Title: Don't Go Down There
Author: D Agnew
Okay to archive as long as you let me know about it first and my name is on the story.
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the television program "The X Files" are the creations and property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting, and Ten-Thirteen Productions, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: References to previous cases, but this is an alternate universe.
Classification: X, A, H, UST.
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a house where it's Halloween year round, and Scully reveals a secret she's been hiding for years.
The black spider inched slowly along the baseboard, it's hairy legs progressing with the delicate steps of a ballet dancer.
The newspaper landed with deadly accuracy, splattering the multi- legged creature.
"Ugh!" Ten year old Lynna Buckles wrinkled her nose and stared at the mess her brother had created on their dad's Wall Street Journal. "Dad is going to kill you."
Twelve year old Arnie Buckles smiled, his freckled face glowing with an excitement only a prepubescent boy could display after making a kill like this one. "Nah, he won't care. He already read it last night."
Thunder rumbled low in the distance, and Lynna looked out the window of their first floor room. Dark clouds had been gathering all day over the mountains and had slowly crept eastward, settling over the city. For about an hour the clouds had grumbled, and small flashes of lightning brightened the dimly lit room.
He tossed the deadly newspaper onto the table by the bed and flopped backwards on one of the twin beds. "Hey this is pretty cool. I always wanted to come with dad on one of his trips."
From the moment they'd arrived at the large Victorian structure, Lynna had felt uneasy. Since it hadn't been a strong feeling she'd managed to ignore it. Now, however, her discomfort was increasing. She couldn't tell her brother. He'd think she was a fraidy cat. Unlike her brother, she wanted nothing to do with her father's strange work. But she'd wanted to go on this trip with her dad because Spring Break would be boring without...
Tears welled into her eyes. Mom. It had been almost a year since mom had died, and although Lynna handled her grief well, sometimes little reminders wounded her heart and made her cry. Her dad was understanding and told her to cry whenever she felt the need.
She took a deep breath and looked out the window again at the quiet street, wishing her dad would hurry. He'd promised to be back twenty minutes ago.
"You don't think somethin' happened to dad, do you?" Lynna asked, biting her lip as a tendril of anxiety curled through her stomach. Lately she'd been feeling a little insecure, a tad on the edge.
"Nah," her brother said again, drawling the word out. "He's late that's all. You worry too much about everything."
Lynna brushed a long strand of blond hair from her round face and gazed at Arnie with sisterly contempt. "I do not."
A loud, groaning sound like tortured medal rumbled from earth directly below them, trembling and shifting the floorboards beneath their feet.
Lynna stiffened, the hair on the back of her neck prickling as fear lodged in her throat. "What was that?"
Arnie stared at the floor, his mouth hanging slightly open. He shrugged. "I dunno."
She frowned. "Do they have earthquakes in Colorado?"
He sighed and put his hands on his hips. "No. Don't you know anything? Sounds like it's coming from the cellar."
She stiffened, her blue eyes round with sudden fear. She hated cellars, basements, or any other underground place. Even the mention of going underground conjured up horrific images of the nightmares she'd experienced periodically about dark, damp places where she had no hope of getting out. The dreams had been worse lately, and her dad had considered taking her to a child psychologist for treatment for her problem. She tried to hide her fear whenever she went into a basement at someone's house, and luckily her own home was a ranch style without a basement.
Arnie grinned. "Let's go check it out."
"No way," she said, flopping into an antique chair against the wall. "No way. I'm not going down there. Besides we'd get into trouble."
"No we won't."
Another horrendous groan emanated from the floor beneath them, and she shivered with dread. "I'm not going down there."
"You're just afraid," he said, sitting up on the bed. "Dad should take you to the nutty doctor so you'd get cured."
"I'm not afraid."
"Then let's go."
She launched herself off the chair and grabbed his shirt sleeve. "You can't. That old lady at the front will see you."
Yanking his arm out of her grip, he laughed. "She looks like a witch. I wonder if she is?"
Arnie's persistent habit of turning everything into something drove her nuts. "I don't care. I'm not going to the cellar."
He headed for the door and opened it. "See ya later."
"Arnie, don't go down there!"
Eternally stubborn, Arnie didn't listen and before she knew it he was out the door and had shut it behind him.
She waited for several minutes, sitting on the bed and staring at the wall. When Arnie didn't return after twenty minutes, her apprehension rose another notch and a half. She'd heard no more noises from below. What if he'd gone into the cellar and whatever was down there had got him?
He was playing a trick on her. He was probably downstairs talking with that creepy old lady.
For a moment a spark of courage, a sense of sisterly obligation propelled her forward. Despite her fear she left the room. As she walked down the wide hall, she glanced up at the water stained ceiling high above. The house was cavernous, and she was surprised that there weren't more people in the inn. Her shoes echoed on the hard wood floor, and as she approached the front desk, she peaked around the corner. No one was at the front.
Trembling slightly, she rushed past the desk and into the next hallway. She stopped.
The door to the cellar, at the end of the hall, was open. It yawned, like the open maw of a cave, pitch dark and silent.
Hairs on her arms rose, and she shivered. Taking a deep breath, she walked slowly past the numerous doorways on either side of the hall, hoping that no one would suddenly open a door and catch her skulking around. When she reached the door she realized that she was shaking, and her hands were clammy. Her breathing had quickened and she felt like she might be sick. She looked down into the darkness passed the open door and could only see just past the first few steps.
The mouth of unspeakable terrors.
She took a step back, gasping for air. She felt perspiration dampen her armpits and a trickle of sweat ran down her face. She took another deep breath.
Fear threatened to send her screaming out of the house, away from the horror that gripped her throat and made her quake uncontrollably.
But what about Arnie?
What if he was down there? She couldn't just leave him if he needed help. Quelling her rising panic, she stepped into the cellar.
FBI Headquarters Basement Washington, DC
Mulder held the Playboy Magazine up to the unflattering glow of the fluorescent lights above. He turned the magazine sidewise, then upside down. "Hmmmm."
Scully had managed to ignore the variety of noises he'd been making for the last five minutes since she'd entered the office that morning. Until now. She looked up from the file she was holding and glared at him over the top of her reading glasses. When she saw the nubile proportions of the woman on the front cover of the magazine, her frown deepened.
"Mulder, what are you doing?"
Because of the angle at which he held the magazine, she couldn't see his face. "I think there's a UFO somewhere in this picture, Scully. I could have sworn I saw it last night."
"Is that what they call them now?"
He lowered the magazine and tilted his head slightly, one of his dark eyebrows cocked. "This is serious. Want to see?"
When he held it out to her, she looked back at the file in her lap. "No thanks."
"Oh come on. Langley pointed it out to me."
Once again she looked up. " Langley reads Playboy?"
"He's a growing boy."
"What's your excuse, Mulder?"
Closing the magazine and tossing it on his desk, he leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "It's better than saying he reads it for the articles."
She ignored his dubious logic and pressed on. "You were with the Lone Gunmen last night?"
"They called me about a missing persons case in Colorado. I went over there to get the scoop."
Scully felt her stomach do an unpleasant flip. "Not Colorado again?"
"Hey, it beats going to Pennsylvania every other week, don't you think?"
She smiled slightly, but kept her lips compressed so that it didn't turn into a full blown grin. Sometimes it was difficult to decide whether to laugh out loud at his irreverence or to launch the nearest rock at his head.
" Langley has a good friend who owns a bed and breakfast in Denver," he said. "Apparently it's haunted."
"I thought you said it was a missing persons case."
She was afraid she knew where this was going. "And Langley wants us to investigate?"
"He beat around the bush for awhile before he asked if we'd be interested."
Aggravation stiffened her spine. "You didn't tell him we'd go there?"
Mulder's brows drew together. "Yes."
"You didn't ask me first?" she asked, her voice rising slightly in pitch.
Looking clearly disconcerted, Mulder leaned forward in his chair. "I called Skinner last night and gave him the details. He may let us take the case."
She sighed. "Why did you wait until now to tell me?"
"I would have called you last night after I talked to Langley, but I thought I might be...uh...intruding."
For such an articulate and intelligent man, Mulder could be amazingly murky when it suited his purpose. "Intruding on what?"
"Didn't you have a date with what's-his-name? Goober? Gerber?"
She closed her eyes for a moment and prayed for strength. Ever since she'd gone to lunch with the handsome new agent last week, Mulder had been taking pot shots at the man. "Gunner. William Gunner. And yes, we had dinner last night, but I don't know what that has to do with letting me know you'd accepted a case, or that you didn't consult me first."
She knew she'd hit a nerve when his jaw hardened. "I didn't think you'd mind."
His tone set off a spark deep with her, something that lay dormant most of the time but managed to emerge when the time was right. It wasn't the first time he had to be reminded that she wasn't one of his appendages. "You never think I'll mind, Mulder."
He pouted, and she wondered if he knew how potent his baffled expression was on the average female psyche. "I didn't want to interrupt your date."
She reached for the file she'd been reading. Without saying a word she went to the cabinet and put away the file. Then she turned to him. "It wasn't a date. We were talking shop. You could have called me."
He nodded. "I'll remember that next time." He reached for a pen on his desk and began to tap it against the ink blotter. "I was going to tell you this morning but you were late."
"I had that appointment."
"I-" She stopped, realizing that she'd forgotten to tell him she had an early morning doctor's appointment. "I'm sorry. I thought I told you. I had a doctor's appointment this morning."
His eyes narrowed. "Are you sick, Scully?"
She shook her head. "No. It was my yearly exam for the FBI."
His expression relaxed. "Good. Don't scare me like that." Before she could ask him why it would scare him, the phone on his desk rang. He reached for the receiver. "Mulder. Hello, Sir. Great. Okay. Got it." He hung up a few moments later. "That was Skinner. We're good to go. I'll tell you all about the case on the plane."
He retrieved the Playboy magazine from his desk and sauntered over to Scully. He held the magazine out to her. "You want to read it?"
She glanced at the glossy magazine and then up at him. "No thanks. I've got a copy of Playgirl."
Scully stared at Mulder in disbelief. "Are you trying to tell me Mulder that you still believe the father's story that his children were taken away by ghosts?"
The young woman in the seat to the left of Mulder snapped her gum, and he glanced at her. She smiled, showing her evenly spaced, pearl white teeth. He smiled back, then returned his attention to Scully. It was all he needed. A gum snapping woman on one side, and his sometimes inscrutable partner on the other side.
"That's what he said," Mulder said.
"Not only is that ridiculous, I'd say it's a poor alibi."
"So you think the father disposed of the children and is trying to cover up his crime by declaring it's a paranormal event? He wasn't anywhere near the house when the children disappeared."
"Two children just disappeared into thin air and no one saw them leave the guest house? Someone must have seen something and I'll lay odds it wasn't a ghost."
"Initial interviews with the owner of the establishment, an Anita Carruthers, and with the other guests revealed nothing significant," Mulder replied. The woman next to him bumped his knee with her own.
"Oh, sorry," she said, smiling brightly at him.
He smiled and turned back to Scully. "In fact, very few guests were in the house at the approximate time the children disappeared. Only Anita Carruthers, her assistant Gerald Munson, her son Tad, and a guest by the name of Tanner Brulard were in the house at the time the children disappeared."
"With that few people around it is possible that someone could have come in the house and removed the children. You said the father is a single parent? No disgruntled ex-wife who wants the kids back?"
"No. In fact, his wife died a year ago. Almost one year ago to the date." He scrutinized the file again. "According to this the children probably disappeared around six or six thirty. Their father had left them at four o'clock and intended to return by five thirty but his recon trip took longer than he expected."
Her eyes narrowed. "Recon?"
"Dr. Carlen Buckles is a parapsychologist from Baskerville University in Vermont. He's a renowned authority on ghost photography and auditory documentation of the afterlife." When she didn't reply Mulder continued. "Dr. Buckles was at a local church graveyard recording the voices of ghosts at the time the children disappeared."
She nodded. "Uh-huh."
Knowing that his partner's indubitable skepticism was kicking in full blast, he said, "Recorded auditory evidence of voices from the ether occurring in graveyards, houses, battle fields, ships, and castles have been well documented by many researchers, including Dr. Buckles."
Next to Mulder the young woman had taken out a emery board and was filing her nails. The noise grated on his acute hearing and reminded him of proverbial nails on a blackboard.
"Recorded auditory evidence of voices from the ether," Scully said flatly. "My money right now is on the father. He knows where the children are. These cases happen all the time, and there's nothing paranormal about them." Scully put a pillow behind her head and levered her seat back slightly. "Wake me up when we get there."
The girl in the seat next to Mulder snapped her gum again, and he glanced at her. She pulled out a pack of gum. "Gum?"
Mulder shook his head. "No, thanks."
"Sure? It helps when you're trying to clear your ears."
He smiled. "No, thanks."
She grinned and her baby blue gaze wandered from his fine leather shoes to his sharp-as-an-arrow creased pants and landed on his red tie. "Cool tie."
Oh, God, Mulder thought. This is going to be a long, long flight.
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Monday, 11:30pm
Flashes of sheet lightning illuminated the night sky as Mulder and Scully drove along Pemberton Avenue in the Washington District of Denver. Seconds later thunder pounded over their heads. As the wind began to pick up, leaves scattered across the street and landed on the windshield of their rental car, sticking stubbornly to the glass.
"We've got reservations to stay at least one night at Manderley," Mulder said, turning on the windshield wipers to remove the leaves.
Scully's brow wrinkled. "I thought we were staying at the Holiday Inn. It's cheaper."
"Skinner approved the Holiday Inn, but I thought of it as an investigative opportunity to stay directly at Manderley. Better access."
"I think you were tired of hard beds and no room service."
"I'm hoping they have better cable."
As they pulled up to the Manderley Bed and Breakfast, the first thing Mulder noticed about the huge Queen Anne Victorian was the bright, cheerful lights that flowed out of the windows on the first floor. At night it was difficult to see all the details, but by the looks of the place it had been well taken care of over the years.
"Not exactly a candidate for the set of Psycho," he said.
He turned into the drive next to the house and followed the road to the small paved lot behind the house. Several cars were parked in the lot. He casually noted the makes and models. Most were middle-of-the- road, but one of them was a Mercedes.
She unlatched her seat belt as he eased their car into a tight space. "Appearances are deceiving."
"About what?" he asked.
"Haunted houses. Not every haunted area is a creaking old mansion with shutters flapping in the wind, a graveyard in the back yard, and a sinister old retainer in residence."
He turned off the ignition and stared at her. "I didn't know you read horror fiction, Scully."
"I've read some Stephen King and Dean Koontz."
He shook his head. "You amaze me. Every time I think I know you, you turn around and surprise me."
She turned in the seat to look at him as he opened the car door. The overhead light came on. She cocked an eyebrow. "There's a lot you don't know about me."
With that she climbed out of the car. Mulder didn't know whether to be dumbfounded by her statement, or simply curious. At times he knew he'd been guilty of seeing his partner as one dimensional, but the longer he knew her, the less he made this erroneous error. Dana Katherine Scully was a force to be reckoned with in more ways than one. The idea that she held secrets within her challenged him as none of his relationships ever had before. Skinner might keep secrets, the Cigarette Man might keep secrets, but Scully was as deep, as intricate as either of these men could hope to be. Sometimes, when he let himself think about this too much, he realized he'd spent a great part of four years ignoring the complexities of his partner.
He was beginning to enjoy pealing back the layers.
One thing he didn't relish was the glare he knew she was going to give him when he told her he'd only procured one room at Manderley's. Sighing he got out of the car and joined her at the trunk.
"There wasn't much room at the inn." He bit his lip.
"When I called this morning they had one room left."
"One room? Where are you going to sleep?"
Mulder took in a deep breath of the mile high oxygen and tested his low land lungs. "Don't worry, Scully, I'm used to sleeping in strange places. You can take the bed. I don't know about you, but I'm half dead."
"Don't say that too loud, Mulder. The ghosts might hear you."
"You're assuming they have ghosts here." Mulder opened the trunk so they could retrieve their luggage.
"Even if they don't have ghosts there's a good chance they've made them up. One of my uncles used to own a place like this in Maine. At first he didn't do much business, then he concocted fake ghost stories and passed them around to the locals. Before my uncle knew it, everyone wanted to stay at Scully's Bed and Breakfast."
"Scully's Bed and Breakfast," he repeated as he followed her around the side of the building to the front. "Quaint and original."
Mulder noted the front door didn't creak hideously as they went inside, but the lady at the front desk made him take pause.
He thought of all the cruel clichés. Wicked Witch Of The West. Long-in-the-tooth. Horsy.
The sinister old retainer.
Manderley Bed & Breakfast Monday, 11:45pm
The woman's face was long and narrow with high cheekbones, large nose, and large chin. Her skin was paper white and delicate looking, the area beneath her eyes thin and veined.
