Title: The Scottish Play
Summary: The fourth in my series. Mulder is assigned a new partner and investigates some strange happenings in a theater.
Don't worry, there's still plenty of MSR. You don't necessarily have to read the first three stories to understand it, but I would recommend i
And on a random note, I was rewatching the second season earlier this week and noticed something interesting. In episode 2-10, "Red Museum" (the one with the teenagers wandering through the woods with "He is me" written on their backs), when the leader of the sect is lecturing through his computer, he mentions that they are eighteen years away from the beginning of a new kingdom. If you look at the timeline of the X-files, this case would have taken place at the end of 1994. Add eighteen years and you get 2012—probably around December of 2012. Anybody who's seen the series finale knows the significance of that date. Just thought that was an interesting coincidence.
And now, on with the story.
Dana Scully and Fox Mulder sat in the exam room at the hospital waiting to speak to the doctor. A nurse had already completed the ultrasound, and Mulder now clutched a fuzzy picture of his two daughters. He found it hard to believe that in five short months he would be a father. It was something he had never considered before; he had always been so dedicated to his work that he never had time to think about starting a family. But he had already fallen in love with the two babies in the picture even though he still saw nothing remotely human in appearance in the dark image. He would simply have to trust Scully's and the nurse's insistence that the picture showed two healthy baby girls.
The door opened, and both Mulder and Scully looked up. Scully still sat on the exam table wearing the white paper gown the nurse had given her earlier while Mulder sat in a chair beside her in jeans and a sweater. He immediately rose to his feet, unconsciously moving closer to Scully. After all the bad news they had received from doctors over the years, he harbored an irrational fear that every time one of them opened his or her mouth, he or she was preparing to issue a death sentence.
"Well, Dana, your babies seem to be developing just fine," the doctor remarked. "Your health is generally good, but there is one thing I'm worried about."
Of course there was. There was always one thing to worry about.
"What's that?" Scully asked.
"Your blood pressure is higher than it should be. It's nothing to be alarmed about right now; around 10 of women develop hypertension during pregnancy."
"Are there signs of eclampsia or HELLP syndrome?" Scully inquired.
"No, everything else is normal. But I do want to try to bring your blood pressure down before it causes any serious problems. Your weight is no concern, but you might want to reduce your sodium intake and try to exercise regularly. Mild forms of exercise such as walking would be an excellent idea." Scully half-listened as he gave her advice, already knowing what he was going to suggest. She was still trying to figure out how she had managed to develop high blood pressure. After all, she was always careful about what she ate and tried to exercise as regularly as possible. Of course, these healthy habits had changed lately. Her cravings often tended toward junk food (she blamed Mulder for this), and she had not really been in the mood to exercise.
"You also need to try to bring your stress level down," the doctor advised. "You are an FBI agent, right?"
"I am," Scully confirmed.
"Well, I would advise that you stay out of the field until the end of your pregnancy. You can still work, but you need to make sure that you don't put too much stress on your body. It's not good for you or the babies."
Scully nodded, refusing to meet Mulder's eyes, for she knew exactly what he was thinking. He had been telling her to slow down for weeks, but she had insisted on continuing just as she had before she found about the pregnancy. "Thank you, doctor. I will take your advice into consideration."
"Well, I guess you two are all set then unless you have any further questions."
"We're fine, thank you."
"I'll see you in a couple months then."
When they reached the car, Mulder turned to Scully, but she spoke before he could say anything. "If you say I told you so, I'm never speaking to you again," she threatened. He abruptly closed his mouth. "Look, Mulder, I'm fine."
"You heard the doctor. You shouldn't be in the field."
"So you're going to make me do paperwork for the next five months?"
"No. I was thinking maybe you could go back to teaching at Quantico. Just until the babies are born."
"And what about you?"
"I'll stay on the X-files. I worked by myself before, and I can do it again. Right now, we need to be concerned about you and those babies."
"You realize this means we're going to have to tell Skinner."
"It's about time we faced the music. I mean, you're already starting to show." He glanced down at her slightly rounded stomach. She had managed to cover it up reasonably well at work by wearing looser blouses and jackets, but under the tighter turtle-neck she now wore, it was fairly obvious she was pregnant.
"We probably should have told him earlier," Scully remarked. "After all, he is our friend, and he's helped us out of some tight spots."
"Well, better late than never."
Monday morning found them both sitting on the couch outside Skinner's office. Mulder was fidgeting; his hands did not stop moving until Scully placed one of her own over them and looked pointedly at him. He shoved them in his pockets to still them as she turned back to the office door, wondering if she could will it to open. She was certainly not looking forward to the upcoming conversation and wanted to finish it as soon as possible.
The door opened suddenly, startling both agents. Assistant Director Skinner stood in the now open doorway, his eyes appearing tired and shadowed behind the lenses of his glasses. Scully wondered if they should leave and come back at a different time; it did not seem as if Skinner was in the mood to hear their good news. But they were already here, and he expected them to have a good reason for requesting to speak with him as soon as possible.
"Agent Scully, Agent Mulder, you wished to speak with me?"
"Yes, sir, we did," Scully told him, standing up.
"Come on in." He motioned them into his office, and they followed a bit apprehensively. Mulder had moved to messing with the items in his pocket. When they entered the office, they automatically took seats across from his desk. "So, Agents, what did you have to tell me?" Skinner asked.
"Actually, sir, I would like to request temporary reassignment to Quantico," Scully said. Skinner looked up, surprised, and she met his gaze, her face expressionless. Slowly, he shifted his eyes to look at Mulder who was staring determinedly at the desk. He had promised Scully that he would be present when she broke the news to Skinner, but they had agreed that she should be the one to tell him.
"Any specific reason, Agent Scully?"
"My doctor instructed me to take it easy for awhile. No field work."
Skinner's curious look suddenly turned to one of concern. Though he was their superior, he had always harbored an affection for Mulder and Scully and their work. They were two of his most dedicated agents—dedicated not only to their cases but to each other. He had risked his life and career multiple times to save them because he believed in them and somehow sensed that they would be vital in the future. "Is something wrong, Agent Scully?" he questioned.
"No, sir. It's just. . . I'm. . . pregnant."
The word hung in the air for a moment, seeming to echo around the room. Whatever Skinner had been expecting to hear, it was certainly not that. He stared at Scully for a moment, his eyes wide with surprise, his mouth hanging open slightly. When she offered no further explanation, he turned to Mulder who was now staring at the nameplate on his desk as if hoping it might spontaneously combust. "Pregnant?"
"Yes, sir. Four and a half months along. Twin girls."
"But I thought. . ."
"So did I."
Skinner looked again to Mulder. He wanted to ask about his role in this particular miracle, but his strict professionalism prevented the words from leaving his mouth. Their personal business was their personal business; he would not become involved in it unless absolutely necessary. Besides, he was fairly sure that Mulder was the father. He had never seen any two agents in all his time at the FBI who were as close as the two now sitting in front of him. Though they always remained professional in his presence, he would not be surprised to learn that they had progressed beyond friendship in private. Nor would he blame them for doing so.
"I assume you'll be taking some time off for maternity leave," Skinner eventually said, his eyes resting once more on Scully.
"Yes, sir, but not for a few more months. I'd like to continue working as long as possible even if I can no longer go in the field. I know they're always looking for instructors at Quantico, and I'm qualified to teach there."
"I assume you and Agent Mulder have discussed this."
Scully and Mulder's eyes met briefly before Scully answered. "We have, sir. Agent Mulder was actually the one who suggested I go back to Quantico."
"Very well then. I will put in the request for your transfer and work on finding Agent Mulder a temporary partner."
Mulder's head shot up so fast that it appeared spring loaded. "Actually, sir, I'd prefer to work alone while Agent Scully is gone," he said.
"Agent Mulder, I am not sending an agent out into the field alone."
"You will be assigned a new partner, Agent Mulder. End of discussion." Mulder looked at Skinner, noticing the firm set of his jaw and the sternness in his eyes. He knew that there would be no use arguing.
"Okay, sir, but I'd like to work with someone who appreciates the work and isn't down there to heckle me."
"I'll see what I can do, Agent."
"Just one more thing, sir," Scully said. "I'd appreciate it if you could keep this conversation quiet. You're the only person at the FBI that I've told about my pregnancy, and I'd like to keep it quiet."
"Agent Scully, you're going to begin showing soon."
"I know, sir, but I can cover it up reasonably well with loose clothing. And I'll request some personal time instead of taking maternity leave. God knows I have plenty of that saved up." She smiled slightly at this.
"Why all this need for secrecy?" Skinner questioned.
"As I'm sure you're aware, sir, we have some powerful enemies. The less they know, the better. So can this stay between the three of us?"
"Of course, Agent Scully. And congratulations."
"Thank you, sir." Scully and Mulder stood and left the room, his hand lightly resting on her back. Skinner watched them go before taking off his glasses and rubbing his aching forehead. This pregnancy was an unexpected development.
"Well, that went better than I expected," Scully remarked as they waited for the elevator. Mulder raised his eyebrows. "It won't be so bad," Scully assured him.
"I don't want a new partner," he insisted. "They're going to use this as another chance to shut down the X-files. I'll probably get some strict scientist who questions every theory of mine and refuses to believe in anything paranormal."
"Someone like me, you mean?"
"At least you were open to the possibility that there's something out there which is beyond our understanding of nature."
"Mulder, I'm sure you'll be fine. If you could convince me, you can convince anyone."
"I'm still going to miss you."
"You're the one who insisted that I go to Quantico."
"Because I'd know you'd never be happy just sitting in an office all day, and I refuse to let you risk your health by going into the field."
"I still think the doctor was overreacting."
"Of course you do." Mulder shook his head, thinking about how doctors truly did make the worst patients.
Three days later, Mulder made his way down to the basement office alone. Scully started work at Quantico that day; she was teaching a few classes in forensic pathology there, and Mulder had teased her about now being able to do all the "slicing and dicing" that she wanted to. In truth, he was simply using this lighthearted joking to mask the fact that he was going to miss her in the basement office. For five and a half years, they had worked closely together; he had come to believe, albeit illogically, that they would always work together. Without her, the room seemed empty, lifeless. Somehow, over the past five years, she had turned from an invader into an integral part of his work.
Mulder was standing in the center of the room staring at his "I Want to Believe Poster" when he heard the scraping of the door opening behind him. Whirling around, he found himself face to face with one of the last people he expected to see. "Diana?" he questioned.
"Hello, Fox," she greeted.
"What are you doing here?"
"Didn't you get the message? I've been assigned to work with you while Agent Scully is working at Quantico." She smiled broadly, revealing her brilliant white teeth.
"Why would they assign you to the X-files?" Mulder questioned.
"Why not? I know more about the X-files than most people, and I've worked closely with you before. Besides, I was on the X-files for a brief time near the end of last year. I was the logical choice."
"And you agreed to come down here? This isn't exactly a career-advancing move."
"I think this is the best place for me right now."
"Why are you really here, Diana?"
"I'm here to help you investigate the X-files."
"Believe what you want, Fox, but I'm here to stay, so you better get used to it. Now, AD Skinner gave me a new case on the way down here." She held up a case folder. "I haven't had time to go over it yet, but we have plane reservations in a couple hours, so I figured we could go over the details together on the plane."
"Where are we going?"
Two and a half hours later, Mulder sat on the plane with the case file spread out across his lap. Since no one had claimed the seat on one side of him, he used it to spread out store the papers that he had already sorted through. Diana sat in the seat on his other side, fast asleep. Her head hovered dangerously close to his shoulder, but he was so absorbed in the case file that he did not notice her proximity. They were investigating a number of deaths at a theater in Cleveland. Three actors had died along with the costume designer. The first three deaths had appeared accidental. A set designer had died when the harness he was wearing had malfunctioned, and he fell twenty feet. He would likely have survived except that his head had hit the corner of a set of wooden steps used as props, fracturing his skull. The second actress had apparently overdosed in her dressing room; she was found with an open bottle of Percocet and elevated levels of oxycodone in her blood. The costume designer appeared to have suffered a severe heart attack, but she had had none of the usual warning signs.
The fourth death was the one that had attracted the most police attention, however. He had been stabbed repeatedly with a long, serrated blade. The oddest part about the murder, however, was that it happened during a rehearsal while the actor was waiting behind stage for his cue. People were all around him, but no one had seen or heard a thing; in fact, they did not even realize that he was dead until one of the actors went to check on him because he had missed his cue. All of the people in the theater had been seen by at least one other person during the time he was murdered, giving them all credible alibis. Since the only entrances to the theater were in the back, the actors could see anyone who entered or exited the building as they rehearsed. Every actor swore that he or she saw no one walk through those doors at any point in time during the rehearsal. It was as if the killer had simply vanished into thin air.
Mulder had his share of theories, of course, but he was unwilling to voice them until he had a chance to speak to some of the other actors and gather more evidence. The police had requested help from the FBI because they were baffled, and the strange nature of the case had landed it in Skinner's hands. Mulder was happy to be investigating an X-file without having to fight for the assignment, but as he glanced at his companion, he could not help but wish that Scully was with him.
