Title: The Hunt
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a series of strange murders involving a pack of feral dogs in the Arkansas Ozarks. They have to untangle a web of local intrigue and Celtic legend to find a murderer who may not be completely human before Mulder ends up as the next victim.
2 miles North of Woading, Arkansas
The sunset was not entirely invisible in the wood. It painted everything with a soft umber glow so that the just-turning leaves seemed more into the end of their autumn splendor. Patrick always loved the wood at this time. He whistled softly and Gump bounded at him from the right, his paws making swooshing sounds as he moved through the underbrush and sparse fallen leaves. The beagle jumped up and steadied himself with one paw on Patrick's leg, whining softly in the back of his throat.
"What's wrong Gump? Get a whiff a' coon?" Patrick bent slightly to scratch the dog affectionately, shifting his rifle slightly on his shoulder as he did so.
It wasn't hunting season yet, according to state law, but that never bothered Patrick Murphy before. He'd been hunting these woods since he was twelve. Rumors of a pack of wolves roaming the area didn't scare him none either. Four men dead... that made any wolves fair game didn't it? And if anyone knew where to take pelts to be sold it was Patrick. He knew every market for wild game meat and hides that was. So far today however he had only managed to bag two squirrels and a rabbit. A piss poor haul for a day's work.
Patrick continued walking, his earlier whistle for Gump sliding into a flat randition of a country reel. Gump never minded, he was tone def anyway.
Gump didn't stop his whining as they moved and Patrick frowned with annoyance, looking back at his four footed companion. He stopped whistling. "Don't go telling me you turned into one of them music ee-fish-ee-an-nodos."
Gump didn't mind his master. The dog kept looking back the way they had come, head down, tail tucked and hackles raised in the waning light.
Pat unslung his rifle and brought it to the ready, sighting down the deer path. "You see somethin' boy? Maybe make this day worth while after all?"
Gump was shaking now, and Patrick looked to his faithful friend with worry. Hell, nothing scared ol' Gump, not even that Grizzly they'd faced down two years ago. What the Hell...
Then he saw them. At first only the faint red glowing spots. odd little fire flies moving low to the ground. The legendary will-o-wisps. Then his mind clicked on what they were. EYES! A dozen pair of glowing red eyes bounding through the trees.
"Sweet Mary mother of God!" Patrick hissed half as plea half as prayer. He took aim between two of the bounding eyes and fired. None of them even slowed down. Then he could see them more clearly in the gathering gloom. Dogs, huge... or Wolves. But they made no sound. No baying at the scent, no whining, not even the comforting shooshing Gump had made through the underbrush. Something hissed by Patrick's ear and he turned to see an arrow embedded in the tree next to him.
"Oh SHIT! Gump RUN!" Patrick Murphy clutched his rifle before him as a talisman as he ran. For the hounds of Hell were on his trail...
J. Edger Hoover Building
Special Agent Dana Scully managed to open the door to the basement office in a masterful stroke of coordination. It was truly a feat as she was balancing an armload of paperwork in one arm, three books in the other, her briefcase and a white paper bag in her hand, and a paper cup of coffee held by the rim in her teeth. She managed to get inside and plot the papers, books and briefcase on the desk before transferring the coffee to a safer place... her hand.
"Ever think of taking that act on the road Scully?"
She glared at her partner across the desk. Fox mulder was smiling insolently at her from his seat, the only thing in his hands were his reading glasses, which he must have just removed judging by the open file before him.
"Well I didn't see you getting up to help Mulder."
"You seemed to be doing quite well on your own. I don't want you saying I'm some sort of sexist who won't let a liberated woman handle her own problems. Besides... I was enjoying the show." He kept that annoying lopsided grin pasted to his face.
Scully didn't even bother to glare. She simply sat down, opened the paper bag and revealed a croissant, it's fresh baked aroma filling the room even over the scent of old paper, discarded sunflower seed shells and much staler coffee then her own. She waved it in front of Mulder before taking a big bite and closing her eyes in enjoyment.
"I had bought two to share." She mumbled around a mouth full of pastry, "Mmmm... raspberry jelly filling." She swallowed and flashed a mischievous smile at the man across from her. "But now I think I'll keep them both." She took another bite with great relish.
Mulder licked his lips. "Would it help if I apologized profusely and promised to carry your book after class?" Humor danced in his eyes.
"No... but you can buy me a sandwich for lunch." She tossed the bag at him.
He scooped it out of mid air and tore into it, coming up with the second croissant. After taking a bite he passed the file he had been reading over to her.
"State police in Arkansas and Missouri called us on this one. Five dead so far. The first four in Arkansas but the last one, while a resident of thriving Woading Arkansas was killed and found not far over the Missouri state line, making it federal."
Dana briefly scanned the reports. "Each victim appeared to be savaged by some sort of animal, feral dogs or wolves most likely. Mulder isn't this a problem for the States Games Commissions or Animal Control? It's hardly an X-File."
"Read over the files on victims two and five." He stated patiently as he picked up her coffee and sipped at it, wincing at the cream in it.
She smiled but refrained from saying aloud 'that will teach you' before reading on.
"Both victims were shot in the heart with arrows." A little crease formed between her eyebrows.
"Someone's been having archery practice with live targets."
She frowned more as she went on. "Both arrows are identical... Mulder why would they have silver barbs? That doesn't make any sense, unless someone out there is hunting werewolves or vampires." She gave him a look that as clear as words pleaded 'Please tell me that's not what you're thinking.'
"No... from the condition of these bodies I'd say these men were the Victims of Werewolves or vampires." He deadpaned. "There have also been numerous reports of fox fire in the area. RED fox fire. The locals call the sightings will-o-wisps."
"That's impossible. Fox fire is a natural chemical reaction that occurs when swamp gasses ignite. The flames are usually greenish or blue, NOT red. And I don't see any mention of a swamp in these reports."
Mulder had his grin back as he finished off his Croissant. "That's because there isn't any swamps in the Ozarks. Just lots of forests. My interest, Scully, is piqued.""
Scully sighed and finished her breakfast. "You wouldn't be showing me all this unless it's cleared Skinner. What time does our flight leave?"
"Why Scully, I thought you'd never ask."
Sheriff Tomas Green eyed the agents before him carefully. Hell even before they'd introduced themselves and flashed their IDs he could smell G-men on them.
The man was a tall one, athletic looking. His dark hair was short and combed neatly other then a shock of hair that fell over the middle of his forehead, and his green eyes met the Sheriff's unwaveringly. His suit looked like it was issued off a government rack somewhere... except for his tie. That was definitely NOT standard issue, and Tom Green smiled to himself, there was a streak of rebel in any man who would wear a purple tie covered in yellow polka dots.
The woman was a tiny thing, and pretty as a May morning with red hair and pale skin that would let her blend in with the folk around here with no problem if she were not also in a suit. Not that he thought for one minute that she was some pretty little ornament though, she looked sharper then the proverbial tack, and she had a no nonsense look about her that made Tom wonder how these two got hooked up as partners. They seemed opposites in more then height and sex... and Tom Green, who was no man's fool, figured THAT was why they were partners. What one missed the other wouldn't. He was impressed.
Well there isn't much I can tell you besides what was in my reports. I put everything down, no matter how silly it seemed at the time." He coughed into his hand.
"Like reports of Fox Fire in the area." The woman, Agent Scully, smiled slightly.
"Yah, well Mrs. Kelly keeps sayin' the wee folk are behind the killings. I DIDN'T put that down. The Fox Fire I added because we have five reliable witnesses to it besides Mrs. Kelly."
The man, Mulder, actually grinned. "Someone thinks leprechauns with an attitude did this? Gee Scully, and you thought *I* watched too many B movies."
Scully shot Mulder a look that Tom Green rightly assumed he must get a lot of.
"Can I examine the body of the last victim?" The woman's request surprised Tom a bit but he hid it and shrugged.
"Sure thing. His momma won't be burying him till Saturday so he's in the morgue. Not much the funeral director can do with him, so it has to be closed casket. Do you want to see the dog too?"
"The report said the dog was found a half mile from the man's body. I was meaning to ask... why do you think the killer would go after the dog? It wasn't like it could be a witness." Agent Mulder phrased the question cautiously and seemed truly interested in Green's answer.
"They didn't. No arrow in the dog. The other dogs got Gump. I'd a said they were scavengers who came along after poor Patrick was killed... but Jake... the coroner, said he was still kickin' when the dogs tore into 'em. If some crazy is usin a pack a' dogs to hunt people, which is my personal suspicion here, then this nut's dogs got carried away in the excitement and went after Gump even after they brought down Pat." The Sheriff pulled on a corduroy jacket and motioned for the door.
"You folks got a place to stay?"
"Not yet. We wanted to check in with you first then find a hotel," Mulder announced. Tom noticed his partner wince slightly and managed to choke back a chuckle. He could tell by her reaction that this Mulder guy had a penchant for picking bad lodgings.
"Well there's a Motel 6 on the edge of town... but you'd be better off at Maddie's. Maddie's Bed and Breakfast is just as reasonable and has a better atmosphere if you know what I mean."
Before Mulder could say anything Scully chimed in. "That sounds wonderful, if it's not booked up."
"Mam," Tom took off his wide brimed sheriff's hat to run a hand over his bald pate before replacing it, "this here is Woading, Arkansas. Have you ever even HEARD of Woading Arkansas before this little mess got dropped into your lap?" He shook his head a grinned, "I'd be more surprised if you two weren't the only guests at Maddie's."
The sheriff led them to a quaint little victorian house with only a small wooden signpost out front to declare: "Maddie's Bed and Breakfast."
Once inside it was plain why Tomas Green had recommended the place. Oh it was homey alright, and clean and not at all like a sterile hotel... but that was not the reason. Maddie came to greet them when they walked in to the jingling of the bell attached to the inside of the door. She was wiping her hands on an old fashioned apron that she wore over jeans and a sweat shirt. She was a slightly younger, more feminine version of the Sheriff. Scully had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. They had been neatly maneuvered... and not for the kick back she had originally suspected.
"Hello there." The tall woman was in her mid forties and her brown hair was liberally streaked with grey, but the effect did not age her so much as lend her a certain dignity. "I'm Maddie Green." She offered her now dry hand to Scully first.
"I guessed that the minute I saw you." Scully shook the offered hand. "I'm Special Agent Dana Scully."
"Agent Mulder." Mulder shook her hand in turn.
"Maddie honey, these folks are here need some rooms."
"Here to try and catch the ones who killed those people? Well then, I'll make sure I don't disturb you. Rate is thirty dollars a night per bed. Breakfast is included and it is NOT buffet, you pick what you'd like from the menu before turning in and I'll have it for you by 8 in the morning."
"That will be fine." Mulder smiled. "Just show us to our rooms and we can get to work."
In less then half an hour they were standing in the cinder block building that housed the morgue of Woading. The town itself was small, with a population of about six hundred or so and it had a populace that was almost cliched Ozark. The coroner, however, was not cliched.
Jake Masterson was a heavy set black man who greeted them with a hand shake and an unlit cigar clamped in his teeth. He led them to the wall lined with ten metal doors, each leading to a freezer compartment. He chose the center one in the second row and pulled it out. The body was covered with the standard pristine white sheet. He pulled it down to reveal a ghastly amount of damage. The late Patrick Murphy barely had a face left and some animal had definitely been gnawing on him, everywhere.
"I read your autopsy report Dr. Masterson, would you mind if I had a look anyway?" Scully bent too examine the ragged mess that had once been the man's throat.
"No skin off my nose. Have fun. I didn't. Maybe you could make some sense out of the second perforation found here." He pointed to the area over the man's heart where two neat holes stood out against the pale flesh. The one puncturing the right ventricle was the arrow. The police have that in their evidence locker." He nodded to Sheriff Green. "But this one is NOT the same. It wasn't an arrow, or a tooth. Something man made and precise I'd say. No knife either, more like a spike. That one is clear into the left ventricle."
Mulder watched Scully examine the wound in question with interest. "Were there similar wounds on the other victims?" He asked.
"On Jack O'Shay there was. I have the coroners report out and ready for you. It's all documented. After him we started checking all the mauling victims. All had it. That's when we exhumed the body of Thom Gallagher, the first victim. My predecessor passed that one over as a tooth puncture though. It was there alright. But a dog's tooth can't puncture like that... not without leaving marks from it's other teeth around it as well, and never straight down like that."
"So I see." Scully had pulled on a pair of rubber surgical gloves and now poked at the puncture. "This is close to the sternum and at a slight angle to the right. Not only would a tooth mark have left other marks but at that angle the dog would have been biting from the right side of the prone body. It would either have done more damage ripping back out or gotten caught on the bone. The only way it wouldn't rip is if the tooth were pulled loose, yet you found no evidence of that."
"Well Scully, I'll let you have your fun here. Sheriff Green... I wouldn't mind talking to this Mrs. Kelly you mentioned." Mulder's gaze on Green was steady.
The Sheriff shrugged. "Sure thing. Just keep in mind Agnes Kelly is eighty four and was raised on her own granny's stories. I don't see where talkin to her will get you anywhere."
"She's on the list of people who saw the Fox Fire phenomenon." Mulder pointed out.
"A laser scope." Scully looked up from the body. "Could the killer have used a laser scope hooked to his bow?"
"Possible... but it would have to be pretty damn bright. I thought those things had a tight focused beam, pinpoint like. The witnesses all mentioned seeing at least a dozen balls of Fox Fire... so it would take this from a lone killer to a cult or something if it IS laser scopes." The Sheriff pulled at his bottom lip, worry on his face.
Sheriff Green sat on an old grey sofa with a cup of tea in one hand as he watched Mulder Interview Agnes Kelly. Mrs. Kelly's living room was cluttered with a lifetime's collection of knick-knacks and antiques. Mrs. Kelly herself was something of an antique as well... but not one of those fragile things one is afraid to touch. No Mrs. Kelly looked like she could handle anything life tossed at her. Earthy, it was the only word for her. She looked every one of her eighty four years though. Her face was a wrinkled and as welcoming as an old apple, steel grey hair drawn back in a loose bun, her bright blue eyes dancing in merriment at the prospects of guests... and an audience. She wore a loose black dress that called to mind a stereotypical italian grandmother... which was silly as Mrs. Kelly was as Irish as the Blarney Stone. She bustled about with a quickness that belied her years, and she refused to speak until both 'boys' were seated and had some hot tea.
Mulder had weathered Mrs. Kelly's grandmotherly charm quite well. He even sipped at the tea in the ridiculous bone china cup she'd givin him. Green gave him points for that. Mulder didn't look like the Herb tea type.
"Mrs. Kelly I'm here to ask you about the lights you saw on November twentieth." Agent Mulder put his tea down and leaned forward in the antique winged chair he was perched in, his arms resting on his knees , all his attention plainly centered on the old woman before him.
"The Will-O-Wisps you mean." She smiled and her face puckered up delightfully around the expression. "I know HE think's I'm crazy." She pointed an accusing finger at the Sheriff. "But I have the Sight you know. I see something of the open minded in you boy. That's good. Don't loose that. Possibilities are endless for those who don't go through life with blinders on. Once those blinders are up though... what you don't see can kill ya." She nodded.
"The Sight... you mean you are psychic?" Mulder looked like he was soaking this up. Green just shook his head and sipped some more mint tea.
"Naaa boy. I can't see the future, or bend spoons, or read you mind or none of that stuff... though there are those who can. I just SEE more then most people." She winked at Mulder and Green stifled another chuckle.
"I saw the Will-O-Wisps when I was coming home from the market. My joints were hurting that night and I'd run out of my muscle rub. Damn, but Meghan's ointment worked mighty fine too." She shook her head.
