Summary: Mulder recalls his college days, and a case that screamed to be solved.
Special Agent Dana Scully stared in horror at the pile of pink, pungently aromatic flesh before her. It was half-covered in leaves, and she gasped as she nudged them aside and exposed the tissues.
"Mulder," she breathed. "This is deadly. Look at the fat deposits."
Her partner nodded cheerfully, mouth crammed with corn beef and cabbage. "Try ih wif da gree' beer. I's Atkins-frien'ly."
Scully turned to the tall stein of emerald-colored brew next to her steaming plate. "When you told me you were taking me out for a special St. Patrick's Day dinner, I foolishly assumed you were taking me to O'Mara's Publick House for the peppercorn sirloin and maybe some black-and-tan pudding. Not a slab of sodium, cholesterol, and gristle buried in soggy, overcooked cabbage."
Mulder swallowed. "It's all you can eat, you know. Did I tell you that?"
Scully scanned the array of cardboard shamrocks and leprechauns stapled to the booths of Flynn's Capitol Mall Pub. "I mean, Mulder, is this what our cultural awareness has come to? Look at me a redheaded, Irish-American cop. But no one in my family ever traveled to Ireland, I don't know a single word of Gaelic, and my priest's name is Wozjehewski. We're not a melting pot we're like a bad cheesy casserole."
"C'mon, Scully, what's wrong once a year with our getting in touch with the Irish inside us?"
"The Irish inside us."
"You know what I mean the joyous, gregariously poetic, romantic part of ourselves we button up during our humdrum, workaday lives. Besides, on a purely personal level, the Celtic culture is a virtual smorgasbord of preternatural petit-fours. Leprechauns, faeries, wraiths... Perhaps no technologically advanced western nation is so steeped in its belief in the unknown."
"And thereby, I assume, hangs a tale?"
"Ah, sure, and you must have psychic abilities. . ."
"Well, if it isn't the pride of Oxford Yard," Nowicki murmured, appearing as always in the corner of my eye. "Things'll kill you, son."
"Special Agent Nowicki," I nodded, collecting my coneful of fish and chips and turning away from the stall. Special Agent Kenny Nowicki was pale and flabby, and I doubted he followed any of his frequent avuncular health tips. "Actually, I plan to secret this into my aberrant psych prof's meat pie while he's not looking, so I can take the course over."
"Want to be careful, Fox Prof. Winton speaks very highly of your skills in profiling."
"Ah," I said. "Have to go to the chemist's and get some digitalis for the dear old chap."
This was back in the mid-'80s disco was thankfully dead but Reaganism was alive and kicking. I was in my final year at Oxford, a Yank among the dons in self- exile from trickle-down sociology, the ghost and the demons that had dogged my adolescence, and my father, who'd seemed as relieved to ship me off as I had been to flee.
Three years later, I was a regular at every pub around Oxford town, frequently tucked into a corner discussing serial killers or the latest item in the Fortean Times with my mentor, Dr. Byrnes, my equally twisted and scholarly mates, or the girl I'd been seeing.
("Phoebe?" she asked it matter-of-factly, laying it out on the table with the fatty corn beef and the wilted cabbage.)
Phoebe Green, budding criminologist, determined someday to become the Terror of Scotland Yard. Nowicki, some kind of Bureau recruiter who'd surfaced a month earlier on campus, was equally as determined to put me in a black suit and J. Edgar Hoover decoder ring.
"Some piece of work, that thesis you did for Winton last term on the Lecter case," Nowicki continued, trailing me without stepping up his pace. "You could probably snag an assistant directorship within five years, you quit screwing around and came aboard."
I turned, smiling. "Agent Nowicki, I'd love to talk wiretaps and illegal searches over a couple Guinnesses, but my girlfriend and I are blowing town for the weekend, and I have to pack." "Where to?" Nowicki asked lightly.
"Pip, pip, Agent Nowicki," I murmured, stepping it up. He didn't follow me he never did.
"My, you already have your own agent-cum-major domo attached to you," Phoebe noted as our train trundled toward the Dublin Ferry landing.
"I think I shall name him Jeeves."
"Ugly Americanism at its worst. Quite seriously, though, Fox, what are your intentions? Is there a going market for freelance behavioral scientist/occultists in the States? Or do you intend to make a career of chasing flying saucers?"