It was snowing when they reached Cleveland; Mulder pulled his heavy wool coat tighter around his body to chase away the chilling wind as they walked to the rental car agency beside the airport. By the time they reached the car, Mulder's fingers were so numb that he could barely curl them around the steering wheel, and he reached to turn the heater on full blast. The first blast of air which hit his face was freezing cold, sending shivers down his spine. Reaching down, he turned the heater off, intending to wait until the car warmed up before trying again.
"So, did you have a chance to review the case?" Diana asked as he drove, the windshield wipers working frantically to clear the frost.
"Yeah." Mulder squinted through the snow, searching for the next street the rental agent had told him to turn onto.
"Care to share?"
"Not right now. I want to get more information first." Mulder finally spotted the street sign and smoothly turned onto the street, careful to keep his speed low on the icy roads. A car pulled in front of him suddenly, and he slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting him, pounding his fist against the horn. The back tires slid, and Mulder steered as best he could as the car began to fishtail. For one panicked moment, they were heading straight for a metal post, but he managed to pull the car out of the skid at the last moment. He glanced over at Diana and saw that her hands were curled into tight fists on her knees. His own hands were gripping the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles had turned white, and his breathing was labored.
"That was close," Diana remarked.
"Too close," Mulder agreed as he started forward again, now glancing down each side street they passed just to be sure not to repeat his mistake.
The theater was an old, wooden building on the corner of two busy streets. Mulder parked in a large parking deck across the street, and they once more braved the biting wind as they hurried across the street. As soon as they opened the door, it felt as if they had stepped into a furnace. Hot air washed over them, and Mulder felt himself begin to break into a sweat at the sudden change in temperature. He looked forward to see that the eyes of everyone in the theater were focused on Diana and him. Reaching into his coat, he pulled out his badge.
"I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder, and this is Special Agent Diana Fowley," he announced. "We're here about a series of deaths in this theater."
A man who had been sitting in the front row stood and approached them. He was in his early fifties with sparse hair surrounding his ears and circling the bottom of his head. He was short and round and wore an old t-shirt and jeans. "I'm Paul Grainger, the director here," he announced. "What can I help you with?"
"I just need to ask you and all the actors some questions," Mulder told him.
"We've already talked to the police," Grainger said.
"I know, sir, but we still need to ask these questions."
"Very well." Grainger turned back to the group of actors who were still standing on the stage, watching the scene curiously. "Why doesn't everyone take a short break." Immediately, the actors began to disperse, disappearing behind stage. Grainger turned back to Mulder and Diana. "So, what do you need to know?"
"Where were you at the time Greg Richards was killed?" Diana asked.
"I was right where I always am during rehearsal—the middle seat in the front row."
"And who was on stage during that time?"
"A number of people. That scene involved our entire chorus along with Eliza and Higgins. Three-quarters of the cast were on stage at that time."
"Can you give me the names of the people onstage?"
"Not their real names. I call everyone here by the role they play; it helps them to get in character. If you want to know their real names, check the playbill."
"And you heard nothing at all during the time of the murder?"
"No which is odd because I have tuned my ears to hear the slightest unusual sound even when there is a good deal of other noise. I have to do this to be a good director for a musical; I can't let my enjoyment of the music cause me to miss a mistake."
"Do you remember anything about the days the other three deaths occurred?"
"No. I thought those deaths were accidental."
"We're just making sure. Can you think of anyone who might have a grudge against you or another reason for not wanting this play to continue?"
"Well, we did have one of our actors leave the crew after the last production."
"He didn't tell me. But I'd ask Eliza. I think something went on between those two."
"What makes you say that?"
"I heard them arguing one night after everyone else had left. I had left my script here, and I wanted to review it that night, so I came back for it. When I came back that night, I heard them yelling downstairs."
"Did you go down to investigate?"
"No. I don't care what my actors do in their personal time as long as it doesn't affect my rehearsal."
"How did you know who was arguing then?"
"I hear these actors' voices every day. I know them, trust me."
"The actor who left, what was his name?"
"I don't remember. He played Hamlet in the last play we did."
Mulder made a mental note to pick up playbills from the last few plays in the theater. "Can you think of any other reason why someone might try to sabotage this play?" he questioned.
"No. I mean, we may not be the biggest company around, but we usually sell at least two-thirds of the seat and get decent reviews."
"Have you ever had any odd occurrences here?" Mulder asked suddenly.
"Objects flying around the room, lights flashing, disruption of telephones."
"No. I don't see what any of this has to do with the deaths of those people."
"I'm just covering all my bases."
"Well, I really can't tell you anything else."
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Grainger," Diana told him with a smile before leading Mulder toward the door beside the stage that led to the dressing rooms. "What was that all about?" she hissed as they walked through the door.
"That flying objects and lights flashing stuff."
"I was just testing out a theory of mine."
"What theory is that?"
"There are plenty of documented cases of poltergeist activity. As early as 858, there was a report of an evil spirit who threw stones and made walls shake. And since then, there have been plenty of other documented cases. There was the Lithobilia in 1698, The Bell Witch in 1817, The Romanian Poltergeist Girl in 1926. And in 1967, there was the Rosenheim case where a 19-year-old secretary seemed to have a mysterious force following her around. There was disruption of electricity and telephone lines, strange sounds, rotating pictures, and even lamps swinging of their own accord—which were captured on video, by the way. The claims were investigated by police and physicists, but no one could come up with a scientific explanation for the activity."
Diana was staring at him, mouth agape. "It's possible, but I'm not entirely sure. Much of what is attributed to poltergeist activity is later proved to be faked."
Mulder shrugged. "You have a better explanation?"
"Not at the moment."
"Agents!" a voice suddenly called, causing them both to turn around. A man in his early thirties stood behind them, partially concealed by the shadows. Slowly, they approached him. "I'm Rex Jameson," he told them, extending a hand. "Also known as Freddy Eynsford-Hill."
"You're the one who discovered the body," Mulder remembered.
Jameson nodded, and even in the dim light, Mulder could see the pallor of his face. "There was just so much blood. I've never seen that much blood before."
"Did you notice anyone suspicious around the body?" Diana asked.
Jameson was shaking his head emphatically. "No, there was no one around. That was what was so weird about the whole thing. No one could have done it."
"But you did see something when you went back there," Mulder guessed.
"As soon as I saw the body, I turned my head away and I could've sworn I saw a knife there, just floating in mid-air. And then it just flew away like someone was carrying it. I thought I imagined it at first; I mean, I was pretty shocked by that body. But I heard you asking Grainger about flying objects, and it reminded me of that knife. Do you think I really saw that?"
"You might have." Mulder's brain was working furiously now. Though what Jameson saw gave some credence to his theory, this recollection could easily be discounted as the product of a distressed mind. He needed more proof, more eyewitness accounts of poltergeist activity. "Have you ever seen anything else strange?" Mulder asked.
"A couple weeks ago, right after Sally, our costume designer, died, I saw. . . well, I don't really know what I saw. It looked like one of her dresses was floating toward me, but when I looked again, it was back on the shelf where it's supposed to be."
"What about strange electrical phenomena?"
"Well, the lights in this place are always flickering, but we just attribute that to the old wiring. I mean, the theater is over a hundred years old."
"How often does this happen?"
"Usually a couple times a day. I'm sure if you stick around, you'll see it."
"Thanks. I think I just might do that." Mulder turned to Diana, smiling broadly. Excitement danced in his eyes as he whispered to her, "Think about it. We could document actual poltergeist activity."
"It would certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"I want to interview the other cast members and see if anyone else has witnessed any strange phenomena. Who knows? If we stick around long enough, we might get to see a light show."
After interviewing the twenty-three other crew members, they had found five additional people who claimed to have seen unexplained happenings. One had seen the pages of his script floating through midair in his dressing room while another claimed that on numerous occasions, something had caused the curtains to flutter on his windows even when they were shut tightly. Mulder was now firmly convinced that they had a poltergeist on their hands.
When they finished the interviews, rehearsal began once more, and Diana and Mulder settled into a couple seats near the middle of the theater to watch. Mulder pulled out his phone and quickly dialed a familiar number. The phone rang twice before a tired voice said, "Scully."
"It's me," Mulder told her. "You sound beat."
"I'm in the middle of my second class of the day. I don't know where they get these kids from, but I'm not sure if some of them know the difference between a scalpel and forceps."
Mulder laughed. "That could make for some interesting procedures."
"Did you call for a specific reason or are you just checking up on me?"
"Give me some credit, Scully, I know I don't need to check up on you. It is nice to hear your voice, though. But there's actually a favor I'd like to ask."
"There's some bodies I'd like you to take a look at."
"Bodies? More than one?"
"Four actually. Assuming I can get the excavation order signed."
"Excavation?" Scully groaned. Autopsying people who died recently was one thing, but autopsying people who had been buried for awhile was not a pleasant experience. "Any reason why?"
"The coroner originally ruled their deaths an accident, but after this most recent death, I'm not so sure. I want somebody I trust to look at them."
"Have them sent to Quantico, and I'll take a look at them when I get some time."
"Thanks, Scully. I knew I could count on you."
"One of these days I'm going to say no, Mulder. Then what will you do?"
"Beg?" he suggested. She smiled. It was nice to hear his voice again, to listen to him joking. She hated that she was not in the field with him. Glancing through the one-way mirror at the class still standing nervously in the autopsy bay, she decided she could afford a few more minutes to talk to Mulder. She was certainly in no hurry to return to the endless stream of questions.
"So, how's the case going?"
"Not bad. We have four victims, all killed in a theater in Cleveland. No one's seen or heard anything even though people were all around at the time of the latest murder."
"So you're thinking what? Phantom of the Opera?"
Mulder grinned. "Actually, I was wondering if someone said MacBeth."
"The Scottish play. Of course."
"It's really annoying not to have you here to debunk my crazy theories."
"Well, go ahead and tell me one and I'll see what I can do."
"Don't you have a class to get back to?"
Scully glanced through the window again. A couple of the braver students had moved closer to the body, staring into the open chest cavity. One student was looking curiously at the liver Scully had earlier removed and placed on the scale. Scully knew she should go back in, but she was reluctant to hang up on Mulder. "I've got a couple minutes," she told him.
"Poltergeist," Mulder said simply.
Scully sighed. "Mulder, there is no proof-"
"Sure there is."
"Poltergeist activity is usually nothing more than a hoax. Many of the events that people contribute to poltergeists can be explained quite easily by tremors or abnormal air currents. Also, the movement of objects can be caused by the casimir effect which can cause an electromagnetic force between two conducting objects."
"See, Scully, that's why I keep you around. But you haven't heard all the eyewitness accounts. One man claims that he saw a dress floating in midair."
"He's likely delusional. The stress caused by four deaths so close to him could have seriously affected his perception."
"A number of people also claim that the lights will flicker at odd times."
"How old is the building, Mulder?"
"Over one hundred years. But they've had electricians out here numerous times, and they always claim that everything is fine with the wiring."
"Electricians can miss something. I think you're making something out of nothing."
"We'll see. I should probably let you get back to your class now."
"Okay. I'll look for those bodies."
"Good. But don't worry about doing them tonight. I want you to get plenty of rest, okay? Don't overwork yourself."
"I'm fine, Mulder."
"You always say that."
"Well, in this case, I am. Now, I have to go."
"I'll talk to you later."
"Bye." Scully hung up and turned back to the door. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it open to find that the student examining the liver had somehow managed to tip the scale so that the liver now sat on the floor.
"Who was that?" Diana asked as Mulder hung up.
"What did she have to say about your poltergeist theory?"
"She claimed it was tremors, abnormal air currents, and the casimir effect."
"So I guess she doesn't believe in the paranormal?"
"It takes some more convincing."
"How do you two manage to work together then?"
"Easy. We balance each other. She keeps me honest, stops me from going off on some wild goose chase, and I help her to be more open to extreme possibilities."
"So you actually enjoy working with someone who challenges all your beliefs?"
Mulder nodded distractedly as he dug through his pockets for the slip of paper on which he had written the number for the local police department. Just as his fingers closed over the small slip of paper, the lights suddenly extinguishing, plunging them into total darkness. Mulder heard a couple screams, and he automatically reached for his weapon.
Touching the back of the chair in front of him, he groped his way to the aisle, slowly making his way toward the screams. He had not gone more than three or four steps toward the stage when the lights came back on again. Blinking in the sudden light, Mulder glanced around him. Diana was still sitting in her seat though her hand, too, had dropped to her gun. The director was gesturing wildly, trying to restore order to the rehearsal. Many of the actors were running from the stage, and it did not take Mulder long to figure out why.
Hanging from the rafters above the stage was the man they had talked to earlier—Rex Jameson. A thick rope was looped around his neck, long enough that his feet hung just over the heads of the actors who were fleeing the scene. Mulder raced for the stage, hoping to cut him down and save his life, but he quickly figured out that it was too late. Whoever (or whatever) had killed Jameson had pushed him over the edge of the rafter above, and his neck had likely snapped as soon as the rope pulled taut. Still, Mulder stood beneath him and lifted his body to relieve the pressure on his neck while shouting to Diana to climb up and cut him down.
