I'd only been in the FBI for a year. After graduation, I began at the Bureau as a low-level "handler"--the nickname for those whose responsibility is was to get information from one source to another. Pretty boring work, usually given to those smart enough to graduate, but not good enough to become field agents.

Anyway, one day I had been assigned to clean out an old file room. "Cleaning out" was a handler term, meaning to take all of the old paper files, categorize them, and prepare them for data entry into the FBI computer system. I gave it all the enthusiasm it deserved--i.e., took my time. I started pulling all of the files and plopping them into a cart. I only gave them cursory glances, until something interesting caught my eye.





The label on the file read MARYLAND, BURKITTSVILLE - 10/20/94. But it was the smaller words on the flyleaf that had my attention.

"Blair Witch."





I'd been doubly confused. First, by the odd "Witch" phrase on the folder. And secondly, that the file had existed at all. Since 1989, the FBI had went exclusively to computerized record keeping. Files could be printed out on request, but when they were through, they were shredded and pulped in-house.

I opened the file and gave it a quick read. I was intrigued. The file appeared to be over 200 pages--too many to read at the time. I slipped the file to the side of the cart so I could keep it from the rest. I continued cleaning out the room, and when I was through and my day was done, I signed out for the file at the front desk, and took it home.

I'd read it all before midnight! It was all so fascinating. In 1994, three college students had went to Burkittsville to film a documentary about a local legend, the Blair Witch. They went into the woods to film footage, and had never been seen again. The police couldn't find any trace of them in the woods, and closed the case. In 1995, though, it had been reopened when a duffelbag containing recorded footage had been found in the forest. The case was closed again in 1996 when the police decided that the evidence was inconclusive. But, as interesting as it was, though, I couldn't understand why it was a Federal case? After all, no state lines had been crossed.





I'd finally found something on the final page. Notations and serial numbers that I'd recognized as Federal investigation codes. According to what I had seen, a field agent had been sent out to Burkittsville on October 31, 1994, to ascertain the situation. But why? Then, the following year, on October 21st, a second agent had been sent to perform a formal investigation. Someone named Special Agent Crawford West.

I had reread the file a second time, taking in all the details. The more I read, the more involved I got. I had to know more. The following day at work, I tried to get information about Burkittsville, but I could find nothing. It seemed like the case didn't exist! Then, I tried a check on Crawford West. His official history came up. He was an amazing agent, with a long and exemplary record. I had tried to get more, but a window came up, saying anything further was classified. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't have the clearance to get anymore. But I knew who did.

I had called in a favor from a friend: Special Agent Greg Dorman. He'd been a friend of my family for years, and had even been my sponsor into the FBI. I told him about the Burkittsville case, and he was intrigued. He used his access to try to find it in the system, but couldn't find it either. "If it was in '94," he had said, confused, "it should be in the system!"

Dorman had an idea, though. He used his clearance to get into West's case history. The screen filled with a list of dates and case numbers. He tried accessing the number corresponding to October 21 (the date I had seen in the FBI attachment to the Burkittsville file), but was stopped. Classified. Finally, though, he was able to pull West's field reports for that time. He had them printed out, and pages and pages slid from the small printer on his desk. He collected them and looked them over. He frowned, telling me that they looked as if they had been edited in the system. "Thanks anyway, Uncle Greg. I'm sure this will be enough."

Dorman had told me it was all right, and that he was intrigued now, and was going to keep plugging away, seeing what else he could find. With the pages in hand, I returned to my station, eager for the day to end so I could read them. Time seemed to drag on, but finally I rushed from the office and went straight home. I curled up in a chair, and began reading. Crawford West had done his field reports on a micro-cassette tape recorder, and these were the transcripts of those reports. I saw what Uncle Greg had noticed-some of the entries had indeed been edited out. But why? Had West inadvertently let slip some classified information? I began...





