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Angelico díMorte

Chapter 1

Highway 1, Southern California 11:58 AM

A sports car wound its way through the sharp turns. Music blared out open windows.

The male driver took the final sip from the can, squeezed the sides together, then threw it out the passenger window. It bounced off a No Littering sign and came back into the car, spraying the lone occupant with residual liquid. It landed on the seat.

“What the…?”

He grabbed the trash and waited for a deep canyon. The man sailed the aluminum husk as hard as he could. Two seconds passed and the can came back through the passenger window. It bounced to the floor.

Driver jumped and almost lost control of his car.

A thought came to him, “Planet Earth is your home.”

He fumbled for the litter and chucked it again, mumbling, “Screw you, planet Earth.” He quickly rolled up the passenger window.

Hotshot gassed his vehicle down a long stretch.

All of a sudden, the mangled can sailed in through the driver’s window and hit him in the face. Blood ran from a gash in his cheek. He lost control of the car and crashed into a large boulder.

Chapter 2

Somewhere in South America 3:58 PM

Progress was bringing a road straight through the jungle area. Workers used chain saws to bring down small trees while a tractor ravaged the larger ones. Earthmovers followed and scraped the ground clean. The destruction was advancing deep into the wall of vegetation.

The rain forest Indian stepped out of the foliage near the clear-cut land. He motioned his hands across the scene and all machinery stopped functioning.

Workers were confused as they checked over their equipment. Several men started up their saws and vehicles, but the motors died when the devices came close to any tree. They looked at the Indian. Some men began yelling obscenities. Another jumped down from his earthmover with a rifle in his hands. He aimed his weapon and fired several shots over the Indian’s head. The native stood his ground and stared at the rifleman. Gunslinger aimed straight for the intruder’s heart and pulled the trigger. The bullet mysteriously hit the gunman square in the chest, killing him instantly. A worker closer to the Indian’s position drew a knife and ran toward the defiant apparition. A wound instantly appeared on the attacker’s body where the knife should have cut the Indian. The bleeding assailant screamed as he ran away. All the other men followed their friend.

Chapter 3

Jefferson, New Hampshire 5:50 PM

The young girl tried to occupy the time and darkness by singing the song her mother taught her following several recent nightmare episodes, “Jesus loves me. He told me so. He’s going to come and save my soul. Whether I’m awake or whether I’m asleep. I pray for him my soul to keep.”

She gasped in astonishment as beautiful pinpoints of light formed into an elderly Indian male. Long gray braids surrounded a loving face. He held a flaming torch in one hand as he reached over to the curious child. “Don’t worry, my princess. I am here to protect you. You will be saved soon.”

5:58 PM

Stench filled the air. Garbage took up most of the fenced yard. The property owner walked past an indiscernible carcass jutting from the ground, and smacked it with the stick he was carrying. A small cloud of flies took to the air. They regrouped on the rot feast as he walked by. The determined male continued toward the corner of the property. A gate led out to undeveloped land, and a precarious trail skirting a deep ravine. His goal was a storage box buried at the bottom, and a frightened young girl held captive within.

Before he took the trail down, the man stopped and looked behind him. He was startled to see someone standing very close to him.

“Who the hell are you?” The surprised male swung his walking stick out of reaction.

Without even saying a word, the stranger slammed his opponent in the chest, knocking him over the precipice. The Indian broke a willow branch as the doomed male hit the rocks below.

6:00 PM

Blackness gave way to welcome light as the door to the storage box opened.

The prisoner child queried the uniformed sheriff standing in the doorway, “Did my friend tell you where I was?”

The officer was surprised. “Who’s your friend?”

“Angelico. He said you would find me soon, and you did.”

“Tell me all about him, okay?” He led her away from the scene.

The two talked as medical technicians hauled the serial killer’s twisted body out of the small canyon.

Chapter 4

Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, California 5:00 PM

Two surfers sat on their boards just past the forming breakers. Another young man pushed his way through the last wave and came to the surface.

Harassment began as the first two surfers laid claim to the area.

“Beat it, goon. We were here first.” Shmucko always acted the bravest when a potential adversary was smaller than he was.

Shmuckcicle laughed and followed his friend’s lead, “Don’t make us kick your ass, punk.”

The new arrival ignored the antagonists. He tried for the current breaker, but failed.

