The Dragon’s Wing

cover

TITLE: The Dragon’s Wing

AUTHOR: TCS1121

FEEDBACK: TCS1121@hotmail.com

ARCHIVE: As You Wish

HOMEPAGE:

http://www.angelfire.com/scifi2/xfilesfanfic/

DISCLAIMER: 1013 and FOX own all the X-Files

characters.

No money changes hands.

SPOILER WARNING: Je Souhaite

RATING: R

CLASSIFICATION: Casefile, MSR

COMMENTS: Written for the IMadeThisProductions

VS10 season.

SPECIAL THANKS:

To KEstabrook for special beta help,

encouragement and friendship.

To my Fabulous Monster for a wonderful,

thoughtful, and thorough beta job.

To Mimic. She probably doesn’t remember, but

she told me to write this.

And to VS10 for asking me.

SUMMARY: The secret behind a successful wish

is to be very specific. —Fox Mulder

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Xxxxxx Teaser xxxxxX

Yunnan Province

Three Months Ago

China

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Xian Ang clung to the branch of a mountain

pine six feet above the rushing

water. His five year-old daughter, Shen Kuo,

held tight to the wet branch above him.

For two weeks, rain hammered the parched soil

of Xian Ang’s farm. The long

drought caused the soil to pack hard, crack,

and turn to dust. The clouds opened so

fast that the water rolled on the top of the

soil instead of soaking into it, and last

night,his little house, unable to withstand

the onslaught, washed away. Xian’s farm was

destroyed. His work animals drowned, and all

his crops were swept away by the current.

“Higher! Little Bird, hurry!” Xian shouted up

to Shen Kuo. “The water rises!”

Shen Kuo grabbed the slippery branch overhead.

As she climbed up, the windwhipped her long,

black hair in front of her face. One hand held

onto the branch, andthe other hand batted the

wet strands away from her eyes. A sudden gust

of wind shoved the branch under her bare feet.

Her arms shot out, her small fingers searching

wildly for a twig or cone to hold her balance.

The wind howled again, and then pushed her

off.

“Papa!” She screamed, slipping off the branch.

She reached into the air for him, but flew out

too far for Xian to catch. She disappeared

into the raging waterbelow.

“Shen Kuo! Shen Kuo!” he cried, his arm

outstretched. His tears mixed with the rain as

he quickly climbed down. Again and again, he

plunged his arms into the deep water, trying

to find her.

The rolling waters had folded around his

Little Bird, and carried her away.

That must have been what it wanted, for as

soon as Shen Kuo fell into the torrent, the

rain stopped.

And the waters calmed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Office of Shi Liang Wang, Esq.

Two Months Ago

San Francisco, California

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Fox,

Long time no see! How’s life treating you?

Still living the life of a well-paid G-

Man? Your office is still in the basement,

right? I’m writing because I received

something which is more your style than

mine. A distant cousin in China died recently.

Xian Ang, my cousin, lost his farm and

his family. The poor guy was so devastated

after his daughter drowned, that he killed

himself. The only possessions left of his

estate were a letter, and the item I’ve

enclosed. I know that you specialize in the

bizarre and unusual, and the fact that

you make a living at it still amazes me. But,

I thought you might want to take a look

into this, and see if this object really did

have anything to do with his death.

Xian wrote in his letter, that this item is a

talisman, a charmed object—the actual

translation of the Chinese word is somewhere

between the two. He said that

three wishes were bestowed upon this Dragon’s

Wing, and that he foolishly used one. That

wish destroyed his life.

You and I know that legends and superstitions

run wild in old countries,

but I’ve heard old Chinese sayings that make a

lot of sense. If you do look into this,

and find that the Dragon’s Wing had anything

to do with his death, let me know. After all,

he was a relative of mine.

Xian was a farmer, and his wish was for the

drought to end, so his daughter would

never experience hardship.

Be careful Fox, there are still two wishes

left!

Your friend,

Shi the Guy, Esq.

Xxxxxx ACT ONE xxxxxX

X-Files Office, Wednesday afternoon

Basement of the Hoover Building

Washington, DC

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“Dr. Hiller has an irrefutable alibi for last

Saturday night.”

“Yes, Scully, and the Tuesday night before

that, and for the twenty-fifth of

last month. C’mon, nobody has that many

ironclad alibis. In fact, in my book, that

makes him even more suspicious.”

“More suspicious than what?” Scully paced as

she spoke. “Than not having an

alibi? Mulder, Dr. Harlan Hiller could not

have killed anyone last Saturday. Hundreds

of people saw him at the dedication of the new

Pediatric Neurology wing of Fairfax

Mercy Hospital.”

Mulder sat at his desk with his hands clasped

behind his head. Scully stalked

back and forth, waving her hands. He liked how

she flushed when she was agitated, but

wasn’t about to let her get the upper hand. He

sat up, and tapped the desktop with

his fingertip.

“I have Mrs. Edith Fleischmann who saw Dr.

Hiller inject something into Bertha

Witherspoon’s I.V. bag at the Chesapeake

Nursing and Assisted Living Center in

Baltimore. She died that same night.”

“Mulder, do I need to remind you that Edith

Fleischmann is eighty-seven years

old?”

“And Sadie Littlejohn reported that Dr. Hiller

examined her roommate, Lenore

Morrison, last Tuesday night in their hospital

room, right before Mrs. Morrison died.”

“Mulder.”

He pointed his finger at her. “Leo Formann

identified his own killer on the

night of the twenty-fifth. Right before he

died, he stated that Dr. Harlan Hiller

poisoned him. You say all these people are

making false ID’s, Scully? Why?”

She sat on the edge of his desk, looked down,

and said softly, “The more

things change, the more they stay the same.”

Mulder scrunched his forehead, “What do you

mean?”

“You’re a difficult man. You know that?” She

sighed and looked up. “Passionate, stubborn,

wonderful in bed, but difficult.”

He eyed her warily for a moment then said,

“Well, that’s a new approach to an

old argument.”

She shook her head. “You said it once

yourself. We go through this

perfunctory song and dance. I think I’m right,

you know you’re right, and on and on it goes.”

Mulder got up. “Hey, I have an idea.” He bent

down, catching her eye. “Let’s

start over, and conduct an in-depth

investigation on Doctor Hiller.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing now?” she asked.

“No, we’re taking bits and pieces of what we

think happened, and what we know

happened. We’re giving opinions, and making

decisions based on what I believe

versus what you believe.” He leaned against

the desk, next to her. “Remember what

they taught us in FBI school? When a string of

murders are committed, and the same

person’s name keeps coming up as a possible

suspect, we do a complete investigation on

him. What do you say?”

clip_image004

“You’re mocking me, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not,” he said seriously. “There are

obviously things here that don’t

fit. Maybe he uses hallucinogens, maybe astral

projection, or has an accomplice, or, hell,

maybe an evil twin brother. Let’s just back up

a bit, and do some heavy digging on Dr.