I'd made the mistake one amorously candid night of baring my soul, including the raw and aching part where Samantha had been ripped away. The evening had ended with a pint or so too many and a sacrilegious episode at the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
"Just evasive future coppers," I responded lightly. Phoebe sighed heavily, shook her head in resignation, and turned to the green blur of Northern England outside her window.
"Come on," I finally murmured, reaching for her hand. She refused it at first, then sighed and squeezed my fingers.
"Me, evasive," she mused. "You're very likely the most unfathomable mystery I'll never solve."
"Pop, this is Fox and Phoebe," Ryan called out as he shut the sounds of rush-hour Dublin outside. Garren O'Mara was a large, simultaneously soft and hard man. Ryan had told me his dad had nearly made the pro soccer circuit as a young man, before a blown knee had sentenced him to life in a foundry.
Ryan's childhood home was a sorely neglected monument to his late mother. Dried flowers flora left to die, not the artfully arranged flowers you might find in a foofy boutique languished in dusty glass vases in long-forgotten corners.
"Fox," O'Mara grunted, a smirk momentarily contorting his bleak, monolithic face. He gave Phoebe the once- over, turned, and ambled back to a filthy, ramshackle chartreuse armchair. In seconds, Ryan's father was burbling and occasionally chortling over the antics of a gaudily dressed comedian and his scantily clad nurse.
"Well," Ryan grinned, as if his father had performed an oft-repeated trick. "William," he shouted. "Get on out here!"
I heard a pot clang in the kitchen down the dark hall beyond the living room, and a dissipated, broken- nosed version of Ryan lurched into the room. He ignored me and inspected Phoebe from head to toe, a look of frank envy momentarily souring a reckless and hung-over grin. "And you'd be Ryan's chums from the school," William said, wiping wet hands on his jeans.
"Supper's just about on just beef and potatoes, I'm sure nothing fancy like the fare they feed you at the college."
"Stow it," Ryan sighed.
"Yeah, guess I better watch myself in this company, eh?" He tossed his father's smirk at me, nodded, and lurched back to the kitchen.
"Ah, home," I breathed.
"Sorry," Ryan smiled sheepishly. "Pop's been pretty much into his telly since Mum died, and William, well, he's got a hollow leg and a chip the size of County Kilkenny on his shoulders. Always got to drink harder and fight harder than any of the other blokes."
"If only he could cook harder than any of the other blokes," I commented to Phoebe later, as we washed the dishes. The boiled beef had held more water than the Titanic, and the potatoes were soft and flavorless. Garren O'Mara was now drowning out Benny Hill in the living room. William had disappeared for the pubs before the food reviews could come in.
"Used to cook up a storm with Mum, when he was a lad," Ryan recalled. "They were great, good friends he'd help her out in the garden and in the kitchen - until the old man decided he was turning into a nancy and devoted himself to making William into the gallant young man you now see."
I glanced out the kitchen window. Beyond a yard of anemic brown grass was a bare patch of clods and long-dead vegetation. "I take it your father doesn't have the same green thumb."
Ryan darkened. "It was a sore point for him, Mum and her flowers. That was how she coped with him, I think
the gardening, making these beautiful dry flower arrangements. He was constantly grousing about the flowers and garlands about the house. Said they gave him hay fever."
I wondered if perhaps Mrs. O'Mara had had more than one way of coping with her brutish husband. "When did your mom die, Ryan?"
"Three years ago," Ryan murmured, leaning on the kitchen table. "In fact, that's part of why I asked you to come for the school holiday."
"I was curious," I grinned. "Considering we haven't exchanged more than about five sentences over the last two years."
Ryan shrugged his athletic shoulders and glanced at a cheap plastic clock mounted by the pantry. "Phoebe told me you were into, ah, rather queer crimes supernatural stuff and the like. Well, I wondered if you might, well, give me an opinion on a sort of unexplained phenomenon." He glanced again at the clock. "It ought to be starting any minute-"
Ryan was interrupted by what I first assumed to be a siren keening low in the distance. Phoebe nearly dropped a plate as the sound grew into a human, but somehow inhuman, female wailing. Somewhere in the anguished sobs and lamentations were words I couldn't quite make out. The wailing continued for at least 10 minutes, and then trailed off into a low moan and silence. I was unable to determine from where the cries emanated it was as if they came from nowhere and everywhere at once. Phoebe and I stood in shocked silence.