Macho boys moved closer to their target as a large wave began to form. All three prepared for the ride. The assault started. Shmucko cut in front of the outsider to slow him down. Shmuckcicle came up from behind and bumped surfboards, knocking the helpless intruder into the water. Attacker aimed the point of his ride at the submerging form, but missed.

The opportunists laughed as they regrouped and hurled verbal insults at the retreating innocent victim.

Later, as the shmuck brothers loaded their gear for the ride home, they continued to boast about their self-centered deed.

5:58 PM

Shmuckcicle sped off the dirt and headed north along the main road. To the west, a spectacular sunset painted the ocean and cliffs in red.

Driver glanced up to his rear view mirror and saw a gray-haired Indian sitting right behind him. Before Shmuckcicle could utter a sound, the phantom reached around and punched him in the face. His recoil sent the vehicle across oncoming traffic and toward the guardrail and waiting cliffs. The automobile hit the curb and somersaulted through the air. It cleared the edge, then crashed upside down on the rocks and pounding surf below.

Although passenger died instantly, he did not realize this. His consciousness remained encased within his mangled body, forced to feel the pain of his injuries. He called to his friend, but to no avail.

Shmuckcicle was conscious, but like his dead partner, he was pinned between the roof and his seat. Seawater gushed through the broken windows. Hungry crabs advanced toward the free meal.

Both the dead and living screamed.

Chapter 5

Next day. Jefferson, New Hampshire Crime Scene

The former serial killer’s backyard was crawling with forensic specialist. FBI Agent Dana Scully walked through the grizzly scene. The unearthed facts horrified her. Eleven young children lost their lives on this property. One last child survived — almost miraculously. It was a strange enough story by local law enforcement and FBI reports to warrant an X-file classification.

Agent Scully followed the path out of the yard and along the ravine. She stopped near the exact spot where the killer went over the edge. Scully stared down to the fateful collection of boulders below. In her estimation, someone pushed the deceased to his death. Tripping and falling would have put the point of impact closer to the base of the cliff.

She looked down to the ground around her feet. The broken willow branch laid off to the left. With her gloved hand, she carefully picked up the evidence and placed it within a plastic bag.

At the storage box, Scully examined the cramped interior. She used a flashlight to inspect the ceiling for traces of soot.

Her telephone rang.

“This is Agent Scully. I’m at the crime scene now. Are you in San Diego?”

Agent Mulder fumbled with his telephone and the car’s shoulder harness. “Yeah. I arrived about ten minutes ago, so it’ll be several hours before I have any useful information. What did you find there?”

Scully continued to inspect the makeshift prison cell. “First, the deceased was definitely pushed to his death. Second, I can’t find evidence of a torch ever being in this box.” She ran her gloved fingers over the ceiling. No blackness showed on her upturned hand. “I’ll have a chemical analysis of the interior done.”

Mulder interjected, “Do you think the victim made up the whole thing about the Indian?”

Scully exited the box. “It’s possible. She’s at that age where many children have make-believe friends. Considering her abduction and ordeal, she could have imagined a savior. Then there’s the mysterious telephone tip from a Mr. Z to the local sheriff leading to the little girl’s rescue. The time of the call coincides with the estimated time of death. I have an interview scheduled with the girl at three. I’m leaving now for the coroner’s office.”

“All right.” Mulder drove his car out of the airport parking lot. “I’m heading for the hospital to talk with the survivor of the wreck. I’ll call you as soon as I have any pertinent information.”

Chapter 6

Morning sun splayed through the blinds. Shmuckcicle was awake, due to the severe pain throughout his whole body. His patch covered left eye itched. He tried to move his arms but the dual casts restricted his efforts. Pain shot through his already throbbing head. Tears formed in his uncovered eye.

A nurse entered the room. “How are you this morning?”

“Terrible.” His best friend was gone. Shmuckcicle would never be able to recover from that emotional wound. “He’s really dead, isn’t he?”

“Yes.” She checked the IV. “Are you in pain?”

“All over. My left eye itches. It still feels like crabs are picking at it.” Memories of the accident flooded his already tortured mind.

“There’s not much I can do for your eye. It’s common to feel sensations in parts of the body that are missing. Do you want something for the pain?”

“Sure.”

The nurse prepared a dose.

A suited man entered the room and flashed his ID. “FBI Agent Mulder. I’d like to ask you a few questions about your accident?”

“I’ve already told the police everything I can remember.” He turned his head slightly away.

