Title: Don't Do Anything I Wouldn't Do
Note: gory, somewhat unpleasant in parts, and be forewarned: Mulder gets laid. Enjoy.
A bloodshot eye stares up at Scully with a filmy, lecherous gaze, a pale tulip of extrinsic muscle blossoming from the rear. Pinned to a petri dish, it winks, it blinks, a flap of ragged skin fluttering loosely from the orbit, the bony socket still encircling the eye, snapped from the skull like a piece of crockery. The sclera is rimmed with blue, the cornea abnormally small.
It sits there, mouthlessly grinning - an eye without a face, plumper than an overripe cherry - looking upward and waiting for the syringe.
Scully's valise lies next to the perforated steel of the autopsy table. Four photographs are balanced against the side of the briefcase, 8 x 10 glossy monochrome crime scene photos, each depicting a wall - one exterior, three interior - writ with ideograms of blood, starbursts of blood, ropes and fingers and tendrils of blood, splayed in bleeding calligraphy across the plaster. A human handprint is clearly visible in one picture, pressed cleanly into the gore. A grease-pencil circle marks the spot on the tiles where the eye was found.
This one eye, torn from the victim and tossed aside, and the blood - no other remains were discovered.
Next to the briefcase is her cell phone, volume turned up high. It serves as a makeshift intercom, allowing her to eavesdrop on the conversation taking place three floors down in Fox Mulder's basement office, the voices fuzzy and tinged with static. One of the voices is Mulder's. The other is that of a woman, a decidedly peculiar, even remarkable woman, if her credentials are to be believed - and Mulder assures Scully that they are, having succinctly summed up the situation a few hours ago, quoting directly from the official memorandum that had been placed on his desk that morning:
"'She's the most coveted whore in India.'"
Now, listening in on the conversation, Scully feels that she can detect a slight tremor in her partner's voice - his libido is showing. She smiles at his discomfort - secretly hoping, for his sake, that discomfort is all it is - as she inserts a hypodermic into the eye and draws out a few mL of aqueous humor for drug tests, deflating the orb partway.
The phone crackles with static.
Mulder: "So. How exactly do you pronounce your name?"
"Kiki Svadhishthana," the woman's voice bears a slight Hindi accent, light and airy, like the whisper of a feather drawn across silk.
"Is that your given name?"
"No. Svadhishthana is the second chakra in the doctrine of Kundalini yoga. It's the chakra associated with fucking."
"In so many words."
Seated behind his metal desk in shirtsleeves, flipping through Ms. Svadhishthana's dossier with one hand and clutching a cup of lukewarm coffee with the other, Mulder can't help thinking: -By any conceivable standard of measurement, this woman is incredibly beautiful.
The humidity is getting to him. Washington mercury peaked two days ago at ninety-seven, and the J. Edgar Hoover building's air conditioning leaves much to be desired: beads of sweat collect beneath his collar and trickle like inchworms along the curve of his spine. He thinks: -What is beauty, after all, but the sum of averages? Take calipers and measure every face in the world down to the millimeter, add the results, divide and take the mean, and you have a formula for sexual attraction. Beauty is not exceptional, but the most average average: the peak of the Poisson, the apex of the bell curve.
But the woman who sits before him....Mulder, sitting and perspiring behind the desk, can take refuge only in the glories of metaphor.
Her hair - Kiki's hair - is like the smoke rising from a newly-snuffed candle, suffused with scarlet, with rose, with strands of carmine and jasper. Her skin is the color of amber tea. A perfect neck, leonine, flawless chin, arresting violet eyes, larger and deeper than he'd thought humanly possible, sensual mouth, haughty Hindu nose: Mulder could go on all day.
Clearly, this is a woman who makes a good first impression.
-Of course, he reminds himself, loosening his tie, -no woman is perfect. Case in point: "So you're a prostitute?"
"Yes, for the past three years." Her eyelid does not so much as flicker at the question.
"No." She sneers. "Once a week, at the most."
"How's the pay?"
"Four hundred thousand rupees nightly."
"What's that? About fifteen thousand dollars?"
"More or less."
Mulder pauses, glancing at the dossier, trying not to look at her with any interest that might be deemed unseemly. She sits across from him with her long legs crossed, looking quite cool and aerated in a gray blouse and slacks, her feet encased in black sandals. Around her throat is fastened a fine golden brooch, the Sanskrit AUM written across it in small gemstones; when he asks her about it, she says that it is her grandmother's, a family heirloom. A crumpled paper bag lies in her lap.
And she is smiling a dangerous smile. Mulder turns a page and comes face to face with a black and white photo of...of...
-Good God, he thinks. -I'm glad I'm holding the folder so she can't see the contents.
The decor in the photograph is one of ivory draperies and white walls, unobtrusive, directing the eye onto the central subject (not that one could fixate on anything else) standing nude like a Renaissance statue, a Botticelli Venus, statuesque in more than one way - certainly not in her height, barely two inches over five feet - but in that, like all classical figurines, she is completely smooth. Completely. Her pose is unselfconscious, nonchalant, seductive, arms folded over her breasts (not very concealingly), head tilted to one side.
Mulder twitches and flips the photo over. "June 95," the caption reads.
He pulls out the memorandum with the "coveted whore" statement. The handwriting is the same.
The memo is not signed. It has been on his desk since this morning, with directions to a Bureau safehouse and a tersely penciled annotation from Skinner. "A figure of immense Bureau importance whom you wouldn't dare imagine," it reads, "wants this woman to be kept under your watch for the next few days. Find her at this address and bring her to the office. She will explain." The memo itself is a similar summons, terse and to the point, specifying that Mulder - and Mulder alone, citing him by name - is to afford Ms. Svadhishthana every conceivable courtesy. Written in pen, the anonymous memo's handwriting is smooth, elegant, strangely familiar...but Mulder cannot place the source.
Meanwhile, back in the morgue, listening in on the conversation, Scully stares at another photograph - the same location, apparently, as the one Mulder holds, except under drastically different circumstances: the same white curtained background, but now splattered with arterial blood from a thousand gaping rivulets, running in parallel streaks down the wall. She frowns, not at the picture, but at the silence that now emanates from her phone: neither Mulder nor Svadhishthana has spoken for the past ten seconds.
The memo that Scully had received that morning had read: "Pick up Evidence ID000495988 (human eye and adhering tissue) from ME's office and accompanying photos. Autopsy and report to Mulder. - Skinner."
Glancing back at that eye on the petri dish - the blue membrane around the sclera, the small cornea - she wonders what she _can_ report with any credibility, noting the crucial bit of flesh that dangles from the bone. A scrap of skin, really, no larger than a silver dollar, hanging down, ragged, tattered in bloody lines, ribbons of flesh, and the bone it is attached to has been crushed in several places, the orbit shattered into a series of fine hairline cracks, broken and crunched and broken again. But the breaks are not entirely random: there are indentations in the bone, and the flesh is crisscrossed with savage serrations, marks digging deeply into the meat. That the eye survived at all is nothing less than a miracle. It looks like...almost...
-Just go ahead and say it, Scully thinks.
It looks like the bit of flesh, bone and eye that lies on the autopsy table had been torn off by some enormous pair of iron claws. Some beast, some animal, shattering the skull with brute force, ripping off a bleeding chunk and tossing it aside without a second thought. An enormous sweep of jaws, claws, talons, nails, leaving ragged streaks, marks of prehensile razors, capable of completely demolishing bone and cartilage.
A lion? Tiger? Looking closer, Scully confirms it: there are definite claw marks, raking down the flesh in at least one place, cleaving the skin into a messy v-shape. -No human hand did this, she thinks. -At least no human hand that I've ever seen.
There are other abnormalities to the eye as well. Jotting down a few notes onto a legal pad, she writes: "Small cornea. Corneal thinning (megalocornea). Bloodshot, possible angloid streaks. Fundus. Blue membrane around back of sclera." Opening her briefcase, she removes a fifth photograph and leans it alongside the others. It is a full-face shot of a smiling Indian teenager, male, perhaps seventeen years old, with obvious physical irregularities: his eyes are widely spaced, slightly crossed, with unusual epicanthal folds along the lids. The boy looks like a parrot, to put it mildly. The label reads: "K. Svadhishthana's cousin, Ganesh."
But Ganesh is dead. It is his eye - his unusual eye - that now lies on Scully's autopsy table, torn from the young man's skull by some unknown assailant.
The telephone is still silent. Scully thinks: -I don't like this woman. I especially don't like the affect she's having on Mulder. I can practically hear him drooling over the phone.
Impatient, she speaks into the makeshift intercom. "Ms. Svadhishthana," she says, "do you suffer from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome?"
From the phone: "Who's that?"
"Just my partner."
-Just his partner? Scully thinks. She repeats her question.
Kiki Svadhishthana laughs. "To begin with, I wouldn't characterize myself as 'suffering' from anything - having E-D syndrome is probably the best thing that ever happened to me."
"What about your cousin? He apparently had some characteristics of type VI ocular E-D."
The Indian woman's voice grows a trifle more muted. "Ganesh? He did suffer," she says simply. "He was nearly blind."
"Excuse me, Ms. Svadhishthana." Mulder's voice. "What exactly are you talking about?"
"First of all, for God's sake, call me Kiki - you're pronouncing it all wrong."
"Fine. What's E-D syndrome?"
She explains it to him in a way that he can instantly understand. In his office, seated demurely in a swivel chair, she takes the paper bag from her lap and places it on his desk. Then, before he can react, she pushes herself away from the desk and curves one leg smoothly up and over her head. She does it without losing an iota of composure, bringing one muscular calf smoothly encased in gray silk up to the level of her ear, stretching herself beyond any reasonably human extent.
"I'm a rubber woman," she says.
Scully explains over the phone. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome affects the collagen in cartilage and bone, allowing marked joint hypermobility, contortionism, an enormous range of elasticity. "In the benign type III form of E-D syndrome," Scully says, "individuals so affected can stretch themselves like pipe cleaners, flexing their bodies far beyond the normal human range. They're incredibly supple and malleable."
"Not a bad prerequisite for my line of work," Kiki says, having returned herself to normal posture. "Another reason why half the men in Bombay are willing to pay a year's salary for one night's fuck."
"But it isn't always so benign, is it?" Scully says, slightly irritated. "Your cousin suffered from ocular E-D. Eye trauma in addition to the other traits."
"True," she sighs. "He was able to make a fairly good living at various circuses, a half-blind acrobat, before I took him under my wing last year. I had enough money by then - by the time he was killed - to pay for a hundred indigent cousins."
"You live on the outskirts of Bombay, is that correct?"
"Yes. My own house and gardens."
"You have a staff?"
"Yes. I used to keep four servants."
"Until two days ago."
"Correct. Only two of them are still alive."
Mulder sets down the folder, folds his hands beneath his chin. Enough small talk: time to get to the true subject of their discussion. "Exactly how many people died that night?"
"Four. Two of my hijra servants, my cousin Ganesh, and a customer."
"And how did they die?"
She smiles. "The Raksasas got them."
The facts fall together, piece by piece.
The first victim had been Brian Halasz, an archeologist from the States who'd paid Kiki four thousand rupees for a night of sex and had gone for a walk in her gardens around three o' clock that morning, wandering in the crisp night air, watching the stars throb and airing out his trousers. Svadhishthana's elegant red stucco house lay two miles from the edges of the Bombay red-light district, surrounded by four acres of hanging vines, well-manicured lawns and a small orchard of spice trees - all a testament to the lucrative nature of the life of a prostitute with E-D syndrome, paid for with three years of horizontal gymnastics.
