A Day at the Races
A.D. Walter Skinner’s Office
F.B.I. Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Fox Mulder sat on the opposite side of the desk from his superior. It was an uncomfortable feeling, sitting there in the ‘hot seat’ without adequate backup, i.e., his partner, and today more so than usual.
Today was Scully’s annual oncological checkup. This November it would be ten years since her cancer went into its unexplained, but welcomed remission.
Neither of them had any reason to believe she would receive anything but a clean bill of health, but, even after all this time, the anxiety still played on his mind.
Mulder was determined that this summer they would celebrate, that they wouldn’t spend it chasing unmarked tanker trucks or mounting a rescue.
He was going to take her to one of those places she’d always hinted she wished they could go on a case — like Hawaii.
Skinner opened the file on his desk and studied his rogue agent while Mulder studied his fingernails. The A.D. also knew where Scully was today and, therefore, knew that Mulder’s mind was a million miles away from the task at hand.
The case he had before him was something he would normally have blown off, just from the absurdity of the initial police report.
But knowing Mulder, that absurdity would only pique his interest.
His agent had spent the last several months reestablishing his credentials as a top investigator — this — this, if it were the least bit true, had “X-File” written all over it.
“I was going to hang onto this until tomorrow when Agent Scully will be back, but I thought I’d give you the opportunity to turn it down before she had a chance to look it over,” Skinner began.
A sly grin spread across Mulder’s face as he looked up. He knew what his boss was alluding to.
This had to be a doozy if he was being given the opportunity to opt out before his partner could question his sanity.
“This case came down from the Baltimore PD. They’re a bit stymied by where their investigation has taken them on it.” Skinner told him.
“Go on, Sir…” Mulder urged when the A.D. hesitated.
“Pimlico Racetrack, the horse racing park, just outside of Baltimore, had contacted them regarding a rash of high payouts which had given the officials there cause to believe they might be the victims of a betting scam,” Skinner continued doing his best to maintain an official tone. “Over the past six months, payouts on winners, perfecta and trifecta wagering have already surpassed the 2006 totals.”
“Ouch, I’d say that’s something they didn’t bet on.” Mulder deadpanned.
Skinner’s lip curled slightly in response to Mulder’s pun. “I don’t know how familiar you are with the wagering system at horse tracks, but most people have a hard enough time picking one horse to finish first, second or third — let alone do it on a regular basis…”
“Therefore, the odds of picking a perfecta, the first and second place horse in the same race or a trifecta, the first three finishers in the same race, once again on a regular basis, are — astronomical,” Mulder added.
“Not to mention the dollars involved.” Skinner concluded.
Mulder was intrigued but not quite sure what this had to do with the X-Files. “The locals have any suspects?”
“Baltimore police started an investigation two months ago that has, so far, led to only one arrest. And a not very reliable one at that…”
“Can I see the file?” Mulder asked leaning forward to accept the file that apparently Skinner did not want to give up just yet.
“Two weeks ago, they arrested Ulysses Bailey, a previous employee at the track.” Skinner told him. “Mr. Bailey has been working with horses for the better part of his sixty-two years. He started out as a hot walker and groom and later became an exercise boy. He’s worked at tracks up and down the eastern seaboard. Bailey suffered a bad fall a little over five years ago and is no longer able to ride. So, now he spends his time moving from stable to stable, training grooms for cash.”
“You said he was a ‘previous employee’…”
“He was employed at Pimlico when he took the fall — he’s been back there for the past six months lending his ‘expertise,’ if you will, to the young talent.”
Mulder smiled again. “Why did the Baltimore P.D. arrest him?”
“They received several anonymous calls that he might have another side job — tipping bookies for a cut of the winnings.” Skinner told him bluntly.
“There’s a fair amount of that going on in any sport, Sir.” Mulder replied dryly.
“I’m well aware of that, Agent.” The A.D. responded. “According to the Baltimore detective assigned to the case, tracks up and down the eastern circuit have been experiencing a marked increase in high cash disbursements which seem to coincide with Mr. Bailey’s appearance.”
Mulder was confused. If the Baltimore P.D. already had a suspect in custody, why were they looking to the F.B.I. for assistance? There was obviously a catch here, but he’d also obviously missed it.
“I don’t get it, Sir,” Mulder commented, leaning back into his seat. “Is he still in custody?”
“No, they had no physical evidence to hold him, especially when he confessed to his method of picking winners…”
“Which is?” Mulder asked with a raised eyebrow and a slight shake of his head.
“He says he can read the horse’s mind.” Skinner closed the folder and passed it across the desk to Mulder. He watched his agent’s eyes brighten as he slid the folder from the desk and opened it.
