Author: Martin Ross
Summary: Someone’s killing the first families of Cobbler’s Knob, and
Mulder and Scully may be conducting their own witch hunt
Disclaimer: Chris Carter made ‘em. I’m borrowing ‘em.
Cobbler’s Knob, Mass.
“You know,” Scully sighed, “when you suggested giving me a goose this
morning, I was expecting some slimy experience that would leave me
feeling queasy and dirty. But I had no idea.”
Mulder cleaned the last shreds of meat from the breastbone of their shared
fowl. “You have no sense of history, Scully. This is what our forefathers
used before Metamucil.” The agent leaned back and discreetly eyed a
comely wench in 17th century garb, chomping on a wad of Juicy Fruit.
“Look, I’ll admit it’s a little gamy, but I felt bad about you probably
having to miss Thanksgiving with your mom. I thought you’d enjoy the
real deal — a genuine New England Thanksgiving meal.”
Scully selected a hoe cake from her heavily laden plate and thumped it
against the thick plank table. “And this, I suppose, was how we eradicated
the local Wampanoags?” She frowned and jerked her head toward their
waitress. “Well, at least now I know where they got the ‘ho’ in hoe cake.”
Mulder coughed, shifting in his seat. “Chief Scarborough recommended
the place — said it was ‘the most authentic colonial experience’ around.”
“So was small pox, Mulder. Did one of my cranberries just move?”
“Hey, there, folks,” a plumply pink man in a blue-on-blue uniform called
from across the quaint dining room, drawing glances from the few off-
season tourists — hard-core history buffs and K-Mart-clad families looking
to see New England on the cheap. Chief Chet Scarborough dropped into
an antique chair, threatening centuries of preservation with his
considerable girth. “Sorry — had a bit of a row over t’the high school.
Well, was it everything I told you?”
“And more,” Scully assured him, a recalcitrant chunk of goose finally
dislodging in her throat.
“Wonderful,” the cop grinned. He turned, grunting. “Say, Megan, you
want to get Felix to rustle me up a bacon cheeseburger? That’s a girl. So,
what’d you make of those files I FAXed you? Think we got us a genuine
serial killer here?”
It came out “sill killa heah,” and it took Mulder a second to translate. “Ah,
yes, Chief, I do. There are several points of similarity between the
murders, not the least of which is the clear indication that the killer was
familiar with his or her victims’ lives and daily routines. The third victim –
– Mr. Cavanagh…”
“President at the Commonwealth New England Bank. Fine fella, Greg —
one of the most important families in town, but he ate lunch every day
with the reg’lar folks and helped man the Optimists sweet corn booth
every fall festival.”
“Ah, yeah. Well, the killer managed to get past an armed, top-of-the-line
home security system, slipped upstairs, smothered Mr. Cavanagh in his
sleep, and left, again, without tripping the alarm.
“Then take Arlene Kimball, victim number five. She ran the clothes shop
down the street, right? Working late in the office behind the shop,
strangled behind her desk. Your deputy said the front shop door had
already been locked for the night, and the back door was unlocked.”
“Ayyup, that would be correct. Killer came in through the back. No doubt
“You tried that back door, Chief? Steel-reinforced, double-bolt, and hinges
that are rustier than my worst pickup line.”
“Worst?” Scully murmured.
“My point,” Mulder said evenly, “is that there’s no way our killer snuck
up on Ms. Kimball without about a gallon of WD-40. But the photos your
tech took at the scene have her pulled up to her computer. You’d agree a
woman alone at night in a shop that had been burglarized twice — right? —
wouldn’t have left the alley door sitting wide open. It would appear she let
someone in — someone she was comfortable enough with to chat with as
“Makes a stunning amount of sense,” Chief Scarborough smiled.
“And your first victim — at least according to your theory — was poisoned
with his own heart medicine.”
“Asa Randolph. Iced tea was loaded with the stuff, which he kept locked
up in his bedroom. Lucky thing Valerie the dispatcher had seen a story
like that on C.S.I. the week before, or we mighta wrote it off as an
accident or suicide.”
“Lucky thing,” Scully sighed. “Chief, we appear to have five homicides
with five widely varying methods of murder. If they are somehow related,
do you at least have some notion as to the motive?”
“Why, sure,” the policeman said as he lustfully greeted the cheeseburger
the gum-snapping Pilgrim set before him. “Fella’s a whack job.”
“Check, please,” Scully called to Juicy Fruit.
