Title: Finding Zuzu's Petals
Author: Katvictory
DisclaimerS: Chris Carter and Fox own Mulder and Scully. They also own the whole universe where this story takes place. That they have so much while I have so little is just too sad to dwell on during this joyous season. So other than stating that I get nothing they'd be interested in for this tale and that I have nothing they'd want I guess this disclaimer is done.
Rating: - Intense subject matter - R
Categories: Angst MRS toward the end
Spoilers: A few through the 6th. This story line does not include any of season 7.
Feedback: Katvictory@uswest.net

Summary: Alone for the holidays, Mulder is pulled into a dangerous mystery by a young caller who claims to be the prisoner of a murderer.

Author's note: While this story deals with the type of monster who abducts, tortures and murders children, only the psychological and some of the physical results of the above mentioned crimes are described. I subscribe to the belief that something's are better left unsaid and some acts are better left detailed by a mind that cares to visualize them.

F.W.M. Case 11391 - December 10, 1999 (Personal Reminder: Do not save  permanently to hard drive. Download to zip files when you get home.)  I know the length of the night on any given date of the year. It's something  an insomniac learns over time. You develop rituals to be performed, depending on the season, to speed the sleepless seconds of the clock ahead and make it  through to morning. I have mine and they're practiced with a fervor and  belief that borders on fanaticism.  Summer is for rookies. I can get through summer standing on my head. Those  short moonlit hours pass quickly. A run through the park, a drive to the  country, midnight concerts, late night movies. Summer nights are alive and  easy to fill.  Now winter, that's a different story. A cold, late fall/early winter is  nothing but torment for those of us who are slumber challenged. Whomever it  was that first claimed hell is cold was most definitely an insomniac.  Wakefulness in November and December is a choice between tossing and turning while eyeing the clock as it diligently reminds you of your stubborn  insomnia. OR watching "It's a Wonderful Life" all night, every night, on  every channel. The decision is usually settled by the toss of a coin. Heads  I lose, tails I just can't ever win.

It was Thanksgiving and I felt I had little to be thankful for. I had  secured your wrath for all eternity by dragging you along on a week long,  wild goose chase which only succeeded in keeping you from enjoying the  holiday with your family. Yes, I was the only turkey you saw that day and  before we parted company late Thursday night you gave me the bird.  Because I hadn't slept in two days, I was certain exhaustion would allow me  at least a few hours rest. It took me a good five minutes to even get my  door open I was so tired. I hit the TV's on button and my couch in one weary stumble. I didn't have the energy to hunt for the remote even when I noticed Jimmy and Donna doing the Charleston. I groaned, knowing this was the first  of many nights I'd be spending with Clarence Oddbody.

Shutting my eyes against the flickering light, I attempted to relax. By the  time Uncle Billy had lost the savings and loan money I was desperate. I  leapt up and manually began to surf the tube, finally discovering one  channel that was blessedly sans holiday movies. I fell asleep sitting up,  drifting off even though the four on-screen psychics were amazing their  phone-in customers.

It was still dark when I was slowly reeled awake by my cell phone. By the  time I'd struggled from the thick, cottony haze my exhaustion had wrapped  me in the ringing had stopped. Cursing, I struggled to sit up, elbows on  knees, leaden head in hands. Looking through splayed fingers I spotted my  phone on the top of the television set. Even as I glared, it once again  began it's tinny, electronic jingle.

"Mulder," I mumbled, even my teeth feeling dull and thick.

"Fox, you need to help her."

The surge of adrenaline felt like an electrical shock, making every muscle  in my body give a quick, harsh spasm. There was a loud click in my ear as  the signal cut off and I immediately checked the tiny screen. It was blank,  save the small, blinking battery informing me I'd once again forgotten to  recharge the damn thing.

Every cell of my body began shaking as my sudden rush of energy seeped away.  Dazed, I shuffled my way back to the couch. I sat for hours, long past  daybreak while the call played over again and again in my mind. The small,  soft voice had sounded exactly like my sister's.

