Title: The Redemption
Summary: The story revolves around the search for a serial killer and spirit possession. The setting is Colorado. Mulder is possessed by the spirit of Medora Hoffman who seeks revenge for the death of her husband 150 years ago. She finds in Mulder a kindred spirit. Her presence nearly costs Mulder his friendship with Scully and Scully is forced to question her own feelings for Mulder. In seeking the identity of the killer both Scully and Mulder must put their lives in the hands of this ghostly specter.
Author's note: This is my third story.
Wagon's Way Ranch Somewhere north of Denver
The young man shifted in his saddle. He hated night watch. Three nights in a row and he was sick of it. Especially tonight. For some reason this night gave him the willies. He didn't know what it was.
The cattle were especially restless. He attributed it to the government's blasting in the hills behind him, clearing a path for a new road. They stirred and snorted, pushed and mooed. They were extremely agitated.
They weren't the only ones. There was a big dance at the Ranch and he was missing it. He pulled his coat up around him. It was getting cold. He'd felt better. He watched the flickering lights from the ranch below. The ranch glowed from strings of lights; small and large fires scattered the area. Spotlights rolled across the ground and pushed their lights high into the night sky. He stared at them, an earth-bound galaxy twinkling in the valley below. He languished in their hypnotic rhythm focusing on them until he felt a part of them.
He felt a familiar tingling sensation in his arms, and closed his eyes tightly... "Oh shit..." barely escaped his lips.
Suddenly he bolted upright in the saddle. His eyes rolled back and his arms thrashed as he fell from his saddle.
It moved quickly through the darkness, searching for a gateway back into the world. The natural world around it reeled in fear and abhorrence as it passed through it, rejecting it, recognizing the danger of its existence. It saw what it wanted. Man. The one creature it was able to penetrate and integrate and master with ease. One who's life force was weak and in anguish. Man would be the channel between the different planes of existence. The primordial spirit and the life force of the body.
Denver, Colorado 11:15 AM September 12, 1995
"What exactly are we doing here Mulder?"
Scully had just jumped into Mulder's car at the Denver, Colorado airport. She flew there at Mulder's request from D.C., barely with time to change planes after returning from a conference in New York.
"You look nice, Scully", was Mulder's hello.
She nodded a thank you, a little surprised to think he ever noticed what she wore. Dana Scully was an attractive, petite, woman, somewhat delicate in appearance. What was not as readily apparent, was that she is an experienced FBI Field Agent; one who worked hard to keep herself fit and well trained in defensive procedures to compensate for her lack of physical size. She was keenly aware of how she appeared to others and had learned to walk with her head held high in proud defiance to her small stature. Still she had a charm and a sweetness that men always found appealing. She was pretty, certainly. At times she could be beautiful. Her small features, milky skin, wistful blue eyes and full mouth only encouraged men to act as her protector. She never encouraged it, but after a lifetime of trying to prove to men she was perfectly capable of standing on her own, she'd given up.
She accepted their guardianship with polite tolerance. The only one who ever really recognized her strength had been her father, and perhaps, she felt, at times, Mulder.
With him she wasn't always sure. He still remained an enigma to her.
She glanced over at her partner. His lips were pursed as he squinted against the sun trying to catch a view of traffic as he pulled out. He turned to her with a quick smile. He was slender, well proportioned and tall as she was small. Not quite handsome but very appealing in a deeply sensual way. Dark hair crowned a high forehead and a determined chin. His mouth, sculptured and finely formed, but definitely pouty, she had decided.
His face was kind.
This silent, uncomplicated face she knew, too often refused to mask the profound pain it harboured. It echoed silent and relentlessly behind his dark eyes. There were moments when she felt she saw it and sympathized, but it was too deep, too far beyond her reach to help.
At times it frightened her.
Mulder got right to business.
"In the past six months, four young men have been murdered. They were tortured, in some cases mutilated and burned. Each occurred at or near a 'dude ranch', resort called Wagon's Way just north of here."
Mulder tipped his chin at the files between them.
"Three were guests, one an employee, and eight days ago, a local boy, an Eagle Scout disappeared while camping. "
"Some vacation spot." Scully mused.
Mulder only glanced at her.
Scully scanned the files Mulder had prepared. "Each of these men were sexually assaulted before their death. Do you think that was the objective of the killer? Or are we talking homophobia here?"
"The young men who were killed as far as I've been able to determined were neither homosexual or sexually permissive."
Mulder replied. "Just city slickers, looking to be cowboys."
"There's nothing here on any suspect. The police have no leads?"
He glanced again at her and smiled. She hated when he did that.
"The authorities can't quite get a handle how to appended the killer."
She dug her glare into Mulder. "Lord give me strength." she thought.
"Mulder, please don't tell me, we're looking for a Bigfoot serial killer?"
Mulder felt her glare, but savoured the moment before continuing.
"The locals claim they know who killed them, Scully."
"He's already dead. For almost a hundred and fifty years, so they say." He smiled his spooky smile.
He loved his work.
Wagon's Way Ranch
Scully looked the place over from the car. She could understand why people would want come here. It was breathtakingly beautiful. A magnificent ranch house, two stories high, nestled at the foot of a green valley, sheltered by the grandeur of the mountains and forest that surrounded it. There were guest houses and corrals, tennis courts and gardens spotting the landscape away from the main house. They walked up the steps to the entrance and were greeted by a younger Officer. The house stood deserted, but for the few police milling around and the owners, a couple by the name of Leatherbury. The ranch was empty too, except for some hands, who had stayed on to look after the horses and tend to the chores.
Everyone else was gone. The guests, the employees, they had all left in fear.
"Agent Mulder", the old man puffed on a cigar, pumping his hand in greeting.
"This is my partner, Special Agent Scully."
The Leatherbury's were past retirement but active individuals. They had lived at Wagon's Way most of their lives. Partners who over their years together had come to resemble each other. They were down-to-earth type folk, not immediately reflected by the almost comical cowboy attire they both wore, but you felt it, instantly, as did Mulder and Scully. They were both deeply concerned over the events that had played on their property.
"Agent Mulder has suggested, you suspect something, out of the ordinary may be responsible for the deaths of four people?" Scully dead panned. Sometimes, she couldn't give credence to the stuff Mulder comes up with and she wasn't going to ask about century old ghosts. "An entity. A disembodied spirit. A soul of the dead. A Ghost?" Mulder ad-libbed.
"That's what the local people will tell you. I don't know what to make of this, Agent Scully. Unless it's somebody's sick joke."
"Four dead men, doesn't seem too funny of a joke Mr. Leatherbury. I take it you do not believe there is any validity to these claims made by the local population." Scully asked.
"Of course not. What a load of buffalo chips!" Leatherbury retorted.
"Thank goodness," thought Scully. "A reasonably sane individual."
She bet Mulder was disappointed.
"Our ghost would never hurt anybody!" he exclaimed.
"You have your own...ghost, Mr. Leatherbury?" she queried, half hoping she had misunderstood him.
"This place has been haunted since before I can remember. We've learn to live with it. We've lived here for nearly fifty years. In all that time, we've experienced some strange goin's on here. Dishes sliding cross the table, just like that!" His hand flew out, cutting through the air. "Pictures rearranging themselves..."
"Sweet smells," his wife interrupted him. "Cut flowers that last for weeks at a time. Pretty things, jewelry, left on my night table..."
He agreed and continued, "Sometimes a feeling that we are not alone in a room, when we are. But nothing like this. It's always been...well, rather friendly like."
"It sounds like your friend is pissed off." Mulder quipped.
The ranch hand eyed the two visitors suspiciously as they walked towards the main house. The shorter of the two was a woman with red hair. Even from here he could tell she was pretty, but the rest of her was hidden under an oversized trench coat that made her look dumpy. He guessed that underneath she wasn't. His eyes narrowed as they fell on her companion, a dark-haired man at her side. He walked briskly with an air of confident determination, his long black coat swirling around his legs against the sudden breeze that caught them. He extended his arm to guide the woman as if she needed his protection from the wind. They found the safety of the ranch house and disappeared inside.
"This isn't the original structure, you understand," Leatherbury explained as he lead the two agents through the house.
"It's been built on for almost a hundred years. It's been a resort for that long for chrisakes. Nothing like this has happened in over a hundred years!"
Mulder's ears perked. It happen before? Scully beat him to it.
"What...happened here before?"
"Why, the murders," he said.
"This land was surveyed in the 1840's by a man called Hoffman.
Caspar Hoffman. He was a wealthy, land baron from Germany who came here as an adventurer and stayed. He had a beautiful wife, named Medora. That's her portrait in the other room, there, over the fire place."
"She had your red hair..." his wife said touching Scully's arm lightly.
"Didn't she Rory?"
"You're just as pretty, that's for sure"
Mulder smiled at Scully's fleeting expression of embarrassment.
The Leatherbury's walked Scully and Mulder from room to room, telling them scrapits of history from the house. Mulder stopped before the grandly restored parlor room, and studied the picture above the mantle. He felt strangely drawn to it. Almost intuitively he knew it was her spirit that roamed this house so restlessly after death.
"Have you seen her?" Mulder asked.
Scully's face registered only mild surprise at his inquiry.
"Yes, many times Agent Mulder," the older woman answered. "Many people have felt her presence. Just as you have now. Some say they have seen her, or smelled the scent of roses. They were her favorite flower and she planted gardens full of them."
"Well someone murdered four young men who came here to smell the roses, Mrs. Leatherbury." Mulder replied, tearing his eyes away from the portrait.
"Perhaps it was the other one?" she pondered.
"Yes," she said. "Caspar Hoffman."
"Exactly how many...ghosts are we talking about here? Scully asked.
"Maybe I should start at the beginning Agent Scully." Leatherbury offered.
"Caspar Hoffman built this house, the first house. And for its time, it was the most splendid house west of the Platte. Filled it with all kinds of treasures he'd brought over from Europe for her. Turned this ranch and the land below into one of the biggest and richest anywhere. Cattle, far as the eye could see. And this house, a civilized jewel in the middle of the wilderness. Complete with servants, a library and a fully-stocked wine cellar."
"We found the Ponderosa, Scully," Mulder said under his breath.
"And what happened?" Scully asked, ignoring Mulder.
"Caspar Hoffman was a cultured, educated man. Eccentric and at times, perhaps a bit odd, but a gentleman in every sense of the word.
After a time here, his personality began to disintegrate. He became cold, mistrustful and suspicious. He suffered from delusions and paranoia. We know this, because Medora wrote of his condition almost daily in her diary. He most likely suffered from what today might be diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. There's no way to be sure. But sometime beginning in the 1850's several cowhands were found murdered on the Hoffman's ranch. It continued for several years and no one was able to identify the killer. Hoffman's behavior had become so erratic and threatening that eventually, he was accused of the murders of the men. Caspar even in his madness, insisted vehemently that he was innocent. He was convinced that the murders had been the work of an evil spirit, a 'fetch'. His wife, Medora despite the mounting evidence against him, believed him...loved him and tried to protect him."
