A serial killer is stalking the city, slashing his victims' faces before killing them. But when the murderer is caught, he claims to have been possessed by the spirit of an ancient, malicious gargoyleone he fears will now possess someone else. When the brutal deaths continue, even after the alleged killer is safely jailed, Special Agent Mulder and Scully are called in. Is this the work of a copycat killer? Or could a demonic force somehow be responsible? Mulder can think of only one way to solve the case: In order to catch a monster, you've got to become one yourself...
About the Author
Ellen Steiber is the author of several horror and fantasy books for young readers. She lives in Tucson, AZ.
Read an Excerpt
A naked man sat on a raised platform, still as a statue. His lean, sinewy body was posed so that each ribbon of muscle was accentuated by the spotlight above him. He sat perfectly motionless, as if lost in thought, as if he didn't even notice the twenty-five students who stood before their easels, trying to capture his image. Or the one student in the class who drew with a disturbing, almost frightening, intensity.
Peter Gilson, the model, stifled a yawn. It was almost nine o'clock. He wasn't used to working the evening figure-drawing class. Ordinarily he modeled for the afternoon studios. But he was an art student, and the afternoon jobs barely paid for his supplies.
Besides, he liked sitting for Rudy Aguirre) the Adult Extension Program's easygoing professorA talented artist in his own right, Aguirre was also a gifted teacher. He had a knack for making both the model and the class comfortable, getting the best out of everyone.
Aguirre asked Peter to change his pose, and he shifted so that his right side faced the class. This was Peter's second year modeling, and he was no longer self-conscious about sitting naked with an entire roomful of students staring at him. He knew he had a nice body, and he enjoyed the fact that other people were drawing it, using it as inspiration for their art. His girlfriend liked to tease him, saying that modeling made him vain. Tonight, though, he didn't care about any of that. He was tired and bored. He couldn't wait to get home, take a shower, and crawl into bed.
As the class worked on, the sound of char, coalpencils scratching against sketch pads filled the room with a quiet murmur. Gradually, Peter became aware that something in this particular class felt different from the other drawing studios. He let his eyes sweep the room. The students in the night class were a mixed group, ranging from teenagers just out of high school to gray-haired retirees. All of them seemed to be concentrating intently, working hard. Professor Aguirre was standing beside an older man, gently giving suggestions about proportion. Peter didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
What he couldn't see was one student who'd taken an easel at the very back of the room. He was a slight man with blue eyes, a thin, bony face, and dark, closely shaved hair. He wore a badly fitting black shirt and looked as though he hadn't eaten or washed in days. His name was John Mostow.
Mostow worked feverishly, almost desperately, a charcoal pencil pinched between his blackened fingers. Sweat beaded his brow. He, kept the hand that he wasn't drawing with, curled inward, like a bird's talon, tight with tension.
Peter sat still on the platform. His eyes remained vacant, his face expressionless. Until fine what he felt it again. He couldn't even define what it was. A difference in energy? In the light? In the way the air was moving through the studio? With the barest of movements, he inclined his head toward the back of the room. Again, he saw nothing but the usual assortment of students sketching, and he moved back into position.
Mostow's eyes darted between his subject and his sketch pad. His breathing was shallow and quick as he drew. Though he was undoubtedly working harder than anyone else in the room, his drawing bore no resemblance at all to the model on the platform. It wasn't even a fullfigure, but simply a face if you could call something that monstrous a face. The image on Mostow's drawing pad had a wrinkled brow, huge pointed ears, eyes that slanted up at an impossible angle, and thick black lips showing a hint of razor, sharp teeth. Mostow worked even more furiously as he added shading to the eyes, filling them with a rage and malevolence that matched the expression of the mouth. The image was strangely both human and inhuman. A creature born of the deepest nightmare its hideous expression at once beautiful and frightening.
Mostow was lost in his drawing, sketching in a frenzy, when suddenly the point on his charcoal pencil snapped. He stopped for a second, frustrated. Then he grabbed a matte knife from the narrow wooden lip at the bottom of the easel. Hands shaking, he hurriedly tried to sharpen the pencil by hand, curling off thin shavings of wood. He winced as the razor slipped and sliced into his finger. His entire forefinger was quickly covered with bright red blood. For the briefest moment he seemed calmed by the cut, fascinated by the sight of it.
It did not occur to Mostow to bandage his finger or even to try to stop the bleeding. He retracted the knife, ignoring the open wound in his hurry to complete his work. He continued ripping hand, filling in to draw with his dripping lines and shadows, making the monster on the page more real with every stroke.
Again the model felt the strange energy in the room. Again he turned his head and eyes just a fraction, toward the back of the class but this time his view was blocked by Professor Aguirre, standing at a nearby easel, praising a student for his smooth line.
Heedless, Mostow drew more and more frantically, surprised when the blood from his finger seeped into the page, becoming one with the drawing. The monster's eyes were now a bright red. As if blood were everything it saw.
"All right, everyone," Aguirre said, draping a gray wool blanket over the model's shoulders. "That's all for tonight. If you haven't finished, you'll have more time with Peter next week."
Mostow tensed with disappointment and angry frustration....
The X-Files #12. Copyright © by Ellen Steiber. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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