Halloween Special Episode
TITLE: Deputy Dan
AUTHOR: Vickie Moseley
Category: V, X
SPOILERS: nothing through VS 11
SUMMARY:It’s Halloween night and Mulder and Scully get caught up in a manhunt.
DISCLAIMER: No copyright in-fringement intended.
DISTRIBUTION: Written for Virtual Seaosn 12 with ex-clusive rights for two weeks. Thanks: To Lisa for speedy beta.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Trick or Treatise
College Park, Md.
As the heavy oak door swung open, Mulder was somewhat disconcerted to find himself nose-to-nose with a Neanderthal.
Actually, shoulder-to-scalp. A particularly hairy scalp, in fact – one that extended halway onto his broad forehead. The diminutive hominid stared curiously up at the FBI agents from under his thick brow ridge, then reached out toward Scully. Scully gasped.
Then Mulder inspected the caveman’s casual wardrobe – – a short-sleeved white shirt, cerulean blue pants, and large, clunky dress shoes. As Spiderman and President George Walker Bush rushed down the sidewalk in front of the Ericksson home, bags rattling with Halloween confections, he laughed in relief.
“Sam, I’m quite certain Agents Mulder and Scully have no ‘treats’ for you this evening,” a cultivated voice sighed from the foyer beyond. Dr. Roald Eriksson placed long, lab-bleached fingers on the Neanderthal’s shoulder.
Even under his thick, disturbingly creative features, the boy’s eyes registered disappointment. He muttered something, and Scully finally smiled with unrequited maternal fondness.
“You’re quite early,” Ericksson told the agents on his doorstep, with a slightly admonishing smile. He turned slightly. “Hannah, I believe our young protohominid is ready to prowl the neighborhood for stray squirrels and the odd candy apple. Happy Halloweening.”
Hannah Ericksson, a lanky, pale-faced woman, materialized, favoring her husband with an annoyed glance. She sighed as if she were about to eat grubs on reality TV, and took Sam’s hand. In the other, he tightly grasped a balding plastic figure dressed precisely like Sam.
“Analysis of faunal remains and of stone and bone tools has suggested hunting of medium to large mammals was a major element of Neanderthal subsistence,” the professor explained as his wife ushered their young caveman down the walk.”The species would hardly survive on our politically correct little campus — findings in Croatia and Western Europe indicate they were aggressive carnivores who derived almost all their nutrition from meat. The local PETA chapter — of which Hannah is a quite vocal proponent — would choke on their mung beans. In fact, she’s on home sabbatical this semester, preparing a paper on what she believes — or hopes — to be Homo sapiens’ genetic propensity toward vegetarianism.”
Ericksson smiled dryly at his guests. “But you didn’t come here tonight to hear me discourse on paleoanthropology, did you? How do you like young Sam’s choice of Halloween trickery, by the way? First-class make-up job, eh?”
“Homer neanderthalensis,” Mulder chuckled. “I recognized the Simpsonian wardrobe.”
“Yes, Sam came up with the idea after watching a documentary on Homo neanderthalis, Neanderthal man, that is,” Ericksson mused, impressed. “Agent Mulder, you are well-grounded in both science and the popular culture — a renaissance man, indeed. Oh, I’m sorry – – please come in, before we’re all pelted with eggs or toilet paper.
“To Hannah’s chagrin, Sam has become quite addicted to The Simpsons. The show’s in syndication nearly five times a day around here, and my wife has threatened to block every channel except PBS. What would you expect? She’s a geneticist with no eye toward human foible or folly. Personally, I find The Simpsons a quite effective primer on social anthropology. Homer Simpson is an apt And, of course, puerum ero puerum.”
“Boys will be boys,” Scully translated as he led the pair to a darkly paneled den populated with succulent leathers and ancient artifacts.
Ericksson’s bushy gray brows rose. “My, you two certainly don’t fit my stereotypical view of law enforcement. We sometimes become a bit myopic here in academia.”
“Agent Scully’s a forensic pathologist, as well as a heck of a song stylist,” Mulder said. “Professor, Chuck Burks told me you were an expert on ancient rituals and rites. Specifically, sacrificial rites.”
“Ah, Dr. Burks,” the anthropologist chuckled at the thought of his eccentric University of Maryland colleague. “Yes, in fact, I recently published a treatise on contemporary society’s adoption of primitive rituals in sports, funereal customs, career advancement, even in sexual courtship. My publisher titled it The Neanderthal Within, and is trying to pitch me as Dr. Phil without the mesquite-grilled accent. Dreadful title, but far more marketable than Race Memory and Subconscious Expression of Atavistic Behaviors.”
“Maybe if you got Denzel Washington to star,” Mulder suggested. “Professor Ericksson, have you been keeping up with The Fireman case?”
