Title: Christmas in (Haven) Maine
Authors: Neoxphile & Faerax
Category: crossover X-Files/Haven ; challenge fic; Christmas
Keywords: adventure, horror, Mulder/Scully married, Audrey/Duke UST, Audrey/Nathan UST
Summary: When Mulder, Scully, and the kids take a trip to house-hunt and vacation, they end up in Haven, Maine...just in time to be stranded after a massive ice storm. After that things get really scary...
The Grey Gull
Audrey looked around the Grey Gull, searching for something. I rather hoped it might have been me, and I really hoped it wasn't the contraband I had stored in the basement. I took a moment to mix her a Shirley Temple - she had that On-Duty look that would mean she would refuse anything harder - and sidled up to her.
"How's my favorite cop today?" I threw my best charming smile at her, hoping she would notice me and not for anything that would involve jail. I wouldn't mind the cuffs though… I clamped down on the thought before it could reach my face and handed her the drink.
"Morning, Duke." She smiled as she took the drink, pulled the little umbrella out of it and closed it. "Don't you know it's bad luck to open an umbrella inside? I thought you sailors were a superstitious lot." She canted her head while talking to me, grinning. Oh yeah, she was here for me.
"It's only a little umbrella. It can't cause much bad luck. And any day you are here without Nathan is a good day in my books." I reached out, and she put handcuffs on my wrist before I could touch her. "Huh, I didn't know you liked it that way," I said lasciviously. "I'm game to try it if you are."
Audrey rolled her eyes at me, laughing silently. "Duke Crocker, you are under arrest for assaulting a police officer." She went on reciting the Miranda rights as she took my other arm and placed it firmly behind my back.
"Aw, come on, it was only a love tap, I'm sure it barely bruised him. Besides, he insulted my boat! Now you won't stand for him insulting a lady such as yourself, right?" I tried to pull off little boy charming, and I could see Audrey melting. I was not going to tell her that Nathan had at the time been trying to scare me away from my goal of dating his new partner. It certainly wouldn't help the best man (me) win Audrey.
"Duke, your boat is not a lady, and Nathan has a rather spectacular black eye from your ‘love tap.' I swear, you two fight more than brothers do - Hey, you don't think you are brothers, do you?"
I shuddered. "Related to Nathan? The gods would not be so cruel to the worst sinner. Audrey, no, we aren't related. And my boat is a lady. All boats are female. And this is not helping me come to any type of trust of authority figures. I mean, here you are arresting me in my own restaurant!"
"Duke, no one is here but you and me. The storm's coming in and everyone with a lick of sense has gone home. And you parked your boat here so I had to come here. It's rather inconvenient of you. It would have been much easier to arrest you at the pier. I wouldn't have had to have driven."
"My boat's here because the fishermen need the space at the dock. You can't be expecting them to ride the storm at sea, not with the ice. The Gull's on the leaward side of the cove, so I docked my boat here for safety. And if you are complaining about driving here, how do you think I'll feel when I have to drive back out here again after I'm bailed out?"
"Stay in town for the night. Better yet, stay in jail." A tall man, the only one in Maine not to wear flannel, stalked into my restaurant. Ah yes, he did have a spectacular black eye. I do do nice work.
"Nathan, my brother by a different mother! You really are taking this too seriously." Charm had never helped me deal with Nathan in the past, but it wasn't going to stop me from trying now.
"Can it, Duke." Nathan scowled at me.
"Audrey, before we go, can you walk me over to the register?" I asked.
Wearing an adorable puzzled expression on her face, she took my arm and walked me to the register. I managed to open the drawer with my hands behind my back, and took out several worn bills. I turned, and was confronted with Nathan, who was looking like he would like to murder me. I turned back around and took a few more bills out of the register and hit it with hip to close it.
"Bribing and officer of the law? Please do. That will get you serious jail time," Nathan growled. I hoped to ignore him so completely he disappeared. No such luck. He continued to actually growl at me while I turned to Audrey.
"Audrey, you have one and only one chance at reclaiming my friendship. And it's only because I like you as a person that I'm willing to overlook your descent into being a cop. In my hand is money to pay my bail. Will you please bail me out when the paperwork is processed?"
Audrey looked up into my face, and glanced at Nathan. "Did you really insult his boat, Nathan?"
"I described it for what it was, a rusting wreck fit only for piracy and pirates, and as likely to sink into depravity as its owner." Nathan remained stoic, a true New Englander to the end.
Audrey sighed. "Yes, Duke, I'll bail you out. But only because us ‘ladies' need to sick together."
"And you'll feed my cat if this takes a while?"
"Don't push it," she growled, but I thought she'd do it anyway.
Happily I followed Audrey out the door, grinning at Nathan the whole time.
I wish Tara had told me about the boat. She'd glossed over that when she suggested the "perfect place for a vacation" over Thanksgiving dinner, a town called Haven where she and my brother Bill had spent a couple of weeks this summer. Maybe failing to mention the boat was revenge for my having burned some of the dinner rolls.
William and Joey were thrilled by the boat ride, but I was more than sick of boats by the time we hit the island. Mulder didn't look like he cared one way or the other, but I was feeling seasick for the first time in my life, maybe because the rough waves brought back unpleasant memories of the night we spent in the dark after grounding a small rented craft on rocks. And, I had to admit that although picturesque, this tiny island in Maine wasn't nearly as lovely as the island we'd visited over the summer, but it's hard to compete with a tropical paradise.
The point of our trip was to visit several small towns in both Maine and New Hampshire to explore the possibility of moving to one of them in a few months since we needed to change, and Mulder still liked to think about the good parts of his New England childhood. I liked the Bangor area, but Mulder thought that the town of Ballyguest was more our style... We were in Haven for a breather rather than to look at houses there. Our plan was to spend a few days in Haven, and then explore more towns in the northeast before heading to Bill and Tara's for Christmas Day.
"Mom, there's the hotel!" Joey called, pointing just after the ferry left us standing on a dock. It gave me a warm feeling to hear "Mom" from him, because it was yet another sign that all was finally well with our prodigal son. After a year and a half I felt as though all four of us had really moved past the sadness we'd felt about his having lived with another family the first six years of his life.
"It's no Overlook," Mulder told me, and I smiled - this rambling white hotel wasn't nearly as elegant as either movie version of The Shining. Nor as creepy. Looking up at the windows didn't make me wince and wonder if I'd see a pale specter looking down at me in return.
Both of the boys gave their father puzzled looks, but he was in no hurry to explain his comment to them. If they didn't ask, I was content to let them figure it out on their own when they began to read Stephen King in a few years.
It didn't take much coaxing to herd the kids up the path to the hotel. In fact, they reached the hotel several seconds before Mulder and I did. We had to keep them from charging in, reminding them that even though we were on vacation we still expected them to act like civilized human beings. They looked sheepish for a moment, but then became excited again. Kids.
The sign in front of the building stated "now open under new ownership" and it was clear that I wasn't the only one who noticed, because Mulder leaned down and whispered, "There's a story there." No doubt he was right, but most stories turned out to be rather dull, so I wasn't really interested in that particular one.
Bells chimed merrily as the boys raced in ahead of us again, and they barely noticed when we told them not to run. At the front desk a clerk around my mother's age was thumbing through a magazine with a snowman on the cover, but she looked up with a smile when she noticed us. "You must be the Mulders," she said.
William gawked at her. "How did you know that?!"
The woman, whose name tag simply said "Janice," smirked. "There aren't that many people staying here right now, young man, so it was easy for me to guess."
"Oh." Joey looked thoughtful. "That was still a pretty neat trick, though."
"Thanks." Janice looked like she would like nothing more than to get back to her magazine, and I got the strange sense that she was just humoring us by answering questions.
"Why is that?" I asked, making her look at me instead; being humored or not, I wanted information. "Is it because it's the off season?"
"Actually, no. We get a fair amount of business this time of year. Overflow from people coming up to ski," she told me, reminding me of all of the brochures for ski resorts that we had seen while hitting a rest stop on the way up. "The problem with this week is that people are afraid of the storm."
Mulder and I looked at each other. "Storm?"
Nodding, Janice reached for a remote control she'd stashed under the counter, and clicked on the TV that hung on the wall. A frazzled looking meteorologist was talking about how there was going to be a huge storm heading towards New England in just a few hours. She then pointed at the TV. "It's shaping up to be a bad one."
"Oh..." Beside me, Mulder muttered something about how maybe we ought to have listened to the radio instead of CDs, so we could have heard the weather forecast.
I must have looked a little green, because Janice shot me a reassuring look. "Don't worry, honey. We've got a big generator out back, and a few cords of wood stashed in the out buildings. It might get a little wild tonight, but we'll be snug here."
"As bugs in rugs?" William asked with a grin.
"Exactly so," she agreed.
Joey, on the other hand, looked a lot less reassured. "I don't like the wind," he said quietly to his father and me.
I wasn't surprised to hear about this new fear: he had a photo album of where he had lived in Wyoming when he was very small, and the lack of trees on the farm to break the wind had probably led to some pretty scary nights.
Mulder gave him a hug. "I don't like wind either. We'll be okay, though."
"You said 'there aren't many people' staying here," I said. "I take it means that there are others, then?"
"Oh, sure. Not as many as there used to be because the place has been renovated to mostly two-room suites like yours and a big section is still uninhabitable, but there are a few other people staying with us. Besides myself there's Drew Welsh and his daughter Olivia-"
"How old is she?" William asked, looking interested. The talk about the storm didn't faze him at all, but now he was curious.
"Ten," Janice told him before looking back at me. "Then there are the Greens, they don't have children." She paused, looking down at my disappointed sons. "A folk band booked with us, but they decided to cancel their reservations so they could take rooms closer to their show which is probably a good idea. Oh, the owner is spending the night as well, since it's not safe to spend the night on his boat."
"The owner?" Mulder asked.
Just then I realized that I'd heard the bell on the door chime as he spoke, so I wasn't startled when a voice behind us said, "That's me."
I turned, and was surprised to see a young man. He was about Mulder's height, had dark hair and a bit of fuzz on his chin, and he was decades younger than I would have guessed the owner of a hotel would be. Apparently the same thing occurred to Mulder, because he said, "You're doing well for someone as young as you are."
The man smirked. "Well, I'm in my thirties, and this investment sort of fell into my lap." Over at the desk Janice snorted, which made her cap of gray curls bounce merrily. "I'm Duke Crocker."
Mulder shook his hand, and then I did. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise, but you folks picked a helluva day to arrive. What brings you to Haven?"
To my surprise, it was Joey who spoke up. "We're up this a-ways to look at places to live, 'cause we're going to move after me and him finish the school year." He helpfully pointed at his brother. "We're in the second grade."
Duke smiled. "You two must be twins, huh?"
Both boys nodded. By this point we were used to people making the assumption, and people weren't entirely wrong - they did in fact come from the same set of eggs, but were four days apart in age and carried to term by different women. "How did you know we're twins?" William asked.
"Well, besides the hair-" William had Mulder's dark brown, and Joey had my red, "-you look an awful lot alike."
"Yeah, everyone says that."
Duke looked up at us with a professional smile. "It was nice meeting you folks. I hope you enjoy your stay, impending storm not withstanding."
"I'm sure we will," I murmured, but I couldn't help but listen to the TV weather person gleefully predicting Armageddon.
The waves gently rocked the battle-scarred boat on calm seas. The storm darkened waves caressed the hull, softly, briefly touching the old boat before racing into the sea's depths. The boat, aptly named the Valkyrie, was registered out of Haven ME, according to the faded paint on her stern. Along her decks were strewn lobster pots and fishing nets, an armor made from and for the fishing trades. It had not been enough to protect her crew.
The decks were washed with blood. A lone figure lay out on the deck, pale and shaking in the late autumn's cold. Around the body were the ravaged remains of crew, no body left intact, and most eaten down to the bone. Lobster traps, once neatly stacked on the decking were loose, and scattered over the decking. Netting was hung like a shroud from the long metal poles that were used to trawl the catch. The derelict boat continued to drift, caught in a current. Overhead the clouds thickened and promised rain, and the wind began to rise. The gentle motion of the boat picked up and became a more playful tumble. Gentle caresses became playful slaps, and white-caps began to show on waves. A storm was coming.
The roughing motion of the boat stirred the lone man from his stupor, and he scuttled up to his knees, looking around in horror at the carnage around him. His captain's head stared sightlessly at the sea through one of the scuppers, then rolled across the deck to be caught by his own ribcage as the boat swayed in the waves. Of his other crewmates, one was reduced a torso caught in the netting. Dripping red and purple entrails draped down the netting and marked where the remainder of his flesh had been; his legs had been stripped down the bone. The death grimace left little doubt as to whether he had been alive or not when the flesh was ripped from his body. A yellow rain coat marked a second crewmate, but no trace of his face remained. The bones of his skull told a story of claws ripping and tearing at a face that no longer was present. This body had the most damage to it, and was little more than bones and cartilage. Of the last crewmember, there was only one hand jammed into winch. No other trace of the body remained.
Shaking the lone living member of the crew limped to the helm, and began to restart the engines. Slowly the boat woke from the shock of having her crew killed, and unwillingly headed back to port under her new master. The waves had grown enough to wash the decks of blood, and as the seas grew, the ocean greedily took what was left of the crew's bodies.
Haven Police Station
I'd been listening to Nathan lecture me for the past hour and a half about the evils of bailing Duke out of jail when the call came in. Normally the staties kept to themselves, and the government trusted the people of Maine to act in their own best self interest. However, the storm that was coming in was even worse than had been predicted. The reports from just south of us indicated the storm wasn't going to be snow and hail as had been originally forecasted, but was now thought to be mostly freezing rain.
We'd had freezing rain in Ohio, and I didn't think too much of it. A winter storm was a winter storm. We got snow off the lake, and it was frequently colder than it was so far in Maine. However, as we drove through Haven, I saw lots of boats being removed from the harbor. Anything that could be trailered away was being taken out of the water it if it wasn't already winterized. Some of the really large boats were going to try to head out to sea to avoid the storm entirely. Those left on the docks suddenly sprouted tires running from bow to stern in an attempt to protect the boats from being smashed into the docks. The Mainiacs were taking the storm seriously, and that caused me to wonder what they knew that I didn't.
When the weather service in Grey, Maine gave the warning that thick ice accumulation was expected, we got the call from the staties to try to get the folks on the outlying islands back on the mainland before the storm hit. There was no guarantee of rescue after the storm, and if the electricity went out on the islands, the residents could die of the cold before anyone could get to them.
Unsurprisingly, Nathan made arrangements with the harbormaster to take a boat out on the water so that we could go to Carpenter's Knot, and was still complaining about Duke being the spawn of Satan - this time because he has taken ownership of the Hotel. I'd swear they must have been brothers…
An early dinner turned out to be more entertaining than I thought it would be, mostly because my sons took a shine to little Olivia, and the owner of the hotel took it upon himself to entertain. Since there weren't many guests that night, everyone, except for Drew who said he didn't feel well, ate at one long table rather than at the smaller ones that dotted the dinning room. We had Olivia sit with our boys so she'd feel less lonely without her father there.
"So," Mulder asked the owner after he poured drinks for all three kids, "Have you lived in Maine long?"
"All my life."
"Really. I lived in Massachusetts as a kid myself, but I don't recall there ever being such dire predictions about the weather back then. Must be global warming."
Duke shot him a look, obviously uncertain about whether or not he was joking, but he recovered quickly. "I don't think I've ever heard them getting this wound up, either."
"It's probably just hype," I said, hoping to move the conversation off of the weather. Everyone's nerves were already beginning to fray, and it was barely drizzling out yet. "So, Mr. Crocker-"
"Please, call me Duke."
"Okay, Duke. Have you been in the hotel business long?" I asked, unsurprised that he was uncomfortable with formalities.
"No, just a couple of months. I'm actually in the importing business."
Joey looked up just then, obviously having been paying at least a little attention to the adults' conversation. "Like Pier One? Some of your Christmas decorations look like Pier One stuff."
I glanced over at the gaudy Tuscany colored reindeer sitting by the window, and privately agreed with him. You could pretty much tell that no woman had helped pick out the decorations, though who knew if one had tried to steer him away from such ugly ones.
"My friend Audrey gave me those deer. And you know, I think she did pick them up at Pier One," Duke told him. So much for women having better taste. "But no, I import things that are a little different from that."
"Like what?" Mulder asked casually, but I could tell that he was more intent on knowing the answer than his voice betrayed.
Duke shrugged. "I specialize in rare and high end objects. I spend a lot of time paying customs fees so people can get their specialty foods and fine china."
"You must have a boat then," I said, thinking of how we'd seen so many being pulled out of the water as the ferry brought us to the island. Now their removal made sense, but I hadn't given it much thought at the time.
"I do, but she's back in town," he said, and I recalled then that Janice had said as much. That bit of information had escaped me after all the talk about the storm began.
"Then how did you get here?" William asked, and I knew he was thinking of helicopters because he looked disappointed when Duke answered.
"It's not so far, so I used my row boat."
"You rowed all the way here?"
"Nope, I used the outboard motor. I guess I could row it, but if you don't have to..." He shrugged.
I didn't blame him. I'd wanted a rowboat when I was a little girl, but back then I'd had no idea how much work rowing a long distance would be.
"So, if you don't mind me asking, what do you folks do?"
Mulder answered for the both of us. "The last few years I've done social work and she's a doctor in a Catholic hospital that she's thoroughly sick of."
Fact was, my being sick of the hospital was the reason we were considering relocating to the northeast in the first place. I was glad that Christian had gotten better after the experimental treatment I insisted on, but the hospital had become a very uncomfortable place for me since then. I didn't know how much longer I could put up with it.
Duke looked up sharply for some reason. I thought perhaps he was the sort of person who liked to collect information on anyone they met, just in case it proved to be useful. "Just the last few years?"
"We're retired from the FBI," I explained. "That's how we met, actually, way back in '92. We left when these guys were a year old." William and Joey looked up when they realized I'd talked about them, but soon returned to chattering with Olivia - for some reason I got the impression they were talking about hamsters.
"Your job must have been interesting."
You have no idea, I thought, but didn't say. "It had its ups and downs."
"And towards the end the downs gained on us," Mulder said lightly. "I can't say that we miss it much." We'd both agreed after helping out on a case earlier in the year that we were not interested in ever returning officially.
"So, were you agents Mulder and Mulder towards the end?" Duke asked. "That could get confusing."
"I was agent Scully the whole time," I said. "We didn't marry until after leaving the FBI."
"Oh, right." Duke looked a little embarrassed for having made me confess that I'd only married after having kids, and I let him stew. Maybe he'd learn not to jump to conclusions in the future.
"How about you, Duke?" Mulder asked. "Married?"
Duke looked away for a moment before giving a self-deprecating smile. Duke looked away for a moment before giving a self-deprecating smile. "I'm still working on finding a woman foolish enough to stick with me for the long haul."
I thought about asking if there were any contenders, but his expression clearly telegraphed that he had one in mind. I wondered where she was, if not in the hotel with us.
There was a terrific splash as the anchor hit the water, and the chain hissed as it fled the wheel where it has been imprisoned. The Valkyrie's dinghy splashed into the water and her crewman climbed into the little boat. He argued with the oarlocks for a moment before finding the proper placement and then began rowing to the small platform dock, seeking shelter in the large white hotel on Carpenter's Knot. The Valkyrie shuddered with relief that the crewman was gone, and slowly sank below the waves. The birds of Gull's Sorrow Island were the only ones to mourn her.
