OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM
|SCULLY'S CASE FILES|
ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK
At the base of the first arch of the stone bridge two shadowy figures huddled and spoke in hoarse whispers. One of them held a light-weight metal detector and a tiny flashlight, its beam directed at the ground. The other had a spade poised over the circle of light. "I tell you I donít like this, Fred."
Fred yanked the detector headphones off and let them hang around his neck. "Shut up Charlie and just dig." Still the man hesitated. "Weíre pushing our luck. This is crazy under a full moon. We could be seen for Godís sake."
"Yeah, well, you try digging up a shell in the pitch dark. Damn thing could blow your goddamned face off."
"I tell you the whole idea is crazy. The stuff is too unstable."
"Just dig, Charlie. Each one of these is five hundred in our pocket. Easy money." Charlie moaned softly.
"Easy?" he muttered, but he did begin to dig.
Engaged in their illicit work the men were unaware they were being watched. Twenty yards off an armed soldier eased out of the shadows. He wore a cap with a black leather visor, a wool-shell jacket with blue trousers and low heel brogans. A pistol holster hung from his black leather cartridge belt on one hip, a bayonet in scabbard on the other. Over his shoulder he wore a heavy wood canteen. The soldier was dressed in the uniform of the Civil War. He raised his musket.
Fred felt rather than heard the shot as the bullet whizzed past him. He was spattered with blood and brains as Charlie fell lifeless, a gaping hole in the middle of his forehead. Horrified, Fred dropped the detector and ran for dear life.
The soldier had already knelt to reload. Heíd taken a cartridge from the rear box on his belt and bitten off the end with his teeth to empty the contents into the barrel, then he pulled the ramrod from the carrying groove to ram home the ball. Skilfully he withdrew the rammer and stuck it into the ground at his side. The soldier primed the musket by half-cocking it, took out the percussion cap and placed it over the nipple at the lock. He fully cocked the hammer and took aim. All this took just twenty five seconds. The soldier fired.
WASHINGTON D.C., 9am
"What do you know about the Civil War, Scully?"
"Only what I learned at school."
Mulder nodded and pressed the slide remote. Two slides: each showed a dead man; one shot in the head, the other in the back. "Two murders, both committed the same night in the Antietam Battlefield Park in Maryland a week ago."
Automatic FBI jurisdiction Scully knew, but mainstream surely . . . "So whatís your interest?" She folded her arms. "At first glance not much," he confessed. "Until I read the ballistics report." He indicated that and the autopsy reports before her on the desk. Scully picked them up and began to scan the contents with practised speed. Mulder continued. "Both men were killed with a point fifty eight calibre minie ball. The weapon used was a Springfield rifled musket."
She raised an eyebrow and he gave her time to digest the information. The ballistics gave some background. Scully read:
A paper cartridge containing a conical lead bullet packed on top of black powder. Ignited at the lock by a percussion cap containing half a grain of fulminate of mercury. On firing the bulletís hollow base expanded to fit the grooved bore. A sooty residue remained making reloading harder with each shot. Unlike the full metal jacket projectile, a large, soft lead bullet will, when it hits the body, and especially bone, deform,creating a violently lacerated wound far out of proportion to the calibre, thus abdominal wounds were considered mortal.*
The autopsy reports confirmed this. From familiarity Scully knew that Mulder had something further to add. She looked up enquiringly. He smiled. "Hereís the clincher, Scully; the ammunition and powder were manufactured in eighteen sixty one."
Scully concealed her surprise as her certainty rose. She knew where this was leading. "Youíre suggesting what? That these men were killed by a ghost? Mulder, a ghost couldnít even carry a musket let alone load and reload one." Mulder wasnít perturbed. Heíd found that where the paranormal was concerned there were no hard and fast rules. Anything was possible. "Youíll notice," he pointed out, "the lack of physical evidence which can be directly attributed to a third person. What does that tell you?"
"That the murderer has been very clever."
"Or psychic manipulation."
"What!?" Scully had been thrown a curve ball. It was not what she had expected.
