Title: Sea of Desire
Summary: At the request of a friend, and former professor, of Mulder's, Scully and Mulder travel to an island community off the coast of Maine to investigate the mysterious disappearance of several infant boys.
P.S. For those of you who may be familiar with the legend upon which this story is based, I have taken some literary license with it, to fit my plot line. Just so you know... The following stories are based on characters copyrighted by Ten Thirteen Productions and are lovingly borrowed without permission, and without any intent to infringe, annoy or otherwise upset. Thanks gobs!
Shelter Island, ME
It was night, or rather, early morning. The tide had turned, and was slowly eating away at the beach leading up to the rocky slope. In the distance, barking seals could be heard over the roar of the surf, and the occasional nocturnal complaint of sea birds. The reflection of the full moon danced on the waves like fairy lights.
A man climbed over the fallen drift fence that separated the beach from the road, unobserved except by the birds. The infant in his arms had stopped crying, and was looking around himself curiously. The man set the child him the sand, and began to strip off his own dark clothes - soft black shirt, and black cotton breeches - and stowed them within the rocks. He leaned down and pulled the diaper off the baby, tossing it to one side. He lifted the child again, crooning to him comfortingly, and walked into the water until both he and the boy disappeared under the surf.
Far inland, a young woman, little more than a girl, woke with a sudden start. She sat up in bed, and hugged her breasts. No longer heavy with milk, they still ached in the early hours with the memory of the infant who was so recently weaned. She rolled over, and tried to go back to sleep; her little son had not needed her at this hour in months. Still, something nagged at her, distressing her unconscious mind. Chiding herself for being silly, she got up and walked into a darkened bedroom across the hall from her own. She looked into an empty crib, and then at a window, opened to the night, and screamed.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Special Agent Dana Scully aimed carefully, and pulled the pistol trigger. A movement at her side caught the corner of her eye, and she glanced to see her partner standing there. She smiled slightly and emptied the remainder of the clip into the heart of the target at the other end of the firing range. Then she set the pistol down and dropped her ear protectors around her neck.
"Hi." she greeted, turning.
"Hi," Fox Mulder replied, looking out across the firing range. "Nice. Very nice, actually," he complemented with appreciation, as the target slid in toward him on its overhead trolley. He lifted it off, and handed it to her. "I tell you, it really gives me a nice warm feeling to know my partner's such a good shot."
"Thanks." She looked at him curiously. "You just come down to watch?"
Mulder grinned at her. "You busy?"
Scully sighed. "Something tells me I'm going to be," she replied. She glanced up at the speaker over her head. "Thanks, Tyler." she called to the range instructor, and pulled the headset completely off.
"Five babies in less than a month," Mulder said twenty minutes later, flashing the last slide up onto the screen in their office. "All boys, all around a year old and a half old, all illegitimate. So far only this one has turned up. Dead. Washed up on the mainland two days ago. Cause of death appears to be drowning, but it's hard to be sure, after the sea, and the fish."
"All from this one island?" Scully asked, scrutinizing the beaming cherub on the screen. The child was apple cheeked and adorable. She felt a sorry pang. "What about similar incidences on the mainland?"
"Nothing reported," Mulder acknowledged. "Shelter Island is about five miles off the northern coast of Maine. The island itself is around one hundred and forty miles square, but most of it is a wildlife preserve. There is only one main population center, Hampton Cove, of about two thousand year round residents, and maybe another hundred or so scattered around the island. The island is most famous for its seal rookeries, although the seals more or less stopped any breeding in numbers there years ago. There is almost no crime. Not even among the tourist trade. Probably because there aren't a whole lot of tourists - the island itself is pretty inaccessible. The ferry only runs once a day, and it has a penchant for breaking down."
"Five illegitimate births all within a couple of weeks of each other seems like kind of a high a ratio for such a small population," Scully mused. "They have a particularly cold winter two years ago?"
"There were actually eleven births, all within in three week period," Mulder corrected, smiling. "Five babies were abducted, but there are two more male infants born at the same time to unwed mothers who are still on the island, and four others whose families have since left."
"Eleven babies? All boys?" Scully chewed on that. Mulder just nodded.
"Well, Mulder," Scully concluded, "this is tragic, but what does it have to do with us? You think these are UFO abductions?"
Mulder sat down, leaned back, and crossed his arms. "I don't know," he admitted. Scully looked at him expectantly.
"I have a friend on the island, who got the local authorities to call the FBI in after the dead child was found. Me, specifically. She's the one who sent me these details."
"She?" Scully teased him a little. Mulder made a face at her.
"She's old enough to be my mother, Scully," he replied. "Her name is Margery Flynn. I've know her for years; she was a professor of mine."
"From Oxford? What's she doing in Maine?"
"Maggie has taught all over the world," he replied. "But she's originally from there."
Scully nodded. Mulder continued his gloss.
"Maggie's an anthropologist, folklorist, author and student of the extraordinary. She's done a lot of work with North Atlantic Amerindian history, and also with Irish and Scottish folklore. She was born on the island, she's lived there on and off all of her life. She moved back permanently five years ago, after her husband died. She probably knows that island better than anyone else currently living on it. If she thinks something unusual is behind these abductions, then I'm inclined to take it seriously."
"And does she think there is something unusual behind these abductions?"
Mulder nodded, but he did not look particularly happy.
"Yeah. I talked to her last night, but she won't say what, exactly, she thinks is going on. Only that there appears to be a connection among the girls, and that the local authorities are too inexperienced with this kind of thing to handle it effectively. To which they apparently agree. And that she'll fill us in on the rest of it when we get up there." He shrugged.
"Anyway, the local law on Shelter Island has asked for Bureau assistance in profiling the kidnapper, so somebody needs to go. It may as well be us."
"When do we leave?" Scully asked.
"In the morning. And pack casual," Mulder replied, his mouth cocked up in a wry smile. "The only people who wear suits on Shelter Island are undertakers, and the IRS. We don't want to scare the natives."
Shelter Island, ME
Mulder turned the battered Jeep Cherokee up the long drive to the headlands, and Scully considered that she was now very glad for the sturdy vehicle. She had turned her nose up, a bit, when Mulder first threw their gear into it, back on the mainland, but he had assured her she would be glad for it out on the island. Now, as she jounced on the unmerciful dirt road, she had to agree.
The Flynn residence came up on them suddenly as they rounded a knoll. Scully whistled as the pink and gray miniature castle loomed into sight.
"Something, isn't it?" Mulder agreed. "Place has about a hundred bedrooms. I have no idea what it's doing out here in this desolate place. Maggie likes to tell people it used to be a whore house, but I'm inclined to think it's a little too far off the beaten path for that."
"It's magnificent," Scully agreed, taking in the gingerbread, the turrets, and the towering widow's walk on the roof.
"And there's our Megs," Mulder murmured, almost to himself. Scully focused on the woman approaching the jeep. She was tall and lithe, dark gold hair cut short and free in the breeze. Her chiseled features and high cheekbones gave her face an ageless grace, and she moved with the sinuous efficiency of a contented cat. Her clothes were casual, and practical, but well thought out, and looked oddly elegant on her sylph like frame. She reminded Scully a lot of pictures she'd seen of Katherine Hepburn.
"*How* old did you say this woman was?" she queried appreciatively.
"That's Maggie," he assured her, and climbed out of the car.
Scully hung back a little to give the two old friends a little privacy. Mulder took three eager strides toward the older woman, and sweep her easily into his arms. She laughed for him to put her down, then kissed him affectionately and hugged his neck.
"It's been too long, " she admonished, slender hands on either side of his face. He smiled at her warmly, then turned her to Scully.
"Maggie, this is my partner Dana Scully. Scully, Maggie Flynn."
"Mrs. Flynn," Scully held out her hand and smiled. The older woman took the proffered hand and patted it.
"Oh, you'd better call me Maggie, dear," she advised. "Everyone does. You could call Mrs. Flynn all day and I wouldn't know who you were talking to."
"I guess you'd better call me Dana, then," she replied.
"Hello, Dana," said Maggie Flynn. "Welcome to Sea Grace."
"I've put Dana in the Green Room at the top of the third floor," Maggie said to Mulder, as they entered the house. "It has the best views. You're in the room that adjoins it. I've fixed a light supper - just sandwiches, but I thought you'd be hungry after your trip. Come down after you've settled your bags, but Fox, do show her the walk before we lose the sun."
She disappeared into what looked to be the kitchen, and left them standing in the hall. At Scully's puzzled look, Mulder smiled and gestured toward the stairs.
Contrary to Mulder's exaggeration, there were considerably fewer than a hundred bedrooms in the big house. There were only three rooms on the third floor, and one was obviously used for storage, so it was easy enough to find their own. The "Green Room" was charming, furnished in florals, and elegant Queen Anne furniture, including a mahogany four-poster that Scully suspected of being genuine antique. There was an adjoining bath, small, but adequate. She looked around. The view from the swinging casement windows was magnificent, looking down over the cliff lined beach.
She could hear Mulder banging around in the room next door to hers. She also noticed that there was a communicating door between her room and Mulder's; closed, but apparently unlocked. The key was in the door. Scully smiled to herself at Flynn's tactful way of avoiding an embarrassing question. Then, as if responding to her thoughts, Mulder knocked on the same communicating door, and came into the room. He walked to the window.
"Nice view," he understated. "But I know a better one. Come on." He walked her out into the hall, reached overhead and pulled down a wooden ladder from the ceiling. He ushered her up, then followed.
Scully emerged into one of the most astonishing vistas she'd ever seen. The widow's walk gave a clear panorama of the surrounding island from four stories high, and it was breathtaking. She walked to the side that looked down on the sea.
"It is spectacular," she agreed appreciatively. "Are you sure this isn't just an excuse for a little vacation?"
Mulder chuckled. "Well, I wouldn't put it past Maggie's deciding I needed one," he admitted, "but she's usually not underhanded about that. She just nags me until I come up for a visit."
"You come here often?" Scully asked. Mulder shrugged.
"Not as often as I'd like," he admitted.
"I guess it's got to seem a little bit like home for you," Scully mused, curiously. Mulder rarely talked about his childhood on Martha's Vineyard island, off the coast of Massachusetts.
"In a way, I suppose," Mulder agreed. "Although the Vineyard was a lot more developed than this place, even when I was growing up. And a lot more domesticated. The tourists were about the wildest thing we ever saw."
"What supports the local population?" she asked. "You said there wasn't much of a tourist trade here. And it seems pretty isolated."
"A little fishing. There are also a couple of local firms that make souvenirs to ship back to the mainland. And they make a sweater here that's the warmest thing you'll ever put on. A lot of the families on Shelter Island have at least one bread winner who works on the mainland. It's not unusual for one adult in a family to live on the mainland during the week and commute back on weekends."
"Must be inconvenient," Scully mused. "And expensive. I gather that the standard of living out here isn't all that high."
"Not by most standards, no," he agreed. "But I think the locals would generally tell you that they have everything the need. People here tend to be pretty proud of their way of life. And they're not fond of interference." He smiled thoughtfully. "Islanders are an odd breed. They tend to be very independent, self contained and self sufficient people. Emotionally as well as economically."
"Sounds like somebody I know," she agreed fondly.
Mulder chuckled, and leaned down next to her on the half wall of the widow's walk.
"It's a funny thing, the mentality. Even on Martha's Vineyard, which was no where near as insular as this place, you still didn't really belong unless you were born there. Period. I remember one old man who had moved to the island with his family as a baby. He was eighty two when he died, and his obituary still referred to him as a mainlander. And I'll be a native in their eyes 'til I die, despite the fact that I hardly even visit that often any more.
"It's important to remember that if we have to question these people."
"So, what is going on here, Mulder," Scully changed to the real subject at hand. The man shook his head.
"I don't know. Maggie is being very mysterious. She told me she'd fill us in at supper."
A small bell chimed in the ceiling of the walk. Mulder smiled.
"Speaking of which - dinner is served."
