Food For Thoth
Author: Elf X
Category: Holiday, casefile, teentsy Bones crossover
Artwork: Martin Ross
Summary: Mulder and Scully’s Thanksgiving plans go awry when a priceless amulet turns up at dinner.
Spoilers: Bones spoilers
Disclaimer: Tip o’ the pilgrim’s bonnet to Chris Carter and Kathy Reichs.
Original web date:11/21/2008
Food For Thoth
The Jeffersonian Institution
As he moved through the darkened hallways, surrounded by the images and keepsakes of the dead, Lenny again cursed Latrelle — for his lovely wife, for his two beautiful children, for the comfortable domesticity his colleague had found in a world seemingly wracked with pain. As his gun bounced against his thigh, Lenny contemplated a thousand deaths for the man with whom he’d worked for five years.
The married thing, Lenny fumed. It always works.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and Lenny Chakiris once again was walking his macabre beat through this high-class junkyard while Latrelle feasted in the bosom of his family (and what a bosom the lovely Mrs. Wilkinson possessed, the godfather of Latrelle’s boys mused) . Lenny had worked the last five Christmases, Thanksgivings, and New Years — the single man’s curse. He’d thought about getting a ring for one of the broads he’d been banging just so he could for once for god’s sake actually watch a bowl game.
The upside was, he didn’t have to spend the day with his pain-in-the-ass extended family and their litany of hypochondria, unaddressed grievances, and ill-concealed resentments. But he hated the Jeffersonian on holidays — the only sign of life was that crazy chick Brennan, the forensic anthropologist, scraping goop off skulls and shinbones up in her lab.
She was kinda hot, if you liked the Morticia Addams type. But what kind of freaking atheist commie didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. Actually, the whole ghoulish forensics team was a few bricks shy. Hodgins was a nice enough guy when you passed him in the hall, but he was full of nutty conspiracy theories about how the government was trying to ship everybody off to Guantanamo. And that creepy kid, Addy, they put him in the nuthouse after he’d hired on with that cannibal serial killer.
Montenegro, now, she definitely was a babe, but anybody would hang out with Dr. “Bones” and her crew must have some kind of kink. The only one Lenny fully trusted was Agent Booth, Brennan’s FBI pal — he seemed like a regular guy, even wished him a happy Thanksgiving yesterday. Effiing Latrelle.
Lenny tensed as he ventured into the Death and Deities exhibit. He was Greek Orthodox all the way, but there was something about this hall of idols and icons, dog-headed and dragon-bodied action figures, and ancient drawings full of crap that would make Stephen King piss his jeans. Musta had too much time on their hands before TV and microwaves, Lenny mused.
The security guard unconsciously avoided the eyes of the dozens of demons lined up behind glass beyond the huge pouting head some long-gone whack job had carved. Winged rat thing, check. Three-headed cat thing, check. Bat with boobs, check. Birdhead –.
“Fuck,” Lenny whispered, his blood temperature plunging. He stepped forward, touching his gun as he peered at the spot where Birdhead was supposed to be. Lock was secure, laser detector armed. No sign of tampering, no prints. No Birdhead. Just, just…
“What the fuck…?” Lenny squeaked, his voice echoing through the galleries.
Residence of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully
“You are not wearing that shirt.”
Mulder looked up from his Post and blinked at the petite redhead tugging a casserole of steaming yams from the oven. He glanced down at the red cotton pullover interwoven with dancing green extraterrestrials.
“Well, yeah,” he responded weakly. “I mean, of course not?”
“The last one,” Scully affirmed, sliding the sweet potatoes onto a trivet as Mulder yanked the sweater off and headed into the bedroom. “We’re finally going to make Thanksgiving at Mom’s house — I’d like it to be more Rockwell than Roswell. As it is, I nearly had a stroke when she called to see if we were still coming. I was afraid it was Skinner sending us off to chase a poltergeist at the Pentagon or a Flukeman in the Longworth Building men’s room.”
“Relax,” Mulder said, smoothing his freshly laundered T-shirt as he emerged from their boudoir. “OK?”
Scully stared at Stephen Hawking’s presumably beaming countenance and the legend, “If you’ve got the Time, I’ve got the Mass.”
“Much better,” she sighed.
“Great. You all set?”
