Title: Sycamore Hill - A Halloween Tale
For Paige on her birthday. She's helped make me the Skinner-slut that I am.
Dreaming. I was dreaming again, and it wasn't like me to have such vivid dreams. I saw it all before me, like a Technicolor photo from a Kodak Viewmaster.
No matter how long I'd been asleep it always began the same way: in a darkened field in a place I'd never been.
And I was running for my life.
Soft green grass stained with dew became silver in the moonlight when my bare feet tread upon it. The slickness of dead fallen leaves clung tenaciously to my exposed skin, but I was determined to cross the field. Something behind pursued me with an angry and ferocious tenacity. I could hear nothing but the beat of my heart as I ran. The angled slope of a hill loomed in front of me, a necessary obstacle to traverse. The grass became more slippery as I ascended it, causing me to fall forward onto the chilly ground.
My pursuer was closer now, a dark shadow floating across the field toward me at an incredible speed. I scrambled frantically on all fours desperately trying to reach the top of the hill. I knew I'd be safe on the other side if I could get there. Mud began to appear under my hands and knees, making the journey harder, and more terrifying.
The white nightgown I wore became caked with mud and turned transparent from the damp grass and earth. My heart pounded even louder, causing a buzzing roar in my ears. Under that I heard a screech as the black thing caught up to me and the sound of my name being called in an unearthly voice.
And then I was awake, my heart pounding just as hard as it had in the dream. I was home in bed, but it took a few ragged breaths to allow sharp reality to seep into my frightened mind.
It's just a dream, just a dream, just a dream-.
Going back to sleep was out of the question, the chance for rest long past.
As usual my pajamas were soaking wet, and I got out of bed to peel them off my trembling body. Despite the heat inside my apartment, I felt a deep and aching chill within me as if I'd physically been in the place I dreamed of.
Not even a shower with water as hot as I could stand would drive that chill from my soul. After twenty minutes under the stinging spray, I gave up trying. In the kitchen I made coffee and watched the sun rise over the tall and dingy city buildings of suburban Washington DC.
The urge to call Mulder was strong, but an odd reluctance to inform him of this dream had always kept me from doing it. It wasn't that I thought he wouldn't understand, but it felt fundamentally wrong somehow. In the back of my mind was the wisp of a thought that I had to solve this on my own; that somehow he couldn't help me find the meaning behind it.
When the sun came up I finally breathed a sigh of relief. A child-like surety that I couldn't be hurt by anything in the dream during the day flooded my heart. I knew the feelings were pure foolishness like believing monsters could live under my bed, but they came to me in any case.
I dressed for work, remembering an important meeting I needed to attend.
The meeting was with A.D. Kersh himself. I assumed it concerned Mulder and his latest 'accident'. If I was late, it would only reinforce his view that we were irresponsible.
To my amazement, I found Skinner sitting on the small sofa outside Kersh's office when I arrived. He looked uncomfortable, and frowned in slight confusion at my arrival.
"Agent Scully." His formal tone and clipped voice hadn't changed since we'd lost the X-files and he was reassigned. I realized it had been at least a month since I'd seen him last. It was strange and sad not reporting to him.
There was also guilt hidden in the feelings I'd manufactured concerning him. As bad a boss as I'd thought him to be in the past, Kersh made Skinner look more than noble.
As I wondered why we were both here, Kersh's door opened.
"Mr. Skinner, Agent Scully please come in."
When we rose in unison a feeling of deja vu hit me as we walked through the open door. Except this time the man at my side was not Mulder, and Skinner was accompanying me, not the final destination.
We sat stiffly in the chairs before Kersh's desk, and watch him shuffle papers preparing to roast us both.
"I have asked you both here to discuss Agent Mulder's actions on his last case. As you are aware, he terrorized citizens of another country necessitating diplomatic intervention. The Director found the situation untenable and was inclined to permanently dismiss all three of you. But - ", he said when I started an objection, "he was willing to give you another chance - if you are able to solve an X-file without disaster ensuing."
"Agent Mulder has a broken leg, making that impossible." Skinner's tone was careful.
"I'm well aware of Agent Mulder's condition. It is my intention to send you and Agent Scully on the X-file."
I turned to look at Skinner, and he met my surprised eyes with his. He didn't know this was coming either.
"Since you've repeatedly asked for a show of leniency toward your former agents, I thought you might be agreeable to helping them out again." When Skinner didn't object Kersh moved on.
"This X-file is located in Sycamore, Illinois at the home of Wayne and Helen MacDonald. An apparition has been seen floating across a field at night behind their farm. The next day a dead body is usually found miles from the farm with the time of death corresponding to the sighting of the apparition. Each victim is an elderly male that has been suffocated. The killer leaves no clues, no fingerprints, and hair and fiber analysis has been disappointing. So far three bodies have turned up at various locations. Nothing ties them together except their ages and manor of death.
"The MacDonalds are terrified to stay in their house and have requested help from the Bureau in discovering the truth behind this apparition. They have vacated the house. You are to live in the MacDonald house as their married niece and nephew from Maine. The cover story is that you are house-sitting while they take a long vacation. Through scientific and thorough investigation it is hoped you can discover not only the source of the apparition, but also the identity of the killer."
"You said married-" I began.
"Yes. The MacDonalds are very old fashioned and stipulated only married agents could occupy their house. Since I do not have any married agents to spare at the present, you two were chosen instead. They have a live-in housekeeper they wish kept employed while they are gone, so the illusion of a proper marriage will be important."
"And if we refuse?" Skinner asked with a deadly serious tone.
"If you refuse, you will be reassigned, and Agents Scully and Mulder will be dismissed from the Bureau. Consider yourselves lucky to be given this opportunity at all."
He shuffled more papers, allowing the information to sink in.
"One more thing, if Agent Mulder shows up in Sycamore, or so much as speaks to any person involved in this case you will all be dismissed. In fact I have your dismissal papers here on my desk. All I have to do is sign them."
He'd thought of everything: every objection, every line of thinking, roping us in like cattle to the slaughter.
I sat frozen to the chair, unable to look Skinner in the eye. His harsh breathing was the only indication that he'd heard the same story that I had. Kersh let the silence linger between us, obviously enjoying the shock he'd induced.
"You have three hours to go home, pack, and catch your flight. That will be all." He dismissed us by picking up the phone and pointedly ignoring our continued catatonia.
Skinner finally coughed and stood up. Without looking at me, he brushed by and walked quickly out the door. I tried to follow him, feeling a rising panic and desperate need to speak with him about this case before we were forced to live in close quarters.
I stopped suddenly in the crowded hallway; the realization hitting home at last. I was just ordered to go on an X-file with Skinner. We had to pretend to be married. I had to live with him in the same house, sleep in the same -.
Mulder was not going to take this well.
"What the hell do you mean you're leaving on a case?" Mulder hobbled next to me into the bedroom, the fiberglass cast on his leg and crutches making him slow, and klutzy.
"Just what I said, Kirsch ordered me to take this case without you." I kept packing my little black suitcase, forestalling the inevitable like a coward. "Mulder, sit down before you fall down. Again."
"What's it about?"
"I can't tell you."
"Can't tell me? Come on Scully, you tell me everything." He'd dropped by unannounced, taking a taxi and thwarting my attempt to sneak out of town. He was agitated, and trying to make his injury a source of guilt to slow me down and make me confess. And it could work if I let it.
I was cut off by a knock on the door. Skinner was early.
"Expecting someone?" Mulder's question hung in the air. He saw me consider the door when the knock came again.
Without looking at him I said, "Stay here. I mean it. "
I walked to the door and opened it to Skinner's scowling face. He was still wearing a suit, and seemed impatient to leave again.
"Are you ready?"
"Almost. Please come in sir."
He brushed by and stood in the living room assessing the area. It had been nearly three years since he'd been here searching for a missing disc. I wondered if he would notice the new blue chair in the corner.
"If you'll take a seat I'll only be a few more minutes."
He looked around like the furniture was covered in land mines, and finally settled in an uncomfortable arrangement on the couch. He radiated unease like we were going to a funeral, not a case. If Mulder decided to make an appearance a funeral might be the place we'd all wind up.
Back in the bedroom I closed the door and met Mulder's incredulous gaze.
"Please tell me he's here to water the plants while you're gone Scully."
"I don't have any plants Mulder, and besides that would be your job if I did."
My attempt at levity fell flat as I'd assumed it would. Mulder seemed ready to launch himself at me, hobbling around the room in a weird form of disabled pacing.
I finally relented. "Kersh decided to send us on a case together. An X-file, and if we want to keep our jobs you aren't allowed to come."
"What do you mean, I can't come?"
"Kersh said we were on probation and wanted Skinner and me to prove we can solve a case without any complications."
"And I'm one of the complications."
I turned my back and resumed packing, unable to answer him. "Mulder, Kersh says he'll dismiss us both permanently from the Bureau if you so much as call me during this case. You're on leave and he wants you to stay put. He means it Mulder, and Skinner could lose his job too."
"Since when do you care what happens to Skinner?"
"Since he agreed to help keep us employed. He doesn't have to do this. Kersh is punishing him for being loyal to us."
"You said he could lose his job."
"He only loses it if you show up there. In that case we all get fired, and the Director is in agreement with him on it. They mean it this time Mulder, they really mean it." I said the last sentence softly, betraying the emotion in my voice.
Without turning around I felt Mulder deflate somewhat. He knew what this job meant to me, and what he meant to me. I could lose them both.
"What do you want me to do Scully?"
"Stay here. Don't try to find us or follow us. We'll solve the case and come back. I'll come back. To you."
I closed and picked up the suitcase. When I turned, I found Mulder sitting on my bed looking forlorn. I touched his shoulder.
"I need you to do this for me Mulder. I need you to stay away. Do you think you can do that?"
He nodded silently, but wouldn't meet my eyes. I was using guilt for compliance, but he used it to remind me who he was. Guilt cut both ways it seemed.
"Just promise me one thing Scully."
"You won't let him use the magic fingers."
Miles of dried cornfields swept past the window of our rental car. Leaves of every fall color blazed out from the trees that bisected individual farms. The occasional cow or horse could be seen huddled in corner fencing trying to stay out of the bitter wind. It was colder here than DC, and I was grateful to have packed thick cotton sweaters.