Hiller, so we can do the song and dance

together.” He caught her eye again, and nodded

encouragingly. “The one thing you and I agree

on, Scully is that we have an

impossible scenario repeated three times.”

“Sometimes this job isn’t fun.” She got off

the desk, and straightened her

skirt. “Three elderly patients are dead, and

the only suspect we have appears to be out of

the running. Dr. Hiller’s alibis look good,

but I admit, we need to know why his name was

mentioned each time someone died. And how

three people claimed to have seen him prior to

all three deaths. I know we can’t ignore the

witnesses. I just wish this job was

easier sometimes.”

He looked at her and frowned.

“Not easier all the time,” she corrected.

“Just easier sometimes.”

“You know what *I* wish, Scully…” Mulder’s

voice trailed off. He whirled

around, and strode to his file cabinet.

“Damn! I didn’t mean to file this away; I just

didn’t want to lose it.” He pulled the drawer

open, and started flipping through the files

muttering, “I forgot all about this.”

Scully followed him.

“Is there something in there that’s going to

help us find a serial killer?”

She looked into the file drawer. “Or is it an

answer to a wish?”

“Neither. It’s something that wishes are made

on. Aha!” He reached into the

drawer, and carefully lifted out a folder.

“It’s a Dragon’s Wing. You said you had a

wish.” He gently touched a small, flattened

Ziploc bag stapled to the inside of the

manila folder. The Ziploc bag contained a red

and gold silk bag about four inches by four

inches. It was cinched with a thin, gold,

drawstring.

“What’s a Dragon’s Wing?” she asked as Mulder

handed her the letter from Shi

Wang.

“Read this. A friend of mine from my Oxford

days sent it.”

Her eyes flickered as she read. “Have you

opened the bag?”

“No. Uh—not yet,” he smiled shyly. “Want to

see it?”

She nodded, and reread the letter.

Mulder sat, and removed the small red and gold

bag from the baggie. Scully came

up behind him, reached over to put the letter

down, and placed her warm hand on

the back of his neck. He slipped two fingers

into the small silk bag, and gently removed

the Dragon’s Wing. It looked like a mummified

piece of a bat’s wing, except that it had

leather-like scales and pinfeathers. It was

about the size of a silver dollar, and

scorched black around its ragged edges.

“It’s not very impressive, is it?” Mulder

said, disappointed, and slid it back

into the bag.

“Surely there must be an old saying about

dangerous things coming in small

packages,” she said, massaging the nape of his

neck.

He leaned back, and tilted his chin up,

resting his head between her breasts.

“Well, you’re pretty dangerous…”

He pushed away from his desk, startling her

backwards a step. He stood and

circled around to pin her against his desk.

“Mulder, stop it,” she whispered just as the

phone rang.

“I’m not the only one who’s difficult.” He

sighed as he picked up the phone.

“Mulder.”

He listened for a minute, then rolled his

eyes. “Yep. Right.” Another pause,

then, “Right. Okay. Got’cha.” He gently placed

the handset back into its cradle,

went down to the floor on one knee, and yanked

the cord out of the wall. Pieces of the

faceplate flew as the phone line whipped

through the air.

“Problem?” Scully asked casually.

“Nope.” He looked at her. “Scully, you’re

right.” He wrapped the broken cord

around the phone. “Sometimes this job isn’t

fun.”

“What was that about?” She picked up a piece

of faceplate, and put it on the

desk beside the dead telephone.

He stared at the mess on his desk. “You know,

Scully, there’s something inherently wrong

about cameras attached to traffic lights.”

“They tracked you down, eh?” She folded her

arms, and hiked her hip onto the

desk.

“Yeah, but it took some doing on their part.

The traffic cameras just take

pictures of the rear license plates. I wish I

could hire the guy at the car rental agency to

work for the FBI, and I wish…” Mulder looked

at the little silk bag and paused. “I wish…”

“What?” she asked.

“According to Shi, we have two wishes left in

this bag.” He picked up the bag,

and swung it around his index finger by the

thin gold cord.

“Mulder, your track record on wishes isn’t

very good. Maybe we should just

leave those wishes right where they are.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, surprised. “How

many times have you had three wishes granted

by a genie?”

Scully shrugged.

“Well, I have more experience than you, and I

now know the correct way to phrase a

wish.”

“We don’t even know if this really is a

charmed object,” she countered. “The

way I read Shi Wang’s letter, it wasn’t clear

whether his cousin’s wish was granted, or

whether it was a set of tragic coincidences.”

“But, I know the trick, Scully,” he said,

nodding at the Dragon’s Wing. “The

secret behind a successful wish is to be very

specific.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know about you,

but except for a restful weekend

with my favorite partner,” she elbowed him

gently, “I have nothing to wish for.”

He turned, and studied her face for a moment.

“Then that’s what I’ll wish for.”

He grinned. “For the both of us.”

“Mulder, we’re working on a case. We can’t

take time out of our investigation.”

“You sound as if you believe that a little

piece of skin could grant my wish,”

Mulder teased. “Look, I met Shi L. Wang, Esq.

at Oxford. This was the guy who

short-sheeted my bed, put salt in the sugar

bowl, and did unmentionable things with my

toothbrush. We still keep in touch, and I

really like him, but I can only trust him as

far as I can throw him in a truck.”

“‘Throw him in a truck?'” She snorted, and

said, “I just don’t think we should

be playing with this now. We’re too busy.”

“All the more reason to try it now. You know

that we’re busy checking into Dr.

Hiller, so if we suddenly find ourselves in a

Mediterranean Spa, we’ll have proof that the

Dragon’s Wing works.”

He touched the little bag on the desk in front

of him. “Besides, if Shi isn’t

pulling my leg, and this really is a charmed

object.” He opened the bag, and gently finger

tweezed out the contents. “This is right up

our X-Files alley.”

She looked at the pitiful, charred piece of

flesh between his fingers and said,

“A weekend at a spa does sound nice.”

He lowered his voice and said, “I’ll rub warm

mud all over you, if you rub scented oil all

over me.”

“Or vice versa,” she purred.

He smiled broadly. “You’re on!”

Putting his hand to his forehead, reminiscent

of Johnny Carson’s Karnack the

Magnificent, he said, “Just give me a minute

to phrase this correctly.”

He peeked up at Scully, who began tapping her

fingers against the edge of the

desk.

“Okay, okay, I think I have it,” he said,

clearing his desk.

Gently holding the fragile wing in front of

his lips, he took a breath.

“Here is my wish.” The wing was so light it

fluttered as he spoke.

“I wish for Dana Scully and I to be alone

together with no interruptions.

Allowed to do whatever things we want to do,

in total privacy.” He looked at her with an

evil grin, “And for Scully to be putty in my

hands.”

