whether or not I believe in voodoo. I don't think Mulder will be happy until every single belief system I have has been turned on its head. First aliens. Then genetic mutants. Now voodoo. He's slowly turning me into the perfect model of the postmodern woman, and, frankly, it scares the hell out of me.
All I really remember is finally ordering him out of my apartment. I was so angry I couldn't bear the thought of him touching me, lying next to me, or even just sleeping on my sofa. His anger dissipated as soon as I ordered him out, replaced by that hurt look that I know so well. For all his courage and passion, Mulder's reaction to being hurt emotionally is to withdraw. He simply turned and left, which, at the time, was what I thought I wanted. I didn't sleep all night. It's surprising how quickly I had become accustomed to having him spooned up behind me all night, and last night I found I just couldn't sleep without him.
And so now, on The Plain in front of Washington Hall, under the watchful eyes of General George Washington, we make up. Most couples kiss when they make up, but not us. We just look at each other and we know all has been forgiven. We'll certainly talk about it later because Mulder has an almost neurotic need to talk about these things. He needs me to reassure him that we're okay. But for now, this was enough.
Just inside the front door to Washington Hall we stop at the Duty Officer's desk to ask directions to the Commandant's office. A petite blonde corporal crisply directs us down the correct hall and then goes beyond the call of duty with a dazzling smile at my partner.
"I still got it, Scully," he leans down to whisper to me as we walk away.
"She's too young for you, Mulder," I whisper back, and he chuckles. I know that the prospect of turning forty soon weighs heavily on my partner's mind these days. I'm certain it's not vanity. I think he's afraid he's running out of time to right all the wrongs of the world.
At the Commandant's office we're met by another young blonde, but this one is a second lieutenant and all business. We identify ourselves and she tells us the Commandant has been expecting us and takes us straight to his office.
The Commandant is a youthful-looking Brigadier General, maybe fifty years old, and, like Skinner, balding with intense dark eyes. He's wearing the jump wings of a paratrooper and I see, among other things, a bronze star and purple heart on his jacket. He must have been in the Gulf War. He introduces himself as Eric Dalton and asks his aide to have a Colonel Jacobs join us.
Mulder, who ordinarily likes to get straight to business, tolerates General Dalton's attempts to put us at ease with small talk while we wait for Colonel Jacobs. I think he may be just a bit intimidated by the Commandant's office, which contains memorabilia from an obviously successful military career, complete with autographed pictures of himself with two presidents.
After a few minutes, we are joined by yet another tall, blonde woman who introduces herself as Annie Jacobs. By her silver oak leaves I can tell she's a lieutenent colonel, not a full 'bird' colonel as I'd been expecting. I suspect she is about my age. Any more leggy blondes and I may have to put blinders on Mulder.
"Let's get down to business, Agents," General Dalton begins. Mulder and I nod our agreement. "I called Walter Skinner because we have had some problems here that we don't quite know how to handle. I remembered Walter telling me once about you two and about your particular specialty and so I called him."
"What specialty would that be, sir?" Mulder asked, giving me THAT look, the one that says, 'Monster Boy to the rescue.'
General Dalton shifts uncomfortably in his leather executive chair. "In the paranormal, Agent Mulder. Have I misunderstood?"
"No, sir. We've had more than our share of experience with the paranormal. What sort of paranormal activity is going on at West Point?" Evidently, Mulder has decided to play nice.
General Dalton looks at Colonel Jacobs and defers to her. "Ghosts, Agent Mulder," she says. "Since the first of the year we've had repeated reports of ghostly activities in Barracks, as well as in the library and several the academic buildings on campus."
"West Point has always had ghost stories associated with it," Mulder said with a slight smile.
Colonel Jacobs returned the smile and I swear there is a little twinkle in her eyes. Leave it to Mulder to flirt with the brass.
"Well, there are several said to haunt the Superintendent's home, but this is more serious than that," she says.
"Serious?" I ask. "How? What's happened?"
Jacobs notices me, for the first time I think. "Near hysteria among a large number of cadets, for one thing. For another...." she stops to look at General Dalton. He waves a finger at her to continue. "For another, yesterday one of the most distressed cadets took a dive off the roof of Eisenhower Barracks after running through the building screaming that a demon was after him."
I look at Mulder. He seems interested, finally.
"Demon?" Mulder asks. "He said 'demon'? Not 'ghost'?"
"That's what he said, Agent Mulder," says Jacobs. "He was seen and heard by over a dozen cadets. Two chased him to the roof and tried to stop him, but they said he was--" she stops to look at some notes she brought with her-- "and I quote, 'possessed of supernatural strength' and they were unable to stop him."
"Could this have anything to do with the ghost of the 47th Division?" Mulder asks.
Three sets of eyes turn to him in surprise. I wonder whether there is anything Mulder doesn't know something about.
"You know about that, do you?" General Dalton asks.
"I remember reading a Time Magazine article about it back in the '80s."
"That's one hell of a memory you've got there, son," Dalton says, laughing.
"Downright photographic, General," Mulder returns.
"Well, I've never read about it, so could someone please fill me in?" I say finally in exasperation.
General Dalton's countenance becomes serious again before he answers. "I doubt seriously it has anything to do with the 47th Division ghost. The 47th is in Scott Barracks, which isn't even connected to Eisenhower."
"Is that room still left unoccupied?" Mulder probes.
"Not just unoccupied, Agent Mulder. Locked. After the incident in the 1980s--when the media made us look a little ridiculous--the room was locked up for good, on the recommendation of the officers who investigated the matter. The key is kept in the Duty Officer's desk and a report explaining the decision is one of the first things every new Commandant is given to read upon taking office. No cadets have lived in that room for over a decade now."
"I'd like to read that report," Mulder says. "And I'd like to see that room."
General Dalton stands, bringing the meeting to a close. "Agents, I have instructed Colonel Jacobs to put aside all her other duties and to assist you while you are here. She will be able to get you anything you need. As far as this investigation is concerned, she speaks for me."
We thank the General for his time and leave him our business cards and cell phone numbers in case he should need to reach us.
Colonel Jacobs proceeds to lead us through Washington Hall explaining along the way that the building is actually three separate structures: the cadet dining room as well as other cadet services; and two residence halls, Eisenhower Barracks and MacArthur Barracks. Eventually we're outdoors, but now MacArthur Barracks is between us and The Plain. Before us is Scott Barracks, an impressive gray stone building with towers, battlements, and buttresses.
First stop in Scott Barracks is the Duty Officer's desk where Colonel Jacobs asks for the key to Room 4714. We wait several minutes while Jacobs is in the back office. Finally she returns, a look of both embarrassment and anger on her face.
"The key is missing," she says.
"Missing?" Mulder says and pushes his way past her to and enters the office. I quickly follow. A young cadet is on duty and stands at attention when Mulder and I enter, a puzzled look on his face.
"At ease, cadet," I say. "We're FBI agents. What's this about the key to Room 4714 being missing?"
He stammers a moment and then looks over our shoulders to Colonel Jacobs before answering. "It's supposed to be in the lock box in the desk, Ma'am. But I just looked and it's not there."
"Show me," Mulder says, and moves to the desk. The cadet pulls open a desk drawer and removes a small metal lock box, the type you might keep your important papers in. He opens it.
"Isn't it kept locked?" Mulder asks.
"No, sir. There's really no need to, sir. No one here would steal."
Mulder looks at him with a wry smile. "When was the last time you saw the key, cadet?"
He thinks for a moment. "I remember seeing it in there when I opened the box to get the key to the HVAC room, sir. It was kept in a small brown envelope that had a warning on it not to use without the Commandant's permission."
"How long ago was that?"
"About three months ago, sir."
Mulder nods and turns to Colonel Jacobs. "Let's go see the room," he says.
Jacobs looks puzzled. "But it's locked. We won't be able to get in."
"Oh ye of little faith," Mulder says. "Let's go anyway."
Jacobs relents and leads us to a stairwell. As we make our way up the stairs to the first landing, she explains that Scott Barracks is one of the older buildings on campus and is not a typical dormitory like MacArthur and Eisenhower Barracks. Instead, it is organized in divisions, with clusters of rooms arranged vertically around stairwells. She stops at the door nearest the head of the steps. A small bronze plate engraved '4714' is attached to the center of the door.
"This is it," Jacobs says.
Mulder steps forward then, trying the doorknob first and finding it locked. He takes a small packet of burglar's tools from his inside jacket pocket, selects one small tool, and begins to work on the lock. Jacobs has a surprised look on her face.
"Agent Mulder had a highly successful career as a burglar before the Bureau recruited him," I say. That makes Jacobs laugh and earns me a Mulder smile.
"Got it," Mulder says and turns the door knob, pushing the door open. He walks in, hitting the light switch on the wall beside the door. I enter behind him and wander around the perimeter of the empty room.
I'm just about to the window on the far wall when I realize that Mulder has come to a dead stop in the center of the room and has moved his fist, to his chest, as though he is grasping his heart. He has a pained looked on his face.
"Mulder? What is it?" I ask, concerned now that something is seriously wrong.
He takes a deep breath and then turns his head to look at me. His eyes are pained and I think he is struggling to breathe. I move closer and put my hands on his arms.
"What is it, Mulder?"
"Don't you feel it, Scully?" he hisses. He takes a deep breath, then another, then turns quickly and practically runs out of room. Jacobs and I look at each other.
In the hallway, Mulder is leaning against the wall opposite the door. More than leaning actually. Without the wall to support him, I think he'd be in a puddle on the floor. He's taking fast, shallow breaths and I'm afraid he's going to hyperventilate. I walk him to the stairs, have him sit down on the top step and put his head between his knees and slow his breathing. Jacobs joins us and watches with a concerned look on her face.
After a few moments he has settled down and is breathing regularly.
"What was it, Mulder? What did you see?"
He looks first at me, then at Jacobs. "It wasn't what I saw. It was what I felt. Neither of you felt anything?"
We both shake our heads.
"I can't explain it," he says after a moment. "It was.... a presence. An angry presence. More than angry. Enraged. It overwhelmed me."
He stands now, and appears just a little embarrassed by his performance in the room. "You need to get that lock changed right away," he tells Jacobs. "And be sure to give me a key."
She nods. I can tell she's still a little shaken by Mulder's reaction to the room. I'm not sure whether she's concerned about his welfare or questioning his sanity.
When we get outside the building, Mulder looks back up to the window of the room we just left. I think he's glad to be out of there. Not much scares Mulder, but something in that room sure did.
"Where's the body of the cadet who took the dive?" he asked Jacobs.
"At Keller Army Hospital."
"Is that nearby?"
"It's on the base. Just up Merritt Road."
"Has an autopsy been done?"
"We didn't think one was necessary," Jacobs says. "The cause of death was pretty obvious."
"Agent Scully is a pathologist. I'd like her to do an autopsy. I'll be in the library. Can you bring me that report from the 1980s?"
Jacobs gives Mulder directions to get to the library on foot and then walks me to her car to drive me to the hospital.
"Is Agent Mulder all right?" she asks me after backing her car out of its parking space behind Washington Hall. I have to smile a little at the multiple meanings her question could take.
"Yes," I say. "I'm sure he is. Just a little shaken by the experience."
"Psychic? No, he's not psychic." I look at her and can see she's waiting for me to continue. I think she wants to know that I haven't brought a lunatic with me to investigate the case. "He's just...more attuned to some things than most people are. He's very intuitive and has excellent instincts. He's right more often than he's wrong. Much more often in fact."