"Fetch?" Scully turned to Mulder, instinctively.
"A fetch is an invisible evil spirit, Scully. It lives within a person, yet independently of them. Sticks to you like glue and it slowly tortures you to madness. There have been several documented cases including that of French author Guy De Mories. According to Mories his double sat in his study with him and dictated the words to the author's stories. Mories felt these spirits were omens of impending death. That they had come to 'fetch' one's spirit away." Mulder continued, "If Hoffman was haunted by his own double, I understand how he would feel innocent of the crimes of which he was accused."
"He haunted himself, Mulder?" Scully looked at Mulder. It was moments like this where she took that leap of faith in Mulder's ability to analyze a situation however bizarre and not to dismiss him at being well...nuts.
"You never heard of Casper the Ghost, Scully?"
"Did Hoffman do it?" Mulder asked.
"Nobody really knows son. Sixteen people died during those years.
Unfortunately the murders had been so hideous, the local population so afraid, there wasn't much of a trial. Despite Medora's pleas for her husband's life, frontier justice at that time was a quick hanging. His body was denied her and thrown down an old mine shaft on the Hoffman property. It was sealed, and supposedly an Indian invocation given by an Cheyenne Medicine Man kept the man's spirit from walking the earth and entering another after death."
"They thought that was necessary? Hanging wasn't enough?" Scully asked. "Entire communities of Native Americans and superstitious settlers often worked together to keep bad spirits at bay by practicing prescribed rituals, Scully." Mulder explained. "But it was only the Shaman, or Medicine Man who could enlist the help of other spirits to banish them completely."
"Whether Hoffman was guilty, or an innocent victim himself, why would he return after nearly one hundred and fifty years to seek revenge for his hanging by initiating the killings again?"
Scully was skeptical of this line of questioning but she had learned to question even the weirdest possibility. Too much time with Mulder. "I don't know Agent Scully." Leatherbury shook his head slowly.
"The murders stopped when Hoffman died, and started again when they exhumed his body."
"His body was exhumed? Why?" now Scully was intrigued.
"Well, not exhumed really, found is more to the truth of it. The governments been putting a road through, blasting areas over to the north. They found his bones. We petitioned to have them buried proper at Mannswood Cemetery, but they haven't been released yet.
It was a little over a month after they found the bones, they found the first boy."
"What happened to Medora?" Mulder inquired.
"She left. Never to return. The place stood empty for years after that.
The ranch still prospered for a while until the cattle business started to died in the 1880's. She died in 1886, in New York. But the property still belonged to Hoffman family in Germany, until it was bought and restored by my wife's uncle. He turned in into a profitable resort. He left it to her when he died. He restored the house, built on to it. Most of what you see here is from the original house and what her uncle added over the years."
"Then you believe the odd experiences you have encountered over the years are the result of a haunting by Medora Hoffman?"
"There's no question of that, Agent Scully." Leatherbury's wife answered. "It started the very day she died. I know all this must seem like we're crazy out here, all this talk of ghosts and hauntings and evil spirits. But I've come to believe over the years. I've seen too much. She is here. I believe she takes care of the house, tending to the little womanly things, waiting for her husband to return to her. Sometimes it's filled with a great sadness or longing, but it passes quickly. She loved her husband very much in life, and she seeks to find him again in death."
Mulder took a sip of the coffee Mrs. Leatherbury had poured for him.
"So you're suggesting the possibility...that when the remains of Hoffman were taken from the mine, his fetch was released from whatever had kept it imprisoned?"
"No sir. He's not. But everybody else will.
Scully and Mulder turned in the direction of the voice.
"Sheriff Cochrane." he said, extending his hand. "Are you from the FBI? Cause if you are, we just found another body."
Scully and Mulder exchanged glances.
"What'd mean yor leaving? Trevor Penny asked his friend. "What for?"
"I gotta man. I can't stay here" his friend answered. "They got FBI wondering around here looking for some spook. When they get around to finding somebody to pin those murders on, it ain't gonna be no ghost and it ain't gonna be me!" He shoved some clothing into a small bag.
"What'd ya running from? First that detective fella was asking after you..thought you said you didn't do nutt'in."
"I didn't do anything I didn't have a good reason for doing. Now you gonna give me a lift outta here or what?"
"Sure J.D. , whatever you say." Trevor Penny smiled at his friend.
They trampled around the area briefly where the body had been found. He had been dead for at least a week. There was obvious damage to the body by animals, but the colder days and nights should of preserved some evidence for Scully to uncover.
"Who found him?" Mulder inquired.
"A ranch hand, by he name of Penny. He's been helping on the search teams since this started."
"I'd like to talk to him" Mulder asked.
"He's gone into town to make a statement. It's gettin' dark, probably stay overnight. I'll have him back in the morning."
"I'd like to make arrangements for an autopsy, Sheriff." Scully said, slipping several plastic bags with samples into her purse. The sheriff only nodded, jotting a note to himself in a small binder.
"Come on, Scully. There's nothing more we can do here tonight."
Mulder put his arm lightly around her shoulder.
Wagon's Way Main House
Mulder stood in the center of the room. Scully had been abducted by Mrs. Leatherbury and he took the opportunity to return to the room with the portrait. No...he was drawn back here.
The room was beautifully decorated with antique furniture, oriental carpets and the obligatory steer's horns. Plush drapes hung heavy from windows that reached to the ceiling. A fortune in Western art and antiquities covered the walls, decorated furniture and crowded the floor. The room's main focus was the hand carved fireplace that stood majestically in the center of the wall opposite the windows. Above it was a portrait. It was this portrait that intrigued the agent. The painting was of a young woman in a long white summer dress,
tucked here and there, billowing with lace and softness. She stood in a rose garden... she was petite, pretty, with long glossy red hair, pale, porcelain skin, large eyes like limpid blue pools and perfect, perfect pink lips.
Mulder stood amazed.
It was Scully. He cocked his head to one side.
"Well it could be Scully." he thought, with just a little imagination.
He caught himself smiling and suddenly the room was filled with the unmistakable scent of roses. It filled his nostrils. There was something else, something he couldn't quite recognize yet it seemed strangely familiar. He closed his eyes trying to capture it, as a breeze seemed to come from nowhere and surround him. He could feel it blowing around him, between his legs, under his arms. It seemed to lift his arms as it passed under them. He gasped. It felt wonderful. It was all around him, passing through him, this scent, this thrill. The wonder of it seemed to fill him up, lift him up...he leaned back into it, allowing it to caress him and explore him. Ripples of pleasure flowed through him as he sank deeper into it's invisible embrace.
He fell backwards on his ass.
"Mulder!" Scully rushed to him. "Are you alright? For heaven's sake!
What on earth were you doing?"
Mulder grabbed her arms excitedly. "Can you smell it, Scully?"
"Smell what?" she asked.
"It's all over me, can you smell it?" He shoved his arm at her face.
"Fresh flowers?" she queried. Before Mulder could speak, she said, "Not you, Mulder", she motioned hesitantly towards the table. Mulder looked over. The table's centerpiece was a large bouquet of fresh roses.
"Scully look at her." He pointed to the portrait. "It's you." Mulder was beside himself with excitement.
"Mulder don't be crazy. It's not me. It's a woman who just happens to have similar characteristics, who may I remind you, died over a hundred years ago."
"But I felt her Scully, I felt you." he looked down sheepishly, that hadn't quite come out the way he met it.
Scully looked at him suspiciously. "I beg your pardon, Mulder?" she said drolly.
"What I meant was..."
"Mulder, save your erotic Ghost stories for the campfire." she got up and left him sitting on the floor.
Wagon's Way /Office
"Here Mulder, read this."
Scully passed over a file she had received from Cochrane. Mulder glanced up from his own file to take it, then took a quick glance back at Dana. She was leaning forward slightly over the table she read from. Her hands were neatly folded in her lap the way she held them when she read. Her glasses made her look prudish. She looked as she always looked, but Mulder couldn't take his eyes from her.
Something had changed in him. He had always found her attractive, of course. And occasionally he allowed himself the selfish pleasure of imagining her in other than a professional manner. His own ego allowed him to secretly believe she thought about him as well. But she was his partner, and his trusted friend, and for reasons like professional ethics and personal respect he considered their relationship to be somewhat...well, 'generic'.
A no-name, no-game relationship. Not quite a sister, but not available in the sense that she be considered someone else's sister either. He had come to feel quite comfortable with that situation.
After all, he spent more time with her than anyone. She rarely dated, or so he believed, so he had no need to feel jealous. Of course he never dated so she had no need to feel jealous either. But as he studied her now, he felt a sense of need and desire he couldn't explain. What mystified him was that it was not in the least disturbing. He found himself tracing the outline of her lips. Wanting to do that with his tongue.
"Mulder?" she snapped. "What are you staring at?"
Mulder snapped to attention.
"What do you think Scully. Do you think it's possible?"
"That a one hundred and fifty year old spirit is sexually abusing, murdering young men and setting them on fire? I hardly think a spirit would need to run to the local hardware shop for lighter fluid.
The victims didn't just explode in flames Mulder. They had help." she handled Mulder the chemical analysis report on the first two victims.
September 13, 1995
The next morning
Mulder played with his breakfast. He and Scully each had rooms in the small guest house close to the main house. He hadn't slept much the night before. That in itself was not unusual, for he slept little even under the best circumstances. Scully on the other hand was enjoying her meal, wolfing down the eggs rancheros with great delight. She glanced over at her partner. She had seen him look better. The feeling of exhilaration he had felt yesterday at the ranch house, had become unrelenting anxiety overnight. He glanced timidly over at Scully, afraid to catch her eyes. Afraid she would know, by looking at him, what he was feeling. He wanted to take her right here. He wanted to touch her. To taste her and to...he shook his head hoping to dislodged the desire from his brain.
"Up the night again, Mulder?"
He jerked up nervously, licking his lips then smiled briefly. "Who would think you'd get cable way out here?"
She smiled, but there was concern behind her smile. Mulder seemed...well fidgety. He kept staring at her, and it made her uncomfortable. She knew his moods. This was something new.
Mulder spent the rest of the day visiting the other murder locations with Sheriff Cochrane, while Scully continued her forensic investigation at the ranch. They had little to go on. No motive, no suspects. Nothing to tie the murder victims together except the means of death. Mulder tramped behind the Sheriff. He felt hot. He swept his hands over his face and through his hair. His thoughts were jumbled, unfocused, swimming in an stew of emotions that overwhelmed him. His heart thumped in the hollow of his chest. He couldn't stop thinking about the portrait, about Scully. It seemed as if they had become one and the same to him. He felt flushed, intoxicated and needed a release from the tension. He just wanted to be with Scully.
