Title: Shakespirited 1 of 4
Category: X, MSR
Spoilers: none that I recall, other than whatever the previous VS9
author did to them last week.
Archive: Written for I Made This Productions Virtual Season 9 so
they have exclusive rights for the first two weeks. After that, Mr.
Sulu, you may indulge yourself.
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter, FOX, and
1013 Productions, and are being borrowed without permission.
Cleveland, Ohio, is a real place, contrary to some opinions, and is
being used with all the love of a native Buckeye. Some specific
places within the city are real, but others are my own invention
and not meant to portray anywhere in particular. Consciously, at
Special Thanks: To Suzanne, for taking my germ of an idea and
turning it into an entire bacterial colony. I appreciate the push and
the flying beta, but you owe me for this.
Godiva chocolate thanks to Brandon for letting me bounce ideas
off his head one night. (Hope the lump goes down soon.) And to
Tracy, for being my extra special advisor whenever I got stuck.
To Cindy, Supreme High Bitch Of The Betas. I could never have
written this without you. I’m sure the trauma of trying to beta a
moving target will pass soon.
Feedback: Kept in a little shrine and worshipped daily at
Summary: When the members of a small Shakespearean
company start dying, Mulder and Scully go undercover to
investigate. But will they discover what is killing people, or will
they be next?
Shakespirited 1 of 4
May 1, 2002
Former Rosenbluth’s Drug Store
temporary rehearsal hall
The clatter of running feet caused all heads to turn as a young
man came hurtling down the spiral staircase. Wild-eyed and
disheveled, he skidded to a stop on the periphery of the small knot
of people. His mouth worked for several soundless seconds
before another voice spoke.
“What the hell is it, David?” A slim blond man drove long fingers
through his hair in frustration. “You’re supposed to be getting
ready for Paris’ scenes in the crypt. What is so important that you
needed to disrupt the rehearsal?”
“Andrea…” Pale and visibly shaking, David turned eyes full of
horror to the ceiling. His neck twitched as he swallowed a sob,
forcing words past the terror in his throat. “You have to…she…
The blond shouldered his way through the silent group,
impatience radiating before him in waves.
“Doug…” Reaching out a tentative hand to slow the headlong
rush, David was brushed to one side, then lost in the trailing crowd
“Where is she?” The question ricocheted off the empty store’s
dusty brick walls, falling to the floor in his wake. “By God, if she’s
been drinking again, I’ll kill her.”
The serpentine line of fellow actors twined up the iron staircase.
David’s face crumpled. Tears slid down his cheeks, dripping onto
Reaching the upper level, Doug began slamming open doors as
he rampaged down the hall of the long-abandoned apartment.
Each failure to find what he sought pulled a snarl of disgust from
his lips that caused his followers to hop back a step. He stopped
short in the open doorway of the very last room.
High-pitched shrieks couldn’t cover the sound of gasps followed
by retreating footsteps behind him. In a few minutes, Doug was
the only one left in the echoing upper floor of the derelict building.
He could hear voices shouting for someone to call 911, but the
noise didn’t register on his conscious mind. Sighing, he rubbed a
hand over sorrowful eyes, sliding down the doorframe to sit vigil in
the soft dust until help arrived.
“I’m sorry, Andrea,” he whispered to no one. “It looks like
someone beat me to it.”
When the sound of sirens closing in reached his ears, Doug finally
was able to tear his gaze away from the beautiful red-haired
woman, lying in a lake of blood with a knife sticking out of her
May 4, 2002
temporary rehearsal hall
“Michael, what are you doing?”
“What are you doing?”
“Umm, saying my lines?”
“WRONG! You’re saying something, but they’re not Osric’s lines!
Osric is a fop. He loves show, and prettiness, and ceremony. He
would speak like a fop. YOU, however, sound like you’re reading
someone their rights!”
“Do you want me to go again?”
“Yes! Of course, go again! Start from ‘Nay my good lord.’ And
this time try to sound like Osric.”
“‘Nay my good lord; for mine ease, in good faith. Sir, here is newly
come to court Laertes; believe me…'”
“Yes, you, my precious. You are a lady in waiting, are you not?”
“Do you know what that means?”
“I…think so, yes.”
“It means she is waiting, as in standing. She is not a ‘lady in
motion.’ You are causing a distraction by walking around the
stage. Kindly pick a spot and stay there! Do you think you can do
“I’m sorry, Doug.”
“Should I keep going now?”
“No, Michael, no. This whole thing is giving me a migraine. Why
in God’s name they had to send amateurs I’ll never know. All right
people, listen up. You’ve got an early evening, so I want all of you
back here an hour earlier tomorrow. That means 9:00 AM Brian,
not 10:30 like today. Maybe I won’t still feel a need to slaughter
you all by morning. Michael…”
“We’ll work on the understudies tomorrow. Do you know Hamlet’s
part yet? I know you’ve only been here one day, but do you know
*any* of it?”
“Sure, I know the whole thing.”
“Well, pray God you’re a better Hamlet than Osric.”
The old, empty store echoed with the squeak of sneakers and
voices as the company filed out to their respective homes and
suppers. Michael gave Debbie a long, lingering glance, which she
returned. Attaching themselves to the end of the line, he waited
until everyone else was out of earshot before speaking.
“I don’t know if I can do this.”
“Sure you can.”
“But Osric?! I mean, Laertes, now. I could really get inside his
head with no problem. His father murdered; his sister driven to
her death; buffeted by forces he can’t control until he snaps.
Yeah, just get Alex Krycek to play Hamlet and I could really get
“How about a lady in waiting, Mulder? This is the most boring
thing I’ve ever done in my life. All I do is stand around, waiting.
Thank God I’ve got bigger parts in the other two plays. Aren’t
there any good female roles in this one besides the Queen and
“Nope, sorry, Scully. There aren’t more than a few female parts in
any of Shakespeare’s plays. Women weren’t allowed to act on the
stage back then, so the female roles had to be played by men. It
just made sense to limit how many guys in drag they needed.
What in God’s name was Skinner thinking by sending us out
“He was thinking of three actors dead and one in a coma in three
weeks time. He was thinking of no evidence and even fewer
clues. He was thinking maybe he could get us out of his hair for a
while, such as it is.”
“Well, he should have thought to send someone who could act.
We’ll never be able to hold our cover this time.”
“Speaking of our cover, what’s with the names?”
“Why? What’s wrong with them?”
“Michael Mulder and Debbie Scully? Anyone who wanted to could
look those up on the Internet and find out they aren’t really ours.”
“How do you know there aren’t two people completely unrelated to
us with those names? What did you want, Scully? Rob and Laura
“I thought it was my turn to pick the names.”
“You weren’t in Skinner’s office when he asked for suggestions. I
just thought it would be easier not having to think about what to
call each other. Besides, I still don’t see why the Cleveland field
office couldn’t handle it.”
“Because they may be known to the local actors, Mulder. We’ve
already been over this. Besides, it’s almost like a vacation for us.
Nothing supernatural, no monsters or conspiracies. Just a chance
to relax and enjoy spring in beautiful Northeast Ohio while we look
into a few murders.”
“You go ahead and relax. Tomorrow, I’m Hamlet. And the day
after that, I’m Cassio. And the day after that, I’m Romeo. Scully,
what the hell are we doing here?”
Take 5 Coffee Company
“I still say you’re wrong.”
“Look, Mulder, Agent Kovach said all the alibis checked out. It’s
hard to kill someone when you’re with a large group of people.
Plus the autopsy reports indicate suicide.”
“Scpt fo Tres Pas.”
“Mulder, swallow first, then talk.”
~gulp~ “Sorry, Scully. I said except for Teresa Bates. She was
strangled by Bill Yankovic, who killed himself before he could be
arrested. And I know Andrea Dixon seems to have stabbed
herself. But I just don’t think it’s as simple as suicide. For one
thing, Sean Barliss is alive, even if he is still in a coma, so no one
knows if he took the poison on his own.”
“Do you think someone else is killing these people?”
“Well, I suppose it could be Doug. He seems like a pretty loose
cannon to me, but as you said, his alibis have all checked out. I
think his main problem is the stress of trying to pull together a
series of plays with a constantly changing cast. Besides, what
reason would he have for killing off his own company? Doesn’t
that seem a bit self-defeating to you?”
“Actually, it could work in his favor. Agent Kovach said this could
be their last season if they don’t bring in enough money to keep
their financial backers happy. With the publicity about the deaths,
morbid curiosity will help to fill seats. Who has a better reason to
want that than the company’s managing director?”
“I don’t know, Scully. There are still those tight alibis in our way.
Maybe what we’re looking at here is something along the lines of
possession or occult influence.”
“How did we just go from suicide to murder to possession,
Mulder? Doesn’t that seem a bit far-fetched, even to you?”
