February 16
01.00 a.m.

The day had passed without any events taking place and when they were finally ready to turn in, Mulder was disappointed. If the ghosts only banged on doors, he would have to give up right there. Not that he had any idea how to handle a haunting as such. But it intrigued him. After getting undressed, he plopped down on his bed, closed his eyes and draped an arm over his face. He counted on another night of unrest. It took him a long time to fall asleep and when he finally did, he woke up several times because he thought he was somewhere else.


05.00 a.m.

Mulder had slept uneasily and was annoyed to find that it was only five in the morning when he glanced at his watch. Five in the morning and bright enough for him to see his watch. With a frown he slowly sat up. Usually, it didn't get light until around nine at this time of year. As he sat up, the covers slipped off him and he just barely managed to grab them before they landed on the floor. For some reason, he was lying on the outermost edge of the right side of the bed and had pulled the covers with him. Shuddering in the low temperatures of the room, he pulled the covers around him again. For a moment, he contemplated going back to sleep, but found that he was far too awake to do that when he remembered the previous night's disruption of his sleep. So he decided to get up and get dressed. He reached for his sweater and pulled it over his head, pulled on his jeans and stuck his bare feet into his shoes. The temperatures in the room were so low that even his clothes were icy to the touch. Breathing deeply, he expelled the air from his lungs and was appalled to see his breath in the air before him. Pretty cold. And he couldn't for the life of him remember that it had been that cold the evening before.

Stuffing his left hand into the pocket of his jeans, he walked up to the door, grabbed the door knob and twisted it. He had considered taking a look around the house, which was quiet as the grave, but nothing happened when he turned the door knob. He tried again with the same result. "What the hell?" he mumbled, frowning at the obstinate door. Twisting the knob the other way did nothing either. He shook his head, turned and walked over to the door leading into Scully's room. The key was on his side of the door, but the door didn't budge either. With a distinct feeling of discomfort, he walked over to the door leading into Jezek's room and tried that. Nothing. All three doors were apparently locked. Deciding that Scully's annoyance at getting woken at this hour was better than staying locked up in this room, he walked back to the door leading into her room and raised his fist to knock.

The air in front of him shimmered for a second and then he was knocked off his feet by an unseen force. He landed hard on the floor, had to catch his breath for a second and struggled back to his feet. The unseen attacker struck again, seemingly pushing him hard. He reeled toward the bed and his back impacted with the edge of it when he lost his balance, sending a scream of pain through him which stole his breath. He gasped and couldn't move for a while. Moaning he slipped down onto the floor. Through the veil of tears in his eyes he noticed the shimmer in the air again, but as long as he stayed down, there was no further attack.

The air in the room was cold enough for the skin on his face to hurt and the mood of the thing was definitely hateful. With an effort, Mulder pushed himself up on the bed and although he saw the attack coming this time, he could do nothing to ward it off. The blow sent him flying over the bed and he collided with a chair standing near the window across from the arm chair. One part of his mind marveled that it didn't break when he slammed down on it, pulling it down on top of him. He also decided to stay down. Whatever the ghost wanted, it didn't touch him when he was down. Or so he thought. The thought had barely formed in his mind before unseen hands grabbed him and hurtled him across the room so hard, he collided with the door to Jezek's room.

A banging from the other side ended the ghostly visitation. He heard the key turn in the door, then felt the pressure of the door against his back, but he didn't have the strength to move. He could barely breath. Jezek pushed harder and managed to push him a little out of the way so she could squeeze through. "Jesus, Mulder. What happened?" she asked, startled by the paleness of his skin and the wheezing of his breath. She knelt down beside him.

"Ghost," he rasped and heaved a deep breath, which was followed by a cough. "The ghost is real. At least one of them."

Jezek helped him up, actually a little frightened when he winced. "You're bleeding," she said, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth with her thumb.

"What's going on in here?" Scully asked, blinking tiredly as she entered from her room. Her eyes widened, all fatigue gone, when she saw Mulder.  "My God, Mulder. What happened?"

Jezek helped him ease down on the edge of the bed where he tried to crumble up. "The ghost. It threw me around a bit," he told her with a smile on his lips.

