Author: Martin Ross

Category: Holiday/casefile

Spoilers: Synchrony, Law and Order: Criminal Intent

Summary: Scully is drawn into the investigation of an old college

“friend,” who appears to be leaving her clues to a possible murder.

Rating: R for sexual content and language

Disclaimer: To Chris Carter, who took crime into new realms, and Dick

Wolf, who enforces Law and Order on the networks.


The last time I saw Melissa Cline, I’d narrowly avoided practicing one of

my then-new Quantico chokeholds on her. Instead, I emptied my mimosa

into her Prada bag while she was perusing the brunch bar, dropped some

currency on the table, and left her cooing over the gymnastics of the

omelet chef.

She never called back, and I never looked back. Well, I suppose I later

regretted the petulance I showed in my parting gesture – or perhaps the

fact that “Missy” likely considered the lining of her pricey handbag a

small price to pay for getting my goat. Melissa had been one of the

University of Maryland’s most relentless and perceptive goat-hunters, and

nothing had changed five years later, when she’d blown into Washington

to heckle my decision to leave medicine for federal law enforcement.

She’d brought fresh blood to the wounds of disappointment Dad had


Mulder, obviously, finds the story hilarious and periodically cajoles me to

repeat it to others. If Missy savors goat heart, Mulder relishes raw Achilles

heel. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to ration his servings, and I swore off Missy

Cline altogether.

Or so I thought.

“So, did you ever read the novel?” Missy asked as she looked over my

shoulder at the New York skyline. It had been her novel, of course – a

signed Christmas gift, and her first to crack the New York Times list.

Missy’s futuristic tales of crime, espionage, and romance had bridged two

disparate readerships, even if they hadn’t won the hearts of the entire

critical community. I’d quit after about 30 pages, the buzzing in my head

after about two hours and a couple of wine coolers.

“It was fun,” I smiled.

Missy nodded appreciatively. “We’re talking with Jolie about playing Ava

Phoenix.” Phoenix was her recurring FBI agent-sleuth, prone toward a

jarring mélange of hardboiled cop jargon and wistful romanticizing. I

prayed I wasn’t her inspiration, although she had shown uncharacteristic

interest in my graduate thesis on quantum mechanics and time. Missy’s

recently dermabrased face clouded. “If the whole deal doesn’t fall through


“Is that why you called me?” I asked, careful to keep the acid out of my

tone. “I didn’t expect to hear from you again after our last meeting.”

Missy smirked fleetingly. “Water under the bridge, Dana. But I will admit

I could use your help with this thing.”

“This thing” was a dead 17-year-old who Missy allegedly had caught

attempting to burglarize her apartment two weeks earlier. She’d secured a

carry permit a year or so ago to protect herself against a stalker, and when

Anthony Underwood tried to attack the returning condo owner, Missy had

exercised her Second Amendment rights.

The case had seemed fairly cut-and-dried at first – Missy had sustained

some bruises and scrapes from her altercation with Underwood, and there

had been a series of neighborhood robberies prior to the shooting. But then

the wire had started exploring Underwood’s back story – high school

salutatorian, multi-lettered varsity athlete, prospective Yale recruit from a

solid middle-middle-class family. He also owned a substantial science

fiction library, and the press on the case forked off toward two basic

hypotheses: a.) Anthony Underwood was a buff gone bad, a junior league

Hinckley or Chapman who’d become obsessed with Missy; or b.) Missy

was an aging femme fatale who’d lured, then rejected, a young fan and

would-be suitor.

That the shooting had occurred on Valentine’s Day only fueled the

media’s affection for the case.

“After I passed the polygraph test, the press started to die down,” Missy

continued. “But this detective on the case is psychotic, obsessed. Goren.

He keeps insinuating I cold-bloodedly murdered that boy.”

I sighed. “I don’t know what you expect me to do. I’m sure the local

police would only resent my interference, and you passed the polygraph,

right? If this Detective Goren is fishing, I’m sure this will pass soon

enough. Missy, why did you call me, anyway? I don’t want to appear petty

or insensitive, but you have to admit we were never the best of friends.”

“Yeah, I know. But I’ve kept up with your career. You understand things.”

I frowned. What did she mean, I understood? Because I was a woman?