Halasz's death had taken place with brutal suddenness; he had been fallen upon less than three feet from Kiki's front door. The force of the attack had propelled his blood onto nutmeg trees ten yards distant, speckled with bits of bone, of brain matter, tearing him to pieces as he stood there in his hiking boots and boxer shorts.
Halasz was not just devoured: he was atomized.
Two of Kiki's servants/bodyguards, answering his cries, opened the door a fraction and immediately slammed it shut again, a gout of blood erupting into the foyer through the crack, tattooing them both in scarlet tentacles. They had stumbled and fallen onto the cool tiles of the floor, watching as the door - heavy dark ebony wood, reinforced with steel - caved in once, twice, bulging like the aorta of some unimaginable beast, finally snapping from its iron hinges in an explosion of blood and splinters. The servants had tried to run, slipping on the gore, as something burst into the house, covered with steaming pieces of Halasz. An impression of green skin, eyes like vertical slits - matted fur - claws set backwards, an animalistic lowing that made their hearts implode with fear before the talons even touched them - but they did, and nothing was left behind except two man-shaped inkblots printed indelibly on the tiles, fingers splayed, profiles of bleeding faces gaping in horror.
Ganesh, coming downstairs from the second floor - he was only allowed to frequent the first two floors, the third being reserved exclusively for Svadhishthana and her clients - was next. His death was the quickest of all. Only three seconds passed from his descent from the last step to his disappearance behind a cloud of red.
"And you saw all this?" Mulder asks.
Kiki nods, still calm and unemotive. "My third floor bedroom is arranged so that I can keep an eye on all rooms of the house through periscopes laid along the heating ducts."
"Why, may I ask?"
She shrugs. "To make sure that my clients don't attempt to proposition my hijra servants - or the other way around."
"Hold on." Mulder rises from the desk, strides to his office door and opens it. In the hall outside are a pair of small benches on which sit two Indian men, flipping idly through magazines. One of them has a slight growth of beard. Mulder indicates the two men with one hand; they glance up without much interest. "These are your servants?"
Mulder closes the door, incredulous. "And they have been propositioned by your clients in the past?"
"Yes, of course they have." Kiki looks at him as if he is missing the point.
"Isn't that a bit unusual?"
"Not at all." She rolls her eyes. "Do you even know what a hijra is?"
"I'm afraid I don't. You say that those men outside are...hijras?"
"For starters, they aren't men. A hijra is a eunuch."
Mulder blinks once. "You mean they've been castrated?"
"In a manner of speaking. It's a lifestyle choice. The penis and testicles are tied off and cut, and the wound is cauterized with hot oil and not allowed to heal. A puckered scar remains after a few months, somewhat like a vagina. An artificial cunt. Hijras often work as transvestite prostitutes on the streets - that's where I found those two. I had them dress in men's clothes because they're more intimidating that way and less likely to act like a whore. They're very popular with a certain mentality of Indian male - almost like a third sex."
There is silence between them for a few seconds.
"So," says Kiki. "Wanna get some Chinese food?"
The interrogation continues twenty minutes later. Scully has joined the two of them, her hands scrubbed free of any lingering traces of Ganesh Svadhishthana's eye, asking questions, listening to Kiki's responses, eating bak choi from paper cartons with chopsticks. It's a late lunch, past four o' clock, and Kiki has been complaining the entire afternoon about jet lag, but she eats only sparingly. She has grown more somber since recalling her cousin's death, but still provides detail-laden answers to their queries, relating to the best of her ability what she saw through her bedroom periscope, looking down into the carnage.
"I don't have time to think, or even react," she says, apparently reliving the trauma. "I blink, and Ganesh is gone, the floor slimed with blood where he had been standing. And this blur...this shape..."
"Can you describe it?" Mulder asks gently.
"It is - was - a Raksasa. There is no other word in any other language that can describe it. The English equivalent is 'destroyer.' I saw fur - green fur, or yellow fur. It may have been an article of clothing, but I doubt it; it was matted, and bulging, and blurred; it moved so fast..."
"Could it have been a tiger?" Scully suggests. "You say that Ganesh worked at the circus..."
She shakes her head emphatically. "No. No tiger moves like that. No tiger can kill...can _destroy_...in an eyeblink. That was no tiger. A Raksasa destroyed Ganesh, and my hijras, like they'd been ground beneath Shiva's boot and sucked dry by Kali."
"And what, exactly, is a Raksasa?"
"A spirit of the dead that Naraka - Hell - vomits out. A demon. A Pisaca - flesheater."
Scully says to Mulder, "It's a Hindu devil of folklore. They supposedly take animal form, and haunt cemeteries, and disturb ceremonies, and animate dead bodies, and cause disease and madness."
"And they kill," Kiki says, her voice beginning to tremble. "It killed Halasz, and my hijras, and Ganesh, and it was coming upstairs after me. I could feel the floors shake...it pounded up the stairs, and the plaster crumbled beneath it...I saw a crack split the frame above my bedroom door, splitting the plaster up to the ceiling. It was shaking the house on its foundations. I could hear its heartbeat, like the breath of a locomotive." She drops her voice to a whisper; Mulder and Scully lean forward to catch her words.
"I ran to the other side of my bedroom, away from the door...I wasn't wearing any clothes. The door...it, it began to break open. It wasn't a strong door, just pinewood, two seconds away from being shattered completely...I ran through the other door, into the third-floor kitchen. We keep a small stove in there, and cupboards full of food. I went in there and closed the door, locked it, shoved a chair beneath the knob, and I heard the door, the other door - all the way across the bedroom, you understand - give way, those tiny pieces of wood falling like shrapnel to the floor....And I remembered...God, I was so frightened, but I remembered what my grandmother had said to me when I was a little girl, growing up in Goa...that whenever you get caught by a Raksasa, you simply address him as 'Uncle,' and he gets confused and goes away. 'They're stupid beasts,' she would always tell me, 'like ogres, stupid giants.'"
Kiki looks up at the two agents, her eyes moist. "But this animal wasn't like that. It wouldn't get confused, it wouldn't even give me a chance to speak, it would just rip me open...I had to think of other ways to get rid of demons, other means of exorcism. And I remembered...dimly, I remembered...how to get rid of a bhuta - a bhuta, you know, is another spirit of the dead, a different kind from the Raksasa, but similar. You take powdered turmeric, the spice, and burn it, and the smell drives them away. Then you lie down on the ground, because bhutas never touch the earth, and you pray.
"That's what I did," she continues. "I managed to find a packet of turmeric, I don't know how, in one of the cupboards, and I tore it open and poured it all over the range and turned on the burners. Then I lay down and got under a table, and made myself as small as I could. And all the while I could hear the Raksasa, snuffing, big steamy breaths, coming nearer to the door."
"And then they stopped.
"I waited for hours...at least two hours. Complete silence in that dead house. Then I wriggled out. There was a tiny window in the kitchen - this big," she says, holding her hands ten inches apart. "I was flexible enough to get out and onto the roof, and then crawled down the side of the house, along the drainpipe. I fell to the ground near Halasz's remains...I got his blood on my ankles. Then I ran barefoot to the nearest house. Luckily, they had a phone, and some clothes. From there, I called someone I knew would take care of me." "May I ask who this might be?" Mulder asks.
She looks at him evenly. "Someone so high above you that you can't even begin to fathom it."
"I get a lot of clients from the States. They are among the few who can afford my prices. Halasz was only one of them, and I don't know how he, a goddamn archeologist of all professions, could get so much money; that was his third visit. But I also get more government officials - diplomatic liaisons and such - than you might think. One of them, who'd been seeing me on and off for years, had made it clear to me that he'd be able to arrange FBI protection for me if ever it became necessary. Apparently, he was telling the truth."
"Good consumer loyalty," Mulder says.
"Let's just say that repeat business is good."
"Hold it," Scully says. "Just what are we supposed be doing, Mulder? Are we supposed to be investigating this casefile, or just providing protection?"
"Judging from the looks of things, Scully, I'd say both. They sent you Ganesh's eye to autopsy, and they sent me Ms. Svadhishthana - excuse me, Kiki - to protect. According to his memo"-he waves the unsigned slip before her eyes-"I'm to take her to this FBI safehouse for the next few days, while her anonymous benefactor makes arrangements for her long-term stay in America. While you, at the same time, are to follow up any leads on this case."
"Oh, so I get the fun stuff." Scully rubs her temples with her hands. "May I ask Kiki a question?" she asks.
"What's in that bag?" She points with a chopstick to the paper sack that Kiki has kept in her lap throughout the entire interview.
Shrugging, Kiki slips the object out of the bag. Upon seeing and recognizing what it is, Mulder, who by now has become used to such surprises, glances sardonically at Scully; Scully's own expression is one of amusement. It is, quite simply, a phallus - a linga of Shiva. Sculpted from red clay, baked and glazed, it's an alarmingly large male member, at least ten inches long, Sanskrit letters scratched crudely into the base. The linga is an accepted Hindu religious symbol - similar in function to the Christian cross - but still, to Westernized eyes, it's somewhat incongruous: the phallus of God.
"That's a very big linga," Scully says eventually.
"Yes. It belonged to Halasz. I don't know why I kept it. He'd shown it to me that night, as kind of a joke - he'd made it himself, he said - and I'd been holding it when the destruction began. I took it with me into the kitchen, I suppose; I didn't realize that I was still holding onto it until hours later, when I was dialing my client's phone number in the States. I'd held onto it so hard that my knuckles were turning white."
"What's that writing along the bottom mean?" Mulder asks.
Kiki tilts the phallus, reading the words inscribed on the base. "It's bad Hindi," she says. "Let's see...'Come Holy Spirit...Holy Dove that bearest the twin young...Come, Hidden Mother...'"
"Is that some kind of ritual Hindu chant?"
"Hardly - it's very Christian, very Early Church. The Gnostics, to be precise, the Gospel of Thomas. Halasz loved that kind of thing - the association of incompatible doctrines, the concept of reproduction - of the twin - in religion, that kind of thing."
"Until he died."
"And after that, you were eventually flown to America?"
"Yes. I didn't check back at the house for my other two servants until the next day. They were huddled in their quarters with revolvers drawn and furniture stacked against the door - the night had passed uneventfully, they said. I took them to the airport with me, where my client had a plane waiting; he flew me straight to Washington, met me at the safehouse with a change of clothes and some money - I'd taken nearly a million rupees with me besides - and told me to wait for an agent, who would take me in for questioning. I didn't want to go, but Agent Mulder here convinced me otherwise."
Scully glances at her partner, and - what do we have here? - is Fox Mulder blushing? It could simply be the heat, but she doubts it; Mulder still has not ventured the details of his initial meeting with Kiki Svadhishthana, and she doubts that he ever will. (The details themselves, Mulder reminds himself, are not so embarrassing; it's simply the fact that he'd associated Ms. Svadhishthana, almost from the beginning, entirely with sex. As if he could have helped it.)
"Mulder," Scully says quietly. "Can I talk with you privately for a moment?"
"Sure." He straightens up from his desk and follows Scully to a far corner of the office, where they confer in hushed tones, watching Kiki out of the corners of their eyes as she sits there, idly fondling the linga.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Scully asks.
"Are you? Have you come to any conclusions as to the nature of the deaths?"
"I'm not completely going to rule out an attack by a wild animal. Burning turmeric is incredibly pungent; it'd drive away anything."
"Ms. Svadhishthana categorically denies any animal being involved."
"Yes, she prefers to believe that the assailant was a Hindu flesheating demon. And what if she isn't telling the truth? What if _she_ killed her client and her servants and her cousin, and is clumsily attempting to deny it, going so far as to seek asylum in the United States?"
"If I'd killed four people the way these four were killed - Christ, Scully, there aren't even any remains except for a lot of blood and a single eye, as if they'd been devoured or completely annihilated - I'd have come up with a better explanation than the one she's given."
