Ancient Mariner

Cover

Title: Ancient Mariner

Author: Blackwood

email: entreamis@yahoo.com

Category: X, A, MSR

Rating: R

Notes: Written especially for I Made This Productions

Virtual Season 8 at http://www.i-made-this.com

Summary: M&S investigate a series of kidnappings,

with overtones of alien abduction. They travel to Sag

Harbor on the East End of Long Island and visit the

latest abductee at the hospital. Mulder believes there

is a preternatural connection in spite of the fact that

some of the facts don’t jive with the typical alien

abduction scenario, like the victims all being found

at the water’s edge, nearly drowned.

Sunday, 9/24

Montauk, Long Island

11:30 p.m.

“Cut it out, Ray!”

“Aw, c’mon, Mal. It’s me.”

Mallory slaps the hand away from her knee and looks away

from the boy beside her, down the strip of moonlit sand.

The lighthouse at the jetty is a long way away; its single

eye casting a steady beam over the waters around it. The

sky is inky black and a large, honeyed moon sits low on the

liquid horizon, spilling creamy velvet that undulates on

the surface. Waves tumble headlong, coating the flat, wet

sand with a wash of foam that teases the edge of the frayed

Army blanket the two are sharing only a few yards from the

water’s edge.

Ray’s hand slides further up her thigh and under the edge

of her cotton sun dress. Mallory knows she shouldn’t

encourage him, but he’s cute. His brown eyes are gleaming

and his buzz cut can’t hide the fact that he’s a hottie.

And she does rather like the way his hand feels as it

slides just a little higher up her leg. It’s not like

she’s a virgin. She is 17 after all, and Ray did take her

to a really nice restaurant. Not just Wendy’s or some

crapola place like that. Still, it isn’t like he owns her

or anything. He isn’t even officially her boyfriend.

“Stop it!” she declares at last, deciding she isn’t ready

to do this. She pushes Ray’s hand away and hears his

disappointed groan.

“Jesus, Mal. What’s your problem, babe?”

“I don’t have a problem, *babe.* Except you. You’re a

horn dog.”

“You didn’t seem to mind last weekend.” The lanky teen

reaches out and fingers the silky, blonde strands that

cascade around the girl’s face. Mallory pouts her

prettiest.

“That was then. This is now. And I don’t want to fool

around right now.” She leans over her legs and smoothes

the short skirt’s fabric down over tanned thighs with two

hands. Practicing the new stretch her gymnastics coach

taught her, she reaches for the ocean.

The beach is beautiful at night. Day visitors never see

it this way. They always leave by dusk. That’s when the

locals emerge to reclaim their territory. Locals and

summer people. God, Mallory hates the summer people,

especially their kids — bunch of stuck-up, citified,

private school types who think the East End is designed

just for them.

“Earth to Mallory. Whadya thinking about?” Ray’s hand

slides up her back and Mallory shrugs it off.

“Quit.”

“Are you PMSing or something? My sister says girls get

nuts when that’s going on.”

“Your sister is a freak show who wears black 24 and 7 and

dyes her hair pink, Ray.”

“Fuck you.” She feels Ray rise to his feet beside her.

“Where ya goin’?”

“I gotta pee.”

She watches him make his way down a hundred feet of sand

before disappearing into the scrub pine edging the

beach front. She sighs with exaggeration and shakes her

head to herself. High school boys. Always thinking with

their dicks.

A sudden chill raises the hair on the backs of her arms

and her neck. Mallory looks back to the ocean and gasps. A

tall, slim naked figure of a man is emerging from the waves

in front of her. Where’d he come from? She tries to rise

to her feet and discovers, much to her horror, that she’s

frozen in place. Her heartbeat accelerates. The guy

approaching could be innocent, but naked? No, that isn’t

right. Anxiety rises cold in the pit of her stomach as the

figure makes a slow beeline for the blanket. She calls

towards the pines, “Ray? Ray! You better get out here.

Fast!”

The naked figure now stands at the edge of the olive drab

wool, looking down at her. Mallory breathes heavily, blood

coursing through her veins, eyes wide. Where’s Ray? Who

is this guy? Why is this happening to her? Tears well up

in her blue eyes and she starts to cry. Then she gets

angry. Didn’t Mrs. Dubin always tell them to be ready for

anything? Shit. She didn’t want to be raped. Or worse.

She finds a small bit of courage. “Please, Mister. Don’t

hurt me. My boyfriend has a gun. Please, mister. Leave me

alone.”

The figure says nothing. In the moonlight, Mallory can

see his pale eyes blinking in a slow, rhythmic pattern that

capture her attention. His eyes. They are gray and — old,

somehow, although the man seems middle-aged. But his eyes.

Mallory finds herself relaxing as she watches them. What

is he doing to her? Her mind battles to stay in touch with

her surroundings, to find Ray, to remember to look for an

escape route. She can’t. Not with those eyes on her,

calling to her…

“Har’n tu olmed,” the figure chants in a monotone. “Har’n

tu olmed.”

Incredible as it seems, she understands the words,

although she knows it isn’t anything she’s ever heard

before. ‘Come to me.’ That’s what he’s saying. That’s

when the light begins to peel open his chest, casting her

in its brightness.

“Har’n tu olmed,” the figure intones again and again.

And she cannot resist.

ACT ONE

Tuesday, 9/26

J. Edgar Hoover Building

2:15 p.m.

Tuesday afternoon in the basement. Peaceful. Welcome.

Meeting at 9, lunch at noon, paperwork ’til five, then

home. Most field agents complain about the slow pace of an

office-bound day, the boring rhetoric and stats; but Dana

Scully appreciates days like this. They are normal,

although she isn’t sure she knows what the word means

anymore.

Seven years of tracking aliens, long lost siblings, global

conspirators and assorted and sundry monsters have turned

“normal” into a perverse caricature of itself. There was a

time when her life was simpler. That ended the day she

accepted an assignment to work with Fox Mulder. Though her

role has changed, she often wonders at her own willingness

to continue on this path.

She sighs, pushing an auburn lock behind her left ear

while she sits down at his desk, form in hand. Long ago,

they agreed she would handle their expense reports. Mulder

simply has no patience for the mundane details of casework.

It boggles the mind. The man can profile a criminal on

scant evidence, raise questions no one would think to ask,

answer them himself, then write a monograph of such

precision it’s practically erotic to law enforcement types.

Yet, he can’t or won’t maintain a balance sheet.

At least she’s gotten him to start organizing their

fieldwork receipts. Granted, his version of organized

means that the top center drawer of his desk is crammed

with varied evidence of their travels. Scully’s task is to

make sense of the contents and prepare a credible request

for reimbursement of funds.

She looks at the blank form waiting to be filled with

legible numbers and precise listings of the whys and

wherefores of every out-of-pocket dime spent while in

service to Uncle Sam. Her eyes turn to Mulder’s drawer and

she pulls it open with a gingery touch, as if paper snakes

might jump out at any moment.

She gathers the charge slips that will show up on the

reviewed agency account. Further inspection reveals some

scattered hulls and a few untouched sunflower seeds, a

matchbook from 7-11, the paper cover of a straw overwritten

with phone numbers, a half-used Post-it pad, two pencils —

she pauses and looks upwards at three Ticonderogas stuck

into the ceiling tiles above her head before resuming her

inventory — a news clipping about tsunamis on the Eastern

Seaboard, a program from Camden Yards, a rubber doll whose

eyes bug out when you squeeze it, a computer disk marked

“TRNSCR,” a Waterman pen, a day-glo orange Magic Marker,

colored paper clips and a cheap calculator. Great.

Fifteen minutes of sorting the relevant from the

ridiculous and she grabs the Waterman, filling the empty

waiting boxes in a neat script that belies her medical

training. Calculations are reviewed twice for accuracy.

This isn’t what she imagined life in the FBI would be like

when she signed up so long ago. She’s just about to sign

her name when a covered Starbucks cup appears beneath her

nose. She pulls back and grabs it without a word, a wry

smile crossing her lips.

Lifting the brew to her mouth, she closes her eyes and

takes in the first hot swirl of fluid through the small

opening in the lid. The tang of espresso laced with

chocolate and whipped cream slides over her tongue and down

her throat, warming her inside. She drinks tea as a rule,

and mocha lattes are on her list of delicious-but-dangerous

foods. Pure indulgence. Still, this is Mulder’s usual

recompense for shirking the report. She sets the cup down

on the desktop and laps the last trace of coffee from her

upper lip with a dab of her tongue.

“Am I forgiven?” a warm baritone purrs into her ear.

“I’m not so sure, Mulder,” she replies with affected

coolness.

She feels his breath beside her cheek and her own hormonal

reaction to his closeness. He’s leaning behind her, his

right forearm braced against the desk, his left somewhere

in back of her, but not touching her. He knows better than

that, but he’s pushing it. She allows herself the luxury

of this nearness for a few seconds then reaches into the

drawer, grabbing the matchbook before pushing back in the

desk chair.

“Whoa!” he exclaims as she swings around. She hesitates

for only a moment before fixing her sights on him.

Charcoal suit, white shirt, dark silk tie, new haircut and

wire-frame glasses. On anyone else, common. On Mulder?

She has to admit she savors the way his good looks register

on her each day.

He’s watching her, a chagrined look in his eyes as he

spots what’s in her hand. “I kept that so I’d remember the

Slurpees,” he explains as she tears off a match.

“Slurpee, Mulder.” She closes the cover. “One.” Strikes

the match. “Yours.” She allows the flame to flare for a

moment or two, then blows it out. She watches the smoke

curl and spiral in the air, then looks to her partner, lips

still pursed. She has his full attention now. In an

undertone she asks, “So, that’s why there are matches in

your desk?”

“Whadya mean?” he replies, eyes lifting in a lazy line

from her mouth to her eyes.

“Sure you’re not sneaking the occasional drag?”

A look of mock pain graces his features. “Scully, I’m

hurt you’d think that. Oh, I- I still get the urge once in

a while, but my memory of life as a tobacco beetle hatchery

is still quite intact. Anyway, you know how addictions

work.”

“I know it’s a daily choice.”

“Just for you.”

“Umm-hmm,” she responds, tilting her head at him, a thin

edge of sarcasm coloring the contralto of her voice.

“I do plan on sticking around for a while, so you better

get used to my bad habits.”

“Like I have a choice?” she gibes.

“You do, you know,” he says with more seriousness than she

expects.

Picking up the expense report, she stands and moves to

where he leans against the file cabinet and hands it to

him. He takes it and she steps in closer, the pages in his

hand curling between them. She knows she’s standing too

close, the edge of her jacket brushing into his. Close

enough to smell the soap he used this morning mingled with

the scent of laundered cotton, the afternoon’s perspiration

clinging. Close enough to observe the widening of his

pupils, black ringed with hazel-gold; the flare of his

nostrils as he breathes her in; and his Adam’s apple

dipping as he swallows down his response to her proximity.

“Next time, Mulder,” she states with some intensity, “a

mocha latte won’t cut it.”

His brows knit together and his mouth drops open a notch.

Then, he gives her a slow smile. His right hand slips

beneath her jacket to rest against her waist, branding her

where his fingers circle. He drops his voice and his head

to her, murmuring, “Really? And what *will* it take to

satisfy you?”

The heated memories in their shared gaze have no place

here, yet they arise in vivid, unspoken detail. That they

should be standing here, flirting in the open while surely

being surveilled, is arousing but risky and unprofessional.

Then again, when had that ever stopped Mulder?

She eases her desire to taste his mouth by inhaling,

straightening her shoulders and replying after releasing

her breath, “A yogurt muffin would be nice.” She steps

past him and hears his soft chuckle at her back.

Managing a professional and personal life with Mulder is

as precarious as it is pleasurable. They’ve had to learn

to manage more than cases. Time is always an issue, and

propriety. Emotional baggage also plays no small part in

their emerging dynamic. In the end, however, it’s the work

— always the work — that structures, defines and balances

them.

Mulder drops a stack of correspondence into the mesh

basket at the corner of the desk and her reverie is

curtailed, the tension in the room diffused. Grabbing a

letter opener, she begins screening correspondence. Mulder

logs onto his Bureau e-mail and scans the dozen or so posts

that sit waiting.

“Frohike wants us to stop by,” he tells her. “Says he’s

got a new device to show us.”

“Boys and their toys…” she mumbles without looking up.

“And my Canadian contact says Sasquatch sightings in the

Toronto outskirts are up 30 percent since last month.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Hey Scully, did you know that more people believe in Big

Foot than in the Loch Ness Monster? Oregon State and the

University of Aberdeen hooked up and did a survey–”

“That’s nice.”

She’s only half-listening, her brows furrowed as she takes

in a letter written on expensive paper with fountain ink in

an elegant hand.

“Anything interesting?” he asks.

Scully looks up to find Mulder removing his eyeglasses.

“Maybe. This is a letter from someone out on Long Island

asking for your help.” He nods, then sits back waiting for

her to read:

“Dear Mr. Mulder,

Over the last two weeks, five women have disappeared and

reappeared off the shores of the Island’s East End. In

each case, the woman vanishes without a trace, only to wash

ashore a day or so later, barely alive. They have no

memory of their lost time –”

She looks up and spies the glow of anticipation in his eyes.

“– and all of them speak about a bright light before

blacking out. Our local authorities have no leads, but I

suspect foul play of a non-human nature.”

She pauses again and this time she finds Mulder’s head

dropped back onto his shoulders, his eyes closed.

“I understand that you follow such things, so I am

imploring your help.

Cordially, Miss Olivia Van Helden Sag Harbor, New York”

Without moving, he says, “Lost time and bright lights,

Scully. Sounds like alien abductions to me.”

“More like one too many at a Martha Stuart soiree.”

His eyes open and without scoffing says, “So, you’ve

*been* to the Hamptons.” She laughs softly.

“Mulder, the victims have been recovered. This isn’t an

FBI matter.”

“No, but it’s an X-File.”

“*Might* be an X-File.” Her hesitancy bears the stamp of

fatigue. September has been difficult and she’s worried

about him.

He wags a brow at her. “East End, Long Island, Scully.

Playground of the rich and famous. Who knows? Maybe

you’ll see some hot celebrity strolling the sands.”

She chuffs at him. “With my luck, it’ll be Rodney

Dangerfield in a Speedo. Thank you very much, but no.”

Her attempt at sarcasm fails to faze him. Instead, he

leans over the desk and catches her eyes. “Come with me,”

he says, his voice sliding over her like molasses. “I’ll

take you for a walk on the beach.”

She regards him from under her lashes for five seconds.

“You know, they have a name for what you’re doing, Mulder.”

“What’s that?”

“Bribery.” Her tone is somber but her eyes are smiling.

Thursday, 9/28

Sag Harbor, New York

10:00 a.m.

Detective Nick Guarino leans his burly 6-foot 6-inch frame

over the narrow ledge at the nurse’s station and picks up

the chart on Mallory Lowell. He’s no medical expert, but

he knows how to read a chart after 19 years on the force.

From the indicators regarding the girl’s vital signs, it’s

a pretty sure bet she’ll come through her ordeal intact.

As for any psychological impact, there’s no shortage of

therapists in the area if she needs one, that’s certain.

“Hey, Nick.”

“Hey, Diane. How’s it going?” His deep voice rumbles as

his eyes lift to watch the full-figured brunette entering

the nurses’ station.

“It’s going just fine. How’s DeeDee?” His eyes return to

the chart.

“Good, good. Just happy school’s back in session keeping

Linda out of trouble.” Guarino sets the chart back in its

place and looks back up.

