Category Archives: Season 12

Rack ‘em Up!

Title:Rack ’em Up!

By: Mary Kleinsmith

Artwork: mercimulder

Category: MT, MSR

Rating: PG13

Spoilers: None

Summary: Scully’s surprise rings less unexpected results for Mulder.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully don’t belong to me. The location of this story and all the other characters, however, do.

Author’s Notes: This was written for VS12’s Sports special event. Yeah, it surprised me, too – I don’t even like 99% of sports! But this idea just sort of popped up. Of course, it had nothing to do with the nudging of Vickie and O! <winks to you guys>

Feedback: Yes, please please please?

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Rack ’em Up!

From a dark corner booth, Mulder grinned lasciviously as he took in the floor show. It was a place he’d never before been, and he’d never dreamed in a million years that Scully would bring him here, but

here they were. And if he’d expected his partner to be soft and demure, he was getting a first hand example that she was anything but.

Right at the moment, for example, every male heterosexual eye in the place – and it was a considerable number for such a small place – was

focused on Scully. Or, more properly, focused on her posterior. She was currently bent over the green felt, cue lovingly grasped in her fingernail-painted hands, lining up a shot.

Who would have ever thought that Dana Scully, medical doctor, special agent with the FBI, and practicing Roman Catholic, would end up being a pool shark!

It was an evening he knew he’d remember for a long time. She’d spent the day in the autopsy bay, and he’d hardly seen or heard from her until he got a message on his voicemail from her about 4:30.

“Will pick you up at six at the office for dinner, my treat. Wear your jeans. Love, Scully.”

She knew him so well, fully aware of the contents of the suitcase he always kept in his trunk, among them her favorite pair of his jeans and a gray t-shirt that had shrunk just a half size smaller than it maybe should have. Scully liked Armani, but she loved Levis and Hanes.

When she showed up at the office exactly on time, her own clothes vaguely resembled his own, but only insofar as they were jeans and a shirt. But the cotton hugged all her curves, and he hadn’t seen a

pair of jeans this tight since Guess! in the 80’s.

The ones Scully wore put Brooke Shields to shame, he thought, wondering what she had in store for such an outfit.

She’d been secretive.

“Where are we going?” He asked as he slid into the front seat of her car.

“Just a little place I know,” she answered with a knowing smile.

“A restaurant?”

“Something along those lines,” she said mysteriously.

“C’mon, Scully. Where are we going?”

“Upper Marlboro.” She said it as simply as if they’d said they were going to Georgetown.

“You really want to go all the way to Maryland?” He sounded uncertain, an unusual trait for him.

“It’s a half hour drive, Mulder! And you’re making me rethink this whole escapade.” He didn’t know what he could say to that, so he let the silence rest between them. Then the word came to him.

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she replied.

They’d ridden the rest of the way in silence, and when she pulled up in front of the “restaurant,” it would have been an understatement to say Mulder was stunned.

“Scully, this is a bar!”

“It’s a club. Or, if you insist on using the word bar, it’s a bar and grill.”

“More like a hole in the wall from where I sit,” he responded with a bit of a pout as he got out of the car.

“Don’t let appearances deceive you,” she said as she joined him at the entrance. “My friends and I used to come here a lot in our ‘salad’ days. The guy who runs it moved here from Buffalo, so they have the

best wings outside of Western New York, and he also brings in the best Canadian draft.”

The smile grew on Mulder’s face. “Scully, I had no idea!”

“What do you mean?”

“You were quite the little barfly, weren’t you? Don’t deny it, I can see it in your eyes.”

“I’ll have you know that I did very little drinking, comparatively speaking. But when we needed a break from med school, this is where we always came.” Her eyes scanned the interior of the bar, alighting on a darkened corner. “There! That’s where we always sat.”

She led him to the table nearly invisible in the corner and slid into the bench seat.

As they looked around, he shook his head in wonder.

“I find it hard to believe that you ever hung out here.” Less than reputable men and women sat at the bar, guzzling drinks, while two men with cigarettes hanging from their mouths took turns hitting a cue

ball on a well-used pool table that sat in the middle of the floor.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” The deep but definitely female voice rang out, making Scully’s eyes fly wide.

“If it ain’t one of the med-school crowd!”

A woman with close cropped hair that was probably once auburn but now was mostly gray strode to the table with a smile of recognition, mirroring the one Scully wore. Red lipstick tinted her lips, almost

matching the too-obvious blush on her cheeks. She wore an apron over her jeans and had menus tucked under her arm.

“Ruth!” Scully said excitedly. “You mean you still can’t talk that husband of yours into letting you stay home?”

The waitress laughed. “Well, you know Jim. Never one to pass up free labor. So what can I get you?”

“There’s only one thing I’d order here,” Scully answered with a smile. “Wings, hot, fries with wing sauce on the side, and . . .”

“. . . And a pitcher of Molson’s,” Ruth laughed, finishing the order from memory. “Some things never change.” Her eyes moved to Mulder. “But it’s nice to see some things do.”

Scully actually blushed at that, but didn’t comment. Ruth winked at her and went off to place their order with the cook.

“Wow, Scully. I’m impressed. It’s been, what . . . fifteen years and she still remembers you.”

“You could say that we left an impression in more ways than one,” Scully said with a mysterious grin.

He gave her a puzzled look, shaking his head indicating he didn’t understand.

“Look under your left elbow, Mulder.”

He shifted his arm just enough for the light above the pool table to reflect off the wooden surface, illuminating faint letters carved into the surface: DKS, MD.

His smile grew fondly. “Why, Scully, you little vandal you!”

She humphed, tossing her bangs from her eyes with a flip of her head. “It obviously didn’t bother them that much. All it would take is a good sander and a can of stain to make that disappear.”

“Yet it’s still there, all this time later. You should feel honored.”

Scully looked wistful for a moment, her eyes growing unfocused. Realizing that he’d lost her attention, he waved a hand before her face.

“Hey, Scully,” he whispered, but there was no response. “Scully!” he added a bit louder.

It was enough to bring her around. “Yeah?” Her eyes were focused again.

“Where did you go just then?”

“Into the past,” she answered as Ruth set a platter of wings, fries, celery sticks, and bleu cheese between them.

“There ya go, folks. I’ll be back in a second with your drinks.” She winked at Mulder, laughed, and walked away.

“Should I be jealous, Mulder?” Scully chuckled.

“Of course. The women are just swarming to my testosterone-infused manliness,” he joked back.

“Well, how about applying your testosterone-infused manliness to the food before it gets cold?”

They ate and talked comfortably until the only thing left on the plate was a pile of bones and a cup with no more than a teaspoonful of dip, wiping their hands with towlettes provided by the bar. Despite his

initial misgivings about the crowd, the place seemed to be a comfortable place. He sipped his cola, noting that the two men who had been shooting pool were apparently finishing up, as they exchanged a few bills and put their cues into the holder.

“Hey, let’s play a few rounds!” Scully’s excited voice said from beside him. She jumped up, taking a cue from the rack.

He looked at her dubiously. “I don’t know, Scully. I was never much for billiards.”

“This isn’t ‘billiards’ and you’re not at Oxford. This is good ol’ American pool, now come on!”

“Can’t we just relax and let our meal settle?” he said, unable to specifically identify the reason he was so hesitant to play. Perhaps it meant a dropping of his defenses in public – something he was hesitant to do under any circumstance. In a bar full of strangers . . .

“How can it settle any better than by getting a bit of exercise?”

“I’ll go for a jog as soon as we get home,” he counter-offered, and Scully must have seen that she’d never get anywhere with him.

“You can jog all you want, but I can’t leave here without playing at least one table. So you can either sit there and watch, or you can play with me.”

Mulder’s eyes flew open wide.

“Not like that!” she chastized as she applied the blue cube of chalk to the tip of her stick.. Addressing the gathered crowd, Scully looked every bit the picture of innocence and seduction – a deadly mixture – as she asked, “anybody care for a game?”

Most of the men exchanged glances before one stepped forward. “I’ll give it a try. Three bucks a game?”

Mulder waited for Scully to refuse, indicate that it was just for fun, but he received another surprise when she pulled out a dollar bill, laying it on the corner of the table. “Rack ’em up,” she ordered.

Her opponent laid a bill on top of her own and rounded up the balls in the rack while she took the white ball in her hand and placed it carefully at the opposite end of the table. Bending low, the cue slid

through her fingers expertly before striking the ball with a clapping noise, which was echoed as white struck solids and stripes. Circling the table, Scully lined up her next shot, gracing Mulder with a particularly attention-grabbing view of her denim- covered derriere.

His pride at knowing that the gorgeous woman was with him was dissuaded quickly when he realized that he wasn’t the only man in the room enthralled with Scully’s physicality. Half the men in the room were

staring at her, and she was oblivious to all of it.

The only man who wasn’t staring at her was her opponent, who was currently being rather badly beaten.

That was okay with him, though. He had no problem with men watching his partner, just so long as it was him she went home with at night. It almost made him feel a little proud. Not only was she beautiful, and smart, and kind, but she was damned good! She sank

ball after ball, corner pocket or side, it made no difference as she proceeded to clear the table of her stripes, one by one. He definitely got the impression she’d done this before, and not just once or twice.

In short order, the black ball dropped into the pocket at the tap of Scully’s cue ball, and a groan from her opponent announced her victory. Scully grabbed the bills and pocketed them.

“Good job!” Mulder said, loud enough for her to hear.

“I didn’t realize you were a shark, Scully!”

“It’s a simple matter of physics and geometry,” she explained as she racked the balls again. “Despite your constantly trying to disprove it, you are a man of science.”

“I dispute that,” he replied playfully. “Psychology isn’t about science . . . it’s about personalities and emotions. That’s about as opposite of science as you can get.”

“Well, then take a lesson, sweetheart. Science is good for more than just arguing theories.” She bent and rolled the balls in the triangle. “Who’s next?” she asked the onlookers.

Three more times the balls were racked and Scully emerged victorious. Her pocket bulged with the dollar bills from her defeated opponents, and he wondered who would volunteer to take her on next. If they were smart, they’d get out while they were ahead. Despite that, one more pigeon stepped up, and another game began.

At least one of the men in the crowd, however, decided that he’d had enough of this particular brand of entertainment. Mulder had only glanced away for a moment, no more than a second, but it was time

enough. By the time his focus returned to his partner, events were already developing.

A tall, well-muscled man of about thirty-five years of age had approached Scully from behind, and while Mulder’s first fear was of an attack, that wasn’t what the man had planned. Before she could react,

he’d wrapped a large forearm around her slim waist, pulling her tightly against his front.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he slurred. “How about wrapping those gorgeous hands around another kind of pole?” He ground his hips into her, his meaning unmistakable. The crowd around them grew deadly silent.

Scully’s voice was low and threatening in its own right, at the same time as Mulder moved to slide out of the bench seat they’d been sharing. “Let. Me. Go.”

“Oooh, she’s feisty!” the obviously inebriated man said to a friend at the bar, whose expression said that he knew this was a mistake but that he wasn’t about to interfere.

The sequence of events that happened next transpired so quickly, Mulder was never completely sure what happened. He’d jumped to Scully’s aid, displacing the man from his place behind Scully by grasping his arm and tossing him to the side with the training of an FBI agent.

At the same moment, Scully, in her own defense, had thrust the cue backwards with all her strength, intending on taking her molester hard in the stomach with it. But her aim was low, and she was unaware of

Mulder’s movements, so instead of assaulting a drunk stranger, she only succeeded in driving Mulder to his knees, his hands grasping at his painfilled manhood.

Agony shot through him like he had never experienced, and he panted, grateful that the accident had abruptly halted the fight that surely had been brewing.

“Mulder!” Scully dropped to her knees beside her partner. “Mulder, I’m so sorry! Are you okay?”

He met her with silence, unresponsive, the pain still too intense to manage words, but the perspiration on his brow and the squint of his eyes should have told her everything she needed to know.

But, of course, she didn’t have the reaction he wanted.

“Somebody call an ambulance!”

“No!” he ground out between clenched teeth. “No ambulance!”

“But Mulder . . .” Her concern was genuine, but he couldn’t give in. How ridiculous would that be, going to the hospital in an ambulance for being socked in his privates?

“No!”

“You could be hurt more than you know,” she entreated. “I’m so sorry!”

“Not your fault,” he said in a shaky voice. “Now help me up.”

He reached out a hand, hoping she’d take it without his having to raise his head and look her in the eyes. If he did, she’d know at a glance how bad it was. When she grasped his arm, he sighed, grateful

that she’d gone along with him. Getting his feet under him wasn’t so hard, but he realized there was still no way he was going to straighten up, but he had to, or Scully would have him in the hospital for sure.

“Are you okay?” She asked as the crowd around them went back to their individual activities.

“I will be,” he managed, his other hand gaining purchase on her shoulder. “Just give me a second.”

He panted a few times more, and pressed himself until he was standing upright, the sweat streaming down his face.

“I think it’s time we headed home,” Scully suggested, concern in her voice.

“Let me just quick visit the men’s room, okay?” She had the courtesy to not ask him why, and he went without telling her that his intent was to splash some cold water on his face and try to pull himself together.

He walked away, his head proudly held high, since bending down again would make straightening up again just that much more difficult. His mind was all- emcompassed by the pain in his body, not realizing

that when he’d fallen, he’d disrupted the remainder of the cues in the wall holder, knocking some of them to the floor. He only managed three halting steps before his foot came down the bridge, causing it to

snap up as if stepping on a rake.

He didn’t see a thing before the room suddenly went black.

>>>>>XXX<<<<<

When next he was aware, the smell of anticeptic assaulted his nostrils before he even opened his eyes. No doubt where he’d ended up once again.

“Damn. . .” he said, giving the first sign that he’d awoken.

“Finally! I thought you were going to sleep all day.” Scully rose, and took his hand. He looked up into her face, and while it held some humor, it also held a hint of guilt.

“What happened after the lights went out?” he asked, coming more completely to consciousness. He realized he hurt all over.

“You stepped on a bridge. It came up, hit you in the face, broke your nose and knocked you out. Then I called the ambulance.”

“I’m sure your admirer just loved that,” he said, reaching up to feel the bandaging on his nose.

“Actually, he was very good about it. He’d just had a bit too much to drink. Once the accident happened, he sobered quick. He and his friend even helped get you off the floor and onto a bench until the

ambulance arrived.”

“You accepted help from that guy who had his hands all over you?” he asked, astonished.

“He apologized, Mulder. And he was harmless.”

“Yeah, right,” Mulder sulked, wishing they’d come and give him something for the pain in his head, nose, and groin. God, it hurt.

“Besides,” she said, and he thought he sensed a wickedness in her voice. “The doctor says that you’ll be . . . out of commission . . . for awhile. I just might need him,” she teased. Turning on her heal, she added, “I’d better tell the doctor you’re awake.” She left him deciphering her comment as she let the door swing shut. It didn’t take long for Mulder’s reaction.

“Scully!!”

The End

First Strike

Title: First Strike

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Humorous casefile

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: Mulder and Scully get in the game when a serial killer tries to remove the Cubs from the spring lineup.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Chris Carter’s All-Stars for playing on my diamond.

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First Strike

J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington, D.C.

8:12 a.m.

“Hey, Scully,” Mulder greeted as Scully entered their subterranean grotto.

“How about them Cubbies?”

“Oh, God,” Scully breathed, glancing at the cryptozoology calendar

hanging behind her partner’s cluttered desk. The coelacanth was April’s festive offering. “Now I understand.”

“Understand?”

She deposited her purse in the bottom drawer and kneed it shut. “The glazed eyes, the attention deficit, the uncharacteristic interest in and droning recital of statistical data. Baseball.” The last Scully pronounced with apocryphal resignation. “Yesterday, when I thought I caught you surfing porn, you were actually on ESPN.com, weren’t you?”

“The first time, anyway,” Mulder admitted, surreptitiously turning his

monitor away from her. “Yes, Scully, it’s once again time to celebrate that quintessential American rite of spring, when fresh-faced boys-”

“Millionaire jocks.”

“-take up bat and ball, and the air once more is filled with the smell of horsehide…”

“Or something to that effect. So, this saccharine rhapsodizing – it’s going to go on for precisely how long?”

“Road trip time, Scully,” Mulder informed her. “The Windy City. The

City of Big Shoulders. Hog Butcher to the World. That Toddling Town.”

“I like you so much better with severe seasonal disaffective disorder. OK, Mulder, what’s in Chicago?”

“Someone is trying to kill the Cubs.”

“Sounds more like a job for EPA or Greenpeace.”

“And they ask where the next generation of anal-retentive comedians are coming from. No, seriously, Scully – over the past three months, the injury/mortality rate for the Chicago Cubs organization has spiked alarmingly. For the first time in recent memory, they’re leading the league.”

Scully said. “And this is our business, how?”

“To the projector, Scully.”

**

“Manny ‘The Man’ Calvedo, Dominican national and perhaps the most addictive phenomenon to come out of the Caribbean since Jamaican ganja.” The two-dimensional home run king beamed down at Scully from the wall. “In December, his Lamborghini was side-swiped by a supposedly drunk driver without plates. There was a suspicion that Manny himself had enjoyed a taste of the grape that night, and the incident was forgotten almost overnight. A few weeks later, Manny sustained a few scrapes when his skis self-destructed in Vail. It was presumed an accident, until a week later, when someone fired a potshot into his fashionable Gold Coast condo. Dead of night, no witnesses. They got a little bolder three days later, when reportedly the same plateless vehicle tried to knock one out of the parking lot. The Wrigley Field parking lot, that is.”

“Stalker? Disgruntled fan?”

“If he or she was, they soon got over their disgruntlement. Or displaced it.” Mulder clicked the remote, and a ruddy young redhead with a Fu Manchu mustache replaced Calvedo. “Sean O’Herlihy, The Irish Mafia.

Shortstop for the Cubs. Not so lucky as his teammate. He was out

clubbing in the Loop a few weeks after the last attempt on Calvedo, and someone slipped him a mickey. As in Mouse. As in D-Con. The EMTs thought it was an overdose, but the Chicago M.E. found he’d inhaled a significant amount of rodenticide. It was a five-day wonder, but the witnesses were unsurprisingly uncooperative with the authorities, who couldn’t find any leads beyond two women who’d sued him for paternity.”

Scully held up a hand as Mulder’s index finger hovered over the remote.

“I’ll collect their cards if I need to. Cut to the chase. How many others?”

“Attempts on three other players – no other deaths yet, even though the next-to-the-last victim was benched for the season with a broken hip. Bat attack.”

“Ah huh. And why is this a federal case?”

“One of the intended victims testified in the Senate steroid hearings last month. Baseball commissioner asked Skinner to investigate, on the off- possibility Derrell Grover’s motorcycle exploded as a warning.”

“From who? The sports medicine cartel?” Scully’s eyes narrowed. “Wait a second. Who raised this little ‘off-possibility’ to the commissioner?”

“Hey, I think we’re going to be just in time for Marshall-Field’s pre-

summer blowout.”

“Just as I thought. Should I ask if there’s even an X-File here?”

“Take a windbreaker, Scully. Lake effect.”

Wrigley Field

Chicago, Illinois

2:21 p.m.

“Costner’s a puss,” Mulder’s neighbor snorted. “Bull Durham? Bull-shit. Field a’ Dreams? Field a’ Crap. For the Love of the Game? For the love a’ God. I mean, c’mon.”

Mulder’s new friend pronounced the latter in the traditional Chicago style, five syllables long, the “o” replaced by what sounded to the agent like a goat-like bleat. His Cubs cap had been abused and massaged into slovenly perfection, and the condiments of a dozen seasons adorned his Cubbies jersey and baggy khaki shorts.

“Major League, now — that was a classic, my friend,” Bob continued.

“Amen,” Mulder murmured reverently.

Bob leaned over with intensity, his third Bud sloshing. “Not that second

piece a’ crap, mind you. And Major League 3: Back to The Minors?”

“Piece of crap.”

“Thank you. But the original? Berenger, Sheen, Snipes, Uecker, the

lawyer guy, you know, the guy from the lawyer show. None a’ these

freakin’ Oscar winnin’ Shakespearean Hollywood libs. And none a’ that philosophical or chick shit — just freakin’ baseball.” Bob fell back in his upper level seat, staring into his brew meditatively. “Costner’s a puss.”

“Well,” Scully breathed cheerfully, standing over Mulder’s shoulder with a precariously loaded cardboard tray. “I see I didn’t need to worry about you boys entertaining yourselves.”

“Bob says we should rent The Scout,” Mulder said.

“Did he, now?” Scully inquired in a maternally deflating tone. “Here —

take your sodium-laden bunful of fat and rodent droppings.”

Mulder eagerly appropriated his Chicago dog, nudging the errant dill spear back into its bed of mustard, onions, day-glo relish and sports peppers. He bit blissfully into the poppy seed bun and the Hebrew National nestled within. “You shaid I should eat more veshtables,” he protested, inadvertently spitting a cucumber seed toward the infield.

“Mother a’ all that’s holy,” Bob gasped as Scully settled into her seat.

“What in hell is this?”

Mulder glanced disgustedly at the tray in his partner’s lap. “Please tell me, Scully, that you were robbed at gunpoint on the way back from concessions.”

Scully harpooned a tomato slice from her meatless, breadless pile of

toppings. “That processed meat tube is a federal biohazard, and do you have any idea how many carbs are in those buns?”

“That’s a freakin’ salad,” Bob squeaked, outraged. “No offense, buddy, but what your wife’s done there — that’s just, just freakin’ sacrilegious.”

“She’s/I’m not my/his wife,” Mulder and Scully amended in unison.

“I need a freakin’ brewski,” Bob announced, climbing uncertainly from his seat and crunching his way through the mountain of peanut husks he and Mulder had constructed in Scully’s absence.

Scully turned her attention to the large concrete column that stood

between her and the group of Cubs and Cardinals assembled roughly 100 yards below.

“Great seats, Mulder,” she grunted. “If we had to wait for the general manager, couldn’t you have gotten us seats in Detroit? I could see the game better.”

“I’m not having any problem see–” Mulder caught Scully’s critical eye, and adopted a pitiful grimace. “I guess we could change seats, if you really wanted. I mean, you don’t really seem to be that into the game, but–

“Don’t have a stroke, Mulder,” Scully responded witheringly. “It doesn’t matter — I already know one individual who isn’t rounding first base

tonight.”

**

“Threats?” The General Manager looked astonished. “We’re the Cubs.”

Scully sighed as she squeaked forward in her leather wing chair. “Let me rephrase. Has the club received any threatening correspondence or communications that may pertain specifically to Mr. O’Herlihy’s death or the attempts on the other players?”

The G.M. shrugged apologetically, reaching for a large bundle of mail on his credenza. “Again, the Cubs organization has a very vocal, highly excitable fan base. And, frankly, very creative in their use of the language. You oughtta see what they say on the website.”

“Mulder,” Scully deferred, rubbing her temples.

“How about organized crime?” her partner speculated. “Could somebody be trying to influence the spread this season, maybe take the Cubs out of the running entire – ah, strike that last part.”

The G.M. absently picked up an Ernie Banks-autographed ball from his expansive desk and caressed the memento as he mulled. “Well, it seems pretty unlikely – Calvedo’s been off his game for the last season, and Greg Lukavic, well, he’s 36 – he’s pretty much coasting through the rest of his contract.”

“Could Derrell Glover’s accident have been some kind of warning not to testify before the Select Committee on Athletic Steroid Use? Maybe the other attacks are some kind of smokescreen.”

The G.M. waved the thought off the field. “Yeah, I know – the

commissioner seems to have gotten that numb-nuts idea from some mental defective.”

“Thanks for your time and the game, sir,” Scully murmured, smiling

radiantly for the first time.

**

“My daddy used to say life’s like a baseball game,” Travis Keating

drawled, grinning laconically for the camera. The game had been over for three hours, and the Cubs pitcher had showered and redressed in a fresh uniform for the ESPN interview. The huge Alabaman planted a boat-sized shoe on the locker room bench and struck a folksy pose. “You get only so many swings, you only aim low when the odds are with you, and, sometimes, when the occasion calls for it, you gotta come in home with your cleats out. I guess that’s been my philosophy as a player and a man, and if folks don’t care for it, well, I guess they can take it to another park.”

The ESPN reporter, a former Olympic Women’s Luge Team captain,

nodded, beaming. “How about the rumors that that columnist from the Tribune you decked at Harry Caray’s may be suing? Some might say you wear your cleats out in public a little too often.”

The smile froze on the pitcher’s face. “Hey, Sandi, I gotta get to that

kiddie fundraiser thing in an hour or so. Sorry, Babe; gotta run.”

Sandi nodded, rolling her eyes at her cameraman and slashing a muscular finger across her throat. As the cable crew packed it in, Mulder and Scully approached the Cub’s chief bad boy. Travis’ bloodshot eyes zeroed in on the latter.

“Well, hey there, Red.”

“Agents Mulder and Scully, FBI.”

The player feigned fear, ogling Scully. “Hey now, Red. You ain’t gonna strip search me, are you, Agent? Cause I may be packing a lethal wea–”

“All right,” Mulder interrupted. “We’ve now established that you’re

suicidal. Are you homicidal, as well?”

The lascivious smile fell off Travis’ stubbled face as he noticed the male half of the team. “What’s up, Ace? I got a date with some sick rug rats.”

“Sounds like you have something of a volatile personality. You play well with others, Travis? Particularly your teammates?”

The Cub backed up a step. “Whoa, partner. You think I’m trying to whack this bunch of jerkoffs? I got an alibi. Well, I mean, I gotta have one, right? If I didn’t do it?”

Mulder processed that. “So what do you think? Who’s doing this?”

“Marcus Freemount.”

“Freemount? The shortstop who got fungoed into the hospital?”

“Yeah,” Travis drawled, seemingly astonished by his own theory. “Look, everybody except Freemount and Sean O’Herlihy has got away clean — no harm, no foul. Pretty weird, you ask me, this creep lets Manny off the hook after four tries, then whacks Sean, then takes a few whacks at old Greg, then lets him go, then takes a Louisville slugger to Marcus but never finishes up before moving on to Derrell, who for all I know is still on the hit list.

“Now what’s kinda interesting about that is Marcus is like Manny’s best bud. Greg’s practically got an AARP card, so he’s no threat to Marcus.

Marcus and Sean, though, they’re like Coke and Pepsi — always fighting for the headlines, for the commercial endorsements, for the chickarinos.

They even mixed it up right here in the locker room, during the playoffs last year. And Derrell and Marcus, they’re out every night partying with some rapper dude, you know, dude says he been shot 37 times. Whaddya wanna bet Derrell gets passed by for somebody else. Maybe me. Jesus. I mean, it’s like a CSI or something — Marcus has one of his homies whack him a couple times, and nobody suspects him. Point A to Point B equals 3. Simple.”

