Title: Haunted House
Note: In the Halloween spirit...a Halloween tale.
Summary: Mulder and Scully find themselves taking shelter from a storm in a storybook haunted house.
It was coming down in continuous surging sheets, as if there were men stage left whose only job was to throw barrelfuls of water at the car. She could just picture them, working in tandem..making sure that there was no respite..no gap through which she might actually be able to make out the road that she hoped was still beneath the car.
The storm had come out of nowhere, just when she had started to think that she was making pretty good time..tired as she was.
A glimpse, a sparkle of reflected light on yellow...the center line. And then it was gone again, washed away, washed back into the gray, watery darkness of the storm...leaving her to peer furtively through the sweeping wipers, anxious for another flash.
"Find somewhere to pull over.." he said, his voice startling her. She had thought him asleep, certainly he was tired enough from three straight days awake with perhaps only 4 or so hours of catnapping under his belt. She felt no sympathy..only an unfair resentment that he'd slept while all the muscles in her neck were bunching up in tension.
"I wish I'd thought of that. Thanks Mulder, what a relief it is to have you around." she said, her voice tight with tension as she fought yet again to keep the car from hydroplaning off the road into the formless dark beyond the pavement.
"Where are we?" he blithely ignored the sarcasm , sitting up and reaching down to dig through the glove compartment of the rental. The tiny light of the small nook lit the planes of his face, displaying a weariness that made her regret her sharp words.
"I don't know. We've been driving for hours now and its entirely likely that I've missed the sign for Rte 98. I can barely see anything in this .." she unclasped one hand from it's place on the wheel to gesture out the window. "I would have pulled over, but I can't see the shoulder..and I really don't want to get stuck in the mud."
Peering out the side window, he caught a quick eyeful of a ditch rushing with night-black waters.
"Good call" he said, then bent back to the AAA Guide To Indiana, tilting it to see the tiny writing in the light of the glove box.
There were a few more moments of silence in the car while Scully steered them onward through what had to be the next Great Flood. Suddenly she hit the brakes, sending the car into a squealing fishtail on the soaked asphalt. Mulder braced his hands on the dash, the AAA book falling from his hands...and then they were stopped. The rain pounded down on the roof of the car like continuous thunder, the squeak of the windshield wipers beat out a rhythm in the loud silence and the headlights shone upon a ..mailbox.
"You have got to be kidding me," Scully said, looking up at the massive double doors they stood in front of, trying to curtail the violent shudders that were wracking her slender frame. Her suit was soaked through, her hair plastered to her scalp, mud forming soggy squelching boots over her pumps up to her ankles. Mulder fared little better, although she was certain that when it came to looking like a drowned rat, he pulled it off better than she did. At least he didn't have mascara forming dark circles under his eyes.
The Oldsmobile had been unable to make it all the way up the drive before getting stuck in the mud. Opting to make a run for it, Mulder had pulled their only umbrella out and they'd crouched under it's thin ineffectual shelter as they ran up the road.
One thing to remember, she thought wryly as she wrung water out of her hair, umbrellas really don't work that well when the rain is falling sideways.
Now they stood on a dilapidated covered porch staring at boarded up windows and weathered, be-cobwebed wood siding. The door knocker was an enormous brass gargoyle's head.
Lightning exposed the wide, rolling empty hills in a brilliant strobe flash. An instant later, thunder shook the house, rattling the shutters.
"If a guy with a black cape opens that door, I take my chances in the rain," Mulder said reaching up to struggle with the knocker. Scully shook her head and walked to the edge of the porch..pulling her cell phone out of her inside pocket. Staring out at the rain, she flinched as a horrific concussion of thunder suddenly boomed directly overhead. Lightning sizzled out of the sky and struck a telephone pole not 100 yards away in a shower of sparks and flame.
Jesus. She tucked her phone back into her coat..there was no way her cell phone was working in this. Ozone and electricity hung in the air like the reek of bad perfume. Another crash, less earsplitting but just as echoing from behind her alerted her that Mulder had successfully lifted the door knocker.
"It doesn't look like anyone lives here.." she said, coming to his side, using his tall frame as a wind shield of sorts.
After a long silent moment in which the only sounds were the pounding of the rain and the howling of the wind, Mulder managed to lift the knocker for a second time. Both of them heard it echoing through the house even with the din of the downpour at their backs.
Another span of time passed. Scully shivered,tucking her cold fingers under her arms and wishing she had not left her overcoat in the trunk. A minute more. She felt a heavy, wet warmth settle over her shoulders as Mulder draped his coat on her. Soaked as it was, it cut the wind and it smelled comfortingly of her partner. She huddled into it and let her eyes thank him.
"Maybe I should go around back and see if I can find a way in.." Mulder mused,turning and staring almost thoughtfully at the sheeting rain as if determining if it was possible to run between the drops.
The door chose that moment to creak open.
Both agents exchanged glances, Mulder's lips half-parted as if on the verge of making a wry comment...and then a bony hand curled around the door and pulled it inwards. They found themselves facing a tall, impossibly skinny woman with a sharp creased face..grey hair pulled tightly back away from her temples. She held a candelabra in her reedy fingers and a black dress with a white starched collar draped her whip thin body.
A candelabra. A black dress. Scully dared not look at Mulder..knowing his face would be priceless.
"What do you want?" The voice was reedy and sharp.
"We've been caught in the storm and we got stuck on your driveway. Is there any way we can stay here for the night? We'd be glad to pay you," he said, turning on the Fox Mulder charm..such as it was.
Scully didn't think this particular woman was going to be melting under that mossy green gaze.
The woman's lips thinned further...any more and they would disappear.
"Absolutely not." and she shut the door in their faces.
The pair exchanged astonished glances. Another crash of thunder split the night in half. Mulder raised an eyebrow at Scully's renewed shivering and lifted the knocker for another crack at the door. This time, the ghoulish woman was a bit quicker about opening the massive portal.
"I said no-" she was cut off by Mulder's FBI badge shoved into her face.
"I'm sorry mam', can we try that again? My partner and I.." Scully took her cue to flash her own ID, "got stuck in the mud, and we'd love a place to stay tonight. We won't be any trouble, I assure you."
The woman stared at the badge for a long time. Scully felt the added wetness of Mulder's overcoat starting to seep down through her already wet suit. Suddenly the woman withdrew into the house like a fading specter, leaving the door open this time.
Another set of exchanged glances and they were gratefully stepping in out of the wind.
Or maybe not so gratefully, Scully thought as soon as the door boomed shut behind them.
They stood in an enormous foyer. Set back in the room, a massive staircase climbed up into the darkness of the second floor, the banister covered with thick cobwebs. Hanging from the 50 foot ceiling, a monstrously ugly chandelier hovered like a filthy UFO, dust and webs trailing off of it in streamers. To the left of the stair she caught a glimpse of furniture covered with white sheets..hallways gaped like black maws here and there and imperious oil paintings hung on the wainscoted walls, crowding the room with their dusty gazes.
The woman spun on them, fixing them with an unreadable glance. Was that fear or hate she thought she saw lurking in those black eyes?
"I'll be blunt. I don't want you here. I like my privacy. As soon as it's light I want you gone."
That said, she turned and seemed to float up the staircase, the candelabra leaving trailing streamers of light and smoke in the darkness. She found herself walking behind Mulder as they climbed up the stairs, irrationally feeling the eyes of all the paintings following them as they moved into the murk of the second floor.
The hallway was long...long with at least 4 doors on each side and one at the end. The candelabra stopped at the third door on the right. The portal creaked and moaned like a dying animal as the unnamed woman pushed inside. Another wordless communication passed between her and her partner and it was agreed that she would take this room. She dropped her bag on the floor gratefully. The woman stared at her for a long moment and then turned, leading Mulder out.
"The bathroom is at the end of the hall. Remember what I said. Stay in your rooms."
"Thank you..." she paused, waiting.