Amused at her expression he began to explain: "A spirit enters and takes over the body of a person, usually someone endowed with psychic awareness, in order to assume earthly form. As a result normal sensory functions can be performed. Levitation abilities are often reported in such cases."
Scully had too much respect for Mulder to scoff at the idea out of hand, but it had to be said. "I think that even exceeds the realms of extreme possibility," she told him gently.
"As I see it," he continued unconcerned, "we have three options: spirit manifestation, poltergeist activity, or spectral psychic manipulation. I have several X-Files on each of them."
"Doesnít poltergeist activity usually occur in occupied dwellings?"
"Or specific locations. As for the juvenile influence, Iím certain there would be a good proportion of young visitors to that bridge."
Scully pursed her lips. "So, youíre still saying that these men were killed by a ghost." It wasnít a question. He sat down, leaned back in his chair and linked his hands behind his head. "Well now, wouldnít it be interesting to find out?"
Scully took the opportunity to examine the bodies herself. They had been shipped to Quantico the day before at the FBIís request. Although she considered the autopsies efficient and detailed, it wasnít every day that fatal wounds caused by Civil War weapons came to the examinerís bay.
A Form 302 was submitted which Skinner finally approved. A day later Scully and Mulder were in Maryland. They had paid the local law enforcement authorities in Sharpsburg the usual courtesy call and booked themselves into a motel (appropriately enough called The Blue and The Gray) in Main Street before heading out to the park in a rental car. An earlier phone call had set up a meeting with the senior park ranger.
VISITORS CENTRE, ANTIETAM
NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK 10am
As requested, the ranger was waiting for them at the stairs to the centre. Mulder pulled up and he and Scully got out of the vehicle. Their IDs were displayed."Iím Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is Special Agent Dana Scully."
"Kevin OíNeill. Iíve been expecting you." OíNeill shook hands with Mulder and turned to take Scullyís in a similar greeting. For Mulder the handshake lasted far too long. He hadnít failed to notice that OíNeillís smile was equally disarming and revealing. He knew that look. Heíd seen it on other men meeting Scully for the first time. However, for the first time, he saw the look being returned in kind. He cleared his throat which had the desired effect. As the man stood back, Mulder gave him careful scrutiny.
OíNeill couldnít have been more than 35, 36. About 5 foot 10 inches, light brown almost reddish hair, blue eyes framed by steel-rimmed glasses. He had broad shoulders and was in obvious good shape though the brown ranger uniform was not flattering and reminded Mulder of Smoky the Bear. Still, he had to admit there was something about him. OíNeill, aware of the examination, adjusted his glasses. "Youíll be wanting to see the crime scene, I expect." (There was a hint of an Irish accent.) "First let me give you an idea of the ground."
He led them inside. The visitors centre was modern and spacious, incorporating a book store a small research library and museum. A terrain board had been fixed to the wall near the counter. In the glass cabinet beside the board several exhibits in excellent condition were meticulously arranged. There were weapons, artillery shells and uniforms as well as other items. Scully found herself drawn to the wooden case containing a surgeonís field amputation kit - the bone saws, surgical needles, silver wire and silk suture thread, the two different types of tourniquets. She was fascinated.
Mulder noticed a young man
behind the counter wearing a volunteer ranger badge inscribed: Lyle Watkins.
Why he noticed him at all was due to the long sideburns he wore. Lanky,
36 maybe, about 6 foot, dark hair. He looked decidedly out of place. Or
should that be displaced in time?
The terrain board told Mulder the battlefield was larger than he had imagined, spanning something like twelve square miles. Roads and trails formed patterns across the park. Meandering through it, Antietam Creek was a prominent feature. A national cemetery seemed to take up a lot of space. OíNeill pointed to an area tagged as ĎLower (Burnsideís) Bridgeí. "The bodies were located here at the base of the bridge on the Sharpsburg side. Iíll take you down there now if youíre ready." Mulder nodded, then caught sight of the display of various shells in the case. "Are these live?" OíNeill shook his head. "No, theyíve been made safe. But this is the kind of thing Hodges and Baines were after. The Battle of Antietam was known as ĎArtillery Hellí. There are still plenty of them out there." Scully joined the two men. OíNeill continued: "Itís quite a lucrative if dangerous business, Agent Mulder. Relic hunting in parks is against Federal law, but itís becoming a hell of a problem. Weíre undermanned and the FBI has better things to do. Itís low priority."
