CLASSIFICATION: X, A
SPOILERS: Hollywood A.D.
DISTRIBUTION: Written initially for “I Made This
Productions” Virtual Season 8. Distribute only to IMTP at
first; two weeks after it airs, archive if you want it, but let
me know where.
DISCLAIMERS: All XF characters are CC’s and company’s; the
others are mine.
FEEDBACK: I love it–if helpful or positive.
COMMENTS: Author’s notes are at story’s end.
SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully journey to an upstate NY town
to solve a mystery — is a ghost plaguing an old hotel?
11:50 p.m., August 17
Belcan, New York
A cool wind wafted into the room, blowing the drapes
toward the bed. In his T-shirt and boxers, Mel Barker
shivered, then sighed — the only noise except for an
occasional passing vehicle. Belcan, New York, was not a
place where he would stay by choice normally, but he was a
day early on the final leg of a cross-country run, and Mel
had decided to splurge, stopping at the Shady Rest to sleep
in a real bed instead of the sleeping berth of his Crown
The Shady Rest, an old, three-story railroad hotel, had
been purchased by a city couple and remodeled into a bed
and breakfast inn. Built over a hundred and fifty years
before, the structure had housed countless travelers
waiting for next-day trains to take them where planes took
their children’s children today. Two floors now served as a
fine place to sleep or to have breakfast.
Mel sighed once more, tired of the cool breeze. He lazily
rolled his fifty-two year old frame from the mattress and
plodded to the open window. His truck was parked below,
conspicuous in the humble surroundings. Belcan wasn’t much
of a town: gas station, volunteer firemen’s hall, mini-
mart, post office, church, ramshackle houses, and a two-
lane highway. He wouldn’t live here, but he’d tolerate one
Mel’s hands paused on the window casing. He could see
lightning flashes reflected in distant, heavy clouds. The
wind’s velocity was increasing, and the storm would
probably reach Belcan within twenty minutes. He inhaled the
fresh country air, glad to smell something besides his
truck cab’s stagnant mixture of cigar smoke and Big Macs.
But as another cool gust hit him, he closed the window,
locking it from force of habit. He ran his hands over the
stubble on his chin, let out a loud belch, and shuffled to
the door to check that it, too, was locked. When satisfied
that it was, he returned to the mattress, turned off the
lamp on the bedside table, and pulled the crisp, white
sheets and puffy comforter over himself.
As Mel’s eyes closed, his mind re-ran countless miles of
expressways, of trees zipping by like the railroad ties
beneath a speeding train, of country music songs blending
as if they were all the same composition. But these finally
faded. Mel turned toward the window, and his mind floated
into dreams of his wife and kids, of bringing their gifts
to them once he returned home.
But the dream ended quickly. Lightning flashed across the
darkened room, and thunder clashed like a roaring cascade.
Mel’s eyes flew open. Storms didn’t scare him much, but
sleeping through them was difficult. He tried pulling the
covers over his ears. When that didn’t work, he tried the
same with his pillows, but still the thunder’s booms shook
him. Finally, he drew his head from beneath the pillows,
deciding to merely try to rest.
But slowly, a chill, like icy trickles of water, crept up
Mel’s spine. Someone or something was in the room. He could
sense it. He lay still, clutching the covers as if they
would protect him. He listened. But no noise — not even
the sound of breath inhaled or exhaled — could be heard.
Mel shivered, waiting anxiously to glimpse the intruder in
the next zing of lightning.
Mel shook. He tried to tell himself that this couldn’t be.
The window and door were both locked. No one could have
gotten into his room without a key, and surely he would
have heard such an entrance. He tried to breathe deeply.
Wondered if he should turn on the light. If he should say
something. Threaten the intruder.
Lighting. Mel’s eyes closed instinctively at the sudden
flash. A hard rain suddenly pelted the window. Clamorous
thunder rolled across the sky.
Mel forced his eyes open just before darkness returned. In
that second and in the glow from the streetlight, he
suddenly saw a form before him. A somewhat human form in
white. Mel tried to catch his breath, to force words from
his mouth. But there was no time.
The form raised its arms. In another lightning flash, Mel
saw the glint of daggers as they plunged toward him. He
felt horror as they savagely stabbed into his body. He
screamed in terror and agony, but his cries disappeared in
the noise of thunder and rain, and dwindled to weak groans
as the daggers plunged into him repeatedly…until,
finally, Mel Barker took his last breath.
2:48 p.m., August 25
Outside Belcan, NY
“Oh, here it is.” Dana Scully looked more closely at the
map spread across her lap, and then pointed with her right
forefinger. “We’re about a quarter of an inch from it.”
Her partner, Fox Mulder, allowed a brief smile as he
steered the car around a curve. “Quarter of an inch, huh?
What’s that in miles, Scully?”
“Hmmmm…about three. We’re almost there.” She looked out
her window at the vast green landscape dotted with farms
and cornfields. “Wherever ‘there’ is.”
“Western New York state. Rural America. Not every day that
you get to see this.”
“No, Mulder. You’re right about that.”
Her sarcasm was not lost on him. “Fresh air. People know
everyone’s names. More relaxed lifestyles. That’s nothing
to complain about.”
“That’s true,” Scully agreed. “And I’ll bet the night life
is just impossible to beat.”
Mulder laughed. “Who needs theaters and nightclubs when
you can have clean air and stars?”
“And smell cows and listen to the corn growing.”
“Now, Scully, you’ve been injured. What better place to
Her temper flared briefly. “Flesh wounds, Mulder. Not a
big deal. Besides, they’re nothing now.”
He shook his head. “I’ll bet.” There was no use arguing
the point. His partner never pampered herself when injured.
“Anyway, you continue that this-place-is-nowhere attitude,
and the locals won’t like you.”
Favoring him with a roll of her eyes, she replied flatly,
“Gee, I’ll have to change that then.”
“Gotta get these people to trust you, or they won’t let
you see their ghost.”
“Yeah, right. A ghost. Tell me once more, Mulder: why were
you called in on this?”
“Not just me, Scully. You were asked to come, too.”
“Uh-huh. By whom?”
“By Belcan’s postmistress. Clarissa McKinnie. The post
office is just across the street from the Shady Rest,
“Yeah. And she called *us* because…?”
“‘Cause she saw… the movie,” Mulder confessed quietly.
“‘The Lazarus Bowl’?” Scully’s head went back against the
headrest of their rented Oldsmobile Intrigue. Her eyes
closed. “That damn movie,” she breathed. “If it’s the last
thing I do, I will go to Skinner, and I’ll…”
“No you won’t. Because I’m gonna get him first.” Mulder
looked over from the driver’s side. His right hand came off
the wheel, and he covered her left hand, taking her fingers
into his own. “This won’t be too bad, Scully. At least
we’re out of D.C. for a bit. And the scenery isn’t awful.”
She squeezed his hand. “No, not if you like lots and lots
of green grass, trees, and fields.”
“There are worse things.”
“True.” She withdrew her hand from his and began to re-
fold the map. “Okay, back to the case.” She straightened an
edge that refused to bend. “This ghost…?”
“According to Clarissa, the Shady Rest…”
“Isn’t that the name of the old hotel on ‘Green Acres’?”
“Right. Really original then.”
“Maybe so. The Shady Rest of Belcan certainly pre-dates
‘Petticoat Junction’. And besides, Scully, if Betty Jo,
Billie Jo, and Bobbie Jo are there, this could be a great
“They’d be too old for you, wouldn’t they?”
Her partner considered this. “Spoilsport.”
Scully smiled. “Anyway…”
“Anyway, according to Clarissa McKinnie, the Shady Rest
has been around since the mid-1800s, and it is known for
having a ghost. In 1923, a railroad conductor, one Cecil
Miller, was murdered in the hotel. He was supposed to ride
a 2 a.m. train, and when he didn’t, the hotel owner called
at his room and found him dead. The murder was never
solved, and the townspeople claim that Cecil’s ghost has
haunted the hotel ever since. However, now the ghost seems
to be murdering guests. Three of them — the latest, Mel
Barker of Burlington, Vermont, just eight days ago.”
“That’s quite a story,” Scully mused. “I’m shaking in my
high heels as you tell it.”
“It’s all true, Scully, I swear.”
“And you really believe this murderer’s a ghost?”
“We’ll find out.”
The car broke over a hill, and they could see a flashing
red traffic light about a half mile before them. Several
houses seemed grouped around the light, and above them rose
a three-story structure.
“Belcan?” Scully’s voice betrayed her disdain.
“Yep. I told you it was a little town.”
“*Little*? Mulder, I…*this* is a town?”
“I believe they actually call it a hamlet.”
“To-be-or-not-to-be a town? If this place were any
smaller, I’d miss it if I blinked.”
Her partner smiled as he braked for the light. “Then don’t
“Oh! It’s you!” Clarissa McKinnie quickly dropped the pile
of letters she was sorting and came to the post office’s
counter. Her brown eyes roamed over the FBI agents, shortly
dispensing with Scully and lingering on Mulder.
