Title: "Malus Genius, vel Hoc Lemma Nequiquam 
Latine Scribitur" (The Evil Spirit, or This Title Is 
Written In Latin for No Reason)

By: Plausible Deniability &  Amanda Wilde 

Address: pdeniability@hotmail.com / 

Link for Spookys and for those missing parts: This 
story can be found in its entirety at: 


Archive: freely

Category: X, R, A, H

Rating: mostly R (sexual situations, mature language, 
and implied violence), but there are a couple of NC-
17 sections.

Spoilers: Brief episode references late in the story; no 
major spoilers. This is a stand-alone, with the typical 
stand-alone disregard for the mytharc.

Keywords: MSR

Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the 
television program "The X Files" are the creations 
and property of Chris Carter, Fox Broadcasting, and 
Ten-Thirteen Productions, and have been used 
without permission. No copyright infringement is 

Summary: What's *your* evil spirit?

THANKS appear at the end. If you don't read any 
other part of this story, we hope you'll read those.


There was a little wart-covered demon in Mr. 
Kopeck's desk. He couldn't tell people about it 
because they would think he was crazy, but if he 
opened the file drawer and peeked inside, he could 
see two yellow, malevolent eyes glowing at him from 
the dark interior. The worst part was, in a few minutes 
Mrs. Chernoff was supposed to take over his seventh 
period class, so he could talk to Principal Waters 
about that unfortunate incident last week.

Mr. Kopeck didn't know what to do. Should he warn 
Mrs. Chernoff about the thing in his desk? Should he 
keep the information to himself, and just take the 
chance that she wouldn't open the drawer? Maybe, 
he thought, he should simply pretend he didn't know 
anything about the creature, even if she did find it. 
Really, was it his fault that the thing was living in his 

At the back of the classroom, Brittany Woodall raised 
her hand.

"Yes?" said Mr. Kopeck, dragging his attention back 
to his students.

Brittany -- she really was a hot number, Mr. Kopeck 
thought -- brushed eraser crumbs off the front of her 
sweater. "Can I go now?"

His brows drew together in confusion. "What do you 

She sighed impatiently. "My mother wrote you a note, 
Mr. Kopeck. I have a dentist appointment. I'm 
supposed to be excused at 2:15."

Mr. Kopeck nodded. "Oh -- that's right. Of course, 
Brittany. Just be sure to take your textbook home with 
you. The homework assignment tonight is the chapter 
review on page 82."

A collective groan went up from the class.

Mr. Kopeck ignored it. He watched Brittany sweep her 
books and folders off her desk and gather them to her 
chest. She was wearing that sweater he liked again, 
that tight one with the blue stripes. When he'd been 
in high school, he thought, he would have killed for a 
date with a cheerleader like Brittany Woodall.

A rustling sound from his desk drawer brought his 
thoughts back to the ugly little demon, and Mrs. 
Chernoff. He opened the drawer a crack and peered 
at the sharp teeth that glinted at him from the 

Screw it, Mr. Kopeck thought. He had never liked 
Mrs. Chernoff that much anyway.


"This is where she was found," said Principal Waters, 
looking down at the floor with a troubled expression. 
"Right here in front of the blackboard. They took the 
body this morning, but otherwise nothing's been 

Scully knelt down. With gloved fingers, she examined 
the bloodstain.

"I don't know how something like this could have 
happened in my school," the principal said, wringing 
his hands. "Nothing ever happens around here."

Since the school sat across from a postcard-perfect 
New England common in a village with more 
quaintness than people, Scully found nothing 
incongruous in the claim. "I just came from examining 
the body," she told the hovering principal. "The victim 
died from massive head trauma. Judging from the 
shape of the wound, I'd say she hit her head on the 
metal eraser tray."

"She must have hit it with a lot of force," Mulder said 
behind her. She heard the edge in his voice, and 
wondered whether it was meant to convey mere 
doubt about her medical opinion, or lingering 
resentment over whatever had been bothering him all 
day. "The last time I saw a head wound like that, the 
victim had been hit with an axe."

Principal Waters whimpered.

Still on her knees, Scully looked at the classroom 
around her. The air smelled like chalk dust, musty 
books, and pencil shavings. It had been a while since 
she'd been in a setting like this, but the feeling was 
familiar, and agreeable. A person didn't forget two 
decades of being a teacher's pet overnight.

She gestured to the overturned office chair lying a 
few feet from the bloodstain, then to the line of 
partially-erased writing high on the blackboard. "It 
looks to me like she was standing on that chair so 
she could reach the top of the board, and the chair 
went out from under her. She was just unlucky 
enough to hit her head on the tray as she fell."

"What about the bite marks you saw on the body?" 
said Mulder, looking over Scully's shoulder at the 
pool of blood.



"Rats," said Scully emphatically.

Principal Waters paled. "Oh, dear. I didn't know we 
had rats -- except in the cafeteria, of course."

Scully got to her feet, and drew off her latex gloves 
with a snap. Mulder was fooling himself, she thought, 
if he suspected an X-File here. It was sheer 
coincidence that another teacher from this same 
school had died in the last week. Full-figured women 
in pumps were simply not meant to go standing on 
chairs, especially not chairs with casters.

Of course, she couldn't tell him that outright, not after 
the way he'd been behaving all day. She'd never 
realized Mulder could be so touchy.

"This isn't even poor Mrs. Chernoff's classroom," said 
Principal Waters behind her, still peering anxiously at 
the red stain. "It's Larry Kopeck's. She was only here 
because he had a meeting with me."

Mulder took a step backwards to look up at the writing 
on the blackboard. "'Venio, venis, venit,'" he read. "'I 
come, you come, he comes.'"

"Some kind of grammar exercise?" Scully said.

"Either that, or the play-by-play for a Roman orgy."

"It's the present indicative conjugation of the verb 
'venire,'" said a voice from the doorway.

All three of them -- Scully, Mulder, and Principal 
Waters -- wheeled around.

Scully was surprised by the man attached to the 
voice. He was a little over six foot, she estimated, an 
inch or two taller than Mulder, with broad shoulders 
and long legs, the kind of physique one expected to 
find on a second-string high school quarterback or a 
weekend warrior who took his games seriously. The 
pale patches on his nose suggested it had met a 
curveball or the sharp end of a hockey skate once or 
twice but had been carefully patched up afterward, 
and the faint, neat, but visible scar on the underside 
of his square jaw was clearly the result of stitches. 
His neatly if unimaginatively cut black hair was just 
beginning to recede, and Scully knew he was the sort 
of man who'd go a distinguished salt-and-pepper at 
the temples first. All in all, she thought, not a bad 
looking man. The only thing that didn't seem to go 
with the rest of the package was the air of uncertainty 
he projected.

Principal Waters stiffened. "Mr. Kopeck," he said, 
with the sort of dry disapproval one usually reserves 
for shoplifters and people who drive without car 

Mr. Kopeck smiled disarmingly, and shrugged.

"You teach Latin?" Mulder asked.

Mr. Kopeck shook his head. "I teach World History. 
We've been doing a unit on the Roman Empire, and I 
just wrote that on the board as an example of the 
language. I had some better-known phrases up there, 
too, but it looks like they've been erased."

"Still, you do read and write Latin?"

"Yes," said Mr. Kopeck. "Not that there's much call for 
it these days."

Scully wondered what Mulder was getting at, and why 
he was even bothering. If the victim had been 
wearing a cardboard sign that read "I lost my balance 
and hit my head," the facts could not have been more 

She decided she ought to assert herself a little, at 
least in a tactful way. She took out her badge and 
showed it to Mr. Kopeck. "I'm Agent Scully, and this is 
my partner, Agent Mulder," she said. "Is there 
anything you can tell us about Mrs. Chernoff's 

"It was definitely an accident, then?" said Mr. Kopeck, 
with a note of hope.

"Yes," said Scully.

Mulder glanced back at the Latin on the chalkboard. 
"We can't be sure."

Mulder had many sterling qualities, Scully thought. 
He was smart and dedicated and he knew a thing or 
two about erogenous zones. At the moment, however, 
she wanted to smack him.

Beside them, Principal Waters cleared his throat. "Mr. 
Kopeck was with me yesterday afternoon when the 
unfortunate incident occurred," he told them. "I doubt 
he can shed any more light on the matter than I can."

"You can come in, Mr. Kopeck," said Scully, since the 
teacher was still standing in the doorway. "The 
forensics team released the scene this morning, 
when the body was removed. We're just verifying a 
few things for ourselves."

Mr. Kopeck looked even more uncertain. "Actually, I 
was hoping I wouldn't have to see the, uh -- to see 
where Mrs. Chernoff was found. I just came to collect 
my gym bag, if that's possible, and those two books 
on the corner of my desk."

"You didn't need those things yesterday?" Mulder 
asked, his tone so sharply suspicious that Scully felt 
a surge of impatience.

Mr. Kopeck shook his head. "No. I didn't know there'd 
be any reason to move my classes to the auditorium, 
and I only work out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and 
Fridays. After my meeting with Principal Waters, I 
went straight home."

"The scene's been released," Scully repeated. "You 
can take anything that's yours."

Mr. Kopeck remained in the doorway. "Could you 
possibly... you know, pass the things out to me? I just 
need those two old books, and the gym bag under my 

Scully resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She knew 
there was no shortage of squeamish people in the 
world, but she found it hard to understand what was 
so intimidating about a dried bloodstain.

She collected Mr. Kopeck's belongings, then walked 
them over to him, feeling slightly ridiculous. As she 
handed the teacher his things, she was surprised to 
see that he was sweating.

"Thanks," he said, and disappeared quickly back into 
the hallway.

Mulder was already giving Principal Waters the old 
"Thanks, be sure to contact us if you remember 
anything that might be of importance" speech as she 
rejoined them. They all shook hands, and Principal 
Waters made his exit.

Scully crossed her arms over her chest, waiting for 
Mulder to admit that he had brought her on a wasted 

Instead he crossed his arms over his chest, too, and 
leveled a challenging look at her. "You're sure this 
was an accident, Scully?"


"In that case, I have just one question for you."

She sighed. This conversation was fifty percent 
professional, she sensed, and fifty percent whatever 
it was that had put him in this mood. "And that would 

"If Mrs. Chernoff was standing on the chair and 
erasing the chalkboard when she fell and hit her 
head, where's the eraser?"

Scully looked around her at the bare floor.

Finally she said, "I see what you mean."

"The chief detective on the scene assured me that 
nothing had been tampered with, and Principal 
Waters told us the same thing. So what happened to 
the eraser?"

"Couldn't the janitor have moved it when he found the 

Mulder shook his head. "He said he didn't touch 
anything, just ran out of the room in a panic."

Scully frowned. "So maybe she got up on the chair, 
and then realized she'd forgotten the eraser."

"She must have had it at some point. Mr. Kopeck said 
someone had erased his Latin phrases. Why would 
she put it away, halfway through erasing the board? 
Someone else was here, Scully. Someone tidied up."

Mulder was regarding her with an air of what looked 
very much like smugness. He wanted to prove her 
wrong, she thought. This wasn't just about the case. 
This was about settling some mysterious score.

Scully's gaze drifted to Mr. Kopeck's desk. Dusting 
powder on the drawer pulls told her that the forensics 
team had already collected prints. If she looked 
through the desk, would she find the eraser neatly put 

She reached down to open the bottom drawer.


He was just going to leave town, Mr. Kopeck told 
himself as he tossed his books and his gym bag in 
the front seat of his car and jumped in. He was going 
to go home, throw a few things in a suitcase, and 
then hit the road and never look back. There was 
nothing in this town to hold him here any more 

He had never dreamed that the demon in his desk 
would kill Mrs. Chernoff. Scare her a little, maybe; but 
Mrs. Chernoff had deserved a little scaring. She'd 
been a thorn in Mr. Kopeck's side for a couple of 
years now, ever since he'd opposed her campaign for 
a stricter student dress code. Mr. Kopeck had never 
understood why teenage girls in belly shirts were 
supposed to be the ultimate peril to Western 
Civilization, and he'd told Mrs. Chernoff so. Since 
then she'd had it in for him, the meddling old 

He caught himself. Jesus, that was a fine way to refer 
to the dead. Poor Mrs. Chernoff was never going to 
meddle in anything again, and it was all his fault.

He'd been horrified when he'd heard about her 
accident. Of course, that was only the second shock 
to his system in a week. The first had come when the 
incantation in that dusty old book of his father's had 
actually worked. He'd almost peed himself, then. He 
still might pee himself.

Now there was a death on his head. Maybe two 
deaths -- he still wasn't sure about Mrs. Stiller, the 
guidance counselor. Supposedly she'd killed herself, 
but who could say for sure? They'd found her dead in 
her office on Tuesday, with an empty bottle of Valium 
in her hand. She'd called a friend that same day, 
though, sobbing and saying that she was going 
insane. She'd called her priest, too, leaving a 
message on his answering machine asking about 
exorcism. What if she'd seen the demon in his desk 
drawer? He'd talked himself out of feeling 
responsible, but now he was starting to have doubts 

Damn it, how had he gotten himself into this mess? 
The whole thing had seemed ridiculous, a chant for 
calling an evil spirit from the underworld. Just a big 
joke. He didn't even believe in an underworld, for 
God's sake -- how was he supposed to know he could 
actually summon a demon?

Well, he was getting out of here. Let someone else 
find the horrible thing; he was washing his hands of it. 
He was going to head somewhere sunnier and more 
modern than this oppressive little town, Phoenix or 
Miami or L.A., someplace where pretty women wore 
bathing suits nine months of the year. He was going 
to start a new life. From this day forward, he wasn't 
going to be the loser for whom everyone in town felt 
sorry. Instead he was going to be the most careful, 
most capable, most self-assured man in the world.

Yes, that's what he was going to do. His life had 
gotten completely out of control, and the only thing to 
do was start fresh.

Halfway to the health club, Mr. Kopeck discovered 
that the demon was in his gym bag.

End 1/10


"But Scully..."

"Valium, Mulder. If you swallow them back like they're 
M&M's, you die."

They were eating, or rather waiting to eat, in the 
village's small diner. Mulder had no idea what to call 
the meal they were about to have. It was too late for 
lunch and too early for dinner; what's more, distrust of 
the menu had compelled him to order the all-day 
breakfast. "But you said there were teeth marks..."

"Which, Principal Waters assures us, were likely 
caused by rats."

"Come on, Scully..."

She held up a forestalling hand. "She swallowed a 
handful of pills, Mulder. She went into respiratory 
arrest and then she died. Her body wasn't found until 
the next morning. The rats gnawed on her during the 
night. End of mystery."

Mulder opened his mouth to reply -- argue, really -- 
when their young, leggy, and oh-so-teenaged 
waitress dropped his plate in front of him with an 
unnecessary thud and frowned rather fetchingly. "We, 
like, didn't have any more hash browns."

"What?" Mulder glanced down at his plate. Home 
fries. Whatever. "Oh. That's fine. Now, Scu -- "

The girl rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, 
holding the tray in front of her like a particularly ugly 
melamine shield. "And no, um, white bread, so you've 
got, like, whole wheat."

"Yes, I see that." He did, too. "That's okay, that's 
great. Really." He flashed a quick *everything's-fine-
here-now-go-away* smile and turned back to his 
partner. "Scully, I -- "

"And I don't think the cook knew what you meant by 
'overheard,' so, like, he made the eggs sunny-side-
up. Sorta. See?"

Mulder looked down at the mess on the plate before 
him, really looked this time, and all but cringed. Sorta 
was right. Yuck. Insufficiently toasted toast, too-
browned potatoes, and he half-expected the seeping 
yellow slime to resolve itself into yolky worms, crawl 
up his left nostril (or maybe the right; it was hard to 
guess what semi-sentient yolk creatures might do, 
given half a chance) and attempt to infiltrate his brain.

Not, he thought with a mental sigh, that brain 
infiltration would necessarily be a bad thing, right 
now. Not that it would in any way make the day 

He'd asked, of course, for eggs *over hard*, 
something he hadn't done in years, probably since 
Oxford. The English had an interesting knack for 
overcooking everything that should have been, 
maybe, a little undercooked, and undercooking 
anything that, by all the laws of god and man, should 
have had the living tar flamed out of it. He'd learned 
to ask for his eggs *over hard* after his first 
nauseating encounter with a couple of underdone 
ones and the startling realization that semi-congealed 
egg white looked alarmingly like --

"Is that okay?"

"S'fine," he assured the waitress without much 
conviction. Whoever said the all-day breakfast was 
always a safe bet had clearly spent no time in 
Craftsbury Common, Vermont.

"Oh and, like, we only had orange juice." She 
twitched her head from side to side with what was 
becoming a grin, and her ash blonde ponytail 
brushing from shoulder to shoulder. Across the table, 
Scully almost choked on a mouthful of BLT.

Mulder was not a stupid man. Slow, sometimes, yes, 
but not stupid. The light having dawned, he put on his 
best smile and pinned her with what was meant to be 
a flirtatious gaze. "You aren't from around here, are 
you" -- he made a show of eyeing the name tag 
pinned to her shirt-straining left breast -- "Kandee?"

"Nuh uh," she beamed, shaking her pretty, apparently 
vacant head and setting the ponytail in motion again. 
"My family just moved here, like, about a year ago, 
right? From California? And, like, you, you're from the 
FBI, right?"

"Yes, *we* are," Scully chimed in, her eyes still down. 
Mulder sensed that if she looked up at him or at Miss 
Congeniality, Scully was in serious danger of losing 

Kandee glanced over at Scully as if she really hadn't 
expected to find an especially unattractive warthog 
sitting at her station, then turned her attention back to 
Mulder. "Brittany, she's in my gym class? She said 
you're here investigating Mrs. Chernoff's murder."

"Your gym class?" Mulder repeated absently, 
wondering if there was anything edible on the dessert 

"Uh huh. She said the school board called the FBI in 
'cause they think there's a serial killer loose in the 
school. Like 'Scream' or something."

"'Scream' or something?" Maybe the coffee -- no, 
Mulder could see a fine film of oil swirling on top of it. 
"They do, do they?"

"Uh huh. First Mrs. Stiller, and then Mrs. Chernoff. 
That's, like, a pattern, right? An accelerating pattern. I 
saw that on 'The Profiler.'"

