TITLE: Slim Dickens
AUTHOR Martin Ross
ARTWORK: Martin Ross Summary: You better watch out, you better not cry, Fox Mulder is about to debunk one of the world’s most beloved works of holiday literature.
Rating: PG for Yuletide reference to pity sex and snide sexual comment to anti-social law enforcement officer.
Spoilers: A Christmas Carol. Contains references that give away key plot points unknown to those who never took junior high English or watched any of the three dozen movie or TV Christmas Carol remakes (including the absolutely phenomenal Six Million Dollar Man homage with Ray Walston as Scrooge and Lee Majors portraying all three ghosts in a
magnificent tour de force).
Disclaimer: Chris “Kringle” Carter owns these people, except for the ones Charles Dickens created.
Archive: Two weeks exclusive with VS12.
J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building
The irony of a Marley turning up in Mulder’s caseload on the day before Christmas was too great for the special agent to resist, especially as said Pierre Marley was a Jamaican
drug dealer who had apparently dropped from a planeless, chopperless New York sky, his back scored with yet-un-identified talon marks.
Skinner was no Dickensian slavemaster, and Mulder’s Christmas Eve presence in the basement of the J. Edgar Hoover was purely a labor of academic love.
Mulder thus was vexed by the unannounced arrival of Willis Dorritt, just as his own theory – involving pterodactyls and global warming – was taking shape and his Yuletide Bacon Cheese Double Patty beckoned on the desk blotter. Ordinarily, Dorritt’s fantastic tale might have been the plum in Mulder’s Christmas pudding, but his nails drummed impatiently on the Marley folder as the pudgy middle-aged man meandered, side-barred, and detoured.
“So basically, you believe you’ve been scrooged,” the agent deadpanned.
Dorritt sighed. “I realize how crazy this must sound. I really do. That’s why I called you.”
Mulder paused to consider the quality of this compliment. “You also must realize there is no practical legal recourse you could take even if I could prove it was true.”
“I haven’t thought it through that far. But I’ve read a few things about you and your work on the web. You know how many hits I came up with when I googled ‘Fox Mulder’?”
It was too easy a set-up. Mulder shifted in his chair and consulted the wall clock. “OK, I got an hour before my roommate takes the figgy pudding out of the oven. You believe Charles Dickens was part of an elaborate conspiracy to cheat your family out of its fortune.”
“Our potential fortune. And I don’t think Dickens was involved, beyond reporting the crime.”
“Uh huh. I know Dickens was a journalist in London for a time, before he started cranking out bestsellers. What got you going on this – some 19th Century newspaper piece?”
“No, it was in one of his novels. A novelette, actually. You’ve read A Christmas Carol?”
“Well, sure.” Actually, Mulder had seen the George C. Scott version twice and the Bill Murray adaptation a round half-dozen times.
“You’re trying to tell me Ebenezer Scrooge was a real person?”
“Not by that name, of course. As you noted, Dickens was a journalist, but before that, he was a clerk with a London law firm. Well, one of the firm’s clients was a businessman named Aloysius Dodge.”
“Ebenezer Scrooge,” Mulder murmured. “Same syllabic rhythm. Sorry, go on.”
“Well, although Dickens and Dodge traveled in different circles and Dodge was reputed to be a ruthless tyrant with his own employees, he took a shine to the young Dickens. Dodge was too big a cheapskate to be Dickens’ true patron, but they kept touch as Dickens evolved into a writer and then a popular author. And then, in 1843, Dodge and Dickens had a parting of the ways, reportedly on bad terms.”
“Same year A Christmas Carol was published.”
Dorritt nodded, then reached into the large manila envelope that rested intriguingly beside his left shoe. He displayed a small, silk- covered book with brittle yellow pages.
“Aloysius Dodge’s journal. In it, he relates how Dickens betrayed his confidence. In print.”
Mulder leaned back, an incredulous grin forming. “Get out.”
Dorritt carefully leafed through the diary.
“This is from 1854, shortly before Dodge died.