“Mulder!”

“The end,” he said quickly.

“Putty in your hands?”

“As added proof that the Dragon’s Wing works.”

He said innocently.

She stood, took a deep breath, and headed for

the door. “Well, I don’t feel very putty-ish

right now.”

“Give it time!” he called after her. ‘And a

few bottles of wine,’ he thought.

Mulder opened the bag to replace the Dragon’s

Wing. His eyes widened. A piece

of flesh had broken off, fluttered to his

desk, and crumbled.

The remaining wing was now half the original

size.

Xxxxxx ACT TWO xxxxxX

X-Files Office, Thursday, noon

Basement of the Hoover Building

Washington, DC

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“When I was in FBI school, they said that an

‘investigation’ was a detailed

inquiry or systematic examination of the case

at hand.” Scully placed her palms on his

desk, bent down, and said, “I have an

appointment with Dr. Hiller in an hour at

Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore to

fulfill the ‘inquiry’ part of the

investigation.”

“Are you sure you’re not feeling even a little

pliable right now?” Mulder asked, as he

riffled through invoices with photographs of

his rear bumper attached. “Don’t

you have the slightest urge to fan me or feed

me grapes?”

“I thought I was pretty pliable last night,”

she said, pulling a chair close to

his desk.

He looked at her and smiled. “Why, yes. Yes

you were. And more descriptive

than usual.” He lowered his voice. “I like it

when you talk to me like that.”

She leaned in, and whispered, “Why don’t you

come to Baltimore to interview

Dr. Hiller with me? I’m leaving now.”

Mulder chuckled, and tore a check from his

checkbook. “I thought he worked at

Fairfax Mercy Hospital in DC.”

“No, not any more. He still has personal and

professional acquaintances there,

though.” She leaned back. “Now, he’s on staff

at Union Memorial, a good hospital in a

nice part of Baltimore. He’s a doctor of

internal medicine, and specializes in

geriatrics.”

“Geriatrics is old people, right?” Mulder

asked, licking an envelope.

Scully sighed. “Geriatrics is the branch of

medicine that deals with diagnosing, and

treating diseases and problems of the

elderly.”

“Like I said, ‘old people.’ Hey, don’t get me

wrong, Scully. I like old people. I hope to

be one someday.” He stopped and stared at her,

then said, “You and I will make

a cute old couple some day, don’t you think?”

Her face and neck flushed. She stood, cleared

her throat, and said, “I’m leaving.”

“Okay, okay I’m coming. But Scully…?”

“Yeah?”

He held up a stack of envelopes. “How ’bout

you drive?”

XxxxxxxxxxxxxxX

Union Memorial Hospital

1:15 PM, Thursday afternoon

Baltimore, Maryland

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Mulder lowered his head, and tucked his hands

deep into the pockets of his long, black

coat. It was windy and unseasonably chilly.

The dark, heavy clouds blotted

the sun, and rumbled in the distance. Scully

combed her fingers through her windblown hair

as they walked up to the information desk of

Union Memorial Hospital.

“Good afternoon. I’m Agent Scully, and this is

Agent Mulder. We have an appointment

with Dr. Harlan Hiller.” Scully showed her

badge, and received a Visitor’s

pass in return.

“He’s expecting you.” The elderly receptionist

smiled politely as she handed

Mulder his pass. “I have a note from Dr.

Hiller asking me to page him when you arrived.

You can go straight up, and he’ll meet you

there.”

They followed her directions to Dr. Hiller’s

office, and before Mulder knocked

on the door, Scully said, “The doctor’s being

very cooperative.”

“Maybe his evil twin isn’t so cooperative,” he

retorted, as he knocked.

The door swung open and Mulder was met by the

bright, brown eyes of Dr. Harlan

Hiller. Laugh lines and crows feet creased

high into his cheeks. He beamed a

wide gap-toothed smile highlighted by large,

white teeth.

“Come in! Welcome!” He stepped aside. “I

believe you are the first FBI agents I’ve ever

met.”

Dr. Hiller was three inches taller and, maybe,

five pounds heavier than Scully.

His black hair was cropped so close, that his

scalp shone through. ‘Dr. Hiller’ was

embroidered above the left breast pocket of

his lab coat, and the white material

accentuated his black skin.

“Dr. Hiller, I’m Agent Scully, and this is

Agent Mulder. Thank you for meeting

with us today.” She offered her hand, and he

shook it vigorously.

“Not a problem—not a problem.” Dr. Hiller took

Mulder’s hand, and shook it

just as enthusiastically. “So nice to meet

you, agents. Please, we can all sit over

here.” He gestured to his desk.

Mulder pulled an office chair over to the desk

while Scully moved a chair to his right.

Dr. Hiller took his own chair from behind his

desk, and moved it to the side, so he could

face the agents directly. He obviously did not

need the security a large desk

provided.

“Now, how can I help you?” Dr. Hiller sat with

his hands on his thighs, and leaned

forward. His eyes were still bright, but he

spoke seriously. “Because I really hope I

can.”

“We’re investigating the deaths of three of

your patients,” Scully began.

“Yes, I know. If I’m not mistaken, the

deceased are Bertha Witherspoon, Lenore

Morrison, and Leo Formann.”

“That’s correct.”

“Agent Scully, you probably know that Mrs.

Morrison and Mr. Formann were my

patients when I was on staff at Fairfax Mercy.

However, after I left, Dr.Robert Spellman

took over most of my caseload.” He looked up

shyly. “I—uh—I’ve already been questioned

about this.”

The questioning during a murder investigation,

made most people indignant,

whether they were guilty or not, but Doctor

Hiller’s apologetic tone surprised Mulder.

Perhaps the doctor didn’t realize how close he

was to becoming a murder suspect.

“I know you’ve been interviewed, Doctor, and

thank you for indulging us,”

Mulder said. “But there’s one aspect in all

these deaths that is puzzling. You were seen

attending to these patients right before they

died.”

“Is that what the witnesses said? That I was

seen treating all these patients

before they passed?” Hiller asked, amazed.

“Leo Formann identified you himself, right

before he died,” Mulder said.

“But I only saw one of them.” Hiller’s eyes

darted from Mulder to Scully.

“Which one?” she asked, looking over to

Mulder.

“Why, Bertha Witherspoon, of course. She was

admitted to Union Memorial two

months ago, right around the time I joined the

staff. When she was discharged to the

Chesapeake Nursing and Assisted Living Center,

she asked if I would continue to treat her.

I arranged it myself.”

The doctor had a whiff of an accent. Mulder

couldn’t tell if it was West Indian, South

African, or The Bronx.

“Dr. Hiller,” Scully asked, “What were you

doing for Mrs. Witherspoon?”

“Her potassium level was down, so I ordered

some to be injected into her IV.