Mulder pointed to the patient’s bruised right cheek and eye. “Is this where the suspect hit you?”

Victim affirmed. A strange circular, web-like welt was still evident atop swollen flesh. It almost looked like a tattoo. Mulder thought the design looked familiar, so he sketched the image onto paper.

Although a witness in one of the oncoming cars reported she saw three people in the doomed vehicle, Mulder searched for any other possible explanation. “You were cited for driving under the influence. I think you made up the whole story about your attacker, to make yourself look good.”

“I’m telling the truth. We partied a little after surfing. Not enough to make me wreck. My friend’s head almost twisted off. How do you explain that?”

“Maybe you two got in a slug-fest?”

“He’s my best friend and roommate. We never get in fights. I tell you, man, there was some old guy that punched me and made me lose control.”

Mulder shook his head. “There wasn’t any physical evidence of a third person. How did he get out of the vehicle?”

The survivor was extremely frustrated. “I don’t know. It’s like some really bad nightmare.”

Mulder pulled out a composite drawing of the Indian the young girl from New Hampshire described. “Does this look familiar?”

“That’s him.” Rage sprang up in Shmuckcicle’s battered face. “Where did you get that?”

“It’s from another case.” Agent re-sleeved the drawing. “I may need to talk to you again. Don’t plan on going anywhere.”

Chapter 7

Scully placed the last x-ray photo into the lighted display panel. Several other exposures showed different angles of a skull and spinal column.

A call came through.

She pulled her telephone out. “Yes. I’m looking at x-rays of the serial killer.”

Mulder walked through Sea Port Village. “X-rays?”

“After examining his body, I suspected he experienced more damage than an average fall of this type could produce. Therefore, I had x-rays done. I’m stunned at what I found, Mulder. His skull is cracked completely in half, and every vertebra, including the coccyx, is snapped in two.

“Hold on.”

A lab technician entered the room and handed Scully the bagged evidence she collected at the crime scene. He gave a quick rundown of the results, “It’s a willow branch. No finger prints were detected, but it had to have been broken by a person, in this manner.” He demonstrated by going through the motions of cracking a stick between his hands. “Judging by the amount of dust found in the break, and moisture loss at the fracture, the event probably happened around sixteen hours ago.”

Scully checked her watch. The snapping of the limb happened near the time of the serial killer’s demise.

Mulder stopped walking. “Anything interesting?”

His partner was reluctant. “I’m not sure. I found a broken willow branch at the top of the cliff overlooking the point of impact. It might have been in the suspect’s hands at the time of the victim’s death.”

Mulder had a hunch. “Did you notice any strange injuries or markings on the outside of the body?”

Scully moved to the carcass sprawled out on the examination table. “Could you be more specific?”

“Check any areas where the suspect might have made forcible contact with the deceased.”

She leaned over and noticed a red, circular web-like design on the left breast. It was about three inches in diameter. “There is something here. It’s a bruise in the shape of a ring with some type of spiral net inside. What’s the significance?”

“I’m not sure. The survivor here has the same type of mark where the Indian smacked him. The kid also made a positive ID on our composite sketch.” Mulder glanced along the boardwalk.

Scully was confused. “How could the suspect have traveled from a small town in northern New Hampshire to San Diego in less than three hours? It’s logistically impossible.”

Mulder was just as perplexed. “You got me. It still might be a fluke the suspects look similar.” He was shocked when his trained eye caught the image of the elderly Indian male waving to him from the south entrance of the Trails West shop.

Agent Mulder started for the suspect. “Scully, I’ll have to get back to you. Something weird is going on here.” He pocketed his telephone and drew his gun as he ran toward the figure. “Hey. Wait a minute.”

The gray-haired man disappeared through the open doorway.

Pursuer almost collided with several people as he ran into the store and stopped. A glass display was directly in front of him. The aisles went to the left and right, then down along each side of the interior. Customers were at various places along the narrow passageways. The old Indian was gone, but he could not have made it through the crowd that quickly.

One of the owners of the shop looked up from behind the counter. “Can I help you?”

“FBI. Did you just see an older guy come in here dressed as an Indian?” Mulder glanced over the room.

“No one has been through that door in the last few minutes.”

Mulder was not convinced. He took the aisle to the right and made his way to the north end of the store. Stepping outside revealed nothing. He reentered and made his way toward the center of the establishment. A closed door across the way caught his attention. He cautiously entered and made his way up the steps. A small office led to a dead-end.

