Summary: Mulder is trapped in a ‘haunted house’ on Halloween.
Written for the VS.
Category: X-file, Mulder in peril, Scully in peril
Two weeks exclusive with VS15.
Disclaimer: no copyright infringement intended.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31st, 2007
“Mulder, why are we here?” Scully asked with a sigh, staring up at the pencils embedded in the ceiling as she leaned back in her chair.
“Because there have been reports of unexplained phenomena in this particular house, in the suburban neighborhood just outside—”
“I’ve listened to that explanation for the past hour and a half,” Scully said, sitting up straight now and looking him in the eye. “And I fail to see how we have any real evidence of an X-file here. What we have is a children’s newspaper article—something you picked up entirely by chance, that is most likely made up to scare their friends at school.”
“The Hillside Elementary School’s newspaper won awards for its credibility,” Mulder said. “They reported on Presidential elections, the stock market, current affairs…not to mention a highly developed video game review section and comic page.”
“They’re eight years old.”
“Some of them are ten,” Mulder said. He put the child’s article down on his desk, and stood up. “Scully, the evidence presented in their article may sound juvenile but it all checks out. It doesn’t matter if their writing style is childish—they’re children! It doesn’t mean they aren’t credible. I’ve checked out every sighting they mentioned in the article, and they were all established with the local police.”
“A local police office in Hillside, Virginia, that has less to do than Andy Griffith.”
“Come on, Scully, it’s worth checking out.”
“And you’re already here, so why not go trick-or-treating with me?”
She gave him a ‘look’.
“Like you said, it’s Halloween! Let’s have a little fun with it!”
She stood up, and sighed. “Mulder, I swear, if I didn’t love you I’d have killed you by now.”
“I knew you’d see my side of it,” Mulder said cheerfully, apparently ignoring her implied threat. He stood up and grabbed his coat, and started out the door.
Scully reluctantly followed, and said, “If this turns out like the last haunted house, Mulder, it won’t matter if I love you. I will shoot you.”
Mulder looked behind him, and smirked. “I thought you didn’t want it to turn out like last time.”
She rolled her eyes, and barged in front of him. He grinned, and followed.
HILLSIDE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31st, 2007
Walking through the halls, the agents were bombarded by a stream of giggling eight-year-olds in the third grade section of the school. One little boy tripped and Mulder feared he would be stampeded by his classmates, so he helped the third-grader to his feet. The thanks he got was a screeching cry, “Stranger! Stranger! Help! He’s got me, help!”
Mulder let the little boy go, and a teacher ran out into the hallway. The kids made way for the adult, who looked like she was about to punch Mulder.
The agents quickly drew their badges. “We’re here with the FBI,” Scully said before the woman could ask. “And we’re investigating suspicious activity near 435 Westbury Street.”
“A little girl named Ashley Burns wrote a detailed article on the subject, and we were wondering if we could speak to her about her sources.”
The teacher looked taken aback. “Um…of course. She’s in my class. I hope you understand that the ‘suspicious activity’ is nothing more than teenagers playing pranks around that area.”
“Yes, we’ve considered that option,” Scully said, aiming a pointed glance at Mulder.
Mulder quickly covered his tracks. “But in the event that it wasn’t teenagers, and illegal activity has been occurring in the location, we need to investigate,” he said.
The woman nodded comprehensively and led them into her classroom. A bell rang, and the little children ran toward their classrooms to take their seats. “I’m Pam Wells, by the way,” the teacher said.
“Agent Mulder, and this is Agent Scully,” Mulder said.
”Pleased to meet you,” Pam told them, and approached a little girl sitting at a desk. “Ashley, these people are here from the FBI. They’re interested in your newspaper article.”
The little girl’s eyes grew wide. “Did I break any rules?” she asked.
“No, Ashley, we just had a few questions,” Mulder said kindly. “Want to step out into the hallway?”
Ashley nodded cautiously, and Scully offered her hand to the fearful girl. When Ashley took it, they moved into the hallway and could hear the classroom explode with chatter as soon as they were gone. The door shut behind them, and Ashley looked up inquisitively.
“We understand you checked out the Westbury house, for your newspaper article,” Scully said. “We were just wondering how you made sure all the things you put in the article were true. Could you tell us that?”