It’s a common procedure. The nursing staff was

busy helping a patient two doors down,

so I added the medication to her IV bag

instead of waiting for one of them. I noted

it in the chart so that the dosage wouldn’t be

repeated.”

“How did you feel when Mrs. Witherspoon died?”

Scully asked. Mulder shot her

a look, but she was focused on Hiller.

The doctor leaned back, and folded his arms.

His calm, lilting voice answered,

“Agent Scully, death isn’t something I feel

bad or good about. The truth is: if you

live, you die. However, because of my work, I

feel I’m on intimate terms with Death, and I

don’t fear it. I believe that we are powerless

when our time truly comes. Bertha’s time had

truly come.”

“Why did you become a physician if you feel

that Medical Science is powerless

to help?” Scully bristled.

“I didn’t say we couldn’t help. But, when God

has made His decision, all we

can do is ease the suffering, and help quiet

the fear. We can make the transition from

this life to the next easier for our loved

ones. Older folk know this, and most of the

time, all they want is a hand to hold when

they say good-bye.”

Dr. Hiller leaned forward, and smiled. “That’s

why I study gerontology. This population

has no romantic notions about immortality.

Death is expected, and I’m happy to

help when their time comes.”

“How do you help them?” Mulder stared into Dr.

Hiller’s eyes.

“With comfort measures only. Let nature take

its course, and see that there’s

no unnecessary medical interference.” Hiller

didn’t blink.

“How do you define ‘unnecessary,’ Dr Hiller?”

Mulder asked pointedly.

“I don’t define ‘unnecessary,’ Agent Mulder.”

He smiled, sat back, and crossed

his legs. “My patients do.”

Xxxxxxxxx

“We didn’t ask him about Leo Formann and

Lenore Morrison,” Scully complained.

“Yes we did, and he said he was only there for

Bertha Witherspoon, but he didn’t say he

killed her.” He turned and pointed at her. “I

think you owe Edith Fleischmann

an apology, by the way.”

“Bertha’s roommate, I know.” She sighed. “I

have to check into the Doctor’s

alibi again, for that night.”

“Yeah, I seem to remember something about it

being irrefutable?”

“It must have been a mix-up on the time.” She

waved her hand dismissively.

“What made you run out of there so fast?”

“I didn’t run out of there.” Mulder put his

arm around her shoulders, and

hurried her along. “Dr. Hiller wasn’t going to

confess to euthanasia. So, now we have

some digging to do.”

“Digging?”

“You heard him, Scully. He likes to help old

people out with their suffering.

Be there for

them at the end.”

“I wish you’d stop calling our aged

population, ‘old people.'” She walked

quickly and deliberately; her lips pressed

together. She stopped suddenly. “While I agree

that there’s a time to let people die with

dignity, his cavalier attitude toward his

patients was

unnerving.”

“Pissed you off, didn’t he.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t want to get into a

discussion with him about morality and

the Hippocratic Oath. I was already close to

becoming righteously indignant.” She

smiled depreciatingly. “Besides, it wouldn’t

have helped.”

“Well, while you were making appointments as

your part of the inquiry, I was

gathering information.” He took her elbow, and

guided her across the street to their

car. “It seems that the good doctor pays

monthly rent on several storage facilities in

the Baltimore area. Maybe he moved here for a

reason.” He opened the driver’s side door for

her.

“Why? To be closer to his junk? Mulder, people

rent those so they don’t have

to throw away Aunt Colleen’s quilt, Aunt

Mitzi’s bear rug, or Aunt Maureen’s rocking

chair.” She slammed the door, and put the key

in the ignition.

He scooted into the passenger’s seat. “You

have a lot of aunts.”

“Yes, I do. That’s how I know what storage

units are for, because I rent one.”

“I didn’t know that. Is it heated? Maybe we

could set up a warm mud bath in

it for the week-end.” He patted his shirt

pocket; “I even brought the Dragon’s Wing, in

case we wanted to use that last wish.”

“You brought it with you?”

He nodded, and patted his pocket again.

Scully shook her head and continued, “Well,

mine isn’t climate controlled, but some units

are.”

“I don’t know about you, but I think that even

for a doctor, seven large garage

units are excessive.” He reached under the

seat, and pulled out a street map.

She paused, “Yeah, that is excessive.”

“I’ve got a list of them.” He opened a small

notebook, and thumbed through the

pages.

The sky darkened. Lightning flashed and

thunder cracked, but no rain fell.

“That was right on cue,” Scully said, looking

out the window. “Sounds like

it’s time to go. Where’s the first unit?”

“A little south of the main city, in

Brooklyn.” He opened the map, and ran his

finger down through the streets.

“It seems that a lot of big cities have

Brooklyns.” She backed the Taurus away

from the curb.

“Let’s see what Dr. Hiller has in this one.”

XxxxxxxxxxxxxX

U Store It, Public Storage, Thursday, 3:00 PM

East Patapsco Avenue, Brooklyn

Baltimore City, Maryland

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“I’m sure that in FBI school, they said

something about obtaining search

warrants, and avoiding breaking and entering,”

Scully said, glancing around the “U Store It”

public storage on East Patapsco Avenue.

“Really? I must have been absent that day.”

Mulder fiddled with a ring of lock picks.

“Were you absent the day they showed you how

to use those, too?”

Mulder looked closely at the picks. Even

though it was only three o’clock in

the afternoon, the purple-black clouds

darkened the sky so completely that the

streetlights kicked on.

The “U Store It” was a self-serve facility

made up of several long lines of

large garage-door units. No security guard was

on duty when they’d driven through the front

gates, so they hadn’t had to show their badges

or answer any questions. The building

they wanted was well hidden from the street,

so Scully had quickly driven around to the

back, and parked in front of Unit #527.

Mulder finally held up his chosen pick.

“If you women would start using bobby pins

again, it would make breaking and

entering a lot less complicated.” Mulder slid

the pick into the padlock and jiggled it

gently. The tumblers clicked, and the lock

popped open. He removed the lock, and opened

the hasp that secured the door. Holding the

lock high in the air, he raised his other

arm, and took a bow.

Scully looked at the padlock skeptically, and

said, “Either Dr. Hiller isn’t too concerned

about what’s in here, or you’re one hell of a

cat burglar.”

He flipped the shackle around his finger and

smiled. “It’s always good to have

other employment options available.”

Mulder put the lock down, grasped the garage-

door handle, and tugged.

“Jesus, what’s this door made of? Lead? Gimme

a hand here, Scully.”

Scully wedged her fingers between his, and, at

his nod, they both pulled. The

door opened up a foot. They readjusted their

stances and heaved again. It took two

more strong pulls and a push, to completely

raise the heavy metal door.

Thunder clapped in the background as they

stood in the open doorway of the

storage unit. A musty, mildew odor wafted out.

