A Hare-Raising Experience
HIGHWAY 602 – FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA
The smashing of glass startled her awake. Instinctively Scully reached out to brace herself for an impact that never came. All she heard was her partner’s loud curse. When she looked over at him his expression was that of utter disbelief, tiny crumbs of glass littered the front seat of the car. “Mulder? What the hell?”
“Some lunatic in a rabbit suit just impaled our windshield with an ax!”
“Wha…” Sure enough imbedded within the dashboard and a web of safety glass was the head of a large ax. “A guy in a rabbit suit?” she asked enunciating each word.
“Scully don’t look at me like I’m Elwood Dowd, I didn’t imagine it. There’s an ax imbedded in the dashboard!” Mulder turned to release his seatbelt with trembling fingers and reached for the door handle. “I’m telling you the guy was wearing white fur and he had big floppy ears.” He made ear like motions with his hands. “He came out of the woods from over there…”
“Mulder, call the police,” Scully reached to grab his right arm, preventing him from exiting the vehicle. “Tell me what happened,” she begged him.
He fumbled in his pocket for his phone, “Scully, you can see what happened!” he told her with an astonished look as he finally extracted the illusive item from his jacket.
“This is Fox Mulder, I’m with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I’d like to report an accident…”
“Will you submit to a breathalyzer test sir?” Deputy Drake from the County Sheriff’s office sized Mulder up. He didn’t look intoxicated but then who in their right mind would admit to seeing a six foot white rabbit? Especially one wielding an ax?
“I beg your pardon? I’m a federal agent.” Mulder pulled his badge from his pocket in an over exaggerated motion and held it up for the deputy’s inspection.
“Are you armed, Sir?”
Mulder didn’t respond, opting to pull his coat back to reveal his sidearm rather than risk a comment that would probably only escalate the situation. He glanced darkly in Scully’s direction.
“Well then, Agent — Mulder, “Drake flashed him a questioning look in obvious response to his first name. “May I ask what you’re doing out here at uh, one in the morning?”
“My partner and I are returning to DC from a case. Look, I’d think you’d be more concerned as to who drove the ax through our windshield then whether or not I had a few beers for dinner.” Mulder was fast losing his patience with the young deputy.
“Did I what?”
“Have a few beers with your dinner?”
Mulder rolled his eyes, “Shit”
“Deputy Drake,” Scully interrupted. She had been standing to the side of the conversation between the officer and her partner and could tell by Mulder’s tone that if she didn’t step in shortly he would be the one wearing the handcuffs. “I’m sure my partner would be willing to submit to a sobriety test if that will help with your investigation,” she gave Mulder a winced smile when he turned to her in amazement.
While Mulder went through the usual motions — touching his nose, standing on one foot — Scully examined their windshield. Who ever it was had to have been a big man. The ax had gone directly through the safety glass, impaling the dash by about three inches. The windshield had pulled away from its frame, spider-webbing around the handle of the ax. According to her partner it had happened when he stopped for the light.
Mulder came back from his test non too pleased, intentionally brushing her shoulder as he passed her and then turning to lean against the car with his arms folded, he said nothing.
“Well, did you pass?” Scully asked, taking a few steps to stand next to her partner while the officer called for a tow truck.
“I’m not wearing any silver bracelets so I guess so,” Mulder replied bobbing his head from side to side with a closed-lipped grin.
“Truck will be here in about fifteen minutes,” Drake advised them as he came over to stand next to Scully. “You didn’t see anything, Ma’am?”
“No, I’m sorry; I think I must have dozed off…”
Mulder watched the deputy nod in acceptance and then flash a look his way. He was certain the deputy was thinking he must have been dozing too.
“Are you at all interested in taking my statement for your report deputy?”
“Uh, yeah, sure,” Drake glanced at Scully and then back to Mulder. “You ah — said the guy was about six foot and was wearing a bunny suit?”
“Six feet three and a half inches, let’s stick to the facts,” Mulder deadpanned.
Drake just looked at him dumbfounded.
Thirty minutes later Drake was helping Mulder pull their belongings from the trunk of the bureau car. The tow truck driver stood to the side and scratched his head. “Been a while since I seen one of these.”
“I can give you folks a ride into the office,” Drake interrupted and then corrected himself at Mulder’s angry glare. “I mean, so you can call a rental car from there and — and be on your way.”
“Thank you Deputy,” Scully replied as she grabbed her laptop from her partner’s outstretched hand. “We appreciate the ride.”
