Title: Gone To Florida
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For some reason, I'm hearing Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" in my head. That's probably not a good sign.
I don't know if this is a signal I'm emerging from retirement or if I'm just putting the finishing touches on it. I do intend this as the final story in the "Final" series. I'm also planning to post a sequel to "The Seventh Age" as well as musing over a post-"Requiem" story that will attempt to "tie everything up" like "Strangers and Pilgrims" tried to do. (God save my soul.)
All that aside, here's "Gone to Florida." Once again, I thank Laurie Haynes for editing it. I also would like to thank Alfred Metraux whose "Voodoo in Haiti" provided me with insights. Any misrepresentations of voodoo here are strictly my own bloody fault. I would also like to acknowledge Carl Hiassen. The "epilogue" idea for the previous two stories was taken straight from his own funny books. I thought it would be appropriate to set the final story in his home turf of Florida.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. HE'S GOT RHYTHM
HE'S GOT RHYTHM
Councilman Neil Downard was becoming quite the tourist attraction. Passers-by and residents of the Sparkle Beach Hotel were crowding onto the sidewalk and staring wide-eyed at the councilman. He looked back at them with eyes also wide but blank and unreceptive. If he could see them, though, it would have been upside down, considering that the upper-half of his body was sticking out a window with his back resting on the sill. However, considering that a large red triangle of glass was jutting through his torso, what he could have seen was a moot point.
Visitors staying at the Sparkle Beach Hotel were greeted with this sight as they stepped out into the hot sun. Forgetting about the beaches and the souvenir shops, they focused on the councilman dangling from a second-story window of their hotel. They were joined by other tourists who joined them in their whispering and mutterings.
Then they beheld a new sight almost as exotic to their eyes as the skewered councilman. A very large and fat man stepped up to the window; a very large and fat *Cuban*. He was dressed in a wrinkled grey jacket and pants, a white shirt with many unremovable stains, a loosened red tie and a hat that must have been sat on a few times. A cigar jutted from his mouth and you could smell its heady odor from the sidewalk. The face around the cigar belonged to a man in his fifties and he wasn't smiling. He regarded the people below him as the sun baked their puffy flesh. When he heard a camera click, he proclaimed with his cigar between his teeth, "What the hell is with you people? Don't they have dead bodies up in Hairy Ass, Michigan or Inbred, Missouri or wherever you come from?"
This prompted a gasp from the onlookers and a woman standing close to the Cuban. "Detective Carranza!" the woman cried out.
Tomas Carranza and his cigar turned to Frances Sheen, a member of her city's Board of Tourism. "Those people are visitors to our city!" she told him. "Show them some courtesy!"
The cigar tilted up in Carranza's mouth. Then he removed it, turned back to window and said, "Welcome to fucking Miami. Now, scram, you gringo jerk-offs."
The scowl on the Cuban's face had yanked many a confession out of a suspect. It was no less effective in making the crowd disperse. Mrs. Sheen trembled, ready to rip out Carranza's throat with her teeth.
Detective Max Miles stepped between them. Miles was Carranza's partner and any other two men could not have had a more differing appearance. The clothes on Miles were always clean and presentable. The body in them was more than presentable. When the handsome, blonde-haired and broad-shouldered man smiled, he could warm the hearts of most women (and some men), not to mention make their underwear tingle.
"Please, Mrs. Sheen," Miles said. "It's best that we don't have a crowd of tourists gawking at the crime scene. Besides, this isn't something you want to bring attention to, is it?"
He smiled. Mrs. Sheen -- a woman who had been married for ten years -- felt her pelvis loosen.
"I...I guess I can understand that," she stammered. "But wouldn't it be best to...uh...remove the body from sight?"
"Well, that will be up to the forensics team and they can't do that until they have finished documenting the scene. They're working as fast as they can, though. Just another minute and Mr. Downard will be out of sight."
Mrs. Sheen sighed with relief. "Thank you, Detective Miles." She looked over his shoulder at Carranza. "It's nice to see some members of the Miami Police Department have remembered their manners."
She turned away. Carranza started to say something, but Miles lifted up a finger in his direction. Carranza shrugged and stuck the cigar back into his mouth.
"As ever, I am ying to your yang, Tomas," Miles observed. "Or is that yang to your ying?"
"I'm trying to care." Carranza waved a hand at Downard's body. "Look at this, won't you?"
"I see it."
"The first one was weird enough. But now we've got *two* of them."
"Is it the same as Kidder's death?"
Carranza made a circle in the air with his hand, indicating the entirety of a dining room where small tables with white tablecloths had been arranged in front of a long table. A considerable amount of damage had been done in this room starting with the smashed podium and bent microphone in the center of the long table. It led in a trail of shattered plates, broken chairs and thick drops of blood to the window. Policemen and forensic specialists were busy with their own little jobs, collecting evidence or interviewing the stricken people gathered in one corner.
"The damn thing happened in front of some of Miami's finest businessmen," Carranza informed Miles. He pointed a huge finger at the group of frightened people. "The esteemed councilman was making a speech about the importance of community or some kind of mule crap when he started dancing. *Dancing*. He did the goddamned Macarena all over the room. They tried to hold him down, but he shook them off like a big old bull. It only stopped when he ran into the window here."
"The Macarena, huh?"
"Actually, it might have been a yanvalou."
Both Miles and Carranza blinked, then turned to the voice addressing them. They both saw a tall, brown-haired man striding past the tables towards them. Just a step behind him was a petite woman with red hair. She looked a little uncomfortable as they got closer to the two detectives.
"Or a banda. Or a dahomey-z-epaules." The man stopped before the detectives and the impaled corpse. "Of course, the Macarena would have been even scarier."
"At the risk of sounding obvious," Carranza said. "but who the fuck are you?"
Without blinking an eye, the man pulled out a badge with the letters 'FBI' printed on it. "I'm Agent Fox Mulder. This is Agent Dana Scully. We've come to offer our assistance in this case." Mulder looked at the body. "Looks like we arrived in time for the second act."
As Mulder studied the body, Max Miles studied him. He took in Mulder's full sensual lips, intense hazel eyes and his slim yet muscular frame. He also took note of Mulder's prominent nose which actually served to accentuate his handsome features.
Then he looked at Scully. Bright red hair, blue eyes like light through an icicle, slender and well-proportioned body, smooth skin...
He liked what he saw. In both of them.
Carranza missed the smile forming on his partner's face. He was concentrating on Mulder. "Look, Agent, I'm sure it's a lot of fun to just walk into a place and confuse the hell out of people, but would you mind explaining..."
"We came here to look into the death of Councilwoman Jessica Kidder. When we arrived in town, we were informed that the detectives investigating that death had received word of a similar fatality."
"And just what interested you about the first death?"
"Witnesses described her as 'dancing' and shouting strange words as she stepped into the street and got hit by a car."
"That was pretty strange, huh, Tomas?" Miles interjected.
Carranza looked at Miles, his face saying "Who asked for your two goddamned pennies?"
"Now, we have a second death," Mulder continued. "Just like Kidder, Downard was a member of the Miami City Council as well as the Zoning Commission. Like Kidder, Downard 'danced' his way into harm."
"That doesn't explain why the F...B...I is here," Carranza said. The way he spoke "FBI" suggested he thought they stood for "Fucking Bullshit Ingestors" which -- oddly enough -- he often believed.
"We have come to offer an explanation for these deaths."
Carranza folded his arms over his chest. "Let's hear it."
Mulder opened his mouth and said, "It sounds like a trance brought about by possession from a loa -- a spirit invoked in voodoo ceremonies."
Carranza stared at the FBI agent with no expression. A puff of smoke burst from his mouth.
"Voodoo?" Miles said.
"During voodoo ceremonies, participants are often overcome with a need to dance. The banda and yanvalou are two examples of this kind of dancing. However..." Mulder indicated the councilman's body. "...I have never heard of one that ended up like this."
Carranza turned his head to Miles. The slowness of the action and the cigar in his mouth made his head look like a tank turret. Miles also turned to his partner. Unlike Carranza, he had an amused smile on his face. (Of course, Miles was almost always smiling while Carranza just tended to frown.)
Carranza shifted his head, re-aiming his cigar at Mulder. "Well," he said. "Strap a gerbil to my butt and call me Richard Gere."
That's when Scully spoke up for the first time. Her voice managed to sound forced and calm at the same time.
"For the moment, Agent Mulder's theory remains just that -- a theory. However, if you can suggest one that's more logical and suitable for this case, we would be more than grateful to hear it."
The dumbfounded look on Carranza's face almost made Miles burst out laughing. Mulder and Scully were looking more and more interesting. Any woman who could take the air out of Tomas Carranza was worth getting to know better. As for Mulder, he was obviously a bit weird, but weird was good.
Weird could mean...playful. Curious. Likes to experiment.
"Well, I can't speak for my partner..." Miles said.
You gonna fucking do it anyway, Carranza thought.
"...but I admit these deaths are a real puzzle for me. At this point, I am willing to consider anything."
"That's all we're asking," Mulder said.
"I like to keep myself open to new experiences. Just as I'm sure you two do."
Miles smiled. Then Mulder smiled. And Scully smiled.
Carranza looked at all these smiles. He noted something familiar in Carranza's expression and rolled his eyes.
"How about you, Detective Carranza?" Mulder asked.
Carranza took out his cigar and waved it in his hand. "Sure, why the hell not? Let's have a party."
"Yes," Miles said, looking Mulder and Scully over. "Let's."
"Okay, then," Mulder said. "First of all, we have to start by ruling out any other possibilities. Agent Scully is a licensed medical examiner. She can do an autopsy on the body and check for..."
The body in question lifted up his head and screamed.
Every conversation and every movement in that room stopped cold. The only things that moved were a few bowels which expelled brown chunks into some unfortunate pants. The policemen, the forensic team, the businessmen in the corner, Mrs. Sheen, Miles, Carranza, Mulder and Scully stayed stuck to their positions as they listened to Councilman Downard scream.
"AGWE TAROYO, KOTE U YE! AGWE TAROYO, KOTO U YE! AGWE TAROYO..."
During this, he thrashed his arms and kicked out with his legs. His eyes were staring at a far corner of the room, his madness giving him the sight to see a person invisible to others.
It took a few seconds for Scully to get out of shock and her physician instincts to kick in. "We need a medical team here now!" she shouted as she grabbed onto one of the trembling legs. The men beside her were stirred from their own fear, stepping forward to help her.
Unfortunately, Downard's thrashings served to press his body harder against the long glass shard through him. Like a saw, the glass cut new inches of space into the flesh still intact. The weight of Downard's body outside the window helped to tear the cut even further. Guts split open. Bones were snapped.
Downard let out one more cry of "AGWE..." before his body separated in two. The top half dropped from the window. A policeman who was too horrified to move served as landing pad for the plummeting half-Downard. As for the bottom half, most of it thumped to the dining room's floor. Scully held onto its leg for a second longer, then let go.
The room became silent.
Then Carranza looked across the room to one particularly ashen face. "Oh, Mrs. Sheen," he said. "the body is no longer hanging out the window."
Oscar Hall looked out the vast window making up one wall of his beautifully decorated office and was bored, bored, bored. The downtown area of Miami stretched out before him like toy blocks, but he felt no desire to play. He thought about what was scheduled for tonight. Oh, yes, another dinner function. Undoubtedly, it would be attended by millionaires, powerful men of government and celebrities. Undoubtedly, Oscar would be the center of attention. Undoubtedly, he would leave with many people in his favor and a beautiful woman to take to his bed.
Oscar sighed and pressed his head against the window.
The intercom on a desk older than some cities gave him a buzz, then the voice of his astoundingly efficient secretary (skilled in everything from stenography to coffee making to the occasional blow job) could be heard. "Mr. Hall, Mr. Rogers is here to see you."
Oh, Lord, he thought. Just what I need. He waited a few seconds, then said, "Send him in."
A thoroughly nondescript man entered the office. Mr. Rogers was so subdued in his manner that it was easy to overlook him -- an unwise thing to do. "Good afternoon, Mr. Hall," he said, his voice as polite as ever. "I'm afraid I have some unpleasant business to bring up."
"That so?" Oscar replied as he slumped into a chair.
"Yes, sir. Apparently, Ass-Kickers, Inc. have hired a zobop."
Oscar sat up a little straighter in his chair. This was a little more interesting than usual. "Really? I didn't think Morgan had that kind of imagination."
"Not him, sir. He has recently acquired a new partner who is a little more...imaginative, as you say."
"Hm. So, what kind of damage do you think they're planning?"
"They've already done it, sir. Downard and Kidder are dead."
Mr. Rogers cleared his throat ever-so-slightly. "They were our key members on the Zoning Commission, sir. With their help, we were sure to acquire the desired property."
"Ah. Well, then, we just have to make sure their replacements are..."
"For the love of God's own dick, son, would you get your head out of your fucking ass?"
Mr. Rogers turned around and faced the old man who was now in the office. Oscar had to hand it to Rogers. Very few men could look Oscar's father in the eye and not flinch, especially when he suddenly appeared behind you. Yet Mr. Rogers regarded the old man as if he had been there all the time (which was probably true.) However, Oscar wondered if Mr. Rogers would have been able to maintain his aplomb if he knew who Oscar's father really was.
Then, again, maybe Mr. Rogers did know the old man's identity. Truthfully, it wasn't all that surprising.
"Don't you think that asshole Morgan hasn't thrown a few hints to the rest of the Commission? You know, watch it or you'll be doing the watusi right through a goddamn window?"
"Your father is correct, sir," Mr. Rogers said.
"Of course, I'm fucking correct! Now, why is it that your damn real estate broker sees the problem and all you can see is the inside of your own shit-covered rectum?"
Oscar said nothing. He just looked back at his father with a flat expression.
It was a bit discomforting to see them as father and son. The son wore his clothes with the slick panache of a model. Loose strands of cloth hung from the father's brown suit and pants. Oscar's face was fresh and handsome. His father's skin looked like a discarded burger wrapper and blue veins ran all over protruding bones. Oscar's voice was pleasant to listen to. His father had a voice to scare away little children. Oscar was built like a basketball player. The father leaned upon a dented cane, looking ready to fall over at the slightest nudge.
Then you saw the look in the old man's eyes and realized that touching this man in any way would be a bad, horrible, godawful idea. He had an expression as cold as a polar bear's ass and mean as a Nazi pit bull. There was also the peculiar yet unmistakable feeling that after he got done hurting you, you would wish some other sperm had made it to your mother's egg.
Oscar had learned how not to squirm in the face of his father. Sometimes, it was hard.
With his voice still calm, Mr. Rogers said, "In any case...we should take measures against the zobop."
The old man smacked the flat end of his cane once on the floor. "Son-of-an-ass-licking-bitch, Mr. Rogers, haven't you learned the rules yet? If it was possible for me to intervene, don't you think I would have pulled Morgan's brains out his fucking ears?"
"That's not what I meant, sir."
"Well, what the fuck did you mean?"
"I was referring to an initiative on my own part."
"Then that what's you should have said, goddammit!"
Mr. Rogers resisted clearing his throat. "Yes, sir."
"Whatever that needs to be done, do it and do it as soon as fucking possible! Now get your faggot ass out of here!"
With one last "yes, sir," Mr. Rogers left the office.
"Voodoo! Mother-father-brother-sister-fucking voodoo! I can't believe it!"
"I'm sure Mr. Rogers will take care of everything," Oscar said in a casual voice.
The old man narrowed his eyes at his son, reclining with such a lazy air in his chair. "You're just shitting concern for this situation, aren't you?"
"I am concerned. But I don't see any point in getting all worked up..."
Oscar's father lifted up his cane, reached over the desk and prodded Oscar in the chest. "You...don't...see...any... fucking...point?" he growled, poking Oscar on each word. The younger man just sat there and took it, giving his father the blankest expression he could.
The cane rose up to press under Oscar's chin. "We are looking at the culmination of centuries and centuries of work," the old man continued. "This is what I've been waiting for, goddammit. This is the fulfillment of prophecy. And now...now it's all getting fucked up by some shit-eating nigger magic. You expect me to stay calm while..."
The intercom buzzed. "Excuse me," the secretary said. "but I have a call..."
"Don't interrupt our father-son bonding!" the old man screeched at the intercom.
Unflappable, the secretary said, "It's a call for your father, Mr. Hall. From Miss Hutchinson. She's waiting with her lawyer."
The cane's point slipped down to the floor. The rage that threatened to explode the old man's head simmered down into weariness. In that moment, he looked like nothing more than an old man.
"Ah, hell, Oscar," he said, "why couldn't I have picked some other hole on that woman to stick myself into?"
Who in their right fucking mind would eat a honey-glazed ham? Audrey Bjorg wondered. She considered this mystery as she watched the other diners at the table eat their lunch. As they carved up their separate cuts of ham and chewed on them, Audrey tried not to think about the appalling taste of sweetened meat and that slick gunk which sticks to your lips after every bite.
"Are you sure you're not hungry?" an old mulatto in a patched shirt asked.
Audrey put on her best smile and said, "No, thank you. I'm fine with just a glass of water."
"Oh, sweetie pie!" one of the other diners called out to a passing waiter. It was an endearment made enticing by the fact that the diner was a beautiful woman. The waiter was stopped like a mouse caught by a cat.
"Would you please get us a refill?" the woman said, holding up an empty pitcher. The hand holding the pitcher was decorated with many rings. Rubies and diamonds glittered on her fingers just like the pearls around her neck, the golden earrings hanging from her ears and the bracelets around her ankles. The cost of those items along with her silk dress probably exceeded the gross national product of Ireland. On another woman, such a display would have looked wasteful but disgust turned to devotion when her green eyes sparkled in your direction.
"Of...of course, ma'am," the waiter said, trembling as he took the cup. He found nothing odd in that this bunch had gone through two pitchers of soda already. Nor did he pay attention to the white residue at the bottom of the empty pitcher or the empty sugar packets on the table.
The woman gave the waiter a sly wink. The waiter rushed to the kitchen, trying to cover up his erection with the pitcher.
The woman turned back to her plate. "So," she commented as she speared another piece of ham with her fork. "So, so, so...I hear you are having a little trouble with a loa."
Audrey held back an angry reply. Instead, she said, "Yes. We are. That's what I already told you."
"Apparently, it's Oscar Hall who is having the real trouble," the old mulatto observed.
"But it's my group that's still caught in the middle. Originally, we had been hoping that Hall Enterprises and Ass-Kickers, Inc. would cancel each other out. However, if one of them gets an edge..."
"Are you sure you don't want a bite?" the woman said, sticking out a fork with a piece of glossy, slimy meat on it.
"Uh, I'm sure. Either way, my side loses the bay. And we are not eager to have Constantine Morgan set up shop there."
"But it would be even more dangerous for Hall to set up there, wouldn't it?" the old man said.
"Yes. It would. But even if Morgan won, Hall and his father would still find a way to..."
"Are you sure you don't want a taste?" the woman asked.
"I said...I'm sure." Audrey paused. "What was I saying?"
"You were saying that Hall might find a way to do something," the old mulatto reminded her.
"Yes. The main thing is that Jeremiah Bay would be lost, whether Morgan or Hall gets it. So, I've come here to ask you..."
"It's really quite tasty. Why don't you have one quick..."
"I don't want to taste the damn thing!" Audrey shouted, banging her fists on the table.
It became silent as everybody else looked at Audrey, including the fourth person at the table. His apparent age was in his mid-thirties. Like the woman and the old man, he was a light-skinned mulatto. He wore a white naval officer's uniform and white gloves separated his skin from his utensils. His sea-green eyes stared at Audrey until she looked down at the table.
During this silence, the waiter arrived with a pitcher full of soda and ice. The woman gave him a perfunctory wink. It was enough to send him into the employees bathroom to whack off like a monkey in heat.
In a gentle voice, the old mulatto said, "You are asking us to directly intervene. To stop this loa."
Audrey lifted her head up. "Yes. That's actually what I'm asking."
"I'm afraid we cannot do that."
"Because it works differently on this side. We come when we are summoned."
"Well, hell, we have something like that on our side, too. It's called prayer."
"Yes, but you also have the option of intervention if it's deemed absolutely necessary. We have no such option."
Audrey looked over the three other faces. "I see. So, I came here for nothing."
"Now, don't you go..."
Audrey's chair screeched as it was pushed back. She stood up and marched towards the restaurant's exit. As she walked there, she passed by a piano player who was plunking out a Celine Dion tune. She gave the piano a look and its player was shocked to hear five of his piano strings snap at once.
The old mulatto looked at his two dining companions. "Perhaps, we deserved that."
"Maybe," the woman said. "But we are bound by the rules."
For the first time, the man in the naval uniform spoke. "Are we sure of that?"
The old mulatto and the woman blinked in surprise. "Well...yes," the old man said. "Aren't we?"
"Let's make sure. Because...as they say here in America...we all have to duck when the shit hits the fan."
"That," Carranza said, jabbing one of his meaty fingers onto a map. "is the fucking point of contention."
"Jeremiah Bay," Mulder read aloud. He was looking at the map spread out on Carranza's desk at Miami Police Headquarters. Miles was with them. Carranza's partner was standing close to Mulder, every once and while looking at his full lips.
"It is probably the last bit of property in Florida that doesn't have a hotel, a stadium, a condo or a goddamned amusement park built on it," Carranza said in disgust. "In fact, it's pretty weird that none of those cock-sucking developers have noticed it until now."
"So who has noticed it?"
"At first, it was Hall Enterprises," Miles said. Oh, Lord, to feel those lips around my long john, he thought.
"Oscar Hall?" Mulder said.
"You know about him?"
"Just that he is one of the fastest rising businessmen in America, if not the world. He's involved in a wide portfolio of interests from real estate to entertainment to the farming industry."
"Shit, you're pretty knowledgeable, aren't you, Mulder?" Carranza said.
"You must have a helluva lot of free time."
Mulder cleared his throat. Miles imagined that throat swallowing another white serving from Max Miles' Sausage of Wonder. It was apparent Mulder did have a lot of free time and it was more likely spent with his hand than with another warm body. It would make him all the more frisky when the time came.
So to speak.
"Yeah, Oscar Hall wants Jeremiah Bay," Carranza said. "The funny thing is that no one is quite sure why he wants it. He's only given a lot of vague crap about 'development.' But if Oscar Hall wants something, he's got the moolah and the brass ones to get it."
"But someone is in his way."
"Two someones, actually. The first is Constantine Morgan, some bastard out of England. We know what he wants to do with it."
"And that is...?"
"The Dome of Blood."
"It's some big arena for extreme combat tournaments. You know, that sport where a lot of big schmucks go around knocking the shit out of each other in a big cage?"
"I've heard of it. I thought that went out with the mid- nineties."
"Well, I guess this Morgan asshole is staging a comeback for it. Of course, you can't go up against the likes of Oscar Hall alone. That's why he's in cahoots with November Sun, one of our local gangsters."
"November Sun? What is he, a Native American?"
"Nope. He's pure uncut honky." Carranza took a cigar out of his desk and lit it up despite the "NO SMOKING" sign seen by all. "If you meet this guy, don't underestimate him. He comes across as a flake but he's as deadly as an alligator whacked on jalapeno peppers."
"So, these are the two someones in Hall's way."
Miles spoke up. He wasn't going to let Carranza dominate the conversation with Mulder. "Actually, the other someones are the Seniors."
"Okay. I'll bite..."
So do I, Miles thought.
"Who are the Seniors?"
Miles moved until he was an few inches within Mulder. If Mulder didn't notice how close Miles was, Carranza did and he shook his head in amazement.
"The Seniors are a group of old people who have been using Jeremiah Bay for years."
"Oh, so they're the owners."
"No. Not in a legal sense. They feel that they have a moral right to it."
"A moral right?"
Miles shrugged. "They've been using it for years without complaints from anybody. They say that makes it theirs."
"The fucking geezers in Florida think they own the state," Carranza grumbled.
"Ah, come on, Tomas," Miles said. "Wouldn't it be better if they owned instead of Morgan? And you know all Hall is going to just build another damn condo."
"That doesn't give people the fucking right to just..."
"Uh, let's stay on track here," Mulder interjected.
Oh, he likes to take charge, does he? Miles thought. "Of course. In any case, we have three groups competing for the same chunk of land."
"And now it's shifting towards...?"
"Ass-Kickers, Inc. Downard and Kidder were the front guard for Hall Enterprises on the Zoning Commission. Now with them gone..."
"I see." Mulder rubbed his lower lip (that thick, sensual, very kissable lower lip).
"So you're thinking that Morgan had something to do with these deaths?" Carranza said. "'Cause from where I'm sitting..."
"You can't get up," Miles said.
As Carranza scowled at his partner, Mulder said, "Actually, I was wondering about November Sun. When you said he was a flake, what did you mean?"
"Meaning he's into all that mystic shit. You know, healing yourself by sticking a crystal up your ass or something."
"Does his interests include voodoo?"
Miles and Carranza looked at each other, then back at Mulder. "We don't know," Miles said.
"Well, we should look into that. And we should look into the Seniors, too."
"Oh, those people are harmless."
"There's no such thing as a harmless old person," Carranza growled. "And I'm fifty."
"Well, I just want to cover our bases."
Miles directed another one of his wonderful smiles at Mulder. "I've been covering the bases all my life."
Carranza coughed on a mouthful of cigar smoke. Mulder wondered if he had missed some inside reference, but he said, "Okay, then. You know, I'm glad we're cooperating on this. Too often when the FBI and the local police meet, the whole thing turns into a pissing match."
"I, for one, will keep my zipper up." Miles paused. "For now, anyway."
Carranza coughed again.
"Are they going to help?"
"What did they say?"
"Tell us, tell us..."
"Have you seen my watch?"
These questions and these voices assaulted Audrey the moment she stepped into the front hall of the Golden Gate Apartment Building. The voices belonged to a dozen elderly men and women. It wasn't until she shouted "PIPE DOWN, WILL YOU?" that they became quiet.
"Yes, I did talk with them," she said. "Their answer was -- no."
"The nerve of them!"
"We oughtta take 'em to court!"
"This country just ain't what it used to be."
"I saw my watch right there yesterday..."
"People, people!" Audrey called out. "Let's just settle down, okay?"
"Well, what can we do, Audrey?" said an old man wearing long dark socks with sneakers.
"I'm not sure, Theon. But...here's a possibility we should be considering. Why not let Morgan take Jeremiah Bay?" She lifted a finger to silence any protest. "Must I remind you of the alternative?"
"But what Morgan wants to build there..." Dova said, trembling in her pink rose dress. "It's just...well, it's just sinful!"
"And we wouldn't get to use the beach anymore!" Ledagam declared as he shook his fist in the air. "It'll be full of young hoodlums and riffraff!"
"Well, you wouldn't have this problem if you had legally owned Jeremiah Bay in the first place," Audrey shot back.
"It was given to us by Divine Proclamation, goddammit!"
"Yes, but we're in Florida. Not Heaven. And in Florida, property law is the First Commandment. Haven't you figured that out by now?"
The old people shuffled on their feet and looked away except for the old man who sat in a corner with his hands pressed together under his chin. "So what do you recommend now?" Ru asked in a solemn voice.
"I recommend that we prioritize. And I think our first priority should be keeping Oscar Hall from getting Jeremiah Bay. If necessary, we may have to throw our lot in with Morgan."
This suggestion caused silence for a few moments, then Ru said, "They're evil men -- that Morgan and his partner."
"I know. But Oscar Hall represents something even worse."
"Maybe if we...maybe if we told Morgan who Oscar Hall is," Theon said. "And who we are."
"You know that's against the rules," Audrey sighed. "You guys decided to settle here. You have to play the same game as everybody else."
"All right," Ru said. "You do what you feel is best. However...it's quite possible that Morgan could be co-opted by Hall. It wouldn't take much to appeal to his greed."
"Then I'll have to appeal to something stronger."
"And that is?"
"I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking like it's the end of the world."
Agent Scully was contemplating the two halves of Councilman Downnard when Detective Miles walked into the police department morgue. She turned and nodded to the detective as she finished speaking her report into a tiny tape recorder.
"...in conclusion, the cause of the victim's fit remains unknown." She turned off the recorder.
"Zatso?" Miles said.
Scully nodded. "Yes. Zat is so."
"Hmmm," Miles said as he looked her over from head to toe. He found himself wondering just how strong she was. She had a small, petite body but she moved with an easy grace. She also had concentration in her pretty blue eyes. There was also the possible factor of when the last time was she had a good fuck. If it had been suitably long ago, then she would be a bomb of sexual energy ready to be dropped into his lap.
"I did not find anything to indicate a toxin which could induce the kind of violent fit Downard experienced..."
"Uh-huh," Miles commented as he moved within a foot of Scully.
"...nor could I find any evidence of a neurological disease that might have induced such behavior."
"Yeah." That sweet red hair, Miles thought. I want to run my hands through it or feel it brush against my crotch.
"This correlates with the autopsy done on Councilwoman Kidder. Which leaves back on square one."
Scully noticed just how close Miles to her and the little smile on her face. She pushed aside a suspicion and asked where Agent Mulder was.
"He's gone with my partner to go talk with a possible suspect. He suggested that we do the same with another one. Then he wants to meet up here." He held out a note with a name and an address written on it. Scully stepped closer to him so she could read it. "Who is this?" she asked.
Oh, to feel those breasts rub against me as my cock makes its way into her wet, warm, succulent pussy... "Mulder says he's some local expert on voodoo."
"You sound less than enthused, Agent Scully."
Scully smiled, just a little bit. However, on that usually solemn face, it was like a firework against a dark sky. I could make you grin ear-to-ear, Miles thought. I betcha.
"I am not inclined to believe in these things as readily as Mulder," Scully said. "Especially not without some quantifiable evidence."
"Well, we have no evidence of any kind indicating anything."
"Which...is why it's probably best to follow Mulder's lead on this matter. In any case, I'll tell the morgue to put the remains away and then we'll..."
"You know what, Agent Scully?"
"You're the first person I've met who can make an autopsy outfit look fashionable."
Through the goggles perched on her nose, Scully looked down at her white button coat and then back up at Miles. "Uh...thank you."
"Must be one of the perks of Agent Mulder's job to be around you so much."
The smile on Scully's face widened. And why shouldn't she have smiled? This was a good-looking man paying her a compliment. "Thank you again, Detective Miles."
"As it must be one of the perks for you to be around him so much."
With the subtext missing her by a mile, Scully said, "Oh, I wouldn't go that far."
They both laughed. (For the record, this was not the first time Miles had made sexual innuendo in a morgue. In fact, he had once consummated a whole relationship in one. Those cold slabs can be warmed up surprisingly quick.)
"It's nice to see we've gotten off on the right foot here," Miles observed. "Sometimes, it's hard for local police and the FBI to cooperate."
"Well, I'm sure my partner and your partner are also cooperating to the fullest extent," Scully replied.
"You're a fucking space-case, you know that, Mulder?"
Mulder was willing to debate whether he or Tomas Carranza was the actual space-case. However, he didn't want to anger the detective any more than necessary. Carranza had the steering wheel of a departmental car in his humongous hands and he liked to spin it as if he was playing roulette. He charged the automobile into traffic as if he was going into battle. It seemed to be a personal offense against him to actually have other cars on the road. He whipped around them, jumping from one lane to next, making sudden turns and engaging in heated conversations through the dialect of horn blasts. Mulder clutched his seat as tightly as he kept his mouth clamped shut.