I was late to the office the next morning, but since I was practically the  only employee to show up for work it wasn't quite the smudge on my sterling  record it could have been. Jack, the guard, didn't bat an eye when I passed  him. What else would Fox Mulder be doing on a day meant for basking in the  warmth of one's hearth and kin except sitting in his dungeon, alone. I  slumped to my chair, memories of the odd call making my mood and spirits  far darker than lack of sleep alone ever had.

I knew it hadn't been Samantha. Scully, I'm a fool, but I'm not totally  stupid. (Okay, I can see that smile and it hurts.) I knew someone, someone  who knew me, was playing tricks. But, to what end?

After two hours of attempting to make a report on the week's fiasco of a  case, I found my hand on the receiver of the phone, actually considering an  attempt to contact you. I needed to talk to you about last night's  disturbing call. I needed to have your input on the matter. Well, yes,  I'll admit it, I needed to hear the sound of your voice.

I faltered, my hand moving away. I did NOT need the rejection I'd feel  if/when, after spotting where the call had come from, you would refuse to  answer, knowing I was the only person it could be.

I believe I jumped at least a foot out of my chair when the ringer went off  the moment my fingertips left the black plastic hand-piece.

"Mulder," I snarled, feeling a little sheepish even though no one had been around to see my startled response.

"Fox, you have to save her," the soft, youthful voice pleaded into my ear.

It was so familiar. So haunting.

"Who is this?" I shouted angrily. Like I said, I knew this was not my sister.

It could not be her. But I wanted secretly to believe the lie.

"Fox, we only have a few more hours left. Come to Wyoming now, please." The quiver of tears in the soft plea made my hands shake.

"Why are you doing this? Who is this? You're not her, you sick Mother..." I knew it wasn't her, yet I couldn't bring myself to finish the swear. Those words weren't for those tender ears. The click which came a heartbeat later was actually a relief.

I called you, but all I got was the recording. I hung up without leaving a  message. What could I have said? "Scully, I've gotten two phone calls that  I know can't be my sister but they upset me just the same. You want to  leave your family and come hold my hand while I wallow in self pity because  some sick asshole, somebody who has a grudge against me, has found out that  I don't handle holidays too well?"

I knew that's all it had to be. Nothing mysterious, nothing supernatural.  Nothing but a little cruel, but harmless revenge from one of the countless  many that I've managed to piss-off.

There were three more of the desperate entreaties over the next three hours.

The voice finally gave me a name. That's when I bit, Scully, and swallowed,  like I always do. I'm Fox Mulder, champion of lost causes. Open minded, but  empty headed fool who can be counted on to blindly rush in where no angel or sane, halfway intelligent person would even think of treading. Right?  The caller claimed she was Anna Trainor and was phoning me from Chugwater,  Wyoming. I ran a quick check on that name.

The Missing and Exploited data base told me no one had seen Anna Trainor  since the early morning hours of July 28, 1998. She'd vanished from her  family's fifth wheel trailer while they'd made an early morning run to grab  supplies. They'd left her alone, sleeping, but her brother and his family  were there, just the next site over. They'd locked the door and after all,  Anna was 13. She was a smart girl, very mature for her age. And they were  only gone for half-an-hour. They had only wanted to buy some coffee and a  few things for breakfast.

The Trainors lived in Fort Collins, Colorado, but had traveled up to Wyoming that weekend for Cheyenne's Frontier Day's celebration. They'd reserved  their space at the campground in Vedawoo months in advance. A quick check  showed me Vedawoo was less than an hour's drive from the little town of  Chugwater.