Mulder gave Scully a significant look. He'd been 
suggesting a connection between the two deaths -- 
albeit not this connection -- and had only gotten some 
comment about putting his overactive imagination to 
better use for his trouble. Fabulous mouth on Scully, 
no question about it, but the things that came out of it, 

"We're here looking into Mrs. Chernoff's death," 
Scully answered. "It seems to have been an 
unfortunate accident. Could I get another Coke, 

"Yeah, right." Kandee flipped the tray over to her right 
hip. "No way that was a accident. Mrs. Chernoff is -- 
was -- a really hard grader, you know? Everyone 
hated Mrs. Chernoff."

"Did they?" Scully sounded even more bored than 

"Well, okay, not everyone." Kandee took a step 
closer to Mulder. "But someone must have, right? 
'Cause, like, they killed her."

"That's an interesting theory, Kandee." Mulder pulled 
out his notebook. "Let me take your -- "

Mulder was interrupted by the sound of ice hitting 
glass. "Coke?" Scully asked, and rattled the tumbler 
again. "And no ice this time, please?"

Kandee took the tumbler with a tight little smile that 
said she knew Scully wasn't much of a tipper, and 
turned on her platform sneaker-clad heel. "Certainly." 
She tossed Mulder another jailbait grin and bounced 
off to the kitchen.

Scully arched an eyebrow in the direction of Mulder's 
notebook. "What was that about?"

"What was what about?" Mulder tucked the pad back 
into his pocket. "She could have some information, 
some insight. She seemed eager enough to talk."

"Eager is right." Scully took another bite of her 
sandwich, chewed and swallowed. "Please, Mulder. 
She's young enough to be your daught -- well, 
definitely to be your daughter's really good friend."

Mulder's mouth twisted. Another crack about his age? 
Yesterday she'd idly mentioned, post-coitally, that 
she wished she could have known him "when he was 
still in his prime." The remark wouldn't have bothered 
him so much, maybe, if he hadn't just been 
congratulating himself on having given what he'd 
thought was a pretty energetic performance.

As if that weren't bad enough, she'd twisted the knife 
early this morning in the shower. Without warning she 
had not-so-delicately yanked a hair from somewhere 
in the vicinity of his right nipple. Then she'd frowned 
at it thoughtfully, said "Hmmm...a gray one," and let it 
wash unceremoniously down the drain.

"I'm guessing she was born in about 1984," Scully 
said, staring off in Kandee's direction. "That would 
have put you...where, Mulder? At Quantico?"

"Oxford, actually," he said, trying to sound not at all 
bothered by the question.

He looked down morosely at his runny eggs.


The demon made its presence known as Mr. Kopeck 
approached a stop sign. The bag stirred, and a voice, 
muffled but nevertheless horrible and otherworldly, 
rumbled "Expedi me."

Mr. Kopeck almost rear-ended the Volvo in front of 

"Expedi me," repeated the voice -- set me free.

"No!" said Mr. Kopeck, his heart beginning to pound 
wildly. "I told you before, I'm never letting you out. If I 
could send you back to wherever it is you came from, 
I would."

"Expedi me!"

"No." Mr. Kopeck shook his head emphatically, the 
hair on the back of his neck bristling. "Tibi non licet 

"I will crush you utterly. I will feast on your flesh!" 
snarled the demon in Latin.

It can't get out unless I let it out, Mr. Kopeck reminded 
himself fearfully. It's like a genie in a bottle.

"Carnim tuam epulabor!" repeated the demon, his 
voice booming through the car.

"I know what you did to Mrs. Chernoff," Mr. Kopeck 
said, gripping the steering wheel so tightly his 
knuckles showed white. "Why would you do 
something like that?"

The gym bag shook with the demon's evil laughter. 
"Latibulum meum aperuit," he said -- she opened the 

Mr. Kopeck shivered. "Jesus, you're an evil little shit."

The demon just laughed harder.

Damn, Mr. Kopeck swore to himself. What was he 
supposed to do? Nothing in fourteen years of 
teaching had prepared him for handling warty, foul-
mouthed spawns of Satan.

High school students were frequently foul-mouthed 
and sadistic, but very few of them had horns and 
came from the dark netherworld.


Mulder moved his eggs around on his plate. There 
was no sense fooling himself; he was pushing forty. 
He *was* getting old. It was only a matter of time 
before he was watching Matlock reruns and playing 
shuffleboard in Bermuda shorts.

"Mulder?" Scully interrupted his wallow in self-pity.


"What was it you were saying before Hurricane 
Kandee blew through here?"

"What? Oh -- Kandee. Did you notice the desk blotter 
in Principal Waters' office?"

She shook her head. "No."

"There was a note for an appointment. 'Kopeck re: K. 
Caine, 7th p."


"Mrs. Chernoff was killed right after seventh period, in 
Mr. Kopeck's room. And I'm willing to bet that's K. 
Caine, who just told us everyone hated Mrs. Chernoff, 
on her way over here right now with your Coke."

He paused as Kandee set the tumbler in front of 
Scully. She turned to him. "Anything else I can do for 

"Just the check, Miss Caine."

She beamed at him. "Certainly. I'll be right back."

Mulder wore a smug look as he watched her saunter 
off. The smirk was half self-congratulation at having 
correctly deduced her name, and half appreciation of 
the view. Kandee had the kind of perfect ass found 
only on sixteen year old cheerleaders.

"So what does that prove?" Scully's voice suggested 
a scowl, so her face wouldn't have to.

"It proves her parents had a weird sense of humor, or 
really high hopes she'd have a future in lap-dancing."

"I meant the appointment."

"Oh." He half-shrugged. "Nothing, yet, but it seems a 
little too 

"Nothing, yet? Look, Mulder, I think you're trying to 
make connections that don't exist."

"It's possible," Mulder agreed, inwardly discounting 
the possibility. "But, statistically, the violent deaths of 
two teachers in a tiny little nowhere high school in the 
span of six days is suspicious."

Scully didn't quite roll her eyes. "It's anomalous, I 
agree." A glob of mayonnaise hung mesmerizingly at 
the corner of her mouth and she swiped it away with 
her tongue, a move Mulder found rather distracting. 
"But anomalous is not the same as suspicious."

"Mrs. Stiller called her priest and complained she was 
having visions of demons..."

"A psychosis which no doubt explains how she got 
hold of a prescription for 60-odd diazepam."

"...and Mrs. Chernoff had complained to her doctor 
only a few days before that she was hearing voices 
that weren't there. 'Weird chanting, and after all the 
students had gone home' were her exact words."

"I know, I heard her doctor, too." Scully frowned. "So, 
fine. She said she was hearing things. Chanting. 
From this we can conclude that she was -- what? 
Fantasy prone, maybe? Suggestible, if she knew all 
about Mrs. Stiller, with whom she was apparently 
friends? In the early stages of an organic or mental 
illness? Delusional?"

Mulder half-shrugged. Some days he wondered if 
they were going to play these games forever. "Maybe. 
But both of them..."

"So, yes, statistically it's an aberration, but that's all it 

He took a deep breath. "Possibly."

Scully hesitated. Then she sighed and her expression 
softened. "Mulder, I know why we're here."

"Oh? You do?"

"I do." She nodded. "And I appreciate it. I appreciate 
that you were actually listening when I said I wanted 
to get out of DC for a few days."  She startled Mulder 
by reaching across the table and brushing his 
knuckles, quickly, with her fingers. "And I appreciate 
that you tried to find an official excuse to use as a 
pretext. I know you take this work seriously and it has 
to be hard for you to chase these pretend leads. But 
there's no case here. There's no X-File. There's 
nothing here but a couple of unfortunate, unrelated 
deaths." Her lips quirked into a tiny grin. "And a really 
useful king-sized four-poster back at the bed and 

Mulder contemplated this sudden, unexpectedly 
pleasant assault. Even he had to agree that, while 
strange, the evidence didn't point to a whole lot of 
anything. There were some odd elements to the 
deaths, true, but they weren't all that odd. And to be 
honest, his Spidey-sense just wasn't tingling the way 
it usually did when something weird was going on. 
"Really useful, huh?"

Scully gathered her coat and stood, brushing a few 
crumbs from her suit jacket. "Pay the bubblehead and 
I'll show you how useful." She smiled, instantly 
inflating his ego, and promising to do the same for 
regions lower.

Mulder returned her smile with one of his own as he 
threw a twenty on the table and placed his hand 
squarely on the small of Scully's back. No, he thought 
wickedly; this no-longer-in-his-prime guy is going to 
show *you* just how useful.

End 02/10

Mr. Kopeck's breath came in short puffs as he hiked 
to the ridgetop at the edge of the village, the gym bag 
slung awkwardly over one shoulder.

He could hear the demon snarling at him from inside 
the bag. "Saccum patefac, pedicator!"

"I'm not opening the bag," Mr. Kopeck panted. "And 
stop calling me a buttfucker."

He had left his car parked in an empty lot, where the 
falling leaves were collecting on the hood and against 
the hubcaps. Now, as he approached the edge of the 
high ridge that overlooked the woods far below, it 
seemed to him that the gym bag grew heavier with 
every step.

"Huius te paenitebit," hissed the demon -- you will 
regret this.

Mr. Kopeck stumbled to the edge of the ridge, and 
paused for a moment on the precipice. Before him, 
the forested hills and mountains of Vermont's 
Northeast Kingdom stretched out for miles in all 
directions. The early October colors in the valley 
below might have taken his breath away, if he hadn't 
already been breathless from lugging the cursing 
demon up the slope.

"The only thing I regret," Mr. Kopeck said, lifting the 
gym bag over his head, "is stupidly summoning you in 
the first place."

With that, he heaved the Nike bag out into the valley 
beneath him. It sailed out, spiraling down, down, 
down, until finally the dark blue tote disappeared from 
view in the thick treetops far below.

"Thank God," whispered Mr. Kopeck under his 
breath. Perhaps someday a cross-country skier or a 
hiker might find the bag, but Mr. Kopeck rather 
doubted it. The countryside was remote enough, and 
the winter snow-cover constant enough, that no one 
was likely to discover one little demon in a zippered 
bag. Mr. Kopeck dusted off his hands, and turned 
back toward the village for the trudge to his car.

His heart was light -- well, at least lighter -- as he 
drove past the Common with its white steepled 
church and baseball diamond, past the high school 
and the library and the village post office. This might 
be the most boring town in New England, he thought, 
but right now boring was exactly what he needed.

As he slowed his Camry at the quiet intersection, he 
spied the two FBI agents from the high school that 
afternoon, emerging from the diner. He stuck his arm 
out the car window to give them a cheery little wave. 
The redhead was damned attractive, he thought, 
craning his neck to watch her walking away; it was 
nice to see a woman dressed in something other than 
corduroy and flannel.

That was the problem with Craftsbury Common, he 
thought, making the turn toward his house -- well, one 
of the many problems. All of the good-looking women 
moved away as soon as they were old enough to 
afford a ticket out of town. That left only the strapping 
androgynous women who'd graduated from the local 
college with a degree in Forestry, women who could 
fell a spruce with two or three chops of their mighty 
arms; or, on the other end of the spectrum, the little 
blue-haired old ladies who kept bed and breakfasts 
for the tourists. Was it any wonder he had a hard time 
keeping his eyes off his high school students?

Well, he'd worry about that, and about his little 
problem with Principal Waters, some other time. 
Right now he was just going to enjoy the feeling of 
having rid himself of the demon. With satisfaction he 
pushed the button on his garage door opener, and 
pulled slowly into his garage. With satisfaction he got 
out of the car and slammed the door soundly behind 
him. Free -- he was free.

It was such a good feeling that, even after he stepped 
inside the house and switched on the kitchen light, it 
took him a minute to realize that something about the 
room was different.

The gym bag was sitting on his kitchen table.


The four-poster in Scully's room was big, one of those 
colonial-style affairs that stood high off the floor, so 
high that the furniture included a pair of mahogany 
steps for climbing into bed. Mulder restrained himself 
from making a joke about Scully's little legs, and 
closed the door to her room quietly behind them.

She was already removing her jacket and toeing off 
her pumps. He might be past his prime, Mulder 
thought with a slight shake of his head, but Scully 
was pretty obviously entering hers. These days she 
was apt to get down to business without so much as a 
preliminary glance. Sometimes he even found it a 
little disturbing.

He started unbuttoning his shirt while she efficiently 
shed her clothes. In no time she was nude. She 
climbed up and sat on the bed, watching him with a 
smile while he finished undressing.

Her frank curiosity seemed out of place amid the 
picturesque old-fashioned furnishings. The room 
didn't even have a television, for God's sake. He 
turned his back to her to peel off his socks, feeling 
slightly ridiculous as he hopped naked on one foot.

Ridiculous, but turned on. He might be pushing forty, 
but a nude Scully still worked like magic on his 
system. That tumbled red hair, those bee-stung lips, 
those firm breasts with their rosy nipples, those sleek 
legs -- even on a day like today, just the thought of 
her could get his motor running.

He went to stand before her, and she scooted to the 
edge of the bed to greet him. "You're slowing down, 
Mulder," she teased, her small hand closing around 
his cock. "It used to be that you'd have your clothes 
completely off before I could even step out of my 
shoes." She tilted her face up for his kiss.

He cradled the back of her head as their tongues 
twined. After a moment his hand strayed from her soft 
hair to her breast, where it lingered for a few 
moments, his fingers lightly circling her nipple, 
evoking a sigh. Then his hand dipped lower, to find 
her already slippery and hot.

She spread her knees a little wider. The mattress was 
high enough that, though she was sitting on the edge 
of the bed and he was standing before her, their hips 
were at the same height. Her hand, which had been 
stroking up and down his cock, tugged him closer. He 
positioned himself against her.  She broke off their 
kiss and watched as he eased slowly inside her body.

"Mmmmm..." she sighed.

He'd been watching, too. "Lie back, Scully," he said, a 
little hoarsely.

She did. There was something about the sight of 
Scully, lying flushed and passionate on the rumpled 
bed, that sent his pulse into overdrive. Standing at 
the edge of the bed this way, he had both his hands 
free. He reached out and caressed one of her breasts 
with his left hand, while with his right he found her 
clit, already silky and wet from his earlier 
explorations. He began fucking her slowly while his 
hands played over her.


"Yes?" he said huskily, hoping she was getting ready 
to talk dirty.

"Why were you so interested in whether the history 
teacher could read Latin?"

Mulder felt his hopes plummet like an anvil shoved 
from a balcony. "What?"

"Latin. Mr. Kopeck. Oh, yeah, right there..."

"Like this?"

"Like that," she gasped. "Just like that. Yeah. What 
about the Latin?"

"Could we focus, here?"

"I'm focused," she answered, "extremely foc -- oh, 
focused. Now explain the Latin."

"I wanted to know because," he said, punctuating 
every couple of syllables by stroking firmly into her, 
"historically in the West, rites of summoning and 
exorcism have usually been in Latin."

"Summoning and exorcism? But that's -- oh god." 
Scully wiggled her hips closer to intensify the contact. 
"But that's only because Latin was the language of 
the early Church, and not" -- she gasped as he thrust 
harder -- "not because there's anything intrinsically 
magical in the language. And what's it got to do 

He didn't answer, too intent on the slick plunge of his 
body into hers. Scully's hands clutched the sheets. 
"Did you know Mr. Kopeck was sweating today when 
he came by his classroom?"

Speaking of sweat, Mulder felt a trickle inching its 
way down between his shoulder blades. "Really?" he 
said, hooking a hand under her right knee and lifting 
it higher.


Mulder was beginning to pant, his chest rising and 
falling with each impassioned breath.

"That was an odd look Principal Waters gave him, 
too," Scully added thoughtfully.

Mulder frowned. Damn, when was she ever going to 
stop talking? Wasn't this doing anything for her at all?

"Maybe it wouldn't hurt if we checked him out," Scully 

He'd once been afraid that the sex might interfere 
with the work; it had never occurred to him that, in 
fact, it might be the other way around. "Am I keeping 
you awake?"

She smiled up at him. "I'd just like to ask him if -- 
ohhh, Mulder, that's good just like that -- "

Finally, Mulder thought with gratitude. He'd been 
starting to wonder if she even realized they were 
having sex.

"Oh, yes, oh -- " Scully moaned, a blissful expression 
dawning on her face.

She looked like a goddess on the bed before him, 
Mulder thought: her red hair spread over the ivory 
coverlet, her eyes heavy-lidded, her breasts bouncing 
slightly with his exertions. God, she was beautiful. 
Suddenly he, too, wished she could have known him 
when he was in his prime. Then maybe she wouldn't 
have been able to do this and talk work at the same 
time. One of these days he was going to find it 
difficult to keep up with her...

That day wasn't quite here yet, though. He still had a 
few good years left in him. A perverse desire seized 
him to outdo Scully at sexual multitasking.

"So...you think we should interview the teacher?" he 
asked, thrusting firmly into her.

She opened one eye and looked at him in surprise. 
"Yes," she gasped.

He rubbed her swollen clit. "So you're beginning to 
think the deaths might be more than mere 

She sank her teeth into her bottom lip and nodded.

"You think it might even be an X-File?" he demanded, 
fucking her with pure determination.

She bunched the bedcovers in her fists. "Yes," she 
panted. "Oh -- yes!"

Her back arched. She squeezed her eyes closed and 
came, moaning his name in a long, shuddering sigh.

Mulder watched the whole thing with a surge of 
satisfaction. "Jesus, Scully," he said. He could still 
feel the tremors rippling through her.

He figured he'd proved his point.

She smiled, slowly opened sleepy eyes, and 
stretched her arms out in an invitation. He covered 
her body with his. As he kissed her hungrily she lifted 
her legs higher, wrapping them around his back.

He went a little crazy then, thrusting into her, still half-
standing, his toes digging into the Oriental carpet for 
purchase. Oh God, oh God, oh my God, he thought, 
his brain whirling feverishly. He was not too old for 
this, he would never be too old for this, he'd show her 
just how many good years he had left --

He groaned, and spilled into her.

He was dizzy afterward -- he was always dizzy 
afterward -- so dizzy that he even forgot for a moment 
where he was, and why he was half-on, half-off an 
enormous four-poster bed. Gradually, however, with 
the slowing of his heartbeat, lucidity returned. He 
realized that Scully was speaking to him.

He looked down.

"We should probably ask Mr. Kopeck about Kandee," 
she was saying matter-of-factly underneath him, in 
perfect FBI Agent mode, "and if he had any reason to 
want Mrs. Chernoff out of the way..."

End 03/10


Mr. Kopeck tossed his copy of "Claudius the God" 
down beside him on the couch, and stared at the gym 
bag in the center of his living room.  It was no use 
trying to read over the demon's steady stream of 

"Foolish mortal!  I will torment thee beyond 
imagining!" snarled the demon in Latin.

