Summary: A small town wants to lynch an old woman. Mulder thinks it's a witch hunt but soon finds out it's much more than that agter there's a murder. Strange creatures are lurking in sheep's clothing and they come to a nasty end.
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The saloon car sped along the interstate motorway carrying the mismatched pair of FBI agents. One was a petite woman with fiery hair, the other a tall man with a dark suit. The silence in the car was irritating so she broke the silence.
"Why did you volunteer us for this Mulder? Its just a local uprising that needs containing." There was an obvious hint of annoyance that her astute partner did not miss.
"Our presence will help calm the residents until reinforcements arrive.
But don't you find it a bit unusual Scully that an old woman is being persecuted for all the bad luck that has happened in Stonewall. All two hundred residents want her exiled and there have been several clashed with local police in the last few weeks."
"I still don't understand Mulder" she persisted "it is unfortunate all that has happened there, but the residents needed a scapegoat and this woman fitted the bill."
"Doesn't it remind you of anything Scully? In Medieval times old woman with black cats were burnt at the stake because the villagers believed they were witches and the cause of their bad luck."
"The link is weak Mulder" said Scully not convinced "you must have something else to go on, or we wouldn't be driving out there."
"There is something else, but you will have to wait until we get there before you can see it."
"Sheriff Dawson, I'm Agent Fox Mulder, this is special Agent Dana Scully."
"I'm glad your here," puffed the red faced sheriff. Keeping a small town in check was not a gigantic task with several deputies to assist and it seemed like Dawson had been taking advantage of the extra times to eat some pies. "the situation is getting completely out of control."
"What is the situation?" asked Scully.
"At present we have five locals in our cells, four houses are being watched and Maggie, er Ms Moor, is under our protection. Its very tense here, it could break at any minute and to tell you the truth we don't have the manpower to stop a riot. Nothing like this has ever happened here before, that's why there is only seven officers stationed here."
"When did you send for additional officers?"
"About three days ago but there may be full-scale riot before they get here."
"How long would you say before that happens?" asked Mulder returning his gaze to the Sheriff from the town outside.
"I would give it twenty-four hours or less."
"Can you direct us to Ms Moor house?"
"Sure, I'll go with you, but I warn you now don't play games with her, she got a sharper mind than anyone I know." The Sheriff's unusual warning puzzled Mulder as they climbed in the car and followed him up the road.
They followed the Sheriff down the main street and a cold tingle ran down Scully's back. The streets were deserted, not one person was out. The houses has lights on but no noise could be heard as they drove by. It was like the town was holding its breathe and waiting for something.
"Was this what you wanted me to see Mulder?" she asked, her voice a hushed whisper.
"Look." said Mulder pointing ahead. The car slowed as they reached their destination. An old house with vines growing up the sides and a choked garden looked back at them. It seemed out of date compared with the other more modern houses. But it was not the houses age that caught Scully's attention.
"Mulder!" she exclaimed. The house, its garden, and most other surface space was covered with cats. They were every colour and size and all sat around cleaning themselves or sleeping in the early evening.
"Stonewall has a population of about two hundred residents and about the same number in cats, wild and domestic. And every single one will not leave her house. Now you see why I told you the witch story." he said with one of his sly grins.
All three had to clamber over the bodies of the cats to get the front door, the cats didn't move they just carried on with their business which unnerved Scully. They reached old front door and Mulder lifted his hand to knock when the door was opened from the inside.
An old woman stood there holding the door. She was dressed primly with neat clothes and plain shoes. She had iron grey hair tied back in long ponytail that almost reached her waist. Her penetrating eyes fell on Scully and she felt uncomfortable.
"Sheriff, who are these strangers?" she asked in a strong voice.
"There friends Maggie-"
The Sheriff was cut off short by a snapped remark "Don't patronise me Lawrence, they are badges like you, judging by their lack of uniform I'd say they were CIA.
Mulder spoke before the Sheriff could argue back. "I'm Agent Fox Mulder and this is Special Agent Dana Scully, Federal Bureau of Investigation."
"Close enough," said Maggie "what do you want?"
"We are here to investigate the uprising."
"Best come in then." Maggie said. They entered the old house and sat down in the living room which like its owner was impeccably tidy.
"Ms Moor, do you have any idea why the whole town has turned against you?
Have you done anything untoward that might offend them?" asked Scully.
"Apart from still being alive, no nothing."
"Maggie-" began Sheriff Dawson.
"Its true, don't try and molly cuddle me Lawrence, that was always your problem, even as a child you were too soft." Sheriff Dawson bent his head down as if he was being told off as a child again.
