IMTP VS8 Episode 23:

God's Country

By Joylynne Wing
Art by
Foxsong

 

Title: God's Country
Author: Joylynn Wing
E-mail: aljoyw@a-znet.com
Completed: December 2000
Category: MT, M/S Angst, MSR, X-File 
Rating: R for language and violence
Spoilers: Slight references for Rain King 
Summary: Mulder and Scully return to the woods once more in 
order to investigate the disappearance of a family of three 
in Maine. 
Archive: IMTP for the first two weeks, then Xemplary, 
Gossamer, and EMXC. Any others just give me an e-mail so 
that I may visit.
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter, Ten 
Thirteen Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox Television. 
They are used here without permission. No copyright 
infringement intended. Peter McCallister, Abner Milford, 
and other unrecognizable characters belong to me. 

Author's Notes: This was written for I Made This! 
Productions as one of their episodes for Virtual Season 8. 
IMTP can be found at http://www.i-made-this.com/. 

Locations are real, although I have elaborated upon them 
somewhat for fictional purposes.  No disrespect is 
intended.

Thanks: to the IMTP production staff, for allowing me to be 
a part of such a wonderful project. To Pita and Trace, my 
selfless and untiring betas: any glimmers of brilliance are 
due to their combined talents, any mistakes are entirely 
mine. To Cindy...I couldn't have done this without you.

Feedback: Are you kidding? Hit me baby...

~Set me alight 
We'll punch a hole right through the night 
Everyday the dreamers die
To see what's on the other side~
"In God's Country" by U2


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Midnight
May 12, 2001
Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine

It was the dead of night. A violent gust of wind slipped 
through the snow-covered branches of the pine trees, the 
ancient twisted limbs dancing in a macabre design. Just 
below, the slight form of a young boy walked alone, his 
eyes darting about to and fro.   

Adam Saunders wasn't afraid of the dark.

Well -- not much anyway.

He was much too old for that. To be precise, he was 
more afraid of the beasties and creepy crawlies, which 
could skitter about him in the shifting shadows, sight 
unseen.

If given a choice, Adam would have remained in the nice, 
warm and snug cocoon of his sleeping bag. Tucked safely 
away in the musty-smelling folds of his tent. Instead, Adam 
found himself traipsing about in the bitterly cold night -- 
his aching bladder screaming for release. His only 
companion, a flashlight to ward off any ensuing enemies, 
real or imagined.

He had never been camping during the spring. His adventures
had been limited to the summer and late fall. The wildlife 
that would be out during that time would be totally 
different from anything that he had ever experienced. Not 
only that, but he had never camped in the mountains, let 
alone on *the* mountain.

Ragged Mountain...

He had heard stories about it.

Stories told by old-timers as old as the hills themselves. 
Stories so scary they could make your skin crawl. He had 
been raised on them. Told that if he wasn't good, the 
Oooglie Booglie would come and get him in the night. The only 
thing that they would ever find of him was his blood 
splashed angrily and thickly across the summit of Ragged 
Mountain.

Of course his father had chuffed at all of the stories; had 
even gone as far as to call them hogwash. As a tracker and 
as a trapper, his father claimed that he knew everything 
that walked in those woods.  But Adam wasn't as quick to 
discount them as his father was. The heart and imagination 
of a child, the fertile fields of creativity.

With each step he took, a nursery rhyme that he had been 
taught as a young boy haunted his thoughts...

-You'd better be good if you go out to play,
or the Oooglie Booglie will steal you away-  

Suddenly, the loud sound of a branch cracking caught his 
attention and he found himself standing as still as death.
As he struggled valiantly to quiet his noisy breaths, he 
began to hear the faint sounds of branches rustling under 
the still heavy cover of snow, even though there wasn't any 
wind at that moment. Turning his head, he looked about, but 
his eyes were useless. The flashlight just wasn't enough to 
penetrate the dense darkness.

Suddenly, from just behind him, he heard the low growl of 
something that he definitely didn't recognize. Something 
big; Some *thing* that smelled like a backed up sewer on a 
very hot day.

Adam Saunders then did the only thing that he could think 
of at that moment. 

He promptly began to run as if the devil himself was 
chasing him, retracing the very same steps that he had 
taken just moments before, his need to urinate long 
forgotten.

Adrenaline surged through his veins; his heart pounded 
fiercely within the tight confines of his young body.
He continued to run faster and faster, until his legs felt 
as if they would fly off and his aching lungs burned like 
hot coals. 

As he neared the perimeter of the camp, he swore that he 
could hear the footfalls of something following him, 
something that seemed to have an enormous stride judging 
from the time between sounds. 

Reaching his tent, he pulled back the flap and with a leap 
worthy of any Olympian, he thrust himself inside, landing 
square on top of his brother Mark.

"Jesus!" was all that Adam could hear, as the figure 
tucked neatly into the bag struggled to get out from under 
him. 

Adam then launched himself into the back of the tent and 
quickly dove under his sleeping bag, his arms and legs 
trembling violently. "Mark!" he yelled, his mouth suddenly 
dry. "There is something out there, it chased me!" he 
screamed again, ignoring the intense throbbing in his 
throat. He didn't care if he lost his voice. He didn't care 
if he could never speak again because whatever *it* was, was 
still out there. He couldn't hear *it* anymore per se but 
the night sounds that he had heard earlier had now ceased. 

He knew that wasn't good. 

Adam closed his eyes and began to pray silently as he 
snuggled further under his bag. "What the hell are you 
talking about?" he could hear Mark mumble softly, his voice 
full of impatience. "You just had a bad dream, that's all. 
Get back into your sleeping bag and go back to sleep before 
Dad hears you." 

Adam let out a deep breath and watched the bag move 
about, the heavy coating on the outside crinkling as 
his brother presumably attempted to make himself 
comfortable once more. He knew there was no way in hell 
that *he* was going back to sleep and he was going to make 
sure that Mark didn't either. 

He had always known that his brother was a jerk. Mark had 
never in his life gone out of his way to be supportive of 
him. In fact, he had been at times down right mean to him 
and Adam had never called him on it. He had allowed Mark to 
treat him like a piece of crap and had never stopped him. 
However, this was one time that Adam wasn't going to back 
down. Not while 'it' was still out there.  

Grabbing the corner of his bag, he tossed it to the side.
"I didn't have a dream," he yelled, as he grabbed Mark and 
began to shake him like a rag doll. He was going to make 
Mark listen, if he had to scramble his brains to do it. "I 
really had to go pee so I went out. I tried to go where Dad 
told us to go but...but...I heard something. Something 
really big and it followed me back here."

"You're such a baby," Mark teased, as he pushed the young 
boy away. "I told Dad not to bring you up here. I told him 
and he wouldn't listen. Now when he hears about this he 
will never..."

Adam's eyes grew wide as he heard Mark's voice abruptly 
stop. From outside the tent, he could just make out the 
sounds of footfalls and of cracking snow pack. He 
swallowed heavily as he watched Mark move closer to the 
closed flaps and with a quivering hand, pull them back just 
a few inches.

"Hey you!" Mark called out as he looked about outside. 
"Whoever you are...you had better get the hell out of here 
if you know what's good for you, before my Dad gets a hold 
of you..."

"Adam? Mark?"

Both boys took a deep breath of relief as Robert, their 
father, called out to them. 

"What is going on out there? You're supposed to be 
sleeping. Don't make me come out there and..." Their 
father's words became as silent as the night that enveloped 
the boys in its arms. In their place, the sounds of a 
desperate struggle, accompanied by heavy breathing and the 
ripping of cloth.

Suddenly the terrible sound of a scream filled the air.

The two boys sat there silently, as the minutes slowly 
ticked by. Fear, thick and ominous like the snows that 
covered the slopes about them, filled their hearts. Up 
there -- in the spring -- they were all alone. No one to hear 
their screams; no one to help them. If something had 
happened to their dad, they were in this alone. 

"Shush...d-d-do you h-h-hear anything?" Mark finally asked 
nervously, as he brought his hear up to the tent.

"N-n-no," Adam replied as he brought his face further down 
into his sack. "I'm scared, Mark." As he sat there, his 
chest heaved in and out. He could feel his bladder spasm,
releasing his urine to soak into the rough material of his 
jeans.

"Me too," Mark answered. He slowly crawled over to the 
younger boy, and looked him in the face. "Look, I'm going 
to go out there and get Dad's rifle. You need to get on 
that emergency radio and get help, just like Dad taught 
you."

"I don't know..."

"There isn't any time," Mark brought his hand down on 
Adam's shoulder and squeezed it gently. "Dad needs us. He 
is alone with *whatever* is out there. We are here alone! 
We have to help him...and ourselves. Just remember, no 
matter what happens, don't stop trying until you reach 
someone."

With that, Mark made his way back to the door and crawled 
outside, leaving Adam alone in the darkness. Reaching 
behind himself, he grabbed the knapsack and rummaged around 
inside of it. After a few moments, he found the short wave 
radio and he pulled it out.

Adam wasn't a stupid boy; he knew that this wasn't going to 
help in the least. He knew that the summit, on which they 
had made base camp, was many, many hours from anywhere. 
Even the ranger station that he was going to attempt to 
contact was over 10 miles away, over very rough terrain.
His plaintive cry for help was to be a moot point. No one 
would be there until at best midday. 

