By Martin Ross & StarfleetOfficer1
Category: Casefile; humor.
Rating: R for language, graphic descriptions
Three dead mobsters, three impossible crimes, an ex-genie, and a human luck magnet. When Mulder and Scully luck onto the case, they learn to be careful what they wish for.
It happened as Terry Fitzcarren was about to turn into Ballou’s for the evening’s final brew.
Initially, Terry thought he’d been blindsided. Stars had blossomed in his head, like they had after that piece of low Irish shit Joe Hannahan kicked him upside the skull with those heavy biker boots he wore to look macho. All because Terry’d been caught putting it to Joe’s little sister, what’s-her-name. But here, Terry had felt no collision of hardened, steel-reinforced leather against his temple, no jaw-slamming jolt as baseball bat or tire iron encountered tissue and bone.
Then there was the blinding light. Terry had heard of folks who’d seen such a light as they hovered between life and death, had listened vaguely to the priests yammer on about the illuminating glory of God. Long before he could legally buy his first pint, Terry had known the Miranda-Escobedo warning far better than The Lord’s Prayer or his Hail Mary’s. He discounted the possibility St. Peter was awaiting him with a Harp’s.
Even if he believed in such things as angels that looked like Roma Downey (like to polish her halo, mused Terry, whose only contact with angels was semi-comatose and out of remote range in front of the Hallmark Channel), Ellen Fitzcarren’s youngest long since had recognized any posthumous trip he was taking was going to be straight to the furnace room.
Terry’s eyes began to clear, and he realized he was standing in the middle of some field, maybe downstate, some freakin’ cornfield or whatever the hell they grew out in Redneckville. They must’ve hit me real good to get me from the edge of the Loop all the way out to the sticks without me coming to, he reflected, surveying the scenery around him. The trees looked funny; the air was strange, made him feel dizzy.
Terry felt something scurry over his soft leather wop loafer, which by the way had been pretty effed-up by the boggy soil on which he’d been standing. He looked down, yelped, and jumped about six times higher than he’d ever managed in that prick Coach Jacobs’ eighth grade P.E. class. The thing that had trespassed on Terry’s shoe scuttled off under a bush that didn’t look like nothing ever grew in the old neighborhood.
“Fuckin’ shit,” Terry breathed, checking all around him for more of the crab-sized cock-a-roaches. They must’ve taken him somewhere like Florida or California or some other primitive hellhole. It was kind of hot, he thought, and just like that, a cool shadow fell over the young man.
He glanced up at the too-blue sky to see if some rain was moving in. That would seriously fuck up his new shoes.
Instead of clouds, however, Terry Fitzcarren saw teeth, lots of them, and the wet, black hole behind them…
“Fuckin’ shit,” Terry reiterated. Considering his blood alcohol count, it was a reasonably eloquent assessment.
2:12 p.m. the following day
Sir Kenneth Rees-Petrie nearly ran his Rover into the corner anchor of the main research tent, then barely remembered to put the battered vehicle into park. He barked his chin on said stake as he stumbled toward the open flap.
Meadors and the students were huddled around the large worktable at the tent’s center, watching intently as D’Onofrio, one of the Americans hired under the Royal Academy grant, scraped and brushed at the domed object before him.
“This is it?” Rees-Petrie rasped, nudging his way through the group. No one asked how his permit negotiations had gone at the capital, how the turbulent plane trip back to camp had been. For once, the knighted and eccentrically garrulous paleontologist wasn’t center stage, and for once, he didn’t care. “You found this where now?”
“Grid 12-D,” Meadors murmured, as if afraid to disturb the object before him. “Where we uncovered the Megalosaurus jawbone.”
Rees-Petrie reached for the worktable to steady himself. “That can’t conceivably be–”
“But it is,” stated D’Onofrio, who’d never once allowed the scientist to finish a sentence, and who reveled in some “musical” group misspelled Phish. “And there was no sign of geological shift. You carbon date this fucker, I’m betting he’s gonna match the jawbone. And from the dinosaur shit we found in the vicinity and the scratches I’ve found on the temples, he might’ve been killed by the same jawbone.”
Rees-Petrie was too stunned either to chide D’Onofrio for his utterly inexcusable language or his identification of coprolites as “dinosaur shit.” “This is entirely insane. It not only would predate Leakey’s findings by eons, but it defies all known theories of saurian and mammalian evolution.” The scientist stopped dead and leaned in, coming nearly nose-to-occipital with his crew’s find. “Bloody hell. This is Homo sapiens.”
D’Onofrio grinned as Meadors frowned anxiously. “That’s why we didn’t dare give you details over the radio, Kenny. You can even see rudimentary evidence of modern dental work. But this skull undeniably came from the same Jurassic strata as the Megalosaurus remains.”
“Show him the other,” urged D’Onofrio, like some oversized, shaggy five-year-old playing doctor. “You are gonna fucking LOVE this.”
Rees-Petrie finally glared disapproval at his student, but he fell back into a trance as Meadors unwrapped a previously ignored parcel a few inches from the human skull which had rested impossibly for hundreds of centuries under the African topography.
It was a small metal disk, in remarkably good shape and clearly machine-tooled. Rees-Petrie gawped. “No, you didn’t find this…”
“Right by the skull,” D’Onofrio crowed. “It’s a watch – I mean, the back of a watch. I’d say solid gold. Maybe a Rolodex. Get it under the lamp – here, you’ll need a magnifier.”
Rees-Petrie snatched the glass from the impertinent Yank and squinted at the hieroglyphics inscribed on the back of the acid-cleaned disk.
“To Terence Fitzcarren, with, with…” the paleontologist recited, awestruck.
“I think it’s ‘love,’” Meadors ventured. “’With love and best wishes from Uncle Liam.’ Kenneth? Kenneth, you don’t look at all well.”
“He’s fucking stroking out,” D’Onofrio yelled, and the last terrifying sight Rees-Petrie saw before darkness descended was the hairy giant lunging to perform CPR…
The Breath of Cork
10:12 a.m. two weeks later
Jenn glanced up warily almost as the obscenity escaped her lips. She gasped the oath’s twin blasphemy — Cragan O’Mara was grinning at her from his booth under the Guinness mirror. He’d finished his huge Irish breakfast — hard to believe such the old pixie could put away such a feast before noon, harder still to conceive of the octogenarian surviving on a daily diet of Irish bacon, fried eggs, grease-bloated black-and-tan puddings, and plumply lethal sausage links. Actually, Jenn was uncertain eightysomething might not be on the shy side. She wouldn’t have been surprised to find he’d shared a pint or two with the young James Joyce. Or started the Potato Famine his own self with a nod of his liver-spotted brow.
“And what would so dismay such a lovely lass as yourself in the dawning hours of such a fine day?” O’Mara murmured, his Trib limp in his leathery claws. His dialogue was straight out of ‘40s-era Hollywood, too. B’gosh and begorrah and gimme an effing break, Jenn moaned silently.
“Nah, just all the crap in the news today,” she smiled in a valiant attempt at nonchalance. “You know, same old same old.”
To her true dismay, the old “gent” rose and hobbled across the battered planks to the bar. Jenn found herself transfixed: He’d managed somehow to maintain eye contact the entire time, like an ancient mongoose hypnotizing a cobra. Except he was the cobra, too. A cobra hypnotizing a deer in the headlights? Formulating metaphors had never been Jenn’s strongest point. She cursed Kelli, who’d asked Jenn to sub a couple mornings so she could hit Atlantic City with her latest slab of man-beef. Cragan O’Mara was always Ballou’s solitary customer before the 11 a.m. barflies started drifting in.
“And so what is distressing me dear girl this a.m.?” Yellow-nailed fingers turned the folded Sun-Times she’d spread on the bartop. “Ah yes, I saw something about this. I wonder if this fella’s any kin to our poor absent Terry.” O’Mara chuckled, like a crow pondering a fresh strip of rodent carrion. “A curious affair, all right. But I’d scarcely imagine this should be anything to bother your pretty head about, Jenn, me dear.”
Something seemed to pass through his mineral eyes, made them brighter, sharper. Jenn unconsciously backed a step, banging her tailbone against a Harp tap. Then, it all fell into place as she recalled a certain last call a few weeks before.
“Just got me thinking about Terry, is all.” Jenn shrugged, “You know, how he just vanished without a trace. One of the guys said he saw him outside, you know, outside the bar, the night before he went missing.”
“And what would you make of that, dear girl?” O’Mara inquired, eyes dancing. “No doubt ran into one of his crowd. Or, more’s the like, ran afoul. Terence McCarren was always a bad sort, rough piece of work. Fine young gal like yourself shouldn’t concern herself about such a bad penny. Sure, and he’ll show up in some form or another.”
“Sure,” Jenn stammered.
O’Mara squinted for a moment, the grin vanishing. Then he cackled; Jenn jumped. “All right then. Guess I’ll be off with myself. Give Timmy my regards. And may the–”
“Bye, Mr. O’Mara,” Jenn interrupted, blithely. “Take care.”
The elfin Irishman nodded, smiling now in an altogether different manner. “Right. Right. Top of the morning.”