A multitude of possibilities ran through Mulder’s mind as he holstered his weapon. Did he imagine it?

Downstairs, the owner approached the confused agent. “Is everything all right?”

“I guess so.” He continued to scan the room, checking for possible hiding places or escape routes.

A male’s voice was heard nearby, “Look up.”

Mulder quickly looked around for the source of the communication, then glanced directly over his head. Native American dream catchers hung from the rafters and ceiling. His eyes locked onto the web design. Then the connection came. He pulled out the sketch he made earlier. It was a perfect match.

He reached up and touched a hoop made from a tree branch. “Is this willow?”

“Yes. Are you familiar with dream catchers?” Betty walked behind the counter.

“A little. What can you tell me about them?”

She handed Mulder a one-inch diameter dream catcher charm. A feather dangled from a looped and beaded strip of suede leather.

“A friend of mine makes these. He includes a description card with each one.”

Mulder turned the attached card over. It read: Several North American tribes made dream catchers in the past. One legend states the night air is full of good and bad dreams. The bad get lost in the web while good dreams continue to the center, then out to the sleeping person. First morning light destroys the trapped bad dreams.

Another belief states that good and bad dreams leave a person and enter the dream catcher. The bad dreams perish while the good dreams focus, empower, and manifest for that person.

Something urged Mulder to purchase the charm.

Chapter 8

Mulder stretched for the light next to the bed and turned it off. He held up the dream catcher for one more look, then placed it on the nightstand. Three phosphorescent beads cast a faint green glow to the area.

It had been a long day, what with questioning witnesses and chasing an Indian specter. Mulder fell easily into sleep.

The dream episode was already in progress as Mulder’s dream-consciousness arrived. He was in hot pursuit of the Indian suspect near a large government building. The old man was fifty feet ahead when he disappeared around a corner. Agent made it to the corner, only to see the suspect retreat through the main entrance.

At the doorway, Mulder passed through an invisible partition.

The scene changed. He found himself approaching a table with a lone occupant. It was Scully, deeply engrossed in a manuscript.

“Dana, what are you doing here?”

She looked up. “Hey, Fox.” She displayed the cover to him. “A lot of answers to our case are found in this book.”

Mulder could not discern the title. “What’s it called?”

“True Papa.”

A uniformed guard stepped up. “Are you two ready?”

Mulder checked the man’s nametag. He read it aloud, “Mr. Z.”

Scully quickly stood up. “You’re the one that knew where the little girl was held captive. We need to take you in for questioning.”

Mr. Z smiled. “Take me where? This is a dream.”

The realization shocked the partners, but not enough to wake them.

Mr. Z urged them to follow him.

The surroundings instantly changed. They were now floating down a long, dark hallway. Mulder and Scully recognized it as the interior of some prison.

They found themselves in the middle of a particular cell.

Mr. Z turned to Scully and Mulder. “Something very important is about to happen. I wanted you to witness it.”

The inmate stirred, then woke up. Both Scully and Mulder recognized the small swastika tattoo on the forehead of the prisoner as he climbed off his bunk and stumbled over to the commode.

The FBI agents looked at Mr. Z. They were astonished to see their Indian suspect step out of Mr. Z’s body. The manifestation headed straight for the unwary inmate.

Mulder asked, “Who is that?”

Mr. Z answered, “That’s my friend, Angelico díMorte.”

They watched as the Indian slipped his right hand into the prisoner’s back. The inmate convulsed, stumbled back, then fell forward, smacking his head on the toilet. A loud crack echoed through the cellblock.

Mr. Z grabbed the agents’ shoulders. A bright light passed into their dream-bodies as their guide whispered, “Remember.”

Mulder awoke with a jolt. He turned the light on and jumped out of bed. He paced the hotel room. The memory of the strange dream was forefront in his mind. The dream catcher caught his eye. Mulder picked it up, then reached into his jacket hanging on the chair. He pulled out his telephone.

Frustrated, he threw the charm and telephone onto the bed. “It was just a dream.” He tried to convince himself.

Something strongly compelled the man to pick up the telephone and dial Scully’s number. A highly unusual busy signal came through.

“That’s strange.” He waited a minute, then tried again. The same thing happened. Mulder shook his head in disbelief. He jumped when his telephone rang.

“Scully?”