"You were thrown around and you're smiling?" Scully asked sternly. "Are you hurt?"

"My back," he told her and swallowed hard.

"Let me see," Scully countered and carefully pulled his sweater up to take a look at it. "Oh my God," she said, staring at the bruise already forming there. It formed a horizontal line across his back just below his waistline, red and swelling. "We need some ice for this. Tess, would you do the honors?"

"Sure thing. Be right back." Jezek was up and running, but didn't get very far. "Hey," she grumbled and fought the door.

"What's wrong?" Scully asked without looking at her, still examining Mulder's back.

"Oh, nothing," Jezek replied. "I just can't open the damned door."

Scully, who had one knee on the bed beside Mulder and was still holding his sweater up, looked over at the door. Her eyes shifted to Jezek, who had after all been the first one in the room, and she wondered for a brief second, although her thoughts made no sense.

"Don't look at me like that," Jezek countered, noticing her stare. "Would I be able to throw him around like that?" she added, fully aware of what Scully must be thinking.

"Scully, she didn't do it. I couldn't see who did it. Or rather what," Mulder inserted, a little annoyed at Scully's lack of belief.

Scully looked from one to the other, then shrugged. "Did I say anything?" she asked sternly. "Maybe we should get you to a hospital. This might be more serious than it looks," she added, turning her attention fully to Mulder.

He waved a hand at her and slowly got up. "No, no. I'm fine. I just need some ice on this and I'll be fine," he countered.

"Yes," Scully said with a sigh. "You'll be fine. You'll always be fine." Since Jezek seemed incapable of getting the ice, Scully decided to do it herself. Slightly angry, she walked up to the door, twisted the knob and opened it. With a saying glance at Jezek, who looked utterly surprised, she stalked out of the room and went downstairs to the kitchen to find a bag and some ice. There were no ghosts in her way at any point. She didn't feel any strange drafts or heard weird noises and she briefly wondered if Mulder and Jezek weren't inciting each other to believe in the presence of these – spooks. Almost a little angrily she tossed ice cubes into the plastic bag she had found, trying to find a reasonable explanation for what had happened to Mulder. Sure, she didn't believe that Jezek could throw him around and Jezek didn't have a reason to, either, but he might have stumbled and hit his back against the edge of the bed. But then there were the sounds from his room which had woken her. It had distinctly sounded as if somebody had been thrown around in there. Shaking her head, she tied a knot in the bag, wrapped a dish towel around it and went back upstairs.
Mulder was standing at the foot of his bed, both hands on his back. He looked pained. Jezek was nowhere in sight. "Lie down," she ordered him a little brusquely.

He complied and she carefully slipped the bag of ice under his sweater. He hissed when it touched the sore spot. "Thanks, Scully."

She sat down next to him and arranged the bag properly so it could cover all of the bruise. "You're welcome, Mulder. Just leave it there for a while."

"Okay," he said and shuddered. "Damn, it's cold."

"Yes, it is." She couldn't keep a lid on her feelings over this one. "Mulder, what are we doing here?" she suddenly asked, sounding both annoyed and a little frightened.

He shifted so he could turn his head and look at her without the bag of ice slipping off his back. "What do you mean? We're on a case," he said.

"I know we're on a case, but this is not something that is inside the jurisdiction of the FBI. If this house is really haunted -- and I have yet to see signs of that -- then they should have called a priest or an exorcist or something. Not FBI agents."

Mulder looked up at her for a moment before responding. "You don't believe this place is haunted, do you?" he asked and she grumbled a no. "Well, how do you explain what happened to me, then? I mean, I don't go around throwing myself against edges of beds to make a believer out of you. This hurts like hell and I'd rather be without it." Now he sounded annoyed.

Scully closed her eyes for a moment, her hands resting in her lap. "I realize that, Mulder. That's not the point. We have no business being here. If there really are ghosts here, then they have proven to be vengeful or just plain aggressive. Are you willing to go through this kind of treatment again?"