OCTOBER 21, 1995 12:31 p.m.: Amy, I'm roughly 45 minutes from arrival in Burkittsville. I'll post this tape to you upon arrival. All future tapes send unopened direct to Gordon. He'll want them ASAP. [*SIGH*] I was looking forward to that vacation, too. But, Gordon's Roses wait for no man.[*LAUGH*] And, on a related subject, Amy, I may be gone for a few weeks, so please don't kill my bonsai. You do tend to overwater. Next stop, Burkittsville.
[MESSAGE ENDS]





OCTOBER 21 1995 4:40 p.m.: I'm in Burkittsville. Looks like a nice quiet little town. But it's the quiet ones we have to be careful of, right, Gordon? As per regulations, I checked in with the local law upon arrival. The sheriff, Ron Cravens, wasn't in. Strange, since he knew I'd be coming in straight from landing at the airport. Even stranger since his car, with his police tags, was parked down the block from the station. I didn't take it personally, attributing it to normal police reticence whenever the FBI comes into a case. When I asked to view the discovered evidence, the deputy refused, saying I would need Cravens' consent. I told him I would return at 8:00, and that it would be in Cravens' best interest to be here. [*LAUGH*] A mild threat, I know; totally unbecoming to a federal agent. But effective.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 21 10:50 p.m.: I went back to the station at 8:00 as I'd said. Cravens was there. He apologized for his earlier absence, beginning an over-extended excuse, which I cut short when I asked to see the evidence. He was reluctant, but with a little gentle pressure and the promise of a warrant I got the got the desired results. He said they would be ready for me tomorrow morning. I would've fought to see them tonight, but I'd managed to score a minor victory: he allowed me to take the Donahue journal and examine it for the night. Cravens is intimidated by me, I can tell that. Good. Right now, I'm in my room at the Burkittsville Inn. I'm going to turn my attention to the journal now.
[MESSAGE ENDS]





OCTOBER 22 6:12 am: Gordon, I've read Heather Donahue's journal twice now. It details the students' arrival in Burkittsville and their journey into the woods. Gordon, it's very disturbing. It's clear from the beginning that Donahue had certain knowledge and expectations; she showed a marked belief in the Blair Witch, and expressed a desire to find her. Given what we know about the xxxxx xxxxx, this could be a direct link. Gordon, overnight express me a copy of the xxxxxx file, as well as a copy of the xxxxxx xxxxx, both versions. I'd be interested to compare them against the journal to see if there are similarities. [*LONG PAUSE*] I think you could be on to something here in Burkittsville, Gordon.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 22 12:19 p.m.: I'm on my way to the police station now, Gordon, to view the evidence. I managed to grab a few hours shuteye. I would've rather went to the station when I was done with the journal, but I remember Rule #12-enthusiasm is no substitute for sleep: a sharp mind is crucial. Besides, I was interested to see what dreams would result from what I had read. All I could remember was seeing a watch. A fallen watch.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 22, 1995 8:42 p.m.: Gordon, I've finished viewing the film footage. The monotone images seemed to amplify the feeling of dread that seemed to pervade the shoot. The interviews on them are interesting. One thing in particular, Gordon, I've marked down the timecode on a section of the film in can number eight. Get the appropriate paperwork started, there's something on Heather Donahue's finger. A ring that looks very interesting. Also of note: an interview with a mother and daughter, recounting the Blair Witch legend. It was very odd, with the daughter putting her hand on the mother's mouth. I'm going to have Craven run a check on them, find out who they are. I'm taking a short break to clear my mind before starting the video footage.
[MESSAGE ENDS]





OCTOBER 22 11:41 p.m.: One should expect owls in a forest, shouldn't one?
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 23 2:42 p.m.: Gordon I [*PAUSE*] I've been in the Bureau for nine years. Heather, John and Michael [*PAUSE*]. Whatever knowledge Heather thought she had, it was obvious that she was totally unprepared for what happened. [*LONG PAUSE*] All of my training tells me that these students were followed into the woods by locals, and were terrorized. But my lower brain-the primal part-tells a different tale. Something darker was out there. [*PAUSE*] The image of Heather, staring into the camera, pleading. [*PAUSE*]
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 23 10:54 am: I'm grabbing a bit of breakfast before going back to my room. A local diner, the Peach Tree. I examined the DAT tapes afterwards, and am still reflecting on the nights' events. [*CHEWING*] The notes I've been taking-from the journal and the visual and audio evidence-I think you'll find them very interesting, Gordon. Especially some markings and symbols which are very reminiscent of what was recorded in xxx xxxx in xxxx xxxxx. I'll [*PAUSE*] Gordon, I see a familiar face. Mary Brown, one of the locals interviewed by Heather Donahue. She's leaving the diner. I'm going to try to talk with her.
[MESSAGE ENDS]





TIME UNSPECIFIED-AMBIENT NOISE INDICATES RECORDING OUTDOORS:

S.A. CRAWFORD WEST: Ms. Brown? Ms. Brown? May I have a word with you please?