As soon as O’Mara shut the sun and the Tuesday morning traffic back outside, Jenn fumbled her Samsung from her bag under the bar. She nearly dropped the cheap phone in the ice bin before she could punch in the D.C. area code.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
“You must’ve read about the archeological find a couple weeks back in Africa. The body, the watch?”
Scully nodded cautiously. Terry Fitzcarren had been a low-echelon Chicago hood and enforcer, nephew of Liam Fitzcarren, head of Chicago’s Irish mob. He’d been reported missing the night after he’d been seen celebrating some suspiciously cryptic accomplishment, probably related to his uncle’s organization.
Then he turns up the next day under several layers of dirt and rock, known associates T. Rex and Brachiosaurus. Jurassic Park IV: Married to the Mob. It had been all over the papers, the media alternately alleging a colossal scientific fraud (Scully’s pet theory), gross incompetence (Oops, misplaced my mobster), or a massive criminal conspiracy (Hey pal, how’d you like to be sleeping with the Icthyosaurs).
Scully chased thoughts of mobsters and monsters from her mind. Mulder was sniffing at the edge of a new case just as she was trying to clear the decks for the reunion. Aunt Deborah’d guilted her into this Joycean trek into the Great Midwest to reconnect with a bunch of third-degree relatives Scully recalled dimly at best.
Wait. Chicago. Had Scully not missed her morning Americano Grande because of Mulder’s dallying, the dawn would have come earlier.
“Mulder,” she murmured frostily. “You are not leaving me alone with these people to go chasing sociopathic hoodlums, no matter how tempting.”
“Well, somehow, because this lad was with one of the Chitown outfits, Organized Crime got stuck with the case,” Mulder continued. “Case, ha. Closest thing we’ve got to a suspect is Fitzcarren had a run-in with one of Tony Caprano’s boys a month or so ago. You remember, big player in the western burbs?”
“Doesn’t sound like Caprano’s style, though,” Scully frowned. “Doesn’t sound like anyone’s style. And ‘we’ don’t have a case.”
“Which is what brings us to today’s presentation,” Mulder said hopefully.
“We have a 4:45 flight. And why can’t you learn PowerPoint, like everyone else?”
“When Gates gets the bugs out. See, there’re two things the press doesn’t know. Number one, the archaeological team in the Congo found some gouges in Fitzcarren’s ribs that seem to indicate…”
“Ah, that Fitzcarren was gnawed to death by something big – bigger than anything walking around either Michigan Avenue or the Congo, except maybe Rosie O’Donnell.”
Scully’s brows rose. “Number two?” she asked slowly.
Mulder chewed at the inside of his cheek. “Well, there may be a couple of related homicides.”
“Related to this?” his partner asked, incredulously. “How?”
“Hold onto your popcorn,” Mulder breathed, fooling with switches.
“Richard ‘The Swordfish’ Fraternelli,” Mulder narrated as the first slide displayed a man. Or what had been one, Scully observed, grimacing. Looked more like Richard “The Flounder.” “He was one of Caprano’s collectors, about as low on the totem pole as you can get. He was supposed to meet some of the boys in Flatbush for dinner, wound up falling in the middle of the street in front of the restaurant, punched a three-foot-deep hole in the asphalt. Nothing on the block was more than four stories, and the coroner insists Fraternelli fell from a height of at least 30,000 feet. So we start looking for a helicopter, maybe one of the competing families wants to send a message to Tony, air mail. It was easy to find out – you know how tight they’re watching big-city airspace after 9-11. No chopper, no Cessna, no ultralights, not even any kids flying a kite in the area.”
Mulder clicked the projector remote. Another obviously mobbed-up man appeared onscreen, festooned with too much gold jewelry and wearing an expensive polo shirt and khakis. A tall drink was on the patio table next to the man’s chaise lounge. The man’s face looked like a Texas beef brisket about halfway through the grilling process.
“Jesus,” Scully exhaled. “He looks like he lost three rounds with a Radar Range.”
“Ramon DeColta, runner for one of the Venezuelan cocaine families, runs the Cook County franchise. His brains were cooked inside his skull. Eyeballs were like a couple of Swedish meatballs. And get this. We asked maybe did somebody do a job on him with a blowtorch, maybe one of those gas heat blowers. M.E. says no, this was radiation.”
Mulder smiled sadly and hopelessly. “Solar, Scully. Solar.”
“What the hell—”
“Probably what he said, too,” Mulder empathized.
“Mulder, this is fascinating – I won’t deny your adolescent wonder. However, we are officially on P.T. in roughly three hours. In 24 hours, we will be in the warm bosom of Clan Scully – you no doubt playing World of Warcraft with the kids, me being interrogated about why you and I haven’t enjoyed the sacred sacrament and started churning out mini-Mulders. I won’t candy-coat it: It will be 72 hours of Gaelic-American purgatory, and if we escape with our souls intact, we will be all the stronger for it. But you will stay away from all mobsters – Irish or Italian – and certainly from Venezuelian drug kingpins. My Great-Uncle Francis should be grim and frightening enough for you. Is this registering, Mulder?”
Mulder nodded as he flourished a pink phone slip. “And then there’s this. It came in while you were with Skinner. Remember that case down in Florida? The Great Mouthless Storage Manager, your invisible slacker?”
Scully’s pale Irish skin lightened a shade. “No.”
Mulder grinned, folding his arms and nodding sharply with a blink. “Seems our favorite ex-djinn’s working a tap in Terry Fitzcarren’s former stomping grounds. She thinks she may know what happened to these people. I guess even after you lose the touch, you never lose the Eye.”
“Mulder, please. . .”
“It’s like kismet, fate, Scully. C’mon, lass; come leprechaun-hunting with me.”
O’Hare International Airport
11: 10 p.m.
“I don’t want a pickup,” Scully said through her teeth for the fifth time. “I don’t like pickups, I can’t parallel park a pickup, I don’t want to haul some monster truck through Chicago rush hour traffic.”
The girl hadn’t yet broken contact with her computer screen. “You know, you’re really getting a great deal on the Sonora,” the clerk droned in a thick Chicago accent. “Normally, you’d haveta pay an extra $20 a day, but we got this special runnin’…”
“You’re not listening,” Scully growled, glaring at Mulder peering at the parade of bags, totes, and trucks circling the carousels. “I don’t want a Sonora.” She flopped her ID on the counter, as she had at Reagan when the airline tried to bump her. “I was supposed to get a Bureau car, but they’re all booked up, so I need a nice economy sedan, a Fusion, even a Yugo, if you have one. But I don’t want a pickup.”
The clerk’s fingers had been playing her keyboard during his entire discourse. Now she looked up for the first time with a beaming smile. “Jesus, you’re in luck. We gotta Dodge Grand Caravan.”
Scully’s right hand twitched toward her jacket, where her shoulder holster would’ve been if she hadn’t packed it.
“You want the insurance?” the clerk inquired.
Scully shook her head wearily. “I feel lucky.”
“Lemme get this straight,” Scully said slowly. “You gave away our room?”
“Nooo,” the impeccably dressed desk clerk responded patiently. “You failed to request a late check-in, and we have four, no, five, major conventions in this borough alone this week.”
Mulder had disappeared seconds after Scully queued up at the registration desk. “I have a confirmation number,” Scully complained. “I’m FBI, you’ve got that on your computer.”
“I sympathize,” the balding young man offered, a sympathetic look momentarily flitting across his pink face. “However, you failed to request a late check-in, and we were forced to offer your room to someone else.”
She pursed her lips momentarily before asking testily, “What else do you have? I just need a place to crash. Anything.”
“Well, we have one VIP suite open, but of course…”
“I’ll take it.”
“But it’s $350 a night.”
“Gimme the key.” Years of chasing other-dimensional entities and shape-shifting aliens and flukemen or man-flukes or whatever had rendered Scully immune to Bureau bean counters. And after said years of mind-bendingly unusual travel expenses, she doubted Skinner would lean too hard on her about Mulder raiding the hotel’s minibar and watching a few naughty nurse movies on Spectravision.
“But, ma’am, we like to keep the VIP suites open for, well, visiting VIPs…”
“How about VAPs?” Scully asked with a dangerous smile.
“Very Armed People? Do you have a policy for them?”
“Need any help with your bags?”
“They got lost at the airport,” Scully informed him, slumping against the desk. “Just give me a 5 a.m. wake-up call.”
“Will do.” A phone warbled at the clerk’s elbow. He grabbed the handset. “Yeah? Oh…Oh. Oh, my. Yeah. Do that.” The desk clerk cradled the phone and looked nervously at the disheveled agent. “You have a Dodge Grand Caravan? It seems the attendant had a little accident in the parking garage. You know, those things are terrible for getting around in The Loop.”
“All set?” Mulder chirped as Scully’s trigger finger trembled. “I made a couple calls, and we’re all set for a meeting with the departed Mr. Fitzcarren’s Uncle Liam three hours before we have to be at Scullyfest 2011. Luck of the Irish, huh?”
“Erin go eff yourself,” Scully muttered, reaching for a luggage handle.
“Accommodations OK, guys?” Det. First Class Danny von Flanagan asked as they cruised past a seemingly interminable string of row houses, pizzerias, delis, groceries, industrial supply houses, and more row houses.
