Cold File

Title: Cold File

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Cold Case/ X-Files crossover

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: When the apprehension of a missing ’60s

radical reopens a homicide from 1969, Agents

Mulder and Scully join the Philadelphia P.D.’s

Cold Case Squad to uncover the truth — and

potentially a sinister conspiracy

Spoilers: Cold Case second season; the films

Sixth Sense and Philadelphia; VS11

Disclaimer: As always, Mulder, Scully, and their

comrades are the creation of Chris Carter. Det.

Lilly Rush and her fellow Cold Case cops work for

Jerry Bruckheimer, while Cole Sear (“The Sixth

Sense”) is the brainchild of M. Night Shymalan

and Joe Miller (“Philadelphia”) practices his

profession under the auspices of Jonathan Demme.

July 20, 1969

“There must be some kind of way out of here/Said

the joker to the thief/There’s too much

confusion/I can’t get no relief…”

Hendrix, Billy smiled, knowing suddenly that

despite his reservations, all would be all right.

It was the Age of Aquarius, and he was of a time

and a generation attuned to signs, symbols, and

portents.

He’d grooved on Jimi just a few months ago at the

Spectrum, in South Philly. He and Donna had done

some weed in Rittenhouse Square an hour or so

before the concert and dropped some acid as

Hendrix wailed out “Watchtower.” They’d made

love afterwards, right here in this bed, hanging

one of Billy’s Ts on the knob outside to let the

others know the room was occupado, por favor?

Too much confusion? Right on, Brother Jimi. But

Billy no longer felt confused – the answer had

come through to him like a shaft of purifying

energy, through all the drugs and sex and chaos.

There was a way out of here.

“No reason to get exited/The thief he kindly

spoke/There are many here among us/Who feel that

life is but a joke…”

Billy glanced out the window. The Horseman was at

his old stand on the cracked sidewalk below,

offering Old Testament judgment and hellfire for

anybody who’d listen. The hippies and dopers left

him alone — The Horseman never approached, never

made contact, and anyway, it was his thing, it

was cool, if a little bit of a bummer sometimes.

And even though he was an old dude — 30s at

least — Billy felt a kinship with the man. Out

of the love only St. Lucy in the Sky could

confer, they’d invited him up one night, did some

magic ‘shrooms Max had scored in Tijuana,

listened to The Horseman riff on the old

prophets.

Billy chuckled, alone in the spartan bedroom.

Maybe the old dude had made more of an impression

than he could have imagined. He had seen the

truth, had seen the light. Until this time, all

had been hollow words, about love, peace,

brotherhood. Now Billy was ready to make the

sacrifice expected of him, purge the poison and

the lies…

“Outside in the cold distance/A wild cat did

growl/Two riders were approaching/And the wind

began to howl…”

As Jimi’s strings whined in anguished

accompaniment, Billy’s eyes welled with

happiness, and he reached for the bedside stand,

where the key to his salvation lay. As the man on

the living room TV moved as if through the ocean

along a barren surface of airless rocks and dust,

Billy’s fingers closed on his destiny…

August 13, 1969

Det. Second Gary Schmid grunted as he hauled the

packing box down the bleak hallway. Another dead

hippie, rest in peace, he mused. Schmid was a

father of three, went to Mass regular, coached

Police Benevolence League basketball. He was not

yet inured to the tragedy of youth lost, of souls

damaged and scattered to the ravages of

degradation and death. But Schmid knew everybody

made their choices, made their bed and slept with

whatever fleas or wolves they invited in, however

the saying went. Bullets or needles, all the same

difference, he shrugged, balancing the earthly

remains in his burly arms, and nudging the door

to what he called The Warehouse.

Besides, it wasn’t like Homicide had busted its

hump on this one. There had been plenty of

distractions the last few months in this City of

Brotherly Love (Schmid’s snort reverberated

through the canyons of cardboard, paper, and

memories).

Schmid located the appropriate resting place, set

the box down amid a flurry of dust motes, and

searched for a wax pencil. Crouching slightly, he

neatly inscribed the casefile: “W. McHenry/7-20-

69.” He hefted the remains of the McHenry case

onto a metal rack, alongside those of the others

whose deaths to date had gone unpunished.

“‘Night, kid,” the cop grunted with a hoarse note

that embarrassed him even in the solitude of the

Cold Case archives.

January 2005

Philadelphia

“…Federal authorities may have solved a 35-year

mystery with Tuesday’s arrest of Elijah Fortson,

key lieutenant with the ’60s radical group Fist

of Freedom and suspected mastermind in the summer

1969 bombing of a Philadelphia Marine recruiting

office. Six people perished after a Molotov

cocktail was thrown through the office’s window,

and Fortson, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam

War, became the object of a massive federal

manhunt.”

The cops of the PPD Cold Case Squad close in on

the small color set, peering at the clean-shaven,

lined face of Elijah Fortson, AKA Samuel Robeson,

framed between U.S. marshals. Det. Lilly Rush

mentally subtracts 35 years from and adds a

Pancho Villa mustache to the financial analyst’s

visage, substitutes a dashiki for his stylishly

conservative Armani and a Panther-approved afro

for his $40 haircut.

“That manhunt ended when an anonymous tip led the

FBI to Robeson, who surrendered to authorities at

the advice of his attorneys but denied his

involvement either in the recruiting office

bombing or the murder of a Philadelphia grad

student three days prior to the bombing. Robeson

and the victim, Billy McHenry, had been friends

and fellow dissidents. McHenry had been stabbed

repeatedly in the apartment he shared with three

other student protestors…”

“Slam-bam,” Det. Scotty Valens states from his

perch on Lilly’s desk. “What am I missing here?

Seems like a no-brainer. Why we reopening this

one?”

Lilly — a paradox of a cop with a blue-collar

hairstyle, mannish off-the-rack suit, and a

seraphic face out of a Victorian oil — merely

smiles and glances toward the metal detectors

that shield the detectives from a dangerous

public. Lt. Stillman, a middle-aged, square-jawed

eagle of a cop, ushers a pleasant-looking younger

man and a somber, diminutive redhead through the

checkpoint.

“Hoo boy,” Nick Vera growls, instantly picking up

the scent every local cop abhors.

“Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, I’d

like you to meet the members of my squad,”

Stillman begins, shooting his underlings a look

of caution. “Lilly Rush; this is Scotty Valens;

Nick Vera; and Will Jeffreys. Agents Mulder and

Scully will be working the McHenry case with

you.”

Scully, the redhead, senses the hostility in the

air. Mulder, who looks as though he’s wearing his

black suit as a joke on his parents, smiles

companionably, neither extending nor expecting a

hand.

“Whoopee,” Vera grunts.

“You, of course, will remain the primaries on the

local homicide,” Scully assures the detectives.

“Agents Mulder and myself have been asked to

provide you any assistance you might need on the

case.”

“What’s the catch?” Valens asks. “Thought you

guys had Robeson pretty solid on the bombing. Or

is that it — case kinda shaky, so you want a

piece of the homicide, too? That the reason

you’re so interested in a 35-year-old hippie

killing?”

“Make sure us idiots don’t futz things up, get

doughnut crumbs all ” Vera murmurs.

“Excuse me, agents,” Stillman interjects, a note

of gloved firmness in his voice. “I’d like to

talk to my detectives for a moment.”

“Got any Krispy Kremes?” Mulder inquires with a

crooked grin, drawing a curious glance from

Lilly. Scully touches his arm, and the pair

withdraws to the squadroom coffee area.

Stillman scans his officers. Valens, the youngest

cop on the squad, appears uncertain and wary.

Vera, a compact forty-something badger, tenses,

irritation and resentment clouding his deepset

eyes. His partner, Jeffreys, a big, graying cop

with a patience that could only have been

cultivated by growing up on — and surviving —

Philly’s meaner streets, looks on impassively.

Lilly is unruffled by the agents’ presence. Her

deceptively porcelain features are calm. Her Mona

Lisa smile invites elaboration.

“I know this is a bitter pill,” Lt. Stillman

acknowledges, “but I’d appreciate it if you’d

work with Agents Mulder and Scully. Their boss,

Walt Skinner, and I go ‘way back. More than 30

years back.”

Understanding dawns in the detectives’ eyes. The

Boss doesn’t talk much about the years before he

took on The Job, and they don’t ask.

“Walt is a valued friend, and he has a deep

interest in this case. Billy McHenry was his

first cousin — his uncle’s kid. The two grew up

together — they were tight. But in the late

’60s, Walt went into the Marines, Billy went his

way.”

“Brother against brother,” Valens muses.

Stillman glances up, nods appreciatively. “That

about sums up the times, Scotty. War in the

jungle and fires burning in the streets and on

the campuses. I dunno, maybe that’s why Walt’s

always been haunted by Billy’s murder. I realize

it’s unorthodox, but I’d consider it a personal

favor if you’d deal Mulder and Scully in on this

one. Fortson’s a federal fugitive, and they have

a jurisdictional claim. But I’m asking you

personally, as a favor to me.”

“Sure, Boss,” Vera mumbles, and wanders out.

Jeffreys, Stillman’s contemporary, smiles with a

curt nod, and Valens joins him.

“Let’s start with the casefile,” Lilly suggests.

**

The dusty cardboard box is a time capsule of

sorts, commemorating Billy McHenry’s untimely

death in yellowing paperwork, fading PPD stills

of the dead hippie and his cheap apartment, and

the sparse belongings of a young man who’d

forsaken the trappings of a materialistic

society. Thousands of such capsules surround the

cluster of detectives, boxes with names and

dates, a virtual mausoleum of paper and effects.

Mulder selects a necklace — a cheap chain

supporting a broken iron cross encircled by

rusting metal. He considers the once-ubiquitous

symbol of an elusive peace. “1969 — The Summer

of Love. Free love, cheap drugs, Jimi Hendrix.

Walter Cronkite, Pol Pot, Neil Armstrong

strolling on the moon. You know, the Apollo

landing was the same day your guy was murdered.”

“July 20. It was a memorable day all around,”

Jeffreys rumbles, his coffee-brown eyes both

searching and troubled. “Middle of a 10-day race

riot, started by a white gang member, ‘sposedly.

Next day, woman named Lillie Belle Allen was

gunned down by a white mob in York, not too far

from here. Twenty-seven-year-old preacher’s

daughter from South Carolina, in to visit some

family. Charlie Robertson was a member of the

York force back then, they brought him up in the

’90s after they made him mayor, said he’d handed

out ammo, told the folks to take out as many

black rioters as possible.” Conscious of the

silence, Jeffreys breaks out of his reverie with

a faint smile. “Lot going on that week — cops

had a lot on their minds. Not surprising Billy

McHenry got short-shrifted.”

“No DNA analysis, forensics must’ve been

prehistoric,” Valens adds, drawing an amused

glance from his older cohorts. “Hey, we still got

the weapon?” The young detective reaches into the

box and pulls out a long and heavy manila

envelope. He gingerly shakes a garden variety

kitchen knife onto the table. Traces of

fingerprint powder cling to the blade and handle.

The wooden handle remains discolored in spots.

“Victim’s blood, AB negative,” Vera reports,

flipping through the lab findings.

“Defense wounds on the vic’s hands, blood on the

blade and the handle,” Valens notes. “Killer

wiped it clean, left it at the scene.”

“Knife was from a secondhand set in McHenry’s

kitchen,” Jeffreys supplies. “Heat of anger?”

“I wonder,” Scully ventures. “Victim’s known

associates?”

Lilly, Homicide’s thin report in hand, picks up

on cue. “Not much there. McHenry shared a second-

floor walkup near downtown with two other men —

Vincent Gillesco, 20, and Ned Squiers, 23. Both

say they were at a peace rally at the federal

building, came home and found McHenry on the

bed.” She displays a faded color crime scene

photo of Billy sprawled on his back on a

threadbare mattress, scarlet spreading like wings

on the sheet around him. Mulder appropriates the

gruesome portrait.

“He was a grad student at the university —

anthropology,” Lilly continues. “His faculty

sponsor was a Frederic Hoesch.”

Mulder’s eyes narrow, then return to the photo.

Suddenly, he displays it to the group. “This void

here, to the side of the body. Yeah, see where

the blood’s flowed around something. What do you

make of that?”

“Looks kinda round,” Vera observes. “Know better

if the blood had flowed all the way around. I

dunno – a bag, a purse, maybe McHenry’s stash. A

bomb?”

“Fortson was strictly a Molotov cocktail man – it

was the weapon of mass destruction of choice for

the fashionable radical back then. But it’s

obvious the killer took whatever it was with

them.”

“Maybe digital imaging?” Scully suggests.

“I’ll send a copy of this to this guy I know back

home,” Mulder tells Lilly. “He may be able to

give us an idea what sitting next to the body.”

“We got computers out here in Hicksville,” Vera

sputters, ending the huddle.

