Title: Greetings From Maine
Summary: Why is Mulder up to his elbows in author Stephen King's underwear? Why is Scully trying to get to Daytona Beach? Our favorite agents travel to Maine in pursuit of a mythical Banshee only to find their biggest problem may be of their own making.
Disclaimer: The characters Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, AD Kersh, the Lone Gunmen and Margaret Scully are the property of Chris Carter, FOX and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement intended. This is for fun, not profit.
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: email@example.com> <Cc:> <Subject: Greetings from Maine> <Hi Mom. I never made it to Florida's sunny shores. Instead, Mulder and I are chasing...well, I'm not sure what we're chasing...someone or something in northern Maine. Weather's pretty good; wish you were here; yada, yada. Is there anything I can pick up for you while I'm in Maine? Love, Dana> ______________________
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: Greetings from Maine> <Hey, Boys. Told you I could talk Scully into a trip to Maine. I'm thinking she never really wanted to spend a week on a sizzling beach in Florida - the woman burns under a 25-watt light bulb. Is there anything you guys want me to pick up for you while I'm in Maine? - Mulder> ______________________
Allagash Lake, Maine 7:32 PM
Mulder moved twin laptop computers out of his way, and then tugged two sleeping bags from the car's cram-packed trunk. He tossed the bags to Scully, one at a time. She deftly caught them and stacked them at her feet. Hands on her hips, she watched him struggle to dislodge the tent next. A pile of high-tech tracking equipment trapped the tent at the bottom of the car's trunk.
"Mulder, I hate camping," Scully said. She slapped at a mosquito on her neck.
"Why's that?" he asked. He nearly lost his balance when the tent suddenly popped free.
Squinting with disapproval at their surroundings, she scanned the evergreen forest. Their rustic campsite consisted of no more than a fire pit situated near the shores of Allagash Lake. The lake was located a hundred and twenty miles north of Bangor International Airport, where the agents had landed earlier in the day. Their rental car now sat encased in road dust under the towering cedars. They had driven four hours, the last on a rugged logging road, to reach this remote woodland wilderness, a Mecca to back-to-nature enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, canoeing and camping in the unspoiled Maine public reserve.
"Oh, I don't know. It could be the cold, lumpy ground we're going to be sleeping on tonight. Or the lack of indoor plumbing and other modern conveniences. Or maybe it's the damn bugs." She slapped another mosquito.
"Weenie ass," he teased. He surveyed the nearby terrain for a flat area on which to set up camp. Selecting a moderately level spot, he squatted to unfold their tent.
"Weenie ass? Mulder, I hardly ever complain."
He glanced at her, but said nothing.
She scratched at an insect bite. "Okay, maybe once or twice."
He grunted and unfurled their tent with a snap.
"Mulder, why are we here?" She paced.
He slid a flexible support rod through one of the tent's seams. "You know why we're here."
"No, I don't. I know what you told me back in Washington." She approached him and bent to whisper directly into his ear. "What's the real story?"
"Are you implying I lied, Scully? Have I ever lied to you?" He mugged an expression of hurt while she arched an eyebrow. "Didn't you want to come to Maine?"
"No. I'm supposed to be on vacation."
"This'll be just like a vacation." He waggled his eyebrows. "A little 'Mulder-love' in the north woods."
"Oh, brother." She resumed her pacing. "Have you noticed, Mulder, that in all the years we've been partners, I've never actually taken an annual leave? Do you know why they call it 'annual'?" She didn't wait for his answer. "Because I'm supposed to get one every year. That would be seven I've missed because, at the last minute, just as I'm about to pack my bag, rent a car or board a plane, you've phoned me and begged for-"
"I don't beg, Scully."
"...my help, until I'm overwhelmed by your pleas-"
"I don't plead either."
"...and I-I give up on my idea of hard-earned rest to accompany you to some wretched, God-forsaken corner of the world where I'm-I'm forced to spend several days and nights in the cold and wet and damp and cold-"
"You're repeating yourself, Scully."
"Tell me, Mulder, what is it we're chasing this time? Mutants, witches, phantoms, aliens from other planets?"
Mulder's eyes lit with excitement. "Oh, no, no, no. Something much better than that. We're after a creature previously thought to exist only in myth and fable. It's been seen, Scully, here in these woods. It's been photographed. Look, I have a picture!"
He abandoned the tent to rummage through his duffel bag. Retrieving a thick manila folder, its tab marked with an X, he thumbed through it and withdrew a blurry Polaroid photograph. He passed the picture to Scully.
"Can't you see it?"
"See what? What am I looking at?"
"A 'Banshee,' Scully. Right there. On the left edge of the picture."
"Right there." Mulder tapped the photo with his index finger.
"I don't see anything. It's just a white blur. What did you say it was?"
"That's not another name for Bigfoot, is it?" she asked, eyeing him with suspicion.
"Not at all. A Banshee is described in Gaelic myth as a tiny woman with long white, blonde or even auburn hair," - he playfully tugged at a strand of her hair - "who is heard wailing in the night, hours, sometimes days, before a death. She usually wears white, although not always. And in some accounts she's been seen combing her hair as she laments. Witnesses often describe hearing a fluttering sound when she vanishes, like birds flying away."
"Birds flying," Scully repeated.
"Yeah." He flapped his hands and made a "whooshing" noise. "The Banshee has Irish origins and its name comes from 'bean', meaning woman, and 'sidhe', meaning fairy. She's a solitary creature without male counterpart who rarely, if ever, joins in human, or fairy, social relationships. That's unusual because most Gaelic mythical beings are quite social. The Banshee is the spirit of doom; her wailing foretells a death."
"Has anyone died?"
"Well. No. Not yet. But my source has seen it, Scully. The proof is right there." He tapped the photo again.
"Mulder, this is nothing but a picture of a white blur."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: firstname.lastname@example.org> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Sorry, Mom, I won't be able to send you any fresh Maine lobster - we're hundreds of miles from the sea coast. Mulder tells me we're chasing something called a Banshee. He describes this mythical being as a small woman with auburn hair and no social life, who is often found wailing in the woods. Hmm. Something vaguely familiar about that. He claims the Banshee's lament foretells someone's death. He could be right. Gotta go clean my gun. Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Oh right, like Stephen King would agree to an interview with the Lone Gunmen. That'll be the first thing I ask when I see him. Boys, keep this hush-hush, but I'm thinking this trip is going be the one. You know, the one where Scully and I connect on a whole new level. I know, I know - we've been on the same wavelength practically forever, but I think she's going see me...see*us*...in an entirely new light. She's loving it here. - Mulder>
Allagash Lake, Maine 8:32 PM
"So, Scully, what did you pack for food?" Mulder slid the cooler from the rear seat of the car. The ice rattled loudly inside the container. "Feels kinda light," he mumbled as he gave the cooler a shake. "Must be diet stuff."
"Mulder, you were supposed to bring the food this time." Scully sat close to the campfire, oiling and buffing her SIG Sauer. She held it up to the firelight to get a better look. Satisfied, she shoved the clip back into the gun.
"I don't think so, Scully. If you'll recall, I brought the food last time."
