Love, Honor, and Obeah

Title: Love, Honor, and Obeah

Author: Martin Ross

Email: rossprag@fgi.net

Rating: PG-13

Category: X-Files/The Practice crossover, casefile

Spoilers: Fresh Bones

Archive: Anywhere after two weeks at VS11

Disclaimer: Fox , Chris Carter, the usual suspects.

Summary: When The Practice’s Alan Shore tries to prove

the murder of a shaman was self-defense, he’ll need

some legal magic and an assist from Agents Mulder and

Scully

Eighth Circuit Court of the Commonwealth

Boston, Mass.

10:34 a.m.

“And how does the defendant plead?” Judge Harrod

inquired cautiously, prepared for anything.

Alan Shore smiled blandly. “Your Honor, my client

would like to plead innocent by reason of self-

defense. Specifically, defense of another.”

Harrod frowned. “Approach the bench.”

Shore glanced at ADA Roland Hill, then back at

the stone-faced judge. “Excuse me, Your Honor. Mr.

Hill or myself?”

“Now, Mr. Shore,” Harrod growled, eyes afire.

Shore smiled at his client and strolled past the

stenographer. He peeked over the top of Harrod’s

bench. “Like what you’ve done with the feng shui here,

Your Honor.”

“You are not pleading self-defense, Mr. Shore.”

Shore’s eyebrows rose, and he blinked innocently.

“Well, I believe we just did.”

“Your client shot an unarmed victim point-blank,

in front of more than a dozen witnesses, in the lobby

of a downtown office building.”

“Yes.”

“Where was the imminent threat? And who were the

others your client claimed to be defending?”

“His family, Your Honor. His wife and his 11-

year-old daughter.”

“And they were present at the time of the

shooting?”

“No, sir.”

“They were in the building?”

“I believe they were in Camden, visiting Mrs.

Dutton’s mother. She’s been having a touch of bursitis

– my assumption would be too much fatty fried foods —

and…”

“Mr. Shore, a few months ago, your colleagues

Mr. Young and Mr. Berluti secured the acquittal of a

woman who cold-bloodedly murdered a drug dealer by

convincing a jury to disregard the basic tenets of the

law.”

“That’s just shocking,” Shore tsk’ed.

“You listen to me, Mister,” Harrod leaned in.

“I’ve had it up to here with your firm’s antics and

gamesmanship. You are not pleading self-defense. You

are not pleading defense of others.”

“Mr. Dutton believed his family was in

immediate and imminent danger,” Alan Shore explained

slowly, as if the judge were a child. “Mr. Delacroix,

the victim, was an Obeahman – he practiced a form of

Jamaican mysticism. Mr. Delacroix had threatened my

client’s wife and daughter, and my client shot him

before he could place a spell on them. I’d guess you’d

call it a spell, but then again, I was up watching

Bewitched on TVLand last night. Well, that resolved,

may we proceed?”

Young, Frutt, and Berluti, Attorneys-At-Law

Boston, Mass.

“Alan,” Tara, the firm’s paralegal and de facto

office manager, informed Shore. “Your ‘expert witness’

has arrived. He’s in the conference room. I offered

him some coffee – he preferred some Earl Grey with

organic honey.”

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t use

parentheses when referring to my case consultants. It

implies doubt about their credibility and authority.”

Tara raised a dry eyebrow as she smirked. “And I

would appreciate it if you addressed your comments to

my face, rather than to other portions of my anatomy.”

“Do we even have organic honey?”

The paralegal sighed and turned on her heel. Alan

deposited his Louis Vuitton briefcase on his scarred

desk and headed for the conference room. Gene Young

blocked his way, his expression just a shade cooler

than Judge Harrod’s had been when he’d set a trial

date for Mark Dutton.

“Eugene!” Shore beamed.

“How’d it go?” Gene asked frostily. “I assume

Harrod knocked down your defense. Maybe you could go

for diminished–”

“We’re dandy, actually. Judge Harrod was quite

reasonable. I believe he feels I’ll make a complete

idiot of myself and the firm. The prospect seemed to

delight him.”

Gene’s jaw tightened “And how do you intend not

to make complete idiots of yourself and this firm?”

Shore looked hurt. “You appear skeptical.”

“This case already has a higher profile than we

need at this point. This…voodoo…angle you plan to

introduce…”

“Obeah,” Shore corrected.