“Extremely so,” Mulder nodded.

Pizzeria Uno

The Loop

Chicago

8:27 p.m.

“But he does make an interesting point, in a roundabout manner,” Scully said, watching in horror as Mulder launched into a thick, dripping slab of deep dish pizza. Pizzeria Uno was packed with families and lovers and bickering Cubs and White Sox disciples, and the agents were able to lose themselves in the slight noise of the Loop pizzeria.

“How sho?”

Scully flicked a piece of sausage shrapnel from her white blouse. “This is like no serial killer I’ve ever encountered. Guns, cars, explosives, sports paraphernalia, poison — no rhyme or reason to his or her MO. He kills one player, hobbles another but lets him live, and gives up on two others. The idea of a smokescreen around O’Herlihy’s murder appears more and more logical. The killer’s clumsily trying to make it look like several killers are at work.”

“Pretty obvious, though,” Mulder said, washing his wad of cheese, dough, and meat down with a designer cherry ale. “A more logical explanation is that several killers are at work.”

“What do you mean, Mulder?”

“Maybe we’re not dealing with a disgruntled fan. Maybe we’re dealing with a disgruntled fan club. An organized group of anti-Cubs fans out to purge the city of a losing team.”

“Yeah, that must be it. That’s brilliant.”

“Or perhaps this is accumulated bad karma coming home to roost.

Professional sports has become the domain of undisciplined, self-

indulgent, overpaid and pampered boys who blaze a trail of booze, drugs, womanizing, reckless vehicle operation, gambling, and god knows what else. Ballplayers sell their autographs to 10-year-olds and keep attorneys on retainer for the next coke bust or sexual misadventure. What if what we’re seeing here is a convergence of vengeful victims, frustrated fans, humiliated hotties, and belligerent bookies?”

“Don’t forget alliterative agents,” Scully grunted, playing with her small house salad. “Thing is, there’s something oddly familiar about this whole case.”

“Final Destination.”

“What?”

“You know, the teen horror flick. Death’s working its way down the list of kids and teachers, but Devon Sawa manages to escape his fate, and Death keeps coming back around for him. It’s like our killer or killers is giving his or her victims the chance to cheat death, and if they do, he or she or they is or are moving on to the next intended victim.”

“You think there’s any reason to the sequence of attacks? Any order?”

“I think they’ve — or he or she — has targeted the team, but otherwi–” Mulder halted, frowning.

“Mulder?”

“It’s just what you just said. About the order of the players. No. It’s too–”

The agent’s thought went uncompleted as his cell phone warbled. Still frowning, he flipped it open. “Mulder. What?…When?…How’d it

happen?…Yeah, we’ll grab a cab.”

Scully leaned forward as Mulder pocketed his phone. “What happened?”

“Death hit another home run.”

**

“He was catching the Red Line downtown for some kind of charity gig,” the stocky Chicago detective informed the feds as Mulder peeked delicately over the edge of the El platform. The cop looked like Dennis Franz gone to seed, if that were possible. “The commuter traffic’d thinned out, and there were one other person up here. The cute broad over there — student at Northwestern — heard Keating yell out. Ah, Teri Cheever. Train was still off a few blocks, or otherwise we’d be taking him back in a thousand little Ziplocs. Operator put on the brakes, but it looks like Keating made friends with the third rail, there. No obvious wounds.”

“But nobody saw him get pushed?” Scully inquired.

“Kid had her nose stuck in some book — Catcher in the Rye,” the cop

shrugged. “Don’t look like the baseball type, huh?”

“Um,” Scully attempted.

“Scully, Scully,” Mulder pre-empted, glancing at the slim brunette poring through an equally svelte paperback. “Let’s talk to the lady.”

“Slipped,” Teri mumbled, turning the page as the agents approached.

Scully’s brow arched. “How do you–?”

“Alone.”

“But you said he–”

“Scooter.”

“Pardon?”

“What he said,” Teri sighed, eyes scurrying over J.D. Salinger’s prose.

“Before he, you know…”

“Scooter?”

“Scooter.”

“Thanks, ma’am,” Mulder nodded, turning back toward the former

pitching great now being loaded into a black plastic bag. He pulled out his cell phone and a business card.

“Who’re you calling?” Scully asked.

“The G.M. In your own girlie way, I think you may have inadvertently

solved this case.”

“Gee, thanks, Coach,” Scully muttered sourly

Residence of Travis Keating

Oakbrook, Illinois

11:57 p.m.

“Holy crap,” the farm-team Dennis Franz exclaimed as he flipped the

basement light switch.

“You’re not far off,” Mulder suggested, moving past the cop. He marveled at the collection of baseball memorabilia gathered in the finished but empty rec room: Cards, sports magazines, newspaper clippings, posters, vintage ads for gum and chewing tobacco, even a rack of chipped wooden bats lovingly suspended over a display case full of autographed balls.

It could have been the basement of any reasonably overzealous suburban Chicago Cubs enthusiast, were not every piece of memorabilia related to a single player and the far wall consumed by a painting of a weathered, bulb-nosed redhead in a pinstriped uniform, surrounded by candles.

“It’s like a freakin’ church,” the cop murmured.

“In a manner of speaking,” Mulder said. “A church with a god named

Scooter. Baseball wasn’t just a pastime for Travis Keating. It was a

religion.

“Once I realized what the pattern of the player attacks was, I understood there was a logic to the sequence. Victim No. 1, Manny Calvedo, survives four attempts on his life. Then the killer moves on to Sean O’Herlihy. This time, he gets him on the second try. Greg Lukavic’s next, but again, after four tries, he’s left alone. He gets to walk.”

“What?” The cop scratched his bald head. Then he looked sharply at

Mulder. “Get the eff outta here. You gotta be shittin’.”

“Mulder?” Scully inquired.

Mulder smiled. “Baseball was Travis’ religion, and its rules were his

sacred canon. I looked into his history, and found out his mother was a baseball groupie who collected players like a 10-year-old collects playing cards. The summer before Travis was born 32 years ago, Scooter Daniels here was playing for a Mobile, Ala., minor league team, coming back from a shoulder injury that had benched one of the hottest hitters of the ’60s.

Apparently, Scooter could still swing a pretty good bat, if you know what I mean, because Travis’ mom told me she’d had Travis’ daddy pretty well narrowed down to him. Mama’s baseball fever was infectious, and Travis took after his dad on the field. My guess is he suspected his lineage. But he only discovered the truth recently – after Scooter washed out of the leagues and drank himself out of the Big Game altogether. I think that’s when Travis discovered his religion. And when he decided to avenge the sins committed against the game he loved. Greed, booze, drugs, sexual promiscuity.”

Scully studied Scooter Daniels, who appeared to be leering back at her.

“Excuse me, Mulder, but Keating’s father wasn’t precisely the model of sportsmanlike comportment.”

“To Travis, he was. He’d become the spiritual embodiment of baseball to Keating, and Travis’ teammates became an abomination to the game.”

“Once again, Travis Keating was no Angel in the Outfield, either,” Scully noted.

“I think Travis had as much loathing for himself as he did for his

teammates. That’s how I figured out who was behind all of this.”

“Mulder. English.”

“The attacks on the players followed a ritualistic pattern, one that had come to rule Travis’ life. Four attempts on Manny Calvedo, four misses.”

“Four fouls,” the detective mumbled. “Un-freakin’-believable.”

“No,” Scully breathed. “You have to be kidding.”

“Calvedo takes the base, and O’Herlihy is on deck. One D-Con colada, and O’Herlihy’s out at home. Lukavic comes to bat, and, again, Travis is off his game. Four fouls, and Lukavic gets to walk.”

“What about Marcus Freemount?” the cop challenged. “Why’d he get a pass after only the one attempt?”

“Hit by pitch,” Mulder said. “Travis’ swing could use a little work. But

according to the rules, Freemount was allowed to take first. If Travis

hadn’t gotten toasted on the El, he’d have made another attempt on Derrell Glover.”

“And who would’ve been next?” Scully asked.

“Marty Scaliosi, Cubs second baseman. Manny Calvedo was top of the lineup, followed by O’Herlihy, Lukavic, Freemount, Glover, Scaliosi, Luis Muniz, and Phil Ransome. Of course, Muniz is now with the Florida Marlins, but I’m sure–”

“What lineup?” Scully demanded. “Mulder, how do you know this?”

“The Cubs’ starting lineup. You gave me the idea at dinner, when you asked about the order of the attacks. It occurred to me that we could be looking at some kind of homicidal batting order. Once I realized what the pattern might be, I checked what would have been the key date in Travis’ bizarre ‘religion.’ The day Scooter Daniels died, three years ago. June 21, Cubs at home against the Braves, Manny Calvedo first at bat, Sean O’Herlihy on deck, Travis Keating pitching.

“What I’m hoping to find here is, ah, here we go…” The thin, horizontally rectangular book, lying in a position of honor underneath Scooter’s picture, was spiral bound, with a green faux-pebbled leather cover. The cover bore a simple legend, in gilt type: Scorebook. “Every religion has its god and its rituals, but it also has its sacred writings. Behold, Scully, the Gospel of Travis.”

Scully warily accepted the book and flipped through the pages, which were covered in grids, mysterious acronyms and symbols, and rows of diamonds. Only the first page had been inscribed. “Calvedo, O’Herlihy, Lukavic, Freemount… My God, Mulder — this is like a confession. Only, why does O’Herlihy’s entry have the letters ‘KKK’ next to it? Was there some racial angle to this?”

The cop chortled loudly. Mulder joined in his mirth, the laughter dying in his throat as he perceived the homicidal glint in Scully’s eyes. “Uh, sorry. That’s the scorekeeping symbol for a strikeout, Scully.”

She gazed, spellbound, at the scorebook. “Incredible. But what if Keating hadn’t gotten his two other ‘outs’? Would he have started again at the, the what, the top of the order?”

“Wait a minute,” the Chicago detective drawled. “Keating was pitching?”

“Give the man a Jumbo Dog with everything,” Mulder announced. “Travis was more Jim Jones than a Ted Bundy. This was going to be his last at- bat, his Heaven’s Gate, Scully.”

Scully shook her head in frustration. “Suicide? Mulder, how can you

possibly know that?”

“Detective?”

The cop selected a sweat-distressed ball from the display case and hefted it. “Pitcher’s always at the bottom of the starting roster. Least in the National League.”

Scully was silent for a minute, meditating among Keating’s icons. “So

what about Keating? Was that an accident, or did he have second thoughts about O’Herlihy and the rest?”

Three heads turned as the doorbell sounded from above. “Detective, could you get that, please?” The cop saluted and trundled up the stairs.

“I don’t think it was an accident or a suicide, Scully,” Mulder said quickly and quietly. “I think Travis managed somehow to manifest his baseball ‘god.’ That girl on the El platform heard him call Scooter’s name just before he died. I think maybe Scooter’s spirit called the game. Or – and I hope I’m wrong – maybe Scooter’s taken over the mound. Which means this may not be over.”

Scully glanced nervously at Scooter’s portrait, despite herself. “Mulder, you can’t believe…”

“Ah, but you know I can. That’s why I made a call before we came over. I don’t want to take any chances.”

Mulder fell silent at the detective’s heavy footfalls. A chunky man in a

black suit followed. It took Scully a moment to spot the Roman collar.

“Father Gene,” Mulder greeted, grasping the priest’s hand. “Agent Scully, this is Father Gene Vistaverde, formerly with the Washington diocese. He transferred out here 10 years ago to be near Wrigley Field.”

Scully backed up a step. “Mulder, please tell me…”

“Best exorcist east of the Mississippi. 21-and-O record to date, right,

Gene?”

The priest smiled humbly, pulling a small red Bible from his windbreaker.

“Helped my cousin Louis,” the detective nodded. “Used to have a

smoking problem ’til the father came along.”

“Curing addictive behaviors is scarcely the same–” Scully sputtered.

“The smoke was comin’ outta his ears,” the cop informed the agent.

“Mulder, at best, exorcism likely has more to do with psychological

suggestion than the eradication of evil entities,” she implored.

“That’s why I brought in the special team,” Mulder assured her. “Scooter Daniels may not have respected womanhood or polite society in general, but he respected the game and its rules. Teammates used to call him ‘By the Book’ Daniels.”

Somberly, the clergyman tugged a billed cap into place.

“How is that relevant, Mulder?” Scully asked.

“Shh,” Mulder said, pointing toward the far wall, near the stairwell.

Scully’s heart leapt as she spotted the lanky, redheaded man in the

rumpled uniform, arms crossed under the retro Cubs insignia as if he were awaiting a high sign from the catcher. The man was the three-dimensional – albeit transparent – twin of the man in the portrait.

Father Gene took a breath and approached Scooter Daniels. Planting himself square in front of the ectoplasmic athlete, the priest said something inaudible.

“Mulder,” Scully whispered. Mulder shook his head.

Scooter scowled fiercely, stepping toward the priest. Father Gene locked his feet, jutting his chin out, and growled at the player. The ghost turned paler, if that was possible, and evaporated.

“In addition to being ordained in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, Father Gene is officially certified with the World Umpires Association,” Mulder informed the stunned Scully after a moment of silence, as the padre removed his cap and wiped his forehead. “There’s a higher authority and then there’s a higher authority.

“See, the league cut Scooter Daniels a break back in the ’70s when they let him play in the minors with that bad shoulder. But he never was officially taken off the disability list. And under Major League rules, that means he wasn’t eligible to play, to replace Travis Keating on Keating’s roster.

“Father Gene didn’t exorcise Scooter, Scully. He ejected him.”

End

Fielder’s Choice

TITLE: Fielder’s Choice

AUTHOR: Samiam

Artwork: mercimulder

RATING: um … soft R for some innuendo/situations and one really bad word

ARCHIVE: IMTP for the first two weeks, after that just tell me where to send the child support payments.

FEEDBACK: be brutal, this is what my insomnia lives for.

REFERENCES: The Unnatural

CATAGORY: Scully POV, MSR … um, general flirty fun and games

DISCLAIMERS: I make no claims to the characters herein, I’m just abusing them to whittle away at the near catatonic lethargy brought about by the unrelenting desert induced boredom and too little sleep.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Lisa asked for sports related submissions for IMTP … how could I refuse

clip_image001

Fielder’s Choice

Saturday

Mid-morning

*****************************************

“SCULLY!”

Hmmm. 2 parts consternation, 1 part shock. No discernible level of pain and not prefaced by the loud thump of a heavy object falling on him. Mulder Crisis Scale rating: 1.2.

I go back to unloading the dishwasher.

“SCULLY!”

Yeah, that was confusion and a little bit of outrage, but he’s headed in the wrong direction of the house.

“I’m in the kitchen,” I call back, taking the last of the plates out and stacking it on the top of the pile on the counter before reaching over to load the second set. God help me, I’ve become my mother. I never thought I’d see the day I had ‘seasonal dishes’. I’ve even adopted her habit of running them through the dishwasher one last time before putting them away for the season and washing them before using them again.

My maternal musings are interrupted by a thud behind me. I glance over my shoulder to see Mulder, arms outstretched as he leans against the doorway, with his finger stuck in a book. Well, it’s one of the more mundane things he’s stuck his finger in through the years. Not the most fun though.

“You.”

He’s still working that shock and outrage thing. This should be interesting.

“Yes, Mulder. Now that we’ve established that I’m me and my name is Scully, what?” I smirk and put another glass in the top rack.

“What’s this?” he says, stepping out of the doorway and raising the book.

“That appears to be one of my high school year books. Where did you find it?”

“It was in the box your mother brought over that you shoved in the back of the office closet.”

“And you opened it because?” I draw out the last syllable, still trying to figure out where he’s going with this.

“It said ‘Dana — high school’ on it,” he says it like it’s the most logical reason on the planet.

Of course. God forbid he not snoop. This is why we don’t have a cat. Mulder’s curiosity is bad enough.

“You lied to me.”

If I knew what yearbook he had, I might have a clue what he’s talking about.

“About?” I ask, opening the cabinet under the sink to grab the dish soap. Standing up, I’m confronted with a picture of myself in my high school uniform.

“You said you’d never hit a baseball before,” he huffs.

“I hadn’t. I played softball.” He gets indignation, I get to be cheeky.

“You were a PITCHER!”

“And a damn good one, too.” I squirt the soap into its cup, close the cap, raise and lock the door on the dishwasher, then hit the ‘on’ switch. I cross my arms over my chest, soap bottle dangling from my right hand and lean against the counter to face him. “What’s your point?”

“Well… uh… why didn’t you say anything that night?”

Now that’s the most ridiculous thing he’s said… well since we left the office yesterday. I uncross my arms, drop the bottle behind me and pull myself up until I’m sitting on the counter.

“And forego that great baseball lesson?” I grab the front of his jeans and pull him to me, crossing my ankles behind his thighs and draping my arms on his shoulders. “Now why,” kiss just below his right ear, “would I do,” kiss the underside of his jaw, “something as silly,” kiss the corner of his mouth, “as that?” contact.

We spend a couple seconds… hours… lifetimes… whatever… kissing before I pull back. I can’t help the grin I know I’m sporting. I think I’ve short-circuited his wise-ass mode for the time being.

“Can you still do it as well as you used to?”

“I think we did it pretty well the other night.” Yeah, I know what he means. I just like teasing him

“Pitch, Scully. Pitch.”

“God, Mulder. That was over twenty years ago. I can’t think of anything I did at sixteen that I can do as well now.”

“Bet I can think of one thing you do better now than you did back then,” he says with an eyebrow waggle.

“Yeah?”

“Oh yeah.” He leans in to kiss me again before pulling me off the counter and carrying me out of the kitchen.

*****************************************

Sunday

Just before noon

*****************************************

I’m sitting at the desk in the office, attempting to write checks, but finding myself staring out the window more than I should be when I feel him come up behind me. He wraps his arms around my shoulders and kisses the side of my neck before speaking.

“It is far too gorgeous a day for you to be locked in here working.”

“I’m not working. I’m paying bills. You know, those monthly financial obligations required of us so that we can remain living in this house?” He covers my eyes with one hand and spins the chair so that I’d be facing him if I could actually see him.

“You talk too much.” I laugh. If either of us is guilty of ‘talking too much’, I’d say it’s him. He kisses me to curb the laughing, but it doesn’t stop me from smiling.

“Close your eyes,” he tells me as he takes his hand away and raises my own to cover my eyes. “And KEEP them closed,” he says just before kissing the hollow of my throat.

“Feeling a little frisky, partner?”

“Just trying to keep you on your toes,” he replies then kisses the top part of my left leg just below the cuff of my shorts.

“On my toes, Mulder? Or are you trying to curl my toes?” I ask as he lifts my leg and presses a kiss to the inside of my knee. “My mouth is up here, ya know?”

“I’m not aiming for your mouth,” accented with another kiss to my ankle before he slips the deck shoe I’m wearing off. Toe-latio? I flex my toes once in anticipation of what he may do next and am shocked to feel him put a heavier shoe back on. What the hell? I jerk upright in the chair, dropping my hands to the arms while my eyes fly open to reveal him kneeling in front of me lacing up the cleat he just put on my foot and wearing that old Grays jersey I haven’t seen in years.

Again I say…

“What the hell! Mulder, where did you find those cleats?”

“We’re in the land of the Hoya, Scully,” he tells me, dropping my left foot and pulling the shoe off my right. “Pro-shops abound.”

“Last time I check, Georgetown was noted for its basketball team, not baseball.”

“That’s probably why the cleats were on sale,” he laces up the second cleat and stands up, offering me his hand. “Come on, Scully.”

“Where are we going?” I ask, just a tad apprehensive.

“I told you. It’s too gorgeous a day to be indoors,” he says, taking both my hands and pulling me to my feet. “We’re going out to play.”

*****************************************

Still Sunday

A little after noon

*****************************************

I’m toeing the dirt in front of the rubber on the pitcher’s mound, still baffled at how I wound up out here.

“I looked through all your yearbooks, Scully,” Mulder yells over to me from home plate. I look up to see him, catcher’s mask on top of his head, flick his wrist to indicate that he’s going to toss the softball to me.

“And?” I shout back, raising my glove to tell him to send it over.

“Why did you only play one season?” He lobs the ball to me.

“I went to a Catholic high school, Mulder.” I take the ball out of my glove and spin it in my hand, getting a feel for the weight again.

“So?”

“So, let’s just say the coach and the nuns felt my temperament was unsuited for competitive sports.” I finish as I swing my arm in a clockwise motion to loosen the muscles.

“In other words, you took it just a little too seriously.” He’s grinning at me. Bastard. Cute bastard, but still a bastard.

“And you didn’t?” I do a soft underhand pitch as a warm up.

“I played right field. I was never as overzealous about it as some of the guys on my team. Most notably the pitchers.” He tosses the ball back to me, lowers the catcher’s mask and waves his hands at me. “So let’s see what you’ve got.”

“Shouldn’t we be at home for that, or are you trying to get us arrested for public indecency?” I send over another pitch, a little harder than the first, but still not up to full speed.

“Shaddup and pitch, meat.” He stands and tosses the ball back. I catch it and give him the biggest grin I can in response. He gets back into a catcher’s crouch and puts his mitt up as a target.

I dig my left toe into the dirt near the rubber more, making the little ditch for support to push from and go into a wind up. My release isn’t nearly as perfect as it was when I was a kid, but the ball still makes a satisfying ‘whump’ as it lands in his mitt.

“Not bad,” he yells, tossing it back to me. “But I know you can do better.”

I roll the ball in my hand, locating the seams and laying my index and middle fingers over two of them to increase the roll on my release. The impact with his mitt is louder than the last and I can see him smiling through the mask. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he whoops.

I catch the ball and swing my arm again, feeling the burn in muscles I haven’t used in this manner for years. It does feel pretty good. I send a few more pitches his way, each increase in speed until he stands up from the last one shaking his catching hand. I’m guessing that one stung a bit. Good.

“Are you tired already, old man?” I can’t help but tease him a little. I saw the wince when he stood up after having been crouched down like that for so long.

“Not even close, Scully.” He walks around the edge of the batting cage and pulls a bat out of the duffel he brought with us. “Now the real fun begins.” He walks back into the batter’s box and takes a few practice swings.

“And who’s going to toss the ball back to me while you flail away at air?” I grin.

“Laugh it up. You should be more worried about who’s going to run it down when I send it over your head into the street.” He bends into a batter’s stance and winks at me. “Bring it on, baby.”

‘Baby’ under normal circumstance would earn him a beaning. I’ll let him live for the moment.

I send one in low to see if he’ll chase one in the dirt. He stands up straight instead and glares at me before walking to the backstop, picking up the ball and tossing it back to me. “Ball one. No fancy stuff. Straight heat. I want to see what you’ve REALLY got.” Another wink.

Cocky bastard.

I dig in and send a fastball back to him. Then smile at the clang when it connects with the backstop as he misses it by a mile.

“Strike one.” I wink at him.

“Yeah, yeah.”

I laugh as I catch the return and grind the ball into my glove waiting for him to get ready. I get a little more speed on the second pitch, but he manages to tip it. It shoots straight up and arcs back before landing on top of the backstop.

“Strike two,” I yell as he walks behind the cage to get the ball.

“Yeah, but I almost caught up to you on that one.” He tosses the ball back to me and swings the bat again then pulls back into his stance. “I’ll get you this time.”

“You just keep telling yourself that.” I go into my wind up for another pitch.

Anyone who has been around the game long enough will tell you that the crack of a bat when it connects with the sweet spot for a home run has a very distinct sound. That sound is then sometimes followed with yet another distinct sound from the pitcher…

“FUCK!”

Oops.

And that’s why the nuns felt my temperament was unsuited for the game.

I’d turned to watch the ball sail over the fence and hide my face behind my glove when I realize the epitaph that accompanied its departure. I slowly turn back to face Mulder and see him biting his lower lip in a valiant attempt not to laugh.

“Scully.” He lays his hand over his heart, feigning shock.

“Oh shut up, Mulder,” I drop my hands back to my sides, still flush with embarrassment. “It’s not like you’ve never heard me swear before.”

“Let me guess. That was a fairly common response to your getting tattooed.”

“Yes.” Don’t laugh at me, Mulder. I know where you sleep.

“I’m sure your folks were so proud.” He’s losing the fight against laughing.

“Can we go now?”

“Not yet, I still have to take my victory lap.” He flips the bat to the side and slowly starts to jog towards first base.

So I do what any rational person would do in my position. I threw my glove at him and then ran after him.

*****************************************

Sunday

Early evening

*****************************************

He’s sitting on the couch, reading the paper with the TV blaring when I walk in. I walk over to stand in front of him and pull the paper out of his hands. He blinks twice and then curls one corner of his mouth up when he takes in what I’m wearing.

“That is my jersey, Scully.”

“Yes, it is,” I say, straddling his lap.

His hands slid up my thigh and come to rest on my hips.

“You’re not wearing anything under my jersey, Scully.” He’s observant, my Mulder.

“No, I’m not.” I blow softly just below his ear before kissing him there.

“And what are you doing in my jersey, Scully?” he asks, sliding his hands up my back.

“Fielder’s choice.” A quick kiss to the lips. “Allowing the batter to get to first base.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” he slides his left hand forward to cup my breast, “but I think I’m rounding second, headed for third and about to score.” He turns us to lay me on the couch and leans in for another kiss.

“I think you’re right.”

*****************************************

END

Sam

“It ain’t proper and it ain’t cooth, but folks remember what you do in nothing but cowboy boots”

Cold File

Title: Cold File

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Cold Case/ X-Files crossover

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: When the apprehension of a missing ’60s

radical reopens a homicide from 1969, Agents

Mulder and Scully join the Philadelphia P.D.’s

Cold Case Squad to uncover the truth — and

potentially a sinister conspiracy

Spoilers: Cold Case second season; the films

Sixth Sense and Philadelphia; VS11

Disclaimer: As always, Mulder, Scully, and their

comrades are the creation of Chris Carter. Det.

Lilly Rush and her fellow Cold Case cops work for

Jerry Bruckheimer, while Cole Sear (“The Sixth

Sense”) is the brainchild of M. Night Shymalan

and Joe Miller (“Philadelphia”) practices his

profession under the auspices of Jonathan Demme.

July 20, 1969

“There must be some kind of way out of here/Said

the joker to the thief/There’s too much

confusion/I can’t get no relief…”

Hendrix, Billy smiled, knowing suddenly that

despite his reservations, all would be all right.

It was the Age of Aquarius, and he was of a time

and a generation attuned to signs, symbols, and

portents.

He’d grooved on Jimi just a few months ago at the

Spectrum, in South Philly. He and Donna had done

some weed in Rittenhouse Square an hour or so

before the concert and dropped some acid as

Hendrix wailed out “Watchtower.” They’d made

love afterwards, right here in this bed, hanging

one of Billy’s Ts on the knob outside to let the

others know the room was occupado, por favor?

