TITLE: Don't Call Me Francois 1/6
DISCLAIMER: Carter & Co. gave them life
RIP: Douglas Adams, May 12, 2001
Perry Como, May 12, 2001
Thanks to Cole Porter:
"I'd sacrifice anything, come what might,
For the sake of having you near!
In spite of the warning voice, that comes in the night,
And repeats, and repeats, in my ear . . .
"Don't you know little fool . . . you never can win!
Use your mentality, wake up to reality!"
But each time I do . . . just the thought of you,
Makes me 'stop' before I begin,
'Cause I've got you . . . I got you,
I got you . . . under my skin!"
-- From "I've Got You Under My Skin" - 1936
LG FIC: DON'T CALL ME FRANCOIS: THE STRANGE CASE OF SHADET HOUSE
In the beginning man took branch and hide and fashioned the first roof
to turn away the brunt of the harsher elements. Man invested nothing of
himself in these rudimentary shelters; even then, location was
Later, when man began to use stone and wood, mortar and brick to build
with more permanence, humans (who had slightly more leisure time to
consider such matters due to their domesticated animals and improved
tool building abilities) began to think of these shelters as dwelling
places. As they had increasingly begun to do with body and raiment,
their living spaces reflected humanity's strange need to ornament and
elaborate, to disguise and transform the mundane. Shelters became
cathedrals and showcases for the esthetic tastes and acquired objects of
their owners. For the more affluent the ability to transform environment
into art became religion. A few with the artistic vision to design art
as environment could, perhaps, be viewed as renegade priests of the new
religion. Historically, renegades get mixed reviews.
It is a truth embedded in folk culture, but largely ignored by
decorators, that you cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear. You can
make a lot of things from pigskin, many of them useful, even attractive.
But silk -- never.
Shadet House had straddled the waterfall on Indigo Creek for only 56
years, but there remained not a single native of the area who could
recall what the site had looked like before the house. Shadet House,
with its unnatural geometry, flat reflective surfaces, and
earth-colored, stratified exterior, gave the casual viewer the uneasy
feeling that the structure had been sheared from the skeleton of the
earth during some cosmic upheaval, and had since refused to let itself
be weathered, or even affected, by nature's cycle of birth and death,
upheaval and subsidence. It had existed an insignificant amount of time,
less then a gadzillionth of a fruit fly's life measured on the cosmic
clock; but a confluence of event, energy, will and the intense
perversity of unchecked human ambition had stuck Shadet House like a
burr into the fabric of time and space with unforeseen, and
The builders of Shadet House had been going for a silk purse. What they
PREFACE: LONE GUNMEN HEADQUARTERS, TUESDAY, 4 P.M.
"It was the most appalling thing I've ever seen." Byers removed his suit
jacket and threw it on the floor. He kicked it twice, then picked it up
and threw it for distance. "The CEO of the company, the entire board of
directors, every stockholder ... they should all be chained into the
bowels of a stinking galley ship and forced to row around the world. Twice."
"Steady." Frohike hooked up the digital camera to his computer, and
began the downloading process. He'd had a hard time getting Byers out of
the sweat shop without an incident. The supervisor who'd let them in on
the QT had been walking a hairline between revulsion at what he was
overseeing, and terror someone would realize he'd allowed witnesses to
come and go.
"They were children, Frohike. There was one little girl ... she couldn't
have been more than nine or ten." Byers' voice broke, and he closed his
eyes and stood with his head bowed for a moment. "I'm calling someone
right now. The police, immigration, social services ... anyone."
"It was really bad?" Langly left his computer and came to stand over
Frohike's shoulder. They watched the thumbnail images materialize.
Frohike clicked on the fourth image, and heard Langly make a small
noise. He'd gotten lucky with the camera, Frohike thought numbly.
She couldn't have been more than 14, but there were already lines on her
forehead, and her almond-shaped eyes were squinting in the dim light at
the piece of bright fabric she was stitching. Her face was too thin, her
posture was hunched. It was a heartbreakingly good photo, but hadn't
captured the vacant hopelessness Frohike had seen when she raised her
"We need to talk about it first, Byers. If you call the wrong person,
the kids will just disappear. Juan said some of the police look the
other way," Frohike cautioned.
"I bought a suit from this company. I'm going to burn it." Byers threw
up his hands. "I try to buy American. I try to stay away from American
companies who have most of their goods manufactured elsewhere. Then I
find out there are no guarantees. It costs more, but I'm looking for an
The door buzzer sounded.