Mulder perused the file for several minutes.
Ulysses Bailey was a whimsical-looking African-American man, originally from the bayou country of southern Louisiana.
Mulder bit his bottom lip. There was a Horse Whisperer joke here somewhere. Finally he closed the folder and stood. “Are you a betting man, Sir?”
Skinner nodded, “Just between you and me, I’ve been known to play the horses now and then. Why?”
“Well then, I wouldn’t bet against him.”
Mulder spent the rest of the afternoon running a background check on the gifted Mr. Bailey.
He’d drifted, most of the last thirty years or so, from tracks in Miami to Saratoga, New York and everywhere in between.
Bailey’s current residence was located in a rundown area of Baltimore. It was not the area where you’d expect someone who made a living playing the ponies to reside.
Whatever he was doing with his winnings, it certainly didn’t include creature comforts.
Mulder had placed a call to the detective listed on the report, but so far, there’d been no reply to his message.
When the phone finally did ring, he found himself hoping it was his partner instead of a cocky detective.
“Agent Mulder, this is Detective Johnson, Baltimore P.D. You left me a message regarding this betting scam case I’m working.”
“Yeah,” Mulder answered. “My A.D. brought it to my attention. I wanted to get your personal take on Mr. Bailey’s claim, Detective.”
“You mean if he gets his tips right from the horse’s mouth?”
Mulder smiled, knowing the detective couldn’t see him, but kept his voice neutral. “Or mind.”
“Yeah, so he claims. Mr. Mulder. Look, I don’t know if you remember me,” Johnson paused. “You worked a case in Baltimore back in ninety-four. A case involving a man named Eugene Tooms…”
Mulder’s mind raced back to the overbearing detective who had no interest at the time in any of his theories. Yes, he remembered him. It had almost cost him and Scully their lives.
He was puzzled, but intrigued, as to why this man who had dismissed him so readily at that time would now turn a complete about-face and seek his help.
“Detective Johnson, if I remember correctly, you didn’t have much confidence in mine or my partner’s investigative skills at the time…”
“Well, let’s just say that, after that case, I learned that things aren’t always what they seem. I was hoping this particular case would find its way to you.” Johnson admitted.
There was a time when Mulder would have taken offense at the systematic shuffling of cases like these which sifted their way down through channels to end up in the X-Files basket.
Now, however, he looked at them as a challenge, because, more often than not, since his association with his now partner-in-life, his theories were often proved right.
He and Scully had had run-ins with Tooms twice early on in their partnership.
It was the first time she’d witnessed his knack for pissing off the locals with his leaps of logic.
It was also the first time he’d had a partner who was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Evidently, now so was Johnson.
“You interrogated Bailey, Detective Johnson. What do you think of his claims?” Mulder asked.
“You mean, do I think he can read a horse’s mind?” The detective snorted into the phone. “Lots of handicappers have good horse sense, especially ones that have been doing it for a career. There’s a science to it, if you want to call it that. Some of them just do the math, but no handicapper I’ve ever talked to has ever claimed he’s gotten the information right from the horses themselves.
“So you’re saying that Mr. Bailey is just lucky?” Mulder concluded. “What led you to arrest him?”
“Well, Agent Mulder, I would say he was lucky… *if* he had a reasonable amount of luck. But Bailey, he hits ’em *every* time. Anyone who wins more than six hundred dollars gambling, well, the IRS wants to know.” Detective Johnson took a deep breath. “So, we traced some of the higher payouts. Everyone we contacted told us they had gotten their tip from Mr. Bailey. We can’t find any connections between these individuals and anyone connected with the horses they cash in on, but, there’s *got* to be something more at work here than just luck…”
Mulder played some thoughts around in his mind.
Ulysses Bailey came from a part of the country steeped in mystique and “black magic”. Any number of things could lead to his remarkable luck.
Evidently Johnson suspected where his thoughts were going.
“Now, don’t get your hopes up Agent Mulder,” Johnson warned, “We’re still operating under the suspicion that there’s more than just Bailey involved here. Everyone wants a cut of the action, you know. Could be that the owners and trainers are at the heart of this thing themselves.”
“Thanks, Detective,” Mulder told him. “I’ll look over the case with my partner and we’ll get back to you.”
After a hasty “goodbye,” Johnson disconnected the call.
Mulder studied the file for a few minutes after speaking with Johnson.
He knew what it was like to find your head filled with other human voices — certainly hearing the thoughts of horses couldn’t be as horrifying.
Mulder wanted to meet Mr. Ulysses Bailey.
Mulder & Scully’s Townhouse
When Mulder opened the door to their home, his nostrils were immediately filled with the aroma of Scully’s cooking.