“Yeah, fantastic,” Mulder beamed. “They screwed up and we scored the Donny Trump suite. Little late night partying going on next door, but Scully straightened ‘em out. You know, after awhile. Right, Stallone?”
“Huh?” Scully grunted, head snapping up. “So what do we know about this McCarren?”
Von Flanagan shook his head. “Liam’s a smart one – hides under a few dozen layers of phony paper, cardboard businesses, straw men, and an Irish brogue so thick he could serve it up hot with some soda bread and green beer. He’s fourth generation Chicagoan, so when he’s alone, he probably sounds more like Elliott Ness than Father Flanagan, but he likes the image of a lovable but dangerous character.
“Nephew Terry settled for dangerous. Five assaults, two with intent, on his sheet, all kicked by his uncle and the family consigliere, a sharp old coot who’s been with the family since Eisenhower. Stupid kid, always wanted to throw gas on the fire. Not surprising he bought it young.”
“Little more surprising he bought it getting mauled by Barney’s tougher cousin,” Mulder suggested.
“Hmm,” von Flanagan murmured.
The Breath of Cork, a brick-fronted pub wedged between a women’s boutique and an insurance office, was Liam Fitzcarren’s base of operations. The almost impossibly deep room beyond the solid wood door was dark, comfortable, and permeated not unpleasantly with the smell of yeast, hops, and whiskey. Though it was early in the morning, a couple of guys in street department coveralls hurled darts and traded obscene observations about an unidentified female coworker.
Liam Fitzcarren was ensconced in a rear booth, a steaming cup of black coffee sending plumes to the stamped tin ceiling. On the bench across from him was an ancient man, bushy white hair neatly combed in waves, eyebrows like restless wooly worms, an expensive but vintage three-piece suit draping smoothly over his skeletal shoulders.
“My sympathies on your nephew’s death,” von Flanagan offered with nary a breath of irony, scooting in next to the old man.
Liam nodded, a small smile on his face. “Ah, that’s very kind of you, Detective. What I like about the boy – we may not often see eye to eye, but always a gentleman, he.”
The senior man smiled in kind.
“Mr. Fitzcarren, Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, from D.C. They investigate, um, unusual cases.”
Liam glanced over and extended a clean and exquisitely manicured hand. Mulder pumped it once. “And an unusual case it is, too, eh?”
“That’s an understatement,” Mulder said neutrally. He glanced at the old man. “And you are…?”
The gentleman smiled, the Mona Lisa number. “Cragan O’Mara, sir. A pleasure, I’m certain. I’m what you might call the family retainer, though I’m quite afraid I don’t retain as much as I used to.”
Von Flanagan snorted cheerfully. “Stow the blarney, Cragan. Mr. O’Mara here is either one of the most skilled attorneys in the five boroughs, or one of the luckiest.”
“I’d prefer to believe the former, but my honor forces me to confess to the latter,” O’Mara chuckled.
It was an immodest pass at modesty, but it was the elderly lawyer’s odd tone that brought Scully to attention.
“So,” Fitzcarren interjected, “I’m always happy to help my federal government in time of need, especially if we can find the son-of-a-bitch killed poor Terry.”
“You told Homicide the last you saw your nephew was right here, night he disappeared,” von Flanagan said, happy to be done with the amenities.
“That’s correct. My associates and I were celebrating a legal victory.”
“Any problems? Arguments between your nephew and anybody?”
Fitzcarren shook his head impatiently. “I’m sure you’ve already had a look at Terry’s sheet, and you know the boy has a touch of Irish temper.”
Von Flanagan’s eyebrows rose. “You’re a master of understatement today.”
Fitzcarren’s eyes narrowed, and Scully started to cough, but Cragan O’Mara cackled. “Come now, Liam. You and I both know the boy was no candidate for sainthood or even altar boy. But no, Detective, the evening proceeded without major conflict.”
“Major conflict?” Mulder inquired.
O’Mara’s blue eyes twinkled, and the agent could swear they became clearer. “What a perceptive fellow, this one. All right, Agent, you caught me in a sloppily constructed web of mendacity. The boy had a mouth on him, and little respect for his elders or betters. Liam, unclench that granite chin of yours. Friends, family, and associates alike, we’d come to ignore young Terry’s excesses. He was going a bit heavy on his drink, and one of the boys observed as how his consumption might lead him to an early demise. Terry took personal umbrage at this, but beyond a little bluster and crowing, no physical harm came to either party.”
“And who was the other party?” Scully asked blankly.
“That would be me, as a matter of fact,” O’Mara smiled. “I suppose I should know better than to try to staunch the foolish fervor of the young.”
“You think Cragan here bludgeoned Terry, booked the two of ‘em on a flight to darkest Africa, and put him to sleep with the dinosaurs?” Fitzcarren sneered. “And in case you should, I’ve got a dozen men plus William at the bar will tell you Cragan was with us ‘til the joint closed.”
“Nobody’s accusing anybody,” von Flanagan assured the mobster. “We want what you want, Liam – the guy that killed your nephew. You know of anyone in any of the other families that would have a reason to kill Terry?”
“Those fuck–, pardon my French, Johnny,” Fitzcarren said. “Those Capranos – you know the boy had a run-in with one of those hoodlums a few years back.”
Mulder suppressed a smile at the irony of Fitzcarren’s indictment. “You know Richard Fraternelli? Used to work for the Caprano organization?”
“Guy ripped a hole in the sidewalk in front of that eye-talian restaurant? Yeah, the arrogant smartass actually came in here looking for a job after Tony Caprano let him go. I told him politely to perform an unnatural act upon himself.”
“I was a bit more circumspect,” O’Mara added, unnecessarily. Almost purposefully unnecessarily, Scully thought.
Mulder persisted. “Ramon DeColta?”
Fitzcarren’s eyes flicked to his attorney, who sat smiling and motionless, and shook his head. Must’ve had business dealings, Scully concluded. But how would Fitzcarren jockey DeColta under a giant magnifying glass, like an ant ready for broiling?
“I’m afraid you’ve exhausted my supply of insight,” Fitzcarren said, rising. “Cragan and I have a meeting down at City Hall, a zoning issue, so we’ll say our goodbyes now. You want, William will set you up. My tab, William,” the mobster shouted to the bar as O’Mara slid carefully from the booth. The attorney’s expensive wingtips gleamed in contrast to his vintage suit and the surroundings.
“You mind if we ask William a few questions?” Mulder asked.
Fitzcarren grinned sadly. “Last I knew, William answers questions without authorization from myself or any other man. William, you help these fellows as a favor to Terry, hear? Anything you remember, right?”
The burly bartender nodded once. Fitzcarren nodded with finality, O’Mara with amiable courtesy, and von Flanagan with confusion. Mulder blinked his farewell.
“May you find what you’re looking for, and may it be what you seek, Agent Mulder,” O’Mara murmured. The crime boss and the lawyer took their leave, opening a blinding hole of outdoor light that sealed tight on their heels.
“What was that, Mulder?” von Flanagan demanded. “It was almost like the old man was trying to make a point. To you. And did you have to come on so strong with Fitzcarren? I have to keep my relationships solid in this town.”
“Let’s talk to the barkeep,” Mulder suggested, striding to the long expanse of dark wood. William placed a white towel and a newly polished stein on the bar. He looked to von Flanagan as if he’d been stamped out of that mold all Chicago bartenders used to pop out of before mixing frozen, syrupy cocktails had become the trend. “William…?”
“Healy,” he said. “Wha’ can I help you with?”
“The night Terry Fitzcarren disappeared, was there any trouble?”
“’Bout like Mr. Fitzcarren said,” Healy murmured. He smiled slightly. “Gotta keep your ears open and your mouth shut, kinda heavy clientele we get here. Terry always went through his belligerent drunk stage early in the evening, and if he didn’t get socked, or he didn’t sock somebody, or one a’ Mr. Fitzcarren’s boys didn’t sock somebody for him, Terry’d usually mellow into a whiny mope by ten or so. How his uncle won’t trust him with more of the business, how the chicks today are all lezzies ‘cause he can’t get laid, how the world’s just generally screwin’ him over.”
“Didn’t like him much, huh?” von Flanagan asked.
William shrugged. “You make your own luck, ‘cept Terry never wanted to waste the energy to do it. That night, he’d got all pissed off ‘cause one of the guys was ragging him how he was gonna drink and smoke himself into a early grave. He starts rantin’ and waving his arms, tellin’ everybody how he’s gonna outlive us all. The old man finally shut him up.”
“Yeah, he just smiles at Terry, that shit-eatin’ smile he’s got, and says, ‘May you live to be the oldest man in this room.’ He’s always spoutin’ some corny old Irish toast or blessing or some such crap. Well, Terry didn’t have enough brain cells left by that point to come up with anything, so he just staggered out.” William chuckled at the memory.
“Do you remember the night Richard Fraternelli came in here?” Mulder changed tracks.
William frowned for a second. “Didn’t get his name, but that must’ve been the Italian guy came in. See, we usually don’t get anybody in here from any farther south than Oak Lawn, so he stood out. Plus, he got a little, ah, loud. Seems he blamed some falling out he’d had with his boss on Mr. Fitzcarren.”
Looking for a job, Scully reflected. “Did it get physical?”
