Title: Crenshaw Mansion
Author: Vickie Moseley (teaser and story concept by Sally Bahnsen)
Summary: Investigating the disappearance of a Forestry employee, Mulder and
Scully stumble on a horrible secret that almost separates them forever.
Rating: clean enough for everyone
Written for Virtual Season 12
Archives: two weeks exclusive with VS 12, after that, yes
Disclaimer: I don’t own the Mansion, the state bought it a couple of years ago.
I don’t own Mulder and Scully, Carter keeps them chained in his attic. I do pay
taxes in this state, so I guess I’m part owner of Ferne Clyffe State Park (yes
that is the correct spelling) and as pretty as that place is, I’ll be happy with
that. No copyright infringement intended.
Dedicated: To Sally, for helping me hammer all this out. I love ya! Kisses
for Mary for lightning fast beta while packing for Media West. Big Chocolate
Mulders for Lisa, for finding shackles and carriages with tops. And for the
rest of the VSX crew, Donnaj, T, Martin — you guys keep me sane.
Author’s notes at the end.
It stood like a lone citadel high on a hill overlooking a patchwork quilt of
fields surrounding the small township of Gallatin County.
Tom Coleman steered the Forestry pick-up onto the access road leading to
Crenshaw Mansion, the back tires kicking up a spray of gravel as they fought for
traction on the steep driveway. “The sooner they get this place sealed, the
better.” He mumbled to himself.
Reaching the area proposed by local government for the new parking lot, he
veered to the right, coming to a stop outside the three-story building. A shiver
ran down his spine. Ever since he was a kid this place had given him the creeps.
Tall tales of ghosts and demons haunting the house had fed his vivid childish
imagination, filling his dreams with frightening images of giant black
poltergeists roaming the halls, their chain-linked feet scraping on wooden
floorboards as they cried for freedom. When his cell phone rang he jumped in
fright and threw himself against the driver’s door before realizing the only
danger he was likely to experience was from his girlfriend Beckie if he didn’t
make it home in time for dinner.
He flipped open his cell phone, feeling somewhat foolish at his over reaction.
“Hi, hon. One hour. I promise.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.” He could hear the smile in her voice, but
knew better than to be fooled into complacency by her easy going manner. Rebecca
Murphy’s gentle lilt could shift to that of a raving banshee in a matter of
seconds if pushed the wrong way. But Tom had a knack for heading her off at the
pass. She was beautiful when she was angry. Beautiful when smiling, asleep,
crying, laughing, and he was counting the days before he would make her his
“I swear, Beck, this is my last stop. I just gotta sign off at the office and
then I’ll be home. Get the fire started and the wine cooled, I’m practically on
“You better be.”
“I promise. Now, if you’ll stop yacking at me, I’ll be a lot quicker. See you
soon, I love you.”
“Love you, too. Be careful.”
He disconnected with a loopy grin plastered on his face. With some luck he’d
have the job finished within ten minutes and be home well inside the hour he’d
Pacing out the eastern perimeter, Tom checked his watch and smiled to himself.
He’d make it with time to spare, might even have time to stop on the way home
and surprise Beckie with a bunch of flowers. A small gesture to ease ruffled
feathers caused by too many late night budget and planning meetings to get the
proposed parking lot underway.
A sudden bolt of lightening split the early evening sky in two, followed
immediately by a loud clap of thunder. Tom peered at the dark clouds rolling in
from the north. If he didn’t get moving he was going to end up with a wet ass.
He pulled his jacket tighter around his body and lifted the collar to protect
his ears and neck from the squalling wind. He was within 20 or 30 yards of
finishing up when the first raindrops landed on his head. It was only seconds
before the heavens opened up dumping gallons of torrential rain from above.
Tom made a run for it. His pick-up was parked on the western side of the
building; he’d be soaked through before he could make it even half way there.
Sprinting hard, he took the steps leading to the old mansion two at a time
seeking shelter on the porch. The wind picked up, whipping his hair and tugging
at this jacket. Rain pelted underneath the eaves, giant drops creating a
horizontal sheet of water drumming against the front of the house and soaking
Tom to his skin. In desperation he grabbed at the door handle giving it an
experimental tug. To his surprise the door swung open, its creaking hinges
barely audible over the torrent of rain. He stepped through to the foyer,
slamming the door shut behind him and leaned against the solid oak, feeling it
rattling against his body as he fought to catch his breath.
Outside the storm raged sending another bolt of lightening arcing across the
sky, its brief illumination giving Tom a chance to check out his surroundings.
The foyer was a short rectangular shape, a small hallway leading to the back of
the house. Tom’s immediate thought was that the house seemed to be split in two
by some kind of time warp. On the left he saw a door and a staircase leading to
an upper level, its design every bit in keeping with architecture of the late
1800s. However, in stark contrast to the period style setting of left, the right
side was every bit as modern as the left was old. Tom could just make out a
single door opposite the staircase. But what really caught his attention was
the glow of light coming from the second floor.
That didn’t seem right. As far as he knew no one had lived in the old Crenshaw
mansion for years. It had become a popular tourist attraction both with locals
and visitors, hence the need for a new improved parking lot.
Slowly, he moved towards the staircase.
“Hello? Is anyone up there?” Apart from the howl of the wind he was greeted
“Hello!” He tried again, this time cautiously ascending the stairs one at a
time. Still there was no answer. “My name is Tom Coleman. I’m a Ranger with the
Forestry Service. Is anyone up there?”
Each step upwards emitted a long creak of protest from the stairs. Tom had never
been inside the house and quite frankly he was beginning to wish he wasn’t there
now. The hair on the back of his neck tingled and he could feel his heart
hammering against his chest.
When he finally reached the second floor he was greeted with a scene reminiscent
of an old western movie. It was as if he’d been transported back in time a
hundred and fifty years. The light that had been visible from the foyer was not
electric, but instead originated from a series of candelabras attached to the
walls on both sides of the hallway. The flames flickered almost to extinction
then flared to life again, as a gust of wind swept down the hallway.
“Hello! Is anyone there?” Tom made his way tentatively along the second floor,
another gust of wind blew through an open window at the end of the hallway
momentarily dousing the flames to almost nothing. Tom moved towards the window
intending to close it before the candles were snuffed out completely. He was
only a few feet from the window when he heard a noise behind him. Turning, his
eyes widened with shock and a scream caught in the back of his throat as a
wooden bat connected with his head. Tom slumped to the ground, blood oozing from
a cut just behind his left ear.
Act I Scene 1
The sun was shining brightly in the cloudless blue sky. If Mulder closed his
eyes, feeling the hot sun on his face, he could almost envision a summer’s day.
A strong gust of wind brought a flurry of dried oak leaves to swirl near his
face and brought him back to reality. It was still spring, even in far Southern
Illinois. The temperature was a ‘balmy’ 40 degrees and he shuddered inside his
charcoal suit coat when the gust brought that down closer to 20.
The house before him was impressive in the bright sunlight. It was painted red
and he wondered if it had always been red, even when first built. It gave off a
quality of opulence that was missing from the small towns and farm fields of
Gallatin County. A three-story manse, set on the very top of one of the tallest
hills, made for a curiosity, if not a tourist site. When the history of the
house was told, it held a natural, as well as unnatural, attraction.
Mulder fumbled in the pocket of his suit jacket and withdrew the brochure he’d
found at a rest stop on Interstate 24 on his way up from the Paducah, KY
airport. “Slave House”, the cover screamed in the old B movie poster font of
Vincent Price and Ed Wood features. The house before him was prominently
featured on the cover as well as a short summary. Inside, pictures of the
house, each floor, but particularly the third floor, spelled out the history of
the mansion. Owned by one John Crenshaw before and during the Civil War, the
house was once a stop on the reverse ‘Underground Railway’. Instead of helping
slaves escape their captors and find freedom in the northern states, this house
was a collecting station for runaways who were then returned to their captivity
in the south. Mulder was just beginning to read when his cell phone trilled in
his pocket. He took note of the ring tone, ‘Walking in Memphis’ and smiled.
“Hey Scully,” he said affably as he answered. “How goes the autopsy?”
“That’s why I’m calling. I may be a while. When does my plane leave?”
He glanced at his watch. “2:45. The best Kim could do was to get you on a
flight into Evansville, Indiana, but it’s not a far drive. We end up with two
rental cars that way.”
“Mulder, why don’t you pick me up? Or can’t you tear yourself away from the
ghosts in the attic?” she teased lightly.
“Yeah, I could, you’re right. But I did want to look around a bit. Wait till
you see this place, Scully. It’s got a real Norman Bates feel to it,” he joked
“Just remember, we’re there to find a missing Forestry Service employee, not
find the ghosts of old slaves and slave owners,” she reminded him.
“I remember,” he said. “I left your ticket on the desk, under the blotter.
Give me a call when you get to the airport and I’ll pick you up.”
“You better be there, Mulder. If I end up stranded in Evansville, Indiana, for
any length of time, you will pay and pay dearly,” she warned.
The sound of tires on the gravel drive alerted Mulder to an approaching vehicle.
“I gotta run, Scully. I think the locals just arrived.”
“Be nice, Mulder,” she warned.
“I’m always nice,” he shot back with a grin he knew she knew he was wearing.
“OK, be _nicer_ than usual,” she responded and his grin grew to encompass his
“Just hurry, Scully. It’s cold here without you.” Before she had a chance to
respond, or before either of them was forced to forego endearments because of
their very public locations, he disconnected the line. A US Department of
Interior Forestry Service truck pulled into the parking area and stopped next to
his rented Ford. Mulder stood by the white gate to the mansion and watched the
uniformed gentleman get out of the truck and come toward him.
“Folk Mulder?” called out the tall man, early 50s with a fringe of graying hair
sticking out under his dark green USFS cap.
“Fox, actually. Fox Mulder,” the agent corrected.
“Ah,” the man said with no apparent embarrassment. “Went to school with a guy
named Folk. No ‘Fox’, though,” he chuckled and held out his hand in greeting.
“Bob Miller, Forestry. Sure am glad you decided to make the trip.”
Mulder shook Miller’s hand firmly. “When Interior calls, the FBI really doesn’t
have much choice, does it?”
