The Hook

The Hook

By Martin Ross

Category: Casefile, humor

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: When an old urban legend seemingly comes to life in the Virginia wilderness,

Mulder, Manville, and the Gunmen go on a potentially lethal fishing expedition.

Disclaimer: Everybody in this little fishing party except Wallace Manville belongs to

Chris Carter.

E-mail: rossprag@fgi.net

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“I feel like I’m gonna hurl,” Langly murmured as he huddled by the fire with his

comrades. The Gunman’s chiseled facial features were even more jagged and haggard

than usual in the dancing reflection of the spitting flame. His eyes, ringed in evening

shadows, were haunted, troubled.

“It’s all right, Langly,” Byers assured him gently. “You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Right, Melvin?”

Frohike glanced up from his enameled aluminum plate. “Naw. Nothing at all,” the Lone

Gunman’s ringleader grunted distractedly.

Langly straightened, eyes flashing. “Easy for you, asshole. You’re not a killer. You didn’t

have to look into those eyes, those cold, dead eyes, knowing you’d destroyed a life.

Gutting him, dismembering him like that. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same, man.”

“If it helps,” Mulder offered quietly, “he was really delicious. Right, Doc?”

Dr. Wallace Manville, former colleague of the notorious Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter,

nodded silently, his mineral eyes contemplating the full, pocked Virginia moon.

“God, and to think I joined in your gory little ritual,” Langly moaned.

“It was a trout,” Frohike breathed, sucking a sliver of piscine flesh from a molar. “Get

over it, Nancy. And your anguish would be a little more compelling if you hadn’t eaten

two of the damned things.”

“I am definitely going vegan,” the skinny hacker groaned. “I feel lousy, nauseous. The

guilt is eating my insides.”

Mulder tipped his canvas camp chair precariously as he retrieved a jar and a bag of

Doritos from between Langly’s Skechers. He held the jar to the firelight, scanning the

cheaply printed label. “I don’t think it’s guilt, Roland Martin. ‘Whisker-Lickin’ Cheese

Bait — Cheese, Brains, and the Whisker-Lickin’ Secret Ingredient the Big ‘Uns can’t

Resist.’ It actually says ‘’Uns.’ Langly, you finished off a half-jar of this crap.”

“It said cheese,” Langly squeaked. “It was right next to the freakin’ jerky!” He looked

down, eyes widening, and Frisbee-ed a dipped chip into the woods. “I ate bait! Jesus, I

ate fish food! Could that kill me, Doc?”

Manville continued to study the luminescent orb. “Depends largely on what kind of

brains they use. If it’s locally produced, it very likely contains swine brains. So bovine

spongiform encephalopathy shouldn’t be an issue, although I’m sure FDA guidelines of

specified risk materials would prevent–”

“Bovine what?”

“BSE, mad cow disease,” Frohike chortled. He turned toward Byers, who was vaguely

ludicrous in the fresh plaid flannel shirt and stiff jeans he’d reluctantly substituted for his

customary suit. “John, you take the first shift and make sure Langly doesn’t take a header

into the lake or start mooing at the moon.”

“Go milk yourself, asshole,” Langly snapped, sinking back sulkily into his chair.

“I was wondering why you bought that stuff,” Byers said, by way of an olive branch.

“Cheese bait’s generally for catfish, carp, other scavenging fish. I actually read yellow

corn is the ideal trout bait.”

“That’s a popular Native American option,” concurred Manville, the only experienced

angler in the group. His voice seemed to float serenely on the night breeze. “A ball of

white bread or cheese also is suitable. And, of course, there’s Eisena fetida — the Red

Wriggler.”

“The Cadillac of Worms,” Mulder quoted WKRP in Cincinnati. “So, Langly, if you were

scarfing cat bait all day, what were you using as bait?”

Langly scowled and dug into the pocket of his dingy windbreaker. He displayed a bag

full of colorful, translucent annelids. “The old dude at the bait shop said these were the

perfect lure.”

“Gummi Worms,” Frohike cackled. “Jesus, Ringo, you really are Roland Martin. Wilford

Brimley was yanking your ball sack. Shit, fish probably croaked from diabetes.” The

trollish conspiracy buff frowned. “Just who the hell is Roland Martin, anyway?”

Mulder sighed, washing down the last of his trout with a shot of Dew. “Maybe this

wasn’t the hottest idea for a road trip, after all. Just thought it would be a good

opportunity for some male bonding is all.”

