Title: Pray
Author: Frances H.
Date finished: 10-25-98
Rating: PG
Classification: XA (Muldertorture and a little Scullytorture too!)
Spoilers: Revelations, All Souls, Folie A Deaux, and a small ones for Detour and Anasazi
Distribution: OK to archive as long as my name stays with it. Just drop me a note to let me know where it goes!
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and the X-Files belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and Fox. No copyright infringement intended. The only thing I'm getting out of this is the fun of playing with these wonderful characters. Other characters are mine!

Summary: Mulder and Scully are called to rural west Kentucky to investigate a series of unexplained deaths. Rumors of an invisible demon bring the duo face to face with a motherly old woman, a suspicious management executive, an ex-marine pastor, and finally the demon itself.

Author's Notes at the end.


Hebron, Kentucky
Monday, 9:00pm

The darkness had never held any fear for him, until now. He knew the fear was irrational, but he felt it none the less. He felt the eyes on his back, but refused to turn around. He knew there was nothing to see. But he could feel it. It. Or maybe Them. He could also feel his protector like a cloak. His Protector was empowered only as long as he allowed it, though. He had to keep his faith strong. He continued to walk in the dark alley, straining to see the light of his destination. If he could reach the haven unscathed, a small battle would be won, and they needed all the victories they could muster. As if sensing his resolve, the darkness thickened, challenging him. He answered the challenge by lifting his chin and continuing his journey. The fear, he decided, was not irrational. But he could deal with it, as long as his Protector stood by him. And that presence was a certainty.

The little church stood strong in the darkness, waiting. The church wasn't a building, but the people contained in the white frame structure topped by a steeple. The people sat together in a brightly lit room filled with pews, a pulpit, and a piano. They sat together in silence, heads bowed, some with eyes closed, some with eyes lifted up, some with tears streaming. They prayed. The darkness was threatening, but this weapon would protect them. These Prayer Warriors knew the Enemy they were facing was formidable, but was no match for the Protector and His minions. A great war was about to occur, and they had to be ready.

A door opened, spilling light into the darkness outside, and the man stepped in. He sighed and strode to the front of the room. All heads had come up at his entrance and radiant smiles bathed him as he walked past. He removed his coat and carefully laid it on the front pew. Standing straight and tall he turned to face the people.

"Thank you for coming," he said. "I could feel your prayer protection strengthening me. They can feel it too," he said, inclining his head toward the door he had just come through. "I don't need to tell you that we are all in danger, but together we can stand firm. I believe God will send us help in this fight, but it may take a form none of us expects. Those He sends may not even be aware of His purpose."

"Pastor?" asked a handsome young man with short dark hair and sparkling green eyes.

"Yes, Kenneth," answered the older, no less handsome man. He ran a hand through his brown hair, just graying at the temples, and turned his dark brown eyes to the young man.

"Pastor Dysan, what did you find out?"

"The darkness that threatens our town is strong. The men who represent Its interests think they are invulnerable. Most of them do not consider our small group a serious threat, but the leader, Quentin Alvarado, is more attuned to the true purpose. Many of the others think this is merely a business proposition, can only see dollar signs." He paused and took a deep breath. "They have no idea how they are being used. But Alvarado knows. He is orchestrating everything, and he knows we are a threat to Its purpose. We must stand strong, together. We have already seen that any one of us, alone, is in extreme danger. Together, we combine our strengths."

"But Pastor Dysan, we can't stay holed up in here forever," said a middle-aged balding man in a brown suit.

"You're right, Dennis. We must go on about our daily lives, but we must never stop praying. Our Guardian Angels, our Protectors, need all the help we can give them."

"Dennis," said an older, white haired woman, turning to face the man, "we must 'pray without ceasing', just as the Lord tells us. It is our Armor."

"Mrs. Annie is right, people," said Pastor Dysan. "Our numbers may be smaller now, but we are stronger than we have ever been. Our Faith must be strong." He paused again, searching the faces in front of him. "As most of you know, we are receiving prayer support from sister churches all over the country, the world even. But this is our fight. As I said, I believe God will send us help."

"I hope it arrives soon," said Dennis.


Hoover Building Basement X-Files Office
Tuesday 2:00 pm

Mulder pushed a file across his desk to his partner.

"What's this?" she asked, picking up the folder.

"Our next case, Agent Scully. There have been six unexplained deaths in a small town in west Kentucky over the last four months."

"Unexplained? You mean unsolved?"

"No, I mean unexplained. Six different bodies have been found with no identifiable cause of death. The victims range in age from 17 to 75, two women, four men."

"Do you have the autopsy data?"

"It's in the file, Scully. I checked on the credentials of the pathologist. He's good. He used to do autopsies in the Big Apple, but got tired of the rat race, and I suppose all the 'senseless death' in the big city, and moved to the safe little town of Hebron, Kentucky. I bet he never counted on something like this when he accepted the job as county coroner."

Scully looked through the file. "It does seem like a pretty thorough job, but I can't believe he found nothing at all. Something had to kill these people."

"Some 'Thing' is right, Scully. That is, if you believe the rantings of the latest victim, prior to his death."

"What 'Thing' would that be?"

Mulder reached over and flipped the file to one of the last pages. "It's all right there, Scully. Mr. Joseph Bond believed that demons were ravaging his town."

"Demons?"

"Yeah, and he's apparently not the only one who believed that. Several other victims told family members or co-workers that they thought they were being stalked by demons. And before you say anything, no, there is not a VinylRight or any other telemarketing office in Hebron. I already checked. And no reports of zombies or insectoid monsters."

Scully smiled. "That's good to know. But I don't suppose they gave any descriptions of these 'demons', did they?"

"You mean like horns, forked tails, sulfurous breath kind of demons from Hell? No, no descriptions. In fact, Mr. Bond told the sheriff that they were invisible."

"Invisible demons?" asked Scully, raising a skeptical eyebrow in Mulder's direction.

Mulder lifted his hands in defense. "Hey, he said it, not me!"

"So, I guess we're headed out to Hebron, Kentucky, then?"

"Yes, we are. Our flight leaves at 9am tomorrow. The closest airport is about two hours away, so we'll have to do some driving."

"And we'll have our usual four-star accommodations, I suppose."

"Actually, there are no motels close enough to do us much good, so we'll be staying at a 'quaint' bed and breakfast, run by a 'charming' lady named Annie Mayes."

Scully gave him one of 'those' looks and he smiled. "I'm just repeating what Skinner's assistant told me."

"Skinner's assistant made the arrangements?"

"Yep. It seems that someone in Hebron knows Skinner well enough to request help from him directly."

"The sheriff?"

"No, the pastor of the local church, one Mr. Albert Dysan. Seems he and Skinner served together in Vietnam."

"And the sheriff doesn't mind that we're coming?"

"No, in fact, he made the official request, but used Dysan's contact with Skinner to make sure someone listened."

"And Skinner assigned it to us?"

"Yep," said Mulder, sitting back in his chair. "You have to admit, this certainly classifies as an X-File. Invisible demons aren't your usual suspects."

"No, no they're not. But we both know that most of the time these cases have a perfectly explainable cause, a very human perpetrator."

"But not always," said Mulder. "I'm willing to bet that Skinner thinks that this may be one of those times. Why else would he give us the case?"

"I don't know, Mulder," said Scully as she closed the file. "At any rate, we have a trip to prepare for. I'm going home to pack. See you in the morning."


Flight 1013, Coach section
Wednesday 9:45am

Mulder sat in the window seat reading a book about angels. Scully glanced up from her laptop. "Why are you reading a book about angels, Mulder? I thought this case was about demons."

"It is, Scully, but from what I've read, angels are the ones that generally battle demons. I thought it might be a good idea to know something about both sides."

Scully gave him a "whatever" look and turned back to her laptop.

"What's the matter, Scully? Don't you believe in angels?"

"Do you?"

"I asked you first."

Scully sighed and took off her glasses. "Yes, Mulder, I do."

"Really?"

"Yes, really," she said. "I did have a somewhat religious upbringing. I haven't forgotten what I learned, even if it was a long time ago."

"So then, do you just remember what you learned, or do you really believe?"

"I believe," she said quietly. "So, what about you, Mulder? What do you believe? I mean besides conspiracies, mutants, and you know, all the rest."

He laughed and shook his head. "I guess I deserve that." He paused and looked out the small plane window. "Maybe I'm still trying to decide what I believe."


Airport Paducah, Kentucky
Wednesday 2:00pm

Mulder and Scully rented a blue Explorer at the local Lariat car rental, and set out for Hebron. The two hour trip was uneventful and they arrived in Hebron late on Wednesday afternoon. Their first stop was the sheriff's office. Mulder opened the door for Scully, and followed her in, his hand on the small of her back. Sheriff Wagner met them with his hand extended.