Taking the microphone into his hand, and bringing it to his 
mouth, Adam turned the power on and the faint greenish 
light illuminated the dark corners of the tent. In a voice 
as soft as he could manage, as he struggled to hold back 
his tears, he said, "Mayday...mayday...this is an 
emergency. Urgent assistance needed at Walker's Summit."

As his mouth continued to plead for assistance, his 
thoughts were thousands of miles away in prayer. The 
Oooglie Booglie had finally came for him and his family and 
that was all that mattered. Now all that stood between him 
and certain death was God, that same God that he had prayed 
to every night.

...Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of 
death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod 
and thy staff they comfort me...


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Act 1

5:45 p.m.
May 14, 2001
Basement Office
J. Edgar Hoover Building 
Washington, D.C.

Tick tock...
Tick tock...
Tick tock...

The slow but steady count of the clock did little to quell 
Mulder's steadily growing enthusiasm. As he sat there 
reclined in his quite uncomfortable chair with his feet 
perched precariously upon his desk, he found himself 
literally shaking from excitement. He had been that way 
ever since reading the morning's news on the Internet. 

At first, the headlines about the mysterious disappearances 
of a family of three in Maine hadn't made that much of an 
impression. He had just glanced at it while on his way to 
the sports page. He had very little time before Scully was 
to return from forensics and he knew that if she  
caught him once again slacking off while he was *supposed* to 
be finishing their expense reports, she would shoot him 
again.

This time, however, it wouldn't be in the shoulder.

But after Scully had called, telling him that she was to be 
out of the office longer than anticipated, he had come back 
to it. The article spoke of an intense manhunt that was 
being conducted to find Robert Saunders and his two sons, 
Mike and Adam. The only leads; a garbled short wave radio 
plea for help, speaking of something called the Oooglie 
Booglie, the sound of gunshots in the background during the 
transmission and one very torn up, bloodied campsite.

Although the authorities claimed that they were at a loss 
as to what was going on: Mulder wasn't. In fact, he was far 
from it. His photographic memory supplied him with a file 
-- which he had seen several months earlier -- describing a 
similar incident that had happened a few years back. 

An incident claimed, by locals, to have been perpetrated by 
a hairy man-beast: a bigfoot.

From the moment that he had seen it, Mulder knew that it 
was too good to pass up. Within minutes, he had filled out 
the necessary requisitions and had contacted Skinner. Now 
all that was left was to tell *Scully* about it.

However, he knew that it was easier said than done. He only 
hoped that she gave him enough time to lay it all out for 
her.

"I've got the forensics report on the Webber case," the 
honey over gravel words startled him just enough to nearly 
topple him to the floor. Recovering quickly, he reached 
over and enlarged the window on the screen before him. 

"Mulder, don't tell me that you have spent the whole 
morning just sitting there." Scully chuckled softly, as she 
leaned against the door jam. As she brought her hand up to 
rest on her hip, the line of her jacket accentuated the 
vast expanse of leg revealed by her shorter than usual skirt.

"Please, Scully..." Mulder took in the free show as he 
leaned back in his chair. He gestured towards the screen 
with his hand, a grin plastered across his face. "How 
could you honestly think so *little* of me? In fact, I 
have been hard at work doing research and I think that I 
may have found our next case."

Scully slowly walked around to the side of the desk, her 
heels thudding softly on carpet below. Putting her hand on 
his shoulder, she leaned over and began to read the screen 
before him. "Mulderrrr -- you've *got* to be kidding!" 

"Now, Scully," Mulder admonished softly, as he turned to 
face her, brought up his arms and crossed them in front of 
his chest. He then looked her straight in the eyes and gave 
her his best deadpan expression. "Have you ever known me 
to...?"

Mulder's voice was cut off with the first noticeable twitch 
of her brow. 

"Don't answer that," Mulder then continued, "I assure you 
that I am very serious."

Mulder watched as Scully sat down on the edge of the desk 
next to him. "Come on, Mulder. How does a family 
disappearing out in the middle of the woods become an X-
File?"

"When it just so happens to have some connection with an 
old Native American story that has over the years become a 
well known local urban legend," Mulder retorted, as he 
picked up the file that he had readied earlier and handed 
it to her. 

Always the hard sell, Mulder had learned years ago to never 
approach her without some viable documentation.

It paid to be prepared.

Scully flipped it open and began to quickly peruse it.
After a few moments the look of typical Scully skepticism 
changed to wide-eyed wonder.

"Now that I have your attention, Scully."

"Can the attitude, Mulder, " Scully said as she dropped it 
back on the desk and stood up, smoothing down the wrinkles 
of her skirt. "Please, just give me the *abbreviated* 
version." 

"If you insist, Scully." Mulder leaned back and brought his 
hands behind his head. 

"Ragged Mountain, where the Saunders family disappeared, is 
a mountain deep in the heart of Passamaquoddy tribal lands. 
The mountain itself is believed to be one of their most 
sacred of burial sites. The Passamaquoddy legend states 
that when the white man moved into the area and began to 
explore, trespassing on forbidden soil, a tribal elder had 
a dream in which the sky god told him that an Żm'tchutch‚kw 
or spirit would be sent to protect the earthly remains of 
their ancient ancestors."

"It wasn't long after that that the first sighting of the
apiktchi'lu-uski'tap or the Piscataquis Skunk Ape aka 
Bigfoot took place. Local sociologists believe that was how 
the legend of the Oooglie Booglie was born. It is said that 
if you are caught out after dark, you better have hope that 
you have been good. If you haven't, the Oooglie Booglie 
will come and get you."

Scully groaned, as she rolled her eyes. "Mulder, that 
story sounds like a variation on a dozen or so others that 
I have heard over the years designed to scare the living 
daylights out of kids in order to keep them in line."

"Ah, Scully..." Mulder leered at her as he waggled his 
brows suggestively, "I can just see you right now...scaling 
down from your bedroom window, some lust-crazed teenager 
waiting below with visions of doing the horizontal mambo 
with you."

"Why Mulder," Scully then leaned over and dropped her mouth 
right next to his ear, the tiny puffs of air escaping 
causing him to shiver noticeably. "It's funny that you 
would mention it. I was just following that specific 
scenario that I, as a very young and impressionable 
teenager, lost my innocence to a much older boy."
 
With those very words, Mulder's hands fell down back to his 
sides, as his jaw fell to his chest. Of all of the things 
that he had expected her to say, that had never crossed his 
thoughts.

Visions of his straight-laced partner as a teenager, being 
seduced by an upperclassman, filled his mind and suddenly 
Mulder found the room to be getting a little too warm for 
his liking. He could feel the beads of sweat sliding slowly 
between his shoulder blades, enhancing the steadily 
increasing beating of his heart. 

When he had lost control of this situation, he wasn't 
sure but he knew that he needed to get it back and fast. 
Otherwise, he might be tempted to say, or worse, do, 
something that they both might regret.  

He had convinced himself years ago that he would know when 
the time would be right to act on his feelings for her. He 
knew that if he waited long enough, she would let him know 
when she was ready. 

From what he had seen until now, she wasn't. So he needed 
to behave himself until it was.

"I had you big time," Scully said, as she grinned knowingly 
and stepped back from him, a most smug look creeping across 
her features.

"You had nothing..." Mulder retorted curtly, as he quickly 
stood up. He then turned himself away from her and dropped 
his flushed face from her view, lest he embarrass himself 
more than he already had.  

"So do you have any solid evidence other than these 
folktales?" Scully trailed her fingers across the top of 
the desk and to Mulder she was clearly enjoying herself too 
much to be willing to give up the game. To him it seemed 
that the years that she had spent with him had taught her 
how to play in the big leagues.

He was going to have to do his homework to keep up with her.

"Since you ask..." Eager to get as far away from this 
conversation as possible, Mulder took a deep breath, hoping 
to center his thoughts. 

"Over the past 10 years alone, there have been five 
documented missing persons cases. The sheriff's department 
however, believes that the numbers are considerably higher: 
since oftentimes hunters and hikers from out of state go up 
there without telling others. They have managed to keep 
most of these earlier incidences out of the media since 
tourism is a big draw in that particular area and they feel 
that these occurrences are the result of a serial killer at 
work as opposed to our Oooglie Booglie."

Mulder quickly shoved the file into his briefcase, as he 
looked as his watch. "Now, I have taken the liberty of 
booking us an early flight out of Dulles to Boston. From 
there, we'll take a puddle jumper to Bangor. Our flight 
leaves at 5:45 am."

Risking a quick glance at her face, Mulder realized that 
she was less than convinced. 

"Come on, Scully," Mulder offered her a bright smile as he 
brought his hand down to its familiar place in the middle 
of her back and then began to walk her to the door. "It'll 
be a nice little trip to the woods."

"Need I remind you, Mulder," Scully muttered, "that most of 
our *other* little trips have required medical attention or 
quarantine?" The look on her face told Mulder that she was 
clearly not amused.

"But Scully," Mulder pleaded, "This time will be different, 
I promise!" An evil grin swept across his face as he leaned 
over and whispered in her ear, "maybe we will even get 
lucky and it will snow sleeping bags!" 

Scully dropped her face from view as she walked quickly 
towards the elevator. However, her hasty retreat hadn't 
hidden from her ever-observant partner the beginnings of a 
full-fledged blush. 
 