MARY BROWN: [*PAUSE*] I don't know you.

WEST: I'm Special Agent West, of the FBI. [*PAUSE, S.A. WEST SHOWING I.D.] I'd like to ask you a few questions if I could? About the college students who disappeared last year.

BROWN: [*PAUSE*] Why ask me?

WEST: Ma'am, you were interviewed by Heather Donahue on film. She was asking you about the Blair Witch. You told her that you'd been the Witch.

BROWN: Yes I have.

WEST: You said that she was hairy.

BROWN: Yes, sir. All covered in hair.

WEST: [*PAUSE*] Have you seen her again since?

BROWN: Yes, sir. In my head.

WEST: Excuse me?

BROWN: In my head. When I go to bed.

WEST: You mean you dream about her?

BROWN: [*VOICE INDICATES ANGER*] No! I ain't saying I was dreaming, did I? This is real! I see her like I did at Tippy Creek. Her and the xxxxx. They're talking at me. They're the only ones who will.

WEST: [*PAUSE*] This xxxxxx, can you describe him?

BROWN: [*THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED*]

WEST: What to they say to you?

BROWN: Stuff. Stuff I don't understand. Stuff I do. They tell me a lot, cause I'm the only one who'll listen to them.

WEST: And why is that, ma'am?

BROWN: They say cause I'm safe. Cause I don't talk to the others in the forest.

WEST:Others?

BROWN: Yes sir. Like the xxxxx and the xxxxx.

[*THE REMAINDER OF THE CONVERSATION HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED*]
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 23 1:18 p.m.:Back at the Inn, Gordon. I see my copy of the xxxxxx file and the xxxxxxx have arrived.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 23 8:00 p.m.: I've compared my notes from the evidence against that from the xxxxxx case. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up, Gordon. I believe the Rose is beginning to bloom.
[MESSAGE ENDS]





I remember shaking my head. What I had read was unlike any report I'd ever seen in my career! From what I could gather, this case had some similarities to others that had been investigated. Could that be the reason why this was a Federal case?

The next few lines were mostly dates and times. The majority of the content had been edited as to make them almost unintelligible. It picked up again on the 25th…




