Rating: PG-13

X Files office
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

Scully glanced at her watch for the umpteenth time and swore a rain of brimstone on Mulder's head if he didn't call her soon. Skinner had been on her case about his absence all morning, demanding she find out where he was, and so far, she'd had no luck in tracking him down.

"Damn it, Mulder. Where the hell are you?" she mumbled. ‘Out following a hunch again, I bet,' she added in thoughts and sighed deeply. "Why do I always have to explain his absence?" she wondered aloud while staring up at the ceiling.

"You don't have to. I just assumed you'd know where he was," came Skinner's voice from the door.

Scully jerked around to face him, a little flustered that he'd overheard her talking to herself. Not a good sign, that. "Uh... well, I've had no luck in tracking him down. I have no idea where he is," she explained.

Skinner didn't look happy about the situation. Actually, he looked downright annoyed. "Well," he grumbled. "If you hear from him, let me know. It's important that I see him. Today, preferably," he added, turned around and walked away again.

Scully stared at the open door for a moment, then closed her eyes. ‘I'm going to skin you alive if you don't have a good explanation, Mulder,' she promised silently and returned to the paperwork she had been going over.


Schreck Mansion

Having spent the better part of the morning in the kitchen with no sign of a rescue in sight, Mulder was starting to wonder. Nothing had happened since he had returned to the kitchen apart from the bump he had heard and that could have been anything. At this point, he was beginning to doubt his senses. Actually, he was doubting them severely and scolding himself for being so paranoid and downright childish about it. Okay, so maybe the house was haunted. So what? He had been in haunted houses before and they hadn't scared him so blatantly as this one did. So, what made Schreck Mansion different, then? He knew that the name meant Fear in German. Fear Mansion. That wasn't a bad name for this place. But on the other hand, the name of the house should not induce this kind of irrational behavior in him.

Rising from the bench, he walked over to the windows and looked out through the heavy bars covering it. The park surrounding the mansion looked serene even in the sunlight. Almost brooding. With a somewhat bemused frown, he wondered how a park could seem brooding. But it did. That was the only way he could describe the sense he got from this place. It wasn't only the house, then. It was probably also the ground it was built on which caused the obvious disturbances in the house itself, hence giving it the reputation of being haunted.

Finally deciding that he needed to take a look around in order to make sure there was no other way out of the building, he put the mug in the sink, poured the rest of the coffee down the drain and left the kitchen. The sensation of being watched wasn't present while he trailed through the ground floor of the huge structure, but his joy over being able to see this spook mansion from the inside was long gone. And it brought to mind a Christmas eve he and Scully had spent in a haunted house, being subjected to tricks of two vengeful ghosts.

It hadn't been that bad back then, had it? Of course not. He hadn't been alone back then. Scully had been there to take his mind off things. Dragging his feet, he tried to think happy thoughts and kept trying to imagine what Scully would do in this situation. She would try to rationalize the sounds he'd heard. She would try to make them of this world with words. And that was exactly what he both loved and hated about her. She was so frustratingly rational at times, it drove him up the walls. But he always reminded himself that she dealt with the unexplained that way. After all these years as his partner, she was still afraid of the things that fascinated him. And they still had their odd arguments about that subject.

Turning a corner, he came to an abrupt stop. The corridor ended with the doors leading into the winter garden. Frosted glass panes set in wooden frames blocked off the entrance. From behind those panes, he heard a nearly sizzling sound. Frowning, he stared more intensely at the milky white glass and the faint movement he could detect behind them. Thin, elongated shadows moved up and down behind the doors, followed by hollow thuds as if something wooden hit the wooden floor.

All of a sudden, he forgot to breathe and just stood there, staring with dread and fascination at what he believed was going on behind those doors. But there was no way in hell that he would go up there to find out if he was right. Nervously licking his lips, he took a hesitant step back. Almost as if his movement prompted it, the right door flew open, revealing a vine with withered leaves hanging limply from it. It was unlike any vine he had ever seen in his life, though. The stem was as thick as his arm. It came racing out of the winter garden and slammed its pointy tip into the ceiling, breaking the plaster and the wooden planks above easily.