Mr. Kopeck frowned.  "Yeah, you talk real big for 
somebody in a gym bag."

Twenty-four hours of hearing the demon cursing at 
him had strengthened his resolve considerably.  He 
was still afraid of it, but he was damned if he was 
going to let it push him around.

"Te exanimabo!" snarled the demon. "Testiculos tuos 
dentibus sanguinolentis conteram!"

Mr. Kopeck put his feet up on the coffee table.  "Kiss 
my entire ass."

The gym bag fairly shook with rage.

Mr. Kopeck smiled in satisfaction.  If he was going to 
go to hell anyway, he thought, he might as well enjoy 
the trip.

The sound of the doorbell halted the demon in mid-
curse.  Mr. Kopeck got to his feet, wondering who 
could be at his door.  Usually when students toilet-
papered his front yard, they just honked their car 

He opened the front door, and froze.

"Oh my God," he said finally.  "Kandee."

The blonde smiled up at him.  "Mr. Kopeck, you are, 
like, totally cute when you're surprised."

She was wearing a short pleated skirt and a skin-tight 
top that was just abbreviated enough for him to see 
the ring in her navel.  Mr. Kopeck swallowed, and 
found his voice again.  "Quick," he said, reaching out 
to haul her inside.  "Get in here before someone sees 

Kandee's nose crinkled happily as he yanked her in 
and shut the door.  "Mr. Kopeck!  I was hoping you'd 
be glad to see me, but you are sooo the eager 

His lips thinned into a grim line.  He took one look at 
the living room, remembered the demon in the gym 
bag, and marched Kandee in the other direction, 
toward his kitchen.  If Principal Waters got wind of 
this visit, he thought, there was going to be hell to 

"Sit down," he said, pushing her toward a dinette 

She sat.

"Kandee," he said, stabbing an accusing finger in her 
direction, "do you have any idea how much trouble 
you've already gotten me into?"

Blue eyes blinked up at him innocently.  "Me?  Like, 
what did I do?"

Mr. Kopeck clasped his hands behind his back, and 
glared at her.  "You know very well what you did!  
First you proposition me -- "

"Proposition you?  Like, no way, Mr. K."  She tucked 
her chin and looked up at him through her lashes, a 
hint of a grin on her lips.  "Or can I call you, you 
know, Larry, now?"

"You most certainly may not call me Larry.  And I 
think 'I'll do anything if you change that D to a B, Mr. 
Kopeck. Anything, anything at all,' is pretty clear.  I 
haven't seen such a blatant come-on since Ginger 
found out Gilligan was judging the Ms. Castaway 

"Since who was, like, what?" Kandee asked, even 
more confused than he'd come to expect from his 
weakest student.

"Never mind," he half-snarled.  "That's not even the 
worst of it.  Did you really have to go telling all your 
friends about your offer, making it sound like I was 
actually considering it?"

"Oh please."  Kandee balled her fists on her shapely 
hips, pulling her T-shirt even tighter

He shook his head in confusion.  "Look, that's beside 
the point.  The point is, word of your little offer got 
back to Principal Waters.  Only, the way he heard it, I 
propositioned you."

Kandee squealed.  "Seriously?  Oh, that is, like, 
totally hilarious!"

"Yes," said Mr. Kopeck dryly.  "When he told me he 
wanted to fire me, I thought I was going to bust a gut."

Kandee giggled.  "You are sooo funny, Larry," she 
said.  "That's why I like you so much."

"Don't say that.  And don't call me Larry."

She grinned up at him frankly, the dimples deepening 
in her cheeks.  "But I do like you.  For an old guy, 
you're totally hot."

He was struggling not to notice the shininess of her 
ash blonde hair, the pertness of her upturned nose, 
the taut muscles of her teenage body.  She had the 
kind of flat stomach that made him want to reach out 
and run his hand over her smooth skin.

Good lord, he was old enough to be her father.

"What if someone knew you were here right now, 
Kandee?" he asked in a strained voice.  "What if your 
parents knew, or Principal Waters?  Can you imagine 
what they would think?"

"No," she said.  "What?"

Mr. Kopeck counted slowly to ten.  "Kandee, you 
should go now."

She leaned closer, her soft lips parted.  "I really don't 
want to get cut from the cheerleading squad.  But, 
like, the grade wasn't the only reason I offered, you 

The shirt she wore was cut low, so low he could 
almost see the tops of her nipples.  Mr. Kopeck 
looked away hastily.  "It doesn't matter why you 
offered, Kandee," he said stiffly.  "You should go."

"Are you sure?" she asked, her voice a husky 

Mr. Kopeck swallowed.  "Kandee..."

They both froze as the doorbell rang for the second 
time that day.


Mr. Kopeck lived in an ordinary white clapboard 
house on an ordinary street in an ordinary 
neighborhood.  As Mulder knocked, Scully noted 
some flaking paint on the shutters, and a spectacular 
display of late fall dandelions going to seed in the 
front lawn.

"Agent Scully?"  Mr. Kopeck half-asked, obviously 
surprised and flustered to find them on his doorstep.  
He looked at her, blinked twice, then shifted his gaze.  
"And Agent, um..."

"Mulder," her partner supplied smoothly, slipping his 
badge back into his pocket.  "We'd like to ask you a 
few questions.  May we come in?"

"What?  Oh.  Of...of course."  Mr. Kopeck stood aside 
and ushered them, with what looked like reluctance, 
into his living room.  "But I told the police everything I 
could think of..."

"Routine follow-up, Mr. Kopeck," Scully assured him, 
taking in the sparse furnishings and minimalist decor.  
There was a gray rectangle under the window where 
the carpet was still its true color and deep 
indentations near the corner where a large piece of 
furniture had once plainly stood.  A gym bag and 
some small weights were pushed under a water-
ringed coffee table that matched nothing else in the 
room, newspapers were scattered around, and mugs 
and drinking glasses rested on most horizontal 
surfaces.  The couch and matching chair had seen 
better days.  The only conversation piece in the room 
was a saber-toothed tiger skull on the dusty mantle.

"Routine how?" Kopeck asked apprehensively and 
tucked his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.  
"I don't know what else I can tell you about Mrs. 
Chernoff's awful ... um ... accident."

"We're just finishing up the paperwork," Mulder said 
easily.  He pulled out his notepad and pen.  "I'm sure, 
as you said, that there isn't much you can add, but 
since it was your classroom, we have to conduct a 
formal interview.  Shouldn't take more than a few 
minutes."  He nodded toward the couch.  "May we 

Scully watched Mr. Kopeck's eyes swing around the 
room.  "Sure," he said.  "Sure, just let me get this junk 
out of..."  He lifted the bag and weights and took them 
quickly into a room she thought must be the kitchen.  
"I was getting ready to go out..."  His voice drifted off.

"Nervous," Mulder mouthed to her, as if he'd made 
some great discovery.

Of course he was nervous.  People almost always got 
nervous when you waved a badge in their faces.  
Particularly, she'd noticed over the years, the 
innocent ones, the ones who thought they'd never 
have a run-in with law enforcement more interesting 
than a speeding ticket.  "Duh," she mouthed back.  
That got her a smile.

"So, um..."  Mr. Kopeck was standing in front of them 
again.  "Can I get you anything?" he asked her, 
without so much as a glance toward her partner.

"No, thank you," Scully replied.  "We don't want to tie 
up your Saturday, Mr. Kopeck.  Especially if you 
were, as you say, on the way out."

"That's right," Mulder continued in a tone that was 
entirely too jovial.  "I'm sure you've got plans.  If you 
could just answer a few questions, we'll get out of 
your way."

Kopeck perched on the chair opposite them, looking 
decidedly uncomfortable.  "I was just going to the 
gym.  But, all right."

Mulder flipped through his notes.  "You've been at 
Craftsbury Academy for six years, is that right?"


"And before that, after graduating from Boston 
University, you worked for Art-o-Fax?"

"Yes."  Mr. Kopeck nodded.  "It was the family 

"Specializing in?"


Scully arched an eyebrow.  "Reproduction?"

Kopeck shook his head and grinned a little 
sheepishly.  "Reproductions," he said, emphasizing 
the final *s*.  "Antiquities.  Coins.  Jewelry.  Movie 
models.  Fossils, real or imagined."  He nodded 
toward the skull on the mantle.  "Copies of the 
Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of 
Versailles.  That sort of thing.  Mainly mail order."

"And your mother sold the business after his death?"

"The time was right," Mr. Kopeck nodded.  "Dad 
started out doing props for theatre in college, then got 
into movie work, doing sets, props, special effects.  
The business started out as a sideline, and grew from 
there.  But it was more work than either mom or I 
wanted to put into it after he was gone."

"Movie work?" Mulder leaned forward, a curious 
gleam lighting his eyes despite the routine nature of 
the questioning. "Your father wouldn't happen to have 
been Richard Tyler Kopeck, would he?"

Mr. Kopeck looked surprised.  "You've heard of him?"

Mulder nodded rapidly and scooted even farther 
forward, so far that Scully momentarily feared he was 
going to fall off the edge of his seat.  "I've seen every 
-- " he began eagerly.

Just then he seemed to recall her presence, and that 
they were in the middle of and interview with a 
suspect.  He stopped, glanced at her quickly, and 
then looked back down at his notes.  "That is, uh..."  
Mulder flipped a page.  "You did keep a few 
souvenirs from your father's business when you sold 
it, is that right?"

"Yes."  Mr. Kopeck's frown grew.  "Look, I don't see 
what this..."

"I don't either."  Mulder gave a *what-can-you-do-
about-it?* shrug.  He was really playing up the Good 
Cop routine, Scully thought.  "But I have to ask.  For 
the report.  I'm sure, being a teacher, you can 
understand about paperwork."

"Oh."  Mr. Kopeck sounded deflated.  "Yes, of 

"You live here alone?"

His mouth twitched.  "I do now."

Mulder nodded in that *been-there-done-that* way he 
had.  "Children?"

"Just the ones I teach."

"We interviewed a Miss..."  Mulder turned to her.  
"What was her name, Scully?  Sandy?  Mandy?"

Finally, Scully thought, her cue. "Kandee, I believe.  
Kandee Caine."

Across from them, Mr. Kopeck's jaw dropped.  He 
glanced quickly from one of them to the other, alarm 
in his expression.  He appeared to decide that she 
promised a more sympathetic ear, even if she was 
supposed to be the Bad Cop.  "Look," he said to her 
in a rush, "whatever she told you, it isn't true."

Scully felt her eyebrows climb.  Oh, brother.  So he 
was hiding something after all.  "And exactly which 
part wasn't true?"

Mr. Kopeck swallowed nervously.  "All of it.  Or some 
of it.  Whatever she told you about -- about us."

"About the two of you?" Scully asked.

Mr. Kopeck had gone absolutely pale.  "I never 
touched her -- I swear!"

Scully traded a look with Mulder.

"It's just..."  Mr. Kopeck shifted his appeal to the only 
other man in the room.  "It's just, women today -- "  He 
shook his head in confusion.

"What about women today?" Scully asked, a little 

"I wish I knew," Mr. Kopeck said, with a helpless 
gesture.  "I grew up in this town.  It used to take three 
dates just to get to second base, for God's sake.  
There used to be rules."

Scully wondered if Mulder was as baffled by all this 
as she was.  "What does any of this have to do with 
you and Kandee, Mr. Kopeck?"

He shook his head.  "Don't you see?  This place is 
one of the most old-fashioned, traditional little towns 
you could ever hope to find - and even so, there are 
sixteen-year-old young women with navel piercings 
jumping out at a person from behind every tree."

Scully was still in the dark, but she could see Mulder 
nodding sagely.  "Sexual politics aren't what they 
used to be, even in small towns."

Scully found herself struggling to catch up.  She 
frowned at Mr. Kopeck.  "So you're saying that 
Kandee...made a pass at you?"

"I was out of the dating scene for thirteen years and, 
frankly, it scares me now," said Mr. Kopeck with a 
troubled expression.  "I'm only thirty-seven, but it 
seems to me things used to be different.  Women 
used to be different."

Scully waited for Mulder to set Mr. Kopeck straight 
and forge ahead with the interrogation.  Instead he 
surprised her by nodding sympathetically.  "The 
sexual dynamic has shifted," he said.  "Women have 
always been in charge, but now they don't even 
bother to pretend otherwise."

Mr. Kopeck gave Mulder a grateful look.  "That's right.  
I knew it wasn't just me."

Mulder stuffed his notepad back in his breast pocket.  
"It's unsettling, given that modern man evolved from 

Again Mr. Kopeck looked at him with gratitude.  
"Exactly!  We're supposed to be the hunters."

"Of course, we're still better off than the male black 
widow spider.  The female of the species kills him 
after they mate," Mulder observed, using the rapid 
monotone he usually employed when spinning 
theories.  "Or the male praying mantis.  The female 
mantis is initially passive throughout the mating 
dance, letting the male make all the moves.  If he 
seems to hesitate, however, she seizes him in her 
mandibles and bites off his head, the source of his 
sexual inhibitions.  Then, as his now-headless body 
reflexively proceeds to mate with her like there's no 
tomorrow, she continues to devour him.  Finally 
there's nothing left except his still-twitching sexual 

"But back to your meeting yesterday, Mr. Kopeck, we 
-- "  Scully began, trying to bring the conversation 
back to the investigation.

"Yes," Mr. Kopeck replied glumly, ignoring Scully 
altogether, "at least we're better off than that.  I 
sometimes think we're headed in that direction, 

Scully clenched her jaw, biting back her growing 
irritation.  Mulder's apparent inability to stay on topic 
was annoying enough all by itself.  Not only that, but 
she sensed he intended his little side-trip into 
entomology as a veiled jab at her.

Enough, she thought.  If Mulder was the Good Cop, 
that must make her the Bad Cop.  She'd just put an 
end to this conversation.  "So Mrs. Chernoff found out 
about your affair with Kandee?"

"No!" said Mr. Kopeck, his gaze darting to her wildly.  
"No, you have it all wrong.  There was no affair.  
Kandee was worried about her grades, and rightly so, 
and, and...well, she propositioned me.  Her exact 
wording was 'a lay for an A, Mr. K.'"  He blushed 
slightly, and shot Scully an apologetic glance.  "I told 
her in no uncertain terms that I wasn't interested, that 
I AM not interested, but the next thing I know I'm 
being called down to Principal Waters' office to 
explain the affair Kandee and I never had."

"I see."  Scully nodded slightly. "Mr. Kopeck, when we 
spoke with her, Kandee implied that Mrs. Chernoff 
was not well liked by the students...or the staff."

He was silent for a second, absorbing this 
information, and then a look of horror dawned on his 
face.  "Oh my God.  You think -- don't tell me you 
suspect Kandee and I planned -- "

"Just routine questions, Mr. Kopeck."

"I thought you said it was an accident."  He didn't look 
at her, instead choosing to pick at a spot on the arm 
of his chair.  "The coroner here said it was."

"It seems to have been," Mulder reassured him.  
"We're just tying up a few loose ends."

"Because I would never kill anyone, and as for 
Kandee...well, if you knew her, you'd realize she's 
hardly the criminal mastermind type."

"I can believe that," Scully said dryly.

Silence fell.  Then, from the kitchen, she heard a faint 
rustling.  She could tell Mr. Kopeck heard it, too, 
because he sat bolt upright.

"Is there someone else here?" she asked.


"Because I thought I heard something -- "

"It's a rat," said Mr. Kopeck quickly.

"A rat?"

"A rat.  Absolutely."

They all looked at one another.

After a moment Mr. Kopeck sighed and said, "Okay, I 
admit it.  I have a confession to make.  Kandee was 
here earlier.  I hustled her out the back door when 
you rang the doorbell, but it's not what you think.  I 
never expected her to drop by, and I asked her to 
leave as soon as she arrived.  Absolutely nothing 
happened.  If I seem jumpy, it's just that this has been 
a tough week for me.  My job is on the line."

Mulder, the Good Cop, nodded.  "Thank you for 
telling us."

Mr. Kopeck stood up.  "Now is there anything else 
you need to ask me?  Because I'd really like to get to 
the gym."

Scully shook her head.  "Nothing else."


She and Mulder both got to their feet, and Mr. Kopeck 
ushered them the few steps to his front door.  "I'm 
glad you understand about Kandee," he said, with a 
nervous smile.  "Even a false accusation of 
impropriety..."  His voice trailed off.

"It's the sort of thing that could ruin a career," Mulder 
agreed with a nod.

Mr. Kopeck sighed.  "Even if it is only a teaching 

They shook hands and he closed the door behind 

A few seconds later, as she and Mulder were getting 
in the rental car they'd left parked in the driveway, Mr. 
Kopeck's garage door opened.  The man must be a 
regular fiend for working out, Scully thought.  She 
could see him hurrying into his Camry, his weights in 
one hand and his blue leather Nike bag slung over 
his shoulder.

"Did you ever work out, Mulder?" she asked.

He shot her a strange look.  "I still do."

She raised an eyebrow.  "Do you?" she said, 
fastening her seatbelt.  "Huh."

End 04/10


"Well, I think that went rather well, all things 
considered," said Mr. Kopeck to the gym bag on the 
seat beside him.  He wiped the sweat from his brow 
with an unsteady hand.

A furious voice from inside the bag rumbled, 

Mr. Kopeck sighed.  "I told you to stop calling me a 
buttfucker.  Besides, can't you think of something a 
little more original?"

He felt a sense of relief.  He'd made it through an 
encounter with Kandee, and gotten rid of her without 
doing anything he should regret.  He'd survived an 
actual interrogation -- well, questioning, anyway -- 
from a pair of FBI agents, and said nothing to make 
them suspect he was harboring the murderous spawn 
of Satan.  Most importantly, neither Kandee nor the 
agents had discovered the demon in his house.  He 
was starting to feel like he might actually have a 
handle on the situation.

The gym bag stirred, and the demon spoke again.  
"Expedi me!" it demanded for the hundredth time that 
weekend -- set me free.

Mr. Kopeck, both hands on the steering wheel, broke 
into a falsetto rendition of Sting's "If you Love 
Somebody Set Them Free":  "Free, free, set them 
free, who-o-oa..." he warbled.  "Free, free, set them 

"Puellae modo cantas," spat the demon from inside 
the bag -- you sing like a girl.

"I sing like Sting," Mr. Kopeck corrected, relief making 
him flippant.  "You're just unable to appreciate it fully 
because there's no music and no tantric sex in the 

"Verpam meam suge, mentula contumax!"

"Now, now," said Mr. Kopeck mildly.  "I think I actually 
preferred it when you called me a buttfucker."