The nurse’s face is full of concern and more than a little

worry. “We got enough of that to go round,” she says.

Guarino nods, once. “Got that right. How’s Mallory doing?”

“Better today. Breathing on her own and Dr. B thinks

she’ll be able to go home tomorrow.”

“That’s good, real good.”

“Was Linda upset?”

“She’ll be okay.”

“Yeah. She and Mal will be back at the outlet mall

spending money before you know it.”

Guarino chuffs at her and in one fluid motion, smoothes

down his dark moustache and rubs his chin. “Has she said

anything since she became conscious?”

“Not much, but,” Diane leans in and her voice dips in

volume. “Do you really think it’s a good idea having her

talk to those FBI people?”

“FBI?” His eyes squint at her.

“I thought you called them in on this.”

Guarino shakes his head. “Where are they now?” he asks

gruffly.

“In her room– Nick?” she calls after the figure moving

down the hall with deliberate intent. The telephone buzzes

and she shrugs before answering, “Floor Two Nurses’

Station.”

~~~~~

Guarino stands in the doorway of Room 248, his large frame

filling the space. Inside, next to the window, Mallory

Lowell is sitting up in bed; her streaked, blonde hair

piled up on her head with a large-toothed, purple clip.

She looks pale, worn out. But she’s awake and speaking

with two official-looking folks that stand near the bed.

Guarino takes a quick read: FBI.

The woman has her back to him and is speaking in soft

tones. She’s petite in stature with a head of cropped, red

hair. Her tailored, black pant suit looks trendy and her

suede high-heeled shoes, new. A female fed. Probably

plays by the book. Her counterpart is tall, lean, what

most women would call good-looking even with that nose. His

suit is pricy, but he slouches against the window frame

watching the woman and Mallory as they chat. College boy,

too smart for his own good, though his age and his attitude

suggest experience.

Guarino shifts his weight with a shuffle of his feet and

the man looks over at him. “I’ll be right back,” he says.

His left hand reaches into his jacket as he approaches and

he pulls out what Guarino acknowledges as a legit FBI badge.

“I’m Agent Mulder.” He extends his free hand and Guarino

takes it, surprised at the strength in the slim-fingered

grip that clasps his massive hand. They release and Mulder

gestures with his head to the woman, who now stands facing

them. “That’s Agent Scully, my partner. We’re

investigating the kidnappings that have been going on here

for the last few weeks.”

“Well, seems like everybody’s been recovered, so I don’t

understand why the feds would involve themselves.”

Agent Scully joins them. “We don’t mean to interfere with

local police business, Detective…”

“Guarino. Nick Guarino,” he says shaking the woman’s hand.

“Of course. We’d just like to ask Ms. Lowell a few more

questions, if you don’t mind. Her story might help us

prevent this from happening to someone else.”

Guarino scratches the back of his head. “I suppose

there’s no harm as long as Mallory is up to it and I stay.”

They cross back to the bed with Guarino in the lead. He

stops at the foot of the bed. The gruff face softens as he

addresses the girl. “Hey honey. How are you today?”

“Hi, Uncle Nick. Okay, I guess.”

“You scared us.”

“You? *I* was scared.”

“Well, you’re safe now. Your mom coming today?”

“What else? She’s been a pain-in-the-ass.”

“Mind your mouth.”

“Sorry, but she’s so annoying.”

“She loves you. And she was sick with worry. Don’t give

her a hard time.”

“Whatever.” The girl rolls her eyes at him.

“Mallory, these agents want to ask you some questions. Do

you mind?”

Mallory’s eyes brighten. “No, I don’t mind. At least

they don’t look at me like I’m crazy or something. Like

that nurse.”

“Nurse Itzkowitz?”

“Yeah, her.”

“What have you said?”

“The truth.”

Mulder interrupts, approaching the other side of the bed.

“Which is what I’d like to go over again, if you don’t

mind.”

“I don’t mind. It’s like I told you before. Ray and I

were on the beach…”

Mulder pulls a pad from his pocket. “Raymond Weill.”

“Yup, that’s Ray.” He nods at her reply. “We were just

chillin’ and then we had a fight and he went into the woods

to pee.” Mallory stops and looks at Scully.

“It’s okay,” Scully says. “Just tell the detective what

happened next.”

“Well, I thought I heard something and when I looked back

at the water, I saw this guy coming up at me. I tried to

get away, but I felt frozen. I called for Ray, but he

didn’t answer and then…”

“Then…” Mulder prompts.

Mallory looks at him. “Then it gets weird.”

Mulder takes a step closer. “Weird, how?”

“He was chanting or something. And I-I just lost track of

everything. Next thing I know, I’m here.”

“Did you recognize what he was chanting?”

“That’s another thing. It was some foreign language I

never heard. But I understood what he was saying.”

“Which was what?” Mulder’s eyes have narrowed a bit.

“I know it sounds crazy, but he kept saying ‘Come to me,

come to me’ over and over.” The agents exchange a look.

Mulder returns his attention to the teenager and asks,

“Mallory, you said earlier that you remember a bright light

and then losing track of time. Do you remember if any

tests were performed?”

“What are you talking about?” Guarino growls.

“It’s okay Uncle Nick. No, I don’t remember anything like

that. Honest. But– oh!”

“What is it?” Scully asks.

“I just remembered something.” Mallory’s eyes grow wide

with remembered terror and she begins to shake. Scully

moves to sit beside her on the bed and takes her hand in

her own.

“You’re safe with us. You can’t be harmed here.” Mallory

stares at Scully, then looks up at Guarino and last, to

Mulder.

“About the light…” she begins.

Mulder leans forward. “The light? From the sky?” he asks.

“No,” she replies with a slow shake of her head. “Not the

sky.”

Guarino interrupts. “Mallory, what you trying to say,

honey? Was it a car, a boat on the water?”

Mallory continues to shake her head, her voice soft and

distant, as if she sees the man before her again. “Not a

car. Not a boat.”

Scully squeezes the girl’s hand. “Can you show me where

the light was?” Mallory pulls her hand from Scully’s and

closes her eyes. She takes in a deep breath and gives a

shuddered sigh. Opening her eyes, she lifts a slow hand

towards Scully and points… to the center of her chest.

~~~~~

Guarino exits the tiny hospital at a good clip, keys,

coins and apparatus jingling as he moves. He feels Mulder

and Scully trailing. Damned feds. Always thinking they’re

superior to cops. He turns when he reaches the squad car

curbed at the brick sidewalk and confronts Mulder.

“I was hoping Mallory would verify some of our facts this

morning, but then you started in with your mumbo-jumbo and

blew my chance.”

Mulder remains nonplused, but Scully bristles. Hmmm.

Mulder’s voice refocuses his attention. “All the women

taken experienced time displacement and talked about a

bright light before losing consciousness. Those are

classic elements of an alien abduction scenario.”

“Hold on, agent,” Guarino says in a dead calm voice, his

eyes squinting against the midday sun. “What kind of dog-

and-pony show do you think you’re gonna run here? Look,

Mallory is my sister’s little girl and I’m not about to

have you adding to everyone’s distress. I’ve got enough

problems without you spreading alien abduction crap.”

“Actually, I’m not convinced it *is* alien abduction

crap,” Mulder rejoins, which garners an arched brow and a

suppressed smile from Scully. The lawman reaches in

through the open, passenger-side window of the car to grab

a manila folder off the front seat.

“This is what we’ve got so far. You’ll see it’s solid

police work,” he tells Scully as he hands the file to her,

surprised the Bureau would keep a wacko like Mulder on the

payroll. Must be some VIP’s kid.

“Is it possible to talk with the other abductees?” Mulder

asks.

“I could arrange that, although we’ve done so already.

What do *you* hope to find?”

“A connection that may have been overlooked.”

Guarino is miffed at the agent’s presumptive attitude, but

cooperation is key. “Just let me know what you need.”

“Appreciate that. How’d you account for the bright light?”

Guarino’s thumbs hook into his belt loops. “Searchlight

from a boat is what we figure, given that all the

kidnappings occurred offshore and at night. Maybe a car.”

“But no witnesses,” says Scully, her eyes on Mulder.

“Except one,” he responds, meeting her gaze.

“Ray.”

Mulder nods.

Guarino watches the exchange, knowing that more is being

said than the simple words he’s hearing. Figures. Most

partners develop an unspoken code, but only after years of

successful experience. From the way these two watch one

another, it’s clear they’ve worked together for some time.

What’s more, they trust one another’s assumptions. Their

dissimilarities may explain the subtle tension he feels

between them, but it might be something else, too.

Something more basic to human nature.

Scully’s brows furrow as she flips through several pages.

“There may be someone else, Mulder.”

“Who?”

“Oracoff.”

Guarino clears his throat and two sets of eyes converge on

him, necessitating response. He’s chagrined he hadn’t

mentioned it sooner. “Dr. Julian Oracoff. He’s the one

who found Mallory.” He pauses. “And several of the others.”

“Three out of five,” Scully states and looks back to her

partner.

The man swears he can feel unspoken dialogue. He decides

to trust his instincts on these two, at least until he’s

had a chance to check their backgrounds. He reaches into

the vehicle for the radio. The static-charged voice of a

dispatcher answers his call. “Jerryl, this is Nick. I

want Raymond Weill brought in for requestioning,” he barks

into the unit. “And get me the number for Dr. Julian

Oracoff at Southampton.”

“10-4,” the dispatcher crackles.

He returns the device and looks back to the agents who

stand waiting. “Okay?”

“Fine,” Scully replies. “I suggest you be up front with

us, Detective, or you may find yourself with another victim

on your hands.”

Guarino shifts tactics to reclaim his authority. “Tell me

something, just how *do* you know about the other stories?

I just gave you the file.”

Mulder pulls the letter Scully read to him in D.C. from

his outside pocket. “One of your townspeople asked for our

help.”

Guarino takes the proffered paper from Mulder’s hand.

With lips drawn tight he reads, head wagging from side to

side. He lifts his eyes and gives a definitive, “Figures,”

with an exasperated sough of air.

“What does?” Scully asks, taking the letter back.

“Olly.”

“Excuse me?”

“Olly Van Helden wrote this letter.” Guarino plants his

fists on his hips and lifts his face to the sky. He

returns his gaze back to Scully. “Look, I owe you folks an

apology for having come all the way out here from

Washington on no account.”

Mulder’s face scrunches up, “How’s that?”

“Olly. That’s Olivia Van Helden, by the way. She’s…

well… let’s just say she’s different.”

“Sounds like my kind of person,” Mulder interjects with a

small smile.

“What do you mean ‘different?'” Scully says with a

sidelong glance at Mulder.

“She’s is a bit of a local legend. Comes from old Dutch

money and even older East End family.”

“So?” Mulder tosses in.

“She has a rather vivid imagination. Believes in crystals

and that sort of stuff. Runs the “Mystic Bookshop” on

Main. Sure-fire recipe for breeding what I’ll kindly call

a kook.”

“You have a problem with that?” says Mulder, his surprise

genuine.

“I do when it drags a couple of feds all the way from

Washington to Sag Harbor. Say, why *did* you come from

D.C.? We have a local field office in Yaphank.”

Scully speaks up at that. “Ms. Van Helden felt that my

partner’s expertise in paranormal phenomena might be useful

in this matter.”

Guarino’s presuppositions about Scully’s stability are

shaken. “Expertise in paranormal phenomena, huh? As in

aliens and voodoo and that sort of thing?”

“That’s right.” Her tone is serious, defensive of her

partner who stands at her side in silence, although the

line of his jaw relaxes at her words.

“Look,” Guarino begins, looking to his left and his right

before replying. “I’ll grant you a lo-ong leash as long as

you make progress. But, I better not hear you’ve gone back

to badger Mallory or– Speak of the devil,” he mutters,

interrupting himself. His gaze focuses across the street.

Hurrying down the sidewalk is an older woman of stature.

She’s tall, reedy, wearing a flowery calf length skirt and

a loose blouse, over which is thrown an unbuttoned artist’s

smock. Thick, gray hair cascades around her shoulders and

a large-brimmed rattan hat puts her face in speckled

shadow. Birkenstocks clap against the soles of her feet as

she makes her way across the street headed towards them

with obvious intent.

“Van Helden?” Mulder queries in a low tone.

“The same,” Guarino answers.

The woman’s agitation is palpable as she strides towards

the trio. Without acknowledging the detective, she walks up to

Mulder and meets him at eye level.

“You must be Agent Mulder,” she says and he nods. “Thank

goodness you’ve come. Now, maybe something will be done to

stop this madness.” Her voice is mid-ranged, crisp and

resonant, though tinged with age. Her diction is

impeccable and her manner bespeaks an authority that brooks

no argument.

“Now, Olly–” Guarino begins.

“Don’t ‘now Olly’ me, Nicky,” she says, shifting her keen

gaze to the lawman. “You and I both know that something

fishy is going on around here.”

“And I doubt you’ll find it on the local diner’s menu,

either,” Mulder quips, a smile tugging at his mouth.

Olly’s shoulders ease and she turns back to him, eyes

softening at his open expression. “What I mean is that

more women are going to be taken if you don’t stop him.”

“Him?”

Her gaze intensifies as she murmurs, “The Marimorph.”

Guarino notes the sudden change in the agent’s expression.

His amusement downshifts with lightning speed into

interest, signaling his belief in Olly’s absurd suggestion.

Mulder’s lips form an unspoken “what,” but she’s already

answering.

“An ancient humanoid from the depths of the sea, Agent

Mulder. Come to find his literal soul mate on the surface

before returning to his watery home. You may have heard of

his homeland.” She pauses for effect before whispering,

“Atlantis.”

Mulder exhales and his head pulls back from where it has

leaned towards Olly. “Atlantis,” he repeats before looking

over her shoulder at Scully, who stands listening just

beyond them. He’s about to say something, but is

broadsided by Guarino’s voice at his side.

“Okay, that’s enough. These people have come a long way

at your insistence, obviously *and* unnecessarily. I’ve

got an investigation to run and maybe we can get to the

bottom of this with some federal muscle behind it. I

promise you, we’ll find the guy. Don’t worry. Just you be

careful and watch yourself.”

Olly turns to Guarino and draws herself straighter. A

look of disdain is in her eyes, but she maintains her

temper. “If I didn’t know you from when I fed you cookies

off my back porch, Nicky, I’d be insulted. But, I thank

Detective Guarino for his concern over a poor helpless old

woman, such as myself. I’ll be fine, thank you.” She

casts a meaningful glance at Mulder, then moves down the

sidewalk with purposeful strides.

Olly’s commanding presence lingers in her wake. Guarino’s

cheeks color at being chastised, his chagrin compounded

when he spies Scully’s eyes on him. He clears his throat

and looks down at his shoes before looking back at them.

“I’m, uh, sorry about that. I told you. She’s eccentric.

I wouldn’t set store by anything she says.”

“I’d still like to speak with her further, if you don’t

mind,” Mulder states, his impatience clear as he takes two

steps backwards in Olly’s direction. “I don’t think my

mumbo-jumbo can outdo hers, anyway. Right?” Mulder holds

out his hands to them and flashes them a winsome and

unexpected smile. He turns on his heel, takes a few steps,

then turns back. He calls to Scully, “Why don’t you speak

with Dr. Oracoff and call me when you’re done?”

Guarino looks at Scully who nods, then watches her partner

until he’s out of sight. The unflappable exterior may fool

some, but she can’t disguise the heat in her gaze, which

he’s certain could melt his sterling shield. It’s been

some time since he’s had a woman’s eyes follow him the way

Scully’s do her partner, but he remembers how it felt. Oh,

yeah.