"My name is Mrs. Hallery." The voice was flat.
"Thank you Mrs. Hallery. We won't be any trouble," Scully said coolly.
She received a long look that had that same flavoring of fear/hate in it as before..like a lacing of oil on top of water. She bent the candelabra toward a slender wick on the table by the door, leaving Dana light.
And then she was gone, Mulder wiggling his eyebrows at her behind the woman's back as he followed her. She stifled a chuckle and gratefully kicked her muddy shoes off, looking around her room.
This place was not for real. She grinned.
The center of the room was dominated by an enormous four poster bed, the comforter glowing with an unhealthy blood red that seemed to glisten in the candlelight. The heavy drapes were the same deep red and she walked over to them to peer out. She was afforded a view of boarded up windows. Outside, thunder boomed again, shaking the boards. It reminded her to be grateful she wasn't sleeping in the Oldsmobile.
Dark mahogany furniture graced the large room and she threw her soaked coat onto a gruesome chaise done up in the same red velvet. A mirror, thickly coated with dust reflected her pale skin as she peeled out of her wet clothes, quickly pulling on a dry sweatshirt and boxers. Taking up her bathroom bag and juggling the candle that Mrs. Hallery had left by the door, she padded down the cold floorboards towards the bathroom, pausing in the open doorway of Mulder's bedroom to marvel at the decor there.
Same heavy, dark furniture, only his was a deep emerald green. Lovely. But definitely better than red.
He was facing away from her, his hands on his hips in his customary posture as he surveyed his room much in the same manner as she had. He seemed to feel her eyes on him and he turned to look at her, smiling crookedly.
"You know Scully..if we meet up with a mysterious old caretaker.."
She laughed softly.
"At least we're dry. I'm sure this place will look a little less like a stereotype in the morning. Hopefully the rain will have stopped by then and we can get out of here."
He came towards her, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"Does this house give you the 'creeps' Scully?" he asked, standing in front of her and sliding his hands up her arms, rubbing gently through the worn sweatshirt.
She smiled and nodded languidly, enjoying the fiery thrill his touch always brought her...sparking a heavy warmth in her belly.
"I don't think I should sleep alone tonight." she murmured matter-of-factly, looking up into his handsome face. "Who knows what sort of ghosts inhabit this house?"
His arms slid around her and she pressed her face into his throat.
"Probably the kind with chains," he said, his voice rumbling under her cheek.
"What's with that, anyway?" she asked, leaning back to look into his hazel eyes, mischief glittering in her own. "Why do ghosts always wander around with chains on? What about the expression, 'quiet as a ghost'?"
He grinned down at her, his hands coming up between them to loosen the travel-stained tie he wore.
"I think it stems from 'A Christmas Carol'." he said. "Remember, the first ghost that visited him was dragging chains..chains of the past, I think it was." After his tie hung loose, he let his hands smooth her silky red hair back from her face. "Besides, I think the expression is
"Picky" she pursed her lips, turning away from him. "I'll be back."
"Good luck." he called after her. "If you hear any voices telling you to "geeettt owwwwwtt", let me know."
"The voice better be accompanied by the house falling down, because that's the only thing getting me back out into that storm." she smirked over her shoulder.
Scully made her way to the door at the end of the hall, taking care not to let the candle blow out in the chilly, drafty hall. There were some very real advantages to sleeping with your partner, she thought. One being that she would most certainly not be cold tonight.
She pushed open the door into the surprisingly large bathroom. Shadows danced and leaped around her as the candle flittered and twisted in the draft, but she could see a huge claw-footed bathtub in the corner, gilt glittering in the flickering light off the fixtures. Intricate mosaic tile-work pulsed in patterns around her as she set her things on the counter next to the sink. She bent down to turn on the faucet. Nothing happened.
Then a rattle. Pipes groaned and protested in rusty appeals and then a thin trickle of water burbled out of the faucet. She cupped her hands under the stream and splashed it onto her cheeks, washing the remains of her makeup off. Her hair was starting to dry in long scraggly strands around her oval face and since a shower was not an option, she ran her hairbrush through the red strands until they gleamed in the candlelight. Pulling her toothbrush out she leaned back over the sink to wet the bristles and froze.
Blood was coming out of the faucet.
She stared at it for a long moment, her mouth twitching. Leaning closer to it, she ran a finger through the thick stream and brought the red finger up to her face, bringing the candle closer. A sniff.
Definitely blood then. It was warm...it would have to be to run through the pipes like that. She glanced around momentarily, looking for something to take a sample with. After a moment's debate between dismissal and curiosity, she pulled the lid off one of her eyeshadow cases and scooped the blood into it. A second later the water ran pink and then clear again.
She eyed it warily for a moment and then, shrugging, she finished brushing her teeth.
Mulder was peeking behind the large dusty bookshelf in his green bedroom when she walked in. His shirt hung unbuttoned from his shoulders, his legs bare but for his boxers and his socks.
"What are you looking for?" she asked nonchalantly, carrying the small blood sample in one hand, the candle in the other.
His head pulled out of the cramped space, cobwebs hanging from his dark hair.
"You won't believe this, but I think I hear moaning behind the wall." his eyes were alight with amusement.
"Yeah? I think I've got one better on you." she said, placing the small plastic container on the dresser and putting her hands on her hips. "The faucet was running blood."
"Really?" He was like a kid in a candy store. She couldn't refrain from grinning.
"Its all too true. I think we've slipped somewhere and fallen into a bad episode of Hart To Hart." She set her candle by the head of the bed and clambered into the center of the hideous green velvet...stretching out on her stomach and propping her chin into her hands, watching the quivering light play on the hard planes of his chest and belly.
"I bet this place is just full of secret passageways and dumbwaiters and spyholes cut into the eyes of the paintings.." he abandoned his search for the source of the aforementioned moaning and moved back across the room to where she sprawled on the bed.
"I refuse to let you go tiptoeing through the house with a candle." She grinned at him.
"Oh?" he said, admiring the flickering red highlights the candle flame brought out in her hair. He sat on the bed, his weight making the mattress dip towards him. She slid down the incline into him, looking up into the shadows of his face. "Don't tell me you're afraid of Mrs. Hallery?" he asked in mock astonishment.
"Nope. I'll just hide behind you when she comes after us
He leaned down to enfold her lips with his, and in the silence between them... the sound of chains dragging across the floor upstairs intruded.
Both pairs of eyes drifted upwards, their lips falling away from each other like dead petals on a flower.
"Please tell me you hear that too..." Mulder's voice was soft and full of hidden anticipation as it tickled her lips.
"I hear it too." she said. They were silent for a long moment more as the chains seemed to move from one end of the ceiling to the other. Then they stopped as suddenly as they'd started.
"I'm dying here, Scully," he said, not taking his eyes from the ceiling.
"Lets go have a look then."
They'd hunted through the dank house for several long minutes before they found anything other than empty rooms.
"This one's open.." Scully said, her voice soft. She pushed at the old brittle wood and the portal swung open with a squeal of rusty hinges.
"No staircase here.." Mulder muttered behind her. The room was one of the few without boarded up windows and a very faint light streamed through the glass, the pounding of the rain a constant noise against the panes.
"What is this?" Scully asked, her eyebrows raising as she lifted the candle higher, stepping into the center of the small chamber.
It appeared to be an old study. Photographs hung on the wall in antique frames and sheets thick with dust covered the furniture. Mulder was already moving past her, aiming for the largest of sheets in the corner. Scully made to open her mouth to stop him, but realized the futility of it before the words escaped.
He lifted the sheet up and set his candle down on the top of the desk.
"Look at this stuff Scully," he said, his voice eager. "It's got to be
Her curiosity overrode her distaste for his snooping and she moved to his side to peer at what he was holding.
An old-fashioned newspaper topped the small pile of yellowed papers that was dated August 17th 1931. It was so fragile it was crumpling in her partners hands. Underneath it they could see several other papers that looked to be just as old..deeds and old, old survey maps.
