The Haunted Tale
Walking up to the dilapidated old mansion, Scully couldn’t help but think how much it looked like a classic haunted house. Old shutters hanging from once beautiful hinges now rusted. Brickwork barely visible beneath the profusion of ivy and vines. Old wood siding dotted with flaking paint, it’s original color no longer known.
‘Yep,’ Scully thought to herself, ‘a perfect haunted house.’
Placing her hand on the old iron rail Scully gingerly walked up the stone steps, sweeping her flashlight in front of her. Nothing unusual was visible in its bright light. No hidden cracks for her to twist her ankle in. Nothing for her to trip over. Reaching the top of the stairs Scully turned her flashlight first to her left, then right, assuring herself that no danger was present. Stepping onto the darkened, leaf- strewn concrete porch, Scully swept her light over the floor- to- ceiling windows that graced the front of house. Seeing nothing in them but the reflection of her beam, she walked from one end of the porch to the other. The beam from her flashlight brightening the dusk- filled gloom.
Turning to look across the wide expanse of the lawn to the road Scully wondered when Skinner would be arriving. The message she had received had told her to meet him at the old mansion at 6 PM. She had arrived on time and waited inside her car for thirty minutes before grabbing her flashlight and exiting the car. Deciding to make use of the rapidly retreating daylight, she first explored what, at one time, would have been a lovely front garden. Some of the statuary still present fueled Scully’s imagination. As she walked the overgrown pebble and stone pathways, she fantasized about a time long ago when the garden would have been tended lovingly, it’s profusion of late autumn plants testament to the gardeners love and skill.
After her stroll through the garden of her dreams, she then decided that she needed to use what little daylight was left to investigate and gauge the safety of the stone steps and porch. And so here she was, waiting on her ex-boss for whatever reason. She was not concerned that the message might not have come from Skinner because the note contained their code. A code that she and he had developed to ensure their safety. They had been set up too many times, sent on too many false leads, to not develop a secure way of communicating.
Sighing softly Scully shined her flashlight onto the face of her watch, checking the time once more.
‘He should have been her by now,’ she thought. ‘He probably ran into traffic,’ her inner voice answered. ‘You know how bad it is on weekends.’
‘Right,’ she thought. ‘It is getting a little chilly. I think I’ll wait in the car for him.’
Turning to walk down the steps Dana caught a glimpse of movement in one of the windows. ‘What the devil? This house is supposed to be empty.’
Shining her light at the window she noticed the slight movement of the curtain falling back in place. Pulling her gun from the back of her pants she crept toward the front door. Gun in one hand, flashlight in the other she moved slowly toward the closed front door. Shining her light onto the door handle Scully’s eyes widened as she noticed the once locked doorknob now begin to turn.
Moving closer she kept her eyes on the handle as it slowly turned and the door began to open. Raising her gun she kept her eyes focused on the opening door.
Distracted by the sight of approaching headlights in her peripheral vision Scully glanced over her shoulder to see Skinner’s car coming up the drive. Glancing back to the door Scully almost dropped her gun in disbelief. The door that moments before was opened now stood closed. She had not heard it close, nor saw it closed, but there it stood, closed. Standing there in complete bafflement Scully jumped when she felt a light touch on her shoulder. Swinging round she raised her gun and flashlight, aiming both at the startled face of Skinner who was still standing by his car a good twenty feet away.
“Scully?” Skinner slowly edged away from the car, not taking his eyes off the very frightened agent before him.
“You’re late.” Her fear made her more angry than relieved to see him. And though her anger was directed at herself, she took it out on him, like she usually did. Realizing this, she blushed. “Sorry.” She hastily holstered her weapon. “So what’s up? You decided to replace Mulder in our annual Halloween haunting?”
Skinner watched her carefully as he made his way up the steps. “Excuse me?”
“Why did you ask me to meet you here, Skinner?”
Slowly, as if expecting her to pull her gun on him again, he pulled a piece of paper out of his coat pocket. Reaching it out he kept his distance, never taking his eyes off her.
She shined the pen light over the typed message, recognized the code words and felt faint. He must have seen something in her eyes because he was instantly at her side. “Dana?”
She nudged him away so she could get the note that had brought her here. “How?”
“I don’t know. What is this place?” he growled and finally turned his attention to the old mansion thirty miles south of DC. The small town below them was still prosperous, but the house on the hill looked like no one had lived in it for a very long time.
“I’m as in the dark as you are, sir.” She gulped. “This place isn’t important, though. Who figured out the code? Did you show it to anyone? Doggett? Reyes?” She said the last name with more feeling that the rest and hadn’t realized how jealous she was that Monica Reyes now occupied her place in the X-Files, her place in the basement office, her place in Skinner’s chain of command. Immediately she regretted her words.
“You know better, Dana.” Skinner was almost absent-minded in his rebuke, as if he expected nothing less and that made her feel almost worse than if he had cursed at her for her lack of trust. It was almost like he was pulling away from her and her feelings about him no longer mattered. Maybe Monica had replaced her in Skinner’s heart too. She shook her head wondering where that thought had come from. Walter Skinner was her friend. Wasn’t he. Wasn’t that all he was? She noticed Skinner peering into the windows, shining a flashlight she hadn’t realized he had.
