Title: Those Who Love
Summary: Mulder believes that three deaths in Connecticut may be the work of local ghosts, and Scully contemplates the consequences of unacknowledged love.
Author's note: The Colter farm is based on a real place, although the names have all been changed to protect the innocent, as they say. It's about five miles from the house where I grew up, and the ghosts are a bona fide local legend. I have been all through the house and property, and have seen the graves. And although *I* have not seen the ghosts, myself, I have talked to people who swear they have. David Bowman is fictional, however, and his "experience" is the product of my own imagination.
The references attributed to Dr. Hans Holzer are taken from his book: Yankee Ghosts. And the words to the song sung by Nicole White are from the ballad: "The Grey Silkie of Sule Skerry." If anyone wants more background on what is behind Scully's reaction, this can be found in my story, "Sea of Desire."
James Dolan swatted a mosquito on the back of his neck, and wondered, once again, what had possessed him to take his law degree to the bank, literally. True, it was fairly satisfying, if not very challenging, work, guiding young couples through the morass of legal mumbo-jumbo that surrounded closing on a newly purchased piece of property, or representing his employer in such transactions with other banks. He was not going to get rich doing it, but it paid the bills, and it did leave him plenty of time, and creative energy, to work on the novel that was his life's real passion.
Most days he did not mind his job, but this task that he was about today made him long for a nice little private practice defending petty criminals and processing divorces. Temple Realty, one of his bank's biggest clients, had a bid on this parcel on behalf of some developer who wanted to put in more ugly contemporaries and colonial reproductions, and he, Jimmy Dolan, was out here "walking the land," looking for God knew what. As if there was any way this deal would not go through.
Jimmy was a suburbanite, born and raised on a cul de sac in West Hartford, and the closest he had ever gotten to real wilderness was one disastrous encounter with summer camp when he had been in the seventh grade. He was not particularly pleased to be tramping around out there in the woods in jeans and work boots. He also doubted he was the appropriate person for this job, and the unfamiliar insecurity was worrisome. He knew more than he gave himself credit for, though. For one thing, he had recognized that a clump of weeds he had passed a little while ago as one of the primary indicators of a potential wetland; he would need to alert his superiors that the local Inland Wetlands committee was likely to have heyday with that, if they did not find a way to deflect them, or make them otherwise happy. He also knew that there was one old structure on the property that was going to have to come down, but there did not seem to be any problems there, no title disputes or other questions. In fact, it was more curiosity than anything that made him decide to go look at it.
The Colter farm had been a legend in Cumberland for as long as the natives could remember. Haunted, the old timers said with the same matter-of-factness that they used when they talked about the weather, or the latest crop of hay. It amazed him, sometimes, how these pragmatic, old swamp Yankees, most of them without an imaginative bone in their bodies, could accept so nonchalantly the idea of an actual haunted house. Dolan thought it was just plan silly. The idea of a house standing for over two hundred and fifty years intrigued him, though. If anyone had asked, he would have told them that he thought it was kind of a shame to tear it down.
As Dolan came up over a rise, he found himself out of the woods, in a brush filled clearing. There had been little undergrowth in the forest itself, and after that relative openness, trying to navigate through the tall weeds in the lot that lead up to the Colter homestead was almost enough to make him change his mind. He really wanted to see the place, though, so he forged on ahead, making sarcastic remarks to himself about becoming Daniel Boone as he went along.
The house was small, unimpressive, and deserted. Dolan found himself vaguely disappointed. Not much to it, really, just an old salt box, that looked about ready to come down on it's own. He pounded a piece of siding and heard the tell tale hollowness that indicated dry rot. And probably termites or carpenter ants, too. It did not look much like a haunted house, either. To Dolan, a haunted house should be a three story Victorian on a deserted street, and look like Herman Munster lived there. Still, the place was interesting, in its way, with its drooping roof line, and the oddly shaped windows that were obviously created and installed by hand. No factory built precision here, and the old glass, each small pane with a "bull's eye" from the blower's stem and ripples near the bottom the flow over time, was charming. Dolan stood on tip toe, and tried to look in, but it was too dark inside to see much.
The door was on the other side of the house, but he would need to come back with a key if he really wanted to see what was inside. He doubted it was worth it. He walked around the outside. It was not until he saw the old well that Dolan realized that he was tired and thirsty. He was unaccustomed to a lot of physical exercise and this hike through the woods had taken a lot out of him. He walked over to the circular stone structure, and flopped himself down on the well cover. He leaned back on his hands and gazed at the old house.
From this side, he could see that there was really a lot more to the place than he had originally thought; the small, square, and probably original, front portion was followed by a large annex that Dolan knew contained a modern kitchen added by some more recent resident, and a covered enclosure that had probably housed a carriage or farm wagon at one time in the past. The place was really delightful, and Dolan felt himself regretting, again, it's ordained demise. He thought, rather wistfully, that maybe, if he ever got around to proposing to his girlfriend, Deborah, they could find some old place like this someday and fix it up. He sighed and leveraged himself off the well cover. Time to be getting a move on, he still had a long walk back to his car.
He was just brushing the dirt off his hands when he saw a movement back in the carriage house. Frowning, he stared into the darkness there. Strange, he could have almost sworn that a person had ducked into the shadows, out of sight, now. Terrific, just what he needed, vagrants. He tramped over, shouting loudly to whoever it was to get on out. No one answered him, and no one moved.
Dolan stopped about ten yards from the house. The temperature had suddenly dropped with an abruptness that usually meant an incoming storm. The sky was still cloudless, but growing up in New England had taught him never to trust the condition of the sky. If a summer thunderstorm was on its way, he was damn sure he did not want to get caught out in it. Somebody else could come deal with this squatter, if there was, in fact, someone hiding back in those shadows. And anyway, it had just occurred to him that he, an unarmed, overweight, out of shape lawyer with no idea how to defend himself, really had no business trying to chase anyone off of anywhere. He was going back to his car.
Then he saw it, again. The temperature dropped still further, nearly arctic now. Dolan hugged his arms with cold, but he could not move. His heart was racing, and he felt a strange sensation paralyzing his legs, riveting him to his spot. He broke into a heavy sweat, despite the chill. Swallowing hard, he stared into the shadows, at the vague movement he sensed almost more than he saw. A creeping terror suddenly overwhelmed him.
"Who is it? Who's in there?" he demanded, in a weak voice.
No one answered. A shadow moved.
Dolan screamed. He screamed with a violence that sounded as if all the fiends in hell had just pointed at him and claimed him as their own. He screamed as if it were his very soul being wrenched from his body. And then he collapsed onto the ground.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION WASHINGTON, DC
"I don't get it, Mulder," Special Agent Dana Scully frowned across the desk at her partner. She lifted the file in her hands. "All you've got, here, are three men who died of entirely natural causes. What am I missing?"
Fox Mulder nodded slowly.
"Three fairly young, relatively healthy men, two surveyors, and a lawyer. All who died of the same natural cause, all within a week of each other, while standing on approximately the same plot of ground. Doesn't that strike you as a little odd?"
Scully made a face.
"Yeah," she agreed, cautiously, "I will admit that the coincidence *is* a little unlikely. Still, I don't find anything here that would indicate that there has been anything out of the ordinary in these deaths, other than strange coincidence. And the last I knew, willful or unwillful participation in the perpetration of a coincidence was not a federal crime."
Mulder smiled at the quip, but otherwise remained quiet, letting her stew. Scully scrutinized the closed file a moment longer, then blew out a breath.
"At most, I would suspect some kind of environmental toxin, since they were all out of doors when they died." She looked back at him. "But that is hardly a Bureau concern. And it's certainly outside the realm of *your* interests..." She cocked a smile at him, he chuckled. Mulder stood up and flipped on the light to his slide projector.
"Look at the pictures, again," he directed. "Tell me what you see."
She knew what he was doing. He was not teasing her, this was not some exercise in patronization. He saw something, something about which he was unsure, and he needed her to see it, too, on her own, to help him confirm his interpretation. She understood it, but it was still an exasperating process. She watched as he cycled slowly through the three slides of the three dead men, taken at the "scenes."
The slides each showed a man, lying in what looked like a field. It may also have been an overgrown barnyard, there did seem to be a ramshackle building in the background. Each man had a look of surprise, almost a grimace, on his now still features. Scully concentrated more closely on the expressions. Yes, she supposed, it could be some kind of death rictus, certain poisons *did* have that effect, but a poison would have turned up in a toxicological exam. And there was nothing out of the ordinary in any of these men's' reports. In fact, other than a severely elevated adrenal level in the blood, there was nothing out of the ordinary at all, in any of the exams. And the adrenaline surge could easily be explained by the fear associated with a heart attack. These men all died from simple heart failure. Period.
"I just don't know, Mulder. An airborne toxin, maybe?" she sighed, trying hard to give it the benefit of the doubt. She shook her head. "That could have caused this rictus, I suppose, and perhaps still not shown up in the tox. But nothing that I'm currently familiar with..."
She looked at Mulder and shrugged helplessly.
"Is it possible, Scully," her partner asked, "that these men might have been frightened to death?"
Scully sat back in her chair.
"Look, Mulder, I'm sorry, but I surrender. Give. What's going on here? What do you know?"
Mulder leaned over and handed her a map.
"This is a map of the grounds, and surrounding area, where those three men died. This piece of property is currently for sale; there is a bid outstanding on it, and it's earmarked for a housing development. Pretty straight forward stuff. It was being surveyed by two of those dead men at the time they died; the first man to die, James Dolan, was a bank lawyer taking a look around prior to the loan approval."
"You think someone is trying to block the sale for some reason?" Scully frowned at him. "But that still doesn't explain how these men might have been killed, if you're right and they men did not die of natural causes."
"I never said these men did not die of natural causes. But I am about to suggest that the natural cause was generated by an 'unnatural' experience," Mulder replied. "Or rather, a supernatural one."
"This hundred acre parcel is mostly undeveloped woodland, and some pasturage," Mulder went on, ignoring Scully's expression. "It is free of any existing structures. Except one."
Mulder leaned across the desk and pointed.
"Up here in the northwestern corner, where our bodies where found, is an old farmhouse, built in the mid-1700's. If you look in two of those slides, you can see it, right there, in the corners of the pictures. The house, as well as the adjoining twelve acres, is owned separately by the Bowman family, but is being offered as part of the rest of this parcel. Something to do with road access, I believe.
"Up until the last ten years, the house has been occupied, most recently by a Martha Bowman Jacobs, who passed away six years ago. Her nephews inherited the property. The house is currently empty. Except...," Mulder leaned back and looked at her, "reputedly, for two resident ghosts."
Scully sat back and looked at him over the tops of her glasses.
Mulder reached behind him, and removed a book from the place it was precariously balanced, under a pile of paperwork on the bookcase to the right of his desk. Scully winced. One of these days, she thought, watching him, that whole mess was going to come right down.
Mulder handed the book to Scully. She looked at the aged and torn cover.
"Haunted Places in New England..." she read and gave Mulder a jaundiced eye.
"If you'll turn to page twenty-seven, I think you'll find our piece of property there. It was called the Colter Farm, after the family who built the place originally. It's still called that, as far as I know."
Scully sucked in a smile, and turned to page twenty-seven. The chapter title leaped out at her - "Ghostly Lovers in Cumberland, Connecticut: The Colter Farm Ghosts. " Scully looked back up at her partner.
"So I ask you, Dr. Scully," Mulder went on, "could those men have been frightened to death?"
"I don't believe this." She closed the book and tossed it on his desk.
"Look at the pictures, again."
"Mulder, do you honestly expect me..." Scully sputtered. Mulder just held up a hand.
"Look at the pictures, again," he said, very gently. Then he smiled at her winningly. "Please?"
Scully blew out a breath. But his expression made her laugh, a little. She took the projector control from him, and cycled through the slides again.
"Three heart attacks," glossed Mulder, as she looked. "In one week. In the same place. Suffered by young men with no former history of heart disease, and no," he held up a hand again to ward off her protest, as she glanced up at him, "indication of early heart disease in the autopsies.
"Could they have been frightened to death?"
"Mulder, that's very rare..."
He nodded. Then he raised his eyebrows at her. Scully sighed and looked back at the slide on the screen. She shrugged and nodded.
"Well, they did all show extremely elevated adrenal levels. Yes, I suppose they could have been frightened to death," she relented. "In the absence of other evidence to the contrary." She looked back up at him and finally smiled for real.
Mulder shrugged sheepishly. Scully shook her head.
"Look," she said, "I'll admit that the 'coincidence' is troubling. And intriguing. But ghosts, Mulder? And anyway. This still isn't a Bureau matter. No crime has been committed here."
"There are three bodies," Mulder replied. "And three unexplained deaths."
Scully did not bother to remind him that the deaths were too explained. She rolled her eyes a little.
"You gonna tell Skinner about this one?"
"Eventually," Mulder agreed.
"He's gonna be wild," Scully warned him. "Skinner cuts you a lot of slack on these investigations, but he still has people he has to answer to. He won't appreciate it much if you make him look like a fool."
"That's why I'm going to keep this little excursion to myself until I can figure out if there's really something there. Come on Scully, it's only Connecticut. We can be there in two hours. We should know inside of twenty-four whether or not there's anything worth investigating. We can be there and back before anybody even knows we're gone."
Scully sighed. She really did not want to admit how much this little puzzle was starting to interest her. Not that she believed for a minute in Mulder's ghosts... But it *was* weird that three healthy young men should drop dead on the same piece of ground. She nodded slowly, relenting finally, and Mulder grinned.
"I'll pick you up at your place in an hour," he beamed.
J. (Jamal) Gallagher, got out of his car, and walked toward the entrance of a small neighborhood bar. His step was confident, his charcoal Grey suit and designer tie impeccable. His attitude was serene. He looked every inch exactly what he was: a successful man, completely in charge of his life and situation.
Gallagher coordinated cocaine Distribution in eastern Connecticut for the "family" in Springfield, Massachusetts, moving their product, making their deals, and negotiating a substantial profit for all parties. A business man by trade, Gallagher had risen up out of the ghetto in the north end of Hartford, fought his way through college and up the corporate ladder on brains, cunning, and a willingness to work obsessively to obtain his goals. He had finally reached the position in life where he could leave his childhood roots behind him. Unfortunately, however, Gallagher had expensive tastes: fine houses, fine cars, fine wine, and these tastes were not supported to his liking by the salary afforded a corporate executive in an insurance company. He could have gone into private consulting, perhaps, and made more, but his talent was for research, and political manipulation, not for the kinds of histrionics required for freelance work. It was perhaps ironic, then, that it was to his childhood roots that Gallagher eventually turned when the need arose to supplement his income.
Gallagher had no illusions about his role, or his importance to the overall organization he represented. He was a flunky, elaborately disguised as a player. His job was to make arrangements, to pick up the "shipments" of product that would supply his ring of local pushers, to negotiate the price, and pay for said product, and to collect from the "distributors," nothing more. He was strictly a middleman. He did not mind. The job "paid" well, and took up very little of his time, overall. And he found himself liking the excitement, and the element of danger. He was the connections man, he found the sources, organized the drops and the pick-ups, he paid for the goods. It was he who made the recommendations when certain "disciplinary actions" became necessary. But he made no decisions, and he liked it that way. He would be the "fall guy," he knew, if the organization ever came down, but Gallagher was careful and clever. He did not expect to get caught. He carried a gun, in addition to the switchblade he always kept in his car, and had trained himself in its operation, but the weapon was really just for show. J. (Jamal) Gallagher had no intention of ever putting himself in a position where he might need to use it.
