DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. Mystic Seaport and all the cool
ships within belongs to Mystic Seaport.
SUMMARY: Mysterious geological activity in Mystic, CT spurns an investigation that
eventually centers around a canine veteran.
I am a veteran of the United States Army. I served for two years in Afghanistan before my convoy hit an IED, and most of my unit was killed. That includes John, my first best friend. John was with me all through training, and we were deployed together. I’ll never forget the blast. I was banged up pretty bad, and I was scared. When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. And I had lost a leg.
John’s mother, Phyllis, was very kind to me. She paid for me to get the best care available, and she funded my new prosthetic leg. She told me I was ‘good as new’. I didn’t feel good as new, not without John.
I lived with Phyllis for a year in her little house in a place called Mystic. We kept each other company—we both missed John so much. Then Tim came. Tim was John’s cousin, and he was a police officer. He recruited me, got me into the force. They almost didn’t take me, but Tim convinced them I was the best at what I did, and the new leg didn’t slow me down.
I had been on the force for three full years when we were called in to investigate suspicious activity. It was last year, but it seems like it was yesterday. Tim and I were partners, and after Tim decided it looked clear, he called it in and we went in to find the drugs or weapons or whatever else they were hiding in there. He was mad because we had missed the bad guys. Or so he thought. The minute I got in there, I knew exactly where they were, and started running toward them.
But Tim didn’t know that, and he held me back. Then they shot him, and started to run away. There was gunfire everywhere. I did what I was trained to do, and I attacked them. But I felt something sharp jab into my back, and I felt dizzy. I tried to fight, but I couldn’t. I went down next to Tim, and I knew he was dead.
Afterward the investigators said they couldn’t find Tim’s body. There was a closed, empty casket at the funeral, which I couldn’t attend because I was still laid up.
I remember whimpering like a puppy. Phyllis took me back in after the vet said I couldn’t work anymore. I live with her now.
Ever since that day, I’ve had special powers. Things happen when I smell Tim. I don’t know why, but I think if I keep smelling around for him, the powers will help me find him. But I’m already nine years old. I know I’m running out of time.
My name is Fido, and all I want is help my master rest.
J. EDGAR HOOVER BUILDING
THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 2010
“So we’re rejecting the talking rabbit,” Mulder clarified as he walked into the X-files office.
Scully was right behind him. “Yes, the talking rabbit is definitely out.”
“Elvis’ face in the McGriddles?”
She simply rolled her eyes. Mulder turned around. “What? A very high-quality profile of Elvis appears in eight McGriddles in Mississippi in the past week. That’s incredible!”
He sighed. “Okay, so that one’s…postponed.” He quickly entered the classifications of those cases into his laptop, and sat down behind his desk after he was done. He pulled up the rest of the list. “Miami Mothman sighting?”
“Florida in June? Postpone it.”
“And…we already rejected the flying turtle…”
“What about the six-year-old abduction case from Phoenix?”
“Turned out to be a custody battle between the kid’s biological mother and adoptive mother. I got the email this morning.”
Scully frowned. “Did anything interesting come in while we were at lunch?”
Mulder smirked. “What’s the matter, Scully? You’re not up for visiting the crime scene of a murdered action figure?”
“Just because there’s some grainy video footage from the kid’s webcam showing—”
“The action figure definitely moved,” Mulder stated flatly.
“With that video footage, it could’ve been attached to strings.”
“It moves on camera and then mysteriously is chopped into perfect squares the next day?” he argued, but even he could hear the doubt in his own voice.
“So the kid put it through a cheese grater before looking up your name on the Internet.”
“It’s something. And it’s not every week that we get to choose our own case…”
He had a point. The last few weeks had been hectic, to say the least. Instead of X-files, they had handled a case from Violent Crimes that had involved John Lee Roche’s sister, and a maddening trip ‘down the rabbit hole’ into Mulder’s past. Simultaneously, little Claire had been kidnapped by Tara’s ex-boyfriend and neighbor. Emotionally and physically exhausted, the lack of new cases had been a blessing at first. But now they were both antsy and willing to jump at anything they found in a tabloid. Well, Mulder was.
Suddenly, his cell phone rang. “Mulder,” he answered. His subsequent, “Yes, Sir,” told Scully it was Skinner, and that she was likely saved from action-figure purgatory.
“Yes, Sir. No…I haven’t seen that,” he sat down in his chair and pulled up a news website. He started clicking as Skinner spoke. “Is there any indication of a…no. Okay. Yeah, it’s worth investigating. We’ll be out there by tonight, Sir. Sorry to hear about your mother’s friend.”
When Mulder hung up, Scully looked at him inquisitively.
“Earthquake in New England yesterday…it’s the third one in a month, and although it barely registered on the Richter scale, this last one killed a woman at a seaport in Connecticut. She was a close friend of Skinner’s mother.”
“I’m not sure which I’m more surprised to hear, Mulder. That an earthquake took place in New England or that Skinner’s mother has a friend.”
The corner of her partner’s mouth twitched in humorous response to the comment. “She has to be in her late nineties by now…I wonder how old her friend is.”
“I suspect we’ll find out soon. When’s the case file coming?”
“There is no case file. Skinner sent us out there, told us to talk to the Mystic Police Department.”
Scully’s eyebrow rose. “No case file? How can we be sent if—”
“Take a look at this place, Scully! It’s beautiful!” Mulder’s computer displayed pictures of Mystic Seaport, a fun little village settled inside the tiny town of Mystic, designed to simulate the “Glory Days” of American seafaring. Mystic, a small vacation town near Fisher’s Island Sound, was a prime summer destination for wealthy families.
Scully glanced at a map that Mulder flashed on the screen before his click-happy finger changed the picture. “That looks like it’s on the way to the summer house. I think we’ve seen signs for it on our way up there…”
Mulder frowned then, and stopped flipping through Google images. He instead went to the Web section of Google and found Mystic Seaport’s website, and then traveled to it. Once there, he started flipping through the pages at an even faster pace. He went to the history section and found what he was looking for. Then he stopped suddenly, and looked up to Scully. “You recognize this?”
Scully stared at the picture. “That’s…that’s the model in the summer house, isn’t it?”
“The Charles W. Morgan…which they were restoring in the ‘70s…which is when we went. Why didn’t I remember this, Scully? We’ve driven by the sign for Mystic Seaport every single time we’ve gone to Rhode Island.”
“Maybe because you were nine years old when you went and when your father bought that model?” Scully gave him the excuse, but she knew as well as he did that it was lame. This was the man who remembered what his Kindergarten teacher’s turtle’s name was.
Pretending to accept the excuse, he continued clicking until he got to an advertisement on one page, and he promptly turned around. “It looks like they’re refitting the Morgan again.”
“We’ll have to go see it, then.” She smiled, and he nodded in agreement.
Now that the memory was triggered, little pieces of information about Mystic started filtering back into his head. It was a beautiful little place. He remembered having fun there, being excited about going. He remembered multiple trips. He remembered going aboard the Morgan and hearing the re-enactors, dressed up like sailors, recite parts of Moby Dick. He remembered ice cream and pizza and the cool ocean breeze. Most of all, he remembered being happy.
And he couldn’t wait to go back.
MYSTIC RESIDENCE INN
THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 2010
“Welcome!” A smiling face greeted them at the front desk of the Residence Inn. Mulder and Scully rolled their suitcases to a stop and introduced themselves to the friendly hotel employee.
“We’re checking in. Agents Mulder and Scully.”
“Ah, yes!” the short, perky woman said. She had a uniform on, but had a smiley face pinned to it to add a little character. “207 and 205. Two keys each, or one?”
“One will be fine for each, thanks,” Scully said, and couldn’t help but smile back. The welcoming attitude was contagious.
“Here you go. You’re all set. The elevator is right around the corner, and if you’re interested, we serve a complimentary dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 7 pm. It’s served right there.” She pointed, and the agents turned to see a very large crowd gathered in the dining area.
Mulder was surprised. He had never heard of a hotel serving a complimentary dinner. “Great,” he said with a grin.
Several minutes later they both headed toward the delicious smell coming from the dining area. Standing in line for a few moments, they chose their meal from the buffet-style selection and then sat down. Mulder took one bite and groaned in ecstasy. “Scully! This is homemade!” he exclaimed.
It was stew, and it was nearly gone from its container. Scully now understood why as she tasted it as well. “This is…amazing!”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” a voice said from behind them, and they turned to see a woman with a pleasant expression and a hotel uniform approach. “Can I get you folks anything else?”
Mulder glanced at Scully, and she shook her head. “No, thank you. But this is amazing.”