Too much confusion? Right on, Brother Jimi. But

Billy no longer felt confused – the answer had

come through to him like a shaft of purifying

energy, through all the drugs and sex and chaos.

There was a way out of here.

“No reason to get exited/The thief he kindly

spoke/There are many here among us/Who feel that

life is but a joke…”

Billy glanced out the window. The Horseman was at

his old stand on the cracked sidewalk below,

offering Old Testament judgment and hellfire for

anybody who’d listen. The hippies and dopers left

him alone — The Horseman never approached, never

made contact, and anyway, it was his thing, it

was cool, if a little bit of a bummer sometimes.

And even though he was an old dude — 30s at

least — Billy felt a kinship with the man. Out

of the love only St. Lucy in the Sky could

confer, they’d invited him up one night, did some

magic ‘shrooms Max had scored in Tijuana,

listened to The Horseman riff on the old

prophets.

Billy chuckled, alone in the spartan bedroom.

Maybe the old dude had made more of an impression

than he could have imagined. He had seen the

truth, had seen the light. Until this time, all

had been hollow words, about love, peace,

brotherhood. Now Billy was ready to make the

sacrifice expected of him, purge the poison and

the lies…

“Outside in the cold distance/A wild cat did

growl/Two riders were approaching/And the wind

began to howl…”

As Jimi’s strings whined in anguished

accompaniment, Billy’s eyes welled with

happiness, and he reached for the bedside stand,

where the key to his salvation lay. As the man on

the living room TV moved as if through the ocean

along a barren surface of airless rocks and dust,

Billy’s fingers closed on his destiny…

August 13, 1969

Det. Second Gary Schmid grunted as he hauled the

packing box down the bleak hallway. Another dead

hippie, rest in peace, he mused. Schmid was a

father of three, went to Mass regular, coached

Police Benevolence League basketball. He was not

yet inured to the tragedy of youth lost, of souls

damaged and scattered to the ravages of

degradation and death. But Schmid knew everybody

made their choices, made their bed and slept with

whatever fleas or wolves they invited in, however

the saying went. Bullets or needles, all the same

difference, he shrugged, balancing the earthly

remains in his burly arms, and nudging the door

to what he called The Warehouse.

Besides, it wasn’t like Homicide had busted its

hump on this one. There had been plenty of

distractions the last few months in this City of

Brotherly Love (Schmid’s snort reverberated

through the canyons of cardboard, paper, and

memories).

Schmid located the appropriate resting place, set

the box down amid a flurry of dust motes, and

searched for a wax pencil. Crouching slightly, he

neatly inscribed the casefile: “W. McHenry/7-20-

69.” He hefted the remains of the McHenry case

onto a metal rack, alongside those of the others

whose deaths to date had gone unpunished.

“‘Night, kid,” the cop grunted with a hoarse note

that embarrassed him even in the solitude of the

Cold Case archives.

January 2005

Philadelphia

“…Federal authorities may have solved a 35-year

mystery with Tuesday’s arrest of Elijah Fortson,

key lieutenant with the ’60s radical group Fist

of Freedom and suspected mastermind in the summer

1969 bombing of a Philadelphia Marine recruiting

office. Six people perished after a Molotov

cocktail was thrown through the office’s window,

and Fortson, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam

War, became the object of a massive federal

manhunt.”

The cops of the PPD Cold Case Squad close in on

the small color set, peering at the clean-shaven,

lined face of Elijah Fortson, AKA Samuel Robeson,

framed between U.S. marshals. Det. Lilly Rush

mentally subtracts 35 years from and adds a

Pancho Villa mustache to the financial analyst’s

visage, substitutes a dashiki for his stylishly

conservative Armani and a Panther-approved afro

for his $40 haircut.

“That manhunt ended when an anonymous tip led the

FBI to Robeson, who surrendered to authorities at

the advice of his attorneys but denied his

involvement either in the recruiting office

bombing or the murder of a Philadelphia grad

student three days prior to the bombing. Robeson

and the victim, Billy McHenry, had been friends

and fellow dissidents. McHenry had been stabbed

repeatedly in the apartment he shared with three

other student protestors…”

“Slam-bam,” Det. Scotty Valens states from his

perch on Lilly’s desk. “What am I missing here?

Seems like a no-brainer. Why we reopening this

one?”

Lilly — a paradox of a cop with a blue-collar

hairstyle, mannish off-the-rack suit, and a

seraphic face out of a Victorian oil — merely

smiles and glances toward the metal detectors

that shield the detectives from a dangerous

public. Lt. Stillman, a middle-aged, square-jawed

eagle of a cop, ushers a pleasant-looking younger

man and a somber, diminutive redhead through the

checkpoint.

“Hoo boy,” Nick Vera growls, instantly picking up

the scent every local cop abhors.

“Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, I’d

like you to meet the members of my squad,”

Stillman begins, shooting his underlings a look

of caution. “Lilly Rush; this is Scotty Valens;

Nick Vera; and Will Jeffreys. Agents Mulder and

Scully will be working the McHenry case with

you.”

Scully, the redhead, senses the hostility in the

air. Mulder, who looks as though he’s wearing his

black suit as a joke on his parents, smiles

companionably, neither extending nor expecting a

hand.

“Whoopee,” Vera grunts.

“You, of course, will remain the primaries on the

local homicide,” Scully assures the detectives.

“Agents Mulder and myself have been asked to

provide you any assistance you might need on the

case.”

“What’s the catch?” Valens asks. “Thought you

guys had Robeson pretty solid on the bombing. Or

is that it — case kinda shaky, so you want a

piece of the homicide, too? That the reason

you’re so interested in a 35-year-old hippie

killing?”

“Make sure us idiots don’t futz things up, get

doughnut crumbs all ” Vera murmurs.

“Excuse me, agents,” Stillman interjects, a note

of gloved firmness in his voice. “I’d like to

talk to my detectives for a moment.”

“Got any Krispy Kremes?” Mulder inquires with a

crooked grin, drawing a curious glance from

Lilly. Scully touches his arm, and the pair

withdraws to the squadroom coffee area.

Stillman scans his officers. Valens, the youngest

cop on the squad, appears uncertain and wary.

Vera, a compact forty-something badger, tenses,

irritation and resentment clouding his deepset

eyes. His partner, Jeffreys, a big, graying cop

with a patience that could only have been

cultivated by growing up on — and surviving —

Philly’s meaner streets, looks on impassively.

Lilly is unruffled by the agents’ presence. Her

deceptively porcelain features are calm. Her Mona

Lisa smile invites elaboration.

“I know this is a bitter pill,” Lt. Stillman

acknowledges, “but I’d appreciate it if you’d

work with Agents Mulder and Scully. Their boss,

Walt Skinner, and I go ‘way back. More than 30

years back.”

Understanding dawns in the detectives’ eyes. The

Boss doesn’t talk much about the years before he

took on The Job, and they don’t ask.

“Walt is a valued friend, and he has a deep

interest in this case. Billy McHenry was his

first cousin — his uncle’s kid. The two grew up

together — they were tight. But in the late

’60s, Walt went into the Marines, Billy went his

way.”

“Brother against brother,” Valens muses.

Stillman glances up, nods appreciatively. “That

about sums up the times, Scotty. War in the

jungle and fires burning in the streets and on

the campuses. I dunno, maybe that’s why Walt’s

always been haunted by Billy’s murder. I realize

it’s unorthodox, but I’d consider it a personal

favor if you’d deal Mulder and Scully in on this

one. Fortson’s a federal fugitive, and they have

a jurisdictional claim. But I’m asking you

personally, as a favor to me.”

“Sure, Boss,” Vera mumbles, and wanders out.

Jeffreys, Stillman’s contemporary, smiles with a

curt nod, and Valens joins him.

“Let’s start with the casefile,” Lilly suggests.

**

The dusty cardboard box is a time capsule of

sorts, commemorating Billy McHenry’s untimely

death in yellowing paperwork, fading PPD stills

of the dead hippie and his cheap apartment, and

the sparse belongings of a young man who’d

forsaken the trappings of a materialistic

society. Thousands of such capsules surround the

cluster of detectives, boxes with names and

dates, a virtual mausoleum of paper and effects.

Mulder selects a necklace — a cheap chain

supporting a broken iron cross encircled by

rusting metal. He considers the once-ubiquitous

symbol of an elusive peace. “1969 — The Summer

of Love. Free love, cheap drugs, Jimi Hendrix.

Walter Cronkite, Pol Pot, Neil Armstrong

strolling on the moon. You know, the Apollo

landing was the same day your guy was murdered.”

“July 20. It was a memorable day all around,”

Jeffreys rumbles, his coffee-brown eyes both

searching and troubled. “Middle of a 10-day race

riot, started by a white gang member, ‘sposedly.

Next day, woman named Lillie Belle Allen was

gunned down by a white mob in York, not too far

from here. Twenty-seven-year-old preacher’s

daughter from South Carolina, in to visit some

family. Charlie Robertson was a member of the

York force back then, they brought him up in the

’90s after they made him mayor, said he’d handed

out ammo, told the folks to take out as many

black rioters as possible.” Conscious of the

silence, Jeffreys breaks out of his reverie with

a faint smile. “Lot going on that week — cops

had a lot on their minds. Not surprising Billy

McHenry got short-shrifted.”

“No DNA analysis, forensics must’ve been

prehistoric,” Valens adds, drawing an amused

glance from his older cohorts. “Hey, we still got

the weapon?” The young detective reaches into the

box and pulls out a long and heavy manila

envelope. He gingerly shakes a garden variety

kitchen knife onto the table. Traces of

fingerprint powder cling to the blade and handle.

The wooden handle remains discolored in spots.

“Victim’s blood, AB negative,” Vera reports,

flipping through the lab findings.

“Defense wounds on the vic’s hands, blood on the

blade and the handle,” Valens notes. “Killer

wiped it clean, left it at the scene.”

“Knife was from a secondhand set in McHenry’s

kitchen,” Jeffreys supplies. “Heat of anger?”

“I wonder,” Scully ventures. “Victim’s known

associates?”

Lilly, Homicide’s thin report in hand, picks up

on cue. “Not much there. McHenry shared a second-

floor walkup near downtown with two other men —

Vincent Gillesco, 20, and Ned Squiers, 23. Both

say they were at a peace rally at the federal

building, came home and found McHenry on the

bed.” She displays a faded color crime scene

photo of Billy sprawled on his back on a

threadbare mattress, scarlet spreading like wings

on the sheet around him. Mulder appropriates the

gruesome portrait.

“He was a grad student at the university —

anthropology,” Lilly continues. “His faculty

sponsor was a Frederic Hoesch.”

Mulder’s eyes narrow, then return to the photo.

Suddenly, he displays it to the group. “This void

here, to the side of the body. Yeah, see where

the blood’s flowed around something. What do you

make of that?”

“Looks kinda round,” Vera observes. “Know better

if the blood had flowed all the way around. I

dunno – a bag, a purse, maybe McHenry’s stash. A

bomb?”

“Fortson was strictly a Molotov cocktail man – it

was the weapon of mass destruction of choice for

the fashionable radical back then. But it’s

obvious the killer took whatever it was with

them.”

“Maybe digital imaging?” Scully suggests.

“I’ll send a copy of this to this guy I know back

home,” Mulder tells Lilly. “He may be able to

give us an idea what sitting next to the body.”

“We got computers out here in Hicksville,” Vera

sputters, ending the huddle.

**

“I’m getting an uncomfortable Rodney King vibe

here.” Samuel Robeson/Elijah Fortson’s attorney

scans the quartet loosely clustered about the

prison interview room — Lilly, Jeffreys, Mulder,

and Scully. “This turns into a tag team match,

I’ll shut this down in a second.”

“Relax, Counselor,” Lilly smiles. “Agents Mulder

and Scully are working the recruiting office

bombing. Det. Jeffreys and I are looking into a

local homicide your client may be familiar with.”

For the first time, Fortson regards her with

something resembling real interest. Despite the

prison coveralls, he appears the picture of

middle-aged respectability: Graying temples,

fashionable wire-rims, intelligent mocha eyes

held in abeyance as his lawyer does the talking.

“Homicide?” The attorney’s left eyebrow arches.

“You going to try to pin the Lindbergh kidnapping

on my client, too?”

“You remember Billy McHenry, Elijah?” Lilly

inquires, leaning over the table. Fortson meets

her gaze evenly, his expression neutral.

“Talk to me,” the lawyer snaps. “And we can do

without the use of the familiar, Detective.”

“Sorry. McHenry was murdered only three days

before you blew those people into oblivion. Did

he trip to what you were up to, Mr. Fortson? Or

did he get cold feet before the big day?”

“OK, that’s it–” Fortson raises two fingers to

silence his lawyer. “Sam, you need to…”

“Please, Larry.” The former activist’s voice is

velvet ice. He smiles tightly up at Lilly. “I’ve

already told the federal authorities I had

nothing to do with the deaths of those

unfortunate people.”

“Which is why you fell off the face of the Earth

for 35 years,” Jeffreys suggests.

Fortson glances sideways at the huge cop. “I fled

the jurisdiction for fear of my life, Detective.

The law enforcement community took an acute

interest in my sociopolitical views in those

days, and the memory of what happened to Dr. King

was still fresh in my psyche. Maybe you don’t

remember what it was like in the day,

‘Detective,’ but a young African-American with an

authority problem didn’t get too many invitations

to the policemen’s ball.” A crooked smile forms

on Fortson’s lips, a glint of secrecy sparks in

the eyes. “As for that boy, well, I wasn’t the

only one that fell off the face of the Earth that

summer.”

The room is silent for a second.

“What are you saying, Fortson?” Lilly speaks up.

“Sam,” Larry the Lawyer cautions.

Elijah Fortson leans back, temples his fingers.

“I was Philadelphia Rotarian of the Year back in

2000 — I woke up in a cold sweat for a week for

fear the local newspapers would ask me for a bio.

Got asked to run for City Council a year or so

ago — regrettably, I had to turn them down, you

understand. I have lived for each day of the last

35 years with the decisions I’ve made. But I

don’t intend to live with – or die by — the

transgressions of others.”

“A name, Elijah,” Jeffreys requests, staring

Larry down.

“Old acquaintance of mine, name was Donna when I

knew her. Went underground about the same time I

did, after Billy died. Spotted her on the news a

few years ago, some charity fundraiser, and I

knew it was Donna. You might want to take a

meeting with her.”

“Elijah…”

Fortson smiles beatifically, the radical flashing

through maliciously. “Calls herself Francine.

Francine Topher.”

The room falls silent, and the sounds of felons

and lawmen beyond filter in. Jeffreys looks at

Lilly. Mulder frowns in confusion.

“Hey,” Elijah breaks the silence. “You go talk to

her, tell her I said hi.”

**

Francine Topher acknowledges her frosty martini

with an appreciative nod to the waiter, her

cornflower blue eyes never leaving Det. Nick Vera

and Agent Fox Mulder. “There must be a sound

reason why it was necessary to come to my club.”

It’s framed as a statement of fact rather than an

indictment, but both men detect the tightness in

her already toned face. Francine Topher is

married to Philadelphia’s top neurosurgeon, but

no one refers to her as “Mrs. Topher” or “Dr.

Topher’s wife.” She is one of the city’s most

formidable fundraisers, for mental health, for

lower-income prenatal care, for AIDS research,

and although her tennis ensemble likely cost a

year’s green fees at the adjoining Philadelphia

Country Club course, she is no soft society

matron.

“We called your home, and they said you were

playing a set or two,” Mulder explains, boyish

smile in place. “Detective Vera and I have just a

few routine questions.”

“Regarding?”

“Elijah Fortson.”

Mulder suppresses a wince at Vera’s bluntness.

Topher’s brow rises. “Elijah Fortson. The sixties

radical?”

“That’s the one.”

She smiles in bewilderment. “Perhaps you’d like

to elaborate, Det. Vera?”

“We understand you were in college here in town

when Mr. Fortson disappeared, back in ’69,”

Mulder interjects.

“You understand incorrectly.” Topher sips her

martini with a challenging look that contains a

trace of something else.

“How about Billy McHenry, huh?” Vera asks. “You

remember him?”

Mulder sighs with a smile. The blue eyes above

the glass’s rim lock onto Vera for a second, then

Topher lowers her glass. “No. This is becoming

monotonous, and you’re beginning to become

offensive. Who suggested I have any connection

with these men? Fortson? If so, I suspect you’ve

been duped by a desperate criminal. If it makes

you feel any better, a lot of people were. Now,

if you’ll excuse me…”

Mulder and Vera are silent for a full minute as

Francine Topher weaves her way out of the

clubhouse.

“Well,” Mulder finally comments. Det. Vera shoots

daggers across the tablecloth.

“Hey, I got a rise out of her, didn’t I?” the cop

demands, scowling at the busboy as he removes

Topher’s glass.

“It was masterful. I think you’re right, though.

She knew McHenry. But how to prove it? The lab

found no viable DNA samples for comparison, and

the murder weapon was wiped clean.” Mulder

studies the elegant barroom glumly, then

straightens. “The glass.”

“Huh?”

“Detective, get Topher’s glass, quick, before

they wash it.”

“Why, what–”

“It was the sixties — McHenry was a protester.

Maybe Topher got busted a few times, too. Move,

Detective!”

Vera utters a curse, knocking his chair backwards

and rushing through the dismayed crowd like a

linebacker gone to seed. The cook staff freezes

as he shoulders the kitchen door, glancing wildly

about.

“Police!” he shouts. “Where’s the busboy?’

“Who, me?” Vera follows the disembodied voice

behind a rack of dishes to the rail-thin boy in

the white tunic. The cop’s eyes shift to the pair

of martini glasses in his hands, poised above a

sinkful of steaming dishwater.

“Freeze!” Vera calls frantically. The boy backs

up a step, fumbling one of the glasses. “Don’t

drop it, kid!”

The busboy swoops with an instinctive dexterity

and recaptures the glass. Vera wipes his forehead

with his sleeve and yanks a napkin from a pile

near the stove.

“Gimme,” he pants.

**

“You should pardon the cliche,” Ned Squiers

chortles, “but the Sixties were kind of a blur to

me.”

Presidents Ford and Clinton together couldn’t

forgive all of Squiers’ cliches. Metaphors,

homilies, and nimble twists of phrase are the

currency of the weatherman’s world.

Jeffreys smiles indulgently, as if waiting out a

recalcitrant child. He is the yin to Vera’s hair-

trigger yang. While Squiers assumes his lively

patter about occluded fronts and storm patterns

sparks gales of laughter in 32 percent of metro

Philly homes, he is ill-at-ease with a live

audience.

“Hey, shit, guys, I’m yanking you, you know?”

It’s five minutes after the 5:30 newscast, and

the balding meteorologist is itching to grab some

General Tso’s at the joint around the corner from

the station. He yanks off his crested Channel 3

blazer; sweat rings mar his professionally-

pressed pinpoint oxford. “This’s about Elijah,

right?”

“Elijah?” Jeffreys rumbles. Only his lips move,

but the indulgent smile stays in place.

“Media overfamiliarity, Detective. Yeah, OK, I

knew Fortson slightly back in the day. Probably

made us feel like big men, hanging with a heavy

hitter like that. But that was the Cenozoic Age.

Cops talked to me after Eli-, Fortson blew up

that recruiting office. At the time, I was on a

road trip to Cincinnati with a couple of Deadhead

buddies. Got high on Garcia, then got busted for

a couple of twigs the Ohio troopers found on the

passenger side floor mat. My folks’ lawyer busted

me out, and by the time I got back to town,

Elijah’s — Fortson’s — face was pasted all over

every post office in the country.”

“How about your buddy, Billy McHenry?” Vera

asked. “You found the body, right?”

“Vince and me. We called the cops right away.”

“And your ‘acquaintance’ Elijah? You know where

he was when your friend got gutted like a fish?”

Rather than recoiling at Vera’s blunt query,

Squiers smirks. “Billy was a Boy Scout, always

was. Liked to talk tough about revolution and The

Man and everything, but he practically crapped

himself whenever Elijah was around. Hell, we all

did. Elijah got off on scaring dumb whi–”

He glances anxiously at Jeffreys. The smile has

never left the cop’s face. “Anyway,” Squiers

recovers, “you ask me, the cops should’ve looked

harder at that crazy homeless guy who was always

hanging around the building. Aw shit, uh, The

Horseman. Hell, Billy and Vince even invited him

up once or twice to, ah, to….”

“Keep your powder dry, Weather Man,” Vera sighs.

“We know about your little magical mushroom

tours. We won’t tell the network.”

“The Horseman,” Jeffreys prompted. “You ever

catch his name?”

“Shit, that was 35 years ago. All I know was he

was constantly screaming for everybody to repent,

to give themselves to the Lord. Wasn’t exactly a

seller’s market in those days, but I don’t guess

he cared. He was just part of the whole crazy

scene. I had a hair up my ass, myself. Remember

one time I chained myself to a table at one of

the downtown banks, started hollering about the

moneylenders in the temple or something. Must’ve

caught something from the Jesus freaks.”

July 20, 1969

Here come old flattop, he come grooving up

slowly/He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy

roller/He got hair down to his knee/Got to be a

joker he just do what he please…

The Beatles tune played in Ned’s head every time

he saw the Horseman at his post in front of the

tenement apartments, spitting sulfur and the

threat of salvation at the working girls, the

potheads, the occasional suit who came slumming

for some acid or to take the edge off.

“And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and

Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very

grievous, I will go down now, and see whether

they have done altogether according to the cry of

it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will

know,” The Horseman called, brandishing the

Gideon Bible he’d no doubt lifted from some no-

tell motel. Ned grinned: Even the freaks had to

get some occasionally. Sex was a constant

preoccupation with Ned, though the coarse,

aromatic young man didn’t do that well even in

this age of free and easy love.

He moved to the opposite side of the cracked

sidewalk from the proselytizing bum, keeping his

eyes rigidly in front of him, aimed at a

miniskirted bottom strutting toward the bus stop.

“Ned, man!”

Swallowing his annoyance, Ned turned. Vince was

breathless as he caught up to him.

“Hey, man, I lost you at the rally.”

No, Ned reflected, I lost you. Vincent had become

a real bummer over the last few months – a true

believer peacenik. “Yeah, I looked for you.

Figured you’d scored some weed or something.

Speaking of which…” Ned patted the pocket of his

army surplus jacket.

Vince’s acne’ed face brightened. “Groovy.”

As they ascended the stairs to the apartment,

passing through the urine fumes of the foyer to

the mock oregano-scented upper hallways, Vince

prattled on about capitalism and communism and

about another dozen isms. Ned stepped up his

pace: The sooner he could get his buddy stoned,

the sooner he’d shut his face.

“Shit, man,” Ned whispered as spotted the sliver

of light leaking from their slightly jarred

apartment door. Security was a relative concept

in this neighborhood, and he debated hauling ass

back downstairs in case some junkie or armed

intruder was still making the scene.

The ever-trusting Vincent pushed past him. “Hey,

Billy! You home?”

“Shut the fuck up!” Ned whined, reluctantly

following him into the shadowy living room. Vince

glanced into the kitchen, then Billy’s room.

“Aw, Christ,” Vince wailed, covering his mouth

with trembling fingers. “Aw, shit!”

“What, man? What?” Ned yanked him out of the

bedroom doorway. “Oh, hell.”

The pigs arrived about a half-hour later. One of

the cops, a real crew-cut storm trooper, ragged

Ned out about ralphing all over the crime scene…

**

Jeffreys’ smile flickers for a moment. “You ever

reminisce about the old scene with your buddy

Vince?”

Squiers laughs nastily. “Ah, no. He and I travel

in different circles these days. That it, guys?

Cause there’s a fortune cookie out there with my

name in it.”

“Thanks for your time,” Jeffreys murmurs,

standing.

“Anything for our men in blue,” Squiers calls,

already heading for the studio door. “Don’t

forget your umbrellas tomorrow, fellas.”

“Yeah, I’ll make book on it, Ace,” Vera grunts.

**

“The problem,” Joe Miller begins, regretfully,

“is your colleague here has pissed all over his

evidentiary chain.” The attorney turns to Lilly,

nods. “Pardon my French, Detective.”

When Joe Miller regrets, everybody regrets. It’s

one of the few things the guys at the Cop Shop

and a majority of the city’s Fortune 500 execs

agree on. Ten years before, few cops even knew

the personal injury lawyer, and Philadelphia’s

legal community had considered him a bottom-

feeding catfish in the shark tank. Then Joe took

down one of the biggest firms in town, sparking a

nationwide flood of AIDS discrimination cases and

upgrading Joe from The Men’s Wear House to Brooks

Brothers (despite his largely underdog clientele,

Joe is fundamentally conservative, reads Thomas

Sowell religiously at the breakfast table, and

believes in buying American suits).

“I don’t see it that way,” Vera growls

defensively, but his regret already is seeping

around the edges. He’s been having some marital

troubles and hanging out with his old pals Bud

Weiser and Jack Daniels. “I had my eyes on that

glass the whole time – I could see the lipstick

on the rim a mile away.”

Joe looks even more regretful as he gathers the

empty Styrofoam cups littering the interview

table, digs a quarter out of his tailored pants.

“Kitchen at the country club’s 23 yards, two

feet, and three inches from the table where you

were sharing afternoon aperitifs with my client.”

The attorney deposits the coin on the

interrogation table, over some gangers’ loving

ode to the law enforcement community, and covers

it with a cup.

“It was ginger ale – I don’t do ‘aperitifs’ on

The Job, ‘Counselor,'” Vera’s voice rises as his

jowls quiver. Lilly, standing behind Miller and a

silent Francine Topher, shoots him a nearly

imperceptible warning glance.

“Air quotes duly noted, Detective,” Miller

murmurs with a pleasant smile. He begins

rearranging the cups, slowly at first. Vera

struggles not to look at this feat of

legerdemain. The cups scrape the scarred wood as

Miller’s deft fingers work them. “There’s 10

tables between the kitchen and the table where

you were enjoying your ginger ale. Four waiters

on shift that day, all in the same white shirt,

black slacks, and red coats, and probably all

named Eric.” Miller is not renowned for his

political correctness at the courthouse bars. The

cups are nearly a blur now. “You are a man of

some not inconsiderable girth, Detective, am I

right?”

“It’s all muscle.” The menace in Vera’s tone is

palpable. His eyes narrow, flitting toward the

flying Styrofoam.