"What the hell is your problem, Mulder?" he grumbled to himself. He couldn't control his thoughts. He took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the voice in front of him.
"I don't know Agent Mulder. All this crap about ghosts. I think it's just some degenerate, copy cat killer using that story of Hoffman's ghost to make asses of the police."
Mulder thought briefly of passing the idea of spirit possession by the Sheriff, but decided to save it for Scully. Not that Scully would take him seriously, but he knew she would listen. She was wonderful that way.
Trevor Penny snorted as he hauled the heavy bails of hay downs from the wagon. J.D. was gone and now he was stuck with the work done by two men. He wiped his hanky across his face and spied over at the woman entering the police vehicle. He hadn't seen her partner all day. They didn't seem to do much except walk around and talk to each other. Penny started in at the bails again. Two hours later as he walked across the yard toward the kitchen, he watched as the man named Mulder entered his room at the guest house.
Wagon's Way/Guest house
She stood there in the doorway. She said nothing. Mulder stepped aside to let her enter. He had returned to town with the Sheriff, late the same day to have access to proper communication facilities. He spent the evening writing a detailed FBI profile of the killer based on the known information. It was exhausting work, because he couldn't concentrate.
The physical strain of the day, the long drive back to the ranch, and little sleep the night before; Mulder was dead.
"It's late Scully. Is there something wrong?"
"No Mulder, I just needed to talk with you."
"Let me guess, the top ten reasons why we shouldn't pursue the Casper the Unfriendly Ghost theory?"
He looked up hoping for a laugh but expecting a look of annoyance from his partner for not contacting her on his return. Instead, she smiled at him.
He wanted to reach for her, to kiss her. He felt a needfulness for her, and he fought it. He wiped a thin film of sweat from his brow and noticed his hands seemed to be shaking. "Scully let's call it a night..ok?"
He sat down on the edge of a small desk trying to rescue whatever self control might remain within him.
She seemed to float towards him. She was across the room, then suddenly she was there before him. She circled her arms around his neck, curling her fingers through his hair, she drew his face to hers and kissed him. Mulder was startled. He pulled away, toppling the contents on the desktop to the floor.
"Scully?" he said breathlessly.
He had been thinking of this all day but now that it happened, it seem unusual to say the least. Her face seemed to glow with an incandescent light. It made him dizzy, lightheaded. He put his hand up to keep her away, or was it to reach for her? She caressed it, licking the tips of his fingers. Just her touch aroused him. Exciting him.
He moaned. He felt a tightness in his groin and a warmth spreading throughout his body. Tantalizing, bewitching. She looked at him, through him, penetrating even his secret desires.
She knew he wanted her!
His eyes came up shyly to met hers and were captivated by them, sinking deeper into their shimmering pools as they took possession of him. He closed his eyes. His mind felt foggy. Was he so tired he was hallucinating? He didn't know, he no longer cared. In a way she seemed to overpower him, enter into him and he fell helpless into her arms, filled with intense desire and want. His breath came out in short, heavy pants as her tongue teased his lips apart and then entwined with his own. She whispered his name as he pulled her closer.
The man stared at his reflection in the mirror. He was dirty. His face glistened from the greasy sweat that covered him. He placed his face against the mirror trying to touch whatever lived inside it.
"Why'd ya have to do that? he asked himself.
He laughed at himself. So stupid. Like the others. Just shut-up I can do what I please. He looked at himself again but now he was alone.
Mulder woke. He felt incredible. Like he had been asleep wrapped in heaven for a hundred years. All the sleepless nights he had encountered over a lifetime vanished in one brief sojourn.
"This is what it's like," he thought dreamingly. He had finally found peace in her arms. He rolled lazily to take her in his arms again. She was gone.
He bolted up. "Dana?"
He looked up at the time. It said 2:03pm. They had made love for hours. He sighed, just at the memory of it. No one was more surprised, and captivated than Mulder. Her passion was insatiable.
Unrelenting. Demanding. It had urged him on again and again.
Desperate, in agony from longing he gratefully obliged her. He had cradled himself between her legs like a worshipper at the feet of his redeemer. Each release inside her became an offering she accepted and returned. Still she demanded more until there was nothing left of him. Her fire had consumed everything in him except his desire for her. Even now, just the thought of her rekindled an excitement within him.
Mulder grabbed his pants and slipped on his shoes. "Where had she gone?
How could she leave?" he thought desperately.
Bright car lights pulled in front of the window, and Mulder cracked opened the door to the guest house to see who it was. The lights that were in his face went out as the driver and passenger doors opened.
"Mulder?" He recognized the voice. "What are you doing up?"
"Scully were did you go?" he asked, stepping out, not fully realizing she wasn't alone.
"I went to do an autopsy on the last body, just after dinner. I left you a message."
Mulder stared at his partner and her escort, the young Officer in confusion. His face drained of colour as he slowly comprehended. He said nothing more and fell back into his room.
Scully looked at the Officer. "Thanks for the lift" she stammered.
"Is he alright?" the Officer asked "Looks like he saw a ghost."
Scully turned towards the opened door and nodded.
"Alright Mulder. What is with you? You've been ...well, acting weirder today than I 've ever seen you." Scully stood over him, arms crossed.
Mulder looked up at her, "Where did you go?"
"I told you, I was in town performing an autopsy. I know it took awhile but they don't have the best facilities. What's with the questions?"
He just shook his head slowly. He was speechless. Whatever fog he had been in all day was gone. She knelt down beside him.
"Mulder what happened to you tonight?"
She looked around the room. The contents of the small desk were on the floor, his clothes were strewn on the floor, the bedding was in disarray, as was Mulder. A red flush crossed her cheeks as she understood. "Oh." was all she said.
She stood up, more surprised than embarrassed. "Mulder, do you know you're bleeding?"
Mulder twisted his head and gingerly touched the small scratches that creeped over his shoulder. "Perhaps we should discuss the autopsy in the morning, Mulder."
She lingered there only for a moment. She wanted to touch him but she wasn't sure why.
Wagon's Way Main House
The next morning Scully joined Mulder at a table for breakfast. The Leatherbury's, hospitality professionals to the end, waited on them.
Mulder was silent, he didn't look at her. He was brooding and she could tell he hadn't slept, again. Taking a sip of her coffee she said.
"What's going on Mulder? Last nights escapade was not only unprofessional...but unlike you."
When Mulder still didn't reply she said, "Who could you meet, here?" she asked incredulously.
Mulder looked at his partner.
They sat in silence until Scully tried again, "Mulder, I need to talk with you about the autopsy I performed last night"
"What did you find Scully?"
"The victim died of asphyxiation. The body was not burned after death. It was burned over a period of time little by little while he was alive. From what remained, I say the cause of death was due to strangulation. I'd say a belt, judging by the marks left on his neck. He was alive for at least three days after his disappearance."
"No one except the victims, that we know of, went missing for days at a time." Mulder replied.
"There's a lot of country to cover here, Mulder. Perhaps it's someone living outside of normal society."
"Cochrane's men have searched this property repeatedly. They haven't found so much as a candy-wrapper out of place."
He wouldn't look at her. Scully refused to let him shut her out "Mulder, someone, not something is committing these murders. I suggest that we begin by checking the alibis and getting some feedback on the people who work at the ranch."
Mulder hadn't said much the entire day. He was sullen, quiet and reserved. Scully didn't press the issue. It was, she supposed, really, none of her business what Mulder did after hours. Perhaps he was just embarrassed that she knew. Still he seemed genuinely upset and discomposed. Together he and Scully along with Sheriff Cochrane had interviewed several people, including the ranch hand who had been present when they found several of the bodies.
"His name is Trevor Penny. Been here a few years."
Sheriff Cochrane said pointing to the tanned young man carrying a saddle, hoisted on his back, into the barn.
This ranch hand in particular gave Scully the creeps. He was handsome, there was no doubt, with boyish features, and a healthy body. But he was dirty and his smile seemed somehow cruel to her.
Mulder questioned him to his where-a-bouts as he had done with all the others. He answered everything but there was something insidious in his attitude. Scully could tell by Mulder's face he too was uncomfortable. A trait he seldom expressed.
"The sheriff has told me that you were present when two other bodies where found. You got a knack for finding dead bodies, Penny?
Maybe you should go into business," Mulder said flatly.
Penny drawled. "Well, I was just try'un to help, you know, do what I could. Guess that's why I was there." His eyes never left Mulder's face.
"What can you tell us about Trevor Penny?" Scully asked Leatherbury.
"Trevor? Why he just a young buck. Does his job. Never been any trouble."
"How long has he worked here?"
"You don't find it unusual that he was present when three of the bodies were found?"
"No, why not? He knows the place well enough. He's been real helpful. Most of my men helped on the search teams, besides Penny wasn't alone when he found them. He was with J.D."
"J.D.?" Scully asked. She didn't recognize the name amoung the men they had interviewed.
"J.D. Kelley. Took off a couple days ago." He noted the surprised look on Scully's face. "Now don't get yourself all riled up Agent Scully. He took off because a private detective showed up here looking for him."
"The detective said it was just some trouble about alimony. Next thing, we knew J.D was gone."
"Was this brought to the attention of the Sheriff?" she demanded.
"I didn't think it was that important. He's just a young guy looking not to pay his wife any money."
"Everyone who was present at this ranch at the time of the murders is a suspect and you felt no need to mention that one of your employees disappeared?"
Leatherbury dismissed her line of questioning, "Agency Scully, being a deadbeat husband doesn't make you a murderer. Now I told you, he was a good kid."
Scully glanced at Mulder, a little pissed off, that he wasn't backing her up. "Now, if you will excuse me Ma'am, I got chores." and with a little condescending pat on her shoulder he left.
Now that they were alone Scully turned to Mulder. Her eyes piercing the back of his skull. "Mulder do you want to tell me what the hell is going on here?"
She was angry but her anger dissipated as she looked at her partner's face. Mulder was pale, his face reflecting the stress and sleeplessness of the past two days. "Mulder?" she touched his sleeve. She spoke softly. "Mulder, if this is about last night.....I thought...I've felt that we were friends. That we can trust each other. If that's what's upsetting you, I wish you'd just come out with it. Your participation in this investigation is faltering Mulder. I need you help here."
"Do you believe in demonic possession Scully?" Mulder said quietly.
She dropped her hand.
"Oh, of course. Why not? This couldn't be just a simple case of murder. One human being taking the life of another."
She was surprised at her tone of voice. Why was she so angry at him?
Mulder's brought his eyes up to meet Scully's. And she saw it for the first time. Fear.
Scully turned to see Sheriff Cochrane approaching. "Just spoke to Rory.