“You’re Clarissa?” Mulder observed that the postmistress
was 5′ 6″, well-endowed, dark-haired, and in her forties,
and she possessed an amazingly beautiful face. And as
Scully’s shoe hit his ankle, he stopped staring and
commented, “It’s hard to tell how someone looks from email.”
McKinnie waved a flirtatious hand at him, silver bracelets
clinking on her arm. “Isn’t it? You’re much better looking
than Garry Shandling.”
Scully cleared her throat. “You two met via email?”
“Clarissa — um, Mrs. McKinnie — called me first, Scully.
We decided to correspond through email because it’s
“Yes, Agent Scully. And email is better. You get to know
people through what they write. I saw ‘The Lazarus Bowl,’
and I knew immediately that you two would like the story of
the Shady Rest. And corresponding with Fox showed me that I
“I see.” Scully looked up at her partner, her eyebrow
raised and lips set in a flat line. “Mrs. McKinnie, what
does local law enforcement think of this ghost idea?”
“Who knows? Local law enforcement consists of the county
sheriff in Ridgemont, and the New York State Police who are
forty miles from here in Wellston. There’s a troopers’
satellite station down the road a bit, but they don’t do
anything without the main base’s permission. The troopers
turned the case over to The Bureau of Criminal
Investigation, but they’re in another county, and bigger
cases take priority over ours. They did investigate the
murders but couldn’t find any motive — no robbery, no
signs that anyone in town knew the murdered guests. And
they found no fingerprints, hairs, or fibers. Not even
footprints. Doors and windows were locked from the inside.
And we haven’t heard anything from BCI as to their
conclusions.” Clarissa rubbed her hands together. “The plot
Scully was unimpressed. “That’s easy enough to explain.
The owners must have a master key to each room. Are the
owners under suspicion?”
The postmistress shook her head. “You’d have to ask the
troopers for sure, but I don’t think so. Bruce and Sheila
Morgan are fairly nice people. And they were visiting
friends the nights the murders were committed. So they had
“How long have the Morgans had the Shady Rest?” Mulder
asked, leaning his elbow on the counter.
“They started it up again last year in October.”
“Started it again?”
Clarissa leaned on the counter, too. “Well, it had been
out of business since the early ’60s. Passenger trains
weren’t that common around here then, and any real
businesses in the area were all either shutting down or
moving to Buffalo or Rochester. So the old hotel wasn’t
making money. Train usage through here was finished by the
’70s; the tracks were even taken out shortly after that.”
“And the hotel?” Scully persisted.
“Continued to rot away, basically. The Morgans are city
folks, and they wanted to start a business in the country.
Two years ago they came out here for our Indian Summer
Festival — that’s in October — saw the Shady Rest, and
decided it was their new project. They renovated and opened
it as a bed and breakfast last October. There’s also a
craft shop on the first floor. Sheila makes things, or
handles consignment for the area’s other craft people.”
“Why hadn’t this *ghost* bothered the town before
January?” Scully wondered. “Where was it throughout the
past four decades?”
“You see, no one went into the hotel in all that time,”
Clarissa explained. “There was no reason to. The place was
falling down; the windows were boarded up. We figure ol’
Cecil was happy in there by himself — and then when the
Morgans came, he went berserk. He obviously didn’t want to
share his living quarters. But why he waited from October
to January to be violent is beyond me.”
“He’d never killed anyone before?” Mulder asked.
“Nope. From the time he was murdered till the last guest
stayed there in the ’60s, Cecil only rattled windows or
moved things around in the rooms. Made some noises —
opened cupboards or closets in the middle of the night. But
Scully nodded and extended her hand. “It was nice to meet
you, Mrs. McKinnie. I think we’ve got all the information
we need for now.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Agent Scully. I can’t believe I’m
meeting the real people behind those great agents in the
film. Tell me, how are things with you and that handsome
boss of yours?”
Scully shot a quick look at her partner. “There are some
things on film that aren’t true in life.”
Clarissa smiled knowingly. “I’m sure.” She took her hand
from Scully’s and stretched it out toward Mulder. “It was a
pleasure to meet you, Fox.”
“Pleasure’s all mine,” he told her. “And thanks for the
heads-up on this case.”
“Don’t mention it. Hey, I live in the apartment overhead.
I hope you might stop by while you’re here. I suppose I’m
being selfish, but can I expect to see you again?”
“You just never know,” Scully replied, using her hand to
turn her partner toward the door.
The Shady Rest Bed And Breakfast Inn loomed like a
skyscraper as Mulder and Scully left the Post Office.
Directly across the road, the old hotel was framed nicely
by huge maple trees whose multitudinous leaves were already
beginning their change to the rich reds and golds of
The inn had received its renovations well. Painted white,
and its windows trimmed in navy blue and matching shutters,
it stood out in the small hamlet like a human among
zombies. The FBI agents stared at it as they waited for
several vehicles to pass on the fairly busy road.
“I’ll bet the Shady Rest once had balconies or outside
walkways,” Mulder observed.
“You could ask Clarissa.”
He laughed and shook his head. “I want to live to see
“I knew you’d think so.” He donned his sunglasses.
“You know, Mulder, I think you’re on the Internet entirely
too much. What did you do –advertise yourself in
cyberspace after that film came out? ‘Step right this way,
folks. Have the *real* Fox Mulder solve all your paranormal
problems’? Even before that. All these women you meet
through email. It’s scary, Mulder.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Of the fact that even via modems, women can’t get enough
Scully coughed, hiding a laugh behind her hand. “Guess
I’ll find a man on the Net for me.”
“Don’t bother.” His hand went to the small of her back,
guiding her into the street so they could quickly cross.
His hand then moved to her waist and gave it a slight
squeeze. “Anyone who saw ‘The Lazarus Bowl’ knows you have
your guy. Assistant Director Walter Skinner.” He quickly
sidestepped her vengeful swipe, then jogged to the Shady
Rest’s front door and opened it for her.
Scully’s expression showed she was desperately trying to
suppress her own smile as she walked past him. “You wait,
Mulder. I’ll get you for that.”
Inside, a large registration counter was the focal point.
Its polished oak grain and floral carvings were from a
time of proud craftsmanship. A petite woman sitting behind
the counter, looked up from a ledger on which she’d been
writing. Thin, wiry, and blond, she nervously said,
“Welcome to the Shady Rest. Can I help you?”
Mulder pulled his I.D. from inside his suit coat. “Sheila
Morgan?” When she nodded, he continued. “We’re Agents
Mulder and Scully of the FBI. We heard about some problems
here, and we’d like to help.”
“FBI?” The woman’s expression contorted into a grimace,
then quickly returned to forced politeness. “Are you based
in Buffalo? Did the state troopers call you in?”
“No, ma’am.” Mulder noticed the wariness in her eyes.
“We’re from Washington, D.C. One of your neighbors
contacted me about the murders.”
“‘One of my neighbors’? Who?”
“I don’t think it’s necessary to tell…”
“Clarissa McKinnie, right? I recognize your names now.
She’s been talking about that film since she saw it. I wish
she’d mind her own damn business.”
“Apparently she felt the mystery needs to be solved.”
Mulder ran a finger along the polished oak counter top.
“Murder in a small town is everybody’s business, isn’t it?”
“Everything in a small town is everyone’s business. That’s
one thing I hate about small towns. At least a city allows
people to be anonymous.”
“Why would you want to be anonymous?” Scully asked her.
“Do you have something to hide?”
“Me? No, of course not. But I hate this community knowing
every time I breathe. Try living here a few days; you’ll
find out exactly what I mean.”
“Is your husband here?” Mulder interrupted, changing the
subject before Scully could launch into her own criticisms
of small towns.
The woman hesitated, unprepared for the abrupt switch.
“No. Bruce has gone to Buffalo today to get some supplies.”
“Long drive. We just came from the airport,” Mulder told
“Not that long. Hour and a half. If you live out here, you
come to expect long drives if you want to get anywhere.”
“I suppose you would. You’re from Buffalo originally?”
“Yes, and a few dozen other places. We’ve lived in
Syracuse, Albany, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, the City…”
“Why so many?” Scully asked.
“Why not?” Sheila Morgan flipped a strand of her long,
blond hair behind her shoulder. “We don’t like to stay in
one place long. It gets boring.”
“Then why did you come out here? It’s a bit different than
your previous experience. And Belcan’s atmosphere doesn’t
strike me as exciting,” Scully told her. “I’m sure that for
whatever it must have cost to redo this place, you could
have remodeled another or even built a new inn near a city.”
Sheila pursed her lips, ready to argue, but then she
sighed. “It was Bruce’s idea. He was sick of city living.
Said he wanted fresh air and a slower lifestyle. We came
out here a few years ago to one of their craft fairs. He
fell in love with the place.”