"Gotcha big time," Mulder thought smugly to himself as he 
locked the office door.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Act 2

May 14, 2001
2:00 p.m.
Unnamed private logging road
Ripogenus, Maine


"The map says to turn right at the intersection, Mulder." 
Scully shook her head as she leaned back into her seat, the 
map that she had been carefully following for hours still 
held tightly in her hands. 

She had been in Maine for less than a day and already she 
wasn't having any fun: so much for a nice little trip to 
the woods.

The commuter flight from Boston to Bangor had been a 
frequent flier's worst nightmare; too many people crammed 
into too small of a space. To make things worse, Mulder 
could barely fit into his own space and thus had sprawled 
out all over her. He complained that she drooled? She ended 
up having to change into a new blouse in the Ladies room at 
the airport due to his prodigious amounts of slobber.

"The sheriff who contacted me told me to turn left," 
Mulder replied, as he took a deep breath and continued to 
squint out the window at the swirling snow, trying to keep 
himself on the road.  

When they had planned their little trip, they hadn't 
thought about one possibility. Even though it was late 
spring in Maine, snow wasn't completely out of the picture, 
just yet.

"At the intersection?" Scully sighed and lifted the map up 
once again, the folds of the paper falling onto her legs.
As the navigator on this assignment, Scully had taken the 
time the night before to call AAA and get specific 
instructions as to how get there since the Bureau wasn't 
always up to date on travel information. But even with her 
forethought, things were not going exactly according to 
plan.

"Yes," Mulder replied, as he began to softly thrum his 
fingers impatiently on the steering wheel in time with the 
steady rhythm of the wipers.

Once they had gotten off of the plane at Bangor, they had 
rented a car for the long drive to Harmony. At first it 
hadn't been hard, I-95 wasn't difficult to find. However, 
since getting off at Millinocket, it had been a 
challenge. Since it was spring, construction was well 
underway to fix winter-damaged roads.

Construction meant detours. Even on private logging roads.

It seems that Harmony wasn't the little town that Scully 
first had pictured. According to the map, it was located on 
one of the arms of Chamberlain Lake and it wasn't even a 
town at all. Harmony was literally a settlement for 
loggers, hunters, trappers, and campers in the town of T 10 
R11 WELS. 

"But the map says..." Scully tossed the useless piece of 
paper down on her lap as she blew a stray lock of hair out 
of her face and tucked it behind her ear. Things seemed to 
be going from bad to worse in a hurry as her stomach began 
to growl softly. "I think that we're lost, Mulder."

It may be the Vacation State to some, but to Scully it was 
quickly becoming hell.

"We're not lost, Scully." Mulder leaned forward and tried 
to wipe away some of the condensation. However his effort 
was futile, since all that he was succeeding on doing was 
making his visibility worse. Even with the defrosters set 
on high, their exhaled moisture was freezing solid on the 
windows. "It's just that all *this* looks the same," Mulder 
continued as he waved a free hand about quite dramatically.

He was right, at least about that much. The landscape, at 
least what they could see of it until now, was rows upon 
rows of evergreens, covered heavily in a thick blanket of 
snow.

Scully glared over at her partner, her eyes burning a hole 
into the side of his head. "Face it, Mulder, we're lost. 
Hopelessly, irrevocably lost." 

Even though she respected him more than any other person 
that she had ever known, there were some times that she 
wished she could just reach over and shake some sense into 
him. For an Oxford-educated man, he could be awfully dense
when he chose to be.

From the map she could tell that they were somewhere near 
Ripogenus, a small supply and logging stop. Ripogenus was 
located about halfway between Millinocket and Harmony. Even 
after traveling most of the morning and afternoon, they 
still had a long ways to go.

"What do you think?" Scully heard him ask as she watched 
him bring his hand up to his head and run his fingers 
through his hair. A familiar act that she associated with 
him thinking and usually thought nothing of, for some 
reason *now* seemed to be doing things for her 
that she would rather not think about.

"About being lost?" Scully answered in a tight, 
uncharacteristically high voice and she quickly brought her 
gaze back down to the map as she felt a bright blush 
threaten to creep across her face. She only hoped that he 
didn't catch it. Otherwise, Mulder would not let her hear 
the end of it.

"About the family, Scully." Mulder grinned knowingly, as he 
gestured to her briefcase located on the floor near her 
feet. "I assume that you have read the file that I gave 
you?"

"Yes and I'm not sure," Scully replied nonchalantly, as she 
crossed her feet in front of her and shifted her weight 
about in the seat. After sitting for as long as she had, 
her bottom was beginning to go numb. "I must admit that you 
do plead a compelling case. However, isn't it more 
plausible that they did disappear at the hands of some 
unknown human assailant than this..."

"Apiktchi'lu-uski'tap?" Mulder interrupted as he grinned 
even wider and waggled his brows. 

"This whatever...running amok," Scully replied, as she 
arched a brow. She could tell from the look on his face 
that he was having way too much fun with this and she 
planned not to give him any more ammunition. It was still a 
long drive to Harmony.

"Amok, Scully?" Mulder's brows shot to the top of his 
forehead, and his mouth fell open. He then leaned over 
and brought his lips to Scully's ear, the gentle puffs of 
air from his lips causing her to shiver. "Have I ever told 
you how very turned on I get when I hear you talk like 
that?"

"Shut up, Mulder." Scully rolled her eyes in mock 
revulsion, as she looked back out the window. She only 
hoped that they reached Harmony before her patience and 
self-control wore out. Otherwise, he might just have more to 
deal with than he even realized.

                
*~*~*~*~*~*~*

5:00 p.m.
Howard's General Store
Harmony
Maine

"Agent Mulder...Agent Scully...here is the information that 
you requested about the case."

Forest Ranger John Reilly held out a large manila 
file and dropped it down on the table in front of him. 
Leaning back in the chair, he brought his hands up behind his 
head as he stretched his legs out.

When Mulder and Scully had finally gotten to Harmony, it 
was late afternoon. They had just had enough time to check 
into their cabin before they had to meet with the local 
authorities. Since there were no county offices in this 
neck of the woods, they had ended up in the back room of 
the general store.

Mulder took a quick glance out the small window behind the 
ranger and he could see that it had finally stopped 
snowing. The thick, swirling clouds of snow were now 
replaced with bright sunshine. The sun was just starting to 
creep into the small room, its gentle fingers caressing the 
boxes and shelves that surrounded the three of them. 
Considering the long hike that they had ahead of them in 
the morning, the storm breaking was a good sign.

Mulder then leaned over and grabbed the file, bringing it 
back over to his lap.

"According to the report, the distress call came in on 
short wave radio, at 1 a.m. The ranger in charge of 
the station had been out most of the day and night dealing 
with a poaching problem, so the radio had been on voice 
record. The boy identified himself as being Adam Saunders 
and that he and his family were in trouble."

"The recording goes on for several minutes, the boy 
apparently not aware that he had gotten through at all. 
Much of it is too garbled to understand; the battery on 
their radio must have been running low. However, we were 
able to make out that his father had been attacked by 
something and that his brother went out to see if he could 
find him. Just seconds before the transmission stops we 
hear Adam scream, followed by several gunshots. He breaks 
down, mumbling something about the Oooglie Booglie and then 
there is nothing but silence."

Reaching forward, John picked up his coffee and took a 
careful sip. The steam curled around his large face, which 
was set off by a small fringe of hair. "I've heard the tape 
myself, I'm not just going by the transcripts and I must 
admit that even after all of my years of service, I've 
never been so...so...affected by something. I'm not ashamed 
to say that it sent chills up my spine."

Mulder turned his head and glanced over at Scully and from 
the furrow of her brow and the twinkle in her eye; he could 
see that she was hooked. Although she had razzed him quite 
a bit about this case, he knew that once push came to 
shove, she would be there right beside him. She was there, 
just as he was, to learn the truth. In whatever shape or 
form that it might present itself.

Even after finding out the truth about Samantha, they were 
both still as driven to find it.

"And the photos...now they are another story."

Mulder opened the file and turned it slightly so that 
Scully could see them and he could see what Ranger Reilly 
was talking about. The scene had been literally bathed in 
blood. Whatever had attacked the Saunders had been quite 
thorough because nothing at the site had been left intact. 
Mulder and Scully studied them silently for a moment as the 
ranger continued to speak.

"I know that 'the powers that be' believe that a serial 
killer has been at work for years but I personally don't 
think that any human could do that. Those survivalists are 
a strange lot I must admit, but from what I have seen and 
heard, they aren't homicidal. The majority are just war 
vets, many of them retired or discharged from the services, 
that are just trying to get away."

"What do you think, Scully?" Mulder asked, as he pointed to 
the tattered remains of the tents.

"I'm not sure, Mulder," Scully replied, as she leaned over 
further to get a closer look. "The disarray at the site 
could indicate the work of a disorganized mind 
however...now I can't say for sure without seeing them 
personally, but from what I can see here, the slashes more 
closely resemble some sort of animal claw marks as opposed 
to some man made implement."

Ranger Reilly nodded and leaned forward towards the two agents.
 "Now I have managed to contact one of the rangers 
originally dispatched to the scene but he will not be 
arriving until later tonight. As soon as he does get here I 
will send him over to you. He will be the one accompanying 
you up the mountain but I must warn you that he thinks it 
is an utter waste of time. He feels that the taxpayers' dollars could be
put to better use sending more law enforcement up in the
surrounding areas to track down the UNSUB and not paying for
two FBI agents to look for the Oooglie Booglie."
  