Maybe you'd like me to add J.D. Kelly's name to the list of people you want me to check on?" He gave her a weak smile in apology. She nodded thankfully. At least somebody was helping.
"Agent Mulder? I got a call from Washington. The information you requested on serial murders and your profile comparison is coming through tomorrow. They said sorry about the delay."
Mulder nodded. "Thanks."
The Guest house
Scully put the glass of warm milk in front of Mulder.
"This is what you meant by a drink, Scully?"
"It may help you sleep."
"I don't want to sleep."
"Mulder, you're a mess. I've never seen you so tense. Let me help."
"Make love to me, Scully." Mulder asked quietly.
She looked at her partner, not quite sure what she had heard him correctly. A look of wonder then hesitation crossed her face.
"Mulder. You're a pig."
He buried his face in his hands. She didn't understand what was wrong with him. She only knew he was in pain. She came to him and sat beside him.
"What's happened Mulder? What's brought this on?"
He reached for her and trembled as she took him in her arms. She didn't caress him. She held him. Tightly. He rested his head on her shoulder like a dying man, clinging to her because she was life.
Mulder spoke in a whisper, shame and fear straining his effort, trying to explain to Scully what he himself could not understand.
He loved her. She blushed as he spoke, turning her face away, not from embarrassment, but from the feelings he stirred in her. He had made love to her, or so he believed, to something that had appeared as her. And as she listened, confused and frightened, she secretly wished it had been her.
The Main House
It was late. Scully walked through the room that contained the portrait of Medora. She had gotten Mulder to sleep, be it in a chair, but he rested now and she needed time to absorb Mulder's phantom tale. Was it possible to be possessed? Psychotics often experience a state in which they feel surrounded or even penetrated by threatening forces of good and evil. Could Mulder be experiencing some type of mental illness? She was desperately tired. She leaned against a chair back and found herself weeping. It would be easy just to think he was crazy, that he finally bought one too many tickets to the Twilight Zone he called a life, but she had feelings for Mulder.
She didn't want them and like Mulder she had kept them under control. She liked it that way.
"Mulder's feelings aren't real," she thought rationally. They are a culmination of whatever stress he was experiencing, the pressure and uncertainty. It was about this case, every case that possessed him, not ghostly visitors masquerading as lovers. She lifted her eyes to the portrait.
"Yet, I believe him," she said softly.
September 15, 1995
Scully sat with her lap top, entering her daily report. She had received fairly comprehensive background checks on each of the ranch's employees from the Sheriff. There was nothing unusual. A minor charge for theft, traffic tickets. One had beat his wife and did community service. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes.
She worried about Mulder. She thought about calling him, but for reasons she didn't want to explore at the moment, she was afraid.
She picked up the information on Trevor Penny and read it once again. He was older than she expected and born out of state. He had received an honorable discharge from the army on medical grounds, but nothing caught her eye. J.D. Kelly's background held even less to go on. She requested further information on any warrants outstanding on J.D. Kelly and Trevor Penny. It was just a feeling. The fax machine rang and she jumped up.
A man lurked near the guest house. He had been watching Mulder since he arrived. He leaned close to the door and heard the shower running. He smiled. Glancing around he took a key and placed it into the lock. He slipped inside and walked towards the bath. Pushing at the door he caught Mulder's reflection in the mirror. He watched the naked man through the steamy glass as he rubbed his soapy hands around his body. He backed away from the door when the man turned off the water.
Mulder came out of the shower. He felt lousy.
He didn't know what to do. His feelings for Dana still ate at him.
Confessing to her had not helped. If anything he was afraid he had lost her. Lost his best friend. But that was crazy he told himself.
"You never had her..."
He stopped, he heard a small click.
"Scully?" he yelled. When he received no response he stuck his head out the bathroom door. He scanned the room around him nothing seemed to have changed. It must of been his imagination.
"Mulder!" Scully knocked anxiously at his door.
Mulder opened the door, his face covered with shaving cream.
Scully handed him the fax.
"There were two murders, unsolved in West Virginia in 1987 that fit your profile. The victims were both young men. They couldn't tell from the remains if they had been assaulted, but they had both been tortured and one burned. With lighter fluid."
She was excited and couldn't wait for him to read the fax himself.
She continued, following Mulder back into his room. "There were another two in Virginia in 1989, similar MO, sans lighter fluid substitute kerosene ...and one in Florida in 91." She grabbed Mulder's sleeve.
"This is no ghost, Mulder."
If Scully hadn't been so anxious to see Mulder, she might have seen the man tucked in between the guest houses, hiding in the shadows.
Mulder was on the phone, speaking to an Agent in Virginia. As he spoke he stuck tiny pins into a map on the Sheriffs wall. Sheriff Cochrane was reading the paper and Scully was waiting for results on the autopsy performed on the last victim in Florida in 1991.
Mulder came over.
"There doesn't seem to be any pattern to the killer's movements.
They're sporadic...there's no connection between the victims. There is even some question by the local office to whether or not these crimes are related. There just not enough cohesive evidence to tie them together"
The deputy came into the room, holding a fax. "I think you should see this..." he handed it to the Sheriff.
"Oh Shit!" was all he could say. He handed it to Scully. "It's Kelly."
The information was there, under his picture. She read it aloud.
"J.D. Kelly alias Jackson D. Kellbridge of Coldwater, Kansas. Wanted in Oklahoma for the 1993 murder of his wife. He stabbed her to death in a mall parking lot, Mulder."
Mulder glanced at his partner and shook his head. She nodded disappointedly. "Different M.O...not to mention that he has resided in Oklahoma since 1985. It's not him." She threw the fax on the desk.
They drove in silence back to the ranch. The sheriff had released an all points bulletin on Jackson Kellbridge. They were no further leads.
Mulder was still miserable and Scully was fed up.
He looked over at her.
"Scully. I'm sorry. I haven't been much help, have I?" he said quietly.
Scully's eyes filled with tears. She turned her head towards the window. She didn't want to look at him.
"It's all right Mulder, just concentrate on the case ok?" she answered.
"Ok." He tried to make his voice seem light.
"There's still the possibility of Caspar's evil twin."
"Mulder don't start that again." she snapped.
"This is one case you're not going to convince me is an X-File!"
Mulder pulled the car over so quickly she had to put her hands against the dash to hold herself still.
His hands gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles white, he swore to himself. He pushed at the door and got out slamming it behind him. Scully just sat there, in silence, dumb struck. She had never felt his anger directed at her before. After a moment she opened her door and followed him out. He was slumped against the car, holding his crossed arms tightly to his chest. The pain she saw in his face, the pain she somehow felt responsible for was unbearable. She hadn't understood how upset he was.
"I'm sorry, Mulder," she said quietly but she wasn't sure for what . "Scully," he said vehemently. "I spent hours making love to a woman who I thought was you. A woman ...who up until a few days ago, I thought of as my partner...my friend. Everything's changed. Even now I...I can't stop thinking about you. It's driving me crazy." He slammed his fist against the car and turned his back to her.
He took a deep breath to calm himself and after a moment continued, "Scully if you say it wasn't you, I believe you. So either we're dealing with something paranormal here or I really have lost my mind." He took a piece of paper from his pocket. "One of Cochrane's deputies gave this to me."
Scully read it. "Robert Long Nose?"
"There's a reservation only sixty miles east of here. Robert Long Nose is the Shaman."
Mulder and Scully drove onto the reservation. A few questions and a couple dirty looks later they had the directions to Robert Long Nose.
They approached a man working underneath an old beat-up truck.
"Robert Long Nose?" Mulder asked.
"You the FBI?" came a reply from under.
Scully and Mulder exchanged glances. "Yeah, how'd you know?" Mulder answered.
The man slid himself out from under the truck, and brushed himself off as he stood up. He looked just like Tonto. "My cousin's the deputy.
He said you might be headed out this way. Besides who else dresses like that?" He smiled at Mulder's long coat and tie. "Just like in the movies."
"Robert Long Nose." He put out his hand. "My friends call me Chief..but I ain't the Chief."
"No you're the Shaman...right?" Mulder confirmed. "This is my partner, Special Agent Scully. I'm Mulder."
Chief passed the sugar to Scully and she sipped on a welcomed cup of coffee. "I've heard the stories connected with Wagon's Way. From what I know and heard over the years, they're all true."
"What about what the local's say...that Hoffman's spirit double has been released from its grave?"
"Assuming that this spirit was responsible for the original deaths a century ago, the magic that held it must of been very strong. If the spirit was released when the grave was disturbed and entered someone new, it's purpose would be to drive its new victim to madness. It would take its time, to derive pleasure from its torment.
These murders have been sudden. Maybe your evil spirit is just an evil man."
"Nothing spooky there, Mulder." Scully injected.
Chief smiled. "Unless, the spirit harboured itself to one who's integrity and certitude was already in question."
"Someone, already suffering from some an existing psychosis?"
"Any number of psychological disorders, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, even a nervous breakdown weakens our resistance to the spirit kingdom. Many spirits possess quite gruesome powers, bent on destroying man."
"Can you help?" Mulder questioned.
"The Shaman know the safe routes through the spirit kingdom. They can resist evil if they remain alert and watchful. Through dreams and visions we can enlist the help of powerful forces to cure the sick.
But I have had no dreams, no visions, Agent Mulder."
"Can you interpret for one who has." Mulder asked quietly.
Robert Long Nose took a long look at Mulder. "What was your vision Agent Mulder?"
Mulder said nothing, but Scully noticed the sudden change in him.
His hand trembled as he put down his coffee. Mulder took a deep breath, his eyes clouded with tears as he fought to control a sudden release of his emotions.
"She's.. here..." he whispered, pointing a finger at himself.
Chief nodded. "Medora."
Scully looked at Chief with astonishment. "How do you know?"
Mulder brought his hands to his face wiping it of tears. Scully reached over and tried to take his arm. He pulled away and looked pleadingly at Chief for an explanation.
He leaned close to Mulder's face and said. "She protecting you, Agent Mulder. I don't know what from. I saw her spirit around you before you even arrived."
"Are you saying Mulder's possessed?" Scully asked timidly.
"In a way yes, but there is nothing evil there. She's protecting you."
"From what?" Mulder asked.
"Don't know." Chief said. "Your vision is an door between two worlds, Agent Mulder. You must learn to accept it into your reality. The journey is often scattered with psychic terrors. They must be embraced and communicated with...or fought..otherwise the dangers can result in death or madness."
They drove back to the ranch in silence. Scully didn't know what to say and she was afraid and too confused to say what she felt. Mulder had withdrawn into his own dark space, that place where no one was allowed to enter. That place that frightened her.
When they arrived back at the ranch, they were meant by the young Deputy. "I just called Sheriff Cochrane. Some hikers found another body, 'bout half hour ago."