“I made it myself,” the woman said with a satisfied smile, and then said, “My name’s Charity, just to introduce myself. How long are you two staying with us?”
“Just for a few days,” Mulder said, and Charity nodded in response.
“Well, I hope you get to stay for Monday night. That’s Fettuccini Alfredo night. Chocolate chip cookies will be out in about ten minutes…they go fast so make sure you get one!” With that, she walked back toward the small kitchen.
“Mulder,” Scully prompted with an amazed look on her face, “Did you catch her name?”
“You’ve read Moby Dick.”
Her words sunk in after a moment, and Mulder’s eyes opened wide. He smiled. “Wow. This place is full of coincidences.”
Charity was the name of the woman in Melville’s book who brought food and other comfort items to sailors in port.
They continued light conversation for the next few minutes, watching as families, business people, college students, and a variety of others finished off the last of the home-cooked meal at the buffet table.
Only moments after the last of the food disappeared, Charity re-appeared from the kitchen holding a hot plate with dessert. “Cookies!” She called. “Cookies are ready, everyone!”
As if a fire had erupted in the room, everyone simultaneously rose from their seats and rushed for the buffet. They lined up in an orderly fashion, but Mulder and Scully saw grown men nearly bouncing on their heels in excitement. Charity watched happily as everyone got a cookie. Mulder wasted no additional time. He rose and got in the back of the line, patiently awaiting his dessert.
Somehow Charity had calculated just right, and it was Mulder’s turn when there was only one cookie left. He brought the warm and gooey treat back to the table, broke it, and handed half to Scully.
“Need I explain to you,” she said in protest, “That it is complete hypocrisy to eat a cookie only a week after you said, and I quote, ‘I’m done with junk food.’”
“We have to figure out what all the fuss is about, Scully,” he said with a boyish grin. “We’re here on duty—it’s our job to investigate,” he argued, and took a bite.
He closed his eyes and chewed the delicious treat as Scully rolled her eyes, sighed, and took her own bite.
It was delicious! “Mulder, this is the best cookie I’ve ever had,” Scully declared with her mouth full.
“I know,” Mulder agreed, nodding and taking another bite to finish off the cookie. After a moment he swallowed and looked at Charity. “Excuse me, will there be more of these?”
She shook her head and gave him a disappointed look. “No, I’m sorry, not tonight. But Monday night I’ll make a few more and you can take them with you. How about that?”
Mulder grinned, and for once Scully mirrored the gesture. “We’d really appreciate that. Thanks, Charity.”
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
They walked into up to the visitor’s center as soon as the doors opened. Traditional nautical music played in the small courtyard outside through hidden speakers. The wooden-paneled visitor’s center reminded the agents of the bridge of a 19th century sailing ship, and a friendly summer employee in a bright blue golf shirt greeted them at the ‘helm’. The wooden-paneled area around the giant wheel was the only thing separating the agents from the rest of the museum.
“Welcome to Mystic Seaport. Are you interested in a day pass or a membership?” The perky college kid asked, tucking a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
Mulder pulled his badge. “We’re here to see Phyllis Clyborne. Can you point us in her direction?”
The girl’s facial features were a mixture of shock and attempted professionalism. She nodded and said, “Of course,” as she pulled a map of the museum out of the ‘membership information’ box. She opened the map and circled the visitor’s center with a blue crayon. “We’re here, and the boathouse is right…here. So you can follow the path to get there. When you’re finished, you can exit right around the corner here,” she placed a small dot next to the visitor’s center.
“Thank you,” Mulder said, and glanced at the fees for admission. He then briefly looked to Scully for approval before he asked, “We might be back later…how late are you open today?”
“The museum closes at 5:30 but the visitor’s center is usually closed up by 5. The number for the main office is on the website, so if you call them and schedule an appointment after hours, someone will be happy to see you.”
She was well-trained, clearly. Despite her obvious nervousness at dealing with the FBI after the death of a guest, she managed to give them useful information and not ask nosy questions.
“Thanks again,” Scully said as they left the visitor’s center. Mulder promptly made a left turn. “Um…”
“I know, Scully. I just want to see it for a minute, then we’ll head over to see Phyllis.”
“But Mulder, we didn’t pay.”
“That’s why we’re going back later to buy a membership.”
She sighed. “What is it, exactly, that you want to see?”
“The Morgan. It’s a big ship, Scully. We don’t need to go on the exhibit to see it. We’re not breaking any ethical codes by looking at a giant ship in drydock.”
Scully didn’t think the situation was so black and white. They hadn’t paid, they were there to see Phyllis, and because the entire museum was outdoors and most of the exhibits were massive ships, it was a bit like stealing a look at paintings without paying admission to an art museum.
But she didn’t regret the decision after only a moment. When they rounded the corner and the shipyard came into view, she saw the breathtaking sight of the Charles W. Morgan propped up in drydock, towering over its surroundings. The 113-foot-long whaling ship was the only surviving, sailable American whaling vessel from its era. Scully instantly recognized the features of the ship that she had recently read about. Its style and structure made it a perfect match for the Pequod, Ahab’s ship from Moby Dick. She found herself not only wishing she had more time to stare at it, but wanting to run up to it and go aboard at that moment.
Mulder stared in disbelief at the sight he was seeing. Something flashed in his eyes, and when Scully glanced at him to exclaim at the beauty, she realized that he wasn’t just admiring the whaling ship. “What, Mulder?” she asked.
Tourists passed them by, small children ran around in excitement, and Mulder stared straight ahead for another moment before shaking his head. “The oddest thing just happened,” he said, and looked up at the Morgan again. “I could’ve sworn…I thought I just heard Sam’s voice.”
Scully looked around, and shrugged. “There are dozens of little kids here. It could’ve been any of them.”
“No, Scully. This was definitely her. It’s as if…I know I’ve stood in this exact spot before. I know I’ve looked at this exact sight before.”
“You were probably just remembering the first time you saw the Morgan. I imagine it looked the same in 1970,” Scully reasoned, trying to sound reassuring. He didn’t seem spooked, but he wasn’t comfortable, either. “What did the girl say?”
He shook his head. “It was probably nothing,” he said unconvincingly, and turned and led the way toward the boathouse. As they walked along the fine ground seashell path and passed more ancient boats and ships, Scully found herself wondering if this seaport did, somehow, house some ghosts. Of course, she’d never let Mulder know she had considered the thought.
MYSTIC SEAPORT BOATHOUSE
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
The boathouse was tucked away in the back of the Seaport such that one would have to want to find it to be able to find it. It was staffed with a wide variety of people, from middle school volunteers to elderly, retired staff. A woodshop containing a large sailboat in for repairs was adjacent to a small boathouse that looked out on the water, which was a small sound that opened into Mystic Harbor. Sailboats and rowboats were everywhere, with the occasional kayak weaving in between. Large tugboats and sailing ships had the right-of-way in a channel marked by buoys. Every one of the boats rented out at the boathouse, including the kayaks and canoes, were vintage, restored, and original old-style vessels.
“Hi, how are you folks doing today?” a teenager asked from behind the counter the second he saw Mulder and Scully climb the stairs that led to the small boathouse. Two teenage boys straddled a bench that ran along a wall as they looked out on the water and watched for any rowers or sailors in trouble.
“We’re doing just fine,” Scully answered with a smile. “We’re looking for Phyllis Clyborne.”
“Oh, are you friends of hers?” the teen asked. The boys on the bench glanced in the agents’ direction. Not only were they not dressed for sailing or rowing, but they hadn’t asked the usual line of questions about the boats’ availability.
Mulder pulled his badge. He wondered vaguely why Scully was never the one to pull hers… “We’re here on business. We’d like to speak to her as soon as possible.”
“Oh. Wow. Well, she’s like, out on the docks right now explaining to some new boaters about the rowing boundaries. So she’ll be back in. But yeah, hey, Dean, go wait for her to be done and tell her to come right in here so she can talk to these people.”
One of the boys leapt up from the bench and went jogging out to the dock. Mulder angled his head toward the door and Scully gave him a brief nod—a quick communication that told him he was clear to go ‘explore’ while she waited for Phyllis to get back.
He stepped down the stairs and rounded the corner to go out on the docks. Two retired men sat on a bench along the side of the boathouse, a German Shepherd at their feet. They noticed him almost immediately.
“Not exactly dressed for sailing, Sir,” one man said.
Mulder smiled at him. “No, not today. But I might come back in a few days.”
“In town for business?”
“That’s right,” he answered. “Hopefully I’ll get some free time to come back.”
“Do you sail?” the other man asked.