As for the case, it won’t hurt to use Uncle Sam’s money to

fund his investigation, at least until they grow weary of

Olly’s game, whatever it is. The feds might be useful

after all

~~~~~

Sheriff’s Office

2:00 p.m.

Mulder strides through the doorway of the sheriff’s

station. The blast of air conditioning that hits his face

is welcome. The Mystic was closed when he’d gotten there

and he realized, irritated with himself, that he didn’t

know Van Helden’s home address.

He shows his badge to the dispatcher. “Guarino?”

She points to a corridor. “Downstairs.”

The odor of urinals, dried sweat and institutional food

greets him at the bottom of the stairwell. He’s been in

jails of varying types and this one, at least, is clean and

bright. It’s still a jailhouse. Why anyone would ever risk

losing their liberty is not a mystery to him. He knows the

threat of incarceration is not a deterrent in the mind of

the hardened criminal.

The narrow, fluorescent-lit hallway diverges at the base.

The left wing houses three holding cells. He turns right

and walks through an open arch into a narrow corridor along

whose length runs a plate of one-way glass. Inside, he

sees Guarino sitting at a table with a scared-looking

teenager. He thumbs “Open” on the intercom beside the

closed door. The kid is talking.

“I told you. I don’t know what happened to her. I went

into the woods and then Mallory was … just … gone.”

So, this is Raymond Weill. Mulder taps on the door and

watches Guarino cross to open. He disengages the intercom

and waits until he’s admitted without a word. He

approaches the boy and sits down opposite. Ray takes a

swig from the soda can on the narrow wooden table and sets

it down, his eyes on Mulder.

“Raymond? I’m Agent Mulder with the FBI. I’m hoping you

can help us figure out what *did* happen to Mallory.”

Mulder meets the boy’s eyes dead on. He doesn’t detect

malice there, only false bravado and a trace of fear. He

shifts into observatory mode, senses realigning to pick up

all the subtle nuances. He notes the clothing: khaki-

trousers and golf polo, scuffed topsiders. Work clothes,

most likely. His buzzed hair is typical of his generation

and he sports a gold stud in his right ear. Peer-driven.

Heterosexual. Just your average kid. Ray’s right foot is

tapping toe-to-heel-and-back in an endless rhythm beneath

the table.

“Listen, I didn’t do anything wrong,” the boy says. “We

were just talking and fooling around a little bit.”

Mulder’s certain ‘foolin’ around’ these days is very

different from his own adolescent experiences, but he’s

listening not just to Ray’s text, but to the emotion

lurking below. In this case, he hears nothing more than

male hormones speaking.

“And Mallory wasn’t being especially friendly, was she?”

Mulder gives the boy a conspiratorial look, which seems to

settle him.

“No. She wasn’t. But I figure, what the heck? Girls

expect you to try something.”

“Did you?”

“Yeah,” he admits grudgingly. “Look, I was ticked when

she said no, but I wouldn’t hurt her. Ever. You gotta

believe me.” Mulder does, but he’s certain something else

isn’t being said.

“Tell me, Ray. What happened next? After Mallory said no.”

The boy’s eyes shift away, then back. “Nothin’. I went

into the woods. To take a leak.”

“And you didn’t see or hear anything unusual?” Mulder

hears a stifled sigh behind him. Guarino’s patience is

limited.

“I- I don’t know what you mean.”

The metal slides on the bottom of Mulder’s chair scrape

hard against the linoleum as he pushes back and stands.

Hands on hips, he turns from the table and walks towards

the mirrored glass. He observes Ray’s reflection shift in

his seat. For a moment, it seems as if the boy is about to

say something, then reconsiders before taking another swig

of soda.

Mulder casts a sidelong glance at Guarino, leaning against

the closed door beside him. The man’s eyes meet his and

his cheek muscle gives a twitch. Mulder suspects what the

boy is hiding, but needs Ray to say it for Guarino’s sake.

He watches the image of the detective as he steps forward and

in a quiet voice says, “Ray, Mallory has already told us

what happened. We just want to hear *your* version of

things.”

“She told you–” he stops mid-sentence.

“Son, if there’s something you’re not saying, I suggest

you tell us now.” He tilts his head towards Mulder, who

turns in place and walks back towards the table, his face a

cool mask. “The federal government doesn’t take kindly to

aiding and abetting criminals.”

“I told you, I don’t know–”

The boy recoils and gasps as Mulder’s hand slams the

aluminum can against the wall, where it clatters into a

corner, foam spraying gray cinderblock as brown liquid

puddles on the floor. The agent’s hands press flat against

the table and he leans across its width, staring down at

the adolescent. “Cut the crap, Ray,” he snarls. “You know

exactly what happened to Mallory, don’t you?” His voice

rises with each statement. “Maybe you were part of it.

Maybe you helped set it up, huh?”

“No, I- I swear,” Ray sputters. “I’m telling you the

truth. I didn’t hurt her.”

“I figure you for 17 or 18, right?” Mulder focuses on the

boy’s eyes as he bites off his words. “You’ll be charged as

an adult. Trust me, Ossining is *not* a nice place,

although a pretty boy like you shouldn’t have any trouble

finding a ‘protector.’ Should he?” He pushes off the table

and walks towards the door, as if to leave.

“Wait a minute,” Ray calls, his voice laced with panic.

Mulder halts. “I did see something.” Mulder turns, and he

and Guarino move closer. Sitting back down opposite the

boy, Mulder smoothes his tie and gives Ray his best

official G-man glower.

The boy sighs then says, “There was a guy. He came outta

nowhere, I swear. I heard Mallory calling me. She sounded

scared, so I went back to the beach and he was just

standin’ there, next to the blanket.”

Guarino pipes up. “Why didn’t you say something about

this before, Raymond?”

“I dunno. I was scared.”

“You were scared,” Guarino parrots, voice rising in

disgust. “We’ve been going crazy trying to nail this guy

and you know what he looks like? Jesus.”

“I don’t remember, exactly.” Ray’s eyes plead with the

detective’s. Mulder watches agitation override timidity as

the real story gets told. “The guy was naked and I thought

he was going to attack her. I wanted to help, but I

couldn’t move. I couldn’t.” Ray drops his eyes and looks

away from both men. “I messed up. Mallory could’ve died.”

Mulder’s tone softens, “Help us now, Ray. What did he

look like?”

The boy looks back to the agent and leans in. “Tall, thin

white guy. It was dark but he must’ve been carrying a

flashlight or something cause I could see Mallory’s face.

She was really scared.”

“Then what happened?”

Ray waits a few seconds, then says, “He was strange. I

mean he looked normal, you know, but then…” he pauses.

Guarino presses, “What then, Raymond?”

“There was this light. A mad weird light. I thought it

was a flashlight or something like that,” he repeats.

“But it wasn’t,” Mulder adds.

“I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like it was

spillin’ right out from this guy’s chest. I don’t remember

anything after that, I swear. I woke up right there in the

woods the next morning and went straight to school. My mom

thinks I stayed at a friend’s house. Then I heard Mallory

was missing and Detective Guarino came to find me and I got

nervous. I was just happy when they found her. I figured

everybody would forget the whole thing.”

Mulder sits back in the chair and sighs, running a hand

over his mouth. He stands abruptly and turns to Guarino.

“You can verify his whereabouts for the other abductions?”

“Yeah.”

“Send him home.”

Mulder exits the room, with Guarino on his heels. In the

outer corridor, Guarino says low, “You believe him, don’t

you? That crap about the light?”

“Yeah, I do. I also believe, as Ms. Van Helden said

earlier, that something fishy is going on around here. I

need her home address.”

Guarino cocks his head at Mulder, eyes narrowing. “I’m

yanking you in, Agent Mulder. You’re on a short leash now.

A *real* short leash,” he says.

~~~~~

Darden Hall Southampton University 4:15 p.m.

In the warmth of a late summer afternoon, Scully wanders

academic corridors, searching for Room 401. Labs peek out

from open doors beckoning to her with the lure of a siren’s

call. She pauses at the doorway to the small office

labeled “Julian Oracoff, Ph.D.,” then enters. Muted

strains of Debussy filter from hidden speakers. Travel

posters touting the names of exotic locales and extreme

sports cover one wall. Photographs dot another, images

reflecting a tall, slim man with blond hair and an

enigmatic smile posing with different official-looking

types. One photo shows him in a tuxedo holding a plaque.

He’s handsome. Another wall displays credentials, real and

honorary, from European and American universities.

His bookshelves, however, are what attract her most. The

first is filled with volumes of scientific texts from many

specialties, along with a sampling of philosophy, ancient

art, anthropology and music. The other holds a dazzlement

of shells, brilliant in color, amazing in diversity.

Scully picks up a gigantic hinged oyster, its mottled cover

covered with spikes, reminding her of the San Diego beaches

of her childhood. Another looks like a miniature conch,

striated with brown and cream and gold, its interior awash

in palest blue. She turns it around and around in her

fingers.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” a voice sounds far behind her.

She spins around, shell in hand, startled at having been

caught touching someone’s personal belongings. She’s even

more startled to find the man attached to the voice

standing just behind her. Her perceptions must be off. “I

apo- apologize,” she sputters, taking a step back.

“No, I’m glad you like them. She recognizes Oracoff from

the photos, but his physical presence impacts with greater

force. Her composure slips for only a moment before her

professional demeanor snaps back into place and she pulls

her ID from her jacket.

“I’m Dana Scully from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,

Dr. Oracoff. We have an appointment.”

“Yes, my G.A. told me about it.” He picks up a fan-like

shell, bands of amber, purple and gold spanning the

delicate carapace. “This is *my* favorite,” he says, his

voice wistful as he holds the translucent piece up to the

window, setting it aglow with inner fire. “Its commonly

known as the Northern scallop, but its true name is

‘Sirrimantu,’ the ancient symbol of nobility. When the

Atlanteans set sail in their ships of gold, these adorned

their hulls.” His voice is raw silk, soothing yet

provocative, with a quality she can’t define. Without

warning, the hairs on the back of Scully’s neck tingle and

she gives a slight shiver.

“Are you cold?” Oracoff asks, moving to the window with

casual grace. “Blasted a/c. I hate it. He unlocks and

angles out a window, letting in fresher, warmer air. He

gestures with his hand, “Please, have a seat, Agent

Scully.”

He sits behind his desk and all at once, he is all-

business, his eyes assessing her even as she does the same.

“This is about the women I found, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. You discovered three of the five abductees.

That’s a rather significant coincidence.”

“I know. It’s awfully suspicious, isn’t it?” He chortles

and drops his head for a moment before reclaiming her gaze.

His eyes are intense, grey shot through with darker flecks

and long lashes that curl at the edges. “But, I’m a

naturalist, after all. My research is conducted on these

shores and that’s where the women were found. I’ve taken

lie detector tests that prove my innocence. I hope I don’t

have to prove it again. Not to you.” The way he says the

last sentence is warmer than required and Scully finds

herself distracted by his focused attention, even as she

relegates him to the category of Suspect and Not-Mulder.

“How long have you been teaching at Southampton?” she

queries.

“Only since the beginning of the Millennium,” he says.

His response is odd, but no more so than any number of

things she’s heard her partner say. “I came to the campus

on a research grant for the year.”

“And your research topic?”

“The effects of global warming on the preservation of

antediluvian artifacts on the Atlantic Barrier Shelf.”

Scully cocks her head. “Thesis work can be a challenge.”

“What was your dissertation on, Dr. Scully?”

So, he’d done some digging prior to her arrival.

Suspicion mounts, but the questions in her mind dissipate

as quickly as they rise, a disconcerting fact she cannot

explain. “My degree is in medicine, but my senior thesis

covered some of Einstein’s ideas.”

“Albert was one of our finest minds.”

“Albert?”

“I met him once. He was beyond brilliant. He offered the

world the secrets of time — immortality revealed — but

they still don’t understand.”

“Immortality?”

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Dana Scully,

than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'”

“I believe that.”

“You sound surprised about it.”

“Yes, well,” and she pauses, recalling her experience at

the Buddhist temple and how it has expanded her vision of

the world. “I’ve always thought of myself as a scientist

first. I set stock in its hard factual approach to any

problem. But, I’ve had certain… experiences… that have

challenged my adherence to its principles.”

“It is only when we realize what we do not know, Doctor,

that we begin to gain wisdom.”

Their eyes meet and once again, the strange tingling at

the back of her neck reaches cool tendrils down her back.

“Dr. Oracoff, I was wondering…” she starts.

“I’d love to join you for dinner,” he finishes.

She arches a brow at him. That wasn’t what she was going

to ask, but she finds her mind becoming clouded, unable to

remember the pointed questions she had planned. Instead,

she says, “Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?”

“Only if you don’t like the idea. Please.”

She considers him, then adds, “Fine. I’ll call my

partner and have him join us.”

His disappointment is obvious. Scully keeps her

expression neutral, but she’s flattered by his response.

“You’ll like Mulder, I think. He’s interesting. Like you.”

Julian leans forward over his crossed arms resting on the

desktop. “My dear Doctor, Agent, Dana Scully, if Mulder is

anything like me, he’ll hate me on sight.”

ACT TWO

Van Helden Residence 6:00 p.m.

Mulder’s walk from the lockup takes him past quaint shops

and a long, wide thoroughfare that leads to the wharf.

Turning right onto a winding street, he scans the numbers

of the large vintage houses until he finds it: 212

Waterbury Lane.

He stands at the picket gate, eyeing the three-story,

white clapboard colonial tucked behind an English garden

lush with roses, foxglove, dahlias and other flowers. His

mom had been a gardener. Odd, how she crept into his

thoughts. He’s caught unawares by a sudden flash of

planting seeds and pulling weeds, Samantha tugging at the

hem of his mother’s dress. They are images consoling and

chilling.

Swinging open the gate, he passes under an ivied trellis,

over flagstones leading to a street-level entry. He pulls

the cord on the door-side ship’s bell that announces his

arrival and the tone lofts in the air, along with the drone

of insects, the scree of gulls and the muffled sounds of a

harbor town doing business.

The heavy door opens to reveal a young woman with dark

hair and large, darker eyes. Mulder asks for Ms. Van

Helden and is ushered inside. He follows the girl through

silent rooms until they reach the back of the house.

Stepping through what looks to be a rear exterior door,

Mulder finds himself in a sizeable conservatory, sunlight

seeping through algae-filmed glass. Copious plant life

overflows the space and he’s surprised to see butterflies

fluttering among the greenery. The room is humid and he

loosens his tie, attempting to ease the stiffness in his

back by shifting his head from side to side.

Olly arrives and when their eyes meet, she smiles at him.

“I’m glad you came.” She gestures to one of a pair of deep-

cushioned rattan club chairs that grace the small slate

patio at the center of the greenhouse. “You must be tired.

Please, sit down. I’ll have Mariana bring something cool

to drink.”

Mulder sighs. He *is* tired. And curious. “Thank you,”

he replies and sinks into the deep cushions. Olly gives

instructions to the serving girl, then comes to stand

beside the empty, matching chair opposite Mulder’s. “This

is an interesting house,” he tells her.

“Yes. It is. Built in 1862, just before the War of the

States. Sag Harbor was abolitionist in nature, but it was

also a Tory stronghold during the Revolution. It’s a

colorful history.”

“And you know a lot about it.”

“I know a good deal about a great many things, Agent

Mulder.”

Mulder sits forward, leaning his forearms on his thighs.

“Like who’s abducting these women?”

Olly looks away and closes her eyes. She sighs to herself

then opens them, returning her gaze to Mulder. “What do

you know about the Lost Continent of Atlantis?” Her

question is serious, disarming him with tolerance.