Scully picked up on the idea. "You suspect organised recovery teams?" He nodded. "Collectors have become selective," he said pointing to a shell in the cabinet. "Once, this common two point nine inch Parrott rifle shell would have gone for as little as a hundred and twenty five dollars. Less common shells could have brought in as much as a thousand. But these days fewer shells are coming out of the ground forcing prices up. Collectors are going for the nice, clean shells regardless of rarity, especially if they come from within the parks."
Mulder understood the implications. "Then collectors by definition arenít on Social Security." OíNeill smiled at his joke. "Collecting these kinds of artefacts certainly requires a relatively healthy financial base, yes. Itís not a cheap hobby to be sure."
"So youíre saying," Scully surmised, "that wealthy sponsors are instigating these relic hunts?"
"Iím certain of it."
BURNSIDEíS BRIDGE 10.45 am
Agents from the regional office in Baltimore had already completed their examinations at the bridge site. The case was still open and the investigation ongoing but the file was now Mulderís. For Mulder it was critical to examine the crime scene personally. He looked for possible traces that other agents would have considered downright spooky. However, he wasnít happy at all when he found that the scene had been reopened to public access. All right, technically the area hadnít been a crime scene since the regional office had taken the tape down after the bodies were removed, and he knew it would be unfair to take it out on OíNeill, but that didnít stop him feeling like it.
He realised the ranger had other concerns. You couldnít let the parkís best known landmark remain cordoned off for long. He was prepared, if grudgingly, to concede him that. However, what trace evidence there may have been had been well and truly disturbed. It was impossible now to determine whether there had been the presence of Holy Ash - the substance that materialises out of thin air during bio-location. Disgusted, Mulder picked up a sizeable rock and pitched it into the creek with the same force he would have used firing one in from right field.
His investigation was beginning to sour badly. There was nothing to suggest anything other than a Ďnormalí case - one any Cherry agent could handle. Obviously he had been wrong. He seriously considered sending the file back to the Baltimore office and returning to Washington. He turned to talk to Scully about it only to find her some distance away with OíNeill. They had walked halfway across the bridge. He remembered the man had been talking about the battle which took place here, but he hadnít been paying much attention.
Scully paused to absorb the view from the apex of the bridge - a rare privilege for special guests, she had discovered. Unlike Mulder, who was always burdened with suspicions of the paranormal, she had been considering the case on its own merits and trying to come to some kind of conclusion. "Have there been any other serious incidents prior to this?" she wanted to know. OíNeill shook his head and joined her at the bridgeís low stone wall. "No, nothing like this. But as I said before relic hunting is becoming a serious concern. Hodges and Baines were only a small part of the problem." Scully nodded. "And someone obviously took drastic exception to it."
"More than that," he said, turning to face her. "This may be rural Maryland, but itís hallowed ground, Agent Scully. The bloodiest single day in American history took place here. In twelve hours of fighting there were over twenty four thousand casualties. Many of the dead still lie in shallow, unmarked graves all over the field. Only a few years ago the remains of four soldiers of the Irish Brigade were discovered on a farm just outside the park."
"The Irish Brigade?" She seemed interested. "Yes, men from Ireland recruited into the Union Army virtually on their arrival in this country."
"Are remains a common find?"
"No, but only last month I myself found remains unearthed as a direct result of a relic hunt. It was desecration pure and simple. Theyíll stop at nothing."
Scully found the revelation particularly disturbing.
Despite his growing suspicion that he was wasting his time Mulder checked over the ground in an attempt to relieve his frustration. But the lack of result of any kind only increased it. Still, there was one other line of enquiry. That guy Watkins. Something about him. He might as well talk to the man - see what he had to say for himself before making any decision. That is if he could pry Scully away.