"She's still a suspect. She'd probably still be in Indian custody if it wasn't for her high-ranking American lover, whoever he is."
Scully turns away, and Mulder grabs her shoulder roughly. She slaps his hand aside. "Listen," Mulder says under his breath, "somebody powerful wants this woman taken care of. Somebody _very_ powerful, if she and Skinner can be believed, and this powerful person probably won't appreciate it if we decide to accuse her of these killings. We don't want to go prosecuting her for murder if we still want to be working in this office a day from now, understand?"
Her eyes blaze with anger. "I understand. But I don't want you using that as an excuse to go easy on Kiki just because you want to fuck her."
Mulder opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again, the blood pounding through his temples - he's furious, truly furious. He glances over at Svadhishthana. She is smiling. She knows. His voice low - incredibly low, teeth clenched - he says, "I'm going to ignore that statement. Jesus, Scully...I don't expect a damn apology when you get like this, but that was completely uncalled for."
"All right, Mulder, but just promise me something."
"What?" he asks sharply, irritated.
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
They arrive at dawn, dressed in beige and charcoal gray, darkhaired and blue-eyed, strolling through Dulles International Airport with bulging pigskin briefcases at their sides, whistling softly as if they have all the time in the world - almost twins, both leathery-skinned and high-cheekboned (although one is noticeably paler and more Caucasian than the other), their somber suits neatly pressed, a folded white handkerchief in each breast pocket, a gaudy floral tie dangling from each sinewy neck, shoes shined, and those stunningly blue eyes peering from faces as brown and smooth and ugly as the mud of the Ganges. Those eyes, to be perfectly accurate, are not exactly blue, but shot through with sapphire, green silica, sand, salt, glinting like sunlight off desert mica. Whistling, they walk. Their briefcases tap lightly against their thighs. One of them - the white one - carries a cane with a silver handle.
Their hands are gloved, and for good reason, for their palms are covered with fine green stubble, only recently shaven, and their nails are long and caked with filth; one of them buys a newspaper, paying for it with a ten dollar bill and walking off before change can be made, and glances through it idly, shining eyes staring uncomprehendingly at those blocky letters, twenty-six of them, printed ink that gets off on his gloves. Pigskin gloves, like the briefcase, and a pigskin overcoat, worn with a pigskin scarf and pigskin boots despite the ninety-degree heat.
The thinly carpeted airport floor grows cold beneath their footsteps.
They exit. They do not hail a taxi or bus but continue to walk, proceeding languidly down the sidewalk, whistling, whistling. Their dark hair blows in the humid breeze like the tendrils of some creature born in the lowest depths of the ocean.
One of them swings his cane like Gene Kelly.
Their nostrils flare, inhaling the breeze, sniffing for traces of clay. The wind picks up and lifts their scarves slightly; the neck of one is visible for a split second, crisscrossed with claw marks, engraved with burns, scars, deformities. They continue to walk for more than an hour, striding tranquilly through Washington, leaving the airport, entering and exiting bad neighborhoods with black teenagers wearing Redskins parkas and snuffling, playing Dre at a hundred decibels, gathering at streetcorners and whispering, some with back pockets bulging with steel - but no one accosts them; the two men are free to pass. Their charcoal slacks are becoming dirty, encrusted with the filth of the District of Columbia's streets, but they continue to walk, nostrils wide. Swinging that cane - and whistling.
Their unchanging course finally intersects with a hotel. Cheap, grimy. They saunter up to the front desk and ask for a room. One of them plops a few hundred dollar bills on the counter.
They are given a guest register to sign. One of them, the one with the cane, takes the pen and writes.
The clerk, assuming them to be two homosexuals, glances idly at the signature and hands them a key, room 7, holding it gingerly by the chain. Making no attempt to conceal the disgust in his voice, he says, "Have a pleasant stay, Mr. Halasz."
The fag looks at him with narrowed eyes. "Thank you," he says - his voice as watery and crusted with mud as the depths of a jungle stream. "I'll do my best."
They retire to their rooms. They watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with clear empty eyes. They keep their nostrils open, hunting for a trace of clay, of obsidian.
They kill the clerk at sundown.
To put it simply, Mulder is distracted, more distracted than he wishes to admit. He wishes that their assignments had been switched, that Scully had been assigned to guard Kiki, that he could be doing legwork on the supposed Raksasa murders (an arrangement which would have been much more sexually kosher from a Bureau standpoint), but the memo's instructions had been specific: after the requisite questioning at FBI headquarters, Mulder - and Mulder alone - was to accompany Ms. Svadhishthana back to her rooms at the safehouse and not leave her alone for the next few days - although, technically, he didn't know how long it might take for Kiki to gain permanent housing; even for a high-ranking government official, whoever he was, getting a suitably luxurious Washington apartment for a highly noticeable - and possibly fugitive - Indian whore with any measure of discretion is not the easiest thing in the world to do.
-Why me? he wonders.
Skinner has not returned any of his calls. Scully is off researching the case. He is alone with a woman, _the_ woman, the most seductive specimen of the female race he's ever had the pleasure to be personally acquainted with. And the day is getting more hot and humid by the moment - it's seven o' clock, just after dusk, and the air is as heavy as oil.
To be sure, they aren't completely alone. Kiki's servants-eunuchs-bodyguards are quietly tucked away in their own rooms, but, with ascetic reserve, they haven't emerged except to eat. Peering into their quarters, Mulder sees them sitting quietly on their beds, legs folded beneath them, engaged in silent meditation. It strikes him as remarkably subdued behavior for men who originally - according to Kiki - castrated themselves five years ago to become streetwalking transvestite prostitutes.
By concentrating on that fact, Mulder is able to keep his libido down to a minimum. -Think castration, he thinks. -Eunuchs. Hijras. Cauterized with oil. Puckered scar.
But still...Kiki has changed clothes and is now wearing a loosely tied white sari that leaves her amber belly - and the lower curve of her breasts - exposed like ripe fruit. She sits in a chair, flipping through a Gideon Bible and giggling over the Song of Solomon, legs crossed, fingering the golden brooch at her neck.
-Castration. Castration. Castration, he thinks.
The safehouse itself is drab, grim, with dull carpets and poor fluorescent lighting - cable television and a fireplace, but not much else. Mulder is bored to an extent that is physically exhausting; indeed, he embraces the boredom, uneasy in the knowledge that to do otherwise would be to risk his reputation as an FBI agent, to do something irrational. And irrationality is looking more tempting all the time. Reflecting on it, he doesn't think that she would discourage him, if worse came to worse....
-Damn Scully, he thinks. -I can't believe that she'd go so far as to...to...accuse me of something like that. I don't know what's wrong; this isn't the first time I've gotten involved in a casefile with an attractive female, and she's never...well, maybe sometimes....
He distracts himself with research on Raksasas, phoning the Library of Congress and asking for information. Raksasas, he finds, are indeed Hindu demons hostile to men, demigods whose sobriquet denotes "destroyers," supposedly created by Brahma as water-spirits, appearing in the shape of various animals - dog, vulture, owl, wolf - and in human form, especially as ugly old men or woman, although they can also be beautiful; they are yellow or green or blue in color, with eyes like vertical slits, five limbs, backward fingers, large bellies, matted hair, poisonous fingernails, and the touch of death. They have a fondness for human flesh. If pressed, they will eat desecrated or filthy food. Humans killed by them can, if desired, be converted into Pisacas - flesheaters, ghouls with similar powers.
"There is no canonically accepted way of killing a Raksasa," he writes in his notebook. "Certain mantras and plants have been suggested to have an effect against them, but accounts differ. Burning turmeric apparently seems to work, assuming that Svadhishthana's account is valid - and, of course, assuming that whatever she encountered was, in fact, a Raksasa." Mulder is ambivalent on this issue: he sees no reason to disbelieve Kiki's story, but is not quite ready to embrace the idea of malevolent Hindu demons that kill men by tearing them to pieces where they stand. -Scully'd be proud of me, he thinks. -I'm gonna be a bona fide skeptic any day now.
-And besides, he muses, -I doubt that anything the FBI can do would be effective against a demigod.
Time passes with languid slowness. Kiki sets down the Bible and announces - with no apparent subtext - her intention to take a nap. True to her word, she is quietly asleep in bed ten minutes later, her breathing barely audible, the sheets drawn up demurely to her chin. Sitting in the living room, Mulder turns the volume on the television down low and begins to toss playing cards into a hat, keeping watch on the evening news with one eye, Kiki with the other - leaving him little accuracy where his card-tossing is concerned. He misses the fedora completely two out of three times.
Then, several minutes later, an image - a single image - on the television screen arrests his attention. The cards go flying. He turns up the volume knob with a shaking hand.
"-of Washington. The body was discovered less than forty minutes ago by a tourist family from Newark..." The shaky handheld camera (at the bottom of the screen: "Exclusive: Channel 7 News") pulls back to a dimly lit shot of the front desk of some cheap motel, a leatherbound guest register on the counter, mailboxes and cubbyholes and keyhooks set into the opposite wall, everything strung with yellow crime scene tape and painted - no, airbrushed - in blood. "Police say that the presumed victim, a thirty-seven year old desk clerk named Simon Glimcher, has not been located, but they do not believe that he is still alive." A police spokesman in hardhat and sunglasses, pointing to the blood, saying, "We don't think he could have survived this. No body has been found. What's that? How much blood? At least ten pints. Enough to kill 'im. What's that? Murder weapon? We haven't found one, I can't honestly say..."
Mulder thinks, astonished: -It's the same killer. The Raksasa has followed Kiki to Washington.
It can't be. There is no conceivable connection, except for the fact that no body has been discovered in either case, and that the crime scenes are all saturated with blood...but the way that the blood has been distributed, as if the body had just been vaporized...Mulder gapes at the screen. -The Raksasa, he thinks. -Something really _is_ after her.
Or some_one_, at least: "Police say that two men have been identified as possible suspects in the murder," the well-manicured anchorwoman says, wrapping her lips around the statement. Cut back to the sunglassed spokesman: "Two men were seen entering the motel earlier today, and their behavior beforehand was unusual enough to raise some suspicion in surrounding neighborhoods. Description? Darkhaired, dark complexions, medium height, thin, dressed warmly for the weather."
-Doesn't sound like a Hindu demon to me, Mulder thinks. -But I'd better call Scully anyway.
Before he can move, however, his phone bleats. "Mulder," he says, grabbing the receiver.
"Heard the news?"
"Yeah, Scully. Bears an uncanny similarity, wouldn't you say?"
"Perhaps. Or perhaps not."
"Glad to hear you're as openminded as always."
Her voice becomes harsher, more businesslike. "Listen. I uncovered some information that makes me suspect that your Svadhishthana may have had a motive in the killings."
"Bad choice of words, Mulder, for someone in your position." She pauses momentarily, then takes up the thread again. "I found that Brian Halasz, the man who originally was killed, may have had some secrets of his own. He was an archeologist. How could he have afforded the price for Svadhishthana's services on a salary based mostly on luck and university grants? Answer: he couldn't."
"And I found that he may have been secretly stealing the artifacts he unearthed and selling them on the black market. Gold, jewels, ceramics, religious articles... Some disreputable collectors would pay quite well for certain items."
"What's this have to do with Kiki?"
"Just before his liaison with our favorite Indian prostitute, records indicate that he had returned from an archeological dig outside St. Thomas, in India, the day before; his expedition had been excavating the remains of some graves dating from around the time of Christ. What if he'd found some precious artifact, known it was worth a lot of money, gone to Svadhishthana to celebrate, and made the mistake of telling her? She may have killed him for it, if it was precious enough."
"Scully, this woman makes fifteen thousand dollars a night lying on her back. She isn't going to kill a loyal client over some scrap of pottery."