“I’ve heard the myths, the legends. Atlantis was an

island kingdom destroyed by a cataclysm that submerged it

beneath the Atlantic. Its existence has been debated since

Plato, who described it as a utopian civilization. The

Nazis laid claim to the legend during World War Two,

claiming it as the source of its genetic superiority.

Other researchers have attempted to prove its existence

without success, the most notable being Edgar Cayce, who

gave psychic readings while in a trance state. He produced

hundreds of pages of information regarding Atlantean

culture.”

Olly nods. “And what do you know about its people?”

“What should I know?”

She moves to the entry, taking an ornate tray from the

girl he saw earlier. “Thank you, Mariana,” Olly says

gently. “You may go for the day.” Mariana disappears.

Olly is quiet as she sets the tray down on a small wrought-

iron table and pours mint tea into a frosted glass. She

hands it to Mulder, then straightens. He is again struck

by her demeanor, her grace, and the intelligence that

surrounds her. She is a beautiful woman, still. She

reminds him of another woman he admires–his partner.

“The Atlanteans *were* a noble race,” says Olly. “They

lived and worked at all manner of trade, just as we do.

Their technology was as sophisticated as ours. Some say

more so. They traded with the ancient Egyptians, providing

blueprints for the pyramids in exchange for the secrets of

immortality. They were thinkers, artisans, engineers,

scientists. They were also hermaphroditic.”

Mulder’s eyes widen, his curiosity bumping up a notch.

“Yes,” Olly continues, noting his interest. “All life as

we know it, in its earliest stages of formation, are. Some

say they were also extraterrestrial in origin. I don’t

know about that.”

Mulder swallows down a mouthful of tea, assessing the

woman standing before him. Well-read and well educated,

comfortable with money and its privilege, nurturing,

imaginative. Her likelihood as a suspect is minimal.

“You’re saying the Marimorph is hermaphroditic?”

“No.” Olly sits, holding one hand within the other on her

lap. “The Marimorph is only the masculine entity of the

creature. In their original incarnation, the Atlanteans

possessed specific masculine and feminine entities co-

existing within a single humanoid morphology. When the

Great Cataclysm sundered the continent, it submerged, as

you say. Those unable to reach the sheltering protection

of its self-contained cities were, themselves, torn asunder

by a force that split them apart physically, mentally and

spiritually. The surviving creatures, confounded and

helpless, dispersed throughout the landforms of the earth.”

“That means the entities…” He tilts his head at her.

“Disjoined, becoming separate male and female creatures,

yet each only half of the whole.”

“Can they recognize one another?”

“In part. The feminine entity is called a Perimorph, a

woman of subtle beauty and creativity, with no memory of

her origin. Possessing humanoid anatomy, she lives out

lifetime after lifetime coupling with human males to

produce rare, hybrid progeny of great intellect. History

books are rife with their names.”

“Such as?”

“Some suggest Tutankhamun, Confucius and Edison as just a

few Atlantean-human hybrids. The masculine entity is the

Marimorph. He is also humanoid in anatomy, brilliant,

cunning and seductive. He, unlike his counterpart,

remembers every lifetime as well his origins. He is driven

by nature to seek his literal soul mate.”

“Dates a lot, does he? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be glib.”

“You’re an interesting man, Agent Mulder. You listen as

if you believe me, yet I sense hesitation.”

He quirks his head to one side. “I’m just thinking about

what my partner would say of all this.”

“A skeptic?”

“You could say that.”

“The auburn-haired woman with the piercing blue eyes? The

one I saw with you?”

“Yeah, that’s Scully.”

“A woman who keeps her counsel. She’s of help to you.”

“Yes. Yes, she is.” He pauses before adding, “though I

don’t always see it that way.” He gives Olly a self-

effacing smile.

“It can be difficult to recognize what’s best for

ourselves, what links us to one another, how lines of fate

and time cross paths in their mobius-like movements.”

Mulder nods, contemplating her words. His cell phone

chirps, interrupting his internal discourse. “Excuse

me,” he says, reaching inside his jacket for the unit.

“Mulder.”

“It’s me,” Scully says. “Where are you?”

“Olly’s house. Where are you?”

“On a one-lane road, stuck behind a truck full of ducks.”

“Ducks?”

“Quack-quack, Mulder. I’m turning onto Preston now.”

He smiles at the vexation and tease in her voice. He

stands, holding up a finger to Olly and walking a short

distance away. “Did you speak with Oracoff?”

“Yes, I did. We’re meeting him in town for dinner.”

“When?”

“Eight o’clock. Some place called The American Hotel.”

“The American Hotel,” he repeats. “Should I check us in?”

“Can we afford it?”

“Let me find out. Only the best for you, you know.”

“Right. Where are you? I’ve got a map.”

“212 Waterbury Lane. Meet me here.”

“I’m there.” He hears the phone line go dead. He returns

to Olly who stands, an odd expression on her face. “My

partner’s meeting me here. I have to go.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” she tells him. “I’m sorry to

have eavesdropped, but I couldn’t help but overhear. You

need accommodations and The American is booked. I have six

bedrooms. Please, allow me to offer you a place to stay.”

Mulder shakes his head. “No, thank you. I… We

couldn’t… impose.”

“Nonsense. It’s no trouble and I like having guests.

Besides, it will mean less paperwork when you get back to

Washington, won’t it?”

Mulder remembers Scully’s attitude earlier in the week.

He also harbors a nagging suspicion that Olly isn’t telling

him everything she knows. “All right,” he agrees.

“Good.”

The clang of the ship’s bell announces a visitor.

Olly excuses herself and Mulder hears Scully’s muffled

voice. Unintelligible dialogue ensues. At last, the two

women emerge.

“It’s arranged,” states Olly. “You’ll both stay here.

Care to see the rest of the house?” Scully looks at him, a

mixture of question and amusement in her eyes. He gives a

small shrug in return.

“Certainly,” Scully replies.

~~~~~

Olly takes them on the short tour, pointing out items of

historical and architectural value. The women fall into

easy conversation and Mulder hangs back, enjoying his view

of Scully relaxing under the kind attentions of the older

woman. The house is fascinating, filled with history and

items reflecting the nautical nature of the town. An

antique sextant, an impressive collection of scrimshaw that

reminds him of his dad’s collection, dozens of sand dollars

heaped into a heavy basket, and pieces of driftwood are

scattered amidst the eclectic furnishings. And everywhere,

there are crystals of varied sizes, shapes and colors.

It’s a queer, but cozy environment.

Olly leads them up a wide staircase at the entry. Midway

between the second and third floors, Scully says, “This is

amazing.” Mulder has preceded them, but she and Olly

pause to look at an enormous window at whose center sits a

stained-glass image of a bay surrounded by trees. “Is

this…?” She looks at Olly in question.

“Yes. Louis Comfort Tiffany made that. It’s a replica of

his piece, ‘Oyster Bay.’ He crafted it for the previous

owners of this house with the stipulation that it always

remain intact and in place. Do you appreciate art, Agent

Scully?”

“I do. You have some interesting pieces.”

“I do, indeed. And guests,” she adds.

The women join Mulder, who waits on the landing. Olly

stands facing the agents and says, “I have two singles and

a double on this floor. Will you be sharing?”

Her assumption causes Mulder to look away and to stifle a

smile. Scully keeps her composure and replies, “The singles

are fine, thank you.”

“I hope I haven’t offended. I pick up on vibes. It’s the

crystals, you know. A shared room seemed right for you,

but–”

“The singles will be fine,” Mulder repeats, his eyes on

Scully, who refuses to meet his gaze.

“Fine.” Olly face grows anxious. “You have an

appointment at The American, yes?”

“Yeah,” Mulder says, noting the change of expression.

“I overheard that, too, I’m afraid. I also heard the name

‘Oracoff.'”

“Do you know him?” Scully asks.

“Julian Oracoff?” Scully nods. “Yes. I know Julian. Is

he in trouble?”

“Not if he’s telling the truth,” Scully replies.

~~~~~

The American Hotel 8:15 p.m.

Julian Oracoff glances at his wristwatch and sits back in

his chair. The agents he’s meeting are late and he’s miffed

at being kept waiting. He picks up the crystal goblet

resting beside his hand and holds it aloft. The jewel-

toned liquid captures the candlelight, its rubied glow

refracting in the wine. He brings the glass to his lips

and sips the vintage with reverence before replacing it on

the table.

He looks forward to seeing the woman who visited him

earlier today. Her choice of occupation makes no sense, in

his mind. Law enforcement types are a notoriously

practical lot. But Dr. Scully seems discerning. She’s

intelligent and perceptive, and with her vivid coloring,

quite attractive.

He casts his gaze around the room, observing the few

occupants dining in the post-season quiet. The room’s

appointments are tasteful and he likes the service:

attentive, but discreet. He’s accustomed to urban living

and prefers the academic climate of the Ivies, but location

is everything and his research demands his presence in this

locale, far from city lights.

He notices Scully as soon as she enters the room. She’s

changed her clothing. The somber pant suit has given way to

a sleeveless, dark blue sheath with a scooped neckline and

a fitted bodice that enhances her petite form. She sees

him and follows the maitre’d to the table. Julian rises at

her approach.

“Hello again, Dr. Scully. You look lovely.”

“Thank you,” she replies before taking the chair beside his.

“I thought your partner was joining us.”

“He’s making a phone call. He’ll be here shortly.”

“Too soon, I’m afraid,” Julian states.

She smiles, a bit self-conscious, and he realizes she’s

unaccustomed to being flattered. It’s refreshing. He

imagines she must keep her femininity under close wraps

working as a federal agent. Pity. Women are such

interesting creatures.

“I’ve taken the liberty of ordering wine for us. May I

pour you a glass?”

“I’m sorry, no,” she replies. “Agent Mulder and I are

still, technically, on duty. But, please don’t hesitate on

our account, Dr. Oracoff.”

“Please call me Julian and I’m hoping I may call you

Dana.” She nods once and he tops off the glass he’s been

nursing. “This is a Pinot Noir from Pindar. It’s a local

label, but quite good. The North Fork is fast becoming the

Bordeaux of New York.”

“Do you know this area well?”

“Well enough for my purposes.”

A voice intercepts asking, “Which would be what, exactly?”

Julian hears the suspicion in the voice and turns to look

up into a pair of intelligent hazel eyes. He already knows

that this is Fox Mulder, Dr. Scully’s partner. As

suspected, he hates the man on sight. He’d been hoping for

someone much older, paunchier and cruder than the slender,

handsome agent that stands beside the table. He stands to

meet the man’s eyes, level with his own and extends his

hand.

“You must be Agent Mulder. I’m Julian Oracoff.”

Mulder shakes his hand and he sits across from Scully,

Julian between them. “My work, agent, is to teach marine

biology and do research into the life forms found in the

shoals off the Atlantic barrier reef.”

“How do you do that while on land?”

“I have use of a small submersible the university provides.”

Mulder glances across the table at Scully.

“Does anyone ever go with you on these underwater junkets?”

“They’re called research expeditions and yes, occasionally

students go with me.”

“Where is it now?”

“At the University’s launch, near the public dock.”

“And its usage is always tracked?”

Julian smiles, unperturbed by the subtle grilling.

“Always. There’s a ship’s log, as well. You will find all

in order, Mr. Mulder.”

The two men watch each other, their reactive chemistry

palpable. Just then, the waiter approaches with menus in

hand. They peruse the placards for a minute. Julian notes

Mulder’s well-concealed discomfiture with the four-star

prices and French descriptions. Their expense allowance is

probably a pittance, Julian thinks, but he wants to impress

the lady and isn’t afraid of Uncle Sam’s wrath. He holds

up a hand and says, “Do you like seafood? If I may

suggest…”

“By all means,” Mulder says, his tone polite, but his

mouth set.

Julian orders oysters and foie gras, endive salad and

grilled salmon; all in impeccable French. Mulder meets

Scully’s eyes over the vivid African daisies that adorn the

centerpiece. Their shared expression suggests a well-honed

routine. Julian’s guard goes up as Mulder turns his

attention to him. Scully maintains a serene expression.

“Scully tells me you’re only here until January,” Mulder

states.

“Yes, although my research could call me away from

teaching at any time.”

“Your research.”

“Yes. My thesis on antediluvian artifacts.”

“I meant to ask you earlier,” Scully says. “Antediluvian,

as in Noah’s Ark?”

“Actually, I’m interested in a much earlier catastrophe.

One that redefined the face of the Western Hemisphere and

took from us a golden civilization.”

“Sounds like something I heard earlier today,” Mulder

mumbles.

“Sounds like a story I heard once in a lullaby,” Scully

quips in a dry tone.

Mulder smiles at her. Julian chuckles, “Did I say over

the rainbow?”

“Then where?” she asks.

“Under the sea.”

Mulder adds, “Yeah, Scully, with the Little Mermaid.”

Julian stiffens. “The ignorant often ridicule that which

they do not understand.”

“So, enlighten me.” Mulder’s tone is edged with sarcasm.

The waiter interrupts with appetizers. Conversation

ceases for a brief time as delicacies are consumed. Julian

leans towards Scully and says sotto voce, “Did you know

oysters are an aphrodisiac, Dana?”

“Many foods are considered to be conducive to the

production of hormones and endorphins within the body, yes.”

Julian’s eyes twinkle as they meet hers, “Such as?”

“Such as…asparagus, walnuts, pine nuts, grapes.” Her

eyes flick to the glass of wine before him and back to his

attentive gaze.

“Really?” he says, leaning his chin on his hand as he

listens, enjoying the spark in her eyes and the shape of

her mouth as she speaks.

“Yes. And spices like ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and of

course,” she pauses and smiles, “chocolate.”

“Ahh. So that’s why gentleman bring chocolates to

beautiful women?”

“Well, the scientific explanation is that it releases

endorphins that create the same sensation as being in love.”

“Imagine that.”

“Don’t forget green M&Ms.” That was Mulder. Scully looks

across the small table to her partner with raised brows and

a look of incomprehension. He’s sitting back in his chair

with only his right hand resting at the table’s edge,

fingers drumming the white linen.

“Excuse me?”

“Green M&Ms, Scully. The latest substance to induce a

frenzy of wild passion.” His tone is light, but his

fingers betray his insecurity.

“Green M&Ms.”

“An ad hoc university study in Texas verifies that people

are using green M&Ms as sexual stimulants. Every one knows

you have to eat those first when you open the package.”

“Mulder…”

“But,” he says leaning forward into the table with both

hands pressed flat against the surface. “Getting back to

our *original* discussion…” he says with soft, but

deliberate intent.

Julian is pleased he’s disturbed the agent with his

attentions to the woman. He’s quite certain that

testosterone is goading Mulder to this petty sniping and

equally certain that what Mulder really wants to do is

exhibit typical human male territoriality by shoving him

against the wall and saying, “Back off, pal.” Still,

Mulder refrains and Julian admires his restraint.

The agents eye one another for a few, silent moments and

then Scully asks of her partner, “You said you heard

something earlier today. From whom?”

“Olivia Van Helden.” Julian’s chin and interest lift

despite himself, a fact not unnoticed.

“Do you know her?” Scully asks the professor.

“She owns a bookstore. I buy books.” She nods and drops

the topic, much to Mulder’s surprise.

“So then,” Mulder begins while casting a pointed look at

his partner and back to Julian, “You don’t really know each

other.”

“No. What did she tell you?”

“She has a theory that sounds a lot like yours about an

island that was submerged in the ocean after a great

cataclysm.”

“Atlantis,” Julian offers.