It wasn’t often they had a home-cooked meal during the week. Evidently, the results from her doctor visit were a cause for celebration. He dumped the case files on the sofa table as he shed his jacket and went in search of the source.
He found Scully in the kitchen, stirring a pot of pasta. She looked up at him when he entered, a soft smile easing the corners of her lips.
It was all the answer he needed. He crossed the kitchen and wrapped his arms around her. “Everything was clear,” she told him as she pulled his warm arms tighter around herself.
“Ten years, Scully; we’re gonna celebrate, I promise you.”
The conviction in his voice made her swallow hard. She wouldn’t hold him to it but she knew how much the news meant to both of them. “This year’s MUFON convention in Roswell, Mulder?” she teased.
“Nah,” he chuckled. “I was thinking someplace a lot more — tropical, actually.”
She gave the pasta another quick stir and turned in his arms to face him, “You’re serious, aren’t you…?”
“More serious than I’ve been about anything in my life. We’re both tired, Scully. We need a break.”
“Thank you,” was all she could think to say. He leaned down to kiss her. When he moved in closer and started to deepen the kiss, she pulled her lips away, “Mul — der…”
“We’ll have burnt pasta,” she attempted to say around his persistent lips.
He pulled back finally and let out a soft sigh. “Okay — but raincheck?”
Me mouthed ‘later’ and then asked, “Do I have time to change?” He reached up to loosen his tie and slowly stepped away.
“Ten minutes. There’s some wine in the refrigerator you can open, too.”
When he returned a few minutes later in jeans and a gray t-shirt, he was carrying a couple of Bureau folders.
*Nothing like spoiling the moment,* she thought.
“It’s not what you think,” he quipped when he saw her face fall. “You’re gonna love this one.”
She caught the mischievous look on his face as he handed her a file. While he opened the wine, she leafed through its pages.
It wasn’t long before she looked up, wide-eyed, and asked “You’ve got to be kidding? Skinner gave you this? Mulder, please tell me you don’t believe…”
“Came right from the Baltimore P.D. And no, I don’t — not exactly,” he surprised her as he turned to offer her a glass. “But I’d sure like to know how he does it…”
“So, tomorrow we’re going to the races?”
“Too bad it’s not Derby Day at Churchill Downs…Scully. I bet you’d look ravishing in one of those hats…” He waggled his eyebrows at her.
Scully punched his arm. “Not in a million years.”
Scully smiled as she turned away.
Pimlico Race Course
Their Bureau badges had gotten them past track security and into the barn area the next morning.
As they crossed the paddock area, Mulder pulled the photo of Bailey from his jacket pocket and flashed it at a young man hot walking a sleek, black horse that had just come off the track from a morning exercise.
These days it was sort of unusual to find someone actually walking the horses to cool them down.
Most stables now had mechanical walkers similar to those contraptions you saw used for pony rides at county fairs.
Mulder approached the young man. “Excuse me, can you tell me where we might find this man?”
The young boy took a quick look at the photo. “You mean the General?” he glanced back and forth between the two agents.
Mulder turned to his partner and raised an eyebrow, then turned back to the boy. “Is that what they call him around here?”
“Old enough to be,” the young man snorted. “You’ll probably find him in Barn 9, talkin’ to the animals.”
As they wandered up and down the rows of stalls, horses whinnied and poked their heads out to tease each other.
It was a warm, breezy morning and it brought back memories to Scully of riding on family vacations, and of her sister dragging her through the horse barns at county fairs.
That had all been so long ago.
Missy had always been the horse lover of the family, but Scully admired their beauty just as much.
Mulder caught her far away expression. “They do have quite an aroma, don’t they?”
“I kinda like it, actually,” Scully told him as she stopped to stroke the head of a chestnut horse that had poked his head out and nuzzled her as they passed. “Haven’t you ever heard the expression ‘the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man’?”
“Well, the horse might be, but I’ll guarantee you, the saddle wouldn’t be good for my backside.” The horse tossed his head as Mulder stepped closer and reached up to scratch the horse’s head between his ears.
“Little Green Man,” Scully commented.
“What?” Mulder looked at his partner strangely.
“Look at the halter, Mulder; his name is ‘Little Green Man.'”
A goofy grin spread across Mulder’s face, “You suppose that’s a sign, Scully? Wonder if he’s running today?”
“This horse?” The heavily-accented Hispanic voice came from inside the stall. Neither Mulder nor Scully had any idea there was someone else present.
When they both looked into the stall they noticed a Mexican gentleman briskly brushing the horse’s coat. “The only place this horse will run today is back to the barn.”