Scully exhaled, smiling beatifically. “Over the Potomac and through the burbs. Oh, you did remember to turn off your…”
She was interrupted by an electronic rendition of the Close Encounters theme. Coming from Mulder’s jeans. He pretended momentarily to ignore the ringtone, then shrugged contritely as he reached into his pocket.
“Mulder,” he mumbled into the cell phone, jumping as the oven door slammed explosively.
Residence of Maggie Scully
“Clara, you put that cookie down right this minute,” Margaret Scully commanded as she peered at the bird tanning inside her oven. Her granddaughter slipped the gingersnap back onto the china platter with a pensive sigh. “I know you’re starving, Baby, but I don’t want you to spoil your supper when your aunt and Fox will be here any time now.”
Maggie smiled unconsciously. She never thought she’d be able to utter those words. Three years ago, it had been the serial killer/turkey invasion in Illinois; two years ago, the killings in New England. Last year — Maggie still didn’t quite understand what had transpired in Pennsylvania last year.
She’d thought about doing a ham — it would be considerably less trouble, and she wouldn’t be stuck with a ton of leftover poultry. But Matthew and Clara were all hepped up for a traditional Thanksgiving. And now, as it turned out, Dana and Fox would be here to enjoy it…
As Maggie reflected warmly, the phone warbled in the living room. She heard Tara mute the TV.
“Maggie?” her daughter-in-law called warily a few seconds later. Maggie sighed, selected a cookie, and started to hand it to Clara. She paused, then passed her the platter.
Georgetown Riverside Apartments
“Did you move the body?”
Tracy Lochmuller shook her head soberly. Special Agent Fox Mulder silently studied the young woman’s brown eyes, and she blinked. “Well, I had to put it on the counter, obviously, or I wouldn’t have found the, uh, thing… I guess I mean Dad wouldn’t have found the thing. Is that question really relevant here?”
Then Mulder blinked. “No. No, I guess not. Sorry — instinct. So you believe the artifact originally was in the body cavity? You didn’t notice when you were preparing the body, when you emptied the cavity?”
“I used a spoon to scoop out the cavity.” The Georgetown University junior frowned. “Hey, this is getting a little creepy. Could you please quit referring to our turkey as ‘the body’? It’s making me feel a little nauseous.”
“Join the club,” Scully muttered. The call from Skinner, just as she and Mulder were loading the car for the trip over the river and through the ‘burbs to her mother’s house, had dashed her Thanksgiving vibe.
Mulder ignored his partner. “Can we see the remains, er, the turkey?”
“We ate most of it,” Tracy reported apologetically. “Dad was on his third serving of dressing when he, ah, when he discovered the thing.”
“Actually, the ‘thing’ is a priceless amulet depicting the Egyptian god Thoth,” Mulder supplied. Scully found a perch and settled in. “He was considered the heart and tongue of Ra as well as the means by which Ra’s will was translated into speech. Thoth one of the two deities who stood on either side of Ra’s boat, and was and was charged with judging of dead. He was one of the most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon. He’s often depicted with the head of an ibis, a bird.”
“Yeah,” Tracy drawled. “So you want to see the turkey?”
“And the thing,” Mulder sighed.
A burly DCPD officer stood guard over the bird’s — to be precise, the semi-skeletonized remains of the Lochmullers’ Thanksgiving turkey and the bird-headed judge of the dead, now interred in a plastic evidence bag. It was a small Thoth — an exquisitely detailed work in lapis lazuli, similar to the one at London’s Science Museum, but far crisper and well-preserved than the London specimen thanks to an obviously more adept mummifier. Due to its immaculate state and a cryptic inscription carved into its base, the Jeffersonian had pegged the amulet’s street value at somewhere around $5,000 — quite a few tankfuls of gas even in this day, but somewhat small potatoes in the antiquities world.
The amulet’s inexplicable disappearance from a case in the Jeffersonian Institution’s main gallery that morning had sparked a furor at the museum. An Agent Booth was official Bureau liaison with the Jeffersonian, but he’d been sidelined with a leg wound during a chase the week before, and Mulder had been reluctantly assigned because of the more unusual aspects of the theft. Chief among those aspects was the night guard’s discovery, in the place of the lapis amulet, under laser/heat-and-motion sensitive protection, of a glob of stale bread, eggs, pork sausage, sage, and other sundry seasonings. Equally unusual was the determination that the uncooked dressing was precisely of the mass and weight of the Great God Thoth.