“Yes. Then you *have* chatted.”

“We’ve discussed that topic, among others.”

“You know about the Marimorph.”

Julian’s posture doesn’t shift, but he takes in a deep,

quiet breath and releases it. “Yes, I know about

Marimorphs and Perimorphs and the Great Cataclysm. Are you

suggesting such creatures actually exist? Or that such a

creature is responsible for the women that have been taken?”

Mulder prepares to say something, but is cut off by Scully

saying, “I think what my partner is suggesting is that

someone may *believe* he is such a creature and is

perpetrating these crimes in a delusional state.”

Mulder’s eyes narrow. “Tell me something, Dr. Oracoff.

Ms. Van Helden tells me that the creature is *driven* to

abduct these women, hoping to discover his soul mate and

return to the sea with her.”

“That would fit the mythology. Atlantis is believed to

still exist deep beneath the surface of the sea, it’s

portals opening but once a year for a brief span of days

during the passage of the autumnal equinox. Only then can

its long-lost nomads re-enter and rejoin with their

kindred. Some even suggest that the storms that plague the

Atlantic at this time of year are a direct result of those

portals opening.”

“So the portals are closed again?”

“By the end-turn of the Romans’ seventh month.”

“And you believe that the creature seeks its soul mate?”

“The idea of a soul mate has long existed.”

“As a fanciful notion,” Scully enjoins. “Physical

scientists attribute it to biochemistry, anthropologists to

mating rituals and psychologists to deep-seated mother

separation issues.”

“Ahh, but for the Marimorph, dear Dana, the soul mate is

its sundered self seeking reunion.”

Mulder grumbles, “I’d say his version of a one-night stand

is a bit severe.”

Julian eyes the man with an icy stare. “I believe–” he

begins, but never finishes because Detective Guarino is

striding towards their table.

“We got us another victim,” he tells them.

Mulder looks at Julian, whose face remains impassive and

unaffected by the news. He meets Scully’s eyes and they

rise in tandem.

“I’m afraid we have to go,” Scully tells Julian.

“I’ll take care of the bill,” Julian says.

“Thanks,” Mulder says with some satisfaction before he

follows Guarino and Scully from the dining room, his hand

at the small of her back.

Julian notes the possessiveness of the gesture. There’s

subtext here. Mulder’s jealousy is transparent. He

believes the woman belongs to him.

Foolish human.

~~~~~

Onboard Police Cutter 678 9:00 p.m.

Spray off the dark water kicks up into Mulder’s face as

the police cutter makes its way across Peconic Bay. The

moon is concealed by clouds, incongruous in the night sky,

backlit by silvered light. Mulder leans into the prow,

breathing in the tang of salt air. The feel of moving

water beneath his feet triggers memories of days long gone.

No one who grows up on a sea island ever takes the ocean

for granted or leaves it behind. You are always,

essentially, separate from the mainland, shaped by the

brine that surrounds you.

They are heading towards Southold, on the opposite side of

the immense bay that spans the distance between eastern

Long Island’s fish tails. Scully comes from behind to

stand beside him.

“Allison Jorge,” she begins, her voice raised a notch to

be heard over the hum of the engine and the steady,

rhythmic splash of the cutter as it rebounds off the water.

“Age 34, teacher and mother of three. Husband called the

police after she didn’t come home last night and failed to

show up at school this morning. No known issues of marital

discord or enemies. She was found by a woman walking her

dog on the beach. Southold P.D. says she’s barely hanging

on, so they’ve choppered her to Stony Brook Medical Center.”

Mulder purses his lips and nods without looking at her.

“He’s stepping up the pace, Scully.” He turns towards her.

Her trench is buttoned tight, collar turned up against the

mist. Gusts off the water whip her hair across her face.

He finds himself wanting to brush the stray strands off her

cheek, but pushes the thought aside. “And I think I know

why,” he says.

She waits. He knows she’s prepared for either a

legitimate profile of a kidnapper or the esoteric

meanderings of his mind. Her willingness to hear him is

something he never fully understands, but needs as much as

the air that dampens his skin.

“He’s on a time-limited schedule,” Mulder begins.

“What do you mean?”

“Oracoff said the equinox is a critical date for the

creature,” he says.

“The Marimorph?” He gives her a half-smile and nods.

“You said it yourself. Whether this creature is real or

imagined, we’re likely to see another abduction before the

weekend.”

“The end-turn of the Romans’ seventh month.”

“That’s just double-talk for September.” She nods. “I

suggest we keep an eye on Dr. Oracoff’s movements.”

“You suspect Julian?”

“Scully, that guy was shoveling so much shit he could have

fertilized Kansas.”

“Mulder…” she chides, her annoyance surfacing.

“College professors don’t make the kind of salary Julian

seems accustomed to spending.”

“People have other sources of income besides their jobs.

And the man has taste. That doesn’t make him a criminal.”

“No, just fascinating. Or so it would seem.” Mulder

leans closer to her ear. “What’s with you? You seemed a

million miles away tonight.”

“That’s unfair.”

“But accurate.”

The boat shifts as it curves towards the lights that wink

from shore. Scully loses her footing and pitches forward,

clutching at the lapels of Mulder’s trenchcoat. He places

one foot forward to maintain their balance and a steadying

hand under her elbow. She looks up at him. “What do you

expect from me? I’m here, aren’t I? I’m doing my share of

the work.”

“How? By exchanging precocious remarks with the good

professor? I know what he wants.” She glares at him. He

knows he’s being peevish, but he can’t help himself.

“Mulder, I’ll agree that he’s seductive, but I’m not a

schoolgirl. I’ll buy that his non-reaction to Guarino’s

announcement was odd, but that doesn’t prove anything.

I’ll even accept that he seems to have more information

that the average person about the habits of mythological

sea creatures, present company excepted. But, don’t stand

there and tell me that Julian Oracoff is a merman looking

for love.”

“In all the wrong places, Scully.”

“You think he’s searching for his soul mate, whatever that

means?”

The hand that grasps her arm tightens in increments.

“Don’t you believe people can be meant for one another?”

His attempt at depersonalization can’t disguise his true

question. She drops her head, then lifts her face to his

again.

“Maybe I thought so, once. Real life has proven me wrong

time and again.” He sees the pain of past mistakes in her

eyes, hears the regret in her voice.

“No, I… I don’t suppose either of us has made the best

choices in that regard.”

She cocks her head at him, eyes narrowing. “Whatever it

is that brings people together, Mulder, it’s hard work that

keeps them together, not some mystical force.”

“That’s all I’m expecting, Scully.” Scully drops her

hands and shrugging off his, she turns on her heel and

heads to the enclosed bridge where Guarino navigates the

boat. He knows he’s said the wrong thing at the wrong

time, exactly the wrong way.

~~~~~

Southhold Police Precinct

A Suffolk cop meets them at the police launch and drives

them to the station house. Guarino leads the way through

the bullpen to a desk where a young black detective sits

typing a form.

“Niebler?”

The cop looks up, pinch-faced in the fluorescent lighting.

“Guarino! What brings you to visit us ‘simple folk’ on

the North Fork? I thought you preferred the paparazzi

crowd.”

“You’re handling the Jorge case.”

“Yeah. These the feds?” he asks, standing.

Guarino points to them in succession. “Agents Mulder and

Scully are up from Washington.”

Niebler shakes their hands, then sits on the corner of his

desk.

“D.C. feds. This must be bigger than I thought. Of

course, considering everything that passes through this end

of the island, anything is possible.”

“What do you mean?” Mulder inquires.

Niebler crosses his arms over his chest. “Most people

think Long Island is homogenized white bread. Truth is,

it’s a hodgepodge. And crime doesn’t know city from

sticks. Sure, we got petty stuff like any other town, but

the DEA sits on our doorstep on a regular basis looking for

offshore shit trying to enter the 495 crack line to the

Apple. All right under the noses of quiet suburbia.”

“You going somewhere with this?” Guarino interrupts.

“Shop talk, Nick. What’s your problem? Besides, we got a

possible ID on the kidnapper and an APB on the wire.”

“Who gave the ID?” Scully asks.

“Hispanic girl. Lives in Bungtown. Says she saw a guy

drag Allison Jorge out of the water.” He leans in and

drops his voice, causing them all to step closer. “Funny

thing, though. She says she didn’t see a boat and the guy

had no suit and no gear.”

“We’ll want to speak with both women,” Mulder states.

“The victim is in critical care at Stony Brook. I don’t

know how much you’ll be able to get from her. As for the

witness, she was pretty upset and it was late, so I took a

statement and told her to come back in the morning. My

sketcher will be here, too.”

“Sure,” Mulder concedes.

“You could have told us this over the phone,” Guarino

complains.

“Bite me, Guarino.”

~~~~~

Friday, 9/29

Van Helden Residence

1:00 a.m.

The hallway is shrouded in shadow, muted light filtering

through the stained glass panel between floors, casting

luminous shades of blue-green, crimson and dark gold onto

the burnished oak floor. Scully leans against the open door

frame and allows the colors to infiltrate her mind. Blue

is cool, calming. Red is warm, seductive. And gold? Gold

is the divine calling to her. She closes her eyes.

Fieldwork leaves her weary now. What once was stimulating

and worthwhile, now feels rote and unappreciated. Long

days and longer nights are spent on the road, living out of

a suitcase, prying into the private lives of others,

peeking under the rocks of humanity to shed light on the

dregs. Her well-worn role as skeptic and scientist is

becoming more difficult to fill as she embraces extreme

possibilities for herself. She has seen too much, heard

too much, done too much to deny it. The accumulated weight

of loss, deception and impending doom grinds into her

bones. Science still provides parameters that keep her

sane, but it cannot fill the spaces that grow emptier

inside her with each case they pursue.

The double bind is stifling. She no longer wants a

“normal” life. She’d be content, for a time, then bored.

She knows this. Besides, the only man she can see herself

with is still as likely as ever to run off on a moment’s

notice to chase God-knows-what because he’s afraid he’ll

“miss something.” Mulder. Yes, she loves him. And his

devotion has been obvious to her for a long time.

Time and the extreme events since her trip to Africa have

altered their partnership in ways she could not have

predicted. And while she has always been attracted to her

partner, she has never allowed herself to acknowledge the

depth of that wanting. Until now. Perhaps, it is Spender’s

observation about her willingness to die for Mulder, but

not to love him that pushes her towards a consummation she

craves and fears.

“Planning to sleepwalk tonight?” She keeps her eyes

closed, allowing Mulder’s voice to slip around her

shoulders like softest pashmina. She feels him move past

her and when she opens her eyes, he’s there, leaning

against the opposite side of the doorjamb. Like bookends,

they flank and fill the wider-than-normal doorway.

He’s bare-chested and the legs of his flannel pajamas drag

around his bare feet just a tad, brushing her foot. The

fabric is a dark, subtle plaid. Why she notes this makes

no sense to her, except that it distracts her from the

elastic waist that dips around his narrow hips. She

wonders about the anatomy beneath the cloth. Wonders and

wants. She reminds herself to not react, just breathe,

breathe, breathe.

His big toe comes to rest beside hers as he crosses his

legs and his arms, getting comfortable against the frame.

He rubs his back against the wood, like a cat.

When she speaks again, her voice is calm, much to her own

surprise. “Is there something you needed to talk to me

about?”

“Not really. I was going to get a glass of water. Am I

interrupting something? A meditation, a prayer?”

She sighs. “No, I was just watching the colors in the

glass.” She gestures to the windowpane with her chin and

he twists his upper body to see it. “It’s beautiful, isn’t

it?” She watches the shadows that flicker and dance

through the multi-hued panes, spilling onto the floor.

“To risk sounding cliché, you are.” The words may be

cliché, but the attitude behind them is genuine.

Her eyes dart to his and she discovers he’s turned back

and is watching her. “Is this your apology?” She knows

she’s being difficult, but his words on the cutter still

sting.

“Can’t a guy just appreciate a beautiful woman when he

sees one?”

“What do you want, Mulder?”

“You.” The word is simple, straightforward, without any

trace of innuendo, as if he had said “a sandwich” or “new

running shoes.” That stops her, cold. She takes a breath

and tries to find a witty response to his simple

confession. Words fail in the rush of blood into her veins

and the flush that overtakes her.

Her silence must make him uncomfortable because he’s

talking again. “I promised you I’d be more up front with

you, so I’m trying, Scully. I know I behaved badly tonight

and yeah, I do apologize. I suppose I can’t blame you for

enjoying a little flattery. It’s just that, ummm, I want

to be the one distracting you.”

His unexpected honesty robs her of reason. His toe slips

over the instep of her foot, sliding up and around her

ankle as it blazes a slow trail up and under the satiny

cuff of her pajamas.

“Mulder…” she says, gentle rebuke in her voice. The

foot stops at once, replanting itself beside hers. She

thinks she can breathe again, until he moves, pushing

himself away from the frame and leans in, towards her.

She doesn’t look at him. She can’t. She wets her lips

and concentrates on the expanse of his chest — muscle and

hair and skin filling her direct range of sight as he

stands so close. He’s showered and his clean scent invades

her olfactory senses. She pushes backwards against the

jamb, her hands at her sides, but he moves closer.

“Look at me,” he says, his voice soft against her hair.

She shakes her head. She doesn’t know where his hands are.

“No.” Her pulse is racing and she battles her need to be

touched and to touch him.

“Look at me, Scully,” he pleads. “Please.”

She lifts her face, the back of her head bumping against

the jamb. She steels herself against the hunger in his

eyes. She’s aroused, but still angry. Focus. Yes, that’s

it. She’s always focused on the work. That’s what counts.

They should talk about it. Later.

His head dips down, down. His mouth nears hers at a slow,

slow, slow rate. Then stops, his lips bare millimeters

away from hers. “Seems we have a choice here,” he says,

the movement of his mouth as he speaks casting puffs of air

against her mouth.

“What’s that?” she manages to say. Meanwhile, the ache

between her thighs grows impatient, insistent.

“I could go back to my room, alone. You can go back to

your room, alone. Or…”

“Or?”

“We can share a bed in your room. Or vice versa. I’m

easy that way.” He’s sniffing her, now; breathing her in.

Sniffing her! And damned if she doesn’t find it erotic as

hell.

“Mulder…”

“Scully.”

“We’re working.” It’s a feeble excuse, but it’s the only

one she can think of at the moment.

“No. This is more what I’d call playing. You remember

how to play, don’t you? Share toys, make nice.”

“I think I remember that,” she murmurs.

“Never doubted you for a minute,” he says, the tip of his

nose rubbing against hers.

She wants to kiss him. But this. This is… nice, too.

“Very nice,” he whispers back. She’s said that aloud.

“Mulder,” she barely manages to say.

“What?”

“I need you–” she begins.

“I need you, too, Scully.” His lips press dry and warm

against her temple and every nerve ending in her body goes

on alert.

“No,” she hears herself say. “I need you to listen.”

“Mmm-hmm,” he murmurs, his kisses moving across her

eyelids and the bridge of her nose. Resistance becomes

more difficult with each contact and if he puts his hands

on her, she’ll be undone.

“Mulder, please stop.” His face pulls back from hers,

desire and hurt confusion in his eyes. Her head lolls to

one side and she drops her eyes. “You can’t say things

like you did tonight and then do this to me.”

Without a word, he steps away. She drops her head and

looks at her feet, which never moved the entire time. She

hears the snick of his bedroom door. She looks back up at

the stained glass panel.

“Damn you,” she whispers in the dark.

~~~~~

Van Helden Residence 6:00 a.m.