“Just,” Gene said through his teeth, struggling

for composure, “just dispose of this case with a

minimum of spectacle. You think you can do that?”

“Absolutely.”

Gene glared at Shore, who smiled brightly back.

Head shaking, the senior partner stalked back to his

office. Alan shrugged at Jamie, who’d jumped at the

clatter of Gene’s door.

“Dr. Romanisch,” Shore greeted, extended a hand

to the rotund man at the conference table. “I’m

delighted you could come by today. You read my report

of the case, right?”

The cultural anthropologist nodded eagerly.

“Fascinating, and while it’s atypical here in the

U.S., I could cite you a half-dozen anecdotal examples

of violence, even homicide, associated with obeah

practices in the Caribbean.”

“Excellent. And these cases are well-documented?”

“Indeed,” Romanisch said. “I plan to include

them in my next book. I’ve established key linkages

between obeah and other Caribbean religious rituals

and the electromagnetic convergences within Bermuda

Triangle by tracking UFO reports throughout the

region.”

“That is fascinating, just absolutely

fascinating,” Shore murmured. He stood. “Would you

excuse me for just one moment, Dr. Romanisch? I want

to check the progress on that Earl Grey.”

J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington, D.C.

One month later

“Excuse me, Mr….Shore?” Mulder asked, leaning

forward, his eyes alert. “Did you say obeah?”

Scully, leaning against a nearby file cabinet,

arms crossed, pursed her lips. Mulder studiously

avoided establishing eye contact with her.

“Obeah,” Alan Shore nodded with a Mona Lisa

smile. “I understand you have some experience with

African-Caribbean religion and witchcraft.”

“I wouldn’t call it witchcraft, precisely,”

Mulder corrected. “It’s generally viewed as a sort of

religion or shamanism. Obeah is one of the more

unknown and obscure African traditions of sorcery.

While Santeria, Umbanda, and Candomblè have become

relatively popular in the Caribbean – almost

mainstreamed — Obeah is still veiled in secrecy. Even

the word ‘obeah’ is clouded in secrecy. The Obeahman

is considered something of a cross between a voodoo

witchdoctor, a medicine man, a root doctor, and an

occult spiritualist. And because of the secrecy of the

practice and the alleged power the shaman holds, some

less reputable Obeahmen have used that power as a form

of extortion.”

“Which is where my client enters in,” Shore said.

“The trial begins in three days, and you’re the most

unimpeachable witness I can think of – a federal

government agent who not only validates obeah but has

had actual experience with it.”

“Agent Mulder theorizes about the validity of

obeah,” Scully amended, “and his experience actually

involved alleged voodoo practices at an Army

detainment camp – charges that were less than

definitively proven.”

“Tomayto, tomahto,” Shore shrugged.

“Do you even believe in obeah yourself?” Scully

challenged.

“Oh, God,” the attorney laughed. “No.”

“So this is just some kind of scam, a sleazy

legal tactic.”

Shore’s smile faded. “Mark Dutton believed in

obeah. He believed Robert Delacroix practiced obeah.

And at the time he shot him, he believed Delacroix

posed a direct and immediate threat to his family. I’d

merely ask Agent Mulder to testify to the

persuasiveness of obeah, to the possibility that a

rational businessman might believe in its power.”

“Well, that’s not so unrea-” Mulder began.

“I’ve done some checking up on you, Mr. Shore,”

Scully interrupted. “Until recently, you were an

antitrust attorney with one of Boston’s most

prestigious legal firms. You left that firm suddenly

to join a criminal law firm that, charitably, must be

described as ethically challenged. You then narrowly

escaped disbarment after betraying a client’s

confidence. And let’s not even discuss your getting a

double-murderer off on diplomatic immunity.”

The smile returned. “Agent Scully, has anyone

ever told you your nostrils have a very erotic flare

to them? Sorry, that was very inappropriate, and you

probably could have my last 10 years’ tax returns

audited. So what do you say, Agent Mulder?”

Mulder’s eyes darted uneasily back toward his

partner. “Well, I don’t know how my assistant director

would feel about my testifying about paranormal

phenomenon, especially in a high-profile case like

this.”

“Skinner will have an aneurysm,” Scully

affirmed emphatically.

Shore brightened. “Well, how about if I

subpoenaed you? Then you’d have to testify, and your

boss couldn’t be angry. It’s a win-win.”

Mulder looked hopefully up at Scully. She

opened her mouth, closed it, grabbed a pile of

folders, and left the office.

“Well, then,” Shore concluded happily.

Eighth Circuit Court of the Commonwealth

Boston, Mass.

9:22 a.m.

“Obeah is a folk religion of African origin

practiced throughout much of Latin America,” Alan

Shore instructed the jury – an ethnically and

economically eclectic group. “In Brazil, they call it

Umbanda, Condomble de Congo, or Angola. In Jamaica,

they often call it Kumina. In Guyana, Muslims, Hindus,

and Christians use obeah to perform powerful magic and

weave spells.

“Those who practice obeah sometimes help

people with problems concerning their work, romance,

their home life, and health. They can also harm people

upon whom they seek revenge or are jealous of. I

consider myself an educated, enlightened man who

appreciates the cultural folkways of others. So when

my client first told me about this fascinating

cultural phenomenon, my reaction, of course, was that

it was complete crap and that Mark Dutton was a total

looney-bird who was one pill short of a prescription.”

A murmur moved through the galley, and the

jurors pulled straight in their seat.

The lawyer sighed. “My problem, as I

interviewed Mr. Dutton, was that he was clearly not a

looney-bird. He was absolutely convinced that Robert

Delacroix was a practitioner of this religion and that

he had the power to bring disease and death upon his

wife and his child. And, worst of all, Mr. Dutton had

compelling personal evidence upon which to base his

conviction. When Robert Delacroix confronted Mark

Dutton in the lobby of his office building and told

him that he would harm his family, Mark Dutton

believed unequivocally that he would.

“You can choose to believe that obeah is complete

crap. It’s natural for us to view other cultural

beliefs with suspicion or skepticism. But come on:

Look at what we believe. We have any Catholics here?

Mormons? Methodists?”

“Mr. Shore,” Judge Harrod snapped.

“We’ll talk later,” Shore winked at the jury

pool. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that to be

a bona fide religious belief, entitled to protection

under either the First Amendment, a belief must be

sincerely held. In 1985, the District Court of

Virginia ruled that Wicca – witchcraft — was, quote-

unquote, ‘clearly a religion for First Amendment

purposes.’

“We can all scratch our head or chuckle about the

idea of voodoo dolls or chicken sacrifices or part-

time witches chanting Latin. But I’d like you to

respect one thing: Through a very unorthodox series of

events, Mark Dutton – stockbroker, devoted husband,

loving father – became a true believer in obeah. So

much so that when Robert Delacroix threatened his

family with harm, he viewed that threat with the

seriousness of a gun to his wife and daughter’s heads.

Mr. Dutton’s belief was very, very sincerely held.”

ADA Hill watched Shore return to his seat next

to a sober Mark Dutton, rose with dignity, and

approached the jury box with a benevolent smile and a

shake of his head.

“Mark Dutton first became acquainted with

Robert Delacroix in September, when Mr. Delacroix

picked the defendant up in his taxicab downtown,” Hill

began. “Dutton noticed an amulet hanging from the

victim’s rearview mirror, and, being a basically

amiable man, asked Mr. Delacroix about it. Unbeknownst

to Mr. Dutton, that’s when he became Mr. Delacroix’

mark. Mr. Dutton had no way of knowing that Mr.

Delacroix had a lengthy record of arrests for

conducting a variety of confidence games and

occasionally extorting money from poor suckers who

believed his stories of obeah and witchcraft.

“Delacroix began mysteriously encountering Mr.

Dutton on the street, at the local diner the defendant

frequented, in the lobby of Mr. Dutton’s office

building, offering his services, spells to improve Mr.

Dutton’s health and professional fortunes. By this

time, Mr. Dutton’s interest had waned, and he finally

filed a police complaint against Mr. Delacroix. The

victim was visited by police officers at his place of

employment and, as a result, was terminated by the cab

company.

“Now, this should have been the end of the

story. But Mr. Delacroix wasn’t deterred: He began

haunting the office building where Mr. Dutton worked,

calling Mr. Dutton at all hours both at work and at

home. The snappy patter of the conman gave way to more

ominous hints and innuendoes. Finally, the other shoe

dropped: Mr. Delacroix wanted money to leave Mr.

Dutton alone, and, he implied, to leave Mr. Dutton’s

family alone. Mr. Dutton rejected the offer, and again

called the police. But Mr. Delacroix was good at his

game and there was nothing much the police could do

but once again warn Mr. Delacroix to keep his distance

from Mr. Dutton.

“Then the family cat died. Mr. Dutton’s little

girl came home from school on Halloween, of all days,

to find her beloved pet dead, apparently poisoned.

What frightened the Duttons about their cat’s untimely

death was that the unfortunate animal was found inside

a closed closet within their locked home. Instead of

assuming the animal had ingested some household

cleaner, as was very likely the case, Mr. Dutton

blamed Mr. Delacroix, in fact reported Delacroix had

somehow broken into his home, across town from this

now-unemployed man, without leaving a trace of

evidence. Delacroix had no clear-cut alibi, but the

police had no cause to make an arrest.

“And then, two nights later, the final cruel

twist of coincidence occurred. Brittani Dutton, Mark

Dutton’s 11-year-old child, quit breathing. The

paramedics were called, Brittani was placed on oxygen

and transported to St. Eligius Hospital. She had had

no history of asthma or allergies, and both her

pediatrician and the doctors at St. Eligius were

baffled. And then, two hours later, after Brittani had

become cyanotic, she recovered completely. Later, she

told her parents that it was as if she had forgotten

how to breathe. Whatever happened to his daughter, a

beleaguered Mark Dutton again assumed that his

nemesis, Robert Delacroix, was at the root of it. A

steady campaign of harassment, a stressful situation,

and an unregistered gun Mark Dutton had purchased two

weeks earlier. A recipe for disaster.

“In any event, Mark Dutton had had enough.

With calculation and in cold-blooded rage, he emptied

two .38-caliber bullets into Robert Delacroix’ brain,

then calmly waited for the police.

Roland Hill glanced back at the defendant, a

trim, fit, balding 36-year-old, and shook his head,

this time sadly. “A tragic tale? Certainly. A

cautionary tale for those who would talk too freely to

strangers or who would attempt to prey on the weakness

of others? Absolutely. But people, don’t be taken in

by defense counsel’s fairy tale. Robert Delacroix was

no witchdoctor with mystical powers – he was a

pathetic career felon. Mark Dutton was a fundamentally

decent man driven by urban paranoia to commit murder.

This is neither a religious issue nor a case of self-

defense, as Mr. Shore attempts to assert. The only

constitutional right Mr. Dutton is entitled to is due

process, and the only belief I ask you to subscribe to

that in our basic prohibition on murder.”

Commonwealth Taxi

Boston, Mass.

10:02 a.m.

“And we are here, why, exactly?” Scully

complained as Mulder examined the politically

incorrect, five years out-of-date calendar on the back

wall of the dispatcher’s cubicle. “Mulder, when

Skinner said you were on a tight leash, what precisely

did you think he meant?”

Mulder tore his eyes from the blonde on the

fly-spattered wall. “Look., if I have to testify…”

“Have to?” Scully snorted. “You practically

begged like a schnauzer for a Milk Bone.”

“If I must testify,” Mulder repeated with

dignity, “then maybe it would be good to know if this

is a genuine case of obeah. If it is, then we’re

dealing with an actual X-File. That’s our job right?”

Scully sighed. “I will admit that the

circumstances of the case are very unusual. The

Duttons’ veterinarian could find no specific cause of

death for, ah, Mr. Puffy.”

“And Dr. Erlich at St. Eligius told me they

ran tox screens, allergy tests, blood workups, the

whole routine on Brittani Dutton. Nothing. A healthy

11-year-old suddenly suffers an inexplicable

respiratory episode – after Robert Delacroix hinted

that Dutton’s family was at risk.”

“Down, boy,” Scully breathed as the rail-thin

company manager came back down the hall with a

battered manila folder.

“Bob was bad news day we hired him,” Pat

O’Faolan grunted with a thick, tobacco-filtered Boston

accent, handing Scully the victim’s personnel file.

“The stalkin’ thing, that was just the straw busted

the camel’s balls. He always had some scam workin’ –

shady characters comin’ and goin’, askin’ after him.

Bookies lookin’ for him. Even had his girlfriend

showin’ up here at work. Some classy broad – sorry

there, ma’am – classy young babe. Too sharp to be a

workin’ girl, but definitely not Bob’s type.”

“Better,” Scully murmured. “This girlfriend,

did you get a name?”

O’Faolan sucked a molar and shook his head.

“But I think she mighta been in show business or

somethin’. Swear I seen her somewhere.”

“What about obeah?” Mulder inquired, drawing a

look from both Scully and the cab manager.

“Oh, he followed orders good enough, when he

wasn’t drunk or hung over,” O’Faolan said.

“No. Witchcraft. Did Mr. Delacroix ever

mention having a knowledge of magic or spells?”

He looked disgusted and puffed his stubbled

cheeks. “Always talkin’ how his pop and his grandpop

were some kinda hotshot shamuses back on the island.”

“Shamuses?” Mulder murmured. “Shamans?”

“Yeah, yeah. When he came in a few weeks after

I canned him to get his last check, he told me he knew

a witch more powerful than him would mess my ass up,”

O’Faolan’s grunted. “Said he found a way to cash in on

his voodoo bullshit.”

“Obeah,” Mulder amended.

“Yeah,” Scully yawned. “Obeah bullshit.”

Eighth Circuit Court of the Commonwealth

Boston, Mass.

1:11 p.m.

“At first, I thought he just some kind of lunatic

burnout,” Mark Dutton said nervously, eyes scanning

the crowd in the courtroom galley. “He just started

showing up wherever I was, offering to ‘help’ me. I’d

told him I was a stockbroker, which I guess was a

mistake, and he told me he could help me pick the

right investments, the right time to buy and sell. At

first, I told him I wasn’t interested – you know, I

didn’t think it would be good to upset him.”

“But he didn’t take no for an answer,” Shore

prompted.

Dutton sighed. “No. I finally got fed up and

called the cops, the police. They said he hadn’t

really done anything criminal, that I ought to just

ignore him. Then Delacroix came to me, said I got him

fired. He said I owed him, and if I didn’t give him

‘severance pay’ – that’s how he put it – bad things

would happen. I told him to go to hell.”

“But then, bad things began to happen.”

“Well, the next day, a couple of clients called

and cancelled some fairly large orders. They wouldn’t

explain why, just cancelled. My credit card turned up

missing at lunch, and my car wouldn’t start that

afternoon. Of course, I didn’t think Delacroix was

responsible, but then, it just kept going on.

Misplaced files, small things missing from the office

and at home. I was getting less and less sleep, and

even though I was eating regularly, I noticed I was

starting to lose weight.”

“Then Brittani found the cat.”

Dutton nodded, glancing at his anxious wife,

seated behind his chair at the defense table. “I

remember thinking, he did it. Delacroix. I knew it

sounded absurd, but I couldn’t shake it. By this time,

I’d been reading all about obeah, and there were all

these cases of people getting sick, dying in weird

ways. When we took Brittani to the hospital and they

couldn’t find anything, I knew I had to do something.”

“And what was that?”

“I decided to pay him, Delacroix, off. He wanted

$50,000 to leave us alone. I had well more than that

in some assorted funds, so I liquidated some holdings

for the cash. I had his payment with me the day he

confronted me in the lobby.”

“Refer the court to the item marked Defense

Evidence G – a cashier’s check for $50,000,” Shore

called to the bench. “Why, the next day, didn’t you

simply pay Mr. Delacroix his money and part ways?”

“He wanted more — $100,000,” Dutton related. “He

said the check wasn’t enough for him.”

It was a slight change of phrase from his

original interview with Dutton, but Shore caught it.

“Sorry,” he smiled. “At that point, what did you

tell Mr. Delacroix?”

Dutton’s jaw tightened. “That I’d reached my

limit. That it was $50,000 or nothing. That my family

would not be held hostage. He laughed at me, and said

he was going to give me a demonstration of what would

happen to my little girl if I didn’t come up with

another $50,000. Then he started going into some kind

of trance, mumbling something I couldn’t make out. He

reached into his pocket, I assumed for that amulet he

used to have in his cab. I begged him to stop, but he

kept chanting. Then I remembered the gun. I forgot

where I was for a moment, and I pulled it out. I told

him to stop, I was practically screaming. Then he

grinned at me, and said . . .”

“Yes?”

“And said he wasn’t finished yet, that she

wasn’t finished yet. That’s when I shot him. I

couldn’t let him kill my daughter.”

Alan Shore nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Dutton.”

**

“Detective McGuire,” Roland Hill asked, “what

precisely did you find in the righthand pocket of the

windbreaker Mr. Delacroix was wearing when Mr. Dutton

murdered him.”

“Objection,” Shore sang. “The prosecution’s just

being juvenile, now.”

“Sustained,” Harrod responded through his teeth.

“And I would like future objections to be phrased more

in keeping with the decorum of this court.”

“Absolutely.”

“When Mr. Delacroix was shot,” Hill rephrased,

“what was in his righthand pocket?”

“A cell phone which I entered into evidence,” the

homicide cop stated. “It had been stolen from a

Starbuck’s downtown two weeks earlier and

reprogrammed. We believe Mr. Delacroix purchased it

illegally from a fence.”

“And that was it?” Hill inquired. “No amulets, no

chicken feet, no eye of toad?”

“Your Honor,” Shore sighed. “I strenuously object

to prosecution’s demeaning and borderline racist

characterization of the victim’s religious practices.

His sarcasm, too.”

Hill held up a palm. “Just the phone, Detective?”

“Just the phone,” McGuire said.

“Thank you.”

Shore strolled to the witness box. “Good morning,

Detective. Mr. Delacroix’ cell phone – did it have a

redial feature?”

“Yes.”

“And did you or any of your fellow officers check

the last number Mr. Delacroix dialed?”

“Yes. It was the number for a pay phone at the

corner of Barrington and Freeman Aves., where a

shopping plaza had recently been torn down.”

“And when was this last call placed?”

“At 8:21 a.m. the morning Mr. Delacroix was shot.

Cell phone records established the time.”

Shore smiled. “And could you refresh me on the

time of the shooting?”

“Witnesses fixed it at about 8:25.”

“You checked records for that phone booth Mr.

Delacroix called?”

“Nobody picked up, so there was no record of the

call going through.”

“Now, why do you think Mr. Delacroix might have

been calling a phone booth in an abandoned parking lot

while he reportedly was about to cast a spell on Mr.

Dutton’s daughter?”

“Detective McGuire is not a psychiatrist!” Hill

snapped.

“Psychiatrist?” Shore questioned, raising a brow.

“Never mind.”

Mark Dutton residence

5:15 p.m.

Boston

“No, hon,” Teri Dutton told Brittani gently but

firmly. “I’d like you to stay close to the house until

this is resolved with your dad, OK?”

Brittani, a profusely freckled redhead, started

to scowl, then glanced at Mulder and Scully and nodded

sullenly. The girl bounded into the hall of the two-

story suburban home and up the stairs. Teri sighed and

waved the agents to a tasteful floral couch.

“This has been tougher on Brittani than it has on

me, I think,” Mark Dutton’s wife told the pair. “She’s

somehow got it into her head that if she hadn’t gotten

sick that night, Mark wouldn’t have killed that

horrible man. I suppose I have my share of guilt, as

well: If I’d only seen how bad things were getting

with Mark, maybe I could’ve gotten him into

counseling.”

“I wouldn’t blame myself,” Mulder said,

scanning a collection of framed photos on the coffee

table. “‘Bad’ obeah practitioners are as adept at

conning their victims as they are at sorcery and

spells.”

“Mrs. Dutton,” Scully interjected, “What do

you think happened to your daughter? Could she have

been poisoned or accidentally inhaled or ingested some

toxic substance?”

“She hadn’t eaten anything unusual at school

or at home, and I called some of the other parents

from her school to see if anything was going around I

can’t imagine what it could have been,” Teri said.

“Nothing.”

“How about the cat?”

“Again, I’m mystified. Brittani finding Mr.

Puffy dead that way was one more trauma for her. He

was like a familiar…I mean, a family member.” Teri

paused. “If you don’t mind, why is the FBI interested

in this case?”

“I’m testifying at your husband’s trial,”

Mulder explained. “I’m sort of an expert in obeah,

witchcraft, the black arts.”

“How interesting,” Teri said uncertainly.

The agent picked a photo from the coffee

table. A younger Teri Dutton was surrounded by a group

of beaming women and an older man. “This your family?”

The smile froze on her lips. “Yes.”

“Six sisters? That’s a lot for the Baby Boomer

generation,” Mulder grinned.

“We’re a very prolific family,” Teri supplied.

“You the baby?”

Teri stared at Mulder for a moment. “You’re

very observant. Hey, I better see what Brittani’s up

to. Would you excuse me?”

“Certainly,” Mulder said, watching her move

swiftly to the stairs.

Scully turned to her partner suspiciously.

“What was that all about? The family interrogation?”

Mulder glanced at the now empty staircase, and

grabbed a small 3X5 photo of Teri and Mark from the

table and pocketed it.

“What are you doing?” Scully gasped.

“Possibly getting me out of having to go to

court.”

Eighth Circuit Court of the Commonwealth

Boston, Mass.

Three days later

11:45 a.m.

“We’d like to call Pat O’Faolan,” Alan Shore

announced as his forensics expert left the stand.

“Pat O’Faolan?” Roland Hill posed, flipping

through his legal pad. “I don’t see any Pat O’Faolan

on the list.”

“Yes, Mr. Shore,” Judge Harrod said, a gleam

materializing in his eye. “Who is this O’Faolan?”

Shore didn’t look up from his own pad. “Mr.

O’Faolan would be Robert Delacroix’ former employer.

My apologies for just springing him on the

prosecution, but a boy has to have a few secrets.”

“Mister, you are flirting dangerously with

contempt,” Harrod warned.

The attorney looked up. “And I hoped I was

flirting coquettishly. I believe Mr. O’Faolan should

be able to cast some light on the true nature of this

case, if the court would indulge me.”

“Any other surprise witnesses?” Hill asked.

“Just one of the Duttons’ neighbors, a Tod

Moraine, and then I plan to recall Mrs. Dutton.”

Mulder, sitting in the back row of the galley,

watched Teri Dutton’s head pop up. He quietly exited

the courtroom.”

“All right,” Harrod sighed, grudgingly. “Bring up

your witness, Mr. Shore.”

“Thank you, Your Honor.” Shore scanned the galley

and frowned. “The only problem seems to be that Mr.

O’Faolan is not present. May I have a brief recess to

check on him?”

“It’s close to lunch. I want your witness on the

stand at 1:30, or we move on. Clear, Mr. Shore?”

Shore smiled. “Bon appetit.”

As the courtroom cleared, the lawyer corralled

Teri. “Mrs. Dutton, I’d like to have a word with you

in the conference room at the end of the hall. OK?”

“Sure,” she drawled, eyes narrowing.

**

“Hi, Teri,” Fox Mulder greeted as she entered the

dusty conference room. “Have a seat.”

She studied the agent. “Where’s your partner?”

“I sent her on an errand,” Mulder confided. “Just

you and me for a minute or so. We can talk about Tod

Moraine.”

“What are you talking about?” Teri asked

unconvincingly.

“I think you know. In a few hours, that courtroom

will know about you and Tod Moraine. Tod’s already

told me, practically bragged about your little affaire

du suburbia once the cat was out of the bag. Which

reminds me, how did it feel to kill your child’s pet

and then send her to the E.R.?”

“You’re insane. So what if Tod and I had a

relationship? You’ve seen how emotionally unstable

Mark is, how easily manipulated he is. Adultery’s no

crime.”

“But that’s what it was all about. You wanted a

divorce from Mark, but you knew the affair would come

out and screw up your chances of taking him to the

cleaners. That’s when you hatched your little plot

with Robert Delacroix.”

“That two-bit conman?”

“Pat O’Faolan told me Mr. Delacroix’ ‘girlfriend

was an attractive, classy woman who seemed familiar to

him,” Mulder continued. “My guess was he’d seen you on

TV – your husband’s trial has gotten a lot of sweeps

month coverage. He recognized you immediately when I

showed him your photo. What he didn’t realize was that

you and Delacroix weren’t up to hanky-panky, at least

of the romantic kind. You hired him to pick up your

husband, to start up a relationship with him. He was

to harass your husband and then put a little scare

into him.”

The agent took a long breath and loosened his

tie. “The problem, Teri, is that Robert Delacroix is a

complete and utter fraud. His brother, his father, the

detectives who’ve dealt with him, swear the magic gig

is a total con. Before he came to this country,

Delacroix was a busboy at an island resort. I was

right about this case involving genuine witchcraft,

but I didn’t know which witch was which.