"Did you know," Flynn advised Scully over lobster croissants and green salad, "that your name is a derived from the name of an Irish goddess? The fertility goddess of the Tuatha de Danann was called Danu. And later writings do refer to her as Dana."
"The who?" Mulder teased.
"The little people of Ireland," Flynn replied, "as you very well know, so don't be coy."
Mulder grinned at his partner. "See Scully? You could go to Ireland, and be worshipped by leprechauns."
"Don't pay any attention to him, dear," Flynn told her.
"Oh, I try not to," Scully replied smugly. Mulder shot her a dirty look.
"Actually, many of us scholars believe that the Danann really existed, that they were one of the very early tribes of Celts who first settled the Irish coastline. They differed so remarkably from the later, taller and more physically robust Gaels, that they became almost mythical to them. It's quiet likely that the Danann retreated into the hills rather than confront the larger, and better armed settlers, and gained their reputation for mischief in defense of their lifestyle."
Scully looked interested, but Mulder was finally losing patience.
"Come on, Megs," he cajoled. "We're dying here. And I need something to put on the expense report. Fess up. What's going on? You didn't ask us up here to lecture us on Celtic mythology."
"Well, now, don't be to sure of that," Flynn replied, then became strangely reticent. Mulder just raised an eyebrow at her. "Brace yourself, Fox," she finally warned him. "This may be too great a leap, even for you.
"I have been studying the local history for many years, as you know," Flynn went on. Mulder nodded. "This is not the first time something like this has happened on Shelter Island."
Flynn got up from the table and crossed to a small writing desk in the corner of the room. She retrieved a sheaf of papers in a manila file folder, and handed it to Mulder.
"About a hundred years ago, there was another rash of illegitimate births on the Island. The population was larger then, there was a very active fishing community around Hampton Cove - French and Portuguese mostly. Nineteen illegitimate babies were born within a two month period. All boys. The community was predominantly Catholic, so you can imagine what a stir it caused. But it was nothing to the uproar a little over a year later, when these same babies started disappearing, one by one.
"Now, not all of these infants were abducted. One boy, whose mother had left the island shortly before his birth, went on to make a career as a Navy admiral. In his memoirs he makes a very strange confession about a story his mother told him before she died. Apparently, the man he'd grown up calling father, was not, in fact, his biological parent. His mother instead told him a story of a stranger who came up out of the sea and stole her will, stole her heart and stole her virtue, then left her carrying his child. She left Shelter Island at her parents' insistence as soon as the pregnancy was discovered, to marry an old family friend. Happily, she did come to love her new husband, and had five more children with him, who all went on to become farmers or tradesmen. Only this first born son had any calling to the sea, and his mother contended that this was because of his real father, because of who, or rather what, he was.
"I've looked into similar legends among the native Americans in the surrounding areas, and have found startling similarities; legends of a creature, not a spirit but a temporal being, who would come in with the breeding seals, seducing their women and stealing their babies. The native tribes often kept their women at home under close guard for the duration of the seal breeding season."
Mulder had heard a version of this story at Oxford, from this same woman, years before. What he couldn't believe was that he was hearing it again, and in this context. He leaned back and rested his arms on the arms of his captain's chair, and stared up at his old professor, open mouthed in stunned comprehension.
"Margery Flynn, you're not honestly telling me that you think this kidnapper," he halted before he went on, "is a silky?"
Flynn just shrugged. "I told you that this would be hard, even for you."
Scully looked from one to the other, baffled.
"What's a silky?" she asked.
Mulder ignored her.
"You were right," he told Flynn. "Those legends..."
"And what did I always tell you about myths and legends, Fox Mulder?" Flynn insisted firmly. "If a story resonates, then there is often a grain of truth in it. So I ask you, does this resonate?"
"What's a silky?" Scully asked again, more insistently. Mulder looked at her blankly, then turned to Flynn, and opened his hands.
"A selkie, Dana, it is spelt with an 'e', is a purportedly mythical creature, of probable Scots/Irish origin. It is a were-beast, if you will, that lives with the wild seals, but can change itself at will into the likeness of a man. It is not like a werewolf, in that it does not intentionally kill. However, death often comes in the wake of the selkie's visitation. The selkie is a primal creature, it's only compulsion is to reproduce itself. But, the legend goes, this it cannot do, because it is neither man nor beast. If it breeds with the seals, it's offspring cannot survive in the frigid seas. If it breeds with humans, it's human offspring survive very well on land, but do not have the selkie's metamorphic abilities. The one inheritance a selkie's human progeny does get from the sire, however, is an overwhelming longing for the sea. It has been suggested that some of the great sea captains in history may have been the sons of selkies. And a selkie's offspring is always male."
Scully looked at the other woman open mouthed. She turned to Mulder, whose expression was unreadable. She turned back to Flynn without comment. Flynn continued her narration.
"Now, the myth suggests that the selkie possesses inexorable powers of seduction, and that no woman, however chaste, can resist the selkie's demands, once he as chosen her. The selkie comes in with the seals, when they come ashore to breed, and like the great bulls, he singles out his troupe of females and gets his children on them. These young girls cannot resist him, nor it is said, do they wish to.
"But here the myth gets darker. For it is also said that these young mothers may hold their baby sons only until they enter their second year. That is when their selkie father will return for them. For the selkie, in his desire for his own kind, will try to take the children he has sired, and bring them back with him to the sea. If he is unsuccessful in this abduction, then the child will grow to lead a normal life as a man. If the selkie is successful, however, the half breed child will drown in the sea, leaving the selkie in heartrending loneliness, to begin again with the next season of the seals."
"It's an interesting story, Maggie," Mulder interrupted, "and you always did tell it well..."
Flynn put her hand down on the file she had given Mulder.
"These babes are all males," she said. "They were all conceived at approximately the same time. And they all started to disappear now, in their second year of life. Shortly after the seals arrived.
"I have already talked to some of these young mothers. To the extent that they will admit anything, their accounts of their seductions are remarkably similar. And they all identify the young man whose portrait appears here as the man who seduced them. " She handed him a police composite of a young man, probably in his early twenties, with shoulder length dark hair.
"That doesn't mean he's our kidnapper, and it certainly doesn't make him a supernatural being." Mulder argued quietly, looking at the picture. "Maybe it was just some tourist, plowing particularly fertile fields."
Flynn gave him a jaundiced look, then shrugged.
"Will you read this, please? And go and talk to those girls yourself? Perhaps I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong. But I don't like the feel of this, Fox. I don't like it at all. And we do have five kidnapped babies. One of them is already dead. And there are two more still on this island who may still be targets for our kidnapper, whoever he is."
They cleared up the dishes, suspending further discussion, then Mulder retreated to the back porch with Flynn's research. When Scully found him, a few minutes later, he was sitting on the steps, the closed folder on the step below him, staring out over the moonlit waves. She walked up next to him.
"Hey, sailor, can I buy you a beer?" she asked, dangling a cold can in front of his face. Mulder looked up from his reverie, smiled, and liberated her of the burden. She sat down beside him on the step.
"So, what do you think," she asked, popping the tab on her own beer with an inviting swoosh. She nodded at the file at his feet.
"I think," Mulder said, opening his beer with the same special noise, "that there are few more wonderfully suggestive sounds in this world than that of a vacuum can opening."
"What do you think," Mulder asked her.
"Well, I like her. She's fascinating, really. But I kind of feel like I'm caught somewhere between *Murder, She Wrote* and *The Outer Limits*."
Mulder laughed outright, leaned over and clinked cans with her.
"I know what you mean," he agreed.
"Do you believe her theory?" Scully asked.
"You mean, do I think that these kidnappings have been perpetrated by some mythical were-beast that can change itself from a man into a seal?" Mulder shook his head. "You know Scully, as hard as this may be to believe, that's a tough one. Even for me."
Scully smiled at him.
"Oh, I don't know, Mulder. You have been known to manifest vestiges of rationality on occasion."
Mulder made a face at her.
"Gee, thanks," he said. Scully smirked.
"Still," Mulder went on. "We do have four missing babies. And one dead one. Something happened here. Let's go talk to those mothers tomorrow. And check around in town. The answer has to be here somewhere."
Scully made a small noise, and he looked over at her curiously.
"Just thinking. Do you remember that case in up in Montana? Those murders on the Indian reservation? And that... thing?"
Mulder looked at her in surprise, but did not interrupt.
"If what Maggie explained about the legends is accurate, and not just an application over the available facts at hand... I don't know Mulder, but there *is* something nagging about the fact that baby turned up drowned on the mainland. And that all of these infants seem to have the same father, and are all disappearing *now*. And that *all* of them are boys. It's almost too weird to be coincidental."
"Now, wait a minute," Mulder protested, chuckling. "I'm the one who's supposed to say things like that, remember? You're the one who's supposed to have the doubts."
"Oh. Right. Well, they say a little role reversal now and then builds character," she replied.
"You sure you're just not succumbing to the spell of the storyteller, Scully? " Mulder teased her fondly. "Maggie Flynn *is* a master at it. Almost bewitching."
Scully let out a deep breath and leaned back on her elbows. She looked out at the water.
"You're right, of course, the idea is insupportable, however romantic. There has to be a rational explanation here, somewhere. Do *you* have any theories?
Mulder looked down at his beer can. "Actually, I'm wondering if these kidnappings might have an economic base."
Scully frowned at him.
"Something you brought up earlier about the standard of living here being fairly low, by national standards. Maybe somebody here has decided that proud and poor doesn't cut it. Maybe someone has tapped into supplying a baby broker - horrible thought I know, but male infants usually bring a premium in black market adoptions."
Scully blew a breath out, not liking that idea, mostly because it was credible. Then she raised an eyebrow at him playfully.
Mulder pulled a face. "I sincerely doubt it."
"Well, that's a relief, anyway."
Mulder chuckled, and pulled at his beer. Then he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.
"So what's still bugging you?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's just the proximity of the sea." She glanced over at him, then out at the waves again. "I'm a sea captain's daughter, Mulder. The sea has always inspired in me a sense of... possibilities?"
"Should I start calling you Ishmael?" he teased.
Scully's eyes became suddenly charged with memory.
"Starbuck," she corrected him softly. Mulder's expression melted, looking at her, remembering that this was the special name her deceased father had given her as a child - Starbuck to his Ahab.
But Scully just drained her beer, then reached over and patted his knee.
"The other thing the sea has always inspired in me," she said, through a yawn, "is a desire to sleep. I'm gonna turn in." She stood up. " 'Night."
"See you in the morning," Mulder replied as she walked away. He leaned forward and picked up the file, but he didn't open it right away. He just looked back out over the waves.
Hampton Cove, ME
"It was good of you folks to come," Sheriff Chet Defreitas greeted them with the kind of enthusiasm they did not often encounter from local law enforcement. "I hate to admit it, but these kidnappings are way out of my league. Worst crime we usually get on Shelter Island is some tourist raiding lobster pots."
"Well, Maggie Flynn is an old friend of mine," he said. "I could hardly ignore her cry for help."
"Good old Maggie," Defrietas laughed. "I surprised she doesn't have some theory of her own."
Scully gave Mulder a sideways glance, but for once her partner refrained from pressing the paranormal.
"Well, I'm sure she does," Mulder agreed, instead, "but right now, I'm more interested in hearing yours."
Defrietas shook his head.
"I wish I had one," he admitted. "This case has me baffled. But you're welcome to whatever I can provide you. Starting with coffee, if you'd like. It's been there a while, but it's drinkable."
He settled them with hot mugs of the worst coffee they had ever had, and started in.
"I didn't think too much about it, at first, to be frank. The mother of the first missing baby, Connie Pratt, is a nice enough kid, but not too bright. And her parents never wanted her to have that baby, that was her decision. What I hear, they wanted her to have an abortion, and when she wouldn't they threatened to throw her out. Never did, but they made life pretty miserable for the girl. So when the baby disappeared last month, I thought it must have been an inside job, you know, someone in the family. It happens, as I'm sure you people know."
"Did the girl ever identify the father of the baby?" Scully asked.