"Meghan Thomas, the third victim?" Mulder connected. "The herbologist?"
Mrs. Kelly nodded. "She studied the old ways. She knew her way around the plants and the healin. I'll miss her. She's with God now... but she was taken too young... and too violent. I want you to try and stop the one who did this."
"I intend to try mam. About the lights..." Mulder gestured for her to continue.
"Well I was coming home with some store bought muscle rub when I looked down the end of North street. It's a dead end that buts right up to the wood. An I seen em. I took real careful count too. Eleven. There were eleven balls of red floating light. They just bobbed around, like they was waitin for something. I knew what they was waitin for... so I moved home as fast as these old legs can take me."
"And what were they waiting for?" Mulder smiled at her, but it was not in the least condescending.
"The Hunter. Some damn fools gone and called up the Hunt. Probably for revenge. But ya cant just call up the Wild Hunt, let them taste blood and ask them to go back. No. The Hunter and his Pack like the taste of blood. Like human prey. We fear the best you know. And there is no better... no smarter game then humans."
"Are you saying someone tried to raise a demon?"
"No Boy! Not a Demon. The Pack and the Hunter are of the Tuatha de Dannan. They are not truly evil, they just ARE. They are a force of nature. Our ancestors used to worship them, when the hunt went badly they would offer a sacrifice to the Hunter. Every culture has a variation of him... it's just that here... with all the Irish, Welsh and Scots about... the Celtic version got called on."
"How many people in Woading would you say know these stories?" Mulder persisted.
"I'd say seven out of ten. We're close to our roots here. Walk into any pub on a Saturday night and you'll hear the old tunes... on the dulcimer, or the harp... or even on those electric gee-tars. I think that's part of what ties them here, and what made calling them so easy."
Mulder gave her a lopsided smile meant to charm. "And what would go into calling them?"
Green almost choked on his tea, but Mulder held up a hand to silence him. Mrs. Kelly shot the Sheriff a dirty look but turned to Mulder to return the smile. "A vessel for the Huntsman, leaves from the trees here abouts mixed with earth made to mud by the caster's blood and a pair of antlers from a stag found dead by natures own hand. That and an incantation... but I'm a lorekeeper, not a witch, so I don't know the words."
"Ok, a vessel for the Huntsman... what would that be?"
"A person of course... a body for the Huntsman to reside in when he is on the Hunt."
Mulder opened a file he'd had tucked by his side throughout the interview. "Mrs. Kelly, I want to show you a picture of the body of Jack O'Shay, the second victim, as he was found. It's not pretty, but something about it bothers me and I think you might be able to clear it up for me. Would you be willing to take a look?"
Mrs. Kelly frowned and put down her own tea cup. He slowly held out a hand lined with age and showing swollen joints. Mulder passed her the photo.
Agnes paled visably at the sight. Even the black and white bleaching the scene of the horror of color did not disguise the gruesome nature of his death.
"Mrs. Kelly... Mr. O'Shay's jacket is turned inside out and worn backwards. Do you know why this was done?" The old woman nodded, shaken. "To ward off the Tuatha du Dannan, the Telwyth Tig, the Fair folk by whatever name ya give em. To wear your coat inside out is supposed to confuse them. He was tryin to protect himself from what he saw commin."
Mrs. Kelly handed the picture back and stood up. She moved around her chair to a roll top desk and pulled out a side drawer. Taking something out she came back to stand before Mulder holding her hand out. "Take this boy. It will make an old woman feel better if ya have it."
Mulder held out his hand with a puzzled look that did not entirely clear when she dropped three heavy metallic rocks in his hand.
"Raw iron. Right from the earth. Unforged by man in any way. They can't abide it. It burns them, kills em' if their hit hard enough with it. It might ward them off, it might. Anyway... if you plan on goin up against the Wild Hunt... just you keep that on you to humor me." She smiled again, and Mulder smiled pack.
"I will, thanks."
"You don't BELIEVE all that folk tale mumbo jumbo do you?" Sheriff Green practically exploded when they were safely in the confines of the squad car.
"Not necessarily... but it's possible that someone believes. Say someone grew up on these stories, like Mrs. Kelly," he held up a hand before Green could explode again, "I'm not saying it was her. I saw her hands. She couldn't open a child proof pill bottle let alone draw a bow. But someone LIKE her, heard all the old legends. Now suppose this person believes, believes enough to try to call up this Huntsman myth. Then they become convinced that they ARE the Huntsman."
"A class A Psycho. Ok I can see where you are goin with this." green pulled at his bottom lip. "But what about the dogs? The meanest dog we have in town is Mr. Davis' doberman. I checked on him right off. Neighbors swear along with him that Toby was chained out where he always is during the times of the murders, an I checked after each one. The second meanest dog os Ms. McGowan's chihuohua, and you are not about to convince me that five people were torn apart by an enraged chihuahua. The rest are all nice calm dogs. Bark at strangers. but never bite. And Jake guarantees there was more then one dog involved here. At least five different jaw patterns."
By the time they returned to the Morgue the body had been returned to the drawer and Scully was pouring over a pile of Autopsy reports. She looked up when they walked in.
"Those unusual heart punctures... I'm pretty sure four of the five victims were still alive when they were made." She pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger then went on, "Jack O'Shay, victim number two, he had the puncture, but the edges of the wound make Dr. Masterson think he was already dead when penetration occurred. I agree. And get this... I think whatever made those wounds was hollow. There was an eighth inch circle of loose myocardium in the wound, perfectly circular."
"Well Mrs. Kelly proved interesting." Mulder crossed the room to stand by his partner. "She thinks and Archetypical Hunter Mythos was involved. She didn't strike me as the type to read Jung either. Either that or we're looking for someone with a call to the spirit world on the phone bill."
Jake Masterson had entered the room from a side door a pile of folders in his hand. He gave a hardy laugh. "Where do you think Jung got his ideas about archetypes? Best bet is through a study of legends of folklore. And no one around here is more up to date on THAT then Agnes Kelly."
"Sheriff I'd like to see where the bodies were found." Mulder fingered through the photos attached to each autopsy report.
"Tomorrow, Agent Mulder. It's going to be dark soon and besides the fact that you won't see squat in the dark, whatever or whoever killed these people always strikes after dark." Sheriff green grinned. "Do you have any idea the amount of paperwork I'd be buried in if a couple a feds got eaten by wild dogs in my back yard?"
"Then we can start going down the list of relatives." Scully stood and restacked the files neatly.
Jake handed her the identical stack in his own hand. "Here are the copies you wanted."
"Thanks." They exchanged files and Scully looked expectantly at Mulder. "Well lunch was airplane mystery food, you still owe me for breakfast." She looked at Sheriff Green. "Got any relatives in the restaurant business?"
Jake gave a belly laugh at Green's blush. "No mam. The only place in town however is Karen's Diner unless you want pizza and pretzels at any of the pubs."
"The diner will be fine. We still have work to do and I'm not sure I could pass up a cold beer right now if we went to a pub." As they moved to the door, Mulder placed a guiding hand at the small of Scully's back as he bent down to whisper, "How come I get the feeling you made out on this deal? Dinner for a croissant?"
"Who are you kidding Mulder?" she shot back, "You'll just be putting it down on our expense account anyway." She smiled up at him.
The Diner was just that... an old Silver Diner that took Scully back to her childhood. They sat in a booth with a little personal jukebox at the end of the table against the wall. All the booths were similarly equipped. Mulder flipped idly through the selection of oldies, country and folk music by turning a knob on the side.
Scully managed to hold her tounge when Mulder ordered a jumbo burger with the works and a chocolate shake. She settled for broiled fish and a soda.
She looked up when she heard a quarter drop into the little jukebox at their table and winced when "Flying Purple People Eater" played softly.
"You are twisted Mulder."
He gave her his usual lopsided grin. "I'm glad someone appreciates me." His eyes tracked out the window into the gathering darkness. The Diner was at the edge of town, and directly across what the locals called 'the highway' and Scully called ' the road' the forest pressed it's presence on them.
"I don't think the ghosties and goblins are going to make an appearance just for your benefit." She sighed and tapped the linoleum tabletop with a fingernail directly in front of his hand to get his attention. "So what did you find out?"
Mulder shrugged. "That mint tea isn't all that bad." He turned his attention back to her. "Mrs. Kelly thinks someone tried to call up some Hunter mythological figure. She is also convinced this person or persons unknown has succeeded."
"And you?" She eyed him wearily, fully expecting some Mulderish reasoning of the weird and fantastic.
"I think she is on to something." She smiled, practically reading his partner's thoughts by her expression alone. "But I think it's a case of someone with a strong belief in those legends suffering an episode of psychosis and taking the Hunter persona on to themselves."
Scully sighed with relief. "That I can deal with." She unconsciously echoed Sheriff Green's earlier words. "Ok so what about the Fox Fire Phenomenon?"
"That's the part I haven't figured out yet. But I intend to. What's wrong Scully, getting tired of chasing little grey men, voodoo priests, cannibals and Ghosts?"
"What? And give up all my fun?"
Scully fell silent as their food was delivered and while she watched Mulder drown his burger in an obscene amount of ketchup.
"So far what I have on the victims is only that they were attacked in the same way. All but the fourth were locals. Ian Jones was a vagrant and got identified only because he had an out of date Tennessee drivers licence and a record for petty theft and drunk and disorderly. The only female among them was Meghan Thomas a local Hemopath and something of an herbal doctor who was caught out to late collecting mushrooms of all things." She tried to avoid watching Mulder eat that excuse for food, but couldn't force herself to look away. It was rather like prodding at a sore tooth, an irresistible pull. Considering the content of the burger he was scrupulously neat, no ketchup dripped onto his plate. Amazing.
He swallowed and sipped his shake seemingly oblivious of his partner's amazed scrutiny. "Well Patrick Murphy was a poacher, locals knew about it but he was careful and never actually got caught with anything Sheriff Green could PROVE. The interesting thing about Murphy is not only was he an experienced hunter but he was carrying a rifle at the time. The rifle was found in his hand and he appeared to have been using it as a club. It was jammed. Sheriff Green thinks he must have been mighty scared to keep shoving cartridges in his gun like he had. The gun HAD been fired, but there was no evidence he hit anything,, not even a tree."
"Well considering that there had been four previous victims it only stands to reason that when he saw a pack of dogs coming for him he panicked."
"Have we determined it was dogs?"
Scully nodded as she picked at her food. "Not only from the tooth patterns but the photos of the few tracks found at the scenes don't match wolf prints. Besides wolves aside from being rare are usually weary of people and avoid them if they can. Fairy tales aside, the reports of wolves attacking humans are rare. Feral dogs, however, may have lost their fear of humans and are much more dangerous."
"But can someone train and use truly feral dogs? If someone is stabbing the victims in the heart while they are still alive they must be able to get in among these animals during a blood frenzy. That doesn't make any sense." He pointed at her with a french fry.
"Since when did something we investigated make sense?"
He just grinned and chomped the fry. "And just where are these dogs being kept when they aren't making kibble out of the locals? They only attack at night so far, which suggests that they are locked up somewhere during the day."
"There are hundreds of miles of forest out there Mulder, they could be hidden anywhere if they are being hidden at all. They may simply be nocturnal."
After dinner they Mulder drove the rental car to the first address on the list of the victim's next of kin. On the very edge of town a somewhat ramshackle house, it's color indistinguishable in the dark, was lit from inside indicating that someone was home. Scully knocked on the door, as there was no bell.
A boy opened the door. He was perhaps seventeen or eighteen with the round plump face and slightly drooping eyes that marked Downs Syndrome under a shock of pale blond hair. He blinked at the agents through a pair of thick glasses, a beatific smile on his face.
"Who is it Michael?" Almost immediately an attractive woman in her early thirties appeared behind the boy, her hair a matching shade of gold.
"Uh... I'm Special Agent Mulder, this is my partner Dana Scully." They held out their badges and the woman peered at them as if she were having trouble focusing. Small wonder as the distinct smell of hops teased Mulder's nose. "We are here to ask some questions concerning your father's death."
The woman nodded and, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder, pulled him away from the door, gesturing them inside.
Michael Gallagher thrust out one blunt fingered hand with exuberance. "Hello, I'm Michael."
"I'm Dana." Scully felt her hand caught and pumped up and down with enthusiasm.
"I'm Mulder." Mulder rescued his partner with some amusement and was surprised by the strength in the boy's grip as he was just as hardy in shaking Mulder's hand as he was with Scully's.
A large dog padded into the room, a husky/shepherd mix by the look of it, and without even bothering to sniff at the intruders he promptly rolled onto his back offering his belly up for a rub.
Michael wend to his knees and rubbed the dog who wriggled with enjoyment. Scully laughed and bent to rub at it's furry chest as well. The dog sighed contentedly.
"Remind me to try doing that some time if that's the reaction I'd get." Mulder grinned down at Scully who abruptly stood again and gave him patented Look number three.
"Don't be afraid." Michael misinterpreted her reaction. "Puck won't bite. He's a good dog. He doesn't bite."
"Michael why don't you take Puck upstairs to play with his chew toy in your room?" The woman, Maire Gallagher did not matched the agent's amused smiles.
"But mom, the little hand is only on the nine. You said I don't have to go up until it's on the ten."
The boy sighed dramatically and nudged the dog in the side lightly. "Come on Puck, we have to play upstairs so the grown ups can say grown up things."
They tromped up the stairs to the left and Ms. Gallagher waved Scully and Mulder into the well worn living room. It was neat but spoke plainly of financial difficulty. One over stuffed chair had a block of wood for a leg, and the afghan thrown over the back of the couch did not quite cover the place where the upholstery had rubbed thin.
Mulder and Scully sat on the couch while Maire Gallagher grabbed a half full bottle of beer off the coffee table littered with seven empty versions of the same. They stood out in the tidy surroundings like a beacon. Scully shot Mulder a meaningful look as Maire took a long pull from the bottle.
"Mrs. Gallagher..." Mulder started.
Her harsh laugh interrupted him. "No way Mr. FBI. No friggin way. Just Ms." She pronounced the prefix with an exaggerated z sound. "Or Maire for you if you're nice." She grinned over her beer bottle. "Never married and never hope to."
"Ms. Gallagher if this is a bad time..."
She cut Scully off this time. "It's fine. Time doesn't get any better."
"Alright, Ms. Gallagher, can you tell us what your father was doing in the woods on the night he was killed?" Mulder asked the question but Scully pulled out a notebook. He didn't need one.
"Probably wondered off the road on his way back from Talisan's pub to take a leak. My father, " she raised an unsteady eyebrow, 'was a bit of a tippler. Seems to have rubbed off lately." She stared at the now empty bottle in her hand accusingly.
"Did your father have any enemies?" Scully looked at the woman, her disapproval well masked but for the stiffness of her back.
"Everyone loved daddy dearest. He was the town mascot don't ya know. The merry widower. He would always buy a round for the pub. Huh."
"It says here your father used to work with Jack O'Shay... did he know any of the other victims?"
Maire nodded at Scully. "Sure. This is a small town. Most everyone knows most everyone else at least in passing." She sighed and put the bottle down making no move to obtain another. "Dad and Jack O'Shay used to run what they called Woading Cordwood. It turned out that chopping deadwood for firewood was too much like work for Dad. He quit after a month. They were not exactly friends..." Maire rubbed her temples gently. "He knew of Meghan Thomas, thought she was a fruit cake. But he only knew her by reputation and passing her on the street, or riding on the same bus as her. I don't think he knew that vagrant guy though. But Pat Murphy he knew. He bought bootleg Moonshine from him."