OCTOBER 25 1995 4:13 p.m.: I'd gotten an address from Cravens for the mother and daughter, and went to see them. I arrived just in time to see the house's owner putting a "for sale" sign up outside! Talking with him, he told me how they'd moved out without any notice. The owner, Sam Tomolen, also said something else very interesting. That this was the second time in two years that this had happened in this house. The last time was in 1994: an elderly woman named Tremond and her grandson; they simply left in the middle of the night with no one noticing.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 25 6:12 p.m.: Gordon, I think I've found about as much as I can in town here. Either everyone I've spoken to is reluctant to talk, or has nothing much of consequence to say. Except for the incident with Mary Brown, and the groundskeeper at the local cemetery I visited with yesterday. Those both offered much more to me than I'd anticipated. There's precious little left to do now, except for what remains. Going into Black Hills Forest. I want to see the cabin where the duffelbag was found.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 25 9:51 p.m.: I've just gotten back from an uneventful visit with Sheriff Cravens. I told him of my intentions to go to the cabin. He tried to talk me out of it, talking about "disturbing the location of a police investigation." I finally told him straight out that my FBI credentials were enough to allow me access. It's strange, Gordon, I know he's afraid of me, but he seems afraid of something else more. He finally gave in. As I was leaving, his deputy stopped me outside. He didn't want to talk to me in front of Cravens, apparently. He warned me that I should find someone to act as a guide when I went into Black Hills Forest. He seemed jittery, saying, "it's not an ordinary forest." I tried to get him to tell me more, but he seemed afraid to. He finally gave me the name of someone, George Johnson, a local fisherman who apparently knows the forest very well. He gave me George's number, and made me promise to give him a call. This is getting stranger, and stranger, Gordon.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 25 10:19 p.m.: I've just had an interesting phone call from Sam Tomolen. I'd given him my phone number earlier in case he thought of anything that might prove useful. He just called: he said that something had been nagging at him since talking about the Tremond woman earlier. He finally remembered a few minutes ago. Back when he was a child, he remembered going with his father to collect rent from his various properties. He went to one house, where a grandmother and her grandson lived. The woman's name was Chalfont, and Gordon, he says that she was the spitting image of Mrs. Tremond! Just as elderly back then as she was in 1994. Even stranger yet, Gordon, he recalls this being back in 1941-the same time as the Rustin Parr murders!
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 25 11:55 p.m.: Gordon, I've called George Johnson. After talking with him for a few minutes, I've agreed to let him act as my guide through Black Hills Forest. He says that the deputy called him, and explained about my plan. George mentioned that Black Hills could be a very dangerous place. He wouldn't go into much more detail. I was reluctant at first to have a civilian involved in this. Until I learned that he was part of the group that led the search parties for the students back in 1994; not to mention the fact that he said he'd bring his rifle, and had "more than a mind to use it, if necessary." [*LAUGH*] I don't think I'll have to worry about George. But, I did decide on one thing, though. He'll only be joining me for one day. I don't want to keep a civilian out there any longer than necessary. My plan is to examine the cabin, and perhaps more of the forest, then return to town in two days I want to spend some time out there, and see what I can pick up mentally.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 26 12:15 p.m.: I hear a honk outside. It's George. We're going now.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 26 2:13 p.m.: Gordon, George and I are parked on Black Rock Road. We're loading up our packs, and getting ready to start out. [*SOUND OF DEEP BREATH*] The air is very crisp today. I'd better enjoy it while it lasts. We don't get this kind of air in the cities I'm used to.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 26 4:19 p.m.: Gordon, something strange. I [*PAUSE, WHISPERS*] I thought I heard something behind us earlier, and then again now. Like something was... [*PAUSE*]. I didn't ask George if he heard anything. Don't want to spook him. Especially with the size of that rifle he's packing. I can't see anything myself. Could just be my imagination. My subconscious reaction to what I've heard from George, perhaps. We're planning on making camp at Coffin Rock by nightfall. George has promised to tell me a tale or two tonight over the fire.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 26 8:36 p.m.: Coffin Rock is something else, Gordon. A huge outcrops of stone and rock amidst the forest. When I arrived, I [*PAUSE*] I felt the urge to touch the rock. I reached out and laid my fingertips on the surface. It was very strange. I felt a sort of static discharge onto my fingers on contact. I drew back, and tentatively laid them back down again. Nothing, this time, though. It could be that perhaps the stone contains some elements conductive to static electricity. A geological survey out here may prove useful. We're setting up camp.
[MESSAGE ENDS]





OCTOBER 27 11:00 p.m.: George is perhaps the finest storyteller I've ever heard! He has a way of bringing characters to life that is amazing! [*LAUGH*] Remind me to tell you the one about Willoughby-I'm not saying anymore than that! It would spoil it! [*LAUGH*]
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 28 1:30 am: I managed to persuade Gordon to tell me some of the darker stories about Black Hills Forest. He was reluctant, and to his credit, only did so after much pressuring by myself. He told me about Rustin Parr. And Elly Kedward. And about others whose names aren't so well known. Names like Robin Weaver, and Kyle Brody, and Cece Malvey. He says that there's always been darkness in these woods. And that the disappearance of the Donahue party last year is only the most recent of the occurrences. He said something else, Gordon, something I don't understand. He said, "sometimes, the woods take their claim." I must confess I didn't understand, but from the look in his eyes after he said that-and then turned in for the night-he did. [*PAUSE*] Deer Meadow, xxxx xxxxx, Burkittsville… places so similar. There's a connection, Gordon. You know it and I know it. I can feel it here myself. An aura. The only comparison I could make is like being in strong humidity: almost suffocating from the pressure. I don't-what's that? [*PAUSE*] Gordon, I just caught of glimpse of movement in the trees. [*PAUSE*] I don't want to disturb George in the tent. [*PAUSE*] I'm going to investigate. I'm going to set my recorder on automatic, Gordon, set for sound-sensitivity. I may need my hands free, but I want a record of this.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