“I talked to the police,” Ashley said, “And I brought them a big list of things that people had seen. I wanted to make sure everything I wrote had a police record, ‘cause people report things like that. And they had records of everything. So I put it all in my article.”
“Could you tell us if you’ve ever seen any of the things you’d written about?”
“I saw the lights going on and off, and I knew the house was contempted, so no one lived there.”
“Condemned,” Mulder corrected with a small smile. “Do you live near the haunted house?”
“I live about two blocks away. I ride my bike down there all the time.”
Mulder nodded, his facial expression still passive and non-threatening. “So I’ll bet your friends and you sometimes want to go inside, huh?”
“Sometimes we dare each other, but no one’s actually done it. The sign on the front says you can get in a lot of trouble if you cross the fence. But a lot of teenagers have come really close. Most of them were arrested.”
“They were arrested right away? Before they got into the house?” Scully asked.
Ashley nodded. “The police sit right around the corner, and sometimes right out front. If anyone goes near it, they arrest them. That’s why not many kids make it past the back yard fence. And no one goes in the front. That’s just dumb.”
Scully looked perplexed, but Mulder spoke before she could voice any concerns about the story. “So you’ve probably heard a bunch of stories about that haunted house, huh?”
“Would you share some of them?”
She looked uncomfortable for a moment, before saying, “It’s just supposed to be a Hillside thing. That’s what the grown-ups told us when they told us all the stories. That’s how the story starts. ‘You can’t tell anyone outside Hillside.’”
Mulder and Scully glanced at each other. “We’ve got special permission to hear things like that, Ashley,” Scully said. “FBI agents are like police officers—you can tell them things you wouldn’t tell other people.”
“So I won’t get in trouble?” Ashley asked.
“You won’t get in trouble, I promise,” Mulder said.
“Okay,” Ashley started, hesitating for a moment. “I’ll tell it just like my parents told me. Twenty-five years ago, before I was born, a man in Hillside went crazy. He got a chain saw and started hacking people up with it, just like in the movies only for real. They tried to catch him, but he got away. He ran into the forest.” She shuddered a bit. “And then ten years later, some people say they saw him. They say he met somebody outside the forest who led him straight to the contempted—condemned—house. But when the police went and searched it, they said no one was there. Still, every night, the lights come on for a bit and then go out. The doors open up and close by themselves. One minute you’ll see a window closed, and the next it’s open again. The yard’s unkempt and overgrown and messed up, and the ivy’s about to take over the house, but no one dares go near it. ‘Cause if you do, the crazy man will get his chainsaw and hack you up. It’s not a person in there—it’s his ghost. And that’s why it’s haunted.”
Mulder and Scully were quiet for a moment. “And why aren’t you allowed to tell people that live outside Hillside?” Mulder asked.
“Because, that’s how the story starts,” Ashley explained. “It’s a Hillside secret. Not even the real estate office tells people about it. That’s what my dad says.”
“Ashley, what’s the house like on Halloween night? Is it very busy, with police all around it? Or is it kind of quiet?” Scully asked.
“There are two more cars than usual on Halloween. It’s kinda something all the kids go and stare at, until they’re told to move away. It’s kinda cool, like that. But we don’t want to get hacked up or something. So only stupid teenagers go past the fence in the backyard.”
“Thank you, Ashley, you’ve been very helpful,” Mulder said. “And I’m very glad you wrote that article.”
Ashley shrugged. “It was just a school project.”
“We’ll let you go back to your classroom now. Thanks for helping us out,” Scully said. Ashley smiled and went back into the classroom, leaving Mulder and Scully alone in the hallway.
“Well, I think it’s fairly obvious what’s going on here,” Scully said.
“Yes, I do too,” Mulder said, and started walking.
“I’m afraid to ask, Mulder,” Scully stated.
”Don’t worry, I don’t think this is a ghost, or an X-file,” Mulder stated.
Scully stopped in her tracks. “You don’t?”
“No, of course not. It’s pretty obvious what’s really happening.”
“Well…why don’t you enlighten me?”
“The chainsaw man—whatever his name is, we’ll have to look that up—he’s being harbored in the house by the police. Clearly it’s their own little secret. We’ve just got to get a warrant to go in and drag him out.”