“You know me; the shortest distance between two points is the
most paranormal one.”
“Well, I’m leaning more toward the suicide angle, unlikely as it
seems at the moment. That still makes more sense to me than a
vengeful spirit out to murder the members of a small acting
company. Besides, why would it pick now, and why here?
They’re in an old abandoned store, so the ‘ghost of the theater’
cliche doesn’t apply.”
“Maybe it’s something to do with the history of the drug store.
Cleveland is an old port city with a long, colorful history. I’m not
going to discount anything at the moment.”
Taking a sip of his iced tea, Mulder caught Scully’s eye, quirking
one brow toward the door. She turned as though looking for
something in her purse and noticed one of their fellow actors
standing just inside the entry. He appeared to be scanning the
small coffee shop for someone. Scully looked back at Mulder,
mouthing the words “Our contact?”
Nodding, Mulder raised a hand, signaling the younger man over to
their table. “David!” he shouted. “Over here.”
Casting quick glances left and right, David Prohaska strode up to
their table, but refused the proffered chair, shifting from foot to foot
as he stood.
“I’d like to join you,” he mumbled, “but I’m supposed to be meeting
Waving a finger between himself and Scully, Mulder stated, “That
would be us.” He thrust out a hand and pumped David’s arm,
jostling the smaller man. “Special Agent Mulder, FBI.” He hooked
a thumb to the side. “My partner, Special Agent Scully. You’re
the one who contacted the Bureau about the deaths, right?”
Pulling out an empty chair, David dropped into it with a thud.
“How did you know it was me?”
“We were in touch with the Cleveland field office,” Scully
informed him. “They let us know who to look for, and gave us the
background on the case. We need to ask you some questions
about what’s been going on.”
“What should I call you?” David wanted to know.
Before Scully could give an answer, Mulder jumped in. “You can
call me Mulder,” he said, and gestured at Scully. “She’s Debbie.”
That earned him a glare.
“What do you need to know?” David asked, giving his lips a
Glancing over at her partner, Scully caught his quick nod. He
wanted her to take the lead, so he could sit back and watch the
young actor’s body language. They hadn’t discussed what
questions to ask yet, so she decided to start with the obvious.
“Did any of the victims seem depressed? Had they attempted
suicide before?” she inquired.
“Not that I’m aware. They were just regular people for the most
part. They were a little jumpier than usual, but then we all are,
what with so much riding on this season. There might be some
kind of flu bug going around. Lots of us have been sick off and on
lately. Even me.”
“When did this start?”
“Probably a month ago. I don’t remember exactly. It wasn’t
everybody at once or anything. Just one person at a time. We
figured it was a virus making its way through the troupe. Then
people started dying and everyone forgot about it.”
“How did you find Andrea Dixon? Aren’t the upstairs rooms in the
store closed off?”
Licking his lips again, David nodded, eyes flicking back and forth
and around the cafe. “We don’t use those rooms, even for
changing costumes. All of the clothes are kept in the back storage
room on the main floor. I went looking for Andrea because we
were going to be rehearsing a scene together and Doug gets
irritated when anything holds up the company. I couldn’t find her
downstairs, so I figured I’d look upstairs.” He swallowed, shaking
his head. “I found her, all right.”
Running his finger around the rim of his iced tea glass, Mulder
posed a nonchalant question. “Were there ever any fights
between the players? Anyone who might have a reason to dislike
“Well, sure,” David stated. “We’re actors. There are always egos
involved in a company like this. But we all get along pretty much.
Doug can be nasty at times, but he’s okay. He just has a lot of
pressure on him right now to produce a money-making season.
He doesn’t mean some of the things he says.”
“Like what?” Scully asked.
David fidgeted in his chair. He glanced around again, as if looking
for eavesdroppers, before leaning closer across the table. “When
I told Doug he needed to go upstairs and see Andrea, he said he’d
kill her if she’d been drinking again.” He sat back with an air of
having imparted a piece of important news and waited for their
reactions. He appeared disappointed when they just looked at
each other with eyebrows raised.
Reaching into his back pocket, David produced a creased sheet of
notebook paper and handed it to Mulder. “The agent I talked to at
the field office said you’d need a list of the players and the roles
they’re doing. Of course, the roles have changed a bit, now that
we’re short on actors. Each of us has at least two main characters
to learn, plus some minor ones. Doug’s trying to make sure we
can keep the rehearsals going, but it’s not easy when the parts
Mulder scanned the list, then handed it to Scully. “We’ll be in
touch if we have any more questions. And we’d appreciate it if
you’d keep who we are to yourself for now. The fewer people who
know, the easier the investigation will be.”
Rising to his feet, the young actor nodded in agreement. He
glanced around the cafe once more, then headed out the door.
Scully folded the paper. Slipping it into her purse, she stood to
leave. “Let’s take this discussion back to our rooms. I want to go
over those autopsy reports again and see if anything jumps out at
“Well considering where we’re staying, the possibilities are
endless for things jumping out.”
“Mulder,” she chuckled, “how on earth did you find furnished
rentals with a view of the Erie Street Cemetery?”
“Divine intervention.” He grinned back. “Plus I told Agent Kovach
exactly what I was looking for. Erie Street is Cleveland’s oldest
existing cemetery, Scully. It’s supposed to be haunted. I couldn’t
pass up such a perfect opportunity.”
“Well I wish you’d passed up the rooms over Forgac Collision and
Towing. The sink in my place hasn’t stopped spewing rusty water
yet. I hate to think what the communal shower down the hall is
like. And I can’t believe that everyone has to share a bathroom.
It’s like college, only worse. What I wouldn’t give for a nice
fleabag motel right about now.”
Placing his hand on her back, Mulder ushered Scully onto the
sidewalk, into the soft breeze of an unseasonably warm Lake Erie
“I’ll remember that the next time you complain about our
accommodations,” he said.
Scully sighed. “I was afraid you’d say that.”
Forgac Collision and Towing
E. 9th Street
“That wasn’t very helpful, Scully.”
“Neither was nibbling on my neck while I was concentrating on the
autopsy reports. I’ve got cans of iced tea in that pathetic excuse
for a fridge. You want one?”
“No thanks. I was guzzling tea all through rehearsal. I’ve
probably got enough caffeine in my system to keep me going for a
week.” Mulder tossed the file folder next to Scully’s laptop,
scrubbing his eyes. “Did you find out anything useful today?”
“It’s a little hard to find anything when you have to stand around all day
waiting for your cue.” Scully stretched her neck from side to side,
enjoying the snap of releasing vertebrae. Mulder scooted closer
on the couch, long fingers pressing circles into the tight muscles
across her shoulders. She sighed in relief, shooting him a smile of
“What are we doing undercover in the first place?” Relaxing back
into the couch, Mulder rubbed his stomach. “It would be so much
easier to go in, badges blazing, and ask for the information we
“Apparently, the Playhouse Square stockholders want this kept
quiet. Skinner said they’ve spent a lot of time and money
renovating the theaters. I guess they’re afraid a couple of flapping
trenchcoats will spoil all their feel-good publicity.”
“Then the skullduggery approach it is. Maybe you’ll have more
time to look around tomorrow. They’ve got enough understudies
for the main female characters, so you’ll be free to check things
out while I’m slaving away.”
“That’s what you get for having all the juicy parts, Mulder. If there
were more female roles, I’d have more lines to study, and *you*
could be the one skulking in dark corners. I’m not even sure what
I’m looking for.”
“Anything out of place. Unusual cold spots, strange behavior,
levitation, eyes spitting fire in the dark…”
“Thanks. That was a big help. I just don’t see…yoooww…”
Scully’s jaw cracked with the force of her yawn, drawing an
answering one from her partner. Mulder still rubbed at his
stomach, something she noticed he’d been doing off and on all
“Can’t see anything when your eyes are blurry, Scully. Maybe we
should call it a night. We’ve got an early rehearsal tomorrow.”
“But we haven’t come up with anything concrete yet, Mulder.”
Sliding sideways down the tattered sofa, she sprawled across his
legs, gesturing to her open laptop. “All we know is that three
people are dead, one is in a coma, and all four showed traces of
scopolamine, hyoscine, or atropine. We don’t even know why it’s
there or where it came from.”
“With the help of David’s list, we’ve at least established that the
roles they were playing had something to do with their behavior. If
you look at how they died, it’s clear that there’s a correlation. Bill
Yankovic was Othello — he strangled his Desdemona, Teresa
Bates, and then slit his own throat. Romeo, Sean Barliss, drank
atropine in the form of eye drops, whether voluntarily or not. And
Andrea Dixon, as Juliet, stabbed herself.” Mulder’s jaw cracked
on another yawn.
“I wish we had more to go on.” Struggling to sit back up, Scully
found herself being pulled down and pinned across Mulder’s lap.