"Not at the time, and not for a long time after the baby was born. And not to me," Defreitas said. "I suppose Maggie did tell you that she's talked to these girls herself? And that they've all identified the same man to her as the father of their babies?"
"Umm," Mulder acknowledged. "Do you think she's telling the truth?"
"Maggie or Connie Pratt? Can't see as either one of them would have cause to lie," Defrietas remarked. "And those other girls seem to support Connie's claim."
Mulder dropped the police composite on the desk.
"That this man was the father of all of those babies?"
"Busy guy," Mulder mused.
"And hardy, too," Defreitas laughed humorlessly. "According to the, ah, confessions that Maggie extracted, it seems this guy seduced all eleven of those girls in less than a week. That's almost two a night. A talent a lot of guys would envy." Then he seemed to remember Scully, and actually blushed.
"Begging your pardon, miss."
Scully swallowed a smile at his chivalry, and waved the comment away.
"You don't recognize him?" Mulder asked.
"He's nobody from around here," Defrietas replied.
"And you have no theories as to who may be behind these kidnappings."
"Well, like I said, when the first little guy disappeared, I figured it for family. By the time the fifth one was gone, I was at a loss. And when they found the Pratt baby dead drown on the mainland, well, Maggie didn't have too work to hard to convince me it was time to call in the F.B.I." He looked pointedly at Mulder. "You think it's this guy?"
"He's certainly a strong candidate for questioning, if we can find him. I don't suppose anyone has seen him recently? If we're going on the assumption that he does have something to do with these abductions, then he's got to be around here someplace."
"I haven't heard anything, but then, I might not. Not every strange face gets reported to me," Defreitas admitted. "I'll have my boys ask around."
Defreitas placed his hands on the table.
"I wish I had more to offer," he apologized. "But you're welcome to all the help this office can give you. And all the coffee you can stand."
Mulder laughed. Then, realizing that there was little more to get, he thanked the man, and they left.
"So what now?" Scully sighed as they climbed back into the car.
Mulder looked over at her.
"Who's the first girl on Maggie's list?"
Scully looked at the list of names that Maggie Flynn had provided them.
"Jeanne Gaudreau. She's twenty years old, unemployed. Her baby was one of the first ones to disappear."
"Guess that's as good a place as any to start."
Shelter Island, ME
The girl who answered their knock was very pretty, in a poignant, almost old- fashioned way. Jeanne Gaudreau pushed a lock of sandy brown hair back into it's braid as she looked shyly at the two agents.
"Miss Gaudreau? Jeanne Gaudreau?" Scully queried. When the girl nodded, she held out her ID. "I'm Agent Dana Scully, this is Fox Mulder. We're from the F.B.I.? We'd like to talk to you about your missing baby."
The girl nodded, and stepped aside, letting them into the house. The living room was comfortably furnished; nothing was new, or particularly fashionable, but it was all well cared for and scrupulously tidy. Apparently, they were alone in the house; Scully saw no signs and heard no sounds to indicate the presence of parents, or the three brothers she knew the girl had. Jeanne lead them to the sofa, and took a seat, herself, in a companion chair.
"Ms. Flynn said you might be by. How can I help you?" she asked politely, her voice low. Scully was struck by the gentle resignation in it.
"Well, we were actually hoping we could help you, Jeanne," Scully continued. "But we're going to need a little more information, if we are going to do that." She glanced down at her notes.
"Your son, Jeffrey, has been missing for nineteen days?"
The girl just nodded.
"And he is seventeen months old. He's walking and talking?"
The girl nodded again.
"He talks a little bit," she agreed. "Not really good sentences, yet, but he can make himself understood. Especially when he wants something." She smiled at the memory, and Scully smiled along with her.
"Is he a good baby?" she asked. "He eats well and sleeps through the night?"
Jeanne Gaudreau was beginning to relax a little. Beside her, Scully could feel Mulder fidgeting; she knew he hated this round about kind of questioning, even though he acknowledged the necessity. But he held himself still, and let her continue. She smiled encouragement at the girl.
"He's a picky eater," Jeanne admitted, "but my mom says it's just his age. He's always been a good sleeper, though. Sleep through the night when he was just six weeks old."
"Jeanne, I know this is very painful for you, but we need to know what happened on the night Jeffrey disappeared. Can you tell us?"
The girl looked down at her hands.
"It was pretty late," she began, almost by route. "I'd put Jeff to bed around seven thirty, and watched TV with my mom for a while. My dad and brothers were out with the boat, they were gonna be out all weekend. So it was just mom and me in the house. I went to bed about eleven, and I looked in on Jeff before I did, I always do that."
She hesitated, struggling, and Scully felt her heart go out to the girl.
"He was sound asleep, with his bear. I went to bed, and I guess I went right to sleep, because I didn't hear anything. I don't know why I woke up, maybe it was a dream or something. I tried to go back to sleep, I told myself I was being silly, but I was worried about Jeff. He hadn't gotten up at night in months, but I got up to check him anyway, and the window in his room was open, and he was gone."
She looked up at Scully beseechingly.
"That's all I know," she insisted. "There were no other traces of anything in the room. His bear was still in his crib, and everything."
"Could he have climbed out of his crib and wandered off?"
The girl shook her head.
"I got my mom up and we looked everywhere. The moon was still part full, so it was pretty light. We would have found him if he had. He was gone."
"Jeanne, do you have any idea, any idea at all, who might have wanted to kidnap your son?" Mulder asked. The girl looked at him bravely.
"No, sir, I don't," she said.
"And you never got a note, or phone call, from anyone? No demand for ransom? No clues?"
"Can you tell us anything about the baby's father?"
The girl lost color, and did not answer right away.
"Not very much," she admitted, finally. "He was just someone I met."
"Your boyfriend?" Scully prodded. The girl glanced quickly at Mulder, and blushed furiously. She shook her head.
"Not exactly," she said, her voice low.
"Someone you knew, though, from the island?" Mulder quizzed.
"No," the girl replied quickly. "He's not from around here. I guess he came out from the mainland. He never told me where he was from, exactly."
"So you didn't know him very well," Mulder said. The girl closed up, suddenly, and Scully shot her partner a quick warning look. It would not help to alienate the girl, after all. Mulder blinked acknowledgment, and gestured to Scully subtly to pick up the line of questioning.
"Jeanne, I know how hard this is for you," Scully said sympathetically. "But we need to understand, if we're going to find whoever it was that took your baby."
The girl looked up sharply.
"You think it was him? You think he's come back?"
Mulder could not be sure if the girl was hopeful, or terrified.
"We don't know, Jeanne," he replied. "But we have to assume that it's a possibility. Anything you can tell us will help."
The girl eyed him warily for a moment, assessing him. Mulder bore her scrutiny patiently. Finally she nodded.
"What do you want to know?"
"How long did you go out together? For the summer?" Again, it was Scully who sought a way to assure the girl that they understood the magic of these kinds of romances, that they were not there to judge her. But again, she was surprised.
"No," Jeanne replied. "We didn't exactly 'go out together'. Actually, I never saw him again after that one night.
"I just don't know very much," she reiterated. "I'm not lying to protect him, or anything. I met him on the beach. We... " she shrugged. "I never saw him again, to tell him I was pregnant."
Mulder handed her a copy of the police composite.
"This is the man?" he asked, keeping his voice level. The girl took the picture from him and stared down at it for a long time. Finally, she nodded. Mulder could not tell if it was sadness, or longing, that spread across her face as she looked up at him.
"Yes," she replied. "That's him."
"What's his name?" Mulder asked.
The girl looked away.
"I don't know," she admitted. Somehow, Mulder had a feeling she was telling the truth. He raised an eyebrow at Scully.
"He kind of swept you off your feet?" Scully asked gently, trying to find a way past the girl's embarrassment. Jeanne just shrugged.
"Sort of, I guess," she agreed. "I guess I couldn't help myself, anyway."
Then she shuddered. Scully frowned. The girl's reaction was not one of heartbreak, or even anger, but more like revulsion. She shook her head, perplexed.
"Couldn't help yourself?" she ventured. The girl nodded, but her expression was distracted.
"For a moment, I thought I might, but then..." She looked at Scully, and smiled. "I suppose you could say he swept me off my feet, yes."
She was lying. It was the only lie she had told them, Scully was sure. But she was just as sure that something about that last statement was not quite the truth. However, Scully also had the distinct feeling that they had gotten all they were going to get, for now anyway. She glanced at Mulder, who nodded slightly.
"Jeanne, thank you. I know how painful this is for you. And we want to thank you for what you've been able to tell us. Every bit helps."
They got up without ceremony, and headed for the door.
"You'll let us know if you remember anything else?" Mulder said as they left. "We're staying at Sea Grace with Mrs. Flynn."
The girl nodded, but she did not look like there would be much more from her.
Scully glanced up at Mulder as they walked back to the car, but her partner's face was closed to her. She did not worry about that, she knew he was just thinking, processing, and he would open back up, again, when he was ready. She climbed into the car, and picked up the list of names Maggie had give them.
"Who's next?" Mulder asked, simply, starting the car.
"Connie Pratt," Scully replied with a grimace. The mother of the baby who had drown. This was bound to be very unpleasant.
Mulder just nodded, and pulled out of the drive.
Shelter Island, ME
"So what do you think?" Scully asked him hours later. They had just finished talking to girl number four, and had come up with nothing new. Which was good and bad. The girls' stories matched so well it was almost eerie, but they had no more to go on than when they had started, from what Scully could see.
Mulder shook his head, and gripped the top of the steering wheel as the jeep bounced down the road.
"You mean that the four girls we've already talked to all re-confirmed that Don Juan, there, is the father?" he rejoined. "For whatever *that's* worth."
"We should call Portland and have them put this out on the network," Scully said tapping the police picture Mulder had referenced.
"You know, Mulder," she continued, "I'm beginning to think there may be something to your black market theory. There's been no ransom demanded, there's no connection among the girls other than this man... I don't know. Maybe Shelter Island has a new cash crop. Maybe some baby broker found himself a stud who was particularly successful at fathering boy children, and has decided to start breeding his own stock."
Mulder looked over at her.
"This whole thing is sick," Scully insisted. "Did you listen to those girls, Mulder? They're shattered. Anyway, I doubt this is the work of one person. It would take too much coordination to kidnap these infants, and get them off the island in such a short time frame. I think it's a ring."
Mulder chewed on this for a bit.
"Well, I suppose it does make some kind of twisted sense. You know, though, I still have this nagging feeling that those girls are withholding something. That they aren't telling us everything."
"I know, I noticed that, too," Scully agreed, screwing up her face in thought. "And I kept getting the weirdest feeling that the father of those babies was somebody those girls would have preferred to *escape*, if they could have. Not exactly a lover..."
"You think he raped them?" Mulder queried.
"Well, it does sort of support the theory that this guy was here for the express purpose of impregnating these girls." She shook her head. "My God, Mulder, that sounds so monstrous, I can't believe I'm saying it. Do you really think it's possible?"
"I don't know. But the sheriff was right about one thing. Eleven girls in six days is a little excessive, even for recreational fucking."
Scully winced, but offered no further comment
"But if it was rape, then why wouldn't they say so?" Mulder continued, finally. "Why withhold information? Why would they protect him?"
"Well, it may not be all that sinister," she replied thoughtfully. Mulder gave her a questioning look.
"What do you mean?"
"Well," Scully continued, "don't be offended, Mulder, but maybe it's you." She smiled at his look of consternation. "I mean, these girls are all young, and they've lead fairly sheltered lives, despite their untimely excursions into motherhood. A couple of them are hardly more than children, themselves. And rape is an extremely traumatizing crime. You know that most cases of rape are never reported and even women who know better often blame themselves. I got the feeling these girls were more embarrassed than afraid. Ashamed, really. Maybe they're just not comfortable discussing such details with a man, especially a stranger. "
Mulder considered this, and nodded in agreement.
"Good point," he concurred. "I didn't think of that. You want to go talk to those last girls by yourself?"