"Whatever or whoever is doing this, is still here, Scully. I can feel it."
Scully shuttered looking at the body. His hands were bound behind him. A belt was looped around his neck. His flesh had swollen around it. He was burned in small patches on his upper body but not as badly as the previous body. From the condition of the body, he had been dead only a day or two. Mulder took his place next to her with Leatherbury, who had arrived at his side. It took only a moment until the gasp of recognition escaped from Leatherbury.
"That's J.D." he said simply.
"Scully we're missing something. Read me back the profiles again."
Scully was tired. They had been up all night going over the evidence again and again, trying to find some thread to pull it together.
Mulder seemed to have more energy and to be more focused than before. The short talk with Chief had somehow reassured him that he wasn't crazy. Maybe he liked the idea of being protected by a beautiful ghost who doubled as a bed mate. Now that seemed more like the Mulder she knew. She chewed on the end of her pencil.
"Dana Scully. You're jealous", she thought. "Well why doesn't she use somebody else's body for her escapades into the physical world." she answered herself. She was really tired.
"Scully...the profiles." Mulder insisted.
She picked up George Mendes profile. "George Mendes. Age 26. Born, Denver, Colorado 1968..."
The fax rang. Scully slid over and waited while Mulder filled her empty cup with coffee. She tore off the fax. "It's information on Trevor Penny I requested from the Army." Her jaw dropped.
"What is it Scully?"
She leaped at the papers lying on the Sheriff's desk. She tore through them until she found what she wanted. She held up a sheet of paper.
"Trevor Penny is from Virginia, Mulder! And according to this he was discharged from the Army because of recurring epileptic seizures and violent behavior resulting from a gunshot accident during training. He spent one year in Bathesda Hospital until doctors where able to control his seizures with drug therapy."
"We need to contact Cochrane at Wagon's Way...he could pick up Penny."
Scully was already dialing. "There's no answer..."
"Leatherbury's got a fax. Fax it through to him, maybe somebody will see it, by the time we get there."
Mulder was out the door before she finished faxing.
Wagon's Way Ranch
Mulder and Scully arrived just as the young Officer pulled up. "Where's the Sheriff?" Mulder asked.
"Still out in the field. Need some help?"
"We need to find Trevor Penny. Do you know where he is?" Scully asked.
"No, I'm sure Rory would know. I saw him with Penny not a half hour ago." the Deputy pointed towards the main house. Together they ran up he stairs to the door.
Mulder stood there looking at the bloody bodies of Rory and his wife sprawled on the parlour floor. Scully had turned away, the scene making her more angry than sick. The young Officer swore to himself, in disbelief.
"What the hell happened here?"
Mulder heard Scully scream his name.
It happened so quickly. He turned to see Trevor Penny with his arm tightly around Scully's neck, a shotgun pointed at them both. The young Officer beside him instinctively pulled his gun from its holster. As Mulder put his arm out to stop him, Penny fired hitting the officer in the chest, his hand spasmed as he was struck and his gun went off, the wild bullet striking Scully. She let out a sudden cry of pain as the slug ripped into her arm.
"Hold it!" Penny commanded.
He pointed the gun at Mulder and tightened his grip on Scully to keep her from falling. Her face grimaced in pain as she tried to loosen his hold. Penny motioned to Mulder walk out the door in front of him. They left the house and crossing the yard towards the barn, Mulder's eyes scanned the area for anyone to help. No one was there.
Penny had them both as hostages.
Mulder looked over at his partner. She lay in a heap, cuffed, where Penny had dropped her. Penny had taken Mulder's cuffs and used them on him. He was cuffed to the door of a dusty van. Penny shouldered the shotgun, the gun he had just used on the Leatherbury's.
Mulder spoke to Penny, trying to keep his voice calm. "She needs help.
Let me help her"
Penny just smiled and shoved the shotgun barrel in Mulder's stomach, pinning him against the van's side. Penny glanced over at Scully.
"She a good lookin' woman, Agent Mulder. You had her yet?"
Penny laughed, poking Mulder again and spit out the stalk he had been chewing on. His face changed to a scowl and he said, "I don't need ya both."
"Then let her go. Take me." Mulder insisted.
The smiled returned to Penny's face.
"If I do take her Mulder, you 'know' what I'm goin do to her." he hissed.
He rubbed his crotch in vulgar anticipation, laughing at his own joke.
"Let her go," Mulder repeated. "She'll only slow you down."
Penny looked over at Scully and nodded in agreement. She'd be no use to him dead. "Might as well just kill her and get it over with." He brought the gun up.
"No!" Mulder cried, tugging at his cuffs.
Looking at Mulder he suddenly broke into an evil grin and laughed.
He brought his face up to meet Mulder's. Mulder could feel his hot breath on his face as he spoke.
"You willin' to take her place Mulder?"
He brought his hand down and rubbed Mulder's crotch. "It don't matter to me."
Mulder gasped. Not in surprise or fear but pain as Penny began to squeeze. He kept squeezing waiting for Mulder's reply.
"Alright...alright. Just let her go."
Penny released him, chuckling and stepping back reached for the key to Mulder's cuffs.
Mulder reached down for Scully. She moaned as her pulled her to a sitting position. She looked up at him, concern for their situation taking precedence over the pain she felt, she searched his face for some direction.
"Mulder." she whispered. " What are you doing?"
Mulder didn't' answer. He undid her cuffs and took a hanky from his pocket and wrapped it tightly around the bleeding wound on her arm. She winced, but didn't cry out. She stared up at Penny. He had a shotgun at Mulder's head. Again she searched Mulder's face for something yet unspoken. Mulder helped her to her feet, and said.
"I want you to go Dana. Now. No questions. There isn't time."
She shook her head, not quite understanding. Why would Penny let her go? "Mulder...I can't leave you here with him." She peeked over Mulder's shoulder. Penny still had his gun aimed at Mulder's back.
"Please Scully. Just do it."
For a moment their eyes met. Anxious, stern and unflinching, his pleaded with her not to argue. She only nodded slightly, almost afraid to question him.
Mulder half carried her to the barn entrance. Penny followed watching them both, bored with the conversation, when he wasn't involved. "Just get her outta here Mulder, before I change my mind."
Mulder led her to their car, and Scully reluctantly got in. "Mulder...." she said.
Mulder only motioned for her to leave. She started the car and pulled off quickly. In the mirror she saw Penny lift up the gun behind Mulder and bring in down on him.
When Mulder awoke he found himself still handcuffed. This time, to the metal frame behind the passenger seat in the van Penny had stolen from the ranch. His coat and suit jacket were gone. His head hurt. He remembered Scully driving away and then only pain exploding in his skull. The vibrations from the road, the bumps and bouncing only served to make him feel worse. From his position on the floor of the van he couldn't see Penny. He heard him humming.
A large pothole in the road slammed Mulder's head against the van floor and he moaned in spite of himself.
"You awake Agent Mulder?" Penny asked.
Mulder didn't reply. The effort seemed too great. Penny rolled the van from side to side across the road, Mulder rolled with it. "Yes! I'm awake". Mulder cried.
Penny chuckled, straighten out the van and began to hum again.
A thin film of sweat covered Mulder. He tried to rest his aching head against his outstretched arms. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He wanted to believe it was just the pain that caused the deep feeling of anxiety in the pit of his stomach. The quick breaths and the rising feeling of fear that played in his chest told him differently. He had written this man's profile. He knew what he had done to his other victims. Mulder wondered if he would die like all the others. How long would he have to endure the torture this man could inflict before he died?
Mulder opened his eyes. The van had stopped. Penny had driven all day. It was dusk now. The doors to the van slid open and Penny looked down at Mulder.
"Rest stop, Agent Mulder" He snapped Scully's cuffs to Mulder's wrists before unlocking his cuffs from seat frame. He pulled him up and half dragged him from the van. Mulder looked around. They were nowhere. He pulled Mulder by his tie and walked a few feet towards a tree. Mulder stood there looking at Penny, not knowing what he wanted from him.
"You want to take a leak or what?" Penny smacked him on the side of the head and then unzipped himself to piss.
Scully saw Mulder fall and she slowed to a stop. Still looking into her mirror she saw Penny lift his gun and aim. She slammed her foot on the gas and sped away, a gunshot echoing behind her. She felt sick, scared, angry.
She couldn't believe she had left Mulder. She didn't know how far she would have to go until she found help. Bitting her lip, she'd blinked back tears of frustration and said a silent prayer that she wouldn't collapse before she found someone who could help her. Help Mulder.
It was dark when Penny stumbled on the deserted hunting shack. By now he was in a foul mood. Hungry, and tired he handled Mulder roughly, shoving him through the door hard enough that he stumbled and fell over the debris inside the door. He fell hard, his hands were now behind him. He was gagged, a necessity when Penny had stopped at a roadside station for gas, food and liquor, compliments of Mulder's wallet.
Penny stepped over him, holding the small bag of groceries, a flashlight and his shotgun, then stopped and kicked him
viciously in the ribs for being in his way. Mulder rolled with the kick, his face a tightly controlled grimace of pain. Penny was mumbling to himself, shining the weak flashlight from ceiling to floor, poking around looking in the empty rooms. Mulder heard a congratulatory yelp from the other room and Penny came out dragging an overstuffed chair.
"Look what I found, Mulder." He plopped himself in the chair. "Just like the Hilton Hotel". He smiled. Looking at Mulder, his expression changed. He had nothing but contempt for the agent. He walked over and pulled Mulder up. He turned him towards the wall pressed himself up against him.
"Maybe tonight's yor lucky night." he whispered, rocking himself against Mulder imitating the sexual act as he pulled the gag from Mulder's face.
He stopped as quickly as he started and exclaimed, "I'm hungry."
Mulder sat, slouched against the wall watching Penny as he ate stew from a can, washing each plastic spoonful down with a swallow of whiskey. He kept the light shining on Mulder, but it was so weak, it barely glowed in his hand. Only the moonlight through the open windows kept the room from falling into total blackness. Mulder's gun was tucked in his belt. The more he drank the more talkative he became.
"You afraid of me FBI?" he asked.
"Not yet. I'll let you know." Mulder answered carefully.
"You should be." Penny snorted, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.
"Did you kill those men in Virginia?" he asked.
"Never killed nothin' but rabbits." Penny sat looking at nothing as if trying to find a trace of something familiar in the memory.
"J.D. Kelly? Did you kill him?"
"Maybe...I don't know." he answered still pondering the possibility.
His face darkened. "Yeah, I reckon I did." Penny laughed. "Yep. You fuck with me. You die. Them's the rules."
"Those people at the ranch. How did they fuck with you?" Mulder asked.