That had spurred speculation that the thief somehow had bypassed the Jeffersonian’s security and pulled an Indiana Jones, replacing the artifact with turkey filler. Given the unwieldy and moist nature of the concoction, the agent who’d forwarded this theory was roundly taunted and stalked, sulking, outside for a Morley.
Mulder flashed his ID and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. His hand disappeared inside the cannibalized fowl as he stared at the now empty turkey cavity between the ribs.
He turned to the bagged deity, and then to Scully. “The dressing’s baked onto the amulet. It look thoroughly cooked to you?”
“I’d say a few millennia’s usually enough for a one-serving god,” Scully mumbled.
Mulder scowled, and turned to Tracy. “The dressing?”
Tracy nodded briskly, and retrieved a Revereware platter from the kitchenette counter. “There’s not much left — Dad loved it, even though it was my first time. Mom was going to fix Thanksgiving dinner, but they’d been wanting to see the place–”
“And you thought you’d give them a little surprise,” Mulder finished cheerfully. “Good job, Rachael Ray.”
Tracy sighed. “Dad’s probably going to have to have dental surgery. He cracked a molar on the thing.”
“Thoth,” Scully corrected dispiritedly.
“Tracy,” Mulder said gently, “I’d like you to try to write down a complete chronology from buying this bird to how you stored and thawed it, how you prepared the stuffing, and when, how, and under what circumstances you stuffed this turkey. It’s important we establish a timeline. I assume you didn’t come across any Egyptian amulets while you were mixing the dressing.”
“That’s what’s so weird. I pulled out the organs and the neck and all that gross shit out of the turkey — I remember feeling around in there to make sure there wasn’t anything else. And I know I didn’t see any amulets or anything while I was mixing the stuffing. You think maybe it was in the stuffing mix?”
“It’s a competitive business,” Mulder suggested. “Was anyone else around when you put the turkey in the oven?”
“I was alone here from the time I started cooking the thing about 8 a.m. ‘til Mom and Dad got in from Delaware.”
“No offense, Tracy, but were either of your parents alone with the bird at any time?”
“Dad hasn’t been in a kitchen for 20 years, and I told Mom not to kibbitz. They were watching the game ‘til I brought the turkey and stuff out. That’s where we saw about the Thoth thing getting stolen — on one of the news breaks.”
Mulder nodded and turned to the cop, who was warily eyeing the amulet. “You guys want to bag this dressing, too? Have it delivered to the FBI lab.”
Mulder scanned the kitchenette one last time, then dipped his finger into a nearby casserole and tasted the chocolaty whipped concoction. “Officer? You want to bag up this up, too?”
“Bureau Lab?” the policeman grunted.
“I’ll take it to go,” Mulder said.
The Jeffersonian Institution
“It’s happened again,” the Jeffersonian’s director moaned as Mulder and Scully entered the main atrium of the nation’s largest scientific and cultural repository.
“You got that dressing?” Mulder demanded.
The director impatiently thrust a Ziploc of raw stuffing mix at him. “I submitted a sample to Dr. Hodgins, one of our scientists, as well. He works for our forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan. She reported the latest theft — the mandible of a Mesopotamian slave.”
“Ah, the jawbone of an Assyrian,” Mulder grinned. The director did not reciprocate. “What’s Brennan doing here on Thanksgiving, anyway?”
“She’s not one for holiday observations. Dr. Brennan was cleaning the mandible an hour ago when she got a call. When she came back, the bone was gone. From an electronically secured lab. The police were investigating the Thoth theft, and she summoned us at once.”
“Can we speak to her?” Mulder asked.
The director looked uncomfortable. “Ah, Dr. Brennan normally works with an Agent Booth. When I told her you were coming, well, it would seem Agent Booth has discussed you with her. She asked me to represent her in this investigation. She said — and these are her words, mind you — that you were ‘too frivolous.’”
“Imagine that,” Scully smiled for the first time that day.
“But Dr. Brennan passed along something the thief left in place of the mandible — after photographing the scene, of course.” The director pulled a second Ziploc from his jacket. “It would seem to some kind of jellified compound.”
Mulder partially unzipped the bag and sniffed, then handed it to Scully.