I knew trouble was coming when I saw the Habormaster's ship pull up to the hotel's small slip. I quickly made a mental run through the caches I had on the island, and could think of nothing that the harbormaster could know about that'd be worth coming out here to discuss my imports and exports. Then I nearly had an apoplexy when I saw Nathan and Audrey get off the boat with Ken, the new harbormaster. Nathan looked more upset than normal. I thought about it again, and still couldn't think of anything that would interest the two officers of the law.
Maybe it was Mike? Mike Harnon had rowed here earlier, claiming that the boat he was on had grounded on a sand bar out on Governor's Point, about 3 miles away on the windward side of the isthmus. He'd smelled of fish guts and the ocean, and I just wanted him out of my lobby before the guests got wind of him, literally. I didn't pay too much attention to him, other than to hear him say that he'd been out trying to get one more run in before the season ended. I sent him off to my rooms to take a shower and gave him some clothes. Maybe he called for a ride, and Nathan decided that today was a good day for busting my chops as he already had Audrey bust me for the black eye.
I don't know how Nathan could look menacing and happy all at the same moment, but he was. He bounced down the gangway and greeted me in his usual garrulous manner.
"Mandatory evacuation order for the islands surrounding the storm watch area. You and all of your guests are ordered to leave." The bastard actually smiled as he handed me a paper that confirmed he wasn't making it up. The storm was going to be a helluva big one then.
"Fine," I said before turning to the object of my affections instead. "Audrey, would you like some hot chocolate? Janice makes it with real cocoa and milk. Way better than that powdered stuff I saw at your place. She'll even put in marshmallows that aren't freeze-dried if you want. It's gonna take a while to get the guests up and moving."
Audrey smiled at me and for a moment my heart stopped; she was so beautiful and I didn't care what her name was or where she came from. I'd call her Aphrodite and worship her all of her days if she would just lose Nathan, preferably out in George's Bank, without a boat. Hmm… Maybe I should use that line on her. Nah, she liked Nathan for some odd reason.
She walked by me and up to the hotel, turning to look back over her shoulder and said "I'd love some." I motioned for Nathan to proceed me, envisioned burying a knife in his back, and trudged back up to the hotel.
When we got to the hotel, Janice and I knocked on the doors to the occupied rooms, and I grabbed Mike from my room. Nathan explained the evacuation order and I apologized for the weather and offered them all a free stay during more clement weather. It took about an hour for everyone to repack their belongings, gather their assorted kids, and come back down to the lobby. In that time I got the Gator from its garage and attached the dump cart so we could get the luggage down to the slip. Since Mike came in, the wind had really picked up and was blowing pretty hard. I parked the Gator by the doors and went back in.
In the hotel, Janice was serving hot cocoa to everyone in the lobby, and had indeed found the marshmallows. Nathan and Audrey were talking to the Mulders. Both kids looked scared, and had velcroed themselves to their parent of choice. William was firmly attached to Mr. Mulder, while Joey was glommed on to Mrs. Mulder. Momentarily distracted, I idly wondered why one boy went by a nickname and the other didn't.
Shaking my head to clear it, I walked over and knelt down to get closer to eye level to them. "It'll be OK, you'll see. If you're going to move up here, you are going to see a lot more ice and snow." The fact that the family currently lived in Virginia had come up in conversation over dinner. "We usually get a few feet of snow a year. Ice is a little more rare, so they are just being very careful and making sure that everyone's OK."
Nathan finished talking to Mr. Mulder, and also knelt down, the copy cat. "Duke's right. There's nothing to fear. The main land's more accessible. If you stay out here, it might be a little bit until the boats can come and pick everyone up." He stood up again and turned to Mr. And Mrs. Mulder. "Any help you could give would be appreciated."
"They used to be Feds, I don't think you have to coddle them," I said, taking satisfaction that he looked shocked that I knew something that he didn't. Apparently being troubled didn't grant ole Nathan the power to read minds. To be fair, though, looking at Mrs. Mulder you could see why he did a double take. Her husband was a foot taller than her, and she was small-boned besides. At first glance, it was hard to imagine a woman a couple inches shorter than Audrey taking down a bad guy.
"You were FBI?" Nathan asked. "So was my partner before she relocated here." I scowled, knowing that his possessive emphasis on the word "my" had been for my benefit. This was proven a moment later when he went on to say, "I bet you folks could tell us some great tales about the crimes you helped solve, like smuggling, blackmail, all sorts of things." Nathan looked positively beatific.
Mr. Mulder looked uncomfortable. "We didn't really deal with those sorts of crimes."
Great, that was just what I needed, Nathan pestering the paying guests as well as me. I was going to take him outback and strangle him with his own intestines when the Mulders left.
Everyone once again in the lobby, we herded them like ducks with Mr. Mulder, Mrs. Mulder, Nathan, Audrey and myself keeping them in line. Everyone's luggage and the kids were loaded into the dump cart and the gator, and I drove to the dock. The wind was racing through the pines on the island with a force by then. The first drops of rain were just starting to fall.
Just as Nathan, followed closely by Mike, got to the dock, there came an ominous cracking and a tortured groan. A series of sharp cracks was the only warning we had that the tree was coming down. I put the brakes on the gator and looked frantically. There, the ground was lifting up. I yelled, "It's the big pine by the dock! Get away from the BOAT!"
Nathan grabbed Mike's raincoat and dove with him into the icy water. The tree came down with a vengeance as though trying to smash Nathan and Mike flat. It slammed into the boat, and the boat held for a few moments. It was long enough for Nathan to swim under the gangplank with Mike under his arm in a rescue carry and get clear of the tree. The fiberglass hull had withstood all it could and gave way with a crash. The tree and the stern of the boat sunk into the water.
I told the children to stay in the gator, grabbed a guest and told him to watch the kids and ran to the water's edge. I cursed Nathan with every thing I knew and invented a few new curses on the spot specifically to place on his head. He surfaced and swam with Mike to the shore and I hauled him up and out of the water, grateful my arch nemesis was still alive. I didn't want to win Audrey by his death.
I got back to the gator and saw Mr. Mulder with the kids, and we got Nathan and Mike stuffed into the gator. Mike had to sit on Nathan's lap, and it was a good thing the Mulder's kids were small or they wouldn't have all fit. Nathan was probably glad that Mike was small too, or he would have been squished.
We weren't leaving the island tonight on that boat, and the island's rowboat wouldn't carry everyone in this weather. Mike and Nathan were sent to my rooms to take a shower to get warmed up before they became hypothermic and Mrs. Mulder went with them, stating she was a doctor and wanted to ensure they weren't hurt. Mr. Mulder walked over to me.
"How long would it take them to send someone out for us?"
"They won't, not in this weather. It'll be a day or so depending on how bad the mainland's hit. First they're going to have to de-ice the boats, then they are going to go out to the islands furthest out. We'll be one of the last because it's known we have a generator and plenty of gas, and the pantry's well stocked."
Outside the rain started falling in earnest, freezing everything it touched. Already, in the time it took to get everyone back in, reassigned their rooms, get rooms for Nathan, Audrey, and Ken, and generally calm people down a thin glaze of ice had started to form on the trees. Mike and I would have to room together because the hotel wasn't currently designed to hold a large number of people, but mostly redesigned to be a bed and breakfast. The arrangements arose in part because Audrey didn't trust that Nathan and I could spend the night together and not kill each other without getting really, really drunk in order to tolerate each other. Come to think of it she was probably right.
I almost jumped out of bed when I heard the sound of a shotgun blast outside. Mulder was already sitting up in bed beside me, and I reflexively reached for an imaginary gun on the nightstand.
Mulder noticed my pantomime, and pulled me close. "Don't worry, we're not under attack. Or at least not the kind you're thinking of."
"But someone fired-"
He shook his head. "It's not gunfire."
"Then what is it?" I asked, feeling petulant and muzzy still. If he knew so much, why wasn't he sharing? "For a minute there I thought the cop and the owner might be having a shoot out."
"What?" Mulder blinked at me.
I raised a hand before letting it fall dramatically, and decided not to share my theory of how Nathan had gotten his black eye. Instead, I said, "People don't drink like that around each other unless they've got a lot of issues to work through," I said because neither of us had failed to notice that the bar had been opened just before he and I headed up to bed, and the lavish array of bottles set out hinted that they were planning to really settle in. The other cop, Audrey, clearly hadn't liked it, but she hadn't said anything to them in our hearing.
"Normally I'd agree with you, but Bill and I got through last Christmas without drinking a drop," Mulder replied.
"Well, you and Bill are grownups," I pointed out. Technically our inn-keeper and officer Wuornos were as well, but they were only in their early thirties. When I thought back to when I'd been their age...babies, the pair of them. "So, if it wasn't gunfire," I prompted my sleepy husband.
"It's the trees. It looks like the pine that nailed the harbormaster's boat was just the opening act."
"The trees?" I asked. "If you make some sort of joke about mimes being out there, I'm going to hurt you. The wind's died down, so how could it be the trees?"
"It's the ice. Everything's collapsing under the weight of all the ice."
Another noise joined the chorus, and I realized that it must be the generator kicking on. Apparently one of those matchstick'd trees had just taken out the power too. The generator chugged away merrily, and I was glad that we weren't going to be entirely without heat and light.
Shaking my head, I grabbed up my robe - for warmth rather than modesty - and went to the window. The world outside glittered appealingly, but it was a dangerous sort of beauty. As much as it looked like the crystal store in the mall, I knew that this wasn't a good sight: the ice that clung to every surface was causing a ton of damage.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Mulder asked from the bed, so I knew that he'd gotten up before me.
"It-" I jumped when a tree in my line of sight snapped and crashed to the ground. The hotel shook a little, which wasn't surprising since a couple thousand pounds of wood had just dropped down only three or four hundred yards away.
The next crash came from our very room as the door to the other half of the suite was slammed open. Pale as a ghost, William launched himself at his father. "What's going on?" he asked us in a shaking voice.
Mulder gathered him up reassuringly before answering. "Some of the trees are coming down. We'll be okay, though. There aren't any right near the hotel."
I shot him a look. Maybe he had checked the perimeter, but I certainly couldn't say for sure how close the trees were to the building.
"It's really gonna be okay?" William asked, peeking out at me from the safety of his father's arms.
"Yup," I said, but I was already on my way to the door. If William was this scared, Joey must be petrified.
I expected to find him cowering in his bed, but he was fast asleep. Nodding to myself, I straightened his blanket before deciding that it probably wouldn't be best to simply leave him there. He could wake up at any moment, and if he did, he'd find himself all alone, which would probably be terrifying.
It was hard not to groan when I picked him up. He and William were only seven, but there were already hints that they'd grow to be tall men like their father, so it wasn't easy to carry either one of them when sleep made them a dead weight. I managed, though, and soon joined Mulder and William in the other room.
Mulder looked amused. "Wouldn't it have been easier to wake him?"
"Probably," I agreed, tucking him into bed between us. William was already in the middle himself, and though he was wide-eyed, he'd apparently promised to try to sleep because he was lying down too.
"Mom, aren't you afraid?" William asked, and I could see him shiver under the heavy comforters that the hotel provided.
"Oh, maybe a little," I admitted. "Mostly because I woke up thinking that someone was shooting at the hotel."
"You did not, did you?"
"Hey," Mulder said, poking him gently. "You've never been shot at. Mom has."
I cringed, hoping that this wouldn't be the moment that Mulder decided to inform one of our children that early into our partnership I'd once shot him. Fortunately, he didn't. Instead he reached over and shut off the light.
"We're safe, right?" William asked nervously.
"Nothing bad will happen as long as we're together," Mulder told him with a yawn.
It was a nice sentiment, but as we listened to what sounded like every tree on the island falling, it was a little hard to believe that our mere togetherness would keep the bad away.
Duke had opened the bar up around eight, and he and I had been steadily working through his stock of liquor. But, he insisted that we couldn't start drinking until he'd gotten a hold of his office manager Margie so he could get her to take care of his damn cat; he didn't think she'd take kindly to an unsober phone call asking for a favor. Apparently it didn't even cross his mind to ask her to take care of his restaurant.
Around one, Audrey showed up to find us still drinking, and yelled at us in a whisper that we were all responsible for the people on the island; Duke, because he owned the hotel, and Audrey and myself because we were officers of the law. She invited us both to go to bed.
Audrey really didn't understand Duke and me. We had been best friends, worst enemies and pretty much everything in between most of our lives. We'd been in an in-between phase for a long time when Audrey came into town and upset the status quo. Now I found myself in his company far more than I was used to, and it was getting to me. Duke knew it and I knew I was getting to him as well.
The thing with Duke is that he is a royal pain in the ass. He didn't care about law and rules, except when it suited him. Every damn time you thought he was turning into a decent human being, he'd go and do something to prove he wasn't. Audrey hadn't seen Duke in one of his stupidly evil moments yet, but she knew about the tacks.
And now he wanted to move in on Audrey. I knew that once he had her, and was done chasing her, that would be it and he'd move on and break her heart. She didn't do one-night stands, and he didn't do commitment. I tried explaining it once to her, and she just thought I was being jealous, which I was, but that didn't change the truth of the words.
Duke responded to Audrey's invitation by at once mixing her a drink, and slowly and deliberately opening up an umbrella and sticking it into the drink. Audrey shook her head, "Didn't we discuss this, this morning, Duke? Opening umbrellas indoors, even tiny drink ones, is bad luck. Look at what happened to the harbor master's boat." She closed the umbrella and then hit Duke with it.
"Mere co-inch..co-ics, bad luck, Audrey. Umprellas hash nothing to do wit it." Duke waved his hand around in airy dismissal of the bad luck.
"Umprellas? Just a little drunk, are you?" Having ascertained that Duke was two sheets to the wind, and headed rapidly to unfurling the third, she turned to me. I retreated into Stoic Maine Man mode, which didn't require speaking unless directly asked a question, and answering in as few words as possible. Less chance of having to say something and be caught out as being as drunk as the inebriated owner of the hotel. She rolled her eyes at me, recognizing the tactic.
"Will you two please go to bed and be sober in the morning," Audrey asked, shaking her head and looking to heaven to either give her patience when dealing with us, or strike us both dead.
Duke wobbled up and started cleaning up the bar and the empty bottles. "As you wish, Lady Audrey."
I carefully held down the counter, preventing it from running away, and glad I didn't have to clean anything up. I'm not sure I could have made it to my feet.
Satisfied that one of us was moving, she sat down and finished her drink. She was ensuring we left the bar, and wanted us both to know it. Just as Duke finished putting away the last glass, a hollow knocking sound came from the front door. Looking far more sober then he had a right to, Duke went to open it.
On the other side of the door, three weather-beaten men stood on the front porch. All three looked as though they'd nearly drowned. The first man was tall, and I recognized him as Glen Littlehawk. Glen was followed in by two shorter men that introduced themselves as John McKerry and Frank Griffin.
"Boat's caught on rocks out about a quarter mile from here, so we had to swim for your slip. The ice got too thick and she overbalanced, and got pinned. John here was trying to make it back to Haven in a 9footer, ‘cept he punctured his hull when thrown on the rocks over by Gull's Sorrow Island," Frank explained. "Glen and I picked him up, but then we ran into trouble ourselves. 'was hoping we could ride out the storm here."
Duke nodded. "I don't have any of the inhabitable guest rooms left, but I can get you set up in our attic. At least it'll be warm and dry. I'm afraid we're a bit overloaded."
Glen nodded back. "Anything you have and can share, we'd be grateful for."
Duke took the men up to the attic, and I went to bed. An hour later someone was pounding on my door. I opened it to find Duke, glaring at me. "Don't get any ideas about arresting me for violating the occupancy permits. You'd be up in the attic with the fishermen if that band had shown up."
"I hadn't thought of that, but thanks for reminding me. Did the band only rent one room?"
"No, they rented two. You and Audrey got their suites. Ken got the last suite." I remembered that Duke had planned on converted the small rooms into suites with two rooms each, some with full kitchens some with offices, and some with two bedrooms.
"Then I presume Audrey would also have to be in the attic."
Duke looked at me like a cat that had gotten into the cream. "No, she would have been allowed to stay in mine. Mike would have been in with you, fish guts and all."
"Good night, Duke," I said, hoping that I appeared a lot less bothered than I was.
"Good night, Nathan," he chirped back before stepping back. Apparently he thought he deserved to be punched too.
We were coaxing the kids into getting dressed when a polite knock on our door grabbed our attention. After I nodded to indicate that it was okay, Joey opened it.
Janice stood there, looking a little frazzled. "Sorry to intrude, but I wanted to see how you folks were doing this morning."
"It looks like we weathered the storm," Mulder said, looking up from tying his shoe. "How's everyone else?"
"Annoyed," Janice admitted. "The Greens have a room a lot closer to the genny than you do, and it kept them up. I'm trying to talk Duke into offering them a free extra day when they come back, but really, the damage is done."
"Oh, you couldn't have predicted that," I said in a mollifying way, though I was really thinking that she ought to have been able to foresee the issue.
"We got a few more guests during the night," Janice went on to explain. "Don't let on to the fire chief if you see him," she joked since we had no idea who the fire chief even was, "because we were already full up. The poor guys are bunking on cots in the attic."
"How'd that happen?" Mulder asked. "I assume they didn't book rooms."
"Nope. The three of them were trying to get their fishing boat in last night before the storm hit, but got blown off course. They were heading to Little Tall and practically shipwrecked near here instead."
Down at breakfast we met the stressed out trio: Glen, John, and Frank. Frank spent most of the meal fretting about how extensive the damage to his boat was - and I knew from shamelessly listening in that the hull had been punched, so it wasn't going to get us off the island - while the other two talked quietly to each other and Ken.
December 12th, 2008
I didn't know if I should have been terrified or enthralled at the glittering beauty around me. Duke had me set up in an inner room that didn't have windows. Throughout the night I had heard the trees falling, but they had invaded my dreams only as footsteps of giants. I dreamed of a giant angel with Duke's face and a giant demon with Nathan's face, arguing over who could protect me better. Neither particularly wanted to hear that I didn't need any protecting.
The boys needed to be kept separate. They had some type of male PMS thing going on. It was making me feel like Helen of Troy, and I didn't like it.
I was thinking how I could keep the two of them from making me completely miserable when the water went cold in my shower. I idly wondered if this was Duke's form of revenge for arresting him yesterday, but then decided it wasn't his MO. Duke was devious as a son of a cat, ferret, and a fox, but he'd always dealt with me straightly with me. Most likely the poor water heater just had been over taxed and finally gave up the ghost.
Ten minutes later when Nathan knocked on my door, I could tell I wasn't the only one to have been given a cold shower. "I'm going to kill him. I'm sure he did it on purpose."
"I'm sure he didn't. You know he said that the hotel was over capacity, and we're running off the generator now besides."
"It doesn't matter. I'm still going to kill him."
I patted Nathan on the shoulder. "Please don't, we may need to eat him later if we are stuck out here so long that the pantry goes empty." I was vaguely disturbed that Nathan's eyes light up at the prospect. He grinned.
"I can see it now, we'll barbeque him on a long spit, and I can turn the crank. It will be a horrible tragedy. Thanks Audrey!" His morning having been brightened up by the thought of Duke being eaten ala Donner Dinner Party, Nathan cheerfully went down to lobby to meet his future snack.
By the time I got to the lobby, Duke was eyeing Nathan with a suspicious look, and reaching for a large heavy lamp, presumably to club Nathan. Nathan was smiling at Duke and showing entirely too many teeth. The kids, William and Joey, were laughing at the by-play, and Mrs. Mulder was inquiring if Nathan and Duke were siblings too. I laughed when they both vehemently denied being related.