TIME UNSPECIFIED: [*FAINT SOUND-MOVEMENT IN FOREST*]

TIME UNSPECIFIED:
S.A CRAWFORD WEST: --ho's out there?

TIME UNSPECIFIED:
[*FAINT SOUND-MOVEMENT IN FOREST*]

TIME UNSPECIFIED:
WEST:
--ordon, let the record show that at [*PAUSE*] 1:42 am, I am taking the safety off my sidearm and am announcing my presence as a federal agent. [*VOICE LOUD*] I am an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation! Come out now!
[MESSAGE ENDS]





OCTOBER 28 3:31 am: I am returning to camp, Gordon. I wasn't able to find anything in the woods. Not even a trace of anyone having been out there.[*SIGH*] Maybe it was my imagination. The stories of the woods that George told, making me see and hear things. In any case, I don't see myself sleeping much tonight.
[MESSAGE ENDS]

OCTOBER 28 9:42 am: Add cooking to George's list of talents. What he can do with an egg and an open fire is purely magic! He said that he slept straight through the night, which is a relief; I was worried I might have woken him. Once we're through, he'll be breaking camp and starting back for town. As early as it is, he could make it back before sundown. [*PAUSE*] I've made a decision though. I'm giving him my notes and tapes up till now to post to you when he gets back to town. Call it a necessary precaution. But after last night, imagination or not, my alarm bells are going off. I fully expect to be back in town in two days, if not sooner. When I do get in, I'll call in to you immediately. After two days out here, I think I'll be able to make an accurate assessment of the entire situation.
[MESSAGE ENDS]



And…

That was the end of the page!

I remember sitting annoyed at the bundle of papers. What happened? Were those the end of West's reports?

I reread the pages again, and a third time, before I noticed that the sun had risen. I'd been sitting with them for an entire night! And still, I felt empty. I remembered going through the motions of showering and shaving and getting ready for work. The next day blurred by. I felt hollow inside. I'd been drawn into the Blair Witch case so deeply, everything in my life had seemed so… small in comparison. Everything was on autopilot at the Bureau, a haze. But I remember the phone call. I remember that vividly.

It was Greg Dorman. He told me how he'd kept digging into the FBI database for information on the West/Burkittsville case. He'd found something else for me: an evidence number. My eyes widened so much when I heard that, my heart suddenly beating faster. He gave me the number, and I scribbled it onto a piece of paper. I think I'd even hung up on him without saying goodbye. I went downstairs straightaway, to where all of the evidence was held. Showing my clearance, the officer let me in. It was a huge, labyrinthine place, with tall racks and lockers to the ceiling, and equally tall ladders to allow access.

I went through there, looking over the numbers until I found the one I wanted. 34-33-244. I opened the locker, and saw a medium-sized white box. I pulled it out, and felt the weight of it. My impatience was tempered, though, and I found an empty viewing room where I could examine it. These rooms were specifically set for viewing evidence, with projectors, VCRs, tape players and more; on the more technical side, there were also microscopes and other such things. I laid the box on the table, and went to pull on a pair of rubber gloves. I opened the box. Inside were four plastic bags, with stickers I.D.s attached to them.

I pulled out the first bag, and felt an uneven weight on it. I opened it and reached in. A gun! It was a standard service revolver. I looked it over, and then looked at the tag on the side of the bag. It said that the gun had been fired five times. I felt a chill in me. I put it back in the bag, and put it to the side.

The second bag I opened contained Crawford West's I.D. and wallet. I stared at them. The handsome face of West looked back at me, impassive.