I looked to Ryan, heart pounding with mild fear and exhilaration. "What," I breathed, "was that?" "Been happening every night, round about 7:30, for the last three years," he explained. "I think it's my Mum." His head jerked toward the living room. "I think he killed her, and she wants us to know it."
"The banshee is a centuries-old Irish legend," I told Phoebe later in the upstairs hallway. "A disembodied female voice, sometimes anguished and plaintive, sometimes vengeful and menacing. According to the literature, the banshee is supposed to be a woman who has been torn from her family prematurely. There are two types: The spirit whose love for those left keeps her earthbound, guarding and protecting them; and the banshee seeking to torment the one who took her life from her."
Phoebe, at the threshold to her room, smiled tolerantly in a style I later became accustomed to.
"And which kind do you believe this particular banshee to be? Anguished or angry?"
"Given the dynamics of this happy home, I'd be inclined to believe a bit of both."
The front of her terry robe was gapping, and I was becoming eager to end this chat. But she shook her head sadly. "Fox, how do you expect ever to gain any credibility in forensics or law enforcement with this paranormal rubbish? You sound like one of the London tabs. I shudder to think of your first interview with the FBI."
"You sure it's disdainful shuddering?" I suggested, leaning into the heat of her. "I know a cure for banshee jitters."
Phoebe pecked me on the lips. "Night, Love." I retreated just in time to avoid a faceful of splinters.
"And you would be Mr. Fox Mulder?"
I looked up to see an impressive paunch with a nearly bald block of a head and a cauliflower nose floating above it. A short white scar framed the left side of his graying brush mustache. "Yes, sir," I responded, determined to stay on his best side.
"Detective Inspector Dobbyns," the Dublin policeman murmured, stepping around me to the battered chair behind his battered desk. "They keep you gathering dust very long here?"
"No, sir everybody was very accommodating." In fact, I'd been cooling my heels for 20 minutes with only amused stares and curious glares to keep me company.
"The squad prides itself on impeccable service. Now, Mr. Mulder, I understand you would be here inquiring as to a homicide case we investigated three years ago. Are you a relation to the late lamented, or has guilt or spontaneous remembrance of a pertinent fact brought you here today?" "I'm a friend of the victim's son we attend Oxford together. I'm studying criminal psychology, and Ryan asked me to see if-"
"Danny!" D.I. Dobbyns barked suddenly to a tall cop next to a file cabinet. "Do we have any locked room murders at hand presently? Untraceable poisonings?" The tall cop shook his head, glancing at me. Dobbyns turned back to me. "Tis a shame. To have an Oxford-trained American criminologist named Fox at my disposable and no unfathomable riddles or nefarious schemes for him to sniff at."
I smiled as I rose. "May the road rise up to meet you, sir."
"Ah, sit down, Mr. Mulder," the D.I. chuckled, indicating the guest chair. "The wife's taken me off my whiskey and sweets, so I have to find some sport. Besides, Marty says you're inquiring as to the O'Mara case. That one always bothered me a bit."
Dobbyns studied me carefully. "You're a friend of the family, is that right?"
"Just Ryan. Just the victim's son."
"Ah, what the hell. Never could prove it, but I always had a bad feeling about the husband felt like maybe his bein' off with his mates at the soccer match while his wife was dying at home was a mite convenient for him. The poison was administered in Mrs. O'Mara's afternoon tea we found residue of the substance in her cup."
"Ah, yes you are the forensic whiz kid, aren't you? Glycoside, lad a heart drug if you got a bum ticker, deadly poison if you don't - and a reasonably high concentration of it. Mrs. O'Mara tended to prefer her tea loose used one of those thingies—"
"Yes, that. She was down to the last dregs of her supply that day kept it in one of those crockery- type affairs - and we suspicioned someone had slipped the poison into the jar. How well do you know Mr. O'Mara?"
"I've met him," I said, dryly. "I won't leap from my chair to defend his honor."
"Indeed. Well, as I'm sure is true in the States, the loving spouse is not infrequently the focus in many homicide investigations. And a more tantalizing focal point one could not wish for. Many's the time the boys'd drop in on the O'Maras to maintain the neighborhood peace, and Mrs. O'Mara was no stranger to the local dispensary. But, as an erudite Oxford criminalist such as yourself might guess, all of our attempts to remove the problem from, well, the 'situation,' were fruitless. And we didn't let this out, but the late lamented showed signs of brutality - two broken fingers, according to the police surgeon, broken after death."