“I’ve been a few times,” Mulder responded, and couldn’t help but notice the previously sleeping dog was now alert and rising from his position.
The German Shepherd had three legs; his front left leg was replaced with a modern-day and quite costly prosthetic. His face was dotted with barely-noticeable scars and Mulder imagined his fur covered up more scars underneath. The dog walked over without any trouble at all, and sat in front of Mulder as he looked up.
“Don’t mind Fido. He’s friendly,” one of the older men said. “Loves to be petted.”
Mulder smiled and squatted down to be closer to Fido. There was something about this dog… As he petted the German Shepherd he received several licks to the face. He stood when Phyllis approached, and Fido nuzzled his hand a few times even as he glanced in his primary owner’s direction.
“Fido, leave the poor man alone,” the woman said. She looked to be about sixty-five or maybe seventy, but in excellent shape. She wore a smile on her face and looked almost sadly at the picture of Fido and Mulder together. Climbing the ramp up from the docks, she approached the bench area and held out her hand for Mulder to shake. “Phyllis Clyborne. You’re the FBI agent?”
“Yes. Fox Mulder. My partner, Dana Scully, is in the boat house. Is there a private place we could go to speak?”
“We can go to the boat shed. That’s as good a place as any. Tom, you’ll handle any more customers?”
“I’ll supervise and let Jed take over. Don’t worry—he’s gonna do fine.” Jed, a college student tying up a boat nearby, waved and nodded his agreement.
Phyllis chuckled. “I’ve no doubt he will. I’d just like to see you work every now and then,” she joked, and led the way back to the boathouse. Moments later, they had traversed the short distance to the empty boat shed. It was about fifty feet from the boathouse, and Fido happily trotted alongside Mulder for the trip.
“Phyllis, please,” she interrupted Scully.
“Phyllis,” Scully continued, “When was the last time you saw Janet Hausman?”
“I was by the lighthouse when it happened,” the woman said with a sigh, and sat down at a picnic bench with a sigh. Mulder and Scully followed suit, and Fido laid at Mulder’s feet. “The ground started trembling again, like it had the other two times…we never had any monetary damage. Not even this last one caused any monetary damage. It was just a freak accident…I’ve never seen anything like it. She was standing right over by the lighthouse, taking pictures. Then it was as if the ground lifted up and threw her off the pier and into the water…” she shook her head, reluctant to recount the painful memory. “I ran over and jumped in to save her, but I couldn’t find her at first. Now, you have to understand,” she said with a bit of a wry grin, “I’ve fished out pennies from murky water. I’m not losing my sight and I’m not losing my strength, despite my age. But I couldn’t find her. The current must have carried her away.”
Mulder nodded, indicating that Phyllis should continue.
“And there were no other witnesses?”
“No, not even her husband. Apparently Mr. Hausman was looking at the Conrad, a hundred feet away. He should’ve heard my calls, but I guess the earthquake had everyone running for cover…which is the exact opposite of what one would want to do in an earthquake, I suppose…”
“You were the one who found Janet’s body, though,” Scully said gently.
“Yes,” Phyllis admitted, looking down. “I…I found her a few minutes later. She was only about ten feet from the pier. I didn’t realize she was dead at that point. I swam her back to shore and tried to do CPR. By that time Jed and some of the others had run over and were trying to help…but it was too late.”
Mulder gave Phyllis a moment before asking quietly, “Phyllis, was Fido with you at the time?”
“No, and that’s the other thing that’s strange. Right before the earthquake, Fido ran over to the Morgan! And the other two earthquakes, that’s where he ran to as well. He started barking like mad and took off.”
“Dogs can often sense impending natural disasters,” Scully told Phyllis. “It comes with their sensory perception of the—”
“Pressure differences in the atmosphere, I know. But you don’t understand…Fido is a trained Army officer and police dog. He’s a veteran, he’s served with valor, and he’s very professional,” Phyllis said, and Fido looked up, almost as if he knew what she was talking about. “He’s been trained not to run when he senses things like that. He should’ve been here to pull her out of the water…”
At that, Fido placed his head on Mulder’s shoes. He stared straight ahead with a depressed expression on his canine face.
Mulder reached down and petted him. “I’m sure he was just spooked,” he said, although this latest bit of information was making him suspicious of his own theory. “Many times dogs who are adopted from a shelter after being retired from service exhibit signs of post traumatic stress disorder.”
Phyllis smiled sadly at the agents. “He wasn’t adopted from a shelter. He was my son, John’s. John was killed in Afghanistan, and Fido managed to survive the event and come home to live with me. Then my nephew Tim took him in…he served on the Waterford Police Force until Tim was killed in action. The vet forced Fido to retire. And I’m glad she did…poor thing’s done his duty.”
Fido nuzzled his head against Mulder’s leg, and Mulder petted him again. “I’m sorry about your son and nephew,” he said softly.
Scully changed the direction of the conversation after Phyllis quietly acknowledged Mulder’s statement. “We spoke to the US Geological Survey this morning. They pinpointed the source of all three earthquakes to be near the lighthouse. You seem like you’ve been working here a while, Phyllis. Have you ever noticed any suspicious activity by the lighthouse or in the water?”
“You mean someone planting a bomb? No,” Phyllis said with a shake of her head. “Nor has anyone emptied any radioactive material into the water lately. Although we do have the occasional three-eyed fish in this dirty mess. We have an algae problem,” she confessed, and looked out on the water. “The museum isn’t struggling for cash, not as much as we have in other recessions. I suppose they would rather put money into something else. As long as the tourists don’t complain, it doesn’t cost us any money.”
“You haven’t noticed anyone tampering with anything, over by the lighthouse or the boathouse? It might be a coincidence, but your work area is incredibly close to the source of the earthquakes and you were the first responder,” Mulder stated.
“Well, that would tend to happen when one works close to the source, wouldn’t it?” Phyllis asked, slightly annoyed by the question. “No, I haven’t noticed anyone acting unusual, but I’m not a reliable witness. I’ve got boaters to watch for. The occasional tourist who swears he’s sailed the English Channel and then flips one of our irreplaceable boats on these calm waters. The teenagers who get out there and then take off their life jackets. The middle-school volunteers who want to go out rowing without supervision. You understand, my eyesight is fixed on these waters most of the day, not behind me, at the lighthouse.”
“How did you notice Janet fall into the water?” Scully asked.
“I was taking out the garbage. The bins over there have a clear view to the lighthouse,” Phyllis explained, and pointed. Indeed, the bins did have an exceptionally clear view of the lighthouse and the entire pier.
Mulder nodded. “Phyllis, if we have any additional questions, do you have a number where we might reach you?”
“You can call the boathouse. We don’t carry our cell phones on us…too much risk of losing them in the water.”
The three stood, and Fido stood as well. He seemed reluctant to leave Mulder’s side.
When they shook hands and thanked one another, Phyllis glanced at Fido and said with a chuckle, “You know, he really likes you, Agent Mulder. John didn’t name him Fido…Fido is his nickname. John was a Latin scholar. He named him Fideles, for loyalty. And well…” she smiled slightly and looked down. “You two together…look very much like they did. Like I imagined John and he would look in a few years.”
Mulder nodded sadly, and petted Fido again. “Thank you for your time, Phyllis. We may be back soon.”
When they parted and walked toward the lighthouse, Scully commented, “Fido certainly took to you.”
“If we come back I may request taking him out with me on a boat,” Mulder said with a smile.
“What, to have some quality time with him?” Scully asked, and smirked slightly.
“No, actually…I’m hoping he can sniff out the source of the earthquake.”
CHARLES W. MORGAN
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
The person in the lighthouse was hired to answer questions about its historic background, but was unfortunately not present during the event. For that, the man informed them, they had to go to the DMV where the other re-enactor worked three times a week. Instead of heading directly there, though, Mulder insisted that they first visit the Morgan in case there was some indication there as to why the earthquake might have originated in that location. Scully didn’t protest.
The sight of the nineteenth-century ship increased in magnificence as they got closer. They read the plaque that explained the history of the Morgan briefly, and then began climbing the four stories of stairs that took them to the upper deck.
“We should get a crew in here to scan the ship and the lighthouse area for any unusual electromagnetic activity or anything else that would suggest a geological explanation for the three earthquakes,” Mulder said once they stepped on board, but his comment fell on deaf ears. “Scully?”
Scully, who would normally never ignore a potential scientific discussion, was otherwise occupied. “It’s exactly how I imagined it would look,” she said, and Mulder smiled. Anytime Scully was immersed in the moment, it was an occasion to be admired.
“You’ve done a bit of research on the Morgan?” someone asked with a Rhode Island accent, and Scully turned to see a man in a Mystic Seaport uniform walking toward them.
