Bemis Police Station
08.00 a.m.

A.D. Skinner stood staring at the local Sherif with an expression that could mean anything. Michaelson was convinced, though, that it meant pure murder if he didn't get moving soon. "Uhm..." he said, aimlessly searching through some papers on his desk. "We haven't been able to reach Mr. Wilson and I must admit that I'm rather reluctant to do anything until we've succeeded in finding him."

"I don't want to hear excuses, Sherif. We're going out there right now and if we can't get into the house any other way, we'll break down the door. There are three people out there who may be in trouble. Now, let's get moving," Skinner countered gruffly. He was as fed up with local law enforcement as he could get.

Michaelson stared at him for a second, then sighed again. "Look, A.D. Skinner. I'm aware that you're worried about your people. I don't blame you. But... and this is said with the greatest respect for your abilities... I don't think they're out there any more. Quite frankly, I have the distinct impression that they may have gone AWOL."

Heaving a deep breath, Skinner attempted to stay calm. Under the current circumstances, that proved to be rather difficult, though. "This is not the army, Michaelson. Federal Agents don't go AWOL. Secondly, I know these people well enough to know that they would report in under any circumstances. The fact that they haven't since they arrived proves only one thing to me. Something's wrong. And I want to know what." Turning around, he stepped toward the door of Michaelson's office. "Right now," he added when Michaelson made no attempt to follow him.

With a sigh, Michaelson got off his chair, shrugged into his jacket and followed Skinner out into the front office. "No offence, sir, but we have to live here afterward. You can go back home. I would prefer to do this the right way."

Skinner stopped, having to remind himself to stay calm, then turned to face the man. "Now you listen to me and you listen carefully, Sherif," he growled, angry now. "It seems that you don't understand the seriousness of this. Three of my agents are missing in action. They've gone missing in your backyard. And all you're worried about is how Wilson will react to a broken down front door? Let me tell you something. I'll tear down that damned house if I have to. If that's what it takes to find the three of them, then that's what we will do. I don't care about politics. I don't care about local customs. What I care about is finding these three. Preferably alive." Staring at Michaelson, he actually needed to say no more, but he had to get this off his chest. "Now, I respect your opinions, but I'm not going to turn around and forget about three people's welfare because you don't want to break down a door. One more word of this and I'm going to make sure you end up behind bars for obstructing justice. Do I make myself clear?"

Michaelson was slightly stunned and nodded. "Yes, sir. I understand," was all he managed to say to that. Skinner's authority was not easily overridden. And when he got angry, most people preferred to get out of the way.


The Wilson Estate
08.15 a.m.

Scully glanced out at the brightening sky and sighed. Another morning. Another attempt at getting out of this place. With a sigh, she disengaged her arms from her still sleeping partner and got up, heeding a call of nature. She cautiously stepped into the entrance hall, looking around and listening for any disturbances.  The house was quiet as the grave. Although she still had her share of trouble believing in what was happening here, she could no more deny it than she could deny thirst or hunger. Edging along the wall, keeping her senses alert, she headed toward the downstairs bathroom. With some difficulty, she managed to get past the fallen grandfather clock without leaving the safety the wall offered, but when she finally reached the door to the bathroom, nothing had happened. With a sigh of relief, she slipped into the bathroom, closed and locked the door and took a moment to stare at her reflection in the mirror. Things could look better, she decided, critically examining her pale, fatigued-looking face.

After taking care of herself for a brief while, she let herself out of the bathroom again, this time not paying very much attention to her surroundings. She stepped out of the bathroom, turned halfway to close the door and then turned back to the entrance hall. With a halfhearted scream, she acknowledged that her fears were not as easily overcome as she had assumed. The ugly troll she had feared for most of her childhood and which she had laughed at the night before stood there in front of her, its tongue lolling in and out of its maw. It growled, lashed out and grabbed her ankles. Powerful hands pulled her feet away from under her and she crashed to the floor, hitting her head in the process. "Let go of me. You're not real," she screamed at it, trying to kick herself free, but the hands wrapped around her ankles held her in a steel grip. "TESS! MULDER!" Without any effort, the troll turned her over on her stomach and started pulling her along, giving her no opportunity to try and get out of its grip. She clawed at the floor, grabbed out for things to hold her back, but all was in vain. It pulled her through the doors to the kitchen and over the slick floor, the sound of her fingernails scraping over the smooth surface following them all the way to the basement stairs. "MULDER!" she screamed one final time before the door to the basement slammed shut and cut off any further screams.