"So you liked Garren for the murder. Or you would have liked him for it."
Dobbyns' mustache shifted. "I will confess, I would have liked to have clapped the irons on old Garren. He was all that the world hates in an Irishman drunk, foul temper, and as mean as an old boar off his feed. Unfortunately, that's no longer enough for Her Majesty's Bench. While I could picture Garren O'Mara bludgeoning his dear wife or knocking her down the front stairs, poisoning did not quite suit the man. Not to mention that we could find no evidence of him purchasing or otherwise securing the glycoside."
"Any other suspects? The sons?"
"Your friend Ryan was completely in the clear he'd been on holiday with his chums for the previous week in the south. The other boy, ah..."
"Yes, that. Well, young William appeared to have a bit of what you might call a furtive nature about him. Sensitive lad."
"Sensitive?" I gasped.
"You don't think all that bluff and swagger of young William's isn't just a performance for his sorry old man? I'm sure you've spied that limp of his, and at the time his poor mother was killed, he was nursing a knot on his neck near the size of a hedge apple. And all of the neighbors swore the boyo was devoted to his mother, which I'm certain endeared him to old Garren. There was some talk of him being involved with a woman an older woman. A neighbor lady told us as how she'd seen him and what appeared to be some older woman roaming the house whilst his folks were out."
"An older woman?" "The neighbor lady described her as 'dowdy,' dressed like a middle-aged woman. One of the fellows came up with the rather weak theory some strumpet had got her hooks into young William and talked him into doing something dire to get his mother out of the picture. But we couldn't find any sign of such a relationship, and what would this older woman have gotten out of William or his dear mother? You've seen their palace."
"So the case just went unsolved."
"Until you walked into our hallowed halls, praise the Lord above. Now, how might you convince me to blow the cobwebs off this woefully neglected casefile?"
I took a breath. "I assume you've heard of banshees..."
"And that, I assume, is when you found yourself on the street, wondering why the good inspector couldn't simply open himself to the possibilities."
Mulder frowned bleakly at Scully. "Hey, I was young." Scully sputtered. "Oh, yeah things have really changed."
The band was warming up now three reedy young men with wispy facial hair plucked out test notes while a fetching but strongly built redhead caressed the mouthpiece of her lute. Mulder eyed the lute player with interest.
"Yes, things have really changed," Scully repeated, more darkly.
I nearly dislocated my shoulder yanking on the O'Mara's doorknob. Ryan had told me to just come back in when I finished sightseeing, that he'd leave the door unlocked. I rapped on the weathered frame, and in a second, Ryan's ruddy face appeared beyond the yellowed lace curtain.
"Thought you were gonna do the town," he breathed, with what I perceived to be a slightly plaintive tone. That's when I noted Ryan's cheeks were ruddier than usual, and he seemed winded. I smiled. "Got hungry, and I left my money in my jeans."
Ryan nodded wordlessly, and jerked his head toward the kitchen. As he turned, I could see the back of his sweatshirt was tucked half in and half out of his jeans. It took a second longer to realize the shirt was on backwards. I quickly scanned the living room and parlor for Phoebe.
Garren O'Mara was sitting up at the kitchen table, his broad back to us. I could smell cold meat and mustard.
"Mr. O'Mar—" I began, heading for the chair opposite him, then stopped dead.
Ryan was raiding the fridge. "Hey, Pop, why don't you go easy on Will. Some day, he may just decide to give you a good thump on the-"
"Ryan," I advised quietly. He turned, and all blood fled his cheeks.
"Dear Lord," he whispered, staring wide-eyed into his deceased father's equally wide eyes. Garren O'Mara's jowly face was locked in a look of terror, his fingers locked into a fear-mangled sandwich. Mustard had oozed between his digits.
Ryan collapsed into a chair, his jaw slack. "It must've been the row he had with William when he came in from the pub. Don't know what it was about, but there was an awful commotion, and I could hear William stomp up the stairs. I suppose it was one tantrum two many for 'im."
As I examined O'Mara for any sign of foul play, I unconsciously recorded Ryan's strangely secondhand report of the domestic disturbance and the fact that Phoebe still hadn't shown herself.