December 10, 1999

My report was interrupted first by a nurse, who, disappointed that she'd  missed out on waking me for that all important, wee morning vital signs  check, made sure her next strike would be victorious by giving me something  that knocked me out until she got to wake me for breakfast. That's when you  arrived, then the doctors, the people from x-ray, the vampires from the lab, more doctors, the press, (Note - I need to tell you thanks for getting rid  of them. Also, need to let the doctors know I think we can start cutting  down on pain meds, so I can quit writing myself all these notes.) that call  from Skinner, the Marquis de Sade from respiratory therapy and so on.

Somewhere in there I know there was lunch, dinner, a bath, bandages being  changed, more meds, a little sleep and we still found time to talk a bit.  You're worried I'm depressed. I flippantly told you, "'tis the season and I  AM in a hospital, after all, so what do you expect?" You tried to cover the  fact, but I know my remark stung. Still, you didn't leave my side until just a minute ago. It's eight o'clock on a Friday, a fortnight before Christmas.  You are dead on your feet. Not from shopping or any of the million and one  things that need to be done for the holidays, but because you've been  watching over me almost day and night for two weeks. You'll probably grab a  quick salad from one of the fast food places between here and your motel  room and drift off to sleep before it's half eaten. But you'll be up bright  and early tomorrow morning, ready to do it all again.

They're calling me a hero, Scully. I know the truth. Look inside any hero  and you'll find bravery and strength. I look to you to find courage and with  you beside me I have strength.

Another interruption, but I think this little RN is afraid of me. That or  she doesn't really care that I need my rest because I got away with no  sleeping pill. Now, maybe I can finish this up.

You've already made the official report on this case. I know you probably  did it while I was still in the ICU, right after I first told you the  'official' version. Do you know about MY reports? Probably. I suspect you,  too, have always made your own personal log of our cases, though I doubt  your notes resemble these. No, yours are most likely the precise, detailed,  neatly typed, single spaced compositions that you could turn in as official  -- if you didn't feel the need to protect me.

Mine wouldn't quite pass muster. Most begin as longhand scribbles on legal  pads, only making it to the zipped discs when I find the time to transcribe  them. (There is an upside to being an insomniac. I'm only a month or so  behind and with this nice long medical leave ahead I should be in great  shape for the new millennium.) They tell the tales as we seldom get to  relate them, as truthfully as possible, with nothing hidden. Each and every  possibility, plausibility and wild speculation is detailed.

In these reports, I can be utterly fearless because no one will see them  but me. There is no worry of rejection or reprisal. In these reports, I can  talk --about you. I talk to you. Without the fear.

The person who claimed to be Anna Trainor had identified "him" during the  same call in which she'd informed me of her own name and location. My quick  check had given me nothing on a Larry Jones. No, perhaps I should rephrase  that. It actually gave me too much. With nothing more to go on than a  state-wide location and that oh-so common moniker, I wound up with a list  two pages long of felonious Larry Joneses, one third of whom had been  convicted of crimes of a sexual nature.

That is what I was being solicited to stop. According to my mysterious  caller, Larry Jones was not only a kidnapper, he was also a child molesting  murderer. The type of sadistic predator who tortured and killed the young  and innocent. Unless I stopped him, he had plans to strike again this very  weekend. When asked, during that longest and most informative of our  conversations, how exactly she knew of this monster's plans in such detail,  the girl had divulged that she'd been held at his house since her own  abduction the prior summer.

She'd then given me what she said was her name, along with the date and  location of her abduction, which as I've already told you, matched exactly  what had been in the M&E data base. That Anna Trainor's history is public  knowledge, easily accessible by anyone who might care to take the time to  search this national network, is a fact that didn't fail to cross my mind.  It didn't help me to believe her story when my question of how she'd gotten  the telephone numbers to both my office and my unlisted cell phone was  blatantly ignored. My temper flared a bit, so I played along, as if I  believed what she was telling me.

"Well, Anna, I have an idea," I told her, keeping my tone even, trying to  convey solemn sincerity. "Because time's running out, wouldn't trying to  find help there in Chugwater be a good plan. Dialing 911 is just so much  quicker and easier than dialing long distance. There are lots fewer  numbers to punch in. And, probably, the local sheriff might make a little  better time driving over to where you're being held, since he's not over a  thousand miles away like I am."