“Not this ship in particular, but its kind…yes,” Scully said with a small smile. “I’m a fan of Moby Dick.”
“And all things nautical,” Mulder added.
“Well, she’s the last American whaling ship that we can take to sea. As you’ve probably noticed, she’s missing her masts—she’s being refitted.”
Mulder nearly froze at the man’s words. He glanced at the horizon over the starboard bow, and could see most of the rest of the museum. In that exact moment, standing near where the main mast would normally go, he felt like he was transported to a moment long ago, long forgotten. Standing in that exact spot forty years ago, nine-year-old Fox and five-year-old Samantha heard the exact words from a much younger-looking, but otherwise identical, museum employee.
Brought back to the present, Mulder interrupted Scully and the guide’s discussion. “Excuse me, Sir, how long have you been an employee here?”
Somewhat taken aback by the sudden question, the man said, “Well…I suppose about forty-five years now. I’ve done interpretation my entire career, and I do woodworking for the ships during the winters. Why…have we met before?”
“We may have,” Mulder said, not wanting to sound any stranger to the man than he must have already seemed. “I came here when I was nine years old, and you look a bit familiar.”
Scully glanced at her partner with interest.
The guide stuck his hand out. “Brett Gordon. I’m sorry I don’t remember you…you look a lot bigger than you did then, and I see hundreds of people a day.”
Mulder smiled. “Not a problem. Fox Mulder. This is my partner, Dana Scully.”
Scully shook the man’s hand politely, curiously wondering where Mulder was going with this. She wanted to see the rest of the ship and was eager to climb through the lower decks, but she knew that look in her partner’s eye. He thought this somehow pertained to the case.
“Call me Brett,” the older man said with a kind smile.
“Brett, then. Did you happen to be on the ship during the earthquake?”
“I was, actually. It was horrible, I thought she might have taken damage. The other two weren’t as bad as this last one.”
“The US Geological Survey said it barely registered on the Richter Scale,” Scully said, now interested in the conversation.
Brett shook his head. “I don’t know how that could be. It felt like we were in a storm on the water. Honestly, the drydocks shook and I fell down the ladder, right over there. I was okay, though. Never felt anything like it.”
“So this has never happened before,” Mulder said. “Never before in your career?”
Brett frowned. “Honestly,” he said, scratching his white, shortly-cropped beard, “I can think of only one stranger incident. Happened around the time you must’ve come to visit, summer of ’70. I was a lot younger back then,” he continued with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. “And a boy came back from Vietnam that weekend in a coffin. Local kid…I never knew him, but a lot of people were broken up about it. He loved the water, loved tall ships…they decided to have the service at the Seaport in his honor. And there was this…you’re gonna think I’m crazy,” he said, and nervously glanced around him to see if any other tourists were listening.
Thankfully, the other tourists were captivated by the trio playing traditional nautical flutes and banjos on the aft of the upper deck.
“Trust me, Brett. I can guarantee you we’ve heard stranger stories,” Scully told him.
“Well…” he hesitated, and then leaned against a nearby railing. “It’s like this…the service was about to start, and the hearse was gonna bring the body in, but when it arrived, there was no body. Understandably, the family was more than a little upset. Whole town was upset. They ordered the employees to go looking for it, like it was somehow dropped here by accident or maybe even on purpose. So they took a few dinghies out on the water with some divers, just in case there was foul play. And the Morgan had just had her masts removed for the refit. I was standing…right about here,” he moved over to the center starboard side of the ship. “And…honestly, you’re going to think I’m crazy. But there was this…storm. It was like a tornado.”
“A tornado?” Scully asked skeptically. “In New England?”
“I knew you’d think I was crazy. But honestly. It wasn’t a large tornado, but it was large enough to do a little damage. Picked up some wood along the shipyard and on the main deck, dropped it not far away, then disappeared. And the strangest thing was, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”
“Really,” Mulder said. His partner could see his ‘spidey senses’ tingling.
“Really. And that was the last time anything close to these earthquakes has happened.”
“Did anyone ever find the body of the soldier?”
“No,” Brett answered Mulder’s question. “He was never found. Even to this day. Shame, too. His parents are too old to fund any kind of search operation now…that is, if one would even be of any help. Probably some damn anti-war protester or someone with some other bug up his butt…dishonoring a soldier like that.” Brett shook his head.
“Thank you, Brett. It’s been a pleasure,” Scully said, and held out her hand. Brett shook it again, and then moved onto shake her partner’s.
“Pleasure’s all mine. And Fox, if you happen to remember anyone else from your last visit, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself. It’s true what they say about New England hospitality—we never run out.”
Mulder smiled. “Thanks, Brett. We’re gonna look around the ship a bit.”
“Have fun. Watch your head on the way down the forward stairwell.”
They descended the spiral staircase into the second deck. It was very tight quarters and Mulder did bang his head on the way down. “Dammit,” he swore, and Scully smirked.
“You okay?” she asked with a grin on her face.
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah,” his annoyed reply came, and he rubbed his forehead.
The captain’s quarters and mess were immediately to their right, and the first officer’s quarters immediately to their left. It was remarkable how small and basic even the captain’s living space was. About the size of modern-day officer’s quarters aboard a submarine, they were well-furnished but clearly built for efficient use of space. When they saw the other officers’ quarters, it was clear that the quality of life didn’t slowly decline—it plummeted off the edge of a cliff. The size of a walk-in closet, the officer’s quarters consisted of one small desk for two men, two bunks up against the wall, and a small space under the bottom bunk that had enough room for two trunks, and nothing more. The crew quarters were simply bunks with curtain rods for privacy, and there were as many as thirty men crammed into one area.
“I’ve seen Chinese factories with roomier accommodations,” Mulder commented.
“It was a rough life, but it was here that many young men found their souls,” Scully replied quietly, looking at a poster of Commodore Charles W. Morgan, the officer for whom the ship was named.
“You’re really into this, aren’t you?” He said, and gently slipped his hand around the small of her back as a gaggle of teenage girls flip-flopped their way into the next area of the ship, followed by their parents and some younger children. The music was over, and tourists were starting to flood down into the compartments.
“The sea was my father’s life, Mulder,” Scully said, starting to move out of the room and into the whale processing area before they were overrun. “This kind of life never loses its…power…in my mind.”
He kissed the top of her head and released her then, allowing her to walk over to a poster that explained the whaling process to anyone who didn’t already know. As he watched her in admiration, he leaned against a railing that kept tourists from falling to the lower decks. Just then, a little girl, about five years old, ran into the room and looked behind her. “Please, Daddy?” she pleaded. “Please?”
Her jean-short overalls, her brown wavy hair, her voice. Mulder couldn’t help but stare. He waited to see what her parents looked like, and perhaps if she had a nine-year-old brother with her.
But suddenly he wasn’t seeing this little girl. He wasn’t six feet tall. He was only a boy, walking alongside his little sister Sam as she begged for an ice cream cone after they were done looking at the ship. “Please, Daddy, please? I promise I’ll eat lunch.”
“Fox, why don’t you buy it for her?” his mother’s voice asked him, and he looked up as if the world was moving in slow motion. He was her much younger face staring down at him with a kind but firm expression. “It’d be a good way to pay her back for that ‘accident’ this morning.”
He had thrown out her ribbons. Carefully collected, in every color of the rainbow, she had laid them out on the kitchen table of the summer home and practiced tying bows in each of them. Then in his fury over her obvious cheating in a game of checkers, he had wiped the ribbons clean off the table and into the trash, and later claimed that he ‘accidentally’ swept them up while cleaning crumbs off the table.
He was frustrated that his mother wouldn’t see his side of the story. He knew he had acted wrongly in throwing the ribbons out. But she always cheated! Shouldn’t she be taught not to cheat?
“Mulder,” Scully’s voice snapped him back to reality. His eyes went from a dead gaze down at the bulkhead to meet her concerned expression. “Mulder, what’s wrong?”
“I was just…” he looked around for the little girl, but she was nowhere in sight. She must have gone up to the main deck, he reasoned. “Sorry. Daydreaming,” he said.
Scully wasn’t convinced, but he interrupted her before she could express her concern. “Have you seen the rest of the ship?”
“I explored the whaling area. Still haven’t looked at the aft second deck, but it looks to me like it’s just crew quarters. Why, do you want to leave?”
He gave her an apologetic expression. “Sort of,” he began. He would never admit to her that this ship she loved so much gave him the creeps. “…we should get going anyway. We didn’t pay, remember?”
“Yeah,” Scully said, somewhat sadly. “And we have to go to the DMV.”