"Thank you for all of your help, Ranger Reilly. We really 
do appreciate it." Scully smiled as she stood up and picked 
her coat up off of the chair beside her.

Mulder took her cue and stood up also. Even though Mulder 
was exhausted, they still had a great deal to do before 
they settled down for the night. They still needed to get 
their equipment together for the trip. But, first things 
first and although there were no real restaurants in 
Harmony, he had noticed that just down the street was a 
nice little diner which he heard served great hamburgers. 

"No thanks are necessary, Agent Scully. I'm always glad to 
help a fellow officer." Ranger Reilly grabbed his parka and 
draped it over his arm. He then checked the safety on his 
sidearm. "Before you go," he reached into his uniform 
pocket and grabbed a small piece of paper, "I have the name 
of someone that you might want to talk to."

"Now, none of the locals that I have spoken to recently 
actually believe the serial killer angle. They believe that 
the Oooglie Booglie did it. And they ought to know; they 
know these woods like the back of their hand. One such 
local lives just outside of Harmony. He has lived here all 
of his life and he knows just about everyone and 
everything."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

5:45 p.m.
Abner Milford's Cabin
Harmony
Maine

"Agents Mulder and Scully, to see an Abner Milford?"
Mulder pulled his coat collar tightly around his neck, as 
he shivered violently. Night was still hours away, yet a 
bitter wind was already settling in, blowing the still 
falling snow into a frenzied dance.

The sheriff had been right; Abner did live a very simple 
life. They were standing on the porch of a small cabin, 
about 10 by 10 square. From underneath the roughly cut 
shingles that covered the entire building, the uneven 
surface of pine logs peered through.

As with most of the structures they had seen until now, the 
use of windows was minimal: usually one or two in the main 
living area, but nothing more. The locals built realizing 
that there wasn't a single window in existence that would 
stand up to the harsh cold.  In this case, Abner's cabin 
didn't even have a single one. 

Mulder's mind analyzed the obvious implications; without 
any windows, Abner would be effectively cut off from the 
outside world. Just as his choice of profession - a trapper-- 
would indicate, he would by necessity, be a loner. 
Preferring the solace of oneness to the comfort of others. 

Mulder knew what it was like to feel like that. He had 
lived most of his life, shunning the outside world for his 
search for the truth: for his quest.

Until Scully.

What would his life had been like, if she hadn't come into 
it? Mulder didn't even want to go there. Not now, not ever.

On the practical side, he realized there was definitely 
more than just energy conservation in mind. There was only 
one way out and one way in. Without windows, you would be 
very protected. A fortress, built in the middle of nowhere, 
designed to keep everything out.

Mulder reached over and knocked again, his knuckles 
stinging painfully from rapping on the hard wood. They had 
been waiting outside for several minutes and until now the 
only indication that anyone was even home was the beaten-up 
old pickup truck just across the barren clearing. 

"Whatcha lookin' for him fer?" a male voice, soft and 
suspicious, finally replied hesitantly from behind the closed 
door.

From about them, the soft murmurings of trees, mixed with 
the howling of the wind and the resulting din made it 
difficult for them to hear much of anything.

"We are trying to find out more information on the 
Piscataquis Skunk Ape," Scully answered back loudly, as she 
stepped forward, the reddish gold of her hair whipping 
about her wind chapped face. "We were told that if we 
needed any information at all, Abner Milford would be the 
man to contact." 

As the door swung inwards, a bright light from inside 
temporarily blinded them, and as their eyes finally 
adjusted they saw a shabbily-dressed, small man in his 
sixties. "Why didn't ya say so in the first place? Come on 
in," he offered as he gestured for them to come in.

As the agents walked in they realized that the sparseness 
of Abner's landscaping was certainly not indicative of the 
inside.

The cabin itself was packed full of stuff. From floor to 
ceiling were stacked mildewed and dirty boxes of various 
sizes and colors. So many boxes, in fact, that small 
walkways cluttered with old newspapers and dirty clothes 
had been created to get from one side to the other.

The man shrugged and offered a weak smile, revealing broken 
and yellowed teeth. "Sorry to roll you over like that, but 
'round these parts yous' learn that it pays to never be too 
careful. It's been my experience that yous' can't trust 
anybody nowadays."

Mulder turned to Scully, his hazel eyes meeting her blue, 
as if to say; "You could say that again.:

"So is Mr. Milford here?" Mulder looked about, noting that 
other than a small closet to the back, built in one of the 
corners, what they saw was what they got. The floor was 
made of roughhewn planks, the walls of some material that 
could be at best described as "unknown" and the whole thing 
was lit up by what couldn't be more than a 60-watt bulb 
hanging from the middle of the ceiling.

All and all, not exactly the Marriott.

"Oh," the man smiled sheepishly, "yer speakin' to him."
Moving over to his left, the man began to throw dirty 
clothes, blankets and various other things on the floor. 
As he did this, a thick cloud of dust drifted into the air 
and dimmed the light further. In a few moments, a small and 
very dog-eared sofa came into view.

"Have a seat," he said as he stepped over to one side and 
sat down on a wooden crate. And then, nodding over towards 
Scully, he continued. "Sorry about the accommodations 
little lady, but we don't have much call for comforts out 
here in the sticks."

Mulder wasn't sure about Scully, but comfort was the last 
thing on his mind. Safety was his first, since the old 
piece of furniture looked more like a health hazard than 
anything else. Just looking at the ratty, flea-infested 
upholstery alone scared the hell out of him.

But since they needed his cooperation, they knew that they 
couldn't afford to offend him. So both of them sat down, 
their combined weight making it moan in protest.

"So what do ya need to know?"

"We are here investigating the mysterious disappearance of 
the Saunders family on Ragged Mountain," Mulder heard 
Scully say, as she tried to inconspicuously move herself to 
the edge of the cushions.

As Mulder watched Scully wiggle about, wrinkling her nose 
and sniffing loudly as she settled herself, Mulder 
struggled not to smile. He immediately knew what was 
bothering her and he found himself enjoying it immensely.

Not that it wasn't bothering him at all: for God's sake how 
couldn't it?

He wasn't dead: but for Scully, which normally worked over corpses 
without flinching, it was quite amusing.

An odor.

But it wasn't an ordinary odor.

That smell was enough to kill a horse. A mixture of rancid 
body odor, dirty clothes, and rotting garbage mixed with 
the odor of kerosene, making the air around them noxious.

Road kill had nothing on it.

Even though he knew that he shouldn't, the acute distress 
that Scully was suffering from was just too hard for his 
MulderDevil to ignore. Scully was the ultimate neat freak 
and he knew that this had to be killing her. The last time 
something anything remotely like this had happened, she had 
showered for two hours and scrubbed herself until she 
was raw. Even after all of that, she had walked around for 
days, literally sniffing herself as she went.

It had been quite a sight.

"T'aint nothing mysterious about it," Abner answered, 
oblivious to his guests plight. "I heard all 'bout it 
when I went down to the general store a few days past and 
from what I hear the Oooglie Booglie got 'em."

Leaning back on his crate against a cardboard box, he put 
his hands behind his head. "Tis a pity...such a nice young 
family; their pa a trapper of the finest caliber. Never got 
the chance to meet him but word gets 'round.  Can't think 
of why it would go after them for, other than the 
government had been surveying land on the southern slopes 
fer a week before."

"It being Apiktchi'lu-uski'tap?" Mulder flashed a smug 
smile at Scully for the look she had given him off his 
words. However, from the queasy look on her face, Mulder 
felt a sudden twinge of guilt. As much as he would like to 
stay and partake of Abner's hospitality for a while longer, 
he needed to get her out of there before she needed more 
than just a breath of fresh air.

"Yup, that's what the local Native Americans call 'em," Abner 
replied as he ran his dirty hands through his greasy hair. 
He took a deep breath and looked off into nowhere, for a 
moment as if in thought.

"Oooglie Booglie, Bigfoot, Skunk Ape or that. From what 
they tell me, it isn't exactly their tongue, more MicMaq 
than anything else, but they still use it anyways. The 
Oooglie Booglie kills the adults ya know, and keeps the 
youngin's fer its own, teachin' them to live off of and 
respect the land."

"Have you yourself ever seen anything?" Mulder heard Scully 
ask softly, her voice nasal and scratchy and he risked 
another quick glance at her. Her color was starting to come 
back but the look in her eyes told him that he was going to 
pay for his earlier amusement.

So much for a quiet evening.

"Yeah, you could say that," he nodded. "I've been trapping 
in these parts for nearly all my years and I must admit 
that 'though I have never seen him exactly, I have 
experienced some pretty strange things."

Leaning forward, his eyes grew wide as he continued. "I've 
found tracks that I don't recognize as being any animal 
from 'round here. I've also heard a cry, a cry so loud and 
so awful, it would make your hair stand on end. It did 
mine. I have found carcasses of big game, bear and alike, 
ripped apart like a rag doll. You have to realize that out 
here there are miles and miles of unexplored territory. Us 
old timers have a name for it, God's country. God only 
knows what creeps about in the shadows, when the sun goes 
down."

Abner stood up and slowly walked over to the door.

"In all of my time up here, I have never been out after 
dark for very long. And when I was, I was armed. I suggest 
that you do the same, for your sake. God's country don't 
take kindly to strangers."