She blew an invisible speck of dust from her gun. "No, you didn't."
"Sure I did. The case in New Mexico?" he reminded her. "Jalapeno and cheese sandwiches."
She grimaced at the memory. "And no soft drinks. Yeah, I remember. But Mulder, New Mexico wasn't the last time we brought food on a case. Does Virginia ring a bell? Blue Ridge Mountains? Ham salad, veggies, fresh rolls? Lots of iced tea?"
"Oh." He set the cooler down at his feet. "Oops."
"Oops?" She looked up at him. "What does that mean?"
"I was thinking, Scully, you're probably not very hungry. I know I'm not. We had a big lunch on the plane."
"Mulder, we had pretzels on the plane. Pretzels and coffee. Eight hours ago."
He nodded. "That long?"
A high-pitched moan keened from the direction of the campfire, raising the hairs on Mulder's neck. For a brief moment, he thought the sound might be coming from Scully, however, she sat wide-eyed and silent. The wailing continued and Mulder realized it came from the woods behind her. Abandoning the cooler, he fumbled through the trunk of the car. He grabbed the video camera from the pile of surveillance gear.
Scully was now on her feet, her gun and flashlight in hand, aimed in the direction of the cry. She advanced through the trees toward the noise. Mulder slung the camera over his shoulder and drew his weapon, too. He followed Scully into the forest.
Fifty yards later, the howl became so loud Scully knew they must be almost on top of it. Something white moved behind a tree. She targeted it with her flashlight.
The wailing stopped.
"Federal agents!" Scully shouted. "We're armed!"
"Shit." The curse came from behind a thick trunk. A frenzy of whispers followed.
"Come out where we can see you! Hands in the air!" Scully ordered.
Mulder positioned himself off to her side, giving him a clear shot with either his gun or his camera. He raised the camera head-high and pushed the "on" button. The lens focused automatically.
"Okay. Okay. Don't shoot," a young man shouted. He stepped into the open, hands held high above his head. Scully's flashlight glared off his naked skin. He was totally nude and his recent arousal quickly diminished under the scrutiny of the unexpected arrivals.
"You getting this, Mulder?" Scully asked before raising her flashlight to illuminate only the young man's face.
Mulder switched off his camera.
Scully caught a glimpse of a second person in the trees. "You, too. Come on out," she called to the young man's companion.
A naked woman joined her boyfriend.
"Mulder, are you satisfied we're not looking at a Banshee here?"
"Yeah, yeah." He holstered his gun.
"You can put your hands down," she told the startled couple. She tucked her own gun away. "And get your clothes. We're sorry to have bothered you."
The woman dashed for the cover of the tree, but the young man was angry and stood his ground.
"Who are you lunatics? What's goin' on here?" he yelled. His girlfriend tossed him his shorts. Sliding his legs into them, he demanded, "Answer me!"
"Explain to the man, Mulder." Scully turned on her heel and headed back to their campsite. She called over her shoulder, "It'll give you some practice before you explain it to me."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: email@example.com> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, Mulder's Banshee turned out to be nothing more than a lovesick couple looking for a little privacy. I'm hoping he's ready to pack it in and go home tomorrow. That'll still give me the rest of the week to enjoy the Sunshine State's beautiful beaches. Would you like to get together for lunch before I fly down to Florida? See you in a day or two. Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, a few more days in Maine, maybe a week at most, and Scully will be thanking me big time for taking her away from those boring Florida beaches. She's really going for this Banshee case. I'm certain of it. I'm almost certain of it. See you in a week. Maybe two. - Mulder>
Allagash Lake, Maine 9:22 PM
"Was that a little 'Mulder-love' we interrupted back there?" Scully asked when Mulder returned to the campsite.
Giving her a lopsided grin, he sat down next to her by the fire. "I don't think so. She'd've been moaning a helluva lot louder," he boasted.
"I'm sure," she said flatly.
Mulder suspected her meaning wasn't quite the same as his. He ignored her comment, and said, "After I explained our intrusion, they were quite understanding. As a matter of fact," - Mulder paused to twist a small paper bag from his jacket pocket - "they gave me this." He withdrew a slightly mashed chocolate donut from the bag.
"Chocolate?" Scully's mouth watered. She snatched the donut from him and stuffed half of it into her mouth. "Jus' wha' zactly did you tell 'em?" she mumbled, cake filling her mouth and sugar sticking to her lips. She handed the other half back to him.
"The truth." He took the donut and bit into it. "I told them we were investigating an anomalous phenomenon. And that they should be cautious and on the lookout."
"They didn't want to know the nature of the 'anomalous phenomenon'?"
"Sure they did. I explained it was classified and I wasn't at liberty to discuss the details." He popped the last bite of donut into his mouth and wiped his lips on his sleeve. Noticing sugar on Scully's lips, too, he reached over and brushed her clean with his thumb.
She batted at his hand before stretching out on her back, feet pointed toward the fire. Lacing her fingers behind her head, she closed her eyes.
"Tell me more about your Banshee, Mulder," she said with a yawn.
He settled on his back next to her, near enough to feel the warmth of her hip against his. Stars shone overhead. The air smelled like pine and woodsmoke.
"The Banshee is the Spirit of Death," he began, "the most weird and awful of all the Gaelic fairy powers. Sometimes she assumes the form of a sweet singing virgin, a departed relative of the soon-to-be deceased. Dressed in silvery-white, she combs her long hair and foretells the upcoming death of her kindred. Sometimes she's seen as a shrouded woman, crouched and lamenting beneath the trees, her face hidden behind a veil, or she may be witnessed flying in the moonlight, crying bitterly. Her wail is mournful beyond all sounds on earth."
Mulder's smooth monotone lulled Scully toward sleep. Her chest rose and fell as her breathing slowed.
"Scully? Are you listening?"
"Mm hmm," she murmured. "Continue."
"There is also a more ominous Banshee. She wanders over the moors at dusk, luring travelers to their doom. She is sometimes accompanied by the coiste-bodhar, an immense black coach, mounted with a coffin, drawn by headless horses. If you come close, she'll throw a basin of blood in your face."
"No, go on," she yawned again.
"Okay. This is a well-authenticated story that happened not too long ago. A family of O'Gradys settled in Canada, far removed from the old land of their forefathers. One night a strange and mournful lamentation was heard outside their house
** a bitter cry of the deepest agony and sorrow. Inquiry was made. Although several persons heard the unearthly cry, no one saw its cause. A terror fell upon the household. The next day, O'Grady and his eldest son went out boating. When they failed to return for dinner, the family became alarmed and sent their servants down to the shore to look for the two missing men. Precisely at the time the spirit-cry had been heard the previous evening, the servants returned to the house, bearing the dead bodies of the father and son. Both had drowned, their boat overturned within sight of land, but not near enough for any help to reach them. Thus the Bean-Sidhe had fulfilled her mission of doom. She disappeared and the cry of the Spirit of Death was heard no more."
"Wanna hear another story?"
Scully didn't respond.
She rolled away from him, curled on her side. A soft snore purred from her throat.