The response to my barbed chide was, at first silence. Then, after a sad  sigh, my caller explained, "I tried that, Fox. Nobody hears me. You're the  only one I can get through to. You're the only one who can help. I thought  you'd believe me." The voice shook a bit in disappointment.

I almost stopped it here. Scully, I was this close to hanging up. I think I  manage do a good enough job of heaping guilt on myself alone, I don't need  another person shoveling. My frustration boiled over. I'd demanded bluntly  that she was at least going to tell me where she'd gotten my name or 'else'.  All my threat brought was the vague reply that I had been referred by  'someone you once knew, Fox'. Well, of course Samantha's name was rejected  from the list I was titling "Anna's and Mulder's possible mutual  acquaintances" right from the start. I didn't think my sister would have  given me a very sterling recommendation as a rescuer.

There was one last, pleading cry for help and the conversation ended. I sat  at my desk, mulling over everything that had been said. This was a joke. I  couldn't believe someone had gone to this much trouble, done all this  research just to try and set me up, but that was what it had to be. I  figured they were making fool's pudding. Want the recipe?

Take one Fox Mulder, and just let him sit, through several sleepless nights.  Now, throw in a few strange, cryptic phone calls and a yarn about a missing  child needing to be rescued. Sprinkle with enough lies, based on truth so  he'll be softened up and laced with curiosity. Add to this heaping portions  of the boredom and depression that comes to him during the  post-Thanksgiving/Anniversary of Samantha's abduction, pre-Christmas season.  Let him stew on this mystery until he abandons what little common sense he  has. Sit back and enjoy.

Still, I wondered, what was the point? So they could laugh that they got me  to fly off to Chugwater, Wyoming for the holidays? Another puzzle was who  could this be? Who WAS making those phone calls? This couldn't actually be  Anna Trainor. Could it?

I stood up from my desk, flipping off the PC as I struggled into my coat.  I'd finally decided. I knew what I was giving myself for Christmas - a  three-day vacation in wonderful Chugwater, Wyoming.

It never ceases to amaze me, Scully, how flashing our badges makes travel  arrangements so much easier. Even on overbooked holiday weekends. I used a  pay phone at Dulles to leave you my message. It was a last minute, spur of  the moment sort of thing. Then again, maybe it was my own brand of flight  insurance. After all these years, I guess I know it's best to drop a hint,  it helps to let you know where to find me. It does make it a little simpler  for you, doesn't it, when the time comes for you to once again save my ass?  Next time though, I think I'll go easier on you. That Sunday, we wound up  cutting things a bit too close, don't you think?

My flight put me into DIA at a little after 1:00 p.m. because of the time  change. I rented a car there at the airport, drawing an overpriced compact  due to the holiday rush. Both the weather and traffic were with me. I made  it to Chugwater, Wyoming in just over two hours, having broken the speed  limit laws in two states within that span, but still, never leaving the  slower right-hand lane of traffic.

The only motel in town was The Chugwater Inn. It was a member of the Barely  So-so Western chain. Standing in the center of the dreary 10 by 10 room,  taking in the sight of the prerequisite cigarette scorch on the faux oak  laminated bedside table, the full extent of my lunacy hit me. I was insane,  traveling 1500 miles on Thanksgiving weekend because I'd gotten what was  probably just some sick puppy's idea of prank phone calls.

'Why was I always doing this kind of thing?' I ranted, mentally cursing  myself. 'You're such a fool, always taking off on some harebrained, wild  goose chase with nothing more than a tissue paper thin lead, a prayer and a  bag of sunflower seeds. You're crazy. No wonder everyone questions why  Scully has stuck it out with you all these year. Seven goddamn years. I  guess that just proves you're not the only one who's crazy. Why, if it'd  been her choosing the cases and they'd been even close to being like some  of the windmill tilting disasters you've picked, Fox, it would have been  "Hasta la vista, Scully baby," back in 1994.'