Scully smiled, and looked down as she started walking.
“What?” Mulder asked. “You don’t think he exists, do you, Scully?”
“It’s a child’s tale, Mulder. And that house is condemned—a very attractive thing for children. It makes sense that there would be a police presence, especially on Halloween. Imagine what would happen if one of those kids went in there, and fell through the floor?”
“Explain the lights, then. And the windows.”
“Kids imagine things all the time. They love ghost stories, and you yourself admit that this is not a ghost.”
“Not a ghost. A fugitive,” Mulder said.
“A fugitive we’ve never heard of? A fugitive that is guilty of a violent killing spree with a chainsaw, from twenty-five years ago, that we haven’t heard of?”
“It’s possible. We don’t know every serial killer who’s ever walked the Earth.”
“But this is Virginia,” Scully argued, opening the front door to the school. “It’s too close to home. We would at least remember it from the nightly news. You would definitely remember something like that.”
“I was in England, and you were in college, and please tell me you didn’t watch the nightly news every day at college.”
“No,” she admitted reluctantly, “But I would’ve heard about something like this. It would have been all over American news everywhere.”
“I doubt it. If he only killed two people and it was contained to Virginia, it would have been a brief story on one or two nights of the week, and people may have mentioned it in casual conversation, but it wouldn’t have been big. We’ll find out, though.”
“Where are we going?”
“Back to the office. I want to look a few things up before we head to that house for the night.”
“For the—Mulder, we can’t spend Halloween night in a condemned house!”
“Why not? Sounds perfect to me.”
“We don’t even have a warrant, or backup, or…what are you planning on doing? Waiting for the chainsaw man to come home from the grocery store?”
“I doubt he leaves very often.”
They climbed into their car, and Mulder started the engine. “Mulder, I want you to do me a favor,” Scully said.
“Ooooh, Scully, I thought you’d never ask,” Mulder said with a mischievous grin.
Scully rolled her eyes, and ignored the comment. “I want you to promise me you aren’t going to ditch me and go in there by yourself. If we’re going in, we’re going in together, and we’re doing it with backup and a warrant. If there is a chance that this chainsaw maniac is in there, then the police are obviously trying to protect him and we’ll be working against a madman and the locals.”
“I think we can dish out more reserves than little Hillside can,” Mulder said nonchalantly. “I’m not worried. But okay. I won’t go in alone. And we’ll approach the maniac with extreme caution.” He didn’t voice his happiness that Scully was acknowledging the maniac’s existence with so little argument. He didn’t want to spoil the moment.
435 WESTBURY ST
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31st, 2007
Trick-or-treating had started in the tiny town. It was less than a mile across, but the kids were in every square meter they could occupy. They ran around happily, ready to start their candy-collection, or T.Ping and egging in some cases.
Mulder and Scully walked down the street, having parked a few blocks away, and surveyed the police presence casually. They noticed three cars, one hidden and two visible. The only way in seemed to be through the back. They had federal agents ready to move in and surround the place the minute they had confirmation of the suspect’s presence. The agents also had orders to detain any police officers who might try to resist the apprehension of the suspect.
What they had found at their office was disturbing. There was indeed a chainsaw maniac twenty-five years ago that no one had caught. No body had ever been found after the final chase that forced the killer’s car into the forest, and caused the vehicle to explode in a ball of fire. But no charred human remains had been sited, even after a careful inspection.
What was even more disturbing was Mulder’s discovery of the nearly successful cover-up that took place directly afterward. The maniac was the police chief’s younger brother. Mulder and Scully didn’t even bother talking to the man. From witness testimony, and what they pieced together, they had enough for a warrant. And surprisingly enough, Mulder had found a contingent of field agents willing to be his backup.
The one snag was that the house was, indeed, condemned and they had no idea about the infrastructure. They weren’t sure if they were walking into a booby trap or rotted floorboards from the moment they entered. So they had no choice but to enter carefully.
The police presence made that very difficult. Since they were operating under the radar, in a completely FBI-sanctioned mission to discover if the local police really were concealing a fugitive from the federal government, they had clearance to detain anyone who resisted. But that, naturally, would undermine the nature of their mission. If the occupant inside was alerted to their presence, there was a chance he could make a run for it.