Miller snorted and looked away. “That’s what I thought, till I talked to those
deadheads up in Springfield. Seems none of the regional offices wanted to claim
jurisdiction,” he said around a stream of tobacco juice that he managed to spit
a few feet from Mulder’s shoes.
“Well, I’m here now and my partner will be joining us as soon as she can get
away from DC. Why don’t you fill me in on the disappearance.”
“Sure. Let’s go on up to the porch,” Miller said and opened the gate, walking
fast. Mulder had little trouble catching up.
“House has been in private ownership since it was built. Crenshaw, that’s John
Crenshaw, built it back in the 1830s. He made his money in the salt fields,
just down by the river. But his real money, folks believe, came from returning
escaped slaves. ‘Course, there are no records of that, but that’s not unusual,
since Illinois joined the Union as a free state in 1818. Returning escaped
slaves was criminal activity in this state, even before the Civil War. Didn’t
mean it wasn’t lucrative, o’ course.”
They were standing on the front porch of the mansion. It ran the length of the
front of the building and reached above them to the second floor. “Slaves were
reportedly kept in the third floor attic, brought in during the night, held for
a while and then taken back across the river. Landings just a few miles to the
“And no one reported it?” Mulder asked with a smirk.
Miller returned the look. “Well, those were different times, I tell ya. But
no, no one reported him. Since he was a fairly respected businessman, most
people turned a blind eye. But there were some, mostly the abolitionist types,
who would have gladly handed him over to the authorities. Still, there were
never any charges. ‘Course, he did have some connections.”
“Political, I take it,” Mulder interjected.
Miller smiled broadly. “Why, Abe Lincoln himself was supposed to have stopped
right here and had dinner with the local party when he was making the run for
the White House.”
“I bet that’s a story that got around.”
“Not really. I think the Lincoln folks would just as soon hide that one under a
rug,” Miller smirked.
Hearing its sordid past, the wood frame and clapboard structure took on an
ominous feel. “The most recent owners lived here on the first floor and opened
the rest of the house up as a museum and tourist attraction. Did real well for
many years, since we’re right on US Route 45, the old main south road from
Chicago. But the new Interstates, 24 and 64, pretty much changed all that. And
the couple who owned it were getting up in years, were having trouble with the
maintenance of the place and got the state to buy it and make a ‘historic
“How did Forestry get involved?” Mulder asked, peering into one of the first
floor windows. There was nothing but gloom on the other side of the glass.
“This land is all part of the Shawnee National Forest,” Miller explained, making
a wide sweep of the surrounding hills with his hand. “We run fire towers, do
maintenance work on the roads. State asked us to look at that old parking lot
out there and see if we could chip in for a new paved lot. We do that sort of
thing from time to time, when the budget allows.”
“So we sent Tom, that’s Tom Coleman, over to check out the parking lot. Tom’s a
civil engineer, used to do highway work. Can look at a patch of dirt and tell
you exactly how much concrete it’ll take to cover it. Anyways, a storm came up,
as does in these parts, and we’re guessin’ Tom ran up on the porch. He didn’t
have a key, but when we came to look for him, the front door was wide open. We
found his footsteps, it was pretty muddy that day, all the way up the stairs to
the second floor. Then, they just disappear.”
“Tell me a little about Tom?” Mulder asked.
Miller’s eyes narrowed but he nodded in compliance. “Tom’s a good worker, top
notch. Got his engineering degree from Southern Illinois University, over in
Carbondale. He’s been with the Service now five years. He’s the most reliable
man on my crew, which is why I sent him over by himself to do this work. That,
plus, as I said, he used to do road work with IDOT in the summers when he was in
“Illinois Department of Transportation. He knows his stuff.”
“He’d have no reason to ‘just up and disappear’, then,” Mulder concluded.
“No sir.” Catching Mulder’s glance toward the windows, Miller shook his head.
“Tom just bought a house in Marion. I think he was getting ready to propose to
his girlfriend. She lives in Harrisburg — right shook up about him missing.”
Mulder felt a pang of guilt for pressing. He knew how ‘shook up’ someone’s
disappearance could make a person. Almost a decade had passed since Scully’s
disappearance and it still haunted his dreams. He was grateful that he could
wake up and pull her into his arms.
“Anyway, when he didn’t show up back at the office, me and another member of the
crew came over. Figured he had engine trouble with the truck. We found the
truck right here in the parking lot, and no sign of Tom. We called the Sheriff
and decided to see if we couldn’t find him around somewhere. The front door was
still open, so we went inside. Looked all over the place, just found the
footsteps. But . . .” The man hesitated and looked uncomfortable, failing to
meet Mulder’s questioning gaze.
“But what, Mr. Miller?” the agent prodded.
“Well, I don’t go in for all that spookster nonsense, mind ya. Oh, it’s great
for the tourists and all, but my feet are planted firmly on ole’ Terra Firma, if
you get my drift.”
“Sure, I understand,” Mulder consoled.
“But as we were looking on the second floor, just as we passed the stairs going
up to the third, well, damnedest thing . . .”
“Go on,” Mulder prodded.
“I swear I heard Tom’s voice. He was calling to me. But we’d searched the
third floor, the Sheriff had gone up there, too. There was nothing there.”
Miller took a deep breath. “I’ve lived in these parts all my life. I knew the
people who used to own this place, my younger brother went to high school with
their son. I’ve spent many a fall afternoon with my dogs hunting squirrel right
over there,” he pointed to the stand of trees just down the hillside. “I never
thought anything about all the stories. But after this, I think I might have
changed my mind.”
Mulder gave him a confused look.
“Agent Mulder, I will deny I said this to my dying day, but I’ll tell you. I’m
beginning to think this place really is haunted.”
Act I scene 2
“Maybe we better take a look inside,” Mulder suggested, trying to shake off the
chill that had crawled up his back at Miller’s comments.
“Sure thing. Got the key right here,” Miller said and produced a key on its own
steel ring. The lock was well worn and the door swung open with an almost
silent moan. Mulder peered into the gloom from the doorway, letting his eyes
adjust to the lights. He absently pulled a small maglight from his pocket,
Miller produced a larger flashlight from the pocket of his jacket and they both
proceeded into the house.
There was a light switch by the door. Mulder flipped it once, to no avail.
“Electric’s been off since the old owners left,” Miller explained.
Mulder shined his beam around the room, checking the door. “Not much security,”
“Folks around these parts are generally honest. Get a few trouble makers, but
nobody stupid enough to try and steal something outta a house like this.”
“Maybe they should hire ghosts to guard houses in the big city,” Mulder said
with a smirk. Miller answered with a nervous chuckle. He flashed the light
along the right hand wall and let it rest on a door in the center, a rather
modern looking door.
“Entrance to the private residence,” Miller explained.
“The owners lived here?” Mulder asked. “Did they know about the . . . ?”
“Ghosts? Sure! The lady of the house believed, the man more or less said it
was hogwash, to everyone round these parts at least. But they made a good
livin’ on the tourist trade comin’ through. And to be honest, they saved this
old place. Not that many people want a house this big, with this much past
history. If the previous owners hadn’t lived here and made it a tourist
attraction, chances are we’d be standing in an open field right now.”
Miller pulled out another key ring and found another key, unlocking the private
residence. “They updated the place a few years back,” he told Mulder as they
walked through the rooms. A living room with a fireplace and recently laid
berber carpet greeted them just inside the door. Through an archway they found
a modern kitchen with black enamel appliances and a modern island with faux
stone countertop. There were two bedrooms, a dining room and two baths in an
addition on the back of the house. The two men found nothing out of the
Mulder was feeling just a little foolish now that they’d gone through what
appeared to be a remodeled, but stylish, old house. “Let’s take a look at the
rest of the place,” he said decisively.
The other rooms downstairs had obviously been used for storage. The room at the
back of the house sported a large four-poster bed and nothing else. “This is
supposed to be the room Mr. Lincoln stayed in when he visited,” Miller
A thick layer of dust covered the floors, revealing no footprints. Mulder
noticed the absence of closets. “No closets? No place to hide?”
“Didn’t have ’em back then. People used ‘wardrobes’ and dressers, highboys and
the like. There’s some of ’em upstairs on the second floor, in the ‘restored’
“Then let’s head up stairs,” Mulder said easily.
The steps were old and creaked in several places as they made their way to the
second story of the house. In the open hallway, Mulder first encountered a low
display case, exhibiting a number of small bottles and boxes with a few pieces
of silver, tarnished with age. Hand printed signs gave the names of the
utensils and what the bottles held, each dated. “There are some old pieces in
this,” Mulder commented. Miller nodded.
The rooms on the second floor held more furnishings but these were by no means
modern. A formal parlor was set with china that looked very old to Mulder.
There was an old wardrobe, as Miller had described, in one room and Mulder
searched it for signs of anything amiss. Each room showed markings on the floor
where the search teams had already gone through.
Mulder stood in the hallway once again, scratching his head. “What’s that?” he
asked, pointing to a small door to the left of the staircase they’d used to come
up from the first floor.
“The attic,” Miller said solemnly. “Third floor. We checked that too.”
“Do you mind if I take a look?” Mulder asked but had already started toward the
door. A large padlock hung from a hasp and he waited patiently while Miller
produced the correct key.
“Knock yourself out,” Miller said, waving the agent to go up the steps before
The stairwell was dark and musty smelling. A few of the boards seemed soft and
Mulder stepped carefully over them, making his ascent rather awkward. Miller
came behind him, mimicking his actions. When they finally made it to the third
floor, Mulder wasn’t sure what to expect. What he found was an empty attic,
with small cubicles running each long side of the house. Two windows, opposite
each other, broken out and wind howling through them, gave the only light to the
“I thought you said they didn’t have closets,” Mulder commented as he flashed
his maglight into one of the cubicles.
“Those aren’t closets. They’re ‘quarters’,” Miller said with a dour expression.
In each cubicle, three slats of wood created shelves, approximately three feet
across and not more than five feet long. At the back wall, huge iron rings were
imbedded in the thick wood wall. A few of the rings still had heavy iron chains
“This is where they kept the poor bastards,” Miller said quietly.
Mulder reached out and hefted one of the chains. It was heavy enough to keep a
man from moving much. A thought occurred to him and he hurriedly searched every
cubicle. Miller stood near the stairs, watching the agent search.