"It's worth a try," Scully agreed. "They may be more open with me, alone. " She looked out the window, watching the passing landscape. Mulder made a popping noise with his mouth while he thought.
"Can I ask you a medical question?"
Scully turned to him.
"What's the probability that all eleven of those girls would be ovulating during the same week? And that they'd all manage to get pregnant after only one incident of intercourse? Because, rape or not, it doesn't sound like any of these encounters were ongoing relationships."
"Well, it is a little unlikely, I suppose," Scully agreed, "but it's not all that far fetched. A woman generally has 25 to 30 days to her cycle, I suppose it's possible that these eleven girls could have all been ovulating sometime during that six day period. Now as far as all of them conceiving the first time..." she raised her hands. "You must have had some gym teacher tell you *that* horror story, somewhere along the line."
"I'm gonna have you drop me in town, before you head out to talk to those other girls," he changed the subject.
"I want to check back with the sheriff and see if anyone has noticed this guy around, lately, and I want to send this off to Portland... And," he continued, "I'm going to go over to the town hall. I want more details on a couple of references in Maggie's file. And I'd like to see if I can find a history of the seals breeding here."
"You almost sound like you're starting to consider this silky thing seriously."
Mulder shook his head.
"Not necessarily, but it might be a convenient cover, if this is black market. Nothing like a local myth to explain the disappearance of those babies, and steer any investigation away from the real truth. Somebody clever enough may have just decided to exploit it, if the myth is well enough known, and can be tied to the coming of the seals...
"Speaking of which," Mulder added to himself, and pulled off the road.
"Where are you going, now?" Scully asked him, curiously. He just smiled, and beckoned her out of the car.
"I want to show you something."
He climbed over a fallen section of drift fence, and Scully, shrugging, followed. The rock cliffs swept gradually to a sandy strand at the right of the place where they climbed over the fence, but lifted majestically up to the left. Left was the direction Mulder took. He looked back at Scully.
"Come on," he cajoled. "Careful, the rocks are slippery in places," he cautioned, leading her ever upward.
"Can I have a hint?" Scully asked, more amused than annoyed by the side trip as she struggled to follow him. Mulder just smiled mysteriously.
They climbed, gradually, but steadily, for some minutes, then Mulder came to a stop along the edge of a rock cliff. He stood, staring out at the pounding sea, lost in thought, as Scully stepped up beside him. His stance was relaxed, his face calm, almost serene. Dreamy. She smiled to herself.
"It is beautiful," she said finally, to bring him back. He looked down at her companionably.
"What are you smiling at?" he asked, arching an eyebrow at her.
"You," she replied honestly, as if she just realized something. "I don't know, Mulder. You're different here."
Mulder frowned. "What do you mean?"
Scully looked bemused. "I'm not sure. But for the first time since I've known you, I think you're actually at peace." A smiled touched her lips. "It's nice."
Mulder looked down at her thoughtfully. But Scully was already distracted.
"What's that noise?" she asked him, of a strange, barking sound that was coming to her on the wind. Mulder guided her to a spot below the cliff face.
"Wait here a minute," he requested, turned, and began to climb the cliff.
Mulder topped the precipice, and lay down on his belly, looking out over the long sweep of rocks that spread below him. There they were. For as far as the eye could see, the seals of Shelter Island. Great bulls, trumpeting from their rock thrones, svelte brown cows lolling in the sun. Pups still white and fluffy, not yet having lost their newborn fur. Mulder turned to see Scully poking around in a tidal pool below.
"Hey, Scully," he called down to her. "Come here."
Scully made a face at the climb, but started up after him. He braced himself and held a hand down to her.
"This better be good, Mulder," she warned him pleasantly, as he pulled her up. He merely grinned, caught her around the waist with his other arm, and lifted her onto the narrow outcropping beside him. Scully settled onto the rock, and gasped.
"Oh! There must be hundreds of them."
"Thousands," Mulder corrected. "The rookery stretches way out past that point. So," he teased her, "is it good?"
"Yeah," she grinned up at him happily.
Mulder tightened his arm around her waist. "Scoot forward and look right over the edge. Go ahead, I've got you."
Scully did as she was told, and hung her head over the edge of the rock. Directly below her, a cluster of seal pups frolicked in a pool formed by the waves crashing up through the rocks.
"Oh, look at them," she breathed, delighted. Mulder laughed in her ear.
"I've never seen anything like this before," Scully said, awed.
"I've never seen them like this," Mulder admitted. "Not this many. The seals have really come back to Shelter Island. Sort of restores your faith, doesn't it."
Scully merely nodded.
They watched the spectacle in silence, pressed close together on the narrow splinter of rock. Maybe it was the sun, or the pounding sea, or maybe presence of teeming life below them, but Scully suddenly found herself acutely aware of their proximity, of the weight of his body against her. Of his arm holding her secure on the slender shelf, his breath on her cheek. She held herself very still, strangely loath to disturb the feeling. Finally, she glanced over at him, and found him gazing pensively, a thousand miles away.
"Where'd you go?" she asked. Mulder's eyes came back into focus, and he looked at her, and smiled.
"Nowhere," he replied. "Just thinking." He looked back out at the seals.
"You know, Dana," he went on wistfully, "I think sometimes I spend so much energy chasing after supernatural truths, that I tend to forget there's truth here, too." he nodded out at the scene stretched as far as they could see.
Scully felt a prickling of sudden insight.
"Yes," she agreed. "Truth. And healing."
Mulder looked at her in surprise, then nodded.
"And healing," he repeated.
A sudden gust of wind shook a lock of Scully's hair loose from its clip, and blew it across her face. Mulder reached out and brushed it away, tucking it securely behind her ear again. For the briefest of moments, their eyes met, and the world around them began to fade. Then a bull seal bellowed wildly below them, and Mulder's attention jerked past Scully's face, and out onto the sea.
"What?" Scully asked, following his gaze.
"We have company," Mulder told her, and pointed. He fished a pair of field glasses out of the pocket of his coat, and sighted on a figure bobbing out in the water. "Well, I'll be damned."
"What is it?" Scully asked, again.
"I think," Mulder advised her, "it's daddy." He handed her the binoculars. Scully focused on the spot Mulder indicated, and saw a slender man, wet black hair plastered around his head and shoulders, lift himself out to the sea, and settle carefully on to a rock far down the ragged shore. He was naked.
"My god, Mulder, the guy must be nuts. That water has to be near freezing. I'm surprised he's not dead of hypothermia."
"Think it's him?" Mulder asked her.
"Yeah," Scully agreed, "Looks like it." She adjusted the focus on the glasses. At that moment, the man turned, and looked at her. Scully told herself it was just an illusion created by the binoculars, that he had to be almost a quarter of a mile away, but she felt as though he was looking right at her, into her eyes, talking to her with the eloquence of desire. She felt a shudder run through her.
"Is he that impressive, Scully?" Mulder gibed, just a little bit testily. Scully lowered the glasses without comment and shook her head. She handed them back to him.
"You want to go after him?"
"Naw," Mulder replied. "He's too far away, and we could never get through these animals. Those bull seals would kill us if we ever tried to go down there."
"He doesn't seem to be having any problem," Scully observed.
"Yeah. That's interesting, isn't it," Mulder agreed, making a face. Scully gave him a quizzical look, but he did not elaborate.
"What do we do, now?" Scully asked.
"Let's get back into town," Mulder replied. "If this is our boy, then those last two babies may be in danger. I want to arrange for a stake out for tonight"
Because they took a different route back into town, the agents did not see Chelsey Bradley carrying her baby along the turnpike toward the beach. If they had, of course, they might have been able to send her home to safety. But they did not, and the young woman struggled along, with her child in one arm, and a heavy bag of baby gear on the other. She came to a break in the drift fence, and put the boy down.
Chelsey sighed as she parted the fence for her baby to toddle through, cursing again the fact that the only sand on this side of the island was half a mile from her house. The Bradley's had one of the most spectacular views on the ocean side of Shelter Island, topped only by Ms. Flynn's house, but the beach was all rocks. No place for a baby to play. So if Chelsey wanted to take little Robert to the beach, (she called him Robert, not Bobby, favoring the current fashion of full first names,) she had to walk. They didn't go to the beach very often.
The baby trotted down to the edge of the water, squealing happily. Chelsey let him go; there was a limited amount of trouble he could get into, he was past the stage where everything went into his mouth, thank god, and she knew he would not venture into the water. It was too cold, and the crashing waves still sufficiently intimidated him. She pulled a sheet out of the baby bag, spread it on the sand to sit on, and opened her book. She had already mastered the mother's technique of reading while keeping one eye on her child. She found her place in the mystery novel, shivered with anticipation and began to read.
Little Robert Bradley was on the trail of his own mystery - a dead crab washed up on the sand. A cautious child by nature, he would not touch the thing with his hand, but found a driftwood stick and poked at the empty shell. When it did not move or otherwise react, he became bored, and threw the stick into the water. Above him, a seagull saw the stick arch and land, and dove for it. Robert followed the motion, clapped his hands and threw another stick. The bird dove again. However, the bird was smarter than the boy, and when the third bogus treat hit the water, the gull ignored the tease and flew away. This desertion bothered little Robert not at all. He plopped himself down in the sand and began digging a hole.
Chelsey Bradley was a good mother to her son, and watched him carefully out of the corner of her eye as she read, but she did not pay much attention to the surrounding landscape. After all, the likelihood of an unknown danger coming upon them was remote. So she did not see the head of the stranger pop up over the top of the rock above them, and if she felt at all a strange sensation of being watched, she passed it off as the affects of the novel she was reading. She turned the page.
The man worked his way down the rocks, toward the water, until the point where they barely continued to conceal him. He pushed the wet black hair out of his eyes, and focused on the little boy. Robert looked up from his task, looked back at his hole, began to dig again, then stopped and looked hard at the rock cliffs not far distant from him. At first he did not see the man there watching him. Then he did, and the vision held him mesmerized. The man smiled, and Robert chortled with delight, and clapped his sandy hands. His mother looked up, followed his gaze to the cliffs, but saw nothing, since the stranger had anticipated this and had already ducked down. Chelsey shrugged and turned back to her reading. The man lifted his head again, and held out his hand beseechingly. Robert never hesitated. He struggled to his feet and began to toddle toward him in happy anticipation. He was nearly there when his mother looked up and saw him.
"Robert," she called, standing up. The child looked at her.
"Come back here, where do you think you're going?"
The boy looked back at the spot where the man had been, but the spot was empty now. Disappointed with an intensity he was too young to understand, the child plopped himself back down in the sand and started to cry. Chelsey reached her son in a few strides, and picked him up.
"What's the matter, silly boy," she cooed, tickling him. "What's so sad."
The baby giggled, distracted again, and allowed himself to be carried back to his hole in the sand. His mother went back to her book, and Robert went back to his digging. He looked back at the cliffs only once, but the stranger was really gone. He shrugged his baby mental shoulders and focused again on his hole.
Half a mile away, Bernice Bradley finished hanging out a load of sheets, and dropped the bag of clothes pins inside the laundry basket. The stiff breeze whipped the wet fabric, and she knew it would not take them long to dry. She was pleased, it gave her an odd sense of satisfaction, hanging laundry out of doors again after the hard winter. It was, to her, a sure sign of spring, more certain than robins, and certainly more so than the seals. Bernice's husband was a fisherman, and the seals where not necessarily a welcome sight to her. Not that she had not enjoyed scaling the cliffs to watch the pups play when she was a girl, but now that she was grown and a wife and mother, other responsibilities had wiped out many of the simple pleasures of her youth. And now with yet another body to clothe, and mouth to feed... She shrugged her shoulders.