“Dude, there’s hardly enough testosterone here to make a small Girl Scout,” Langly

scoffed, forgetting mad cows and Eisena fetida. “No offense, Doc.”

Manville smiled and shook his neatly shorn head.

“Just why did you invite us out here, Mulder?” Byers inquired somberly. “We’re hardly

the outdoor types — Frohike gets antsy around neon tetra. And, once again, no offense,

but the three of us and Dr. Manville, well, we’re an eclectic group, to say the least. Why

trout fishing on the Cranesnest River?”

“Yeah,” Frohike muttered, glancing anxiously into the darkness. “I can practically hear

banjo music and Ned Beatty squealing like a sodomized pig.”

Fox Mulder placed his leftovers on the grass beside him and folded his hands over his

now full stomach. Manville closed his eyes, still smiling. The agent shrugged.

“OK,” Mulder surrendered. “I wanted to borrow your expertise on a case.”

“Expertise?” Langly demanded. “I don’t think I’m gonna find a Wifi connection out here

in Deliveranceland. Why drag us all the way out here for a consultation?”

“I don’t want your technical expertise,” Mulder grinned. “I need your knowledge of

popular folklore, of American apocrypha. You guys are questionably the East Coast’s

leading experts on urban legends. Or, in this case, I guess, rural legends.”

Frohike’s eyes narrowed behind his thick lenses, but his brows beetled in interest. He

jerked his outsized skull toward Manville. “And him? I assume he’s along for some other

reason than teaching the Bassturbator here how to cast a line.”

“Eat me,” Langly growled.

“Dr. Manville here,” Mulder overrode, “is along to help us land a really big fish. Of the

human variety.”

“What’s the hook?” Frohike asked.

“How very appropriate,” Manville mused.

**

“A teen boy drove his date to a dark and deserted Lovers’ Lane for a bit of heavy petting

and labored breathing,” the psychiatrist and former CIA profiler began as the Gunmen

moved closer to the now-smoldering fire. “After turning on the radio for mood music, he

began kissing his girlfriend.

“Shortly, the music suddenly stopped, and an announcer’s voice broke in. It seems a

convicted murderer had just escaped from the state insane asylum, which happened to be

located not far from Lovers’ Lane. Anyone who noticed a strange man lurking about with

a hook in place of his right hand should immediately report his whereabouts to the police.

“The girl became frightened and asked to be taken home. The boy, feeling bold, locked

all the doors instead and, assuring his date they would be safe, attempted to kiss her

again. She became frantic and pushed him away, insisting they leave. Relenting, the boy

peevishly jerked the car into gear and spun its wheels as he pulled out.

“When they arrived at the girl’s house, she got out of the car, and, reaching to close the

door, began to scream uncontrollably. The boy ran to her side to see what was wrong and

there, dangling from the door handle, was a bloody hook.”

“Shit,” Langly murmured. “That happen around here?”

To his surprise, Frohike wheezed in merriment. “The Hook, Dweeb. You never heard that

one? Byers, you were a Boy Scout, right?”

“Junior Achievement,” the bearded former bureaucrat amended with a note of modesty.

“No one really knows the source of the folk tale,” Manville continued. “But it

proliferated in the ‘50s, most likely as a sexual cautionary tale for hormonal adolescents.

Naughty children meet unspeakable fates. The hook, of course, is an obvious Freudian

symbol – if you subscribe to Freud. One of the first public records of the story was in a

1960 Dear Abby column, where the escaped amputee was actually identified as a rapist.”

“Wait a minute,” Byers said. “Are you saying…?”

“Gus Shiveley, 63, truck driver with Parti-Tyme Snacks for the western part of the state,”

Mulder related, shifting into Bureau mode. “Disappeared from his regular route about a

month ago. Found him in a cornfield two weeks later, slashed to death — the truck was

hidden behind an abandoned barn nearby. According to the Dickenson County coroner,

the fatal wound virtually pulled the carotid artery from Shiveley’s throat. The weapon left

a distinct curved signature. See where I’m going?”

“The Hook,” Byers whispered, looking for all the world like the Scout he’d never been.

“Was this the first one?”

Mulder shook his head. “Something about the murder rang a bell with the coroner, and he

checked into the death of another trucker about five years earlier. Luckily, he wasn’t just

one of these political hacks with a scalpel, and he knew how to do a thorough p.m. The

first death was designed to look like a tire-changing accident, but the fatal wound to the

victim’s chest was consistent with Shiveley’s.