"Agents Mulder and Scully?" When they nodded, he continued. "I'm Ben Wagner, sheriff of this county. Pleased to meet you." He shook hands with both of them. "I appreciate your coming all the way out here to help us."

"I hope we can be of help to you, Sheriff," said Scully.

"Well, you come highly recommended."

"Oh, really? Do you mind if I ask by whom?" asked Mulder.

"Pastor Dysan's friend in the Bureau, ah, Skinner, I think he said his name was. He promised that he'd send his best."

Scully and Mulder exchanged glances. "We'll do our best to help you clear this up, Sheriff Wagner," said Mulder. "We got the file you sent, but we'll need access to any information and evidence you've gathered."

"Certainly. I'll show you what little we have. Just let me know of anything else you need."

"We'll also need to see the crime scenes, and interview the people that found the bodies," said Scully.

"No problem. I've got all that set up for tomorrow. Also arranged for you to talk to Dr. Webber, the coroner, tomorrow."

"Thank you, Sheriff," said Scully. "You certainly seem to have things well in hand."

"I just want to solve this and put it behind us," he said, then paused and shook his head. "There haven't been this many murders in this county in a very long time."

"Do you mean that something like this has happened in the past?" asked Mulder.

"Not like this, but we did have a string of murders here back in the '20's. My grandfather was a deputy back then, and he told me about it. But I really don't think it has any bearing on these murders."

"Why do you say that?" asked Scully.

"Those cases were solved. It turned out to be the work of one deranged man. I believe he died in prison, or maybe some mental institution years ago."

"Do you think we could look at the files anyway, Sheriff?" asked Mulder.

Sheriff Wagner sighed. "Sure. It may take some time, though. They're probably in the bottom of some box in the basement."

Mulder smiled. "I appreciate your indulgence, Sheriff. I really feel we can't afford to pass up any possible leads at this point."

"Glad to be of help, Agent Mulder," said the sheriff. "Now, I'll get the case files from the present deaths, and show you over to Mrs. Annie's place."

The file-laden agents followed Sheriff Wagner to a large two story farm house just outside of town. The light blue frame house with white trim oozed home style comfort, even from the road. Large green ferns and pots overflowing with flowers adorned the eaves of the porch, while a swing moved slightly in the gentle evening breeze. Sheriff Wagner helped Mulder with the bags.

"We don't get many visitors that aren't family in these parts. Not exactly a touristy area, if you know what I mean. But Mrs. Annie will have you feeling right at home in no time. And I hope you brought your appetites, because she's one of the best cooks in the county."

Mulder smiled broadly. "I'm always ready for good food!"

Scully glared at him, then turned to the sheriff. "Does she have family of her own?"

"Yes, two sons, one daughter, seven grandkids. Her husband, Earl, died about twelve years ago. They had one of the biggest farms in the area. Cows, soybeans, you know. But after he died, she sold most of the farm property off. Couldn't bear to part with the house though. Since it was more room than she needed, her daughter convinced her to turn it into a bed and breakfast." He stopped and laughed. "I don't think it turned out quite as 'trendy' as Lisa, her daughter, had intended, but it suits Mrs. Annie. She's doing what she's always done anyway
- taking in people who need food and shelter. Just that now, more of them pay her for it." He knocked on the front door. "Mrs. Annie, it's Ben Wagner. I have a couple of guests for you."

A stocky white haired woman answered the door, a friendly smile adorning her face. She pushed open the screen door and hugged the sheriff. "Ben, it's good to see you. Come in, come in." She motioned them into the living room where they set down the luggage. She looked at Mulder and Scully as though they were long lost relatives. "And you must be the FBI agents Pastor Dysan told us about."

"Yes, ma'am, we are," said Mulder, smiling. Her good cheer was infectious. "I'm Fox Mulder and this is my partner, Dana Scully."

"It's so good to have you here. I know you'll be able to help us get through these trying times." She took the hand of each of the agents and held them for a moment, then looked over at the sheriff. "Ben can you help me get them settled?"

"Sure thing, Mrs. Annie." He picked up Scully's large bag.

Mrs. Annie released Mulder's hand and he picked up his own bag. She gave Scully's hand a gentle pat and released it too. They followed her up the heavy wooden staircase, and down the hall. She opened the dark wooden door into a large room with a four poster bed topped with a quilt of intricate design. There was also a rocking chair, a cozy loveseat, a small desk, and an antique wooden dresser topped by an ornate mirror. Sheriff Wagner placed Scully's bag on the bed.

"Dana," said Mrs. Annie, "this will be your room." She moved to her left and opened the closet. "You should have plenty of room in here and in the dresser." She walked across the room to another door, and opened it. "This is the bathroom, dear. I hope the two of you don't mind, but you'll be sharing it. Fox, your room opens into it from the other side."

"That's fine," said Scully as she ran a hand over the beautiful quilt.

Mrs. Annie motioned Mulder to follow her through the bathroom to his room. He picked up his bag and went after her. "Fox, I hope you find this comfortable."

Mulder's room was similar to Scully's, but sported a sleigh bed and a short couch. A small TV and VCR sat on a table across from the bed. "I'm afraid we don't get many channels, and I just haven't seen much use in getting one of those satellite things, but I do have a pretty good selection of old movies."

Mulder smiled again. "Thank you. It's great. More comfortable than my apartment back in DC."

Mrs. Annie returned his smile and patted his arm. "I'm glad you like it. And I mean it about the movies. I've got everything from John Wayne and Cary Grant to those old B grade science fiction and horror things." She shook her head. "My Earl loved those things."

Mulder's eyes brightened. "You mean like 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' and 'The Fly'?"

Mrs. Annie laughed. "I knew I sensed a kindred soul in you. Earl's not here to share his movies, but I'm sure he'd like you to enjoy them. So just say the word if you want them. Okay?"

Mulder nodded.

"I'm sure both of you are ready for some supper. It'll be ready in about 20 minutes. Just come on down when you get settled."

Mulder took five minutes to deposit his belongings, while Scully spent the next half hour "nesting" in her room. He brought over the files the sheriff had given them and spread them all over the desk, quickly looking through them.

"Anything in there, Mulder?"

"Not that wasn't in the summary we were sent. We can go through them better after supper. I know I'll work better on a full stomach." Scully just gave him a look. "What? You're not hungry, too?"

Scully sighed, shook her head, and took a folder out of Mulder's hand. "Come on. Let's not keep Mrs. Annie waiting."

After a delicious supper of fried chicken, biscuits, rice and gravy, and vegetables, the agents enjoyed hot apple pie and vanilla ice cream. The dinner conversation had been light, mostly consisting of Mrs. Annie's questions about them and their work. They found themselves telling her things they wouldn't usually tell complete strangers, and by the time coffee was served, she knew sketchy histories on the both of them. They moved to living room, and settled on the comfortable furniture.

"Mrs. Annie," said Mulder, "what do you think about these murders?"

"Mulder!" said Scully.

"It's okay, Dana," said Mrs. Annie. "I'll be happy to tell you what I know." She paused and looked at them both carefully. "I know I wasn't a witness to the murders, nor was I one of the people who found the bodies, but I knew all of those people, and I have some ideas about what's happening."

Mulder sat straighter and leaned forward. "Tell us, Mrs. Annie."

"Well, this might sound like lunatic ravings to you, but this is what I think. No, what I know." She took a deep breath. "For the last eight months, there has been a dark cloud over our town. Not a literal one, but a spiritual one. Ever since that management consulting company, Alvarado Enterprises, came here. That man, Quentin Alvarado, has dark forces working through him. I don't really know what he plans to do, but I do know it's the Devil's work."

Scully looked over at Mulder. Mrs. Annie caught the look. "I know how it sounds, but I've been a God fearing believer most of my life. You can feel the evil around that place, and to be close to him -" she shivered. "Well, let's just say it's not pleasant. There's something going on here that's more than just a business venture. Living out here, I've never had to look in the face of evil, until now." She took a long drink of her coffee. "My Mama told me about another time, when a lot of people died, that was like this."

"Was that in the 20's?" asked Mulder.

"Yes, it was. I don't remember a lot of what Mama said, just that it was evil incarnate."

"Sheriff Wagner mentioned something about that earlier," said Scully.

"Do you think it's related?" asked Mulder.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Annie. "But I think you'd do well to speak to Pastor Dysan."

"Why?" asked Scully.

"All of the people who have died were members of our church, so he knew them, too. And he's been looking into this company as well."

"Mrs. Annie, the last victim, Mr. Joseph Bond, reported that he thought someone was stalking him," said Scully.

"Not someone, Dana. Something."

"What 'something' would that be?" asked Mulder.