That seems to satisfy her concerns about Mulder, at least for now, and we spend the rest of the short ride talking about what it's like to be a woman in a testosterone-packed organization. I think I like her, even if she did flirt with my man.
Two hours later, I'm finished the autopsy and waiting for Jacobs to pick me up. The autopsy was mostly an exercise, though I did find it interesting that the cadet's hands were freshly and heavily blistered, as though he had recently picked up an extremely hot object. I have pictures to show Mulder. Otherwise, there was nothing inconsistent with death by a six-story fall.
My cell phone chirps. It's Mulder. "I'm starving, Scully. Meet me at the hotel and we'll have an early dinner."
I readily agree. My stomach is warning me with gurgling noises that it's hungry. Colonel Jacobs drives up just as I'm closing my phone.
"How'd it go?" she asks as I get in and buckle my seat belt.
I don't feel comfortable revealing my results until I've discussed them with Mulder, so I give her a noncommittal answer that seems to satisfy her. She hands me a parking pass.
"You can park anywhere on campus with this," she says. "I can get you a second car from the carpool if you need one too."
I nod my thanks and tell her I'll let her know if we need it. I also tell her that Mulder wants me to meet him at the hotel and ask her to drop me there.
I stop at the door to the hotel dining room and scan the room for my partner. The room is surprisingly crowded. It's only 4:30 p.m. Apparently we aren't the only ones wanting an early dinner.
Finally I spot him at a table in the far corner, framed by a beautiful view of the Hudson River in the floor-to-ceiling windows behind him. I enjoy watching Mulder when he doesn't know that I am. Engrossed in some papers, he doesn't see me walking slowly toward him. I can't help laughing out loud when he pops an entire dinner roll in his mouth. My laughter gets his attention and he looks up at me, startled. He stands, a rosy blush spreading over his cheeks for he knows I caught him in the act of being 'a guy.' He manages to swallow the roll in time to give me a kiss on the cheek before he sits down.
"I see being in a five-star hotel has done nothing for your table manners, Mulder." He graces me with a full smile, the goofy kind that makes his nose look too big for his face, and I can't help returning it. It seems like I've been smiling a lot in the last two months.
"Maybe not," he says, "but I'll bet it'll do wonders for my bedside manner."
This time it's my turn to blush. How does he always find a way to turn everything into sexual innuendo?
"BedSIDE?" I ask. "You plan to sleep on the floor tonight?"
"Touche, Scully," he says, grinning, and reaches for another roll.
I see the waiter coming so I scan the menu quickly. After we order, Mulder turns serious.
"Find anything in the autopsy?"
"Only one oddity," I begin. "The cadet's hands were badly blistered. He must have touched or picked up something extremely hot within the last hour or so before he jumped." I hand him the envelope of pictures.
"Blistered?" He looks quickly at the photographs and then sets the envelope aside. "Could these have been caused by extreme cold?"
"Sure. Or chemicals."
He nods, soaking it all in. Mulder the sponge.
"What did you find?" I ask, nodding towards the papers he was so absorbed with before I got here. "Anything interesting?"
His face lights up. He picks up the sheaf of papers and thumbs through them. "This is the report made in 1987 by two faculty members who were asked to investigate the strange goings-on in Room 4714. It's fascinating!"
"They had faculty members investigate? That seems odd."
"Maybe. One of them was a clinical psychologist. The other a biophysicist. Both skeptics at the outset. They wired the room and the cadet who was living in it. They got some phenomenal results. The last night of the study, the psychologist slept in the room."
He looks at me expectantly. He's such a little boy sometimes. There's something he's dying to tell me.
"And some incredible stuff happened, culminating with the psychologist disappearing from the room by walking through a wall, and appearing out of thin air in a room on another floor." He sits back triumphantly in his chair.
Okay. Mulder thinks he's on to something. And maybe he is. That's how far I've come in the last seven years. I'm not going to dismiss the paranormal out of hand.
"And I think this is pretty cool, Scully. Don't you?"
"What does it have to do with ghosts elsewhere on campus, or with the death of the cadet in Eisehower Barracks?"
"I don't know," he says, a little disappointed that I don't acknowlege a connection. "Maybe nothing. It's a place to start. West Point is a ghost-magnet, Scully. And this study has some pretty convincing hard evidence."
He slides the report over in front of me and points. "Look," he says. "Extreme drops in temperature, spectral photographs and audio recordings, bizarre EEG readings on the subjects sleeping in the room."
"I don't doubt you, Mulder," I say, and he feigns a shocked look that makes me laugh. "They couldn't have had very good equipment back then, Mulder. How reliable could these results be?"
"I'm glad you mentioned that, Scully. The same thought occurred to me. That's why...." He pauses as the waiter approaches with our food. "That's why I called the guys. They'll be here in tomorrow with the latest in ghost-busting equipment."
Mulder leans back in his seat enjoying what I'm sure is a look of sheer horror on my face. The Three Stooges at West Point! Is he insane? The waiter looks at me funny, as though he thinks my horrified look is in reaction to my first sight of our food, so I reassure him it's fine. Mulder is delighted with my discomfort. If there's one game my partner enjoys playing, it's 'I gotcha!'
After the waiter leaves, and I have recovered my wits, Mulder continues the tale of the ghost of the 47th division.
"The really fascinating thing is that 1987 wasn't the first haunting problem they had with Scott Barracks. It even precedes the Barracks! The first report of unusual activity in that area of campus was in 1835 and continued periodically for a hundred years. Scott Barracks was built in the late 1930s. Four times since then the administration has found it necessary to close up Room 4714 because of ghostly activities. Each time, as memories faded, the room would be reopened and another generation of cadets would be exposed to the ghost. The most recent occurrence was 1987, and was the subject of this report. This time the powers-that-be got wise and made certain that each succeeding Commandant is filled-in on why the room is left vacant."
I can't help but be affected by Mulder's enthusiasm. Scientific proof of the paranormal may finally be within his grasp and I can tell how excited he is by that prospect.
"Why didn't the Army make the report public?" I ask.
"Scully, we both know that the Army has no sense of humor. During a haunting incident in the early 1970s, the press had a field day at the Army's expense. I'm not surprised West Point kept this report confidential. There were some reports in the mass media which is how I had heard about it, but the press never found out about the investigation or this report."
"I have to ask again, what does this have to do with our investigation? The hauntings aren't in Scott Barracks and no one is housed in that room."
He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "I don't know, Scully, but it seems like a good place to start. Besides that, the key is missing. Maybe someone has been using the room for some reason and that has--"
"Reawakened the spirits?" I say, finishing his sentence.
He shows me that goofy grin again and I can't help but smile myself. Okay, he's right. It is a place to start, if nothing else.
"So what's on the agenda tomorrow?" I ask.
"I asked Colonel Jacobs to set up some interviews with cadets who have reported seeing ghosts. I thought we could do that while the guys set up the equipment in Scott."
"And tonight?" I ask.
"Tonight we have an appointment with Colonel Sam Bondurant and his wife, Maggie."
Frankly, I was hoping for something a little more intimate. "Who is Colonel Sam Bondurant?"
"Professor of Behavioral Sciences and one of the officers who wrote the 1987 report. He's still on the faculty and lives on base."
Oh joy. It's not that I mind working sixteen-hour days. God knows I should be used to it by now. But it gets tiring, and now that I actually have something else to do in the evening, I really long for a 'normal' life. Ha! A normal life with Mulder. That's a laugh.
We find other things to talk about while we eat. I think Mulder senses my need to do something besides work, at least for a little while. After a few minutes I'm able to forget why we're in this luxurious hotel in the beautiful vista of the Hudson Valley, and I'm able to pretend I'm on a romantic date with the man I love.
When we finish dinner, Mulder tells me that the Bondurants aren't expecting us for another two hours. Then, with a perfectly straight face, he asks me if I'm at all interested in seeing our room. For about half a second I consider playing coy, but two hours isn't much time and I definitely want to make the most of it. As soon as he signs for the bill I practically drag him to the elevator.
At 7:15 p.m on the nose we step out of our room, fully 'refreshed.' I swear Mulder's face has 'I JUST HAD MINDBLOWING SEX!' written all over it and I'm almost embarrassed to be seen with him. I hope he gets over the novelty of our intimacy soon or I may have to start making him wear a paper bag on his head in public.
The room was beautiful. Scratch that. The SUITE was beautiful. Mulder really went whole hog this time. I suspect he's not going to be putting this room on his expense report. Skinner might wonder where we stayed while we were up here; but, frankly, I don't think he worries too much about expenses we DON'T report.
I'm able to delude myself for a few minutes that we're on a romantic drive in the hills, but it ends far too fast as Mulder pulls the sedan up behind a nondescript gray house. I recognize the style from my childhood in Navy housing.
An attractive woman, about forty, greets us at the door. She introduces herself as Maggie Bondurant. A man comes out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a tea towel. He introduces himself as Sam Bondurant and invites us into the living room where Mulder and I make ourselves comfortable on the sofa, opposite the Bondurants who take the matching loveseat.
Colonel Bondurant is older than his wife. Probably close to sixty. His hair is streaked with gray and he's not quite as fit as an Army officer ought to be, probably because of his relatively sedentary life as a college professor. They remind me of my parents.
"Now tell us, why would a couple FBI agents be interested in talking to us?" Colonel Bondurant asks.
"We are interested in the report you wrote in 1987 about your investigation into the ghost of the 47th Division," Mulder answers.
Maggie Bondurant gives her husband's arm a little squeeze and they exchange knowing looks.
"We suspected that was what you were interested in, Agent Mulder, considering the recent events on campus."
"It was an impressive report, Colonel. Is it correct to conclude that you believe there was a true paranormal event in Room 4714?"
Sam Bondurant waits for a moment. He strikes me as a cautious man, not prone to exaggeration or hysteria. If he believes what he witnessed was a ghost, it will go a long way towards convincing me.
"Agent Mulder," he begins, leaning forward, with his elbows resting on his knees, "I've made it a point for thirteen years not to discuss that investigation. I'm a scientist. I began that investigation in order to prove to the cadets that there were no ghosts in their room."
"And now, Sir?"
Bondurant takes a deep breath. "And now, Agent Mulder, I believe in ghosts."
Mulder nods and leans back and looks at me for a moment.
"If I understand the report, Colonel, you encountered multiple entities but you de-anchored only one ghost."
Bondurant looks puzzled. "De-anchored?"
Mulder looks surprised. "I'm sorry. I assumed you were familiar with paranormal terminology."
Bondurant smiles. "Before this case, the only thing I knew about the paranormal was that it was complete bunk."
Mulder and I laugh with the Bondurants. This is a man who doesn't want to believe what he must believe. Damn. That sounds just like me.
"To 'de-anchor' a ghost means to send him to the 'void of potentiality.' In other words, to help him find his way to the light. To help him cross to the other side. It's what psychics and mystics purport to do. For a fee, of course."
"I see. Then yes, my colleague, Liam FitzDonnell, de-anchored Captain Andonijah Proctor, and then 'took the last exit before the toll' himself, which is how he ended up in a room two floors down."
I'm thinking how incredible this sounds. I've scanned the report but haven't had time to read it as thoroughly as Mulder, who is obviously gobbling this up.
"Is Mr. FitzDonnell still at the Academy?" Mulder asks. "I would love to ask him about his experience."
A wistful frown crosses Bondurant's face. "No. Liam retired in 1988 and moved to New York City. He was killed in an armed robbery in 1996."
Mrs. Bondurant uses her husband's wistful silence to ask us if we'd like some coffee. She busies herself in the kitchen while we continue talking with her husband.