Gallagher strode through the door and looked around. Except for two old men sitting by the jukebox, the place was empty, as he knew it would be at that hour. He nodded to the kid behind the bar. Larry was on his "payroll," not a heavily reimbursed retainer, but provided enough money to convince the kid it was wiser to keep his mouth shut about who Gallagher might have been seen with, and when. The gesture was more theatrics than anything. Gallagher generally met with other "businessmen" who were supplementing their incomes. No one in the least suspicious looking had ever sat across from him at the booth into which he now slid. It was one of his precautions. Larry brought him a beer while he waited. Gallagher was early for his appointment, which was another one of his precautions. He sipped his beer and waited.
Within fifteen minutes, the door opened again, and a second man entered the dark environs of the bar. Leslie Hendricksen had none of Gallagher's cool composure. Overweight, perspiring in the summer heat, he looked as rumpled and ineffective as the badly tailored suit he wore. Gallagher smiled to himself. This one would be easy. Hendricksen approached him cautiously.
Gallagher nodded, but did not stand.
"Mr. Hendricksen. Please have a seat." He gestured to Larry, as the other man sat down. "What are you drinking?"
Hendricksen looked up at the bar keep nervously.
"A beer, just a beer," he said. Gallagher nodded to the boy, indicating that anything would do, then waited until Larry returned, then left again, before he addressed Hendricksen.
"Terrible day, isn't it," he said, his voice soft and soothing. There was no hint of a street patois in his carefully pitched and controlled speech. J. (Jamal) Gallagher had spent long hours practicing to be sure that there never would be. "This heat is unbearable. I heard on the radio this morning that this is the worst heat wave the country has experienced in over ten years. Even worse than the summer of '88."
"It's a scorcher," Hendricksen agreed. He sucked on his beer, then gasped, the cold liquid stealing his breath. Gallagher could see his hands shaking, and smiled. Guy must be a virgin, he thought, and considered that he should be able to strike a very good deal here. He smiled encouragingly.
"You have some information for me, Mr. Hendricksen?"
Hendricksen nodded, but looked around worriedly.
"You have no need to be concerned, Mr. Hendricksen. We are quite safe here, and quite alone. Don't mind Larry."
Hendricksen did not look exactly convinced. He sipped some more of his beer, then leaned forward conspiratorially.
"Pete said to tell you there's a shipment coming in," he whispered. Gallagher nodded, and waited. When nothing was forthcoming, he prodded.
"How large a shipment, did Pete say."
Hendriksen told him. Gallagher nodded, pleased.
"When is the, ah, merchandise expected, Mr. Hendricksen?"
In two weeks, he was told. Gallagher sat back, and steepled his fingers before his face. The pause was theatrics, he had already decided where he was going next. But the allusion of consideration would put Hendricksen on a malleable defensive.
"Where will the drop be made?"
"Not here," Hendricksen said quickly. "This place is too busy. I want a quieter setting. Little town."
Gallagher pursed his lips. Amateur, he thought. Any fool would know that a small town was no safer than a large one, for such business. Often just the opposite; their type of transaction would more likely attract attention in some little hamlet than here in the city. Still, it did not matter all that much. Gallagher only dealt in small trade that was easily concealed. If it made the man happier, and more tractable to complete the transaction in some bucolic setting, so be it.
"Do you have some place in mind?"
"Cumberland. Out by the university. I'll contact you as to where," he replied, relief giving him confidence.
Gallagher nodded. He knew Cumberland. He visited the town frequently, he had friends there. If he was recognized, his presence would not seem out of the ordinary.
"Very well," he nodded. He contemplated a little more. Then: "And are you prepared, Mr. Hendricksen, to negotiate a preliminary price? Pending examination of the product of course?"
Hendriksen took a deep breath, looking very nervous, again. But he nodded.
"Good," said Gallagher, and he leaned forward across the table and smiled.
"Ever been to Connecticut, Scully?" Mulder asked as he turned off the Interstate onto the exit for Rte 195.
"Once. A high school friend of mine went to college at the University of Connecticut. She married a guy from up here. I went to her wedding."
"UConn, yeah. Great basketball teams! Their women were the 1995 NCAA national champs, did you know that?" he replied enthusiastically. "We're only about ten miles from the campus, right now." He stopped at the end of the exit ramp and signaled left at the light. Scully looked around her.
Cumberland, Connecticut, looked a lot like a lot of towns she knew in Maryland and Virginia, rural farm districts recently become bedroom communities for the larger cities. As they drove through the rolling hills, she saw large, expensive, modern houses sitting incongruously on what apparently used to be pasture, with the occasional old barn, or out building providing a startling contrast, and a reminder of what used to be. Strip malls dotted what was otherwise wilderness. It was a town in transition. Scully found the idea a little bit sad.
"How are we doing?" Mulder asked, nodding at the map in her hand.
"Take a right at the next intersection, and that should be the road we're looking for. Randall Road."
Mulder turned down what was little more than a paved trail leading off into the woods.
"Boy," he mused as the road pitched upward suddenly and he started to climb, "this is pretty isolated. I wonder what this place is like in the winter." He looked out the window. "How far is the house?"
"Map says three miles. On the right."
It was a little more than that. Mulder pulled over to the side of the road and parked the car. They could see the weathered brown structure there on a small rise across a heavily overgrown field. Scully made a face at the prospect of trudging through the weed filled lot.
"I'm really not dressed for this," she commented, looking down at her beige linen slacks suit and pumps. Mulder made a sympathetic noise.
"You can wait here in the car if you'd like," he offered helpfully. Scully shook her head. Fat chance she was going to let him wander off alone.
"No, I'll come," she sighed.
At least the ground was hard and dry. Scully followed behind Mulder, letting him tramp down the weeds a little bit before her. She tried very hard not to think about the spiders and snakes that had probably made homes all around her, just waiting there for her to rouse them. Mulder came to a stop before the front door of the old salt box house. He was smiling broadly.
"Hey, Scully, look at this," he said, pointing to the door. Scully looked. "See that pattern of nails there? Looks like a decorative design?"
"Yeah..." Scully acknowledged cautiously.
"That's a symbol of wealth. Back in the 1700's and early 1800's, nails were extremely expensive because each one had to be made by hand. I remember reading accounts where during the early westward movement people would burn their houses down before they emigrated, so they could salvage the nails to take them out west with them. Using them for decorative art like this was very ostentatious. Especially on a front door. It was a means of telling your neighbors that you were so well off you didn't need to worry about such things.
Scully gave Mulder an odd look, and smiled. The man never ceased to amaze her with the incredible collection of trivia he managed to store away in that eidetic memory of his. Still, it *was* an interesting, if not very useful, bit of data. She gave the door a nod.
"Where were those bodies found?" she asked, bringing him back to the reason they were there. Mulder looked around.
"I'm not sure, over there, I think," he considered. They walked around the side of the old house.
It was Scully who found the spot, recognizing the angle from one of the slides. She stood on the ground where Jimmy Dolan had collapsed and looked at the house, making small, thoughtful movements with her mouth as she did.
"What?" Mulder asked, watching her.
"Well, if I remember correctly from your slides, the way all three of those bodies were lying would indicate that they were probably looking at the house at the time they collapsed," she said. She walked straight ahead, along what would have been the probable line of sight of the three dead men, and entered the lean-to like structure off the back of the house. It looked like an old carriage house of some kind.
It was noticeably cooler in the shade inside the lean-to. Scully turned around slowly. A chill passed over her and she rubbed her arms briskly. Amazing, she thought, how those old buildings kept out the heat. She moved to the side of the lean-to closest to the house, strangely drawn to the blank wall there. She eyed the flat surface, half expecting to see marks of some kind, or some tell tale evidence that her subconscious was registering before her eyes. She ran her hand along the wall. She felt something run up her arm, like an electrical current, and pulled it away.
"Hey, Mulder, you seem to know something about the way these old houses were designed. What do you think is on the other side of this wall?"
Mulder frowned at her, but stepped back, anyway, and eyed the house from outside.
"Well," he began. "Judging from the size of the chimney back here, I would say the kitchen... " Scully walked over to join him. "See?" he pointed. "Little chimney in front to heat the bedrooms and parlors, only when necessary. Big chimney in back, because the kitchen is used all year round and the fire place will be huge. Now *that* wall..." he eyed the wall about which she was curious, "my guess is that's the borning room."
"The what?" Scully asked. She was not quite sure what she expected him to say, but that was not it.
"The 'borning room,'" Mulder repeated. "It was a room that was usually found off the kitchen because the kitchen is the warmest, most frequently populated room in the house. The borning room was used for childbirth, and nursing the sick. Most people who died of an injury or illness probably died in rooms like that. Why?"
"Just curious," Scully said. But the words "died in" were not lost on her. She hugged her arms. They were not lost on Mulder, either, and he knew Scully well enough to know she was never 'just curious' without good reason. Died in, huh?
Scully glanced over at Mulder, and saw the sparkle in his eyes. She realized her question had played right into his theory about the ghosts, and she was almost sorry she had asked it. She was about to warn him not to start jumping to conclusions when an unfamiliar voice interrupted from behind them.
"Can I help you folks?"
Mulder turned around to see a man approaching them across the overgrown "yard." He looked about fifty, balding and lean as a rail, with hawk-like features and horn-rimmed glasses.
"Hi," Mulder said quickly. "My name is Fox Mulder, and this is Dana Scully. We were, uh, just looking at this wonderful old house here." The man nodded.
"Dave Bowman," he said, extending his hand. "It is a nice old place, isn't it. Belonged to my aunt, before she died. Be careful walking around here, this place is pretty overgrown. No telling what you'll find buried in the weeds here."
"Snakes?" Scully asked uncomfortably.
Bowman smiled at her.
"Well, could be, but I was thinking more along the lines of old rakes and boards with nails in them. Wouldn't want you to get hurt." He looked at Mulder curiously. "Mind if I ask what your interest is?"
Mulder gave Scully a quick warning look, and plunged into an explanation before she could reach for her ID.
"We were just looking the area over. We've been kind of thinking of maybe moving up here," he said, nodding at Scully. Beside him, Scully gaped, her eyes wide. "I sort of liked the idea of finding some old place and fixing it up. You know, a place with some history to it."
"Well, the place *is* for sale," he agreed. "And it sure does have a history. It was supposed to be sold as part of another parcel, but I'm not too sure, now, if that's gonna go through. How did you folks happen to hear about it?"
"We didn't," Mulder lied glibly, "we were just driving by. But it's for sale, you say?"
Bowman nodded again. Mulder took a chance.
"Actually, we had heard that there was a house out here that was supposed to be haunted," he said, smiling winningly. "We were really very interested in it. This looked like a likely candidate."
"Oh, yes, there *is* that," he agreed. "Well, since you're interested, why don't you come up to the house and have a cold drink. I'll tell you the story and let you decide for yourselves."
He started back through the weeds.
"Get you out of this tall grass. Wouldn't want you to get bit by a tick and get Lyme disease, now... Just follow me, I live right down the road, here."
Scully followed Mulder back across the overgrown lawn, alternately glaring at the weeds batting her knees, and at the back of her partner's head.
She let him have it as soon as they were safely in the car.
"What?" he responded, all innocence.
"Mulder, you deliberately mislead that man into thinking that we were interested in *buying* his property. For ourselves, Mulder. I mean, for us, like we were a couple or something!" Scully made an encompassing gesture with her hand, and stared at her partner, openmouthed.
"We'll it did get us an invitation to some information," Mulder countered, mildly.
"But you never told him who we were, you never said we were with the Bureau... "
"We're not, officially. At least, not yet. Come on, Scully, the guy's not likely to talk to a couple of cops unless he has no choice. But a nice young couple from the burbs, looking to get back to the land..." He smiled at her. Scully practically sputtered with indignation. Mulder feigned a hurt look.
"Gee, Scully, I never realized I was quite so unpleasant a prospect," he said. Scully made a face at him.
"It's not that, don't twist my words," she replied, relenting a little. He eyed her curiously, waiting for her to go on. "It's just that I don't like being here under false pretenses."
"Oh, come on, Scully," Mulder teased her. "Where's your sense of humor?"
Scully sighed with sheer exasperation. Then she chuckled softly.
"Well, since you mentioned it, I suppose it *is* pretty absurd, now that I think about it," she agreed mischievously. Mulder glanced over at her, his expression now truly a little bit hurt. Scully smiled at him smugly.
"So where're you folks from?" Bowman asked as he settled them on the porch of his white clapboard farmhouse with a plate of cookies and a pitcher of ice tea.
Mulder had planned for this question in the car.
"Simsbury," he replied, giving the man the name of a town he had pulled off the map, a considerable distance from where they were, but not so far that they could not have comfortably driven it.
"Pretty town. What do you do, Mr. Mulder?"
Mulder was ready for that one, too.
"Insurance," he replied, feeling fairly safe. After all, Hartford, Connecticut, was the insurance capital of the world, supposedly. "For the Aetna," he glossed, remembering the last bill he had paid.
Bowman nodded again.
"And you, Ms. Scully?"
Scully gulped a little, still not happy with Mulder's charade. Well, she could hardly tell the man she was a forensic pathologist, and a Special Agent with the FBI.
"Oh, the same," she replied quickly. "And please, call me Dana." She smiled prettily. Bowman smiled back.
"What do you do, Mr. Bowman," Scully asked, to prevent the man from asking them any other questions they might not be able to answer.
"Me?" Bowman asked, as if surprised that anyone would care to know. "Oh, I teach agriculture up at the university. Use to dairy, some, too, but that got to be too expensive a hobby to be worth the bother. So now I pretty much teach, and write." He smiled. "And lobby Congress for more support of the small family farm. It's a dying way of life. And my own experience has taught me that it's just too costly for most folks to continue. Even thirty years ago, the small farmer could at least expect to break even, most of the time. That is no longer true, today."
The two agents nodded politely and Mulder searched his mind for a way to turn the conversation back to the subject of his real interest. Bowman was an articulate speaker, and could no doubt spend the afternoon defending the plight of the family farm, but that was not why they were there. A screen door behind them slammed and another man walked out onto the porch. He was about as different looking from David Bowman as a man could get and still be the of same race. Short, broad, and round faced, it was only their eyes that identified the two men as relatives.
"Richard," Bowman said cheerfully. He looked over at Mulder and Scully. "This is my brother, Richard. Richie, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They're from Simsbury, out here looking at some property. Seems they're interested in the old Colter place."
Richard gave them a taciturn nod.
"Actually," Bowman continued, mischievously Scully could have sworn, "they're really interested in the Colter ghosts.
Richard Bowman's stolid expression turned sour.
"Oh, you and that nonsense. Don't pay any attention to him," he nodded at Mulder. "He's been out in the sun too long."
Bowman tipped back his head and laughed.
"Join us, Richard," he offered.
"Thank you, no," his brother replied. "Going to Agway. I'll be back in a little while."
He made his "pleased to meet yous" to Mulder and Scully, then clumped down the porch steps, climbed into a battered pickup truck and drove away.
"Richie doesn't think too much of our ghosts," Bowman said, unnecessarily, smiling after his brother. "Claims it's all just old wives' tales meant to frighten children."
Mulder smiled with him.
"But you believe they are real?" he prompted. Bowman nodded.
"I've generally found old wives to be very wise," he assured them, merrily. "It's kind of a nice story, actually, if you like that sort of thing. Do you know it?"
