Title: Souls On Fire
Summary: Mulder and Scully speak to the only person willing to stand up and talk after a night of violence against a young woman accused of witchcraft.
Author's note: Hi, this is my first time posting to this newsgroup, although I have been reading all the storys off it for a while now. I am truly addicted and wanted to try to write something myself. I hope it is reasonably enjoyable. Please E-mail me, with comments and suggestions.
I have never had any real responses to anything I have written before, so anything will be welcome. I explore characters and situations owned by Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions. Use of these characters and situations is meant in no means as a copyright infringement, and is only for the purpose of entertaineing the group that has spent so long entertaining me.
Mulder leant back on his chair and sipped at his hot chocolate. Things had been quite quiet recently. Simple routine buisness. Scully was typing up a file on an attempted small town genocide, across the room.
She looked up briefly at mulder and cocked her head at him smiling slightly, and then continued with her work. Mulder rocked back forward replacing his mug on the coaster on the table. He got himself up from the chair and wandered over to the filing cabinet in the far corner of the room. He clicked open the draw and flicked through several of the outstanding file. Two homicides, a disapearance, three suspected terrorist acts and numerous missing persons. He took out the two homicides and began to flick through them on top of the cabinet, looking for something that could keep him busy. Scully looked up again smiling at Mulder's back.
Anna Romley lay quietly asleep in her four poster bed. The curtains that lay next to her bay windows fluttered in the strong night wind.
Anna turned onto her side sighing.
Outside in the dimly lit streets, a gathering of the towns people was forming in the town square under the statue of the towns founder. At the center of this group stood a large wooden box. It had been set up as a speaker podium and now a man approached. He stepped up onto the soapbox, silencing the mutterings of the thirty or forty townsfolk. " People of Elliot, we all know why we're here tonight. It has been thousands of year since this ritual has been carried out in this town. But now we find it necessary again." As he spoke the people of the town organised themselves into a small circle around the speaker.
"This is because it has been thousands of years since we've all realised that there was a witch in our presence!" he screamed," Begin the ceremony of cleansing!"
Torches burnt in unison, held high above the crowd. The townsfolk all turned as one and began the march towards the hill at the far end of the town.
Anna awakened sweating, fearfully hot. She threw her hands over her face sobbing. Then she heard the sounds outside, voices, they were shouting, screaming. They were right outside, in the grounds. Anna got up and held her hands to her bosom, feeling her heart beat faster. It might be the dream but it could be the people outside that was scaring her. She went to the bay windows and stepped out onto the balcony. The house was encircled and the people of the town were proceeding to set fire to the bottom of the house.
As they saw her come out onto the balcony many of them jumped back pacing away from the start of the fire. Then someone shouted. " Witch!" A chant began," Witch, witch, witch!"
Anna's head glanced back and forth, erratically. She looked like a rat caught in a trap, as the flames flickered higher up the building. She screamed. The townsfolk that surrounded the inferno wouldn't forget that scream for years to come, none of them!
Scully looked up at Mulder and then down at the freshly typed file that had been dropped on top of her desk. She picked it up and started to leaf through it reading the first few sentences on the briefing page " A witch burning Mulder?" Scully asked looking questioningly.
"It was reported a few days ago by a dentist in Elliot, Kansas He's asked for immunity against a press release of his name. Says the townsfolk will kill him if they find out he was the one who reported."
"Why not just tell the towns police?" Scully asked as she began to the read the report. " Reckons they were part of the lynch mob. According to the report most of the town were," Mulder replied sitting down in his chair and lifting his feet up onto his desk, crossing his legs and folding his fingers together over his chest.
"When are we leaving," Scully said, glancing at Mulder, averting her eyes from the paper.
"We have a flight scheduled for 7:00pm tonight," Mulder said as he stood up from the desk, lifting his jacket and slinging his briefcase over his shoulder.
Scully stood up, knocking her papers on her desk to straighten the stak into a neat pile. " If most of the town were part of the lynching do I take it that we will be working strictly under cover?" she said.
"Yes," replied Mulder," So pack casual clothes, we need to be inconspicuous."
Mulder stepped to the door of the basement offices that hid the X-files from most of the rest of the world.
Many people, Mulder felt, couldn't handle it any other way. The day that the truth was admitted to the rest of the world was the day that Mulder had looked forward to since he was six years old. Since his sister was taken away. Samantha, the name brought back very unhappy memories. Mulder shook his head, he was having a good day. He held the door open as Scully pushed her papers into a new card file, stamped the front of it and left it neatly on her desk. She put her coat on and threw her bag over her shoulder stepping towards the door.