"Moonshine?" Scully actually looked surprised.
"Yah, 100 proof rott gut. God alone knows what Pat made it from but it could strip the finish off a table better then Formbey's. It was nasty. It also did NOT make for a cheerful drunk."
Mulder frowned, "He was violent?"
Maire snorted then laughed, "Oh yah, he could get real mean when he tied one on. Mostly I just locked me and Michael in my room till he either sobered up or passed out."
Mulder and Scully looked at one another and a wave of silent communication passed between them.
"Ms. Gallagher, this report has your son listed as seventeen but doesn't list his father. Would Michael's father have any reason to want your father dead?" Scully looked up from the file she had peeked at to notice Maire Gallagher go pale.
"No. Michael's father didn't want anything to do with him. But you could say he and my dad got along real well." She stood up rather abruptly and swayed for a moment before regaining her balance. "I can't help you with anything else, and it's getting late. I'd like to see that my son gets to bed proper. He tends to forget things... I'll see you to the door."
Neither agent could ignore such an obvious dismissal.
Once outside and heading back to the car Scully shook her head. "Something is definitely going on there."
"Yep, makes me want to look at the local birth records in the morning."
"It's too late to check on Jack O'Shay's widow. What do you say we call it a night?" Scully stretched and felt the satisfying pop of a kink in her back coming loose.
It was five minutes after ten before they came through the door of Maddie's, the bell inside the door jangled softly into the room.
Maddie herself was seated on the couch in the living room watching a sit com when she looked up to see them enter. She turned off the tv and rose.
"Evenin. Anythin I can get you folks? I've water on for a late night cup of tea... and I can make coffee easy enough if you would like some. I also have some home made poppy seed roll, on the house."
Mulder's eyes lit up. "I'll have some coffee and some of that roll if it isn't really any trouble."
"Course it isn't, or I wouldn't have offered. How bout you dear?" Maddie's eyes fell on Scully.
"Tea sounds lovely. Thank you." When Maddie disappeared into the kitchen Scully looked to Mulder, "Do you want to hash what we have out down here or in one of the bedrooms?"
"Remember what Maire Gallagher said... it's a small town and everyone knows most everyone else. I think this B
"It certainly can't hurt. If Ms. Green doesn't mind."
"Doesn't mind what?" Maddie Green came back into the room balancing a silver tray with three cups, a tea pot and a coffee pot plus a tray of sliced poppy seed roll with pats of butter and a butter knife to the side. She settled her burden on the coffee table in front of the couch.
"If we pick your brains for local gossip." Scully provided.
"Oh of course I don't. But I don't know how much good it will do you."
Scully took off her suit jacket and hung it on the coat rack behind the door. Mulder followed her lead. Scully took up the single stuffed chair leaving Mulder to share the couch with Maddie Green.
"So what can you tell us about the local wild life?" Mulder took the cup of black coffee and sipped at it without adding anything to it.
"I'm assuming you mean in the forest and not the local juvenile delinquents." Maddie smiled. "If you mean canine enough to do the damage we have coyote and both red and grey fox. But they didn't do what Tom described to me. People whisper wolves behind their hands, but Red wolves range further south... and I have never heard of any in this area before, and the closest grey wolves are in Texas."
"Other then that we got squirrels, rabbit, raccoons, deer and such."
"So you think it was dogs as well?" Mulder finished off a slice of poppy seed roll and licked the butter from his fingers.
"Not any local dogs," Maddie insisted, "but it is the most logical assumption. Now... do you want to hear the juice on the victims?"
Scully smiled, "Why Maddie, I hadn't pegged you for a gossip maven."
"Honey, in this town you hear it all if you look for it or not. I don't look but I get most of it repeated to me. I can't vouch for accuracy on most things... so I'll only give you things I have observed myself, or from sources I trust to be honest." Maddie cleared her throat a bit then went on. "Thom Gallagher was a ne'r do well, that I can tell you plain. He was mostly friendly to folks, but he had a mean temper under it all. I saw that girl of his walking around with her share of bruises as a child, and she was NOT a klutz. Tom drank heavy and often, and it is no secret that he got his money from not only the Welfare but from some underhanded means. I don't know what exactly... but he always had the money to booze with, and as often as not he'd have cash to spare. Never heard about bill collectors botherin him either.
Jack O'Shay was a good man from all I know. I knew him. He worked at the Hardware store and he was always friendly and helpful. He worked after hours gathering firewood even after his brief association with Tom Gallagher in that field failed. His wife is expectin, and he was trying to get together the money to move out of their little apartment and into a larger house. He would go out of his way to help people. Meghan Thomas was a sweet child. She studied herbalism from her late granny, and she was the 'wise woman' to half the town." Maddie smiled at the agents, "I don't suppose you believe in herbalism... but Meghan was as good as any doctor, and she NEVER treated anything more hazardous then the flue. Those truly ill she told to get their butts to a doctor, and she'd see what she could do to help with the symptoms after the doctor saw to them." The fourth victim was found by hikers. No one knew him. They figure he was living in one of the little caves that litter the forest. Can't tell you much there.
"Pat Murphy was as bad as Tom Gallagher. He was underhanded, sneaky and generally unlikable. The only real friend he had in this world was his dog. He'd have sold his own mother for enough money, and she knew it. Poor Trudy tried her best by that boy... but even she got fed up and threw him out two years ago. I can think of a lot of people who are NOT sad to see him gone, but none who'd find it worth their trouble to do him in themselves."
"What can you tell us about Michael Gallagher? His mother got very upset when we mentioned his father." Scully sipped her tea carefully. The water was too hot and she almost scalded her tongue at her first attempt.
"No one knows who his father is. Maire never said. Can't remember her dating anyone though. She was a real homebody, and quiet like. She didn't even have poor Michael in the hospital. She went into labor at home and... you know what..." Maddie frowned, her brow furrowed in thought. "I believe Meghan's grandmother delivered the boy. Both she and Meghan were state licenced mid wives. Yes... I recall at the time people thought it odd that ol' Jilly Davis was midwiving for Maire... as Thom Gallagher was so stuck up about herbalism and so keen on modern medicine."
"So no one knew Michael's father, he never came to town to claim the boy, or tried to bribe the family?" As he asked Scully looked at her partner. She could almost see his amazing mind working furiously at something. But what? She just could tell that there was more to the question then he was letting on.
"No. Not that I can recall. And Michael... he's such a sweet angel. I mean it breaks my heart when the other kids tease him... but he is so mild and honest. They say it's a trait common to those children born like him... with the Downs Syndrome... but I can tell you there is no more likeable child in this whole town."
Mulder ran his hand through his hair and sat on the bed. Maddie Green had retired around eleven, and he and Scully had stayed up until two going over details. Scully plainly wanted to know his suspicions about Michael Gallagher's father... but he couldn't voice them. Not yet. There was no proof, only a nagging suspicion...
He sighed and pulled on the Martin Martian tee shirt he'd packed to sleep in with his sweat pants. He was bothered by something else. What connection did out of place Fox Fire have with these murders? There HAD to be one, after all the sightings only started after the first murder.
By the time uneasy sleep took him the answer still had not presented itself to him.
Jimmy McGowan popped another NO DOZE tablet into his mouth and swallowed it dry. He hated the night shift, but since the killings Sheriff Green had assigned him to work from ten till seven... a ten hour shift. Sure he could use the overtime, but driving around all night patrolling Woading was by far one of the most boring things on Earth. His night patrol had done nothing to stop the killer either. After all both the vagrant and Pat Murphy had been killed after Jimmy's night time rides had begun, and there was just no way they could patrol the forest itself. All Sheriff Green could hope for was to keep the killer from getting up the balls to come into town.
Jimmy yawned and pulled his car around to the Highway. He would just drive down past Karen's Diner and start at the other end of town again before working his way back. He patted the thermos next to him. Later... later he'd need the coffee Claire'd made him to make it past the three am mark. Claire... now there was something he'd rather be doing at two in the morning. Of course the overtime was gonna help pay for the honeymoon, maybe they'd make it to Disney World after all.
The Deputy's reverie was jarred when something flickered just at the edge of his high beams. It had looked vaguely familiar to his tired mind. Someone running across the street up there...
He stopped the car and leaned across the seat to roll down the passenger window. Through the open window he ran his small flashlight along the trees. What the...
There it was again... movement. Jimmy moved to the CB. They didn't have a dispatch, instead Sheriff Green kept another unit next to his bed, trusting Jimmy not to get on the air unless it was important. But... was it important or had he just seen a deer?
He flashed the light around some more.
"Hey! Anybody out there?"
Then he saw them... the Will-O-Wisps. Eleven large floating balls of glowing red. Jimmy stared, speechless at the sight. It was incredible. Sure he'd HEARD about them... but they were real. They were beautiful... they were amazing.
A twelfth glowing ball floated over from the left, and then they all dimmed. They dimmed and then each light separated into two tiny spots of light, each pair of lights winking at Jimmy as he finally snapped out of his sense of wonder and reached for the CB. His shaking hand dropped the mike and before he could dive for it a vision of snarling grey fur and sharp teeth launched through the passenger window, red eyes glowing.
Jimmy screamed and brought up his arm in a defensive gesture, in shock he barely felt the teeth tear through his flesh, sink to bone. He didn't even see the windshield spider web as the arrow passed through it, or feel the missile sink into his chest. He did see the other dogs... glowing eyes like windows to Hell as they pushed through the broken windshield...
Dana Scully woke up to the pounding on her door. She stumbled out of bed and straightened her pajama top before opening the door to find Mulder there, already dressed and tieing on another of his ugly ties... where did he FIND them anyway?
"Come on, get dressed. Green's Deputy was killed last night across from the Diner. We have to get out there now. Be prepared to help Masterson with the autopsy."
Dana rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and nodded before closing the door. God, what a way to start a day.
The Highway was blocked off by volunteers and two cops wearing the badges of nearby Mammoth Springs. It seemed Green and his Deputy were the only local police, and so he had to draft some friends to keep the morbid curiosity seekers away. Mulder and Scully got past after showing their badges.
The patrol car was off to the side of the road. No skid marks, the driver had stopped it himself. The windshield was smashed in and broken glass all over the hood and road sparkled in the morning sun.
The Forensics team and photographer on site were from Mammoth Springs as well and they circled the car carefully. Jake Masterson was leaning in the driver's door of the car.
Tom Green was seated in his own car, parked right in front of the matching police vehicle. The lawman was watching the others with a far away look. The hand that gripped the steering wheel was white knuckled.
Scully moved to assist Masterson while Mulder went to lean against the Sheriff's car.
"Sheriff Green... are you going to be alright?"
The Sheriff looked out the door at Mulder, his eyes bright with unshed tears. "Would you be?" His voice was tight... strained. "I'm the one who put him on night patrol. Damnit I knew this sicko only struck at night so far... it should have been me. Jimmy was twenty four years old Agent Mulder... he was just a kid. I'm just as responsible for that boy's bein dead as the killer is."
Mulder shook his head. "I know it doesn't help right now, but you have to know that that isn't true. The killer never struck in town before. You had no reason to suspect that he ever would, and every reason to believe a night patrol would keep it from happening."
The Sheriff nodded absently, but Mulder was unsure if his words had sunk in.
"I have to go tell Claire. Oh God... They were gonna get married next month. Part of the reason I put him on nights is it paid better... so he could take her someplace nice for their honeymoon. Now I have to face that girl and tell her that Jimmy's dead."
"Would you like me to go with you?" Mulder offered, sympathy in his eyes.
"No... No it's my place. You, your a stranger. Stay here and see what you can find to make this bastard pay... "
Green pulled his car door closed and started the engine. Mulder moved away from the car as it pushed through the on lookers and the people holding them back.
Mulder walked over to the police cruiser that had centered all the attention. He managed to look inside over some shoulder and cooley walked back a little to get out of the way. While he remained outwardly indifferent the scene in the car was enough to turn even his stomach. Fox Mulder had seen more then his share of violent death, much of it just as gruesome as what was inside the car, but to be completely unaffected by it was to lose some humanity.
The slight roiling of his stomach reminded him that they hadn't had breakfast in their hurry to get out here. Of course that was all to the good, as he didn't have to fight to keep it down if there was nothing there... but a completely empty stomach could make the nauseous feeling worse. He reached into his over coat pocket and produced a small bag of sunflower seeds. Closing his eyes he popped one into his mouth and let the saltiness take over his concentration for a few moments, just concentrating on cracking the shell between teeth, sucking out the meat and disposing of the shell. A familiar ritual that both calmed and helped to clear the thought process.
"Mulder?" He opened his eyes to look down at Scully. She was peeling off a pair of latex gloves in an efficient manner that managed to turn them inside out and into one another to keep the flakes and clots of dried and drying blood inside.
At the car two men were carefully removing the body and sealing it in a zippered shroud.
"It's the same killer. The arrow is being rushed to Mammoth Spring's forensics... but it is most likely just as clean as the others. The boy's shirt had been opened above the arrow wound and the second puncture was present. It's going to be difficult considering the mess but I'd really like to know if any of the victim's blood is missing."
"Scully - some of the BODY is missing."
"Yes, which just compounds the problem of getting a measure of the blood."
"Don't tell me YOU think a vampire did this?" He managed to bring up an amused smile. "I may be rubbing off on you."
"Then remind me to take another shower." She shook her head. "No, I don't mean a vampire. Your theory about the killer having a psychosis convincing him he was a mythological figure is actually behind this. If I remember any of the old tales my grandmother used to tell me when I was a child then blood rituals were common in ancient Celtic and Druidic ceremonies. This puncture with a hollow instrument is always to the heart, and mostly when the victim is still alive. That would make a nice little spurt. Perhaps the killer is harvesting some of the blood for ritual reasons."
"Your grandmother must have liked giving you nightmares. What ever happened to Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty?"
Scully managed a faint hint of a smile. "Modern interpretation declare they lived happily ever after."
"Yah, well James McGowan didn't." He looked over just as the doors of the coroner's van slammed shut.
"At least we have some leads now. All those bloody paw prints on the hood should be worth something. PLUS, we managed to find some dog hairs. It might give us a break." Scully hoped the news would lighten his mood, especially if the murder scene had affected him as much as it had her.
Agnes Kelly opened the door only to stop the incessant pounding. It was way to early for visitors, no matter how much she usually enjoyed company. She was taken somewhat aback by the sight that greeted her on the other side however.
"Agnes... oh Lord and Lady... it's happened again!" The pitiful wail reached to the old woman's heart, and a glimmer of understanding came to her mind.
"I didn't mean it... not like this... you have to help me. But... on your word as lorekeeper... not a word to any, especially to the outsiders."
Agnes sighed. Fools, young fools, lady bright protect me from them, and protect them from themselves.
"Do you truly have any idea what you have done?" Her old lined hand moved to cover a younger, trembling one.
"Not before... but I am beginning to understand."
"Child... that is nothing compared to what must be done to undo it. In the end you may be unwilling to pay the price."
It was no surprise that Sheriff Green did not show up for the autopsy. Mulder didn't stick around either, opting to do something USEFUL instead of hovering around the morgue waiting for an official report. He went to the next name on the list of the previous victims next of kin. Terry O'Shay, widow of the second victim.
Terry O'Shay was more than willing to answer all of Mulder's questions, but she was clearly still distraught over her husband's death. She was now residing with her mother. Mulder learned that she'd been unable to keep up rent payments on their apartment after covering funeral expenses, and with the baby on the way... Mrs. O'Shay unconsciously kept rubbing her swollen abdomen, taking comfort from what she had left of her late husband.