After their possessions had been safely stowed in the trunk of the cruiser, Drake stepped over to hand the truck driver a slip of paper. Mulder studied the driver while he held the cruiser’s door so Scully could slide into the backseat. The man said a few words to Drake and then shook his head.
“I want that ax bagged and dusted for prints,” Mulder yelled over while the deputy conferred with the driver.
“Ain’t never seen a bunny with fingerprints, Mister,” the driver yelled back before turning and laughing with Drake.
“Mulder, get in the car!” Scully reached up to grab her partner’s sleeve, quickly losing patience with the whole situation. “The more you egg them on, Mulder the worse this is going to get,” she told him when he finally slid in next to her and closed the door.
“Scully, we were attacked with an ax. I don’t care if it was Lizzie Borden or Harvey,” he spat back and then turned away from her, looking back out the window and making a mental note of the name and phone number on the side of the truck. He wanted to talk to the guy tomorrow.
COUNTY SHERRIF’S OFFICE
“Yeah, this time I hear it was an FBI agent!”
Scully turned to her partner as they stepped into the bullpen of the sheriff’s office. Mulder was fast becoming the butt of an evidently local joke. His non-responsive expression indicated that he either hadn’t heard the comment or was just too tired to respond. They had been on the road since about eight-thirty. At a little after 3 A.M. they didn’t need a rental car they — needed a hotel.
Mulder spotted the coffee pot and headed straight for it. Scully glanced around the office trying to locate the person of authority. The sheriff’s office door was closed so she headed an older officer standing just behind the glass counter.
“Excuse me, Officer – Wilson.” When the officer looked up in acknowledgement she presented her badge with a smile. “Do you know when my partner…” she asked nodding towards Mulder. “And I might be able to speak with the sheriff?”
“Sheriff Donaldson comes on at seven, Ma’am,” Wilson’s gaze drifted in the direction of her partner, they both watched as Mulder winced down a sip of the office sludge. “I’m sure he’ll want to speak with you too,” she watched his right eyebrow climb to his hairline. “We haven’t had a report on the Bunny Man in quite some time.” Several of the men behind him chuckled out loud.
“The Bunny Man?”
“Yeah, it’s sort of an urban legend around these parts.”
Scully nodded, she was beginning to understand now what the joke was all about.
“Agent Scully,” Drake’s voice behind her startled her. “It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to get you a car until later today. There’s a Motel 6 down the road, I can take you both there if you’d like.”
Oh joy, top-notch accommodations she thought to herself. On the other hand, the accommodations there would probably be better than spending a night in a cell at Mulder’s expense.
“Can you give the sheriff one of my cards when he gets in please,” she asked Wilson, passing the card through the tray at the bottom of the glass partition.
“Sure thing, Agent — Scully.” She was thankful he didn’t say ‘Ma’am’ again.
When she turned around, Mulder was standing behind her holding the cup of dark coffee. He still had that nasty expression on his face. “Would you believe this is worse than mine?” he asked her.
“Is that possible?”
Mulder pulled the Elantra into the parking lot of the sheriff’s station. There were considerably more vehicles in the lot now than there had been last night including a local television station’s remote van. “Please tell me they’re not here for the Bunny Man story,” he whispered almost to himself.
“Must be a slow news day,” Scully replied as she popped open her car door.
When they entered the station the news crew was just finishing packing up their gear. Evidently they were too late for the remote broadcast. “Thank you Jesus,” Mulder muttered as he approached the counter and flashed his badge again, “We’re looking for Sheriff Donaldson,” he told the clerk.
“You must be the man of the hour,” the young woman told him. “Let me tell the sheriff you’re here.”
Mulder turned back to Scully and slid his hands into his pants pockets, surveying the room. They’d both opted for the casual look this morning intending on making this meeting short and then head for home.
“Agent Mulder!” The deep voice came from behind them and echoed around the room. Everyone seemed to stop what they were doing and look in their direction. Mulder turned around. Sheriff Donaldson was a big man in more ways than one. He was probably a good three inches taller than Mulder and had to weigh at least two-fifty but it appeared to be all muscle. He was not someone with which your average offender would want to tangle with.
“How the hell are ya!” he bellowed, shaking Mulder’s hand vigorously.