“You’ll just have to nose around as much as you can tomorrow,”
he breathed into her ear, bending down to kiss the lobe. “Right
now, I’ve got concrete ideas about some funky monkeyshines.”
Pushing his questing face to one side, she rolled off the couch and
stood up. “We’re both tired, Mulder, and as you said, we have an
early rehearsal. Time for you to go to sleep — in your own room.”
“No buts, Mulder. It’ll be good motivation for us to close this case
so we can go home. And just what are you planning to do while
I’m poking my nose into dusty cupboards?”
“I’ve got a full day of understudy rehearsals,” he said. His hand
was rubbing his stomach again.
“Uh huh,” Scully mumbled, then changed the subject. “What’s
with your stomach tonight, Mulder? Is it bothering you?”
He glanced down in surprise at the hand that was still massaging
his midsection. “I told you there’d be hell to pay if I had to eat
decent food. Guess something in that healthy dinner didn’t agree
“Well let me know if you need anything for it,” she said, closing the
laptop. Giving Mulder a quick peck on the lips, she pulled him up
from the sofa and pushed him toward the door. “Try to get some
sleep. See you at breakfast.”
Grumbling under his breath, Mulder shuffled into the hall, and
headed for his own room. He was standing in front of the door
with the key in his hand, when the color drained from his face.
Spinning on his heel, Mulder raced down the length of the hall,
slapping the swinging door of the communal bathroom open
without stopping. It was a good thing Scully had already closed
her door and wandered into the bedroom, or she would have been
treated to the sound of her partner’s painful retching.
Ghostly granite angels shimmered in the wavering moonlight,
casting their winged silhouettes over the neighboring monuments.
Here a sorrowing cherub; there a cross stating “Sacred to the
Memory of”; in the distance, a mausoleum cloaked in shadows.
Mulder wove his way between them, noting the names and dates,
wandering without purpose, yet certain of where he wanted to be.
The sound of singing drew him deeper into the burial ground.
Leaves crackled and slid under his feet as he closed in on the
voice. Presently, he could see the glow of a lantern illuminating
each shovelful of soil as it was pitched onto a growing mound
beside a hole in the ground. The singing was coming from inside
Stopping well back, Mulder listened for a moment. “Has this
fellow no feeling of his business? He sings in grave-making.”
“Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.”
Mulder gasped, turning toward the familiar voice. Alex Krycek
was standing next to him, hands shoved into the pockets of his
leather jacket. A skull came sailing out of the hole, rolling to a
stop between them. Mulder poked it with his bare toes.
“That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once. How the
knave throws it to the ground, as if it were Cain’s jaw-bone that did
the first murder!”
“Ay, my lord.”
Stepping a little closer, Mulder called toward the dark pit. “Whose
The face of Dr. Blockhead popped into view. “Mine sir. It’s not
yours, for you don’t lie in it. And yet while I don’t lie in it either,
still, it’s mine.” His face popped back down and the singing
More dirt flew up onto the pile, bones scattering down the slopes
to clank together at the bottom. Mulder continued to watch until a
sound drew his attention. Glancing around, he realized that
Krycek was no longer standing beside him. He was trotting
toward a clearing in the woods, dribbling the skull.
Robert Patrick Modell ran checking maneuvers as Krycek dodged
back and forth. It didn’t seem odd that he was using both hands —
the left one looked as though it had never been missing. Mulder
suddenly found himself running defense in front of Krycek, closing
in on the flood-lit basketball hoop. Eugene Victor Tooms and
Donnie Pfaster guarded the backboard, while Scully’s brother, Bill
ran defense to Krycek’s right. Three on three seemed like good
odds. As Krycek sent the skull sailing toward the basket, the
clearing blinked, and disappeared.
Bill Scully stood with Skinner beside the open grave.
“Must there be no more done?”
Skinner closed the file he was reading, and handed it to his
secretary. “No more be done,” he said. “Her death was doubtful.”
“A ministering angel shall my sister be when you lie howling.”
Everything went dark. For a moment, Mulder wasn’t sure whether
or not he’d gone blind. But then the earth beneath him began to
glow, and he realized he was standing inside the grave. A cloth-
wrapped body lay at his feet, face obscured, violets resting over
the folded hands.
“What, the fair Ophelia?” Mulder reached out to reveal the face,
“The devil take thy soul, you sorry son-of-a-bitch!” Bill Scully’s
words dropped into the open grave, bouncing back and forth until
they left Mulder’s ears ringing. Drawing a steadying breath, he
peeled back the shrouded layers, and looked down at the still face
of Dana Scully. Tears dripped off his chin to land on her body,
soaking into the white cloth.
“Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love
make up my sum.”
Her eyes sprang open.
“Should we be pickin’ out china patterns, or what?”
With a mighty rumble, the ground cracked open under his feet.
Mulder fell backward into the fissure, arms flailing, too stunned to
scream. As he tumbled down and down, the glow of light from the
grave grew fainter. The jolt of landing on the floor completed his
journey back from sleep. He groaned, not sure if he was hurt or
just startled from his rude awakening. Levering himself to a
standing position, he shuffled over to the window of his room. The
sign outside flashed “Forgac” in time to the throbbing in his head.
He swabbed the inside of his mouth with a tongue too dry to do
any good. Resting his hip against the windowsill, Mulder stared
across East 9th Street at the statues gleaming in the graveyard,
unnaturally illuminated by the street lights. Here a cherub; there a
cross. And in the distance, as he leaned against the cool glass,
trying to massage away the persistent ache in his gut, Mulder
thought he saw Alex Krycek dribbling a skull into the shadows.
men’s dressing room
“Hurry up, Michael. Wardrobe is waiting to do our fittings, and
we’re gonna be late for rehearsal if you don’t move it.”
The sound of Scully’s raised voice preceded her into the dressing
room by several seconds. Otherwise, Mulder might not have
recognized her as his partner. He’d seen her hair piled up in
ringlets and wisps before, but he’d never seen her laced into a
dress quite like the one she was currently wearing. It looked to be
made from some heavy, embossed fabric reaching all the way to
the floor and trailing in her wake. She only avoided tripping on the
extra length by holding it bunched in her hands. But the amount
of Scully the skirt covered appeared to be in reverse proportion to
the amount of her that spilled out of the low-cut top. Mulder was
thankful she broke his trance before his eyeballs dried out from
“Close your mouth, Mulder. Haven’t you ever seen breasts
before?” Planting her fists on her hips just shoved them up higher
out of the neckline.
Mulder’s jaws came together with an audible snap. “Yes, I have.
And those aren’t breasts; they’re bazooms. Believe me, there’s a
Scully ignored his remark and took in his partially-dressed state.
Turning to shut the door, she couldn’t contain a smirk. “Um, I think
there’s a slight problem with your costume.”
Glancing down his bare torso to the dark green tights it had taken
him five minutes of steady cursing to don, Mulder stated, “I don’t
see anything wrong.”
“You’re not supposed to wear boxer briefs under tights.”
His mouth fell open, again. “I can’t just let it all hang out,” he
huffed. “Everyone will be able to tell whether my parents held a
bris or a baptism.”
Hunting through the boxes of clothing on the floor, Scully pulled
something out, tossing him a wisp of cloth. Mulder untangled it
“It’s a jock strap.”
“It’s a dancer’s strap,” she corrected. “It’s built on the same
principal but for a different purpose. It gives you a more uniform,
androgynous bulge. Now hurry up and put it on.”
“You mean I have to take these damned things off and put them
back on again?” Mulder was clearly horrified by the very idea.
Picking up another piece of clothing from the box, Scully tried to
demonstrate proper tights-putting-on technique. “Bunch one leg
into a ring in your hands like this, point your toes, and smooth it up
your leg. Then do the other one the same way. Doesn’t anyone
ever put on pantyhose in those videos of yours? Or do they just
take them off?”
“Very funny, Whoopi Goldberg,” Mulder grumbled, as he wiggled
out of the offending garment. “Could you please leave so I can
get this over with?”
An unladylike snort escaped before she could stop it. “Mulder, we
were buck naked and dancing the horizontal mambo in the not-so-
distant past. Why the sudden modesty?”
“I just don’t think there’s any need for you to witness me flopping
around like a beached flounder. At least turn your back while I
struggle into this torture device.”
Turning around, Scully crossed her arms with difficulty over her
prominent chest. “Fine, fine,” she muttered. “I’ll allow you to
preserve your dignity. Just remember this the next time you watch
me put on hose.”
“I promise…” ~grunt~ “to avert…” ~gasp~ “my eyes…shit…in
order to preserve” ~snap~ “your feminine mystique. Jesus,
Scully, who the hell invented tights, anyway?”
“Same person who invented girdles and pantyhose, Mulder,” she
said. “The Marquis de Sade.”