Mulder held up a hand with a diplomatic grimace. “I think that what my
partner’s trying to say is that if this is the work of a single individual, that
person’s showed a considerable amount of cunning. I don’t think she
believes a ‘whack job’ could have committed these murders.”
Scully’s brow arched at the volumes she apparently had spoken with two
“I actually agree we’re looking at a lone killer,” he continued. “I’m just
not convinced we’re talking about a serial killer. Granted, the victims
don’t seem to fit any set profile — Randolph was an 80-year-old male
hermit, Kelly Grant a 16-year-old fast food worker, Greg Cavanagh a
locally prominent 52-year-old, Pete Howe a mechanic at the local Midas
Muffler, and Arlene Kimball, a 37-year-old businesswoman. At first
blush, it would all seem random.
“But the fact that the murderer varied his – or her – murder method
suggests premeditation, planning. Most serial killers I’ve dealt with either
are driven irrationally by strong emotion or are exhibitionists – they want
to publicize their crimes. This killer’s obviously trying to escape notice.
“Obviously, not too smart,” Scully murmured, sipping her Bottomless
Cornucopia of Coffee. “I mean, five murders in three weeks, in a village
of what, 16,000? That’s a higher murder rate than Detroit or Cabot Cove
when Jessica Fletcher’s in town.”
“Seventeen thousand, give or take,” Chief Scarborough amended proudly
through a mouthful of beef. “Lotta new housing ever since they drained
the bogs west of town couple of years back.”
Mulder nodded patiently. “OK, so maybe he’s no mastermind. But I do
think that if we look closely enough, we’ll find a pattern in these killings.”
The chief settled back. “So, you think you can help us? We’re up to our
eyeballs these days. The tourists – what tourists there are these days – tend
to flock around here every Thanksgiving time, and more than a few tend to
go a little heavy on the grog. And we’ve had a few break-ins at the zoo,
took off with a couple of lizards. We could use the expert opinion of one
of the FBI’s top profilers.”
“Hey,” Mulder shrugged modestly.
“Check!” Scully called.
“What’s your damage?” Mulder grunted as the chief’s cruiser left the curb.
The smell of the day’s catch blew in from the bay a few blocks away, and
“Twenty-four hours, Mulder,” Scully snapped, stalking down Main Street.
An elderly couple sidestepped her warily, tote bags swinging. “You’ve got
a day for this little post-goose chase, and then we’re blowing this quaint
historical popsicle stand. I missed Thanksgiving last year chasing some
serial psycho and a horde of feral turkeys, and I don’t intend to miss
another. Twenty-four hours.”
“Buzz kill,” Mulder muttered.
Scully whirled. “What?”
“I wonder why he must kill, ah, these people,” her partner backpedaled.
“C’mon, Mulder, you’re reaching. This Asa Randolph was 80 – he
probably mistook his heart medication for Splenda, or maybe he pulled a
Kevorkian. Kelly Grant was strangled on her way home — probably a
mugging or an attempted assault. Peter Howe was pummeled with a metric
wrench – again, an attempted robbery gone woefully wrong. I will
concede that there is reason to suspect premeditation in the Kimball and
Cavanagh murders. But if you’re suggesting we’re dealing with a pattern
killer, the only pattern I can see here is a bunch of local WASPs getting
Mulder stopped dead on the sidewalk, and a street performer in colonial
togs nearly collided with him. “Asshole,” the pilgrim growled, huffing
Scully had continued to rant without noticing her partner’s sudden trance,
drawing stares from the villagers. Now, 30 feet beyond him, she turned.
She strode briskly back. “Mulder? Mulder?” Then, as an omniscient smile
formed on his lips, it hit her. “Ah, crap. What did I say?”
“Yes,” Lavinia Wright whispered. “Every one of ’em. Don’t know why
that hadn’t occurred to me.”
Mulder glanced triumphantly at his partner, who contemplated planting
one of her fashionable pumps in a dark, irretrievable location.
Cobbler’s Knob’s library director and official genealogist detected the
hostility in Scully’s glare, and regarded her with textbook librarian
sternness from behind her 115-year-old white-washed desk. “Sixteen
twenty-seven, seven years after the founding of the Plimouth Colony.
Thirty-nine men, thirty-six women, and 14 children.”
“Fleeing Mother England’s oppressive yolk,” Mulder finished. He turned
to Scully. “You said it — the victims were a group of white Anglo-Saxon
Protestants. Just like the good folks who founded most of New England.