"No, of course not. But we've been sent here, Scully. We could of course call Skinner and tell him that we can't do anything here. Then it would become just another case we never found an answer for." He turned a little too quickly and winced at the pain that caused from his bruised back muscles. "I think we have a chance of actually solving this one, Scully. Give it a chance. If for nothing else than to help old Mr. Wilson solve the death of his wife."

"That's another thing about all this that bothers me. I can understand why we got involved when it comes to Mrs. Wilson's death. There's definitely something wrong about that. I read through the file and it said that not only was she more or less crushed under a chandelier that should have been able to hang from that ceiling for the next fifty years, she was also strangled. And the strangulation was what killed her. The marks were unmistakable."

Mulder nodded. "That's what Wilson said, Scully. That the ghost dropped the chandelier on her and when that didn't kill her, she strangled her," he countered.

"Yes, that's what an almost ninety-year-old man says, Mulder. And don't get me wrong. I don't think Wilson did it. I don't think he killed his wife. He's not able to do that. But I couldn't help noticing the butler. I think he's involved. Now all I need is a motive." She sighed heavily and glanced at her watch. "And some more sleep," she added. "Can you manage on your own or..." she began, but trailed off, not really knowing where she was going with that question.

Mulder glanced up at her then smiled. "I'll be fine. Don't worry," he told her. "Where's Tess?" he added.

"I don't know. She probably went back to bed. If she's smart," Scully said and rose. She walked over to the half open door into Jezek's room, glanced inside and nodded at Mulder. "Yep, she's asleep. Do the same if you can."

"Yes, mommy," he said, smiling.

Scully shook her head and went back to her own bed to catch a couple of hours of sleep.


10.00 a.m.

Scully opened the door to Mulder's room and found him fast asleep, lying on his stomach, his face halfway buried in the pillows. She sat down on the edge of the bed, glancing at his bare back and the swelling. "Good morning," she said, touching his shoulder.

With a half moan he woke up. His back felt sore from his neck down and he was reluctant to move at first. "Hi," he mumbled. "What time is it?"

"Ten," Scully countered. "Tess made some breakfast. Do you want some or..."

Mulder carefully rolled onto his side and sat up with a sigh. "Yeah, sure. I'll be down in a moment, okay?"
"How's your back?" Scully couldn't hide her concern. He was moving very stiffly.

"It's sore, but otherwise fine. I just have to wake up properly," he countered, not wanting to let her know just how much it hurt. "Go on down. I'll be there in a minute," he added.

Scully felt that he didn't want her to fuzz over him and decided to give him some space. "Okay, see you in a bit," she said, got up and walked out the door again, closing it behind her. But she didn't continue down the corridor to the stairs. She waited, listening. And sure enough he moaned when he got out of bed. Shaking her head, she went downstairs to join Jezek.

It took him more time than he had thought to get up and get going. Moving was a nightmare at first. Once he got moving, though, and the muscles in his back were warmed up, it wasn't so bad. He just had to be careful when turning his upper body. Taking the stairs slowly, he glanced around the fascinating hall and the decor which spoke of a lot of money. There was very little style in the combinations of the various art forms that decorated the walls and floors. Greek sculptures clashed with paintings by Chagall, odd undefinable sculptures of rust-marred iron belittled the beautiful paintings by Monet. A copy of the Mona Lisa hung too high up to be truly admired. He stopped halfway down, wondering what it would have been like to be a child in this house. To  be brought up by eccentric parents who worshiped art without understanding it. The rendering of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol seemed completely out of place here, but so did most of the odd or newer things. The house was just too old for that kind of decor. The Monet-paintings were the only things that seemed even vaguely in place. And then there was the famous Sunflower painting by Gouging, which fit in perfectly. He continued down the stairs, taking all this in. This house contained treasures. It was a virtual mine of goods. Although most of the paintings and sculptures were probably copies of the originals, they were still worth a lot of money and would fetch a fair price for any art thief who knew how to sell things like this. Shaking his head, he had to smile. He continued down the stairs and ended up in the dining room.

"Good morning, Ladies," he greeted Jezek and Scully cheerfully.