"What about that linga?"
"The phallus? It isn't worth anything. It's homemade. It isn't even good quality clay - it looks like Halasz just scraped some clay out of a ditch and fired it."
"Have you looked _inside_ the linga?"
"What do you mean? Are you suggesting that Halasz unearthed something in St. Thomas, baked a linga around it to get it through customs, happened to visit Kiki Svadhishthana a day later, dropped the fact that he was in possession of something valuable...."
"And then she killed him. And her servants, to eliminate witnesses."
"And her _cousin_? Scully, I know that your genome dictates that you pursue any reasonably skeptical lead, but this is ridiculous, it's more farfetched than saying Halasz and all the rest were killed by a Hindu demon - and how do you propose to explain this motel killing?"
"Motel?" He can hear the puzzlement in his partner's voice. "What are you talking about?"
Mulder raises an eyebrow, then points at the television as if Scully were in the room with him. "You know, the killing of that desk clerk in that motel on the East side. They showed the crime scene on TV, and the resemblance between it and what happened at Kiki's house is extraordinary..."
Scully's voice begins to take on a hint of alarm. "Mulder - why didn't you tell me this earlier?"
"I thought you knew! What did you mean when you asked me if I'd 'heard the news?'"
His partner speaks slowly and clearly. "Mulder, there was another murder today. It's been on all the networks. What newscast have you been watching?"
"I don't know - Channel 7, I guess. I tuned in a little late - would they have led the news off with it?"
"Probably. The murder took place in public but there were no witnesses. The victim's remains were totally annihilated."
"Where did this take place?"
"The reflecting pool." Scully pauses, inhales deeply. "In front of the Washington Monument."
It had been fast. There had been no time for conscious decision, for selecting a single victim out of the large crowd that milled around the water beneath the great linga of George Washington himself, that illustrious god native to the Americas, a god whose powers were apparently dormant, even impotent, despite the marvelous erectile display of white stone that towered over the scene of their celeritous slaughter...
No, there was no conscious choice. One bit of flesh was as fit as another.
A marvelous country, this - so many new things, so many new sights and smells and tastes. The flesh, the meat of the natives, had contained a minute spice, a tenderness, marinated in carbon monoxide and cholesterol and hard water - the people here had all been plump, their blood thick and sluggish. The one-who-was-Halasz once had known this country, but the memory is dim, a dream of a dream of a dream; all that remains is the craving, the new sharpening of the palate; they are connoisseurs of blood.
They had taken him quickly. A tourist from Iowa, floral shirt, neck dangling with Nikons and extra rolls of Kodachrome. He had a fanny pack and short corduroy trousers. Taking pictures of the idol, the linga, alongside that shimmering mirror of water. The water was what drove them to it - a madness, derangement. insanity, lunacy - to shed their dogsbody forms and immolate his flesh in an eyeblink.
Strolling by the pool in their pigskin clothes and hats and overcoats and charcoal gray slacks, they had been calm tourists themselves - until, like a lodestone drawing iron fillings, the specter of that tourist from Iowa had filled their brains and maddened their senses.
Their change had been instantaneous. Anyone looking in their direction would have seen nothing more than a long blot of green skating along their peripheral vision. Their pigskin garments melted and ran into their skin, their own flesh bursting asunder and growing fur, their nails tearing through those pigskin gloves into big paws, talons of iron, their eyes narrowing into slits, other arms exploding from the smalls of their backs, fingers deforming, teeth engorging like the mouths of lions.
In the second before the tourist had died - the second after they sprang upon him - they'd learned everything there was to know about him, written in the quivering spirals of his aorta: they'd known that he was from Iowa; his name was Michael Houseman; he was a forty-two year old urologist from Des Moines; he had a wife and three children, ages six, ten and fourteen; he liked Sinatra; his eyesight was bad, tested at 20/100; he'd been worrying a moment ago about making the payments on his house and his Lexus; and his brain - his pitiful mortal brain - could not find the wit to realize that he was being devoured alive by two demons from India, two demons that bathed in his blood and sucked out his juices, turning his body to dust, collapsing his skin, draining it, in a second of agonized fun-fun-fun.
Done, sated, gorged, they'd flitted away a few yards and rematerialized as their human selves. Perfectly clean, spotless, except that the one-who-was-Halasz had a smear of gore trickling down the right temple of his forehead. He'd pulled the white handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed at it lightly - to any casual observer, just another Washington tourist blotting away beads of sweat on that humid, hot day in the District of Columbia.
On the way out, they'd both bought cherry Slurpees from a sidewalk vendor, sipping them thoughtfully.
That was an hour ago. Scully now sits in, of all places, a bank, reviewing a security tape that might - just might - contain an image of the Monument killing.
She is alone. Mulder, after mulling over the new developments for a few seconds, had said over the phone, "Maybe you'd better go solo tonight. I don't think I can leave Kiki here by herself." He'd paused, and said, "You can interpret that in any manner you want."
Scully had hesitated, uncertain, and finally decided to eat crow. "Listen, Mulder...I'd like to apologize for my behavior earlier. I was irritable; I don't think that Ms. Svadhishthana and I get along very well, and I was beginning to wonder whether your conduct was entirely professional..."
"Well, so was I." Silence on his end of the line for a few seconds. "Apology accepted." He'd hung up abruptly. She'd hung up as well - her mind already beginning to turn over investigative possibilities, sources of evidence, new explanations for the murders that didn't necessarily involve Hindu demons - but not before mouthing six words silently into the mouthpiece. If Mulder somehow heard and heeded them, well, so much the better:
Don't do anything I wouldn't do.
But now, in the bank, fitted with leather sofas and beige carpeting, she plays and replays a security tape taken from an ATM machine that looks out in the Monument's direction, only a hundred yards from the base of the obelisk. The tape is difficult to view. It has been reused so many times that the zinc oxide is beginning to rub off; the image is faint, black and white, and shapes in the far background are little more than silhouettes set against the darker shadow of the night itself. The camera itself takes single frames only; it automatically takes a snapshot of anyone who attempts to use the ATM, and takes pictures at ten second intervals while the transaction is being completed.
Here. The digital display at the bottom of the frame reads, in military time, 19:30:17. The murder by the Monument was estimated as having taken place around seven-thirty. In the foreground is a woman wearing a denim jacket and an alarmingly low-cut gray tanktop, a large purse slung over her shoulder, making a withdrawal from the machine, but Scully pays no attention to her; she scans the background of the frame instead, searching for the figure of Michael Houseman, age forty-two, Iowan urologist and tourist, the man reported murdered. Her right hand holds an ill-exposed color snapshot of the victim, taken from his hysterical widow's pocketbook, showing Houseman in sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt, blowing out candles on a cake. Not the most objective mugshot she's ever used, but it will have to suffice.
She stares at the image, visually probing the crowd seen dimly around the Monument. No sign of Houseman. Next frame, ten seconds later. The denim-jacketed lady is still there, punching in a PIN code, her purse open. Houseman is not visible.
The next frame...
There he is. Denim Jacket had been blocking him from view, but she has shifted her weight slightly to the left; Houseman can now be seen standing alongside the reflecting pool, hands in his pockets, cameras slung over his shoulders, a few children standing alongside him - his own, Scully supposes. -Happy-looking family, she thinks.
Next frame. Denim Jacket is gone, replaced by a thickset young black man in a suit and tie. The time at the bottom of the screen reads 19:31: 20. Houseman can still be glimpsed over the black man's right shoulder. He is facing the Monument now, holding a camera to his eyes, taking a snapshot, his legs planted firmly on the concrete, head tilted back to take in the full extent of the obelisk.
Scully sits up with a jerk. "What the hell..." she mutters.
There - over the black man's shoulder as he makes the withdrawal, pulling a thick wallet out of his jacket pocket, slipping his bank card out of the billfold - partially obscuring the figure of Houseman, parting the crowd of calm tourists like water - is a blur, a shadow that rips across the surface of the frame.
It is not a glitch; not a random irregularity in the surface in the film; it rears, predatory, leonine, feral, aimed directly at Houseman's throat. There is no mistaking it: printed in fading zinc oxide on a tape from a security camera peering out of one of Western Civilization's most refined wonders, the ATM machine, that symbol of American decadence - something decidedly nonhuman stalks the Washington Monument and takes a victim in plain view. Scully cannot take her eyes from that blur, that suggestion of a broad back, muscles like steel cables, a confusion of limbs, a suggestion of nails... Hands fluttering, Scully scrolls to the next frame, only ten seconds later.
Nothing. Only the faces of surrounding tourists beginning to contort into expressions of horror -
- and a starburst of black blood on the pavement.
Demons, too, have their limits. The smells of the city of Washington, while intoxicating in themselves, tend to obscure and sublimate more subtle odors, the odors they are seeking; sniffing out a single rod of clay, or a single cunt, in a city of thousands is no small feat, given the countless interfering tastes and textures that permeate the breeze: gasoline, monoxide, pesticide, environmental estrogens, burning fat, dust, smog, smoke, cocaine, money, sweat, politics.
In such cases, more prosaic means of detection are required.
They already know a few choice facts, extracted from Kiki Svadhishthana's next door neighbor. That interrogation took place beneath the boughs of a spreading chestnut tree, in broad daylight, when their powers were limited, so they had decided against devouring her; instead, after they were finished, they tore out her tongue. Before that regrettable action was necessitated, however, they discovered a number of things: the whore had gone to America, to the city by the Potomac, flown there courtesy of a lover high in the government hierarchy - and she had taken the linga with her.
That had been enough. The two had followed, taking human form and a stack of thousand-rupee bills from the third drawer of the neighbor's walnut bedroom bureau. On their way out, the one-who-was-Halasz took a silver cane from the umbrella stand in the front door foyer.
Halasz's memories of his past had been dim, but they were serviceable enough for them to blend fairly well into their surroundings, to find an airport, to speak the native languages, to make change, to flirt appropriately with the stewardesses. It was the reason he was there to begin with. After Halasz had been killed by the Raksasa, a choice had been made, a calculated choice: Halasz was reborn as a flesheater, a Pisaca, to ease the Raksasa's return into the waking world. It had been too long since it had last stalked the world of men; Halasz's brain would be useful. He lingered as the Raksasa's lapdog, a shadow of a human being, a shade, a specter, one who could walk the streets of the District of Columbia without attracting too much attention, looking less like a gargoyle than - at worst - a Republican.
So they search libraries, catalogs, phone books. They infer the involvement of the FBI. They keep watch on the J. Edgar Hoover building throughout the night and, unbeknownst to any of them, pass within two yards of Special Agent Dana Scully as she walks along the concrete island down the center of the parking lot. They wait, they observe, they listen. They can bide their time; they know, eventually, that Svadhishthana will be found.
And, until then, the city offers many other delights. The Raksasa have begun to realize, however belatedly, that another course of action remains open to them: even if they cannot find the FBI agents who protect Kiki, who protect the linga, perhaps - if they have enough fun, and make their presence obvious enough - well...
Perhaps the FBI will come to them.
The remainder of the night - and the following feverish morning - passes uneventfully. There are no other murders. Scully reviews the evidence, dropping in briefly at the safehouse where Kiki and Mulder stay, asking the prostitute a few more questions, only to find that her memories of what took place outside Bombay two days ago are no clearer than they already were. She also brings several pouches of turmeric bought at a downtown Indian health food store, placing them carefully in the cupboard above the kitchen stove (where Mulder has also hidden a gun, she notes in passing). If worse comes to worse - and, judging from the bestial blur welded onto that ATM security tape, it certainly may - such spices will come in handy.