Mulder fought to get up at the same time as Jezek ripped at the door, trying to get it to open. Scully's screams for help had them both agitated and although he could barely move from the pain and stiffness of his battered body, Mulder fought to get up nonetheless.

Jezek tore at the door for a second longer, then stumbled backward when it suddenly gave way. In the meantime, the screams had subsided. She had lost her balance and had sat down on the floor rather hard, but got back to her feet and raced out into the entrance hall within moments. "DANA?" she hollered. "DANA. ANSWER ME!" She turned in a slow circle, scanning her surroundings, trying to figure out what had happened and where Scully might be. "DA..." she started yelling again, but the words got stuck in her throat as her eyes widened.

"Come to me and play with me!" The ugly, lisping voice, full of scorn and hatred, made her flesh crawl. Jezek stared at her only fear as it skipped toward her, chanting that song which had given her countless sleepless nights as a child, and swallowed hard. The clown. The only thing that had ever managed to scare the shit out of her apart from her ex-husband when he'd had one of his tantrums. Purple hair, badly painted face, big red nose, the dirty clown suit in tatters, exposing the rotting corpse beneath. She didn't scream. She more or less moaned in anguish and took a step back. Exposing a set of teeth badly in need of attention and smelling of rot, the creature of her nightmares stuck a rotting tongue out at her. "Come to the basement with me, little Tesla. I have something for you," it leered, reaching out for her with less than white gloves that were full of holes and showed the rotting flesh underneath. When the hands closed around her upper arms, hurting her in the process, that was when she screamed. Putting up a fight that would have knocked anybody else over, she kicked out at the clown and twisted in his grip as he carried her toward the kitchen and the basement stairs. But to no avail. The door once again slammed shut, cutting off any other noise.

The door to the greenhouse had slammed shut once more, cutting Mulder off from seeing what was going on. He had almost reached the door, too. Wincing, he reached out for the doorhandle and pushed it down, pulling lightly. But the door didn't budge. He heard Jezek scream like an angry cat for a moment, then she was cut off and then nothing. The house had turned utterly silent again. Virtually unable to stand up, he groaned under his breath as he doubled up, his broken ribs and broken arm causing him nothing but pain. He briefly thought about getting the pain killers, but figured that passing out right now might not be such a good idea. Although he couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't pass out if he didn't take them.

Then the door ahead of him started to tremble. Staring at it, he noticed the increasing glow of light pushing past the edges, increasing steadily. The scene had an eerie feeling of deja-vu to it. In his shaky state of health, backing up proved to be a difficult thing. But he did it nonetheless while the light around the edges of the door increased. The door was now positively rattling in its frame and suddenly it jumped open, spilling blinding light into the greenhouse.

Mulder ripped his left arm up to protect his eyes, a move he regretted the instant he performed it. With a helpless yelp of pain, he ceased moving for a moment, trying to regain his breath all while he watched the eerie glow, which of course wasn't supposed to come from the inside of the house. But, knowing this did little to dampen his fear. Because, in the center of the light, the long-limbed outline of an alien had appeared. The one he had feared and hoped to see since Samantha had been taken. He had seen it once since, but could remember almost nothing about the encounter. The shape in the light beckoned to him, wanting him to come closer, but he could barely move in the first place and he was not about to go running into any lights as it were. "No," he whispered hoarsely. But something about this whole scene made him feel like going forward after all. The fact that both Scully and Jezek had been dragged off, screaming, by whatever their fears had manifested as pushed him forward. And knowing that they were gone, he didn't see much sense in sticking around any more. The only thing that matter to him in this screwed up world was gone somewhere in this house.