Mulder tried to think of another word to describe her appearance.
Attired in a high-necked white blouse with long sleeves and a small ribbon tie at the neck, she also wore a long narrow navy skirt that hung almost to the floor. Her thick salt and pepper hair was piled on her head in an old-style pompadour. Apparently she was taking the Victorian theme seriously.
"Mrs. Carruthers?" Mulder asked as presented his badge and Scully did the same.
"Please, call me Anita," she said, and smiled, her small, blue eyes sparkling with friendliness. "Welcome to Manderley."
Her slightly dramatic tone of voice made Mulder think of Dark Shadows. "Thank you."
Mulder looked about the room, taking in the house's immaculate, well-kept appearance. Certainly not in the ball park of a creaking, dilapidated, stereotypical haunted structure.
"Not exactly what you expected, is it?" Anita asked, her eyebrows arching.
"It's lovely," Scully said as she looked around the massive foyer. Wall scones and the lamp on the front desk had difficulty penetrating the darkness created by green and dark red wall paper and the dark paneled walls.
Anita smiled again. "It didn't always look this nice. Horace and I worked hard to get it where it is today."
"Horace?" Scully asked.
"My dear late husband."
Mulder cocked one eyebrow. "Isn't he one of the ghostly inhabitants of Manderley?"
Scully gave Mulder a speculative look, but he ignored her.
Anita laughed, and her good humor brightened her countenance. "You're right. In fact he's haunted Manderley for about ten years now. But as far as ghosts go, he's a relative newcomer."
"Newcomer?" Scully asked.
"Oh, yes. Some of the ghosts in Manderley have been here at least a hundred years. The house was built in 1896, and there's been ghosts here for as long as anyone can remember, and then some."
A door behind the front desk opened, and a frail looking young man of about twenty one, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a remarkable smile appeared. "Hello."
Anita turned. "Ah, there you are. Agents Scully and Mulder, this is my son Tad."
Tad's smile disappeared. "Oh, yeah. Mom said you were coming here. About those kids that disappeared?"
Mulder nodded. "That's right."
Tad came from behind the front counter, then leaned on it. "It's the weirdest thing." He shivered, as if a cold wind had brushed across him, or someone had stepped over his grave. "I sure hope you can figure out what happened."
"I realize it's getting late, but is there somewhere we could talk in private about the case, Anita?" Scully asked. "We have some initial questions we'd like to ask you."
Anita moved from behind the counter and gestured toward the back of the house. "Certainly. We could go to the dining room. Tad can you watch over the desk?"
Tad nodded his agreement. "I'll watch over your bags," he said to Scully and Mulder.
Mulder wondered if it was customary to loose things in Manderley. Like suitcases. And children.
Scully and Mulder followed Anita to the dining room.
The small dining room was deserted at that time of night, and Mulder looked around the room in curiosity while Anita went into the kitchen to fetch them glasses of water. There were six round dining tables, some with the ability to hold several people, others with room for two. Unlike the front lobby, this part of the bed and breakfast looked distinctly less well maintained. He noted extensive water stains on the white ceiling, and the wall paper was a morose shade of rust.
Scully started to cross the room to one of the larger tables. "Hey, Scully." He pointed at the ceiling and she looked up as she took her coat off. "What do you see?"
"Water stains," she said, looping her coat over the back of a chair.
"No. That isn't it."
She looked over at him, then back at the ceiling. "Peeling paint."
She sighed. "A UFO."
"No." "Mulder, I'm running out of guesses."
As she craned her neck looking up at the ceiling, Mulder moved to stand behind her. He grasped both of her shoulders and then leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Made you look."
She jumped, then shrugged out of his grip and turned to face him, her brow furrowed, a combination of exasperation and reluctant amusement flooding her features. "You're sick, Mulder."
He looked at her steadily as he reached for a chair at one of the tables and turned it around. Then he straddled the chair and leaned on the back of the chair with his forearms.
"Have a seat, have a seat," Anita said cheerfully as she came back in the room with a couple of glasses and a pitcher of ice water.
After sitting down next to Mulder, Scully retrieved her notebook and pen from her coat as Anita settled into a chair across from them.
After Anita poured them water, Scully stared in on the questioning. "Anita, can you tell us anything that might explain what happened Saturday night?"
She shrugged. "I wish I could." She linked her fingers and rested her forearms on the table. "It's so bizarre."
"Where were you at the time the children disappeared?" Scully asked.
She smiled. "I was surfing the net in the office. We have a new web page."
"From the report we have, there were only four other individuals in the house at the time the children disappeared. Mr. Tanner Brulard, one of the guests, was eating dinner alone in the dining room. Your son Tad was studying in his room. And the desk clerk Gerald Munson was at the front desk."
"Exactly correct." She reached up to pat her graying hair.
"It's our understanding that Gerald left the front desk somewhere around 6:00pm and was gone for several minutes," Mulder said.
She nodded. "That's correct. He wasn't feeling well and had gone into the restroom."
"There wasn't anyone who could cover for him?" Scully asked.
Anita frowned. "I could have."
He knew the answer to the next question he was about to ask, since he'd read the file on the case thoroughly. But he wanted to hear what Anita would say. "Why didn't Gerald ask you to cover for him?"
Anita gave him a tentative smile. "He should have, but he didn't. I didn't know that he'd left the desk uncovered."
"How long was Gerald gone from the front?" Scully asked.
She looked thoughtful, reaching out to touch the two heavy casters in front of her. "I'm not certain. About fifteen minutes, I guess."
Mulder noted that Anita rarely looked directly at them as they questioned her. He knew from experience this wasn't necessarily a sign of guilt or hedging the truth. Plenty of people looked off into space our around the room as they talked, and they weren't murderers. Somehow, though, he was certain she wasn't telling them everything she knew.
"Can anyone that was here that night confirm you were in your office at the time the children disappeared?" Mulder asked.
Her eyes widened. She reached for the high neck of her collar and touched the bow there as if to make sure it was still in place. "It's getting rather hot in here, don't you think?" Scully and Mulder didn't think so, but they nodded in assent.
"Can anyone confirm that you were in the office at that time of night?" Mulder asked again.
Anita hesitated, and Scully wrote something in her notebook. Anita watched Scully scribbling on the notebook and then her glance shifted to Mulder. "Ah, no. No one could vouch for me being there. My son heard me say I was going into the office, and so did Gerald, but neither of them came in the office to see me."
"Does Gerald work here full time?" Mulder asked, swerving his questions in another direction.
"No. He works the front desk at night when I'm out or other times when he's needed." Anita reached up and fingered the small blue ribbon at her neck again, then pulled it so that the bow unraveled. "He's not in tonight because it's his wedding anniversary."
"What about Tad?" Scully asked, leaning on the table and picking up her glass of water for a long sip. "Can you say for certain he was in his room that night, at that time, studying?"
Once again Anita's fingers went to the ribbon at her neck, and she rubbed the material. "Yes. I checked on him about 5:55. Before I went into my room."
"I thought you said you went to your office?" Mulder asked, leaning his chin on his forearms.
She looked askance at him, and her neatly ironed, starched composure seemed to loosen by an inch. "I meant my office. My bed room and the office are on the second floor, side by side. I'm in my office so much I might as well sleep there." She smiled slightly.
Scully flipped pages backward on her notepad. "Anita, it's my understanding that you did the cooking for Mr. Brulard that night."
"Yes. Our cook, Dan Jetter, was ill. Had a bad cold and called in sick. Lucky for me most of the guests went out or they would have subjected to my cooking, and believe me, that isn't something I'd recommend."
"Is Mr. Jetter back to work?" Scully asked.
"Yes. In fact he should be in early tomorrow. You could talk to him then."
"So when you went to your office, your Mr. Brulard was in this dining room alone and no one can say if he was there between 6:00pm and 6:30pm?" Mulder said.
Anita nodded. "That's correct." She yawned, putting her hand over her mouth. "Oh, excuse me."
Not exactly awake himself, Mulder nevertheless wanted to get a few more questions in before they went upstairs for the evening. "I understand Manderley has the reputation for being the most haunted place in Denver."
"It is," she said as if it was a fact. "We have people check in here all the time because they want to see ghosts."
"Do they?" he asked.
She nodded. "Some do, some think they do, and some don't say." She chuckled and then poured more water into Mulder's empty water glass. "We have notebooks in everyone's rooms and we ask them to please write down their impressions of Manderley."
"And do a lot of them write down ghostly impressions?" Scully asked.
Anita looked down at the table, then she shrugged. "It varies from guest to guest."
"Did Dr. Buckles come to Manderely to record the voices of the ghosts here?" Mulder asked.
His unexpected question didn't seem to phase her. Instead she smiled pleasantly. "Yes and no. Originally, when he called to book rooms for him and his children, he said he was going to record voices in a cemetery not far from here. He was at the cemetery at the time his children disappeared."
"Do you really believe the house is haunted, Anita?" Mulder asked.
"We've been visited by over ten of the most renowned scientists in the paranormal field and some of them recorded some pretty amazing things."
"Have any of them produced irrefutable evidence that your house is haunted?" Scully asked skeptically.
"Nothing is irrefutable, Agent Scully," Anita said, her tone tinged with an inkling of irritation.
Mulder glanced at Scully, fully expecting to see disapproval on her face, but she was writing in her notebook. He turned back to Anita. "Is the entire house haunted, or just a portion?"
Anita's frown didn't fade. "The whole place is haunted. Sometimes I think every square inch. But there is one place that's the most infested."
Scully looked up from her notebook, as if in anticipation of Anita's answer.
When Anita didn't continue, Mulder realized he was holding his breath.
Anita looked from Mulder to Scully, then back to Mulder.
"The cellar," she said. She took a deep breath, then tried to smile again. She failed. "But then, we don't go down there."
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Second Floor, Turret Room
A hush filled the room.
Scully would have found the quiet relaxing, but as she sat in the bed, wrapped in her warm robe and listening to the wind battering the windows, she felt restless. Perhaps even apprehensive.
The small, peach fringed candlestick lamp by the bed flickered, and for a moment she was sure it was going to extinguish. She watched the light fade, then regain strength as it cast eerie half shadows about the already dim room.
With a clinical glance she looked around the octagon shaped room that was a part of the turret. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. It was a large room, but despite Mulder's expectation, they didn't have a television.
A cool, whispering draft rushed through the fringe on the lamp as if it could extinguish the light. She waited, holding her breath as the wind bludgeoned the windows again. The radiator began to click and rattle as heat poured into the room. She let her breath out slowly, and felt some relaxation seep into her limbs. She tried the method again, taking deep breaths then letting them out slowly.
Bundled into her warm flannel pajamas and robe, she usually could stay warm no matter what the vagaries of weather. Tonight, however, as she sat up in bed and read, nothing seemed to keep her warm enough. And nothing, apparently, going to put her to sleep.
Glancing at the clock, she realized that she was going to be exhausted in the morning if she didn't nod off soon. After Anita had dropped the a hint that the cellar was haunted, Anita had asked if they were done interviewing her, and they'd let her go.
Realizing it was too late to interview anyone else, they decided to wait until the morning to question the other suspects in the case. Once in their room, Mulder had settled down on the couch for what he called a nap, and he'd been snoring solidly for an hour.
Mulder's chest rose and feel with each deep breath. She didn't know how he was staying warm. He wore only his boxers, and his blanket had slipped down to his waist. He was probably going to feel like hell in the morning because his feet dangled over one arm of the sofa. She sighed. Served him right for not booking two rooms at the Holiday Inn or Howard Johnson's.
Another chill ran over her skin, raising goose bumps over her whole body. Maybe next time she'd have some chamomile tea before she went to bed and ignore Mulder's speculations about Manderley being haunted. All that talk about the cellar before they'd gone to bed, all of Mulder's endless speculations were coming back to haunt her.
Few things frightened Dana Katherine Scully. That was, of course, until she'd met Fox Mulder.
Now her life was full of the strange, bizarre, and unexplainable. And that was just Mulder alone. She wasn't counting the cases they studied.
Where this late night trepidation originated she had no concept. She attempted to decipher her anxiety, analyze it, and package it away. Perhaps memories of prior eerie cases were far too fresh in her mind. But somehow she doubted that this was the answer to her disquiet.
Possibly she could blame it on the creepy stories she'd been reading for the last hour. Only Mulder could dig up a book on Colorado ghosts at the last minute before they left Washington D.C. That the book was written by Dr. Buckles, the very man whose children were missing, was amazing in itself. She'd long since realized that Mulder's desk was the repository for all things alien and unusual. Including half eaten bags of sun flower seeds.
From the depths of the house she heard a loud, creaking groan, as if a metal door had been opened and closed.
She stiffened. Waited for what seemed an eternity before she relaxed, letting her breath out slowly once again.
Where had the sound come from?
Maybe from the cellar?
She looked at Mulder and wondered how he'd slept through that awful noise. He moaned slightly, twitching and then suddenly shifting so that he lay on his side. He stopped snoring, and for that she was grateful.
He was huddled into himself, and she wondered if he was cold. She got out of bed and reached for his blanket, rearranging it over him so that he was covered.
Mulder's eyes snapped open. She practically came out of her skin.
"God, Mulder," she gasped, putting her hand on her chest as her heart did wild palpitations. She sat on the bed. "You scared me to death."
"Sorry." He smiled, and as he sat up the blanket fell to his waist again. He yawned and stretched, then gestured at the book she was holding. "Are you still reading Dr. Buckle's theories?" He looked at Scully's bedside alarm clock. "It's late."
She sighed. "You're telling me."
"I thought you didn't like ghost stories."
"I don't. But you said you thought this book would be a valuable tool in determining where Dr. Buckles' children might be. So I decided to read it."
He nodded. "What do you think?"
"Very intriguing. But unlikely to help us with the investigation."
"I fail to see how recording voices of the dead has anything to do with the disappearance of his children."
He stood up, draping the blanket around his body and moving around the room slowly. "I think the answer to why his children disappeared has something to do with his research."
"Ghosts snatched his children?"
"Very illuminating idea, Scully, but not necessarily the right one."
She closed her eyes. "Mulder, did anyone ever tell you that you sound like Sherlock Holmes?" She opened her eyes and watched him pace.
He stopped treading long enough to look at her. "If it's any consolation, I think you're a lot smarter than Dr. Watson."
"Thank you. I think."
He said nothing, but resumed his stride, holding the blanket across his chest like a shield.
"Okay, I'll bite. What do you think happened to the children?" she asked after a minute where the only sound was the clanging and clicking of the radiator.
He pointed at the book lying on the bed. "I think if we keep what that book says in mind, when we run across the right evidence, we'll know it."
Still no more enlightened, she retrieved the book and opened it to the section on Manderley. "According to Dr. Buckles, the house has seven ghosts." She ran her finger down the page. "One is named Christina, and she apparently died at age ten. She causes significant trouble by breaking dishes in the kitchen, and one time apparently caused the chandelier in the foyer to drop on one of the patrons."
Mulder nodded. "Yeah, I read about that one. Christina fell down the cellar stairs in 1910." "One ghost is Anita's husband Horace who is mentioned on the last page. The others are-"
Mulder snapped his fingers. "All children."
She looked up at him, and she could see the wild theories zinging through his mind like fighter pilots with their hair on fire. Knowing Mulder he'd come up with an idea that had something to do with a black hole that sucked children into the neither regions of the cellar.
"Mulder...let's not go there."
"Why not? Maybe the cellar is a black hole."
Scully's forehead knotted in a frown. "How did you know what I was thinking?"
He waggled his eyebrows, then tilted his head down slightly and gave her an evil look. "You'd be surprised how much of the time I know what you're thinking, Scully."
She was afraid to start him on another tangent. Once you got him going you never knew where you'd end up. Maybe she'd stick with the case at hand.
"All of Dr. Buckles' theories are speculation," she said. "He's has been working in the parapsychology field for fifteen years, and he has yet to produce any evidence of ghosts acceptable to the general science community."
"I doubt the science community would accept ghosts if one walked into the White House and had a news conference." He shrugged. "So you think the answer to what happened to the children couldn't be in this book because you don't think Dr. Buckles methods are legit?"
"I've read through the section on Manderley and haven't drawn any definitive conclusions. I think we don't know a whole lot about anything right now. Our interview with Anita was fairly inconclusive."
"I'm suspicious though," he said, taking the blanket off and tossing it onto the foot of the bed. "About Anita's whereabouts during the disappearance of the children."
Scully nodded. "She seemed nervous. No one saw her go into her office, so she doesn't really have an alibi."
"You got it."
Scully watched her partner pace the floor a little longer, and realized his incessant walking back and forth was actually putting her sleep. Her eye lids were drooping. The only thing that kept her from falling over in a dead sleep was the site of Mulder's half clad body.
Mulder stopped walking, put his hands on his hips, and peered at her. "What's so funny?"