"I mean, sure, this case is as weird as a shit salad, but where do you get off saying that the whole thing -- HEY, ASSHOLE, QUIT USING YOUR HAND TO JERK OFF AND PUT IT ON THE WHEEL!! -- how can you just come in and say 'voodoo?' Huh? I mean, what kind of evidence do you -- THE LIGHT IS GREEN, BITCH! QUIT LOOKING AT YOUR FUCKING HAIR AND MOVE! -- what kind of evidence do you have to really support your hypothesis? Tell me that."
"Agwe," Mulder repeated through grinding teeth. "The loa who commands the sea."
"What the fuck is a loa?"
"It means 'spirit' or 'god.' The voodoo religion is based on the worship of a wide pantheon of loas. When Downard was...in his little fix, he was screaming out the first line of a prayer used by sailors in time of danger. 'Maitre Agwe, where are you?'"
"Downard was a damn Councilman, not a sailor."
"Nor was he Haitian. And I doubt he practiced voodoo. However, I think that," Carranza made a sharp turn which made Mulder queasy in the stomach, "in his situation, he knew the cause of his situation. And on some instinctual level, he called out to a powerful loa."
"His situation was that he was fucking dead. At least, he was dead when we got there."
"What we heard was the cry of his soul. It hadn't left the body yet."
Carranza paused for a moment, then turned to Mulder. "That has to be just about the most ass-backwards kind of reasoning I've ever..."
"Look out!" Mulder warned in a voice much higher pitched than he preferred.
Carranza slammed on the brake just to keep his bumper from becoming unnaturally entwined with a car driven by a shocked elderly couple.
"GODDAMN GEEZERS! I OUGHTTA RIP UP YOUR LICENSE, YOU OLD SHITS!"
Never had Mulder wanted so much a car trip to end. He didn't care if they were going to see the devil himself.
The Highest Circle awaited for his entrance. He could feel it beckoning him, promising wisdom and the completion of his inner soul. This world was nothing but a veil to pulled aside; a blindfold between him and spiritual Nirvana. He had but to reach out and...
"Boss, there's someone to see you."
"Davey, what have I told you about coming in here while I'm meditating?"
Davey Whistler gulped and said, "You said...uh..."
"What did I say?"
"It disrupts my inner consciousness. And you know what happens when that is disrupted, don't you?"
Davey gulped again. "You...you hurt people, boss."
"Only if you consider slicing off a man's nose and sewing it to his forehead to be hurting a person. I prefer to think of it as purging myself of negative energy."
"Sure, boss. Of course."
"Now...since you have interrupted my meditation...I assume that it must be extremely important."
"Um...there's, uh, a couple of cops here to see you."
"Hmmm. I see."
November Sun stood up from the rug and blew out the candles around his shrine to the Highest Circle. Then he turned to Davey and said, "Let us greet them."
Okay, he had flirted with her. That was not unexpected. A few men over the years had actually gone so far as to suggest she was an attractive woman. There was no reason to start squawking about professional behavior and boundaries. If Detective Miles attempted to go beyond mere flirting, she would politely yet unambiguously decline to...
Did she want to do that?
As Miles drove the two of them to their destination, she kept looking at him. The detective had the wholesome, blond- haired looks of a poster boy for army recruitment. Then he would smile like a lion liking his chops. Even then, though, there was nothing nasty in his face. It was more like "Hello, little schoolgirl, can I come home with you?"
And surely Agent Dana Scully who had been long abstaining from certain kinds of pork like a Muslim was entitled to imagine what playtime would be like with the handsome detective from Miami.
Still, first things first and numero uno was business at hand. (Speaking of which, Miles sure had nice ones -- strong, lengthy and connected to muscular arms...) Scully and Miles were going to look into the Seniors -- the old folks who were claiming Jeremiah Bay as their own. That meant talking to their lawyer and official representative.
The office of Audrey Borg was located in one of the cheapest buildings of Miami. She shared the same floor with Wet 'n Hot Video Productions and Matarozzi Loans ("Quick, easy and discreet.") Just before Miles knocked on the door, a voice screamed from behind it.
"You tell the councilman that if he doesn't return my calls, then I'm arranging a press conference so I can tell the world he thinks old people ought to sleep in their own shit and fight with the dogs over scraps of meat!"
Miles and Scully looked at each other. He gave her another great smile --one that invited her to enjoy a joke.
She smiled back. Dammit, she did.
Then Miles knocked. "Come in!" the voice barked.
Audrey Borg was digging through one of the jagged piles of documents on her desk, searching in vain for some necessary paper. I ought to be yelling at my secretary, she thought. Unfortunately, that's me. The whole cramped office displayed her haphazard sense of order. All around her were files waiting for their proper places, books of law without shelves, discarded wrappings for sandwiches.
A voice said, "Hello. I'm Detective Miles."
She looked up, ready for the latest round of crap to be fired at her.
She wasn't ready for this, though.
The handsome, blonde-haired man turned to the pretty, red- haired woman next to him. "And this is..."
Agent Dana Scully, she thought.
"...Agent Dana Scully."
Audrey hesitated for just a moment, then said, "Take a seat."
Miles removed a hunk of papers from a chair and sat down. Scully remained standing. She looked at Audrey curiously. "Excuse me, but...have we met before?"
"Can't say we have," Audrey said as she thought, Fuck, fuck, fuck...
A tall man came walking down a spiraling staircase. He wore a black turtleneck sweater and jeans. Sandals were hooked onto his feet. A crystal dangled from his neck. His movements and lazy face suggested a man heavily under sedation but was contradicted by the knowing look in his eyes. He held his hands behind him as if he never bothered using them.
"Good health and good living to you both," he said to his visitors who were waiting in a room full of wicker furniture and chimes. It was one of many rooms in his mansion. Through an open window, the repeating sound of waves flowing onto a beach could be heard.
"What might I...Agent Mulder?"
Mulder blinked to hear himself addressed. "Uh, yes."
November Sun smiled in a genial way. "I am familiar with your work."
The fat old Cuban with him snorted. "Big fucking surprise."
November Sun turned to the Cuban and said, "I do not know who you are. Nor why you are filled with so much negative energy."
"My name is Detective Tomas Carranza and the only goddamned thing filling me up is barbeque."
"I see. Well, won't you have a seat?"
They all took seats on the furniture. November Sun crossed his legs under him, folded his hands in his lap and said, "What brings you to my home?"
"I take it you have an interest in paranormal phenomena," Mulder said.
Again, that genial smile. "I prefer to think of it as the Science of Life, but, yes, I do have an interest in the 'paranormal.' That's how I came to know of your work in the FBI."
"Then maybe you also know about the deaths of council members Jessica Kidder and Neil Downard."
"Ah, I'm afraid not. My lack of interest in politics has always been one of my failures. Or one of my virtues. Whichever you pick."
Carranza's nose wrinkled as if somebody had just waved a dog turd at him.
"I would imagine that you would know Kidder and Downward. They were both on the Zoning Commission. Currently, the inner politics of that organization is of particular interest to one of your associates."
"I'm afraid I have many 'associates.' Which one are you referring to?"
"They're bloody well referrin' to me."
Mulder and Carranza turned to see a man with a piece of his head missing.
The man said, "And if you two wankers got anythin' to say to me, say it to my fuckin' face."
The man stood in the water with the legs of his white pants pulled up. He looked out over the sea as it spread out sunlight into twinkling golden lines. The water rubbed against his ankles like a friendly cat. Looking to the left and right, he saw white sand and tall grass on the shoreline where an occasional pelican might ramble.
Lovely, he thought as he stood there, looking like he owned all of it.
Then he felt...something.
He turned and looked behind him. A man was standing on the spot where the road met the beach. The man was a thousand feet away but he felt as threatening as if he would have been standing in front of you with a chainsaw.
He waited for the man to make the first move.
The man waved. Awkwardly yet friendly.
He waved back. "Stay right there!" he called out. Then he stepped out of the water, picked up his black shoes from the sand and walked towards his visitor.
"It's quite attractive," Oscar said when the man in the white naval uniform reached him.
"Yes, it is. Would you like to take a swim?"
Oscar smiled in a sad way. "You know I can't do that."
"Hm. No, you can't. Isn't that strange? A man of your power and you can't step onto a beach."
"It's my father who has the power, not me."
"You sound...very discouraged."
Oscar shrugged. "I guess I just don't see the point of my father's plan. I don't think I ever did."
"Then perhaps it's time to find your own way."
"I wish I could. But there are rules, as you know."
"I know that very well. But who made the rules?"
Oscar looked straight into his companion's sea-green eyes. "The better question is -- what will happen if they are broken?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't dare think of it," Oscar answered, shaking his head. "Do you?"
The man in the naval uniform made no reply. When a long period of silence went by, Oscar said, "Well...I better leave. My father..."
"Yes, of course. Good day to you, Mister Hall."
"Bye," Oscar said before vanishing.
The man in the naval uniform took a good long look at Jeremiah Bay.
"Pito muri pase m'kuri," he said in a low voice.
TALE OF AN ENGLISH BASTARD
Every time Constantine Morgan saw some televised debate about violence in the American media, he wanted to throw up or kick the television or both. It wasn't because that he specialized in particularly violent entertainment. It was because he was sick of Americans worrying about how violent they were.
These fuckin' American wankers, he would say. They don't know a bloody thing about violence. They think they're so fuckin' dangerous 'cause they got nuclear missiles and the Marines and drive-by shootings and street gangs and Clint Eastwood. None of that matters. You know why?
They got no balls. None whatso-fuckin'-ever. I've got proof.
I went to a football game once -- a Yank football game. You know, the kind with a bunch of fat darkies in shoulder pads throwin' around something that looked it fell out of an elephant's bum. Real fuckin' stupid version of the game. I would like to see any one of those ponces take off their precious helmets and play a little rugby.
But what was really disgustin' was the audience. Ev'rybody had seats. And ev'rybody stayed seated. Oh, they got up ev'ry now and then to cheer for some wanker who had just scored a touchdown. But, mostly, they just sat and ate hot dogs. Nobody threw anything. No fights broke out. And it stayed like that for over three hours. After it was done, they all stood up and took their kids home.
What kind of fuckin' football game is that?
Now, if I had a few of my boys from Shepherd's Bush there, we coulda livened things up a bit. We woulda gone onto the field and make those big-arsed darkies take off their fairy head gear and play like real men. Any wight who tried to sell us hot dogs would get them shoved up his bum, then ordered to bring us fish 'n chips, not to mention some real beer instead of that frozen piss Americans like to drink. We woulda throw bottles at those fuckin' marchin' bands until they played "O Brittania." Afterwards, we would go up to the cheerleading squad, kick the men with their fairy jump suits into the ground and take the women away just so they would know what a real man feels like.
Now, that's a football game.
Oh, sure, ev'ry once and awhile, a few cars might get turned over here in America. But that's only in the cities where the team wins. Back in England...fuck, we would start the riot before the game even finished. And it would be a real fuckin' riot with hundreds of drunken Englishmen running through the streets. Furth'rmore, we don't just break out the windows in London. Whenev'r our team is playin' in another country, we follow after them. Spain, Italy, Brazil...it don't matter. We'll follow and we give those foreign wankers a sweet taste of hell, just like we used to in the old days.
Before the country got soft, that is.
Before king and Parliament lost a whole bleedin' empire.
I guess that's why I've come to America and started this little enterprise. It's time to let Americans know that some of us Englishmen haven't forgotten when we had the world by the balls; that some of us still remember when we had millions of wogs and chinks kissin' our arse; that England ain't "Downstairs, Upstairs" or Jane Austen.
I am the face of England. Look at me, America. See that big fuckin' dent on the right side of my forehead? I lost a fist-sized chunk of my fuckin' head in Italy when some wop copper fired a gas canister at me. You think any American would still be walkin' after a chunk of their skull fell out? You think that any Yank could still run a business with a piece of their head missin'?
Look at me, America, and tell me just how bloody tough you are.
Constantine Morgan was five-foot-six, but there was a thickly built body under his bright green dress suit. The never-ending belligerent look in his eyes and the gigantic dent in his head served to intimidate others.
It didn't do much to Detective Carranza. He hauled himself up to his feet and said, "Yeah, I've got something to say to you. Maybe I'll do it between kicking your ass and breaking your neck."
"Am I supposed to be scared by some fat darkie cop?"
"First of all, the word here in America is 'nigger,' not 'darkie.' Second, I'm a spic, not a nigger. Third, using any three of those names here in Miami is a good way of getting your limey heart ripped out."
"There is too much negative energy in this room," November Sun sighed.
"I'm inclined to agree," Mulder said as he stepped between the detective and the Englishman. "We just came here to ask a few questions."
Morgan and Carranza spent a few more seconds staring at each other, then Morgan walked over to November Sun's side. He shoved his hands into his pockets and said, "Wot about?"
"The deaths of Kidder and Downard. Unlike...uh...Mr. Sun here, you can hardly say that you don't know who they are."
"They were a couple of wankers on the Zoning Commission. Heard they went funny and killed themselves."
"That's sort of what happened. Certain facts have to be acknowledged, though. For instance, their deaths give you the advantage in the purchasing of Jeremiah Bay."
Morgan smirked. "O, lucky man. Well, I'm still not sure where you goin' with this, mate, but let me tell you that I can hardly be blamed if some stupid cunt decides to jump in front of a car or through a window."
Mulder looked straight into Morgan's smug face (while trying to keep his eyes off the dent) and asked, "Do you know what a zobop is?"
The smirk vanished. Morgan's eyes shifted towards November Sun. Unlike the Englishman, however, November Sun looked as calm and placid as a sleeping baby.
"Do you, Mr. Morgan?" Mulder asked.
"No, I...I..." Morgan shook off his nervousness and snarled, "I don't know what a fuckin' zobop is. What is it, some new kind of darkie dance?"
Mulder watched Morgan in silence -- just long enough to make Morgan nervous again.
"I think you know more about zobops than you give yourself credit for, Mr. Morgan." The FBI agent paused, then said, "Thank you for your time. We'll be leaving now."
Carranza gave Mulder a bewildered look. Mulder motioned with his head and walked out the room. Giving one last scowl at Morgan, Carranza followed.
"Bloody hell!" Morgan said. "How did that fuckin' copper know about our zobop?"
"He was an FBI agent, not a cop," November Sun said, his voice still quiet. "Furthermore, Agent Mulder is an experienced investigator into unusual phenomena. He seems to be on the trail to Estime."
"Oh, that's just a boot up the arse," Morgan groaned.
A tiny smile rose on November Sun's face. "But what if he does learn about Estime? The beauty of this crime is that it's very hard to prove in court."
"Well, that's the bloody reason why I agreed to it. I mean, I don't care about all this darkie magic..."
"You've already made that clear."
"Jus' as long as it gets the job done, I say. But, still, this could be trouble."
"In that case...then I suspect Estime will protect his turf, as they say. And if he fails to do that...well...we have our own resources at our disposal, correct?"
A huge, nasty smile formed on Morgan's face to match the smile on his partner's. "Yeah," he said. "A lot of fuckin' resources."
"Well, that was a goddamn waste of time," Carranza observed as he and Mulder walked to the car parked in front of November Sun's mansion.
"Not really. Did you see the look in Morgan's eyes? He got very nervous when I brought up zobops."
"I'm sure I would be really impressed if I knew what a zobop was."
"A member of a secret society of voodoo sorcerers. In lore, they are blamed for creating mischief of all kinds, including death."
Carranza stopped in his tracks, making Mulder stop as well. "Is that what you're thinking?" Carranza asked. "That Morgan and November Sun hired a magician to kill those council members?"
"It was probably November Sun who set the whole thing up. I doubt Morgan has that kind of imagination." Before Carranza could favor the FBI agent with his obscenity- enriched wisdom, Mulder said, "I'm still waiting for your better theory, Detective."
Carranza looked at Mulder, making the latter think he was about to receive a punch. Then Carranza threw his hands up in the air and said, "Whatever, then. So just how the hell do we investigate an angle like this?"
"Most likely, the zobop lives right here in Miami."
"Most likely, huh?"
"Yes. That's why we're going to meet Andy Antoine. My sources tell me he's the best source on voodoo in this city."
"Your sources, huh?"
Mulder cleared his throat. "Scully and Miles ought to be finished with their interview soon. Let's go see Antoine and meet him at his shop."
Carranza pulled out a cigar and lighter. "All right. You're gonna have to give me directions. I don't know where..."
"Actually, I was hoping I could drive."
Carranza locked his eyes with Mulder's. "And...just why is that?"
Mulder decided that this was his "do-or-die" moment. "Because you drive like an asylum patient with a fucking cocaine addiction."
Still keeping his eyes on Mulder, Carranza bit off the end of his cigar, spat it out of the side of his mouth, shoved the cigar between his lips, lit it up and blew out a thick mist of smoke. Mulder didn't blink the whole time.
Then Carranza reached in his pocket and pulled out his keys. He threw to Mulder who caught them even though they were slick with the detective's sweat.
Carranza turned and walked towards the car, hiding the smile on his face.
"Pardon me for saying so, Miss Borg," Miles said. "but the legal position of the Seniors is pretty damn dubious."
Audrey gave Miles a weak smile. "I'm aware of that every second of the day."
"Not to say that I don't agree with it in principle..."
"Well, bless your handsome face."
Scully felt a brief moment of possessive jealousy. Then she went back to her mild bewilderment. She just couldn't shake the feeling that she had met this woman before. Furthermore, it hadn't been the first time she had a feeling like this. About a month ago, she had woken up with a strange sense of dislocation; a suspicion that she should have been somewhere else. Later that day, Skinner had called her, Mulder and...what was her name? Agent Sally something?... into his office. He asked if there was any need for a meeting now. With no small amount of confusion, they had to say no. With that, Skinner dismissed them in his usual, curt manner.
Now, she was having the strange sense of dislocation again in Miss Borg's office.
And she couldn't help but suspect that the lawyer felt the same way.
"Essentially, our position is that the Zoning Commission should recognize the moral ownership of the Seniors for Jeremiah Bay. They have been using it as a recreation spot for several years now. Why should that usage discontinue now?"
"Unfortunately," Miles said. "the whole idea of moral ownership could turn all of Florida back to the Seminoles."
"They're not asking for all of Florida. All they're asking for is this one scrap of land. And why not leave it undeveloped? Why should we build another condo? Or another stadium? Why do we need an arena for extreme fighting?"
"As I said, I agree with you in principle. But the Zoning Commission is going to give Jeremiah Bay to whoever has the most power and money."
"That would be Oscar Hall."
"Well, you would think. But now that Kidder and Downard are dead..."
"Yes. Of course, Hall still has the money."
Audrey placed her elbows on the desk and leaned forward. "Detective Miles...Agent Scully...you wouldn't be here if you didn't think there was something funny about their deaths."
"Do you think there was?" Miles asked.
"I do know that the surviving members of the Zoning Commission are scared out of more shit than a herd of pigs could make. Besides...rumor says Morgan has Chairman Burns under his control."
"Really? I didn't know that."
"Oh, yes. Morgan holds the whip hand. Quite literally."
"Never mind. The fact is -- I was originally hoping that Hall Enterprises and Ass-Kickers, Inc. would cancel each other. Now...well, I'm back to step one. And I wouldn't count Oscar Hall out yet."
"So...if you had any substantial proof of wrongdoing..."
"You would be the first to know."
"Well..." Miles put out a business card and laid it on the desk. "...if you have any information, you can call me here. In the meantime, I appreciate...oh, hell!"
Miles turned to Scully. "I'm sorry, Scully. You were being so quiet that I forgot you were there. Do you have any questions for Miss Borg?"
The two women looked at each other.
"Not unless she has something just dying to come out," Scully said.
"Nope," Audrey replied. "I don't."
Scully stood up. "Then we thank you for your time."
After her visitors had left, Audrey Borg sat motionless in her chair for a long time. Then she leaned forward until her head was touching the desk. She thought about Agent Scully and Mulder and a backwater town in Mississippi and an ancient book and a resurrected god.
She also thought about a handsome, strong man who had made a year of loneliness seem as insubstantial as air.
She tried not to cry.
In the private office of Mr. Rogers, a discussion was being held.
"You understand what you have to do?"
"'Course ah do."
"You also understand that you have to be extremely careful?"
"Ah know, ah know."
"Please, Sara. You're dealing with a sorcerer here."
"Ain't no matter to me. Magical or not...he's just another sumbitch who can bleed."
EVERYBODY GOES TO BUJU'S
The father of Oscar Hall lifted a finger and said, "I will hurt you. I will infect your every cell with cancer. Sores will open up all over your body and spew green pus. I will cut a long wound in your head and pour salt into it. Lightning will strike your balls. Maggots will infest your heart. There will be no end to your pain, not even in your dreams or at the far ends of the universe."
Phil Shelby smiled. "You may do that. But you will still have to answer to Florida property laws."
The old man lowered his finger and sank down another inch into his chair. He was seated in an oak-paneled room in front of a long table. On the other side of the table were two people -- Shelby who was dressed in a dark suit that looked as smooth as the day it was bought and Debra Hutchinson who wore a coat of real mink and a face of fake stretched skin.
"Next order of business," Shelby said, holding up another paper document. "The yacht that is currently docked in Singapore..."
"How much longer is this ever-loving shit going to last?" the old man complained. "I've got important business to tend to."
"The more you cooperate, the faster it will go."
"You mean, cooperate with the slicing of my balls."
"What an appropriate metaphor," Debra said in a sweet voice. "Considering why we're here in the first place."
"We're here because that worm-ridden fruit of our loins became a bloated, lazy fuck. That's why we're here."
"No, dear. We're here because you decided to grow a fruit in somebody else's loins."
The old man closed his eyes and pressed his fingers against his wrinkled, spotted forehead. "Just what is it you want? Tell me so I can get out of here."
"Well," Shelby said, his thick eyebrows elevating above his tinted glasses. "if you're going to be like that...there is a little property you have. One that's located far south, so to speak."
The old man's eyelids bounced up. For the first time, he looked frightened. In fact, it was the first time he had looked scared in many, many years. "You...you wouldn't..." he whispered.
"I'm sure I could do wonders with the place," Debra cooed. "Spruce it up. Make it more festive."
The old man struck the table with both fists. "Do you really understand who I am?" he said in a low voice. "Do you really understand who you're looking at?"
"I'm looking at a man who committed adultery so that puts him on the sharp end of the stick," Shelby responded. "I'm looking at a man who -- despite his unique position of authority -- has admitted that he is bound by the rules and regulations of this state's family law. Correct?"
The old man's chin fell onto his chest. He was silent for a few moments, then muttered, "What was it we were talking about before?"
"Yes, what was it? Oh, that's right. The yacht..."
The time was five o'clock and Andy Antoine was just locking up The Café-Mystere when he heard his name called out. He turned his round, heavy face to two men approaching him.
"Andy Antoine?" one of them asked. In an instant, Andy knew they were cops. Shit, busted, he thought. The only question was for what. Computer hacking? Possession of drugs? Spying on one of his female neighbors with a high- powered camera?
His fear increased when the slimmer, brown-haired man showed a federal ID. "I'm Agent Mulder from the FBI. This is Detective Carranza from the Miami Police."
Carranza grunted at Andy, spewing smoke through his lips.
"Wh-what is this about?" the shop owner asked.
"It's about voodoo," Mulder said. "We have a case here that might be voodoo-related."
The eyes of Andy Antoine blinked behind the thick lenses in his black-rimmed glasses. "Really?"
"It involves the deaths of council members Jessica Kidder and Neil Downard. Have you heard about that?"
"Uh, no. Not really. What does..."
Laughter was heard. These was something odd about the sound which made Mulder turn.
The sound was odd because it was coming from Scully. In the many years he had been working with her, he had met more ghosts and mutants than the number of times he had heard her laughter. Yet, she was strolling down the street of shops where The Café-Mystere was located and laughing out loud. Judging from the smile on his face as he walked next to her, Detective Miles had just amused her with a joke.
Mulder raised his eyebrows, then leaned over to Carranza and whispered, "Somebody's getting chummy."
Carranza almost told Mulder the whole truth, but decided...ah, let the asshole figure it out for himself.
Scully saw Mulder and the familiar old look of professional detachment went up. He gave her a brief knowing smile, then said, "Mister Antoine, this is Detective Miles and Agent Scully. They're also helping on this case."
"Um, hi," Antoine said as he scratched his Doctor Who t- shirt. "Look, do we have to talk about this here?"
"Why, is there a problem?"
"Well, it's just that around this time, I'm off to Buju's for dinner and..."
"Buju's?" Miles said.
"Hell, Tomas and I love that place. Don't we, Tomas?"
Carranza nodded. "We eat there every fucking chance we get."
Antoine's face brightened. "Hey! Then maybe we can go together."
"I hate to be the spoilsport," Mulder said. "But this is a police investigation, not a family dinner."
"Oh, come on, Mulder," Miles said and then he put an arm around Mulder's shoulders.
Carranza looked the other way.
"Surely that tight-ass of yours can loosen up a little bit?" Miles asked.
"I'm...I'm not a tight-ass."
"Show me," Miles said as he looked into Mulder's rich hazel eyes.
Mulder looked back at the handsome face mere inches away from his lips. Then he turned to Scully.
"Come on, Mulder," she said. "What could it hurt?"
He shrugged. "Okay. No one can ever say that I'm not open to new experiences."
"That's what I'm counting on, Agent Mulder," Miles said with a grin.
Damn dust bunnies, Jean Estime thought. They were the worst part of cleaning. He hated moving his furniture around so he could get at the grey little buggers which gathered on the rug like some inhospitable army.
He also hated getting phone calls when he had chores to do. "What is it?" he snapped after he answered the ringing phone.
"It's me, Estime," a languid yet oddly threatening voice said.
"Ah. What do you want, November Sun?"
Estime was told about Agent Mulder.
"I see. Do you think he might be showing up here soon?"
"It's highly probable. You might want to take certain protective measures."
"Yes. I might do just that. Thank you for telling me this."
After he hung up the phone, Estime thought about his future actions. He planned to take 'protective measures' but first he had to clean his apartment to his satisfaction.
That was a shame. If he had chosen to put off his cleaning, then he might have been alive the next day.
And Agent Scully wouldn't have disappeared.
You could hear and smell Buju's before you saw it. The sound of outdoor speakers echoed from one end of the neighborhood block to the other. A wind brushed across the restaurant's front and delivered a scent of barbeque to the nose of Fox Mulder.
"Hey!" Mulder said. "What smells good?"
"What smells good is what tastes good," Andy said. "Come on."
The overweight twenty-eight-year-old Haitian walked ahead of the rest, leading them down East 5th Avenue. They walked past gawking tourists, a man juggling knives, games of three-card monty, drunk frat boys, street-corner painters and a whole lot of dreadlocks. Along with Buju's on the street, there were shops selling birds or old Bibles or vegetables you won't find in any supermarket. There was also a strip joint full of neon lights and a dance club with a solid black front.
And there was Buju's. Obviously, the painting of this building had been done by random strangers. Across the once- blank walls were drawings done by whoever brought a can of paint. Some were crude, some were finely rendered. Some were of flowers or geographic maps of the Carribean or a goat. Also drawn were portraits of Martin Luther King, Bob Marley or Frederick Douglas. One person had chosen to draw a big-breasted woman wearing chain-mail. "I did that one," Andy said with pride. "Why am I not surprised?" Carranza grumbled.
Stepping inside, their feet encountered a floor as bright red as lipstick. The same aesthetic to the outside applied to the inside with walls covered with the personal drawings of customers. Speaking of which, there were quite a few of them in Buju's that night. It was a little tough finding a table for five people but Miles' diplomatic grin and Carranza's scowl assured them of getting one.
After they sat down, three questions were asked by Mulder and Scully.
"Where are the napkins?" Scully asked.
"You're looking at them," Andy said, indicating the paper towels laid out before each chair.
"Where is the waiter?" Mulder asked.
"Buju will be around in a little bit with your dinner," Miles said.
"But...what if I don't like it?"
Mulder and Scully looked at each other. She shrugged. Then he turned to Andy and said, "About Kidder and Downard..."
"Right. Well, what about them?"
"Both of them died in a way suggesting possession by a loa."
Andy's eyes widened, making them look as big as saucers behind his thick glasses. He couldn't help but smile. "You say you're with the FBI?"
"Pretty fucking unbelievable, ain't it?" Carranza said.
"I also believe this was deliberate," Mulder continued, ignoring Carranza. "I suspect their deaths were the results of actions taken by a zobop."
The smile vanished off Andy's face, but his eyes stayed wide.
"What's a zobop?" Miles asked before Scully did.
"It's an evil voodoo sorcerer," Carranza answered, waving his cigar around. "Don't you know anything, Max?"
"Uh...this is not...it's not exactly a laughing matter," Andy stammered. "If a zobop is involved..."
Five dishes of sweet potato appeared on the table. "Evenin', everybody," a black man said as he gave each person a dish. He was dressed in a tie-dyed shirt, blue jeans held up a snakeskin belt and a Miami Dolphins cap. "How's every little ting, Detectives?" he asked.
"Fine as fucking frog hair," Carranza replied with something close to a smile.
"And who might be dese two with you?"
Miles was sitting between Mulder and Scully. He reached out and put an arm over the shoulders of each agents. "These...are Agents Mulder and Scully," he declared. "They're from the FBI helping us with a case."
Miles grinned at the black man who gave the briefest looks to Carranza. An equally brief look from the Cuban detective confirmed his suspicions.
"I'm Buju," the black man said, holding out his hand. Both Mulder and Scully shook it, discovering its considerable strength.
"Hello," Scully said. "Tell me, were you in the Navy?"
Buju lifted his eyebrows. "No. Merchant Marines. But dat's pretty close."
"My father was in the Navy. Your hands are like his -- a sailor's hands."
"Aaah," Buju said with a smile. "Well, yes, I've been a travelin' man for most of my life. Finally settled down here in Miami. I'm sure you'll have as much fun in it as I have."
"We're just here for business," Mulder said.
Buju glanced at Miles. "Don't be so sure. Anyway, I'll be back with your main course."
The black man left, maneuvering with ease through the crowded restaurant.
"What did he mean by 'don't be sure?'" Mulder asked.
"Oh, nothing," Miles said. "Anyway, where we left off, Andy was about to shit in his pants here."
"This is not a laughing matter," Andy said in a grim voice. "A zobop is no one to fool around with."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Carranza mumbled. "He can sic an evil loa after you."
"No. Not a loa. A baka. A malicious spirit that works for sorcerers."
"Mock all you want, detective, but this stuff is very real." Andy turned to Mulder. "And you say that this thing killed two council members?"
Mulder explained the exact circumstances. Afterwards, Andy shook his head and said, "Sweet fucking Jesus. This is the first I've heard of someone using a baka for those purposes."
"You have any idea of who might?" Mulder asked.
Andy's lips pressed together into a thin line.
"Look," Mulder said as he absent-mindedly scooped up a chunk of sweet potato with a spoon. "I understand that you're scared. We've already figured out that the zobop is local and that he's working for one of the city's gangsters."
"Tattling on a zobop is never a good idea under any circumstance," Andy said.
"Yes, but..." Mulder bit into the potato.
He blinked as the jerk concentrate added to the potato jumped all over his tongue. He tasted garlic, thyme, pimiento seed, Scotch bonnets and a bunch of spices he couldn't even recognize. They all joined hands and danced in a circle.
"Wow," Mulder said. "That *is* good."
"Told you," Miles said. "Trust me, Mulder. I know just how to satisfy a man's tongue."