EAST HAVEN, CT
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
Neither agent expected to wait when they got into the DMV. While that might have been a ridiculous expectation in any other circumstance, they were federal agents attempting to interview a material witness in an ongoing investigation.
And that was exactly what Scully told the woman behind the desk.
“We’re federal agents attempting to interview a material witness in an ongoing investigation!”
“We’ve also waited twenty minutes in line just to speak to you,” Mulder pointed out.
The woman behind the desk leaned her head against her fist and stared at them dully. “Please take a number and have a seat in the waiting area. Someone will call you in a minute.”
“We just need to speak to Mr. Harlow…if he’s currently with a customer, we can wait for him to finish. But it’s unreasonable to ask us to wait in line with everyone else,” Mulder argued.
“Hey, buddy, what’s your problem? You think your ass is gold? This guy doesn’t think he needs to wait in line like everyone else!” They heard a rough voice proclaim, and turned to see the man who had been directly behind them in line announcing their presence to the rest of the DMV. He was a big man and smelled like he might have been drinking recently. There was only one person manning the ‘information’ counter, which one had to go through in order to obtain the all important ‘number’ for their place in the mysterious DMV queue.
The queue was more like DMV purgatory, because one had no idea to what counter they would be assigned. The massive waiting area held everyone regardless of what they had come to the DMV for, and the number system was not divided amongst the separate service areas in the DMV.
After one waited nearly a half hour to obtain one’s number, one then had to wait for someone to call their number. It could be anyone, as there was no organization to the order of the serving windows.
Once sentenced to DMV purgatory, one could wait up to three hours for their number to be called. Mulder and Scully didn’t see the number on the view screen change even once while they were waiting in the ‘information’ line.
And now, after receiving the news that they were going to be condemned to this fate, they had another problem to deal with. Mr. People’s Advocate, behind them in the ‘information’ line.
“Sir, please don’t complicate this situation,” Scully told him firmly.
Mulder watched the man carefully, reading his body language to decipher his next move.
There were civilians everywhere—the place was absolutely packed with a line out the door just to get in. The waiting area had no chairs left and people were standing and sitting on the floor and against the walls. Children ran around unsupervised. The long wait had made their parents bored and complacent.
“This is ridiculous,” Scully said to her partner.
But instead of responding, he decided he didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon in this God-awful place. He marched over to the nearest chair, showed his badge to the man and took the chair out from under him at the same time, placed it near the ‘information’ desk, and stood up. “Everybody listen up!” He yelled as loud as he could, and held up his badge. “I’m here with the FBI. I’m looking for a Mr. Wilson Harlow. If Mr. Harlow is in this building, he should come to the information desk!”
The woman behind the desk looked absolutely stunned. Mulder gave the waiting man his chair back, and tried to avoid eye contact with Scully.
A door to the back of the DMV opened, and a small man of about sixty or seventy years old exited. He wore glasses and suspenders, walked at a normal pace, and looked to be in relatively good shape. His demeanor reminded Mulder of the Six Flags man.
“Mr. Wilson Harlow?” Scully asked him when he was within hearing range.
“Yes, that’s me. What’s all the commotion out here?”
“Mr. Harlow, we’re conducting an investigation,” Mulder explained, showing his badge for what felt like the hundredth time that day. “Would you be willing to answer a few questions?”
“Oh, of course. I wasn’t very busy, anyway.”
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
“At least you didn’t shoot up the place. That would’ve ruined the whole weekend,” Scully commented as they pulled into the parking lot.
“I’ve never shot up a DMV before but I’ve been close,” Mulder stated. Wilson Harlow turned out to be a bit of a dead end as far as witnessing the earthquake, as he was in the bathroom at the time. However, he was able to provide a piece of information that led them to their next witness: Charity. According to Harlow, Charity had been present during the tornado incident nearly forty years ago.
The woman had been thirteen years old and Harlow indicated that she had been volunteering in the exact location where the hearse was supposed to arrive for the funeral.
They pulled into the Residence Inn and Mulder started walking toward the front desk instead of toward the elevators.
Scully raised an eyebrow, but followed him anyway.
“Excuse me, but can you tell me where the woman who makes the dinners, Charity, works on Fridays through Sundays?”
The concierge looked at him with an odd expression on her face. She was trying to be pleasant but was clearly confused as to what Mulder’s intentions were. “I’m sorry, but I can’t just divulge that information…”
“It’s part of an investigation,” Mulder stated, and pulled his badge.
“Oh, I remember you two are the FBI agents,” the woman assured them. “I suppose if it’s part of an investigation…she works her own cleaning business. I’ll have to find you her cell phone number…hang on just one moment.”
As she went into the back office, Scully turned to her partner. “Mulder, there’s absolutely no indication that the tornado incident forty years ago has anything to do with our case.”
“And you think it’s a coincidence that I just happened to be there for that event, but remember nothing about it? And you think it’s a coincidence that no one happened to witness this last earthquake that killed that woman?”
“Yes,” Scully stated flatly.
Mulder rolled his eyes. “We need to speak to Charity. If she remembers anything, anything at all, it could point us in the direction of the source of these natural disasters.”
There was a slight pause as the concierge walked out of the back office. Right before the woman was in earshot, Scully muttered, “I think you just want some free cookies.”
NEW LONDON, CT
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
“Can I offer you folks something to eat? Cookies, maybe?”
“Yes, please,” Mulder said immediately.
“I”ll be right back. Then I have the rest of the evening free, so maybe you’d even like to stay for dinner!”
The friendly woman left, and Scully shook her head at Mulder’s expectant look. “We can’t, Mulder. It’s not ethical now that she’s a witness.”
He sighed and stood. Walking around Charity’s family room, he started looking for the usual—pictures, diplomas, something that would connect her to someone else in the case and give him questions to ask her. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary in the time Charity gave him to do so.
“They’re not fresh, but they’re the best I can do on short notice—if you stay for dinner, I can certainly stick a batch in the oven and they’ll be done for dessert,” their host said as she came in with a large plate of cookies. She held the plate out for Mulder first, and he took three.
Scully gave him a disapproving look, but took a cookie herself. They were the best cookies either of them had ever tasted.
“So what can I help you folks with?” their host asked as she sat down, and folded her hands on her lap.
“We’re in town investigating the recent earthquakes,” Mulder started. “And we just spoke to Wilson Harlow, who said that you might have been present for an older, but slightly similar event. About forty years ago, in 1970, do you remember anything unusual happening at the Seaport?”
Charity’s cheerful facial expression twitched and it would have been lost on almost anyone else, but Mulder caught the sorrow that momentarily pushed the joy out of the way. Charity didn’t care for the year of 1970.
“I love the Seaport…I’ve been a resident of southeastern Connecticut all my life, was born in Mystic, spent most of my time there…started volunteering when I was ten. They’ve got age restrictions now, I believe you have to be thirteen. But I was ten years old when I started, and they had me painting. Can you imagine the liability now?” She laughed nervously.
Mulder and Scully smiled, but their silence implored her to continue.
“I remember that summer we had so many dead soldiers coming home from Vietnam…I was fourteen years old and I was working on restoring the Morgan with my father and my next-door neighbor. There’s something about that ship…” she shook her head. “Anyway, we were doing routine paint stripping and we were expecting it to be a nice weekend. Sunny, no forecast of rain or anything. I saw this little girl on the main deck.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Charity, I understand if this is difficult for you—” Scully started.
“No, no, I understand you need the information. Maybe you can find some explanation for what I saw…you’re going to think I’m crazy,” she warned them.
“Don’t worry, ‘crazy’ is sort of our specialty,” Mulder assured her.
She nodded, smiled, and continued. “This little girl and boy were on the deck. I’ll never forget them…they were with Brett, one of the interpreters. And he was explaining how the Morgan worked. The older one seemed interested, but the little girl…she was too young for such a detailed thing. She started to wander…came over to me while I was stripping the paint. I was up on scaffolding and she seemed to think it was cool. Her parents weren’t really paying attention. Then…out of nowhere, I swear, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky…” She met Mulder’s eyes, as if she knew that he was more likely to believe her. “There was a tornado that suddenly appeared, out of nowhere, I swear. And it picked up that little girl and flung her off the Morgan. A bunch of wood from the shipyard went with her—I reached out and nearly fell off myself, but then…here’s where you’re going to think I’m a complete loon.”
Their silence and non-judgmental expressions made her continue.
“I reached out my hand into the air, over the edge of the scaffolding…and that’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I knew, I was back on the scaffolding and people were running around, picking up some of the wood from the shipyard and screaming at each other to climb the rigging and see if there are any more tornadoes coming. It was the same day as a funeral was supposed to take place, but the body went missing, I remember. The soldier was killed in Vietnam.”