While Diana ran up the wooden steps to the rafters, Mulder looked up at the man hanging eerily above him. Maybe Scully was not too far off after all. This death had a certain "Phantom of the Opera" flair to it. Mulder decided against voicing this theory, knowing it would only earn him a laugh from Diana.
Two hours later, the coroner finally zipped the black plastic bag shut over the body and carried it out to the truck. Mulder gave him instructions to send it to Quantico along with the other four bodies, knowing Scully was not going to be too happy when she found out he had sent her yet another body. He considered asking someone else to perform the autopsies, but that action would probably land him in even more trouble, for Scully would see it as proof that he was babying her—something she had expressly forbid. Besides, he trusted her.
"No one saw anything," Diana announced, approaching him. "Not that I expected them to. It was pretty dark in here."
"Yeah." Mulder was squinting up at the rafter from which Jameson had fallen, nearly fifteen feet above his head. The lights were only out for a few seconds, not nearly enough time to climb up the stairs, push Jameson over the balcony, and then come back down again. "Mr. Grainger?" Mulder called out. The pudgy man turned around, wringing his hands worriedly in front of him.
"Where's the breaker box in this building?"
"The breaker box? In the basement, I assume." He pointed to a wooden door on the left side of the stage that Mulder had not noticed before. Nodding his thanks, Mulder approached the door and pushed it open to reveal a set of stairs covered in a fine layer of dust. "No one ever goes down there," Grainger explained, coming up behind him. "There's really no reason to."
Mulder flicked on his flashlight and shone it on the stairs. The dust appeared to be undisturbed; there were no traces of footprints. Carefully, he stepped forward, moving slowly down the concrete steps. When he reached the bottom, he turned right, following a narrow passageway until he came to a slightly larger area. The walls and floor were cement, and a number of old props littered the floor, all covered in dust and cobwebs. Spotting the rusted metal breaker box in the corner, Mulder approached it and opened the door. It swung open with a creak of protest, revealing a number of large black switches. The same dust covered these switches; again, it appeared undisturbed. It did not seem likely that anyone had flipped the switch to cut out the lights.
Closing the door to the box again, Mulder turned, shining his light around the room. A trunk of old costumes sat in one corner, many of them spilling over onto the floor. Mirrors, chairs, swords, and a variety of other props surrounded this trunk. Much of the wood was rotted; it looked as if it would crumble with a single touch. Mulder was inclined to believe Grainger's assertion that no one ever came down here.
As Mulder turned to leave, a raised wooden platform in the center of the room caught his eye. Raising flashlight up, he found four barely distinguishable lines cut into the ceiling in the shape of a square. Mulder walked closer to it, noticing a small podium to one side of the platform with a number of buttons. It was a trap door; they had been used extensively in theaters for years.
Mulder reached out to press one of the buttons when he felt something brush against his shoulder. He spun around quickly, drawing his gun. But he saw nothing but shadows surrounding him. Just when he was about to discount the touch as nothing more than a spider, he heard a scraping sound and quickly turned to the corner. Something was moving, but he was too far away to see what it was. Carefully, he stepped closer, trying desperately not to make a sound.
"Mulder?" a voice suddenly called. The sound stopped, and Mulder cursed under his breath. Diana had horrible timing.
"I'm down here," he called back, now approaching the corner with less caution. He swept the area with his flashlight but found nothing.
"Did you find anything?" Diana asked, stepping off the last stair.
"No. Our guy didn't flip a switch on the circuit breaker to get the lights out. Of course, I never really expected that he had. There's no way anyone can flip a switch down here and then run up those stairs, race across the stage, run up to the rafters, loop the rope around Jameson's head and drop him off, and then do it all again to get back down and flip on the lights in the space of a few seconds. And in complete darkness. If our guy managed that, he should be in the Olympics."
"So you still think it's a poltergeist then?"
"It makes the most sense. If you look at the circuit breaker, you can tell that no one has touched it in years."
"I've always wanted to find evidence of a poltergeist," she mused.
"We just might have that opportunity." Mulder glanced around the basement, still searching for anything that might have made the noise.
They emerged from the basement to find the police still searching for any evidence. Instead of making his way up to the rafters from which Jameson had fallen, Mulder turned toward the back of the theater. He jumped off the stage and quickly made his way to the light box. Trying the door, he found that it was locked. "Do you have a key to this door?" he asked Grainger.
"Of course." Grainger pulled a key chain from his pocket and selected a small, gold key before walking over to Mulder and placing it in the lock. "What exactly are you looking for?" he asked as Mulder pushed open the door and stepped inside.
"I don't know yet." Mulder walked over to the panel, pulling on a set of latex gloves. After glancing quickly at the labels, he flipped a few switches, plunging the theater into semi-darkness. Looking out the window, Mulder saw that a few lights were still dimly illuminated as were the red "Exit" signs above the doors. "Is there a way to turn all those lights off?" Mulder questioned.
"No, those are the emergency lights. We're required to have them on at all times."
"They weren't on before."
"Well, they go out a lot of times when the lights flicker."
"How? They're on a different circuit than the regular lights."
Grainger shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not an electrician. I just assumed that whatever screwy wiring caused the lights to keep flickering also caused the emergency lights to go off."
"But the exit signs went off, too. They're all required to have a battery back up so if the lights do go off, you can find your way out."
"I don't know what to tell you."
Shaking his head, Mulder flipped the lights back on and exited the light box. Grainger locked the door and followed him. "They're printing the banister," Diana announced. "Maybe we'll get lucky."
"Not if it's a poltergeist."
Mulder's phone rang, and he pulled it out of his pocket. "Mulder, it's me," Scully's voice said. A smile spread across Mulder's face when he heard her voice.
"Hey, me, what's going on?"
"I just finished up my class, so I thought I'd call and see how your case was coming."
"It's pretty good. We actually got to witness poltergeist activity."
"Yeah, I got my new partner today. She just showed up in my office with the case file from Skinner and told me we were going to Ohio."
Scully felt her insides begin to simmer at the name, but she forced her voice to remain neutral as she uttered a single syllable. "Oh."
A smile spread across Mulder's face. Even though she had not said much, he could still hear the jealousy in her voice. Turning away from Diana, he stepped into a relatively quiet corner and lowered his voice. "Jealous?"
"Of course not. I was just surprised."
"Come on, Scully, it's a perfectly natural human emotion. I won't think less of you if you admit to it." His grin now covered the entire part of his lower face.
"Mulder, this is ridiculous?"
"Really? What if I told you I made sure to rent us connecting motel rooms?"
"Ha! I knew it. You're jealous." Scully was silent, and he could almost see her chewing the inside of her cheek as she attempted to think of a response that would end the discussion once and for all. Since Mulder had always been the kind of person who liked to end things on his own terms, he jumped spoke again before her brain supplied her with a suitable response. "You know, Scully, you have no reason to be jealous. There's only one person I really want to be investigating this case with, but she unfortunately has to stay in Washington for the health of our babies. But I can't wait to get back to her and enjoy the rest of the second trimester." He leered. "And I'm thinking of getting motel rooms as far apart as possible. Maybe even staying at separate motels."
"Mulder, it makes sense for you to rent connecting rooms so you can discuss the case," Scully pointed out.
"You really want us alone in a motel room?" Mulder questioned.
"I know you, Mulder. You wouldn't do anything."
"And here I thought I'd have to tell you that. You really are one of a kind, Scully. And I love you for it."
"I love you, too. Now tell me about this poltergeist activity you witnessed."
"We were watching the rehearsal when all the lights went out suddenly. And I mean all the lights. Even the exit signs went out, and they have battery backup to prevent just such an occurrence. They were out for maybe ten, fifteen seconds or so, and when they came back on, one of the actors was hanging from the rafters with a rope around his neck. That's five murders, Scully. Something's going on here."
"I'll agree with you there, Mulder, but I don't think it's anything paranormal."
"Did you hear what I told you about the lights?"
"Batteries die, Mulder. LED's go bad. There could be faulty wiring or maybe someone short circuited the lights."
"So the lights in three exit signs go bad at the same moment as someone decides to short circuit the rest of the lights? No offense, Scully, but I think that's a bit too coincidental."
"How long have they been up?" Mulder was silent. "I doubt they all died at the same time, Mulder. Likely, they've been dead for awhile now, but nobody has noticed before." Scully put down the pen she was holding and rubbed her temple.
Mulder was pacing now, shaking his head. "Scully, I know what I saw."
"And I'm not doubting that. I'm just saying that there is an explanation for what you saw that does not involve a poltergeist."
"That's what you always say." Mulder sighed. "I've got to go. I've got a few more people I'd like to interview before we get out of here for today."
"Okay. I'll see you sometime."
"Hopefully soon," Mulder added before hanging up. He reluctantly replaced the phone in his pocket and turned back to the frightened people milling about the theater. Though Scully usually did nothing but poke holes in his theories, he still enjoyed talking with her about the case. Their debates helped him to form more concrete explanations for what had happened, explanations that he could sometimes even convince her to accept. They were two intelligent, strong-willed people who were usually unwilling to budge in their opinions and yet they somehow worked well together. Mulder still did not have a plausible explanation of why this was true; it was an X-file in itself. But the one thing that he did know is that he could never have made it as far as he had without Dana Scully beside him.
Diana's voice brought him out of his silent contemplation. "Scully again?"
"Yeah, I told her about the fifth murder."
"You know, she doesn't have to do the autopsies. I'm sure that there's a qualified coroner at the Cleveland field office-"
"No, I want Scully to do these autopsies. She's the only person I trust."
"Fox, you're being absurd. The coroner is not trying to cover up anything."
"Yeah, but he might have missed something."
"And you think Scully will find it?"
"I know she will. Scully's good. Very good."
They spoke with all the crew members again but learned nothing new. Mulder dropped Diana off at the Cleveland field office to run background checks on the five victims and see if she could find any connection other than their employer. When she saw that he was not coming in with her, she asked, "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to do some digging of my own. I'll be back soon."
"Digging for what?"
"I'm not sure yet." He gave a small wave, spit a sunflower seed out his open window, and pulled away from the field office.
When Mulder returned to the field office three and a half hours later, he found Diana sitting on a padded chair near the front door holding a large stack of files. She looked up when she heard the door open and glanced at her watch. "You're late," she told him, rising to her feet.
"Late? I never gave you a specific time that I would be here."
"Fox, I don't like being ditched."
"I didn't ditch you. I'm here, aren't I?"
"You said you'd be back soon. That was over three hours ago."
"So I lost track of time. But you'll never guess what I found."
"I tried calling. You didn't pick up your phone." Diana had latched onto his mistake like a dog on a bone, and Mulder did not foresee being able to shake her off anytime soon. With a sigh, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and noticed that the screen was black. He turned the phone so Diana could see.
"I forgot to charge it last night, so it died. It won't happen again."
"I should say not. What if I was in trouble?"
"You're at the Cleveland field office surrounded by dozens of FBI agents. What kind of trouble could you possibly get into?"
"That's not the point! What if this had happened when I was following a lead?"
"For Christ's sake, Diana, it was an honest mistake!"
"I don't know how it worked with you and Scully, but when I am assigned as someone's partner, I expect to actually work with that person!"
"How it worked with me and Scully?" Mulder shook his head and looked at Diana, his eyes wide with incredulity. "How it worked with me and Scully is that we each had our own field of expertise, and we both understood that sometimes we would have to split up to solve a case quickly. But that didn't mean we weren't partners because we also knew that if either one of us ever truly needed the other one, that person would be there no matter what. That's a partnership." Mulder whirled around, starting toward the door. When he realized that Diana was not following him, he called over his shoulder. "Are you coming or not?" She took a moment to decide; by the time she started after him, he was already out the door.
Later that night, Mulder sat on the bed in his motel room with the information he had discovered earlier spread across his lap. He was scanning all the details carefully, committing them to memory. From time to time, he would reach over to take a bite of the fried rice in the open Chinese takeout container beside him.
A knock at the door interrupted his silent studying. "Who is it?" he asked.
"It's me," Diana called. Mulder glanced down at the papers in his lap. He was not exactly eager to see Diana, but he knew they needed to work together if they wanted to solve the case. With a sigh, he pushed the papers to the side and stood, steadying the Chinese container before it fell. He opened the door to reveal Diana wearing a bathrobe, her hair damp and curled slightly.
"Something wrong?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"No. I just thought we should discuss the case."
"Oh." Mulder scanned her attire again. She did not look as if she had dressed to go over the details of the case with her partner; it looked as if she had just stepped out of the shower and come over. With a small smile, Mulder thought that Scully would never have come to the door of his motel room wearing a bathrobe if she wanted to discuss the details of a case. Not that he would have minded if she had. But Scully had always been a professional; during their partnership, he had rarely seen her in anything but a business suit, and when she was wearing something different, she usually had a good reason for doing so. More often than not, that reason involved him waking her up at odd hours of the night to go chasing after a new lead.
"Can I come in?" Diana asked.