Both looked up and Jezek smiled. "How are you? You're moving like an old man, my friend," she told him.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he mumbled and eased down on a chair. "If you had ever worked out a day in your life, Tess, you would know that bruised muscles hurt a lot. And that's what I've got. Bruised muscles." His tone was defensive, his eyes on everything other than hers.

Jezek eyed him for a second, then grinned. "Whatever you say," she told him.

He made a face, not intending to get involved in a discussion with her about whether or not he was feeling fine. Scully poured him a cup of coffee and handed it to him, her eyes constantly examining him. "Scully, I'm fine," he insisted.

"And that's why you moaned and groaned that way when you got out of bed?" she wanted to know, knowing that he wasn't going to take the bait. He was too smart for her sometimes. "Anyway, you can move and that's a good sign."

Mulder glanced at Jezek, giving her a I-told-you-so look and suppressed a shudder. "So, you didn't hear anything after this morning's disturbances?" he asked, directing the question to either of them.

"I heard nothing I couldn't identify," Scully countered, indicating that he had been complaining a lot. Not loudly and definitely in his sleep, but she had been awake most of the time, listening. Just in case he needed her help. "So, now that you're convinced that this place is haunted, can we leave here and leave it to some kind of professional to deal with it?" she wanted to know.

"We don't know anything yet," Mulder countered. "The attack doesn't prove that this is anything other than a haunting. That I was the one to be thrown around could be a coincidence."

"Right, and pigs can fly," Jezek countered, not so happy about it any more. "Damn it, Mulder. That think almost broke your back this morning. What kind of proof do you need?" she added, suddenly a little angry.

"It's not that bad," he grumbled. "Besides, I don't know that the bed room I'm in isn't Wilson's. The ghost might think I'm him." He was annoyed that Jezek seemingly had turned her back on him and had joined sides with Scully.

Staring intently at him, her blue eyes drilling into his, she shook her head lightly. "This isn't a game any more. This isn't funny. As long as they keep it to banging on doors and throwing things around, I'm game. But when they start to physically attacking us, that's when the fun ends. We don't have the expertise to deal with this, Mulder."

"Exactly," Scully inserted. "If you won't listen to me, at least listen to Tess. We're not trying to undermine you, Mulder." She reached out and put her hand on his arm. "We're trying to prevent you from getting hurt more seriously."

For a moment, he felt cornered. Then he realized the childishness of his reaction and was glad that he hadn't given vent to it yet. Heaving a deep breath, he tried to come up with a way to stay. "Look, I'll just change rooms. I'll find a different room. And if that doesn't do it, then we leave. Agreed?" He looked from one to the other, then finally fixed his stare on Scully. "Let's stay one more night."

Scully could see the plea in his eyes and could have kicked herself repeatedly for falling for it again. He always did this to her when he wanted something she had deemed as too dangerous for him. He looked at her that way with that hurt-little-boy-look in his eyes and she melted. She could deny him nothing when he looked at her that way. Against her better judgement, she nodded. "Okay. One more night. If anything else happens to you, we leave first thing tomorrow morning." That made him smile and she quickly looked away, picking up her cup in the process. If anything got to her more than that look, it was his smile.

Mulder glanced at Jezek, who shrugged. "Fine with me. It's your back," she countered and slouched back in the chair.


05.30 p.m.

Another day passed uneventfully. Scully had combed through most of the house, having nothing better to do, and despite the lingering eerie feeling of this place, she liked it more and more. It was beautiful in its own strange way and she loved the serenity with which Eleanor Wilson had equipped certain rooms. It was obvious to her that the Lady of the house had been in possession of a greater knowledge of art than her husband. On the first floor, she opened a door leading to a staircase going up. There was another door at the top of the stairs, but this was locked and there was no key to be found. Shrugging, Scully turned around and walked back down. The attic was probably just full of dusty, cob-webbed old junk anyway.

Ending up in the dining room just in time for dinner, she smiled when she realized that Jezek had done wonders again. "Ah, you have outdone yourself," she said, staring at the various Chinese dishes that were already set out on the table.

Jezek grinned. "Thanks," she countered and set a small bottle on the table. "And to top it off, Sake," she added.