Surely it wasn’t because of my “special” assignment with Mulder. Missy

was up to something here. I waited for her to elaborate, but she sat

silently, studying me.

“All right,” I finally murmured. “I’ll talk to your psychotic detective.”


For once, the queen of hyperbole wasn’t far off the mark: There was

something distinctly unsettling about Det. Robert Goren.

After leaving Missy’s, I called a friend of Mulder’s on the NYPD, and

he’d filled me in. Goren had been a star on the Narcotics Squad prior to

his transfer to the Major Case Squad, racking up 27 major arrests and 27

convictions. Now, he was one of the department’s top homicide cops and a

fierce interrogator who specialized in playing both good and bad cop

almost simultaneously. Goren was into French Impressionism, knew fluent

German from an Army stint, and enjoyed ballroom dancing. His

knowledge of psychology and behavioral science was encyclopedic and

instinctual, though he’d never bothered to earn the doctorate. Goren was a

lapsed Catholic (join the club), and his mother reportedly was

institutionalized somewhere upstate.

And while he talked like a tenured NYU criminology prof, he looked like

and seemed to have the sly savvy of many of the more lethal psychopaths

Mulder had profiled over the years.

“You’re a friend of Ms. Cline’s, then,” Goren stated with an ingratiatingly

unnerving smile. His hands were steepled before him on the tabletop, and

he was an oasis of serenity in the center of the diner’s whirlwind of

activity. His partner, Det. Eames, was as petite and elfin as he was hulking

and troll-like, but she sat silently and seriously as her partner took stock.

“We knew each other in college,” I answered neutrally. His smile


“She’s a very assertive woman, I mean, your friend, Ms. Cline.” Goren

shrugged, almost apologetically. “Isn’t she? A real take-charge sort of

person. Lots of charisma? Wouldn’t you say?” He looked to Eames, who

nodded curtly. “What struck me about Ms. Cline is how she almost takes

command of any room she’s in. It’s a trait I admire, though, well, I guess

it could probably be off-putting to those closest to her.”

“Detective,” I murmured. “Let’s save some time here. I know Melissa

Cline, we went to the same university, and we shared the same social

circle. However, as you’ve obviously surmised, we’re not what you’d call

close friends. I hadn’t seen her for nearly a decade when she called and

asked me to look into your investigation. I will say I don’t see Melissa as a

cold-blooded killer.”

Goren glanced at Eames with mock astonishment. Her brows rose and fell.

“Yeah, Danielle Steele meets Isaac Asimov. You don’t think she has it in


I sighed. “I don’t believe Melissa has the depth or passion necessary to

have seduced and then lured this young man to his death. Melissa was

never inclined toward relationships that didn’t have some professional

end-goal. In college, she dated boys who could offer her social

advancement on campus or a step up on the career track. The rest she

dismissed offhand — ‘Not if he was the last man on Earth,’ she always

said.” I swallowed the bitterness in my voice as Goren’s eyes sharpened.

“I just don’t see what the point would have been for her — the Underwood

boy wasn’t what she wanted, served no purpose.”

Goren nodded. “You ever read The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Agent? You

know, your ‘friend’ has been slipping on the Times list lately. Last book

didn’t crack 13. Maybe Underwood was what she needs right now — a

little reflected glory, a little ego validation.”

“From what I understand, you haven’t been able to establish any evidence

they even knew each other, let alone had a relationship going. Did you

check his e-mail? If they hooked up, that’s likely how it would’ve


The detective’s smile vanished, and he blinked as if at a minor annoyance.

“Everything was clean there — no sign of any communications between

them, or that he’d deleted any messages between them. Underwood’s cell

phone was clean, too. Likewise with your friend’s PC.”

I sipped my coffee. “Detective, have you read any of Melissa’s books?”

Goren’s smile reappeared, like a snake returning to feed on carrion. “I

scanned a few.”

“Well, what was your impression?”

“Derivative but innovative, if that’s possible. Sound scientific research

and expert extrapolation of future technology and social trends. The

characters, the dialogue, the plots, on the other hand, were hackneyed,

clichéd, but smooth and calculated. If I had to guess, I’d say she has a

professional researcher or maybe a ghost, except her first book had the

same style, well before she hit the bestseller lists.”