Mulder turned on his side, too, and fitted his body along her back. He hooked an arm around her waist. Drawing her to him, he murmured into her hair, "G'night, Scully."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: firstname.lastname@example.org> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, what an awful night! I dreamt about headless horses, buckets of blood and wailing apparitions. Must have been from sleeping on the cold, lumpy ground. Mulder is nowhere to be found this morning. He didn't take the car, which is strange since I don't remember seeing a Starbuck's within walking distance. He better be on his way back right now with a plain cream cheese bagel and a large hazelnut coffee. Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, what a great night! I slept like a baby. Dreamt about Scully wearing a silver-white dress and combing her long blonde hair - wait a minute. Guess that couldn't have been Scully. Anyway, there's nothing like sleeping outdoors under the stars to make you feel refreshed in the morning. Scully's still zonked so I'm going to try out the tracking gear you loaned me. - Mulder>
Allagash Lake, Maine 7:02 AM
Scully carried a towel and a bar of soap to the shore. She stared at the lake, smooth as a mirror in the early morning calm. Since Mulder had gone off on his own, she decided to take advantage of his absence and bathe in privacy. She glanced over her shoulder and seeing no one, she slid out of yesterday's clothes and waded into the lake.
Emerging several minutes later, she felt invigorated and clean. She wrapped herself in a towel, and rummaged through her duffel bag for a fresh set of clothes.
Just as she finished dressing, Mulder stepped from the woods, his nose only inches from the screen of the Forward-Looking Infrared.
"Find anything with that thing?" she asked him. She ran a comb through her wet hair.
"You." He smiled.
"Anything a little more elusive?"
"No such creature exists, Scully."
"We finally agree on something." She missed his meaning. "Can we leave now?"
"Yes? We're going home?"
"No, we're not going home. Yes, we're leaving. I received a call on my cell this morning, from my source. He says the Banshee's moved further south. A small town called Alton."
"Mulder, this is nothing but a wild goose chase. How'd you get Kersh to agree to it anyway?" Scully pictured their boss's serious demeanor and found it difficult to imagine the Director endorsing something as unlikely as a Banshee hunt.
When Mulder fell uncharacteristically silent, Scully realized Kersh had never been told about the case at all. Mulder had once again sidestepped Bureau protocol, coming to Maine without the AD's permission.
"Scully, do you remember Kersh telling us at our last...um...'planning session' how much he appreciated agents who showed a little initiative?"
"That was a 'chewing-out session.' One of many we've experienced since Kersh came on board. And, if I recall correctly, he didn't say he appreciated agents with initiative. He said he disliked smart-asses who refused to play by the book."
"He did. He was referring to you."
Mulder fiddled with the settings on the FLIR. "We're so close to catching this thing, Scully, you can't possibly want to go home now. My source says the Banshee wailed for three hours straight last night. Local authorities received several calls from the Riverside Mobile Home Court. A Miss Erlene Latourneau called the sheriff's office six times to complain about a 'wicked awful howl.' A deputy was dispatched but, by the time he arrived, the noise had stopped. I think we should interview Miss Latourneau. It might lead to something. Do you realize what it would mean if we could get a wailing Banshee on video tape?"
"Three minutes of 'When Country Singers Go Bad' for the FOX Network?"
"No, Scully...how 'bout I buy you breakfast on the way to Alton?" Mulder tempted her, changing the subject.
"Ham? Eggs? Home fries? The works?" she asked with a hopeful smile.
"For you, the works."
"Get in the car." Scully shooed Mulder toward the rental. "And Mulder, watch your step." At first he assumed she was referring to his behavior, but she pointed to the ground near his feet.
"Well, whaddaya know, Scully. Bears really*do* shit in the woods."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: email@example.com> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, what a gorgeous morning! Mulder went one better than Starbuck's bagels and coffee. He treated me to eggs, ham, OJ, the whole shebang. To be honest, he owed me - I found out our trip to Maine was never sanctioned by AD Kersh. I was all set to be mad at Mulder for ruining my annual leave (again), but he looked so...well...damn cute over coffee and corned beef hash, I lost my urge to shoot him in his other shoulder. It's a good thing he's completely clueless to the fact that my affection can be bought with a cheap meal. Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, here's a bit of advice from an experienced man: the way to a woman's heart is through a #2 breakfast special with a side of home fries and a grilled raspberry muffin. They're right when they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day - for Scully it's the ultimate attitude adjuster. I swear she was giving me googoo eyes by the time she licked the last coffee cake crumbs from the tips of her pretty little fingers. - Mulder>
Riverside Mobile Home Court Alton, Maine 2:02 PM
Two elderly men in matching plaid shirts sat in lawn chairs beneath a colorful hand-painted sign that marked the entrance to the Riverside Mobile Home Court. Faces expressionless, they watched Mulder pull the car to a stop and roll down his window.
"Can you tell me where I might find Miss Erlene Latourneau? I think she lives in one of the trailers here?" he asked the two men.
"Who wantsta know?" the man on the left inquired.
Mulder fumbled for his ID. "Special Agent Fox Mulder with the Federal Bureau of Investigation." He displayed his badge, although he doubted the old men could see it from where they sat.
"This gut ennythin' tadoo with that restrainin' awdah on her fee-on-cee?" the guy on the right asked.
Mulder struggled to decipher the old man's question.
Scully leaned across her partner's lap to squint out the open window at the two men. "No. Miss Latourneau reported hearing an unusual noise last night. We're here to investigate."
Mulder turned his attention to Scully, astonished at her ability to interpret the old man's thick Maine accent.
"Ee-yuh," the man on the left inhaled an affirmative response into his lungs. "The wailin'."
"Wen-tonn all night. Ee-yuh." Another suck of air.
"Yes. Could you tell us where we might find Miss Latourneau?" Scully repeated Mulder's earlier question.
"Sho-ah. Trailah numbah seffenteen, missy. The buttah-cream yella one."
"Thattidbe sunflowah yella, not buttah-cream. Numbah seffenteen," the man on the left corrected and pointed a crooked finger down the narrow dirt lane that separated two uneven rows of mobile homes.
"Thank you," Scully called to the men before Mulder spun the car's tires, spraying dirt into the air.
"You understood what they said, Scully?" Mulder's head swiveled left to right as he hunted for the yellow trailer.
"Sho-ah," she imitated their accent.
Ahead on the left, the yellow trailer came into view. Attached to each of the three lop-sided, yellow doghouses cluttering the side yard were a fistful of multicolored balloons and a tangle of ribbons. An ancient Chevrolet sat on blocks in the driveway, its back window proclaiming "Just Married" in shaving cream. A festive toilet-paper rose topped the bent radio antenna. Tied through the missing lock in the car's trunk was a string of a dozen empty beer cans, eleven Pabst Blue Ribbons and one Bud Lite. The front bumper dangled loosely above a flowerbed containing nothing but a few dried weeds and a busted Tweetie Bird whirligig. The little garden plot and the adjacent driveway were neatly outlined with a row of bright yellow rocks painted to match the color of the trailer.
"I'd call that lemon, not sunflower. Definitely not butter- cream," Mulder said, and stepped from the car.