"Your report mentions some audio and video recordings, Colonel," Mulder says. "Do you know where they are now and how we might get access to them?"
Bondurant nods. "I have them. I haven't looked at them since we made our final report to the Commandant. I can show them to you if you'd like, but I don't want them to leave my possession."
For the next hour we drink coffee and watch video tapes. The first tape clearly shows some sort of ethereal entities visible in the room hovering over the sleeping cadet. My skin crawls when two eyes turn to look at the video camera when its motor makes some noise.
The second tape is even creepier. We watch Liam FitzDonnell talk to the ghosts. Then, just as Colonel Bondurant and his associates and, surprisingly, Mrs. Bondurant ran into the room...FitzDonnell simply disappeared through a spectral door. He was found minutes later with a broken hip in a room two floors down and with no apparent means of entry. He had simply appeared with a crash on the floor, frightening two sleeping cadets.
After the video tapes, Bondurant plays for us an audio recording of a child wailing in pain and fear. This sound had been heard by dozens of people on multiple occasions.
We are all silent for several moments after the tapes finish. Mrs. Bondurant is obviously distressed by the memories.
"Why were you there, Mrs. Bondurant?" I ask softly.
It's Colonel Bondurant who answers me. "Maggie did our historical research. Between her research and the dreams several of us had had after our initial contacts with the ghosts, we were able to piece together the story."
Mulder leans forward and looks at Bondurant expectantly.
Colonel Bondurant takes a deep breath before speaking. "To make a long story short, Captain Proctor had fathered an illegitimate child by a household servant. That incident filled his wife, Eliza, with rage and--coupled with her natural abhorrence of sex--drove her mad. She even hated her own daughter, Annabelle, because she was the product of her husband's lust. One night, she locked the child in her bedroom and set the house on fire, ultimately costing them both their lives. Captain Proctor was filled with guilt the rest of his life because he had not run into the fire to try to save his child."
"And Liam FitzDonnell helped him relive that experience and cross to the otherside?" Mulder says.
"And, you might find this interesting," Mrs. Bondurant says. "Annabelle is 'Annabel Lee' of the Edgar Allen Poe poem. Poe was a cadet here at the time and was very fond of the child, as were many of the cadets."
I'm floored. We come to West Point and stumble into an X-File that can be linked to one of our nation's great literary figures!
"There's one thing I'm puzzled about," Mulder says. "In your report, there are two references to people who entered the room feeling a sense of rage push past them and storm out of the room." He stops, waiting for Colonel Bondurant to explain.
"The concensus was that that particular 'entity' was Captain Proctor's wife, who was a bitter, enraged woman the night she died."
Mulder looks at me. "That's got to be what I felt in that room, Scully." He tells the Bondurants about his experience in Room 4714 earlier today. I can see that it unsettles them both.
"That's why we recommended that the room be permanently closed, Agent Mulder. Captain Proctor may have been 'de-anchored,' as you called it, but Eliza Proctor is still there and still filled with rage."
We're getting in our car to leave when Mulder says he forgot to ask Colonel Bondurant something. He runs back to the front door where the Bondurants are still standing and speaks to the Colonel. Maggie Bondurant breaks into a broad smile and pats her husband on the back before going inside. The Colonel stays to talk to Mulder, appearing to give him directions as he points this way and that.
"There's something I want to show you, Scully," Mulder says when he returns to the car. He drives down Washington Road back toward The Plain, but then veers off to the east. It's dark now, and after nearly two hours of talking about ghosts and assorted creepy things, I sorely hope Mulder knows where he's going.
In a few minutes we reach an area known as 'Trophy Point.' Mulder parks the car and we exit, walking together quietly to the closest memorial. There's a bronze plaque driven into the rocky ledge that reads: 'The Great Chain was anchored in this cove 1778-1783.' Here there are sixteen large cast-iron links, together with swivel and clevis. They were parts of the 'great chain' that was stretched across the Hudson River between West Point and Constitution Island, to prevent British vessels from navigating the river during the American Revolutionary War.
"This is what you wanted to show me, Mulder?"
He looks at me with a gleam in his eye. "No. It's not. Come on."
He takes my hand and guides me to an opening in the trees. Here we find a beautiful, wandering sylvan path and follow it down the hill. It parallels the river. I suspect Mulder thinks I don't know what this is and where he's going, but he underestimates me. I do know something about our military academies, after all, and I have seen the movies, 'West Point Story,' and 'The Long Gray Line.'
"Mulder, this is 'Flirtation Walk.'"
He laughs. "Can't sneak anything past you, can I, Scully?"
"Not much, Mulder. Not much."
We continue to walk quietly for several minutes, enjoying the peaceful view. Eventually we reach the spot I knew he was heading for. He stops next to a ponderous granite boulder that balances on a ledge beside the path. It has every appearance of threatening to come hurtling down upon us.
Mulder turns and takes me into his arms. "Do you know what they call this boulder, Scully?" he says, his voice husky with desire.
It's moments like this that make me thank God for letting me be a part of this man's life. "I believe it's called 'Kissing Rock,' Mulder. Why do you ask?"
"I'm just a hunkey boy with a tin ear and you're my spoons," he says, leaning closer, nuzzling my ear with his nose.
"Old cadet slang I read in the library today. It means 'I'm a very lucky boy and you're my lady love.'"
I tremble slightly as his breath tickles my neck. "Do you consider yourself a lucky boy, Mulder?"
"Mmmm hmmmm," he murmurs, his lips feasting on my throat.
He puts a finger under my chin and draws my face up until our mouths are nearly touching. "Do you know what happens if a girl refuses to kiss a fellow under this rock, Scully?"
I've had enough teasing. I've had enough waiting. I press my lips to his and sink into his embrace. Together we ensure that the Kissing Rock stays on its perch at least one more night.
When we return to the hotel we decide to treat ourselves to dessert since we really had only one meal today. Personally, I plan to have dessert again as soon as I get Mulder back to our room, but right now I've got my heart set on the chocolate peanut-butter-cup cheesecake I saw on the dessert tray at lunch.
While we wait for the waiter to bring us our order, Mulder decides it's time to clear the air about last night. He reaches across the table and tangles his fingers with mine.
"I'm sorry we fought last night, Scully," he says softly.
I'm not sure what to say. I'm still too new to this 'relationship with my partner' thing to feel on solid ground.
"We have to be able to disagree," he continues when I don't respond, "even to argue, if we're going to remain partners. As much as I want this," he pointedly looks at our hands, "I want us to be able to continue working together too."
"I do too, Mulder, and I was wrong to take it personally."
The inflection in my voice must give me away.
"But...?" he says softly.
I have to smile. I can't sneak anything past him either. "But, you called my ideas 'stupid' and dismissed them without any thought."
His eyes lock on me then and I feel his fingers squeeze mine just a little tighter. "I DID think about your ideas, Scully. I had been thinking about them all day. But you're right. I should choose my words more carefully. And I should take the time to explain why I disagree with you, not just let you think I'm dismissing you out of hand."
The waiter arrives then with our desserts. Mulder pulls his hand away from mine and I miss it immediately. I can't help but enjoy the gluttonous look that comes over his face when he sees the generous size of my cheesecake. He knows he'll get to eat at least half of it. The waiter places in front of him a simple dish of vanilla ice cream, Mulder's standard dessert when he knows I'm getting something scrumptious.
Before I can start on my cheesecake, Mulder asks the question I've been expecting.
"Are we okay, Scully?"
I deliberately pick up my fork and take my first bite of chocolate peanut-butter-cup cheesecake. I take my time savoring it and let my eyes show Mulder just how much I'm enjoying it.
"Help me eat this cheesecake, Mulder, and when we get back to the room I'll show you just how okay we are."
At precisely 6:00 a.m., I am awakened by the distant sounds of a bugle calling reveille, one of the joys of life on a military base. I debate with myself whether I should get up now or let myself fall back to sleep for just a little longer.
I feel Mulder stir against me and turn to look at him. Mulder-the-insomniac has become Mulder-the-sack-hound since we starting sleeping together. He has a faint smile on his face, and no wonder. Last night I kept my promise and used my body to show him how okay we are.
I stretch, then untangle myself from the sheets and from Mulder's limbs. I decide to shower and when I finish I call room service so I can surprise Mulder with a romantic breakfast in bed. He deserves it.
I've just barely put down the phone when there is a knock at the door. When I look through the peep hole I forget any thoughts I had of a romantic breakfast in bed and another round of 'I'm okay, you're okay' with Mulder. It's the leering face of Melvin Frohike. The Lone Gunmen have arrived.
Resigned to my fate, I open the door. Frohike leads the way in carrying two notebook computer cases and a duffel bag full of equipment. Byers and Langly are close behind with several more bags.
Frohike stops abruptly when he sees me in my bathrobe and still-damp hair. Byers and Langly practically mow him down, reminding me why I usually refer to them as "The Three Stooges."
"Where's Mulder?," Langly blurts out, gawking at me. "We thought this was his room." That's when I remember they don't know about us yet. Well, they will now.
"He's still asleep. I'll get him."
The three exchange a surprised look that I choose to ignore. They look at each other for a moment and I can almost pinpoint the exact second realization comes to them.
I go into the bedroom and awaken Mulder with a kiss to his forehead. The smile on his face turns into a leer as he pulls me down on top of him. In spite of myself I let out a little squeal and he laughs.
"Mulder, stop," I say, struggling not to laugh. "The guys are here." He groans and lets me go, but not before a quick grope of my derriere. He tumbles out of bed, pulls on his boxer shorts and a t-shirt, and follows me back out into the living room.
"A little early aren't we, guys?" he says. "What'd you do, sprout wings?"
"We drove up overnight," Byers says. "Much less traffic around New York City that way."
"And much easier to tell if we're being tailed," Langly adds, looking suspiciously around the room as though expecting to find some listening devices. Paranoid to the end.
Mulder digs through his briefcase until he finds the 1987 report about the 47th Division ghost. He hands it to Frohike.
"You guys read this while I shower and get dressed. Then we can go get some breakfast and I'll fill you in."
"Umm, Mulder. I already ordered breakfast from room service." Breakfast for two, my eyes tell him.
Frohike gives Mulder a 'damn, you're one lucky bastard' look and Mulder beams at me.
"Why don't you call back and order some more, Scully. We'll make it breakfast for five." Then he puts his arms around me and gives me a gentle kiss, our first in front of an audience. I can almost hear Frohike's heart break.
By 8:00 a.m. Mulder and I have taken the guys to Scott Barracks and introduced them to Colonel Jacobs. For Frohike it appears to be love at first sight. Oddly enough, Jacobs seems just a little taken with him too. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Underneath the gruff, paranoid, quasi-perverted exterior Frohike presents to the world, is a truly compassionate, lovable little troll.
Jacobs shows us a storage room across the hall where the guys can set up their equipment. They will have to run their cables across the corridor. They will hang them close to the ceiling rather than lay them on the floor so as not to interfere too much with cadet life. The storage room isn't very large, but then neither is their equipment. Computers have come a long way since 1987. One of their little notebooks has more than two hundred times the computing power--and takes up one-tenth the space--of the system Colonel Bondurant used in 1987.
Jacobs gives Mulder two keys to the room. She had the lock changed last night. He keeps one and gives one to Frohike. He unlocks the room and he and the guys go in, but this time, he says, he feels nothing. Neither do the guys. Reveille must not have sounded yet in the spirit world.