"Huh..the 17th was just a few days ago.." she remarked.
"Coincidence? I think not.." his brows waggled at her and she smiled.
"It's not *that* old Mulder.." she said as she peered more closely at the paperwork, trying to make out the tiny type. You practically had to have a magnifying glass to read this stuff. It was a wonder that people back then didn't all go blind just from reading their papers.
"Some sort of railroad documents.." she said thoughtfully. "Looks like survey plans for a new line that was to come through here."
She was interrupted by a faint sighing moan that seemed to roll through the room. It was followed closely by a distant dragging chain.
She let her eyes slide to her partner to see him grinning eagerly at her.
"Come on Scully..let's find the upstairs.." he urged her. She set the paper down and re-covered the desk, hurrying to follow him with a sigh.
It took them a while to find the narrow stairway that led up to the attic, the fluttering light of a candle was no match for their usual halogen torches. Finally, Scully tried the right door, and it swung open with a terrible squeal to reveal a dank, twisted stairwell that led up into blackness. Cobwebs hung thickly from the walls and she silently let Mulder precede her. She wasn't about to wander through who knew how many spiders.
They emerged into a huge open attic. Boxes and boxes of stuff cluttered the floor and walls. Outside a massive circular window that dominated the east wall, a huge, gnarled, dead oak clawed and scratched at the glass with black fingers.
"The sound came from directly over our room.." Mulder said softly, moving quietly along the filthy floorboards. Dana crouched down to peer at the wood, noting the total absence of footprints or scuff marks in the dust.
"Anything?" she asked a moment later, looking up towards the direction her partner had gone.
He wasn't there.
Frowning, she pushed back to her feet and walked further into the gloom of the attic.
"Mulder?" she called.
No response. She sighed. "Damnit, it's late and I'm not in the mood for jokes." Still nothing.
She felt the small of her back where she'd tucked her Sig. into the waistband of her boxers, feeling the reassuring touch of the skin-warmed metal against her palm. She brought the gun out and held it loosely at her side, advancing further into the space, holding the candle high.
She could see her partner's footprints clearly in the dust..and then they just vanished. She crouched down, running her fingers over the floorboards. She pressed down with her palm and she heard a -snick- of sound. Then a piece of floor swung soundlessly down into
"Mulder?" she called. "Are you ok?" She heard a faint groan from the darkness and a wry grin lifted the side of her mouth. She knew that groan...he wasn't hurt...bad. "Should I come down there?" she asked.
There was a moment of silence and then ..
"Jeez Scully, you gotta see this."
She sighed. How had she known he would say that?
Leaning down into the hole with the candle, she tried to make out how far it was. Perhaps 12 feet down, the pale shadow of her partner's face peered up at her.
"Can you reach the candle?" she asked, stretching the small light source down to him as far as she could go. It wasn't even close.
"Hold on.." he called. She heard a scraping, grinding sound and then, suddenly, the top of a ladder thunked against the side of the opening.
A moment later she was standing next to Mulder in a narrow, cramped passage.
"What did I tell you about the secret passageways, Scully?" She could almost feel his grin in the dark. She nodded, twisting her lips in
thought as she looked around.
"What are we doing down here? I'm tired..it's got to be around midnight."
He was silent for a long moment.
"Lets just see where this comes out," he said. "Aren't you a little interested in that?"
She was curious...but she was also exhausted. Still, there was no denying Mulder in this mood...and there was something almost
"Ok..but if Mrs. Hallery catches us in here, I'm telling her it was your idea."
His soft chuckle drifted back over his shoulder as he led the way down the passage, the candle creating huge leaping shadows on the walls.
They'd walked for about five minutes when Mulder made a little noise of something she could only describe as glee. He was working something on the wall and to Scully's amazement, he slid aside a piece of wood to reveal two eyeholes.
"Wanna bet these are cut into one of those paintings?" he grinned, peering out. "Look Scully, it's your room."
"What?" she asked, her voice rising, her brows lowering. She'd stripped naked in that room not too long ago. Taking the candle, she squatted to look in the dirt at Mulder's feet. There. A large bootprint. Mulder was looking at it too, and for the first time since they'd entered this ludicrous house, he frowned.
"There's someone else here. Mrs. Hallery never mentioned a Mr. Hallery, did she?" he asked.
"Maybe it's that mysterious old caretaker you were talking about before." she offered.
"I think I'll have a few questions for our gracious hostess in the morning." he grumbled. She only raised her eyebrows with a little smile at his obvious irritation over her lost privacy.
He turned and led the way onwards...down a narrow stair they had to turn sideways on to traverse. And then it dead-ended.
"I've watched Scooby Doo..there should be lever around here somewhere.." he muttered, running his hands up and down the splintered wood. She sighed and leaned up against the wall...and fell right through.
She looked up at him from where she lay on the floor of another room. The wall had swung open under her weight.
"I'm ok.." she grumbled, after she got her wind back. He knelt down on the floor and helped her sit up. The wall swung closed behind them soundlessly. "Where are we?"
"The kitchen pantry, I think.." he said, holding the candle up and trying to light the room. Now that they were out of the passage, they could hear the fury of the storm that was still raging outside..beating against the side of the house. He helped her to her feet and they looked back at the wall she had tumbled through. It was a pantry shelf..completely stocked with jars and bottles and cans.
"Mulder..please.." he was engrossed in finding the switch to make the wall swing out again. She let out a huff of breath and turned, walking out into the kitchen..and right into a ghost.
It stood directly in front of her...corpse pale, the half rotted skeletal figure was hazy, long bony fingers clenched and unclenched at it's sides and red baleful eyes seemed to glitter at her.
She couldn't help it. She screamed. Rationalizing her annoying reaction later, she determined the scream came about because she was simply tired and startled. The thing vanished.
Mulder came charging out of the pantry, gun in hand, only to skid into her..glancing wildly around with the guttering candle splashing wax onto his hand.
"What? What did you see?" he asked, a little breathless.
"I...I don't know." she said, a little put out that she would have to tell him she'd seen a ghost. Wasn't this usually his position?
Lightning chose that moment to flash blindingly through the un-boarded windows of the kitchen, and a door smashed open from the outside bringing a howling blast of wind and water with its motion. A large shadowed figure in a hooded rain slicker stood squared off in the opening, a shuttered lantern in one fist.
The pair stood staring speechless at the apparition and Mulder slowly lifted the gun he still held and pointed it at the silhouette.
The figure turned and secured the door behind it, cutting off the cold wet intrusion into the kitchen. The light of Mulder's candle stopped fluttering wildly and they were able to see the figure had a human face. A gray beard dripping with water took up most of the man's features, but they could see small beady eyes peeking out from under bushy eyebrows.
"Who the hell are 'you'?" asked Mulder, his eyes tracking down to the man's booted feet and then raking back up again to rest on a haggard face made moreso in the candlelight.
"I should be askin' you that question stranger. This is my kitchen." The man's voice was scratchy and worn like an old record.
"Are you...Mr. Hallery?" Mulder was frowning.
The man seemed to hesitate, his eyes flickering back and forth in..fear?
"No...my name's Boyden Kride. I'm the caretaker of this place."
The mysterious caretaker. Scully had to choke back a laugh. It ended up sounding like a cough. She could see Mulder's jaw tightening in an attempt not to join her.
"So Mrs. Hallery invited you in?" his voice sounded suspicious.
"Ummm..uh hem..yeah. We talked to her. She said we could stay the night and leave in the morning."
"I'm surprised. She shouldn't be lettin' anyone stay here. It's dangerous. It's dangerous for her too, but she's a stubborn old battle axe."
"We had to persuade her," Mulder said, straightening up and tucking his gun back into his pants. He was wearing his running sweatshirt and jeans..and like her they were both in socks. She could see the old man staring at the gun. Hmmph, let him wonder.