With an effort he had not thought possible only moments before, he straightened his back as much as his broken ribs would allow and took a shaky step forward. It was not with the greatest sense of confidence that he approached his fate, but he did it nonetheless, walking slowly toward the open door and the light beyond, feeling that he had no other option.


Outside the Wilson Estate
08.45 a.m.

Three cars pulled up in front of the Wilson Estate just as the light from the greenhouse flickered off. Birds were chirping happily at the new day, unaware and uncaring about what went on inside the house.

Skinner got out of the car and looked up at the house, every fiber of his body telling him that this place was up to no good. Although he was not prone to chasing after nightmares, he had seen the old woman in his dreams again last night. Recognizing her as an omen of bad things to come rather than a demon trying to drive him mad, he knew something was going on. And he knew that it wasn't good. Seeing the Wilson Estate in person made him understand why. The house emanated an evil atmosphere. Glancing across the car at Special Agent Coltrane, he tried to estimate if the man was susceptible to the vibrations. If he was, it wasn't obvious. But when he glanced over at Michaelson and his deputy, there was no doubt in his mind that these two men knew what this house was all about.

Ignoring the deep-lying warning bells which had gone off in his head, he walked up to the front door and banged heavily on it. "Agent Mulder?" he called. "Agent Scully?" No reply. No nothing. He tried knocking harder and called for Jezek, too, with the same result. Frowning, he turned to face Coltrane, who had come up behind him. "If they're here, they're not answering," he growled.

"If being the imperative word here, sir," Coltrane countered, glancing upward for a moment. "This place has got one bad atmosphere," he added thoughtfully, then grinned sheepishly when he realized he had said it out loud.

Skinner didn't return his grin. "Let's try around back," he said, stepping past Coltrane. "Jansen, McGuire," he called, waving the other two Special Agents over. "Stay here and keep an eye on things. We're going to take a look around the back of the house." The two men nodded, very obviously unhappy about this place.

Skinner strode around the house, trying to take everything in, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise. This place gave him the jitters and the sooner he was away from here again, he better he would feel.

Coltrane followed in his footsteps, inspecting the house and keeping a cool distance to what he thought he was feeling. He wasn't big on imagination as it were and he couldn't help thinking that he could be doing some more important work than chasing after Spooky again. But Skinner had insisted that he come along and he had done so willingly because of Scully and Jezek. He would never dare express this to his boss, but he thought it was a damned shame and highly irresponsible to send two so lovely creatures off with Spooky. They were bound to get hurt in the process.

Skinner slowed down when they reached the glass-addition to the house. The greenhouse was something extra which had been added some years ago. Taking a peek through the windows, it was obvious that somebody had been staying there. The two mattresses lying one the ground proved this. Skinner briskly walked up to the door and tried to open it. It was locked, though. Leaning closer to the glass, he stared in at the mattresses, trying to see anything odd. And he saw something he didn't like, all right. A bloodied dishtowel was lying on the floor next to the closest mattress.

"They seem to have been here, at least," Coltrane commented, staring in at the same scene. "What is our next move, sir?" he then wanted to know when Skinner made no move to reply.

For a long moment, the Assistant Director stared thoughtfully at the scene, then he made a face. "We try to get in," he countered and walked back the way they'd come, Coltrane hot on his heels.


11.00 a.m.

Skinner found it very hard to contain his frustration. Not only didn't the damned door want to give in to their attempts at picking the lock and breaking it open with a tire iron, none of the windows seems to be made of breakable glass, either. For a long moment, he stood in front of the obstinate door, staring angrily and utterly helplessly at the lock, then he hissed a quiet curse, pulled out his gun and blew the lock to bits. It was the first step in the right direction, he thought, staring at the smoking remains of the lock. But the door still didn't budge. Turning to Coltrane, he hoped the man didn't think he had gone nuts. "Get the shotgun from the car," he growled. "If we have to shoot this door down, so be it."

Coltrane was hyped up over the action and didn't argue the fact that his boss was behaving rather unprofessionally. This was too much fun. He ran back to the car, got the twelve gauge and hurried back to his boss.