Chief Scarborough even mentioned Greg Cavanagh’s pedigree. All five
were descended from Cobbler’s Knob’s founding families. There’s your
“Agent, could you please lower your tone?” Ms. Wright admonished.
Scully turned to survey the “patrons.” A single senior was slumped in a
wooden chair in the Periodicals “section,” a copy of Elle gripped in his
gray hands. His bandsaw-like snoring was the only vital sign Scully could
“Let me get this straight,” she said, crossing her arms. “Someone is killing
the great-great-great- what? – great-great-great-grandchildren of a bunch
of pilgrims? That’s taking delayed gratification to new extremes.”
Mulder turned to Ms. Wright. “Can you think of any reason anyone here
in town might have it in for the founding families? Any old blood feuds?
A centuries-old grudge come to fruition.”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t know,” Lavinia Wright purred, as if Mulder had
asked her to interlibrary the latest Hustler Forum. “The settlers who
founded this colony were good, fine Christian folk.” She snatched a small,
laminated booklet from the counter at Scully’s elbow. “Here, you can read
all about them, and then you’ll understand how shameful your allegations
Mulder studied the computer-printed cover of the cheap publication. “The
History and Lineage of Cobbler’s Knob, Massachusetts. By, oh my
goodness, Lavinia Wright.”
The librarian beamed. Mulder found it chilling. “My labor of love. The
definitive history of our village.”
“No doubt.” Mulder slipped the booklet into his jacket pocket, and Ms.
Wright extended a bird-like palm.
“$16.95,” she stated.
“C’mon, c’mon,” Mulder begged as Scully searched her bag for the key.
Scully jammed the old-fashioned brass key into the hotel lock and turned
it peevishly. “If you think a little afternoon delight is going to make up for
Mulder had shouldered past and was now punching up his Windows.
“Wrong laptop,” she mumbled.
“Where’s the high-speed connection?” her partner demanded, peering
under the antique work desk next to the bed, then under the bed.
“Cobbler’s Knob, Mulder? You’ll have to use the regular phone jack.”
Scully flopped onto the bed as Mulder negotiated an Internet connection
and began Googling furiously.
“Ah ha!” he finally exclaimed.
“Good for me, too,” Scully said, climbing off the down mattress. “What’s
He nodded toward the screen, where a cluster of angry pilgrims was
pointing at a cowering woman. “Cobbler’s Knob confidential – dirty
laundry, and I don’t mean Don Henley. The Salem Witch Trials were the
most notorious example of 17th Century mob mania, but apparently, the
good settlers of Cobbler’s Knob also knew how to party like it was 1699.
Well, 1691, to be precise. That’s when Alice Moody was brought up on
charges of being a witch for her periodic trances and spells of cursing.
This was after the corn crop failed, of course.”
“Of course,” Scully muttered. “Solid case.”
“Gave her due process,” Mulder protested. “Put her in a tub of water with
weights to see if she was a witch. Good news is, she passed with flying
colors. Bad news is, ….”
“Edward Cavanagh,” Scully breathed, peering over his shoulder. “The
man who brought the charges. And one of the panel of magistrates at her
trial was Nathaniel Kimball.”
Mulder tapped the monitor. “And a woman named Susannah Howe
testified that Moody was talking to her cat and several of the local dogs.
And to think they let her off with the tub.”
Scully stood up. “Great. A motive. You get a warrant, I’ll see if Lavinia
the Librarian has a copy of Harry Potter.”
“Ee-yep,” Chief Scarborough nodded reluctantly, walking up Gregory
Cavanagh’s cobbled walk between the agents. “Not exactly Monicagate or
anything. Happened all over Massachusetts back then. Matter of fact, one
of the selectmen suggested we hold mock witch trials for the tourists,
special effects and all. Fellas didn’t go for it, and we got stuck for a couple
gross of corn brooms and ‘You’ll be bewitched by Cobbler’s Knob’
bumper stickers.’ Why? You think that’s got something to do with these
Mulder shrugged as they ascended the Cavanaghs’ limestone steps. “I
don’t know yet, but it is the only apparent link between the victims.” He
looked for a doorbell, then settled for the huge lion’s head knocker.
A handsome, silver-haired woman in a black dress answered, glancing
curiously at the chief. “Chester.”
“Dora. Sorry to bother you at this time of loss, but we got a couple of FBI
agents would like to look at the crime scene.”