“I can feel a breeze blowing across my ass! There’s nothing but a
stretchy piece of fabric between me and mooning the world.”
“That’s what doublets and tunics are for.”
“No tunic is gonna be long enough to hide the four-man tent I
started pitching the minute I saw you in that dress.”
Scully peeked over her shoulder. “Looks like a pup tent to me,
Mulder. What’s the matter? Can’t handle a little cleavage?”
He shot her a withering glance as he picked up a black doublet
slashed with green facings. “I don’t think it’s called cleavage when
your breasts are mounded up under your chin.”
“That was just the style in Shakespeare’s day. It’s a traditional
form of dress for doing his plays.”
“It’s traditional because men have always liked looking at
boobage.” Dressed at last, Mulder’s doublet hung down to his
knees and bagged under the arms. He frowned. “The last guy
must have been beefy.”
Hitching up her skirt with one hand, Scully grabbed the doorknob
with the other. “That’s why theaters have seamstresses, Mulder.
Now let’s go see her about alterations so we can get this
investigation on the road.” She pulled the door open and waved
“Good idea,” he agreed. “Maybe I can get her to help me find the
top half of your dress.”
“No thanks, Mulder.”
Taking back the proffered mug of tea, he sipped the steamy liquid.
“It’s good. You should try it.”
“No thanks,” Scully repeated. She gathered up her crumb-filled
sandwich wrapper, brushing her hands on her jeans. The other
actors were beginning to drift back from their lunch break, filling
the empty storefront with echoing chatter as they found chairs
around the room’s perimeter.
Measuring for alterations had taken a bit longer than necessary,
owing to Mulder’s constant flirting with the elderly wardrobe
mistress. They had, indeed, been late to rehearsal, which called
down another round of sarcasm from Doug. Deciding that a bit of
distance between him and Mulder was in order, Scully had gone
out for sandwiches, which they ate in the empty store. At least,
she’d eaten hers while Mulder picked his to bits and drained two
mugs of tea. Now people were straggling in from their meals,
bringing fragrant blasts of the warm May wind with them.
She looked up as someone dropped into the chair between her
and Mulder. He reminded Scully of Skinner — large, broad,
muscular. And bald. He smiled at both agents and stuck out a
“We didn’t meet yesterday. I’m Joe Korniak, the fight coordinator.”
His white smile stood out against the tan he already sported so
early in the season. Mulder gripped his hand, eyes widening at
the strength of his clasp. Scully made the introductions.
Joe turned to her, presenting his back to Mulder’s startled gaze.
“So where else have you worked?” Joe asked. “I’d have
remembered if I’d seen you in Cleveland before.”
Scully pasted a smile on her face and hoped Mulder could hear
the lie she was about to concoct.
“We were with the Kent State company for a while, until they
folded.” Her mind scrabbled around for something to add, wishing
her uncharacteristically silent partner would jump in for once.
“Umm, then we just sort of wandered from place to place,
wherever they needed someone in a pinch. That’s been pretty
“Yeah, I heard Kent had a small group that they couldn’t keep
going,” Joe agreed, nodding. “Why do you keep saying ‘we’? Do
the two of you travel everywhere together, like some kind of
special team? You know, the Avengers of the Shakespearean
The unwise, scathing reply on the tip of Scully’s tongue was halted
by raised voices coming from the other side of the stage. All
heads swiveled in that direction.
“I don’t give a shit, Doug! I don’t want to understudy Cassio!” The
young actor with the glasses and mousy-blond ponytail was
standing toe to toe with his director, glowering up at the taller man.
“He’s a wuss and an idiot, and I’d rather do Iago if I have to do
Doug seemed unfazed by the wild-eyed actor. “I don’t care what
you want, Brian. I’m in charge. We’re short-handed, so quit your
whining and do as you’re told. Now let’s get back to work.”
Everyone released a collective breath when the expected punch in
the nose became footsteps stomping out of the store, to the
accompaniment of a slamming door. They all turned to watch out
the window as Brian strode off down the sidewalk, t-shirt flapping
in the brisk May breeze.
“Okay,” Doug announced, with a put-upon sigh, “it looks like we’ll
be taking a break until Joe and I can get Brian back and talk some
sense into him. Relax, but don’t go too far.” He walked over and
pulled the door open, looking back at the man between the two
agents. “Come on, Joe,” he demanded. “You know you’re the
only one he’ll listen to lately.”
Shrugging in apology, Joe stood, sticking out a hand to Scully in
farewell. “Sorry to run, but we can talk again later. Nice to meet
you, Debbie.” He turned as an afterthought. “You too, umm,
Michael, was it? We’ll work together on the sword fighting
tomorrow. Provided we can convince Laertes he’s needed here.
He’s still a bit on edge, I guess. Teresa Bates was his sister.”
On that note, he followed Doug out into the afternoon sunshine,
leaving a wide-eyed Scully with her first good look at the glowering
face of her partner. His black gaze skittered away from hers.
“How did they miss the connection, Mulder?” she whispered. “I’m
surprised the field office overlooked that, even if they didn’t have
the same last name. We need to talk to Brian as soon as
possible. Maybe he can tell us something about his sister’s
relationship with the man who strangled her.”
“Maybe your mind was on other things yesterday,” he grated.
“Why don’t you go and help your friend Joe, Scully? He’s
probably waiting outside for you right now.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Mulder?”
“Nothing. Forget I said anything.” He thumped his mug down on
the floor and stood to leave.
“No, I won’t forget it. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong, Scully. Just drop it.”
She stood as well, moving into his personal space and trying to
catch his furtive glance. “The testosterone is coating my skin like
an oil slick. Why are you acting like this?”
The glaring eyes that looked at her from under lowered brows sent
a shiver of concern through Scully’s body.
“I said nothing is wrong,” Mulder hissed. “Now leave me alone.”
Shaking off her restraining hand, he stomped off to the back of the
store, all the startled eyes in the room eagerly observing this new
But no one was quite as surprised as Dana Scully.
Slamming cupboard doors did nothing to alleviate Scully’s
disquiet. All it did was stir up dust that made her sneeze.
Rubbing the tickle at the end of her nose left a smear of gray
behind. She hadn’t bothered to follow Mulder, even when she
heard him vomiting in the bathroom. Maybe whatever was
upsetting his stomach was responsible for his current mood. She
decided to confront him about it later, after she’d looked around
She’d already been through the upstairs and most of the first floor.
For a small storefront, it was a warren of cubby holes and rooms,
some leading one off the other. Most were empty. A couple still
contained a piece or two of furniture. The minuscule closet had
yielded a hot water bottle with a hole in the side, some random
bobbie pins, and a mound of toweling scraps that Scully sifted with
her fingers before finding a pile of mouse bones inside. The yelp
she let out was instinctive and unstoppable.
“Some FBI pathologist you are,” she’d muttered to herself. “Get a
grip. You’ve seen worse.”
The kitchen was the last room she’d needed to search on the first
floor. It was also turning out to be the most interesting. Still in use
by the actors for the purpose of heating tea, coffee, and simple
foods on a hot plate, it also contained a few relics of the previous
owner. Most she discovered on the shelves at the top of the floor-
to-ceiling cupboards. That meant climbing the cabinets, using the
shelves as toe holds, but that’s why they had yearly physical
Easier than that stupid rope wall at Quantico, she thought.
Fishing into the shadows at the back of the shelves, Scully prayed
she wouldn’t encounter a mouse that’d suffered a more recent
demise. She placed the objects she found on a lower shelf near
her knees, where she’d be able to look at them once she climbed
down. So far, there were ten antique bottles, four books, a box of
kitchen matches, a bottle opener (the pry-up kind), and an
assortment of string, straight pins, newspaper bits, and bobbie
pins. The last occupant hadn’t checked very carefully when it
came time to leave.
Hopping down from the cabinet, Scully wiped her dusty hands on
her jeans before turning to the objects she’d found. The oddments
she dismissed as useless. The bottles probably weren’t very
important either, except to an antiques dealer. Some of the labels
were intact. One marked “Barber’s Liquid Styptic” still retained a
clear fluid near the top, but there was a chunk of white sediment in
the bottom. The others were completely empty. Those stoppered
with cork, Scully postulated, had evaporated over time, leaving a
filmy residue on the inside. She could tell what some of them had
held because the brand name was embossed in the glass.
Listerine. The Bayer Company. Phillips Milk Of Magnesia on
bright blue glass. A half-pint milk bottle proclaimed “Fenn Dairy,
Kent, O.” The tiny gold and blue tin of “Colgate Talc for Men”
gave her a flashback to her Grandfather Scully’s bathroom shelf,
with the bottle of Old Spice aftershave, powder tin, and the razor
strop hanging on a hook from the side. Thinking how fascinated
her mother would be by these pieces of the past, Scully turned
next to the books.