Skinner loaded the riffle, aimed it at the door and blew a fist-sized hole in the wood. Michaelson watched the whole thing with a bleeding heart, knowing what kind of trouble he would be in once Mr. Wilson got word of this. But he had to abide by the higher authority and he would make that damned clear to Wilson. If the old man should sue anybody, it would have to be the FBI and A.D. Skinner in particular.

After six more shots, not even the door of a haunted house could hold up any more. Skinner had hit it at the right points, shooting out the hinges and all four corners. When he then gave the remains of the door a powerful kick, it simply fell into the house with a resounding crash. Growling in contentment, Skinner handed the riffle to Coltrane and took the lead into the house. There was a hushed silence over the old building and Skinner wondered if that meant that nobody was here. But he got the distinct impression that they weren't alone.

Coltrane, Jansen, McGuire and Sherif Michaelson and his deputy followed him into the house, spreading out to look around. Jansen was the first one to find a clue. Squatting down next to the door to the downstairs bathroom, he looked thoughtfully down at a dark spot on the dark wood of the floor. "Sir?" he called. Skinner came toward him. Touching the spot, Jansen's fingers came away blood. "Sir, this is blood and it's fresh," he said, holding his fingers up.

Skinner crouched down to get a better look and reached down to pick something up. Two single strands of red hair made him sneer in frustration. "I believe that at least Agent Scully is somewhere in this house. Find her," he said.

They spread out and searched the house in twos. Skinner and Coltrane took the upstairs, Michaelson and his deputy took the attic and Jansen and McGuire took care of the ground floor.

Skinner paused at the broken down door to what had been Scully's room and frowned. "What the hell did that?" he wanted to know, not asking anybody in particular.

Coltrane was starting to feel a little ill at ease as he stared at the torn-up wood of the former door. The ripped-up wall paper leading up to the doorway where Michaelson and his deputy had vanished upstairs didn't help things, either. He cautiously pushed the door to the next room open and stared in at the room with wide eyes. "Sir, I think you wanna see this," he called.

Skinner abandoned the explanation he was trying to find for the demolished door and stepped up beside Coltrane. The room was a mess. Blood was oozing thickly down the walls and the air was cold as ice. Looking around with a tight expression, Skinner once again had to acknowledge that Mulder's view on things wasn't always so completely off center as others wanted to believe. "Forget about this. Let's find those three so we can get out of here. This place gives me the creeps," he growled.

"You and me both," Coltrane agreed.

Michaelson and his deputy came back down, shaking their heads the moment they saw Skinner and Coltrane. "Nothing up there," Michaelson reported.

"Nothing here either," Skinner grumbled. "Except for bleeding walls, that is," he added, feeling the need to laugh at this without being able to. "Let's join up with the others."

They went back downstairs and found that Jansen and McGuire had found nothing either. Except for the obvious fact that all three of them, Mulder, Scully and Jezek, had taken up residence in the greenhouse for some odd reason. Once again back in the entrance hall, they all waited for further orders from Skinner.

Coltrane looked around, his eyes grazing the downed grandfather clock a few times. "What I don't get is why they didn't leave," he mumbled.

Skinner gave him a sideways look that could mean a lot of things. "Don't you think that they might have had the same trouble getting out as we had getting in?" he asked, not expecting an answer. "Now there's only the basement left," he added. "Where are the stairs?"

"Kitchen," Michaelson replied, waving toward the swinging doors leading into the rustic kitchen. Everybody followed him when he pushed them open and stepped inside. He pointed to a closed oak door. "There."

Skinner nodded, grabbed the handle and pulled. Nothing happened. The key stuck in the keyhole brought no results when turned either. Frowning, Skinner made another effort to open the door, then sighed in annoyance. Taking the shotgun from Coltrane, he aimed at the door and shot out the hinges and the lock. One gentle tug was all it took to bring the door crashing down on the kitchen floor after that. At the look on Michaelson's face, Skinner knew what the man was thinking, but he neither had time nor any particular need to make excuses for his actions right now. He was too pissed off for that.

As the electricity didn't seem to work in the basement, they pulled out their flashlights and headed down into the maw of darkness. The cold down there was breathtaking, but Skinner pushed on, oblivious to the hostile atmosphere down here. He didn't give a damn what was hiding in the shadows. Skinner had never been afraid of the dark and he was not about to begin now.