“Cranberries,” she confirmed.
Georgetown Riverside Apartments
“I’m really sorry if I’m wasting your time, Agent Mulder, but this is getting wicked strange,” Tracy breathed as she ushered Mulder and Scully into the apartment house foyer.
“Not at all,” Mulder said, following the coed up the student-worn stairs. “I told you to call if anything new came to you.”
“It didn’t come to me,” the girl informed him cryptically. “Here we are – Apt. 2.” She rapped on a door adorned with a cardboard turkey. “Mrs. Cronin? It’s me, Tracy.”
The voice was brittle but sweet. “Coming, honey.” The door swung open to reveal a gnomish woman in a housedress and apron. The unmistakable aroma of Cannabis sativa wafted into the hallway, and Scully registered the thick lenses in Mrs. Cronin’s outsized glasses.
“Glaucoma?” the agent/pathologist asked.
“No,” Mrs. Cronin smiled uncertainly. “Why?”
“Because it smells like a Dead concert in here,” Mulder explained tactfully. “Cancer?”
“Jesus,” Scully and Tracy gasped in unison.
“Oh, my, no, I’m healthy as a horse,” Mrs. Croning pishtoshed. “I made some lasagna — you must be smelling the oregano.”
“Sure, that has to be it,” Mulder said as he spied the turkey breast cooling on a TV tray in her immaculate living room. Flava Flav was finessing the honeys on the Nixon-era set alarmingly close to the makeshift table.
“Mrs. Cronin, could you show Agent Mulder what you found a little while ago?” Tracy asked gently.
“Lemme venture a guess. Is it bony, ancient, and full of poorly maintained teeth?”
“I brush every morning and before bed, young man,” Mrs. Cronin informed him coolly. She hobbled to a side table near the window and retrieved a parcel wrapped in paper toweling. She unwrapped it slowly, and Mulder stared, dumbfounded, at the huge Eisenhower for President button.
“We haven’t voted Republican — the late Mr. Cronin and I — since that rat bastard Hoover screwed the pooch,” Mrs. Cronin informed the agents cheerfully. “I think I’ve been punk’d, no doubt by the neo-con people.”
“Where did you find it? In the cranberry sauce?”
“That’s an awfully improbable guess, young man. Of course not — I can’t abide tart fruit. It was left in place of my dear late husband, to add insult to political injury.”
“They stole a photo of your husband?” Scully inquired incredulously
“No, dear, my husband. His ashes.”
Mulder frowned. “You mean a cremation urn?”
“No. The envelope with Ronald’s ashes. The original urn those thieves sold me didn’t coordinate with my window treatments.”
Mulder glanced at Mrs. Cronin’s chartreuse floral curtains. “O-kay. Do you happen to have any idea how much your husband’s ashes weighed?”
“He was an atrocious eater — we had to shop at the big and tall.”
“Hmm.” Mulder smiled and stepped away, unholstering his cell phone. “Yes, I need to speak to Dr. Brennan, if she’s in. Tell her it’s, ah, Agent Malone. Jack Malone. Thanks.” He beamed at Mrs. Cronin as he waited; she beamed back. “Yes, Dr. Brennan? Yes, I know — we’re looking for the jawbone of an Assyrian…Oh, yeah, Mesopotamian. That was a joke. Noooo, I guess Assyrians aren’t that funny. It’s biblical humor — you know, the jawbone of an ass? Yes, I realize it’s a human mandible…When we’re done with it as evidence, I guess. Look, Dr. Brennan, your director gave Dr. Hodgins a sample of cranberry sauce to analyze. Could you have it weighed and get back to me with the precise measurement? Oh, and we need another sweep of the museum to see if anything else has been stolen. What? Oh, uh, I guess Agent Mulder and I must’ve accidentally switched cell phones. He’s a scatterbrain, Fox, real frivolous guy. Happy Thanksgiving. Hello? What a stiff,” Mulder muttered as he pocketed his phone. “Scully, can you bag that button? Tracy, come with me.”
“Where are you two going?” Scully asked suspiciously. It hadn’t escaped her notice that Tracy had changed into a pair of Juicy shorts and a jogging bra since their last visit, and that her gaze had never left Mulder since their arrival.
“We’re hunting for cranberries,” Mulder announced, gravely.