Staring at it, he couldn't make himself move at first. The mere impossibility of the act he was witnessing made his mind incapable of processing the information his eyes were passing on. But when several other vines followed the first, slamming into the walls and the floor and he saw the carpet buckling as one of them made its way toward him, he suddenly regained his mobility. Not thinking straight, he swirled around and ran, hearing the sizzling sound of the following vines right behind him.

He made it all the way to the other end of the house before realizing that there was nothing behind him anymore. Stopping dead in his tracks, he turned around, breathing hard. There was no sound and no movement anywhere down the long corridor he had run through. Dropping down into a crouch, not even for one second taking his eyes off the carpet, he listened hard and could hear nothing. There was no bulge in the carpet racing toward him and no vines ripping through the walls and ceiling to get to him.

It took him a long moment to regain his composure and his breath and while he crouched on the carpeted floor, his eyes scanning the corridor, a somewhat frustrated chuckle escaped him. Had he been running from a shadow? Or maybe he was finally snapping, losing his mind? No, he was sure of what he had seen. As sure as he had ever been of anything. He didn't hear things. He didn't see things, either. At least not things that weren't there. This place had its own life, its own agenda, and he didn't fit into its plan.

Rising, he continued to listen, but still heard nothing. "You want me to leave?" he suddenly called out, eyeing the walls and the ceiling for signs that he was being heard. But there was nothing. Not even a sigh of a chilly breeze. "I would love to, you know. I just can't. The front door is locked."

Waiting for a moment longer, he finally snorted with annoyance and decided that he was letting this place spook him. Whether the vines had been there or not didn't really matter. The fact was that he had let this place get to him because he was locked in. Drawing a deep breath, he started back toward the entrance hall. He had to admit that his gait wasn't as confident as he would have liked it to be, but who was there to see it? He was all alone in this house. So, who cared if his footsteps were a little wavering? Who gave a damn if he felt a little nervous about this whole thing? The answer was very simple. Nobody.

Glancing at his watch, he noted that it was late in the afternoon. Time had passed by with all this running around. The thought made him smile. It was a vague smile, but a smile nonetheless. "Scully would really have a field day with this," he told himself and chuckled a little nervously.

He decided to try and find a room to sleep in this night, providing he wasn't ‘rescued' first. But he was beginning to doubt it. He was beginning to worry that Scully might not put two and two together and realize he was still in Charlottesville. And if she didn't, he was in for a really long week.


X Files Office
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

Scully glanced at her watch, noted that it was 4 p.m. and realized she hadn't heard from Mulder all day. Frowning, she grabbed the receiver of the phone, dialed his home number and once again got his machine. Starting to feel a little more than frustrated, she slammed the receiver down and glanced aimlessly around the office. What she couldn't figure out was where he could be. Usually, he would always call her and tell her what he was up to. Usually. So, why hadn't he called her yet?

She couldn't work it out. Considering their conversation last Friday, she would have thought he would have called her several times during Sunday evening to tell her what she was missing. But he hadn't. And he hadn't called early this morning to tell her, either. Her frown deepened while the possibilities started forming in her mind. What if he was still down there? If he had gotten himself into trouble, he would call her. – Wouldn't he? Well, he would if it wasn't too embarrassing.

Sometimes she was appalled by how much like a little kid he was. And how much he sometimes resembled other men. Mulder had to be unique in everything. When he wasn't, when he started reacting like other people would, then she couldn't help thinking that he wasn't being true to himself. It had long since dawned on her that the reason for that she liked him as much as she did was because he was weird. Mulder was not like everybody else. He was refreshingly new in everything he did and she wanted him to continue down that path.

With a smirk, she realized that Mulder's way of thinking had rubbed off on her. She was trying to imagine what kind of situation would be too embarrassing for him and she just couldn't lose the mental picture which had formed in her mind. It involved him and a certain scene from the movie Ghostbusters.