The flight to Chicago was short and silent. Skinner was a man of few words, and even fewer now. We still hadn't talked very much about the case or how we would tackle being married partners. Sycamore was sixty long miles outside Chicago, and a very long distance to ride in silence.
To my surprise Skinner broke the ice first.
"I've been studying the killer's MO, and I think we're dealing with someone who's taking revenge. He seems to be killing the same person over and over: An elderly male who lives alone on a large farm or house. Each victim was small in stature, relatively well-off, and childless. And for reasons that elude the police, a white apparition appears near the farm the night before each murder."
"How far from the farm are the murders taking place?"
"The closest is five miles, and the furthest is fifty."
"So they're occurring within the same community."
"Are there any suspects?"
"No. The killer may have been known to his victims. They were all found outside their homes. No signs of a struggle or any indication that the houses were broken into."
I sighed. "Out here they probably never lock their doors. They've never had a reason to."
"Until now." Skinner's voice made it sound ominous and final.
Silence settled between us. Skinner shifted uncomfortably in the seat, obviously struggling to make a decision.
"Scully, about our agreeing to be married partners-." He hesitated, visibly wrestling to find the right words. Something told me he'd been thinking about what to say all during the flight.
I waited patiently knowing how painful for him this was. It must have been humiliating to be sent off on a case to prove himself. But to be placed in close quarters with someone of the opposite sex under his supervision was meant to mortify him further.
Skinner could be articulate about many things but expressing deep emotions was not one of them. On impulse I touched the hand that gripped the steering wheel so firmly. He turned to me and I managed a small smile.
It's okay, I wanted to say. I feel the same way.
He echoed my tight smile and let it drop. This was awkward, and was going to be awkward no matter what we did. Perhaps professionalism would carry the day. Perhaps pigs would fly.
Sycamore was the kind of place city dwellers pictured as the perfect small town. White clapboard houses lined its streets under large oak and maple trees. The main street contained red brick buildings with storefronts and gingko trees waved their yellow waxy leaves in the wind. There was a pharmacy, hobby shop, dollar store, and even a barbershop complete with an ancient pole.
City Hall sat at the far end of the street, pushed back with a courtyard. Orange snow fencing wound around the sidewalk and trees. A sign out front said it was all in preparation for something called 'Pumpkin Fest'.
Children were arriving with decorated pumpkins of all descriptions and sizes to place in the courtyard. Near the front, a farmer was unloading a pumpkin the size of a small cow onto a patch of grass. We were stopped by a policeman as people crossed the street in front of us.
"You folks lookin' for something?"
"We're looking for the MacDonald farm."
"You must be the niece and nephew from Maine."
Skinner looked at me. There really weren't any secrets in small towns.
"Well, you just keep goin' down this road til you come across the old pump station. That's rural road number 7, and make a left. Pretty soon you'll pass Resurrection Cemetery and the farm is about a mile down from there."
Skinner nodded, but before he could drive off the officer kept talking.
"We've never seen any relatives of Helen and Wayne's. They keep to themselves pretty much. Only come into town for groceries and church."
"And Pumpkin Fest?" I asked.
The officer frowned. "No, they don't come to it anymore since that business with their daughter. Real shame too. Never had any other kids either." He paused and looked at the children laughing and carrying their pumpkins as if they were made of gold.
I looked at Skinner with raised eyebrows. I'd skimmed the file before arriving, but couldn't remember anything about a daughter.
"But don't let it stop you folks. It's a real good time. Parade's on Sunday."
"We'll think about it." Skinner's tone was polite, but distant; letting the officer know we wanted to move on.
"You do that. My name's Will, Will Masters if you ever need anything." He backed off and Skinner drove forward past the courthouse and the parade of children.
It was going to be hard staying here and keeping a discreet distance. Skinner had told me Kersh didn't want anyone to know we were FBI except the sheriff in town. Anyone could be a suspect, and there was at least circumstantial evidence that the killer knew ahead of time where the police had been and what their movements were on certain nights
As we drove out of town, houses and buildings gave way to cornfields again. Near a forlorn intersection a dilapidated cement building stood on the southwest corner. 'Pump Building No. 5' was spelled out in rusted art deco lettering. Skinner made a left onto a black topped road that appeared little used.
As promised, Resurrection Cemetery was on the right among tall trees and shrubs. A massive iron gate stood at the entrance with the same art deco lettering as the pump station. Cement and marble tombstones were decorated with faded plastic flowers, sad reminders of the dead.
I felt a sharp chill like an icy finger run down my neck when we passed the gate. Something seemed familiar about it, but I couldn't place why. I glanced at Skinner who seemed unaware of the cemetery's bleak and forbidding aura.
The MacDonald farm stood on a hill over looking town. The house itself was large, run down, and at the far end of a gravel driveway. The ping of crushed stones bouncing off the car's metal hull reverberated inside the car. By the time we reached the house the sun had set behind it.
A single light burned in a downstairs room which I took to be the housekeeper's. We did not yet have a key so Skinner knocked loudly on the cracked wooden door. Several minutes went by but no one emerged to answer it. When I tried the doorknob, I found it to be locked.
We walked around to the weed-infested back yard to try again at the back door. As we rounded the corner I caught sight of the yard and cornfields beyond. I froze in place at the sight before me.
Even in the dark I could see this was the place I went to in my nightmares. The images always began here at the back of the house and played out with frightening clarity.
Behind me Skinner was pounding on the back door, oblivious to my catatonic contemplation of the area. I wanted to leave. Immediately. I wanted to get as far away from here as I could and never look back.
Skinner gave up on the back door and moved behind me to try the front again. When I didn't join him, he called my name. I heard it as if he was miles away and I was already standing in the green field on the other side of the dead fallen corn.
A touch on my shoulder made me jump.
I swung around, abruptly knocking Skinner's hand off my shoulder in the process. He was regarding me with suspicious eyes and I wondered how long he'd been calling me before I reacted.
"I-I'm sorry sir."
"Is there something wrong?"
"No," I said returning to myself, "Nothing's wrong." I walked past him toward the front of the house on shaky legs. How could I tell him I dreamed of a place I'd never been to?
He lingered behind me, taking in the view as if to ascertain my fascination with plowed up prairie dirt. I waited in silence willing him to leave it be. After a moment he followed me back around the house.
The front door stood open as if it had been expecting us. I felt rather than saw Skinner's eyebrows rise up his forehead. He ascended two concrete steps to the creaky porch and peer in through the screen door.
"Hello? Is someone there?"
"Yes," said an old woman, appearing from nowhere. Skinner hid his startled reaction well. "We're Sam and Dorothy MacDonald, Helen and Wayne's niece and nephew."
The old woman regarded Skinner with suspicious eyes. Deep frown lines traversed her face and disappeared into iron gray hair. She wore a severe blue dress making her look like the housekeeper from hell.
"I see." She let us stand outside a little longer as if asserting her authority over the house and who she allowed to cross its threshold.
She backed away from the door and Skinner opened it for me to pass through ahead of him. I stepped into the living room and saw massive furniture stained dark by time. A natural stone fireplace dominated the far end with a blue braided rug at the hearth. It was the kind of room meant to be shared by the fireplace on cold wintry nights.
"I'm Mrs. Daniels the housekeeper. I expect the MacDonalds would have told you about me."
"Are you hungry? I'm afraid there isn't much in the kitchen."
Truth be told I was famished, but Skinner spoke up.
"Don't worry about us. I know it's late. If you'll show us to our room I'll get the suitcases."
Mrs. Daniels regarded us with ugly eyes. "Follow me."
She led us to a wooden staircase that creaked underfoot with every step. There would be no sneaking around in this house.
Without looking at us Mrs. Daniels asked, "How long have you two been married?"
I looked at Skinner. We certainly should have talked about this before arriving. Without missing a beat he said, "Five years."
"No children?" A caustic question.
"No, no children."
I felt myself bristle under her interrogation. It was none of her business; I didn't care if the marriage was a sham.
I felt Skinner place an arm around my waist and a hand on my shoulder at the top of the stairs. Mrs. Daniels turned around when we didn't answer immediately.
"That's between my wife and me, Mrs. Daniels." Skinner's tone was firm and deadly; the one he used to subdue his subordinates.
She frowned even deeper and everything about her radiated disapproval. I couldn't for the life of me understand her attitude. She didn't even know us, but was already bristling over our presence.
She turned sharply on her heel and led us down a dark hallway. I counted four doors on either side and she paused at the fifth. Her left hand appeared with a skeleton key, and she used it to unlock the door. A small bedside lamp was turned on for illumination.
The room turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Walls were painted a soft beige with polished hardwood floors. A Jenny Lind bed was flanked by a dresser and table. The curtains were eyelet lace, but were badly frayed along the bottom. To my relief I noted the room didn't face the back of the house.
"This was Miss Donna's bedroom. You'll have to make up the bed yourself. The linens are in the dresser." Mrs. Daniels left us to ourselves. Over her shoulder she said, "I don't cook. You'll have to get your own breakfast in the morning."
"What *does* she do?" I muttered, swiping a finger through the dust covered dresser.
"Very little it would appear." Skinner sounded as annoyed as I was. "I'll get the suitcases."
All the warmth seemed to flee the room when Skinner left. I walked to the window and placed my hand on the heavy radiator under the window. It was ice cold.
"She could have at least had the heat turned up if she knew we were coming." I got down on my knees and located the relief valve. It was rusted shut, and no amount of straining on my part would budge it.
Skinner found me still trying to open it when he came back with the suitcases.
"Let me try." He was no more successful than I had been. He sat back on his heels. "I have a wrench and some lube in the car."
He disappeared again, so I busied myself with making the bed. Mulder would have made a lewd comment about my making up the bed while he went for 'lube'. I missed him, missed his humor. He had a way of making my fear seem ridiculous just when I needed it.
Crisp white sheets were carefully folded in the top dresser drawer. Thankfully they didn't seem stale or moldy when I pulled them out. I was still tucking the sheets in when Skinner came back. He attacked the valve with vengeance, and muttered a curse when the wrench slipped and hit his hand.
I heard dull thunk when the wrench hit the floor. I was treated to the sight of Skinner holding his hand and swearing a blue streak. I immediately went to his side and reached for his hand.
"Let me see."
"I'm fine." His face was beet red and little drops of sweat had formed on his brow.
"No you're not, let me see."