All he had managed to learn at the interview was that while they were just making it by they had no outstanding debts. Mrs. O'Shay confirmed the brief business venture her husband had joined Thom Gallagher in, but said that the two were never good friends.
Jack O'Shay also knew Meghan Thomas. He DID believe in her herbs and ointments, and had purchased some from her on occasion. They had also gone to school together. She was closer to him then Thom Gallagher, but still not really a close friend
When he left he knew the autopsy would not be over yet.. so he swung by the small local library and headed for the reference section. In minutes he was sitting at a worn table skimming through a pile of books on Celtic Mythology.
When Mulder at last returned to the morgue Scully was just removing her scrubs.
"Impeccable timing as always." She tossed the garments in a laundry bag off to the side.
"Find anything new?" Mulder leaned against a wall as Scully put her suit jacket on.
"Not really. This victim was like the others, the only difference being he was attacked inside a vehicle not out in the woods."
"Well Mrs. O'Shay couldn't offer us much either. Other then that Jack O'Shay and Meghan Thomas went to school together. I was just going to go speak with Enid Thomas. Care to join me?"
"Well I certainly don't want any lunch right now." Scully shook her head. "Alright, after that we can see how Sheriff Green is doing... maybe get him to take us to the other murder sites."
Enid Thomas' home was a victorian reminiscent of the Bed and Breakfast. It's yard kept neat, and small well tended herb gardens tucked away in corners some of the plants still green despite the early autumn season. As they waled up the fieldstone walkway Mulder stopped and pointed to the left. Scully frowned but followed him as he left the path to stand beneath a Ash tree in the side yard. Right at his feet was a perfectly circular formation of mushrooms about five feet in diameter.
Scully smiled. "A Fairie ring."
Mulder looked at her, surprise on his face.
"I TOLD you my grandmother used to tell us stories. You can't grow up in an Irish family and not hear about Fairie Rings Mulder."
"So you think the Thomas sisters used to dance out here with an unearthly host?" Mulder looked amused.
"Meghan was an herbalist, you said Mrs. Kelly told you she studied the old ways. This was probably planted as a lark."
"Actually it wasn't planted." The sound of the new voice made both agents turn. A lithe, young woman was coming up the walk, a large dog was straining at the leash in her hand. ""I'm Enid Thomas, can I help you?"
"We're with the FBI. We were coming to talk to you about your sister." Mulder showed the woman his badge.
"Then come on in. You're lucky you caught me. I was out on an errand." She tugged on the dog's leash. "Other then making sure Hela here get's his exercise."
Scully openly admired the large dog. "Irish wolfhound isn't he?"
Enid's smile lit up her heart shaped face. "Yes, pure pedigree. If you are afraid of him I can tie him out back while we talk, but I assure you he is quite well behaved."
"I'm not afraid. Mulder?" Scully's look was practically challenging.
"As long as he doesn't take me for a well dressed chew toy I have no problem."
"Don't worry, he's good. I'm just glad dog's are color blind.... other wise he might try taking you down just for your taste in neckwear." Enid's laugh was husky.
"She has you there." Scully smiled and shook her head.
"Hey, it's a fashion statement," was the only defense he could offer.
Once inside the house reminded him of Agnes Kelly's. Fewer knick knacks, but similar tastes.
"You said that ring out there wasn't planted?" Mulder spoke while removing his over coat.
"Yes. We were so charmed when it popped up. Meghan and I were careful not to disturb it. It can be a real trial to keep the grass trimmed around it though. But to be so favored by the Telwyth Teg... it's worth the effort."
It was Scully's turn to look surprised. "You don't mean you believe in Fairies?"
"Why not? 'There is more in heaven and in Earth' and all that." Enid waved her hand as she took a seat in a high backed chair. The wolfhound sat at her feet.
"Do you think Meghan was killed by the Wild Hunt?" Mulder sat opposite the girl, his eyes meeting hers.
"Absolutely. She probably thought that being so favored as to have a Fairie Ring in our yard was protection enough for her. I really don't think she meant to stay out so late that night, but once she got to gathering her herbs and mushrooms she tended to phase out the real world, working wrapped in rituals and little prayers... I sometimes thought that while she was busy she was almost outside of time." Enid's dark eyes took on a far away look. "She was special, so wrapped into the great mystery that surrounds us she sometimes seemed not to be of this world at all. I think.... if she had lived... that she would have replaced Agnes Kelly as the local Lorekeeper."
Scully felt a shiver go up her spine. Both this woman and her words about her sister brought Milissa to mind. They would have had a lot in common. "What about you? You seem to be involved with these... beliefs as well."
Enid shook her head. "I am no Lorekeeper. The old tales fascinate me.. and the stories... I'm willing to think there is some truth to them. But I'm more a doer then an observer. I'm much more active minded and to tell you the truth the processes that went into all my sister's herbals and simples were flat out boring to me."
"Meghan went to school with Jack O'Shay. Was she connected to any of the other victims?"
Enid looked at Mulder and frowned as she thought. "No more the the usual contact in a small town. She did talk to Jack once in a while... he was one of her customers and he respected her. But I don't think she had any real contact with any of the others."
"Did you know that there has been another killing? Last night." Scully watched the young woman's reaction. She paled but nodded. "Yah. News travels fast. Deputy McGowen."
"Did he have any connection to Meghan?"
Enid shook her head. "None that I know of."
The spoke for a while more without learning anything new. As Mulder and Scully made to leave Mulder asked a final question. "Ms. Thomas, do you know why someone would try to call the Wild Hunt?" "Revenge." The woman answered flatly. "A deep anger, enough to want someone dead. I don't think the person who called the Hunt knew what they were really doing, unless they are mad. The Hunt... it can't be controlled." She shivered slightly.
"Thank you for your time Ms. Thomas." Enid Thomas nodded, and she and Hela seeing them to the door.
When the agents left Enid closed the door and leaned against it, absently stroking Hela's great, furry head. "Lord protect them. They don't know... don't believe." Enid walked across the room to a book case filled with an odd assortment of daggers and crystals, books and a wide range of different morter and pestles. She fingered a clay goblet, stained dark so that the intricate design of old knotwork etched into it was barely visible. "They have no real idea..."
"She certainly seemed to be handling her sister's death well." Scully observed as they got in the car.
"Maybe she sees it as part of the Wheel of Life."
Scully sighed, "If you're going to break into song..."
"Anyone ever tell you you have an unhealthy Disney fixation?" Mulder grinned. "Anyway that's 'Circle of Life', the Wheel of life is part of the ancient Druidic belief..."
"That the soul moves on and is sometimes reborn. Almost like the Hindus. But I noticed among the other things cluttering Ms. Thomas' house a Bible on the coffee table and a Crucifix on the wall. I hardly think they are the earmarks of a Druid."
"Ah but Mrs. Kelly also mentioned that Meghan Thomas was with God now. So perhaps for all the talk of Celtic Mythos they retain the Christian belief in the afterlife... thus making death a bit easier to accept."
Scully squirmed in her seat a bit. This conversation was getting distinctly uncomfortable. It hit too close to home in many ways. Missy's death had hit her hard... especially so close after Ahab's. Yet Dana remembered bits and pieces of her own near death experience... and she did not really fear Death itself. She had even said as much to Mulder once. It was true... she was feeling their loss for herself... not for them. Did that make Enid Thomas a better person then... to be able to let go of the personal pain?
"It looks like Sheriff Green is back." She turned the subject at seeing the patrol car outside the police station.
Mulder took her cue and let it drop. He could tell by Scully's fidgeting the conversation had made her uncomfortable.
Sheriff Green was indeed back. He nodded at them when they came in. "I just got off the phone with Mammoth Springs... told them to move their asses on the lab work. Damn I hate waiting."
Tom Green was mad, and was struggling to keep it in check. "You two want to go see the other murder sites now I guess. I'll meet ya at Maddie's. You're gonna need some hiking clothes. No offence but those suits won't hold up to a hike in the wood. I want to make some more calls here."
Mulder noted that Sheriff Green was already in jeans and hiking boots, his corduroy jacket over a denim shirt the only attempt to dress himself up, and the wide brimmed hat on his hairless head the only sign of his office other than the gun and handcuffs on his belt.
"Fine, just give us a half hour." Mulder nodded and led Scully back out the way they had just come. Sheriff Green obviously still needed some time alone.
When Mulder came back downstairs Sheriff Green was already there and in the kitchen.
"Come on Tom, have dinner here with me tonight. You shouldn't be alone tonight." Maddie's voice filtered into the living room from the kitchen as Mulder pulled on a leather jacket and peeked around the door frame.
"I'll think about it." Green looked up and saw Mulder managing a small smile. "Well, lookee here... it's a person, not a clone out of the government cookie press."
Mulder answered the smile with one of his own. "Sorry, the clones look older, shorter and have a bigger body type."
Scully joined them at that. "Can it Mulder.. he'd never believe you anyway." She had changed into jeans and an oversized sweatshirt under her usual trench coat.
"Well you three remember to be back before dark or you'll be sure to kill me with worry. I don't want to hear any of that safety in numbers crap either. Pat Murphy was armed to the teeth as well, and it did him no good, so don't try to make me feel better by showing me yer guns either." Maddie eyed them all. "And you may be the big brother Tomas James Green, but *I'M* telling you you will have dinner with me tonight. I'm sure Ms Scully and Mr. Mulder are planning on going over all you show them during THEIR dinner. You will talk to ME over ours."
With that last command Maddie Green pushed them all out the door. "Now shoo... the faster you get out there the faster you can be back where it's safe.
"Wasn't safe for Jimmy." Green muttered under his breath as they headed out.
The first murder site was the closest to town before Jimmy McGowen's murder last night. Thom Gallagher had been killed about twenty feet into the woods on the edge of town. The area was cordoned off with bright yellow tape but there wasn't much to see. The police had cleaned up everything that had anything to do with the crime.
"No arrow found on Gallagher right?" Mulder squatted near to the ground, examining the ground covered in old leaves.
"Nope, no sign of one used on him either. Just the odd puncture." Scully confirmed and Green only nodded. Mulder stood up and motioned for Green to lead on.
The trek to the place where Jack O'Shay had been killed took a good half hour. On the way the woods were actually rather peaceful, birdsong filling the air above, the soft rustle of leaves underfoot were the only sounds as they went... the silence between the three not really uncomfortable.
"Wait a minute Sheriff Green, what's that?" Mulder left the faint path they had been following and moved down a slight decline. Scully frowned and followed, to hear the Sheriff close behind.
At the bottom of the decline Scully saw Mulder standing over the decomposing corpse of a deer.
"It's a deer Mulder. You know, Bambi. And in a pretty advanced stage of decomposition." Scully shook her head.
"Yah... but look." He pointed to the head. The deer had been a buck, it's antler's were missing, shorn off with something sharp. "How much you want to bet this animal died of natural causes?" Mulder met Green's eyes.
"Mrs. Kelly." Green Sighed. " Ok we got part one of that little spell thing. The rest wouldn't have been that hard to come by."
They left the deer and made it to the site of Jack O'Shay's murder without any further revelations.
It was as clean as the first site. The Yellow tape the only thing to differentiate this patch of wood from any other.
"He had been chopping wood over there. He died with his axe in his hand... yet we couldn't see where he'd hit anything living with it. I mean he would have at least tried to defend himself right?" Green pulled at his bottom lip as the Agents looked around desperately for something the authorities would have missed.
"The only tracks were the Victims, and one or two paw prints in the immediate area in all cases. That doesn't make sense." Scully was thinking of all the ways it could have been pulled off. "Unless he's sweeping away the tracks and somehow not obscuring the victims."
She moved away from the taped area and scanned the wood, walking in larger circles moving outward. Mulder was looking at a small cut in a tree trunk.
"Could his axe have done this?" He pointed it out to Green.
"Yah. It's possible."
Mulder stood away from the tree, facing the way the victim's tracks had come from by all reports. He held his right hand in a fist and swung in an imitation of someone swinging a club, or an axe. The imaginary axe head would have landed a few inches higher then the mark on the tree. "O'Shay was shorter then me. I'd say he was trying to defend himself... but missed."
"Mulder!" Scully's shout brought him running, pulling his gun from it's shoulder holster, Green on his heels.
Scully had moved just out of their line of sight. She was standing about fifty meters from the murder site, pointing to the forest floor. Mulder saw no immediate threat and looked down. A ring of mushrooms about five foot in diameter decorated the ground. He reholstered his gun and reached down to touch one of the fungi. He plucked it.
"Is there any way we can find out what kind of mushroom this is?"
"I'd say ask Agnes Kelly... or Enid Thomas... she might still have some of Meghan's books if you don't want to send it out to Mammoth Springs lab." Green shrugged.
"Mulder this is wierd." Scully squatted beside him but didn't touch anything.
"So what else is new?"
The other sites gave them nothing new. They made it back to town just as dusk began to gather. Green felt a wave of relief when they hit the familiar streets again. He rationalized it as only logical and reasonable fear of the unknown involved here.
He drove the agents back to Maddie's to their rental car while he went inside to indulge in his sister's cosseting.
Mulder and Scully ate at Karen's Diner again, but without any musical selection this time. The conversation was flat, each lost in developing their own theories. Mulder toyed with the mushroom he'd placed in an evidence baggie as he thought of Agnes Kelly's words.
In the forest eleven orbs of red light glowed. Scent. Prey. They had new prey... not accidental like most of the rest. The scent of the defiler... the one who breeched the gate between the worlds was strong to them. As soon as They came... the Master and the Alpha... then the hunt would be on again. They could barely contain their excitement.
"OK, what are you thinking?" Scully finished her soda and pierced Mulder with a stare that threatened bodily harm if he didn't talk.
"I'm thinking that maybe I was wrong. That maybe this isn't just the violent culmination of someone's delusions." Mulder examined the mushroom in the bag yet again.
"You think the little folk are teleporting between the Thomas' yard and the murder site by way of magic mushrooms?" She wasn't smiling. She was looking tired and annoyed.
"I don't know what I think. I do think Enid Thomas may be involved somehow... but we can't bring her in for questioning because she's growing mushrooms. Sweeping away the tracks in the woods would leave some sign, scraping... something. The tracks simply are not there. How? And that ring does make me wonder... I don't believe in coincidence."
Scully sighed. "The only magic in those mushrooms is if they are a hallucinogen. Which might just explain a lot of things. Think about it Mulder. If those mushrooms are a drug... then this whole thing can be tied to a kind of drug war. The victims killed because they either stumbled onto the cache or because they wanted a bigger cut."
"Come on Scully, we are not talking cocaine here. But I'll concede you might have a point. We'll send this to Mammoth Springs lab in the morning. I don't want Enid Thomas to know we are asking questions."
"If this is the reason behind everything... then she's growing them in her side yard." Scully raised an eyebrow.
They returned to the B
He tipped his hat to them as they came in the door. "Evnin'. If you'll excuse me folks, I have to get back to work. I'll see you folks in the morning."
When he left Maddie sighed from the kitchen doorway. "He's insistin on taking half the night shift now. He's gona wear himself ragged until this is over and done with." She tossed down her dishrag and shook her head. "I think I'm gonna turn in early, watch some TV in my room. The house is yours. If you're allowed I have small stash of drinks in the cupboard over there, and some cold beer in the fridge." She retreated up the stairs muttering something about the stupidity of brothers.
"Why didn't you give the sample to Sheriff Green?" Scully hung her coat on the coat rack while awaiting Mulder's reply.
"Because he has enough on his mind, and if this is related to some sort of drug ring we can't know how far it goes."