Scully folded her arms. “You didn’t?”
Sheila shrugged. “Where Bruce goes, I follow. It could be
worse. I get along.”
“Or at least you did until the ghost showed up…” Mulder
“That ghost,” Sheila muttered, her eyes cast down. “I
thought it was all myth until I heard it.”
“Care to tell us more about that?” Scully asked.
Mrs. Morgan favored her skeptically. “Bruce and I were in
bed one night, and we–just heard him. Doors closing, pots
and pans rattling, footsteps in the hallway. And we were
the only ones here at the time. No guests. Doors locked. It
was awful. But Bruce said I’d get used to it, and I did.
Until the murders…”
“Mrs. McKinnie says that you both had an alibi for each
night of the murders; is that correct?”
“Y-yes. We went out with friends to eat in Wellston. It’s
the *only* town in the county that has anything to do. We
went to a restaurant, and afterward, we went to the movies.
Each of those nights, we didn’t get home till around 2:30
“Long movies,” Scully commented.
“The movies ended around 11:30,” Sheila sneered, “and we
went for ice cream afterward. And then back to their home
to talk. The police have checked all this out; you can
contact them. Waiters and waitresses confirmed our being
there, as did our credit card receipts. Besides, you think
we’d jeopardize our own business? You think we’d kill our
own guests?” Her hard stare at Scully was a mixture of
resentment and pain.
“Well, someone wants to kill your guests.”
“It’s not us, I assure you.”
“Have the police suggested shutting down the hotel?”
“Yes. But Bruce wouldn’t hear of it. We’ve no proof that
it’s not someone in the community who’s just jealous that
we’re making money. No one else in this town has a cent.
And the inn was empty for nearly forty years; maybe someone
had a secret way into it.”
“And you think these townspeople are coming in now to…
what — frame you?” Scully asked.
“That would get rid of us, wouldn’t it?”
“You think they want to get rid of you?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me. They’re not happy to have city
folk among them. They’re all right to our faces, but we’ve
heard talk of how we don’t fit in. And now, they’re taking
advantage of the fact that the ghost lives here, and
they’re exploiting him — and us.”
“But you’ve no proof of that,” Scully observed.
Sheila’s shrug was confirmation.
“Could we see the inn?” Mulder asked.
“You gonna stay overnight here?”
“We don’t usually stay in a spot we’re investigating.”
“Then you got a warrant?”
Mulder sighed. “Mrs. Morgan, parts of this hotel have been
a crime scene. And Agent Scully and I *are* from the FBI.
If there’s nothing to incriminate you here, then why would
we need a warrant? We want to see where the murders were
committed to get a better idea of who — or what– might be
Sheila bit off a remaining piece of nail from her
forefinger. Mulder noticed that she’d chewed all her nails
to beneath her fingertips.
“You can accompany us to the rooms,” Scully offered.
Sheila snorted sarcastically and eyed Scully with disdain.
“And leave the front desk?”
Mulder glanced at the large, oaken lobby and its plush,
maroon carpet. To the right were stairs and a door that
opened into a small, abundantly stocked craft shop. He
could see stuffed ghosts, and T-shirts, place mats, and post
cards printed with the Shady Rest’s logo or photo. To his
left was a door to a nicely furnished dining room. But the
inn seemed empty of other customers.
“Mrs. Morgan, certainly if a customer was to come in,
you’d be able to hear him?” Mulder asked.
Sheila looked at her watch. “Well, it’s nearly 4:30.
People may start arriving any minute now.”
“Are you afraid to go up there?” Scully asked. “Are you
afraid you’ll see the ghost yourself?”
Sheila stiffened. “Of course not.” She looked at both
agents and then reached below the counter for a set of
keys. “Fine. But I want you to leave if…well, if I say
you should. Otherwise, I’ll call 911, and the troopers will
move you out.”
“Okay.” Mulder tossed a glance at Scully as he followed
Sheila to the stairs. His partner’s gaze showed him she
felt as he did about their hostess.
“All three murders were committed on the second floor,”
Sheila said over her shoulder. “Bruce and I keep the third
floor for ourselves, and you’re not going up there without
“Mrs. Morgan,” Scully asked, taking the steps carefully,
“what’s on the first floor other than the lobby and craft
“The dining room, obviously. And the kitchen. Our supply
“And the second floor is strictly rooms for rent?” Mulder
“Is there a basement as well?”
“Of course. But it’s a mess. Bruce and I plan to clean it
out someday; the inn takes priority.”
Sheila reached the first landing of the wide staircase.
“Originally, there were twelve rooms on the second floor,
three on each wall. Bruce and I had the four middle rooms
redone to serve as bathrooms for the rooms that bordered
them. So in other words, now just eight rooms are available
to the public.”
Mulder pulled at his lower lip with his thumb and
forefinger. “Must have been quite a bill in an old place
Sheila nodded, allowing a small smile at what she
perceived to be his appreciation. “Sure was.”
“May I ask what you and your husband have done throughout
your careers?” Scully asked.
Suddenly, Sheila’s pride disappeared. She turned, her gaze
darting from one FBI agent to the other. “Wh-What do you
“What work did you do? How could you afford the money to
remodel this place so extensively?”
Sheila resumed her climb, her plaid skirt swishing about
her calves. “We’ve always run motels. But we did *this*
with an inheritance,” she murmured. “A long lost relative
Behind her, Mulder and Scully once again exchanged looks,
and he gestured for her to precede him.
“You can’t believe this ghost story, Mulder,” Scully
whispered as she passed him. “Nothing ghostly is happening
here. I *do* think there’s something shady about the Shady
Rest, though. And it’s not just the trees.” She turned
before she saw her partner nod his agreement.
Room 25 overlooked the main part of Belcan. Mulder stood
at the window, holding back maroon drapes and seeing Mel
Barker’s rig parked on an unmown lawn about a block away.
He could read the “Crown Industries” lettering and see its
logo on the side of the long trailer. The clipping Clarissa
McKinnie had sent him reported that Barker had suffered
over twenty-five stab wounds to his body — ten of which
could have been fatal. Poor Mel had come across the country
on a hectic run to be murdered in a tiny hamlet. It struck
Mulder that someone working for a company called “Crown”
deserved a more regal end.
Scully and Sheila Morgan continued to talk about position
of the body and other details, but Mulder ignored them.
Barker’s room had, of course, been cleaned, and for all
Mulder knew, the Morgans may have rented it since Mel’s
death. But he absorbed the room around him anyway. Fake oak
paneling covered two of the inner walls, and cream
wallpaper with tiny maroon flowers adorned the outer wall.
The room was fairly large and square, and its fourth side
held a built-in closet and the bathroom door.
The bathroom was fairly spacious, and the floor was white
tile linoleum. Mulder carefully leaned across the set-in
bathtub, expertly running his hands around the tile walls.
Feeling no breaks — no way for any of the tiles to be
easily removed and then replaced — he opened a narrow
linen closet, finding it well-stocked with clean towels,
washcloths, and sample toiletries. The ceiling, done in
white wallpaper, also held no breaks.
Mulder left the bathroom, finding that Scully and Sheila
had exited the room and were discussing the other rooms in
which murders had occurred. He ignored their conversation
once more and turned to the built-in closet, opening its
two doors. He pulled a flashlight from his pocket and began
to inspect its inner walls.
“The other murders occurred in Rooms 26 and 28,” Sheila
was saying. “Those rooms don’t look any different than 25.”
“And what was the manner of death for each murder?” Scully
stopped outside 26 which was on the same wall as 25. She
placed her hands on her hips. “Were both of the other
victims stabbed to death?”
“No.” Sheila’s jaw set. “Look, why don’t you and your
partner go to Wellston and talk to the troopers? Or go to
the county seat and talk to the sheriff? You could get
their reports, and I could get back to work.”
“We’ll probably do that. But surely you could tell me how
the others were killed.”
Mrs. Morgan sighed heavily. “The first one was beaten to
death, and the other was strangled.”
“And the police have no motives?”
“Nope. The first guy was a private detective — his name
was J.J. Austin — and the cops thought maybe the murderer
was whoever he was looking into. But nobody in this
community had hired the guy or was being investigated by
him. The second man was an arrogant creep — a salesman.
His name was Byrd. I doubt that anyone even misses him.”
“I’d like to see the other rooms, please.” Mulder
surprised them as he exited Room 25.
“They look just alike.”
“I want to see them.” He saw Sheila Morgan cower at his
tone, and he followed as she inserted a key into the lock
of Room 26.
Just then they heard the inn’s main door open.
“Oh! I have to go — there’s a customer…” Sheila looked
torn between whether to stay with the agents or to return
to her duties.
“Go ahead. I just want a look,” Mulder told her.
“I’d rather you wouldn’t while I’m not here.”
“Then consider this room — and number 25 — taken for the
night. Agent Scully and I *will* be staying.”