Three skinny malamute-wolf hybrids lunged at him as he approached the trailer's front steps; yelping and growling, they strained at the ends of their chains. Mulder bypassed them and climbed the steps. He rapped on the door. From somewhere out behind the trailer he could hear Randy Travis singing "Honky Tonk Side of Town" on the radio. The mobile home's door squeaked open to reveal a round woman wearing an enormous pink satin shift.
"Oh good! You're not too late." She grinned at him. Her pudgy fingers shot out and gripped his forearm. "Bride's side or groom's?"
"Huh? Oh...uh...are you Miss Erlene Latourneau?" Mulder asked, unable to break free from her grasp.
"Hell, no. Does this look like a weddin' dress to you?" She laughed. The shapeless tent-like garment didn't resemble a dress at all to Mulder, but he decided not to comment. The woman smiled broadly. "I'm Erlene's Aunt Marilee Hutchins, but everyone calls me Sally. I'm the Matron of Honor," Sally said with pride, fingering the big looping bow at the base of her deep cleavage before turning to bellow at the dogs, "Shut up, you goddam friggin' pains in the ass!"
The dogs fell silent.
"Uh...Miss Hutchins, I'm Agent Mulder from the FBI." He held out his badge. "Could you tell me where I might find Erlene?"
"Well, she's out back, a' course." Sally continued her painful squeeze on his arm. "Ceremony's 'bout to begin. Get your wife outta the car and come 'round."
Mulder peered over his shoulder at Scully behind the windshield of their rented car. He beckoned her with the fingers of his free hand. He could almost make out her dismayed expression through the glare of the sun off the glass.
"Hi, I'm Agent Dana Scully." Scully introduced herself once she stood at the bottom of the mobile home's steps.
The plump woman released her aching grip on Mulder, wiped her palm along her satiny dress, and daintily pinched the ends of Scully's fingers. "Sally Hutchins. Matron of Honor."
"Come on," Sally urged. "We're holdin' up the weddin'. This way."
The big woman propelled the agents around the trailer to the backyard where several rows of mismatched folding lawn chairs dotted the field. Only two or three seats remained empty. Some of the guests had opted to sit in a junked gold Torenado, buried to its wheel wells in dried mud. They watched the proceedings through a veil of weeds growing up out of the hoodless front end. At least four men scattered throughout the assemblage were dressed in flannel shirts identical to those worn by the two old men Mulder and Scully had met at the entrance to the trailer park.
"Have a seat. Quickly," Sally said, waving a fleshy hand at two unclaimed chairs.
Scully sat and offered Mulder a tiny quizzical shrug. When he paused too long, Sally gave Mulder a persuasive nudge with her ample hip and sent him stumbling into Scully's lap.
"Now's not the time, Mulder," Scully hissed into his ear and removed his hand from her breast.
"Sorry." He slid into the seat beside her. "You're welcome to touch mine if you like," he offered.
Off to one side, a boombox sat next to a Bible on a three- legged card table. Someone punched the play button and the Wedding March blasted across the field at an ungodly pitch.
"Turn it down, shit-for-brains," a man yelled from a distant lawn chair and the volume was adjusted to a more tolerable level.
Scully noticed the groom and the best man had taken their places in front of the gathering. The groom's checkered lime- green suit was easily two sizes too small, falling short at the wrists and stretching skin-tight across the young man's stomach. His undersized trousers appeared ready to pop at the waist and revealed that the husband-to-be was sporting one blue sock and one white sock. He wore a plastic carnation duct-taped to the lapel of his jacket. The best man was no more dapper; his garments hung like clothes on a scarecrow. A band-aid held the bow of his glasses to its frame, drawing attention to his blackened eye. Grinning goofily, he slapped the groom repeatedly on the back.
A heavily tattooed Justice of the Peace who wore mirrored sunglasses and a black t-shirt proclaiming "Life's a Bitch" joined the groom and best man. When he scooped the Bible off the card table, he upset its balance, causing the rickety piece of furniture to wobble dangerously on its three legs. The boombox threatened to slide off until a rake-thin woman volunteered to act as a fourth leg and hold the table upright throughout the ceremony.
Scully began to worry she might start laughing. She avoided looking in Mulder's direction, afraid that if she caught his eye, she would lose her composure and dissolve into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.
In unison, the crowd turned in their seats to watch Sally Hutchins, the beaming Matron of Honor, lead the wedding party down the isle. Behind her, Erlene Latourneau, swathed in white lace, tears in her eyes, hair swept into a mountainous cone above her head, caused the guests to release an appreciative "aaahhh" all at once. The bride clung to her father's arm, towering over the miniature man. He squeezed his daughter's dimpled hand so tightly her fingernails were turning blue.
Scully felt Mulder press against her arm as he leaned closer. She kept her eyes fixed on the bride and willed her partner to remain silent.
"Scully?" he whispered into her ear.
A silent chuckle hitched in Scully's chest. She forced her face to remain serious.
"Wanna make it a double wedding?" he asked.
She bit her lip and shook her head, still avoiding his eyes.
"But isn't it just the way you always pictured it?"
She elbowed him hard in the ribs.
An unearthly shriek followed her wallop, but it hadn't come from him. All heads turned in the direction of the awful wail. The mother of the bride, reclining in a lounge chair in the front row, her legs splayed awkwardly across the orange and yellow webbing, keened miserably at the sight of her little girl on the threshold of womanhood. Her cry was extraordinary.
"Don't that sound jis like the carryin' on we heard las' night?" one guest asked another.
"Ee-yuh. I thought t'was comin' from the Latourneau trailah. Tol' my wife so at the time," another added with a confirming nod.
"Quit your blattin', Muthah," the diminutive father of the bride squawked at his wife. "Din't you git that outta yoah system las' night?" he asked as she continued her awful wail. Several small children covered their ears in an effort to block out the horrible sound. A man sitting in the driver's seat of the junked Torenado honked the horn in protest.
"Come on, Mulder. I think we've identified your Banshee." Scully stood and tugged at Mulder's sleeve. "Let's go."
"But, Scully, we can't go yet. They haven't served cake."
"We're going. Gimme the keys. I'm driving."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: firstname.lastname@example.org> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, over the past seven years, Mulder and I have been to some pretty weird places and met some pretty strange people. But today...today...today...well, today was like a scene right out of a Federico Fellini film. Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, over the past seven years, Scully and I have been to some pretty weird places and met some pretty strange people. But today...today...today...well, today was like a scene right out of a Three Stooges movie...the Curly years. - Mulder>
Bangor, Maine 4:02 PM
"So, Scully, before we leave Maine, don't you want to see some of the sights?"
"No. I want to go home." Scully stepped harder on the gas peddle, increasing their speed to eighty miles per hour.
"Uh...Scully. The speed limit is fifty-five."
"Mmhmm," she continued to floor the gas.
"There's so much to see in Maine, Scully. We shouldn't pass up the opportunity." Mulder unfolded the tourist information brochure he'd discovered in the car's glove compartment. "For instance, there's a twenty-foot lobster statue in the town of Hancock."