"Sir?" Coltrane asked from right behind him. "This place is a lot bigger than the house upstairs."

"So I've noticed," Skinner growled and opened the first door to find the wine cellar. He quickly went through the rows, looking for a sign of anybody, but found nobody. Returning to the others, who looked a lot more scared than he had felt at any given time, he gave them a grumpy look, then continued down the corridor to the storage and work room. Glancing around, they found nothing there, either.

After a moment, they continued down the corridor on the opposite side, moving briskly from room to room, finding a lot of rotting timber and other things that should have been thrown out years ago. The only thing they didn't find were what they had come for. Starting to get pretty annoyed, Skinner pushed some crates out of the way and nearly stepped on something lying on the floor. Frowning, he shone his flashlight at it and grumbled an angry curse. Reaching down, he grabbed the arm of the human-sized rag doll and tossed it onto one of the crates before continuing down the corridor toward the darkness at the end. There was no hesitation in his movements, no doubt in his mind. He reached the end of the corridor and stopped in front of a pitch-black curtain. Glaring at it, he knew he could not see beyond his own anger at this intolerable situation and pushed the black fabric aside. Beyond was more darkness. Growling, he stepped through and shone his flashlight over the interior of the room he had come to. It was obvious that this place had been used for some kind of ritual long ago. Now it was collecting dust.

Slowly moving the cone of light over the room, the light caught something in passing and he swung it back to that point, finding the limp figure of someone lying on the floor. He reached back behind him, grabbed a hold of the curtain and yanked it from its rod, letting in some more light.

He walked over to the figure and squatted down, grabbing a hold of her shoulder. "Scully," he said, cautiously turning her over. She had bruises on her face and quite a bump on her forehead. Searching for a pulse, he was relieved to find it strong and steady. Then he gently patted her face. "Scully," he repeated, more insistently.

So suddenly that it even made the A.D. jerk back, Scully's eyes snapped open and she sat bolt upright, looking terrified for a moment. "Oh my God," she breathed. "Where am I?" Then she realized that she wasn't alone. Turning her head, she looked up at Skinner and frowned.

Skinner smiled. "Are you all right?" he wanted to know. At least one of them was found with minimal damage.

"I found Jezek," Jansen announced, having searched on from where Skinner had stopped. "She's out cold."

"Am not," Jezek's voice interrupted him. She sat up with a groan, glanced around and cursed quite strongly.

Scully moaned as she touched her forehead gingerly. Then something occurred to her and she looked around almost frantically. "Mulder?" she called, struggling to her feet with Skinner's help. "Mulder?"

McGuire was the one to find Mulder. "Over here," he called, waving them over to the furthest corner of the room.

Scully pushed past all of them and dropped down on her knees next to her partner, reaching trembling hands out to search for life. She sighed audibly when she found it. "Mulder," she whispered. "Mulder, wake up."

Skinner grabbed her shoulder. "Let's get you out of here," he said, then turned to Coltrane. "Go upstairs and call the paramedics. Tell them to get here on the double."

Coltrane nodded and hurried back the way they'd come. Jansen smiled at Scully as he helped her back to her feet. "Come on, Dana," he said. "Let's get you back upstairs. You're a mess."

"No, I can't leave Mulder," she said, struggling to get back to her downed partner.

"Scully, go upstairs with Jansen. I'll keep an eye on Mulder until the paramedics arrive," Skinner told her, gently but firmly pushing her toward the exit.

She met his eyes in the dim light for a moment, then reluctantly went with Jansen, constantly looking back over her shoulder at Mulder.

Skinner turned to Jezek, who looked a little less battered than Scully, although that didn't say too much. "McGuire, take Jezek upstairs. And I don't want any trouble out of you, Jezek," he said, eying her thoughtfully. "As you also seem to be one who's most together here, I expect you to tell me what happened here."

Jezek met his eyes for a moment, then slowly shook her head, looking down at Mulder. "You won't believe it," she stated.