He turned the car down the road that would take him 
to the gym.  Birch trees and a white-washed wooden 
fence lined the quiet road.  From behind the white 
fence, a brown cow watched his car go by with bovine 

"I haven't given up yet, you know," said Mr. Kopeck to 
the demon.  "I'm sure eventually I'll find some way to 
get rid of you.  My father did.  An exorcism, maybe."

"Cacabo ego vos et irrumabo!" the demon snarled -- I 
will shit on you and fuck your face.

Mr. Kopeck shook his head sadly.  "My, my, we 
certainly have a serious case of potty mouth today."

He swung into the parking lot of the gym, pulled into a 
space, and cut the engine.  "You be quiet from now 
on," he told the demon as he picked up the gym bag.  
"I thought I was going to have a heart attack back at 
the house, when that FBI agent heard you stirring."

Whether the demon was actually heeding him or was 
just too furious to answer, all was silent as Mr. 
Kopeck strode into the gym with the Nike bag over his 

Even in the car, it smelled like autumn: crisp air, 
burning leaves.  This was the kind of quiet country 
place that most people pictured when they heard the 
word "romantic," Scully thought as they drove back to 
the bed and breakfast.  It was certainly having that 
effect on her.

"Well, I guess that settles that," she said, admiring 
the red and gold beauty of the landscape.  "Mr. 
Kopeck didn't particularly strike me as the Svengali-
type who would put a teenage girl up to murder."

"No," Mulder agreed.  "And despite her air of 
brilliance and intrigue, Kandee never really struck me 
as the murderous type, either."

He appeared not to notice her pointed look.

"So is that it for this case?" she asked.  "Are we 
agreed the two deaths at the high school were just an 
unfortunate coincidence?"

Mulder frowned slightly. "I'm not sure.  Kopeck's 
family history does suggest some interesting 

"It does?"

"I'm thinking of his father.  Richard Tyler Kopeck was 
more than just some guy who sold genuine fake EBE 
skeletons by mail, Scully.  He was prop master and 
special effects consultant on a number of well-
respected cinematic classics and -- "

"Was he?"  She folded her arms under her breasts.  
She needed a coffee.  And some Mulder.  Not 
necessarily in that order.  "Which ones?  
Casablanca? Citizen Kane?  Braveheart?"

Mulder snorted.  "I said 'classics.'  Unearthly Evil I, II, 
and III, Night of the Banshees, Return of the 
Banshees, Vampire Vixens, Vampire Vixens on Fire...

"Guess they haven't shown those on the Discovery 
channel lately."

"Fine films," Mulder assured her.  "Highest quality.  
True art."

"So what's his family doing in Craftsbury Common?  It 
isn't exactly Hollywood."

"True enough. But the last film he worked on was -- 
Gothar's Revenge."  He gave her an expectant look.

She felt like the slow contestant on Jeopardy.  
"Should I know this one?"

"Scully, Scully, Scully..."  Mulder shook his head in 
mock disgust.  "THE Gothar's Revenge.  Probably the 
best-known unfinished film never made.  The entire 
production was plagued by one disaster after another 
-- accidents, fires, the near-drowning of a boatload of 
extras.  The leading man broke both legs before the 
production started and had to be, as they say, hastily 
replaced, and the leading lady was attacked by a 
knife-wielding psycho on the way to the set one 
morning.  The cast and crew complained of things 
going missing, inexplicable noises, random acts of 
destruction.  The second lead was brought in and 
within a week OD'd on aspirin of all things, and a 
stunt man lost an arm in a misfired explosion.  Finally, 
about halfway into filming, the director, writer, 
producer and three cameramen were all killed when a 
scaffold collapsed.  Not surprisingly, the whole project 
was thought to be cursed."  He shook his head again.  
"I can't believe you don't know anything about it."

"And I can't believe you know that much," she 
countered with a smile.  "So this forced Mr. Kopeck's 
father into early retirement?"

"Maybe.  Probably.  But Richard Kopeck was one of 
the best.  Through his work, he not only became the 
grand old man of pre-CGI special effects, but 
acquired an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the 
occult.  In fact, after his Hollywood career, he was 
pretty much a regular on the expert witness circuit, 
giving testimony for cases involving either."  He 
turned to her and grinned.  "Or both."

The conversation was becoming unsettling, though 
she wasn't sure why.  "So...what?  You're thinking 
there's some connection between the senior Mr. 
Kopeck's expertise and the deaths here?" she asked.  
"The man's long dead."

"I know." Mulder nodded.  "But Richard Kopeck was 
also extremely well known in certain circles for one 
other thing."

Scully had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes.  She 
rubbed her forehead with her fingertips. "Do I want to 

"Richard Kopeck could conjure demons."


Mulder nodded, grinning his kid-in-the-candy-store 
grin.  "I always assumed it was a special effect of 
some kind, something to do with smoke, mirrors, and 
dry ice.  But this...this fits."

"Fits how?" she challenged.  "Fits what?"

"All of it," he answered decisively.  "Everything."

She stared at him a moment, watching the scenery 
rush past behind his obviously delighted profile.  
Demons.  How very Mulder, she thought with sudden 
resentment.  And how very stupid of her to have 
believed he had anything more on his mind than his 
usual crackpot theories.  Here they were in the 
middle of a beautiful New England autumn, and he 
wasn't thinking of romance, togetherness, or even the 
mind-bending, toe-curling sex that had marked the 
trip to date.  No.  He was thinking of evil spirits.  
When was she going to learn?  "I see."

He gave her a puzzled frown. "You see what?"

"Plenty," she muttered, and turned back to the 
window.  Autumn in Vermont had suddenly lost its 


"Hi, Larry," said Belinda, the girl who worked at the 
front desk of the gym.  She leaned her elbows on the 
countertop and tilted her head to watch as he signed 
his name in the members' book.

He looked up at her with a half-smile.  "Hi, Belinda.  
Busy Saturday?"

She laughed.  "Nah, not really.  Cheerleaders are 
coming through to practice with me at three, but right 
now, nobody's here."

He couldn't think of anything witty to say in return and 
so he pretended to be absorbed in noting down the 
time.  He wished he knew how to make small talk with 
her, but she was in her early twenties, not much older 
than his students.  They didn't have that much in 

"I heard about you and Karen," Belinda said.  "Sorry 
about that."

He shrugged.  "I'm adjusting."

She gave him a sympathetic smile.  "Yeah, I've been 
there.  If it's any consolation, my last boyfriend was 
cheating on me, too."

"Thanks," he said, wondering why people always 
thought their infidelity stories would cheer him up.

She glanced up at him through her bangs, and 
reached out to play with the chain that connected the 
ball-point pen in his hand to the desk.  "I was just 

"Yeah?" he said, and was suddenly seized with the 
notion that she was going to ask him out.  Uh-oh, he 
thought, his heart starting to beat faster.  He didn't 
know whether he wanted her to be interested in him 
or not.

"I was thinking of going to see that movie -- "

"Hey, Belinda!" called a chummy male voice.

Mr. Kopeck spun around.  He groaned inwardly when 
he saw Eric Noonan bounding toward them, wearing 
sweat-stained workout gear and a grin.  Eric sold cars 
at the Ford dealership in Hardwick and was, to put it 
mildly, a colossal asshole.

Belinda brightened.  "Hey, Eric."

"You're looking gorgeous as usual, baby," Eric said, 
and winked at her.  He seemed to notice Mr. Kopeck 
as a sort of afterthought.  "Oh, hi, Larry.  I heard Old 
Lady Chernoff bought the farm in your classroom day 
before yesterday."

"Yes, she had an accid -- "

"God, I hated that old bat," said Eric, turning back to 
Belinda.  "My junior year, she gave me a D in Civics.  
What a bitch.  Did you know her, baby?"

Belinda shook her head.  "I had Mrs. Dorset for 
Civics.  I think I got a B."

Eric grinned at her, flashing white teeth in an 
artificially tan face.  "B as in Babe-a-licious.  I was 
just on my way to hit the showers.  Care to join me?"

"Oh, Eric," Belinda said with a giggle.

He laughed.  "Yeah, I guess there wouldn't be room 
in the shower for me and you and Mr. Happy.  One of 
these days, though, baby."  He hunkered over the 
desk toward her and his voice dropped to a more 
confidential tone. "Hey, I was thinking of going to see 
the new James Bond movie tonight.  I figured maybe 
you'd like -- "

Mr. Kopeck picked up his gym bag, and turned toward 
the locker room with a sigh.  Now he would never 
know what Belinda had been about to ask him.  No, 
instead she'd be out tonight with Eric Fucking 
Noonan, Mr. Smooth Used-Car Salesman, Mr. Self-
Appointed Cocksman of Craftsbury Common.  Eric 
had been an asshole in high school, and twenty years 
later, he was still an asshole.

Mr. Kopeck was so discouraged that he actually 
forgot all about the demon as he swung the Nike bag 
into his locker, and slammed the metal door shut with 
a clang.

End 05/10


Several long minutes of glacial silence passed.  
Mulder tried, and failed, to ignore it.  It was hard to 
ignore glacial silence when you were alone in a car 
with a woman and there was nothing else to look at 
except falling leaves and white-washed fences.

He was just about to ask Scully what was wrong when 
she cleared her throat. Still looking out the window, 
she asked, "Mulder, what was all that about, back at 
Kopeck's place?"

He glanced at her, surprised at the tack she had 
taken.  "What was all what about?  The questions 
about the family business, or about Kopeck's father?"

She shook her head.  "No, Mulder.  The black widow 
spider, the praying mantis..."  She turned her face his 
way and regarded him coolly.  "Is there something 
you want to say to me?"

He considered giving her a flippant answer, then 
decided against it.  He drummed his fingers 
thoughtfully on the steering wheel.  "Yeah.  I'd like for 
you to see me as something more than a sex object, 

She snorted.

The car swept through the bright autumn landscape.  
Leaves of copper and gold were falling on either side 
of the country road, floating softly down to the grass.

After a minute she said, "You're serious."

"It's just..." he began.  He sighed.  "I'm getting old, 

She cocked an eyebrow at him.  "And?"

"No, I am.  I mean, I'm still a decade or two away from 
needing Viagra, but the day is coming.  Time 
marches on.  Someday I really will be gray, and then -
- "

"Oh, my God," she said, surprising him with the 
incredulity in her tone. "Is that what this is about?  
The gray hair in the shower yesterday morning?"

"No," he said, and gnawed at his lip.  "Or yes.  
Partially, maybe.  The truth is, I'm not in my prime any 
more -- "

"Mulder, I was only kidding about that."

He glanced at her, then away again.  "You didn't 
sound like you were kidding."

"Unfortunately, there's no laugh track in your 

"You think it needs one?"  He smiled, but the smile 
didn't reach his eyes.

She didn't smile back.  "Mulder, don't start.  You have 
very little cause to complain when I just found out that 
you knew damned well -- "

He opened his mouth to interrupt, but before he could 
form the words his cell phone rang in his breast 
pocket.  "Damn," he swore, pulling out the phone.  
"Mulder," he snapped into the receiver, frustration 
coloring his usual flat professionalism.

The voice on the other end was so loud and so 
agitated that he flinched and jerked the phone away 
before bringing it gingerly back to his ear.  He 
listened to the excited caller on the other end of the 
line, watching the road with only half his attention 
now.  "Okay," he said finally.  "We're on our way."

"What is it?" Scully asked as he tucked the phone 
back into his pocket.

"There's been another death," he told her, checking 
over his shoulder before starting the car into a three-
point turn.  "It looks like Mr. Kopeck might not be so 
innocent after all.  This time, the body's at the gym."


It was just too awful, even for someone like Eric 
Noonan, thought Mr. Kopeck.  He glanced at the 
dead body with a sense of horror.  He supposed 
death was rarely dignified, but to die naked in a gym 
while stealing someone else's deodorant was the 
epitome of indignity.

The locker room was streaked with blood:  blood on 
the lockers, blood on the three wooden benches.  It 
ran in a rivulet to the little metal drain set in the 
concrete floor.  Mr. Kopeck shuddered.  The locker 
where he'd left his gym bag yawned open, the empty 
Nike bag inside.

Law enforcement -- the two FBI agents, two Troopers 
from the Vermont State Police, and a detective from 
the same Derby barracks -- milled around him.  The 
FBI agents seemed perfectly at home amid the 
carnage, the Troopers completely at sea, and the 
lone detective somewhere in the middle.  All of them 
were talking in the language of crime and death:  
fingerprints, footprints, trace evidence, post-mortem 
lividity.  Mr. Kopeck buried his face in his hands.

"Right Guard," noted Agent Mulder, observing the 
deodorant in the dead man's grip.  "Too bad it wasn't 
the strongest protection he could buy."

"No," said Mr. Kopeck, looking up.  "That was mine.  I 
think he was borrowing it."

Agent Scully pinned him with a glance.  "Borrowing 

He shrugged.  "Stealing it.  Whatever."

The younger of the two Troopers squinted at him.  
"So you killed him because he was stealing your 

"No!" yelped Mr. Kopeck.  "I didn't kill anyone.  I just 
found the body.  You can ask Belinda out there.  I 
walked in here and found him this way."

"You didn't see anything suspicious?" the detective 
asked him.

"I didn't see anyone -- any person," said Mr. Kopeck 
scrupulously, wondering which would be worse, a 
prison cell or a rubber room.

With the FBI in charge, neither the Troopers nor the 
State Police detective had much to occupy them at 
the scene.  Soon the Troopers announced they were 
off to notify the next of kin.  The detective followed.

The fewer people there were in the room, the more 
disturbing Mr. Kopeck found the murder scene.  
Besides, he wondered, where was the demon?  Had 
it returned to his desk?  His kitchen?  Was it running 
around loose, a menace to every unsuspecting 
citizen of Craftsbury Common?  Was it even now 
watching him from some shadowy corner?

Mr. Kopeck wiped his damp palms on his sweatpants.  
"Can I go now?" he asked the two FBI agents.  "I 
already gave the other detective my statement."

Mulder and Scully exchanged looks.  "This is going to 
take me a little while, Mulder," she said, gesturing at 
Noonan's dead body.

"Take your time."  He said it as calmly as if he were 
sitting behind a desk pushing paper, and not standing 
over a naked, blood-spattered corpse.  He turned to 
Mr. Kopeck.  "I would like to ask you a few more 
questions, if you don't mind."

Mr. Kopeck's gaze slid to the body on the floor.  "Do 
we have to do it here?   It's just a little hard to 
concentrate, you know, with Eric -- "

"If you'd prefer, we can go outside."

Agent Mulder pulled the locker room door open, and 
Mr. Kopeck got up and walked with him out into the 
hallway, to where the smell of established mildew and 
fresh blood gave way to the cleaner air of racketball 
courts and waxed wooden floors.  Mr. Kopeck 
glanced back and forth, half expecting to see the 
demon disappearing around a corner.

Mulder gestured to a bench against one wall, and 
together they sat down. "So how did it happen?" he 
asked without preamble.

"I -- I don't know," Mr. Kopeck stammered.  "The last 
time I saw Eric alive, he was flirting with Belinda at 
the desk.  The next thing I knew, he was lying dead 
on the locker room floor."

Mulder lifted one eyebrow.  "You say the victim was 
flirting with the woman at the desk?"

"Well, I consider it flirting," said Mr. Kopeck stiffly.  
"Maybe you wouldn't."

"Did she flirt back?"

Mr. Kopeck wondered if all FBI agents were so 
nosey.  What could this possibly have to do with 
Eric's murder?  "I guess so.  She was laughing at his 
jokes, anyway.  It -- it surprised me, because..."

"Yes?" said Agent Mulder after a moment.  "You were 

Mr. Kopeck shook his head.  "Nothing."

"No, you said it surprised you.  Why did it surprise 
you that she flirted back?"

"Well," answered Mr. Kopeck, feeling foolish, "I 
realize now I was probably wrong, but before Eric 
came in, I thought maybe Belinda was -- I think she 
was going to ask me out."


Mr. Kopeck squirmed.  "Maybe.  I don't know.  She 
talked to me, and she mentioned she was going to 
the movies.  And then...you know, I was half-hoping 
she was going to ask me out, and I was half-terrified 
she was going to."

"That would have been a problem?"

"I don't know.  Maybe.  She's a little young for me.  
Plus she always sets the radio here to the bubblegum 
pop station from Burlington, and no offense if you're a 
Backstreet Boys fan, but if I have to listen to one 
more chorus of 'As Long as You Love Me,' I'm going 
to drink Drano.  I mean, she's nice, but...I'm not sure 
I'm ready..."  He shrugged.  "Anyway, she probably 
wasn't going to say anything anyway.  It's just that I've 
never been very good at reading these situations.  
And I'm way out of practice."

Agent Mulder nodded slowly.  "You knew all of the 
people who've died here this week, didn't you, Mr. 

He swallowed, and wondered how he was supposed 
to answer.  Outraged innocence?  Mournful 
agreement?  He couldn't decide, so he just nodded.

Agent Mulder was silent.  Finally he leaned back 
against the wall behind them.  "You said you teach 
World History?" he asked conversationally.

Mr. Kopeck had not expected his casual tone.  "Yes, 
that's right."

"In that case, do you know the story of Brutus before 
the Battle of Philippi?"

Somewhat puzzled, Mr. Kopeck nodded.  "Yes -- it's 
in Plutarch, and Shakespeare too.  Brutus was an 
ambitious Roman who had joined in the conspiracy to 
assassinate Julius Caesar.  Civil war followed.  On 
the evening before the battle in which he was to die, 
Brutus couldn't sleep.  In the darkest hour of the night 
he was visited by a -- "

Mr. Kopeck ground to a halt.

"Yes?" prodded Agent Mulder.

"By a -- a demon."

Mulder nodded.  "Do you know what the creature said 
when Brutus asked it who it was?"

Mr. Kopeck bit his lip nervously. "'Sum malus tuus 
genius' -- 'I am your evil spirit.'"

Agent Mulder regarded him in expectant silence.

Mr. Kopeck turned his head and asked with lowered 
brows, "So what are you implying, Agent Mulder?"

Agent Mulder folded his arms over his chest.  
"Ambition caught up with Brutus.  Manifest ambition in 
the form a demon, Mr. Kopeck, in the form of an evil 

Mr. Kopeck's mouth felt suddenly dry.  He swallowed.  
"It's a story, Agent Mulder.  The demon is just -- WAS 
just a dramatic device."

"Is it?"

"Of course it is," Mr. Kopeck replied, trying to look 
appalled instead of terrified.  "Are you...are you 
seriously suggesting...?"