Oops. Good thing he couldn't read her mind. She hoped.
"Nothing. Just keep walking. I think you have me hypnotized."
After giving her a puzzled look, he continued his slow tread.
Scully reached for her notebook and flipped it open. "The cast of characters here is enough to boggle the mind."
"I'll be interested in talking to this Munson guy, and Mr. Brulard."
"The file says Brulard is from New Orleans, but apparently he's on a business trip here. If I remember correctly, he moved to a hotel the night after the children's disappearance." She looked up at Mulder. "The Holiday Inn." When he didn't reply she continued. "Might not be a bad idea. Have you felt the drafts in this place?" She shivered again and drew her heavy robe closer around her.
Mulder's eyebrows cocked upwards. "Why, Scully, do I detect a bit of the heebie jeebies?"
Before she could answer, a groaning sound like tortured metal echoed through the floorboards.
They stared at each other and waited for several moments. The sound came again seconds later.
"What the hell was that?" Mulder asked.
"The house is settling?" she asked hopefully.
"Try again, Scully," he said, reaching for his pants and slipping into them.
"What are you doing?"
He zipped and buttoned his pants, then reached for his shirt. "A little good ole' fashioned investigating."
She got up quickly and grabbed her clothes from the closet. "Lead on Sherlock."
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Second Floor, Turret Room
She didn't want to go down there.
Immediately after she'd acquiesced to the idea of investigating the cellar, she realized that she really, really did not want to venture into the darkness below.
But she sure as hell wasn't going to tell Mulder.
Mulder, in his normal oblivious style, hadn't noticed her reluctance. Perhaps he was chalking it up to a rebelliousness toward his ghost theories.
Scully stared into the bathroom mirror and felt a chill ripple through her back and across her shoulders. Ridiculous. She was an FBI agent for God's sake. An FBI agents didn't go spineless at the mention of going into a cellar.
Another shudder scrambled over her nerves like a dozen multi-legged creatures bent on traveling her epidermis.
Pull yourself together, Agent Scully. You're acting like a damn wimp. Taking a deep breath she finished getting into her jeans and sweatshirt.
She left the bathroom and found Mulder strapping on his shoulder harness. "Mulder, do you really think this is necessary?"
He peered at her. "Of course. Why?"
"It's probably just a drafty old cellar. The door is probably swinging around on its hinges. You know...rusty hinges sometimes make awful noises."
"And you think I have a vivid imagination?"
"Mulder, I'm serious."
"So am I," he said matter-of-factly. "I'm going down there and see what's cooking."
"What do you expect to find?"
He cocked one eyebrow as he started for the door, making sure he had his pen light with him. "Maybe something that wants to get out."
She really, really wished he hadn't said that.
The groaning sound came from below once again, moaning like something dreadful and dead. Didn't anyone hear this hideous noise but them?
Quietly they made their way down the staircase. "Where's the cellar?" Scully whispered as they walked slowly through the dimly lit front lobby. There was no sign of any of the guests or employees. Thunder suddenly rumbled over the house, then lightning flashed and was followed by more thunder.
As she followed Mulder, they came to the hall way directly to the right of the front desk. A rush of arctic air blasted from the hallway and passed over her. She stopped and looked down the hall as her heart began to pick up a steady, increasing thump in her chest. At the very end of the hall was a dark, open area. Another waft of icy air drifted by her, ruffling through her hair like a light winter breeze.
The cold air was coming from there.
She swallowed hard. Trickles of apprehension tightened her stomach muscles and geared her to remain cautious.
The blackness gaped like the orifice of a gigantic snake, and she half expected to see fangs suddenly sprout, ready to bite, sting, entrap.
She sucked in a slow breath and let it out, then let the darkness of the aperture ahead of her draw her forward. She retrieved her gun from the holster and held it firmly in her right hand.
"Scully!" Mulder hissed as she continued on. She ignored him, drawn to the blackness like a magnet, and she wondered, on the edge of her mind, if it really was a black hole. She proceeded, grateful for the dim glow emanating from a small lamp on a table halfway down the hall. She walked slowly, her running shoes making no sound.
As she moved steadfastly down the hall, it seemed to stretch, stretch, as if she would never get to the end. Like a surreal dream, or something out of a midnight horror movie, she felt the tension in her body begin, and her palms began to sweat. A trembling ran over her limbs, and she felt every one of her breaths as they rasped through her throat. She felt a trickle of sweat forming on her forehead.
Another frigid gust of air from the doorway reconfirmed for her she was awake.
Run! Run! Run!
Every muscle in her body protested, ached as she began to tremble in earnest.
She wouldn't give in. She couldn't.
Conquer the fear, destroy it before it surmounts you.
She was drawn, drawn toward the darkness, drawn...drawn...
"Scully," Mulder whispered behind her. He might have been ten miles from her, or only a few steps. She didn't know.
She ignored him, unable to stop the automatic movement of her arms and legs. She licked her parched lips. Breathing faster now, she felt the pressure in her lungs, the demand for more air, and the fear was moving through her body like a carnivore approaching its prey. Relentless, without remorse. Rapacious.
Escape, damn it. Oh, God. Escape.
She came to the doorway and looked in. It was totally dark. Like a cave. A pit from hell couldn't have looked more intimidating.
A whisper, like the barest sound of the smallest creature, reached her ears.
Hands dropped down on her shoulders, and she swung about, ready to aim with her gun.
"Hey, take it easy," Mulder said softly, holding his hands out in front of him.
She lowered her gun, and she felt the metal slip around in her sweaty palms. She saw the confusion in Mulder's eyes, the worry. "Sorry," she whispered.
"Why didn't you answer me?" he asked.
"I...there's someone down there, Mulder."
His brow crinkled. "What?"
She pivoted slowly so that her back was to him, and when she looked into the darkness again, she knew she couldn't break down now. Not when a child might need her.
"Help me." It was so soft, so pleading, its tones that of a desperate child.
Lighter than the draft that wafted from the cellar, the wan voice drew her another step forward and down into the abyss.
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Cellar
As she took the first step, she felt the cold grip the bottom of her leg like a hand reaching up from a grave.
In her mind she heard a litany...a plea that came from the part of her brain that didn't rely on logic or other left-brained tendencies.
Our father, who art in heaven...
She wanted to cross herself, but she didn't want to lose her already tenuous grip on the cool metal in her hands.
She sensed that Mulder was following her as she took another step, then another. His presence was somewhat a comfort, and perhaps that was why she had made it this far without bolting.
As Mulder flipped the light switch, nothing happened. She retrieved her flash light.
"Scully, we really ought to have more light down here than one flash light."
She heard him, but only distantly, like she was listening to his voice come down a long pipe. Turning her head slowly, she saw he was right behind her, and she wanted to reach out for the warmth of his humanness. Anything that would stop the continuous rush of fear that now pushed through her capillaries, heightening her fight-or-flight response.
She licked her lips and forced words out of her mouth. "Why...why don't you go and get the big flashlight out of the rental car. I'll check around and see what I can find."
A perplexed frown crossed his features. "Are you sure you want to go down there?"
No. No. No.
"Yes. I'll be fine," she said automatically.
His gaze remained steady on her for a minute, searching her features in his customarily thorough manner. He nodded. "I'll be right back."
As soon as he walked out the door, she experienced the fear that has haunted humans since the beginning of time.
Pure, unadulterated terror that threatens your peaceful, childlike world. Filling you with a fiery dread that knows no end in the dead of night.
The type of fear that causes you to beg your mother to leave the night light on.
The type of fear that bursts through the protective mantle of your cozy little bed and grabs you by the throat, strangling you until you wake screaming.
She'd never had them as a child. But she could imagine, in this moment, that her feelings must be much the same. As she turned slowly so that she was looking down at the cellar stairs in front of her, she took another tentative step, holding the flash light's glow downward to cut a path.
You can, Dana Scully. Her father's voice rang inside her head. What would her father think of her now? Wavering, shaky, virtually on the point of running like a ninny up the stairs and out of the house? He wouldn't be pleased. He'd never been pleased when this type of thing happened.
Luckily for her it was a common condition and one that could be avoided for the most part. But she was an FBI agent. No time to start acting chicken-hearted.
Still, the logical part of her brain overruled, and the temporary hold she'd erected against the fear she'd harbored for so long threatened to wreck havoc. How much longer could she stand here, trembling, tortured by the chills that raced with increasing frequency over her skin.
She stopped, one foot resting on the next step. Wait, wait. Mulder hadn't heard the voice earlier. Had he? No.
She took another step, and then another, feeling her way down with each movement, as if the wooden steps might give at any time, sending her crashing down into the hole below.
It made no sense. Why had she heard the voices, but Mulder hadn't?
A thousand questions zinged through her mind, banging against the molecules and cells and electricity that allowed her mind to work faster than any computer.
She'd reached the bottom of the stairs, and took a deep, cleansing breath. Nothing had happened. Everything was okay. She smiled slightly, relieved as some of the wobbly feeling subsided and she felt stronger.
As she swung the flashlight around the room, she heard a thump and a hiss. She jumped slightly at the sound, and turned the light to the right. A gas heater hummed and clicked against the far wall as the pilot light ignited.
She continued to look about the room, taking another small step, and then another, moving deeper into the blackness and farther from the stairs.
Don't be an idiot Dana. The stairs are not your lifeline.
What the hell was taking Mulder so long?
As she trained the light about the cellar she noted that it was a clean area, and appeared to be very large. Three doors, closed, were in various parts of the room. One to her right, one in front of her, and one to the left.
She took another step forward, her light shining in front of her.
Something white and very large loomed in front of her.
Panic hit her squarely in the solar plexus, and she took a step back, and straight into something else very solid.
She whirled, ready to fight, every instinct bred into her from her training at Quantico pumping chemical stimulus through her veins.
No one was there.
How could that be? She had felt someone. Or...
The sound was right behind her. She whirled again, holding her gun steady. That did it. She was sick and tired of this game. Someone was down here, whispering, calling out. Either that or there really was a child down here, entrapped. Could it be Arnie and Lynna Buckles?
For a child she'd have to continue. If they were here she had to find them.
She took a step forward. "Federal Agent. Come out where I can see you."
And it did.
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Cellar
Scully's calm left her. Her conscious hold to keep away fear dissipated like a wisp of smoke.
It was here.
No, it wasn't anything she could see, could physically touch. Yet it touched her. With tentacles of silence, it reached toward her, cold and still as a tomb, radiating a potent horror she remembered having felt only one other time in her life.
She recognized the feeling that caused her to back up again, turning her head this way and that, searching frantically for any assailant.
It knew her. It knew her.
The cold seeped into her chest, and she felt it tighten like a vise, penetrating with a damp chill not unlike what one experiences standing in a graveyard, alone at night. Surrounded by the dead, by the souls of those whose time has gone before and can never be again.
"Help me." This time the voice trailed off to a mere thread of sound that trickled over her ears like cold water. Amoral. Malevolent. Whatever was down here was not a child.
Her legs began to shake, stress strangled her breathing until it became a harsh rasp in her throat. Her heart pounded relentlessly, making her dizzy.
Adding to her terror was the realization that if she didn't move soon she would faint.
Run. Oh, God. Runnnnnnnnnnnn.
She bolted, turning away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, a stream of intense light radiated from the top of the stairs and she stopped immediately, putting her hand to her eyes.
"Mulder," she whispered, relief mingling with her continuing fear.
She ran up the steps, plunging with reckless haste, her toe catching on the last step as she reached the top. Mulder dropped the flashlight and reached for her. She literally fell into his arms as his halogen flashlight bounced down the stairs, the beam of light sweeping in wild arches before it crashed at the bottom and extinguished.
"Scully, what the hell is going on?"
Twisting in his arms, she pulled from his grip and started past him. He turned his back to the cellar and watched her as she took one step back, then another, all the while staring past him at some unseen abomination. She clasped her arms against her body to rid herself of the unrelenting, penetrating cold.
If she thought Mulder looked confused by her behavior earlier when he'd gone to get the flashlight, he looked even more bemused now. He walked toward her cautiously, as if approaching a frightened animal.
Yes. That's what she felt like right about now. A bewildered animal caught in a cage with nowhere to go. The walls were closing in, closing in.
"Scully, what is it?" he asked again, grasping her shoulders and peering into her eyes. "You've been acting strange since we first heard the noises. Did you see something down there?"
Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly, hoping it would reduce the frantic race her heart hammered out in her chest. "Yes. No."
"Sorry, can't have both." He rubbed her arms. "Is it that cold down there? You're shaking."
"I...no. It wasn't the cold, Mulder. There was something there. I can't explain."
"All right. We can go back to the room and talk about it." He looked over his shoulder. "I've got to get my flashlight.
As he turned to go into the cellar she reached out and grabbed his arm with both hands. "Don't do it. Not now. Not while it's dark." Again he looked at her like she'd lost her mind, but then his eyes narrowed as if he were beginning to understand the full impact of her terror.
"It'll only take me a minute," he said quietly.
She closed her eyes and dropped his arm. Feeling the cold grip her with steel talons, she crossed her arms. Obviously if he wanted to go in the cellar he was going to it, with or without her assistance. She should go with him. He shouldn't be alone with...whatever was down there. But she couldn't. She couldn't go down there again so soon. Maybe never.
Mixed with her fear was humiliation. Her father would be so disappointed.
She felt warm fingers on her cheek, and her eyes snapped open. Mulder was close, invading her space. As he cupped her face in his hands a frown pulled down his wide mouth. "You're freezing. I may not be a doctor, but I think you're in shock."
Strange as it was she had to concur. She was in shock. Medically it made no sense. Nausea roiled in her stomach for a moment, and for a few seconds she thought she might embarrass herself and be ill right there in the hall. For the most part, however, she didn't care. Maybe she'd just give up the ghost and pass out. Oblivion might be preferable to this horrible feeling.
Evidently realizing she wasn't just terrified, but in physical distress as well, he released her face and put his arm around her. "Scully, are you going to pass out on me?"
"Maybe," she said weakly.
"Can you walk?"
She nodded, not at all sure she could. He began to lead her down the hall.
"Promise me, Mulder," she whispered as they crossed the lobby. "Promise me you won't go down there in the dark tonight."
"I won't go down there tonight," he promised.
As they ascended the stairs some of the permafrost in her bones thawed, and she began to feel a calm and assurance of safety penetrate the entrenched horror. No longer wobbly, she was fairly certain she wasn't going to give way like a heroine in an old movie and start screaming.
And as they walked down the hall toward their room, she knew that she'd have to explain to Mulder what was wrong with her. She didn't like the taste of it, and for a moment considered concocting a story to mask her symptoms. For all she knew, he'd figured out what was wrong by now. He had a degree in psychology. It wouldn't take him long to get to the bottom of her secret.
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Second Floor, Turret Room
Mulder watched his petite partner as she sat on the bed, huddled into the blankets he'd piled around her. Dark shadows darkened her blue eyes to a thundercloud purple, and she stared at the dresser against the opposite wall as if it were the most fascinating thing she'd ever seen.
She might try and deny it, as she usually did, but something unusual and uncanny had happened while she was down in the cellar. Hell, something bizarre had happened even before then. He hadn't given much thought to her statement about not wanting to go down into the cellar. As a scientist her generally skeptical attitude about the supernatural was the reason why she didn't want to go down there. At least that's what he'd originally thought. And she'd begged him not to go in the cellar alone and in the dark. Dana Scully never begged for anything.
Once again the enigmatic Dr. Scully was showing as side of herself he'd rarely glimpsed. He'd seen her scared, cautious, but nothing like this. This fear was reserved for the kind of nightmares one experienced as a child. Although she was an excellent agent, and tough as alligator skin, she was human. Yet she didn't like to admit being human, and she held back a lot of emotions.
He'd seen people like this before. Individuals traumatized by the death of a loved one, or witnesses to tragic accidents. She hunched into the blankets, and the occasional involuntary shudder ran over her body.
Since they'd come into the room several moments before, she hadn't said a word.
"If you don't improve soon I'm taking you to the hospital," he said.
She didn't move.
He sat on the couch and leaned forward, wishing that the kitchen was open so he could get her a cup of tea or something else hot to drink.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked, his worry escalating the longer she was silent.
She seemed to shake herself, breaking from the trance to look over at him. She nodded and pulled her arms out from under the blankets. "Yes." "Are you going to tell me what happened down there?" "I'm not sure I understand it myself."
"Then just tell me the details and spare the understanding."
She crossed her arms and looked down at the floor. "I lost it Mulder. Totally lost it."
He couldn't think how to reply to her vague statement.
"Mulder, when I was in the cellar...when we were at the doorway I heard a child's voice. They were calling for help. Didn't you hear it?"
He shook his head. "No."
She sighed. "Then it must have been my imagination. I was hoping we'd find the children safe, and I made it up in my mind."