Pushing such foolish thoughts aside, she once again tried to come up with a plausible scenario for where he could be and why he hadn't called her. The only option she could think of was that he was still down there, doing whatever he had been caught up in. She decided that she would give him until the following morning before she started looking more seriously into the situation. If he wasn't home by then or hadn't called her, she would try to find out who was in charge of that mansion and call them. Maybe they remembered him.


Schreck Mansion

It was getting dark. Slowly but surely, the shadows in the entrance hall became longer, darker, and he started feeling very much on edge. He had spent a lot of time in the entrance hall, waiting and hoping that somebody would come and let him out. But there had been no sign of anyone.

Glancing a little apprehensively up the broad flight of stairs to the first floor, he tried to imagine what the worst thing that could happen would be. One thing he was certain of in all this. Whatever happened, it wouldn't be able to scare him to death. He had seen too many strange things in his life to be that susceptible. But what he had seen so far had scared him a little.

"A little?" he asked himself. "Ha! Right." Deciding that it was about time to find a room where he could spend the night, he took a walk through the South wing of the house since he felt more secure there, and found a room near the very end, which would do nicely. It had a big leather couch and only one heavy looking oak door with a pretty hefty lock on it. He closed the door and locked it, then pulled at it to estimate how strong the wood was. The door didn't even rattle in its frame when he put some strength into the act and that reassured him.

"Right. And now for something edible. I'm starving," he told himself and headed back to the kitchen with the large key in his pocket. There he collected what he could without taking all of it, made himself some coffee as well, and headed back for the room with the whole thing. On the way there, he started having that feeling of being watched again. It really freaked him out. Especially since he knew that there was nothing there. Nothing of his world, anyway.

Once inside the room, he quickly got rid of what he had brought and closed and locked the door. First then did he start feeling a little better. "This is freaky," he mumbled, pulled the key out of the lock and went over to the leather couch.

Dropping down on it with a heartfelt sigh, he wished himself away and swore that he would never do anything like this again. Not without Scully, anyway. He should have worked harder at convincing her. With her by his side, he wouldn't have missed the locking of the doors. He wouldn't be stuck is this damned mansion.

Leaning back, he grunted when something in his right pocket nipped him. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled his cellphone out. With experience, he flipped the lid open, gazed hopefully at the glowing display for a moment, then cautiously brought it to one ear. There was a dial tone. Almost holding his breath in sheer anticipation, he pushed the speed dial button for Scully's number and listened as it began ringing. This was too good to be true. There was a click at the other end and he heard her voice. He almost starting crying with relief, but the second he opened his mouth to answer her, the line went dead. "Shit," he snapped, cut the connection and dialed again. The same thing happened again. It rang and Scully picked up. But he couldn't even think of speaking to her before the line went dead.

"God damn it," he snapped and tried a third time. The same thing happened again and he was beginning to become very frustrated. The house didn't want him here, but it didn't want to let him go, either. "I'm trying to get out of here," he yelled. "If you don't want me here, let me do this, okay?"

He felt silly for speaking to an empty house, but he had the distinct impression that there was something in the house which fully understood what he was saying. Something was listening to him. But it wasn't giving him any breaks.

After trying three more times with the same result, he finally gave up and dropped the phone on the low coffee table sitting in front of the couch. Somehow, he felt a whole lot worse than he had before. Slumping back on the couch, he just sat there, unhappy about where he was and scared about where he was heading. Somehow, he had the distinct feeling that whatever was happening in this house was escalating because he was still there. And he feared that the longer he stayed in this house, the worse it would get.

Pushing those thoughts away, he stretched out on the couch and covered his face with one arm, intent on getting some sleep before all hell broke loose. His appetite had evaporated along with his dwindling chance of being heard by any outsiders. Moments later, he had slipped into a deep sleep and would probably have slept through the night, too.


Dana Scully's residence

Scully hung up the phone after the sixth call, starting to get both annoyed and worried. She just knew that it was Mulder trying to reach her. He seemingly had a problem with his phone, though, and that made her somewhat nervous. Where was he? Why was he having trouble with the lines? Frowning, she stared at the phone, willing it to ring again, but this time, it stayed silent.

"Damn it," she whispered under her breath and picked up the receiver. She quickly dialed Mulder's number and got the message that the cellular customer was out of reach.