We leave the guys to do their work and walk over to MacArthur Barracks with Colonel Jacobs. She has arranged for several cadets to meet us in their rooms. We take the elevator up to the sixth floor and then walk down a long hall with rooms lining each side. It reminds me of the dormitories I lived in at Berkeley and at Maryland, except it's absolutely spotless and there's no stale beer smell.
We stop at a room about halfway down the hall. Colonel Jacobs knocks twice on the door and then pushes it open. I see a young cadet leap to his feet and come to attention.
"At ease, Mr. Baxter," Colonel Jacobs says and the cadet relaxes slightly. "These are Agents Mulder and Scully from the FBI. They're here investigating Cadet Johansen's death and would like to ask you some questions." The cadet nods. He's obviously a little nervous, but he's holding up well.
Mulder is moving aimlessly about the room, so I take the lead.
"I understand the deceased was your roommate," I say. "Did you know him long?"
"Yes, ma'am. I've known him since I entered the Academy. And we were roommates all last year and this year until...."
His voice trails off and I can see the sadness in his eyes. He lost a good friend and doesn't understand why.
"Have his things been removed from the room yet?" Mulder asks.
"No. We decided to leave everything alone until you had had a chance to investigate," Colonel Jacobs says.
"I assume the items on this side of the room belonged to Cadet Johansen," Mulder says. Jacobs nods. Mulder begins pulling open drawers and doing some general snooping.
I turn back to the cadet. "Had you noticed any unusual behavior by Cadet Johansen before the day he died?"
Baxter hesitates and glances at Colonel Jacobs before speaking. "Yes, ma'am. He had been talking about demons and the devil for over a month. It started shortly after we returned from Christmas break and got progressively worse until he was barely holding it together the last week."
Out of the corner of my eye I see Mulder pull a small lockbox out of a desk drawer. He opens it and reaches in.
"Hello," he says. "What do we have here?"
He pulls from the box a small brown envelope. He turns it to face us and we can see clearly printed on one side: "Do not unlock room without permission of the Commandant." He reaches into the envelope with two fingers and pulls out a key which he hands to Colonel Jacobs.
She looks at it briefly. "It's to Room 4714."
We all turn to look at Cadet Baxter, who looks, for all the world, like he would like to crawl under his bunk.
"What do you know about this, Mr. Baxter?" Jacobs demands, and I hear in her voice the same fearsome quality of command that my father was capable of. God help this young man if he tries to lie.
Baxter audibly gulps, and I can tell he's thinking hard. He says nothing for several moments and Jacobs remains silent, increasing the pressure.
Finally, he speaks. "Colonel Jacobs, I must respectfully report an honor code violation."
"Go on, Mr. Baxter," Jacobs says.
"Ma'am, Cadet Johanson removed that key from the Duty Officer's desk in South Barracks shortly after Christmas break.
"And you've known about it all this time?"
"Did you have anything to do with the theft?"
"No, ma'am. I didn't know he was going to take it and he didn't tell me about it until several days later."
"What about this?" Mulder asks, holding up what appears to be a piece of plastic, roughly in the shape of a heart, about six inches across at its widest point.
"What is it, Mulder?" I ask.
He hands it to me. "It's a planchette. From a 'ouija' board."
"Where's the 'ouija' board, Mr. Baxter?" Mulder asks.
"It's...it's taped to the underside of the bottom shelf of Cadet Johansen's bookshelf, sir."
Mulder stoops to runs his fingers under the bookshelf and then I hear the sound of ripping tape. When he stands, he is holding a 'ouija' board of the type you can buy in any Walmart.
"Did you use this with Cadet Johansen?" Mulder asks.
"No, Sir. I learned my lesson with 'ouija' boards in high school. He wanted me to play it with him, but I wouldn't."
"Did anyone else?"
Again the cadet looks at Colonel Jacobs before answering. "Yes, Sir. He and another cadet used to go to that room...Room 4714...to use it. They would sneak out after taps."
"Name names, Mr. Baxter," Jacobs orders.
The hardest thing to ask any young person to do is to squeal on a friend. I watch his conscience struggle with the decision, but ultimately, his honor wins out.
"Cadet Sharon McGovern, ma'am."
"I'd like to talk to her," Mulder said.
"So would I," Colonel Jacobs murmurs under her breath. "Go to class, Mr. Baxter. I'll expect your Honor violation report on my desk in the morning."
"Yes, ma'am," Baxter says, picking up his books and dashing out of the room.
"Why bother with the Honor violation? Johansen's dead?" Mulder asks after the cadet is gone.
"It's a report against himself, Agent Mulder. A cadet shall not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do. Mr. Baxter violated the Honor Code by tolerating his roommate's theft. He's in a world of trouble."
Mulder seems surprised at the strictness of the code. I'll have to explain it to him later.
By early afternoon, we've interviewed nearly two dozen cadets, both male and female, from all four classes, all major ethnic groups, and from all floors in both Eisenhower and MacArthur Barracks. They all have in common one thing: the absolute certainty that they had seen ghosts from 'the long gray line.' Although most of the ghosts were unrecognizable, some of the more frequent sightings were Generals Eisenhower, MacArthur, Grant, Lee, Custer, and Pershing. One cadet swore he had seen the ghost of General Norman Schwartzkopf until I reminded him that General Schwartzkopf is alive and well. That cadet needs to repeat American history class.
Another theme common to many of the sightings involved ghostly activities. General Eisenhower seems particularly fond of sitting on cadet bunks and spit-shining dress shoes. General MacArthur, a former cadet and Superintendent, has been seen to enter rooms and conduct inspections, complete with white gloves, while virtually ignoring the occupants. Some of the stories are so similar that I can't help but suspect they have been contrived, or result from some sort of group delusions.
Mulder wants to go to Scott Barracks now to see how the Gunmen are progressing, but I tell him that I want to go up to the roof of Eisenhower Barracks first and see where Cadet Johansen had taken his swan dive. Mulder stays behind to talk to another cadet.
According to the report by the Commandant's office, Cadet Johansen ran to the northeast corner of the roof where he turned and faced the two students who had pursued him up there. He was crying and pleading to be left alone, but the cadets had the distinct impression that he was looking beyond them, as though he were talking to someone, or some thing, that was behind them and much taller. He didn't appear to hear them at all as they tried to calm him down. Finally he had turned, stepped up on the parapet, and without a moment's hesitation, dived head-first off the roof.
I walk to the corner where Cadet Johansen spent his last few moments alive and look out over The Plain. I try to imagine what must have been going on in the young man's mind as he contemplated ending his life. Lord knows, life at the service academies is hard enough without suffering from debilitating depression, or...from a haunting.
I don't know what I expected to learn from coming up here. Perhaps some insight into what led him to this point. Perhaps I just needed a moment out of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Barracks. After a few moments, I'm ready to leave. When I turn to leave I take only two steps before I am frozen in my tracks.
Ten feet in front of me I see...my God! My mind almost refuses to let me say the word. The only thing it can be is a ghost. I squeeze my eyes shut.
"Get a grip, Dana," I tell myself. When I open my eyes again, it's still there. Could this be what drove Cadet Johansen to suicide?
It looks at me with a dark intensity. I can see the eyes clearly, and I know that these eyes are looking at me from another world. They are proud, strong eyes and somehow they look familiar. He wears the uniform of a World War II soldier, with the goggles of a tank driver atop his helmet. His right hand holds a riding crop and on his right hip is a holster holding....oh my God! Now I recognize him. It's General George Patton. The revolver in his holster has a ivory handle.
"What...what do you want?" I manage to say. A small voice nags at me for being so silly. 'There is no such thing as ghosts,' it says, and yet, unless I'm losing my mind, one is practically within my reach.
He continues looking at me with those piercing eyes and, without thinking, I reach my hand out and take a step toward him.
"Res amamus statu quo erant" he says slowly, surprising me. "Mutate nihil." He takes a step backwards, raises the riding crop to his helmet in salute, and...disappears.
Somehow I make it back inside the building. I look over my shoulder several times as I race down the stairwell, half expecting to see General Patton pursuing me. My heart is pounding, not so much from the exertion of running down six flights of stairs, but from the adrenaline rush caused by what I've seen.
When I get to the bottom of the stairwell I burst through a door into the lobby of Washington Hall. Mulder and Jacobs are waiting for me by the front doors. Mulder's face immediately assumes a look of alarm and he hurries over to me.
"Scully, what's wrong? You look like you've just seen a...."
I look at him with wide eyes. Maybe he IS psychic.
"Oh my God!" he says. "You DID see a ghost, didn't you?" His concern for my well-being is punctuated with his obvious glee that I have seen a ghost. I take his arm and lead him outside where I tell him about my encounter with General Patton.
An hour later we're crowded into a booth with the three Gunmen at a restaurant off the post. The guys were starting to feel claustrophobic and needed to get away from West Point for awhile. Three large pizza pans fill the table. These boys are some serious pizza hounds. The Gunmen report that their equipment is ready, and Frohike reports having a dinner date tomorrow with Colonel Jacobs.
Mulder tells them about my encounter with 'Old Blood'n'Guts,' and I tolerate his embellishments to the story. It's Byers who makes an interesting observation.
"We appear to have multiple, unrelated phenomenon going on here," he says. I can see that this surprises Mulder.
"How so?" he asks.
"This thing in Room 4714 has been here for decades and never causes any trouble as long as the room is vacant," Byers begins thoughtfully. "But these ghosts the cadets," he pauses and nods in my direction, "and now Agent Scully, have seen appear to be harmless and totally unrelated."
"And you said the splattered cadet talked about 'demons,'" Langly pipes in. "Demons and ghosts are two entirely different things."
Mulder leans back in the booth and puts his arm around me. It seems so odd for us to show affection like this in front of other people. But these three men are Mulder's closest friends, after me, and they would do anything for us. It really is okay to be ourselves with them.
"You know, I hadn't really thought about that," Mulder says. "Maybe these things aren't related. But why is it all happening now? Can it just be a coincidence?"
"Mulder," I begin, remembering something he said earlier. "Maybe you were right. The cadet who stole the key to Room 4714 may have 'reawakened' the spirits when he entered that room. His presence in the room may have stirred Eliza Proctor."
"If he used that ouija board, he may have invited a demon to cross over. And if that room is a gateway to the other side," Frohike offered, "maybe these other spirits have been using it to cross over too."
"But why now?" Mulder asks, looks at me.
"Maybe General Patton told me," I say softly. "It sounded like Latin. Maybe the priest at West Point can translate."
For a few minutes all I hear is the sound of four grown men making pigs of themselves. Watching Langly eat is almost enough to make me sick. I close my eyes and press myself up against Mulder's side, enjoying the warmth of his arm around my shoulders.
The boys are suddenly silent. I open my eyes and see them all staring at me. I look up at Mulder and he's got that 'mindblowing sex' look on his face again. I realize that some serious male strutting is going on at the table, if only figuratively.
Byers clears his throat. "So when did this happen?" he asks, ever the soul of tact. Thank God it wasn't Langly who worked up the nerve to ask first. He would have said, "when did you two start doing it?" or something even more offensive. Langly has to be the least tactful person I've ever known. I can tell Mulder is waiting for me to answer Byers. Gentlemen don't kiss and tell, they say, and even if she did nothing else good with her life, Teena Mulder raised her son to be a gentleman.
"Two months ago," I say after a moment.
Byers visibly relaxes, and what was becoming an uncomfortable silence is diffused. The guys have seen my temper before and I'm sure they were all braced for a Scully explosion. Now, though, there are three seriously goofy grins on their faces as they all offer Mulder their congratulations. I guess they think he's getting the better end of the deal.