**

“I’m getting an uncomfortable Rodney King vibe

here.” Samuel Robeson/Elijah Fortson’s attorney

scans the quartet loosely clustered about the

prison interview room — Lilly, Jeffreys, Mulder,

and Scully. “This turns into a tag team match,

I’ll shut this down in a second.”

“Relax, Counselor,” Lilly smiles. “Agents Mulder

and Scully are working the recruiting office

bombing. Det. Jeffreys and I are looking into a

local homicide your client may be familiar with.”

For the first time, Fortson regards her with

something resembling real interest. Despite the

prison coveralls, he appears the picture of

middle-aged respectability: Graying temples,

fashionable wire-rims, intelligent mocha eyes

held in abeyance as his lawyer does the talking.

“Homicide?” The attorney’s left eyebrow arches.

“You going to try to pin the Lindbergh kidnapping

on my client, too?”

“You remember Billy McHenry, Elijah?” Lilly

inquires, leaning over the table. Fortson meets

her gaze evenly, his expression neutral.

“Talk to me,” the lawyer snaps. “And we can do

without the use of the familiar, Detective.”

“Sorry. McHenry was murdered only three days

before you blew those people into oblivion. Did

he trip to what you were up to, Mr. Fortson? Or

did he get cold feet before the big day?”

“OK, that’s it–” Fortson raises two fingers to

silence his lawyer. “Sam, you need to…”

“Please, Larry.” The former activist’s voice is

velvet ice. He smiles tightly up at Lilly. “I’ve

already told the federal authorities I had

nothing to do with the deaths of those

unfortunate people.”

“Which is why you fell off the face of the Earth

for 35 years,” Jeffreys suggests.

Fortson glances sideways at the huge cop. “I fled

the jurisdiction for fear of my life, Detective.

The law enforcement community took an acute

interest in my sociopolitical views in those

days, and the memory of what happened to Dr. King

was still fresh in my psyche. Maybe you don’t

remember what it was like in the day,

‘Detective,’ but a young African-American with an

authority problem didn’t get too many invitations

to the policemen’s ball.” A crooked smile forms

on Fortson’s lips, a glint of secrecy sparks in

the eyes. “As for that boy, well, I wasn’t the

only one that fell off the face of the Earth that

summer.”

The room is silent for a second.

“What are you saying, Fortson?” Lilly speaks up.

“Sam,” Larry the Lawyer cautions.

Elijah Fortson leans back, temples his fingers.

“I was Philadelphia Rotarian of the Year back in

2000 — I woke up in a cold sweat for a week for

fear the local newspapers would ask me for a bio.

Got asked to run for City Council a year or so

ago — regrettably, I had to turn them down, you

understand. I have lived for each day of the last

35 years with the decisions I’ve made. But I

don’t intend to live with – or die by — the

transgressions of others.”

“A name, Elijah,” Jeffreys requests, staring

Larry down.

“Old acquaintance of mine, name was Donna when I

knew her. Went underground about the same time I

did, after Billy died. Spotted her on the news a

few years ago, some charity fundraiser, and I

knew it was Donna. You might want to take a

meeting with her.”

“Elijah…”

Fortson smiles beatifically, the radical flashing

through maliciously. “Calls herself Francine.

Francine Topher.”

The room falls silent, and the sounds of felons

and lawmen beyond filter in. Jeffreys looks at

Lilly. Mulder frowns in confusion.

“Hey,” Elijah breaks the silence. “You go talk to

her, tell her I said hi.”

**

Francine Topher acknowledges her frosty martini

with an appreciative nod to the waiter, her

cornflower blue eyes never leaving Det. Nick Vera

and Agent Fox Mulder. “There must be a sound

reason why it was necessary to come to my club.”

It’s framed as a statement of fact rather than an

indictment, but both men detect the tightness in

her already toned face. Francine Topher is

married to Philadelphia’s top neurosurgeon, but

no one refers to her as “Mrs. Topher” or “Dr.

Topher’s wife.” She is one of the city’s most

formidable fundraisers, for mental health, for

lower-income prenatal care, for AIDS research,

and although her tennis ensemble likely cost a

year’s green fees at the adjoining Philadelphia

Country Club course, she is no soft society

matron.

“We called your home, and they said you were

playing a set or two,” Mulder explains, boyish

smile in place. “Detective Vera and I have just a

few routine questions.”

“Regarding?”

“Elijah Fortson.”

Mulder suppresses a wince at Vera’s bluntness.

Topher’s brow rises. “Elijah Fortson. The sixties

radical?”

“That’s the one.”

She smiles in bewilderment. “Perhaps you’d like

to elaborate, Det. Vera?”

“We understand you were in college here in town

when Mr. Fortson disappeared, back in ’69,”

Mulder interjects.

“You understand incorrectly.” Topher sips her

martini with a challenging look that contains a

trace of something else.

“How about Billy McHenry, huh?” Vera asks. “You

remember him?”

Mulder sighs with a smile. The blue eyes above

the glass’s rim lock onto Vera for a second, then

Topher lowers her glass. “No. This is becoming

monotonous, and you’re beginning to become

offensive. Who suggested I have any connection

with these men? Fortson? If so, I suspect you’ve

been duped by a desperate criminal. If it makes

you feel any better, a lot of people were. Now,

if you’ll excuse me…”

Mulder and Vera are silent for a full minute as

Francine Topher weaves her way out of the

clubhouse.

“Well,” Mulder finally comments. Det. Vera shoots

daggers across the tablecloth.

“Hey, I got a rise out of her, didn’t I?” the cop

demands, scowling at the busboy as he removes

Topher’s glass.

“It was masterful. I think you’re right, though.

She knew McHenry. But how to prove it? The lab

found no viable DNA samples for comparison, and

the murder weapon was wiped clean.” Mulder

studies the elegant barroom glumly, then

straightens. “The glass.”

“Huh?”

“Detective, get Topher’s glass, quick, before

they wash it.”

“Why, what–”

“It was the sixties — McHenry was a protester.

Maybe Topher got busted a few times, too. Move,

Detective!”

Vera utters a curse, knocking his chair backwards

and rushing through the dismayed crowd like a

linebacker gone to seed. The cook staff freezes

as he shoulders the kitchen door, glancing wildly

about.

“Police!” he shouts. “Where’s the busboy?’

“Who, me?” Vera follows the disembodied voice

behind a rack of dishes to the rail-thin boy in

the white tunic. The cop’s eyes shift to the pair

of martini glasses in his hands, poised above a

sinkful of steaming dishwater.

“Freeze!” Vera calls frantically. The boy backs

up a step, fumbling one of the glasses. “Don’t

drop it, kid!”

The busboy swoops with an instinctive dexterity

and recaptures the glass. Vera wipes his forehead

with his sleeve and yanks a napkin from a pile

near the stove.

“Gimme,” he pants.

**

“You should pardon the cliche,” Ned Squiers

chortles, “but the Sixties were kind of a blur to

me.”

Presidents Ford and Clinton together couldn’t

forgive all of Squiers’ cliches. Metaphors,

homilies, and nimble twists of phrase are the

currency of the weatherman’s world.

Jeffreys smiles indulgently, as if waiting out a

recalcitrant child. He is the yin to Vera’s hair-

trigger yang. While Squiers assumes his lively

patter about occluded fronts and storm patterns

sparks gales of laughter in 32 percent of metro

Philly homes, he is ill-at-ease with a live

audience.

“Hey, shit, guys, I’m yanking you, you know?”

It’s five minutes after the 5:30 newscast, and

the balding meteorologist is itching to grab some

General Tso’s at the joint around the corner from

the station. He yanks off his crested Channel 3

blazer; sweat rings mar his professionally-

pressed pinpoint oxford. “This’s about Elijah,

right?”

“Elijah?” Jeffreys rumbles. Only his lips move,

but the indulgent smile stays in place.

“Media overfamiliarity, Detective. Yeah, OK, I

knew Fortson slightly back in the day. Probably

made us feel like big men, hanging with a heavy

hitter like that. But that was the Cenozoic Age.

Cops talked to me after Eli-, Fortson blew up

that recruiting office. At the time, I was on a

road trip to Cincinnati with a couple of Deadhead

buddies. Got high on Garcia, then got busted for

a couple of twigs the Ohio troopers found on the

passenger side floor mat. My folks’ lawyer busted

me out, and by the time I got back to town,

Elijah’s — Fortson’s — face was pasted all over

every post office in the country.”

“How about your buddy, Billy McHenry?” Vera

asked. “You found the body, right?”

“Vince and me. We called the cops right away.”

“And your ‘acquaintance’ Elijah? You know where

he was when your friend got gutted like a fish?”

Rather than recoiling at Vera’s blunt query,

Squiers smirks. “Billy was a Boy Scout, always

was. Liked to talk tough about revolution and The

Man and everything, but he practically crapped

himself whenever Elijah was around. Hell, we all

did. Elijah got off on scaring dumb whi–”

He glances anxiously at Jeffreys. The smile has

never left the cop’s face. “Anyway,” Squiers

recovers, “you ask me, the cops should’ve looked

harder at that crazy homeless guy who was always

hanging around the building. Aw shit, uh, The

Horseman. Hell, Billy and Vince even invited him

up once or twice to, ah, to….”

“Keep your powder dry, Weather Man,” Vera sighs.

“We know about your little magical mushroom

tours. We won’t tell the network.”

“The Horseman,” Jeffreys prompted. “You ever

catch his name?”

“Shit, that was 35 years ago. All I know was he

was constantly screaming for everybody to repent,

to give themselves to the Lord. Wasn’t exactly a

seller’s market in those days, but I don’t guess

he cared. He was just part of the whole crazy

scene. I had a hair up my ass, myself. Remember

one time I chained myself to a table at one of

the downtown banks, started hollering about the

moneylenders in the temple or something. Must’ve

caught something from the Jesus freaks.”

July 20, 1969

Here come old flattop, he come grooving up

slowly/He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy

roller/He got hair down to his knee/Got to be a

joker he just do what he please…

The Beatles tune played in Ned’s head every time

he saw the Horseman at his post in front of the

tenement apartments, spitting sulfur and the

threat of salvation at the working girls, the

potheads, the occasional suit who came slumming

for some acid or to take the edge off.

“And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and

Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very

grievous, I will go down now, and see whether

they have done altogether according to the cry of

it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will

know,” The Horseman called, brandishing the

Gideon Bible he’d no doubt lifted from some no-

tell motel. Ned grinned: Even the freaks had to

get some occasionally. Sex was a constant

preoccupation with Ned, though the coarse,

aromatic young man didn’t do that well even in

this age of free and easy love.

He moved to the opposite side of the cracked

sidewalk from the proselytizing bum, keeping his

eyes rigidly in front of him, aimed at a

miniskirted bottom strutting toward the bus stop.

“Ned, man!”

Swallowing his annoyance, Ned turned. Vince was

breathless as he caught up to him.

“Hey, man, I lost you at the rally.”

No, Ned reflected, I lost you. Vincent had become

a real bummer over the last few months – a true

believer peacenik. “Yeah, I looked for you.

Figured you’d scored some weed or something.

Speaking of which…” Ned patted the pocket of his

army surplus jacket.

Vince’s acne’ed face brightened. “Groovy.”

As they ascended the stairs to the apartment,

passing through the urine fumes of the foyer to

the mock oregano-scented upper hallways, Vince

prattled on about capitalism and communism and

about another dozen isms. Ned stepped up his

pace: The sooner he could get his buddy stoned,

the sooner he’d shut his face.

“Shit, man,” Ned whispered as spotted the sliver

of light leaking from their slightly jarred

apartment door. Security was a relative concept

in this neighborhood, and he debated hauling ass

back downstairs in case some junkie or armed

intruder was still making the scene.

The ever-trusting Vincent pushed past him. “Hey,

Billy! You home?”

“Shut the fuck up!” Ned whined, reluctantly

following him into the shadowy living room. Vince

glanced into the kitchen, then Billy’s room.

“Aw, Christ,” Vince wailed, covering his mouth

with trembling fingers. “Aw, shit!”

“What, man? What?” Ned yanked him out of the

bedroom doorway. “Oh, hell.”

The pigs arrived about a half-hour later. One of

the cops, a real crew-cut storm trooper, ragged

Ned out about ralphing all over the crime scene…

**

Jeffreys’ smile flickers for a moment. “You ever

reminisce about the old scene with your buddy

Vince?”

Squiers laughs nastily. “Ah, no. He and I travel

in different circles these days. That it, guys?

Cause there’s a fortune cookie out there with my

name in it.”

“Thanks for your time,” Jeffreys murmurs,

standing.

“Anything for our men in blue,” Squiers calls,

already heading for the studio door. “Don’t

forget your umbrellas tomorrow, fellas.”

“Yeah, I’ll make book on it, Ace,” Vera grunts.