‘With reckless disregard for my standing in the London business community, Dickens exploited my preternatural experience for his own gain. I would have sought the services of his former colleagues at law to take him before the Queen’s bench, but I fear I would be judged to have been of questionable sanity or, worse, to have been under the influence of absinthe or opium. The damage to my reputation would be inestimable. It would appear I have no remedy against this scurrilous opportunist.’ He goes on like this for three pages, then starts ranting about Parliament, taxes, and meat pies.”
“Are you trying to tell me Dodge actually encountered the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future? That A Christmas Carol was actually a factual account of a genuine
supernatural visitation. God save us, every one.”
“I’m sure Dickens took considerable license with the story. But my research shows Dodge went through a very Scroogelike change in 1842.
He became one of London’s most prominent philanthropists – gave big lumps to the local hospital and orphanage every year, endowed a scholarship at Dartmouth. And get this: His
chief bookkeeper’s daughter had been crippled in a coach accident when she was six, and after his Christmas ‘visits,’ Dodge paid for her to get an operation from one of Europe’s top surgeons.”
“Holy Tiny Tim,” Mulder murmured. “Well, I guess it’s reasonable to assume Dickens would have real-life models for his characters. But my question remains, why the FBI? We don’t have the geographical jurisdiction, I’m reasonably
sure neither ectoplasmic housebreaking nor Dickensian defamation are criminal matters, and even if they were, I’m even more certain the statute of limitations would have passed.”
Dorritt frowned and fidgeted. “You still don’t get it, Agent Mulder. See, Aloysius Dodge was my great-great-grand uncle on my mother’s side, and I recently came across this journal in a bunch of boxes Grandma sent Mom 30 or 40 years ago. Since then, I’ve been trying to find evidence of my theory.”
“Which is?” Mulder coaxed, glancing not so covertly at the office clock. Scully’s temper would reach Orange Alert in roughly another half-hour.
Dorritt leaned forward. “That Aloysius Dodge’s Christmas Eve ‘visitation’ was no supernatural occurrence, but rather a carefully calculated, cleverly orchestrated plot to cheat our family out of its future financial legacy.”
“O-kay,” Mulder nodded, formulating an excuse for Scully.
Fox Mulder/Dana Scully apartment
“So this is why you couldn’t stop off at the market for yams or drop off Cousin Elena’s present for me,” Scully concluded, hands on hips, in a lethally neutral tone. Mulder’s coat
stopped halfway to the closet rod.
“How could I know the guy would just show up on Christmas Eve?” he squeaked. “I was just wrapping up the Marley case when the idiot security guard sent him down.”
“And just how did the Marley case come out?” his partner posed, cocking a brow.
“That,” Mulder began, “That’s beside the point, Scully. Dorritt’s a taxpayer, a citizen. I had to hear him out.”
“Of course. So what’s our plan? You take the Ghost of Christmas Past and I get Christmas Future? Let’s see, big black cloak, no distinguishing facial features. Or face, for
“All right, jeez. So he thought I might be intellectually intrigued by his whacko theory.”
“And why would he assume that?” Scully breathed.
Mulder gave her an extended withering look. She finally sighed.
“So, give already with the whacko theory.”
“Goes something like this,” Mulder said, plopping onto the couch. “At the time of his yuletide revelation, Aloysius Dodge had been working on developing lubricants for locomotive
and factory equipment. He was something of a mechanical whiz for his time – a virtual 19th Century Ron Popeil.”
“I have yams to peel. Quit playing Pocket Fisherman and cut to the chase.”
Mulder exhaled. “Dodge’s entrepreneurial spirit disappeared with his spiritual rebirth. He sold one of his laboratories to help shelter unwed mothers, and even after the afterglow wore off, he never really got his capitalist groove back.
“But a few years after Dodge liquidated his lubricant lab, his head chemist – get this – Robert Thatchett…”
“Yes, way. Bob Thatchett. Thatchett came to New York and promptly patented a series of mechanical innovations that provided the capital he needed to start his own company. In
America, mind you – out of the reach of the British courts. With the Industrial Revolution, Thatchett made a pile, and he became as rich, if not as famous, as the Rockefellers and
“And 150 years or so later…”
“Hold on, hold on. Do you want to know the name of his company?”
“Thatchett named it after his late wife – Regina Works and Mechanical Ltd. Over the years, it was modified and streamlined. Today, you know it as…”
Scully’s jaw dropped open. “Shut up.”