Trevor laughed and stomped his feet with glee. He came out of the chair and crawled over to Mulder. "What'd ya think? You're so smart, you figure it out." His face was inches from Mulder's. He didn't wait for Mulder to reply. "I killed 'em, cause I like it. It's what I do. It makes me feel...good. Plain and simple." He wrapped his hand around Mulder's tie and tugged. "Just like you do FBI."
He caught Mulder's eye and slipped his hand between the buttons on the bound man's shirt and undid one.
Mulder shifted nervously and tried to continue the conversation.
"What about the Leatherbury's. What did they make you feel?"
Penny scowled. "Leatherbury asked me about J.D."
"You killed them for that?"
"I figure that's yor fault." Penny opened another button on Mulder's shirt.
"What are you talking about?" Mulder asked. He pulled himself away slowly feigning a shift in position to get more comfortable.
"Leatherbury got yor message through that machine of his. He figured it out. Figured out how somebody could be in two places at once. I could'a just left, then you showed up. Didn't have no choice after that."
"There's always a choice Penny, why don't you let me help you?" Mulder whispered.
Penny shrugged. "What's it to you Mulder? You should be more worried about how long I'm gonna take to do you."
"You're going to kill me? I thought you wanted a hostage," Mulder said simply.
"Not yet. I'm enjoying myself too much. If I do, maybe I'll go back for the little woman. She's a fine piece of ass, but I like yours better."
he smirked and slapped Mulder's face lightly.
Mulder glared at him. His threat against Scully, made him angry, and put him on the defensive. He had already hurt her, and now he threatened her again. In his anger he was careless. "You've already been identified. You don't have a chance." he snarled. "Even if you do kill me."
Penny howled a sound so deep from within him the hair on Mulder's neck stood up. Penny's eyes were wild and bright, yet death lurked behind them. His face was twisted from the pleasure of his own madness. He came to Mulder and lifted him, half dragging him up, pinning him against the wall. "You can't stop me FBI. No one can really stop me and I'm the only one handin' out chances now."
Against his better instincts, Mulder lashed out at Penny. "You never gave anyone a chance. You just fucking killed them!" Mulder spat, kicking his leg out at Penny, trying to twist out of his grasp.
Penny threw the agent with all his might. Mulder slammed into a stair railing. It broke under his weight and he tumbled down a few steps to a small landing. He wrestled against Penny as he was pulled up by his hair. Penny pushed him down again and pounded the floor with his head.
"What the fuck do you know! You ain't nothin'. Yor here, because of me, it ain't the other way around!"
Mulder's anger had made him vulnerable and he regretted it. It gave Penny just the opportunity he was waiting for, a reason to unleash his own anger without guilt. Whatever happened, it would be Mulder's fault, so he deserved whatever he got. Penny handled him easily, dragging him to his feet, pulling him back up the stairs. He dropped him to the floor at the top. A few swift kicks to Mulder's rib cage subdued the agent and he lay motionless. Penny fell into the chair, that display of anger seemed to bate his energy. The liquor was starting to take it's hold and his eyes seemed heavy.
Mulder moaned as he shifted his weight trying to sit up. His head was smarting, he looked for Penny in the darkness afraid of another attack. What Mulder saw next he couldn't explain. Penny leaped from the chair, and then leaped again. It seemed to be two men, one slightly quicker than the other. By the time they connected with Mulder, they were one again. Mulder curled into the floor trying to protect himself as he was attacked again.
Penny pulled him up, body slamming him against the wall. Mulder groaned sinking to his knees but Penny wouldn't let him drop. He pounded him in the ribs and across the face until he sank into Penny, standing only because Penny held him up. Penny released him, standing over him he watched him as he slid back down against the wall. Penny knelt down straddling Mulder's legs between his, sitting in Mulder's lap. He placed his hand around Mulder's neck and squeezed tightly. As Mulder gasped for air he brought his mouth to Mulder's and stuck his tongue in. He began to kiss him with violent intensity.
Mulder managed a breathless "No!" He turned his face away, but Penny had held him tightly choking him.
Penny bit Mulder's lip and Mulder tasted the blood as Penny's tongue dug deeper into his mouth.
He reached down with his free hand and tore off Mulder's belt.
Pushing Mulder to the floor, on his stomach he sat on his legs above him, pinning him down, pushing his cuffed hands up between shoulder blades, until Mulder cried out in pain. Mulder swore as Penny wrapped the belt around his neck, choking him as he tightened it. He tied the lose end to the cuffs. If Mulder tried to move he only succeeded in cutting off his airway. Penny tore at Mulder's pants but he kicked and thrashed and succeeded in throwing Penny off. He rolled and kicked at Penny with all his might. The man fell backwards. Mulder choking, couldn't get up quick enough. Penny
tackled him, laughing wildly as he toppled Mulder back to the floor.
Pinning him underneath. He lay on top of Mulder panting, whispering in his ear.
"Tell me you want me, Mulder. That's why yor here."
He pushed at Mulder's arms again. Mulder groaned as tears sprang to his eyes. "Fuck you Penny" he swore through clenched teeth.
He was rewarded with a punch to his head that sent him reeling.
Consciousness swam in and out.
Penny pulled Mulder's shirt down from his shoulders massaging them, then his hands moved to Mulder's back. He followed Mulder's form caressing him with an uncharacteristic gentleness until his hands circled Mulder's ass. He placed his fingers between Mulder's legs and forced his thumb into Mulder. Mulder flinched, still struggling, weakly to get out from beneath him. Penny was panting heavily as he unzipped his pants.
Scully heard Mulder. She heard him cry for her but couldn't see him.
It was dark. She awoke on a small table. A kind looking gentleman was looking down at her. "Don't be alarmed my dear. You are quite safe."
"Mulder..." she said quietly.
"Agent Scully. How ya feelin Hon...Ma'am?" She turned towards the voice.
"How'd ya think she feels Ben?" The kind gentleman asked. "I just dug a slug outta this pretty girls arm."
Scully wasn't in any pain. What ever he has used to anaesthetize the wound was working. "I'm alright Sheriff?" she replied, still questioning her surroundings.
"Yes, ma'am. I found you slumped over the seat in your car, out Wagon's Way. You want to tell me what happened? Where's Agent Mulder?"
She sat up, a wave of dizziness overwhelming her momentarily.
"My dear, you should rest, please. The wound isn't serious, but you have lost enough blood to make you weak." the doctor advised.
"No, really, I'm fine...thank you Doctor. She had lost track of time.
How long had it been since she left Mulder.
"He took Agent Mulder" she said numbly. "Trevor Penny is our killer.
He murdered the Leatherbury's...and your deputy...at the ranch."
"Penny!" the Sheriff exclaimed. He turned and shouted out the door to his other deputy. Turning back to Scully he said, "We'll need your help, Agent Scully, are you feeling up to it?"
"Of course," she slid off the table.
"I'll be back for you." The Sheriff pointed his finger at her and left.
"Until he comes back, Agent Scully, I want you to rest." The doctor smiled as he pushed her gently back down on the table.
Wagon's Way Ranch
Scully shuttered as the police carried the last bloody stretcher from the house. They'd come back to the ranch and the bodies. But no Mulder. The Sheriff was tracking the license on the missing van.
When he returned he said, "Well, I got an all points out on the van. One 1986 Chevy cargo van. We'll see what happens. Until then. I guess we wait."
They didn't have to wait long. The small gas station Penny stopped at remembered the van and the man. Scully and the Sheriff took off into the mountains towards the station the moment the lead came in.
"He was alone, far as I could see. But he was in a real bad mood, tired I guess." the gas station owner explained to Scully.
"Nearly bit my head off", his wife added. "Cause I didn't have no cold beer."
"They left in that direction?" Scully asked pointing towards the mountains.
"Yep, that's right. "
"What's up that way?" she inquired.
"More of the same I'd imagine." the Sheriff answered.
Scully turned and walked back to the car where she sat in the back.
Tired, and frustrated. Her arm had started to ache. The sheriff was contacted by his deputy on the radio. They talked briefly.
"Agent Scully", the Sheriff turned to her. "There's not another station for 70 miles in this direction. No one there has reported seeing the van.
You're talking about an immense piece of land to try to cover."
"Perhaps we should call for help? Maybe Air-support?" Scully asked behind closed eyes.
"Good idea..but too late for today. We'll have to start in the morning.
I think you had better get some rest, Scully."
She turned to the Sheriff. He had called her Scully. Like Mulder.
Scully woke to her name.
A light forced her to open her eyes and a figure drifted slowly into focus. It was a woman. The woman in the portrait. Scully's took a quick breath, staring at the woman as she approached. She wasn't frighten. Something told her she had no reason to fear. The specter reached her hands out, offering Scully its contents. A black leather envelope fell into her waiting hands. It was Mulder's ID.
"Where is he?" she asked breathlessly.
The woman said nothing, her face only reflected Scully's look of concern. A softness like a breath kissed her on her face, her hair gently waved as this softness increase like a gentle wind. She closed her eyes against it and let it overtake her, pass through her. She felt her, this ghostly vision. She knew her. Scully was safe and warm... and loved.
She gasped as she felt Mulder's spirit rush through her like a wild lost wind. She opened her eyes. The woman was gone, the room was dark again, but she knew where Mulder was.
September 17 Somewhere in the mountains
Mulder sat numbly staring at Penny's sleeping form in the chair.
Mulder had watched as the dark figure of Penny drifted back to colour as the sun creeped through the windows. He had a headache.
He ached all over. He was hungry and desperately thirsty. He had long since lost any feeling in his hands and arms, still cuffed behind him to the stair post.
Penny had taken the belt end and wrapped it around the stair post tying it tightly. The belt bit into his neck and he couldn't breath unless he kept his head up straight. He tried to wet his lips but his tongue felt swollen and thick. He closed his eyes and thought about Scully.
Her present safety gave him a feeling of hope. He tried to picture her face. How lovely she was. How much he trusted her. How good that made him feel after years of feeling alone. How much he wanted her. Needed her. For a brief second he forgot the pain.
Penny snorted in his sleep. The sound of him brought the night's terror back to Mulder. Penny had hurt him. He had abused him in the most vulgar and abhorrent manner that one human being could do to another. Mulder recognized the act of rape for what it was. An act of violence, hatred and control. Mulder was surprised at his own calmness despite the repulsiveness of the act in which he was forced to participate. He felt surprisingly in control of his own ego. He closed his eyes again and for a moment he thought he could smell the faint scent of roses.
Wagon's Way Early morning
"Agent Scully?" the Sheriff inquired. "You all right?"
She felt a quickening sensation run through her as she placed her hand on the map. It seemed to move on its own brushing across the surface of the map.
"There." she said. Her hand stopped at a pair of tiny crossed lines on the map. "They're there." she repeated.
The Sheriff looked at her like she was crazy. "Federal Agents ... always think they know everything" he thought. "Agent Scully, no one has seen a van matching the description in that area..."