“We looked up here, Agent Mulder. Believe me, we searched the whole structure.”
“Basement?” Mulder asked anxiously.
“Root cellar,” Miller corrected. “We had the dogs through too,” he added,
pointing to a paw print in the dust and dirt on the floor. “Nothing.”
“May I see the root cellar?”
“Sure. You done up here?” Miller asked.
“Yeah. I think so,” Mulder admitted reluctantly.
Miller led the way down the steps, Mulder following only after taking a long
look around the attic. The place felt cold, but with the broken windows, he
brushed it off as being the wind blowing through the place. Scully’s rubbing
off on you, he mused and that thought made him smile. When had he stopped
thinking first of the paranormal and instead trying to come up with a rational
explanation? He couldn’t wait to tell her when he picked her up at the airport.
Which meant he had better check the root cellar and leave soon to make it in
Miller locked the door with the padlock when they reached the second floor.
“Kids like to scare each other, try stayin’ the night up here. Set a fire one
night, almost burned the place down. Lucky thing, we had a rainstorm blow
through, rain put out the fire. Best to keep the place locked and out of
Miller’s cell phone chirped and he patted down his pockets until he located the
noisy object. He spoke into the receiver, squinting and moving around. “Can’t
hear ya, ah hell,” he said, finally hurrying down the steps to find a better
spot for reception.
Mulder started to follow, but didn’t want to intrude on the man’s conversation.
He was just starting down the steps when he heard something. At first he was
certain it was the wind howling through the open windows in the attic above, but
it had a different quality, one that raised the hairs on the back of his neck.
He heard it a second time and this time it was accompanied by a scraping sound,
like one of the heavy chains being dragged across wood.
He was able to hone in on the sound the second time he heard it. It was coming
from the attic. He stepped quickly over to the door that Miller had just
locked. He heard the sound again, much closer.
“Miller!” he yelled. “Mr. Miller, I need the key to the attic!” Mulder called
down, hoping the man hadn’t stepped too far away to hear him. “Miller, I need
that key!” he shouted again and moved toward the stairs to hurry after the man.
He was right on the first step down when something hard hit him in the back of
the head. It stunned him, but he reached for his gun and turned back to look
over his shoulder just in time to see a huge fist coming straight at him. Then
all was dark.
Act II scene 1
Evansville Regional Airport
Scully stood at the baggage claim area and fumed silently. Once more she put
her cell phone to her ear, pressing the send button twice. There was no need to
dial the number, she’d been calling the same number during the 45-minute layover
she experienced in Detroit and for the 15 minutes since her Northwest Airlines
commuter plane had touched down in Evansville. When her partner’s voice mail
picked up, yet again, this time she decided to leave a message.
“Mulder. I’m going to assume you are brave enough to listen to this after
seeing the dozen or more missed calls coming from my number. This is to inform
you that you are now in deep shit for failing to pick me up at the airport. I
just wanted to make sure you realize that you are sleeping in a separate STATE
tonight, not just a separate room. And furthermore, you better figure out where
you’re going to be sleeping for the next month, because it will NOT be our
bedroom. I think I saw an old army cot down in the coal cellar. I’m sure
you’ll be quite comfortable down there.”
Just as she angrily pushed the button to disconnect the call, her luggage
appeared on the conveyor belt. “At least one thing seems to be going right
today,” she growled low as she grabbed the handle of the bag and lifted. The
sickening sound of a separating luggage zipper that had been on one too many X
files hit her ears mere seconds before the contents of her bag spewed forth
across the institutional grey tile floor of the concourse.
“Shit!” she cried out only too late realizing that she was in the midst of
traveling families. “Sorry,” she muttered as more than one angry mother shot
her a dirty look and covered their child’s ears. Hastily, she scooped the
wayward clothing back into the bag, wrapping her arms around it to keep the
contents inside. With effort, she made her way to the nearby rental car agency
and with a calm born only from years of working with Fox Mulder, she rented a
car and obtained directions to Harrisburg, Illinois.
Once on the road, she glanced down at the phone resting next to her on the empty
passenger seat. He’d turned it off. No, better yet, he’d let it run down.
That had to be the answer. Mulder had forgotten, as always, to recharge his
battery and as a result, it was dead as a doornail, sitting in his pocket and he
was none the wiser. She knew there had to be a logical explanation, but she was
getting rather sick of being the ‘grown up’ about their cell phones. If he
wasn’t losing the damned things, he was letting the batteries run down. He’d
tried to convince her that he did it just to save the life of the battery.
After letting him have it with both barrels, he’d sheepishly swore it would
never happen again. Until the next time, of course.
At least the sky was clear and the road was reasonably dry. It had been raining
when the plane touched down, but the storm had moved east and now it was bright
sunshine with no clouds to the west. After consulting the map, Scully realized
it was all two-lane highway to her destination, another reason to give Mulder
hell. She hated driving country roads, more so when she was by herself. She
had to watch carefully because it wasn’t a straight route, but required road
changes. She didn’t even have the comfort of knowing exactly where she was
going to meet up with her partner. Since he hadn’t told her how to get to the
mansion, she’d have to get the rest of the directions upon reaching Harrisburg,
which she prayed was bigger than its tiny circle appeared on the map.
Harrisburg Jiffy Stop
After making a quick stop at the ladies room, Scully went into the store and
asked directions to the Crenshaw Mansion. She was met with a dull stare.
“Oh, you mean the old Slave House?” asked the ‘bright’, young woman working her
gum somewhat harder than she was working the keys to the cash register.
“Yes. The Slave House. I need directions,” Scully replied tiredly.
“Well, just go out west of town and look for the sign for Equality. Turn right
and you’ll see it at the top of the hill. Or you could just look for all the
police cars. Should be a slew of ’em out there by now.”
Something sour rose in her throat and her stomach did a slow roll. “Police
cars?” Scully queried.
“Yeah. Musta had some trouble out there, though I sure don’t know how. But the
sheriff was in here getting coffee when he got the call and a whole bunch of
squad cars and a couple of state troopers went tearing up the road. I heard ’em
say ‘old slave house’, that’s how I know’d where they went,” she added with a
Scully swallowed thickly and tamped down on the panic rising in her chest. “Do
you remember how long ago that was?”
“‘Bout 3, maybe 3:15. I know ’cause the middle school was lettin’ out and all
the kids were in here gettin’ sodies.”
“Thank you,” Scully said and turned to leave.
“Wonder if they found Tom’s body,” the girl mused and Scully turned back.
“You know about the missing Forestry Employee?”
The girl nodded sadly. “I’m Beckie’s cousin. Beckie and Tom were engaged, but
not a lot of folks ’round here now about it, lest not yet. Beckie asked me to
be a bridesmaid.” The girl sighed and shook her head. “He was such a nice guy,
too. Sure is a shame.”
Scully nodded in agreement and left the store for her car. Maybe that was it,
she thought. Maybe Mulder hadn’t picked her up because they found the body of
the missing ranger. That would explain it. He might have even turned his cell
phone off in that case. She’d almost convinced herself of that possibility when
she finished the final leg of her journey and steered the car up the narrow
gravel path to the large red house on the top of the hill.
The gravel parking lot looked like a convention — or a crime scene. Scully
spotted two Illinois State Police cruisers, three squad cars from Saline County
Sheriff’s Department and two trucks from the US Forestry Service. Off to one
side sat a light blue late model Taurus with a Lariat Rental Cars bumper
sticker. She sighed heavily as she pulled her own rental next to her partner’s.
She got out of the car, searching for Mulder among the commotion of law
enforcement officials. A uniformed State Trooper approached her and she dug in
her pocket for her identification.
“Agent Scully, I’m with the Bureau,” she said before the officer had a chance to
question her presence. “My partner is here somewhere.”
The Trooper looked closely at her badge and ID and then frowned. “What’s your
partner’s name?” he asked.
“Fox Mulder. He came out here before me. I’m sure if you check . . .”
“Bob! This is the partner you’ve been waiting for!” the officer called out in a
loud voice. An older man, wearing a forestry service uniform jacket turned and
walked quickly over to them.
“Agent Scully,” the man said offering his hand. “I’m Bob Miller, Forestry.
You’re partner mentioned you were on your way.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Miller. Where is Agent Mulder?” Scully asked, noticing
that the State Trooper hadn’t hung around long after Miller had stepped over.
“Well, you see, that’s the question,” Miller said nervously, his eyes darting
anywhere but to meet Scully’s ice blue gaze. “He, um, he . . .”
“Mr. Miller, is my partner here?” Scully asked again, realizing the man was
struggling with the question, albeit a very simple one.
“He was. He was right here. I was right next to him. And then, the next
minute — he was gone.”
Scully frowned and worried a back tooth with her tongue. “He left?”
“No, ma’am. He didn’t leave. The front door never opened, that I could see.
He just . . . he wasn’t there anymore!” the man stuttered out. “Just like Tom.”
Miller took her arm and led her to the front porch of the house. “I looked
everywhere. When I called and called and didn’t get an answer, I thought maybe
he went outside. I searched around. His car’s still here, as you can see,” he
said, pointing to the rental next to hers. “I found his overcoat and suit
jacket with his gun, his cell phone and his ID at the top of the steps on the
second floor. Look like he’d been patted down, because I didn’t find a holster.
That’s when I got nervous. I called the State Police and the Sheriff’s
department. They’ve been out here going on three hours, looking. We haven’t
found hide ner hair of him.”
Scully looked down at her watch and realized it had only been 4 hours since she
talked to him. She closed her eyes. She was afraid it was going to be a long
Act II scene 2
It was now fully dark and Scully was doing her best not to panic. “We searched
the crawl space, Agent Scully,” the Sheriff’s deputy informed her as he
sidestepped a group of men coming out from under the house. “No sign anyone’s
been down there for a long time,” he said.