He reluctantly let me pull his hand into mine. I search for signs of injury along a palm so large it took both my small hands to hold it. He trembled when I lightly traced the faint bruise that had begun to form near his thumb. I soon realized he was standing close, too close, and looming overhead. Heat enveloped me with the nearness of his body bringing with it the smell of cologne and fabric softener. When I looked up, Skinner's face had gone blank.
I dropped his hand and stepped back breathing faster than I should have been. Just then I heard steam rise and percolate in the pipes, causing them to bang and tremble like they were going to explode. The radiator began to shake, dancing on its four feet like a headless dog. Just when I thought it would fall through the floor, steam hissed through the valve to calm it.
I was starting to hate this house.
I managed to find some canned goods in the kitchen to make a stew of sorts. Skinner brought in wood to make a fire, and we read the case file in compatible silence while we ate.
Donna MacDonald was the sixteen year old daughter of Helen and Wayne. She'd apparently 'taken up' with a local boy of dubious reputation named Brian Sweeney. On Halloween night twenty five years prior she was stabbed to death and her body left near the old pump station. Sweeney couldn't account for his whereabouts that night and some of her blood stained clothing was discovered in his car. He was found guilty and executed only two years ago. The apparition didn't start appearing until this year and a rumor that it was his ghost looking to take revenge began to circulate.
After their daughter's death, the MacDonalds retreated from public life and sold off their land to other farmers to till. They were rarely seen in town and Mrs. Daniels moved in to help with the household chores. Nothing much more was known about them or their withdrawal from society.
To my surprise it was Mrs. Daniels who reported sighting the apparition. So far it had only seen by one other person, Will Masters, the officer we met earlier.
I closed the file with a sigh. It was such a sad story, and did nothing to lessen the mystery surrounding the deaths and ghostly sightings. I looked up to see Skinner still reading a document spread across his knees.
He had shed his suit and donned a checked flannel shirt and loose pants. His long legs were sprawled across the lumpy sofa in an attempt to find a comfortable position. I'd never seen him in casual clothing, and it was disconcerting to see him in it now. It made him seem far more ordinary and ... human. There was no other word for it.
He looked up to find me studying him, and I blushed in heated embarrassment.
I stood up quickly. "I'm going up to bed. Goodnight."
He only nodded and returned to the paper in his hand. I climbed the stairs on shaky legs. It was stupid to feel this uneasy around him. I'd known him for over five years, and we were colleagues of sorts. He'd come to Mulder's and my rescue many times despite my mistrust of him in the past.
After cleaning up in the bathroom and changing into flannel pajamas, I lay in bed knowing sleep would elude me until I heard him come up.
It seemed like hours later when I heard his heavy footsteps on the creaky stairs. He stumbled a little in the dark looking for his clothes. I saw a light go on under the bathroom door and the sound of water running.
I turned on my side feigning sleep and hoped I hadn't picked a side of the bed he preferred. His weight made the old mattress sag and I was jostled slightly as he settled in. When he turned over his stomach, I suddenly found myself rolling toward the middle and into his side. I came to rest with my face buried in his raised armpit, and my limbs flung over his body in an awkward embrace.
"Sorry," I muttered and moved away from him.
I turned on my side again trying desperately to understand the absurdity of our present situation. It was going to be impossible to ignore him. Beyond his physical size Skinner's personality wound itself through everything in close approximation. I could feel his body next to me as if he were physically touching me; his wide muscular back and legs blazing with warmth.
He held himself so stiffly, I was sure to break my nose if I accidentally rolled into him during the night. A ridiculous picture of that occurrence sprung to my mind and the subsequent theoretic questioning by a doctor over my injury played itself out.
'How did you break your nose ma'am?'
'I broke it on my boss's back.'
'I see. But you know the back is not the area most employees break their nose on. Usually it's another part of the boss's anatomy all together, something considerably lower-.'
At this thought, a bubble of hysteria threatened to surface. The urge to laugh was like an urgent itch in my chest, and made me breathe faster to keep control. The awful compulsion only intensified so I rolled my face into the pillow to smother any sound I made. A gentle shaking of the mattress began as silent laughter racked my body.
This would not do at all, I'd wake Skinner.
The touch of his large hand on my shoulder startled me. I squeezed my eyes shut in frustration. Busted.
But when I rolled over, the pain on his face caused any humor to flee.
"I know this is difficult for you Scully. I'm sorry." His voice was husky and contrite. This was worse than I'd imagined. Somehow he'd mistaken my reaction for silent sobbing instead of laughter. The itch in my chest turned to a dull ache. He had such a way of making feel like a contrite child.
"It's not your fault. I'm sorry too." I said.
He looked at me silently, his eyes roaming over my face in assessing the truth of my statement. Apparently satisfied, he gave a small nod of acknowledgment and rolled away again.
An odd feeling tugged at me with his show of concern. A warm and genuine regret had shown on his face. It flew in the face of how I wanted to think about him; stern, cold, and uncaring of me. He was jumbling the comfortable knowledge of my believing I knew him well. It was disconcerting having to reevaluate how he fit into my neat and orderly assessments.
It was a long, long time before I allowed sleep to claim me.
Oct 30, early morning.
I didn't dream of the field that night. I had fitful, tossing dreams about love, anger and revenge. None of it made sense, like a movie cut into pieces and rearranged in a haphazard fashion. I couldn't see any faces, or hear any distinct voices. Escaping from them seemed paramount in my mind.
I suddenly found myself in the MacDonald living room in front of the fireplace. Orange and gold flames still burned slowly through the massive oak logs Skinner had placed inside and lit earlier.
The realization that I was awake and downstairs without remembering how I got there made me shiver. The foggy effects of a dream-filled sleep still dampened my thinking process. I didn't feel normal, didn't feel like I was myself yet, as if the populace of the dream still dwelt within me.
Strong, warm arms wrapped themselves around me eliciting a surprised gasp. A large hand with a bruised thumb came up to cradle my face. The other laid claim to one hip and pulled me backward. Fuzzy warmth began to bleed into my mind and body in spite of the shock of knowing who held me. I closed my eyes, and leaned back into his hard body; feeling an alien, powerful arousal within myself.
I was turned around and lifted up and off the floor. Skinner's hungry face came into focus before me like a specter. The spare and fundamental arousal in me was mirrored on his face. A longing that I hadn't felt in years burned brightly in my heart.
Before I could say or do anything, he pulled me into a greedy, soul-consuming kiss. This was no gentle kiss of first time lovers, but a bold seductive kiss of one who knows the other well.
And I did know him, not as myself but as someone else inside me, alien to my everyday persona. I could not stop myself; we were on a path already worn smooth by the feet of others.
My mouth opened beneath his, allowing entry of his thoughts and feelings.
I've waited for you. For so long, so long - the sound of another man's voice echoed inside me.
Yes, my other self answered, for so loooong.
He placed me on the rug and covered me with his body; heat permeating through thin layers of clothing. My rational mind cried out to be heard, but was drowned in the flood of old and musty sentiment.
His hands opened my top, exposing my breasts to his mouth. Soft, wet lips blazed a trail down my neck to suck a nipple, inducing sound and liquid desire. His erection pressed hard into my thigh nudging insistently to be let in. Any resistance I had left as Dana Scully was shredded like the tattered curtains in Donna MacDonald's bedroom.
We would have done far more if Mrs. Daniels hadn't come in.
"Excuse me." Her sharp, decrepit voice was like being dosed with cold water. Skinner and I sat up hastily, like two teenagers caught making out in their parent's living room.
"I thought I heard noises." Disapproval radiated from her like an icy fog.
Skinner moved in front of me to block her scalding gaze while I hastily redressed. I watched his shoulders square up, and his back stiffen; becoming an A.D. once again.
"As you can see Mrs. Daniels, my wife and I are perfectly fine. Don't let us detain you any longer." It was a curt dismissal that caused her to deepen the frown-lines around her mouth. She turned on her heel and stalked silently back to her bedroom.
Skinner and I were left alone, back to our normal selves, and deeply embarrassed by the situation. He kept his back turned, giving me more than enough time to put my pajamas back in order.
I felt like I should say something, but I knew it wouldn't make any sense. That wasn't me. I didn't do those things, didn't want to feel his body next to mine. But it had been me *and* him. And I had wanted him to touch me. I had wanted it very much.
"Sir -." He flinched at the formal address.
Without turning around he said, "Dana, don't say anything. Let's just go back up stairs and try to get some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow."
I watched him mount the stairs, slumped over once again. Had I done that to him? Had I caused him to show a part of himself that he kept carefully hidden?
I followed him slowly and reluctantly, knowing we'd have to get in bed together again. When I climbed in next to him, I brushed against his arm and thigh. But the urgent feelings from a few minutes ago were gone; lust and longing replace by indifference. What had happened? Were we both dreaming?
Sudden exhaustion kept me from exploring the idea any further. I drifted into a deep and dreamless sleep, no longer concerned about my behavior. I'd tell him about the other dreams and the field tomorrow.
Sycamore Hill-A Halloween Tale Part2 See Part 1 for descriptions and disclaimers. Written for the IWTB list challenge. Part 2 is dedicated to Donna 3 for her birthday.
Skinner was gone when I woke. Bright, glaring sunshine greeted my bloodshot eyes. The pillow and mattress next to me still held the faint indentation from his head and body. As I crawled over the bed to get out, I could smell the rich, alien musk of him in the fabric.
A sudden memory from last night came unbidden; 'For so long, I've waited for you for so long'. The impression of a male voice not belonging to Skinner made a cold lump form in my stomach. What had happened to us? Who did the voices of last night belong to?
The memory of intimate caresses also came back with sharp clarity. The me that wasn't me had like it, enjoyed it and wanted it. In the light of day I still had difficulty processing what had been real and what had been fantasy. When I removed my shirt in the bathroom, I knew it had been real.
A trail of bruises along my upper arms from the grip of his hands stared faintly at me from the mirror. My lips were swollen, and red. The right side of my upper lip bore the telltale marks of a stubble burn. Worst of all, my nipples were exquisitely sore from use.
Humiliation and heat flooded my face. I certainly bore the marks of a sexual encounter; that made it real enough. I wondered where Skinner was, what he was thinking. His sense of duty and pride would be damaged by last night, whether he believed himself responsible or not. A withdrawal into his most sullen persona would surely be his coping mechanism.
I took a hot shower and dressed in a soft sweater. My skin was so sensitive, every contact became painful. Makeup did little to conceal the burn above my lip, but everything else I could hide in dark places.