The third bag was smaller yet. Opening it, I reached in and pulled out a wristwatch. The face was cracked and the hands frozen in place at 6:12. I turned it over in my hands, and saw a dark gooey residue on my gloved hands. I rubbed it between my fingers, and lifted them to my nose. It smelled similar to motor oil, and had the same viscous cohesion.

The three bags closed and to the side, I pulled out the fourth. I opened it and reached in. I felt something odd, and pulled it out. My eyes widened. It was West's small micro cassette recorder, and a small tape. I laid the recorder down, and took the small tape, looking at it.

I went over to the nearby stack of equipment, and pulled down a small cassette player. Bringing it to the table, I slipped the cassette in and swallowed dryly. I reached out and pressed play…

The sound of West's voice chilled me. As well as the sounds of the outdoors behind him. These would be Crawford West's thoughts, unsterilized through a transcript. And certainly unedited.

He had a deep voice.

"October 28, 2:14 p.m.… I'm missing George already. " The sound of his breathing puffed into the microphone. "From what I can tell, I'm on the right trail towards the cabin. The compass… " He paused. "… it isn't working very well. I think there could be some kind of interference, perhaps the same materials which are at Coffin Rock…" He was quiet a moment. "It's useless, Gordon. I'm putting it away and going on instinct."

There was a small click, and West's voice came back. "7:12 p.m. Gordon, I see it! Maybe 20 yards away! Damn… sundown in less than two hours."

I swallowed and heard the next message click in. "7:31." I could hear the soft thuds of feet on wood in the background. "Gordon, my god! Inside… I've-" There was a pop and hiss next, which continued. I frowned, and hit the scan button on the player. The sound sped up, and finally West's voice returned. I rewound it a little in order to hear him.

"October 28, 1:02 am. Gordon, I'm outside of the cabin. I've noticed my recorder making an odd sound, and checked it out. The last twenty minutes I've been talking isn't even on here!" He sighed. "I can't explain it. It's too odd a coincidence, the static at the Rock, the compass' false reading, and now this. I….I…Gordon! I… I… wait!!" His voice called out into the recorder, and then it clicked.

His voice soon returned. "I thought I saw someone, Gordon. No… did see someone. I went after her, and trailed her for about twenty minutes, but lost her. Or she lost me. Damn! I'm an idiot! I went after her, and all of my supplies are back at the camp outside of the cabin!" He took a deep breath. "I don't dare go back there. They already know I've been there, if they've been watching. I need to…what?" The tape continued playing, as West did something. His voice returned, shakily.

"Gordon, I'm looking up into the trees. I… I see… up in the trees, some of the branches have been twisted. They look like… " There was silence. "They look like one of those stickman figures from the video." He groaned, and there was a faint sound. "I'm getting out of here, Gordon! I've seen more than enough to know there's something out here. I've got my gun, if anything should arise. If I'm right about my location, I could reach Black Rock Road in five hours. Once there, I could flag down a car-hell, I'll walk back to town, if need be. This is too-"

The tape clicked off. I blinked and looked at the player. The time had just slipped past; both sides of the tape had been played, and it had reached the end of side two. I recall hitting the table, frustrated. It all happened again-I'd been teased with the possibility of a resolution to the case, only to be left empty. I pulled out the tape and tossed it back into the plastic bag. I then picked up the recorder and looked at it. Its surface was battered and scuffed, and I turned it over. One of the small buttons at the side was set at automatic: sound activation. Had West turned it to that, or did it happen accidentally? Was-

I froze. In the small window on the front of the recorder, I saw a cassette still inside!




I don't recall how long I stared at the small window. Five minutes? Ten? Less? Longer? What could be on the tape? Another dead end? More questions? What would it serve me to find out?

Maybe I debated what to do. Maybe I thought about just putting the recorder back in the bad and walking away. But all I can remember is opening the recorder, pulling the tape out, and putting it in the small player. I pressed play. There were brief clicks and pauses as the auto-record function picked up sounds and noises.

". . . . . " The sound of running through the woods. Snapping twigs and heavy breathing.

". . . . . " The sound of two gunshots echoing out into the air.

"-here the hell are you?" That was West's voice, screaming.