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

8:00 p.m.
Cabin 2
Riker's Cabins
Harmony
Maine

"Mulder, didn't you tell me once that you were some sort of 
a guide?" Scully walked out of their cabin's small bathroom, 
her face scrubbed pink, her hair slicked back. She pulled 
the damp towel from her shoulders and hung it over the 
towel rack. "I don't see that you have made any progress 
since I was last out here."

Mulder leaned back on his heels and ran his hand over the 
top of his head in obvious frustration. His face was 
streaked with black, and in spite of the coolness of the 
cabin, sweat beaded the top of his hairline. "Very funny, 
Scully," Mulder growled. "Do you think that you could do 
any better?"

Scully walked quickly up behind him and smoothed down the 
dark brown spikes. "Let me give it a try."

Mulder moved to the side, as Scully knelt down in front of 
the woodstove. Leaning over, she rearranged the paper over 
the logs, glad for the little diversion.

After their little conference with Mr. Milford, Scully had 
felt less than fresh. She swore that she could still smell 
that stench on her, even as they drove back into town. 
Dinner had been less than pleasant also. It seems that the 
diner had never heard of a salad, or anything healthy at 
all for that matter. Between the hamburger swimming in 
grease and the reek that clung to her like a wet swimsuit, 
she couldn't eat a bite. The only highpoints of her 
evening: a hot shower and getting to share a bed with 
Mulder. 

It seemed, along with offering less than palatable cuisine, 
Harmony also had very limited accommodations for out of 
town guests.

The local postmaster owned a couple of cabins, both with 
double beds. However one had been already rented out to a 
couple of honeymooners, so Mulder and Scully had to settle 
for the one left.

Not that Scully was complaining. It wasn't the first time 
they had bunked together. After the sky rained that cow in 
Kroner, they had cohabitated. Scully had to admit to 
herself that it had been nice finally sharing a bed with 
someone after all of those years. When she had awakened the 
next morning, she had found herself covered with her very 
own Mulder-blanket. It had been a little bit of heaven.

However, she would not share that bit of information with 
him. She would never hear the end of it.

As it was, Mulder had been making lewd suggestions about it 
all evening during dinner. It had gotten so bad, that she 
had even considered sleeping on the floor, just to get back 
at him. However, after a few moments of contemplation, the 
thought of a cold hard floor just didn't have the curb 
appeal that it once did.

Besides, hogging the blankets sounded much more effective 
at making her point.

After getting the wood just like her father had shown her 
as a young girl, Scully grabbed the lighter, and voila, 
instant fire.

"I guess that it just needed a woman's touch, Mulder."

As she turned back to him, his sidelong glance told her 
that he was a bit more than disappointed. Even when Mulder 
was being at his most annoying, his need to please her was 
most endearing. "Mulder." Scully put her hand on his upper 
arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Don't worry, I don't 
think you any less of a man. In fact, your persistence was 
quite...sweet." 
 
"Sweet, Scully? Gee, thanks." Mulder grinned, straightening 
his back and legs until he was standing upright and looking 
down into her eyes. "I *was* trying more for romantic but I 
guess sweet will have to do." 

"Romantic, Mulder?" Scully asked as she raised her hand up 
for a lift.

"You never know," he murmured softly as took her hand. In 
an instant, she was on her feet, standing directly in front 
of him. "You might get lucky."

If ever there was a more perfect time to kiss him, it was 
then. The tension in the room was thicker than the steam 
still pouring out of the bathroom.

The sound of knocking interrupted the moment, and the two 
stepped away from one another, dropping their gazes to the 
floor.

"Now, I know that I didn't order any take out." Mulder 
grumbled, his voice registering the disappointment that he 
was clearly feeling.

He walked quickly across the small room, Scully tracking 
his every movement. She knew the feeling well, but at the 
same time she was glad that they hadn't. There would be 
plenty of time for that later. Now, while on the job, 
wasn't the best of times.

"Who is it?" Mulder asked, as he stood in front of the 
door. Even out there in the middle of nowhere, Mulder's 
infamous paranoia was at full alert.

"Ranger Peter McCallister -- I am here to see an Agent 
Mulder or an Agent Scully?" A deep bass voice answered, its 
volume filling the room, even with the door still shut.

Mulder reached over and opened the door, a stiff cold 
breeze filling the cabin instantly. At six foot six and 
well over 275 pounds, McCallister nearly took up the whole 
doorframe as he stepped forward.

As Mulder quickly shut the door, McCallister's bright blue 
eyes darted about, taking in with a curious intensity the 
garish bright floral bedspread, and the large pile of 
hiking equipment that nearly filled the other side of the 
room. But his eyes grew wide and his brow furrowed in 
curiosity as he noticed the woman with wet hair, dressed in 
midnight blue silk nightclothes.

"If I'm interrupting something..."

"Agent Mulder and I were just preparing for tomorrow 
morning, Ranger McCallister. I assure you that you weren't 
interrupting anything." Scully stepped over, apparently not 
flustered in the least, to the double bed, and began to 
sort the scattered papers that were strewn about upon it.

"Agent Scully?" McCallister replied, "I must say that you 
are not exactly what I expected."

"How so?" Mulder inquired, as he stepped up between the two 
of them, the look on his face clearly displayed his 
amusement at the situation.

"Well, I...I...expected..."

"A man?" Scully countered, as she pulled her firearm off of 
the nightstand and placed it with the clothes that she had 
set out earlier for the morning. From the way that 
McCallister's eyes grew as wide as saucers, she knew that 
she was getting to him. Obviously, he wasn't a man that 
appreciated the benefits of women being in the field.

By the time she finished with him, he would see things a 
*little* differently.

"As you can see, McCallister, Agent Scully is all woman,"
Mulder interjected, his grin even wider. "And probably the 
best damn shot that you will ever meet."

Scully shot him a look that could freeze boiling water, her 
ire up even more. Mulder would pay for the first half of 
that statement. The second half she would let slip, since 
he was only telling the truth.

"I see you have all of the equipment that you will need for 
our little expedition," McCallister nodded over towards 
their gear. " You'd better turn in early, we have a long 
drive and an even longer hike ahead of us. I'm staying at a 
friend's, just down the way. I'll be here to get you at 
4:30, so make sure that you're ready."

McCallister stepped back towards the door and added, 
"Agent Scully, pardon me for being so blunt but...are you 
sure that you're up to this?" He shrugged and shoved his 
hands into his pocket, embarrassment tinting his fair skin 
pink. "I wasn't kidding when I said it was a long hike. I 
don't want anyone holding us back."

"I assure you that I am up to anything that you dish out."
Scully put her hands on her hips and arched a brow. Would 
this man ever quit? You would think that she was used to 
such testosterone-induced behavior, but she wasn't. She had 
worked too hard for too long to let it go.

With a nod, McCallister opened the door and left, leaving 
Mulder and Scully standing there with the most incredulous 
looks on their faces.

Mulder was the first to break the silence. He walked the 
few steps over to the bed and sat down on the edge, the 
mattress sagging threateningly under his weight. "Speaking 
of being up, Scully. We haven't had the chance to discuss 
this but -- there's only one bed. If you want, I could..."
He nodded over to the floor nearest her, a slight blush 
passing across his features.

Scully smiled as she reached over and fluffed up the 
pillows. Looking over at him, she tilted her head.
"Mulder -- there's plenty of room -- and we're both adults.
Besides, I don't want to listen to you complain all 
tomorrow about how stiff your back is."

"Are you coming on to me, Scully?" Mulder leaned back and 
waggled his brows suggestively.

"If I ever decided to come on to you Mulder, you'd know 
it." 

If Mulder's jaw hadn't been attached to his face, it would 
have fallen to the floor.

With a yawn of false boredom, Scully walked by him with a 
smug look. She stepped up to the hiking equipment they had 
rented and began to check her pack, as he continued to 
watch her, still in shock. Oh yeah, he was going to pay 
all right...he was going to pay big time.

                 
*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Act 3
5:45 p.m.
May 15, 2001
Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine 
 
"It isn't much further. It should be just up beyond that 
ridge." Peter McCallister huffed as he continued to trudge 
up the steep snow-covered trail. 

It was late afternoon, the sun casting shadows on the rocky 
outcroppings that surrounded the trail. Evergreens, painted 
white by the season, were sprinkled about here and there, 
providing some protection from the relentless gusts. 

As they made their way to base camp, the agents followed 
their seemingly driven guide: Mulder just behind, with 
Scully bringing up the rear. Mulder would have preferred to 
lag behind, just so that he could keep a close eye out for 
whatever had attacked the Saunders. However, given the 
current situation, he decided that the danger Scully posed 
to the ranger's life was more imminent a problem.

They weren't there yet, so his life was still worth saving.

The ranger had driven them relentlessly, only stopping for 
brief respites. Even with all of the running that Mulder 
did, he found himself more than a little tired and a whole 
lot sore. But Scully, all five foot plus of her, had lived 
up to her promise to take anything that he could dish out.
She had marched just as relentlessly, throwing McCallister 
looks that Mulder knew were certain death, the whole way.

The conflict had begun when they had first started their 
long trek to the summit. McCallister had made the mistake 
of being chivalrous by offering to carry Scully's pack for 
her. It had gone downhill, so to speak, from there.

Now from what he had seen, Scully could have used the help. 
Her pack was filled with an equal amount of the equipment, 
she had insisted upon it. So when his had started to bother 
him, he knew that she must have felt just as bad, if not 
worse. It was only logical, given the height and weight 
difference, but Mulder wasn't about to offer anything than 
just a smile. He knew better than that. He valued his life 
and livelihood much too much.