"Uh, yeah, I guess." Mulder opened the door wider and stepped out of her way. She scanned the room, noticing the half-finished dinner and numerous papers.
"Were you working on the case?"
"Yeah, I was just going over some information I discovered earlier."
"Well, I hope it's more substantial than what I discovered. I ran background checks on all our victims, but I couldn't find a single connection other than their place of employment. I even went through credit card records to see if they shopped at the same places, but I came up with nothing."
"Maybe the only connection is their place of work." Mulder walked over to the bed and shuffled through the papers for a moment before finding the one he was searching for. "Here," he said, handing the paper to Diana. Glancing down at it, she saw that it was a copy of an old newspaper article, dated 1968.
"What's this?" she asked.
"Read it." Diana scanned the article quickly. The headline read "Owner of Local Theater Found Murdered; Killer Still at Large." According to the article, the owner of the theater at the time, Lance Burton, had stayed after late one night to fix the set for a play he was directing. When one of the actors arrived for practice the following morning, he found the door unlocked. Entering the building, he saw Burton lying dead on the stage, suffocated by the fabric he was using to repair the scenery. The police had questioned all the actors and anybody else who had access to the theater, but they had never found a good suspect. There was virtually no physical evidence: no fingerprints, footprints, hairs, fibers, nothing. The killer had come and gone without a trace. Almost like a ghost.
When Diana finished reading, she looked up at Mulder who was watching her expectantly. "Well?" he finally asked.
"Fox, this happened thirty years ago. I don't see what this has to do with the case."
"Maybe nothing. But I have a hunch."
"Yeah. I'm thinking that the late Lance Burton never left his precious theater."
"Let me guess. You think he's haunting the place, trying to drive the current crew away so that he can have the theater all to himself."
"Something like that, yeah. This is the first crew that's performed in that theater since Burton died thirty years ago. I think he's trying to make sure it's the last."
"I guess that might be right," Diana agreed, glancing down at the paper. Watching her, Mulder laughed. She looked up at him, slightly taken-aback. "What?"
"I'm just thinking that I'm not used to having my theories accepted so readily. Usually by this time, Scully would already be pointing out why my explanation was scientifically impossible."
"Don't you ever wonder what it would be like to have a more. . . like-minded person on the X-files?" Diana asked.
"Someone like you, you mean?" Mulder guessed.
"Think about how much more work we could do, Fox, if no one was there to constantly question our theories or investigative methods. Imagine what the solve rate on the X-files would be."
"The solve rate's pretty good now considering the nature of the cases."
"But think about how much better it would be if we were working together." She leaned closer to him, but Mulder turned his head and took a step backward. "Fox, I don't think I ever truly stopped loving you. We could make this work."
"No, we can't. Whatever feelings I had for you left when you did seven years ago. I don't love you, Diana. I've moved on with my life. And it's time for you to move on with yours, too." He moved to the bed.
"So you won't even give us a chance?" she asked.
"Fox." She stepped toward him, but he stopped her with a glare.
"Maybe you should be getting back to your room, Diana. It's late."
With one last look at him, she backed away and silently left the room, wondering where everything had gone wrong.
They spent the following morning talking to the police officers who had investigated the first three deaths and speaking with the coroner who had autopsied the bodies. As Mulder had expected, they learned nothing new. If his theory was correct, they were not going to catch the killer through forensic evidence. Ghosts did not typically leave DNA or fingerprints.
By lunchtime, both agents were hungry and irritable. After the conversation the previous night, tension hung heavy in the air, weighing down on both of them. Mulder felt like he was walking on eggshells around Diana. He needed to show her that he had no romantic feelings for her any longer, that his heart belonged to someone else and had for quite awhile. They were simply partners; actually, he would not even apply this label to their relationship, for they were only working together temporarily. He just hoped the next few months passed quickly so he could work with Scully once more.
As they ate a lunch of greasy burgers and soggy French fries, Mulder's phone rang. Diana glared at him as he pulled it out, but he ignored her. "Mulder."
"I hate new recruits," Scully groaned.
"That bad, huh?"
"I think I might even take the giant fluke over this."
"Be careful what you wish for."
"Mulder, do me a favor and shoot me before I ever agree to this again."
Mulder laughed. "I'm not sure I can promise that."
"Then hand me over to that chain-smoking bastard. I'm sure he'll be happy to do it for you."
"I don't know. I think he's developed a soft spot for you, Scully." Mulder laughed again as he heard her sigh of exasperation. "Did you get the bodies I sent you?"
"All five of them. I was just finishing up my lunch, and then I'm going to start."
"Did you call to tell me anything in particular?"
"Just that you better stop sending me bodies. I have enough problems as it is."
"I'll do my best. Talk to you later."
When Mulder and Diana walked into the theater, they found the director arguing with a man that neither of them recognized. "Is there a problem here?" Diana asked, approaching the two men.
"Yeah, there's a problem. This man doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the words private property," the director said, jabbing a finger in the second man's direction. The second man stepped toward the director, but Mulder held him back.
"I have a right to be here," the man said. "This is a free country. I can go where I want." He struggled against Mulder's arm but could not break free.
"This is my theater. I say who can be here."
"You just want all the credit, don't you? This would be the discovery of a lifetime, and you want to make sure that you're the only one remembered for it."
"What discovery is that?" Mulder asked, breaking into the conversation.
"Scientific proof of a haunting." The man finally stopped struggling and reached to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand.
"A haunting?" Mulder asked.
"Yeah, right here in this theater. I've seen it with my own eyes, even captured some of it on film." The man patted the camera bag which hung over his right shoulder.
"You're saying you have footage of this ghost?"
"Sure. Plenty of it. That's what scares him." He jabbed a finger at the director who opened his mouth to protest. Mulder shot a silencing glare his way, and he meekly closed his mouth again without making a sound.
"Can I see it?"
The man's eyes narrowed as he regarded Mulder suspiciously. "Who are you?" Sighing, Mulder reached into his coat pocket and found his badge. He flipped it open and allowed the man to inspect it carefully. "FBI? Really?"
"Yes. Now, can I please see the footage?"
"Sure. Just let me find it." The man opened the bag and pulled out a black video camera. Flipping the small screen open, he began to rewind the tape. After a couple minutes, he stopped and held the camera closer to Mulder. "I shot this five days ago," he informed the agent, pressing play. Mulder leaned closer so he could clearly see the images flicker across the small screen. The scene showed the same theater he was now standing in. Since most of the seats were visible, Mulder assumed the video had been taken from the back. It appeared to be a recording of a rehearsal; most of the actors stood on stage, talking, but Mulder could not hear anything they were saying since the sound was muted. Suddenly, the screen went black for a couple seconds before returning to normal. Mulder had just enough time to glimpse the shock on the actor's faces before the screen went black again. This pattern continued for nearly a minute. "That's the ghost messing with the lights. He does that all the time," the man announced excitedly. "Just wait though. The best part is coming up."
The screen suddenly illuminated again. The actors seemed only mildly curious about the disturbance; a couple glanced upwards, but most simply resumed their positions to continue the rehearsal. What happened next, however, no one ignored.
A large, elaborate wooden set stood behind the actors, depicting an upper-class English house appropriate for the setting of the play. It appeared well-designed and stable, but about thirty seconds after the lights came back on, it suddenly toppled forward and crashed to the ground so fast that Mulder nearly missed it. This time, the actors reacted just as they had to the dead body the previous day; they all scrambled off the stage as fast as possible, pushing and shoving one another out of the way. Mulder was surprised no one was trampled in the panic.
"Did you see that?" the man questioned.
"Yeah. What happened?" Mulder asked.
"No one knows. The scenery just fell over. Almost like it was pushed. But no person would be strong enough to push that thing over."
"You're saying it was the ghost?"
"What else could it be?"
Mulder nodded, the cogs in his head turning furiously. He suddenly thought of something. "Were you here during rehearsal four days ago?" Mulder inquired.
"You mean when that guy was killed? Yeah, I was here."
"Did you film that day?"
"I film every day."
"Do you have that tape with you?"
"Sure." The man dug through his bag for a minute before extracting a small tape labeled in barely legible handwriting. "Why?"
"I need to take this tape to the FBI lab and have it examined."
"Evidence. I need to see if it shows our killer."
"You mean the ghost."
"You think I actually got footage of the ghost?"
"I won't know for sure until I check."
"Oh man, this is awesome! But if you do find it, just remember that it's my tape. I'm the one who recorded the ghost. I want the credit."
"I'll make sure you get the credit you deserve," Mulder promised, already turning toward the door with the tape clutched in his hand.
"I'm going to get that back, right?" the man called after him. Mulder gave no answer; instead, he simply began to stride away from the stage. Diana hurried after him, finding it hard to keep pace with his long strides.
"Fox, where are you going?" she asked.
"I'm going to fly back to DC. I've got a friend at Quantico who I want to run this by."
She pursed her lips, looking as if she's about to object, but before she can say anything, the door swung shut behind him.
Scully glanced at the autopsy report for the second victim. "Elevated levels of oxycodone seem to indicate. . ." she read, but she managed to go no further, for the words began to blur. It was nearing dinner time, and she had been at Quantico for almost twelve hours, a fact she decided it best not share with Mulder. He was a perpetual worrier, and his anxiety had only increased since they found out she was pregnant. She imagined that if he had his way, she would be confined to her apartment for the remainder of her pregnancy.
And yet he could not stop himself from asking for her help on a case. They had worked together so closely over the years that it had become natural for one of them to call the other whenever they needed anything. They were partners and relied on each other even when they could rely on no one else. Mulder had never let her down, and she was determined to maintain the same track record—which was why she was currently sitting in a cold, metal chair in the morgue attempting to plow through autopsy reports.
Scully glanced back at the sentence, but now all the words seemed incomprehensible, as if someone had smudged them. She was too tired to think. Maybe if she closed her eyes for a few minutes, she could clear her mind and return to the task at hand.
The next things Scully was aware of were two strong hands on her shoulders. She blinked, trying to recall where she was. Her head was resting on her arm, and she imagined that her cheek would have a lovely red imprint of her watch. "I thought I told you not to overwork yourself," a familiar voice whispered. Hot breath caressed the back of Scully's neck, and she shivered involuntarily.
"Mulder, what are you doing here?" she asked, her voice still thick with sleep.
"I should ask you the same question. It's almost 7:00."
"I was just trying to get some work done."
"What's it going to take to get you to relax, Scully?" he asked, pushing her hair aside so that he could press a kiss to the back of her neck.
Scully let her eyes slide shut again as she felt the pleasure from the simple contact course through her body. "Mmm. That could work," she suggested.
"Really? Then I guess I'll have to try this more often." He moved his lips slightly to the left and kissed her neck again, enjoying the feel of her smooth skin.
"Mulder, we're at work," Scully reminded him after a couple minutes.
"And anyone can walk in."
"We're the only people crazy enough to be here at this time." He had worked his way to the side of the neck, pushing the shoulder of her blouse out of the way to give him more access to her skin. She spun her chair around suddenly, causing him to pull away slightly. Placing her forearms on his shoulders, she locked her hands together behind his neck and leaned forward to give him a long kiss.
"What are you really doing here?" she asked when she pulled away.
"Hopefully more of that." He leaned forward again, but she stopped him.
Mulder sighed and rocked back onto his heels, still in a crouched position so that he was at eye level with her. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the tape the man had given him earlier. "I wanted to take a closer look at this."
Scully's eyebrows rose. "What kind of home movies?"
Mulder grinned cheekily. "The good kind."
"So I'm guessing it's not yours."
"Actually, they really aren't mine anymore. I gave them to Frohike. But no, this is technically not mine either but for different reasons."
"What's on it?"
"That's what I intend to find out." He reached beside him and held up a large bag. "How does dinner and a movie sound?"
"How romantic," Scully remarked dryly.
"Come on, I brought Mexican. You're still having cravings for Mexican, right?"
"Yeah," Scully said a bit more eagerly, leaning toward the bag. Her stomach had reawakened, reminding her with a growl that it was empty.
"Good. And I stopped at the store and bought chocolate milk, Oreos, and pineapple. I figured if I took care of the four main cravings, I was bound to get something right."
"Honestly, I think I'd eat just about anything right now. I'm starving." She reached for the bag and dug out the plastic container of pineapple. Opening it, she began to pull the pieces out with her hands and eagerly place them in her mouth, barely taking the time to chew before swallowing. Mulder laughed as he watched her.
"I believe there's a fork in there if you want it."
"Mm-hm," Scully said without stopping the furious shoveling of pineapple into her mouth. Taking the hint, Mulder dug through the bag for a few seconds before holding out the plastic utensil. Scully took it from him and continued to eat.
"I never realized you were such a pig, Scully."
She swallowed a large mouthful of pineapple. "I didn't have much lunch."
"Scully, the doctor told you to take care of yourself. That includes eating regularly."
"Well, a couple of my students decided to spend most of my usual lunch break asking me about some things we went over in class today, so I didn't get time to eat."
"Skipping meals is not-"
"I know how to take care of myself, Mulder," she snapped, cutting him off. "Now, I believe we were going to watch a movie, right?"