Hanging up again, she stared at the phone for a moment. What should she do? Should she wait until morning and then alert Skinner? She wasn't quite sure that it made any difference if she called Skinner, though. The man had enough on his agenda to have the time to look into this, too. And if Mulder had gotten himself into trouble in his spare time, Skinner wasn't likely to find the time to help. With a heavy sigh, she sat down on her couch to wait. Maybe Mulder would try to call again. "Where are you?" she whispered.

After spending an hour staring at her phone, she finally decided to get some sleep. If he didn't try calling her again – and here she had to remind herself that it might not have been him – she would talk to Skinner in the morning and find out what she should do.


Schreck Mansion

Mulder woke with a start and sat bolt upright, not paying heed to the fact that he was situated pretty much on the edge of the couch. When he sat up, he fell off. But he had no time to reflect on the rather painful fall.

Staring in terror at the door, he listened to an eerie pounding coming from the corridor beyond. The walls were vibrating with the impact of the onslaught and the thing that really got him going, sending him scurrying on his hands and knees into the corner furthest from the door, was the fact that it was coming closer and that the heavy door was shivering in its frame.

Holding his breath with trepidation, he stared wide eyed at the door, pushing as far into the corner as he could. This reminded him of every damned horror movie he had ever seen. One of them, The Haunting, had really gotten under his skin. Mainly because of the same effect. Back then, he had admired the film maker's ability to scare the pants of people with that kind of effect, but he had never considered it to be something he would ever experience in real life.

Just when the pounding was about to hit the door, it stopped. It happen so abruptly, that Mulder completely forgot to breathe for a moment. Holding his breath, feeling tense as a bow, he kept staring at the door, knowing he would scream his head off if it opened. And then the sounds began. At first he couldn't identify it, couldn't even imagine what would make that kind of sound. But then it hit him like a ton of bricks and it forced him further back into the corner he was huddling in. His imagination was running wild, trying to come up with a picture which fit the sounds he heard outside. The pounding had been replaced by a sniffing sound. It sounded like an overly large dog.

Then the doorknob turned, shattering the image of Cerberus, the three headed dog guarding the Underworld, which had risen in his mind provoked by the sound of sniffing. Slowly, the ornamented knob twisted first one way, then the other. But the door didn't open. Instead whatever was out there started hammering on the door, making the wood creak dangerously. With a sharp intake of breath, he tried to merge with the wall behind him, his eyes wide with fear, cold sweat breaking out all over his body.

He had no idea for how long the relentless pounding on the door continued, but when it eventually stopped again, it took a long time before he even dared to draw in a deep breath. Continuously staring at the door, he expected the pounding to pick up again. But nothing happened.

After what seemed like forever, he slowly started breathing more deeply and eventually closed his eyes and let his head drop back against the wall. "Jesus," he whispered shakily, then slowly climbed to his feet, his legs wobbly beneath him. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he pushed away from the wall and cautiously approached the door, ready to run for cover if there was the slightest hint that this thing was still out there, but he reached the door without hearing the slightest scratching or bumping or sniffing or any other such thing.

Pressing both palms against the door, he somehow thought he would be able to feel it if it was still out there and he felt nothing. Leaning forward, he carefully placed on ear against the carved door to listen. He wasn't about to open it. That much was for sure. He would wait for daybreak and he wasn't so sure he would open it then, either.

There was not a sound to be heard outside and he relaxed a little more. Standing there with his ear against the door, his hands pressed against the wood, he closed his eyes and released the breath he hadn't been aware of holding back. "Damn it," he whispered hoarsely. If this was going to be a nightly occurrence for the time he had to spend in this house, he would lose his mind.

That thought barely finished, he jerked back when something rammed the outside of the door heavily enough to make it give him a push. Staring at the door, he felt himself grow cold at the prospect that the pounding would pick up again and even more so at the thought of whatever was out there breaking down the door. And the pounding did pick up again. Louder, faster and definitely heavier than before.