She stopped midway through the door and looked up at Mulder. She loved his smile when he was truly excited about a case. Actually thinking about it she liked rather a lot of things about Fox Mulder. Mulder cocked his head and looked questioningly at his partner, " What!" he asked.
"C'mon, let's go to lunch and then you can drive me home," she said linking her arm around his and stepping out of the office laughing slightly.
It was cold in Elliot, as Mulder and Scully stepped off the plane. It was also dark, and If they were going to find their contact and somewhere to sleep for the night, they needed to get on with it.
Outside the airport Mulder hailed a cab and jumped in leaving his bags for the driver to sort out. " The corner of East street and Main, please," Scully said leaning forward so the driver could hear her.
"Uh, huh," he replied, putting the cab into gear and driving out of the taxi park onto the streets.
"So Fox, where are we staying tonight?" Scully asked. Mulder noticed the use of his first name, something Scully had agreed never to do, and he looked at her questioningly. "We'll have to keep the covers up tonight Fox don't you think, getting quite cold," Scully said cryptically.
Mulder frowned, but then understood. " Yes, you're right,of course Dana. My brother Peter said that there was room in his flat above the surgery," Mulder fibbed, grinning at the supense they were holding over the innocent taxi cab driver who might not even have been listening to them.
However it seemed that Scully's precautions had been not completely unfounded. "You talkin' about Peter Altante's dentists surgery?" the driver asked, lifting his head up to look into the rear view mirror so he could see them while he was yalking to them.
"Yeah," Mulder replied, "he's my brother."
"Nice to meet you," The cabbie said holding his hand over the back of the seat to shake with Mulder," I'm Joel Mcullum, I live about three blocks away from Mr Atlante. Are you staying long?"
"We've not really decided. You know we're just taking a break from it all, and Peter said this was a nice town. This is spe...Dana Scully. She's a good friend of mine from D.C."
"Nice to meet you Joel," Dana said shooting knives at Mulder's very unproffesional near slip, and reaching forward to shake Joels hand.
Mulder rapped hard on the door at the rear entrance of the surgery. It was 11:39pm. The wind was bitingly cold, and cut through to places that the two agents thought were hidden by their large jackets. " Hang on, Hang on," came a voice from upstairs," Christ, do you know what time it is?"
"Mr Atlante?" Scully asked as the door was opened to a tall man in his late forties. Large horn-rimmed glasses adorned his face.
It looked like it had been several years since a smile had adorned this man's lonely face, Scully noted to herself, as she reached inside her coat producing her F.B.I. badge and holding it up to the man's tired eyes. " Mr Atlante," she repeated, "I am F.B.I. special agent Dana Scully, this is special agent Fox Mulder. We have been sent here by the bureau to in vestigate a very serious report that you sent us a number of days ago. Can we come in?"
The tall man stepped back ushering the two threw the door and up the stairs that lead to the flat above the surgery. "I had no idea whether you would come at all, never mind this soon. You see I wasn't sure whether anyone would really believe me at all. You do believe me don't you?" He suddenly became very defensive and backed up the stairs away from the two law officers.
His eyes were burning with a wild intensity that Scully recognised as an expression she had seen on Mulder's face one morning in Philadelphia. It was a powerful fear and need for help. This was it, that look. He was begging for help.
"Don't worry, Mr Atlante." Mulder stepped forward and placed his hands on the man's shoulders to comfort him. "We promise we will use everything at our disposal to find out what's really going on in Elliot. We told the cabbie, a man called Joel Peterson, that I was your brother and myself and Ms Scully had decided to come and visit you for a break. Is that okay with you?"
The man noticeably lightened up and even dropped the hint of a smile, showing definite signs of relief.He turned round again and started to walk up the stairs again. "Yes, Agent Mulder that's certainly alright with me. But I think you're definitely going to have to be the younger brother," he said as he opened the door to the flat Mulder and Scully laughed and walked in.
Small as the flat was Mr Atlante managed still to provide separate bedrooms for the two, though Scully suspected he had given up his own room for one of them and would probably be spending the night on the couch.
Dana changed out of her clothes, hot and sweaty from a long day travelling and unpacked some of the items in her suitcase. Then exhausted she lay beck on the bed and tucked her hand under the pillow, wrapping the soft warm quilt around herself to shut out the cold draught.
Suddenly Dana sat bolt upright in the bed scared. Why had she just felt a draught. The room had no windows and was actually very warm.
She looked at the door to see if that was the culprit, no there was a draught excluder. Slowly she lay back down on the bed and soon she was fast asleep. Dana Scully lay quietly asleep in her four poster bed, The curtains that lay next toher bay windows fluttered in the strong night wind. Dana turned onto her side sighing.