“The first vic, Alan Yost, was a cross-country driver for a sporting goods supplier. Also in

his sixties — coroner theorized the killer picked older, potentially weaker prey — but no

apparent connection to Shiveley. The coroner was about to let it go when they found

Dena Jo Hillock.

“Dena Jo, 74, and her husband, Fred, ran a limo service out of Baltimore — proms, visiting

dignitaries, weddings, et cetera — until their divorce 10 years ago. Dena Jo had a summer

cabin right around here — she loved to trout-fish. That’s where they found her a week ago

— on her front porch, her skull virtually split with what the coroner identified as a hook-

like weapon. That’s when he called the Bureau.”

“So your first thought for a destination weekend was to bring a computer geek, an

overweight hippie, a pasty Eagle Scout — excuse me, Byers, Junior Achiever, and a doctor

of psychology out to the middle of the woods for a game of serial killer roulette,” Frohike

suggested, incredulously.

“You guys said you were tired of shooting the fall foliage,” Mulder said. “Look, I am an

experienced profiler, Wallace here’s an ex-spook, and I’ve seen you three attack an extra-

large Domino’s like you were conducting a Mossad raid on a Hamas bomb factory.

Seriously, I have a theory, but it’s out there. And out there basically is where you guys

live.”

Langly scanned the nearby pines. “If one-handed serial killers are moving in, then I’m

ready to get a place in the ‘burbs.”

“You appear to be a little bit young for this guy — or gal,” Mulder reassured him. “Though

Frohike, you might want to stay close to the group.”

“Great,” the paranoid gnome rasped. “So what do you think this moron’s up to?”

“Serial killers fall into several basic categories,” Mulder began. “The first is the missionary

killer.”

“Wouldn’t want to go doggie-style,” Langly giggled.

“Missionary killers believe their acts are justified on the basis that they are getting rid of a

certain type of person,” Manville amplified patiently. “Aileen Wuornos, the infamous

female serial killer, murdered men who used prostitutes. Often, the missionary is

motivated by racism, religious zealotry, or just some past abuse or slight at the hands of

an individual who becomes representative of a whole class or category.

“In this case, we could speculate that the killer lost a loved one in an on-road encounter

with a semi or came out the loser in a fight with an enraged trucker. Or given the solitary

nature of trucking, maybe we have a homegrown Wuornos — a prostitute with a heart of

steel rather than gold.”

“Hooker with a hook,” Langly breathed. “Kinky.”

“Step off, perv,” Frohike muttered. “Or maybe this freak is some enviro-kook out after

eighteen-wheeled gas hogs.”

“Diesel hogs,” Mulder corrected. “And calm down, Langly.”

“Just sayin’.”

“My second theory was that we were dealing with a Visionary — a serial killer who

somehow felt his deeds would achieve some ultimate societal goal. That’s actually where

your diesel hog theory would fit in. He or she’s killing old truckers for a single reason.

Maybe the killer believes they pose a greater safety threat on the highway. Maybe it’s like

the divide between the WWII vets and the Vietnam vets — the killer feels the old school

drivers are ruining it for the new kids. Except where does Dena Jo fit in?”

“She seems to be the wild card all around,” Byers suggested. “She’s a woman and has

nothing to do with trucking. Or wait. Was she ever in trucking?”

“Fred and Dena’s A-I Livery — unfortunate Flintstonian choice of names — was

incorporated in 1964. Prior to that, Dena was a hostess at a Baltimore nightspot and Fred

was the bartender. This wasn’t the kind of place where the out-of-town long-haulers

tended to hang out.” Mulder stared into the fire. “But there is at least one important link

between Dena Jo, Shiveley, and Yost — I confirmed it with the Dickenson County

coroner. Hey, time to break out the Smores. I bought dark chocolate — saw it on Iron

Chef…”

“Screw the Smores, Canteen Boy,” Frohike snapped. “What’s the connection?”

“Dena Jo Hillock, Alan Yost, and Gus Shiveley were all loyal, card-carrying, lifelong

members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Teamsters is the nation’s

largest organized union — it includes truckers, rail and port workers, airline haulers,

garbagemen, and professional chauffeurs like Dena Jo Hillock.”

Byers planted his palms on the thighs of his too-blue jeans. “Mulder, are you saying this is

some kind of Mob thing, a union power grab?”