Sheila nodded uncomfortably. She quickly glanced inside
the room and then nervously scurried past the agents and
down the stairs.
“When did you decide this, Mulder?” Scully asked.
“I don’t think we have a choice, Scully. We *have* to see
this ghost ourselves, don’t you think?”
“You know what happened the last time we saw ghosts.”
“Or thought we did.”
She smiled and shook her head. “You know, Sheila Morgan
isn’t going to win any Miss Congeniality awards. I can’t
tell if she’s just scared or hiding something. Either way,
I think she knows a lot more than she’s saying.”
Mulder had already entered the room. “I think she could
tell us lots of things, Scully. But I’d rather have that
conversation with her husband. C’mere. I want to show you
8:50 p.m., August 25
Near the Shady Rest
“Chips, please.” Scully was propped on her elbow on the
gravel shore of the Genesee River. Before her, an unfolded
newspaper lay beneath a can of iced tea and a Styrofoam
plate holding half of a turkey sub. A little beyond her
reach were several file folders, papers sticking past their
Mulder passed her the bag of potato chips with one hand
while holding his own sandwich to his mouth. He had another
file folder balanced on one knee. He sat on the shore,
dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, feeling too warm on this
mild August night. His gaze wandered over Scully’s legs —
which stretched from beige shorts. He could see the bandage
covering the flesh wound she’d received during the previous
case. And he smiled at the “Shady Rest: The Haunted Inn” T-
shirt he’d bought and insisted that she wear for the
evening. On it, the image of a cartoon ghost rose amicably
past a sketch of the Shady Rest.
Pinks and oranges of the sunset reflected in the rippling
river. Mulder stared at the sight while he finished his
iced tea, then took another can from the plastic ring of
“Want another one, Scully?”
“Not yet, thanks.” She munched a chip and then looked up
at her partner. In the dusk’s tones, he appeared more tan
and younger. But the look she knew so well was in his eyes.
Mulder was on the hunt; nothing excited him more than a new
“So what do you think?” he asked her, indicating the file
folders with the hand that held his sandwich.
“I think you did a lot of research before we got here. I
think you called people all over this state without letting
me know you were onto something. I think you’ve been in
contact with the New York State Troopers for weeks, maybe
“And you’re not disagreeing with me? I’m turned on by
She nodded. “I think you have this case solved, and I
really don’t know why we’re here, Mulder.”
He grinned. “You wanna know why we *really* came?”
“Other than to meet Clarissa?”
“Yeah, other than that.” He swallowed a bite of sandwich.
“I knew it was the only way you’d rest. I thought we’d have
fun and get a little R & R.”
“What rest will I get if what you have planned for tonight
“I wasn’t necessarily anticipating that.”
“I’m still not so sure we should do *that* without a
warrant anyway. But then, since when have you played by the
Mulder sobered. “Well, playing by the rules got someone
killed.” When he noticed that he’d caused his partner to
sober, too, he grabbed the bag of chips from her. “Enough
of these, Scully. You’ll lose your great figure.”
“Since when have you worried about my ‘great’ figure?”
“Since about twenty minutes ago when you began devouring
these *and* a turkey sub.”
“Thanks for your concern.”
Scully stretched her free arm toward the sky, a yawn
escaping her lips. “It’s pleasant here. Too bad we can’t go
for a swim.”
“Would be nice. But that water’s not clean. You don’t need
some infection in those wounds.”
Scully sat up. “Forget about my wounds, would you, please?
I’ve had far worse.”
He nodded as he finished his sandwich. He noticed that
Scully was done with hers, too. “You think Bruce Morgan
might be back from Buffalo yet?”
“Probably.” She looked toward Belcan, only two blocks
away. She could see the Shady Rest’s roof from her seat on
the gravel. “Meeting him will be interesting.”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.” He stood, drinking the
last sip from his newly opened can of tea, and tucking
garbage into the grocery bag in which their purchases had
been packed. Then he extended a hand and pulled Scully to
her feet. He intertwined his fingers with hers as they bade
a silent good night to the softly rippling river bathed in
“Agents Mulder and Scully, I presume.”
The man who approached them as they entered the Shady
Rest’s well-lit lobby, was tall, balding, and chubby. He
stretched out a hand to Scully and smiled. In his mid-
forties, he displayed none of his wife’s nervousness, and
his handshake was nearly bone-crushing. Scully tried to
read his eyes, but they had already focused on Mulder.
“Bruce Morgan?” Mulder stated more than asked.
“One and the same, sir. It’s nice to meet you both. My
wife tells me that someone in the neighborhood aroused your
suspicions about our establishment. I’m more than happy to
cooperate if there’s anything you’d like to know.”
“Actually, there’s quite a bit we’d like to know,” Mulder
Morgan gestured to a maroon couch and chair that were off
to the lobby’s side. As the agents moved toward the seats,
another man who’d been reading a newspaper there rose,
folding the paper and tucking it beneath his arm.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Allen. I didn’t realize you were here,”
Morgan said, his voice full and loud.
“Um…that’s quite all right,” Mr. Allen replied softly.
He was short, in his 60s, and scrawny. Dressed in a black
business suit, his thinning, white hair neatly combed, he
bit his lower lip and shuffled past the Shady Rest’s big
“Mr. Allen’s our only other guest tonight,” Morgan told
Mulder and Scully. “And Mr. Allen, these are FBI agents
from Washington, D.C.”
Allen’s head lifted as the introductions were made. Scully
stifled a gasp as she saw a deep scar lining the right side
of the man’s face — the result of an injury obviously
suffered long ago. His right eye was covered by a milky
blue film. She shook his hand, muttering, “Nice to meet
Mulder was saying the same, and if he was shocked by the
scarring, he didn’t show it.
“Nice to meet you as well. I assume you’re just passing
through?” the little man asked.
“Well…” Scully looked at Morgan whose face nearly
pleaded with her not to mention the murders. “Our visit is
“Oh.” Mr. Allen was unimpressed. He turned to his host.
“Yes, sir, you’ll find them and extra towels in Room 21.”
“Very good. A pleasant evening to all,” Allen murmured as
he slowly headed up the stairs.
Morgan chuckled. “Strange man — the type I need to see
after a trip to Buffalo.”
“Yes, Buffalo,” Scully said, “that’s one thing we’d like
to talk to you about. May I ask, for instance, what
supplies you need to travel so far to get?”
Morgan gestured for her to sit on the couch. “Sheila needs
various things for her crafts.” He sat in the chair facing
the couch, and continued after Mulder sat across from him.
“And we get paper goods in bulk from a warehouse supplier.
Much less expensive than most places around here. And once
a month I go there to stock up. Today was my ‘once a month’
“Must be a good supplier. Our research shows that you’ve
journeyed to Buffalo once a month for several years — from
all over the state. Do you go alone?”
“A friend goes with me,” Morgan replied, an eyebrow raised.
Mulder nodded. “Mr. Morgan, if I may, I’d like to ask you
a few questions about the Shady Rest and your past.”
Morgan’s smile remained on his lips. “Of course. Anything
I can do to help the FBI.”
“And to solve the murders, I would assume,” Scully
“Oh, absolutely. Of course.”
“Mr. Morgan,” Mulder started, “the murders took place in
three different rooms?”
“Yes. When the first one occurred in Room 28, we decided
that we wouldn’t rent it out to guests again. But then in
April, the guest was killed in 26, and then just a week or
so ago, the murder happened in 25.”
“You’ve no theory on these murders, sir?”
Morgan shrugged, his hands raised to shoulder level. “The
ghost. That’s the only way I can explain it. Sheila and I
“Yes, we’ve already heard about that,” Scully replied.
“What about your friend, Mr. Morgan? Does he have a key to
the Shady Rest?”
“Friend? Oh, no, he doesn’t. Nor does our help. Sheila and
I both have a key. That’s it.”
“And what time do you lock the doors?” Mulder asked.
“Usually at 10 p.m. We ask all our guests to be in by that
time. We stay in the lobby until 11, though, just in case
“Have any of your guests ever brought other people in —
maybe that you didn’t okay?” Scully asked.
“No. Most of our customers are truck drivers or salesmen
who just want to stay overnight. There aren’t many motels
in the area, and this is a major route to Buffalo from this
county. Most of the time, a person passing through will
stop and be gone the next morning.” Morgan shifted his
shoulders. “Of course, we hope that they’ll pass on word of
the Shady Rest, and that soon we will have vacationers
staying with us.”
“For what?” Scully wanted to know. “What’s around here?”
“A state park, colleges, and universities. The area is
rich in Indian history; it was a stop on the Underground
Railroad. And, of course, until ol’ Cecil started killing
people, we were hoping to appeal to the more — how should
I say it? Mystical vacationers. People who’d want to stay
in a haunted hotel.”
“You don’t think shutting the place down ’til ‘ol’ Cecil’
is exorcize is a good idea?” Scully asked.