Mulder awoke with a crick in his neck, that felt like it would snap his spine in two. What he wouldn't give for Carey to be here to massage it. He looked at the clock on the bedside table 9:45am. Scully wouldn't be up for another couple of hours yet, and he doubted whether dentists got up early on a Sunday.
He swung his legs round to the side of the bed and stepped onto the bare floor. It was nicely chilling on his feet which reminded him he would be dressing for the chilly, Denver climate. He grabbed into his F.B.I. issue duffel bag and pulled out a huge wooly sweater. He threw it to one side and pulled on a pair on faded, ripped jeans. He put on a tee-shirt he had brought when he had been at Oxford that had grown just a tad tighter over the years but still fitted rather neatly, and anyway Fox happened to like it. Over this and several other tee-shirts Mulder pulled the heavy wool-knit sweater. He slipped on the tennis shoes he had brought with him and as quietly as possible opened the door to his room and exited.
He started to head for the door out of the flat but then changed his mind and headed back down the corridor to the room that Atlante had put Scully in the night before. Quietly he eased the door open until he could see through. Scully was lying on her back in the very center of the bed. Clinging to the remaining pillow across her chest. The other two lay on the floor around the bed, as did the quilt.
Puzzled, Mulder entered the room, and lifted the quilt back on top of Scully, who grabbed at it smiling, pulling it up around her. She opened her eyes partially and saw Mulder standing over her. "Rough night eh?" he said gently.
"Hmmm," was the best she could manage as a reply, as she rubbed her eyes to clear them. She glanced across at her watch.
"Mulder, it's just before ten, we travelled all day yesterday. Go back to bed." It sounded more like an order than a suggestion but then again, thought Mulder, she's tired. He shook his head,and replied.
"I'll be back around eleven. Hopefully you'll be less tired by then and we can start work." He smiled, and started for the door.
"Don't bet on it." Scully muttered smiling herself as she drifted back to sleep.
Elliot was only just beginning to come to life. To Mulder's suprise most of the towns people were up and about, and the streets were clearly far from empty. Mulder walked about half a mile down main street, passing dozens of tiny shops that given more time he would have looked into, but he had told Scully he would return at about eleven and he would make a concerted effort to do just that.
But having said that, there was one thing he was walking towards with a certain amount of purpose. He had seen it from the windows of the living room in Atlante's flat and it had intrigued him. It was what appeared to be the remains of a house. It was nothing like the other buildings in Elliot as it was alone on the top of a hill.
A huge cast iron fence surrounded the remains but as Mulder got closer he noticed that both of the gates had come off their hinges and lay on top of each other outside the grounds. " Look, but never touch! " whispered a voice behind Mulder.
Mulder spun around, his hand dropping to where his gun would be if he had thought it necessary to bring it with him. An old man leant on a stick and grimaced at Mulder. "You're not from round here are you?" the man said. To Mulder it seemed that he wasn't really asking so much as saying.
As if it was written on his forehead. So much for being inconspicuos thought Mulder. "No. I'm staying with a relative in these parts. My brother," he said loosening up and letting his arm drop from his side
" In that case you would be, young Fox Atlante I presume?" the old man said straightening and holding out a hand to Mulder. Heard you'd arrived, last night. How long will you be in town?"
"Word travels fast!" Mulder said genuinely suprised.
"It's a small town," The old man remarked grinning.
"I'm not sure how long I'll be here for. We've just come up for some time out," he said answering the old man's previous question.
"What, do you do Fox?" the man asked.
The question threw Mulder, as did the use of his first name. He hadn't expected to be called upon to answer this one. Not yet anyway. "I, er...I work for a printers in D.C." he finished, satisfied that he had answered well.
"Oh yes," The man asked, "what is the name of the company?"
Mulder wasn't keen on being on this side of interrogation, he wasn't used to it. It agitated him and made him very edgy that this man was so interested in him. "Excuse me, I believe you have me at a disadvantage, you know my name yet I have no idea as to your identinty," Mulder said cutting the way the conversation was going dead in it's tracks.
"My name is Pines...Slocombe Pines," the man proclaimed, stretching himself up to his full height and amazing Mulder by being a good couple of inches taller than himself despite his advanced age. I will be about my business now," Pines said, his voice had suddenly grown a lot less friendly and worried Mulder slightly, "but I warn you Mr Atlante, you ought to be careful where you tread in these parts, things are not what they seem in Elliot." He turned and strode off at a pace well capable of a man one third of his age.
When Mulder arrived back at the house, Scully was seated in the dining room eating pancakes and reading the paper. Mr Atlante was still nowhere to be seen. As Mulder entered Scully looked up smiling and obviously pleased that he was back. "Where's our host?" Mulder said sitting down at the table and buttering a piece of toast from Scully's side plate.