I wandered through the house to find it empty; no Skinner, no Mrs. Daniels behind closed doors. The kitchen was empty too; without evidence of breakfast having been made. It was as if they had just picked up and left me here. In a panic I opened the front door. The rental car was gone, too.
My heart started pounding as a familiar feeling that I associated exclusively with Mulder rose up like bile in my throat.
Skinner had ditched me.
Fear was replaced with white-hot anger. How dare he run out? Mulder and I were sure to be fired now. He could make up any excuse he wanted to; anything so he wouldn't have to face me this morning. I took Skinner for many things, but a coward was not one of them. He could destroy a legion of killers, kidnappers, and enemy soldiers, but a small, solitary, red-haired agent could make him turn tail and run. Tears of defeat gathered and rolled down my face.
Suddenly finding the house suffocating, I put my coat on and went out the back door. The morning frost that coated everything was starting to melt under the glare of the sun. Beyond the cornfield the grass field of my nightmares lay in serene mocking. It terrified me on a purely basic level, but perhaps the sunlight would keep the demons away.
I didn't hear the back door open or the sound of my name being called until he was on me.
I turned around, startled to see Skinner standing behind me. His face held the look of alarm before he replaced it with concern. A hand reached out to touch my face, coming away with wetness on his fingers. He held it out to me, a look of puzzled worry asking why I was crying.
I looked at my feet. "I thought you'd left me."
He straightened up, angry now. "Why would I do that?"
I shook my head. "It's happened before."
"I'm not Mulder," he said flatly. I was surprised by the depth of anger in his voice.
"No," I said softly, "you're not." I felt shame that I would compare the two, and couldn't meet his eyes. "I'm sorry."
"I went into to town for groceries. There wasn't very much in the house to eat, or coffee to drink." Out of the corner of my eye I could see him flex his jaw in frustration. "I should have left a note. It didn't occur to me you'd-" He didn't finish the thought, clearly uncomfortable in the admission.
"It's okay." I started back to the house. "I am hungry. What did you bring?"
We had a quick breakfast of cereal and phoned Sheriff Ringhofer. Skinner arranged to for us to meet him outside the courthouse to discuss the murders. The sheriff wanted the meeting to appear unplanned. We'd circulate among the festival attendees so we could speak without being followed.
In the car I asked him, "Did you see Mrs. Daniels this morning?"
"No. Her door was open and the bed was made, but she wasn't anywhere in the house."
"Where could she go so early in the morning?"
"I don't know. I ran into Deputy Masters at the grocery store though."
"The policeman who stopped us yesterday?"
"Yes. He was very curious about us. He wanted to know how I managed to have such a young and pretty wife."
"What did you tell him?" I was suddenly curious. This was yet another unseen side to Skinner.
"I told him you were wife number two, and I captured your heart with my cooking. I had to buy groceries and get back here to seduce you with my pancakes," he said it with complete seriousness, and stony face. Then he grinned, actually grinned at the memory.
I laughed out loud, unable to believe this playful man was Walter Skinner. "Seduced?"
He sobered quickly at my question, the mood passing swiftly. The mention of seduction was uncomfortably close to the subject of last night.
"Are we going to talk about it?" I asked with trepidation.
"There's nothing to talk about."
"I think there is. I don't understand what happened to us. It felt like we were being controlled by someone or something else. Like possession."
"I'm not going to hide behind the explanation of a ghost to excuse my behavior. What I did was wrong."
"I was there too," I said softly.
"But I'm your superior. I crossed a line I never should have. It won't happen again."
It sounded final and cold. It made my sore body feel cheap and used. I turned my head away to look out the window. His attitude hurt me more than I realized.
"Why do you keep staring at the backyard?" His abrupt question startled me.
I paused, unsure if he would understand. "I've been having dreams for the past few weeks; before we came here. When I saw the backyard I realized it was the same place as in my dreams."
Skinner assumed a skeptic's frown. "You've been dreaming about the MacDonald's backyard?"
"Actually the grassy area behind the cornfields. And I'd characterized them as nightmares, not dreams."
I hesitated. If he had trouble with the possession theory, then the idea of malevolent entities chasing me in my sleep was going to be impossible. I settled for something in between.
"I dream that I'm being chased by someone evil."
"Do you know who it is?"
"Do you think it's the white apparition that Mrs. Daniels reported seeing?"
"I don't think so. I don't know what it is."
That was a small lie. For some time now I suspected that *I* was the apparition. When I looked through the files, the nights of my dreams had corresponded to the nights the apparition was seen. But Skinner would never accept that, and my scientific mind screamed in rebellion at such a conclusion.
He finally let it drop, neither disputing my claim, nor supporting it. Mulder would have been jumping for joy.
Stop it, I told myself. Stop comparing them.
We parked a good half mile from the center of town. Pumpkin Fest was in full swing with crowds of people milling about behind the barricaded main streets. I could see carnival rides near the barber shop, and food venders were lined along the sidewalks.
We rounded the corner to the courthouse and beheld a wondrous sight. Hundreds of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes were setup in groups through winding snow fencing. Apparently a theme was selected each year and this year it was fairy tails and nursery rhymes.
Pumpkins decorated as Cinderella coaches, Peter Pumpkin Eater's house, and Little Red Riding Hoods were rendered in a comical, child-like fashion. As we circled the display Skinner placed a casual arm around my shoulders. I immediately tensed, uncomfortable and still angry with his attitude about last night.
He leaned close. "Loosen up Scully; remember we have a cover to maintain."
I forced myself to relax. He was right; he was always right.
I turned to tell him I was sorry when I encountered his mouth. He'd stayed leaning down near my ear, and I hadn't realized it. The shock of his lips on mine reverberated inside me. Just when I decided to move away from the kiss, he deepened it. This was no little peck for show; it was a real kiss, making everything he said in the car a sham.
"Are you the niece and nephew of Helen and Wayne MacDonald?"
We broke apart to see a silver haired man with a deeply wrinkled face. He was probably sixty years old or more, but he was also wearing a sheriff's uniform.
Skinner recovered first, thrusting his arm out to shake the sheriff's hand.
"Yes. I'm Sam and this is Dorothy."
I shook his hand too, slightly embarrassed.
"I'm Sheriff Ringhofer. Helen and Wayne told me to keep an eye out for you when you came into town. Why don't I show you around?"
We walked out of the courtyard to a large park with lush grass. It was far less crowded here, and the sheriff made a show of pointing out local landmarks along the way.
We found a deserted picnic table and sat down to discuss the case. Sheriff Ringhofer went over the more salient aspects of the case, and then we discussed some 'interesting' points, and discrepancies.
"Each of the victims was suffocated, but there were no signs of a ligature being used. No bluing of the mouth or tongue, or peticheal hemorrhages in the eyes."
"What about simple or chemical asphyxiates?" I asked intrigued.
"No. No toxins in the blood or signs of carbon monoxide poisoning."
"Then how do you know they were suffocated?" Skinner asked.
"At autopsy micro-hemorrhages and cyanosis of the lungs were found, which is consistent with suffocation. We just don't have a method."
"Which makes finding a murder weapon hard to do." Skinner's natural skepticism was showing.
"And there were no signs at all of a struggle?" I simply couldn't understand how any of this could occur.
"No, no signs at all."
"Has anything new turned up to link the victims?" Skinner asked.
"Not so far."
"What do you make of the apparition that's been reported?" My curiosity about this was piqued.
"I don't know. Mrs. Daniels is a serious and practical woman. If she says she saw something, I believe her."
"Is there any link between Donna MacDonald's murder and these new murders?"
"No. In fact, the aspects of her murder are just the opposite. She was a young female, living with her parents, and she died from a stab wound."
Skinner frowned. "Her killer was also caught. It's an open and shut case."
The sheriff sighed. "I'm not so sure myself. The evidence was circumstantial, and Brian Sweeney's friends gave him an alibi."
"But the alibi was disputed." I said.
"There was also some potentially lost evidence," Ringhofer said cryptically.
"Mrs. MacDonald said Donna kept a diary, but it was never found."
"Do you think it identifies the killer?"
"I don't know. If Brian Sweeney didn't kill her, who did?"
At the sheriff's suggestion, Skinner and I stayed at the Fest. He reasoned that we could ask around about the murders and not attract attention since we were new in town.
We met dozens of people who seemed to know all about the murders, but none of the 'interviews' turned up new information.
Towards nightfall we drove home exhausted, and no closer to finding out what was going on. Skinner made a light supper for the two of us, and we noticed Mrs. Daniels was still gone from the house.
We searched every room and even the attic without turning up a diary or the housekeeper.
"It's late Scully. Why don't you go to bed. If Mrs. Daniels is still missing tomorrow, we'll report it."
I was fatigued. "What about you?"
"I'm going to stay up and read."
"All right." I was the one that felt defeated this time as I climbed the stairs. Skinner was going to avoid sleeping in the same bed with me, even if he stayed up all night reading.
I took a shower and changed into a thin nightgown. If Skinner was going to sleep on the couch there was no reason to encase myself in flannel.
My last thought as I drifted to sleep was of Skinner smiling about making pancakes.
The disjointed dreams began almost immediately when I fell asleep. This time, as I stood in the field, the entity was much closer. A mask of dark evil hid its true identity. My feet were caught fast in deep mud; completely immobilized, and I was helpless in the face of the evil bearing down on me.
I screamed and screamed for help as the entity enveloped me and squeezed the life from my body. I was choking, dying a slow and painful death.
"Scully, Scully," Skinner was calling my name. I woke to find myself sobbing and trembling uncontrollably. I realized I was awake, and Skinner was shaking my shoulders.
I leaned forward and wound my arms around his chest trying to use his solid muscle as an anchor to reality. After some hesitation, He put his arms around me and pulled me gently into his lap. My face was buried in the crook of his neck, and I could smell the musky, sweaty, warmth of his skin. I was rocked slowly, allowing the horror to dissipate.
He waited patiently for me quiet, crooning nonsensical words of comfort into my ear. This was an unexpectedly gentle Skinner, and I suppose he found my behavior was just as surprising. I'd never allowed myself to be so vulnerable in his presence.
It was several minutes before I felt calm enough to speak. By then, fatigue made my limbs rubbery and weak. I had no desire at all to move from the cocoon of warmth Skinner had encased me in. I thought then that he was the key to defeating the dreams. His strength could protect me. If he held me all night I knew the entity would stay away.