"Come on... you don't really think that Green..."
"No... but by now you should know we can't be too careful." Mulder ran a hand through his hair and looked at the stairs. "I'm going to go up. It isn't often we get to turn in early."
Mulder was seated on the bed pulling off his hiking boots when something outside his bedroom window drew his attention. He walked over to the window and pulled aside the curtain. Down below... there, lights. Bobbing balls of red light.
Mulder quickly retied his shoe and grabbed his gun. He left his room and banged on Scully's door as he moved quickly past it. She opened it to see him already half way down the stairs.
"Scully, fox fire, outside... now."
Without thinking she grabbed her own gun and followed after him, each grabbing their coats at the door.
"I just knew an early night was too much to hope for. She muttered.
Mulder circled to the side of the house, but the apparitions were gone.
"Damn!" He looked frantically around, then spotted a glowing bob moving through the yards behind the house, heading for the woods.
"Mulder WAIT!" Scully grabbed his arm. "It's dark, they are heading for the woods."
"Hey, I got my lucky charms." He held up a rock for her to see before taking off in the direction the lights had gone.
Rolling her eyes Scully followed.
Coming... flush and run, all part of the Hunt... the Chase. The prey was easy to find.. the smell of his defilement carried with him. Soon... soon the taste of the blood, of the Hunt...
In the woods the others waited.
Maddie heard them leave, looked outside to see them run off behind the house, weapons drawn. She shivered and ran to turn on the small CB she kept in her room to monitor Tom.
"Tom! Tom come in... the FBI people just ran out of here like they were after something. They had their guns. Tom they are headed for Eighth street running through the yards behind my place. Do you read?"
There was a burst of static then her brother's voice"...ck, godamnitall, why the HELL couldn't they call me for backup? I'm on my way Maddie. I'll try to meet up with them or head them off."
Having done all she could Maddie let the mike fall from her fingers as she wilted into the wooden chair next to the radio table. She began to pray.
Mulder was getting too far ahead. Scully cursed and stumbled on something in the dark. She went down in a semi-controlled roll regaining her feet quickly, ignoring the slight pain of bruised knees and elbows. Now he was out of sight... swallowed up by the darkness. Damn his long legs anyway.
"MULDER!" She wasn't sure how she managed to shout when she was running out of air. She was usually able to pace herself for a long run but not this time. Not if she wanted to keep up with her partner at all.
"COME ON SCULLY THIS WAY!" His voice called from the left. Whatever he was chasing must have moved off that way. Thank God... they were heading back into town, no longer going for the forest only three blocks away. She took off again in the direction of his voice.
It was ahead of him, keeping the same distance between them. Mulder slowed, it slowed. Damn.. it was leading him. He clicked the safety off his Smith and Wesson. Something was wrong here. Yah right like chasing a ball of red light is normal, he thought to himself, but then who ever accused me of being normal?
He looked behind him but caught no sight of Scully in the faint light of the street lamps.
"SCULLY!" He called back to her and was answered only by silence. Up ahead the orb of light was beginning to dim. He watched, fascinated, as it dimmed to a third of it's previous luminance then split into two pinpoints.
The two distant spots headed back towards him. It registered. Eyes. It was somehow one of the dogs. He stood his ground automatically assuming the shooter's stance, feet slightly apart as the world shrunk to the point just beyond his gun's crosshair. He aimed directly between the oncoming points of red light. He saw it as it ran beneath a street light. Grey, large, no breed he recognized. He squeezed the trigger gently. The loud crack of the shot filled the night. The dog did not even slow. He got off two more rounds to no avail. He knew he hadn't missed. A sudden vision of the bodies of Patrick Murphy and Jimmy McGowen blossomed in his mind and he felt a chill that went to his bones. With a muffled curse Fox Mulder turned and began to run, the glowing eyes of the hound behind him slowly gaining ground.
Scully made it to a side street and looked up and down the road. No sign of him. What the Hell?
"MULDER WHERE ARE YOU?!" There was no answer. Then she heard, faintly, the sound of gunfire. Once, then twice more in rapid succession. It was off the way she had originally be heading. Confused but far too worried about Mulder's safety to bother thinking about it now, she headed back in the direction of the shots.
His heart felt as if it would pound right through his rib cage, and his legs were beginning to burn from the exertion... but a quick look back told him that not only had he not lost the huge tooth and fur pursuer, but other's had joined it. Over the pounding of his own shoes on the pavement and his heart in his ears he could hear the clicking of their claws. He could barely breathe. He did NOT want to die being torn apart by a pack of dogs. After everything else I've lived through, he thought as he ran - forcing the fear down before it turned to blind panic, ending my days as an Alpo substitute is gonna be a big let down.
Out of nowhere blinding light shone into Mulder's eyes and he cried out at the ear piercing squeal of tires and protesting breaks. The police cruiser swerved around him and spun to block the road between Mulder and the dogs.
"Git yer skinny ass in here boy!" Green's voice called from the car.
Mulder turned and ripped open the rear driver's side door, throwing himself inside even as the car began moving again. Green backed up, over the curb, into someone's lawn, then aimed his car right at the pack of dogs as they skidded to a confused halt.
"Hold on ta yer hat!" The Sheriff floored it. A shower of dirt and grass fanned out from beneath the rear tires and the car took off.
There was a satisfying thud as something connected with the front of the car, accentuated by the jarring bump as the wheels ran over whatever was hit.
"Scully! Where's Scully?" Mulder looked out the rear window and then leaned forward to grab Green's shoulder. "LOOK!"
The car's sudden stop threw them forward a bit. green looked in his rear view mirror, then turned around, his eyes wide with a touch of fear. "Mother of God..."
The road behind them was empty. No dogs... no remains of whatever had been hit. Nothing
A block back, at a crossroad, the corner street light shone on a shock of coppery hair. Scully came into view.
"Go back, pick her up." Mulder was almost frantic. They had to still be out there, yet there was no sign of them as they stopped for the petite redhead to get in the passenger side door.
She was gasping for breath and the look she gave Mulder was withering. "Don't you EVER do that to me again!"
Green drove, not to the B
He parked outside Mrs. Kelly's home and as they got out of the car he took a look at the trunk and cursed. Thus was the attention of both agents drawn to the arrow protruding through the fiberglass trunk door.
They moved swiftly to the house and the door flew open before they reached the top porch step. Agnes Kelly motioned them to get inside quickly.
"What are we doing HERE?" Scully finally asked as Green closed and locked the door behind them.
Mrs. Kelly took Scully's hand and patted it as if she were a young child. "You are here because I know the old ways... I know how to ward you."
Mulder and Green both looked at the old woman with shock. "Wait a minute... you knew we were comin? How the..." Green sputtered.
"I got the feelin I was needed. Maybe there's more of the psychic in me then I thought." She winked at them. "But time's a wastin. I don't know if the rule about bein invited in applies here... so take this and pour some on all the upstairs window sills and in each doorway. I'll take the downstairs." Mrs. Kelly pressed a round container of Morton's Salt into Mulder's hand. "Just do it. Humor an old woman boy. Then we can talk."
"This is insane." Scully stood in the middle of the living room, not moving as Mulder went upstairs with the salt and Mrs. Kelly poured a line of white granules across the base of the front door.
Just as Mulder came back to the first floor an eerie chorus of howls sounded from outside, raising the hairs on the back of the necks of everyone inside the house.
"Humph. They're cryin their frustration. You are safe for now." Agnes leaned heavily on a cane made of twisted wood. Mulder was struck by the amusing image of this woman as Yoda in Star Wars.
"Alright everybody, sit. Talk. I'll get some tea."
Mrs. Kelly's tone brooked no argument and the three took seats.
"What the Hell went on out there?" Scully's gaze shifted from one man to the other, directing her question at both.
"I don't think I want to know." Green shivered and the burly Sheriff wrapped his arms around himself. He looked pale and defeated.
"I think the Wild Hunt was after us Scully." Mulder peeled off his jacket. He had regained his breath but he was still overwarm from the exercise of the night.
"You were chased by dogs?" She frowned, he had obviously been through something tonight. Something that disturbed not only him, but the Sheriff as well.
"I followed the Fox Fire... I thought you were right behind me. It kept a pace just that much faster than me so I was never any closer to it. When I had to slow down because I was winded it slowed down too. That set off my Spidey Alarms." Mulder leaned forward with his elbows on his knees as he ran his hands through his hair before looking Scully straight in the eye. "The Fox Fire became one of the dogs. I *watched* it dim, then the light turned into eyes. Even I'm having a hard time believing it... but I know what I saw. I shot at it when it started to come after me. No way I missed three shots, but it didn't even phase it. I was running for cover when Sheriff Green came across me."
"Mam, I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't seen it. When I rounded the corner to Ninth I saw Mr. Mulder here running at me Hell bent for leather and the red, glowin eyes of a good dozen dog's hot on his heels." Green related what had transpired - a haunted look in his eyes. "No body... no pack... just you roundin the corner." He finished.
Scully stood and crossed to the window. Pulling back the drape she peered outside and gasped.
"They're out there." Her words were barely more then a whisper but Mulder and Green were instantly behind her.
"I thought that was my line." Mulder quipped before he looked outside.
One dog was standing on the roof of the cruiser, it's eyes glowing horribly as it stared through the distance and the glass... right at them. Other's moved about the house, padding around the yard sniffing at their scent. Every once in a while one would follow the scent as far as the porch steps then rise it's hackles to growel, sharp, white teeth seeming to glow red as much as the eyes before it moved back to rejoin the rest of the prowling pack.
"I'm callin for backup." Green went to Mrs. Kelly's antique French phone. After picking up the receiver he dialed, then began clicking the cradle. "Godamn phone is dead," he glared, "aint no pack of dogs did that."
Scully reached into her coat for her cellular phone, only to remember she'd left it next to her bed at the Bed and Breakfast when she ran out after Mulder. She looked at him but her partner shook his head. Great, his was left behind too. Fat lot of good they were doing back there.
Hunter did it." Mrs. Kelly re-entered the room bearing a teetering tray of teacups unsteadily. She dropped it rather heavily on the coffee table before collapsing into her own chair. "Camomile, it'll help yer nerves. You two git away from that window, you'll only rile them up more."
"Look," She settled herself into the chair, almost becoming a part of the old piece of furniture, "the Pack never sets off on a Hunt without the Hunter. He's out there as well, you just can't see him, cause he is good at keepin hidden. He cut the phone, probably with nothin more magical then a pair of wire cutters. Now... as long as you stay inside this house you are safe. Come mornin they'll be gone. The Wild Hunt can't stand the light of day. You may as well sit down and make yerselves as comfortable as ya can."
"Oh he's out there alright. He put one of his fancy arrows in my car." Green flopped onto the other chair leaving the couch for Mulder and Scully. "So he's managed to cut us off and terrorize us. Now I'm startin to get pissed again."
"Nothin you can do till mornin Sheriff. Bullets won't stop 'em. You should know that by now. The iron in the shells has been forged." She looked at Mulder then, "You still got the iron I gave you? Good. Keep it in yer pockets."
"So how DO we stop them?" Mulder took a seat on the couch.
"I don't know." She wouldn't meet his eyes now, and Mulder could tell she was lying. She wasn't very good at it, so why was she doing it?
He was tired, emotionally wrung out and frustrated at the who situation. "Tell us." He practically hissed.
Mrs. Kelly stiffened, then looked him in the eyes. Her dark brown gaze cutting through his hazel one. "I'll tell ya what I can then boy... for all the good it will do. The one who did the callin. They are the anchor to this world. The blood that went into the summoning was theirs, only their blood can undo it. But it must be shed willingly... and totally."
"So we have to convince this Hunter person to commit suicide?" Scully threw her empty hand up in the air in disgust. She still held her gun. "That's VERY helpful."
"Look, the glowing eyes are easily explained. The street lights and the head lights reflected at an angle. It's the same effect you get in snapshots known as red eye."
"Look out the window Scully... they're still red... and red eye reflection doesn't cause that glow. They are too bright for that." Mulder shook his head but he spoke gently. The familiar ritual of debating the rational and the irrational with her helping to wipe away the fear of earlier.
"Yah, and how did they disappear in less then two seconds after I ran through 'em?" Green looked hard at Scully.
"They move quickly. It isn't unheard of. Perhaps they are part greyhound. You obviously didn't kill the one you hit... probably just grazed it and in the excitement you *thought* you did more damage." Scully rationalized.
"So how did the Fox Fire become a dog right before my eyes?" Mulder crossed his arms and looked at her, daring her to come up with an explanation to that one.
"Hallucination aided by the darkness. The mushroom you've been handling all night. If it's a hallucinogen then perhaps you absorbed some osmatically through your hand when you picked it."
Mulder shook his head again. "Hallucinogenic mushrooms have to be ingested. It doesn't wash."
"Neither does balls of light becoming the Hound of the Baskervilles. Neither does the fact that we have a pack of feral dogs... albeit odd ones, and a serial killer lurking outside this house and you are gathering around a cup of tea and a glorified story teller feeling all safe and cozy because you put SALT at the doors."
"They can't enter now child. They are bound by laws of their own, and that is one of them." Mrs. Kelly didn't look at all offended. "But if you feel better to pace my house with your gun... feel free. Just don't shoot any of us by mistake."
"We'll keep a watch." Mulder touched Scully's arm. "I don't think anyone is going to get much sleep anyway."
"Do you seriously think that they are going to just go away come sunrise?" She stared at him. "And how do we know that they aren't going to attack any of the other townspeople? Just sitting here might be endangering lives." "If we can see them in the yard then they aren't off terrorizing anyone else." He gave her one of his lopsided grins. "And if they are still there in the morning we can get better shots instead of wasting bullets in the dark."
"Fine." She pressed her full lips together in a tight line. "I'll take first watch." She went to the window to watch the pacing Pack.
"What happened to you Scully?" Mulder's breath was warm on her cheek as he whispered next to her. She started a little as she had not heard him approach. She didn't turn from the window but her gaze shifted to look at his reflection in the glass.
"I fell over something. When I called you- you answered and I followed your voice. There must have been a wierd echo effect or something because I thought you'd gone in a different direction." Their each met the other's eyes in the reflections of the glass.
"I never heard you call me. It wasn't me who answered you. He intentionally split us up." Mulder shivered a little. They had fallen for the trick... one arrow out of the darkness... or if the pack had gone after her instead... he didn't want to think about it. He'd come so close to loosing her before.
Scully saw his shiver but pretended not to. "He's got a future in impressions then. He has you down pat." She drawled to lighten the mood, a half smile playing at her lips before fading into a worried expression that was almost a match of Mulder's. "You know what that means don't you? He was after YOU. You specifically. The dogs went for you, while I was left stumbling around in the dark."
"It's tough being popular." He grinned, turning her ploy back on her. "Maybe I should stop wearing the Purina logo on my clothes."
She gave another brief smile then settled down to watch the restless pack outside. Shadow on shadow now, their terrible eyes the only thing betraying them. "Don't you think the neighbors would call for help? I mean this can't be the norm around here." She gestured out the window.
"Who are they going to call? The Sheriff is in here and the Deputy's dead. After a few months of dog savaged bodies turning up I wouldn't count on anyone charging to the rescue." Mulder moved away, back to Green and Mrs. Kelly. He brought out the evidence bag and began to question Mrs. Green on mushrooms.