“Have a little trouble keeping the muscle off

myself,” Miller chuckles, patting his own middle-

aged spread. “Detective, tell me like I’m six,

please. How did you manage from across a crowded

dining room, in hot pursuit of a waiter named

Eric, squeezing your muscular frame between the

tables, glasses and plates jostling on Eric’s

tray, through a solid – mind you, solid – kitchen

door, around the pots and pans, to maintain

constant surveillance on my client’s martini

glass?” The cups skid to a stop. “You must be

eating your carrots, Detective.”

Vera’s eyes are now locked on the table. He looks

up; Miller beams, nodding back toward the cups

with a challenge.

“Phew, that’s one effed-up evidence chain,”

Miller concludes, grinning. “It’s a problem – I

don’t think any judge in this man’s town’s gonna

trust Det. Vera’s spidey sense. And I don’t see

any judge putting my client here – an upstanding,

charitable, responsible member of the community –

through this kind of sideshow.”

“Why’s your upstanding client all lawyered up,

then?” Vera snaps, face reddening.

“Mrs. Topher has no outstanding warrants, either

under her own name or as Donna Geistner,” Lilly

interjects smoothly, La Giaconda smile in place.

She moves around the table.

“Who’s Donna Geistner?” Joe queries, mock

puzzlement on his face.

“Counselor, we will ID your client, with or

without your cooperation. And you have to admit,

it does look suspicious, a woman with nothing

more than a few civil disobedience busts 35 years

ago hooking up with one of the city’s top

attorneys.”

“My,” Joe whispers, ducking his head in false

modesty. “Dish it up for me, Det. Rush – I’ll see

if I can get it down my gullet.”

Lilly plants a palm on the table. “Immunity for

anything she was mixed up with with Fortson.

We’ve got a 35-year-old homicide we need to clear

and a case to prosecute against Elijah Fortson.

Your client tells us what she remembers about

Fortson and the day of the murder, and she’s back

sipping Cosmos by afternoon tee time.”

Joe chews on it. “My client and I would like a

little alone time, you don’t mind.” He favors

Vera with a benign smile. “And no, we wouldn’t

like any coffee, Coke, gum, cigarettes, or DNA

swabs, thank you.”

Vera’s chair squeaks back. Lilly lightly touches

his arm, and he stalks out of the interview room.

Joe shrugs regretfully up at Lilly, who reaches

across and snatches a Styrofoam cup from the

table. She leaves Joe staring, impressed, at the

gleaming quarter before him.

**

“Billy and I met at the university about a year

earlier,” Francine/Donna begins. “We had an

evening lit class together, and one night, a

bunch of us went for coffee afterwards. I liked

his shyness, his heart, and, yes, his politics.

Back then, that was an important component of any

socially relevant relationship.”

Lilly smiles, encouragingly. Joe Miller pretends

to check his PDA.

“We started going out, then hitting a few

protests and rallies together. Anti-war, pot

legalization, civil rights. We were a couple of

middle-class white kids who were going to change

the world. Then he and his friends, Ned and

Vincent, started hanging out with Elijah,

practically worshipped him. And that’s when it

started getting real heavy.”

“Heavy?”

“Elijah was into the real revolutionary stuff,

talked about burning ‘The System’ to the ground,

blowing things up. I begged Billy to get away

from him, but he kept getting in deeper and

deeper…”

July 17, 1969

The pair fell silent the minute Elijah spotted

her coming down the aisle toward their booth. As

Billy turned, boyish smile tinged with adolescent

guilt, Fortson took a long draw on his cigarette

and stared impassively, clinically at her. Donna

felt a chill.

“What’s up?” she asked, sliding in beside Billy.

Donna didn’t try to conceal the suspicion in her

voice.

Elijah crushed his butt with disinterest. “Later,

man,” he murmured, sliding out. Donna sat rigidly

until she heard the bell above the diner’s front

door signal his departure.

“I hear hurricanes ablowing/I know the end is

coming soon,” the radio behind the counter

blares. CCR’s lyrics seem an omen, a portent.

“What was that about?” she demanded. “What’s he

trying to talk you into this time?”

“C’mon,” Billy mumbled, burying his nose in his

coffee. “We were just rapping, you know, about

that asshole Nixon.”

“You c’mon. Elijah’s bad news, Baby — he almost

got your head cracked open at that sit-in last

week. That cop could’ve killed you.”

“Look,” Billy snapped, with a heat that was

emerging more and more often these days. “Elijah

really cares about all the shit that’s going

around. He’s willing to do something about it,

make some noise if he has to.”

Donna felt her chest tighten. “What kind of

noise? What’s he trying to get you into? He’s

going to get you killed, Billy.”

Her boyfriend slammed his coffee cup on the

table. The kids in the booths around them craned

to stare at him. Billy glared murderously back at

them, then turned to see Donna’s ashen, open-

mouthed expression. He shook his head slowly and

seized her hand.

“I’m sorry,” Billy whispered. “I’m sorry, Donna.

I’m just, you know…”

Donna squeezed his soft fingers. “We have to get

away from all this, Baby. From Elijah, from

Hoesch, all of it. Maybe San Francisco, New York.

We could…”

“No,” Billy murmured softly but insistently. “I

can’t just leave right now.”

She released his hand. “Why not?”

“Just,” he stammered, grabbing his coat, “just

stay out of it, OK. For your own sake. Look, I

gotta get back to the lab.”

“Billy,” Donna pleaded as his narrow back

retreated toward the street…

**

Francine blinks. “When Billy was killed, I knew

Elijah had something to do with it. I didn’t know

what to do, so I split — left town to visit a

friend. And then, when Elijah killed those people

in that recruiting office, well, I knew I wasn’t

safe. Elijah would think I knew something and

come after me. So I just stayed gone. I knew a

guy who helped kids get away from the draft, get

to Canada. He turned me into Francine Topher.”

Lilly leans back in her chair. “Why’d you come

back to town?”

Francine smiles weakly. “I managed to get a

nursing degree and eventually a job in Boston. I

met Gerald, my husband, at St. Eligius Hospital,

and after about four months, we got married. Then

he got a shot at neurosurgical chief at

Philadelphia Memorial, of all places. What could

I tell him?

“The funny thing is, I actually ‘met’ Elijah a

few years ago, at a children’s hospital

fundraiser. He’d become some kind of financial

whiz, was on the hospital board. Hell, he was

funny, charming. We talked for maybe an hour over

dinner, and I had no idea. That it was the same

man who’d forced me to throw my life away.”

**

“Detective?”

Vera glances up, a glob of cheese sauce plopping

onto the open folder before him. He swipes two

thick fingers through the sauce with irritation

at the uniform hovering over his desk, licks his

fingertips, and places his half-Philly steak to

the side. Then, as he spots the figure behind the

officer’s shoulder, his brow darkens.

“He asked for Det. Rush, but…” the lanky uniform

starts to explain.

“Yeah, fine,” Vera sighs. First Miller, now this.

“Whaddya want, kid?”

Cole Sear gives Vera the creeps, pure and simple.

The kid provided a tip on a case a year or so

ago, led Lilly to a body in a cellar and a 25-

year-old patricide. But Sear’s claim to commune

with the dead, his unnerving, unremitting calm

chill Vera’s blood more than just a few degrees.

But Lilly seems to like the boy, so…

“I saw him,” Cole states simply. “The man on the

TV last night. The one who was stabbed a long

time ago.”

“Hold on a second, kid…” Vera stops. He suddenly

recalls last night’s Action Team Philly update on

the Fortson case, the grainy archived photo of

Fortson’s alleged victim. “You mean Billy

McHenry?”

Cole nods. A goose walks across Vera’s grave.

“You saw him? What do you–?” the detective’s

eyes widen. “C’mon, kid, give me a break

already.”

“He said it wasn’t him.”

“What wasn’t him?” Vera’s irritation returns.

“I don’t know for sure. We didn’t get to talk for

long.”

Vera plants his elbows on the scarred wood of his

desk. “Didn’t get to talk? Look, Cole, right?

Cole, why don’t you give me your number? We need

any help, we’ll-”

“Actually,” a polite voice murmurs behind Vera’s

shoulder, “I’d kind of like to hear what he has

to say now, if you don’t mind, Detective.”

Vera wheels around to face Mulder, pushing to his

feet. “Sure, Agent – you two oughtta have a ton

to talk about.” The cop begins to stalk away,

then returns, reaches across the desktop, and

snags his Philly steak.

**

Even Mulder is slightly disconcerted by Cole’s

perpetual serenity, but the teen’s story holds

him rapt. “You literally, physically saw him.”

Cole pauses, then sees something in the agent’s

face that puts him at ease. “I see them all. They

need things; sometimes they need me to help them

make things right, sometimes to move on to the

next place.”

“The dead?” Mulder might as well have said “the

Lutherans.”

Cole nods. “My mom and I have been looking for a

new apartment — we had a break-in three weeks

ago, and she doesn’t feel safe any more. So we

were out looking at places.”

“Including Billy McHenry’s place.”

Cole’s face grows serious. “I got bored while my

mom was talking to the manager, and I wandered

off. He was in the hallway. He was dressed like,

you know, like a hippie. And the front of his

shirt was covered with blood. He looked sad,

guilty. He said it wasn’t him.”

“What do you mean? He was the victim, not the

killer.”

“I don’t know. He said it wasn’t him, that it

couldn’t have been him. He wanted me to tell

somebody named Donna. Then some people got off

the elevator, and he disappeared.”

“What do you think he meant?”

“I don’t know — we didn’t talk any more. But

then I saw him on the news — they were talking

about that man who was arrested for bombing those

people.”

“Elijah Fortson.”

Cole nods somberly. “They talked about him being

stabbed, and when they showed his picture, I

decided I should tell Lilly.”

“Det. Rush?”

Cole smiles, secretively.

**

“The guy’s a certified whack job,” Vera sputters,

rubbing his five o’clock shadow. “He’s out there

talking to the Teen Psychic Hotline, who claims

to have had a rap session with our vic, McHenry.”

Lt. Stillman temples his fingers as he eyes the

agitated badger. “What do you want me to do,

Nick?”

“I dunno, call your old army buddy, see if he

can’t reel Mulder and Scully back in.”

“Deputy Director Skinner specifically assigned

Agent Mulder to this case. He said Mulder had a

‘special perspective.'”

“Oh, he’s special, all right,” Vera snorts. “I

just don’t want Barnabas Collins blowing this

case and leaving us with brown on our faces.”

**

Cole Sear blinks as he steps back into the sunny

street. He likes Mulder, trusts him to do the

right thing as he would Lilly. The fat

detective’s hostility doesn’t bother him — Cole

can read the unhappiness and despair behind the

policeman’s brusque manner.

Just as Cole can feel the man’s eyes on him as he

turns the corner. More curious than fearful, he

meets the man’s look. He’s a soldier, his dress

uniform soiled and scuffed, his face full of

agony, full of questions.

In a second, Cole knows. He waits for the light

to turn, and the soldier waits, patiently, for

him to cross over.

**

“Of course, 1969 was largely a blur for many of

us,” Frederic Hoesch muses, liver-spotted fingers

riffling through a stack of journals on his

vintage oak desk. “But this little federal

intrusion certainly takes me back. In some ways,

little has changed since the Summer of Love and

the days of J. Edgar Hoover.”

A resigned glance passes between Agents Mulder

and Scully. Det. Valens suppresses a smirk.

“Prof. Hoesch, We’re just assisting the

Philadelphia Police in an unsolved homicide

investigation. We’re simply interested in

anything you can tell us about William Ericksen’s

death and his possible involvement with Elijah

Fortson.”

The anthropologist locates the monograph he’s

seeking, one on Meso-American birthing rites.

“Yes, I saw you people had finally run Fortson to

ground. The right-wing media no doubt’s breaking

out the Dom Perignon. Another echo of dissent

extinguished in the Land of the Free.”

“Echo of dissent?” Valens smiles incredulously.

“Elijah Fortson blew up a military recruiting

office, killed five people. Including a couple of

high-schoolers. That’s some pretty heavy dissent,

isn’t it, professor?”

Hoesch beams back with a calculating glint and

dazzling teeth – despite his advancing years and

counterculture patois, the dashing intellectual

about campus shines through. “I wouldn’t expect

the VH1 generation to understand the Fight. Back

then, we didn’t trust anybody over 30. Today, I

shudder to think one day of leaving this planet

in the hands of anyone under. The children in

that recruiting office were as much victims of

their government’s propagandistic imperialism as

they were of a Molotov cocktail. We were trying

to expose the lies, get to The Truth. And the

truth frequently hurts.”

“I’m feeling the pain right now,” Mulder sighs.

“You can see we didn’t bring our Mace or our

nightsticks today. Your former graduate student

may have been murdered, and Fortson may well have

committed that murder. Can we stick to that truth

and save the revolution for another day,

Professor?”

The professor leans back, templing his fingers

and regarding the trio squeezed into his tiny

third floor office. “I’ll let you know if you get

too close to my constitutional rights. The truth

is, I guess I have been plagued by the suspicion

that Billy was mixed up in some skullduggery with

Fortson and his group.

“If you look into my record, as I’m sure you

will, you’ll see that back then, I was far more,

ah, simpatico, with the students than the

university fathers might have preferred. Things

were freer in those days — we were allowed to

live our lives without administration dictates,

and we didn’t live under the oppressive fear of

legal liability. Now, even at 70, I have to leave

my door open when some sycophantic coed comes by

to wheedle a passing grade.

“I maintained a more casual relationship with

Billy and my other grad assistants. We often saw

each other off-campus, had endless debates about

society, the war, the environment -”

“What else you have ‘off-campus’?” Valens poses

with a mirthless grin.

“Ah, the young Republican,” Hoesch cackles. “Do

you even know who Cesar Chavez was, amigo? No

matter. Sure, we enjoyed some mind-expanding

experiences from time to time. Is this when I

piss in a cup, Officer?”

“Billy McHenry and Elijah Fortson,” Mulder

prompts.

“Yes. Well, I’d suspected something was up for a

few months – Billy had a sometimes provincial

sense of responsibility, but the last few months,

he’d started coming to the lab exhausted,

distracted, a little jumpy. And secretive. I

remember wondering if something bad might be in

the air the day he was killed…”

July 20, 1969

Fred Hoesch tossed his faculty-issue corduroy

jacket at the nearest table, barely missing an

Aztec sexual fetish he’d acquired during his most

recent Mexican excursion. His ears buzzed with

rage – he’d just been admonished again by the

department chief, who’d vetoed the next such

anthropological expedition.

Hoesch preferred to attribute his precarious

relationship with the university establishment to

his maverick views on the war, the Sexual

Revolution, and American capitalism. In fact, the

professor’s exploration of new sexual frontiers

with the student populace was near-legend, and

his taste in European loafers and living

accommodations belied his socialistic

proclamations. The university had clamped down on

Hoesch’s frequent south-of-the-border “junkets,”

as that buttoned-down department lackey had

called it.

He’d sat through the scolding in uncharacteristic

silence – Hoesch couldn’t very well explain the

importance of his research, not at this point,

not to these people. He felt he was near a

breakthrough, but this changed everything.

“Yeah, I know it’s important!” Billy’s angry

voice reverberated through the anthro lab. It was

a tone Hoesch had heard increasingly from the

once cheerful, if somewhat naïve, boy. The

professor edged closer; Billy was on the phone,

back to Hoesch, lost in his terse exchange.

“I can’t leave right now – Fred’s got me

cataloguing shit,” Billy whispered harshly.

Hoesch had taught him early on that use of titles

promoted class hierarchy. “I know today’s the

day, you don’t have to remind me. Can’t somebody

else…?” The grad assistant ran his fingers

through his shaggy hair. “All right, OK. Of

course, it’s important. Hang tight, I’ll be over

as quick as I can.”

Hoesch retreated as his prodigy loudly cradled

the phone, hastily grabbing his jacket. As Billy

finally turned, he re-entered.

“Hey, Fred,” the student mumbled, mustering a

smile. “Uh, you mind if I cut out for a while?”

“A while?” Fred inquired casually. In fact, the

cataloguing of Incan potsherds had been busy work

for the grad student, but Hoesch relished the

opportunity to flex his muscles a bit. Radical

rhetoric or not, the draft was still in force,

these punks lived and (quite possibly) died by

academic whim.

“The rest of the day, OK?” Billy sounded frantic,

and this fed Hoesch’s sadistic inclinations.

“I’ll come in early tomorrow, stay ’til I get it

all done. Please.”

“That’s what you told me yesterday, remember?”

the professor challenged. “What’s up, man?”

“I can’t – it’s a prior commitment,” Billy

blurted. “You really don’t want to know.

Seriously.”

Hoesch smiled – Billy was too important to his

work to lose. “Hey, Billy, my man, talk to me.”

The smile faltered as something dark flashed in

Billy’s eyes. Maybe the boy wasn’t as naïve as he

appeared. For the first time in their

relationship, Hoesch’s assurance began to

crumble.

“Look, do what you gotta do,” Hoesch relented,

trying to sound nonchalant. “We’ll get back on it

tomorrow.”

Billy sighed, smiled, grabbing his books and

headed for the door. “Thanks, man. Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Hoesch echoed hollowly.

**

“Except, of course, there was no tomorrow,”

Frederic Hoesch concluded. “I had my suspicions

about Elijah and the rest of the crowd Billy’d

fallen in with, but in those days, we didn’t

exactly trust the fuzz – the cops. As if they

cared about one dead kid.”

“Yeah, as if,” Valens muses.

“Well, thanks for your time, Professor,” Mulder

smiles, standing. He pauses. “By the way, I

really liked your paper on psilocybic mushrooms.”

A thick silence falls over the office, and Hoesch

rushes to break it. “Why, Agent, I’m surprised a

federal functionary like yourself would be

interested in my esoteric research, much less

willing to dust off old academic monographs. Why,

I haven’t done any work in that area for, what,

25 years or so.”

“Actually, closer to 35,” Mulder amends. He

raises his right hand in a dated ‘V’ formation.

“Peace, Doc.”

**

“What was all that crap about mushrooms?” Valens

demands, ducking a student biker racing across

the quad.

“Dr. Hoesch was being uncharacteristically

modest.” Mulder’s wheels are turning now — his

stride is unbroken. “I thought the name was

familiar. See, I have something of an interest in

anthropology myself. Well, some of the more

arcane aspects, anyway.”

Scully chortles. Valens’ sense of falling through

the looking glass deepens.

“In the ’60s, Frederic Hoesch was one of the

world’s foremost experts in Mesoamerican

religious rites. The Mayans, the Aztecs had some

fascinating spiritual alternatives to bingo and

bar mitzvahs — multiple dieties and universes,

human sacrifices. during the four-day dedication

of the Aztec Templo Mayor in 1487, at least

10,000 captives were sacrificed to the gods. Now

that’s volume. And when it was Miller time, our

Aztec friends liked to kick back with peyotl and

teonanácatl, known as the ‘sacred mushroom.’

Valens perks. Finally, something his cop’s

sensibility can wrap around. “Peyotl? Like

peyote?”

“Shrooms, dude. I’m sure that as the Age of

Aquarius dawned, certain aspects of Hoesch’s

curriculum captured the youthful imagination.

Teonanácatl was the magic mushroom of choice for

Aztec, Nahua, Mazatec, Olmec, Mixtecs, Zapotec,

Mayan and other pre-Columbian shamans across

southern Mexico and Central America. They called

it ‘God’s flesh’ — it contains a compound,

psilocybin, that’s been linked to visions or

hallucinations in those who consume it. The

shamans incorporated it into their rites to

invoke gods and spirits, visit higher planes of

existence, even link consciousnesses, according

to some accounts.”

“Getting a little out there, Agent Mulder,”

Valens cautions.

“The phenomenon’s not confined to Mesoamerican

culture, Detective. Scientists and travelers for

centuries have passed on tales of nomadic Russian

reindeer herders who ritually ingested fly agaric

mushrooms to obtain contact with the ‘spiritual’

dimension. Gets lonely out there on the steppes,

I guess. Actually, the word ‘shaman’ itself comes

from the Siberian Tungus ‘saman’ — diviner,

magician, doctor, creator of ecstasy, the

mediator between the human world and the

supernatural.”

Valens blocks Mulder. “I’m beginning to think I

need a mediator between the human world and you.

Look, Mulder — I watched Altered States on HBO a

few years ago. William Hurt eats some bad

mushroom soup and turns into a monkey. This case

is cold enough without dragging in the ancient

Aztecs and the Zappa fans and the Mixalots.

What’s all this got to do with Billy McHenry?”

Mulder smiles. “Most North Americans didn’t even

know about teonanácatl up here until a 1957 Life

magazine article on ethnomycology – the study of

the cultural and historical use of fungi. You

think that wouldn’t have been catnip for an up-

and-coming anthropologist like Fred Hoesch? Back

in ’69, the Lost Generation smoked, ate, snorted,

licked, and injected almost anything that would

blow their collective minds. Even crawdads, if

we’re to put stock in The Beverly Hillbillies.

What better laboratory for a Mesoamerican

anthropologist trying to tap the secrets of the

shamans? A sort of shaman for the 20th Century,

himself, able to influence young minds with his

intellect and the powers of academic life, death,

and military deferment?”

Realization blossoms on Scully’s face. “You don’t

think…”

“Wait a minute, hold on,” Valens murmurs, anger

furrowing his brow. “You think that bastard was

experimenting on McHenry and those other kids?”

He glares up at Hoesch’s office window.

“You heard him — he hasn’t published anything

about psilocybes over the last three decades. You

think a man of Hoesch’s ego wouldn’t have chewed

our ears off about some of his most impressive

academic work?”

“Hoesch would have made frequent trips south of

the border with the university, probably with

federal research money and under the bureaucratic

radar screen,” Scully muses. “It sounds like he

was a mentor, even a hero, to Billy and his other

students. But if this is true, it raises the

question, Mulder: Was Billy McHenry Hoesch’s

innocent lab rat, or was he his assistant in any

experiments? My god, could he have been dosing

his own roommates, even his girlfriend?”

“Not that I’m saying I buy all this,” Valens

drawls, “but what are we gonna do about Hoesch?

Can we prove any of this?”

“First rule of detective work,” Mulder announces

solemnly, surveilling a clutch of passing coeds.

“Talk to the squeeze.”

**

“I never knew who Billy’s dealer was,” Francine

tells Lilly, pouring her another cup of coffee.

“Elijah generally supplied the pot or the LSD for

the group. Billy just turned up with the

mushrooms one night. Said a friend had smuggled

them in from Mexico.”

“We think maybe it was Billy’s professor, Dr.

Hoesch,” Lilly suggests. The team agreed Lilly

and Scully should do the second interview with

the already-wary fugitive, but the agent sips

quietly, giving the detective the lead.

“Hoesch,” Francine breathes, with an intensity

and a venom that sparks a look between her

guests. “I wouldn’t have thought of the great

professor as a drug dealer. I tried never to

think of him at all. He put the moves on me one

time at Billy’s place, when Billy was late

getting home from a rally. I let him know I

wasn’t available. In a very definitive and,

hopefully, painful way.” She and Lilly exchange a

fleeting, sisterly smile. “So he was supplying

Billy with drugs, too. Wonderful.”

“Did you ever take any of the mushrooms, Mrs.

Topher?”

“Absolutely not. Bad enough what the weed and the

acid probably did to our brains back then. I told

Billy he and the guys shouldn’t be messing with

that stuff, but he laughed it off, said I was a

prude.”

“You know how many times the guys took them?”

“At least five, maybe six times. I remember, one

night, when Billy and the boys wanted to show

Elijah how enlightened they were, they invited

this homeless guy up to the apartment and they

all got high together. Some crazy guy, they

called him The Horseman, could’ve freaked out and

killed all of them.” Francine returns to the

present with a defensive expression. “I hope that

didn’t sound racist, but the guys always fell all

over themselves trying to prove to Elijah that

they understood the plight of the ‘brothers,’

that a bunch of suburban white bread teenagers

could identify with decades of oppression and

struggle. Elijah ate it up, even though I think

something might’ve happened, because Billy

avoided the old bum, the homeless guy, after

that.”

“Along with the mushrooms,” Lilly prompts.

Francine nods. “Were you ever there when they

used them?”

Francine shivers, drawing her expensive sweater

about her shoulders. “Just once.”

June 4, 1969

“Shit,” Donna sighed as she juggled Billy’s extra

key and the sack from the market. Milk sloshed

and beans rattled — their so-called “vegetarian”

diet of rice, legumes, and greens was the product

not of ideology but of economics. Billy was too

proud to admit that meat was a luxury on their

meager combined incomes (although he never turned

down the flesh of God’s creatures when it came

with special sauce and an order of fries and

somebody else was buying).

Billy’d been working extra hard and late at the

lab these days — he worshiped that pig Hoesch,

even though if she ever told him how his hero’d

tried to get into her pants… Anyway, she’d wanted

to fix him a special meal — her roommate was

holding down the fort, and maybe Billy might be

back in the mood for love and reconciliation.

But the Stones threw cold water on her hopes for

the evening. Jagger’s voice beyond the flimsy

apartment door taunted her: “You can’t always get

what you want…” The Stones were Vince and Ted’s

favorite mood music for artificial mood

elevation.

Donna considered leaving, but she remained

concerned about the company Billy’d been keeping.

Elijah frightened her — whenever she was around,

he studied her. It wasn’t like Hoesch’s

eyefucking — he seemed to be appraising her, her

intelligence. And what was this heavyweight

militant doing hanging out with children like

Billy and Vince and Ned? Elijah was a scary dude,

but she knew instinctively his wary respect for

her was the key to protecting Billy from getting

in too deep with him.

Donna took a deep breath, sucking in the cannabis

fumes that saturated the hallway, and nudged open

the door. She awaited Billy’s dumb stoned grin of

recognition, Ned and Vince’s lascivious giggles

as they checked her out, Elijah’s reptilian

stare, appraising and challenging. But there was

none of that tonight.

The four men sat in a circle on the threadbare

rag rug in the lotus position, wrists up, fingers

twitching. Their eyes were open, wide open, but

they gazed at nothing, or, Donna thought with a

shudder, something beyond Billy’s shabby

apartment, beyond this world.

“Baby,” she whispered, dropping the bag. A potato

rolled across the floor and ricocheted off

Vince’s right foot. It didn’t register. “Billy!”

Donna gasped, kneeling beside him. He stared

straight ahead, wonder blooming in his

expression.

“BILLY!” she screamed, slapping him hard. She

fell back in terror as four heads snapped. Eight

eyes began to blink, strain against the light of

the hallway.

Donna clambered to her feet, stumbling over a

chair as she backed toward the doorway. Elijah’s

head whipped up, eyes filled with irritation.

Billy’s hand went to his cheek. “Hey, Babe! Hey,

what’s wrong?”

Donna didn’t stop running until she hit the

corner.

**

“Ah, Ned and I travel in different circles these

days,” Father Vincent admits, his battered oak

office chair groaning as he dips back into time.

