Crenshaw Mansion

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.

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Crenshaw Mansion

Teaser

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

wife.

“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

my way.”

“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.”

“Always.”

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

promised.

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

with silence.

“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

in return.

“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

whole face.

“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

south.”

“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

site’.”

“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

college.”

“IDOT?”

“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,”

he muttered.

“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

ordinary.

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

explained.

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’

rooms.”

“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

him.

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

room.

“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

attached.

“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

time.

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

temptation’s path.”

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

Evansville, Indiana

4:00 pm

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

6:05 pm

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

proud smile.

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

night.

Act II scene 2

Crenshaw Mansion

8:30 pm

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

bring.

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

rest.

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.

“Scully!”

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

different quality.

“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.

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“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

whisper.

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

hushed voice.

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

to boot.”

“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!”

4:00 am

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

herself.

“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

eyebrow.

“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

morning?”

“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

house.

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

gone.

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

out yet?”

“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.”

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“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,

Agent Mulder?”

“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

talking.

“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

quickly.”

“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

totally unresponsive.

“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

smiling.

“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

structure.

“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

Mulder.

“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

consciousness.

“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

Crenshaw Mansion

5:04 am

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.

9:54 am

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

10:14 am

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

engineer.

“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

back then.”

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’.”

Crenshaw Mansion

1:15 pm

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

put it.

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

4:30 pm

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

to Tom.

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

short notice.

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

6:00 pm

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

engineer.

“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

to rouse.

“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

direction.

“Overseers,” Tom muttered and fell back into unconsciousness.

The Sheriff touched Scully’s shoulder. “We’re losing the light, Agent,” he said

firmly.

“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.

clip_image005

Epilogue

Massac Memorial Hospital

Metropolis, Illinois

The next day

10:13 am

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

windowsill.

“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

tremendously.

“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

there.”

“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

just invisible.”

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.”

the end

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

the house.

http://newshound.de.siu.edu/fall03/stories/storyReader$539

Clarence Bonnell gives a nicely detailed account of the Crenshaws and the house

on the illinoishistory.com site

http://www.illinoishistory.com/osh-loststory.html

Bill Furry did a lengthy article for the Illinois Times in 1997

http://www.illinoishistory.com/itosh.html

And finally, the house was featured in Brian Roesch’s Haunted Illinois (scroll

down to ‘Shawneetown’)

http://www.webspawner.com/users/hhaauunntteeddillino/

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.

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