Mulder wakes in pre-dawn darkness, his arms thrown around

the pillow beside him. In his dreams, the pillow has

warmth, soft skin and auburn hair. In reality, it’s only a

pillow. He pushes it away in disappointment and sitting

up, throws his legs over the side of the bed. His hand

slips beneath the waist band of his pajamas, trying to

remember her dream image. It’s pathetic. He’s nearly 39

years old and fantasizing about a woman who desires him,

but won’t let him make love to her. Nature wins over logic

and brings relief of sorts.

He rises, body stiff with sleep that has provided little

rest. He stretches, appreciating the sweet ache in his

muscles. The air is chilled but welcome. Crossing to one

of the large, mullioned windows, he extends an arm against

the window molding, the other hand pushing aside heavy

Irish lace to look out over the rooftop of the conservatory

and the neighboring houses. He spies ocean front only a few

blocks away.

Throwing on a pair of sweats and running shoes, he jogs

down to the beach. Narrow-slat redwood fences are already

in place, erected to protect the salt marsh habitats and

sand dunes that lay in wait for the annual storms that

pummel the area in autumn. Green surf pounds a flat silver

shoreline, its foam-crested waves flecked with emerald

kale, broken bits of shell and the desiccated husks of

horseshoe crabs.

Pink sky and weak sun peek through cloud layer for a brief

time before the drab day lightens the taupe sand and gray-

blue ocean. He’s seen the Pacific, San Diego style–deep

blue stretching to eternity, sun-bleached beaches dotted

with starfish and conch and the hulks of black rock jutting

from the sea like ancient teeth. Not so the Atlantic,

especially as cool weather approaches. It pleases him, his

preference determined by youthful memory and a penchant for

the melancholy.

He runs. Thoughts rise as the steady pumping of his legs

forces oxygen into his sleep-muddled brain to make sense of

things. Make sense of last night. He knows he’s pissed

Scully off with his behavior at dinner and his comments

about Julian. But, more to the point, it was probably his

comments about the work that upset her most. He isn’t

exactly sure how he hurt her, but he regrets his hasty

words nonetheless.

He is certain of only one thing. She wanted him. He

knows it from the very way she denied him. Yet, she still

keeps distance in her mind, even when their bodies are so

close. He wants her body, of course. But even more so, he

wants her mind, her soul, her heart. He wants it all. When

hasn’t he?

~~~~~

Southold Precinct

The Taurus snakes through morning traffic heading into

Southold. Scully told him at breakfast that Guarino was

accompanying her to Stony Brook to see what Allison Jorge

might tell them. Their conversation had been terse,

limited to the case, with no mention of their ‘almost’

assignation. He dislikes the brooding silence between them.

The car radio sputters and Mulder scans through several

stations before stopping at the voice of a newscaster,

“…weather advisory from the National Weather Service is

being issued for Eastern Long Island and Southern

Connecticut.” A cutaway sound byte tells him about

Tropical Storm Giselle scouring up the Jersey shore.

Mulder peers up at the sky through the windshield at

increasing cloud cover. A single raindrop slaps the glass

and he grimaces. He hates rain. He especially hates

working in the rain. But, what he hates most of all is

working in the rain without Scully.

At the Southold precinct, he finds Detective Niebler

enjoying his morning bagel and coffee. Mulder catches his

eye over the folder he’s reading. Niebler looks up. “How

ya doin’?” the man asks with a good-natured smile. “Coffee?”

Mulder holds up a hand and remains standing. “I’m good.

Where’s the sketcher?”

“Upstairs. Where’s your partner?”

“On her way to see Allison Jorge with Nick Guarino.”

“Ha.” Niebler shakes his head. “Man, that guy needs a

vacation.” He chuckles to himself.

Mulder likes the easy-going cop. “Maybe I’ll join him,”

he commiserates, flopping into the hard chair opposite

Niebler’s desk.

“Rough week?”

“Rough night.”

“Ahh,” Niebler replies with a knowing smile. “She’s

pissed at you.”

“Who?”

“Your partner.”

“Scully?”

“Look, it’s none of my business, but I’ve been there.

Hey, I married my partner and now she works out of

Mattituck. I miss working together.”

“It’s not what you think.”

“The hell it ain’t.”

Mulder likes Niebler, but his personal life is just that.

He keeps his face neutral and leans forward to grabs the

manila folder on the desk marked “Jorge, Allison – 92800.”

Mulder scans a page or two, then lifts his eyes. “So, what

do *you* think is going on here?”

Niebler runs a hand over his mouth and walks to a wall map

of the East End. The twin forks jut their fin tails far

from the main island. Long Island Sound lies north, the

Atlantic Ocean south and east. Peconic Bay fills the space

between the forks with Southold and Sag Harbor watching

each other across the water, while Shelter Island and its

ferries span the gap.

“Looking at the history, the victims *do* all live on the

bay.” His finger blazes a trail around the inner

perimeter as he rattles off, “Sag Harbor, Noyack, North

Sea, Jamesport, New Suffolk, Southold.”

Mulder’s eyes narrow as he follows. “And the abductions

began on…” He checks the folder. “September 15th, after

Labor Day and a week before the equinox.”

“So? What’s the equinox got to do with it?”

“It’s a significant date to the UNSUB. I’m thinking he’s

given himself a two-week time frame to carry out his plan.

I’m just wondering if there isn’t some shared event that

triggered the series.”

“It’s possible. Labor Day around these parts is a big

deal. Lots of end o’season barbecues and parties.”

Mulder puts down the folder and approaches the map. He

taps at a spot. “Sag Harbor a popular place?”

“Sure. It’s touristy, especially on a holiday.”

Mulder nods. “I think it’s time we see how our witness is

faring.”

“Let’s go,” Niebler replies.

They climb to the third floor and walk to a small room

where a woman sits with a sketchpad shading in the face of

the suspected kidnapper. The girl that sits beside her is

small, dark-skinned, with a single heavy braid down her

back. Mulder recognizes her from the day before. It’s

Mariana.

He rounds the table and his eyes widen when he takes a

look at the emerging sketch. He’s about to speak, when the

girl sees him. “I see him,” she says in a hushed tone.

“Is dark, but he look familiar.”

“This man?” Niebler points to the sketch. “You’ve seen

him before?” Mariana nods and looks back at Mulder.

“With Miss Olly,” she says. “He come to the house a few

times. She very worried. I very worried for *her.* Then

last night, I am walking Cuco on the beach and I see him

again.”

Niebler asks Mulder, “You know her?”

They exchange glances and Mulder nods. “You could say

that,” he replies before turning back to the girl.

“Mariana,” he says in a soft tone. “Tell me what you saw.”

She points to the sketch, her voice more confident. “I

see *this* man coming from the ocean, carrying a woman. I

think she is dead. I think he will see me, pero, he don’t.

He put the woman on the beach and goes back to the ocean.

Then he is gone.”

Niebler interjects, “You said that last night, too. What

do you mean, gone? He swam away?”

She looks at Niebler. “No. I tell you, pero, you don’t

listen. He is gone. *He disappear.* I don’t see him

again. E vero. He must be dead, too.”

“Whadya think?” Niebler asks.

The agent holds up the portrait and says, “I think I’m

finally getting lucky.”

“Huh? You recognize him?” Mulder nods. “Who is it?”

“A Southampton college professor.”

“Not my jurisdiction, but Southampton is cool with us.”

“Don’t bother. This one’s mine.” Mulder hands back the

sketch and turns, heading towards the door.

“Where ya going?” Niebler calls after him.

Mulder doesn’t turn when he rejoins, “Fishin’.”

~~~~~

Conservatory, Van Helden Residence 9:30 a.m.

“There now, that’s better, isn’t it?” Olivia Van Helden

lifts the clay pot from the planter’s bench and places it

on the shelf sitting at eye level. She grabs a second pot

and proceeds to examine the small, bright orange blooms for

signs of parasite or blight. Satisfied with the visual

inspection, she pours cool rice water over the semi-exposed

roots. Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” drifts through the

moisture-laden space and Olly stops for a moment as a

poignant passage tugs at her. She closes her eyes and

listens, the music’s emotional character affecting her.

“I thought you preferred the Romantics.”

Olly starts and spins in place to find Julian Oracoff

standing not three feet away, an inscrutable look on his

face. She sighs.

“You startled me.”

“I apologize. Where’s your housegirl? I’d like some tea.”

“She called in sick today.” Julian nods and steps forward

to scrutinize the orchids in Olly’s hands.

“Laelia cinnabarina. A lovely specimen, Olivia, although

I prefer the softer coloration of the Ghillanyi.”

“Julian…”

“Of course, the Cinnabarina has a vivid character that

appeals to some.”

“Julian, stop.” He looks her in the eye.

“Do we have a problem?”

“Yes, *we* have a problem.”

He sighs and moves away from her, pushing through the

overgrown ferns that flank the walkway to the seating area.

He lowers himself into the cushions of the club chair and

extends his legs, allowing his head to drop back onto his

shoulders.

Olly follows, uncertain how to begin. Julian’s eyes are

closed and he looks elegant, reclined in the chair. His

pale linen blazer offsets darker gabardine trousers and

hand-sewn calfskin loafers. Olly recognizes the attitude of

wealth. The Van Heldens date back to the earliest Dutch

settlements in the area, but she’s never allowed either

lineage or good fortune to distance her from those around

her who were less fortunate.

She stands over him and says with some authority, “We need

to talk.” Julian’s eyes are slits as they regard her. He

waits a few moments, then pulls himself upright.

She pulls the matching chair over to his and sits

opposite, nearly knee-to-knee. “Julian, you must stop

now.” He’s silent. “Someone is going to die and I won’t

be party to that.”

He studies his manicured nails. “Olivia, you worry too

much.”

“Do I? And what should I say to the FBI who are staying

in this very house? I’m not a deceitful person.”

Julian looks at her, gray eyes made lighter by the soft

illumination that infuses the space. “What have you told

them?”

“Nothing that implicates you. But I cannot, I will not,

protect you forever.”

He leans forward and takes her hands into his. Looking

into her worried eyes, he says, “Olivia, you know you’re

the only one who understands. I can’t help myself.”

“You *must* try,” she tells him in a plaintive tone.

“When will it end?”

“When I find her,” he states. He pushes back his chair

and, dropping Olly’s hands, rises. He walks across the

patio and turns. His words are deliberate. “There is… a

presence in this area. I can’t pinpoint it, but *she* is

here. I feel it. I will find her, Olivia, and we will

reunite in the sacred waters as we must.”

Olly stands and approaches him. “I’m sorry, Julian. I

simply can’t be a part of this any longer.” She moves past

him, heading towards the entry to the house.

“Who will believe you?” he calls after her, causing her to

stop and face him again. He takes a few steps towards her.

“Yes, who? That fool Guarino? The government’s watchdogs?

No one will listen.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

His eyes narrow. “Besides, you’d be considered an

accomplice for not coming forward sooner.”

“I’ve thought about that, but I don’t care.”

“But you *should* care, Olivia.” Julian’s voice drops in

timbre and pitch. “You *should* care because you must

realize that I cannot allow anything or anyone to interfere

with my quest.” His hand moves slowly to the unbuttoned

collar of his shirt. Olly tries to discern his purpose,

but finds her eyes locked on his.

“Your quest is becoming a dangerous mission,” she tells

him. “When I first found you, dazed and shivering in here

after that first time, I helped you because I felt sorry

for you. And then, later, because I believed you. You

*are* driven to these acts, but I never expected it to go

this far or affect so many. I will tell, Julian. I will

tell Nick Guarino and agents Mulder and Scully what I know

about you.”

His voice is soft, hypnotic, slow when he whispers,

“You’ll tell no one.” Her eyes drop from his to where his

shirt lay unbuttoned, bright whiteness filling her range of

sight. Then darkness.

ACT THREE

En Route 11:45 a.m.

The ground is sodden with rain when Mulder leaves the

precinct, cloud cover thick overhead. It’s nearly noon,

but the darkening sky fails to reflect it. Yesterday’s

warmth is gone. A cold, sudden gust presses his leather

jacket against his back. He watches the wind whip through

a birch, twisting perfect yellow leaves from their moorings

into a mini-vortex on the sidewalk. He pulls the door of

the car closed with a solid thud and points the Taurus east

towards the Shelter Island ferries.

His cell phone rings. “Mulder.”

“I have good news and bad news, Mulder,” Scully says

without any trace of humor. “Which do you want first?”

“To quote a nice, Long Island girl, Scully: ‘hit me with

your best shot.'” He keeps his tone light, hoping to ease

the tension that hums through the unit.

“Allison Jorge is still unconscious and her doctors don’t

know when that will change.”

“What’s the good news?”

“That is the good news. The bad news is there’s a major

storm moving into the area.”

“I heard that on the radio. How is Allison Jorge being

unconscious good news?”

“Because we got back to town early and I had a chance to

do a little more digging. Allison Jorge is married to

Wilson Jorge, a free-lance journalist for the Sag Harbor

Times. I spoke to Mr. Jorge and he wanted to know if I

thought it was coincidental that all the women abducted had

been in Sag Harbor on Labor Day.”

Mulder perks up. “Were they?”

“Yes, they were. All in attendance at a lecture hosted at

the Mystic Bookshop, Mulder. Guess who the speaker was.”

“The Naughty Professor?” He swears he can feel her

grudging smile.

“I’m reading you the promo advertisement. ‘Science and

myth merge at our next Mystic roundtable when Dr. Julian

Oracoff, professor of marine biology and environmental

science at Southampton University reveals the mysteries of

Atlantis.'”

“That puts him in direct contact with every victim prior

to the abductions, Scully. And I just saw what looks like

a portrait of Julian from our eyewitness on Jorge.”

“I’m heading to the campus right now to arrest him.”

“I have his address. I’m going there for further evidence.”

“We don’t have a search warrant.”

“But we have probable cause. Put Oracoff in the tank and

meet me there with the papers.” Silence ensues for

several, long seconds. Then come Scully’s words.

“You were right, Mulder.”

“Hey, it was your catch that tied it together.”

“Guess that means you’re not working alone.”