“Nah, the guy was a little shit-faced, but he knew not to fuck with Mr. Fitzcarren or the boys. He started talking kinda loud, like you do when you wanna punch somebody but you know better? Well, Mr. Fitzcarren just talked him down quiet-like, and suggested he go home to dry out. Even asked if I’d call the guy a cab, and Cragan sent him on his way with some more genuine Irish folk shit.”
“OK. Ramon DeColta.”
William didn’t seem to lose his composure, but his eyes shut down. “Nah, don’t ring a bell.”
“Doesn’t ring a bell, huh?” Mulder smiled. “I’d have thought DeColta would’ve ‘stood out.’”
“Mighta been off that night,” the bartender suggested. “Yeah, Jen, she was subbing for me.”
“Yeah. Look, William, I’m not going to start talking about bringing in health inspectors and checking to see if your license covers after-hours, ‘cause I’m sure you or Fitzcarren or whoever’s paid off the appropriate municipal officials,” von Flanagan said pleasantly but purposefully. “But if I start looking at this bar, your ownership papers, any illegal activity taking place on these premises, and Mr. Fitzcarren finds out it was you who brought all this federal heat down on him, I don’t think he’s going to bring out the good whiskey for your wake.” He paused. “We’re not looking to burn Fitzcarren,” he added, swallowing a “for now.” “We just want to know why DeColta came in here.”
William paused a beat, and then sighed. “OK, but you gotta keep this confidential. All I’m gonna say is DeColta and Mr. Fitzcarren were discussing a business deal, and Mr. Fitzcarren didn’t like DeColta’s terms. There were a few what-you-call ‘veiled threats’, and DeColta and his guys left. No guns, no problems, OK? That’s it.”
Mulder waited, but William had turned into a Stonehenge lawn ornament. “OK,” the agent said, pushing off the bar. von Flanagan sprinted after him into the sunlight, only to find him standing on the sidewalk, transfixed. Scully exited shortly thereafter.
“Mulder?” she inquired, walking up to him after a quick glance at von Flanagan. “Hey, you all right?”
“Ah, I was just thinking about the ‘killings,’ if that’s what we want to call them.”
Von Flanatan gave him a skeptical look. “Jesus, Mulder, you’ve been acting spooky ever since we left headquarters.”
“I’m fine,” Mulder smiled, half at the old nickname. “Look, the two things the victims have in common is Liam Fitzcarren and this bar. But what could that mean? I mean, Terry was part of the organization, part of the family. And how did a bunch of mobsters pull off three such bizarro murders? I’m sure they’ve got the money, but how do you hire the muscle to stick a giant, seemingly extinct carnivore on one man, drop a second one on the street out of thin air, and fry a third with solar radiation?”
He looked over at von Flanagan, who was staring incredulously at him. “Unless that’s how you Windy City guys roll,” Mulder added with a lazy grin.
“He did something to him, that mick flauta de hijo,” Rosarita DeColta spat as she set a plate of sugar-dusted pastries before the agents and quickly crossed herself. “I just know it. Those criminals killed my Ramon.”
Standing in an apron in the spacious living room of her son’s luxuriously ill-gotten home, wearing a doubtlessly extravagant diamond necklace and a designer housedress, Ramon DeColta’s mother seemed unaware of the irony of her indictment of the Fitzcarrens. The universal battle cry of the doting mother – “He’s a good boy.”
“How do you think they might’ve done that?” Scully asked patiently.
“How do I know?” the fashionable, gray-haired senora snapped. “Prob’ly one of those satellite laser beams I seen on the TV. Those Fitzcarrens, they got loads of money, the Capranos, too. Everybody’s getting’ all high-tech, with the Internet and the cell phones and the fax machines. Maybe they figure it’s cheaper just to buy some surplus killer satellite than to pay out all that money on hitmen.”
“Uh, we’ll look into that,” Mulder suggested.
Rosarito’s eyes narrowed. “You think I’m muy loco , a little crazy, huh? Well, let me tell you, Mr. Bigshot Federal Cop, you grow up like I did in one of the villages a thousand miles from the nearest indoor bathroom, you’d know there are loco things going on around us every day you can’t even see if you had Superman’s x-ray glasses…”
Mulder started to correct her on the superheroic inaccuracy, but she was on a roll.
“My papa, he saw the chupacabra at our window one night, waiting to snatch my sister from her bed. One time, I saw my dead uncle digging in our garden – just like that boy in the movie.” She crossed herself once more, whether for the dead uncle, herself, or Haley Joel Osment, Mulder didn’t know.
“You, ah, found the body, right?” he ventured.
Rosarita turned gray and back to Maybelline pink. “It was as if they’d barbecued him alive. I could hear his skin crackling, like frying meat. And he just kept screaming, as if the devil himself would take him. I didn’t tell those pinchi policia, those dumb cops, but that’s how I knew it was those criminals who were always bugging my Ramon.”
The report hadn’t mentioned DeColta saying anything before he died. “What did he scream?” Mulder asked.
Despite the horrific circumstances, she had their attention now, and she crossed her fleshy arms with satisfaction. “Omerta.”
“Omerta,” Scully murmured as von Flanagan calmly dodged a vintage Lincoln pulling an abrupt three-lane change across the exit from 290 into the business district. Scully grabbed the dash and waited for her heart to return to a normal rhythm. “The mafia code of loyalty. DeColta betrayed somebody in one of the families, or they betrayed him.”
“Yeah, but wait,” Mulder said as the cop screeched to a halt to allow a jaywalking homeless man to pass. The man grinned toothlessly and flipped the agents off. “DeColta was a Venezuelan. Why would he have used an Italian mob term like that?”
Scully shrugged. “Maybe he was trying to say an Italian mobster had killed him. One of Caprano’s guys, perhaps.”
“I don’t buy it. He’s being fried alive, probably going out of his mind. Why would he be that roundabout about who killed him? If it was one of Caprano’s guys, why not yell, ‘Caprano’? I mean, it’s not like the hitter matters; Caprano put out the hit. If it was a hit. And the same for Fitzcarren. I mean, if it was a hit. Oh, crap, I don’t know what I mean.”
The assistant district attorney von Flanagan had recommended Mulder meet was a tall, thin, Lincolnesque man named McCoy, who’d recently left the New York DA’s office to take a post in Cook County. He was now located in one of the high rise buildings off of Chicago Avenue. They parked and entered the lobby, rode the elevator to the fifth floor, and walked into the cubicle land. McCoy was burning the late night oil at his desk, and his serious demeanor gave way to a dry smile as he considered the Fitzcarrens.
“Extraordinarily lucky,” McCoy said. “We’ve had them up on a few local charges, trying to make something stick long enough to put Liam away, but something would always break in his favor. Some juror we had pegged to convict him would choke on a piece of hot dog, a crucial piece of evidence would just vanish from police inventory, the jury would fly against all logic and just cut Liam loose. Incredible luck. The same was true of his father, Seamus, and, I heard, his grandfather, too. Cragan’s been representing the family for nearly 50 years.”
“What about this Cragan guy? The lawyer,” Mulder asked. “He must be really good, huh?”
McCoy started to nod, then frowned. “You know, not really, when I think about it. As I recall, he’s not particularly adept with case law, and his closings are based more on colorful cultural aphorisms and appeals to sentiment than on the facts of the case. Half the time lately, he’ll just stop in the middle of a motion, like he’s lost the thread of what he’s thinking. Of course, he’s somewhere between 80 and 150. It’s amazing he’s had such an impressive win record.”
“Amazing,” Scully moaned unconsciously. She was getting an uneasily familiar feeling…
“Agent Scully?” Patel’s low voice crackled over the speaker of Scully’s iPhone. The young man had taken second seat to Scully as the X-Files’ forensic specialist of choice. “It’s me. I had a look at your victims, and I can honestly say I am totally at a loss. I ran the bite marks on Fitzcarren’s body against every animal large enough to have inflicted the injury, and nothing even came close. Except some fossil teeth I examined at Georgetown University.
“Fraternelli’s injuries were more, ah, conventional: He actually appears to have died of cardiac failure, which is common enough in fall victims. But, given the condition of his body, I could find no evidence of him struggling or having been restrained in any way, which I might have expected if he’d been taken on an evening helicopter ride.”
“No helicopters were up anywhere near that part of town,” von Flanagan supplied, swerving smoothly around a cursing Chicago cabbie. “That’s been confirmed – 9/11, the threats to the Sears Tower.”
“As for DeColta, he had suffered injuries that might be consistent with one who’d spent his summer about two planets closer to the sun. I checked to see if the burns might’ve been caused by radioactive exposure, but he exhibited no other physiological symptoms of radiation poisoning. In short, Agent, you are up the creek without benefit of forensic insight.”
“Thanks, anyway,” Scully sighed, clicking off. She glanced at her watch. “Detective, can you drop us off at the station? I have a family, er, thing we need to get to.”
“That reminds me,” Mulder ventured. “I seem to have forgot to pack that 30-year-old whiskey for Great Uncle Francis.”
“Argh,” Scully stated.
“Dana!” the old man’s ancient eyes looked even more sunken in his skull because they were shaded from the sun by his enormous eyebrows.