Scully does not know what to think. Skepticism is a comfortable garment, but after too long it begins to chafe. That image on the tape cannot be explained away too easily; there are plenty of beasts prowling the alleys of our nation's capitol, but no tigers, no lions, no Hindu demons - or so Scully would have flatly stated a day ago. The only recourse is in denial: she does not allow herself to even consider the implications. In a marvelous burst of discipline, she interviews the victims' families, probes the crime scenes, reviews the security footage, checks airline records, tracks down witnesses, drives halfway across the city to pursue empty leads - and, the entire time, what that blur on the tape might be concerns her less than the thought of what Mulder and Kiki Svadhishthana might be up to that very moment.
She may have apologized, but that doesn't mean that her doubts are at rest.
Mulder, for his part, is earnestly attempting to unravel the mystery of Halasz's involvement. It vexes him, as he sits in the living room the following day, sweating and tossing cards: Halasz's name was found written in the hotel guestbook, and a pair of tickets from Bombay to Washington were purchased in his name two days ago. Yet he must be - should be - dead. Either someone is simply using his name, or...or...
He cuts off that train of thought. -Focus, he thinks, -on Halasz's archeological expedition. The one he had just returned from on the night of his death. Focus on that artifact, if it exists - Scully thinks he hid something in the linga and planned to sell it on the black market. She still doesn't think Kiki killed him for it, does she? But it might be important...maybe the Raksasa, if they exist, have something to gain from it...
"Kiki," he says. She has returned to reading the Bible, wearing that sari, studying for hours - since ten, at least, and it's currently two o' clock - apparently beginning at Genesis 1:1 and working her way up past Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Unless she's skimming. -Fast reader, Mulder thinks. -Intelligent woman, really.
"Yes?" She puts down the book, lets it rest on her lap, her legs folded lotus-style.
"What do you know about the archeological work that Halasz was involved in before he died?"
"Why? Is it important?"
"Kind of. My partner has the idea that he may have unearthed something valuable and baked it in your linga." She laughs. "Seriously, though," Mulder continues, "what do you know?"
"Oh, not much. He enjoyed talking about it," she says, brushing the hair away from her forehead, "but I never paid much attention."
"Did you know that he was working on a dig near St. Thomas?"
"Sure, in Meliapor. He was a Malabar Christian, you know - venerated the apostle Thomas above all other New Testament disciples. All he ever talked about, sometimes, was how important Thomas is, how it's really a crime that the orthodox Bible says so little about him, how amazing Thomas' life must have been."
"What's so special about Thomas?"
"Oh, well, he's superpopular among Indian Christians - he was the apostle who originally proselytized to the Hindus, all the way from Israel to the Indian coast. Plus, Halasz thought that Thomas was Jesus Christ's twin brother."
Mulder laughs. "That's a new one on me."
Kiki smiles, but remains serious. "Actually, it isn't that bizarre of a belief. The early Christian Gnostics venerated him as a savior in his own right - it was a very common heresy in the early years of the church, to think of Jesus and Thomas as twin Messiahs - remember that writing at the bottom of the linga? 'Holy Dove that bearest the twin young.' Or, elsewhere in the Gospel of Thomas, 'Twin brother of Christ, apostle of the most high...' Even Leonardo Da Vinci thought that Thomas was the twin of Christ. If you look at 'The Last Supper,' you see that Leonardo actually painted _two_ Jesuses - the obvious one in the center of the painting, and another one on the left of the mural. They look and are dressed exactly the same."
"And Halasz really believed this?"
"Listen, Mr. Special Agent Fox Mulder," she says, accenting each syllable with contempt, "even the Bible says so." Kiki takes her copy, flips it to the New Testament portion. "Here. 'Thomas' isn't a name at all - it's the Hebrew for 'twin.' Thomas is also referred to as 'Thomas Didymus' - and 'Didymus' also means 'twin.' His _real_ name, apparently, was Judas Thomas - and elsewhere in the Bible, in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, it is mentioned that one of Jesus' brothers was named Judas. Is that enough for you?"
"Okay, okay," he says, getting up and gathering the cards from the floor around the fedora. "You don't have to worry about offending me - I believe a dozen more implausible things every morning. Just don't mention any of that to my partner, all right?"
She smiles again, but her smile is more mischievous now - dangerous. "We don't like each other anyway."
Mulder goes back to his card tossing. He is perspiring heavily; at ninety-nine, it is even hotter than the day before.
A cloud passes over the sun, and Kiki speaks again. "That place where Halasz was digging - St. Thomas. That was where Thomas was martyred. He was stabbed to death by a spear on the banks of the Ganges." Her eyes are veiled, thoughtful. "Halasz always talked about finding Thomas' tomb. There _is_ a cave near that place where Thomas is supposed to have been buried - and resurrected - but Halasz never believed in it; he always told me that the cave was probably sacred to Shiva or Vishnu before Christianity took over that sector of India, and they just ascribed it to Thomas after the fact."
He looks at her steadily. "Do you think that Halasz was excavating Thomas' tomb before he was killed? His real tomb?"
"I don't know. I don't know." She bites her lower lip. "I can't help wondering, though...if he somehow disturbed the Raksasa in the process..."
"How would digging up a Christian tomb disturb Indian water demons?"
"Are you looking for _rationality_ here?" Her voice is suddenly harsh, trembling with feeling - as if she'd pressed a switch and released an outpouring of what appears to be anger. -An act, Mulder thinks, but can he be certain? She certainly seems sincere: "Well, I'll let you in on a secret: there isn't any. There isn't any rationality at all. My cousin has been killed. My servants and my lover have been killed. What's left of them? Nothing. A puddle of blood. Less. A cloud of blood, coagulating on the floortiles. And Ganesh's eye. Tossed aside like a piece of flesh, entrails torn from a dog. And who killed them? A shape - a blur - a demon straight out of my childhood. A demon that shattered my home, shattered my life... Could it all have been for something that Halasz found in the godforsaken tomb of some saint who doesn't even belong to the same religion? Some artifact, even if it belongs to someone he believed was the twin of Christ? Why not?" She looks at him, her eyes impossibly wide, the Bible falling to the floor. "And now. Here, in Washington, I'm supposed to be safe. They promised me that I'd be safe. But now these other killings - in the middle of the city, with hundreds of people around, and no one even sees anything... What am I supposed to think? I'm going to accept any explanation I can find.
"I'm scared," she says simply.
He looks back at her, meets her unwavering gaze, and thinks to himself: -I don't think so.
-I don't think she's scared at all.
But as much as he knows this, he also knows - sees, almost prophetically, with 20-20 foresight - what is about to take place. He sees the future, like ripples in the stream of the Ganges, choked with mud, images half-seen through cloudy water, images of himself and this woman, images that lie only one motion, one gesture, one movement in the future - if he wishes.
Like a man dangling at the edge of a precipice - blood pounding in his temples, the wind whistling around his ears - he sees her rise from the chair and draw closer to him. He sees that she is perspiring lightly in that sari, cleanly, her skin smooth and shining - even from this distance, a few yards away, her softness and warmth is apparent...the perfection of her dark features, a terracotta Galatea...
-I don't want this, he thinks frantically. -Scully...Scully...I can't allow her to be right about me...I'm better than this...This isn't right, I'm breaking every rule, every breach of ethics, they could - should - drum me out of the Bureau for this...I can stop now. I can brush her aside. It wouldn't be difficult. She's just testing me, playing with me. I shouldn't give her the satisfaction. I can't.
And: -No good can come of this.
She kneels where he sits on the floor and places a hand on his shoulder. He manages to remain perfectly still, willing his muscles into motionlessness. Up close, her seeming physical delicacy is remarkable - she's very small, soft, almost childlike, light enough to be blown away by a whisper, as if she is made of porcelain, a china doll, with finely sculpted features and exquisite limbs: _exquisite_, no less, as if no other term in English can describe her so well.
As if no other woman has ever befitted the word.
And now she whispers into his ear. That sensation, her light breaths, her lips tracing the words a millimeter from his own skin...He can stand it no longer. His self-control falls away with her sari. She has unwound the smooth fabric from around her waist and torso - tossing it, along with her golden brooch, into a far corner of the room, near the fireplace - and now, exposed, she moves before him, sets herself squarely into his lap, places a light kiss on his mouth. Her lips are rose petals brushing against him with practiced undulations, pore to pore, blossoming but burning hot, branding him even as they caress him like an autumn breeze heavy with the scent of pollen, of ambrosia, of nutmeg, of betel - and, to his horror, he is kissing her back, firmly, no ambiguity here - and she is smiling a Raksasa smile, those marvelous pearl-like teeth biting his chin like a peach. No doubt, no turning back: kissing her in return. She wraps her left arm around his neck and draws him closer. He breathes in deeply, inhales her natural perfume, her pheromone, wafting off her body - every square inch pressed against him, every fold, every secret curve - like a wildly addictive opiate; he has never felt so much desire in his life; he feels like a furnace being embraced by a flame. She won't stop moving. She sets her back against the wall, pulls him to her. He's afraid to look down, afraid to see what her free hand is doing.
Indeed: he's afraid to look anywhere. He keeps his eyes shut, concentrating wholly on tactile sensation, concentrating with his diaphragm, as if meditating on the eternal AUM - her body is his mantra and he can feel it vibrating beneath him, setting every exposed nerve aflame in jangling threads of electricity, merging with him, finding his oscillation frequency, his biorhythm - faster and faster, a dive deep into the river mud.
Eyes still closed, he probes like a blind man. He remembers - dimly - the ancient Indian story of the sightless sages who came to an elephant and, feeling different parts of the animal, each went away with different conclusions as to the nature of the beast: he who felt the ear felt a leaf; the leg, a tree, the trunk, a snake; the tail, a rope. Now, recalling that parable, he wonders what beasts he can find buried in Kiki. Feeling for correlations, he probes her throat, moves down to her sternum, the groove between her larynx and breastbone...one hand on her slim thigh, her belly, perfect breasts, pressing her against the wall in his urgency, his frenzied attempt to keep his hands ahead of his conscience. His thoughts, once regretful, have now dwindled down to a singularity, a point, that burns with a bright inner fire - he is blushing again, and now the redness, the flush, is spreading everywhere, along his neck, down his shirt - and Kiki's hands follow the redness. They increase the burning. In her hands are three long experienced years of sex, of making love, of lust, of tantric capitalism, of Kama, of Shakti, of yoni, of linga, of _fucking_...and the fact that he knows for certain that he is not the first - not even in the first ten, or the first hundred - excites him even more. By God, as he moves against her and begins to probe even deeper, nothing less than James Joyce comes to mind, _Ulysses_, as he smiles and asks himself why he smiles:
"To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter wheras he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone, whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity."
He cannot avoid a moment of clarity: -Is it normal to be quoting Joyce while...while...
No; not normal. Nothing is normal.
And so the Joyce-quoting Rhodes scholar enters. His clothes have disappeared, as if all she needed to do was blow a sweet breath softly and they would fly like autumn leaves. She stifles a cry - or is it his imagination? - and brings herself closer, rising up, meeting him halfway, still with her back against the wall, putting all one hundred pounds of her weight onto her deep downward thrust; he bites his lip, tries to keep from ejaculating, and succeeds, at least for the moment. Now their sounds have ceased to be inaudible ("loud" would be the proper adjective) and, he reflects, there is no way that her hijra servants can fail to hear them - indeed, they probably do. This shames him deeply, more than anything else. -Even more, he thinks, -than the thought of...what's her name?...my partner...
He takes it out on Kiki. His thrusts have become angrier now, more intense - he fancies that he can feel her cervix, high up that convulsing tunnel - and she draws her hips together, almost crossing her legs, to tighten the connection. Then - whether it is his impulse, or hers, or a combination of the two - they draw away from the wall, settle face to face, her back on the rug, her legs high up - now, finally, some indication of E-D flexibility - and, by God, he can't stop kissing her, even as he hears the high-pitched rubbing of her skin against the rough fabric of the carpet, and sees that self-contented look of triumph on her face. -She's won, he realizes. -This is all she wanted. When it's over, I won't mean anything.