Mulder chuckled, “You’re saying I shouldn’t waste two bucks on him then, huh?”
The horse stepped back in the stall and turned his head sharply to nip at the groom who wisely jumped out of the way. “No, sassy!” he yelled, shaking the dandy brush at the horse.
“Eduardo! You speakin’ unkindly about my man again?” The deep baritone voice came from behind the agents.
When they turned to investigate its source, they were face-to-face with an elderly African-American man, Ulysses Bailey, whose demeanor didn’t seem to fit the voice.
Ulysses wasn’t much taller than Scully, and probably didn’t weigh much more, either.
He was dressed in a finely-tailored suit, wingtip shoes and an impeccably creased fedora. He leaned heavily to his left on a finely-carved black cane.
When he snapped his fingers, the chestnut horse came back to the stall door, tossing his head almost as if in greeting.
“Today’s gonna be your day, my man,” he addressed the horse before turning back to the agents. “You must be the folks I hear are a lookin’ for me.”
“Ulysses Bailey?” Mulder asked as he flashed his badge. “This is my partner, Agent Scully.”
“My pleasure,” Ulysses tipped his hat in Scully’s direction.
“Backstretch grapevine?” Mulder asked, certain that’s how Bailey knew they were coming to see him.
“We take care of each other’s backs here. They’re all wonderin’ what the F.B.I. wants with an old man like me.” Bailey explained.
Mulder sized up the man. He looked frail underneath his expensive clothing. “There seems to be some question as to how you’re such a lucky man, Mr. Bailey.”
Ulysses took something from his jacket pocket and offered it on the palm of his hand to the horse.
“Seems to me there’s a lot more important things the government ought to be spendin’ their time with than wonderin’ ’bout somethin’ like that.” Bailey said, fondly scratching under the horse’s chin as the animal chewed his treat.
“Yes, we have to agree with you Mr. Bailey,” Scully countered. “Nevertheless, we’re here to question you.”
“Law already questioned me, Ms. Scully.”
Ulysses stepped back from the stall door and Mulder moved over, placing himself between the man and the horse. “And you told them you get your information right from the horse’s mouth?”
“Well now, I didn’t exactly put it in quite those words. You see, they don’t actually talk to me,” the African-American man chuckled. “You spend your life around somethin’, you get to know it pretty well.”
“The General has good horse sense,” the groom spoke once again from inside the stall. “But I think this one, he just be joking with him.”
Mulder glanced over his shoulder at the groom, “Evidently, he doesn’t share your confidence in Ol’ Red here.” He said as he turned back to address Mr. Bailey.
Suddenly, Mulder was shoved hard from behind, causing him to stumble into his partner, almost knocking her off her feet.
He reached out to steady her and then turned to look at the culprit.
Little Green Man bared his teeth and tossed his head again. Ulysses and the groom both laughed. “He knows you’re talkin’ unkindly about him, Mr. Mulder,” Bailey said.
“You okay?” Mulder asked his partner. When she nodded he turned to Bailey again. “How about if we all take a walk, you can tell us what they actually do say…”
As they walked away, Little Green Man whinnied and Mulder turned around. “Oh, he’s not talkin’ to you, Mr. Mulder, he’s got his eye on your partner,” Bailey chuckled.
“I understand you’ve been working around horses most of your life, Mr. Bailey,” Scully commented, ignoring Mr. Bailey’s quip and, thereby, forestalling any comment Mulder might make as they walked up the row of stalls.
She and Mulder slowed their pace as Bailey limped along beside them. “Ridin’ was a good job for a man my size. ‘Course there wasn’t much opportunity to move up for a black man back when I was ridin’, you understand. So, I did a lot of other jobs as well. Pretty much got to know all there was to know about horses and the racin’ business.”
“What happened to your leg, if you don’t mind my asking?” Scully inquired.
Bailey looked down at his left leg. “Workin’ a horse one morning and she went down on me, busted it up pretty good. But, they were able to put it back together good enough so I could walk on it again. Filly wasn’t as lucky.”
Scully bit her lip in acknowledgement.
“Don’t have the strength in it to ride anymore, but there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to be able to climb back on a horse and feel that physical power under me. God gave the horse somethin’ special, Ms. Scully. When you’re sittin’ up there, and they’re movin’ underneath you, *so* fast, it’s like bein’ a part of the wind.”
Bailey’s poetic description made both the agents smile.
As they continued on down the long row of stalls, a dark bay horse poked his head out of a nearby stall and whinnied. “Forget it ol’ man, this lady’s taken,” Ulysses joked.