Mulder cleared his throat.  "You're just recently 
divorced, aren't you, Mr. Kopeck?"

Mr. Kopeck looked down at his shoes.  "It's not final 
yet.  My wife left me two months ago."

"Left you for another man?"

Mr. Kopeck flushed, and glanced at Mulder 
resentfully.  "Not that it's any of your business, but 

Beside him, Mulder nodded sympathetically.  "I 
imagine that's been hard to get used to."

"You could say that."

"So, then..." the FBI agent continued, "I suppose this 
has been an eventful couple of months for you.  
Recently and quite unfamiliarly, you've been 
propositioned by one student, probably found 
yourself eyeing others, and had reason to wonder if 
the woman at the desk outside might be interested in 

Mr. Kopeck turned and regarded him apprehensively.  

"And three people have died."

Mr. Kopeck sat for a moment, wondering what Agent 
Mulder was getting at.  "So what are you suggesting?  
Are you trying to tell me my evil spirit is...lust?"

Mulder tilted his head thoughtfully, looking off into the 
distance.  "Maybe it would be more accurate to call it 
a manifestation of the conflict you've been feeling 
lately about sex."

Mr. Kopeck snorted.

"Or I could just be nuts," Agent Mulder said lightly.

"I think that's more likely."

"Still," Mulder said, "it makes an interesting theory, 
don't you think?"

They heard voices in the hallway intersection beside 
them, and both turned their heads.  A second later 
Belinda strolled past in the tight-fitting uniform of an 
aerobics instructor, spandex shorts and a sports bra.  
She was talking to another woman in similarly body-
hugging workout gear.  The two men watched the 
women go by, listening until the soft sound of their 

Mr. Kopeck sighed.  "Sex used to be so much fun," he 
said sadly.  He shook his head in confusion.  "How 
did it turn so complicated?"

"Forget needing glasses or starting to go gray," Agent 
Mulder said.  "That's the real sign of encroaching 

Mr. Kopeck frowned.  "I think you're right.  I remember 
when I was a teenager, it was all I could think about.  
I wanted to do it all day.  Hell, when I was twenty-one, 
I did do it all day."

"I did it all day when I was fourteen," said Agent 
Mulder.  "Of course, those were all solo flights."

Mr. Kopeck leaned his chin on his hand and sighed.  
"I think it's unfair that men are in their sexual prime 
when we're nineteen.  That kind of potential is wasted 
on a nineteen-year-old.  I mean, did you have your 
sexual act together when you were nineteen?"  He 
turned and looked at Mulder questioningly.

"I'm not sure I have my sexual act together now."

Mr. Kopeck nodded.  "I certainly didn't when I was 
nineteen, I know that much.  At that age I considered 
the evening a swaggering success if I didn't end up 
scrubbing at my date's sweater with a handkerchief 
and apologizing for my over-enthusiasm."

"Assuming you could get a date at all."

"Exactly," agreed Mr. Kopeck.  "I was skinny, I had 
zits.  Whereas, women...women don't hit their peak 
until their mid-thirties.  They've got motive AND 

"They out-live us, too," Agent Mulder pointed out 

Mr. Kopeck shook his head.  "Life is so fucking 

They both lapsed into silence.

A few minutes later they heard the brisk tap of high 
heels, and Agent Scully appeared, trim and efficient-
looking, tugging off a pair of surgical gloves as she 
approached.  "All done here, Mulder," she said.

Agent Mulder stood.

"Is that it?" asked Mr. Kopeck, looking up hopefully.  
"Are we finished?"

"For now.  But think about what I said," Agent Mulder 
told him.  "I have a feeling you're not going to solve 
your problem until you face up to what's causing it."

Mr. Kopeck nodded, and watched as the two agents 
turned and walked away. Agent Scully paused to 
throw her gloves in a nearby trash can, Mulder 
adroitly stepping aside for her as if the move had 
been choreographed.

Mr. Kopeck stared after them.  It was easy for Mulder 
to talk, he thought bitterly.  He'd seen the way Agent 
Scully looked at her partner.  He had a feeling Mulder 
was getting some on a regular basis.  Everyone 
seemed to be, except him.

"Hey, Mr. K."

Mr. Kopeck turned at the sound of a familiar voice.  
"Brittany," he said with some surprise, getting to his 
feet.  "And Kandee."  Both were standing before him 
in their blue and gold cheerleading uniforms, 
pompoms at the ready.  The day, he reflected 
sardonically, just kept getting better.

END 06/10


"So..." Scully said as they sat in the front seat of the 
rental car, drinking bottled water.  "You and Mr. 
Kopeck have a nice talk?"

Mulder glanced at her uneasily. "Nice enough."

"I suppose you talked about Goatboy's Revenge."

"Gothar's Revenge," he corrected.  "And as a matter 
of fact, we didn't.  You want to get a late lunch?"

"We have to swing by the sheriff's office first so I can 
drop off my notes," she replied.  "And I want to look 
over the physical evidence.  Shouldn't take long, 

Mulder nodded.  He hoped it wouldn't take long.  He 
was hungry.  "What did the preliminary examination 
show?" he said, starting the engine.

"Massive blood loss.  Head trauma.  Assorted edema, 
contusions, abrasions.  Cuts, scratches.  Something 
did a number on Eric Noonan."

Mulder's eyebrows arched as he steered the car out 
of the gym parking lot. "Some*thing*, Agent Scully?"

"We found what I'm pretty sure is fur, and there were 
claw marks, bite marks..."

"Bite marks?  Like Mrs. Chernoff and Mrs. Stiller?"

"Similar."  Scully laced her fingers behind her neck 
and stretched, arching her spine.  Her neck cracked.  
"But bigger.  Something decidedly vicious."

Mulder nodded. "How much bigger?"

"Hard to say."

Mulder grinned.  "Guess."

"I don't know."  She sighed wearily.  "Mulder, you've 
got a theory.  I know you've got a theory; you know 
you've got a theory.  So, what's your theory?"

Mulder bit the inside of his cheek, and kept his eyes 
on the road.  They'd finally reached his least favorite 
part of any case: the part where he told her exactly 
what he thought, and she told him he was crazy.  
"You know my theory."

She slumped in her seat as if the wind had been 
knocked out of her.  "What?  An evil spirit?  A 

Mulder nodded.

"I don't believe this..." Scully muttered under her 
breath.   "Mulder, why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"This.  Why are you trying to make something out of 

"Nothing?" Mulder echoed.  "Scully, there have been 
three suspicious deaths in a week, all of them 
revolving, to some extent, around Lawrence Kopeck.  
That isn't nothing."

"Agreed," she replied.  "But all the evidence suggests 
he's not responsible for any of them."

"Not directly responsible, no."

"And not indirectly, either," she shot back.  She 
paused, took a deep breath, then exhaled loudly.  
"Mulder, why do you so desperately need for this 
case to be an X-File?"

He turned to her, his jaw set.  "And why, Scully do 
you so desperately need for it NOT to be?"


"Why are there, like, cop cars and stuff all over, Mr. 
K?" Kandee asked with a frown.

"There was...there's been an accident."

"Again?"  Kandee pursed her cherry-red lips.  "This is 
what happens when they let old people use the 
StairMasters.  Someone is always, like, having a 
heart attack or breaking a hip."  Just as she spoke, 
the somber-suited men from Highsmith's Mortuary 
pushed Eric's body through the health club doors.

"Ohmigod!" Brittany gasped.  "Someone is...like, 

Kandee frowned and planted a fist on her shapely left 
hip.   "You know, Mr. K, when we like, lived in LA, my 
'rents were all, 'in my day no one brought submachine 
guns to school, there's too much violence here, let's 
move back east, no gangs in Vermont, it's safer blah 
blah blah.'  But like, lately," she shook her head, "I 
would have to say, in total seriousness, nuh uh."

Mr. Kopeck opened his mouth to reply, but Belinda 
spared him.  "Girls," she called in an undertone, 
appearing again in the hallway intersection, her tone 
hushed out of respect for Eric Noonan's recent 
demise.  She beckoned to the teenagers.

"Shouldn't the dead guy mean practice is cancelled?" 
Brittany asked in a wheedling tone, as she and 
Kandee trailed after Belinda.

Mr. Kopeck sat back down on the bench.  With a sigh 
he leaned his head on his hand.  He wondered how 
he was supposed to find the demon now -- or if the 
demon was going to find him.


Scully was silent a long time.  Mulder wondered if the 
conversation was at an end, or if it were merely 
sliding into suspended animation.  Nothing about this 
trip was turning out the way he'd expected, not one 
damned thing.  He was starting to wonder if he should 
just stop pretending to plan anything in his life.  He 
was getting too old to keep swimming against the 

"I don't care if it's an X-File or not, Mulder," Scully 
said, finally rousing him from his meditation.  "I really 
don't. I have always given -- tried to give -- one-
hundred percent to all our cases, either way.  I just 
wish -- I deserved some advanced notice on this 

Mulder's brows knit in confusion.  "Advanced notice 
of what?"

"I was under the impression that we were here for 
some token investigation and then to spend as much 
time as we could ruining Mrs. Alden's sheets," she 
explained in an even, steady tone.  "Instead we're 
knee-deep in Goatherd's Revenge and you're 
spouting demonology, of all things.  If you knew about 
the X-File right from the start, however ridiculous an 
X-File, you should have told me.  I'm still your 
partner; I deserve that much."

Mulder was momentarily overwhelmed, uncertain 
which part of her tirade to respond to first.  He went 
with the easiest.  "What -- what makes you think I 
knew about the X-File right from the start?"

"What am I supposed to think, Mulder?  That Kopeck 
and Kopeck's father and Vampire Vixens on Fire, all 
of that is just coincidence?"

He thought a moment and scratched his cheek.  
Scully was so brilliant and insightful and distractingly 
gorgeous that sometimes he forgot she didn't see the 
world quite the way he did.  He'd long assumed it was 
simply because she refused to, but maybe...

"I didn't say it was just a coincidence, Scully," he said 
in what he hoped was a conciliatory tone.

She folded her arms across her chest.  "So you did 
know, and you just didn't bother to share with the rest 
of the class, is that it?"

He shook his head and smiled, almost apologetically.  
"No, I honestly had no idea Kopeck's father had ever 
lived here.  I would have been willing to buy that Mrs. 
Chernoff's death was simply an unfortunate accident, 
at least at first.  But as more and more evidence 
accumulated, that seemed less and less the case, 
and I started looking for another explanation."

"The least likely explanation, you mean."

"The most likely explanation," Mulder countered.  He 
hesitated a moment.  "Come on, Scully.  Almost 
seven years.  You must have noticed by now: I'm a 
Weird Magnet."

Her eyebrows rose and she blinked rapidly at him.  
"I'll try not to take that personally."

"I mean it," he replied seriously.  "Look at my history.  
Human/Flukeworm hybrids.  Tooms.  Vinyl-siding 
salesbugs.  Mind-controlling fungi.  Government-alien 
conspiracies.  Nymphomaniacal vampires..."

"Excuse me?"

"Who else does this stuff happen to?"  He shook his 
head in disbelief.  "Face it; I'm Ground Zero for the 

Scully looked shocked, then disbelieving, then simply 
puzzled.  Maybe even with that fine analytical mind of 
hers, Mulder thought, she really hadn't considered it 

Finally, she frowned.  "That's nonsense.  I was there 
for all that, too."

"Yes, you were."  He cleared his throat, feeling 
suddenly tired and alone.  "Most of it.  But profoundly 
strange things have happened to me my whole life.  I 
don't think you can honestly say the same about 
yours, can you?  For you, it's only been the last few 
years.  In my case, though, weird stuff was happening 
to me before you came into my life and, um..."  He 
cleared his throat again.


He swallowed.  "And it will still be happening to me 
after you're, um, gone."

"After I'm gone?" she echoed, her face clouded with 
concern.  "After I'm gone where?  Where am I going?"

Mulder pulled the car smoothly up to the curb and put 
it in park.  "Right now, inside the sheriff's office," he 
replied, his mouth twisting.  "We're here."


Yellow police tape was stretched across the men's 
locker room door.  Kandee flicked it with her finger 
once and then twice, then again, frowning.  Do Not 
Cross -- thwap.  Do Not Cross -- thwap.  Do Not 
Cross -- thwap.  Craftsdorky Common seemed to be 
full of lines you couldn't cross, but this was the only 
one they'd bothered to mark so clearly.

Things were easier in LA, the rules of the popularity 
game simpler.  All you had to do was dress hot, look 
hot, BE hot, and you were in.  The latest look, the 
perfect shades, the right car, a nose that looked like, 
sure, you could have been born with it: those were 
the only things that mattered.  No one cared what you 
did or thought or believed.  People judged by what 
you looked like, not what you were.

Here, it seemed, the only routes to popularity 
involved sweating or thinking, neither of which had 
ever been high on her To Do list.  Everyone in 
Mayberry was all about athletics and good grades 
and -- she shuddered involuntarily -- school spirit.  
Like anyone really cared about that crap.  They were 
all such fakes.

She dropped her pompoms, looked down at her 
uniform. So yes, she looked terrific in it, but still, it 
was so phony.  She'd taken up cheerleading as a 
compromise, because it wasn't really a sport and no 
heavy thinking was involved.  If any of her friends, her 
real friends, could see her now...

She thwapped the tape again, wondering where 
Brittany was.  The cops had locked up the women's 
locker room, like they were worried the dead guy 
would decide to get up and take a shower in there, or 
something.  Brittany had bounced off to find Ms. 
Patteson and the key ages ago.

Kandee shook her head.  Brittany, with her week-last-
Thursday clothes and her Haircuts R Us 'do and her 
Keds and captain of the football team boyfriend.  Miss 
Aren't-I-Nice?  Miss Congeniality.  No one was that 
nice.  Brittany had to be the biggest fake of them all.

"Found her," Brittany's voice echoed along the empty 
corridor, interrupting her reverie.

"'Bout time," Kandee replied.  "She give you the key?"

"She can't."  Brittany shook her head.  "Insurance or 
something."  She slid down the wall and sat on the 
floor next to Kandee's discarded pompoms.  "She's 
still talking to the police, but she promised she'd be 
here in a minute."  She dropped her pompoms and 
leaned in close.  "You know what I overheard?"

"What?" Kandee asked with as much fake interest as 
she could muster, afraid it would be something about 
the debating team or somebody's SATs.

Brittany's eyes widened and her voice became low 
and confiding.  "One of the cops was talking to 
another one.  The guy who died didn't just have a 
heart attack, like we thought."

"No?"  Kandee joined her on the floor.

Brittany shook her head.  "He thinks the dead guy 
was attacked by some sort of large animal."

"An animal?"  Kandee blinked.  "In the gym?"  
Another reason to hate Vermont.

"Yeah."  Brittany nodded enthusiastically.  
"Something big.  I looked over one cop's shoulder 
and he was holding a picture, you know, a Polaroid?  
Blood everywhere, even on the ceiling."

"That is so gross."  Kandee curled her lip.  "How 
would an animal get in the gym?"

"I don't know."  Brittany shrugged.  "They don't seem 
to either.  And you know who found the body?"

Kandee shook her head.


"Oh, that must have been good."  Kandee rolled her 
eyes.  "I can hear it now.  He'll be, like, telling us all 
about it in Latin or whatever.  'Quigquam wig wag 
ergo dead guy ibi sum.'  No, thank you."

"I know."  Brittany chuckled appreciatively.  "Mr. 
Excitement.  Speaking of which, you never told me if 
the two of you finally, you know..."  Brittany winked 

Kandee lifted an incredulous eyebrow.  "Excuse me?  
Me and LarryBoy?"  She snorted.  "He should, like, 
live so long."

"Well, you know, he's not bad looking, and..."

"Puh-lease!" Kandee groaned, even though, in truth, 
she agreed.  While she may have offered, she had 
known all along that Mr. Kopeck would not follow 
through.  Experience had shown her that in matters 
such as these, the teacher was usually either 
flattered or intimidated into giving her a passing 
grade.  It had worked before, and since she had no 
intention of wasting prime tanning time in summer 
school, she was still hoping it would work this time.

"He isn't that bad.  I mean, for an old guy."

"Yeah, right, he's the next Brad Pitt."  She wished Ms. 
Patteson would hurry up.  The dead guy would still be 
dead in a few hours, but if she didn't get into the 
shower now, her hair would be damaged beyond 
repair.  "He's old enough to be my great grandfather 
twice removed."

"I swear you said you liked him.  You said he was hot, 
at the beginning of the year."

Kandee scowled.  "Ew.  Ew ew ew!"

"Come on.  You don't think he's at least a little hot?"

Kandee sighed, exasperated.  "Like, I'm in school all 
day, where I'm failing World History, along with just 
about everything else.  I'm on academic probation, 
which means if I cut a class, they tell the 'rents and I 
get shipped off to Our Lady of the Immaculate Loser 
Convent School in Middle-of-Nowhere, Alaska or 
Arizona or something.  My parents have got me 
working in that dorky restaurant to pay off the 
damage I did to my mom's Jag, which takes up, like, 
every weekend and most of my time after school.  
Add to that cheerleading and all the time I have to 
spend pretending to study, and I haven't exactly got 
any time to waste lusting after the world's oldest living 
doof, okay?"

"Okay, okay."  Brittany held up her hands in the 
universal sign of surrender.  "Geez, touchy much?"

"It's just, like, disgusting."  Kandee gave a theatrical 
shiver.  "Like having sex with Bill Clinton or Charlie 
Sheen or something."  She looked impatiently at her 
watch.  "We've only got two hours before the football 
game.  If she doesn't open this door soon, I can't be 
held, like, responsible."

"I know.  My hair is so disgusting."  Brittany raked her 
fingers through her brown ponytail.  "Oh, that reminds 
me.   Mike's cousin Phil plays for Burlington."


"And Mike asked me to ask you if you'd double with 
us after the game."


"As in date.  As in, Mike's parents expect him to" -- 
she drew some air quotes -- "'entertain' Phil while 
he's here.  And you'd be perfect."

"I am perfect, but..."

Kandee was interrupted by the sound of jangling keys 
and cross-trainers squeaking against the polished 
floor.  They rose.

"Sorry, girls."  Belinda Patteson pulled down the 
yellow tape.  "Where's the rest of the squad?"

"Most of them left right after practice," Brittany 
replied.  "I guess me and Kandee were the only ones 
who got our stuff in the lockers before the police 
sealed everything off."

Belinda twisted the key and pushed the heavy door 
open for them.  "Well, that'll teach you two to be on 
time," she said good-naturedly.