Mr. Mulder smiled knowingly when both men straightened up on seeing me, and Mrs. Mulder, incorrectly interpreting his smile hit him in the arm, albeit gently. That was the last straw for the kids, who lost it completely. Yes, children, Maine is not quite the place you think it is, and beneath every staid New Englander is a very odd person. It was like living with the farmer who owned Babe the Pig from the movie.
"Hey Duke, any news from the mainland?" I asked, deciding to ignore the scene I walked into in favor of finding out how many hours we would be stuck here.
Duke looked down and scratched his head. Uh-oh, this couldn't be good. "I radioed the mainland. It's not good, Audrey. I think we'll be here for a while. This part of the state is mostly without power. They're going to bring up crews from as far south as the Carolinas to help restore things, but it's going to take time. The boats that were in the harbor were badly damaged, ice got a few, a few more were battered into the docks. A couple even got loose of their moorings and drifted out to sea. That, combined with the trees that fell into the ocean and were carried up into the harbor by the tides, well, let's just say it's a nasty maze for the captains to get through even if they have sound boats. And the captains with sound boats are too inclined to take them out and potentially damage them." Duke sighed, then looked up at me apologetically.
"I went and checked on my rowboat and the boat that the fishermen came in on last night and...it looks they were in the way of a rather large tree that fell last night. Sorry Audrey, but I think were here for a few more days."
December 18th, 2008
Six days after the storm, the news people on the radio were beginning to sound positively optimistic about restoring order to the affected areas. More than half of people who'd lost power for days had it back, and power crews were supposedly working diligently towards restoring it for everyone else. And with the exception of a few incidents of angry people storming the power companies' buildings, people were taking it fairly well.
But they weren't marooned on an island. A routine had developed, but everyone was mostly wishing that it was over with. I knew I was, and not only because I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep Duke and Nathan from hurting each other. Duke was going stir crazy being stuck on the island, and his restlessness was driving Nathan nuts. It was going to come to a head sooner or later. Duke had taken to running around the island and trying to cut up some of the damaged trees. He'd been out there for about two hours one day and came back in, Nathan made one comment about how it was perfect that things were like Gilligan's Island considering that the Greens looked like the Howells, and Duke went out for another two hours.
We were having to ration the generator gas, so it was turned on and off every couple of hours to keep the heating system functioning and the pipes from freezing. Duke did have plenty of firewood, and we were using it in many of the fireplaces. I noticed he kept looking off to where the Grey Gull was, and I wondered whether his home had survived the storm. No one had cleared the roads up there yet to check on it.
They kept up a brave front, but most of the guests were also fretting about the possible states of their own homes because we were mostly restricted to communicating with the outside world via shortwave radio; the cell phone towers in the area must have also been damaged because we could rarely get a call out to anywhere father away than Haven's mainland. I'd been amusing Dave and Vince, the editor's of Haven's paper, by dictating messages over the radio to them so I could get some information from my former contacts in Boston. Funnily, Dave seemed more comfortable with the radio than e-mail. I wrapped up another conversation with Haven's finest reporters by promising that I'd give an interview after we got off the island.
"Hey, Duke. How's everyone doing?" I asked that morning.
Duke grimaced. "Mike's still asleep on my couch, the Greens are still unhappy about the generator, you are radiant, as ever, Nathan is surly, as ever, the Mulders' appear well, Ken and the fishermen are morose as usual, and I was just about to check on Drew and Olivia. Care to come with?"
"I'd love to."
Duke jumped over the front desk rather than walk past Nathan, and made a show of gallantly taking my arm.
We went back upstairs. "Kind of reminds you of my birthday when we were all here, doesn't it?" I asked idly, but instantly regretted the off-hand remark.
Duke looked at me, and ghosts haunted him and looked out his eyes. "Yes, but at least this time there's no murderous shapeshifters, and you aren't locked in a trunk dying."
We went to the room at the end of the hall, and knocked on the door. There was no answer. Duke knocked a little louder and called for Drew. There still was no answer. Looking vaguely worried, he took the key to the room from his pocket and unlocked the door. As the door swung open, we saw an empty room.
The rug was sopping wet, and there was ice on the broken window, slowly melting. The comforter, once white was now a rich, crimson red. One foot was under the bed, but there was no body attached to it. It looked like it had been attached to an adult male. Across the bed, there was a scattering of scales, glittering pale grey.
There was no sign of the little girl, which should have felt like a good sign but didn't.
Duke looked at me and closed the door. He took a breath to calm himself, and then quickly grabbed me by the arm, and frog marched me to the basement, to a familiar trunk. He gently toed the trunk, and then gave it a tremendous kick, sending it sliding across the floor. Suddenly I remembered Duke could be a very, very dangerous man.
"You aren't locked in the trunk this time. Where is she, you slobbering pus sack?!"
"Duke, it's me, Audrey. I swear, I'm really me. Whatever killed Drew had scales, I don't have scales, do I? Here, look!" I babbled as I pushed up one arm of my sweater.
Duke gathered himself, whether to attack or calm down, I wasn't quite sure. He was shaking, but he finally let go of me. My arm would probably bruised by the end of the day with the force of his grip. He ran his hand through his hair, and looked down and away.
"I'm sorry, Audrey, you're right. We better tell Nathan." He motioned for me to go ahead of him, and grabbed a baseball bat as we went upstairs.
Duke was very, very pale and gripping a baseball bat in one hand as if his life depended on it, and Audrey wasn't much better. Neither was looking at anyone when they appeared in the lobby. Nathan, Mulder and I all looked up when the pair came out, alerted by what the kids jokingly referred to as our cop senses that Something Was Wrong.
"What?" Nathan asked tensely.
Audrey and Duke looked at each other for a second before Duke said, "Not here."
Mulder went over to talk to Janice. In the distance I could hear him ask her to keep an eye on the kids. She nodded, apparently having no idea that there was something wrong. I wasn't surprised because I knew from experience that most civvies didn't have anything like cop senses.
The three of us followed them outside, and stopped a few yards from the hotel. Though I realized that whatever had happened was important, I couldn't help but be distracted by the piles of timber that now surrounded the building. They had once been trees, but now we're nothing better than firewood-to-be.
Duke looked at Mulder and me. "Normally I wouldn't involve guests in something like this, but considering you had been law enforcement once upon a time..." he trailed off, looking away.
"What is it?" Mulder asked predictably. Someone had to.
Audrey shook her head. "We think there's been a murder."
"A murder?" I mentally did a headcount, and came up two short. A sinking feeling overtook me. "Just one murder?"
Duke looked ill. "We hope so. Drew is dead, and his daughter is missing."
"Oh God," Nathan muttered. I didn't know what bothered him more: the murdered man, or the missing child. "Do you think she could be in the unfinished part of the hotel?"
Duke shook his head. "It's locked down tight and I have the only keys. Not even Janice could get in there without my knowing it. And the window was broken...she's got to be outside."
Mulder got right to the point. "So somewhere on the island we have both a missing girl, and a murderer." He looked at Audrey and Nathan. "Do you think the murderer is one of the people staying at the hotel, or someone who found another way here?"
Another look was traded between Duke and Audrey, and I already could predict that they were worried that we weren't going to believe what they had to say. "We're...we're not convinced that anyone here killed Drew."
"So what do you think killed him?" I asked, feeling impatient. Maybe Mulder and I should just go ahead and explain that we've seen some pretty wild things ourselves.
Duke squirmed. "Something with scales?"
"Like justice's?" Mulder asked blankly. Apparently he was imagining a bludgeoning death.
"No, more like a fish's," Audrey said, and she spared us all the embarrassment of prefacing that with "I know this will sound crazy, but..."
"So you're thinking it was an animal attack?" I asked. "How would an animal have gotten up to the second floor without anyone noticing?"
"How would something with scales have gotten so far from the water in the first place?" Mulder added. "I know that a Christmas special our kids like features a snowman coming in out of the cold after a bad storm, but this is real life we're talking about, not a puppet special. In real life fish don't come inside and eat you, not even if they're as clever as Jaws."
Nathan's expression became even grimmer. "It might not have to have come in from out of the water. It might have already been in the building to begin with."
Duke threw up his hands in self defense. "Don't look at me, I've never imported anything that was alive. Even I have my limits, and feeding and watering someone's import is it."
"Mrs. Mulder-" Nathan started to say, but I cut him off.
"Please call me Dana. Being called Mrs. Mulder makes me feel like I'm old enough to be your mother, and I'm not." I hooked a thumb at my husband. "He goes by just Mulder."
"You go by your last name?" Audrey asked, looking momentarily distracted from the disaster at hand.
"Yes," Mulder replied expressionlessly, and he didn't give them his first name. I knew that he wouldn't.
"Anyway-" Nathan said, waiting until we were all looking at him. "Haven isn't exactly a normal place."
"So few places are," Mulder said under his breath before turning back to the young officer. "Not normal in what way?"
"This town has been plagued by a series of, for lack of a better word, troubles that crop up every twenty-five years or so. A lot of bad things happened here when Duke and I were small boys, and it's been clear for the last several months that the troubles are back."
"And you think this murder is somehow related to that?"
He nodded. "It's possible that something that looked like a man killed Drew when it changed form."
"Into, into a werefish?" Mulder asked, and to his credit he kept his face straight as he said it.
"Something like that," Nathan agreed, again ignoring the inherent absurdity of that. I still couldn't tell if they were hoping that we'd agree if they made it seem like a given that we would, or if they'd simply been so worn down by similar situations that they no longer remembered what it was like not to be familiar with the problems in Haven.
"I'm pretty up on my mythology, and while I know that people have long thought that they saw fish that resembled beautiful women, monks, and bishops, I've never heard of anyone who thought a man could turn into a fish," Duke said, objecting to Nathan's theory.
"What about The Little Mermaid?" Audrey asked, and she blushed when we all looked at her. "I'm just saying that there's a precedent. Ariel grew legs and walked on land in the movie."
"So we're looking for Hans Christian Andersen or Ursula the sea-witch as a suspect," Mulder grumbled until I shot him a look.
Nathan shook his head slowly. "I'm just saying with the troubled people we've encountered, I wouldn't rule shape-shifting out."
"Troubled people?" I asked, thinking about the times when William had made his mobile spin as an infant. That had been troublesome, but for me, not him.
Something must have showed on my face, because Nathan stared at me. "You know someone who's troubled yourself, don't you."
Mulder, who had his hand on my arm, gave it a squeeze. "He's not troubled any more."
"Right." Nathan looked off into the distance, probably hoping to catch sight of the perp or the missing girl. "We have a decision to make. Do we go back to the hotel and tell everyone what's happened, or do we go and look for the girl right now?"
"Look for the girl," Mulder, Audrey, Duke and I all said at the same time.
"That's what I thought," Nathan said before looking at Mulder and me. "Any chance that you're armed?" I shook my head, and Nathan sighed. "If Audrey and I give the two of you our spare weapons, do you think you could keep an eye on the situation at the hotel? If you can do it without being obvious, it'd be nice to keep everyone together."
"And hope for the best that one of the guests isn't the murderous werefish," Duke muttered.
"That's why we're leaving them our spare guns," Nathan said patiently.
"At the risk of sounding like the stupidest person in a horror movie, I think the rest of us ought to split up," Audrey said.
"I'd rather go with you," Duke objected.
She raised an eyebrow. "I'm a big girl, Duke. I don't need anyone to protect me."
"That's fine, but what about me?" Duke whined. "I'm the civilian here."
Nathan snorted, and looked up from handing me a gun. "There's not another civilian in Haven I'd more trust to save his own hide, Duke. I'm sure you'll be fine."
"We'll keep everything quiet until..." I trailed off, not wanting to say "until you find the girl, dead or alive."
They must have understood because they agreed before they separated, and Mulder and I made our way back to the hotel. I grabbed Mulder's arm a few yards from the front door and stopped him. "They have to find her, Mulder. I can't sit the kids down and tell them that the adorable little girl they've been playing with is dead too."
"They'll find her."
I really hoped so.
The little girl might still be alive was the only thing I was capable of thinking beyond This Isn't Happening Again. There are two things that rate on the never experience again meter, one is aging to 95 and the other is being trapped in the hotel with a murderer. At least this time we know it's a fish. A werefish. Hard to believe that a fish could eat someone like that. But then again, sharks are fish and they seem to eat someone, somewhere, at least a year. But sharks don't have scales. I tried to remember if mudskippers had scales or skin. They were the only fish I knew about that could spend a fair amount of time out of water that I couldn't immediately picture. I know catfish have skin.
I shook my head, trying to rid myself of the thought and concentrate on looking for the girl. The grass crunched under my feet, shattering in the ice. I jogged around the paths by the coast. I was to take the east, Nathan the west, and Audrey was scouting the central areas of the island. The Mulders were holding down the fort at the hotel. I slid and slipped down the trail, and altered my course to run closer to the water. Mudskippers had skin. But flying fish had scales. Crap, what if this thing could fly?
Concentrate, Duke! I continued around the edges of the island, until I came to an old boat house. The house dated back to when the hotel was a private home, and there were servants' quarters on the island. The structure was in very bad shape, and was barely standing up anymore. It was one of the things I needed to repair in the summer. I skidded down the hill leading to the boat house, and ran in, carefully opening the door.
The air was knocked out of me when an oar smashed into my stomach. I sat, stunned on the ground and saw the oar descending to smack me on the head. I reached up and stopped it. That's when the shrieking began. A small fury tried to rip the oar out of my hands, but I was bigger and stronger. I let the fury attempt to wrench the oar from my hands until it gave in to exhaustion and resolved itself into a scared ten-year-old girl.
She was crying, blonde hair stringy and hanging in her eyes, and I could never stand the sight of a crying woman, even a miniature one. She collapsed in a heap and I picked her up. "Please don't eat me."
"Honey, I'm not going to harm you. Come on, let's get you back inside." I was relieved she was alive. I held her close for a few moments, happy beyond words she'd weathered the storm, that she was warm, relatively speaking, and living, rather than cold and dead.
I began carefully picking my way up the hill, still holding her close. She felt very cold, probably slightly hypothermic, all of which suggested that Audrey and I had discovered the murder scene long after the murder took place. I didn't see anything other than bruising on her face and arms. I was still mentally tallying up her injuries when suddenly I was taken off my feet.
I dropped Olivia, who rolled and screamed, then ran off into the wood. I would have liked to do the same. The thing that attacked us was no mere fish. It was a gaunt humanoid, scaled over its torso and upper thighs. The body was so thin that the bones were showing through the scales. The arms were a sick looking yellow, and the fingers were tipped with 3 inch talons. The legs below the knees had long fins attached to where the calves should have been the feet were large and bony; they would have been good flippers in the water, and made good weapons on land. The neck, pulled tight to the esophagus and vertebra showed three lines of angry red gills. I couldn't ever look at the face, a horrible meld of bald, starving human with the large, lidless eyes of a fish. Needle sharp teeth were exposed in a lipless mouth that seemed to stretch from ear to ear.
Werefish suddenly weren't funny.
It darted after Olivia and I decided to take it off its feet. She'd survived this nightmare once, and it should be easy to kill it here, before it could attack her again. Together we crashed into a tree, and it took the brunt of the impact. Sadly, it didn't obligingly break its neck or back. Showing remarkable strength for something that looked like it should have been as weak as a day old kitten it, pushed me off and swiped at my chest. I jumped back and it tried once more to follow Olivia.
I grabbed it around the waist and tried to throw it down the hill. The werefish, being an agreeable sort, toppled both of us over the hill, and this time I took the brunt of the impact. My abused stomach heaved with my second winding in 10 minutes. I smashed my elbow on a rock, and my arm went numb, causing me to release the creature. It surged up and tried to climb the hill, but slipped on the melting ice. I rolled into the edge of the boathouse and grabbed the oar I'd been hit with by a little girl and ran up to the fish, intending to vent my fury on its head.
It ducked the first blow. I swung again and caught it in the wrist. The third blow fell on the creature's armored thigh. That's when it decided three strikes and I'm out. The claws cut through the oar, scoring it deeply on the fourth swing. It curled its fingers into a fist and punched me in the gut again, and then again, lightning quick, folding me over. It grabbed the oar, broke it off, and clubbed me in the head until I went down. The world spun lazily around me for a moment and I tried to get up, but my arms wouldn't move. My stomach was trying to leave immediately through my mouth having had enough of being abused, and trying to deal with my inner ears refusing to determine up from down.
The creature hissed, and licked my head where the oar had laid open my scalp. That gave me the adrenalin burst I needed to scuttle away, but the creature decided I was sweet, and not in a good way. It grabbed my shoulder and sliced it with the claws. It hurt, and blood ran down my side and back. The creature licked up the blood and I tried to punch it but it caught my arm.
It had me pinned, standing on my lower back, foot claws sunk into the wood around the boathouse, one arm brought round my back, preventing me from fighting back. My head was angled such that I could see over the shoulder the creature had clawed. With its other hand it held my head still, and proceeded to lick the blood off my back. Suddenly it looked at me, an alien, unfathomable look, opened its jaws, and bit.
I remember screaming, and vomiting.
The island wasn't that big, maybe fifteen acres, but it was heavily forested and the shores were craggy. I ran on the side of the island opposite of Duke, and expected to meet him at the end farthest from the hotel. I'd just reached the far end when I heard the scream. I ran down Duke's side of the island. It was cut off, and I ran faster.
Something was coming towards me, making no attempt at stealth. I could hear the branches break and the sound of ice shattering. I drew my firearm and took aim in the direction that I heard the noise coming from. Suddenly a little girl burst from the bushes, crying silently. I grabbed her as she ran by, realizing it had to be Olivia. She went limp in my arms.
"Where is it, where is it?" The girl raised her arm and pointed back in the direction she came form. Suddenly I heard a scream that was abruptly cut off. "Come with me and do exactly what I say."
I grabbed the girl's wrist and lead her back through the woods nearly running. As the trees thinned toward the shore I could see Nathan running, nearly flying down the shore path. He disappeared down a hill face, and I realized we'd gotten close to the edge of the shore, where Duke should be. I didn't see him and the bottom fell out of my stomach.
The girl, nearly catatonic, presented a problem. I couldn't really bring her to see whatever had screamed. *please let it be the werefish* I heard two sharp cracks and it took me a moment to realize it wasn't the trees this time. It was gunfire.
On the verge of ordering the girl to stay put and chance that her nearly catatonic state would hold her here, the decision was taken from me. My radio chirped, and Nathan's voice told me to go back to the hotel, and make sure there were medical supplies on hand. My blood chilling in my veins, I confirmed, and told him that I found the girl.
"Is she alive?"
I saw the thing crouched on top of Duke's still form, its jaws fastened around his upper arm and shoulder. I couldn't tell if it had bit into his neck. I couldn't shoot at its head; there was too great a risk of hitting Duke. Instead I shot for the arm that was holding Duke's head down. A line of red blood showed that I scored on the thin limb, and the creature released Duke's shoulder with a cry. I tried to hit its head but it dove into the water too quickly, and I missed. Duke didn't stir.
I quickly ran to Duke, keeping an eye out for an ambush, but the creature appeared to be gone. I rolled him on to his side, keeping the injured shoulder up and taking off my coat to apply pressure to the wounds. Duke's head rolled limply, saliva and vomit coating the side of his face that had been ground into the boards, and he showed no sign of responding. I radioed Audrey to ensure that we had the medical supplies out.