"Or maybe one too many manifestations," I mumbled.
"Oh, come on," Ryan snorted, irritably. "So now, you think he was murdered by some kind of wraith or spirit? Mum?"
"Look at his face, Ryan. That's pure horror. Maybe this time, she actually materialized."
"God's sake, Fox!"
"What are you boys-?" Phoebe halted in the kitchen doorway. Her sleek hair, I noted, was neatly brushed. Too neatly, as if she'd just had to... "My God. Is he. . .?"
"That he is," Ryan said quietly.
Phoebe rushed into the kitchen and threw her arms around Ryan's neck. "I'm so sorry." She caught my eye, and the look on Phoebe's face made me glance away, something sharp but shapeless forming in my gut...
The wake for Garren O'Mara was held two days later at the O'Mara residence. It was attended largely by solicitous neighbors, friends of Eileen O'Mara who periodically cast neutral eyes toward the photo of Garren on the long-unused hearth, and Garren's coworkers a morose lot drawn primarily to the table of donated food. The parish priest dropped by for a few moments, stumbled over an anecdote or two about Garren's infrequent episodes of humor and humanity, and hastily left us with the distinct impression the dear departed would not be chatting up his deceased wife any time soon.
The police had come to call after Ryan summoned an ambulance for his father. D.I. Dobbyns was not among them.
Neither had Eileen O'Mara made an appearance since the passing of her surviving husband.
The police surgeon cleared the air of any homicidal suspicions a day later, when the post-mortem revealed that a life of red meat, cheese, potatoes, and fried pub food had laid waste to Garren O'Mara's arterial network. I made no mention of my own theories on the case Ryan preferred to believe his father had stared horror-stricken into the face of his own mortality, rather than that of his dead bride and Ryan busily attended to his father's arrangements while William nestled into a cocoon of silence and Phoebe and I avoided conversation and contact where possible.
"You'd be the young American fellow?" I looked around, and then down, at the diminutive old woman whose face was as finely webbed as the lace shawl about her shoulders.
"Yes, ma'am," I smiled, transferring my whiskey glass to my left hand and grasping her thin fingers delicately. "Fox Mulder. I'm a friend of Ryan's."
"I'm Maureen Cragan I live a door to the south. Tis a shame, for the boys, I mean, even if he was an awful creature."
"I suppose it must sound awful I'll have to say a dozen Hail Marys tonight." I then noticed her worrying a rosary in her arthritically clawed left hand. "I knew Eileen and her people when she was but a child, and what she ever saw in that brutish ogre is anyone's guess." Mrs. Cragan waggled a finger at me, rattling her rosary. I leaned over, and could smell fermented barley on her breath. "I still believe he did 'er in."
"What makes you think so?"
"There was a lot odd went on in this house. The old bastard would just whale something awful on those two young boys, on the least little provocation. She was the peacemaker, Eileen was, always getting between Garren's belt and the children, and sometimes losing. But always cheerful on the outside, she was always had a kind word to say, brought me over one of her beautiful garlands whenever I had a birthday or one of my sisters or brothers passed on. I don't think she had any idea William was carrying on with that brazen woman under her own roof until the day she died."
I steered her toward the couch. "I'd heard you'd seen them together. You sure they were having a romantic relationship."
"Well, I never saw them locked in the throes of passion, if that's what you mean. But she looked as if she was old enough to be Eileen. I suspect that's what they were going on about so the day she passed on. I was having my afternoon tea and crocheting when I heard an awful row going up next door. I'm not a prying sort, but I caught a peek at the two of them through the side window. They were yelling and crying to beat the band, the both of them, then he stormed out. I went about my business, and after a while, she came out to tend to her flowers and shrubs."
I perked. "That seems strange. I mean, that Mrs. O'Mara would have a violent argument with her son, then just start gardening."
"That was like her surrounded by heartache and misery, retreating to her little patch of beauty out back of the house. Garren hated that that she had a refuge from him. I noticed the day after she died when her body was barely cold that the miserable old beast had ripped everything out, every flower and stick."
I eyed the beads between her gnarled fingers as a notion took hold. It was a disturbing notion, but it made sense.
"I don't want to seem forward, Mrs. Cragan..." I began. "I wonder if you could answer a kind of strange question for me, and then do me a great favor."