There was a slight pause. “How did you know it was me?”

Mulder began pacing the room again. “I tried to call you but your phone was busy.” He heard her gasp.

Scully sat up in her bed. “I was trying to call you and I got a busy signal. I had the weirdest dream. You and I saw that Indian we’ve been looking for. He did something to…”

“Chuck?”

There was dead silence. She finally asked, “How did you know that?”

“I had the same dream. The Indian stuck his hand into Chuck’s back and made him fall.”

Scully moved to a seated position on the edge of her bed. “Yes. He grabbed the guy’s heart.”

Mulder was stunned. He picked up the charm. “Do you remember the guard we were with, or where we were before that?”

Scully did not have the benefit of a dream catcher nearby to help strengthen her memory links, but thinking about the episode so soon after the fact assisted tremendously.

“I recall somebody was there with us. It was Mr. Z, wasn’t it? Now I remember. I was sitting in the Library of Congress, reading a book. Then you came up.”

“Exactly. I followed Angelico there and found you. Do you remember the title of the manuscript?”

“No. Only that it talked about dream catchers.”

Mulder was perplexed. “That’s strange. I couldn’t read the cover when you showed it to me. You said it was called True Papa. You also mentioned it contained a lot of information pertinent to this case.”

Open-minded Mulder asked the inevitable, “So, you going to the Library of Congress later today?”

Scully laughed and fell into her logical mode. “Are you serious? It was a dream, Mulder.”

“Yes. But you can’t deny the fact we had the same dream at the same time.”

“No. I can’t refute that. Yet, I can’t completely support the theory based on one episode. It still might be a coincidence. I’ve always looked at dreams as being unrelated, disjointed, chemical-electrical flashes of memory and imagination. You did tell me earlier about seeing the suspect, and the dream catchers in that shop.”

“Scully, I think you’re afraid of finding out what we experienced was real. You can at least find out if such a book exists. I’ll call the prison in the morning to check on things. We’ve got to know if this angel of death — Angelico díMorte — is real or not.”

Chapter 9

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 8:58 am

Scully set the manuscript down and sat back in the chair. She was at a loss for any logical thoughts. The book described Mr. Z, dreams, dream catchers, and a spiritual war that started in 1994. Her skin crawled as she remembered last night’s dream with Mulder. Stunned agent opened the card-stock cover and reread the entire sixty-nine pages.

She retrieved her telephone and dialed. “Mulder, I don’t know what to say.”

“The book is real, isn’t it?”

Scully opened the manuscript to the cover page. “Yes. I’ve read it twice.”

“It doesn’t surprise me. Guess where I am?”

Partner’s jaw dropped. “The prison?”

“Exactly. Chuck has the imprint of a dream catcher on his back. His skull is cracked in half and his neck is broken. The coroner said a fatal heart attack caused the fall.”

A huge swarm of chills ran over Scully’s body. She rubbed her neck with her free hand.

Mulder added, “Two other inmates were found dead here, a heart attack and a brain seizure. All three deaths occurred within eight minutes of each other.”

Scully was at a loss for words. There was a long pause.

“What’s the book about?”

She looked at the first page. “The author claims the work to be a psychic/supernatural, fictionalized account of real life experiences. It’s a very complex and detailed story. The description that came with your dream catcher is in here. There is mention of Mr. Z, but not Angelico. The author says a huge spiritual war started in 1994. He has supposedly done a lot of work and experimentation in the dream-state. He claims to have had verifiable associated dreams with other people.

“The specifics of our case aren’t mentioned, but one of the basic points of the plot is the enemy, who he calls doodads and hohowens, are incarnated in biological bodies. Dream catchers can trap and annihilate hohowens and doodads not in bio-bodies. The whole book is a metaphysical angle on a slightly biblical theme — good versus evil, wrath of God, and the end-times.

“Guess where the author lives?”

Her partner’s mind blanked.

Scully revealed the answer, “San Diego.”

It was Mulder’s turn to experience cold chills. He grabbed his neck, trying to alleviate the sensation of hairs standing on end.

Scully stated her next best step. “I’m going to set up a meeting with the author in San Diego. Talk to you later?”

Stunned by the recent facts, Mulder finally responded. “I’m going to view the files of the current guards employed here, to see if anyone looks familiar. We’ll talk soon.”

Chapter 10

San Diego, California 8:58 PM

Scully knocked on the apartment door.