How devious is that modifier: _When it's over_. Little more than an invitation to prolong the moment, to turn her over, try her one way, another, positions undreamt of by him but well-practiced by her, variations on a theme, Kama Sutra research, exploitation of E-D, an invitation to use her as cruelly as she is using him.
She has read his mind. Looking at up at him, perspiring, hair in wet strands around her head, she asks lewdly: "How cruel can you be, Special Agent Fox Mulder?"
He gasps once, mutters, "Not cruel enough for you"-and withdraws painfully. Throbbing, unsatisfied, awkward, he pulls back at the verge of orgasm.
The expression her face is one of blatant surprise. Mulder, a yard away, still heaving, thinks: -You did it. A little late, but you did it. No compromise. No compromise.
He cannot stop repeating that phrase to himself, caught up in his own triumph. But he still stands there, that organic linga sprouting from his flesh like an advertisment of his own physical fraility - on one level, his most naive level, he is waiting for her to give up, to go away, to abandon him as being too noble and too dignified to ever compromise himself in such a fashion...No compromise.
But did he really believe that? That Kiki would give up so easily?
-Like the man at the edge of the precipice, he thinks dully, watching the woman approach him with no ambiguity in her intent, -who falls off, then manages to grab onto a shrub growing out of the cliffside - and then falls anyway when the handhold is pulled by the roots out of the rock. Temporary reprieve from the inevitable.
But that is only one level of his conscious thought, and his other levels, the meaner levels, the unconscious levels, rumble somewhere beneath his perineum and say: -Just get it over with.
Mulder can no longer run from what he wants. That cruelty he'd glimpsed within him had only been the seed of a far more lush and luxurious plant that sprouts from his loins as he takes her again, and truly _takes_ her this time, all ambiguity gone, annihilated like the bodies of the victims of a Raksasa, his conscience blown to bits in a flurry of blood and brain matter. He can feel the vein in his forehead throbbing. Again, those kisses which are so much like bites cover him from head to foot to groin - now standing, in the middle of the room, taking care of unfinished business, finding the spot and feeling for the mantra that thrums deep within the throbbing music of her collagen-deficient bones. Like sugar, like candy, like fruit, like fire, like deep black rich steaming river silt...She opens up and takes him within her, so high up it hurts, not just linga into yoni but skin into skin, like entering deeply through a parted velvet curtain and drowning in the darkness inside. And now the breaking point, the jackhammer urgency, back against the wall, the scraping of her back against the plaster, her gasps, her smiles, her skin, her triumph.
Silence. Deep, emptying, unnerving silence behind rose-colored lids, and the sudden awareness of another human being in his arms.
-I'm so sorry...
He is startled by the telephone.
Darkness; _night_; he lies in Kiki's bed, cradling her in his arms. She sleeps like a child, small, quick breaths, one hand beneath her cheek, lying on his chest; he does not dare move for fear of waking her. The guilt will come later. Now he merely savors the sensation of having a woman to hold close, to lie against him, with no more weight than a shadow cast by moonlight.
The ringing does not stir her, but she shifts slightly in his embrace. Her hair is miraculously untangled. He has not realized until now how truly long it is, reaching to her waist, half-hidden by the cool sheets, the lithe curve of her body visible beneath the linen.
He answers the phone, putting as much professionality into his voice as he can muster. "Mulder speaking."
"It's Scully. You need to come down here right away; there's been another killing."
He sits up slightly. "Where?"
"The Capitol building."
Kiki opens her eyes slightly, peering through her lashes up at him. He strokes her thigh and speaks more quietly. "Let me guess - the reflecting pool?"
"I'd suspected as much. Raksasas are water spirits - they're attracted to ponds, streams, bodies of water."
"Are you suggesting that we stake out the Potomac?"
"It wouldn't hurt."
"Listen, I think I've got pictures of the killers we're looking for. I was looking at that ATM security tape again, and think I've isolated the two men who murdered that tourist, judging from where they were just before and after the killing took place. They fit the description given of the motel killers - darkly complexioned, average height, dressed unseasonably warm...Can you come down here?"
Mulder looks down at Kiki, who has closed her eyes and drawn closer, snuggling the sheets beneath her chin. Then he looks up at the ceiling, into the darkness above him, and counts to three.
"I don't think I can..." he begins slowly.
"That's fine. I don't really need you anyway."
"Thanks a lot."
"Turn up anything interesting while I was gone?" Behind her he can hear the sounds of traffic, of police sirens, of the night wind - she's speaking from a pay phone.
He debates briefly over telling her Kiki's theory of Christ's twin brother, and decides against it. "Not really. But Scully...?"
He pauses, thinking of what he should say. -I did something that you wouldn't do, he thinks. -I'm sorry, I'm truly sorry...I couldn't even remember who you were while I was doing it...That shames me, Scully, shames me deeply...and I'm sorry. Did I mention I was sorry?
But none of this can be said, not now. "Never mind," he mutters. She hangs up, and Mulder is left alone to listen to the auditory vacuum of the telephone, blaring into his ear like a silent accusation, and brood over his own weakness. He thinks: -We _all_ have twins. Other sides, other personalities. I'm not surprised that God's only begotten son had a twin of his own. Explains a lot of things. What if the Judas who betrayed Christ was not Judas Iscariot, but Judas Thomas? His own twin, his own double nature, leading him to crucify himself. And me, my own twin, the man who steps in when Mr. So-called Special Agent Fox Mulder retreats to the sidelines - who is he? Always there, poisoning me, poisoning my relationships with my father, my friends, my family, those who I love and admire...even with my partner. Even with Scully.
As if the mere thought of that name serves as an alarm to Kiki, she sits up, drawing the sheet about her midriff, leaving substantial areas exposed. She whispers: "Do you want to do it again?"
He can feel his lower quadrants stirring in response, but says, "I don't think so. I need to go, really, there's been another murder..."
"Far away," he says, with what he hopes is a reassuring tone.
"Then I don't want you to go. I want you to stay right here." She begins to - oh my - she begins to...
With an effort, Mulder sits up. "I really have to l-l-leave," he says, stuttering as he feels her lips encircle him. "I..."
Then he is brought up short by the sound of a cocking pistol.
He looks down. Her eyes - looking up at him - are gleaming, her smile large and seductive and predatory. He can feel steel poking his sternum. His own gun. His erection wilts like an orchid in the Washington heat, and he thinks: -It's just what you deserve.
"It's been fun," Kiki says, "but I think that it's time to find out just how intelligent your partner is." Keeping the gun concealed beneath the covers, pressed painfully against his chest, her free hand searches the bedside table, groping for the paper bag. She finds it and slips the linga out, obscenely red in the dim light. Gazing deeply into his eyes, she kisses the tip of the rough clay phallus. "Let's see if Special Agent Dana Scully was right," she smiles.
Then she smashes the linga against the edge of the nightstand. The phallus shatters, falling in chunks, shards, of blood-red clay. Mulder winces, thinking of what she could do to his own little friend. He reflects that he could probably overpower her and wrest the gun out of her grasp before she could discharge it - but is he willing to risk his life to find out?
He doesn't think so.
Kiki pokes through the rubble, the bits of clay that have fallen to the floor, and finds something with a squeal of excitement. She straightens up, holds it up to the light, the gun still pressed against Mulder's ribs. In the darkness, it could be made of anything - stone, steel, obsidian, bone, wood - but its shape and function are obvious: it is a spearhead, at least five inches long, razor-sharp and shining.
She says quietly, "Do you know what this is?"
Mulder nods. "I can guess. The spear that killed the Apostle Judas Thomas Didymus."
"You're pretty quick," she says. Then, grinning: "Too quick, maybe. In more ways than one." She straightens up, slides out of bed, the gun still trained at his midsection. She does not hold it like a woman unaccustomed to firearms, but with her arm rigid, safety off, aiming carefully at his heart. To rush her would be unwise. Gliding over to her closet - still so graceful, beautiful even under these circumstances, the silhouette of her bare throat etched against the light - she removes a thin kimono and pulls it on, not bothering to tie the robe. Her shoes are by the door. She slips them on, the same black sandals she'd been wearing at their initial interview only yesterday.
Then, back to the bed. She takes the spearhead and pockets it, along with the pieces of clay from the linga, and sits on the edge of the mattress, legs crossed, gun still level. "So. How much do you think an artifact like this is worth?"
"Given a collector who believes in the twin hypothesis?" Mulder shrugs. "More money than I'll see in this lifetime."
"_This_ lifetime? You talk like a Hindu." She smiles sweetly, leans over, kisses him a last time, letting it linger softly and affectionately on his lips. Whispering: "I'd stay and fuck, but to tell you the truth, honey, you really aren't that good."
Then she is gone. Kiki moves, not hurriedly, confident that he will not follow her, out of the bedroom and through the front door, closing - and locking - it softly behind her.
The safehouse is plunged into silence, a silence matched only by the tremor and confusion that erupts from Mulder's heart, but he draws a curtain over his thoughts, not allowing them to penetrate his single-mindedness of purpose, as he rises and wonders whether he should try to follow her. -Would she kill me in cold blood? he wonders. Getting out of bed and pulling on his clothes, he runs to the rooms of the hijra servants, opening their doors without knocking. They still sit on their beds in the lotus-position - as if they hadn't moved since he'd checked on them yesterday - neither awake nor asleep, eyes heavily lidded, breathing deeply. "Hey," Mulder says. Startled, they look up at him with uncomprehending eyes, palms open and spread flat. -They don't speak English, he realizes.
Mulder steps into his shoes and flings open the front door. The street is empty, shining with arc lamps, the heat making the air undulate in waves. Bursting out onto the sidewalk, he looks for any sign, any trace, that might tell him in which direction Kiki had gone.
Nothing. His cries echo sullenly among silent buildings. The night has swallowed her up.
And now, suddenly, a riverdam bursts in his brain, flooding him with an ocean of thought as he stands there beneath the streetlights in his open shirt and sockless feet: -The spear that killed Thomas, he thinks. -She had it the whole time. Doesn't she realize how much danger she's in now? Someone - or something - has followed her to America, and is killing people right and left, searching for her, and searching - probably - for that spearhead. An artifact that Halasz uncovered. But why, _why_, for God's sake, would Hindu demons get involved over a Christian relic?
The answer comes to him with shocking clarity. -The clay! he realizes. -The clay Halasz used to make the linga! In India, according to folklore - I found this out the other day, why didn't I pay attention? - the deposits of red ferruginous clay found around India are the remains of Raksasas' battles with the gods, and are thus sacred to them - Halasz must have disturbed some of the Raksasa's clay! Sure, people do this every day, but Halasz then used the clay to encase another artifact, a Christian artifact, within the phallus of Shiva. And I don't know for certain, but I suspect, that the combination of two holy relics from two different religions may have been enough to awaken a Raksasa.
He jogs back into the house, into the kitchen, and opens the cupboard over the stove. There, tucked carefully behind Scully's packages of turmeric: his other gun, the small pistol he usually keeps strapped to his right leg. He'd taken it off and hidden it the day before, following some instinct within him that'd expected a trick like this all along...indeed, if only he'd listened to that instinct more carefully...He puts the gun on the counter and, after a moment's thought, takes the turmeric, stuffing packets of the pungent spice into his pockets.
Mulder takes a deep breath, exhales and reminds himself: -Either I'm hunting for a Hindu demon with green fur, eyes like slits and enormous fangs that destroys its victims where they stand; or for an Indian woman - recently my lover - who looked ready to kill me a second ago for a piece of obsidian that was used to martyr the twin brother of Jesus Christ.