"Will you get that, Frohike? I have to go take off these pants." Byers
was loosening his belt as he left.
The knowledge that the basement they'd photographed that afternoon was
only one of many made Frohike sick to his stomach; further, the
knowledge that upstanding citizens, respected men and women in the
business community, were tacitly condoning what amounted to servitude
... there was something incredibly wrong when a mega-business could pay
pennies to a foreign worker, then turn around and sell the garment for
dollars to a good American who made thousands or hundreds of thousands
of dollars a year. Something, somewhere, was badly askew.
Yves stood in the hallway, looking up at the camera. Frohike let her in.
For once, she'd shown good timing.
"I'm glad you're here." Frohike locked the door behind her. "I've got a
"Oh? Only one?" Yves looked around. "No Jimmy today?"
"He's got a list of errands a mile long. He'll probably be gone for
hours." Frohike led the way back to his computer. "Take a look at these."
Yves sat down. She clicked through the pictures, one by one.
"Here?" she said. "In the city?"
"Yes. We've got some documentation, two interviews with sources we can't
name, and those photos," Frohike said. "It's enough for a story. We'd
like to get those girls out of there. You got any ideas on who to call?"
"Being journalists, you'd think we'd have a couple of solid contacts
with local law enforcement," Langly said. He'd returned to his computer.
"But they all hate us, and our fibbie contacts have been useless lately.
That leaves you, Yves."
"I'll help you," Yves said, slowly. She was staring at Frohike's cover
photo. "For free. They'll be out by this afternoon."
"Thank you." They hadn't seen her much since Miami. On the surface she
seemed like the same old Yves, self-possessed and confident. Frohike
looked into her eyes and saw only his own reflection. "How've you been?"
She arched her eyebrow. "Very well, thank you. Is Byers about?"
"Yeah. He went to change his pants," Langly said. "The label was chafing
"I may have some work for you. It's unorthodox, but lucrative." Yves
turned away from the computer, sat back and crossed her legs. "Three
nights and three days for $10,000 ..."
"And we only have to kill who?" At the mention of the sum involved,
Langly rolled his chair a couple of feet toward them.
She wasn't okay. Frohike stared at her and saw her shift her eyes past
him, as if searching for Byers. Whatever was going on in her life she
was internalizing; he hoped it wouldn't all come spilling out of her at
an inopportune moment. For a second the look in her eyes reminded him of
the way Mulder had looked, in the days before the Antarctica trip.
Harried and haunted, and hiding the worst of the darkness from his
friends. Frohike wondered if Yves had any friends she could talk to, or
if clients and fellow hackers were her only source of human connection.
"Here's Byers. I can finish explaining." Yves turned back to Frohike's
computer. "May I?"
"Since you asked this time ... go ahead." Frohike watched her work; her
fingers were as dextrous as Langly's on the keyboard.
"If you're familiar with area landmarks, you've heard of Shadet House."
Yves gestured at the screen. "It's less than forty miles from here."
"Shah-day House?" Langly joined Frohike and Byers behind Yves. "Kinda
looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright place. I've never heard of it."
"I have." Byers pointed at the largest photo. "Its foundation is
actually on both sides of Indigo Creek. They put a glass floor in the
living room, so they could watch the river."
"Cool!" Langly reached around Yves to click on a thumbnail and bring up
a larger picture. "It's kind of ugly on the outside ... but look at that!"
"The master bedroom." Yves nodded. "The ceiling opens, either to glass,
or to air. A rotating bed is directly underneath. There's no other
furniture in the room. See those wall panels?" She pointed at the
mirrored surfaces surrounding the bed. "Doors lead to bathroom, boudoir
"Looks like the deluxe honeymoon suite, all right," Frohike said.
"What's the deal? Do they need to be wired for security?"
"You really haven't heard anything about the house?" Yves looked at each
of their faces.
Frohike wondered what she was looking for, and why she hesitated.
Something was not quite right here.
"Actually, I think I have." Byers frowned. "It was built in the mid-40s.
The man who designed it wasn't an architect, he was a clothes designer
who admired Gropius and Wright. He and his wife were killed a couple of
years later in some freak accident."
"Simon and Simeone Shadet," Yves nodded. "The house was closed in 1952,
and never reopened except for two photo shoots sanctioned by the estate.