"Why would anyone want to visit a twenty-foot lobster?"
"Sounds kinda fun to me. How about this: Moxie World Headquarters in Lisbon Falls?"
"Moxie World...? No."
"Colonel Buck's Cursed Tomb? It'd only take an hour or two-"
Mulder closed the brochure and returned it to the glove compartment. From between his feet he retrieved their roadmap. Scully exited the Interstate and steered the car northeast along Bangor's Main Street.
"Uh...you better pull over, Scully. I think you may have made a wrong turn." Mulder squinted at the map. Scully slowed the car and pulled to a stop in the parking lot of a rather dingy looking Red Carpet Motor Inn. Mulder pointed to the map. "See? To get to the airport, you need to take Exit 46, not 45."
She followed his finger. He was right. Taking the map from him, she looked for an alternate route through the city to the airport. Main Street to Cedar to -
"Wow!" Mulder yelped, no longer looking at the map. "Scully, look." He unbuckled his seat belt.
She followed his gaze to a well-manicured park on the opposite side of the four-lane boulevard. Towering three stories high in the center of the public commons stood the giant likeness of the fabled lumberjack Paul Bunyan. The bearded colossus held an enormous ax slung over his right shoulder and gripped a twenty-foot peavey in his left fist. He was painted in a red and black plaid shirt, green trousers and had bright pink cheeks. "Mulder-"
But Mulder was already out of the car, camera in hand. He stepped from the curb into heavy traffic, gesturing at Scully to follow, and dodged his way across the busy street. When he reached the far sidewalk, he swiveled to present Scully with a pleading look. She shook her head from behind the steering wheel and refused to budge.
He gave up on her and accosted a passerby.
Scully watched Mulder give the camera to the pretty young woman. He showed her the appropriate buttons to push and then positioned himself in front of the mammoth statue, a big grin on his face. Scully had to smile, too, at the sight of him, as excited as a six-year-old on his way to the circus. It took so little to delight Mulder. Anything out of the ordinary could capture his imagination. She wondered what it must be like to be so easily enchanted by the unusual, to purposely seek out the unbelievable.
The young woman returned Mulder's camera. They chatted briefly. The woman was obviously charmed.
When the woman finally strolled away, Mulder turned to ogle the statue. He reached into his jacket pocket. Never taking his eyes from the legendary lumberjack, he spoke into his cell phone.
His call was short. He jogged back across the street. Slipping into his seat, he smiled at Scully. "Pretty cool, huh?"
"Way cool, Mulder," she said in a flat tone.
"That statue," - he tilted his head toward Paul Bunyan -
"was featured in one of Stephen King's novels."
"Who is Stephen King?"
Mulder's eyes rounded. "You've never heard of Stephen King? Famous author of horror fiction. He wrote 'The Shining.' 'Carrie.' 'Cujo.' 'It.'"
"Never read them."
"But you must have*heard* of them."
"Nope. Who was on the phone?" Scully changed the subject.
"My source. It's here."
"The Banshee, Scully. It's here in Bangor."
"Mulder, who is this mysterious source of yours, anyway?"
"Uh...that's not important right now. What*is* important is the location of the Banshee. Guess where it was spotted only an hour ago?"
"I don't want to guess. Tell me."
"At Stephen King's house! Scully, we're actually going to meet the 'King of Horror.'"
Saying nothing, Scully shifted the car into drive.
"Isn't this great? Take a left." Mulder pointed to the next traffic light.
She turned at the light and followed Cedar Street nine blocks to a wide, shady boulevard called West Broadway. Ahead on their right, a pinkish-colored mansion loomed into view.
"There it is!" Mulder pointed.
Stephen King's Victorian house, complete with turrets and a widow's walk, sat at the rear of a woodsy two-acre lot. A high, wrought iron fence, festooned with handcrafted bats, surrounded the property. It looked like the perfect setting for the creation of terrifying tales.
Scully pulled up to the gate.
Rolling down her window, she presented her ID to the security guard. The guard examined her credentials and then allowed her to drive through.
Scully followed the curving drive and stopped at the front entrance. Sliding from her seat, she trailed Mulder to the door.
A squat woman met them on the portico. She was dressed in a University of Maine Black Bears sweatshirt proclaiming the 1999 men's ice hockey team as National Champions. Thin, dark hair sprouted from her round head. She waved her hands as she spoke.
"I'm Tabitha King. Stephen and I have been expecting you," she said. "We're so glad you're here."
Scully wasn't sure what Mrs. King meant by that, but she followed the worried looking woman inside. They walked through the big house to an office in the back. There, pacing the cluttered room, was a gangly man with dark hair and thick glasses.
"Stephen King," the man introduced himself in a thin voice that contradicted his brutish appearance. He extended an enormous hand, first to Scully, then to Mulder.
"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is my partner Dana Scully," Mulder said.
"Thank goodness you're here. My wife and I, we've been scared to death." King nudged his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
"Describe to us what you saw and heard, Mr. King."
The author began to pace again.
"It was creepy. I heard it before I saw it. A cry that set my teeth on edge. It was comin' from upstairs, outta one of the front bedrooms. I grabbed my son's baseball bat and went to investigate while Tabitha called the security service we use. When I opened the bedroom door, I could see it...uh, her...sittin' at the window, wearin' a silver-white dress and combin' her long blonde hair, moanin' like her heart was breakin'. She pointed at me and my blood ran cold. Next thing I knew, she was jumpin' outta the window. Sounded like a bunch of birds flyin' off. When I looked out, she was nowhere to be seen. Security arrived a few minutes later and Tabitha and I started to pack. We're not spendin' the night in the same house with this thing."
Mulder looked astonished. "Uh...will you show us where you saw her?"
"Actually, I'd rather not," the author said, his eyes shifting nervously around the room. "But you two are welcome to go on up. Top of the stairs, take a left. Three doors down. Uh...Tabitha and I will be leavin' now. Stay and investigate as long as you need. Spend the night if you have to. Just call us when the thing is gone." That said, the Master of the Macabre scooped up a pile of his papers, grabbed the back of his wife's arm and the two rushed from the room.
"For a writer of horror stories, he's kind of a weenie ass," Scully said.
"This thing could scare anyone, Scully." Mulder looked a bit uneasy himself. He jumped when the front door slammed. A squeal of tires on the paved driveway outside let him know they were now alone in the big mansion. "Okay, Scully. I guess we should have a look around."
"Let's begin in the bedroom."
His nervousness vanished. "Shoulda' known you were the romance novel type, Scully. A little Mulder-love in the gothic mansion, huh?"
"I am*not* the romance novel type." Scully headed to the front staircase.
Mulder trailed after her, dawdling to inspect a five-by-seven photo hanging on the wall outside the author's office. In the picture, Stephen King grinned a buck-toothed smile and hung an arm across the shoulders of a surfer-type of guy who held a fire-charred doll. Scrawled across the lower corner was an autograph that read "Stephen, let me know when you 'want to play' again. CC." Mulder squinted at the oddly familiar face of the man with the doll and wondered where he'd seen him before.