“Thank you, Deputy,” Scully said with forced calm. They had been through the
house several times already. She had personally gone through every room,
including the private quarters, at least twice. She found Mulder’s footprints
in the dust that covered the floor in one of the rooms, but it was obvious that
he had left the way he’d come in. It truly was as Bob Miller had told her: her
partner seemed to just disappear into thin air, without a trace. But she
couldn’t believe it, couldn’t drop into the despair that realization would
Miller had left for home an hour ago. He’d asked her if he should stay, but she
could see no point. There were at least seven men combing the house and the
small outbuilding in the back. The Sheriff had already made plans to start
searching the woods and fields surrounding the mansion. Scully thanked Miller
and promised to call if they found anything. With shoulders slumped and looking
desolate and very tired, the man reluctantly left for the night to get some
She’d already put in a call to Skinner. He had gone through the database,
searched for any escaped or paroled convicts who might have been in the
vicinity. He also put in the call to the regional office in Springfield.
Scully had hoped to get help not just from Springfield, but from St. Louis,
which had a larger office, but since Mulder had only been missing a little over
12 hours, Skinner’s hands were tied.
Scully leaned against the wall at the bottom of the steps on the first floor.
She watched as a deputy dusted the stair railing for prints. It was a long
shot, worse than a long shot. It was a shot in the dark, but she knew the
Sheriff was doing everything possible to treat this seriously. She knew several
of the men were thinking what her nagging little voice was telling her–Mulder
wasn’t here, he’d been taken from this place and their only hope was in finding
tracks of some kind so they could redirect their efforts away from this house.
“We’ve got the teams set up, Agent Scully. You said you wanted to come out with
us,” said a young man, another deputy that she couldn’t place with a name.
“Yes, thank you.” She nodded wearily and followed him out onto the porch. She
was just about to step off the top step when she heard it, plain as day.
Her breath caught in her throat, she spun around and ran back into the house.
She heard it, she heard him call to her. Frantically she looked into the first
room, the one with a window overlooking the porch. There was nothing there.
The deputy who had been dusting saw her actions and joined her.
“I heard him. My partner. I heard him. Didn’t you hear him?” she demanded.
“No ma’am,” the young man said, a bewildered look on his face. “Just now?”
“Yes, just now! Right here, it sounded like — no, it was more . . . it echoed
more, like in the stairwell.” She was chewing on her lip, trying to place the
exact location Mulder would have been to call to her.
She hurried out to the hall. “Here, he would have . . .” She stopped. The
deputy was looking at her with wide eyes, obviously doubting her words, but
anxious to help. “You didn’t hear it?” she asked again, forcing a calm she
didn’t want to feel.
He shook his head in the negative. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I was right here and I
didn’t hear a thing.”
Mulder started to call out to Scully again, but the man holding his chains
backhanded him, sending him crashing to the floor. “No talking!” he was warned.
A yank on the iron collar around his neck cut off his airway for a few seconds,
forcing his feet under him. His vision grayed out for a moment, but when he was
standing the pressure lessened and he could see again. In the space of a
heartbeat, Scully was gone.
What was going on? he mused silently for what seemed like the millionth time.
One minute he could see her plain as day, talking to some kid in a uniform. The
next minute, she vanished into thin air and the whole mansion took on a
“Rip in the time-space continuum?” he muttered, but it only caused his guard to
yank on the collar at his throat again. The iron was cutting into his skin at
his throat and wrists. He was shackled, throat, wrist and ankles. If he tried
to run, he’d likely fall flat on his face. The guard yanked again, this time
indicating that the prisoner was to move up the stairs. This time he followed
without making a sound.
As they approach the attic, the smell hits Mulder. He can’t remember anything
that smelled that bad. Years ago he’d gone with his father to the animal pound
and thought that was bad. He’d been to crime scenes where the body had laid
undetected for days in heat and humidity and knew that was bad. But this was
worse, much worse. Urine, sweat . . . and fear. It assaulted his sinuses and
made his eyes water. They cleared the doorway and it was even more
concentrated. It took his breath away.
His handler yanked on the chain and Mulder stumbled toward the left. As he
moved into the room he could see them. People, dozens of people. Most of them
men, here or there he might catch sight of a teen-age boy. All of them African-
American. All of them chained as he was, tethered to the iron rings he’d seen
earlier in the walls of the attic.
“This isn’t possible,” Mulder muttered. “I’m dreaming this,” he voiced aloud,
trying desperately to wake up from this nightmare.
“Shaddup!” yelled his handler and yanked so hard on his chains that for a moment
he thought his neck would break from the pulling. “Over here.” They were
standing directly in front of the second set of cells to the outside wall. In
the middle of that wall set one tiny window, the one that had let in such cold
air earlier, was now the only source of light or fresh air and it barely made a
dent. Mulder looked to the window and prayed a breeze would come by and give
him some air.
“Top bunk, now!” yelled the handler, right in his ear, and Mulder scrambled as
best as he could with his shackled legs to get up into the top bunk. The
handler reached over him and attached the chain to the ring in the wall.
Confident his prisoner was secured, the handler left without another word.
Mulder lay there for several minutes, too stunned to move. Gradually, the pain
in his neck and ankles from the chains forced him to move on to his back. It
amused him that he’d been correct in his earlier assessment of the cells — they
weren’t big enough to stretch out. His knees were bent to almost double to
accommodate him on his back, but at least the weight of the iron collar was less
on his throat and he could breath easier. He noticed that he was even becoming
accustomed to the stench of the attic room.
“Hey,” came a voice from below him. “Hey, you were with Bob, weren’t you?” The
voice was hoarse and raspy, Mulder could just barely make out the strained
Leaning over as far as he could, he could see the man in the bunk below him.
After a moment, he could make out the face, could see the clothing. The man was
obviously Caucasian, he had sandy blond hair cut short. Although his clothing
was torn and filthy, Mulder could make out a US Forestry Service nametag sewn
onto the shirt on the left shoulder. “Are you Tom Coleman?” Mulder asked in a
The man nodded vigorously and then winced at the movement. “Yeah, I’m Coleman.
You were with Bob Miller, my supervisor. I saw you earlier.” He lay back after
speaking, as if the effort was too much for him.
“Are you all right?” Mulder asked worriedly. “What happened to you?”
“Mouthed off and got whipped — tried to call out to you but you couldn’t hear
me,” Tom said in a tired whisper. “My back’s all cut up. I think I got a fever
“Look, Tom, my name is Fox Mulder. I’m a Special Agent with the FBI. As soon
as I can figure out what is going on here, I’m going to get us out.”
Tom barked out a bitter laugh. “We can’t get out. Don’t you see? We’re stuck
here, in this hellhole, for all time. Just like these poor bastards around us.”
“I can’t pretend to know I understand what’s going on — ” Mulder started.
“We’re gonna be sold acros’t t’ river,” came a voice from the bunk above. “You
think you got it made when you cross that big water, but man comes and drags you
back. Tha’s the way it always been.” There was a pause. “Lessen’ you escape.”
“What are you talking about?” Mulder asked. He leaned his head up to look at
the top bunk but couldn’t see the other man’s face because he was too far back
against the wall.
“Run fer it. What ’til the o’r’seer comes up here wit’ the keys. Tackle him
and run fer it. If we all go after him, we can take ‘im down. You with us?”
Mulder frowned. “How? How do you take him down?”
The hidden man chuckled. “You got ‘nuf chain to go ’round his throat, don’ ya?
Choke ‘im! I’ll whup him on t’ head. Young pup down dare can get his keys and
we’d be free men!”
Mulder was quiet for a long while, contemplating the other man’s words. “What
do you think?” Tom voice came from the gloom.
“I don’t know,” Mulder replied honestly.
“Don’t have much choice, do we?” Tom asked, the nervousness evident in his voice
as much as the fatigue.
“Guess not,” Mulder agreed reluctantly. Louder, to the other man, Mulder
hissed. “We’ll do it.”
The other man chuckled. “Jes’ foller my lead,” he said.
The light from the window dimmed with the passage of the sun. Soon the attic
took on the dark gloom of a cave. There was a rattle at the door and the man
who had dragged Mulder to his prison was back. He went around the attic,
lighting kerosene lamps attached to the walls. For a dim second Mulder
considered the fire hazard those lights entailed, but shoved the thought aside
as he realized their plan was about to come to fruition. Plan? What plan? He
could hear Scully’s voice whispering in his ear but he shook his head to dispel
the nagging sense of foreboding.
As he approached, Mulder had a chance to size up the ‘overseer’, as his bunkmate
had called the man. The guard wasn’t quite as tall as Mulder, but what he
lacked in height he more than made up in bulk. He was easily 250 pounds and all
of it looked to be muscle. Mulder noticed that his neck was as thick as a tree
trunk. Not an easy target, to be sure. Mulder swallowed uneasily. He had to
think this through and come up with his part of the plan.
He hefted the chains as silently as he could. The chains were heavy, each link
was about two inches long and too strong for any man to pull apart. He had
about two feet of play between the cuffs around his wrist, with another length
of chain sliding through a ring that tethered the collar at his neck all the way
down to the cuffs at his ankles. It wasn’t going to be easy to get the chain
around that thick neck, but it was possible. All he needed was a distraction .
. . and a whole lot of luck.
As the man made his rounds, Mulder noticed he was leaning over each prisoner,
checking their shackles. It was the break he needed. He waited silently as the
man checked the occupants of the cell next to theirs. Just a few more minutes .
The overseer was there. He sauntered into the small opening of the cell,
stopping only long enough to light the lamp near the window. As he approached,
Mulder’s heartbeat sped up and his hands grew slick with sweat. He kicked the
bunk once to alert the other two men, but he was certain they were as ready as
he was. The overseer checked the man above him and when he was satisfied, he
leaned in to check Mulder’s chains.
Fast as lightning, Mulder hands shot out and wrapped the chain around the
behemoth’s neck. He crossed his arms to tighten the garrote. He was so intent
on his task he didn’t hear the man in the bunk above yelling for all and sundry.
“Buck! Buck! He’s tryin’ to kill Mas’er Henry! Buck, come quick!”
Something fierce latched onto Mulder’s arms and pulled them apart, almost
ripping his shoulder out of its socket. The overseer dropped to his knees, his
hands clutching at his throat. Before Mulder could figure out what was
happening a huge fist smashed into his face, snapping his head back. Before he
succumbed to the darkness he heard a voice.
“Take ‘im out back and whip the bastard till he ain’t movin’ no more!”