A second later, I caught sight of both Ryan and Phoebe staring curiously as I escorted Mrs. Cragan through the front door.
I found William on the rear stoop, sucking thoughtfully on a Player. As I lowered myself onto the step beside him, he looked up, startled.
"Want one?" he stammered, proffering the pack. I shook my head. "Had to get away for a few, you know? Pop's mates are as bad as those old biddies from the block. Telling me what a fine man my old man was, like the old bastard had a friend down at that plant of his. They just come for the liquor and the eats."
"Must've been pretty rough after both your mother and your brother left you alone here, huh?" I asked. William looked straight ahead, blowing a plume of smoke. "The old man just kept getting meaner and drunker every night, so I'd stay out with my chums 'til all hours. 'Cept however late I'd get home, he'd still be up drinking. And the more she screamed at him, the more he'd drink, mostly 'til he'd pass out in that chair of his. Guess Ryan still thinks the old man killed her, eh?" "I know he didn't directly. So do you, don't you?" William froze, then pitched his cigarette into the scrubby grass and jumped up. "Now you're saying I killed my own Mum? I ought to smash your face."
"No one killed your mother, William," I said calmly but firmly. "You know that. You came home after your argument with her the day she died, didn't you? But the poison had already done its work.
"See, there were three really weird things about your mother's death. One was the broken fingers - fingers broken after her death, as if something were removed from them. You accidentally broke them prying the rosary out of her hand. As a good Catholic woman, she knew what she was doing was a mortal sin, and was praying for forgiveness when you found her. You didn't want anyone, especially your dad, to know she had committed suicide."
William glared down at me for a long second, and a tear rolled down his stubbled cheek.
"Then there was the question of why after a violent and tearful argument with her son, your mother went out to her garden. I think the answer to that puzzle ties in with our third mystery: Why your father would have torn out your mother's garden after her murder. It's a totally illogical act. Unless someone was getting rid of some evidence." I pointed toward a bare spot in the corner of the yard. "What was back there, William?
"I'm guessing an oleander shrub. Oleander nemeris is one of the most toxic plants on earth one leaf is enough to kill you. And there were a number of oleander leaves in the garland she gave Mrs. Cragan for her last birthday.
"Your mother took an oleander leaf, maybe two, from the shrub out here and ground it into her tea. When you were young, she'd probably told you and your brother to be careful around some of the plants back here. You're smarter than you want anyone around you to know
when you realized she'd poisoned herself, again to protect her, you tore out anything the police might be able to trace to her death. If anyone spotted you, they'd probably chalk it up to angry grief."
William was now sobbing silently, hands over his face.
"William," I said. "William, look at me. You need help. This is too much to carry alone. And I don't just mean the knowledge of your mother's suicide or what blame you believe you have to shoulder in it."
"And what do you mean?"
I looked up. Ryan was standing over me, his square jaw tight, his arms crossed over his chest.
"What do you mean, Fox?" he asked.
I rose and turned to Ryan. "I mean that your brother needs help. He's been sitting on a secret for years. He's confused, and he's in pain." Ryan's eyes didn't leave mine. "That true, William?"
Eyes raw, his brother nodded.
"You go on ahead in, William. Everyone's leaving, and we'll talk shortly."
William sniffed and headed past us. I patted his arm and he made a weak gesture in return.
"All right, Fox," Ryan said as the door closed. "You want to tell me why you're playing psychiatrist with my family? You have a complaint with me, why don't you talk to me? It's about Phoebe, right?"
I shook my head. "Whatever, Ryan. You'd better talk to your brother. He's a mess."
"And what's wrong with him?"
I headed past Ryan. "I think you should talk to him yourself."
An iron hand locked on my forearm. "What's wrong with my brother?"
I explained it as concisely as I could.
And then he broke my nose.
"I took the train back to Oxford the next morning, alone Phoebe said Ryan needed consolation. I suggested he needed something else. And that was pretty much it. I saw the two of them together around campus a few times over the next month or so, and then I saw them not together. Phoebe and I eventually talked it out, and we agreed to be friends. Which, of course, means she agreed. We graduated, Phoebe went to Scotland Yard, Agent Nowicki offered me free dental and I joined the FBI. Another beer?"
Scully nodded slowly, then frowned and shook her head. "Wait a minute. What happened to the banshee?"