When his partner and the ranger finally returned from their stroll on the bridge, Mulder spoke to OíNeill about interviewing Watkins and they drove back to the visitors centre. When they got there and as Mulder was about to enter the building he became aware that Scully was not beside him as usual. He turned. She was still at the vehicle with OíNeill and they were talking in low voices. She looked up at him. "OíNeill wants to show me something." Was she asking his permission? "If you can spare her." OíNeill too was relying on courtesy. How could he refuse? "Iíll meet you back at the motel then, Scully." She nodded, stepped up into the Parkís Service Ford beside the ranger and they drove off. Mulder rubbed a hand over his face then walked inside.
Watkins was still behind the counter and Mulder took out his ID. "Mr Watkins can I talk to you a minute? My nameís Mulder. Iím with the FBI." Watkinsí expression remained neutral. "About the murders?" Mulder nodded. "Okay, my shiftís over. Coffee?" The idea sounded good. "Thanks." Watkins left the counter and a large, middle aged woman and took his place.
THE SUNKEN ROAD,
NEAR PIPER FARM 11.30am
The sign had said Richardson Avenue. Running parallel to it the sunken road had dog-legged past a zigzag fence and a clump of trees. Monuments dotted the field. Off to the left Scully could see the grass lay like a thick carpet, rising up on gentle slopes either side to where post and rail fences still stood. It was so peaceful. The rustle of the gentle breeze was broken only by the distant cry of an eagle. The scene was so picturesque it was almost an artistís rendition.
OíNeill spoke quietly. "Around midday on September seventeen, eighteen sixty one, this little farm road earned its battle legend - the Bloody Lane." He escorted her to the observation tower and they climbed up to take in the overview. "This was the Confederate centre and General Lee had ordered it held at all costs. The Irish Brigade fought here, Dana."
His use of her first name had been so natural that she took no offence at his presumption. In fact, his Irish inflection rather pleased her. Scully found herself becoming relaxed, more now than she had been in a long time, and ready to listen.
"The ĎSons of Eriní were renowned for their courage and reckless charges," he continued. "Mostly New York regiments they were - one or two others coming and going at various times during the course of the war. Theyíd been badly cut up in the Cornfield near the Dunkard Church earlier that morning. Then they found themselves ordered to attack this sunken road."
He pointed to a nearby knoll. "Their first task was to clear a split rail fence yonder, but many men fell to artillery fire and sharpshooters. In what could only be described as a hail of iron and lead, the Brigade came on, their green and gold embroidered flags proudly flying. They had a half-English, half-Gaelic battle cry as fearsome as the rebel yell, and they used it to good effect. The Brigade came over another fence they hadnít had time to pull down, and here -" he indicated the area on their left, "were the tightly packed Confederates. On command the Johnnies let loose a devastating volley aimed at the Federalís belt buckles and simply mowed them down."
Unlike earlier at the bridge, when he had simply described the action everything about him told Scully that OíNeill felt himself to be a witness to the fighting here. Heíd removed his glasses to clean them and she could see his reactions. In his mindís eye he was there. Obviously it meant something very deeply to him and his voice became passionate. At first all Scully could see had been simply a beautifully maintained but never-the-less history-laden piece of real estate. Now, despite herself, she was being swept up in the emotional flow.
At the visitors centre, Mulder drank the rest of his coffee and rinsed his cup in the sink. Watkins was seated at the table in the tiny staff room and he was angry. "What do you care about it? They are out there desecrating graves man, stealing relics." He got to his feet. "The FBI does nothing. As far as Iím concerned, those bastards got what they deserved."
"Why?" Mulder was hoping to draw him out. "Why? We go out on patrol, at night, looking for them. We donít get paid but itís not about money. Itís a hell of a big area and thereís only a handful of us. Geezes man, we do our best, but itís not enough and they take whatever they want."
"And that upsets you?"
"It angers me. This is our Heritage, Agent Mulder. Itís who we are!"