“Atavistic violence at its worst,” the professor sighed, sobering and lowering himself into a leather office chair. Mulder and Scully took the Barcelona chairs before him. “Has there been a new victim?”
“We’ve had few leads on the original five murders,” Scully supplied. “Although it’s been six months since the last killing, we have no reason to believe The Fireman couldn’t begin a fresh cycle of murders.”
Ericksson nodded. “It’s no surprise to me that the serial killer has become such a fixture in the modern world. It’s race memory — genetic memory — pushing through our technologized, sophisticated society like a blade of grass through concrete. You may not know, or perhaps you do, that Halloween’s origins date back to an ancient Celtic festival originally held on November 1, their new year. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death.
“The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated… Well, the name seems to have slipped my mind, but on this night, they believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.”
“Much like The Fireman,” Scully reflected. “Each of the five victims was positioned by a huge bonfire assembled from any wooden objects the killer could locate. Non-sexual serial killers aren’t normally aren’t that opportunistic — they plan; they bring their weapons and any fetishes or ‘souvenirs’ they plan to leave at the scene.”
“Unless,” Ericksson mulled, “the killer’s destruction of the victim’s belongings is symbolic — perhaps a way of murdering the victims even after they’re dead, perhaps a post-mortem ritual of some sort, for the victims’ souls.”
“Pretty complex for a killer who virtually tears his victims to pieces,” Mulder suggested. “Five random victims from within a five-mile radius of the U of M campus, with nothing in common socially, economically, culturally, religiously, or racially. All five attacked at night — three outside their homes, one in a grocery parking lot while leaving work, and one coming home from the neighborhood bar on a Friday night. Then, after mauling the victims like some kind of animal, the killer painstakingly builds a bonfire near each corpse. It’s almost like two killers are at work here — a homicidal maniac and a ritualistic murderer.”
Ericksson’s long fingers formed a steeple. “Have you considered the possibility that there are — were — two individuals involved in these murders? This ‘maniac,’ as you call him, who savages these unfortunate souls, and an accomplice — maybe an unwilling party to the killings, perhaps the instigator of the madman’s actions — who sets these bonfires. The ritual could be designed to cleanse the killers of their sins, or the victims may be sacrifices and the bonfire a culminating ceremony. The funeral pyre — ritualistic cremation — is a common feature of cultures from the Pacific Islands and India to Native America and even my ancestors’ own Scandinavia.”
“But, as you said, those rites involve cremation,” Mulder noted. “Do you know of any cultures that burn their deceased’s belongings?”
Ericksson sighed, looking to the vaulted ceiling of his study. “Well, the gypsies of central France, the Manusthey burn or discard the deceased’s belongings, refrain from eating the dead person’s favorite foods, and avoid camping in the place where he or she died. They don’t even speak of their dead.”
“The ultimate form of denial,” Mulder smiled. “The killer, or the killer’s accomplice, tries to obliterate the victim’s existence by wiping out their home furnishings. You seen any gypsy wagons circling the area over the past several months, Professor?”
“Cultural stereotyping,” Ericksson chided, a slight grin tweaking his thin lips. “That won’t be tolerated on our politically correct campus.”
Mulder ducked his head. “Sorry. Let me ask you, Professor — have you had any anthro students over the past few years who’ve seemed obsessed with funereal rituals, perhaps even satanic rituals?”
“Satanic rituals,” the scientist laughed, shaking his head. “Are we so desperate that we’re falling back on teenage Satanism? No, Agents — I’m afraid it’s increasingly difficult just to engage my students at any time outside mid-terms and finals, much less spark the fire of homicidal intellectual curiosity. I’m not being of much help here, am I? After all, I was on sabbatical in Greenland at the time of three of those five murders.”
Scully’s smile was polite as she rose. “Actually, Professor, you’ve provided us at least a few fresh lines of inquiry we can check into. We’ll let you celebrate the rest of your Halloween.” The smile widened. “Please give your wife and the little Neanderthal our regards.”
“Absolutely,” Ericksson said. “The next time you come, you must bring a treat or two for Sam. Something healthy, please, or Hannah will have you disemboweled by a coven of student activists.”
Mulder extended his hand to the anthropologist. “By the way, the Neanderthals — did they use fire rituals? Just curious.”
Ericksson paused. “Actually, despite the simplistic depictions of cavemen in sabretooth rags we see in film, François Rouzaud of the French archaeological service suggested Neanderthals were more sophisticated in their use of fire than we’d previously believed. A burnt bear bone found deep in a cave in southern France would appear to indicate they used fire for light as well as to cook their meat. They were known to build simple hearths to build their fires. Ritualistic bonfires, I don’t know. Some of my colleagues have suggested, though, that by adapting fire to cook animals, the Neanderthals may have provided Homo sapiens, modern man, the improved protein necessary to his own evolution and development.”