Slapping his hands over his ears, he backed up until he hit the edge of the couch, lost his balance and sat down hard on it. The sound of that hammering was so nerve racking, he groaned in fear. "Jesus," he whispered, unable to even hear his own voice over the racket. The door shuddered in its frame with every impact, the walls shivered and plaster rained down from the ceiling in a fine dust. What scared him the most about this situation was what it was doing to him. He couldn't control his fear.

Once again, the racket stopped so suddenly that the silence it left behind was almost worse than the noise. Breathing hard, his hands still covering his ears, he stared at the door, trying to make sense of this. But the thing was, there was no sense in this. He had battled all sorts of monsters. More than one of them had scared him. More than one of them had nearly killed him. But none had made him feel so utterly alone and vulnerable as this one did. And he was becoming more and more convinced that it would do anything to get to him, whatever it was.

After a moment, he slowly lowered his hands and blinked almost sluggishly at the door. Then he glanced over his shoulder and noted the faint daylight seeping through the curtains. He let out a burst of air, nearly gasping in relief. The sun was coming up. And the sunlight usually expelled such things as ghosts. Why that was so he didn't know. He wasn't even sure it was a fact when it came down to it. But ghostly appearances were usually connected with darkness.

Slumping back on the couch, his hair plastered to his head with sweat of fear, he slapped both hands over his face and groaned. "I'm losing it," he whispered. "Oh man, am I losing it."


Dana Scully's residence

Scully woke up with a start and sat bolt upright in bed, the sensation of something being utterly wrong almost overwhelming her. She blinked at her surroundings for a moment, then let out a heartfelt sigh. Her dreams had been disturbing and had given her a restless night. Glancing at the alarmclock sitting on her night stand, she noted that it was 5.45 a.m. She would have to get up in half an hour anyway, so going back to sleep wasn't a good idea.

Swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, she set her feet down on the carpet and looked down at them for a moment. There wasn't much going through her head right then. The only thing was that she needed to find out if Mulder had come home. Grabbing the phone, she pushed the speed dial button and got his machine again. With a sigh, she cut the connection, then dialed his mobile number and was told that the cellular number she was trying to reach was out of reach.

"Figures," she mumbled and hung up again. Her mind made up about her next course of action, she got up to get ready to go to work. She would have to involve Skinner in this, like it or not. And once she had included him in her contemplations, she would consider herself lucky if he didn't have her committed immediately for what was going through her mind.


The X Files office
J. Edgar Hoover building
Washington, D.C.

One and a half hours later, Scully was at work and cursing herself for not taking her time. Skinner wouldn't be in until 8 a.m. and here she was, having to pass half an hour of non active searching time. To pass the time more easily, she searched for information on Schreck Mansion on the Internet and came up with an advertisement page for it.

Staring at the picture of the house, she frowned a little. It did look like an old, German castle and she wasn't at all surprised about Mulder wanting to go there for the Halloween special. But she sure didn't understand why he hadn't come back.

Grabbing the receiver, she dialed the number and waited until a sour sounding woman answered the line. "Schreck Mansion, how may I help you?"

Scully frowned. She sure didn't feel like asking for help from that woman, but she had no choice. "Uh... I'm sorry for calling you this early, ma'am. My name is Dana Scully. I'm a Federal Agent with the F.B.I.," she introduced herself. "I was wondering. Sunday night, you had that Halloween open house night, right?" she asked on, just wanting to make sure she hadn't gotten it wrong.

"Yes, that's right. But that's over now, Miss. You're gonna have to try again next year," the woman at the other end said sourly.

Scully decided that the woman didn't mean to sound like that. It was just her voice. "Yes, I realize that. That's not why I'm calling. A friend of mine came down there on Sunday. You may have met him. He may have asked you questions about the house," she replied.

A sigh answered her at first. "Miss, a lot of people come through here on a night like that. I can't be expected to remember them all, now can I?" the woman at the other end asked back, still sounding as if Scully was offending her personally by asking such silly questions.

"No, of course not. I was just wondering if he might have introduced himself to you. His name is Fox Mulder," Scully tried, doing her best to sound nice.

"Doesn't ring a bell," the woman replied.

