God and Bad Planning

God and Bad Planning

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Crossover casefile

Rating: R for language

Summary: When a serial killer is loose and a curiously ill

Katrina survivor seems to be involved, Mulder and Scully

meet a formidable adversary — Dr. Gregory House.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully are the creation of Chris

Carter, Greg House the brainchild of Paul Attanasio, Bryan

Singer, David Shore, and Katie Jacobs.

E-mail: fwidsvnt@ilfb.org

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New Orleans, La.

Sept. 5, 2005

4:37 p.m.

Rose Anne shook the plastic jug in frustration. A small

eddy of water glinted at the bottom, in the late afternoon

light seeping through the grimy attic window, and memory

stabbed at her heart.

She’d been listening to the local weather when the waters

hit — keeping up with the taxes on the house kept Rose

Anne tapped out, and even basic cable was beyond the meager

paycheck she brought home from the cannery. She’d kept to

herself, both at the plant and on the block, and no one had

called or stopped by to see to her welfare as Katrina

approached.

Rose Anne had stocked up on as much canned meat and snack

food as she could swing at the dollar store, and had filled

a milk jug with pure Jefferson Parish tap — not too much

Avian flowed in this neighborhood. She settled back and

waited for the storm to pass, anticipating at worst a few

days without power. The idea of leaving her late mother’s

home was inconceivable, the logistics of leaving town

impossible.

She’d grabbed as much as she could after the levee broke,

and Rose Anne had been living on store-brand pseudo-Spam,

ranch-flavored tortilla chips, and carefully rationed sips

from the jug. As darkness and fear and eventually despair

had set in over the last five days, Rose Anne had lost

track of the sips, and the water soon would be gone.

She’d heard periodic shots in the darkness, and before the

generic dollar store batteries had given out, Rose Anne had

listened in horror to accounts of the insanity and chaos at

the arena. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, or the End of Days.

Rose Anne had lived her entire life in the city, and she’d

learned to turn a blind eye to the revelry, the debauchery.

It wasn’t too tough — the French Quarter was more concept

than concrete reality in Rose Anne’s working class world.

This had been all too real — the wrath of the Lord come

right to her doorstep. His vengeance, the scouring of the

city from the Earth’s face?

“Ma’am?”

Rose Anne jumped at the disembodied voice, and the milk jug

sloshed across the rough wood of the attic floor. She

crawled to the window, and tears stung her eyes as she

regarded the military chopper hovering over the now flooded

street. She caught sight of the moon near the horizon – an

apparition in the waning daylit sky, a hazy scythe waiting

to claim the night. Rose Anne leaned back, gratefully.

“Ma’am, this is the U.S. Coast Guard.” The amplified voice

brought her back to the dusty attic. “We’re going to send a

man down to retrieve you. Just stay put — we’ll be back

around in a few minutes.”

Rose Anne nodded mutely, then slumped against a trunk full

of her mother’s old dresses. Her dry lips began to move in

prayer, as if they were acting autonomously…

Megalomart

Plainsboro, N.J.

Four months later

“Attention, Megalomart customers. Winter’s here, and

Megalomart has all your automotive winterization needs.

Sur-Grip radial snow tires are on special this week with a

$40 mail-in rebate, and a gallon of Arctic Fire antifreeze

is only $7.99… So make Megalomart your first stop today,

before winter stops you.”

The robotically nasal Eastern accent of the assistant

manager pricked at Rose Anne’s brain even as she silently

swept cookies, roasts, detergent, socks over the UPC

scanner and into the gaping maw of a red recyclable bag.

While few of her customers would’ve noticed – or indeed

might have bothered to – Rose Anne actually enjoyed the

comforting repetition and isolation of her new job. While

she interacted daily with hundreds of shoppers in the

center of a virtual retail circus, only a few acknowledged

the non-descript girl, and most of Rose Anne’s co-workers

were sympathetic toward the world-changing events that had

brought her to New Jersey but respectful of her politely

reticent nature.

Absently, by rote, Rose Anne spun the carousel another

turn, and carefully nestled a bag of hotdog buns into its

cocoon before spinning to a new bag.

“Thanks.”

She looked up, suppressing a gasp. The woman, in a

chartreuse jersey and stretch pants, was as broad as a bus,

but her beaming smile was as radiant as a Gulf sunrise.

“I’m sorry, ma’am?” Rose Anne stammered.

“The buns,” the customer explained, blushing slightly now.

“Most a’the times, you guys just toss ‘em in a bag and

squoosh ‘em good with a couple cans a’ beans. Thanks for

taking the time, sweetie.”

Rose Anne’s hand paused over the scanner, and a smile broke

through her customary reserve. The woman blinked at the

cashier’s transformation. “No problem, ma’am.”

“That’s a beautiful accent you got, honey,” the customer

cooed. “It’d figure you’d be from outta town, you not

squooshing my buns and all. You from the south, right?” The

large woman suddenly paused. “Ohmigod. You’re one of them,

ain’t you?”

Rose Anne’s smile vanished, and her gray eyes widened in

fear.

Tears filmed the shopper’s eyes. “Oh, sweetie, how awful.

It musta been awful.” Her plump fingers reached over the

scanner and seized Rose Anne’s. “That gawdammed Katrina.”

Rose Anne fliched imperceptibly at the blasphemy. “My

husband’s a trucker – he took a buncha food and shit down

there after it happened. You OK, baby?”

Rose Anne’s shoulders relaxed. The arrival of the Katrina

evacuees had made front-page local headlines for a week,

and a well-meaning TV reporter had shadowed several for two

more. Rose Anne had declined the exposure – the CNN

coverage of her rescue had been enough visibility – but the

media spotlight had spurred a flood of offers. Megalomart

had provided work for few hundred of the evacuees, and a

local developer known (very publicly) for his charitable

efforts offered up (very publicly) a bank of temporarily

rent-deferred apartments in a reasonably safe neighborhood

not too far from here.

“I’m just fine, ma’am,” Rose Anne murmured, gracefully

wriggling free. “Thank you so kindly for asking.”

“Hey, Sally Freakin’ Struthers.” Rose Anne and the woman

turned to a broad bald man in a leather jacket and a

grease-stained tee. “I got 20 minutes ‘til the freakin’

game starts. You wanna haul that gargantuan ass a’yours?”

The woman’s eyes dried instantly, and she thumped her chest

in a common New Jersey gesture. “Fuck you, Easy Rider.”

“Hey, you go fu— Jesus! Lady? Lady?”

Rose Anne’s face had grown even grayer as the pair

bickered. She’d grabbed at the card reader, and it had

uprooted as her body slid to the floor…

“Ohmigod!” the woman screamed, turning to the mob of

shoppers. “Somebody call 911, please, for Gawd’s sake!”

A petite redhead sprinted from the front of the store,

where she’d been chatting with the manager and a youngish

man in a black suit. “I’m a doctor!” the redhead announced,

nonetheless holding up what was clearly an FBI ID. The

biker nearly bolted instinctively, then placed himself in

check out of a second instinct that had evolved through

years of bar fights and drug scrapes. “Get an ambulance!”

the small woman barked at the manager, who broke out a cell

phone.