I wasn't a doctor, but I couldn't imagine it was healthy for Duke to be made into human sushi, lie in a puddle of vomit, or stay on the cold ground. Even now I could see that he'd broken out in a light sweat, and his skin was taking on a grayish tone, the early indications of shock. This really wasn't his day.
The Mulders took charge of Olivia and I questioned Janice on where the medical supplies were kept. Dana looked up at Mulder and sharing that telepathic communication that long time couples seem to develop, left all the kids with Mulder to follow me. Together we found a very well stocked medical kit, capable of covering most emergencies. Janice indicated that Duke was intending to hire one of her cousins, who had an EMT certification. He figured it would be good if there was a medical emergency on the island to have someone that could deal with it while they were waiting for mainland transport.
We brought the kit up to Duke's rooms, which were on the first floor. Dana took apart the kit and laid everything out in an order comprehensible only to her. She was stripping down the bed (I was surprised Duke had flannel sheets, but being Maine I probably shouldn't have been) when I went out to the doors and saw Nathan. He was carrying Duke over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. I looked back with panicked eyes, and Mulder took the kids out of the lobby. When Nathan came in, I saw that he was worried. Duke had blood all over his shoulder, back, and face.
"His room. Dana's prepping it as a surgery, just in case."
Nathan nodded and took Duke to the room.
"Lay him down on the bed. We need to get his clothes off of him." Dana gave orders like a calm general.
Nathan looked around briefly and found heavy shears from the medical kit, and began cutting off Duke's shirts. I removed his shoes and socks, undid his belt and attempted to slide his pants off. It's very difficult to maneuver a body that's a dead weight. Nathan solved the problem by cutting down the seams of the jeans and pulling the cloth off.
While we stripped Duke down to his skivvies, Dana asked us rapid fire questions about Duke's medical history. Most of the stuff I didn't know, but strangely enough Nathan knew when Duke's last tetanus shot had been, and that he wasn't allergic to common antibiotics, but was allergic to cucumbers and zucchini. Upon hearing this I became very surprised that Duke survived to adulthood. I thought all New Englanders lived on zukes. It seemed to be in everything they made.
I looked up at Nathan, who looked back at me.
"What? I went to school with the guy, arrested him more times that is healthy for either one of us, and the last time before you came to Haven, it was for a bar brawl and I had to take him to the hospital before I could take him to jail because someone decided to jab him with a nail in the middle of the brawl."
He paused for a beat.
"And we don't all eat zucchini."
By the time we were done, Dana was taking Duke's vitals. Both Nathan and I looked expectantly at her.
"His heartbeat is good, though a little thready. Breathing's a little labored, but that's expected with the bruising to his gut. He's going to have two black eyes, and from what I can see, he's showing elements of having a concussion. Normally I'd recommend icing the bruises before they have time to develop, but his core temps down a little, and he's shocky. Icing wouldn't be in his best interest right now. We need to keep him warm." She continued to briskly treat Duke's wounds, suturing some of the claw marks that went deeply into the muscle. She was using a lot of iodine and antibiotic ointment, slathering it on as thought it was sunscreen and Duke was going sunbathing.
"I'll get some firewood." Nathan left.
"Hey Duke, you here with us?" I rubbed his hand, cool and lifeless, not really expecting a response. I jumped when he answered with a voice that sounded as if it had been through a cheese grater. His eyes were starting to swell shut, so I wasn't sure if he could only open them halfway or if he just didn't want to open them more.
"I'm never eating sushi again."
"Duke, do you know where you are and who I am?"
"Heaven and you're an angel."
"Are you sure?"
I exchanged a worried look with Dana. She motioned for me to keep talking to him, seeing as how he was responding to me.
"Duke, you are alive, and back at the hotel."
"That's good. I would hate to think heaven would hurt this much." He paused, and I thought he'd gone back to being unconscious, until he quietly said, "it would be worth it, though, if you were there."
"Do not tell me you were just flirting with me."
"Ok." Duke tried to grin agreeably, but it was obvious that everything wasn't firing on all cylinders. It came out as more of a grimace. He lapsed into silence, either the shock or the concussion quieting him.
Nathan came back in with enough wood to heat the room for a year. He proceeded to fiddle with the flue in the bedroom's fireplace, lay the wood out, and crumpled newspaper for kindling. In a few moments he had a fire going, and was carefully feeding it logs to keep it burning hot. He looked to me meaningfully. The fire cracked cheerfully. Dana was trying to wipe off Duke's face to ensure there were no other injuries to it.
"It's getting warm," I told Nathan.
Dana looked up, startled and confused. "We should get a couple of blankets, put them near the fire to heat them and wrap him up."
Nathan went to grab the blankets and put them by the fire. He then disappeared out of the door.
"Why did you tell him it's getting warm?" Dana asked.
"He can't feel anything." But me, I amended silently. "He doesn't know if it's warm or cold. He needed to know that he'd gotten the fire hot enough."
Dana nodded, obviously cataloging the information for later use. "Well, I think we've done everything we can here as far as his wounds go. Current practice doesn't call for waking patients with head wounds every hour anymore. He's been conscious, and responsive. I still think we need to check on him fairly frequently because the head wound or the shock can be dangerous."
Nathan returned, this time carrying three bricks from the basement. He put them on the hearth, picked up the blankets and together we wrapped Duke up in them. As we spread out the blankets, I teased Nathan. "Nathan, he's already got a head wound. I'm not letting you clobber him with a brick."
He gave me the patented stoic Maine Man Look™. That's when I realized he was really worried about Duke. "It's to warm the bed up. We can put a warmed brick at the foot of the bed, and it will help keep him warm."
"Good thinking, Nathan." Dana smiled at him, and he nodded back.
"My dad used to do it when we went up to camp to go hunting. He didn't want me to get too cold. I figured it would work for Duke too."
We all waited in silence listening to the heavy sound of Duke breathing and the lighter sounds of the fire for a few minutes as Dana finished dressing Duke's wounds, and Nathan put two of the warmed bricks at the foot of Duke's bed, under the comforters but above the sheet. The third was so we could change out the others without it getting too cold, but hopefully Duke would snap out of it before we needed to worry.
"We should let him rest for a while. I'll be back to check on him in about half an hour," Dana said as she herded us out of the room.
We met Mulder in the lobby. The boys were in one of the rooms, playing under the eyes of Janice and the Greens while Olivia sat in the same room and refused to speak to anyone, and the unjolly fishermen, Mike, and Ken the harbormaster were listening to a sporting event, patiently taking turns cranking the radio to keep it going. Relieved that everyone was accounted for, the four of us retreated to the kitchen.
Nathan quietly studied his coffee.
"It's not a werefish or a bishop-fish. It's a Wendigo."
I nodded thoughtfully, and caught a surprised look on Nathan's face. Apparently he expected us to argue with him. "What?"
Nathan shrugged. "It's just, I said there's a Wendigo and neither of you blinked. This presents only two possibilities to me. The first is that you have no idea what a Wendigo is and don't know why that's a frightening prospect. The second is that you're very aware of what one is already."
Mulder looked at the other man, not smiling. "When you suggested that we could regale your friend up there with tales of smuggling and thieves, I told you that we didn't work on those kinds of cases." Mulder splayed his hand on the tabletop. "This is the type of case we worked on. The strange, the unexplained, the cases no one else would take because they thought the victims were lunatics."
"You didn't mention that when you've talked about working for the FBI," Nathan chided Audrey.
The younger woman looked surprised. "What? I didn't know about it. I mean, my supervisor, Agent Howard, had this guy who worked for him who lost it and thought they were aliens, but no one ever told me that any division went looking for things that go bump in the night."
"Surprise," I said flatly.
From the look on Nathan's face, he suddenly thought that we were a lot more interesting than he'd assumed. "So, did you ever encounter a Wendigo when you were with the FBI?"
Mulder shook his head. "No. A werewolf once, but not a Wendigo."
"But you obviously know what they are," Nathan said, pressing the issue.
"Sure. Native Americans thought that eating human flesh would turn you into a monster that was insatiably hungry, and that they'd go around killing again so they could try to satiate their hunger with human flesh," Mulder replied. I was sure that he'd picked that up in a book at some point, because he had a nearly photographic memory. I myself had learned of the creature from a tv show, and was reminded of a chronically hungry mutant we'd encountered not long before Mulder's abduction, but he didn't otherwise sound like the monster Mulder was describing. "What was the local tribe?" he asked, and Audrey seemed to look a little surprised. "This is New England, there's bound to have been a tribe here at one point."
"Micmac," Nathan said shortly, and something on his face suggested that he was thinking of something wholly unrelated to the Wendigo. Something else that upset him.
"That's one of the tribes that believed in the creature," Mulder replied.
"But they change shape?" Audrey asked.
"In some of the legends they do." Mulder looked over to the window, thinking about something. "I guess in a way a fish-thing would make sense here."
"What do you mean?" I asked, wondering how someone shape-shifting into a fish could ever be thought of as making sense.
"If you wanted to fit in, you'd want to shift into something like the native beasts in the area." I don't know if he noticed Nathan's grimace, and I got the impression that the Wendigo hadn't done a great job keeping a low profile. "And what's the biggest thing that lives directly on this island, squirrels? Maybe a handful of unlucky raccoons? It makes more sense to pick a fish-like creature, considering that they're likely to be bigger, and not squeezed down small by a small habitat."
"Why couldn't it be something like a selkie?" Audrey complained suddenly, and we all looked at her. "What? A shape-shifting seal wouldn't eat anyone. It might eat fish, but not people."
"You read too many supernatural-themed romance novels," Nathan said with a divisive snort.
"Yeah, well, you never read a book with a chick hooking up with a Wendigo who deep down is a nice guy," she retorted. "And besides, single girls like to read romance novels so we can live vicariously through the heroines."
I almost asked why she was single when it was clear to me that she had the interest of two men, but Mulder had bored of their banter. "You know what this means, though, don't you?"
"What?" Audrey asked on cue.
"It could be any one of us," Mulder said dramatically. "Well, not us sitting here, probably, but you know what I mean."
Unfortunately, I think we all did know. There would be a lot of suspicion on all sides until they managed to rescue us. At least we weren't the only strangers here: Duke had mentioned that Ken was from Rhode Island and had only been the harbormaster for a few months, the Greens were from Sanctuary, New Hampshire, and the trio of fishermen were from other parts of the state.
I took a deep breath and walked into the function room that we held Audrey's birthday party in months earlier. Mulder was with the kids, and Duke was out like a light in his room. The Greens, Ken, Mike, the unjolly fishermen, Janice, Audrey, and Dana were all gathered in the room. I didn't want to relive the conversation about shapeshifters and murderers again, but it seemed like I was bound to repeat it.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I've asked you here because early this morning we discovered a murder was committed some time last night. Drew Welsh was killed. His daughter, Olivia, appeared to escape from whatever happened relatively unscathed, but she hasn't spoken since she was found earlier today. Duke Crocker, Audrey Parker and I went out to search for the girl and in the course of finding her, Duke was attacked and injured."
Mr. Green spoke up, "What, how is this possible?! Who killed Mr. Welsh?!"
Audrey replied, trying to be soothing, "It appears the murder entered via the second floor window and killed Mr. Welsh upstairs in his room. We don't know how Olivia got away, but Duke and I discovered what was left of Drew's body this morning when we realized we hadn't seen them yet. At that point we came back down here and reported the murder to Nathan, and organized a search for Olivia. At this time we don't know who killed Mr. Welsh."
Audrey paused, and Ken spoke up quietly. "How's Duke?"
"Mr. Crocker is suffering from shock, lacerations about the arm and shoulder, contusions on his abdomen, and a rather severe concussion. With time and rest, he should make a full recovery provided there are no complications from his injuries," Dana offered, in the detached medical doctor voice. If I hadn't seen how gentle she had been caring for Duke, I would have thought she didn't care. It must have been a Doctor thing. Eleanor had done the same thing whenever she reported a person's injuries, be it a friend or stranger.
"At this time I am requesting that everyone stay near the hotel. It may well be that there is another person on the island, and we need a chance to find them before they can attack again. Mr. and Mrs. Mulder have offered their assistance in apprehending the murderer, and I've accepted it."
"This is completely unacceptable! I demand to be taken off this horrible island immediately! What if the murderer is still here! You expect us to be trapped here with some crazy person! I won't stand for it! How do you know that these Mulder people aren't killers! Why are they allowed to-" Mrs. Green shouted.
I cut Mrs. Green off, "They were agents in the FBI, Mrs. Green, and Officer Parker, who lately left the FBI to pursue a career in Haven, has determined that their credentials and history are valid."
Earlier in the days immediately following the storm, Audrey had Dave and Vince contact an agent friend of hers that was able to confirm that the Mulders had indeed been a part of the FBI, but had left under somewhat mysterious circumstances. It was nice to know we had backup on hand if people went nuts with being confined. Surprisingly, only Duke had been going stir crazy, but then he always hated being confined. He once told me the only reason he could stay in Haven was because he lived on a boat and could leave at any time.
"As for your concern about someone in the hotel being the killer, if you can tell me who it is, I'm happy to question them. However right now everyone's a suspect, including you. Mr. Welsh's murderer will be found." Good God I sounded like some cheesy detective saying that.
I just hoped that whoever killed Drew would stop there, but I doubted it. Jess had told me Wendigos could be appeased for a time, but not for long. Likely getting a taste of Duke Tartar would incite it into a frenzy to kill again.
"Ken, any new estimates on when the boats might come and get us?" I asked, ignoring Mrs. Green's attack of the vapors. We were all getting used to estimates that were never reached, but it didn't stop us from radioing to ask for new ones.
Ken sighed. "It's not good, Nathan. A couple of days more, at least, and it might not be until after Christmas. They're still fixing up the small craft at the marina and clearing off the flotsam and jetsam in the harbor. The storm even took out some of our docks and slips.. The ships that went out to sea to avoid the storm can't even get into the harbor and have gone to Portland, Bar Harbor, Kittery, and Portsmouth. This storm was a doozy."
Everyone in the room began to quietly eye one another. I was glad that the only guns were wielded by myself, Audrey, Mulder and Dana. This was going to turn bad, quickly. To try to stave it off, I explained that Mulder, Audrey and I were going to search the island thoroughly. Dana would stay behind to take care of the children and Duke.
We searched the damned island all day but didn't find anyone. There did look like someone had pulled a small boat onto the shore, but there wasn't boat there. Maybe the Wendigo left. Maybe someone was expecting Duke to make a delivery and missed him. I did find two of Duke's caches, but what was in them, a case of rum and a small chest of coins will a Mesoamerican design on them, weren't illegal to have. He was probably holding the coins for a customer and protecting the rum from being drunk by the guests.
The guests weren't happy with our findings.
We decided that we would leave the door connecting the kids' room to ours open from now on. That way they could sleep in their own beds, and wouldn't be woken up repeatedly when I got up to check on Duke.
I was supervising the kids, making sure that they brushed their teeth before they got into bed when Mulder came over and tapped me on the shoulder. He bent down and whispered, "We have to tell them what's going on."
It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that we didn't have to do any such thing, but I sighed instead. He was right. We could probably keep them in the dark for a little bit longer, but eventually they would notice that more was wrong than Olivia's silence.
"Hop up here on the bed," I said patting one of the mattresses. When they both did so, I began to tell them what was wrong. "I bet you guys notice that Olivia is really quiet today."
Joey nodded. "I think something is wrong with her."
"There is something wrong," Mulder said joining the conversation. "Unfortunately, her dad died today."
I gave Mulder a look that I hoped he would interpret as 'don't tell them about the monster,' and waited for one of the kids to ask what happened. William did. "Did he have a heart attack or something?"
"We're not sure what happened yet, buddy. But we think..." Mulder trailed off, and I got the sense that he was trying to figure out an age-appropriate explanation for the bloody sheets on Drew's bed. "We think that there might be dangerous, um, a dangerous creature here on the island with us."
The expression on Joey's face was one of both horror and fascination. "Like a polar bear? Jenny Jenkins said that polar bears eat us. Do polar bears eat people?"
Mulder looked confused, so I decided to rescue him. "Yes, polar bears do eat people, but there are no polar bears here. The only part of the US that sees them is Alaska, which about as far away from here that you can get. We think that it might be some sort of native creature. Something that lives here in Maine."
"What sort of creature?" Joey asked. "Like The Creature From the Black Lagoon?"
For a second I stared at him, wondering if he had seen the attacks, but then I remembered. At Halloween, Mulder had rented them a bunch of old monster movies, like The Blob and The Wolf Man. The Creature From the Black Lagoon had been on their viewing list too. "We don't know what sort of creature, we just know that it hurt Drew."
"And he died," William said, looking to me for confirmation. I nodded. "Okay, so what happens to Olivia?"
"What do you mean?" Mulder asked.
"Can we keep her?" he asked eagerly.
I blinked. This was not how I envisioned the conversation going. "No, we cannot."
"Why not?" Joey demanded to know. "You got to keep me when my old mom died."
"We got to keep you because you're related to us, and your adopted father didn't fight us in court," Mulder explained, looking as flustered as I felt. Jonathan van de Kamp was presently still in jail for the hyperthermia death of his adopted daughter, and wouldn't have had had a leg to stand on in court even if he hadn't personally asked us to take Joey back. "Olivia has a mom still, and the police officers here are going to make sure that she gets back to her once we can get off the island."
"Oh," William said, looking disappointed. "It would have been nice to have a sister."
"Yeah," Joey added with a sigh.
"I think we should be happy for Olivia that she is going to be able to go home to her mom," I said quietly. "Right?" I prompted.
"Right," they agreed halfheartedly.
"Anyway, we want you boys to understand that we are probably going to be helping the police officers look for this creature. When we do that, it is very important that you stay with the adults who are going to keep an eye on you and Olivia. Do not go off by yourself. That could be very dangerous. Understand?" Mulder asked firmly.
I don't think it occurred to either of them that anyone else could be hurt until Mulder started to explain the dangers. Both of them suddenly looked a lot more scared than they had a few minutes earlier. "We promise, Dad," William said, speaking for both of them. "We understand."
I was sure that they didn't, but that was only because of what we had held back. Kissing them both on their cheeks, I said, "Thank you for making this easier on us."
Joey looked confused. "Easier on you? How did we do that?"
"Knowing that you are going to do your best to keep yourself safe by following directions make things easier on mom and I. We don't have to worry as much if we know that you aren't accidentally endangering yourselves," Mulder said as he chased a giggling William over to his own bed.
I nodded as I tucked in Joey. "Your dad is right. If we don't have to worry about what you're doing, it means that we have a better chance of finding the creature that hurt Olivia's dad because we'll be able to concentrate better."
Now tucked in, both boys looked at us with wide eyes. "Wow, I didn't know that following directions could be that important," William remarked.
Mulder smiled. "I don't know what you boys are going to do when you grow up, but if you decide to be in law enforcement, or in the military, or in medicine like Mom, you'll come to understand that a lot rides on people doing what they're supposed to when they're supposed, and not deciding to ignore directions. Following orders isn't just for kids. It keeps grown up safe too."
"So, you still have to do what people say when you're all grown up?" Joey asked. "I didn't know that."
"Of course," Mulder said, looking deeply amused. "People who don't do what their bosses tell them to tend to get fired. Surely you've seen that in movies."
"Goodnight guys," Mulder said, crossing the room to turn off the light. I followed him.
Once we were back in our room, I spoke to Mulder quietly, low enough that our voices wouldn't carry into the next room. "Are we sure that letting them think it was an animal attack is the best idea?"
No, but what else could we do?"