“Okay…back up just a bit, Charity,” Mulder began. “What happened to the girl?”
“I turned around…maybe I imagined it, but she was right back on the deck. Like nothing ever happened.”
“What happened after that?” Scully asked.
Charity shrugged. “We were called down from the scaffolding because of the weather. We went on a small hunt for the body, trying to find the casket before any rain or other tornadoes got to it. Then we all went to the Galley—it’s the largest place and probably the safest, but that’s not saying much. No other tornadoes came through, though. I thought I had taken a hit on the head, to remember everything like this. But…this is what I saw. I’m certain of it.”
Mulder paused a moment, searching Charity’s facial expression for any form of deception. Then he took a chance. He reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet, and then slipped an old, worn, pocket-sized photograph of his sister out of one of the slots. He handed it to Charity. “Is this the girl, Charity?”
Charity’s eyes opened wide. “Yes! Where did you get this?”
Scully stared at Mulder, wondering how he’d answer that question. She could see on his face that he trusted Charity, that he believed her to be an ally.
That was why he said, very quietly, “She was my sister.”
The tall man smells like John did. Of course, he doesn’t smell exactly like John. Everyone has a different scent. But some have scents that are very much alike.
John was introspective, yet impulsive. He thought a lot about history, politics, religion…himself. He loved me because I was loyal. I love him because he was…John. He was my master, my best friend. He would never abandon me.
This tall man…he smells a bit different. It’s not the kind of smell you get from a flower, or from the ground, or from the dogs that come into the Seaport. It’s the kind of smell only I can get. The kind of smell that pops up right before the earth shakes.
The earth shook in Afghanistan. When the blast went off and fire was everywhere, everything shook. I shook. The shaking now reminds me of then. It makes me scared. But I have to be brave, for John and for Tim. John wanted me to look after Tim, I know he did.
I ran to the big ship, because that’s where the good feelings and the yellow cloud were. But the earth shook even more there than it did by the lighthouse, where the bad feelings were. Still…it smelled better by the Morgan for some reason. I don’t know why.
The tall man understands what I feel. He doesn’t smell things like I do, but he sometimes hears and sees like I do. The short woman…she smells like Tim did. Tim liked to think about everything. He thought and thought and thought, but to him the evidence was always the most important thing. Tim’s smell is there when the earth shakes. It’s near the lighthouse. But the shaking makes me scared, and I don’t know how to follow the smell before the shaking goes away. Maybe the tall man and the short woman can help me. I hope they come back soon.
FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
Mulder had the hotel room covered in yellow paper. There were papers strewn all over the bed, on the coffee table, two on top of the old CRT TV, some on the bathroom sink, and one on each night stand. He was systematically going through every bit of history he could find on the Charles W. Morgan and recording it on paper, and then sorting it based on its category of information.
Scully shook her head when she entered his room. “Why aren’t you using Inspiration, Mulder? Isn’t that why you purchased the program in the first place?”
“Yes, actually,” Mulder said, and clicked something on his computer screen. “I’m using it to organize what I have here.”
Scully raised one eyebrow. “I believe the idea was to eliminate the yellow wallpaper.” Changing the subject, she put her bag down. “Did you order the pizza?”
“Yes. Twenty minutes from…” he looked at his watch, “ten minutes ago. Did you go to the library?”
“Yes. The book you’re looking for, I believe it’s called ‘Voyages: Stories from a sailing time.’ I have it right here. They said the Morgan is featured on page 24 about halfway down. But they said there’s no indication that the information in there is correct—the entire idea is that these are stories.”
He accepted the book from her outstretched hand and placed it next to him on the bed. He nodded. “Thanks, Scully.”
She turned to go and get her laptop to help, but stopped in the doorjamb and looked at her partner. “Mulder…are you okay?”
He looked up. “I’m fine, Scully.”
“You’ve dealt a lot lately with your sister. I’m just looking out for you.”
Her expression spoke more than her words. He nodded. “I know. I’m thankful for that.”
A moment passed. “Have any theories on what might have happened to her and how it connects to the earthquake?”
“Yes. But I’m not done yet,” he said, and chewed on the end of his hotel pen.
The corner of her mouth ascended in a small smile. Like an artist working on a masterpiece.
The Mystic Pizza delivery boy arrived not long after that and handed Scully a carton that declared its contents “’A Slice of Heaven.’” Scully had the urge to say ‘yeah, right’. After all, it was a little pizza joint down the street in a tiny town. But after she took a piece and handed the box to Mulder, she took a bite and was for the second time completely shocked by the Mystic food selection. “My God, Mulder…this is excellent!”
“Makes you wonder what they’re treating the food with here in Mystic.” He took a bite, and his eyes widened in joy. “Wow. We haven’t had a bad meal here yet.”
Mulder worked for a few more minutes in silence before Scully said, “I know you probably think you’ve got a connection…but Mulder, don’t you think it’d be wiser to wait for the scanning results from the US Geological Survey? They’re supposed to come to the Seaport tomorrow.”
“Good, we’re going to need them,” Mulder said in a distracted tone. He took a bite of his slice of heaven and scribbled something down on his yellow paper pad. He then ripped the page off and tossed it onto the nightstand.
She was about to elaborate on her statement when he suddenly stood up and said, “Okay. I think I’ve got it. Give me five minutes.”
Mulder began walking around the hotel room collecting his pieces of paper, and Scully didn’t interrupt this creative process. But she was already building a theory of her own that would explain what Charity saw forty years ago.
Moments later, Mulder stood in front of Scully and said, “James Hamlin.”
Her signature eyebrow went up, as expected, and that gave Mulder the go-ahead to continue. This was going to be their normal exchange of ideas. He took comfort in it—after so much abnormality this afternoon, he was happy to have his skeptical partner keeping him grounded.
“James Hamlin was a fugitive slave who, in 1856, embarked on the Charles W. Morgan for a whaling voyage. The owners of the ship and Morgan himself were anti-slavery abolitionists. They welcomed him with open arms. They kept him safe.”
Scully stared at him, which translated into, Go on, you haven’t lost me completely.
“James Hamlin then died on that voyage,” he continued, flipping a page. “He died saving his captain, who had let him on board even though he was illiterate. You see, Scully, James Hamlin ‘paid it forward.’”
“Aside from being an excellent plot for a Hallmark movie, what does it have to do with the case?”
“Normally someone’s body would be sunk at sea when they die in the way Hamlin did. However, his body mysteriously disappeared before they were able to send it out to sea. According to the book you just brought,” he said, and quickly jogged back over to the bed where he flipped to page 24, “the sailors reported strange noises and feelings of drastic temperature change for the rest of the voyage.”
“Didn’t the Morgan sail in northern waters?”
Mulder ignored her question. “And since then, wherever the ship has been, whenever a nearby local man or woman dies in service and the body is stolen—”
“Does that happen often?”
“—There has been an unexplained natural disaster, like a tornado or earthquake. But there’s never been any damage done. Just objects moved around. However, in several instances, people have been known to be moved. This most recent incident is the only death ever noted.”
“Okay, so you think someone’s body has been stolen and now the ghost of James Hamlin is attempting to resurrect the body through the use of an earthquake?”
Scully shook her head. “Honestly, Mulder, I think it’s quite a coincidence that you and Samantha happened to be on that boat during the tornado. But I think I have a rational explanation for both of those instances, the odd events during the earthquake and the tornado. I’ll start with the tornado.” She ignored the impatient expression on his face, and continued. “Did you notice the crystals on the main deck of the Morgan?”
It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. “Yes…”
“Their purpose was to allow people to see below decks during the daytime. During a tornado, especially if it was previously a very sunny day, the sunlight would be making patterns above-deck based on the reflective surfaces around. It’s possible in the heat of the moment that Charity simply saw a reflection of Samantha and it made it look like she was thrown off the ship. That would explain why she seemed completely unphased by the event.”
“Does it explain why she said both of us reached out our hands for Sam?” Mulder asked skeptically.
“No…but you could’ve been reaching for anything, Mulder. Especially if it looked like Charity was about to fall.”
He looked dissatisfied with that explanation. “And the earthquakes?”
“The Morgan was recently towed into the shipyard to be refit. The ship was in service during an era where we didn’t know about harmful effects of certain chemicals with other chemicals in the soil, in the water, in the air…I think it’s possible that the Morgan is leaking rust or paint or something else that could have an element reactive to something in Mystic Seaport’s soil. Or, perhaps, to something close to the lighthouse. Small reactions taking place under the earth would explain the small earthquakes.”