He sighed, knowing that he would never win the argument. He could beg Scully to take it easy until he grew blue in the face, and she would still do exactly what she wanted to do. Her stubbornness was one of the things that attracted him to her—it showed that she could think for herself. But her stubbornness also annoyed the hell out of him at times. "Let's go see Chuck," he said, putting an arm around her shoulders and leading her from the room. She was still eating pineapple.
By the time they reached Chuck's lab, she had already finished most of the pineapple. As they sat down beside the slightly eccentric technician, Scully reached for the bag which Mulder still held. She pulled out a taco and carefully peeled back the wrapper before taking a bite. The pineapple seemed to have staved off the worst of her hunger, so she decided to take a bit more time to enjoy the rest of her meal. Mulder also selected a taco before offering the bag to Chuck who pulled out a taco with a muttered "Thanks."
"So, Mulder, what is so important that I had to stay late on a Friday night?" Chuck asked over a mouthful of taco. Scully was tempted to chastise him for talking with his mouth full, but she knew he was doing Mulder a favor, so she bit her tongue.
"Got a hot date or something?" Mulder questioned.
"I just might."
"I need your help, Chuck."
"I can't give you the kind of help you need, Mulder."
"Funny. Actually, I wanted you to take a look at this." Mulder pulled the tape out of his pocket again. Chuck took it and examined it carefully as if expecting to find a secret code etched into the back.
"What is it?" he finally asked.
"Possibly a recording of a murder."
"And you couldn't take it to anyone else because. . ."
"The murder may have been committed by a poltergeist."
Chuck looked up at Mulder, his eyes shining with excitement. "No way."
"Way. Now, I just need you to work your magic and see if we can get a picture of our chaos-loving friend."
"I'll see what I can do." Chuck inserted the tape into a device beside his computer and brought a grainy black and white image of the theater up onto his computer screen. This time, the sound was working fine, and Mulder listened to the lines he now almost had memorized after hearing them countless times at the rehearsal the previous day.
"I think it's a bit later," Mulder said, and Chuck obediently fast-forwarded through the rehearsal. When Mulder saw the actors stop and begin to look off-stage, he said, "Here. Stop it here." The tape began to play at normal speed again, and Mulder heard a couple of the actors calling Greg's name. Eventually, Jameson said something that Mulder could not make out because of the distance from which the scene was filmed. He walked off the stage, returning moments later waving his arms frantically.
"He's dead!" Jameson shouted. "Dead!"
"What?" A couple of the other actors moved off-stage to investigate, returning quickly to give a report similar to Jameson's. The actors were beginning to grow frightened now; they crowded close to each other, unsure of how to react to this latest death. Whoever was filming started to move closer to the stage, and the picture shook for a few moments before going black.
"That's the end of the tape," Chuck announced.
Mulder was staring at the blank screen in front of him. He nodded and said simply, "Rewind to before they started calling for Richards." Chuck reached out and pressed a button, and the pictures began to travel rapidly backwards. After about a minute, Mulder said, "There!" The picture began to move forward again. "Can you advance this scene by scene?" Mulder questioned.
"Sure." Chuck fiddled with a couple controls and the picture froze. He slowly turned a knob, and a sequence of still pictures appeared on the screen, each taken a fraction of a second after the previous one like an advance flip book.
"What are you looking for, Mulder?" Scully asked. She had finished off two tacos already and had finally stopped eating to focus her attention on the pictures in front of her. As crazy as Mulder made her sometimes, his hunches had the uncanny tendency of being right.
Mulder did not answer immediately; his eyes remained glued to the screen as another picture came up. This one again showed the actors on stage in various poses. However, a white blur now accompanied the actors. It hovered over stage left, near where Jameson had found the body. Scully leaned closer to see it, her shoulder pressing against Mulder's who also had his nose nearly on the screen. The white blur did not appear to have a shape; it was simply a haze, approximately the size of a person. "What is it?" Scully questioned.
"I don't know," Chuck told her, fiddling with the controls. "It could be an artifact on the camera lens."
"An artifact which mysteriously appears out of nowhere?" Mulder asked. He squinted, trying to discern a recognizable shape in the amorphous mass. "This could be a person, couldn't it?" he asked finally.
"If you're going to tell me you see Elvis, I will finally have you committed," Scully told him. He turned to her with narrowed eyes.
"I doubt the king would use his afterlife to terrorize a small theater."
"So you admit he's dead then?"
"He'll never die." Mulder turned back to the computer. Chuck had managed to clear up the image somewhat, but his actions had not helped tremendously. "Is that the best you can do?" Mulder asked him.
"Sorry," Chuck apologized. "This was shot from far away with a second-rate camera. You're lucky to have gotten as much as you did."
"I still think it resembles a person." Mulder's finger reached out to point out details of the mass. "There's a head and shoulders, two arms, a torso, legs." Scully examined the picture carefully, but she simply could not see what he was describing.
"Mulder, this is like trying to find shapes in clouds. It could be a person or a house or a dancing elephant depending on how you look at it."
"A dancing elephant, Scully?"
"You know what I meant, Mulder. You're making something out of nothing."
"This isn't nothing, Scully. There's definitely something there. It's just a question of what. Or maybe who. Chuck, can you go forward a bit."
"Sure." Chuck began to advance the picture once more. The white mass appeared in the next fourteen shots, but none of the shots provided a clear enough picture for them to discern what the shape was. After nearly forty-five minutes of looking, Mulder was beginning to think that Scully was right: they were simply looking for shapes in clouds. Naturally, he did not voice this sentiment.
Mulder sighed and sat back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. He glanced over at Scully. She had given up trying to find shapes in the mass after the second picture, preferring instead to finish her dinner. Now, she was curled up in the office chair, her knees tucked beneath her body and her head lolling on her shoulder, fast asleep. A nearly empty glass of chocolate milk sat in front of her. Picking it up, Mulder drained the contents before tossing it into the trashcan across the room, an art he had perfected during his countless late night research sessions when he was too lazy to actually walk over to a trashcan. Turning to Chuck, he asked, "Can you print out all the pictures with our ghost in them?"
"Sure." Chuck typed a few keys, and the printer in the corner of the room came to life with a whir of protest. A couple minutes later, Mulder held fifteen eight-by-ten black and white photos in his hands.
"Thanks for doing this, Chuck," he said.
"It's no problem. Actually, you've peaked my curiosity now, too."
"Well, I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out."
"Okay. I'll see you around."
"See you." Mulder watched as he left the lab before bending down in front of Scully. Putting one arm on the arm of her chair, he leaned forward and brushed her hair out of her eyes before kissing her forehead. She stirred, blinking.
"Mulder?" she asked groggily.
"No, it's the boogie man," he replied cheekily.
"Funny, Mulder." She sat up straighter and stretched. As she raised her arms above her head, her shirt rode up somewhat, displaying her slightly rounded stomach. Mulder looked at it curiously before returning his eyes to her face. She saw the question there, and she encouraged him with a small nod. Gently, he reached down to place his hand over her stomach. After a few seconds, he felt a small flutter of movement beneath his palm.
"Was that. . ."
"That was the boogie man," she retorted. He smiled.
"I'm surprised we haven't run into the boogie man yet."
"Mulder, the boogie man doesn't exist."
"I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss him, Scully. Countless cultures tell stories of similar creatures. In Brazil, there's a bagman who-"
"Mulder, just shut up and take me home."
"Yes, ma'am." He helped her up, and she followed him to the car.
Mulder awoke to a persistent ringing. He blinked a few times, attempting to adjust to his surroundings. He expected to find himself in a motel room, but there was something familiar about the furniture in the room in which he lay. He saw a small nightstand beside him which supported a digital alarm clock that currently read "4:47." Turning his head, he saw the large, mahogany bureau topped by a simple mirror and the half-opened doorway which admitted a small amount of light from the hallway. He was obviously not in his own home, for he was lying in a bed, and he had not owned a bed since he graduated from college.
A noise beside him caused him to turn farther. He saw a figure sprawled out in the bed beside him, her hair splayed across the pillow. Even in the dim light, he could see the gleam of red from the hair. Of course. He was in Scully's apartment. Where else would he be?
Though they had been officially. . . well, Mulder was not quite sure what label to place on their new relationship. Dating? Together? Romantically involved? None of them seemed to fit quite right. Actually, nothing seemed to fit quite right when it came to him and Scully. They were far from normal.
Anyway, since their relationship had evolved, he had slept at her apartment more often than at his own, but he still did not always recognize his surroundings immediately. After years as a bachelor, it was odd to find himself waking up next to someone else. But what was even odder was that he was growing accustomed to doing so.
"Wha' is it?" Scully questioned, her voice distorted from sleep.
"I don't know," Mulder answered honestly. Having lived most of his life as an insomniac, he could wake up quite readily, rarely falling victim to the haze that seemed to cloud most people's minds just after they woke up. Now wide awake, he reached over to the nightstand beside him, flipping on the table lamp. Sitting up, he climbed out of bed and padded to the chair where he had flung his jacket the previous night. After extracting his phone from one of the pockets, he answered it, moving back to the bed.
"Fox?" Diana's voice asked on the other end.
"Yeah." Scully was now awake, too, and she propped herself up on one elbow to listen to his conversation. Reaching over, Mulder placed his hand on her bare shoulder and began to rub small circles on her skin with his thumb. A soft sound of pleasure escaped her lips, and he smiled as his hand moved toward her neck.
"I know it's late."
"Actually, it's early." Mulder's hand now danced across the back of Scully's neck, and she leaned her head back, enjoying his touch. Her eyes slid shut in pleasure.
"Did I wake you?"
"Yeah, but it's okay. I've actually had more sleep tonight than I usually get anyway." He leaned over so that he could press his lips to her shoulder blade, and she let out an involuntary moan. He smirked.
"Is someone there with you?" Diana asked, feeling a wave of jealousy wash over her.
"No. Just me." Mulder ran his tongue over Scully's skin.
"Where are you anyway?"
"Still in DC."
"I need you to come back to Cleveland. Immediately."
"Why?" Now, Mulder's lips were moving over her skin, following the same trail his hand had taken earlier.
"We have a situation here. I need you back at the theater."
"I have a flight back in three hours," Mulder informed her as he bit Scully's neck gently. She shivered.
"Mulder," she whispered. He put a finger over her lips.
Diana could have sworn she heard a woman's voice call his name. But no, that could not have been right. She must have been hearing things. She knew that Mulder had not dated anyone since she left, and even if he had, he would never have been in bed with them at almost 5:00 in the morning. Mulder was not the type of guy to spend the night with a woman. Diana could not recall a single time when they had actually slept together. Sure, they had had sex, but he had always left almost as soon as they were finished, and Diana would inevitably wake up to an empty apartment. She knew this behavior was simply in Mulder's nature. He was a wanderer—he could not settle down and live a normal life. It was why she had left him.
"Fox, I need you here now."
"Diana, I doubt I could get another flight now. I'll be there soon. I'm sure you can handle things until then."
"Fox-" she began, but he had already hung up. She stood for a minute, staring at the phone, still unsure of what to make of their conversation.
With his lips still pressed to Scully's skin, Mulder reached behind him to deposit the phone on the nightstand. "Diana?" Scully asked, trying to ignore the sensations which threatened to flood her senses as he continued to kiss her neck.
"Mmm," Mulder muttered without removing his lips from her skin.
"What did she want?"
"She says there's a situation. She wants me to go back to Cleveland."
"Shouldn't you be getting to the airport then?"
"My flight leaves in three hours. There's plenty of time." He flipped her over so that he was hovering over her, supported by his strong arms.
"Mulder," she protested feebly, knowing he should be working on solving the case but nevertheless eager for him to continue what he was doing.
"Don't make me beg, Scully." He brought his lips to hers, and she eagerly returned the kiss. No, she certainly would not be making him beg.
Mulder had decided he hated Cleveland. He had taken a cab to the theater, but they had soon found themselves in standstill traffic. Instead of waiting for the traffic to clear up, Mulder had paid the driver and exited the cab, intending to walk the rest of the way since it was only a few short blocks to the theater.
A few short blocks quickly turned into nearly a mile; the cab driver had come a different way than Mulder had the previous day, so his usually good sense of direction was slightly out of whack. He would not have minded the walk under normal circumstances, but the biting winter wind cut through both layers of clothing he wore, chilling him to the bone. On top of that, every driver in Cleveland seemed determined to hit him; he was nearly run over four times, and each time, the irate driver screamed at him as if it was his fault. He wanted to point out that he was in a crosswalk with a green light and therefore had the right-of-way, but he did not feel like stopping to get into an argument. The faster he reached the theater, the sooner he could go inside where it was warm.
By the time he saw the theater, he was ready to pull out his gun and shoot somebody. He was not particularly picky about who. He walked up to the building, flashing his ID at the police officers who were milling about outside, seemingly unaffected by the cold. They waved him through, and he ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and entered the theater.
Unfortunately, since the crew had not arrived yet for the day, the heat was not on, so the theater was chilly. But the absence of wind did help somewhat, and he loosened the tight hold he had maintained on his coat throughout his walk.