Watkins eased past him and took a cap out of his locker, a Confederate cap. When he put it on the man looked as if heíd been born in it. Oddly, Mulder found himself a little offended by the sight. Without realising it, his own Massachusetts Yankee background had been niggled. He hadnít even known it was there. "And thatís where you stand in all this?" Watkins glared at him. "I stand with my kin. Feelings about the war of Northern Aggression have and always will continue to run deep."
"But this is the north."
"Donít know your history do you? Maryland was what they called a borderline state. It remained in the Union but most of the eligible men joined the Confederacy." He looked at Mulder with more than a touch of contempt. "Seems to me the Federal Government hasnít improved any."
OíNeill turned and briefly touched the cross Scully always wore. "They carried their Rosaries in little pouches on their uniforms you know. But those who knew they wouldnít live to return to the Emerald Isle slipped them around their necks. Can you imagine what must been like; going into battle knowing you were going to die?" He replaced his glasses and cleared his throat softly. "The colours went down five times and each time they were snatched aloft. The cry went up: "Erin and Glory!" Hundreds were killed in the first assault. Finally, with their dead scattered about them, the Sixty Third New York eventually found a suitable position and formed a line on the crest over there, only a hundred yards away, and directly overlooking the road. From there they gained their revenge and turned the Confederate trench into a death trap. The casualties were appalling. Andersonís North Carolinians and Gordonís Alabamians held on doggedly until they were decimated by the accurate musket fire from the Federals. The Irish Brigade only withdrew after they had run out of ammunition. Of fifteen hundred men, only five hundred remained on their feet."
"Itís simply too hard to believe," Scully was just beginning to understand, if still finding hard to comprehend. "In four hours of fighting at this place, Dana, four thousand men became casualties." Having seen at first hand the terrible wounds that muskets caused, all Scully could do was shake her head at the suffering, the enormity, and the waste. North or South, it didnít matter. "I never realised . . ."
"The Civil War touches us all, even today." She had to agree. The story of the courage and sacrifice by the Irish Brigade had touched her in an oddly personal way and yet she wasnít sure why. OíNeill brought her back to the moment. "Have you ever traced your Civil War ancestors, Dana?" Scully had to think. "Um, Iím not sure I have any." He took her by the hand to assist her off the tower. "Well then maybe, when youíve completed your investigation, I can help you found out." She smiled.
THE BLUE AND THE GRAY MOTEL,
Scully knocked and entered immediately she heard him say: "Doorís open!" Mulder was sitting on the end of the bed munching sunflower seeds. Heíd changed into casual clothes. The TV was on but he used the remote to turn it off. "Whereíve you been, Scully?"
"Kevin -" She checked herself when she detected a note of mild annoyance and saw the look on his face as if to say íOh, itís Kevin now is it?í Should she explain? Did she even want to? "We lost track of time."
"I tried to call you." Scully changed the subject. "Iíve been doing some checking." she said and took out her notebook. Mulder at least had the sense to respond positively. "What have you found out?"
"Apart from OíNeill, there is another permanent ranger on staff, but heís currently in Washington on a computer course. As well there are four volunteer rangers, all locals."
"Watkins and who else?" He leaned forward.
Scully sat down in a nearby chair and looked at her notes. "Jim Harper, aged nineteen. Tom Phelps, forty eight and David Williams, fifty three. Harper recently joined the Marines and is in Boot Camp at Paris Island. Phelps is the post master and justice of the peace, and Williams runs the local drug store. They canít devote a lot of time, although they have been assisting in the patrols. Watkins is a Gulf War veteran on a military pension and spends most of his days at the park." Mulder nodded thoughtfully. Scully continued: "Harper, Phelps and Williams have close associations with the reanactment unit, the First Maryland Volunteer Infantry. OíNeill is an associate member of the Sixty-Third New York Infantry - Irish Brigade, and Watkins - and this is odd - is a member of the Fourth Virginia Infantry, a Confederate unit."
"He stands with his kin," Mulder echoed and smiled at the irony. Scully raised an eyebrow. "I see . . . Well, all these men own authentic replica uniforms and equipment, which includes muskets."