“What’s funny . . . Walter?” She made her voice gentle and conciliatory.
“If this place has been deserted, why aren’t the windows boarded? Why are there curtains at the windows? And more importantly, why is the place filled with furniture. Contrary to popular belief, few people just up and leave some place leaving full front room suites complete with lamps on the tables and pictures on the mantle piece.”
She stood next to him, inhaling the scent of him, now mixed with the smell of autumn -- the remnants of burning wood, the sharp odor that suggested that snow was just around the corner. She shook her head trying to clear it, wondering why she was suddenly fascinated by his smell. “Sir . . . Walter . . . you should know, just before you showed up?--”
“What is it, Dana?” His voice sounded a bit ragged.
“I think I saw someone inside.”
“Doing what?” he demanded.
She shrugged. “I think he -- or she -- was staring out at me.”
“Did you try the door?”
She shuddered suddenly remembering her fear. Her voice dropped to a whisper,. “I saw the door knob turn.”
Skinner studied her for a moment, then boldly walked to the door, twisted the knob and pushed the door open. He was surprised to not hear it creak or moan. Drawing his gun, he carefully made his way inside.
“Son-of-a-bitch.,” he breathed.
Standing slack jawed in the foyer Skinner slowly turned around. Looking down at the woman next to him he noted her equally stunned expression.
“Sir? Walter . . . what is going on?,” Scully asked, unable to believe what her eyes were seeing. Light played on the fabric- covered walls, casting soft shadows against it. A red velvet covered settee sat in the center of the foyer, it’s cushions covered by a myriad of cloaks, hats, and gloves. Oriental runners covered the hardwood floor, its shine reflected in the candlelight. The tinkling of glasses and softly spoken conversation could be heard in the adjacent rooms. Scully looked out the opened door, no longer seeing the darkened porch but instead the soft glow of gaslight.
“I don’t know..,” Skinner answered moving away from the door and farther into the foyer.
Following him slowly, Dana spared a glance for the mirror to her left, gasping at the sight of her reflection. Instead of black pants, white t-shirt, and black jacket that she had worn, she know stood clad in a long, green sleeveless gown, it’s style reminiscent of the early 1900’s. It hung off the shoulder, the bodice scalloped, showing just enough skin to be tantalizing. Her arms were covered by long gloves, their color the same as her gown. Her hair was pinned up, the color highlighted by the string of emerald beads that were woven through it. Around her neck hung a beautiful emerald necklace, its green fire reflected by the candlelight. Matching earrings completed the look.
“Dana..?.” Walter asked, coming to stand behind her.
If her reflection was clad elegantly, then his was dressed impeccably. She had seen him dressed formally a few times, but nothing had prepared her for the sight of him in a form fitting, elegantly tailored turn-of-the-century tuxedo. His tanned face was set off beautifully by the stark whiteness of his shirt. The black of his jacket fitted his massive shoulders perfectly. The emerald ring he wore flashed brilliantly in the mirror. She heard his hiss of indrawn breath moments before everything went black.
Darkness greeted eyes as Dana realized that she lay on the floor near the opened door. The cold breeze coming in causing her to shiver in the darkness. Sitting up slowly she suppressed the groan of discomfort that this movement evoked. Reaching in front of her she searched for her flashlight hoping that it was close. Her hand alighted on the cold metal. Fumbling for a moment before breathing a sigh relief at the sight of a single beam of bright light. Sweeping over the foyer her beam lighted on the inert body of Walter Skinner.
She scurried forward reaching his side. She checked his pulse satisfied that it was beating strong. Shining the light on his chest she was relieved to see its rising and falling in a steady rhythm. Locating his flashlight next to him she leaned over him, grabbing it. Turning it on, she began to shake him awake.
“Sir? Walter? . . . wake up. Walter, wake up,” Scully ordered as she shook him gently.
Tense minutes passed as she waited for his response to her insistent shaking. Dana realized how much she did not want to be the only one conscious in this house! Hearing his groan of pain she sighed in relief. Helping him sit up she maneuvered him so that he was leaning against the wall.
“What happened?,” he asked, trying to shake the feeling of nausea. Massaging the back of his neck he waited for her response.
“The last thing I remember was the reflection in the mirror then nothing. Everything went black,” Scully whispered. Dropping her gaze to the floor Scully took a few deep calming breaths before looking back at Skinner. Seeing her pale, drawn face Skinner knew that she was as shaken as he.
“That is all I remember too,” Skinner answered, bewildered.
Dana opened her mouth to say something but the slamming of the front door interrupted her. Both jumped at the sound. Getting to their feet as quickly as they could they reached the door. Shining a beam of light on the doorknob Dana watched as Walter tried to turn the knob.
“What the hell?”
Wrenching it back and forth Walter could not turn it. No amount of strength would turn the knob. “Son of a bitch,” he breathed. “Looks like whoever lured us here doesn’t want us to leave so soon.”
“Whoever or whatever,” Dana replied, shining her light into the foyer. “There has to be another way out of here, Sir. Maybe a back door?”
Looking down at the woman next to him Walter replied, “Well then Scully, let’s go find it.”
Setting off down the hall Scully muttered, “This was not how I planned on spending my night.” Following Skinner into the darkened gloom Scully hoped that they would find another way out. But she could not shake the feeling that they would not leave here until it was time.