"Was it the dream about the field?"
I nodded against his chest wordlessly. I turned to put my legs on either side of his waist so I could rest more fully against him, wanting to disappear inside him. What was it about this house that made us hunger to be touched?
I looked up to tell him I was fine, but the words dried up when I met his dark eyes. Longing dwelt there, so bright it glittered in the moonlight. This wasn't caused by possession, but belonged to a secret part of the man who held me in his arms. No wonder he denied being controlled by outside forces; he'd felt like this before.
His bruised thumb came up and traced the stubble-mark he'd made on my lip with exquisite gentleness. The caress sent sparks of sensation down my spine. The other fingers came around to cradle my chin and I knew he wanted to kiss me. Had he wanted to do this for five long years? On some level I think I knew about the attraction he had for me, but I had refused to acknowledge something that could never see the light of day. The raw physical contact we'd shared last night opened up doors I thought I'd nailed shut long ago.
I should have stopped him when he bent his head to mine. I should have pushed with the palm I held to his heart, but God help me, I wanted it too.
When he kissed me, it wasn't with the white hot obsession from last night. It was soft, wet and warm. He coaxed me with his lips and tongue; teasing and persuading with aching gentleness.
This was far more seductive than the mindless groping we'd done before, and no one was directing our movements but us. What Donna MacDonald and her lover had started, Skinner and I were going to finish.
He trailed a hand down to cup my breast through thin cotton material. The palm was so warm and large it made me take a stuttering breath against his lips. My cold nipple tightened even further and I wondered what his mouth would feel like there.
As if reading my thoughts, he undid the long row of tiny buttons on my gown, and lowered his head. I gasped in anticipation as I was half lifted up to his waiting mouth. Seeing my inflamed breast, he tenderly lapped at the areola before sucking the nipple between soft lips. I felt an answering pulse of warm fluid between my legs. This couldn't be happening could it?
Skinner kissed a heated trail across to the other breast. I pulled his shirt off to stroked his head, neck, and back with greedy hands. Craving touch was one thing, but experiencing it was something far better.
I managed to delve into his loose fitting pants and boxers to find his erection. The skin was warm, satiny smooth, and firm beneath my small hands. He groaned low in his chest and I looked to see his head tossed back, mouth slack as my hands moved on him. I felt a surge of power that I could make this particular man loose his composure so completely.
"God, oh God Scully -" he grunted.
I bent my head to his lap and ran my tongue over the head. He jerked and brought my face up with his hands. He shook his head no as if admonishing me for doing something bad. I felt the heat of embarrassment rise up and tried to pull away. He held me in place with a frown.
"No, Scully, no. I want you, just you. I want to be inside of you," he whispered. And then he was kissing me again with heart breaking sweetness. I was jostled and maneuvered until my underwear was pulled off, and his soon followed. We were completely naked to one another in both body and emotions.
A brush with his fingers between my legs told him I was more than ready. He then raised my bottom up and entered me slowly until I came to rest once again in his lap.
I couldn't help the low hiss that escaped my lips. It had been so long since I'd been with anyone and he filled me so completely. I held him tightly around his waist with my forehead leaning against his shoulder. Skinner rubbed my back trying to soothe and relax my tight muscles.
After a few moments he whispered my name with quiet desperation. "Scully?"
I leaned up to see an anxious expression and beads of sweat on his face. He pressed his lips to my forehead. "Scully, I'm sorry. Please, I- I need to-."
The pleading in his voice was heart-rending, and I understood what he needed. Leaning all the way back, I coaxed him to follow me down onto the clean white quilt. A low moan of satisfaction broke from his lips as he settled into me, and he moved with slow, measured thrusts. I gave myself up completely to his needs, to his control.
Tight pleasure began to wind through my belly, and I whimpered shamelessly. He brought a hand down to where our bodies were joined to rub the sensitive flesh there.
His voice was thick and husky. "Do you like that? Do you need more?"
I couldn't answer him. I was so close -. Without warning pleasure pure as rain broke over me, through me, fusing my body to Skinner's. My mouth was gaping open, and I was screaming without making sound as the spasms took complete control of me. He followed soon after, moaning my name with rasping abandon.
He collapsed forward, his weight crushing me into the mattress. Still joined, I waited for the last of his spasms to subside.
Finally, he rolled over bringing me close to curl against his body. Lack of tension made me boneless, our limbs tangled floppily in the sheets. Within seconds I was sound asleep.
Oct 31. Halloween, early morning
The cool night air brushed my cheek in the dark backyard of Helen and Wayne MacDonald's house. How did I get here? When I turned around the house was gone, hidden by apple trees that I couldn't remember ever seeing.
When I tried to get through the trees, dense undergrowth prevented me from moving forward. Dry grass and twigs crunched under my bare feet scratching them painfully. My nightgown kept getting caught on the undergrowth, making me stumble. How did I get dressed and out here? This didn't make sense.
I was dreaming. I had to be.
I now believed I was in the MacDonald's back yard, giving final confirmation that this was the place I went to in all those dreams. Slowly, I turned around and walked away from the house. My heart began that familiar rapid tripping because I knew what lay ahead.
Out beyond the decrepit slat fence and the smaller cornfield was open grassland. I was drawn to it like a magnet, unable to fight the urgent call that seemed to emanate from it.
I was so focused that I didn't feel the cornhusks tear at my feet, or the sound of someone calling my name. On the other side of the cornfield the grass was softer and a lighter wind stirred my hair and chilled my skin.
My skin. Skin. Skinner. Fantasy became reality as awareness seeped into my mind, just as the chill had seeped into my bones.
I turned around and he was there behind me, anger clouding his face. When he caught up to me, I was lifted, and felt my arms crushed by his powerful hands.
"Scully, what the hell are you doing out here? Didn't you hear me calling?"
I shook my head, unable to articulate sound or move at all. We were changing again, becoming the ghosts that inhabited the house. A man and woman in love; a love that was forbidden to them. Crossing time and reality to remain together.
- 'My love.'
Then I saw it, the floating cloud of death from my dreams. It moved towards us rapidly but cautiously, stealthy as a cat, stalking us, waiting for its chance to kill us.
Run, my mind whispered, run. They know they're here. We're going to die. We're going to die again. I don't want to die again.
I managed to scramble out of his grip, dropping down and running again. When he didn't come with me I went back and tugged like a child on his shirt. He was rooted to the spot, watching with horrified fascination as the black form moved forward with malevolent persistence.
I slapped his face hard, my palm flaming with the pain of contact. I slapped him again and again until he turned his face away from Death. Despite the rage evident in him, I pulled on his hand urgently.
Come on, we need to go. NOW.
Then we were both running across the field, becoming ourselves again with each step. Without looking back, I knew it was still following with the persistence of decades-long rage. We were fully awake. This was reality.
The hill of my nightmare loomed large before us. We'd be safe if we got there and climbed to the other side. I tugged on Skinner's arm to change directions slightly. He came with me, not even slowing to ask why.
He knew. Somehow he knew as I did that we had to get to the other side. I started up first, but Skinner's long muscular legs carried him further and faster. He had to drag me the last few steps up to the summit. Before I reached the top, I looked back like Lot's wife wanting to see the destruction bearing down on us.
The black entity swirled and gathered itself to form a hideous cloud of evil. As it reached out toward me with a tendril of death, Skinner tugged on my arm causing us to tumble helplessly down the embankment. I came to rest inside a thorny bush that tore at my skin and clothing. I'd felt Skinner's hand leave mine as we came down, and I whimpered his name.
"Skinner." We should not be separated.
When I tried to move it only tangled me further and burning pain from innumerable scratches kept me from doing anything else. The entity was gone, unable to follow us into this place.
After a few minutes, I heard Skinner calling for me.
"Here,' I shouted, "I'm here."
He reached in cursing at the thorns that pricked his flesh to extricate me. It took several attempts to get me unsnarled, and I had to bite back cries of pain. Skinner set me on my feet and swore again as he looked me over.
I looked down to see my nightgown shredded and stained with blood. Long thin scratches covered my arms and legs. Skinner traced a scratch on my face with his index finger, coming away with a red drop resting on the pad.
"Scully, you need a doctor."
Panic seized me. "No, we can't leave; not until sunrise. It can't hurt us if we stay here."
I saw him look around to see where 'here' was. His eyes fixed on a point over my shoulder. I followed his gaze with my own to discover we'd landed inside Resurrection Cemetery. The massive iron gate and fencing only enclosed the front half, leaving the back portion open to the hill. The designer must have thought the grass mound and thorny bushes would serve as natural barriers to intruders such as us.
Skinner frowned, not liking the idea of freezing outside all night with a half-clothed and battered partner. But then the entity made a long wailing noise behind us; a sound of frustration and fury at not being able to get at us. I began to tremble from fear and shock. He gathered me into his warm arms and I felt him crane his neck to look for shelter.
He must have spotting something, because the next thing I knew, he'd swept me up in his arms. I could see weathered stone statues and tombstones as we passed them. Some of the dates were so worn by time they could barely be read: July 1898, died August 1910 and so on. Many were children sacrificed to the hard life of being pioneer farmers.
There wasn't a central office or even a caretaker's shed anywhere in the cemetery. Skinner finally located a small stone alcove at the entrance to a large mausoleum. A wide marble bench was tucked in one corner out of the wind and elements. He sat carefully on it, keeping me cradled in his lap.
I buried my face in the solid warmth of his chest, and I was so grateful for his presence. Any unease we may have felt subsequent to sleeping together vanished in the face of mutual need and comfort.
I wondered about the 'possession' we kept experiencing. If I was inhabited by Donna MacDonald who was possessing Skinner?
It couldn't be her boyfriend Sweeney; he'd been convicted of killing her. I hadn't felt any fear or malice in that presence, only the purity of love. And who was the malevolent force trying to kill us/them? If Sweeney didn't kill her, could it be the true killer of Donna MacDonald and the elderly men?
Forbidden love. The irony wasn't lost on me.
Mulling over the case seemed to do no good. I shifted in Skinners lap, wrapping my legs around his torso, and cried out when a deep scratch on my thigh opened under pressure.
"Scully?" Skinner's husky voice asked instantly in concern.
I shook my head. "I'm fine. Just hold me. Hold me until the sun comes up." I had been right. If he held me all night evil would stay away.