“Yup. Reginex. Last year’s Fortune 50 Playmate of the Year. Makes everything from CPUs and airline engines to microwaveable meals. Owns three major cable networks and has a basketball stadium named for it. Ruport Murdoch wets his Armani suit at the mere mention of the company.”
His partner plopped onto the sofa. “And this Dorritt, he thinks somehow his great-great- great-granduncle would own Reginex today if he hadn’t had the dickens scared out of him.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But the potential was there.”
“And how, Mulder, did this Thatchett devise, much less carry off, a scam of such elaborate proportions?”
“Well, we know cocaine, laudanum, and other controlled substances were commonly used back in Dickens’ London. Maybe Thatchett slipped Aloysius the queen mother of all hallucinogenic cocktails. He was a chemist. If we’re to assume Dickens stuck closely to Dodge’s story, there may be evidence he was drugged. Remember, Scrooge suggested his ghostly visitors might have been no more than ‘a bit of undigested beef’? What if Dodge suffered gastric distress
as a side effect of the hallucinogen?”
Scully’s cheeks puffed. “Yeah, I’m gonna get power of attorney one of these days. Mulder, do you honestly believe Thatchett and his cronies could have created a series of hallucinations so convincing and yet coherent that they could
influence him to give up the bulk of his worldly goods? And that, as a result, Thatchett could steal Dodge’s invention, run off to the Big Apple, and become the Victorian Donald
Trump? That would require some pretty powerful foresight, Mulder.”
Mulder began to retort (though his retort had not yet been fully formed), then clamped his mouth shut and slapped his forehead.
“Rebooting, Mulder?” Scully inquired, dryly.
Mulder grinned. “My partner in cohabitation. I think I’ll keep her. You’re a freaking genius, Scully.”
“To have determined the true depths of your dementia?’
“No,” Mulder said flatly. “Scully, don’t you see? It couldn’t have been foresight.”
“Mulder, what the-” Scully’s profanity was interrupted by the warble of Mulder’s cell phone.
“Mulder,” her partner snapped.
“Yeah, Special Agent Mulder?” The voice was two pack-a-day gravelly, the tone cautiously brusque. “This’s Sgt. Micawber with the DCPD. You know a guy named Dorritt?”
Mulder stumbled to a chair. “Yeah, he visited me today. Something happen?”
“The big something,” the cop supplied. “Maid here at the Capitol Holiday Inn heard a ruckus coming from his room, called management, and they found him.”
Mulder jumped up. “Be right down.”
Micawber was suddenly solicitous. “Aw, jeez, Agent, no. We got it under control. It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Nothing’s going on. I’ll be right down.”
“Nothing’s going on?” Scully squeaked. Mulder swatted at her. “Where are you going?”
“No, seriously. I don’t wanna interfere with your holiday. Really.”
“It’s OK. Sgt. Micawber, right?”
“I just wanna know why Dorritt came to see you. He’s got your card, even though it looks like an old one.”
Mulder’s brow creased. Printing had just delivered new cards two days before. “I’m coming down.”
“No,” Micawber blurted. “I mean, you should be celebrating in the, um, the bosom of your family.”
“The only bosom here won’t let me anywhere near it. Be right there.”
The detective sighed loudly, aggrieved. “OK. What if I said I didn’t want some effing fed tromping all over my homicide? What would you say to that, huh?”
“Bah, humbug,” Mulder countered, disconnecting
Capitol Holiday Inn
“Where’s his head?” Mulder demanded upon inspecting the body, which was sitting up at the base of the bed in a spreading pool of blood.
“I dunno,” Sgt. Micawber sulked. “Guess he musta misplaced it. Look, how you figure this is a federal case?”
“Remember the Tulley case, Scully?”
Scully, kneeling by the oddly positioned corpse, looked up. “Tulley shot him in the skull, switched clothes, removed the head like the series of serial decapitations they’d had in the area. He was trying to confuse the vic’s identity, eliminate the ballistics evidence, and fake his suicide in one stroke.”
“More like about 15 strokes, unless he was stronger than he looked. You think this could be the same thing?”
Micawber dug his foot angrily at the hotel carpet. “Oughtta be able to get a DNA match. If there’s something to match it to, that is. Besides, door was bolted from the inside. How’d
the perp get out, especially with a head?”
Mulder grinned. “You think he cut himself shaving?”
Micawber muttered something obscene and anatomically impossible.
“He couldn’t have cut himself, Sarge,” a lanky patrolman called from the bathroom. “No bathroom kit. Not even any luggage.”
“Treese, you freakin’ idiot, wait outside,” Micawber growled.
“Wait,” Mulder murmured. He peered around the room. “No bags, no change of clothes, no bathroom stuff. Door’s locked from the inside.”
The agent perched on the edge of the bed.
“Sergeant, could you check the tub drain, please.”
“Ah, geez, you’re the boss,” Micawber groused, stalking out of the room.
“What do you think he’ll find?” Scully asked as Mulder dropped to the floor beside the body.
“Mulder, what in hell are you doing? You’re robbing the victim? Mulder!”
“Shut it, Scully,” Mulder whispered, pocketing a money clip full of bills.
“Dry as a bone,” Micawber reported as Mulder quickly stood. “Neither the sink nor the crapper look like they been used, and all the cups and soap and shit are still wrapped.”
Mulder nodded as Scully gaped. “Well, all right then. Looks like you’ve got everything in hand. We’ll just say adios.”
The bags beneath Micawber’s eyes darkened.
“What? Just like that?”
“Your jurisdiction, your case,” Mulder chirped.
“You’ll clear it — all you need are a few good leads and a little head.”
“Mulder, I’ve seen some real surprises from you, and not only at Christmas,” Scully finally commented, calmly, after 10 minutes of silence.
“Stealing money from a corpse on Christmas Eve and then ditching a case?”
“There is a Dickensian precedent for robbing the dead, Scully, and that boxed set of Crossing Jordan: Season One you wanted was pretty pricey,” Mulder murmured, turning on K Street. “But I wasn’t looking for pocket change on the unfortunate Mr. Dorritt. I was trying to prove a theory – one the good Sgt. Micawber wasn’t likely to buy.”
Scully shook her head, hopelessly. “All right. Give.”
“You said it before, Scully,” he began without further prompting. “A scheme like Dorritt proposed would have required superhuman foresight – to be able to predict Aloysius Dodge’s reaction to his ‘supernatural’ experience would have been impossible. Doris Day was right – que sera, sera. The future’s not ours to see.”
“We have to have some Tylenol left.”
“And even if Dodge was drugged, look at the incredible staging and special effects the Christmas ‘ghosts’ would have had to bring off.
No, it wasn’t foresight behind this. It was hindsight.”
Scully stopped rubbing her temple, and she looked at her partner, bathed in a strobe of passing streetlights. “You’re not suggesting…?”
“Time travel, Scully. The ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future were conmen from the future. Only they’d have the technology to create Aloysius Dodge’s elaborate and vivid ‘vision.’ Only people from the future would know the ultimate consequences of Dodge’s actions and their impact on Bob Thatchett and his heirs. I believe they were his heirs. In an alternate timeline, I suspect Aloysius Dodge marketed his little innovations and raked in a buttload of money, while the Thatchett clan lived on in relative obscurity and poverty.”
“Mulder,” Scully sighed, “I was going to offer you pity sex when we got home, but I think instead we’ll devote the time to a crash course on quantum physics. I suppose you’re going to suggest next that these time-traveling ghosts
found out Dorritt had come to you and were afraid the great Fox Mulder would thwart their scheme to rule the consumer electronics market.”
“Nobody likes a bitchy Scully, girly-girl. No, I’m not conceited enough to believe I could somehow prevent a 160-year-old crime committed by futuristic bunco artists. Even if somehow, I could build a case for fraud, what could he do? Hire Johnny Cochran and go on Larry King? No, there’s only one way Dorritt could do anything to regain his family fortune.
“Besides, you saw the crime scene, Scully. Locked room, head missing, no easy means of removing the head from the premises. Once again, wrong premise. It isn’t a question of
where Dorritt’s head is – it’s a question of when. He didn’t bring any bags or personal effects to the hotel because he didn’t need them. Toilets are probably cleaner in the future, and I know I prefer to use the john at home.”