"Possibly, but I doubt it. Remember, I'm the one with the overactive imagination."
"Whatever I heard...it changed from a child's plea for help to something...different." She continued, in slow, halting tones, to clarify the icy fear that had invaded her mind and spirit. "I knew somebody was down there with me, Mulder."
"Yet you didn't see anyone. All you heard was a disembodied voice."
She quivered slightly, and he wondered if his use of the word 'disembodied' had frightened her.
"No, I didn't see anyone. It might have been dark, but unless they were hiding behind one of the other doors and whispering through the door, I should have been able to see them."
He was formulating as many questions as he was answers to what had occurred. "Could it have been a ghost you heard? Remember, Manderley does have a reputation."
She wrinkled her nose slightly. "Let's not jump to conclusions, Mulder."
He nodded. "All right, then. You tell me what you think it was."
For several seconds she seemed to mull over her answer, as if she had a multitude of alternatives from which to choose. "Maybe I was overtired. And, yes, maybe my imagination ran away with me. I had been reading that book before we heard the sounds."
Mulder peered at her as if she'd lost her mind. "Come again?"
Why couldn't she just tell him the truth? He was beginning to feel much as he had back in Salem, Colorado, when she'd brushed him off about Lucien. He'd felt this way when she'd avoided opening his Valentine card in February.
She was switching into evasive action mode.
Perhaps she realized that he was losing his patience, and she cleared her throat. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I don't mean to be obtuse."
He knew this wasn't entirely true, but he wasn't going to get anywhere using vinegar. "Take all the time you need." He looked at his watch. "I don't know about you, but I'm wide awake and couldn't sleep if I tried."
She pushed the blanket off her shoulders, and he was relieved to see that the color had completely returned to her cheeks. It appeared her shock had worn off. "I'd prefer to say that I don't know what happened in the cellar, but I can see you don't believe that. Maybe...perhaps...there is something evil there."
He wasn't used to Scully speaking in terms of evil, but he knew that over her four years in the X-Files she'd seen and heard some very odd things and had to admit not all were explainable in mere scientific terms.
When he didn't speak she said, "For a moment I was sure someone was playing pranks, or that whoever snatched Lynna and Arnie was hiding in the cellar."
"But you don't think that now?" he asked.
"I'm not sure."
"But even if you believed that it was someone...something human down there, you never would have been as frightened as you were, Scully. I know you better than that."
She flipped the other blanket off her legs and swung her legs off the bed. Rising stiffly, as if sore, she made a few tentative steps and walked to the dresser. She stood there, staring into the large mirror.
"When I was sixteen I knew this girl who lived with her family in this big, old, scary Georgian with lots of nooks and crannies. We went into the cellar one night to have a seance."
Mulder knew disbelief crossed his face. "You had a seance?"
"Strange but true." She turned around and looked at him. "Anyway, the idea of a seance was just for fun, and I didn't believe in ghosts."
"You were a skeptic even as a child?"
She smiled slightly and continued. "We had her Quija board, and it was a dark and stormy night."
He raised his eyebrows. "Seriously?"
"We went into the cellar, Quija board in hand. We turned on all the lights in the cellar. It was a big place." She swallowed hard. "Like the cellar here. We started fiddling with the board."
She stopped, and Mulder found himself leaning forward in anticipation. "And?"
"Nothing happened. But then my friend dared me to sleep in the cellar that night. She was a born skeptic herself, and she didn't expect anything to happen. Well, before we could even agree to it, the lights went out. It scared us and we went running up the stairs. The door had locked somehow. We yelled for her parents and they got us out. Apparently there had been a power outage."
"Are you saying that experience has made you wary of cellars, Scully? We've been in plenty of dark, damp, creepy places and I've never seen you react that way before. Were you as frightened when you were sixteen as you were tonight?"
She looked at the floor, then back up at him. "No. You see, I'd already conquered that fear a long time ago. And I was damn proud of it. Tammy was trembling like a leaf. She never again asked me to stay with her in the cellar over night."
He stood up, feeling the coldness of the room creep into his own bones. It had taken him a little too long to figure out what she was trying to say. Despite his suspicions, he didn't want to jump to conclusions. "So you're saying that you're not normally afraid of cellars?"
As he came close to her she looked into his eyes. "It's more likely that my fear has returned." Her gaze remained steady on him for several seconds before she continued. "I'm phobic, Mulder."
Manderley Bed and Breakfast Turret Room, Second Floor
Scully could see that she'd shocked Mulder, and that wasn't any easy thing to do. His eyes widened as what she said penetrated.
"You have a phobia," he repeated. "Are you sure it wasn't a panic attack?"
"I'm fairly certain."
He shook his head. "I don't understand. If you had a phobia like that, I would have been able to tell."
She remembered that Mulder had a phobia of his own, one that he had succeeded in conquering the first year she'd worked with him. Pyrophobia. Fear of fire. He'd managed to surmount his fear when he realized that young children's lives were at stake. Perhaps that had been why she'd been able to push herself as far as she had, despite her increasing panic as she'd descended into the cellar. She'd been certain there were children who needed her help.
"Had is the operative word, Mulder. Had." She moved away from the dresser, passing Mulder and sitting down on the bed again. "When I was a small child I used to terrified at the mere notion of going into any basement or cellar. When was six my parents finally realized what was going on and took me to a doctor, who then sent me to a psychologist. At first he diagnosed me as having claustrophobia, but it found it interesting that I wasn't afraid of other enclosed places like elevators or closets. Just basements or cellars."
Mulder's eyebrows went up. "I'm assuming the doctor put you through treatment."
"At first he tried systematic desensitization, but that didn't work. Just the mention of the word cellar practically sent me up the wall."
"What did he do after that?"
"A type of paradoxical intention."
"Existential therapy where you exaggerate symptoms in order to prove to patients that they control their symptoms-"
"Rather than having their symptoms control them," Scully said. "I was never bothered by the phobia again."
"Yes. And when I started to have the symptoms of panic I tried to control them. But they were so sudden and acute, and I wasn't prepared. I was taken totally off guard, Mulder. Before I could employ any of the methods I knew to stop panic, it had me in it's grip."
He slumped onto the sofa, and Scully watched his gaze dart first toward her, then the floor, then back to her. "I still don't think it was a phobia."
"Why?" she asked warily.
"Think about it, Scully. How likely is it that once a person's phobia is cured that it'll come roaring back for no reason? I haven't heard of that happening before. I suppose it's possible if you were in a life threatening situation and were locked away in a cellar or basement, maybe even left in the dark in the cellar or basement. The threat to life and limb might trigger the phobia."
"Possibly." A wave of fatigue washed over her head, and she closed her eyes for a second. "Maybe we should sleep on this. It's been one hell of a night, and we need to get to do more interviews early tomorrow."
Ignoring her, he pushed onward. "What if what you experienced had nothing to do with panic attacks or phobias, but had everything to do with fear of evil? Plain and simple. But more than fear was happening with you, Scully. If you'd been completely paralyzed by horror you would have stopped and not been able to continue toward the basement. When I called your name it was like you were in a trance. You couldn't hear me."
She had heard him, but he was right about one thing. The draw toward the cellar, notwithstanding her dread, had been overwhelming. What did it mean?
Mulder leaned forward. "If the evil was significant enough it might trigger a response within you that had nothing to do with the phobia. Or, perhaps the evil heightened your latent phobia. Fed on it, in other words."
She sighed. How easily he used the supernatural to explain the natural. "Mulder, that's stretching things."
"You mentioned the evil," he said, emphasizing 'you.'
The last time she'd felt anything similar to the fear she'd experienced in the basement had been some time ago. She wasn't sure, however, if she wanted to dredge up the memory. Despite her reluctance, she plunged forward. "Remember the case involving Donnie Pfaster?"
"Humph," he smiled slightly. "Who could forget? First and last time I hope I ever run into a necropheliac ever again."
"There was something about him that I never told you."
She could see the question in his eyes. "More secrets, Scully?
"When he was in jail the first time, I looked at him..." she couldn't quite say it for a moment, a spiral of icy cold running up her spine. She swallowed and continued. "I saw the devil. Or something with horns."
His eyebrows drew together. "What?"
"I didn't know what I was seeing, Mulder. And to this day, I still don't understand it. But that was the last time I was this afraid."
Mulder got up and sat by her on the bed. "Are you afraid now?"
"No. Why don't we get some sleep?"
He nodded. "You go ahead. I think I'll stay awake for awhile longer."
She looked at him for a few more seconds before heading to the bathroom. She turned to look back at him. "You're not going to go poking around the cellar are you?"
He put his hand over his heart. "No. Scout's honor."
Although she didn't trust him not to sneak off while she was sleeping, as usual she had no real control over him. Silently she went into the bathroom and closed the door.
Grounds of Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral Denver, Colorado
A cool, crisp nip of Spring air whistled through Dr. Carlen Buckles thick, dark hair as he got out of his blue Grand Am, slammed the door and stared at the cathedral across the street.
Built in the later half of the nineteenth century, the gothic style structure was imposing, dark, eerie. As if evil reigned supreme rather than holiness. Here, he hoped, he would find some answers. And he needed those answers fast.
The morning was dull and cloudy, and the humidity seemed inordinately high for the semi-arid climate. He pulled in a breath of air, and discovered it was laced with the ever present touch of exhaust fumes. He wrinkled his nose. What he wouldn't give right now to be in the mountains in his cabin.
To the mountains and the wilderness. Where he could rebuild his confidence, and rebuild his faltering career. He sighed. Maybe his career was faltering because he wasn't good at it any more. Maybe his image, after the incident with Arnie and Lynna, would sink to the lowest of low. He closed his eyes tightly. Arnie. Lynna.
For a moment he'd forgotten...
He knew coming to the cathedral was a temporary distraction from the disturbing thoughts that poured in with increasing frequency. As he looked at the graveyard that nestled to the right of the cathedral and curled around the back of the structure, he was sure all his answers would be found within those grounds. If he could obtain some reasonable recordings early this morning before Father McNeary arrived, he could get back to Manderley. He had slipped out early this morning, eager to miss Anita Carruther's fawning sympathy and concern for his welfare.
He strode across the quiet street and through the wrought iron gate and closed it behind him, listening to the cranky squeak of hinges long overdue an oiling. Today he'd brought a sophisticated piece of recording equipment, and he had good quality tape that had never been used before. He hoped this time he would find something.
As he set up in the section of the large graveyard that hid behind the cathedral, he knew that this type of behavior would look suspicious to the police and the FBI. Undoubtedly they suspected him in the disappearance of his children. He didn't think the police were following him, but he didn't know how covert they could be when trailing a suspect. At this point, however, he didn't care. After he'd completed some recordings he'd head back to the bed and breakfast and continue his quest to discover who or what dwelled in the cellar of Manderley. He doubted sincerely that the FBI agents would be able to help him in this quest.
Once he was ready, he sat on the ground. The dark earth beneath him was punctuated by sickly looking grass. Obviously the church hadn't put much into the upkeep of the graveyard. Some of the headstones were weathered by time and the elements, and a few tilted at precarious angles. It was a damn shame.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
All things that live must die.
Shaking his head, he rid himself of morbid thoughts. Everything about the place lent the imagination fertile ground for wild contemplation of wraiths and other unearthly beings. But while graveyards gave most people the creeps, he was that rare species of human who thrived on the macabre not vicariously, but up close and personal.
He almost laughed. What if his dear wife could see him now? What would she think if she were alive? He knew he looked like hell. Dark circles under his eyes made him look like a raccoon, and he had barely eaten a thing in two days. Perhaps he'd be mistaken for a corpse and wake up buried underground. Buried alive.
Once again he shook his head. Damn his obsessive thoughts. He told himself it was his blasted imagination, and that he wasn't loosing his mind. Unfortunately, he didn't know anyone in Denver that he could check his sanity against. Am I crazy? Do you ever think like this? His friends in the parapsychology world back home wouldn't think he was nuts for hearing things in the cellar at Manderely, or anywhere else, for that matter.
Weary, he was half tempted to use a headstone as back support. But it didn't feel right. It was...
He read the names on the large, weathered headstone closest to him, and felt a lump rise in his throat. After reading the names, he slowly read aloud the engraving beneath the names.
"Most loving and dear, these young spirits do depart, with sweetest memories we remember, those closest to our heart."
A single tear slipped down his face as he snapped on the recorder and settled down to wait.
"You owe me another flashlight, Scully," Mulder said evenly as they drove toward Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral only a few miles from Manderley.
Mulder had retrieved the flashlight that had gone sailing down the stairs earlier that morning. When he'd come back to the room reporting that he hadn't experienced anything bizarre in the cellar, she was curiously relieved. She'd rather the terror be in her mind, and that nothing even vaguely supernatural had occurred. To her amazement, Mulder didn't speak of her terrifying experience or push for more details while they'd wolfed down a quick breakfast of muffins and coffee.
Anita was nowhere to be found that morning. Apparently she'd had to go out early. Tad took care of the front desk. Although the cook was there that morning, they didn't take the time to interview him. Getting to Dr. Buckles and asking him questions seemed far more important in their minds.
Scully pulled down the visor on her side of the rental car and gazed with satisfaction at the makeup job she'd done that morning. Even someone with as discerning an eye as Mulder would have difficulty seeing how her phobic experience had drained her. She put the visor back up when Mulder gave her a curious look.
"Feeling better this morning?" he asked.
"Much better, thank you."
When he made that self-assured grunt she was pretty certain he didn't believe a word she said. She had slept well enough during the wee hours of the morning, but she knew two and a half hours was not sufficient beauty rest for her. As disturbed as she was about her dubious adventure in the cellar that morning, she knew it was important to get down to the business of finding Arnie and Lynna.
"Would you look at the size of that?" Mulder asked as he brought their car to a halt across the street from the cathedral.
"It's beautiful," Scully acknowledged, leaning forward and slightly to her left so she could view the tall spire and intricate gothic structure.
As they climbed out of the car, Scully pulled her London Fog closer around her, realizing that the Spring air was crisp at this time of the morning. Her breath puffed out like cigarette smoke as they made a quick jay walk across the quiet street.
Mulder opened the heavy gate. Except for the whisper of the wind, the grounds of the Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral remained oddly silent. Even the morning traffic from cars passing was subdued by the sheer austerity and beauty of the scene. Wind tossed the green leaves that had fallen from the huge trees above, blowing them relentlessly against the mottled gray of the headstones in the graveyard.
"Anita says this graveyard is one of the oldest in the city," he commented. "And it's supposed to be haunted."
"Of course it is. By whom?"
"She didn't say. I'm hoping Dr. Buckles will know more about it."
"I think he knows where the children are."
Mulder stopped and she was forced to halt also. "Scully, where are you getting this unsubstantiated information that says he's offed his kids."
"Who else would have more motive or opportunity?" she asked, her bright blue gaze glaring at him.
"And the moon is made of green cheese."
"Mulder, have you ever considered that maybe he killed his children and is trying to get them to communicate with him as ghosts. For his experiments?"
"Why would he do that? He has plenty of good recordings of voices."
"I'm not saying he thinks logically, Mulder."
He shook his head and started to walk quickly. She had to stretch her short legs far to keep up with him. The crunching of leaves under her feet made her think of fall, and she knew this place would be even more atmospheric during that time of the year. For a moment she felt a strange shudder of inexplicable apprehension as she glanced to her left and up at the huge dark gray cathedral. The walls loomed like sentinels to a great secret hidden by a century of dust, dirt, and long forgotten memories. Gargoyles guarded the area like grotesque dragons of prey.
She'd slowed her pace, and had to rush to catch up with Mulder's quick, long stride. As he turned the corner he stopped, and she practically ran into his back. Sitting cross legged on the ground next to a large, flat headstone was a tall, attractive man with black hair. His eyes were closed, and from his pallor Scully thought he might be dead. Next to him a tape recorder ran silently.
Mulder moved forward. "Dr. Buckles?"
His eyes opened suddenly, his jade green gaze fixing on them with barbed intensity. He reached over and snapped off the recorder.
"Thank you," he said sharply. "I was hoping to get a clean run on this tape."
Mulder glanced at Scully, but then stepped forward and she followed. "I'm sorry, Dr. Buckles, for interrupting your session." He reached for his identification and Scully did the same. "I'm Agent Mulder and this is Agent Scully. We're from the FBI. Tad Carruthers told us we could find you here."
The handsome man sighed. Scully noted that he wasn't as young as he first appeared, but obvious fatigue and stress had worn him down. But the lines around his eyes didn't detract from his good-looking, dark, almost predatory appearance. Since she'd read part of his book last night, she'd tried to put a face to the man. She'd pictured a balding, portly guy with an air not unlike Hercule Peirot. She'd been totally wrong. This man might be slightly past his prime, but he was better than well preserved.