Mulder turned to the horse as he strode past and then glanced in Scully’s direction, breaking into a chuckle at her annoyed look. “Must be your red hair,” he whispered to her. “Catches their eye,” he finished with an over-exaggerated wink.
Scully said nothing, giving her partner “The Look” instead.
Bailey turned back to look at the agents, his face breaking into a warm smile as well. “All males know a pretty lady when they see one.”
“Mr. Bailey,” Mulder made an attempt to change the subject. “As you may well know, it’s been brought to our attention that you’re the subject of an investigation of what the Baltimore P.D. believes is a gambling ring. It’s been suggested that you’re tipping bookies for a share of the winnings. Do you have anything to say about that?”
They reached the fence that separated the backstretch of the track from the barns.
Several horses galloped past, urged on by their exercise riders. “Detective Johnson tell you that?” Ulysses asked as he reached up to steady himself by holding onto the top rail of the fence. “He’s the one been tellin’ everyone that I get my tips by readin’ the horses’ minds,” the elderly man let out a deep laugh and shook his head. “Ain’t nobody can do that, Mr. Mulder.”
Mulder flashed a glance at his partner. “Then how is it you’re so lucky at picking the winners, Mr. Bailey? We have several statements indicating that *you* are responsible for the information winners have used to place their bets.”
“Whoo-eee — if I was *that* lucky, I’d be a rich man, that’s for sure. You see, it’s not *me* that’s the lucky one, Sir. It’s the person who places the bet.”
Scully watched a group of horses being led off the track by their grooms. The brisk morning breeze ruffled their manes and tails and tossed her own hair in front of her face.
She turned slightly away from the wind. “Let me see if I understand this correctly,” she began. “Somehow you know what horse is going to win a race, so you pass this information on to an individual who, in turn, places a bet on that horse and wins big. Some might consider that illegal, Mr. Bailey.”
“It *would* only be illegal, Ms. Scully, if everyone else out there on the track knew which horse was going to win the race and made sure that happened. I’m not exactly sure how I know, Ms. Scully,” Bailey answered keeping his eyes on the horses as they left the track.
Bailey shrugged and continued. “Some of them are just due. You know that sayin’ ’bout havin’ your fifteen minutes of fame? Everybody gets one in their lifetime. I just gets the feelin’ when an animal’s about to have theirs.
“And then some of them — the ones everyone thinks are at the top of their game, just aren’t ready,” he nodded towards a bay horse that was being led alone from the track. “Now take ‘Seek the Truth’ there; she’s the favorite in the stakes race this Saturday, she’ll go off as the favorite but she won’t win, she’s tired.”
“But *she* didn’t tell you that?” Scully asked, somewhat annoyed by the conversation as she watched the horse being led away.
“No, Ma’am. I mean she’s fit and everything, but her heart’s just not in it right now.”
Mulder studied his partner but said nothing.
“So, that’s what you base your tips on? And yet you say you *can’t* read their minds.” Scully gave her partner an irritated look.
“It’s not hard, Miss. I sees it in their eyes. Sometimes you just have to know where to look.”
“Yes, well,” Scully hesitated at the memory the elderly man’s comment brought to mind. “I think it’s more a matter of someone tipping you to the fix for the day, Mr. Bailey.”
“Lot of that goes on at the tracks, Ms. Scully.” Bailey suddenly didn’t seem so pleased with the direction the conversation was going. “Even if I knew what the fix was, I wouldn’t be a part of it. My Mama didn’t raise me that way.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply…” Scully started to say. “Then what exactly *is* your explanation?”
Bailey glanced at Mulder. There was a certain twinkle in the elderly man’s eyes. “I don’t rightly know, Miss. I don’t think it’s up to me. You see, I was raised on the bayou. There’s a magic down there not many can explain. I just sees when a horse is going to have his moment and I sees someone who needs the benefit of that moment and I just tell them. I think the magic takes over from there.”
Mulder had been watching the horses on the track and seemed distracted, and, being so, was now the subject of Scully’s exasperation.
It was almost as if he wasn’t even interested in the conversation, and yet, she knew he often distanced himself from her interrogations to toss his own theories about in his head.
She could only imagine where he would go with this one.
Finally, Mulder turned to Bailey. “Like a horse whisperer, or a dog whisperer, a cat whisperer?”
Bailey laughed. “Ain’t nobody can figure out a cat, Mr. Mulder.”
Scully had had enough. “I’ll see you in the car, Mulder,” she said abruptly and then turned to walk away.
“My partner’s not exactly open to all kinds of possibilities, Mr. Bailey,” Mulder apologized. So, what about ‘Little Green Man’? You said today was his day.”