". . . . . " Another gunshot cracked.

". . . . . " What was that? I rewound the tape, and listened again. I could barely make it out, but the microphone had been able to pick it up. It sounded like… laughter?

". . . . . " More running. More breathing.

"-ordon." I nearly jumped at hearing West's voice. It was breathless and broken. "I… I… uh… I think I may have lost them. Has my recorder been on the whole time?" He took a deep breath. "I saw her, Gordon. She talked to me. She tried to get me to go into the circle, but I wouldn't." He sniffed; was he crying? "I… I lost my watch. I don't know where. I… I don't know what time it is."

Another deep breath. "I don't have any idea where I am right now. I'm looking up, trying to find the North Star, but it's too cloudy. Oh God, I wish the sun would come up… If I could tell where I was going, if I could find my way outside the forest, I think I'd be alright.

"We need to stop, Gordon. It's become too dangerous. We've lost too many good men trying to figure this thing out. Desmond. Jeffries. And what happened to Earle and Cooper. Is… is that what's gonna happen to me, Gordon? My choices? Death, or insanity?" He paused, and he said, "We can't win… the Lodge is too strong. Too old. We've got to close the Blue Rose project now before we draw more attention to ourselves." He sighed. "I've got to keep moving."

". . . . ." Wind.

". . . . . " The sound of water running in the distance.

"-ordon, there's something up ahead!" His voice returned, the sound of hope in it. "It looks like a house-I could be at the edge of the forest!" I could hear him running, breathing. Finally, the sound of boots on wood, and a knocking. "If they have a car, maybe I can…" His voice trailed off, as the sound of a door creaking open whispered into the microphone. "Oh God! I'm back at the-"

The recording immediately switched to West screaming.

Suddenly, a squealing noise came from the small speaker on the player. The same sort of distortion that I'd heard when West had been inside the cabin earlier. But, there was something else... I could barely hear words and noises behind the interference. I pulled a pair of headphones on, and attached them to the player, and strained to hear.





Beyond the static, I could hear a gunshot. And West… he was saying something. What? I could barely understand.

"{{{{Gordon{they{{{{{ere{{{Elly{{{the{dwar{{{{{it's{{{{{-- "

Then there was something else. Was that another voice? Someone was saying something about… a formica table? What? And something else. Something about electricity. I heard another scream. And then, could barely hear West again.

"{{{{{Jeffries{{{is{t{{{{{ou?{{{{{"

And then... it was so jarring. A voice cut through the distortion as if speaking directly into the microphone--as clear as if he were in the same room as me! It was the voice of a young boy, and I could understand him clearly.

"Fell a victim."





There was another gunshot.

And the tape stopped dead.




"… And that was pretty much the end of it, Carmen."

The fresh-faced young woman stared, eyes wide. She'd been riveted throughout the entire story. She asked, "What happened to him?"

"Excuse me?"

"To Agent West?"

"Well, after a few days, George Johnson got worried and went to the sheriff. There was a search, and they finally found West's supplies camped out by an old cabin. They searched around the woods, and also found his gun and his vest, which had his recorder and I.D. in it."

"But, what-"

I held up a hand, interrupting her. "If you look up his official record, Crawford West is listed as being 'on assignment.' But, I'll tell you this, over the years, I've met agents who knew him. And none of them have seen or heard from him since 1995."

Carmen shook her head. "And the students? Donahue and the others?"

"In early '96, Cravens announced that his examination of the visual and audio evidence was inconclusive. He declared the case inactive and unsolved. The students' parents were outraged. They wanted custody of the evidence in order to conduct their own investigations, but Cravens wouldn't let them. They went to court a couple of times over it, but didn't win. Neither Donahue or the others were ever found."

Carmen paused a moment. "And you never found out anymore?"

I smiled. Was I that enthusiastic when I first started in the Bureau? "Oh, I kept plugging away. I had a crazy hunch, and did a search on the agents that West had named on the tape: Earle, Cooper, Desmond, Jeffries. It seems that all of them had something in common-they were all 'on assignment,' and they all worked under one man."






Carmen exclaimed, "Gordon!"