What she had assumed was a small pamphlet turned out to be a
pack of needles. Labeled “The Polly Prim Needle Book,” it
advertised its German wares in glowing prose on the cover of a
protective envelope. “Price 50 cents.” From the weight of the
package, it appeared all the needles were still inside, too. Scully
set that aside in favor of the remaining items.
The first book she picked up was something she would have
expected to find in a drug store. A tattered, worn volume on
pharmacology, dated 1925. Scully wondered how the druggist
had managed to dispense his medicines properly if that was what
he’d been using until the store closed. She hoped it was left
behind because it was outdated and useless.
The next one wasn’t too surprising, either. Poisonous Plants of
the United States, by Walter Muenscher. The date on the title
page was 1939. It seemed logical that a pharmacist would need
to know about toxic plants. He would be second only to the family
doctor as the person a frantic parent would contact when Junior
nibbled on one of the houseplants.
The last book’s title caused both eyebrows to climb her forehead
in surprise. History of Magic, by Eliphas Levi. It looked like a
well-used volume, maybe even a first edition. The date inside was
1860. Mulder would flip when she told him.
Smoothing a hand over the old, shiny leather cover, she added
the book to her collection of odds and ends.
Closing the cupboard door caused a billow of dust that tickled her
into sneezing again. When an answering sneeze sounded behind
her, Scully jumped.
“If you’re hungry, there’s a deli down the block. I don’t think you’ll
find anything edible in there.” The voice belonged to a woman
Scully had noticed the previous day. She was playing the part of
Ophelia to David’s Hamlet. During the rehearsal, she’d seemed
young and innocent, with cascades of light blonde hair flowing
down her back. Here, close up, Scully could see the blonde was
mostly silver-gray. Outside her character, she appeared sturdy,
middle-aged, and down to earth. Pulling a pack of cigarettes out
of her shirt pocket, she offered it first to Scully.
“I’m Suzanne Bzialewski,” she said. “You’re Debbie, right?”
“Yeah, that’s me.” Scully declined the proffered smoke. “I was
just looking around. I, umm… I love old buildings. I was checking
out the cupboards to see if there were any old newspapers and
stuff left behind.”
Lighting a cigarette, the other woman took a deep drag. She blew
the smoke out one side of her mouth, away from Scully, for
politeness sake. “Find anything interesting?”
“Only if you like mouse bones and bobbie pins,” Scully lied.
Waving a hand in front of her face, she said, “It’s been a while
since anyone dusted.”
“Well, we’re only supposed to be here for a few months. Didn’t
seem like it was worth the time to swab the place out. The fridge
works and the counters are clean. That’s all any of them care
about.” Tamping out the stub of her cigarette, Suzanne said, “You
look like you could use some fresh air. Let’s go out back.”
Scully nodded and followed her through the back door. It was
situated next to the spiral stairs, with just enough room to get
between the two. The door opened onto a small rear yard, no
bigger than the inside of the store itself. The fenced yards of
neighboring buildings enclosed it on two sides, with a gate leading
out to an alley on the third. A few green shoots struggled out of
the ground along the rickety pickets, but they looked pale and
sickly, as if they never got enough sunlight. The grass was still
brown and lanky, matted down by the winter’s snow and not yet
recovered. It was obvious no one had tended the tiny space for a
long time. Scully shivered in the shadowy chill of the air. Drawing
in a deep lungful of the damp coolness felt good after all the dust.
“So, are you two an item?” Suzanne pulled out another cigarette
and lit it, flicking the match into a puddle, where it hissed. “You
Her question took Scully by surprise. “Umm, no, we’re not,” she
replied. “We just work together.” Well, that wasn’t a lie, at least.
“You’re kidding. You hang out with a gorgeous man like that and
you’re not doing him?”
Hoping Mulder wouldn’t choose that moment to come looking for
her and blow her cover story, Scully expanded on her falsehood.
“We’re just really good friends. Have been for years.”
Suzanne chuckled, grinding her half-finished smoke under her
shoe. “Honey, one of you is blind or gay or both. If I was twenty
years younger, I’d be swapping spit with him in a heartbeat.”
An evil imp in Scully’s mind was going to suggest that she give it a
try, but Suzanne’s next words blew the thought right out of her
“You heard about the deaths yet?”
Shoving chilled hands into her jeans pockets, Scully nodded.
“Yeah, we heard about them from David. It must be hard on
everyone, losing your friends that way.”
“Speaking for myself, they weren’t exactly friends, but they didn’t
deserve to die that way, either. I guess you just never know what
people will do when they’re depressed.”
Scully straightened, all attention. “They were depressed? David
didn’t seem to think so.”
“You’d have to be depressed to cut your own throat or drink
poison, don’t you think? Hell, I’ve been a bit down for a couple
weeks, too, but at least I haven’t tried to drown myself or anything.
In fact, I did everything I could *not* to drown when I fell into Lake
“You nearly drowned? When was that?”
“Last week. I was feeling antisocial, so I went out to Edgewater
Park. I thought sitting on the boulders along the shore and
watching the waves crashing would help. I hadn’t been there long
when I tumbled off the rock and fell into the lake. Damned cold it
was, too. I screeched like hell until a couple fishermen came and
hauled me out.”
Before Scully could assimilate what she’d heard and come up with
a comment, Suzanne pointed down the alley.
“Looks like they tracked the idiot down again.”
At the other end of the narrow passageway, Doug and Joe could
be seen approaching with Brian striding between them. Snatches
of Joe’s soothing assurances could be heard as the breeze tore
them from his lips and flung them down the alley.
“Let’s get back inside before Doug sees us,” Suzanne suggested.
“I don’t want to sit through another of his pissy speeches about not
wasting time that could be spent studying lines. He’s one of the
best at pulling together a production, but the man is an insensitive
Following her back through the door, Scully took time to wash off
the evidence of her snooping. When she met Mulder in the hall,
on his way toward the front of the store, he nodded as if nothing
had happened. She wondered where he’d been, but let it pass
and joined him in finding a place to sit.
When Doug and Joe walked in with a less agitated Brian, Mulder
and Scully were back in their seats, ready for rehearsal along with
the others. Peace reigned for a few hours as the understudies
gathered in groups to go over the parts they would play if
necessary. Mulder found himself relating more and more to the
Danish heir-apparent with the dysfunctional family life.
When Doug announced a supper break, the idea wasn’t as
appealing to Mulder as it might have been earlier in the day. After
losing his meager breakfast, he’d decided to skip lunch and felt
better for a while. But now, the butterflies were back. Mulder
hoped whatever bug he was coming down with would hurry up
and leave. Seeing Scully enter from the rear of the store, he
joined her in observing the departing company.
“So what did you find, Scully?”
Watching Doug toying with a dagger, she ignored Mulder’s curt
tone of voice. “Besides little piles of mouse bones? Just some
bottles and books.” She wiped her hands down the sides of her
smudged jeans, still trying to erase the spidery touch of long-
abandoned cobwebs. “Did you get any impressions of the other
actors while I was grubbing in the dirt?”
“Why do you want to know?”
His question took her by surprise. It wasn’t the words themselves
as much as the suspicion underlying them. Taking a good look at
him for the first time since she’d entered the room, Scully was
alarmed by the pallor of Mulder’s skin. His tongue snaked out,
giving his dry lips an absent lick. His eyes seemed to be darker
than usual, as though the pupils were dilated. She reached out to
touch his forehead, frowning as he flinched to one side.
“I was just wondering if you had any better luck than I did,” she
answered. “I was hoping you’d learned something that would
“Well you’re wasting your time,” Mulder stated. “There has to be
some kind of possession or occult spell at work here, and you’re
not going to find that rooting around in an empty store.”
She was going to debate his hypothesis, but her attention was
caught by David. He was backing away from Joe, expansive
gestures demonstrating some type of fencing move.
Unfortunately, neither man could see that he was backing toward
Doug, who stood facing in the opposite direction with the dagger
clasped behind his back, point outward. Scully opened her mouth
to shout a warning, already aware she would be too late.
The look of surprise on David’s face was mirrored on Doug’s.
They spun around to face each other, mouths working
soundlessly. The dagger dropped between them, tip glistening
red. David twisted to look at his back. He never completed the
move, collapsing to the floor at his director’s feet.
“What the hell happened?” Doug’s voice was several octaves
higher than usual. “It was a prop dagger. How did he hurt himself
on a prop dagger?”
Rushing over to the fallen actor, Scully was vaguely aware of
Mulder picking up the weapon with a hanky while Doug continued
to babble to no one in particular. Ripping open the back of David’s
shirt, she was relieved to find a deep gash, rather than a stab
wound. Checking the one eye she could see, his dilated pupil
coupled with the pale, dry skin gave her pause. There was
something going on here. She just hoped she would be able to
figure out what before someone else was seriously hurt.