He did have a point. It wasn't as though we could tell them that we were on the trail of a monster. They occasionally requested hearing about our cases as bedtime stories, but I never had the sense that they believed that our stories were any more plausible than the books we also read them before bed.
Flopping onto the bed, I looked up at him. "I guess there isn't anything else we could have done."
"Hey, it's okay. I'm pretty sure we firmly impressed on them the need to stay with adults. There's no need to terrify them even more."
Sitting up, I gave him a long look. "This is not the vacation we signed up for."
He snorted. "And you're surprised?"
"Not surprised, disappointed." I thought back to our conversation months ago, about not letting the darkness follow us. It didn't seem that we were doing a very good job on that front.
"Maybe it's karma," Mulder suggested. "Maybe we did bad things in a past life, so we're doing a lot of atonement now."
"Don't be ridiculous," I said, but I was amused.
"What, you don't believe in reincarnation?" A smile played on the corners of his mouth. "I guess that wouldn't jive with your Catholic upbringing."
I pushed against his shoulder. "Joke all you want to, but you can't tell me this is the vacation you were expecting."
"Scully, I didn't tell you? I added an addendum to my life motto. Now it's 'trust no one, expect the unexpected'."
"When did you add the addendum?"
"May of last year, of course."
When I checked on Duke I was cheered a little that he looked a bit less gray. The thing I worried the most about was the risk of infection now that I could see he was slowly recovering and the fact that he wasn't overly feverish was a good sign.
Audrey had followed me up, and whispered, "He looks better, doesn't he?"
"A little," I allowed. "We're going to have to keep checking on him overnight, though."
"You don't have to."
"Of course we-"
"No, I mean I'll stay here with him. I can set my alarm for every couple of hours, and check on him before going back to sleep," Audrey explained as she sat in the chair next to Duke's bed. He moaned a little and rolled to face her, though his eyes never opened. "Mike will have to take my suite, that's all there is to it."
"That's a lot to take on when there are a bunch of people who could help you keep an eye on him," I objected. Frankly, I was doubtful that she'd be able to get any sleep on a schedule like that.
"I have to," she said in a pleading tone as she looked up at me. "He asked for protection, and both Nathan and I blew off his concerns. And this is what happened."
Guilt could be a pretty powerful motivator, I thought, recalling what my mother and sister Missy had told me about Mulder's behavior after I'd been kidnapped by a crazy man who had tried to give me to aliens. I should have told her that she shouldn't feel so bad, but I knew that saying it wouldn't help.
"Okay. I'll probably check in once or twice myself," I warned her.
"That's fine." She reached down and picked up a novel that she must have carried into the room with her. The cover showed what could only be a vampire and a feisty heroine, so I smiled, thinking of her comment earlier about romance novels.
Before I left, Audrey reached out and gently touched my arm. "Do you...do you think the little girl is going to be okay?" She looked at Duke, then back at me. "I know she wasn't hurt the same way Duke was, but she was hurt."
"I'll try to get Mulder to talk to her." When she gave me a blank look, I added, "Mulder is a psychologist, though until the last few years that wasn't something he used at work beyond being a damn good profiler. He's more qualified to make a call about her odds of recovering than I am."
"Okay. I think Janice said she's going to move a cot into her room so Olivia isn't alone at night. God, I don't know what we're going to do with her once we get off the island. What if she isn't functional enough to give us her mom's number? She and her dad were spending the holidays together because it was his turn to have her at Christmas..." Audrey trailed off and looked away, but not quick enough to keep me from seeing that she was crying. "I don't know what it's like to lose a parent you love, but it's got to suck."
"It does." My own father had died when I was Audrey's age, just after Christmas. All those years gone, and I still missed Ahab so much.
"We'll work something out," she said, rubbing her face.
"I know you will. Promise me that you'll try to get some sleep."
The door clicked softly as I shut it, but I saw her reach for Duke's hand just before it finished closing.
December 19th, 2008
I didn't hear Mike snoring. I think that's what woke me up. The man had been snoring for the past six days and it was driving me nuts. Now that he wasn't snoring, I couldn't sleep. Damn, what if I no longer could sleep without listening to the man snore all night?! What would I have to do, invite him to live on my boat?! I couldn't cope with the fishgut smell. Maybe I could just tape the sound of his snoring and play it back every night. With that plan in mind I went in search of my recorder and Mike.
The hotel was dark, and had a peculiar stillness to it. I knew that no one person slept the whole night through in this place. Nathan got up at five, and Audrey went to bed around midnight. The fishermen usually played cards until 1 or 2 in the morning. Ken had some kind of prostate problem and went to the bathroom 17 times a night or so it seemed. The Greens stomped down the hallways at around 2:30 to sleep in the function room when they couldn't take the generator anymore. And Mike snored like he was doing it for his country in the Olympics. The fact that it was silent now was unnerving. I should have at least heard the rush of water through the pipes from one of Ken's many trips to the bathroom by now.
I stalked through the hotel, trying to be quiet, with the irrational thought that something was watching me. I eased up the stairs to Nathan's rooms, and knocked on the door. At the first knock of my fist, the door opened. Moonlight pooled in the middle of the floor. I could see Nathan on the bed, but was surprised he didn't wake up when I entered the room. He usually was a light sleeper.
"Nathan. Nathan. Nathan. Nathan!" Each time I called his name a little louder, but he didn't respond. I reached the edge of his bed, and gently shook his shoulder, hoping to wake him and have him help me find Mike. He didn't respond. I rolled him over.
His hair was still attached to his skull, but his face was missing. Where his throat should have been was a red, gaping hole, the stained white of his spine showing through. Something had clawed down the torso and ripped out the internal organs. The stomach, intestines, and bladder had been removed like a gutted deer. Nathan had had steaks carved off his legs and back. I could smell the offal and taste the blood in the air.
I backed away and ran to Audrey's room. I saw the creature in the middle of dismembering her. It had broken her back, and she lay like a broken doll on the floor of her room. She was still alive and crying, but she couldn't escape the horror looming above her. As I watched it bent down and took a giant bite of her upper thigh. It lifted its head and swallowed, using gravity to help force the flesh down its throat like a bird of prey, before bending over and biting into her stomach. It had missed the membrane that separated the muscles and organs, and through the bite wound, I could see Audrey's organs heaving as she twitched, trying to get away.
Help me, she mouthed. The creature looked up at me, then back down at Audrey. It struck and bit her head, crushing her skull as though it was an eggshell. I saw one of her beautiful eyes burst, and the fluids from it slowly drip down her face.
The creature chewed thoughtfully for a moment on Audrey's hair and brains before remembering I was there. It crossed the room in a flash and bit off my hand.
Diomedes the vampire was a sap, and Caitlyn, the heroine had him wrapped around her finger. That was my firm conclusion as I finished the novel. I wondered what it would be like to have a man that completely in love with you that you could command him to do virtually anything you pleased. I'm sure it would be fun for a while, but I think the man I chose would have to be able to put up a fight once in a while. Devoted slaves are well and good enough, but I wanted a devoted slave with spirit.
My musing was interrupted as Duke groaned again, and began to move restlessly. He'd been dreaming fitfully all night, and usually talking to him was enough to calm him down.
I got up from the chair and sat on the bed. "Shh, Duke, it's OK. It's just a dream," I whispered to him. It wasn't working, he was becoming more agitated. I took his hand and gently rubbed it, trying to get through what was obviously a very bad dream. He pulled his hand out of mine and whimpered, curling up into a ball, which had to be hurting his stomach. I took back his hand and tried again.
"Duke, wake up. It's me, Audrey. Come on now, Duke. It's not nice to leave a lady waiting." I started rubbing his hand more forcefully, and he just reacted by curling up tighter, his breathing getting more labored. I remember one of my temporary guardians pinching me sometimes to wake me up from my bad dreams, and decided that I really couldn't hurt him much more than the creature already did. So I pinched the skin above his wrist. I fell off his bed when he came jackknifing up, startled by how violently he woken.
Duke gasped as if it was his last breath and I shot up off the floor. He looked around the room in a panic and zeroed in on the couch that Mike had left for the evening. We'd traded so that I could stay here with Duke. Duke made a strangled sound and tried to get out of bed. I grabbed his uninjured shoulder and sat in front of him. He reacted by starting to turn an interesting shade of green. It didn't go well with his eyes.
He was trying to look everywhere but at me, like he couldn't see me or didn't want to. "Duke, sit, stay, be a good boy. You're safe, Olivia's safe, everyone's OK." I didn't bother to qualify that everyone alive was OK because Drew certainly wasn't, and I doubted Duke was in any state to appreciate the qualification anyway. I could feel his heart hammering under my hand, and worried about a fever, I put my hand up to his forehead. He was warm, but not hot. Nothing that couldn't be explained by having hot bricks in the bed with flannel sheets and waking up from one hell of a nightmare.
I let my hand slip down over his eyes, seeing that he was badly listing to one side trying to figure out where true vertical was with his eyes and his ears betraying him. Dana warned he might be dizzy for the next few days, and that the dizziness may be bad enough for him to get nauseous. Given he was already a lovely shade of olive (Duke Crocker instantly becomes Italian, just add concussion irreverently floated through my mind), and that the waste basket was out of reach, I thought it best to try to get him to lie back down and limit his external stimuli. I couldn't do anything about the ears, but the eyes I could cover. I tried to push him back down gently and he resisted. We were temporarily at an impasse because he needed to hands to hold himself up and I was using both of mine to try to get him to lie back down.
Duke broke the impasse first. He grabbed my wrist where I was covering his eyes and moved it away from his face. He looked at me, really looked at me for the first time in the eternity since he woke up. Duke released my wrist, and touched my face gently. Utter relief crossed his face and he made the fatal mistake of trying to bring his other hand up to frame my face and promptly lost all semblance of balance. He would have fallen completely if I hadn't had a good grasp on his shoulder.
I eased him back down to the bed, and he kept staring at me as though I was a ghost. He eventually succeeded in framing my face with both hands, as if he needed touch to tell him I was real. "Easy there, Duke. I don't know what you were dreaming, but it must have been bad. It's Ok now." I continued to mutter soothing nonsense at him. He continued to stare at me, unnervingly.
It took a few moments for Duke's breathing to even out. When it did, the Italian Duke went with it, leaving only paler version of normal Duke behind. "Duke, it would be really helpful if you said something about now. If you don't, I'll need to get Dana to ensure you aren't getting worse." I gently removed his hands from my face, and he allowed it, but gripped my left hand and wouldn't give it up.
"The hotel was quiet, and it woke me up. I went looking for Mike, and went to Nathan's room to get him to help me. Nathan was killed, his face removed, and he was gutted. I could smell the blood. Then I went to your room to find the monster was killing you when I found you. It bit off your head," Duke whispered, still staring at me. A wandering hand made its way back to the top of my head, feeling for scars, I presume. I gently removed the wandering hand after a few moments with my remaining free hand.
"That's some dream, Duke. I swear, I'm still here though, and I'm in one piece. Do you want me to get Nathan down here so you can see he's OK too?" I didn't want to wake Nathan up since he'd been in to check on Duke about every hour to an hour and a half. However it was mortally boring watching someone sleep, so he only stayed for a few minutes at a time. He'd been working off his worry by wandering the halls, and only after the last check was he confident enough that Duke was getting better that he decided to go to bed.
Shortly afterwards, I'd heard Mulder's steps in the hallways. I was a little envious that guilt wasn't making either of them camp out on the couch where Mike normally slept. It took until Mulder's third pass down the hallway for me to get it. Duke's rooms, like mine, were in the center of the hotel. There weren't windows in his rooms, and the only way in or out was through the door. Nathan had been patrolling the halls, guarding both of us, and when he realized he was too tired to be effective, had arranged for another guard. I would have bet dollars to doughnuts that if Duke had cried out on waking, Mulder would have been in here within moments.
Duke closed his eyes, and then opened them in one, long blink that cleared them and returned sanity. "Nah, if you are OK, then probably he is too, yeah?" He looked away, embarrassed to have had such a strong reaction to the dream or embarrassed he had been worried about his archenemy.
"Yeah, I know he was fine about 45 minutes ago when he last stopped in." I got up and freed my hand from his grip, which had loosened when he finally woke all the way up. I walked around the edge of the bed, to the empty side, and slipped under the top most blanket. He turned his head and continued staring at me. The roaming hand wandered back over to land on my head, gently stroking my hair with a thumb.
Duke's eyes slowly closed, and his breathing evened out into sleep. Eventually, without meaning to, I followed him.
December 19th, 2008
I yawned and stretched as I made my way down the hallway, ready to check on Duke, and was surprised when Nathan brushed past me. I wondered at the stony look on his face, but only until I got to Duke's room.
The chair by the bed was empty because Audrey was stretched out beside Duke. Both were sleeping, and she had an arm around his chest, somehow avoiding all his bandages.
When I got into the room, I shook her shoulder gently until she sat up. "Hey. He got restless during the night after having one hell of a nightmare, and my being next to him seemed to calm him down."
"That's good." I wondered if I should mention that it had obviously done the opposite for Nathan. It didn't feel like it was my place to get in the middle, and Nathan struck me as the type who'd eventually speak up, so I left it alone.
With Audrey's help, I got Duke awake. He blinked at me, confused for a moment before he smiled. "Hey, I remember you."
"Do you remember what happened to you?"
"Fish monster tried to eat me."
"That's right," Audrey said as she slid off the bed.
"Aww, where are you going?" Duke asked her with a pout. "I was really happy with you beside me. You should do that again when I'm feeling better."
Men, I thought as I rolled my eyes. Half dead and they still try to get some action.
"Sorry, Duke, I gotta pee," she said before scooting out of the room.
"I think that means the romance is dead," Duke muttered as I checked his bandages. "How'd your husband win you over?"
I had a feeling that he was still a little loopy from the concussion, so I decided to let my indignation over such an intrusive question go. "Well, Duke, when a couple fights a global conspiracy together, they eventually fall for each other. It took an incident with zombies for him to kiss me, but we had each other's backs and hearts long before then."
He looked baffled. "Was that supposed to make no sense, or is my head injury worse than you thought?"
"I think you're on the mend, just as long as you don't overdo it," I added firmly. Duke struck me as the type who would overdo it at first possible opportunity.
"You know, I think flowers won't do." He smiled when I gave him a concerned look. "Flowers say 'sorry you had to arrest me,' but what sort of gift do you give a woman who has been marooned on an island with you, and takes care of you after a fish tries to eat you?"
I declined to point out that I was the woman that had taken care of him after the fish tried to eat him. I had a feeling that it wasn't me he was thinking about. "Maybe a trip. To someplace warm. Where there is no ice," I suggested flippantly, but he nodded until he remembered with a groan that his head hurt.
"I like the way you think."
"Speaking of thinking, do you think you're up for trying some soup?"
He grimaced." Maybe later."
December 19th, 2008
William and Joey were playing at my feet, engrossed in some sort of game Nathan had taught them involving dots in a grid and drawing lines to form boxes and claming them. Olivia was a little further away, watching them, but still locked within herself. Mulder looked up at me, and down at the boys, then over to Olivia. I got the message, and casually got to my feet, going to stand by the door. Olivia hadn't spoken since Audrey had brought her back yesterday.
Mulder walked over to her, crouching down. "Hey kiddo, why don't you and me go for a walk?" He held out his hand. She looked at it disinterested, but eventually took it. When they got to the doorway, she reached out and grabbed my sleeve, apparently deciding that I should go too.
We took her up to our room, and had her sit on the bed. I sat in one of the chairs in the room, and Mulder dragged another chair towards the bed, but didn't get too close to her.
"How are you doing Olivia? I bet you're scared, huh?" Mulder looked at her sympathetically. She shrugged in response. "You know that Duke was hurt yesterday, right?" She nodded. "It would really help us out if you could tell me what you remember. We think that he was hurt by the same thing that took your dad. If we could understand what went on, it would help us make sure no one else gets hurt."
Olivia started shaking, and tears slipped down her face leaving rivulets. Mulder was ready with a tissue. "It's OK to cry. I promise I will do my best to protect you."
A whispered voice answered, "You couldn't protect Dad."
"We didn't know that there was anything but the ice and snow to protect him from. Now we know that something is potentially wrong, we can watch for it. The more we know, the easier it will be to watch for it, don't you think?"
Another shrug. Child psychology really wasn't really his thing. Give Mulder a serial killer and he could understand them inside and out...sometimes too well. A miserable child was much harder. At least she hadn't totally shut down. She was willing to verbalize and was willing to invoke body language. Both big improvements from yesterday. Yesterday she had shut down completely.
"Can you tell me your phone number? We need to tell your Mom what happened when we can find a phone that works."
In my corner of the room I cursed that the storm caused so much damage to the local cell phone tower that it was still almost impossible to get calls to go out. The land line was still down too, and before his accident Duke said it had happened over the summer as well during a much milder storm.
"Mom's away in Europe. I don't know how to reach her. Oh no, I'll die here and she'll never know!"
The thought of being unable to reach her mother broke her, and she started sobbing hysterically, and all of the sudden she jumped off the bed, and ran to me. I just held her until she cried herself out, looking over her head at my husband. He merely nodded, as if he'd been expecting this since she made her mute plead that I come too. Hopefully, this would let up some of the emotional pressure she was under and she'd be able to cope a little better, and let us help her.
Once the sobbing had quieted to a couple of hiccupping tears, I walked her back to the bed, and Mulder addressed her again. "I promise you, that no matter what happens, we'll get in touch with your Mom. To do that, I need to know her full name."
"MaryAlice Bonepart. We live at 1616 Mockingbird road, in Chattam, Connecticut. Mom went on a European tour and I don't have the addresses or anything." Olivia's breath was getting shorter and shorter, and she was working herself up into hysterics again.
"That's okay, Olivia. Janice will take care of you until we can locate your mom, and you can come to Dana and me too. Once we're off this island, we can use the US consulates to find her. We'll get word to her, somehow." This seemed to be the correct thing to say as she started to calm down. "Now, can you tell me what happened to your dad?" Slowly, with much pausing, her story came out.
Mr. Welsh was sleeping on the bed. Olivia was spooked by a noise and went into his room. She saw a person standing over him, and he changed shape. He started looking like a man, but then at the end, he looked "like one of those mean fish that tried to eat Nemo, but he was still a man." He heard Olivia come into her dad's room and grabbed her. Her father woke up. He hit the fish guy with a shoe. The fish guy threw Olivia out the already broken window, and she landed in a snow bank. Olivia could hear her father fighting with it. Her dad stuck his head out the window once and shout to her to run, so she did.
She found the little boathouse and climbed up into the rafters and stayed there until morning, afraid the fish man would attack. When Duke came in, she thought it was the fish guy and hit him with an oar. When she realized it wasn't, she stopped trying to hit him. When they were going back to the hotel, the fish guy attacked Duke and she ran away.
At least she'd been spared seeing her father killed and Duke's injuries. It was amusing that Duke had completely failed to mention being attacked by the girl, or even finding her. The doctor in me was supposed to say that it was temporary amnesia from the concussion. The rest of me was more inclined to believe that it was temporary amnesia from embarrassment of being taken out by a little girl.
"I shouldn't have run away. Mr. Crocker got hurt and Dad died because of it." She started crying again.
"You did exactly what you should have done, Olivia. You meant everything to your dad, and he did everything in his power to save you. Duke would agree. Do you want to see him?" Mulder asked, making me cringe inside.
I rather hoped she didn't as he looked like something that belonged in a horror movie; the child of the Mummy and the Toxic Avenger. Between the bandages, black eyes, and swelling of his wounds, he was a sight.