“I’ve come a million miles from that place,

spiritually as well as physically. I never see

any of them any more — Ned, Donna, Bill-”

The priest’s face fills with pain, and for a

moment, Lilly glimpses the unlined face of the

young man who’d forsaken sex and drugs and rock

and roll for a Roman collar, celibacy, and Latin

homilies. “Sometimes, I forget Billy’s dead,

although I’ll never forget finding him like that,

torn and… You know, beyond the horror of that

moment, I’m haunted by the regret that Billy died

without the rites.” Father Vincent grins

guiltily. “The job, I suppose. It’s just that we

were all so confused, made so many bad choices

back then. But Billy had a certain honor, grace,

I suppose you could say. Love and peace – it

wasn’t all lip service to him. But he was in such

turmoil near the end. I guess I’m haunted by the

idea that he died with his soul still in

turmoil.”

Mulder and Lilly exchange a glance. She breaks

the connection quickly. “What do you think was

behind the turmoil, Father?”

“It was an era of turmoil,” he shrugs, searching

the yellowing ceiling of his office. “He was

under a lot of pressure at school, and, tell you

the truth, Billy never seemed cut out for the

liberated lifestyle of the late ’60s.”

At that moment, Lilly, Mulder, and Scully

simultaneously know the priest is lying. Eyes

down, searching for the truth, eyes up, fishing

for a convenient lie.

“How about Elijah Fortson?” Lilly probes. “Kind

of heavy company for a choirboy.”

The chair creaks as Father Vincent returns to the

present. Again, his eyes betray him, refusing to

meet with the detective’s. “If you think Billy

was involved in any way in that bombing, then you

have no idea how much he revered life, respected

it. To this day, I can’t conceive of any reason

for anyone killing him.”

“There was someone else,” Mulder ventures. “You

remember a man you and Billy used to call The

Horseman?”

Father Vincent chuckles, surprising both of them.

“Sorry. It’s just, well, you’re really barking up

the wrong tree now. Sure, he presented a pretty

scary figure at the time, shouting fire and

brimstone and waving that beat-up Gideon Bible at

the ‘drunkards’ and ‘harlots’ on the street. He

was stoned out of his mind most of the time, full

of his own demons, but he couldn’t have killed

Billy any more than I could have.”

The priest catches Mulder’s small, questioning

smile, and straightens in his chair.

“Homicide questioned him the day of the murder,”

Lilly notes, “But they never got a name. To them,

he was just some crazy homeless guy.”

A smile crosses the clergyman’s lined face. “It’s

astonishing to me the impact God’s humblest

creatures can have. If not for that ‘crazy,

homeless guy,’ I might not be here right now. I

can’t explain how, but somehow, he got to me,

spiritually. You know, it was only a few months

after Billy’s death that I joined the seminary.”

Mulder glances at the Virgin Mary on the wall

behind the priest. “You ever see him after you

moved back to the neighborhood?”

Three decades seem to fall from Father Vincent’s

face as the corner of his mouth twitches. “You

might say so. Follow me.”

**

“The father, he asked the diocese ‘specially to

get assigned to this parish,” Melvin Johnson

explains, polishing the silver candlestick slowly

and lovingly as Mulder and Rush hold down

opposite ends of the front pew. St. Bartholomew’s

sexton surveys his work, a beatific smile of

satisfaction parting his creased, purple lips. He

moves onto a chalice, thumb working the chamois

rag. “By this time, I’d lost my taste for the

Word. Left Alabama in, oh, musta been ’65. I

lived right down the road from where them two

little girls got blowed up – had my own church

then, African Methodist Episcopal, but them girls

dyin’ like that, well, guess it shook me some.

Found I couldn’t climb up in that pulpit no more,

tell the folks about Sweet Jesus’s love and

everlasting light.”

The stooped old man Billy McHenry called The

Horseman stops rubbing, peers at his young

visitors through thick lenses. “Got it into my

head I’d come up north, take the Word to the

street. ‘Cept the body’s weak, amen, and I fell

into some sorry and sinful ways. Spose I was

drinkin’ and druggin’ those children’s deaths out

of my head – I forgot about the love of the Lord

and started passin’ my own prideful judgment on

anybody would look my way.”

He blinks, smils sheepishly. “Got to pardon me –

havin’ one of them senior moments. Anyway, that

poor boy’s murder, it’s like it just stole away

what little scrap was left of my faith. Lost my

taste for the Word, though not for the grape and

the grain and the weed. Didn’t hardly recognize

Father Vincent when he came to see me at one of

the downtown missions, oh my, musta been 30, more

years ago. Offered me some work here in the

church, three squares, and a warm bed where the

junkies couldn’t cut my throat. I told him where

he could put all that, but he kept on comin’ down

and keepin’ at me ’til I came back with him, most

probably just to shut him up.” Johnson cackled,

showing crooked but white teeth.

Lilly leans forward. “And you’ve been here ever

since?”

“The father, he saved my life – have mercy, I

wouldn’ta lasted more’n a few years, way I was

headed.” Johnson replaces the chalice with

reverence, and sat down on the altar step with a

serious expression. “So what do you two want with

Father Vincent? This about that boy’s murder?”

“The homicide report says you didn’t move from

your spot on the street between the time Billy

McHenry entered his apartment and the police

interviewed you about the killing,” Mulder

prompts. “But did you remember seeing anyone else

go in or out of McHenry’s apartment building the

day of the murder?”

Johnson’s eyes flick toward Father Vincent, who

nods encouragement. “Well, I remembered the boy –

he’d always been nice to me, give me a buck or

some supper when he could swing it, even invited

me to come up and visit with his friends once or

twice. And that man, fella on the TV last few

weeks.”

“Elijah Fortson?” Lilly offers.

Johnson’s eyes narrow. “He was the serpent, that

man. Tempted them lost children with drugs and

evil talk about doing violence to others.”

“Did you see Fortson the day of the murder?”

“No, ma’am. Just…”

Mulder cranes forward, eyebrows raised.

“It’s all right, Melvin,” the father smiles.

Johnson nods, relieved. “‘Fraid I wasn’t what you

might’ve called a reliable witness back then. All

I remember was the words of Genesis coming out of

my mouth and the Virgin Mary.”

“The Virgin Mary?” Lilly inquires gently.

Melvin’s face wrinkles with mirth. “Had had me a

taste of the Thunderbird ‘fore I went out to

preach that day. Helped me wind up and give the

folks what-for. Some times, when I’d had me a nip

or two, I’d see the Devil hisself holdin’ up a

lamppost, or maybe a chorus of angels in front of

the liquor store. That day, it was the Virgin

Mary. Mighta been a sign, maybe. Probably the

‘Bird, though.” The Horseman squints lovingly up

at the Virgin Mother, beaming down from the

stained glass at her recovered child, Melvin.

“Praise be.”

“Amen,” Father Vincent echoes.

**

“You got my Liberty Bell shotglass yet?”

Mulder grins, wiping the grit from his eyes.

Scully stirs with a semi-conscious grunt, and he

silently crawls from underneath the covers and

pads to the bathroom.

“It’s two o’clock, you little Neanderthal,”

Mulder yawns into his cell phone.

“Space: Above and Beyond marathon on the Sci-Fi

Network,” Frohike explains. “Now we’ve got some

kinda infomercial for rubber cookware. You want

to know what I found out, or not? I’m probably

missing a Kari Wuhrer flick on Skinemax.”

“Shoot.”

“Disgruntled ex-NSA guy Byers knows says Army

Intelligence was doing some classified field

experiments back in ’71. Real hush-hush, black

ops stuff, but they put it on film, and a couple

years later, he got a matinee showing of a

bootleg copy.

“The movie looked to be shot in Vietnam or

Cambodia, in some little Podunk area. It was a

squad of Special Forces guys on a raid of some

village. Real My Lai stuff, Mulder – some bad

shit. Even Byers’ ex-spook gets nightmares from

it occasionally. These guys wipe out a whole

village – men, women, old folks, even kids.”

“God.”

“Makes you wonder. But what’s creepier, if that

ain’t bad enough, is the way these Special Forces

guys operated. Byers’ buddy says they were

practically like machines, as if they were all

plugged into the same X-Box. Total stealth, no

commands or chatter, but these dozen or so guys

offed everybody in the village, 40 or so people,

in less than 20 minutes, without sustaining so

much as a hangnail…”

Mulder lowers himself onto the toilet lid.

“Mulder? Hey, Mulder?”

“Yeah, sorry,” the agent drawls.

“Here’s the even freakier part. The guy who

showed Byers’ buddy the film, maybe about 20

years ago? He was some kind of researcher our NSA

guy knew from college. Anyway, he said he’d been

involved in the Army thing, but didn’t know until

afterwards about the massacre. Mr. Science wanted

to know if he should take the movie to Mike

Wallace or Geraldo or somebody. Didn’t you say

there was some kind of university geek involved

in your case?”

“I dunno. Sounds like your guy might have had a

rudimentary conscience of some kind. Our guy

makes Rupert Murdoch look like Mary Kate and

Ashley.”

“Actually, my guy’s guy thought breaking the

story on 60 Minutes might be good for a book

deal.”

“That’s our Fred,” Mulder concludes. “I assume

Byers’ guy wised him up, had him bury the movie

under 30 feet of concrete.”

“Obviously. What’s going on out there, Mulder?”

“I think some seriously bad mojo.”

**

“These days, I have trouble enough remembering

when I took my last piss,” Ray Espinshade

chuckles, adjusting his bulk in the sunroom easy

chair to accommodate an ill-concealed colostomy

bag. There is a tinge of green in Vera’s polite

grimace. “But that certainly was one day I’ll

never forget. Just my luck to have stayed late

that afternoon doing the books. Hey, kid, you

wanna hand me that juice?”

The ‘kid,’ Jeffreys, locates a large teal cup,

labeled ‘Property of Liberty Manor Care Center,’

and hands in gently to the elderly ex-jeweler.

Espinshade sucks noisily at his beverage; Vera’s

feels a roll of the stomach.

“I’d finally made everything come out even, and I

was gonna take the late Mrs. Espinshade out for a

steak. That’s when that car came screaming around

the corner like a bat outta hell. When it

screeched to a stop across the street, I thought

maybe it was a heist – I usually kept about a

million in inventory in the office safe. I almost

made in my pants. Back then, it wasn’t as easy as

it is now, eh?” The fleshy old man cackles.

Vera laughs weakly.

“But then I see they’re in front of the

recruiting office.”

“Two of them, right?” Jeffreys clarifies.

“One driving, one with a bottle. It was one of

those Molotov thingies, you know, with the rag

stuffed in the bottle? Well, the passenger with

the bottle, he jumps out, lights the rag, and

flings it through the window of the joint, jumps

back in the car, and they screech off, burning

rubber. I tried to get a peek at the license

plate, but then, whoosh! The front of the

building just blows out, like in a movie, and

there’s fire everywhere. I ran back upstairs and

called the cops. Like I told ’em, though, these

guys had hoods over their heads – I couldn’t see

nothing.” Espinshade places his juice cup on an

end table next to his wheelchair and looks from

Vera to Jeffreys. “Hey, you didn’t catch the

guys, did you?’

“We think we’ve got one,” Jeffreys offers.

“Wow, great, great. Damned hippies, always

blowing up something back then. Burning the draft

cards, burning the bras, while guys like me were

busting our asses working.” Espinshade sighs,

reaches for his cup, withdraws. “Well, I guess it

ain’t any worse than now, with the gang kids and

that hippety-hop crap my grandson listens to. At

least some of the kids had a little respect back

then, a little religion. Like the kid with the

beads.”

“Beads?” Jeffreys inquires, drawing an annoyed

glance from Vera. The clock on Espinshade’s

bedstand indicates it’s Miller Time.

Espinshade suddenly seems distracted. “Beads? Oh,

yeah, the kid with the beads. Yeah, this was

about two weeks after the Army joint went up.

They still hadn’t cleaned up the rubble, and I

was watching for a crew to come around. Well, I’m

working late again – so what else is new? – and I

look out the window and see this hippie kid

standing in front of the burnt-out building. He

like gets down on his knee on the sidewalk where

the door used to be.”

Vera lifts his left buttock from the edge of

Espinshade’s bed. Jeffreys comes to attention, as

well. “Mr. Espinshade, did you tell the police

about seeing this man?” Jeffreys asks, gently.

The old man cackles. “Hell, no. Just some kid

came to pay his respects to the dead. At first, I

thought maybe he was up to something. I yelled

out the window, ‘What are you doing, punk!,’ and

he drops something and runs off. I high-tail it

across the street to see what kind of crap he’s

trying to pull. But all he’d done was leave some

beads in front of the place. You know, like how

they leave that shit where the Twin Towers were?

Wasn’t anything to tell the cops about. Besides.”

Espinshade raises a puffy hand, waves the

detectives closer.

“Besides,” he whispers. “They were a sweet piece

of work, these beads. Antique stuff, Italian, I

made it. So I kept ’em. I’da told those dumbass

cops, they woulda taken ’em for ‘evidence.’ You

know what ‘evidence’ means, right? Some cop buys

his girlfriend a new outfit. Hey, don’t put that

in your article or whatever, OK, guys?”

**

“Antique beads?” Mulder scowled, sipping his

beer.

“Yeah,” Vera chuckles, his goodwill toward the

agent improving with each round. “Tells us flat

out he stole ’em. Sad thing is, he got robbed a

few months later, and they’re long gone.”

A half-dozen similar conversations are drifting

about the pub along with the smoke and the yeasty

smell of hops and malt. It’s a cop bar, and half

the PPD’s first shift is drowning its sorrows

over bad busts, dimwitted perps, liberal judges,

and the new tide of victims the day has washed

in.

Jeffreys plops a bowl of popcorn on the wobbly

laminated table and pulls out a chair. “Thirty-

five years, he’s sitting on a possible lead, all

because he was afraid of a petty theft charge.”

“More likely, Mr. Espinshade didn’t want anyone

to know he’d stolen from a memorial,” Scully

suggests. “You said he saw the hippie at about

the same time the recruiting office had been

bombed two weeks earlier. Don’t you think that’s

an odd coincidence.”

“It was in the papers, on the news,” Lilly notes.

“It could’ve been just what Espinshade suggested

– a simple gesture of respect. But why beads? It

seems like an awfully personal item.”

“Exactly.” Mulder began to tear the label from

his Bud. “Maybe they had some relevance for the

bomber or the victims. In ancient funereal rites,

beads often signified…”

“God, give it a rest,” Vera growls, slapping his

bottle on the phony wood grain.

“Kid psychics who talk to the dead, feds who talk

like some dweeb at a Trekkie convention, freaking

mad scientists. I’m mean, listen to yourself.”

“Nick,” Valens cautions.

Mulder is unperturbed. “In the ’60s and ’70s, the

Soviets conducted extensive experiments with ESP,

with remote viewing, in the hopes of beefing up

military and intelligence capabilities. Why

couldn’t the U.S. military not explore

psychotropic compounds that might enable spies or

soldiers to share their consciousness, their

thoughts? Imagine the implications for ground or

even air combat of those capabilities could be

refined.”

“Aw, Jesus, you’re freaking nuts,” Vera says.

“He’s freaking nuts. I can’t take this crap any

more…”

“Nick, man,” Valens murmurs. “Thought you said

you were gonna take it easy on the stuff, right?”

Vera sinks back into his chair, petulant. “Yeah,

you want me to say a few dozen Hail Marys?”

The silence that ensues is not one of discomfort

or embarrassment. As realization dawns first

Agent Scully’s, then Lilly’s face, Vera blinks.

“What?” he demands.

**

“Was it Elijah’s idea, or yours?” Lilly asks.

When she is greeted by silence, she continues.

“We found out your brother had been shot down

over Cambodia six months before the bombing.

Elijah wanted to make a noise. Did you tell him

where to make it?”

“How did you ever…?”

“I think you were angry and in anguish over your

brother’s death, but I don’t think you’re a

violent person by nature,” Mulder suggests. “I

think this, all of this, was your reaction to

what you did 35 years ago. You were overcome with

grief after killing those people. Fortson

disappeared, but you couldn’t. Your conscience

wouldn’t let you. That’s why you went back, why

you left that rosary at the recruiting office.”

“It was my grandmother’s.” Father Vincent

Gillesco’s tense expression eases. Lilly detects

what appears to be relief on the priest’s face.

“Elijah told me they were responsible for killing

Tony, for killing all those thousands of boys who

went over to fight for God knows what.” He laughs

bitterly at the irony of his comment, and his

fingers stray over his desk blotter. “I shouldn’t

try to dump my responsibility on Elijah – he

simply channeled the hatred that had been boiling

up inside me. Billy’s death had merely added to

my anger, my confusion.

“I had no idea those people were in that office –

it was after hours. We just wanted to make a

statement. I suppose this is my statement, as

well. A hollow one, I suppose, for those people,

their families. I guess taking Melvin in was a

statement, too.”

“Father, we’re going to have to take you in,”

Lilly informs him, rising reluctantly.

The graying priest nods, closing his eyes for

just a moment, then regarding the cross over the

door beyond the cop and the agents.

“Yes,” he finally breathes. “If I could just…”

Because of the Roman collar, the clergyman’s

subdued demeanor, they fail to comprehend what’s

happening until Father Vincent has pulled open

the center drawer and hoisted the blue steel

revolver.

Lilly’s weapon is out in a second and leveled at

the priest. “Drop it, Father!” she yells as

Mulder and Scully draw down.

Father Vincent smiles sadly, his arm crooking and

the barrel dimpling his temple. “It’s a

technicality at best, Det. Rush, but I wouldn’t

want this on your soul.”

“Father,” Scully cautions tersely. “You have to

know that what you’re proposing to do…”

“Is a sin? You know, I took this gun from a young

man, 14 — a member of one of the neighborhood

gangs who’s run drugs since he was nine. He was

going to kill the man who runs the convenience

store around the corner, because he was

disrespectful to his mother. The boy told me this

in confession – wanted me to absolve him in

advance for the senseless act of violence he

intended to commit. Thank God I was able to help

him see, to convince him to give up his gun and

his plan. Now I wonder if this wasn’t part of

some other larger plan…”

“You know that isn’t so,” Scully counters.

“Please, Father. This isn’t part of any plan.”

“Perhaps there isn’t any plan.” The sound of the

hammer cocking fills the room.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have

called you by name, you are mine…” Melvin

Johnson’s words reverberate throughout the room,

enveloping its four armed inhabitants like

amniotic fluid. Lilly’s aim remains steadfast,

but her eyes dart momentarily toward the

arthritic, nearly blind old man. “When you pass

through the waters, I will be with you; and

through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm

you.”

The hand holding the revolver begins to tremble.

Melvin hobbles past Lilly and the federal agents.

Despite the deadly gravity of the situation,

despite he is smiling, lovingly, paternally down

at the agent of his salvation. “You remember

that, Father? You comin’ down there to read

scripture to some crazy old drunk druggie?

Thought to myself, ‘Who’s this white boy try to

tell me the word of the Lord, try to save me?

Who’s he think he is?’ ‘Member what I told you

you could do with your scripture, Father?” Melvin

cackled, turning to Lilly and the agents.

“Goodness, can’t repeat it in polite company. But

you wouldn’t leave me, even with me cussing and

hollerin’ at you to get your white ass outta my

alleyway. Say, why don’t you all put them guns

down? Man my age could have an infarction. You

too, now, Father.”

Eyes ablaze with uncertainty, Mulder lowers his

weapon. Lilly follows, and Scully relaxes her

aim.

Melvin nods. “That’s better. C’mon, now, Father.

No place for this in the Lord’s house. I ain’t

gonna tell that boy you took his pistol away just

so you could shed your own blood. Got enough

bloodshed out there, without you blaspheming His

house.” The sexton’s voice takes on an edge.

“Father? Son?”

“Forgive me,” Father Vincent whispers, easing the

hammer back and placing the gun on his blotter.

“There, now,” Melvin murmurs, gnarled fingers

reaching out to stroke the priest’s graying hair.

“I will be with you, son.”

**

Her eyes aching, Lilly sets aside the thick

McHenry casefile as the doorbell sounds. One of

the “girls” is draped over her thigh; the

detective gentle disengages her and peers through

the peephole.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Detective,” Agent

Scully murmurs as the door swings open. “But I

had a theory I wanted to bounce off you.”

“Sure.” Lilly, confused, steps aside and ushers

her guest into the living room. “I don’t mind,

but why me? And why not in the morning?”

“Well, I think you and I are in a better position

to evaluate my theory, and– Oh my.”

Lilly suppresses a smile as the “girls” greet

Scully, caressing her thigh with low, pleasured

rumblings. The agent stares down at the one-eyed

feline and her three-legged companion.

“Are they, um, are they rescue animals?” Scully

asks, anxiously.

“You want some tea or some decaf, Agent?”

“Ah, tea, but only if you’re having some.” Lilly

notices for the first time that Scully is

carrying a large shopping bag from one of the

major Philly department stores.

Lilly nods and heads for the kitchenette. “And

what is my special position, Agent?”

“Dana.”

“Lilly.”

Scully settles onto the couch as the girls follow

their owner into the galley. “I got to thinking

about Billy McHenry’s behavior and actions in the

period before the murder. His fatigue, his work

in Hoesch’s lab falling off. His erratic comings

and goings and that phone conversation Hoesch

heard — McHenry’s emphasizing his commitment,

his realization about what was ‘important.’ Our

assumption has been that McHenry was involved in

some kind of activity most like with Elijah

Fortson. But there is another possible

interpretation that explains everything,

including the forensic evidence at the crime

scene.”

Lilly emerges, a cup of steaming liquid in each

hand. “And that is?”

Scully reaches into the bag and withdraws a stack

of videotapes. “I wanted to see if I could get

some kind of confirmation, so I stopped by the

local TV stations and had them dub off some news

footage for roughly a year prior to McHenry’s

death. Do you have a VCR?”

Lilly nods. “I guess there goes C.S.I., huh?”

**

” ‘Donna’ came to Philadelphia in October 1967 —

she and her parents had had a falling out, and

she left Bucks County to come to school here.”

Scully punches the “Play” button, and she and

Lilly are transported to a slightly discolored

era of love and peace and discontent. A solid

blue line of uniforms stand rooted silently

before a mass of young people chanting their

displeasure at the war a world away, at the

corruption of absolute power. Scully hits

“Pause,” and the chanting stops. “See, there’s

Donna, Mrs. Topher. In the white tank top and

bellbottoms and the granny glasses. McHenry’s

right behind her. This is in August 1968.”

Lilly peers at the willowy, unfocused young

woman. “OK…”

Scully stops and pops the tape and shoves another

into the Panasonic, glancing momentarily at the

cyclopean creature rubbing her forearm. “This

tape is from three months later — it’s a sit-in

at the university student union. There’s Donna,

next to the man in the dashiki near the bulletin

board.”

“Plumped up some over the winter,” Lilly murmurs.

“Guess the bra-burning must’ve been a huge

success.”

“Remember that.”

“Huh?”

“OK, let’s fast-forward to February 1969 — Nixon

protest at City Hall. Donna’s once again in

attendance, with McHenry.”

“Where? I don’t see her?”

Scully shakes her head. “No, you just don’t

recognize her. She’s changed her fashion

statement and gained some more weight. Look in

front of the podium — the girl in the poncho and

the flower girl dress.”

“She was getting into the role,” Lilly suggests.

“I don’t think so. That’s a heavy wool poncho,

and according to the U.S. Weather Service, this

was one of Philadelphia’s warmest Februaries on

record.”

Lilly sinks back onto the couch, scrutinizing the

flower child who would become a society matron.

“I don’t see where you’re going, Dana.”

Scully pauses the tape and turns to the cop. “I

searched all the archives of the three major

affiliates in town, and this apparently was

Donna’s last on-camera appearance until May 1969,

at a peace rally downtown. Look at her.” She zips

ahead to Philadelphia in the spring.

“Ah, the braless look returns,” Lilly grins. “She

must have shed a few for the tank top season.”

“I don’t think so,” Scully counters quietly.

“That’s why I wanted your perspective. A woman’s

perspective.”

**

“We lost another one last night,” Janice Grey

sighs, riffling through the hospice pantry for

the Celestial Seasonings. She locates the Red

Zinger, and turns to Lilly and Scully. “Twenty-

six, he was. Astonishing. War was killing them

then, now its AIDS and the gangs. If I wasn’t

such a hard-bitten atheist, I’d almost believe

there was a perverse design at work – a sort of

cosmic bent toward our own extinction. Sugar,

Det. Rush?”

“No, thanks, Doctor.” At a crucial point in her

life, Janice was an outlaw, a criminal, in some

people’s view, a villain. She and Lilly had met a

year or so ago, when the latter was investigating

a ’69 double murder linked to Philadelphia’s

underground abortion parlors.

Dr. Grey lowers a teabag into each of the three

mugs on the breakroom table and then her thin,

arthritic frame into a chair beside the cop and

the agent. “I assume you’re here about my former

practice. No violent death here – at least no

violence within the context of your job. You want

to know about one of my girls?”

“This one would’ve been different,” Lilly

murmurs.

**

“It was 1969,” Lilly begins. “Chaos and confusion

everywhere. A war over there, battle lines being

drawn here. People dropping out, running away,

searching for identity. It was a lot easier back

then to just disappear, to fade into the

background. Wasn’t it?”

Francine Topher stares impassively at the

detective across the interrogation table, as

Mulder, Scully, and Valens hang back. She’s come

in without Joe Miller this time, but she’s not

volunteering anything.

“Donna Geistner vanishes, Francine Topher comes

whol into the world. Even today, shredding one

identity and creating another one’s no easy task.

But back then, kids were being shuttled to Canada

under the radar screen, drug distributors and

dealers were networking before Microsoft even

burned its first piece of software, and

underground clinics were popping up all over the

city to clean up after all the free love going

around.”

Francine’s eyes flicker away for a nanosecond.

Lilly kneels beside her. “Something was upsetting

Billy, occupying him, those last few months

before his death. We thought it was something

criminal, maybe something to do with Elijah

Fortson. We were wrong.”

“McHenry was distracted,” Scully takes the ball.

“He was tired, and his studies and work were

suffering. A phone would ring and he’d leave the

university lab, abruptly, with no explanation.

Dr. Hoesch overheard him talking to someone,

agitated, guilty, defensive. McHenry had some

kind of appointment or obligation he clearly

viewed as a burden.”

Lilly rises to her feet, retrieves a folder from

the head of the table, and opens it for

Francine’s inspection. She leafs through the

photos of the girl who would become Francine

Topher, and looks up, baffled.