The resident opened the portal. “Hi. Agent Scully?”

“Yes. You must be Greg.” She shook his hand and felt a strange subtle energy enter her arm.

He invited her in. “Please excuse the mess.”

Scully was in awe of the artwork displayed on the walls. She stepped over quartz crystals laid out over the carpet. “Wow! Did you do these paintings?” A gallery-style collection of astronomical and science-fiction style masterpieces decorated the walls. Renditions of galaxies, strange alien cities, and photographs went from walls to ceiling.

“Yes. They glow in the dark.”

Trained eyes detected fine filaments crisscrossing the interior of the apartment. Scully touched a strand stretching across a wall.

Greg answered the question before his guest could ask, “It’s fishing line.” He plugged in a black light suspended from the ceiling. “You’re standing in the middle of the world’s largest dream catcher.” The lines glowed an eerie blue from the ultra-violet illumination. The tentacles connected to the dream catcher array in the back room.

Scully smiled. “Exactly as you described in your book. Can I see the dream catcher collection in your bedroom?”

“Sure.” Greg produced a photograph showing the original setup. “This is how it looked up to 1996.” Several spirit-chasers were now missing, but not subtracting from the immensity of the current reality. Large webbed hoops made up the bulk of the open-aired tent surrounding a queen-size mattress. Smaller dream catchers of different sizes and styles shored up the gaps between the larger pieces. Booby-trap lines from the rest of the apartment wound up here.

“How much of True Papa is fiction?”

Greg smiled. “How open-minded are you? I experienced the events listed from 1958 to 1997, or chapter nineteen through thirty-six. The first eighteen chapters could be made-up, but more than likely they were channeled bits of information. I’m still waiting for the true God to either verify or tell me otherwise.

“What inspired you to read my novel?” He led her back to the living room.

“A case I’m working on. Who is Angelico díMorte?”

Author showed surprise. “I’m writing a screenplay with that title. Not only myself, but others are called angels of death in the dream-state.”

Scully was matter-of-fact, “Your excursions are spilling over into the awake-state.”

Greg shook his head. “Papa told me it would get to this.” He looked Scully straight in the eyes. “What has happened?”

Agent gave a quick rundown of the events leading up to their meeting.

Greg was floored. He considered the information as major verification the spiritual work started in 1994 was real.

Scully started to feel dizzy. “I’m so tired.”

Host caught his visitor as she collapsed. He laid her down in the middle of the living room and a large circle of sixteen quartz crystals. Metaphysician placed Scully’s head pointed north and the primary generator crystal. He checked her breathing and pulse, verifying she was only sleeping.

Greg placed his hands six inches above the agent. He was searching for unusual sensations and temperature differences emanating from her aura and physical body. He intended on directing healing energy to all depleted areas.

Trained hands stopped above Scully’s head. Strong warmth built up quickly as therapist mentally reached within his patient’s skull and began grabbing negative energy out. The evil squirmed in his hands. A drop of blood trickled from her nose.

Healing love-force poured into every corner of Scully’s essence. Greg paid close attention to her heart and other depleted areas.

After half an hour, Scully slowly stirred. She struggled to get up but felt extremely disoriented and dizzy. “What happened?” She checked to see if her gun was in its proper place.

Still seated next to her, Greg offered an explanation. “You passed out. I guess True Papa wanted to heal you.” He handed her some tissue. “He loves you very much.”

She was perplexed. “I feel different.” Scully’s bearings and energy returned. “Wow! I feel really good.”

They both stood up.

Her new friend handed her the same type of dream catcher charm Mulder purchased from Trails West. “You’ll probably sleep well tonight. Here’s a little gift for you.”

“How sweet. Thank you.” Scully kissed Greg on the cheek, then returned and kissed him on the lips. She felt more subtle energy.

Greg smiled. “Both Papa and I thank you.”

Chapter 11

Shmucko struggled within his dead body. His eyes were open but it was completely dark. It was the day of his funeral. He was convinced it was a never-ending bad dream.

Trapped spirit recalled the accident, the hungry crabs, and the medical technicians pronouncing him dead at the scene. He remembered the coroner’s examination and the cold, dark storage compartment. He could even remember the horrendous pain and experience of the mortician embalming his body. Nothing could prepare him for what he was about to experience.

The lid of his casket opened.

Mortician reached in and closed the dead man’s eyelids. “How do your eyes keep opening up?”