"Scully?" Mulder glanced at her, his eyes twinkling with 
mischief. "Is it just me or do you smell the unmistakeable 
essence of manly man?"

"I do smell something, Mulder and for some reason I have 
this overwhelming urge to look down at my leg."

Mulder watched a bead of sweat trail past her arched brow 
to go down Scully's cheek and fall down into the neckline 
of her jacket. He then turned away from her and looked at 
the trail ahead, never wishing so much in his life to be a 
simple bead of sweat. 

As they finally made it up past the ridge, the trio came 
around a small grove of bushes, and as they passed it, to 
their left they saw what they had come all this way to see.

Walker's summit.

"This is it," McCallister gestured widely with his hand as 
he let out a deep breath in relief. "I'm not sure what you 
hope to find, but it is all yours."

Surrounded by thick, tangled pines and other evergreens, 
the summit itself was a large clearing, dotted by the 
occasional boulder. On the side nearest them, a ledge of 
heavy granite delineated where the cliffs were. The snow 
pack was deep, and very much intact at this altitude, 
partially obscuring what would have been without a doubt a 
more uneven terrain.

"Thank you," Mulder offered sincerely, noticing the look of 
relief that Scully was trying hard to hide. Although not 
one of the highest elevations in Maine, Ragged Mountain was 
still high enough to wind the heartiest of hikers. The air 
was thin and although the climb wasn't for the most part 
overly steep, it did take a bit of adjusting to.

"The Saunders pitched their site over to the far left, just
across the clearing. That particular corner, due to the way 
that the wind blows up here, is a natural windbreak. There 
would be less of a wind chill, the snow would be less deep, 
and any fire would blow away from the site. You can't 
really see it from here, but if you go through a small 
break in the trees over on that side, you come to another, 
much larger clearing. That'll be where we are staying for 
the night."

Nodding at each other in understanding, Mulder and Scully 
began to walk slowly over to where McCallister had told 
them the site had been. As they got closer, they began to 
notice that the snow pack was quite matted down due to the 
numerous wind blown footprints that were scattered about. 

But as they finally reached their intended destination, 
that wasn't all they noticed. "Oh my God..." Scully's eyes 
grew wide, and her breath hitched as she slipped off her 
pack and dropped it to the side. She turned slightly to 
look back at Mulder, who then walked up to stand beside 
her.

"I guess that the cleaning lady hasn't been by here yet,"
Mulder quipped at her expression, as he wiped the sweat off 
his forehead.

Spread about before them, covering most of the area that 
would have been the Saunder's site, were large splashes and 
splatters of blood. The stains, once tinged red, were now 
almost a black color from exposure. As they looked about in 
horror, they could make out bits and pieces of material 
clinging desperately to the branches of evergreens too high 
for investigators to get to.

"We tried to gather as much of the evidence as we could 
after we had finally got here," McCallister said, as he 
walked up from behind them. "However, I must admit that we 
weren't prepared for what we had found."

"As you know from the crime scene logs and from the 
reports out of Augusta: Adam's, Mark's and their father's 
blood types were positively identified. However, there were 
some anomalous drops that were also found that didn't match 
to any of the victims' blood types. Further study proved 
inconclusive...they just didn't match anything on file."

"Inconclusive?" Mulder parroted as he turned to face the 
ranger. "Wouldn't that in itself point to the fact that the 
Oooglie Booglie or Pictiquatis Skunk Ape might be involved, 
given the history of sightings in the area."

"You are jumping to conclusions," Mc Callister replied 
angrily, as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his 
snow pants and looked at the ground, as if to avoid eye 
contact. "None of those sightings were ever substantiated 
and besides those samples were flawed."

Before Mulder could reply, Scully reached over and placed 
her hand on his forearm, the warmth of her touch radiating 
throughout him, even through the heavy weight nylon of his 
jacket. "He's right, Mulder," her blue eyes searching his, 
"they don't in themselves prove a thing. After being 
exposed to the elements and to God knows what else 
overnight, they have to be viewed with a high degree of 
doubt."

"What about the bone fragments and the pieces of human 
liver that were found at the scene?" Mulder finally 
queried, as he finally caught McCallister's eyes. From the 
look on McCallister's face, one could tell that he did 
indeed know what Mulder was talking about. "Lab tests done 
on those samples indicated the presence of digestive 
enzymes found in saliva and that DNA couldn't be 
matched to any known animal on file."

"Where did you get that information?" McCallister 
swallowed nervously as he narrowed his eyes in suspicion. 
"I know that wasn't in the file provided to you."

"I have my sources, Ranger McCallister." Mulder replied 
smugly off of his look. With a wink and a grin at Scully, 
he then began to walk slowly about the site, his eyes not 
really focusing on anything in particular. 

Since the Bigfoot wasn't human, he couldn't profile it the 
same way that he would an UNSUB. However, where the 
creature lived and what he had done to the Saunders had 
been enough to get him thinking. Why would this particular 
creature be attacking people, seemingly unprovoked? From 
most other reported sightings, the encounters although 
frightening, were benign in nature. In fact wildlife, with some
exceptions, though unpredictable, would avoid human contact 
at all costs. It would not under any circumstances seek it 
out.

What then set this creature apart from the others?

"It'll be getting dark soon," McCallister growled softly, 
as he picked his pack up and slung it over his shoulder. 
His fair features were twisted in a particularly 
unattractive scowl and his shoulders slumped. "While you 
guys go and chase phantoms, I'll go and get us settled in 
for the night."

With that he made his way quickly over to the path that 
would take him through the trees, the snow crunching loudly 
under his feet. Mulder and Scully stood silently for a 
moment, watching him intently until he was out of sight.

"I'm really beginning to not like that man, Scully."
Mulder stated and that garnered him an arched brow, as he 
slipped off his pack and rolled the tension out of his 
shoulders. McCallister was right about one thing, it was 
late and they had a scant few hours before they lost what 
light they had. The longer they waited, the colder the 
trail would be.

The rangers had been thorough, Mulder was sure of that. 
There was very little left at the scene. But they hadn't 
really known what to look for. That gave them the 
advantage.

"Really? I would have never guessed." Scully grinned 
knowingly at Mulder, as she leaned over and opened her 
pack, obviously eager to get to work.

Mulder found his eyes wandering over Scully's backside and 
he shook his head, trying to focus his meandering thoughts 
back on the task at hand. He knew that McCallister, 
although incredibly annoying, was not going to keep him 
from investigating this thoroughly. He owed that much to 
the Saunders and to all of the others that this creature 
had attacked.

Mulder couldn't bring them back, but maybe he could stop it 
from happening again.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

9:30 p.m.
Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine

"I'll take first watch...with our killer still on the 
loose, its better to be safe than sorry." McCallister 
mumbled into his chest, obviously still angry, as he poked 
mindlessly at the logs of the fire. Having cleared a small 
area of snow, he had piled rocks of various sizes on top of 
one another. Then on top of that, he had made a roaring 
fire. 

"I'll go next, Scully." Mulder offered as he took the last 
bite out of his sandwich. "I have this feeling that I will 
not be getting much sleep tonight."

Scully knew the feeling. By the time they had finished 
their cursory investigation of the site, the sun had set to 
a full moon, the night clear and cold. 

Mulder and Scully then had made their way to base camp, and 
after getting themselves unpacked, had the challenging job 
of pitching their tent in the ever increasing winds that 
buffeted the mountain.

After they had set up quarters, the agents had sat down to 
a tense and hasty dinner of soup and sandwiches.

All and all, not exactly conducive to relaxation.   

"Not a problem, Mulder," Scully sighed. "I doubt that I 
will be either so I guess that I'll be doing the field 
reports tonight. Just make sure you let me know when it is 
my turn."

"May I ask you a question?" McCallister asked pointedly, 
as he leaned back and searched faces intently. "What are 
you folks hoping to find? It certainly can't be the 
Saunders! After all of this time, if any of them survived 
the attack to begin with, they would be long dead. They 
couldn't have survived long against the elements or 
predators without gear."

"We are hoping to find the truth, whatever it is." Scully 
heard as Mulder stood up and put his hands on his hips, the 
hostility nearly visible.

At this rate she knew they would probably kill one another 
off before the Bigfoot even had a chance to get them.

Scully watched as McCallister stood up, his anger-filled 
eyes flashing brightly in the soft light of the fire. "The 
truth," he emphasized, "is that a wacko is stalking people 
out here, not a Bigfoot. I can't believe that my tax 
dollars are being spent on this nonsense."

Mulder took one step forward, his eyes nearly black and for 
a fleeting moment it looked as if all of the emotions that 
had been stirring deep within were about to blow up all 
over the side of the mountain. Scully felt her heart start 
pounding and she found herself clearing her throat very 
loudly, as if to get their attention.

"I'll see you later, Scully." Mulder reassured her, his 
eyes now a soft and fathomless hazel. He walked a little 
too closely past her, his arm brushing her shoulder. " I'm 
going to go lie down before I do something that I know I 
will not regret," she heard him whisper, his low notes 
sending a shiver down her stiff spine.