"How old are you Ms Moor?" asked Mulder breaking the silence.
"You can call me Maggie. Let's just say I'm the oldest person you will ever meet." she said with a smile.
"What's your secret?"
"You wouldn't believe me." she stated.
"Try me." said Mulder with another one of his sly grins.
"Maggie," cut in Scully "why are all the cats from the town surrounding your house?"
"You mean, have I done something to bring them here?"
"Well it is possible that you sprayed the area with -"
"You don't want to hear the real reason and you don't want to hear what I have to say. So get out my house."
"Now Maggie I don't want to hear you talking to Agent Scully like that."
"You seem more reasonable" said Maggie to Mulder "I will talk to you, you two can get out." Sheriff Dawson reluctantly got up and he and Scully silently filed out of the house.
A few minutes later Mulder emerged from the house and climbed back over the cats to reach his partner.
"Well?" asked Sheriff Dawson.
"She didn't say much, she just thinks the main body of the residents are being led by a, Michael Sunny?" queried Mulder.
"We have him under watch at his home. He has been one of the loudest voices in the outbreaks we've had. I'll keep an eye on him.
"Its late Sheriff and we've been driving-"
"Of course, sorry, I booked you into the Royal, I'll see you tomorrow."
"One more thing," asked Mulder "do you know how old Maggie is?"
"No, no one does, every person I know has always recalled her living here."
Sheriff Dawson got in his squad car and drove off down the road back into town. Mulder watched the car go, deep in thought.
"What else did she say Mulder?" asked Scully jarring him from his reverie.
"Why do you say that?" he asked looking over at her.
"You've got that look on your face, come on Mulder what's the story?" she said as they climbed in the car.
"Maggie said the cats are protecting her from the other residents." said Mulder as they pulled away from Maggie's house.
"And?" Scully asked knowing there was more.
"And, she called them there."
"Called them?" said Scully raising an eyebrow.
"Its not uncommon that pets and their owners form strong bonds that sometimes go beyond the normal. There have been numerous cases recorded of animals dying, shortly after the death of their owners, and no known cause of death can be found. Isn't it possible that her cat 'felt' her need for protection and took up the responsibility?"
"Its not as outlandish as some of your theories Mulder but how does that explain the other one hundred and ninety-nine cats 'guarding' her?" asked Scully waiting for Mulder to complete the theory with a real cherry.
"I don't know." was all he said.
They remained silent for the rest of the drive, Mulder desperately trying to draw something from his knowledge to use as a comparison. Scully wasted no time thinking about the unusual occurrences and thought only of a hot bath and a soft bed.
The Royal Hotel
A banging on Scully's door drew her away from her peaceful slumber.
"Scully wake up." Mulder's muffled voice said from the other side of door.
"What is it Mulder?" she asked rubbing the sand from her eyes.
"There's been a murder."
Scully pulled open the door to see a dishevelled and sandy eyes Mulder standing there. He had shirt hastily tucked into a pair of pants and some trainers on.
"What happened?" she asked.
"One of the residents - " Mulder caught himself starring at Scully.
Even though she had just been woken up she looked attractive as ever and there was that smell again, it sent a tingle up his arms and... "Mulder?" asked Scully with a stare. Mulder focused elsewhere and feigned just being woken up for his lethargic response.
"Yeah, I was trying to remember his name, a Peter Davies. Apparently he and Micheal Sunny are close pals.
"Where was he killed?"
"Outside Maggie Moor's house - "
"Don't tell me," said Scully dreading what was coming next and knowing if she was right it would mean a longer stay in Stonewall and the opening of an X-File.
"He was killed by the cats, cut and slashed into something very unpleasant. Sheriff Dawson has asked if we will take the case. He's waiting for us now and he has a witness in custody.
Mulder and Scully sat in plain interview room with the witness. Mulder was taking it easy as usual as interviews bored him but he let Scully begin.
"Can you tell us what you saw Mr Sunny?"
"I'll tell you what I saw" he said vehemently "I saw my friend attacked by evil creatures being controlled by that witch!"
"Witch?" asked Scully.
"That old hag she's the one that called all those accidents. She's the one that told the cats to kill Pete," the realisation suddenly hit him and his face drained of colour "Oh God, Pete, they pounced on him, dozens of them, and then they started to claw and scratch him, and the blood, oh Jesus!" His face took on a haunted look and Scully knew he was going into shock.
"Why were you out so early in the morning Mr Sunny?" asked Scully hoping to draw him away from the awful memory of his friends death.