**

“The problem,” Joe Miller begins, regretfully,

“is your colleague here has pissed all over his

evidentiary chain.” The attorney turns to Lilly,

nods. “Pardon my French, Detective.”

When Joe Miller regrets, everybody regrets. It’s

one of the few things the guys at the Cop Shop

and a majority of the city’s Fortune 500 execs

agree on. Ten years before, few cops even knew

the personal injury lawyer, and Philadelphia’s

legal community had considered him a bottom-

feeding catfish in the shark tank. Then Joe took

down one of the biggest firms in town, sparking a

nationwide flood of AIDS discrimination cases and

upgrading Joe from The Men’s Wear House to Brooks

Brothers (despite his largely underdog clientele,

Joe is fundamentally conservative, reads Thomas

Sowell religiously at the breakfast table, and

believes in buying American suits).

“I don’t see it that way,” Vera growls

defensively, but his regret already is seeping

around the edges. He’s been having some marital

troubles and hanging out with his old pals Bud

Weiser and Jack Daniels. “I had my eyes on that

glass the whole time – I could see the lipstick

on the rim a mile away.”

Joe looks even more regretful as he gathers the

empty Styrofoam cups littering the interview

table, digs a quarter out of his tailored pants.

“Kitchen at the country club’s 23 yards, two

feet, and three inches from the table where you

were sharing afternoon aperitifs with my client.”

The attorney deposits the coin on the

interrogation table, over some gangers’ loving

ode to the law enforcement community, and covers

it with a cup.

“It was ginger ale – I don’t do ‘aperitifs’ on

The Job, ‘Counselor,'” Vera’s voice rises as his

jowls quiver. Lilly, standing behind Miller and a

silent Francine Topher, shoots him a nearly

imperceptible warning glance.

“Air quotes duly noted, Detective,” Miller

murmurs with a pleasant smile. He begins

rearranging the cups, slowly at first. Vera

struggles not to look at this feat of

legerdemain. The cups scrape the scarred wood as

Miller’s deft fingers work them. “There’s 10

tables between the kitchen and the table where

you were enjoying your ginger ale. Four waiters

on shift that day, all in the same white shirt,

black slacks, and red coats, and probably all

named Eric.” Miller is not renowned for his

political correctness at the courthouse bars. The

cups are nearly a blur now. “You are a man of

some not inconsiderable girth, Detective, am I

right?”

“It’s all muscle.” The menace in Vera’s tone is

palpable. His eyes narrow, flitting toward the

flying Styrofoam.

“Have a little trouble keeping the muscle off

myself,” Miller chuckles, patting his own middle-

aged spread. “Detective, tell me like I’m six,

please. How did you manage from across a crowded

dining room, in hot pursuit of a waiter named

Eric, squeezing your muscular frame between the

tables, glasses and plates jostling on Eric’s

tray, through a solid – mind you, solid – kitchen

door, around the pots and pans, to maintain

constant surveillance on my client’s martini

glass?” The cups skid to a stop. “You must be

eating your carrots, Detective.”

Vera’s eyes are now locked on the table. He looks

up; Miller beams, nodding back toward the cups

with a challenge.

“Phew, that’s one effed-up evidence chain,”

Miller concludes, grinning. “It’s a problem – I

don’t think any judge in this man’s town’s gonna

trust Det. Vera’s spidey sense. And I don’t see

any judge putting my client here – an upstanding,

charitable, responsible member of the community –

through this kind of sideshow.”

“Why’s your upstanding client all lawyered up,

then?” Vera snaps, face reddening.

“Mrs. Topher has no outstanding warrants, either

under her own name or as Donna Geistner,” Lilly

interjects smoothly, La Giaconda smile in place.

She moves around the table.

“Who’s Donna Geistner?” Joe queries, mock

puzzlement on his face.

“Counselor, we will ID your client, with or

without your cooperation. And you have to admit,

it does look suspicious, a woman with nothing

more than a few civil disobedience busts 35 years

ago hooking up with one of the city’s top

attorneys.”

“My,” Joe whispers, ducking his head in false

modesty. “Dish it up for me, Det. Rush – I’ll see

if I can get it down my gullet.”

Lilly plants a palm on the table. “Immunity for

anything she was mixed up with with Fortson.

We’ve got a 35-year-old homicide we need to clear

and a case to prosecute against Elijah Fortson.

Your client tells us what she remembers about

Fortson and the day of the murder, and she’s back

sipping Cosmos by afternoon tee time.”

Joe chews on it. “My client and I would like a

little alone time, you don’t mind.” He favors

Vera with a benign smile. “And no, we wouldn’t

like any coffee, Coke, gum, cigarettes, or DNA

swabs, thank you.”

Vera’s chair squeaks back. Lilly lightly touches

his arm, and he stalks out of the interview room.

Joe shrugs regretfully up at Lilly, who reaches

across and snatches a Styrofoam cup from the

table. She leaves Joe staring, impressed, at the

gleaming quarter before him.

**

“Billy and I met at the university about a year

earlier,” Francine/Donna begins. “We had an

evening lit class together, and one night, a

bunch of us went for coffee afterwards. I liked

his shyness, his heart, and, yes, his politics.

Back then, that was an important component of any

socially relevant relationship.”

Lilly smiles, encouragingly. Joe Miller pretends

to check his PDA.

“We started going out, then hitting a few

protests and rallies together. Anti-war, pot

legalization, civil rights. We were a couple of

middle-class white kids who were going to change

the world. Then he and his friends, Ned and

Vincent, started hanging out with Elijah,

practically worshipped him. And that’s when it

started getting real heavy.”

“Heavy?”

“Elijah was into the real revolutionary stuff,

talked about burning ‘The System’ to the ground,

blowing things up. I begged Billy to get away

from him, but he kept getting in deeper and

deeper…”

July 17, 1969

The pair fell silent the minute Elijah spotted

her coming down the aisle toward their booth. As

Billy turned, boyish smile tinged with adolescent

guilt, Fortson took a long draw on his cigarette

and stared impassively, clinically at her. Donna

felt a chill.

“What’s up?” she asked, sliding in beside Billy.

Donna didn’t try to conceal the suspicion in her

voice.

Elijah crushed his butt with disinterest. “Later,

man,” he murmured, sliding out. Donna sat rigidly

until she heard the bell above the diner’s front

door signal his departure.

“I hear hurricanes ablowing/I know the end is

coming soon,” the radio behind the counter

blares. CCR’s lyrics seem an omen, a portent.

“What was that about?” she demanded. “What’s he

trying to talk you into this time?”

“C’mon,” Billy mumbled, burying his nose in his

coffee. “We were just rapping, you know, about

that asshole Nixon.”

“You c’mon. Elijah’s bad news, Baby — he almost

got your head cracked open at that sit-in last

week. That cop could’ve killed you.”

“Look,” Billy snapped, with a heat that was

emerging more and more often these days. “Elijah

really cares about all the shit that’s going

around. He’s willing to do something about it,

make some noise if he has to.”

Donna felt her chest tighten. “What kind of

noise? What’s he trying to get you into? He’s

going to get you killed, Billy.”

Her boyfriend slammed his coffee cup on the

table. The kids in the booths around them craned

to stare at him. Billy glared murderously back at

them, then turned to see Donna’s ashen, open-

mouthed expression. He shook his head slowly and

seized her hand.

“I’m sorry,” Billy whispered. “I’m sorry, Donna.

I’m just, you know…”

Donna squeezed his soft fingers. “We have to get

away from all this, Baby. From Elijah, from

Hoesch, all of it. Maybe San Francisco, New York.

We could…”

“No,” Billy murmured softly but insistently. “I

can’t just leave right now.”

She released his hand. “Why not?”

“Just,” he stammered, grabbing his coat, “just

stay out of it, OK. For your own sake. Look, I

gotta get back to the lab.”

“Billy,” Donna pleaded as his narrow back

retreated toward the street…

**

Francine blinks. “When Billy was killed, I knew

Elijah had something to do with it. I didn’t know

what to do, so I split — left town to visit a

friend. And then, when Elijah killed those people

in that recruiting office, well, I knew I wasn’t

safe. Elijah would think I knew something and

come after me. So I just stayed gone. I knew a

guy who helped kids get away from the draft, get

to Canada. He turned me into Francine Topher.”

Lilly leans back in her chair. “Why’d you come

back to town?”

Francine smiles weakly. “I managed to get a

nursing degree and eventually a job in Boston. I

met Gerald, my husband, at St. Eligius Hospital,

and after about four months, we got married. Then

he got a shot at neurosurgical chief at

Philadelphia Memorial, of all places. What could

I tell him?

“The funny thing is, I actually ‘met’ Elijah a

few years ago, at a children’s hospital

fundraiser. He’d become some kind of financial

whiz, was on the hospital board. Hell, he was

funny, charming. We talked for maybe an hour over

dinner, and I had no idea. That it was the same

man who’d forced me to throw my life away.”

**

“Detective?”

Vera glances up, a glob of cheese sauce plopping

onto the open folder before him. He swipes two

thick fingers through the sauce with irritation

at the uniform hovering over his desk, licks his

fingertips, and places his half-Philly steak to

the side. Then, as he spots the figure behind the

officer’s shoulder, his brow darkens.

“He asked for Det. Rush, but…” the lanky uniform

starts to explain.

“Yeah, fine,” Vera sighs. First Miller, now this.

“Whaddya want, kid?”

Cole Sear gives Vera the creeps, pure and simple.

The kid provided a tip on a case a year or so

ago, led Lilly to a body in a cellar and a 25-

year-old patricide. But Sear’s claim to commune

with the dead, his unnerving, unremitting calm

chill Vera’s blood more than just a few degrees.

But Lilly seems to like the boy, so…

“I saw him,” Cole states simply. “The man on the

TV last night. The one who was stabbed a long

time ago.”

“Hold on a second, kid…” Vera stops. He suddenly

recalls last night’s Action Team Philly update on

the Fortson case, the grainy archived photo of

Fortson’s alleged victim. “You mean Billy

McHenry?”

Cole nods. A goose walks across Vera’s grave.

“You saw him? What do you–?” the detective’s

eyes widen. “C’mon, kid, give me a break

already.”

“He said it wasn’t him.”

“What wasn’t him?” Vera’s irritation returns.

“I don’t know for sure. We didn’t get to talk for

long.”

Vera plants his elbows on the scarred wood of his

desk. “Didn’t get to talk? Look, Cole, right?

Cole, why don’t you give me your number? We need

any help, we’ll-”

“Actually,” a polite voice murmurs behind Vera’s

shoulder, “I’d kind of like to hear what he has

to say now, if you don’t mind, Detective.”

Vera wheels around to face Mulder, pushing to his

feet. “Sure, Agent – you two oughtta have a ton

to talk about.” The cop begins to stalk away,

then returns, reaches across the desktop, and

snags his Philly steak.

**

Even Mulder is slightly disconcerted by Cole’s

perpetual serenity, but the teen’s story holds

him rapt. “You literally, physically saw him.”

Cole pauses, then sees something in the agent’s

face that puts him at ease. “I see them all. They

need things; sometimes they need me to help them

make things right, sometimes to move on to the

next place.”

“The dead?” Mulder might as well have said “the

Lutherans.”

Cole nods. “My mom and I have been looking for a

new apartment — we had a break-in three weeks

ago, and she doesn’t feel safe any more. So we

were out looking at places.”

“Including Billy McHenry’s place.”

Cole’s face grows serious. “I got bored while my

mom was talking to the manager, and I wandered

off. He was in the hallway. He was dressed like,

you know, like a hippie. And the front of his

shirt was covered with blood. He looked sad,

guilty. He said it wasn’t him.”

“What do you mean? He was the victim, not the

killer.”

“I don’t know. He said it wasn’t him, that it

couldn’t have been him. He wanted me to tell

somebody named Donna. Then some people got off

the elevator, and he disappeared.”

“What do you think he meant?”

“I don’t know — we didn’t talk any more. But

then I saw him on the news — they were talking

about that man who was arrested for bombing those

people.”

“Elijah Fortson.”

Cole nods somberly. “They talked about him being

stabbed, and when they showed his picture, I

decided I should tell Lilly.”

“Det. Rush?”

Cole smiles, secretively.

**

“The guy’s a certified whack job,” Vera sputters,

rubbing his five o’clock shadow. “He’s out there

talking to the Teen Psychic Hotline, who claims

to have had a rap session with our vic, McHenry.”

Lt. Stillman temples his fingers as he eyes the

agitated badger. “What do you want me to do,

Nick?”

“I dunno, call your old army buddy, see if he

can’t reel Mulder and Scully back in.”

“Deputy Director Skinner specifically assigned

Agent Mulder to this case. He said Mulder had a

‘special perspective.'”

“Oh, he’s special, all right,” Vera snorts. “I

just don’t want Barnabas Collins blowing this

case and leaving us with brown on our faces.”