Everything I was telling myself was the truth. With a disgusted sigh, I  bent over, grabbing for my hastily packed bag. If I couldn't get a flight  back home tonight, I could at least get a better room in Denver than this  fleabag. Then the phone rang. I stared at it blankly, my suitcase slipping  from my now numbed fingers. I tried to convince myself it was the Motel  office, calling to make sure I liked my room. I didn't believe myself for  a minute. Slowly, I stumbled over to the small dresser and picked up the  receiver, anticipating the now familiar, soft voice, even before I'd brought  the handset to my ear.
"Fox, you need to come now! He's getting ready to leave! He's going to go get her! Please!"

"I'm on my way," I murmured, hurrying out the door before my second thoughts could catch me.

Though I'd promised I'd be right there, I quickly decided a bit of recon was  necessary. First, all I had was an address for a destination. The fact that  I'd spotted no water in the metropolitan area of the town and that the words  old, creek and road were part of said address, suggested to me that the  Jones' homestead was in a somewhat more rural locale. In Wyoming, out of  town covers a lot of territory. Most of the state, when you get down to it.  It appeared the only gas station in the tiny burg was closed for the  holidays. The thought of asking directions of the tall, pimply-faced teen,  who slumped over the counter at the local MiniMart, seemed a venture in  futility. Watching the kid worrying with the contents of his nose suggested  to me that those particular orifices were probably the only places he knew  the location of with any degree of certainty.

A quick scan of the other businesses on the wide interstate spur, that  doubled as Main Street, showed cars in only two graveled parking lots. The  first was some sort of grocery/video store /curio shop named La Vaca Luna.  Since my Spanish is not what anyone might call fluent, I pulled over to the  other thriving establishment, "Ye Olde Brew and Dog."

Mattie, the fifty-something, platinum, beehived bartender was small town  friendly. She confided to me she'd known Larry his entire life. While  enlightening me with a continuous flow of gossipy history that centered  around the last three generations of the Jones clan, she went about drawing  me a wonderfully detailed map on a napkin. The address I sought was  pinpointed on her masterfully etched chart by a circled X.

I thanked her, flashing a grateful smile, then turned to leave, but stopped,  deciding to ask this erstwhile local historian the one question that had  puzzled me since I'd first heard the town's name.

"It came from the Indians," Mattie chuckled, moving to my side so she could  point out the dark hued cliff north of town which turned out to be the focal  point of her story. "See that ridge over there?"

I nodded, acknowledging I was with her so far. She flashed a wide grin,  telling me how much she appreciated my efforts at audience participation  during her narrative. Warming up, she moved deeper into her tale. "Well,  that cliff overlooks a huge lake. The white men wound up naming it after  President Grant, then changed their minds during the sixties. Now we're  supposed to call it Lake Kennedy. But the Indians always called it Chugwater."  By now, I had an idea where this yarn was heading; a smile started tugging  at my lips, but I held my tongue, letting her finish. I knew that most of  the fun came in the telling.

"Well, that cliff is backed by one of the most fertile stretches of  grassland in three states. It once supported a heard of bison that the  first settlers say numbered in the tens of thousands. All the Indians had  to do to get their dinner was to go pick themselves out a good, fat animal  then get him runnin' south. Those big beasts don't stop too good, so they'd  hit the cliff in a skid and...well, ever hear the sound a ton of beef makes  when it hits water?"

"Thanks, Mattie. You made my day," I laughed, enjoying her pleased expression  almost as much as her story. I was still grinning when I shoved open the  heavy door and stepped out, squinting from even the pale afternoon sunlight  after my time spent in the dimly lit saloon. "Say Mattie, if the lake hadn't  been there, you think the town might've been named Splat Prarie?"