“It’s okay, Doug,” she interrupted his confused ranting. “I’ve had
first aid training. It just looks like a bad cut to me, but we should
probably get him to the hospital. I think he’s in shock and he’ll need
The few people left in the room divied up the jobs of calling an
ambulance, calling David’s mother, and helping Scully to bandage
his wound. In all the activity, she never noticed Mulder as he
stood in a dark corner, watching her with glowering eyes.
Forgac Collision and Towing
“There’s something in that store, Scully. I know it.”
“Mulder, I don’t think it’s anything paranormal or –”
“What about David? You saw what happened to him.”
“He walked backward without looking where he was going. It was
an accident –”
“Now he’s home for a week with stitches and *I’m* stuck having to
learn three major parts. You don’t see anything unusual about
“All I see is Doug using the person with the best memory for a
very difficult part –”
“Maybe it’s Doug, after all. Maybe there’s more going on within
the company than we’ve seen so far. We need to do some
background checks and –”
He stopped the frenetic pacing and turned startled eyes on his
“Settle down. We’ve been going around in circles without saying
anything new. Let’s take a break for a while.”
“I’m fine, Scully.”
“No, you’re not. You’re tired and so am I. We already gave our
statements to the police, we’ve gone over all the evidence — again
— now it’s time to step back for a little bit.” Scully picked up her
script from the coffee table. “Why don’t we go over some of
Hamlet’s lines, since you’re stuck with him?”
“With any luck, we won’t be here long enough for it to matter.
We’re not really actors, you know.”
“All the more reason to keep our cover intact.” She flipped the
pages, past her own meager part, highlighted in pink. “Why don’t
we go over the ‘to be or not to be’ speech?”
“Everybody does that one. Let’s do the scene after it. You can
read Ophelia’s part; find out what it’s like to have good lines for a
“Gee, thanks, Mulder. You want to look the script over first?”
“I’ve already read it. You can prompt me when I get lost.”
“Okay. Start with ‘Soft you now’.”
Closing his eyes, Mulder drew in a deep, calming breath and let it
out slowly. He opened his eyes, and began.
“‘Soft you now, the fair Ophelia. Nymph, in thy orisons be all my
“‘Good my lord, how does your honor for this many a day?'”
“‘I humbly thank you, well, well.'”
“‘My lord, I have remembrances of yours that I have longed long to
redeliver.’ Mulder, does that make sense to you?”
“What? Does what make sense?”
“‘Longed long.’ It sounds funny.”
“It just means that she’s been wanting to do it for a while. Go on.”
“Oh. Ummm, ‘I pray you now receive them.'”
“‘No, not I, I never gave you aught.'”
“‘My honor’d lord, you know right well you did, and with them
words of so sweet breath compos’d as made these things more
rich. Their perfume lost, take these again, for to the noble mind,
rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. There, my lord.'”
“‘Ha! Are you honest?”
“‘Are you fair?'”
“‘What means your lordship?'”
“‘That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no
discourse to your beauty.'”
“‘Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with
“‘Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty
from what it is to a bawd than the force of truth can translate
beauty into his likeness. This was sometime — ‘”
“‘Than the force of honesty,’ Mulder.”
“Huh? Scully, what is it?”
“You said ‘than the force of truth.’ The line is ‘than the force of
honesty.’ Why don’t you pick it up from there?”
“Yeah. Uh… ‘than the force of *honesty* can translate beauty into
his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time
gives it proof. I did love you once.'”
“‘Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.'”
“‘You should not have believ’d me, for virtue cannot so inoculate
our old stock but we shall relish of it. I lov’d you not.'”
“‘I was the more deceiv’d.'”
“‘Get thee to a nunn’ry, why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?
I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such
things that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than
I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or
time to act them in. What should such fellows –‘”
“Mulder, calm down. There’s no need to shout.”
“I wasn’t shouting.”
“Yes you were. You still are.”
“I’m just doing what Hamlet would do. Isn’t that the point of
rehearsing a scene? Now are we going to do this or not?”
“Okay, okay. Go ahead and start again from ‘what should such
fellows as I.'”
“Well quit interrupting so we can get through this. ‘What should
such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are
arrant knaves, believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunn’ry.
Where’s your father?'”
“‘At home, my lord.'”
“‘Let the doors by shut upon him, that he may play the fool no
where but in his own house. Farewell.'”
“‘O, help him, you sweet heavens!'”
“‘If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou
as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.
Get thee to a nunn’ry, farewell. –‘”
“‘– Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know
well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunn’ry, go,
and quickly, too. Farewell.'”
“…………. Oh! Uh, ‘Heavenly powers, restore him!'”
“‘I have heard of your paintings, well enough. God hath given you
one face and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble,
and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your
wantonness ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on’t, it hath made me
mad. I say we shall have no more marriage. Those that are
married already, (all but one) shall live, the rest shall keep as they
are. To a nunn’ry, go.'”
“‘O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!'”
The slamming door made Scully jump, dropping the script. She
stared in surprise at the dust motes swirling in the wake of her
Mulder’s heart pounded against his ribs as he dodged through the
trees, branches whipping his face until it stung. Watery moonlight
gave just enough illumination to keep him from running head first
into anything. The wind whistled and howled around his ears,
making the leaves perform a dervish dance. Doug Westler’s voice
chased him like a banshee in the night.
“It can’t be helped. You’ll have to be Hamlet until David comes
“But that means I’ve got three major parts to learn.”
“It can’t be helped. Can’t be helped. Can’t be helped.”
The words echoed inside his head. He didn’t want to be Hamlet.
He couldn’t be. There was no rational reason for the fear that
welled up inside him. Mulder just knew if he took on this new
character, it would mean his death. So he ran for his life. As hard
as he could.
Bursting into an opening in the forest, Mulder saw a thin figure just
ahead. It glowed with a greenish light, cadaverous and
nauseating. Leaves gathered around it, shaping themselves into
faces he recognized, then falling to the forest floor before rising up
to refashion themselves. Skidding to a stop, he stared for several
moments at the still form, willing his feet to carry him forward.
“Mark me.” The words blew apart in a wailing gust, thrown
towards him in pieces, insubstantial and doleful.
“Speak, I am bound to hear.” Unconscious steps took Mulder
closer, even as the vision appeared to approach without moving.
“I am thy father’s spirit, doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
and for the day confin’d to fast in fires, till the foul crimes done in
my days of nature are burnt and purg’d away.”
Mulder fell to his knees, tears coursing unheeded down his
The apparition floated closer. “List, list, O, list! If thou didst ever
thy dear father love –”
“Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
“Murder most foul, as in the best it is, but this most foul, strange,
Jumping to his feet, Mulder threw his arms wide, embracing the
shrieking wind and whirling leaves. “Help me to find them, so I
can make the bastards pay! Tell me how to avenge your death!
What should I do?”
The fearsome apparition began to grow, expanding until it blocked
the moonlight, becoming the only thing visible no matter where
Mulder looked. The wind had died, and all the leaves lay still at
his feet. The silence pressed on his eardrums as though he had
lost all ability to hear. Then, he saw the figure’s lips move, issuing
forth a phosphorescent cloud along with its words.
“Trust no one.”
Crunching footsteps in the leaves sounded directly behind him.
Mulder whirled as a hand touched his shoulder. He breathed a
sigh of relief to see Scully watching him with loving concern on her
face. Until she opened her mouth, and spoke.
“O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown.”
Jerking upright in bed, Mulder gasped cool air into his straining
lungs. His gaze jerked around the room, noting furniture, stove,
sink, in the red glow of the sign pulsing outside his window. The
damp sheets were tangled around his legs, preventing him from
getting out of bed as fast as he would have liked. Good thing
there was a wastebasket close at hand. Only this time, there was
nothing for his heaving stomach to expel.
“For mine own part — no offense to the general, nor any man of
quality — I hope to be sav’d.”
“And so do I too, lieutenant.”
“Ay; but by your leave, not before me; the lieutenant is to be sav’d
before the ancient. Let’s have no more of this; let’s to our affairs —
God forgive us our sins! — Gentlemen, let’s look to our business.
Do not think, gentlemen, that I am drunk: this is my ancient, this is
my right hand, and this is my left hand. I am not drunk now; I can
stand well enough, and I speak well enough.”
“Why, very well then; you must not think then that I am drunk.”
Standing to the far right of the open floor, Scully watched as
Mulder’s Cassio staggered off, stage left, followed by some of the
other men. If she hadn’t been sure he was sober, his pale face
would have given the impression of a hangover. Maybe he was
just hungry. All he’d had for breakfast was some tea after they’d
gotten to the rehearsal hall. Even on an empty stomach, his
perfect memory still was able to dredge up the appropriate dialogue.