Mulder spotted a hole in the woods right behind the house. “See that clearing?” he pointed.
“Yeah, I see it. Are we moving in that way?”
“We should try,” Mulder said. They were both wearing concealable GoldFlex vests under their shirts, which allowed them to look like they were wearing normal clothing, thanks to the nanotechnology. They carried their weapons in their holsters, but their jackets covered them up. Whenever someone would look in their direction, Mulder would grab Scully’s hand so they looked like a normal, civilian couple. And considering her reaction to the necessary but comfortable contact, Mulder wished people would look in their direction a little more often.
They were able to sneak through a few backyards to get to the woods behind the Westbury Street house, and saw the policeman guarding the door in the back. “Damn,” Mulder said, and swung back around the trunk of a tree, dropping to his butt as he leaned against it.
Scully sighed. “We’ve gotta create a diversion,” she said.
Mulder nodded, and spoke into his radio. “This is Agent Mulder,” he said on the secured channel. “Requesting diversion for a single officer guarding the back door.”
“Copy,” came the reply, and a moment later, some firecrackers were set off in the backyard of the house next door. The policeman rolled his eyes, and walked away from his post. “Hey!” Mulder and Scully heard him yell. “Hey, you kids, get out of there! Where are you? Where’d you go? Yeah, that’s right, leave before I call your parents!”
They took that as their opportunity to enter in the back door. They did so as quickly and quietly as possible, drawing their weapons and opening the creaky door carefully. They shut it once inside, and began scouting out the house.
It was full of cobwebs. There wasn’t a spot they could walk in without getting one on their face, arms, or hands. The dust was piled so high that Mulder felt like he was walking on sand, and he knew no one had been in this house for at least a decade. He was beginning to feel a little discouraged, when Scully gasped.
Mulder quickly made his way through the rotting wood-paneled house and reached her location. “What’s wrong?” He asked, gun extended in front of him.
“Mulder, look at this,” she said, looking curiously at the kitchen counter.
Mulder lowered his weapon slightly and glanced at the counter. There wasn’t a speck of dust on it. It was rotting, like the rest of the house, but there was no dust.
“Odd,” he said.
“Extremely. I think you may be right—there could be someone living here.”
“Then how did he get to the kitchen? There are no footprints in the dust.”
“I have no idea,” Scully said, shaking her head.
“Maybe he really is a ghost.”
She rolled her eyes. “You take the upstairs. I’ll see if there’s a basement.”
He nodded, and extended his weapon again.
“Be careful on the stairs,” she told him.
He listened, and tried each step before putting his full weight on it. Before he knew it, though, he was on the second floor of the tiny house, and encountered nothing more than more dust, and some vacant rooms. The hinges on the doors had rusted completely, and every door had fallen off. Mulder was surprised that such decay occurred in such a short amount of time—the house had been abandoned and condemned since 1967, but it had lasted 102 years prior to that. Perhaps it had just been in existence for too long.
Mulder heard a noise, and turned his head and his gun instantly. He walked carefully into the room from which it came, holding his weapon and flashlight straight out in front of him in a cross-hand position.
The second he entered the room, though, he felt something heavy come down on top of him and he collapsed, as the world faded.
435 WESTBURY ST
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31st, 2007
Mulder awoke handcuffed to a very rusty pipe, sitting on the ground. He looked around, and wished he could rub his aching head. He didn’t see anyone, and so he called, “Scully! Scully, I need help!”
“Shut up, or I’m gonna have to do something you’re not gonna like,” a voice said. Then a man emerged from the closet. He wore all black, looked to be in his late fifties, and carried a chainsaw in his hand. He matched the picture of the police chief’s younger brother.
“Mulder?” Scully called, and they heard her mount the creaky steps.
“Sorry ‘bout this,” the man said with a wicked smile, and stomped once on the floorboard he was standing on. Suddenly, everything began shaking, and there was an enormous crash. Mulder heard Scully scream.
“Scully!” He called, panicked, as he struggled against the handcuffs. “Scully! What did you do to her, you bastard?!”
The man rolled his eyes. “Oh, please, stop your whining. She’s not dead. Just buried.”