Mulder snagged Manville’s SIGG Anthracite thermos and poured another cup of Redbird

Estate-Grown Kona. “Dena, Al, and Gus were strictly rank-and-file, and the closest they

came to La Famiglia was the Sopranos DVD set they found in Yost’s sleeper cab. But

their age raised a flag for me, and I found an interesting tidbit in Dena’s history. I started

digging and came up with the possible link.

“Alan Yost was from Detroit, where the Teamster movement largely got its start. When

he was younger, it’s reported he wasn’t above swinging a bat or a plank on a scab or a

union-breaker. He ate, drank, and pissed Teamster.

“Gus Shiveley was a guest at a New Jersey union rally in 1962 — voice of the rank-and-

file — sharing the podium with several of the major Teamster honchos including Jimmy

Hoffa himself. He even had a photo shaking mitts with the Great Man himself on his

trailer wall.

“And by the early ‘60s, Dena Jo and her mate had virtually locked the limo trade in

Charm City — supposedly through Fred’s early mob friendships. They were the go-to

couple when some mid-level celebrity or high-level hood was in town.”

Byers gasped. Manville smiled at the moon. Frohike’s eyes narrowed.

“You going where I think you are with this?” the chief Gunman challenged. “Hook

Man’s not the urban legend you brought us out here to catch.”

“Different legend,” Mulder admitted. “Want to hear my profile of the killer?

“He was born in the early part of the 20th Century in a small rural town. When he and his

folks moved to the city, he was tagged as a hillbilly, and he quickly learned to talk with

his fists. By the Crash of ’29, he’d gained a rep as a tough character. He dropped out of

9th grade to unload boxcars for a major grocery chain. Thirty-two cents an hour was

terrific pay at the time, but he and his coworkers got paid only when they were actually

unloading produce and meat, and the foreman was a guy they not-so-fondly called ‘Little

Bastard.’ After a group of workers were fired for going to a food cart at midnight of their

shift, our friend staged a work stoppage — just as a shipment of fresh strawberries arrived.

Faced with a carload of rotting fruit, management buckled, and a legend was born.

“About a year later, our friend got into a fight with his foreman and quit his job. Before

long, he’d landed a job as union organizer for the International Brotherhood of

Teamsters. He used Detroit mob connections to shake down a group of small grocers, and

landed his first conviction and some heavy street creds. By 1957, he was Teamsters

president; by 1964, he’d organized nearly every over-the-road trucker in the United

States. But the Kennedys — John and Bobby — were out to nab him, and soon after, he

was convicted of bribery and sent away until 1971, when Nixon offered to free him if he

promised to stay out of union activities for 10 years.

“Our man was planning to sue to invalidate that restriction in order to reassert his power

over the Teamsters when he disappeared on July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of the

Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Oakland County, Michigan, outside Detroit. He’d been

due to meet two Mafia leaders, Anthony ‘Tony Jack’ Giacalone from Detroit and

Anthony ‘Tony Pro’ Provenzano from Jersey.”

“This is incredible,” Byers breathed.

“Ever since then, hoods and hitmen looking for a name or a book deal have been claiming

to have disappeared our guy, and the feds have been pulling up planks, concrete, sod, and

even a barn to find his remains.”

Mulder stopped then, and consulted his watch. “OK. Gentlemen, I propose we call it a

night.”

“What?” the Gunmen sang as one.

“It’s 8:32. He ought to be closed up by now.”

“Who?” Frohike demanded.

Manville drained his remaining Kona and rose. “The killer. The Crane’s Haven Bait and

Sandwich Shop closes at 8 p.m. during the spring. I overheard him complaining about his

counter guy being out with the flu.”

“Wait a minute, wait,” Langly protested. “You lost me. Somewhere around ‘Want to hear

my profile?’ You trying to tell us the old asshole at the bait shop is a serial killer?”

“Not a serial killer,” the psychiatrist stressed. “We — Agent Mulder and I — suspect he

went into hiding in the ‘70s. Some of my intelligence sources suggest he’d angered some

major mob chiefs, but he didn’t dare go to the Department of Justice. Probably had

nothing sufficient to trade for Witness Protection. So he disappeared, faking his own

abduction and/or death, and bought the bait shop and a new identity away from

organized civilization. County records showed the store changed hands in 1977.”

Mulder took over. “But as luck would have it, even with his advanced age, that cheesy

thick beard of his, and the seed cap he wears to conceal his famous hairline, Al Yost must

have recognized him when he dropped off a shipment of rods or lures. Maybe it was a

facial feature, maybe it was a turn of phrase or a gesture, but Yost recognized him. Our

guy probably tried to deny it, and maybe Yost winked and promised to keep his secret,

but he got worried and, that night, tracked him down.