"You'll be amazed at what I believe," Skinner countered. "Now, get out of here," he added, waving her away. McGuire lead her out of the basement room and they vanished around the corner moments later with Jezek grumbling under her breath. Skinner turned to Michaelson, who looked ill at ease. "I believe that these latest injuries of theirs could have been prevented if someone had acted sooner," he growled. "This will not go unnoticed, Sherif."

Once the first ambulance arrived, the paramedics were quickly guided down into the basement, where they estimated their patient's state of health. One of the two young men took Mulder's pulse, then looked up at the other paramedic. "He's got trouble breathing and his heartbeat's irregular. We gotta move him out of here now," he said, his tone of voice a little strained.

The other one nodded. With the utmost care, they loaded the unconscious man onto the stretcher, secured him and carried him back upstairs. While one of them pushed the stretcher into the back of the ambulance, the other paramedic ran to the front and radioed for a rescue chopper.

Skinner frowned. "What's going on?" he wanted to know, asking the man who had remained with Mulder and was hooking him up to an IV.

"We need to get him to the hospital as fast as possible and we can't do that in the ambulance," he countered, not looking away from his work.

"How bad is it?" Skinner demanded.

The young man paused, glancing over at him, then down at his patient. "He's dying," he said and continued working on hooking Mulder up to a heart-rate monitor. "He'll die if we don't get him into surgery A.S.A.P."

Skinner appreciated the frankness of the young man's words, but not the meaning. Staring in at Mulder for a moment, he made himself a silent promise that he would not allow Mulder to go on any more of these cases if he made it out alive. He also knew that he wouldn't be able to keep that promise because Mulder was exceptionally good at convincing him otherwise. Heaving a deep breath, he stayed with the ambulance until the rescue chopper turned up.
As there was plenty of space to land on, getting the chopper to the ground was no problem. Skinner stepped back and watched as they loaded Mulder onto the chopper and took off again. Scully turned up beside Skinner, looking after the quickly shrinking dot. "He's in bad shape, isn't he?" she asked.

Skinner glanced down at her, then put an arm around her shoulders and guided her back to the second ambulance. "Yes, he is," he agreed. "And so are you. You need medical attention, as well. Let the paramedics do their job, Scully."

Grabbing Skinner's arm before he had a chance to leave, she looked up at him with a pained expression. "Where are they taking him?"

"Rockingham Memorial. Same place you're going," he countered. "Go with them, Scully. I'll see you at the hospital." With that, Skinner returned to his car and got in. He was fully aware that Scully knew how badly Mulder was really faring. He didn't want to aggravate her condition by telling her straight out that Mulder might not be there any more when they arrived at the hospital. Watching the ambulances pull out and drive away, two of them with the lights flashing, the third quietly, he hit his steering wheel with one fist. "God damn it," he grumbled and glanced over at the house for a moment. "Coltrane, get in," he then yelled and put the car in gear.

The Wilson Estate stood there in the sunlight of a new day, quietly watching the people who had disturbed its peace leave. In the attic window, had anybody been around to see it, the shape of Joshua Wilson watched intently as the cars pulled away. Red glowing eyes full of hatred and contempt watched the world outside which was no longer a part of his existence and cursed it all to Hell.

In the open doorway, the shape of the woman followed the departure of the cars as well, her blue eyes filled with a mixture of sadness and joy. The mortals had made it out in one piece and they had managed to destroy some of ‘his' defenses. Which meant she could do what she had always wanted to do. A quite solid box of matches appeared in her ghostly hands and she struck one match, admiring the clear flame. She dropped it on the rug of the corridor leading to the entrance hall and watched with satisfaction as the flame caught hold of the old, dusty carpet and lit it on fire. The flames spread rapidly throughout the house, licking up the walls, devouring everything in their path. Although she was no longer visible, her laughter rang through the house, answered by the outraged, inarticulate cries of her husband. She was putting an end to the curse herself, having found the way now, and knew that he would have to move on to the other plain now. The one where she wouldn't go. And that made her laugh. Mary Wilson, estranged wife and heart-broken mother, would finally get the peace she deserved. She would finally be reunited with her three children and know that her husband's evil soul would reside in Hell forever.