Mulder snaked his hand inside, and patted the

wall until he found a light switch. Dim light

from a single bulb illuminated the

dust lying on the paint tarps covering Dr.

Hiller’s personal possessions.

clip_image006

“Mulder, look.” Scully pointed down. A jumble

of footprints were scattered over the dusty

floor.

Mulder edged in front of her and walked in.

“Funny. The tarp coverings aren’t

disturbed, but it looks like someone’s been in

here recently.”

“The footprints look like they’re a few weeks

old, but it’s hard to tell,” Scully said,

stepping into the storage room behind him.

“This room looks like it goes way back there.”

Mulder pulled a small flashlight from his

pocket, and clicked it on. The storage room

was crowded to the ceiling with tarp-covered

items.

“It looks like all his stuff is covered up,

like he’s getting ready to paint

the place.” He turned to her. “Why would he

want to paint in here?”

The small beam showed footprints continuing

into the darkness. He swung the beam of

light around on the floor, then on the tarp in

front of him. He leaned over,

and with his left hand, gripped the heavy

fabric and lifted.

Fat raindrops smacked against the tin roof,

filling the room with a loud, wet

staccato.

“Mulder, what is it?” Scully stepped in

further to avoid the spray of the

pelting rain, while keeping surveillance on

the parking lot.

“What do you make of these?” Mulder pulled the

tarp back revealing rows of neatly

stacked black boxes. He pulled another cloth

away, uncovering more stacks of identical

black boxes. “There are hundreds of them in

here.”

He lifted one. The box was seamless heavy

plastic with no obvious opening. It

was rectangular, shorter and wider than a

large shoebox. He turned it over in his

hands, and was surprised at how heavy it was.

He figured it weighed around five or six

pounds. There was a small metal plate stuck to

the short side of the box. It read:

MTB—3/10-5/97

Mulder picked up another box and read the

plate: PNS—12/18-2/00. He walked

back, and handed it to Scully.

“What is this?” he asked.

“Mulder,” she said slowly, “You said that Dr.

Hiller pays rent on seven units like this

one?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, we’ve just broken into his own private

columbarium. These boxes are used in a

morgue or at a cemetery to hold cremains: the

remains of cremated individuals.”

“Holy shit,” Mulder whispered. “You mean, each

of these boxes was once a— a

person?”

“That’s right. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Scully said grimly.

“There’s so many of them.” Mulder tried to

swallow, but his tongue was too dry. A

moment ago, the boxes were oddities. Now they

were someone’s dearly departed.

Someone’s friend or father. Someone’s sister.

“Now we know what Dr. Hiller has in this unit,

and in maybe six more storage units as

well. The plaques probably are initials and

dates. See, on this one, 12/18-2/00?” Scully

turned the box where he could see. “It could

mean December, 1918, to February, 2000.

This person with the initials ‘PNS’ was just

over 81 years old when he or she died.”

Mulder looked around at the tall mounds, and

started tearing down the tarps. He was

mindful not to jostle the boxes too much.

“You’re right.” She stared wide-eyed at the

dozens of stacks of black boxes

he’d uncovered. “There are hundreds of them.”

Mulder peered into the blackness of the

storage unit. “I’m going further back

into the room, I think there’s something else

in here.” He aimed his flashlight, and

took a step. He heard Scully say, “I’m going

out to the car; my phone doesn’t work in here.

We need to find a way to break in legally…”

She ducked her head out into the rain.

Lightning struck and thunder crashed in a

deafening roar. The storage room lit

up with a brilliant flash just as the heavy

metal door slipped its moor. The force of the

slamming door flung Scully back into the room.

The light faded out as Mulder heard her head

smack the concrete floor.

“Scully!”

His little beam wavered as it found her. Her

eyes were closed, and blood ran

down her face, pooling on the floor.

“God, Scully, please…” he whispered

fiercely, “Talk to me. C’mon, talk to

me.” He knelt next to her on the hard floor,

and felt her pulse. Her heartbeat was strong,

but she was breathing in short, shallow gasps.

“Don’t do this, Scully. Come on, please

open your eyes.”

The thunder stilled, and the rain dissipated;

the room was deathly quiet. Mulder charged

over to the door, and strained to lift it. It

wouldn’t budge.

Pounding his fists against the door, he

shouted, “Help, somebody!” He yelled

louder. “We need help in here! Help!”

clip_image008

His voice echoed among the ashes of the dead.

Lowering himself to the floor, he gently

shifted Scully into his lap. She lay still and

silent, her warm blood soaking into his shirt.

“Scully, please wake up…please, Scully…”

He rocked her gently, softly repeating her

name. Her arm flopped, and her head lolled as

he swayed. No one had seen them enter,

and they were far back from the street. They

were isolated, totally alone together.

And Scully was putty in his hands.

Xxxxxx ACT THREE xxxxxX

“U Store It”—Unit #527

East Patapsco Avenue

Brooklyn section of Baltimore

Late Thursday afternoon

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“…and then he told me to get my skinny ass

off the court or he’d call my mother. What

did he think I was? A kid? He didn’t scare me,

though, Scully, I mean, I was

almost eighteen…” Mulder’s voice drifted off

as he planted a kiss on the top of her

head. “C’mon, Scully,” he whispered into her

hair, rocking her gently. “You say we

never talk enough. I’m all ears now.”

The ceiling light bulb fluttered on,

suggesting that the transformer, blown out

by the lightning, was back in business. Mulder

looked around. He had stacked the

black boxes carefully, so he could lean

against them as Scully reclined in his lap. He

looked at his watch, and ran his hand through

his hair before hugging her to his chest. It

had been the longest half-hour of his life.

However, her head had stopped bleeding, and

her breathing was deep and steady.

“Why won’t you wake up? What can I do?” He

squeezed his eyes shut. “You have

to tell me, Scully.” He resumed his gentle

rocking.

“Have to…keep going…” Scully mumbled.

Mulder held his breath. “Scully?”

“I said…keep going.” She took a slow breath.

“I like to hear…” She stirred in

his arms, and opened her eyes. “… about your

skinny seventeen year-old ass.” She smiled

weakly.

“Oh, God, Scully. Scully…” Letting out his

breath, he gently kissed her

cheeks. He looked at her face, and smiled in

relief. “I said I was almost eighteen.”

“Almost eighteen is seventeen.” She sat up

slowly, and held her head. “Oh my God.”

“Take it easy. Slow and easy.” He rubbed his

hands softly up and down her arms.

“Look at your shirt,” she said, patting the

bloodstains. “It’s a mess.” She

tilted her head back against his chest, and

closed her eyes.

“You have to stay awake, Scully.” He moved her

out of his lap, leaned her against the

boxes, and stood up. “You bumped your head

pretty hard.” He offered her his

hand. “Try and stand up, okay?”

She sighed, and held out her hands. He took

them, and helped her to her feet.