One in 1955, one in 1997. That's where the historical society got the
pictures for the web site. There were no children. The house itself
passed to Simon's brother, Franklin. He kept the house and grounds in
immaculate condition, but allowed no one to stay on the premises after
nightfall for nearly 50 years."
"Don't tell me." Langly was shaking his hair around his face like a
frenetic Irish setter. "The place is haunted."
Yves looked at them and shrugged. "Franklin died last fall, and Shadet
House passed to his daughter, Giselle. She wants to turn the house in a
swanky retreat. But there have been ... problems."
"Someone thinks it's haunted." Frohike looked at her closely. "Give it
"Giselle Shadet-Melton contacted a friend of mine who specializes in
resolving haunted house cases." Yves made a small face. "My friend and
his associates were leaving the country on another job and asked me if I
knew a ... subcontractor."
"You thought of us?" Byers looked puzzled. "You suspect a human agency
is behind the problems, and want to debunk the haunting story? It's a
"It can't be simple if they're willing to pay $10,000 ... just what *do*
they expect for that, Yves? Hard evidence of human culpability? Physical
custody of the perpetrator?" Frohike watched her closely. She was as
hard to read as the sphinx.
"Those things would be nice. But the contract states that all you need
to do is spend three consecutive nights in the house, monitor any
supernatural activity that may occur during this time, and, to the best
of your ability, attempt to determine why such activity is occurring."
Frohike saw her eyelid twitch, just a little. "This isn't a setup for
some off-the-wall reality show, is it? Or you're maybe playing a little
joke on us?"
"No setup. No joke." Yves shook her head. "The truth is no one has spent
two entire nights in the house since 1952. Mrs. Shadet-Melton is scared
of the house, but determined to make her new asset into an asset. She'd
pay more than that to have it habitable. She paid a group of university
people to approach the problem from the psychic angle two months ago."
"What happened?" Langly asked with ghoulish interest. "Did they get
chopped up? Mutilated? Eaten?"
"There were four of them, a professor and three grad students. On the
second night, 911 got a call that brought them out to Shadet House. One
of the grad students and the professor were there; the grad student was
nearly comatose, the professor had attempted to remove one of his own
testicles with a pair of pruning scissors."
"Ouch!" Frohike's fingers clenched, and consciously forced himself not
to grab his crotch. "What was he thinking?"
"No one's sure. The professor has been under medical and psychiatric
observation since the incident. He hasn't said a word since they brought
him out," Yves said. "The grad student woke up later without any memory
of the time he spent at the house."
"You said there were three students," Frohike prompted.
"They found the other two back in Washington," Yves said. "One was
dancing at a topless club, one was arrested while making a disturbance
outside a local television station. She insisted she was Martha Stewart,
and they were waiting for her to shoot a better living segment."
"Hallucinogens?" Frohike asked. "Did the cops get blood?"
"They did. The samples came through clean," Yves said. "Two days after
they'd been put into the hospital for observation, all three of the grad
students were back to what their families considered normal, with
limited memory of the time they spent at Shadet House, and none of the
uncharacteristic things they did afterwards."
They looked at each other. Frohike saw Langly shake his head.
"I don't like it. This isn't our kinda party." Langly's hand rested
casually across his fly.
"I can think of a lot of questions to ask," Byers said, "but I can't
think of anything specific *we* could do for Mrs. Shadet-Melton. You're
implying she's interested in a more realistic approach to her dilemma."
"She was hoping for a combination of the scientific and the fantastic,"
Yves said, avoiding Frohike's eyes and looking toward Langly. "My friend
has rather specialized equipment for detecting some kinds of energy
associated with supernatural phenomena."
"Equipment for detecting ghosts?" Frohike couldn't help himself, he
laughed. "Come on, Yves."
"Actually, there is a small body of data that documents the presence of
electrical and magnetic anomalies in classic haunted house settings,"
Byers said apologetically.
"I'll bet it's very small. Why did you think we'd go for this?" There
was something else going on; Frohike could feel it in her.
"I'm going to Shadet House. I was hoping you'd accompany me. I have
questions and reservations myself; but I know Professor Galigo, and I'd
like to find out what happened to him." Yves finally looked him straight
in the eye as she spoke.
The truth at last, Frohike thought. "We need to hear everything, Yves.
All the historical background, all the medical and official reports on
the latest incident, everything and anything you might know or suspect
about the house. Then we'll vote on it."
"Fair enough." Yves stood. "I'll e-mail you everything I have. You won't
have much time. Giselle wants us in this weekend, starting Thursday night."