“Ohmigod,” the large woman whispered.

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

Plainsboro, N.J.

9:23 a.m.

FBI Special Agent Dana Scully eyed the closed ICU door and

the doctors and nurses consulting inside. Her partner had

gone off in search of the hospital administrator, and she

waited tensely, as concerned about the health of the young

woman as the continuation of her investigation.

“Got change for a dollar?”

Scully glanced at the source of the query, a thin, unshaven

man in a wrinkled shirt, rumpled corduroy jacket, jeans,

and sneakers. He leaned on a cane, and his eyes were baggy,

protuberant, expectant, and, she thought, somewhat wild.

“No,” the agent said simply, turning away.

“C’mon,” the derelict sighed. “At least look. I don’t have

my morning coffee to wash down my drugs, I’m absolutely

useless for the rest of the day.”

“I’m positive I don’t have any change,” Scully said icily.

“You must be hellaciously anal retentive, or one heck of a

money manager.”

Scully whipped out her ID, and flipped it open in the man’s

face. “I’m extremely busy right now, sir. You’ll need to

cadge a cup from someone else, understand?”

“Well,” the man huffed, turning and hobbling off. “Somebody

woke up with Mr. Grumpypants this morning.”

Before Scully could squelch the response she had yet to

formulate, the ICU door whooshed open, and an amiable-

looking man in a lab coat approached.

“Agent? Dr. Patel. Your witness, suspect, what? Well, she’s

stabilized for the time being. But I’m going to ask you to

hold off for a little longer, at least until tomorrow.

We’re looking at, ah, some rather odd symptomology here,

and I need to call in a specialist.”

The last was spoken seemingly with some reluctance, but

Scully pressed on. “What happened to Ms. Boudeaux? I’m a

doctor, and from what I–”

“You called him yet?” Scully turned to see an attractive

woman in an expensive suit and heels clacking down the

hall, Mulder in tow. She extended an exquisitely manicured

hand. “Dr. Lisa Cuddy – head of medicine. As I explained to

your partner, we want to cooperate fully, but our patient’s

health is tantamount. I mean, she’s not going anyplace,

right?”

“Of course,” Scully nodded, waving off her impatient

partner with a look.

“Great.” Cuddy returned to the chafing physician beside

Scully. “So, did you talk to him yet?”

“Just about to.”

Cuddy’s brow arched. “Well, shoo. He doesn’t eat attendings

unless they provoke him. Ah, there he is. House?”

Scully followed her gaze, seeing only the derelict coffee

cadger. The man’s eyes popped, and he started to beat a

retreat.

“DR. House,” Cuddy repeated with a tone of mingled

authority and exasperation. The derelict’s shoulders

slumped, and he pivoted on his cane.

“Great,” Scully breathed as she hustled after Cuddy and

Mulder.

“It’s not my baby, Cuddy,” Dr. Gregory House stated. “Guys

in the pool think it’s the Prince of Darkness.”

“Dr. House,” Cuddy smiled sweetly. “These are Agents Mulder

and Scully with the FBI.”

House inspected Scully with a frown. “Ah, yes, the

Changeless Woman. If I accidentally slice off a pair of

testicles or sew a sponge in a patient today in my

stimulant-free condition, it’s on you. You two here about

my taxes? Cause I promise, I haven’t filed any in years.”

“House,” Cuddy sighed. “Rose Anne Boudeaux, 27, brought in

about two hours ago following what appears to be a cardiac

episode. There are some curious complications, and I need

you to consult with Patel.”

“Curious complications?” House waggled his brows. “Why,

Cuddy, you do know how to whet the appetite. Get Foreman.”

“I’ll take two days’ clinicals,” Cuddy offered, flatly.

House smiled wolfishly and glanced at the agents.

“What’s so interesting about Blanche DuBois, or whatever

her name is?” the doctor inquired. “Why’re Efrem Zimbalist

Jr. and Agent Hypothermia so interested?”

Mulder reached absently for Scully, then withdrew. Scully

inhaled slowly.

“Ms. Boudeaux may be an important witness in a series of

local crimes,” she murmured. “It’s essential that we talk

to her.”

House leaned in on his cane, now intrigued. “Local crimes.

What, slugging the parking meters? Check kiting? Rampant

buggery’s certainly out of the question.” His eyes grew

intent. “Only series of crimes playing here in town I know

of are the road show of Rent and the Ripper Murders.” House

leaned in further toward Scully. “The frat kid and the drug

dealer they found torn up last month. Lots of talk about a

serial killer, really exciting stuff. C’mon, Big Spender,

give. You two are straining at your leashes like Michael

Moore at a Bush fundraiser. That girl’s not just some

witness, is she?”

“We’re not at liberty to—” Scully said evenly.

“Quid pro quo, Agent,” House sang. He frowned. “Or is that

tempus fugit? Gee, all that Latin sounds pretty much the

same to me.”

“There is some evidence to indicate Ms. Boudeaux could be

materially involved in the murders,” Mulder provided,

waving off Scully’s objections.

“There you go,” House smiled beatifically. “That was so

tough? OK, lead me to the little homicidal maniac. First,

though, I need a cup of java.” The doctor reached into his

pockets and looked distressed. “Except I don’t seem to have

any change…”

Scully crossed her arms, her face a blank. Mulder’s hand

plunged into his pants pocket.

“Oh, they’re still there,” House assured him, jerking his

head toward Scully. “Though I think it’ll only be a matter

of time.”

**

“Agent Scully,” House announced as he hobbled into the

room. Two young men and a woman in lab coats stopped

laughing and looked up, Scully thought with some

trepidation. “Meet Pete, Julie, and Linc.”

One of the two men, a goateed African-American, exhaled and

stood. “Dr. Foreman. He’s Chase, she’s Cameron. You

actually an agent, or did House not get his a.m. coffee

yet?”

“Youch,” House winced. “Agent Scully’s a triple threat.

She’s a G-woman – is that politically correct? – and a

pathologist.” The last he pronounced with exaggerated

reverence.

The female physician, a pretty brunette, waited, then

frowned. “But you said she was a triple threa—”

“Just don’t,” Foreman sighed. “Rose Anne Boudeaux, right?”

House crossed to a white board mounted on an easel, and he

picked up a marker.

“Let’s start with cardiomegaly.” House scrawled the symptom

on the white board. “Ms. Boudeaux apparently has a heart

the size of Montana, and blood pressure to match. Periodic

heart palpitations…Joint pain…Anemia…”

“Joint pain?” Foreman the neurologist queried. “Is the girl

from rural Louisiana? Joint pain and limb weakness present

in Lyme disease, and irregular rhythm. Maybe the anemia’s

actually fatigue.”

House nodded. “Interesting, if exotic, choice. But our

girl’s Nawlins born and bred, her lymph nodes are as smooth

as Angelina Jolie‘s ass, and you didn’t let me get to the

excessive urination. You never let me get to the excessive

urination, and that pisses me off. Thanks for kicking us

off with a laugh, though.” House wheeled around to Cameron.

“Does our perky little immunologist want to throw in HIV

for a few more chuckles?”

“Cardiomegaly is fairly common post-mortem in HIV-infected

patients, the infection can cause anemia, and

antiretroviral drugs can cause diabetes in HIV-positives,

thus the excessive urination,” Cameron noted with an

admonishing smile. “But you wouldn’t have asked if you

already knew.”

“Ah, science.” House waggled his brows at Scully, who

stared back blankly, then turned to his third protégé,

who‘d been trying to avoid the attention. “Chase? C’mon,

now. Tall, blonde, and stupid‘s no way to go through life,

son.”

“The wild card’s the gray pallor,” he murmured hastily with

an educated British accent. “They thought it was just

paleness or cyanosis associated with the heart episode, but

the skin discoloration hasn‘t gone away, and her sclera and

mucus are also gray. Osteogenesis imperfecta would explain

the discoloration in the whites of her eyes, but her teeth

look fine and her bone structure looks strong. Same with

lower respiratory infection for the gray mucus — none of

the other symptoms are presenting.”

“History?” House demanded.

“That may be difficult,” Scully piped up.

“She speaks,” House gasped.

“Ms. Boudeaux was a Hurricane Katrina evacuee,” the agent

continued. “In a lot of cases, medical records for many of

the hurricane survivors were wiped out in the flood. To

complicate things, Ms. Boudeaux is poor – she was some kind

of factory worker in New Orleans. There’s a secure web

clearinghouse set up to share any evacuees’ medical records

that have been salvaged — http://www.katrinahealth.org. But it’s

questionable whether she’s even seen a doctor in years.”

“More likely a witch doctor,” Foreman murmured.

Cameron stared at her colleague, stunned. “Stereotyping? I

can’t believe it, especially from…”

“From?” House grinned. “Because he’s an oppressed minority,

immune to the sociopolitical feeding chain? Methinks the

ugly specter of urban bigotry rears its blow-dried head.

Maybe a little residual Northern resentment, just to spice

up this festering brew? You think the little cracker caught

something from waving a spoiled chicken head?”

“Hey,” Foreman objected. “I never called anybody a cracker.

Maybe I was generalizing, but don’t a lot of folks down

there practice some unorthodox forms of medicine?”

Chase laughed. “Maybe we need to look for voodoo dolls

under her bed.”

“Quit trying to impress the hot little bureaucrat,” House

sighed. “Actually, Foreman’s intolerant little hatefest

contains a kernel of truth. A poor woman raised in a rurally

influenced polyglot culture where the lines of science and

religion frequently cross.”

“Folk remedies,” Cameron exclaimed. “Of course.”

“I wasn’t finished discoursing,” he said, witheringly. “But

since you enjoy flapping your rose petal lips and playing

Margaret Mead so much, you talk to the little cracker, see

if she’s been self-doctoring lately. Oh, and find out what

kind of factory she worked in. Chase, you run down to

Megamart…”

“Megalomart,” the Brit mumbled, still smarting.

“What-ever. Get down there and check for any possible

environmental factors. And grab me a box of Vegetable Thins

while you’re there. The real ones – not the bloody store

brand. Foreman?”

“Let me guess,” the young doctor rolled his eyes. “I get to

break into her apartment and riffle through her personal

effects.”

“You’re the only burglar on call today,” House said

apologetically. “Think of it as an exercise in cultural

tolerance – see how the crackers live. You might also think

about zydeco lessons, study up on your Paul Prudhomme.”

Foreman threw up his hands and stalked out of the room.

House nodded and turned to Chase with an expectant look.

Chase blinked, then scrambled from his chair and out into

the hall. With a patient smile, Cameron shook her head and

rose.

“You planned this, didn’t you, to get us alone together?”

House asked, eyeing Scully with mock anxiety. “You’re not

going to try something, are you? It’s a cripple thing, right?”

Scully stood. “I think I’ll accompany Dr. Foreman, just to

keep things legal. If you don’t mind.”

House stuck out his tongue. “You suck the fun right out of

the room.”

Rose Anne Boudeaux residence

Plainsboro, N.J.

12:08 p.m.

“Contemporary Dollar General,” Foreman whistled as the

building manager retreated down the hall. “Girl doesn’t

watch much Martha Stewart.”

“The flood left her – a lot of them – with virtually

nothing,” Scully murmured as she scanned the spare

apartment. The furnishings were mismatched and likely had

been donated or gleaned from the Salvation Army. The yellow

plaster walls were bare except for a car insurance calendar

with a single date circled in red, and a pair of disparate

end tables held only an anonymous coffee mug, a dog-eared

Bible, and a used transistor radio.

“No TV, no stereo,” Foreman marveled. “All work, no play,

looks like.”

Scully studied the young doctor. “If you don’t mind my

asking, how do you work for that man?”

Foreman, who’d strayed over to the calendar and flipped

through the pages, glanced up. “House?”

“He’s insulting, inappropriate, and unprofessional. He

seemed to evince little interest in Ms. Boudeaux beyond her

unique symptoms and our investigation. His comments to you

and your colleagues were demeaning and borderline

actionable. Dr. Cuddy told me you passed up a promising

post with Johns Hopkins to come here. And what was that

crack about your being the only burglar on call?”

“Youthful indiscretion,” Foreman said simply, with a

resigned smile. “Look, House’s an absolute eff-up as a

human being and a total asshole, but he’s also one of the

top diagnosticians in the country. Doesn’t give a damn

about the patient, but he’s got about a 99 percent save

rate. Never sees one if he can help it, but he’s got a

supernatural sense about what ails them. Kind of Dr.

Kildare meets Dr. Lecter, without the charming Anthony

Hopkins demeanor. You know what it’s like working with

somebody who thinks he’s always right, almost always is,

and makes you feel like the moron even when he isn’t?”

Scully was silent. “I’ll check out the bathroom.”

“I’ll take the kitchen.”

The refrigerator echoed Boudeaux’ monastic existence: A

half-package of bologna, flirting with expiration; three

slices and two heels of generic white bread; a half-gallon

of milk; a half-two-liter bottle of something called Dr.

Popper, dressed uncannily like its more prosperous cousin;

and (Foreman chuckled) a large bottle of McIlhenny’s

Tabasco. Nothing exotic or expensive. Foreman was about to

give up when he noted a foil-wrapped parcel on the bottom

rack.

It was a cheap aluminum pan – the type you’d get with a $2

apple pan. Foreman’s grandmother had always recycled pie

pans like this a dozen times, guarding them like

Tupperware. Foreman pulled up the top foil, and a wave of

chocolate, nuts, and a comforting mélange of spices struck

his olfactory glands. A half dozen dense squares were lined

up neatly around the pan.

“What in the good Lord’s name are you up to, son?”

Foreman’s heart jumped at the stern demand, and he nearly

dropped the pie pan. The blocky old woman – a short,

square-jawed septuagenarian of indeterminate race – stepped

up and pried the pan from his hands.

“I asked you a question, young man,” she repeated with a

thick southern patois.

“I’m a doctor,” Foreman stammered.

“Rosie’s doctor?” The old woman abruptly transformed from

gargoyle to grandma. “How is my little flower?”

Foreman had found the reticent girl more weed than flower,

but he knew an opening. “She’s really sick, ma’am. Are you

family?”

The senior frowned distastefully. “Only family she got

isn’t hardly worth speaking of. I’m Lorena deMoray, Rosie’s

neighbor down the hall. We came up together after the

flood. How’s she doing?”

“I’m really only supposed to talk to family…”

“She’s the only family I got these days, and I’m hers.

Don’t you go all official on me, young man.”

“All right – maybe you can help me.” Foreman sat on the arm

of the threadbare couch. “Has Ms. Boudeaux been ill lately?

Any infections, aches or pains she can’t explain?”

The woman squinted. “Nooo, not that I can recall. And we

see each other almost every day. She helps me with the

trash and the shopping, and I bake a bit for the girl.

Rosie’s come nearly to skin and bones since they dropped

her here, and I’m trying to fatten her up.”

“That your cake I found in the fridge?”

DeMoray beamed as if she were at the county fair judges

table. “That’s Rosie’s favorite. You go on, help yourself

to a chunk now.”

Foreman smiled indulgently. “No, thanks.” He looked up as

Scully reentered the living room, staring from him to Ms.

deMoray.

“Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI,” she drawled. “And you

are?”

“FBI?” the old woman breathed. “You think somebody tried to

hurt my Rosie?”

Scully relaxed. “No, ma’am. I’m simply investigating a

series of murders in the area over the last few months,

and…”

“That sweet child wouldn’t hurt a fly if it landed on her

last scrap of bread.” The transition again was jarring –

deMoray’s face had turned to stone, and her voice was icy

and unwavering. The old woman turned to Foreman. “Y’all let

me know how my Rosie’s doing, you hear? I got to run.”

“Well,” Scully concluded as deMoray’s apartment door

slammed.

“Yeah,” Foreman agreed. “Little defensive, don’t you

think?”

“Could merely have been maternal instinct kicking in,”

Scully suggested, though she didn’t sound entirely

convinced. “Ah, I found something that may be interesting,

though probably more to you than to me. C’mon.”

Foreman followed, and paused curiously in the bathroom

doorway as Scully slid open the medicine cabinet and the

shower curtain.

“Hmm,” Foreman pondered with the sly smile of a

kindergartner ready to ace Show and Tell.

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

12:32 p.m.

Rose Anne was silent but polite and compliant as Cameron

checked her IV, but the presence and interest of the soft-

spoken woman soon put the displaced Louisianan at ease.

“And there’s no family we can call?”

The gray-skinned girl looked up cautiously. “No, ma’am.

Closest thing to real family is Miz deMoray — she and I

kind of keep an eye on each other, and…” — a dazzling

smile materialized — “…and she makes sure I ‘keep a little

flesh on my skinny bones.’”

Cameron smiled back, then turned serious. “It must have

been horrible, waiting in that attic for help to arrive.”

“I knew God would see after me, and I had plenty of water.

Even though if them folks hadn’t come in a couple of days,

I’da probably been in trouble.”

“Rose Anne, did any pigeons ever nest in your attic?

Sometimes, the dust from dried bird droppings can get into

the lungs and cause histoplasmosis. That might help explain

the strain on your heart.”

“Mama always kept our house spotless, and after she died, I

always tried to do the same.”

“OK,” Cameron sighed. “Try to keep your eyes open.” She

flashed her light into the girl’s blue-and-gray eyes;

dilation was normal. “How about work? I understand you had

a factory job before you came here.”

“Iberian Queen Soup. I filled the cans with shrimp bisque,

oyster stew, terrapin stew and the like. Money wasn’t too

hot, but the family in charge, they were good people.”

“Ever feel ill, tired at work or when you quit for the da–

?” Cameron paused, clicking off the light and examining

Rose Anne’s face. Frowning, she gently lifted the girl’s

chin and brushed her cheek with a finger. Rose Anne pulled

back.

“Rose Anne,” Cameron asked, “how did you get those

scratches?”

**

“Hypertrichosis.” House added the symptom to his growing

list. “Cracker Girl’s developing a five o’clock shadow, but

going a little weedy on top.”

“Facial hair growth, patchy scalp hair, plus the high blood

pressure,” Cameron noted. “I checked her clitoris — it was

significantly enlarged.”

“Always go right for the naughty bits,” House tsked. “And

how long since the Menstrual Fairy’s come to call?”

“She thinks at least three months. It‘s happened before,

she thinks. She has to shave and use depilatories

periodically.”

“Amenorrhea,” Chase concluded. “It fits with the facial

hair and the thinning scalp.” He turned to Mulder, who’d

been silently absorbing as much medical jargon as he could

process. “In secondary amenorrhea, a patient who’s been

having regular or irregular periods suddenly stops having

them for several months.”

“Me, Chase,” House stated. “Him, you don’t need to brown-

nose.”

“There was the stress of the flood and the hurricane, and

she looks fairly emaciated,” the chastened Chase continued.

“All of that could’ve brought on the amenorrhea. Now she’s

storing up testosterone.”

“Or maybe she’s got polycystic ovary disease,” offered

Foreman, still smarting slightly from Cameron’s jumping the

gun on his revelation about Boudeaux’ armory of hair

removal products and tools. “But that doesn’t explain the

discoloration or the joint pain.”

“Could be multiple conditions. Maybe Cracker Girl’s just a

modern gal, wants to have it all,” House suggested,

twirling his cane.

“Stop it,” Cameron demanded sternly. “This woman has lost

her home, her life as she knew it. She’s suffering from a

life-threatening illness — maybe multiple illnesses — and

you’ve reduced her to some snaggle-toothed cultural

stereotype. Her name’s Rose Anne.”

“Uh oh,” House sighed. “We’ve got a bleeder.”

Mulder coughed. House turned, frowning. “Yes?”

“If it helps, I found a CNN interview from after Ms.

Boudeaux’ rescue,” the agent reported. “That grayness in

her eyes and lips, it wasn’t on the tape. Whatever’s

happened apparently’s happened since she came to New

Jersey.”

The diagnostician nodded thoughtfully and turned to

Foreman. “See if the air conditioner guy’s still working

upstairs. I want a second, private sector opinion.”

“Man’s just trying to help,” Foreman pointed out.

“Et tu, Foreman?” House asked. “Cameron, take a gander at

Cracker Girl’s — oops — Betty Lou’s ovaries.”

**

“Dr. House!”

“Cane, don’t fail me now,” the doctor murmured, stepping up

his pace.

“Dr. House!” Mulder repeated. House bee-lined for the

stairwell.

“House,” Cuddy called sourly as she turned the corner

toward him.

“Sorry, FBI,” House told Cuddy, swiveling toward the agent.

Cuddy glared and corralled another staffer, and House

smiled at the amiable young man in the suit. “Bet she calls

you Mulder in the sack, right?”

“What?” Mulder choked.

“Your pitbull partner. I can’t see her shouting, ‘Fox,

baby!’ Too seventies, too Boogie Nights.” He leaned in with

a lascivious wink. “Oh, come on, Mulder. When Cuddy

introduced you two and Agent Scully took her customary

umbrage to me, you didn’t stand back and smirk like one of

the good old boys. You didn’t leap to her defense like the

loyal and supportive fed that you so obviously are. You

started to reach for her in that intimate, protective way

that says you sip from the same milk carton. Then you

backed off, respecting her ‘space’ – possibly a habit

cultivated from cohabitating with Agent Scully and her

monthly visitor. ”

Mulder’s face had drained of blood. He blinked at House,

then burst into laughter. “Actually, she calls me her

undercover mole. Truce, Doctor – you don’t try to profile

me, and I won’t try to profile you. I just want your gut

reaction to something. This amenorrhea – could it cause any

kind of mental delusion or psychotic behavior?”

“Amenorrhea itself’s generally a symptom of some larger

problem, like polycystic ovary disease. In and of itself, I

don’t know if could cause our hairy little gal to mutilate

and partially masticate a drug dealer and a frat boy. That

is where we’re going with this, right?”

“Hypertrichosis’s often caused by an adrenal malfunction,

though,” Mulder persisted. “Couldn’t whatever’s behind this

also be spurring her adrenalin levels into the red?”

House signed, unshaven cheeks puffing. “Why do they always

watch ‘E.R.’? I’m missing my afternoon coffee-and-Vicodin

break, Agent Mulder. Can we fast-forward to the wow factor

here?”

Mulder’s hand plunged into his pocket and emerged filled

with currency.

**

“Lycanthropy.” House nodded as he sipped at his tepid

vending machine coffee. “Of course, the answer was staring

us in the face all the time, and I was too foolish to see.

Cracker Girl’s a werewolf.” The diagnostician slapped his

forehead.

Mulder smiled, ignoring his sarcasm. “You ever heard of the

loup garou? French explorers along the Mississippi and

eventually Cajun populations in the South told of shadowy

half-men, half-dogs or wolves attacking livestock and even

settlers. Some Louisiana oystermen even describe benign

werewolves that shucked oysters in the night, while they

were asleep.”

“I’ll have Foreman check to see if Rose Anne’s been hitting

the raw bars heavy lately.”

“I’m not necessarily suggesting Ms. Boudeaux is a

lycanthrope.” House smirked at “necessarily.” “But the

delusion, whatever you want to call it, of becoming a

werewolf has been documented regularly since the Middle

Ages. Scientists have speculated the delusion was fostered

by the prevailing folklore of the times combined with

conditions such as hypertrichosis or other endocrine

disorders such as adrenal virilism, basophilic adenoma of

the pituitary, masculinizing ovarian tumors, or Stein-

Leventhal syndrome. In some cases, the rye bread eaten by

medieval serfs may have been contaminated with the ergot

fungus, which causes hallucinations and could encourage

supernatural delusions.

“I’m not asking you to buy into some wild horror movie

scenario, Dr. House. But isn’t cultural orientation and

superstition part of the patient’s history?” Mulder began

to tick off his fingers. “Ms. Boudeaux suffers from

hypertrichosis. She’s always been something of an outcast,

a loner with low self-esteem. Maybe imagining herself a

werewolf both feeds into her sense of alienation and her

need to be special. Add to that her erratic emotional

state. If this ammenorrhea of hers has surfaced only

recently, it stands to reason that she may have had other

menstrual abnormalities in the past, right? Maybe more

severe periods, marked by depression, anger, intense pain.”

“Voice of experience?” House posed, tipping his cup.

“There was a calendar on Ms. Boudeaux’ apartment wall. Each

month had one date circled. That date marked the arrival of

the full moon. The menstrual cycle has long been tied to

the lunar cycle, just like the tides and many animal and

human behaviors, and the full moon has long been a pop

cultural icon in werewolf lore. Here’s a poor, uneducated

girl raised in a culture where science, religion, and magic

have been closely tied together, even today. Ms. Boudeaux

is sprouting hair and her skin is turning gray. What if

she’s somehow embraced the delusion that she’s a werewolf,

a loup garou?”

“Roaming the moors and the Safeway parking lots in search

of human flank steak,” House extrapolated in Karloffian

tones. “Look, Agent, if that’s really your name. Even if

Cracker Girl’s suffering some kind of severe menstrual

psychosis every full moon and feels like ripping into human

flesh — no offense to Agent Scully — I’m not sure her

enlarged heart could take the stress of tearing apart New

Jerseyans. Unless…” House’s eyes popped, and he looked at

Mulder in stark terror. “Unless she actually is a werewolf.

Jeepers.”

The agent peered around the cafeteria and leaned toward

House. “Doctor, I’m going to share some information the

media hasn’t been given about the Ripper Murders. I’m going

to ask you to keep it to yourself, though.”

“That’s a mistake.”

Mulder smiled. “OK. You know the victims were mutilated and

semi-cannibalized. We found DNA in the victims’ wounds, but

the results of the lab screen were, uh, inconclusive.”

“Roger Ebert was wrong. You’re the true master of suspense.

Inconclusive how?”

“Well, the analysis identified both human and animal DNA.

Canine or lupine DNA, to be precise.”

“Of course. And how does this implicates Cracker Girl?”

“The night of the first murder — the frat guy — a witness

saw a young woman in a Megalomart smock near the crime

scene, which was in a really marginal part of town. We

think the frat guy went there to score some pot. We checked

the work schedule at the Plainsboro store for the night of

the killing, and the assistant manager said Ms. Boudeaux

received a call in the middle of her shift. He said she

seemed agitated, upset. Ms. Boudeaux has a nearly perfect

work record, so he let her go without any questions. She

came back an hour later and told him it had been a wild

goose chase, or words to that effect.

“We checked her out — it’s like an old Dragnet episode.

She keeps to herself, is friendly but doesn’t socialize

with her coworkers, has no boyfriends or, from what we can

see, any real friends beyond Ms. deMoray. No connections we

can find between her, the dead college kid, and the drug

dealer, and the drug dealer appears to have no connection

to the kid — he deals in meth, hard stuff. But here’s the

kicker: We were able to secure a DNA sample from Ms.

Boudeaux–”

“Do I want to know how?”

“No — we were told to move carefully since she was a

Katrina victim who’d been highlighted in the media, so we

were legal but creative. Thing is, although the lab

findings on the crime scene DNA were inconclusive, there

were some similarities between the suspect DNA and Ms.

Boudeaux’.”

“She’s kind of plain, I’ll admit, but I wouldn’t call her a

dog.”

Mulder paused. “There’s one other thing. Ms. Boudeaux’

grandmother moved to New Orleans just before she gave birth

to Rose Anne‘s mother, Ruth. I checked into the small town

where she lived before she became pregnant, and it turned

out no one had any knowledge who the father had been. It

may have been a young woman’s pathetic attempt at

deflecting her shame, it may have been a delusion, but the

grandmother claimed she’d been sexually assaulted by some

kind of wild creature. Once again, I won’t speculate on the

veracity of her claim. But what if Rose Anne somehow

believes she’s tainted with the blood of the loup garou?”

House‘s pager sounded, and the physician consulted its

readout.

“Been fun, Circus Boy,” House muttered, using his cane to

lever himself out of his chair, “but I got a date with a

bearded lady.”

**

“I need outta this place!!” Rose Anne wailed, sweeping her

lunch tray to the floor. “Where‘s Miz deMoray! Get her

here, now! Tell her to take me home!”

Eyes wide, Cameron turned to House, who was poised in the

doorway. “It’s like Jekyll and Hyde,” she breathed. “She

was all sweetness and light just an hour ago. You think

she’s presenting some kind of manic episode or dementia?”

“That’s not all,” Foreman warned, displaying Rose Anne’s

chart as Chase and an orderly tried to calm their thrashing

patient. “Her kidneys are shutting down — already some

necrosis starting. She‘s going to need a new kidney fast.”

House eyed Rose Anne. “Who’s this deMoray? Her boss?”

“Neighbor lady, sort of surrogate grandma from the old

’hood,” Foreman supplied.

“Rose Anne said she was the closest thing to a real

relative she had,” Cameron said.

House turned abruptly, expression thoughtful. “That’s what

she said? Exactly?”

“Yes…”

House pursed his lips and nodded. He shoved past Cameron

and Foreman.

“Oh, this oughtta help,” Foreman moaned.

“Rose Anne,” House said, limping to her bedside. The girl

fell silent, eyes narrowing.

“Who’re you?” she asked, suspiciously.

“Paul Prudhomme — I’ve been on the Palm Beach Diet. Look,

we need to contact family — your brother, father,

whoever.”

Rose Anne’s gray face went paler. “I got no family — just

Miz deMoray.”

“Yeah, yeah. She’s ‘the closest thing to real family’

you’ve got in this world of misery. Which suggests there’s

a cracker in the woodpile, a sheep in black clothing.”

Rose Anne stared hostilely at House.

“C’mon,” he murmured impatiently. “Your kidney’s on the

fritz, and we need a spare. So spare me the southern

melodrama and give with a name. I assume he or she must

still be in town.” He leaned expectantly on his cane. “OK,

then. I’ll give you another 24 hours, and you can give me a

next of kin.”

“House,” Foreman gasped.

Rose Anne’s jaw quivered, and her eyes began to fill.

“Y’all don’t understand. I can’t…”

“Fine.” House turned toward the door. “Been real, y’all.”

He halted as he spotted Scully, her eyes filled with fury.

“Dr. House, a minute, please,” the agent said through her

teeth.

House shrugged at Rose Anne. “The old ball and chain.”

“What the hell kind of doctor are you?” Scully demanded in

the hallway. “That girl in there is terrified, and you

bully her?”

“Ah, yes, that’s right. You’re part of our little

Hippocratic community. Mind if I talk to Dirty Harriet for

a minute, Dr. Scully?”

Scully’s stone expression softened microscopically. “What?”

“Think like a cop for a second. Why else would Cracker Girl

have been hanging out in the ‘hood in her spiffy Megalomart

jacket when those guys got processed into Alpo? Why would

an otherwise robotically loyal worker abandon her cash

register to troll those mean streets?”

Scully inhaled sharply, and she looked into House’s face

with fresh eyes. “To protect someone.”

“Now that’s the feisty little bichon friese we all know and

cross the street to avoid. And I’m gonna guess that with

her little monochromatic complexion problem and

personality, our blue collar belle probably isn’t burning

up the romantic court. Assuming Auntie Lorena hasn’t been

chugging Geritol and steroids, that leaves family of the

probably lowlife variety.”

The agent whipped out her cell phone. “It could explain the

DNA from the victims — might be a sibling. FEMA or the

city should be able to get me a list of Katrina evacuees in

Plainsboro.”

House nodded and turned back toward Rose Anne’s room. “Just

do me a favor. You decide to blow this guy away, aim high.

I need his kidney.”

**

“Robert Thibodeaux,” Special Agent Monica Reyes supplied as

Mulder flipped open a pad. “Thirty-two, relocated in

Plainsboro following the hurricane. He has a lengthy but

generally boring yellow sheet going back to 1989. One

assault — a bar brawl in the Quarter. Family includes one

Rose Anne Boudeaux, a half-sister.”

“Yes,” Mulder murmured into the cell phone. “I appreciate

the fast work, Monica.”

The agent was based in the now-recovering Big Easy,

specializing in ritual and cult crimes. She’d helped Mulder

wrap up an unsolved child murder the previous spring. “Hey,

happy to help. The only reason Thibodeaux had a Bureau flag

was an interstate beef about four years ago.”

“What was the beef?”

“He got caught transporting pitbulls from Louisiana to

Mississippi. He rolled over on a dog fighting ring and

didn’t do any time. Agent Mulder? Fox? Hello?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “This may be it, Monica. Thanks. And,

um, sorry, you know…”

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” she sang. “I temporarily started

smoking again, and the guys are still trying to get their

bearings, but once those billions of your tax dollars start

rolling in, we’ll be back in business.” She laughed. “I

guar-on-tee.”

Mulder chuckled and said his goodbyes. Scully arched her

brows expectantly.

“C’mon,” he said, jerking his head toward the hospital

parking lot. “Gotta see a man about a dog.”

Residence of Gregory House

Plainsboro, N.J.

8:10 p.m.

“I should have known,” Wilson said, finishing off his

second beer. “‘Let’s pick up some chicks and howl at the

moon.’ Right.”

House shrugged and snagged the last slice of pizza as the

creature on screen lunged at its human Happy Meal. “I’m

reasonably sure I said ‘flicks.’ Besides, you‘re married,

remember? Not happily, obviously, or you wouldn‘t be here

watching Howling I through III with a cripple.”

“Don’t start,” the oncologist mumbled. “Why the horror

fest, anyway?”

“Research. Agent Mulder’s incipient schizophrenia whetted

my appetite for ’80s lycanthroploitation cinema. If you’ll

call us in sick with Cuddy tomorrow, we can rent American

Werewolf in London and Bridges of Madison County. No

werewolves, but bone-chilling nonetheless.”

“Why’s the guy bug you so much, anyway?” Wilson asked,

propping his feet on the arm of the couch.

“Shh, the alpha wolf’s about to disembowel the nosy cancer

doctor.”

“It’s an authority thing, isn’t it? Or is it just the idea

of someone possibly being a little further outside the box

than you? Actually, Mulder’s theory sounds like something

you‘d come up with when your Vicodin‘s wearing off.”

“Thanks for reminding me.” House riffled through the jumble

on his coffee table, and retrieved an amber bottle. He

shook out a pair of pills and downed them dry.

“All right, that’s it,” Wilson concluded, stumbling to his

feet. “Call me a cab. My miserable marriage is preferable

to this.”

“Hey, you’re gonna miss Teen Wolf II.”

The oncologist toasted with his Coors. “This is the only

Silver Bullet I need tonight. Later.”

“Buzz kill,” House muttered as the door closed behind him.

As he propped his infirmed leg on the table, one of

Wilson’s depleted beer cans rolled onto the carpet. He

stared at it for a second, then clicked off the onscreen

carnage.

Residence of Robert Thibodeaux

Plainsboro, N.J.

10:01 p.m.

“Robert Thibodeaux?” Plainsboro P.D. Lt. Frank Delman

called, rapping on the warped apartment door, .38 clenched

in his free hand. Mulder and Scully and two Kevlar-swathed

uniforms flanked the detective in the dim, urine-perfumed

hallway. “Plainsboro Police — would you please open up?”

They heard a sudden shuffling beyond the thin door. Delman

looked to Mulder, who nodded. A heavy cop shoe pistoned

against the doorknob, and the door cracked and surrendered.

After a second without gunfire, the uniforms rushed the

apartment, followed by Delman and the agents.

“Don’t fuckin’ shoot!” a skinny, shirtless man with a thick

beard yelled in a thick southern patois as he displayed his

empty hands. A mouthful of brown teeth emerged in a

reptilian grin as one of the uniforms braced him over a

wobbly linoleum table. “What the hell? Rosie give me up or

somethin’. Stupid girl don’t have the brains God give her.”

“Your sister didn’t roll over on you,” Scully informed

Thibodeaux. “Though it was sweet of you to let her take the

rap for a couple of murders.”

“Hey, those weren’t no murd–” the Cajun transplant

objected before clamping his cracked lips shut. “I want a

fuckin’ lawyer.”

“Absolutely,” Mulder said pleasantly. “Perhaps he can

explain ‘mitigating circumstances’ to you.”

Delman glanced curiously at the agent.

“I know what happened, or at least I think I do,” Mulder

continued. “You willing to go to prison for this?”

“Mulder,” Scully murmured. “Are you saying he’s protecting

someone else?”

“Not exactly, Scully.”

“Hey, Loot,” one of the uniforms shouted from the filthy

hallway. “Gonna check out the bedroom.”

“Yeah — don’t touch nothing, though,” the detective

responded, eyes shifting from Thibodeaux to Mulder and

back.

The agent began to speak, then froze, blood draining from

his face as he spotted a wet, brown object on the floor

next to Thibodeaux’ ancient stove. The meaning of the

dehydrated, mangled pig ear shot up Mulder’s spine.

“NO!” he shrieked, breaking into a flat run down the hall.

“Don’t op–”

Too late, the uniform swung open the door, and a large,

white missile flew at him. The cop tried to gurgle for

assistance as the dumb, brutish pitbull seized his throat.

Mulder leveled his weapon.

“You drop that gun, man, or I swear I’ll give him the

order!” Thibodeaux yelled, grinning. “Rest of you, too! Or

your friend there, he’s gonna be ten miles of bad

hamburger.”

A sharp crack shattered his bravado. Plaster dust snowed

from the hall ceiling. Rose Anne’s half-brother jumped. The

dog, jaws poised around the cop’s trachea, appeared to pay

no heed to Mulder’s shot.

“I thought this was what you’ve been trying to avoid, Mr.

Thibodeaux,” Mulder said with steely calm. “I’ll take him

out with one shot to his tiny little brain. You want that?”

“Motherfucker,” Thibodeaux muttered plaintively, regarding

Remy anxiously.

“That’s why we found human DNA in the victims’ wounds,”

Mulder continued. “He got away from you — twice — didn’t

he? By the time you called your sister to help you find him

and located him yourself, he’d already killed that college

kid. You figured it was an accident — just Remy doing what

instinct and a lifetime in the ring had taught him. But you

love him, don’t you? You knew we’d put him down, and you

had to protect him. You watch a lot of C.S.I.?” Mulder

smiled grimly at the skinny felon, whose eyes popped in

surprise. “I figured. You thought that if somehow you

contaminated Remy’s DNA on the bodies with your own saliva,

we couldn’t prove he mauled those men and have him

euthanized.”

“Christ,” Delman snorted despite the situation. “Dumbass.”

“Your choice,” Mulder offered, cocking his trigger for a

second shot. “Or should I say his?”

Thibodeaux glared through a miasma of tears. He regarded

the tautly muscled primitive beast, which stared back with

something he read as love.

“Release,” Thibodeaux snapped, slumping against the table.

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

8:15 a.m.

“We’ve ruled out neurology, immunology, parasites,” House

announced, tapping the white board with his cane. “Just for

kicks, how about toxicology? Oh, I don’t know, maybe heavy

metals?”

“Makes sense,” Foreman said. “The kidney overload, the

compromised liver, the sudden rage. Run a tox screen?”

“Wait,” Chase protested. “We didn’t find any environmental

contributors either at her job or her apartment.”

“Noo,” House said. “Your colleague failed to find the

source of the toxin. Sentimentality and misplaced respect

for his elders fogged his occasionally facile instincts.”

Foreman sat up. “Hey, there were no special household

chemicals, the fridge was virtually bare–” The doctor

closed his eyes, exhaling slowly.

“Great watching an acute deductive mind at work.”

“Hold on. You think Boudeaux was poisoned?”

House considered. “I’d rather say she was nearly

misdiagnosed to death.”

Residence of Lorena deMoray

Plainsboro, N.J.

10:22 a.m.

“I hope y’all like your coffee,” Mrs. deMoray purred. “I

tend to make it a might stronger than the custom for

northerners.”

“It’s delicious,” Mulder smiled graciously, taking a sip of

the robust brew to demonstrate. The muted sounds of traffic

leaked through the thin apartment house walls, diluting the

antiquarian time capsule the displaced senior obviously had

attempted to create for herself.

“And how is my little Rose today?” the tiny woman inquired,

folding her spotted hands in her lap. “Them doctors taking

good care of my little flower?”

“They’re doing their best,” Scully began. “But they need

more information before they can treat all of her symptoms.

We were wondering if you might shed some light on her

illness.”

Mrs. deMoray’s company smile vanished, then reappeared.

“Whatever you mean, child? I’m no doctor.”

“Mrs. deMoray, we found some sweet bread in Rose Anne’s

apartment, and we sent it to the lab. You want to know what

we found?”

The old woman was silent.

“Silver, and reasonably high concentrations of it,” Mulder

continued. “You’ve heard of the loup garou, haven’t you,

ma’am?”

“I’ve heard the stories, of course.”

“It’s more than a story to you, isn’t it, Ms. deMoray? I

checked up and found you and Rose Anne’s grandmother had

grown up in the same rural parish. From what I’ve been able

to glean from some of the folks in your old hometown, your

childhood friend created quite a sensation when she became

pregnant with Rose Anne’s mother.”

“They were hard times for Ruth and hers’, and I find it

unseemly to bring it up.”

Mulder smiled sympathetically. “I can imagine what the

times were like, especially in a rural town in the South.

Telling her parents she’d been attacked, impregnated by a

loup garou, a werewolf, was clearly a desperate move.”

“It wasn’t any ‘move,’” deMoray hissed. “Nobody but a few

of the old folks and myself believed the poor child. I

suppose that was a blessing for her baby.”

“Because if people had suspected her lineage, they might

have went after the girl.”

“Don’t you mock me, son.”

“Believe me, I’m not. Whatever the truth of your friend’s

condition, you believed her. You also feared what might be

in her daughter’s blood. And her granddaughter’s blood.

“You watched over Rose Anne in New Orleans, watching for

any sign she might not be ‘right.’ When the flood hit, you

came with her to New Jersey, I think to safeguard her as

much as her potential victims. When the murders started

occurring here, you recalled Rose Anne’s increasingly

agitated behavior with the passing of each lunar cycle. Her

stress, her drastic loss of appetite had pushed her into

amenorrhea, a condition that causes excessive facial hair

production. You feared that somehow, the trauma of her move

here had brought her lycanthropic blood to the surface. You

had to act, to protect her and the people of the

neighborhood.”

Scully leaned forward. “The most popular notion of killing

a werewolf is with a silver dagger or bullet – it’s the

stuff of old horror films, but it was the only option that

appeared open. Except you didn’t want to kill Rose Anne –

you simply wanted to ‘cure’ her, or at least deal with her

‘symptoms.’ You reasoned that if a silver bullet would kill

a werewolf, daily trace amounts of silver might suppress

the werewolf within Rose Anne. You’ve been dosing that girl

with silver. Ms. deMoray, I understand you were only able

to save one personal item when you were evacuated from New

Orleans. Your sister told me.”

The old woman was a statue, skin pale, lips pursed.

“May we see your grandmother’s silver, please, Ms.

deMoray?” Mulder asked calmly. “We can get a warrant to

confiscate it, but I’m hoping that won’t be necessary. I

know you didn’t mean to hurt Rose Anne.”

Ms. deMoray inhaled sharply. “Hurt her? Whatever do you

mean? I was trying to help that child.”

Scully looked helplessly to Mulder, then reached for the

woman’s gnarled fingers. “Unfortunately,” the agent said

softly, “you didn’t.”

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

4:42 p.m.

“Cadmium,” House announced as he entered the element on the

white board with a flourish. Cameron and Chase appeared

puzzled, but Foreman grinned with realization. “The

symptoms of silver poisoning alone generally are harmless

enough – gray discoloration of the sclera and the skin,

occasional emotional flare-ups which in Cracker Girl’s case

amplified the effects of her amenorrhea. Silver toxicity

used to be a lot more common when colloidal silver was used

as a home remedy and there was no OSHA to watch over

industrial working standards.

“Alone, the silver Witchee Woman filed off Grandma’s

cutlery and mixed into her ‘special brownies’ might only

have left Rose Anne in a colorless state and a blue funk.

But, Cameron, quick, what do old spinsters do with the

family silver? No offense — I said ‘old’ spinsters.”

The young woman sighed. “I don’t know… They store it away

somewhere, maybe bring it out on holidays, polish it, I

suppose…”

House’s cane cracked down with a triumphant thump. “They

polish it and polish it and polish it, like a myopic high-

schooler without a prom date. And the older you get, the

less painstaking the polishing is. The ornate crevices of

each knife and fork – don’t tell Cuddy I said ornate

crevices – were virtually caked with years of accumulated

silver polish.”

“Polish loaded with cadmium,” Foreman finished. House

tapped his nose in approval. “The renal failure, the

cardiomegaly, the joint pain. Read a NIOSH study on worker

cadmium exposure last month — pretty serious stuff.”

“Plus, Cracker Girl used to worked at a cannery — a

seafood soup cannery. She could have been taking in trace

amounts of cadmium from shellfish and the solder from the

cans for years. Nothing lethal, ‘til the Cajun Lucretia

Borgia tried to ‘cure’ her.”

“So the old lady didn’t realize she was dosing the girl

with cadmium as well as silver, and the girl had no idea

she was being dosed,” Foreman

“This is positively medieval,” Chase breathed, shaking his

head. “Boudeaux had to have wondered about her symptoms.

She could’ve saved that kidney.”

“She’s poor, and she didn’t trust doctors.” House shrugged

and considered. “Hmm, maybe Cracker Girl’s not so dumb

after all.”

**

“Dr. House.”

House turned on his cane to face Agent Scully, trailed by

Mulder.

“Sorry, Clarice, I’m stalking somebody else these days. You

and Dr. Van Helsing heading out?”

“I hardly know why I bothered,” Scully began tersely, “but

I wanted to thank you for your role in resolving this case.

And congratulate you for saving that young woman’s life. I

have to be honest — I’d considered lodging a complaint

with Dr. Cuddy about your conduct throughout this case, but

in all good conscience, I can’t bring myself to do it.”

The doctor smirked crookedly. “Nothing a modern-day Dr.

Schweitzer couldn’t have done, at least with the help of a

redneck sociopath with two good kidneys. As for the case,

well, why don’t we just keep that our little secret, huh?”

Mulder shook his head. “Why is so hard for you to accept

that there’s more to this universe, to the human condition,

than what’s in the Merck Manual and Gray’s Anatomy?”

“Well, Horatio,” House smiled mirthlessly, “science saved

Cracker Girl’s life — superstition almost killed her. The

problem is, true believers like you never know when to stop

believing and start reasoning.” He started toward the

hospital lobby. “Get the kosher meal on the plane — you’ll

eat better.”

“Dr. House.” Scully’s voice was low, but the intensity of

her tone stopped the diagnostician. He turned back,

expectantly.

“And just what do you believe in, Dr. House?” the agent

murmured, evenly. “God? The beauty of this universe? The

fundamental value of each human life? Your patients?”

“Scully,” Mulder warned.

Scully crossed her arms, eyes locked on the doctor. “No,

I’d like to know. How about yourself? Do you believe in

that? Or is this all just some glib, bitter pastime for

you?”

House stared mutely at the agent, his expression blank. “I

believe,” he finally started, “in the fundamental

restorative powers of a good cup of java. I’m gonna guess,

though, that you don’t have any change on you.”

Scully waited for her answer. Then Mulder stepped forward

and faced House. He extended four quarters. House accepted

them and looked around Mulder at his partner.

“Didn’t think so,” he grunted, and limped away.

*end

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