Mulder had read it, but Scully had not. And Mulder wanted to hear the story again, from this man whose family had lived in the house, itself. He gestured for Bowman to go on. Bowman leaned back in his chair.
"We call the place the Colter farm, because that was the name of the family who built it, originally. I don't think there have been Colters in this town, though, for a hundred years or more. My aunt owned the place for forty five years, she was eighty when she died, and she lived alone in that house until the last four years of her life.
"The place has two ghosts, according to the legend, Jeremiah Colter, who was the son of the original owner, and his fiancee, Catherine Hewlett. Colter was twenty four years old when the Revolutionary War broke out, and like many of the young men around here at that time, he went off to fight for the economic and personal freedoms that he felt were God given rights in this new land. The young couple put off their wedding, not knowing if, or when, Jeremiah would return. I personally think Colter senior probably may have had something to do with that, not wanting to run the risk of his son dying and leaving some young girl his heir.
"Anyway, within a year of his joining his regiment, Colter was wounded and taken prisoner. He was interred at the prisoner of war encampment on Long Island, to await the next prisoner exchange. That was the custom in those days, as you may know. Neither side could afford the upkeep on prisoners, so generally they just traded 'em back and forth. Unfortunately, there was a small pox epidemic in the camp while Colter was there, and Jeremiah contracted the disease. Since the British army had no particular interest in carrying the expense of treating the infirm, he was just sent home to die or recover as he may.
"Once Jeremiah got home, Catherine, who had moved into the Colter house during Jeremiah's absence, nursed her fiancee day and night. Her ministrations came to naught, though; Colter died about ten days after he returned. He didn't managed to die before he infected Catherine, though. She died, herself, within the month.
"They are buried in the yard beside the house, up by the stone wall near the pig run. However, because those two were never married in life, they could not be buried in the same grave, wouldn't be seemly, and they are actually buried about twenty yards apart. The spot's pretty much grown over, now, but you can still find the fieldstone markers if you look through the weeds.
"Now, the story goes, that, before he'd left for battle, Jeremiah, in his passion, had begged Catherine to give herself to him, but she refused him. In those days, for a girl to go to her wedding bed other than a virgin would have damned her, in both the eyes of man and God, and it was likely these two had not shared so much as a passionate kiss before Jeremiah left for war. When he returned, of course, it was too late for Catherine to change her mind. So they died with their love unconsummated.
"According to the legend, Catherine was so heartbroken at having refused that one true act of love that she now roams the house and grounds looking for Jeremiah so that they can be together for eternity. And Jeremiah, in his turn, seeks for her. But never together, they are condemned in their loneliness to search for each other forever, and forever to remain alone."
Scully suddenly exhaled, she had been unaware that she was holding her breath. She rubbed her arms, feeling a sudden chill. Mulder glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, then looked back at Bowman.
"Your aunt lived in the house, you said."
"She loved that old place. Would have died in it, if anyone had let her. Should have, if you ask me."
"Did she ever see the ghosts?"
"She claims to have. All the time." Bowman smiled. "She used to tell me that Catherine, especially, was a fidgety sort of ghost, always moving things around. The aunt said she could never be sure, when she got up in the morning, if things would be where she left them the night before. As if the poor girl hadn't got enough of housekeeping while she was alive."
Both Mulder and Scully smiled, this time.
"Did you ever see the ghosts, Mr. Bowman?" Mulder asked.
Bowman just looked at him.
"I have seen her, yes. Catherine." He leaned forward and frowned down at his hands. "Once.
"When I was ten years old, the aunt took sick, and went into the hospital for a few months. At the time we had a handy-man on our farm, and he was also responsible for keeping track of the aunt's place while she was laid up. One day, he came and got me. Asked me if I wanted to come out to the old house with him, he was going to check the wiring. I was just a little kid, I didn't think anything of it. Why would I?
"This part of town was even more isolated, then, than it is now. There were only two other houses on the street, neither one of them close to the Colter place. So there was nobody around to hear.
"Turns out, this handy-man was not a nice person, and he had a taste for little boys. He got me into the house, and well, things got unpleasant pretty quickly." Bowman glanced at Scully, as if gauging how much to say. Scully looked back at him impassively. The man looked back down at this hands.
"He had me down over the back of the sofa with my blue jeans around my knees and a knife at my throat, and that's when I saw her. She was standing over by the fireplace. She picked up this heavy old fashioned oil lamp that the aunt kept on the mantle, and she just hurled it. Hit that bastard right up the side of the head, knocked him out cold. Then she waved for me to run. I pulled up my britches and ran like a son-of-a-bitch, let me tell you."
"That was quite a story," Mulder said as they walked back to the car. They had thanked Bowman very much for his time, and gotten a recommendation for dinner. Mulder had also made arrangements to come back the next morning to tour the inside of the house.
"Yeah," Scully said, a trifle sourly. "It's almost as good as the one *you're* weaving. I can't believe you're sticking to this masquerade."
"Does it really offend you that much?" Mulder asked, a little testily. Scully relented.
"No, it doesn't offend me," she replied. "But I don't really like lying to the man. And you were very glib, back there. I know you're enjoying yourself, but don't fall in love with your own fantasy, okay?"
She turned her back on him, and pulled open the car door. Mulder watched the back of her head as she slid onto the passenger seat.
"Wouldn't dream of it," he replied, under his breath, as the car door clunked shut. He walked around to the driver's side, and got in.
J. (Jamal) Gallagher did not like waiting in parking lots, he did not like sitting there in his car. It was too suspicious looking, it smacked too much of the actual business he was there to perform. Hendricksen had insisted, however, that he would not speak to him inside the bustling restaurant. He was to wait outside.
Gallagher was already in enough trouble over the delays in this shipment, and he did not wish to antagonize his "superiors" with any further trouble, so he agreed to Hendricksen's condition. But he did not like it. The longer this whole transaction went on, in fact, the less happy he was. First there was the delay in delivery. He had examined a sample of Hendricksen's product, settled on a price very much to his liking, and had been promised delivery within two weeks. Those original two weeks, however, had stretched to three, and then four. Then Hendricksen could not make up his mind where the transfer should take place. That took another several days. If it was not for the fact that Gallagher had negotiated such an outstanding price on the "shipment", he would have called the whole thing off a long time ago, simply reported back that the deal was suddenly too risky. His "superiors" would have trusted his evaluation, and agreed, he was sure. But he had negotiated a very sweet deal, here, and he stood to make a lot of money. And he had bills to pay.
He glanced at the back seat, at the locked briefcase lying innocently there. The transfer would be simple. He and Hendricksen would park, car door to car door, the doors opened in such a way that no one would be able to see between them. He would hand Hendricksen the brief case, Hendricksen would hand him the leather backpack containing the packets of uncut cocaine. Neither man would count, or examine, the merchandise or the payment at that time. Gallagher had already approved the samples, and Hendricksen, the price. And this was no amateur street operation. While there might not be honor among thieves, or drug dealers, there was fear, and a healthy respect. The likelihood of a double cross was slim; the last man to try to cheat his "superiors" was still floating up in the Wethersfield cove, a piece at a time. And, for such an illegal operation, his superiors had a surprising reputation for honesty. It was good business, and they were not petty criminals, moving dope out on the streets. These were businessmen with whom he dealt, first and foremost.
Gallagher looked at his watch. When he turned his eyes back up to the road, a silver sedan was just pulling into the parking lot. He nodded to himself, and brought the briefcase up to the front seat. He waited until the sedan had pulled up next to him, facing the other way, so that their driver's sides were together. Gallagher rolled down his window, then waited for Hendricksen to do the same.
"Are we all set then?" he asked, with strained patience.
"Follow me," Hendricksen replied.
Gallagher frowned in astonishment.
"What do you mean, follow you!" he demanded in a harsh whisper. "I'm not gonna follow you! You have the stuff. I have the money. We make the transaction. Here. That was the deal."
But Hendricksen shook his head.
"Not here, there are too many people," he replied. "I know a place not far from here that is completely deserted. We'll go there."
Gallagher struggled to contain his wrath. He had no intention of following this man anywhere; he was *tired* of this run around. Besides, one of the reasons he was confident that he would never need to use his gun was the fact that he *always* performed his transactions out in the open, in full view, cleverly, carefully, but always in settings least likely to encourage a "business partner" to take a chance and do something stupid. Something fatal.
"No way, man," he resisted, anger causing a hint of the old neighborhood patois to creep back into his voice. "No way I'm following you anywhere. The transaction happens here, or it doesn't happen. Now, let's get on with it." He took a deep breath, and struggled to calm himself.
Hendricksen just looked stubborn.
"I don't have the stuff with me," he explained. "I've got it," he continued, seeing the look on Gallagher's face, "but not here. I've got it hidden on this place. It's not far. Honest. I just can't do it here, man, somebody will see us for sure, here. Just come with me. It ain't far. Just a couple of miles, on an old deserted farm."
Gallagher was so angry he was shaking. He took a deep breath and tried to think. There was *no way* he wanted to follow this slime ball anywhere. This whole arrangement was starting to smell like nothing but trouble to him. He did not know what to do. Had he backed out of the arrangement before now, even a short a time ago as a week, his superiors would have understood, and perhaps even complimented him on his acumen. But to call it off now... They knew he was meeting Hendricksen tonight, to call it off now would look too suspicious. At best it would look like he no longer had the edge, or the nerve, to control these transactions, at worst like he had made some sort of a deal on his own behalf. He could not risk their ire. He would have to take his chances with the slime. He nodded.
"Where?" he asked shortly. Hendricksen nodded and gave him directions. Gallagher waited until Hendricksen's car was out of sight. Then he threw his corvette into gear and peeled furiously out of the parking lot, nearly taking out a blue Ford Escort rental car in the process. He headed down the street.
Mulder pulled into the restaurant parking lot just as the black corvette came flying out, nearly hitting him as it squealed around the corner.
"Jesus Christ!" he cursed, swinging wide. He looked back over his shoulder. "Guy must have just caught his wife with another man..." He glanced at Scully, who had been thrown hard against her seatbelt.
"Yeah," she sighed, shaking her head. They parked, and went inside.
The place to which Bowman had directed them for dinner was called "Cousins", and was more of a bar and grill than a real restaurant. Several tables were set in the middle of the floor, and there were a few booths, but the long mahogany bar that took up most of the far wall left no doubt as to the establishment's real function. Still, wonderful smells had met them in the parking lot, as they pulled in, and that promise was met when their entrees were finally placed before them. Scully cut a slice from her roasted chicken breast, and watched Mulder tuck into his rib-eye steak and fries.
She looked at him quietly for a moment.
"So, are you still convinced these deaths are actually murders by haunting?" she finally asked. Mulder looked up at her.
"The evidence seems to point in that direction, yeah," he agreed, eyeing her curiously. "I take it by the look on your face that you don't agree?"
"I guess I just don't see anything I could call evidence of anything other than exactly what this seems to be - a very strange coincidence. Nothing more."
"But what about Bowman's story?"
"About the two ghostly lovers? I thought it was very charming. Delightful, really, and he tells it very well. I got the distinct feeling that he's been telling that story to anyone who would listen, for years." She smiled at Mulder fondly. "My father used to call that 'local color'."
Mulder frowned at her.
"His aunt seems to have had some personal experience with
them," he countered.
"I've got an aunt like that, too, only mine sees angels. Mulder, all's you've got there is an eccentric old woman who forgot where she put things, and blamed ghosts for it. It doesn't prove anything."
"What about Bowman's own experience. That was something less than charming, don't you think?"
"Oh, come on, Mulder, look at it logically. You have a little boy, subject to a terrifying and heinous experience. A little boy who was brought up on stories about those ghosts, who romanticized them, whose own family member treated them like household companions. It's only natural to expect that the boy would 'see' one of these ghosts under the circumstances. Like an imaginary friend."
"Imaginary friends rarely throw heavy lamps across rooms to save you from being raped," Mulder countered. Scully nodded gently.
"And maybe this imaginary friend didn't, either" she suggested. "Did you stop to think that maybe Bowman did *not* escape that assault? That this 'ghost' is actually his mind's way of dealing with what was done to him?"
Mulder made a face, but did not argue further. She had a very good point, one that had occurred to him as well. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, then sighed and nodded.
Scully ate her chicken, and let Mulder think for a moment. When he did not offer a counter argument, she ventured further.
"Anyway," she began, "I have done *some* reading during my, uh, sojourn on the X-Files..." Mulder quirked a lopsided grin at her, and she smiled back, "and I seem to recall reading that hauntings, for the most part, are generally pretty benign occurrences. Ghosts are suppose to be little more than left over energy from a consciousness that has not found peace in death, for one reason or another, often due to some unfinished business, or violence associated with the death, itself. But usually, this energy just sort of hangs out. It may, possibly, repeat whatever activity is associated
with the reasons behind the 'haunting', but nothing premeditated. With the exception of certain kinds of poltergeist activity - which may not even be spectral - ghosts don't really affect their environments much. And even poltergeists usually only move things around, or make noise. Ghosts can be a nuisance, but they are very rarely intentionally injurious to human life. Most of that is a Hollywood interpretation.
"What you are suggesting, though, is that these 'ghosts' *intentionally* caused those men to die. Even given the possibility that you might be right about the *existence* of such entities, doesn't that theory pretty much fly in the face of the accepted thinking?"
By the time she finished, Mulder was grinning widely.
"You *have* been reading," he replied with a small laugh. "And yes, you're right. Most spectral activity is benign in nature. However, I think we have a particular situation here."
He put down his fork and looked at her intently.
"Let's take Bowman's story at face value for a moment, and assume that he is correct in his belief that Jeremiah Colter and Catherine Hewlett still haunt the Colter farm because of the depth of their love for each other. A love that was denied in life, and therefore cannot be denied in death. It could be postulated that the actual physical matter binding them to this Earth and to each other, is that house, itself. The house they lived and loved and died in. To lose the house would be to lose each other, which is something they cannot allow. They aren't really murdering. They are only defending themselves and their love.
"As long as efforts go forward to tear down the Colter farm, I'm convinced that people will continue to die on that property."
Scully smiled warmly, and glanced down at her dinner for a moment. Then she looked back up at her partner.
"That was very touching, Mulder. Very romantic, actually. I didn't know you had it in you."
Mulder smiled, a little sheepishly. But Scully sighed.
"Look, I agree that coincidence isn't a very satisfying explanation, here," she admitted, "and, short of exhuming a body and looking for other evidence," she pointed a finger at him warningly, "which we have *no* grounds to do, so don't even think about it, your theory that those men were frightened to death makes as much sense as anything does. But I still fail to see what we can do about it."
Mulder looked at her earnestly.
"We either have to convince Bowman not to sell that property, or get him to bring in a parapsychologist who can contact the ghosts through a psychic, and convince them to leave the house," he said. "It's the only way to prevent further deaths."
Scully pursed her lips.
"And, you might even be able to convince Bowman of that, although his *brother* doesn't seem much like the 'parapsychologist' type to me," she agreed. "But what the *hell*, Mulder, are you gonna tell Skinner? This is *not* our job. Under no circumstances can we even justify *this* little junket, we can only hope that nobody has been looking for us, so we can get back to Washington tomorrow without having to explain our absence."
Mulder did not look happy.
"So what, we just let the deaths continue?"
Scully sighed, beginning to get exasperated again.
"Mulder, I don't know what you want me to say," she replied.
Her partner eyed her, then finally nodded in defeat.
"I'd still like to go through the house tomorrow morning, before we leave," he said, his disappointment clear in his voice. "Just to satisfy my curiosity."