"Where were you?" Diana questioned.
"There's a lot of traffic," Mulder said shortly, blowing on his hands.
"I called your apartment. You didn't pick up."
"Must not have heard it." Mulder was now rubbing his hands together, slowly returning feeling to his fingers.
"You weren't there, were you?"
"Diana, I thought you said there was a new development," Mulder said, abruptly changing the subject. She stared at him curiously for a moment longer before turning to face a small group of police officers.
"A call came into 911 this morning," she explained, leading him over to the officers. "The caller didn't say anything, but the dispatcher claims she heard a series of crashes before the line went dead. They traced the call to the theater, but by the time the cops got here, it was too late." She gestured to a prostrate figure on the floor covered by a white sheet. Kneeling down beside the body, Mulder lifted the sheet slightly to expose the face.
"It's the photographer," he announced.
"I know. I checked his wallet. His name's Bert Hallendrum. He lives a few blocks from here. The thing I can't figure out is what he was doing here at 1:00 in the morning."
"He was trying to find evidence," Mulder explained, pulling a glove from his pocket and using it to pick up the camera which lay beside Hallendrum. "My guess is that he came here after everyone was gone to try to capture the ghost on film. Let's hope he succeeded." Mulder placed the camera in a large evidence bag that one of the officers held out for him.
"So you still think it was a ghost?"
"I can't think of a better explanation for why this place is racking up bodies faster than Arlington." He covered the body fully again.
"Do you want this one sent to Quantico, too, sir?" an officer asked.
"Please." Mulder stood and began to slowly amble through the theater, searching for anything he had missed earlier. Something caught his eye, and he approached the corner of the theater a few feet from where Hallendrum lay. Crouching down, he picked up a bit of the mysterious substance and rubbed it between his fingers before bringing it to his nose and sniffing.
"What is it?" Diana asked from behind him.
"Ash," Mulder explained, still staring at it.
"Does that mean something?"
Mulder slowly shook his head. "Not yet. But have it analyzed just in case."
"Okay. By the way, I found an address for Hamlet, aka Brendan George. We should pay him a visit."
Forty minutes later, they were standing in front of a derelict apartment building. Mulder and Diana climbed the crumbling stone steps, trying to breathe shallowly to avoid inhaling too much of the dust which surrounded them. Mulder pressed the button to call George's room, and a gruff voice answered. "What?"
"I'm Special Agent Mulder with the FBI. I have a few questions for you."
"Are you here to arrest me?"
"No, sir, we just want to ask some questions," Diana told him.
He paused for a moment before Mulder heard the sound of a buzzer behind him. "Come on up," George told them
The inside of the apartment building seemed to be in a state similar to its façade. The carpet was old and faded, covered in years of dust and grime. Mulder wondered if anyone bothered to vacuum; he would guess they did not. Actually, it seemed as if no one bothered to do any cleaning; the place smelled horrible.
"Apartment 34," Mulder announced, leading the way to a door marked "Stairs" in peeling black letters. Diana followed him, and they emerged in a musty-smelling hallway that contained ten doors. It did not take long for Mulder to locate the door he was looking for. He raised his fist to knock, but the door swung open before his knuckles connected with the wood.
"You're the FBI agents?" the man asked. He wore a tattered t-shirt and an old, stained pair of jeans. His green eyes were slightly red and crusted with sleep. He yawned broadly as Diana answered.
"Special Agents Fowley and Mulder," she said, holding up her badge.
"What do you want?"
"We just have a few questions for you," Mulder explained.
The man looked from one to the other, considering their request. Finally, he pulled the door open. "Come in."
"Thank you." Mulder followed him into what he assumed was the living room though it was hard to tell since Mulder could not see any of the furniture. It seemed that George had the same standards of cleanliness as his landlord. Pizza boxes littered the area, some still containing half-eaten slices of pizza. A few dirty glasses sat on various items of furniture; many of them had started to collect dust. The pervasive smell of spoiled food reached Mulder's nostrils, and he wrinkled his nose. Though he certainly was not a pillar of cleanliness, he had never allowed the condition of his apartment to deteriorate this much.
"So, what'd you want to ask?" George questioned as he shoved a couple old newspapers, an open bag of chips, two dirty paper plates, and the television remote to the side, giving him room to sit down on the couch.
So there is a couch. Must be a living room after all, Mulder thought. He and Diana stood in front of George, neither daring to make room for themselves to sit also. Both were afraid of what them might discover if they moved any of the refuse. "You were a member of an acting company a couple months ago, weren't you?"
"Yeah. I had the lead. Hamlet."
"Why didn't you stay with the crew?" Mulder questioned.
"What kind of personal reasons?" Mulder asked.
"The personal kind," George answered irritably. "What's this all about anyway? I didn't realize quitting a job was a crime."
"It depends on why you quit and what you did afterward," Mulder told him.
"Look, if you have to know, I was dating one of the other girls in the crew. Hayley Johnson. Anyway, I went into her dressing room one day to find her half-naked with another guy. I confronted her about it, she told me that it was all a misunderstanding, I didn't believe her, so I left. There's no crime there."
Mulder easily recognized the name. Hayley Johnson had been the second victim. "Are you aware that Hayley Johnson is dead?" he asked.
"Yeah, I heard about it on the news. Can't say that I'm sorry. The bitch got what was comin' to her." Suddenly, he looked up at the agents, suspicion dancing in his eyes. "Wait. You think I did it, don't you?"
"Did you?" Mulder asked.
"No way, man. I didn't like Hayley, sure, but I wouldn't kill her!"
"Mr. George, could you tell us where you were on the afternoon of February 2?"
"And where do you work?" Diana inquired.
"Down at Hal's Auto Shop. From 8:00 to 4:00 every day."
"Thank you for your time, Mr. George." Diana turned to leave, but Mulder remained standing in front of the man.
"Did anyone else have a problem with a member of your crew or the director?" Mulder asked. George shook his head.
"Not that I know of. I mean, we had our share of fights among ourselves, but you expect that. You can't put a bunch of people together for long hours every day and expect them to get along perfectly."
"Did anyone ever threaten the crew?"
"Mr. George, did you notice any unexplained phenomena while you were rehearsing? Maybe you saw objects flying around the room or flickering lights."
"Sure. All the time. That theater is haunted."
"You know that for a fact?"
"Who doesn't? I mean, if you spend ten minutes in that place, you can tell there's a ghost. There's always weird noises all around you and the lights are always flickering. And pretty much every member of the crew has seen something floating around at one point or another."
"That's not what they told us," Diana said. She had turned back to face George, realizing that Mulder would not leave until he was good and ready to do so.
"That's because most of them don't want to admit to seeing anything strange. They're afraid people will think they're crazy. But when we talk amongst ourselves, they'll talk all about what they've seen because they know we've all seen it, too. We've tried to talk Grainger into changing venue, but he refuses, telling us that nothing's wrong and that we all have overactive imaginations."
"Okay. Thank you, Mr. George. You've been very helpful." This time, both Mulder and Diana turned away to leave.
"So what should we do now?" She asked as they walked back to the stairwell.
"Let's go back to the theater and see if we can catch our elusive dead friend in the act." He held the door open for her and followed her out.
An hour later, Mulder finished setting up the last of the video cameras in the theater. He had lucked out in finding the cameras; Langly had a friend in Cleveland who loaned him the equipment and even showed him how to set it up after Mulder promised that if he did find anything, the technical genius would receive part of the credit. If Mulder managed to capture the ghost on film—hard, undeniable proof of the supernatural—he was willing to give anyone credit who wanted it.
Mulder took a seat in a chair near the middle of the darkened theater, glancing around. He had convinced the director (rather forcefully) to call off the rehearsal for that day, so he had the theater to himself. Or almost to himself.
A sound behind him caused him to turn his head to glance at the other occupant of the theater. Diana was walking toward him, talking on her cell phone in a low voice. Mulder wondered who she was speaking to, but he decided against pressing the issue, for she might take his invasion into her life as an invitation to invade his. And after the conversation that morning, he was afraid of what that might entail.
After Diana hung up, she took a seat beside him. "So, you really expect to capture this thing on video?" she asked.
"Hallendrum did, and his equipment was not nearly as sophisticated."
Sighing, Diana turned to face him. "Fox, we need to talk."
"Two nights ago."
Damn. He was hoping to avoid that subject. Before he could reply, his phone rang. "Excuse me," he said, turning from her and pulling it out of his pocket.
"Mulder, it's me," Scully's voice said.
"I just finished the last of your autopsies."
"You got the body already?"
"The sixth victim."
Scully frowned. "There's six victims?"
Mulder sighed. In all the excitement, he had forgotten to tell Scully about the most recent victim. "Yeah. We discovered the body of our aspiring filmmaker this morning. I told them to send it to Quantico."
"Well, I haven't received it yet. But I did finish the other five autopsies."
"And I'd have to say my findings correspond with those of the original coroner. The first man died from blunt force trauma to the head which could easily have been caused by the fall described by witnesses. I can't comment as to whether that fall was accidental or orchestrated without seeing the harness that held him. The second victim's cause of death was a bit harder to determine as I couldn't run a tox screen, but there was no other apparent cause of death, so I would have to say that the elevated oxycodone level is the most likely culprit."
"Could it have been injected?"
"Sure. But there's no way I can tell at this point; any needle mark would have been covered up by decomposition. The presence of a half-empty pill bottle seems to indicate that it was ingested however."
"Not if the death was staged. The killer could have left the pill bottle there to make it seem as if she drugged herself. I've talked to a number of the actors here, and none of them mentioned any suicidal tendencies. In fact, most of them described her as a normal, well-adjusted woman."
"You can never know what's truly going on in someone's mind, Mulder."
"Still, with the other five deaths, it seems unlikely. What about the third victim?"
"Again, I'd concur with the original examiner. All signs point to a heart attack."
"How does a healthy thirty-two year old woman suddenly have a heart attack?"
"It's not unheard of, but I will admit it's strange. I was actually thinking about that, too. There's a drug used in lethal injections, potassium chloride, that isn't detected in a tox screen because it's a naturally occurring substance in the body. But in high levels, it can cause cardiac arrest."
"How can we know if she was injected?"
"There's no way of knowing now."
"But it's a possibility?"
"Yes. Now, your fourth victim has a more clearly-defined cause of death. The left ventricle of his heart was punctured by a knife, likely serrated and eight to ten inches in length."
"That's a hell of a knife."
"I've seen bigger."
"We're still talking knives here, right Scully?"
"So the fourth guy was stabbed in the heart. That concurs with the original coroner's report, but we unfortunately still haven't found the knife."
"Your fifth victim died from a broken neck. Ligature marks around the neck indicate that he was hung."
"That he was."
"No signs of elevated levels of drugs or alcohol in any of the victims except for the second. All appeared to be in decent health though the first victim smoked."
"Any theories, Agent Scully?"
"I'd say a very meticulous serial killer."
"Or a ghost."
"Mulder, I have never heard of a ghost who injects people with potassium chloride."
"Maybe we have a resourceful ghost on our hands."
"Or a resourceful living, breathing person."
"Who can stab a man in front of a stagefull of people without being seen?"
"He could have slipped up from backstage."
"How did he hang the victim then? He only had a few seconds."
"If the noose was already tied, it would have been relatively simple to slip it around Jameson's neck and push him off the rafters."
"Just wait, Scully. I'm going to get this ghost on video and then even you won't be able to say that he doesn't exist."
"It's going to take more than a vague blur to convince me that ghosts aren't real."
"Horatio says tis but our fantasy/ And will not let belief take hold of him/ Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us/ Therefore I have entreated him along/ With us to watch the minutes of the night/ That if again this apparition come/ He may approve our eyes and speak to it."
"Hamlet. Act I, Scene I."
"That's a play, Mulder. It's fiction."
"All fiction has its roots in something true."
"So you're saying that some ghost is directing one of the members of the crew to take revenge like Hamlet's father?"
"No, I think the ghost himself is doing the killing."
"If you say so, Mulder. I'll see you soon."
"Me and Casper."
"Casper was a friendly ghost."
"Not this time." Still shaking her head, Scully hung up the phone.
Eight hours later, Mulder was beginning to drift off. They had experienced one light show, and Mulder had spent two hours afterward eagerly rewinding all the tapes and watching them scene by scene to catch his not-so-friendly ghost. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful, but his failure did not seem to lessen his determination to capture the elusive being on film. If anything, he was now more insistent on staying as long as necessary so that they could capture proof of the paranormal. Diana had tried numerous times to convince him to leave, but she was unsuccessful. Finally, she had given him an ultimatum: she was leaving, and he could come with her or not. Naturally, he had stayed.
Now at least it's quiet, he mused, sitting in the darkness which was broken only by the blinking red lights of the camera and the faint glow from the streetlights outside the window. Diana had annoyed him for four hours straight with her incessant questions—why are we here, what do you really expect to find, and, his least favorite of all, where were you really this morning? He had simply ignored her, but this seemed only to fuel her fire until she was demanding that he should answer, that as his partner, she had a right to know these things. At that point, he had exploded, yelling at her about how she was not his partner and never would be. He told her that he already had a partner and did not need nor want another. He had said some other things too, but he really could not remember many of them now; he had simply let the words flow freely out of his mouth, unable to control the deluge because of his rage. He hoped that he had not given away too much. If Diana found out about Scully and him. . . well, she would certainly not make things pleasant for either one of them.