Eventually even Langly has had all he can eat and we get up to leave. It's nearly 4:00 p.m. and the guys have been up for over twenty-four hours. The show in Room 4714 won't start until after midnight, so they are going back to the Hotel Thayer to get a room and some sleep. I often wonder where they get the money for all their fancy equipment and travel. Frohike once joked--at least, I think he was joking--that they just hack into American Express and transfer all their travel expenses to Bill Gates's platinum card. I wouldn't put it past them.
We all agree to meet at Scott Barracks by midnight. Mulder makes a quick phone call to Colonel Jacobs while I try to write down on a napkin what I think General Patton's ghost said to me. Then the guys drive us all back to the hotel in their van, and we take our rental car up to the Catholic Chapel.
We park and I stand for a moment and admire the chapel. It is an old building with a polychrome wood exterior and stained glass windows depicting soldier-saints from Christian history. According to the travel guide in our hotel room, the chapel was built in 1899 and is an almost exact replica of a church in England erected by Carthusian monks. It is simply beautiful.
Mulder stops behind me and puts his arms around me, pulling me back to rest against him.
"It would make a wonderful place for a wedding, wouldn't it, Scully?" he asks softly.
I can almost feel my heart stop as the multiple possible meanings of his question fill my mind.
"Scully?" he says after a moment when I don't answer him.
Slowly I turn in his arms until I am facing him. I look up at him and I can see the look of hope in his eyes. He is hoping I will interpret his question the way he means it; but, as always, he is giving me the option. With Mulder, I am always in the driver's seat when it comes to our personal relationship.
"Are you asking me to marry you, Mulder?"
He says nothing, but the corners of his mouth curl up just enough to let me know I got it right.
"I think it would be a wonderful place for a wedding, Mulder."
He lowers his lips to mine and, just like that, the deal is sealed.
Father Richards, the senior priest at the Catholic Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity, is not your typical priest. He is an Army officer, of course, and a graduate of West Point. He's also the tallest priest I've ever known, taller than Mulder by at least five inches. It hurts my neck to look up at him.
By the time we leave, we've heard his life story, and it's quite an interesting one. After graduation from West Point he served ten years as an infantry officer, then resigned his commission to go into the seminary. But he missed Army life, and as soon as he was ordained, he joined the Chaplain Corps.
He's curious about two FBI agents seeking a Latin translation, but he doesn't pry and we don't volunteer anything. It takes him only a moment to puzzle out the meaning of my phonetic Latin scribblings on the pizzeria napkin.
"You're right, Agent Scully. It is Latin. It says, 'We like things in the state in which they were. Change nothing.' Does that make sense in context?"
Mulder nods enthusiastically. "Yes, it does! Ghosts generally don't like things to change They want things to be just like they were when they were alive."
Father Richards looks at Mulder, then at me. "Ghosts?"
I'm sure I'm blushing now. Sometimes it is just so difficult to explain what Mulder and I do, and trying to explain it to a minister of my own faith is even more difficult for me. He's likely to think I'm nuttier than a praline.
"A number of cadets have come to see me about things they've seen in the barracks. Ghosts, they claim. Is that what you're investigating?"
"Yes, Father," Mulder says. "That and the death of the cadet who leapt from the roof of Eisenhower Barracks. He claimed to be chased by a demon."
"The poor boy. I know how difficult cadet life can be, but suicide is not the answer. Is there anything else I can do to help you?"
"You don't do exorcisms, do you, Father?" Mulder asks, and it's all I can do not to kick him for asking such a thing.
Father Richards takes it in stride, though, and laughs politely. "No, Agent Mulder. I don't do exorcisms. And I don't know any priests who do."
"Can you hazard a guess as to what the ghosts don't want changed, Father?" I ask.
He thinks for a moment before answering. "There are always renovation projects going on at West Point. Many of our buildings are very old. The Arvin Physical Development Center is undergoing major demolition and re-construction. It's actually a series of older buildings that over the years have been joined and renovated.
"Then there's the Hotel Thayer. It was recently sold to a private company which did a major renovation and is about to begin construction on a new wing. Mahan Hall is undergoing major renovation, but it wasn't even built until 1972. The ghosts the cadets have seen seem to be from a much earlier era."
"Anything else?" Mulder asks.
"Well, there's the West Point Cemetery, and the Old Cadet Chapel."
Mulder perks up at this. Hell, even I perk up at this. Cemeteries and ghosts seem to go hand-in-hand.
"What about them, Father?" I ask, a little impatiently.
"There was some vandalism in the cemetery on Halloween last year," he says. "Some local teenagers spray-painted some obscenities on the tombstones. That was easily cleaned up. But they also broke into the Old Cadet Chapel and did some more serious damage. As long as they had to make repairs, the administration decided to do some renovations that would enhance the chapel's usefulness. Nothing major. Move a few interior walls, upgrade the plumbing. Things like that. The work started last month."
I look at Mulder. He has obviously reached the same conclusion I have: we need to visit the West Point cemetery and the Old Cadet Chapel.
That done, Mulder then asks for a tour and begins peppering Father Richards with questions about weddings. He's disappointed to learn that couples must have some connection with West Point in order to get married in the chapel. I'm actually glad. It would be a long way for my mother to travel, and she would disown me if I married Mulder in a Catholic church and she weren't there to see it.
"You were serious, weren't you, Mulder?" I ask him when we return to the car.
"Of course I was, Scully." He's quiet for a moment and then he follows up, his voice tinged with insecurity. "Were you?"
I reach for his hand, lifting it and pressing my lips against his palm. I always cause him so much pain, even when I don't mean to. I forget how insecure he can be behind his suave, confident exterior.
"Of course I was, Mulder," I say, meeting his eyes. I'm rewarded with a smile this time.
After a moment, he looks at his watch. "We'd best get a move on, Scully," he says, "or we'll be late." I nod, letting go of his hand and fastening my seat belt. We're supposed to meet Colonel Jacobs at 5:00 p.m. in Eisenhower Barracks. She has arranged for us to speak to Cadet Sharon McGovern, Cadet Johansen's partner-in-crime with the ouija board.
I can't begin to describe the thoughts going through my mind during the short drive down to Eisenhower Barracks. One small part of me wants to call my mother and scream, "I'm getting married! I'm getting married!" Another part of me wants to run and hide. I have so many questions. Is it the right thing to do? Can I make him happy? Where will we live? Will it mean the end of our professional partnership?
I'm still pondering the implications of married life with Mulder when we arrive at Eisenhower Barracks, park the car, and go off in search of Colonel Jacobs. We find her in the lobby, talking to a male cadet who, I can tell by the insignia on his collars, is an upperclassman and a cadet-officer.
Jacobs introduces the cadet to us as John Horowitz, Captain of the company Karen McGovern is in. Horowitz had come to Jacobs this afternoon to report some odd behavior by Cadet McGovern. She asked him to meet us here.
We listen to the young man recount Karen McGovern's odd behavior for the last week. It sounds very much like a classic emotional degeneration. Insomnia. Crying fits. Irritability. More seriously, hearing voices and having conversations with no one. Her roommate has requested a transfer to another room. Her professors reported her for cutting classes. She is clearly a young woman in crisis, but we must determine whether that crisis is of a paranormal making.
We thank Horowitz for his help and Jacobs dismisses him. We take the elevator up to the third floor and walk down the hall toward McGovern's room where she is supposed to meet us. The barracks is busier tonight than it was this morning. We pass two young cadets, obviously plebes, 'braced' against the wall, an upperclassman in their faces. As we pass, he orders them to drop to the floor for push-ups.
"We never had anything like that at Oxford," Mulder whispers to me as we near our destination.
"Maybe you should have gone to Annapolis with Bill," I tease. He laughs at the absurdity of my joke.
As we approach the room we can hear the sound of a woman wailing. We rush in and are stunned to see a female cadet huddled in the floor in the corner by her bed.
"Cadet McGovern!" Jacobs says in her command voice.
The cadet looks at us, her eyes red from crying. "Make it stop, please, make it stop," she pleads. I go to her and kneel, trying to calm her.
"What's wrong, Karen," I ask. "I'm an FBI agent. I'm here to help. Tell me what's wrong." I sense Mulder move up behind me.
Karen clamps her hands over her ears. "Make it stop saying those things," she pleads. She wrenches herself from my hands and turns so that she is facing the corner. I turn to Mulder.
"Help me get her up on the bed."
Mulder moves to help me and together we manage to lift her to the bunk. I glance to the other side of the room and see Jacobs on the phone.
"Call the paramedics," I bark. She nods. She's already on it.
Karen starts fighting us, thrashing about on the bed, moaning as though in pain, and continuing to beg us to make it stop. Mulder tries valiantly to hold her down. I consider for a moment sending him to the car to get my doctor's bag so I can give her a sedative, but the paramedics should be here in a few minutes and I need him to help me hold her down. She seems to be getting stronger with each passing minute.
"What do you want us to stop, Karen?" Mulder shouts. "Tell us how to help."
She looks at him, her eyes wild and breathing frantically. "Can't you see it?" She looks in the far corner of the room, only a few feet from Colonel Jacobs. "Can't you hear it?"
We both look, but we see nothing. We hear nothing but the horrific sounds she is making. Without warning she breaks her right arm free and cold-cocks me, right on the jaw. I'm knocked back on the floor, stunned. Jacobs runs over to help Mulder hold her, but she breaks free of them both and pushes across the room to her bureau where she frantically searches through several drawers.
I shake my head, trying to regain my senses. I can see that Mulder and Jacobs are trying to contain her while we wait for help to arrive. Suddenly Karen turns and hurls herself at Mulder, knocking him across the room and onto the other bed. She rears back and I see now what she was looking for in her dresser. A bayonet! She raises her arms, the bayonet gripped tightly in both hands, ready to plunge into Mulder's chest.
I reach behind me and draw my weapon just as she plunges downward. Mulder throws up his arm and blocks her thrust with his right hand, but she is relentless, moving quickly to make another attack. I can see she has cut Mulder's right hand and blood is flowing down his hand and splattering about the room as he tries to fight her off. In a split second I have my weapon drawn and the safety flipped.
"Karen!" I yell. She turns to look at me, her eyes wild with...with I don't know what, just wild. She turns back to Mulder, who has rolled to his side, grimacing in pain and struggling to get his weapon out of his holster with his left hand. She raises her arms again and I fire, striking her once in her shoulder. It doesn't seem to faze her and I fire again, hitting her in the other shoulder. She drops the bayonet and turns to me, her eyes now looking dazed and confused.
Colonel Jacobs kicks the bayonet to the other side of the room and knocks Karen back on her bunk. Three cadets come running into the room in response to the gunfire. Jacobs calls them over to help her hold down Karen.
I stand and rush over to Mulder. His hand and wrist are badly cut. I grab a tee shirt out of Karen's closet and wrap it around Mulder's hand to slow the bleeding. I can hear the siren now. The paramedics will be here in a minute, but they will have their hands more than full with Karen. More cadets arrive, including John Horowitz. I ask him to help me get Mulder to the hospital. I get the keys out of Mulder's pocket and help him to his feet. He's losing blood fast, and he's getting woozy. Horowitz and another cadet form a fireman's ladder and carry him to the elevator and then out to the car. With Horowitz behind the wheel and me cradling Mulder's hand, we rush to the hospital.