As she watched Mulder kneel down and crawl into their tent, 
heated memories of waking up beside him earlier that 
morning surfaced, her face nearly buried into the strong 
curve of his shoulder, and she quickly turned away. "You 
seem like a reasonable woman, Agent Scully," she heard 
McCallister say, "why do you stay with that nutcase?

If she weren't such a reasonable woman, and if she didn't 
have to fill out all of the paperwork to justify it, she 
would have dropped him right then and there. 

"Because he isn't afraid to look for the truth, wherever 
those answers might be," she answered, pleased with her 
self-restraint. Her father would have been proud. Turning 
to join Mulder, she added, just for good measure, "That is a 
lot more than I can say for you, McCallister. From what I 
can see, your head is so far up your ass that you can't see 
straight. Good night, Ranger McCallister."

 
*~*~*~*~*~*~*

2:00 a.m.
May 15, 2001
Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine

Peter McCallister had always wanted to be a forest 
ranger, even for as far back as he could remember. As a 
young, energetic child, he had spent countless hours 
exploring the woods behind his house. With his trusty 
flashlight and his dog Bow, he had gotten to know every 
nook and cranny.

He was familiar with the lay of the land so if there truly 
was some strange beast stalking about these woods, his 
woods, he would know about it, wouldn't he?

As Peter stared silently into the fire, he found himself 
taking deep, cleansing breaths as he tried to rid himself 
of the anger that he felt. As his breathing finally started 
to slow, he allowed his eyes to follow the glowing golden 
embers that were rising in the air. The tiny specks of 
light drifted ever skyward and they twinkled like the stars 
that sat deeply in the clear night sky.

What had attacked the Saunders, he wasn't sure, but he knew 
that it wasn't the skunk ape. *Superstitious hogwash,* he 
thought, as he stretched his legs out. He himself had been 
raised on the nursery rhyme, just like the other children 
of his town had been.

-You'd better be good if you go out to play,
or the Oooglie Booglie will steal you away- 

He had to admit that as a child it had scared him enough 
not to venture out after dark. 

As an adult, however, it was just another childhood memory.

As he took one long last look over at the tent where the 
agents slept, he made up his mind to end this travesty. 
When the sun came up, he would do his duty and lead them on 
one last survey of the area. When that was concluded 
however, they were going to pack up and get the hell off of 
the mountain. There would be nothing left to do, nothing 
left to see.

A bright grin flashed across his face, replacing the sour 
one that had previously been there.

*Take that you fibbies...*

Suddenly, the cracking of frozen snow and the sound of 
heavy footfalls stirred him from his musings.

Standing up quickly, he pulled his rifle from the ground 
and removed the safety. He knew the sounds of all of the 
wildlife that lived within the borders of Maine and that 
definitely wasn't one he recognized.

*Aha, so you have returned. Big mistake...whoever or 
whatever you are. I'm here and there is no way you're 
getting away.*

Leaning over, he grabbed his pack and pulled out a 
flashlight. For a brief moment as he stood up, the thought 
of waking the agents up crossed his mind, but just as 
quickly as it had come, it was gone. He didn't need them or 
their help. He would do this on his own. He would prove to 
them and to everyone that the Oooglie Booglie was just 
another tall tale. 


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

3:30 a.m.
Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine


Mulder unzipped the flap of the tent and pushed it open, 
the fresh yet bitter night air replacing the warm, stale 
air of his brief sleep. Pulling on his jacket, he turned 
his head and took a long last look at his partner. From 
where he was kneeling, all he could see was the bright 
flash of her hair illuminated by the firelight and the slow 
rise and fall of her chest.

The hike had taken a lot more out of her than she would 
admit. After only minutes of joining him, while she had 
been writing up their field notes, she had fallen asleep 
right on top of them.

Although Mulder hadn't wanted to disturb her, he had no 
choice. The night was cold and the clothes that she had 
been wearing under her jacket wouldn't be enough. So he had 
ended up waking her and with a little assistance from him 
she had crawled sleepily into her bag, mumbling something 
akin to "...oh, brother..." as he had zipped her in. 

With nothing to do and exhaustion tugging at his attention,
he then had crawled into his own bag and in moments had 
drifted off. However, it hadn't been long before the sound 
of footsteps had called him back. He had then spent several 
hours going over the field notes, until he couldn't write 
anymore.

As he crawled out and closed the flap behind him, he 
remembered when he had last heard her utter those words. In 
a hospital, in what seemed a lifetime ago, he had told her 
that he loved her. It hadn't been drug induced, it hadn't 
been as a result of a head injury. It had been borne of his 
heart. 

Mulder looked over at the fire, the once dancing flames now 
a small flicker. Where McCallister had been sitting, now 
only his backpack remained, the contents strewn haphazardly 
about in the snow. "Oh, shit..." Mulder muttered as he 
instinctively drew his gun.

McCallister might be an ass but he wouldn't just leave his 
watch. Mulder knew that in spite of their differences, he 
was too much of a professional to do that.

Mulder reached into his pocket, as he held the gun in the 
other hand and pulled out his flashlight. After turning it 
on, the cold of the plastic already cutting into the palm 
of his hand, he moved the beam about, hoping for any clue 
as to which direction to go.

After a moment, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a 
fairly fresh set of tracks. They moved across the clearing, 
and faded into the trail that Mulder knew went further up 
the mountain.

Mulder knew that he should wake Scully up since it was 
standard operating procedure to have back up, but he 
didn't. 

Instead, he took a deep breath uttered a silent word of 
apology and headed out to follow McCallister's trail. 

As Mulder made his way on the uneven terrain, he tried 
desperately to keep his balance. During the day, the sun had 
melted some of the snow and the result was less than 
desirable. To his right, he could just make out the steep 
incline that flowed back into the valley. To his left, a 
dense wall of snow dressed trees. All about him, silence 
floated about, and he swore that he could hear a pin drop a 
mile away.

After a few moments of picking his way along, the trail 
flattened out and cut off sharply to his left. Just ahead, 
he could make out some movement, and he quickly tucked 
himself behind a tall pine. Placing his back flat against 
the rough bark, Mulder peeked around the corner to take a 
look.  

He studied the area carefully and after a few moments came 
out from behind the tree trunk. The movement that he had 
seen was apparently the swaying of some branches, caught 
momentarily in the wind. "I really need to get a hold of 
myself," he chuckled softly, as he stepped back on the trail.

From behind him, Mulder heard the cracking of a twig and he 
spun around quickly, his gun held tightly. "McCallister?" 
Mulder whispered as his eyes darted about, searching the 
distance as his ears tried desperately to hear anything 
else. 

Suddenly, an intense pain pierced his skull and a bright 
light flashed before his eyes. Mulder tried to grab for a 
nearby tree, as a surge of dizziness hit him like a truck.
However, the tree wasn't close enough and he fell down onto 
the cold snow, his breath hitching with every beat of his 
heart. 

Mulder couldn't see a thing, and the ringing in his ears 
was downright painful, but he still lifted his gun in a 
blind attempt to protect himself. However he felt something 
hit his arm, and then something warm and wet trickling down 
his side. As the darkness claimed his consciousness, 
Mulder's last thoughts spoke silently in the night...

-You'd better be good if you go out to play,
or the Oooglie Booglie will steal you away- 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

6:30 a.m.
Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine

"Mulder, what the hell do you think that you were doing?"
Scully whispered softly to herself and rolled her eyes as 
she made her way along the upper trail. Anger flowed 
through every inch of her body and she knew that when she 
found him, he would regret for the rest of his natural life 
ever pulling such a stunt.

The sun was just starting to clear the horizon, the 
oranges, reds and pinks of the newly born day chasing away 
the night sky.

It hadn't been Mulder or McCallister that had awakened her 
from her sleep as she had expected. It had been the calls 
of some distant birds. 

It hadn't taken her long to find out where the two men had 
gone and so here she was, trying to save his ass again.

With each and every step Scully took, a dull ache ran down 
the back of her legs. It seems that the hike from the day 
before -- carrying a pack that could have easily weighed 75 
pounds -- had bothered her Sciatic nerve. With the way that 
she felt, she had no clue as to how she would hike back out 
of there.

Maybe she could make Mulder carry her out for his penance.

A small smile crept across her lips but it was quickly 
replaced with a grimace. As good as that sounded, she would 
never let anyone, let alone a man do that. Not while she 
was conscious, anyway.
Just ahead, Scully noted a dark shape, outlined against the 
white of the snow. Even from were she was, she could tell it 
was Mulder. She would recognize that jacket a mile away. 
Ignoring her back, she dropped behind some bushes and 
pulled out her gun. As much as she wanted to go to him, she 
needed to make sure that the area was secure. 

After a few moments of careful observation, she realized 
that they were alone, so she carefully made her way over to 
him and dropped to her knees, her gun still clutched 
tightly in her hand.

Furrowing her brow in concentration, Scully quickly 
examined him, as she kept her gun at a ready position.
Mulder was lying on his side, his eyes closed and his 
cheek burrowed into the snow. From his arm, a great deal 
of blood had oozed from a very sizeable gash and had 
stained the ground beneath him. As she reached for his 
wrist and took his pulse, she noted that his pulse was 
thready.

Fighting the tears in her eyes that were threatening to 
fall, Scully whispered softly. "Hold on Mulder, I'm going 
to get you out of here." 

How? She wasn't sure. But she would think of something. She 
was nothing if not resourceful.