"We'd like to ask you a few questions," Mulder said.
Dr. Buckles nodded and shifted his legs, stretching them out if front of him as if crossing his legs for too long was painful. Then he stood up slowly and shook hands with them. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I just...I need to get descent recordings today. Time is running out."
"Running out?" Mulder asked.
Dr. Buckles shook his head and looked at the cathedral. "I know this looks strange. Sitting in a graveyard worrying about recording the voices of departed souls rather than searching for my children."
"Your work is important to you," Mulder said, looking around at the vast array of head stones. "It's obvious from the book you wrote."
Dr. Buckles seemed to perk up at these words, a gleam of excitement momentarily lightening the melancholia in his eyes. "And what did you think of the book?"
"Fascinating." Mulder smiled slightly. "Have you concluded all your research into Manderley?"
Dr. Buckles' face stiffened. "If I lived to be a hundred, I'd never finish discovering the evil that dwells in Manderley." He glanced at Mulder. "Too many strange things defy laws of nature as we know it at that cursed place. I thought I was finished with Manderley in 1990. If I'd listened to my own instincts, I never would have brought my children here. Not after what I knew." He pushed a hand through his thick hair. "Now, it seems, I'm paying the price for playing fast and loose with the forces at work."
Scully's eyebrows drew together, as if she wanted to cut to the chase and dispense with the ghost gibberish. "Do you know where Arnie and Lynna are, Dr. Buckles?" Scully asked.
Putting his hands on his hips he glared at her. "No. At least, I'm not certain. I have theories."
When neither agent responded to him, he said, "They've been taken by some power far greater than anything I've seen."
"Power?" Scully asked, her incredulity growing by the minute.
He sighed. "It's a long story."
Changing tactics she asked, "Where were you during the time your children disappeared?"
"I was here, at the cathedral. Trying to get the recordings done before..."
"Before what?" Mulder prompted. "Before the children disappeared?"
"It's so damn complicated," Dr. Buckles said, another weary sigh emanating from his chest.
"We have all the time in the world." Scully crossed her arms as if ready for a long wait. "Tell us what you know."
Several seconds passed, as Dr. Buckles contemplated the agents silently, and Scully wondered if she was going to need a crowbar to get the information out of him. He hooked his fingers in the empty belt lops on the front of his jeans.
"Do either of you know anything about Chartres in France?"
Both agents shook their heads, so Dr. Buckles continued. "It's a holy place of worship where people have performed religious rituals for over fifteen hundred years. Before the Celts thrived in that part of Europe, someone constructed a dolmen and well at the site." He shifted on his feet, then began to pace slightly.
"A dolmen?" Mulder asked.
Dr. Buckles kept pacing. "Unhewn stones supported by a flat boulder. A sort of chamber tall enough for a man to pass through. Some think it is a powerful point where sources of energy emanate from the earth."
"Evil powers?" Mulder prompted.
"Some would say it could be used for evil. But you must remember that Chartres is considered a place of worship for Christians. Anyway, the Celtic priests envisioned the birth of a child by a virgin and kept a statue carved from a pear tree that depicted this virgin. Long after the Celts left the area, the Christians saw this ancient symbol as the Virgin Mary. Over the years six churches were built on the site, the first five were destroyed by fire. The last cathedral is the one that stands there today."
Mulder could tell Scully was getting slightly exasperated with the story and couldn't see the connection to the case at hand. Reluctantly he had to admit he didn't either.
Dr. Buckles continued. "To make a long story short, this cathedral is laced with mystery. Chartres is one of the first examples of gothic architecture, and it was during the time it was built all other gothic architecture seemed to bloom. The cathedral is considered to be a place that transforms men with a powerful force that is contained within the proportions and orientation of the composition of the cathedral."
"A sort of spiritual well pilgrims would come to in order to replenish their souls," said Mulder.
Dr. Buckles nodded, smiling. "Exactly."
"What has a religious center in France have to do with this cathedral, Manderley, and your childrens' disappearance?" Scully nodded toward the gray hulk of stone to her left.
"I'm getting to that, Agent Scully." Dr. Buckles's voice tightened. "Our Lady of Mercy was built as a much smaller replica to Chartres, and some say it not only duplicated the structure and form, but the spirituality of Chartres. Both good and evil."
"And therefore you think this is an excellent place to get recordings of souls in the afterlife, and photographs?" Mulder asked.
"Yes. But there's more." Dr. Buckles looked from Mulder to Scully, then back to the headstone he'd been sitting next to. He leaned over and picked up his recording equipment and camera bag. "Like Chartres there is a large rectangular flagstone set aslant from the other stones in the west aisle of the south transept. Around midday on summer solstice, light comes through a stained glass window and illuminates a tenon on the flagstone."
"An astronomical observation point?" Mulder asked.
Dr. Buckles shrugged. "No one knows for sure. And no one has been allowed to dig up the flagstone and discover what's under there, either at Chartres, or at Our Lady of Mercy."
"The hidden treasures of the Knights Templar?" Scully said skeptically.
"Only the shadow knows," Mulder said.
"Perhaps no more than crumbling catacombs that are too dangerous for anyone to be in." The doctor's tone sent a shudder of cold up her back.
"But they don't have catacombs in Denver," Scully said.
"Not that we know of." Dr. Buckles stuffed his recording equipment into its case. "I think this cathedral holds the secret to where my children disappeared. I believe goodness lies within the cathedral. But somehow, some way, the person who built Manderley harnessed evil forces from this place and used it at Manderley for their own vile purposes."
"Did you tell the police all of this?" Scully asked.
Dr. Buckles smiled. "No. They'd think it was the mad ravings of an insane man. You, on the other hand, have experienced the evil in person."
Scully felt her heart give a lurch, a quick step off beat, caused by surprise and suspicion. "What are you talking about?"
"As a Catholic you are aware of a deep mysticism within yourself, just out of reach. Despite the conflict between your scientific self and your spiritual self, the spiritual won out at Manderley. Did you feel the evil there?"
Dumfounded, but equally sure that Dr. Buckles knew more than he was telling, she decided to play along with his wild meandering and not refute his statements. And she had felt something in the early hours of the morning. Whether it was her imagination or her phobia rearing its head once again, she didn't know, but she wasn't ready to hire an exorcist to cleanse Manderley.
Moving slowly toward her, Dr. Buckles stopped within her personal space, much the way Mulder did on numerous occasions. "Like you, Agent Scully, I am a scientist. My Doctorate is in psychology, and I was raised to believe neither in religion or ghosts. Despite my parents' best efforts I believe in both. I've studied both this cathedral and Manderley for years, and my next book was going to be on the connection between these places. But it seems that my greatest folly has been in believing there wouldn't be a price for this curiosity. I guess I was wrong."
"Why aren't you going to write the book?" Mulder asked.
Dr. Buckles shook his head. "It's too dangerous."
"Are you saying someone kidnapped your children because you're investigating paranormal activity at the cathedral and Manderely?" she asked.
"I thought that at first. But now I realize it is something far worse." Sadness filled his face, and he seemed to age in seconds. He looked up at the sound of a car pulling into the parking lot on the opposite side of the cathedral. "That's probably Father McNeary. Why don't I introduce you to him? He can tell you some tales that would curl your hair."
Mulder grinned. "I'm game." He started to follow Dr. Buckles out of the grave yard. Scully trailed after them. Something, though, drew her toward the headstone where Dr. Buckles had been recording. She stopped and looked down at the inscription, then at the names below.
What she saw froze her blood like skinny dipping in a glacier lake. "Oh, my God. Mulder. Look at this."
Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral Denver, Colorado
Scully pointed to the flat headstone that Dr. Buckles had been sitting next to when they'd first seen him.
When Mulder looked at the headstone his eyes widened, his blood running cold, unsure he was actually see things straight. The stone was weathered significantly, but the carved letters were reasonably clear. "Lynna Arlene Champion born August 21, 1886, died May 3, 1897 and Arnold Davis Champion, born May 10, 1884, died May 3, 1897."
"Eerie, isn't it?" Dr. Buckles said, his intonation almost sarcastic. "My children's first and middle names, except for the last name. Same ages. A hundred years earlier."
Scully looked at him, but she didn't say anything. After a stunned silence, Mulder finally spoke. "Ancestors of yours?"
Dr. Buckles shook his head. "That was the first thing that came to my mind when I first saw the headstone. But I have extensive records on my ancestors and none of them were named Lynna or Arnold."
"None of your ancestors lived in Colorado?" Scully asked.
"And you think if you sit here long enough the spirits of these children will talk to you?" Mulder asked.
Dr. Buckles stared at him for some time before answering. "I can't be sure of anything in this business, Agent Mulder."
"You said you had a theory about what happened to your children but you didn't explain," she said.
At first Mulder thought Dr. Buckles was going to refuse. Perhaps the look on Scully's face, which said she wasn't going to take any prisoners, made him change his mind.
"I found the headstone entirely by accident," Dr. Buckles admitted. "When I first came to Denver in 1990 with the idea of including Manderley in my book on hauntings, I interviewed lots of old timers around the area. They mentioned that there were several gravestones in this graveyard I'd be interested in. Every one of them clamed up when I tried to get them to say more. They seemed scared. Apprehensive. Naturally, I was intrigued. So I came here. It took me awhile to see the pattern."
A crow screeched, rising into the air on wings as black as night, flapping and squawking as it drifted away in a flurry of wings.
Dr. Buckles cleared his throat. "About every twenty years children of approximately the same age evaporate into thin air from Manderley. I was very disturbed by the pattern I saw in the disappearances. When I brought my children to Manderley, I made a terrible, terrible mistake. Now I'm paying for it more than you can possibly understand. I guess, in my own way, I didn't believe that anything bad could happen to them. Come, let me show you something."
Slowly, a horrifying certainty began to grow in Mulder as Dr. Buckles lead them to several other stones.
Arnold Clark and Lynna Clark - 1917.
Arnold Shaun and Lynna Shaun - 1937.
Arnold Steinfill and Lynna Steinfill - 1957.
Arnold Trace and Lynna Trace - 1977.
"My God, Mulder," Scully said again, when Dr. Buckles had shown them the evidence.
"Exactly," Mulder said.
When they turned to look at Dr. Buckles, he stood next to Arnold and Lynna Champion's grave, staring forlornly at the stone.
"These old timers you talked to," Mulder said. "Were any of them related to these children?"
"No. I checked carefully. All of the records I researched confirmed that the relatives of these children moved away."
"Was there any explanation given of how the children died?" Scully asked.
Mulder thought Dr. Buckles eyes glowed for a minute, shining with something that ridged on the edge of insanity. The type of mania that comes from the almost certain knowledge your children are lost to you forever. "Agent Scully, all of these children vanished. These headstones are memorials, not true graves. No bodies were ever found." Mulder reached into his pocket for his plastic baggy cache of sunflower seeds and realized he'd left them back in D.C. He really, really could have used a jolt of oral satisfaction. He could practically taste the tension rising all around them, rising within him. "Come on, Scully. Why don't we check out the cathedral and give Dr. Buckles more time to record voices of souls."
Dr. Buckles didn't reply, standing absolutely motionless, staring down at the headstone once again. As Mulder and Scully headed out of the graveyard and toward the front entrance of the cathedral, Scully heaved a sigh.
"There's got to be a logical explanation for his children's disappearance, Mulder, and for the disappearances of the other children."
"It's obvious he's obsessed with the mystery of all of these children's disappearances."
"Wouldn't you be? The same first names, Scully. The same dates. All the disappearances are twenty years apart. Very scary stuff."
"You didn't buy into all his conjecture about evil existing as some link between this cathedral and Manderley?" she asked, stopping as they came to the arched double doors to the cathedral. "Since when is a cathedral evil, Mulder?"
"I'll let you know after we step inside."
Before he could reach out for the door one side of the heavy front door began to open, the hinges swinging silently and slowly.
Mulder's first impression of the tall, gaunt man standing in the doorway was that he was friendly in that all encompassing, all forgiving way some people of the cloth radiate automatically. His sharp features were softened by his smile, and wind ruffled through his salt and pepper short hair.
Mulder and Scully introduced themselves.
"I thought I heard voices out here," Father McNeary said, his hazel eyes twinkling with good intentions.
"Do you often hear voices out here, Father McNeary?" Mulder asked.
The priest chuckled. "Of course, Agent Mulder. The voices of life and death surround us constantly. It's up to us to listen. There are a lot of lessons to be learned."
Mulder grinned slightly, unsure if he was about to receive a sermon. "Maybe you can enlighten us."
"What can I help you with?" Father McNeary asked.
"May we come in and ask you a few questions, Father?" Scully asked.
He nodded, and opened the door. Mulder looked over at Scully, but her reaction was steady. She didn't flinch, or notice anything unusual, he thought. Unless she was doing a damn fine job of suppressing her feelings, something she did very well as a general rule. Although he had confidence in her strength, he'd seen her almost incapacitated by horror last night. Despite what she'd said about seeing Donnie Pfaster as the devil, he knew she doubted her own feelings, her own reactions. One of the problems with being so clinical was the propensity to lock away feelings as something of a nuisance, a trifle to be shoved to the side and dwelt with in swift order like a pesky fly.
As the door widened and they stepped inside, Mulder looked down the long corridor of red carpet that lead to the altar, his eyes focusing on the crucifix at the end. He noted the consecration crosses on the wall and a wooden Madonna and Child. Although he stopped and let his senses take in the remarkable quiet, Scully began to walk down the aisle, her gaze drawn up to the flying buttresses in the upper galleries, and the strainer arches in the main and eastern transepts.
Weak light penetrated the stained glass windows, casting shadows on the wooden pews. Mulder looked around the whole of the cathedral and noted that it radiated a glow, a warmth like a solid blanket of acceptance. It had been a long time since he'd felt anything quite like it. Like a small buzz from a couple glasses of wine, the cathedral welcomed with open arms.
If this was evil, it had thoroughly disguised itself.
"Father McNeary, do you know Dr. Buckles very well?" Mulder asked.
The priest's eyes lit up. "Oh, yes. Very well." He sighed. "Poor man."
Scully turned around swiftly. "Why do you call him a poor man?"
"His life's work pouring in the wrong direction, I'm afraid."
"Then you don't believe in his work? That voices of the dead can be recorded, or pictures of their form taken?" Scully asked.
"Dr. Buckles is a good man. I was very sad to hear about his children, but I'm not sure what being in the graveyard will really help him. Mourning takes place, however, in many forms."
"Is Dr. Buckles a Catholic?" Mulder wondered if the priest had heard Dr. Buckles confession, and if that included Dr. Buckles' statement that he'd killed his own children.
"Not that I'm aware of, Agent Mulder."
"Dr. Buckles told us that this cathedral was based on Chartres in France. He also told us the rumors surrounding Chartres. About the evil between Manderley and Our Lady of Mercy," she said.
Fr. McNeary smiled. "I've been to Chartres. It's a beautiful place, and very moving. The power I felt when I stood within it's walls was enormous. But as for evil. Well, that's preposterous."
"Dr. Buckles also mentioned a unique rectangular flagstone area that was built the same as that in Chartres."
Father McNeary nodded as he moved down the aisle, passing Scully and moving toward the west aisle of the south transept. "Of course. I'll show you. But I'm not sure how this will help you find the children."
The stone rectangle was larger than the other flagstones around it, measuring approximately three feet wide by four and a half feet long. On one side was the small tenon. Mulder squatted next to the flagstone, and then looked up at Scully. She was staring at the flagstone, her eyes widening, her lips parted.
Her gaze snapped to him, as if ready to speak but unable to get anything out. Her rosy complexion paled. Tempted to ask her what the hell was going on, she caught the plea in her eyes. Although he was curious, he decided not wait until they'd left the area to ask her what she was thinking.
"Is everything all right, Agent Scully?" Fr. McNeary said, reaching for her arm. She nodded and smiled.
Somewhat reassured, Mulder examined the flagstone. He reached down and felt the slightly uneven surface. Worn by time and the tread of thousands of feet.
Freezing. Like an ice cube.
He touched the tenon.
He drew his hand back swiftly and looked at his fingers. Scully squatted next to him and grabbed his hand. "What is it?"
"It's hotter than an iron," Mulder said, peering intently at the flagstone and then back at the priest.
The priest leaned down to look at the flagstone, his eyes narrowed. "What on earth? That's the first time I've seen this happen. How strange."
"Do people usually touch the stone, Father?" Mulder asked.
"No. Not that I'm aware."
Scully was still looking at his hand. The tip of his middle finger and ring finger on his right hand were red. "Mulder, these might blister unless you get them into cold water."
His fingers were throbbing. As Scully released his hand Mulder stood and said, "Sure you haven't got the fires of hell harnessed down Father McNeary?"
Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral Denver, Colorado
Father McNeary gave Mulder a weak smile, and Scully knew that the priest was one of those people who wouldn't respond well to Mulder's brand of humor. About ninety-eight point eight percent of the people who knew Mulder well didn't understand him.
"I'm sorry about this, Agent Mulder," Fr. McNeary said.
Mulder shrugged. "No problem. I'll take care of this burn and be right back."
After Mulder had disappeared into the restroom, Fr. McNeary offered to show Scully around the rest of the cathedral. She followed him, enthralled with the architecture, and more than happy to move away from the mysterious flagstone.
Something very bizarre had occurred at the flagstone, and not just with Mulder's fingers. Initially, when she'd first walked into the cathedral, the huge stone walls had welcomed her, bringing her into their embrace. She'd always loved walking into houses of God, feeling the ambiance of their life and the healing that often occurred within. But in old places such as this, unsavory individuals with evil in their hearts had walked among the pews. All were welcomed in a house of holiness, but some found the cathedral's embrace a source of evil deeds, damage, and destruction. Places of worship sometimes inspired as much hate as they did love. When she'd originally reached the flagstone, a cold, icy sensation had reached deep within her.
Shaking off an indescribable, creepy uneasiness, Scully walked back toward the entrance to the cathedral, the priest in tow. All the while she pondered what could have caused the stone to be hot to the touch.
"Fr. McNeary, is there anything below the cathedral? Catacombs or a...basement?"
"We don't have catacombs."
"I didn't think so. But do you have a basement?"
He looked almost puzzled. "No, but there is a recreation facility. We host Christmas parties there, and the room can be used by groups in the community for free. Some of our youth groups also use it on occasion."
For a moment her thoughts turned toward the way she'd felt in the cellar in Manderley. The analytical part of her mind refused to let her feeling side take over. She couldn't let unwarranted trepidation of going into a basement run uncontrolled. "Could we see the facilities room?"
Footsteps echoed from somewhere around her. When she didn't see anyone, her brow knitted with curiosity. Where was the sound coming from? The footsteps went on and on. She looked around, and Mulder appeared from behind a pillar. The echoes of his footsteps continued as she came toward her.
He gave her a conspiratorial smile. "Did I miss anything?"
She explained about the recreation room, and they started to follow the priest as he lead them toward one of the transepts.
"How's your hand, Mulder?" she asked.
He held it out as he walked, and she noted the burns weren't as bad as she'd first expected. "I'll live."
Once they reached the transept, they went down six shallow steps toward a pair of large double doors that lead to the recreation center. With relief, Scully noted the room wasn't recessed into the ground far enough to be classified as a basement. Folding chairs and tables graced one wall of the large room, and there was a ping pong table in one corner, a dart board, and shelves with books and board games.
"How long has this area been used for a recreation room, Fr. McNeary?" Scully asked.
He shrugged and kept on walking. "Two years, I guess. Before that we really didn't have a use for it. Over the years I guess it's been used as mostly storage space."
"When was the cathedral built?" Mulder asked.
"The same year as Manderley," Mulder said to Scully, catching her gaze. She decided to ignore the connection Mulder was trying to make. She didn't buy either Dr. Buckle's theories or Mulder's, even if she had no hypothesis of her own. Yet.
After they'd floated around the room for some time, poking, prodding, and generally discovering nothing of interest, they left the room and decided it was time they head back to Manderley. They had a couple people to interview before the day was over.
As they walked into the main part of the cathedral they saw Dr. Buckles sitting on a pew, looking forlorn and lost. When they approached he looked up.
"Did you get a bite?" Mulder asked, glancing at the recorder bag in Dr. Buckle's lap.
"Did I ever. The best recording I've picked up since I started doing this years ago. You've got to hear it."
Dr. Buckles looked from Scully to Mulder, to Fr. McNeary. He reached into his recorder bag and lifted out the tape player. Dr. Buckles turned it on. The whirl of the smooth running machine began, and they waited for several moments.
Scully concentrated but didn't hear a thing. "I don't hear-" Dr. Buckles held up a hand for silence.
"Daddy. Daddy come and get us. Come and get us from this awful place."
The little girl's plaintive request speared Scully directly in the heart with a rending stroke. She put her hand to her chest as she felt her heart flutter. She took a deep breath.
Mulder and Scully listed to the whispers floating from the tape recorder, and their eyes widened. Scully was intrigued, her heart thumping a little quicker. But she was not completely impressed. The voice sounded as clear as if the child had been standing next to the recorder.
She heard a muffled sound she couldn't identify. Then another voice. This one slightly deeper. A young boy's voice.
Dr. Buckles snapped off the recorder.
"Where on earth did you get that?" Fr. McNeary whispered, his eyes wide and horrified.
"On top of the grave of Lynna and Arnold Champion. The first set of children to be taken by the awful power that rages out of control between Our Lady of Mercy and Manderley."
Mulder glanced at Scully, then at Dr. Buckles. "What do you plan to do with the tape? How is it going to help you find your children?"
"I don't think they're dead, Agent Mulder. I'm going into the cellar at Manderley and see if I can pick their voices up there."
Scully felt her skepticism reach a new high. "But if they're ghosts and you recorded them in the graveyard, why would they be in the cellar?"
He shook his head. She noted that his eyes were bleak, sunken. "I never said they were dead, Agent Scully. Lost, trapped, hidden somewhere...I don't know. But not dead."
"So you think they've been kidnapped and taken somewhere and you're able to record their voices asking for your help?" she asked.
One corner of his lips turned up in a sardonic twist. "My children were taken all right. But not by a living force. And I'm going back into the cellar to see if I can communicate with them through the tape. If I can't, I'll have to bring in a medium. Perhaps they can communicate to my children and discover how to get them back."
"We'll follow you to Manderley. We've got some people to question," Mulder said.
Dr. Buckles shrugged and started to walk away. "Suit yourself."
"Dr. Buckles." Scully moved after him until he came to a halt outside the front doors of the cathedral. She made up her mind right then and there. "I'll go with you into the cellar."
Mulder looked at her closely. "Into the cellar?"
She gave Mulder a calm, cool, collected look. "Yes."
"Are you sure you'll be all right in there?"
"I'll be fine, Mulder."
Dr. Buckles stopped and turned to look at her. "Did something happen while you were in the cellar?"
"Yes," Mulder said.
"No," Scully countered. "I...had a little phobic reaction, that's all."
Dr. Buckle's gaze rested on her with disconcerting intensity for several moments before he spoke. "According to the research I've done, the cellar is the most haunted part of Manderley. Just how strong was this phobic reaction?"
"Very strong," Mulder said. "She practically went into shock."
"She was trembling in my arms, Dr. Buckles, and you can be sure that wasn't caused by anything but fear," Mulder said, grinning down at Scully.
She glared at Mulder. "Let's just get back to Manderley. I'll go with Dr. Buckles, and you can interview Glen Munson and Dan Jetter. We'll cover more ground that way."
As Dr. Buckles nodded and walked away, Scully glared at her partner until his eyebrows lifted. "What's wrong?"
She simply shook her head and walked toward their car.
"Mulder, he could have made that recording at any time. We don't even know if that was the tape in his recorder when we left him outside," Scully said as they drove back to Manderley.
"I don't believe that Dr. Buckles is psychologically impaired and trying to pull a fast one on us," Mulder said, an indulgent look on his face. "You don't seem worried about going down into the basement with him. Would you do that if you thought he was a psychopath?"
She hated it when he got that tone in his voice. "He's trying to hide the fact that he's done something to his children. We may have a murder on our hands. And no, I'm not worried about going into the basement with him. I'm an FBI agent, and I can take care of myself."
He opened his mouth, a spew of contradictions ready to surface. He knew she could take care of herself. Sometimes, though, he worried. "I'm sorry." He glanced at her. Her expression changed slightly, surprise creasing the smooth skin between her eyes. "I know you can take care of yourself. I'm...going to be a little worried, that's all."
She didn't know what to say, so she didn't say anything at all. Mulder admitting he was worried...almost incredible. Incomprehensible.
After an awkward silence, he said, "What about the gravestones? A hundred years of Arnolds and Lynnas have been disappearing. Remember what he said? No bodies have ever been found."
"What? You think their parents all ran off with them, too?"
"Time obscures the truth," she said. "You should know that as well as I do. Namely what really happened to those children. People are very good at making up stories when they can't explain strange incidents. No doubt the Arnold's and Lynna's in the past were kidnapped by strangers, or one of their parents. Either they lived their lives out somewhere else or they were murdered."
Mulder didn't look at her, but he nodded as he made the turn into the parking lot behind Manderley. "I'd have to agree with you, Scully, but for one thing. They had the same first names. What are the odds of that? What are the odds?"
"Just because they had the same names does not mean some great, dark secret has been brewing for a hundred years." She kept her tone even, non accusatory.
He pulled to halt next to Dr. Buckles car. "I don't think it's been brewing, Scully. I think it's boiled over. Maybe the recordings aren't genuine, but by playing along with him we might find out what is really going on. We need to interview Gerald Munson and Dan Jetter today, as well as Tanner Brulard. Maybe after we talk to them, we'll understand what's happening."
Once they were in the bed and breakfast, they were greeted by the sight of Anita, who was quizzing Dr. Buckles at the front desk.
"Any progress on finding your little ones?" she asked him.
"Maybe," he said, glancing at Mulder and Scully suspiciously, as if they were part of a larger plot to keep him from finding his children. "Do you mind if I go in the cellar?"
Anita shrugged and looked at the tape recorder slung over his shoulder. "No. Suit yourself."
Dr. Buckles moved off and Scully glanced at Mulder as she felt for her portable flashlight. She retrieved it from her pocket. "I'll see you later."
Mulder watched her walk away, trepidation making him want to reach out for her and tell her not to go. He gritted his teeth, old insecurities rising into his stomach and making it toss and turn as if he were riding rough seas. Then it subsided. She was not going to disappear. She would be fine.
He looked at Anita. "Do you know if Gerald Munson or Dan Jetter are available for questioning?"
By the time Scully turned the corner and started down the hall toward the cellar, she was half convinced her decision to enter the cellar was not a crazy idea. Dr. Buckles stood at the door to the cellar, his back to her.
Ripples of that unnamed horror she'd experienced earlier that morning prickled under the surface, but she was determined to ignore the feeling and keep on walking. Dr. Buckles turned toward her and frowned. Every step closer, the web of discomfort burned a little tighter, starting as a rumble in her stomach and fanning outward into her breath. She pressed forward, demanding her body to obey each command to progress. When she stood next to him he switched on his flashlight.
"You feel it don't you, Agent Scully?"
"The presence. The evil. Whatever it is that invades this space and claims it for its own." He raised the flashlight and looked at it. "But it's always waiting, watching. Looking for an opening." He gave a sarcastic laugh. "If a cathedral, with all its goodness and holiness can't keep the evil away, what makes me think this flashlight will do anything?"
Perhaps he was trying to scare her, convince her not to go into the abyss with him. "If I didn't know better, Dr. Buckles, I'd say you were trying to keep me from going with you."
His smile was unexpected, and pleasant. "I'm sorry. I'm a morbid soul sometimes." Just as suddenly, his mood changed, and he sobered. He moved a step closer. Taking in the intriguing scent of him...something spicy...she kept her ground.
"Do you even believe in evil, Agent Scully?" His tone was deep, husky, almost carnal.
"I believe there are people who do flagitious things. But true evil, as a separate entity, that's up for debate."
"It's no use pretending with me, Agent Scully," he said, stepping a little closer to her, a hush, a whisper coming into his voice. "I know what's deep in your heart. You're no different than any other human being. You fear what you can't see, but know is there."
She felt a quaking low inside, something that removed her apprehension of what was in the cellar and made her fear a more powerful emotion. As she looked up at him she realized he had a quality she'd seen in few men. Within a breath she saw a change, a subtle shift from the professorial man to a darkly dangerous enigma.
And he was right. She feared him now, as she'd feared Ed Jerse. His presence drew her, called to her. A piece of him was burning with the arcane, an undeniably tantalizing combination of the two elements they had discussed. Good versus evil. She took a deep breath. Who else had she felt this emotion around? It itched in the back of her mind.
"I've had a taste of evil, Dr. Buckles." She looked him straight in the eyes. "How do you propose to get your children back?"
"I'm going to ask my children to talk to me again. They might be able to lead us to them."
She nodded. "Lead on, then."
He opened the door, and they stepped forward, flashlights illuminating the stairs below. Scully stepped forward, but Dr. Buckles put his hand up to hold her back. "I'll go first."
She didn't ask why he wanted to go first. Perhaps he was trying to be macho or gallant? At this point it didn't matter. She was an observer of human behavior, and he was becoming more fascinating with every moment.
He stepped into the cellar, and after taking another deep breath, she descended after him.
Gerald Munson twiddled his thumbs as he sat on the sofa in Anita's office, his florid face giving him the appearance of a newly baked apple. Almost bald, his few tendrils of white hair had a strange green tint. His green eyes were set close together, and his eyelashes flickered nervously as he watched Mulder take a seat in a chair beside Anita's desk.
Gerald was round, but not overly so...his waistline was a little thick. Tall, he'd been built with odds and ends. His legs were short and he had a long body. He stuck his legs out in front of him and crossed them at the ankle. Mulder guessed that Gerald was around fifty. "Late Happy Anniversary, Gerald," Mulder said.
Gerald's green tinged white eyebrows went up. "What?"
"Anita said you celebrated your anniversary yesterday."
Gerald smiled, and his grin was like old peanut brittle. Sticky, hard, and not very appetizing. "Thanks. I'd almost forgotten. The wife was ready to kill me last night because I thought it was our sixth anniversary. It's our eighth."
Mulder looked at Gerald's crooked teeth for a moment, then shrugged. "Women."
"Gerald, I understand that you had to take a break the night the children disappeared." Mulder hooked his ankle over his knee in a relaxed position.
"Yeah. I wasn't feeling too good."
"Yet you didn't let Anita or Tad know that you were leaving the front desk, and you were gone for fifteen minutes or more before you returned."
Gerald squirmed, his eyes going wide like a startled cat. "That's true. But it was because I felt violently ill. I had to rush in order to make it to the...men's room. I didn't have time to worry about telling anybody."
"Are you recovered now?"
Gerald shook his head. "Sometimes. It's weird, really. Sometimes when I'm at the front desk, I get sick. At about the same time."
Mulder leaned forward. "Really? What time?"
"Around six o'clock. Always when that damn banging noise comes from the cellar."
Mulder remembered the noise they'd heard early yesterday morning, and a chill rolled up his spine. "You get sick whenever you hear this noise, or just when it happens around six o'clock?"
"Whenever it happens. Sometimes really early in the morning."
"You're here that late?"
"I...once or twice."
Mulder heard the hesitation, the catch in the other man's voice and decided to ignore it for the moment. "What do you think the noise is, Gerald? And why would it make you sick?"
The man might be slightly dumb, but he wasn't stupid. His lips firmed slightly, and Mulder realized he'd stepped into a spot Gerald wasn't willing to talk about. "The house is settling."
"And that makes you sick?"
"Uh huh. I see." Mulder decided swerving back to the original questions might throw the man off, and Gerald would reveal his hidden agenda. And Mulder was certain he was hiding something. "Did you notice the children leaving the house either before or after you returned to the front desk the night they disappeared?"
Shifting again, Gerald paled. "No. Lord help those little ones. I wish I hadn't been sick. If I'd been at the desk...hell...I may have been able to prevent..." This time Gerald's face went as green as his hair, and Mulder wondered if the man was going to be sick right there. "I think it's awful what that Dr. Buckles has done."
Mulder gazed at the older man intently, surprised at the vehement tone in his voice. "What has he done?"
"Well, it should be obvious. He killed his own children."
"We don't have any evidence to support that, Gerald."
"What other way could those children have disappeared? No one here would have hurt them. No one."
Mulder thought the man doth protest too much. "Do you believe this house is haunted, Gerald? That evil pervades it's rooms...especially the cellar?"
Gerald stopped his thumb twiddling. "No. That's all tales Anita makes up to attract the tourists. There ain't nothing in that cellar but old cobwebs and old memories."
Mulder settled back in his chair. "It's the old memories I'm worried about, Gerald."
As Dr. Buckles flicked the light switch at the top of the stairs, the single light bulb in the middle of the cellar went on. It sent a warmer glow flowing over the cold rock walls around her and Dr. Buckles. Scully turned off her flashlight.
She took a couple more deep breaths and realized that everything was back to normal. It was if her phobia had never been, and she had never gone out of control this morning. Very, very strange, but not unexplainable. She'd been tired. Had read that damn book Mulder had given her.
"Good," Dr. Buckles whispered, turning to look at her. "Anita said she'd put a new light bulb in here, but I didn't believe her. Originally she told me she was too spooked to venture here."