By 8:00 p.m., Mulder is out of surgery and in the recovery room. His cut is serious and required nearly fifty stitches to close. We won't know how much nerve damage was done until it's healed. The Army surgeon advised me to have him see a plastic surgeon in a few months to see if anything can be done to reduce what is likely to be an ugly scar running from between his index and middle finger, down his palm and then snaking half-way around his wrist.
Although a local anesthesia was used for Mulder's surgery, the pain medication he was given has knocked him out pretty soundly. I call the guys to tell them what happened and Frohike comes up to keep me company. I end up falling asleep and I wake to find Frohike's arm around me, my head resting against his shoulder.
"Welcome back, sleepy head," Frohike says softly as I pull away from him. I smile sheepishly.
"Sorry about that, Frohike," I say, looking at my watch to see how long I've been out. It's nearly 10:00 p.m. "I'm going to go find some coffee. You want some?"
"I would kill for some coffee, Agent Scully," he says.
I have to smile at his formality. I pat Frohike on the knee and say, "Melvin, we've known each other for seven years. I think we should be on a first-name basis by now, don't you?"
He laughs. "The same could be said about you and Mulder, couldn't it?"
"That's different. Mulder hates his first name." I don't add that sometimes, in bed, in the dark, when we're all alone, I call him 'Fox' and he calls me 'Dana.' Some things are just too intimate to be shared.
"And you think I'm fond of 'Melvin'?"
"Touche, Frohike," I say, laughing. "But it would be okay if you called me 'Dana.'"
I leave him and go off in search of coffee. First I stop in the rest room to wash up. When I look in the mirror I see the large, ugly bruise on my chin. Jesus. Cadet McGovern packs quite a wallop. It's extremely sore to the touch. I should probably be thankful my jaw isn't broken. I'll have to avoid my mother until it fades enough to hide it with makeup.
I find a coffee pot at the nurse's station and they're kind enough to share it with us. Word has already spread through the hospital about the ghost-busting feds and everyone is being especially nice to us. I ask if they have a West Point tour book I could borrow and I carry it and the coffee back to Frohike. Mulder is still asleep.
I sip my coffee and page through the tour book, looking for information about the cemetery and chapel Father Richards told us about. An existing cemetery was designated a military cemetery in 1817.
There are more than 6,000 men and women buried there. The oldest grave dates from 1782. Among the notables buried there are Generals Thayer, Pershing, and Winfield Scott; and Astronaut Ed White, the first man to walk in space, who died on the launch pad in the Apollo 1 fire along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.
The chapel is even more interesting. Consecrated in 1836, the Old Cadet Chapel was originally constructed in the central area of the Military Academy. When Bartlett Hall was scheduled to be built on that site in 1910, the West Point alumni provided funds to preserve their cherished chapel. It was dismantled stone by stone and reconstructed at its present site at the edge of the West Point Cemetery, where a new entrance to the cemetery was added. The reconstruction was completed in 1911.
Mulder is still sleeping peacefully. I scribble a quick note and pin it to his hospital gown where he'll find it if he wakes up.
"Come on, Frohike," I say.
Frohike leaps to his feet and scurries after me. "Where are we going, Dana?"
"To the cemetery!"
The cemetery is just down Washington Road, not far from the hospital. We park at the entrance gate and enter on foot. Frohike stays just behind me. I think he's a little scared. So am I, though I'm not sure why. Instinctively, I reach for my weapon, but then I realize how stupid that is. Not only have these spirits not exhibited any malice, but also, what good would a gun do against something that is already dead?
Just inside the gate is a monument of white Italian marble, dedicated to 'Dade and His Command.' A plaque on a pedestal tells us the monument is 'To commemorate the battle of the 28th of December, 1835, between a detachment of the 108th U.S. troops and the Seminole Indians of Florida, in which all the detachment save three fell without an attempt to retreat.'
I can't help but feel a lump in my throat as I peer around the dark cemetery. All around me, I know, are the graves of brave men and women, many of whom died in the service of our country. For a moment, I can almost hear the sound of the Corps of Cadets marching proudly across The Plain. Cemetaries at night can play such tricks on the mind.
It's Frohike, a look of concern on his face.
"I'm fine," I say. "It's just a little...."
I smile. Sometimes I forget that Frohike, for all his paranoia about government conspiracies, is a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and served two tours in Vietnam.
"Yes, overwhelming." I take his arm and tug him along after me. "Come on, Frohike. The chapel is supposed to be just ahead."
We come to a circle driveway in front of the chapel. There is a small inner circle, planted with bushes and hiding a fire hydrant in the center. We stop on the far side of this inner circle and study the exterior of the chapel. It's much smaller than I expected, but then in 1837 West Point wasn't very large. It is a miniature basilica built of simple grey stone with a portico of classic design. Four large white columns sit on stone pedestals, framing the front door. I can see an eerie glow in the doorway and windows. I can see...oh my God!
"Frohike, look in front of the columns. Tell me what you see."
Frohike focuses for a moment and then says, "Two cadets, standing guard."
"Look closer," I say.
"Oh my God!" he says, and now I know I'm not going nuts. "They're...ghosts!"
"That's certainly what they look like," I say.
Cautiously, we creep closer. The two sentries don't move. They appear young, dressed in the classic West Point dress uniform, but not quite right. They're clearly from a by-gone era. I'm tempted to reach out and see whether I can put my hand right through them.
I can't help but wonder why I'm the one seeing ghosts on this trip. Maybe I wouldn't be seeing them if I hadn't become more open to extreme possibilities in recent months. Mulder would give up his accumulated leave to see this, but he's back in the hospital sleeping off a narcotic cocktail. Thank God Frohike is here and sees what I see, or I would be sure I'm going off my rocker.
I take a few tentative steps up the stairs. The sentries don't seem interested in us. Perhaps they know, somehow, that we're here to help resolve the problem that has brought them back to this mortal coil. I can feel Frohike close behind me.
I open the large bronze door. It makes an eerie creaking noise, echoing through the stark silence of the cemetery. My skin crawls at the sound. We go together through the door and there, before us, are two sections of wooden pews with a carpeted aisle between them. Candles are ablaze. A beautiful mural representing War and Peace is over the chancel. There are many flags, and a few cannon decorating the walls. Along one wall are black tablets, which, I remember from the tour book, are in memory of General George Washington and his officers, including one from which the traitor Benedict Arnold's name has been erased.
As my eyes adjust to the flow of the candle light, I begin to see a haze hovering in the room. I watch with amazement as it slowly settles into the pews and individual spirits become discernible. It is as though the spirits are present without form, but take form for us poor mortals who need to make sense of them. There are hundreds here, filling the pews, wearing uniforms of all different eras.
"Holy Mother of God," Frohike says beneath his breath.
Funny. I never thought of Frohike as a religious man. I'll have to ask him about it later. Right now, though, I'm spellbound at the sight of all these souls attending a ghostly service.
There are a few 'empty' seats in a pew about half way down the aisle. I grab Frohike and pull him after me and into the pew. I'm not sure what I'm doing, but I think I was drawn here tonight for a reason. I think there is something I need to do. In a pocket in the back of the pew ahead of me is a small booklet. I open it to the front page and now I think I know what I need to do. I kick down the kneeler in front of me and lower myself to my knees. Frohike quickly mimics me. I open the booklet and begin to read the Cadet's Prayer aloud:
"O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural. Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretence ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vise and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy. Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all. - Amen"
By the time I finish I can hear the collective voices of the spirits around me, raised in prayer to God. They are voices from beyond the grave, and somehow they are both comforting and frightening at the same time. Oh my God, how far I've come. I always rolled my eyes at Mulder if he even mentioned ghosts. Tonight I'm leading a few hundred of them in prayer.
Suddenly the chamber is deathly silent, no pun intended. I feel a chill as the temperature drops quickly until I can see my breath in small puffs. I hear the sound of strong footsteps coming toward me. I look up and I'm surprised to see that the hundreds of spirits have disappeared. All but one. Standing just a few feet from me is the spirit of General Patton. His form is wavy this time, as though he is leaving me. As he fades from my vision, I hear him repeat what he said to me earlier: "Res amamus statu quo erant. Mutate nihil." And then he is gone.
At the same instant, all the candles go out, plunging us into total darkness. I pull out my flashlight and direct the beam around the chapel. It's empty except for Frohike and me.
"What did he say?" Frohike asks.
I look at him for a moment, surprised but pleased that he saw and heard General Patton too.
"Something I think they've been trying to tell everyone for awhile, but no one was listening." I finger the gold cross hanging around my neck. Maybe I was sent here because no one else would listen.
When we get back to the hospital, it is after 10:00 p.m. and Mulder is gone. He has left word for us with the MPs guarding Cadet McGovern that he is in the hospital cafeteria.
We spot him quickly in the nearly-deserted cafeteria. He's struggling to eat a jumbo hoagy with his uninjured hand. When he sees us he drops the sandwich and levels a look at me that I know can mean only one thing.
"You ditched me," he says as soon as I take the seat next to him. Yep, he's angry.
"You needed to sleep, Mulder."
"You might have needed me."
He can be so exasperating sometimes. "You wouldn't have been much help to me in a drug-induced coma, Mulder."
"You should have waited."
"Oh can it, Mulder," Frohike pipes in. "I went to the cemetery with your little chickadee. She was never in any danger."
Did I just hear what I think I heard? I must have. Mulder is grimacing and I'm pretty sure it's not because of his hand. I turn and look at Frohike in disbelief.
He squirms in his seat and looks away.
"Yeah, well, um,..." he stammers.
"I'm no one's 'chickadee,' Frohike. Not even Mulder's. You got that?"
"Yeah," he says, lowering his eyes and suddenly finding a spot on the table very interesting.
Mulder doesn't seem interested in arguing anymore after Frohike's faux pas. I'm sure he's still peeved, but he'll get over it. It's not like he hasn't ditched me plenty of times in the past. An uneasy silence falls over us as Mulder tries again to maneuver his hoagy to take a bite.
Frohike breaks the silence. "I don't know what the hell I saw out there, Mulder, but I guarantee when you hear about it, you're gonna wish you'd been there." He tells Mulder what we witnessed at the Old Cadet Chapel. Mulder is so spellbound that he completely stops trying to eat. When Frohike gets to the part about the prayer, Mulder gapes at me in disbelief.
"How is your hand, Mulder?" I ask casually, ignoring his stunned look and picking up his bandaged hand to examine it. He winces when I turn it over and I can tell the pain medication is wearing off.
"Hurts like a son-of-a-bitch," he hisses. "Did you really lead a church full of ghosts in prayer, Scully?"
"Something like that. Mulder, they don't want the renovations made to the chapel. I think it's as simple as that."
Mulder is still looking at me with awe. He's speechless. This is one for the record books. Finally he recovers and gingerly retrieves his hand from my grasp. I reach for his knife and cut his sandwich into manageable portions for him.
"Have you checked on Cadet McGovern?" I ask him, swiping a piece of his sandwich and cutting it in half to share with Frohike as a silent peace offering.
"Yes! Colonel Jacobs was here. We talked to her together."
"And, it's pretty much what I thought. She and Johansen used the ouija board in Room 4714. They made contact with a demon."
Mulder launches into lecture mode. "The real danger of ouija boards isn't asking spirits questions, but asking for physical proof of their existence. Once invited to crossover, demons can enter our world and cause mayhem to their hosts. That's what Johansen and McGovern did. They opened a doorway and invited a demon to enter into the physical world. You saw 'The Exorcist,' didn't you? Same thing."