I slept fitfully against him, waking occasionally from cold or fear. Skinner was wide awake, each time murmuring soft words of comfort and kissing my head. He waited patiently until I settled back against him. I shivered almost constantly even with his warmth pressed into me. Maybe the entity would win out after all if we died of hypothermia.
Cold light finally made its way over the horizon, filling the cemetery with oblique and harsh shadows. I opened my eyes, but couldn't seem to keep them open or stand up. I could see a fine frost on the ground and knew I was literally freezing. Skinner's warm body was nowhere near me, but I didn't have the strength to call for him.
A dark shadow fell across my face. I whimpered and I tried to move out of the way.
"Good God almighty. Mrs. MacDonald. What are you doing here? What happened to you?" The voice of Deputy Masters filtered through my frozen mind. When I didn't respond he picked me up like a rag doll and carried me out. The last clear image I had was the interior of Masters' police cruiser as he placed me in it.
I woke sometime later to the familiar bleep of heart monitors. An EMS radio crackled in the background. Voices were close by, speaking in urgent, shocked tones.
"Blood and semen - vicious attack - sexual assault-"
They couldn't be talking about me. With a supreme effort I opened my eyes and struggled into a sitting position. The room spun and blackened for a moment before I gained my equilibrium.
An IV was inserted in my left hand, and the heart monitor picked up speed with my waking. White bandages coated with greasy antibiotic ointment were wrapped mummy-like around my arms and legs. More bandages were taped on my face, abdomen and chest to cover ugly scratches. I looked around for Skinner, but no one else was in the curtained ER room with me. I began tearing the monitor leads off in an attempt to free myself of the electronic leashes. Alarm bells shrieked in protest. I nearly had the IV tape undone when a harried nurse burst through the curtain.
"What are you doing Mrs. MacDonald? That IV is to give you fluids, and we need to be sure your heart is beating correctly."
I wanted to tell her I was a doctor not a child, but Dorothy MacDonald wouldn't be able to say that. "Where's my husband?"
"I don't think you should worry about him right now; you're the one that needs to be taken care of."
I knew she meant well, but her condescending tone grated on my nerves. "I want to know where my husband is. If you don't find him, I'm leaving AMA."
She pursed her lips. "I'll get Dr. Erickson."
An older man with a Santa clause beard came in as I was removing the last of the plastic tape holding my IV in. "Hello Mrs. MacDonald, I'm Dr. Erickson. My nurse tells me you're trying to leave."
"I am leaving. I need to find my husband." I couldn't tell him that I had a bad feeling about Skinner's well being. Every minute I spent without him felt like another minute he was in terrible danger. I firmly believed that staying together was paramount to our safety.
"Mrs. MacDonald, you've been injured. We need to treat you properly."
"I just have few scratches -" I stopped when he put his hand on my shoulder.
"Mrs. MacDonald, did your husband do this to you?" He spoke in a low and sympathetic voice. He thought I was a battered wife. If it hadn't been such a terrible accusation I would have laughed.
"No my husband did not do this to me."
"Deputy Masters says he found you unconscious in the cemetery. Your clothes were torn and bloody from numerous scratches all over your body. He also found your husband wandering on the road, incoherent with blood on his clothing. He wasn't injured Mrs. MacDonald, but you were."
I barely heard the last part. What had happened to Skinner? Had he left before sunrise and encountered the killer?
I looked at the doctor and spoke with my best agent voice. "My husband had nothing to do with this, nothing. It is important that I find him."
"Were you sexually assaulted by him or someone else?"
"No." I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks. "I slept with my husband last night. He found me sleepwalking this morning in the cemetery. I'd fallen down the hill behind the farm into a thorn bush, and he got me out. That's how the scratches got on my body and my blood on his clothes. He'd gone for help when Deputy Masters found me."
"Do you sleep walk very often?"
"No, only since I came here," I said trying to make him understand. " Please, I need to find my husband."
I don't know if Dr. Erickson believed me or not. He didn't stop me when I ripped the IV all the way out, or when I demanded hospital scrubs I knew were usually kept in the ER department. My own clothes were ruined, and were probably in an evidence bag somewhere.
My nurse reluctantly retrieved the scrubs and found some shoes donated to the hospital for just such occurrences. After signing the AMA papers I phoned the sheriff's office and found out that Skinner was in jail for assaulting me.
I needed a ride to the sheriff's office, but didn't have any money or ID with me.
"How far is the jail from here?" I had no idea where 'here' was.
"About ten miles." Dr. Erickson wasn't going to let me go easily.
"How can I get a ride?"
He laughed at my bravado. Not only was I signing myself out, but I was asking him to help me do it. The staff in the small ER conversed in whispers. A tall burly man with a brown beard and an EMT's uniform stepped forward.
"I'm Ben Masters, Will's brother. I get off my shift here in five minutes. I'll take you to the sheriff's office."
Sycamore Hill- A Halloween Tale Part 3, SSR Descriptions, disclaimers and ratings in Part 1 Part 3 is dedicated to the other listies with b-days near Halloween: so many
During the short ride to Sycamore I learned a great deal about Will Masters from his older brother.
Will was an adopted child, younger than Ben by almost fifteen years. He'd been only four when Ben married and moved out of the house, essentially making him an only child. He was a shy kid, but had done well in school. To his family's surprise, he went into law enforcement instead of banking or medicine like his father and older brother.
"Will always said there was no justice in the world, not even in a town as small as Sycamore."
"What did he mean by that?" I asked with surprise.
"I think it had to do with his being adopted. There was a family rumor that Will was the illegitimate child of a relative. I thought he didn't know about that, but lately I've been wondering."
"He's become obsessed with the MacDonald Farm. Somewhere along the line he got the idea that Brian Sweeney was falsely convicted of Donna MacDonald's murder. He's been digging into court records, asking people questions, going over to the farm and harassing the MacDonalds. When this ghost business started and the killings began, he let it eat him alive."
Quietly I asked, "Do you think he has something to do with the murders?"
Ben whipped his head over to look at me and then back to the road ahead. "No, but -"
"You're not entirely sure, are you?"
He said nothing after that. I was dropped in front of the sheriff's building, still deserted in the early morning. Before I left he called to me.
"Why are you here Mrs. MacDonald?"
"I'm trying to find out the truth behind the apparition and murders."
"Is that all?" He sounded sad, fishing for information.
I leaned into the passenger side window. "Should there be more?"
He hesitated. "Will may think he's your son."
"My son? He's at least-"
"I'm too young to be his mother."
"Yes, but your husband's not too old to be his father. He told Will that you were his second wife. He's the MacDonald's only living relative besides my family."
I let out a started breath with this information. "Sam's related to you?"
"We're distant cousins. If Will believes the family rumor, then Sam is the only man who could be his father."
"Who does he think is his mother?"
"Donna MacDonald? She was sixteen when she died. She had a baby?" I was flabbergasted.
"She was a sweet girl, well liked by everyone. She went 'away' to school for a year out of state. When she came back she was a changed person: angry, rebellious, hanging out with the wrong crowd. It's an old rumor around town."
"Why does Will think she's his mother?"
"I don't know. I think he may have heard something, or found something out."
A cold feeling of dread ran down my back. Will could be dangerous.
I looked back at the beige brick building. "Is Will the only one on duty today?"
"Yes, all the others will be out for the parade. Why?"
"Please, find Sheriff Ringhofer and tell him to come here immediately. I have a bad feeling about this."
He nodded and drove away. I turned to the door and opened it.
The main area was large and deserted. A police radio crackled with static in the corner. Several desks littered the middle and filing cabinets lined a wall along with photos of various police events and awards.
An eerie feeling permeated the room like Will was nearby, but not expecting anyone to arrive and interrupt - what?
I moved through the room looking for signs of life. Near the back, a door was slightly ajar and a far distant light lit the dim hallway. I eased the door open to hear a television blaring in the background.
I wanted my gun. Going down this hallway felt like an exercise in finding a hidden perpetrator. But this was a police station, a friendly place. Wasn't it?
"Deputy Masters? It's Dorothy MacDonald. Are you here?"
My voice echoed off the walls, competing with the blaring television. No other sound disturbed the hallway, so I called again. The television was in a darkened room with a crib. I assumed this was the room they slept in at night when there was nothing to do.
At the end of the corridor a door was open, responsible for the only light at this end. When I rounded the corner a terrible site greeted me.
Skinner was strapped to a chair in the middle of the room. His head hung down, covered in bruises and blood.
"Sir." Protocol forgotten, I ran to him and pulled his face up. More bruises covered his cheeks and forehead. A quick check at his neck with shaky fingers, and I could feel he had a pulse. Temporary relief washed through me at the discovery, but I had to get him loose and get help.
Gently I leaned him back in the chair and supported his head against me so he could breathe better. He was handcuffed through the seatback's metal bar, and his feet were also handcuffed. I felt a wave of despair. Short of taking the chair apart, there was no way to release him.
I stood next to him, cradling his head trying to think of a way out of the tiny room. Skinner shifted and groaned, his head bouncing against me in an effort to move.
"Sir? Can you hear me?"
He groaned louder. "Scully?" came out in a croak.
"I'm here sir. Do you know where they keep the handcuff keys?"
He shook his head.
"He he thinks-"
"I know. He thinks you're his father. Do you know where he went?"
"Did you tell him the truth? Does he know who we are?"
Skinner would rather die than blow his cover; a soldier to the last. A noise down the corridor made me freeze. Before I could hide, or even move, a gun came around the corner.
At the end of the gun was Sheriff Ringhofer. I sighed with relief.
"Sheriff. Help me get these cuffs off him."
"Deputy Masters arrested Skinner for assaulting me. He brought him here and did this to him." I gestured to the black and blue marks that were growing larger. When the sheriff hesitated, I added: "You know very well he did *not* assault me, and he's not going to hurt anyone in this condition."
Reluctantly the sheriff agreed and stepped forward to release the lock on Skinner's wrists. He swayed forward, and I had to catch him before he fell over. Purple bruises and deep red grooves were worn into his bloody wrists. I massaged the painful flesh in an attempt to restore circulation. Skinner moaned in pain, and tried to remove his hands.
When the cuffs were removed from his ankles, Skinner struggled mightily to stand up. Once on his feet, his eyes rolled back. It took both Sheriff Ringhofer and me to keep him from toppling over.
"We need to get you to the hospital."
"NO, no. Too many questions. Might blow our cover."