I nodded. "Gordon Cole, a bureau chief. A very long and distinguished career in the FBI. Back in the late 70's, he got sanctioning to perform a series of special investigations under the code name Blue Rose."

"Investigations into what?"

"I never did find out. But I kept digging and digging until I finally dug so deep I got noticed by Cole. He sent for me."

She gasped. "You met him!"

"Yes. To look at his accomplishments, you'd think he was Superman! But, when I met him, he reminded me of my goofy Uncle Ronnie." I smiled, remembering. "He had a hearing problem, screamed at the top of his lungs and never even realized it." Carmen laughed. "He wanted to know what I was doing nosing around the Burkittsville case. Gordon Cole was the only person I've ever met who admitted to knowing about the Burkittsville case. I told him what I'd done, and what I'd found out. I told him that I wanted to know, to know it all."






"And what did he say?"

"He said, 'No, you don't.' He was quiet a while, then told me to forget I'd ever heard of Burkittsville or the Blair Witch."

"He threatened you-"

"No. It wasn't like that. The way he said it was like he was doing me a favor. And that was it. I got up to leave his office. As I was going, though, it was so strange… he whispered something to me."

"What was it?"

I looked at Carmen. "I don't know. It was so soft and quiet, I didn't hear it." I sighed. "The next day, when I got back to Washington, my station was cleaned out. Then, I found out why: I'd gotten a promotion to Special Agent. I had an office now!" I laughed.

"Gordon?"

"Yes. When I was showed where it was, I got a call from him on my phone. He said that anyone who'd managed to dig up what I did shouldn't be wasted as a handler. Then he said we'd never speak again, and he hung up. And we never did."

Carmen's face fell. "He died?"

"Oh, no! Nothing like that! There was a bit of a scandal over a year ago. If you ask around, you might find a few people who'll talk about it. Back in '97, the legal limit ran out on the evidence in Burkittsville, and it was turned over to the parents. Well, they had detectives and investigators and such out seeing what they could find out. In the end, they all came up with zero. Well, apparently, Heather Donahue's mother contacted a production company-"

"Produc-as in movies?" Carmen's voice betrayed her confusion.

I nodded, and said, "She got the other parents to agree to turn over the film and video to them. After all, Heather Donahue originally set out to make a documentary. But I think it was more than that. The parents wanted someone, somewhere, to make sense of it all. Gordon found out, and called the producers to Philadelphia for a meeting. I don't know the whole details, but I know he was trying to talk them out of making the movie.

"And, of course, there are thirty different versions of what happened floating around. One says Gordon offered them amnesty from taxes, another says he threatened to throw them in prison; one even has him stabbing one of them in the hand with a pencil! The one thing they all have in common, though… when his door opened, and the producers were leaving, he was screaming at them at the top of his lungs. Saying that they couldn't make the movie because 'THEY lived on fear." In the end, though, Gordon was taken off active duty. But, he still has his office at the Philadelphia branch."

I smiled at Carmen. "I wish I had more to tell you."

Carmen smiled back. "It's just so fascinating! When Agent Dorman mentioned it to me and I asked to know more, he told me to come to you." She took a deep breath. "It sort of makes me curious to see what I could find if I started digging."

"Not much, I'm afraid. Once I got settled in my new office, I found that the Burkittsville folder I'd kept in my old desk was missing. And when I looked for West's transcripts in the system, they were gone. I even had a wild hair to examine his evidence again, but locker 34-33-244 was empty."

"But I-"

They were interrupted as a young man approached their table. "Sir, this just came in over the fax for you." He handed me two folded sheets of paper. I thanked him, and opened them, reading…




Carmen watched as he read. He flipped to the second page, and his face suddenly went while. He dropped the sheets on the table, and quietly got up. He walked away. She rose. "Sir? What's wrong?" But he didn't answer, and she watched him turn the corner and leave. She reached down and picked up the papers. The top copy was handwritten:

"Just saw this. Knew you'd want to see. Dorman."

And she flipped over to the next page. It looked like a standard press release.








Carmen felt a chill through her as Gordon Cole's words resonated in her head.

… they live on fear…



BACK TO THE LIBRARY!!!