When she had first learned of her daughter's pregnancy, Bernice Bradley had been devastated, partly because of her own moral outrage, and partly out of fear of her husband's reaction. But Gale Bradley had taken the misfortune more philosophically than either his wife or daughter had anticipated, even to accepting the fact that Chelsey would not name the father. And when his daughter had presented him with the much desired male heir, (Chelsey, a girl, was their only child,) he had been frankly thrilled. He had even discussed secretly with his wife the possibility of legally adopting the boy as their own. Bernice was not partial to the idea, but refused to acknowledge, even to herself, that Chelsey's production of a boy baby seemed like an affront to her. And even she was weakening in the face of Bobbit's, (she refused to call the child Robert,) burgeoning charm.
If she had seen anything odd in the fact that so many other girls and young women on the island had also born babies at the same time, Bernice Bradley kept those thoughts to herself. She was not one for flights of fancy, never mind what others might say about those old legends. She even ignored the strange look in her husband's eye when he had first lifted his grandson in his arms and declared that the boy would make a hell of a seaman. But now, as those same babies disappeared one by one, she could not help the shuddering dread that came over her, and she knew that she loved her little grandchild more than she cared to admit. She was desperately afraid.
It was to these thoughts that Bernice Bradley attributed the sudden feeling of foreboding that swept over her as she looked out over the waves. She shook her head, chided herself for daydreaming and picked up her empty wash basket. She walked back to the house without a backwards glance, so she did not see the man, black haired and naked, lying along the cliff edge, watching her, watching the house. As soon as she was inside, the man nodded, and slunk away.
Shelter Island, ME
"He came up out of the sea, among the seals, did he?" Maggie quizzed the agents when they returned later. "And they made no move to attack him?"
"Pretty good planning, actually," Mulder agreed. "Because it means that nobody would be able to get to him. Like having a couple thousand big guard dogs."
"But how do you explain the reaction of the seals? You said that they just ignored him. Most unusual, don't you think?"
"There are well documented cases," Scully offered, "of people who are able to 'charm' wild animals. I remember reading not long ago about a boy who had no bodily scent, he was a genetic aberration. But animals couldn't smell him, so they weren't afraid, and therefore, wouldn't attack him. Even normally vicious carnivores tolerated his presence. And a cellist friend of mine told me once about a man who could sing to whales. He'd go out to sea, and play whale song on his cello. The whales would come right up to him, surround his boat, and just stay there and listen. Maybe this guy has some special ability that allows the seals to tolerate him. Like Mulder said, it would be a pretty good cover for getting on and off the island."
Flynn looked at her curiously.
"And you believe that, Dana? There is nothing else about this man that strikes you as unusual?"
"Well, the temperature of the water didn't seem to affect him at all, that was pretty odd. But then, I've read about people who swim the English Channel in January, too. Not something *I'd* want to do, but it's hardly supernatural."
"And nothing else?"
Scully shook her head, but a strange, almost haunted look did suddenly come into her eyes, and she looked away. Flynn frowned, but did not pursue it.
"I don't know," he shrugged. "But whoever this guy is, it's a pretty good bet that he is the father of those abducted babies, and that he is probably connected somehow with the kidnappings. Whether this is a black market operation or not. I'll admit, the *quantity* is a bit excessive, but F.B.I. files are loaded with cases of children being kidnapped by non- custodial parents, usually fathers.
"Now, nobody in town besides those girls seems to have seen this guy, or knows who he might be, or where he might have come from. So we don't know anything until we question him. To do that, we have to catch him first. Which is why I've arranged to stake out the houses of those last two babies tonight."
As if summoned by his words, the doorbell suddenly rang, and Maggie ushered Sheriff Defreitas into the kitchen.
"I believe you've already met my friends Fox Mulder and Dana Scully?" Flynn offered by way of introduction. Defreitas extended a hand.
"Yes, thank you, Maggie. Agent Mulder, Agent Scully? We're all set for tonight. I'm afraid we don't have access to the kind of manpower out here that you're used to, but I've deputized half a dozen men, plus my own two regular deputies. They're good men, level headed, and reasonably good shots."
"I'm sure they'll be fine," Scully assured him. "Under the circumstances, I think having someone who knows this island and it's inhabitants will give us a real advantage."
Defreitas nodded, pleased.
"My thinking, exactly," he agreed, grateful for her understanding. Mulder also noted Scully's "as usual" skillful handling of the local law, and smiled at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Now, I figured one of you, maybe you, Agent Scully, could take my two regular deputies, and two of the men I've just sworn in, and head out to the Bradley place," Defreitas went on. "Agent Mulder, maybe you and I and three of the others can stake out Dick Childs'. I'd like to leave one man here, Maggie, if you don't mind, with a radio, to relay messages. Sometimes it's a bear to get a clear signal around that headland." Flynn assured him that was quite acceptable. Defreitas nodded.
"I'll bring the lot of 'em here, then, say about seven thirty?" he asked.
Mulder nodded. Defreitas politely turned down an offer of coffee and pie, made pleasant good-byes, and left.
Gale Bradley Residence
Shelter Island, ME
Dana Scully put the binoculars down, and picked up the cup of coffee that Bernice Bradley had so graciously provided about fifteen minutes earlier. It was getting cold, but she did not care. She knew she was going to need the caffeine. She looked at the clock on the dashboard - eleven o'clock, and they had been out here for just over three hours. So far, the only things she had seen were a couple of raccoons, and the lights from a passing trawler. She glanced over at the boy sitting next to her in the car.
Deputy Danny Jensen was twenty-two years old, scared to death, and intimidated as hell. He had been born and raised on the island, and the worst crime he had probably witnessed to date was some kid throwing eggs at the coffee shop window on Halloween. Scully wondered if he had ever fired his gun in the line of duty.
The presence of the F.B.I. was definitely putting young Jensen, and his partner, Josh Glidden, on their best behavior. If Scully had any concerns about her reception as a woman in authority, they were quickly put to rest. These two boys could not say 'yes, ma'am!' fast enough. And as for the two irregulars, they were nice men, and polite, but typically reticent Yankees. They followed orders willingly enough, but volunteered little. And if they were not overwhelmed by Scully's authority, it had less to do with her sex, than with the fact that she was from the 'gov'mint'. Scully figured she could live with it.
A few 'a-yups' had gotten her crew in place on the beach, with her and Jensen in the car at the top of the drive. From there, they had the best view down the beach from the north. And if blatant male chauvinism made the others refuse to rotate places when she offered, Scully was not going to fight with them about it. It was a damned cold evening, and the wind off the water was bitter.
Jensen had the binoculars, now, and was gazing through the windshield.
Scully looked where he was pointing, then reached for the glasses. She focused on a figure jogging cautiously down the beach: male, long black hair, barefoot, dressed only in a pair of black breeches.
"That's him." She picked up her radio. "Glidden? He's coming at you, down the beach from the north. Try to get between him and the water line, and drive him inland. Do not, I repeat, not, fire on him without my direct order. And do not let him near the water, the cold does not seem to affect him and he will try to escape into the sea."
"Yes, ma'am. Is he armed, ma'am?" Glidden asked, sounding nervous.
"I doubt it, deputy, he's barely even dressed," Scully sighed. "But proceed with caution." She looked over at Jensen, who was blushing furiously behind the binoculars.
"Can you still see him?"
"Yes, ma'am, he's heading right toward them, now," the boy replied. Scully thumbed the radio again.
"Scully to Mulder. Mulder, do you copy?" Static answered. "Damn," she muttered. She keyed it again. "Scully to Sea Grace."
"Sea Grace, here, ma'am," an unfamiliar voice answered.
"I need to relay a message to Agent Mulder. We have sighted the suspect on the beach below the Bradley residence, heading south. Subject appears unarmed, but we are proceeding with caution. Ask Agent Mulder to join us here as soon as possible."
"Yes, ma'am, will do," the voice assured her. "Sea Grace out."
Scully clipped the radio on her belt.
"Much more of this night, I'm gonna to start believing 'yes ma'am' is my given name," she sighed. "Come on, Jensen, let's go."
"Yes, m- - - , " the boy chomped down on the 'ma'am', and Scully had to bite her lip to keep from smiling. She opened the car door and got out slowly, drawing her gun as she did. She was pleased to see Jensen do the same. The boy at least handled the weapon like he knew how to use it.
"This way," she said, and headed down toward the beach.
They followed the suspect silently for a bit, Scully wanting to get within range, if possible, before she warned him of their presence. After all, they had him in sight, he could not go far. But the man must have sensed them, somehow, because he suddenly turned from his goal of the Bradley's house, and doubled back on his own tracks.
"Hold it right there, F.B.I.!" Scully shouted. "Federal Agent! I'm armed!" When he did not respond, she ran off after him. She was running so hard that she did not see Danny Jensen trip and fall, did not see his gun go spiraling away as he flew over the rocks and tumbled onto the beach. Scully did see the man she pursued duck behind a rock and disappear. She followed him. As she rounded the corner, he was standing and waiting. He was not waiting to attack her, there was no defensive posture, he was just standing there. Waiting for her.
"Federal Agent, don't move!" Scully gasped, struggling to get her breath. The man continued to stand there. Looking at her. Scully kept her gun trained on him, but found herself staring at him, staring into his eyes, unable to look away.
His eyes, black eyes, black pools, lost in black pools...
She shook her head.
"Step over here, slowly," she demanded. "Away from the water. I want you to put your hands in the air, and walk up here onto the rocks." She moved down toward the water, trying to place herself between the man and the sea. The man turned to face her as she went, but otherwise did not move.
He looked at her, dark eyes, soulful eyes, eyes filled with longing, with desire...
Scully breathed. She struggled for self command.
"Move up the beach," she ordered, but her voice was barely a whisper. She wanted to... she wanted... She lowered the muzzle of her gun until it was pointing toward the ground. The man held out his hand to her, and she began walking slowly toward him.
Fox Mulder reached the rocks right about the same time that Danny Jensen found his gun.
"Hey, you okay?" he called, bouncing down the bank.
"Yeah, I tripped," Jensen replied sheepishly.
"Where's Agent Scully?"
"She went that way, after the suspect," Jensen replied, pointing.
"Alone?" Mulder exclaimed. He did not wait for confirmation, but took off in the appointed direction. He came over the top of the rocks, and saw Scully and the suspect below him, standing in the waves. Scully had her weapon drawn, but she had it pointed toward the water crashing around her knees. The suspect seemed to be beckoning her, or trying to show her something; he was only feet away from her, holding his hand out. Scully was moving toward him, slowly, deeper into the water.
"Federal agent, don't move," Mulder shouted, training his gun on the man. "I'm armed."
He glanced at his partner.
She didn't even flinch.
"Scully!" he tried again. This time Scully shook herself, and looked at him. The man broke, and dove into the surf.
"Hold it, stop right there," Mulder shouted, swinging his gun around. But it was too dark to get a clear shot off, and he did not want to risk a bullet ricocheting around in those rocks, not with Scully so close in range. He lowered his gun.
"What the hell's going on here!" he shouted down to her angrily. "What's wrong with you! What're you doing?"
Scully turned to face him with an expression so saturated with horror that Mulder felt his breath go like he had been punched. Something was terribly wrong here, that man had done something to her. His mind leapt immediately to the thought of some kind of drug. He hopped down the rocks to the water's edge.
"Come out of there," he scolded. "Scully? Are you okay?"
He reached out to take her arm, as she came up onto the beach, but she flinched away from him. Instead, he took her gun away. Scully pressed her hands to her face.
"I don't know," she whimpered. She struggled for control, slowly dropping her hands. "I'm fine, I'm okay."
"What happened?" Mulder insisted.
Scully shook her head. Baffled, and concerned, Mulder handed her gun back, then holstered his own.
"Come on, let's get out of here."
Shelter Island, ME
"Look, I'm fine," Scully insisted, wrapped in a dry bath robe and hovering over a cup of tea. "I don't know what happened down there. Mulder, I'm sorry. I don't know what else to tell you." She shook her head forelornly.
Mulder pressed his fist to his lips and scowled. This behavior was so unlike his partner that he was at a loss as to what to do. Part of him wanted to give her holy hell. But the part of him that *knew* Dana Scully was just too damn worried.