"A demon."


Sheriff's Office
Thursday 8:00am

The next morning Mulder and Scully entered the sheriff's office, ready to really begin the investigation. They approached the main desk, currently manned by a young deputy.

"Deputy, ah, Fields," said Mulder looking at the name on his uniform, "is Sheriff Wagner in?"

"You two are the FBI agents aren't you?" Fields asked. "Mulder and Scully?"

"Yes, we are," said Scully, a little wary.

"Sheriff Wagner isn't here. He's home, sick with some kind of stomach bug that's been going around. But he told me to help you with whatever you need." He paused and picked through some papers on the desk. "Ah, here it is. He gave me a list of the appointments he had set for you today. I can take you to all the crime scenes and witness interviews."

"Thank you, Deputy Fields," said Scully.

"Call me Gary, please, Agent Scully. I feel like you're talking to my Daddy."

"Okay, Gary. I hope it's nothing serious with the Sheriff."

"Nah, he should be back at least by tomorrow or the next day. I had it a few days ago. Doesn't last long, but while it's got ya'-" he stopped and shivered. "Well, let's just say, it isn't pleasant."

Mulder smiled. "Sounds like some of my Mondays in college."

Gary laughed. "Come to think of it, it was kinda like a really intense hangover, only there was no fun to be had first!"

"Well, I hope he's feeling better soon," said Scully. "What's first on your list, Gary?"

"We'll start with the crime scenes, most recent back to the first, then go talk to some people. And Agent Scully, Dr. Webber can meet with you about 1:00 this afternoon."

"Sounds like you've got everything lined up," said Scully.

Gary smiled and picked up his hat. "We aim to please. Well, then let's hit the road."

A young dark haired woman at a desk near the back of the room sat watching the trio. As they left, she picked up the phone on her desk. After a moment, she began to speak quietly. "It's me. You were right. He did call in the FBI. They could be trouble. What do you want me to do?" She paused. "Are you sure?" Another pause. "When?" She nodded. "I understand."


Sumpter Coal Mine

Mulder tried to squelch a grin at the site of Scully's head being swallowed by the large yellow hardhat. Scully attempted to look up at him, but the front of the hat, weighed down by a light, fell into her eyes. Mulder could not contain the laugh anymore. Scully pushed the hat out of her eyes and glared at him.

"Sorry, Agent Scully," said Gary with a rather amused grin of his own. "They only have one size for visitors to the mine."

"That's okay, Gary," said Scully. "I think I can manage."

He nodded, sure that she could. "I hope you guys aren't claustrophobic, 'cause the crime scene is pretty far down."

"As long as you can assure me there won't be any cave-ins, and that there will be plenty of air to breath, we'll be just fine," said Mulder.

Gary looked worriedly at Mulder.

"He's kidding, Gary," said Scully.

They made their way past workers covered in coal dust, who waved and shouted greetings to Gary. They stopped at a fork in the large passage and veered to the right.

"We've still got this area closed off, and let me tell you, the big bosses are chafing to get it going again."

"Hopefully, we can give it back to them soon," said Scully.

The passageway became smaller, until they could only walk two abreast. Suddenly, they came upon the garish yellow of the crime scene tape.

Mulder pulled it up and walked into the middle of the cordoned area. "You're sure no one has disturbed the area?"

"No one's been down here 'cept Sheriff Wagner and me since the body was pulled out." He turned his head back up the passageway. "Between you and me, I think they're gonna be hard pressed to find anybody in this mine that's gonna want to work down here now."

Mulder shown the flashlight he held on the walls and floor, looking. "I know what you mean. It feels, I don't know, creepy, down here."

Gary nodded. "And miners can be a superstitious lot."

Scully pulled them back to the job. "And you found no evidence that someone attacked Mr. Bond here?"

"Well, there were lots of footprints, but this area was being worked pretty heavily at the time."

"How did he come to be down here alone?" asked Scully.

"It was a shift change. He was a supervisor and was making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. When the next shift came down, about 20-30 minutes later, they found him, dead." Gary drew in a breath. "By the time we got here, several people had walked through the area, but we tried to preserve it as best we could. I assume you've seen the photos." Mulder nodded, and Gary continued. "We found nothing. Nada. It looked like he just fell down and died." Gary gulped and closed his eyes. "But the look on his face, was of such, horror." Gary shook his head as if to clear it. "Just like all the others."

Mulder looked carefully at the area, absorbing every detail. He walked closer to the wall of the tunnel, squatted down and brought the flashlight close to the wall.

"Find something, Mulder?" asked Scully.

"I don't know. Maybe." He scrutinized the site. "Come here, Scully."

Scully came and knelt beside him. "What are you looking at?"

"Look right here." He pointed to a series of gashes on the wall. Gary came up behind them.

"That's just where equipment hits the walls, Agent Mulder. Those scarred places are everywhere."

"But look at this area," said Mulder, pointing to several connected slashes. "Doesn't that look a bit more intentional?"

Scully frowned. "Maybe. What do you think it is?"

"It looks like a lightning bolt to me."

Scully squinted. "I don't know, Mulder. Like Gary said, these walls are full of marks."

"Well, it's something we can look for at the other scenes." He turned to Gary. "I think we've seen enough here."

"Okay," said Gary, "I guess we can move on to the next, or should I say, previous, crime scene. That one happened several weeks ago, so there probably won't be much to see in the way of evidence."

"Well, you never know," said Mulder.

Sumpter Coal Mine Hebron, Kentucky

They exited the mine, dusted themselves off, and headed for the next scene. They drove about ten miles and stopped on the side of the road.

Gary turned to the two agents in his car. "We'll have to do some more walking. David Melvin's body was found in his Daddy's soybean field."

"The report states that the boy's sister found him," said Scully.

"Yeah, she was pretty torn up. Her mama sent her out to find him when he didn't come in for supper. I guess she just figured he was sitting out there with some friends. Sometimes the boys do that." He paused and looked out the window. "I know I spent my share of time sitting on a tractor, talking to my buddies when I was growing up." He shook his head. "Anyway, guess we better get going. Not that there'll be much to see."

They got out of the car and began the trek through the beans. There was no yellow crime scene tape to mark the spot here, but a large beaten down area was just ahead of them. Mulder walked ahead to the middle of the area, then stopped and turned slowly around. Scully could see him placing things in his mind, where the tractor had been, the position of the body, the path of approach his sister had taken. Scully walked the perimeter, careful not to disturb him. Deputy Gary must have sensed the intensity of Mulder's scrutiny, because he, too, was silent.

Suddenly, Mulder broke from his reverie with a question for Gary. "Can we see the tractor?"

"Um, sure. I think it's back in the barn. I'll need to get on the horn and warn Mrs. Melvin we're coming."

Mulder nodded and they walked back out of the field. They arrived at the Melvin farm a few minutes later. A slim woman dressed in jeans and a faded denim shirt met them at the barn door. Gary made the introductions. She seems genuinely glad to meet the FBI agents and quickly led them to the tractor.

"We've just had it here in the barn ever since David died. My husband hasn't moved it since they brought it back." She paused and gave a short heartless laugh. "Good thing we've got other tractors."

"Did you notice anything different about it when it was brought back?" asked Mulder.

"No," she said.

"Would you mind if I had a look?"

"No, of course not," said Mrs. Melvin. "I'll leave you to it, then. Just be sure to close the barn doors when you leave."

"Thanks, Mrs. Melvin," said Gary.

Mrs. Melvin left them in the barn and Mulder began his intense perusal of the tractor.

"What are you looking for Mulder?" asked Scully.

"I'm not sure," said Mulder. He knelt down and began his inspection with the wheels. Scully went to the other side and began her own inspection. After a moment she turned her attention to the panel gauges. The key was in the ignition and all around it were scratches, as if someone had tried on many occasions to place the key in the appropriate place but had missed. She looked closer.

"Hey, Mulder, come take a look at this," said Scully.

"What did you find?"

"I'm not sure, but it looks a bit like the marks you found on the wall of the mine."

Mulder looked where she indicated. "I think you're right, Scully."

"It could just be a random pattern from where the key scratched all around the ignition," said Scully.

"I don't think so," said Mulder. "I think this means something."

"What?" asked Gary.

"I don't know yet," said Mulder.

Further inspection revealed nothing else. As they headed back to the car, Gary asked, "Where to now? Do you want to see more of the scenes or move on to witness and family interviews?"

"Do you think Mrs. Melvin would mind answering a few questions?" asked Mulder.

"We can ask," said Gary. He approached the house and knocked tentatively on the front door. When Mrs. Melvin came to the door, he made the request and she waved them in.

"Can I get you something to drink?" she asked.