“God knows how many old Teamsters he’s slaughtered over the years. Maybe just Yost

and Shively, the potato chip guy who usually dealt with the sick counter man. From

rumors I’ve heard, Dena Jo Hillock may have had even more intimate insight into our

man’s behavior and quirks.”

“But, but he’s at least 90, unless the smell of death was that huge cigar he was smoking,”

Byers said.

“Actually, more like 95. But a burly, well-kept 95. He’d have to be, in case some old

wiseguys stopped in for a Red Wriggler.”

“So what now?” Frohike asked. “We call in the cavalry? Confront him at the store?”

“Not necessary,” Mulder smiled. “See, Skinner wasn’t too wild about my theory, and

Scully suggested ‘a little snipe hunt with the guys’ might help me unwind. And what’s

old Fish Breath going to say if we show up with a pair of cuffs and a wild story?

“No. We’re going to put out the fire and turn in. C’mon, boys, bedtime, or no smores

tomorrow.”

**

Melvin Frohike cracked his spine, yawning, as he loosed a steady stream of urine on a

Virginia pine. He’d been unable to sleep after Mulder’s strange campfire tale, and fish

seemed to work on his bladder.

The Gunman shook some dew from the lilly, and zipped up. Then a beefy arm ringed his

neck, and he felt cold metal on his bristled cheek.

“Hey, pal, you ever hear of a comfort zone?” Frohike croaked.

“Shut up!” The voice was gravelly, cold, ancient but steady. “You guys shoulda stayed in

the city. All kinda danger out here in the sticks. Arggh!”

The source of the bait merchant’s argghing was a sudden inundation of light — the

halogen lights Manville had rigged at the edge of the clearing. The old man staggered

back, releasing Frohike, and Mulder stepped forward, gently tugging an object from his

rough, liver-spotted fingers.

The agent examined the tool. “A souvenir from your old Kroger days, unloading crates of

apples and sides of beef? Came in handy when Al Yost and Gus Shiveley threatened to

blow your secret. Did you feel any regret at all when you split Dena Jo’s melon?”

“I don’t know none of them people!” the old man grunted as he shielded his eyes. His

cap had fallen off, revealing a familiar Sgt. Carter crewcut. “You punks don’t know what

you done. I know some guys — some rough characters.”

“Me, too,” Mulder grinned, flashing his ID. “Assume the position, if you can do it

without breaking a hip.”

The old man began to curse, using language Langly later vowed to add to his everyday

lexicon. When the state police arrived, he gained his second wind, and sulfur remained in

the air after he departed.

Mulder displayed the meat hook he’d confiscated from the killer. As he turned it in the

halogen glare, the Gunmen stared at a pair of carved initials: J.H.

“How’d you know he’d come for us?” Langly asked.

“I dropped my line in the water this morning,” Mulder said. “See, when we stopped for

bait and snacks — or in Langly’s case, snack bait — I pulled a little switch.” Mulder

reached into his Eddie Bauer jacket and withdrew a plastic Ziploc. Inside was a short,

turd-like object with one rough-cut, burned end and one end chewed nearly to a pulp.

“Shit,” Frohike laughed. “You lifted his stogie.”

“No doubt saturated with his DNA which I intend to run through Quantico. But don’t be

shocked — I left him something in return. It took me a few days to locate an Internet

dealer and have it overnighted. I left it in his ashtray, where he’d put his butt.” Mulder

pulled out a quartered piece of paper. Frohike unfolded it and stared down at the

computer printout.

“You bastard!” the Gunman howled, handing the paper to Byers. Langly craned over his

shoulder, studying the picture of a weathered, yellowed restaurant matchbook. On its

face, in elegant Old English script, was a single word.

Machus.

**

Scully blinked as the front door opened. She’d stayed up late to watch Deliverance on

AMC, but had fallen asleep before Burt and the gang could meet up with their rural

Welcome Wagon.

“You’re back early,” she murmured, switching off the TV and rearranging the couch

pillows as Mulder deposited his recently purchased tackle box on the kitchen counter.

“How’d it go?”

Her partner held up two hands roughly a foot apart. “I caught a trout this big. Langly ate

a jar of bait. Frohike is convinced he has West Niles. Oh, yeah. And we found Jimmy

Hoffa.”

Scully nodded. “Wonderful. You know those boots are going in the dumpster, right?”

*end

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