He was right about that, but I didn't know how badly he was hurt.
"If you can walk outside to the sheriff's car then we'll go home," I said believing he could never do it. But as usual I underestimated him. He staggered, and I had to let him lean on me, but he made it all the way there. I managed to get him into the cruiser and sat next to him.
"Take us back to the farm."
We drove in silence back to the farm. Sheriff Ringhofer helped me to get Skinner upstairs and change his soiled clothing. We hefted him into bed. He continued to insist that he didn't need the hospital, but I worried about internal injuries.
Once I made sure he was comfortable, I walked downstairs with the sheriff.
"When you're finished looking for Will, could you come back and check the house? I'd feel better about staying here if you could."
"Also, we haven't seen Mrs. Daniels since yesterday."
"Doesn't she live here?"
"Yes, but when we woke up yesterday morning, she was gone."
"Do you think something's happened to her?"
"I don't know. She's a strange woman. She seemed to disapprove of us. I thought she might have gone somewhere until we left for good, but there was no note, phone call, nothing."
He nodded solemnly. "I don't think I've seen her myself in a week or more. She was like the MacDonalds; kept to herself."
"How long has she lived here?"
"Goin' on twenty years now. She moved in to help Helen after Donna died, and then I think she stayed because she had no other place to go."
"Which is why I'm worried about her now."
He nodded. "I'll ask around about her and come back later to check on you."
"I'd appreciate that."
I saw him to the door and watched the cruiser drive away. Despite knowing that he was coming back, I still felt a niggling fear. Will was still out there, and so was the killer. No body had been discovered today, but that didn't mean much.
I walked all over the house double, and triple checking the door and window locks. I hauled a heavy desk over the back door in the vague hope it would keep intruders out. Or *me* in.
After showering, I changed into sweats and a t-shirt. I re- wrapped the bandages over my scratches the best I could, lacking the dexterity and antibiotic ointment that were necessary.
Padding downstairs in my stocking feet, I made Skinner some beef bullion and took it back up to him. I sat in an overstuffed chair next to the bed to watch his sleeping form. A nearly bald teddy bear also occupied the chair, and I pulled it up into my lap. There was something terribly intimate about watching him like this.
"Should I wake him Teddy?" I asked the sad little bear.
He'd been sleeping since getting in bed, and I was loath to wake him. But he needed to drink fluids and also needed the nutrition. Guilt that he'd given me most of his strength and warmth last night at his own expense was also on my mind.
With a sigh I replaced the bear and gently touched Skinner's face.
He stirred, and opened his eyes. The deep brown irises softened when he saw me. I smiled in relief and gratitude that he was alive and here with me.
"I made you some broth. You need to drink it, and take a pain pill."
"I don't need-"
"Yes you do," I said cutting him off, "you're dehydrated and with the muscle damage from bruising you're in danger of developing rhabdomyolysis."
"Never mind. Just do as you're told." I smiled at the opportunity to boss him around a little.
With considerable effort he sat up. I touched his face and arms, inspecting the purpling under his skin. The bruising looked as if it had stabilized.
"He beat me while I was handcuffed to the chair. He said I was his father and beat me until I was unconscious. He never asked anything at all, just beat me with a baton." Skinner's voice was quiet and bewildered.
It was a heart-rending confession. I put a finger to his lips. "Drink."
He drank the broth in two large gulps, and I gave him the pill to swallow.
"You said this was a pain pill? Where did you get it?"
"I had some left over from when I had cancer. I always bring them along just in case."
His face fell when I mentioned the cancer. I was in remission, but the specter of reoccurrence was always in my mind. And his too it would seem.
Suffering was something we both did well.
"Come here." The command was back in his voice.
A familiar sensation fluttered in my stomach. I hadn't allowed myself to think about last night, or what we'd shared. He hadn't forgotten either. Here so far from Washington and the FBI, it was easy to forget who we were. Thoughts about fraternization, guilt and Mulder were far away.
He broke the pain pill in half and held it out to me. "We both need this."
As I took it from him and swallowed it, I thought how symbolic this gesture was of Skinner's true nature. He was always sacrificing something for me; thinking of my comfort before his own. It brought a lump to my throat.
I sat gingerly on the edge of the bed. He reached out and stroked my face; his index finger gently tracing an ugly scratch I hadn't covered. I leaned forward to receive the kiss I wanted as much as he did.
The tenderness of last night was there; his lips were so gentle and soft they made me ache. We sat for a very long time, only kissing; enjoying this simple intimacy once again.
"Lay down," he said in a husky voice.
"I don't think either one of us is in shape for that."
"I'm not talking about sex. Lay down."
I slid under the blankets next to him. He rolled us both on our sides and wrapped his large frame around me. A lingering, open-mouthed kiss was placed on my neck making me sigh with satisfaction. He pulled me as close to his body as he could, draping me in warmth.
"*Now* I can rest," he whispered in my ear.
I smiled at his playfulness. We were both bone weary and battered, but in the presence of the other it didn't seem so bad. Within minutes we were sound asleep.
Oct. 31: Halloween Night
Darkness had fallen by the time I woke. A bedside lamp illuminated a small pendulum clock whose hands declared it was seven o'clock. Skinner was making muffled snoring noises near my ear. Hours had gone by, but we hadn't moved an inch. I felt so safe and warm, I wondered if we could just stay like this; forget about returning to Washington, the Hoover and the daily cares they represented.
A giggle escaped when I thought of Skinner and me as farmers. We could trade wool business suits for denim and cotton, briefcases for chickens, laptops for cows. Skinner would wear a farmer's cap to protect his head from the sun, and I'd call him in from the field for supper. It was a sweet fantasy and completely unrealistic. We couldn't give up what we were anymore than we could sprout wings and fly.
I turned over on my back to regard Skinner. I smoothed my hands over the supple skin of his chest and arms. His broad back was becoming a favorite spot. I loved to touch him, and found it difficult to stop.
He stirred under my hands, waking to give me a lazy smile. His movements mimicked mine, pushing up under clothing to touch me with tender care.
"So soft," he whispered in my ear, "how can you be so soft?"
We kissed again, but this time our lovemaking was more intense, more urgent; as if there wasn't much time left. I think Skinner knew as well as I that our fragile bond could never survive outside this place.
This time he entered me from behind, my knees far apart, and my arms pinned above my head in supplication: a sacrifice on the altar of his soul. I enjoyed the dominance, welcomed it. It allowed me to enjoy him without the guilt or strain of conscience. It was intensely pleasurable, and the most intimate, freeing experience I could ever remember.
Unexpected tears flowed down my face when I climaxed, and a strangled sob escaped from me. Alarmed, Skinner abruptly stopped his thrusting.
"Scully, did I hurt you?" Pain and regret were in the words he spoke. He would rather die than hurt me. The realization only made me cry harder.
He pulled out and gathered me in his arms. I knew he was bewildered by this sudden change in behavior. I felt helpless to stop the tide of emotion that poured from me.
"It's n-not your fault," I stammered, my face buried in his neck.
"I-I don't want to lose you."
"No." He sounded so sure.
I kissed his muscular neck, thanking him for understanding. He returned the favor; placing a trail of warm kisses across my collarbone.
"Let me show you how you make me feel," he murmured against me.
The loud bang of a gunshot downstairs kept him from completing that demonstration.
Skinner surged across the bed to turn off the bedside lamp, plunging the bedroom into darkness. We dressed as quickly as possible, and retrieved our service revolvers. Skinner retrieved his glasses.
He was frowning, looking out through the bedroom door. I could see he was torn between remaining in the bedroom and proceeding down the hall. The creaky staircase would make it impossible to descend with any stealth. But staying here made us sitting ducks.
More loud noises came from downstairs. The sound of glass breaking and kitchen chairs being overturned could be clearly heard. Someone was ransacking the kitchen, and doing nothing to hide the fact.
I already knew there was no phone in the bedroom. When Skinner and I searched the house earlier the only one we found was in the kitchen. I checked the single window in the room. It was painted shut with several layers of paint. It probably hadn't been opened since Donna MacDonald had occupied this room. Short of breaking the window out, this was a lost cause.
Suddenly the noises stopped as abruptly as they had started. Skinner and I waited several minutes in gut- wrenching silence for more noise. I'd walked over to Skinner and stood at his side. When I started to tremble, he put a reassuring arm around my shoulders.
Together, I said to myself, we had to stay together.
When it seemed that the house was deserted again, we descended the stairs. Nothing seemed amiss in the living room; the heavy desk I'd pulled in front of the back door was still in place.
The kitchen was another matter. All the food Skinner had purchased was strewn over everything: the walls, floor, table, and even the ceiling. Dishes from the cabinets appeared as if they had leaped from the shelves to shatter on the floor. The refrigerator door stood open and the light flickered like a haphazard strobe light.
Skinner picked his way across the kitchen and checked the door. It was still locked.
Fear as cold as ice suddenly overwhelmed me. An almost blind terror was screaming at me to run, get away from here as fast as possible.
I looked up at Skinner's face and saw fear in his eyes too. I didn't have to say a thing because he made the decision for me.
"Let's get out of here."
We hastily packed our cases and simply left the house. No X-file was worth the kind of danger we were in now. I had nothing to base it on, but I was sure the killer had been in the house. Before I left, I took the thread bare teddy bear with me. I had another child-like need to have something to hang onto while we made our escape.
Skinner drove like a madman, putting as much distance between us and the house as possible. I refused to look at the cemetery when we passed, and the pump station's street light glowed an ominous yellow.
"He never came back." I said in a flat voice.
"The sheriff. He promised to come back and check the house before night fall."
"When did he promise to do that?"
"This afternoon while you were sleeping upstairs. He helped me get you to bed and then said he'd be back later."
"You think something has happened to him." Skinner made it a statement, not a question.
"Then we'll have to go by his office to find out."
The sheriff's office was pitch black when we drove up, as if all the electricity had been shut off to it. I looked at Skinner. This was more than unusual, it was a sign that something was terribly wrong.
"Should we call for back up?"
"Who can we call Scully? The state police are fifty miles away."
"I know, but I just don't want you to go back in there. You- -you could have died in there."
For the first time since we left the house, Skinner's face softened. He leaned across and kissed me, and then kept his face close to mine.
"I know, but I didn't. If it will make you feel better, I'll call the state police before I go in."
Every alarm bell I had went off. "You are *not* going in there alone."