They walked hand-in-hand down the streets. It made for an odd sight not because they looked lost or afraid. In fact, they appeared to know exactly where they were going. Despite the presence of people much taller than they were and the darkness over several streets they walked through, they continued on their way without hesitation and always looking ahead.
They were headed to The Café-Mystere.
Andy had a name. Mulder knew it; knew that the young shop owner had info on the local voodoo community; knew Andy was aware of a zobop who had connections to organized crime; also knew that Andy was too frightened to give the name up.
Throughout dinner, Mulder tried to pry the name out of Andy. He pleaded, cajoled, appealed to his sense of justice. He almost threatened him with an arrest, but both he and Andy knew the courts would shoot that down quicker than a Scud missile. "Because he wouldn't give you the name of a what?" Mulder imagined the judge saying. "What are you, fucking high?"
Mulder's attempts at getting information were strictly a solo act. Scully, Miles and Carranza watched his interrogation in silence with trepidation, amusement and annoyance respectively. Instead of speaking, they ate the meals Buju brought them. Taking occasional bites of curried goat or tomatoes between questions was the only pleasure Mulder was getting at that moment. Buju was a cook of almost unholy talent.
During this dinner/interrogation, they had a visitor.
"You ass-kissing, fascist-fucking sellout of a fag!"
Naturally, that got people's attention. The deliverer of the insult was a woman with arms like a lumberjack and a body as round as a sequoia. She wore a stud-covered jacket and heavy boots, both black. Her shaven head was decorated with a fair number of scabs.
Her insult was directed towards Miles with a voice as cold and angry as her eyes.
With eyes equally cold, Miles said, "Watch who you're talking to, you butt-ugly, worthless piece of shit dyke."
Oh, lovely, Mulder thought as the detective and the biker strode up to each other until their noses were almost touching. He looked at Carranza. Miles' partner was watching this confrontation as if it was a game of tennis. Everybody else in the restaurant was ignoring it except for Mulder and Scully.
"You need to get fucked by a man so badly," Miles snarled in her face.
"That's what your dad thought, but I kicked him and his worm of a dick out of my bed. Your momma just couldn't wait for me."
"She told me about that. She said your pussy tasted like cigarette butts."
"And hers tasted like a rat's asshole. Figures when you consider what came out of it."
"No, they delivered me by C-section. I was so well-hung that I couldn't get out the normal way."
Miles and the woman stared at each other for a few moments.
Then a tiny smile bent the woman's mouth. "You're gonna prove that to me one of these days?"
"Anytime you're ready to come over to the dark side," Miles replied with a grin.
They both laughed and hugged each other.
Mulder covered his eyes. "Shit," he groaned. Scully sighed.
Miles and the biker woman walked over to the table, arms over each other's shoulders. "Mulder, Scully...this is Gloria Kalahan."
"Uh, hi," Mulder said.
Kalahan gave the two FBI agents a good long look, especially Scully. Then she said, "More representatives of the corrupt patriarchal fascist legal system, I see."
Mulder tried to come up with a suitable reply like "I resemble that remark" or "Sez you!" Before he could, Kalahan turned to Miles and said, "I was going to take a piss. Want to join me?"
"Sure. Be back in a little bit, guys!"
Miles and Kalahan headed off. Mulder noticed that they were both going to the men's bathroom. "Hey, they're..."
"Forget about it. Goddamned funny pair, huh?"
"You and Miles don't exactly match up, either," Scully observed.
Carranza shrugged. "He's smart, he's not on the take and I trust him to watch my back. Ain't nothing more I could ask from a partner."
"I think he might be wanting a little more than that from you, Scully," Mulder observed with a smile.
Scully looked down, starting to blush.
"Come on, Scully. Admit that you're flattered."
"Are you?" Carranza asked.
"Are you flattered?"
"Oh, for Christ's sake!" Andy said. "Do you have cataracts or something? Even I saw it from the word go."
"Saw what?" Scully said. "What are you talking about?"
Carranza pulled out his smoking stub of a cigar and said, "He's been making moves on both of you."
Mulder and Scully stared at Carranza, then they blinked. "Hey," Mulder said. "He has been."
"Yeah and it's pretty hilarious. You can see fucking evil voodoo sorcerers, but you don't notice if a guy is making a pass at you? Jesus..."
"Why do I suspect this isn't just a game with him?" Scully said with a frown.
"Oh, it is a game for him. It's just the goal is getting you both in bed, preferably at the same time."
Scully folded her arms over her chest. "Well, I think he's going to get neither of us in bed now."
Mulder looked at her.
"I mean...if you were gay, Mulder, he wouldn't...oh, you know what I mean!"
"Doesn't matter," Carranza said. "He's got you in his sights. And I haven't seen anybody -- male or female, gay or allegedly straight -- escape his clutches. Just remember one thing, Mulder..."
"Does your next comment revolve around anal intercourse and the necessary lubricants?"
Carranza stuck the diminished cigar back into his mouth and raised an eyebrow. "Guess no one has to teach you anything, huh, Agent?"
ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE
A college football player from the University of Miami -- a big, thick, tanned piece of young manhood -- was using one of the three urinals in the men's bathroom when Kalahan and Miles entered.
"So those two are gonna be your latest conquests?" he heard Kalahan say. His head spun to see the burly woman enter. He was too shocked and too drunk to protest.
"Absolutely," Miles said. "That is unless you've got plans for Scully..."
Kalahan snorted. "That little thing?" She went up to the urinal next to the football player's and unzipped her pants. "I clean my teeth out with chicks like her," she commented as she pulled out a long plastic tube. The tube -- in case you're interested -- was attached to a flat funnel tied to her groin. The football player stared in bewilderment as a yellow liquid spewed from the tube and onto the porcelain.
Kalahan noticed his attention. "What are you looking at, blue-nuts?" she inquired.
With a large stain spreading on his jeans, the football player bolted for the door.
As Miles took his own piss, he said, "Of course, if you change your mind, I'm willing to fight you over her."
Kalahan frowned. "I don't think so. Our first fight was enough for me."
"Oh, that wasn't really a fight. I just caught you by surprise, that's all."
"Yeah, I was so surprised that I got my nose broken."
Miles smiled and shrugged. He had met Kalahan when he and Carranza had been investigating the murder of a Hell's Angel. Their investigation had led them to The Iron Pussy, a dyke biker bar. When they tried to ask questions of Kalahan, she had narrowed her eyes and said to Miles, "I know you. They did a profile of you in the Herald."
"Yep, they did," Miles said. The profile had been about "Gays in the Workplace," a piece that Miles had agreed to participate in because the reporter had been cute. (The actual fucking had been a bit of a let-down.)
"You have a lot of nerve calling yourself 'gay,'" Kalahan had snarled.
"Excuse me?" Miles said as he stopped smiling.
"First of all, you're not gay. You're one of those bisexuals...those goddamn fence-sitters."
"I...prefer to think of it as keeping my options open."
"I bet. Is that why you're a pig too?"
"As I said before...excuse me?"
"A pig. A walking-talking asshole with a badge and a gun. Another tool of a repressive system. That you're gay...or whatever...that only makes you more pathetic."
The other dykes nodded and grunted their assent to Kalahan's position. Carranza -- not a man who could intimidate easily -- found his hands inching towards his holster.
"You're a fucking sell-out," Kalahan continued. "A cowardly assimilationist."
"Well, better to be an assimilationist than a fat ugly bitch," Miles replied, his smile returning.
Kalahan got off her stool, ready to beat down this faggot detective. Then she encountered a shockingly quick right and she fell back on her stool, clutching her nose.
The other dykes moved in on Miles and his partner. Carranza touched his gun.
"Wait, wait!" Kalahan said. She lowered her hand and looked at Miles. He looked straight back at her. As blood leaked over her lips, she smiled and said, "Okay."
Miles replied, "Okay."
Thus was a friendship born.
"Besides," Kalahan said as she dispensed her last drops of urine. "I ain't gonna change my mind. What would I want with some red-haired midget? I could break her in two with my tongue."
"I think she's a lot more durable than you think."
Kalahan looked over at Miles' urinal and smiled. "I hope so, Simba."
Miles grinned and let out a trumpeting noise.
In another part of town, someone else needed to take a piss. Jean Estime had finally gotten done with his cleaning and now was ready to summon up the baka. He lit the candles, knelt before the altar and began his chant while shaking a gourd.
Halfway through his chant, a pressure began to form in his bowels. He tried to ignore it. This particular baka had a hot temper and did not like being held up. (There were a lot of things odd about this baka. Estime wasn't even sure if it was a baka. Still, it could get the job done.) However, not even a zobop could ignore nature's bellowing call.
To hell with it, he thought and got up. As he headed for the bathroom, he sensed the baka's impatience.
"Keep your shirt on," he muttered. "I'll be back in a little bit."
He closed the bathroom door. His sigh of relief could be heard. What couldn't be heard was the person who slid a window open from the outside and entered his apartment as silently as smoke.
"No, no, no..."
"Oh, come on, Andy. Please?"
This is pathetic, Scully thought. Mulder is actually begging. She shook her head and finished off her last bite of goat. Lord, that had been good.
"I'm sorry, Agent Mulder, but I just can't give you that information," Andy insisted. "But if you need any help, here's my card..."
Mulder rolled his eyes and picked up his bottle of beer. "Yes, that will be most damn useful."
"I think you will," Andy said as he took out a pen and began to write on the back of the card. "I'm going to write my home phone number if you need that."
"No, I mean my home phone number."
"No, I mean...my *home* phone number."
Mulder blinked and looked at the card. Instead of a number, he saw a name and an address.
"Actually," Mulder said, "you keep it. I've got it committed to memory now."
Andy nodded and put the card back into his pocket. Miles and Kalahan returned from the bathroom.
"I think we've taken up enough of Mr. Antoine's time," Mulder announced. "We better get going."
"Ah," Miles said. "Well, I'll catch you later, Gloria."
"I think you're going to catch something before me, Max. Oh, by the way, straight lady..."
Scully stopped in the middle of getting up.
"Your hetero ass can rest assured that I don't find you the least bit attractive."
Scully hesitated, then smiled and said, "Who said that I was straight?"
She headed for the cash register with Mulder, Miles, Carranza and Andy all staring at her. Kalahan saw the looks on their faces and discerned the dirty little thoughts behind them.
"Boys? A word of advice?"
They turned to her.
"Whether we be lipstick lesbians or bald-headed dykes...you men are just too ugly for us to deal with."
The old mulatto walked down the sidewalk, leaning on his cane and taking every step at a sluggish pace while he sucked on a candy cane. He looked like an easy fellow to mug if you want thought there was something worth stealing from inside those ratty clothes. He certainly didn't act like a threat.
Then he stopped. His sleepy eyes turned bright and wary. He watched them as they came his way.
They halted in front of them.
"Well..." he said.
"Hello," one of them said.
"We're glad to meet you," the other added.
"Very much so," the first one concluded.
"Tell me...do you have anything to do with that whole Jeremiah Bay deal?"
"We've come to deliver a warning."
"I see," the old man said, then stepped aside. "Well, don't let me hold you up."
"Thank you, sir!" they chimed, then continued on their way, hand-in-hand.
"A lot of different ingredients in this stew," the old man mused as he scratched his chin. "What will it taste like when it's done?"
The woman who drove a knife straight up into the chin of Jean Estime could have told the old man what it would taste like. She had eaten just about everything.
And most of it just tasted like chicken.
"You two wait here," Mulder said to Carranza and Miles. They had just reached Gem Beach Apartments, a sleek and expensive-looking building where Jean Estime lived (or used to live.)
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Carranza said.
"He's talking about not needing four people to talk to this man," Scully explained. "And we need a couple of people outside in case he tries to escape."
"Hell, I understand that. But shouldn't Max or I go up there? I mean, just so you clowns remember, it *is* our fucking..."
"It's okay, Tomas," Miles said. "We can cool our heels out here, can't we?"
Carranza looked at Miles, his mouth tightening around his almost-dead cigar.
"Then it's settled," Mulder said. "We'll tell you everything after we're done."
The two agents went inside the building.
"You better, you cock-sucker," Carranza muttered, then spat out his cigar and pulled out a fresh one.
"They know, don't they?" Miles said. "About my...plans for them?"
"Yeah," Carranza snorted. "I had to spell it out for them in big fucking letters. Told them that you'll probably end up slipping them the jammy anyway."
Max smiled and leaned against his car. "Every relationship has its little bumps."
"Or, in your case, its little humps."
"Nothing little about it, Tomas."
"Damn, I can't believe we didn't see it," Mulder said as he and Scully rode up in the elevator. "It was so obvious."
"I mean...it's not like I mind that he was hitting on me..."
"I am secure enough in my masculine identity not to be threatened..."
"No, I mean, really..."
"I believe you, Mulder."
"It's just that he was hitting on us *both*. I mean, that's just the height of temerity."
"Or maybe he's that good."
Mulder looked at Scully. She kept her eyes fixed on the doors. Then he looked at the doors and said, "Let's just go talk with the zobop."
Aw, fuckin' shit, the baka thought. That asshole has gotten himself killed. Didn't I try to warn him? Didn't I try to send a goddamned signal to stay in the bathroom? But, noooo, he just thought that I was being impatient. Well, look at your nigger self now, you son-of-a-bitch. Look at what that crazy woman is doing to you. I would be enjoying this if it weren't for the fact that your death lives me stuck in this fucking limbo with no way to...
Wait. Who's that coming?
They both felt it as they got out of the elevator. The closer they got, the stronger the feeling became. It was like hearing a knife getting sharpened right behind you. Their unease grew with each step.
Finally, they stopped with just a few feet between them and the door to Apartment 52. They looked at each other.
Then they pulled out their guns.
They can sense me, he thought. Hot damn. They must be...what the fuck are they called...latent sensitives. (Don't know what that means. Sounds like a closet faggot to me.) Anyway, this gives me a chance to get out of here because I sure as hell ain't using that crazy bitch as a ride.
God...what is she...Lord, that's disgusting...
There was something odd about the woman Mulder and Scully saw after Mulder kicked down the door and it wasn't just that she was yanking out somebody's heart. Or the fact that every stitch of clothing on her was made of hand-sewn animal skins. Or the fierce gleam in her eyes.
It was the fact that Mulder and Scully had met her before, but they couldn't say when or where. Judging from the surprise on the woman's face, she had the same feeling.
Of course, that was kind of a secondary issue at the moment.
They all stayed frozen for a moment -- Scully and Mulder with their hands around guns and the woman with her hand around the heart of Jean Estime which stretched long red tendrils from a gaping hole in his chest where ribs jutted out like knives.
Then Mulder decided to speak up.
"Uh...you're under arrest?"
Let's see, the baka thought. Which one?
Go with the red head. Yeah, I'd like to get inside her. Damn right. Get inside and make the cunt play with herself. That'll be some fun...
The woman growled. It was the kind of sound not expected from human vocal chords -- low and mindless and bloodthirsty. The blood dripping off her lips looked all too appropriate.
Mulder cleared his throat and said, "I mean it. I don't know who you are, lady, but I doubt you're faster than a speeding bullet." Or is she? he thought.
The answer seemed to be 'no.' The woman reached up and wiped off the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand. She looked between the two guns pointing at her head, her eyes becoming more cautious if no less hungry.
Mulder was about to reach for his handcuffs when Scully fainted.
Open wide, bitch...
Scully fell to the side, bumping right into Mulder and distracting him for a second.
One second was all the woman needed. She bolted through the air like an arrow and struck both agents with her forearms. Mulder felt a force that could have taken out an entire football defense line, much less a pair of federal employees. He and Scully were catapulted into the hallway with her tumbling to the floor and him being tossed against the other wall.
Through the pain inflicted on his back, he heard the door of Apartment 52 slamming shut. Out of instinct, he fired.
Carranza and Miles pulled out their own guns when they heard the shots. "You take the stairs!" Carranza ordered as they rushed into the building. "I'll stand by the elevator!"
It was a sound way of blocking off a retreating bad guy...but not with this particular bad gal.
Scully regained conscious but she could only pull herself up to a kneeling position. "Mulder..." she whispered.
"Stay down," he said in a firm voice. He didn't know what was wrong with Scully, but he damn well wasn't putting her in danger while she was in this condition. He was on his feet to the right of a door with two smoking holes in it. All right, he thought. Carranza and Miles must have heard that shot so they'll be on their way. And I'm not going to face with that crazy woman without some fucking back-up. As long as she was trapped in that apartment...
Was she trapped?
Well, sure, how is she going to get out? Climb down the outside of...
Wait. How did she get into the apartment at all?
"Shit," Mulder hissed. He kicked the door in again.
Jean Estime was still laid on the floor, still looking very surprised, still cuts and sliced in several spots with his heart dangling from his chest like a booger from a nose.
Mulder saw the open window, rushed over, saw the woman on the second floor and going further down.
He fired. The woman bounced off the wall and fell through twenty feet of air. Did he hit her?
Nope. She landed on her legs like a cat. A surrounding circle of palm trees gave her shadows to vanish into.
"Shit and shit some more," Mulder said.
He heard a voice call out "Agent Scully!" He went back to the hallway, stepping over the puddles of blood spreading from Estime's body.
Miles was running down the hallway towards Scully who was still trying to get herself erect. Neighbors were slowly sticking their heads out. A baby could be heard crying.
"I'm...I'm fine," Scully said as Miles reached her side.
"What hap..." Miles started before Mulder said, "We've got a killer on the loose. She just climbed down the side of the building..."
"That's what she did, okay? Get on the radio and put out a bulletin for a woman in her late twenties. She's dressed in animal skins. She doesn't seem to have a gun, but she is still incredibly dangerous."
"Animal skins? Are you shitting me?"
Mulder stepped aside and pointed at the body inside Apartment 52. "No shit this time."
Andy went back to his shop and his apartment above it, feeling anxious. He had tried to give the name of Jean Estime to Mulder in the most nondescript way he could. He had made enough protestations to be heard by the whole restaurant, so Estime wouldn't blame him for the cops at his door, right? And he couldn't just stand by and let some zobop kill members of his city government, right?
I hate these fucking moral dilemmas, Andy thought. I need to unwind. A couple of microwave burritos and a little bit of masturbation to Jeri Ryan's photos should do the trick.
When The Cafe-Mystere came into sight, he wasn't sure that he was seeing correctly. The closer he got, however, he realized that his myopic eyes weren't lying.
He ran the remaining thirty feet, huffing and puffing all the way. He was out of breath when he stopped in front of the two girls standing before The Cafe-Mystere. Gasping, he said, "H-h-hi..."
"Hello," the girls said in unison. One was black, the other was white. However, they had the same eyes, same lips, same height, same clothes.
"I'm Sue," the white one said.
"I'm Etta," the black one said.
"I'm...I'm..." Andy panted.
"We know who you are, Mr. Antoine," Etta said.
"Do you know who we are?" Sue asked.
"I...I think I do." Andy straightened himself and let out a long breath. "Why are you here?"
"We've come to tell you many things," Sue explained.
"The first thing is..." Etta said.
"...Agent Scully is in danger..."
"Call up Agent Mulder now."
"Uh...I don't have his number."
The girls knew it.
BLOOD ON THE FLOOR, VOICES IN THE HEAD
"Yes. She did."
Carranza rolled his eyes. "Jesus Christ..."
"Lay off her," Miles snapped. "I mean, look at that guy..." He pointed at the corpse before them. Lab technicians were setting up in Apartment 52 and they didn't like looking at the body themselves.
Miles said, "If I had seen that and what Mulder has described..."
"You're a fucking experienced law enforcement official, Miles," Carranza replied. "I assumed Agent Scully was, too."
"She is," Mulder said quietly. "She's seen things as bad as this before."
"Then why the hell did she faint?"
"I'm not sure." Mulder looked around the well-furnished, well-scrubbed apartment. It could have been photographed and displayed in a decorator's magazine except for the body.
And the altar full of lit candles.
Mulder examined the altar with its tiny statues, medallions and bowls arranged in a pattern meaningful only to the dead man. A drum and a gourd waited to be used. It looked like photos of other voodoo altars.
Even the open can of Budweiser in the center was not completely atypical. Alcohol and other drinks were often laid out as offerings to the spirits, though usually they were sugary in taste. A common trait among the loa was having an active sweet-tooth.
"What do you think?" Miles asked in a grim voice.
"I think...we have just found the man who killed Downard and Kidder. This altar was where Estime summoned the baka sent to perform the job. Judging from the decor, Estime had been a professional assassin for some time."
"Then why was he killed?"
"Possibly November Sun and Morgan wanted to keep him quiet. Or Hall Enterprises found out about him and decided to take care of him."
Miles thought about that briefly, then his eyes widened. "Oh, Jesus! Arnold Sands!"
"Arnold Sands -- another Miami gangster. Small-time, really, but he thought he was tough enough to run a protection racket on a real-estate broker named...geez, what was his name... something Rogers."
"Oh, yeah," Carranza said. "I remember that piece of shit. Turns out he picked on the wrong guy. One day, they found eighty percent of Sands hanging from a palm tree. No one was ever able to trace the crime back to Mr. Rogers, but the message was as clear as fucking cellophane. Since then, nobody has picked on him."
Mulder looked down at Estime and took note of the zobop's missing nose and fingers. "You think Estime and Sands had the same killer?"
"I'm definitely inclined to think it," Miles said. "Since it's Mr. Rogers who is handling the Jeremiah Bay negotiations for Hall Enterprises. Apparently, Oscar Hall hired him on the basis of his...ingenuity."
Mulder took a long breath. "Well, that explains that."
Carranza took a long breath himself, but one clouded by his cigar. "Let's say this zobop shit is for real."
"Why, Detective Carranza, how generous of you," Mulder said with a smile.
"Stuff it. What am I saying is...if it's true, what's so fucking important about Jeremiah Bay? I mean, I think I understand what that asshole Morgan is thinking. He's just some English prick who hates it when something ain't his. But Hall Enterprises is a big, big company. What use is Jeremiah Bay to them? Why the hell are they're willing to have a war over it?"
Before Mulder could attempt an answer to that, he heard a small voice say, "Mulder?"
He turned to the door. Scully was standing there and looking like a grade school student being sent to the principal's office.
"Excuse me," Mulder said to the detectives. He stepped out into the hallway and took Scully aside. "How are you feeling? And please don't say 'fine.'"
Scully sighed. "I'm confused. I don't know what happened. What that woman was doing...it was horrible, but..."
"Don't worry about that."
"Mulder, because of me, a killer got away. Of course, I'm going to worry about it."
"All I'm saying is that we should find out what happened before you start blaming yourself."
"Then how do you explain it?"
"I don't know yet, but...I had a strange feeling when I saw that bitch-from-hell, pardon the expression."
Scully smiled a little. "It's an appropriate one. And...uh...I had a strange feeling, too."
"Like you had seen her before?"
"As a matter of fact...yes. That would be the second time today. When I saw Audrey Borg, she..." Scully shook her head. "This is meaningless."
"No, it's not. We need to find out..."
Scully gave Mulder the kind of look that cut him straight to the heart. "You need a partner you can depend on," she said.
"I depend on you. I always will."
She remained silent for a moment, then said, "I'm going downstairs. I'll be waiting for you outside."
Mulder watched her enter the elevator and the doors close. Then he watched the doors for a little bit before he went back to Apartment 52. Even Carranza kept from asking about Scully when he saw the moody expression on Mulder's face.
"Uh, Mulder?" Miles said.
"You were going to say something?"
"Hm. Well...I was going to say that there's a third group to consider in all this. The Seniors?"
"What, you think they're involved?" Miles said in surprise.
"I think that Jeremiah Bay has some special meaning to them. And perhaps it's the same reason why Oscar Hall wants it." He shook his head. "Lots of ingredients here, but I don't know what the recipe is for. One thing we ought to do is have Andy Antoine come down here and look..."
The cellular phone chirped in Mulder's pocket. Mulder answered it.
"Mulder..." He blinked. "Mister Antoine? We were just..." Mulder glanced at the body. "Yeah, he's dead. How did..."
He listened some more. As he did, fear rose on his face like a moon in a dark sky.
"I'll call you back," he said, disconnected the phone and sped out of the apartment, still clutching the phone in his hand.
Carranza and Miles gave each other the briefest of looks, then chased after him.
Settling under a palm tree, Scully found a quiet spot away from the police cars in front of Gem Beach Apartments. She sat down on a bench with her back turned to the twirling red-and-blue lights. In her mind, she replayed the moment when she and Mulder burst into Estime's apartment. Again, her lapse into unconsciousness frightened her even more than the horror they had witnessed. What had happened? Why?
(I'll give you three guesses, bitch...)
She spun around. The nearest person behind her was a police officer thirty feet away. This voice had seemed to come from right behind her.
(Closer than that. Way closer than that.)
The chuckling voice was like some fly in her ear she couldn't swat away. She shook her head, but it kept talking.
(Can't do nothin' about it. You're stuck with me so why don't you just relax and learn to enjoy it?)
A numbness settled over her body. She looked down at her hands and they appeared to be a hundred miles away from her. Then she saw her knees spread apart.
(Oh, yeah. Let's take a feel at that sweet little cunt of yours. When I get done, your panties will feel like they've been glued to your pussy.)
Her hand was moving towards her lap. She made tiny mewling sounds in her throat.
(Hey! What did I tell you? If you know what's good for you...)
Fuck you, shit-for-brains, she thought. It's my body. If you don't back off...
(Or what? Just what the hell will you do, bitch?)
Inside her mind, Scully imagining herself pushing at the force inside of her. The hand stopped moving, but trembled like an animal caught in a trap.
(You stinking little whore. You're only going to make this worse on yourself. You can't hold out forever.)
Scully realized that the voice was right. She needed to do something. She needed to grab a hold of her body and keep control. She needed to keep moving. She needed to run.
That's exactly what she did.
"Are you going to tell me that not one of you goddamned idiots saw a woman walk out those doors and what direction she..."
"Whoa, whoa, Mulder," Miles said, seeing the annoyed faces of the police officers who were present outside Gem Beach Apartments. "Take it easy. We'll find her." Miles turned to the officers. "Spread out and search. She can't have gotten far."
"Well, what the hell is wrong with her anyway?" one of the officers demanded to know.
Miles looked to Mulder who said, "She...she may have been subjected to some kind of intoxicant. Just find her, okay?"
After the police officers dispersed, Carranza said, "All right. Now can you tell us what the fuck really happened?"
"That's what I plan to find out," Mulder muttered as he pulled out his cell phone.
Andy was waiting by the phone in his shop. He sat on a stool with his knees bouncing. Occasionally, he would throw glances at the two girls. They looked back at him with unblinking eyes.
The phone rang. He grabbed the receiver. Before he could say "Hello," Mulder's voice said, "She's gone. What is wrong with her?"
"Um, I'm not sure exactly..." Andy glanced at the two girls.
"Look, Andy, I need to know..."
"Ask him if the candles were still lit on the altar," Sue said.
"Huh?" Andy replied.
"Andy?" Mulder said.
"Ask him if the candles were lit," Etta urged.
"Andy, who are you talking to?"
The shop-owner said, "Did Estime have candles lit on his altar? Were they still lit when you found him?"
A pause, then Mulder said, "Yes to both questions."
Andy did some quick thinking and said, "Tell me...have you two ever had encounter with psychic phenomena before?"
There was a short, humorless laugh heard on the other end. "Yeah, you might say that."
"Well, that means you two are latent sensitives. You can pick up the existence of certain spirits if they're strong enough to...aw, fuck."
"Agent Mulder...I think Scully has just been possessed by a baka."
Witnesses would later say that the woman looked like she was being chased by Satan himself with Adolf Hitler and Jack the Ripper bringing up the rear. In actuality, she was playing a game of chicken with herself...
...and the thing inside her head.
(Slow the fuck down! You're gonna run into something and fucking kill us!)
So, are you going to get out of my head?
Well, are you?
(Fucking forget...LOOK OUT!)
Two cars honked, squealed and braked to a halt as she ran across an intersection. She could feel the warmth of their engines as she passed by them and heard the curses of the drivers. She continued on, faces and lights flickering across her vision. Her coat was shrugged off. The pain grew in her feet as they slammed again and again into the ground. Her soles began to bleed.
(Oh, hell...oh, man...I'm gonna...)
With a sound like a trombone's bad note, her bowels opened up. Turds deposited themselves into her underwear, stretching it out. Urine soaked her front and streaked down her to leave tiny spots in her wake. Add the sweat all over her body and you have a smell like the inside of an elephant cage.
Still, she kept running, long after she had forgotten the point of it. She only knew that if she stopped moving, Something Bad Would Happen. Unfortunately, fear can only conquer the weakness of the flesh for so long. Every spasm in her legs, every hot breath in her lungs, every heartbeat that threatened to shatter her ribs was telling her to rest.
Eventually, her body made the decision for her. As if she had been tripped up, she dropped to the ground. Asphalt hit across her hands, face and knees, then rubbed black dirt into her wounds.
(Oh, you fucking bitch...oh, I'm gonna make you pay...)
She no longer cared anymore. The only thing she was concerned about was where she was. There were no lights and no buildings from where she could see. Only darkness. Funny.
Then she heard a sound like waves breaking on a beach. She recognized it as the air rushing over a moving vehicle. Summoning her last bit of strength, she turned her head in that direction.
A pair of headlights was growing brighter and brighter. They looked like two missiles fired at her.
Oh, she thought.
I'm lying on the highway. Gee, I didn't know I had ran that far.
(No, no, no, no....)
She made more details around the headlights -- a mosquito- covered grill, black tires, a driver with wide eyes and a wide mouth. Scully wondered if she should move, but her body was too exhausted and her mind was too clouded with someone else's thoughts.
(OH, GOD, OH, SWEET JESUS, NO...)
Then Scully saw a van whip over to the other side of the world and pass within an inch of her hair. It sounded like the brakes scrapped a mile of rubber off the tires before the van stopped. A door opened and footsteps rushed towards her. The feet actually sounded angry.
It was the next-to-last thing Scully heard before blacking out. The last thing was a man with a Southern accent yelling, "Goddammit, woman, what are you doing in the middle of the mammy-fucking road?!"
"Punish me, my master..."
"Hurt me and bleed me, you great English lord..."
"'Scuse me a minute, love."
"No, don't stop now."
"Have to, love. The phone is ringin'. I need to..."
"Oh, yes, I am such a bad girl! So VERY bad!"
Constantine Morgan looked between the bleeding back of Zoning Commission Chairman Gwendolyn Burns and the phone. The chairman had stopped by his beachside house at eleven- forty-five p.m., a perfectly fucked-up time to be calling on anybody. However, that was the price he had to pay for his influence over Burns. A couple of months back, a clandestine investigation by Morgan revealed an interesting fetish of Chairman Burns. When confronted with this information, Burns said, "Are...are you going to blackmail me?"
Morgan grinned, cracked his knuckles and said, "No need to do that, you silly little bird."
Burns looked at those big knuckles. "What do you want to do then?" she whispered.
"Anythin' you want, Chairman. Anythin' at all."
It seemed like a good idea to gain dominance over the Chairman, so to speak. However, Morgan was regretting the idea. The woman exhausted him. She was like a fuckin' Timex watch -- takes a lickin' and keeps on moanin'. Whips, wax dripping off a hot candle, even the occasional electric shock...nothing was enough. She just kept asking for more. What did he have to do to satisfy her? Drop a safe on her head?