He'd better not have been the one peeping at her, or he'd get a chance to see her gun too.
"Why is it dangerous?" Scully asked, folding her arms and quirking an eyebrow.
"The ghost. Haven't you seen it?" his voice had dipped to a hush. Mulder glanced at her and she let her mouth curl up, her eyelids hooding.
"I saw 'something'..I'm not prepared to state that it was a ghost." she said.
"And then there's other things...odd things..this house is tainted by a dark spirit," he said, his voice almost a whisper.
She half-expected him to turn on a flashlight under his chin.
Mulder looked like he could hardly contain himself. Scully refrained from rolling her eyes. If only this old guy knew who he was talking to.
"What kind of a dark spirit?" Mulder asked.
She gave an internal sigh.
"Mulder...I'm going back to bed. Good night Mr. Kride." she turned and left without another word. Let Mulder talk shop all he wanted with the old creep..she needed some sleep.
It was dark without a candle to light the way, but she made her way back to Mulder's room easily and without apparitional incident. Lighting another candle, she took a moment to drape the trailing end of the heavy curtain over the lone portrait overlooking the bed. She didn't know if it was a peeping painting or not, but it was worth the precaution.
Satisfied, she slipped out of her clothes and crawled under the dusty green velvet of the enormous bed, gratefully sinking into the pillows...not caring that they smelled of must.
She was just drifting off to sleep when the creak of the door announced Mulder's return to the room. A faint smile crossed her face as the bed dipped and he slid under the covers with her, gathering her warm body up against his chilled one. They had been lovers long enough that the bed felt empty and vast without him. She felt his breath on the back of her neck as he placed a kiss against the soft skin behind her ear.
"Was your conversation with the 'caretaker' revealing?" she murmured sleepily.
His affirmative rumbled into her neck, tickling the hairs on her nape.
"Apparently Mrs. Hallery has lived in these parts for years. Her husband has died recently and she is trying to determine if she wants to sell the house or not. Mr. Kride was not very enlightening about much else. All he was clear on was that this house is haunted and that the 'dark spirit' that walks the halls at night is dangerous. He thinks we should leave as soon as possible."
"And did you tell him that we weren't planning on making this our vacation hideaway?" she asked, her voice soft with sleep and humor, her eyes closed.
He chuckled, his arms tightening around her in appreciation of her wit.
"I did. He just told us to 'beware the dark spirit'" Mulder's voice rose in an appropriately 'spooky' tone as he quoted the old man.
"And you think that's what I saw in the kitchen..don't you?" she yawned, languidly turning her body into his, wrapping her arms around his waist and tucking her head under his chin.
He let his hands come up around her back to rub her spine gently, his fingers moving in small stroking circles.
"That would be my guess...if I were to make such an assumption. But I'm not convinced that any of this is for real," he said.
That woke her up.
"What? Are you feeling ok?" she asked, putting one hand on his forehead. He grinned at her, nuzzling his cheek against her palm.
"Scully, I may be a believer compared to you, but I'm not entirely gullible. Doesn't this whole set up seem like...well, a set up? I feel like we've dropped into a cliche...and except for the encounter you question, we have yet to find anything that points to real ghosts."
She tilted her chin up to give him an appraising look.
"Well, well...the sky must be falling..Fox Mulder wants proof for something." she said, one side of her mouth quirked.
"Miracles can happen..." he paused as a particularly strong gust of wind rattled the shutters. The candle was still lit, she took note, casting a warm glow on the bed and creating a flickering aura around her partner's dark head. From here, tucked in Mulder's arms..warm under the covers, the room seemed a lot less overwhelmingly ugly.
"So we're in a haunted house," Scully said, resting her lips on the hollow of his throat and closing her eyes. "We've met the old woman, we've been startled by the caretaker...we've had a few visitations and the faucet dripped blood. We've explored the attic and the secret passageways...what's left?"
"A murder?" Mulder offered. "Professor Plum did it in the kitchen with a candlestick."
She laughed into his chest, letting her hands slide down the heated silk of his back to lightly cup his buttocks. A tiny tremor rippled through his body and she gloried in the small power she held over his reactions even as she curled slender fingers between his lean thighs. His breath left him in a soft rush and suddenly he was rolling, over her, on top of her...trapping her under him, dragging her arms up and away and over her head.
He grinned down at her, his mossy eyes gone dark as a moonlit forest pool, the candle flame dancing and sparkling in the limpid black centers.
"I thought you were tired.." he teased, his voice low and soft. She could feel the hard weight of his body pressing into the piloting softness of hers, the evidence of his intentions imprinting it's heat on her stomach. She wiggled deliberately beneath him, smiling up into his face.
"All this talk of you wanting proof to believe in something has startled me fully awake..."
"I'll give you something to startle you.." his voice was a low growl as he lowered his mouth to her breasts.
As they began to move together, neither of them noticed the tiny movement across the room as a book on the dusty shelf slowly moved aside and the bedside candle glittered in the depths of a watching eye.
It was a man's scream that woke her. She sat straight up, her hand reaching automatically for the bedside table where she kept her gun at home. Only she wasn't home, and there was no gun on the table.
The scream had barely died out before the pair had disentangled themselves from the twisted sheets, diving for discarded clothing in the dark. Mulder banged his shin on the bedpost and his muffled curse was interrupted by the scratch of a match being lit. Scully set the newly relit candle on the dresser, filling the room with enough light to see by.
He smiled wryly at her as he pulled his jeans up and buttoned them. She'd already managed to pull her sweatshirt over her head.
"Screams in the night wasn't on your list. How could you have forgotten that?"
"No one's perfect, not even me.." she paused as she pulled on socks.
"Downstairs?" he said uncertainly. A peal of thunder shook the walls, reminding them that it was still storming outside. It couldn't have been more than a few hours since they'd drifted to sleep, judging by what she could see of her watch. Maybe 2 or so in the morning?
She followed Mulder's tall frame as he pushed open their door and peeked into the hallway. A glance at her over his shoulder told her that it was clear. They stepped out onto the creaking floorboards, moving towards the stairs. A faint light seemed to be drifting upwards. Scully frowned, trying to clear the last of sleep's cobwebs from her mind.
Moving behind her partner a few steps behind, falling into the old pattern of keeping single file to minimize themselves as a target, they approached the head of the staircase and stopped to scan the gloom of the foyer below.
A shadow moved, a flicker of light.
Mulder looked at her again, sending his intentions to her with
At the base of the stairs, Mulder froze and she nearly walked into him. Peeking around him, she saw what he was looking at. There it was again. The same apparition she had run into in the kitchen. It stood in the same position, bony hands clenching and unclenching at it's sides, baleful red eyes glowering at them from under a white bone brow.
She cocked her head to one side, staring at the thing intently. It didn't seem to be moving towards them. In fact...it seemed to be
And then it vanished.
She felt her partner's eyes on her and she looked up at him, nodding..knowing what he was asking.
"Yeah. That's what I saw." she muttered. "Something fishy about it.."
"You mean besides the fact that it appeared and disappeared in front of our eyes?" he mocked gently. She was shaking her head.
"No..something else. Something familiar." She frowned suddenly, her eyes narrowing as she stared across the room. "What's that?" She put a hand on her partner's arm, and he slowly raised his gun.
The man's raspy voice floated out of the inky black against the far wall and she was not surprised to see Mr. Kride step out into the flickering light of their candles. Was the man a perpetual lurker?
"What are you doing down here, Mr. Kride?" Mulder's voice sounded as suspicious as she felt.
The man's voice was quavering with fear.
"I..I was walking through the house, checking to see that the storm wasn't comin' in..and I saw *it*."
Scully rolled her eyes and folded her arms, leaning against the end of the balustrade. Here we go again.
"You saw the ghost?" Mulder asked, stepping forward, his gun dropping back to his side.
"Oh, yes sir. I saw it plain as day. This house is a terrible place...haunted."