Mulder smiled. "Nothing for me, thanks." Gary and Scully echoed his statement. "We don't want to take up too much of your time," he resumed. "I just wanted to know if you had ever seen this," he said as he sketched out the lightning bolt he had pointed out to Scully and Gary.

Mrs. Melvin looked closely at it. "I don't think so. Why? Do you think it has something to do with why David died?"

"I don't know, Mrs. Melvin. We're just trying to follow all possible leads."

She looked at it again. "Wait, I think I have seen it, or maybe something like it." She paused. "Let me think, where was that?" She drummed her fingers on the table. "Gary," she said, "doesn't this look sort of like part of the Alvarado Enterprises logo?"

Gary looked over her shoulder, frowning. "Hmm. You know, I think you're right."

Mulder's eyes lit up and he looked at Scully, both remembering Mrs. Annie's words of warning about Alvarado. "Do you think you could remember how it's like the logo?" asked Scully.

"I've got yesterday's paper right here. I'm sure there was an ad in the classifieds from that place." She got up to retrieve the paper, opened it to the right section and brought it to the table.

Mulder and Scully looked intently at the paper. Right in the middle of the logo was the lightning bolt.

"Mrs. Melvin, did your son have any connection to this company?"

"He interviewed for a job there when they first opened up, about
6 or 7 months ago, but he didn't take the job. Said the whole place gave him the creeps or something. His friend Josh did work there for a while, though."

"What kind of job did he interview for?" asked Scully.

"Um, I think it was a truck driver's job. Delivering their stuff to the airport, post office, and such for shipment. In fact, that's what Josh did."

"He no longer works there?"

Mrs. Melvin looked down at her hands. "No, Josh was killed in an automobile accident. Driving one of those trucks. Hit by a drunk driver, isn't that right, Gary?"

"Yes, ma'am," said Gary. "He'd only been driving that truck for about a month."

"Thank you, Mrs. Melvin," said Mulder as he got up.

"Agent Mulder, do you believe that Alvarado Enterprises had anything do to with my son's death?"

"I don't know," said Mulder. "As I said, we're just following up all leads."

They left the quiet kitchen and headed back to Gary's car. "What are you thinking, Mulder?" asked Scully.

"I'm thinking that the name Alvarado Enterprises keeps coming up. I think we need to find out more about this company, and look for any connections the victims may have had to it." He opened the car door and got in. "Gary, what do you know about Alvarado Enterprises."

Gary got in, cranked the car, and turned to face Mulder. "Well, they bought some reclaimed mine land about a year ago. Built offices and a couple of warehouses."

"What does this company do?" asked Scully.

"Some kind of personnel management, motivational training stuff, I think," said Gary. "This is the main office, where the president, Quentin Alvarado's office is. He has some other of his upper management here, too."

"What are the warehouses for?" asked Mulder.

"Storage of their books, videos, and such. This is one of their shipment points. The stuff is produced elsewhere, and stored here until some poor sucker orders it."

"You don't sound like a big fan," said Scully.

"Don't get me wrong," said Gary. "I've got nothing against them. I just think some of the 'imaging' stuff and meditation that they do is sort of hokey."

"Do you think we could get some of the material?" asked Mulder.

"I'm sure they'd be only too happy to give you their pitch, Agent Mulder." He paused and laughed. "Just thinking about landing an account with the FBI would probably set those guys' mouths to watering."


Sheriff's Office
12:45pm

Scully pulled off her glasses, rubbed the bridge of her nose, and looked over at Mulder. He sat with files open all around him, looking at crime scene photos with a magnifying glass.

"Find anything in those photos, Mulder?"

"Not really, but I have some ideas on where we can look for that symbol on artifacts from the other scenes."

"Well, I have to meet the coroner in a few minutes," said Scully.

Mulder looked at his watch. "Twelve forty-five already. No wonder I'm hungry."

Gary's head appeared in the doorway. "I was just about to call in a lunch order to the little cafe across the street. Do you want anything?"

"Nothing for me, Gary," said Scully. "Mrs. Annie's breakfast is a bit heavier than I'm used to. But Mulder was just saying how hungry he was."

Scully left the pair to discuss the merits of various sandwich ingredients.

She arrived at the local hospital a few minutes later and headed for Dr. Webber's office. As she approached the door, she noticed it was open. She knocked lightly on the half open door and was rewarded with an invitation to come in. Dr. Webber sat at an old wooden desk, glasses sliding down his nose, totally engrossed in reading a file. He looked up quickly to see who his guest was.

"Can I help you?" he asked when he didn't recognize the face.

"Dr. Webber," said Scully, "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI. I had an appointment to meet with you about the autopsy results on the -"

"Dr. Scully!" he said, and got up, hand out to Scully. "I'm so sorry, I completely forgot. Please sit down, sit down." He motioned her to a chair in front of his desk.

"Quite all right," said Scully. "I know you're busy, so shall we get right down to business?"

"Yes, of course," he said. "I have the files right here." He reached behind him to pick up a stack of files. "I suppose you've already read the summaries." At Scully's nod, he continued. "Not much to tell. Besides being dead, I could find nothing wrong with any of these people."

"Nothing at all?"

"Nothing. Well, nothing that wasn't confirmed by their previous medical histories, and none of that could have caused the deaths."

Scully sat looking through Joseph Bond's autopsy report. "Tox screens clean, no external or internal lesions that could be identified."

"Everything came up negative." Webber paused. "I wasn't too concerned with that finding on the first victim, because she was an older woman. You know as well as I do that a cause of death cannot always be established."

Scully nodded. "But with the techniques and testing available, that's not common."

"I couldn't agree more, Dr. Scully. But I didn't find anything. And believe me, I looked."

Scully smiled. "Your reports were exceptionally thorough, Dr. Webber, but the fact still remains that we have six dead people." She paused. "Would you mind if I hung on to these for a while?"

"No, in fact, I had those copies put together for you." He shook his head. "If you can think of anything else for us to do, let me know. We still have tissue samples we can run."

"I will, Dr. Webber," said Scully, taking out one of her business cards. "If you think of anything, please give me a call."

Webber took the offered card and looked at it closely. "I certainly will, Dr. Scully." He shook his head again. "Ten years in the New York medical examiner's office, and I never ran across such a lack of, of, anything."

Scully smiled. "It is aggravating, and believe me, you never get used to it." She looked at her watch and rose to leave. "I'll be in touch."

Webber watched her leave, a quizzical expression on his face.


 

Sheriff's Office
1:30pm

Mulder sat at the small desk in the Sheriff's office intently studying a yellowed file. He looked up as Deputy Fields set a bag and a cup on the desk.

"Lunch has arrived!" said Gary. "Sheila said to apologize to you for the delay, but they were kind of busy."

"Sheila?"

"Yeah, she's our dispatcher, secretary, you know." Gary paused and gave an exaggerated pouty look. "She never apologizes to me."

"Umm," stammered Mulder as he picked up the bag. He glanced around the room and noticed the dark haired young woman near the back of the room, waving shyly at him. He nodded slightly toward her.

Gary grinned. "It's okay, Mulder. She just likes to flirt with the new guys. After the new wears off you'll be invisible just like the rest of us."

Mulder shook his head, set the file aside, and looked in the bag. "I hope I don't regret letting you talk me into this, but I do love barbecue."

Gary laughed. "Then you're gonna love this. But go easy on the sauce if you're not used to hot stuff."

Mulder picked up the small plastic container and opened it carefully. He gingerly stuck a finger in its contents, then put the finger in his mouth. He contemplated the sensations and tastes that assaulted his tongue, then smiled at Gary. "This is 'hellfire hot'?"

"What? Not spicy enough for you?"

Mulder grinned and poured the entire contents on his open sandwich. Gary's eyes got wide. Mulder's smile broadened. "I like to live dangerously."

"So I see," said Gary.

Mulder took a big bite, barbecue sauce dripping down his chin. Gary looked at the pile of old files stacked beside him. "I see they found those files from the twenties. Anything in them?"

Mulder wiped his mouth and attempted to wipe at a drop of sauce that had splattered on his colorful tie. "Lots of stuff. Don't know if any of it is significant yet."

Gary got up. "Well, I'll leave you to it." He started to walk away. "We can go on to the other scenes whenever you're ready, and I've got a roll of antacids in my desk when you need some later."

Mulder took another big bite and nodded as Gary left. He wiped his hands again, and picked up an old file. He had meticulously gone through the photos from the recent crime scenes, so he was pretty sure where he'd find the lightning bolt. Now he turned his attention to the 70 year old cases, hoping to find a clue there. As he polished off the last of the sandwich, Scully walked in.

"Wow, that was fast," said Mulder.

"Dr. Webber didn't have much to say," said Scully, "but he did give me the complete files." She lay them on a corner of the desk. "Find anything?"