As it turned out, the violated cranberry sauce was uncovered in Apt. 10, on the third floor, where construction worker Richard Frannick had been puzzling over the disembodied jawbone that had materialized in his side dish.
Apartment 7 yielded a 19th Century corn shucker, a missing radio alarm clock, and two wary lesbians named Vicky and Nikki. Apartment 3, decorated campily in Early ‘60s Blue-Collar and Einstein posters, was blessed with a used Jeffersonian coffee mug — Kris, the twenty-something tenant searched diligently before realizing half his microwave pizza had dematerialized. The HUD clerk in Apt. 12 had discovered an anatomically explicit Incan fertility god lodged in her still-boxed pumpkin pie.
Mulder established a command center in the Chinese cafe across the street — the only eatery open that sacred day. Between dumplings, he was able to direct a Jeffersonian scavenger hunt that yielded a Westclox AM-FM clock radio, a wad of pumpkin pulp, and a manila envelope containing the earthly remains of Ronald Cronin. The Micronesian fetish, the Ike button, the corn shucker, and the Peruvian fertility icon were weighed, and Mulder ordered the same for the items found throughout the museum. With Dr. Brennan the only professional staffer on duty for the holiday, Mulder wrote the coffee mug off until Friday but instructed the director to prohibit the removal of any frozen (or thawing) pizzas.
“What’s the pattern, Mulder?” Scully finally asked as she sipped her artificially sweetened black tea. “What’s the profile? Our thief somehow penetrates a virtually impenetrable museum at several points over the past five hours, replacing a series of random objets d’art and office fixtures with food and miscellaneous items stolen from a single apartment building, only to scatter his semi-priceless swag among a group of disparate people.”
“You forget — the Jeffersonian pieces and the apartment house items were stolen simultaneously, or so it would seem. And each object stolen from the folks across the street was replaced with an item of precisely the same weight and, I’m guessing, mass. Either the killer is a demented genius with a very nuanced motive, or…”
“Go ahead,” Scully sighed.
She was saved Mulder’s paranormal explanation literally by the bell. Mulder dropped his fork and pulled up the e-mail from the Jeffersonian as it arrived with an electronic chime. He smiled with anticipation as he opened the attached .jpg and fired up Photoshop, turning the laptop toward his partner.
“While you were draining the tanks and briefing Skinner, I called the Jeffersonian and asked them to chart the location of the stolen objects on a schematic of the museum. I did up a rough model of the apartment building. The red dots indicate objects on the first floor of the museum and the second floor of the apartment, the blue dots objects on the second floor of the Jeffersonian and the third floor of the apartment building. OK, let me drag the apartment layer on top of the museum layer and…..voila. They match, see?”
Scully’s jaw dropped. “Connect the dots — maybe there’s a pattern. There has to be a logical pattern in this.”
“Actually, I think what we have here is a brilliant mind paired with extreme incompetence. What we have here is not pristine order, but utter chaos. And I think I know who our culprit is.”
Scully drained her tea. “Then let’s go.”
“Slow down, Watson,” Mulder said, spearing the last potsticker. “Our thief isn’t going anywhere, and he can’t afford to make a grab for the real treasure.”
“What? The Crown Jewels?”
“More like the royal throne.”
Residence of Rudolph Pettridge
“Would you like some sherry, coffee…?” Dr. Rudy Pettridge invited in a voice clearly intended to discourage Mulder and Scully from accepting.
“Well, sure,” Mulder said enthusiastically as he settled into the Georgetown professor’s favorite leather “moustache” chair and peered about the book-packed study. “Cream, Splenda if you got it. Equal would be fine. Actually, sugar would be great.”
“We’re in something of a hurry,” Scully smiled, shooting daggers at her partner. “We’re investigating a student of yours as a person of interest in a series of local crimes.”
“Today?” Pettridge fretted. “We were just about to settle in for dinner. Guinea hen,” he explained, as if his choice of holiday fowl made a difference.
“Kris Labatt. You remember him? He was your grad assistant a few years back.”
The lean, bearded professor frowned. “I don’t know that I’m comfortable discussing a former student. Especially when…”
“When he left the university under a cloud?”