"Does Watkins own an eighteen sixty one Springfield?" She checked and shook her head. "No, an eighteen fifty eight smoothbore. There are only two eighteen sixty one Springfields amongst the group: Harperís and OíNeillís." Mulder saw her glance away. "So where are they kept?"
"Apparently Harperís is at a gunsmithís awaiting repair to the trigger mechanism."
"He usually keeps it at his home in a lockable steel gun cabinet."
"Itíll have to be checked." He informed her gently. Her reply surprised him.
"Iíve seen it. It has been fired recently, but OíNeill assured me heíd been on the range last weekend. He agreed to surrender the weapon for ballistics examination. Itís now at the sheriffís." And as far as she was concerned that proved his non-involvement.
Mulder stood and paced the floor for several steps then turned to her again.
"Is there any reason you didnít bring me in on this?" He genuinely wanted to know why she had left him high and dry. Scully stood, but her lack of height always put her at a disadvantage when confronting him. It didnít deter her, however, it never did. "Mulder, I canít help thinking youíre being . . . territorial again."
"No, Iím not. Iím just concerned that youíre spending a great deal of time with a possible suspect."
"Suspect? What happened to your theory of a killer ghost?"
"Our killer may be a phantom, but heís certainly no ghost." He touched her shoulder and then walked to the window to look outside. "Theyíre a weird bunch, these Civil War buffs, Scully. Even weirder than saucer freaks. These guys live and breathe this stuff."
"Itís living history. Reanactors appear to share a common passion to keep our heritage alive."
He turned back to her. "Yeah, and Iíve been wondering how far theyíd be willing to go to preserve it. Watkins, OíNeill, other guys like them."
"You mean would they be willing to kill for it?" Scully swallowed hard, conscious of her own suspicions. How could she even think Kevin could be capable of such an act? He seemed such a gentle man. Heíd been in the National Parks Service for ten years and was the parkís chief historian. Yes, Kevin was dedicated to his beliefs almost to a blinding intensity - not unlike someone else she knew. And yet she had seen how far Mulder could go in his quest. Sometimes it frightened her, even if she denied it to herself. There was that same feeling now, and it worried her. "Whatís that?" Mulder asked her suddenly, realising she had been carrying something all this time. "A book. About the Irish Brigade . . . itís a gift."
An awkward silence followed until Scully told him flatly, and with authority: "Weíre going out with Kevin tonight, Mulder." She dropped the pretence of calling OíNeill by his last name. "Heíll be picking us up here at eleven thirty." Mulder looked at her sharply. "You volunteered us, just like that?" He was openly annoyed now. Scully spread her hands. "I donít know what else we can do. Do you have a better suggestion?"
"You and I can take the rental. Cover more ground." That idea didnít appeal to her at all. "And you know your way around, do you? I donít fancy chasing my tail in the dark, Mulder. You know weíd need a four wheel drive." He looked blank, but in fact he was thinking - it was one way to get a first-hand look at a suspect. The ranger might just make a mistake.
Scully became impatient. "Come with us or not. Itís up to you." Then she realised she might be aggravating the situation herself and tried psychology. "Iíd prefer you with me." She smiled; it wasnít a lie. Mulderís mood changed. "Why so late?"
"The shifts are divided - two out at a time. Youíre not afraid of the witching hour, are you?" It was a friendly challenge, nothing more. She could see him weighing up his options. "Then weíd better get some rest - and something to eat," he suggested finally.
Scully hesitated, then said, "Iíve already eaten." Before he could get a word in she added "but Iíll have coffee with you." Mulder had this impossible image of a candle-lit dinner that only an incurable romantic like OíNeill would have offered, not barbecue ribs and soda.
He grabbed his jacket and they moved to the door. Just as she was about to leave, Scully noticed the book sitting on the breakfast table, partly obscured by the visitors centre wrapper. A place was marked with the sales receipt. In gold-stamped lettering she read: ĎMassachusetts Volunteer Regiments in the Civil War.í "A little light reading?" Mulder remained straight faced. "They were all out of copies of Penthouse."
RETURN FILE TO DRAWER..