The two girls went inside.

"Well, I'm not so sure I want to go out with some guy 
who, like, can't get his own date," Kandee said, 
reverting to their earlier topic.  She tossed her 
pompoms on a bench.

"You'll like him.  He's cute."

"Yeah, but you think everybody is cute.  Your 
standards are totally lower than mine."

Brittany laughed.  "You are one King Kamehameha 
bitch."  She reached for the bottom of her sweater, 
and pulled it off over her head.  Kandee, too, began 
to undress.

Just then there was a sound above them, from atop 
the lockers.  "Ahhhh!  Roseas papillas vestras 
ostendite!" hissed someone, in the lewdest, most 
glottal voice Kandee had ever heard.

They both looked up -- and froze.

End 07/10

The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime, 
thought Mr. Kopeck as he slipped back into the gym.  
He'd learned the saying from old movies and 
detective novels.  Of course, the demon was the real 
criminal in this case, but since no one but him had 
ever seen the thing, that was probably a moot point.  
If he was caught here, it wasn't going to look good.

He closed the main door silently behind him.  He had 
to find the demon and get it under control before it 
struck again.  Visions of Eric Noonan's bloodied 
corpse swam in his brain.  Mr. Happy, he thought 
grimly, would never be happy again.

He tiptoed across the lobby without signing in.  He 
felt like a cat burglar, stealing into the gym unseen.  
To boost his morale, he began singing the theme 
from Mission Impossible in his head: BUM buh bum-
bum, BUM buh bum-bum...

Yeah, he was cool, he was Tom Cruise, he told 
himself; he was Guilio in Topkapi, he was Steve 
McQueen, he was Pierce Brosnan in that Thomas 
Crown movie.  He should be dressed completely in 
black and holding a Mag-Lite clenched between his 
teeth.  He rounded the corner just past the 
racquetball court...

...and bumped right into Belinda Patteson.

"Hi, Larry," she said.  "Did you forget something?"

Oh damn, oh damn, he thought, and said the first 
thing that popped into his head.  "I was driving by and 
I -- I really had to use the bathroom."

So much for Steve McQueen.  Belinda looked like 
she wanted to laugh, though whether it was because 
of his red face or his imaginary predicament, he 
couldn't be sure.  "Well, okay."

"I didn't sign in," he said.  "Under the circumstances."

"Okay, Larry."  She gave him a polite smile.

Fortunately, he realized with relief, she didn't appear 
to know the old saw about the criminal and the scene 
of the crime, and had not yet pegged him as the 
Terrible Instrument of Eric Noonan's Death.   
"Thanks," he said, and started back down the hall.

"Just keep an eye out, okay?" she called after him.  
"There's some kind of animal loose in here."

He halted in his tracks.  "An animal?"

"Yes, two of my cheerleaders saw something in the 
Womens' locker room."

He felt the blood drain from his face.

She must have noticed his pale complexion and 
staring eyes because she hastened to explain, "Don't 
worry, it might just be a squirrel or a woodchuck or 
something.  It disappeared when they screamed."

"Oh."  His voice came out sounding tight and 

"Just in case it has something to do with Eric's death, 
though, I called those FBI agents.  Probably a little 
caution wouldn't hurt until they arrive."

"Thanks," he croaked, and started back down the 
hall, his thoughts racing.

Someone else had seen the demon.  Two 
cheerleaders.  My God, the thing must have been 
within striking distance of them.  They could have 
been killed.  It was a miracle, he thought frantically, 
that they hadn't been.

Two cheerleaders -- almost certainly, in a village this 
size, his own students.  The other deaths had been 
bad enough, but if the demon slaughtered two of his 
own students...

He shuddered.

Time was running out.  He had to stop the awful 
creature before it killed again.  But how?  He didn't 
even know where it was.  Not only that, but Agents 
Mulder and Scully were headed here to the gym.  He 
couldn't let them see him here now, not when they 
were already so suspicious.

There was only one thing for him to do, he realized.

He had to find a way to lure the demon to him.


"What do you think?" Mulder asked as they left the 
gym after interviewing Kandee and Brittany, and 
headed across the parking lot.

"I think I'm sick of this car," she answered, climbing in 
as Mulder held the door for her.  "Next time, let's ask 
for a color other that red."

"Everyone's a comedian," Mulder answered good-
naturedly, climbing in behind the wheel and fastening 
his seat belt.

"About their statements, you mean?"

Mulder nodded.

Scully pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and 
sighed.  What did she think?  She thought, maybe, 
she wanted to go home.  "Frankly, Mulder, I don't 
know what to think."

"I do," he answered, swinging the Taurus out onto the 

"Belinda Patteson seemed to think it was a squirrel," 
she offered weakly.  "She says they occasionally get 
in through the vents."

"A Latin-speaking squirrel?  A hairy, fang-toothed, 
yellow-eyed Latin-speaking squirrel?"

She had to admit that was unlikely.  Kandee and 
Brittany's stories were just the same enough, and just 
different enough, to sound legitimate, no matter how 
insane.  She turned to Mulder, who was clearly trying 
to keep a smug little smile off his handsome face.  
"Quit gloating."

"Moi?" Mulder answered, all innocence.

"Yes, you."  She sighed.  "So, what do we do now?"

"We find Mr. Kopeck and we get him to undo 
whatever the hell he did."


"For what it's worth, Scully," he said, turning to her, "I 
don't think this was intentional.  I don't think Mr. 
Kopeck tried to summon a demon deliberately.  I don't 
think he wanted anyone to die.  I think...I think things 
just got out of hand.  My guess is that he's probably 
trying to call it back right now.  He'll probably try 
doing that in the same place where he originally 
summoned it.  Since the first murders were at the 
high school, that's the best place to start looking, if 
my demon lore serves me."

She chuckled.  "You've got demon lore?"

"I've got demon lore."  He winked.

She nodded and watched the fences roll by, tinged 
pink now by the setting sun.  She knew those posts 
were white, bright white, solid, unadorned white, but 
in this light...

Weird Magnet, he'd said.  Ground Zero for the 
strange.  What did that make her?  What did that 
make them?

"Mulder," she said after another mile of silence.  "I 
don't believe in demons."

His head bobbed slightly.  "I know."

"No, Mulder."  She sat up straighter.  How could she 
explain to him what she couldn't explain to herself?  "I 
do not believe in corporal, flesh-and whatever-
passes-for-blood-in-demons, demons.  I can't.  I 

"And I don't believe in income tax," he shrugged. "But 
they keep sending me these 1040s."

She bit her lip. "I'm serious."

"I know you don't."  He reached across unexpectedly 
and took her hand.  "That's okay.  I'll believe for both 
of us."

She nodded, unsure how to answer that.  "What you 
said before Mulder, about me going away...?"

"There's Kopeck's car," Mulder said, pulling into the 
high school parking lot.  "We've got to hurry."


It was his late father's fault, indirectly, that he had 
ever summoned the demon, thought Mr. Kopeck.  
Last week he'd been in his classroom leafing through 
one of his father's old Latin books, looking for 
something interesting to include in his lesson plan on 
Ancient Rome, when he'd seen the incantation.  He'd 
never thought it would actually work; he'd just 
assumed it was the Latin equivalent of a party trick.  
After all, how many fathers collected books that could 
actually raise evil spirits?

But if it was because of his father that the demon was 
loose now, it was also because of his father that he 
had the means to get rid of it, or at least to try.  
Among the accumulated paraphernalia his father had 
left him were a Latin copy of the rites of exorcism, oil 
that had been blessed by a priest, and several vials 
of holy water.

Mr. Kopeck struck a match and lit the candles on his 
desk.  He'd decided that the best place from which to 
banish the demon was the same place from which 
he'd summoned it, his classroom.  He hoped to call 
the demon to him here again.  His hand was shaking 
a little, he noticed before blowing out the match.  
Well, it wasn't every day that he had a showdown 
with a demon.

He opened the book on the desk in front of him, and 
took a deep breath.  "Adjure te, spiritus nequissime," 
he began reading in a deep, solemn voice, "per 
Deum omnipotentem..."

He went on, intoning the words.  The candles 
flickered on his desk, lending an eerie orange glow to 
what was usually the most commonplace of locations, 
his perfectly mundane eleventh-grade classroom.  
Wisps of smoke rose overhead in ghostly tendrils.

"Hearken, therefore, and tremble in fear, Satan, you 
enemy of the faith, you foe of the human race, you 
begetter of death, you robber of life, you corrupter of 
justice, you root of all evil and vice," he read in Latin.  
He reached out and turned the page.

Just then he heard something stir in the back of the 
room.  A chill passed over him.

"Seducer of men, betrayer of the nations, instigator of 
envy, font of avarice, fomenter of discord, author of 
pain and sorrow," he continued doggedly.

"Euge, certo me exasperas," rumbled the demon -- All 
right, you're really pissing me off.

Mr. Kopeck kept reading.  "Depart, then, 
transgressor. Depart, seducer, full of lies and 
cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent," he 
chanted in Latin.  "Give place, abominable creature, 
give way, you monster, give way."

"Extra saccum nunc sum, mentula," said the demon, 
creeping closer -- I'm out of the bag now, dickhead.  
There was menace in its tone.

Mr. Kopeck's hand closed around the vial of holy 
water in his pocket.  It would protect him, he hoped, in 
case the demon tried to attack.  "To what purpose do 
you insolently resist?  To what purpose do you 
brazenly refuse?" he read in Latin.  His voice did not 

"Tuam vitam miserrimam finiam!" snarled the demon -
- I will put an end to thy most miserable existence.

What Mr. Kopeck lacked in bravery, he struggled to 
make up for in determination.  "For you are guilty 
before almighty God," he continued, doing his best to 
ignore the demon, "whose laws you have 

"Intestinam tuam peruram!  Sopioni tuo pellem 
detraham!" spat the demon -- I will burn up thy inner 
organs!  I will flay the skin from thy dick!

Still reading, Mr. Kopeck took the holy water out of 
his pocket and held it up for the demon to see, 
jiggling it tauntingly.

"Cule!" the demon shouted -- you butthole!

Mr. Kopeck kept going.

It was going to be a fight to the finish.


"Hear that sound?" said Mulder, his hand on the 
doorknob of Mr. Kopeck's classroom, his heart 
pounding in anticipation.  "He's chanting something in 

"Or reciting something," Scully said.  "He's a teacher, 
Mulder.  It could be a poem or a speech, part of a 
lesson he intends to teach."

Mulder ignored her.  "This is it," he said with barely-
contained excitement.   He took a deep breath, and 
threw his shoulder against the door.

It burst open with an explosive bang.  They tumbled 
through the doorway together to see --

Nothing.  Just Mr. Kopeck, standing at his desk, 
gaping at them in astonishment.

They all stared at one another.

"Can I help you?" the teacher asked finally, after a 
long, awkward pause.

Mulder's shoulder hurt where he'd driven it into the 
door.  His eyes roamed the room.  "We heard you 
talking to someone."

"I was reading," Mr. Kopeck said.  "Aloud."

Mulder approached him.  "What about those 
candles?  Why are you burning candles here in your 
classroom on a Saturday afternoon?"

"Just testing the dramatic effect," Mr. Kopeck said, a 
little uncertainly.  "I find it helps me to keep the 
students' attention if I do something showy now and 
then when I'm lecturing.  It's an old theatrical trick I 
picked up from my father."

An old theatrical trick, my ass, Mulder thought.  What 
teacher burned candles during a high school history 

The demon had to be here somewhere.  Mulder 
paced back and forth across the front of the 
classroom, peering down the aisles of desks.  Then 
he got down on all fours, and searched the floor.

"Um...would you mind telling me what you're looking 
for?" Mr. Kopeck asked, his eyes flickering to the 
open door at the back of the room.

"Just a routine check," Scully said.

She could have at least tried to sound a little more 
convincing, Mulder thought with a frown.  He 
straightened up.  His knees creaked as he got to his 

Mr. Kopeck was still wearing the slightly stunned air 
of a man whose door had just been unexpectedly 
kicked in.  "This kind of thing is routine for you?  

Mulder noticed the book on the teacher's desk.  "Is 
that in Latin?"

"Yes," said Mr. Kopeck, nudging it closed.  Something 
about the gesture reminded Mulder of a student 
caught passing notes in class.  "It's, uh, part of the 
unit I'm teaching on the Roman Empire."

Mulder's eyes narrowed.  "Does the phrase 'Roseas 
papillas vestras ostendite' mean anything to you?"

Mr. Kopeck stared at him, his face flushing scarlet.  

"Two witnesses at the gym today heard a voice 
saying those words -- 'Roseas papillas vestras 
ostendite.'  What does it mean?"

"It means," said Mr. Kopeck, shooting an 
uncomfortable glance at Scully, "'Reveal your pink 

Another awkward silence fell over the classroom.

"Well," said Scully finally, "I think we've accomplished 
all we're going to accomplish here."

Mulder took one look at her face and knew better 
than to argue.

"We're sorry to have disturbed you, Mr. Kopeck," 
Scully said crisply.  "Come on, Mulder."

He nodded his good-bye to the history teacher, and 
followed her out of the classroom like a dog with its 
tail tucked between its legs.

"See, Mulder?  Nothing paranormal here," she said, 
when they were back out in the hallway and she had 
closed the classroom door behind them.

"Scully, he was burning candles!"

"That's not against the law, Mulder."

"It's also a classic component of demonic rituals, both 
summoning and exorcism.  And who killed Eric 
Noonan?  You can't tell me he hit his head on an 
eraser tray, too."

"I never suggested he did.  But there must be a better 
explana -- "

"Oh, hi," said Brittany Woodall, appearing around the 
corner in her cheerleader outfit, complete with 
pompoms.  "Are you two here for the football game?"

"No," Scully said.  "We were just on our way out, as a 
matter of fact."

"Yeah, I figured you were both probably too old to go 
for high school football," Brittany said cheerfully.  She 
passed them, pompoms rustling.  "I guess you heard 
about all the excitement," she remarked as she went 

"What excitement?" Mulder asked.

"You know," Brittany said, turning back.  "About the 

"The bear?  There was a bear?"

"Two State Troopers shot a black bear, right in the 
gym parking lot," she said with a toss of her ponytail.  
"They figure that's what killed that dead guy."

Scully turned her gaze his way.  He could feel her I-
told-you stare boring into the side of his head.

"What about that thing you saw, Brittany?" he asked 
in a voice bordering on desperation.  "That wasn't a 
bear, was it?"

Even as he asked the question, he knew it was a lost 
cause.  Brittany struck him as the uncomplicated, 
upbeat type who took life as it came.  If the State 
Police thought she'd seen a bear, then a bear it was.

Brittany laughed.  "Oh, that.  I guess it must have 

"But it talked to you."

"Well, maybe, maybe not."  Her nose wrinkled.  
"Don't, like, tell anyone else I said it did, okay?  I 
wouldn't want them thinking I was...you know, weird 
or anything."

Mulder felt the last of his hopes for the case crash 
and burn.  There was no way he was going to 
convince Scully to stay in Vermont another day now, 
not with a bona fide bear to blame for the death 
today.  And what evidence did he have that this was 
an X-File, really?  Nothing that couldn't be explained 
away as accident or coincidence.

He sighed.  He was going to be hearing from Scully 
about this case until the end of his days.  Even the 
sight of Brittany walking away, her short cheerleader 
skirt bouncing with every step she took, did nothing 
for his mood.

Scully cleared her throat.  "Well, I guess that settles 

He nodded glumly.  "Yep, I guess so."

"So...maybe we could go back to the bed and 
breakfast and make the most of the evening."  Her 
faintly suggestive smile was for Scully what 
answering the door dressed in Saran Wrap was for 
most other women.  "If you're not too tired, that is."

He straightened his back.  Great, so now she was 
starting with the Geritol cracks again.  "I'm not too 
tired," he said stiffly.


The worst part, he thought as they headed for the 
front doors of the school, was that he really did feel 
tired.  Not only that, but his shoulder hurt from 
banging it against Mr. Kopeck's classroom door, and 
his left knee was still creaking from kneeling on the 

He felt tired, foolish -- and old.
End 08/10


Mr. Kopeck strode out of the side door of the high 
school, Bible and holy water in hand.  He looked to 
the left and to the right, searching for the demon.  
The thing had to be somewhere, he thought, and 
mentally berated the two FBI agents for bursting in 
when they had and somehow allowing it to escape.

At least they hadn't seen it, he thought, and breathed 
a silent thanks for small mercies.  There was a still a 
chance he could manage to solve this predicament 
himself.  Though Agent's Mulder's words from their 
conversation in the gym still echoed in his brain:

...What is your evil spirit?...

...Maybe it would be more accurate to call it a 
manifestation of the conflict you've been feeling lately 
about sex...

...I have a feeling you're not going to solve your 
problem until you face up to what's causing it...

What a load of bullshit, Mr. Kopeck thought.  But 
even as he thought it, a part of him wondered if it 
might be true.  Nothing in his life had been going right 
since the day his wife had told him she was leaving 

For now, he reminded himself, he would have to 
forget about the psychoanalysis and concentrate on 
more practical matters, like finding the demon.  In 
forty minutes the football game would be starting, and 
the school grounds would be teeming with people.  A 
demon loose in a crowd like that -- well, he didn't 
want to think about the possibilities.

Nope, Agent Mulder's psychological mumbo-jumbo 
would have to wait.  He didn't have time to worry 
about his sex life or his self-esteem right now.  If he 
could just finish the exorcism maybe that would take 
care of everything.  It was worth a try, anyway.  He 
just had to -

"Oh!  You totally evil bastard!" a woman cried with 

He froze in his tracks and spun around, expecting to 
witness some innocent bystander confronting the 
demon in horror.  Instead he saw only a slim but 
decidedly curvaceous blonde.  She was standing 
beside a black Mustang sedan that had a flat rear 
tire, struggling to raise the car on a jack.  He set the 
Bible and the holy water down on the ground, and 
stepped closer.  

She was strikingly attractive, at least from the back.  
Her hair was a bright golden-blonde and she wore it 
in fluffy curls.  He had always liked blondes.  This one 
was dressed in a tailored white shirt, snug-fitting blue 
jeans, and chunky-heeled black oxfords.  Her small 
waist and shapely hips would have held his attention 
even if she hadn't been cursing steadily but cheerfully 
at the jack.

He could see she was having trouble.  He needed to 
find the demon, but...well, he supposed a couple of 
minutes wasn't going to make much difference.