"I couldn't sleep and went for a walk."
"With Mr Davies?" said Mulder saying something for the first time.
"Yeah." he said with a slightly arrogant tone in his voice.
"Couldn't he sleep as well?" asked Mulder. The room was silent for a minute as they all knew the truth. "Why were you trying to get into Maggie Moor's house?" Sunny remained silent so Mulder continued. "Thought the pair of you would teach her lesson? Make her pay for all those deaths."
"She deserves to die!" spat Sunny with a snarl.
"Why do you blame her for all the accidents?" asked Scully.
"She put a curse on the whole town, turned all the animals against us. I had four cats and I took the best care of them. Now if I go anywhere near them they hiss and snarl, its as if they don't have a mind of their own anymore. You can't look at that old house and tell me something isn't wrong, its not natural."
Mulder and Scully left the room and Sunny was taken back to his cell.
"Well it doesn't look like we are going to get anywhere with him. His hatred seems so deep set. He's all but admitted his intent to harm or even kill Maggie Moor so he won't be getting out a cell for while."
Scully saw Mulder had a far away look on his face and wondered if he had heard her. "Mulder? Did you hear me?"
"Yes, he admitted his intent to harm Maggie. I was just thinking."
Scully knowing that when he thought too much he came up with a theory tried to break his chain of thought to keep the investigation normal. "So now what?"
"Now I go and talk to Maggie Moor about her lovely pets and you get to do an autopsy on Mr Davies."
"Why Mulder? The cause of death is obvious enough from what you told me."
"I know what killed him, I just don't know why. Concentrate on toxicology, see if there are any unusual substances in the bloodstream."
"Do you think the cats are being coached?" asked Scully.
"Maybe" said Mulder biting his nail.
"Its a miracle Mulder," said an elated Scully "you are actually looking first to science before the paranormal for an explanation." Scully expecting a foxy grin from her partner was surprised when his face darkened.
"I don't know Scully, something about this whole thing is bothering me, it doesn't feel right."
Scully, dressed in her attractive green cloak, facemask, and matching shower cap stood over the body.
"Subject is one hundred and eighty pounds, white Caucasian male, time of death approximately 6.20 a.m. June 3. Cause of death massive tissue damage to heart, lungs, spleen and kidneys."
Scully began the methodical process of weighing and analysing, cataloguing and running blood tests. As usual she experienced a slightly detached feeling while she carried out the examination, she once again viewed the body as only that, and no longer as person who had dreams.
She ran a number of tests on a sample of the subjects blood and received a shock when the results came back. She ran the test a few other times to confirm her results.
49 Woodburn Road
Mulder clambered his way to the front door of the old house again but this time the cats all seemed to be watching him. None were asleep now, all were retentive and four hundred glowing eyes watched the tall figure go by. Mulder was suddenly aware of his own mortality. Maggie opened the door again before Mulder could use the bell.
"You know about the murder this morning." said Mulder, it was a statement, not a question. She only nodded and led him into the living room. "So why did they have to kill him?" he asked taking a seat.
"I didn't want them to," said Maggie in a weary and reedy voice "I didn't tell them to, you must believe me." She seemed desperate for him to believe her "They just cut him down, it must have been very painful. I always said that one would come to a nasty end."
"You told me that you control them, why didn't you tell them to stop?" asked Mulder.
"I don't control them, I act as, its hard to find a word, I'm a guide. I can communicate with them but recently it has become more difficult and last night they wouldn't listen to me, they ignored me and said he must die. I'm gradually losing it, they are all here not to protect me from being attacked but to make sure I die peacefully and then the power goes to another."
"How long have you been with them?" asked Mulder unsure whether he believed her or was just humouring an old woman.
"Ever since I was twelve."
"How old are you?"
"I can't tell you, but I'll say this, my extended life and clear mind was my 'reward' for holding the power. Do you believe me? You must!" Again the wild look returned for a few minutes before it faded and she seemed more calm.
"I'm losing it," Maggie said with wail "my mind's going, I can remember properly."
"Can we stop it? Can I help?" said Mulder not knowing what else to say.
"Its up to me, you can't help."
Mulder's mobile rang and he pulled it from his pocket. "Mulder."
"Mulder its me," said Scully in a shaking voice "the blood tests came back and there's something unusual. I was so sure the tests were wrong I ran them a second time."
"What is it Scully?"