Scully considered what he would be wearing on that occasion and actually felt a little shocked that she would know such a thing. Shaking that feeling off, she refocused on the conversation. "He's a tall man, dark hair, dark eyes. He would probably have been wearing a leather jacket and a white t shirt. He's very into the supernatural, so visiting the mansion would not be for an easy scare," she explained.

A patch of silence followed that one. "Oh, yes, him I remember. He was very taken with the house. Very fascinated by it. Most people come down for a quick scare and take off again. He stayed until we closed."

"So, he was there? And he left again?" Scully asked.

"Yes, he was here. And I saw him leave again. I didn't speak to him when he left though, just saw him walking out the door," the woman said, sounding satisfied all of a sudden.

Scully raised an eyebrow at the change in the woman's tone. But this answered her question. Mulder had been there and he had left again. "Well, thank you very much for your help, Mrs..." she said, suddenly realizing the woman had never introduced herself.

"Crane. Emma Crane," Mrs. Crane replied. "And it's my pleasure. I take it he hasn't come home, then?" she asked on, sounding a little cautious.

Scully instantly picked up on that underlying tone to Mrs. Crane's voice. "No, he hasn't," she agreed. "And I'm starting to feel a little worried about him," she added.

"Well, he's not down here anymore. As I said, I saw him leave," Mrs. Crane said. "Have you called the police?"

"No, I haven't. They won't be able to do anything for another 24 hours. Thank you for your concern, Mrs. Crane. And for your help. I have to go." With that, Scully hung up and settled back on her chair, a frown furrowing her brow once again. She needed to talk to Skinner about this. Immediately.


A.D. Skinner's office

Skinner considered himself to be a fairly rational man. Even though he'd had his share of odd occurrences in his life, he generally tried to view things with the eyes of a rationalist. What Scully was telling him right then and her deductions put this beyond the rational. "So, you're saying Mulder went to Charlottesville to visit a haunted house for Halloween and hasn't come back yet?" he asked her, wanting to put it in simpler terms than Scully was using.

"That's what I'm saying. I called the place to ask if they had seen him and the woman I spoke to, a Mrs. Crane, said she had. She also said she had seen him leave. But something about her tone suggested that she hadn't. She asked me if he hadn't come home. How would she know that?" Scully asked back.

Skinner regarded her darkly, his expression revealing very little of what he was thinking. "Scully, you suggested it to her by calling and asking if she had seen him," he finally said. "Apparently, Mulder has gotten off track somewhere between Charlottesville and D.C. I suggest you start calling hospitals. I don't want to go with the worst case scenario at once, but check them out anyway. Just in case he's had an accident."

"But wouldn't they have called? I mean, I'm listed as his next of kin. If he's had an accident, they would have called me," she insisted.

For a moment, the sensation that swept Skinner made him narrow his eyes a little. This wasn't Scully he was facing. This was Mulder. The zeal, the dead on stubbornness. "Look, Scully, if you think he's still down there, why don't you go to Charlottesville and take a look around?"

For a moment, all she did was stare back at him. Then she nodded once. Why hadn't she thought of that? It was probably because she was too tired after a restless night. "I'll do that," she said. "Just to make sure. If I find no sign of him down there, I'll check out the hospitals." Hesitating, she glanced down at her folded hands, then looked up to meet his eyes again. "What if he isn't there, either?" she wanted to know.

Skinner regarded her solemnly. "Let's take one step at a time, okay? You have to crawl before you can walk, Scully. Go to Charlottesville, check it out. If that doesn't pay off, check the hospitals. If that doesn't pan out, either, then we decide where to go from there. And in the meantime, I'm sure Mulder has turned up again with some lame excuse about a new case."

Nodding, Scully rose from the chair. "I hope so. That way I get to yell his head off for making me worry about him," she said, turned around and left.

Skinner waited until she had closed the door, then smiled. "Yell a little at him for me, too," he mumbled and returned his attention to his paperwork. He couldn't deny that he was marginally worried already. Mulder did have a habit of disappearing, but he usually called Scully within the first day he was gone and he hadn't done that yet.