Irregardless of her own thoughts on the matter, her curiosity was piqued and she would bet one shiny new nickel that Mulder's was too.
"You see this ghost often?" Mulder asked, she could hear *something* in his voice that made her wonder if seeing the apparition had made him a believer in the "hauntedness" of the house.
A tiny trickle of dust caught her eye and she let her gaze slip upwards while Mulder moved closer to Kride. A second thin trail of sparkling motes caught in the light of the candles and she frowned. Was the chandelier moving?
"Mulder?" her voice was low..coated heavily in warning. The monstrous thing was indeed moving. A part of her mind idylly noted that her partner was now standing directly under the thing.
Mulder had just turned to look at her, a question on his lips, when a sound similar to the whispered snap of a glass rod drifted gently to her ears. In slow motion, she saw the blanket of cobwebs lift as if in an updraft and the ceiling start to fall away in a hitchcockian camera move. There was no time for a shout or even a gasp. She simply hit Mulder like a linebacker, driving both of them in the direction she'd happened to be pointing in.
When it touched down on the floor directly behind them, the once harmless light fixture hit the ground in a massive explosion of glass and crystal shrapnel cutting, slicing and dicing the all-too fleshy entities surrounding it. She landed on top of Mulder with a thud that knocked the wind out of her, hearing the dreadful sound of a muffled snap under her and the accompanied howl of pain from her partner.
It was a moment before she could catch her breath, but she still rolled off him, her brain already certain she'd heard the sound of a bone breaking..and it hadn't been hers. Her fears were confirmed when she saw Mulder curled around himself in agony, one hand clutching his wrist with white knuckles, breaths coming in short gasps.
Ignoring the myriad cuts on her back and arms, ignoring the other man in the room who was staring blankly at the shattered carcass of the chandelier, she crawled over to Mulder and dragged him up into a sitting position. Shock was thankfully setting in, numbing the pain. It was clear to the naked eye that he had broken his right wrist.
"Jeezus Scully," he gasped, his body hunching over the broken appendage. "Next time you save my life could you loose some weight?"
She couldn't refrain an amused snort. Only Mulder would crack a joke when he'd broken a bone. She let herself run a hand softly down his cheek in mute apology and then she set her hand to the injury, prodding as lightly as she could. His face drained of what little color it had left as he struggled to hold still. It was a bad break..she needed her bag, and it was in the trunk of the Olds.
"It was him.." the breathless whisper behind her as she knelt over Mulder only served to light her temper. "He wants you out of here.."
It was the caretaker, of course.
That sounded like his line.
"Help him sit, make sure he doesn't touch his wrist. I'll be right back." she said, her voice steely. Mulder was looking shockier by the minute.
As soon as she was satisfied that the old man was going to support Mulder, she got up to go to the front door, digging the keys out of his jeans pocket.
"Where are you going? It's storming out there." the caretaker looked aghast, his face cut into sharp relief by the yellow light of the candles. As if to punctuate the man's words, thunder rattled the walls again.
"The car. My doctor bag is out there." she muttered, not caring to justify her actions any further to the man. She flung open the door before he could say anything more and she stepped out into the gale.
Easier said than done, she thought after a total of 4 seconds in the cataclysmic downpour. She ducked her head and ran through the ankle deep mud river of the drive, trying to keep her footing as wind and water blasted at her like a typhoon. The entire world blanked white as a flash of lightning shattered the dark and the thunder that cracked with it sent a concussion wave through her body. She had to fight every instinct she had not to flatten herself into the mud.
Wet metal under her fingertips. Unable to see much of anything in the howling blackness, she let her hands trail along the car's side.. blinking mud and water out of her eyes as she went. The trunk. Cold hands fumbled with the keys and then the trunk was popping open, threatening to slam back down in the freakish wind. She braced herself against it and hauled the big black bag out into the elements with her.
Just as she shut it again, another strobe of lightning flashed, illuminating everything and in a white freeze-frame she saw that two of the tires on the car were completely flat. It stunned her into inaction for a moment and she blinked, certain she'd seen things that weren't there. Crouching down, she was able to look more closely. Indeed, the tires were so deflated, the weight of the car now rested on the rims of the wheel wells. Even if they wanted to leave now, they couldn't. Not with two tires down.
She picked up the bag with two hands and began to stagger back up the river to the looming black shape of the house atop the hill.
By the time she made it back to the porch she was utterly drenched and shivering like a wet cat. Pushing back into the house, dripping wet, she found the foyer empty.
She stood there for a long moment without moving, a pool of water forming at her feet.
"Mulder!" she yelled, crunching through the remains of the chandelier to the base of the stairs. What the hell had he done with her partner?
"Mul-DER!" his name echoed in the huge house. The word that bounced back to her told her how much fear was now present in her voice.
"He's up here." snapped Mrs. Hallery, floating like a shade out to the top of the stairs. "We put him in his room."
Where had she come from? She must've been awakened by all the racket of the murderous chandelier.
She pushed past the old woman and trudged, dripping water, down the hall.
Mr. Kride stood against a wall, his eyes still wide.
"The ghost wants you out.." he whispered.
Her eyes narrowed at the older man and then she half growled:
"No, *I* want *you* out."
He hesitated only a moment before leaving the room. Mrs. Hallery followed reluctantly after, hesitating for a moment at the threshold before a glare from Scully drove her the rest of the way out.
She finally turned to Mulder, who was half-dozing on the bed. Someone had taken his shoes off. She sighed and set the bag on the floor by the bed. She quickly stripped out of her newly soaked clothes, digging around in Mulder's bag until she found a dry T-shirt. Pulling it over her nakedness, she snapped open the medical case and pulled out a couple painkillers. When she faced her partner, he was watching her with shock hazed eyes.
"This'll help," she said gently, pushing the sweat-damp forelock out of his eyes. "You'll have to dry-swallow them.." she murmured apologetically, her mouth curling in a smile. "Since the faucet is probably just running blood right now."
He gave a weak chuckle and lifted the pills to his mouth. They were almost there when he stopped and lifted his eyes to hers.
"These are going to make me sleep aren't they?" he frowned.
She nodded. "That's a *good* thing. That way I can set your wrist." she explained firmly...seeing that he was about to argue with her.
He set the pills on the bedstand and shook his head.
"No way Scully. It might not have been a ghost, but we saw something down there. Somebody or something tried to kill us with that chandelier. I'm not going to knock myself out until I know what's going on."
She gave a deep sigh, frowning fiercely.
"I have to set that wrist Mulder. The tires on the car are flat, and until this storm clears up we can't use our phones. Do you want to have to have your wrist re-broken when we get back to a hospital?"
He shook his head again.
"Just set it Scully."
"For crying out loud Mulder. This isn't the movies. I don't have a thick piece of leather for you to bite down on."
"A bullet?" he asked, his eyes sparkling in his white face.
She puffed out her cheeks and let loose a whoosh of irritated air as she looked at him. The really annoying thing was that he was right. Their car had been coincidentally rendered useless and though it might have been an accident, that chandelier 'had' waited to fall till Mulder was directly under it. It wouldn't do to have him helplessly drugged right now.
He didn't let her drop her gaze from his, and they both knew the moment she caved.
She lit a couple more candles, bringing them closer to the bed.
"Ok Mulder." she pulled a splint and a few other things out of her bag and leaned over the side of the bed. One small hand rested on the center of his chest. "This is going to hurt like hell." With his good hand, he reached up to cover hers with a squeeze. He tried on a grin.
"Don't worry doc. I bet you've fantasized about making me scream in pain.." his eyes were gentle.
"There is that..." she raised a brow as she carefully pulled his arm up, setting both hands on it. She bit her lip momentarily, wondering if she should have sent the 'caretaker' out of the room like she had. He might have been useful in holding Mulder down. A twitch of the corner of her mouth vetoed the idea of hunting him down. No. She didn't trust the guy.
"Ok Mulder, I'll count to three. Try not to move."
He nodded, his cheeks sallow in the candlelight, his jaw set. She saw his adam's apple bob once, nervously and then he closed his eyes.
"One....Two...." and then she 'pulled' his wrist bone out and away, her other hand quickly and skillfully guiding the offset bone into place. His body arched in shock and pain, every vein on his throat standing out as his teeth ground together in an effort not to make a sound. To his credit, he did not cry out or even move that much..and a moment later she wasn't surprised when his body went completely slack. He'd passed out.
She took quick advantage of his state to manipulate the wrist..making sure it was aligned as well as she could make it. Luckily it had been a clean snap..no splintering that she could tell...and she was able to make a pretty good effort to straighten the bone. Then her hands flew to the splint and she rapidly strapped it on, tightening it as best she could around the swelling. She was going to have to give him something for that. A moment later and she had the arm strapped and immobilized against his t-shirted chest with a sling.
Scully was digging through her bag for an anti-inflammatory when he stirred.
Perching on the side of the bed again, she let her hand cup his cheek as his lashes stirred. She smiled at him, her fingers lightly stroking back the soft hair.
"Still refusing those painkillers?" her voice was soft and held a hint of a challenge.
"What painkillers?" he asked, his voice harsh. He glanced down at his splinted wrist. "All done doc?"
She nodded. "Yeah. All done. I want to give you something for the swelling though. It won't knock you out, but it might make you drowsy..and it will cut the pain just a little."
"I think I can handle that." Mulder's face was still paper-white from the hurt, but she didn't think he was going to pass out again. She knew that the adrenaline from the pain would help numb it until the Ibuprofen kicked in. It would still throb, but it would be bearable.
"Did you say the tires on the car were flat?" he asked, after he'd swallowed the new pills. She sighed, nodding and crawling onto the bed with him..lying against his good side, breathing in the comforting scent of his skin. A frown wrinkled her brow.
"Yeah. Two.. from what I could see."
"Why the hell would someone do that?" He mused. "It doesn't make sense. Not when every other sign we've had has pointed to the fact that we're not welcome here."
"Sign? You mean the chandelier?" she thinned her lips. "We can't be sure that that was deliberate."
"Maybe not, but it was awfully suspicious. Maybe there really is a ghost here. It did appear right under the chandelier.. like it was luring us under it." he suggested, looking down at her with a serious expression on his face.
"Mulder.." she didn't even know where to start. "This place is about as haunted as my sock drawer at home." She cut him off before he could spill the witty remark he was about to make. "No. Mr. Kride, or whatever his name is, is so clearly trying to snooker Mrs. Hallery into something that he might as well post a sign. That 'ghost' we saw looks about as real as anything you'd see in the Haunted House at Disneyworld."
"Snooker?" he grinned, still looking at her. "Isn't that like Pool?"
She ignored him.
"Come on Mulder. Why was he out and about in the middle of the storm earlier? He's probably the one who flattened our tires too."
"But why would he do that? What could his motives possibly be for something like that?"
"I don't know..." she sighed. "Look, why don't you try to sleep? The sun will be up soon and hopefully the storm will have cleared up by then. We can call AAA and have the car towed the hell away from this nuthouse."
His eyelids were already drooping as he nodded agreement. The adrenaline was retreating, leaving him in a state of dull exhaustion. She watched him carefully until his face relaxed completely. Then, noiselessly, she slid off the bed and hunted around on the floor for anything of hers that was still dry. Her bag was still sitting in the room next door, so she took up the candle and walked, barelegged, out into the drafty hallway.
She didn't stop at the door to the red room, however, something urged her forward out to the main entryway.
The chandelier's sparkling remains made a miniature galaxy of stars out of the foyer floor as she moved down the steps with her single candle.She knelt amidst the fragments to get close to the base of the fallen giant.
Holding her candle as close as she could to the stem of the thing, she tried to find some evidence of foul play...something concrete that she could pin a fact to. The chain that had held the monstrous thing aloft looked to have simply broken. Peering at it, it could have been age and strained metal..certainly the fixture was over 70 years old. She looked upwards, trying to see the ceiling, but gave up after a moment. It was too far up and the place where the chandelier had hung from was shrouded in darkness.
Sighing, she got to her feet, brushing glass shards off her knees. She was about to climb the stairs when something gold caught her eye. Bending down, she found another link of the chain that had held the fixture up. This one was clearly the weak link. It was bent into a warped C shape that was bent over backwards. And there in the center, was what looked like some sort of corrosion..corrosion that had eaten away part of the metal.
Her lips curved into a grim smile. She knew that there was no
She picked it up with the bottom of her t-shirt and held it there, more ammunition. She wasn't certain who she was trying to prove anything to, but she liked to tell herself it was Mulder.
She headed up the stairs, back to her room.
It was hard, she thought, her eyes flickering into every shadowed corner and crevice, not to let your imagination carry you away with it in a situation like this. Even knowing that the house was *not* haunted, she was still having a hard time keeping her heartbeat steady as she pushed into the darkened red room and arrowed over to her abandoned bag on the bed. She was about to scoop it up, ready to make a rapid return to her partner when a sound spun her around.
This one was different than the thing she'd seen before. A man dressed in fairly old fashioned clothes stood in the doorway. He looked solid, looked real..but there was something..wispy about him. Almost as if his edges were softly blurred. He simply stood there, staring at her with blank, pleading eyes and then he turned and walked out.
Taking a deep, shaking breath, ignoring the burning wax that was dripping onto her hand, she rushed after the man...bursting into the hall..to see nothing.
There had been something about the man that disturbed her far more than the garish Halloween-costume creature she'd seen in the kitchen. Her pulse was throbbing in her throat as she stood in the empty hall, her bag still clutched tightly in her free hand. The look he'd given her had been so sad. It had moved something inside her, made her ache to erase that terrible grief in the man's eyes. She was trying to rationalize the presence of a third person in the house, but her brain seemed unwilling to fully accept the fact that what she had seen had been...a living being.
And then, as she stood in the hallway..the door to the study creaked open of it's own accord.
Blinking, she moved towards it cautiously, careful to remember that Mulder had nearly been killed earlier by being lured into a trap.
Stepping into the study, she saw nothing. It was the same as they had left it when they'd explored it earlier that night. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that there was something she was supposed to see here.
Moving towards the desk again she lifted the dust-crusted sheet, exposing the papers again. Her brow wrinkled in a frown as she saw another old newspaper sitting on top of everything. She was sure it hadn't been there before. Picking it up, she tilted it into the light of the candle and peered at the date. It was the same year as the other papers, 1931, but it was a totally different publication. Her blood chilled as she looked at the photo on the front page. It was
Only he looked like he had not aged a day since the photo had been taken. Swallowing, she quickly scanned the heading under the photo.
--Taken into custody today by the Kendelll County Sheriff, Boyden Kride was arrested today for the murder of his employer, George Hallery...--
A whisper of air was her only warning. She caught a moving shadow in her periphery and then a kaliedescope of color burst behind her eyes and everything faded into a sparkling black.
Mulder's eyes dragged open. The room was pitch dark. Outside, the rain still beat against the side of the house. He gave an internal sigh. Enough with the rain.
He bit his lip as he tried to readjust his position. He hated sleeping on his back, but with his arm neatly wrapped and packed, there was no other position for him. His head rolled on the pillow, looking for Scully. Frowning, he reached out and felt only empty bed.
After a moment, he forced his muscles into action, ignoring the screaming throb coming from his wrist. He glimpsed the pale white shadows of the two painkillers that still sat on the nightstand. He resolutely looked away from them. He would never tell her how close he'd come to swallowing them..taking peaceful oblivion over wakeful pain.
He awkwardly lit a candle one handedly and held it up to peer around the room. His door was ajar and he moved quietly towards it in sock feet.