"Where on Earth did you get that from?" Scully wanted to know. "Do you think it's wise? I mean, it is alcohol."

"I got it from the wine cellar. Nothing's missing down there. And, yeah, it's alcohol. I think we could all benefit from a bit of the strong stuff. Especially our delightful friend, Mulder. Where is he, by the way?" Jezek looked around with a frown.

Scully opened the door out to the main hall and looked around the hall and then upward toward the first-floor landing. "I don't know," she said, a vague feeling of unrest overcoming her. "Mulder?" she called. The door to the library stood slightly ajar and Scully could have sworn that she had closed it a little while ago. Walking briskly across the hall, she pushed it open and stopped short in the doorway. "Found him," she called back over her shoulder and walked over to her partner. He was slouched on one of the armchairs, feet resting on the other, asleep with a book in his lap. Scully hunkered down beside him, putting her hands on the arm of the chair to steady herself. For a moment, she watched him, never really having the opportunity to study his beautiful face without it seeming too forward. Then she reached out and brushed her fingertips over his cheek. "Hey, sleepyhead," she said quietly. He stirred awake, blinking sluggishly at her. "Dinner's ready."

He smiled, then groaned lightly as he sat up. "I feel like I've been hauling timber all day," he complained and got to his feet.

"Come on. Tess has outdone herself," she said and started toward the door again. "Chinese. That must be right up your alley," she added with a smile.

Mulder followed her, one hand pressed against his back, trying to find a way to move which didn't strain his aching muscles too much. "Oh yeah, I love Chinese," he countered.


10.05 p.m.

Mulder was about ready to turn in when the clock in the hall struck ten. He was wasted and he knew why. His back was a knot of tension and it drained his energy. He took his leave of the women and headed toward the staircase, his mind on the bed waiting for him. Then he stopped short. "Ah, damn it," he mumbled. He had forgotten that he had promised Scully he would change rooms. Thinking it over, he figured that he could spend this one night in that room without getting into trouble. All he had to do was avoid getting up. And the way he felt right now, he didn't think that would be a problem.

"What's wrong?"

He gave a start, then turned around to face Scully who had followed him out. "I forgot to find a new room," he countered, looking defiantly at her for a moment. "And my back is killing me," he added, his tone of voice a little whiney. He knew it would get to her.

Scully stared back at him, wondering for a moment what it was about him she found so damned attractive, especially when he was hurt, and decided that she was suffering from what in layman's terms was called the Florence Nightingale-syndrom. It just brought up the mother-instinct in her when he was hurt. She wanted to take care of him and make him better. Then she sighed. "I think what you need is a massage and a good night's rest. I can provide the first," she said, with a look daring him to make an inappropriate comment. He didn't though. "All you have to do is stay in bed for the rest of the night. Do you think you can do that?" He nodded. "You are going to change bedrooms, though. You'll sleep in my room. I'll take yours," she added and waved toward the stairs.

Mulder turned and started up the stairs, aware that he shouldn't push his luck. She had that slightly commanding tone to her voice and he knew better than to argue with her when she was like that.

Once upstairs, he plopped down on her bed, stretching out on his stomach, trying to loosen up a bit. It proved to be much more difficult than he had thought. Scully rummaged through her suitcase for a moment, found what she was looking for and came over to the bed. "Take your sweater and your t-shirt off," she told him. He complied, finding it a little more difficult than he wanted to admit. He would rather suffer than tell her how badly his back was really hurting. After doffing his sweater and t-shirt, he stretched out on the bed again, easing his arms up over his head. "Now, relax," Scully told him, climbed up on the bed and straddled him. She poured some massage-oil into her cupped hand and rubbed it out on her hands first. Then she started massaging his shoulders and slowly worked her way down his back, never once getting near the red swelling across his lower back. She didn't like the way it looked, but the fact that he was able to move without any other indication of pain than a groan set her mind at ease. By the time she was done, she realized that he had fallen asleep. Smiling to herself, she got off the bed, draped a blanket over him, turned off the lights and went into the adjoining room to get ready for bed herself.