“The other day, when I was talking about obeah

and sorcery, you committed a small Freudian slip. When

you told me Mr. Puffy was a member of your family, you

accidentally said she was a ‘familiar’ – a common term

for a witch’s companion, usually an animal. When I saw

that picture of your and your six sisters, I became

curious. And then you told me you were the youngest in

the family, and that your family was very prolific. A

few calls and I found out your mother was also the

youngest of a large group of siblings.”

Teri Dutton stared at Mulder, mute.

“The seventh daughter of a seventh daughter,”

Mulder stated, swallowing. “Seven is a very

significant number in the occult world. According to

ancient myth, the seventh son of the seventh son or

the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter possesses

supernatural powers. It’s a common legend in several

cultures and religions.

“The little misfortunes that befell your husband

after encountering Robert Delacroix were your doing –

who else had the access to his office and home

necessary to sabotage his car and his accounts? But

when you needed the stakes raised to force Mark to

cough up some marital ‘severance pay,’ you needed a

beard, somebody who’d appear to have the power to kill

your pet and make your daughter ill without showing

any detectable medical symptoms. That cell call

Delacroix sent to that phone booth as he was talking

to your husband was a signal to you, to conjure

whatever curse you two had planned next. But Delacroix

finally decided whatever petty percentage of the take

you were offering him wasn’t enough to merit him

losing his job. He thought he could bluff your

husband, but you two had done too good a jo-”

Mulder’s eyes popped as his words choked off.

Suddenly, he stopped breathing. He simply forgot how

to inhale or exhale. The agent looked desperately to

the woman at the other end of the conference table.

Teri smiled serenely at him.

Mulder’s face was turning blue when the door

clattered open and Scully leveled her gun at Teri

Dutton.

“Mrs. Dutton!” Scully yelled. She caught Mulder’s

eye. Even as he struggled for oxygen, her partner

nodded. Scully’s eyes widened momentarily, but she

caught herself and cocked the trigger. “If I have to,

Mrs. Dutton, I will kill you. Let him go. Now.”

Teri’s focus on Mulder broke, and she glared up

at Scully. What she saw made her turn back to Mulder.

He gasped, and oxygen rushed hotly back into his

lungs. Mulder leaned back and gulped gallons of air as

Scully cuffed Teri.

“You think you can sell this fairy tale in

court?” Mrs. Dutton sneered, her cheek on the table.

“Actually,” a voice said from the doorway, “all I

have to establish is that you conspired with Mr.

Delacroix to victimize your husband and that you

somehow tried to poison Agent Mulder here the same way

your daughter almost died.” Alan Shore kneeled next to

Teri’s face. “Jury nullification – when they hear what

you two did to Mark, what you drove him to, the jury

will simply ignore the court’s instructions and bring

in an acquittal.”

The attorney sighed as he looked to a recovering

Mulder. “What a waste: A hot young suburban housewife

who cheats and is into asphyxiation. By the way, how

was it for you?”

Young, Frutt, and Berluti

Two days later

8:23 p.m.

“Voluntary manslaughter, time served,” Ellener

Frutt nodded, settling before Shore’s desk. “I can’t

believe Hill went for a deal this late in the game.”

“He knew there was good odds the jury would cut

Mark loose after Teri confessed,” Alan Shore

suggested. “At the same time, my confidence in jury

nullification was beginning to wane. All in all,

what’s Eugene’s favorite expression? Good outcome.”

The phone warbled, and Shore plucked the receiver

from its cradle. “Pep Boys Attorneys, Shore

speaking…What?…When did–…Do they think…? Yes,

I’ll be right down.”

Ellener regarded Shore’s now-pale expression with

concern. “Alan? Alan, what is it?”

Shore blinked at his friend. “That was county

lockup. They just found Teri Dutton dead in her cell.

It looks like a heart attack.”

“The stress…” Ellener ventured. “You think she

might have been poisoned? Maybe one of Delacroix’

family?”

Shore shook his head. “She only had one visitor

today, about an hour ago. Mark didn’t want to talk to

Teri, so he waited for her.”

“Who, Alan?”

Shore pushed absently from his chair. Ellener

could barely hear him mumble, “Brittani…”

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