Clutching her script pages, Scully waited for Desdemona’s cue.
On the other side of the temporary stage area, Mulder leaned
against the wall, trying to quell the churning in his stomach. It
wasn’t as bad since he’d tossed his cookies before rehearsal
started. At least Scully had been too busy to notice. He didn’t
need her fussing over a case of the flu when there were more
important things to concentrate on. Only, his jittery nerves were
making it a bit hard to concentrate on anything. He jumped when
a finger tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hi. We haven’t met, but I was watching you yesterday. I’m Tracy
A willowy woman with strawberry-blonde hair was standing a bit
too close for Mulder’s comfort, but he stuck out a hand in greeting.
“Michael Mulder. Just call me Mulder. Pleased to meet you.”
“I’m playing Bianca to your Cassio, you know.” Tracy licked her
lips and sidled closer, still holding his hand. Mulder pulled until
she released him and scooted further down the wall. She closed
the gap, leaning into his shoulder. “I was wondering if you’d like
to…go over our scenes together later.”
“I think we’ll be doing that in a little while, won’t we? I mean, we
are rehearsing those scenes today.” He watched as she licked
her lips again, her gaze fastened on his mouth as he spoke. He
twitched at the unexpected feel of fingers running up his ribs,
toward his chest.
“Yeah, we are,” she breathed in his ear. “But I was thinking of
something a little more…private.”
“Ummm…” Mulder would have found an answer in his muddled
brain if he hadn’t been distracted by Scully’s appearance on the
stage. He watched as Desdemona was gathered into the arms of
Othello’s understudy for a brief scene and led off stage again. A
jolt of suspicion rocked through his body as she seemed to remain
in the man’s arms a bit longer than necessary before stepping
back. He noticed her puzzled frown when she caught his eye.
Just then, Mulder felt long nails tickling up the side of his neck.
Tracy was breathing in his ear, again.
“Mulder, are you okay?” Scully asked.
“Yeah, Scully, thanks.” He’d missed seeing her approach. There
was more than just gratitude for the inquiry in his response. “My
stomach’s feeling better now.”
“Glad to hear it. Who’s your friend?”
Scooting out from under Tracy’s clinging hands, Mulder performed
the introductions, barely remembering to substitute Scully’s
undercover identity. “She’s doing Bianca in the play.” He
explained. “We were just talking about our parts.”
“I see.” The two women eyed each other like a couple of cats with
one catnip toy between them. Scully had a lot more experience at
intimidation, and Tracy backed down first.
“Why do you two call each other by your last names?” she huffed.
The blank look on Mulder’s face told Scully she would have to be
the one to improvise. “Well, the last troupe we were in already
had a Michael and a Debbie, so we started using our last names.
It sorta stuck.”
“Can I call you Michael, then?” Tracy had reentered Mulder’s
personal space, oblivious to Scully’s lowered brows. “You’re the
only one here.”
He scooted away from her again and bumped into his partner. “I
prefer Mulder. Michael makes me sound like an archangel and I
could never live up to the reputation.”
“I’d say it fits perfectly,” Tracy purred.
Scully had finally had enough. “Come on, Mulder. We’re breaking
for lunch.” She grabbed his arm, leading him away. Once they
were out of earshot, Mulder leaned over and spoke in her ear.
“I’m surprised you’re not having lunch with Othello instead of me.”
She skidded to a stop, causing a collision. “Where the hell did
that come from?”
“You seemed awfully chummy together earlier. I just figured you’d
be more interested in getting to know each other better.” Mulder
licked dry lips and wished he had a bottle of water for his parched
throat. The glare he was receiving dried up anything else he had
“I’m going to ignore that comment,” Scully said, “and we’ll just put
it down to whatever bug you seem to have picked up. Right now
we’re going to get some food, and then we’re going to go over the
case. If you want to practice your lines with Bimbo Bianca after
that, it’s up to you. For now, we’re working, and I expect you to
act like it.”
Wisely, Mulder kept his mouth shut as he followed her out of the
Having food in his stomach appeared to be just what the doctor
ordered. Mulder had started out with some soup and crackers at
lunch, and when that stayed down, making him feel a bit better,
he’d graduated to grilled chicken and a salad for supper.
He and Scully had gone over everything they knew, again, and it
still didn’t add up to anything they could grab onto. Mulder could
see the pattern, but they still had no idea of the causative factor.
Each of the actors had been killed in the same manner as one of
their characters, but why? The tox screens on the victims turned
up a foreign substance, but a different one in each case. Sean
Barliss was obvious — he’d drunk his grandmother’s eye drops,
which contained atropine. But Bill Yankovic had hyoscine in his
system, and Andrea Dixon showed traces of scopolamine. There
was something that nagged at him about that, but he couldn’t pin it
down. Poor Teresa Bates was playing the wrong character at the
wrong time. David Prohaska just appeared to be clumsy and not
watching where he was going. Mulder had left Scully at her laptop
in one of the dressing rooms, going over all the medical records
“Okay, people,” Doug Westler yelled. Voices quieted down and
everyone’s attention turned toward him. “The Othello rehearsal
went as well as could expected, but we need to do a bit of fight
choreography before we call it a night. Joe will go over the basic
moves. Remember, people, this is practice. Let’s keep the
maiming to a minimum.”
Doug gestured to Mulder and Brian, indicating that they would be
first. Taking a last gulp of his cooling tea, Mulder set it aside,
where it wouldn’t get kicked over. He wished Scully would hurry
up with her research. He was looking forward to showing her his
Choosing a sword, Mulder stepped into the middle of the floor,
watching as Brian did the same. He realized that they hadn’t seen
much of him since the previous day. Brian’s part in Othello wasn’t
big, so he hadn’t been needed during most of that day’s rehearsal.
Every time Mulder noticed him, he’d been sitting outside the circle
of actors, brows lowered as he glowered at nothing in particular.
But since he was playing Laertes to Mulder’s Hamlet, they were
going to need to work on their swordplay to avoid injury. Shaking
off a sudden mild dizziness, Mulder managed to clear his eyes
enough so he could see what Joe was demonstrating for their big
He really wished Scully would hurry up.
Swords clashed and clanged, making Scully’s ears ring before she
ever made it to the chairs set up around the perimeter of the room.
She chose a seat where she could watch the action with one eye
while her brain continued to shuffle the information she’d been
absorbing. There was a tiny fact she should be able to
understand, even with the distraction of the sword play going on in
front of her. Something about the tox screens — atropine,
scopolamine, hyoscine… What was it about them? The shouted
directions from the makeshift stage broke through her
concentration at last.
“Brian, this is just a practice. Settle down and follow the
choreography before someone gets hurt.”
Joe’s words echoed in her ears as Scully focused all her attention
on the combatants. Both men were sweating as they twirled and
lunged at each other. For a rehearsal, they seemed to really be
going at it with a vengeance, even to her untrained eye. Mulder
appeared to be getting the worst of the attack, falling back in a
circular pattern as he parried the wild swipes of his opponent’s
“What scene are they rehearsing?” she whispered to Suzanne,
sitting next to her.
“The end of Hamlet, when Laertes and Hamlet both die,” she
Suddenly, everything fell into place — the toxicology findings, the
flu-like symptoms and dehydration, Mulder’s strange behavior, the
unlikely theory of suicide — it all made sense. Scully’s gaze
whipped to Mulder’s face, watching the strain in his muscles as he
panted in exertion. He did a quick tuck and roll, bouncing to his
feet right in front of her, too focused on deflecting his opponent’s
sword to notice her presence. But she noticed something —
Mulder’s pupils were fully dilated. His eyes appeared black in his
pale, sweating face. As he spun around, Scully got a good look at
Brian. Ponytail swinging wildly, his eyes were just as dark as her
partner’s, his face equally pale. He wasn’t paying any attention to
Joe’s instructions or admonishments, but kept driving his enemy
back in a relentless attack.
He’s attacking, not just practicing, she realized. This isn’t make
believe to him. He’s trying to kill an enemy, not rehearse a scene.
“Quick!” Scully shouted. “How do they die?”
Several people turned puzzled faces her way, but it was Tracy
who answered. “Laertes scratches Hamlet with a poisoned sword,
then Hamlet takes the sword and scratches him back. They both
die from the same poison.”
As Brian’s blade whistled past her view, Scully jumped out of her
seat. She needed a way to stop the fight without anyone getting
hurt. Mulder was weakening and there wasn’t time to explain.
Launching herself at the combatants, Scully shouted over her
shoulder as she tackled her partner to the floor.
“Someone get Brian down and hold him there, but watch out for
his sword! There’s poison on the end.”
All hell broke loose as Doug and Joe jumped on Brian, wrestling
him face down on the floor with Joe planting his backside on
Brian’s sword arm for good measure.