But first she needed to stop the bleeding. The kit was back 
at the site so Scully reached down and unzipped her jacket. 
The thermal that she was wearing was made of heavy cotton 
and she knew that it would do the job for now. As she 
pulled at the hem, she saw some movement behind a cluster 
of trees about 50 feet away and to her left.

"Freeze! Federal Agent...put your hands up in the air!" 
Scully called out loudly, as she brought her firearm up in 
line sight: rear and front, her finger lying on the 
trigger. From where she was, she couldn't get a good look 
at it. The trees were thick and provided more than enough 
cover. All that she *did* know was that whatever it was, 
was pretty damn big and it smelled horrible.

So much for the Oooglie Booglie being just a legend. 

In spite of the freezing cold, she felt sweat drip down her  
forehead. This was one game she didn't want to play.  If 
only it would move out far enough for her to get a clean 
shot. 

All of a sudden, the shadow let out an inhuman cry and 
began to thunder through the trees, right at them. Aiming 
her sights at the movement, Scully pulled the trigger. 
From behind the bramble, she could hear it scream again as 
it turned around and headed off into another direction.

Scully let out a deep breath and allowed her gun arm to 
fall to her lap. Whatever it was, she had hit it. They were 
out of danger for the moment; the authorities could track 
it down later. Her first priority was getting Mulder the 
medical attention that he needed, before he bled to death.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

10:30 a.m.
Three miles east of Clarkston Ranger Station
Maine

Being sick was one of Mulder's least favorite things.
One would think that with all of the hospitalizations that 
he had had over the years that he would have gotten used to 
it by then, but he hadn't.

As Mulder attempted to pull himself upright, trying to 
take his weight off of Scully's shoulders, he really didn't 
*know* what end was up. Everything was swirling in a 
hellish haze and he was completely lost.

All that he did know was that his head hurt like hell and 
that he really needed to puke.

Although Scully had told him that it was only a couple of 
miles down Ragged Mountain to an unmanned seasonal ranger 
station, Mulder wasn't so sure *how* he was going to make it. 
He had felt like crap when they had first started and now he felt 
even worse. 

When he had woken up and had found himself back at base 
camp, Scully had filled him in as best she could on what 
had happened. She had explained how she had shot the 
creature and how she had literally dragged him back to 
their camp. The bandage on his arm, and the lump on his 
head had told him the rest.

They both knew that he couldn't make the hike back to the 
road. That wasn't an option. The two-way radio that 
McCallister had when they had first hiked up to the 
mountain wasn't one either. Scully had searched the camp 
high and low. It wasn't there. McCallister must have had it 
on him when he had gone out presumably after that thing.

So that was why they were there, on one of the many hunting 
trails cutting through those woods, making their way to 
where they knew that they could call for help.

However, the trek hadn't been easy. Between losing so much 
blood and his vision swimming about him, he could barely 
stand, let alone walk. His legs felt weak and his knees 
felt awkward. Add to that the unevenness of the trail and 
the incline of the slope and you would have a *certain* 
recipe for disaster. Therefore, to keep him from killing 
himself, Scully was walking beside him, his arm around her 
shoulders, as she essentially held him up on his feet.

Mulder could feel the warmth of the sun caressing his 
unshaven cheeks and he lifted his head further to thaw 
himself out. Even with his less-than-perfect vision at the 
moment, he could tell that it was an absolutely beautiful 
day. Up on Ragged Mountain there had still been quite a bit 
of snow, however down here in the valley it was just about 
melted. From high atop the trees above, Mulder could hear 
the first birds of spring calling out to the lands about 
them. 

"Are you still with me, Mulder?" Scully asked as she nudged 
him gently with her elbow.

"I feel like hell," Mulder stumbled as he felt another wave 
of dizziness rush through him. He could feel her slight 
body holding him up, supporting him just as she always did. 
She was his rock, his anchor in the tumultuous seas of his 
life. If he had no reason to believe in God before, he did 
now. He had ever since she had come into his life. "I hope 
that you got the number of that truck that hit me."

"Actually, I didn't." Scully murmured, as she took a deep 
breath. Mulder could hear the exhaustion dripping from 
every syllable she uttered. He glanced down at her and 
flashed her the best smile that he could. He could tell 
from the look on her face that she was worried about him 
and although he couldn't quite tell her not to in so many 
words -- he knew that the smile would help.

"I've had enough of our little adventure, Mulder," Scully 
grinned in return as she pulled the pack slung over her 
other shoulder closer to herself. "Let's get the hell out 
of here, nature boy."

"Bring it on, Scully. Bring it on..." Mulder whispered, as
looked at the trail before them. Whatever the road ahead 
had in store for them for the future, he knew that they 
could handle it together.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*

11:25 a.m.
May 16, 2001
Eastern Maine Medical Center
Bangor, Maine

Scully looked through the window of Mulder's room, as she 
stood in the hallway. Sunlight poured in from the window 
across the room and it gently caressed the man lying in the 
bed, surrounded by medical equipment and tubes. Even from 
where she was she could see the pastiness of his skin and 
the dark circles that sat heavily under his eyes.

She steeled her aching back and stepped into the room, her 
shoes clicking softly against the tiles of the floor as she 
walked over to him. Taking his limp hand in hers, she 
squeezed it gently and she realized that it was still cool 
to the touch, even after his transfusions.

As tears filled her eyes once again, she saw his lashes 
flutter open, revealing his familiar hazel eyes.

"How are you feeling?" Scully asked, as she sat gently on 
the bed next to him.

"Better than I was," she heard him reply.

"Sorry I wasn't here sooner, Mulder. They needed me to help 
coordinate the search since I was the only one that could 
show them where we were."

"It's OK," fell like rain off his chapped lips. She felt 
him shift about slightly in bed, turning himself so that he 
could face her. "Have they found the creature yet?"

"The apiktchi'lu-uski'tap?" Scully offered, as she smiled 
smugly.

"Whatever..." Mulder wheezed weakly, brought his hand up to 
rest on her thigh.

"They are still searching for it. They've had the scent 
dogs out several times, but they keep losing the trail. At 
the point on the trail where I shot that thing, they found 
a great deal of blood and numerous footprints. They also 
found, for lack of a better term, what appears to be a 
nest. There they found more blood, bits of bone, hair and 
more footprints -- three different sets-- to be exact. From 
the variation in sizes, I would guess a family."

"That's why it attacked us in broad daylight," Mulder mused 
out loud. "We came too close to their home. McCallister 
must have also -- speaking of McCallister..."

"No they haven't," Scully shook her head, "and we both know 
that they won't. We found some more of his personal items 
and a hell of a lot more blood but that is all," Scully 
felt him snuggle the side of his face into her thigh, and 
she couldn't help but smile. This was her best friend and 
he was going to be ok. That was all she needed, to set her 
mind at ease.

"I'm sorry," she heard him say and she arched a brow off 
his words.

"For what? What have you done?" Scully reached over and 
traced the upper line of his lips, his flesh branding a 
trail of fire into her thoughts and her body. Her mind 
screamed for her to stop, for her to stop treading in such 
dangerous waters. In reward for all of its begging, she 
ignored it. This was right. They were right.

"I'm sorry for dragging you into this. I'm sorry that I 
didn't leave well enough alone."

"Mulder, you never leave well enough alone." Scully 
chuckled as she leaned over and brushed her lips across 
his. From beneath her, she could feel his lips move in 
response, and she deepened the kiss further. Reluctant to 
pull away from him, but knowing that they could go no 
further for now, she sat back up and shot him a smile, 
teeth and all.

"I'm here because I want to be, Mulder. I wouldn't want to 
be anywhere else." Giving into her thoughts, she leaned 
over and kissed him once again, her lips saying what her 
heart couldn't now.

"Thank you, Scully." Scully saw him smile weakly and his 
eyes close, as he drifted back off into sleep. Reaching 
over, she lovingly smoothed down his mussed hair. She would 
say what she was feeling *soon*. She promised herself and 
him, very soon.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Epilogue

Walker's Summit
Ragged Mountain
Maine

It was snowing.

Not the heavy, let's go skiing kind of snow that one would 
usually see mid-season. It was the flirty, lacy kind of 
snow that heralded *change* -- a change that was yet to 
come.

*That* snow was the snow that *he* was watching as he sat 
silently on a ledge, overlooking Walker's Summit.

Since the sun was coming up, he knew that he had precious 
little time to survey his quickly vanishing territory. In 
the distance, he could hear the droning buzz of the loggers 
as they cleared the dense forests below in the name of 
progress.

*They* were the reason why he had moved his family from the 
warmer, more fertile lands further south, up to these dense 
forests so many, many moons ago.

When he and his family had first come here, it had been a 
flourishing community. But over time, as with all things, 
it changed. The walking death had settled in and slowly, 
one by one, the others had vanished. They too had traveled, 
as once he did, looking for somewhere else to call their 
own.

His family was all that was left.

He had tried to stay behind. He had tried to take back the 
land and make it his own but he had failed. Nature had 
found two *someones* more fit than he to walk these lands. 

With a couple of swings of his powerful legs, he stood up: a 
dark shadow with even darker eyes. His right arm useless, 
hanging limply at his side.

It was no longer safe there. He had his mate and offspring 
to protect and nothing was going to stop him. By next moon, 
they would travel once again. Following those whom had gone 
before them. For now, however, he would rest. Rest cradled 
safely by the arms of his Mother Earth.

Only to walk the night as *his* others fed.

Only to face the walking death known as man.