“Uncle Francis,” Scully greeted with a suitably polite smile, trying not to wince as she got close enough to hug the man who smelled like his diaper probably needed changed.
The elderly Scully turned to Mulder and asked with a frown, “And who are you?”
“This is Mulder—you met him before, Uncle Francis,” she replied, hoping she didn’t sound too annoyed.
“What kind of a name is Mulder? And where’s the whiskey?”
“Um—“ Mulder started, but was rescued by Maggie, Tara, Matt, and Claire, who rushed outside the giant suburban home as soon as they realized Mulder and Scully were there.
“Fox! Dana!” Maggie called as if she hadn’t seen them in ages. They lived close to each other—in fact, they were considering inviting Maggie to live next door in the duplex. It was recently vacant and they wanted to make sure she had help when she needed it.
“Why is it you have to travel a few hundred miles to be excited to see someone?” Scully asked rhetorically so only Mulder could hear, but then put on a bright face for her immediate family as they approached.
There was kissing and hugging, and Mulder and Matt high-fived. Then they started back toward the house, and on their way to the porch, Francis backhanded Mulder across his arm and asked, “Who are you again?”
“Dana! And Fox!” Someone yelled, and Mulder wasn’t sure whether he should turn or duck.
A very large woman in her fifties bustled over, nearly knocking down two rowdy red-headed children fighting over a Nintendo DS. She held out her arms and waved her hands at her wrists. Scully wasn’t sure whether she was fake-crying or waving them to hug her, but the agent smiled politely and said, “It’s nice to see you again.”
Mulder glanced at her, questioningly, but she pointedly didn’t look at him. “My God, you look like you’ve lost weight,” she said, but didn’t give Scully a chance to respond as she enveloped her in a hug, and pulled Mulder in too. “So when’s the wedding date?”
Mulder laughed nervously. “There’s not a…”
“We’re not sure,” Scully answered with a half-smile.
“Well, don’t you live together in Bethesda?”
“Georgetown,” Mulder corrected, and promptly received an elbow in his side.
“Oh, you’ll have to give me your address so I can send you baked things. I love to bake,” she said with a grin. “What do you like to eat? You look like a man who can eat.”
“He’s watching his weight,” Scully answered, falsely apologetic, and grabbed one of the kids nearby to rescue them from this situation. “Aedan, how’s school?’
“Good, I guess,” the six-year-old answered, and then said with sudden excitement, “You know what I did yesterday? I put a piece of a stick in Jessie’s backpack ‘cause it looked like a turd.” He giggled. “’Cause it looked like a *turd*,” he repeated, making sure they understood why it was hilarious.
“That’s very commendable,” Mulder said kindly, and the child beamed as Scully shot him an angry look.
The woman was now gone, and so her ploy had worked. She had gone on to talk to someone else in the exquisite but crowded house. “Who was that?” Mulder asked her.
She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “No idea.”
“Okay. Well, I’m gonna go check out the hors d’ oerves.”
“Mulder, don’t you dare leave me here—“ he was gone too quickly for Scully to catch him. “Dammit,” she whispered, and little Aedan giggled and said, “Ooooooh! Aunt Dana said a bad word!”
Scully rolled her eyes but managed to smile. “Go play with your cousins, Aedan,” she told him kindly and sighed in relief as he ran off. But she was instantly sorry, because when Great Aunt Kathleen saw that she wasn’t talking to anyone, she promptly approached her and offered a hug, and the most popular question of the afternoon. “When’s the wedding date, dear?”
Meanwhile Mulder was telling stories of mothmen and flukemen and man-eating amoebas to a group of previously bored college and high-school-aged Scully’s.
“That’s amazing, man,” a sixteen-year-old hipster with red hair told him.
Mulder nodded his agreement.
“But you ever seen a Prince concert while you’re high?” the young rapper wannabe asked with a smirk. “Now *that* is truly amazing.”
The other kids stared at him and Mulder chuckled. “Can’t say I have, but I have seen an intelligent octopus used as a weapon before. And I wasn’t high.”
“*Sick*” one of the college-aged boys declared.
“What are you folks talking about over here?” an older voice asked, and Mulder turned around to see a middle aged man approach. He didn’t know who he was, but he said, “Just talking about what I do for a living. I’m Mulder—Scully—Dana’s partner.” He fumbled with his title.
“Mulder? That’s a strange name. I’m Don. Jessie’s husband,” he said, and pointed to someone Mulder didn’t know with his unoccupied hand.
Mulder nodded politely and some of the kids dispersed, sensing the ‘cool’ factor drop now that a mature adult had apparently entered the picture.
“So you’re her partner? Are the two of you going to tie the knot?”
It was about an hour later when Maggie brought out cookies and Mulder snagged three that he spotted a familiar face in the crowd. Scully nearly bumped into him from behind. “Mulder! There you are. I’m going to kill you.”
“Scully—look over there.”
“I can’t see over there. People are too tall. What is it?”
Scully’s face changed from perpetual annoyance to shock. “What’s he doing here?”
“Let’s go find out.”
He stuffed one of the cookies in his mouth and handed the other two back to Scully. He nearly ran into that woman who had originally greeted him. She turned to see who had bumped her, and was now staring Mulder straight in the face. “Watching your weight?” she asked after a moment’s pause.
Mulder’s mouth was full, so Scully simply said, “It’s the high-carb diet,” as she pushed him forward in the sea of Scully’s. But by the time they reached where Mulder had previously seen O’Mara, he was gone. “Excuse me,” Mulder asked, and swallowed the last of the cookie as he tapped the shoulder of some woman he didn’t recognize, “Excuse me. Have you seen the man who was standing right here a moment ago? Old fellow, older suit?”
She smiled and said, “Hi, Dana. Good to see you again. You must be Fox. It’s nice to meet you. And yes, I did see Cragan. He was just here—he’s a delightful man, isn’t he? I’m sure he’ll want to catch you before he goes. He was just leaving.”
“Sally, do you remember how we’re related to him?” Scully asked brightly.
Sally paused, then frowned. “As a matter of fact…I don’t. Isn’t that terrible? I guess with a family this big, though…”
Mulder frowned. “Thanks for your help, Sally. Good to meet you.”
He spotted O’Mara by the door, then, and said, “There! Scully, come on.” He nearly dragged his partner by the wrist, leading her to the front door. But again, he lost sight of O’Mara and then he was gone. “Mulder!” Don from the yard suddenly rescued himself from a conversation with Francis, and clapped Mulder on the shoulder. “Hey, have you seen Cragan around here? You know who I’m talking about?”
“Actually, we were looking for him too,” Scully said.
“We just made a bet and I owe him $10,” Don said. He shook his head. “But he disappeared before I could give it to him. I guess with this many people in the room…”
“Do you remember how your wife is related to him?” Mulder asked.
Don laughed. “I’m lucky if I remember what my wife *looks* like with this many Irish people in the room. Sorry,” he said, and shook his head.
“That’s okay. Thanks,” Scully replied, and turned to Mulder. “Think we should—“her phone interrupted her, and she immediately answered it. “Scully. Oh, no, it’s no problem. No, really. Oh? Okay. Where? Mulder and I will be there in about thirty minutes. Thanks.”
Mulder gave her an inquisitive look.
“That was von Flanagan. Apparently there’s a woman named Jen who says she has important information regarding the case. She wants us to meet her in a coffee shop on Michigan Avenue. We should get on the road if we want to beat rush hour.”
Mulder laughed. “You just want to get out of—“ he received a prompt elbow in the side as Scully’s mother approached from behind.
“Fox, Dana! Come on into the kitchen—Tara wants to know if you’re going to have time to set up some video games for Matt and the other kids.”
Scully gave her an apologetic expression. “Sorry, Mom, but we have to take off. We just got a call.”
Maggie’s face fell, but then she perked up. “You’ll be by later, right?”
“Absolutely,” Mulder said, and gave her a hug. “Try not to suffocate in here.”
She laughed and slapped him on the shoulder playfully, then gave her daughter a hug. “Be careful driving. It’s supposed to snow. But they said it’s going to be a wet snow, so it shouldn’t be too bad until it starts to freeze. Oh! Before I forget—Cragan had to leave, but he asked me to give you this.” She handed them a small folded Post-it note.
Mulder took it and read, “May the roof over your heads be as well thatched as the couple inside is well matched.”
Maggie burst into laughter. “See, even *he* knows you two better than you do.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Scully said with a smile and a jesting eye roll.
When they were on their way in the car, Scully turned to Mulder and said with a nearly crazy smile that really turned him on, “So Mulder, when’s the wedding date?”
“Ah,” Jen smirked. “You brought the little woman. And by little woman—-”
“Wassup?” Mulder interjected, seizing Scully and guiding her into the chair across from the retired djinn. The Michigan Avenue coffee shop was packed as the Chicago nightlife roared outside. Jen had commandeered the window table that afforded her the best seat for the human parade of which she’d never tired. She smiled sweetly at Scully; Scully fired back with an equal serving of strychnine-laced saccharine.
“Serious bad mojo in the workplace.” Jen sipped at her Kono Caramel Macchiato and sighed blissfully. “Haven’t felt this kind of vibe off anyone since Mussolini asked me to make him immortal. For a guy who always made the trains run on time, he sure didn’t see that one coming back to bite his Fascist ass. You know his middle name was Andrea? I always thought maybe he was overcompensating—-”
“You called?” Scully murmured.