“No,” Morgan returned seriously. “It’s our bread and
butter, Agent Scully. Rebuilding this place wasn’t cheap,
and running it isn’t cheap either. We can’t take a loss
because some ghost comes out of the woodwork.”
“Who are your other employees?”
Morgan smoothed a crease in his navy blue slacks. “We’ve
three women who work here during the day. Heather Pearce is
our waitress. She’s only part time. Laura Kiefer is our
cook — again, only morning help. And Cynthia Katz. She
spends a lot of time on the floor.” He chuckled as if this
might be a private joke. “She’s our full-time maid. We have
her clean every room daily, whether it was rented or not.”
“You wouldn’t suspect any of them?”
“Agent Scully, you’ve seen this town. How many employment
possibilities are there? These fine ladies are grateful for
“Okay.” Scully looked toward her partner.
“I don’t believe I caught your friend’s name,” Mulder
said, meeting her gaze, and prompting Morgan. “The one who
accompanies you to Buffalo.”
“Does it matter?” Morgan shrugged. “He lives nearby. We
call him Lenny. I’ve known him… um…since we’ve been
here. He wouldn’t have any grudges against us, I’m sure.”
“Mr. Morgan, I’ve checked into your history somewhat,”
Mulder said, placing the file folders on the coffee table
that separated him and Scully from their host. “Your
inheritance — which your wife told us about this afternoon
— actually came upon the death of your younger brother.”
Morgan’s head tipped toward his lap. He brought a hand up
to shield his eyes. “Yes.”
“He died in a fire?”
“A theater fire, yes. In Poughkeepsie — a regional
theater. He was trying to save the director — that’s what
the investigators decided.” He took a deep breath. “This is
not easy to talk about.”
“Your brother’s name was Charles?”
“Charlie. Charles, of course. Yes.”
“He had quite a past,” Mulder observed. He opened one of
the folders. Shuffling a few papers to the front, he read,
then commented, “Charlie lived in New York City for several
years. Started as a stage hand and worked up to acting.
Says here that he was one of the main stars of an off-
Broadway actors’ group — the Academy Arts Theater Company
on East 57th.”
“Yes, the AATC. Those were his best years.” Morgan looked
up, his eyes dry.
“He quit in…”
“Yes, he quit. Acting doesn’t pay many bills, especially
in the City. Even back then — in the ’70s — apartment rent
was sky-high. He came upstate. My parents and us — we
lived in Syracuse then. He got a teaching job at a high
school — English ‘lit’ and drama. He was excellent at it.”
“But he quit that, too — after four years?” Mulder
“It wasn’t the same for him. He lived to act.”
“And then there seems to have been some sort of mental
Morgan sat up straighter in his chair. “Where are you
getting all this information from?” His voice became less
Mulder shrugged. “Police record. Some other government
documents. Phone calls here and there.”
Morgan leaned forward. “How long have you been doing
“Does it matter?”
Morgan took a deep breath. As he exhaled, he said, “My
brother had a nervous breakdown. He became a recluse as he
“And tried to act again.”
“And assaulted a director in a podunk town — for which he
was arrested and fined. Yes, I know these things.”
“Assaulted him… and then later tried to save him in that
fire?” Mulder asked.
Morgan stood, turned his back on them, and thrust his
hands into his pants pockets. His body seemed to shudder.
“Agents, my brother is dead. He’s been dead since 1992.
What does any of this have to do with the murders at the
“You’re right.” Mulder also stood. “Sorry. Just got
carried away. Your brother’s history fascinated me; such a
great talent laid to waste.”
Morgan nodded. “Well, tomorrow we can talk again.”
“Count on it,” Mulder replied. “Scully? Ready?”
“Yes. Good night, Mr. Morgan. And thank you.”
“If we can find some way to get rid of Cecil, I’m willing
to help you all I can.” Morgan looked at his watch and
moved behind the registration desk. “It’s late. See you in
the morning. Breakfast starts at 8.”
Mulder waited for Scully to take the stairs ahead of him
so that her ear would be near his lips as he whispered,
“And off we go to a shady rest, indeed.”
3:10 a.m. August 26
Room 25, Shady Rest
“Sorry, Mulder. The alarm clock is slow.”
“Always an excuse, Scully. You *did* sleep?”
“Of course. You didn’t?” She stepped from the dim hallway
and watched her partner as he closed the door behind her.
“Nah. I had to stay awake in case ‘ol’ Cecil’ came after
“Yeah, that’s what Cecil’s planning.” She sat on Mulder’s
bed. “So have you heard ‘the ghost?'”
Mulder smiled. “Yeah, as a matter of fact.”
“Really? I didn’t think he’d be around tonight.”
“Footsteps in the hallway. I opened the door, but saw
nothing. A few minutes later, this light,” he indicated the
bedstand’s lamp, “flashed on and off and then back on. I
even heard a few doors open and close. But not yours,
Scully, so I wasn’t too worried.”
“You’re kidding, right?” She looked closely at him,
failing to find his usual smirk.
“No, I’m really not joking. And I can’t explain it. Was it
a ghost? Or just someone trying to make it seem like one?
That’s for them to know and for us to find out.”
Scully noticeably shuddered. “Okay, now I *am* shaking in
my high heels. Dark building where murders have been
committed. Ghostly noises at night. Mulder, you must have
been a hoot at Boy Scout camp.”
“I was an Indian Guide, Scully.”
“Shhhh!” Mulder suddenly stopped her, his finger to his
lips. “Hear that?”
Scully’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Nothing. Made you listen, though,” he laughed.
“Mulder, sometimes I really hate you.” She stood and
started toward his closet.
“You’re not really wearing high heels, are you, Scully?”
He leaned over to look at her feet beneath her black slacks.
“You’re always concerned about the most important
details,” she replied. “Actually, I’m wearing very quiet
“Good. But they make you a lot shorter.”
“Keep it up, Mulder, and I’ll point ol’ Cecil to this room.”
“Shhh!” Again, his finger went to his lips.
Because of the look on her partner’s face, Scully
listened. Unmistakingly, there were footsteps on the
stairs. Slow. Deliberate. Footsteps. “Mulder,” she
whispered quickly, “let me look.” She started to the door.
“No, Scully, if that’s him, then now’s our time to get
moving. C’mon.” He led her back to the closet which he
opened noiselessly. “Got your flashlight?”
“Of course.” She shone it for him as he began to remove a
piece of paneling from the back wall. “I still don’t know
how the police could have missed this. They couldn’t have
looked too closely.”
“Three murders… they should have scoured the place.”
Mulder reached behind the paneling to dislodge a stay. “But
then we wouldn’t have been able to come to Belcan.”
“True. And what a miss that would have been.”
With a slight click, the paneling came away from the wall,
revealing a dark opening. A musty smell greeted their
noses, and when Scully shone the flashlight into the
blackness, they saw a landing between rooms 25 and 26, and
a shaft into which a ladder descended.
“I always thought walking through walls was easy for
ghosts, but Cecil must do things the hard way,” Mulder
“Cecil or someone who wants ghosts to seem real.”
“I’ll go first.” Mulder used his own flashlight and guided
its beam over the floor of the cavern. “It’s spotless. No
footprints in dust. Heck, no dust.”
“Cecil’s a clean ghost.”
“Yeah, right.” Mulder moved into the hidden room and
trained his flashlight on the area below. “This shaft goes
all the way to the basement. But there are two ladders. One
must stop at the first floor. Must be an opening into the
“Mulder! I hear footsteps.” Scully motioned him back into
his room. “Hurry!”
He joined her, and they quickly put the paneling back over
the hole, then stood quietly.
“Agent Mulder?” The voice in the hallway was hushed and
Mulder looked at Scully who was staring at him
quizzically. He left the closet, closing the doors softly,
and leaving her behind them. He opened the door of his
room. “Mrs. Morgan?”
Sheila wore a full-length, white terrycloth robe which
dwarfed her. The lit candle she carried sent eerie shadows
over her face.
“I saw your light,” she murmured. “I wanted to be sure you
“Afraid the ghost might have gotten me?”
“Afraid that maybe you were afraid to sleep,” she replied.
“We sell over-the-counter sleeping pills in the gift shop.”
He shook his head. “No, I’m fine, thanks. Just going over
“You’re a workaholic. And an insomniac.”
Mulder was surprised by her suddenly friendly manner.
Apparently, Sheila Morgan wasn’t always the timid yet
ornery person she’d seemed in the afternoon. “I guess you
could say that. You’re not much of a sleeper yourself, I
She peered into his room, then focused on him again. “I
don’t sleep well. Not since all of this started.”
“All of what? The murders or something else?”
“You’re still dressed.” She nervously smiled at him. “I’ll
let you get back to work. You should get some sleep,
though. Goodnight.” She hurried to the door that led to the
third floor’s stairway, and was out of sight in seconds.
Mulder watched after her, then closed his own door,
wondering about her words. He returned to the closet. “Did
you hear all of that, Scully?”