Scully felt cold air flow over the back of her neck, as if someone had passed close behind her, and she whirled in that direction.
No one was there.
She stepped backward, straight into a pair of powerful arms. Startled, she gasped, and jabbed backward with her elbow, connecting instantly.
"Hey," Dr. Buckles said, stepping back from her as she whirled toward him. He held up his hands. "Take it easy. YOU bumped into me."
She took another deep breath. "Sorry. Reflex."
After they descended to the bottom of the stairs, she looked around the room. "Where are you going to set up the recorder?"
"I need to get comfortable with my surroundings first. Have you explored down here before?" he asked.
"Yes. Early this morning. Mulder and I heard noises and came down to investigate."
"Ah, so you heard the pounding and clanking noises?"
"What-" As if on cue the screeching sound bellowed up from the earth around them, bouncing off their ears with painful intensity. Scully put her hands to her ears. It stopped after several grating, cacophonous noises.
"I take it THAT was what you heard," Dr. Buckles said.
"It came from that door over there," Scully said, pointing to a blue door on the far west side of the cellar. She walked toward it.
He grabbed her arm. "Wait."
"Why? Don't tell me you want to go first, again?"
He nodded. "I sense that I've got some defenses you don't have, Agent Scully."
"What are you talking about?"
"You may be doing a good job of covering it up, but this place still gives you the creeps. I'll go first."
Unaccustomed to being protected by anyone but a mother hen Mulder, she found the feeling disconcerting. She wasn't sure she liked it. Before she could think of a suitable retort, he strode toward the door and reached for door knob. As he turned the knob, it swung open easily.
Darkness greeted them, a miasma of night so thick she could taste it rushed out to greet Scully. She took a step back.
"Wait," she said as Dr. Buckles moved to enter.
But he ignored her and the obscurity swallowed him whole.
She stepped to the threshold, squinting, trying to see through the inky gloom. "Dr. Buckles, wait!"
She paused, listening for any sound. Nothing. Silence.
She turned on her flashlight and the beam bounced on the walls of the narrow passage before her. Mustering up her courage, curiosity vanquishing fear, she stepped inside.
The kitchen at Manderley smelled tantalizing and all together calm and normal. Dan Jetter stirred his concoction of eggs, tomatoes, ham and cheese and got ready to make his world class Jetter Omelet.
Jetter's thinning, blond hair was well covered by the sagging chef hat. He wore the white, cumbersome hat as much for camouflage as he did homage to his career. His blue gaze jumped from one plate to another...from ingredient bowl to ingredient bowl as he prepared his world class breakfast.
Mulder watched the proceedings with interest, realizing that his stomach was growling with anticipation. Ever since he'd walked into the kitchen a few minutes ago, he'd been assaulted by a myriad of scents. "So you say that Gerald Munson is hiding something?" "Sure. He's-"
The groaning and creaking from down in the cellar gave Mulder a case of the nerves. He walked over until he was on the opposite of the kitchen island from Jetter.
Jetter shook his head. "Damn ghosts. They've sure been active lately."
Jetter looked at Mulder like he was an imbecile, then poured the liquid into the pan. "Where have you been? Didn't you hear that horrid noise a few minutes ago? And this morning?"
"Yes. I heard. But I wanted to know why you think it's ghosts."
"It's obvious, isn't it?"
Rather than plead ignorance, Mulder plunged in another direction. "I understand that you weren't here on the night the children disappeared."
Jetter watched the eggs cook. "That's correct. I felt awful. There's a strange bug going around the place. I guess Gerald had it that night, too."
Mulder recalled what Gerald had said, and the two theories didn't quite mesh. Gerald had attributed his sickness to when the sounds came from the cellar, whereas Jetter was saying it was an illness. "Gerald told you he was ill?"
"He mentioned it to me. But he gets ill rather easily. Queasy stomach all the time, it seems to me."
Mulder looked at the food cooking on the stove as Jetter turned around to face Mulder. "What do you think he's hiding?"
Jetter shrugged. "He's worked here two years and already he's Anita's pet. I hate to say this, but I think he's trying to kiss up to her."
Mulder forced down a grin. "You think. What evidence do you have?"
"He's a chronic liar, Agent Mulder. Always off sick, always complaining about his wife."
"What about his wife?"
"If he'd been employed by anyone else other than Anita, they would have canned him a long time ago." Slipping the omelet onto a plate, Jetter passed a fork to Mulder. "Try it."
After tasting the fluffy concoction, Mulder had to agree it was very good. He chewed with satisfaction but pressed on with his line of questioning. "What about his Munson's wife?"
Jetter leaned on the island. "I shouldn't be telling you this."
Mulder chewed slowly before answering. "This is a federal investigation, Mr. Jetter. Failure to cooperate connotes stiff penalties for obstruction of justice. If Gerald gives you any trouble, just tell him I said that. Now, what about Gerald's wife?"
Jetter sighed. "They've been trying to have kids for five years and can't conceive. The guy's done everything but stand on his head, but he can't get his wife pregnant."
"One of them is sterile?"
"Apparently Gerald is. At first I didn't believe him, since he lies so much. But then I overheard a conversation...if you can call it that...that he had with his wife about a year ago."
"She's always wanted children, but he won't let her adopt." Jetter cursed. "He's being a butt head, if you ask me."
Shoving aside his half eaten omelet, Mulder watched Jetter putter around the kitchen like a frantic humming bird. "And what's this got to do with the children disappearing at Manderely?"
"I think he stole the children to appease her. I say you go right to the Munson house and you'll find the kids squirreled away there."
The idea was so stunningly ludicrous, that Mulder wondered if it wasn't Jetter who was the chronic fabricator. "So he could have been lying about where he was when Lynna and Arnie Buckles disappeared?"
Narrowing his eyes, Jetter frowned. "Possibly. Hey, you aren't going to tell him what I said, are you?"
"No. This is strictly confidential."
Another horrendous groan from the cellar split the peace and Jetter looked out of the room nervously.
Tired of omelets and physically pooped, Mulder decided a short nap was in order. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Jetter. I think I'll head to my room."
As Mulder got ready to leave the room, Jetter pointed a spatula at him. "Hey, wait. Anita said you were going to that cathedral this morning to investigate. I think you ought to know that Munson used to work at Our Lady of Mercy."
As Scully stepped into the darkness, the light from her flashlight illuminating the surrounding walls. The narrow hall in front of her seemed to go on forever. But as the light hit the end of the hall, she saw a dark form, and a massive wooden door.
"I'm right here." His voice was faint.
She moved deeper into the night, feeling it's heavy weight suffocating her like a mantle. Goose bumps traveled her arms. The air smelled cloying and damp...the scent of earth and the bouquet of decaying flowers...perhaps Gardenias.
How appropriate. Gardenias were potent, but they died so quickly off the vine.
"Keep coming down the hall." Steadying her breathing, she moved forward, pulling her gun out of her holster. His voice droned on. "It's really strange, Agent Scully, but I think we may have found where the children all disappeared to." His voice sounded a long way off, as if he were in a tunnel. As she walked his voice got closer and closer. Finally, with substantial relief, she saw his dark form appear at the end of a the hall.
He turned to look at her, and for a moment, the glare of the flashlight made his eyes appear red. She sucked in an involuntary breath. "How are you able to see so well in here without a flashlight?"
"You're giving me the evil eye, Agent Scully." He said solumnely. "But it's nothing paranormal. Apparently I see in the dark extraordinarily well. All I needed was a little light from open door, and your flashlight. Come and see what's at the end of the hall."
He turned and the flashlight hit a huge wooden door. He stood slightly ajar. Tall enough to easily accommodate an eight foot man, and wide enough to drive a small car through, the door was blackened with age. A padlock hung on the door put wasn't fastened. He yanked on the door until it creaked farther open, and then he stepped through.
As Scully followed him, the sweet smell increased. "It smells like incense in here."
"Perhaps it is."
"What on earth would someone be doing with incense down here?"
"Trying to cover the scent of death?"
His hypothesis trickled cold fear into her blood.
Her foot banged against something that rolled across the floor, rattling and clanging as it went. When she took another step she heard a crunching noise.
Dr. Buckles turned around as she paned her light to the floor. She'd kicked an old bucket aside, and there were leaves under her feet. She knelt down to look at them and picked one up to inspect it.
"How long do you think those have been there?" Dr. Buckles asked.
She shook her head. "I don't know. They're pretty old. Several days, maybe."
As she rubbed a brittle leaf between her fingers, she realized where she'd last seen leaves like these. The big trees in the graveyard at Our Lady of Mercy.
She decided not to say anything, but this little clue gave her more ammunition against Dr. Buckles. As far as she knew, he was the only one who'd been into the graveyard recently, so it would stand to reason he'd been the one to track in the leaves. Suspicion reared again with a steady, affirmative feeling deep in her gut.
It seemed the walked forever. She wondered if they were ever going to see the end of this second tunnel.
They'd walked for several minutes, and with a slow, dawning certainty, she suspected where they were headed. But she wanted Dr. Buckles opinion. "Dr. Buckles, do you have any idea where this is leading?"
He continued, not even turning to look at her. "You know as well as I do, Agent Scully. Into the catacombs under Our Lady of Mercy. She chose to ignore his macabre statement, and moved onward. The darkness was damp and chill against Scully's skin, and as she walked she looked about the long tunnel. Wooden supports held up the dirt walls, but occasional smatterings of dust rained down from the ceiling. She wondered if she'd perhaps done the stupidest thing in her life following Dr. Buckles into the cellar and into the possibly unstable tunnel. Compelled, however, by the possibility of saving Lynna and Arnie, she plunged onward.
They walked and walked until once again they reached a wooden door, very much like the one they'd passed through several minutes ago. After opening it, they stepped in cautiously. For a moment Scully wondered if this wasn't one of those bad dreams where you raced through tunnel after tunnel and never reached the end.
As she shown her flashlight around, however, she saw that it wasn't that particular dream. In fact, they were in a fairly small chamber, hewn directly out of rock, its walls uneven and craggy.
Suddenly, without warning, the feeling hit hard. No warning. No time.
Worming its way across her nerves, the terror gripped her like a mouse trap. Her hands began to shake. "Dr. Buckles."
He turned toward her. "I feel it, too."
Her breath stuck somewhere in her throat and refused to come out. Full fledged panic. She turned to run, but before she could take a step further, Dr. Buckle's snatched at her, trying to bring her back. She slipped on the uneven stones, and went down hard.
Blackness descended, a finality that she welcomed deep in her soul.
Tad stood at the front door, his feet moving restively as he watched Mulder approach.
"Is your mother in her office?"
Tad put down his pencil and tried to give Mulder a very unconcerned look. "Yeah. Why?"
"I need to talk with her."
"I think she's real busy."
"I need to see her immediately. Have you also seen Gerald Munson around anywhere?"
Tad gritted his teeth. Hell, if Mulder went up there now...Tad threw the pencil he'd been holding down on the blotter in front of him. What the hey? Mulder might get the shock of his life, but it would deserve his mother right-
"Have you seen Munson?" Mulder repeated, looking a bit irritated.
"Uh, yeah. But it's been awhile. He's not set to take over for me until twelve."
"Thanks. I'll talk to your mother first."
Tad watched Mulder advance to the second floor, and he bit his lip. The shit was really going to hit the fan now.
An icy knife to the soul.
Destroyer of sanity.
Scully fought her way up from the darkness, suffocating on the despair and gloom that surrounded her. Her head pounded, and it would be so easy to sink back into the darkness and rest. But she had the feeling that remaining in the soft, cottony nesting place called unconsciousness was where the real demons resided. Her only hope was to wake up. Wake up.
Stay. Stay. Stay.
She wanted to. Maybe a few more moments...
But someone was prodding her awake. Demanding it. Cajoling her with firm insistence. She heard the voice, quiet and gentle, and the feel of strong arms around her. She could sense that her head was using a well muscled chest for a pillow, and that two strong arms were around her. She smiled. "Mulder?"
"No, it's Dr. Buckles. Come on, wake up. You're vulnerable in this state. You've got to fight the evil. Come into the light."
She jerked into full consciousness, and yanked out of Dr. Buckles' arms. She scrambled away from him, scuttling back like a spider. She reached for her gun and pointed it at him. "Don't touch me."
He rose to his feet, holding his hands up in supplication. "It's all right."
"You pushed me."
"You tripped, Agent Scully. I was afraid you'd slipped into a coma. I checked your pupils and they were fine. But you may still have a concussion."
As a doctor, she recognized the signs of concussion, but wasn't positive she had one. Although her head hurt, she wasn't really dizzy, and she had no memory loss. "I'm fine."
She glanced around the room and realized that the fear she'd felt before she'd attempted to run away was boiling on the surface ready to go out of control once again. She took a deep steadying breath.
Dr. Buckles actually smiled. "Are you going to hold that gun on me forever, or are you going to shoot me?"
"I won't shoot you unless you give me a reason. Now turn around-"
"Agent Scully this is ridiculous. Why are you doing this?"
Why was she? She closed her eyes for a second, then dragged them open, realizing that she had no reason to suspect him. The phobic reaction had made her paranoid. She looked about the dark walls, the only light coming from her flashlight which he'd set on the lone table in the room.
"If I'd wanted to harm you, Agent Scully, I could have taken your gun while you were unconscious. Right?"
He was right. He'd been holding her in his arms when she regained consciousness. Hardly the action of someone who wanted to harm her. She nodded and slowly lowered her gun, then put it away.
He sighed. "Thank you."
She perused the room more closely. Retrieving her flashlight, she pointed it around the room, trying to get a better feeling for what she was up against. "Where are we?"
"The Twilight Zone," Dr. Buckles said.
For a moment he almost sounded like Mulder, and she wondered if an urbane sense of humor was a common trait for people interested in things that went bump in the night.
"Wait," he said. "Shine the light on the ceiling." He reached for her arm and aimed it up at a certain point. "Right there."
As the light fell on a spot high on the ceiling to the left of the chamber's entrance, she sucked in a deep breath. The point of light illuminated a large rectangle of stone, the only smooth surface on the ceiling. And at one end of the rectangle was a tome. Just like the one in Our Lady of Mercy.
The noises were not unlike someone begging for mercy.
A grunt, a groan, then another groan.
Mulder paused at the doorway of Anita's bedroom office. As he reached for the door knob he heard something that should have given him a clue.
"Oh, babe, yeah. I like that."
But it was too late. He'd gripped the doorknob and was already opening the door before his brain caught up with his actions. Mulder would remember the sight that greeted him when he opened the door to Anita's office for the rest of his life.
His mouth dropped open.
So did Anita's.
Two people occupied the single, spindly chair in the office.
For several seconds nobody moved. Anita was sitting on Gerald's lap, her long skirt hiked up, her legs wrapped around Gerald's girth. Her hair was disheveled, her face flushed.
It took about two seconds more for Mulder to realize what he was seeing. Gerald took that opportunity to turn his head and spy Mulder at the door. Gerald let out a squawk that sounded somewhere between a frog's croak and a crow's caw. He stood up, and before Mulder could say Mea Culpa, Gerald rushed toward the open doorway across the room with his pants barely clinging to his backside and Anita's legs still around him. The door slammed behind Gerald.
Mulder wasn't sure whether to back out of the room with what was left of his composure, or to burst out in totally unprofessional, gut wrenching laughter. He heard mumbling and arguing coming from the other room, then several seconds later, Gerald opened the door and came back into the room, Anita trailing behind. Her long skirts were back down to floor length, but her collar was still unbuttoned. Gerald's hair...what there was of it...stood up on his head like he'd been shocked by electricity.
"Agent Mulder," Anita said, wringing her hands like a true Victorian miss. "We...uh...Gerald and I have something to tell you."
Gerald gave her a cross look. "It wasn't what it looked liked."
Mulder hadn't seen anything that looked more like "it" in a long time. "She had an eyelash in her eye and you were helping her remove it."
Gerald and Anita's mouths dropped open again in stunned silence.
Mulder, deadpan, pulled out the chair Anita and Gerald had been sitting on earlier and deposited himself there. He crossed his arms. "Have a seat. I think this is going to take a little time to explain."
They complied, both looking more embarrassed than anyone Mulder had seen in a long time. Slowly, haltingly, they told Mulder they'd been having an affair for a couple of months. Some of the pieces began to fall into place. It also explained why both Anita and Gerald had acted so nervous during their interviews.
"I...was here, in Anita's room, when I was supposed to be downstairs the night the children disappeared," Gerald said, knotting the front tail of his wrinkled shirt in his hand.
"So you don't get sick when you hear the groaning sounds coming from the cellar?" Mulder asked.
Gerald shook his head. "No."
"And you knew you couldn't admit that you'd been upstairs in Anita's office conducting...business or we would have found out about your affair."