Pettridge considered, then leaned against a detailed globe the size of a killer asteroid. “Kristopher was a brilliant student — would have been a brilliant student. His speculations on quantum mechanics were practically Hawkinsian — you should have read his masters thesis on string theory and spontaneous broken symmetry. A poor practical mathematician, though, and impulsive.”
“That’s how he got in trouble with the school?” Mulder asked.
Pettridge sighed. “The head of the department — he’s since moved on to Duke — had several faculty and grads to a cocktail party at Christmas the semester prior to Kristopher’s pending graduation. Kristopher was particularly taken with a Kangxi porcelain Hugh had acquired in Beijing — beautiful piece. Well. Two days later, Hugh and Sylvia came to breakfast to find the bowl gone and some sort of pipe in its place.”
“One of those marijuana pipes, like a hookah.”
Pettridge nodded. “It obviously was a student prank, though how he managed to get through an armed security system…”
“Yes. The young idiot’s initials were scratched on the base of the…pipe, and when the campus police were dispatched to his apartment, they found the Kangxi on a coffee table. Hugh was concerned about the school’s image, and, I suspect, the ridicule such a prank might bring down on him. Kristopher was asked to leave the university. Such a foolish stunt from such a promising young man.”
“Maybe more promising than you could imagine,” Mulder suggested.
The Jeffersonian Institution
“What’s the first law of physics, my Quantum Ms. Goodwrench?” Mulder asked as they again ascended the stone steps of the Jeffersonian.
“Mulder,” Scully groaned.
“Matter cannot be created nor destroyed. By extension, the molecules of two objects can’t occupy the same space. What do you know about teleportation?”
Scully stopped and seized Mulder’s sleeve. “You absolutely have to be freaking kidding, Mulder.”
“Scientists from the University of Queensland’s Australian Research Center for Quantum Atom Optics recently devised a new way to teleport atoms without involving quantum entanglement. When two atoms or two laser beams are inextricably ‘entangled,’ it’s possible to make a link between two ends of the line. If one particle is rotating in one direction, the other one will always rotate in the opposite direction. As a result, measurements performed on one particle seem to instantaneously influence the other particle. If there is a change in one entangled state then the other reacts and sends the information instantaneously. Voila! Teleportation, Baby.
”The problem is quantum teleportation isn’t a particularly reliable way to teleport something if you want it to get there in one piece. So far, scientists have succeeded in transporting photons and single atoms. It would take a few million years to send one Klingon at that rate. But the Australian team hit on the idea of using a Bose-Einstein condensate — a type of matter that only exists at around a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. That’s about negative 273.15 Centrigrade, cold enough to freeze the brass finials off Martha Stewart. Under such HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercooled” \o “Supercooled” super-cooled conditions, a large fraction of the atoms collapse into the lowest HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_state” \o “Quantum state” quantum state of the external potential, at which point quantum effects become apparent on a macroscopic scale. And Bose-Einstein condensates exhibit bizarre anomalies such as spontaneously flowing out of their containers. Without friction, the fluid can overcome gravity because of adhesion between the fluid and the container wall, and it takes up the most favorable position, all around the container.
“Anyway, the point is, the head of the Australian research team reported teleporting 5,000 particles using Bose-Einstein condensates. At almost absolute zero, the atoms of the substance you want to move all act in exactly the same way — it behaves as if it was one big atom rather than a collection of particles. For example, if you shine a laser at the condensate and fire atoms at it, the condensate will emit light. Since the condensate behaves like one big atom, all the photons are emitted in the same direction and form a signal beam. By screwing around with the laser and the condensate, scientists can make the beam carry all the information about the atoms fired at the condensate. You see where I’m going with this?”
Scully nodded. “Are we out of creamer? I think I may have used the last of it this morning. Oh, I’m sorry – I must have lost you when I reached terminal-stage REM sleep.”
“C’mon, Scully. Do you really believe a person — even one of Labatt’s IQ — could have so precisely matched the mass of the objects switched between the museum and the apartment house? Or stole each pair of objects — objects miles apart — at seemingly the exact same time?.”
“You’re saying this disgraced, pot-smoking ex-grad student managed to put together the resources necessary to do what the world’s greatest scientists have been unable to? I know a little about quantum mechanics, too: Can you imagine the computing power it would take to ‘record’ every atom in an amulet or a coffee mug, much less the technology it would take to transmit all that information? You c’mon, Mulder. What was LaBatt’s motive? Was he simply showing off?”