"The little cafe across the road has great barbecue." Scully rolled her eyes. "And," said Mulder as he wadded up the remains of his lunch and launched it into the garbage, "I think I know where to look for that symbol at the other crime scenes."

"Still no clue as to its significance?"

Mulder shook his head. "No, but I keep coming back to Alvarado Enterprises."

"What, did you find connections to the victims?"

He nodded and took a long drink of his tea. "All of the victims had applied for a job there. Some worked there for a short period of time. A couple, like David Melvin, never took the jobs."

"Where did you get that information?"

"From a very helpful secretary at Alvarado. By the way, we have an appointment with Mister Alvarado himself at four-thirty. That should give us enough time to look at at least one more scene, and talk to Albert Dysan."

"I thought we were supposed to see Dysan tomorrow."

Mulder shrugged. "He called and asked us to come over about three."


Jiffy Kwik Mart
2:15pm

Mulder was out of the car almost before it stopped moving, striding purposefully into the Jiffy Kwik Mart. Scully half expected him to pick up a bag of sunflower seeds as he looked carefully up and down the aisles. Deputy Fields moved past him to speak to the woman at the register, explaining why they were there, then went to a silver door near the restrooms.

"Agent Mulder, it was back here."

Mulder stood quietly looking around, then nodded and followed Gary to the door. Scully watched his movements closely, recognizing the signs of 'Mulder-on-the-scent'.

Gary opened the door and motioned the agents into the dark storeroom area of the convenience store. It was about a quarter the size of the store itself and smelled musty. Boxes were stacked everywhere.

"Let me find the lights," said Gary, still holding the door open.

"No!" said Mulder, startling him. "Leave them off." He moved slowly to stand near the back wall. "Is this where the body was found?"

"Yes," said Gary. "Andrew Burgess, the store manager, was found by the cashier on the midnight shift, Beverly Hall."

Mulder knelt down where the body had lain. He looked carefully around the room then got up and moved to the back door. The metal door was a mass of scratches and dents, but Mulder's finger went immediately to scratches near the deadbolt lock.

"Turn the light on please, Gary."

Gary flipped the switch and the small room was suddenly bathed in flickering fluorescent light.

"Look, Scully," said Mulder, pointing to the door.

Scully moved closer to inspect the battered metal door. She squinted and looked where he indicated.

"You think that this is the same as the symbols found at the other sites?"

"See for yourself, Scully. They are definitely the same."

"What does it mean?" asked Gary.

Mulder ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "I don't know yet, but I'm sure it's significant."

Gary shrugged. "I'll take your word for it."

Mulder and Scully continued to prowl the close, musty room for another few minutes, then Mulder opened the door to the outside and stepped into the short alley. He looked at the door from the outside then walked along the back of the building, looking carefully.

"What are we looking for, Mulder?" asked Scully.

"I don't know," said Mulder.

Scully stopped and turned around. A wooden privacy fence was hidden by small trees and unkempt bushes. She pushed her way through to see that the wooden fence was covered in graffiti, some of it quite artistic. She stepped up for a closer look, then backed as far away as she could to get a more complete view. "Hey, Mulder," said Scully, "I think I found something."

Mulder walked around to where Scully was standing. His mouth gaped as he moved to stand beside her. "I'd say you hit the jackpot, Scully."

The wooden fence was covered in a detailed drawing of a demonic figure wielding a lightening bolt.

"Gary, can we get some pictures of this?" asked Mulder. "And is there any chance of finding out who did this?"

"Pictures are no problem. As for the identity of the 'artist', I can tell you right now who did that."

Mulder turned quickly. "Who?"

"Josh Stevens. The friend of David Melvin's that was killed in an auto accident several months ago."

Mulder's face fell. He chewed on his lower lip as he stepped closer to the hellish image. "Did he have any brothers or sisters?"

Gary thought for a moment. "No. I believe he was an only child."

"Can you get me some family history?"

"I think so, Mulder. But it would help if I knew what you were looking for."

"I'm not really sure, but this," he said pointing to the demon on the wall, "is a big clue."


State Road 84

Mulder sat in silence in the car, quietly sketching the demon on the fence. He frowned at the results, but decided they'd do until they got the photos. They were on their way to the church to talk with Albert Dysan, and Mulder wanted to ask him if he recognized this particular demon. Scully looked over at him from the driver's seat. They had retrieved their rental car from the sheriff's office to free Gary up for the afternoon. Mulder looked up.

"Don't take this the wrong way, Mulder, but I don't think I'd be booking galleries for your artistic endeavors anytime soon."

Mulder frowned. "That bad?"

"Well, not really," said Scully. "I mean, I can tell what it is." She paused. "It is the demon on that fence, isn't it?"

Mulder gave her a sarcastic look and put his sketch away. Scully smiled.

The church was a relatively small white frame building set among graceful oak trees, surrounded by an immaculate lawn. They parked in the small parking lot and headed toward the building.

"Did he say where to meet him?" asked Scully.

"Yeah, he said just to come in the side door, go to the end of the hall and hang a right."

They proceeded through the church on those directions and soon heard things that sounded like they should be coming from a gym and not a church. They looked at each other and went around the corner. A door stood open revealing a group of people in karate attire. A handsome man with brown hair, just graying at the temples, and sporting a black belt, spotted them. After excusing himself from the group, he came to the door.

"Agents Mulder and Scully?" he asked.

"Yes," said Mulder, as they pulled out their IDs.

"I'm Albert Dysan," he said as he held out his hand to them. "We're just about to finish up here. Do you have a few minutes?"

"Sure," said Mulder. "We are a little early."

"Thanks. I was just about to demonstrate a couple of self defense moves for the group."

Mulder and Scully looked at the group. It consisted of children, teenagers, and adults of both sexes, as well as a few senior citizens. Dysan introduced them to the group.

"I don't suppose I could talk one of you into helping me demonstrate, could I?" He looked from one to the other.

"Sure," said Scully gamely. Mulder looked mildly surprised. She took off her jacket and gun and handed them to him, then kicked off her shoes and followed Dysan to a matted area. Dysan picked up a wooden representation of a gun, that looked to Mulder like it was supposed to be a sawed-off shotgun.

"All right, Agent Scully, I'll be the aggressor. I'm sure you've had a fair amount of training in disarming people, so let's see if I'm prepared."

Scully nodded. Dysan approached her with the fake gun pointed toward her. She expertly pushed the muzzle of the gun away with her forearm, and in the blink of an eye had Dysan on the ground. Mulder stood to the side with his mouth slightly open.

Dysan got up and addressed his class. "That, class, was the Overholt disarmament maneuver, with an additional take down." Scully raised her eyebrow at Dysan. He shrugged. "I've met the brother of the guy that invented it. He taught it to me." He turned to address the class again. "As you can see, it's very effective. I'll show you how to do it slowly, and then leave you to practice for a few minutes." He proceeded to explain the moves in great detail, until everyone in the room was practicing. Mulder still stood in the corner, watching as Scully pitched in to help with the instruction. She approached him with her hand out, silently asking for her things and stepped back into her shoes.

"Wow, Scully, I'm impressed."

Scully shrugged. "You missed the last retraining session when your shoulder was injured in Florida."

"Oh, yeah. But you gotta show me that gun thing later."

"Sure, Mulder." She straightened her jacket and ran a hand over her hair. Satisfied that she looked reasonably presentable, she turned back to the class. Dysan approached them.

"Thank you, Agent Scully. I was hoping you knew that move."

"Glad to help."

"I've turned the class over to my assistant, so we can talk. Pardon me for just a moment." He walked to an area of chairs, picked up a small black bag, then turned to the wall and removed his black belt. He put it in the bag, took out a pair of running shoes, and put them on. He approached the agents, bag in hand.

"I'm sure you must find this," he said as he motioned to the group, " a little unusual in a church."

"Well, yes," said Mulder.

Dysan motioned for them to follow. "I got my first taste of martial arts in the military. I admire the discipline and the value of knowing how to defend oneself, even if I don't subscribe to Eastern religious beliefs." At Mulder's nod he continued. "And so I decided to share my knowledge with my friends here." He paused at a door with his name on it, found keys in the bag and opened the door. "These people have been especially eager to learn with all the recent deaths." He waved them to chairs in front of his desk while he sat behind it.

"I wanted to thank you personally for coming here," said Dysan. "Walt's a good man, and I knew I could count on him to send me his best."

"Thank you for the vote of confidence," said Mulder, "but we've still got a lot of work to do before we can explain these deaths."

Dysan nodded. "I understand that. I just wanted you to know your efforts are appreciated."

Mulder and Scully exchanged looks of mild surprise. It wasn't often that they heard these kinds of sentiments from anyone, even when a case was solved.