“You son of a bitch, I’ll—”
“Not from this position, you won’t,” the man said, stepping out of reach of Mulder’s low kick and stomping on the floorboard in one motion. The floor directly beneath Mulder caved at that moment, and the agent dropped downward, only to be stopped by his hands, secured on the rusty pipe. He cried out in agony, and hung there painfully, half supported by the piece of floorboard sticking against his back, and half by his now bloody wrists.
“I’m gonna enjoy this,” the maniac said with a nasty grin, and started up his chainsaw.
One story below them, Scully was half-buried by collapsed floorboards. Her upper body was exposed though, and when she came to, she groaned in pain and tried to extricate herself. She found she couldn’t. She tapped her hand against the radio in her ear, and said, “Request backup, request backup, move in immediately! Move in!” Then she placed her hand on her head, and felt the sticky liquid that could only be blood.
She tried again to extricate herself just as she heard the sound of sirens and commotion outside. This time, she was able to wiggle most of her lower body free. It took her a few more moments, but she was fueled by adrenaline and the ever-present, urgent screams from upstairs. She knew Mulder was in trouble. They had found their killer.
She knew the sixth step was barely accessible, but the upper half of the stairs were still intact, and she had to get up there quickly. She found her gun and picked it up with a bloodied hand, holstered it, and climbed on top of the unstable rubble. She leapt for the sixth stair, scraping her hands and nearly falling off in the process. She gripped the rotting floorboards and pulled with all her might, thinking only of Mulder and what could be causing those horrified screams. Images of chainsaws descending on her partner were ever-present in her mind.
She hauled her leg up to the sixth stair and rolled into a position where she could get to her knees, and climb the rest of the way up. She nearly fell off twice when the boards started to give way, but she made it up the short flight and half dove, half stumbled, into the room where the screams were coming.
Drawing her weapon as she entered the room, she quickly assessed the situation. Mulder was hanging by his hands from a rusty pipe—one that would likely break soon. He was unable to pull himself up, quite obviously, as at least one of his arms had to be already dislocated. And from his position, Scully could tell that the floorboards from the collapsed floor were likely sticking into his back, if not penetrating it.
She pointed her weapon at the older man standing over her partner with a running chainsaw. Its blade was far too close to his skin for her comfort. “Turn it off and drop it, now,” Scully yelled.
“Scully—” Mulder cried in pain, looking at her with…concern? How could he be concerned about her when he was the one hanging by his wrists from a rusty pipe?
“I ain’t stoppin’ for no one. This is my first kill in—”
Before he could continue, and just as he lowered the chainsaw so it was level with Mulder’s midsection, Scully put a bullet in his temple. He dropped to the side, the chainsaw falling on top of him and slicing his own midsection open. Scully shot the machine, after quickly scanning for a battery and making sure she wouldn’t blow them to kingdom come by shooting a gas tank. When the chainsaw ceased running, she ran over to Mulder.
“Scully, my God…” Mulder panted.
“I know, Mulder, I’m gonna get you out of here.”
“You’re not okay,” Scully said. That much was obvious by his labored speech and profuse sweating. She assessed his position, and after quickly determining that he didn’t have any broken bones, she asked, “Do you think you can bring your legs up if I supported your torso?”
He squinted in pain, and nodded. “Scully, please…let someone else—you’re hurt.”
“I’m fine, Mulder,” Scully said.
Mulder shook his head. “Your ear,” he said, before he couldn’t help but cringe in agony, and yell out at the pain.
Scully reached her hand up to her ear, where she felt a flap of skin clearly open and bleeding profusely. She still didn’t feel it, but she knew she would soon. She could only imagine how it might look. “It’s okay, Mulder,” she said quickly. She hugged his torso tightly, trying to support it and alleviate some stress from his arms. He cried out in pain, and she said, “Pull your legs up. Come on, you have to try, Mulder. I know it hurts, just try, damn it!”
Mulder yelled the entire time he was attempting to get his legs out, and by the time he managed to raise one knee so that it was level with the floor, a fireman walked in with a paramedic not far behind.
“We can take over, Ma’am,” the fireman said. “Alright, Sir, we’re gonna get you out of there. Don’t worry.”
“I’m a medical doctor,” Scully explained. “And I’m his partner. Let me help—I’ve already assessed his condition.”