"Did he touch you?" Flynn asked. Mulder looked at his former professor sharply, but Scully merely frowned and shook her head.
"No," she replied tersely, but there was something odd about her expression that made Maggie suck her lip and sigh.
"Look," suggested Flynn, "it's late. Perhaps this will all make more sense in the morning, after we've all had some sleep."
Mulder looked between his friends, and had the odd sensation that they knew something he did not. He almost insisted on pursuing the cause of Scully's strange behavior right then and there, but he could see that she was exhausted, and embarrassed, and would probably have no more to offer that night, anyway. He nodded in agreement.
They went wordlessly to bed.
On the stairway landing, however, Scully stopped him with a question.
"Mulder, what if Maggie's right?" she asked him.
"What do you mean?" Mulled queried.
But Scully's expression became closed to him, again, and she shook her head.
"I don't know. Nothing ," she replied. "Good night."
She went into her room and closed the door, leaving Mulder staring after her in the hall.
If you had asked him, later, Mulder could not have told you exactly what woke him, but suddenly he was wide awake, and the first thing he was conscious of knowing was that strange pounding noises were coming through the wall from Scully's room. He was through the communicating door in seconds and found her at the window, struggling wildly, but futility, with the locked casement. He pulled her away.
"What are you trying to do?" he asked.
Scully jerked away from him, and whimpered softly. Mulder frowned after her, then turned to the window. Unbolting the casement and throwing it wide, he stared down onto the rough lawn below. A man stood there, staring up at him, dressed anachronistically in a black silk shirt, ruffled at the neck and cuff, and black riding breeches. His hair was black and curly, hanging to his shoulders. Black eyes smoldered in the white landscape of his face. He focused on Mulder and glowered.
Mulder recognized the man. He looked around for Scully's gun, but it was no where to be seen. Scully, herself, was huddled in a corner, looking stricken. Mulder turned back. The man below him met his eyes with a staggering, almost physical, force. Mulder felt as if he had been clubbed.
"Who are you!" he shouted. "What are you!" The man merely looked at him, but the impact of that look was shattering, as if some force was trying to grab hold of his mind and wrestle it to the ground. And yet, even as he felt his psyche buckling under the attack, Mulder was knew that it was not him, somehow, that was the true target. That man wanted Scully! He was suddenly overwhelmed with the need, above all other needs, to keep her away from him.
"Get out of here!" he commanded, steeling himself. "Leave her alone! She doesn't belong to you!"
The contest of wills would have been spectacular had it been a battle with rapiers, or pistols at dawn, but as it was, the two men merely glared at each other across the darkness. Finally, the stranger turned and left. Unnerved, Mulder turned to his partner. Scully stood hugging her arms by the bed, her eyes panicky, her posture apologetic. Mulder felt his anger drain as he looked at her, but his worry and confusion only mounted.
"Scully? What's happened to you," he pleaded. "What has that man done to you?"
At that moment, Maggie knocked on the door from the hallway.
"Fox? Dana? Is everything all right? I heard shouting."
"No, everything is *not* all right," Mulder replied, his voice heavy with frustration. "And I wish to *hell* someone would tell me what's going on here!"
Flynn opened the door. She looked from one to the other, then at the still open window, and exhaled.
"Dana, honey, are you all right?" she asked. Remarkably, Scully nodded. Flynn turned back to Mulder.
"Fox," she said softly. "We must talk. I afraid I have made a terrible mistake, and may have placed Dana in great danger. We must get her off the island. Tomorrow."
Maggie made coffee, even though nobody wanted it, and they all drank coffee they did not want because it gave them something to look at besides each other, and something to do with their hands.
Flynn began without preamble.
"Almost thirty years ago, now," she said, " I had finished my education, and had returned home here to this island to prepare for my wedding. I knew this would be my last visit home for a long time, as both David and I had accepted teaching positions at the University of California at Berkeley, so I spent most of my days, and many of my evenings, well into the night, exploring my island, and saying good-bye.
"The seals had come to the island in great numbers that year. Not so many as had come in the past, nor even as many as are here today, but more than we had seen in a long time, and the locals all said it was a sign of good luck on my impending marriage.
"One night, rather late, I was down on the beach by the seal rookery. There were fewer strangers on the island in those days than even there are today, and there was little danger to a young woman alone on the beach at night. I was walking along the rocks, listening to the night noises, when he came to me. The man in that picture. The man who seduced all those young girls two springs ago. The man who has thrown his compulsion over you, Dana."
Scully looked up slowly, met the woman's eyes, and nodded. Then she sensed Mulder staring at her, glanced at him quickly, then turned guiltily turned away, missing the worried look in his eyes.
Maggie continued her story.
"He came over the cliffs from the rookery side. I'd never seen any man like him, before, no man more beautiful, more compelling. I loved David with all my heart, but with less than a glance, this creature took my soul. He did nothing more than look at me, but, in that moment, I would have forsaken everything, family, lover, life itself, for him. Everything. I cannot make you understand enough the power he exerted over me.
"He held me in his thrall for only moments, then he released me. I didn't understand at the time, he merely looked unfathomably sad, and then I was free. He walked into the sea and disappeared. I wept on that beach for hours. I almost decided to call off my wedding. But, you see, I couldn't *tell* anyone what had happened. I had nothing more sinister than a casual encounter with a stranger on the beach, he did not so much as touch me, or speak a word, the encounter lasted less than five minutes, yet I was filled with such an overpowering sense of shame, of humiliation, that I could not tell even my closest, most trusted friend. "
"Yes," Scully whispered softly into her coffee cup. Mulder looked over at her, comprehension dawning. He reached over and closed his hand gently over her wrist. He felt her flinch, but kept hold, and after a moment she relaxed, and graced him with a brief, but warm, smile. He nodded, and let her go.
"I think, now, that shame is its defense mechanism," Maggie went on. "I think this creature engenders in its victim such a sense of mortification that only the threat of most dire consequences can cause her to betray him. And that it takes only the merest contact with him to fall under his spell.
"I didn't realize what had happened, until many years later," Maggie concluded. "For a long time, I think I forced myself to forget the entire incident. But you see, I think that creature saw me for what I was, saw what I did not yet know. I'm barren, you see, I cannot conceive. I believe that creature saw that I could not fulfill his reproductive needs, and that is why he let me go. I've often wondered if that was why he looked so sad."
Scully sat up straight and looked at the other woman with deep compassion. Then she turned to Mulder.
"She's right. Maggie's right about that thing. I wanted to tell you what was happening," she said evenly, strongly, all signs of enchantment gone now. "But I couldn't. I physically couldn't. At first, I just didn't understand. Then, the horrible feeling of shame... it was overwhelming, I couldn't force myself past it. I don't know what this creature is, where it comes from. But what Maggie is saying is true. It has some inexorable power, Mulder, it won't be denied." She shook her head. "Those poor girls. They never knew what hit them."
Mulder nodded slowly. He looked at Flynn.
"That's why you kept insisting this thing was real," he mused. "But why didn't you tell us all this sooner."
Flynn had the good grace to look chagrined.
"I was afraid," she said, "After all these years, I was still afraid. And, perhaps, I hoped you might prove me wrong.
"Fox, when you first told me that your partner was a woman, I almost asked you not to bring her with you. I feared the danger to her would be too great. But, I didn't know how to explain it to you. And, I hoped that perhaps a foreign female, one not raised on the myths of this island, would be less susceptible to the creature's enchantment. So I said nothing.
"I was wrong. I'm afraid I've made a terrible mistake, and now Dana is in grave danger. She must leave this island. If we can get her to the mainland in the morning, she will be safe there. She must go out on the next ferry."
But Scully was clear headed again, the enchantment was broken, at least for the moment, and she had other plans.
"No," she protested firmly. She leaned back in her chair and turned to Mulder. "Whatever this thing is, we have to catch it," she told him reasonably. "We can't leave it running around free. And I don't want those young girls and their babies used as bait.
"If this creature really lives in the sea, or with the seals, it will have to be lured in before we can catch it. Now, it seems to have made some kind of connection with me. We can set a trap for it, using me as the lure. If we can draw it inland, it should be easier to capture."
"Are you sure it will come to you?" Mulder asked.
Scully's eyes clouded again, for a moment.
"Yes," she breathed. "He will come for me." Then she blinked, and looked at him hard.
"It makes sense, Mulder. It's the only way."
She saw him think about it, saw him hate the idea. She saw her friend want to say no. Then she watched as the professional kicked in, and he nodded.
"Fox, no," Maggie protested vehemently. "You don't know what you're suggesting."
But Mulder had already made up his mind.
"No, Scully's right. It *is* the only way."
"I'm trained for this, Maggie," Scully assured the other woman. "I'll be okay."
"No one is trained to face what you will be facing, Dana," Maggie replied. "You should know that."
"I'll be all right," Scully insisted. "I know what I'm up against, that will give me an advantage those young girls didn't have. And," she gave Mulder a glancing smile, "I won't be alone."
Maggie studied their united force, and acknowledged that further protest would be useless.
"I don't like this, Fox," she tried one last time. "And I can't condone this plan. I don't think you *do* understand. She *cannot* resist this thing - no woman can. But I won't say any more about it tonight, except to ask you to think long and hard before you commit yourself, before you commit Dana to this path." She shook her head.
"Good night," she said finally. "Please, think about what I've said."
She left them abruptly.
Scully watched the woman go, then stood up. Mulder watched her walk over to the french doors, saw her staring out into the night. Then her posture changed, became alert, and he got up and went to her side.
"Is he out there, again?"
"Somewhere," Scully replied. "But, he hasn't come back for me, yet." He looked down at her, and saw that her eyes were still clear of enchantment. She smiled up at him wearily.
"I'm okay," she insisted. Then she turned away.
"Mulder, I am sorry," she said softly.
"It's all right. It's not your fault," he assured her, regretting his earlier outbursts. "This thing... I felt it, too, Scully. Not the same way you felt it, but I felt that creature's power. His enchantment. I don't know what this thing is, but, whatever he's doing to you, *you're* not to blame."
"I know that should make me feel better," Scully admitted forelornly, obviously not feeling any better.
"Apparently, that's part of the 'enchantment', too," Mulder reminded her. Scully just nodded.
"You sure you're up to this?" Mulder asked.
Scully shrugged her shoulders.
"I don't know that we have a lot of choice," she replied. "We have to catch him, and the only way to do that is to draw him in. And I won't risk any more babies." She looked back out at the sea, and shuddered.
"He will come back for me, Mulder," she said. "And I honestly don't know if I will be able to resist him. He has decided to take me. And he doesn't just want to have his way with me, and leave me weeping in the sand like some heartbroken virgin. He wants to take me with him, to keep me. He wants to take me into the sea."
Mulder felt a chill at her words. He reached out spontaneously and put his arm around her shoulders, hugging her protectively against his side.
"Yeah, well, he's going to have to come through me, first," he said tightly, staring out at the night. Then he looked down at her, suddenly embarrassed, and dropped his arm.
"The sun will be up in a couple of hours," he said. "You should try to get some sleep."
Scully slept late, understandably, and when she finally did get up, Maggie informed her that Mulder had taken the Jeep and gone into town.
"Did he say what for?" she asked, fiddling with her coffee cup.
Maggie looked grim.
"I believe he is attempting to work out the details of his stakeout for tonight with Sheriff Defreitas," she replied, obviously still distressed by Scully's plans. Scully knew there was no way she was likely to get this woman to understand her commitment as a law enforcement officer to placing herself in danger, if necessary, to protect the innocent; she did not even try.
"We should try to get those last two girls and their babies to the mainland today, while we still can," she said instead. "They should be safe there, and it will be one less thing to worry about. What time does the ferry leave?"
"It doesn't. I'm afraid no one will be traveling to or from the island this day. There's a storm blowing in, pushing heavy seas before it. The ferry won't leave the mainland. The storm should be here by late afternoon."
Then Maggie relented.
"I'm sorry to be such an old grouch, Dana," she apologized. "It's just that I've gotten rather fond of you. I don't want to see you get hurt."