As he approached, she finished with the jack and 
knelt down in front of the flat.  "Need some help?" he 

She turned her head and smiled up at him.  He was 
pleasantly surprised to see that her face matched the 
promise of her figure.  "Oh, no thank you."

"You're sure?"  He took a step backwards, his eyes 
still on her.

"Yes, but thanks.  I've got the situation under control."  
She picked up the lug wrench and fit it over one of 
the lug nuts.

"Um..." he said, frowning.  He cleared his throat.

She looked over her shoulder at him.  "Yes?"

"Well..."  He stuck his hands in his pockets.  "You 
really shouldn't do it that way.  You're supposed to 
loosen the lug nuts before you jack up the car.  The 
wheel's just going to spin on you, and besides, it's 
possible you could rock the car off the jack."

A tiny crease appeared between her eyebrows.  "Oh."

He came closer, and dropped down on one knee 
beside her.  "You don't really have the jack in the 
right place, either.  See this little plate here?"  He 
pointed to a point on the frame in front of the tire.  
"That's where it's supposed to make contact."

The crease deepened.  "Hmmm."

She smelled great, Mr. Kopeck thought.  She was 
even prettier close up -- clear skin, a slender nose, 
sweetly curving lips, and the bluest eyes he had ever 
seen.  She looked to be in her thirties; a year or two 
younger than him, maybe, but no more.

"Maybe you'd better let me do this," he offered.  "You 
look too nice to get all dirty, and it's kind of a guy job 

She sat back on her heels.  "That's not politically 
correct," she said with a twinkle.  "You're supposed to 
assure me that I look capable and undoubtedly I 
could manage this without you."

"You look capable.  Undoubtedly you could manage 
this without me."

Laughing, she dusted off her hands on her shapely 
thighs.  "That's much better.  And now that we've got 
that straight, I really would appreciate your help, if 
you're sure you don't mind."

"I don't mind at all," he said with perfect sincerity, 
reaching out to lower the jack.  Beside him, she 
sighed with what seemed to be relief.  Even her sigh 
sounded pretty.

For the moment, Mr. Kopeck forgot all about the 


Scully toed off her shoes by the door, then bent to set 
them neatly side by side.  Poor Mulder, she thought.  
He was taking this harder than usual.  His failures 
always got to him, but this seemed extreme.  His 
shoulders had a defeated set to them, and all signs of 
playfulness had disappeared from his 

"Sorry things didn't turn out quite the way you'd 
hoped," she said in what was meant to be a light you-
win-some-you-lose-some tone.  When Mulder's brow 
creased in apparent confusion she added, "With the 
case, I mean."

Mulder half-shrugged and tugged at the reluctant knot 
in his tie.  
"Whatever.  It's probably for the best."

"Really, Mulder?  How's that?"

"If I'd have caught it, what would I have done with it?  
Demons make lousy house-pets."  He frowned and 
pulled at his cuff buttons.

She went over and climbed up to sit on the bed, still 
dressed.  Not that she had any objection to getting 
busy; she was just a little worried about Mulder.  She 
was beginning to think he might be sinking into some 
kind of depression.

"Well?" he said impatiently, glancing over at her.  
"Aren't you going to get undressed?"

"If you're in that much of a hurry, maybe we could 
institute drive-through service."

He looked up, and his eyes locked with hers.  "Sorry," 
he said.  "I guess I can't get anything right these 

Taking a case to heart was one thing; such blatant 
self-pity was quite another.  "You know, Mulder, we 
don't have to do this if you don't want to."

She said it gently, sympathetically.  She was a little 
surprised, therefore, when he narrowed his eyes and 
turned his back on her.  "Damn it, Scully," he snarled, 
"I'm not THAT old."

The words surprised her just as much as the furious 
tone in which he spoke them.  She watched for a 
moment in silence as he angrily jerked off his clothes, 
wondering what was going through his head.

"Mulder," she said finally, "do you want to tell me 
what's wrong?"

"Forget it."

"No."  She wished he would look at her.  "I want to 
know what's been bothering you."  She paused for a 
moment, wondering which issue to address first.  
"What did you mean before, when you mentioned my 
going away?"

"I said forget it."

He was the picture of affronted dignity, even stripped 
down to nothing but black socks and blue cotton 
boxers.  "No, Mulder.  You're going to talk to me.  Or, 
if you aren't, you might as well stop taking off your 
clothes.  I'm not about to sleep with you in this mood."

Peeling off his socks, Mulder wavered, apparently 
debating with himself what to do -- freeze her out, 
argue, or put his clothes back on and storm out.

Finally he whispered "Damn," and threw his socks 
across the room in a gesture that screamed pure 
frustration.  Shoulders slumping, he stalked over to sit 
beside her on the bed.


"I haven't seen you around here before," Mr. Kopeck 
conversationally, as he finished lowering the car off 
the jack and went to work loosening the lug nuts.  "I 
thought I knew everybody in town."

The woman looked at him with bright intelligence in 
her eyes.  "I grew up not too far from here, but I just 
moved to Craftsbury Common.  I'm going to be 
teaching here."

"Here at the Academy?"

"Yes, I'm replacing a teacher who died."

"Mrs. Chernoff," he supplied with a nod.  "I teach 
here, too."

"Do you?"  She smiled at him, a frank, inviting smile 
that made his heart beat faster.  "Then I guess we'll 
be working together."

He repositioned the jack and began cranking the car 
higher.  "My name's Larry, by the way.  Larry 
Kopeck."  He stuck out his hand.

"Rachel Thornton," she said, taking his hand and 
shaking it.

Good lord, she even knew how to shake hands, Mr. 
Kopeck thought in amazement.  It was a dying art.  
Most women these days gave him one of those limp 
four-fingered clasps, like they thought his hand was a 
bowl of Palmolive and they were going to soak in it; 
or, worse yet, they just stared blankly at his 
outstretched hand like they'd never seen one before.  
Rachel Thornton had a great handshake, firm and 
confident and friendly.

"Until I can find a place of my own I'm staying at the 
bed and breakfast," she told him, watching him drop 
the lug nuts one by one into her discarded hubcap.  
"It's just me and a couple of FBI agents."  The little 
crease appeared between her brows again.  "I've 
been wondering about that, by the way.  I thought this 
place was supposed to be so quiet.  What are FBI 
agents doing around here?"

He lifted the flat off the car and rolled it out of the 
way. "There was, um...a death at the gym today."

Her smile faded.  "A death?  Not a friend of yours, I 

Mr. Kopeck shrugged.  "Not a friend, exactly, but I 
knew him.  A guy I went to school with, Eric Noonan."

"Eric Noonan?"  She frowned faintly.  "He didn't sell 
cars, did he?  I think the guy who sold me my 
Mustang in Hardwick was named Noonan."

"Yeah, that was the same guy."

"Oh."  She was silent for a moment.  "Not to speak ill 
of the dead, but what an asshole."

Mr. Kopeck had to stifle a bark of laughter.  "I always 
thought so, too."  He fit the spare tire on the car and 
loosely replaced the first lug nut.  "Er...not to speak ill 
of the dead."

She shook her head.  "Nothing turns me off more 
than a smooth operator."

Mr. Kopeck twisted around and gawked at her.  

"Definitely.  Their lines always sound so rehearsed, 
as if they've used them on a million other women 
before.  Plus I have this theory about them: I think 
they're just not bright enough to envision rejection."

"If that's true," he said ruefully, "I must be a damned 

She smiled at him, her head to one side.  It was a 
warm smile, bright and understanding.  "So, what do 
you teach?"

"World History."

"Really?  I minored in history.  In college I wrote my 
thesis on oratory in the Roman Senate."

"You're kidding.  Classical Rome is my favorite 
period.  I'm teaching a unit on it now, in fact, not that 
my students know anything about it beyond what 
they've gleaned from Little Caesar's pizza 

"Oh, I love history.  I teach Civics -- but then, you 
probably guessed that, if you knew Mrs. Chernoff."

He lowered the car again, then picked up the lug 
wrench and started tightening the nuts.  "Just about 
done here," he said, a little regretful that their 
conversation would have to end.

"Wow.  You made quick work of that."

He couldn't help smiling when he heard the admiring 
note in her voice.  It had been a long time since a 
woman had talked to him that way.  "It's not hard, if 
you've done it before."

She clasped her hands behind her back, an oddly 
engaging gesture.  "Unfortunately, I was a flat tire 

He laughed, thinking it sounded like one of the 
movies his father would have made: "I Was a 
Teenage Zombie," "I Was a Flat Tire Virgin."  With a 
last turn of the lug wrench he finished the job, and got 
to his feet.  "Just don't drive on the spare any longer 
than you have to."

"I won't," she said a little shyly.  "Well..."  She looked 
down at the gravel.  "Thank you.  That was very nice 
of you."

Great googly-moogly, she was pretty, he thought.  No 
wedding ring, either; and she hadn't mentioned a 
husband or a boyfriend.  In fact she'd definitely said 
that no one but the FBI agents was staying at the bed 
and breakfast with her.

He felt a nervous flutter in his stomach, and took a 
deep breath.

"Look," he said.  "I'm really out of practice at this.  I 
haven't asked a woman out in thirteen years.  I wasn't 
even that good at asking women out when I was in 
practice.  But I was wondering -- would you like to 
have dinner with me tonight?"

"Dinner?" she asked.  "Just the two of us?"

His heart was pounding.  "Well, yeah.  I mean, we 
don't have to if you don't want to, but I just thought 
maybe you wouldn't know anyone else in town, and -- 

"Yes," she said, cutting off his nervous babble.  "I'd 
love to."

He blinked at her.  "You would?"

She gave him a blinding smile.  "Absolutely.  I was 
hoping you'd ask."

"Oh," he said, and just stood there, too surprised and 
delighted at his good luck to manage anything more.

She scooped up the jack and the lug wrench, and 
opened the trunk of her car.  He realized he must 
look ridiculous, standing around grinning foolishly, 
and helped her by lifting the flat into the spare 

"Thanks," she said again, giving him a definite look of 
encouragement before slamming the trunk closed.

For the first time in weeks, he felt confidence flooding 
through him.

He followed a step behind as she went to the driver's 
side door and slipped in behind the wheel.  "I'll pick 
you up at the B & B at seven o'clock," he said, 
stooping a little to speak through her car window.  
"That should give me time to go home and change, 
and -- "

Oh Good Christ, he thought suddenly as she smiled 
and turned the key in the ignition.  He'd forgotten all 
about the demon.  How could something so important 
have so completely slipped his mind that way?  He 
had to stop it before anyone else got hurt.  "Wait, 
Rachel, maybe we'd better -- "


Just then, as if his thoughts had conjured the 
diabolical thing, he spotted it -- the demon.  There it 
was.  The demon was behind the car, creeping 
toward him in all its yellow-eyed malevolence.

Mr. Kopeck felt the hair on the back of his neck stand 

"Oh shit..." he breathed.

It was the most coherent speech he could manage.  
Dimly he realized he'd left the holy water lying 
forgotten on the grass -- far, far out of reach...

End 09/10

Mulder tried to collect his thoughts.  He wondered 
how to explain what was bothering him without 
sounding like some whiny self-absorbed panelist on 

"Scully," he said finally.  He reached out and took her 
hand.  "I'm not a kid any more."

He felt silly, saying it out loud.  In fact there was 
something silly about this whole situation, about the 
way she was sitting beside him fully clothed while he 
was wearing nothing but slightly threadbare cotton 

She regarded him gravely.  "Neither am I, Mulder."

"No, Scully.  I mean I'm getting old -- really old.  Gray 
hair, bad knees, the whole bit."

"Is that so?"  She lifted a critical eyebrow.  "You look 
spry enough."

He shook his head, rejecting her teasing tone.  
"Scully...have I ever told you how old I was when I 
finally had sex for the first time?"

She thought for a moment.  "No, I don't think you 

"I'd just turned nineteen," he said, hoping it explained 
everything.  "Nineteen."

She seemed to consider this for a moment, then 
asked in apparent puzzlement, "Is there something 
significant about that number?"

He looked sadly up at her.  "I was in my prime then, 
Scully -- nineteen.  And now I'm as old as TWO 
nineteen-year-olds put together.  Older.  I've lived a 
whole lifetime's worth of being sexually active."

"Nineteen is a whole lifetime?" she asked in dubious-
Scully fashion.

He waved his free hand.  "Whatever.  You know what 
I mean."

"No," she said, her forehead furrowing.  "I don't."

He sighed.  He could remember how he'd felt when 
he'd lost his virginity.  On that long-ago Saturday 
night, as he'd eagerly begun the main event in his 
cramped little room at Oxford, he'd thought himself 
pretty damned old to be having sex for the first time.  
But no matter how old he'd thought he was then, it 
was nothing to how old he was now.

"When I was nineteen," he explained, "nothing was 
gray, and nothing creaked.  At nineteen, I had my 
whole life ahead of me.  I had it going on."

She gave a snort.

So much for Scully's lending him a sympathetic ear, 
he thought.  "You find that funny?"

"Mulder, I can believe you had it going on," she said, 
leaning back on one arm and giving him a 
challenging stare.  "The question is, did you know 
what to do with it?"

His brows lowered in a frown.  "You can laugh if you 
want to, but it's not funny to me."

"Mulder, one gray hair does not make you Rip van 
Winkle.  Lots of women color their hair every month 
to cover up a little gray -- not that I'm confessing 

"What about that crack about how you wished you'd 
known me in my prime?"

"I didn't mean that literally.  In fact it was supposed to 
be a compliment, as in, 'If you're this good now, what 
must you have been like then?'"

He saw nothing but visions of walkers and Viagra 
bottles.  That would be him one day, he thought, 
wearing checked polyester pants and driving a car 
with the Northstar System.  "So you admit I'm going 

Scully looked like she wanted to roll her eyes.  "I 
never said that."

"But when we were having sex before -- " he began 
vehemently, brows drawn together.  He caught 
himself before finishing the thought.

She gave him a sharp look.  "What?"

"Never mind."

"No, you were saying something.  What about when 
we were having sex before?"

He looked away, and sighed.  How pitiful was this 
conversation?  "You just seemed like your mind 
wasn't even on it."

She blinked in astonishment.  "I did?"

"Yes," he said, nodding sadly.  "You did.  Like you 
weren't really enjoying yourself."

"Really?"  Her voice had risen an octave in surprise.  
"Because I was enjoying myself.  Very much.  I mean, 
I thought it was obvious when I..."  She made a 
flustered gesture.

"Well, yeah, that part was obvious," he 
acknowledged.  "But otherwise..."  He sighed again.

That was another thing old people did, Mulder 
thought unhappily.  They sat around sighing all the 
time.  For God's sake, he ought to just go out and buy 
himself a subscription to Modern Maturity right now.

"Mulder," Scully said gently beside him.  She 
squeezed his fingers, and waited for him to look at 
her.  "I think we've been operating at cross-purposes.  
You know, at first I thought maybe you'd decided to 
take this case because of autumn in New England.  I 
thought the romance was built-in."

He looked at her in confusion.  "Scully, I wouldn't 
choose a case just for that."

"I realize that now, Mulder.  We both take this work 
seriously, and we're on the government's nickel.  But 
it was flattering, at least at first, to think that's what 
you had in mind.  In fact, I was pretty unhappy with 
you when I realized you were building a case during 
what was supposed to be a romantic weekend."

"Oh," he said.  "So that's what that was about."

"I didn't know you were feeling under-appreciated.  
And it certainly never occurred to me while we were 
having sex that you were looking for some proof, 
some big SIGN, that you're still attractive to me."

Sheesh, what a schlemiel I am, Mulder thought 
morosely.  I'm sitting here in my underwear next to a 
beautiful woman, whining about how I'm losing my 
sex appeal.  He stared at the wall opposite them, 
pretending to be fascinated by the rose pattern on the 

She set her hand on his bare thigh.  "And I do find 
you attractive, Mulder," she said huskily.  "Look, 
maybe you're not nineteen any more.  But do you 
really think I'd be interested in a nineteen-year-old?  
He'd be a boy, Mulder.  You're a man.  And every 
year that passes just makes you more attractive to 

He grunted doubtfully.

"Mulder, have I ever lied to you?"

Silence fell -- the perfect silence of a quiet country 
bed and breakfast without so much as a television to 
disturb the stillness.  Vaguely he realized her hand 
was on his leg, just inches from more interesting 
territory.  When he was nineteen that hand would 
have been the only thing on his mind, and here it had 
taken long minutes for the realization even to dawn 
on him.

Neither of them spoke.

"I just hate this, Scully," he said finally.  "I hate that 
the best part of my life was already over before I even 
met you."  His mouth twisted, and he stared down at 
her hand.

She leaned her head closer and smiled up at him.  
"'Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.'"

Mulder laughed hollowly.  "You forgot, the rest of that 
line is 'the last of life.'"

"'The last of life, for which the first was made,'" she 
corrected.  "Nope, I don't think I agree that the best is 
already behind you, Mulder.  Age isn't going to wipe 
away your intelligence, or your personality.  Besides, 
there's a lot to be said for experience.  I'm afraid you 
and your gray hair and your bad knees are stuck with 

He did not look up, but his frown faded just the same.  
Ah, Scully; he should have known he could count on 
her.  Maybe the future wasn't going to be so bad after 
all.  And her hand was on still on his thigh...

"Of course, if you've just lost interest in sex," she said 
lightly, "I guess we'll have to think of something else 
to do together from now on.  We could take up 
cooking, maybe."

"I hate cooking," he said, with a note of spirit creeping 
back into his tone.  "Wouldn't you rather just eat take-

"Maybe we could play canasta."

"I'm afraid I'm not very good at cards."

"Square dancing?"

He smiled at her.  "With my bad knees?"

"Well, then," said Scully matter-of-factly, and began 
to unbutton her blouse.  "I guess we're just going to 
have to fuck."


Mr. Kopeck stood frozen to the spot, his blood 
running cold, every hair standing on end.

The demon's thin lips drew back, revealing razor-
sharp teeth.  It mouthed something at him:  "Praepara 
mori" -- prepare to die.

Mr. Kopeck felt as if he were caught in some 
unspeakable nightmare.  He opened his mouth to 
yell, but he couldn't make any sound come out.  He 
could only watch helplessly as the demon slunk 
toward him, its belly low to the ground, creeping 
closer in all its hideousness.

Mr. Kopeck screwed his eyes shut, afraid to look.  So 
this was how it ended.  Bracing himself for the blow, 
he mentally counted down the seconds he had left.



He heard the hum of the Mustang's engine, a thud, a 
crunch, and the squeal of brakes.