When he finished his rant, she had given her ultimatum, and it was with some relief that he watched her walk out of the darkened theater. Now, however, he was lonely. It was an odd feeling for him—after so many years as an outsider, he had expected to be accustomed to being alone. But for the past five and a half years, he had never truly been alone. He had usually had Scully to call and annoy. Even in the wee hours of the morning, she would patiently listen to his crazy theories before telling him he was insane and to get some sleep. It was oddly comforting to have another person to rely on, someone else he could trust. It made life seem just a bit easier.
Now, he picked up his phone and dialed the familiar number, knowing that it was late in Washington and that she needed her sleep but nevertheless unable to resist his desire to hear her voice. She picked up on the third ring, her voice surprisingly alert considering the hour. "What do you want now, Mulder?" she inquired. "Please tell me that you don't have another body."
"How'd you know it was me?"
"Because no one else would call me at such an ungodly hour."
"What time is it there anyway?"
"Sorry. Did I wake you?"
"No. I couldn't sleep, so I was up reading through some old medical journals."
"Those will put you to sleep pretty quickly."
"I don't know about that. Your daughters seem to have inherited your insomnia. They've been moving around for the past hour."
"Maybe we've got a couple pro wrestlers on our hands."
"I don't think so, Mulder."
"You never know with these things, Scully."
"So, did you call for any particular reason?"
"No. I'm just sitting alone in a dark, haunted theater, and I wanted to hear your voice."
"I've faced worse than homicidal ghosts."
He made a face even though she could not see him. "She left about four hours ago."
"She seems to think I'm crazy for staying here. Says we aren't going to find anything."
"You are crazy for staying there."
"Yes, but you still would have stayed with me. And you don't even believe in ghosts."
"But I believe in you."
Even now, it was rare that they expressed their feelings, so her confession stunned them both into silence for a few moments. Eventually, Mulder broke it in the best way he knew how—with humor. "What are you wearing, Scully?"
"Not this again, Mulder."
"No, seriously, I'm curious."
Scully glanced down at herself. "Your old Earth, Wind, and Fire t-shirt and baggy sweatpants. Not the most becoming outfit, but it fits."
"Oh, I'm sure it's very becoming." His tone was suggestive.
"Aren't you supposed to be on a stakeout, Mulder?"
"They're much more fun when you're with me."
"You won't let me out in the field."
"I know. So I'll have to make do with a phone call."
"Mulder, if you suggest what you're about to suggest, I'm hanging up."
"Come on, Scully, it could be fun."
"Wait, wait, I won't suggest it, okay?"
"Good." Mulder could hear the smug smile in her words.
They were silent for a minute or so before Mulder asked, "What are you doing now?"
"I'm reading about new research that shows how smoking during pregnancy could possibly be linked to autism."
"You're not thinking of taking up smoking are you?"
"Of course not. But it's still a fascinating study."
"I'm sure it is." The tone of his voice indicated he thought otherwise.
"Just because it doesn't deal with aliens or mutants doesn't make it less interesting."
"I'm all for a good vampire story any day."
"I've had enough vampires for one lifetime, thank you."
"So you admit to having more than one life then?" Mulder asked.
"No. I was simply saying that I don't want to deal with any more vampires. Ever."
"And for a minute there I thought you were a believer."
"Sorry to disappoint." It was quiet for a few seconds before Scully realized he was softly humming something. As she listened, the humming grew louder until she could clearly hear the notes. "Mulder, what are you humming?"
"Then I saw her face now I'm a believer/ Not a trace of doubt in my mind/ I'm in love. . . I'm a believer/ I couldn't leave her if I tried."
Scully was laughing as he finished. "Mulder, did anyone ever tell you that you can't carry a tune?" she finally asked.
"I'm no worse than you," he retorted.
"I warned you."
"Well, it did get me to sleep. And I knew you were awake."
"True." Scully glanced at the time in the bottom corner of her laptop and began to shut it down. "Think you could return the favor?" she asked.
"Well, I have to be up at 6:00 tomorrow, and your daughters won't let me go to sleep. . ."
"So they're my daughters now."
"Chronic insomniacs? They certainly sound like your daughters."
"So you want me to sing to you?"
"Fine." Mulder thought for a moment, choosing his song carefully. Before he could open his mouth to begin singing, however, he heard something. It was a low scraping sound as if someone was dragging something across the floor. "Scully, you're going to have to take a raincheck on that song," he told her.
"Nothing. But I think I might have finally lured our ghost out of hiding."
"There's no ghost, Mulder."
"Well, there's something here."
"Be careful, Mulder."
"I will." He paused before adding, "I love you."
"I love you, too." Scully hung up the phone feeling a bit apprehensive. They did not express their affection for each other often. Or at least, they did not express it verbally though both knew it was there. She could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, feel it in his touch. In fact, it was so painfully apparent that she was surprised she had not noticed it sooner. Of course, they had tried so hard to suppress their feelings for five years that her subconscious simply would not allow her to notice the attraction. They had spent so many years insisting that they were merely partners that they had started to believe this lie themselves. It was odd, Scully thought, that as hard as they searched for the truth about government conspiracies and extra-terrestrials, they simply could not open their eyes and see the truth which was right in front of them.
As Mulder replaced the phone in his pocket, he began to wish he had not said those three simple words. Though he meant them, he knew his expression of affection had simply worried Scully. The words indicated that he was about to face a situation from which he did not know if he would emerge alive. The words may have seemed simple enough on the surface, but there was an underlying message: "If I don't come back, know that I do love you."
Mulder shook these thoughts from his mind. He could not worry about what might happen. He would make it through the current situation alive because he had too much to live for now. For the first time in his miserable life, he had found a family. He had Scully and the babies, and he needed to be there for them, to prove that he could settle down, that he could be the father that his father never was. He would not let his girls grow up without a father.
With these thoughts, he pulled his gun from its holster and quietly made his way toward the stage. Logically, he knew that the gun would be of no use against a ghost, but the familiar weight of it in his hand was nevertheless comforting. And if by some miracle, Scully was right and the murderer was alive, then the gun would prove extremely useful.
Mulder could barely see in the dim light. He had turned the lights off with the hope that darkness might lure the ghost from its hiding. Since the cameras were equipped with night vision, he did not need to worry about the darkness obscuring his vision of whatever haunted the theater. Usually, darkness did not bother him; he was accustomed to working in darkness, often preferring to leave most of the lights off in his apartment even when he was not sleeping. But there was something unnerving about the darkness which now pressed around him, so he pulled his flashlight out of his coat and flipped it on.
Swinging the beam around the theater, he saw nothing out of place. All the scenery seemed to be just as he remembered it, and since his photographic memory rarely led him astray, he assumed that nothing had been moved. He was about to walk closer to the stage to make sure when the scraping sound came again. This time, Mulder could tell it was off to his right, and he swung the light in that direction. At first, he saw nothing but empty seats, and he moved in that direction. After a few feet, the sound came again, louder now, and Mulder was able to pin down its location more accurately. It came from somewhere to his left, toward the stage. Moving his beam in this direction, Mulder spotted something he had missed on the first sweep of the theater. A door, almost identical to the one which led to the basement, was set into the wall beside the stage.
Mulder approached this door with the apprehension in the pit of his stomach growing. He tried to calm himself, remembering the number of dangerous situations he had escaped from before. Yeah, usually because Scully was there to save my ass. He thought about calling Diana, but he quickly dismissed this idea. He was an FBI agent. He could handle this situation on his own. He did not need any help.
Grabbing the handle of the door, he turned and found it unlocked. Gratefully, he placed his flashlight in his mouth and opened the door slightly, sweeping the area with his gun. He did not see anyone or anything, but that did not necessarily mean that nothing was there. After all, he was looking for a ghost.
He thought he might be able to discern the presence of a ghost through a chill in the air, but the theater was chilly everywhere, so this theory would not help. His eyes darted around the room, searching for obvious signs of a disturbance. Nothing jumped out at him, so he approached the desk, removing the flashlight from his mouth with his free hand. As always, curiosity took hold of Mulder, and he walked around to the front of the desk, kneeling beside it. Opening the top drawer, he found pens, sticky notes, paper clips, and various other office supplies. The next two drawers yielded similarly mundane items. It was in the fourth and final drawer that he finally found something worth investigating.
On top of the drawer lay a stack of newspaper clippings which had yellowed with age. Placing his gun on the ground beside him and his flashlight in his mouth again, Mulder began to scan the articles. Within the first few sentences, he began to feel the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, the feeling that he had learned portended imminent danger.
The first headline read "Local Theater Burns Down." Scanning the article, Mulder read that a theater in Cleveland had burned to the ground. The police suspected arson, but they had never found a suspect, so the reason for the fire remained unexplained. What attracted Mulder's attention the most, however, was the name of the owner of the theater. Paul Grainger—the name of the director. Looking at the picture, Mulder noticed a striking resemblance between the Grainger depicted in the article and the Grainger he had seen earlier that day. It seems that the son had followed in his father's footsteps.
The next newspaper, however, was the one which truly increased Mulder's fear. He glanced at the headline quickly before reading it again, feeling his stomach drop further. "Rival Director Main Suspect in Recent Killing." The article again described the death of Lance Burton, but this time it told of two witnesses who had come forward claiming that they had seen a rival director from another local director fleeing the scene around the time of the murder. A few of the actors confirmed that the two directors had been arguing earlier that day, giving the rival director means, motive, and opportunity. Once more, Mulder's eyes were drawn immediately to the name of the rival director: Paul Grainger.
Mulder skimmed the remaining articles which all gave further details of the case, telling of Grainger's arrest and eventual conviction. The last announced that Grainger had committed suicide in his cell just before his sentence was decided, hanging himself with a sheet before the guards could reach him.
The scraping came again, and Mulder quickly shuffled the papers one hand, using his other to grab his gun. He had a suspicion that ghosts were not the only enemies he would have to worry about that night. Quickly, he glanced around the room as he replaced the papers in the door. Taking his flashlight from his mouth, he rose to his feet and crept from the room, wary of every slight sound or movement.
The stage was still pitch black, but the small red dots that marked the location of the cameras reassured Mulder somewhat. Sweeping the beam of his flashlight over the area in front of him, he moved stealthily forward, suddenly wishing he had back up. Again, he considered pulling out his phone to call Diana, but he still made no move to retrieve the phone from his pocket. Instead, he moved forward another few steps, his head still moving rapidly back and forth.
By the time he felt the movement beneath his feet, it was too late; he was already plunging downward. With a thump, he hit the wooden platform he had examined earlier that day, landing hard on his right side. Pain shot through his body, and his left arm reached up automatically to grab his shoulder as his eyes squeezed shut. His body curled up as he slowly rolled off his throbbing side and onto his back. For a few seconds, he lay still, his eyes closed, willing the sharp pain to recede from him.
Once his mind had begun to clear somewhat, he began to mentally assess his injuries. From the pain that still seared through his shoulder, he imagined that it was dislocated. Unfortunately, he had no way to cure that problem at the moment, so he would simply have to deal with that later. Bracing his injured shoulder with his left hand to keep it from moving too much, he carefully raised his forearm, bending at the elbow. He did not feel any more pain, so he assumed his arm was not broken. His hip throbbed where it had come in contact with the hard platform, and he imagined he would have an impressive bruise there in the morning. If he survived that long.
Forcing himself not to think about this grim possibility, Mulder continued his assessment. His leg still seemed to function properly, so it seemed that his only serious injury was his shoulder. That was okay—better than he expected even. He could deal with a dislocated shoulder; he had before on numerous occasions.
Grimacing, he sat up, still clutching his shoulder with his left hand. As he had been doing quite often that night, he wished that Scully was with him. She would be able to tug his shoulder back into place quickly and efficiently.
But Scully was not there, so he would have to rely on himself. Careful not to move his right arm too much, he reached into his pocket with his left and pulled out his cell phone. The screen glowed faintly in the dark basement, displaying two words which Mulder had come to dread: "No Service." Wondering if his luck could possibly be any worse, he replaced the phone and glanced around, searching for his flashlight and gun. He found the flashlight quickly enough since its narrow beam of light was the only illumination in the room. Planting his feet on the ground, Mulder stood up and walked over to it, gritting his teeth against the pain that spread like wildfire through his body when his shoulder moved slightly. For a moment, his vision spun, and he felt the nausea rising in his throat. Stopping, he fought the nausea down, taking deep breaths of the musty air to lessen the pain. Once the dizziness passed, he moved forward once more, careful to keep his steps as light as possible to avoid jarring his shoulder.
With the flashlight now in one hand, Mulder could no longer support his shoulder adequately. He knew he needed to find a way to immobilize his shoulder, so he began to unknot his tie. After pulling it from his neck, he wrapped it around his arm and tried to fashion a crude sling. The task was not nearly as easy as he had first expected, partially because he had never tried to make a sling before and partially because he could only use his left hand. He had never claimed to be ambidextrous.