Scully smiled warmly.
"Would it help any if I told you about the wendigo we ran into up in Montana? Or the hundred year old genetic mutant who ate human livers?
"I'm absolutely serious," she added, seeing the woman's expression. "When you hang around with Fox Mulder, you get to be something of an old hand at the inexplicable. Maggie, I know you're worried, I know you care, and I really do appreciate it. But you have to trust me. I am trained for this. And I've run into similar things before. Besides, Mulder won't let me out of his sight, you can trust him on *that*. I'll be okay."
"A real wendigo?" Flynn asked in a small voice.
"Ask Mulder about it sometime." She drained her cup. "Maggie, could I ask a favor of you? Could I borrow your car for a little while?"
"Of course, but may I ask why?"
"I want to go talk to one of the girls we spoke to yesterday. Something she said just stuck in my mind. I think I may be able to get her to open up to me, if I go out there alone. And I think she may be able to tell me some things that may help me protect myself tonight."
"I don't know that it's a good idea your going out alone," Flynn protested. "It's true the selkie tends to do his deeds under cover of darkness, but that's merely a convenience. He's not restricted to the night."
"I'll be careful, I promise," Scully assured her.
"Will you at least let me go with you? I do know these families, they trust me. Maybe I can help."
Scully almost said no, then forced herself to think about it, to think about whether there was really a good reason she wanted to go alone, or whether it was just the enchantment again, making it hard for her to share this with yet another person. As if Maggie did not already know the worst of it.
"I'd like that, thank you," she said instead.
Hampton Cove, ME
"So, what happened last night," Defreitas asked from behind his desk. He would not meet Mulder's eye.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, my boys told me that your partner got separated from the others for a while, last night, and went after the suspect alone. They also said that he got away from her, and that she was soaking wet and looking pretty sick when she got back to the car."
"He did get away from her," Mulder replied stiffly. "Your deputy tripped and fell down, and one person alone couldn't handle him. She shouldn't have been left out there by herself in the first place."
"I didn't mean any offense, Agent Mulder," Defreitas assured the other man. "Nor did I intend to criticize Agent Scully's ability. I had a different reason for my question."
"Which is what?" Mulder challenged.
"He got her, didn't he?" Defreitas asked, not looking at him. Mulder went very still.
"What do you mean?"
"That stranger, the suspect. You know what it really is, don't you. And he got your partner."
Weary and worried, Mulder decided not to fence with the man.
"No," he replied. "Not entirely. He never touched her. But he... connected with her. I think he marked her, somehow. She believes this, also, and believes he'll be back for her. She wants to use herself as bait, tonight, to draw him inland to where we can catch him."
"And you agreed to that?"
Mulder looked at the framed pictures of the sheriff's family on his wall.
"I don't like it. No, I suppose I don't really 'agree'. If there was another way, that didn't involve using those two young girls and their babies as bait, I'd jump at it. But there isn't one that I can see. And Agent Scully is a highly trained federal law enforcement officer. If she says she can handle it, then she can." He sounded as much like he was trying to convince himself, as Defreitas. The sheriff was not fooled.
"You've seen this thing?" he prodded. "You've experienced it's power, yourself."
Mulder sighed and nodded.
"Then you know what she'll be putting herself against." Defreitas looked at his hands.
Mulder scowled at the other officer.
"And may I ask how *you* know so much about it?" he demanded.
"Agent Mulder, I want to tell you a little story, before you make a final decision. When I told you yesterday that this guy was nobody from around here, I meant it. And I wasn't lying when I told you I had no theories. Not exactly, anyway. I had no theories that a rational man could accept, and nothing I could prove, anyway. But I have seen this thing before.
"Must have been about thirty years ago, now. I was just a deputy then, just a kid. I was engaged to be married later that spring. Happy as a dog with his head out the car window; I thought life couldn't get any better.
"The seals had come back in some pretty big numbers that year, more than we'd seen here in quite a while. Made everybody feel real good, like it was an omen. Funny, I suppose, a fishing community *welcoming* seals, and it's true that a lot of the fishermen didn't like them much, but they were like a good luck charm to a lot of us, I guess.
"Anyway, I was out on patrol, one night, about eleven, twelve o'clock, just kinda driving around, when I saw a stranger walking down on the beach below the seal rookery. Now, there's only one place you can actually see that beach from the turnpike, and he was pretty far away, too far to recognize. Still, I was pretty sure that the guy was a stranger, and I wanted to find out what he was doing there. There had been a lot of press at the time about poachers taking seals up in Canada for their pelts, and I, well, I was young, and wanted to be a hero. So I parked my car and went after him. He didn't try to avoid me, but he didn't answer me, either, when I called to him. There was no doubt he wasn't from the island, though. Not just that I didn't recognize him; he looked like something out of a story book, something out of the past. He had long black hair - not unusual in the sixties in other places, but not common on *this* island - and he wore tight pants and a ruffly black shirt. I figured he was some hippy drifted in from somewhere, and that I probably ought to question him.
"I never did. That man just turned and looked at me, and I swear to you, Agent Mulder, I felt like something had taken my soul by the throat. He never said a word to me, never touched me. But if looks could kill, I'd be a dead man. Funny thing was, I knew, somehow, that it wasn't really me who was in danger. Except for being in the way. This thing wanted Mary.
"Now, I grew up on this island, Agent Mulder, and I'd heard all the stories. And like most young folk, had shivered and laughed, and passed them off to old Indian legends. I didn't take them seriously. Until that night. I never told a soul about what happened. But the next day I packed Mary up and sent her to the mainland to visit her cousins until the seals were gone.
"You still sure you want to let Agent Scully use herself as bait for this thing?"
"Wanting has nothing to do with it. We have to catch this thing, whatever it is. We can't leave it running around loose, to come back next year or five years from now, or fifty, and start the whole process all over again. And I just can't think of another way."
Defreitas sighed and nodded.
"You're right, I suppose," he agreed. "As long as you both understand the risk. We'll be down on that beachhead tonight, me and my men, if that's what you want."
Mulder thanked the man, and got up to leave. Defreitas walked him to the door.
"Agent Mulder? Just don't leave her by herself. Whatever you do. Don't let her out of your sight."
Mulder nodded, and left. He barely noticed that it had gotten very black outside, and on the street, it had started to rain.
Jeanne Gaudreau poured coffee directly from the percolator into a set of pottery cups, and carried them to the table.
"These are lovely," Scully commented, scrutinizing the cup.
"Thank you," Jeanne said. "They were really easy."
"You made these?"
The girl nodded.
"My mom and I make stoneware to sell in the village. And we've started shipping to the mainland, too. It started out as a hobby, really, something to occupy ourselves with in the wintertime, but we're actually starting to make a little money with it."
The girl almost looked happy as she spoke. Happier, anyway than she had the day before, talking about her lost child. Scully took a deep breath.
"Jeanne, I know this is very painful for you, but I need your help. I need to ask you some more questions about the father of your baby. I need you to help me understand something."
The girl looked broken, but not belligerent. She shrugged her shoulders.
"I don't know what more I can tell you that I didn't tell you yesterday," she warned.
Scully took the police composite out to her briefcase, and handed it to the girl. Then she spread her hands on the table.
"Jeanne, last night, while we were staking out Chelsey Bradley's house, this man showed up," she began. The girl looked up sharply.
"He didn't get the baby..."
"No," Scully assure her, "we chased him away. But not before he..." She struggled. "Not before he saw me, Jeanne. Not before he made contact. He... connected with me, somehow, Jeanne. I need to understand."
The girl lost all color.
"Oh, ma'am," she breathed. Then she gathered herself. "Did he touch you?"
"No," Scully said. "He only looked at me. But I think that was enough. I felt, feel, him very strongly. I feel that he only needs to come back, and ask me, and I'll go with him, and there won't be anything I can do about it. Is that true? Is that how it was for you."
"But he didn't touch you? He didn't... You didn't... You won't..." The girl stammered and blushed furiously, and Scully smiled.
"No, we didn't," she assured the girl, patting her hand. "But I'm not sure it makes that much difference right now. I think he can still throw his will over me. I need to understand so that I can fight him when the time comes. Because tonight I'm going to try to draw him to me. So we can capture him."
"No," the girl interjected sharply. "No, Agent Scully, don't! Get as far away from him, as far away from here as you can. You're not safe!"
Scully sought to calm her.
"Jeanne, it's all right. I'll be okay, the sheriff and the other officers will be with me. And so will Agent Mulder. We have to catch him, Jeanne, we have to bring him into custody. If we don't, he may do this same thing to other women, someday.
"Will you help me?"
The girl considered this, then nodded slowly.
"What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to listen," Scully said. "I want you to listen while I tell you what happened to me. Then I want you to try to tell me how it was for you. Maybe between the two of us, we can recognize some way to thwart him, to resist him. Can you do that?"
Slowly, the girl nodded.
Scully told her story. It was hard. Even with Maggie there, prompting her, it was hard. And that thing had not even touched her. Her heart went out to the girl at the table with her.
When she was finished, Jeanne nodded.
"I was walking down on the beach," the girl began without prompting. "It was a really cold night, but I wanted to get out, my father and I had been fighting again, and I needed to be alone.
"He came to out of nowhere, just standing there, all of the sudden. I'd never seen anyone like him before. I knew he wasn't from around here. Not from the island. And not one of the regular people from the mainland, either.
"He just walked up to me, and I let him. It wasn't that I wasn't afraid, but it didn't matter. I was scared to death, but I still wanted him. I wanted him to touch me. Then he did, he touched my cheek, and I felt the world exploded like a million beautiful colors. I don't know how else to describe it, it was the most wonder feeling I'd ever had. I don't even know why I let him; I wanted to run away, back to my dad. But I didn't.
"Then he kissed me, and..." she shuddered and closed her eyes in what could only be remembered ecstasy. She opened them again, and looked shyly at Scully. "I don't remember too much after that."
Scully felt herself shudder with cold fear, and something else, a deep sense of anticipation that she acknowledged, then shoved down hard.
"Jeanne, you told us yesterday that you felt you couldn't help yourself, that you had to go to him. But can you remember, did you at any time feel like you might be able to get away from him, if only the right things happened? If only you could?"
The girl struggled.
"I remember feeling, before he touched me, that I wanted to call for my dad. That if only my dad would come and would fight him for me, or one of my brothers, or some other man who cared about what happened to me, who had some kind of claim on me, that nothing bad would be able to happen. I'd have a choice, then, I would be able to leave.
"But I couldn't call for my dad, and nobody came. And then he touched me, and it was all over. He had me."
Scully reached out and took both the girls hands.
"Jeanne, thank you. You have helped me. And I know it doesn't help much, but we will catch this thing. I promise you that."
"My baby's dead, isn't he, Agent Scully," the girl asked in a small voice. "You can tell me."
Scully wanted to cry.
"I don't know, Jeanne. But, yes, I think he probably is."
The girl just hung her head, and nodded.
Walking back to the car, Maggie, took Scully's arm.
"Are you still sure you want to do this?" she asked, but the resistance had gone out of her voice.
"Yes, more so now, than ever. We *must* catch this thing. And I think I know how to protect myself."
She did not elaborate, so Flynn just pointed at the sky, at a dramatic line of black clouds bearing down on them from the north.
"There's the storm," she said. "We'd best get back, it will be here soon."
Shelter Island, ME 12:30 AM
Driving, bitter rain, and gale force winds whipped the headland surrounding Gale Bradley's home. The house was little more than a cottage, really, low built and small, only five rooms on one story, but it commanded spectacular views of the open ocean, and Bradley had refused either to sell, or to expand the place. Although he had thought about an addition, now, with his daughter's boy to raise. Boy was going need his own room soon; he couldn't sleep forever in a crib by his mother's bed.
A huge bull seal swam up on the beach below house, tossed by the heavy surf, and bobbled onto the pebbly strand. It raised itself up on its flippers and sniffed at the wind driven rain. It almost seemed to nod its head in anticipation, before it settled back down and rolled up the beach.