The widow Cavanagh blinked. “Well, I suppose that would be fine. Please
come in. Would you all like some chamomile tea? I was just fixing a pot
“Don’t go to any trouble on our account, Dora,” the chief insisted, sidling
past her. “Agents, Greg’s room’s up the staircase there…”
“Ah, excuse me, Chief, Mrs. Cavanagh,” Mulder began, peering back
toward the dining room. “I really would just like to look at the kitchen.”
The chief frowned at Scully as her partner wandered through the house.
Scully shrugged hopelessly. After a beat, they and Mrs. Cavanagh trailed
Mulder to a bright, decorative kitchen. He was kneeling beside the back
door, holding up a plastic ball. He shook the ball, and it jingled jauntily.
“Mulder, I’ll take you to Petco when we get home,” Scully offered.
He beamed up, beatifically. “Scully, I found how our killer got past the
“The back door’s wired, too, Agent,” Dora Cavanagh murmured.
“Yeah,” Mulder said, “but every locked room murder has a loophole
As if on cue, the quartet heard a loud mewling from beyond the door.
Mulder stepped aside, and a panel within the door gave way. An orange,
whiskered head pushed through, glaring at the group. The cat growled as it
slipped through the pet door and past the agent.
“See?” Mulder sang.
“I don’t want to second-guess the FBI, specially seeing as how I asked you
here and all,” Chief Scarborough drawled as he cruised back toward Main.
“But maybe you ought to explain this theory of yours to me.”
“Yeah, Mulder,” Scully chimed in from the backseat. “Why don’t you
explain your theory?”
“Not yet,” Mulder said. “Chief, the zoo open today?”
“The zoo?” the cop squeaked.
“The zoo. I need to corroborate a few things. Tell me a little more about
this zoo break-in the other night.”
“Okayy,” the chief sighed, deciding to roll with it. “About 11 p.m. or so,
Jack Winthorne, night zoo guard for the Parks Department, spots
somebody roaming around near the badger pen. Said the fella had a big
trash bag with something in it over his shoulder. Called out, and Jack
swears he pulled a weapon, cause he drew his own and got off a nice
square shot. Burglar fella screamed something and went down. Jack was
scared he’d killed the fella, cause he wasn’t moving, but by the time he got
to where he’d fell, the fella was gone with his bag, and all that was left
was a puddle of blood. A big puddle. Checked all the area hospitals, but
nobody’s showed up. Fella took a bullet for a couple of lizards.”
Scully leaned against Scarborough’s headrest. “Have you analyzed the
“Figured we’d find some fella with a hole in ‘im, and then match it up to
‘im,” he admitted. “Department budget’s a mite tight this fiscal year. And
here, folks, is the Cobbler’s Knob Municipal Zoo in all the glory.”
The curator was a thin, leathery sixty-something man modeling the latest
in safari wear and sporting a perpetual look of indignity.
“Weren’t lizards, for crying out loud,” the zookeeper muttered as he
ushered his guests into a lab-like room behind a cougar’s den. Urine and
feces melded into a piquant perfume. “Lizards are reptiles, Chet. These
were amphibians. Reptiles are land animals; amphibians develop from
gilled larvae into air breathers. How you ever got to be chief of police…”
“So the missing animals were, what, salamanders?” Mulder inquired.
“God’s sake, no,” the curator huffed, shoving a scoop into a pail of brown
nuggets. “Notophthalmus viridescens. Red-eyed newt. Used to be lousy
with ’em around here. The numbers started dropping a few years ago, and
then the developers drained all the marshes. Kept a couple of three or four
on display just to remind folks of the biodiversity.”
“And that’s all your intruder took?”
“All?” The leathery man appeared ready to fly into another snit, but the
lab door swung open and a huge bald head peeked in.
“Chief?” the burly uniformed man inquired in an incongruously high
“Jack.” Scarborough walked over and slapped the guard on a beefy
shoulder. “Like you to meet Agents Mulder and Scully. They’re FBI.”
“Wow.” Jack Winthorne nodded, trying to appear impressed. “I ain’t in
trouble over that fella, am I?”
“Now, Jack, we all know you were doing what the city pays you for. The
agents here just want to ask you a question or so.”
“Mr. Winthorne,” Mulder began. “You say you shot the suspect?”
“Yup,” Jack nodded eagerly. “Left enough blood to paint a barn.”
“You sure? You couldn’t have just winged him, maybe?”