"Mulder," Scully beckoned from the base of the large formal staircase. Mulder caught up and together the agents climbed to the second floor landing. They turned left at the top. "This way," she said. "He said it was the third room down."
They tiptoed down the hall. At the door, Mulder drew his gun.
Scully swung the door inward. Together, they leaned past the doorframe and peered inside. The bedroom was vacant. Mulder stepped inside. He crossed the room to look out the window at the ground below.
"Ouch," he said at the sight of a thorny shrub below. "Scully, maybe you should check outside for footprints."
"What will you be doing?" she asked.
"Checking things inside."
"Try and stay focused, Mulder." She turned to go.
"When am I not focused?"
She paused to look at him. "Don't sit in Stephen King's favorite chair."
"I won't. When am I not focused?"
"Don't lay on Stephen King's bed."
"I won't. When am I not focused?"
"Don't peek into Stephen King's medicine cabinet."
"Scully! You can trust me!"
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: email@example.com> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, we've tracked Mulder's Banshee to the home of an obscure author of horror fiction (no one you've ever heard of) and Mulder couldn't be happier if Elvis' ghost walked up to him asking for a lift to Graceland. I suspect he's going through the underwear drawers right now on the pretense of finding evidence. Anyway, it doesn't look as if I'll be back in DC for lunch tomorrow. How about a rain check? Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, you will NOT believe where I am right now! Stephen King's walk-in closet. Honest to God. Frohike, I'm bringing you back a little souvenir from the Frightmeister's underwear drawer that's a helluva lot better than any old interview. You will owe me Big Time. And you gotta promise to keep your mouth shut around Scully. I've fooled her into thinking I'm searching for clues. I'm really up to my elbows in the King of Scare's unmentionables. You're going to find this hard to believe...I know I did...but Scully's not into horror fiction. Must be a chick thing. As for me, nothing could be cooler than finding out Stephen King uses a Water Pik. I'm gonna go try out the Kings' kingsize bed next. - Mulder>
Stephen King Residence Bangor, Maine 6:32 PM
Scully circled the house, scanning the yard for any signs of an intruder. Checking beneath all the windows, she found nothing out of the ordinary - no disturbed soil, no broken branches, no footprints, fibers, or dropped items. The first floor windows were all closed and locked.
Turning her attention to the perimeter of the yard, she walked along the King's unique fence. Hand-forged in wrought iron, the black posts and balusters stood more than eight feet tall. Their upper tips tapered to knife-sharp points. Near the front gate, several dozen black iron bats appeared to flit across the rails, welded in mid-flight by a fanciful artisan. The security guard no longer stood at his post beside the entry; he must have left shortly after the Kings. When Scully reached the gate, she discovered it was locked.
Scully leaned against the gate and turned to scrutinize the King's three-story home. Her eyes swept over the pink-hued exterior to the distinctive roofline above. When a flash of silvery-white on the widow's walk caught her attention, she squinted into the late afternoon sun in an effort to distinguish the details of the person or thing who was perched on the roof's small balcony.
A small, slender woman in a silvery dress sat on the railing at the apex of the great mansion and slowly pulled a comb through her long blonde hair. She opened her mouth and let out a blood-curdling cry. Scully jogged toward the house to find Mulder and the way up to the roof.
"Mulder? Mulder!" Scully called as she burst through the front door and ran up the stairs two at a time.
In the master bedroom, Mulder heard Scully shout and instantly rolled off the luxurious four-poster bed. He made a hasty attempt to straighten the spread and fluff the dents from the pillows before Scully rounded the corner and spotted him.
"Mulder! She's on the roof!"
"Who?" He looked confused.
"The Banshee! Come on."
"The Ban...? Scully, I don't think that's possible."
"I saw it, Mulder!" She grabbed his wrist and tugged at his arm.
"When?" He stood his ground, a look of shock on his face.
"Just now. Are you coming?" She yanked harder on his arm.
"Umm...sure." He allowed her to tow him down the hall and up the stairs to the third floor.
When they reached the tiny door that led to the roof, Scully tried the latch and found it was locked.
"Break it down, Mulder," she said.
"Break it down?"
"Yeah, break it down."
"I don't think..." He ran his fingers across the little wooden door.
"Mulder, I thought you wanted to catch this thing."
"I-I do. It's just..." He chewed his lower lip. "Ah, hell." Lowering his shoulder, he heaved his weight against the door, splintering the wood panel and opening the passage.
Scully wedged past him and climbed the steep, narrow steps to the roof. At the top of the stairs, she threw open the exterior door and rushed out onto the widow's walk. It was vacant. She blinked in disbelief.
"She was here! I saw her!" she insisted, and paced the short distance to the rail. She stared down at the gated driveway where she'd stood just minutes before. "I...I..."
Mulder joined her at the railing. He placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a sympathetic squeeze.
"Mulder, I...what's this?" She bent to retrieve a shiny metal object from the floor.
"What is it, Scully?"
"My God. She*was* here!" Scully held up a gleaming silver comb.
"Scully, that could belong to Mrs. King."
"Mulder, I saw it...her...the Banshee up here not five minutes ago. And she was combing her hair with*this*." Scully waved the comb at Mulder.
"Let's not jump to conclusions."
"Jump to conclu...? I don't get you, Mulder. You dragged me all the way to Maine in search of a fairy tale, yet when I tell you I saw it, you...you...well, you're not very excited. What's going on?"
"Nothing, Scully." He studied his shoes. "I didn't see it, is all."
"Since when do you have to see something to believe it?"
"I believe it, Scully." He met her gaze and shrugged. "I'm just...not excited."
"What?" She narrowed her eyes and took a step closer. He retreated until his backside hit the railing. She closed in on him until they stood toe-to-toe. Rising up on her tiptoes, she leaned into him. "Tell me what's going on, Mulder. The truth. Now."
His Adam's apple slid upward in his throat as he swallowed.
"Uh...I have a little confession to make," he said.
She raised an eyebrow.
"There is...there is no Banshee, Scully."
"I made the whole thing up."
"You made - ? For a man who spends his life searching for the truth, you-" She didn't finish her thought. "Wait a minute. If you made it up, what exactly did Steven King hear and see in his front bedroom and how did you know to come to his house?"
"It was a coincidence, Scully. I phoned the Kings from the statue downtown, hoping to meet them. When I told Mrs. King I worked for the FBI, she said to come right over. I never expected..." He shrugged.
"Steven King described your Banshee to a tee."
"A coincidence," he repeated.
"Coincidence? What about the photograph you showed me, the Polaroid picture?"
"I took that picture myself," he admitted. "The white blur was nothing more than my bathroom sink. I tripped over the toilet."
Scully looked confused. "Why were you taking pictures in your bathroom, Mulder?"
"Uh...that's not what's really important right now. What is important is I never had a picture of a Banshee, because no such creature exists."
"I saw what I saw. The Banshee was here."
"Didn't you once tell me that 'the human mind naturally seeks meaningful patterns and configurations in things that don't inherently have any. Given the suggestion of a particular image, you can't help but see that shape somewhere?'"