“We took these from news footage of events you

participated in from August 1968 to May 1969,”

the detective explains. “During that period, you

went from willowy slimness to buxom

voluptuousness to ponchoed plumpness,

disappearing from the public eye for about two

months before re-emerging, once again a willowy

wisp of a girl. You know where we’re heading,

don’t you, Mrs. Topher?”

Francine’s hands are now clutched on the

tabletop, knuckles as pale and exsanguinated as

her face.

“It’s all there in these photos – a gradual

weight gain, increased breast size, the attempts

to conceal your abdomen the last few months,”

Agent Scully murmurs. “With the braless look that

became so popular in the sixties, I can even see

the symptomatic darkening of the areolae

surrounding your nipples. Billy wasn’t

disappearing from the lab to plot with Elijah and

Vincent. He was babysitting.”

The room is still. Suddenly, with a slow,

tremulous expulsion of air, Francine remembers to

breathe.

“Janice Grey helped you give birth in April

1969,” Lilly continues, softly. “Helped you have

Billy McHenry’s baby. It was Billy’s, wasn’t it?”

Francine nods absently.

“You carried that child to term, and went to an

underground abortion clinic to bring it into the

world. You and Billy were living hand-to-mouth,

and yet you kept the baby, worked your schedule

around it. And Billy’s.

“There was an object on the bed when Billy died.

I think it was the baby. What happened to that

child, Francine? Why did you kill Billy?

July 20, 1969

“Billy!”

Billy turned to find Donna towering above the

bed, eyes alight with horror, crocheted handbag

clutched in her white fingers. He smiled,

clutching the tarnished carving knife absently.

“What are you doing?” the girl whispered,

glancing anxiously at the parcel on the bed.

“It’s all right,” the boy assured her in a voice

all the more frightening for its fatalistic calm.

“It’s going to be all right. It’s what he wants.”

“He?” Donna moves forward, cautiously. “Why would

you do this, Billy? You said you were cool with

it. Please, give me the knife.”

“This is the only way out. The only way to save

us.”

“No, no, it’s not. I’ll split, we’ll split.

You’ll never see us again. I promise. This is not

the way, Billy.”

Billy nodded, then turned. The hand rose and the

knife’s blade glittered in the afternoon sun.

Donna lunged, seizing Billy’s arm. He turned,

grabbed the hand clamped around his, and Donna

yelped as he applied pressure.

The weapon slipped, and a thin line of blood

erupted from Billy’s palm. He didn’t seem to

register the pain, and Donna wondered if he was

high on something serious. He yanked at the knife

as Donna twisted it away from her chest.

Her energy was waning as a sudden cry pierced the

stale air of the tiny bedroom. The infant on the

bedspread began to mewl, and as Donna’s attention

was diverted, Billy tugged the knife free.

It sunk to the hilt beneath his sternum. Donna

screamed, but no sound would come out. Billy

looked down, then, with apparent amazement, up at

the mother of his child. His eyes filled, but his

lips spread in a wide, grateful smile.

“Praise be,” Billy whispered before he crumpled

to the mattress…

**

Francine Topher’s immaculately manicured fingers

worries her empty coffee cop. “I took Lucas –

that was what we’d named him – bundled up in a

poncho so no one would recognize me, and

just…left.”

Lilly looks to Agent Mulder, who’d guessed the

truth behind Melvin Johnson’s “vision” of the

Virgin Mary and child outside Billy’s apartment

building.

“I knew I could never give Lucas a good home as

long as there was a possibility you people would

find me, so I left him at a hospital ER and

disappeared. It was easy, back then. The rest?”

Francine smiled wearily up at Lilly. “Well, the

rest just doesn’t really matter now, does it?”

Lilly leans across the table, her hands resting

only an inch from Donna’s. “It was self-defense,

Francine. You were defending your child. I’m sure

the court will understand. It was a long, long

time ago.”

Francine’s smile was bitter. “The Summer of Love.

It was all about freedom. Billy didn’t want any

commitment, any strings. He would have killed our

child, my child, to win his freedom back.”

Mulder comes off the wall, speaking for the first

time. “I don’t believe Billy intended to murder

your child,” he suggests.

Francine’s dead eyes try to focus on the agent.

“He was standing over my baby with a knife,” she

recites dully. He told me it was the only way

out. What do you believe was his intention?”

“I guess what I should say is, I don’t believe

Billy meant to kill your son as a matter of

convenience. In fact, I don’t think he was

capable of thinking rationally at that moment.

What Billy meant was not that killing the boy was

the only way out of an unbearable burden, but

that it was the only way he could gain

salvation.”

“I don’t…”

“You told us Prof. Hoesch was supplying Billy

with psilocybic mushrooms. Remember the night you

walked in on Billy and the others, their odd

behavior? The way they were acting almost as one?

Well, I think Hoesch was experimenting on them.

There have been reports of Meso-American rituals

where groups that have taken fungal extracts

experience a sort of collective consciousness.

They share thoughts, visions, experiences.

“I think that’s what happened that summer. Billy

and his friends began to share a common

consciousness. But Billy unwittingly invited a

diseased, tortured consciousness into the group.”

Francine’s eyes search Mulder’s, then widen. “The

Horseman,” she murmurs.

Mulder nods. “My guess is Melvin Johnson had a

severe case of survivor’s guilt — you see it a

lot in post-9/11 New Yorkers. In 1963, a KKK bomb

killed four young girls in Alabama, near where

Johnson had lived and preached. Johnson was a man

of deep religious conviction, but those

children’s deaths damaged his faith, twisted it.

He came to Philadelphia to get away, but also to

try to change his world. When he found he

couldn’t, he turned to drugs and alcohol, layered

with Old Testament proselytizing. Retribution and

original sin, the fires of Hell burning eternally

for all souls. And sacrifice.”

Francine’s fingers now have stilled.

“‘After these things God tested Abraham, and said

to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.” He

said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom

you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer

him there as a burnt offering upon one of the

mountains of which I shall tell you.’ Genesis 22:

1-2. According to the story, God spared Isaac at

the last moment, but I think to Melvin Johnson,

those four dead girls represented some kind of

blood sacrifice to a dark god, a message of the

world’s growing depravity and inhumanity. I think

that’s how Johnson had come to see the world, and

I think Billy became infected with that world

view when his consciousness melded with The

Horseman’s.

“Look at the other members of Hoesch’s ‘tribe,’

the impact their experimentation had on them that

Summer of ’69. The allegedly atheistic Elijah

Fortson’s social diatribes were sprinkled with

biblical parables and admonitions. Ned Squiers

created a public scene in a downtown bank,

chastising the ‘moneylenders.’ Vincent Gillesco

entered the priesthood, spurred in part by guilt

over his role in the recruiting office bombing.

They were weak young men, directionless and

confused. I think Johnson’s will was too strong

for any of them, especially for Billy, who was

looking for some fundamental answers.”

“And his answer was to murder our child.”

Francine’s response is nearly inaudible.

“He wasn’t himself. Billy was acting under the

unwitting influence of a madman and a

manipulative opportunist. He was insane. I

thought you ought to know that, that it might

offer you at least some solace.”

Francine Topher looks up, meets Mulder’s eyes

with her own steady, critical gaze, causing him

momentarily to glance away. A smile forms — a

mirthless, possibly pitying thing.

“It was a time of madness,” she informs the

agent. “Injustice and violence transformed that

poor man — what did you say his name was,

Johnson? — into a shell-shocked ghost spouting

God’s vengeance. Vincent’s grief over his brother

allowed him to murder those innocent people in

that recruiting office. The madness of war and

intolerance and disillusionment infected all of

us. And even if it’s as you say, that Billy was

trying to sacrifice our baby to redeem his soul,

what solace should that offer me? I killed my

baby’s father, sacrificed my child so he might

have a chance at some kind of better life. I lost

my innocence and a lot more in that apartment

that day. I want that innocence back. Can you

offer me that, Agent Mulder?”

**

Melvin Johnson lowers himself painfully from the

last step of the bus, feeling the unspoken

impatience of the wives, parents, and survivors

behind him. He holds no animus toward these

pilgrims as he moves slowly toward the visitor’s

gate at the Pennsylvania Federal Men’s

Correctional Facility. Melvin knows the Lord

works in mysterious ways and that these walking

wounded must find their own way out of the

darkness of their misery and anger.

The new priest is a kind and charitable – if

somewhat detached — man who wants to continue

the good works of his predecessor. Melvin has

agreed to stay on as sexton — he has known no

other world for three decades. Father Vincent

remains keenly interested in the doings of the

parish and its souls.

Melvin will never know how his moment of madness

cost one life and irrevocably altered at least

three others. It is his faith in a kinder god

that ties him inextricably to St. Bartholomew’s,

that brings him every Saturday to the state men’s

facility and Father Vincent, arthritis and the

mass transit permitting.

**

Ned Squiers doesn’t see her at first: He’s

focused on his single malt Scotch – the first of

his ritualistic evening drinks following the six

o’clock cast.

“I’m sorry.” The woman on the next stool is too

young, with too much of her freshly-scrubbed

flesh oozing out of a black killer dress. Ned’s

eyes adjust about 11 inches to the north and

shows his capped teeth. “You’re Ned the

Weatherguy, right?”

Meteorologist, you empty-headed little tramp.

“Yep. That would be me.”

“Wow, you are soo funny,” the girl chirps. She

wiggles on the stool, and Ned nearly spills his

Scotch. “Hey, you knew that protestor guy, didn’t

you? The guy on CourtTV?”

“Back in the day,” Ned acknowledges, checking his

look in the bar mirror. What he sees brings him

up straight: A lanky, long-locked young man with

the light of rebellion in his eyes and a world

ahead of him. He blinks, and the stool once again

is occupied by a paunchy 58-year-old weather

forecaster who peddles used cars during the break

between sports and the stock report.

“God, this is like meeting some historical guy or

something,” his new friend gushes. “It’s so hard

to believe you used to be a hippie? That’s so-o-o

cool.”

“You want a fresh-up?” Ned asks, too quickly.

She nonetheless beams. “Well, sure. That’s so

sweet…”

“Groovy,” he quips, sucking at his gut.

**

Deputy Director Walter Skinner closes the thick

manila folder, placing it carefully on his

blotter and looking up at the two agents who have

been waiting so patiently for him to study their

conclusions regarding his cousin’s death.

“It’s hardly the outcome I was hoping for,” the

burly ex-Marine sighs. “But I appreciate all the

hard work you two put in on this.”

Mulder nods, and he and Scully rise. Skinner

clears his throat, and the pair freeze

expectantly. His glance moves from one to the

other, across a mental landscape of rice paddies,

jungles, and waves of angry and hopeful faces,

and waves dismissal.

“Thanks — that’s all,” he murmurs, returning to

his desktop.

**

Ted McElvoy glances at his watch: He’s been

sitting at the curb at the edge of the rolling

lawn now for close to an hour. Shelley had warned

him repeatedly this would be difficult, perhaps

even traumatic, but he’d laughed it off. He was a

35-year-old businessman – he’d faced down the

post-9/11 recession, angry clients, takeover

threats.

Ted had stared down two-ton quarterbacks both in

high school and college, hammered a childhood

learning disability into an MBA, produced two

bright, happy children both with two arms and two

legs. He had suspected this day would arrive, and

when the attorney had called, he had been calm,

clinical, rational. Ted had thanked his parents,

his wife for their concern and assured them it

was misplaced.

Ted bolts upright – he thinks he’s spotted some

movement at the front door of the sprawling Tudor

home. Just a cat, he realizes, sinking back into

the driver’s seat.

It’s not that he holds any grudges or misgivings.

He’s read the news accounts, knows what was

sacrificed on his behalf, recognizes the price

she paid those many years ago to assure his

happiness.

But here, in his Maxima at the curb at the edge

of the lawn maybe 50 yards from her, Ted cannot

will himself to move. It has been 35 years; a few

more days, weeks, months, won’t make any

difference.

Abruptly, he jams the key in the ignition. “I’m

sorry,” Ted whispers, the Tudor house and the

manicured lawn blurring. He rubs his face with

the sleeve of his $300 jacket and cruises away

from the curb, failing to notice Francine Topher,

his mother, emerging from the darkness beyond the

second-floor curtains…

**

“You really expect to gain any kind of respect in

the field with this kind of incoherent rambling?”

Frederic Hoesch smirks, tipping his head at the

essay on the corner of his desk. He doesn’t touch

it, doesn’t dignify the girl’s apathetic effort.

The blonde, athletic, a ring through her navel,

doesn’t even look at the paper bloodied by

Hoesch’s scarlet criticisms. “It’s an elective,

and I’m taking it pass-fail. I’ll take my chances

with the anthropological community. And if you’re

thinking at all about failing me based on this

one grade, let me warn you: I’m a law student,

and my dad’s with one of the biggest firms in

Pittsburgh. I’ve heard about you, and if there’s

even a hint you tried anything, it’ll be you

trying to get back your ‘respect in the field.'”

She retrieves her paper, and slips out the

pebbled glass door. Hoesch, dumbstruck, watches

her silhouette as she is joined by a second

figure. The sound of laughter dopplers down the

hall outside.

In the old days, she’d have begged for mercy,

been brought to tears -maybe even her knees – by

his condemnation. Hoesch reaches for his mug; his

hand freezes as he notices the liver spots for

the first time.

His heart leaps nearly into his throat as the

phone warbles. After scaring away five

secretaries in four years, Hoesch now answers his

own line.

“Yeah, Fred?” Gerard, the department head.

Despite his familiarity, his voice is chilled,

threatening. “You need to come down to my office,

ASAP. The Faculty Ethics Committee wants some

answers to some fairly grave charges the FBI has

raised.”

“FBI? Charges.” That man, Mulder. Hoesch gulps

for oxygen.

“Charges you conducted illegal drug

experimentation with students back in the

sixties. Charges you had a hand in developing

some kind of military weapon without the

university’s knowledge. Charges that you may have

some kind of complicity in the deaths of several

dozen Southeast Asian civilians. You may want to

get in touch with your attorney, Fred. In fact, I

would strongly advise it.”

“This is absurd, Gerard. You must know that.”

“Just get down here ASAP,” Gerard murmurs with a

touch of frost.

The phone remains locked in Hoesch’s fingers even

as the dial tone shrills in his ear, even as a

tingly numbness spreads seemingly from the

handset up his left arm…

**

“You keepin’ your nose clean, boy?” Aunt Mary

inquires with a severity that belies her

diminutive size and the sweet smile that once

healed many a scraped knee and bruised psyche.

Will Jeffreys keeps his own smile inside – to

Aunt Mary, this huge, graying detective is still

13, struggling with angels and demons on the

Philly streets, in darkened project stairwells.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responds, dutifully and

sincerely.

He is rewarded with that healing smile, and

momentarily, the smell of urine and

pharmaceuticals, the greenish cast of the

fluorescents, the omnipresence of Death

disappear. Will is one of the last of Aunt Mary’s

nephews to keep up a weekly visitation schedule,

and even if she never sees her 98th birthday, he

will be here every week until her days here end.

Every week, she asks him the same question, every

week, he respectfully reassures her. Time has

stopped inside the corridors of Liberty Manor

Care Center, just prior to that awful day more

than 30 years ago.

“Talked to your Cousin Helen the other day.”

Helen has been in the ground for 23 years now.

Will smiles encouragingly. “Lillie Belle, you

know, from Carolina on your daddy’s side, is

coming up for a visit. Ain’t seen that girl in an

age.”

Will recalls the preacher’s daughter solely from

an old black-and-white his father had displayed

at the breakfast table that somber morning in the

Summer of ’69, when the world seemed temporarily

to end.

He takes his aunt’s hand, leathery and webbed

with age, and gives it a squeeze, gently.

“That’ll be nice.”

July 20, 1969

The boy turned from the set to which he had been

glued for the last several hours. “Mom!” he

yelled. “Tell her to quit buggin’ me!”

Teena appeared in the kitchen archway, blouse

dusted with Blue Ribbon flour, a pretty smile

brightening her routinely worried features.

“Samantha, are you bothering your brother?”

“I’m tryin’ to watch,” the boy complained. “This

is important!”

Teena suppresses a smile. Everything is important

to seven-year-old Fox, who knows Vulcan

philosophy better than his English homework, who

can name every man in the Apollo space program.

“I wanna play Chutes and Ladders,” his little

sister pouted. “He’s been watching this stupid

show all day, and you said his eyes would go

bad.”

“Show!” Fox mumbled disgustedly.

Teena kneeled before Sam, brushing back a lock of

her long hair. “This is special, Baby. Your

brother’s been anxious to see this. Let’s go in

the kitchen and make some sugar cookies. OK?”

Sam clapped her tiny hands. “Yeah!” She turns to

her big brother, who she normally worships.

“That’s all fake anyway. Linda’s big brother says

they ain’t really on the moon – it’s all a

movie.”

Fox whipped around, a look of sheer malice

passing through his deep, close-set eyes. “Shut

up! Linda’s ree-tard brother got held back twice

in the third grade.”

“Fox!” Teena snapped.

“We went to the moon to build a remote outpost,”

he continued, grinning meanly. “So we can fight

the aliens. You think The Invaders is just a

show?”

“Mom,” Sam whispered, her pretty features growing

pale.

“Fox, stop it this second.”

“They live among us, Sam. They take little kids

like you to do science experiments on. They take

out your eyeballs and – ”

“NOO!!!” Sam shrieked. Her face goes instantly

from white to scarlet, and tears streak her round

face. “MAKE HIM STOP! TELL HIM TO STOP!”

Fox’s face crumpled in alarm. He looked to his

silently reproving mother and his screaming four-

year-old sister in shame. “Hey, Sam, c’mon.”

“NOOO!!”

Suddenly, Walter Cronkite and Buzz Aldrin and

Neil Armstrong were as distant to Fox as the

airless face of the moon. He scrambled to his

feet and seized his sister. Sam fought him, but

soon she surrendered. Fox rocked her, stroking

her hair, tasting his own tears.

“It’s OK, Sam,” he pleaded, suddenly uninterested

in Man taking his first small step on an airless

orb. “It’s not true. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,

please. I’ll never let anything hurt you. Never.

Never…”

**

Lilly spots him on the bus bench across from the

station. Watching her, waiting. Smiling, she

crosses, dropping onto the graffiti-scarred wood

beside him. The Beatles emanate tinnily from a

nearby hotdog stand.

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly

melting,” Lennon sings, alive again, voice ripe

with renewal and redemption. “Little darling, it

seems like years since it’s been clear… Here

comes the sun…Here comes the sun…And I say, it’s

all right…”

“Cole.”

Cole Sear glances up, the serene smile

illuminating his cherubic face.

“It’s over,” Lilly reports. “We found out who

killed Billy McHenry.”

“That’s good, really great.”

“You were right. Billy wasn’t himself, I don’t

think. You may hear something different on the

news, but I wanted you to know you helped point

us to the right answer.”

Cole nods, not with vindication, but merely with

a calm acceptance. Unlike the others in the squad

who find the boy’s somber, accepting demeanor

unsettling or sad, Lilly feels a connection with

Cole, who is cursed, blessed, endowed, whatever,

with feeling and healing the pain others can’t

see.

Cole pauses, then looks at her shyly. “That lady,

the FBI agent?”

“Agent Scully?”

“Tell her…” he hesitates. “Tell her Bill wants

her to be happy. She’ll know who that is. He

loves her, and he says he’s sorry for not having

enough faith. He said he couldn’t tell me

everything, but he doesn’t want her to give up.

Her or her friend.”

Lilly is silent for a moment, then nods. She will

never know if Cole’s message is inspired by

insight or insanity, but she will pass it on to

Scully, hoping somewhere inside it will bring

light to dark corners. Even as she looks to her

own communion with the dead to shed some

illumination on her life.

The day is warm, and Lilly lingers on the bench.

Across the street, another boy catches her eye –

the solitary still figure in a sea of late

afternoon congestion. His hair is long, his

clothes bright, and around his throat is a broken

cross encircled by metal.

Lilly smiles at Billy McHenry, at least Billy

McHenry as she sees him in his last summer of

love, of innocence, of life. Smiling, Billy

raises a fist, extends two fingers in a familiar

gesture of peace.

A belching Metro bus passes between Lilly and

Billy, and he is gone. She then remembers Cole,

seated beside her, and glances self-consciously

at him.

The boy is staring across the street, at

precisely the spot where Lilly gave mental form

to Billy McHenry. Not wishing to disturb his

communion, Lilly gathers herself and returns

silently to the world of the living.

*end

Spooky and Pookas

Spooky and Pookas

Author: Pattie

Rated: PG

Categorization: M/S RST Spoilers: None. Wherever you want to set it.

Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate unusual phenomena reported to have occured on an Irish plane bound for Boston. Feedback: Graciously accepted at patfiler@hotmail.com Disclaimer: Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Studios own them. But they can still come out to play in the land of Fanfiction. Hi, characters.

Spooky and Pookas

OFFICE OF THE X-FILES

J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Spring was quickly approaching Washington and it had become the usual routine. As the sun came up earlier and earlier in the morning, Mulder would get up with the birds. He would go out on his run, shower and disappear before she even opened her bleary eyes to stare at the alarm clock. Scully would arrive at the office at the required time, and Mulder would already be there. Every day, or almost every day, the same greetings were exchanged and then the caseload or lack of such was discussed.

“Morning, Scully,” Mulder said without looking up from a file.

“Mulder, lately I think you’ve decided to live at this office.”

“Nah, I have a hot babe back at my place,” he said with a wink. “Look at this new report out of Boston. Some airline attendant claims the passengers felt as though they were being pushed out of the way when they stood or took a seat that no one had reserved. No one was seen doing any pushing. The FAA was sweet enough to give us this file because they have no idea how to investigate it. Someone apparently heard of our little department and our talent of investigating the paranormal.”

“Ah, yes. To be so revered, yet misunderstood. I think perhaps a few passengers had a few too many drinks. Perhaps even the FAA person who sent this little piece of nonsense to you was corked, as well.”

“Well, it was an Aer Lingus plane. But, I don’t really believe the Irish are any more prone to excess drinking than any other people. So, pack your bag. We are going to Boston.

LOGAN AIRPORT

BOSTON, MASSECHUSETTES

The agents had no problem finding the Aer Lingus service counter. Who could miss the classic symbol of the shamrock, anyway?

“May I help you?” A brunette attendant with long straight hair said brightly.

“Yes. I’m Special Agent Dana Scully and this is my partner, Special Agent Fox Mulder. We understand there was an unusual occurrence on a flight here from Dublin on Tuesday.”

“You’d be wanting to speak with Liz Lamont and Sharon Farrell. They were on board that particular flight. I can ring them at their hotel rooms if you wish.”

“Maybe we should speak to them there,” Mulder suggested.

“Right you are.” The attendant scribbled the hotel name on a piece of paper and Scully took it. “Imagine, that many people thinking something magic was going on in this day and age? Probably some prankster’s shenanigans.”

“Imagine.” Scully echoed. “Have a good day. You were very helpful.”

“Take care now.”

“Thank you.” As they returned to the car, Scully mumbled, “We may as well go see Lord of the Dance, too, while we’re here.”

“Pardon? I didn’t hear you over the planes!” Mulder shouted.

“I said we should speak to them while we have the chance! They might be due for a flight back soon!”

***

As Mulder and Scully listened to the airline attendants’ stories in the sitting area of their room, they heard a rather unbelievable tale. Granted, they had had some rather strange encounters with odd beings before. They had never thought they would be investigating the stuff of which fairytales are made.

“So, what you mean, essentially, is a mischievous spirit?” Mulder asked Liz Lamont, a tall redhead with naturally curly hair.

“That would be it. I’d almost call it a ‘pooka’.”

“A ‘pooka’,” he repeated.

“A mischievous spirit,” Sharon Farrell said. “And it’s an ancient legend in the old country. Sort of like a very naughty leprechaun only not a leprechaun.”

“A naughty leprechaun,” Scully said in disbelief. “Well, I think I’ve heard enough. Let’s go, Mulder.”

“Scully?”

She took him aside and whispered by the door, “Obviously there are two explanations as to what happened on the plane, Mulder: Either there was a prankster on board the plane, or someone, maybe many people, had too much of the bog water on the way over.”

“Scully, this sounds like an opportunity to find out about another culture. Well, I mean, as a profiler, I should be aware of sociological myths and legendary creatures.”

“What do you suggest, Mulder? We interview all the passengers?”

“Well, only the ones who were affected by whatever phenomenon there was at work on that plane.”

“Or, only the ones who had a wee too much of the… ”

“That’s a stereotype, Scully! Shame on you.”

Scully’s eyes rolled. “All right. We’ll get the list of passengers affected and see what we can find out. But I’m telling you, if this is one of your ventures into the ridiculous, you’re doing the entire report. Period.”

“You’re on.”

Apparently, Mulder and Scully hadn’t realized that Aer Lingus had a policy of limited access to alcoholic beverages on their overseas flights. There also proved to be no record of anyone appearing intoxicated while bothered by the mysterious mischief-maker.

Scully had a list of interviewees as did Mulder, and they conferred that night in their motel room.

“Well, I’ve heard everything from leprechauns, to witches to pookas, Mulder.” Scully threw her notepad onto the bed. “So, I did some research on the Web and came up with many theories on the pooka, all regional, differing forms, in Ireland. Some took on the forms of horses, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, even shape-shifting beings. Three people denied there was a pooka involved, and decided it was turbulence. Two said it was a leprechaun. Three told me they hadn’t a clue what it was. The common thread is that all were ousted from a seat or pushed away from a place in the aisle. How was your luck?”

“About the same. Six people told me there was some invisible force, maybe turbulence, two said it was an invisible pooka, one said it was his dead Aunt Betsy getting even for leaving Ireland, and three said a leprechaun looking for a free ride to Lord of the Dance.”

“Mulder… ” That stern tone.

“Okay. Looking for a free ride to America. The point is, with there being more than one opinion here, how do we decipher the truth?”

“I haven’t a clue, Mulder. There is no scientific evidence of any of these beings ever having existed. And even the Churches deny that there were ever Leprechauns, sprites, fairies or pookas. And pookas? Sounds like a nickname for a lover, or a dog!”

“But not both, right? Scully, maybe we should check around for an expert on these things. There’s a Professor of Irish Studies right here in Boston I want to see tomorrow. Then, I guess, we try to find the… whatever it is.”

“I’ll check out the flight log tomorrow. Maybe the pilots and the instruments will give some indication of conditions on the flight over. We’re talking a five or six hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean, with a stopover at Gander, Newfoundland.”

“Could’ve been Screech,” Mulder smiled.

“Doubtfully. North American policy on drink is much the same.”

***

Mulder reached the office of Dr. Michael McDonough at 10:00 a.m. the next morning. The professor was setting a text of Ancient Celtic Traditions on a shelf and answered Mulder’s knock with a cheery, “Come in!”

“Professor McDonough, Special Agent Fox Mulder.”