But when he peered inside, the paneling had again been
removed. And Scully was no longer there.
Mulder shivered in instant panic. He quickly entered the
hidden room, shining his flashlight into the ladder shaft.
He could see no one, no glint reflecting off the lovely red
silk of Scully’s hair. He tried to calm himself, to think
before doing anything rash. Impulsively rushing into action
wasn’t one of his better traits.
He held a deep breath and listened. He heard footsteps
overhead; Sheila Morgan had returned to Bruce. He wanted
Scully to return to him.
He mounted the ladder. The wood was sturdy, its paint
fairly new. He began a slow, quiet descent, taking one step
and then shining the flashlight below him in case he could
Scary thoughts flashed through his mind. Of Scully in the
hands of a murderer. Of her being stabbed repeatedly. Of
her being strangled. He’d seen the results of real violence
wreaked on her body and mind, and such memories haunted him
in nightmares still.
He took his fifth step. Suddenly, a horrendous boom
resounded above him as if something massive had fallen — a
sound distant but thunderous. And it had definitely
happened on the second floor.
For an instant, Mulder wondered whether to continue his
journey or to rush toward the sound. He couldn’t leave
Scully, but he couldn’t be sure the boom hadn’t involved
her. What if something had been dropped on her? Or she’d
been thrown against a wall or…
He was already stepping off the top rung of the ladder.
Suddenly, he sensed movement. Something drove into his
torso and knocked him into the wall with a force that sent
him to the floor. His side screamed in pain, and his hands
instinctively pressed against his ribs. Breathing was
difficult; the wind had been knocked out of him. And his
flashlight had been knocked from his hand.
Whatever had hit him was now on top of him. The weight was
not much, but it had him pinned. Not being able to gasp a
breath, he found struggling against his captor nearly
impossible. But he wriggled — only to receive what he was
sure was an elbow to his jaw. His head flew backwards,
hitting the floor with a crack that sent glittering
pinpoints behind his closed eyelids.
“Federal Agent! Lay still, moron! I’m armed!”
Mulder blinked. He stared up toward the voice. The hidden
room was dark, but he’d left the panel off the back of his
closet. The light from his room touched a few silken
strands of red hair.
“Oh, my God. Mulder?”
The weight quickly left his chest, and she tugged him into
a sitting position.
“Mulder, what were you doing? I didn’t know that was you.”
“Scully, where did you go?” He struggled to take deep
breaths. “I thought… I thought he had you.”
“Cell phone, Mulder. While you and Sheila were chatting, I
found I’d left it in my room. Going through the panels was
a lot less obvious.”
He shook his head, trying to get what were now silver
streaks to leave his vision. “I was worried, Scully.”
She touched his shoulder. “Are you all right? Did I hurt
“Nothing a few weeks in the hospital won’t fix.” He shook
off her hand, cocking his head toward the hallway.
Footsteps were flying down the stairs.
“Where was it?” Bruce Morgan’s voice leapt at them through
“I don’t know!!” Sheila yelled. “Agent Mulder! Come
quickly!! We think there’s been another murder!”
Mulder started up, discovering that his ribs were bruised
more than he’d thought. He winced with pain.
“You okay, Mulder?” Scully asked.
He muttered a doubtful “yeah” as he ushered her through
the passage. Then, holding his arm against his aching side,
he followed Scully into the now brightly lit hallway.
4:25 a.m., August 26 Room 21, Shady Rest
Mulder’s long legs quickly took him across the foyer to
Room 21. He ignored his screaming ribs; he would deal with
Sheila Morgan stood behind her husband, her hands clasped
over her mouth; her eyes, wide in terror. Her long, white
robe was tied tightly around her tiny figure, and it swayed
against her legs, slow to calm after her run to this room.
Bruce Morgan struggled with a key, trying to unlock the
door as fast as he could. His hands, however, shook, and
Mulder, his gun in a safe but ready position, moved to take
“Sheila, go back. I don’t want you to see it this time,”
Morgan said as allowed Mulder to turn the doorknob to Mr.
“Your husband’s right, Mrs. Morgan,” Mulder told her in
the calmest voice he could muster. “Go back to my room and
just wait.” He turned, forcing her to meet his gaze. He
waited until her terrified eyes saw him nod, and then she
shuffled toward Room 25, her hands still over her mouth.
She didn’t close his room’s door.
Mulder aimed as he opened Room 21. “Federal Agent! I’m
armed!” He managed to click on the ceiling light switch
with his elbow.
Seeing no one in the room, Mulder and Scully edged further
inside. Scully quickly moved to the open closet doors, but
the false panel had already been replaced. She next moved
to the bathroom, finding it empty as well.
“Oh, my God. Not again.” Bruce Morgan stood behind them,
staring at the center of the room.
Scully and Mulder followed his gaze and eased their aims.
Mr. Allen was nowhere in sight. But the big double mattress
and its boxed springs were completely off the oak frame of
the bed – -and overturned on the floor. But they weren’t
laying completely flat; something was beneath them. And
because of the dark, spreading stain on the maroon carpet,
they were quite sure of Mr. Allen’s whereabouts.
Mulder and Morgan swiftly lifted the heavy bedding off the
tiny man and back onto the bed’s frame. But it was obvious
to all present that they were too late. Though Scully
checked him for vitals, Mr. Allen had been suffocated and
crushed; Mulder wasn’t sure in which order. The dead man’s
face, frozen in horror, was splattered with blood. But his
film-covered eye shone through the sticky crimson liquid
like a beacon.
Mulder’s mind raced as he turned to his partner.
But a scream interrupted him.
“NO!! Get out of here! We don’t want you here anymore!”
Sheila Morgan’s voice shrieked from Mulder’s room. Her
hysterical cries were suddenly silenced by a loud slap.
“Sheila?” Mulder yelled. He raced to his room, forcing his
body to stop before he ran over the Shady Rest’s hostess
who was on the floor in a heap, her arms wrapped around her
head. “Sheila? Did he hurt you?”
“I… can’t stand it anymore. I… want him gone.”
“Honey, hush.” Morgan knelt at his wife’s side, and his
hands went to her shoulders, urging her to get up. The
sobbing woman did so, welcoming the comforting touch. He
guided her to sit on Mulder’s bed, and continued to hold
Scully entered and noticed that Sheila’s face was bleeding
from a nasty scratch between her cheekbone and chin. She
quickly produced a wet washcloth and held it to the woman’s
face. “I called the police; they’re on their way,” Scully
told her partner.
“What? No. Please.” Morgan looked up from his wife to the
agents. “Don’t bring them here.”
Mulder met his gaze. “It’s Charlie, isn’t it? Charlie
Sheila took over the washcloth. She looked up at Mulder
and slowly nodded.
“Sheila!” her husband protested, his expression panicked.
“He lives in the basement?” Mulder continued.
Again, Sheila nodded. “He was… he was never right again.
The nervous breakdown. He hated that director. The idiot
“Charlie killed him, didn’t he?”
“He strangled him. And he started the fire.”
“Be quiet! Don’t tell them this!” Morgan pleaded, his face
Scully peeled the washcloth away from the scratch to check
on it, then guided the cloth over the cut again. She
ignored Morgan. “But there were two bodies. Whose was the
“A homeless man. The play was about homeless people, and
Charlie always researched his parts. The man had no teeth.
Neither does Charlie. He got dentures so he could have a
“The bodies were burned beyond recognition,” Scully
finished for her, “and there was no way to do a dental I.D.”
Sheila nodded again. “We got the inheritance. Bruce and
Charlie had always been close. And Bruce used some of the
money to move us from place to place, hiding Charlie. That
became the prime goal of our marriage — to hide Charlie.”
Morgan rose, trying to intimidate his wife with his
towering presence. “If you don’t shut up…”
“Charlie goes to Buffalo with you, doesn’t he?” Mulder
asked the irate man.
“Yes. Charlie’s psychiatrist is there,” Sheila answered
for her husband. “She’s put him on various drug
combinations, trying to decrease his psychosis. But he just
“His hallucinations… He thinks he’s still acting,
“What? Mulder, what?” Scully looked at him.
“The first murder — that was just paranoia, wasn’t it?
J.J. Austin was a private detective who Charlie thought was
looking for him.”
Sheila nearly whispered. “Charlie thought he was Hercule
Morgan reeled. “I don’t believe you’re doing this! Shut up!”
“The second murder — Mr. Byrd,” Mulder continued,
watching Bruce from the corner of his eye. “He was
strangled in a strange way — with a rope while he was in
bed. In Poughkeepsie, Charlie was in a production of
‘Trifles’, Susan Glaspell’s play about a husband strangled
in his bed by his wife — because the guy killed her
Sheila’s hands dropped to her lap. “Charlie was so good in
that. He played the sheriff.”
“What about Mel Barker?” Scully prompted her partner.