"Mulder, we're not talking about a propane tank that resembles a fat, little, white Nazi storm trooper." Scully recalled their search for the homicidal maniac in St. Paul who butchered and killed prognosticators. "I saw a woman in a silver dress combing her long blonde hair. With this!" she held up the comb. "Do you believe me or not?"
"I don't know, Scully," he hedged.
"After all the times I've trusted you on faith alone?" Now she was more hurt than angry. "I've followed you to the ends of the earth on no more than your say so. Hell, I followed you here on a lie!"
"I know. I'm sorry." His apology was sincere. "I shouldn't have lied. And I do believe you think you saw what you say you saw. Why don't we spend the night here. Maybe the Banshee will make another appearance. Whaddaya say?"
"You bet your cute ass we're staying. She will come back. And when she does, you will owe me a big fat apology."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: firstname.lastname@example.org> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, Mulder intentionally lied to me. He made up this case. I'm hurt beyond words. After all our years together, I thought our quest for the truth and our honesty with one another was the glue to our partnership, the one certainty I could rely on in the face of the deceit and lies that surround us every day. I guess I've been wrong. I've misread Mulder completely. The truth is he has no respect for my feelings. I realize now he cares very little or not at all about me or our relationship. Love, Dana>
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, Scully said I have a cute ass. I love that woman. - Mulder>
Stephen King Residence Bangor, Maine 7:24 PM
Scully sank miserably onto the guest bed, her hair still wet from her shower and her bathrobe cinched at her waist. She glumly chewed a fingernail.
"Scully?" Mulder's muffled voice followed a soft knock on her door. "May I come in?"
He opened the door and peeked in at her.
"I brought a peace offering," he announced and held out a pizza. "Want some?"
"What kind is it?"
"You hate vegetarian pizza, Mulder."
She studied him for a moment. The spicy aroma of oregano and garlic drifted through the room and caused her stomach to growl. "Okay. One piece."
"Now you're talkin'!" He smiled and entered the room. Opening the pizza box, he lifted a slice and handed it to Scully.
She took a tiny bite. "S'good," she admitted, still frowning. "Thanks."
He accepted that as an invitation to stay and eat with her. Placing the box on the nightstand, he hooked a slice for himself and sat on the bed beside her.
"Make yourself at home, Mulder," she mumbled, shifting to allow him more room.
"Thanks. This isn't all that bad." He tried to hide his distaste for the vegetarian fare.
"You hate it."
"I don't. Really." Taking another mouthful to prove his point, he was unable to mask his revulsion.
A tiny smile tugged at the corner of her mouth as she watched him swallow and wince.
"Mulder, don't eat it if you don't like it," she said.
With relief, he set the slice back in the box. He watched her eat instead.
"Mulder, why did you make up a phony case?" she asked between bites.
"I...I didn't want you to go to Florida," he told her honestly. "I wanted us to spend our annual leave together."
"But why? We're together every single day."
"Yeah. But that's work."
"How is this different?"
"Because there's no danger involved. Today I didn't have to worry about you being shot or kidnapped or killed. There was no chance anyone would put another chip in your neck or I'd cut a deal with Old Smokey, selling my soul to the Syndicate in a shortsighted attempt to save the world from alien invasion, not to mention the ultimate enslavement of the human race. Scully, I didn't need to watch your back for any more reason than to enjoy the view. And I do enjoy the view," he told her, causing her to blush.
"Since always. Well, since the time a few mosquito bites scared you into my hotel room wearing nothing but your underwear."
"I was wearing a bathrobe," she reminded him.
"That's not what I noticed."
"And all this time I thought you were the perfect gentleman that night."
"Did I do or say anything ungentlemanly?"
"You can trust me, Scully." He reached for her hand. "I lied to you about this case and I'm sorry about that. But be honest, would you have come to Maine with me if I had asked you outright?"
"I might have."
"Okay. Probably not," she admitted. When he raised his eyebrows, she added, "Definitely not. But not because I don't want to spend time with you. It's just, I really wanted to get away from work and go to the beach."
"But you burn so easily." He traced a small circle across the back of her hand with his thumb. "I thought you would hate the beach. Which of course made me think you wanted to go to Florida to get away from me."
His line of thinking escaped her, but she could see from his expression he was being uncharacteristically candid about his feelings. Her hurt and anger fell away.
"I'm sorry about the misunderstanding. All the misunderstandings," she said.
"Wanna kiss and make up?" he suggested, a calculating grin spreading across his face. He snaked his arm around her shoulders and inched closer.
"I think we'd better stay focused, Mulder. Whether it started out this way or not, our search for the Banshee is now a bona fide case."
"When am I not focused?" he asked and leaned toward her lips.
She stopped him with the palm of her hand. "Tell me why the Banshee would be here at Stephen King's house."
"Well, people who possess a talent for the arts traditionally are watched over by two spirits, the spirit of inspiration and the spirit of doom. The Banshee of course is the spirit of doom." Mulder remained only inches from Scully's mouth.
"Writing horror fiction is considered an art?"
"Hey, some people consider writing television fanfiction an art. Go figure." Mulder inhaled the fragrant scent of her recently shampooed hair and twisted a damp strand around his index finger. He was so close he could see his face reflected in the black of her pupils. She licked her tongue across her bottom lip. Unable to resist, he lowered his mouth over hers and traced her lip with his own tongue.
"Mulder...I have garlic breath," she warned.
"You're fine. You taste fine."
He kissed her.
Her mouth felt wonderful. An overwhelming rush of heat radiated through his body, culminating at his groin. He moaned his desire for her and slid his tongue between her teeth.
In response, she folded her arms around his back, drawing his weight over her.
He pressed her down onto the bed. She was so warm. So desirable. Running his palms up her body, he stopped only when he enveloped her breasts.
She gasped beneath him.
He squeezed her.
A blood-curdling shriek splintered the air and Mulder instantly released his hold on her breast. He leapt off the bed in alarm.
"Did I hurt you?" His eyes were wide with concern.
"That wasn't me, Mulder," she assured him, trying to steady her breathing and slow her racing heart. The wail continued. Their eyes locked.
"The Banshee!" they exclaimed in unison. Mulder grabbed Scully by the arm and hauled her from the bed. Together they ran out of the room and down the hall.
"Downstairs," Mulder directed and the two thundered down the staircase.
"Kitchen," Scully decided when they reached the bottom. Mulder swiveled toward the kitchen but was stopped short when Scully yanked him back by his shirttail.
"I don't have my weapon," she whispered, plucking at her bathrobe.
"Me either," he realized, absently patting his side.
"What should we do?" She continued to whisper despite the earsplitting cry coming from behind the closed kitchen door.
Mulder glanced up the stairs and considered returning to his room for his gun. The terrible moaning suddenly ceased.
"Let's go." Mulder pushed through the door to the kitchen. His fingers danced along the wall in search of the light switch. When he found it, he flicked on the light. They squinted into the bright room, trying to locate the source of the mournful howl.
To their astonishment, a relaxed congregation of fairies and sprites sat around the kitchen table. Mulder recognized most of them from his collection of Gaelic literature. The Banshee stood off to herself in the kitchen's corner, leaning against the Sub Zero.