"Scully?" he called out softly, poking his head out into the hall and peering towards the bathroom. He could see the glint off the porcelain sink that told him the bathroom door was open and it was empty. Frowning now, he walked into the red room and saw her bag on the bed..neatly opened and partially unpacked. A quick scan told him she was not here either.
In a few moments he stood on the landing and looked down over the monstrous corpse of the chandelier.
"Scully?" his voice was louder now, his apprehension growing. Seeing the wrecked chandelier had only reminded him that someone or something had tried to kill him earlier. Fighting back the rising fear, he began a systematic search of the house. Despite it's initial size, it was fairly easy to search, and he didn't make any bones about trying to stay quiet...calling Scully's name as loudly as he could.
It was no surprise when Mrs. Hallery emerged from her room like a white nightgowned specter.
"What do you think you're doing?!" she almost screeched, catching Mulder as he flung open the door to the study, peering inside before moving on to the next.
"My partner is missing.." he snapped at her, unwilling to waste time talking to her.
The woman's sudden pale silence gave him pause and he spun on her, grabbing her by her arms.
"Do you know where she is? If there's something that you're not telling me.." he growled at her, his face inches from hers. "Where is she? Does that bastard Kride have her?"
The woman shook her head furtively.
"I don't know...I don't kn-ow...George went up to the roof..to fix a shingle.." her voice was weak, her hands fluttered at her throat, she seemed to be staring right through him. His frustration and worry were making him impatient.
He thrust her from him and wrenched open the door that led to the attic. Taking the stairs three at a time, he burst through the top door and stopped dead in the attic, his nostrils flaring at the sudden wetness in the air.
A window was flapping open in the gusting winds, rain billowing through the opening. Lightning chose that moment to paint the night white and he turned his eyes away from the light. The thunder that crashed with it vibrated in his bones.
A thud on the roof caught his attention.
"Scully?!!" he caught the sill of the window one-handed and leaned out into the raging storm, trying to twist his body to get a look at the spine of the roof. A second flash of lightning illuminated the jagged Widow's Walk and he saw a glint of red hair. Two figures struggling in the wash of water and wind.
Cursing his broken wrist, he pulled himself one-handed up onto the dormer that peaked over the window. Pressing his body against the rush of water that sluiced down the soaked shingles he inched his way up as fast as he could towards the top of the roof.
It seemed like an eternity before he curled his left hand around the wet metal of the widow's walk and hauled himself over it with his remaining strength. He looked up just as another bolt of lightning sizzled through the air. Kride had Scully by the throat, lifting her bodily off the ground, her legs and arms flailing as she beat at his hands and body.
Still lying on his stomach on the tar paper of the roof, he slapped his back for his gun, only then realizing that he had left it in the room. No time for cursing. He shoved himself to his feet and launched himself across the roof, knowing that he wouldn't be in time.
Kride was lifting her up and over the spikes of the widow's walk, grimacing like a maniac.
"I'll have it damn you!" he was howling, his voice screeching over the storm. "I'll have it all...your house and your wife!"
It happened in slow motion. Kride had her over the side ..and
He glimpsed a flash of ghost-white down on the ground, near a large tree. A nightgown? Mrs. Hallery?
Boyden Kride fell like a hewn tree.
And like a leaf from a branch, so did Scully.
Mulder lunged over the wicked metal spikes, his mind gibbering, ignoring the metal tips that gouged into his ribcage..threatening impalement.
She was there..by some miracle, she was there.
She hung over the side, fingers gripping the metal bars with all her strength, her mouth open and gasping for air through her bruised throat. Ignoring his broken wrist, he shook it free of the remains of the tattered sling and grabbed onto both of her arms.
The pain was incidental as he hauled his partner back up onto the roof, tumbling backwards as he did..pulling her on top of him.
The rain seemed...suddenly...to be easing, and he lay still, his eyes closed as he held her close to him..gasping like a fish on the shore of a lake. His fingers curled into the cold damp of her soaked t-shirt, his arms pulled her against him as tightly as he could.
The rain slowed to a drizzle..
Sunlight. It streamed through the cracks of the boarded up windows in thin streamers of glittering dust. In unerring accuracy, one of the needles of light found his eyes. He groaned and shifted his weight, turning away from the irritant. There was a heavy warmth against his side that hindered his escape from the glare. Eyelids fluttering, he looked down at his partner. She was curled up against his side, fast asleep. Turning and squinting he slowly realized that the sunlight could only mean one thing.
The long night was finally over.
He clenched his teeth in pain as he slowly sat up, his wrist protesting every movement. He had given in and taken the painkillers after they'd gotten back to the room when Scully had announced that she was going to have to reset his wrist. The pain had been bad enough that he had caved. He'd drifted off into oblivion while Scully had gone in search of Mrs. Hallery and his gun..the gun that they'd discovered was missing upon return.
He had no idea if she had found their errant hostess. He still wondered if that had been her he'd seen in the rain. If it had been her who had shot Mr. Kride. It certainly made sense if you paired it with the missing gun.
But that was the only thing that made sense in this madhouse.
Scully stirred, her arm instinctively creeping out in search of the vanished warmth of his body. He leaned down and touched her shoulder. He was loathe to wake her after such a terrible night, but he wanted to get the hell out of here.
"Scully?" his voice was groggy, the painkiller was still hazing both his speech and his vision like a thin layer of scum on a pond. He gave her a gentle shake. "Come on. The storm is over. Up and at em'"
Long lashes lifted, exposing sleepy blue eyes.
"Just a while longer.." she muttered, burying her head back into the crook of her elbow. He grimaced at the terrible bruises that now shone black and yellow on her throat. Nodding, he decided to let her sleep a bit more and he gathered up their things himself.
He collected her stuff out of the red room, noting that the crimson furnishings looked even worse in the light of day..if possible. Then, tucking their bags under his good arm, he trotted down the stairs and across the foyer..depositing their things next to the door.
He froze. He slowly straightened. And he turned around to look at the floor.
There was nothing there. As in: the remains of the chandelier were gone. Almost afraid to look, he tilted his chin up and with an exhalation of air that was part sigh, part gasp, he saw the chandelier hanging intact..covered with as much dust and streaming cobweb as it had been when they'd first arrived.
He wasn't sure how long he stood there, staring..but a moment later he was trotting up the stairs to the attic. The window still hung open, but now it was unmoving in the crisp, sweet smelling morning air. He could hear birdsong just outside..and he took astonished note that the black-boned tree that had scratched so menacingly at the window the night before was now covered with luxurious fall foliage.
He already knew what he would find on the roof, but it didn't stop him from checking. If Scully and he shared any one trait, it was to be thorough. Climbing up to the widow's walk was easy when the shingles were dry, and a moment later he was standing on the old peeling tar paper of the roof, looking at nothing. Not even a bloodstain.
It was quite a time before he moved.
"Mulder? Are you up there?" he heard Scully's voice from below.
"Yeah!" he called. "I'll be right down."
Scully was waiting for him in the attic, her arms akimbo, staring pointedly at his wrist. He shook his head, ignoring the doctor-words he was about get lectured with.
"He's gone Scully. Kride's body is gone. And the chandelier..it's up on the ceiling like it never fell.."
She blinked at him. He could see the gears clicking behind her eyes. She knew that he wasn't lying to her. Mulder didn't lie to her. She knew the things he was saying were easily verified..and yet, she could no more accept them then she could turn into a giant striped Gnu.
He took her arm with his good hand and guided her down the steps, down into the foyer, where she could see for herself.
"How?.." it was the only word she could get out. "It was..I saw.." she was shaking her head, her cornflower eyes not leaving the huge light fixture. After a moment, she crouched down and dug through the bag that Mulder had carried down. She pulled her bathroom bag out and lifted the broken lid that had contained the 'blood' sample. A faint film of hard water mineral was all that clung to the inside of the plastic shell.
She finally turned to him, and he saw the question in her gaze. Her need for him to tell her what had happened. Apparently even his version of reality would do in a pinch he thought with a little grin.