His throat aches and his eyes soften. “Don’t even suggest

it,” he murmurs. He thumbs the phone off and opens the map

of Eastern Suffolk on the seat beside him. The mist on the

windshield consolidates into droplets and he switches on

the headlights and the wipers just as the skies open again.

~~~~~

The required ferry crossings and drive through Shelter

Island and its southern companion would be pretty if the

sun were shining or if he cared. One or the other. As it

is, he’s restless as he always is just before a bust. The

roads are slick, traffic reduced to a crawl through the

small towns that flank Route 114. The swi-ka-slap, ski-ka-

slap of the wipers keeps time in his head, a slow

counterpoint to the fireflash of neurons sparking in his

cerebrum.

Julian’s cryptic remark about the Roman’s seventh month

still nags at him. The creature has abducted one woman

every three days since the fifteenth. September is the

seventh month in the early Roman calendar and ‘end-turn’

suggests the thirtieth as the final day the Atlantean

portal will be open. Mulder hypothesizes that Oracoff will

abduct another woman on that day in a last ditch attempt at

communion. But calendars have changed over the centuries.

He finds himself on autopilot while he drives, his inner

eye searching personal databanks of information remarkably

accessible to his eidetic memory. Images of ancient

calendars: Mayan, Chinese, Egyptian and Gregorian rise in

Technicolor glory, each fading into the next until the

Roman calendar appears. He holds the image of that

particular calendar while snippets of text play like

subliminal audio tapes: kalendae, lunar, 10/355 and an

obscure mnemonic phrase, “Fifty Mules May Jostle the

Ostler,” which reminds him that except for February, March,

May, July and October, all the remaining months have twenty-

nine days. Twenty-nine.

Today is the 29th of September.

Apprehension tingles like spray over his skin as Mulder

realizes another abduction will occur before midnight.

Scully is on her way to arrest him. Good. Or maybe not.

The professor’s undue attention to her may be nothing more

than fascination, but Mulder isn’t convinced it’s not more

devious than that. He reflects on his partner’s safety and

nearly turns west towards Southampton when he hits Route

27, then cans the idea. He’s just escaped the doghouse for

not granting her credence. Besides, she’s with Guarino and

will have plenty of backup. She can take care of herself.

He turns eastward toward Montauk with Scully on his mind.

The houses thin and the rain eases. Sand dunes mark his

left and the vast stretch of the sea, his right. Mulder

switches on the radio, searching for something besides

weather updates. Giselle promises to be noteworthy based

on the damage being reported from southern latitudes. The

gloom of the day and the news depresses him and he pauses

as the dark acoustics of a guitar capture his ear…

…shouldn’t be so complicated…

But it always is. Mothmen, mermen, madmen. What

difference does it make? In a world of universal

invariants, they are just random elements, with Scully as

the ultimate, unstable isotope. She withholds and gives

herself with equanimity, a tantalizing paradox of belief

and denial, virtue and sin.

…started out clean but I’m jaded…

With no hope of a reprieve and no desire for one, either.

Fucking Sir Galahad he’s not. He’s just a man trying to be

strong but sensitive, close but unstifling, carnal but

pure. Jesus, Scully. He’s not *him* either.

…can you help me, I’m bent…I’m so scared…this is how

we will end…

He snaps off the sound and takes the appropriate turnoff

onto a private road. Topography changes and he’s riding

atop a rising crest that drops off to his right. He finds

the mailbox for No. 4416 standing as sentinel at the top of

weathered wood steps that disappear down the side of the

cliff. Pulling the Taurus into dense overgrowth on the

opposite side of the road, he leaves the car and heads down

the stairs.

The bungalow is small, nondescript and in need of a fresh

coat of paint. Considering Julian’s expensive taste and

fancy manners, Mulder is surprised, but only for a moment.

The house is shielded from view by the rising cliff and

dunes surrounding it, making it a perfect refuge for

someone with something to hide.

Mulder’s sneakers sink into the sand as he rounds the back

of the cottage. He sidles along one wall until he stands

poised by the corner at the front of the house. He checks

for evidence of an occupant, then steps out onto a small

deck.

The front door is flung wide, open to the sea and the

sand. What draws his attention, however, is a figure at

the water’s edge some 30 yards beyond. Julian Oracoff

stands naked, his back to Mulder, his feet in the surf. He

spreads his arms wide, palms turned upward. A few, still

moments pass and they return to his side. He wades into

the surf grown rough with the impending storm. All at

once, he dives without warning. Mulder watches for a head

to emerge just beyond the foamy waves that pelt the shore.

He waits… and waits… and waits. Finally, a small splash

alerts him to a spot far beyond the breakers, beyond any

place where a human being should be.

Mulder is a strong swimmer but as he assesses the odds of

anyone being capable of swimming that far, that fast, a

small thrill ripples through him. He pulls himself away

from watching the distant figure to enter the house. A

single large room with a small kitchen and bath set to one

side comprise the entire living space.

He searches for evidence, coming up empty until he reaches

a heavy pine table nestled into a rear corner, beneath

plate glass windows overlooking the side and back of the

house. The surface is covered with books, papers, rolls of

what look to be sea maps, a spyglass and other assorted

items indicating research and study into maritime pursuits.

Mulder pulls latex gloves from his jeans pocket and dons

them before shuffling through the pages. He unrolls a map

and discovers one marked with odd handwritten runes beside

what appear to be longitude and latitude indicators and

sextant markings. A glint of gold catches his eye and he

pulls a gold nameplate from between the sheets, holding it

up before his eyes. It reads “Mallory.”

He bags the necklace and continues to explore, his

interest diverted by the unusual assortment. He thumbs

through several books, pausing here and there to take in a

passage about Egyptian hieroglyphics or a few words from an

Aramaic-English dictionary. His cursory perusal stops upon

finding a slim sheaf of paper hand-bound on one side with

grassy twine, strange runes embossed on the fragile cover.

He recognizes the material as papyrus. Between the

bindings are sheets filled with strange marks and drawings

of machines that seem familiar somehow, despite their alien

appearance.

So engrossed is he that he fails to notice the figure that

enters the house on silent footsteps. The creature

approaches and at last, a sixth sense tells Mulder he is

not alone. He turns to meet the eyes of Julian Oracoff,

hair slicked back, body beaded with seawater, a faraway

look in his eyes.

Mulder moves to grab his weapon, then takes a step

backwards in mute silence, stunned as his eyes drop along

the man’s form to find in the center of Julian’s chest a

third eye, open and blinking.

“Gar’n far vinesh. Sindu orrishma v’tosh,” Julian intones.

“Oracoff, listen to me,” Mulder says, his gaze returning

to look into the creature’s human eyes. “You don’t have to

do this. I can help you.”

“V’tosh,” is the creature’s response, shaking his head.

“V’tosh.” He advances towards Mulder, central eye blazing.

~~~~~

Sag Harbor, Sheriff’s Office 5:50 p.m.

News of Giselle fills the radio waves. The rain and wind

that precede her grand passage across the East End swell

and abate at uneven intervals. The streets are filled with

residents scurrying to prepare for power outages often

triggered by such weather.

Cover breaks for a few minutes and a tangerine sky peeks

through smoke-blue clouds, their undersides stained with

sunset’s glory. Scully pulls into a vacant spot in front of

the neo-Georgian façade of the station house and exits the

car. Her mouth is set in a tight line, her focus and

concern evident. She climbs the stone steps with purpose

in search of Detective Guarino.

“Agent Scully?” a familiar voice calls from behind.

Scully turns at the top of the stairs to see Olly climbing

to meet her. The older woman approaches and stops several

steps below the petite agent, to better meet her eyes.

“Have you heard from Agent Mulder?”

“No, not for hours.”

“I’m very worried for him. Do you know where he’s gone?”

“Julian’s.” She heads off Olly’s reply. “We know about

his connection to the book shop and the abductees, Olly.

I’m not sure what your part in this is, but I think it’s

time you told me.”

Olly’s gray eyes grow troubled and she places a hand on

Scully’s arm. “He can’t help himself. He doesn’t mean

harm, but the Marimorph is driven by a biological

imperative and I’m afraid he’ll stop at nothing.”

“You’re saying Julian is the Marimorph.” Scully’s

skepticism colors her words.

“Yes.”

Scully’s eyes narrow as she takes in the fact that Olly

believes this story. “Do you know where he is?”

“Not at the moment, no.” Scully can see the conflicted

emotions in the woman’s eyes and while she doesn’t

understand her reasons for protecting him, she understands

the feeling behind the action. “He… came to see me this

morning. I told him I’d tell you about his complicity in

the abductions. He overpowered me.”

Concern for the older woman flashes across Scully’s face.

“Did he hurt you?”

“Not physically. I’m not sure what happened, to tell you

the truth. I can’t seem to remember.”

The truth resonates deep within Scully. Of course. How

could she not have seen it before? All at once, the

concept of lost time begins to make sense, as do her own

befuddled thinking and uncharacteristic passivity in

Julian’s presence.

“He wasn’t at the university,” she tells the older woman.

“I was there today and they told me he didn’t have classes.”

“No, he wouldn’t be there today. It’s the 29th — the

last day.”

Julian’s words about the time frame for the portals spring

to mind. Scully leads Olly up the remaining steps, guiding

them towards the illuminated entry. “I need your help.”

“I’ll do whatever I can.”

“Find Nick Guarino. Tell him we have evidence tying

Julian to at least one abduction. Tell him I have a search

warrant for his house and I’m heading there now.”

“The Marimorph is a clever creature, Agent Scully. He’ll

escape you any way he can. Probably by water.”

“Tell Guarino that.” Olly hesitates for only a moment,

then grabs Scully by the shoulders.

“I will. You find Mulder. He’s in danger.”

Scully remains calm, her inner anxiety contained only

through years of practiced experience.

“I know,” she says.

~~~~~

Hampton Beachfront

Several unsuccessful attempts at reaching Mulder’s cell

have Scully’s radar on full-sweep. She’s accustomed to

being out of touch for long stretches of time, but Olly’s

words disturb her. Headlights flash on the 4416 carved into

the wooden mailbox post 20 feet ahead, and she pulls the

rental off to the shoulder.

She kills the engine and checks her weapon before leaving

the vehicle. The private road is nothing more than a

narrow strip of asphalt cut into the side of a high cliff.

Without street lights, the crescent moon that peeps from

behind swift-moving clouds provides scant lighting. It’s

colder than when she started out and the thin jacket and

linen trousers she’s wearing do little to warm her in the

wind that blusters around her small form.

Descending the steep stairs, she knuckles the side entry

with a heavy hand. Through the window beside the door, she

observes Julian’s approach. She’s nervous, concerned for

Mulder’s safety. She must ascertain his whereabouts before

slapping the cuffs on Julian.

Julian’s expression upon seeing her is one of surprised

pleasure. “My dear Dana,” he begins. “How wonderful of you

to visit me, although I suspect from your expression that

you’re not here on a social call.”

“Where’s Mulder?” she asks in a low, steady voice.

“Your partner? I really don’t know.” His words seem

genuine, but she doesn’t trust them. He steps aside and

gestures for Scully to enter. She does so in silence,

turning when she reaches the center of the room.

“Have you been unable to reach him?” Julian inquires.

Scully doesn’t answer, but steps towards the kitchen and

looks there and through the open bathroom doorway. Julian

doesn’t object, which heightens her mistrust.

“You know, Dana, I’m very glad you’re here tonight. I

couldn’t have planned it better. The weather is

regrettable, but not unexpected. Storms often accompany the

aperture’s closing. It’s a warning of sorts.” He goes on,

his voice a soothing riff in her head, its mesmerizing

quality distracting her.

Why is she here? Mulder, she reminds herself and pushes

herself to speak. “Mulder was meeting me here.”

“Really? Well, I’m sorry to inform you that he won’t be

able to make that appointment.” Julian smiles. And from

that, Scully understands that Mulder’s life is in jeopardy.

If he’s even alive.

~~~~~

Mulder wakes with a pounding headache and a stiff back.

He’s gagged and bound, his wrists and ankles secured by

thick rope. He’s sitting on a damp cement floor, his cheek

resting against a rough wooden wall. Pulling himself into

an upright position, he looks around. The scent of wet sand

and ocean and metal assails his nostrils. He’s in a shed

of some kind.

Grimy moonlight filters through a small, four-paned window

above his head. He looks at the assortment of tools that

fills the small space, looking for something that can slice

his bindings. Then he spies it: a scythe poised on a rusty

nail.

With controlled exertion, he inches his body to where the

tool hangs. It’s in a precarious position, just above him.

He has to maneuver himself into a kneeling position to gain

leverage and the effort is exhausting. His mind keeps

fighting him, telling him to sleep, to sleep, v’tosh.

That’s what Oracoff kept saying, Mulder realizes, although

he has no idea how he recognizes the word. Sleep, however,

is not an option. Raising his wrists above his head,

against the serrated edge, he rocks them with tentative

strokes against the blade. The cutter teeters on its iron

perch, threatening to drop its curved, honed edge atop the

fettered agent. He must have patience but all he can think

is, “Scully will be here soon.” The soft buzz of the blade

and the faint odor of burnt fiber waft in the dark.

~~~~~

Oracoff Residence

“Stop right there.” Scully fixes her weapon on Julian,

who remains in place. His eyes betray not fear, but

amusement.

“Really, Dana. Is this necessary?”

“Just be quiet.” Her external demeanor is calm, even as

she feels her mind growing clouded. What is wrong with

her? Julian is speaking again and she focuses on his voice.

“I realize you have tender feelings towards your partner

out of loyalty or camaraderie or even sexual attraction.

But we’re beyond that at this point. You have a greater

purpose and tonight you will fulfill your destiny.”

“What do you mean, destiny?” She must stay alert.

“Your rightful place in Atlantis.”

His continued serenity in the face of her authority and

her weapon are congruent with grandiose delusional

thinking, making him a dangerous wild card. Yet, even as

her mind grapples with Julian’s insanity and her need to

find Mulder, she’s lulled by the timbre and cadence of his

words.

“My place,” she repeats with a shake of her head, hoping

to clear the fogginess that escalates without reason.

“Yes. United with me in the sacred waters, we will

transfigure, our separate identities coalescing into a

single form — our true form –that will enable us to

travel to the depths of the ocean where we will find haven

again.” Julian steps forward, but Scully reasserts her

grip on her SIG, which had dipped as she listened to his

fantastic theory.

“Stop right there,” she warns, a frantic edge in her voice.

Julian sighs and looks at her as if she were a stubborn

child. “There’s no point in this.”

His superior attitude and the growing helplessness she

feels irks her. Anger cuts a fiery swath through the

miasma in her brain and she battles for clarity. “Is this

what you told the others?” she challenges. “This fairy

tale?”

“You mean the women I honored? They’ve all been returned,

alive, relatively unharmed.”

“Allison Jorge is in critical care. If she doesn’t make

it, you’ll be facing murder charges as well as kidnapping,

to say nothing of threatening a federal agent.”

“Federal– you’re referring to Mulder?” She cocks her

brows at him. “He isn’t dead, you know, just disabled.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s unharmed, if that’s your concern, but he won’t be

interfering.”

Her anxiety edges down only a notch. Her thoughts shift

from Mulder to Olly. Has she reached Guarino? Her

thoughts shift again to Julian and his motives. She feels

distracted and cannot focus. She slips her hand into her

pocket, reaching for her cuffs.

“Why these women?” she asks.

“I sensed something in the book shop, the day I met them.”

“I wasn’t there. Explain *that.*”

“My intuition isn’t foolproof. But you are connected to

them somehow, and the sea. It’s a part of you.”

“The human body is 95 percent water. It’s a part of all

of us.”

“No,” he says, eyes squinting. “It’s more than that. You

resonate, much like someone else I know…” His attention

lapses and Scully seizes the chance to step forward.

Focus returns with a vengeance and he grabs the cuffs from

her fingers and tosses them aside. She gasps and backs off

only inches, but it’s enough distraction for Julian to

snatch her weapon as well. He points the gun at her and

backs her towards the table until her hips press the edge.

She curses herself for carelessness. Agents are taught

early on to watch hands. She tries to remember basic

defensive arts but cannot, and her lack of focus alarms and

dismays her. She watches Julian’s hands now for signs of

intent.

“It’s time to go,” he informs her, gun still in his right

hand while his left unbuttons the denim shirt he wears and

the light envelops them.

~~~~~

Once the first cord is severed, Mulder loosens the

remaining bindings. He undoes his gag, taking in a deep

breath, then spits out the taste of cotton and copper. The

rope burns on his wrists sting, his knees ache and his head

hurts. “Gettin’ too old for this shit,” he mutters to

himself. He glances at his watch — 8 p.m.

He stands, groaning from the stiffness, sensation restored

to his limbs in a painful blood rush. He pulls at the

door’s rusting iron handle. It doesn’t budge. A second,

fruitless attempt and he slams his left hand against the

weathered door frame. The splintered surface stings his

palm as he peers out the window to see the back of

Oracoff’s house twenty feet away. The lights are on and

questions swirl in his mind. Is Scully there? Is she

safe? Does she have back-up? Is Oracoff in custody? Or,

knowing the creature’s intentions and his tranquilizing

effect on his victims, is *she* the one in danger?