“Crown Industries. He was stabbed to death in bed. I’m
guessing that’s from ‘Macbeth’ — where Macbeth kills King
Duncan to satisfy his own ambition — and to become king
“And tonight’s murder?”
“The eye,” Mulder murmured. “‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.”
Scully nodded. “Look, we have to stop Charlie. Is he in
“You won’t take my brother,” Morgan avowed.
Sheila turned mournful eyes to him, though speaking to
Scully. “He could be anywhere in this hotel. He has a
network of secret passageways. They date from the
Civil War and the Underground Railroad. That was one
of the reasons Bruce chose this place. He figured Charlie
wouldn’t get bored. You can get to them through the
“We’ve already found those. Does he ever go to the third
“No. Because of me. He stopped liking me when he heard us
arguing about moving here. I hated the idea, but Bruce
insisted. And Charlie always sides with Bruce. Bruce
thought that being a ghost by night would be a perfect job
for Charlie. What better to bring in the tourists than a
great actor playing a ghost? Charlie was wonderful at
first, but then he just — just got into the part too much.”
“Sheila!! Will you shut the hell up?! So help me…”
“Hey,” Mulder cautioned, struggling to draw Morgan to the
doorway, “you’ve no choice but to end this. You’re in
Morgan put his hands on Mulder’s shoulders, impatiently
imploring understanding. His voice was higher-pitched in
his hysteria. “Look, my brother’s a good man. And this…
can be our secret. The Troopers will come; we’ll say it was
the ghost again. They’ll investigate as they always do,
find nothing, and in a few days, this will all wash over. I
promise I’ll take Charlie away somewhere. Please, don’t do
“I can’t and won’t do that. Help us get him. Now.”
“I have money — what will it take?”
Mulder shook his head. He moved from the man’s grasp.
Morgan howled. “NO!! Charlie!!” He quickly ran from the
room and headed down the stairs.
“Right!” Scully drew her weapon and edged toward the
closet, behind her partner. “Mrs. Morgan, I want you to go
across the street right now. Do you understand me? Go to
Clarissa McKinnie’s apartment. Stay there until we come to
Sheila looked dazed. “Bruce…?”
“Go, now! Do you hear?” Scully persisted.
Mrs. Morgan looked from Scully to Mulder and back.
Finally, the instructions seemed to register. “Yes.” She
clutched her robe around her and ran from the room.
And as the Shady Rest’s front door opened and closed,
Mulder and Scully entered the open passage in the closet.
“Don’t know about you, Scully, but after all these years,
I’m really tired of dark rooms.”
They had descended the ladders to the cellar and had
cautiously explored the furnace and laundry rooms. Finding
no one, they’d carefully entered Charlie’s modestly-
furnished basement apartment. But the lights were off, and
Mulder and Scully continued to rely on their flashlights.
They had searched a bedroom, bathroom, and hallway,
opening doors and closets, even looking under the unmade
bed. Now, their backs against the opposing walls of a
narrow hallway, they were headed toward what had to be a
living room and kitchen.
“There could be crawl spaces above, Mulder,” Scully
whispered. “The furnace and plumbing pipes would have been
added in the remodeling. Such an old building wouldn’t have
had them originally.”
“True, but I think he’s here, waiting for us.”
“And his brother.”
Though his partner couldn’t see it, Mulder nodded in
agreement. They had reached the end of the hallway. His
weapon drawn, he took a deep breath and glanced in Scully’s
direction, somehow knowing that she mirrored his actions.
He turned his flashlight into the large area that lay
ahead, allowing a brief look at a small living room.
Mulder swung the light, searching from side to side, as
Scully also did beside him. He could see no one, but he
caught his partner glancing at him and starting to move
into the room.
Instantly, her gun and flashlight dropped to the floor.
Mulder’s light focused on a man’s left arm wrapping around
her chest and a right hand covering her mouth. “Don’t touch
her!” Mulder yelled, bursting forward without hesitation.
Suddenly, something hard cracked against his head. Silvery
shimmers returned, multiplied. His eyes squeezed shut
against the blinding agony. And his torso exploded in pain
as it met the floor, his belly-flop smacking his already
aching ribs. But more was to come. Suddenly, a foot
connected with his side. Hard. Mulder screamed as the kicks
continued, seeming to tear his skin and impact directly
with his bones. Finally, the torture stopped. He fought for
consciousness, but his numbed mind demanded surrender.
“Mulder!” Scully screamed, having wriggled her mouth free
of her captor’s hand. She’d seen Bruce Morgan move into
Mulder’s flashlight beam, and she’d heard him hit her
partner. Terror had gripped her as Mulder collapsed — and
as she’d heard his body being savaged with kicks. His
flashlight was now picked up by Morgan who shone it at her
partner as he stepped over the prone body.
“Bruce? What do I do now?”
The voice behind Scully’s ear was eloquent, resonant, each
word enunciated clearly. The arm that clutched her did so
without hurting her, and she felt herself being led
backward. She was forced to sit in a chair, but the hands
that had captured her remained on her shoulders, applying a
pressure that could easily turn violent.
“We need the lights back on, Bruce. Please? We have them
both now. We don’t have to hide.”
Scully heard Bruce Morgan plod forward, and a ceiling
light above her head suddenly radiated light. She squinted
against it until she could look at the kitchen surrounding
her. It was done mostly in white, a few blue items used as
trim. She sat in a wooden chair beside a tiny table, and
there were no windows.
“Agent Scully, we need to get out of here,” Bruce said as
he came into her vision. Mulder’s gun was in his waistband.
With shaking hands, he tied her wrists before her with an
electric cord. “You understand, don’t you? We don’t want to
“Are you going to tie him, too?” Charlie asked.
Morgan looked back toward the darkened room. “He’s out.
We’ll be gone before he wakes — if he wakes.”
Scully felt Charlie’s hands leave her shoulders and
lightly rest on her head. Slowly, he began to feel and then
caress her hair. Shivers went down her spine as the
stroking increased in intensity. “What are you doing?” she
asked, trying to wrest away from the insistent pawing. To
further her attempt, she turned up toward her captor.
Charlie Morgan was tall and bony. His face was handsome
but wrinkled; his hair, quite gray. At the moment, his
expression showed rapture toward the copper locks between
Scully’s revulsion to his touch soared. To react too
harshly, though, could upset him, and she was in no
position to do that. Still, she tugged away from his hands.
But he was quick. He seized her head, pulling it back
against him, one hand firm beneath her chin, the other
continuing its petting.
“Silky. Smooth,” he cooed. “Soft. So soft.”
“No, not now. C’mon, Charlie. We have to get moving,”
Bruce instructed, his expression one of sorrow and anger.
“No, George. Silky. Soft. Pretty.”
“I’m not George. You’re not Lenny. Do you follow me,
little brother? You are *not* Lenny.”
“Like a rabbit,” Charlie was saying. “Soft like a bunny.”
His hand now stroked Scully’s hair so intensely that her
head was snapping back hard enough to hurt her neck.
“C’mon, we’ve got to get out of here. The cops…”
“Pretty. Like a rabbit.”
Scully felt the cord cutting into her wrists, felt her
neck becoming more taut each time Charlie stroked her hair.
She knew he could break her neck, and she knew that moment
could come shortly. She worried about Mulder’s injury, and
she refused to be hurt by or fall captive to the two men
planning their escape.
She watched as Bruce Morgan came closer, as he implored
his brother to return to reality. The elder Morgan now
stood within her reach, and she lashed out with her right
foot, connecting a powerful kick to his groin. His face
went white; his eyes bulged. And he crumbled to the floor,
groaning in pain.
Scully sprang to her feet. Then she reeled, looking for
Charlie. He stood behind the chair, shocked. She took
advantage of his hesitation, quickly scanning the floor for
her partner’s gun which Bruce had dropped. It lay a few
feet from her, and she started for it. But hands grasped
her ankles, and she fell forward, barely able to break her
She kicked, knowing that Bruce had recovered enough to
bring her down. He was pulling her backward, but she fought
to crawl toward the gun. Before she could reach it, though,
she felt Morgan’s weight pinning her to the linoleum floor
and forcing her to take shallow breaths.
“Get the gun, Charlie! Get it!”
Charlie did as told, lifting the weapon as if it were a
And Bruce roughly hauled Scully to her feet and held her.
He also gasped for air, and his posture was bent as he
favored his own injury. “You take her, Charlie,” he
instructed. “I’m going to get the van. Meet me outside.” He
shoved Scully into the hands of his confused brother.
“Shoot her if you have to.” He hobbled off to a door, left
it open, and limped up cement steps.
“You have to let me go, Charlie,” Scully gasped, searching
his vacant gaze. “You don’t want to hurt me, do you?”
“No, he doesn’t. And he won’t.”
Mulder appeared from the darkened living room. And as
Scully calmed, she could see that his eyes weren’t focused
and that being upright was costing him dearly. Lines of
pain streaked his face, and, unable to stand straight, he
held his elbows tightly against his rib cage. But even in
this state, he was thinking. His right hand held her
weapon. She was glad Bruce had overlooked it.