Shmucko yelled, “Because I’m not dead.”

“Don’t make me sew them shut,” mumbled the mortician.

The idea of a needle piercing stopped the ghost from trying again. He decided to wait for him to leave.

Soon, Shmucko heard the sound of organ music and people entering the chapel. He tried to open his eyes again. Someone assisted his efforts.

He recognized the Indian’s face. “You. Get away from me. Who the hell are you? Help!” His screams only echoed in the spirit-realm.

Shmucko was shocked when the old man addressed him.

“Do you remember when you were young, you and a friend raped and almost killed a little girl? Your father found out about it but never turned you in. After the girl came out of her coma, she was severely brain damaged and never able to identify her attackers. You’ve even laughed about your deed since then.”

The memories overwhelmed the guilty spirit.

Angelico continued, “Remember all the people you hurt and took advantage of in your life.

“And now observe all the negativity you perpetrated in your past lives.”

The onslaught of previously unknown memories was almost too much to bear. Shmucko had a very long history of murders and mayhem in his other incarnations.

Angelico reached within Shmucko’s body and placed a burning ember at the center.

Shmucko yelled, “That hurts.”

“It’s supposed to.” Angelico drifted away.

Shmuckcicle’s friends helped him out of his wheelchair. They brought him to the side of the casket.

“He’s crying.” Shmuckcicle was shocked to see tears forming in his dead friend’s opened eyes.

The three crowded closer.

Shmucko’s spirit, essence, conscious, soul, and bodies all spontaneously ignited. A bright conflagration engulfed the three friends huddled over the casket. Screams echoed through the arched chapel ceiling. One victim pulled away with severe burns on his arms, face, and upper body. Shmuckcicle and his other friend fell dead. The intense heat completely seared away their flesh. Someone ran up with an extinguisher but the fire was out as quickly as it started. The room was in chaos.

Chapter 12

Scully and Mulder watched a digitized version of the videotape of the funeral accident. A television station received a mysterious call from a Mr. Z before the funeral day. They sent a small news crew in case the strange tip turned out to be real.

Spectral analysis of the fire and chemical tests of the remains indicated no explosives or flammable materials were the cause. Everything pointed to this event being the first recorded case of postmortem spontaneous human combustion.

Mulder clicked on slow-replay, then stopped the events several seconds before the fire. He pointed to a fuzzy image suspended over the casket. “What’s this?” Forwarding showed the blur change shape and move away as the three victims approach their deceased friend.

“Let’s take a closer look.” Scully marked the foggy image from first to last frame, and then brought the field of view tightly around the target. She selected slow-replay of the enlarged area.

An indistinguishable cloud formed into the misty profile of an Indian in full war bonnet headdress. The flash of light from the fire seemed to disperse the phantom into the shape of a dream catcher. It slowly disappeared as the real cloud of smoke billowed upward.

Both agents were spellbound.

Chapter 13

Mr. Z was escorting the president of the United States in the dream-state. They were at a real research facility. Lab technicians crowded around a helpless, drugged cat. They were about to perform an operation on the animal’s brain.

Mr. Z tried to convince his guest. “This type of experimentation must stop. These creatures are your brothers and sisters.”

The president argued, “We benefit from these tests.”

Guide was stern, “You may be distantly related genetically, but they are not humans. Their biological designs don’t translate to the human spectrum. There are other ways of gaining any pertinent information you might need. Inspire people to develop dedicated computers, software, and even artificial cellular tissues. You have the technology and intelligence to accomplish these things without using animals.

“I will not tolerate any more torture or pain inflicted on my children.

“This is how serious I am.” Mr. Z waved his right hand over the scene.

The president was amazed to see the spirit of the cat stand up from its dead body. The newly released entity floated to Mr. Z’s outstretched arms. Kitty curled up and purred loudly.

Experimenters were confused at the sudden death of their patient.

The leader issued an order, “Prepare another specimen.”

An assistant came out of the back room. “They’re all dead.”

Mr. President woke up.

Chapter 14

Scully checked the profile scan image of her head.

Her doctor was amazed. “The cancer is completely gone. There’s no trace of it ever being there.”

Scully was beaming as she walked to her car.

Her telephone rang.

“This is Mr. Z. Get to the roof of the main Library of Congress building. Angelico is holding a terrorist for you.” The call disconnected.

She pressed *69 for call-return, but nothing happened. Silence filled her ear.