It was the darkest part of the night, just before dawn. The stars were all the
illumination in the sky, the moon set early. However, the mansion was ablaze
with light. The Sheriff’s Department had placed portable floodlights all over
the parking area and throughout the house. In addition, the electricity had
been restored and all the rooms in the house were lit. Every speck of dust,
every cobweb in the attic was cast in stark relief. If there were an injured
agent, or even one just trying to hide in the house, someone would have seen it.
Scully’s mind was reeling. She stood on the front porch and looked out to the
woods just beyond the parking lot. Trees ran along both sides of the small
creek, which she noted was past its banks from recent spring rains. She
couldn’t imagine what would have provoked Mulder to run into the woods or the
fields on all sides of this hilltop. It made no sense for him to leave Miller
and take off without consulting anyone. Without waiting for her.
Not for the first time, her mind flashed images of other famous ‘ditches’ —
when she’d been left behind for supposedly noble reasons. Arecibo, Dead Horse,
the middle of the Sargasso Sea . . . She’d lost track long ago of most of the
smaller infractions. But since they’d been together, since they’d spent almost
every waking and sleeping hour in each other’s presence he hadn’t taken off on
her. Well, not as often, and usually with some clue as to where he’d gone.
This time he’d just disappeared. She did remember, back in 2000, a case that
brought them out to the shores of Lake Michigan and into the company of a
murderous ghost. Her mind flashed forward to their recent run-in with a ghostly
presence; one that almost cost her life as well as Mulder’s.
“No more damned ghost stories after this one, Mulder, and I mean it,” she
mumbled to herself in the cold night air. “At least for a while,” she amended,
because as much as she would like to pretend they had any say in their cases,
she knew that wasn’t the truth of the matter. Even though Skinner and the
Bureau would allow them to turn down a case now and then, Mulder’s innate
curiosity always got the better of both of them.
She heard the car tires on gravel before she could see the car. It came into
the bright light of the parking lot and slowed, looking for a place to stop. A
dark blue or black Ford Taurus, federal plates. She groaned inwardly — the
‘cavalry’ had arrived from Springfield. Skinner had made it clear that she
needed help finding her partner, but he never seemed to process that more often
than not the local field agents were less than helpful. She sighed heavily and
made her way down the steps to greet the two men at the picket fence gate.
Their whole demeanor screamed FBI. The taller of the two was at least 6 foot 3,
while his shorter counterpart still had Scully craning her neck. As they
approached stiff-necked and glowering, she could imagine them with dark
sunglasses, even though it was the dark of night.
“Agents,” Scully called, pulling out her own identification. In tandem, the two
men reached into identical pockets and produced their own ID wallets.
“Peters,” announced the taller of the two, a dark skinned and strikingly
handsome man with an expression that would have melted a more timid person. Or
any unattached female in the vicinity.
“Jeffers,” said the other man who was a polar opposite to his partner — fair
skinned, blonde, surfer good looks. They could be bookends, Scully thought to
“Dana Scully,” she introduced herself, making use of her first name as well as
her last. Out of courtesy she extended her hand to Peters who merely raised his
“Yeah. We know. So, what’s ol’ Spook gotten himself into this time?” Peters
asked and Jeffers snickered at the joke.
Scully quickly schooled her expression. She took an immediate dislike to both
men, but they weren’t just flesh and blood to her at that point. They were all
the Bureau resources and she was alone in a remote part of the country. As much
as it irked her, she needed them more than they needed her.
“Agent Mulder was called out to investigate the disappearance of a United States
Forestry employee,” she said evenly.
“Look, Scully, we got the fax from AD Skinner. What we need are the details.
What did Spooky step in? Have you two pissed off anyone who might have nabbed
him? Did you two have a fight and now he’s shacked up with a local waitress?
What the hell are we doing standing on a goddamned hill top in the middle of
goddamned nowhere southern Illinois at not even five o’clock in the goddamned
“Agent Scully,” called one of the uniformed state troopers from around the side
of the house. “There’s somethin’ you oughta look at back here.”
Flashlight beams danced as she and the trooper ran back around the house, the
two agents close on their heels. When the trooper stopped it was at a post
sticking out of the ground about 5 feet tall with a iron hoop about a half foot
from the top connected to the post with a thick screw. The trooper shone his
light near the bottom of the post.
Scully tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and stared at the circle of light
as it struck the wooden post. “I don’t — ”
“There,” the trooper said, bending down and pointing a finger at a fine line of
liquid running down the grain of the wood. “It’s wet.”
Scully looked up at him wide-eyed and pulled a latex glove out of her pocket.
In a few seconds, she was running one gloved finger down the wood and brought it
forward into the light of her flashlight to examine it. “It’s blood,” she
declared evenly. “Take samples, I want this run against Agent Mulder’s blood
type. It’s on file with the Bureau in DC.”
“But this is fresh, it can’t be over a couple of hours old,” Jeffers pointed
out. “How did he get out here without anybody seeing him?”
“There’ve been troopers and county people out and about this yard all night. No
one’s been out here that we didn’t know about,” the trooper interjected.
At that moment, Scully heard it. At first she thought it was the wind howling
through the branches of the tree just thirty or so yards from where they were
standing. Then, when she heard it again, she realized it was coming from the
The third time she heard it, her blood ran cold. She knew that moan. She’d
heard in times of extreme pain and in the heights of passion. It could only
belong to her partner.
“Mulder!” she whispered and then shouted it loudly. “Mulder!” Leaving the
three men in her dust, she ran toward the house and the door that came off the
small addition to the private residence.
“Agent Scully, that door’s locked,” the trooper called out.
Realizing her mistake, Scully turned on her heel and ran for the front of the
house. She made it long before the other men, even given the difference in
length of strides. She bounded up the steps and into the house without a glance
back to see if anyone followed.
Shoving deputies out of her way, she continued up the steps to the second floor.
In the hallway, she stopped, tried to calm her breathing and the pounding of her
heart. She strained her ears to hear the sound, the moan, again. Nothing.
“Mulder?” she called hesitantly, hopefully. “Mulder, where are you? Mulder, if
you can hear me, answer me. Anything, a grunt. Just tell me which way to go,”
she demanded. She waited again. Silence echoed back to her.
The tears caught her by surprise. Angrily, she swiped at her eyes and turned
her back on the two agents and the trooper who had finally made it to the second
floor. When she got control of her emotions, she turned to face them.
“What did you hear?” asked Jeffers, who gently took her elbow and steered her
toward the steps leading to the attic. At first she refused to sit, but it
seemed that all the fight was leaving her and in the wake of its departure she
felt completely drained of life.
“I heard him,” she said in a voice just above a whisper. “I heard him. He was
here. I don’t know where he is now, but he was here.” She sat there a moment,
chewing on her bottom lip. Suddenly, she sprang to her feet. “A tunnel. There
has to be a tunnel somewhere, under the house. That’s where he is, it’s where
he has to be!”
Mulder was in so much agony, he kept his eyes clamped tight as the overseer
dragged him up the stairs of the house by the shackles on his wrists. The open
cuts on his back flared with white hot fire with each bump and bounce as he hit
the steps one by one. At the top of the stairs, his hip hit the edge of a
baluster and his eyes flew open in pain and surprise.
There, in the dim light that comes just with the dawn, he saw her. Scully. She
was saying something but he couldn’t hear her voice. Her image wavered in the
air, like a mirage. He wanted to call out to her, to warn her, to call out to
her to get help, but he was being dragged up the final set of stairs to the
prison on the third floor. When he blinked the tears from his eyes, she was
An eternity later, he was thrown in the little closet that was their cell. Tom
was lying on his side on the bottom bunk, staring into space. Mulder crawled
into the second bunk and stifled a cry as his back hit the hard wood.
“Tom,” Mulder whispered after he found a position that didn’t bring tears to his
eyes. “Tom. I think I saw my partner. I think I saw Scully.”
The other man made no response for several minutes. Finally, he drew in a deep
breath. “Hallucination. Or trickery. We’re in Hell, haven’t you figured that
“This ain’t Hell,” came a voice from the next cell. “Ain’t done nuthin’ to
deserve gonna ta Hell.”
“No, it wasn’t a hallucination,” Mulder gritted out, ignoring their companion.
“I saw her. I know she’s here. She’s looking for us.”
“Thought I heard Beckie once. It’s just the mind, playin’ tricks on you,” Tom
bit back angrily.
“She was all shimmering. It was like she was there, but not really there.
Maybe it was a mirage,” Mulder said with a heavy sigh. “But I felt her. I know
Scully was there. She was calling my name but I couldn’t hear her voice.”
“It’s the pain. Does things to the head,” the man in the next cell said.
“What if — what if we’re here and she’s here but we’re in two different planes
of existence?” Mulder mused aloud.
“Different — what? What kinda nonsense is that?” Tom demanded, stopping to
cough. “We’re here but we’re not? You hit your head on the way up them steps,
“No, listen, when I came into this house Miller and I checked the attic. There
was nothing up here — no chains, definitely no men. Now the place is full of
people. How is that?”
“We aren’t in the same place,” Tom answered.
“No! We’re not in the same ‘time’!” Mulder replied quickly. “We just have to
figure out how to get back to our time.”
Tom coughed again, this time the sound was wet and wheezing. “Well, when you
figure that out, you let me know,” he said derisively.
Act III scene 1
She had the bearing of a woman of wealth and power. Mulder caught sight of her
as he curled in a corner of his bunk, trying to keep his aching back from
touching the unforgiving wood surface. She stepped around the attic room as if
she didn’t notice the squalor or the stench. When the man they’d called ‘Buck’
moved toward her, the smile on her face lit the dark corners of the room. She
put her arms around his neck and kissed him fervently. Mulder closed his eyes,
thoughts of Scully in his arms warring with the image of a woman in silk and
hoop skirts embracing a man barely clothed in tattered garments.
His eyes were still closed when he heard the two approach. He feigned sleep.
It wasn’t hard to do, his back was screaming but his body was so tired he
probably would have fallen asleep standing up. On reflection, that was most
likely the only position he would be able to sleep. Every time his back hit the
wood, he was jolted from what little peace his slumber could give him.
They were whispering. Part of him wanted to listen closely to what they were
saying. Part of him wanted the entire experience, hell, the whole trip out to
Illinois to be a very bad nightmare so he could wake up in Scully’s arms and
have her tell him he was going in late in the morning because she wanted him to
get a little more sleep.