First, a question.
"Did you find Mrs. Hallery last night?" he asked, his brows raised.
"No. I couldn't find her anywhere. When I looked in her bedroom..it was like she was never there..." she let out an explosive sigh. Her eyes were resigned as she silently asked him to air his theory already.
"You're not going to like it.." he said out loud.
"Just tell me." she'd regained some of her equilibrium and now she simply stood, waiting.
"Ghosts, Scully. What else could it be?" He shrugged as if he was just telling her that water was wet.
She sighed deeply.
"What about the bruises on my throat? How could a ghost do that?"
"Sometimes...apparitions can gain solidity. There have been cases where people have had entire conversations with ghosts, thinking they were talking to a living person..and finding out later that it was someone who had died years before." He eyed the bruises in question then. "What exactly happened last night anyway, Scully?"
She pursed her lips, her coppery hair falling forward as she bent her neck slightly in thought.
"I'd come downstairs to look at the chandelier, to see if I could figure out how it had fallen. I found a piece of the chain that held it up. It had been corroded somehow, but not with rust or anything..it was something like acid. I'd taken the chain link and gone back upstairs." She paused, a bit reluctant to tell the next part.
"Someone..someone else, a man in old-fashioned clothes, led me into the study. I saw an old newspaper that we'd missed before. It was from
"Mulder..." she stopped with another sigh, shaking her head. He could see windows and doors slamming behind her eyes. It was clear she didn't want to face the ramifications of what her brain was telling her was true. "Look ..I called AAA already. A local guy should be along soon to tow the car." she frowned, "assuming that the tires haven't gone back to their previous inflated state."
"What do YOU think happened to Kride..and Mrs. Hallery for that matter?" He challenged her.
She was silent for a long time, her eyes plastered on the center of his chest. She always looked at his chest when she didn't want to meet his eyes..it was Scully-speak for 'I'm fighting you on this, but I can't really say why'.
"Maybe Mrs. Hallery shot him with your missing gun. Maybe she did something with the body last night."
Ok. It was plausible. He'd been thinking something along those lines. But Mrs. Hallery would have first had to shoot him somehow, then had to climb onto the roof herself..she would have had to pick up a man who was easily twice her size..
"Lets take a look outside. You didn't check out there last night, did you?"
"No.." she admitted, a tiny line forming between her brows.
Mulder pushed open the monstrous door, grimacing at the terrible squeal that accompanied the action. They both stepped out onto the porch..and they both stopped dead in the doorway.
It wasn't enough that they were both questioning reality as it was, he thought. Now this.
The landscape looked like any other Indiana summer view. Rolling hills of dark brown dirt and waves of sunburned blonde weeds stretched to the horizon. Trees here and there marked out the places where other houses nestled in the distance. And nowhere was there a single sign of the downpour that that forced them to seek shelter the night before.
He watched his partner move slowly down the steps to kneel in the hard-packed dry dirt of the drive. One hand came out to touch the ground almost tentatively. Her face lifted back to his, a pale oval in the clean morning light.
"It's bone dry." she said, the amazement shaking her voice just a little.
Not speaking, Mulder descended the steps and walked around the side of the house, his eyes scanning for any sign of a body, a clue..anything. It wasn't long before his eyes landed on the dully glinting metal of his gun. He squatted next to it and then looked up to the roof from where he crouched. A perfect line of sight to where Kride had been standing last night. And there, in the dry dirt, were small narrow footsteps. He let a gust of air blow noisily from his lips.
He knew that Scully was trying to convince herself that they had had some sort of shared hallucination. But the fact that his gun was now lying out here in the weeds when he'd left it in his room..that was going to be hard to logically step around. And what about these prints?
Footsteps alerted him to Scully's presence. He didn't move, nor did he turn around, but there was a big grin stretching across his face.
He knew she could see the gun and the tracks. Explain that one my beloved skeptic. Tack it onto the end of your list.
"Mulder.." her voice was wavering. He knew he had her on this one. She'd seen too much. The stark bruises on her throat were proof enough. His broken wrist was still broken. They had *not* had some sort of shared hallucination.
The only thing that still bothered him was the cliched spectral moments they'd had the night before. The chains in the attic, the moaning. The ghost under the chandelier. That didn't jibe. It seemed too hoky..it had been what had thrown him at first.
"Mulder." she repeated his name. He felt her hand on his shoulder. Picking up his gun and tucking it into his waistband, he turned to her. The smile was still on his face. When she saw it, she shook her head in exasperation..fighting a smile of her own. "The tow truck just pulled up to our car."
The man who hopped out of the cab of the tow had to be in his eighties. He was as skeletal and grizzled and bent as any man who had clearly been alive at the turn of the century had a right to be. He was chewing on a stalk of wheat, his overalls dirty and showing signs of a decade of use.
"Looks like you folks had yourself some bad luck.." he said as they came up to him. He was standing at the side of the car looking down at the flattened tires.
Approaching the car, he watched Scully crouch down to run her hands along the rubber of the sidewalls. There were two long tears in each of the tires, but they were sitting on firm dirt. There was no sign of the deep mud that had mired the Olds halfway up to the house.
"You two sleep in your car last night?" he asked as he walked around to the back of the car, leaning down to look at the undercarriage and scratching the back of his neck.
Mulder didn't feel the need to exchange a glance with his partner. It was implied.
"No. We stayed up in the house." he heard Scully say cautiously.
"THAT house?" the man seemed stunned, the stalk of wheat falling from between his toothless lips. His eyes shied away from actually looking at the house.
"Yes.." she seemed resigned. Mulder leaned against the side of the car with a faint smile on his lips. This was the part where they got to find out about the ghosts. This was his favorite part.
"Didja see em?" The man had straightened and was looking at the pair of them suspiciously.. like they might be ghosts themselves.
"Who?" Mulder asked, egging the man on.
"The Hallerys and that creepy old caretaker a' theirs." Both he and his partner remained silent and the man stepped closer to them as if to tell them a secret.
"About 65 years ago, the caretaker killed Mr. Hallery...threw him off the roof of the house. Old Mrs. Hallery saw the whole thing, but didn't do a thing to stop it. She was a hard woman, I recall. I was only a kid then, but I remember. They was gonna build the rail through here around then. A new line up to Gary. The land value quadrupled, but George Hallery..he wouldn't sell.
"It was whispered around that time in town that Mrs. Hallery, she was plotting with Kride. No one ever knew the whole story, but we guessed that she and Kride wanted the money from the railroad that selling the house would bring. I don't think she woulda done in her husband for it, but Kride..he was always a wee bit off kilter.
"When they came and took em' both away after they figured out what had happened, they found a bunch of weird stuff in the house..odd things, like machines that projected light shows and chains in the attic." The old man took a breath, clearly delighting in the telling of the tale.
"Kride confessed that he and the missus had tried to drive Mr. Hallery out of the house by making him think it was haunted. It was working too, but the Mister discovered Kride up in the attic making noise with the chains and that's when he ended up dead."
"Was it raining the night that Mr. Hallery died?" Mulder asked. Scully glanced at him uneasily, as if she didn't want to know that part of it.
"Oh was it! It was the worst thunderstorm these parts have seen in nigh 200 years. It near to washed me own Da's new barn down."
"That chandelier in there..." Scully asked, her voice crisp.."is there a story behind it too?"
"The chandelier?" He furrowed his brow and scratched at his chin.
The old man seemed to remember where he was suddenly. He peered closely at the pair in front of him.
"So..didja see em'?" he asked again. "Last night was the anniversary of Mr. Hallery's death. They say that odd things happen up there on that night every year since."
This time he did exchange a look with his partner. She was sucking on the inside of her lower lip in consternation. She let out a sigh.
"We did see something." she said finally. "But I'm not prepared yet to say with certainty what it was."
That was probably as good as it was going to get.
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."