"All right, if we do it early," Scully agreed, knowing she had won, and not wanting to rub it in. "I'm kind of curious, myself."
J. (Jamal) Gallagher pulled off the road behind Hendricksen's sedan, and looked around. There wasn't much moon, but enough to see that he was parked beside an open, and overgrown field. He got out of his car and walked cautiously up to Hendricksen's. He peered in the windows and saw the keys still in the ignition, but the vehicle was otherwise empty. He peered up into the field.
"Up here!" Hendricksen called him distantly. In that vague light, Gallagher could just make him out on the boarder of the woods. "Bring the briefcase and come here!"
The hell he was going to do that. Gallagher tossed the briefcase full of cash into his trunk and slammed it shut. Then, hand over the butt of his gun, he trudged up the long incline to where Hendricksen was waiting. He could not see well in the half light, so he had several deep scratches and a wrenched ankle by the time he reached Hendricksen. He mood, never very good, was no longer the least cooperative.
"Hendricksen, what the *fuck* is this all about, man?" he demanded, frustration destroying the last vestiges of his carefully cultivated speech. "What the *fuck* is going on here?"
"Nothing, man," Hendricksen demurred placatingly. "I just, you know, didn't like to do the transfer in that parking lot. Too many people around." He looked at Gallagher. "Where's the money, man. I tol' you to bring it?"
"An' I don't take orders from no slime like you," Gallagher hissed. "It's locked in the trunk of my car, and that's where it's gonna stay until you tell me what the hell you're up to. Where's the stuff?"
Hendricksen kicked a backpack at his feet. "Right here, man."
Gallagher looked down, and nodded.
"Let's get the fuck out of this field, then. Bring it down to the cars." He turned and started down the slope.
"I don't think so," Hendricksen replied, his voice firm and hard, all traces of whining vacillation now gone. "Turn around."
Gallagher turned around and found himself staring down the barrel of a .38 caliber revolver. He gaped in shock.
"Now give me your car keys."
"What are you *doin'*, man."
"The keys, Gallagher. Slowly. Now."
Gallagher drew breath slowly.
"Are you crazy? They'll kill you, man. I don't show up with the goods tomorrow, they gonna *know* you double crossed them. They'll find you, man."
But Hendricksen shook his head.
"You don't show up with the goods tomorrow, they'll figure it was *you* who pulled the double cross. By the time they pull your car out of the Cumberland marsh, I'll be long gone. With the cash, and the stuff."
"Man, you're nuts!"
"Give me the keys."
Gallagher dropped his hands to his waist, and thought furiously. He could not believe this was happening. It had to be a dream. His hand brushed the top of his gun butt.
Maybe it was a deer, or maybe it was just some rotten tree limb finally giving up and cracking to the ground, but the sudden sharp noise within the woods made Hendricksen jerk his attention to the left, just slightly. It was only a fraction of a second, but it was enough. Gallagher drew his weapon, clutched the butt in both hands, and fired.
It took him a moment to realize what he had done. Hendricksen's body collapsed into a heap in the shadows. Gallagher could not see the extent of the damage his bullet had done, but Hendricksen had to be dead. Shit, the man had taken that bullet right in the face, no one could survive that! He kicked the body, and felt no movement, heard no response. Then it hit him. He had killed the man, *killed* him. For all of his flirtation with the underworld, for all that he had grown up on the streets, Gallagher had never killed anyone, before, had never even known anyone, intimately, who had done so. Panic took him. He had to get out of there.
Hendricksen's body had fallen over the backpack. Gallagher jerked it out from under him, then opened it quickly. He tipped the mouth of the bag to catch the moonlight, and shuffled his hand around inside. It collided with something soft, and he drew out a clear plastic bag filled with soft white powder that glittered in the faint light. Gallagher dropped the bag back into the backpack, and zipped it closed again. He had to *do* something. He had to get out of there. He could take the coke, he could be take the coke and the money back to his superiors, explain what had happened. But his superiors were tidy men, and serious businessmen. They would not like this little complication, not at all. There was not telling what they might do to "discipline" him for this slip-up. Gallagher shuddered at the thought.
He could always just blow. Take the money, take the coke and run. He could be a thousand miles away before the sun came up. But they would find him. He knew they would find him. He had to think. He looked around wildly. Hide the coke, hide it somewhere and go someplace where he could think. He had to get away from the body, get the hell out of that field. He peered into the woods, but it was too dark to see, and he was not going in there anyway. He turned around slowly, looking around him as he did. His eyes strained across the field.
He had not noticed the old house, at first, because it was partly hidden in the shadows of the surrounding trees, but his eyes had adjusted to the near darkness, by now, and he could see the outline clearly. It returned to him that Hendricksen had said this was an old deserted farm. He jogged toward the building, desperate to put as much distance as he could between himself and Hendricksen's body, sure he could find someplace in that ramshackle building to safely hide his burden. He ran, unmindful of the rough ground, and the brush clutching as his pant legs. He did not stop until he had reached the house.
The old well presented itself like a vision of salvation. Gallagher careened to a stop and bent over, gasping for breath beside the stone circle. He set the backpack onto the ground, and shifted the stone well cover to one side. Without stopping to think, he dropped his gun inside. Then he felt around the inside of the rim. Yes! Exhilaration filled him as his fingers found the iron bucket hook wedged in the wall of the well. He lowered the backpack over the side, and hung the straps over the hook. Then he pulled the cover back over the well. By morning, the trampled grass would be back to normal, rising with the dew. There would be no evidence that anyone had tampered with the well.
Gallagher brushed the dirt from his hands, and thought about Hendricksen's body. Leave it, his brain said. The farm was deserted, chances were no one would even find the body until the wild animals had decimated it. And even if they did, there was nothing to lead them back to him. He could drive Hendricksen's car into the marsh; it would be days before it was found. Even Hendricksen had been sure of that. He felt unreasonably better as relief flooded him. The money was in his trunk, the coke would be safe in that well forever, and he had all the time in the world, now, to figure out the best thing to do. He looked around, slightly disoriented, then saw the road. He strode purposefully back down the hill.
Mulder sat in silent thought as the waitress came and cleared their dishes. As she did, a young woman carrying a guitar came out into the small cleared space at the far end of the room, and took a seat on a bar stool. The bartender set up a microphone for her, and plugged it into a dusty amplifier that looked permanently part of the decor. Mulder looked up and watched the goings on. The girl looked like she might be a local college student, she was certainly too young to *drink* in the place. Pretty girl, though, with bright green eyes he could see from where he was sitting, and longish ash blonde hair.
"Looks like we're going to be entertained," he said, changing the subject, and trying to bury his general annoyance at the turn events had taken. Scully was probably right. He would even admit it, willingly enough, in a little while. He was too disappointed, right at that moment, though, to feel reasonable. The distraction would do him good.
"Want to stay for a while and listen?"
Scully watched as the young woman chatted with the bartender, and plucked at her guitar, making last minute adjustments in the tuning. Well, after all, they had no place else to be, that evening, there *was* no case to solve, and a little relaxation might not be a bad idea. Mulder was disappointed, she could tell, and a little annoyed with her. It would probably do them both good. She smiled and nodded at him, as the singer tapped the microphone.
"Hi everyone," the girl said, pushing her hair off her shoulders and smiling. "My name is Nicole White, and I'm going to sing a little for you, while you enjoy your coffee and dessert..."
"Dessert?" The waitress asked Mulder. He shook his head.
"Not for me. You want dessert, or a drink?"
"Just coffee," said Scully, "Decaf?"
The waitress nodded as Nicole White began the first of the ballads she would sing that night. Scully leaned on her elbows and listened. The woman was very good, and Scully smiled wistfully as the tunes shifted from ballad, to sea chantey, to old folk song. The waitress brought a coffee urn to the table with the cups, and left them on their own.
Scully glanced at Mulder out of the corner of her eye, and her irritation gradually dissipated. Sometimes he tried too hard to believe, it was true, but it was also that very single-minded devotion to his beliefs that she found most endearing in him. She felt a sudden rush of tenderness as she watched him fiddling with his coffee. He was such a strange, frustrating and exhilarating man, was her partner. And there were many occasions when she would have cheerfully wrung his neck. But no one had ever stimulated her mind and her imagination the way Fox Mulder had, no one had ever pushed her to the very edges of her credulity, then dared her to jump. She had not jumped, she would not jump. But there was something... attractive about the dare. She had never met anyone who could charge her with this sheer sense of adventure.
Scully sighed inwardly. Even this charade of passing themselves off as a couple was more amusing than annoying, if she was really honest about it. It was silly, perhaps, and a little dishonest, but she had protested more from a sense of propriety that because of any real objection. She did wish he would not spring these little brainstorms on her without warning, but still, she had to admit, it *was* a pretty good ploy. She hoped she had not offended him by her reaction, or by her subsequent squelching of yet another wild theory.
"She's very good," Scully ventured, nodding at the singer, trying to make amends. "This was a good idea."
Mulder looked up from his coffee, and smiled at her.
"She *is* good," he agreed. "Enjoying yourself?"
Scully smiled and nodded.
"I've always enjoyed this sort of thing," she admitted. "Wishful thinking, mostly, I guess. I sound like something in pain, when I sing..."
Mulder laughed, friends, again. He watched Scully out of the corner of his eye as she relaxed into the magic of the music. He knew she had followed him on this little adventure as much of out of friendship as out of any burning desire to solve this puzzle, and that knowledge successfully dissolved any lingering irritation he might have had over the outcome of the trip. The truth was, Scully had *never* refused to help him, no matter what her personal feeling might have been about one of his theories or ideas. In fact, she had often put her career, and even her life, on the line to assist him and his work. As much as her skepticism frustrated him, sometimes, he relied tremendously on her clarity of vision and her point of view. He had also come to depend, emotionally, on her friendship, and support. He knew that, too.
He leaned back into the corner of the booth and lifted his long legs onto the seat. He took a deep sip of the hot and aromatic coffee and sighed inwardly. They might not have accomplished what he had hoped in coming here, but this was still nice. He and Scully so rarely just relaxed together as friends. They needed to do this more often.
Nicole White stopped her singing for a moment. Mulder half expected her to announce that she was taking a break. Instead, she smiled, as if deciding on something, then struck a soft minor chord and closed her eyes. The ballad started slow, mournful and sweet. Mulder closed his eyes and smiled:
"In Norwa land, there lived a maid
"It happened on a certain day
Scully frowned suddenly, and shifted in her seat. Mulder looked at her sharply, and watched memory play across her face. It had been months since their journey to Shelter Island off the coast of Maine and Scully's encounter with that extraordinary, seductive creature who had come out of the sea to bewitch her, but Mulder could see the beginnings of distress in Scully eyes. The being had manifested some magical power that had held Scully in a kind of strange, sexual thrall, leaving her helpless in the face of the creature's will. She had come close to losing her soul, and her life, to that enchantment, and apparently the effects had not totally faded, even after all that time. Mulder suppressed the urge to take her hand.
"I pray come tell tae me your name
"I am a man upon the land
"Alas, alas, this woeful fate
Mulder leaned toward Scully, this time putting his hand over hers. There was no doubt in his mind that it *had* been a selkie that Scully had confronted on Shelter Island. The creature had nearly lured her into the sea to her death, and he did not want to put her through the pain of remembering that encounter.
"Do you want to leave," he asked gently.
Scully looked at him, her face stricken.
"I'm okay," she insisted, struggling for composure. "I'm fine." She smiled at him. "It's just a song Mulder, I'm all right. Really."
"Ma dear I'll wed ye wi a ring
"An she had got a gunner good
Scully startled sharply and rose to her feet as Mulder reached out his hand to her again.
"Alas, alas this woeful fate
"Excuse me," she said quickly, avoiding his grasp. She left quickly, as the singer finished her song:
"And once or twice she sobbed and sighed
Mulder signaled the waitress and settled their bill. Then he followed Scully out. He found her standing next to a tree not far from the door, hugging her arms.
"Scully?" He came up next to her. "Are you okay?"
She looked up at him, her eyes glistening with tears, and shook her head.
"Yeah. No. I don't know," she admitted. "God, Mulder, it's like it was yesterday. I can feel it like it just happened. I can feel that *thing* calling me..."
Mulder put his hand on her shoulder, sensing the depth of her distress, and remembering the reasons for it. He felt her trembling.
"It's okay," he comforted. "Just take a deep breath and relax. I'm right here."
Scully nodded and closed her eyes. After a few moments, she stopped shaking. A few moments more, and she straightened up. Mulder dropped his hand. She took a deep breath and nodded at him.
"I'm all right, now," she said, and he could see, this time, that it was true. "I think it was just the shock. I didn't expect to be reminded, and I wasn't prepared for the reaction." She shook her head. "I hope I'm not going to have to spend the rest of my life dealing with this," she sighed.
"Well, it might be a good idea to stay out of bars with folk singers in them, for a while..." he teased, trying to get her smile. It worked. She laughed a little, and glanced up at him, then away quickly. He could see a shadow play across her face.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It's just a little embarrassing, I guess," she admitted.
Mulder made a clucking noise at her.
"Oh, come on. None of that." He reached over and caught her chin with a fingertip, lifted her face until she was looking him in the eye. "It's only me."
Scully gave him a strange look.
"No such thing," she said softly. Then she dropped her eyes.
Mulder frowned at her wonderingly. Scully cleared her throat and blew out a breath decidedly.
"I'm ready to call it a night," she said firmly, and the moment was broken.
Mulder said goodnight to Scully at the door of her motel room, but she could tell by his eyes that he was still concerned. She was grateful, and touched, but she was too tired, and frankly still too agitated, to want to talk further that night. She wanted to be alone, to think and eventually to sleep. Besides, she was in no danger. It was true that the encounter in Maine had come very close to ending her life, but the creature itself was long gone. Dead, probably. She had probably killed it herself.
"I'm really okay, Mulder," she said, giving him her very best reassuring smile. "I'm just a little rattled. It's nothing a good night's sleep won't take care of."
She reached out and squeezed his arm affectionately. Mulder gave her a searching look, then nodded.
"Okay. Good night, then," he finally relented. "But call me if you wake up, okay? Or if you have trouble sleeping?"
Scully smiled warmly. She nodded. Then she yawned, and Mulder laughed.
"All right, all right," he said. "I'll let you go. Get some sleep."
Scully merely covered her mouth and nodded. Mulder watched her until she closed her door, then he went on to his own room.
Scully might have been tired enough to call it a night, but Mulder was still wide awake. He made a face at the television; passive entertainment was not what he wanted. He thought about taking a run, but that was not what he really wanted, either. His eyes lighted on his brief case, and he sighed. The Colter ghosts were still heavy on his mind, despite Scully's reasonable contention that there was nothing they could do. He needed to think, and he often did that best with a pen in his hands. Opening the briefcase, he took out his field journal, and made himself comfortable at the small desk in the corner of his motel room.
Fox Mulder was perfectly comfortable with computers, and technology. He used them every day. Nonetheless, he still kept certain anachronistic habits from his college days, and from his early years with the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit; habits that relaxed him and helped him to think. One of those habits was keeping his field notes "in hand." Scully had teased him, at first, about this peculiarity, pointing out how much easier field reports were when one could cut and paste from a "word" document. But she had come to understand that writing and thinking were often synonymous to her partner. She stopped giving him a hard time.