“The devil take thy soul!” Brian’s Laertes shouted.
Mulder’s Hamlet hollered back, “O villainy! Ho, let the door be
lock’d! Treachery! Seek it out.”
While the two erstwhile enemies struggled to rise, screaming lines
from the play at each other, Scully held on as tight as she could
and prayed someone else would have the presence of mind to call
The exasperated tone of Mulder’s voice made Scully roll her eyes
in frustration. “Give the doctors a break. They just want to make
sure your system is clean. You were pretty loopy when we got
you here last night, you know.”
“Loopy schoompy. Tell me what the hell happened. Things were
a bit fuzzy toward the end.”
Swatting away the long fingers picking at the IV taped to his hand,
Scully perched on the bed. “A simple case of mass poisoning, I’m
afraid — with black henbane.”
“Where did it come from? I thought the old drug store was
“We’ll probably never know for sure,” Scully said, and sighed.
“The last druggist was run out of town when his neighbors
discovered he was practicing witchcraft and dispensing potions
along with his regular prescriptions. It was probably harmless, but
not very popular. I never got to tell you, but I found a very old
book on magic in the kitchen cupboards, along with others having
to do with pharmacology and poisonous plants. I didn’t think
anything of it at the time, but now it makes sense. Maybe he was
just trying to practice natural medicine and his customers took it
the wrong way. The store has been empty off and on ever since.”
A smile lit up Mulder’s face. “Did you know henbane was used in
witchcraft to give witches the hallucination of flying? In the
thirteenth century, it was believed that black henbane was used to
conjure demons. It was said if a man wanted to bring love, he
should gather it naked, early in the morning, while standing on one
foot — ” His lecture was stopped by his partner’s raised hand.
“Is that what you do on those morning runs of yours?” Scully
gestured toward the bedstand, where her laptop lay closed. “I
know what henbane was used for, Mulder. I’ve been doing some
research while you were sleeping off your high. Not only did it
give partakers hallucinations, it also made them more open to
suggestion. I think the people affected the worst were the ones
who identified with the characters they were playing. They started
to become that character, even going so far as to kill themselves
or others in the same manner as directed in the play.”
“And after two days of being inside the melancholy Dane, I started
to take on his mind set.” Mulder mulled that one over for a few
seconds before another thought occurred to him. “How come only
some of us were affected?”
“Because not everyone drank tea made at the store.” Scully held
up a small evidence bag with a handful of crumbled leaves inside.
“As far as I can determine, someone found a very old stash of
henbane leaves, probably left behind by that druggist. The others
seem to think it was Andrea who discovered it — she was very big
on tea drinking when she was sober. Mistaking the henbane for
something exotic, she mixed it in with some regular tea leaves and
proceeded to poison the company. After Andrea died, they just
took turns using her poisonous leaves to brew toxic tea.”
Mulder studied the bag at close range, fascinated by the whole
idea. “But henbane is pretty powerful stuff, Scully. We should
have been affected worse, or even killed outright.”
“I think we’re talking about really old leaves here, Mulder. Even
when dried, they retain the toxin, but after so many years, and
diluted with the normal tea, no one was getting too much at one
Handing back the evidence bag, Mulder squirmed in the bed,
trying to get more comfortable. “How is the rest of the company?
Were many others affected?”
“A third to maybe a half drank the mixture at some point, but all of
them reacted to differing degrees. I had blood samples taken
from everyone just to make sure.” Reaching around his
shoulders, Scully pulled the pillow up and patted it into place. “I
should have seen it sooner from the autopsy reports. Everyone
who died or was injured had either hyoscine, scopolamine, or
atropine in their system. All of them are present in henbane, but I
didn’t make the connection until it was almost too late. By then,
Brian was trying to scratch you with a poisoned sword because he
thought he was Laertes. The death of his sister just reinforced
that particular delusion.”
“Most of that sword fight is a big jumble to me, but I do seem to
remember being knocked down and pinned by a certain G-woman.
You couldn’t have seen anything on Brian’s sword. What
made you assume it was there?”
“I guess I’ve been spending too much time with you, Mulder.”
Scully’s grin pulled an answering one onto Mulder’s face.
“Actually, I’d found a few things left behind in odd corners of the
store. Nothing very interesting, beyond a classic book on
witchcraft, but there were some bottles of old medicines, too. That
should have tipped me off right away. But watching the two of you
attacking each other like you really meant it shook the pieces into
place. All of a sudden I realized that if Laertes killed Hamlet with a
poisoned sword, and Brian thought he was Laertes and you were
“Then he’d try to do the same thing to me. What was on the
Mulder whistled. “How did he get something like that?”
“He probably found it in one of the cupboards before we got here.
Already immersed in his role as Laertes, he must have figured
he’d need it at some point to take out Hamlet.”
“Which would have been David, if he hadn’t already been hurt.”
Mulder tugged on his lower lip as he slotted everything into place
in his mind. “So Bill thought he was Othello and strangled
Teresa/Desdemona, then killed himself. Just like in the play.
Sean, thinking he was Romeo, tried to poison himself with
atropine, which just happened to be the same thing he was
already ingesting. And Andrea stabbed herself like Juliet, maybe
set off by Sean’s poisoning. And it was all a huge mistake in the
Scully caught his gaze and smirked. “Tracy Griffith sends her
apologies, by the way. She’s actually engaged to be married and
has no idea why she was hitting on you like that.”
He smirked back. “Because she was Bianca and I was Cassio.
But I don’t understand about David. He doesn’t fit the pattern, yet
he was hurt.”
“Actually, he fit the pattern, too. I’m certain his tox screen will turn
up positive. He was playing Roderigo, the spy for Iago. He fit
right into the role of the spy’s spy — for us. We just didn’t realize it
because we’d never seen him act any other way. But in the play,
Roderigo is stabbed by Iago, who was being played by Doug
Mulder nodded. “And Doug was the one holding the knife when
David was cut. Are you planning to charge Doug?”
“We both saw it, Mulder. David backed into the knife. Doug was
just as surprised as we were. I don’t know how it happened, but I
think it was just an amazing coincidence.”
“So when can I get out of here and go sightseeing, Scully?” he
asked, changing the subject.
“I told you — tomorrow. And we’re going straight back to
Washington so we can report to Skinner.”
“But tomorrow’s Wednesday. That gives us four days to enjoy
springtime in beautiful Northeast Ohio.” He tried to keep his
expression bland, but she saw through it immediately.
“I know what you’re thinking, Mulder, and the answer is no.”
“Awww, Scully. I haven’t been to Cleveland since it opened.
Can’t we at least stay one extra day? I’m sure we could get some
vacation time if you told Skinner I wasn’t ready for work.”
Fists planted on her hips, Scully trained her most uncompromising
frown on her hopeful partner. “Mulder, you are not dragging me
through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
“Did I mention that the Great Lakes Science Center is right next
door?” Mulder’s eyebrows waggled enthusiastically. “Hands-on
exhibits…OmniMax giant screen theater…lots of scientific stuff.
And they have some incredible shops in Tower City Center
downtown. Even a whole Godiva chocolate store. I heard some
nurses talking about it this morning.”
“Well…” Scully knew it was already a losing battle.
“We’ll get a nice hotel room downtown, my treat. Check out the
Cleveland Art Museum…the Natural History Museum…find out if
the Cleveland Orchestra’s at home. We could even take a
midnight stroll through a cemetery before retiring to our hotel and
some of those funky monkeyshines we didn’t get to the other
The look of optimistic excitement on his face had Scully biting
back a chuckle. “Maybe we *could* stay for a day or two. Just
long enough to make sure you’re recovered for the flight home.
But you sing even one note of Blue Suede Shoes, and I’m kicking
your butt all the way back to DC.”
“Scully! You know what I like!”
Author’s Notes: I guess you can tell that I like Billy Shakespeare.
If you’ve never had the pleasure, you should treat yourself to
some of the best drama on the planet. The particular productions
I kept in my mind while writing this story are as follows:
Hamlet – BBC Production 1981 – starring Derek Jacobi and Patrick
Stewart (not easy to find – check with your county library’s video
Hamlet – Castlerock Entertainment 1996 – starring Kenneth
Branagh and Derek Jacobi
Othello – (1980 I think) – starring Laurence Olivier, Frank Finley,
and Derek Jacobi (So I like Sir Derek – bite me)
Romeo & Juliet – BBC audio recording – Renaissance Theater
production – starring Kenneth Branagh and Samantha Bond (and
Derek Jacobi as Mercutio!)
My undying thanks to all these wonderful actors for making the
immortal Bard’s words alive and understandable. I never tire of
hearing their stories.
Feedback on this or any of my other stories gratefully accepted
and worshipped at email@example.com