Mrs. Kelly frowned at the withered mushroom she was shown. "And you say this came from a ring? Lad, you have got to be one of either the stupidest or the most suicidal people I know. Don't you know you never take from a ring unless you are sure you destroy the whole thing? If you touch a ring without askin permission of the Fair Folk you risk their wrath. No wonder The Hunt went after ya. The only way to keep safe is to ask that permission or to completely destroy the ring so they can not trace the defilement back to you." She shook her grey head, "I guess I should be glad you didn't stand in the center of it during the full o' the moon. Then you'd be lost for sure."
"Well I certainly didn't hear music while we were out there." Mulder smiled gently.
"Good thing too." Mrs. Kelly snapped. "Well," She took the bag and turned it over and over in her hands, "it's no kind I've seen before. Most rings are formed by what is actually known as Fairy Ring Mushrooms. They are even edible." She sniffed. "But this... I've never seen it's like locally."
Mulder thanked her and looked over at Green."How are you holding up?"
"Pretty damn good considerin." Green looked over to Scully, then back to Mulder. "She makes a good case though don't she? I tell ya my brain want's to go along with everythin she said, evidence to the otherwise or no. But my gut..."
"We both saw them disappear... she didn't. Besides it's her JOB to come up with nice logical explanations for the unexplainable. She's good at it."
"And what's your job agent Mulder?" Green tried to get the measure of the man before him. It seemed he wasn't as cut and dried as Green's first impression.
"To get to the Truth, no matter what it may be. Even if it isn't logical."
"You chase after boogie men." It wasn't a question.
"I've learned... we've learned," He looked briefly at Scully's back, "that some boogie men are real."
"Mister, if you told me any of that yesterday when we met... I'd have written you off as a nut case."
Mulder nodded, it was expected. "But not now." He smiled.
"Yah, well, tonight I saw more then a plain man should. Maybe by the end of the week I'll convince myself that the little lady is right and this whole nightmare was the result of stress and coincidence... but right now I'll make sure there's salt at the door."
Mrs. Kelly chuckled, reminding them suddenly that she was there. "Lads, that's all that can be asked of ya."
The sun in his face woke Green up. He blinked rapidly and looked out the window he was seated before. They were gone. He mentally berated himself up and down... he could not believe he fell asleep.
Mrs. Kelly had gone to bed around midnight, completely confident that all was as well as it could be. Ms. Scully had even let exhaustion over take her around three ack emma and she'd curled up on the couch, her partner seated in the chair next to her, his gun on the coffee table prepared to snap to the defensive at any moment.
He wasn't in the chair now... and Green was pretty sure it was Mulder he heard puttering around in Mrs. Kelly's kitchen.
"They're gone." His simple statement woke Scully who uncurled herself with a languorous stretch before getting up to stand by him to look at the empty yard.
Green brushed scarlet. "I don't know. I must have dropped off for a moment... when I opened my eyes they were gone."
"They disappeared about five thirty, just when it started to get light. One minute there... the next..." Mulder came in with three mugs balanced in his hands filled with last night's tea, now steaming again. "She's into old Celtic lore but she believes in all the modern conveniences. She has a microwave." He handed them each a cup.
"You let me sleep?" Green accused.
Mulder rubbed the side of his nose with his thumb for a minute. "It looked like you needed it. I was awake, so we were not completely unguarded."
"Do you think the killer's still out there?" Green asked.
"We could always send Mulder out to check. He seemed to be the target last night." Scully grinned. Mulder shrugged and put on his jacket while picking up his gun and thumbing off the safety.
"Mulder I wasn't serious." Scully set down the tea and grabbed his arm.
"I know, but someone has to do it."
Scully grabbed her own coat and gun. "Then let's go." She raised an eyebrow.
There was nothing outside. They carefully combed the whole block, searching every conceivable hiding place all the while feeling their back's itch, waiting for the arrow that never came. There was no sign of the Hunter... or the dogs.
They were still on gaurd when they returned to the house, the lack of any sign of him intensified their paranoia instead of allaying it. They didn't speak until they were back inside.
"He even removed the arrow from the car." Scully was obviously discouraged. "The hole is the only sign that it was ever existed. That and the cut phone wire are all there is to prove last night happened at all."
"Can I get you folks some breakfast?" Mrs. Kelly descended the stairs. She wore a faded green terry robe and fuzzy slippers over something high necked and flannel.
"No thank you Mrs. Kelly. We have a lot to do.It seems we are in the clear for now." Mulder surprised Scully by crossing to the woman and bending to kiss her on the cheek. "Thank you for helping us last night."
The old woman actually blushed. "I wish I could have done more ta help." There was something sad but honest in her eyes. "I really do. But you are welcome to what aid I could provide. And remember the salt. It's not as good as cold Iron against the Fay, but good enough."
Mulder nodded and they took their leave.
Outside Sheriff Green walked around the front of his patrol car and stopped dead. He beckoned both agents over and pointed. "So much for the theory of just grazin one of the critters."
The fender and grille were both heavily dented, but there was no sign of blood or fur.
Green drove them back to Maddie's so they could get cleaned up and eat. He himself did not escape the B
"Well gee mom, it was just a sleep over." Mulder grinned at the older woman, touched by her concern.
"Not much sleeping by the size of the luggage under your eyes." She crossed her arms. "Next time ask permission before you leave or I'll ground you." She managed to quip back.
As they headed upstairs Mulder winked at Scully, "I think I like her."
Green took the mushroom sample with him. Mulder had decided he could trust the man shortly after he'd come between Mulder and death. With luck they might know what kind of fungi it was by evening.
Once clean and after a hasty meal of cold cereal, leaving Scully not so much amazed that Mulder ate Cocoa Puffs so much as that Maddie HAD them, they went back to the police station.
Green was in his office and on the phone. He motioned them to have a seat while he listened to whoever was on the line.
"Is that all you can give me? Cheeerist... do you have any idea what a situation we're having out here? Fine. I know... I'm just under a lot of pressure, and I had one hell of a night Kenny. Yah, well... I guess it's better then we had this mornin. Talk to ya later... Oh wait... I just sent Carl Terrence out your way with a mushroom... I'd really appreciate it if you could get me an analysis on it as soon as possible, it's related to this case. Thanks buddy." Green looked for a moment like he was about to slam the phone down, but he reigned in his temper and gently cradled the receiver.
"That was the lab. They sped things up giving us top priority. The dog hairs were from a Mutt, at least not from any breed they ever saw before. They assured me it wasn't a wolf... but we learned that fer sure last night." Green ran a hand down his face. "The arrow was clean as a whistle. Hand made, silver barb, oak shaft and the fletching was..."
"Turkey.. wild turkey." Scully finished for him. It was identical to the others.
Green nodded. "I have two deputies from Mammoth Springs comin in to help me out... til I can fill Jimmy's job." Green looked pained for a second then shrugged it off. "That should keep us from another night like last night. At least we'll have some back up around here." Green tugged at his bottom lip when the phone rang. He picked up and after a few comments turned to Mulder and Scully, his hand over the mouthpiece. "Been gettin calls all mornin, people want ta know what was goin on last night. I think I'll put it all on the answerin machine tape and save me some trouble." He grumbled and made a face while giving brief reassurances to the caller before cautioning them to stay inside at night.
There was a knock at the door and Mulder sent a puzzled look to Scully. A knock on the door of a police station? He shrugged, and since Green was busy he went to answer it. Michael Gallagher was outside, Puck sitting docilely at the end of a bright red leash whining in the back of his throat. The boy shuffled his feet and his face was a mask of misery.
"Come on in Michael. What's wrong?" Mulder put a hand on the kid's trembling shoulder as he guided him into the station.
"Momma won't wake up. She's breathin an everythin. I checked. I watched Rescue 911. But I shook her and yelled an she won't move any. Grampa used to get like that once in a while... but with HER like that I'm all alone."
Scully stood in the doorway to the Sheriff's office shaking her head. "I'll come with you and check on her if you want Michael. I'm a doctor."
The boy's round face brightened considerably, and there was a sparkle of tears in the magnified image of his eyes through his glasses. "Would ya? Thanks. I would have called an am-blance like they say to on 911... but momma pulled the phone out and I didn't know how to make it work again."
"Why don't I come along and see if *I* can fix that." Mulder offered. He wanted to get a better look at that house anyway...
Michael was eating cereal in the kitchen, Puck laying at his feet waiting for cheerios to drop and give him a treat when Scully called Mulder upstairs. He stopped looking over the few scattered family photos on a bookshelf and navigated the stairs.
Scully stood in a doorway just a little down the hall. Inside Maire Gallagher lay sprawled across a bed on her stomach. The smell of alcohol was strong. Burbon... maybe some whiskey on top of the beer.
"She's dead drunk alright, but I don't think she's in danger of an alcoholic coma... yet. I wanted you to see this though." Scully pointed to the unconscious woman's jeans and sneakers. There were burrs on her jeans, and her sneakers were muddy. "Looks like she was doing some partying outside last night."
Mulder sighed. "I think we're gonna have to bring her in Scully."
"May I ask your reasoning now?" Scully crossed her arms.
"I didn't want to mention it... but I think Thom Gallagher was more then a drunk. I think he was Michael's father."
Scully only raised an eyebrow, not saying anything.
"Marie's reaction to any mention of Michael's father made me start to consider the man a suspect... but it was Maddie who fit the peices together. Thom Gallagher beat her... and she never dated, kept to the house mostly... or wasn't allowed to leave. Classic scenario for child sexual abuse. Then the fact that he brought in Meghan Thomas' grandmother to deliver Michael instead of going to the hospital... it didn't make sense unless he had something to hide."
"So you think Maire Gallagher summoned the Wild Hunt to either avenge herself on or to escape her father." Scully had to admit it made sense. Maybe in her own drunkenness she suffered the delusions of being the Hunter figure. A way to strike out at the world without the guilt.
"Yes I do. He was the first victim. And I bet if we get a search warrant and go through this place we'll find a bow and some arrows that match those found in the victims."
"Alright... I'll cuff her and try to bring her around enough to read her her rights. But what do we do with Michael? I don't think this town is big enough to have a local Social Services."
Mulder gave her a lopsided grin, "I bet I know someone who'd just LOVE to have someone to fuss over for a while."
Scully matched his grin. "Maggie." She nodded. "Call Green. I don't think it would be a good idea for Michael to see us taking his mother out in cuffs. I just hope we can make this case hold with circumstantial evidence and you doing a profile on her."
Green was there in five minutes. He nodded to Mulder who was sitting across the table from Michael, diverting the boy's attention with talk of Basketball, a subject the boy knew a great deal about to Mulder's initial surprise. Mulder pointed in the direction of the stairway and Green went up to join Scully.
Maire Gallagher was conscious, but not at all coherent. Her speech was slurred and rambling and she kept twisting in the cuffs.
"What the Hell is going on here?" Green demanded. Scully began to explain.
It didn't take much to convince him. He just shook his head sadly. "Damn... you know if I had even suspected any of this twenty year ago none of this woulda happened... I'd a killed the bastard myself." He sighed. "OK, will you two run Mike over to Maddie's? You're right, she'd love to take him in. I'll take Maire in. I'll also make sure she understands her rights when she's sober enough."
He moved to half haul the inebriated woman to her feat, she didn't protest. "One thing though Ms. Scully... What about the dogs? Puck hasn't got a mean bone in his body... and there aint any other dogs here."
Scully shook her head. "I don't know Sheriff. Mulder and I plan on sticking around until Ms. Gallagher is sober enough to give us some answers... that will definitely be on the list of questions."
Michael had been told that his mother was sick, and she was going to get some help. It was the truth as far as both agents were concerned. Scully didn't like it... but she felt Mulder was right. It twisted her up inside to know that Maire Gallagher had been through so much... it was almost understandable and forgivable that she go insane. If only so many people hadn't died. Maggie had the boy installed in one of her guest rooms and set about getting a rope run set up in her back yard for Puck by the time Mulder and Scully left. "I wonder why she never got married? She's got all those mother genes down pat." Mulder mused as Scully drove for once. "Mother genes? I don't think there is a genetic code for mothering." She shook her head and smiled. "But you are right... she is nice. She'd drive me crazy in a month... but she's nice."
Enid Thomas was painting in her upstairs studio when Hela began to fidget downstairs. She heard him whining and pacing. Something was wrong.
She wiped her brushes and went down to check when she heard the gentle rapping at her front door.
Opening it she was confronted by the small figure of Agnes Kelly. "Enid, we need to talk. There's some major trouble."
The young woman sighed and let Mrs. Kelly in. Somehow she didn't think she was going to like this.
Maire Gallagher had passed out again as soon as she was in a holding cell. Green sighed and ran the idea of calling a public defender for her against his general dislike of all lawyers. The lawyers lost. He hated pitying the woman behind the bars. But if those FBI people were right... damn it he could almost give her a clap on the back for gettin her own back against her old man. If the killin had stopped there he'd probably even do his best to support her. Temporary insanity and all that. But Jack O'shay, Meghan Thomas, Ian Jones and Jimmy McGowan didn't deserve to die. He made sure to leave Pat Murphy's name off the list though... good bye to bad rubbish.
He was still looking in the cell, contemplating the whole mess of a situation when Mulder and Scully came in.
"She hasn't come round. I'm brewing up some coffee, but I doubt it will do her any good. Time is all that will clear up that much booze. I've locked up enough drunks to know that. She probably won't be able to talk straight till she wakes up on her own. I'll call ya the minute that happens. We might get more out of her if she's hung over and off gaurd."
"What about the search warrant? We HAVE probable cause." Mulder leaned against the cell bars.
"I got a judge signin it right now in Mammoth Springs. I'll be radioed the ok for an emergency search as the paperwork is brought here by courier."
As if on cue the Radio in the Sheriff's office fell out of it's usual staticy pattern.
"This is Mammoth Springs Dispatch to Woading Law Enforcement come in..." Green moved quickly into his office and picked up the Mike.
"This is Woading. Green here, give me some good news."
"It's all clear. Warrant is on it's way, you are clear for an emergency search of 283 Williams Street. Repeat you are clear for an emergency search of 283 Williams Street." The woman's voice over the CB was completely neutral.
"Clara honey, I could kiss you." Green grinned into the mike.
"Promises, Promises." The neutral voice faded into one filled with humor. "I was expectin at least a marriage proposal though."
"I would but you deserve better then me. I'm outta here."
Green replaced the mike before gesturing to the door. "After you folks. We got a house and grounds to search."
"Agnes... are you sure? I mean..." Enid shook hear head then put her face in her hands.
"Child, I am as sure as I ever have been. I saw them bring her in. They drove right past my house."
"This is so hard... I suppose if I'd done my job a little better none of this would have happened." Enid began to cry and Agnes wrapped her arms around the much younger woman, pulling her close and rocking her slightly.
"It's no more your fault then mine. What's done is done. Now we got to put it to rights. And don't you start blamin yerself for poor Meghan. You've been doin good so far... I won't have ya fallin apart on me now. Not when I need ya. Now... I need ya to get your things together and to try to work another summoning. Lockin up poor Maire is a mistake, and I'm afraid things are just gonna get worse for it. We may need to fight Fay with Fay."
Enid shook and straightened herself up. She looked straight into the older woman's eyes. "Last time I tried to call on the Telwyth Teg..."
"Was for selfish reasons. That's why it fell apart. Now ya got to do it for others. Shove your fears aside girl... it won't do any good... and if ya CAN help, and didn't... THEN's the time to be blamin yerself."
Just as Green was about to suggest the two agents go without him so he could stay with the prisoner a Mammoth Springs cruiser pulled up outside. Two uniformed officers got out and reported in.