Scully’s fingers instinctually went for her temples again. “So what are you saying, Mulder? That the ghosts found out Dorritt was onto them, and they whacked him, taking along the head to hide, what, raygun marks?”
“No. Suspend your disbelief for a moment, Scully, and go back to the Tulley case. Remember how many whacks it took to sever the victim’s head? Well, you saw Dorritt’s body.
How many strokes would you say that took?”
Scully’s eyes opened, and her fingers quit massaging. “Well, I suppose it looked pretty clean, almost surgical.” She sat up. “In fact, if it wasn’t impossible, it looked almost like
what I’ve seen in auto accidents where someone’s stuck their head out the window and had it sheared off by a passing truck or utility pole.”
Mulder smiled. “Or maybe if someone were interrupted while attempting to make a time leap, stuck their head out of the time machine, and had their head sheared off by a time
“Yeah, yeah,” Scully said, eyes widening, bolting up straight. “That just has to be it. You call Skinner, I’ll put out an APB on Scott Bakula.”
“Sure, fine, whatever,” Mulder grumbled.
Fox Mulder/Dana Scully apartment
Mulder awoke with a dry mouth, his undigested burger and theories still rolling in his gut.
Scully was snoring softly but regularly beside him. Neither pity sex nor quantum physics nor any combination thereof had followed their return home, and Mulder had ended Christmas Eve with the Cartoon Network.
He padded into the darkened living room in search of leftover Domino’s, stumbling on the ottoman. As Mulder uttered a curse to all superfluous furnishings, the lights blazed on.
“Thanks,” he muttered before jumping back. The tall figure by the switch was cloaked entirely in black, its face shrouded in shadow. One long hand gestured toward Mulder, beckoning.
“Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, right?” Mulder finally yawned. “Want a brewski?”
The specter’s fingers froze, then resumed beckoning.
“Diet Sprite, then,” Mulder nodded, jerking his head toward the kitchen. The phantom paused, then followed the agent.
Mulder popped the top on the can, and turned.
“You like a lot of ice? I don’t. C’mon, the jig’s up. Speak, boy.”
“I-” the cloaked figure stammered. “Oh, shit.”
“Want a little ‘za?” Mulder inquired, pulling a flat box from the fridge.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come sighed and slumped into a chair. “My God, no. I mean, it’s in cardboard. Cardboard. You know how many organisms are crawling on that mozzarella Petri dish?”
Mulder ripped off a huge bite. “I gargled earlier. Sho, how are da kidsh?””I want the money.” It wasn’t so much of a
demand as it was a whine. The “spirit” flipped his hood down. “Just give me the money, and I’ll get out of here.”
“Was it an accident?” Mulder asked, wiping tomato sauce from the corner of his mouth.
“What? Yes. Of course. We surprised him as he was about to come back, and the morph turned around as the temporal drive engaged. The quark field lopped his head right off.”
“Look, you’re messing with time here,” the ghost protested. “You have no idea what you could do to the space-time continuum…”
Mulder grinned. “I watch the Sci-Fi Network, too. Just because I’m a primitive entity doesn’t mean I’m stupid. Besides, what have you and Larry and Curly think you’ve been doing to the space-time continuum?”
“Larry? Curly?” The G.O.C.Y.T.C. tapped the earpiece of his thick glasses, appeared to scan something on the inside of his lens, and frowned. “Hey. Look, we only undid Dodge’s
“Dodge’s?” Mulder sat up.
“Yeah,” the tall stranger said emphatically.
“He called himself Dorritt. Guess he had his great-great-great-great-…oh, shit — Aloysius Dodge’s ingenuity. He was Regina’s top technology development manager, and he started screwing around with the submolecular fields.
He’d found Dodge’s journal – the one from our original timeline – and realized how Robert Thatchett had pirated his inventions while he was recovering from a minor case of consumption.
Dodge went back and planted enough evidence for
Aloysius to uncover Thatchett’s plans. Well, he underestimated his great-great-you know’s temper:
Aloysius confronted Thatchett and shot him, then keeled over dead from cardiac failure.
You know the crap they ate back then? His heart must’ve looked like a nuclear test site.”
“Glad to see carb-counting isn’t just a fad.”