**

Cole Sear blinks as he steps back into the sunny

street. He likes Mulder, trusts him to do the

right thing as he would Lilly. The fat

detective’s hostility doesn’t bother him — Cole

can read the unhappiness and despair behind the

policeman’s brusque manner.

Just as Cole can feel the man’s eyes on him as he

turns the corner. More curious than fearful, he

meets the man’s look. He’s a soldier, his dress

uniform soiled and scuffed, his face full of

agony, full of questions.

In a second, Cole knows. He waits for the light

to turn, and the soldier waits, patiently, for

him to cross over.

**

“Of course, 1969 was largely a blur for many of

us,” Frederic Hoesch muses, liver-spotted fingers

riffling through a stack of journals on his

vintage oak desk. “But this little federal

intrusion certainly takes me back. In some ways,

little has changed since the Summer of Love and

the days of J. Edgar Hoover.”

A resigned glance passes between Agents Mulder

and Scully. Det. Valens suppresses a smirk.

“Prof. Hoesch, We’re just assisting the

Philadelphia Police in an unsolved homicide

investigation. We’re simply interested in

anything you can tell us about William Ericksen’s

death and his possible involvement with Elijah

Fortson.”

The anthropologist locates the monograph he’s

seeking, one on Meso-American birthing rites.

“Yes, I saw you people had finally run Fortson to

ground. The right-wing media no doubt’s breaking

out the Dom Perignon. Another echo of dissent

extinguished in the Land of the Free.”

“Echo of dissent?” Valens smiles incredulously.

“Elijah Fortson blew up a military recruiting

office, killed five people. Including a couple of

high-schoolers. That’s some pretty heavy dissent,

isn’t it, professor?”

Hoesch beams back with a calculating glint and

dazzling teeth – despite his advancing years and

counterculture patois, the dashing intellectual

about campus shines through. “I wouldn’t expect

the VH1 generation to understand the Fight. Back

then, we didn’t trust anybody over 30. Today, I

shudder to think one day of leaving this planet

in the hands of anyone under. The children in

that recruiting office were as much victims of

their government’s propagandistic imperialism as

they were of a Molotov cocktail. We were trying

to expose the lies, get to The Truth. And the

truth frequently hurts.”

“I’m feeling the pain right now,” Mulder sighs.

“You can see we didn’t bring our Mace or our

nightsticks today. Your former graduate student

may have been murdered, and Fortson may well have

committed that murder. Can we stick to that truth

and save the revolution for another day,

Professor?”

The professor leans back, templing his fingers

and regarding the trio squeezed into his tiny

third floor office. “I’ll let you know if you get

too close to my constitutional rights. The truth

is, I guess I have been plagued by the suspicion

that Billy was mixed up in some skullduggery with

Fortson and his group.

“If you look into my record, as I’m sure you

will, you’ll see that back then, I was far more,

ah, simpatico, with the students than the

university fathers might have preferred. Things

were freer in those days — we were allowed to

live our lives without administration dictates,

and we didn’t live under the oppressive fear of

legal liability. Now, even at 70, I have to leave

my door open when some sycophantic coed comes by

to wheedle a passing grade.

“I maintained a more casual relationship with

Billy and my other grad assistants. We often saw

each other off-campus, had endless debates about

society, the war, the environment -”

“What else you have ‘off-campus’?” Valens poses

with a mirthless grin.

“Ah, the young Republican,” Hoesch cackles. “Do

you even know who Cesar Chavez was, amigo? No

matter. Sure, we enjoyed some mind-expanding

experiences from time to time. Is this when I

piss in a cup, Officer?”

“Billy McHenry and Elijah Fortson,” Mulder

prompts.

“Yes. Well, I’d suspected something was up for a

few months – Billy had a sometimes provincial

sense of responsibility, but the last few months,

he’d started coming to the lab exhausted,

distracted, a little jumpy. And secretive. I

remember wondering if something bad might be in

the air the day he was killed…”

July 20, 1969

Fred Hoesch tossed his faculty-issue corduroy

jacket at the nearest table, barely missing an

Aztec sexual fetish he’d acquired during his most

recent Mexican excursion. His ears buzzed with

rage – he’d just been admonished again by the

department chief, who’d vetoed the next such

anthropological expedition.

Hoesch preferred to attribute his precarious

relationship with the university establishment to

his maverick views on the war, the Sexual

Revolution, and American capitalism. In fact, the

professor’s exploration of new sexual frontiers

with the student populace was near-legend, and

his taste in European loafers and living

accommodations belied his socialistic

proclamations. The university had clamped down on

Hoesch’s frequent south-of-the-border “junkets,”

as that buttoned-down department lackey had

called it.

He’d sat through the scolding in uncharacteristic

silence – Hoesch couldn’t very well explain the

importance of his research, not at this point,

not to these people. He felt he was near a

breakthrough, but this changed everything.

“Yeah, I know it’s important!” Billy’s angry

voice reverberated through the anthro lab. It was

a tone Hoesch had heard increasingly from the

once cheerful, if somewhat naïve, boy. The

professor edged closer; Billy was on the phone,

back to Hoesch, lost in his terse exchange.

“I can’t leave right now – Fred’s got me

cataloguing shit,” Billy whispered harshly.

Hoesch had taught him early on that use of titles

promoted class hierarchy. “I know today’s the

day, you don’t have to remind me. Can’t somebody

else…?” The grad assistant ran his fingers

through his shaggy hair. “All right, OK. Of

course, it’s important. Hang tight, I’ll be over

as quick as I can.”

Hoesch retreated as his prodigy loudly cradled

the phone, hastily grabbing his jacket. As Billy

finally turned, he re-entered.

“Hey, Fred,” the student mumbled, mustering a

smile. “Uh, you mind if I cut out for a while?”

“A while?” Fred inquired casually. In fact, the

cataloguing of Incan potsherds had been busy work

for the grad student, but Hoesch relished the

opportunity to flex his muscles a bit. Radical

rhetoric or not, the draft was still in force,

these punks lived and (quite possibly) died by

academic whim.

“The rest of the day, OK?” Billy sounded frantic,

and this fed Hoesch’s sadistic inclinations.

“I’ll come in early tomorrow, stay ’til I get it

all done. Please.”

“That’s what you told me yesterday, remember?”

the professor challenged. “What’s up, man?”

“I can’t – it’s a prior commitment,” Billy

blurted. “You really don’t want to know.

Seriously.”

Hoesch smiled – Billy was too important to his

work to lose. “Hey, Billy, my man, talk to me.”

The smile faltered as something dark flashed in

Billy’s eyes. Maybe the boy wasn’t as naïve as he

appeared. For the first time in their

relationship, Hoesch’s assurance began to

crumble.

“Look, do what you gotta do,” Hoesch relented,

trying to sound nonchalant. “We’ll get back on it

tomorrow.”

Billy sighed, smiled, grabbing his books and

headed for the door. “Thanks, man. Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Hoesch echoed hollowly.

**

“Except, of course, there was no tomorrow,”

Frederic Hoesch concluded. “I had my suspicions

about Elijah and the rest of the crowd Billy’d

fallen in with, but in those days, we didn’t

exactly trust the fuzz – the cops. As if they

cared about one dead kid.”

“Yeah, as if,” Valens muses.

“Well, thanks for your time, Professor,” Mulder

smiles, standing. He pauses. “By the way, I

really liked your paper on psilocybic mushrooms.”

A thick silence falls over the office, and Hoesch

rushes to break it. “Why, Agent, I’m surprised a

federal functionary like yourself would be

interested in my esoteric research, much less

willing to dust off old academic monographs. Why,

I haven’t done any work in that area for, what,

25 years or so.”

“Actually, closer to 35,” Mulder amends. He

raises his right hand in a dated ‘V’ formation.

“Peace, Doc.”

**

“What was all that crap about mushrooms?” Valens

demands, ducking a student biker racing across

the quad.

“Dr. Hoesch was being uncharacteristically

modest.” Mulder’s wheels are turning now — his

stride is unbroken. “I thought the name was

familiar. See, I have something of an interest in

anthropology myself. Well, some of the more

arcane aspects, anyway.”

Scully chortles. Valens’ sense of falling through

the looking glass deepens.

“In the ’60s, Frederic Hoesch was one of the

world’s foremost experts in Mesoamerican

religious rites. The Mayans, the Aztecs had some

fascinating spiritual alternatives to bingo and

bar mitzvahs — multiple dieties and universes,

human sacrifices. during the four-day dedication

of the Aztec Templo Mayor in 1487, at least

10,000 captives were sacrificed to the gods. Now

that’s volume. And when it was Miller time, our

Aztec friends liked to kick back with peyotl and

teonanácatl, known as the ‘sacred mushroom.’

Valens perks. Finally, something his cop’s

sensibility can wrap around. “Peyotl? Like

peyote?”

“Shrooms, dude. I’m sure that as the Age of

Aquarius dawned, certain aspects of Hoesch’s

curriculum captured the youthful imagination.

Teonanácatl was the magic mushroom of choice for

Aztec, Nahua, Mazatec, Olmec, Mixtecs, Zapotec,

Mayan and other pre-Columbian shamans across

southern Mexico and Central America. They called

it ‘God’s flesh’ — it contains a compound,

psilocybin, that’s been linked to visions or

hallucinations in those who consume it. The

shamans incorporated it into their rites to

invoke gods and spirits, visit higher planes of

existence, even link consciousnesses, according

to some accounts.”

“Getting a little out there, Agent Mulder,”

Valens cautions.

“The phenomenon’s not confined to Mesoamerican

culture, Detective. Scientists and travelers for

centuries have passed on tales of nomadic Russian

reindeer herders who ritually ingested fly agaric

mushrooms to obtain contact with the ‘spiritual’

dimension. Gets lonely out there on the steppes,

I guess. Actually, the word ‘shaman’ itself comes

from the Siberian Tungus ‘saman’ — diviner,

magician, doctor, creator of ecstasy, the

mediator between the human world and the

supernatural.”

Valens blocks Mulder. “I’m beginning to think I

need a mediator between the human world and you.

Look, Mulder — I watched Altered States on HBO a

few years ago. William Hurt eats some bad

mushroom soup and turns into a monkey. This case

is cold enough without dragging in the ancient

Aztecs and the Zappa fans and the Mixalots.

What’s all this got to do with Billy McHenry?”

Mulder smiles. “Most North Americans didn’t even

know about teonanácatl up here until a 1957 Life

magazine article on ethnomycology – the study of

the cultural and historical use of fungi. You

think that wouldn’t have been catnip for an up-

and-coming anthropologist like Fred Hoesch? Back

in ’69, the Lost Generation smoked, ate, snorted,

licked, and injected almost anything that would

blow their collective minds. Even crawdads, if

we’re to put stock in The Beverly Hillbillies.

What better laboratory for a Mesoamerican

anthropologist trying to tap the secrets of the

shamans? A sort of shaman for the 20th Century,

himself, able to influence young minds with his

intellect and the powers of academic life, death,

and military deferment?”

Realization blossoms on Scully’s face. “You don’t

think…”

“Wait a minute, hold on,” Valens murmurs, anger

furrowing his brow. “You think that bastard was

experimenting on McHenry and those other kids?”

He glares up at Hoesch’s office window.

“You heard him — he hasn’t published anything

about psilocybes over the last three decades. You

think a man of Hoesch’s ego wouldn’t have chewed

our ears off about some of his most impressive

academic work?”

“Hoesch would have made frequent trips south of

the border with the university, probably with

federal research money and under the bureaucratic

radar screen,” Scully muses. “It sounds like he

was a mentor, even a hero, to Billy and his other

students. But if this is true, it raises the

question, Mulder: Was Billy McHenry Hoesch’s

innocent lab rat, or was he his assistant in any

experiments? My god, could he have been dosing

his own roommates, even his girlfriend?”

“Not that I’m saying I buy all this,” Valens

drawls, “but what are we gonna do about Hoesch?

Can we prove any of this?”

“First rule of detective work,” Mulder announces

solemnly, surveilling a clutch of passing coeds.

“Talk to the squeeze.”

**

“I never knew who Billy’s dealer was,” Francine

tells Lilly, pouring her another cup of coffee.

“Elijah generally supplied the pot or the LSD for

the group. Billy just turned up with the

mushrooms one night. Said a friend had smuggled

them in from Mexico.”

“We think maybe it was Billy’s professor, Dr.

Hoesch,” Lilly suggests. The team agreed Lilly

and Scully should do the second interview with

the already-wary fugitive, but the agent sips

quietly, giving the detective the lead.

“Hoesch,” Francine breathes, with an intensity

and a venom that sparks a look between her

guests. “I wouldn’t have thought of the great

professor as a drug dealer. I tried never to

think of him at all. He put the moves on me one

time at Billy’s place, when Billy was late

getting home from a rally. I let him know I

wasn’t available. In a very definitive and,

hopefully, painful way.” She and Lilly exchange a

fleeting, sisterly smile. “So he was supplying

Billy with drugs, too. Wonderful.”