She wobbled, and he held her arms to steady

her. “How bad does it look?” she asked.

“Here, feel.” He guided her fingertips to the

jagged cut at her hairline.

She winced as she probed. “It’s not bad, just

a couple of stitches, maybe. The door must

have hit me before I fell. Heads and scalps

always bleed a lot.” She gingerly

touched the bump on the back of her head, and

looked at him blearily. She sat back down on

a stack of boxes and said, “It’s not as bad as

it looks.”

“Are you going to be all right?” he asked

worriedly.

She gave a wan smile. “After four or five

Tylenol, I will.”

“You scared me.” He leaned over and looked

into her eyes.

“I’m sorry.” Her bloodshot eyes were alert,

and both pupils matched in size.

Mulder knew that with a head injury, matching

pupils was a good thing.

“Don’t do it again.” His breathing evened out

as his heart finally started beating

correctly.

Mulder straightened up, stretched his arms

high over his head, and turned to

the door. Reaching down and curling his

fingers around the handle, he yanked up hard.

The door was welded to the ground. He backed

up and kicked it.

“Mulder.”

He kicked it again. And again and again,

growling at it with each impact.

“Mulder!” Scully stood unsteadily. “It’s okay,

we’ll figure something out.”

“Goddamit! I couldn’t get it open. You were

lying on the floor, bleeding to

death for all I knew, and I couldn’t get

the…” He kicked again. “…fucking door

open!”

Thunder rumbled on the other side.

“Someone will see our car,” she said using

Mulder’s arm for balance. “Storage

lots have security guards that make rounds.

It’s too bad that we’ll be caught warrant-

less, but, eventually we will be found.” She

staggered over to the tumble of boxes.

Rubbing her temples, she sat down next to JVS

5/09—4/99.

“Hey, Mulder.” She hefted the box and rubbed

the date with her thumb. “Read

off some of the dates on those boxes.”

“Why?” He sent one last half-hearted kick into

the door.

“Just the first dates. Like on this one where

it says 5/09.”

Mulder sighed and looked at her. She sat

staring at the black box, fingering the

engraved numbers. Blood smeared down the right

side of her face and neck, caking in her

hair. A large purple bruise extended from her

hairline to her eye, and accompanied the

angry gash in her scalp. Her favorite cream-

colored silk blouse was ruined. If she wanted

him to, he would read dates to her all night

long.

He looked for the numbers.

“Let’s see—okay.” He scanned the row in front

of him and read aloud. “10/12, 3/21, uh

let me wipe this off, 4/19…”

“Okay, that’s enough.” She pointed at the

boxes. “Mulder, did you notice…?”

“Yeah, they’re all old people. I mean, like,

really old people.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Mulder, they

were people who lived long lives.

Dr. Hiller was a geriatric specialist. I

wonder if these were some of his patients

who didn’t

want his ‘unnecessary medical interference’.”

“If they were, he certainly has quite a

collection of them. Maybe they still

owed him money, and he wasn’t going to let

them go until they paid in full. Wait!” He

fumbled for his flashlight. “I thought there

was something else back there.”

Loud splashes of rain pelted down, and thunder

echoed loudly in the little room.

Mulder picked his way through the mausoleum

until he got to the back. He

turned and saw Scully watching him in the dim

light. ‘Yep, she’s gonna have a real

shiner,’ he thought as he pulled down the last

tarp.

A large, black granite slab leaned against the

back wall. He ran his hand across the dusty,

cold stone, feeling its smooth, polished

surface.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s a big, flat rock.” He ran the flashlight

beam across the front and sides. “It looks

like a big grave marker, but it doesn’t have

anything engraved on it.” He looked at

the stacks of ashes and said, “Of course, I

may not have thought of a grave marker under

other circumstances.”

“So what are we looking at here, Mulder?” She

squinted up at him as he approached. “A

doctor who either kills his patients, or let’s

them die. Then, has them cremated, and hides

them here. What for? And where were these

people’s relatives,” she gestured

to the stacks around them, “when he did this?”

“Maybe they didn’t have relatives. Maybe he

was taking care of them.” He sat

on the floor cross-legged at her feet, gently

moved a box out of his way, and stared

up at her.

“Maybe.” She looked down at him. He reached up

to brush her hair off her bruised cheek. “I’m

going to have a black eye, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, I was just thinking that.” He smiled

sympathetically. “I guess you can read my

mind, huh?” He cleared his throat, and took a

deep breath. “I owe you an apology.”

“For what? Noticing my black eye?” She smiled,

and ran her fingers through his hair.

“No. For the wish. I really thought I had the

technique down. But I blew it.”

Still stroking his hair, she asked softly,

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I wanted us to be alone together.” He quoted,

“‘Alone together with no interruptions.

Allowed to do whatever things we want to do,

in total privacy.’ And I wanted

you to be putty in my hands.” He drew a shaky

breath. “For the last half-hour, you were

absolutely at my mercy.”

“Mulder, you’re not blaming all this on that?”

She tapped his shirt pocket holding the

Dragon’s Wing.

“The wish came true, Scully. I’m just glad

you’re still alive.” He took her

hand, kissed it, and held it to his chest.

“What?”

She was smiling at him, her eyes glittering in

the soft light. “What?” he repeated grinning.

“I can’t…” Her expression grew thoughtful.

“I can’t explain how you make me feel when

you talk about reading minds and making

wishes.” She leaned down and smiled

softly. “You remind me that there’s still

wonder and magic in the world. Every day you

show me there’s at least one person who hasn’t

become too jaded to see the mysteries around

us. No matter how long I live, as long as I’m

with you, I’ll never grow old.”

He blinked several times. “And you make me

believe in miracles.”

Scully’s smile widened, so Mulder caught some

of her teeth when he leaned in and kissed

her.

“You know, Mulder, you only make confessions

like this when the witnesses are

unable to testify.” She handed him CAO—10/21-

6/97.

He studied the black boxes stacked to the

ceiling, and for the first time, he

shuddered. “Hey, Scully?”

“Hmm?”

“You wouldn’t do this, would you?” He shook

the box.

“Cremating is an efficient, and cost effective

method of interment. The Catholic Church

no longer forbids it, and some of the urns

I’ve seen are very pretty.” She ruffled his

hair, and patted his head.

“No. I mean, to me. You wouldn’t let this

happen to me, would you?” He gripped her

hand. Suddenly, her answer was profoundly

important.

“No,” she whispered. “I would never let that

happen.”

“You promise?” He stared at her intently.

“Yes. I promise.”

He nodded, and her eyes misted over.

The thunder clapped, then crashed. Scully

covered her ears, and Mulder jumped to his

feet.

“Damn! That was close. It shook the whole

room!” He took a few steps over to the

door. “When are the security people going to

notice we’ve broken in?”