Mulder opened the small loose-bound notebook he used as a field journal, and stared at the blank page, the end of his pen resting on the bottom lip of his mouth. Then he sighed, and started to write:
"Although nothing conclusive could be learned at the Colter farm this afternoon, the story told by David Bowman concerning his aunt's and his own alleged encounters with the spirit of Catherine Hewlett do agree with accounts of spectral encounters recorded by parapsychologist Han Holzer, as well as others. It is Agent Scully's contention that Bowman's alleged encounter is merely his mind's way of dealing with the trauma of his apparent rape as a child. While this contention is both valid, and likely accurate, I cannot help but feel that Bowman is completely sincere in his belief that he was 'rescued' from this heinous attack by spectral intervention. Moreover, his story does resonate strikingly of other reported spectral rescues...
"I remain convinced that the deaths on the Colter farm property are the direct result of the attempts to sell this parcel toward the end of tearing down the house, and that they are the defensive reactions of the spirits of Catherine Hewlett, and possibility Jeremiah Colter.
"Phantoms, ghosts, spirits, by whatever names they are called, these phenomena are generally believed to be the emotional and psychological detritus of lives that have ended through some trauma, or with earthly issues left unresolved. They are, in effect, pieces of a consciousness left behind to re-enact the trauma, or attempt resolution of the issue, over and over, for eternity. While it is undoubtedly their great, though unconsummated, love that continues to bind Catherine Hewlett and Jeremiah Colter to this realm, I believe that it is the house, itself that provides the anchor keeping their spirits on this side of what Dr. Holzer refers to as "the veil". As long as attempts to transact a business deal that will result in the destruction of the house proceed, I am convinced that the deaths will continue.
"One must ask oneself, in all of this, if the ghosts, themselves, would not be 'better off' if the house was simply destroyed, and if the intervention of a psychic to assist them back across the line between life and death might not be the kindest thing. How terrible it must be to go through eternity seeking to reconcile a love that was never completely and fully expressed in life..."
Mulder put down his pen, and rubbed his eyes wearily. He stretched, then leaned forward against the desk and stared into space, his fist pressed thoughtfully against his mouth. It took him a moment to realize that he was not staring into space after all. The blank wall upon which he gazed was the one that separated his room from Scully's and he wondered if she had been able to get to sleep. He felt a sudden rush of tenderness and concern, and a restless desire to go check on her. He subdued the urge, guessing that it would not be too well received. Still, he hated the thought of her over there, alone, wrestling with whatever demons might have been stirred up that night. He shook his head in frustration at his own inability to comfort and protect her.
Protect her, he groaned to himself in amusement. She would undoubtedly *love* to know he was worried about *that*. He smiled to himself and picked up his pen again:
"I do not anticipate that Agent Scully's and my scheduled visit to examine the interior of the Colter farmhouse will yield any more conclusive evidence of spectral inhabitation than was gained today. It is extremely rare for persons not psychically sensitive to witness a spectral manifestation. The fact that both Bowman and his aunt claimed to have seen evidence of the ghost of Catherine Hewlett actually lends credence to Bowman's story, as psychic sensitivity tends to run in families. I make no claims to such sensitivity for myself, however, and I am equally sure that Agent Scully, were she asked, would insist, also, that she is free of any psychic powers..."
Mulder smiled to himself, imagining Scully's reaction to such a question.
"However," he finally concluded, "the opportunity to tour a bona fide haunted house is just to tempting to pass up...."
Despite her agitation, Scully had very little trouble falling asleep. She took her time with washing up, and got herself organized for morning. It was not particularly necessary that she do so, this was not a real case they were investigating, there was no need to be out the door at first light, but the routine was soothing. She thought about packing, but their plane did not leave until 2:00 pm the next day, and there would be plenty of time to do so once they returned from the Colter farm. Their plane. Scully sighed and shook her head, wondering what the chances were that their absence would remain undetected, and that a summons from Assistant Director Skinner, demanding an explanation, would not be waiting for them when they got back. She considered that it had, perhaps, not been a very good idea to follow Mulder up here. Except that God only knew what kind of trouble he would have gotten himself into if she had not.
Scully laid out jeans and a work shirt for the next morning - she was not going to get caught out in that field, again, in business wear - then glanced over at her laptop computer. It was her habit to spend some time each night before going to bed compiling her field notes from the day, but in this case there really was no need. There *was* no case, if they were lucky no one even knew they were there, and no report to Skinner would be necessary. In any case, Mulder would be making copious notes, she was sure, and if he needed her impressions, he would ask for them. She crawled into bed, switched off the table lamp, and was asleep as soon as her head touched her pillow.
The dream came up softly, drifting like a fog that slowly cleared to show a sunlit day. It engulfed Scully's sleeping awareness as it gradually came into focus until she was, herself, almost part of the scene. Scully saw green trees so sharp she could almost touch them; could almost smell the dusty dirt road and hear the chatter of summer birds. And although she could not truly "feel" it, some dream sense made her aware that it was late afternoon, and that the day was very hot.
A young man sat on the stone wall bordering the road. He was dressed in buff colored breeches and a white blouse. His black neck-stock was untied, and he used it occasionally to wipe the sweat from his face. He feet were clad in heavy brogans, buckled across the instep; his sand colored hair pulled back in a simple ribbon at the nape of his neck. Beside him lay the blue uniform coat of a Continental soldier. Dream sense bifurcated Scully's awareness, so that she simultaneously observed this young man, and also resided inside his emotions; was conscious of both his excitement, and the heaviness in his heart.
Jeremiah Colter sighed, and pushed a lock of sweat damp hair off his forehead. He stretched, easing the stiffness in his back. He looked at the uniform coat lying beside him, and knew that it had been both vain and foolish of him to put it all on, but he was so eager to join his regiment that he could barely wait the twelve hours left before he departed. The fact that he even owned the uniform was like a miracle, and had much to do with his father's position in town. Most of his friends would not receive theirs until they reached their regiments, if then.
The senior Colter had not been happy about his son's resolution to join the Patriot's cause. Though no loyalist, Colter was of the firm belief that the actual fighting in this war was other men's business, and that is was the task of him and his to stay on the farm and grow the crops that would eventually feed the American troops. He had no qualms about tapping into the fortune to be made provisioning the Continental army, nor was he even opposed to housing the Hessein prisoners that were occasionally brought through the area on their way to the prisoner-of-war camps, or prisoner exchanges, for a hefty charge per head, of course. But Colter's support of the war effort stopped well short of sending his eldest boy into battle for the cause.
Jeremiah Colter had other ideas. Fired by revolutionary rhetoric, he longed for war. Though old enough to be legally responsible for his own decisions, he was still heavily under the influence of his domineering parent, a fact as much as any that contributed to his fascination with calls to liberty and self- determination. He had argued strenuously to be allowed to go, and the elder Colter had finally been worn down. The only condition the father applied was that Jeremiah postpone his marriage to Catherine Hewlett until after his enlistment was served.
This single condition had almost deterred him. Jeremiah loved Catherine Hewlett with a kind of encompassing passion that wiped out all other understanding whenever he saw her. His eventual marriage to her, the thought of bringing her finally to his bed, consumed his waking thoughts and haunted his dreams. The idea that he would have to postpone that moment for perhaps another three years was almost more than he could bear.
He had nearly backed down from his convictions when a desperate call for recruits came up from New York. British General Howe had finally ended his siege on Boston, and New York was anticipated as the next target. Jeremiah's friends, many of them militia-men, where ready to march, and Jeremiah was once again determined to march with them. He would leave on the following morning. Colter senior's only consolation was the fact that he would not be leaving a mere girl from an uninspiring background behind as his wife and heir should anything happen to him.
In the spirit of dreams, Scully knew all this, watching the young man. She could feel his terrible uncertainty, and his terrible longing, as if they were the products of her own heart. She also felt, with startling clarity, the young man's physical need for the girl who now appeared at the bend in the road. She was coming to prepare the Colter family's evening meal, as was her duty. Jeremiah's mother had been dead for two years, and the his father had not yet remarried. As daughter-in-law to be, many of those womanly chores now fell to Catherine.
Catherine, pretty Catherine. Beautiful, beautiful Cat. Jeremiah physically ached for her, and Scully ached with him. She tossed softly on her pillows, disturbed by the intensity of the things she was feeling.
"And there you are, lazybones, out here gathering wool in the sun while honest people work," the girl said pertly as she approached. Jeremiah jumped to his feet.
Catherine Hewlett was definitely a beauty. A slender girl, she nonetheless filled the bodice of her long dress invitingly, and Jeremiah knew, because he had seen their outline when the wind had blown her skirts against her legs, that her thighs were firm and rounded. Coal black hair peeked out from under her white cap, and black eyes sparkled more merrily than was proper for a young unmarried girl of her station. Jeremiah knew that his father did not wholly approve of Catherine, and he suspected that the older man's disapproval was based on this same hint of earthiness his son found so enticing.
At that moment, however, Cat's merriness was a sham. This would be her last few moments with Jeremiah until he returned from war. The fact that he was leaving was still not one she could deal with comfortably, but she stood in the road and smiled at him, pretending.
"Lazy am I?" Jeremiah protested. "I'll have you know I put in a full day in the fields before I came to watch for you. I was afraid father would not allow me this time," he added with a sigh, "but he merely nodded when I asked."
He stood up self consciously, and put on his uniform coat.
"So? What do you think?"
"I think you are the most handsome man I have ever seen," she replied, meaning it. She stepped closer to him, and he suddenly swept her into his arms. She laughed as he swung her around him, then demanded playfully that he put her down.
"Someone will see us, here in the middle of the road this way," she reminded him. It was not an idle warning. They were still an unmarried couple, even though publicly affianced, and such behavior was bound to bring censure should anyone see them. Father Colter disliked her already, there was no sense adding to his causes for disapproval. Jeremiah dutifully put her down.
"Come up by the house," he told her taking her hand. "No one will be able to see us there from the road." He lead her up the sloping yard to the far side of the house, then took her in his arms again, more insistently this time. Catherine squirmed a little.
"Someone will see."
"They are all in the fields, there is no one in the house," Jeremiah assured her, holding her tight. Catherine sighed. For all her lush looks, she was really a demure and very chaste young woman, but she was also one who was very much in love. She finally relented, yielding to his embrace. The two lover held each other with growing desperation, as the realization hit home to them both that this might be the last time.
"Ah, Katie, the worst is leaving you, I can endure the rest of it," Jeremiah sighed into her hair.
Catherine loosened her hold on him, and looked away.
"Then don't go," she replied. "You have no obligation but your own desire in this."
Jeremiah looked at her sadly.
"But I must go, Cat, you know that. You said you understood."
Catherine nodded, and bit back her retort. He would go, now, whether she "understood" or not, she was woman enough to know *that*.
"I just can't bear the thought of losing you," she said softly. "That you might never return..."
Jeremiah took her into his arms again, and this time she did not resist him.
Scully tossed restlessly as Jeremiah's aching need rushed through her body. She moaned, almost feverishly, in her sleep. Then she settle down again, and the dream overtook her once more.
"Catherine, kiss me," Jeremiah begged her. She looked up at him shyly. "Kiss me. Sweetheart, I love you. I would never hurt you. I just love you so much." His lips closed over hers, hot and demanding. She struggled for a moment, then relaxed, then struggled again as his tongue filled her mouth. He let her go.
"We're not yet man and wife, Jeremiah Colter," Catherine told him angrily, "you'll take no such liberties with me!"
"Please," he begged, his voice a hoarse whisper. "I need you."
Despite her fears, and her sense of propriety, Catherine's own need was no less. She hesitated, then reached for him, and gave herself up as his mouth closed over hers. His hands wandered her body hungrily, and she was helpless resist him. He pulled her against him, and she could feel his need against her body. She struggled to free herself.
"Come to me Cat, tonight," Jeremiah begged. "Or let me come to you. We may never see each other in this world again, Catie, I cannot stand the thought that we might never lie together as man and wife. We are such in our hearts, let me come to you."
"No." Catherine pushed him away, hard this time. He let her go.
"It's a sin, Jeremiah. Because it's a sin. We are sinners enough without adding fornication to the list."
"It's not a sin if we love each other."
"That's the devil speaking in you now, Jeremiah Colter. I won't listen. Such an act is a sin against society, and a sin against God. I close my ears to it."
"Catherine, I beg you. I love you so much."
But Catherine shook her head.
"Please Jeremiah, don't spoil our last moments together..."
Jeremiah glared at her, his pride and his thwarted need making him cruel.
"It is already spoiled," he told her, walking away.
Catherine watched him go, tears welling up in her eyes. He would forgive her, she knew, before the evening was done, he would not leave her in anger like that. At least she hoped he would not. But even still, the disagreement would overshadow their last moments together. The only thing that comforted her was the certainty that she was right, that she had saved his very soul from damnation by refusing to succumb to his temptations. She sighed and wiped her eyes. She looked up at the lowering sun, and reminded herself that there was still a family meal to prepare before the rest came back from the fields. She wiped her hands on her skirt, and walked with forced calm over to the well.
Scully felt Jeremiah's anger and frustrated need for physical release with an intensity that was almost overpowering. She rolled over, and nearly awoke. The dream faded, slightly, as she rose and fell in sleep. Then she wrapped her arm around her pillow, hugging it close, and settled back down. The dream reasserted itself, sharper, now, but somehow changed.
The young woman still stood by well, but she was no longer the dark hairdo beauty called Catherine Hewlett. Even in sleep Scully felt both a mild shock, and a sudden thrill of excitement as she recognized herself in the long dress, her light auburn hair tucked demurely up under the ruffled white cap. There was a momentary sense of dislocation, as she both viewed, and experienced the scene, and then sleep deepened, and her consciousness surrendered itself to the dream.
Dana leaned over the well, and felt the cool, moist air rising up from its depths, caressing her face. It smelled sweet and soothing.
"Don't fall in," a familiar voice, musical with barely contained laughter, warned behind her. Dana turned, and saw Fox, standing there, grinning at her. She smiled broadly.
"Hi," she said, sounding a little surprised.
He was wearing the uniform of a Revolutionary War grenadier, and Dana was startled to see how elegant he looked in it. She saw the bright sparkle of his hazel green eyes in the sunlight, the finely chiseled features of his handsome face. Saw too, the adorable, boyish charm that she knew could turn so quickly to capable manliness. Admired the lean, graceful body as he strode toward her.
Fox quirked an eyebrow at her merrily, then reached over and grabbed the stone well cover by its iron ring, pulling it back over the opening of the well.
"Not that I don't trust your coordination, but I'll feel better if this is closed...," he said, laughing at her. Dana made a face at him, then leaned back so that she was half sitting against it.
"Did you sleep all right last night?" Fox asked. Dana nodded.
"Yes, very well," she agreed. "Thank you."
A light wind teased an auburn curl out of Dana's bonnet, and Fox reached over, catching it and twisting it around his finger.
"Don't," she admonished, but not very sternly. She looked a little disconcerted, but not exactly displeased.
Fox clucked his tongue at her.
"You're always so careful to be proper and correct," he teased. Then he sighed, and looked around.
"I'm going to miss all this, you know." He nodded around him. Dana touched his hand.
"You don't have to go."
Fox looked at her thoughtfully.
"I don't know what the future holds for me, Dana. But someday, I will have to go. We all will." He took a deep breath. "The question is, do we go with regrets, do we go leaving things unsaid..."
"Fox, I..." she protested.
He touched her mouth, silencing her.
"Does it offend you that much, the idea that I might have feelings for you?"
Dana dropped her eyes.
"No, it doesn't offend me..." she said in a small voice.
She looked back up into his eyes.
"It frightens me. It... it isn't right. It isn't the way we should be."
Fox's eyes got hard.