"Good, I thought you boys wouldn't arrive in time." green clapped his hands and rubbed them together. "These are agents Mulder and Scully of the FBI, they've been helpin run this puppy. I've got a suspect in there now with only me an the janitor to stay here and watch her. One of you now has that happy duty. She's sleeping off a drunk now, so she shouldn't be trouble. We also have an emergency warrant release to search the suspect's house and grounds, the other of ya can come along and help with that end."
Both men nodded and after a quick discussion between themselves the younger of the two volunteered to stay at the station.
"Sir, what are we looking for when we conduct our search?" The officer who had volunteered to join them was in his mid thirties, short but built like a wrestler.
"Well Mark, we are lookin fer a bow and some hand made arrows with silver tips. We are also lookin fer a pair of deer antlers and maybe a hollow spike of some sort. Anythin at all that will help link our suspect to the murders, includin an overlarge bill fer dog food."
At the Gallagher place they decided to split up to cover the most ground in the least time. Green headed for the upstairs while Officer Mark Brody was taking the first floor. Mulder volunteered to check the basement with a lopsided grin. "I'm used to basements." Scully started going over the acre and a half yard. It was still slow going.
Enid Thomas knelt just outside the ring of mushrooms in her side yard. Agnes Kelly sat in a wicker chair off behind and to the side of the younger woman. Agnes did not know how to do what Enid did, she didn't have the gift, but she knew the gist of it. She had told the truth before... she was no witch. That was Enid's forte. Agnes smiled a little at the thought. Those nice FBI people would never believe that. Especially not this term for witch anyway. Enid was a witch born, then a witch trained in a tradition older then those who now claimed the title of witch. Enid's magic was orally passed down from teacher to student since before the Romans conquered the Britons. Agnes shook her head as she watched the young woman before her sway and chant as she arranged some of the things she would need for this summoning. There were damn few teachings as old as those Enid followed and some would find the idea of such an ancient tradition harder to believe in then the tue magic involved.
Enid set a small brass brazier within the fairie ring, a bundle of dried herbs and powdered charcoal mixed with incense filled it's bowl. She lit them with a match and began to chant. The words were not English, nor were they Gaelic or Welsh... but a much older language.
After the readying ritual Enid paused and looked over her shoulder at Agnes. "I'm ready to start. This is best done at night though...under the moon and stars."
"An yer most likely ta git yer throat ripped out tryin it at night here and now aint ya?" Agnes shook her head. "There's no time, things are gonna come to a head tonight. If we want to try and stop more deaths... it has to be now."
"Alright. Just like the ritual to summon the Hunter whatever answers my summons is going to need a vessel. It will most likely be me, as I am doing the ritual, and all the old magics and those who dwell in the spirit realm consider Names and blood important. I was named after one of the Telwyth Teg from my mom's fairy stories, and my blood is almost pure Welsh. Hopefully the one I was named for will be listening."
With those words she began to chant again. She picked up a silver dagger and after making intricate patterns in the air in front of her that seemed to leave an after image of light, like writing with sparklers on a fourth of July night. After the last symbol was traced she brought the blade across her palm, cupping it to catch the blood, then allowing the blood to trickle into the brazier. The smoke flowed upwards before drifting away on the breeze. It seemed an eternity, but it was really no more then an hour before Enid's constant chanting received an answer. At first it seemed only an odd shimmer of sunlight, then the light gathered into a floating ball of sapphire light. The light floated from the center of the ring to Enid, stopping just before her before simply blinking out.
Enid collapsed with a groan. Agnes moved as quickly as she could to the young woman's side. "Enid?" She brushed stray strands of dark hair from the woman's face.
Enid groaned and opened her eyes. "I was answered. It worked... but it she didn't choose me. *I* would know if she chose to stay in my body even if any other vessel would not. It was female... and at least as old as the Hunter... but.... where did she go? Who did she choose? It could be anyone, male or female so long as they are directly involved with the mess the Wild Hunt has made of our world."
Agnes Kelly frowned and helped the girl up, lost in thought. Then as Enid regained her feet and her balance Agnes slowly smiled. "Oh... I think I have an idea." The old woman winked. "Ya think too much of the Welsh version of the tales, but yer Telwyth Teg are known by many names. Faieries, The Sidhe, The little Folk, The Folk of the Air, the Spirits... and the Tuatha de Dannan..." Agnes Kelly laughed at the sweet irony of what she was guessing.
"Agnes? Have you snapped? What is so funny?"
"I'll tell ya inside child. It's chilly out here... and my bones are aching."
Mulder was half way through the basement and had yet to find anything more then dirt and dust. It looked like he was going to have to take another shower after they were through here and he idly wondered if Woading had a dry cleaner. There was also a lovely mildew odor and he was sure he was allergic to something down here because his sinuses had filled up and his eyes were beginning to burn and itch. Just great, he thought, the Hounds of Hell miss me but I'm brought low by a basement... pun intended, he smiled to himself, oh the indignity of it all.
He was going through a filthy aluminum shelf filled with an odd assortment of junk. Old toys -Hey a slinky, dusty puzzle boxes- nothing in there but slightly molding cardboard pieces, an HO train set- got a whole town in these boxes wonder if it has working lights, a box filled with outdated hunting licenses and old pictures of past successes- hold on... BINGO!
Mulder brought the box closer to the bare overhead light bulb that was his only source of illumination down here. The licenses were for BOW hunting. The pictures were of Thomas Gallagher with different dead animals before him. The slight variation in hair styles and one try at a mustache marked the progression of years. He was a buck hunter. There was a picture taken in 1975, if the licence it was pinned to was any indication. In it Thom Gallagher held up the head of an eight point buck...He held a recurve bow in his free hand and Maire was present. God- she couldn't have been more then fifteen, a skinny little kid with a bruised cheek visibly attempting to edge away from her father in the picture. Mulder's jaw clenched in anger. He stopped from grinding his teeth to bite back a curse. In the picture young Maire Gallagher was holding a bow of her own. OK, still circumstantial evidence and not overly helpful... but it proved she knew how to use a bow. Three of the licenses were for her, but there were no success pictures to go with them. The licences with her name on them were from 74, 75 and 76.
He put the lid back on the cardboard box and tagged it as evidence. As he turned back to the shelves of junk he heard light footsteps on the wooden stairs behind him. He turned around to greet Scully.
"I take it you had no luck."
She shook her head. "Yard is clean. Even Puck's dog house is clean... though smelly." She reached out and wiped a finger against Mulder's cheek pulling it back so he could see the dirt smear on it. "Looks like you've been having fun though. If you keep this up mom really will ground you."
Mulder grinned then sneezed. "Damn... I swear I'm allergic to something down here." He handed her the shoe box full of licenses and photos. "Take a look at this."
She took the box and was about to open it when she went suddenly pale. The box fell from her hands, scattering laminated licenses and faded pictures over the dusty floor. She started to crumple. Mulder caught her and gently lowered her to the floor, kneeling with her a look of confusion and distress on his face that she would have thought funny if she saw it.
"Scully?" She seemed unconscious. What the Hell... "Green! Brody! I need some help down here, Scully collapsed!"
He heard the pounding of two sets of feet above him followed by those same feet rushing down the basement stairs. Both Lawman were by his side in seconds.
"What the Hell happened, she hit her head?" Green took off his wide brimmed hat and checked Scully's pulse.
"No... she was fine then all of a sudden she collapsed."
Scully opened her eyes to see three concerned faces peering down at her. "What happened? Mulder, why am I in your lap?"
The concern in his eyes did not fade as he gave her a familiar lopsided grin. "Guess you finally fell for me. Can I sweep a girl off her feet or what?"
"Even *I* have more of a life then THAT." Scully pushed at him and sat up, one small hand fluttering up to touch her temple. "Seriously, what happened? I remember you handing me a box... then... nothing."
"You passed out. Maybe you need more sleep. Exhaustion can do that to you." Mulder got to his feet and helped her stand genuine worry in his voice.
Scully shook her head. "No... I'm fine. I FEEL fine anyway. Maybe I'm more allergic to something down here then you are." Scully brushed at her clothes, embarrassed now at the whole incident. She was NOT the type to pass out for no reason. "Sheriff Green, do you need some help going over the upstairs?"
Green continued to look worried. "If ya promise not to pass out on me too."
Scully actually felt herself blush, which added insult to injury. "I don't usually," she assured him. "I guess there's a first time for everything."
Mulder watched her go making sure she was steady on her feet before he bent to gather up the scattered contents of the shoe box.
The house yeilded no further evidence or clues. They did indeed find deer antlers, four sets. Green declared all of them too old to be from the deer carcass they'd seen in the woods. Most likely they had been hunting trophies. If the murder weapons had ever been there they were not there now. Not even Thom Gallagher's old hunting bow, or Maire's. It was disappointing to say the least. By the time they left Scully really did seem fine, if embarrassed enough that Mulder refrained from teasing her about it. Green and officer Brody returned to the Station with the box Mulder had found while Scully went with Mulder to the B
Michael was watching an old Road Runner cartoon when they came in. He was so absorbed he didn't even notice them. Puck just looked up, his ears perked before letting his furry head fall back to his paws with a muted 'whuff'. Maddie was less circumspect. She took one look at Mulder and made an attempt to stifle the purely girlish giggles that came bubbling up making her seem younger then she was for a moment.
"You're a mess. What happen you loose a fight with a dust bunny?"
"Hey that dust bunny had teeth." He started to shrug out of his suit jacket but Maddie held up a hand.
"Not in MY living room bucko... upstairs in the bathroom or I'll have to dust everything again today."
As he ascended the stairs Scully met Maddie's eyes and both women broke into unrestrained laughter.
A half an hour later Mulder was feeling much better as he fished the bottle of iced tea out of Maddie's refrigerator. The shower had helped to clear his sinuses and his itchy eyes, but for more permanent relief he popped three antihistamine tablets in his mouth and drained a glass of tea.
He looked up when Maddie's phone rang and when the lady herself swung around the doorway into the kitchen to answer it. She spoke very briefly before hanging up and looking at Mulder.
"Maire woke up five minutes ago. Tom said to send you over right away. He said she hasn't asked for a lawyer yet."
It was getting late again. Close to five when they went into the Station. There was no interrogation room, just the short little isle in front of the cell. Maire Gallagher sat on the edge of a bare cot, holding her head in her hands. A paper cup filled with steaming, black coffee sat on the floor next to her, untouched.
"Where were you last night Maire?" Green started as soon as Scully and Mulder arrived. They thought it best that he start. He was the familiar face here.
"I was drunk... where do you think?"
"Yah, but where were you drunk?" Mulder leaned back against the wall across from the cell.
"I got wasted on my couch." Maire rubbed at her face, then pushed the mass of her blonde hair over her shoulder. "What is this about? Why am I here?" She was still bleary eyed, but at least she was thinking.
"You were in your room when we found you with evidence that you had been outside very recently." Scully crossed her arms.
"Well then I don't know where I was. What is this about?" She demanded a bit more harshly.
"It's about the fact that there was an attempt on three lives last night. Tell us about your daddy Maire." Green placed a hand on the bars, almost coming between Maire and the agents.
"What about him?"
"He raped you didn't he? HE was Michael's father." Mulder this time, but his tone was not harsh, was in fact sympathetic. Maire paled, denial on her lips... then she simply lay down and wept. After a full minute she looked through puffy eyes at Mulder.
"How did you know?" She sniffled.
"There were a lot of signs. I've been trained to see them. Is that why you set out to have him killed?" Mulder's gentle question brought out another sob.
"I used to be taught... old lady Llewellyn said I had had a gift... anyway when she saw I wasn't payin much attention to the lessons I snuck off to take she told me to come back when I had straightened myself out." Maire gave a little hiccup, "I never did... but she had taught me enough."
"What did she teach you?" Scully moved a little closer to the bars. Maire looked up from her seat to meet her eyes, then she gasped and pulled back slightly from the agent.
"Maire, you were taught WHAT?" Green pushed.
The woman seemed to sober up fast. Her eyes never left Scully and she was shaking again. "Old lady Llewellyn taught me the old magics till I was twelve. By then I couldn't sneak away much... couldn't concentrate. I... I heard she'd taken another student before she passed on."
"You expect us to believe you learned magic? Real magic?" Scully shook her head and Maire looked terrified of the other woman's disbelief.
"You tried to summon the Wild Hunt." That was from Mulder, who frowned a little at Gallagher's reaction to Scully.
Maire Gallagher nodded slowly, then grabbed her head with a wince. "I did. It was stupid... but I had to get away. He was starting to beat Michael. Where is Mikey?" The woman started to look frantic.
"He's safe Maire. Maddie's with him." Green shook his head sadly "Maire... did you kill all those people?"
Maire looked at each of the people outside the cell in turn, her gaze lingering longest on Scully, before she dropped her eyes to stare at the tops of her sneakers. She did not look up when she finally breathed the word. "Yes."
"Jesus H. Christ!" Green swore. "You did it didn't you? You actually called up the Wild Hunt... and the Hunter went into you."
The woman shuddered and wrapped her arms around herself. She still did not look up. She looked defeated. "Yes. I did it. I did it ALL. I didn't know what I was doing when I called them... then it was too late."
"Maire..." Green closed his eyes and the hand he had wrapped around the cell bar was white knuckled, "are you confessing?"
"Yah.... I guess I am. What's gonna happen to Mikey?"
"I'll make sure he's taken care of, I promise. I think I better get this in writing then... do this by the book. Do you want to call a lawyer? You are entitled." Green pulled at his bottom lip.
Maire looked at Green with tears in her eyes. "No. I'll sign your confession."
Mulder rubbed the side of his nose with his thumb. Something was NOT right here, it just didn't fit...but he couldn't quite put his finger on what.
"Tell me Maire... after you shot them... why did you slit their throats?" Mulder looked at her curiously and Scully frowned at him, her eyes questioning.
"I guess to make sure they were dead. To do it right." Maire sniffled and hugged herself once more. Green's mouth hung open. Mulder nodded then placed a guiding hand at the small of Scully's back and escorted them from the room.
"She didn't do it." He said simply when the door closed behind them.
"So I gathered after that little curve ball of yours." Green looked out the front door to the darkened street. "But why would she confess?"
"I think she did try to summon the Wild Hunt... but she isn't the killer... the Hunter. She is trying to protect the one who is."
"No Mulder... you don't seriously think..." Scully had by now learned to follow some of her partner's lines of thinking.
"Think WHAT?" Green spun to face them and growled through gritted teeth.
"The Hunter needed a vessel. Maire isn't that strong, barely any stamina... but Michael IS. And he doesn't have much of a will to stand in the way of being possessed."
The Sheriff's face turned grey. "Oh God... Maddie!"
They burst through the front door of the Bed and Breakfast, guns drawn. Green shoved past Mulder and Scully.
"MADDIE!" No answer.
The TV was on in the living room, old cartoons playing to an empty room. Green took it all in with a growing sense of dread. "MADDIE ANSWER ME!"
Scully moved through the door of the kitchen her gun sweeping the room before her. The kitchen itself was empty, but the back door hung open, a cold wind coming in and the darkness outside seemed to press inward, instead of the light spilling out.
Green bounded up the stairs while Mulder checked the closets.
Everyone was relieved when Green returned a moment later hauling his sister down the stairs. Maddie Green was sopping wet and dressed in a huge fleece robe. She'd obviously been hauled out of the shower and looked none to happy about it.
"Just what the Hell is goin on here Tom?" She glared.
"Where is Michael?" The Sheriff gestured to the empty room.
Maddie paled. "He... he was here when I went up... watching TV. Oh lord... if he went out..."
Scully looked at Mulder and Green. "The back door was wide open. He left."
"Oh Lord, those dogs are still out there aren't they?" Maddie clutched at her brother's arm.
"I don't think Michael has anything to fear from those dogs." Green sighed, frustration and anger at the whole bloody situation welling up. "OK let's see if we can find him."
Officer Harold Ridge sat back at the desk after answering natures call and sipped at his coffee while listening to the radio playing softly in the background. Reba was crooning "Does he love you?" over the airwaves and Ridge found himself humming along. He drained his cup and went back for another. Despite the caffeine he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. He and Mark had been sent here because a serial killer had murdered this little backwater town's deputy. It was so quiet here it was hard to imagine a crazed killer out there on the empty streets. Almost as hard to imagine the smallish woman in the cell in back being that killer.
He sighed, hopefully Mark and him could go home soon. He liked dealing with familiar people, familiar situations in Mammoth Springs. He smiled to himself as his eyelids got heavy. Damn but he was tired. It had been a two hour ride out here and now the most interesting thing to happen was the paperwork on that search warrant arriving by courier and the Sheriff and the FBI people takin off in a hurry. It was quiet...he was alone... it wouldn't hurt to close his eyes for a minute would it? In no time he was asleep.
Enid Thomas slipped quietly through the front door. She went to the coffee maker and dumped the used filter and wet grains into a baggie, then she washed out the filter unit and dumped the pot, washing it out as well. She moved over to the sleeping policeman and took his paper cup, dumping that as well, and adding the cup to the mess in the baggie she slipped into her purse. She then set the machine to make a fresh pot of coffee, minus the powder from some of her sister's home made sleeping pills.
Enid took a shuddering breath and exhaled slowly. She couldn't believe she'd let Agnes talk her into this. She quickly poured a half a cup of the fresh coffee into a cup and added milk and sugar, sitting the cup next to the sleeping cop she then took the keys off his belt.
Let's see, she thought as she went in the back to the single jail cell, this is drugging a police officer - jailbreaking - aiding and abetting... let's see if I can keep this to thing that will let me get out in twenty years or less if I get caught.
"Maire." She whispered into the cell as she found the key that unlocked it.
The woman in the cell had been curled up on the cot but at the sound of her name she jumped up and looked at Enid in shock.
"Come on Maire. Michael is out again tonight, and there is little time. He has to be stopped tonight or never." Enid held the door open.
"How did you... Michael? How did you get in here, how did you know about Michael?"
Enid grabbed the slightly older woman's arm and dragged her out of the cell. "Because I'm the one Mrs, Llewellyn taught after you. We haven't much time. The Hunter's been collecting blood from the victims. If he kills again tonight he'll have blood from seven people. With that blood he can make a new mask... can break the bonds that bind him to you. You never learned that part did you?" Enid pushed Maire out the door and herded her to the battered Volkswagon parked in a shaded corner of the station. "We haven't got much time. I summoned help but that help can't send the Hunter back, only protect the prey. YOU have a job to do Maire." Enid's eyes pierced the other woman pinning her for a moment before they both got into the car. Maire nodded, resigned.
"I think I saw your help." Maire sighed and began to weep again. "I don't want Mikey hurt."
"With luck you'll be able to prevent that." Enid started the car.
Thick, blunt fingers brushed the protective leaf cover from the tools of his trade. They glowed softly in the darkness. Lovingly he picked up the mask. The leaves formed a face. molded together with mud made from the caster's blood. The stag's horns raising from the brow improved it. All in all it was a poor piece of craftsmanship. When he made the next one it would be better.
He placed the mask over his face. Now he was complete. The Green Man, The Hunter. Somewhere in the back of his mind the mortal boy slept, unaware of the other who now shared his body.
The Hunter took up his long bow, made from the bones and sinew of his prey over the millennia, and his quiver. The dog by his side growled with anticipation. The magic of the Hunt had transformed the overly docile pet of the boy in more then temperament, it had transformed him physically so he became a true Hound of the Pack.
"We have to find the defiler." He whispered through his mask. The dog snorted once, it's glowing eyes registered understanding as it summoned the rest of the Pack. Eleven balls of red light floated into the clearing before dimming and transforming into the rest of the Pack. It was time for The Hunt to begin again.
They poured out the back door door of the Bed and Breakfast. The day's soft autumn breeze had changed into a real wind now and the temperature had dropped. Their breath misted for an eye blink before their faces before the wind ripped it away.
"Alright he is on foot, and hasn't been gone that long. He can't have gone far." Mulder took the flashlight Maddie passed him. She passed two more to Scully and Green.
"He might be armed." Green groaned, "An those damned dogs..."
"I don't think Michael knows what he's doing... try to go for a disable if you are forced to shoot." Mulder headed in the direction he had taken the night before. To the waiting woods three blocks away.
Enid pulled the car over to the side of the road and both women got out, their eyes frantically scanning the darkened forest. The wind forced through the trees was producing an eerie moaning sound. Mire shivered and felt Enid press something on her. An old dark sweatshirt.
"Try to talk to him, get Michael to come out and suppress the Hunter." Enid pushed the dark strands of her wildly whipping hair out of her face.
Maire huddled in the oversized sweatshirt. She knew talking was not going to help. She was afraid down to her bones, more afraid then she'd ever been of her bastard father. Michael... what had she done to the only good thing ever to come in to her life? Her poor, darling baby boy, the picture of an innocence she never remembered having. Was it worth it Maire, she asked herself, your pa's gone, but was it at all worth all the innocent lives.... worth turning Michael into a monster? No, she had to be honest and face the truth that she'd taken to drinking to avoid, it was not worth any of it.
"You ever make a mistake with the magic Enid?" Maire looked at the younger woman with an expression of resignation.
"Yep. Before today I was terrified to try summonin the Folk of the Air, because when I was seventeen, horny and full of myself I tried to summon a Fairie lover. It exhausted me.... and the answer I got back was a magical smack upside the brain that had me laid up with the worst headache anyone can imagine for a whole week. I guess... I guess I got off light huh?" Enid hugged Maire. "Agnes told me that the only time we really screw up is when we don't learn, and when we don't face our responsibilities."
"And this is mine." Maire looked at Enid and tilted her head in the direction of the car. "Go home Enid. You've done more then enough. Staying here'll just get ya killed. You know that as much as I do I guess. There is too much happening to add one more body to the confusion. And Enid..." Maire hugged the woman and pulled back, tears flowing down her cheeks, "I am so sorry about Meghan."
Enid just nodded and patted Maire's shoulder, then returned to the car. She hated leaving, it felt like an act of cowardice... but she knew Maire was right. This was not her battle, she had done what she could. Maire had started this alone, and now she had to finish it alone.
Maire watched the battered Volkswagon pull away and get swallowed into the night and repressed the urge to chase after it. Steeling her nerve for what she knew she had to do she stepped into the moaning trees.
Scully felt strange. There was a pulling in her chest, drawing her forward. She was barely aware she had sped up from a rapid walk to a jog, moving past both Mulder and Green till her partner called her name.
"This way." She pointed into the woods and to the left, utter conviction in her voice.
"Women's intuition?" She swung her flashlight around to see him looking at her with an amused glint in his eye.
"I... I don't know. I just know he is that way... waiting." She frowned. Curiouser and curiouser.
They did not split up. If they ran into those dogs again they knew they would need each other. Green moved into step at Scully's left and Mulder walked to her right.
The Pack sniffed the air, they made no noise but looked to their Master with questioning eyes.
"Yes, go my children. Avenge the insult dealt us."
The dogs sped off into the night as the Hunter notched an arrow with a predatory gleam in the eyes visible through the mask.
"Holy shit!" Green gasped as they all spotted the oncoming glowing eyes at the same moment. They all raised their guns at once and started shooting.
When not a single dog went down in the gloom Mulder accepted that bullets were really useless. With no other real option he pulled loose his tie and dug into his pocket, coming up with an iron nugget. Please let me remember how to do this... he dropped the nugget into the middle of the doubled tie and began whipping it in a circle over his head... and let Agnes Kelly be right. He let loose with the improvised sling. He hadn't used one since he was fifteen and shooting out bottles with rocks, but his near perfect memory served him well. He heard a yelp of pain and one of the dogs went down. He squelched the thrill of triumph though... he only had two more nuggets.
There was a hiss to his left and he looked just in time to see Green go down with a cry of pain, an arrow seemed to have sprouted from his shoulder.
"MICHAEL!" Mulder cried hoping for some recognition from the hidden boy.
Then there was no time. The dogs were there. One leapt straight for Mulder and he raised his arm in a futile effort to protect himself as his other hand grasped a second iron nugget. It took him a second to realize the dog had not connected and for the canine yelp of pain and surprise to register. There was a flash of blue light and the dogs all stopped, the one that had leapt for him had collapsed in a whimpering heap. The rest of the demonic Pack backed up one step, two... They were not looking at Mulder, or at Green who had managed to sit up to stare at them through eyes glazed with pain, their focus was entirely on Scully. She stood with her gun held limply at her side. She raised her other hand and a dome of soft blue iridescent light surrounded the three of them. Mulder felt his mind go numb... what the Hell was going on?
"Reveal yourself!" The voice was Scully's, but not. There was an odd echo to it, a second reverberation as if two people spoke the words not one. As she spoke the wind around them died.
Mulder let his flashlight skim the woods. He was amazed the beam penetrated the odd dome of light. Michael stepped forward into the beam of the flashlight and Mulder held it there. He was wearing a mask of some sort, it seemed to be be made of leaves... and the missing antlers. In his left hand was a bow, it seemed a nightmare amalgamation of bleached bones and twine.
"You have interfered between me and my prey Dana." The voice was also not Michael's, and the boy's eyes glowed the same hellish red as the dogs. The infliction he gave Scully's name was wrong some how, not quite right. Mulder raised his gun again, aiming for the boy's shoulder. He still did not want to kill him if it could be helped.
"You have broken the law of The Hunt my son. This prey escaped you last darkness, eluded you and your Pack for a full night. Thus are they free of you for the span of their lives. You yourself made the rules, how dare you now violate them so carelessly."
Green was pale from loss of blood as he clutched at the arrow in his shoulder, but he was looking at Scully as she spoke. "My God, look at her eyes..."
Mulder let his gaze flicker from the Hunter to his partner. Scully's eyes glowed with a blue light that matched the brightness of the Hunter's.
"Who are you?" He asked the familiar form next to him. His voice filled with rage as he rasped, "what have you done with Scully?" For he knew in the depths of his terror choked heart that the woman beside him was NOT Dana Scully.
A gentle smile curved Scully's lips. "I am the first Dana. From me came all the Tuatha de Dannan.... the Children of Dana. Even the Hunter must acknowledge me as mother figure. Your friend is unharmed mortal... for I do not harm my vessels. She is sleeping right now within her own mind. Completely unaware that I am here."
The Hunter growled, "He violated the ring that served me, my gate. He must pay." The Hunter/Michael pointed to Mulder, drawing their attention back to him and the Pack gathered at his feet.
"He did it unknowing. Return my child, this world holds no place for us any longer. We are neither needed nor wanted here." The being within Scully answered him.
"Michael?" The plaintive voice came from behind the Hunter figure, and he turned so all could see Maire Gallagher stumble into the darkened clearing. "Michael stop this. Oh baby, it was never meant to be you. It was supposed to be ME."
"Woman, you called on forces you knew next to nothing about. It is up to ME to choose. And now I choose to break that which binds me to you. Leave this place, this is no longer your concern." The Hunter turned his back on her.
Mulder barely had time to wonder how Maire had gotten out of jail before she gave out a wild cry, she held something in her hand as she rushed at the Hunter's back. The dog closest him snarled and sprang. It's weight bore Maire Gallagher down even as it buried it's muzzle in her throat. She didn't even scream.
Mulder did. "NO!" Mulder dropped his gun and used the second nugget in his improvised sling. It connected solidly with the head of the attacking dog. The dog collapsed without a sound.
All at once the other hounds vanished, simply blinked out of existence as if they had never been, and Michael Gallagher slumped to the ground to lay as unmoving as the dog and his mother. His bow and arrows were gone.
The blue dome of light that had surrounded Mulder, Green and Scully dissolved around them and Scully walked calmly forward and bent over the boy. Mulder looked from the wounded Sheriff to Scully and the Sheriff waved him away. Mulder went to crouch over the other side of Michael.
The being within Scully removed the mask from the boy's innocent, round face. She traced a finger across his forehead trailing a faint blue light that faded when she removed her hand. "Forget." She whispered.
"What happened here?" He had a hard time meeting the strange glowing eyes across from him, it rose his gorge. This thing inside Scully was a violation, a rape of his partner's being. He wanted it OUT. But he also wanted answers.
"Maire Gallagher bound The Hunt here with her own blood in the spell of calling. Unless the Hunter left voluntarily it was her blood more then Michael's body that bound him here. He was collecting the blood of his victims for once he had the blood of seven mortals he could make his own mask, and break that blood bond. YOU were to be the seventh." Those burning eyes pierced him. The being moved away from Michael's unconscious form and led him to where Maire lay, the dog on top of her. Maire's throat was gone. The Dog was Puck. Scully/Dana bent to pick the broken piece of tree branch out of Maire's hand. "She knew what she was doing. She made it appear she was attacking the Hunter to the Pack would have no choice but to defend him. She shed the last of her blood willingly, thus breaking the bond and sending the Hunter and his Pack back to the realm they belong in." She bent to stroke Puck's fur. The dog's head was half caved in from a wound that smoked and burned. "The poor beast was as overcome as his master. The Pack Leader took him. It wasn't his fault. I wonder if some small portion of his own mind remained when he attacked her... if he did it to free his master..."
The being within Scully moved away to approach Sheriff Green who looked at her with awe and wonder. She smiled and touched the arrow in his shoulder. It dissolved in a cloud of glowing dust and Green cried out. She touched his shoulder and a faint blue light marked his wound.
"The bleeding is stopped. You will need aid though, as will the boy." She turned to look at Mulder, "And when I leave your friend will be weak and confused. I will make sure she remembers nothing. Farewell. I do not think my kind will bother you again."
The light in Scully's eyes faded, and Scully crumpled to the ground.
For the report of Special Agent Dana Scully:
I AM STILL UNAWARE OF WHAT TRANSPIRED ON THE NIGHT
THERE IS ALSO NO EXPLANATION OF HOW MAIRE GALLAGHER ESCAPED
SHERIFF TOMAS GREEN WAS TREATED FOR HIS INJURY AND
MICHAEL GALLAGHER HAS BEEN TAKEN TO MAMMOTH SPRINGS
THE MUSHROOM AGENT MULDER TOOK FROM THE SITE OF JACK
THE MUSHROOMS FOUND IN THE YARD OF ENID THOMAS WAS
DUE TO THE LACK OF EVIDENCE THIS CASE WILL REMAIN OPEN AND
Dana Scully pressed the enter with relief. It was not much, but it was closure of a sort.
Just then Mulder swept into the living room of Maddie's Bed and Breakfast. He had something hidden under his overcoat and Scully gave him a suspicious look.
"Mulder what are you hiding?"
Mulder had that little boy grin on his face as he opened his coat to reveal s squirming bundle of fur wearing a bright red ribbon. It was a pure bred Husky puppy if she was any judge.
"I did." He grinned. "Maddie said it would be ok, and... I feel responsible for Puck's demise. So... what do you think? Does she look like a Dana to you?" He held the big eyed bundle of puppy out to her.
"Mulder if you are calling me a..."
"Never." He looked hurt. "It just seemed like the perfect name for her after the past few days. Do you think Michael will like her?"
Scully took the puppy and scratched it behind her ears. "I think he'll love her. And don't worry... I won't tell a soul you have such a soft spot."