Mulder looked away, then fished the drawing out of his pocket, holding it. "Um, Mr. Dysan, would you mind answering some questions for me?"

"Of course not," he said as he settled into his chair.

Mulder laid the drawing on the desk. "Can you tell me anything about this?"

Dysan looked carefully at the drawing. He swallowed and his face paled visibly. He looked up at Mulder. "You do know how to get right to the heart of the matter, don't you, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder shrugged.

Dysan picked up the paper and studied it more closely. "This looks like what's painted on the fence behind the Jiffy Kwik."

"Do you know what it means?" asked Mulder.

Dysan sighed. "When I saw this for the first time, my first thought was that the artist was quite talented." He paused. "And he was. It wasn't until later that I learned what drove him to express himself in this manner."

"And what was that?" asked Scully.

Dysan put the paper down and looked at the two agents. "A demon."

"A demon?" asked Scully, slightly incredulously.

Dysan nodded. "And not just any demon. This is an old, powerful one."

"Why do you say that?" asked Mulder.

Dysan sighed. "It's a rather long story, but I'll try to give you the short version." He paused again, to gather his thoughts. "The first appearance of the demon in this area was back in the twenties -"

"The group of murders that were blamed on a transient man?" asked Mulder.

"Yes, Mr. Mulder, those murders. From what I understand, the man was definitely involved, but the demon was really responsible. A pastor in the area at the time identified the demon, and drove him out."

"What connection does that have to these deaths?" asked Scully.

"Everything," said Dysan. "The same demon is back."

"How do you know?" asked Mulder.

"I have the journal of Charlie Green, the pastor of this church back then. He recorded some interesting details, including how he planned to drive the demon out."

"Then he wasn't successful?" asked Mulder.

"Well, everyone thought he was until a few months ago, but the journal ends just prior to the 'big showdown'."

"Why?" asked Scully.

"Green died during his confrontation in a mine tunnel collapse."

"He was the last death," said Mulder quietly.

Dysan nodded. "Then the sheriff pieced together enough evidence to connect the transient man, Quince Alvers, to the deaths. He was arrested, but was declared incompetent and never went to trial. He spent the remainder of his days in the state mental hospital."

Mulder nodded. "I've read most of the files on the case. Alvers died in 1958."

Dysan sighed. "Seventy years of peace, and now it's back."

"How do you know it's the same demon?" asked Mulder.

Dysan opened a desk drawer and pulled out an old leather bound book. He flipped through the pages and settled on one before turning it to face the agents. "This is how I know."

They looked closely at the drawing. It was the same as the drawing on the fence.

"Isn't it possible that the boy that painted the fence could have seen a similar picture?" asked Scully.

Dysan shook his head. "To my knowledge, this is the only drawing of the previous demon, or this demon during his earlier 'visit'. And these journals have been closely guarded by all the pastors of this church over the years. It's sort of been like passing the flashlight to another bearer. The outgoing pastor tells the story, then passes on the journals." He paused and looked down at the book. "It was intended as a warning to always be prepared to face evil in all of it's incarnations. I honestly never dreamed it would help me fight in another war."

"A war?" asked Scully.

Dysan looked up. "THE war, Agent Scully. THE war of good versus evil. Or maybe just a battle in the war, but an important battle."

The room fell silent for a moment. Mulder looked over at Scully, then at Dysan. "Do you think Alvarado Enterprises is involved in the deaths."

Dysan nodded. "Yes. Quentin Alvarado is at the heart of this. I believe he is responsible for the demon's presence."

"How do you know?" asked Scully.

Dysan sighed. "Agent Scully, in Charlie Green's journals, he describes Quince Alvers. I've seen photos of the man. He could be Alvarado's twin."

"Or, his father," said Scully.

Dysan nodded. "I would agree with you, except that in all the information I've been able to turn up, Alvarado was born in
1960."

"He could be related in another way," said Scully, "or the records could have been falsified."

"You're right," said Dysan. "But whatever the relationship is, I do believe that Alvarado is involved."

"Do you have any other reasons for believing that?" asked Mulder.

"Yes, I do," said Dysan. He leaned back in his chair. "I've only been the pastor here for about six months. The previous pastor left six weeks after Alvarado Enterprises opened it's doors. Before he left, he told me Green's story and gave me the journal I've shown you. He told me to read it carefully, and to prepare myself for a spiritual battle." He paused. "He told me to watch and pray. Sound advice at any time. He said that he didn't feel he was strong enough to withstand what was about to come, and that he knew that, in me, God had sent a stronger soldier to lead these people." He looked at the two agents. "I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but as I read the journal, I began to understand, to see signs."

"The lightning bolt," said Mulder. "Is that one of the signs?"

Dysan smiled. "Yes, Agent Mulder, it is."

"What does it mean?"

"It is a symbol that this demon uses for itself."

"And it's in Alvarado's logo," said Mulder.

Dysan nodded. "And then there's the company and what it does."

"I believe they deal with personnel management and motivation," said Scully.

"Yes," said Dysan, "but the methods that they use are far from conventional. In fact they use what some people would call New Age mysticism. But there's nothing 'new' about it. It's an age old mysticism. They couch it in 'meditation' and such, but what it really is, is harnessing the powers of darkness for success. The sad thing is that many, most even, of the people who use these services have no idea, until it's almost too late."

"Almost?" asked Mulder.

"It's a choice, Agent Mulder, to serve the powers of darkness or the power of light. It's never too late to turn to the light."

"Why are people dying?" asked Mulder.

Dysan picked up the journal. "Green believed that this demon was something of a rogue." He stopped and shrugged. "A strange idea, I suppose, but he thought that it had it's own goals, wanted to set up it's own little kingdom. He thought it was trying to eliminate threats to it's plans by removing people that could challenge it."

"Then why didn't it go after Green initially, or you?" asked Scully.

"Perhaps it believes we are too strong in our faith to be easy targets. By murdering our friends, the people in our church, it is trying to weaken us, to make us doubt ourselves. And God."

"Then why call for our help?" asked Scully.

"There are some very human elements to this problem. Even though they are being supported by this demon, they are still quite human." He paused. "And from what Walt told me about some of your cases, I thought the two of you would be much less likely to dismiss the whole story out of hand. That would be a very dangerous thing to do."


State Road 84 Hebron, Kentucky

Scully drove the car as Mulder sat in the passenger seat, reading the journal of Charlie Green.

"What do you think, Mulder?" asked Scully.

Mulder looked up. "I'm not sure Scully. A rogue demon is a bit of a stretch, even for me." He paused. "And to believe in the darkness, you have to believe there is a light. I'm not sure I can."

They sat together in silence until the gates of the Alvarado complex loomed in front of them. Scully pulled up to the gate and rolled her window down as a security guard came out of his booth. Scully showed her ID and they were directed to the main office building. Mulder carefully placed the book inside his coat. They soon found themselves in the office of Quentin Alvarado.

Quentin Alvarado was tall, well-built, with olive skin, black hair, and eyes so dark they looked black as well. He smiled at the two agents and extended his hand. But the smile was cold, the gesture one of expected courtesy.

"Mr. Alvarado," said Mulder, "I'm Special Agent Mulder of the FBI, this is my partner, Special Agent Scully."

Alvarado nodded and looked at the displayed IDs. He motioned for them to be seated and perched on the edge of his desk. "What can I do for you?"

"We won't take much of your time, sir," said Scully. "We just have a few questions."

"Always happy to help," said Alvarado, the cold smile again. "What do you want to know."

"A number of previous employees of your company have been found dead recently."

"Yes, terrible, just terrible. But I don't see what I have to do with it."

"We're just doing some routine checking on the backgrounds of the victims," said Mulder, "trying to find any connections they may have had to each other in order to try to understand the killer."

"Ah, yes, I'd heard you were once a profiler, Agent Mulder. A quite good one. I'm certainly glad to know you're on this case. But we have a lot of employees. I don't know each one personally. I'm not sure I understand what it is you want from me."

"Any information you can give us about these people while in your employ would be greatly appreciated," said Scully.

"Certainly. Just give my secretary a list of names and she can pull the records."

"I'd also like to ask you about Josh Stevens. I believe he was a truck driver for you several months ago," said Mulder.

A flash of emotions passed quickly over Alvarado's face. Mulder couldn't decide if it was surprise, grief, or anger. Or maybe all three. It was gone too quickly to be sure.

"I don't usually have much contact with the drivers, Agent Mulder. However, I did know Josh. He was quite a talented artist. Such a pity he was killed before he ever had a chance to explore it."

"How did you know him?" asked Scully.

"His uncle works for me as well. He's presently my executive assistant. His office is right next door. Josh would come by to see him sometimes." The phone buzzed and Alvarado punched a button. "Yes?"