“Sure. Fine. Whatever. There’s this old dude, probably a few centuries older than me. . .”
“Cragan O’Mara,” Mulder supplied. “Already had the pleasure.”
Jen raised an eyebrow. “Wow. You have wised up. Anyway, I think he’s cleaning up Chicago’s surplus douchebag population, though I can’t figure out how Liam Fitzcarren’s brain-deficient kid fits in.”
“You think O’Mara’s a leprechaun,” Scully said.
“Oh, please, of course not. There’s no such thing. Said the genie to the first fed ever to autopsy an invisible man.” Gen turned to Mulder. “I was working the stick a few weeks ago when Old Man Fitzcarren told that South American drug dude — DeColta — in no uncertain terms he wasn’t interested in doing business with him. Then DeColta turns to the goon that came in with him and said somethin in Spanish that didn’t sound very complimentary. They grab their coats, and Cragan, who’s been grinning the whole time, says to DeColta, now, lemme see… Yeah. ‘May the sun shine warmly on your face.’ Something like that. Blarney bullshit. Or so I thought.”
“And what did Mr. O’Mara tell Richard the Swordfish when he came in to leverage Liam?” Mulder inquired, clearly exhilarated. “No, wait; lemme guess. ‘May the road rise up to meet you.’”
Jen smiled serenely, embracing her mug with black-nailed fingers. Then the smile dropped away. “William’d told me what Cragan said to Terry the night he went missing, but I didn’t put it together ‘til yesterday morning, when I read about what happened to him. My poker face seems to have disappeared with the mystical powers, and I could tell Cragan could tell I knew. Must be some kind of fraternity between preternatural entities. I thought for a second he was going to toast my continued weight loss or wish me into the cornfield or something, but he just hobbled out. I think he may just be biding his time, though, and I figured you’d be the only guy, well, open enough to the possibility.”
“The possibility one of Chicago’s oldest and worst octogenarian lawyers is a leprechaun?” Scully squeaked. “Listen to yourself.”
“Still an absolute joy, huh?” Jen sighed. Mulder shrugged.
“”All three of the vics talked to Liam Fitzcarren shortly before they died, and they weren’t exactly pleasant encounters,” Mulder explained to his partner patiently. “All three encounters were in Fitzcarren’s favorite bar. And this lawyer, Cragan O’Mara, was in the vicinity each time.
“Then we got the murder methods, if you wanna call them that. O’Mara tells the first vic, ‘May the road rise up to meet you,’ and sure enough, it does, so to speak. The second time, it’s another old Irish saying: ‘May the sun shine warmly on your face.’ Next day, the victim gets a sunburn a tanker truck full of No. 400 sunblock wouldn’t have stopped.”
“No, Scully, wait. The third guy, Fitzcarren, the one sleeping with the dinosaurs, he gets a little soused, starts mouthing off. This old shyster tells him, ‘May you live to be the oldest man in the room.’ Now, where those scientists found Fitzcarren, wouldn’t that make him the oldest man in existence? Of course, I don’t think the kid’s uncle would’ve had anything to do with his murder, so that means the lawyer’s working on his own. At least in the last murder.”
“Mulder,” Scully said, this time more quietly but firmly. “This is like saying Tinkerbell jolted Fitzcarren with her magic wand, or accusing the Big Bad Wolf of huffing and puffing and, well, you know what I mean. A leprechaun?”
“When DeColta got fried, he kept yelling something,” Mulder persisted. “His mom thought he was screaming, ‘Omerta!’ Probably’d been around mobsters too long. What if he was shouting, ‘O’Mara!’? His mom’s a superstitious old broad: What if DeColta realized Cragan O’Mara had put a curse on him at the bar?”
“I thought those old Irish toasts were supposed to be blessings. A leprechaun?”
Mulder sat up. “This O’Mara, he’s been working for three generations of the Fitzcarren family, for a half-century. He’s not a particularly great lawyer, but he always manages to get Fitzcarren off. And there’s his shoes.”
“His shoes,” Scully finally intoned.
“Bear with me for a minute. I surfed up some stuff about leprechauns on the web. The word came from the Irish ‘leith phroyan,’ which means ‘one shoemaker.’ Quote: ‘Their clothing is never extravagant. Their footwear, however, is a source of pride, and every leprechaun possesses the very finest he can make. O’Mara was wearing this suit that looks like he bought it for Harry Truman’s inauguration, but you should’ve seen his shoes. They were gorgeous, like some kinda work of art or something.”
“Look, the British Isles have always been what, kind of mystical, right. OK, now, don’t most folk legends and superstitions have some sort of basis in reality? People started eating kosher because the pork back then was full of worms and the shellfish would rip you up from the inside. Now it’s a religious practice.”
“So much for Shaw’s Crab House tomorrow night,” Scully said. “Mulder, I could understand if their were some sort of scientific rationale for this. But magic, John? Leprechauns?”
“What would a leprechaun be, Monica? I mean, if there was such a thing? Maybe some kind of genetic fluke or something? Maybe from ‘way back or something, some race or culture that’s been breeding true for centuries.”
“You’re saying you think this ‘leprechaun’ is some kind of psychokinetic genetic mutant? What you’re talking about is the ability to move a human being through time, to control the power of the sun.”
“Like he’s so damned special,” Jen muttered.
It wasn’t long into their conversation that the phone rang, and von Flanagan informed them that they had another lead. A building in Cicero, used as a law office, had apparently employed all of the Fitzcarren’s at one time or another, and since Terry met his end, it had mysteriously popped up on Google searches as ‘Chicago’s first mobster house, home to Fitzcarren.’ It was too good to refuse, especially considering there was one employee who had left years ago, but whose name was on the building contract: Cragan O’Mara.
Neither Mulder nor Scully took much notice of the man in front of a central pipeline exposed in the wall of the lobby, tinkering with the temperature controls through a remote connection coming from the boiler in the basement.
They instead got on the elevator at the receptionist’s direction and traveled to the top floor, where the storage lockers were kept. They planned to go through lots and lots of files.
The receptionist at the 10th floor was more than happy to show them the files, but told them how to let themselves out and explained that she was leaving for the day. There was no one else left on the floor. The 10th floor was more like a warehouse with a bathroom and a desk. Rows and rows of filing cabinets lined the massive open space.
“Odd…I always thought the 10th floor was reserved for the boss,” Scully commented as they walked to the building’s files to confirm the Google article that identified O’Mara as the original owner.
“In this building, it’s the 9th floor,” Mulder stated. “I read that on the elevator. It’s a penthouse too, so it looks like the current ‘boss’ lives there part of the time. We need to determine if Terry Fitzcarren might have worked here before he died. I’m willing to bet that something here will solve this case.”
Scully raised an eyebrow as she opened the top drawer and extracted a building plan. “Mulder, that’s an enormous leap you’ve made.”
He stopped, and stepped back before opening the building plan he held in his hand. “Scully, don’t you ever get tired of having the same argument? I mean, we tend to repeat ourselves. Why don’t we just jump to the part where I say that’s it’s not so fantastic, and you say—”
“Shhh,” she held up her hand.
He was silent for a moment, and then asked, “What?”
“Do you hear water running?”
He shrugged. “It’s probably the old pipes in this building and the radiators. Everything here is ancient.”
She frowned at that explanation, but opened her building plan. “Now *that’s* interesting. Mulder, this floor was built to be waterproof. The roof is triple reinforced with the same techniques used in nineteenth century cargo ships at the dawn of the industrial age. It’s old technology but it works. No wonder O’Mara keeps his files up here.”
“Lower humidity and watertight environment. There’s probably enough paper trails and fuzzy math in here to make a politician’s head spin,” Mulder quipped, and glanced at the rows and rows of files as he opened his building plan. “But it’s well-shielded fuzzy math.”
“This is amazing,” Scully ignored him as she put her building plan back and extracted another, and then another. “This entire floor is built to be watertight, fireproof, and earthquake resistant. It acts as a lightning rod for the rest of the building. And this was all done in 1896.”
“But nothing to confirm that O’Mara was the builder.”
“O’Mara couldn’t possibly have been alive in 1896,” Scully said in her typical skeptical tone, but Mulder looked away for a moment and began walking toward the sound of the running water.
“So now you definitely hear that too,” Scully stated.
“Yeah, it’s kind of odd…it sounds too loud to be basic building piping and…” he touched the door to the receptionist area, then looked behind him in alarm. “Scully, this door is vibrating.”
He then suddenly looked down, noticing something wrong around his feet. They were getting wet. He realized that the waterproof seal on the door had broken, and that water was now leaking in at an alarming rate. “Uh-oh,” he said, and ran from the door just as the hinges began rocking violently. He pushed Scully to the far end of the room and said, “It looks like we’re about to get wet.”
Scully’s expression was one of alarm, but it changed to utter shock when the door burst open, wood from the frame splintering in a small explosion around the site while water gushed in at the doorknob level. It quickly dissipated to fill up the room to their ankles, and it was rising.