“Ironic that in all probability, the Neanderthal ultimately helped man wipe him from the face of the Earth,” Mulder observed, staring intently into Ericksson’s face. “From the research I’ve read, Homo sapiens’ treatment of the Neanderthal was akin to racial genocide.”
Ericksson nodded thoughtfully. “That’s one theory. Hatred and fear may well be the purest manifestations of genetic memory, Agent Mulder.” He smiled, suddenly. “Read my book — God knows, I could use the supplemental income.”
“OK, Mulder,” Scully prompted after five minutes at the curb. “Put the key in the ignition, turn it, shift into Drive, and let’s get home in time to catch Fright Night on AMC.”
Mulder’s eyes didn’t leave the Tudor-style face of the Erickssons’ off-campus home. They were a half- block away from the professor’s house, and he’d just put away his PDA after a flurry of cyberspace activity. “I think we’ve solved the Fireman murders.”
Scully turned abruptly. “Professor Ericksson. But, Mulder, as the professor himself pointed out, he had a perfect, transcontinental alibi for the killings. Beyond his excursion to Greenland, he was at a faculty party the night of the first murder. We established that after we found the lighter.”
The gold lighter, inscribed to Dr. Raold Ericksson from the University of Maryland no doubt in the days before such a gift would have considered politically incorrect, was merely one piece of The Fireman puzzle the FBI had not leaked to the public. The primaries on the second murder had stealthily checked Ericksson’s whereabouts during the initial two homicides and concluded the lighter had been stolen.
The fingerprint lifted from the item matched neither the professor or his wife, who’d been printed while conducting federally funded research, nor anyone else in the national felony, military, or law enforcement databases. It was believed the instrument had been used to set the Fireman’s signature bonfires.
“Oh, no,” Mulder responded. “I think Prof. Ericksson’s all theory and no practice. But I believe he knows everything and maybe even feels responsible for the killings.”
He could feel Scully’s brow rise even in the semi- darkness. “You got all this from that anthropological snorefest in there.”
“He was giving me clues. Ericksson was subconsciously trying to explain why those people were murdered and those bonfires set. You remember, when we were investigating Ericksson’s possible involvement in the murders, we came across that flap he’d had with the Department of Ag?”
“The APHIS people detained him at Ronald Reagan after his expedition to the Arctic Circle,” Scully recalled. “They wanted to confiscate some tissue samples he and his wife had collected. The university intervened, and everyone went their own way.”
“I always wondered what kind of tissue samples Ericksson might’ve found in the Arctic wasteland,” Mulder said. “What if he’d found a specimen sealed in the ice up there, and brought back a sample?”
“Mulder, if Ericksson and his wife had made some incredible discovery, don’t you think they’d have told the world? Modern researchers survive on their next article, their next book, that next big discovery.”
“But what if they were onto something bigger, Scully? Think about it. Hannah Ericksson is a geneticist. Roald Ericksson is an anthropologist who’s devoted his life to unlocking the secrets of race memory. What would be the crowning touch for both of their academic careers?”
Scully’s mouth opened, then clapped shut. She slumped back in the passenger seat. “You can’t be saying…”
Mulder bolted upright. “Scully, here they come. Lock and load.”
Scully spotted Hannah Ericksson rapidly striding back toward her house, dragging Sam by the hand. He stumbled to keep up.
“Notice anything odd?” Mulder asked. “C’mon, Scully; there still must be a little girl dwelling inside your little body.”
She peered past Madonna, John Kerry, the Incredible Hulk, an outsized block of Swiss cheese, and two bedsheet ghosts, at the Erickssons. She did a double- take as she glanced back at the trick-or-treaters.
“No bag,” she murmured.
“I noticed it as they were leaving. What respectable Halloweener ventures forth without a place to store their loot?” Mulder stared at the pair as they hastily turned up the Ericksson’s walk. “I doubt the professors have ever so much as soaped a window or corned a porch. The holiday merely provided them a golden opportunity.”
“An opportunity to do what?”
“To transport Sam,” Mulder said. “My guess is the Erickssons at some point were forced to move him into their home from wherever he’d been stowed, and then desperately searched for a chance to slip him out. Halloween was the one time when he could walk the dark streets without drawing undue attention. Unfortunately for their plan, we showed up early, Sam got away from his ‘parents,’ and Roald and Hannah were forced to wing it. She had to wait ‘til we left the house to come back and take Sam for a ride to his new home.”
“Mulder, this is just impossible,” Scully breathed, holding her temple. “Even if this is what you say it is — he is — he hardly looks like he could inflict the kind of damage that was done to those victims.”