"Mr. Alvarado, you have a call from the New York office on line three."

"I'm afraid I'll have to cut this short. I've been waiting for this call," he said, dismissing the agents. "But, please, if you need anything else, just let my secretary know." He picked up the phone and began to talk.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other and exited the office. They paused long enough to give Alvarado's secretary the list of people they needed information on. Neither agent spoke as they walked out of the building.

As they approached the car, Mulder leaned over to Scully. "Was it just me, or did you get the impression that we weren't welcome?"

"He was just polite enough to be irritating," agreed Scully. She walked around to open the car door.

Mulder leaned against the car and rubbed his head. "All that courtesy gave me a headache."

They got in and Mulder leaned his head back, letting out a slow breath. "Where to now?"

Scully looked at him. "Back to the sheriff's office?"

Mulder nodded. "We can go through some more of those old files, and see what else we can dig up on the victims. And I'd like to check out Josh's uncle, too."


Gates Accounting
Hebron, Kentucky

Dennis Gates sat quietly at his desk, trying to calm himself. He looked over his shoulder, again, and took a deep breath. He tried to concentrate on the computer screen in front of him, but the rows and columns of numbers did little to hold his attention. He was a respected CPA, one of the best in this part of the state, but this business with Alvarado had him on edge constantly. He tried to keep Pastor Dysan's warnings in mind, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. Suddenly the phone rang. He jumped as if he had been hit with a cattle prod, then took another deep breath and answered it. The light on the panel showed it to be his secretary.

"Yes, Joyce?"

"Mr. Gates, I'm leaving for the day. My son has that orthodontist's appointment this afternoon, so -"

"Oh, yes, of course, Joyce."

"Do you need anything before I go?"

"No, I don't think so. In fact I'll probably call it quits early today, myself."

"See you tomorrow, Mr. Gates."

"Thank you, Joyce." He hung up the phone, shook his head as if to clear it, then settled in to work. He heard the front door of his office shut as Joyce left. After about 45 minutes of work, the numbers were running together, so Dennis decided to go home. He shut down the computer and was gathering paperwork to take home when he heard the front door open and shut again. He got up to see who it was when suddenly the door to his office swung open. He frowned when no one walked in.

"Hello?" He stepped around the desk and cautiously walked to the open door. He stopped short as a small table was overturned, followed by a chair, then the lamp on his desk. All color drained from his face and he began to shake.

"No, no, no, no!" He backed away from the path of destruction and tried to ease out the door, which slammed shut just ahead of him. He turned around to face the room again, a look of pure terror on his face. The papers on his desk blew to the floor, then a sudden strong wind picked them up to swirl around the frightened man. His eyes went wild as small objects in the room joined the papers to form a tight cyclone around him. He threw up his hands and began to yell again.

"No, not me! I don't want to die!" He turned within the confines of the swirling objects and screamed. Just as suddenly as the wind began, it died down, dropping papers, staplers, and the body of Dennis Gates to the floor.


Sheriff's Office
5:15pm

Mulder and Scully sat at the cluttered desk, quietly going through files. Mulder rubbed at his forehead, then across his stomach. He stood up, stretched, then made his way over to Gary's desk. Gary looked up as he approached.

"Hey, Gary," said Mulder, " still got those antacid tablets?"

Gary smiled broadly and opened his desk drawer. "Can't say I didn't warn you."

"Yeah, I know," said Mulder, taking the offered tablets. He chewed them up, grimacing. "You'd think," he said with his mouth half full, "that somebody would make these things taste better." Gary laughed and nodded as Mulder walked back to the desk.

Scully looked up as Mulder sat back down, still chewing. He took a drink of lukewarm tea then let his head roll back.

"You okay, Mulder?" asked Scully.

"My lunch isn't sitting too well. Guess that's what I get for eating 'hellfire hot' barbecue sauce."

Suddenly Gary came up to the desk. "We've got another one."

"What?" asked Scully.

"Another body. Dennis Gates, CPA. His wife found him a few minutes ago. Said he was supposed to come home early today, and when he didn't, she called his office. When no one answered, she went to check on him. Found him on the floor of his office, dead."

"Let's go," said Mulder.


- Gates Accounting

Mulder and Scully stood in Gates' office as the scene was photographed and catalogued. The room was littered with papers and various small office objects. The furniture in front of the desk was overturned, but the desk chair was in place, as was the computer. Mulder sat down at the computer and looked around. He concentrated on the computer screen, then asked for fingerprint dust. Scully watched in silence as he dusted the face of the computer screen. As he finished, the lightning bolt appeared. He looked at Scully.

"And here it is again," said Mulder. "See anything on the body?"

"Not yet. No obvious external trauma, no signs of anything, except that he was frightened."

"Just like the others."

Scully nodded. Mulder sat in the chair for a moment, then went outside. Scully looked out the window to see him leaning against the car. She excused herself and went outside.

"Mulder, are you alright?"

He didn't answer, but turned toward her, nodding 'no', a hand rubbing his stomach. Then he lurched away from the car and vomited. He sank to his hands and knees and continued to wretch. Scully knelt beside him. When he sat back, he was pale and sweaty. He turned to Scully. "Remind me never, never to eat barbecue again."

Scully smiled and helped him up. He swayed against her. "Easy, Mulder, just take it slow." They made it to the car, and he collapsed into the passenger seat.

Gary walked slowly to the car. "Mulder, are you okay?"

Mulder shook his head. "Not really."

Gary looked at Scully. "You don't think he could have that intestinal bug that we've been passing around, do you?"

Scully raised an eyebrow and looked at Mulder's pasty white face. "I think that's a pretty good bet."

"Nah, I think it was just what I had for lunch," said Mulder. "Just give me a minute. I'll be okay." Then he launched himself out of the car, and was soon retching again. Scully and Gary guided him back to the car.

"I think I'd better get him back to Mrs. Annie's," said Scully. "Could you let Dr. Webber know that I'll be by to do the autopsy in the morning?"

"Scully, I'm okay, really. Go ahead and do the autopsy."

"Mulder, you're not okay, and it'll be hours before everything is done here at the scene. I can do it early tomorrow morning." She shut the door, and any chance of a reply from Mulder, and walked around the car with a wave to Gary.

"It's gonna be a long night," said Scully quietly.

They got to Mrs. Annie's house with only two more stops for Mulder to try to throw up. As Scully helped him out of the car, he was trembling. Mrs. Annie met them at the door.

"Oh my goodness. Fox, dear, what's the matter?"

"I think he caught the intestinal virus that the Sheriff has," said Scully. They helped him up the stairs and into the big bed before he finally wilted into restless sleep.

Scully shut his bedroom door and followed Mrs. Annie down the stairs to the kitchen. She sat down at the kitchen table while Mrs. Annie produced two mugs of coffee.

"Thanks," said Scully.

Mrs. Annie smiled. "I have a feeling it's going to be a long night for both of you, dear."

Scully nodded and took a drink of her coffee. "He's not the best patient. He'll try to go on with the investigation before his body's ready, and he'll end up sicker than he was before."

Mrs. Annie chuckled quietly. "Why am I not surprised by that. I have a feeling you're going to need some help with him, and I'll be glad to be that help."

"Thank you," said Scully, truly grateful. "I'll have to leave pretty early in the morning to do the autopsy -" she stopped when she realized she probably shouldn't be telling Mrs. Annie this.

"It's alright, dear. I know about Dennis." She looked deep into her mug. "When will all this stop?"

Scully sighed. "Hopefully soon. Perhaps I'll find something tomorrow that will help us."

"Dana," said Mrs. Annie, "I see that you wear a cross."

Scully's hand went to the cross at her neck. "Yes, my mother gave it to me a long time ago."

"Is that why you wear it?"

"Partly. It's also a reminder to me of the power of faith, and of God."

Mrs. Annie sighed. "Thank the Good Lord. At least you'll be more prepared."

Scully frowned. "For what?"

"For the demon, child," said Mrs. Annie. "You do believe in demons, don't you?"

"I believe that there are many things we don't understand." She paused. "Mulder once asked me if I believed in miracles. I do believe that God's hand can be witnessed. I guess I believe demons are possible."

"But do you believe a demon is responsible for these deaths?"

"I don't know, Mrs. Annie. As a scientist, and a trained investigator, I need proof before I commit to anything. As yet, I haven't seen that proof."

"You will," said Mrs. Annie. "And when you do, I hope you'll be able to recognize it, and be strong enough to protect yourself," she paused and looked out the door and up the stairway," and probably Fox, too."

"Protect myself?" asked Scully.

Mrs. Annie got up to retrieve a worn Bible from the counter. She sat next to Scully and opened it. "Dana, I want to read you a few passages, Okay?"

Scully nodded.