Eventually, however, he fashioned something which vaguely resembled a sling and at least supported his arm. The pain still coursed through his body, making him slightly woozy, but he forced himself to ignore it as he shone his flashlight around the room, looking for his gun. He finally found it lying on the floor a few feet from the wooden platform. He walked over to it, still fighting his nausea. When he reached it, he stared down at the flashlight in his uninjured arm, unsure of what to do for a moment. Eventually, he placed the flashlight in his right arm, figuring that he would rather have full control of his gun and limited ability to move his flashlight. Stooping down, he picked up his gun in his left hand. It felt out of place, for he was accustomed to shooting with his right hand. But he had practiced with his left arm before, and he was a decent shot. At least he hoped he was.
Turning his wrist, Mulder managed to direct the beam of the flashlight through the hole formed by the trap door. Unfortunately, the light was unable to penetrate far, and he could not make out anything in the darkened theater above him. He had to find a way back up there. He knew that failing to do so would spell death for him.
He quickly found the narrow hallway which led to the stairs. Climbing the steep, narrow steps was not easy, for every time Mulder placed his foot down, a jolt of pain would shoot through his shoulder. Still, he made it to the top only to find the door locked. Since he was standing on a step no more than six inches wide, there was no room to back up and try to kick the door through. And since the lock was on the opposite side, he had no chance of trying to pick it. Unfortunately, he had only one option left. Sighing, Mulder turned as best as he could on the narrow step so that his left shoulder faced the door.
Closing his eyes in an attempt to prepare himself for the pain he knew would result from his next action, Mulder leaned to the right slightly before moving quickly back again, slamming against the door with his left shoulder. As expected, intense pain flooded his body as soon as his shoulder hit, and he fought unconsciousness for a few seconds. When he finally opened his eyes again, the pain had lessened somewhat, and he glanced to the door. Though it was flimsy, it remained closed, for he was unable to put much force behind his blows due to the narrow space with which he had to work. But Mulder had never been the type of person to simply give up, and he did not plan on starting now.
Two more blows finally knocked the door off of its hinges, sending it crashing to the floor. Mulder ignored the noise; he no longer cared about being subtle. Whoever or whatever was in the theater knew he was here already. Mulder's shoulder was throbbing violently, and he wanted to scream with pain, but he forced himself to hold his tongue as he stepped carefully over the fallen door. The red lights still shone brightly throughout the theater, but it was another light which beckoned Mulder, one that had not been there when he first fell into the basement. Turning, Mulder saw that this flickering light illuminated the face of Paul Grainger, Jr.
"Paul, what are you doing?" Mulder asked, moving his gun so that it pointed directly at the older man.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Paul asked, his hand shaking violently beneath the match. Mulder watched warily, afraid that he would drop the match and set the entire theater on fire. "I'm going to burn this place to the ground, just like he burned my father's theater. I'm going to send him back to hell where he belongs."
Mulder suddenly smelled something that he had missed before: the stench of gasoline. Obviously, Paul had been busy while he was trying to get out of the basement. "Paul, you-"
Before Mulder could finish his sentence, Paul dropped the match. Mulder watched it drop with some trepidation, but a strong gust of wind suddenly blew through the theater, extinguishing the flame before it reached the puddle of gasoline beneath Paul's feet. Mulder knew no windows were open, but the wind had not come from outside. It had no earthly source.
Undeterred, Paul lit another match, his face still set with grim determination. "Paul, think about this. What are you accomplishing by doing this?" Every nerve cell in Mulder's body screamed for him to turn and run, but he forced himself to remain where he stood. When he had become and FBI agent, he had sworn to protect the lives of others, and he Paul to kill himself.
"I'm getting this bastard out of my life for good," Paul said, letting the match fall. Again, the flame went out before it hit the ground. "Damn you, you bastard!" Paul shouted vehemently. "I'm sick of your stupid little games! Why don't you come out and show yourself?"
A low rumbling sounded throughout the theater, one that sounded mysteriously like chuckling. Mulder swung his flashlight around as well as he could with his injured arm. He stopped the beam just to Paul's right when he saw a glimpse of something. It looked like the same amorphous mass on the video camera. But he only saw it for a moment before it disappeared. "You think you can beat me?" a low voice asked. "Your father couldn't beat me. He tried to kill me, but I still came back. I got my revenge. Even when I was dead, he couldn't beat me." He chuckled again.
"I'm warning you, you bastard." Paul lit another match, but this one extinguished before he even had a chance to let it fall to the floor.
"You don't scare me. You're just as weak as your father."
Mulder was watching the scene play out in front of him with a mixture of fascination and fright. On the one hand, he was witnessing a ghost—real proof of the paranormal. But his excitement was tempered by the fact that as soon as one of those matches hit its mark, he knew it would all be over. And even if Paul did not light the theater on fire, he would still have a homicidal ghost to contend with.
Mulder could not think of what to do next. No hostage negotiation training could ever prepare him for this situation. Encouraging them to sit down and talk over their problems did not seem like a good plan in the current situation. And he doubted that he could make a deal with a ghost. So he remained silent, unable to move from the spot.
"My father was not weak." His voice was strong, but the slight waver betrayed his true feelings. He lit another match which shook slightly in his hands.
"Boo!" Lance said, and the flame went out before Paul was lifted off his feet and flew nearly ten feet, landing next to the front row of seats.
"It doesn't have to be like this!" Mulder called, unable to remain inactive any longer. He watched as Paul stirred slightly, thankful that he was still alive.
"On the contrary, I believe it does."
"Look, just let us go. Why kill us?"
"Pleasure. You can't even begin to understand how horrible it was to die, to think that I had been beaten by that idiot Grainger. And then I was given a second chance—a chance to prove that I was greater than him, prove that he couldn't beat me. And I did prove that. And then his son waltzes into my theater one day, announcing that he's going to use it for his plays. I couldn't believe my luck. At first, I decided to toy with him, see how much of a coward he was. I will admit, he did turn out to have more guts than I thought, but that doesn't matter. In the end, I still win."
"No, you don't!" Paul shouted suddenly, his voice surprisingly strong after being thrown across the stage. Mulder looked over to see that he was holding a lit match right next to a trail of gasoline than ran from the stage to the back of the room.
"Paul, don't!" Mulder shouted, but it was already too late. The match touched the gas, and the fire spread quickly, consuming the fuel. The wooden stage began to burn almost immediately, and Mulder used his good arm to shield his eyes from the sudden bright light. For a brief moment, he thought he saw a white figure illuminated in the dancing flames. It appeared to be a person in agony. But before Mulder could get a better look, it was gone.
Coughing in the dense smoke, Mulder lowered himself to a crouch and made his way to the steps at the side of the stage. The fire already surrounded the place where Paul lay, so there was no chance of saving him. Since the building was old and wooden and Paul had spread a generous amount of gasoline throughout it, the fire spread quickly, and Mulder doubted that he would make it out in time. He could barely breathe; it felt as if someone was pressing a sheet against his nose and mouth, slowly smothering him. Still coughing, he fell to his knees.
Using his legs and his uninjured arm, Mulder slowly propelled himself forward, his mind dizzy from smoke inhalation. The door seemed infinitely far away; he could never make it. But he had to. He had a family.
The flames licked the walls around him, coming dangerously close to his body. He had a feeling that they touched his skin, but he was beyond feeling pain at that point. His mind was in a daze; he could not feel anything, not even the oppressive heat which surrounded him. He continued blindly onward, no longer sure if he was even heading in the direction of the doorway. All he knew was that as long as he was moving, he was alive. And as long as he was alive, he had a chance.
Eventually, Mulder could crawl no longer. His lungs were choked with smoke which also clouded his mind. His legs gave out, and he collapsed on the floor, his injured arm tucked beneath him and his other arm spread out in front of him so that his fingers reached through the open doorway. Dimly, he registered the sounds of sirens in the distance, but he was too far gone to understand what this sound entailed. Exhausted and suffering from lack of oxygen, he slipped into unconsciousness.
When Mulder opened his eyes, he found himself surrounded by white. For one wild moment, he thought he was in heaven, but a throbbing pain in his left arm told him that this assessment was not entirely accurate. With some effort, he managed to turn his head and saw a familiar face gazing down at him with a small smile. "How are you feeling?" Scully asked, removing her hand from his to gently push his hair away from his forehead.
"Feels like someone put a vice grip on my arm," he croaked, his voice frighteningly weak. How bad had it been?
Scully answered this question before he could voice it. "You had some first and second degree burns on your arms. You're lucky the suit you were wearing was cotton or it could have been much worse. You also had a significant amount of smoke inhalation; it's fortunate the firemen came when they did. A minute or so more and you might not have made it." Though her voice was detached and clinical, Mulder could see the fear in her eyes. He gently squeezed the hand which had come to rest on his own once more.
"Where am I?" he asked, his words halting because of the immense amount of effort it took to form each syllable.
"In a hospital in Cleveland. You've been here for two days now." As she spoke, she helped him to sit up slightly and drink a couple sips of water. Though it burned slightly on the way down, it seemed to help his sore throat somewhat, and Mulder gratefully swallowed.
"What are you doing here?"
"I came up to see how you were doing. And before you say anything, there's no harm in flying, especially this early in my pregnancy. I'm still following doctor's orders because I'm not doing any field work. I'm just checking up on my reckless partner." She gave him a slight smile, but Mulder could see the worry in her eyes. When she spoke again, her voice was quieter than before. "I should have been there, Mulder."
"Trust me, Scully, I'm very glad you weren't there. Who knows what smoke inhalation would have done to the babies."
"Still, we're partners. It's my job-"
"It's your job to make sure we have two healthy babies. If anything, what happened was my fault. I should have called in backup."
"You should've called Diana, too. I just don't understand why she left. I can understand not wanting to stakeout a theater for God knows how long, but it just doesn't seem like her to leave you because she's bored."
"It wasn't entirely that," Mulder admitted. Scully looked at him expectantly, and he took a deep breath before continuing. "I told her that she wasn't my partner and never would be along with some other stuff."
"What other stuff?"
"I don't really remember. I was mad, and I just yelled."
"Yep. That sounds like you." He grinned at her before glancing at the half-full cup of water which sat on the table beside the bed. Taking the hint, she helped him to drain the rest of it.
"So, what's my prognosis, Doc?" he asked as he settled against the pillows again.
"Surprisingly good considering what you've been through. Your burns are healing nicely, and I don't expect that you'll have any scarring. The doctor popped your shoulder back into place, but you're going to be in a sling for a bit. Your lungs have pretty much cleared themselves of the smoke now, so you should be out of here in a day or so."
"Good. Because I'm really looking forward to getting home."
"And I'm looking forward to having you there," she added. Their faces were close, and Mulder was about to lean up and kiss her when the door opened.
"How are you, Fox?" Diana questioned.
"Not bad," Mulder said. Scully moved away from him slightly, settling back in the chair. Her hand still held his tightly. Diana glanced at their clasped hands briefly before returning her gaze to Mulder.
"The doctor's say you were mumbling something about a ghost."
"I saw him," Mulder confirmed. Wetting his lips, he proceeded to explain the entire story. When he was finished, he looked at the two women in the room. Diana was standing above him, holding her coat over her folded arms. She was nodding slightly. Scully, however, looked skeptical.
"Mulder, I don't think what you saw was a ghost. I think you were suffering from smoke inhalation and thought you saw a ghost."
"I saw the ghost before I inhaled any of the smoke," Mulder pointed out.
"I'm sure the pain made you delirious, too," Scully told him.
"I'm telling you, Scully, the ghost was there."
"I believe you, Fox," Diana said. "I've already started typing up the case report. When you get back to Washington, you can add what you just told me."
"Okay. I should be back in a day or so," Mulder said. It was a dismissal, and all three occupants of the room knew this. Diana seemed unsure of what to do for a moment.
Finally, she said simply, "I'll see you then, Fox," before turning to leave.
"Must be nice to have someone who doesn't question every theory of yours," Scully remarked as Diana left.
"Ha! I knew you were jealous."
"I'm not jealous," Scully insisted though her face flushed.
"Actually, it's rather annoying to have her agreeing with everything I say. There's no challenge anymore."
"First you don't want a skeptic who'll question every theory and now you're complaining because you have a partner who believes your theories?"
"Personally, I'd just like a skeptic with an open mind. Preferably red-headed with a temper to match her hair color. And lovely blue eyes. And a perfect-" Scully cut him off before he could continue by pressing her lips to his. He responded by bringing the arm not in a sling up to cup her face with his hand. His tongue slipped inside her mouth briefly before she pulled away.
"Nine months," she reminded him, running a finger down his cheek.
He caught her hand with his and pressed it to his lips. "I'm counting down the days."
"So am I, partner."
"I thought we agreed on one in five million."
"And you love me for it."
"God help me, I do."
He chuckled and brought his hand to her face again, guiding her lips to his. "You should be glad that I don't do this with all my partners," he muttered just before their lips met.
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