“Would they explain why those earthquakes didn’t occur before?” Mulder challenged.
“I’m not sure. That’s why we need the USGS team out there.”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Scully, I’m just not satisfied.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed that,” she said sarcastically. “So what do you want to do? Go back to the Seaport and ask if anyone’s seen a body lately?”
“We’re going to need reinforcements on this one,” Mulder answered her, and walked over to the desk with his papers. He set them down next to Scully’s computer and then picked up his cell phone. Moments later, he was talking to the Lone Gunmen. “Fohike. Yeah, next Friday. Promise. I really promise this time. Scully will remind me to bring it. Listen, I need a favor. Can you do a cross-reference check on Mystic Seaport and the surrounding area…I need to know about any missing persons, reported by or related to Seaport employees. And I need to know about any unsolved murder cases as well…or any missing bodies. Check military and law enforcement databases first. Okay, great. I’ll talk to you soon.” He ended the call.
“How soon do they say they can do it?”
“By tomorrow,” Mulder answered. “Oh, and Frohike wants his DVR back by next Friday to record Quantum Leap.”
“Why are you telling me?”
“Because I’ll forget. It’s recording Warehouse 13 as we speak.”
Scully sighed. “We need to just buy a DVR.”
Her partner smirked in response. “I’d rather solve this case than spend my Saturday at Best Buy.”
“Then you’d better work slower,” Scully joked.
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
Mulder had jogged past Mystic Pizza and was now laboring up the hill toward a church. With the elevation difference and the numerous hills in the southeastern Connecticut area, he was getting tired pretty fast. For the first time in months he was experiencing shin splints, which usually happened when a person ran without stretching first.
He had a long way to go before he was back to the hotel, and after experiencing the difficulty he had with these hills, he was actually glad when his phone rang. Slowing down to a walking pace, he took it out of his pocket and looked at the CID. “Hey, Scully. What’s up?”
“The guys finished. We’ve got a list…a short list. Only one of them makes the law enforcement criteria. It looks like Sergeant Tim Rodney of the Waterford PD was killed and then his body went missing shortly afterward. He’s Phyllis’ nephew. Where are you?”
“Over by Mystic Pizza. Do you want me to run back or are you gonna come pick me up?”
There was a pause. “You want me to come pick you up?”
“Well, not if…I mean, I can certainly run back—”
“You’re getting too old to run that far away, Mulder,” she said, and the words were like daggers. There were a few things one just didn’t tell a man—that his hair was thinning, that his gut was expanding, and that he had run too far for his body to carry him back. She seemed to realize her error. “But we don’t want to put this case on hold…I’ll swing by Mystic Pizza and pick you up, and you can shower and change before we head to the Seaport.”
“Good plan,” Mulder said approvingly. “And while I’m in the shower you can check up on who Sergeant Tim Rodney was.”
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
The Boathouse staff were setting up the place, getting it ready for the day. It opened in a half hour. When Mulder and Scully strode in and asked to speak to Phyllis, they said she was outside putting up the signs, so they decided to wait.
Only a few minutes later, Fideles came trotting in and went directly to Mulder, tail wagging and mouth open in a happy pant. Mulder petted the big dog and said, “You’ve really got quite a history, don’t you, big man? Military, police…you weren’t in the CIA too, were you?” Fido responded by licking Mulder’s cheek and nuzzling against him. “Well, don’t tell me,” the agent said to the dog, just as Phyllis walked in.
“Good morning. What can I do for you?” she asked upon entry into the Boathouse.
“We understand you lost your nephew two years ago,” Scully started, and saw Phyllis’ expression falter. “We’re interested in the details of the disappearance of his body.”
She nodded, and beckoned Fido with her hand. He didn’t come, though. Instead, he sat at Mulder’s feet and looked up at the agent.
“Tim and Fido went into a warehouse—”
“Wait…excuse me?” Mulder asked. “Fido was involved?”
“Yes—Fido was Tim’s partner. He was on the K-9 unit in the Waterford Force,” Phyllis stated, clearly implying that she thought they already knew this. She had mentioned that Tim recruited the pup, but not that they had been partners at the time of Tim’s death.
Mulder’s eyes showed Scully that he had just figured something out. There was no stopping him now. “Phyllis, I know it might be painful, but I need you to go over every detail of Tim’s death, including Fido’s involvement.”
Fido barked, and the agents looked down for a moment, but ignored the dog after nothing was apparently wrong.
Phyllis proceeded to go through the details, slowly and painfully, of her nephew’s demise. So shortly after losing her son, her nephew’s death had hit their small family hard, and Fido had provided a comfort. No one knew what happened to Tim’s body—it was last seen at the warehouse. Audio records from Tim’s radio later proved that the only audible UNSUBs in the warehouse were accounted for during the shootout. Police accounts show that Tim’s body was untouched until the forensic team arrived, and that Fido was transported to the emergency center at the veterinary hospital in Waterford. He had been injected with some kind of homemade methamphetamine variation that nearly killed him.
Although every police officer had been thoroughly questioned, they could find no evidence of foul play. The officer guarding Tim’s body had been conversing with the forensic team at the approximate time of the snatching, and no one had seen a thing.
The only clue had been a Waterford paramedic who didn’t report for work that day, and he had turned out to be a dead end.
Mulder glanced down at Fido. “Phyllis…would you mind if we took Fido with us for a few hours? I think he might be able to find Tim’s body. And just to be sure, I’d recommend you get all the boaters out of the water. We’re going to put a ten-foot barrier around the coast while we search.”
Phyllis at first stared at the agents as if they had just landed from an alien planet. But then she looked at Fideles, whose eyes seemed to plead with her. Finally, she nodded. “Okay. Just take good care of him.”
Fido barked happily, and ran over to his leash. He grabbed the rope with the latch on the end and brought it over to Mulder. Then he dropped it at the agent’s feet and sat obediently.
Scully stared at the scene, amazed. “Fido is remarkably intelligent,” she commented as Mulder latched the leash onto the dog’s collar. “Even for a military or police dog…he must have an extraordinary vocabulary.”
“He’s special,” Phyllis simplified, and Fido’s tail wagged eagerly. “And he loves to feel useful.”
Mulder patted the dog as he stood up. “Well, let’s see if we can’t give him one last big mission.”
The tall man’s name is Mulder. I think I like that name. He’s more like a dog than a human. Someone might name their dog Mulder.
He’s going to help me find Tim. He has special powers like me, but he doesn’t want to make them work. I can understand that. I don’t want to make mine work, either. Especially not when they’ve picked the smallest boat possible to go searching for Tim.
When I find him, I know what will happen. The ground will shake. Maybe someone will die again. It will be my fault.
I can’t stop the ground from shaking when it starts. But I get closer and closer to finding Tim.
Maybe this is my last mission, I don’t know. But I know I’ll always be loyal to Tim. I’ve got to find him.
ON THE WATER
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
It was another forty-five minutes before the USGS arrived with their equipment and the agents spent much of that time arguing the finer points of boat rental with some Seaport officials.
“A few more minutes of that and I was ready to commandeer the Morgan,” Scully muttered once on the rigid-hull inflatable boat. They were accompanied by one of the USGS scientists, who came with enough equipment to power a small Alaskan city, an FBI diver for reconnaissance, and Fido, who was big enough to have his own boat. Needless to say, it was cramped quarters.
But it didn’t take long for Fido to lean over the edge and start barking like mad. They slowed engine to a stop and hovered there as the German Shepherd leaned over the edge, balancing on one paw. He apparently didn’t trust his prosthetic leg on the wet boat.
We’re getting closer. We’re so close, I can smell it. I can see Tim, I can feel him. I know he’s there…and there are others, too. So many others. I want to go in the water.
I can swim, I’ve been trained how.
We’re so close. “Here!” I bark. “Here, it’s here! Here! Here! Here! Stop here!” I look back at Mulder, hoping he knows how badly I want to go in after Tim.
ON THE WATER
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
The diver went in with a camera and a probe to measure seismic activity. The USGS guy was hooking up his array of instruments. Mulder had to physically hold Fido back from diving in. Meanwhile, Scully was studying the geological readouts and trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Seismic activity was steadily growing at an astounding rate, but it was so small that it wasn’t even noticeable yet.
Mulder held Fido by his collar and tried to calm the barking dog. “Shhh, c’mon, Buddy, it’s okay. Let’s let the diver do his work, okay? I know you’ve got a scent…
“In the water?” Scully asked skeptically, but didn’t take her eyes off the USGS laptop screen.