“Sheriff, this is my partner, Dana Scully…” As Mulder made the introduction, Donaldson grabbed Scully’s outstretched hand and pumped it almost as hard as he had Mulder’s. “Well, pleased to meet you too! Why don’t we all step to into my office, don’t want the whole department hearing your tale,” he started to laugh. “No pun intended of course.” He turned and motioned for them to follow him into his office. Scully smiled at her partner’s soft chuckle.
“Have a seat,” he told them as he closed the door and then proceeded to walk around the old desk. “Sorry you had to miss the broadcast; it would have been really good to get your eyewitness account.”
At this point Mulder couldn’t tell if the man was serious and just pulling his leg.
“So, tell me about your encounter with our Bunny Man, Agent Mulder,” the sheriff stated, sliding into his chair. The ax that had been extracted from the windshield of their car sat wrapped in plastic on the top of his desk.
“You get any prints off that?” Mulder asked.
“Nope, never do,” Donaldson picked up the bagged ax and balanced it in his hand testing its weight.
“I’m beginning to get the impression this is isn’t a one time occurrence. Maybe you should tell us about your Bunny Man then,” Mulder suggested tossing a glance at his partner.
“Truth is Agent Mulder, we haven’t had a report in some years which is why there’s all the hubbub over your encounter last night,” the sheriff made a motion towards the bullpen outside his door. “First time it’s been someone of your authority though. Probably better off you weren’t here for the news-folk, I don’t suppose the FBI .would want to broadcast the fact one of their agents took a little venture from reality,” he concluded with a wink.
“Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for many years, Sir. I’m happy to say I’ve finally won out over it,” Mulder joked.
“Well, this bunny ain’t no Harvey, I’ll tell you that much,” Donaldson chuckled and then scooted his chair closer to the desk and leaned over it, resting his big arms on the blotter.
“Local encounters like your own started back in the seventies. ‘Course the legend goes all the way back to the forties. “Ya see, there used to be a dirt road leading off Sunset just before the intersection where you were attacked. One story says the road led to the Bunny Man’s house. Evidently a family lived up that way back then. One Halloween the old man dressed up in a bunny costume, killed his wife and kids and then spent the whole night greeting trick-or-treater’s while their bodies cooled in his living room.”
“Happy Halloween, huh?”
“There was never any substantiation to the story?” Scully asked, a bit bewildered.
“There’s been so many variations over the years, Agent Scully; it’s hard to tell if there was really any truth to the whole thing. ‘Nother story tells of a town hermit that used to live up the same way. Story goes that he was an escaped schizophrenic. Snapped one day and murdered some kids. Guy ended up in the state pen for twenty years and then just disappeared when he was released. But lately all we’ve gotten is a bunch of stories from high school kids that like to tease their friends around Halloween up by Bunny Man Bridge. They go up there to try and see his ghost or somethin’. ‘Bout the only thing most of the stories have in common is that the guy likes to kill people. So I guess you should both consider yourselves lucky.”
Mulder leaned forward in his seat, “There’s a bridge named after him?”
“Not officially no, that’s a legend in and of itself. Railroad bridge up on Colchester Road, sort of goes along with the escaped mental patient theory. Says the guy used to hide out up that way and people started finding skinned carcasses of bunnies hanging from trees, then one day, they found this carcass of a teenager hangin’ along with them.”
Mulder turned to his partner with a pained expression. She shrugged in response.
“Sorry Ma’am. Anyway, supposedly the authorities caught up with him and chased him until he jumped in front of a train right there by the bridge.”
“The Bunny Man Bridge,” Mulder finished for him. “And you say that all these accounts are just local legend? No one has investigated these sightings?”
“Yes, sir — well I mean, no, sir. Truth is Agent Mulder, we don’t have the manpower to go lookin’ into every crackpot account of a guy in a bunny suit. There’s never been any murders as long as I’ve been sheriff — just some fools with nothin’ better to do playin’ into the legend…”
“Excuse me, Sheriff,” Scully interrupted before Mulder could respond to the sheriff’s comment. “That ax lying on your desk came out of our windshield. It could have killed either of us and you’re saying you don’t have the manpower for an investigation?”
“Well now, we got evidence here that your vehicle was damaged by this ax but there’s no prints on the ax nor were there any rabbit tracks in the local vicinity that would match a six foot rabbit so you can see where our investigation has sort of come to a stand still…”
Mulder leaned on the arm of the chair and brushed his fingers across his lips while he watched his partner attempting to work her charms on the stubborn sheriff. “Excuse me, Sheriff, but what if what you’re looking for isn’t a man in a bunny suit but something like a pooka?”