Scully jumped into her vehicle while speed dialing. “Mulder, I just received a call from Mr. Z…”

“So did I. I’m on my way to the Library of Congress right now. Meet you there.”

Both their cars arrived at the same time. D.C. cops and a small crowd of onlookers gathered near the base of the main structure. Scully and Mulder looked up to see a man dangling from one ankle. Nothing visible held the frightened male. He dangled in mid-air.

The agents made their way into the building and up to the roof. They stepped out into the open air with guns drawn. A figure sat on the edge across the way. The terrorist was hanging four feet from safety.

Mulder and Scully recognized Angelico as he turned toward them. “This person has something to tell you.”

Whatever was holding the man relaxed enough to let the helpless male drop several inches, then abruptly stopped his descent.

Victim thought this was it. He screamed, “Don’t let me fall. I don’t want to die.”

Angelico forced his point, “But you’re willing to kill millions of people? Start talking.”

Mulder kept his gun trained on Angelico. “Bring him back to the roof.”

The Indian shook his head. “Then he won’t reveal his secret. His worse fear will compel him to talk.”

“I’ll talk. There’s a nuclear device set to explode soon.”

Scully moved closer to the edge. “Where is it?”

“It’s in an unmarked truck traveling toward 13th street. The driver doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s instructed not to stop for any police.” The location mentioned was close to the White House.

Mulder made a quick call.

Scully continued to question the terrorist, “Why are you doing this?”

“To destroy the very center and lifeblood of your country. You will be nothing without your precious monuments, leaders, and information.”

“How did you get a nuclear bomb past our detection network?”

The terrorist tried to look at Scully. “The cargo-hull is lined in special shielding materials and devices.”

Mulder was curious. “If you’re so afraid of dying, why are you still here in Washington?”

“I would have been gone long ago if it wasn’t for this old man. You people are too late. This city is going sky-high any minute now.”

Agent Mulder responded to information coming over his telephone. “They’ve found the truck.”

FBI and DC police converged on the vehicle as it was waiting at a light. The driver tried to ram other cars out of the way, but several agents jumped on the cab and forced the trucker to relinquish control.

Agents dismantled the lock, and the cargo door swung open. Several bomb experts ran to a lone box. They frantically pulled the top off.

One man commented, “Damn!”

Another man made communications, “It’s affirmative. We’ve got a hot nuke here. It’s set to pop in ten seconds.”

Several experts tried in vain to dismantle the detonator.

Mulder dropped his telephone to his side. Someone at the other end was giving a count-down, “Six – five – four…”

Mr. Z stepped between Scully and Mulder. “This is my gift to you.”

Everyone held his or her breath.

“…one – zero.” There was a long pause, and then, “It’s a dud.” Cheers of relief erupted.

Mulder looked at Angelico. “Will you bring him to the roof now?”

Angel of death was serious. “Do you know how many people this man has killed in this lifetime alone? True Papa says it is important I annihilate everything about this person.”

The Indian raised a clenched left fist. He opened his hand and the terrorist fell. His screams ended with a loud splat.

Mulder lunged for Angelico, but he grabbed empty air. Both Mr. Z and his death angel were gone.

Agent Skinner came out on the roof. “That was too close. The bomb should have exploded. We can’t figure out why it didn’t.” He scanned the area. “I’ll assume Angelico can’t be taken into custody.”

Scully spoke up first, “I don’t think we can stop these two. I’m at a loss to logically explain how the events of this case are happening.”

Mulder interrupted, “It’s obvious to me. God is on the warpath and wants us to know about it. He has led us straight to the evidence every time.”

Scully added, “Mr. Z and Angelico don’t exist in biological bodies as we do. Yet, they can interact with us using supernatural powers. They’re intent on annihilating evil in all its forms.”

Skinner asked, “How does the author in San Diego fit into all this?”

Mulder stated, “I haven’t read Greg’s manuscript yet, but from what Scully has found out, he has only been relaying information that may or may not be true.”

Scully added, “Personally, I trust the guy with my life. Even if he is responsible, there are no laws regarding psychic or supernatural attacks. We have no evidence to tie him to any of these incidences. I’ve done a thorough background check on him. He has no criminal record or history of violence. I think Angelico and Mr. Z are acting on their own.”

Mulder looked down to the dead terrorist. “At least Mr. Z is on our side.”

~

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