Her laugh was warm, deepened and smoothed by years of cigarettes and whiskey.  "Lord, you are a cutie. Now, don't be a stranger, shug," the woman grinned  wickedly, giving me a slow, luridly suggestive wink. "We're always open 'til  the state makes us shut the doors, so just come on back for supper after  your visit with Larry. We serve a lot more than just dogs, hon."

I quickly hurried off without a reply. My final glance back, after I'd  reached the car, was made with a studied caution because of her last remark,  but the aging hostess had already disappeared inside. I drove away  contemplating both my directions and my questionable dinner invitation.

I found Old Watson Creek Road with no problem, then followed the dirt path  as per my instructions, to where it dead ended on the Jones' property. The  large, rambling two story farmhouse was surrounded by almost a dozen  Cottonwoods, all huge, old-growth trees that created a natural privacy  fence. Even leafless, the thick branches intertwined in a tight, intricate  filigree that managed to almost completely hide the second story windows.  Massive, twisted trunks cast dark, concealing shadows that stretched across  the barren ground. They bent askew as they climbed in ebony silhouettes to  blanket the building's white clapboard siding. This murky dimness kept the  lower story of the house cloistered from view.

I watched the dirt drive long after the shimmering full moon had chased  away the evening's clouds. Nothing stirred, inside or out. My time was  spent trying to remain both still and warm. It was a task I found almost  impossible to do while squatting among the boulders and bushes that lined  Watson's creek.

There was plenty of time to think while I watched that evening but  unfortunately, I didn't use it. I have to admit, I was on autopilot.  Whether it was from my usual, pre-holiday depression, the almost total  sleep deprivation I'd suffered over the week or just plain weariness from  trying to figure out the puzzles that were popping up at every turn on this  strange, unofficial "case". After the phone call, I began to feel like time  and events were sweeping me along.

Finally, the back screened door swung open, and a dark form lumbered out  into the moonlit night. It was the man himself. Mattie's colorful  description of Jones was right on target. He did fit the stereotypical  description of a hermit. Larry had been cursed with a body and face that  would make almost anyone want to become a recluse. Adjusting my binoculars,  I got an even clearer view of this monster I'd been summoned to stop. I  shook my head in awe at the sight.

I've seen nature play crueler tricks, Scully. Those mutant brothers we  crossed paths with in Home, PA, come to mind. But for a non-genetically  challenged human being, old Larry was about as butt-ugly as any I've seen.  He had a face that called to mind a bull dog, lantern jawed, with a  ferociously vicious underbite. You know, Scully, I'm not usually one to make  derogatory remarks about a person's nose, but this particular bulbous snout  seemed to have been hit one too many times with the bottom side of a frying  pan. And while my vision is not 20/20, and I wasn't very close, my binoculars are pretty powerful. I could plainly see that the man's porcine little eyes  were severely out of alignment.

Larry was dressed in his hermit/mountain man, Sunday-go-to-meeting best. He  wore the complete ensemble, from the Sasquatch sized hillbilly clogs to the  prerequisite furry cap with ear flaps. The monster was huge, massive, a  mountain that moved. The sheer immensity of his size was both frightening  and awe inspiring.

Precisely at 7:35 p.m. by my watch, Jones climbed into his rusty, bucket-of- bolts pickup, and peeled out onto the narrow dirt road, tires spinning  rooster-tails of dust. I knew this was my chance to check for the alleged  Anna Trainor.

I waded across the shallow creek, then sprinted over a snow covered field  to the hard packed dirt and wispy, dead grass covered back yard. Hunkering  down behind a barely standing shed, I spotted a white-washed, wooden door  that appeared to open directly into the ground. I believed I'd found my way  inside.