“Did you ever take any of the mushrooms, Mrs.

Topher?”

“Absolutely not. Bad enough what the weed and the

acid probably did to our brains back then. I told

Billy he and the guys shouldn’t be messing with

that stuff, but he laughed it off, said I was a

prude.”

“You know how many times the guys took them?”

“At least five, maybe six times. I remember, one

night, when Billy and the boys wanted to show

Elijah how enlightened they were, they invited

this homeless guy up to the apartment and they

all got high together. Some crazy guy, they

called him The Horseman, could’ve freaked out and

killed all of them.” Francine returns to the

present with a defensive expression. “I hope that

didn’t sound racist, but the guys always fell all

over themselves trying to prove to Elijah that

they understood the plight of the ‘brothers,’

that a bunch of suburban white bread teenagers

could identify with decades of oppression and

struggle. Elijah ate it up, even though I think

something might’ve happened, because Billy

avoided the old bum, the homeless guy, after

that.”

“Along with the mushrooms,” Lilly prompts.

Francine nods. “Were you ever there when they

used them?”

Francine shivers, drawing her expensive sweater

about her shoulders. “Just once.”

June 4, 1969

“Shit,” Donna sighed as she juggled Billy’s extra

key and the sack from the market. Milk sloshed

and beans rattled — their so-called “vegetarian”

diet of rice, legumes, and greens was the product

not of ideology but of economics. Billy was too

proud to admit that meat was a luxury on their

meager combined incomes (although he never turned

down the flesh of God’s creatures when it came

with special sauce and an order of fries and

somebody else was buying).

Billy’d been working extra hard and late at the

lab these days — he worshiped that pig Hoesch,

even though if she ever told him how his hero’d

tried to get into her pants… Anyway, she’d wanted

to fix him a special meal — her roommate was

holding down the fort, and maybe Billy might be

back in the mood for love and reconciliation.

But the Stones threw cold water on her hopes for

the evening. Jagger’s voice beyond the flimsy

apartment door taunted her: “You can’t always get

what you want…” The Stones were Vince and Ted’s

favorite mood music for artificial mood

elevation.

Donna considered leaving, but she remained

concerned about the company Billy’d been keeping.

Elijah frightened her — whenever she was around,

he studied her. It wasn’t like Hoesch’s

eyefucking — he seemed to be appraising her, her

intelligence. And what was this heavyweight

militant doing hanging out with children like

Billy and Vince and Ned? Elijah was a scary dude,

but she knew instinctively his wary respect for

her was the key to protecting Billy from getting

in too deep with him.

Donna took a deep breath, sucking in the cannabis

fumes that saturated the hallway, and nudged open

the door. She awaited Billy’s dumb stoned grin of

recognition, Ned and Vince’s lascivious giggles

as they checked her out, Elijah’s reptilian

stare, appraising and challenging. But there was

none of that tonight.

The four men sat in a circle on the threadbare

rag rug in the lotus position, wrists up, fingers

twitching. Their eyes were open, wide open, but

they gazed at nothing, or, Donna thought with a

shudder, something beyond Billy’s shabby

apartment, beyond this world.

“Baby,” she whispered, dropping the bag. A potato

rolled across the floor and ricocheted off

Vince’s right foot. It didn’t register. “Billy!”

Donna gasped, kneeling beside him. He stared

straight ahead, wonder blooming in his

expression.

“BILLY!” she screamed, slapping him hard. She

fell back in terror as four heads snapped. Eight

eyes began to blink, strain against the light of

the hallway.

Donna clambered to her feet, stumbling over a

chair as she backed toward the doorway. Elijah’s

head whipped up, eyes filled with irritation.

Billy’s hand went to his cheek. “Hey, Babe! Hey,

what’s wrong?”

Donna didn’t stop running until she hit the

corner.

**

“Ah, Ned and I travel in different circles these

days,” Father Vincent admits, his battered oak

office chair groaning as he dips back into time.

“I’ve come a million miles from that place,

spiritually as well as physically. I never see

any of them any more — Ned, Donna, Bill-”

The priest’s face fills with pain, and for a

moment, Lilly glimpses the unlined face of the

young man who’d forsaken sex and drugs and rock

and roll for a Roman collar, celibacy, and Latin

homilies. “Sometimes, I forget Billy’s dead,

although I’ll never forget finding him like that,

torn and… You know, beyond the horror of that

moment, I’m haunted by the regret that Billy died

without the rites.” Father Vincent grins

guiltily. “The job, I suppose. It’s just that we

were all so confused, made so many bad choices

back then. But Billy had a certain honor, grace,

I suppose you could say. Love and peace – it

wasn’t all lip service to him. But he was in such

turmoil near the end. I guess I’m haunted by the

idea that he died with his soul still in

turmoil.”

Mulder and Lilly exchange a glance. She breaks

the connection quickly. “What do you think was

behind the turmoil, Father?”

“It was an era of turmoil,” he shrugs, searching

the yellowing ceiling of his office. “He was

under a lot of pressure at school, and, tell you

the truth, Billy never seemed cut out for the

liberated lifestyle of the late ’60s.”

At that moment, Lilly, Mulder, and Scully

simultaneously know the priest is lying. Eyes

down, searching for the truth, eyes up, fishing

for a convenient lie.

“How about Elijah Fortson?” Lilly probes. “Kind

of heavy company for a choirboy.”

The chair creaks as Father Vincent returns to the

present. Again, his eyes betray him, refusing to

meet with the detective’s. “If you think Billy

was involved in any way in that bombing, then you

have no idea how much he revered life, respected

it. To this day, I can’t conceive of any reason

for anyone killing him.”

“There was someone else,” Mulder ventures. “You

remember a man you and Billy used to call The

Horseman?”

Father Vincent chuckles, surprising both of them.

“Sorry. It’s just, well, you’re really barking up

the wrong tree now. Sure, he presented a pretty

scary figure at the time, shouting fire and

brimstone and waving that beat-up Gideon Bible at

the ‘drunkards’ and ‘harlots’ on the street. He

was stoned out of his mind most of the time, full

of his own demons, but he couldn’t have killed

Billy any more than I could have.”

The priest catches Mulder’s small, questioning

smile, and straightens in his chair.

“Homicide questioned him the day of the murder,”

Lilly notes, “But they never got a name. To them,

he was just some crazy homeless guy.”

A smile crosses the clergyman’s lined face. “It’s

astonishing to me the impact God’s humblest

creatures can have. If not for that ‘crazy,

homeless guy,’ I might not be here right now. I

can’t explain how, but somehow, he got to me,

spiritually. You know, it was only a few months

after Billy’s death that I joined the seminary.”

Mulder glances at the Virgin Mary on the wall

behind the priest. “You ever see him after you

moved back to the neighborhood?”

Three decades seem to fall from Father Vincent’s

face as the corner of his mouth twitches. “You

might say so. Follow me.”

**

“The father, he asked the diocese ‘specially to

get assigned to this parish,” Melvin Johnson

explains, polishing the silver candlestick slowly

and lovingly as Mulder and Rush hold down

opposite ends of the front pew. St. Bartholomew’s

sexton surveys his work, a beatific smile of

satisfaction parting his creased, purple lips. He

moves onto a chalice, thumb working the chamois

rag. “By this time, I’d lost my taste for the

Word. Left Alabama in, oh, musta been ’65. I

lived right down the road from where them two

little girls got blowed up – had my own church

then, African Methodist Episcopal, but them girls

dyin’ like that, well, guess it shook me some.

Found I couldn’t climb up in that pulpit no more,

tell the folks about Sweet Jesus’s love and

everlasting light.”

The stooped old man Billy McHenry called The

Horseman stops rubbing, peers at his young

visitors through thick lenses. “Got it into my

head I’d come up north, take the Word to the

street. ‘Cept the body’s weak, amen, and I fell

into some sorry and sinful ways. Spose I was

drinkin’ and druggin’ those children’s deaths out

of my head – I forgot about the love of the Lord

and started passin’ my own prideful judgment on

anybody would look my way.”

He blinks, smils sheepishly. “Got to pardon me –

havin’ one of them senior moments. Anyway, that

poor boy’s murder, it’s like it just stole away

what little scrap was left of my faith. Lost my

taste for the Word, though not for the grape and

the grain and the weed. Didn’t hardly recognize

Father Vincent when he came to see me at one of

the downtown missions, oh my, musta been 30, more

years ago. Offered me some work here in the

church, three squares, and a warm bed where the

junkies couldn’t cut my throat. I told him where

he could put all that, but he kept on comin’ down

and keepin’ at me ’til I came back with him, most

probably just to shut him up.” Johnson cackled,

showing crooked but white teeth.

Lilly leans forward. “And you’ve been here ever

since?”

“The father, he saved my life – have mercy, I

wouldn’ta lasted more’n a few years, way I was

headed.” Johnson replaces the chalice with

reverence, and sat down on the altar step with a

serious expression. “So what do you two want with

Father Vincent? This about that boy’s murder?”

“The homicide report says you didn’t move from

your spot on the street between the time Billy

McHenry entered his apartment and the police

interviewed you about the killing,” Mulder

prompts. “But did you remember seeing anyone else

go in or out of McHenry’s apartment building the

day of the murder?”

Johnson’s eyes flick toward Father Vincent, who

nods encouragement. “Well, I remembered the boy –

he’d always been nice to me, give me a buck or

some supper when he could swing it, even invited

me to come up and visit with his friends once or

twice. And that man, fella on the TV last few

weeks.”

“Elijah Fortson?” Lilly offers.

Johnson’s eyes narrow. “He was the serpent, that

man. Tempted them lost children with drugs and

evil talk about doing violence to others.”

“Did you see Fortson the day of the murder?”

“No, ma’am. Just…”

Mulder cranes forward, eyebrows raised.

“It’s all right, Melvin,” the father smiles.

Johnson nods, relieved. “‘Fraid I wasn’t what you

might’ve called a reliable witness back then. All

I remember was the words of Genesis coming out of

my mouth and the Virgin Mary.”

“The Virgin Mary?” Lilly inquires gently.

Melvin’s face wrinkles with mirth. “Had had me a

taste of the Thunderbird ‘fore I went out to

preach that day. Helped me wind up and give the

folks what-for. Some times, when I’d had me a nip

or two, I’d see the Devil hisself holdin’ up a

lamppost, or maybe a chorus of angels in front of

the liquor store. That day, it was the Virgin

Mary. Mighta been a sign, maybe. Probably the

‘Bird, though.” The Horseman squints lovingly up

at the Virgin Mother, beaming down from the

stained glass at her recovered child, Melvin.

“Praise be.”

“Amen,” Father Vincent echoes.

**

“You got my Liberty Bell shotglass yet?”

Mulder grins, wiping the grit from his eyes.

Scully stirs with a semi-conscious grunt, and he

silently crawls from underneath the covers and

pads to the bathroom.

“It’s two o’clock, you little Neanderthal,”

Mulder yawns into his cell phone.

“Space: Above and Beyond marathon on the Sci-Fi

Network,” Frohike explains. “Now we’ve got some

kinda infomercial for rubber cookware. You want

to know what I found out, or not? I’m probably

missing a Kari Wuhrer flick on Skinemax.”

“Shoot.”

“Disgruntled ex-NSA guy Byers knows says Army

Intelligence was doing some classified field

experiments back in ’71. Real hush-hush, black

ops stuff, but they put it on film, and a couple

years later, he got a matinee showing of a

bootleg copy.

“The movie looked to be shot in Vietnam or

Cambodia, in some little Podunk area. It was a

squad of Special Forces guys on a raid of some

village. Real My Lai stuff, Mulder – some bad

shit. Even Byers’ ex-spook gets nightmares from

it occasionally. These guys wipe out a whole

village – men, women, old folks, even kids.”

“God.”

“Makes you wonder. But what’s creepier, if that

ain’t bad enough, is the way these Special Forces

guys operated. Byers’ buddy says they were

practically like machines, as if they were all

plugged into the same X-Box. Total stealth, no

commands or chatter, but these dozen or so guys

offed everybody in the village, 40 or so people,

in less than 20 minutes, without sustaining so

much as a hangnail…”

Mulder lowers himself onto the toilet lid.

“Mulder? Hey, Mulder?”

“Yeah, sorry,” the agent drawls.

“Here’s the even freakier part. The guy who

showed Byers’ buddy the film, maybe about 20

years ago? He was some kind of researcher our NSA

guy knew from college. Anyway, he said he’d been

involved in the Army thing, but didn’t know until

afterwards about the massacre. Mr. Science wanted

to know if he should take the movie to Mike

Wallace or Geraldo or somebody. Didn’t you say

there was some kind of university geek involved

in your case?”

“I dunno. Sounds like your guy might have had a

rudimentary conscience of some kind. Our guy

makes Rupert Murdoch look like Mary Kate and

Ashley.”