“Mulder…” Scully warned.
“A pooka you say. We’ll I never heard him referred to as that before. What’s a pooka anyway?”
“It’s from Celtic mythology. A fairy spirit in animal form, they’re usually very large,” Mulder made a motion with his hand in the air to indicate the height of the spirit. “They’ve been known to appear here and there and cause mischief.”
“A spirit you say, I’ll bet they have,” the sheriff sized Mulder up with an upward glance and then smiled.
“Mulder,” Scully reached over to touch his arm. “We need to get back to the Bureau. I think we can let the sheriff handle this.” Actually she just wanted to get Mulder out of there before his foot when all the way down his throat. When he made no attempt to move, she stood, “We appreciate your time Sheriff. If we can help you further on this, please don’t hesitate to call. Come on, Mulder,” she tapped her partner lightly on the arm hoping that he would get the hint.
Mulder sighed and got to his feet. “You mind if I take that with me?” he asked motioning to the ax on the sheriff’s desk.
“Knock yourself out,” Donaldson motioned for him to pick it up. “You might want to stop by the county library. Got a fella over there– his name’s Con — Conners I believe, that’s done quite a bit of research on the Bunny Man legend. Maybe you can tell him about this pooka theory.”
“Thanks sheriff.” Mulder gave the man a pained smile. “Maybe we’ll do that.” He turned and followed Scully out of the office.
The overcast morning had given way to a beautiful early spring day and Scully was ready to head for home. At least she was, until she overheard her partner asking the clerk at the front desk for directions to the county library. She should have known better. This was Mulder after all and he wouldn’t be satisfied until he solved the mystery of whom or what planted that ax in their windshield. He found her outside leaning against their rental car.
Mulder hefted the ax. “So, you up for a little Bunny Man research?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
Mulder popped the locks on the car and dropped the ax into the backseat before he slid in himself. “You’re not the least bit interested in who this assailant might be?”
“Mulder.” Scully tilted her head to the side trying to figure the most diplomatic way to say this. “I got the impression from the sheriff that the locals use this legend as nothing more than an excuse for malicious pranks — it’s nothing more than that. Yes, the car was damaged but it’s not your fault and no one got hurt.” With the exception of Mulder’s pride she thought to herself.
“And you’d just like to get home…” He watched her nod in agreement. “Well then, I’ll take you home and come back out here. The car is supposed to be ready later this afternoon anyway.” His voice had an irritated edge to it as he started the car. He didn’t look at her.
Somehow she’d had the feeling he would say that too and she reached over to touch his arm. “No, if you want to do this, then lets go. Just remember you owe me — big time.”
Mulder slid the car into reverse and smiled.
Mr.Conners had been out to lunch when Mulder and Scully had finally located someone at the library that knew of his whereabouts. At the suggestion of the librarian they’d ended up in this local restaurant. Scully picked at her salad while she watched Mulder attack his club sandwich. “Did you tell the librarian why you wanted to speak to Mr. Conners?” she asked her partner.
“I just told her I was doing research on local legends and that he had been recommended to me. That sound vague enough?” He swirled several fries around in the pool of ketchup on his plate and then popped them into his mouth.
Scully watched as he played with more of his fries, “Normally yes, but I got the impression from the look on her face that she didn’t believe you. What are you doing?” she asked as he suddenly began rubbing his forehead with the fingertips of his right hand.
“Wiping the ‘Crackpot’ sign off my forehead,” he smirked at her.
“Excuse me?” They both looked up as their waitress eagerly refilled their coffee cups.
“You the FBI folks that saw the Bunny Man yesterday?” she asked.
Mulder scanned the restaurant and then looked up at the woman, “You know anything about the legend?”
Scully just rolled her eyes.
“Just what my dad used to tell me,” she glanced quickly over her shoulder. He told me the guy was responsible for something like FIFTEEN murders, course that was before I was born. But I think there was one back around 1980.” She patted Scully on the shoulder, “You folks are lucky to be alive.”
Scully watched Mulder’s eyes light up. “So he’s definitely a man then?” he asked the woman.
“Well sure, honey,” she smiled in bewilderment. “What else would he be?”
FAIRFAX COUNTY LIBRARY
“Mr. Mulder,” the young man reached out to accept Mulder’s hand. “My name’s Ryan Conners. Mrs. Simmons told me you’re interested in some information on our Bunny Man legend.”