“Scully, think about it. Kris Labatt is a brilliant scientist with a far-reaching grasp of physics. He somehow managed to bypass a sophisticated home security system to switch a Chinese artifact with a bong that clearly incriminated him. I think that’s when he first realized the laws of teleportation.”
“I can’t wait.”
“Matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and two molecules can’t coexist in the same place. If a bowl materializes in the space occupied by a bong, the bong must fill the void left by the bowl. If an Egyptian amulet is teleported into the stuffing-filled cavity of a turkey, an equal amount of dressing must take its place.”
“I think I know where the bong went.”
Mulder started back up the steps. “Somehow, Labatt fell to the secret of teleporting matter, but then he was kicked out of school. He continued to work on the project, piecing together what he needed as he could afford it. Now, he’s perfected the technology. Well, so to speak.
“Pettridge noted Labatt is a lousy math student. So was Einstein — that’s probably why Labatt has him plastered all over his walls — but he still managed to whomp up a mean Theory of Relativity. Labatt’s no Einstein. He was smart enough to cook up a smokescreen for us, though. After his neighbors told him about the strange events of the day, he realized he’d missed his mark several times. He can relocate the building blocks of matter, but he can’t get past the laws of matter or calculate the right mathematical algorithm to target his booty. But it was brilliant, claiming that mug materialized in his apartment. There have to be hundreds of those mugs at the museum — he probably bought his during one of a dozen trips to the Jeffersonian. As for the pizza box? If we didn’t find it, we‘d probably just assume a janitor had thrown it away or a guard nuked and ate it.
“What he didn’t realize was that we could use a little simple geometry to uncover his real target,” Mulder continued as he nodded to the Jeffersonian guard at the huge main doors. “Every object that disappeared from Tracy’s building turned up at the location of its corresponding museum piece — except one.” His footsteps echoed through the empty museum atrium as a reconstructed woolly mammoth looked on. “On my little overlay, Labatt’s apartment corresponds to a major gallery of the museum — no offices, labs, or breakrooms where a mug might have been around. Then, when I found out which gallery it was, I realized why there was something so familiar about Labatt’s apartment. That’s why I called for those eBay records on the way back from Pettridge’s. Along with Labatt’s most recent electrical bills — if he’s zapping crap all over the metro D.C. area, I’m guessing he must be using some mega-bitchin’ refrigeration Whoop, there it is.”
Scully studied the banner above the gallery entry. It resembled a colossal sampler, the letters stitched homily across the laminated canvas. “War-to-War America:/The Season of our Discontentment — 1955-1975.”
Mulder stepped up his pace. “Labatt’s apartment is located one unit away from Mrs. Cronin’s — that was the tipoff for me. The Eisenhower button would be in the same gallery as Labatt’s quarry.”
“Which was?” Scully demanded.
“You know the Smithsonian’s been doing some major remodeling over the past few months, so several exhibits have been relocated. The Jeffersonian was planning this exhibition about our transition from the complacency of the ‘50s to the social unrest of the ‘70s, and it took the opportunity to borrow a very special piece to cap off the exhibit.”
Scully locked eyes with June Cleaver, pretty in pearls as she displayed a casserole no doubt intended for Ward and Wally and the Beav. She looked away, slightly unnerved. “And that piece was?”
“This way,” the tall, broad guard grunted, jerking his head toward a blown-up photo of a hippie inserting a flower into the barrel of a Guardsman’s weapon.
“I thought Labatt’s home décor was a little off,” Mulder explained. “He didn’t seem like the floral wallpaper-and-doily type, and his retro furnishings seemed a little too well-Pledged to fit with that hellmouth he calls a kitchen or his Hawthorne Heights T-shirt.”
Scully paused before a psychedelically customized Volkswagen. “Now that you mention it, his living room seemed, I don’t know, more like a furniture showroom.”
“Or a museum display?” Mulder suggested. “I checked, and it turns out Labatt had a major interest in ‘70s pop culture. When he was a kid, he watched a lot of TV with his dad — mostly syndicated reruns, TVLand. Stuff like the Brady Bunch — God knows what that might’ve done to his psyche. But he had a favorite — one of the seminal series of the ‘70s. TV’s first attempt to deal frankly with the American angst of the Vietnam Era, the changing structure of the nuclear family, the intergenerational divide over issues like politics, religion, sex.”