“Actually, my guy’s guy thought breaking the

story on 60 Minutes might be good for a book

deal.”

“That’s our Fred,” Mulder concludes. “I assume

Byers’ guy wised him up, had him bury the movie

under 30 feet of concrete.”

“Obviously. What’s going on out there, Mulder?”

“I think some seriously bad mojo.”

**

“These days, I have trouble enough remembering

when I took my last piss,” Ray Espinshade

chuckles, adjusting his bulk in the sunroom easy

chair to accommodate an ill-concealed colostomy

bag. There is a tinge of green in Vera’s polite

grimace. “But that certainly was one day I’ll

never forget. Just my luck to have stayed late

that afternoon doing the books. Hey, kid, you

wanna hand me that juice?”

The ‘kid,’ Jeffreys, locates a large teal cup,

labeled ‘Property of Liberty Manor Care Center,’

and hands in gently to the elderly ex-jeweler.

Espinshade sucks noisily at his beverage; Vera’s

feels a roll of the stomach.

“I’d finally made everything come out even, and I

was gonna take the late Mrs. Espinshade out for a

steak. That’s when that car came screaming around

the corner like a bat outta hell. When it

screeched to a stop across the street, I thought

maybe it was a heist – I usually kept about a

million in inventory in the office safe. I almost

made in my pants. Back then, it wasn’t as easy as

it is now, eh?” The fleshy old man cackles.

Vera laughs weakly.

“But then I see they’re in front of the

recruiting office.”

“Two of them, right?” Jeffreys clarifies.

“One driving, one with a bottle. It was one of

those Molotov thingies, you know, with the rag

stuffed in the bottle? Well, the passenger with

the bottle, he jumps out, lights the rag, and

flings it through the window of the joint, jumps

back in the car, and they screech off, burning

rubber. I tried to get a peek at the license

plate, but then, whoosh! The front of the

building just blows out, like in a movie, and

there’s fire everywhere. I ran back upstairs and

called the cops. Like I told ’em, though, these

guys had hoods over their heads – I couldn’t see

nothing.” Espinshade places his juice cup on an

end table next to his wheelchair and looks from

Vera to Jeffreys. “Hey, you didn’t catch the

guys, did you?’

“We think we’ve got one,” Jeffreys offers.

“Wow, great, great. Damned hippies, always

blowing up something back then. Burning the draft

cards, burning the bras, while guys like me were

busting our asses working.” Espinshade sighs,

reaches for his cup, withdraws. “Well, I guess it

ain’t any worse than now, with the gang kids and

that hippety-hop crap my grandson listens to. At

least some of the kids had a little respect back

then, a little religion. Like the kid with the

beads.”

“Beads?” Jeffreys inquires, drawing an annoyed

glance from Vera. The clock on Espinshade’s

bedstand indicates it’s Miller Time.

Espinshade suddenly seems distracted. “Beads? Oh,

yeah, the kid with the beads. Yeah, this was

about two weeks after the Army joint went up.

They still hadn’t cleaned up the rubble, and I

was watching for a crew to come around. Well, I’m

working late again – so what else is new? – and I

look out the window and see this hippie kid

standing in front of the burnt-out building. He

like gets down on his knee on the sidewalk where

the door used to be.”

Vera lifts his left buttock from the edge of

Espinshade’s bed. Jeffreys comes to attention, as

well. “Mr. Espinshade, did you tell the police

about seeing this man?” Jeffreys asks, gently.

The old man cackles. “Hell, no. Just some kid

came to pay his respects to the dead. At first, I

thought maybe he was up to something. I yelled

out the window, ‘What are you doing, punk!,’ and

he drops something and runs off. I high-tail it

across the street to see what kind of crap he’s

trying to pull. But all he’d done was leave some

beads in front of the place. You know, like how

they leave that shit where the Twin Towers were?

Wasn’t anything to tell the cops about. Besides.”

Espinshade raises a puffy hand, waves the

detectives closer.

“Besides,” he whispers. “They were a sweet piece

of work, these beads. Antique stuff, Italian, I

made it. So I kept ’em. I’da told those dumbass

cops, they woulda taken ’em for ‘evidence.’ You

know what ‘evidence’ means, right? Some cop buys

his girlfriend a new outfit. Hey, don’t put that

in your article or whatever, OK, guys?”

**

“Antique beads?” Mulder scowled, sipping his

beer.

“Yeah,” Vera chuckles, his goodwill toward the

agent improving with each round. “Tells us flat

out he stole ’em. Sad thing is, he got robbed a

few months later, and they’re long gone.”

A half-dozen similar conversations are drifting

about the pub along with the smoke and the yeasty

smell of hops and malt. It’s a cop bar, and half

the PPD’s first shift is drowning its sorrows

over bad busts, dimwitted perps, liberal judges,

and the new tide of victims the day has washed

in.

Jeffreys plops a bowl of popcorn on the wobbly

laminated table and pulls out a chair. “Thirty-

five years, he’s sitting on a possible lead, all

because he was afraid of a petty theft charge.”

“More likely, Mr. Espinshade didn’t want anyone

to know he’d stolen from a memorial,” Scully

suggests. “You said he saw the hippie at about

the same time the recruiting office had been

bombed two weeks earlier. Don’t you think that’s

an odd coincidence.”

“It was in the papers, on the news,” Lilly notes.

“It could’ve been just what Espinshade suggested

– a simple gesture of respect. But why beads? It

seems like an awfully personal item.”

“Exactly.” Mulder began to tear the label from

his Bud. “Maybe they had some relevance for the

bomber or the victims. In ancient funereal rites,

beads often signified…”

“God, give it a rest,” Vera growls, slapping his

bottle on the phony wood grain.

“Kid psychics who talk to the dead, feds who talk

like some dweeb at a Trekkie convention, freaking

mad scientists. I’m mean, listen to yourself.”

“Nick,” Valens cautions.

Mulder is unperturbed. “In the ’60s and ’70s, the

Soviets conducted extensive experiments with ESP,

with remote viewing, in the hopes of beefing up

military and intelligence capabilities. Why

couldn’t the U.S. military not explore

psychotropic compounds that might enable spies or

soldiers to share their consciousness, their

thoughts? Imagine the implications for ground or

even air combat of those capabilities could be

refined.”

“Aw, Jesus, you’re freaking nuts,” Vera says.

“He’s freaking nuts. I can’t take this crap any

more…”

“Nick, man,” Valens murmurs. “Thought you said

you were gonna take it easy on the stuff, right?”

Vera sinks back into his chair, petulant. “Yeah,

you want me to say a few dozen Hail Marys?”

The silence that ensues is not one of discomfort

or embarrassment. As realization dawns first

Agent Scully’s, then Lilly’s face, Vera blinks.

“What?” he demands.

**

“Was it Elijah’s idea, or yours?” Lilly asks.

When she is greeted by silence, she continues.

“We found out your brother had been shot down

over Cambodia six months before the bombing.

Elijah wanted to make a noise. Did you tell him

where to make it?”

“How did you ever…?”

“I think you were angry and in anguish over your

brother’s death, but I don’t think you’re a

violent person by nature,” Mulder suggests. “I

think this, all of this, was your reaction to

what you did 35 years ago. You were overcome with

grief after killing those people. Fortson

disappeared, but you couldn’t. Your conscience

wouldn’t let you. That’s why you went back, why

you left that rosary at the recruiting office.”

“It was my grandmother’s.” Father Vincent

Gillesco’s tense expression eases. Lilly detects

what appears to be relief on the priest’s face.

“Elijah told me they were responsible for killing

Tony, for killing all those thousands of boys who

went over to fight for God knows what.” He laughs

bitterly at the irony of his comment, and his

fingers stray over his desk blotter. “I shouldn’t

try to dump my responsibility on Elijah – he

simply channeled the hatred that had been boiling

up inside me. Billy’s death had merely added to

my anger, my confusion.

“I had no idea those people were in that office –

it was after hours. We just wanted to make a

statement. I suppose this is my statement, as

well. A hollow one, I suppose, for those people,

their families. I guess taking Melvin in was a

statement, too.”

“Father, we’re going to have to take you in,”

Lilly informs him, rising reluctantly.

The graying priest nods, closing his eyes for

just a moment, then regarding the cross over the

door beyond the cop and the agents.

“Yes,” he finally breathes. “If I could just…”

Because of the Roman collar, the clergyman’s

subdued demeanor, they fail to comprehend what’s

happening until Father Vincent has pulled open

the center drawer and hoisted the blue steel

revolver.

Lilly’s weapon is out in a second and leveled at

the priest. “Drop it, Father!” she yells as

Mulder and Scully draw down.

Father Vincent smiles sadly, his arm crooking and

the barrel dimpling his temple. “It’s a

technicality at best, Det. Rush, but I wouldn’t

want this on your soul.”

“Father,” Scully cautions tersely. “You have to

know that what you’re proposing to do…”

“Is a sin? You know, I took this gun from a young

man, 14 — a member of one of the neighborhood

gangs who’s run drugs since he was nine. He was

going to kill the man who runs the convenience

store around the corner, because he was

disrespectful to his mother. The boy told me this

in confession – wanted me to absolve him in

advance for the senseless act of violence he

intended to commit. Thank God I was able to help

him see, to convince him to give up his gun and

his plan. Now I wonder if this wasn’t part of

some other larger plan…”

“You know that isn’t so,” Scully counters.

“Please, Father. This isn’t part of any plan.”

“Perhaps there isn’t any plan.” The sound of the

hammer cocking fills the room.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have

called you by name, you are mine…” Melvin

Johnson’s words reverberate throughout the room,

enveloping its four armed inhabitants like

amniotic fluid. Lilly’s aim remains steadfast,

but her eyes dart momentarily toward the

arthritic, nearly blind old man. “When you pass

through the waters, I will be with you; and

through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm

you.”

The hand holding the revolver begins to tremble.

Melvin hobbles past Lilly and the federal agents.

Despite the deadly gravity of the situation,

despite he is smiling, lovingly, paternally down

at the agent of his salvation. “You remember

that, Father? You comin’ down there to read

scripture to some crazy old drunk druggie?

Thought to myself, ‘Who’s this white boy try to

tell me the word of the Lord, try to save me?

Who’s he think he is?’ ‘Member what I told you

you could do with your scripture, Father?” Melvin

cackled, turning to Lilly and the agents.

“Goodness, can’t repeat it in polite company. But

you wouldn’t leave me, even with me cussing and

hollerin’ at you to get your white ass outta my

alleyway. Say, why don’t you all put them guns

down? Man my age could have an infarction. You

too, now, Father.”

Eyes ablaze with uncertainty, Mulder lowers his

weapon. Lilly follows, and Scully relaxes her

aim.

Melvin nods. “That’s better. C’mon, now, Father.

No place for this in the Lord’s house. I ain’t

gonna tell that boy you took his pistol away just

so you could shed your own blood. Got enough

bloodshed out there, without you blaspheming His

house.” The sexton’s voice takes on an edge.

“Father? Son?”

“Forgive me,” Father Vincent whispers, easing the

hammer back and placing the gun on his blotter.

“There, now,” Melvin murmurs, gnarled fingers

reaching out to stroke the priest’s graying hair.

“I will be with you, son.”

**

Her eyes aching, Lilly sets aside the thick

McHenry casefile as the doorbell sounds. One of

the “girls” is draped over her thigh; the

detective gentle disengages her and peers through

the peephole.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Detective,” Agent

Scully murmurs as the door swings open. “But I

had a theory I wanted to bounce off you.”

“Sure.” Lilly, confused, steps aside and ushers

her guest into the living room. “I don’t mind,

but why me? And why not in the morning?”

“Well, I think you and I are in a better position

to evaluate my theory, and– Oh my.”

Lilly suppresses a smile as the “girls” greet

Scully, caressing her thigh with low, pleasured

rumblings. The agent stares down at the one-eyed

feline and her three-legged companion.

“Are they, um, are they rescue animals?” Scully

asks, anxiously.

“You want some tea or some decaf, Agent?”

“Ah, tea, but only if you’re having some.” Lilly

notices for the first time that Scully is

carrying a large shopping bag from one of the

major Philly department stores.

Lilly nods and heads for the kitchenette. “And

what is my special position, Agent?”

“Dana.”

“Lilly.”

Scully settles onto the couch as the girls follow

their owner into the galley. “I got to thinking

about Billy McHenry’s behavior and actions in the

period before the murder. His fatigue, his work

in Hoesch’s lab falling off. His erratic comings

and goings and that phone conversation Hoesch

heard — McHenry’s emphasizing his commitment,

his realization about what was ‘important.’ Our

assumption has been that McHenry was involved in

some kind of activity most like with Elijah

Fortson. But there is another possible

interpretation that explains everything,

including the forensic evidence at the crime

scene.”

Lilly emerges, a cup of steaming liquid in each

hand. “And that is?”