Banging his fists on the door, he yelled,

“Hello! Hello! We’re stealing stuff

in here. Come arrest us!”

“Well, at least we’re warm and dry,” she

shrugged.

“Stop being optimistic. I’m getting hungry.”

He thought about kicking the

door again, but stopped. “You know, Scully? It

*is* warm in here.”

“I know. I’m glad.”

“I thought that this wasn’t a climate-

controlled unit,” he said, searching the

walls for a thermostat.

“It’s not.”

“Then it should be getting cooler in here,

with evening approaching and the

rain cooling everything off.” He paced back

and forth in front of the closed door.

She considered a minute. “Maybe it is heated,

because it’s definitely nice and

warm in here.”

“What’s on the other side of the wall behind

the big, flat rock?” he asked.

“There’s another garage unit like this one.

Two strips of units back to back, I think.

Why?”

Mulder walked back to the granite slab and

touched the wall behind it.

“Scully, the wall is hot.” He pointed his

flashlight at the ceiling. Smoke curled in the

rafters.

“Oh shit.” He rushed back to her. “We gotta

get out of here. Now!”

Scully stood slowly, and carefully moved to

the door. “Come on, Mulder. We

opened it once, we can open it again.”

“Scully, you shouldn’t…” He knew that the

door was glued to the floor, but he

said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

They both squatted and grabbed the rung.

“Ready?” He waited for her nod. “Okay, on

three. One, two, three!” They

heaved up hard on the handle.

The temperature rose several degrees, and

smoke filled the room. The door

remained locked down tight.

Scully slumped to the floor, held her head,

and moaned softly. “Let’s…let’s try it

again.”

Trying to keep the panic from his voice he

said, “It’s not going to open.” He

joined her on the floor, where there was less

smoke.

“We have to find a way out,” she said looking

through the haze.

Mulder smiled sadly. “I’m open to any and all

suggestions.”

Scully paused, narrowed her eyes, and said, “I

just made you a promise, and I’m not backing

out on it.”

She reached for him, and he opened his arms to

her. But instead of embracing him, she

opened his shirt pocket, and removed the red

and gold silk bag.

“Now, Scully? Miracles and wishes?” She backed

up; her silhouette was all he could see

through the thick, gray smoke.

The red bag fell to the floor, and he squinted

up at her. Scully held something between

her fingers.

Looking directly at the Dragon’s Wing, she

gasped, “Get us out of here before

we cook.”

“Scully,” he coughed. “You have to be…more

specific than that.” He coughed

again, and waved his hand in a futile attempt

to clear the smoke away from his face.

The searing heat would soon melt them away,

and his final wish was to be in her

arms when it did. He inched toward her

inadvertently bracing his hand against the

hot metal wall. He cried out, and pulled his

scorched hand back. His palm and fingers

bubbled with second-degree burns.

“Well, I’m cooking now!” He held up his hand,

for her to see.

The door popped open, and rose two feet, three

feet, all the way up until it clicked

completely open.

Mulder grabbed Scully off the floor, and

bolted out, into the rain. Both drew

in huge lungfuls of air as they got into their

car. Sirens wailed in the distance.

Thick, foul-smelling smoke poured out of Unit

# 527. The unit behind it was in full flame,

and the surrounding structures groaned,

buckling from the heat.

Seconds later, flames roared out of the open

door, and the unit crashed in a

heap of fire and black smoke. The blaze

consumed the remaining units, and one by one,

they folded in on themselves; leaving twisted

hunks of misshapen metal. The resulting

bonfire shot streams of orange flames high

into the air. The inferno ate its way through

old furniture, portraits of dead relatives,

and hundreds and hundreds of boxes of old

people’s ashes, crackling and popping as it

fed.

The heat quickly encroached on their car.

Mulder backed up, one handed, and

drove around to the front.

Fire trucks screamed, and barreled through the

gates; tires skidding as they

sped around back, but the lightning had done

its damage. The entire strip was

unrecognizable, fully ablaze, and engulfed in

thick, sooty smoke.

Mulder turned to his partner who stared

through the windshield, transfixed.

“Ashes to ashes,” she said without moving.

“Dust to dust,” he agreed.

Xxxxxx EPILOGUE xxxxxX

Apartment 42, Friday evening

Hegel Place

Alexandria, Virginia

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

“Here, look at me again.”

Scully shifted in Mulder’s arms, opened her

eyes, and tried to look annoyed.

“I was dozing.” She stretched her arms over

her head. “It’s been over twenty-four hours;

you can stop checking now.”

“I promised the ER doctor that I’d look into

your eyes every two hours.” He carefully

shifted his right leg, and brushed her bruised

face with his good hand. “I keep

my promises, too, you know.”

Even though it was well past the seven hours

the doctor had suggested, Mulder

was still pleased that her pupils matched.

After the collapse of storage units, Mulder

had rushed them to Harbor Hospital

a few blocks away from the U Store It.

Grabbing Scully by her shirtsleeve, he had

dragged his bruised and wheezing partner into

the emergency room. The nurse had taken one

look at this limping man, covered in

bloodstains, filling out the admission forms

with his left hand cradled protectively

against his chest, and booked him a room, too.

Scully had misdiagnosed herself, but not by

much. She sustained a mild concussion, and

required five small stitches at the hairline.

Even though she suffered through

a couple of coughing fits, the heat and smoke

had not damaged her lungs. Her forehead,

right eye, and right cheek down to her chin

were a striking shade of purple. Her left eye

was lavender, with the promise of a deeper

shade to follow.

The ER doctor wanted to admit her overnight

for observation, but Mulder had

promised to keep a close eye on her. And he

knew that she wanted to keep her good eye

on him, too. Mulder’s left palm, fingers, and

thumb received first and second degree

burns. He had braced his hand against the hot

metal wall, and pushed his weight into it,

before recoiling. It hurt like a son-of-bitch.

But the surprise came when the nurse removed

his socks and shoes. His enthusiastic door

kicking had broken two toes on his right foot.

The doctor splinted them together, and sent

Mulder home in a walking boot. Broken toes

hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, too.

They were still sooty when they left the

hospital, so, by unspoken agreement,

they went to Mulder’s apartment to recuperate.

An hour after that, he sat clean and

sweet-smelling, with his injured foot propped

on the coffee table and his left hand elevated

on the arm of his sofa. His right hand held

the remote, and his arm was draped around

Scully’s shoulder as she snored softly, and

drooled on his chest. He clicked on ESPN,

certain that he was the happiest man alive.

A day later, he checked her pupils again. An

old black-and-white movie was playing in the

background.

“You hungry, Scully?”

“No, I’m not, but do you want me to make you

something?” She was trying to

wake up without moving her sore head.

“Nope.” He clicked the remote, and the screen

went black.

“What then?” She yawned, closed her eyes and

snuggled down into him.