"Punish me! Punish me!" Burns demanded. She squirmed in the straps hanging from a hook. With one hand administering the whip to her exposed back, Morgan stretched a hand to the phone resting on a table.
Trying to keep himself balanced on his two feet, Morgan tried to extend his arm as far it could go. Bloody hard to do when you're trying to whip someone without looking.
His fingers finally touched the receiver. He try to pull it into his grasp, but it only slipped to the floor.
"I said, HURT ME!"
"Hello?" the phone said. "Anybody there?"
Morgan sighed and gave a nice sharp lash to the chairman's back.
Morgan scooped up the receiver off the floor. "Yeah, what the hell is it?" he grumbled as he snapped the black leather again across the bleeding skin.
"Oh, my master," Burns croaked.
"Constantine, this is November Sun. Am I interrupting anything?"
"Nah, it's just me and Lady fuckin' Chatterley here. Now what is it?"
"Estime is dead," November Sun said, his voice as calm as ever.
Morgan lowered his whip hand and the black leather touched the floor. "How?" he demanded to know.
"He was killed. Looks like Mr. Rogers arranged it from the sound of the gory details."
"Constantine, you stopped," Burns whimpered.
"I have no doubt that Oscar Hall is making somewhat subtle assurances to the Zoning Commission that they can vote against us without fear of reprisal."
"Well, go out there and get another one of those darkie wizards, you idjit!"
"Constantine, I have to be punished," Burns insisted.
"Shut yer gob, will ya?" Morgan told her.
"Finding a new zobop will not be easy," November Sun informed the Englishman. "They are difficult to locate, much less hire for an assassination. We were lucky to find Estime. By the time we can arrange one..."
"...we'll be fucked up the bum. Look, couldn't you handle this yerself?"
"I HAVE TO BE PUNISHED!"
"I SAID, BE QUIET, YOU BLOODY WHORE!"
"Me?" November Sun said. "Summon up a baka?"
"Sure, why not? You know enough about that voodoo shit, don't you?"
"Well...I've done the reading...but that's not really my preferred area of spirituality..."
"Listen, mate, you're my fuckin' business partner. I don't think it's askin' much for you to just try."
There was a brief pause, then November Sun said, "All right. But now with Estime dead, it's up to you to make sure Mulder doesn't become more of a problem."
Morgan tightened his grip on his whip. "Oh, trust me. I've got ways of dealing with that fucker. No way am I going to let some federal ponce give me grief."
With that, Morgan hung up the phone and stood there, feeling the whip in his hand. Fuckin' Estime dying on us, he thought. Fuckin' Mulder, fuckin' Oscar Hall, fuckin' Mr. Rogers, fuckin' shit everywhere I step...
He spun towards Burns and cracked the whip harder than ever before.
"OOOOH! OH, MY! YES! YES!"
One nice thing about the arrangement between him and the chairman -- it provided a nice outlet for rage.
She was drowning in her own mind. Thoughts and emotions had melted into a thick sludge which was piling upon her. Attempts to free herself were useless. She could do nothing except lie back and suffocate. The terror at this idea was muted as if she was losing concern about herself. She wasn't even too worried by the knowledge of another presence which would take over her carcass at her final moments. The presence had been shocked into inaction itself but it would soon recover. Its theft of her body did not scare her in anyway tangible.
Still, there was a tiny portion of her soul which wanted to resist. Since it knew that any actions on its part were futile, it called out for help. Oh, God, it said. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Mother Mary. Please help me. Please rescue me.
Then, a hand grabbed the invading presence by the neck and tossed it away into a dark abyss. ("Shiiiiiit" was its moan as it faded away.) She felt the hand grab her and pull her free from the sludge.
Her rescuer was a beautiful mulatto woman covered with jewelry. Standing ten feet behind her was an old mulatto man wearing patchwork clothes.
"Hello, gal," the woman said, smiling ear-to-ear. "I ain't Jesus and I sure ain't the Virgin Mary, but will I do?"
"Good God almighty, this woman stinks like the armpit of a mammy-fucking gorilla."
"Think we ought to take her to the hospital?"
"Boy, what kind of stupid goddamn question is that? Of course, we ought to take her to the mammy-fucking hospital!"
"I don't know. I don't think she's really sick..."
"No, she's probably just been snorting crack. Anyway, let the damn doctors figure it out."
"What are you 'hmmmm'-ing about, Meyer?"
"Something about her...I think I've seen her be..."
She opened her eyes and saw the inside of a van. Watching over her were two men -- one in his forties and the other not yet twenty. The older man was shorter and more compact than the tall youth. He was also frowning while the younger man had an alert, kindly expression.
They both saw her eyes open. "Ma'am?" the younger man said. "Are you all right?"
She turned her head left and right. She also managed to tilt it up a little before it fell back to the floor. Doing so gave her more details -- packed guitars and speakers, a drum kit, a couple of mattresses, a stack of books, a driver who kept looking back with a scowling expression.
"Ma'am, are you all right?"
"Boy, you can repeat the mammy-fucking question all you want and I'll bet you my dick that the answer is still going to be 'no.'"
She made a choked sound in her throat -- a slurred attempt at words.
"What's your name, Miss?" the younger man asked.
She cleared her throat. "I'm...I'm..."
Then, to the great surprise of both men, the woman's face brightened with a grin. Her blue eyes shined with a lecherous promise as she ran a hand up each of their chests.
"I'm anyone you want me to be, lover."
The following morning...
Mulder woke up with a wallet in his hand and a little Hispanic boy picking his nose in front of him.
"Hi," Mulder said because it only seemed polite. Reciprocating the politeness, the boy withdrew his finger, stuck a shiny green booger towards Mulder and said, "Want it?"
A fat, gray-haired white woman appeared behind the boy. "Alejandro! If you don't stop bothering that man, I'll knock your eyeballs out!"
The boy returned the finger back to his nostril, then wobbled away from Mulder. He headed for a doorway. The woman reached down and slapped his butt to make sure he went through. Mulder noticed that he was lying on a couch arranged in a living room.
The woman smiled and said, "Morning, Agent Mulder. We have breakfast ready for you anytime you want to eat."
"Um...I'm not entirely sure where I am right now..."
"Doesn't surprise me. You were kind of frazzled last night."
Mulder rubbed the stubble on his chin. "I was, wasn't I?" He looked at the woman and said, "You're Mrs. Carranza, right?"
"You can call me Linda. Tomas thought you should be watched over and he brought you here."
"That...that was very kind of him."
"It was either here or Max's apartment. I don't think you're ready for that yet."
Mulder hauled himself up to a sitting position. He opened the wallet and saw the face of Dana Scully on a driver's license.
"They found it lying on the sidewalk," Linda said quietly.
'Yes. I remember."
"Tomas has just left for work. He said that he and Max will stop by later to update you on everything."
Mulder nodded, still looking at the wallet.
Then he folded it, stood up and said, "I think I'll have some breakfast now."
Pancakes, bacon and orange juice were being served at a table in the kitchen. Alejandro was sitting at the table and eating. (He was no longer picking his nose. Mulder didn't want to think about where the booger went.) Also present at the table was a man in his mid-twenties. Judging from his short haircut, strong handshake and lean body, Mulder guessed the man to be in the military. He was right. The man was revealed to be Corporal Felix Carranza, son of Tomas and Linda as well as the father of the booger-picker. He was on leave from the Army and was visiting his parents with Alejandro while his wife was out of town.
Mulder settled with the rest of the family into a quiet, leisurely breakfast. Five minutes later, Tomas and Miles showed up.
Felix leapt from his chair and threw a punch at Miles the minute he walked into the kitchen. Miles blocked it as well as the next one Felix threw.
"You two take that outside or I'll grind your balls into dust," Linda warned. The two men left the room and he sound of battle-cries and thrown punches echoed from the front yard. Tomas saw the look on Mulder's face and said, "Felix does that every damn time he sees Max. He keeps trying to beat him in a fight even he keeps getting fucked up for his efforts."
"Shouldn't you...try to stop them?" Mulder asked, glancing at Alejandro who was eating his pancakes with no change in his expression.
"Let the dummy learn his lesson. He's just gonna have to accept that the faggot knows his karate better than he does." Tomas plopped his wide butt down onto a chair. Linda poured him a glass of orange juice as he said, "On to more important matters. Unfortunately, we still have had no luck in finding your partner."
"What about the woman we saw in the apartment?"
"No luck there, either."
Mulder let out a breath. "All right. There are three things I want to do.
"Number one -- I want to talk with Andy Antoine and find out just how he knew something was going to happen to Scully.
"Number two -- I want to see Mr. Rogers and find out what we can squeeze out of him.
"Number three -- I want to talk with Audrey Borg."
"Her? What for?"
"Because of something Scully said to me last night. Don't ask me what. But I want to make sure all my bases are covered."
Carranza nodded, then observed the dark circles under Mulder's eyes. "You look like shit, Mulder."
"So do you."
"Yeah, but that's normal. Right, Linda?"
"You are the shittiest-looking man I've ever met," Linda assured him.
There was a crack from outside, then a thump. Miles walked back in with a sheepish look on his face. "I just knocked your son unconscious," he informed Carranza.
"Aw, shit, not again, Max," Carranza said. "This time, *you* tell his wife."
As he had expected, Oscar Hall had charmed everybody at the dinner function, made powerful new friends, got laid. Or, to be exact, the woman he took into his bed got laid. *He* certainly didn't feel laid. Oscar could satisfy a woman as easily as blowing his nose except that blowing his nose was more satisfying to him. (At least, he imagined that it would be. He had never had to do such a thing nor had he ever been sick.) Looking down at the woman in his bed, Oscar wondered why he ever brought her home.
Because that was what he was supposed to do. He was supposed to seduce women and take them to the height of ecstasy. The same motivation applied to acquiring power. It was the thing he had been raised to do. His father expected him to become the most powerful man in the world.
But what did Oscar Hall expect out of Oscar Hall?
He didn't know. There were no ambitions in his head except what his father had implanted in there. As he looked at himself in the mirror and put on his clothes, he saw a mannequin -- handsome, empty, easy to manipulate. Even if he had the courage to defy his father's wishes, what would he do?
As if he was answering his question, his father appeared behind him. "Get a fucking move on, Oscar. We've got work to do."
Oscar sighed and buttoned up his shirt. "You should be careful about where you make an appearance," he said, indicating the sleeping woman.
"Fuck her." Oscar's father smirked. "No, wait. You did that already, didn't you?"
"Yes. I did."
"Well, kick her ass out of here. There is important shit for you to get done. By the way, Mr. Rogers took care of that damn zobop. Or, rather, Sara Lee did."
"So our problem is settled."
"It's not settled until I say it's fucking settled. And I won't say it until your signature is on the lease for Jeremiah Bay."
"I see. How did things go with Debra and Shelby?"
The old man narrowed his eyes. "Is that supposed to be funny?"
"I was just curious."
Lowering his head, the old man grumbled at the floor. "Those two...the only one who gets my balls twisted up more is that waddling pack of blubber I created with my own black sperm and Debra's putrid ova. I was going to make him king of the damn world, but noooooo. He had to waste himself on his fucking appetites. Can't you imagine what would have happened if I had tried to get the world to obey that fat piece of shit? Motherfucker can barely form sentences, his brain is so tired from all the drugs he's snorted. Completely fucked up my plans, let me tell you."
At least he had some fun, Oscar thought. He had seen the son created by Debra Hutchinson and his father. The look on John Hutchinson's face was continual hazy bliss. He wished that he could feel like that for just one moment.
"I did the right thing with your mother," Oscar's father declared. "The moment you were born..." He snapped his fingers. "...right down the toilet."
Oscar supposed that he should have felt angry. Yet he had long passed the point of feeling anger towards his father. The old man could never be anything other than who he was.
In a way, he was trapped like his son.
"Enough damn reminiscing. You gotta get to work. And you gotta make sure we get Jeremiah Bay."
"Father...is Jeremiah Bay really that important?"
The old man lifted his head and widened his eyes. "Are you kidding? Haven't you read the fucking prophecy?"
"Of course I have, but obtaining Jeremiah Bay would only be the first step in a long series of necessary actions if...you know..."
"Well, I know that, dammit! But it's still the first step. And I will take it just as I will take the next and the next and the next. I don't care if I have to walk across a billion corpses. I will complete the prophecy so I can stand before *him*..."
The old man lifted a thin yet intimidating hand.
"...and squeeze his balls until they burst. And that, my son, will be some fucking entertainment."
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
Audrey Borg stared at the phone on her desk.
She stared at it for a long time.
She didn't want to make this call. She had been up all last night, considering other options.
No other options could be found.
Nor could any be found right now.
She sighed and reached for the phone.
Temp agencies had a hard time finding workers for Ass- Kickers, Inc. They tended to quit on the first day, if not within the first hour. One of the two problems in this area was the loud, rude, dented-head boss. The other problem was the huge men working there.
*Huge* men. There was a minimum of 225 pounds for each of them. Some of them had more well-defined muscles but everyone of them had impressive mass. They also had blank faces with intent gazes as if they were looking at an exact point on your forehead. They didn't speak much but every once and while a voice would be raised, usually in anger.
"Which one of you assholes forgot to put toner in the copier?"
"Who the fuck filed this phone bill in the advertising folder?"
"A full pot of coffee! That's all I fucking ask for! When I go into the break room, I want to be able to pour myself a goddamned cup of coffee!"
This would usually be the prelude to two or three or four men charging at each other, tussling, bouncing off the walls, slugging, head-butting. At this point, the temp would be running out the door without getting his time-card signed. November Sun once asked Morgan why didn't he just hire your standard group of middle-aged women as office workers.
"Hell," Morgan said. "I got to give the stupid sods some kind of employment before I can get them beatin' the shit out of each other for money."
Most of the time, Morgan would overlook the fighting that broke out in the offices of Ass-Kickers, Inc. Not the day after Estime got killed, though. When he entered the front foyer, he found Dan 'The Cobra' Langfield spread out on the magazine table with Jason 'Devastator' Sears on top of him. "Don't you ever use my liquid paper without asking first!" 'The Cobra' yelled as he beat 'Devastor' in the face. "Ever!"
Morgan gave 'The Cobra' a kick in the ribs, forcing him off 'Devastator.' 'The Cobra' hollered as he clutched his side. "Ow, boss! Why did you..."
"I don't want to deal with any fuckin' shit today! You two spread the word that Constantine Morgan wants every cunt in these offices to do their work and nothin' else! That clear?"
Both 'The Cobra' and 'Devastator' were larger than their boss. However, the Englishman had fire in his eyes and the dent in his head was pulsing in a scary way. "Yes, sir," they both said.
After slamming the door to his office, Morgan dropped into a chair behind his desk and fumed some more. Whipping Chairman Burns had not exorcised his rage. That fuckin' space-cadet November Sun better find a way of making this voodoo shit work, he thought. Or I'll take one of those crystals hanging around his neck and shove it...
His phone rang. "What?" he yelled after he picked up the receiver.
"That's who you're talkin' to, bitch, and you better have a good reason for takin' up his time."
The caller cleared her throat and said, "My name is Audrey Borg. You probably remember me from one of the public meetings of the Zoning Commission."
"Oh, yeah," Morgan said, remembering the bird who was advocating for those silly old buggers that wanted to keep Jeremiah Bay. Good-looking woman for a darkie. "So, whatcha want?"
"From what I understand...you are now the front-runner for obtaining Jeremiah Bay."
"Uh...yeah," Morgan said, curious as to this woman's game. "Yeah, I am."
"In the past, I have found Hall Enterprises unwilling to reach some kind of compromise in regards to my group. I was hoping that you would be agreeable."
"Look, Audrey, you do know what I want to build here, right? It's an arena for extreme fightin', not some bloody rest home."
"Perhaps if we have a meeting, you'll be able to see another alternative."
"I think you'll find that I am willing to negotiate on just about...anything."
Morgan could almost feel the warmth of Audrey's breath on that last word. "Anythin'?" he said.
"Hmmm. Well, come on over in about an hour. That'll be okay?"
"It'll be fine."
After Morgan hung up the phone, he started to smile. Nothing like the promise of a fuck to brighten your day.
"They're up in my apartment," Andy said.
Mulder ransacked his knowledge of voodoo and came up with the meaning of 'marassa.'
He took another look at Andy who stood behind the counter of The Café-Mystere. Andy kept fidgeting and rubbing his hands.
Mulder walked through the shop, passing by the voodoo charms, potions and books arranged on the shelves. He knew enough about voodoo to recognize a few fakes. Apparently, Andy wasn't above gypping the tourists.
He found the stairs leading up to Andy's apartment. The door at the top wasn't locked.
The inside of Andy's apartment matched Mulder's predictions -- unmade bed, piles of clothes in the corner, opened bags of chips, posters of Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, an incredibly powerful computer sitting in the corner.
They were sitting together on a bean-bag, watching cartoons on a television with videos like "The Matrix" and "Aeon Flux" stacked on it.
They turned their heads to him and said, "Hello."
Mulder paused, then said, "Hi," and closed the door. He sat on the floor next to them.
"So...where do you come from?"
"Mississippi," the black girl said.
"Long walk," Mulder observed. "Do you have any parents who know you're here?"
"They knew we were leaving," the white girl said.
"They knew we would be safe," the black girl assured Mulder.
On the screen, Daffy Duck got his bill re-arranged by a shotgun blast.
"So, how did you know Scully was in trouble?" Mulder asked.
"We hear things," the white girl said.
"True things," the black girl explained.
"And what do you hear now?"
The twins looked at each other. They touched their foreheads together and closed their eyes, keeping still for a minute.
When they pulled back and opened their eyes, the white girl said, "The Book of Asabel."
"Ask the Seniors to tell you about the Book of Asabel," the black girl concluded.
"Okay. Anything else I should know?"
"A lot more."
"But we can't tell you yet."
"Figures," Mulder said.
Whenever Mulder and Scully went out of D.C. on assignment, Skinner expected something fucked-up to happen and something fucked-up usually did. This time, Scully had disappeared.
Mulder had called him up at mid-goddamned-night and told him about this. He also explained that he suspected voodoo was involved.
With no little weariness, Skinner scheduled a quick flight to Miami. It was another one of the moments in his life when his job seemed more trouble than it was worth. He found himself considering paths not taken before. Where would he be if not here? What would he be doing? Who would he have met? Could he have met someone who would be there with him, giving him strength to counter his weakness? Had he lost someone special and didn't even know it?
Oh, enough of this bullshit, he thought. Scully was missing. Time to start breaking heads.
He got some sleep on the late-night plane ride to Miami. As the engine hummed outside in the darkness, a dream came to him. In the dream, he saw an angel ; a honest-to- goodness angel with wings and a bright glow and all that crap. Its back was turned to him. He called out. It started to turn around.
Of course, he woke up. The smiling stewardess had touched him on the shoulder. "Welcome to Miami, sir," she said as sunlight blazed through the window. "I love this city. No snow."
So fucking what? Skinner thought. They didn't have any snow in Vietnam either and it didn't strike him as being a particularly grand place to stay in.
He went to a public phone in the airport and made a call to Mulder.
"It's me, Skinner. I'm in Miami. Anything new?"
"I'm afraid not. There's..."
A weird rubber sound came from Mulder's end. Skinner recognized it as the sound of a cartoon person getting struck by a mallet.
"Mulder, where are you now?"
"I'm...talking with a source." Before Skinner could ask questions, Mulder said, "Sir, could you do a favor for me?"
Skinner sighed. "Just what might that be?"
"The dead zobop Scully and I found...we believe he was working for a man named Constantine Morgan. I imagine right now he's a bit on-edge. I need you to go down there and see if you can shake him up a bit more."
"Because he's something of a tough guy."
"That so?" Skinner smiled a little. "Well...tough guys are always fun."
While Mulder was talking with Sue and Etta, Miles and Carranza went to talk with Mr. Rogers. It turned out to be a very one-sided chat. To every question they asked, Mr. Rogers would respond, "I cannot say to have any knowledge on that subject." He just sat in the chair of his simple, blandly furnished office and look back at the two detectives with a simple, bland expression.
Finally, Carranza could take no more. He slammed his fist on Mr. Rogers' desk and said, "Quit shitting us already, will you? Jean Estime was killed in the same ugly way as Sands was. And he was killed for the same reason. Because he was threatening your interests."
"Really? And just how he was doing that?"
"He was..." Carranza stopped. He looked back at Miles. His partner raised an eyebrow.
Carranza turned back to Mr. Rogers. "Look, consider this, okay? They struck you, you struck back. Do you know what happens next, fuckface?"
"I really can't say."
"It's your turn to get hit. Are you ready for that?"
Mr. Rogers sat without talking for a few moments, pressing his hands together over his stomach.
Then he said, "Do you have any more questions?"
Carranza stuffed a cigar into his mouth, lit it and said, "Nope. Fresh out. See you later, Mr. Rogers...maybe."
After he and Miles left the offices of Rogers Real Estate, Carranza said, "We oughtta keep an eye on him."
"Fuck, no. But I'm tired of these assholes waging a war in my town. And if we can catch somebody in the attempt of nailing Mr. Rogers' ass, then maybe it can lead us to Hall Enterprises."
"Agreed." Miles paused, then said, "You know, you came very close to saying..."
"Shut up, Max."
Back in his office, Mr. Rogers was still sitting in his chair with a blank face. He didn't look at the closet which opened up or at the woman in animal skins who stepped out.
"He was right, ya know. Those sumbitches Morgan and Sun are gonna figger out a way to kill ya."
"I better stay close to..."
"No. Not with the police watching me. I was having a hard time keeping calm with you in the closet there."
Sara Lee grinned her black teeth. She climbed onto the desk and stretched her lean body towards Mr. Rogers until their faces were close to touching. "Ah doubt it. Yer the coolest man ah ever met. You could look into the face of the devil hisself and not break a sweat."
"Thank you. Still we can't risk it. You should stay low for awhile. And we should stay apart."
Sara Lee ran one of her sunburnt hands over the lower lip of Mr. Rogers. "Ah don't like it when we're apart," she whispered.
A smile came and went on Mr Rogers' face. "Neither do I," he said, touching her on the hand. "However, it's for the best. Besides, I'll be able to take care of myself."
Sara Lee's face darkened. "Ah hope so. If anythin' happens to ya, ah will rip off the cocks of Sun and Morgan, then sew 'em back on the wrong person."
"I don't doubt you would."
Meyer Burnside played his guitar and wondered about the red-head taking a shower next door. He had seen a few odd things on this tour with his uncle A.C. and even odder things back in his hometown of Final, Mississippi. This woman, though...
When they checked into the hotel, he was worried about that the woman might be perceived as a groupie. (There had been a fair amount of opportunities for poontang on this tour, but Meyer didn't hold with any of that shit. Besides, A.C. or his dad would have kicked his ass for indulging in any of it.) After the woman flirted with the desk clerk, the baggage carriers and everybody else in the lobby, Meyer got the feeling that he and A.C. were *her* groupies.
He was grateful that they were able to find an extra hotel room for the woman. Neither him, A.C. or their drummer wanted to spend a night with her. "Oh, come on, little boys," she cooed. "You're not going to leave me alone in the dark?"
That's precisely what they were going to do and lock their own damn doors as well. There were certain moral considerations to be taken into account here. You just don't take advantage of a woman who can't remember her name or what she had been doing for the past twenty-four hours, no matter how wide her legs were spread. Besides...
"That woman is crazy like a mammy-fucker," A.C. observed. "And I bet you she's got more crabs in her pussy than the bays off Nantucket."
Still, Meyer thought as he strummed his guitar. She's a looker, no doubt about it. I bet I wasn't the only one doing some rollin' and tumblin' in my sheets last night.
The shower turned off next door. That's when Meyer heard another sound. As he picked a note on his guitar, he heard the same note from the other hotel room.
The woman was humming it; duplicating it with perfect pitch. He looked to the walls separating them and played another note.
Again, she hummed the note. He followed this up with a simple melody. She did the same feat again, only she stretched out the final note to a sound like the fading chord of a wind chime.
"Well, I'll be fucked like a duck out on his luck," Meyer said.
Someone knocked on his door -- pounded, really. That had to be A.C.
It was. His uncle marched in and tossed a pair of jeans, a "We Love Miami" t-shirt and a couple of sandals onto the bed. "This is for her," he said.
"Well, she's right next door. Why don't you just give them to her? Or are you afraid?"
"Don't be a smart-ass mammy-fucker, Meyer."
Meyer shrugged. "So, what do we do next?"
"Do? We do what we should have fucking done last night, goddammit. Turn that woman over to the police. Or the hospital. Or the mammy-fucking looney bin."
"She didn't want to go anywhere except with us." Meyer lifted an eyebrow. "Think she likes you?"
"Nephew, that girl likes everything that moves on legs. I don't wanna deal with her shit! We're trying to run a professional musician's tour here!"
"So we're still going ahead with tonight's performance."
"Shit, yes. I ain't passing through Florida without stopping at that restaurant. Man, the food there was so good..."
A.C. went to the door, looked through the peephole and his eyes widened. He yanked open the door, then yanked in the red-haired woman.
She was wet and only wearing a towel. "Woman, who you think you are, only wearing a mammy-fucking towel in the middle of..."
The red-head laughed, holding up the towel with one hand. Her laughter was so carefree that it drove A.C. into silence. (No easy task.)
She saw the clothes on the bed. She scooped up the T-shirt with one finger and raised an eyebrow at A.C. "Oh, come on. I think I deserve better than this..."
"Look, woman..." A.C. started to say.
"...especially since I'm going to be your new singer."
There was a silence in the room so deep that it was like the aural reverse of an atomic blast.
It was only broken when A.C. said in a low, low voice, "What?"
"Well, you are a blues band, right?"
"Uh, yes," Meyer said. "Yes, we are."
"Then you better get some nicer clothes for me."
"Now...wait...just...a...mammy-fucking...minute," A.C. said. "We've been pretty damn nice to you, woman. And we've overlooked the fact that you must be nuttier than a drunk mule. But if you think you can just walk in and become our new singer, then..."
"Actually, she can sing," Meyer said. "I heard her."
A.C. glared at Meyer, ready to rip him a million new holes. The red-head prevented this from happening by saying "Besides..." and spreading the towel off her body.
"...don't you think that this deserves better?"
A.C. and Meyer forgot every single word of the English language. The red-head let them watch for a few second before she re-wrapped the towel. "Now you go out and get me something nice," she told A.C. as she patted him on the cheek. Then she walked out the door, singing "Ain't nobody's business if I do..."
A.C. looked at Meyer. His nephew had a kind, understanding face, but was inclined to be solemn. At that moment, however, he had the biggest grin A.C. had ever seen.
"She's neat," Meyer said. "Can we keep her?"
BLIMEY, THAT HURTS!
The low cleavage and high hem line on Audrey's clothes weren't exactly subtle. However, Constantine Morgan wasn't exactly a subtle man. She just hoped that flirting with the man would be enough.
As she walked through the offices of Ass-Kickers, Inc., she felt like the smallest person in the world. God, they look like a bunch of elephants that learned to walk upright, she thought as she saw the massive office workers. It did not make her comfortable, especially with their eyes crawling over her exposed chest.
Still, she walked on until she reached the door marked "CONSTANTINE MORGAN -- FUCKER-IN-CHARGE." Next to the door was a desk with another large man sitting behind it. According to the name plate, his name was 'Blood-Sucker' and he had a hairy, scarred face. He could also type sixty-words-a-minute with no mistakes.
"Um, I'm Miss Bjorg," she said. "I'm here to see Mr. Morgan."
'Blood-Sucker' looked her over, then yelled out, "Hey, boss, Miss Bjorg wants you!"
"Heh, heh!" a voice chuckled behind the door. "Don't I bloody know it! Send her in!
Aw, hell, Audrey thought. I think flirting is not going to be enough.
Before he had found his new spirituality, November Sun had been Larry Brecht, a rising star in the Florida crime scene. However, even as he acquired power and wealth, he became less and less successful at denying the emptiness inside of him. He finally confronted the emptiness after he had shot three guys in the back of their heads and found nothing satisfying about it. Indeed, all the usual pleasures had lost their flavor. Neither a blow job from the warmest female mouths or snorting the purest cocaine had any satisfaction left for him.
It was around this time that Brecht discovered a book called "Unleashing Your Divinity" written by The Enlightened Master Pali Saruvilimaticak. He found all the answers he was looking for. Using the Enlightened Master's detailed plan of meditation, soul-searching and the occasional colonic, Brecht walked a new path which would one day bring him to the Highest Circle -- the most sublime pinnacle of spiritual actualization. That's how Brecht became November Sun. In between ordering hits and shaking down businesses, he sought his own inner nirvana.
Along the way, he developed an interest in 'exotic' belief systems. One of these was voodoo. His research into that led him to Jean Estime.
Now he was hoping that he knew enough to perform a ceremony himself. He had seen the altar Estime had created and remembered enough of the details, especially the can of Budweiser in the middle. When he had asked Estime about that, the zobop had shrugged and said, "This is a funny kind of baka. In fact, I'm not sure it's technically even a baka. I came across it by accident. Still, it can get the job done."
November Sun hoped so.
He took a breath and started.
After their respective interviews, Mulder met up with the two Miami detectives at the police department. "Anything new?" he asked.
Miles and Carranza shook their heads. Mulder sighed and rubbed his eyelids.
"We're kind of in a difficult position here, Mulder," Miles said.
"To put it in a fucking mild way," Carranza muttered.
"You want us to believe that Hall Enterprises and Ass- Kickers, Inc. are involved in a war? We do. But so far, we've got nothing usable against either of them. We need more than just a lot of insinuation about voodoo. We need some kind of provable connection."
Mulder nodded. "Maybe we need a new viewpoint."
"That's up next. Anything new about Scully?"
Before Miles and Carranza could shake their heads again, Mulder said, "Never mind. Let's go."
While Mulder was looking for a new viewpoint, Morgan was enjoying his viewpoint on Audrey's tits. "Soooo... whatcha want to talk about exactly?"
Audrey squirmed in her chair. To Morgan sitting on the edge of his desk, it looked like she was jiggling herself for his pleasure. His grin widened and displayed more of his gold caps in his mouth.
"I want to talk about...you not getting bought out by Hall Enterprises."
Morgan's smile vanished. "Huh? Where the fuck did you hear that?"
"Nowhere. I know that you regard Hall Enterprises as your enemy..."
"You bet your sweet arse I do."
"...but Oscar Hall is approaching a billion dollars in worth. If he offered a large sum of money to buy you out, would you take it?"
"Fuck, no! This is my fuckin' business and I'm not lettin' any Yank nancy boy take it over! And if he ever does come around and make an offer, I'll tell him to take his money and stick it up..."
Audrey said a number. Morgan blinked.
"He...he could offer that much?"
"Yes. And he wouldn't give you any shit about running the company or how you used the land. He wouldn't care about that. All he would want is the lease of Jeremiah Bay."
"Well, that makes no bloody sense. What's the point of havin' the lease then?"
Audrey was on the verge of giving an answer. Rules were still rules, though. "I don't know what his reasons are," she said. "The question is -- how would you react to such a deal?"
Morgan crossed his arms and looked the lawyer over. "You're pretty fuckin' desperate, ain't you?"
She kept quiet.
"You know, you seem smart enough not to let yerself get tied to those old losers. How did you end up on their side anyway?"
"I have...a certain association with them. Are you really interested in that?"
Morgan's eyes went down to her smooth, muscular legs. "Nah. Not really." His eyes bounced up to her face. "So...he would really make me this offer?"