"Yes, please." I guess I didn't have much choice. He shouldn't have offered, but now that he had, we were doomed to follow through.
"Mulder, can I talk to you for a minute?" I asked, gesturing for him to follow me out into the hallway. Olivia's eyes tracked our every moves, and I felt a little bad for shutting the door, but I didn't want her to hear.
"I guess I should have asked you if it was okay." Mulder looked down, face contrite.
"Can you ask her to give me half an hour?" I asked rather than chewing him out. He'd meant well, and I fully realized that. "I don't want her there when I change his bandages."
"Sure, okay." He hesitated for a moment, apparently waiting to see if I was going to gripe at him before going back into our room. As I walked away I heard Mulder tell her that they needed to wait for me to examine him first, and her murmured response.
One of the reasons I didn't bitch at Mulder about wanting to let Olivia see was that he'd been up half the night, wandering the halls, looking for monsters that didn't have the decency to show up. A look at Nathan's eyes, neither of which was still blackened but both dark with exhaustion, readily explained why Mulder had agreed to taking over his patrol during the wee hours. In a way it made me like the officer from Maine a little more, because many people wouldn't admit that they'd reached their limit and stubbornly carried on until they presented a danger to both themselves and others.
Mulder and Olivia arrived just in time to hear me lecture Duke, and Audrey let them in. She'd taken up residence in the room, and it was clear that this bothered Nathan a lot more than it did me, and he was avoiding the rooms.
Ignoring our guests, I kept on talking to Duke, trying to pound reason into his scrambled head. "Need I remind you that you were brought in yesterday, unconscious, showing every indication of a complex concussion complete with dizziness and nausea, with rather severe bruising and bite wounds? Short term memory loss is frequently associated with complex concussions, so you may not remember."
When he opened his mouth, it was obvious that my exasperation flew over Duke's head like a 747. "Yeah, but that was yesterday. I'm better today. You said so yourself this morning." Duke tried to get himself out of bed. It was being made difficult by my holding him down.
God give me patience, I muttered, looking upwards. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Mulder smirking, and I knew that he was thinking about being on the receiving end of my occasional, and well-deserved, tirades. "Just because I said you are getting better, doesn't mean I am letting you out of this bed, young man."
"Young man?" Duke asked incredulously. "Didn't you once say you aren't old enough to be my mom?"
"I meant young as in the age you're acting. Right now you're giving my sons a run for their money when it comes to being the least mature kids here," I said acidly, and he just gave me a defiant look. "Let me tell you about yourself. Right now, you are on some lovely pain meds I found in your first aid kit. You have 15 stitches in 7 lacerations. I'd have stitched more, but typically, bite wounds don't get stitched because you can inadvertently seal infection into the body, so I only stitched where the claw wounds were deepest. You are running a low-grade fever, indicative of a low level of infection, which I am treating you for with antibiotic ointment and the injectable antibiotics you have in your kit. You didn't eat this morning or this afternoon, and the capsule antibiotics should be taken with food. I've run out of the injectable antibiotics, so I'm left trying to give you pills, which you won't take because you say you still feel sick. Does this sound 'better' to you??"
"Yeah," he said stubbornly, and only winced when I made a strangled sound. I swore to God, if he didn't start behaving, I was going to let Nathan and the monster have him. Right before I could get myself really wound up, I noticed Mulder giving me a pointed look. Barely raising a finger, he directed my attention to the young blonde police officer who'd been listening to our every word, but only had her eyes on Duke.
Duke kept stealing glances at Audrey, who finally laughed at the last exchange. With her laughter, I noticed some of the tension in his shoulders give way. The whole damn thing was a show for his not-quite girlfriend. For the love of God, I almost punched him when I realized that he'd merely been trampling my last nerve to get the girl's attention.
Eventually Duke noticed Olivia. "Hey! You OK?"
Olivia had a sudden bout of terminal shyness that sometime afflicted kids, and hid behind me. I stood near the bed again, my new shadow just behind me, but kept out of arm's reach in case he said anything else that pissed me off.
Duke took advantage of my distance, and propped himself up on his elbow. The way he closed his eyes, and very carefully opened them indicated to me that perhaps he knew I had been right. Duke was trying to look better than he felt, probably trying to convince Audrey everything was fine.
Olivia peeked around me, to steal a quick glance at Duke.
"I'm glad you're OK, Olivia. I was worried about you." Duke smiled at her.
"Thank you for trying to save me, Mr. Crocker."
"Any time, my lady. Any time." Duke was slowly sinking, his elbow migrating down the mattress without his permission, or even his notice. I wondered how long it would have lasted propping himself up on silk or satin sheets rather than flannel as they had less friction. Fun fact about concussions - despite spending 20 hours sleeping, you want nothing more than to go back to sleep. I recognized that, having nursed Mulder through several, and gently shooed Olivia away.
Giving Duke a warning look, I stalked out after Mulder and Olivia.
December 21st, 2008
I hadn't been in to see Duke since I saw Audrey sleeping with him. I swear to God, that if he used his injuries to get her into his bed, I would kill him. It was the kind of sick and twisted thing he would do. It fit the evil Duke profile, even down to convincing you he was a decent human being by nearly getting eaten by a Wendigo trying to save a little girl.
I was pondering ways to ask the resident invalid exactly how Audrey got into his bed, or how to feed him to the Wendigo, when I saw Audrey storm down the steps of the hotel and come after me. I was lugging gas from the tanks by the dock to the hotel. I decided that for all of our sakes lugging heavy gas containers was better than being in Duke's vicinity when I decided to stew about his behavior. He'd have a better chance of recovering completely before I killed him. It would be a shame, but fitting, if he had to be buried with the black eyes.
Audrey walked up to me and planted herself firmly in my path. I went around her and continued my mindless march. She grabbed the back of my collar and hauled me up short, which was a feat considering the difference in our heights. "Exactly what do you think you are doing, Nathan?" I turned to face her and boy was she upset.
I looked down at the gas tank in my hand, looked at the tanks at the dock, or rather what was left of the dock, and looked back to the hotel. I explained in small words, wanting her to know I was annoyed with her too. "I am taking gas from the dock, there, to the hotel there, in this can here."
"I can see that. I meant why haven't you been in to even check on Duke? The first night he was hurt you were practically patrolling the hallways looking for the damn monster that hurt him, and now you won't even look at him. Do you know that Dana had to threaten him yesterday with tying him to his bed posts to get him to stay in bed? This morning he woke up before us and almost set fire to himself trying to lure you into the kitchen with pancakes. In case you didn't know, gas stoves and dizzy, uncoordinated men don't mix! Thank God Janice decided to get up early this morning."
Duke had tried to make me pancakes? What the hell?
My confusion must have showed because she snapped, "He's worried about you, you idiot. And if you don't come and see him to convince him you are fine, you will be the cause of Dana doing something horrible to him to get him to rest, or him killing her with his absolute refusal to do so."
"Audrey, he's not worried about me, he wants to gloat. You slept with him the other night and he wants to rub it in my face, and I'm not about to give him the satisfaction."
Ouch, Audrey slaps hard.
"Listen up, Officer Wournos, you want to know why I slept with Duke, sleep being the operative verb? Let me tell you about that night. I spent it mostly awake, reading. As you so aptly noted, watching people sleep is boring. You went to bed. About 30 minutes after you went to la-la land, Duke had a nightmare. It took me nearly 15 minutes to convince him I was alive and this was reality and get him to respond to me beyond staring at me.
"You want to know what he dreamed about? He dreamed he was stuck here, and woke up because it was too quiet. He went looking for Mike and wanted your help. He found you with your face missing and you'd been gutted. He then went looking for me to find that the Wendigo bit my head off. I spent the next twenty minutes letting him pet my head so he could convince himself it was still attached.
"You ever notice Duke touches everything? You may not feel, so you may not realize it, but some people, like Duke, are tactilely oriented. He has to touch things. Now I got him to go to sleep that night by letting him ensure that my skull was firmly attached to my body, and that body was still living, but I could only tell him that YOU were upstairs, blissfully asleep.
"He hasn't seen you since he was attacked, and while he hasn't called me an outright liar yet, it's becoming clear that he thinks you may be dead and I may be placating him, trying to keep him calm. Have you ever tried to keep Duke calm and resting when he's getting very upset and worried? Dana's starting to look for sedatives to give him, which she doesn't want to do because it may mask something going wrong with his recovery, but which she feels she must to get him to stay put. I convinced her to let me try to talk to you because I'm pretty damned sure you are the reason he's upset!"
I took a step back from the verbal assault. I don't think she paused to breathe in the entire time. "He dreamed I was dead?"
"Yes, in Technicolor. He told me he could smell the blood."
I wanted to clarify with her that she didn't have sex with him, but I thought that I'd get hit again. I didn't want to be assaulted by the only person I could feel. She did say sleep was the operative verb, and I had to trust her. I couldn't trust Duke.
"Fine, I'll go to see him. If he gloats, I'm hitting him."
"Fine, just see him before someone ends up dead over his head injury."
Audrey escorted me to the house, where I finished gassing up the generator. She stood at my elbow for the entire time, and then escorted me to Duke's room. She knocked twice, then opened the door and shoved me through. She came through after and closed the door.
Duke had a fresh bandage on his hand, and Dana was giving him a look that could freeze an exploding volcano. "I take it you were feeling 'better' this morning when you decided to nearly burn the place down around us?" Her words were asked with such sweetness I knew Duke had been treating this woman to his "best behavior."
"It was a slight miscalculation, but yes, I'm feeling better, thank you for asking."
I thought I might have heard Dana's teeth grinding. I was shoved at the bed.
"I told you he was alive, well, and in one piece." Audrey stepped back with a flourish, similar to a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
Duke stared at me for a few moments. He made an abortive movement of his hand, and I realized Audrey was right, Duke did touch everything. I sat on the edge of the bed.
"Audrey tells me you think she's lying and that I'm dead because of some dream you had. I'm not. See, right here, in front of you." I motioned to the whole length of me, and inched away from Duke's roaming hand. It was about to land on my knee. I sensed revenge for the ladies in the air.
I spent the next half an hour explaining to Duke that I was doing all the things his lazy ass should be doing, ensuring everyone was taken care of and the hotel wouldn't fall down around our ears. I yelled at him for upsetting Audrey and Dana. He sat through it all. Watching his body language was fascinating. I could see he was annoyed, he was listening to me, but that he wanted something, desperately, but he didn't seem to be aware of what. He kept trying to just reach out rest a hand on me. Sometimes he caught himself doing it, and pulled back. Other times he didn't even seem to notice it. I knew the minute he got what he wanted, he'd proceed to ignore me. Every time he tried to touch me, I got up and went on again about something and walked away, then come back until he tried it again. It was pure pleasure to torture Duke. His expressive face promised me dire things, but only after he had truly convinced himself I was alive.
About midway through my "rant" Dana caught on, and started grinning. I made sure to tell Duke he had to listen to Dana, repeatedly. When I finally secured his agreement (I think I could have gotten him to admit to anything and everything by the end of the conversation) I perched in the bed, and lightly smacked him on the uninjured shoulder. He caught my hand and held it for a moment, taking in something critical to him before he let it go. I saw all the tension ease out of him.
Dana pushed off the wall she was leaning against while watching the conversation play out and walked over to Duke. "Will you agree to stay in this bed unless you specifically ask for help getting out of it, stay away from the cooking equipment, take your meds, rest when ordered to, and generally stop being so difficult?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Duke said contritely.
Dana rolled her eyes at the ma'am but didn't comment.
"Then rest. Here. Until at least lunch." Each direction was emphasized with a finger jabbed at Duke. He nodded, and slid down off the pillows that propped him up. He closed his eyes and promptly fell asleep.
"Thank you, Nathan. Had I known that all it would have taken to get him to obey was you to annoy the crap out of him, I would have requested your presence sooner."
I grinned; it was rare I got to pull Duke's whiskers like that. Now I knew I could do it at any time, just take away the thing he wanted to touch. Oh the possibilities…
"My pleasure, Dana." I left the room whistling.
December 21st, 2008
The fuel was running low, since both the gas and the wood stock were quickly being used up. Given that Duke wasn't capable doing it, Nathan had suggested that we go out and clean up some of the dead trees, the ones that Duke hadn't gotten to in his moments of stir craziness. Green wood would not burn as well or as cleanly as the season wood we had been using, but it would still burn. Eventually. Mike, Ken, Mulder, Nathan, the unjolly fishermen, the Greens and I all set out to gather what wood we could.
Audrey stayed to watch the kids at the hotel, and Janice promised to keep Duke in his room, even if it meant finding the skeleton key to his door to lock him in. I was pretty sure she was the type to carry through with a threat like that, too.
If anyone had asked me, I would have predicted that finding fire wood would have been hard, but with the broken trees everywhere, it was easy. I found myself gathering up armloads of woods and walking them back to the hotel every few minutes, and from the way the woodpile was growing, it looked like everyone else was having just as easy a time with the task.
I was bending down to pick up a log not far from the woodpile when it happened. The wood fell from my hands when a blood-curdling scream came from the vicinity of the woods. I wasn't the only one to go running, Nathan had his gun out, and I saw Mulder ahead of him.
By the time I caught up to them, Mulder was crouched down on the ground, and Nathan stood next to him, which blocked what they were looking at from my sight. Mulder caught my eye. "It's bad, Scully."
What they were looking at turned out to be what was left of one of the unjolly fishermen. The man's body was scored through with so many lacerations that it crazily brought to mind a commercial about a paper shredder so powerful it could destroy those once ubiquitous AOL CDs. From the shredded jacket I decided that it must have been Frank, the captain of the boat that'd been blown off course.
Nathan confirmed this by saying, "I guess he doesn't need to worry about getting his boat fixed now, the poor bastard."
"Don't be so flip," I growled. "The man is dead."
"The man's head is hanging halfway off his neck, so believe me, I realize he's dead," Nathan shot back.
None of us said it, but I know we were all thinking the same thing: who would be next? So many days without an incident had made us let our guard down, but obviously we shouldn't have.
Due to their advanced age it took the Greens a bit longer to catch up with us, and they looked horrified when they did. "Look, didn't you say there had been scales in Drew's room?" Mrs. Green asked. I followed her finger, and saw a glitter of grey still coating the blood smeared wood that Frank must have dropped.
"Those are scales," Mulder muttered.
"Nathan!" a voice shouted, and I eventually decided that it was Ken. "Nathan! Come see this!"
Nathan looked conflicted, obviously not wanting to leave Frank's body there. I walked over to him and put my hand on his shoulder before I remembered Audrey's claim that he couldn't feel anything. He didn't act like he could. "There's nothing we can do for him, Nathan."
"Go." Mr. Green made a shooing motion with his hands. "Bess and I will stay here with..." He looked down at the dead man. "Him."
"Porter's right, it sounds like you're needed elsewhere," Mrs. Green added.
I looked at them, wondering why it'd taken so long for me to catch their names, and privately felt ashamed for having mentally labeled them Thurston and Lovey after the Gillian's Island characters they resembled.
"Nathannnn!" Ken yelled, sounding increasingly frantic.
"We better go," Mulder suggested as he pat his pockets. No one else might have known what he was doing, but I recognized that he was reassuring himself that his borrowed gun was there.
Nathan nodded before beginning to run in the direction of Ken's voice. To my relief, we didn't have much trouble keeping up with him despite each being more than a decade his senior.
When we got to Ken, I expected to find another body, but that's not what Ken was looking at. His face was grim, but what he stood over wasn't a body. "What's that?" Nathan asked, sparing Mulder or me the need to.
"Used to be part of a boat," Ken said shortly. What part exactly, I couldn't make heads or tails of.
"Do you see it?" Ken asked, and I frowned. He squatted and pointed. When no one gave him the reaction he was looking for he sighed and pulled a small flashlight out of his pocket and aimed it at a specific spot. "See the blood?"
I did. Deep in a crevice there was a smattering of a rusty color, and more importantly there were a few gray scales mixed in. Ken stood up and looked at us. "My theory is that whatever happened to this boat, happened because of the thing that killed Mr. Welsh."
"And Frank," Nathan said quietly, making the harbormaster look up sharply.
"You're shitting me."
"No, it just happened. The thing got away before any of us got there."
"This boat," Mulder said, derailing the conversation about Frank's death that was sure to follow. "Do you know what boat it was?"
"Naw. This piece was part of a seat on the deck. They don't put names or any other identifying things on seats since no one ever steals them."
"Where's the rest of the boat?" Nathan asked, craning his neck to look around. Nothing that remotely resembled a boat was anywhere the eye could see.
Ken shrugged. "I'm guessing it cracked up out on the ocean. It could be months before the rest shows up on the tides, and even then there's no guarantee that the pieces will land anywhere near Haven."
Nathan ground his teeth, and I could hardly blame him. If we knew whose boat it was, we'd be able to identify the killer, but that simply wasn't going to happen. "We better head back to the hotel. That thing is still out there."
John, Mike, and Glen had found the Greens by the time we returned to the other crime scene, and they were already making plans to wrap the body in a sail cloth they'd seen in the boat house, which is where they thought we ought to store the body until it could be removed from the island for burial.
Though I didn't remark on that, I was glad that no one suggested digging a grave for him. Frank's family deserved to have him somewhere they could visit, and this presently inaccessible island wasn't that place.
December 21st, 2008
I once saw a bumper sticker or a t-shirt slogan about "You will be a character in my novel." I was beginning to feel that way about my fellow residents. The Greens would be the people that went hysterical every two minutes. Mrs. Green fainted when she found out about Frank. Mr. Green demanded a way off the island, as if any of us would have still willingly putting up with each other at this point if we could leave. Glen mourned the passing of his friend, and John looked emotionless. Ken and Mike looked faintly ill.
I could see that Nathan desperately wished Jess were here. She'd know how to figure out which one of them was the Wendigo. She'd chant or cast a spell and poof, the Wendigo would appear. Instead we had a game of Clue and the only thing we knew for sure is that it wasn't Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a wrench. I had asked Nathan about just looking for who had bullet grazes, and he sighed and explained that Jess suspected that the Wendigo likely healed itself when it changed shape to protect itself - apparently he'd gotten our favorite reporters to pass along a message too. Even if it didn't heal itself, we'd all gotten minor scrapes and bruises from dealing with the aftermath of the storm.
Logically, unless there was more than one monster on the island, it must be one of the fishermen. They were the only ones that came in separately. Unless it was Ken. I had a tendency to discount him because he came with us, but he could have been the Wendigo. I voted for just asking who here had some Long Pig recently, but that was vetoed. The person might not even had known they had eaten human flesh. The Greens were practically glued together, and the Mulders had been with one of us almost the entire time. I had a feeling that if Dana was the Wendigo, she'd have taken her revenge on Duke long before he promised to be a good patient.
So here we all were, back in the function hall with the exception of Duke and the kids, still staring at each other suspiciously. Nathan was trying to politely ask where everyone had been recently. No one was responding well. The answers varied from "my house" to "none of your damned business." Everyone was casting aspersions on everyone else, and once again chaos was descending. I wondered if this is what Nathan had faced before, on my birthday, when I'd been trying not to die in a trunk.
I throttled visions of just killing everyone and letting their deity of choice sort it out. Things go worse when Nathan had to point out that we didn't believe the killer was human. Yep, there went Mrs. Green again. This time she keeled over on top of Mulder, and Dana did not look pleased at all about it.
Glen spoke up. "So let me get this straight, you think a Wendigo may be loose on the island? And that it's killing people? Then why didn't it consume Frank?"