“Or your Bunny Man was interested in us,” Mulder replied.
“Ah,” Ryan glanced back and forth between the two agents. “You’re the FBI agents Sheriff Donaldson called me about. He said he thought you’d be stopping by. Come on back to my office — I’ll tell you as much of the truth as I know about our local legend.” Ryan motioned for them to follow as he turned away and headed off through the non-fiction section.
Once inside his office, Conners opened a file drawer and started to place reference material on his desk for the agents.
“That’s quite an inventory,” Mulder commented as he put down the list that had been compiled in a paper done by a University of Maryland student. The list contained over fifty accounts from all over the state that involved the Bunny Man in various nefarious acts ranging from chasing people with an ax, attacks on vehicles, and vandalism. Only three of them mentioned any murders. “What got you involved in this if I might ask?”
Conners chuckled, “I grew up around here, been hearing the stories all my life. To tell you the truth, if it weren’t for the fact that the subject keeps coming up I probably would have let it go a long time ago as just a local ghost story. But people still come in and ask about it.” He looked over his glasses at the agents. “I suppose you want to know if I think he’s real?”
Mulder continued to flip through the volume of news clippings Ryan had presented him with when they first sat down. “A lot of urban legends have some basis in fact,” he noted when he came upon the mention of the missing inmate. What about this Donald Grifon?”
“That’s an older version of the story about the man who killed his family on Halloween. Grifon was the man officials named as the escaped inmate. They later revealed that he has been institutionalized for killing his family — only it wasn’t on Halloween, it was Easter Sunday.”
“Here comes Peter Cottontail,” Mulder deadpanned.
“Mulder, I can’t believe you’ve never heard of this before,” Scully glared at him, accepting the book from her partner. Mulder was a walking encyclopedia of folklore and native legend.
“I never said I didn’t, he just never came after me with an ax before,” he answered meeting her eyes.
Ryan studied the two agents, it was easy to tell that Mulder enjoyed ribbing his partner but he could also tell the agent found legends like this fascinating. “There’s been a lot of development in the area recently. Popular opinion is we’ve got a local environmentalist using the legend as a way to scare people but I can — ah, get you a list of reference material if you’d like to do a little research yourself, Agent Mulder, he offered.
“Yeah, I’d appreciate that,” Mulder answered, looking up from studying his partner’s perusal of the material. The ringing of his cell phone startled him. “Excuse me. Mulder…”
“The library has an extensive historical newspaper archive,” Connors continued to tell Scully. “And I can give you some websites that…”
“Car’s ready,” Mulder interrupted.
Scully smiled and closed the book, “Thank God.”
As the agents rose from their seats Ryan presented Mulder with list he had mentioned to Scully. “You should have some fun looking through those,” he told the agent.
“So, in all this research you did,” Mulder glanced across the material that littered Ryan’s desk. “Did you come to any conclusions?”
“Actually, Agent Mulder, I just compiled a lot of research other people did. Based on what this gal from U of M came up with and the widespread locations and variations in the story — I’d have to say the Bunny Man did not exist. Sorry.”
Mulder just pursed his lips and nodded.
Mulder loaded their belongings back into the truck of the bureau car while Scully settled with the owner of the garage. Mr. Sanderson followed her as far as the door and leaned against the doorjamb. “You all might want to take a different route home, wouldn’t want you to run into the Bunny Man again,” he joked.
Scully turned and glared back at him. Mulder just laughed and waved. “Thanks,” he told the man. Then something the sheriff had mentioned earlier came to mind. “Hey, Mr. Sanderson, can you tell us how to get to this Colchester Road?”
Mulder glanced down to see his partner was standing right in front of him. She was not amused. “All set?” he asked her innocently.
“Yes,” she replied, snatching the keys from his fingers. “Get in the car.”
408 COLCHESTER RD.
Ryan Conners finished opening the can of Fancy Feast and spooned it into bowl over the head of his eager feline. “Dammit Elwood, wait a minute, will you!”
He tossed the empty can in the sink as the chime sounded on the microwave signaling his own dinner was ready. Gathering up his Hungry Man and some utensils he headed into the living room to watch the end of Wheel of Fortune and catch up on the latest entertainment gossip.
When the clock chimed eight he stood almost robotically, walking stiffly through the kitchen and then down the stairs to the basement to begin the practiced Celtic ritual he’d performed on many a night in the past.
Stripping from his street clothes, he began his chant. “Lord of the woodlands, hear me…”