Inside the house, Chelsey Bradley and her mother slept fitfully. Gale Bradley was still out at sea with his fishing crew. Caught out when the storm hit, he had had to run with his catch for open ocean to avoid getting driven onto the rocks. So it was only the mothers, younger and older, who were at home that night, and the sleeping baby boy.
The seal climbed into the rocks at the base of the cliff overlooking the beach, hesitating only once to gaze up at the house overhanging it before pushing awkwardly on. It was not a seal, however, that topped the cliff, and lay along the edge to scrutinize the building. A man, slender and naked, pushed wet black hair up out of his eyes as he stretched himself along the ground. He took his time examining the place, as if he was looking for something in particular. Then, finding it, he smiled and stood up. Running in a low crouch, he pressed himself against the side of the house, then slowly lifted the sash to a basement window, and slipped inside.
Little Robert Bradley tossed from side to side in his crib, not waking, quite, but neither fully asleep. He reached out for his stuffed dog, tucking the battered toy under his arm next to his cheek, and rearranging his thumb in his mouth. It was no good. His little eyes opened, and he sat up, cocking his head to listen to the wind. He glanced over at his mother, asleep in her bed. He longed to call out to her, but something prevented him. He turned and looked toward the door of the room. He smiled.
The man standing in the doorway raised a finger to his lips, and smiled at his little son. Then he turned and glanced at the young woman asleep on the bed across the room. A look of sadness, of longing crossed his face, and he reached out his hand toward her. Then he shook his head, and turned back toward the boy. He cocked an eyebrow merrily, and the child broke out in a grin. Robert Bradley raised his baby hands over his head, and surrendered himself happily into his father's arms.
Looking only momentarily back at the sleeping girl, the man kissed the baby in his arms and ran a loving hand through the child's dark, damp curls. Then he slipped the bedroom window open, and, hugging his young son close to his heart, he dropped out onto the raw salt grass outside.
A brief sharp gust of wind blew a lamp over with a crash, and Chelsey Bradley sat up with a start. Her eyes shot to the open window, to the empty crib, and back to the window again.
"No!" she shouted, "God, no!"
She threw herself at the window, cutting her foot badly on the broken lamp, but not caring. Far below her she saw the father of her child disappear over the rocks with her baby son, their baby son, in his arms. The boy seemed to look back at the house for a moment, then look away again, out at the sea.
Chelsey Bradley turned from the window and sank down against the wall. She threw back her head, and wailed.
Beach below the Seal Rookery
Shelter Island, ME
"Is he out there?" Mulder asked her, shouting against the wind.
Scully gazed out over the waves, pulling the hood of her rain slicker tighter around her head. The gale blew rain fiercely in her face.
"He's out there somewhere, Mulder," she replied, "I can feel him. But he won't come. I think he knows you're with me."
She turned and looked up at her partner.
"You may have to let me go ahead alone."
"No," Mulder replied firmly, shaking his head.
"No. It's too dangerous."
"But what if he won't come to me as long as you're here? Bait's no good if it's not taken."
"You said yourself that you didn't think you could resist him if he came back for you," Mulder argued. "I won't take that risk." He looked down at his boots, half covered with sand and water.
"I almost lost you once," he explained, barely audible. "That was enough."
Scully sighed, then reached out and rested her hand lightly on his arm. Mulder looked back at her.
"Anyway, it's not by the book," he reminded her.
"Now, isn't *that* convenient," she rejoined, more touched than annoyed. "Since when did that make any difference?"
"Since it's your life in danger," Mulder grumbled back. Scully made a face at him, but stopped arguing. Anyway, Sheriff Defreitas was waving at them from the car.
"Agent Mulder!" the man shouted. "I just got a call from the Bradley place. The baby's gone!"
"Damn!" Shocked, Mulder began running toward the car. He was so shocked, in fact, that he did not bother to look back to see if Scully was following him. If he had, he would have seen the odd, distant look pass across her face. He would have seen her hesitate, and turn away from him.
But he did not look back, so he did not see her jog off in the opposite direction, alone.
The rocks at that end of the beach were large and scattered, in reality themselves small bits of cliffs. Scully disappeared behind one, only to find more beach spreading out, again, before her. She looked around determinedly, obvious to an observer, had there been one, that she fully expected to see something. Which she did.
The man was coming down the rocks toward her, climbing over the drift fence at the top of the bank. He held a small child, little more than a baby, in his arms. He stopped when he saw her, and smiled, as if he had expected all along to find her there. Which, of course, he had.
Scully drew her gun.
"Federal Agent, I'm armed," she cried, knowing that her words meant nothing to him, but needing to say them anyway. "Put the baby down, and put your hands up."
The man just moved down the rocks onto the beach, watching her all the time. He shifted the child from one arm to the other. Scully waved her gun threateningly.
"I said, put the baby down!"
By this time, the man was even with her on the beach, about twenty yards away. He stopped and held his hand out to her. Scully felt her will begin to drain away.
"Where'd your partner go?" Sheriff Defrietas asked, as Mulder climbed up the bank and met him by the car.
"Well, she was right behind you, then she was gone," Defrietas replied. Mulder spun around.
"Dammit!" he shouted. "Check that way!" he pointed up the beach. Then he reached out and grabbed the other man's arm. "You know what that thing is, what it will do to her," he hissed. "I don't care what kind of force you have to use. Just don't let him get her." He bolted off in the other direction, toward the rocks.
Sometimes Mulder considered that luck was just with him in the most unlikely of ways. There was no other way to explain some of his more unprecedented successes. Then, other times, it just was not. This was one of those times. Halfway down the bank, he tripped, much like Danny Jensen had the night before, and his gun, like Jensen's, went spiraling into the sand. There was not time to look for it. He heard Scully's shouted warning as he climbed to his feet, and bolted, unarmed, after the sound.
He was well above them when they came into sight; the man, baby in his arms, and Scully, looking dazed, gun hanging by her side.
"Scully!" he shouted. She did not even look at him.
Mulder made a quick assessment, but years of experience told him that he could not reach her before the creature did, that there was too much distance between him and Scully and not enough between her and the creature and the sea. He did not want to think about what could happen if that thing got her into the water before he could reach them.
The creature looked up at him, and Mulder could feel it laugh. Then it turned back to Scully. She began walking toward it, following it down the beach toward the sea.
"Scully!!" Mulder shouted again. He started hopping down the rocks. "Scully wait! Dana!"
At the sound of her given name, Scully turned. She looked at Mulder sadly, helplessly, then turned back to the creature, and began walking again.
"Dana, wait, stay where you are!" Mulder shouted. She turned to look at him, again, questioningly.
Mulder glared at the man with the child.
"Leave her alone!" he demanded. "Damn you! She doesn't belong to you! Let her go."
The creature tried stare him down. Mulder could feel it struggle, but his own need proved the greater, and the being finally broke eye contact, and turned back to Scully. She turned away from Mulder with a final backwards glance, and reached out for the creature's hand.
"Dana, nooo!" Mulder cried in heartbreaking desperation. "Stay here with me! Stay with *me*!"
Scully turned back again, and held his gaze, it seemed like forever. She turned and looked back at the creature, then at Mulder again.
"Stay with me," he almost whispered. She could not possibly have heard that final plea, and yet, as easily as that, Scully's eyes cleared. She nodded and turned back to the creature, gun arm raised. But the being was already running toward the water.
"Stop!" Scully shouted. "Put the baby down!"
The creature did not respond. Scully aimed and fired, hitting him in the back of the right thigh. The creature tumbled to the beach, the baby sprawling out of his arms onto the sand. The child started to howl as the creature climbed back to his feet and continued limping toward the sea. Scully fired, again and hit him in the shoulder, just as he entered the water and disappeared. Then she dropped her gun, and started stumbling toward the water again.
Mulder was still too far away to reach her.
"Scully!" he shouted. She turned.
"Get the baby!"
Scully frowned and shook her head in confusion.
"Get the baby!" he shouted again. She blinked, and looked at the child, still sitting howling in the sand. She nodded. This was something she could understand. Someone helpless needed her. She hurried to the little boy, bundled him up in her raincoat, and picked him up in her arms.
Mulder ran down the beach, and stopped by the edge of the water, the rain and the wind blown surf drilling him in the face. But stare as he might into the waves, he could not see the man. He turned, stooped and retrieved Scully's gun from the sand, then walked over to where she stood, soaked to the skin, crooning to the sobbing baby in her arms.
"Are you okay?" he asked her.
Scully looked up at him, a little sheepishly, but calmly, and clearly free on any enchantment. She nodded. Mulder pulled his slicker off and wrapped it around her and the infant both.
"Come on," he said, putting his arm around her. "Let's get out of here."
Shelter Island, ME
"Where's Scully?" Mulder asked as he came into the kitchen.
Margery Flynn turned and smiled at her friend.
"Down on the rocks, I think," she told him. "I thought I saw her head down there a little while ago. She left her bag by the car."
He found Scully as Maggie had suggested, sitting out on the rock cliffs, hugging her knees and staring out at the sea. A pair of binoculars lay at her feet.
"Hi," he greeted, coming up to the rock she sat on.
"Hi," she glanced at him, then back out over the horizon. "Time to go?"
"Soon," he agreed. "We have a little time." He climbed up on the rock beside her and sat down.
"It's so peaceful here," Scully mused. "Washington is going to seem like more of a rat race than ever, when we get back."
Mulder made a acquiescent noise.
"Sheriff Defreitas called a few minutes ago. The Bradley baby is okay," he informed her. He hesitated, then went on. "A bull seal was found washed up dead on the main land this morning. Apparently last night's storm blew it in. Shot in the hindquarters, just above the right rear flipper. And again just over the spine behind his head. They're passing it off as poachers."
Scully nodded, but offered no comment. Mulder looked at her speculatively.
"You okay?" he finally asked her. She looked at him, and smiled.
"Yeah," she breathed with heavy finality. "I'm still wrestling with this awful feeling of shame, but Maggie assures me that's just the after affects of the - enchantment - and will go away in time."
But Mulder sensed there was something more.
"And what else?" he prodded gently.
Scully gave him a funny look. "I don't know, Mulder, I feel such a sense of ... loss? I can't explain it. I should be furious at what that creature tried to do to me. Or at least relieved that it's over. But instead I feel this profound sadness. And longing." She looked at him, bemused. "It's not a sexual thing. It's just..." she struggled to explain, then gave up, and looked back out at the water.
But Mulder thought he understood.
"Maybe it's just the sea," he suggested. Scully looked at him curiously.
"Maybe it's something as basic as a longing for primal innocence. The sea is really the only wilderness we have left, the only part of this planet that we haven't tamed and harnessed for our own purposes. Maybe you're just feeling that... primordial call. Whatever that being was, it was something fundamental, and original. Like it was a personification of the beginnings of life, of the sea itself.
"You're a sea captain's daughter, Scully," he reminded her gently. "You, of all people, should know never to underestimate the seductiveness of the sea."
Scully smiled at him. Then Mulder looked out over the top of her head at the horizon, and made a small, pleased noise.
"What is it?" Scully asked following his gaze.
"Give me the binoculars a minute," he requested, holding out his hand.
She frowned, but handed the glasses to him. He trained them on the horizon, and grunted.
"Yes. Here," he handed her the binoculars, and directed her gaze. "Look out there, do you see them."
"What?" Scully queried. And then she found them. "Oh!" She dropped the glasses and looked up at him. "They're whales!"
Mulder nodded at her. "Just watch them."
Scully did just that, leaning slightly so that her back rested against his shoulder. It was Maggie who interrupted them a few minutes later, calling from the top of the cliff. They both turned, and saw her waving above them.
"Fox? It's quarter till!"
Mulder gestured a thumbs up, and turned to his partner.
"I guess that's it," he sighed. "That ferry won't wait."
He stood up, and leaned a hand down to Scully, pulling her to her feet. They climbed down from their perch, and headed back up the cliff walk, side by side.