Mrs Annie located the passage she wanted. "In Luke 9, Jesus called the Twelve apostles together and 'He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons.' And in Luke 10, when the seventy-two that He had sent out returned, they said 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name. He replied, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy, nothing will harm you.' But then in Matthew 17, the disciples wanted to know why they could not drive out a demon that Jesus did. He said, 'because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible.'" She paused and looked carefully at Scully. "Dana, if there was ever going to be a time in your life when faith in God was important, this is it. Hold fast to your faith." She patted Scully's hand left the kitchen.

Scully sat, looking at the open Bible, her hand on her cross.


Mrs. Annie's house
Friday, 7:00am

Scully looked at the rumpled form on the bed. Mulder lay under the beautiful quilts, his pale, drawn face barely visible. It had been a long night. He'd tried the brightly colored sports drinks that Mrs. Annie had brought up, but had not been able to keep anything down. In the last couple of hours he'd fallen into a sleep of exhaustion. Scully hoped that he'd sleep for a while longer, but just about then he stirred, and groaned.

"Scully, um-" he stopped, swallowing hard.

She moved quickly to the bedside, plastic trash bin in hand. She'd hoped he wouldn't be this weak. He finally stopped retching and sank back into the bed. She wiped his face with a cool cloth. He didn't even open his eyes.

"Thanks," he croaked.

"Mulder, I've got to go do that autopsy. Mrs. Annie's going to stay with you. Okay?"

He nodded.

"I'm going to check with the ER and see if I can get you something to help with the vomiting. And Mulder, if it doesn't help, you'll have to go in for IV fluids."

At this, he opened his eyes. "Aw, Scully. It's just a stupid virus. I'm sure I'll be fine by this afternoon."

Scully shook her head. "Mulder, you're dehydrated now. Even if the vomiting does stop soon, it'll take you at least another day or so to get back on your feet." Mulder started to protest again, then clamped his mouth shut. Scully brought the bin back just in time.

"Maybe I'll just clean this out and leave it right here, okay?"

Mulder nodded. "Thanks, Scully." He rubbed his hand over his face, then scrubbed at his mouth. "You know, I don't ever remember throwing up so much my mouth got numb."

Scully looked over at him. "Your mouth is numb?"

"Yeah. Feels kinda weird. Sort of like going to the dentist, but not quite that bad."

Scully frowned. "Your mouth shouldn't be numb from vomiting, Mulder."

He shrugged. "Well, it is." He opened his eyes. "Don't you have an autopsy to do?"

Scully nodded, then went to clean out the bin and wet the cloth. When she returned to the bed, he was asleep. She went into her room, changed, and went downstairs. Mrs. Annie had coffee waiting for her.

"Here you go, Dana," she said. "How is Fox?"

Scully slumped into the chair. "About the same. He hasn't been able to keep anything down. I'm worried about how dehydrated he's getting."

"I'll sit with him while you're gone, dear. Just let me know anything else you'd like me to do."

"I guess, keep on trying small amounts of fluids. I'm going to try to get something at the hospital to help with the vomiting."

Scully went back upstairs to get her briefcase and check on Mulder one more time before she left. He was asleep again, for the moment. Mrs. Annie opened the door quietly. She looked at Mulder's pale face and shook her head. Scully went out in the hall to join her.

"Try not to worry too much about him, Dana. I'll look after him while you're gone."

Scully sighed. "Thank you."

Mrs. Annie saw her out the door and went back to the kitchen. She set out the ingredients she would need to make a pot of homemade chicken soup. Chicken soup would be just the thing Fox would need when he started to feel like eating. After she had the pot simmering, she went back upstairs to check on her patient.

Mulder looked up as the door to his room opened. He grinned weakly at Mrs. Annie.

"Fox, how are you feeling?"

"Um, a little better, I think."

Mrs. Annie frowned. "Fox, you shouldn't lie. You don't do it well."

Mulder grinned again. It certainly hadn't taken her long to get his number.

"Would you like to try something to drink?"

"Not really."

"Okay. But you need to try something in a little while. Doctor's orders. Do you want anything else? The TV on maybe?"

Mulder shook his head. "Not right now, thanks." He sat up in the bed, pleased that it hadn't brought on dizziness or nausea. "Mrs. Annie, can I ask you something?"

"Of course, Fox."

"You already told us that you believe a demon is responsible for the deaths." Mrs. Annie nodded. "Why is it here?"

Mrs. Annie sighed. "I don't really know, Fox. Maybe it's trying to assert a foothold of some kind here in Hebron."

Mulder rubbed at his mouth, trying to wipe away the strange sensation, then continued. "If this demon were to come after you, do you think you could protect yourself?"

"I couldn't do it alone, Fox, but I think I could be protected."

"How?"

"I was just telling Dana, earlier, that faith is the key. The Lord gave his disciples the ability to drive out demons, but they had to believe that it was possible, through God's power."

"Do you think you could drive it out?"

"I don't know, Fox. I pray that the Lord would grant me the strength I needed if I had to. Psalm 56:3 says it all, you know. 'What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee'." She paused. "No, I do know. I believe He could work through me. I've seen miracles. I believe in the power of God over Satan. I believe he sends his helpers to us when we need them."

"Angels?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Annie. "And believers empower them with prayer. Prayer, after all, is an expression of faith." She chuckled. "That's what Pastor Dysan calls us, you know." She looked at Mulder. "Prayer warriors."

"Dysan said something like that earlier. That he was a soldier in the ultimate battle of good and evil."

Mrs. Annie patted his hand. "He is, Fox."

Mulder shook his head. "I still don't understand why he wanted us here."

"You two have a role to play in this, too, Fox."

Mulder frowned and looked at his hands. "I wish I understood what it was."

"You will," she said, and left him with his thoughts.


Hebron Hospital ER

Scully walked through the doors into the ER. She stopped at the desk to identify herself, and was soon pointed toward the doctor on duty.

"Dr.Erikson?" she asked a tall blond man. He nodded. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully -"

"The FBI pathologist." He stuck out his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Dr. Scully. What can I do for you?"

Scully shook his hand. "I understand there's something of an intestinal bug going around."

Erikson nodded. "Yes. I've seen a couple of the worst cases. Does this have something to do with your investigation?"

"Not really," said Scully. "It seems my partner has contracted it. I was wondering if I could get him something for nausea after I do the autopsy."

Erikson nodded again. "Sure. Compazine was pretty effective in the cases I treated."

"Dr. Erikson, did any of them complain of any numbness in the mouth area?"

Dr. Erikson thought for a moment. "Come to think of it, one did. I think it was Sheriff Wagner when his wife brought him in yesterday."

"Did you find any reason for it?"

"No, I didn't. Just gave him a shot of compazine, kept him for a few hours to run some IV fluids, and sent him home."

Scully grimaced. "Mulder complained of the same thing this morning."

"Do you think it's significant?"

"I'm not sure. I'll check in with you after I finish the autopsy."

She made her way to the morgue. Dr. Webber had the body out and ready to go.

"Dr. Scully," said Webber, "I hope you don't mind if I assist you."

Scully smiled. "Of course not. I'd be grateful for your input."

They set to work. Nothing of note was found on the external exam. The abdominal cavity was unremarkable. When they got to the chest, Scully was ready to concede that they might not find anything. She carefully dissected the heart out and turned it gently in her hand. Just as she was putting in on the scale, she noticed a small dark mark on the surface of the left ventricle. She picked it up again and brought it to a magnifying glass.

"Dr. Webber, take a look at this."

Webber looked over her shoulder. "It looks almost like a burn."

"Yes, it does."

"But the surrounding tissues, as well as the external tissues show no evidence of burns or even punctures."

"I know," said Scully. "Let's take a section of this area."

Scully finished the autopsy, finding nothing else. Dr. Webber had been called out shortly after finding the apparent burn mark on the heart. Scully now sat, alone in the morgue, bent over a microscope looking at a slide of the heart tissue. It showed all the characteristics of burned muscle. How it got that way remained a mystery. They had detected no other burns, but Scully now suspected that the burn may have been caused by an electrical stimulus, which would certainly have stopped the heart. She just couldn't figure out how the stimulus was introduced without damaging any other tissue. She sat back from the microscope and rubbed her eyes. Yet another question.

The door opened and she looked up, expecting to see Dr. Webber. No one was there. The door shut. She shook her head. Someone had probably just opened the wrong door. As she looked back at the microscope, a small table near the door fell over. Scully looked up again, a shiver running through her. She felt, something. As she eased toward her gun, stainless steel pans and trays started flying everywhere. A rush of air whipped past her and she felt a presence, an evil presence. She held her breath and grabbed her cross, remembering Mrs. Annie's words to her that morning.

Fait


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