He decided to ignore the intruders until they moved closer into the cell. He
cracked an eye open just a slit and watched Buck nudge Tom with his foot. The
younger man groaned in pain. It relieved Mulder that Tom was responding at all,
he’d begun to wonder if the engineer was unconscious.
“They’re white,” the woman commented, as if noting that there might be rain
later in the day. Buck grunted in agreement. She looked up at the tall man
with a coy smile. “Come, we don’t have much time,” she purred and took Buck by
the arm, leading him to the far end of the attic.
When they were far enough out of earshot, Mulder leaned over to check on Tom.
He found the young man’s eyes open, staring into space. He had to get him
“Who was that?” Mulder asked in a hoarse whisper.
“Mrs. Crenshaw,” Tom replied with a tired smirk. “She and Buck — well, let’s
just say Buck has lots of duties around here, some of them nicer than others.”
“Mrs. Crenshaw?” Mulder repeated. “As in — ”
“Crenshaw’s wife. Her family had money and lost it in some land deal. She
thought she was gonna marry into society because Crenshaw was up and coming. He
built this place for her. Guess this wasn’t the exciting life she’d hoped for,”
Tom said with a faint twinkle in his eyes before turning serious. “Be careful
around her. I’ve seen her get more than one man whipped for just lookin’ at
her. And if Buck gets to do the job — those men never came back.”
“So Buck — ”
“Buck is an overseer, just like Harold. Crenshaw doesn’t have him on the same
payroll,” Tom tried to explain.
“How did you find out all of this?” Mulder asked.
“Been listenin’ to some of the talk up here. Plus, I grew up in these parts.
Crenshaws have been a topic of gossip since they moved here. The fact they were
dead didn’t make them any less interestin’ to the most of us.”
Mulder dozed for a while, he had no idea how much time had passed. He heard
footsteps and looked out to see Mrs. Crenshaw coming back to ward them,
straightening her skirt and adjusting it in the reflection of the windowpane.
She walked over to their cell and peered in at Tom on the bottom bunk. She put
her hand out, touching the young man and flinched when she made contact. “He’s
feverish,” she said over her shoulder to Buck, who was standing right behind
her. “How long have they been here?”
“That one, two nights. This one just got here.”
She turned to speak directly to Buck, disregarding Mulder, who was staring right
at her. “They can’t stay here,” she said firmly.
“We could dump the bodies in the woods,” Buck offered.
She shook her head. “No, it would just lead to more questions. Two white men,
whipped, dead. There would be an investigation of some sort. There’s enough
suspicion in town as it is. Besides, our guest will be arriving soon. Finding
them here would be an embarrassment to Mr. Crenshaw. We have to do something
“What do you want me to do?” Buck asked. She started to answer, cast a glance
down at Mulder and then moved Buck away. Mulder could hear them murmuring, but
couldn’t make out any words.
Act III scene 2
Mulder had drifted off to sleep, so he was startled when a hand landed on his
shoulder. In the dim light of the cell he could make out the huge dark form
looming over him. A second large hand came down over his mouth and he struggled
for a moment before the hand covered his nose and he was forced to be still.
“Quiet,” ordered a voice in the darkness. “Be quiet.”
Mulder nodded silently and the pressure on his mouth and nose lessened. He
watched in silence as the large form moved into a slant of light from a far
lantern and he could see its face. Buck.
“What — ”
“Silence, damn it,” Buck hissed. He reached into his pocket and Mulder watched
in amazement as the larger man produced a set of skeleton keys and deftly
unlocked the shackles around Mulder’s throat, wrists and ankles. In a few
seconds, he’d accomplished the same feat for Tom. Tom, unlike Mulder, was now
“You have to carry him,” Buck directed, jerking his head down to the bottom bunk
and Tom’s still mass.
“Is he dead?” Mulder breathed. It was taking him some time to crawl down from
his bunk, his back was aching and his legs where wobbly.
“No. He’s alive. You have to get out of here.”
Mulder pulled Tom into a sitting position and hoisted the other man’s arm across
his shoulders. Pain licked up his back as the action pulled torn flesh, but
that didn’t deter him. A tiny voice in his mind that sounded almost like Scully
cautioned him and he stopped.
“Wait. Why are you doing this? Is this a trap? Are you going to kill us for
trying to escape?”
Buck looked at him sourly. “Mas’er Harold’s down in the main house, play acting
as a servant. The Missus wants you gone. If you were found up here, there’d be
Hell to pay. Nobody minds what happens to one of us, but if they found out
about you — ”
“Servant? Why, what’s happening?”
“Someone’s coming. Even Crenshaw has overseers,” Buck snorted at his own joke.
Tom started to rouse and moan. Buck clamped a hand over his mouth. “Keep him
quiet, or I will have to kill him,” he warned Mulder. The agent nodded mutely
and struggled with Tom’s weight a moment before following Buck to the window.
“How are we supposed to get down?” Mulder asked when Buck came to an abrupt
stop. The agent looked out the window and down, then faced Buck, who was
“You can’t expect us to jump! The fall would kill us!” Mulder sneered.
“You dumb bastard,” Buck said with the shake of his head. “That drainpipe has
carried twice your skinny asses. Just grab hold and shimmy down.” To
demonstrate his point, Buck leaned out the window, took hold of the guttering
and proceeded to climb down as if it were a tall tree.
Mulder gapped at the man’s head as it got farther and farther away down the
pipe. When Buck hit the ground and waved up to him, he had no choice.
“Scully, you’re missing another display of my youthful agility,” he muttered as
he hoisted Tom onto his shoulder. He would have to take the younger man in a
fireman’s carry and even then it would be a dangerous feat. “Tom, I’m really
glad you’re a health nut,” Mulder told the unconscious engineer. “Otherwise,
this journey would be all over before we even got started.”
It was a tight squeeze getting out of the window, but they managed. Mulder was
surprised to find the sill provided a decent foothold as he reached for the
drainpipe. He was pleasantly amazed to note that the gutter pipe was made of
cast iron and very sturdy. That didn’t make climbing with 160 pounds of dead
weight any easier, but at least he didn’t have the worry that the pipe would
collapse as they crawled down.
When he got to the second floor, he realized their proximity to the open window.
He could see, in the corner of his eyes serving girls coming and going out of
one of the rooms. He saw Crenshaw’s wife, dressed in a beautiful green gown,
enter the hallway and start for the stairs. For a second, she turned and
glanced out the window. She met Mulder’s eyes and smiled. She turned and
descended down the stairs without saying a word.
Buck was on the ground shooting Mulder glares when the agent faltered and almost
dropped Tom. The engineer’s body seemed to grow heavier with each step, but
Mulder doubled his efforts.
If felt like an eternity to Mulder before they finally reached the ground.
Mulder’s back was bleeding again; he could feel the sticky wetness and felt the
pull as it clung to his shirt. Adrenaline was keeping the pain at bay.
Carefully he lowered Tom to his feet and leaned him against the pipe. Buck
grabbed Mulder’s arm and shoved him against the clapboard of the house. “Stay
here,” he hissed and melted into the darkness around the corner of the
“Tom? Tom, can you hear me?” Mulder asked, trying to rouse his companion.
The young man’s eyes flittered open. When he realized he was standing, or
rather leaning, and felt the cool air on his face, he searched around for
“Where are we?” he asked in a hoarse rasp.
“We’re outside the house. We’re going to get out of here. My car was parked
out front. If we can just get out that way — ”
Buck’s sudden appearance from around the corner stopped further conversation.
“You go straight to the woods, down there,” the big man growled, pointing to the
woods to the south of the house. “Don’t go near the front of the house.
People’s comin’ — there are carriages up there. If you don’t wanna be caught
again, go that way.”
“Why are you helping us?” Mulder asked again, still harboring suspicions that
they were being lured into a trap.
“Missus and me, we don’t want no trouble. Not for old Crenshaw and not for us.
Understand?” He towered over Mulder, a menacing look to his eyes.
“Understood,” Mulder said with a nod. “What about water?”
“Plenty in that stream you have to cross,” Buck said with the hint of a chuckle.
“You’ll have all the water you could ask for in just a few minutes. Now,
hightail afore I change my mind and just kill ya for the fun of it!”
Over in the east, the deep purple was just beginning to give way to a lighter
blue. Mulder knew they didn’t have much time to make the woods before someone
would be up and would notice their escape. Hoisting Tom on his shoulder again,
he started around the house and down the gentle slope to the stand of trees.
Horses hoofs on the dirt path to the house caused him to press against the
clapboard. The sound of carriage wheels, groaning under their burden seemed
horribly close to Mulder’s ear. Cautiously, he lowered Tom to the ground so he
could creep along the building and see if they might be detected.
Torches were lit at the front of the mansion, lighting the circular drive up to
the house. Two horsemen and a carriage had just pulled up directly in front of
the stone sidewalk that led to the front porch. Mulder saw a big bulk of a man,
easily near six feet and more than 200 pounds, standing at the gate at the end
of the sidewalk. As the driver to the carriage jumped down and opened the small
leather door, the man at the gate almost danced with excitement.
It took a moment for the occupant of the carriage to exit and Mulder’s position
was such that the carriage door blocked most of his view. Finally, the occupant
stepped forward, adjusting a tall ‘stovepipe’ hat before extending his hand
toward the man at the gate. In the profile cast by the torches, Mulder got a
picture of the occupant of the carriage worthy of the front page for any
newspaper in the country.
It was the 16th President of the United States. Abraham Lincoln had come to
visit the Crenshaw Mansion.
“Mr. Lincoln, I trust the ride down from Springfield wasn’t too difficult,”
spoke the jovial man at the gate.
“It will be a far sight easier when we get the railroads completed, Mr.
Crenshaw. A far sight easier,” said Lincoln. Now that they stood together,
Mulder could see that Lincoln was much taller than Crenshaw, taller than any
other man standing near him.
“Well, let’s get inside and I’ll take you to your room. You can rest and then
we’ll have some breakfast. I’ve taken the liberty of contacting some of the
other businessmen in the area in regards to your campaign. They’re very excited
about . . .” The rest of Crenshaw’s words were lost as the men, Lincoln,
Crenshaw, the riders and the driver all entered the house.