Bailey smiled widely. “Yes Sir, Mr. Mulder; ninth race. You bet him for your lady.”
Mulder smiled and reached out to shake Bailey’s hand. “It was interesting meeting you Mr. Bailey,” he said and then decided he just had to know something else. “By the way, how did the horse get his name? The owners aren’t U.F.O. buffs or something, are they?”
“What? Oh — THOSE people? No, Sir. Owners are Irish,” Bailey winked.
Mulder caught up with Scully at the gate. “Hey, Scully! What’s your hurry?”
“‘Cat whisperer,’ Mulder?”
“Interesting, interesting character, Mr. Bailey, isn’t he?” Mulder asked as they headed across the lot to their car.
“Bailey? I think he sips a little too much out of that flask he carries in his pocket.” Scully told him. “I wonder if he spikes the sugar cubes he passes to the horses while he’s talking to them. He’s not connected to this gambling ring, Mulder; someone’s just fingering him to draw officials away from those who are really involved.”
“I think you’re right,” Mulder replied nonchalantly and Scully turned to him with a surprised look on her face. “I mean about someone else being involved.”
When they reached the car, Mulder hesitated. “Hey Scully, how about a day at the races?”
“Mulder, we’re on the clock.”
“So, now we’re off the clock. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Scully looked at her partner standing on the opposite side of the car. The wind tossed his dark hair and then he broke into one of those goofy grins she couldn’t resist. “You must have something in mind.”
Mulder treated Scully to lunch in the clubhouse as a payback for dragging her out there.
It was a beautiful May afternoon. The crowds from last week’s Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the historic Triple Crown series, were long gone and it felt good to just relax and enjoy the day.
“What are you going to tell Skinner if he calls?” Scully asked after a sip of wine.
“Nothing, he’ll go right to voice mail.”
“You have your phone *off*? Mulder…”
“You let me deal with Skinner,” he told her around a bite of marinated chicken. “Where’s yours?”
When she pulled it from her pocket he reached across the table and snatched it out of her hand, quickly turning it off and then handing it back to her.
Her eyes went wide. “Mulder, what has gotten into you?”
“Life,” he told her straight-faced. “I think it’s time we started living it. Besides,” he glanced around at the rest of the business crowd who also seemed to be playing hooky for the afternoon. “I think I could get used to this.”
Scully smiled. This was a side of her partner he rarely let other people see: those times when he let his guard down and became the gentle man she knew he was.
Turning to look out at the sun-baked track she had to admit the afternoon was turning out better than she had thought it would this morning. “What are we going to do about Mr. Bailey?” She finally turned back and asked him.
His brow creased as he took a swig of his beer. “Nothing, Scully. I don’t think there’s anything we need to do. If he’s tipping people, it’s not for profit; at least not his own. I think he’s right; something else is at work here.”
He snorted. “Well, that’s not what I was about to say, but I think there’s a little of that, too.”
The call to the post came for the start of the first race. Mulder finished up his beer and waived the waiter over to ask for the check. “Come on, you want to go sit outside?” he asked his partner and she nodded.
While he waited for Scully to use the restroom, Mulder bought a couple of seats in the lower boxes and a program for the afternoon’s races.
When she joined him, he led Scully through the door and out into the early afternoon’s mild air.
The breeze was still stiff out of the south and ruffled their hair. Scully noticed that Mulder didn’t seem to mind that his was almost standing straight up. They took their seats and Mulder handed the program to his partner. “Pick one for the first race.”
“I don’t know anything about picking horses,” she replied as she leafed through the track program.
“Neither do most of these other people,” her partner answered. “Doesn’t seem to be stopping them.”
“Little Green Man is fifty-to-one in the morning line.” Scully read from the program.
“What?” He answered her without taking his eyes off the track. She watched him dig in his breast pocket for his sunglasses and slip them on. He then loosened his shirt collar and tie and shed his jacket, tossing it over the empty seat in front of them.
“You comfortable now?” Scully asked, eyeing him.
Mulder turned to look at her with a smirk on his face. “Yeah, I am.”
“According to the program, Mr. Bailey’s pick was listed at fifty-to-one odds this morning, Mulder. Evidently he knows something the rest of the handicappers don’t.”
“The ‘Man’ isn’t running in this race is he?” Mulder looked at her, somewhat concerned.
“No, ninth race. I was just looking ahead.”
“You going to give me a pick for this race?” He asked snatching the program from her and leafing through it himself.
Scully leaned against his shoulder. “Can’t we just watch?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” He asked her with a smile. “Just pick a number, Scully.”