“Sam isn’t The Fireman.” Mulder pulled his sidearm, flicked off the dome light switch, and opened his door. Scully, too flustered to object, drew her weapon and followed him toward the Ericksson’s.
“What ‘clues’ did Ericksson drop?” Scully whispered loudly.
Mulder stopped momentarily behind an oak. “You believe Roald Ericksson is the type of man who’s ever forgotten one morsel of anthropological data? Yet on Halloween, he conveniently forgets the Celts called their holiday of the dead Sowrin.”
“Sowrin? So what?”
“Celtic pronunciation, Scully. It’s spelled S-A-M-H- A-I-N.”
“Roald was forced to come up with a name, and with trick-or-treaters on the rampage and carved squashes on every windowsill, his anthropological subconscious was focused on Samhain. And that tipped me to the murderer’s motive and his reason for setting those bonfires. Back, Scully! Somebody’s coming out.”
Even in the dark, at their distance, the agents could see the anxiety etched on Roald’s face as he jogged to his Volvo in the driveway and popped the trunk. He threw a large gym bag into the sedan and slammed the lid, jumping at the clatter it caused.
“Now, Scully,” Mulder snapped, mobilizing. Scully, speechless, followed. They reached Ericksson just before the front stoop, and Mulder planted his gun in the back of his neck. “Quiet, Professor.”
“She didn’t, we didn’t…” Roald whimpered.
“Shhh.” Mulder steered him up the steps, and Roald turned the knob.
“ROALD, DOWN!!” the scream was shrill, panicked, not at all in keeping with the pallid intellectual they’d met earlier. Roald tensed as he stared in horror at his wife down the hall, leveling a huge pistol at the doorway.
“No, Hannah!” he shrieked. “You despise guns!”
“Drop it, Dr. Ericksson!” Mulder bellowed. “Now!”
“Get DOWN, you worthless social scientist!” Hannah growled.
The voice was slightly guttural, faintly alien, but nonetheless childlike. Hannah turned toward “Sam,” who had stepped out of the living and directly into the line of fire. The geneticist’s face drained of all color, and she looked up, terrified, at the agents holding her at bay.
Then, she made a decision, crouching slowly and sliding the gun past the boy. It stopped short of Mulder’s shoe, and Scully scooped it up.
“It was the first one, wasn’t it?” Mulder inquired gently as he moved in on Hannah. “Your first try. Roald’s genetic memory was just too strong in him, wasn’t it?”
“I’d failed to build in any safeguards,” Hannah said tonelessly. “He got away — almost killed us. Then, when the first murder occurred, we knew it had to be him.”
“When you cloned the Neanderthal tissue you’d taken from that body in the Arctic, you reproduced a species brimming with genetically ingrained hatred for Man. Ironically, Prof. Ericksson, you proved your own theories, at the cost of five lives.”
Roald, slumped against the front door jamb, shook his head.
Mulder continued. “What happened to him? Is he still out there?”
Roald laughed harshly. “What ‘happened’ was the same thing that may have helped speed Neanderthalensis’ extinction millennia ago. We finally tracked him to a state park where there’d been some unexplained deer attacks. His genetic training had finally convinced him to leave Man’s dominion. But Homo sapiens had done its work. He’d caught, of all things, the common cold, without any natural immunity to fight it off. He died on the way back to the lab. I’ll take you to the body, if you wish.”
Mulder turned to his wife. “But you couldn’t let it stop there, could you, Doctor?”
Hannah, defeated, looked bleakly up at him. “I knew I could turn off some of the genetic receptors for aggression. This was too important. Do you have any idea how many species disappear from the Earth every day? I was on the verge of restoring one. Then we had a brush fire near our summer home, and we had no choice but to bring him here. He’s no danger.”
“We can’t take that on faith,” Scully sighed, regarding the young Neanderthal looking curiously between the sad and defeated adults. “We’ll do everything we can to safeguard his best interests, but we can’t take any risks.”
Hannah nodded and dropped to her knees. “Sam”s eyes brightened, and he rushed into her arms.
Scully turned from the odd family tableau to a thoughtful Mulder. “So why the bonfires?”
“Racial memory again, Scully. The ancient Celts, every other civilization has them. Sometimes, we call them superstitions. It’s why Prof. Ericksson is so preoccupied with Samhain. He must’ve figured it all out.
“Like the Celts, our killer, his race, apparently believed in the blurry distinction between the living and the dead. I think the pyres were for protection against the victim’s vengeful spirits. In the end, history repeated itself when Prof. Ericksson negligently left his lighter lying around, and the result for our Neanderthal was the same as it had been hundreds of thousands of years ago.”
“How did history repeat itself, Mulder?” Scully asked wearily.
“He discovered fire. And Man.”