"Huh. Well, I admit that I'm kinda two minds on this..."
I'm not sure you have one, Audrey thought.
"On one hand, fuckin' Hall Enterprises are pissin' on my territory. If they want to fight..."
Morgan smacked the dent on his head. Audrey winced.
"...I'll take the whole fuckin' lot of them. On the other hand...if Hall would really make that offer..."
"It's in everybody's best interest that you don't."
Shit, Audrey thought. I said too much. She closed her mouth while Morgan waited for an answer.
"Won't say, huh?" Morgan said. "Well, you gonna have to convince me that it's not in *my* interests, girly." He grinned. "Any ideas on how you're gonna convince me?"
This was it. Audrey had to either grab the bull by the balls or leave. She opened her mouth...
"Hey, asshole, you can't go in..."
Audrey spun around to the door. It opened.
He walked in.
They saw each other.
No, no, she thought. Not him. I can deal with anybody but him.
He looked at her and she wondered if he recognized her. That was impossible, of course. All the memories he would have of her would be faint dreams.
But would that be enough?
He continued to stare at her. He does know me, Audrey thought. He...
"What the fuck are you doin' here?"
Walter Skinner looked up from the startled black woman and towards the trembling Englishman. "I'm..."
"Get out of here, you fuckin' arsehole!"
Morgan strode towards Skinner and pushed him, jarring the assistant director back a half-foot.
Skinner did not like being pushed.
When Morgan extended his arms to push again, Skinner grabbed them and swung. Morgan was banged up against a wall.
The pain only made Morgan angrier. He roared and charged at Skinner.
He may have been angrier, but he wasn't any faster. Skinner blocked Morgan's punch with his forearm, then reached out and grabbed him behind the neck. He flung Morgan towards another wall, knocking down photos of English soccer teams.
This time, Morgan took a few moments to collect himself before he made another go at Skinner. The assistant director punched him in the eye. As Morgan stumbled, Skinner clutched him by the shirt, ran him over to his desk and forced his face down onto the polished wood.
That's when Morgan's extra-large office workers appeared at the door including a bruised 'Blood-Sucker.' They saw their boss squirming and hollering in the grip of some bald- headed stranger.
They stepped forward.
Audrey jumped to her feet, picked up the chair and held it high. "The first one of you steroid cases who walk through that door will never have to look for a seat in the theater again," she promised. "Because this one will be sticking from your ass."
They stepped back.
"Let me go, you fuckin' prick!" Morgan screamed.
"That's Agent prick to you," Skinner replied in a quiet voice.
Morgan stopped squirming. "Huh?"
With one hand pressing Morgan at the desk, Skinner took out his ID card and held it next to Morgan's ear. Morgan turned his head and saw an unsmiling face next to the words "Assistant Director Walter Skinner."
Skinner put the ID away. "Are you going to calm down now?"
"Yeah," Morgan muttered.
Skinner pulled Morgan upright. He allowed him to stand up straight for a moment, then slammed him back on the desk. The office workers clenched their fists. Audrey waved the chair as a reminder.
"Ow!" Morgan bellowed. "Goddammit!"
"Are you going to calm down?" Skinner asked again.
"Okay. Just wanted to be sure."
Skinner let go of Morgan and took a step back. The Englishman lifted himself up, but not all the way. He remained bent over with his hands pressed on the desk.
Breathing hard, he turned his head towards Skinner. The look in his eyes could have made flowers wilt.
Skinner accepted the look with little concern. He turned to Audrey and saw the interception she had performed.
"Thanks for the assist," he said.
Audrey looked at the man she had loved like none other and said, "Sure. No problem."
A LITTLE WISDOM FROM YOUR ELDERS
They played on the beach with the knowledge that it would likely be one of the last times they would be permitted to do so. Some swam in the water, exposing their pale backs to the sun. Others dug for shells, read Patricia Cornwell mysteries or slept in lawn chairs. One of them painted. A few just walked up and down the shoreline with sad looks on their faces.
They all tried to avoid talking about the larger issues at hand, but it could not be avoided at long.
"They're going to build a wrestling arena here!" Ledagam shouted. "A goddamned wrestling arena!"
"I think they call it 'extreme fighting,'" Theon said.
"I don't care what they call it! By God, I would like to show that son-of-a-bitch Morgan a thing or two about wrestling!"
"Could you?" Ru said.
"Hell, yes! Remember me and Jacob? Now that was a match!"
"I remember it clearly. It finished in a draw even though you cheated."
"I did not cheat!"
Ru shrugged. "Whatever you say."
"It would be a horrible thing," Dova observed, shivering despite the heat. "Having such a place on consecrated ground..."
"We have only ourselves to blame for that. We wanted to live in this world as humans but did not consider human law. Now all we can hope for is to make the best of this. And make sure Oscar Hall doesn't..."
Ru saw one of the old women stop digging for shells and look at a point behind him. He turned to see three men approaching their loose gathering from the far end of Jeremiah Bay.
"Who the hell are they?" Ledagam wondered.
Ru squinted through his glasses. "Is that...? Why, bless my soul, it is."
"What?" Theon said.
"It's Agent Mulder."
"And just who the hell is Agent Mulder?" Ledagam asked.
"Just a fellow who keeps running into odd things." He scratched his chin. "In fact...he once ran into Audrey."
Ru propped himself up to his feet. "Stay here," he said. "I'm going to have a talk with them."
With his sandals flip-flopping under his soles, Ru met the three visitors halfway. "Good day to you, gentlemen," he said. "May I help you?"
The tall brown-haired man looked over Ru's shoulder. "Are we intruding on anything?"
"Oh, not at all. But you gentlemen don't look like you're here to enjoy a good swim."
"Uh, no, we're not. I'm Agent Mulder and these are Detectives Miles and Carranza. We've been investigating the deaths of Downard and Kidder."
"Ah. Well, how may I help you?"
"Perhaps you can help us if we told you a little of what we've learned so far."
"Can you do that?" Ru asked. "I mean, I don't want you telling us of private police business..."
"No need to worry," Mulder said. "In fact, you might be able to shed some necessary light."
"All right. What's your story?"
Mulder told it.
After he was done, Ru looked down at the sand and brushed at it with his sandal. "Voodoo. Interesting. And you say that this...zobop is no longer alive."
Ru lifted his eyes back up to Mulder. "Interesting tale. But I'm not sure what you think I could add to it."
"Maybe you can tell us what the Book of Asabel is."
Ru's eyes widened.
Miles and Carranza looked at Mulder in bewilderment.
"Where...where did you hear about that?" Ru asked.
"Yeah, where?" Miles said.
"A little birdie told me," Mulder responded. "But you do know what it is, don't you?"
Ru closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them...
Mulder and the two detectives almost stepped back. There was something different about Ru. His eyes seemed to hold a knowledge only the foolish would dare to know. Ru still looked old but now in the manner of a tall tree -- tough and impervious.
"Most people haven't even heard of the Book of Asabel. Usually those who know about it have gifts beyond the limits of humanity or are just insane." Ru tilted his head to the side. "You don't look particularly insane, Agent Mulder."
Mulder cleared his throat. "Nevertheless, I have heard of it. Can you tell me what it is?"
Ru closed his eyes again and kept them shut for a long time.
Then he opened them. "Yes. I can."
After Skinner received promises that none of Morgan's oversized thugs would harm him, Audrey was sent outside. She stood outside the small office building of Ass-Kickers, Inc. It was located in one of the least respectable areas of Miami. As she smoked a cigarette, she looked at the other buildings on the block. There was a porno video store, a dirty hotel, a tattoo parlor and a McDonald's. Behind her was the logo of Ass-Kicker's, Inc. -- a shirtless man drawn with comic-book exaggeration holding up his fists and screaming with blood (presumably somebody else's) dripping down his forehead. He looked like he wanted to destroy the whole neighborhood.
A car pulled up to Audrey. She blinked in confusion as the driver's window rolled down to reveal a sweating, round- cheeked man. "How much?" he asked.
When she realized what he meant, she snarled, "You mean how much blood do you want to lose or how much bone?"
The driver jerked back as if he was struck, then stepped on the gas. The fucking nerve! Audrey thought as she watched the car take off. Does he think just because I'm standing on the street that I'm...
Then she looked down at her flimsy dress and groaned.
What a day, she thought. What a job. What an impossible job. Why was it given to her in the first place?
Because she had experience in this world. Because she knew how to interact with humans, including the unsavory ones.
Well, it's not working, she thought. I've tried every legal maneuver I could. When that didn't work, I pulled out the ol' T
She leaned against a parking meter and closed her eyes. Her neck grew warm under her sun. When she heard Skinner's voice, it got even warmer.
"Ma'am, are you all right?"
She turned and saw him standing two feet away from her. He looked as solid and strong as when she had met him before.
"Yes," she said. "I'm fine."
Skinner gave her dress the briefest of looks. Then she said, "Good. Mind telling me what you and Mr. Morgan were talking about?"
"I imagine it was the same thing you wanted to talk about. Jeremiah Bay."
Skinner frowned. "How did you...?"
Audrey flicked the cigarette away. She crossed the two feet between her and Skinner.
"Do you trust me?" she asked.
Skinner gave this a little thought and said, "I guess I have to, don't I? You've already stood up for me in a tight spot even though I don't even know your name."
"It's Audrey. Audrey Bjorg. And, yes, I know I don't look I'm from Iceland. Now let's talk, Skinner."
It turned out that the big federal agent hadn't really come to ask questions of Morgan. He just wanted to shake him up a little, see if he was willing to talk now that Estime was dead.
Morgan wasn't willing to talk.
But he did get shaken up.
In fact, long after Skinner had left, Morgan was still shaking, trembling, convulsed with rage. The office workers kept their distance from his office where the sound of shattering glass and breaking wood had become prevalent.
In that moment, Constantine Morgan had completely forgotten about Jeremiah Bay and Hall Enterprises and Estime and Ass-Kickers, Inc. He only knew that a goddamned American wanker had laid his hands on him.
And it would now be his overriding goal to kill that wanker.
"The Book of Asabel...
"I assume you know that the Bible was an edited work. Things were removed from it for various reasons. The Gospel of Thomas, for instance.
"You can still read the Gospel of Thomas, though. People know of its existence. However, there were a few things that were not only taken out but forbidden to be ever mentioned again. The Book of Asabel was such a thing. Every copy of it to be found was destroyed by church authorities or religious zealots. Its removal from existence appears to be total. To this day, even among those who know of its existence, none are sure what it said or what made it so frightening...so threatening...
"There are rumors, though...
"Rumors and vague legends...
"One such legend describes the Book of Asabel as being a prophecy. A prophecy about the end of the world, much like the Revelation of St. John.
"This was a different take on the story, however.
"In John's tale, God wins the final battle between good and evil, between heaven and hell.
"In Asabel's version...well...there's a different outcome. Put them side-by-side, the two stories present two possible futures. Neither of them are guaranteed.
"If that legend is true, then you can see why people wanted the Book of Asabel destroyed. It wouldn't be right for the church to use a book which offered the triumph of evil as a probable future. Revelations became the preferred text and the Book of Asabel became a vague memory never to be discussed in public.
"That is, if it existed at all.
"Well...that's the story. I don't know if it helped any. Good luck with your investigation, gentlemen."
Ru turned around and began to shuffle back to his group. Partway there, he stopped and turned back.
"You know...there is one little bit of info I've heard. Mind you, it's just another rumor.
"Reportedly, the beginning of the Book of Asabel has the spawn of Satan --currently termed the Anti-Christ -- taking over a portion of land that has been personally blessed by God. There's something about using 'the laws of Man to usurp the will of the Lord.'"
Ru shrugged. "Just another story. Wouldn't make too much out of it."
Ru waved his hand and continued on his way to his chair.
Neither Mulder, Miles or Carranza said anything. The only sound they made was the hiss of their shoes as they walked over the sand to a parked car. Silence maintained itself as they sat there with other cars passing by on the long black road next to Jeremiah Bay.
Naturally, it was Carranza who spoke first.
"Now *that* was fucking weird."
"What did you tell them?" Dova asked as Ru settled into his beach chair.
"Perhaps a little more than was allowed."
"What the hell does that mean?" Ledagam demanded to know.
Ru said nothing. He just closed his eyes and enjoyed the sun's warmth.
A hole was taking shape; a hole in the world of the living. If you gazed into it, then the great traffic of spirits was revealed to you. They floated by in a grey ether, continuously flowing, headed for either a distant corner of the cosmos or your own living room. Once you looked, you realized just how small your own perceptions had been before. You had never truly considered just how much unseen goes on until this hole had opened and the mysteries of death were revealed.
Wow, November Sun thought. Not bad for a beginner.
He had breached the wall between two worlds. Now he had to find the right spirit. He shook the gourd and chanted in a stumbling version of Haitian. Come to me, he commanded. You who had served Jean Estime, come to me and serve my needs.
From the shadowy abysm into which it had been thrown, the baka rose.
It passed through the grey ether of the spirit realm. The chant was its guiding beacon.
The hole was in sight. It became faster, eager for release.
It passed through the hole...
...and hit November Sun right between the eyes.
The mobster dropped the gourd.
Right back at you, buddy.
"Who...who are you?"
I'm Fred Udell. Who the fuck are you?
I tell you what, death was a helluva lot weirder than I thought it would be.
The pain wasn't a surprise. Hell, I had already figured out that getting shot in the chest would hurt...and I'm glad that I got that bitch Maggie just like she got me. Man, what was I thinking, getting in bed with that crazy feminist cunt. I must have been real horny.
Anyway, here I am, shot in the chest. Just like I thought it would, it hurt. And, of course, my goddamn bowels decide to loose one more brown 'n wet load before I depart this world. Then I die.
Next thing I know, I'm going down what looks like a whirlpool. I'm going 'round and 'round like a turd getting flushed. I'm thinking, this is fucking appropriate. Then I see what's at the bottom of this whirlpool.
Man, I will not forget until my dying day what I saw...
Well, I just won't forget it, you know?
The heat...the screams...the *things* with the long teeth...I'm heading straight for all of this. Whoa! I thought. What did I do wrong? I mean, I'm a KKK member! Since when do they go to hell?
I try to climb back towards the top. No good. I kept sliding. There was nothing between me and damnation.
Then I get snatched out of the whirlpool. At first I scream, thinking it's one of those fucking demons. But Hell is fading away. I'm flying through all this grey shit. I don't know where the fuck I'm going but it's gotta better than what I was heading for, right?
Next thing I know, I'm face-to-face with this goddamn nigger. He looks as surprised as me.
It turns out he's some kind of voodoo sorcerer. He was trying to summon a baka and he got me by mistake. I'm tempted to tell the nigger to throw me back, but...
You know. Hell is waiting.
Anyway, he's got me so he decides to hold onto me. And now I have to answer his prayers and shit. If he wants to me to kill something, then I have to do it.
I'm thinking, maybe this *is* hell. Me, the Grand Wizard of the Final Chapter of the KKK reduced to a spirit working for a nigger wizard. Christ! (Well, okay, it wasn't a big chapter. I mean, it was just me and Maggie after that smart- ass Nathan left and Ed got killed by a bull, but...aw, fuck you!)
Of course, the last time Estime summoned me, he didn't complete the ceremony. So I was stuck in fucking limbo until I could hitch a ride on that red-haired bitch. But then I get kicked out by...I don't know what the hell it was.
So, I'm lurking around the shit-sucking spirit world and hoping that Hell doesn't notice I'm not bound to any zobop now. Finally I get summoned by you, son. And that's why I'm inside your damn head.
Well, I tell you what. The first thing you're going to do is drink that beer.
"That limey bastard!"
Audrey got up from the booth. Skinner had to grab onto her. "Wait a minute!" he told her.
"Let go of me! I'm gonna fuck that asshole up so badly he's gonna feel like he's back in boarding school and getting screwed by his classmates!"
"Hold...on." Skinner tightened his grip. Audrey was about to attempt an break when she looked into his eyes.
He looked into hers.
They kept looking until they noticed that the rest of the bar was looking at them -- a large white man clutching onto the wrists of a black woman in a low-cut dress.
Audrey sat back down. Skinner let go but slowly.
"So," he said, "you were under the impression that Mr. Morgan had the inside track on obtaining Jeremiah Bay?"
"I didn't know that Estime was dead. That tea-sucking son- of-a-colonist-motherfucker..."
"In other words, you were willing to become an accomplice with a murderer?"
Audrey's jaw locked tight. She and Skinner had come to a bar in order to discuss their sides of the story. She had told him about the Seniors (though not precisely who they were.) He had told her about Estime and the disappearance of Agent Scully. During that time, she had slipped into thinking this was...the other Skinner; the one she had known before; the one she had seen die in a backwater Southern town; the one whose memories of her were cleansed by the changing of time itself.
This Skinner was none of that. And she had just confessed to something rather sordid.
"It's...more complicated than that," she said after a long pause.
With a deadpan expression, Skinner said, "Then tell me. I like a good story."
Audrey almost smiled. This Skinner may not have been *her* Skinner but he was still Skinner through and through.
"What was that?" he asked.
"That look in your eye."
"It's not a whole lot different from the one in yours," she said in a quiet voice.
Skinner became utterly frozen. He just kept staring straight at Audrey even as she reached over and touched his hand.
"I'm in a very unusual situation, Walter. I can't tell you everything but I can say that I'm trying to do what's right. And deep down you know that's true."
Skinner looked down at Audrey's hand.
"I'm not one to rely on any kind of intuition," he said. "I want to be sure before I make any decision..."
He looked up.
"...but, yes, I do trust you, Audrey."
This time, Audrey did smile.
And Skinner almost smiled in return.
As mob bosses go, November Sun was an odd one. Sure, he did the usual things like order hits and oversee drug dealers but this whole New Age "Highest Circle" crap confused Davey Whistler. He had been working for Sun over a year and he still couldn't figure the whole theology out. Attempts to read that book by Pali Saru-whatchamacallit didn't help. Still, November Sun was still his boss and it was his job to follow him, no matter if he sounded like a flake. Besides, consistency can be a good thing in any form. That's why Davey was shocked to hear, "Where the fuck is the goddamned beer in this place?"
Davey was having a cigarette outside November Sun's beachside mansion. He was enjoying the flavor of tobacco along with the lulling sound of the waves when he heard that voice through an open window. It wasn't until he peeked inside the window that he could believe his ears.
He saw November Sun in the kitchen, tossing plastic bottles of water over his shoulder as he searched through the refrigerator. "Yogurt...carrots...lima beans...what the hell is this place? Some kind of fucking rest home?"
Davey carefully walked through the back door into the kitchen. There were a lot of questions he wanted to ask such as why November Sun had suddenly found fault with his usual diet or why he was talking with a thick Mississippian accent. Instead, he asked, "Can I help you, boss?"
November Sun turned to Davey with a scowl on his face. Then he saw the cigarette in his henchman's fingers and said, "Yeah, gimme one of those."
Smoking was another thing November Sun had disapproved of in the past. "You can only achieve inner peace if you cleanse yourself of all harmful chemicals," he had once told Davey as some unlucky bastard screamed in the next room during a session of torture. Nevertheless, Davey gave him a cigarette and lit it up for his boss. November Sun inhaled and let the smoke linger inside before breathing out.
"Oh, yeah, that's what I needed," November Sun said, then looked at Davey. "You want to help me?"
"Uh...sure, boss. Whatever you want."
"Go out and bring me enough six-packs to fill up this damn refrigerator. While you're at it, go pick up some steaks as well."
Davey just stood there.
"Well? Got a fucking problem with that?"
"No, boss, no," Davey said quickly. "It's just...a little different for you."
November Sun smirked. "Oh, I think you'll find a lot of things are going to be different here from now on."
Skinner and Audrey found Agent Mulder back at his hotel room. He was hunched over his portable computer, fixated on the information he was reading. Skinner had to knock three times before Mulder said, "Yes?"
"Come on in."
Skinner did so along with Audrey. When Mulder saw Audrey, he sat up straight in his chair.
"Agent Mulder, this is Miss Audrey Bjorg."
"Hello, Mulder," Audrey said with a tight smile.
Mulder just looked at her for a uncomfortable period of time. Then he nodded and turned back to the computer. "I've been doing some research about Oscar Hall. What's interesting is what I can't find out."
"Such as?" Skinner asked.
"No father's name. There's a mother but she died under unspecified circumstances right after Hall's birth. And nothing can be found about Hall for the first twenty-five years of his birth. He just popped out of nowhere with a lot of money at his disposal."
"Where are you going with this?"
Mulder focused his eyes on Audrey. "I had a talk with one of your clients. He told me a few things."
Audrey clenched her hands. "Like what?"
"Nothing direct. He gave me some strong hints but I doubt he'll ever give me a straight answer. And neither will you, I imagine."
"I'm..." Audrey coughed. "I'm bound by certain rules."
"We understand," Skinner said.
We do? Mulder thought, then he noticed how close the assistant director was standing to the lawyer. What the hell is this? he wondered, then disregarded the question.
"Right now my major concern is finding my partner. Do you have any information that can help us there?"
"Walter has told about that..."
*Walter*? Jesus Christ in a Chevy...
"...and from what he has told me, I can say that the cause of your partner's...disappearance is out of my sphere of influence. I don't know anyone who can..."
"Wait a minute. I *do* know somebody."
Oscar Hall pressed his forehead against the long glass window of his office. He had just negotiated a merger with a growing software company, conferred with an Italian spy ring, made sure that a promising young director would never make the film of his dreams, convinced the FDA to approve a new antidepressant, bought a hockey team and had a lunch with members of the Miami Zoning Commission. All kinds of sycophants had passed through his life but he never met anybody so eager to suck up to power like this bunch. After giving them gentle assurances that supporting his side in the negotiations would not bring about any...unusual accidents, they smiled and held out their hands for their kickbacks. Chairman Burns was still under Morgan's control but she couldn't stand up against the whole Commission. If worse came to worse, they could blackmail her. However, it was more preferable to...
Ah, who gives a shit?
Hall hit his head lightly on the window. He needed a change of pace. He needed a break. He needed...
A day off.
His neck straightened.
Well, why not? he thought. Why not just blow off the rest of today's appointments? Why not just walk out that door? Why not just walk around the city of Miami and wander around towards no particular destination?
Of course, one good reason not to do so was his father. Oscar could keep him from finding him for the day. Over the years, he had picked up a few tricks that could throw even his father off the trail. The trouble was what would happen after the day was over. Oscar would have to face his father's anger.
He thought about that.
He concluded that he didn't care. Not in the slightest.
It took Audrey a couple of hours to track down the old mulatto. Skinner and Mulder followed her through the streets of Miami. Mulder kept quiet throughout his guided tour. To his surprise, so did Skinner. Usually, his superior would be the first to complain about this kind of vague, suspicious behavior. Instead, he was acting like...
Well, like a man in love.
Mulder had no idea what was going on there but he found that he did trust Audrey. At least, as much as anybody else in this whole mess.
And with Scully missing, he was not about to turn down any form of help.
They found the old mulatto on a pier connected to a public beach. He was sitting on a bench and eating from a bag of licorice while watching the street musicians, sidewalk vendors, swimmers, weightlifters and parents holding onto hyperactive children. He did not look up when three people stopped by his bench.
"Hello," Audrey said.
"I've brought two people with me. They are looking for a friend of theirs."
"Agent Scully?" he said, still not looking up.
Mulder stepped forward and clutched the back of the bench. "Do you know where she is?"
"She is being looked over by an associate of mine. She's safe."
"What do you mean? Just who are you?"
The old mulatto looked up. There was a look in his eyes that made Mulder back off.
"You're a smart boy, Mulder. You can figure it out." The old mulatto popped another licorice into his mouth.
"I...I just want to know she's all right. I want to see her."
"You will, Mulder. Soon. You'll see her. In fact..." The old mulatto smiled. "You might like what you see."
THE NEW DRUMMER
"Ah, A.C. How are you, mon?"
"This mammy-fucking world still has me by the nuts, Buju."
"So it does for ev'ryone. And here is your nephew, I see."
"Pleased to meet you, Buju," Meyer said.
"And I am pleased to meet one of the best blues guitarists in the country," Buju replied, shaking Meyer's hand.
"Well, A.C. tells me you are one of the best cooks in the country."
"Ah, damn," A.C. grumbled. "I better get out of here before you two start sucking each other's dicks."
A.C. left the restaurant.
"Uh," Meyer said. "pardon me for asking, Buju, but..."
"Yes, Meyer. Your uncle was like dis when I met him years ago, too."
"Just checking. Speaking of which, I need to do a sound check on your stage."
"Sure, mon. You go ahead. I'm looking forward to hearing de tree of you tonight."
"We've added a singer. A woman."
"Mus' be good."
"Yes. Well, I think so. Actually, I'm not sure."
"No." Meyer grinned. "But it will be fun to find out."
Constantine Morgan headed for the oak door of Oscar Hall's office, a plush carpet being stomped under his feet and a five-foot secretary standing in his way.
"Excuse me, but you can't go in there," she warned.
"Out of my way, you stupid bi..."
The knife came out just as he was about to push her aside. Morgan came to a dead halt with shiny metal an inch from his face.
"You have to have an appointment," the secretary informed him in a quiet voice as she held the knife towards Morgan's nose.
"Look..." Morgan said as he backed up. "He'll talk to me, 'kay? The name is Constantine Morgan."
"I don't care who you are. You need an appointment."
"If you'll just tell him I'm here..."
"I can't do that, sir. Mr. Hall isn't in right now."
"Where is he?"
"That's what I would like to fucking know."
Morgan spun around and saw an old man with the meanest face he had ever seen. He felt a chill just looking at him; a fear he couldn't control. The secretary lowered her knife. Morgan heard a slight quaver in her voice as she said, "I don't know, sir. He just left and didn't leave any messages."
"The moment he's here, you let me know or you'll be terminated. And I don't mean fired." The old man then turned his cold, cold eyes onto Morgan. "You..."
The Englishman gulped.
"Come with me."
The old man lurched into Oscar Hall's office, nearly cracking the door as he swung it open. Morgan toddled after him.
"What is it you want to speak about?" the old man asked, standing in the middle of the office.
"Um, maybe this is..."
Morgan jumped when he heard the door slam. He looked at it, wondering if the secretary had closed it but doubting it for some uncomfortable reason.
"This is what?!" the old man shouted. "Speak your goddamn mind!"
"It's just that...this is about business and I need to talk with Oscar Hall..."
"Oscar Hall is my son, which I regret as much as fucking a whore with pubic lice. Any business needing to be done with him can be done with me."
The old man's eyes bore into Morgan until he had to turn away. He had met some hard men in his life and he proved that he could be as hard if not harder. This old man was different, though. Standing next to him was like standing next to a garbage can full of dead babies.
"I know who you are, Mr. Constantine Morgan. You're the little trans-Atlantic shit who has been fucking with my plans." The old man stepped closer to Morgan who could smell breath like the odor of old vomit. "If I had my way, I would make you stick your tongue up your own ass. Since I can't have my way, I have to ask for the last time -- why are you here?"
"I...I want to make a deal."
Morgan kept his eyes turned and Hall's father was silent so the Englishman had no idea what he was thinking. The silence lasted long enough for him to want to start running.
The old man said, "A deal?"
Morgan swallowed. "I've been told that Oscar Hall doesn't care about what goes on the land. He just wants to own it."
"Who told you that?"
Another long period of silence.
Then Morgan heard laughter.
He turned to the old man who was the source of the laughter. It was a mocking, ugly sound -- the kind that a tumor might make as it spreads through your body. Still, he was laughing.
"Yes," Hall's father said between chuckling. "Yes, I think we can make a deal after all."
November Sun gulped down half of a bottle of beer, belched and said, "All right. First thing we've got to do is dump the spic."
Five sets of eyes widened in the direction of November Sun. The widest belonged to Raul Castillo. Like the other four visitors to November Sun's house, he was one of the supervisors in Sun's crime syndicate. Unlike the other four men, he was Hispanic. Up until now, his boss had never said anything derogatory about Hispanics or any other minority. In fact, a former supervisor had once called Castillo (and his mother) an unpleasant name. November Sun had taken out a gun, shot the man in the knee and said, "I will not tolerate racism in my organization. Do as you wish, Raul." Castillo beat the man's brains out (literally) and gave his respect to November Sun ever since.
That's why the last thing he expected when November Sun called this meeting was to be called a "spic." He began to stand up from the table where he, November Sun and the other supervisors were seated. "What the fuck did you..."
"Whoa, whoa," Davey Whistler said, placing a hand on Castillo's shoulder. "Let's not fly off the goddamned handle." He gave November Sun a pained smile. "You were just joking, right, boss?"
"No. When I said 'dump the spic,' I meant get tortilla- breath out of my sight."
"You son-of-a-bitch!" Castillo roared as he went for the gun in his shoulder holster. Whistler and another supervisor wrapped their arms around their angry compatriot, trying to restrain him. November Sun just sat with his feet on the table and drank his beer. He regarded Castillo with a cool smirk.
"Settle down!" Whistler yelled. "Everybody settle the fuck down! Boss, you can't be serious! Castillo has been with us..."
"I don't want him or any other wetback in my organization. I also don't want any nigger, hymies or chinks. Oh, yeah, and dump the Catholics too."
"What?!" Dan Berrigan shouted as he jumped to his feet.
"And the micks."
Whistler and the last two supervisors looked at the situation in slack-jawed bewilderment. Their boss had officially passed the line between flaky and fucked-in-the- head. He had just turned two loyal associates into enemies who would not be satisfied until his heart was on a lance.
With lazy eyes, November Sun looked at Castillo and Berrigan. He said, "Let 'em go."
Whistler and the two supervisors looked at each other. Well, they thought, if the boss wants to fuck himself up...
They backed to the corners of the room.
"I know you two want to kill me," November Sun drawled in his new accent.
Berrigan pulled out a knife. "At the very least," he said in a low voice.
"Before you two do that, I think you two oughtta..."
November Sun looked straight at them.
With looks of agony, Castillo and Berrigan began to kick up their legs, shake their hips, wave their arms. In a day full of surprise, this was the one surprise that made Whistler want to crawl into bed with a quart of vodka.
The two dancing men collided with each other like birds in a hurricane. Berrigan's hand was locked tight around his knife. He watched with horror as his flailing arm slashed it across Castillo's shoulder. Castillo howled but continued to dance. Again and again they collided. With every crash, Castillo received a new wound -- through the hand, across his cheek, into his belly. Still, he danced on even though he began to sag towards the floor like an old scarecrow.
Finally, the knife went straight into Castillo's right eye. As it was pulled with the eyeball stuck on it, Castillo dropped to the ground.
"God, stop it...stop it..." Berrigan cried.
"It stops when you have a grand finale," November Sun informed him. "Go to it, boy."
With his feet skipping across the ground, Berrigan threw himself against a wall. Head-first.
He kept repeating this until there was a sticky hole in the wall and one in his head. He stumbled one more time, then plunged his head through the hole in the wall and stopped. His body sagged like a washcloth on a hook.
November Sun finished off his beer, then grinned at the other three men and said, "Told ya there would be some changes."
The people were gathered under a shelter of pumpkins. The lumpy orange vegetables, their thick interwoven vines and the wooden lattices they hung from would have given protection from the rain if there had been any. Instead, it was a warm night, good for being outside and dancing.
This was what the people came to do behind Buju's restaurant. Usually, reggae music from the speakers got this melange of Jamaicans, white college students, sidewalk hustlers and teenage girls with black clothes and dyed hair moving. Tonight's music would be the blues.