“Let’s get to the stairwell!” Scully exclaimed, and they ran through the thick, clear water to the staircase by the elevators. It was locked down. “Why is this locked?!” She yelled, getting ready to kick it.
Mulder held her back. “That’s not going to help. Come on, we need to find out the root cause and stop this from getting any worse.”
When they began looking, it didn’t take them long. The bathroom was clearly the source, based on the sound and the flow of the water. The toilet and sink pipes were in the process of severely overflowing, gushing water out at gallons per minute. The pressure was threatening to buckle the system and cause an explosion.
“This is too dangerous to work on—we need to find a way out of here,” Scully told him. The water was now rising to their knee level.
“There should be another staircase…” Mulder said, and grabbed Scully’s hand as he waded through the water. The cold liquid that surrounded them splashed up and they were quickly getting soaked. Scully’s teeth begin to chatter.
They ran around the massive floor but found nothing that resembled a way out. The tenth floor had no windows—it was part of the plan to make the place hurricane proof. They looked around desperately, and then Mulder said, “Go try and save some of O’Mara’s personal files.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to try to break out of here the only other way,” he said, and began wading through the water toward the fire ax on the wall. Scully watched him for a moment before rushing away herself, trying to find O’Mara’s personal file cabinet in the rows of endless flooding files.
Meanwhile Mulder grabbed a chair and stood on it, wobbling as it was almost completely under water now, and wielded the axe at the angled roof overhead. It was backbreaking work, swinging an axe upwards and not chopping off one’s foot or leg in the process.
While Mulder and Scully’s drama played out inside the building, Henry Weems, a local Chicago handyman, had been called to assist the man working on the main boiler pipes.
He had worked with Mulder and Scully before, on a case involving quite a lot of luck and the fortunate outcome of a mobster dead and a little boy the recipient of his liver. Having now knowledge of their location in the building or their dire situation, though, Henry decided that now was a good time to have a snack as he stood in front of the broken zone valve and assessed the problem.
He pulled out a box of St. Patrick’s Day cookies, sugar cookies in the shape of four-leaf-clovers with green sprinkles on top, and ate one as the original plumber looked on, annoyed. “I think you’ve got a zone valve isolation problem,” Henry assessed as he squatted down and proceeded to finish his cookie. “Yes, actually, that’s precisely what’s going on. This zone valve is reading that it’s disconnected from the rest of the system.” He stood. As he did so, sprinkles fell into the crack between the boiler pipe lead and the boiler below. The sprinkles almost immediately attracted a mouse that the building janitor had been trying to catch for weeks.
The mouse sniffed and then ate the sprinkles, which occupied him for just long enough for him to be in the correct location so that when Henry threw the switch and isolated that zone valve, the pipe he rested on began to retain the heat that would have been dissipated through the rest of the system. The sprinkles were gobbled up as the mouse heated up. He leapt off of the hot pipe and scampered away, but on his way down he fell painfully onto the boiler operating switch, tripping it and causing the boiler to gurgle and then chug to a stop.
Of course, with ingress still occurring, the water was not being pumped out and the pipes began to swell under the pressure. It ruptured, exploding the weak point of the pipe outward and puncturing the pipe next to it. Water began to gush out and into the basement, effectively draining the system.
All of this was unbeknownst to Henry, who finished the last of his St. Patrick’s Day cookies and mock saluted to the plumber, who stared dumbfounded at the system. All lights indicated that floors 1-9 were the correct temperature now, which meant his job was done. He closed up the panel and walked toward the locker area to prepare to go home.
“Mulder!” Scully yelled, unable to keep her head above the water anymore. She felt her partner’s arm around her as he dropped the axe into the water in favor of grabbing her. He pulled her close to him and helped her grab onto an I-beam secured in the ceiling.
“I think their roof is as well thatched…as we are appropriately matched,” Mulder quipped, and he blew bubbles as his face went underwater for a moment. Scully’s face hugged the ceiling, her arms quivering from the cold and the task of holding herself up.
She chuckled, and looked over to him. This was a desperate situation—one of the most desperate they had been in. They could not get out, and the water was still rising.
“I’m sorry, Dana,” he said over the sound of the rushing water, and didn’t look at her.
“Oh, please,” Scully shot back at him, and smiled. “You have nothing to be sorry about, partner,” her words were labored, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold herself up much longer. But that wasn’t the only reason why Mulder didn’t smile back. There was something about the way she said it…some twinge of regret laced in his voice that he wasn’t about to bring up in what looked like their last moments on planet Earth.
Suddenly, the water stopped rising. Then it began going down. Slowly but surely, the water was draining. Vents in the floor opened up and allowed the water to fall back into the piping system that carried it to the boiler. The basement was flooding, but Mulder and Scully didn’t know that.
“Don’t let go of that rod,” Mulder said.
Scully chuckled. “That’s what she said?” she asked, her arms and voice shaking violently at this point.
He laughed back this time, his voice shaking also from the labor of holding themselves up. There was no guarantee that they wouldn’t be swept into something sharp or deadly, so they had to hang on until they could see where they would land. The water went down far enough that a filing cabinet was visible beneath them, on its side. It was just the right height to assist their drop to the ground. Scully easily dropped on top of it, denting it slightly, and then gingerly stepped off.
Mulder, however, dropped and missed it completely, somehow, landing awkwardly on the soaked carpeting. Scully rushed over, but he held up his hand. “I’m okay. I’m just glad I didn’t fall through the floor.”
Scully sighed. “Now we just have to find a way out of here.”
As suddenly as the water began draining, von Flanagan burst through the stairwell door. “There you two are!” he exclaimed. Three uniformed officers were behind him, weapons drawn just in case. “Been tryin’ to call you for the past hour now.” He stopped, and looked around at the devastated storage floor. “What the hell happened here?”
“Ah, so good to see you lovely children again,” Cragan O’Mara exulted as the agents and his favorite barmaid/djinn walked into the den.
“I’m going to kick his lucky charms,” Mulder announced.
Scully waved him back as she closed the pocket doors between them and the assembled Scully clan. “Mr. O’Mara, I think we could make a solid case for attempted murder here — we’ll find the man who tampered with the pipes in your building, and I can’t imagine he or Liam Fitzcarren will be willing to take the heat for you. By now, I have to wonder if Fitzcarren doesn’t have some suspicion you had something to do with his nephew’s death. His man William doesn’t seem altogether trustworthy.”
“Well, dear Liam’ll have to send one of his boys to have done with me,” Cragan grinned. “You see, I am no longer in the Fitzcarrens’ employ.”
“What’s that mean?” Mulder muttered. “Don’t tell me he let you just walk out.”
“Liam knows I still have considerable influence,” Cragan murmured, spurring a chill up Mulder’s spine. “In fact, I wished him all the best. ‘May you be full to burstin’ with good fortune and health,’ I told him.”
“Jesus,” Mulder whispered.
Scully pressed on. “I have to know something, Mr. O’Mara. If what my partner believes about you is true, you could have found a far more creative and untraceable way to kill us.”
“Kill you?” Cragan sounded genuinely wounded. “Dear Dana. I knew fate would intervene well before you and your beloved would perish. I can read luck like a gypsy reads the tea leaves. Kill you? Heaven forefend.”
Scully started to protest, then stopped to consider. “Wait a minute. You wanted us to catch you?”
“And you’ve done so, admirably, my dear. I am now totally and utterly in your debt.”
“Took you long enough to work that one out,” Jen snorted. Cragan favored her with a bemused glint.
“I suspected you were a special girl,” the leprechaun nodded. “Only one with a special imagination would have suspected a feeble old gentleman such as myself could singlehandedly three tough customers like Terry and Mr. Fraternelli and Senor DeColta. But you’re no longer special, are you, Lass?”
“Quit loving the job,” Jen shrugged. “That’s what happened with you, isn’t it?”
Cragan templed his fingers and leaned comfortably back into his buttery leather chair. “More than a century I been doing for the Fitzcarrens and their sorry lot. A deal with the devil to save my kin.
“You’ve no doubt heard of the great troubles, when the blight took the potato crop? Well, one day I come home from a morning of wood-gathering to find this odd sort helpin’ himself to my secret store of Irish whisky. I’m ready to finish him right there, and he asks me, ‘How would you like to find your larder forever filled with potatoes?’”
Mulder turned to Jen. “Jeez — a bagful of turnips, a larder full of spuds? You guys really know how to haggle.”
“Had to be there,” the djinn sighed.
“At any rate, folks was dying all around us — I’d just buried my kid brother Joseph — and in my half-starved desperation, I couldna turn down the odd man’s offer. I think you’ve already guessed the rest. I believe the poor fella was wantin’ out of his contract and saw a willing mark.
Cragan’s eyes grew distant. “Like any foolish young hooligan, I tried to turn my newfound abilities to coin. And I was doing quite well for myself down to the village pub and the taverns roundabout. Until I ran afoul of a fearsome sort named Seamus Fitzcarren. He’d accumulated quite a name for himself with suspect enterprises, and he was headed to the States to expand his holdings, so to speak. Fitzcarren was a cruel man but quite an imaginative one, much like our fine Mr. Mulder here. He knew there was but one way I could transform the meager assortment in my hand into a winning pot, and there he had me. I was compelled into his service — it’s like a natural force, a law of physics for me and my kind.