Mulder leaned against the clapboard, trying to process what he’d just seen. He
remembered Bob Miller telling him that Lincoln was supposed to have visited
Crenshaw, but to have the man who was credited with freeing the slaves right
under the same roof as a slave trader was almost too extreme a possibility!
He waited until he was sure that all the men were inside the house before he
went to Tom. The younger man was coming around, obviously in pain. Mulder put
his hand over Tom’s mouth to keep him from moaning too loud and alerting the
occupants of the mansion. Finally the agent slung the engineer’s arm over his
shoulder and the two started the trek to the trees and hopefully, freedom.
They hadn’t gone far when Mulder’s ears picked up on something coming from the
direction of the house. He stopped for a moment, almost causing Tom to slip
from his grasp. The jarring was enough to snap the younger man into full
“What is it?” Tom asked.
“I thought . . . ” Mulder was silent until he heard it again, confirming his
worst fears. He looked over at the engineer, realizing that his companion had
heard it too.
“Dogs,” they said in unison.
Panic swept across both men’s faces. Mulder looked around frantically, trying
to find a good hiding place or even an easier way to get through the trees. Tom
tugged on his hand and pointed toward the water.
“The creek. We’ll walk the creek bed. Hopefully they’ll lose the scent.”
Mulder nodded immediately and headed off toward the creek.
Act III scene 2
Scully stood on the top step of the porch and looked out into the darkness. Off
to the east, she could see the deep purple letting go to the lighter blue of the
morning sky. One star shone brightly on the horizon and she offered up a prayer
for her partner. She was about to go back into the house when she heard another
set of tires on the gravel drive.
Two minivans with Sheriff’s Department markings pulled into the parking area.
Quickly, the drivers of each van jumped out and released the occupants of the
back cargo areas. Four tan bloodhounds, tails wagging and tongues lapping,
tumbled over each other in their excitement to get on with the chase.
Scully felt a hand on her elbow and looked up into the kind eyes of the local
Sheriff. “We tried this when Tom first disappeared, but the trail had gone
cold. It’s the best we can do until the State Police can get a helicopter up at
full light to search the fields.”
She nodded, but could tell even the Sheriff thought it was a futile attempt.
“Do you need anything?” she asked.
“If you have some item of clothing, maybe something in his rental car?”
“If one of your men doesn’t mind popping the lock on the trunk, I’m sure I can
find something,” she said, walking to the abandoned car with the Lariat sticker
at the far end of the parking lot.
In minutes she had rummaged through Mulder’s bag, the bag she’d helped him pack
just two nights before, and found his Hoya’s sweatshirt with the cut off
sleeves. She’d often threatened to turn it into a dust cloth because it never
seemed to lose the smell of sweat, even after repeated launderings. He’d always
managed to dig it out of the wash and hide it before she had a chance to find
her scissors. She caressed the natted fleece for the briefest of moments and
then handed the shirt to the Sheriff.
“This should work,” he said and smiled in encouragement. “We still have the
ball cap Beckie gave us that Tom wore, so that’s all we need.” He turned to go
over to the dogs and their handlers, but turned back. “Did I hear you talking
to your boss in DC?”
Scully was chewing on her lip, deep in thought, but his question got her
attention. “Yes. He got a call through to the Director. The St. Louis office
will be sending a team out this morning. They should be here around 10.”
The Sheriff smiled. “We haven’t had this big of a posse since Jesse James used
Cave-in-Rock for a hideout one winter,” he smiled. “We’ll find ’em, Agent
Scully. Don’t you fret.”
All she could do was nod and plaster on a hopeful expression. It made her face
feel like it was cast in cement.
It was painful to stand and wait, but Skinner had instructed her to be available
to the St. Louis agents when they arrived. She watched the dogs and their four
handlers canvass the grounds of the mansion and then saw them perk up the ears
and head in the direction of the creek several yards from the house. She pulled
in a deep breath and watched them, sending up another silent prayer.
She’d sat on the top step of the porch steps and dozed for a few moments. The
tires on the gravel startled her awake. The cavalry, such as it was, had
arrived. Four men wearing FBI jackets emerged from the Crown Vic and headed
toward her. One broke ranks and headed straight for her. She did a quick
double take and stood up as recognition hit.
“Marty? Marty Neil?” she said, first in a whisper and then louder. “Marty?”
The man was standing directly in front of her, a big grin on his face. Glancing
over his shoulder before turning back to her, he gave her a wink and offered his
hand before pulling her into a quick hug. “Dana. Been a long time.”
“Marty, I thought you were in New York, foreign counter terrorism. Of course
that was years ago.”
“Nine-eleven shake up. It was decided that the Midwest needed some expertise in
that area, too. Been in St. Louis almost four years. I’m regional SAC,” he
said, a proud smile on his face. “And you. You’re still with . . . Mulder?”
She could tell he was about to call her partner by his nickname, but thought
better of it. “You two have been partners — how long now? Some kind of Bureau
record, isn’t it?”
Scully dipped her head, allowing her hair to hide her face for a second.
“Twelve years now,” she said, lifting her chin and meeting his challenge.
“That’s, uh, that’s great. I heard about some of the work you’ve done.”
“Good reports, I hope,” she shot back.
“Oh, yeah, definitely. Well, mostly. Say, I got the file from DC, but maybe
you could fill us in a little better? I brought Starbucks in a thermos. You
still drink latte, right?”
Somewhere in southern Illinois
For a while, the cold water of the creek rejuvenated both men. As the day drew
on and the air grew hot and humid, their strength began to sap. Mulder was now
almost carrying Tom and he wasn’t in much better shape himself.
“We have to rest a minute,” he told the younger man. “Do you hear them?”
“Nah, I think we lost ’em. Look, if we follow this creek for just a little
more, the Cache River that runs past here. We can follow that further south.”
The two stumbled up the creek bed to dry land, falling to their knees. Mulder’s
legs were wobbly from running and dodging the rocks at the bottom of the stream.
They were in a few trees, but just beyond a couple of cottonwoods, the day was
heating up and the field of foot high corn near them already seemed to shimmer
in the heat, waving in the gentle breeze.
Mulder pulled off his shirt and tore it into strips. Dipping one in the creek,
he wiped his own face and then wet another and handed it to Tom to do the same.
“Where are we going, Tom?” Mulder asked, concerned that they were just running
but had no plan. They still had to figure out how to get back to their own
time. He had to find a way back to Scully.
“There’s some rock formations just a few miles from here. Lots of caves, rocky
land. We can hide there while we figure out how to get into town,” answered the
“Tom, town may not be like it was a few days ago. Town might be like the house,
170 years ago,” Mulder cautioned softly.
“Look, all’s I know is Beckie can find me if we get someplace with a phone.”
“That’s just what I’m saying, Tom. Back at the house, they didn’t have phones
That seemed to only anger the young man. “You got a better idea?”
Mulder stared out into the cornfield. It didn’t look any different than
cornfields he’d seen on any of his several visits to this part of the country.
But had farming really changed that much in 170 years? Without an obvious piece
of evidence, say a John Deere tractor plowing a field or an SUV parked in a
farmhouse driveway, how would you know what century you were in down here in the
deep rural Midwest? It all looked ageless.
“How far did you say these caves were?”
Tom smiled. “Rest up. Just a couple of miles, but the last couple will take a
bit of climbin’.”
The Sheriff’s Department had sent out lunches, bags of burgers and fries from
McDonald’s, but Scully hadn’t touched hers. She’d managed to down half a cup of
latte, but eventually left the cup somewhere and couldn’t remember where she’d
The private residence had been opened up and now served as the command post.
The kitchen island held topographical maps of the area, pictures of both Tom and
Mulder were taped to the doors of the cabinets. Scully stood in the living room
area, away from the bustle of agents and local law enforcement, feeling adrift
and totally useless. The Sheriff’s walkie-talkie squawked to life but she only
marginally listened. So far, all reports from the field had been negative.
“That’s great! Give me your coordinates again; we’ll be out there fast as we
can. No, just leave one man behind, you others go on ahead. This might be the
lead we’re lookin’ for.”
The Sheriff’s words grabbed her attention and she was next to the man in a
flash. “They found something,” she said breathless.
“A neck tie. The tag said it was some shop in Georgetown.”
“Mulder,” Scully whispered. “I’m going with you.”
“I figured you would. We’ll take my Jeep. It’s got four-wheel drive.”
They took mostly back roads and Scully was amazed at the switchback curves and
deep hills and valleys. Illinois had never seemed to have much landscaping;
certainly not up near Tuscola where they’d encountered a phantom panther just a
few months back. Here the landscape almost resembled the foothills of the
Appalachians that she knew in Maryland and Virginia.
When they went off road, she was very happy to have the four-wheel drive and
even happier to leave the driving to the Sheriff. He plowed along farm paths
and finally came to a creek where she spotted one of his men.
“I gave Brutus to John, figured they’d need him on the trail,” the deputy told
the Sheriff to explain his missing bloodhound. “Here’s the tie.” He held the
scrap of silk out to the Sheriff, but Scully’s hand snatched it from him.
“It’s Mulder’s. He was wearing it the last time I saw him.”
The Sheriff looked around. “We’re a good nine miles from the house. If that
blood can account for anything — ” He gave Scully a furtive glance and didn’t
finish the thought.
“How did he get this far, injured?” Scully said quietly. “And is he alone?”
“We found some footprints over there. Looks like he was following the creek,
like you thought, Sheriff.” The deputy directed them to a fallen log just on
the edge of the creek. “There’re two sets of prints. Those are work boots one
of ’em’s wearing. The other set appears to be leather, no tread to speak of.”
“The leather shoes are Mulder’s. He had on his wingtips. But I don’t know
about the work boots,” Scully mused.
“Could that be who took him?” the Sheriff asked. “But we didn’t find any of
those prints back at the house.”
“Wouldn’t Tom Coleman wear boots like those?” Scully asked. “And look at the
imprints. They’re both struggling, but the work boots are fainter impressions
and dragging the toes. Either the person is very light — ”
“Or your partner is helping him along.”