Buju walked onto a small wooden stage decorated with speakers, microphones and a drum kit. "Good evenin' to all you good people!" he called out to the audience and they cheered back.
"I don't need to say anytink more than here are DE BURNSIDES!"
A.C., Meyer and their drummer walked up to the stage. Meyer shook hands with Buju and waved at the audience. A.C. regarded them with his traditional scowl while the drummer scowled at him.
After he and his nephew plugged in their guitars, A.C. shouted, "You ready to boogie, you mammy-fuckers?"
The audience shouted back a loud yes and the music kicked in -- a loud, raw sound from the heart of Mississippi. Against the drummer's hard beat, A.C. tore a rhythm from his strings and Meyer's fingers pulled out every last bit of grit to be found in "Back Door Man."
It promised to be a good night.
It was also going to be a surprising one.
He walked down the street without anyone recognizing him. Nobody was trying to get his favor, nobody wanted to work a deal, nobody wanted to sleep with him.
He couldn't remember ever being this happy before.
A restaurant got his attention. He liked the smells coming from it as well as the sounds. He went inside.
Mulder was in Andy Antoine's apartment with Andy and the twins. He was not feeling so content. Andy and the twin were feeling pleased, though. They were watching a Powerpuff Girls marathon and giggling at all the jokes while munching on popcorn. The usually solemn girls were smiling a lot more than usual. This was due to the influence of Andy who acted like a big silly brother to them. Instead of seeming like the marassa, they came across as just ordinary girls.
Unfortunately, Mulder didn't need ordinary girls. He needed whatever insights the marassa could give. He needed to confirm what he suspected about Oscar Hall. He needed to find some means of interceding in this war between Hall and Constantine Morgan.
Most of all, he needed Scully.
Right now, Carranza was getting an update from all the police officers assigned to find her. He was undoubtedly giving them all a nice chunk of hell. ("You're telling me that all of you highly trained fuckers can't find one red- haired FBI agent?") Miles and Skinner were keeping a watch on Mr. Rogers just in case somebody tried to nail his ass. Mulder opted to stay with the twins in case they had something new to tell.
"Hey, which Powerpuff Girl do you like best?" Andy asked.
"Bubbles!" the twins said.
"I go with Buttercup myself. The one with attitude, you know. What about you, Mulder?"
"Blossom," Mulder muttered. "I'm partial to redheads." He thought about the old man he had met on the pier -- another person who knew a lot more than he was telling. And another person whom he couldn't make tell more for some unfathomable reason. And another reason why he was being reduced to a spectator in this whole mess.
He was getting close to the state of pissed off, but getting pissed off wouldn't help anything. Maybe a little food would help; something besides Andy's plentiful stash of candy and snacks.
"I'm going down to Buju's," he said as he headed for the door.
"See you, Mulder!" Andy told him.
"Have fun!" the twins said.
Mulder stopped at the door. Have fun? Was there some kind of message they were...
He shook his head and left the apartment.
If that had been your first time to see The Burnsides in concert, you probably wouldn't have been surprised by the actions of the drummer. He had been looking at A.C. with such loathing. However, you have to understand that this drummer had been playing with A.C. for the past ten years and he had *always* looked at A.C. like that. No one knew why exactly but A.C. could be fairly good at being a burr up people's ass.
Still, he *had* been playing with A.C. for ten years, long before Meyer had joined the group. He had just toured several cities with the man. Why should he pick Buju's to be the spot where he get up, toss his sticks to the ground and yell "I'm quittin' this fuckin' band!" at the audience? Why would he chose that moment to walk off the stage and never to be seen by The Burnsides again?
Life is full of such mysteries.
What matters to this story was that A.C. and Meyer suddenly found themselves without a drummer. They stopped playing and just stood there, flummoxed by the silence. The audience stopped dancing and became as still as they were.
The two guitarists looked at each other.
It was possible they could have done the rest of the show by themselves. Hell, a lot of the old blues acts used to work with just two guitars. However, it would be pretty mammy-fucking hard to shift gears in a split second.
That's why Meyer decided to take a chance by turning to the audience and said, "Any drummers out there?"
Silence dropped upon the dance floor again.
Then a hand raised itself in the back.
"You, sir?" Meyer said.
Heads swivelled to the man with his hand raised. The man they saw was good-looking albeit in a bland way. In his neat dress suit, he seemed the unlikeliest candidate for a new drummer.
"Uh, yes," the man said. "I could give a shot."
A.C. raised an eyebrow. "You could give it a shot? You ever play drums before, sucker?"
"No. I haven't."
A.C. and Meyer looked at each other again. Meyer shrugged. "Tell me what we could lose."
"Our goddamned self-respect," A.C. said. "Ah, hell. Get your ass up here, son."
The man walked up to the stage and sat behind the drum kit. "Okay, okay," he said, looking around him. "What do I...uh..."
"I think you might need these," Meyer said, holding out sticks to the man.
"Oh, yeah. Thanks." The man took the sticks from Meyer and looked at them as if he had never seen such a thing in his life. A.C. rolled his eyes. The audience started to giggle.
The new drummer looked at the sticks, skins, pedal and cymbals. His eyes analyzed each carefully before he asked, "Ready to go?"
"Yes, we're fucking ready to go!" A.C. snapped. "What do you think we're..."
The new man hit his drums.
A.C. and Meyer blinked. The audience gasped. They were all hearing the hardest, funkiest beat that had ever inserted itself in their ears.
"Well, ain't that a mammy-fucker?" Meyer observed, then shrugged. A.C. shrugged back and both of them attacked their strings again. Getting over its shock, the audience applauded and danced. Man, they all thought. This guy plays drums like the devil himself.
That was somewhat true.
Mulder hear the band ripping it up when he arrived at the restaurant. It sounded mighty impressive. A lot of the customers were getting up from their tables and crowding at the door, plates in their hands. Under other circumstances, Mulder would have joined the dancers himself but tonight...well, he had his own blues.
He found himself a stool near the kitchen. Through an open door, he could see Buju work his expert hands on herbs and meat.
He just sat there and thought about Scully.
Then the music stopped.
This abrupt silence was followed by a gasp of several men (and a few women.) Then a voice yelled, "Goddammit, girl, this is not your time to come out yet!" The voice was familiar somehow.
The next voice was even more familiar.
"Come now, A.C., you wouldn't hold me back from these people, would you?"
Mulder sat up straight.
"This is my mammy-fucking band and I decide when..."
"Do you people want me to leave?"
There was a big hollered "NOOOO."
"All right, then. Now, boys, play me what I want to hear."
There was another pause, a muttered "mammy-fucker" and then the band started up again at a slower tempo. This was followed by a voice that flushed his cheeks and caught his breath. The sound was warm, teasing, full of knowledge you only get from secret places."Do your duty..." it demanded of every male with a pulse.
That couldn't be, Mulder thought. It just couldn't.
He had to make sure, though. He pushed his way through the human blockage until he could see the band.
And there she was.
DO YOUR DUTY
Black looked good on her especially when it was a tight black dress with all kinds of exposed areas. There was plenty of skin to be seen on her chest, across her shoulders, down her back and up her right leg. Her blue eyes were bright as forest fires and her red hair seemed to have a life of its own as it caressed the back of her neck. Every movement she made -- beckoning the audience with her finger, turning around so they could see the slim yet firm muscles stretch over her naked back, bending down until her buttocks seemed ready to tear out her dress -- brought out a cheer or a gasp.
And then there was the voice which seem to create vibrations in human flesh like a tuning fork. It lingered on every lyric just long enough to get the point and quick enough to let you know that the voice's owner needed to be chased before caught.
"If my radiator gets too hot...cool it down...in a lot of spots..."
Mulder stared at Agent Dana Scully, feeling like his brain was about to implode. He was fixed to the spot. Movement and speech were denied to him. He was roused out of his coma by a familiar voice.
"By the sacred shit of the Goddess!"
Mulder jerked his head to the side. Gloria Kalahan had shoved her way into the audience. Like Mulder, she had been drawn by Scully's voice and was now staring at her in awe.
Then she noticed Mulder and grinned. "Well, this is a surprise. Career move for your partner?"
"Sort of," he mumbled.
"You know, I told Max that I don't go for scrawny little chicks like Scully. But now..." She turned her grinning face back to the stage. "I'm going to make it my goal in life to fuck that woman. I'm going to stick my finger in her pussy like I'm a little Dutch boy."
Before Mulder could say...well, anything, he heard, "Well, bless my soul!"
He turned to the other side and saw Buju. "I didn't know der new singer was her!" he said. "And I sure didn't know dat girl could sing!"
"She can't," Mulder told him.
"Trust me. She can't."
"Den wot the hell do you call dat, mon?"
"Look out!" Kalahan whooped.
Mulder turned back to the stage and saw Scully step off it. As the younger guitarist played sensual blues licks (and he was another person Mulder recognized in an odd way but that wasn't his main concern now), Scully made her way through the audience. People stepped aside for her but they didn't give her too much room. They wanted to be near her, to smell her, to feel her skin brush against their bodies. "Now let's see, let's see," she said with a teasing smile. "Just who do we have in the audience? Anybody who feels like a little loving?"
There were full-throated hollers in response.
"Whoa there, boys," she said, her smile judging as well as playful. "You are moving too fast. I want someone who knows how...to start out slow."
"She means she doesn't want someone who would shoot their wad in the first thirty seconds," Kalahan interpreted, then she waved her hands. "Over here, woman!"
Scully turned her eyes to Kalahan. Her eyes lingered on the biker woman for a few moments. She gave Kalahan an ambiguous smile (a promise? a polite deferral?) and turned to the person next to her.
She saw Mulder.
"Mmmmm," she commented. "Now this looks interesting..."
As Mulder beheld Scully sashaying towards him, he tried to get his brain working again. It remained inert like his body.
Scully reached out and ran her fingers up his chin. "Yes," she purred. "You will do nicely."
One of the tiny little elves in Mulder's head gave his brain a kick. Mulder started to say "Scully, what..."
His words were choked off when she grabbed him by the tie and pulled him towards the stage. He followed her like a meek dog. The crowd's cheers grew even louder.
Now, Mulder was sitting on the stage with Scully. She was bent down, reaching over to rub his chest as she sang "I'm so tired of sleeping by myself...but you're too dumb to realize..." Behind her, two guitars and a drum were making love of their own.
"What the fuck is wrong with this thing?" the elf complained as he tried to start up Mulder's brain again. The problem was that Mulder was losing himself in the sound of the music and the touch of warm female flesh. As Scully's breasts rubbed against his shoulder, he thought...hey...this isn't so bad...in fact, it's kind of nifty...
Scully touched him on the neck and he was pressed down onto the stage as easily as a blade of grass. He rolled onto his back and looked up at the woman singing just for him. One of her fingers were drawing circles around his nipple. A dopey grin stretched out on his face.
"Shit," Kalahan said as she observed this. "Some assholes get all the luck."
Mulder would have agreed that he was one lucky asshole. He was ready to surrender to whatever would happen next.
Then he looked at the drums.
And saw who was playing them.
"Son-of-a-bitch!" he yelled as he sat straight up. Scully backed off, surprised but not shocked. "Is something wrong, honey?" she asked with the smile still on her face.
Mulder looked at her and two thoughts popped into his head. Something was wrong with Scully; he needed to get her out of here.
With one smooth movement, he grabbed Scully, stood up and slung her over his shoulder. Scully's reaction was to laugh.
The audience's reaction was to boo.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing, you fucking mammy-fucker?"
"I'm a FBI agent!" Mulder yelled. "This woman is my partner!"
"I don't care who the fuck you are! You put my fucking singer down!"
The audience growled its assent with A.C.'s position. Mulder realized that he was not going to win any arguments here. That's why he bounced off the stage and charged out a side door before anyone could stop him. Scully was still over his shoulder and still laughing.
A.C. turned to his nephew and said, "Meyer...get my gun."
It didn't take the brightest man to figure out that Oscar Hall's father was the real power behind Hall Enterprises. Nor did you need much brains to intuit that Oscar Hall's father wasn't entirely human.
Mr. Rogers was a very, very bright man. He had arrived at these conclusions a long time ago. It was still unclear who (or what) the father of Oscar Hall was but Mr. Rogers was clear on one point -- the old man was his employer and he would work for him to the best of his ability.
At least, that's what he had thought.
The sudden appearance of Oscar Hall's father in his office didn't surprise Mr. Rogers. When he heard that scratchy, withered voice say "Time for business, Mr. Rogers," he just looked up from the work on his desk and replied, "I'm always ready for business."
"Good. Because we're finally going to get this Jeremiah Bay shit over with."
"Yes, I imagine so. Without the zobop over our heads, we..."
"No, no. I don't mean that. I mean that I've just cut a deal with Constantine Morgan."
The face of Mr. Rogers pinched ever so slightly. "What kind of deal?"
"As of now, Hall Enterprises and Ass-Kickers, Inc. are merging," the old man said as he sat his weary body in a chair. "Morgan can build his fucking arena. Hall Enterprises will own the lease. That's all that matters to me." The old man chuckled. "Actually, this might be the ideal bargain. I would love to see the look on the Seniors' faces as they watch the Dome of Blood get built on their fucking beach. That's just the kind of kick-to-the-balls I want."
As the old man chuckles grew into a cold laugh, Mr. Rogers said, "But why, sir? As of this moment, we have the advantage."
The old man's laughter ended and his familiar scowl returned. "Because in the next fucking moment, we might not have the fucking advantage. What if Morgan finds himself another zobop to do his dirty work?"
"That's not likely."
"But not impossible, right?"
"Enough," the old man said as he waved his hand through the air. "I want no more of this shit. I just want this done."
"I can understand that. However, you should discuss this with your son..."
"My...son is nowhere to be found." There was enough ice in the old man's voice to create a tundra. Mr. Rogers knew that there was no point in further debate.
"Very well," Mr. Rogers said as he reached for the phone. "I'll call up Mr. Morgan's people and tell them..."
"There's a couple of things you should know."
Mr. Rogers slowly pulled his hand back. He placed it on his knee and gave Oscar Hall's father the calmest face in the world. "What's that?" he asked.
"Morgan is getting a big goddamn lump of money for this deal."
"I had assumed he would."
"He also wants two people. As in their bloody heads on platters. One of them is an FBI agent."
"Hmm. Tricky. Could bring unwanted attention."
"We can handle that. The second person has to be someone in exchange for Jean Estime."
Mr. Rogers' face lost a fraction of its calmness. "What?"
"You heard me."
"Since when did Morgan care anything for Jean Estime?"
"Since fucking never. But Estime was working for him and in Morgan's world, they get one of your guys...you get one of theirs."
Mr. Rogers' chin dropped down to his chest. "I see. Well..."
"No, not you, dipshit. I *need* you. I'm gonna give him the one who actually killed Estime."
And then the head of Mr. Rogers sprang up.
"Where is Sara Lee?" Oscar's father asked.
"Can't you just...know where she is?"
The old man looked at Mr. Rogers for a moment.
Then he smirked. "No," he said. "I can't just 'know' where anybody is. I have many talents, but that's not one of them." His voice dropped to a near-whisper. "I know one bastard who has the talent..."
"Nothing. Look, I don't know where she is. And I doubt anybody I could hire would be able to track the smelly bitch down. So...where is she?"
Mr. Rogers let out a long sigh before saying --
"I am handing in my resignation, sir."
"Oh, come on..."
"It is the best decision I can make," Mr. Rogers said as he stood up and began sorting out the papers on his desk. "It will be improper of me to betray Miss Lee's..."
"Oh, Christ-on-a-stick! All this because she can give you a good fuck?"
Mr. Rogers froze.
"Look, I don't know that crazed mountain woman can do with her mouth but I bet you that I can find another slut who can do the same things for you and she wouldn't be so goddamned ugly..."
Mr. Rogers looked at the old man. There was such concentrated anger in his expression that the father of Oscar Hall...
He actually shut up.
"It is not worth my time or yours to explain what Sara Lee and I have together, sir," Mr. Rogers said in a stiff voice. "Suffice to say that it's worth more to me than your employment."
The old man raised himself to his feet.
"There is more at stake here than just your employment, Mr. Rogers."
Mr. Rogers hesitated, judging the look in those ancient eyes.
"I can see that," he said. "However, nothing you can do will make me reveal Sara Lee's location."
"I don't doubt that. I don't doubt that at all, but..."
The old man walked around the desk. Mr. Rogers stood his ground even when the old man grabbed him by the chest and felt those long, yellow nails draw blood.
"...you're going to damn well help me anyway."
"I'm telling you, you great lunatic! I'm an FBI agent!"
"Then show me your mammy-fucking ID!"
"Put down your fucking gun!"
This conversation was held by two men running through the streets of downtown Miami, one of them chasing after the other. The chaser was a black man holding a shotgun. The chased was a white man who was carrying a woman over his shoulder. The woman was wearing a provocative dress and laughing.
Of course, everybody got out of their way.
It was a difficult run for Agent Mulder, what with carrying Scully. Luckily, the Café-Mystere was only a few blocks away from Buju's. He was almost out of breath when he reached the front door.
The locked front door.
His banging and loud cries brought Andy to an upstairs window. He looked down at Mulder and said, "Jeez, what is it?"
"Open the damn door!"
"What's wrong? Who is that..."
"Freeze, you mammy-fucker!"
Mulder carefully turned around, his merry partner spinning with him. When Andy saw A.C., he zipped back inside.
"All right, you little peckerwood," A.C. growled, his shotgun's barrels aligned with Mulder's heart. "Nobody fucks with my performance. Now you put my singer down!"
"Look, sir, I...what's your name?"
"Hello, A.C.!" two voices called out.
With a stunned expression, A.C. looked up at the window. Sue and Etta waved at him.
"What the fuck are you girls doing here?" he called back.
Mulder said, "Uh...you know them?"
"They're my goddamned nieces!"
Mulder looked up at the twins. They nodded back.
He sighed and lowered Scully back to the ground. "Oh, my, what a scrumptious ride!" she said, hugging herself to him.
"Well, as long as you had fun..."
FOUND ONE, LOST THREE
"So who are you in love with, Skinner?"
Walter Skinner turned to Max Miles who was sitting next to him in a car. The car was parked across the street from the offices of Rogers Real Estate.
"Who are you in love with?"
"What the hell makes you ask that?"
"Because you have the look. You're thinking about somebody and they're very dear to you."
Clever little bastard, Skinner thought. As a matter of fact, he was thinking about such a person. This was a big surprise to him considering that he had met this person just today.
Or had he? There was a familiarity to her, aggravating and elusive. He couldn't describe it but a connection existed between them. It was as if they were soulmates, destined to be together even as adversity and danger threatened to...
I've been hanging around Mulder too long, Skinner thought.
"So who's the lucky woman?" Miles grinned. "Or the lucky man?"
Before Skinner could respond (or slap Miles on the head), his cellular phone buzzed. "Skinner," he answered. As he listened, he looked...well, you couldn't exactly say 'happier' but he didn't look displeased with the news being received. "Where?...What do you mean, it's hard to explain...Well, is she all right?...Uh-huh...Okay, okay, but I want a full explanation when we meet."
Skinner disconnected his phone and grumbled, "Not that an explanation is fucking likely."
"They found Scully. She's fine."
"Great! Where did they..."
"Mulder was a...little vague with the details. As is usual. But he assured me that she's in no danger."
"Okay, then. That's what matters."
"He cares a lot about her, doesn't he?"
"Mulder and Scully, you mean? Yeah, he does."
"Sort of a package deal, aren't they? You want one, you have to take the other."
Skinner gave Miles a perplexed look. "I suppose so. Why are you asking?"
Miles grinned. "Two-for-one is a great bargain."
It took precisely one minute for Skinner to interpret this. "Oh," he said.
Skinner was silent for a few moments, then said, "You people are funny."
"Excuse me? My people?"
"I can understand why a person might be attracted to their own gender..."
"Can you now?"
Skinner gave Miles a little smile. "From a standpoint of logic. Course there's no real way to prove that to you."
"Nah, I'm just kidding. I have no doubt, Skinner, that your ass has been used primarily as an exit and not an entrance."
"Uh...right. What I'm saying is that...why both?"
Miles shrugged. "Life is just a lot more interesting that way. I mean, cock or pussy, cock or pussy. Why do you have to choose between them? One shoots and the other sucks. That's the only real difference. Other than that, they both go great with rice."
"I just don't see any difficulty in being attracted to both a handsome, dark-haired man and a beautiful red-haired woman."
"I think of one difficulty. Mulder's not bisexual."
"You don't think so?"
Skinner was about to ask for some hard evidence when Miles said, "Hey." The detective pointed and said, "Who's that old guy?"
"I don't know."
"Well, why is he looking at..."
Mulder stood at the bottom of the staircase. He kept his body between the stairs and Andy Antoine. Andy was looking over Mulder's shoulder while licking his lips.
"What's happened to her, Andy?"
"What's...happened to her?"
Andy wiped his brow and said, "Elizi."
"I thought you knew your voodoo," Andy snapped.
"Well, enlighten me."
"Elizi-Freda-Dahomey. A loa. A female loa. Also supposed to be..."
"Ooooh, boys!" a female voice called from upstairs. "I'm *very* lonely in this nice...soft...bed."
"...something of a flirt."
"And this loa is in possession of Scully?"
"Well, sure looks like it, don't it?" Andy took a step forward. Mulder braced himself against the handrails, blocking Andy's fat body.
"Why is she in possession of Scully?" he asked in a stern voice.
Andy sighed. "To protect her from the baka. Elizi saw that she was in trouble and kicked the baka out from Scully's body."
"Well, why hasn't she let go? Is she still in danger?"
"Nope." Andy smirked. "She just wants to have fun. Sounds like she was having it."
Mulder said nothing. Andy tried to go forward again, saying "I better see how the marassa are doing..."
"You stay here," Mulder said, prodding him back.
"Aw, come on, Mulder! I can help them!"
"Love me two times, baby..." Scully sang.
"No male is allowed up there until Sue and Etta are done," Mulder proclaimed.
"Especially not me."
Andy studied Mulder's flat expression. "She does look good, doesn't she?" he observed.
Again, Mulder said nothing.
When A.C. returned to Buju's, he came back alone with a strange look on his face.
"What happened?" Meyer asked.
"Tell you later," A.C. mumbled. "Let's just..."
"Hey, where's your singer?" a biker lesbian called out from the audience. The rest of the audience shouted out variations on the same question.
A.C. gave them a frown that silenced them all. "She ain't coming back," he snarled. "And just shut up and enjoy the music."
The Burnsides continued the rest of the performance with their new drummer. The three of them played with such conviction that the concert's peculiar beginnings were forgotten by the audience.
After it was all done and the audience had cleared out, Buju congratulated the band. "Good job, mon. You really..."
"Yeah, yeah," A.C. snapped as he tossed his guitar into the van. "Meyer, you make sure we get our mammy-fucking money. Then meet me at The Cafe-Mystere."
Before Meyer could ask what or where that was, A.C. stomped out of sight. Meyer turned to Buju.
"Don't worry," the restaurant owner said. "I know where dat is."
Meyer nodded, then turned to the bland white fella who had kicked so much ass on the drums. "You really saved our necks tonight. And you say you never played drums before?"
"No," the white man said. He had a little smile on his face but he looked withdrawn. He seemed to be thinking very intensely.
"You know...far be it from me or any other human being to speak for my uncle, but I think he wouldn't mind at all having you on as our new drummer. I know I wouldn't."
Meyer waited for more but the white man had gone quiet. "Well," Meyer said as he scribbled a note on a piece of paper. "if you're interested, let us know. Here's our number."
The guitarist handed out the note. The white man looked at it as if it was the strangest thing he had ever seen. Then he pulled it from Meyer's fingers, put it in his pocket and said, "I'll think about it. I really will."
With that, the white man left the restaurant.
"Dis is a strange little city," Buju observed.
"It's okay," Meyer said. "I like strange."
Well, hello there! Aren't you two the cutest little things?
"We are humbled by your presence, Elizi."
And so polite! I just want to smother you with kisses!
"Elizi, we are speaking for the woman known as Dana Scully."
Oh, that little red-head squirming on the bed there? What about her?
Gasp! Now why would I do a thing like that?
"Because she is safe now. She no longer needs your protection."
Maybe not, but she sure needs some other things. A little song, a little dance, a little prick in the pants...
"Please, Elizi. Let her be herself again."
Oh, all right. I don't know if that good-looking partner would want the old Scully back.
"It is her real self that he loves."
Mmmm, that's what they all say.
She was underwater but she could still breathe. Above the surface was a face blurred into wavy lines. Words could only reach her ears in the form of honks and whistles. She remained in the water, unsure of what to do next.
Then a hand reached down to her. She studied the hand for a long time until it became familiar. It was a hand she had grasped onto in many a tight spot. There was no reason not to hold onto it now.
Mulder watched Scully's eyelids rise and fall as he held her hand. The twins had called him up to Andy's apartment a minute ago. He had found his partner in a semi-conscious state on the bed, no longer teasing and beckoning him (That hadn't been all bad, but...aw, hell.)
Finally, the eyelids stayed up. Scully began to look right and left, taking in her surroundings. After examining the messy contents of Andy's domain, she turned her gaze to the man at her side.
"Sing for me, Scully."
She decided to oblige. "Our house...in the middle of the street...our house...in the middle..."
"Horrible," he said, then he smiled, raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Welcome back."
"Well. Nice to be back. From wherever the hell I was." Then she saw two little girls with the calm faces. "Uh, who are they?"
"I WANT TO SEE MY MAMMY-FUCKING SINGER!"
"Forget them," Scully said, looking at the door leading to the staircase. "Who is that?"
Scully turned her head back to Mulder and looked at the amusement which he couldn't keep on his face. "Why," she said. "do I get the feeling that I'm going to be really embarrassed about something?"
"Look at what you're wearing."
She did. And she groaned.
Audrey Bjorg paced the floor of her cheap apartment and considered different scenarios. All of them ended up in a big pile of shit.
Hello, Walter. I'm an...
We met before, Walter. In a town called Final. You don't remember this because...
I saw you die, Walter. That's why I...
From any angle you wanted to approach it, Audrey saw it all going to hell. It looked impossible to explain the truth even if she could be allowed to do so.
"That's 'cause you want to play it from both sides."
She spun around. In her apartment was a handsome, thickly- built white man in jeans and a John Deere cap. He was drinking a beer.
"You reading my mind, Meyer?" she snapped.
"Fuck, no," the ghost of Meyer Spiegelman said. "I don't need to. Your problem is as obvious as the shit falling out of a horse's ass."
"Yeah," Audrey sighed. "Yes, it is."
"Thing is...it's not your only problem. There's still the little matter of Jeremiah Bay."
"I know, I know. And that's going to hell in a Martha Stewart wicker basket."
"'Course the way I see it, your problem with Skinner and the problem with Jeremiah Bay have the same defect in 'em."
"What do you mean?"
Spiegelman chugged down a mouthful of beer, wiped his lips and said, "Like I said, you're trying to play it both ways. You're working on two different territories -- the earthly and the celestial. And the two of them are fucking each other in the butt. You can't get them to cooperate."
Audrey considered that, then said, "That is the goddamned heart of the matter, isn't it?"
"You betcha," Spiegelman said and took another swig of beer.
"So you have any bright ideas on how to solve it?"
"Welllll...seems to me that you have to choose one or the other, right?"
Audrey wrapped her arms around herself and looked away. She gave no answer.
"I leave you to chew on that one," Spiegelman told her before draining his can, tossing it aside and vanishing. Audrey kept still and quiet until she noticed the can lying on the floor.
"Hey, clean up after yourself, asshole!" she shouted.
Spiegelman made no re-appearance. She sighed, tossed the can into a wastebasket and decided that she needed to talk to Skinner. He had given her his cell number. "Call me anytime," he had said.
When she tried to reach him, however, there was no answer.
This didn't give her a bad feeling.
It gave her a piss-as-cold-as-ice water feeling.
"So let me get this straight. I was attacked by a baka..."
"That's right," Andy said.
"...rescued by a loa named Elizi..."
"Yes, ma'am," Sue and Etta told her.
"...and wound up as a singer in your band."
"That's the honest mammy-fucking truth," A.C. assured Dana Scully as she sat in Andy's apartment and feeling more uncomfortable in her tight dress with each passing second.
"Huh," she commented. "And those are your nieces, Mr. Burnside?"
"Yeah and what the hell they are doing in Miami, I have no idea. How did you two girls get all the way down here to begin with?"
"We walked," Sue explained.
"We hitched rides," Etta added.
"Girls, that is so mammy-fucking dangerous..."
"We weren't in trouble," Sue said.
"We met a lot of nice people," Etta assured her uncle.
A.C. looked at the twins. He loved his nieces dearly but sometimes they scared the Jesus-loving shit out of him.
"By the way," Mulder said. "did you know that one of the most powerful men in America was playing drums in your band?"
A.C. turned to Mulder. "No, I didn't fucking know that!" he bellowed. "I have absolutely no shit-eating, cum- sucking, mammy-pappy-granny-fucking idea what is going on here!"
"I have to concur with that," Scully said. "I was in a band?"
"Not any more you ain't. You couldn't sing if I threatened to stick a bobcat up your ass, girl."
"Well...none taken. But what are we going to tell Skinner?"
"Considering that Skinner is here in town..." Mulder said.
"...we better consider that right now. Of course, he's..."
Mulder's cell phone rang. "'Scuse me," he said and answered his call.
"So," Scully said to A.C. "was I any good?"
For one of the five or six times in A.C.'s life, he smiled.
Mulder was not smiling as he disconnected the phone. He turned to Scully and said, "That was Carranza. Skinner is missing."
Scully's face turned blank.
She looked down at the floor.
"And Mr. Rogers, too."
It was silent in the apartment until someone entered the shop downstairs and walked up to the apartment.
"I'm here," Meyer said. "So what's up?"
LET'S GET IT ON
Fellow detectives in the Miami Police Department liked to call Tomas Carranza "Senor Sipowicz." They liked to call Max Miles other names too. However, neither of them were addressed to their face with any of these pet monikers -- Carranza because of his fiery temper and Miles because of his ability to break your jaw with his foot.
Curiously enough, Carranza wasn't above using the words "fudge-packer" and "cock-sucker" in the presence of Miles. In return, Miles would make light remarks about his partner's weight ("Pity the chair that receives Carranza's ass") and smell ("If you took a used jock-strap, filled it up with cigar ashes and barbeque sauce before burying it underground for three weeks, you would come close to my partner's unique odors"). These insults had a formal air to them and did nothing to disguise their friendship.
As previously noted, it was an odd relationship. What did a fifty-year-old, overweight, barb-tongued heterosexual Cuban have in common with a thirty-year-old, gleefully promiscuous white bisexual? Well, their jobs for one thing. They also knew that they could trust on each other in a tight spot.
Detective Lang forgot about this when he received a call from a frantic woman. "What?...Look, lady, I'm sure there's nothing wrong. Why don't you...Okay, okay...I'll send somebody out there...Thanks. Good-bye."
He shook his head as he hung up the phone. "Crazy bitch..." he muttered.
"Who was that?" a detective at a nearby desk asked.
"Some woman who knows one of the FBI assholes Miles and Carranza are working with. Turns out she tried to call one who's on a stake-out with Miles. Nobody answered."
"Huh. Think something's up?"