“New York turned out to be a far more ‘provincial’ environment in which to ply the criminal trades, and Seamus decided my skills might be best employed in the courts. I was sent to Harvard on the Fitzcarrens’ dime, under the threat of what would happen to my people should I decide to strike out on my own. When old Seamus died of some bad rotgut in ’32, the eldest boy Sean inherited my services, followed by his ill-begotten spawn Liam in 1974.”
“That’s an impressive resume,” Mulder smirked. “What finally happened, they take away your health plan?”
Cragan glanced sympathetically at Scully. “He’s quite the flippant one, isn’t he? I think perhaps we can have a more constructive conversation if your mister were to enjoy a plate and a game of Frisbee outside.”
“Hey,” Mulder growled.
“Mulder, a few moments,” Scully requested calmly, regarding Cragan O’Mara curiously.
“Humor me, OK?”
Mulder muttered a distinctly non-Gaelic oath and shoved the French doors open. The dusty door track blunted the drama of his attempted slam.
“Ah, and could you join Mr. Mulder, as well, dear Jen?” Cragan smiled.
The former djinn planted her stylish boots. “I used to practice the trade, Old Man. She needs some experienced representation to make sure her head doesn’t pop off or she grows a third boob.”
“How fanciful,” O’Mara sighed. “I didn’t lure myself into Dana’s trap just to pull some mischievous leprechaun antics. Go, child. And you needn’t worry about Liam and his lot any more.”
“It’s OK,” Scully assured Jen. “I trust him.”
“Your wake,” Jen breathed, following Mulder into the familial din.
“Now,” Scully said when they were alone. “I have a feeling I know what you’re about to tell me. I have to warn you, though — a pot of gold would be tough to explain to the IRS.”
Cragan cackled. “You’re havin’ me on, Dana. I’m sure you know it doesn’t work that way. I just want you to ponder, for a moment, what fortunes might lie before you.
“Y’see, I’ve trucked with swine for the better part of my misbegotten existence. Watched men like Seamus Fitzcarren and his brood swill the best liquor, bed the finest women, line their pockets with gold mined from the blood of others. I’ve aided, abetted, and stood by mutely, as they’ve widowed wives and orphaned daughters and pumped poison into the veins of unhappy children.
“Heaven knows, I’m no longer a spiritual man — I quit the Holy Communion decades ago. But from time to time, I’m left to wonder how in God’s begotten world men the likes of Liam Fitzcarren and Ramon DeColta are allowed to sip from the gilded cup of Life whilst good, pure souls such as yourself are forced to endure a litany of tragedy and loss even the great Mr. Joyce could never have created.”
Scully was silent, still.
“It’s seemed a hard road, hasn’t it, Dear?” Cragan now murmured, eyes filled with empathy and love. “Every turn a path down blind alleys and graveyards, every answer riddled with thornier questions. Mr. Frost’s road less taken has led you into darkness and despair.”
She could hear herself breathing, feeling the dull thud of her soul-weary heart. “Please,” she rasped.
“But there’s good news, Dana, my precious. I have one last bit of fortune stored up, and I’d as soon see it spent for one such as yourself. A pitiful attempt at penitence, as it were. Take a second, child, and look out there.”
Scully followed Cragan’s withered finger toward the open bay window, where her collected kin laughed and feasted and tumbled and embraced on the expansive lawn. Mulder sulked under a hard maple, staring toward her; Jen was sampling a foam plate of berries.
“What are you saying?” Scully croaked.
“Look,” Cragan repeated, and she turned back to the window. And gasped.
A burly crew-cut man in a Navy sweatshirt had a smaller, meeker version of himself in a headlock. The smaller man broke free and punched the hulk in the shoulder. The pair laughed, and a pretty thirty-something woman peeled off from a nearby cluster to see what the joke was. Tara soon joined Bill, Charlie, and Melissa Scully, distributing freshly grilled Chicago dogs.
A petite redheaded child dashed past the group as Scully reeled back against a wing chair. Wetness stung at Scully’s eyes as her lips twitched in elated disbelief. She glanced at Cragan O’Mara, who nodded benignly, and turned back to the window.
Scully’s eyes widened as a somehow-almost-familiar man — handsome, rough-edged, graying at the temples — scooped her from her sneakered feet, sending her into gales of giggles. Tom Colton whirled the girl about, stopping abruptly as his eyes locked with Scully’s.
And then, in a gesture that nearly stilled Scully’s heart altogether, her old Academy buddy brought two fingers to his lips. He puckered and, as she blinked at the glint of the gold band on his second finger, released a kiss aimed directly at the woman on the other side of the glass. Scully grabbed for the drapes, but her trembling fingers could not will the image away.
“No,” she cried harshly. Tugging at the thick fabric for support, Scully searched the yard for Mulder, for some handhold in reality. He’d vanished — no, he’d just. . .ceased.
“The fork in the road,” Cragan’s voice cooed behind her. “You found it again, girl. You found your way.”
“He’s down the road, attending to his own business. He has no place on this path. But you know that, don’t you, girl?”
Scully swallowed air and, gathering herself, tore the curtains shut. She turned to the ancient man in the antique suit and fine shoes. “No,” she said, her voice regaining timbre.
Cragan nodded once, the wrinkles at his eyes deepening in, what, pleasure. “So be it. Your choice, dear. Sorry I couldn’t be of service to you.”
Scully swiped at her eyes, laughed weakly. “I think perhaps you have been. And I suspect you know that.”
“Silly girl. So, what, are we to clamp on the irons now?”
Scully frowned as she peered down at the homicidal elf. “I have to ask. Why? I mean, why now? What made you turn against your mast– against Fitzcarren?”
Cragan grinned bleakly. “The Fitzcarrens had a powerful hold over me these many years — the life of those I held most dear. But the blessing and curse of immortality is that time cures all. Last month, I received a letter notifying me that Ned O’Mara had been struck dead by a taxicab in the streets of Ulster. And thus ended the O’Mara bloodline. And any lasting obligation to Liam Fitzcarren. Well, shall we go now?”
Scully shook her head. “I don’t even know how we’d make a case against you. I’m not even sure we could hold on to you.”
“It’s a dilemma.”
Scully nodded sternly. “I hate to belabor a cliché, but don’t leave town.” She turned and started for the door, then paused. Scully considered and turned back to Cragan O’Mara with a sad, final smile and a parting sentiment.
The old man stared at the agent for a second, then broke into a broad, peaceful grin. His gray-green eyes glistened.
“God bless you, dear girl,” Cragan whispered. “God bless you.”
“I said, no souvenirs,” Scully chided as Mulder unsuccessfully attempted an end move behind her.
Her partner grinned guiltily and brought the object of his guilt from behind his back.
“Tell me that isn’t the whiskey Don and Jessie gave Uncle Francis,” Scully sighed. She shrugged and smiled with a bit of her “cousin” Cragan’s mischief. “Put the hotel towel back, though – wrap it in the Trib.”
Mulder nodded happily and located the Sports section. “So you ever going to tell me what happened with you and the old bastard? The tickets still say we’re flying coach, so apparently, the pot of gold was off the table.”
Before Scully could respond, Mulder’s Droid sounded, tuned for the occasion to the Dexy’s Midnight Runners rendition of “C’Mon, Irene.” He punched up the speaker.
“Know you two are headed to O’Hare,” von Flanagan grunted without prelude, “but we got an interesting little development thought you’d want to know about. Liam Fitzcarren blew up.”
Mulder dropped the mummified booze on the bedspread. “Car bomb.”
“You weren’t listening. Liam Fitzcarren blew up. Beat cop found his Towne Car parked in front of Cragan O’Mara’s place about three hours ago. Two of Fitzcarren’s crew inside with what was left of their boss. One had Fitzcarren’s index finger driven into his forehead. The other, well, I can’t even do it justice. Fitzcarren hisself is a permanent part of the upholstery, the dashboard, the roof liner. M.E. hopes to ID him with the teeth he left embedded in the windshield.”
“Imaginative interpretation,” Mulder murmured respectfully.
“Figure William the Barkeep ratted out O’Mara, and Liam and the boys decided to do a little elder abuse. Punchline was on them. When we went up to grill old Cragan, we found him in his bed, laid out like Finnegan at his wake, a shit-eatin’ grin on his wrinkled old puss. He beat ‘em to the punch, M.E. says by at least an hour or two.”
Mulder glanced warily at Scully, who was somewhere else.
“Anyway, not your worry, but I thought you’d like to know what you’d be missing.” von Flanagan breathed. “Say hey to Barack for me.”
“Yeah,” Mulder mumbled as he ended the call. After a beat, or ten, he turned to Scully. “I thought this was supposed to be your wish.”
“Your friend taught me long ago the importance of being careful about what I wished for,” she smiled, faintly. “I have what I want, even if I don’t always know what that is. I simply gave an old man what he couldn’t do for himself. He is family, after all. I think. Maybe.”
“Scully, what did you tell him, my ear to God’s?”
Scully took a deep breath and folded a sweater for the trip home. “‘May you be in Heaven,’” she recited, “‘an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.’ My new Donna Karan suit arrives in D.C. soaked in whiskey and you may meet a similar fate.”