"There was no banshee," Mulder said. "Never was. That's my point. The subconscious often sometimes grabs onto superstition and cultural belief when the truth is too much for the conscious mind to grasp."
"Are you trying to tell me William O'Mara manufactured the banshee?"
"Not consciously. There are reams of case studies documenting poltergeist phenomena linked to psychokinetic activity. I think William's bottled-up emotions and impulses finally spilled out in the form of psychic energy."
"Just what was this terrible secret he was keeping, anyway? What did it have to do with Eileen O'Mara's death?" Scully snapped her fingers. "The banshee was William's subconscious way of punishing his father for his role in his mother's death. Did he kill Garren?" Mulder shook his head. "You mean, scare him to death? No. I think Garren O'Mara died of a mixture of cholesterol, booze, and mental overload. I don't know why William decided that day to face his father maybe it was Ryan's visit, the realization of the potential he was cheating himself out of but in the words of Brother Jack, old Garren just couldn't handle the truth." "Which was?" Scully breathed, impatiently.
"Let's profile William O'Mara, Scully. A sensitive boy, close to his mother, not too interested in sports or manly pursuits until his father beats the living snot out of him. Then he starts to overcompensate, becomes a swaggering drinker. According to his brother, a terrific cook who purposely botches a meal to perpetuate his manly image."
Scully winced, fingered the cross about her neck. "No wonder it was such a tinderbox, William and his father boxed up in that cramped little house. A devout, Irish Catholic family; a blue-collar, testosterone-driven father. Of course, he'd try to deny his homosexuality."
Mulder leaned back as the band launched into a melancholy ballad of love and glory. "If it had only been that. Eileen O'Mara was the backbone of their family she had been for years. I don't think the news of William's homosexuality would have been enough to make her commit one of the gravest of mortal sins in Catholicism.
"No, let's take this a step further. I began to suspect something was very out-of-whack about William the first time I met him. He virtually ignored me when we were introduced, but he practically gave Phoebe a complete physical exam. And there was a look on his face of pure, unadulterated envy. At the time, I thought he envied me for having this drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend."
"A little horsey through the face. . ." Scully mumbled.
"Focus, Scully. I was wrong: William's envy had nothing to do with what I had that he couldn't. It was what Phoebe had. I'm sure you've heard of dysphora. An extreme form of gender confusion, apart from homosexuality or transvestitism. William had a far less violent but no less emotionally wrenching form.
"At the wake, I asked Mrs. Cragan if she'd ever seen William and this unknown lover of his the dowdy woman who dressed like William's mother together, at precisely the same time. The answer was no. I think the day she died, Eileen O'Mara walked in on her son and the 'other woman.' She'd been keeping the peace in her family for years, battling first to please her implacable husband, then to keep her sons safe from Garren. When she realized what kind of all- out war was about to break out between Garren and William, I think Eileen had reached the end of her endurance."
A raucous burst of applause marked the end of the band's set. Scully's brow wrinkled as she absorbed her partner's comments, and she was startled when the tall redhead from the band materialized at their booth.
"Fox," the woman exclaimed warmly. She locked Mulder in a firm embrace; he smiled sheepishly. The lute player beamed happily at Scully.
"And this would be your partner, Dana." Scully's hand was encased by firm fingers. "She's quite a lovely little thing I hope you don't mind me saying so, dear."
"Not at all," Scully flushed. "And you are?"
"Eileen," the musician sang. "Your friend and I are good chums from 'way back."
"Everything going well, Eileen?" Mulder inquired.
"Happier than. . ." She glanced mischievously about the pub and its faux-Gaelic décor. "Happier than Paddy's pig. Look, I got to touch up my blush a bit before the next set."
"Live long and prosper, Eileen," Mulder winked. The woman kissed his cheek and moved on with the slightest of limps.
The mug was almost to Scully's lips before her eyes widened. She lowered the glass and stared at Mulder.
Her partner smiled crookedly. "Ryan was pretty pissed off when I told him about his brother, but he realized William needed some counseling and made sure he got it. Luckily, socialized medicine, while often shoddy, allowed William to afford the psychotherapy and surgery he needed to exorcise his demons.
"See, Scully, William's subconscious mind filtered his inner fears and torment through his own cultural context. The banshee that haunted the O'Mara clan wasn't Eileen, watching over her broken family or indicting her unpunished murderer. It was the woman inside William, literally screaming to get out."