The Sheriff and Scully exchanged worried looks. “We best get moving. We might
be able to catch up to the dogs now,” the Sheriff said. The deputy hopped in
the back of the Jeep and they were off.
Act III scene 3
Gallatin County, Illinois
Mulder had been so concentrated on the path before him that he hadn’t had time
to look around at the spectacular scenery surrounding them. Tom was as good as
his word, knowing where trails were that led them over hill, dale and skirted
large rock formations. Their path left Mulder almost dizzy but finally, just as
Tom’s energy seemed at its lowest point, they topped a crest and saw the cave.
When Mulder thought of ‘cave’ he assumed it was a hole in the side of a hill or
mountain, like he’d found in Tennessee, home of the gigantic man-eating
mushroom. But these caves were really indentations under huge granite boulders,
little more than low roofed shelters. It took some time to scramble down the
hill to the nearest cave, but after several missteps and an almost twisted
ankle, they arrived at their destination.
“This is it, this is as far as I go,” Tom gasped as he slid out from under
Mulder’s arm and to the rock floor.
“I’ll see about getting us some water,” Mulder said tiredly. There was a
trickle of water coming from a crack in the ceiling of their cave and he made
for it. Once there he’d cupped handfuls of the precious commodity into his
mouth to quench his own thirst, he realized he really didn’t have much to carry
any water back. He quickly soaked a corner of his tattered shirt to take back
Tom wasn’t conscious when Mulder checked on him. The agent shook his head in
frustration and then looked around. It was getting close to evening and a cool
wind had blown in. The day had been hot, but the night could be a problem and
they had nothing to keep them warm. He thought briefly about starting a fire,
but was concerned that the wood smoke might alert their pursuers to their
whereabouts. They weren’t much better off here than they had been walking,
except they had some time to rest.
He was so tired. He hadn’t slept at all the night before and between the
journey and carrying Tom, his back felt on fire. He sat down next to where the
young engineer was sprawled on a rock. When his back hit the cool, rough
surface of the cave wall Mulder winced, but gradually accepted the small amount
of comfort it afforded. Maybe if he just closed his eyes for a moment he could
collect his thoughts.
The sun was further behind the hills when he awoke. Something he’d heard had
jarred his senses and brought him out of a deep slumber. He looked over at Tom,
putting a hand to the young man’s forehead. Fever radiated off the engineer’s
pale skin. Mulder bit his lip and thought about getting more water just to try
and cool Tom down a bit. But then the sound that woke him came again. Barking
— off in the distance but coming closer.
Mulder had to do something! They were going to be found. Searching the ledge
cave for any fissure big enough to hold both of them, he found only a few
boulders at the far end of the indent. Maybe he could hide Tom and lead the
dogs away from the sick and injured man. It was all he could think of on such
It took almost all his strength to pull Tom’s senseless body over behind the
rocks. He hoped it was enough cover. He walked out of the cave and listened
again. It was hard to judge exactly which direction the dogs were coming, the
hills and rock formations made for natural echo chambers. The deep shadows from
the setting sun made it even more difficult to decide on a direction to run. He
saw a rise with a huge oval shaped boulder just a few hundred yards away from
the cave and sprinted off toward it.
The dogs were close now. He could almost hear their panting in between the
howls and the barking. He imagined he could hear their paws clawing at the
rocks for purchase. He made it to the boulder and was looking back, trying to
see if he could spot the dogs. His foot caught on a tree root and he went head
over heels, but instead of hitting forest floor, he kept falling, tumbling over
and over until all was darkness.
Ferne Clyffe State Park
Just outside Goreville, Illinois
As they cleared the ridge, Scully was scrambling to keep up with the dogs and
their handlers. All four animals were brown and black balls of pure energy,
excited by the strength of the scent and the end of their hunt. Anxiety was
high among the humans. Scully had been calling her partner’s name as she
climbed down the rocks, but the wind kept stealing it away.
The dogs stopped under a ledge and sniffed. One grabbed something in its mouth
and the handler took it gently. “Looks like a piece torn off a shirt,” he said,
handing the cloth over to Scully.
“There’s blood on it,” Scully noted, biting her lip.
As she spoke the words another one of the dogs rushed over to a boulder at the
far end of the overhang and started pawing at the ground. Its handler looked
behind the rock with a flashlight and then frantically flagged the rest of the
group. “I found one of ’em!” he shouted.
A portable stretcher materialized from some one’s backpack and Scully hurried
over to see who had been found. She had to choke back an anguished cry when she
discovered not her partner, but the man they had originally been sent to
recover, Tom Coleman. Swallowing her fear for Mulder, she quickly examined the
“Get him on the stretcher and get a thermal blanket over him. Notify the
chopper of our whereabouts and that they need to get this man to the nearest
trauma center. He’s in shock, feverish, looks like he’s been hit pretty hard in
the head. If I’m not mistaken, he’s been horse whipped.”
“Horse whipped?” questioned one of the rescuers, but hurried to help perform the
task of getting the injured man on the stretcher. As they moved him, Tom began
“Dogs. . . gotta keep movin’ . . . can’t let ’em . . .” The rest of his words
were lost in his delirium.
“Mr. Coleman, where is my partner?” Scully asked gently, hoping the young man
would have some connection to reality and could point them in the right
“Overseers,” Tom muttered and fell back into unconsciousness.
The Sheriff touched Scully’s shoulder. “We’re losing the light, Agent,” he said
“He has to be here!” she spit out. “He would never have left an injured man
behind. Not unless he couldn’t help it.”
One of the dogs had broken loose from its handler and had run to a boulder some
distance away. The bloodhound was now standing on top of the boulder, barking
at whatever lay on the other side. Scully took one look at the Sheriff and they
both hurried after the dog.
She thought about climbing up the rock, but the Sheriff pointed to a way to get
around it. As she cleared the edge of the rock and peered down into the ravine
hidden beyond it, her heart jumped to her throat.
There on the forest floor, unmoving, was her partner.
Massac Memorial Hospital
The next day
Mulder was dozing in his hospital bed when Scully came in carrying another
bouquet of flowers.
“Did I die and you just haven’t had the heart to tell me?” he asked as she
placed them next to the other four or five bouquets already decorating the
“No, it’s just Southern Illinois hospitality,” Scully said with a grin. “These
are from Tom’s parents.”
“How is he doing?” Mulder asked, wincing as he reached for the cup of water on
his tray table. His back still hurt but the pain meds were helping
“Better. His fever is down. Some of the cuts and welts on his back had become
infected and he had a touch of pneumonia, but he’ll be back on his feet in a few
weeks. He and Beckie finally announced their engagement, so everyone was pretty
happy. The flowers by the wall are from Beckie, by the way.”
“Did you get a chance . . .”
She held up her hand to stop his question. “Mulder, after ensuring that you
weren’t in a coma and weren’t going to die on me, I went back to the mansion.
Neill and his men had all but dismantled the attic. There were no signs of any
of the men you told me about, not any chains, shackles, iron collars — ”
“Nothing? What about the bunk where Tom was kept? There should have been blood
“I’m don’t know what to tell you, Mulder. There wasn’t any blood anywhere.”
“But you did find my blood on the whipping post,” he reminded her.
“Yes, the blood we found out there was a match to you. Are you sure someone
didn’t just hit you in the head and you hallucinated — ” She stopped her
question when she saw the set of his jaw.
“Scully, I didn’t imagine being whipped. I have the cuts on my back to prove
that. And what about this?” he asked, holding his hospital issued gown out to
expose a dark bruise at his throat where he wore the iron collar. “I suppose I
hallucinated that, too, huh?”
“But Mulder, I was there all night. I never left that house, except to go out
on the porch. And I saw nothing.”
“But you heard me. You admitted to me that you heard me call your name. And
you heard me moaning in pain. You aren’t suggesting that you were
hallucinating, are you, Scully? Because you weren’t hit on the head.”
“Mulder, I’m just saying it’s hard for me to believe that you were lost in
another time, that the 1840s and 2005 crossed for a while.” He folded his arms
defiantly, grimacing when he pulled the healing cuts on his back. Scully shook
her head. He wasn’t going to be dissuaded this time, but then she reminded
herself that was nothing new. “Look, however you accomplished it, you did find
Tom Coleman and return him to his loved ones.”
“And you found me and did the same,” he said, reaching for her hand. She
allowed him to pull her next to him on the narrow hospital bed, happy to be in
his arms. “So, when can we go home?”
“Doctor wants to keep you one more night for observation. I have us on a 2:30
flight out of Paducah tomorrow afternoon.” He scooted over a bit so she had
more room. “So you were invisible to us all that time, huh, Mulder?” she asked
as she put her head down on his chest. The rhythm of his heartbeat was a salve
to her own emotional cuts and bruises from the last 24 hours.
“A hundred and sixty years ago men were gathered up and sold back into slavery
in a free state, Scully. No one noticed then, either. Maybe sometimes evil is
She nodded, digesting that thought. After a moment she pulled up enough to look
in his eyes. “You really saw Abraham Lincoln,” she challenged.
“Stove pipe, beard and all,” he replied.
“The Great Emancipator spent the night in a mansion where slaves were being
housed and sold. What does that say, Mulder?”
“I’m pretty certain he didn’t know it was happening, Scully. As for what it
says, I would think it says evil is everywhere. And it’s up to the righteous to
be constantly on guard,” he told her. He kissed her softly on the crown of her
head. “It says that we will always have work to do, Scully. No matter what
happens next, we must always be vigilant and look where no one else dares.”
Author’s notes: There is a lot of factual information in this story. I want to
acknowledge some articles I dug up on the internet about the Crenshaw Mansion at
Hickory Hill. The Daily Egyptian, fall 2003 edition has a wonderful article on
Clarence Bonnell gives a nicely detailed account of the Crenshaws and the house
on the illinoishistory.com site
Bill Furry did a lengthy article for the Illinois Times in 1997
And finally, the house was featured in Brian Roesch’s Haunted Illinois (scroll
down to ‘Shawneetown’)
But last and certainly not least, I have to thank the former owners of the
house, the Sisk family, who gave me a guided tour of the premises. It was when
I first saw the bed that Lincoln supposedly slept in (just as I describe it
here) that I got the inspiration for this story.
PS, many of the pictures used for the illustrations are pictures of the actual
house and the surrounding county.