"Oh, what about, 'Good morning Dana. How did you sleep?'" Scully complained, still smiling.
"Good morning Dana. How did you sleep?" Mulder said between mouthfuls of toast, smiling himself now.
"Perfectly well, thank you Fox," she replied. Mulder shot her a glance as she called him Fox, but decided that if their cover would hold, he was going to have to get used to it. " Your 'brother' Peter is in the kitchen," Scully laughed.
Mulder grinned and pushed away from the table, standing up and walking towards the kitchen. Inside, the small kitchenette, Mr Atlante was working at the cooker, with a long white apron on. " Good morning, agent Mulder. Could I interest you in some pancakes. Your colleague Miss Scully has a very healthy appettite," he said as he saw Mulder enter.
"No, thank you. I don't eat much breakfast. What time today are you going to be able to talk to us about why we're here," Mulder said.
Atlantes face fell noticeably. He started to look more like the author of the report that Mulder had been reading the day before, a paranoid fearful man.
"Didn't I give you enough in the report?" he mumbled trying to continue with the cooking, but clearly shaken up.
"No, it's not that. The report was fine, but we need to hear it straight from you. There isn't a problem with that, is there?" Mulder asked.
Atlante took his apron off, pulling it over his head. He wiped his hands on it and threw it into the sink. "I suppose now's as good a time as any," he said stepping past Mulder into the dining room. Scully looked up as Mulder and Atlante entered.
"Mr Atlante would like to get our interview with him over and done with, so he suggests that we do it now. I agree. How do you feel about it?"
"I'll just get my notebook," Scully said getting up from the table and leaving the room.
"So Mr Atlante, Could you please repeat to us what you said in your report, and tell us what happened in Elliot, Denver, on the night and early morning hours of May 15 and 16. Feel free to add anything you missed out or forgot when writing your original letter to us," Mulder started.
The three of them were sat around the small round dining room table, Scully and Mulder facing Atlante. Mulder's tape recorder whirred away in the centre of the table. Scully's pencil hovered over her notepad waiting for Atlantes reply.
He drew in a long breath, and started to tell the story as well as he could remember it. The fear was obviously still very fresh in his mind. He had heard a crowd gathering in the village square, only a couple of hundred yards away from his shop, and he had dressed left the house and walked toward the square to see what was happening. He had been aware of a certain amount of unrest in the townspeople for sometime and had been quite worried by it. There was talk about the young girl living in the old house on the hill. Some said she was evil and was trying to corrupt the young men in the town. Several people claimed she had visited their dreams and was torturing them in these dreams. Those who had spoken to her said she could read minds and had answered their questions before they had even asked them. One young man by the name of Robert Heyland had been emotionally involved with the Romley girl, he had scoffed at all the townsfolk calling them 'pathetic gossiping old fools'. They had been a couple and had been seen together around the town.
One day Mrs Heyland had visited the sherrifs station violently worried that something had happened to her son as he had not returned home the previous night. Robert Heyland was nowhere to be found, Ms Romley had claimed that they had argued and then he had left the house and she had not seen him since. The Sherrif and the Heyland family had made it clear that they did not believe this but no evidence was found to say anything different and Robert Heyland had been filed as a missing person. On the night that Peter Atlante had entered the town square Thomas Heyland, the eldest of the two Heyland boys had been standing on a soapbox screaming at the crowd. The evil in the boys eyes had scared Mr Atlante, and when the chanting had begun and they had started to march towards the house on the hill carrying those blazing torches he had run back to his house and bolted the doors.
"Everyone there was fueled by this violent passion to kill. I feared that if I had stayed it would have found some hold on me. The next day I was confronted by Thomas Heyland. He threatened me, saying that if I said anything to anyone I would die as well. That was the first time I realised they had killed her. They had burned he alive."
The tears that had been welling in his eyes through the entire story, finally exploded and he broke down sobbing on the table. Scully looked up at Mulder, questioningly. He nodded slowly and she put her pad away into her top pocket as he reached across the table and switched off the tape recorder.
Peter Atlante slowly raised his head off the table and looked up at the two agents. " I'm sorry, that's really all I know.
"No one in town has spoken about, Romley, Robert Heyland or that night since. It's as if they think that by not talking about it, it won't have happened and in a way it hasn't. Well as far as they're concerned. If any of them feel any remorse about it, it certainly doesn't show. Have I been any help at all?" he asked, still sobbing slightly.
"Don't worry about it sir. You've given us more than enough to start on," Dana said standing up and resting her hand on his shoulder.
"We'll do everything we can," Mulder agreed.