The guard squared his shoulders. “Mister, I’ve won three Eastern
Massachusetts marksman trophies the last five years. When I saw that fella
draw on me, I wasn’t screwing around. I plugged him good and square.”
“You told the deputies this man yelled something when you shot him.”
The zoo guard looked sheepishly to Chief Scarborough. “Well, that was
kinda odd, you know. At the time, I’m pretty sure what the fella said, but
now, it don’t seem to make sense. It was like in golf, you know?”
“Jack?” Chief Scarborough prodded.
“Okay. I shot him, he spun around, and he yelled, ‘FORE!'”
“And you’re the one that got the hole in one,” Mulder tsked. He scanned
the blank faces around him. “Guess it loses something if you’re not Jack
Since lunch, Mary Ellen Slunecke had changed from pilgrim garb into hip-
hugging jeans and a torso-friendly tank top and from Juicy Fruit to a pack
of Virginia Slims. The waitress held tightly to her cigarette outside the
Cobbler’s Tap, which at 7:20 was blasting low-strength speed metal.
“Yeah, I guess you could say he was losing it,” she drawled. “He was an
OK old dude, but half the time lately, I’d have to chase him down to give
him his pipe or his paper or one time even his coat, and this was like
“Mary Ellen, you sure you don’t want to grab your coat from inside?”
Chief Scarborough asked paternally. She waved the invitation away with a
plume of blue smoke.
“Did you ever seen him take medication with his meals?” Scully inquired,
shivering even in her dense wool overcoat.
“His heart shit, yeah,” Slunecke nodded. “Had to take it with water, and
half the time, I had to remind him to take it at all. He was a sweetie, even
if he was kind of an old hermit. Tipped OK for an old dude, too. Sooo,
why did you ask me all that other shit? I don’t want to get anybody in
“Not a big deal,” Mulder grinned. “Thanks for talking to us. You better get
inside now — you look pretty chilly.”
For the first time, Mary Ellen broke into a sweet smile. “Yeah, I noticed
Mulder looked away quickly, avoiding Scully’s eyes.
“You want a warrant for what?” Judge Anselm Slocum rumbled, tugging
his cardigan sweater tighter over his skeletal frame. The magistrate was
holding court with the chief and the agents at The Hob-Knobber, a steak
knife substituting for his customary gavel.
Scarborough coughed. Mulder took the ball. “Uh, sir, we believe this
individual may have stolen three red-eyed newts from the city zoo and
could be implicated in the recent spate of homicides here in town.”
“Spate,” the judge murmured, sawing into his New York strip. “You’re an
officious young fella, aren’t you?”
“What they tell me,” Mulder plucked a fry from the judge’s plate and
settled back nonchalantly.
Slocum squinted at him for a moment, then showed yellow teeth. “Go on.”
“We also want to secure some DNA evidence to link this suspect to the
zoo robbery and, hopefully, the murders.”
“What’s your link at this point, Chet? What’s your cause for the warrant?
The chief, son, not you.”
Scarborough chafed in his leather captain’s chair to the strains of Sinatra
filtering through the weeknight crowd. “Well, Agent Mulder here’s put
together a fairly strong circumstantial case against the, er, suspect.”
The chief fumbled the crime scene photo from inside his uniform jacket
and handed it over. The judge peered at it.
“On the desk there,” Slocum tapped with a talon. “That’s your
circumstantial case? What else you got?”
“Well, ah…” The chief looked to Mulder and Scully for support. The judge
waved them off.
“Ai-yeah, I suspected as much,” Judge Slocum muttered. “Steak’s getting
“You think it’s gonna happen tonight?” the chief asked incredulously,
taking a tug from his coffee in the driver’s seat of the CKPD unit.
“The interval between each murder’s been decreasing incrementally,”
Mulder’s voice drifted from the backseat. Scully had called shotgun this
time. “That’s not unusual in the case of serial killings. Accelerating
adrenalin, anticipation, a desire for swift revenge. Which, I believe, is the
motivation for these murders.”
“The witch thing again?” Scarborough sighed.
“Sort of. But regardless of the motivation, our suspect appears to fit our
MO. MOs, I’d guess I’d have say. First of all, our suspect knew the
victims’ routines fairly intimately. I think the killer was in a position to
learn things about them, that they communicated freely around the
murderer about the most personal matters.
“All of the murders except Pete Howe’s occurred late at night, after 10
p.m. Although that may be the ideal time of day for a killing spree, I
suspect it also was the only convenient time for the killer.”
Down the street, the lights went out. A figure appeared on the street,
walking the opposite direction.
“Here we go,” Scully murmured. “Just stay back. A tail isn’t easy in a
village of 16,000.”
The car crept along, sans lights. “The killer’s almost positively local, and
someone the townspeople trust,” Mulder continued. “Arlene Kimball let
the killer into her shop late at night. Pete Howe appeared to be working on
an engine when he was murdered. And you told me Kelly Grant showed
little sign of having put up any kind of fight with her assailant. And, of
course, the link between the victims–”
“The supposed link,” Scully corrected.
“–would indicate the killer was from the area. And then there was a
common element to several of the crime scenes. It was on Arlene
Kimball’s desk — you and the judge both noticed it, though the killer
somehow missed it. If you blow up the Howe crime scene, you’ll see the
same thing on his tool chest, behind the car Howe was working on.”
“Turning on Seaward,” the chief reported. “Shoot, who is it lives down
Mulder squinted as the figure disappeared around the corner and the cop
picked up his speed. “You think about it, and it becomes clear. Someone
the townspeople know and like but whose presence normally is ignored or
forgotten. It’s Chesterton’s postman all over.”
“Mr. Nieman down to the Post Office?” Scarborough piped, confused.
“No, I meant the old detective sto– Ah, never mind. Our killer is free to
kill only late at night. Wouldn’t you say the town pretty much closes at
“Shops around seven, when the tourists are here, five during the off-
season. Grocery closes at nine. The Walgreen’s and the Denny’s are 24
hours. Tap closes midnight sharp by ordinance, 1 a.m. on the weekends.
Café closes at 10.”
“And that ties in with our crime scene evidence. Nobody thought twice
about that Colonial Café cup on Kimball’s desk, because it was so
commonplace. Same with the soda at Pete Howe’s garage. And it may
explain how Asa Randolph was poisoned. By all accounts, he left his
house pretty much only to buy groceries and have supper at the café. All
other times, he kept his heart medication locked up. Now, it’s unlikely old
Asa would’ve taken his medicine out at the grocery, but he has to have
water with his tablet. Water served up by young Mary Ellen. I think Asa
left his medication at the table the day he died. The killer discovered it and
returned it to him, minus three or four pills no doubt dissolved in a glass of
tea supplied by our good-hearted murderer.”
“Lavinia,” the chief gasped as they turned the corner of Main and
Seaward. “Lavinia Wright. And she’s the great-great-great-something-
granddaughter of one of the original settlers. Aw, jesus pete, I don’t see–
Mulder stopped his hand before it could switch on the light bar. “We need
to check on her, but let’s not risk spooking the killer in case we’re wrong.”
Scarborough nodded anxiously as Scully unholstered her sidearm. “But,
Agent, how’d you come up with, you know? It could have been any one of
10 people work at that café.”
Mulder was silent as the cruiser squealed to a stop before Lavinia Wright’s
cottage. A beacon shone across the grass from the gaping front door, and
Scarborough, Mulder, and Scully jumped from the car.
The town librarian and official genealogist materialized in the doorway,
the front of her housedress scarlet and shiny.
“Call an ambulance!” Scully barked at the chief as she scrambled toward
the frail and bloody old woman. “Ma’am, lay down. We have to get you
“Oh, can the dramatics,” the spinster snapped peevishly, batting at
Scully’s ministering hands. “You gotta catch him — my best carving
knife’s in ‘im.”
“In him?” Scully whispered, examining the soaked but otherwise
“Jammed it right between the first and second intercostals, like I learned at
the Y self-defense course. Thought he was dead, but he high-tailed it out
the back while my back was turned. Shouldn’ta got too far.”
Mulder bolted along the side of the house, and as he reached the grassed
alleyway, he spotted the figure limping along.
“Stop! FBI!” the agent yelled. The figure seemed to gain steam.
Mulder came upon the bloody knife about 40 feet away. “Bag this!” he
screamed back to whomever might be listening. His lungs felt like steel
wool, but he started to gain on the fleeing murderer. Then the fleeing
murderer almost got creamed at the alley entrance, by a glistening silver
“On…the…ground!” Mulder panted. “Do…it…now!”
The figure turned with a desperate look. He glanced either direction, then
at Mulder’s gun. Then, the killer’s eye took on a gleam of optimism.
“You’re down to four, now,” Mulder warned him. “And I have six bullets.
I guess the question you want to ask yourself, punk, is, do I feel lucky, ?”
The murderer’s shoulders slumped, and he looked confused. “What?”
“Just, just get on the freaking ground, OK, Felix?” Mulder snapped
disgustedly. “Nobody appreciates the classic any more.”
“It’s been more than 300 years since Alice Moody was killed,” Mulder
began. He’d asked for 20 minutes alone with the homicidal
cook/busboy/delivery man, and the selectmen had never seen fit to pop for
two-way glass for the department. “Why this long?”
Felix Longworth sat silently at the other end of the conference table, his
hand resting beside a cup of cold coffee. He was a lanky, rail-thin man
with jet-black hair who could’ve been anywhere from a rough-ridden 28 to
a dissipated 50.
“It was Asa, wasn’t it? This has been festering for years — maybe you
contemplated killing their descendants before. But when Asa left that heart
medication on the table you were bussing, it must have seemed like fate.
You took him that spiked tea — you may have been one of the few people
in town he’d have allowed inside his inner sanctum. After that, it seemed
like a mission, a holy crusade.”
Felix picked up the cup and started to take a nervous sip. Mulder slammed
his palm on the table, and the cup jumped.
“Hey,” the cook whined, mocha liquid dripping through his fingers.
Mulder came around the table and perched on the corner a foot from the
suspect. “Arlene Kimball was expecting you with her coke and sandwich.
Pete Howe had called in a delivery — to you, luckily, right? It was the only
killing that took place before the café closed, and the rest of the crew
probably didn’t think about asking where you were going.
“And Greg Kavanagh. That was probably you’re only really brilliant
move. No one would ever guess how you got past that alarm system.”
Felix forgot the mess for a second. He examined Mulder’s face with
interest, with a new fear.
“You’re just unfortunate you got stuck with the craziest bastard in the
Bureau,” Mulder snarled. Then he smiled. “I doubt I’ll ever convince any
prosecutor or jury you got into the Cavanagh house through the cat flap —
although you’re not the first one to be able to manage it. But the DNA
analysis of the blood at the zoo and on Lavinia Wright’s housedress are
pretty compelling evidence.”
Mulder didn’t mention that the blood collected at the zoo had been
declared contaminated with animal blood — a revelation that nonetheless
had seemed to encourage Mulder. The half that was human blood was
Felix’s. The DNA spattered on Lavinia Wright’s dress was pure,
“You got into the zoo the same way you got into the Cavanaghs, but my
guess is you can’t stay in form for more than a few minutes at a time,
Felix frowned, but remained silent. The conference room door opened.
“Felix, they screwed up on the fish sandwich — gave me a loaded Big Mac
instead,” the chief said apologetically, sliding the white paper bag across
“My luck tonight,” the busboy sighed, reaching into the bag and
withdrawing the burger. A trickle of special sauce leaked immediately
down his arm, but he launched full-on into his Mac.
“Agent Mulder, can I see you outside?” Scarborough asked. “Give us a
few moments, OK, Felix?”
“MMPH,” the killer nodded, sending sauce and lettuce shreds flying.
“You took out the napkins, right?” Mulder asked the chief as soon as the
“Yep. Don’t suppose you’d care to tell me why.”
“Little theory,” Mulder smiled.
“All RIGHT,” Scully breathed, coming off the wall. “That is it. No more
theorizing, no more coy clue-dropping, Mulder. Spill.”
Mulder backed up a step. “You ever heard of a familiar, Chief?”
“The familiar is usually a cat or dog that’s been specially trained by a
witch for occult use. According to the Book of Shadows, the witch and its
familiar’s thoughts travel together.”
“O-kay,” Scarborough drawled.
“The presence of a familiar often was used to prosecute witches in Europe
and the colonies — a lot of old women were put to death simply for cat
fancying back in the day. My suspicion is that Alice Moody’s familiar was
given human form, then got stranded between species when his master
flunked her obviously flawed witch test.”
“Your guys search Felix’s apartment yet?”
“Yup,” the chief nodded, relieved to return to Earth. “Garbage had four
red-eyed newts. Carcasses, that is. He’d, ah, mutilated ’em — taken their
eyes out. That some kind of psychosis or something.?”