“While you were dozing, I made a bunch phone

calls to the office, and—to a few

other places. Pulled a few strings.” He patted

her hair and leaned over to put the

remote on the coffee table.

“Hmm? And?”

“Well, it might interest you to know that

after we spoke with Dr. Hiller

yesterday, he left the country.”

She opened her eyes and sat up. “What?”

“Yep, he was informed of a family emergency,

and immediately booked a flight to

his native country. He flew out late last

night.”

“You are kidding me, right?” She turned so she

could look him in the eye.

“I’m not. Due to the lack of solid damning

evidence tying him to the deaths of

his former patients, and because of the good

domestic relations enjoyed between the United

States and his country, no warrant will be

issued to extradite Dr. Hiller from

Toronto, Canada.”

“What…what about the ashes? What about the

other storage units?” Her voice raised an

octave.

“Yes, about those. Dr. Hiller was very

forthcoming, after we tracked him down

this morning. He had no knowledge whatsoever

about any ashes, and denied that he

currently rented the now defunct Unit #527 at

the U Store It.”

As he spoke, Mulder tried one-handed, to curl

a few strands of her hair around

his little finger. “The storage company can’t

find Dr. Hiller’s original rental agreement. I

had a faxed copy, dated two years ago, but the

doctor said he no longer rented it.”

“So who did rent it?”

“I guess we’re not sure. Maybe after the smoke

clears, I’ll ask the U Store It

guys to check again. They probably won’t be

too interested in looking into it,

though.”

She stared at him, and very slowly shook her

head. “And the other six units?”

“Furniture, Scully, but not quite what you

thought. Dr. Hiller gave us

permission to look inside his storage rooms.

Each of them held different styles of

furniture. He explained that he liked to

redecorate—got tired of the same scheme—so

every few months he’d hire a moving company to

switch out his furniture. One unit had an Art

Nouveau motif, one had Japanese and Asian

overtones, and another had an Ultra-

Contemporary Swedish élan, etcetera. By the

way, his house on Gibson Island is currently

decorated in Modern Victorian.”

“Unbelievable.”

“Want one more unbelievable thing for today?”

he asked softly.

“There’s *more*? Boy, Mulder, I go to sleep

for a few hours and you wrap it all up?”

“Quite an institution, that FBI school, huh?”

He carefully moved his sore hand

onto a pillow in his lap, so he could turn

toward her. “One more thing, if you want

to hear it.”

“Okay,” she sighed. “I want to hear it.”

“Remember Leo Formann, the man who claimed

that Dr. Hiller poisoned him, and

Sadie Littlejohn, the elderly patient who

identified Dr. Hiller as ‘examining’ her

roommate, Lenore Morrison before Mrs. Morrison

died?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Mr. Formann is dead, he was eighty-one. And

now, so is Mrs. Littlejohn. She

passed away unexpectedly this morning. There’s

nobody left to identify Dr. Hiller.”

He paused to swallow before continuing. “Mrs.

Littlejohn lived to be eighty-five years

old, and had no relatives listed, and no one

entrusted to…” A lump unexpectedly formed in

his throat, and he looked away.

“Mulder,” she said softly, “if you want, I’ll

call the hospital and make sure that her body

is claimed for burial.”

He nodded silently. Even though he didn’t know

Mrs. Littlejohn, he didn’t want

her to end up as unclaimed ashes in a black

box.

“I—uh—I have an impossible thing, too,” she

said.

He cleared his throat, swiped at his nose, and

said, “Shoot.” It was hard to

tell with all the bruising, but Mulder thought

she was blushing.

“If anyone asks me how we got out of that

storage garage, my official answer,

and the one I may actually believe, is that

the heat loosened the joints, and caused

the metal door to expand and break free of the

door frame. It popped out of the door jamb,

thus allowing the door to open.”

“Except that the hot doorframe would have

expanded along with the hot door,

squeezing the door more firmly closed,” Mulder

said, picking a piece of imaginary lint

off her

sleeve.

“Different metals expand at different rates.”

“Touché!” He raised his good hand. “Or, as the

kids say, ‘true dat.'” He curled his hand

around her waist. He wasn’t buying it for a

minute, and doubted that she was either.

“That’s the explanation I would give if just

‘anyone’ asked me,” she hedged.

“But if you asked me what I really thought…”

He cut her off. “Okay, so, how did we escape

that pressure cooker?” He nodded

once. “There, I just asked you.”

She squirmed, and was definitely flushed pink

under the purple. He waited for her to answer.

“I was pretty desperate. I mean we were both

pretty desperate…”

“I noticed that.”

Scully worked her lips and attempted to form

the words. Mulder remained

politely silent, watching her struggle. She

clamped her mouth shut, tilted her chin

defiantly, and glared at him.

“Sorry, Scully. How ’bout I make it easy for

you? I mean, when it comes to

wishes. I’m your boy.” He kissed the top of

her head. “Besides, it won’t sound so crazy

to you if I say it.”

“No, I’ll tell it.” She sighed in resignation.

“I took that piece of paper-thin dragon tissue

out of your pocket, held it up, and made a

wish. After you shouted that you were

‘cooking,’ the Dragon’s Wing dissolved in my

hand, and the door opened. Now the

Dragon’s Wing was very fragile, and the heat

was pretty intense…”

“But since this is ‘me’ you’re telling…” he

poked her with his fingers.

“I didn’t believe it would work, but you did.

Don’t you see, Mulder? Faith is

believing.” She paused for words. “Faith is

when you believe in something with all your

heart, without needing logical proof or

material evidence.”

Scully lowered her voice, but she didn’t turn

away. Her eyes were shining when

she said, “Something did save us, yesterday.

It was your belief in wonder, wishes, and

the power of charmed objects. I never would

have wished on a piece of dead flesh without

you believing it would work.”

He smiled crookedly. “Ahh, it probably

wouldn’t have worked for me anyway.”

He pushed stray red strands away from her

eyes. “I would have been too specific.”

With one arm, he hugged her warmly, and

scooted as close to her as he could,

thoroughly convinced now that he was the

happiest man alive.

She snuggled back into him, and handed him the

remote. He aimed the clicker, but didn’t press

the button.

clip_image010

Lowering his hand, he cocked his head to the

side then dipped it to catch her

eye. “Hey, Scully, something you said made me

realize that my fondest wish has been

granted. Something I’ve wanted my whole life.”

Her brows knitted together. “What’s that?”

He lowered his voice. “I have always wanted,”

he leaned down, and kissed her

tenderly, “to believe.”

XxxxxxxxxxxxxxX

END

This was a tip o’ the pen to W. W. Jacobs

short story, “The Monkey’s Paw.” One

place to read it online is here:

http://www.gate.net/~madonia/monkeypa.htm

After 100 years, it’s still a spooky story!

TCS

~~*~~*~~*~~

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