“Yes, we spoke on the phone. And what would you be after in me office?

Has a lady put a spell on you?”

“Well, I’m not about to answer that at this point. I do, however, have a few questions on some of the Irish Mythological creatures… ”

“Oh, fairies, sprites, leprechauns, changelings, and the like. They’re all very grand fantasies of the pre-Christian Ireland. And there are so many nice stories in Irish Literature, and some hair raising ones, as well. Yet, there has never been any proof that these so-called beings ever existed. Every society has had its legends, myths, explanations for things they didn’t understand until now.”

“What about the pooka?”

“Ya can’t be serious!”

“Only asking,” Mulder shrugged.

“I can tell you that there are so many divergent varieties of the pooka, and never has concrete evidence been put forward on these so-called beings. People used to supposedly offer food and crops to pookas in the promise that their crops would not be ruined, by the pooka. And there are people who have said that the pooka favor the first of November for prediction of the future of believers. This is after All Hallow’s Eve. But this is May.”

“An Aer Lingus flight on Tuesday came over with some very odd explanations for… ”

Scully entered the office unbeknownst to Mulder. “Turbulence. Documented by the flight recorder and the pilots, Mulder.”

“Well, Agent Mulder, may I help you any further?” the professor offered.

“Uh, no. I’d better get going. I have a lot of paperwork to do,” he replied quickly. “Thank you so much for your time.”

As they were walking through the corridors of the university, Scully remarked, “I told you so.”

“Yes, and you were right. Not everything has a paranormal explanation.

How about taking in Lord of the Dance?”

“Well, that’s very sweet of you to offer, Mulder. But it won’t get you out of the report.”

“I know. But you do like Michael Flatley.”

“Only because he has the world’s record for number of dance steps per second, which is twenty-nine, and the way he fixes the girl’s flute in the story.”

END

Author’s note: If you wish to know more about the pooka, visit pages on Irish Mythology, Irish Legends, or type “pooka” on your search page. It’s crazy out there! And yes, I am of Irish heritage.

“I don’t believe in leprechauns, but I know they’re there!” Anonymous

It Was Only Luck

It Was Only Luck

Author: Kathy Foote

Summary: There are two kinds of luck; good and bad

Category: Humor, light ST

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, these characters are the property of Chris Carter, 1013

Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox. I wish they were mine, but they aren’t.

Archive: Two weeks exclusive with VS12, then anywhere is fine by me

Authors’ note: This story was written for IMTP Virtual Season 12, St. Patrick’s Day

Special

Thanks: To Emmy for her encouragement, my Mom for all her wonderful help, and to

Vickie Moseley, my phenomenal beta.

It Was Only Luck

Starbuck’s

March 17th – 8:00am

“I cannot believe you wore that tie today. What’s Skinner going to say?”

“What?” he asks, as he looks down at the bright yellow tie covered in small green four- leaf clovers. “What’s wrong with it? It’s perfect for today.”

“Mulder, it’s hideous.”

“That’ll be $9.87,” said the girl behind the counter at Starbuck’s. “I like your tie.”

He smiled as he handed the girl a ten-dollar bill and then turned to Scully. “See, _some_ people have taste.” He got his change, took the bag of goodies, and turned toward the front door.

Scully walked behind him mumbling under her breath, “Yeah, _bad_ taste.”

He held the door open for her and then followed her out onto the sidewalk. He stood there a moment, looking up into the sky. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The sun was shining; the temperature was only slightly cool; spring was definitely around the corner.

“Come on, Mulder, we better get to the office.”

He stopped his appraisal of the sun lit sky and noticed a small man dressed in a green suit, holding a bucket. The man couldn’t be more than three feet tall. He thought it was strange that he hadn’t noticed the little guy when they entered the coffee shop. He must have just arrived. He was staring at him, when the little man looked up and they made eye contact. He winked at Mulder and beckoned him forward with a wave of his hand.

Mulder was drawn by the twinkle in the man’s eyes and walked over to him.

“Good morning, good sir. Timothy Fagan, at your service,” he said in a heavy Irish brogue and bowed at the waist.

“Good morning, Mr. Fagan. What…”

“Tim, please,” he interrupted shaking his finger.

“Very well, _Tim_, what’s in the bucket?”

He looked from side to side and then gestured Mulder to lean down for a private conversation. “They’re lucky shamrocks and _you_ need to buy one. In fact, you need to buy two.”

“Two?” he asked warily, suddenly having the feeling that he was being taken.

“One for you and one for the lassie.”

At the mention of Scully, he looked around and found her standing fifteen feet away. She had a look on her face that, coupled with her hands on her hips, said he had better hurry up. He held up his hand and gave her a ‘wait just a second’ gesture. Of course, she wouldn’t wait there and began to walk back toward him.

He turned back the Tim. “How much are they?”

“Five dollars a piece. A bargain, I dare say.”

Scully arrived back at his side just in time to hear the price. “Five dollars! That’s outrageous. Come on, Mulder. We need to get going.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him away.

“Wait a minute, Scully. I could use some extra good luck…so could you. Besides it’s Saint Patrick’s Day.” He dug a ten-dollar bill out of his wallet. He turned back to Tim and handed him the bill. “I’ll take two.”

“Ah, very good sir. You won’t regret this. I guarantee it.”

Mulder ran to catch up with Scully and showed her what he had bought. He slid one of the 4-leaf clovers into his lapel and handed the other one to her.

“I don’t want that.”

“Oh, come on, Scully. The little fellow said they were lucky. In fact, he guaranteed it.”

She just stood there with her arms crossed across her chest, making no move to take it from him. “Mulder, you’re a sucker. The man saw you coming from a mile away.”

“Fine,” he said as he slid the second 4-leaf clover into his lapel. “I don’t know I just have a feeling about this.” He turned to look back at the place where he had confronted the little man and he was gone…vanished. “Hey, Scully, the little guy is gone.”

“He probably ran off before we arrested him for fraud.” She again began walking toward the Hoover building. He stared at the empty spot another few seconds, then turned to walk with her.

As they walked, Scully stepped onto a grate in the sidewalk and the heel of her left shoe got stuck in it. Mulder was walking and talking with Scully, when all of a sudden he realized she was not there anymore. He turned to see her trying to wiggle her heel out of the grate. Finally, she stepped out of the shoe to retrieve it, but being a gentleman, Mulder reached down and freed the shoe from its snare. As he was bent over, he noticed a ten-dollar bill lying on the ground next to the grate and he snatched it up.

“Hey, Scully, look what I found.” He held up the bill for her to see. “Ten bucks! How lucky is that. It must be the 4-leaf clovers; the _free_ 4-leaf clovers now.”

She just rolled her eyes and held out her hand for her shoe, which he gave her. She examined the shoe and found a large cut in the leather on the heel. “Great! These were brand new.” She slipped the shoe onto her foot.

“I don’t know why you wear shoes like that anyway.” He knew he had nothing to do with it, but he felt he should apologize anyway. “Sorry about your shoes. You know if you were wearing your shamrock that might not have happened. You want it now?”

She glared at him for a moment, then spun on her heels and headed for the Hoover building. He walked with her in silence.

When they got back to their basement office, Mulder removed the items from the sack and placed them on Scully’s desk. He pulled the lid off the first cup and inhaled the aroma. “Smells like heaven.” He looked into the first wrapper and spotted his favorite cheese Danish. He grabbed his items and went to his own desk. He took a big bite out of his Danish and a sip of his cappuccino. “Mmmmm. White Chocolate Mocha and Cheese Danish. Breakfast of Champions.”

She almost choked on his last statement. “Breakfast? That looks more like dessert.”

“Jealous?” he mumbled as he took another bite.

“Not in the least,” she said smiling, as she pulled the lid off the remaining cup. Instead of her typical low-fat latte, she was in possession of another White Chocolate Mocha Cappuccino. Her smile quickly vanished. Opening the wrapper expecting to find her banana nut muffin, she spied another Cheese Danish. Her former smile had now been replaced with a frown. They had doubled Mulder’s order.

He noticed her sitting there wearing a frown. “What’s wrong?”

“Mulder, they left my stuff out and doubled _your_ order. I can’t drink this. You want another White Chocolate Mocha Cappuccino?”

“Really?” he said with a big grin forming on his face. He jumped up and practically skipped over to her desk. “Man, I am so lucky today. First, I find ten dollars and now I get a free cappuccino. Must be the shamrock.”

“Give it a rest, Mulder,” she threw back over her shoulder as she went to fire up their coffee maker. She stood there disgusted, watching the coffee brew, thinking how good that latte would have tasted. Now she would be stuck with regular coffee. It just wasn’t fair.

Armed with a fresh cup of coffee, she returned to her desk to finally eat her breakfast.

She removed the sticky Danish and took a big bite. She had to admit it was good. She looked around her desk for napkin, but Mulder must have taken them all. She pulled open her lower drawer to get one from her stash and rammed the desk drawer into her shin. “Oww!” she yelped.

“What’s happened?”

“I hit my leg with the desk drawer.” She leaned over to examine the spot and noticed a run in her hose. “Dammit!” she exclaimed.

“What’s wrong now?” he asked sounding a bit exasperated.

“It’s nothing. I just got a run in my hose.”

“Gee, Scully, you sure are having a run of bad luck. Perhaps you should reconsider taking this 4-leaf clover.” He held out the shamrock toward her. She gave him a smirk and made no move to accept his offer. “Fine,” he said as he put it back in his lapel.

They spent an uneventful hour reading through files when suddenly he broke the silence.

“We’ve got a meeting with Skinner in fifteen minutes. What do you say we gather our reports together and head on up?” He put on his jacket, picked up the folder that contained his report, and headed for the door.

He was at the door; ready to leave, when he noticed Scully wasn’t with him. He saw her searching for something at her desk. “What’re you looking for?”

“My report!” she said a little too loudly. “Sorry. I can’t find my report. I could’ve sworn I put it in my briefcase this morning, but now it’s not there. Do you have it?”

“No. You must’ve left it at home. Look, there’s nothing we can do about it now. You can explain it to Skinner and tell him you’ll bring it in tomorrow.”

“I guess you’re right. Damn. I hate going up there without my report.”

“We better get a move on. He’ll be even madder if we’re late.”

Ten minutes later, they were directed into Skinner’s office and Scully took her usual seat.

Mulder placed his report on Skinner’s desk and then sat down. Skinner looked at the report and then at Scully. “Did you forget something, Agent Scully?”

“Yes, sir, I’m sorry, but I seem to have left my report at home. I didn’t have time to go back home to get it before the meeting.”

He actually looked shocked by her statement. She had never been unprepared for a meeting…ever, but he couldn’t let it slide. “I expect to see you…and your report…in my office…tomorrow morning…at 7:00am sharp.”

7:00am? She usually didn’t even get to work until 8:00 or 8:30. She figured this was punishment for being late with her report. “Yes, sir.”

“Agent Mulder, thank you for the timely submission of your report.” Scully flushed with embarrassment at his statement. They sat in silence as Skinner reviewed the report.

Finally, he closed the folder and leaned back in his chair. “This is an excellent report, Agent. Your conclusions are sound and well thought out. Your corroborating evidence is properly catalogued and attached. This is one of your best reports; I’m very pleased.”

Mulder simply looked at him for a second. He was not accustomed to such praise.

“Why…Thank you, sir.”

“By the way, Mulder, I _love_ that tie. It’s perfect for today. Where’d you get it?”

Mulder looked at him as if he had grown a second head. He was shocked that he liked his tie. He had actually expected Skinner to hate it. “I…I actually got it at Spencer’s, sir.”

“Well, I love it!” he said with a chuckle; an honest to goodness chuckle. “And the shamrocks, Mulder…where’d you get them? Are they really 4-leaf clovers?”

“Yes, sir, they are. I bought them this morning from a man in front of the coffee shop. He said they were lucky.”

“I wish I’d seen him. One can always use some extra luck.” Mulder gave Scully a side- wards glance at his last comment. She did not return his look. “I guess that’s about it, Agents. You’re dismissed.” They were at the door when he added, “And Agent Scully…

I look forward to seeing your report first thing tomorrow morning.” She gave him a nod and rushed out the door ahead of Mulder.

Mulder was practically glowing all the way back to the basement and Scully was fuming.

She punched the button to call the elevator and they waited. When the elevator didn’t arrive, she punched the button again.

“Here, let me try,” Mulder said. As soon as he punched the button, the doors opened. He gave her a sheepish grin and got in the car. “I guess I just got lu…”

“_Don’t_ say lucky!” she yelled as she turned to take the stairs instead.

He stepped out of the elevator car and followed her into the stairwell. “Come on, Scully, don’t be mad at me.”

She didn’t acknowledge him and continued down the stairs. Half way down the last flight of stairs, the heel on her shoe broke and she tumbled down the remaining steps. The hose were now a total loss, as were the heels. She had a large bruise forming on her shin.

Mulder rushed to her side, a look of concern on his face. “Scully! Scully, are you all right? Do you think you broke anything?”

“I’m fine, Mulder,” she said sharply. Seeing the hurt look on his face, she tried again.

“Nothing is broken, except for my heels. Nothing is hurt, except for my pride.” She placed her hand on his cheek and said in gentle tone, “I’m okay. Really. How about helping me up?” He smiled and gave her a hand up.

As soon as they entered the office, he whirled on her. “This is ridiculous, Scully! If you would just take the damn shamrock, this would all end.”

“I will _not_ give credence to your ludicrous theory about lucky shamrocks by wearing that stupid thing. Just.Drop.It.”

“_Fine_,” he said. “I won’t mention it again.”

The second half of the day was about the same as the first half. Bad things kept happening to Scully and Mulder seemed to be having remarkably good luck. By the end of the day, she had a huge coffee stain on her skirt, ink on her new blouse, and had lost two buttons on her jacket. Mulder had retrieved her overnight bag from the car, so she could change shoes, but refused to change clothes, because she couldn’t afford to ruin anymore. She had to change shoes, since she couldn’t walk around in her bare feet. He hadn’t brought up the subject of the shamrocks again, even though it was eating him up inside not to do so.

Finally, the day from hell was over. Mulder suggested they go straight home and order in Chinese food. She agreed that that was a good idea and further suggested that they stop and pick up a nice bottle of wine on the way. She could sure use a drink after this day.

They stopped at a liquor store not far from their place. As soon as they walked in, they immediately realized they were in trouble. There was a young couple cowering in the corner by the refrigerated cases amidst a bunch of broken bottles and spilt liquids. There was a man pointing an automatic rifle at the terrified couple.

Before they could do anything, they were face to face with a second armed man. This one was armed with a 9mm handgun.

“For God’s sake, could this day get any worse,” Scully said, clearly tired of her string of bad luck today.

“Shut up!” he demanded and pointed his gun directly in her face. “Don’t you try anything.”

“Calm down…it’s okay,” soothed Mulder, as he and Scully slowly raised their hands in submission.

“Dammit! I thought I told you to lock that door!” he screamed at the trembling manager.

“Get over and lock it. NOW!” He turned back to his two new hostages. “You two, get over there with the others.” He motioned toward the other couple with his gun. “Jake! You watch these two.”

Jake turned as he heard his name and pointed his rifle at Mulder and Scully, as they slowly made their way across the store.

“Hurry up!” urged Jake, “I ain’t got all night.”

They took a position next to the other couple. Mulder quickly assessed the situation.

Two men, both armed with automatic weapons, obviously not professionals, which made them even more dangerous. Jake, the one armed with the rifle, looked ready to explode.

The other man, his name unknown, had returned to badgering the storeowner into opening his safe, which the owner seemed to be having trouble with.

The two men seemed unstable and were clearly agitated. Mulder had a very bad feeling about the whole situation. He couldn’t go for his own weapon, while Jake had his rifle pointed at them. The gun wouldn’t even clear the holster before he would be shot. He realized that this might not end well and considering Scully’s luck today, it might go worse for her.

“Psst…Scully…take the shamrock,” he whispered.

She turned to him and gave him a look that clearly said she thought he was crazy.

“What? I can’t believe you thinking about that at a time like this.” she whispered back.

“Take the shamrock, please!”

“Hey! You two shut up!” Jake yelled at them.

“Scully, please.”

“Mulder,” she whispered low and menacingly, “you’re going to get us shot.”

“Please…I’m begging you.”

“Fine…give it to me,” she agreed, just to shut him up. He was obviously not going to drop it.

He removed one of the four-leaf clovers from his lapel and held it out to Scully, who snatched it from his hand.

The first gunman noticed the exchange. “Hey! What’re you two doing?” he yelled as he rushed toward them with his gun aimed in their direction. Jake turned his rifle on them also.

Mulder debated with himself whether or not to pull his gun; this might be their last chance. Before he could decide, the first gunman hit the spilt liquid, lost his footing, fell onto his back, hit his head on the hard floor, and was out cold. As he hit the ground, his finger tightened on the trigger, firing the gun. The bullet hit his partner in the chest and he too went down, his weapon falling from his slack arms.

Mulder, Scully, and the other couple were completely stunned. They couldn’t believe what had just happened. They finally broke from their stupor. Mulder pulled out his cell phone to call 911 while he secured the weapons. Scully checked out the condition of the two gunmen. The one seemed to be unconscious, while the other was dead from a gunshot to the chest. She cuffed the unconscious prisoner and then they all waited for the police to arrive.

Later, Mulder and Scully were standing on the sidewalk in the front of the liquor store.

They had already given their statements and were waiting to be released.

“I’m so glad you finally decided to take that shamrock, Scully,” he said, “It probably saved your life.”

“Oh, please! I only took it to shut you up, Mulder, before you got us both shot. It was just a coincidence that that man slipped and shot his partner.”

Mulder snorted and stared at her unbelievingly. “I cannot believe you said that. That little man this morning sold me those shamrocks on purpose.”

Now it was her turn to stare at him in disbelief. “I cannot believe _you_ said that. There is no way that man could have known we would walk into that robbery…it was just luck, Mulder.”

Mulder rolled his eyes and turned away. He couldn’t understand why Scully always found it impossible to believe. He looked up the street and spied the little man from this morning standing on the corner not thirty feet away. Mulder and Tim made eye contact and stared at one another for several moments. The little fellow smiled, gave Mulder a wink, and then disappeared. Mulder continued to stare at the empty space, once occupied by Timothy Fagan and then finally turned back to Scully.

“You know, Scully, you’re right…it was only luck.”

The End

An Dullahan

An Dullahan

Author: Skinfull

Rated: PG 13

Categorization: M/S RST Spoilers: None.

Summary: An Irish castle has been transported to Chicago where the haunting still continues.

Feedback: skinfull@undergroundtales.com Love all feedback. Thanks in

Advance!

Authors Notes: An Dullahan is an old Irish folklore, messenger of death.

http://www.dullahan.com/ (Can you believe he has his own site! LOL)

Irish Ghosts and Castles: http://www.nzghosts.co.nz/

irish_ghosts.htm

Irish Names I used:

Eoghan Darby – Owen Darby

Aodh Ó Duibhdíorma – Ay (Meaning Fire) Darby

Óisin Ó Cearbhaill – Oisin (Meaning Deer) O Carroll

Eabha Ní Tuama – Eva Toomy

Thanks Lisa for all your help. (Dr Lisa Comma Transplant Specialist.)

An Dullahan

O’Hare International Airport

Wednesday March 16th

10.15AM

“Just because it’s folklore doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” Mulder hefted both of their cases off the luggage rack and followed her through the bustling airport crowd to the car rental desk. Her silence was beginning to rattle him and he knew she was storing a big

reply, waiting till they were alone before she would offload on him completely.

Scully signed for the car and took the keys with a smile. She still offered no reply and simply preceded him out to the carpark and quickly found the car. As she sat into the passenger seat, Mulder placed the cases into the trunk and finally claimed the seat

next to her. The keys jangled off his knee as he reached for his seatbelt, but he didnt turn the ignition yet.

“Say it. Please just say it now, you’re driving me crazy with the anticipation!” he muttered between gritted teeth after too much silence, and turned to face her after slipping his belt lock in.

“Mulder, this is a legitimate case, three murders last year, including one federal officer. What do you want me to say?” She opened the brown manila folder that rested on her lap and flicked through the pages.

“But…” he urged her to continue.

“But nothing.”

“Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day Scully…aren’t you even a little bit excited?” he gunned the engine and slowly made his way through the traffic.

“Is there going to be a parade?” she joked and he smiled in return.

“Don’t you believe in the stories Scully?” he asked lightly as he pulled out into the traffic and accelerated with it.

“Mulder, do I ever believe in these stories?”

“This could be a first Scully. There are numerous eye witnesses corroborating the”stories” this time,” he smirked, making air quotes to humor her.

“Eye Witnesses?” she scoffed flicking through the file to the back page where the witness accounts were. “Michael Reilly, Groundskeeper. And Eileen Murphy, hotel receptionist.”

“Who better to see the haunting?”

“Never the less,” she continued. “There are three unexplained murders, three unsolved crimes.”

“They were all found dead at midnight on St Patrick’s Day. So we have…” he checked his watch. “Just under 38 hours?”

***

Leap Castle

Wednesday March 16th

12.20 PM

Mulder pulled off the main road and was immediately gratified by the sounds of crunching gravel under the wheels of the car. Slowly he drove up towards the main entrance and pulled the car up outside the sweeping steps that led to the front door.

Stepping out into the cool spring sun, they looked up at the formidable building before them.

A soft wind blew in from the north rustling the ivy that clung to the castle walls, adding its foreboding ambience. The bricks were grey and showed signs of battle damage in parts beneath the old cannon slots at the top of the castle turrets.

“Hello, and welcome to Leap Castle.” Mulder and Scully turned to the stairs where a small man was approaching them eagerly, his smile wide with pride as he noticed their eyes traverse the walls of his castle in awe.

“Mr Eoghan Darby?” Scully extended her hand and he shook it vigorously.

“Yes, yes, that’s me!” he turned to Mulder and shook his hand with just as much gusto before ushering them up towards the castle door. “Come now, you are just in time for lunch!”

“Our bags-” Scully protested but Eoghan shuffled on, a hand pressed to each of their backs.

“Never mind them! Patrick will collect them and bring them to your rooms.”

They entered the castle door and moved through the brightly lit hall. Scully was surprised to feel the heat, expecting it to be cold or draughty, not brightly painted and carpeted with a wide screen TV and several couches lining the walls.

“It’s for the guests,” Darby explained as he spotted her looking at the television. “I’d prefer to keep it draughty, with stone floors, tapestries and huge open fireplaces but my paying guests do expect the comforts of home during these Irish winters.”

“Irish winters?” Mulder queried, exchanging a quick glance with Scully.

“We like to think that when we brought this castle over we imported a small piece of Ireland with us.”

“The castle was brought over from Ireland?” Scully looked around at the walls with new ardor. “Not just the materials?”

“No not at all. We brought the complete castle over eight years ago, lock, stock and barrel; every single brick and even a lot of the surrounding land. The Peat Bog and Turf were part and parcel of this restoration. It took four years to get it restored here in Chicago and we’ve been open for business ever since.”

“Until the murders?” Mulder said as they were led into a large banquet hall.

“The murders seemed to have heightened our guest list.” He pulled out two chairs near the end of the large table that was laden down with food and urged them to sit.

“As you will see when they join us for lunch.”

Their host grabbed a plate of turkey and helped himself to a few slices before passing it to Scully. She placed a small piece on her plate and passed it on to Mulder.

Suddenly the double doors at the end of the room opened to let in a small group of people that greeted Eoghan cheerfully. They pulled up seats at the table and soon plates were being filled and wine was being poured.

“No thanks,” Scully said covering her glass before it could be filled.

“Sure you’ll have a drop,” the stranger persisted with the large bottle of white wine.

“No, I’m fine thanks.” With relief she watched the server pass on to the next glass and pour out more wine and she turned to Eoghan. “How did you manage to acquire the castle Mr Darby?”

“Call me Eoghan, please.” He dropped his hand onto hers and patted it gently. “My great grandfather, Aodh Ó Duibhdíorma, grew up here. He married on these very grounds to the love of his life, Eabha Ní Tuama.” He paused to take a sip of his wine and Scully suddenly had the feeling she was speaking to a true storyteller.

Eoghan looked around the table and glanced at all his guests who slowly took notice of the story they were about to hear.

“But it wasn’t to be happy ever after. Shortly after the wedding he found his bride murdered on the doorsteps, the very doorsteps outside right now. She had been stabbed through the heart by a scorned lover.” The rapt audience stopped eating as the story curled around them and Scully had to admit he was good at this. “The killer

was a man named Óisin Ó Cearnhaill. When Aodh found this out he went mad and plotted to get revenge.”

Pausing again for affect, Eoghan smiled enigmatically and Scully glanced around the table at the guests hanging on his every word. Even Mulder seemed more then a little interested.

“Every night Óisin used to ride through the forest on his black steed to tend the livestock. One night Aodh waited for him. As Óisin rode past Aodh took a mighty swing of his axe,” Eoghan slammed his fist down unexpectedly onto the table making several diners jump. As a trickle of nervous laughter circled the room and Eoghan waited for silence before he continued.

“He took his head clean off and burned on a spike it in the centre of town as symbol of his lost love. The fire burned for seven days and seven nights. No water could extinguish the flame until eventually a local butcher emptied a bucket of blood over it.”

Scully couldn’t help the smile on her face and she nodded slowly at him as a job well done. The story had it’s desired effect as the conversations around the table started again with vigour.

“Good story Mr Darby,” she said but he shook his head with a smile.

“Not a word of a lie Agent Scully.” He sipped his wine again. “Needless to say my uncle was incarcerated for his crimes and the castle was lost to the family. A series of unfortunate and extreme accidents made sure the occupants didn’t stay for long.”

“It’s haunted?” Her eyebrow arched quizzically and Mulder sat forward with his elbows on the table.

“By the murdered bride?” he guessed.

“No. By Óisin.” Eoghan let his words linger and turned back to his lunch.

The rest of the meal finished without a mention of the story. Gentle conversation about the festivities that would be on for St Patrick’s Day circled the room. After all the food had been eaten and the bottles of wine drank the crowd dispersed in different directions, leaving only Mulder and Scully standing in the main foyer.

“What do you make of that?” Mulder asked, nodding his head over his shoulder towards the lunch table.

“The story? It was a good one. And he has the routine down pat. But I’ve heard better from my father.”

“You father was partial to the ghost stories?”

“Yes. Loved to scare us with them.”

“The story I wasn’t too interested in, but the details. The bucket of blood, the horse.”

“The headless horseman?”

“At the second murder, the amount of blood on the victim didn’t correspond to the blood loss. There was nearly seven litres of blood in the surrounding area.

Depressions from horse shoes were found in the soil surrounding the body.”

“What about fairy rings? Pots of gold?” She crossed her arms and sighed. “C’mon Mulder.”