"Well. Who have we heeerrr?" inquired Cluricaun, the Robber Fairy, in a thick Irish brogue complete with a distinct rolling burr. He clutched a half-empty bottle of wine stolen from the Kings' wine cellar.
"The redhead is hot!" leered Gonconer, the Love-Talking Fairy, and jabbed his pipe in Scully's direction.
"I preferrrr the tall, dark, handsome one." Leanhuan Shee, the Mistress Fairy, winked appreciatively at Mulder.
The oddest of all the fairies was a miniature hornless cow with a fish-like tail wearing a red cap. Scully couldn't help but stare at the creature's green hair, pig's eyes and red nose. When he opened his mouth to smile shyly at her, she saw that his teeth were the same shade of green as his hair.
Cluricaun laughed at the shocked expressions on the agents' faces. "Haven't you everrr seen a Marrows Fairy before?" he asked, gesturing at the miniscule cow.
Both agents shook their heads.
The Banshee once again began her miserable keening. "They don't know who we are," she sniveled. "No one knows who we are anymore."
"'Frrraid so. We'rrre nothing but ancient historrry," said Gonconer. "We used to be held in such high rrrregarrrrd. Rememberrr the good old days?" he asked the others and they nodded in nostalgic agreement.
"Where...where did you come from?" Mulder found his voice at last.
"Irrreland," they all answered at once.
"Geesh. Humans can be ignorrrant," exclaimed Gonconer and took another swig from the wine bottle.
"But...why are you here...in this house?" Scully asked the group.
Cluricon rolled his eyes. "Because of you," he explained in an exasperated voice. "We only appearrr to human's who believe in ourrr existence. And we've waited an awfully long time." He narrowed his eyes and glared.
Scully gave a tiny shrug.
"You don't plan to follow us around, do you?" Mulder asked, alarmed by the idea.
"Hell, no. Why would we want to do that?" he asked. "You two are farrr too...how shall I put this politely...mismatched? I've neverrr encounterrred such an odd pairrr of humans beforrre. You'rrre complete opposites. All wrrrong forrr each otherrr. Verrry peculiarrr."
"I know I couldn't stand the constant bickerrring and second guessing," Leanhuan Shee said. The others nodded in unison. "You misrrread each otherrr all the time."
"My God! What confusion! I can't imagine how you two have managed to stay togetherrr forrr the past couple of days, let alone the last severrral yearrrs!" Cluricon threw up his hands in disgust.
"Must be a purrrely physical thing," Gonconer licked his lips at Scully and winked at Mulder. "That's the only explanation."
"We aren't lovers," Mulder objected.
The fairies were stunned into momentary silence. They looked from Mulder to Scully and back to Mulder. Gonconer cleared his throat.
"Then you'rrre even strangerrr than we firrrst suspected," he said with astonishment. "In any case, now that you've rrresurrected us, we thought we'd trrravel. See the worrrld. Irrreland's been nice, but afterrr severrral centurrries, it's beginning to feel a bit crrrowded. And who knows, perrrhaps we can drrrum up some new believerrrs elsewherrre."
The Banshee ceased crying, tore a paper towel from the roll on the counter and blew her nose loudly.
"Let's go," she sniffled and the bizarre group rose from the table and filed out of the kitchen. Leanhuan Shee paused to pinch Mulder's butt as she passed by him.
"Well," Scully said.
"Well," Mulder repeated.
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: email@example.com> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Mom, do you think Mulder and I are mismatched? Is there really no hope for us? I'm afraid our days together are numbered. Sadly, Dana> ______________________
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: RE: Greetings from Maine> <Boys, I'm gonna ask Scully to marry me. Which one of you wants to be my Best Man? - Mulder> ______________________
Daytona Beach, Florida Two days later 2:15 PM
Scully moved the twin laptop computers out of the way and tugged two lounge chairs from the crowded trunk of the rental car. She handed them, one after the other, to Mulder who leaned them precariously against his bare legs. Hands on his hips, he watched his partner struggle to dislodge their towels from under the pile of beach gear crammed in the car's tiny storage compartment.
"Scully, I hate the beach," Mulder grumbled and wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"Why's that?" she asked, nearly losing her balance when the towels popped free.
Scanning the endless white sand, the sunbathers, beachcombers and vendors hawking "Welcome to Florida" t-shirts and steamed foot-long hot dogs, Mulder squinted with disapproval. The agents had landed at the Orlando Airport earlier in the day and rented the car that now sat encrusted with beach sand and sea salt outside their hotel room. Despite Mulder's dire warnings about the likelihood of decapitation, Scully had insisted on renting a gold convertible. They had driven nearly two hours in heavy Florida traffic to reach the popular seaside vacation destination, Mecca to bikers, college students and snowbirds who wanted to spend a few days soaking up the hot Florida sunshine.
"Oh, I dunno. It could be the broiling heat. Or the overpowering stench of suntan oil, frankfurters and human sweat. Or maybe it's the sand chafing my nugs." He pulled uncomfortably at his swim trunks.
"Weenie ass," she teased. She surveyed the nearby terrain for a spot to set the lounge chairs. She unfolded the chairs and carefully draped a beach towel over each one.
"Weenie ass? After seven years with you, I think I've heard more than my fair share of complaints...without complaining."
She paused at her task to peer at him over her sunglasses.
"Scully, why are we here?"
"You know why we're here." She adjusted her straw hat and tossed him a bottle of SPF 45 suntan lotion. "After our little sojourn to Maine - instigated by you under false pretenses, I might add - you owed me big time."
"How do you figure?"
"You doubted my skills as a professional investigator of the paranormal. I saw the Banshee on the King's roof."
"Come on, Mulder," she said, "You know you'll have more fun with me here than pursuing legendary fairies through the northern wilderness of Maine." She slid her cover-up from her shoulders and stood before him in a scanty two-piece bathing suit. "A little 'Scully-love' on a sizzling Florida beach?" she suggested, arching an eyebrow at him. "You can start by rubbing that oil on my back."
<Author: D_Scully@FBI.gov> <To: firstname.lastname@example.org> <Cc:> <Subject: Greetings from Florida> <Mom, I finally made it to the delightful sandy shores of Florida. I think this trip is going to be the one. You know, the one where Mulder and I connect on a whole new level. I know, I know - we've been on the same wavelength practically forever, but I think he's going see me...see*us*...in an entirely new light. He loves it here. And he's getting incredible tan lines. Love, Dana> ______________________
<Author: F_Mulder@FBI.gov> <To: 1shootrmias@LoneGun.net> <Cc:> <Subject: Greetings from Florida> <Boys, sorry I can't send you those Mickey Mouse ears you asked for. We're nowhere near Disney World. Scully's got me rearranging beach furniture and rubbing suntan oil on her back. So okay, it's not all bad. But to be honest, I'd rather be chasing sewer-dwelling monsters than watching white-skinned tourists fry on the beach. There're some pretty scary creatures here. Hey, gotta go. Scully's asking for another coat of oil. - Mulder>