"Oh my God!" Rachel Thornton cried.  "Did I hit 

Slowly, afraid of what he might see, Mr. Kopeck 
opened his eyes.  Rachel was looking at him 
anxiously, her hand on the gearshift, uncertainty 
written all over her lovely face.

He glanced from Rachel to the demon, and back to 
Rachel again.

He gulped.  "Um...I think you did."

She threw her car door open and leapt out.  "Oh my 
God!" she cried, looking behind the tire and raising 
one hand to her mouth in horror.  "I completely 
squished it!"

"Yep," said Mr. Kopeck, impressed.  "You sure did."

"What was it?" she asked, glancing to him with a look 
of confusion.  "Please tell me it wasn't somebody's 
pet.  I'll die if I just killed somebody's cat."

"No," he said.  "I saw it out of the corner of my eye, 
and I think it was a...a woodchuck or something."

"A woodchuck," she repeated.  "That's not so bad.  
Oh, my God, did that ever scare the daylights out of 
me."  She sighed, and held out her hands to him. 
"Feel me, I'm shaking all over."

"Feel you?" Mr. Kopeck said in a hushed tone.  He 
did not have to be asked twice.


"Oh my God," said Scully.  And then, a little more 
breathlessly, "Oh, Mulder..."

He lifted his face from between her thighs, a smile 
spreading slowly across his features.  "Learned that 
trick when I was twenty," he said smugly.

She didn't answer, just lifted her hips a little.  He 
recognized nonverbal communication when he saw it, 
and went enthusiastically back to work.

Enthusiastically -- and passionately.  He licked, he 
sucked, he dove in happily with his whole face like a 
man going for the blue ribbon in a pie-eating contest.  
He used two long fingers to do that little trick with her 
G-spot, the one that always drove her wild.

Scully moaned.  Mulder lifted his head again for little 
self-congratulation.  "Picked that one up when I was 
twenty-two," he said.

"Mulder -- " Scully urged, squirming impatiently 
against him.  He wasn't sure whether the choked 
sound of her voice was a sign of frustrated lust, or 
just the result of the 69 position in which they'd 
arranged themselves.

He set back to work.

One thing about pushing forty, he thought: sometimes 
slowing down a little could be a good thing.  He 
wasn't sure he could have managed this kind of 
concentration a few years ago, under the 
circumstances.  Her mouth was hot on him, making 
him feel like his brain was made of helium.

He rolled his tongue into a U, and slid it slowly up and 
down the shaft of her clitoris.

"Oh my God!" Scully gasped, her fingers 
spasmodically clutching at his hips.

"Twenty-three," he tried to say.  This time he didn't 
dare stop, and so he sounded rather like a patient in 
the dentist's chair -- an unusually happy patient.

"Ohhhh..." Scully moaned, pressing harder against 
him.  "Oh, oh, oh -- "

Mulder smiled to himself.

The night was still young, and he still had a good 
sixteen years' worth of experience left with which to 
dazzle her.


For once, Kandee thought as she and her date made 
their way from the stadium, Brittany was right: Phil 
really was cute.  A little shy, maybe, but he was tall, 
brown haired, inarguably athletic, and he looked 
positively lunchable in the jeans and Henley he'd 
changed into after the game.  Best of all, as far as 
Kandee could tell, he'd already fallen under her spell.  
How else could you explain that glazed but adorable 
expression?  He was either hers or he was a zombie, 
and either way, she mused, swinging hers hips just 
enough to make the captive walking behind her 
audibly catch his breath, it would be fun.

"...and then we can hit the diner, 'kay, dude?  I'm, 
like, starved," Mike was saying.

"Sounds good to me," Brittany agreed.  "Sound okay, 

Kandee stopped on the curb at the edge of the 
parking lot and pouted winsomely.  Phil narrowly 
missed walking into her, and she had to suppress the 
urge to smile.  She felt a sudden surge of power: she 
definitely had his attention.  "I don't know..."

"You got something else on?" Mike asked, surprised.  
Brittany had probably told him she was a done deal.

Her eyes flitted to Brittany.  Poor Brittany.  Her friend 
clearly had no idea how this game was played.  How 
she'd ever landed Mike, Kandee couldn't imagine.  
Well, she thought, shaking her blonde mane for 
effect, Brittany was about to get a lesson from the 
master.  Watch and learn, Miss Sweetness-and-light, 
watch and learn.

"Oh no.  It's not that, Mike.  I can't think of anything I'd 
rather do, really.  But I'm supposed to work at, like, 
eight, and I totally need to wash up before I could 
possibly go, like, anywhere.  I mean" -- she turned 
toward Phil, arms at her sides, cheerleading sweater 
pulled tight across her chest -- "just look at me.  I.  
Am.  A.  Mess."

Right on cue, Phil all but whimpered.

"S'okay," Mike said and slung his arm across his 
girlfriend's shoulder.  "Phil can give you lift back to 
your place, I'll take Britt back to hers, and we can 
meet up after.  That'll still give us a couple hours."

"Oh?"  Kandee dipped her chin and looked demurely 
up at Phil through her lashes.  "You didn't come on 
the team bus, Phil?"

"Huh?  What?"  He gave a shy smile and shifted the 
gym bag he was carrying -- hers -- from one hand to 
the other.  "Oh.  No.  I didn't come on the bus."

"No?"  Kandee smiled and twirled the end of her 
ponytail.  "Well, like, how *did* you get here?"

For a minute, he looked confused, utterly baffled.  It 
suited him, she thought.  Suited him very well.  And 
unlike the rest of the farm boys she'd met since 
coming to Vermont, he actually had the good sense 
to look up from her chest occasionally.  He had 
potential, maybe, and he lived far enough away that 
he wouldn't be hanging around all the time, getting 
under foot.  And, now that she thought about it, she 
hadn't had anyone following her around doing the 
love-sick puppy thing in a while.  She'd missed that.

"Oh," he said finally.  "I drove.  My -- my car."  He 
gestured toward the parking lot.

"So, we have a plan?" Mike asked.  "You drop 
Kandee off and swing back to my place, I'll drop 
Brittany off and meet you back there, and then we'll 
meet up in, say, an hour and a half?"

She kept hair twirling, ignoring Mike.  "Your own car?  
How handy."  Her dimples deepened.  She wondered 
vaguely which of the dirty pick-up trucks she was 
going to have to pretend to be thrilled to ride around 
in.  Still, it was something.

"Yeah."  He nodded absently and then pulled a set of 
keys from his team jacket, and hit the remote.  Much 
to Kandee's surprise and delight, the headlights on a 
sleek black BMW Z3 convertible flashed briefly in the 
gathering twilight.

"That's your car?"  Kandee tried not to sound 
impressed, but it was difficult.  Looked like there was 
more to this guy than just good looks and excellent 
taste in women.

"Yeah, I got it for my birthd..."

"Yo, earth to Phil," Mike interrupted, snapping his 
fingers in his cousin's face.  "Plan?  Have we got one, 

"Uh huh, we do," Kandee answered.  She had a plan, 
all right.   "Come on, Phil."  She crooked her finger, 
turned on her heel and started toward the BMW at a 
fast enough clip to leave him a good two paces 
behind.  She didn't have to look back to know he was 

Halfway across the lot, she felt a hand grip her 
shoulder and spin her around.  "Hey!" she yelped, 
half in surprise, half in indignation.  "What the hell do 
you -- ?"

"Sorry."  Phil pulled his hand away as if it had been 
burned and took a step back.  "Sorry," he said again.  
"I just didn't want you to step in that."  He nodded at 
the gravel before her.

Kandee turned and looked down.  It was difficult to 
see clearly in the dusky half-light, but there in front of 
her was a lumpy puddle of something disgusting that 
she would certainly have stepped in if he hadn't 
stopped her.  "Ew!  That's gross!  Like, what is that, 

"Don't know," Phil answered.  He crouched down for 
a better look.  "Road kill of some kind.  Squashed 
groundhog and radiator fluid, maybe.  Can't imagine 
what else that green stuff would be."  He stood again 
and smiled sheepishly.  "Sorry I grabbed you.  Really.  
I just didn't want you to ruin your shoes."  He paused.  
"Um, those are Corrados, right?"

Kandee lifted an eyebrow.  How did FarmBoy know 
about shoes?  Women's shoes?  "Ah, yeah."

"That's a nice shoe," he stated authoritatively.  "You 
wouldn't want gopher guts all over 'em.  Ruin the 

"Right.  Right."  Kandee's brows met in a puzzled 
frown.  Even she had her limits.  "Like, what are you?  
A foot fetish guy ?  Or cross-dresser or something?  
'Cause, I am so totally not into that.  Or, like, that."

Phil shook his head, abashed.  "No, sorry."  He 
shrugged and looked away.  "Family business."  He 
shrugged again.  "We sell shoes."

"Oh?  So what, like, you're all shoe salesmen?"

He shrugged again.  "Not exactly.  My family owns 
Yorkview Shoes."

"Oh."  Kandee recognized the name of a medium-
high end chain.  Whenever she made it to the mall in 
Burlington, it was one of the first places she hit.  "So, 
what, like, you guys own the store in the mall?"

"Yeah."  Phil nodded, his eyes still averted.  "That 
one, and the other 283 on this side of the 

Kandee blinked.  284 stores?  She could almost hear 
the cha-ching of cash registers in the distance.  Sure, 
it was retail, but around here, well, a girl couldn't be 
too choosy.  "Really?"

"Yeah," Phil nodded.  "It's not glamorous, but 
um...well, I can get you a discount.  If you want one," 
he added hastily.

If she wanted one?   Oh, this was too good to be true.  
"That would really, really be nice."  She smiled 
dazzlingly.  "Come on."  She extended her hand and 
waited for him to take it.  He looked, momentarily, as 
if it were a poisonous snake.  She wiggled her 
fingers.  "Phil, come on.  I won't bite.  And we don't 
want to keep your cousin waiting.  So tell me...how 
big a discount?"

Hand in hand, they sidestepped the last earthly 
remains of the demon.


The diner was busy.  Apparently, Craftsbury 
Common's greasy spoon was the hip place to be at 
eleven o'clock on a Sunday morning.

>From her seat opposite him, Scully eyed Mulder's 
heaping plate.  "I still can't believe you're going to eat 
all that," she said.

"Have to keep my strength up," he answered, 
grinning around a mouthful of turkey sandwich.  This 
won him one of her rare smiles, fleeting but 
wonderfully naughty for the instant that it lasted.  Oh, 
that smile...

He suspected they were both giving off an 
unmistakable post-coital glow.  She was leaning 
closer than usual, stealing more food off his plate 
than usual, speaking to him in a more teasing tone 
than usual.  He could feel himself wearing the 
relaxed, self-satisfied look of a man who'd just made 
a beautiful woman cry out his name in the heat of 
passion -- twice.

So what if the case hadn't gone his way, he thought 
with equanimity.  So what if Scully had joked just this 
morning, between the first and seconds bouts of sex, 
that maybe now he'd listen the next time she insisted 
there had to be a commonplace explanation for a 
death.  Well, okay...maybe it bothered him a little to 
be wrong; but all in all, this trip had been well 

The little bell above the entrance to the diner jingled, 
and he glanced over to see Mr. Kopeck coming in, 
dressed in weekend attire and accompanied by an 
attractive blonde.  It was the blonde who drew a 
second look from Mulder.  He'd noticed her at the bed 
and breakfast; it would be hard not to notice those 
curves and those tousled curls.  She was smiling at 
Mr. Kopeck, and he was smiling back, the sort of 
goofy smile that made them look like they both 
wanted to jump on each other and go at it right there 
in the doorway of the diner.

"Looks like someone's got himself a new friend," 
Scully said in an undertone.

"Mmm-hmm," Mulder replied affably.

Under the table, he felt something brush his ankle, 
then slide seductively over his instep.  He glanced at 
the floor in surprise.  "Are you playing footsie with 

"Maybe," she said with an air of intrigue.

"Agent Scully," he said, shaking his head in 
amazement.  "If this is how you behave when I'm 
wrong about a case, remind me to be wrong more 

Hiding a smile, she looked down into her empty 
coffee cup.  "I could use a refill on this.  How about 

He shook his head.  "Nah, I'm fine."

She searched the crowded diner for their waitress.  
"Oh, brother," he heard her mutter.

He followed her gaze.  Kandee was leaning over a 
booth in the corner of the diner, both elbows on the 
table, ass in the air, talking to Brittany Woodall and 
two football players.  Or perhaps, Mulder thought, it 
might be more accurate to say she was talking to just 
one of the football players.  Her face was mere inches 
from that of the taller boy, a shy-looking young man 
who was gazing at her in doe-eyed infatuation.

"Excuse me," Scully called loudly.  "Could I get some 
more coffee over here?"

Kandee turned her head and shot them a look of pure 
poison.  "Can you, like, possibly keep your shirt on for 
a minute?  I'll be right with you."  Then she turned her 
attention back to her friends.

Scully sighed.  "Did I ever tell you that I've never 
much liked cheerleaders?" she said to Mulder.

"Did I ever tell you about my cheerleader fantasy?"

"Did I ever tell you that if you know what's good for 
you, that fantasy will be about how you turn down the 
self-centered pom-pom girl in favor of the brainy but 
exceptional beauty in the Chess Club?"

Mulder chuckled, and watched as she stole another 
french fry from his plate.  "What time is our flight out 
of Burlington?"

"Four o'clock."

"That should give us some time to figure out what 
we're going to put in our report."

"What do you mean 'we,' Tonto?"  She dipped her 
french fry liberally in his ketchup.  "I already know 
what I'm going to write in my report: one accidental 
overdose, one death by mischance, and one animal 
attack.  Case closed."

"Okay," he said.  "But 'Vampire Vixens on Fire' would 
make for much more interesting reading."

Scully declined to take the bait.  Instead she glanced 
over at Kandee, who was still nose-to-nose with the 
football player in the corner booth.  "I think it would 
be quicker if I just got my coffee myself," she said 
with a sigh.

"I'd say that's a safe bet," Mulder agreed.

She slid out of the booth, cup in hand, and went to 
the lunch counter.  Mulder watched her as she 
crossed the diner, appreciating the rear view as she 
walked away.

He felt a tap on his shoulder.  He turned his head to 
find Mr. Kopeck in the otherwise empty booth behind 
him, one arm leaning on the back of the bench seat.

"Yes?" Mulder asked in mild surprise.

The teacher looked sheepish.  "There's something I 
thought you ought to know," he said, voice low.  "It's 
about your investigation."

"Actually we're closing the file on -- "

"You know that thing you told me?" Mr. Kopeck 
interrupted.  "How I wasn't going to solve my problem 
until I got over the conflict I was feeling?  You know, 
about...uh..."  He fumbled for a way to complete the 

"Sex?" Mulder supplied.  This morning, and last night 
too for that matter, had left him in an expansive mood.

Mr. Kopeck nodded.  "Yes.  Sex.  Well, I think that 
problem is solved."  He glanced over to his own 
booth, where the attractive blonde was sipping a 
vanilla milkshake through a straw.  "On, um, on both 

"I'm happy to hear that," said Mulder.  "On both 

The teacher broke into a grin, a beatific expression 
lighting up his features.  "Yeah," he said in a voice 
full of wonder.  "It is pretty cool."

The blonde, as if sensing she was being talked about, 
glanced over to where they were sitting.  She 
blushed, and a slow, cat-that-got-the-canary smile 
deepened the dimples in her cheeks.  Mr. Kopeck 
wasn't the only one who looked to be in love, Mulder 

Mulder stuck out his right hand.  "Well, 
congratulations," he said, shaking hands with the 
teacher.  "I'm glad to see things are looking up for 

"Thanks."  Mr. Kopeck got to his feet.  "And thanks for 
your advice before."  With a last bashful look, he set 
off to rejoin the pretty blonde.

"What was that all about?" asked Scully, returning to 
the booth with her coffee cup in her hand.

"What?  Oh, nothing."  Mulder's eyes flickered over 
her lazily.  "He was --I was just telling him how you 
were right about the deaths here being nothing but 

She eased into the seat opposite him.  "That's very 
big of you, Mulder."

He shrugged.  "When you're right, you're right, 
Scully."  He felt her foot teasing its way along his calf 
again, and had to struggle not to smile.  "You about 
ready to go, as soon as you finish that coffee?"

"Yes, if we can just get the check."

They looked over to their waitress and her knot of 
friends.  Kandee remained oblivious to all the 
customers in the diner.  She was talking a mile a 
minute, while the poor love-struck football player 
hung on her every word.

"It might take a while," Mulder observed.

They fell into a thoughtful silence.  Scully sipped her 
coffee.  Under the table, her toes caressed his shin.

"You want to meet me in the ladies' room?" Mulder 
asked after a minute.

She set her coffee cup down with a clink.  "I thought 
you'd never ask."

And, demon or no demon, the two agents set out to 
enjoy a little deviltry of their own.



Although we've taken a few liberties with it here, 
Craftsbury Common is a real village in Vermont; you 
can see the 1950s version -- not so very different 
from the 2000 version -- in the Hitchcock film "The 
Trouble With Harry."  We didn't make up the words 
Mr. Kopeck uses in his attempt to exorcise the 
demon, either.  They're taken directly from the rite of 
exorcism in the Rituale Romanum.

There are several people who helped make this story 
possible, and we would like to thank them:

First, Emily Short was generous enough to proofread 
the Latin.  She not only brought an expert knowledge 
of Latin grammar to the process, but she even 
recognized a smutty phrase bastardized from 
Catullus.  PD was VERY impressed -- not to mention 
grateful, since her careful editing caught more than 
one of his mistakes.  He promises he will never again 
forget that "epulor" is a deponent verb.

Second, two trusted friends looked over the final draft 
for us, Euphrosyne and Dasha K.  Both had a lot on 
their respective plates, but generously shared their 
time, talent, and wisdom with us.  Their insights were, 
as always, invaluable.

We'd also like to thank Ebird, for pestering, 
encouragement, and just cuz.

Last but not least, we would like to thank jerry, our 
beta reader extraordinaire, who worked on this story 
with us from beginning to end.  She took time out of 
her busy schedule to go over each section with a 
fine-toothed comb.  She helped us make Mr. Kopeck 
more sympathetic, and cast the tie-breaking vote in 
our rare artistic differences.  Without her unflagging 
encouragement, this story would probably never have 
been written.

Our sincere appreciation to everyone who helped us, 
and to all of you who've read this far.  If you're one of 
those patient readers, how about dropping us a line 
so we can thank you, too?

End 10/10

    Source: geocities.com/maybe_aa