"I told you where to look Sheriff." she said flatly. "Lets go."
Scully entered the shack. She had been right. They had been here, but they were too late. The fact that she knew this made her feel a little weird. She had moments of women's intuition that she couldn't explain. But this was more like being guided, not just an empathic connection with Mulder, or a dream, no matter how vivid and real it had seemed. The Sheriff thought she was down right creepy. She thought he had good reason.
There was garbage across the floor and signs of a violent struggle. She knelt down. They was dried blood on the floor. Stretching her hand over the spot, she closed her eyes. She saw Mulder. Struggling underneath Penny.
Flashes of beatings. She felt his pain. Indignity. Horror. A violent assault upon his nature. She stood up, her heart pounded. "Oh God", she whispered.
Mulder slept fitfully in the back of the van. When Penny awoke, he had stuffed the oversized chair in the back of the van, and got on the road quickly. Penny had handcuffed him to the seat again and placed the gag in his mouth. He was terribly thirsty. His throat was dry and it hurt to swallow. He knew Penny was heading upwards into the mountains. He could feel the van's climb up the steeper roads. Penny hadn't said much, probably nursing a small hangover. But it didn't make him any less dangerous. Mulder was no longer a person as far as Penny was concerned. He was baggage. Human garbage. With no immediate threat of capture, perhaps there was no need to lug Mulder around.
Mulder woke when Penny stopped the van. He had pulled off the road again and sheltered the van in the trees. They were somewhere high in the mountains. Dense forest filled with old logging roads made it easy to hide.
Mulder had lost consciousness at some point during the day. He didn't know for how long. Penny hopped on the chair and opened a beer.
"How ya doing F.B.I.?" Penny eyed him cautiously, as he drank.
"You thirsty? You wanna drink with me? We being such good friends and all." Penny smirked.
Ripping off Mulder's gag he allowed him to drink from his can.
Mulder took the offering. The first swallow nearly tearing the flesh inside his throat as he swallowed, followed by the intense pleasure of the foamy warm liquid conquering his thirst. Penny finished the can and threw it over the front seat.
He stared at Mulder then reaching over put his hand under Mulder's shirt.
Mulder didn't move. Penny laughed withdrawing his hand. "You need a real drink to loosen you up F.B.I." Penny pulled another bottle of whiskey from his small sack of supplies. He unscrewed the lid then sat down on Mulder.
"Have a real drink , Agent Mulder. You might find heaven up your ass this time."
He pinched his hand around Mulder's jaw forcing the up-turned bottle into his mouth. Mulder coughed, choked and spitted as Penny poured the contents down his throat. The liquor burned as it went down, his only option to swallow and try to get a breath of air between gulps. Penny let him go and proceeded to chug at the bottle himself. Mulder coughed half gagging as his stomach wrenched at its contents. He hadn't eaten for two days and the alcohol pumped quickly through his bloodstream making him feel drunk in a very short time. His head swam and the van spun. He felt himself being lifted like a rag doll and forced downward on his knees his face pressed into the foul-smelling chair cushion. He realized too late what was happening and his struggles were ignored by the man on top of him.
Scully eyed the helicopter as it landed in a small clearing just south of the small cabin where they had found traces of Penny and his captive. Scully knew they had to act quickly or Mulder's life would be over. The Sheriff was still trying to understand how she knew Mulder was over a hundred miles in the opposite direction pointed out by the gas station attendants. She didn't know what to tell him.
Only that she knew. The Sheriff called out something and then motioned for her to come closer. The wind and the noise from the helicopter's rotary blades prevented her from hearing properly. She only nodded as if she understood.
She stop and looked around. She had heard that. As clear as a bell despite the noise all around her.
"Pretoria?" she whispered.
She ran towards the Sheriff.
"Sheriff," she shouted. "Is there a place near here called Pretoria?"
"Pretoria? Pretoria Station. It's an old logging station up towards the Platte River. Use to run the logs down river, before they started trucking everything out. Don't use it much now except as a relay center to co-ordinate the trucking. Why?"
"That's we're where heading!" she yelled as she climbed into the helicopter.
Mulder heaved again. He was on his knees outside on the ground. His body shook and he fell forward again retching nothing. He rested on his haunches, trembling uncontrollably, gasping for breath, between violent attacks. He had gotten sick on Penny puking all over the chair and himself. He couldn't remember ever feeling this sick but he had saved himself from Penny's assault. Penny just stood there watching him, disgusted with him. He pulled Mulder's gun out from his belt and pointed it at the head of the stricken man. He silently mouthed the words..."Bang. Bang."
Mulder drifted back to consciousness. Penny had left him alone inside the van cuffed and gagged once again. He could hear Penny outside talking to himself circling the van pounding occasionally on it's side. Mulder closed his eyes seeking the safety of unconsciousness once again.
"Since this is our last night together Agent Mulder, I planned something real special for ya."
He was digging around in the bag for something. Mulder shut his eyes. He didn't want to know, but he knew.
"Hey" Penny smacked him. "You see?" Penny held the small can of lighter fluid in Mulder's face, and with the other hand he brought up a lighter.
"We gonna BBQ you." he giggled.
Penny fell back laughing, kicking Mulder playfully with his feet.
Mulder wanted to gag. Penny sat on him again, pushing his shirt open. He opened the lighter fluid and placed a single drop of fluid on Mulder's bare chest. He lit it with the lighter. It burned quickly, only for a few seconds but long enough to have Mulder withering in pain. He screamed in spite of the gag. Penny reached over and pulled the gag from his mouth. "I want to hear you scream, Mulder" he said.
"Hey" a shout came from outside the van. "What the hell are you doing parking here?"
Penny open the door. Two men in plaid were walking towards the van.
"Hey son", the older man yelled. "This here is a private road..." He never finished. Penny used Mulder's gun and shot him down. The younger man, suddenly realizing that Penny had a gun, dropped and rolled under some brush. Penny fired at the place he thought the man was.
"Shit" Penny cursed.
He slammed the van door closed and hopped over to the drivers seat.
He started the van and rolled back onto the road. The younger man popped his head up as he saw the van careen down the road. He took one look at his dead friend and ran in the opposite direction.
Scully sipped on some tea at the Pretoria Station. They had arrived less than an hour ago and Scully wondered if she had lead them all on a wild goose chase. They had heard nothing. No van had been sighted, no more sightings of Penny or Mulder. Sheriff Cochrane talked quietly with the man who ran the station. She was sure they were discussing her irrational behavior and crazy demands on his Law Enforcement Department. She heard the phone ring. Then shouting.
"Agent Scully!" Sheriff Cochrane shouted. Scully jumped to her feet.
"Just got a report in from one of the truckers. A wild man driving a van matchin' the description took a couple of shots at some loggers on Peidmount Hill. Killed one. The other ran for help."
"Did he see Mulder?" Scully asked anxiously.
"No..doesn't say. Just said they thought they heard some screaming and went to investigate. All hell broke lose when they approached."
Sheriff Cochrane looked at Scully. " Agent Scully, I don't understand one thing that's going on here, but I think there is still a chance your partner is alive."
Scully looked through the window at the setting sun. "But will he be by morning?"
Mulder heard someone whimpering. It took a moment for him to realize they were his own quiet cries. Penny was gone. Tears streamed down his face, his whimpers threatened to become a sob.
He couldn't take much more. He struggled to pull himself up but fell back too weary for the effort.
A sudden coolness enveloped him, it was refreshing, comforting.
Washing over him like a flood of cool water bringing with it the sensation of pleasure and release together. He no longer felt the hard floor of the van underneath him, the fire on his chest or the rawness of his wrists where the cuffs rubbed against them. This softness wrapped around him like a cocoon easing his pain allowing him to close his eyes for a moment's peace. A soft stroking across his cheek encouraged him to open his eyes. It was Scully. She was there with him. She placed his head in her lap, still stroking him gently.
"Don't worry Mulder. You're safe. I will help you."
She rocked him gently humming softly. He relaxed allowing himself to be drawn into this vision. To become a part of it. Part of her. Her tenderness comforted him, healing him. Her lips touched his and he remembered nothing more.
When Mulder awoke it was daylight. The pain was gone. Penny sat across from Mulder eating the last can of food he had. As if concerned about Mulder, he reached over with an opened beer and lifting Mulder's head allowed him a drink. Then he pulled the gun from his belt and pointed it at Mulder's head.
Penny pulled the belt around Mulder's neck. Each time he pulled, dragging the agent he choked him. Gasping for air, he stumbled, but Penny kept pulling. "Get up!" he commanded.
Mulder struggled to his knees. He had no strength left. They had walked for hours, climbing the mountainside. With that Penny took him by the hair and pulled him to his feet. He shoved the gun in Mulder's side.
"Now walk. Quit messing around."
Penny had left the van below empty of gas. Penny would walk but Mulder would fly, he had decided. Penny had seen the helicopter circling the area since early morning. They would not find him in time to save Mulder. Once he took his revenge on Mulder he could easily escape through the mountains, making better time without the burden of a hostage. They entered a clearing, on the mountains edge, overlooking the canyon below. Mulder, his face strained, fighting back tears of exhaustion, hopelessness and helplessness was briefly overwhelmed by its breathtaking view.
"A beautiful place to die." he thought.
Penny pulled him closer to the cliffs edge and pushed down on his shoulders.
They found the van. Left in the middle of the road it was easy to spot from the helicopter not more than twenty miles from where the logger was killed. Sheriff Cochrane motioned for the helicopter pilot to take off again and start the search up the side of the mountain.
Scully opened the doors to the van. The smell of burnt flesh hit her, mixed with sweat, booze, vomit and urine. Nauseated she turned her head. She steadied herself and climbed inside. There she found Mulder's coat, some rubbish, empty beer cans and a half full can of lighter fluid. She found traces of blood on the van floor and didn't doubt for a second it was Mulder's.
"They took off that way up the side of the mountain." the Sheriff said.
Scully looked at him incredulously. How would he know that? Did he possess a sixth sense as well?
"One of the deputies is an Indian." he shrugged. "Works as a tracker through these mountains during hunting season."
At the cliff's edge Mulder fell to his knees, Penny put his gun to his head. Mulder didn't care anymore. He just wanted to rest. He waited for the bullet to crash into his skull, when someone, off in the distance called his name.
Penny heard it as well and looked in the direction of the voice. For an instant Penny relaxed his grip on him and he turned to see Scully standing at the edge of the clearing behind them. Mulder didn't know ..was this his Scully or another vision? Penny pulled the gun up and fired several shots at the woman.
Mulder shouted, "No!"
In that instant Mulder pushed up, with what was left of his meager strength and knocked Penny off balance. The gun went off again and Mulder felt a burning streak across his leg. He cried out as he fell.