"Yeah, probably up somebody's butt. Knowing Miles, he and the FBI agent probably just went off into the bushes to slip each other the jammy."
Lang chuckled. The other detective didn't. Lang thought this was strange. Usually, the other detective would laugh at any joke concerning Miles' proclivities.
Then he saw the worried look on the detective's face. And he heard the clump-clump-clump sound of heavy feet behind him.
Lang didn't dare turn around, not even when the feet stopped right behind him, not even when a hand as big as a steak grabbed him by the hair and pulled.
"Aaaaah," Lang said as his butt floated over the chair.
"What's this about Miles?" a voice whispered.
"Th-th-the FBI agent with him...he didn't answer his phone! Ow, Tomas, stop it!"
"And you don't think this is cause for concern, you little fuck?"
The hand let go and Lang's ass dropped onto the chair.
"I want patrolmen over there right now. I mean, this goddamn instant. If Miles is gone, then there's going to be hell to pay."
A match was struck and a cigar gave off the odor of burning tobacco.
"And I've got the bank account big enough to handle the expenses."
Oscar Hall returned to his mansion, feeling uncertain about himself but also in a state of happiness. He felt so good that not even the sound of his father's voice bothered him.
"Where in the name of sweet fucking Joseph Stalin have you been?"
Oscar heard the voice as he was undressing himself in his bedroom. He didn't turn around. "Out."
"Out. Out, he says. Out, he says to *me*."
The old man hobbled over until he was right next to Oscar's face. His son still wouldn't look at him.
"You don't ever go *anywhere* without telling me. I don't care if it's the bathroom and your body feels like it's full of nothing but shit and piss. You keep your butt within my sight."
Oscar just nodded.
"It might interest you to know that while you were out sucking your dick or whatever, I guaranteed our acquisition of Jeremiah Bay."
"Yes. I made a deal with that British asshole."
Finally, Oscar looked at his father. "Why? We had the..."
"I already heard this shit from Mr. Rogers. There was an opportunity and I took it. Okay? End of story."
Oscar thought about it, then shrugged. "Very well."
"Is that all you can say? We've finally got that fucking bay and you just say 'very well?'"
"You..." his father said as he shook his head. "You know, that Constantine Morgan may be a son-of-a-bitch but at least he has some convictions."
"And a hefty price-tag as well, I imagine."
"Yeah, well...he wanted more than money. He wanted a few people so he could fuck them up."
"Sara Lee, an FBI agent. Nothing special. I personally made sure he got the FBI agent."
"Wait a minute. You...directly intervened?"
"The rules allow me to do so, you dumb little prick. Constantine and I entered into a contract. I fulfilled my obligations. Nobody can fault me for that."
"Uh, is this one of those deals where Constantine finds out later he sold you his soul?"
A nasty little smile appeared on the old man's face. "I already had that."
"I had to also take some poor dope who was there with the FBI agent but that's perfectly acceptable under the rules."
"Why do it at all?"
"Because I couldn't have him telling people he saw me, you stupid...didn't I tell you to take your head out of your ass?"
"Several times, father."
There was silence in the bedroom for a long time.
"You know," Oscar's father said in a slow voice. "I've just come to the conclusion that you don't care for the work."
"That may be a correct conclusion," Oscar responded in a calm, quiet manner.
"Uh-huh. Well, let me inform you on a few fucking facts of your fucking life..." The old man pointed one of his withered fingers at Oscar. "...everything has been planned for you. *My* plan. It is *your* job to follow my plan. If you don't, you will..."
"I want to be a musician."
"Who the hell are you, Miss Bjorg?"
This was the question Fox Mulder posed to Audrey in her apartment. She had trouble looking at him and Scully. After getting Carranza's message, they had tracked the lawyer down for some questions.
"That's not easy to explain," answered Audrey.
"Well, I assume you are someone who cares for Skinner. I don't know what the source of this sudden affection is..."
"There's nothing sudden about it."
"Is that another thing that's hard to explain?"
Audrey sat down on a creaky chair and held her head in her hands. Mulder looked to Scully, his face saying that he didn't know what the fuck to do.
Scully crossed over to the other woman and bent over until she could speak in Audrey's ear. (She had switched back to her traditional business dress. No way she would have bent over in the previous outfit.) "I've been...out of it for awhile, Miss Bjorg. I'm not sure about everything that's happening now. The only thing I'm sure about is that a friend of mine is missing. If what you know can help us find him, then tell us."
Audrey looked up at Scully, running her hands off her face. "I don't know if it can," she whispered.
"Let's find out then."
Audrey took three breaths.
Then she said, "Okay. Here's the deal..."
"Goddammit, I hate these things," Mulder said as he yanked out his cell phone. "What is it?" he barked.
He listened and his face flashed surprise for a moment before he nodded. "We're coming back," he said before hanging up. "That was Andy," he said. "Miss Bjorg, you're coming with us."
"What's this about?" Scully asked.
"Sue and Etta have gotten another one of their 'messages.' They know where our missing people are."
Constantine Morgan was humming "God Save the Queen" as he drove through the streets of Miami. He had just gotten a call from that weird old fucker who said that Skinner and Mr. Rogers would be waiting right where he wanted them. "There's some faggot cop with them as well. Hope you don't mind."
"Not at all. The more, the fuckin' merrier."
Morgan had no idea who Oscar's father was. (If he knew, he would have dumped enough shit in his pants to weigh them to the ground.) However, the old bastard got results and Constantine was now on his way to enjoy the results. He was in such a good mood that he didn't even mind the stupid warm Florida weather. Not proper weather at all. Gotta be misty and wet and always overcast...
His car phone rang. "'Allo?"
"This here Constantine Morgan?"
"Uh...yeah. Who the fuck is this?" The accented voice was familiar though Morgan couldn't think of anybody he knew from the South. (Damn good reason for that, too. Down there were nothing but drunkards who fuck their own siblings.)
"I'm your goddamned partner, dipshit."
Morgan was so surprised that he almost didn't stop for the red light. He slammed on the brake. "November Sun?" he said.
"Don't call me by that faggot name. It's Fred now. Fred Udell."
"What the fuck is with you, mate? Did you eat a peyote button or somethin'?"
"Watch it, you English shit, or you'll be dancing to an early grave."
"Look nothing. I'm calling you up to tell you that I'm gonna make sure the goddamned Jeremiah Bay will be ours."
"Forget about that. It's over."
"What do you mean?"
The light turned green. Morgan stomped on the gas.
"Meaning I made a deal with Hall Enterprises. They get the lease but we get to do whatever we want with it. Plus we get extra goodies in the bargain."
"Why, you fucking prick! Why did you go and do a thing like that?"
"Because it was a good fucking deal! If you have a problem with it, take it up with Hall Enterprises! Now, piss off! I got some business to take care of."
"Don't you fucking hang up..."
Morgan did just that. What in the name of sweet hell was with November Sun? he thought. Must be all that transcendental meditation. Wankin' for the mind, that is.
He pushed those thoughts aside. Like he said, he had business to handle.
And he knew just who to help him out with it.
A hour later after Carranza told Mulder about the disappearance of Skinner and Miles, the detective received a call back.
"Yeah?...What?...You know where they are? How the fuck did you learn that?
"Okay, repeat that again.
"I see. Look, Mulder...
"Yeah, I know this case has been all fucked up and weird from the beginning, but...
"Okay, Mulder. I believe you. There's just a little problem. I can't go to the fucking judge and tell that we want a search warrant on the basis of...
"All right. If you're so goddamned confident, we'll go in there on the whole 'suspicion-of-danger' bit. You and Scully meet me...
"Well, what now?
"They said what?
A long puff off the cigar.
"All right, Mulder. If we're going to believe this...source of yours, then we're going to have to believe their warning is correct. In that case, we need more people and I won't be able to raise a swat force because two little girls said so. And I'm not going in with just three of us.
"Four? Who's the fourth?
"A fucking lawyer, huh? Okay. They're pretty damn dangerous. Still...
"Wait. Wait a second. If we're going to get civilians involved in this...
"...then I know who to invite."
Someone else was inviting herself. She was the one who tried to contact Mr. Rogers but got no reply. She was the one whose blood-sharpened instincts told her that something was wrong; that Constantine Morgan had struck back; that her lover had been imprisoned.
She was going to start looking for him.
And hell was right behind her.
BLIMEY, THAT HURTS AGAIN!
Fifteen leather-clad lesbian bikers turned to the people entering their bar. Even before they saw the visitors, they could sense the four newcomers didn't really "belong." Three of them just cried out "cop" in their attitude and the extra woman with them didn't look very dykey.
For one long moment, the denizens of The Iron Pussy stared at the four visitors while a jukebox growled "You just made my shit list..."
Then Gloria Kalahan stood up from her table and called out "Scully!" with a big grin on her face. "Get your pretty ass over here!"
That seemed to alleviate the mood as the other lesbians returned to their drinking, smoking, dancing, kissing, whatever. Scully, on the other hand, felt a little nervous as she, Mulder, Audrey and Carranza walked over to Kalahan's table. It wasn't the come-on that bothered her. It was that Kalahan seemed to know something embarrassing about her.
"Well, well," Kalahan said as she leaned on the table. "Come to shake it for us, Scully?"
Scully looked at Mulder. He gave her his "I'll-explain- later" face.
"We need your help," Carranza said to the biker.
Kalahan stopped smiling. "Excuse me? My help?"
"Everybody's help. Your whole fucking crew."
"First of all, what for? And second of all, why the hell should we want to help a representative of your fascist, patriarchal pig-fucking system?"
"Answer to your first question -- I need you and the wonder dykes to do some ass-stomping for me. Answer to your second question -- because Max's life depends on it."
"All right. New question -- why come to us?"
"To answer that question, I would have to sit my ass down, order a beer in a place where you catch a venereal disease from one of the glasses and go through a fucking complicated story that nobody understands except maybe this asshole." He jerked his thumb at Mulder. "Let's just say that I've come to you because you are Max's friend and you're my last hope."
Kalahan scratched her chin as she regarded the detective. As she examined his face, she knew that this was the closest he ever got to sincere.
"All right," she said. "I'll talk to my sisters. However...I will only do this under one condition."
"And what the hell might that be?"
The smile returned to the biker's face.
The gym smelt like the devil's jockstrap. If you dare to breathe in, you inhaled a mixture of sweat, dried blood and dank water. Morgan was adding to the stench by smoking a cigar. He seemed unaffected by the smell, the dim lighting, the creaking in the water pipes and the brown stains on the wall. In fact, the gym's conditions were just he wanted. When his fighters trained, they shouldn't feel coddled or pampered. They were being bred to a level of pure viciousness.
As he leaned against one of the posts of a boxing ring, Morgan grinned as he thought about the Dome of Blood. He imagined a thousand people screaming and throwing popcorn at a steel cage. Inside the cage, two men were breaking bones and teeth, beating each other until they couldn't stand up, spilling thick puddles of blood onto the floor.
Now that's some fuckin' entertainment, he thought.
Speaking of entertainment, the rest of his party had just arrived. They lumbered through the front door, all twenty of them, meaty and thick-wristed and ready to go.
"'Allo, gents!" he called out. "Now, you're probably wonderin' why I..."
Then he saw who was with them.
"Fuckin' hell! Which one of you cunts brought her?"
"Uh, that would be me, boss," Walt 'Speed Demon' March said. "I was working late at the office when you called and then she showed up and..."
"I just had to see you," Chairman Gwendolyn Burns said in a breathless voice as she clutched a leather bag to her chest. "I want...I want to do something new."
Morgan heard snickering. Oh, this is fuckin' precious, he thought. "Look, you silly bird, I don't want to deal with..."
"No!" Burns insisted. "I have to do this now!"
He sighed, then his eyes locked onto 'Speed Demon.' "You!"
"Me?" 'Speed Demon' said.
"Yeah. Take care of her."
"Go into the fuckin' bathroom and do what she wants, you git!"
"What the fuck are you afraid of? She's the one who wants to get hurt!"
'Speed Demon' looked at the little dark-haired woman and the eager look on her face. Then he shrugged. "Okay. Fine." He pointed the way to the bathroom. "This way, ma'am."
After Burns and 'Speed Demon' had left, Morgan addressed his fighters. "All right, men. I want you all to wait right here. In a few minutes, I'm going to bring up somebody. And then...well, you'll know what to do then."
Morgan headed for the basement and the nineteen huge men waited, cracking their knuckles.
"So," 'Speed Demon' said as he and Burns stepped into bathroom (as smelly and stained and cracked as the rest of the gym.) "the boss says you're into S
"That's right," Burns said as she laid the black satchel down on the ground. She bent down to it.
"Well...I guess I could handle that. I mean, I hurt people for a living."
Burns nodded. She unzipped the bag and reached inside.
"Well, how do you want it done?"
"Like I said..."
Burns pulled out a gun and pointed it at the fighter.
"...I want to do something different this night."
No clap of thunder has ever sounded as loud as they did. The combined roar of their engines made parents gather their children off the sidewalks, shop-owners put up their "CLOSED" sign and policemen huddle down in their squad cars. Just as fearful was the sight of them on their silver motorcycles with their short haircuts and their tattoos and their black jackets with the words "FAIRY GODMOTHERS" written on the back in shiny studs. Their bikes glided over both lanes in a smooth, even pattern like a shark gliding over water.
At the head of it was Gloria Kalahan. Sitting on the bike behind with her arms clutched onto Kalahan's bulky sides and her head on the biker's shoulder was Scully.
"Why am I riding on this bike with you again?" she asked into Kalahan's ear.
"You ride with us, you do it our way."
"So why are Mulder, Carranza and Audrey back there behind us in the car?"
"'Cause I want us to know each other better before we start fucking."
Scully made no response.
"You ready for that?" Kalahan asked.
"I don't know. You any good?"
In the car tagging along behind the Fairy Godmothers, Carranza asked Mulder, "You feeling jealous?"
"Of your partner and future dyke lover."
Mulder ignored the question. He turned to Audrey in the back and said, "You don't have to come with us."
"I know," she said.
"I don't suppose now would be a good time to ask..."
"I thought so."
The Fairy Godmothers thundered onwards.
Skinner was having that dream again; the one about the angel with her back turned to him. As before, he was woken up before he saw the woman's face. This time, it was Morgan peeing on him that disturbed his slumber.
"Wakey, wakey! Rise and shine!"
Skinner thrashed as the warm, rancid liquid splashed on his forehead and ran down his face. He closed his eyes and mouth as the urine burned his skin. The hot rain went on for twelve seconds. There was nowhere to go. Chains kept him immobile against a pipe.
"There you go!" Morgan laughed, zipping up his pants. "Nothing like a nice shower to get you up in the morning."
The assistant director shook his head several times, trying to whip the piss off his head. When he finally opened his eyes, he saw the dented head of Constantine Morgan. He could also see where he was -- a sooty basement with mounds of garbage rotting in the corners and two hanging light bulbs. Like him, Max Miles and Mr. Rogers were kneeling on the dirty ground, chained against the pipes running along the basement's walls.
"So," Morgan said as he picked up a lead rod and tapped it in his hand. "here we all are."
"I can see that," Skinner said, spitting the urine off his lips. "So why are we all here and why are you risking holy hell by kidnapping a detective and an FBI agent?"
"Think that's supposed to scare me, mate?" Morgan touched the end of the rod to Skinner's nose. "I got big money on my side, you wee little prick. I'm talkin' Hall Enterprises. Even if the coppers find your body, they'll never pin it on me. As to your first question..."
Morgan walked up to Mr. Rogers. "You know why you're here."
"Yes," the realtor said, looking as unperturbed as ever. "I'm bait for Sara Lee."
"Now, is she for real? I mean, all this shit about a mountain woman..."
"You'll find out how real she is when she's chewing on your guts."
Morgan kept smiling. "She has to go through a lot of people to get to me."
"Which she will. It's just a matter of time. To put it simply...you're dead."
For a moment, Morgan was scared by the matter-of-fact attitude of Mr. Rogers. Then he kicked Mr. Rogers in the chin. "No!" he yelled. "You're the dead one, fucker! I'm only keepin' you alive until I rip the tits off your woman! Then I'm gonna..."
"Shred my balls with a weed-whacker," Mr. Roger mumbled. "Yes, yes..."
"Well...right! 'Cause no one messes with me!"
Mr. Roger just nodded.
"As for you," Morgan said as he turned to Miles. "you were just in the way. 'Course, anybody who hangs around with..." He jabbed a thumb in Skinner's direction. "...is an arsehole in my book."
Skinner said, "And you hate me because...I roughed you up?"
"YOU'RE FUCKIN' RIGHT I HATE YOU!" Morgan screamed as he marched back to Skinner with the rod raised. "NO ONE LAYS A HAND ON ME! NO ONE!"
"You were the one who threw the first punch," Skinner replied, looking straight at Morgan. "And if you were to unchain me now, I could smash your ass into the ground just like before."
Morgan stood before the assistant director, his grip tightening and tightening on the rod.
Then his grip loosened and his grin returned.
"You are a tough guy, Skinner. How tough are you is the question. Upstairs...I've got twenty guys who are going to help me answer it. And after they've got their answer, you know what I'm goin' to do? I'm goin' to find that cunt you kept me from makin' time with and I'm..."
With a voice deep as a well, Skinner said, "Keep away from her."
"O-ho-ho! Someone's sweet on her! And is she sweet on you?"
Skinner said nothing.
"Well, if she likes you, then imagine when she gets to taste my dick!" Morgan squeezed his crotch. "Once you had an Englishman, you'll never go back to any bald-headed Yank!"
"Besides," Miles said. "with you, she'll always have a place to put her drink."
"Wot? Wot do you mean..." Morgan reached up to touch the dent on his forehead.
Miles gave him a tiny smile.
"Well, well, well..." Morgan said as he strode back to Miles. "...there's that good ol' Oscar Wilde-faggot style wit, ain't it? I've heard about you, you fairy cop. You and your degenerate ways."
Morgan stopped within a half-foot of Miles. The detective had a blank expression as he said, "I may be a degenerate but I wouldn't never suck on those snails you Englishmen call a penis."
"Oh, yeah?" Morgan reached down, ripped open his zipper and then yanked his cock out. "What do you call that, eh?" he snarled as he wagged the one-eyed snake at Miles' face. "That's pure, uncut, one-hundred-percent..."
Miles lunged forward. He had achieved consciousness before Morgan had entered the basement. He had checked to see just how far the chains would let him move.
At first, Morgan couldn't believe what he was seeing and feeling. Then he raised the rod...
"I think he said 'drop it,'" Skinner said.
The rod trembled in Morgan's hand but he wouldn't go. Miles pressed his teeth in just a little more.
Clank-clank, the rod said as it landed on the floor.
"Wh-wh-what? I...I can't..."
Skinner translated. "What my esteemed colleague wants you to do is not to move or else...well, you might just have to put some mustard and relish on that thing. Understand?"
Morgan nodded rapidly. His eyes were fixed on the sight of Max Miles with his nose nudged against Morgan's crotch and his mouth all the way up the shaft of his penis. It was remarkable that Miles could have swallowed so much so fast but, as he would tell you, he had lots of practice.
"Now," Skinner said. "here's what you should do next..."
That's when they heard the motorcycles.
ATTACK OF THE FAIRY GODMOTHERS
"Damn," 'Blood-Sucker' said. "Maybe one of us ought to go check on 'Speed Demon.'"
"Nah, he's okay," 'Mad-Face' assured him. "That's just his war cry. You know, he's getting all worked-up to hurt somebody."
"Are you sure?" 'Blood-Sucker' asked. "He doesn't sound good."
"He's fine. Hey, have you heard about this new office software? It's supposed to kick some ass."
"No, I haven't. What's it called?"
Before 'Mad-Face' could explain, the nineteen fighters in the gym pricked up their ears. A mighty sound was approaching them -- a sound that made their testicles draw up into the scrotum.
They watched the front door.
And something came through.
The two metal doora snapped off their hinges as they were struck by the front tire of a motorcycle popping a wheelie. The fighters scattered, clearing a path for the motorcycle. Riding on a cycle was a bulky woman in black leather and a smaller, red-haired woman holding on for dear life.
The front tire hit the ground and the cycle skidded to a halt in front of the boxing ring, turning sideways so both women could face the twenty fighters. The driver had a sinister grin on her face. The ride looked pale.
Then the other motorcycles came through the busted doorway. They came in one at a time, alternately going left and right. The fighters began to back up in a clenched group as fourteen more rumbling bikes flowed into the gym. A circle was formed around the fighters in the gym's wide space.
Nineteen men stood at the center of this circle, not knowing what to do. The bikers shut off their engines, kicked down the pedals and dismounted their bikes. Some were carrying weapons -- chains, metal rods, brass knuckles. Others just had their bruised and callused hands.
They were all smiling just like their leader.
The red-haired woman slid off the bike and managed to stand up on her trembling legs. She fumbled inside her jacket for her badge. "I'm Agent...Agent..."
That was when the fighters noticed something. They had the other side outnumbered.
"...Scully of the FBI. I would advise all of you to get down on..."
Furthermore, the other side was made of women.
"...the floor so we may search this building."
A bunch of women with chains and shit, but still...
"Do it now and..."
The uncertain expression on the fighters vanished and hard frowns appeared. The Fairy Godmothers saw this change. They weren't scared. They were looking forward to this.
"...nobody gets hurt."
"COME AND GET US, YOU CUNTS!" 'Blood-Sucker' yelled.
Before Scully's uncomprehending eyes, The Fairy Godmothers charged.
When Mulder, Carrenza and Bjorg arrived at the door, they were greeted with the sight of fifteen women and twenty men having at it. The melee in the gym was a blur of arms, legs, metal as well as blood and flying teeth. Out of it they could only absorb brief images...
A Fairy Godmother slamming a fighter in the groin with a pipe...
A fighter holding one Fairy Godmother in a headlock and hitting her with his fist...
Another fighter screaming as a Fairy Godmother's fingernails pierced his eyeballs...
A Fairy Godmother getting slammed against a wall and having her chain snatched away...
Scully pulled out her gun, yelled "Everyone, freeze!" and fired it into the ceiling.
The fight went on.
Mulder tried the same tactic. Still, no result. "Funny," Mulder said. "That usually works."
"Not this time," Carrenza said, pulling out his revolver. "And I wouldn't advise trying to shoot the bad guys. In that mess, you could hit our own people." He handed the revolver to Audrey.
"What is this?" Audrey said.
"Take it. You, Mulder and Scully go look for our missing sheep."
Audrey took the revolver, puzzled. "And...what about you?"
Carrenza rolled up his sleeves. "When in fucking Rome..." he said, then he waded into the fight. He grabbed one of the fighters who had one of the Fairy Godmother pinned down on the ground. Then he slammed the fighter's head on his knee.
Audrey turned to Mulder. She shrugged. Mulder let out a sigh, then waved at Scully to meet them at a door on the other side of the gym. Giving one last uneasy look at the squabble, she headed over there, careful to keep on the edges of the fight. It wasn't easy since the fighters and Fairy Godmothers would shift left to right on their battleground like some big trembling organism, knocking a bike over to the ground. Mulder, Scully and Audrey often had to step over an unconscious person or dodge someone else flying through the air.
They made it to the door, though.
There was another door in the back of the gym. Someone else used that door.
Someone with a knife.
"Bloody, bloody, bloody hell, what's goin' on up there?"
"Dot no, bub yu bedder nob mof."
"He said, 'Don't move,'" Skinner said, looking up at the ceiling which trembled with the sound of dropping bodies and screams. "And just what the hell is going on up there?"
"I do believe that's the sound of our rescue," Mr. Rogers suggested.
"Oh, fuck," Morgan groaned. He looked down at Miles and said, "Look, mate, I...I got a deal for you. Let me go and I'll..."
"No deam. We are all gobba say ret herr..."
They ran down a flight of cement stairs, through a narrow corridor, dim and yellow lights passing over their heads, wet puddles under their feet, pipes rattling around them, they turned a corner, a black door could be seen on the right-hand side of the new hallway..
She was heading towards them. Way behind her was another door leading to the outside, hanging on one hinge. The shock of seeing her -- her with the sharp eyes, stone knife and animal clothing -- gave them a moment's hesitation.
It gave her the moment to shoot her crossbow.
Morgan heard the twang, whoosh, thunk and the scream. "Wh- what the fuck was that?"
"Your end," Mr. Rogers told him.
Skinner wasn't thinking that. He was thinking that the scream sounded a lot like Audrey.
After the arrow had struck Audrey in the shoulder, she fell up against Mulder and Scully. They yanked her back around the corner and laid her down on the floor. Scully examined the protruding arrow while Mulder pressed his back against the wall, gun ready for another attack.
"Son-of-a-cock-sucking-BITCH..." Audrey growled.
"I know this hurts like hell," Scully said. "but you're in no danger."
"I can't believe it...I ran into that crazy mountain-woman again..."
Scully almost said "Again?" but decided to skip it.
"You stay here with Audrey," Mulder said. "I'm going to..."
Then they heard a door slam shut.
Morgan didn't have to turn around. He knew who was behind him. It was like the air had turned hot. He heard the door lock and the quick intake of breath from Skinner.
He glanced to his left. Mr. Rogers was looking at him. The realtor didn't look pleased. He just had this weary "I-told- you-so" expression.
The only one unaware of the situation was Miles. Morgan's groin was blocking his view. "Wotz goin om? Wot iz it?"
Footsteps crept towards Morgan -- steady like a panther.
A fist hammered on the door outside. "Open up! Open this door!" a familiar voice cried out.
"Oh, sweet mother England..." Morgan whispered.
"Wotz huppenin'? Wotz..."
That's when a hot, bitter fluid shot down Morgan's throat. It wasn't the warm cream he had grown to like (even if it didn't leave the best aftertaste in the world.) This was just nasty; nothing more than the yellow water of an Englishman's fear.
Miles finally let go. "Oh, for fucking Christ's sake!" he groaned as he spat and coughed. The disgust he felt, however, was nothing compared to what he felt next.
Released, Morgan spun around...
The wail from behind the door made Mulder step back. It made Scully freeze and Audrey forget her pain. The volume of the wail was loud enough to make it audible upstairs.
All the pummeling, kicking and ear-biting ceased in the gym. Even Chairman Burns stopped amusing herself to listen. They all wondered what kind of pain could create that sound.
She launched herself towards his chest. With the nails of one hand, the knife in her other hand and the teeth in her mouth, she tore into him. She went through flesh and bone like a dog clawing a hole in the ground. Skinner and Miles watched as every pint of the Englishman's blood sprayed around Sara Lee's face, bursting out in a wide pattern reminiscent of a broken fire hydrant.
Morgan remained standing throughout this. The rest of his body had gone rigid with shock. His face was a white oval with a small dark circle emitting a noise best suited for the far reaches of hell.
The noise continued until Sara Lee reached his lungs. After tearing them open, the heart popped open under her knife. That's when Constantine Morgan -- proud man of England, would-be promoter of violent entertainment, hater of all American wankers -- officially died.
His body sagged but Sara Lee bent down and kept it upright. She continued to chew, stab and claw. She kept going until a hole was torn open in Morgan's back and the body slid around her to the floor.
There she stood in the hole opened through Constantine Morgan. Her body was painted with blood and decorated with pieces of bone and flesh. She took several deep breaths while licking at her lips. Her eyes looked like two small black coals.
"You know," Miles said. "I could have gone my whole life without seeing that."
"I came for you," Sara Lee said to Mr. Rogers.
"Thank you," he replied. "Now I suspect that there might be a key inside Mr. Morgan's pockets."
There was. Outside, Mulder continued pounding on the door as Sara Lee unlocked the chains. "What about him?" she said, indicating the door.
"I think I know what to do there..." Mr. Rogers said. He turned to Skinner.
Upstairs, both the fighters and Godmothers remained motionless, listening to the silence.
Then one of the Godmothers bit off a fighter's nipple and the whole thing started up again.
"Agent Mulder," Mr. Rogers said. "We have Skinner and Miles in here. Please back away from the door."
Mulder looked at the black door for a moment, then he did as told. As he backed towards the hallway's corner, Scully joined him. Both of them had their guns aimed at the door.
Skinner stumbled out. Chains were wrapped his chest, pinning his arms to his side. A bloody hand extended over his shoulder and pressed a stone knife against his throat. Mulder and Scully could catch glimpses of a red face and a man's spectacles behind him.
"Please do not attempt anything," Mr. Rogers said. "My companion is in a particularly feisty mood, even for her."
"Do as he says," Skinner whispered.
Scully said, "Sir, we're not going to..."
"You didn't see what that woman did in there. Back off."
It wasn't often that Skinner had fear in his voice. Mulder and Scully glanced at each other, not knowing what to do.
Someone else did, though.
"Let him go, you crazy bitch from hell."
Sara Lee recognized that voice just like everybody else in that hallway had. However, the animal side of her nature was able to recall a sharper image than the rest.
...a long flaming sword drawing a red blur across the air before connecting with her neck...
The voice and the image stirred an emotion that she had thought long since gone from her heart.
Audrey Bjorg stepped around the corner, the arrow still jutting from her shoulder. The intense look on her face made Mulder and Scully step aside. It kept Skinner quiet, even though he wanted to warn her away.
"You let him go," Audrey said. "Or I will let loose the most horrendous, most violent, most grotesque, most blood- curdling, bone-crunching, balls-squeezing, shit-in-your- pants punishment ever seen in this world." She straightened her back and looked straight into the visible eye of Sara Lee. "You know I can do it."
Actually, she couldn't. Not in the form she was in now. Yet Audrey knew that Sara Lee would have a vague memory of what had happened before (or what hadn't happened before, to be precise.) If Audrey could put the fear of God into her...
Skinner felt the chains loosen around his body. He realized that Sara Lee wasn't going to let go, but she was nervous and confused. He looked at Audrey.
Now, her eyes said.
He kicked back like a horse. Sara Lee was knocked back into Mr. Rogers' arms. Skinner pushed himself to the floor. Audrey raised her gun.
There was now nothing between Sara Lee and three guns.
Interestingly enough, her terror was gone now. She was now just mad.
"Sara, no..." Mr. Rogers said.
Mulder, Scully and Audrey saw this blood-covered demon charging at them and heard this scream full of hate. What else could they do except shoot? Three wounds opened at the same time in Sara Lee, gushing more blood over the layer of blood on her body.
She kept charging at them.
They kept shooting. Each bullet slowed her approach a bit more until she looked like a woman struggling against a high wind. She was trying to keep her body going, trying to keep on the attack even though part of her left arm was lying on the ground and her right eye was blown out.
Audrey shot one last bullet right in the mountain woman's forehead.
Then Sara Lee fell to the ground, shuddered and gasped, "Pete..."
Mr. Rogers who had been standing still in place throughout all this (and had remained unstruck by any of the bullets passing through her) walked over to her, lowered himself to his knee and looked into her one good eye. "Sara..." he whispered back.
He saw the eye turn blank. He looked at Sara's destroyed body for awhile before he turned and pressed his back against a wall.
Skinner picked himself off the floor just as Audrey started to slump. He grabbed her and kept her body upright. "Thank you," he said.
She just nodded but didn't look at him. Like Mulder and Scully, she was staring at the dead woman and the man who had loved her. The face of Mr. Rogers was not just reserved anymore. It was void of any kind of emotion now. His silence was as complete as the dead woman's. It filled the whole hallway, engulfing everyone in its vacuum and lasting for a long time.
Then they heard Miles say, "Uh, could someone unlock me? And if you have a bottle of mouthwash on you, I wouldn't turn it down."