“The media has made a big deal out of Anthony Underwood being a sci-fi

fan,” I persisted. “But do you seriously see a teenaged boy getting into this

derivative hybrid romance Melissa writes?”

“No,” Goren conceded. “But I do remember what teen boys are into, and

I’d say your friend meets the necessary criteria.”


“Well, you know what Jon Bon Jovi said,” Mulder finally piped up after

I’d filled him in. “Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame! Honey, you

give love a BAD NAME!!”

He was on speaker back in D.C., and I smiled despite myself as I pictured

him performing a flawless air guitar solo.

“It just doesn’t track,” Scully said. “Any of it. Missy seducing some high

school kid, him being attracted to her. Missy calling me — we’re not

precisely sorority sisters.”

“Maybe that’s it,” Mulder suggested. “She wants an objective viewpoint,

and who would be more objective than the woman who ruined her best


“Let it go, Mulder.” I leaned back against the pillow. “Look, you said you

filed your report on the Jeffords case. Why don’t you take a few days’

personal and come down here?”

“I don’t know, Scully. I’m checking a lead on the Centaur killings…”

“Did I mention I’m naked?”

“C’mon, I have to beg you to take off your sensible suit to take a shower.”

“Well, I’m sure I could be naked on a moment’s notice, if offered the

proper inducement.”

“I heard it’s raining up there. Should I bring my raincoat?”

“Bring a whole box of them, Mulder.”


“It’s ridiculous,” Mary Underwood spat, setting her coffee cup down with

a thump. “Tony falling for some older woman. He had a girlfriend — a

very sweet, gorgeous girl. I’ve seen this Cline woman on TV — he’d never

go for that silly, preening woman.”

Nathan Underwood stared at his wife as if trying to understand her words.

Grief had energized Mary’s anger and outrage; it had virtually paralyzed

Nathan. Their home was small but tidy and tasteful, and I suspected their

lives were the same.

“I’m sorry I have to bring all this up again,” I offered. In truth, I felt like

crap, coming here to pry information from these people on behalf of the

woman who’d shot their son. They hadn’t even questioned why the FBI

would be investigating Anthony’s death. “I’m just trying to understand

how your son and Ms. Cline might have come into contact. They seemed

to be from two different worlds. If he didn’t know her…”

Mary’s arm shot out and grabbed a plaque from the nearby fireplace.

“Look at this — Anthony was last year’s state National Meritorious

Scholar. He kept up a 4.0 and, AND led his school team to a regional

championship. He could’ve got an athletic scholarship, but he was going

to get a degree in microbiology and help people. I know, I know,” she

shrilled, holding up a hand to stop a thought I hadn’t expressed. “Good

kids go bad. Well, not Tony. You can check — he had a good weekend job,

he didn’t party, and the school made the whole team take drug tests just

three weeks ago. Tony was clean — you can check.”

“Mrs. Undwood, I’m not trying to impugn your son’s character. It’s just,

well, this is baffling. Was Tony having any problems at the time of his

death, any anxiety?”

“He seemed fine,” Mary murmured, replacing the plaque with care.

“Happy, full of enthusiasm about his future…”

I turned to Nathan. He looked up in astonishment, suddenly remembering

we were there, then sighed. “No, nothing I can think of. Well, just the



“They didn’t think it was important,” I explained. Goren leaned back in

his chair, saying nothing. Eames leaned forward, the yin to his yang.

“Anthony reported it missing a few days before, after going downtown

with some friends to see a concert. He thought it was probably lifted on

the subway. He was missing a driver’s license he hardly used, some family

photos, and about $20 in cash, so he wasn’t overly concerned.”

Goren nodded and pulled out the top drawer of his desk. He reached in

and extracted a plastic evidence bag. Inside was an assortment of personal

effects, including a black cowhide wallet.

“$23,” he corrected with a grim smile. “Looks like some good Samaritan

recovered Anthony’s wallet. Maybe this Samaritan called Anthony and

asked him to come to their place to retrieve it.”

“We had no reason to run it before,” Eames told her partner, not me. “I’ll

have the lab dust it.”

“Sure,” Goren said, smiling at me. “Who knows what we’ll turn up?”


“God, an FBI agent,” Yvonne Redmond breathed. “That’s incredible.

Then again, who thought I’d be one of Chicago’s top contract lawyers?

Doesn’t exactly summon images of adventure and intrigue, does it?”

Missy wasn’t home when I got back to the hotel after dinner, so I’d made

another calling card call. Yvonne had been one of Missy’s friends, at least

before Missy had worked enough of her magic to chill their relationship.

“Yvonne, I’m sure you’ve seen the news about Missy Cline.”

“Oh, shit, yes. Freaking unbelievable. Wait — you aren’t working on that

case, are you?”

I shifted the handset. “I know this is going to sound strange, but do you

remember when Missy disappeared for that half-semester, then came back

to school that January? There was some talk she’d been seeing campus

Mental Health Services.”

Yvonne was silent for a moment, then sighed. “I don’t why I’m even

hesitating, after she fucked my boyfriend in my own apartment. She’d

been having some delusions, I guess you’d call it. Missy was hearing

voices. Weird voices, she said — she thought they might even be alien

voices. But after she got back from her little sabbatical, she was fine,

better than ever, like nothing had happened. In fact, it was like Missy had

been born again. Ha.”


“Oh, I was thinking about something goofy she said after she’d had her

psychological epiphany or whatever. I was worried about my spring mid-

terms — my boyfriend and I had been having trouble, I didn’t know why

yet — and she told me to relax, that everything would be fine for the both

of us. That she just knew. I remember thinking I’d liked her better as a

pessimistic bitch. Oh, well. So when are you coming out this way? We’ll

get together, shop, catch up. Reunions are a blast.”

I laughed hollowly. “Yeah, this one is.”


I hadn’t brought Missy’s novel with me. In fact, I wasn’t positive I still

had it. So I dropped into the lobby gift shop and bought a fresh paperback


It was both a fast read and a slow one, full of fascinating futuristic detail

and staggeringly one-dimensional dialogue and predictable plot

development. Ava Phoenix obviously was a romanticized rendition of

Missy – beautiful, brilliant, confident, and utterly desensitized to her

colleagues, friends, and lover. One out of four, I guess.

Two hours and a room service cheeseburger later, I put the book down and

rubbed my bleary eyes. What had Missy wanted me to see here? Why had

she thought I could help?

Had someone asked Missy to lure Underwood up here and ambush him?

Why – what would be the purpose? Who’d want to kill a high school jock,

an A student, a potential scientist with the power to save lives?

I jumped. The sound of a strange phone ringing is one of the most jarring,

disorienting sensations.

“Yeah,” Mulder mumbled wistfully.

“You downstairs?” I asked, working at my blouse buttons.

“Keep your pants on. At least for a while. We got another body — Skinner

thinks it’s a Centaur murder. I gotta check out the scene, talk to the local

cops, I don’t know how long. Maybe I can drive down after.”

“You’ll be beat,” I sighed, heart falling. “Maybe tomorrow.”

“Maybe. I could…”

The rest was lost in the hiss of a hostile cell.

“Love,” I whispered, hoping stupidly the sentiment somehow would

transcend electromagnetic interference.


“Look, it was just a job,” Edward Tweaks protested. “Snag the wallet, give

it to the lady. Nobody said anything about killing anybody.”

Goren pulled a chair to Tweaks’ side of the interrogation table, positioning

himself inside the professional pickpocket’s personal space. “Well, that’s

too bad, because somebody got killed, and we have your fingerprints on

his wallet. Why didn’t you wipe it clean?”

“Gettin’ older, I guess,” Tweaks frowned sourly. “Lady said she just

wanted to fix up a meeting with the kid – you know, it was a couple of

days before Valentine’s. I figured she liked ’em young and hard, you


Eames smiled sweetly.

“So you’re like Cupid, huh?” Goren grinned. “You think you could

identify our smitten lady?”

“Sorry, Ace. She had on this Yankees cap, brand-new, bill wasn’t even

broke in. And some Raybans. And she was talking like Jessica Rabbit –

you know, that actress lady with the sexy voice. I wanna help you. Believe

me, I wanna help. But she was, what do you call it, incognito.”

“But she knew where Underwood lived, right?” I asked. “You said you

followed him on the subway.”

“Naw, she told me what school he went to, and I followed him home, then

downtown. Then I delivered the wallet to the Princess at the Starbuck in

Times Square, like she said.”

“The Princess,” Goren savored. “So she was a sophisticated lady?”

Tweaks sneered. “She thought it was made outta gold, you know what I

mean? I told her, ‘Why you want some kid when you could have a real

man with a little life experience?'”

Goren leaned in, glancing furtively at me and smirking with a “just-us-

guys” look. “So, what’d she say to that?”

“Not if I was the last man on Earth.” He glared at the interview table.

“Thought it was made outta gold.”


I don’t know, really, why I didn’t share Missy’s favorite kiss-off line with

Goren and Eames. But I did feel the need to get together with my old

college pal.

“You did it, didn’t you?” I demanded as she opened her apartment door.

Missy stared blankly at me and waved me in. No shock, no indignant


“You must have called one of the police sources you use for research and

told him you wanted to interview a pickpocket,” I continued. “You figured

the odds were with you, because once Tweaks was implicated in

Underwood’s murder, he couldn’t precisely come forward, could he?

“But I wonder what your psychopathic homicide cop will find out if he

checks the credit receipts at that Times Square Starbucks where Tweaks

met his ‘sophisticated lady.'”

Missy’s blonde head jerked toward me. It wasn’t as satisfying as I’d


“Plus,” I sighed, “he told us you’d displayed your customary charm with

men — men for whom you no longer have any use — when he tried to

come onto you. Your dialogue is as clichéd as your fiction.”

“I’d be insulted,” Missy said coldly, “but I suppose the ship’s already

sailed.” There was a slight fuzziness to her speech. I glanced beyond her

to the kitchen counter, where a pitcher of cosmos sat pinkly awaiting her

return. Probably’d seen it on Sex and the City.

“So tell me,” I demanded. “Why did you murder that boy?”

“Murder,” Missy muttered, shaking her head as if I failed to grasp a

crucial point. “I thought you might be able to understand, but I realize now

you lack the emotional capacity.”

I stepped forward and grabbed her forearms. “Melissa, quit screwing

around. Eventually, Goren is going to make his case against you, even if I

don’t tell him what I know. And I have no idea why I haven’t. So tell me:

Why did you call me, of all people?”

Missy jerked her arms free and stumbled to the couch. Her fingers found

the cosmo on the coffee table. “I remembered our talk, that time in the

campus grill, when you told me about your work, where you wanted to be

someday. It was the only time I felt like we almost connected, that I

almost connected to someone real and substantial. I was starting to slip at

the time, and I needed that. And, believe it or not, that 10-minute

conversation actually helped me do what I needed to to get back on track.”

I searched my memory, recalling only my endless babbling about quantum

mechanics and her gushing about her literary aspirations. She hadn’t

seemed to be “slipping” at the time… Then I recalled my conversation

with Yvonne.

“The voices,” I murmured. Missy put her drink down.

“That bitch always was untrustworthy,” she laughed. “Bet she loved

getting payback for Mark and I.”

“Actually, she was quite concerned about you, at least until ‘Mark and

you.’ Tell me about the voices, Missy. Is that what you thought I might


“Fuck the voices,” Missy snapped. “You’d never understand in a million

years. Dana the cop — just you and your gun and your flying saucers.”

She must have done her research — I didn’t precisely brag about my tenure

with the X-Files, and god knows, the Bureau didn’t crow about Mulder

and I.

“I doubt you have any concept of love — what it does to you, what you’d

do for love!” she yelled. Missy tried to jump up, and fell back onto the


“Love?” I puzzled.

“Just, just get the fuck out of here! Go back to Washington! This must be a

real rush for you — me drunk on my ass, about to spend the rest of my life

in prison. Get the fuck out of here.”

It seemed like a good idea — the only one I could comprehend at that



I had the key card halfway into the reader when I heard the rustling inside.

I silently retrieved my weapon from my purse, slowly slipped the card

home, and kicked the door open as soon as the green light flashed


“Shit!” Mulder gasped. I lowered my gun, heart pounding — he was lying

on the bed, reading the TV Guide, and he very clearly was unarmed.

“Good thing I wasn’t the housekeeper,” I sighed, feeling a sudden rush of

mingled serenity and adrenalin flowing through my body. “I’ll tell you

what, Mulder: I’ll holster my weapon if you holster yours’.”

My partner looked down. “Sorry. Just happy to see a colleague.”

“Speaking of which,” I murmured, tearing at buttons and zippers. “Good

thing this is a sensible suit.”


The hotel air conditioning chilled the sheen of sweat covering my body,

but Mulder’s arm aside, I didn’t care to get up to adjust the thermostat.

Instead, I pulled the comforter to our chests.

“So why’d she do it?” he eventually asked.

“How’d you know…? Never mind. I have no idea, Mulder. You think you

have someone sized up, but I’m at a total loss. This boy was a parent’s

dream, a promising student. He had the rest of his life in front of him…”

Mulder turned me to face him as I struggled to grasp what I was

considering. “Scully? Scully, talk to me.”

“The voices,” I whispered. What love had done to Missy. What she’d done

for love, God help her. But the question remained. Why?

It was unfathomable, inconceivable. No wonder Missy was so confident

she’d get away with it. Goren would never make a connection between her

and Underwood, would never trip to the motive. He could make a

circumstantial case — almost certainly would — but her attorney could

create enough reasonable doubt to render a verdict unpredictable.

Mulder rustled in the dark, brushing the hair from my face. “You need me

to leave you alone?”

My arm searched under the covers and found its objective. Within

seconds, my chill was gone.

“I’m glad you’re a trained observer,” I gasped.


Goren had tracked the Starbucks receipt and the cop who helped Missy

lend an ersatz authenticity to her pulpy drek. They’d come to her

penthouse at 8 a.m. with a warrant, and she’d politely declined her

Miranda-Excobedo rights. When her publisher foisted an attorney on her,

Missy told him and Goren where to go and used her one call on me. I

started to use my federal leverage on Goren, but he beat me to the punch,

Eames in tow, or at least in tandem.

“I understand,” I said simply when we were alone. “But you were wrong,

morally wrong. You murdered an innocent human being.”

“And saved how many?” Missy asked, quietly.

“We’ll never know. I guess that’s the point. When did you decide your

voices were real, that you’d lucked into a literary gold mine?”

Missy looked hurt, then conceded the point. “It was what you said, about

time travel being physically conceivable. And it was just one voice. He

was as surprised to hear me in his head as I was to hear him. After I began

to consider the possibilities, I realized I could never have imagined the

things he told me. I’m sure you’d acknowledge I never had a lively


Before Missy’s call, I’d intended to research the incidence of cross-

temporal telepathy. Mulder and I had worked on cases where the dead had

communicated with the living, seemingly across time. Missy’s “voice”

had reached backwards, for whatever reason, tapping into a talent God had

somehow seen fit to grant her.

In a figurative irony, the voice had become Missy’s “ghost,” feeding her

details about his future. Certainly, if Missy’s works had endured, he’d

eventually have realized how she’d used his confidences.

“I reread your novel,” I told Missy. “The well-meaning scientist who

almost wipes out the world’s popluation with his mutated viruses. That

was Underwood, wasn’t it? Something happened, in the future. Recently,

in your timeframe, I mean. Had he grown up to be a microbiologist,

Underwood would have done the original work that ultimately led to that

catastrophe, right? That’s what your ‘voice’ told you, at least.”

At some point, they’d fallen in love — the mother of all long-distance

relationships. It was no coincidence that Missy had committed her horrible

act on Valentine’s Day.

Missy was silent for a moment, a flicker of doubt crossing her face. Then

she appeared to have made a decision. She looked up at me, a smile and a

trail of tears on her face.

“I always knew you’d make a difference someday, Dana, and that I never

would. But whatever happens, I have to believe I did. He’s gone now — I

knew whatever we’d had would be gone forever once history corrected

itself. But that’s what love is, right — sacrifice?”

I had nothing to say to that. “So, who was your ‘voice,’ Missy?”

Missy laughed, sadly. “Believe it or not, he actually was a federal agent —

the only one who had time to take the retroviral antidote after the

bioweapon was released into the atmosphere. Who else would he have to

be? The last man on Earth.”


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