The gun tumbled from Penny's hand, near Mulder. He couldn't reach for it, so he rolled on top of it. Penny was on him instantly. Mulder struggled with Penny, trying desperately to keep Penny from retrieving the gun. He couldn't compete with Penny's strength. Penny easily overpowered him and grabbed the gun again. Mulder heard two shots, but unlike the other he didn't feel these. They didn't seem to hurt at all.
The sheriff and several men had spread out through the woods trying to track the missing men.
Scully followed, climbing the mountain side behind them. She stopped, just to rest for a minute. Her strength still hampered by the wound to her arm. The urgency to find Mulder ate at her. She knew he was in mortal danger. Even this brief sojourn could mean the difference between life and death for this man. Something pushed her on not allowing her to rest. She felt her name rather than heard it and turned to her right. She saw the woman. She pointed silently in another direction and then vanished. Scully looked ahead at the men in front of her and made a decision. She ran towards the area the woman had showed her. She kept running until she could run no more. She stood there in the woods surrounded on every side by trees and brush, lost. Helpless.
"Mulder! Mulder!" she yelled.
Scully heard several shots, just ahead of her, pulling her gun she ran towards the sound.
He heard it. A woman's voice. Penny looked up to see a woman standing in the clearing. He thought he knew her, recalling the memory of her from some time long ago. Before this life. He hated her. He pointed his gun and fired. She stood there unmoving, unflinching, unafraid.
He fired again and again. He heard Mulder shout and felt him plow into him. Penny fell back stumbling on the stony surface of the mountains edge. The gun went off as it fell from his hand. Mulder cried out. Penny struggled to regain his balance. With a yell of fury he pounced on Mulder smacking him twice across the face with the back of his hand. He reached for the gun and brought it up pointing at Mulder's head. He never fired.
Scully reached the clearing. She saw Penny on top of Mulder struggling with him. He smacked the agent and grabbed for the gun by Mulder's side. She watched as he pushed the gun into her partner's face. She brought her gun up. She shouted no warning. She aimed and fired. Two shots from Scully's gun blew his brains out. He fell backward, silently over the cliff.
Scully ran to where Mulder had collapsed. She fell on her knees beside him helping the struggling man to sit up.
"Mulder...my God," she cried out seeing his battered, bruised face.
She stared at the blank expression on his somber face. He didn't seem to recognize her. She gently released the belt from around his neck, trying not to hurt him as she eased it from the swollen flesh that bit into it. He didn't flinch. He only stared at the place in space where Penny had been only moments before.
She touched his face lightly, lifting it to hers, looking for some sign of recognition, acknowledgement from him. "Fox. It's all right. It's me Dana.
You're safe now." she tried to look into his eyes, to make him see her.
"You're safe." she repeated firmly.
Slowly he lifted his eyes to meet hers. He blinked and a quiet sense of relief crossed his face.He didn't say anything. He just placed his head on her shoulder and let her wrap her arms around him.
Scully sat by his bed for three days. She read the medical report over and over again. Miraculously he had suffered few injuries.
Dehydration, a gunshot graze along his thigh, bruises, cuts and scratches. It plagued her unmercifully that he placed himself in this danger to save her.
Penny's autopsy had revealed several lesions on
his brain which could explain his madness. Whether they were a result of his original injury or the resulting epilepsy she could not be sure. They still had no proof that he was responsible for the additional deaths they has uncovered.
She looked down at Mulder. Trying to make some sense of what had transpired the last week. She never saw the woman again yet it had been she who saved him. How could science explain what she herself had seen? How could science explain what Mulder had suffered, yet no medical evidence remained? She had seen it, and felt it.
He was conscious yet in a strange stupor. But there was no physical cause, other than perhaps shock. He had called her name several times. All she could do was tell him she was there. That he was safe.
that she cared more for him than anyone she had ever known. That she loved him and almost lost him. She wondered if anyone could ever feel safe again after this kind of experience.
She stayed on at the Guest house to attend the funeral of the Leatherburys. Robert Long Nose and Sheriff Cochrane were at her side. After the funeral she walked with Chief through the deserted house until they found themselves beneath the portrait of Medora.
"I saw her. She told me where to find him. Can this be possible?"
Scully asked him.
"There are many parallel spiritual dimensions that both the living and dead are able to travel between, Agent Scully. For whatever reason her spirit was able to accomplish through you and your partner what she could not do in life."
"What was that?"
"Perhaps to free her husband's spirit to join her."
"Why did she help Mulder and not the others?"
"Perhaps he was a kindred spirit."
"Mulder said she appeared to him as me. I don't understand."
Chief put his arm around her shoulder. "That is easy to understand. His love for you is synonymous with her own. To protect what he loves. Medora knew this. His vision of her was very strong. He was able to dream consciously and to create what he wished as substance and matter. What he wished for unconsciously was you."
It was too unbelievable.
Scully sighed. "We are not lovers. We are friends. Partners. That's all it can ever be. Mulder feels the same." she said bluntly.
"Friends often make the best lovers." the Chief smiled.
Chief placed a small amulet in Scully's hand. A small turquoise eagle wrapped with a silver band. "This is for Agent Mulder. Perhaps he will find some comfort in it." He put on his hat to leave and said, "He will return to you when his journey is finished."
"What about Penny?" she asked. "Will he return?"
"I attended Penny's burial. I believe his spirit to be at rest and the other in hell."
Chief left her standing in the room alone. She watched him leave still unconvinced of even her own experience. She lifted her head and turned to the portrait. She felt a presence and looked to see if Chief had returned. Instead she saw a man. Strikingly handsome; with curly black hair and brilliant blue eyes. He wore a mustache that was waxed to points as sharp as a dart and a black suit which seemed oddly out of fashion. His watched her for only a moment then vanished.
She felt at peace.
The next morning when Scully walked into Mulder's room, she found him sitting up. "Hi Scully" he smiled at her.
"Mulder!" She broke into a wide grin. She came to him. She couldn't help herself, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
"Ouch" was his only reply.
Scully stared over at her partner. He had been back at the office for a few weeks now. She was so happy to see him there, sitting at his computer, hammering the keys, talking to himself occasionally.
Totally absorbed in his work, as usual. Nothing seemed to have changed since Penny entered their lives. She knew it wasn't true though. Things had changed. She knew Mulder was seeing a psychotherapist to deal with the trauma he'd experience. A few times she had caught him with an expression of pain or was it horror on his face? She had seen him break into a sudden sweat, hands shaking. It only lasted a moment before he regained control of himself. They hadn't talked about it between them and she was growing impatient. She had read his report. He made no mention of Medora or of his vision. Somehow that didn't surprise her, she hadn't mentioned it either.
His therapist had told her to wait until he was ready. That he remembered very little. Knowing Mulder that might take a while.
Somehow she felt angry at him for making her feel left out, for not sharing his pain. It was their pain she figured, she had felt it with him. Maybe she only felt guilty and she was angry with him for not blaming her, when she blamed herself. She turned back to her computer.
When Scully returned from teaching her afternoon forensics class, Mulder was gone.
"Gone home." she sighed.
That's when she saw it. The picture frame on her desk carefully placed picture side down. She scooped up her purse and left the office. She found Mulder at the park, sitting at the bench silently watching the lights across the water waiting for her to arrive. She sat down, her heart was pounding. "Mulder?"
Mulder looked over at her. "Can we talk Scully?"
She listened as her partner told her what happened to him during those three days with Penny. He spoke in that carefully controlled monotone, spelling out the details of the small things he could piece together. He stopped only once when a brief shutter ran through him.
He said nothing of Medora or of his feelings for Scully to which he had confessed. He didn't seem to remember any of it.
"You haven't told me why yet Mulder."
He looked up at her, not quite understanding what she meant.
"Why did you go with him? We are partners Mulder. You should never have traded me for you."
"You were hurt Scully."
"And you almost died." she retorted.
"Scully, I knew his profile. I knew what he did to his victims. I was prepared. You would not of survived it."
"That wasn't your choice to make Mulder...not professionally. Can't you understand Mulder?... You take it upon yourself to act as my protector. It only succeeds in making me feel, like I can't do my job.
That you can't trust me to do my job. I need a partner, not a caretaker."
She stopped, it suddenly occurred to her that she was berating him for his sacrifice rather than being grateful that he had saved her from something she knew she would not have survived. She felt ashamed. She was using this as an excuse to get angry. She was upset about something else.
"I know you felt what you did was best..." her voice trailed off.
Mulder nodded. "No, you're right Scully, you're right." he said softly.
"I'm sorry I've made you feel that way."
He looked over at her, for the first time since he had begun.
"But I'd do it all again." Mulder stood up and walked a few steps from her. "I was afraid of losing you."
Suddenly he turned and knelt beside her. "I won't let anyone hurt you, ever again. I promised myself that after... I couldn't risk...losing you as well."
Scully looked into his eyes. Warm, hazel eyes that spoke volumes when it suited him. His face pleaded with her. She understood now.
He was the one who felt guilty. Guilty for Samantha. Guilty for his parent's failed marriage, for losing his father's love. Guilty for Duane Barry. Guilty for the missing time in her life. Guilty for what she had suffered because he hadn't told her the truth. Penny was his savior, his redeemer. His suffering at Penny's hands was his atonement for that guilt.
It wasn't love. It wasn't Medora or some magical journey between two worlds. How could she have been so wrong about his feelings? She was so sure she understood him now.
"It's all right Mulder," she said softly. "I understand." She gathered her purse and gloves. She smiled. "Back to work, huh?"
Mulder watched her walk away. He knew she didn't understand at all.
She stopped and turned towards him. "You still have me at a bit of a disadvantage Mulder." She said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"You know," she whispered, avoiding his gaze.
He shook his head, perplexed. "Obviously not. Why don't you fill me in?"
She looked up at him, confused, still a bit angry. "You're telling me that you don't remember?"
"Remember what, Scully? Honestly, I don't know what you're talking about."
"The woman in the portrait? What does she have to do with this?"
"You saw her...remember..?"
"Saw her..." he repeated slowly.
"Her ghost..." Scully stared at him looking for some inkling of recognition.
"I saw what?" he feigned astonishment and he laughed.
"Scully...I'm sorry. My brain is full of holes on this. If I saw a ghost I wish I could remember. But I don't. I'm sorry."
"Is this important?" he asked.
"No...no...it was just something you mentioned." She looked up at him again. Studied his face. She couldn't decide if she believed him or not.
"Mulder?" she said quietly. "You wouldn't lie to me would you?"
Mulder's face dropped. "Of course not, Scully... never."
She glanced at him, a hint of a blush spread across her face and she nodded a silent ok.
Mulder smiled his most reassuring smile.
"Mulder," he thought to himself as she walked away. "She's right. You really are a pig."