“Well as usual we’ll have to agree to disagree, but lets take a look at the facts-” he began, angry at her blatant dismissal but before he could count off his points Eoghan arrived from a door beneath the staircase.

“Agents, let me show you to your rooms.”

They followed him up the wide curved staircase and through the darkened halls that were lined with maple wood panelling and old oil paintings of various figures. One painting caught Scully’s eye; a beautiful lady dressed in a white dress. A blue shawl

barely covered her shoulders and deep red locks of hair partially covered her face. Her eyes were a piercing green colour that drew Scully in, even though the painting was old and faded.

“Beautiful isn’t she?” The voice of Eoghan right behind her startled her out of her reverie.

“Yes.”

“That’s her, that’s Eabha.”

Scully stared at the picture for a moment longer then slowly took a step back and waited for Eoghan to show them to their rooms. With large ornate keys he turned each of the locks and pushed open each of the oak doors.

“Dinner will be served at 7pm. I understand you are just here for the investigation and will not be partaking in the activities we do have planned, but please feel free to join us.”

“We will need to speak to you about the murders and the crime scenes,” Mulder mentioned before Eoghan could walk away.

“Of course. I will be downstairs in my office when ever you need to speak to me.”

“Thank you.”

Once he had left them, they entered their separate rooms and found their bags had been left on the beds awaiting their attention. Mulder walked around the large poster bed and patted the soft mattress. The open fireplace held logs ready to be lit, and the old style votive candles on the lockers added to the atmosphere.

He pulled loose his tie and slipped out of his jacket. Dropping it on the chair beside the dressing table, Mulder located the adjoining door and pushed it open to find Scully staring out the window at the lawns below. He took a moment to notice her room was almost a mirror opposite of his own

“Scully?”

“It’s amazing what people can do nowadays,” she muttered without turning around.

“To take each brick from Ireland and bring it over to Chicago of all places and rebuild it.”

“They did it with the statue of liberty in 1885.”

“The statue of liberty was designed to be dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t think this castle was.” She turned in time to see Mulder lifting one of the paintings off the wall. “What are you doing?”

“Old castle, old paintings, moving eyes…”

“It’s not a “Scooby Doo” movie Mulder!” she exclaimed indulgently smiling as he replaced the picture.

“Okay, I’m off to get showered and freshened up.”

“I’ll meet you down stairs in 20 minutes.”

***

Leap Castle

Wednesday March 16th

7.30 PM

Dana Scully released an audible sigh and sank back into the soft cushions of the chair.

Mulder looked up from his end of the desk and smiled. Her red hair was hanging loosely around her face and her cheeks were reddened from the heat in the room.

“Scully the longer we stay in this castle the more your Irish heritage comes to the forefront.”

“Irish heritage?” She pulled off her glasses and raked her fingers through her hair, causing the locks to bounce onto her shoulders.

“Red hair, the cute freckles, the rosy cheeks!” he joked dropping his pen onto the table and leaning back into his own chair.

“Shut up Mulder!” she laughed touching her warm cheek with the back of her fingers.

Looking down at the list of notes they had made she couldn’t help but sigh again.

“This is getting us nowhere.”

“The trail is cold,” he admitted with a sigh as he stood up from the table and walked over to the window. A light rain had started to fall against the glass and he rested his palm against it, enjoying the cold sensation on his skin. “Lets go over it once more.”

“Mulder it’s the same as it was last time and the time before that. It’s not going to change…” she said even as she was shuffling through her notes to the first victim.

“Indulge me.”

“Shawn Pearson. Found dead in his bed, decapitated, with a hot blade; a single blow and with both his eyes missing.” Scully scanned through the rest of the page but flipped it over instead of reading more.

“Witness report said that a horse could be heard racing across the grounds that night but there was no sighting,” Mulder added.

“Margaret Gorman was discovered in the bath, decapitated in the same manor with her eyes missing.”

“Again horses were heard the night of the murder.”

“Why the horses Mulder?”

“The horse prints found at the site of the third murder have a significance. There are no horses kept at this hotel or near it’s grounds. In fact the closest stable lodgings are 120 miles away.”

“Ok so the murderer is arriving on horseback, with a sword of some sort, then chopping the heads off?” even as she said it aloud she was shaking her head from side to side, realising all of a sudden where he was going with it.

“Headless Horseman,” Mulder said in a low comically sinister voice as he walked slowly around the room towards the back of her chair and rested his hands on her shoulders. “Seeking revenge on any who dare to stand before him.”

“An Dullahan!”

They both spun to the doorway face the where Eoghan was standing with a tray of drinks. He set down the drinks onto the table between them and smiled broadly at them.

“Dullahan?” Scully asked.

“It’s an Irish word. There is no direct translation but it means the without a head.”

“Headless horseman,” Mulder completed with a gratified smile in Scully’s direction.

“His head has a large mouth and huge eyes that dart around like flies. He holds his head firmly tucked beneath his arm. The head of the black horse has flaming eyes and short-cropped ears. The horse’s head is longer than the body by six yards or more.”

“Sounds like a poem,” Scully said her lips curving slightly, until she noted the serious look on Eoghan’s face.

“In fear of the headless rider;” Eoghan continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “men alone in the fields at night cower behind the bushes because of his reputation with a whip.

With his whip he can accurately remove the eyes of all mortals foolish enough to spy on his ventures.”

“Sounds like our guy Scully.” She rolled her eyes at him in response.

“Don’t be fooled by his existence in folklore.” Eoghan said as he walked away from the table and towards the heavy oak door, “Clichés and stories have to begin somewhere.”

Leap Castle

Thursday March 17th

3.20 AM

Mulder leapt out of his bed and charged towards the adjoining door where Scully’s insistent banging was emanating from. In his haste his feet tangled in his bed sheet and he fell to the floor with a loud crunching thud, trapping his arm across his ribs and knocking his head on the corner of his suitcase.

“Mulder!” he heard her yelling. “Mulder! Hurry!”

With a groan and a dizzy spell he manage to scramble to his feet and grab the door handle. Unsure of why it had been locked he fumbled with the old style circular lock, his head still smarting from the encounter with the case.

“Mulder!”

“Scully!” He yelled back, his ears ringing in pain and his eyes wide with the shock of his rude awakening. Eventually he heard the lock click and he pushed the door open.

Scully stood at the end of her bed, her hands covering her ears as if there were speakers blaring out music next to her head.

“Scully?” he croaked out, rushing over to her and grabbing her arms. But she wrapped them steadfastly around her ears, her eyes screwed tightly shut and her teeth clenched together. “Scully!” Shaking her a little, she managed to open her eyes to slits and he saw the pain behind the bloodshot organs.

Then as if she were waking from a dream her features relaxed and he felt the muscles in her arms go limp. She blinked a few times and looked at him wonderingly.

“Mulder? What are you doing in my room?” she queried with a crooked smile as she noticed he was wearing only a pair of flimsy boxer shorts.

“What am I doing here?” he replied, frustratedly. “You were yelling out my name, banging on the door.”

“Was I?”

“Yeah, I fell out of the bed, bashed my head off my case then couldn’t get the door unlocked,” he grumbled, rubbing his head where it had connected with the metal corner of his case.

“I don’t remember…” she looked around the room confused for a moment before taking a closer look at his injury. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes it bloody hurts!” he moaned as her fingers pressed on the small bump that was already forming behind his hairline.

“I don’t know what happened…maybe I was sleepwalking,” she muttered.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked.

“Horses…loads of horses…” Her voice was low and she closed her eyes as the remains of her thoughts faded beneath her scrutiny. “They were charging all around me, circling me…”

“Scully,” Mulder said softly touching her arm to take her back to the room and out of her head.

“It was the strangest dream.”

“Dream?” he queried. “That dream had you banging on that door, and yelling out my name like a banshee. That dream had you standing in the middle of this room holding your head like it was about to explode.”

“Powerful stuff eh!” she said lightly but he caught the quiver behind her voice and pulled her into a tight embrace. But she wouldn’t let him hold her for very long. After a few shaky breaths she extracted herself from his arms and backed away.

He let her move without protest and watched as she walked to the bathroom to splash some cold water over her face. When she returned to the bedroom she was looking fresher and her questioning frown was back in place.

“Why did you lock the adjoining door?” she asked suddenly.

“I didnt, I thought you did.”

As Scully shook her head Mulder went immediately to the adjoining door and examined the lock.

“Has it been tampered with?”

“No…But there is something else.” He stood away form the door to let her have a better look.

“What?”

“There is no lock. It’s just a simple door knob.”

***

Leap Castle

Thursday March 17th

9.45 AM

“Sure we thought you had died up there!” Eoghan roared at them delightedly as they sauntered into the dinning room where breakfast was being served. Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance before sitting down to the large banquet table. “Help yourself to whatever it is you want.”

Mulder piled his plate with each of the choices the table had to offer but Scully settle for a bowl of flavoured porridge and half a grapefruit. Eoghan who was sitting across from them sipped on his cup of tea and basked in the morning sun that was streaming through the wide windows.

“How did you sleep last night?” he asked stretching his legs out before him and crossing them at his ankles.

“Not too bad. Woke up at around 4 though,” Scully ventured carefully, watching his face for a reaction. “I heard a noise and it must have woken me.”

“What did you hear?” Scully looked over to the man who was sitting a few seats away from her. His eyes were bleary and tired as if he too had trouble sleeping.

“Horses,” she replied bluntly.

Mulder noticed as Eoghan’s tea seemed to go down the wrong way and he coughed to regain control of his airways.

“I heard them too.”

“You heard the horses outside?” Mulder asked leaning forward to get a better view of the man.

“Well,” he scoffed. “They sounded like they were in my room. I woke up my wife with all the trashing I did…the weird thing is…she didnt hear a thing.”

12.10 PM

“Okay guys, I see it, now how can it be activated?”

Scully walked into her bedroom and dropped her notepad onto the desk. She spotted Mulder crouching by the adjoining door and was about to speak to him when she noticed he was on the phone. Instead she slipped out of her shoes and sat on the bed.

“Yeah, I see that…yeah…yeah…where?” He stood up and pinned the phone to his shoulder with his ear as he twisted the screwdriver on the handle to loosen it from the wood.

“Mulder, you can’t do that!” She protested when he dismantled the doorknob.

“Okay I have it out, now what.” He listened to the voice at the other end as he spread out the bits of the door onto the floor. “Yes there it is…thanks Frohike.”

Mulder switched the phone off and dropped it to the floor before rummaging through the small bits to pick up the black piece.

“What is that?” Scully asked

“An RF receiver.”

“And what does it do?”

“Receives RF signals!” He said smartly smiling broadly at her frown.

“Okay…what did Frohike think it was doing in the door lock?”

“When you were off talking to the other guests I had a closer look at the door, and noticed the lock was a bit heavier than normal and longer too.” He picked up the piece he meant and showed it to her. “I called Frohike and explained about the door last night and he said it may have been locked remotely. So he asked me to look for a

receiver in the lock.”

“So someone locked this door on purpose last night?”

“The same someone who was transmitting the horse sounds into your room last night.”

“Sounds? The horses?” Confused she looked around the room, half expecting to see a large concert speaker in the corner. “Why didn’t you hear them though?”

“I don’t know Scully. Everyone has his or her own bandwidth. Maybe the sound was transmitting on a frequency that I couldn’t register.”

“Oh c’mon Mulder. Like a dog whistle?”

“Exactly like that.”

“You can’t turn this case from one unexplainable paranormal theory to another at the drop of a hat.”

“There is nothing paranormal about this door Scully. These electronics were placed by

someone in this hotel.”

“In every room?” She reached for the pad and flipped through the pages to find what she was looking for. “I interviewed 8 of the guests and only two of them heard noises last night. Two of them recognised them as horses and the third couldn’t pin it down to a specific recognisable sound. And they all admit to having quite a bit to drink the night before.”

“You weren’t drinking last night.”

“No but I was dreaming, and after all the talk of the headless horseman is it inconceivable that I would have a nightmare involving horses?” she argued walking away and pouring a glass of water from the decanter.

“No not inconceivable. But we didn’t mention the horseman to the other guests and it’s highly unlikely you all just happened to have nightmares involving horses.”

“Maybe there were horses outside last night!”

“I checked the grounds after breakfast and there is no evidence of that.” He dropped all the bits to the door lock onto the table and walked over to her. “Admit it Scully, you were spooked last night.”

“Of course I was spooked Mulder, but that’s not the point. Just because I was, doesn’t make it real.”

Mulder opened his mouth to argue when a spine-chilling scream rattled through the halls. Without hesitation they grabbed their weapons and raced through the corridor to the source of the sound.

Mulder held his gun rigidly by his side as he turned the corner and spotted the slightly open door. He gestured for Scully to take the other side and waited till she was ready before pushing the door carefully open.

Crouching low Mulder aimed his gun out before him and walked into the room slowly. Behind him Scully followed but they both stopped short at the body that lay before them. The remains were splayed out as if dropped from a height, the limbs bent and twisted unnaturally and the head was missing. Mulder pulled a face.

As Scully stepped closer she recognised the clothes belonged to one of the guests she had spoken to earlier about the horses.

“I spoke to him earlier.” She said softly crouching down to examine the body closer as she slipped her gun back into its holster.

“About the noises last night?”

“Yeah. He said he heard them too.” She stood abruptly away from the body and crossed her arms over her chest. “I need examine him closer.”

“Scully?”

“I’ll call the hospital and arrange a lab.” She was bustling out of the room but he quickly followed her and stopped her march by grabbing her elbow and forcing her to turn back to him.

“Scully…three murders…three victims…three witnesses to the sounds last night.”

“Oh Mulder please. Don’t start with the wild conjecture yet,” she blurted tersely.

“Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence?” he said, stealing the words from her mouth.

“Coincidence, Mulder, is just a layman’s term for conspiracy.”

Shaking her arm loose she turned on her heel and walked briskly through the hall without waiting for him to follow.

6.40 PM

Tired, frustrated and still with no clues Scully pulled the car up outside Leap castle and killed the engine. The outside lights were casting eerie shadows on the old stonewalls and she knew if she were here under different circumstances she would be enjoying the atmosphere, but not tonight, she admitted with a wry smile.

After spending the whole day at the morgue examining the body, the cauterised wound across the head and neck where they had been severed, the gaping and bloody sockets where his eyes had been, she wasn’t sure she could appreciate any of the scenery surrounding her. Or dinner tonight.

She basked in the silence that surrounded her for a moment before she could face the party that she knew was happening in the castle. St Patrick’s Day at an authentic old Irish Castle. She smiled at the idea and was reaching for the handle when she heard it.

At first it was faint, as if it was far away but it was definitely getting closer. Horses, running, galloping or sprinting towards her. She twisted and turned in her seat as she checked outside all the car windows but there was nothing to see.

The noises were getting louder, the horses nearer. She pushed the door open and pulled her gun from the holster that nestled at the small of her back. Crouching low by the front wheel she held her breath in an effort to hear better but there was no need.

The noises were so loud that she was sure there would be a team of horses passing by on the front lawn any second. Peering over the top of the hood she saw only the other parked cars, the trees blowing in the cool night air and the cold unwelcoming darkness. The sounds exploded into the night before the silence was restored.

Baffled even more Scully slowly stood up and backed away from the car towards the castle door. Stumbling over the steps she hurried up and barged through the door, eager to find Mulder.

Everyone turned to see her panting in the doorway, her eyes wide, her breaths shallow and her mouth slightly open.

“Scully?”

Her head whipped around to see Mulder walking towards her, his arm outstretched to grasp her shoulder, a worried look across his face. She closed her mouth with a pop and took a steadying breath as she turned to him.

“Are you okay?” Mulder asked, his hand on her shoulder as he turned her away from the on looking crowd.

“Yeah. Yes, I’m fine.”

“You look a little shaken,” he noticed, stepping back a bit from her frosty response. What had gotten into her this trip?

“I just…” she shrugged and reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears. “I just thought I heard something outside.” She looked away from his inquiring face and only then noticed the decorations in the room, the food laid out on the buffet table near the fire and the traditional Irish music that was playing in the background.

“What did you hear?”

“Horses, I heard horses as I was walking in.” She caught his eye and saw no derision in them. With relief she let out a sigh and stepped closer when suddenly the door burst open and one of the guests came barging in. She stumbled over a floor rug and fell to the ground. As she rolled over onto her back everyone saw clearly the blood covered

clothes and the look of horror on her face.

“Oh my god!” Scully exclaimed as she rushed over and began checking the guest for injury.

“Is she okay?” Mulder asked stooping by the head.

“I can’t find anything…I can’t find any injuries…”

“It’s not mine!” the lady on the floor screamed fighting away from Scully’s touch, but the agent held her down by pinning her shoulders to the ground. “It’s not my blood. It’s Ronan’s! It’s Ronan’s blood!”

“Ronan?” Mulder queried.

“Her husband.” Eoghan was standing in the kitchen doorway. His face was deathly pale and a film of sweat marred his brow. Shakily he walked forward and left the tray of drinks on the table. The glasses clattered against each other as his hands trembled and he shoved them into his pockets to keep them steady.

“Eoghan?” Mulder asked stepped forward and touching the smaller mans elbow. “Are you alright?”

“I thought they were just stories…I thought…it couldn’t be true…could it?”

“What? What did you hear?” Mulder persisted ignoring the glare of blue eyes he could feel burning into his head.

“When we bought the castle back into the family there were so many rumors.” He wiped his brow with the hankie he pulled from his shirt pocket. “The previous owners came to an untimely demise…and it seems they weren’t the only ones. But I didn’t think anything of it.”

With a shaky hand he reached out to the back of the chair and lowered himself into it.

“When we decided to bring the castle over to Chicago, I thought the rumours would die, the haunting stories could only enhance my business.” He scoffed a little, wiping his brow again. “And they did. Better than I could have imagined.”

“Until the murder,” Scully said softly.

“When the police could find no forced entry, no clues, nothing except for the reports of the noise of horses rampaging, I thought the worst but even then I didn’t really believe it.”

“We don’t know what happened here yet Mr Darby,” Scully began as she turned her attention back to the lady who was weeping on the rug beside her.

“It’s him! You heard them yourself!” Eoghan yelled angrily his fear swiftly turning into rage.

“What I heard and what is happening to these people may not have anything in common.”

“Oh c’mon!” Eoghan stepped towards her, “You know it does!”

“Calm down!” Mulder said holding Eoghan back and pushing him into a chair. “I’m going to call the coroner again and get some back up out here.”

“Mulder, Can I have a word?” Scully said softly before he could make the call. She grabbed a cushion off the chair behind her and placed it beneath the lady’s head and draped a blanket over her. After asking one of the other guests to sit with her she followed Mulder into the hallway.

“What?” he said after a moment of silence where she just looked at him deploringly.

“Why do you insist on encouraging him?”

“Encouraging him to admit the truth.”

“Listen Mulder I did hear horses outside, I heard them getting nearer and nearer and I thought…” she hesitate, ducking beneath his gaze and leaning back against the wall. “I thought…for a moment…I thought they were coming for me.”

Sensing the fear in her voice he waited for her to continue. Waited for her to regain control of her breathing and face him fully again.

“It was terrifying.”

“Last year there were three murders. Then this morning Jack Smith was found dead in his room, the very man who heard the horses last night.”

“I know where you are going with this Mulder,” she said trying to interrupt him but he wasn’t going to let his train of thought be dispersed.

“Right now we have another body, to look for.” He paused and watched her eyes close over slowly. “He was the other person who heard them last night wasn’t he?”

She simply nodded, her eyes still closed.

“So that leaves…”

“Me.” She completed his sentence when he couldn’t.

“I’m calling for back up.”

11.30PM

The ambulance arrived shortly after Mulder’s call and hot in its wake was the back up from the nearest FBI Field office. Several swat members had scouted various locations throughout the castle to offer the maximum protection and the remaining agents were camped out at the front reception hallway.

After Ronan’s body had been located and transported to the morgue, Sarah, his wife who had stumbled bloodied and shocked through the door earlier, was taken to the hospital for shock treatment. Mulder spoke to the remaining guests about what had happened and Scully was glad he refrained from explaining the full extent of his theory. He asked if everyone would mind staying in the lobby for the rest of the night and offered them transportation to a different hotel if they preferred, after they had all given statements and alibis.

Much to his surprise they all declined the offer of transportation and rallied together to get the fire lit. Through the entire organisation, Eoghan Darby sat still in his seat by the kitchen door, where Mulder had placed him earlier. His eyes glazed over and his mouth was agape as the bustling moved around him.

Scully claimed a seat by the fire and still felt a chill. She was about to reach for a blanket when a thick woollen one was draped over her shoulders. Looking up she saw Mulder standing over her and she scooted up to let him sit down.

“You looked like you needed it.”

“Thanks.”

“You okay?”

“Spooked.”

“Nothing is going to happen to you Scully,” he said as he pulled her closer and kissed her temple. “I won’t let it.”

“Do you believe it Mulder?” she asked faintly and he felt her body tense against his as she waited for his reply.

“You know me Scully. I believe in everything,” he said flippantly.

“Seriously Mulder.”

“Whatever is out there, who ever is doing this, it was a man who put that electronic lock on the bedroom door last night. I checked the other doors today and found the same locks on two other rooms too.”

“Whose rooms?” she asked but he didnt need to voice it, she already knew.

“Tá sé ag teacht! Thogh sé tusa!” Eoghan jumped up out of his chair and stared at Scully. In his hand he was holding a knife, the blade short but sharp, held out in front of him as he pointed across the room at her.

The agents behind the door heard the screaming and barged in, their weapons trained on the threat immediately.

“Put down the knife.”

“Get on the floor.”

“Hold up your hands!” They shouted commands at him but he was staring fixedly at Scully and heard none of it.

“Níl me bheith fiáin gan rud ar bith,” he yelled taking a step closer and wielding the knife higher.

“Eoghan…we can’t understand a word you are saying.” Mulder said back as calmly as he could but the foreign words were instilling more fear then any English rambling ever did.

“He said…he said “he is coming and he has selected you” The man standing near the fire translated for them, pointing at Scully. “he said he isn’t prepared to die for no reason.”

“No one is going to die Eoghan.” Mulder said and looked to the stranger for help.

“Níl aon duine chun bás Eoghan.”

“Calm down.”

“Ciúnaigh!”

“Mulder!” Scully said suddenly gripping his arm tighter and looking towards the front door.

“What is it?” he immediately turned his attention back to his partner. “Scully?”

“Can’t you hear it?” In the tense silence of the room her voice boomed out. But as he knees started to buckle and he hands instinctively reached for her ears she crouched as low as her body would let her and tried to block out the sounds of the hooves pounding over her head. “The noise? The horses?” she shouted over the sound only

she could hear.

Mulder looked up at Eoghan who was staring at her his concentration focused so completely that he was unaware of his surroundings. His eyes had closed to mere slits as he took another step closer.

“Stop him!” Mulder yelled bending down to Scully and trying to pull her arms away from her ears. “Scully, listen to my voice…Scully.”

The agents stormed over to where Eoghan was standing and brought him down to the ground. They were trying to cuff him when all of a sudden the doors of the castle shook with an almighty bang that nearly took the door off its hinges. Scully jumped up and stared at the door.

“Tell me you can hear that!”

“I heard that alright.” Mulder turned to see Eoghan still staring at Scully. He was lying on his chest with Agent Denny holding him in place with a knee in his back.

“Stop him!” Mulder yelled.

But before the agents could react Eoghan rolled over knocking the agent off balance and managing to scramble to his feet. The knife was still in his hand as he charged across the room towards them with murderous intent. The banging on the door became louder and more persistent.

Mulder held up his arm to protect himself as his other hand fumbled to get his gun out of his holster. Scully cowered beneath him the unbearably loud sound of the hooves trampled across her mind leaving her bounded in pain.

The sharp sting of the blade cutting his skin wasn’t enough to deter Mulder as he pushed Eoghan away and managed to get his gun out. He held it in place and aimed at Eoghan as he found his footing.

“Agent Stringer, get Scully, take her out of here!” Mulder yelled over the ruckus at the door, and never took his eyes off Eoghan who was still staring menacingly at Scully. As Agent Stringer walked around Mulder to help Scully off the floor, Eoghan yelled out as if in pain and lurched towards them.

The banging on the door was constant now, mixed with Eoghan’s feral scream as he raced across the room. Then the crack of Mulders gun was followed by silence, broken only by the sound of Eoghan’s body hitting the floor.

Everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath waiting for the door to be broken in. Slowly Scully sat up, her eyes red rimmed and sore. It was then she noticed the blood running down her partner’s arm.

She uttered as if coming to from a trance. “Mulder, you’re bleeding!”

“Oh, don’t worry, its nothing. I’m worried about you.” He lifted her chin up so he could smile at her and then swiped at the bloody mark his fingers made against her pale cheek. She smiled back and let him pull her into his arms. He bent to kiss her. Whatever odd mood she had been in all this weekend seemed to have vanished with

death of the castle owner. Like she had been under a weird influence.

“This place…it’s really gotton under my skin,” she admitted looking up to him and seeing him as if for the first time all weekend.

He held her tighter. “It’s okay Scully, but just let me say this. I never want to so spend a night without you again, even on a case. deal?”

“Deal! ” She pulled him close for a long kiss. ” Do you think this was a hoax Mulder, that man seemed…possessed? He had been drinking but…”

“He may have been, How knows. I think he used the stories from this castle to help business. Placing those devices to scare his guests, perpetrating the story further, lending further credence to the tales.”

Mulder glanced over to where Eoghan’s body lay motionless. “Maybe he gave it power by believing in it, by telling the stories and creating the fear. Whatever secret he had or reason for doing this, be it his complicity and exposure in or something paranormals was at work died with him.” He stood up and stretched a hand out to help

her up and pull her against his chest. “I think it will just come under another tale of St. Patrick’s Day lore and remain…. unsolved.”

“Here’s something for the shock.”

They both turned to see one of the other guests passing them pints of gren Guinness.

“Guinness?” Scully said sceptically.

“What else on St Patrick’s Day!” Mulder smiled as he took his pint and tasted a mouthful.

They finished their drinks and Scully took the glasses and left them onto the small table beside the fire. Already the room was emptying as people filled out and went to their rooms.

“C’mon Mulder, time to start making up lost time.” Taking his hand she led him towards the stairs.

“Really Scully?”

“Oh yeah. In the spirit of my ancestor’s saint’s day, I brought something skimpy and green and I would like to see if you approve. You know what they say…Guinness Give you strength. What do you say we grab a few bottles and escape upstairs?”

“Ohhh I’d love to agent Scully,” he said snatching the bottles from an ice bucket as they passed. “I feel lucky already and I have no need of a shamrock.”

The end.

Skinfull