"I don't think it had gotten the chance. When Frank screamed, we all came running. I don't think it had the chance to feed," Nathan answered.
Glen nodded. "Makes sense." That seemed to be the only words he had for us for the moment and he sat back in his chair, thinking deeply.
Mr. Green rounded on Ken suddenly. "Son, you're sure that you found those scales on that piece of boat you found?"
"Positive. Nothing else looks like that."
"Then it must be one of them," Green said, pointing at Mike, Glen, and John.
"Now what a minute," Mike protested. "Where the hell did you come up with that idea?"
Green waved a hand dismissively. "This thing apparently came on a boat, one that's been smashed to pieces. Of all the people standing here, only the three of you came on a boat that's now gone to Davey Jones' locker."
"It could have come on any boat," John protested.
Everyone sank into a silence after that, weighing Mr. Green's words and John's rebuttal.
We couldn't all just sit and stare at one another in the function room. "I propose this. From here on out we're in groups of two or more. The Greens are a pair, Ken, you're with Mike. Glen, you're with John. I'm with Nathan and Janice. The Mulders are a group." I addressed the room at large.
"What about Duke and the kids?" Ken asked.
"I think we can assume none of them are the Wendigo. Olivia and Duke can be paired if you really think it's necessary though." Some odd light was in Nathan's eyes, and I could only guess he was thinking trapping Duke in a small room with a little kid would be fitting punishment for breathing this day.
"No, I was more wondering if, as you say, there is one of these things running around, then could they turn into one and attack us? Like a werewolf or something?" Ken clarified. "We can't leave them alone, not when Duke's as defenseless as the kids."
Surprisingly, the answer came from Glen. "You don't create a Wendigo by biting people. A Wendigo is a spirit of want that takes over a body. It can never be satiated and never releases its host. It's invited in by consuming human flesh. Unless one of them ate someone recently, they won't turn."
"You know about the legend?" I asked, surprised.
"Yes, my fathers a quarter Abernaki. I visited my grandparents frequently enough to pick up some of the legends." It was positively a torrent of words from the taciturn man. I had to strike while the word-faucet was running.
"Did they happen to tell you how to find a Wendigo?"
Glen shook his head, words exhausted.
December 23rd, 2008
The murders happened later that day. Ken, Glen, Mike, and John decided to continue bringing in the firewood, even though it was close to sunset. I figured since there were four of them, the Wendigo wouldn't attack. It had only seemed to attack when the victim was alone or when paired with a defenseless opponent, like Olivia. The pattern was shattered that afternoon.
Mike returned alone, pale and shaking. He had vicious scratches on his face and upper arms. He walked up to the front porch, and just pointed back in the direction from which he came. Mulder, Audrey and I went to investigate. Dana took charge of Mike and when last I looked, was bringing him back to Duke's rooms where the kids were.
The three of us advanced on the worksite. The blood was freezing in the snow, bright crimson flowers on a white landscape. In the center was a cluster of broken trees. One of the 100' pines had fallen, taking out a host of smaller trees below it. The trees that could easily be handled were being cut and split by axe, the gas being too precious to waste in the chainsaw. Near the center of the cluster the blood was thickly saturated into the snow.
Ken's broken body hung from a branch of the downed pine tree, like a deer a hunter was prepping to turn into sausages. He'd been speared through the chest by a branch. Blood covered the lower portion of his face. He'd probably coughed it up in the last few moments of his life. His limbs were all intact, but the snowflakes that had started to swirl and cascade through the air melted when they contacted his flesh. He was still warm. I had no idea how we were going to get him down from there.
Glen had been ripped into two pieces. His head and his left side were draped over the log pile. His right side was missing completely, or his bones were mixed with Ken's. The section of the body on the log pile had been gnawed on, with large chunks removed from the upper thigh and arm. The rest was relatively intact, except I found one finger with a thick ring that I remembered seeing on his hand before.
The tracks around the body all had the same pattern, and there was a distinct mark where it looked like a bone had broken and reknit incorrectly, disturbing the symmetry of the "webbing." The fresh powder made the tracks clear and irrefutable. There was only one creature that slaughtered these men.
I sat down on one of the downed trees as I radioed Dana and let her know what we found. She reported that Mike's wounds were treatable, but that he was completely out of it. He had collapsed on Duke's couch again and couldn't be woken.
John had also returned, looking bewildered but unhurt. His story was that he'd gone off on his own to answer the call of nature, and returned several minutes later to see the bodies. Instead of sticking around to see if he'd be victim #3, he'd hidden in the woods until he heard the rest of us out there and decided it was safe to make a run for the hotel. Dana pointedly reported that she'd already inspected John's clothing and shoes for traces of blood, and found none. This was her way of telling us that he wasn't a suspect.
Audrey and Mulder looked at me, mute, and we all came to the same conclusion. Someone else had to be hiding on the island. There didn't seem to be another explanation for what we were seeing. I knew that the Greens had been in the kitchen, cooking dinner for the rest of us, and no one but the other four had been out here, two of whom were here dead, a third had returned with spotless clothing, and the fourth was injured back at the hotel. I'd scoured the island once already, and had not come up with anything. The only other thing I could think to do was ask Duke if there were any other hiding spots on the island I hadn't found.
Mulder suggested that we all stay together in the function room, but that suggestion was loudly veto'd by the civilians. They were scared, and tired, and they agreed on one thing: they all thought they'd be safer if they locked themselves into their own rooms for the night.
Nathan and Audrey didn't like this idea, but there was no way that they could compel grown adults to stay together without doing it by gunpoint, so they finally grudgingly agreed to let them go up to their rooms to turn in early. "All right," Nathan finally said to quell the grumbling. "Every hour Audrey or I will come to check on you. You had better open the door just as soon as we knock," he said menacingly, and I waited for someone to say "or what" but no one did.
"I want Ken's room," John announced. He was still put out that I'd processed him like a murder suspect, but I didn't think that he dared complain about it. "The attic doesn't lock, and I want to be behind a locked door."
Audrey shrugged. "Go for it. Ken's beyond objecting, and I don't think Duke would notice if everyone switched rooms."
Janice retrieved Olivia from Duke's rooms before trudging to their room, and Mulder went to get William and Joey at the same time. I don't know how Duke felt about playing babysitter, and I was still thinking about Ken's worry over the four of them being left alone, but it wasn't like anyone wanted to let three young children listen to talk about murders. Nathan followed them out, lecturing them all about the importance of locking the doors and responding to knocks from "the authorities," which earned him some back talk from John.
Audrey looked pale and distant after everyone else left. I wasn't sure that she realized I was still there until she turned to me and said, "This isn't over."
Frowning, I nodded. "I know."
"Audrey, Mulder and I have lived through scores of bad horror flicks. If there's anything I know from experience, it's that the horror isn't over until you have the monster's corpse in front of you to kick."
Her eyes widened slightly. "You mean kick in a metaphorical sense, right?"
Usually. "Keep your guard up," I advised. "The agents I knew who didn't make it let themselves get too comfortable during dicey situations. Don't fall into that trap."
"I hear you, but I'm a cop now," Audrey said.
"Why is that?"
She laughed, startling me. "I'll tell you what, Dana. When this is all over with, I'll buy you a drink at Duke's restaurant and tell you all about how a Boston FBI agent joined the Maine police force."
"Sounds good." With that, I turned out the light and motioned her out of the room before me.
Nathan caught up with us in the hallway. "I got through to the coastguard, and because of the situation here, they're upgrading our priority for evacuation."
"Uh, Nathan, what exactly did you tell them our 'situation' was?" Audrey asked, looking askance.
He shrugged. "Several deaths on the island. I didn't give details, and the shortwave cut out before they could ask for them." Nathan sighed. "They said we might be picked up as early as tomorrow."
"Let's hope they're still someone left to pick up by then," Audrey muttered. She wasn't the only one to wonder what the body count might be by then.
Surreally, Mulder was talking about Santa when I got back to our rooms. "Well, I think that Santa might leave your presents at our house," Mulder was saying.
"Why?" William demanded to know. He punctuated his question with a pout, and Joey didn't look any happier.
"Because we're flying home," I said, coming to Mulder's rescue.
"So you're not allowed to bring more than fifty pounds of stuff on a plane, and our suitcases alone weigh almost that much," Mulder went on, improving an explanation from the hint I'd tossed his way. "We'd have to mail all your presents home from here, or from Uncle Bill's-" he added, which seemed unlikely to me. Despite what the coastguard said I was beginning to wonder if we'd be off the island before New Years. "-and Santa knows you'd be disappointed if you only got to open your presents before waiting a couple of weeks for the mail to send them home to you."
"A couple of weeks?!"
"The US postal service isn't known for speed, son."
"You really think he'll leave them at our house?" Joey asked anxiously.
"Santa doesn't like to make kids sad, so I'm positive he's going to deliver the presents at home, so they'll be home waiting for you."
"And Olivia's will be at her mom's, so it's fair, right?" William asked.
"When are we going home, Dad?"
Mulder shook his head. "As soon as it's safe for a boat to get out to us. It's hard for us to wait too, but we don't want anyone to get hurt trying to reach us."
"No, we don't," the kids agreed.
Mulder ruffled their hair. "You're good kids. How about I tell you some Christmas stories?"
"You know some?"
"I know lots," he assured them. "When I was a kid, just a few years older than you, we had to memorize stories to tell at an assembly right before Christmas. I read the stories so many times that they got written right on my brain."
Joey gave him a skeptical look before turning to me. "Mom, can that really-"
I shook my head. "He didn't mean it literally. It's a figure of speech."
I settled down between the boys, let Mulder's stories wash over me and tried to forget all the horror we'd seen.
I didn't get to forget for nearly long enough.
The first few check-ins were done by the tired officers, but beyond Audrey being unhappy about being away from Duke for those long stretches, all seemed well.
But that ended abruptly at the 11 o'clock check. Audrey was right and it's not over, I thought as I looked at Nathan's drawn face. "What happened," I asked, not opening the door all the way. I didn't want to wake anyone if I didn't have to.
"John's dead. The lock he wanted so badly didn't stop that thing from going in after him. Apparently the claws on it make short work of brass too."
"Who else knows?" I asked, stepping out into the hallway.
"So far, just Audrey."
"That explains the lack of pandemonium," I muttered. "You realize that there's going to be an uproar when you tell Janice, Mike, and the Greens." For a moment I paused, trying to think of who I was missing, and felt both cold and sad when I realized that besides the kids and Duke, those four were the only ones left. "So, now what? Up to the function room where we can all hold guns on each other?"
"No, we're going to invade Duke's rooms. Considering the placement, it's the most defensible area of the hotel."
I looked down the hall and saw no one. "I take it Audrey's gone to warn Duke?"
"Warn him, threaten him, whichever."
"I'll wake them and meet you in Duke's rooms. Let me know if anyone gives you any trouble."
"Maybe I'm a bad person, but I'm hoping that fear cows them into following orders," Nathan said with a grim smile.
"If you are, I'm a bad person too because I had the same thought while working some cases." I paused. "Be careful, Nathan."
He nodded, and I went back to my room, trying to decide if I should have us all get dressed. It seemed like the best idea, all told.
December 23rd, 2008
I had given my word and I am a man of my word. That's what I kept telling myself. I was getting really, really tired of my current state. I could at least walk across the floor today. Yesterday my gait had been, to quote Janice, more akin to "reeling." That woman had been taking lessons from Dana and Audrey on how to chew me out.
At least it wasn't Nathan again. I do not know what the hell I did to God to get that bastard in my life, but it sucked. Royally. I can't even explain what set my teeth on edge when he stopped in to chew me out for upsetting Audrey and Dana, but I knew at the end I just wanted him to go away. So to get him to stop, I'd foolishly agreed to be a good patient, and since then I'd tried to be one. God, it felt so good when he was gone. I don't know why Audrey decided I was worried about him.
In fact, I felt so good that I finally was able to get a few solid hours of sleep, at least until Audrey got me up to talk. At first I'd been hopeful that she'd come to flirt with me, but she had another agenda. My rooms were being invaded. I got all of five minutes warning before people began poured in. At least Mulder and Audrey had the decency not to stay.
Before she left Audrey had mentioned that the Wendigo attacked again (nice of someone to tell me), twice no less, and that Mike was injured. He'd been clawed up, and was now bleeding on my couch in the other room.
Among the first to arrive, the little guys were on the floor by my bed, with Dana having only threatened to maim me slightly if something happened to her sons or Olivia, who was expected to join the invasion any minute. Nathan had conned Mulder into helping him marshal the troops, and they were now on their way with the girl, Janice and the Greens, back in here to make the place a little more claustrophobic. I guess the Powers that Be had decided my rooms were among the more defensible ones, being on the interior. The problem was they were smaller.
During those last minutes before the invasion, I had lobbied to go to the second floor, where Audrey's rooms were above mine, and larger not having to have space reserved for the function room and the kitchen sliced out of them as mine had. I was vetoed on the basis that Dana couldn't get Mike upstairs alone, Mrs. Green was sure to faint at the sight of blood, and even though I was now steady on my feet she didn't trust me to actually make it up the stairs carrying anyone as my shoulder was carved up.
I pointed out Mr. Green could carry Mrs. Green, and she gave me the Look. It must have been one she developed for particularly think individuals. I'd been on the end of it far more than I'd liked in the last few days, and I was about sick of it and ready to start developing a few ritual hand gestures to counter her evil eye with. Mr. Green was about 73 years old. Ok, so maybe he'd have a hard time carting his 69 year old wife up the stairs. But I didn't understand why everyone had to land in my bedroom.
Nathan, Dana, and Audrey then came into my bedroom. This was not good. I was in no mood to deal with Haven's worst. I was even getting tired of having Audrey hover. I really, really needed to get off the damn island and away from everyone for a few days. I had at least been able to get up and run around the island before I was attacked, but after promising to be good I'd decided to play up being hurt as a sympathy bid from Audrey, and it had backfired on me even though I was feeling a hell of a lot better. Dana still wouldn't let me out of this bed without supervision, for fear I'd collapse like some weak little daisy.
My promise to her ended the minute we were on the mainland and I was not going to be making any more promises. The minute I was back on the mainland I was taking my boat and bolting for warmer climes as far away from these yahoos and this island as she could take me.
Something of my mood must have shown on my face, because Audrey drew up short of the bed. Nathan, clueless as ever, sat on the bed. I was tired of people using my bed as their personal couch.
"What do you want, Nathan." I made my voice flat and unwelcoming. I was proud it didn't sound murderous. Tremendous acting skills I had there, me. "And where's Mulder?"
Nathan looked at me, and raised an eyebrow. Can I tell you how much it pisses me off that he can do that and I can't? Just another reason to hate him. "Still reasoning with Janice. You OK Duke?"
"Just peachy. What do you want, Nathan. I haven't got all day." Actually, I did, but that was beside the point. I wanted him gone. Now. Preferably forever.
Nathan, being Nathan decided now was the time to cogitate deeply upon the matters at hand, and stare at me. I began twisting the comforter into knots. I mustn't kill him in front of Audrey. I mustn't kill him in front of Audrey. I mustn't kill him.
"Duke, I need to know where your smuggling caches are on the island. Ken and Glen are dead. Something killed them in the woods. Then that same something busted a lock to get at John, who is also dead. The rest of us were all here, and while you were sleeping we took your keys to get into the locked parts of the hotel which are completely empty." I glared at him, annoyed that he thought it was okay to steal my keys, but I knew that it had been reasonable to do it so I stopped short of bitching him out.
"We think that the Wendigo may not be one of us, and it may be somewhere on the island. Somewhere I haven't found. I think that it means it must be hiding really well. You're the only person I know that can hide things that well, so I'm thinking it must be using one of your smuggling areas. I know you have them, I found two." Nathan met my gaze evenly. At the mention of smuggling, Dana raised an eyebrow too. Damnit, could every other human being do that? She was on the death list right after Nathan.
Crap, the others were dead.
This was not my problem.
Yes it was, it was my island.
If I told Nathan where those caches are, he'd come back to search them, and bring down the feds on me.
If I didn't, the damned monster might hurt one of the kids.
There was only one cache big enough to hold a human being. I could ask him which two he found.
Then he would know there are more than two.
If I didn't tell him, Audrey might get hurt. Might get killed.
I couldn't let Audrey get hurt. She's like Lucy.
Audrey is Lucy, you idiot.
I couldn't remember what happened to Lucy. I remembered what happened to the Dream Audrey.
What to do? One decision might mean their lives. One decision might mean mine.
I could see Duke weighing the decisions in his head. It was clear he didn't want to tell Nathan anything, but that he felt he should. Nathan had once told me that Duke could only be counted on to save his own skin in all circumstances. This may directly endanger it. I know from conversations with Julia that Duke didn't really know what he was smuggling, he was just a delivery boy. He didn't ask. If Nathan went looking, the fall out would be on Duke's head.
He was sitting cross-legged on the bed, and it was odd to almost see him running numbers and calculations in his head. I was wondering if this is what Nathan referred to as Evil Duke.
I never found out what the final answer would have been. Mike came into the room, moaning. He was walking up to me when he changed, a sickening sliding of skin round his body. I understood why Duke had been suffering bad dreams since the attack. That thing was horrifying. It lurched forward, reaching for me, and Nathan, Dana, and I all reacted by shooting at it. Somehow Duke was suddenly by me, and throwing me and Dana out of the room. The kids were already outside, but I was at a loss to explain how. Mulder and Janice had the ill luck to arrive at that moment, with Mr. and Mrs. Green in tow. Mulder went into the room as soon as he realized what was going on, but no one else seemed ready to brave that situation.
I expected Mrs. Green to faint on the spot, and promptly become Wendigo lunch. What happened was more surreal.
Mr. and Mrs. Green pushed in front of Dana and the kids. I was between them and the door. Duke, who was still in the room took one look at the monster trying to attack Nathan and Mulder and yelled "RUN!" and promptly slammed the door in our faces.
"Oh my, that's completely unacceptable behavior," Mrs. Green commented, and I giggled hysterically, thinking Lady, do you want to be eaten by the Wendigo?
Apparently she did as she moved me out of the way with her hip. "Please move, you're in the way. She then pushed the door open by pushing it down. Mr. Green followed her in. Duke must have felt the way the door was coming down, and moved to the side of the door before it slammed into the floor.
Acting on instinct, Dana and I reacted by pushing Janice and the kids down the hall until they caught on and ran down the stairs. Dana hissed at them to stay put, and she and I ran back to see if we could help.
In a hysterical moment I thought it was a very good think Duke had cathedral ceilings. By the time Mrs. Green and Mr. Green had entered the room, they were ten feet tall and cover with long, gray hair. Long claws, similar to a bear's paws replaced Mrs. Green's manicured nails. Mr. Green's eyes, huge behind his glasses, grew larger and took up most of his head under low eye ridges. Four sharp fangs protruded from his mouth. Mrs. Green had 6 fangs, two on the top of her mouth and four more on the bottom. Both were very thin, with long arms. They looked more like the offspring of apes and bears. They were human enough to be recognized, but having more similarity to the animals than any Homo sapiens in the room. As the changed shape, they suddenly hooted, a high piercing cry that froze everyone in their tracks.
Mulder and Nathan, suddenly confronted with the appearance of two more monsters, were at a loss for who to shoot at. Duke just looked stunned, before diving for the door.
Mrs. Green took a swipe at Mike, who attempted to dodge and failed. Where Nathan and Mulder hadn't been able to shoot it because of its speed, Mrs. Green was able to nail it in one blow. As Mike, or what was left of Mike was lying dazed on the floor, Mr. Green plucked off his head as though picking an apple off of a tree. Mike screamed soundlessly and even without a body tried to bite Mr. Green.