He pushes aside the trepidation licking his heels and

grabs a shovel that leans in a corner. Turning his face

away, he bashes through the glass with the flat spade.

Climbing out is awkward and he tumbles to the ground head

first. He rises and stumbles as he makes his way towards

the house. The side door is unlocked and he enters an

empty room, the front door still flung wide. His breathing

is quick and his brow furrowed with worry. A quick perusal

confirms his darker suspicions. On the table lie Scully’s

cell phone and her gun. He picks up the weapon and shoves

it into the waist band of his jeans. He turns and steps

towards the front door, stopping when he spies her jacket

and shoes in a small heap beside the entry.

Dread flows like a river as he steps onto the tiny porch.

That’s when he feels a warm wetness on his outer left

thigh. He looks down and sees the dark stain of blood

seeping through the ripped denim. He slips his thumb

through the jagged tear to assess the wound and presses

into a gash of some depth. He winces as he gauges its

length at five inches. Damn.

There’s no time to dwell on it. Giselle is beginning her

pass over the Forks. The wind whistles in his ears and the

heavens are nearly opaque with flat clouds, except for a

sliver of sky at the horizon where a pale sickle moon

hovers above black water. An impending, early moonset adds

to his distress.

Peering out over the water, he notices something else.

Two figures are knee-deep in the surf, heading out to sea

on foot. He recognizes the tall, slender form as Oracoff.

The smaller, feminine form being tugged along is his

partner. Anxiety transforms to anger.

He races towards the ocean, stripping off jacket and tee

shirt as he goes. At the water’s edge, he yanks off his

sneakers and socks and strides into the wild surf.

“Scully!” he calls to the pair that is at least fifty yards

beyond him, but the wind swallows his cry. Cold bites

through the heavy denim and his feet sink into the sandy

floor. He strides through the breakers that tumble and

pitch around him, a fierce undertow sucking at his legs.

Low tide. The ocean floor descends in a slow-gradient as

he trails the receding figures that have, somehow,

increased their lead on him. They must be nearing the

barrier shelf, where the land drops off into the abyss.

Once past the raucous waves, Mulder dives into waist-high

water and begins to stroke towards the pair. His body

temperature adjusts to the chill Atlantic waters and he

pours his energy into reaching Julian and Scully. After

several minutes of steady pulling, he stops, his feet just

able to touch bottom as the water surges above his

shoulders.

“Scully!” he calls again to the man and woman now within

earshot. His voice carries and they pause. Oracoff turns,

holding Scully against him as he keeps her head above

water. She is listless in his grasp, face turned downward.

Mulder navigates until he is only a few yards from them.

“Scully,” he calls again and her head lifts towards the

sound of his voice. Oracoff turns back towards open water,

dragging Scully with him.

“Oracoff! Stop, you bastard, or I will shoot you.”

He complies and turns to reface Mulder, who stands with

the water at his chin, weapon held above the surface.

Julian holds Scully before him like a shield, her face

level with his as they both watch Mulder.

“Scully?” Mulder queries, watching her eyes and taking

hope from the spark of lucidity he sees emerging there.

Darkness falls as the moon sets and the rain begins to fall.

“Do you really think you can stop me?” Oracoff inquires in

an affected manner. “Aside from your useless weapon,

you’re human –with inadequate biology, an inferior mind

and a complete lack of appreciation for this woman and her

potential.”

Mulder’s fear for Scully’s safety is magnified tenfold as

the water swirls around them and the rain escalates. He’d

attempt a shot if he could get a clear line of sight.

Meanwhile, his soul wrestles with the creature’s words.

“Getting a little personal, aren’t we?” he tosses off with

as much glibness as he can muster.

“Mulder!” Scully calls, her voice faint but assured.

Mulder still maintains his bead on Oracoff in spite of the

night, the weather and the prospect that the weapon may not

fire after submersion.

“Are you okay?” he asks her.

“Yes.”

“She’s perfectly fine, Mr. Mulder. Just like the others.

Only she isn’t going to be returned.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Dana is going home tonight. To her rightful home.”

“To Atlantis. Is that what you’re telling me?” Mulder’s

sarcasm is tinged with curiosity. “You think she’s your

soul mate?”

“Mulder, he’s insane,” Scully says in a quiet voice.

“I know what he is, Scully, and he isn’t going anywhere.”

Oracoff interjects, “I suggest you head back now, before

the storm worsens. The undertow is shifting. I wouldn’t

want to be held responsible–”

At that moment, Scully pushes against him, hard,

attempting to escape his clutches. Her timing and

unexpected behavior gains her freedom, except for the

vise-like grip Oracoff keeps on her wrist. The sound of an

approaching boat can be heard above the wind and rain.

“Guarino,” Scully calls to Mulder.

“What?” Oracoff snarls and pulls her back towards him. She

thrashes against him and he wails in anguish, “You would

betray me?” His hands grasp her shoulders and he plunges

her beneath the surface.

Mulder ditches the gun and dives forward. Coming up from

underneath, he forces himself between the two. Oracoff

releases Scully as they break the surface and she pushes

free, choking and gasping for breath. Mulder tries to pin

the creature’s arms behind him, but his hands slip along

slick skin. He feels a sharp tug on his legs and has but a

moment to grab a lungful of air before being yanked beneath

the dark water.

He struggles with Oracoff who holds his torso, face down,

in the vise-like grip of his legs below the surface, his

hands pinned behind his back. Mulder twists and turns, but

cannot gain leverage. His lungs ache, his eyes burn and

his head pounds. The first trickle of cold seawater fills

his mouth and the faces of Scully, Samantha and his mother

flash through his mind as the dark edge of unconsciousness

slips forward.

All at once, the pressure around his waist is gone, as is

Julian. Instinct kicks him to the surface and he’s gasping

for air, surrounded by a circle of white light. A

motorboat chutters close by and he squints into the

brightness.

“Mulder?” Guarino shouts from deck. “Scully!”

Mulder scans the choppy surface around him, panting and

coughing. Rain pelts the water, sending spray back up into

his face even as the rain batters him from above. He spies

a flash of movement and the sound of moving water to his

left. He gulps and pivots in place, his footing gone. He

expects Oracoff. Instead, Scully swims past. She stops

and turns back to him. “Come on,” she says in a breathless

rush and he follows.

They are still ten yards out from the side of the boat,

when he feels the current shift. It isn’t natural. And

it’s very strong. “Scully!” Mulder cries and she stops

again, treading water. He feels the upsurge of cold

current wrapping around his legs, pulling him away from the

boat, away from the light, away from Scully.

“Mulder!” Scully yells, but her voice is distant in his

ears as he is sucked into a slow-turning liquid vortex.

“Mulder!” he hears again, closer. And then she’s there

with him, holding on to him, keeping his head above water.

They battle the current, their strength ebbing in a steady

stream as they keep one another surfaced. He feels

Scully’s grasp on him weakening and his left leg is

throbbing. He’s lost all sense of direction, knowing only

that he must keep awake, keep kicking to the surface. They

must stay alive.

The life preserver that splashes to his right is a welcome

sight. Mulder reaches out and seizes it, holding onto

Scully with his left arm. He draws her forward and she

grabs onto the large orange ring. The water still drags at

them, but inch by inch, they feel the tug of the rescue

line bringing them closer to the vessel, until they are

alongside the drop ladder with Guarino and Olly helping

them up and onto the foredeck.

The rain stops and streaks of starlit indigo emerge

between the thinning clouds. They collapse, side by side,

onto a hard-molded bench that juts from the inside wall of

the boat. Guarino approaches, blankets in hand. His grave

expression reveals how awful they look. Mulder wraps one

around Scully’s trembling frame. He drops to one knee to

tuck the second around her legs. He looks up into her eyes

and says, “We gotta get you dry.”

“Y-you,” she stammers back in a whisper, tremors wracking

her body.

He’d been warm in the water, adrenaline pumping, but the

cooler air following the storm front nips at his clammy

skin and the wound in his leg burns. A tight shiver

overtakes him.

“Here,” Guarino says, removing his squall jacket and

handing it to Mulder, who doffs and zippers it with a

grateful nod. “Oracoff?”

“I dunno,” Mulder replies, looking up at the detective. “I

lost him.”

From the opposite end of the boat, Mulder hears Olly

calling for Oracoff, over and over. He peers through the

gloom to see her clutching the sides of the skiff, leaning

forward, over the water. She’s removed her storm jacket and

the dark turtleneck and jeans she’s wearing cling to her

narrow figure. Her dark gray tresses curl black around her

shoulders and in the half-lit space, she seems much younger

than the seventy-odd years she’s spent on terra firma.

Guarino turns towards her with a shake of his head. “I

don’t see how he could have survived.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

Guarino turns to question Mulder’s cryptic response, when

a sudden splash causes both men to turn portside with a

start.

“Olivia,” says Guarino meeting Mulder’s eyes. They rush

to the side. The detective casts the spotlight in a wide

sweep across the ever-moving surface. They spot Olly,

making steady headway towards the vortex that continues to

spiral in a slow turn just beyond the reach of the boat.

“Olly!” Mulder yells. “Come back! You’ll never find

him,” he shouts. He looks back at Guarino, who is removing

his gun holster.

“I’m going after her,” Guarino says, heading back to the

drop ladder. Mulder grabs the spotlight, focusing its beam

on the elderly woman who strokes away from them with

unusual agility and vigor. He grapples for balance as the

boat is captured in the outermost edge of the maelstrom and

he’s pitched against the side of the boat.

Regaining his balance, he looks at Guarino who stands

poised to dive, but seems frozen in place. His expression

is one of disbelief as he stares at the water. Mulder

shifts his gaze to where he remembers Olly being and

exhales his breath in a rush.

clip_image002

The sea is growing lighter.

In an ever-widening circle around the boat, dark water is

shifting tone. Black turns greenish-gray, then deep emerald.

Mulder grips the side of the boat and calls out, “Scully,

you gotta see this.” He glances back at her, but she is

huddled beneath her cocoon of blankets. He turns back,

unable to resist the lure of the spectacle unfolding before

him.

The verdant waters continue to transmute, green morphing

suddenly into aquamarine and turquoise combined. And

then he sees it — a glowing form rising from beneath. Olly

sees it too, he surmises, because she stops swimming and

simply waits.

The luminous being rises, refracting light through the

water in arcing ripples of gold that scatter as they

disperse into the surrounding brine. It breaks the surface

without sound or effort close to where Olly treads water.

She reaches a tentative hand out to it and a luminescent

limb mirrors her action. Fingers, or what Mulder assumes

are fingers, touch her hand. He is mesmerized, unable to

look away.

The image turns vaporous and he squints, then blinks

several times before he realizes he’s staring through a

thick haze that rises and settles all around them with

eerie swiftness. He strains to see the watery pair, but

they are cloaked in a mantle of mist. The lights off the

boat reflect back only impenetrable whiteness as fog

billows over the deck.

Mulder closes his eyes and drops his head onto his arms in

weariness. He knows they will never see Julian or Olivia

again.

~~~~~

EPILOGUE

Saturday, 9/30

Sag Harbor Marina

11:00 a.m.

The azure sky is cloudless and sunlight skitters on the

surface of the bay, fracturing into brilliant shards

wherever it alights. Sailboats point their canvas wings

into the wind like so much oragami on the harbor, enjoying

the brisk winds that trail in Giselle’s wake. The

occasional motorboat putters out from the marina.

Scully stands at the edge of the dock, taking in the

tranquil scene that belies the prior evening’s chaos. She

remembers confronting Julian, then losing consciousness

until she heard Mulder’s voice calling her name. Then she

was in the sea, being held against her will and battling

for her life, and his. Their rescue is a blur. She was

diagnosed with minor hypothermia and held for observation

overnight. Her blood chemistry was unaffected and her

heart betrayed no irregularities. Even so, it will be some

time before she feels truly warm again.

She wraps her arms around herself, fingers plying the

softness of the alpaca ruana that drapes around her in fawn-

colored folds. Mulder’s extravagant and unexpected gift

gives her pause. He can irritate her to insensibility with

his arrogance, his propensity to embrace myth over fact and

his subtle manipulations. He can also dazzle her with

random acts of kindness, leaps of intuition, and the more

overt expressions of his feelings for her. He’d needed

sutures for a nasty gash on his thigh, but she’d yet to

hear him complain about it. She senses his presence behind

her without seeing him.

“Coast Guard still hasn’t found any trace of them,” he

says in a straightforward manner.

“They’re gone, Mulder. And we’re done here.”

“I gave Guarino my report, our report.” She nods as she

follows the swoop and cry of terns and gulls that beset an

incoming trawler. “At least they’re together.”

“In death?” she says, considering how easily they might

have ended up like Olivia, like Julian, like the cargo

heading into harbor. Her tone must betray her cynicism.

“In life, Scully,” he refutes. “I know what I saw and

yeah, I think they realized their destiny together. I know

you don’t believe in the idea of a soul mate, but there

*are* animals that mate for life, you know. The wolf, the

gorilla, even swans and geese.”

“That’s instinct, not choice.” Deepening intimacy with

Mulder is proving as difficult a task as she always

imagined it would be, wounded psyches held captive behind

protective walls. The glimpses into what might be,

however, keep her on course towards a future she cannot

imagine without him. “Still,” she adds, her voice

softening, “I *do* think we’re where we’re supposed to be,

to learn what we’re supposed to learn.”

“That’s pretty Zen for a scientist.” She can see his

amused smile in her mind’s eye.

“Did you know the word science comes from the Latin word

‘scire,’ to know? That’s all science is. A way to know

something–a method.”

“And what does science say about the possibility of

soulmates?”

“It says nothing, Mulder, because there’s no way to prove

it.

But…” she adds as an afterthought, then pauses.

“But?” His tone is laced with curiosity.

“I suppose that assuming everything can even be explained

by science is a presupposition that begs further inquiry.”

“Are you saying the idea of soulmates is a possibility?”

She hesitates a moment, then says, “As a choice, Mulder.

Not instinct.”

She feels him step closer behind her, the weight of his

hands on either side of her shoulders. They stand just so

for several seconds and then she turns to face him. He

drops his hands and she looks up. His eyes are serious,

greener than usual with the refracted blue of the water and

sky around them.

“You promised me a walk on the beach,” she reminds him in

a soft voice.

“So I did. Still interested?”

She grabs his hand. “Always. I just need another minute.”

“I’ll be waiting,” he says, then turns towards the car.

She allows the loss of his presence to impact and watches

him retreat. She considers their words. The idea of a

soul mate is romantic, but highly unlikely, in her mind.

Whatever it is that draws two people together has more to

do with common interests, shared goals and plain old

chemistry than some mindless karma. She thinks of Mulder.

Soulmate? She shakes her head and chuffs at the thought.

Then she turns and looks seaward once more.

She’s in love with him. He knows this. Has known for

some time. Still, he doesn’t press her for more than she is

ready to give and she’s grateful for his abiding patience.

Whether destiny has fated them to be together, she cannot

say. What she does know is that this case is over and

there’s a seven-hour drive back to D.C. ahead of them.

Maybe she’ll offer to make him dinner when they get home

and maybe he’ll say yes. After that, is anyone’s guess.

She looks back over the water and wonders if Atlanteans

are happy.

END

by Blackwood

=====

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of

schizophrenia.” — E.L. Doctorow

Visit me:

http://members.tripod.com/black.wood/index.html OR

visit Musea at: http://www.geocities.com/museans/

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