Scully watched the horses walk by the grandstand one more time. She liked the gray and gave Mulder the horse’s number. He whisked himself off and came back a few minutes later to hand her the ticket. “Here you go. Good luck.” She took the ticket from him and tucked it into her pocket.
Gazing out towards the backstretch where the moveable starting gate was for this race, Scully wished she had brought along her shades as well.
Race fans used to need binoculars to see the other side of the track. These days most tracks were equipped with closed-circuit television.
Now, along with keeping track of the odds on each horse in the race, dollars wagered, and other information, you could watch the entire race perfectly from the giant screen on the infield tote board.
The race began and Mulder laughed silently as he listened to his partner cheer for her horse. The filly had gone off as the favorite; she wasn’t going to win much. At two-to-one odds his partner would only win two dollars for every dollar she had bet.
They both watched the screen until the horses came around the clubhouse turn and started down the stretch, heading for home.
As they came down the stretch and past the grandstand the gray filly slipped in along the rail and caught the field at the finish line to take the race.
“Oh my God, Mulder, she won!” Scully pulled the ticket from her pocket and excitedly waived it in his face.
“See. Must be magic,” he chuckled at her enthusiasm.
The afternoon went quickly; Scully found herself enjoying the excitement of each race. Mulder was just enjoying watching his partner.
However, by the seventh race, Scully’s beginner’s luck had disappeared.
In an attempt to cut her losses, she had gone from choosing her selections from win to buying show tickets in hopes they would at least come in third. She had only picked three out of the first seven races.
When her pick for the seventh race had finished fourth she tore up the ticket and turned to her partner. “I give up. *You* pick this one.”
The sun had come around the grandstand warming their seats. Mulder stood and pulled off his loosened his tie altogether, stuffing it in his jacket pocket and then rolled up his shirt sleeves.
Scully noticed the group of elderly ladies sitting in the box to their right eyeing his fine form. She laughed to herself. Mulder had that effect on women of all ages. “You want something to drink?” he asked her and she nodded.
Mulder was gone so long Scully was afraid she would be watching the eighth race by herself.
When he finally returned, he handed her a tall iced tea and a ticket to win on number 3.
“Where were you?” she asked, watching him gulp down his own tea.
“Went to see a man about a horse. I went to the restroom, Scully” he amended at her bizarre expression.
Scully looked at the ticket she held in her hand and then at the program. ‘It’s Magic,’ Mulder? Our horse’s name is ‘It’s Magic’? This is a ten dollar win ticket!”
“You told me to pick one, so I did. Seemed appropriate, don’t you think?” He chugged the rest of the tea and set the empty cup in the holder on the seat back in front of him, then leaned back in his seat to put his arm around her shoulders.
Three minutes later, Scully was crumpling the losing ticket and tossing it aside. “Well, I’d say it’s NOT magic. I think it’s time we quit while we’re *not* ahead, Mulder. You ready to leave?”
Mulder looked disappointed. “You don’t want to stay and see how Bailey’s horse does?”
“I don’t, but I can see you do,” she replied with a sigh.
Mulder leaned forward and grabbed his jacket off the seat in front of him. “Come on, admit it, Scully: you’re having fun. We’ll go down and watch from the rail.”
Scully arose and Mulder followed her out of the box, tossing his jacket over his shoulder.
As they climbed the few stairs out of the box and turned to head downstairs, she glanced back at the women who had been eyeing her partner earlier.
All four pair of eyes were glued on him. “You’re making quite an impression on the senior set, Mulder.”
“Excuse me?” He asked leaning down to catch what she had just said.
Scully motioned to the box of elderly ladies, “They’ve had their eyes on you all day.”
She watched him stop and turn around to look at the women she was referring to. A sexy smile played across his lips and he then gave them a slow wink.
They both watched the women giggle and turn various shades of red.
“Can’t take you anywhere, can I?” Scully tried not to laugh.
“What, I didn’t do anything…” he told her innocently as they made their way down the stairs.
Mulder slipped his jacket back on as they stepped out into the sunshine, steering Scully towards the finish line where they could get a better view.
The crowd, such as it was, had thinned out and he was able to find her a good spot where she could have an unobstructed view of the track. Her red hair glistened in the sun.
The bugler came out and called the horses to the post. Mulder pulled the program from his jacket pocket and handed it to Scully. “Last race, you pick.”
“You’re not going to bet ‘Little Green Man’?”
“He’s seventy-to-one now, Scully. You don’t seem to have too much confidence in my choices anyway.”
“You’re right,” she told him snatching the program from his hand as the horses paraded past. ‘Little Green Man’ was number eight.
As he pranced by Mulder noted how his chestnut coat glistened much the same color as his partner’s hair.