“Avaunt, and quit my sight!” Charlie suddenly shrieked,
pushing Scully away with such force that she fell to the
floor. “Let the earth hide thee!”
“That’s from ‘Macbeth,’ isn’t it? What the Scot says to
Banquo’s ghost.” Mulder’s voice was weak but calm; his
words, slurred. “You did that play in Poughkeepsie. But I’m
no ghost, Charlie.” And he added just loudly enough for
Scully to hear, “Though right now, being dead might feel
“I was an exquisite Macbeth,” Charlie replied.
“I believe that. You were a fine actor,” Mulder agreed. “I
read the reviews.”
“You did?” Charlie stared at Mulder as if seeing a long-
“Yeah. Too bad you had to quit.”
“I didn’t quit.” The younger Morgan suddenly sneered. “I
am the ghost of the Shady Rest.”
“And a murderer.”
Scully noticed that Mulder was taking small steps toward
them. Charlie, however, was caught up in his own mental
gymnastics and unaware of the agent’s movements.
“Yes, a murderer,” Charlie replied. “And a poor player
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is
heard no more. Life, sir, is a tale told by an idiot, full
of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
“More ‘Macbeth,'” Mulder observed. “But the play’s over
now, Charlie. Take a bow and ring the curtain down. Your
role here is done.”
Scully sat up, planning how best to help her partner.
“He’s right, Charlie.” She noticed that the gun remained
tight in the actor’s grip, his forefinger idly smoothing
over the trigger. She struggled, trying to get the electric
cord off her wrists. “Let’s call it a night.”
“Bruce… Bruce is waiting for me. We’ve got to go. I
don’t know where he’s taking me this time.” His voice had
become like a child’s.
“Would you rather come with us?” Mulder asked. “We can put
you on the stage. We can help you.”
“You can? Help me?”
Mulder nodded. “Put the gun down first, and then have a
seat. We’ll talk.”
“I… I don’t know. Bruce. He takes care of me.”
“Bruce can come, too. Put the gun down.”
“Charlie? Come on!” Bruce Morgan’s voice suddenly echoed
down the cellar stairway. “Bring the woman! Let’s go!”
“Woman…soft. Silky.” Charlie looked at Scully lovingly,
then glanced at Mulder. “I’m supposed to break her neck,
right? And then you shoot me in the head, George.”
“You’re not in ‘Of Mice and Men’ — not on 57th Street
now,” Mulder reminded him quietly. “This is Agent Scully of
the FBI. I’m Agent Mulder. We’re here to help you.”
“Silky, soft…did I hurt you?” He turned back to Scully.
“I’m fine. Put the gun down, okay?”
“Charlie? Where are you?” Bruce’s footsteps descended on
“C’mon, Charlie, now. Put it down.” Mulder raised the
weapon in his hand, breathing hard when the movement
increased the pain in his side. “Let’s surprise your
“I don’t want to go with you. I want to go with Bruce.”
“What the…” The elder Morgan appeared in the doorway.
His face fell as he saw a gun pointed at his brother.
“It’s over, Mr. Morgan,” Scully said, getting to her feet.
“Tell your brother to put the weapon down. We don’t want
anyone else to get hurt.”
“You want me to shoot ’em?” Charlie asked, his eyes
narrowing. He raised the gun toward Scully.
“I’ll drop him in a second,” Mulder warned Bruce, his eyes
not leaving the younger Morgan. “You don’t want me to do
that, do you?”
Bruce Morgan’s gaze darted from one to the other of those
who stood before him. No words came as his mouth made
several attempts at protest. Finally, his shoulders drooped
as reality dawned. Tearfully, reluctantly, he stepped
toward his brother. “Do as they ask, Charlie.”
The younger man turned his head in shock. “We’re going
“We have no choice.”
Charlie slowly backed away from the table. He moved toward
his brother, extending his arm as if to surrender the gun.
“We always have a choice.”
Just as Bruce was about to take the weapon, Charlie darted
for the steps. “I ‘gin to be aweary of the sun,” he said,
the voice he’d used earlier as Macbeth resounding in the
cellar. He then bolted up the stairs before anyone could
“NO!!” Bruce screamed, starting after him.
With a final twist, Scully’s wrists came free from the
cord. Mulder, his strength rapidly leaving him, took a few
wobbly steps but fell forward onto the table. The pain in
his head and ribs soared, but he managed to wave Scully on.
She grabbed her gun from him and had made it to the cellar
doorway — when they heard a shot. Then something dropped
to the floor overhead. Her mouth open in horror, Scully
looked back at Mulder who laboriously hauled himself to his
feet. Bruce Morgan had run upstairs, and they now heard him
“Scully, my gun,” Mulder rasped. “Don’t let Bruce use it
She flew upstairs and into the Shady Rest’s lobby. In
front of the big oak counter, Bruce Morgan hunched over the
crumpled body of his brother, wailing. Cautiously, she
moved toward the duo, sliding past the elder and retrieving
the gun Charlie had turned on himself.
She knelt by Charlie but felt no carotid pulse, and as she
rolled him over, she found that he’d shot himself through
the heart. No CPR could save him.
“Bruce? Oh my God, Bruce?” Sheila Morgan’s voice came from
outside the locked front door. Her hands pounded rapidly on
Scully rose and let Sheila in, saying, “Charlie’s dead.
And you’re both under arrest.”
“I know.” Sheila ran to her husband, pulling the tall
man’s head to her shoulder as he sobbed.
Scully heard a noise and turned to find that Mulder had
reached the top of the stairs. He slowly hobbled toward
her, becoming more pale.
She moved to support him, slinging his arm around her
shoulders. She gingerly touched his side and led him to the
He melded into the cushions, lethargically moving his arms
from his side so she could do a cursory examination.
“Cracked ribs and a concussion, I’ll bet,” she said as his
eyes failed to follow the forefinger she moved laterally to
test his focus.
“So much for rest and relaxation, huh, Scully?”
“Anyone ever tell you you have lousy taste in vacations,
“No, but I’m sure you will.”
9:25 p.m., August 26, Belcan
“I’m sorry that you have to leave so soon,” Clarissa
McKinnie said, leaning toward the passenger side of the
Intrigue. “Are you sure you’ll be able to travel?”
Mulder nodded drowsily. “I’m looking forward to getting
“I can’t believe the hospital released you this evening.
You should have spent the night there.”
“He can’t wait to get back to D.C.,” Scully observed from
the driver’s seat. “Desk duty is one of his favorite jobs.”
Mulder winced at her words. “Clarissa, it was nice to meet
“Likewise,” she replied. She kissed him lightly on the
cheek. “And I want you to have this.” She held out a post
card. “I got a few extra a while back, and since the place
is now closed down, you should have the last souvenir.”
Mulder squinted, reading the card in the car’s dome light.
“‘I survived the Shady Rest’.”
“That’s perfect,” Scully smiled as she checked her watch.
“We’ve got to get going. Plane to catch.”
“Gotta get back to her assistant director, eh?” Clarissa
whispered to Mulder. “Come see us again sometime. And I’ll
talk to you on the Net.” She waved at them, and turned
toward her apartment.
As Scully started the car, Mulder looked across the road
at the Shady Rest, now completely shrouded in darkness. “A
shame, Scully. It really wasn’t a bad place.”
She followed his gaze. “No, not with the right people.
Sorry there was no ghost.”
“I knew there wasn’t. But finding Charlie Morgan after all
these years was too intriguing.” As his partner shifted the
car into drive and left the curb, he muttered, “Bye,
Belcan. Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
“I’ve had enough Shakespeare,” Scully groaned. “But tell
me, why’d Charlie kill himself?”
Mulder unfolded their map and shone his flashlight on it.
“Maybe reality finally set in. He didn’t want to face
prison or an institution. Or maybe he just couldn’t face
giving up his acting. Maybe suicide was his final lucid
Scully silently considered this. “Too bad his mental
illness wasn’t given due awareness. If Bruce had just…oh
well. Too late now.”
She looked over at him. “You have the map? How far till we
“About three inches.”
They drove off, then, into the darkness. Behind them,
though, the lights on the Shady Rest’s second floor
suddenly blinked. Twice. And on the second time, a white
figure seemed to appear in the window of Room 25.
AUTHOR’S NOTES: Thanks to William Shakespeare, Susan
Glaspell, Edgar Allen Poe, and John Steinbeck for
unknowingly lending me their titles, characters, or words.
Heartfelt thanks to the wonderful Michelle,
FabulousMonster, Clarissa, Laura, Nicola, and Catbird for
invaluable friendship, beta work, and encouragement.
Special gratitude to Michelle Kiefer and FabulousMonster
for ideas that helped this story immensely. And thanks,
too, to Laine and all the Crystal Shippers for being such
good people. I really don’t deserve any of you!
Please visit my website: