Colonial Modern

Colonial Modern

Author: Martin Ross

Rating: PG-13

Category: Holiday/humor

Summary: Someone’s killing the first families of Cobbler’s Knob, and

Mulder and Scully may be conducting their own witch hunt

E-mail: rossprag@fgi.net

Disclaimer: Chris Carter made ‘em. I’m borrowing ‘em.

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Cobbler’s Knob, Mass.

12:46 p.m.

“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

surprised Arlene.”

“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

she worked.”

“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

words.

“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.

He’s smart.”

“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

he belched.

“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

swatted.”

Mulder stopped dead on the sidewalk, and a street performer in colonial

togs nearly collided with him. “Asshole,” the pilgrim growled, huffing

around him.

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

pattern.”

“Agent, could you please lower your tone?” Ms. Wright admonished.

“The patrons.”

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

discern.

“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

are.”

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

dragging… Hey!”

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

up?”

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

killings?”

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

up.”

“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

alarm system.”

“The back door’s wired, too, Agent,” Dora Cavanagh murmured.

“Yeah,” Mulder said, “but every locked room murder has a loophole

somewhere.”

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

blood yet?”

“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

voice.

“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

Webb.”

**

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

February, OK?”

“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

trouble.”

“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

you 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.”

“Such as?”

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

cold. Shoo.”

**

“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

there?”

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

night, Chief?”

“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–

Shit!”

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

stabili–”

“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

undamaged dress.

“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

Airstream RV.

“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,

unadulterated Felix.

“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,

right?”

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

the table.

“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

door closed.

“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?”

“Ah, nope.”

“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.”

“Uh-huh.”

“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

him?”

“‘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.

“Fine.”

“All right.”

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.

“Felix?”

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

kennel.”

“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.”

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