*It *has* to be a sign,* Mulder thought, and he reached in his pocket to finger the ticket he had placed in there before the previous race.
While Scully studied the program and the horses, he scanned the crowd.
It didn’t take him long to spot Bailey wobbling down from the paddock towards the rail.
Mulder watched the elderly man stop for a moment beside a young couple with a stroller. Bailey pointed to something in the program and they all laughed.
Something made Bailey look up then, and he caught Mulder’s eye and gave him the thumbs up.
“You pick a horse yet?” Mulder asked, turning back to his partner.
“Get me number 4 to show,” she told him and then turned around to watch the horses trot past on their way to the starting gate.
Mulder wandered off to get her ticket, stopping on the way back when he spotted Bailey. “Your magic better be working, Mr. Bailey,” he told him with a chuckle.
“It is, Mr. Mulder, it is. I can guarantee ya.” The elderly man grinned broadly as Mulder walked away to join his partner.
Scully’s horse broke from the gate first.
They watched the backstretch action on the tote board screen again. Bailey’s horse was on the outside in fifth place.
As the horses rounded the clubhouse turn, Mulder listened to the call of the race over the loudspeaker. His heart pounded in his chest.
He hadn’t done anything this spur of the moment in a long, long time.
Scully’s horse had dropped back to sixth but Mulder could see the flashing red mane of ‘Little Green Man’ close to the front of the field of horses as they came down the stretch.
He heard the announcer say that his horse had moved into the lead. “Run, Red, Run!” he yelled, losing his composure completely and banging his fist on the rail.
Scully turned around to look at him in disbelief just as the horses thundered past them across the finish line, ‘Little Green Man’ pulling ahead of the rest of the contenders.
“YES!!!” Mulder roared, then wrapped his arms around his partner and lifted her from her feet.
“Mulder! Put me down!” *God, what has gotten into him today?* she wondered.
Someone squealed with delight from the crowd behind them and Mulder turned, Scully still in his arms, to see the young couple whom he’d seen Bailey talking to before the race, hugging each other excitedly.
When he set her back down on her feet, Scully looked up at him. “I don’t believe it,” she said, tossed her losing ticket on the ground.
Okay, it was kind of exciting to see the long shot horse win the race, but the whole affair left her a little bit suspect.
Mulder had a very suspicious grin on his face. “Can we go now?” she asked.
Mulder searched the crowd for Bailey but he didn’t see the elderly man. “Yeah,” he smiled. “But not before we cash in our winning ticket,” he told her, producing the ticket he had purchased earlier in the day and handing it to her.
“You didn’t…” she said, accepting the winning ticket on number 8 from him. Suddenly her eyes went wide as she scanned the ticket. “Mulder, this is a five hundred dollar *win* ticket!”
“And he went off at eighty-to-one.” Mulder watched her do the math in her head.
He bit his tongue when he saw the realization hit her.
“Mulder … that’s for — oh my God!” He leaned down as her arms flew up to wrap around his neck.
At 10:00 A.M. the next morning they were both seated in their customary positions in the Assistant Director’s office.
This time, Mulder felt much more comfortable with his backup once again seated next to him. They both watched as Skinner thumbed through the report Mulder had typed with flying fingers earlier that morning.
“You know, agents, your recommendations for a sting operation to identify the operatives in this gambling ring reads like a movie script. You found no evidence that Mr. Bailey might be involved?” Skinner looked annoyed.
Hey, it had worked for Paul Newman and Robert Redford. “No Sir,” Mulder replied.
“I tried to reach you yesterday,” Skinner commented looking up to meet Mulder’s eyes.
“Sorry, Sir, I must have forgotten to charge the battery on my phone,” Mulder squirmed.
Skinner studied his wayward agent and then looked pointedly at his partner. “Both of you?”
“Ah — no, Sir,” Scully looked uncomfortably at her partner. “I must have forgotten to turn mine on yesterday morning…”
“Might I suggest that you both make sure at least one of you has a working phone before you leave the house in the morning? It might have prevented you from wasting the entire day.” Skinner scolded them.
Mulder glanced at his partner, then back to Skinner. “Excuse me, Sir?”
“Detective Johnson called. Baltimore P.D. got a much more lucrative lead they’re following up on.” Skinner closed the file. “He wanted to extend his apologies and hoped that I hadn’t pulled you off of something that would have been a lot more productive.”
Beside him, Scully was secretly *very* happy that ‘Little Green Man’ had crossed the finish line mere seconds after 5:00 p.m., the Bureau’s regular weekday quitting time.
“Oh, I don’t know, Sir,” Mulder replied, the corner of his lip curling into a wry smile. “Yesterday was a pretty productive day.”