Scully snapped her fingers. “Oh my God. Mulder, are you trying to tell me this scientific wunderkind, this techno-wiz has invented a means of transporting matter, has shattered everything we know about physics, for, for…”
“For that,” Mulder said, indicating the incongruously pedestrian tableau before them.
Labatt opened the door with a broad, dumb grin. It was, to say the least, the last reaction Mulder’d expected.
“Hey, guys, join the party,” the would-be antiquities thief invited heartily.
“Kristopher Labatt, you’re under arrest for the theft of, well, for theft,” Mulder faltered. He stopped mirandizing as he spotted the two suited men examining Labatt’s laptop.
“Dude, you’re too late,” Labatt laughed apologetically. “They made me a better deal.”
“Jesus, Labatt, just shut up, OK,” the taller of the two suits snapped. He pulled his ID and flashed Mulder and Scully. “Agent Weller, National Security Agency. You Mulder? They didn’t say which one was which.”
“I am the one they call Mulder,” Mulder declared. “If you don’t mind me asking, what the hell, dude?”
“We’re detaining Mr. Labatt as a person of interest,” Weller said, flatly. “And that’s all you need to know. Happy Thanksgiving, ‘dude.’”
“Wait a minute,” Mulder floundered as Scully reached for the door. “We’re detaining Labatt for the thefts at the Jeffersonian.”
“Dude, sorry,” the ex-grad student said. “But unless you can do better than six figures and satellite, I’m going with these guys.”
“I said, pipe down,” Weller sighed.
Then, the light dawned. Mulder smiled down at the hapless teleporter. “I bet I know what you’re thankful for today. They found out about your little Star Trek toaster oven and offered you a contract.”
“I don’t think he wants me to talk about it,” Labatt whispered.
“We’ve cleared everything with the Jeffersonian,” Weller reported. “So, bye, now.”
“Bye,” Scully returned, tugging Mulder’s sleeve. Mulder tugged back. Weller stepped forward.
“I’m going, I’m going,” Mulder growled. “But I have to know just one thing.”
Labatt looked to Weller, who sighed and nodded.
“What you’ve done, Labatt — it’s earthshaking. Like the Holy Grail of quantum technology. And you use it to steal Archie Bunker’s chair?”
Labatt settled into the copy of Edith Bunker’s chair he’d located on the web and set his Mountain Dew on the small, round table that was identical to the once-familiar fixture at 704 Hauser Street, Queens, New York. “I know, I know, it was stupid. But I like had to have that chair — I tried to find one like it, but it’s like one of a kind. I mean, look at this — everything’s accurate down to the silverware at the dining room table. The chair was the last piece.”
“It’s a chair, Kris.”
Something shifted in Labatt’s eyes, and he smiled thoughtfully at Mulder. “When Mom left us to ‘find ourselves,’ Dad tried his best, I dunno, to keep things normal for me. He came to all school stuff, kept on my ass about my grades, and every Thanksgiving, he’d buy one of those already-cooked turkeys from the supermarket deli and we’d eat it in front of the TV, watching reruns on one of the cable stations. All in the Family was his favorite — his dad wouldn’t let him watch it, too edgy, I guess. We’d laugh our asses off watching Archie and Edith and Meathead and Gloria — boy, did those two ever pork out, huh? Anyway, those Thanksgivings were the best. I guess I just wanted to, you know…”
Mulder was silent for a moment, lost in memories of his father’s cold and formal holiday rituals, of he and Samantha in front of the tube, watching Underdog soaring over the streets of New York on Thanksgiving morning.
“I know,” he finally murmured, rising and nodding to Scully. “You watch your ass around these guys, OK, Kris? And Weller, make sure he gets the full Dish package.”
“Hey, dude,” Kris called as Mulder reached the door. “I got like a ton of tofurkey and pumpkin pie left. You two got any place to be?”
Mulder looked at Scully, who consulted her watch and shrugged. He grinned at Weller.
“Don’t even,” the NSA agent warned.
“Stifle it, Meathead,” Mulder responded. “I like the tothigh.”
“Par-tay!” Kris shouted. “Hey, you know what? I think The Jeffersons is on.”