“Nah, just sorcery. My guess is Felix has been trying to reverse Alice’s
spell for the last, oh, 300 years or so. Eye of newt is a common ingredient
in potions used in conjunction with incantations. Maybe it’s what gives
him the ability to temporarily shift back into feline form. Felix had a
steady supply of newts until the developers drained the local bog. The zoo
was his last source of amphibian parts.
“I imagine the murders were the culmination of Felix’s growing
frustration. Over the decades, the centuries, he’s somehow managed to
make his way in the human world. Early on, it wasn’t too tough — we
were an agrarian society, and even the industrialization of America
wouldn’t have posed too much of a challenge. Sure, because he didn’t
appear to age, he probably had to keep moving from village to village,
town to town.
“The Information Age must have been his downfall. No personal history,
he couldn’t risk a corporate physical or a drug test — not with that half-
feline DNA you found at the zoo. Eventually, he had to lead a colorless,
faceless life in a quiet, dead-end job. I suspect that — and his natural
homing instinct — must have brought him back to Cobbler’s Knob. And
into the orbit of the descendants of the men and women who’d destroyed
his chance to live a ‘normal’ life.”
Chief Scarborough now merely blinked, weakly. “And, and you’re saying
Felix is immortal? Like a vampire or something?”
“I don’t think he’s precisely immortal, Chief,” Mulder ventured.
“Remember what the guard at the zoo told us Felix yelled when he shot
“‘Fore!” Scully recalled.
“No, ‘four.’ I don’t think Felix is immune from mortality. I think his life is
defined by feline parameters. Your friend Jack did get a bull’s-eye, and
Felix, realizing he was one step closer to mortality, cried out in dismay.”
Scully groaned. “Oh, please.”
“That was Felix’ fourth life. When Lavinia gave him the shiv tonight, he
gave up his fifth. He’s got four of his nine lives left. Speaking of
countdowns, we’ve probably given him enough time for his feline
instincts to kick in. That’s why I didn’t let him have any napkins. OK,
three, two, one…”
Mulder threw the conference room door open. Felix’ eyes popped, and his
inhumanly long sandpaper-like tongue was frozen in mid-groom. His
brown irises — narrow slits — transformed back into human form
“What’s new, pussycat?” Mulder purred.
“Shit,” Felix sighed.
Scully poked at the fried square on her plate. “No, Mulder.”
“C’mon,” her partner yawned, testing his coffee. “Fried mush is a New
England classic. Pour a little syrup on it.”
“Because there appears to be a cigarette butt in it. Why are we eating
breakfast in the town bar?”
Mulder leaned back, studying the stuffed egret over the Cobbler’s Tap bar,
staring cockeyed back at him. “Because after we retired their head chef,
busboy, and delivery man, I was afraid what the manager at the Colonial
Café might put in our syrup.”
“I think Chief Scarborough may recommend putting thorazine in yours’.
We’re just lucky we have all that DNA evidence, though I suspect
Longworth’s attorney will drum up enough reasonable doubt to drive a
Hummer through, especially the lack of any wounds to match up with that
DNA.” Scully shoved her greasy cornmeal brick to the side. “Let’s get on
the road — we can make Mom’s by evening if we leave now.”
Mulder dropped a ten on the burned and chipped formica and rose. “Well,
at least you gotta admit–”
“No, Mulder,” Scully stated flatly. “I don’t. You got any business, you
better take care of it now. Because I’m driving, and there will be no
unscheduled Slurpee stops.”
“Good,” Mulder said.
Scarborough’s unit thumped over the curb behind Mulder’s rental as the
pair exited the tap, and the chief jumped out almost as the engine cut out.
“He’s gone,” the cop announced.
Scarborough nodded. “Cell was empty this morning. I don’t even want to
think about how he escaped. Put out an APB. You gonna stick around?”
Mulder considered, and Scully coughed. “Ah, no — I think you can handle
it from here.”
The chief then chewed his lip and glanced off for a moment at the sun
rising over the cove. “Well, maybe we won’t have to.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“We-e-ell, we’re in charge of the county’s K-9 drug unit. We’re kinda
short on real estate, and we built a kennel right beyond the cell block year
or so back. After we discovered Felix was gone, I noticed the casement
window at the end of the corridor was open. Window opens out into the
“Oh, God,” Mulder murmured.
“Yeah,” Scarborough sighed uncomfortably. “That’s how we’d went back
to check on Felix — the boys sent up quite a row back there.”
“How many ‘boys’?” Mulder asked slowly.
“Enough.” The chief sighed. “Gonna miss those bacon cheeseburgers.”