"Why not. Because of some stupid, archaic *rules*?" he asked her angrily. She shook her head sadly. Then she smiled a little.
"Well, you never were much of a one for rules," she sighed. Fox reached out his hand.
"I love you," he said softly, tracing her jaw. Dana dropped her eyes, and took a deep breath.
"And I love you," she replied, shivering slightly.
He touched her lips. Her eyes, her brow.
He lifted her face to his with a fingertip. He leaned close and she could feel his breath on her neck, feel his lips touch the skin of her cheek, next to her ear.
"Fox," she protested, weakly. He kissed her again, a little lower on her neck. She whimpered softly and turned her head a little, allowing him to run his lips down her throat and into the hollow of her shoulder. She shivered and pulled away.
"Don't." She meant it this time, and he let her go, a little.
"It isn't right," she reminded him. He looked at her seriously.
"I love you, Dana. With all my heart, and all my soul. I don't *care* what the others think..." He looked at her pleadingly. "What if something should happen to one of us. What if we died, without ever knowing..."
"Don't talk like that." She tried to push him away. Fox held her, but loosely; had she truly wished to separate herself from him, she could have, easily, and he would have let her go. Instead, she tucked her head into his shoulder, and he pulled her close.
"I can't bear the thought of losing you."
"I know," he sighed. "But we've already come so close to losing each other, and we never spoke." He brushed his lips against her forehead, then he looked down at her.
"Kiss me, Dana."
She looked up at him, and he saw the fear in her eyes.
"I won't hurt you, sweetheart. I would never hurt you. I love you so much. Kiss me. Please."
Dana smiled, and raised her lips to his, kissing him chastely on the mouth. He held her against his body, and pressed his lips to hers, not forcing her, but neither letting her move away. He felt her relax against him, and he touched her lips with his tongue.
Dana drew back sharply. He continued to hold her, and felt her yield, her lips parting under the pressure of his. His tongue filled her mouth. No longer resistant, she wound her fingers into his hair and pulled him closer; he ran his hands down her body, cupping her under the ribs and stroking her with his thumbs. He felt her gasping and released her slightly.
She eyed him, at once wary and desirous.
"I love you," he said, kissing her throat. He reached up and caught his fingers in the strings that bound the bodice of her dress.
"Someone will see," she warned, panicking, glancing over at the house.
"There's no one home, they're all in the fields," he replied. He struggled with the ties, helplessly, as she watched his face. Then resolution came into her eyes, and she reached up, and moved his hands away. Without looking away from his face, she untied the ribbons. He smiled at her, tenderly, then slipped his hands under the fabric on her shoulders, and drew the bodice down. He touched her wonderingly, kissed her neck, her throat, his lips moving slowly, tantalizingly down her body. She whimpered as his mouth covered her.
"Oh, God, I love you!" she cried out softly into his hair.
Fox found her mouth again, kissed her deeply. He moved his hands down over her hips, and drew up the skirt of her dress. For a moment, the panic returned to her eyes.
"No," she shook her head.
"Yes," he replied. "Dana, I want you so much. I want you." His mouth caressed her hungrily. Dana sighed and surrendered.
"Yes. I want you, too."
Fox grabbed her skirt again, and pulled the front of it all the way up. He pressed her back against the well, and she could feel him, feel his maleness pressing on her, wanting her. She swallowed hard, weak with desire. She felt his hand reaching down, touching her, stroking her thighs, grasping the buttons that closed his breech... He tugged the buttons loose, and she felt the fabric fall away; she felt him...
Scully sat up abruptly, gasping for breath. She shook her head, and tried to remember where she was. She looked around helplessly.
The memory of the dream was still potent, leaving her disturbed and disoriented. She looked at the clock on the night stand by her bed. It was only 5:30 a.m.
Oh, my God, she thought. Of course, there was a logical explanation. The song sung by Nicole White the night before had certainly triggered all those memories of the selkie who had come out of the sea and cast his seductive enchantment over her. She could still feel its pull, in unguarded moments. Perhaps she always would.
Scully had reconciled herself to the fact that she, a rational human being, a doctor and a trained FBI agent, had nearly thrown everything away to some magical creature. She could not explain it, but she knew it had happened, and that it had been real. She accepted that it had not been her fault. Mulder had reiterated that over and over to her in those first few weeks afterward, while she was still wrestling with the terrible shame that was the aftermath of the selkie's visitation. Mulder. My god, Mulder, Scully thought. To have a dream like that about *him*!
But even that made sense, really. Obviously, she was still feeling the affects of her encounter with the selkie. That, coupled with the story she had heard the day before, about those ghostly lovers, was bound to excite her imagination. Not to mentioned the fact that there had not been a "real" man in her life in a very long time, she thought wryly, not in the romantic, physical sense, anyway. In fact, she had not had a love life in so long, now, that she wondered if she still remembered what that was.
Fox Mulder was the closest man to her. He was her partner. She smiled to herself; he was her best friend, in many ways, too. She trusted him more than any other man who was not a blood relative; more than some of her relatives, actually. She would risk her life for him, and trusted him, absolutely, with her own. And, of course she found him attractive. He *was* attractive, and she was neither blind nor oblivious. It was true that, sometimes, when his eyes would sparkle with amusement that certain way, she would feel a quick catch in her breath. Or when he was thwarted in some goal that he wanted badly and his bottom lip would tremble like a child's, she would feel a sudden rush of tenderness, even while she wanted to strangle him. It did not mean anything, but it was probably natural that her mind would focus on Mulder as the object of her unsettled thoughts, especially in a dream. It stood to reason. Of course.
So, then, what was this nagging ache deep in her belly; why did the idea of facing him in a couple of hours make her heart suddenly pound? Scully sighed, and got out of bed. Sleep was definitely done for that night. To the shower, Dana Katherine. Get over it.
She was fine until she saw him, two and a half hours later, waiting for her in the motel coffee shop. Her face must have mirrored her distress, because Mulder was suddenly frowning with concern as she slid into the booth across from him.
"You okay, Scully? You look a little... 'off', this morning."
Scully took a deep breath and nodded.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she replied, smiling brightly. "I just didn't sleep very well last night." She decided to tell him some of it. He would hear the truth, and not pursue too far. "I guess that song upset me more than I realized. My dreams where pretty unsettled. I was up and down all night."
"You should have called me," Mulder admonished. "I'd have come over and sat with you." Scully shrugged.
"There was not point in both of us losing sleep," she replied. "They were just dreams, Mulder."
Mulder nodded with understanding.
"You know, you don't need to come out there with me, this morning. You can wait here and rest if you want to..." he offered. Scully smiled again, more warmly this time, and shook her head.
"No, I'm okay, really. It's nothing a good, strong cup of coffee won't cure." As if to illustrate, she suddenly yawned, then chuckled a little. Mulder smiled at her. "Anyway," she went on, "I'm curious, now, myself."
"Well, as soon as your ready, then," he replied. "Have your coffee. Bowman came by earlier this morning with the key; he has an errand, and will meet us out there later if he can. Otherwise, we're just to leave the key with the motel proprietor when we're done..."
"That's very trusting of him," Scully said, surprised.
"The place is empty, there's nothing for us to steal," he guessed. "Besides," he added with a mischievous smile, "the place is protected by its very own ghosts..."
Scully rolled her eyes, then grinned at him and shook her head. She signaled the waitress for coffee.
Both Mulder and Scully had dressed more practically, in jeans and work boots, that morning, so the walk back out to the Colter house was a little easier this time. Mulder unlocked the side door with the key Bowman had given him, and they stepped into the cool passageway that lead from the back door to the kitchen. Mulder glanced up at a row of wooden pegs close to the ceiling and speculated that the passageway had probably been used to dry medicinal and cooking herbs in the late fall, for winter storage.
"You really *do* know a lot about these old houses, don't you," Scully commented. Mulder shrugged, running his hand along a ceiling beam. Much taller than most men from that day and age, he could reach it easily.
"My mom has a passion for this stuff," he explained, gesturing her through the doorway. "I think I've probably been through ever Revolutionary period house in eastern Massachusetts. She knows a lot, and talked about it all the time. A lot of it stuck, I guess."
They stepped into the original kitchen. The room was very large, easily half the house, stretching across the whole back. The wide pine board floors were bare, and Scully could see the wooden pegs that held it secure. She thought again, of Mulder's story about the value of iron nails, and smiled. The ceiling was low, and open beamed, with rusted iron hooks still sticking out in places. Scully almost asked Mulder if he thought they were original, then let it go. Such bits and pieces of information might be interesting, but they were not the reason the two agents were there. Scully chuckled to herself at the thought. The god's honest truth was, other than humoring her partner, she was not really sure why they *were* there. She turned around slowly, looking around.
The dominating feature to the room was the fireplace. It stretched almost the entire length of the back of the kitchen, wide and deep, with a deep brick hearth, and two beehive shaped openings, the bread and baking ovens, on one side. One of the openings still had its iron door. To the right of the fireplace was a door. Scully stepped through into a small room and was immediately struck by a sense of, well, not foreboding, exactly, but the room definitely had a strange feel to it. She glance left and right.
This must be Mulder's "borning room," she thought. What a strange thing to call it. Still, she could understand why such a place would be convenient spot to house the infirm, or parturient women. The room actually stretched *behind* the fireplace, so it would always be warm, and, since most of the farm's indoor activities would have taken place in the kitchen, there would have always been someone around to help, without interrupting, unnecessarily, other chores. There were no windows in the room, she noticed, and it was very small, just large enough, really for a bed, and maybe a chair. She noticed some shelving built into the walls, and tried to imagine what it would be like for a doctor to try to work under those conditions. She shook her head. Then she thought about what it would be like to be a woman giving birth, and the thought made her shudder.
This must have been the room in which Jeremiah Colter and Catherine Hewlett both died. Scully remembered the early part her dream the night before, and felt a little sad. Those two dream lovers had seemed so real to her, that she suddenly felt their deaths like a personal loss. A creeping chill settled over her, and she rubbed her arms.
Scully walked back into the kitchen, and crossed over to the fireplace. Staring at the wide cavity, she could almost hear the clatter of dishes, almost smell food cooking there, and hear the voices of women talking amongst themselves. It was a strange feeling, but not unwelcome. She knelt down on the hearth, and looked into the fireplace cavity. She tipped her head to look up the flue. Dark as the inside of a pocket, she could not see a thing. She shrugged, and looked at the walls of the cavity. They were black from many years of cooking and heating, the soot impressed indelibly into the rough brick. She could see holes in those bricks, too, from the brackets that had held the cooking pots.
Scully settled back on her heels, and ran her hand over the hearth. She smiled softly, thinking about the generations of women who had lived and loved in that house, cooked at that hearth to feed their men and their children. Gave birth and died in that little room behind the kitchen. A warm, almost peaceful feeling filled her, and she sighed.
She turned and saw Mulder watching her from the opposite doorway.
"What are you looking at?"
"Nothing," she said with a smile. "I was just thinking about the generations of women who scrubbed this hearth, the hands that toiled, here, for their families. I don't know, life is so short, and yet, somehow, when I look at things like this, it just seems so timeless."
Mulder joined her at the hearth, squatted down beside her.
"I know what you mean," he agreed. "When I was in England, I can remember going to Stonehenge, and Glastonbury Tor. Standing in structures that was thousands of years old, thinking about the people who had stood there, once, to predict a harvest or anticipate the turning of the sun..."
He smiled at her, and for a moment the world around them faded, and they were just two people joined in the mystery of generations. Then Mulder stood up, and held down a hand to her.
"Come here a minute, I want to show you something."
Scully took his hand, and let him pull her to her feet. He lead her into one of the front rooms.
"I think this is the room Bowman was attacked in," he said.
"What makes you think so?"
"Well, he said there was a fireplace, and in the other front room, the fireplace is boarded over. And this is the larger of the two rooms, I guess it stands to reason that it would be used as the living room." He pointed up at the ceiling. "This was the original part of the house, you can see. This back part with the kitchen was added afterwards. See the seam?"
Scully looked into the room. She noted that the walls were bare and water stained, that faded patches in orderly patterns were probably from pictures that had once hung there. The fireplace itself looked crumbly, and there was a small pile of loose bricks by the side of the hearth. Scully looked up and duly noted the "seam" in the ceiling architecture. Then she smiled up at her partner and sighed.
"You know, Mulder, this has been fascinating, really, but I'm still not sure why we're here," she reminded him. "What is it we're looking for, anyway?"
"I don't know, Scully, a sense of something. A feeling of the extraordinary?"
"That old paranormal bouquet?" she teased. He made a face at her.
"You have to admit that this old house does feel odd, somehow. Almost, well, occupied..." He shuddered a little, and she watched him curiously.
"I will admit that there is something strange about this place, yes," she agreed, surprising him. "There is something about this whole trip that has excited the imagination. It... it's a piece of history, it has a certain magic to it, a certain wonder..." She lay her hand on his arm affectionately. "I don't know, Mulder, maybe it even *is* haunted. God knows I've seen stranger things in your company. But that still doesn't prove a connection to those deaths. And it still has nothing to do with us."
Mulder just looked at her. Then he sighed, and nodded slowly.
"You're right," he surrendered, resting a hand lightly on her shoulder. "It's been fun, but it's time to go home, now, huh?"
Scully just cocked her head at him.
"Okay," he agreed with a sigh. Then he looked at her questioningly. "Can we at least look around upstairs, first?"
His expression was so hopeful that Scully felt a dizzying rush of sheer affection for this man. Her face split into a wonderful smile.
"Yes, of course we can look around upstairs first," she agreed, laughing. Mulder lead the way.
"Careful here," he said near the top of the stairs. "Some of the steps are missing." He spanned the missing planks with the wide reach of his long legs, then held his hands down to Scully to help her up. He steadied her on the landing for a moment, as she regained her balance.
"I'd be careful walking around up here," she cautioned him. "No telling how much else of this floor is rotted out..."
Mulder nodded, and guided her down the narrow hallway. There were three rooms on the second floor, all laid out around the forward chimney. He wandered into the largest of the rooms, in the front of the house, as Scully turned to the smallest. She stopped outside the doorway, and hugged her arms, suddenly overcome with a feeling at once warm and ice cold. She started to turn away, then something inexplicable made her enter the room. She gasped. For a moment, she could see it as it once had been, furnished sparely, but neatly, and with care. White curtains blew out the open window. Beside the window was a straight backed chair. Next to the chair stood a desk-like table with wooden baskets attached to both sides. A lady's sewing table, Scully, who had never seen one in her life before, suddenly knew. This had been the sewing room, Catherine Hewlett's favorite place. She had planned her future there, sewed the sheets and linens that would be part of her dowry. Mended Jeremiah's shirts with all the love she had in her heart, dreaming of the day she would finally be his wife.
Scully felt tears well in her eyes.
"That was her favorite spot, there by the window in the sun."
She turned. Mulder stepped into the room.
"Did you say something?"
Scully glanced around. The room was bare, old wall paper peeling from the walls. A window pane was missing and there was a huge water stain on the floor.
"No," she replied, unaware that she had spoken out loud. "It's nothing."
Something must have showed in her face.
"Are you all right?" Mulder insisted. She sighed.
"The truth is, I'm feeling a little light headed," she admitted a half truth. "I think I'm just feeling the effects of the lack of sleep, but it is awfully airless up here."
Concern for her overrode Mulder's disappointment at the lack of evidence, spectral or otherwise, that he had found. He took her arm.
"All right, let's go back down," he said. "Can you make it okay? Do you want to sit down for a minute?"