Scully reaches into the bag and withdraws a stack

of videotapes. “I wanted to see if I could get

some kind of confirmation, so I stopped by the

local TV stations and had them dub off some news

footage for roughly a year prior to McHenry’s

death. Do you have a VCR?”

Lilly nods. “I guess there goes C.S.I., huh?”

**

” ‘Donna’ came to Philadelphia in October 1967 —

she and her parents had had a falling out, and

she left Bucks County to come to school here.”

Scully punches the “Play” button, and she and

Lilly are transported to a slightly discolored

era of love and peace and discontent. A solid

blue line of uniforms stand rooted silently

before a mass of young people chanting their

displeasure at the war a world away, at the

corruption of absolute power. Scully hits

“Pause,” and the chanting stops. “See, there’s

Donna, Mrs. Topher. In the white tank top and

bellbottoms and the granny glasses. McHenry’s

right behind her. This is in August 1968.”

Lilly peers at the willowy, unfocused young

woman. “OK…”

Scully stops and pops the tape and shoves another

into the Panasonic, glancing momentarily at the

cyclopean creature rubbing her forearm. “This

tape is from three months later — it’s a sit-in

at the university student union. There’s Donna,

next to the man in the dashiki near the bulletin

board.”

“Plumped up some over the winter,” Lilly murmurs.

“Guess the bra-burning must’ve been a huge

success.”

“Remember that.”

“Huh?”

“OK, let’s fast-forward to February 1969 — Nixon

protest at City Hall. Donna’s once again in

attendance, with McHenry.”

“Where? I don’t see her?”

Scully shakes her head. “No, you just don’t

recognize her. She’s changed her fashion

statement and gained some more weight. Look in

front of the podium — the girl in the poncho and

the flower girl dress.”

“She was getting into the role,” Lilly suggests.

“I don’t think so. That’s a heavy wool poncho,

and according to the U.S. Weather Service, this

was one of Philadelphia’s warmest Februaries on

record.”

Lilly sinks back onto the couch, scrutinizing the

flower child who would become a society matron.

“I don’t see where you’re going, Dana.”

Scully pauses the tape and turns to the cop. “I

searched all the archives of the three major

affiliates in town, and this apparently was

Donna’s last on-camera appearance until May 1969,

at a peace rally downtown. Look at her.” She zips

ahead to Philadelphia in the spring.

“Ah, the braless look returns,” Lilly grins. “She

must have shed a few for the tank top season.”

“I don’t think so,” Scully counters quietly.

“That’s why I wanted your perspective. A woman’s

perspective.”

**

“We lost another one last night,” Janice Grey

sighs, riffling through the hospice pantry for

the Celestial Seasonings. She locates the Red

Zinger, and turns to Lilly and Scully. “Twenty-

six, he was. Astonishing. War was killing them

then, now its AIDS and the gangs. If I wasn’t

such a hard-bitten atheist, I’d almost believe

there was a perverse design at work – a sort of

cosmic bent toward our own extinction. Sugar,

Det. Rush?”

“No, thanks, Doctor.” At a crucial point in her

life, Janice was an outlaw, a criminal, in some

people’s view, a villain. She and Lilly had met a

year or so ago, when the latter was investigating

a ’69 double murder linked to Philadelphia’s

underground abortion parlors.

Dr. Grey lowers a teabag into each of the three

mugs on the breakroom table and then her thin,

arthritic frame into a chair beside the cop and

the agent. “I assume you’re here about my former

practice. No violent death here – at least no

violence within the context of your job. You want

to know about one of my girls?”

“This one would’ve been different,” Lilly

murmurs.

**

“It was 1969,” Lilly begins. “Chaos and confusion

everywhere. A war over there, battle lines being

drawn here. People dropping out, running away,

searching for identity. It was a lot easier back

then to just disappear, to fade into the

background. Wasn’t it?”

Francine Topher stares impassively at the

detective across the interrogation table, as

Mulder, Scully, and Valens hang back. She’s come

in without Joe Miller this time, but she’s not

volunteering anything.

“Donna Geistner vanishes, Francine Topher comes

whol into the world. Even today, shredding one

identity and creating another one’s no easy task.

But back then, kids were being shuttled to Canada

under the radar screen, drug distributors and

dealers were networking before Microsoft even

burned its first piece of software, and

underground clinics were popping up all over the

city to clean up after all the free love going

around.”

Francine’s eyes flicker away for a nanosecond.

Lilly kneels beside her. “Something was upsetting

Billy, occupying him, those last few months

before his death. We thought it was something

criminal, maybe something to do with Elijah

Fortson. We were wrong.”

“McHenry was distracted,” Scully takes the ball.

“He was tired, and his studies and work were

suffering. A phone would ring and he’d leave the

university lab, abruptly, with no explanation.

Dr. Hoesch overheard him talking to someone,

agitated, guilty, defensive. McHenry had some

kind of appointment or obligation he clearly

viewed as a burden.”

Lilly rises to her feet, retrieves a folder from

the head of the table, and opens it for

Francine’s inspection. She leafs through the

photos of the girl who would become Francine

Topher, and looks up, baffled.

“We took these from news footage of events you

participated in from August 1968 to May 1969,”

the detective explains. “During that period, you

went from willowy slimness to buxom

voluptuousness to ponchoed plumpness,

disappearing from the public eye for about two

months before re-emerging, once again a willowy

wisp of a girl. You know where we’re heading,

don’t you, Mrs. Topher?”

Francine’s hands are now clutched on the

tabletop, knuckles as pale and exsanguinated as

her face.

“It’s all there in these photos – a gradual

weight gain, increased breast size, the attempts

to conceal your abdomen the last few months,”

Agent Scully murmurs. “With the braless look that

became so popular in the sixties, I can even see

the symptomatic darkening of the areolae

surrounding your nipples. Billy wasn’t

disappearing from the lab to plot with Elijah and

Vincent. He was babysitting.”

The room is still. Suddenly, with a slow,

tremulous expulsion of air, Francine remembers to

breathe.

“Janice Grey helped you give birth in April

1969,” Lilly continues, softly. “Helped you have

Billy McHenry’s baby. It was Billy’s, wasn’t it?”

Francine nods absently.

“You carried that child to term, and went to an

underground abortion clinic to bring it into the

world. You and Billy were living hand-to-mouth,

and yet you kept the baby, worked your schedule

around it. And Billy’s.

“There was an object on the bed when Billy died.

I think it was the baby. What happened to that

child, Francine? Why did you kill Billy?

July 20, 1969

“Billy!”

Billy turned to find Donna towering above the

bed, eyes alight with horror, crocheted handbag

clutched in her white fingers. He smiled,

clutching the tarnished carving knife absently.

“What are you doing?” the girl whispered,

glancing anxiously at the parcel on the bed.

“It’s all right,” the boy assured her in a voice

all the more frightening for its fatalistic calm.

“It’s going to be all right. It’s what he wants.”

“He?” Donna moves forward, cautiously. “Why would

you do this, Billy? You said you were cool with

it. Please, give me the knife.”

“This is the only way out. The only way to save

us.”

“No, no, it’s not. I’ll split, we’ll split.

You’ll never see us again. I promise. This is not

the way, Billy.”

Billy nodded, then turned. The hand rose and the

knife’s blade glittered in the afternoon sun.

Donna lunged, seizing Billy’s arm. He turned,

grabbed the hand clamped around his, and Donna

yelped as he applied pressure.

The weapon slipped, and a thin line of blood

erupted from Billy’s palm. He didn’t seem to

register the pain, and Donna wondered if he was

high on something serious. He yanked at the knife

as Donna twisted it away from her chest.

Her energy was waning as a sudden cry pierced the

stale air of the tiny bedroom. The infant on the

bedspread began to mewl, and as Donna’s attention

was diverted, Billy tugged the knife free.

It sunk to the hilt beneath his sternum. Donna

screamed, but no sound would come out. Billy

looked down, then, with apparent amazement, up at

the mother of his child. His eyes filled, but his

lips spread in a wide, grateful smile.

“Praise be,” Billy whispered before he crumpled

to the mattress…

**

Francine Topher’s immaculately manicured fingers

worries her empty coffee cop. “I took Lucas –

that was what we’d named him – bundled up in a

poncho so no one would recognize me, and

just…left.”

Lilly looks to Agent Mulder, who’d guessed the

truth behind Melvin Johnson’s “vision” of the

Virgin Mary and child outside Billy’s apartment

building.

“I knew I could never give Lucas a good home as

long as there was a possibility you people would

find me, so I left him at a hospital ER and

disappeared. It was easy, back then. The rest?”

Francine smiled wearily up at Lilly. “Well, the

rest just doesn’t really matter now, does it?”

Lilly leans across the table, her hands resting

only an inch from Donna’s. “It was self-defense,

Francine. You were defending your child. I’m sure

the court will understand. It was a long, long

time ago.”

Francine’s smile was bitter. “The Summer of Love.

It was all about freedom. Billy didn’t want any

commitment, any strings. He would have killed our

child, my child, to win his freedom back.”

Mulder comes off the wall, speaking for the first

time. “I don’t believe Billy intended to murder

your child,” he suggests.

Francine’s dead eyes try to focus on the agent.

“He was standing over my baby with a knife,” she

recites dully. He told me it was the only way

out. What do you believe was his intention?”

“I guess what I should say is, I don’t believe

Billy meant to kill your son as a matter of

convenience. In fact, I don’t think he was

capable of thinking rationally at that moment.

What Billy meant was not that killing the boy was

the only way out of an unbearable burden, but

that it was the only way he could gain

salvation.”

“I don’t…”

“You told us Prof. Hoesch was supplying Billy

with psilocybic mushrooms. Remember the night you

walked in on Billy and the others, their odd

behavior? The way they were acting almost as one?

Well, I think Hoesch was experimenting on them.

There have been reports of Meso-American rituals

where groups that have taken fungal extracts

experience a sort of collective consciousness.

They share thoughts, visions, experiences.

“I think that’s what happened that summer. Billy

and his friends began to share a common

consciousness. But Billy unwittingly invited a

diseased, tortured consciousness into the group.”

Francine’s eyes search Mulder’s, then widen. “The

Horseman,” she murmurs.

Mulder nods. “My guess is Melvin Johnson had a

severe case of survivor’s guilt — you see it a

lot in post-9/11 New Yorkers. In 1963, a KKK bomb

killed four young girls in Alabama, near where

Johnson had lived and preached. Johnson was a man

of deep religious conviction, but those

children’s deaths damaged his faith, twisted it.

He came to Philadelphia to get away, but also to

try to change his world. When he found he

couldn’t, he turned to drugs and alcohol, layered

with Old Testament proselytizing. Retribution and

original sin, the fires of Hell burning eternally

for all souls. And sacrifice.”

Francine’s fingers now have stilled.

“‘After these things God tested Abraham, and said

to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.” He

said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom

you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer

him there as a burnt offering upon one of the

mountains of which I shall tell you.’ Genesis 22:

1-2. According to the story, God spared Isaac at

the last moment, but I think to Melvin Johnson,

those four dead girls represented some kind of

blood sacrifice to a dark god, a message of the

world’s growing depravity and inhumanity. I think

that’s how Johnson had come to see the world, and

I think Billy became infected with that world

view when his consciousness melded with The

Horseman’s.

“Look at the other members of Hoesch’s ‘tribe,’

the impact their experimentation had on them that

Summer of ’69. The allegedly atheistic Elijah

Fortson’s social diatribes were sprinkled with

biblical parables and admonitions. Ned Squiers

created a public scene in a downtown bank,

chastising the ‘moneylenders.’ Vincent Gillesco

entered the priesthood, spurred in part by guilt

over his role in the recruiting office bombing.

They were weak young men, directionless and

confused. I think Johnson’s will was too strong

for any of them, especially for Billy, who was

looking for some fundamental answers.”

“And his answer was to murder our child.”

Francine’s response is nearly inaudible.

“He wasn’t himself. Billy was acting under the

unwitting influence of a madman and a

manipulative opportunist. He was insane. I

thought you ought to know that, that it might

offer you at least some solace.”

Francine Topher looks up, meets Mulder’s eyes

with her own steady, critical gaze, causing him

momentarily to glance away. A smile forms — a

mirthless, possibly pitying thing.

“It was a time of madness,” she informs the

agent. “Injustice and violence transformed that

poor man — what did you say his name was,

Johnson? — into a shell-shocked ghost spouting

God’s vengeance. Vincent’s grief over his brother

allowed him to murder those innocent people in

that recruiting office. The madness of war and

intolerance and disillusionment infected all of

us. And even if it’s as you say, that Billy was

trying to sacrifice our baby to redeem his soul,

what solace should that offer me? I killed my

baby’s father, sacrificed my child so he might

have a chance at some kind of better life. I lost

my innocence and a lot more in that apartment

that day. I want that innocence back. Can you

offer me that, Agent Mulder?”