“You need some help yourself, Ma’am,” the paramedic said.
“I don’t think he has any broken bones,” Scully said quickly, ignoring their protest. She watched as the fireman supported Mulder’s back on a short backboard, and alleviated some of the stress from the jagged floorboards digging into his back. “He can move his legs. You just need to pull him out slightly. One or both shoulders might be dislocated, be careful—” she tried to say, but the two of them were already on their way to extricating Mulder. They had him out fairly quickly, and they cut the handcuffs off of him and loaded him on a portable stretcher.
“We’re gonna have to get him out the window,” the paramedic said. “We can’t navigate that staircase.”
“Absolutely agreed,” the fireman said. “We’ll get the chopper over here,” he stated, and radioed it in. It wasn’t long before the chopper arrived, and they broke the window open.
During the exchange, Scully’s eyes wondered from Mulder’s form to the suspect lying dead on the floor. She couldn’t believe what she saw next.
The man rose, grabbed his chainsaw, and before Scully could even get a shot off, walked through the walls.
Only a few seconds after that, she collapsed.
GEORGETOWN MEDICAL CENTER
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31st, 2007
Scully entered Mulder’s room with a bandage around her head, over her ear. The ear wound hadn’t caused any nerve damage, and had required nineteen stitches but had otherwise been superficial.
But she had gone into shock and had only woken up after receiving blood and being hooked up to an IV. She now traveled, as was hospital policy, in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse.
Mulder’s left shoulder had been dislocated, but his right was just strained. Both wrists were bandaged and his left arm was in a sling, but he was otherwise no worse for wear. He was expected to be released that night, while they wanted to keep Scully overnight for observation.
“Hey,” Mulder said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and getting up to meet her. “I can take it from here,” he said to the nurse.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but I can’t let you do that,” the nurse stated.
Mulder rolled his eyes. “I should’ve been the one to come see you, Scully,” he said as they walked back to his bed together. He held her hand once he had climbed up onto the bed, and she smiled at him. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, Mulder. They’re just keeping me for observation.”
“I’m sorry to make you come over here. You really shouldn’t be out of bed.”
“Tell me about it,” the nurse said.
“Do you think you can give us a few minutes alone?” Scully asked the nurse.
The woman rolled her eyes. “If you get out of that wheelchair, it better be to get into a bed.”
“Oh, so that’s how this hospital operates,” Mulder said with a grin. “I don’t think we’ll have trouble following those instructions.”
The nurse muttered something about ‘need to retire’ before she left.
Scully chuckled at Mulder, and smiled tiredly at him. “How’s your arm?”
“It’s okay. It’ll be fine. Scully, you’re never going to guess what the police found when they searched the house.”
Scully eyed him suspiciously, and he continued. “Nothing. Not a trace of him anywhere, Scully. You shot him. I saw you shoot him. I saw him fall—but he’s not there. Someone must have stolen the body. They’re gonna want to question you, when you feel up to it. Did you see anything after I was loaded onto the helicopter?”
Scully hesitated, and looked down. “You have to understand, Mulder, I had a concussion, I was in shock…I was probably delirious.”
“What did you see?” he asked excitedly.
She looked up at him, and smiled slightly. He’s gonna have a field day with this. “I saw him get up and walk through the wall. But it was a concussion-induced image, it means nothing—”
“It proves he was really a ghost,” Mulder said.
“No, Mulder, it proves that someone stole the body and I couldn’t process the information.”
Mulder frowned. “Who would want to steal the body, Scully? And how would they get it through the wall?”
“I don’t know, but it’s the only viable explanation. If he really was a ghost, then why would he have fallen when I shot him?”
Still frowning in thought, the agent let go of Scully’s hand. He rotated his right shoulder carefully, and shook his head. “Maybe he didn’t want anyone to know about his existence.”
“And why would that be?”
“He’s a ghost. I don’t know why they do what they do, what motivation they could possibly have. And let’s hope I don’t find out anytime soon.”
Scully smiled. “Yes, let’s hope for that.” She reached out for his hand again, and gave it a squeeze.
“Thanks for what you did in there, Scully.”
“No problem,” Scully said, meeting his eyes and starting to smirk. “But now you owe me one.”
Mulder laughed. “Always, Scully. Always.”