Mulder paused a moment. “I don’t think it’s an actual scent, Scully,” he said somewhat absently, and turned to the dog. “You wanna go in, don’t you? I just don’t want you to drown…he’d need both legs to swim, wouldn’t he?” he turned back to his partner.
She shrugged. “I would guess so, with his center of gravity being where it is, but I’m not sure. Don’t let the dog in the water, Mulder. Let’s keep Phyllis’ blood pressure as low as we can.”
He frowned. Fideles wouldn’t stop barking, and Mulder was about to defy his unofficial orders when the diver’s voice came over the speaker.
“I’ve reached the bottom, and there’s definitely something down here. SONAR readings indicate some kind of vault on the floor.”
“ I’m reading the seismic activity inside of it,” the USGS scientist commented.
“But we’re going to need some more information before we come back down here with a crowbar,” the diver continued. “It’s almost right under the lighthouse support structure. I want confirmation that when we shift this, it’s not gonna go down.”
“Come on up, Agent Trey,” Scully said into the microphone. “We’ll send an engineering team down there.”
“Take a look at this, Agent Scully. It seems to be a door of some sort.”
Just then, Fido broke free from Mulder’s grasp and dove, prosthetic and all, headfirst into the water.
Ever since the warehouse, I’ve been able to feel when I’m closer to Tim. The ground shakes and I notice the yellow cloud near the Morgan where I know there wasn’t one before…at least not that I could see. But the yellow cloud was growing now as we got closer and closer to Tim, and an entirely new feeling came over me.
I knew this feeling not from my new powers, not from the yellow cloud, not from an order anyone had given me, but by the feeling in my stomach that’s always told me when my master is about to be in trouble.
And although the diver isn’t my master, he works with Mulder and this is happening in John’s mom’s backyard, and that’s enough for me. I won’t let another master die. It’s my duty to protect them.
With all my might, I yank on the collar and fling myself into the water. I swim down, down, down as fast as I can. My leg is slowing me down. I’m not going to get there in time. But I don’t care. I have to try.
ON THE WATER
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
“Something’s wrong,” Mulder said as soon as Fideles was gone.
“You think?!” Scully asked sarcastically, exasperated. “Mulder, you just lost Fido!”
“No…Scully…I think we might be in trouble. Get down.”
“Get down! Now!” He dove on top of her and brought the USGS scientist down to the small deck along with his partner. Just then, there was an enormous roar and the water violently rocked their little boat.
CHARLES W. MORGAN
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
Brett Gordon was telling the short version of Moby Dick to a group of twelve-year-old Boy Scouts when he heard it. The unmistakable roar and rumble that told him another earthquake wasn’t far away. “Everyone down! Everyone get down on the deck and hold onto something!” He yelled.
But before he got to his own hand-hold, he saw the horrific sight of the Sentinel Lighthouse crumbling into the sound.
ON THE WATER
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
“It’s coming down!” The diver screamed the terrified, panicked scream of a man who hadn’t been trained to handle an underwater landslide of rocks and soil, and knew he probably wouldn’t make it out.
Mulder held Scully’s head down, but had tilted his own against the deck such that he was able to steal a glimpse of the lighthouse falling apart. Chunks of wood and concrete fell into the water as its foundation caved, and the beautiful Sentinel of the Sea disappeared into the earth.
Then something happened. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was blinded with a bright white light, and he heard the sounds of many voices.
“—won’t be gone long, I promise.”
“Have the horse ready. I’ll see you soon…”
“Remember I always love you, no matter what happens over there.”
“I don’t want to go either, I just—”
“Take care of my car for me, little bro. Okay?”
“—leaving soon. Won’t you please say goodbye, at least?”
“My flight should get in at about 10-ish, so—”
“At least I won’t have to go through any damned security checkpoints.”
Through all of the voices, he heard one as if it was in front of all of the others. A little girl, leaning over the edge of a boat in drydock, fascinated by the view and the painters.
“Come over here and look, Fox! There’s a—”
They were supposed to have been last words. Transported back to 1970, Mulder watched the scene again as if he was in his former self’s body. The tornado flung Sam off of the Morgan and the teenage Charity fell off of the scaffolding trying to catch her. Nine-year-old Fox extended his arms but nearly fell off himself, in the process. He watched his sister vanish out of his view, and just as suddenly as it all occurred, it all reversed itself.
And a man appeared in both the young Fox and the present-day Mulder’s vision. He was in his forties, a hard-working man. His dark skin shined with sweat, his muscles were pronounced, and his clothes hand-mended. His dirty tan shirt used to be white. His brown pants used to be tan. His hat used to keep the sun off his head. His hands, calloused but somehow gentle, pulled hard on a rope to raise the mainsail. He halted his work, and turned to face his ‘audience.’ The young Fox and the present-day agent stared as the man tipped his hat and said simply, “What ain’t s’posed ta be, cain’t be ‘llowed ta be.”
And then he vanished into the white once more.
I have him. I start to swim up, but there is a shudder, and a roar, and suddenly everything is black. But I see the yellow cloud, and I know everything will be okay. It’s over as soon as it starts. I’m able to continue on my journey, complete my mission. The diver is safe. The vault is open…and Tim can finally come home. I come up on the surface, and the feelings are gone. The yellow cloud is gone. I pant, my head finally above water. I can relax. It’s over.
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2010
“I’m telling you, that’s what I saw,” Brett Gordon was the first one to say it. Many others witnessed the apparent destruction of the lighthouse, as well.
Phyllis was one of them. She cried when she saw it go under, having seen Fideles dive in. But when it reappeared and Fideles similarly popped up out of the water with the diver in tow, she continued to cry in relief.
There was no earthquake, no damage. No death. The perimeter around the lighthouse had saved the lives of countless tourists who would have been inside or around the area at the time of the collapse.
“It’s possible that you saw a concussive tsunami,” the USGS scientist argued. “The blast caused a large wave to wash over the boat—”
“You’re telling me,” Scully complained as she stood there, soaked from head to toe.
The scientist continued, “–and it could have reflected the image of the lighthouse.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Brett argued.
Mulder, unbelievably, was sitting silently with Fideles at his feet. They rested on the bench outside the boathouse as the forensic team got the vault out of the water. The video footage showed the blast, which the FBI diver and the subsequent forensic team guessed was an explosive charge wired to the door and infrared sensitive.
“One way or the other,” Scully was explaining, “The explosive charge could have very easily been causing these earthquakes. Especially in its proximity to the lighthouse, that would explain why Janet Hausman was unable to maintain her position near the edge of the pier.”
“And the seafloor juncture we saw at the bottom of the sound would explain why the readings initially pointed to the Charles W. Morgan,” the USGS scientist added. “As it runs directly from here to there, the force would have been carried there faster than it would have reached land.”
Scully glanced at Mulder, who hadn’t chimed in at all. She excused herself and walked over to him, massaging his shoulders gently with her wet hands and leaning over as she asked, “Hey…you okay?”
“Yeah, we’re fine. Just waiting for the bodies to come up.”
“Whoever hid them there obviously had diving experience. And from the looks of that vault, at least on video and from what we can see there,” she surveyed the large metal object, nearly blown to bits, being raised carefully by a series of ropes and pulleys, “we can conclude that the vault is probably a hundred years old.”
“So we’ve either got some organized crime or we’ve got a series of copycats,” Mulder commented.
She nodded. “It’s gonna take an entirely separate investigation to discover which one.”
He nodded in agreement, but remained silent as he petted Fideles.
“How’s Fido?” Scully asked.
“He’s tired, but he’ll be fine. The paramedic said he was okay.”
“That’s good news.” She came around the bench and sat next to her partner. “So you think Tim Rodney’s body is in there?”
“I know it is,” he stated. Fido’s ears perked up, but he remained in his resting position at Mulder’s feet.
“How? We have only skeletal remains…”
“Because Fido knew. He was able to rescue his master, let him rest…Scully, I know you won’t believe me, but I have to explain to you what I saw.” He met her eyes, and told her about the lighthouse. Then he explained about Sam, about how the former slave and whaling crewman James Hamlin had come to him, how everything had been restored to normal.
Thankfully, she didn’t respond by checking his head for a concussion or giving him a smart remark. Instead, she listened and nodded in the end.
“What do you think?” he asked, as if he was afraid of the answer.
Scully’s mouth morphed into a small smile and she took Mulder’s hand in hers as she petted Fideles’ head. “I think…what’s meant to be is meant to be…and I think either way, weary souls get to finally go home.”
Just then, Phyllis came over and bent down on one knee to embrace Fido. He leaned his head into her and licked her face.
Mulder nodded. That was exactly what had happened.