Scully assured him that she was all right, and let him help her back down the stairs. Once back in the kitchen, she went out through the narrow passageway to the back door and breathed deeply of the fresh air outside. She looked out across the overgrown yard. The old stone well crossed her line of vision, and she felt a sudden hot flush of emotion as her dream of Mulder from the night before suddenly came back to her with all its vividness. She gasped slightly, and felt a sudden desperate need to be away from this house. Everywhere she turned, it seemed, something waited to assault her senses, her emotions.
"There's a modern kitchen and bathroom way at the back of the house," Mulder called as he joined her in the doorway. "What are you looking at?"
Scully jumped a little at the sound of his voice, then searched the perimeter quickly for something to talk about, to deflect what she recognized as his growing concern for her state, and to cover her own agitation. She noticed a flock of crows bounding and diving near the ground in at the edge of the woods. Grateful, she pointed, feigning sudden interest.
"What do you think is going on with those birds over there?"
"I dunno," Mulder replied following her gaze. "Probably some dead animal. Want to go take a look?"
Scully did not, particularly, but now that she had made an issue of it, she thought they probably should. She nodded in agreement, and started toward the birds.
The crows lifted off their find in a black cloud as Mulder and Scully approached. It was an animal only in the sense that the human species is part of the animal kingdom. Scully looked down at the still form of Leslie Hendricksen, her eyes getting round for a moment, then looked over at Mulder. She did not bother the seek a pulse; the entire back of Hendricksen's head had been blown away.
David Bowman arrived on the scene at the same time as the local police.
"Agent Mulder?" he queried, coming up to Mulder's side, and emphasizing the "agent". Mulder looked a little sheepish.
"Sorry about that house-hunting story..." he began. But Bowman just waved his hand dismissively.
"Oh, I knew you weren't looking to relocate," he said, "I could tell that right away. Frankly, I thought you were a couple of ghost hunters, we get them up here now and then. I must say, I didn't expect the F.B.I., though. Surprised me, when I heard your call come in over the scanner."
Bowman looked up, and nodded at Scully, who was approaching from behind Mulder.
"Mulder, Chief Rydell would like to speak to you?"
Scully looked at Bowman, gave him a rueful smile.
"*Agent* Scully, a presume?" Bowman quipped, his voice tinged with amusement.
"Look, I really want to apologize about the charade," Scully began, giving Mulder an evil look. Bowman only laughed.
"No apology necessary, Ms. Scully," he assured her. Beside him, Mulder chuckled.
"I guess my acting job wasn't all that good, after all," he admitted. Bowman shook his head.
"Since you two are *not* here hunting ghosts," he went on, "then I assume that you think there is something suspicious in the deaths of those three young men, earlier this month? You think it might be related to whatever happened to that fellow out there?" He nodded out toward the circle of men standing around Hendricksen's body.
"Well, yes and no," Mulder replied. "Yes, I think there is something suspicious in those deaths, but no, I don't think they're related to this one at all. This was obviously some kind of gangland murder, maybe involving drugs. Those earlier deaths are a completely different cause. You see, Mr. Bowman, we really *are* hunting ghosts, you guessed right. I believe those three young men were deliberately frightened to death." He nodded politely. "Would you excuse me?"
Mulder turned and went to find Police Chief Rydell, leaving Scully to smile apologetically at the surprised and bemused Bowman. She murmured something that sounded like "excuse me", and followed Mulder across the field.
"The license in his wallet says his name is Leslie Hendricksen, but I doubt that's his real name. We'll have to ID him, but I'll bet my left nut that this guy is tied in with the Giacottis, one way or the other," Chief Rydell was explaining to Mulder as Scully walked up. "Guy took a 9mm to the face. I hope he's got some teeth left."
"The Giacottis?" Mulder asked.
"Yeah. I was explaining to your partner, earlier, that this whole area has become a hot bed of drug related crime in the last five years. It used to be, years ago when Cumberland was a farming community, that none of the big pushers, none of the "families" would bother with it. Just not enough money here, not enough interest, to make it worth their while. But in the last few years, Cumberland has become a big bedroom community for Hartford. Lots of executives live out here, now. Therefore, lots of money lives out here, and lots of unsupervised kids with time on their hands. The drugs just inevitably followed.
"Even worse, this whole area has become a central drop for the Hartford/Springfield/Providence triangle. Probably half the coke in lower New England passes through our little town, these days."
Rydell shook his head.
"I suppose I'm exaggerating, but it feels like that some days. The truth is, we just don't have the manpower, or the expertise, to deal with it. Cumberland County as joined a three county task force to try to combine resources, and we've still had no luck in cracking this ring. We just need one break. But that break doesn't seem to want to come."
"Maybe it just did," Scully replied, nodding at the draped corpse in the weeds. Rydell shrugged.
"Maybe, but I doubt it. This guy is probably pretty low on the totem pole. And even if he can provide us with a positive link, the guy's dead. He's not going to do us much good that way. We need to get the bastard who shot him, and we need to take him alive."
Mulder nodded, and glanced at Scully, but said nothing. Rydell eyed him speculatively.
"Might I ask what the FBI was doing here in the first place?" he finally asked.
"An unrelated project, actually," Mulder replied, more or less truthfully. "We're interested in the Colter property. We just got lucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said no more, and let the man speculate about whether or not there was something illegal going down with the land deal, or the realty company behind it. The air of secretiveness saved him. Actually, Rydell did not really care, as long as the Bureau was not treading on *his* turf.
"Well, I'll need the two of you to come down to the station and make a statement..." he concluded, his mind already drifting off their presence, and on to the task at hand. He turned to his men.
"We about buttoned up, there?"
"Making statements" turned out to be a lot more time consuming, and confusing, than anticipated, and it was not too long before Mulder realized that they were not going to make their plane back to Washington.
"Mulder, what are we going to tell Skinner?" Scully groused as her partner changed their flight until the following afternoon, and made arrangements with the motel to keep their rooms for one more night. "There is no way we can be missing for this long, and not have anyone notice..."
"The truth," Mulder replied. "Actually, now we've even got some truth to tell. We were up here doing preliminary investigation on a possible X-File, and we stumbled onto the murder. What's he going to say, come home anyway?"
"He's going to want to know what we were doing here in the first place," Scully replied, "And he's not gonna be too happy with your reference from 'New England's Haunted Places'."
Mulder just grinned.
"I'll call him. As soon as we get back to the motel."
That did not seem like it was going to happen any time in the near future. They were still sitting around the station at 2:30 pm when positive ID came through on the body.
"Victim's name really *is* Leslie Hendricksen," Chief Rydell told them. "The poor bastard's so small time he couldn't even afford an alias. And he's *not* connected with the Giacotti family, or any of the other mob families, that we can find out. Small time dealer, front man for another small timer named Harold Peters." Rydell shook his head in disgust. "So we've got nothin'."
Mulder shook his head, feeling for the man. It was not his area of expertise, or even a side bar of interest. He had little experience with drug related crime, his own training before the X- Files having dealt primarily with serial killers. In fact, the only "mob" related work he had ever done was that wire-tap stint Skinner had stuck him on as disciplinary action while the X-Files had been closed down. On the other hand, he had nothing better to do while they were waiting to get out of there the next day, Scully was right that there was nothing they could do about the Colter farm, no matter what he personally believed, and he really did feel for this Chief of Police, who had been rather more decent to them than his ilk usually was.
"Look, Chief Rydell, I don't want to step on any toes here, but my partner and I are stuck here until our plane leaves tomorrow, and we've got nothing better to do right now. Our, uh, other project looks like a dead end, and we were on our way home, anyway..." He took a breath. "If you'd like, what if I take a look at that file for you? See if I notice anything?"
Rydell gave him a hard look, and Mulder raised his hands.
"Off the record, of course. And you're free to say no. It's up to you. But we *are* here..." He shrugged benignly. Rydell looked at him for a moment longer, then slowly nodded.
"Thank you, Agent Mulder," he replied. "That's decent of you. I'd be grateful for anything you might turn up."
"That *was* very decent of you, Mulder," Scully quipped when he told her about the offer. "Are you feeling all right?"
Mulder gave her a dirty look, then smiled. But the truth was, he was restless, his adrenaline was pumping, and he just could not bear the thought of spending another afternoon and evening hanging around with nothing to do, while these officers struggled around him. He did not expect to find anything, but it would give him something to focus on. And one never knew. He made it clear to Scully that she did not need to consider herself part of this volunteer operation if she wanted to go back to the motel and get some sleep, but she said she wanted to stay. They spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the late evening with Rydell's files, and found nothing that would help Rydell with his task. It was sometime late in the evening, too, that Mulder realized he still had Bowman's key.
Finally calling it quits, the agents grabbed a quick supper, then headed back to the motel. Scully knew that Mulder was wired and wanted to talk, but she was frankly beat, and suddenly a little unnerved over the events of the last few days. Finding Hendricksen's body, and the attendant confusion that followed, had sufficiently subdued the memory of her dream the night before, and her vision in the upper story of the Colter house, but now that night had fallen, she found herself remembering, and she wanted to be alone to think. Besides that, what little sleep she had gotten the night before had not been very restful. She bid him goodnight at her door, and got ready for bed. Despite her weariness though, sleep was a long time in coming, and it was troubled when she finally did manage to drift off.
She dreamed, again, of the Colter homestead. Even as the dream rose up before her, some rational sense in her conscious mind acknowledged that she should not be too surprised at that; the place had been heavy on her mind, and her activities all day. Like a visitor, her awareness approached the house from the road, moving up the now mowed lawn, toward the front door, around to the back, opened, and went inside. That piece of her conscious mind that was still aware smiled wryly; she could not have had this dream the night before, of course, because she had not yet been inside.
Like a ghost, she drifted through the passageway, and saw the herbs hanging from the wooden pegs that Mulder had pointed out. Somehow she knew they had been drying there all winter, and that the supply was now almost depleted. She passed into the kitchen, and was aware, even though she could not really smell them, of the aromas of hot, savory food cooking. And the sweet, decaying smell of terminal illness. Scully's dream sense lead her to the room behind the fireplace. The horror hit her almost as soon as she passed through the door.
The airless, windowless room was lit only by a single oil lamp. Jeremiah Colter lay on a narrow bed, pushed up against the wall of the room. His face was white, and covered with livid pox. His breathing was shallow, stuttering, and Scully knew he was not long for the world. He was delirious, now, barely conscious, and beyond suffering. That had not been the case earlier, and Scully was aware of the ravages of fever, of the horrible irritation of the pox, of the headache, muscle cramps and thirst that had tormented Jeremiah up until the day before.
Beside him sat Catherine Hewlett. No longer the fresh-faced buxom girl she had seen in her dream the night before, Scully saw that Catherine had lost weight, that her rosy complexion was wan, now, and sagging with weariness and despair. Her once shiny black hair was dull, and simply bound at the back of her neck by a cord. And Scully could also see what Catherine did not yet know, that the girl herself had contracted small pox from her fiance, and would be dead, herself, within weeks.
Catherine was alone in the house, except for Jeremiah. It was spring, and spring planting could not wait on the dying. As could not the meal cooking in the next room; the men would be back from the fields in a matter of hours, and would need that fuel. Scully recognized sulfur burning in a bucket, which she knew had been believed to purify "putrid air," and a few salves and ointments, but there was nothing in the room that she would have identified as particularly effective in treating disease. She also recognized the cutting fleam and brass bleeding bowl for the inevitable bloodletting that she had read about, and seen examples of, in her medical training, but had never really wanted to acknowledge were actually used. Scully shook her head, and considered the miracle of anyone surviving the medical practices of that day. She considered further and it occurred to her that the real miracle lay in the fact that *anyone* survived a small pox epidemic, what with the dead and dying left so close to the living, to their quarters and their food.
For all of that, however, Scully was most struck by the sudden realization that Catherine had done well, in nursing Jeremiah, that she had done all that was humanly possible under the circumstances, and that, had she lived in another time, the girl would have made one hell of a doctor. She had good instincts and a genuine talent for healing the sick. Scully knew that the girl had fought strenuously against the barbaric, naive practices of the day, had refused to have Jeremiah bled, had thrown away the heavy blankets that made him sweat and caused the pox to itch and ooze unbearably. She had concocted drying poultices from the herbs hanging in the passageway, and had watched over him day and night.
Scully felt a strange affection for the girl, an affinity for who Catherine Hewlett might have been. With a heartbreaking sense of shock, Scully realized that, had he been less weak from his overland journey from the prisoner-of-war encampment on Long Island, Jeremiah Colter would probably have survived his illness, given his fiance's watchful, and knowledgeable care. But as it was, he was too ill, and too weak, and he would not survive. And lacking the will to survive without him, neither would Catherine.
A terrible, gloaming despair descended upon Scully, in her sleep, pressing on her chest, and making it difficult to draw a breath. She pitched restlessly, and almost awoke. The dream faded, and nearly disappeared as she half sat up in semi- consciousness, and tossed her head. Murmuring, she lay back down, and drew a deep shuddering breath. Sleep closed over her again, and with it, the persistent dream returned.
Scully saw herself standing in the yard, beside the house. A terrible howl of agony, of grief, tore at her from inside, and she knew that Jeremiah was dead. She could hear Catherine's screams of denial, saw the girl tear from the house and throw herself down into the yard. Catherine wept for several minutes. Then she stood up slowly and walked toward the middle of the yard, where an iron bar hung suspended from a tree limb. She picked up a clapper and struck the bar several times, calling the others from the field. Then turning, she looked around, as if unable to decide what to do next. She walked to the well. Pulling the cover off, she gazed into the dark interior, and for a moment, Scully was afraid the girl would cast herself down. Catherine pulled a ring from her finger, the ring that Jeremiah had given her to symbolize their engagement, and threw it down into the bottom of the well. She sank down onto the ground, and sobbed softly. Even as she sat there weak with grief, Scully could also feel the fever burning in her, and knew that fever would be a full blown illness in a matter of days. In less than two weeks, Catherine Hewlett would be dead. The knowledge staggered her.
Scully became aware of a shift, a change in point of view. It was not as if she was suddenly transported, as she had been the other night, into the awareness of the dream. Rather she suddenly realized that it was not a dream after all, not in the sense of it being a figment of her imagination. She had not been not imagining Jeremiah Colter and Catherine Hewlett, she was being *shown*. The girl on the ground by the well head was not a dream image, but a manifestation, and Scully knew that she was being told the true story of events, as they happened, by one who had been there. Catherine Hewlett looked up, her eyes swollen from crying, and Scully felt a jolt as the girl's look went right through her. She heard Catherine's words echo in her head:
- Look at me, know me, know who I am. Thiss is what comes of fearful denial. This is what comes of complacent acceptance of society's rules. See me. Think of your own self, and consider *my* fate...
Scully opened her eyes and sat up. Her hands were shaking, and she was soaked with sweat. She felt as if Catherine's own fever burned in her. She got up and went into the bathroom, splashed cold water on her face. She returned to bed, but sat up for a while, afraid to fall asleep again. Nature prevailed, however, she was simply too tired, and she eventually fell asleep.
And dreamed. This time, however, the dream was benign. Merely a snap-shot of the Colter farm as she had visited it that day. Of the well. The well upon which she had dreamed of Mulder, the well down which Catherine had thrown her ring. The well, something about the well. She felt as if Catherine was still there, in the background, trying to tell her something, trying to give her some gift. To make her understand. The well. Something about the well.
The dream faded, slowly, and Scully sank into oblivion.