"The blood contained minute amounts of an unknown chemical, I can only uess it is some kind of poison or toxin. Cat' secrete chemicals from their glands in their claws and face to mark their territory, but this was a complex compound that had already begun to break down and had nearly disappeared,"
"Are you saying its not normal in nature for felines to produce such a compound?"
"I'm saying its unusual but other non related species do produce toxins to disable their prey. This poison was similar it attacked the nervous system. What's going on Mulder?" asked a worried Scully.
"It will take a bit of explaining and you won't like it."
Just then Maggie collapsed on the floor and began rolling about screaming and wailing, clutching her chest and throat. Her face was a contorted mask of pain and the skin began to draw tighter and turn yellow. Her eyes took on a cloudy film and her screams weakened, but the desperate look in her eyes was the same. Her gaze held Mulder transfixed and he could not tear himself away from those desperate drowning eyes.
"Mulder what's happening?" Scully shouted in his ear.
"Maggie's having some kind of seizure, she's dying Scully." he said with clarity.
"I'll call an ambulance and be right over."
"I'm not ready," screamed Maggie her voice taking on some of its old strength "I don't want to die."
Outside a horrible sound began from a low moaning to a deafening carcophony. Two hundred feline voices began meowing, voices overlapping and merging into one huge roar that sent a cold shiver down Mulder's spine.
"What's happening?" asked Mulder.
"Their taking it back, I can't remember any more, I-," Maggie clutched her chest again and began to scream, her voice drowned out by the wailing outside. "the pain." Maggie moaned as her skin drew tighter against her face giving a skeletal look, her skin begun turning grey and her long braided hair began falling out in clumps. The awful ageing continued and the form on the floor in front of Mulder became a withered husk. But the eyes, those glowing orbs held Mulder fast and he was helpless to move or look away. The feline chorus grew louder and the room darkened even though it was daytime. A blue glow began radiating from Maggie's body.
Mulder could hear Scully banging on the door but it became a muted sound.
A loud roaring sound filled Mulder's ears like a giant wave crashing down. Maggie stopped screaming and the glow faded rising from her body in a mist and disappearing through the ceiling. The roar lessened and stopped, light returned to the room and Mulder could hear Scully banging at the door. Scully burst into the room and bright sunlight flooded through the open door.
"Mulder what happened? Where is-" Scully stopped short as her eyes fell on a body on the floor. Maggie's body was gone, only a set of bones wrapped in some clothes remained. The scull's mouth was open in a silent scream that would never end.
"Mulder?" said Scully coming over to him. He was sat facing the corpse and his head was bowed.
"She lost it Scully," he whispered to her "she died right before my eyes, countless years in a few minutes."
Sirens wailed as an ambulance and a police car raced away from the old house at the end of the street. A woman and her son stood and watched them.
"Well that's over, now I've got to pick up the dry cleaning and," the woman paused as she saw her son was not listening to a word she was saying "Robert Daniels are you listening to me?"
Robert stared at the ambulance as it passed by. "Oh yes mother, I can hear you, I can hear everything." A sly smile crossed the boy's face as he looked on.
Case Notes Agent Dana Catherine Scully
Agent Mulder's interpretation of this case is in the realms of the fantastic and although this case has some unexplained elements such as, the gathering and rapid dispersion of the feline population at Maggie Moors house and events surrounding Peter Davies unusual death, I cannot accept his theory. There is also the accelerated decomposition of Maggie Moor's body that continued well after her death. Agent Mulder searched local birth records from the town and found that in 1496 a Margaret Moor was born in Stonewall but I believe it to be an ancestor. This case was opened with the death of a resident under unusual circumstances and closes in a similar fashion with some unanswered questions.
Private Case Notes Agent Fox William Mulder
Maggie Moors death released some power that had sustained her physically and mentally for five hundred years if the birth certificate was not a forgery. Her rapid decomposition would seem to concrete this and my astute partner, ever stuck in her strong scientific beliefs, can not explain it any better than myself. The power source remains unclear and the cats in Stonewall returned to normal behaviour but that means little as they only gathered for Maggie's death. Maggie may have been a communication link between the animals kingdom and humans but she took that with her.
However before she died Maggie indicated the power had not died but had gone to someone else. Whether it was another young twelve-year-old child in Stonewall or someone somewhere else is unknown. And because there is no way to tell who has it, the next time the bearer dies I will be long dead and buried. Apart from the unique nature of this case I have learned something about mortality. I know life could end tomorrow or be snatched away from anyone at anytime and so living to the full is virtuous. I know because my sister's life effectively ended when she was taken from us, but I still rejoice in the time we shared and hold those memories most sacred.