"I don't have a choice."
"Yes you do and so do I. I'm going in with you."
"NO." He nearly shouted it at me. He squeezed his eyes shut, realizing the harshness of his reply. "Scully, you can't go in there. If Will is responsible for all of this I'm the only one he'll want to see. He and I have unfinished business. Anyone else will just be in his way."
"Including you. He almost killed you. You can't expect me to just sit by-" I stopped, clearly frustrated with his attitude.
Before Skinner could argue with me anymore the front door opened up. Will Masters came out holding his arms up, and Sheriff Ringhofer was close behind with his gun trained on him.
I should have felt relieved by the sight: the sheriff had apprehended the murderer and was leading him away.
But there was something wrong about this. If Will Masters was under arrest, why was the sheriff leading him *away* from jail?
One look at Skinner told me he was thinking the same thing.
He watched as they got into a non-descript black car and drove away.
Skinner was agitated. "We need to follow them, but these country roads are so deserted, they'll see us."
"It doesn't matter."
Skinner glanced over at me with questioning look.
I had a small leather bound book in my hands. While we were arguing, I'd twisted and worried the teddy bear in my hands until he'd come apart. Under the streetlight I could make out the word 'Diary' in faint gold lettering.
I held Donna MacDonald's diary in my hands.
We drove slowly and carefully along the roads out of town, using the parking lights for illumination. Skinner shut those off as soon as we turned the corner by the old pump station. Resurrection Cemetery sat in total darkness against the moonlit sky.
The car Sheriff Ringhofer and Will Masters had driven off in was parked to the side behind a large oak tree. Skinner turned the engine off on our car and allowed it to coast to the edge of the road.
I was still reading the diary by moonlight, fascinated by the story Donna told.
At fifteen she'd had an affair with an older man she called Jim. In the typical language of a teenager, she spoke glowingly of her love for him. He even had a rich girlfriend named Elizabeth at the time that he gave up for her.
When she became pregnant, however, he stopped seeing her. When she threatened to expose him, he told her he would kill her and she believed him. Her parents were very religious, and strict in their dealings with her. When she finally found the courage to tell them, they treated her like she was dirt.
It had been their idea to send her away and make her give the baby up for adoption. She finally agreed to the plan only after they promised her the baby would be adopted locally so she could see it from time to time from afar.
After she had the baby and returned home, Jim wanted to resume their affair. By then Donna was a changed person; drinking, staying out late, and defying her parents. She got a new boyfriend and told Jim she never wanted to see him again. He apparently started threatening her once more, and followed her around town. Her boyfriend caught him one night roaming around the farm, and a fight ensued. The police were called, but both the boyfriend and Jim were gone when they arrived.
The last entry in the diary was heart-breaking in its description of Donna's despair.
'I have nothing to live for anymore. The man I thought I loved is evil, and wants to possess me in both mind and body. He made me pregnant and told me if I didn't have an abortion he'd kill me and the baby both. When I came back he was still there, trying to possess me again. He will kill Brian, I know he will. The look in his eyes tonight when he saw me with Brian was one of pure hatred. I have decided to speak to Elizabeth who is engaged to him now to see if she can help. She is my last hope.'
I wondered if she ever spoke to the girlfriend, or told Brian about the affair. She was killed the same night the last entry was made.
Skinner looked over at me when I didn't move or speak.
"Scully? Does the diary give any more information?"
"Sheriff James Ringhofer is Will Masters father."
Skinner let out long breath. "And Donna really is his mother?"
"But who's committing the murders?"
I looked at my hands and struggled to put the pieces together. "What was Mrs. Daniels first name?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"I have a feeling it's Elizabeth. Someone named Elizabeth was engaged to Ringhofer when Donna died."
"You think she had something to do with Donna's death?"
"Maybe. She didn't marry him though. And she moved in with the MacDonalds."
"There's still too much information missing. The new murders are probably related but we still don't know why."
I looked at the cemetery. All the fear and anguish Skinner and I had experienced over the last two days took on a new meaning. As bad as it had been, we'd had each other to depend on. Donna had been alone, and died alone, making her a far more tragic figure.
"Let's go find out."
The heavy iron gate at the cemetery entrance stood open. Skinner and I walked through and began the search for Will and Jim. The statues inside cast ominous shadows along the grass and sidewalks. It appeared completely deserted, and if we hadn't seen their car outside I would have been inclined to leave.
Somewhere towards the back the sound of digging came echoing across to us. As we moved closer I could hear voices arguing.
Skinner and I made our way across marble hurdles to the voices. Will Masters was standing in a fresh grave. Sheriff Ringhofer had a gun pointed at his chest.
Skinner aimed his gun at the sheriff. "Drop it Ringhofer."
Ringhofer swung toward the sound and fired, just missing Skinner's head. Skinner returned fire and caught the sheriff in the chest. He staggered backward, and fell into the grave. To my horror Will Masters picked the sheriff's gun up and fired into him until the gun was empty.
He was still clicking the empty chambers when Skinner grabbed him and put the handcuffs on.
Down in the fresh grave next to Sheriff Ringhofer was the decomposing body of Mrs. Daniels.
I watched as clouds covered over the cornfields we were leaving behind. The plane made a shuddering noise as it turned east towards DC, our final destination. Skinner sat next to me as implacable as ever. He'd withdrawn deeply into himself since we'd wrapped up the case. My fear that I would ultimately lose him was finally born out.
Cases like this always seemed to take a little something out of me. Hope for the future would tarnish just a little more when the misery of the people we investigated was laid out in ugly detail. There wasn't a single person in this case that wasn't ultimately destroyed by the evil of one man and the homicidal jealously of one woman.
Will Masters confessed to helping Elizabeth Daniels murder three innocent men in an attempt to cover the planned murder of Sheriff James Ringhofer. She wanted it to look like just another in a long line of similar murders throwing suspicion away from her.
During interrogation Will told a story of befriending Mrs. Daniels and her manipulation of him and the truth. She'd told him Brian Sweeney had not killed Donna MacDonald and she knew who had: Ringhofer. She was also the one who told Will that Donna was his mother, but neglected to tell him that Ringhofer was his father.
She spun a tale of Ringhofer's betrayal of both she and Donna. She expertly manipulated him into agreeing to help 'punish this evil doer'. She told Will that she had moved into the MacDonald household to help them get over their grief. The simple truth was she probably did it to manipulate them as well, and keep the truth from Will. Twenty five years is a long time to plan.
She made up the story of an apparition to lend a supernatural element to the crimes, and chose to kill the men near Halloween. Will said he went along with whatever she wanted, and had never seen the apparition himself. Masters somehow found out about her plan and killed her before Skinner and I arrived in town.
I believed he was the one who ransacked the kitchen looking for Donna's diary. Skinner and I had heard about the diary from him, and he may have believed Donna named him as her lover and father of her baby. He wanted to find it and destroy it before we did so that no tangible evidence of his involvement was left behind.
He did not know until Halloween night that her accomplice was Will, his son. He was trying to manipulate Will too when we thwarted his plan.
Skinner and I typed up a neat report that Kersh would not only buy, but also left out the 'stranger' aspects of the case.
It did not explain the feeling of possession we felt that first night, or why I would dream of an evil entity. It also did not explain why I felt safe from the entity in the cemetery, or why I dreamed of a place I'd never been. Most importantly, how could we converse with a woman who had been dead for twelve hours?
I didn't discuss it with Skinner; he seemed satisfied to let it be. I, on the other hand, devised some of my own theories.
I still believed there was an apparition. The MacDonalds had seen it too. I dreamed of standing in the field all in white, perhaps a premonition of the future. Donna and Brian were the lovers who occupied both the house and us. Mrs. Daniels' spirit had only occupied the house until her body was removed by Ringhofer while we were in town that first day.
Strange as it seems the evil entity was the essence or spirit of Mrs. Daniels, furious that her plan would not be carried out. Her need to destroy Skinner and I was simply misplaced rage. She couldn't enter the cemetery because it contained hallowed ground; a fact I learned from Mulder. It would have made him so happy.
In all of it Donna and Will would appear to be victims, but even they are not without responsibility. Donna could have gone to the authorities, defied her parents, or confided in a friend. Instead she helped Ringhofer cover his tracks. Will was a policeman and was sworn to protect life, not take it. He has to live with what he's done for the rest of his life.
Skinner and I sat before Kersh with the proper soberness, and gave our report. He asked a few questions, but seemed satisfied by our answers.
"You see, with scientific investigation cases can be solved without resorting to," he paused and looked at me, "paranormal explanations."
"Good job. Agents Mulder and Scully will be taken off probation and reinstated. Mr. Skinner, you will continue the duties of your division. That will be all."
Skinner and I stood up and exited the office. In the hallway he turned from me without a word and I felt my heart crack into a thousand pieces. He was acting as if what we'd shared had been an apparition too.
At home Mulder called, but I begged off having dinner with him. He was due to get the cast off in two days, but I told him I was exhausted and needed at least twelve hours of sleep.
"I never got a chance to wish you a Happy Halloween. Happy Halloween Scully."
"Happy Halloween Mulder."
I hung up the phone and felt a wave of sadness wash over me. It was back to business as usual for everyone but me. Skinner might be able to forget what happened, but I could not.
I took a long, hot shower and crawled into bed. I reached out to the other side of the mattress and ran my hand over the empty spot. It was a long time before I could fall asleep.
Shippers skip this next part
I dreamed with vivid imagery again that night, but this time I was in my own apartment instead of Sycamore. In this dream Skinner came to me and asked for forgiveness. He said he loved me, and had been wrong to avoid me. He was wearing the red flannel shirt from our first night in Sycamore together. I buried my tear stained face in it when I forgave him.
I woke with a start and chastised myself for such wishful thinking. A pounding on the door interrupted my self- imposed reprimand.
The bedside clock said two am. Thoughts of avenging Sycamore relatives crossed my mind. Gun in hand, I went to the door.
"Open up Scully, it's Skinner."
I opened the door with astonishment in my eyes. "What are you doing here sir?"
He barged past me, stomping to the living room and looking around. I was about to repeat my question when he took his coat off. The red flannel shirt he wore became blurry as tears welled up and spilled over.
Skinner looked agitated and distracted. "Scully-."
I cut him off by launching myself in his arms and kissing him breathless. With that first night's possession in mind I said: "Where have you been? I've been waiting for you for so looooog."