J. (Jamal) Gallagher never thought the day would come when he would be forced to live in his car, but that was exactly were he had spent the last twenty-four hours since he had shot and killed Leslie Hendricksen on the grounds of the Colter farm.
Disposing of Hendricksen's car had not proved too difficult. The Cumberland marsh was a huge body of water. It was also a watershed area, and so almost completely deserted. It had been a simple enough processes to take the keys Hendricksen had left in the ignition, drive the sedan down one of the dirt public access roads to the water, release the hand brake, and let the car slide into the marsh. He had debated, as he watched the vehicle sink into the water, that perhaps he should have thrown Hendricksen's body into it after all, but it was too late for that, and anyway, there was no way he had been about to carry that mutilated and bleeding corpse all the way down to the road. The body would just have to stay were it was, nobody was going to walking around up there, anyway.
That had been his first miscalculation. His second came with the realization, as he watched Hendricksen's car disappear into the murk, that he was six or seven miles away from his own vehicle, without any other means of transportation. He was going to have to walk back.
It took him hours, alternately walking, and hiding in ditches as the odd car came by, so when he arrived, dirty, foot sore and tired, back at his corvette, it was almost sunrise. He needed to find somewhere he could get some sleep. That's when his next problem occurred to him. He had no place to go.
He could not go back to his apartment in the city. By now, his "bosses" would be looking for him, he should have checked in hours earlier. There was bound to be someone sitting on his sofa at that moment, waiting for him to return. Neither could he check into some motel, not in the state he was in. He could have gotten into his car and just driven away, but he did not want to put too much distance between himself and the cocaine. He thought about climbing back up the hill and simply retrieving it, but the truth was, he was exhausted. He was a city boy, he was not used to the kind of physical effort he had exerted that night, and he had to rest, or he was going to collapse. So he drove around until he found something that looked like a deserted side road going up into the woods, and drove up it until he was sure he was out of sight. Then he dropped the seat back, and fell asleep.
He slept for close to eighteen hours. When he finally awoke, it was pitch black outside, and he was starving. He spent nearly an hour deliberating what to do.
He would go back to that farm and retrieve the cocaine, that much was clear. He had been a fool to leave it. Then he would drive west, and south, and try to contact some old friends of his near the New York boarder. He knew people down there who would help him. He was sure of that. For a price, they would sell their own sisters. And then it was drive straight through until he drove right into the Pacific Ocean, all the way to California. That was the most distance he could put between himself and the Springfield mob.
But first he needed to eat. He put the Corvette in gear, and headed for the interstate, and an all night McDonald's he knew there. And that was where he learned of his forth, and perhaps most serious miscalculation. Somebody had already found, and identified, Hendricksen's body. He heard the two kids manning the drive- through talking about it.
"What's that?" he asked the boy who handed him his burger and fries. "What are you talking about in there?"
The kid just looked at him.
"Nothin'. Just another body found out at the Colter place, that's all," the boy replied. "Fourth one. Only this one had it's face blown off. Couple of cops found it this morning. Guy was some drug dealer."
The kid shrugged. Gallagher struggled to keep his composure, glad that it was night, and that his face was shadowed. He was sure his expression would give him away.
"They have any idea who did it?" he asked, as he handed the kid a twenty. The boy shook his head.
"If they do, they ain't sayin'. Just that it appears to be drug related, and may be a mob hit. Beats me. I would never have figured Cumberland to be anyplace the mob would bother with..."
Gallagher had heard enough. He threw the Corvette into gear and drove away quickly, leaving the baffled young man holding his change.
He drove around in circles for hours. The truth of the matter was, Gallagher was an amateur, little more than a school boy when it came to the real world of the drug trade. He had never considered the fact that he might someday need to get away fast, and therefore had no plans. Nor did he have the intestinal fortitude to deal rationally with his predicament. He was terrified, and terror made him stupid. He could not think what to do. He knew only that he needed to retrieve that cocaine, as soon as he could, and get out of there. Not only would he need it, now, to fund his get away, it was evidence against him with the cops, as well. His fingerprints were bound to be all over that backpack. He struggled to remember if he had touched Hendricksen's body. He did not think he had, but he had certainly touched his car. It would only be a matter of time, now, before the cops thought to drag the marsh for it. He wondered if the swamp water would wash fingerprints away.
He knew he needed to get the cocaine, but it was well into morning before he could work up the nerve to go back to the farm. He hated the idea of going back there during the light, but he also knew he could not wait another day. He had to get it, and then he had to get out of there. That was all there was to it.
As a precaution, he parked the Corvette in the woods some distance away. Cursing his shortsightedness in throwing away his gun, he took the switchblade out of the glovebox of his car and shoved it in his pocket. Of course, he would not need it, there would be no one there, but it made him feel better, having it. He walked back, staying off the road as much as he could. Blessedly, there was little traffic.
"I want to go back there," Scully said over breakfast the next morning. Mulder just looked at her in surprise.
"I'm not sure," Scully admitted, looking distressed. "I just have a funny feeling about it." She sighed. "I had a dream last night, about that old well. I can't figure it out. But maybe I saw something, yesterday, that I didn't realize I was seeing, something that registered as important and is coming back to haunt my unconscious thought. I just feel that I need to go back there, and look."
Mulder smiled a little at her use of terminology, but he took the suggestion very seriously. They both knew that such things happened; cases *were* occasionally solved because some bit of data, otherwise disregarded, was sorted into sense in the unconscious mind. Some of his best inspirations came that way.
"Okay," he agreed. "Finish up, and we'll go."
Scully tossed back her coffee and stood up.
Laughing at her single-minded eagerness, Mulder signaled the waitress, and settled their bill.
J. (Jamal) Gallagher struggled up the weed filled little hill. It amazed that he had been able to negotiate the nasty undergrowth at night, in the dark; there in the morning light he was barely able to get his feet in front of him for the tangle of brush and creepers. He came up on the wrong side of the house, and could not see the well. Momentary panic took him, until he realized his error, and started around.
He heard the voices, long before he saw the two people heading up the hill toward him, a man and a woman walking at a determined pace. He struggled to control his panic, and tried to figure out what to do. Creeping slowly around the house, he moved his body until he could just see the two of them coming up the hill. Cops, he knew they were cops, some street instinct told him, deep in his gut. He truely cursed, now, whatever panic had caused him to throw his gun down that well. He was virtually unarmed, and unable to defend himself. Well, he still had his knife. He patted it, in his pocket, then froze in place, and watched the agents as they headed toward the well.
Mulder watched Scully as she eyed the well, hanging back to give her room and mental space, trusting her instincts to bring her to whatever it was she remembered seeing. He did not have long to wait.
"Mulder, look at this."
Coming to her side, Mulder looked where she was pointing.
"That well cover's been moved. Recently. See how the weeds are torn around it, but they're still green?"
Mulder nodded, smiling at her in admiration. He pulled a glove out of his pocket.
"Let's have a look..."
Drawing carefully, he pulled the stone lid to one side. Scully leaned over the well opening, ignoring a weird sense of deja vu that suddenly assailed her, and looked inside. The air was cool, but dry; there was no water in the well. Her eyes grew gradually accustomed to the darkness, and she saw the iron hook, and the straps hanging over it.
"There." She pointed, and Mulder reached in, grasping the straps and pulling the attached leather backpack out of the well. He raised an eyebrow at her, then dropped the heavy pack onto the ground and unzipped it. Reaching inside, he slowly removed a clear plastic bag filled with glittering white powder. He looked at Scully and smiled.
"Very good, Agent Scully," he praised, meaning it. Scully smiled.
"What do you want to bet there's a murder weapon sitting at the bottom of that well, too?" she suggested. Mulder nodded in agreement as he stuffed the bag of cocaine back into the backpack and zipped it closed.
"What do you guess this stuff is worth?" he asked.
Scully was about to offer speculation on the answer when a crash behind them made them jump and turn.
Gallagher did not wait until the agents had the well cover off before he sought more secure refuge. Creeping slowly back, he moved along the back side of the house, until he found a hatchway leading to the basement. He pulled slowly, and the rotten wood easily gave way. He slipped through the opening, somehow feeling secure that, once inside, he would be safer than while out of doors. Naive, perhaps, and foolish, but to a man raised in the city, indoors was safer than out in the woods. Gallagher dropped to the basement floor, and was immediately engulfed in darkness. He had dropped through a coal shoot. Cursing under his breath, he stumbled across the floor, and tried to adjust his eyes to the dim light that filtered through one or two small basement windows. His eyes did not adjust in time, however, for him to miss colliding with the small tower of old milking cans and buckets. The whole thing down with a loud crash.
"What the hell was that?" Mulder demanded.
Scully put her hand up to stem further questions, and they both strained to listen. There was another sound of crashing.
"It came from inside the house. Someone's in there."
Mulder nodded, and drew his weapon. He still had Bowman's key, and, with Scully beside him with her weapon drawn, he unlocked the side door and the two of them went inside. Mulder gestured Scully back toward the rear of the house. He moved toward the front.
Scully stepped carefully into the large kitchen. The bare room had few places to hide, and it took her only moments to check those places, including the fireplace flu, and she thought, almost smiling, the small bread ovens. Well, one never knew. She raised her weapon, and counted three, then ducked around the corner into the borning room. Empty, and she was too pre-occupied to even remember how she had dreamed of Jeremiah's last moments in it, the night before. Coming out again, she passed through the hallway into the modern kitchen at the far rear of the house. She was so intent on her destination that she did not see the man pressed back in the shadows of the alcove leading to the basement stairs. She never knew what hit her, when Gallagher brought the board down on her head from behind. Her gun went skidding out of sight, into a split between the floor boards, as she sank to the floor. Gallagher tried to reach it, could not, and cursed his luck again. He took a deep breath, and moved slowly toward the sounds coming from the front room.
Mulder moved through the front parlor slowly, carefully, weapon at ready, but there was little need. The small front rooms of the house were completely bare, no cabinetry, no closets, no place to hide. He glanced up the chimney in the room where the fireplace was still open, but there was nothing to see. He was looking up the stairs toward the second floor when a movement caught him out of the corner of his eye and he turned his head just in time to see Gallagher careening toward him.
He did not have time to react before the other man caught him in the chest, sending his gun flying, and bringing him to the floor. Mulder grunted, and rolled, getting himself free of Gallagher, and sitting up quickly. He just spotted his gun as Gallagher's fist connected with his jaw. Rolling away, he braced himself for Gallagher's pounce, and when it came, caught the other man in the belly with his knee, and sent him flying over his head, and down.
Struggling to orient himself, Mulder stood up shakily. He heard the soft "shick" sound of the switchblade opening before he saw the knife gleaming in Gallagher's hand. He saw that his gun was too far away to reach, and looked around for another weapon as Gallagher struggled to his feet again. His eyes fell on the small pile of loose bricks, just two or three, that lay on the floor by the hearth, and he dove for one, but two late. Gallagher launched himself at Mulder once more, the momentum carrying them both across the room. They crashed into the wall and fell to the floor, Gallagher sitting on Mulder's chest. He hit him in the jaw hard, once, twice, Mulder was nearly unconscious, and totally unable to help himself as the third blow fell and knocked him senseless. Gallagher raised his knife.
In the back kitchen, Scully struggled to her feet. Rubbing the bruised spot on the back of her head, she looked around quickly for her missing gun, then raced forward into the front of the house without it, drawn by the urgency of the sounds coming from the rooms there. She came through the doorway just in time to see Gallagher's knife plunging toward Mulder's heart.
It happened as if in slow motion, like some bad movie technique meant to create suspense. The knife descended, and Scully screamed. And then she saw her, saw Catherine Hewlett standing by the fireplace, saw her stoop and pick up the brick. Saw the brick fly through the air and hit Gallagher in the side of the head. Saw Gallagher fall to one side, his knife dropping away, useless.
Scully stared at the ghost of Catherine Hewlett. The dark haired beauty merely nodded. She gestured at Mulder. Scully looked back at her partner, stirring helplessly on the floor. She rushed to his side, taking only a moment only to slam cuffs on Gallagher, and haul his body out of the way. She dropped to her knees beside Mulder, and took his face in both her hands.
" 'M all right," he mumbled blearily. She shushed him, and examined the bruises on his head and face. Nothing seemed too serious.
Scully was breathing hard, and although she did not realize it, tears streamed down her face. So close, bare fractions of a second and Mulder would have been dead. She looked back to the place where she had seen Catherine Hewlett, and was astonished to see the ghost still standing there, nodding serenely. She pulled Mulder closer, resting his upper body in her lap. The ghost nodded gently.
- Remember me, a voice said in Scully's heead, a voice she "recognized" as Catherine's. - Think about who you are and what you want, and remember me. Know thyself, Dana Scully. Don't be afraid to reach into your heart, no matter what the consequences. Remember *my* fate, and don't let my fate become yours.
And Catherine Hewlett disappeared.
Scully let out a short, stunned breath. She pulled Mulder closer still, and cradled his head against her chest. He stirred weakly as she stroked his hair. Then she wrapped both arms around him, and pressed her face against the top of his head.
When Chief Rydell finally arrived on the scene to pick up the assailant, he seemed wholly pleased by what he found. He told Mulder that the man's name was Jamal Gallagher, and that he was known to be a front man for the Springfield, Massachusetts, mob. If they could break the man into confessing, which was something about which Rydell seemed assured, he would provide a significant link to his bosses. Mulder left Rydell and his men to take Gallagher away, and went to look for Scully, who had wandered off after she had bandaged his forehead. He found her in the yard on the other side of the house, squatting down in the tall weeds.
"Scully. What are you looking at?"
He leaned down and looked over her shoulder. She had parted the grass, and was gazing down at an upright fieldstone marker. He could barely make out the words carved there, worn as they were by time: Catherine Hewlett.
"You found her grave?"
Scully nodded and stood up.
"Yeah." she exhaled softly. "It was right where Bowman said it would be." She hugged her arms, and looked down at the stone. Mulder nodded.
"I just talked to Bowman, he came up with the cops. The man must live by his scanner. I don't suppose this town has seen this much excitement in years," Mulder said. "Anyway, he told me that the Cumberland County Historical Society has made him an offer on the house, and he's going to take it. They are going to restore the old place, and open it up as a public landmark. So I don't think there will be any more deaths on the Colter farm. At least not ghostly related ones."
He had meant the words to be lighthearted and reassuring, but Scully only nodded. Mulder frowned, watching her. He wanted to ask her what had happened inside the house. Somehow her explanation to him about hitting Gallagher with that brick just did not ring true. Something made him hesitate, though.
"You okay?" he finally asked.
Scully took a deep breath and nodded.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"No, you're not," Mulder countered, knowing better. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know," she replied. She sighed down at Catherine's grave. "To love, yet to never have touched. To spend eternity searching, and regretting..." Her voice was soft, almost mournful with yearning. She shook her head.
"I wonder if they'll ever find peace," she said.
If Mulder was surprised at Scully's seeming acceptance of the reality of the Colter farm ghosts, he did say. He frowned at her in puzzlement, then his expression softed, and he smiled thoughtfully.
"Maybe peace isn't what they're looking for," he simply replied.
Scully looked up into his eyes. For a long moment, their gazes joined and held. Scully's lips parted slightly, as if in question, and Mulder inclined his head toward her, as if willing her to ask.
One of the policeman called out to them. Scully smiled, and then she let the question go. She nodded out in the direction of the road.
"You all set?" she asked. Mulder nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, whenever you're ready," he exhaled, collecting himself. Scully sighed.
"I'm ready. Let's go."
End Note: Thanks to Tish Sears for all the editing help!