I have to stop for a moment and ask myself whether I believe this. Twenty-four hours ago, I would have said no. Unbelievable. Unprovable. Unverifiable. But now? I hear the crash of another belief system. Damn. Before long I'll even be trying alternative medicine.
"Is this...um...demon gone now?" I ask.
"Quite to the contrary. Cadet McGovern said it was in the room laughing at her while we were talking. She pleaded with us to make it go away."
"Jesus, Mulder. How can we help her?"
"We can't. She needs an exorcist. At least, that's what I told Colonel Jacobs."
I close my eyes and try to imagine how Skinner's going to react to the news that a Special Agent of the FBI told an Army Colonel that one of her cadets needs an exorcist.
"I wish you'd talked to me first, before you told her that."
Mulder's a little offended by this. "How often am I wrong, Scully?"
"That's not the point, Mulder. Jacobs already thinks you're a little spooky. You didn't need to reinforce that view."
Mulder looks amused and I realize that, without meaning to, I had used his bureau nickname, 'Spooky.' I can feel myself blushing, and all three of us break out laughing at the same time.
"Okay, okay," I say as soon as I can stop laughing. "You win. Did Jacobs buy it?"
Mulder nods. "I believe so. I gave her the names and numbers of a few people she could call for help. That makes two down and one to go."
"One to go? The ghost of the 47th Division was never part of the problem. They have her under control. Why don't we just leave her alone?"
"No fair, Scully!" Mulder says. "You've had all the fun since we've been here. Now it's MY turn. I want to see some ghosts!"
I have to laugh. He's pouting. He KNOWS what his pouty face does to me. I can't refuse him anything when he does that. Okay, in for a penny, in for a pound. My ghost-busting days aren't over yet.
I didn't eat three-quarters of a pizza at lunch time today like Mulder and Frohike each did and my stomach growls as a reminder. I get some soup and a sandwich and Frohike opts for a burger and fries, standard technogeek fare. By 11:00 p.m. we've all finished eating and are ready to go to Scott Barracks.
First, though, I stop at a nurse's station and ask for additional pain medication and a sling for Mulder's arm. He protests, but I know Mulder. If that hand isn't locked down, he'll be throwing it all over the place and damage it further. I don't think he fully realizes the possible consequences of nerve damage to his right hand. I resolve to make sure he understands.
Frohike drives back to Scott Barracks in the Gunmen van and I take the wheel of the rental car. Before I turn the ignition I turn to Mulder, my face surely giving away the serious nature of what I am about to say.
"What?" Mulder says.
"I think you should go back to the hotel and rest," I tell him. "Let us handle this."
"Listen to me, Mulder. The injury to your hand is serious. If there's nerve damage, or if you damage it further, you might not be able to use your weapon properly. That means your career as a field agent is over."
He says nothing and I think I have his attention at last.
"And the pain medication is wearing off," I continue. "You're going to need to take more. You won't be thinking as clearly as you should be. Please, Mulder. For once just listen to me. Let the Gunmen and me handle this."
He doesn't answer me for a moment, which I take to be a good sign. He looks at his bandaged hand, held tightly against his chest by the sling I insisted he wear. The silence between us is palpable as he waits for me to back down and I wait for him to agree.
"I want to be there, Scully. You're in charge. But I want to be there."
This is what it's going to be like from now on, isn't it? As his 'girlfriend' I don't want him to take unnecessary risks. As his partner, I know it's his decision to make, not mine. It makes me wonder whether we can continue to work together. I fear I will have to give up one world with Mulder, either the personal or the professional. I'm beginning to think I can't have both.
I lock eyes with him, trying to get my point across without words. It's clear he sees my dilemma, but he doesn't back down. I feel myself getting angry at his foolishness. I turn and start the car without further comment, shutting him out, doing exactly what I promised him earlier that I wouldn't do anymore.
To say the ride to Scott Barracks is frosty would be an understatement.
At midnight I'm sitting next to Frohike on a rickety folding chair, staring at the monitor on one of the Gunmen's notebook computers. I've been staring at this monitor for nearly an hour. Mulder is sitting in the back corner of the small room sound asleep, his head resting against the wall. As I predicted, another dose of pain medication has knocked him out cold. The Gunmen recognized the tension between us as soon as we arrived and have been walking on egg shells.
I'm half listening to Langly and Frohike arguing over some arcane 'Dungeons and Dragons' rule when there's a knock at the door. Byers opens it and I'm surprised to see a very dour-looking General Dalton. Colonel Jacobs is with him. She gives me an apologetic look.
They shut the door behind them, no doubt to keep our conversation confidential from any cadets who might be lurking about. With the door closed the little supply room is quite crowded.
"What's this I hear about an exorcist?" Dalton asks, sparing no words.
I glance back at Mulder who is still sound asleep. Great. Once again I have to smooth over a problem his lack of tact has created.
I look at Dalton, who seems genuinely puzzled rather than angry. He nods to Mulder.
"Shouldn't he be in bed?"
I nod. "Yes, Sir. He should. But Agent Mulder did not want to miss this."
"Tell me what 'this' is, Agent Scully."
How do I explain this without coming off sounding like 'Spooky' Mulder? My partner never seems to care whether people think he's crazy. If anything, he cultivates the image. I, on the other hand, do not yet have the confidence in 'extreme possibilities' he has. I take a moment to formulate my response. Fortunately, Dalton has the learned patience of a man in command.
Frohike's outburst surprises us all. He's staring at one of the notebook monitors. Byers, Langly, and I huddle close to see what set him off.
"Look at that," says Byers, pointing at a bright spot on the screen. It's a large, white, glowing area on the wall, next to the window. It's rectangular in shape and pulsating softly. "What the hell is it?" Frohike asks.
"A doorway," I whisper. "A doorway to 'the other side.'"
Frohike, Langly, and Byers all turn and look at me in disbelief. Frankly, I don't believe I said it myself. But I remember seeing the same thing on Colonel Bondurant's video tapes, and that's what he called it. We are getting a much better look at it here, no doubt due to the higher quality camera and monitor.
Without my noticing, Mulder has joined us at the monitor. He looks tired, as though he's struggling to wake up. He looks at me, then at Dalton and Jacobs.
"This is where your ghosts are coming from," he says to Dalton and Jacobs. "Not that they couldn't come through some other portal if they wanted to, but this room has had a portal to the afterlife for so long that it's probably become permanent, providing easy passage through the astral planes."
Where does he get this stuff? I turn to look at General Dalton and I'm surprised to find that he seems to be taking Mulder seriously. I suppose Skinner has prepared him for the kind of things he might hear from Mulder.
"It's very similar to what we saw on the video tapes of the 1987 incident, General," I add, hoping to shore up our credibility. "The ones Colonel Bondurant showed us."
Mulder is rubbing his eyes and I know it must be a struggle for him to concentrate. I'm having enough trouble myself, given the late hour.
"Whoa!" It's Frohike again. "Look at that!"
He's pointing at the needle on one of the instruments. It's jumping wildly.
"The gaussmeter is going crazy," Langly says. Okay, it's a gaussmeter. I know what that is. It measures electromagnetic fields, or EMFs.
"What's the significance of EMFs here?" I ask.
Mulder looks at me, a wry smile on his face. "It means there's a whole lotta shakin' going on across the hall."
The monitors of the notebooks light up suddenly. Something bright and pulsating has come through the 'door' in Room 4714. We watch speechlessly as it moves slowly to one corner of the room. It floats slowly to the floor before beginning to rotate through the spectrum of colors.
"Look!" Frohike points to the 'door' on the screen. There are vaguely human-looking forms moving through the room and then disappearing into the 'door.' They appear to be composed of the same sort of mist Frohike and I saw in the Old Cadet Chapel. Oh my God. These are some of the souls I saw earlier tonight, I'm sure of it. They're traveling back to the other side.
I'm aware suddenly that Mulder has pushed past me, General Dalton, and Colonel Jacobs and has left the room. He has left the door open and I can see him unlocking Room 4714. "Mulder!" I yell, and turn to take off after him. Frohike grabs my arm and stops me, pulling me back into my seat.
"Look, Dana" he says softly, pointing to the monitor. "He's okay."
I stare at the monitor. Mulder has entered Room 4714 and moved to the center of the room. He is facing the corner where the orb is floating inches from the floor, pulsating and changing colors.
Damn him. He promised me. He promised me I was in charge and now look at him, throwing himself into harm's way. Again.
I hear his voice through the computer's speakers.
"Eliza," he says firmly. "Eliza Proctor. I know it's you."
The orb turns bright red and stops pulsating. Slowly it begins rising off the floor until it's about waist-high. All around Mulder I can see the ghostly forms continuing to file through the 'door,' apparently oblivious to Mulder and the orb.
Frohike points to another gadget. "Voice stress analyzer," he says. "He's fine. Relax."
I huff at this, my eyes riveted to the notebook monitor. Of course he's fine. Now. But this has disaster-in-the-making written all over it. Eliza Proctor hates men. She's filled with rage over the cards she was dealt in life. And though I'm not as well-versed in the paranormal as Mulder, I am familiar enough with the Psychokinetic Energy Classification System to know that this entity is a moderate to major threat.
Mulder is talking firmly to Eliza about her death and how it's time for her to move on. Dalton and Jacobs are standing over us, watching the screen wide-eyed. I know exactly how they feel.
The orb has started pulsating wildly and now is slowly moving upward until it is at Mulder's shoulder-level. It begins spinning now and red sparks begin to fly off of it. Mulder raises his good hand to shield his eyes and when some of the sparks hit his hand he yelps, steps backwards, and looks at his hand. Maybe this is how Cadet Johansen's hands got burned. It's only Frohike's firm grip on my wrist that's keeping me from running in there after Mulder.
I can hear Mulder coaxing 'Eliza' to go through the 'door' and to the light. He's telling her how she can rest at last, and be with her loved ones, though from what the Bondurants told us, I'm not sure she has any loved ones.
Suddenly there is a high pitched little voice coming over the speakers.
"Mommie," it says. "Mommie!" It is the tiny voice of a child.
The orb begins spinning faster.
"Annabelle?" Mulder calls out. He moves closer to the 'door' calling again, "Annabelle, Annabelle."
"Mommie!" the voice calls.
"Go on," Mulder says to the orb. "Go to your daughter. She misses you. Go make peace with her."
The orb turns a soft pink now and its pulsing has softened as well. Its spinning slows until it stops completely. Slowly, it begins to creep toward 'the door' until it is right next to Mulder. I realize that I'm holding my breath.
"Go on," he says, but the orb doesn't move. Everyone is deadly silent, waiting. Finally, Mulder breaks the silence. "I'll show you the way."
Oh, Jesus! I tear Frohike's hand off my wrist and jump to my feet. I'm across the hall and reach the door to Room 4714 just in time to see Mulder and the orb disappear through the spectral door.
There's pandemonium across the hall. I can hear chairs scraping across the floor and numerous cuss words emanating from the mouths of the Gunmen. I'm too stunned at the moment to care what they're doing.
"Mulder!" I yell, still standing in the doorway to Room 4714. I'm almost too terrified to enter the room. What madness overcomes people in this cursed room? "Mulder!"
There's no sound from beyond the spectral door, but it's still visible. I thank God for that. I remember an old 'Twilight Zone' episode that terrified me as a young girl. In that episode a little girl had fallen through such an opening in her bedroom wall into another dimension. It almost closed before her parents were able to pull her out. It gave me nightmares for weeks and I had to sleep with a box between me and the wall for months. What will happen to Mulder if we don't get him out of there before the door disappears?