Gerald nodded, as did Anita, their heads bobbing like the little doggy in the window. Anita held her hands up like she was praying. "Please Agent Mulder. You can't tell anyone. It would be a disgrace. Lord knows Horace is made enough about what's happened, what with the children disappearing, too. And he's been making horrible accusations about Tad."
Mulder looked to heaven, then back at the rumpled pair. "The FBI is not into marital counseling. What you do in chairs after hours...or during hours, is your own business. I have questions about your employment with Our Lady of Mercy, Gerald."
Gerald shrugged. "What do you want to know?"
"Did you ever experience anything unusual or strange while you were working there?"
Gerald shrugged again. "No. But I only worked there a month. How did you know I worked there?"
"I have my sources."
Anita put her head in her hands. "God, this is so embarrassing."
Mulder shifted in his chair so that he leaned toward the couple who sat side by side on the couch. "Gerald, do you know anything about the rectangular stone that's set at an angle to the rest of the flooring in the cathedral?"
Gerald shook his head and threw up his hands. "I don't know diddly about a rectangle stone. Like I said I worked there for a month doing the books. I have a little accounting experience. But they uh..."
"Caught you doing a little creative accounting?"
Gerald looked sideways at Anita. "Come on Agent Mulder, I know you know. So you might as well spit it out. Everything is ruined now anyway."
Raising his eyebrows Mulder leaned forward a little farther. "What?"
"Sister Maude. They caught me with her--"
Anita shoved at him, practically knocking him off the couch. "Why you dirty, two timing bastard!"
Gerald stood up. "That was way before I met you."
"You're fired!" she shrieked, standing up and pointing toward the door. "Get out!"
Gerald looked at Mulder, and Mulder nodded. "Don't leave town."
Gerald was out the door before Anita could even sink back into her chair. "Oh, God."
Still withholding a smile, Mulder stood up. "Anita, you said something about Horace. Does Horace talk to you?"
She nodded. "Yes. Sometimes. He's been making an awful stink about the way I've been carrying on with Gerald."
She rain her hands across the top of her hair and buttoned her collar. "Why, making that horrible racket in the cellar, of course."
"And do you think Horace is the one who took the children?"
Her eyes widened to the size of sand dollars. "Good heavens, no! Horace loved kids. Dotted on Tad, even though we've had a lot of trouble with him. Anyway, I just know he thinks it's horrible that I'm having this affair...HAD this affair with Gerald."
"Horace or Tad?"
"Horace, of course. Tad doesn't know."
Mulder was beginning to get a very creepy feeling he didn't like. "What has Horace been telling you about Tad?"
Any attempt to keep her face stony and reserved seemed to dissolve. She began to cry. Mulder offered her a tissue and she took it, blowing her nose loudly. "He's been telling me, in my dreams, that Tad took the children. That he's been using the forces of darkness to harm people. But that's ridiculous. I told Horace I didn't believe him."
Mulder's blood ran cold once again. "What did he do with them?"
She looked up from the rumbled tissue in her hands, her expression aghast. "You don't think my boy would do anything to hurt those children?"
Mulder stood up and moved swiftly to the door. He was getting a really bad feeling about this. "Anita, what does your son study?"
She looked perplexed for a moment. "What has that got to do with anything?"
"What's he studying? What subject?"
"I think he's in ancient religions right now."
Before she'd even finished the sentence, Mulder was out the door.
"What's this?" Dr. Buckles asked, looking at a dusty book that lay on the table. He reached for it slowly, as if afraid to touch. Old leather, with a single buckle close, it looked as it would completely degenerate to powder were he to touch the dusty cover.
He opened it slowly. Methodically, and with excruciating slowness, they thumbed through the tome. The words were in English, but the language was still old enough to make it a slower read.
Dr. Buckles stopped at one page. "It's some sort of incantation book."
"Incantations for what?"
He looked at one that had something to do with the transfer of evil. "To...send people through the hole." His hands trembled, and he looked at the blocked whole above his head. "A way to transfer one source of energy to another place."
"No. They would never do anything to harm anyone on purpose. It goes against all they stand for." He turned another page. "Wait. Here's something--"
A light bounced down the corridor toward Scully, and she looked down the narrow length of the tunnel.
"Who is it?" Dr. Buckles asked.
"I'm not sure. Maybe it's Mulder." She hoped that it was. She could use his brand of steady resolve right about now.
Several moments later a dark figure came into view. Scully backed away from the door slightly. The figure wasn't as tall as Mulder, although the darkness and the bouncing ray of the flash light made it difficult to gauge height and distance.
It came, then. The feeling she'd encountered in the cellar the first time she'd descended into its blackness.
Unadulterated terror. Seizing her throat, it threatened to strangle her, and the urge to bolt, to run past the advancing figure was virtually oppressive. She froze.
"Agent Scully." Dr. Buckles reached for her, gripping her arm, and she knew she'd have bruises from the imprint of his fingers. "It's him. You've got to snap out of it. The evil is here. You've seen him before. Fight it. Fight it or your life is forfeit, and maybe even your soul."
Somehow she managed to look at Dr. Buckles, and the he released her arm. His brows were drawn together in agitation or some equally powerful emotion. "I don't know if I can."
His gaze gentled, like that of a parent or an angel, bent on helping her through a tough situation. "You have to. For both of our lives. For my children. Somehow, in this room, is the key to my children's disappearance. And probably those other poor souls whose headstones we looked at in the cemetery."
Before she could reply, the figure reached the door. "Back away from the door."
Tad. Instinctively Scully drew her gun again.
Tad came into view, and Scully kept her gun down at her side, at the ready but not in a threatening position. No need to antagonize right off. She hoped she wouldn't need it.
"Agent Scully," Tad said as he came into the chamber. "There you are. Agent Mulder is worried about you. I told him I would look for you."
Alarm bells went off in Scully's head. If Mulder had been worried, he would have come looking for her himself. "I see. Is something wrong?"
Tad looked at Dr. Buckles and shrugged. "He said he'd found something out about Gerald that he wanted to discuss with you."
For a few moments she worried about Mulder. If Tad was perpetrating something nefarious, he might have done something with Mulder.
"This is an interesting room, Tad," she said, letting the beam of her flash light bounce along the walls of the barren room. "Look what we found."
As she directed the beam of her flash light to the rectangle of rock above on the high ceiling, she heard rather than saw his advancing footsteps.
Dr. Buckles stepped out of the shadows, and Tad flinched, almost as if he hadn't seen the larger man. "Now that you're here, Tad...or is there another name for you...maybe you can tell us what this room is all about."
Stopping in his tracks, Tad stared at him for a moment, as if he didn't know what to say. "I don't know what you mean."
"I think you do." Dr. Buckles made another step toward the younger man, and Tad stepped back slightly until he was almost at the entrance.
"I've felt it since before you came in the room, Tad. You're the one."
Scully took a close look at Tad's eyes and realized they were like the coals of a huge fire, searing hot and furious. "Tad, do you know where the children have gone?"
He grinned, but in the proverbial way, the mirth never reached either his lips or his eyes. "Mom told me all the little children in the graveyard went to hell."
Scully felt a ripple of unease gather in her skin, making her hair stand on end.
"What?" Dr. Buckles asked.
Tad advanced toward Scully again, and she gripped her gun, waiting until she was absolutely sure he meant to threaten her before she leveled her weapon on him. But he stopped, still a fair distance from her.
"What did your mother tell you, Tad?" Dr. Buckles said, putting his recorder on the single table in the room.
Tad brushed his hair away from his face and smiled again. "That's where all bad little children go. And bad little children get sent into the basement as punishment. If they don't watch out, they go to hell."
"What has the basement to do with the children in the graveyard?" Dr. Buckles asked, moving closer to Scully's side. Unaccountably, she no longer feared him. She knew the problem was standing right in front of her.
Tad shrugged. "It should be obvious. They were bad boys and girls. And when they were bad, they were taken by those that knew they needed punishment."
"Who is they?" Dr. Buckles asked.
At first she wasn't sure Tad was going to answer, and thought about the various ways she could apprehend him without getting either herself or Dr. Buckles killed. Since she had the gun, she should have an advantage, but with the depravity she felt penetrating the room, she had a feeling it wouldn't be that easy.
"Those that have the book," Tad responded, sneering. "Look, I'm not telling you any more. Just give me the gun." He reached for Scully, but she leveled the weapon at him.
"Don't do it," she demanded, looking directly into those glittering red eyes. She didn't have time to wonder if the color of his eyes was a trick of the light. "Come any closer and you're dead. Now tell us what you did with Arnie and Lynna Buckles."
Tad backed away a step. "I didn't do anything with them. I told you. The evil takes them away where they belong."
"Are you the evil, Tad?" Dr. Buckles asked.
"When I am here I am the evil. Just as you would be if you were not weak vessels. Evil never sustains long in those who are too good."
All Scully's Catholic background tumbled forth at that moment, and it sustained her against the threat, against that which was horrible in this cellar. If God was with her...if she was indeed good, then she could triumph over whatever was deviant and rancorous in this young man's psyche. Whether his beliefs belonged in the world of the supernatural at this point didn't matter. What did matter was getting him back up to the surface...to the light.
"I thought evil fed on the weakness of other's," Dr. Buckles shifted slightly, and for a panic filled moment she wondered if he was going to be crazy enough to try something.
"Demons devour the weak, but true evil, in its purest form, must consume the innocent of heat."
Scully thought she heard Dr. Buckles suck in a startled breath. "Children. This evil preys on children."
Tad nodded. "Essentially, yes. For a hundred years it has fed."
"Every twenty years," Scully said involuntarily.
Tad nodded again.
"My children. Where are they?" Dr. Buckles whispered, the torture lacing through his voice like a dagger.
Tad looked at the ceiling above Scully's head. "Drained by the evil. Taken."
"Did you kill the children?" Scully asked.
He shook his head. "There is no need. It's not written for me to do."
"Written?" she asked.
"The book of the Evil One. Passed down these many years."
Dr. Buckles stiffened, the anger within his glare palpable. "Then you are the catalyst. This evil could not exist, could not feed if you weren't willing to do it's bidding. Everyone who has owned this house over the years has had a catalyst within it."
Silently Tad nodded again.
"How do we get my children back from the evil?" Dr. Buckles asked. "There is no escape."
Suddenly Tad lunged, and Scully moved to the side. Tad fell to the ground as she moved away, landing where she'd been standing seconds before. She leveled her gun again. "Don't move or I may have to shoot."
He lay still for a moment, and then his eyes widened as he looked at the ceiling.
Scully looked toward the rectangle on the ceiling. Good Lord. Was it actually beginning to glow?
At that moment footsteps rattled down the long corridor, and she hoped it was Mulder this time. "Mulder!"
Several seconds Mulder came in the room, his breath quick from the jog down the long corridor. He stopped next to Scully, clutching his gun and flash light. "You okay?"
She nodded. "Tad was just about to tell us where Dr. Buckles' children are."
Dr. Buckles quickly grabbed the book from the table and opened it to the page he'd been looking at before. "This is the key, Agent Scully. If I recite these words my children will come back to me."
She wondered if the strain of what had happened over the last few days wasn't loosening a cog or two in his brain. "Dr. Buckles-"
"It will, won't it, Tad?" he asked the prone man. "Tad, I know that you're in there somewhere damn it. Fight the evil and come back to us. Tell me how I can get my children back."
Eyes still glowing with ethereal light, the young man sat up. Scully kept her gun steady in case he decided to make another move. "Move again and I'll have no compunction about putting a bullet in you. Tell Dr. Buckles where his children are."
"A trade," Tad said automatically, like a robot, looking from Scully, to Mulder. The red light in his eyes flickered, like a slowly dying flame, and for a moment Scully saw his true eyes transformed, brought back to life. "A sacrifice must be made."
A light of comprehension seemed to dawn in Dr. Buckles eyes. "What page, Tad?"
Tad shook his head. "A sacrifice must be made. I'll do it...God help me, I'll do it," he whispered, the words hard and broken. He raised his arms to the ceiling as if holding his palms for drops of rain. Then he began to speak.
Scully recognized the words as Latin, but understood only parts of it as he whispered.
Suddenly, a shaft of light came from the rectangle above, showering the young man with a blinding light. Shrinking back, Scully, Mulder, and Dr. Buckles shielded their eyes. Mulder reached out for Scully and pushed her behind him.
Instantly the light vanished. They looked back.
Lying on the floor where Tad had been moments before were two children.
Manderley Bed and Breakfast
Blue and red lights flashed continually, bouncing off the surrounding area in front of Manderley Bread and Breakfast. Dr. Buckles thought it was a surreal scene. Anita Carruthers stood at the front door of the B & B, her wails intruding on the night air as the officers that stood next to her tried to calm her.
His heart went out to the woman who had lost her son, but there were other things more important on his mind right now. As his children were loaded into a waiting ambulance, he hesitated before getting inside the vehicle. Mulder and Scully were walking toward him. Arnie reached for his dad's hand.
"Dad, where are you going?"
"Don't leave us, Daddy," Lynna wailed, her bottom lip trembling, and the threat of more tears trembling on her eyelids. He'd barely got her to stop crying since she'd woken on the cold stone floor of the cellar. He squeezed their hands.
"Don't worry, kids. I just need to talk to the agents. I'll be right here."
"I don't ever wanna go in a cellar again daddy," Lynna whispered. She looked at her brother reproachfully, and he looked down.
"Me neither, Dad."
He smiled at his children ruefully, realizing they were all in for tough times ahead. All he cared about right now, however, was that he had his children back safe and sound. Everything else was relegated to the category of unimportant. They'd take one day at a time.
As Mulder and Scully arrived in front of him, he smiled. "Thank you, both of you, for helping me and my children." He gave Scully a weary smile. "Especially you, Agent Scully. I couldn't have done it without you."
Scully thought the praise was extreme, and as the sincerity of his gaze traced her face, she smiled back. "We were happy to help."
Dr. Buckles spied Anita Carruthers standing at the doorway to the B & B. He nodded toward her. "I know what she must be feeling. She's lost her child."
With that he turned and climbed into the ambulance. When the ambulance sped off, Mulder looked down at Scully. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." She knew she wasn't. In some small, simple way this case had altered her, as every one before it had as well. She'd seen many strange things first hand. But she'd never experienced anything as bazaar as those few seconds when Tad had clung to what was good and pure within himself and had sacrificed his body to some unearthly force they might never understand.
Mulder took her arm as they headed toward the car. "You know we can't tell Skinner what really happened here. He'd never believe it."
"We'll tell him the truth, Mulder." She stopped and turned toward him. A fine mist descended from the foggy air, lending a surreal look to the surrounding area. She glanced at the front door, but Anita had already disappeared inside. "Tad was the children's kidnapper."
He nodded. "In an essence he was. I'm doing one better, however."
"I took the book from the cellar. I figure if it's gone no unsuspecting soul can use it to steal anymore children."
He put his hand up. "I wasn't going to leave it there. Anita says she's going to have the tunnel sealed."
"But you don't trust her."
"No." They continued on to the car.
"Do you like Dr. Buckles?"
"Yes. He's a very nice man. A little strange. But nice."
She glared at him. "What are thinking, Mulder?"
"Nothing. He just doesn't seem like the right type for you."
She relaxed, deciding in that moment that getting mad at him wasn't going to get her anywhere. It rarely did. "And I suppose you know what type is suitable for me?"
He shrugged. "Well, certainly not somebody like Goober back in D.C."
Once they were inside and started the engine, he sighed. "I know one television program I'll never be able to watch without thinking of this case."
"Gives a whole new meaning to the words beam me up, Scotty."
"You're sick, Mulder."
Agent Dana Scully's Journal Entry
Dr. Buckles called me today to let me know that Arnie and Lynna are doing well. He told me they recall wandering about Manderely for those days while they were in the "ether," unable to draw attention or communicate with anyone. While they were in this state they met many other children in the house, all of them named Arnie and Lynna. Nothing in my experience can explain for their strange nightmares, if were indeed nightmares. Outwardly they appear healthy, and as happy as can be expected for children who have suffered so much trauma in a short time.
Mulder is investigating the tome we discovered in the cellar, and he's been pouring over it for days. Analysis shows the book is over two hundred years old. If what happened to Arnie and Lynna Buckles is to be believed, then the other children who were sacrificed in the past by the prior owners of Manderley were taken from this earth, forever to wander the darkness and shadows that make up the world between darkness and light. There are still so many mysteries to this case, that I doubt Mulder and I will ever be able to solve.
Apparently Anita Carruthers is slowly recovering from the devastating revelations brought to light that fateful day at Manderley. Gerald Munson has not returned to Manderley.
As for what I believe...it's unlikely that I will ever understand what happened to me at Manderley, or the unique terror I felt there. I can only hope my phobic reaction, if indeed that was what it was...never returns.
As for Mulder...he is careful to never read any of the incantations out loud. THE END
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