“He managed to erase Thatchett’s family line, and without Dodge’s charitable contributions – he wasn’t quite the tyrant that hack Dickens made him out to be – thousands of orphans, widows, unwed mothers, and sick children died,
turned to crime, failed to reach the potential for which history had destined them.”
“And what happened?” Mulder asked.
“Hey, I’m sure you’re smart enough to know I can’t tell you that. Just suffice it to say it was pretty effed up.”
“So how’d you guys get back here?”
“The chronotech lab’s superaccelerated boson membrane produced a temporal tesseract that — you wouldn’t understand,” he said simply. “But we knew that somehow, we had to shift the continuum back into line.”
“And that’s what you came up with,” Mulder observed.
“Hey, we were dealing with virtual cavemen here,” the ghost pointed out, witheringly.
“Aloysius didn’t even maintain basic oral hygiene – his breath could cause a temporal rift. We preyed on his 19th Century sense of superstition and pre-Victorian guilt. It worked, didn’t it? And now, everything’s pretty much right again – pretty much. And when I get back, we’re going to take Dodge’s machine apart and recycle the parts into proton ovens. That is, if you’ll just give me the money and leave
“Look, I’d like to oblige, but how do I know what you guys may have in mind next? Maybe you’re bent on world domination, maybe you think a Fourth Reich’d kind of spice things up.
You seem to have some pretty fanatical views on nutrition – maybe you arrange a little accident for Harlan Sanders or Ray Kroc, wipe the Thickburger completely from man’s memory.”
The time traveler’s jaw tightened. “OK. I understand. We studied up on you – we knew you were the only person who might be, ah, open- minded enough to help Dodge figure out how to readjust the continuum. Would it convince you of our goodwill if we could help you put your career back on track? Maybe if you had a second chance to investigate your sister’s disappearance with a little more discretion, you could rise to a position of authority where you could command the resources necessary to find out what happened to her.”
Mulder merely smiled.
“Or better yet,” the visitor persisted, “what if you could go back to 1973, go back to when Samantha disappeared? What if you could have been there to protect her? To remove her from harm’s way?”
Mulder’s smile froze. Then he remembered to breathe. The agent stood up, walked out into the hall, and opened the front door closet. Mulder returned a moment later and flipped Dodge’s small roll of bills across the table.
The ghost riffled through the currency, sighing loudly, then pocketed it and looked back at Mulder.
“And that’s it?” he asked, suspiciously.
Mulder smiled again, leaning back. “You guys are all scientists, right? You and the ghosts of Christmas past and present?”
“Well, then, you ought to understand. I’ve got what I need here. Answers. The Truth. I don’t need to alter the truth, tweak it, head it off at the pass. I just want it to show itself.”
For the first time, The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come smiled, as if the two had transcended some temporal boundary.
“I hope you mean it,” Mulder added. “That you’ll destroy the time machine. Doris Day was right.”
“Que sera, sera.”
Mulder grinned. “Geez, maybe there is hope.”
The time traveler tipped his head and folded into nothing. Mulder stared at the vacant space for a moment, then picked up a slice and chewed. He pulled a rectangle of paper from his T-shirt pocket and smoothed it on the table.
“Santa’s gonna open a big can of whoopass, he finds you up this late,” said Scully, yawning and rubbing against the kitchen doorjam. ”
‘Case’ still bugging you?”
Mulder shook his head. “It’s Christmas morning, Scully. The past and the future don’t matter. Mankind should be our business.”
“Jacob Marley,” Scully nodded, impressed.
“John Forsythe, Scrooged.”
“Ah huh. Look, Mulder, you still want that pity sex?”
Mulder’s chair squeaked back. “God bless us everyone.”
Scully pursed her lips. “Shut up, Mulder. You had me at John Forsythe.” She glanced at the bill on the table, picked it up, squinted, and let it float back onto the formica, smirking.
“Cute – Frohike give you this? Treasury might not think it was so funny, you accidentally spend it.”
Mulder smiled, watching her disappear back into the bedroom. He took one last look at the square-jawed visage engraved onto the U.S. tender – the one he’d withheld from his midnight visitor — before sliding it back into his T-shirt.
He could have sworn President Schwarzenegger smiled back.