Mrs. Green clucked her tongue, and changed back seamlessly. "Poor dear. I told you Mr. Green, that I smelled something foul." By the time Mrs. Green finished her sentence, Mr. Green had transformed back into the shape we had all known him by for the past week. The two of them exited Duke's room, setting Mike's severed head on a table by the door. "Sorry for the mess, Mr. Crocker, but really, you left us no other choice."
Duke just nodded, wide-eyed.
"I'm sorry, but did a Wendigo just try to eat us, and two bigfoots, bigfeet save us?" Janice asked, her voice just this side of hysterical. I hadn't noticed that she'd crept back in time to see until she spoke.
"No," Mulder said in shock. "Bigfoot is generally held to live in the pacific northwest. Mr. and Mrs. Green are from New Hampshire. That would make them Wood Devils. Close, but not quite the same."
We all stood there for a few moments longer and stared. We would probably still have been there staring if we hadn't heard Mr. Green yell "The boat's come in!" and the sound of Mrs. Green's body hitting the floor in a dead faint.
December 24th, 2008
"I think this might officially be the worst Christmas Eve we've ever had," I whispered to Mulder as we waited our turn to get onto the ship.
"Even worse than then the one when ghosts tried to make us kill each other?" he retorted.
Nodding thoughtfully, he said, "Well, you might be right, even though Christmas Eve is only an hour and a half old yet. We're still going to have to see your brother before the day is over."
I punched him in the shoulder. Anyone would have.
I noticed that Audrey was looking my way, so I walked over to her. "So, how about that drink?" she asked me with a wobbly sort of smile. I could relate to the relief and despair that were both playing across her face just then. I was thrilled to be getting off the island, but I'd liked some of the murdered men, so it was hard to cope with that too.
"I think I'm going to have to ask for a rain check," I told her. "We need to get to my brother's house, and that's going to take a few hours."
"Oh, I get that," she said, but looked away so I wouldn't see her disappointment. Until then I hadn't realized that she'd liked me that much. "Maybe some other time, then."
"Sure, some other time. But not on an island." Impulsively, I opened my purse and took out a pen and notepad. After scribbling down my e-mail address, I handed her the pen, and half of the sheet of paper. "We should stay in touch," I suggested. "You never know when knowing another former FBI agent could come in handy."
"That sounds good," she said, not looking up from writing down her own address. "You're moving up this way, aren't you?"
"That's the plan."
"But not to Haven," she said, and laughed at the face I made. "Duke and Nathan will be so disappointed that we manage to scare you off."
I raised an eyebrow. "I don't think Duke will miss me much."
The boy had good hearing, I'll grant him that, because even though he was fifteen feet away he turned and said, "I heard that. And it's not true."
"Oh?" I asked as he made his way over to us.
"I'm sorry for being a pain in the ass. I know you had my best interests at heart, and I made things more difficult for you. It's just..." Duke trailed off awkwardly.
"He comes by it naturally," Audrey finished for him, earning herself a glare.
"You know, things could have gone worse," Duke told her.
"I had mistletoe out on my boat, but I forgot it before I had the chance to hang it. Imagine how surly Nathan would have been if the halls had been decked with mistletoe."
"I don't think he would have let you kiss him, Duke," Audrey said, smirking at me.
I finally got to see Duke flustered when he said, "Wait, what?? Audrey, come on, you know that's not what I mean..."
While they were distracted, I slipped away, and Mulder told me I was just in time. We boarded the boat and left that little island in the distance, and I wasn't at all sorry that it couldn't be seen from the dock on Haven's mainland.
December 24th, 2008
Audrey laughed at me when I jumped off the boat before it was secured to the newly repaired dock and kissed the ground. I was so happy to be off that damned island. Before the boat was tied, I'd already run into the nearest store, Pete's Bait shop and was going to call for a cab. Pete, being the fine gentleman he is, just offered to close up shop and take me out to the Grey Gull, where home currently was. I could have kissed him. I wanted a shower and to forget the events of the last several days. We were gone before they finished removing the bodies from the boat.
Pete's car crunched back down the driveway, and I walked up to the Gull. It was undamaged and in one piece. I went around behind the building and down to the docks. The same could not be said of my home sweet home. Cape Rouge was wallowing deeply in the water. I boarded her and went below decks. The patch job from the crack the day we were all kidnapped by card sharks had failed. She'd taken on water, but the water by the Gull was shallow enough that she'd hit bottom. Her anchor and ropes kept her here. I'd have to wait for the tide to come in and go diving to repair it myself or ask Ryan down at the marina to do it. The headache I'd had since the Wendigo decided to rise full up in force and smack me down. Definitely have Ryan do it. The only issue was that Ryan was down in Gloucester, and wouldn't be back until after the New Year. I wasn't sure I could subject myself to staying in Haven that long.
I took a shower and the water was blessedly warm. For the first time in days my hair wasn't greasy. I didn't have to dive in and out of the shower. It was bliss. There was no one else around.
After the longest shower I'd taken since the power went out, I decided to grab my pillow and some blankets and camp out at the Gull's office. Nothing was likely to happen to the boat, but I didn't want to take a chance at finding myself drifting at sea on a sinking ship.
Before making up a bed on the floor I checked the stocks, made myself a fried egg sandwich, and went over the books. Margie was good, I'd have to give her that. She ran this place without my interference for days and the books were all in order, the bills paid, and there was nothing for me to do. I decided to go to sleep to avoid the headache.
Duke actually kissed the ground. He jumped off the boat when it was still a good 3 feet from the pier, and I thought Dana was going to have a stroke. Duke appeared to have believed he was exempt from being a good patient the minute his feet hit the dock. After pushing himself off the pier he ran into Pete's.
"I think he's happy to be home," Nathan laughed.
Dana shook her head. "One of you should check on him periodically. Concussions can show primary symptoms for up to 10 days, and he needs to finish that antibiotic course. Although, judging from that little performance, he'll be fine."
The coroner's wagons were at the pier, and we proceeded to unload the bodies. When we were done, Duke was gone.
After I left the final instructions for Duke's follow up care, I joined my family they piled into the car we'd rented days and days ago. It, at least, didn't seem to have been damaged by the storm, and it started up immediately.
Before we reached York, the interior of the car was filled with a blessed heat. I yawned, and looked over at Mulder. He wore a pensive expression that worried me. "What are you thinking about?"
I expected him to say something about monsters, or death, or the people we'd just spent almost two weeks with, but he said, "We are going to owe Hertz rent-a-car so much money."
I began to laugh, and I couldn't stop. Of all the things to be worrying about, he'd picked the fees on our car rental. Eventually he began to laugh too.
December 24th, 2008
Audrey was tapping her pencil on the blotter. Ostensibly we were writing a report about what happened on the island. The Rev might believe the Wendigo ate everyone, but we didn't want him to find out about the Greens. It was taking some fiction writing skills to explain away Mike's body.
Her musing was interrupted by Margie, a formidable looking woman in her mid forties who was built along the lines of a Mack truck. She was also Duke's second in command at the Grey Gull. "Audrey, do you have a moment?"
"Yeah, what's up?" Audrey looked up, smiling. She liked Margie. And Margie meant Duke, who we'd agreed to keep an eye on and promptly avoided like the plague for the rest of the day. He seemed more than ready to return the favor. I was sure we'd see him again some time in the spring, or summer. I wouldn't be surprised if he headed down south before the end of the day.
"Could you please remind Duke that the Grey Gull is not his hotel? If I have to keep tripping over him when I get to the books, I may do something un-Christmassy to him."
"Margie, why isn't he on his boat?" I asked. I honestly thought he'd have cleared out by now.
"That patch job on the hull failed in the storm and she's grounded in the shallows. Duke doesn't want to sleep on her with the chance that she'll decide to sail with him in the middle of the night and sink. So he's in my office instead."
"You mean he's moved into his office at the Gull?"
Margie gave me the patented you are an idiot, aren't you stare. "No, he's moving into mine. Possession's 9/10's of the law and I keep that office most the day." She turned back to Audrey. "So you got room in that cupcake room of yours for my boss?"
I interrupted Audrey's reply. "Why doesn't he just fix the boat?"
"Oh, he's gone down to do it twice, and comes back cursing and lies down on my floor for about an hour after each attempt. I told him to stop trying and wait for Ryan to come back like he originally planned. He ain't in a good mood, and Nathan, you know how that boy can get."
I thought of Audrey, trapped in her tiny place, and Duke in a less then jovial mood. Crap, I'd have to take the bastard. I did promise Dana to keep an eye on him. "I'll get him, Margie." I just hoped that I could talk Margie into continuing to take care of the goddamned cat.
Audrey went with us. I don't think she trusted me not to pitch him over the Gull's railing and into the sea. When we got there, he had the grill on the back deck running and was slowly burning a case of little drink umbrellas on it. Periodically he'd pick one out of the smoldering box and drop it directly on the coals. Margie looked at Duke, clad in his wetsuit, his tanks beside him. Both he and the tanks were still wet.
"Hi Nathan." Duke continued to burn little umbrellas.
Well, this was going well.
"Ah Duke, what are you doing?"
"I'm preventing avenues of bad luck."
"By burning cocktail umbrellas?"
"Yes. They are henceforth banned from my presence."
Audrey started laughing hysterically. That was the point that Duke turned around. He narrowed his eyes at Audrey. Audrey just kept laughing until she had to sit on the railing. Duke eventually shook his head and sighed. I stood there confused but it made sense to the two of them.
I turned to Duke. "Margie wants us to prevent you from taking up residence in her office."
"Technically it's my office. I own the Grey Gull."
"Technically, it's not rated for human habitation, Duke."
"I concede the point."
I motioned back into the Gull. "Go, get your stuff. You're staying with me until your damned boat is fixed."
Duke looked at me, surprised. "Go" I told him, shoving him towards the deck doors. He canted his head and then just shrugged his shoulders. I was surprised he hadn't argued.
It took Duke one trip into the office and two trips down to the boat to gather all the stuff he wanted and to change out of the wetsuit into more normal clothes, though more normal still meant wearing a hoodie like the unibomber. His belongings amounted to two duffle bags.
Audrey, Duke, and I all climbed into my truck and drove to my home. I had Duke throw his stuff into the guest room and all three of us settled down, into the living room. Duke was sprawled on the couch, his head by my Christmas tree. Audrey was curled up on my recliner and I was sitting on the loveseat. I turned on the TV and a Christmas special was on. It was the one with the reindeer that was lost in South Town. We all watched it for a while when Audrey asked the room in general, "Heat Miser or Cold Miser?"
Duke and I replied at the same time. He was for Heat Miser and I was for Cold Miser. Audrey laughed at us and said she was for the reindeer. Duke took off one sock and threw it at her. She claimed it and refused to give it back to him. He whined his foot was cold. I stole his other sock, and gave it Audrey.
"After all Duke, you couldn't have only one cold foot, now could you?"
I had thought I'd pushed him too far when he got up and left the living room. I heard him go to the fridge, but then heard him padding back into the room. He had one of my beers in one hand. The other was out of sight.
"Nathan, I have an early Christmas present for you. Unfortunately, I can't give it to you personally." I figured he meant the beer in his hand. Audrey got up off the floor and walked behind Duke, coming to lean against my loveseat.
"Well no, bribing an officer of the law would be baa-aaha-ahd!" Turns out that I could feel so long as Audrey was touching me. Ice down my back was one I wasn't keen on experiencing again. I jumped up and tied to shake the ice out of my shirt, but Audrey kept her hand on my neck, so I kept feeling the cold.
Duke started laughing joyfully. I think it was the first time I'd heard him laugh since the attack. I continued my watusi dance maneuver until all the ice had finally fallen on my rug. Audrey was bent nearly double, laughing as well.
Duke returned to the couch, pinching at the bridge of his nose but still chuckling. He proceeded to drink my beer without even offering me a sip.
"Still have the headache, huh?" Audrey asked.
"It comes and goes. Mostly goes," he answered. He smiled lazily. "Nice place, Nathan."
"I mean, you really have that lumberjack and I'm ok atmosphere here. I like it."
I smacked him with a pillow.
He claimed my pillow and put his feet under it, then lay back down on the couch pulling the hood of his sweatshirt up on his head and burying his hands in the front pockets. We all watched Christmas specials together for hours.
Earlier in the day I thought the sight of the Greens morphing into Bigfeet, or Mike turning into that fish monster would vie for the strangest thing I saw that day. Turns out that there was another contender just after we got to Bill and Tara's house.
Both my brother and his wife flew out of the house before we even opened the doors to the car. Bill came around to my car door, and he wore a shell shocked expression. "Oh my God, Dana, until we got your call we worried that you hadn't survived that storm."
Behind me I heard Joey whisper to William that their uncle thought we were dead.
"Sorry," I said, suddenly pulled into a bear hug. "If there had been any way to get word to you from the island, we would have." God knows I'd tried every time it seemed like the cell phones were perking up.
"It's okay," Bill muttered. "You didn't have any choice."
And then...and then he hugged Mulder too.
Now *that* was the most shocking thing I saw Christmas Eve.
At the stoke of midnight, Audrey caroled out "Merry Christmas Haven! Let's open presents." She ran to the kitchen to grab her purse.
Duke, who I thought had fallen asleep as his hood slowly migrated down to completely cover his face moaned and said, "Let's not, and wait for morning." I realized he might not have brought anything, and was wondering what to do about it when Audrey came flying back into the room.
You have to understand Audrey has two purses. One is a small, petite little thing that she carries around most days. Then there is the Aircraft Carrier. This purse wanted to be a currier bag, but failed because it was not square or rectangular. It was also made of leather patches that had been sewn together from the most eye searing shades imaginable. It could be used to hold an elephant, so it was not surprising she pulled out two wrapped presents out of it.
She tossed one to each of us. Duke used his ninja skillz to pull his from the air by hearing because I did not see how he could see anything with his hood covering his face. "Open them you two! Now!"
I grinned and opened mine. It was a set of Volvik golf balls and a bunch of white washed golf tees. The golf balls were a bright, neon rainbow in their box, and glowed unrepentantly. I had a feeling they were picked out more for the color than anything else. I certainly wouldn't loose them in the woods. They looked like they should glow in the dark.
Duke opened his present, and found Audrey had gotten him a copy of "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse. He opened it and randomly read a passage. Audrey reminded him that quoting the Buddha at her would lead to suffering, and threw his socks at him. He grinned and put them back on.
I went and picked up two presents from beneath my tree.
Audrey opened hers, and giggled. It was a necklace with a cupcake made from rhinestones. She put it on with its matching dangling earrings.
Duke opened his to find a six pack of beer. I promptly took one from the six pack.
"Consider that I gave you early access to your Christmas present earlier and let you drink one of mine."
Duke took out another one and shrugged. He handed a third to Audrey.
"To Surviving Christmas!" he chanted and clinked his glass against Audrey's and mine. We all took long pulls of the beers.
He leaned back against the couch arm and draped his arm over the edge of my couch so that it disappeared in the Christmas tree's branches. The other hand was employed in drinking his beer.
When I got up to retrieve my pillow, now that he had his socks back, he sat up. Some how the arm that draped over the edge of the couch had acquired two gift bags. I could have sworn they weren't there earlier when he had settled onto the couch. I thought the only presents around the tree had been mine. How the hell had he gotten them there without me seeing them?
He handed one with a bright reindeer on it to Audrey. Mine had a snowman on it.
He sat back, finished his beer, and pulled his hood back over his face, but not before I saw the grin.
Audrey's present was one of Vince's sketches. It was of she and I together as we walked along one the shore. Judging from the clothing in the sketch, it had been shortly after she'd decided to stay in Haven. She'd been laughing and Vince had caught the peculiar glow of happiness she sometimes had. Duke had had it framed in a birch wood frame with deep blue matting. Vince had colored in some of the sketch, mostly our eyes and the sea.
My bag revealed a denim shirt that was lined with a blue and white flannel pattern. The note that went with it both contained the entire lyrics of I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK and a note that it was so I didn't freeze myself in the cold. There was also a box of Bisquick pancake mix.
We all ended up asleep in my living room. My archenemy sprawled on the couch. The object of our affections looking angelic in the recliner. It was a pretty good Christmas.
Nothing else strange happened after Bill hugged my husband, and they returned to their usual unemotional exchanges. I was glad to see my mom, both of my brothers, both of my sister-in-laws, and my niece and nephews, but deep down I was counting the minutes until our Christmas night flight home. All I really wanted was to shower in my own shower and sleep in my own bed. So of course our flight was delayed for three hours.
When we finally pulled into our driveway after our flight got in, Mulder turned off the car before turning in his seat to give the boys a contemplative look. "Do you think we can wake them?"
I thought about trying to carry them up the icy walkway and shrugged. "It can't hurt to try."
It took a few minutes, but we got both of the kids moving under their own power, and gently herded them towards the house. They were so sleepy that they more stumbled than walked, and I felt a little bad about waking them, but I don't think either Mulder's back or my own could take lugging them around any more, not at the rate they were growing these days.
William yawned loudly before stopping short just a couple of feet from the door. "Mommy, what's that?"
Until he pointed, I didn't notice that there was anything to see. Sitting on the steps was what looked for all the world like a beer cooler. Mulder saw it too, and asked, "Hey Scully, did you order a kidney?"
"Ha, ha," I said sourly as I grabbed the container by the handle.
I dropped it on the counter and helped Mulder get the kids up to bed. We decided not to bother unloading the car until the next day, figuring that none of the many gifts my family had sent us home with would freeze. Instead we took the time to make sure that all the gifts "from Santa" were arranged under the tree. I was petrified that one of them would get up to pee and catch us in the act. They'd believe that Santa had considerately left presents at our house, but would they buy him leaving them in our closet instead of under the tree? I thought not.
"So, what was in the cooler?" Mulder asked me a while later, once we'd picked out a Christmas movie to watch. The boys might have been dead on their feet, but we were both wide awake still, so we thought we'd catch up on some of the movies we'd missed over our long strange vacation. In a way I was glad that the kids had gone to bed already.
"I don't know, Mulder. Suppose I should open it and see?"
"Sure. But I'm going to warn you, if it is a severed body part, I'm planning to scream like a little girl. I've reached my quota of guts viewing for the month."
"Dully noted," I replied with a snort.
When I had the cooler in my hands, I began to feel a bit of apprehension. What if it was something weird or unpleasant? Mulder wasn't the only one to have reached their limit on that.
I took a deep breath and told myself not to be ridiculous. It was probably a gift from a neighbor, maybe some sort of food item they were hoping to spare from freezing solid.
My heart nearly stopped when I saw what was inside. A small metal canister that was colder to the touch than merely being outside could account for. And a note attached that said,
Your property, found and returned as agreed upon.
"Mulder!" I cried, making him come running.
He looked at me, wild-eyed. "What is it? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," I said breathlessly. "But you're not going to believe it..." I handed him the cooler, and his face filled with wonder as he pondered the implications too.
On the first day of Christmas my true love game to me, a monster in a pine tree.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me Two wood devils, etc.
End Notes: The title is a riff on a Bob Marley (the actor from the Boondock Saints movies, not the Rastafarian guy) song called "Christmas In Maine." We know you might not know it, but as people who live a stone's throw from Maine ourselves, your authors find it amusing.
Where do we go from here, story-wise?
And then, during the fall/winter we have tentitive plans to get the Haven and X-Files gangs back together again, because it amused the hell out of us, and a bunch of you seemed to enjoy the ride too.
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