Nine of the Fairy Godmothers were down on the ground. Ten of Constantine Morgan's fighters were down there with them. That left six of Fairy Godmothers along with Tomas Carranza against nine fighters. The two groups were spread apart now, facing each other and waiting for another surge of fighting. There wasn't an unmarked face on any of them.
Carranza noted with the one eye not closed shut with a bruise that his side was outnumbered here. And the other side looked like they had enough piss in them to wipe them out. We need a little help here, he thought.
That's when *his* Fairy Godmother showed up.
"Hey, you got a pretty mouth, chum."
One of the fighters turned and saw this foot. The foot went straight into his teeth. Bicuspids shot from his mouth as he stumbled onto his butt. The fighter next to him turned. He had this brief glimpse of a very angry-looking bald man before a fist slammed into his face.
"Okay," Carranza said. "Let's do it."
Helping Audrey stay on her feet, Mulder and Scully walked into the gym. They saw Carranza, Miles, Skinner and the Fairy Godmothers set upon the last fighters. The good guys may have been still out-numbered but they now had two fresh guys -- one of them being a karate expert mad over having piss shot into his mouth and the other being an ex-Marine who was just plain mad.
It didn't take too long.
After it was done, there was only two fighters still conscious. They were on the floor with Carranza standing on their backs. When they groaned, Carranza yelled, "Hey, don't you shitheads know you have the right to remain silent?"
"Oh, what a night!" Gloria Kalahan declared. Then she turned a face with a broken nose and two missing teeth to Scully. "Come here, babe, and give me a victory kiss."
Before Scully could come up with a reply, they all heard, "HELP ME! SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME!"
Kalahan went to investigate. In the bathroom, she found 'Speed-Demon' tied to one of the stalls. His body had been stripped of its clothing and all kinds of welts had been opened up all over his body. Chairman Burns was standing next to him with a lit wax candle, dripping the hot white goo towards his penis. When Kalahan entered, she froze and stared in fear at the biker.
Kalahan looked at the weeping 'Speed-Demon,' then she looked at Burns. Grinning, she said, "I like your style, kid."
Meanwhile, back with Oscar Hall and his father...
HERE'S THE TORCH, DON'T PISS ON THE FLAMES
"You want to be a WHAT?"
"A musician, father."
Oscar Hall's father trembled with all of the horrible things he wanted to say at this moment. However, he couldn't decided which one of them to release so he took a breath and said, "Just what the hell is this about?"
Oscar put his hands in his pockets. He had a casual, dreamy look on his face. "It's about taking control of my life. It's about being something more than what you want me to be. It's about following my own ambition for once."
The old man took another few breaths. "Okay. You want to be a musician. Fine. Be one. You can add it to your resume. But that would only be a hobby..."
"No. From now on, it will be my life."
"I no longer have any interest in fulfilling prophecy."
The cane slipped from the old man's hand and fell to the floor. His hands grabbed Oscar by the throat. Those thin little arms hoisted the larger, younger man off the ground. As Oscar's face reddened, the old man yelled, "YOU WORTHLESS LITTLE SHIT! YOU MOTHER-FUCKING PUSSY! HOW DARE YOU THINK SUCH A THING? IF YOU TAKE ONE STEP OFF THE PATH I CREATED FOR YOU, I'LL..."
"You'll what?" Oscar croaked, defiance making itself clear even in that weak voice.
The old man looked at Oscar. Oscar straight back at him.
And the old man blinked.
Slowly, he set Oscar back on the ground. Oscar coughed and rubbed his throat. He still managed to look confident -- more confident than ever before in his life.
"All these years, I've been wondering about just how much control you have over me," Oscar said, his voice recovering. "What could you really do if I disobeyed? I had assumed for so long that you could punish me in the most horrible ways. Then...I realized something."
"And that is...?"
A smile appeared on Oscar's face. It was a small smile but it was his first real one.
"It's a free country," he said. With that, he headed for the door.
"You'll never be able to return," the old man snarled. "All the wealth, all the power...it'll never be yours again."
"I sincerely hope so." Those were the last words Oscar ever spoke to his father.
After he was gone, the old man sat on the bed with his head in his hands. Shit-and-hellfire, he thought. The little puke figured it out. He was right. I have no real power over him. Not as long as he dwells on this plane. So what the fuck am I going to do now? I've got Jeremiah Bay but the Book of Asabel said that my son had to own it. Without a son, how the hell is anything going to go forward?
Oscar's office phone was ringing. The old man could sense it. The ringing continued until the old man sighed, disappeared, reappeared in Oscar's office (his ex-office) and picked up the phone. "Who is this?" he snapped.
"All right. For one thing, the proper fuckin' thing to say is 'hello?' Can we try that please? Hello?"
Oscar's father was about to let loose a flood of obscenities when he recognized the voice. "Wait? Is this November Sun?"
"Yeah, it's me. Sort of. Now who the fuck are you?"
"I'm Oscar Hall's father. What do you want?" And why do you sound like a hick? the old man wondered.
"I want to talk him about this goddamned Jeremiah Bay. I hear that he and Morgan arranged some kind of deal. Well, I'm telling you that no deal goes down without me knowin' about it. Understand me?"
Something odd about this sucker, the old man thought. I better check this out myself. Luckily, I can use this phone line as a guide...
"I said, do you...understand...me?" November Sun yelled.
"I understand you perfectly."
November Sun jumped and turned. He saw this wrinkled son- of-a-bitch standing behind him in his living room (a living room littered with empty beer cans and some newly bought velvet paintings.)
"Jesus Chevy Christ!" November Sun squawked. "How did you do that?"
The old man looked the mobster over, taking note of the jeans, steel-tipped boots and John Deere cap. He also looked inside the man's very being.
"Ah," the old man said. "You've got a baka inside of you. In fact, you've become your baka."
"Hmmm. You're the same baka that was causing me all that trouble awhile back, weren't you?"
November Sun (and Fred Udell inside of him) trembled.
"You're kind of a vicious little fucker, aren't you?" the old man asked in a light voice.
"Power-hungry too, I bet. Want all kinds of wealth and status, don't you?"
November Sun swallowed, shrugged and said, "Doesn't everybody?"
"You'll be surprised," the old man muttered. Then he was quiet, wrapped in some deep thinking. The baka called Fred Udell was just smart enough not to say anything.
After many moments of silence, the old man gave November Sun another look that seemed to note every molecule of his body.
Then he smiled. "I've got a proposition for you..."
The next morning, Skinner visited Audrey in the hospital. She watched him as he walked into her room and sat down next to her bed.
Neither of them spoke for several moments.
Then Skinner said, "The doctor said that you'll be fine."
She nodded. "That's what the doctor told me too."
"I want to thank you for rescuing me."
"So...is there anything you wanted to tell me?"
What do you want me to say, Walter? she thought. That we met once in a Mississippi town? That we fell in love there? That you no longer remember this because the timeline was changed? That I changed it? That I am, in fact, an angel? And that all the old people I represent used to be angels too? That they settled down on Earth to live out their retirement? That I was sent back here to protect the land promised to them by God? That the father of Oscar Hall is...
She said none of these things. Instead, she told Skinner, "I love you."
He considered this for a long time, then replied, "I love you."
They held hands. "In any case," Audrey sighed. "I'm glad this is all over."
"Uh, Audrey...aren't you forgetting something?"
Audrey's eyes went blank for a second. Then she slapped her forehead and said, "Aw, shit!"
The waves had ceased to wash against the shore. It was as if they were hiding from the people on the beach. Most of them were holding cameras and tape recorders. They were all watching two people in front of them. One of them was a woman trying her best to smile. The other was a man trying to keep erect on his feet. Both of them were holding shovels.
"Without further ado," Chairwoman Burns said. "I hand over this beach to the ownership of Brecht Enterprises." She dug a small pile of sand and tossed it aside.
She turned to the man next to her. He did nothing except lean against his shovel, blink into the sunlight with his bloodshot eyes and wonder how much he had to drink last night.
"What?" he mumbled.
"You're supposed to...dig."
He shifted his wobbly head towards her. "Why?"
"Because it's...it's yours now."
He blinked, then turned around. He looked at the whole beach.
Then he turned back with a grin rising on his face. He plunged the shovel into the ground, hauled up a tall chunk of sand and tossed it over the heads of the reporters. "YE- HAAAAA!!!" he declared as the reporters covered their faces. "TAKE THAT, YOU BASTARDS! I GOT MY OWN NOW AND YOU CAN'T TAKE IT AWAY! YE-HAAA!!!"
From an unseen position, an old man watched this display and sighed. He needed to work on his new son. However, he felt optimistic. This fool looked very malleable. In time, he wouldn't take a piss without asking the old man's permission.
As for now, Jeremiah Bay was his.
The first part of the Book of Asabel had been fulfilled.
The old man looked to the sky and shook his fist. "Gonna get you, cock-sucker."
Also watching Larry Brecht (formerly November Sun and secretly Fred Udell) throw sand on the reporters were Mulder, Scully, Miles, Carranza and another old man.
"I can't believe this," Carranza said. "We went through all that shit and the bad guys still won?"
"Looks like it," Miles replied. "There's something I'm not sure about, though."
"Oh, you mean there's something actually unclear about this mess?" Carranza grumbled as he reached for a fresh cigar in his pocket.
"Brecht Enterprises...that's been around for awhile, hasn't it?"
"For a few years, yeah."
"Then why do I get this strange feeling that it just appeared yesterday?"
Carranza stopped in the process of flicking his lighter. "Hey..." he whispered.
"I got the same feeling," Mulder said.
"Me, too," Scully added. "Why do I think that someone has been screwing around with us?"
They all turned to the old man.
"And that someone remains in control, no matter who his front is," Ru said.
On the beach, Brecht was chasing with shovel raised after a reporter who had made the mistake of yelling, "Quit it, you fucking hick!"
"So what will you do now?" Mulder asked.
"Do?" Ru said. "There's nothing to do. The Seniors lost."
"I think it was more than just the Seniors who lost, sir."
Ru looked away from Mulder, his face giving away nothing.
"Are you sure that there is nothing you can do?"
"My group is...bound by certain rules. If we're on this territory, we must refrain from calling upon certain abilities."
"What about someone else's abilities?"
Ru turned to Mulder, eyebrow raised. "You mean...?"
"No. Oh, no. 'Fraid not. That particular group will not respond to people like us. We are not...well, we're just not."
"You know," Carranza said. "I still don't know what the fuck you are talking about."
"I have to second that," Miles concurred. "What are you supposed *not* to be?"
Scully said, "I think the better question is -- why are you in Florida?"
Ru looked at Scully. "Excuse me?"
"Well...from what I have...experienced...and seen..."
Now it was Mulder's turn to raise an eyebrow.
"I have a..." She cleared her throat. "...suspicion that the Seniors aren't exactly...normal."
A smile slowly formed on Ru's face. "No, Agent Scully. We're not."
"And from what you've said, I can assume that you are having trouble playing by 'normal' rules."
Ru sighed. "Yes. That's it exactly."
"In other words...you're trying to keep yourself grounded in two worlds and it's not working out."
"I suppose so. What are you getting at?"
"Maybe it's time to choose which world you want to be in."
The old man gave Scully such an intense look that she turned away. For a long time, he was silent and motionless.
Then he nodded. "Yes. You're right. You're absolutely right." He gave one last look at Jeremiah Bay before saying, "Would one of you please give me a ride back?"
"Wait a minute," Carranza said. "What's going on?" He turned to Scully. "What are you 'right' about?"
"To tell the truth...I don't know. What did I say, Mulder?"
Mulder looked at Ru, then turned to Scully with a smile. "You said that the good guys are going to win after all."
"I said that?"
"Hm. That's just swell then."
Brecht smashed a camera with his shovel.
Skinner was still at the bedside of Audrey when Ru walked in. "Oh," the old man said. "Pardon me but I didn't..."
"It's all right," Skinner said. "I take it you have some business to discuss."
"Yes. Actually, we do."
Skinner gave Audrey's hand one last squeeze, then left the room with his usual erect bearing. After he closed the door, Ru said, "Wasn't he the one you met in...?"
"Yes," Audrey answered. "He was." She laid back on her pillow and closed her eyes. Ru sat himself next to her bed.
"I take it you've heard about Jeremiah Bay," he said.
"Skinner told me. Sounds like Oscar Hall has been replaced."
"He had to be. He walked out on the whole thing."
Audrey opened her eyes. "Really?" she said, surprised. "He stuck it to that old bastard?"
"Good for him."
"Yes. Unfortunately, the situation remains unchanged for us."
"Yeah...well...don't look to me for ideas."
"I won't. I already have one. We're going to ask the loas for help."
"But...we already tried that..."
"That's because they can only obey the wishes of humans."
Audrey shook her head. "I don't get it. What are you going to..."
She sat up straight in bed. "You can't be serious!" she declared.
"Easy, easy," Ru said, placing a hand on her arm. "Don't strain yourself."
Audrey settled back on the pillow. "I can't believe you would do that."
"To tell the truth...I haven't run this idea by the rest of the Seniors yet. However, I don't see any other alternative. Do you?"
Audrey said nothing for a long time.
Finally, she said, "No. I can't."
"I thought that's what you would say. But I just wanted to make sure."
"Then why did you come here?"
The old man smiled. "Because I knew you would tell me if I was making a mistake."
Audrey reached out and squeeze his hand. "You little old shit," she whispered.
Ru squeezed her hand in return. They remained touching for a few moments before Ru stood up. "I better get going. I need to gather the others and..."
"I'll be joining you."
"There's no need for that. We can do this by ourselves."
"I know. I just want to do it with you."
Shock sprang all over Ru's features. "For heaven's sake, why?"
"Because someone told me that you have to chose which world you want to be in." She paused. "I choose this one."
Ru tilted his head to the side. "Funny. Someone said the same thing to me."
"Well, it's the truth. And this is my decision."
"Does this decision have to do with Skinner?"
Audrey looked towards the window reflecting the glare of the sun. "Eventually, I have to go back. I don't want to. I want to stay here."
"But if you do that, you won't remember..."
"I know, Ru. I know."
"Then what's the point?"
"By all rights, I should never have met Skinner again. But I did. He may not remember how we met before but he senses what he had...what he has. I'm hoping that the same thing will happen to me."
"Is such a thing possible?"
Audrey considered that question, then said, "This is a fucked-up world." She turned to Ru with a smile. "But sometimes it's fucked-up in your favor."
IT'S DIVINE INTERVENTION, MON
All in all, it was one of the damnedest things ever seen in Florida. Oceanographers, meteorologists and other scientists were asked to study the event. The only thing they could do was get drunk at the nearest bar and buy themselves a t-shirt. No logical explanation could be provided for the event.
On the night that Brecht Enterprises purchased Jeremiah Bay, the sea level abruptly rose to new heights. By dawn, the entire bay was under ten feet of salt water. There were no freak weather conditions to explain this. It had been an average warm Florida night with little wind. Nothing about the ocean gave any hints as to why the currents changed or as to why Jeremiah Bay had been the only part of the coast line to get swamped.
What happened next was even stranger.
The next day, the sea withdrew itself and the sun baked the sand back into its previous dry state. The old people who had been using it before returned. A couple of years later, somebody tried to buy it in order to build a water slide. The same thing happened -- the waters rose, the buyer left, the waters sank, the old people returned. After that, it was unofficially decided that they were the true owners of Jeremiah Bay. No one knew why. It just felt like the truth.
To add to all of that, there was the coincidental murder of Larry Brecht which occurred on the same night Jeremiah Bay was flooded. The killing remained an unsolved mystery just like the flood.
However, there was an answer connecting these events. It went something like this...
Larry Brecht (or Fred Udell or November Sun or whatever you want to call him) tripped his way into his house. He stopped in the hallway, surveyed all the rich furnishings, spread out his arms and let out a loud "Whooooa-boy." Then he stumbled his way to the bedroom and fell onto the softest bed he had ever encountered. He had just completed a long jaunt through the clubs of Miami. He was a rich boy now and he was now determined to enjoy every sordid pleasure imaginable. As he laid on the bed thoroughly drunk, sucked-off and fucked-up, a happiness spread over his heart.
A piece of wood touched him on the shoulder. Grunting, he turned over and saw an old man -- not the old man who had given him all this wealth. This old man was dressed in an even rattier outfit, had the skin of a mulatto and smelled like licorice.
"Who the fuck are you?" Brecht mumbled.
"I am Legba -- Master of the Crossroads."
Brecht's bleary eyes looked Legba up and down. "Hey...you're a goddamn loa."
"That's right. Sort of like you, Fred Udell."
"Well, what do you want?"
"As I said, I am Master of the Crossroads. I guide the other loas from one place to another." He looked right into Brecht's eyes. "And, occasionally, I have to guide them with a strong hand."
"Oh. Is that so?"
"That is so."
Brecht raised himself up to a sitting position, swaying on the mattress like a corn stalk in the wind. "I get the feeling that you're gonna threaten me."
"What I am going to tell you is to leave this body at once."
"And what if I don't feel like it?"
"I will use any means at my disposal to force your departure," Legba explained in a quiet voice. "Normally, I would be concerned for Mr. Brecht's safety but...well, he is a gangster."
"And I'm a down-home bad-ass," Brecht snarled. After managing to stand on his feet, he pointed his finger at the loa. "Let me see you try something, you old fart. Let me see what you can..."
Legba raised his cane and waved it towards Brecht's legs. It didn't move very fast but when it touched a leg, it went through the bone and then right through the other leg. The upper part of Brecht fell backwards. He landed on the bed with screams coming out of his mouth and blood jetting from his stumps. The cut-off section of his legs remained upright, looking like a pair of lost boots.
The loa walked up to the bed. He studied the thrashing body of Brecht as if he was gauging the level of its pain. After the blanket was saturated with blood and Brecht had screamed himself hoarse, Legba plunged his walking stick into the possessed man's heart. The souls of Larry Brecht (a.k.a. November Sun) and Fred Udell burst from the corpse, heading for their own particular destination.
It wasn't long before someone found out about this execution and the flood. And, boy, was he angry.
The green-eyed mulatto in the Naval uniform was eating chocolate cake in the restaurant when an old man ran up to him.
"You lousy fucking nigger!"
"The name is Agwe," the mulatto said in a calm voice. "And you should keep your voice down."
"I"ll shout as loud as I want to, you goddamn coon! And I'll hurt you as much as I want!"
"You fucking meddled in my business! For that, I'm gonna rip out..."
For the next minute, the old man recited a list of all the terrible things he was going to Agwe. The loa listened to all of it with an unperturbed face as he ate his cake. The waiters and other diners listened to all this with unease, wanting to intervene but hesitant to do so. There was something about that old man...
"...and burn the fucking remains!" the old man concluded.
"You won't be able to do that," Agwe said. "I've done nothing wrong."
The old man sputtered. "Nothing wrong? Nothing wrong! You violated the rules! You did the dirty work for those damn Seniors!"
"And what's wrong with that?"
The old man leaned forward and dropped his voice to a hiss. "Because they're angels, you Haitian jungle bunny. Retired angels but angels nevertheless. An angel is not allowed to..."
"You obviously haven't been keeping up."
"What the hell do you mean by that?"
"They're not angels anymore."
The old man blinked. "Huh?"
"They gave up their divinity. They don't even possess their memories of heaven. They are nothing more now than humans with ordinary lives." Agwe smiled. "Of course, that means more than you might imagine."
The old man trembled so hard that he had to sit down. "They...gave it all up," he muttered. "They gave it all up to stop me."
"That was the deal. Their divinity for the intervention of myself and Legba."
"Christ..." The old man covered his eyes. His neck bent down like a dropping flower. Agwe felt a sudden rush of sympathy for him. All the loa could see now was a fragile, tired person; a being obsessed with a goal always out of his reach; not the personification of evil but the personification of loneliness and despair.
"Cake?" Agwe offered.
The old man shook his head. He remained in the same position for a long time.
Then he reached into his jacket and tossed a contract onto the table. "The lease. Tear it up. Stomp on it. Eat it and shit it on your ass. I don't care. Jeremiah Bay is worthless to me under ten feet of fucking water even if I did still have an heir. Which I don't."
"If it means anything...I'm sorry."
"Oh, fuck off," the old man grumbled as he pulled himself up to his feet.
"What are you going to do now?"
"What do you think, shithead? I'm going to work on a new plan, find a new heir, do *something*. I am not giving up until the prophecy of Asabel is fulfilled and the mother- fucking Host of Hosts gets down on His knees and sucks my dick."
"That's what you want?"
"Of course it is!"
Agwe looked the old man over. "You know...far be it for the spirit of one pantheon to criticize a major figure of another..."
"Far, far be it."
"But is what you want really worth it?"
The old man gave no answer. He never would be able to give one. He just turned and left the restaurant with anger, frustration, weariness and a little sadness eating at his chest.
He needed to work some of these feelings out.
It smelled like hell.
It felt like hell.
It sounded like hell.
"Hello, you pricks."
"Cor!" Constantine Morgan yelled. "Where the fuck am I?"
"Aw, shit!" Fred Udell moaned as he looked around him. Or as much as he could look. The top half of his body was chained to a rock, his stomach pressed against its hot surface. The lower half hung down the rock with the ankles also chained to the floor. His legs were spread apart.
Sweat dripped out of his rectum as it did from the asses of Morgan and November Sun. They were also in similar positions with winged creatures brushing their claws against their naked skins.
"This doesn't look like the Highest Circle," November Sun whimpered.
"You bet it ain't," an old man said. "This is my home territory. And there are no voodoo priests, no detectives, no FBI agents, no goddamn lawyers here. It's just me and your asses."
"But..." Fred Udell said. "but...I'm your heir. You told me. You said..."
"That's all done with, you moron. Now you're nothing more than some pissant from the KKK who is going to get what's coming to him. The same for you two assholes as well. And I've decided...to handle this personally."
The old man held up a hand. On the hand was a steel gauntlet with needles, razors and drills attached to the hard fingers.
"So...when was the last time you fellas had a prostate exam?"
THE LOOSE ENDS OF LOVE
"So the good guys won after all?" Carranza said.
"The good guys always win," Miles replied. "Even in Florida."
Carranza shook his head and put aside a newspaper. The headline of the paper was "WATERS RECEDE FROM JEREMIAH BAY. SCIENTISTS REMAIN BAFFLED."
"More like 'feeling completely fucked sideways in the brain,'" Carranza said, his meaty elbows laying on the table. He turned to Mulder and Scully. "What do you think?"
"I think there's been a resolution," Mulder said. "Of some sort. You may not have enough answers to give a satisfactory report to your superiors..."
"You can bet your big nose on it."
"...but you may rest assured that all threats to public safety in this case have been neutralized."
"All of them?"
"Both earthly and cosmic."
Carranza rolled his eyes and said, "Mulder, let's say we never work together again, okay?"
"What about the Seniors?" Miles asked.
"What about them?" Mulder said.
"Well...the way they're acting now...it's like..."
"They don't know anything about what's behind this?"
"Yeah. But they sure acted like they did before."
"They did. But not anymore, I think."
"Any thoughts on why?"
"They made a choice. That's what I believe. This choice involves forces beyond our imagining and comprehension. The only thing we can comprehend is that good won today and will fight on tomorrow."
"Buju, where the hell is our dinner?" Carranza yelled.
The Miami detectives and FBI agents had gathered at Buju's restaurant one more time before Mulder and Scully got on their return flight to D.C. As they waited for Buju to bring tonight's succulent meal, Kalahan walked up to their table. Like Carranza, her face was healing nicely. She was also holding hands with a woman whose identity was obscured by a visored helmet.
"Greetings, all of you pathetic fascists."
"Greetings, you smelly loser," Miles answered. "Who's your friend?"
"Uh, she would prefer not to show her face in public."
"Really?" Miles said, examining the dark glass between his eyes and the mystery woman's face. "I'm surprised. Since when did you go out with women who wanted to hide their orientation?"
"Since never. But..." Kalahan looked at her companion with twinkling eyes. "...I like her style."
Everybody at the table looked at each other.
"Well, I just thought that I would stop by and say hi. And to tell Scully that you don't know what you missed."
"My career comes first," Scully replied with a smile.
"Hmm." Kalahan turned to Mulder. "She looked good in that dress, didn't she?" she said before turning and leaving with her companion. Mulder avoided looking at his partner but Miles didn't.
"Well, I didn't get to see it," he said. "Are we going to get an encore?"
"Ah, I'm afraid not," Scully replied. "Mulder and I are heading back to D.C. tomorrow..."
"Then we can have one night at least."
"Uh, Detective Miles..."
"We can't..." Mulder said.
"That is to say..."
Miles stood up, walked over to the FBI agents, knelt down and placed an arm over each of their shoulders. "You don't know what you're missing," he said in a low voice.
Scully looked to Carranza for help. He was looking away.
"Look," she said. "it's not that we're flattered...I mean, it's not like I'm not flattered..."
"We both are," Mulder said.
"Ah-ha," Miles whispered.
"But...it's really not for us."
He sighed again.
"I'm more than a bit disappointed. I mean, after all we've been through. After all I've been through. You try swallowing a teacup of British urine. I was just hoping for some kind of reward..."
Mulder pressed his hands on both sides of the detective's face. He gazed into the other man's eyes for just a moment before he pressed his full, juicy lips against Miles' mouth and held them there for all of four seconds. Scully's eyes widened. The cigar drooped in Carranza's mouth.
When he released Miles, he placed his hands in his laps and just looked at the detective. Miles remained still for several long moments. Then he stood up straight, walked back to his chair and sat down.
"So...how was he?" Scully asked.
Miles just grinned. That's when Buju showed up with their dinner. In the back, a band was assembling on a stage.
Audrey Borg was in the process of leaving the hospital when the bald-headed FBI agent showed up. They met in a white hallway just as she was leaving her room. She halted when she saw him, her purse dangling from her shoulder.
"Hello," he said.
When he had arrived, Skinner had an expectant look on his face. His expression now shifted to uncertainty.
"Is something wrong, Audrey? Are you feeling fine?"
"No. I'm all right."
"What is it then?"
She looked at the floor, remaining silent until he took a step towards her.
"Please stop..." she said.
"What is it?"
"Wal...Agent Skinner...I've been doing things for the past few days...strange things. I've been feeling strange things..."
"So have I. But I don't mind."
"I wish I didn't, either."
Skinner's body stiffened. "Why?"
"Because I don't know the reasons behind it all."
"What are you talking about? From the moment I met you, you've been acting like you did know."
"Maybe I did." She looked up at him. "I don't know anymore."
He took another step towards her. "Walter, stop!" she insisted. When he stopped this time, he clenched his fists and closed his eyes.
"This isn't fair to you," she said. "But it isn't fair to me, either."
"Meaning I have to know why I feel this way to you. I can't just let some stranger enter my life and be...whatever to me. I just can't accept that kind of mystery."
Skinner kept still but it was a tense, fragile stillness. He seemed about to explode into a million pieces. Audrey stood before him and waited for him to scream.
Then he opened his eyes.
He gave her a most unexpected smile -- a kind, understanding smile.
"Um...you think so?"
"If I can accept it, so can you."
Almost against her will, Audrey smiled back. "I hope so," she told him.
"You *will*," he repeated.
She let out a long breath. "Okay, then."
She walked up to Skinner and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. "See you next time."
"I'll be there."
Those were the parting words they gave to each other. They never stopped smiling.
Like Audrey and the old people who used Jeremiah Bay, the new drummer for the Burnsides felt this strange sense of loss. They looked at their memories and suspected that they were wrong somehow. Looking back, they knew who their parents were, where they grew up, where they went to school and how they wound up in Florida. Yet it still felt wrong.
As Oscar Hall sat behind the drum kit, the suspicion kept bothering him. He looked down at his frayed jeans, old sneakers and stained T-shirt. These were his clothes but didn't he used to wear something finer? Didn't he have some other job before he wound up becoming the drummer for a cool-mannered blues prodigy and his hot-headed uncle? Why couldn't he remember it?
He looked out at the audience gathered under the pumpkin vines. He noticed certain faces -- a handsome dark-haired man with his arm over the shoulder of a pretty red-haired woman; another good-looking man who was chatting with another couple and giving them sly smiles; an overweight Cuban lighting up a cigar. When he saw them, he couldn't shake the feeling that he had once been connected to them somehow.
Another face kept appearing in his memory. It belonged to this bitter, elderly man. Who was he? Why did he seem so angry?
Above all, did any of this matter?
"YOU READY TO BOOGIE, MAMMY-FUCKERS?!!"
The audience cheered back. All the troublesome questions faded away from his mind as he grinned and started the tempo for "Down Home Blues."
He just didn't give a shit.
Not in the least.
ONE MORE EPILOGUE --
DETECTIVES MAX MILES and TOMAS CARRANZA still work in the Miami Police Department. Much to their surprise, Miles is now married to one of Carranza's nieces and remains steadfastly devoted to her. "Guess I filled up my quota of dick and pussy," Miles observes. "You better goddamn have," Carranza tells him.
In other matters of the heart, CHAIRWOMAN GWENDOLYN BURNS stepped down from the Zoning Commission of Miami. She is now currently traveling the country in an arts revue/ road show with her lover GLORIA KALAHAN. The title of the show is "No Pain, No Gain." THE FAIRY GODMOTHERS are right behind them so watch your ass.
After getting permission from their parents, ETTA and SUE BURNSIDE remained with ANDY ANTOINE at his shop. If you stop by and they like you, they will tell you something no one else knows.
The various fighters employed by ASS-KICKERS, INC. are serving sentences in jail. As for MR. ROGERS, his residency is in a mental ward. He has not said a word since SARA LEE died. It's doubtful he ever will.
A.C. BURNSIDE, MEYER BURNSIDE and OSCAR HALL are burnin' it up wherever they are.
CONSTANTINE MORGAN, LARRY "NOVEMBER SUN" BRECHT and FRED UDELL are just burnin'.
THE FATHER OF OSCAR HALL is closer than you think, but so are AGWE, LEGBA and ELIZI.
BUJU is still cooking some of the best damn food in Miami.
AGENTS FOX MULDER and DANA SCULLY are...ah, who cares?
AUDREY BORG and WALTER SKINNER did meet again. Imagine how.
As stated before, none of the retired angels remembered their past life after converting themselves to humans. However, RU (now RON UPSON) did mail Mulder a letter before the conversion.
"Dear Agent Mulder,
"Don't bother to ask me about this letter. I won't remember writing it and there's nothing I'll be able to add to it. I just wanted to let you know one last secret before I forget everything.
"The Book of Revelations is a prophecy of a future where good triumphs. The Book of Asabel shows how evil will conquer all. Both involve the end of the world. Putting them side-by-side apparently requires us to choose between them.
"There is a *third* prophecy -- one in which the world does not end. More than that, I will not say.
"Well, I will say this. I wonder if this third prophecy is the world's true destiny.
"Keep your chin up, Mulder. Keep it all up.
"P.S. For God's sake, man, just when are you going to pork your partner anyway?"
"You know how all these apocalyptic movies work. God is out to destroy the world and some Hollywood screenwriter tries to outsmart Him."
-- Joe Bob Briggs
Well, that wraps up this little trilogy. I still have a few more long stories in the works. And maybe a few short ones. And maybe...
We shall see.
Anyway, I should quickly acknowledge the songs I used. I believe there were just two this time -- "Our House" by Madness and "Do Your Duty." I think a variety of people have covered the latter song. I heard it from Billie Holliday.