He slaps a magazine into the pistol, cocks it and reholsters the gun.
-It's a living, he thinks.
Meanwhile, Scully stands over the remains of one Zachary Kohl, a Washington lobbyist who made the mistake of strolling down the Capitol pavement half an hour ago. Although "remains" is still a somewhat generous term, there is more here for the ME to bag and label than at the last six killings - namely, the forefinger and thumb of Kohl's left hand, a lock of bloodied hair (graying, with the faint scent of lotion), and a wallet which was used to make the identification. Lucky break. Usually the Raksasas devour everything, including the victim's clothes.
Not that Scully's mood is necessarily carefree. She is, for one thing, being constantly hounded by a District police chief, pressing her in his wheedling voice for an official explanation of the deaths. -What can I tell him? she wonders. -That I'm actually beginning to believe that these crimes are being committed by two Hindu death-spirits that are after some unknown religious artifact baked in a phallus currently in the possession of "the most coveted whore in India?"
More than once, she comes very close to telling him just that.
She does not know that her theory is, in fact, correct - that the linga _does_ contain an artifact, and that Kiki Svadhishthana is indeed interested in obtaining it - thus vindicating her to some degree. But still, such knowledge would bring her no satisfaction - a germ of anxiety still worries her, gnawing to the quick beneath her businesslike features. There had been something strange in the way Mulder had spoken when she'd called him. Something had been bothering him, subtly underlining his words with abashment, with rich ambiguity, with embarrassment: he'd had a secret, a wrenchingly obvious secret, as audible in his voice as if he'd come out and said, "Scully, there's something that I can't tell you about just now."
Scully thinks that she knows what it was. -Oh Mulder, she says silently to herself, -don't do anything I wouldn't do. Please: don't do anything I wouldn't do.
But she knows, deep inside, that he already has. So now, pacing around the crime scene in the humid night air, careful not to step in the blood, wishing for - of all things - a cigarette, Scully is in emotional turmoil, her face red, trying to fit together pieces from a dozen different puzzles.
She is, in fact, so distressed that she doesn't see the two men at first, although she passes only a few feet to the left of them.
That feeling - a sensation of her vertebrae turning to ice, of gooseflesh, of necrotic fingers caressing the scar on the back of her neck - causes her to turn around. For a few seconds, she can't locate the cause of her discomfort. She takes a quick look at the crowd, policemen, rubberneckers, those few people with actual business in Congress, pedestrians, loiterers...Nothing suspicious, nothing that should give her the chills...
Then she sees them. Two men dressed in what look like beige leather overcoats wrapped around dark suits, wearing scarves and heavy gloves. Their faces are prunelike, almost purple - one markedly Indian. The other one holds a silver cane, tossing it, bored, from hand to hand; his is a darkly-lined Caucasian face, perhaps thirty-five years old, with unusual eyes - blue, perhaps, or green, or gold - that do not seem to be looking at anything in particular.
She knows. She's seen the security tape, she's heard the witnesses' descriptions, but more than anything else, she trusts her own instincts, the overriding inner voice that screams to her, -It's them! Don't hesitate, Dana - it's them!
Scully unbuttons her jacket and lifts the snap on her holster. She sidesteps a clot of onlookers and draws herself into a tail behind the two men, shadowing their shadows, her heart thudding crazily in her chest. -Away from all these people, she thinks. -Wait until they leave.
This, she realizes, may not be for a while - they've already lingered at the scene for at least thirty minutes since taking their prey - but, to her surprise, they seem to almost cooperate, moving from the throngs of people into a glut of darker sidestreets. She glances quickly over her shoulder. She's at least a dozen yards from the nearest police officer; she can't ask for backup without attracting attention and possibly losing the two men. -Time to go at it alone, she says resolutely to herself. Then: -May God hold me strong.
The cross dangling from her neck gives her comfort, but its solace is cold; the sturdy butt of the revolver secured beneath her arm is much more encouraging. She moves quietly, making her way through the crowd, never letting the two men - men? - out of her sight. Her heart will not stop jackhammering against the walls of her ribs. It's the loudest part of her body - she isn't even breathing, time having stilled to a vortex, a pinpoint of eternity concentrated solely on her and the two figures she follows, and the air is suffocating. The two men move even further away from the Capitol, into the darkness, shadows merging and mingling with the black ribbons of night that lie along the sidewalk - and Scully pulls away from the crowd completely.
-Now or never, she thinks. She pulls the pistol from the holster, points it squarely at an imaginary point between the two men, her elbows locked. "Freeze!" she shouts, her voice satisfyingly powerful. "Federal Bureau of Investigation! Put your hands behind your head and drop to your knees!"
She begins to regret the action almost immediately, thinking: -What are you _doing_? Do you really think you can intimidate whatever tore those six people to pieces and didn't even leave their clothes behind? Do you think they aren't going to hesitate in annihilating you as well? _Do you_?
But, incredibly, it seems to work.
The two men buckle where they stand, falling to the asphalt, their fingers intertwined at the bases of their necks. They sit there in the darkness like two tombstones, not moving, not speaking, just kneeling, hunched over, the white one's cane fallen to the pavement alongside him. She needs to move quickly. People around her are beginning to rubberneck, to get in the way. Pistol still trained on their heads, she advances slowly, within a foot of the one on the left, and kicks away his cane; it goes skittering over the concrete into the darkness.
"You're under..." she tries to say. Her mouth is dry. "You're..."
The one on the left turns his head to regard her, slowly, very slowly. She can hear his neck creaking beneath his collar, the tendons groaning like age-old iron, the leather - no, pigskin - crinkling. On the seam of the scarf is a small white label that she can barely read in the light of the streetlamps, written in tightly printed blue script: "Made in Delhi."
The tag is covered with blood.
"We're what?" the man asks. His voice is pleasant, slightly curious. She looks up to meet his gaze.
His eyes are like glowing coals, green and golden and incredibly hot. She can feel the heat radiating off them from two feet away. As she watches, his face catches fire. The flesh burns, and the smell - pungent, sweet - wafts up to her as his cheekbones blacken and shrivel and wiry green hair peeks out through the mandibles.
"We're what?" he asks again.
"You're..." Scully begins, considering the possibilities. Inspiration strikes. She starts again. "You're dead," Scully says, and pulls the trigger.
The Raksasa's head explodes, but before Scully can react she has been thrown twenty, thirty, forty feet, shot through the air like a cannonball. She collides roughly with a brick wall, the wind knocked out of her, and she hears the sickening snap of bone - her right arm - breaking cleanly in two, incredible pain lancing up her shoulder and back down again in sickening waves of electricity. She slides to the ground, into a pile of garbage, stunned. Her ears are ringing as if she's gone deaf, but she can still feel, she still has skin, and now the sensation of cold is stronger than ever. She's fallen at a strange angle; her head is tilted and she's looking sideways, watching, at an oblique angle, a park bench across the street where two old men sit playing cards. They do not seem to notice her.
Her senses have grown excruciatingly sharp. One of the old men, twenty yards away, says, "Go fish." She dimly hears the rumbling of Washington traffic. A radio, high above her, tinnily plays classical music - Brahms.
With an effort she straightens up and looks back at the street.
The two Raksasas stand over her, one of them now headless, dark clotting blood dripping over the pigskin scarf from his spurting carotid, his hands - now, more accurately, paws - out of the gloves, opening and closing convulsively, claws the size of railroad spikes, gripping the cane, not by the handle, but with talons digging straight into the wood. Their bodies convulse, begin to change, and she squeezes her eyes shut, feeling the pain ricochet up her arm, listening to the Raksasas' momentous heartbeats, their heavy breathing...the slither of a tongue over coagulated lips.
"Where is the whore?" one of them asks, kneeling close to her.
Her eyes shut (-May God hold me strong...May God hold me strong...), she whispers an address. She has no choice.
Their impatience reaches an apex. They have lingered too long. Blood jetting from the Raksasa's neck drips over her exposed calf, burning the skin cruelly, igniting dim fireworks behind her eyelids. They scrape their nails against the concrete. She listens to the two old men play cards, to the sound of traffic, the tinny piano sonata - and she believes. As they prepare to pounce, their jaws dripping acidic saliva - she believes.
A sudden stench. She sneezes - ridiculously, she sneezes. There is a roar, a thundering, a voice blazing out of the dark: "Scully! Scully!"
She knows the scent: turmeric. Opening her eyes, she sees someone (-What's his name?...my partner...), his face pale with fear, waving burning packets of the spice, one in each hand - and, flanking her, the two shadows, the Raksasa, claws an inch from her face. There is a moment of hesitation, time itself buckling beneath their jaws -
- and they withdraw. Their chill, their freezing touch, is left behind, leaving bloody footprints as they crawl back into the darkness and take on other forms, convulsing, changing, flickering like candleflames - but they withdraw. There is a flutter of wings, a dark whisper of feathers.
For a long time he does nothing but hold her. It is nothing like being with Kiki. Kiki had been insubstantial, a whisper of wind, a beam of moonlight thrown across his chest, yielding like a marionette ready to degrade itself. But Scully, Scully is shuddering, shaking, her broken right arm held at an awkward angle, her calf - burnt by the Raksasa's blood - blistering angrily in small swollen pustules, her quivering weight lying close against him, the two of them fallen in a drift of tin cans and rotting newspapers - but there is no comparison between the two; Scully is _exquisite_, as exquisite as if no other woman has ever befitted the word. There are many small cuts on her forehead and temples from the brick, and Mulder pulls her red hair back, away from the scratches; he draws her even closer, her lips a millimeter from his own. She does not notice - does not _seem_ to notice - but whispers: "Mulder..."
"Scully," he says, almost unable to get the words out, "Scully, I did something...something..."
"That I wouldn't have done?" A smile.
"Listen," she interrupts forcefully, almost retreating from his arms, pushing herself away from him, painfully, her broken arm bending-"Listen," she says again. "I know where they - the Raksasa-"-she stumbles on the word-"I know where they're going."
She nods abashedly. "I told them the address. You'd better save Kiki."
Mulder shakes his head, attempting to take her hands tenderly in his own - but she stuffs them into her pockets, even the broken one, as if anticipating and rejecting the move. "Kiki's gone," he says. "She took the linga. With the artifact inside it. Your instincts were right all along."
Scully shrugs, wincing at the motion. "I was getting tired of being wrong all the time." She avoids his gaze, looking out across the street at the two men playing cards, their voices rising, looking back at her with rising tones of concern - as if noticing her predicament only now. "But I was wrong about the Raksasa...I was wrong about them..."
"You'll have forgotten about it by next week," Mulder says. He straightens up, letting her lean upon his shoulder - but she still remains standoffish in his embrace, unyielding, supporting most of her weight on her own feet, as if to touch him at all would compromise her integrity. She remains a professional, even now, and this - more than anything else - causes the empty heartbroken feeling in his chest to raise another melancholic notch, as if Novocain had been pumped into the chambers of his heart, anesthetizing the ventricles, although the memory of pain still lingers...He leaves her with a pair of concerned police officers near the scene of the lobbyist's murder. The two uniforms take one look at her haunted expression, her bleeding forehead, and do not ask any questions, guiding her concernedly to a bench. Bits of grime still adhere to her short skirt, her leg beginning to swell, the pain in her arm bringing tears to her eyes - but she holds her head erect with an effort, and keeps her lower lip from trembling. She sits quietly on the bench, waiting for paramedics, methodically warding off shock in her limbs and arteries. She does not look in her partner's direction.
And Mulder - alone, not bothering to ask for backup, knowing that to explain would sacrifice valuable seconds - gets wearily into his car, beginning the drive back to the safehouse, where he knows the Raksasas will be waiting.