Think, Dana. How long did the Bondurant report say Liam FitzDonnell was gone after he went through the door before he reappeared in another room? How long is too long to do nothing?
I'm getting frantic now. There's no sound and Frohike says he's not picking up anything on any of his fancy ghostbusting equipment.
Colonel Jacobs is standing in the hallway just behind me, a look of absolute horror on her face.
"I need a rope," I say to her. "Can you get me one, fast?"
She nods and runs off down the hall and pounds on a cadet's door. In less than a minute she is back with a rappelling rope. I take one end of it and tie it tightly around my waist and ask her to tie the other end to the metal railing at the head of the stairs. I just don't have the faith Mulder has to leap into another dimension without a lifeline, no matter how tenuous it might be.
What seems like hours tick by but according to my watch it's been less than four minutes since Mulder disappeared through the spectral door. How long should I wait? What's protocol in a situation like this? What the hell am I doing agreeing to marry this crazy man?
Suddenly we hear the piercing scream of a man in pain. Jesus. It's Mulder. I can't begin to describe what it sounds like. It's a scream of agony and terror, and it has an other-worldly sound.
I run to the spectral door.
I take a deep breath and step through the "door."
I feel like I'm in a free-fall. Jesus, am I following Eliza on her descent to hell? A small voice in the back of my mind starts saying Hail Marys. I don't know whether something is stopping me from opening my eyes or I'm simply too terrified to do it. An eternity passes and all I can hear is Mulder calling my name, his voice getting fainter and weaker with each cry.
"I'm coming, Mulder," I yell, surprised that I am able to make my mouth move. "Hold on!"
Suddenly the sensation of falling stops. I open my eyes at last and look down but I don't see a floor beneath my feet. Around me is a frightening kaleidoscope of colorful mists. It makes me think of the old Beatles song, 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.' Incredibly, I can taste these colors--blue and green and yellow and pink--and the scientist in me recoils from the incongruity. I hear nothing except the drone of white noise like the sound a television makes on a non-channel. The hairs on my arm are standing and I feel a slight electromagnetic field bristling around me.
"Mulder!" My own voice sounds alien to me, as though filtered through one of Frohike's machines.
I hear Mulder whimper my name. It sounds like it's coming from my left. I turn, but I can't see anything. I'm afraid to take a step. There's nothing beneath me. How can I walk on thin air? How can I move?
Suddenly a hand forms out of the mist in front of me. It reaches toward me, its palm open and unthreatening. Slowly an arm follows, then a body. I struggle not to hyperventilate. Tentatively, I look up into the entity's face.
It's General Patton.
"Have faith, little one," he says to me in a deep voice that reminds me of my Dad's.
I open my mouth to speak, but no appropriate words can form. I hear Mulder moan in the distance and that seals it. I place my hand in Patton's, take a leap of faith, and step off into the void.
It takes forever, it seems, but eventually Patton leads me to Mulder. He's crumpled on the nonexistent floor, the sling ripped from his arm, his hand in a puddle of blood. He has a ghostly pallor and is covered with a sheen of perspiration. I kneel beside him and feel for his pulse.
I pull off my jacket and wrap his bleeding hand. I sit and pull him into my lap, untying the rope from my waist and pulling through enough to re-tie it around both of us. All my movements seem impossibly slow, as though I'm moving through quicksand. General Patton floats silently beside me, watching without expression. I look at him one last time and say, "Thank you." Without further words, he fades from view.
I struggle to pull Mulder close, wrapping my arms and legs around him tightly. I say a quick prayer.
"Frohike!" I yell as loud as I can. "Frohike, pull us out!"
I hear nothing but the sound of static. I see vaguely human forms circling about us, forming out of the mists. I'm afraid of what these people might be. Who are the residents of this realm? Are they friend or foe? I don't want to wait around to find out.
"Frohike! Byers! Langly! I found Mulder. Pull us out!"
Another eternity passes before I feel it. First it's tiny, tentative pulls on the rope. Eventually I have the sensation that we're moving through the mists, but there is no stress on the rope that is tied around our waists. Then I hear Frohike.
"Dana! Can you hear me!"
"Keep pulling Frohike. Get us out of here!"
The words are barely out of my mouth before we crash through the spectral door and land with a thud on the floor of Room 4714. I quickly collect my wits and try to turn Mulder so that I can untie the rope around our waists and tend to his injuries. It takes a moment for the images to register in my mind, but finally I realize that Mulder isn't hurt. In fact, there's not a speck of blood on either of us. Even his right hand, the one Cadet McGovern sliced with her bayonet, is fine, the skin smooth and undamaged where earlier there was an ugly, jagged line of stitches. I touch my jaw. It doesn't hurt. I wonder whether the bruise is gone too.
"How--?" I can tell he's as puzzled as I am. He pats himself down with his hands. When he realizes his right hand isn't cut he stares at it in amazement.
"I thought I was a gonner, Scully," he says softly, then looks at me with despair in his eyes. "I tried to lead her to the light," he says. "But--"
"But she wasn't welcome there," I finish for him, taking his hands in mine.
"No, she wasn't. She turned on me then, when she realized again that they wouldn't let her in. I was sure she would kill me."
"What stopped her?"
"The soldiers came and got her. It wasn't pretty. They dragged that poor soul to hell, Scully. They came and got her...to protect me."
I see the tears in his eyes. He feels responsible for Eliza Proctor's soul burning in hell. He doesn't need anymore guilt to carry, and I won't let him add this to his burden.
"She reaped what she sowed, Mulder. I can't pretend to understand what happened to you, or me, or her in there, but it seems right--it seems...justice was done."
It occurs to me at last that we have an audience, the Gunmen and a pair of stunned army officers. I pull my eyes away from Mulder's and look at Frohike standing beside us, a concerned look on his weary face.
"How long?" I ask.
"How long were you in there?" he asks and I nod. "Maybe ten seconds. You had just barely gone in when you started yelling at us to pull you out."
Ten seconds? But it seemed like hours. I look at my watch and see that he's right.
Now I am surely the one who looks stunned.
It's nearly two a.m. by the time the commotion dies down. General Dalton wants a briefing on the spot. After witnessing what happened to Mulder and me in Room 4714, he isn't fazed when I tell him about General Patton and the Old Cadet Chapel. By the time he leaves us, he has committed to canceling the chapel modifications and to getting an exorcist for Cadet McGovern.
Mulder and the Gunmen are keyed up and acting like little boys. When Langly suggests finding an open bar somewhere, I tell him they can count us out. They leave ahead of us, Frohike and Annie Jacobs hand-in-hand. I herd Mulder out of the building and into our car and drive slowly toward the hotel.
I'm driving slowly because I'm trying to delay the talk I know we have to have when we get to our room. He'll probably want to go to sleep, but I fear that I'll lose my nerve if we don't talk about this tonight. I've got to tell him what's on my mind. I'm beginning to have doubts about us, doubts about our relationship. I don't know that can I split my life into personal and professional and have him figure so prominently in both parts. It's the cop's wife's worst nightmare, intensified because I'm his professional partner too.
He knows something is on my mind. He keeps stealing glances at me and I can't help but wonder whether he's regained some of his mind-reading ability. As we're approaching the library he finally breaks the silence.
"Pull over, Scully. Over there." He points at a monument across the street from the library. I pull the car over and he jumps out his side. He's at my door even before I have it all the way open, taking my hand and leading me firmly toward the monument. It's not until we get close that I realize what it is. It's the Patton Monument. He probably saw it here yesterday when he did his research in the library.
I look up at the imposing figure of Patton and wonder what he would think of West Point today with its coeducational Corps of Cadets. Mulder stands close behind and puts his arms around me to pull me back against him.
"Why do you suppose he picked you, Scully?"
I know what he means. I've been wondering it myself. Why did the ghosts of West Point choose me to speak for them?
"I don't know, Mulder. Maybe it's because they were afraid you wouldn't be open to 'extreme possibilities.'"
He laughs at that and kisses the top of my head.
"Maybe they picked you because you're from a military family, Scully. Maybe they thought you were more likely to understand."
"But why Patton?" he asks. "What's your family's connection to General Patton?"
"None really, that I know of. I know my father greatly admired him."
"What was it about him that your father admired most?"
I have to smile, remembering my father's favorite Patton quote. "I think it's because Patton once said, 'An army without profanity couldn't fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.'"
That makes Mulder laugh and I turn and push myself back from him a bit. Looking up at him, I wonder how I can ever find the courage to tell him what I have to tell him.
"You're kidding, right?" he asks finally.
"No, not really. My dad loved that quote. But mostly I think he admired Patton for his courage and determination, and for his brilliance as a tactician."
"I think maybe that's why Patton was sent to talk to you, Scully. I think they recognized those traits in you."
"Scully, I can't change who I am, not even for you. If you love me, you have to accept me the way I am. I'll try to do better,--"
"Dammit, Mulder. Don't keep making promises to me that you aren't willing to keep."
"I deserve that. I'm sorry. I don't want to lose you, Scully. But you can't expect me to be less passionate about my work, anymore than I could expect you to be less scientific about yours."
I'm beginning to understand the psyche of women who won't leave the men who abuse them. Love makes us do strange things, things not in our best interests, self-destructive, mind-numbing things. For the first time, my love for Mulder is making me feel trapped in a situation over which I have no control.
"I'll tell you something else General Patton once said, Scully."
I raise an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were a Patton scholar, Mulder."
"I'm not," he says, "but I do have this photographic memory, you know."
I keep forgetting about that. Once he's read something it's analyzed, categorized, and stored perpetually in his memory cells.
"What else did Patton say, Mulder?"
"He said, 'I wonder if ever before in the history of war, a winning general has had to plead to be allowed to keep winning.' Sometimes I feel like that. We've had to fight within the FBI for seven years just to keep the X-Files open and in our control. Half the time I have to fight with you just to pursue a case or a particular theory."
I know where he's going with this. And he's right, really.
"And STILL we have the highest success rate of any two agents in the Bureau. My methods may be unorthodox, and maybe I put myself in danger too much, but--"
"But it's tough to argue with success."
I also know I can't ask him to fight against his own nature. To deny his instincts would prevent him from winning--and possibly surviving--future battles. Not for the first time, I don't know what to do.
"Have faith, little one."
I lift my head. Mulder's eyes are closed. It wasn't even his voice. Nor does he appear to have heard it. I turn to look at the statue of Patton that towers over us. It can't be. I must be hallucinating.
"Mutate nihil." Change nothing.
Again Mulder doesn't seem to have heard anything. I look around and see no unearthly forms. Is it really General Patton speaking to me from beyond the grave? Or is it my own conscience, an inner voice encouraging me to stay the course? I think maybe it's advice I should heed. It has taken us too long to get here for me to throw it away in one night.
"Come on, Mulder," I say, tugging on his sleeve and pulling him into my arms. "Once more into the breach, dear friend."
If you found this in the least bit interesting, you must read "Shades of Gray," the novel mentioned in the opening notes. It's far better written and far scarier than this story. Supposedly it was inspired by ghostly activities in Scott Barrack. You can real a brief description of its inspiration at http://www.west-point.org/family/bicent/ghosts.html
The 'Twilight Zone' episode really exists too. Some of you may remember it. I know I do. I had to sleep with a box between me and the wall for months. Nearly drove my parents crazy.
If you would like to see some of the locations mentioned in "Grey Ghosts," I have put a page on my website with some pictures from West Point. You'll find it at http://www.geocities.com/keleka3/westpoint/ It also has the recipe for chocolate peanut-butter-cup cheese cake. :-)