**

Melvin Johnson lowers himself painfully from the

last step of the bus, feeling the unspoken

impatience of the wives, parents, and survivors

behind him. He holds no animus toward these

pilgrims as he moves slowly toward the visitor’s

gate at the Pennsylvania Federal Men’s

Correctional Facility. Melvin knows the Lord

works in mysterious ways and that these walking

wounded must find their own way out of the

darkness of their misery and anger.

The new priest is a kind and charitable – if

somewhat detached — man who wants to continue

the good works of his predecessor. Melvin has

agreed to stay on as sexton — he has known no

other world for three decades. Father Vincent

remains keenly interested in the doings of the

parish and its souls.

Melvin will never know how his moment of madness

cost one life and irrevocably altered at least

three others. It is his faith in a kinder god

that ties him inextricably to St. Bartholomew’s,

that brings him every Saturday to the state men’s

facility and Father Vincent, arthritis and the

mass transit permitting.

**

Ned Squiers doesn’t see her at first: He’s

focused on his single malt Scotch – the first of

his ritualistic evening drinks following the six

o’clock cast.

“I’m sorry.” The woman on the next stool is too

young, with too much of her freshly-scrubbed

flesh oozing out of a black killer dress. Ned’s

eyes adjust about 11 inches to the north and

shows his capped teeth. “You’re Ned the

Weatherguy, right?”

Meteorologist, you empty-headed little tramp.

“Yep. That would be me.”

“Wow, you are soo funny,” the girl chirps. She

wiggles on the stool, and Ned nearly spills his

Scotch. “Hey, you knew that protestor guy, didn’t

you? The guy on CourtTV?”

“Back in the day,” Ned acknowledges, checking his

look in the bar mirror. What he sees brings him

up straight: A lanky, long-locked young man with

the light of rebellion in his eyes and a world

ahead of him. He blinks, and the stool once again

is occupied by a paunchy 58-year-old weather

forecaster who peddles used cars during the break

between sports and the stock report.

“God, this is like meeting some historical guy or

something,” his new friend gushes. “It’s so hard

to believe you used to be a hippie? That’s so-o-o

cool.”

“You want a fresh-up?” Ned asks, too quickly.

She nonetheless beams. “Well, sure. That’s so

sweet…”

“Groovy,” he quips, sucking at his gut.

**

Deputy Director Walter Skinner closes the thick

manila folder, placing it carefully on his

blotter and looking up at the two agents who have

been waiting so patiently for him to study their

conclusions regarding his cousin’s death.

“It’s hardly the outcome I was hoping for,” the

burly ex-Marine sighs. “But I appreciate all the

hard work you two put in on this.”

Mulder nods, and he and Scully rise. Skinner

clears his throat, and the pair freeze

expectantly. His glance moves from one to the

other, across a mental landscape of rice paddies,

jungles, and waves of angry and hopeful faces,

and waves dismissal.

“Thanks — that’s all,” he murmurs, returning to

his desktop.

**

Ted McElvoy glances at his watch: He’s been

sitting at the curb at the edge of the rolling

lawn now for close to an hour. Shelley had warned

him repeatedly this would be difficult, perhaps

even traumatic, but he’d laughed it off. He was a

35-year-old businessman – he’d faced down the

post-9/11 recession, angry clients, takeover

threats.

Ted had stared down two-ton quarterbacks both in

high school and college, hammered a childhood

learning disability into an MBA, produced two

bright, happy children both with two arms and two

legs. He had suspected this day would arrive, and

when the attorney had called, he had been calm,

clinical, rational. Ted had thanked his parents,

his wife for their concern and assured them it

was misplaced.

Ted bolts upright – he thinks he’s spotted some

movement at the front door of the sprawling Tudor

home. Just a cat, he realizes, sinking back into

the driver’s seat.

It’s not that he holds any grudges or misgivings.

He’s read the news accounts, knows what was

sacrificed on his behalf, recognizes the price

she paid those many years ago to assure his

happiness.

But here, in his Maxima at the curb at the edge

of the lawn maybe 50 yards from her, Ted cannot

will himself to move. It has been 35 years; a few

more days, weeks, months, won’t make any

difference.

Abruptly, he jams the key in the ignition. “I’m

sorry,” Ted whispers, the Tudor house and the

manicured lawn blurring. He rubs his face with

the sleeve of his $300 jacket and cruises away

from the curb, failing to notice Francine Topher,

his mother, emerging from the darkness beyond the

second-floor curtains…

**

“You really expect to gain any kind of respect in

the field with this kind of incoherent rambling?”

Frederic Hoesch smirks, tipping his head at the

essay on the corner of his desk. He doesn’t touch

it, doesn’t dignify the girl’s apathetic effort.

The blonde, athletic, a ring through her navel,

doesn’t even look at the paper bloodied by

Hoesch’s scarlet criticisms. “It’s an elective,

and I’m taking it pass-fail. I’ll take my chances

with the anthropological community. And if you’re

thinking at all about failing me based on this

one grade, let me warn you: I’m a law student,

and my dad’s with one of the biggest firms in

Pittsburgh. I’ve heard about you, and if there’s

even a hint you tried anything, it’ll be you

trying to get back your ‘respect in the field.'”

She retrieves her paper, and slips out the

pebbled glass door. Hoesch, dumbstruck, watches

her silhouette as she is joined by a second

figure. The sound of laughter dopplers down the

hall outside.

In the old days, she’d have begged for mercy,

been brought to tears -maybe even her knees – by

his condemnation. Hoesch reaches for his mug; his

hand freezes as he notices the liver spots for

the first time.

His heart leaps nearly into his throat as the

phone warbles. After scaring away five

secretaries in four years, Hoesch now answers his

own line.

“Yeah, Fred?” Gerard, the department head.

Despite his familiarity, his voice is chilled,

threatening. “You need to come down to my office,

ASAP. The Faculty Ethics Committee wants some

answers to some fairly grave charges the FBI has

raised.”

“FBI? Charges.” That man, Mulder. Hoesch gulps

for oxygen.

“Charges you conducted illegal drug

experimentation with students back in the

sixties. Charges you had a hand in developing

some kind of military weapon without the

university’s knowledge. Charges that you may have

some kind of complicity in the deaths of several

dozen Southeast Asian civilians. You may want to

get in touch with your attorney, Fred. In fact, I

would strongly advise it.”

“This is absurd, Gerard. You must know that.”

“Just get down here ASAP,” Gerard murmurs with a

touch of frost.

The phone remains locked in Hoesch’s fingers even

as the dial tone shrills in his ear, even as a

tingly numbness spreads seemingly from the

handset up his left arm…

**

“You keepin’ your nose clean, boy?” Aunt Mary

inquires with a severity that belies her

diminutive size and the sweet smile that once

healed many a scraped knee and bruised psyche.

Will Jeffreys keeps his own smile inside – to

Aunt Mary, this huge, graying detective is still

13, struggling with angels and demons on the

Philly streets, in darkened project stairwells.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responds, dutifully and

sincerely.

He is rewarded with that healing smile, and

momentarily, the smell of urine and

pharmaceuticals, the greenish cast of the

fluorescents, the omnipresence of Death

disappear. Will is one of the last of Aunt Mary’s

nephews to keep up a weekly visitation schedule,

and even if she never sees her 98th birthday, he

will be here every week until her days here end.

Every week, she asks him the same question, every

week, he respectfully reassures her. Time has

stopped inside the corridors of Liberty Manor

Care Center, just prior to that awful day more

than 30 years ago.

“Talked to your Cousin Helen the other day.”

Helen has been in the ground for 23 years now.

Will smiles encouragingly. “Lillie Belle, you

know, from Carolina on your daddy’s side, is

coming up for a visit. Ain’t seen that girl in an

age.”

Will recalls the preacher’s daughter solely from

an old black-and-white his father had displayed

at the breakfast table that somber morning in the

Summer of ’69, when the world seemed temporarily

to end.

He takes his aunt’s hand, leathery and webbed

with age, and gives it a squeeze, gently.

“That’ll be nice.”

July 20, 1969

The boy turned from the set to which he had been

glued for the last several hours. “Mom!” he

yelled. “Tell her to quit buggin’ me!”

Teena appeared in the kitchen archway, blouse

dusted with Blue Ribbon flour, a pretty smile

brightening her routinely worried features.

“Samantha, are you bothering your brother?”

“I’m tryin’ to watch,” the boy complained. “This

is important!”

Teena suppresses a smile. Everything is important

to seven-year-old Fox, who knows Vulcan

philosophy better than his English homework, who

can name every man in the Apollo space program.

“I wanna play Chutes and Ladders,” his little

sister pouted. “He’s been watching this stupid

show all day, and you said his eyes would go

bad.”

“Show!” Fox mumbled disgustedly.

Teena kneeled before Sam, brushing back a lock of

her long hair. “This is special, Baby. Your

brother’s been anxious to see this. Let’s go in

the kitchen and make some sugar cookies. OK?”

Sam clapped her tiny hands. “Yeah!” She turns to

her big brother, who she normally worships.

“That’s all fake anyway. Linda’s big brother says

they ain’t really on the moon – it’s all a

movie.”

Fox whipped around, a look of sheer malice

passing through his deep, close-set eyes. “Shut

up! Linda’s ree-tard brother got held back twice

in the third grade.”

“Fox!” Teena snapped.

“We went to the moon to build a remote outpost,”

he continued, grinning meanly. “So we can fight

the aliens. You think The Invaders is just a

show?”

“Mom,” Sam whispered, her pretty features growing

pale.

“Fox, stop it this second.”

“They live among us, Sam. They take little kids

like you to do science experiments on. They take

out your eyeballs and – ”

“NOO!!!” Sam shrieked. Her face goes instantly

from white to scarlet, and tears streak her round

face. “MAKE HIM STOP! TELL HIM TO STOP!”

Fox’s face crumpled in alarm. He looked to his

silently reproving mother and his screaming four-

year-old sister in shame. “Hey, Sam, c’mon.”

“NOOO!!”

Suddenly, Walter Cronkite and Buzz Aldrin and

Neil Armstrong were as distant to Fox as the

airless face of the moon. He scrambled to his

feet and seized his sister. Sam fought him, but

soon she surrendered. Fox rocked her, stroking

her hair, tasting his own tears.

“It’s OK, Sam,” he pleaded, suddenly uninterested

in Man taking his first small step on an airless

orb. “It’s not true. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,

please. I’ll never let anything hurt you. Never.

Never…”

**

Lilly spots him on the bus bench across from the

station. Watching her, waiting. Smiling, she

crosses, dropping onto the graffiti-scarred wood

beside him. The Beatles emanate tinnily from a

nearby hotdog stand.

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly

melting,” Lennon sings, alive again, voice ripe

with renewal and redemption. “Little darling, it

seems like years since it’s been clear… Here

comes the sun…Here comes the sun…And I say, it’s

all right…”

“Cole.”

Cole Sear glances up, the serene smile

illuminating his cherubic face.

“It’s over,” Lilly reports. “We found out who

killed Billy McHenry.”

“That’s good, really great.”

“You were right. Billy wasn’t himself, I don’t

think. You may hear something different on the

news, but I wanted you to know you helped point

us to the right answer.”

Cole nods, not with vindication, but merely with

a calm acceptance. Unlike the others in the squad

who find the boy’s somber, accepting demeanor

unsettling or sad, Lilly feels a connection with

Cole, who is cursed, blessed, endowed, whatever,

with feeling and healing the pain others can’t

see.

Cole pauses, then looks at her shyly. “That lady,

the FBI agent?”

“Agent Scully?”

“Tell her…” he hesitates. “Tell her Bill wants

her to be happy. She’ll know who that is. He

loves her, and he says he’s sorry for not having

enough faith. He said he couldn’t tell me

everything, but he doesn’t want her to give up.

Her or her friend.”

Lilly is silent for a moment, then nods. She will

never know if Cole’s message is inspired by

insight or insanity, but she will pass it on to

Scully, hoping somewhere inside it will bring

light to dark corners. Even as she looks to her

own communion with the dead to shed some

illumination on her life.

The day is warm, and Lilly lingers on the bench.

Across the street, another boy catches her eye –

the solitary still figure in a sea of late

afternoon congestion. His hair is long, his

clothes bright, and around his throat is a broken

cross encircled by metal.

Lilly smiles at Billy McHenry, at least Billy

McHenry as she sees him in his last summer of

love, of innocence, of life. Smiling, Billy

raises a fist, extends two fingers in a familiar

gesture of peace.

A belching Metro bus passes between Lilly and

Billy, and he is gone. She then remembers Cole,

seated beside her, and glances self-consciously

at him.

The boy is staring across the street, at

precisely the spot where Lilly gave mental form

to Billy McHenry. Not wishing to disturb his

communion, Lilly gathers herself and returns

silently to the world of the living.

*end

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