He guns the engine. A puff of exhaust sends the newspaper shreds piled alongside the brick wall fluttering like albino butterflies.
Rolling the windows all way down, the heavy wind stings his eyes. Mulder broods, staring out at the streetlights, the neon signs, the smoldering dark air of the city. -The Raksasas, he thinks randomly, -are a little like twins themselves. What did the witnesses always describe? Two dark men, wearing identical dark clothes, identical dark expressions...Come to think of it, that's one of the more compelling arguments for the twin theory of Messiahs: the book of the Revelation of St. John the Divine mentions _two_ Antichrists, one of them a dragon, the other a false prophet, that come from across the sea. If two Antichrists exists, why not two Christs as well?
-Perhaps God knows better than to tell us such truths straight out, Mulder thinks. -Perhaps if we knew that all of us - even the Savior - have twins, grim dopplegangers lurking behind our every move, we might go insane from the realization...
Clamping down on that thought, he drives on in silence for another few minutes. The safehouse - the abattoir where his own personal Antichrists-from-across-the-sea lie in waiting - stands only twenty blocks away from the Capitol, sandwiched in with other houses, set along a black street, the asphalt like the stripe down a boa constrictor's back.
It was selected by the FBI for obscurity. Mulder misses it the first time, doubling back and idling as he stares at the house, walled in by high green suffocating hedges. His heart going mad, he parks across the road and emerges from the car. The sweat trickling down his back is ice-cold despite the night's warmth. He pulls the small gun from his leg holster, checking the magazine and cocking the pistol, his hand on the trigger as he approaches the house, thinking: -If I've made it in time, I still have a hope of saving the hijras...
But then, creeping sideways to the entrance, sidling through the mouth of the hedges, he sees the front door - and his hopes are flayed. The wood has been demolished. The panels hang like gibbets from brass hinges, one of them torn straight out of the frame, splintering the infrastructure. Pieces of metal knob and lock and deadbolt and chain - and, ludicrously, the Club, broken in two like a matchstick - lie on the concrete doorstep, obscuring the Welcome mat, torn to shreds by unimaginably large claws.
Mulder hesitates, steps back into the street.
That momentary hesitation saves his life. With a howling screech - like blocks of pig iron rubbing against steel - two winged shapes burst from the open doorframe, the stench of sulfur emanating from them in waves of vile ordure, enormous, eyes like glowing golden fog-lamps, pairs of arched batwings slicing up from their shoulders - but the wings are greenly feathered, with talons emerging from the axilla, from the wingtip, seeming to shred the air around them as they erupt into the curdling night sky. Part vulture, part owl, part bat, part indescribable abomination - the birds scream.
They move like lightning. Mulder has barely enough time to duck down, his knees scraping on the sidewalk, as they explode over him, shearing fragments of foliage from the hedge - their wings have edges sharp as razors. That sulfurous stench fills his nostrils, burning and bringing tears to his eyes. He coughs violently.
The birds slow abruptly and land in the middle of street, their toenails clicking against the asphalt, cawing. And the one on the left - the paler one, the exposed flesh of its neck and beaked head the color of untanned leather - turns its eyes in Mulder's direction. Their gazes lock for an interminable instant. Mulder tries to squeeze the trigger but no bullets are fired. In the clarity of vision brought about by absolute terror, he notes that the pale beast holds a silver cane in one gnarled foot - and that the other one, the darker one, the one with blood dripping from its beak, has broken pieces of red clay and a spearhead clenched in its own claws.
With numb fingers, unable to avert his eyes from those of the bird, Mulder claws a pocket of turmeric from his breast pocket. Fumbling , he attempts to light it, but drops his cigarette lighter into the underbrush. His heart stops. The beast regards him, staring deeply into his pale, drawn face, as if weighing the odds, committing the agent's features to memory - and then it turns away. Spreading their wings, the birds lift themselves majestically into the air, pushing the air out from beneath them in a sonorous wave, a wave stinking with dust and ashes that invade Mulder's nostrils and will linger there for hours. They fly out into the night, to the east, out towards the ocean. They plunge through the curtain of dark.
They turn their heads back one last time, gliding high above the city - and the golden glow of their eyes welds itself to Mulder's retinas.
Mulder, his mind reeling, thinks: -It saw me. God help me, it saw me.
He runs into the safehouse. He sees things in flashes, in bursts of vivid detail. There is a large blot of blood on the carpet. Some droplets on the adjoining wall. A broken piece of clay in the center of the rug. Next to it - kneeling, shivering - is one of the hijras, his hands clasped together in a gesture of supplication, doughty face trembling. Mulder, keeping his gun out, grabs the eunuch's forearm in a viselike grip.
The servant speaks in a high, reedy voice, his command of the language fairly confident. "They - the Raksasas - were just here. They left. They killed the other hijra"-he points to the splatter of blood on the floor next to him. "They spared me after I gave them the linga."
Mulder stares, dropping the hijra's arm. "You can speak English?"
"Yes. There seemed no reason to speak it until now."
He feels irrationally compelled to shoot the hijra where he stands, but no, enough irrationality for today; he pockets his gun. Then, suddenly heeding the eunuch's words, his brow wrinkles in puzzlement. "You say that you gave the Raksasas the _linga_?"
"Yes - what remained of it, and that object inside - and they spared me."
"But - but where did you get it?"
Instead of answering, the hijra points to the fireplace. Mulder follows his gaze, and the wind is knocked out of him in disbelieving shock for the second time in as many minutes: soot and ashes have fallen in great quantities onto the carpet and the brick of the hearth, spilling out of the fireplace, dusting everything in gray power. He knows instantly what it means. Walking over to the hearth - slowly, taking his time on shaky legs - he kneels on the brick and stares up into the chimney.
A stifled groan escapes his lips. Hands shaking, he reaches up and pulls, tugging on a protruding object - a cascade of ashes dusting his head and shoulders - and finally freeing it to descend from its perch stuffed into the flue, scraping dully against the brick, falling into his arms.
Kiki's body, covered with soot. Her head lolls back on a lifeless neck, broken. She is still warm. A slight ribbon of blood has trickled from her mouth, still sensuous even in death, and he rubs it away. Her kimono is torn, hanging in shreds from her shoulders and thighs.
Carefully, not without tenderness, he lays her on the carpet. Her head lies near the second hijra's bloodstain, the blackish-gold strands of her hair only an inch away from the gore.
Slowly, listening to the surviving servant's testimony and filling in the gaps himself, he begins to understand what had happened.
Kiki had returned to the house only minutes after Mulder left for the Capitol. She'd awakened her two hijras, who'd started to assist her in whatever she had been doing back there - but she had been surprised by the arrival of the Raksasas.
They had come to her for the second time, smashing in the door, hungry for her blood - and, in her mortal terror, she had left the spearhead and clay sitting in the middle of the floor, searching around desperately for a place to hide.
Only a person with E-D syndrome would have thought of as ludicrous a place as the chimney. Only a person with E-D syndrome - who'd wriggled out of a kitchen window ten inches square, who'd nonchalantly put her leg behind her head in his office, who'd utilized her flexibility for three years in her own bed and the beds of others - could have gone as high up the flue as she had, crazed with fear, the sounds of the splintering door echoing in her ears - and still break her neck.
-The Raksasas spared the other hijra, Mulder thinks dazedly. -They would have spared Kiki, too, if she'd just given them the spearhead to begin with...but she ran, and she killed herself.
-Why did she return? he wonders. -Why did Kiki come back to the safehouse when she was free to retreat at her leisure?
Looking down at her body, he sees that her right hand is shut tightly into a hard little fist. Carefully, he spreads apart the warm fingers (with no great difficulty; rigor mortis will not set in for a long while) and removes a small golden object, a golden medallion, the Sanskrit AUM written on it in gemstones.
-Her brooch, he thinks. -The family heirloom. She came back for the brooch...
The hijra kneels by the corpse, beginning to pray in a sonorous singsong voice. Kiki's unseeing eyes are half open - bloodshot from the soot, as bloodshot as her cousin Ganesh's eye had been on Scully's autopsy table - looking up at him through her eyelashes. Looking up at him, asking: _Do you want to do it again?_
He turns away, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
Two days later.
Mulder stands along the bank of the Potomac, staring out onto the gray foaming waters, holding Kiki's brooch in his hands, staring, staring, his mind empty and confused and unfocused.
Scully. God knows how she'd found him out here, tarrying like just another speck along the belly of the river, content to stand quietly, secure in his own solitude. He acknowledges her presence but continues to look out onto the currents, the small ripples blown by the breeze. There's been a break in the weather; the temperature has fallen twenty degrees in forty-eight hours, and is markedly cooler here, at the edge of the city, the wind brisk and heavy with water.
He glances back over at his partner. Her arm is in a cast, the blue sling jutting out of her overcoat, three fingers protruding from a cyst of white plaster. She walks up to him, very close, a foot away - not touching, just standing near, offering her company - and looks with him at the river, the ancient river where the Powhatans swam three hundred years ago. -Such time is beyond mortal conception, really, Mulder reflects, -although it is merely an eyeblink in history, a shiver in time; three hundred years ago, the religion of the Raksasas - and the Raksasas themselves - were already ancient, weighted under by the burden of years, already grained deeply within by the dust and the grit and the grime and the sand of a thousand years of mystery.
Scully speaks, still watching the waves. "You weren't at Kiki's funeral."
His voice is tired, resigned. "You went?"
"Yes. There were only two people there."
"I thought she'd have more admirers than that."
"She does - but none of them dared show their face at the cremation of a Hindu whore." Scully smiles, but only for a second. "They all sent flowers, though. Before they burnt the casket, there must have been a hundred pounds of orchids, hyacinths, roses, carnations, all lying in the narthex..."
Mulder looks down, stares at his shoes, at the wet concrete. "Scully...I... need to tell you..."
"No." Her tone is firm-no chance for bargaining. There is no love in her voice. Try as she might, she cannot forgive him for his lapse with Kiki, for doing something that he shouldn't have done; she has searched herself for compassion and can find next to none. It is not a reflection on him, or on her, or even on Kiki: it is simply the truth. She cannot pardon him, not this time. Even his belated act of chivalry has bought him no sympathy: they have spoken earlier, and Mulder knows that Scully remembers nothing of that violent night's events - retrograde amnesia, total denial of what had happened, of the Raksasas; there is no point in trying to make her remember. Better for them both, perhaps. "No. Whatever it is you want to say, you'd best keep to yourself."
"I just want to apologize."
"You don't have to," she lies. "It wasn't your fault you were assigned to guard her." She stares fixedly at her fingernails. There is silence between them for several seconds, punctuated only by the sounds of passing tourists and the whistling of birds; when she speaks again, she speaks softly. "When I was at the funeral," she finally says, "I found out why."
"Why you were assigned to her." Her voice becomes even lower, more subdued. "The only other man at the funeral - the one who paid for it all...I met him. Spoke with him. He knows you - and her. He was her anonymous benefactor."
"He's a senator."
"His name is Richard Matheson. Goodbye, Mulder." Scully turns briskly on her heels and walks away. She does not look over her shoulder, does not turn around, but strides quickly to where her car is parked, opening the door and getting in without ceremony. The slam of the door ricochets with grim finality. It pierces his heart like a spear.
And she is gone.
He does not move. He does not stir from his spot. He holds Kiki's brooch in his hands, staring down at the water, at the gray rusty water. His own twin, the second nature that he can neither understand nor comprehend nor sublimate nor bury, the doppleganger that poisons his relationships and dooms his happiness and always does what it shouldn't have done - it stands invisibly by his side, staring down, as time washes over the two of them, washing them clean, as they stand by the river in silence.