The temperature had been dropping as the evening wore on. My breath blew  out in instantly crystallizing, silver clouds as I sprinted over to the  house. I scurried to the heavy cellar door and with both arms straining,  heaved it open. The stairway down was deeper than I'd expected. I grabbed  the pen light from my back pocket to help me find my way through the gloom  of this steep descent. Inky darkness quickly swallowed the thin, pale beam,  so my final destination was no more than a black void ahead. With a long  sigh, I started down.

An iron gate blocked the earth hewn entryway which lay before the last  wooden step at the bottom. I pressed against the flaking metal bars,  flashing my dim beacon around the cavernous room. Squinting through the  dusky gloom I tried to see if struggling to open the jail-like door would  be worth my time and effort. I couldn't really see the point of breaking  into a place, then discovering that there was no way out but the way I'd  come in.

I leaned into the rusty gate, straining to illuminate the far wall in the  hope of finding some stairs that would take me up to the main floor of the  house. That's when my narrow beam caught the slow, writhing movements of  thin, pallid arms straining against chains. My heart actually skipped a beat when I realized what I was seeing.  Even though my light was dim, the porcelain whiteness of her bare flesh  shone with a pale luminance. She almost shimmered against the dark, moss  covered brick wall which held her chains. Dark blond hair hung limply about  her face. I couldn't see her features clearly because her head was bowed.

Her thin arms dangled down from the metal bonds which secured her in a  flaccid, crucifixion-like pose. I was spellbound in stunned silence by what  I'd found. The cruel, horrifying tableau was a painfully graphic illustration  of hopeless defeat.

The narrow lines of lingering childhood showed in her thin, jutting hips,  but budding maturity had brought the small, soft swell of breasts, which  suddenly began to heave. Eerie, keening sobs rose from her to echo off the  basement dungeon's walls, bouncing back in whispering harmony to blend with  her chorus of pain. I vainly jerked at the bars that separated me from her.  The harsh metal rattle clanged a discordant percussion to this agonized song. 

"Anna!" My first cry was a pseudo-stage whisper which went unnoticed in the  din. I realized the need for silence had left us in his ancient pick-up, so  my next call was as deep and loud as I could muster. I thought she'd heard  me through her grief because her head lifted and the mournful tears stopped  short, cut off almost mid-sob.

I was wrong. My shout hadn't been what had frozen her so still. Her face  twisted in terror when the thud of heavy footsteps announced that someone  was coming down from the house above us. I gave the bars one final shake,  then turned to leave. I decided that if I retreated before the monster saw  me and flanked him by finding some way in through the house, I'd have  surprise on my side in my rescue attempt. My mind was racing as I hurried  up the stairs, taking them two at a time in my haste.

I paused when I made it to the top, stepping out into the moonlight to  check my weapon. I didn't notice the hulking shape of Larry Jones as he  silently waited for me beside the cellar door. His moonbeam cast shadow  fell behind him, so my only warning came too late. I turned at sensing his  sudden, swift movement when he raised the tire iron up. His huge, thigh  sized biceps drove the rapid, downward arc of his swing. The blow to my  head came long before I was able get my arms up to protect myself.  Fortunately, my instinctual duck was just enough to keep the forceful blow  from crushing my skull. What can I say, Scully. Some of us are just born  lucky, I guess.

We're now heading into the fourth day since I began working on this report.  This means, the report has taken more time to get through than the case  itself. These last couple of days were wasted. I came down with a pretty  severe chest cold. A hospital is the worst place in the world to get sick.  A slight fever and a little congestion prompted a frantic flurry of blood  work, chest x-rays, throat cultures, and entirely too much worry. The  problem was no one would believe my assurances that my illness was a common  cold and all I really needed was a stiff dose of some of that 90 proof  night-time cold medicine so I could get some rest.

I am much better today, just a bit stuffy now, but I'm sorry to say I passed  it on to Scully and two thirds of the nursing staff. At least my partner is  taking a day off from her "holding Mulder's hand while he heals" duty. She's  spending today in bed at her motel in order to rest and recover. Maybe it'll  give me a chance to finish this up.

I drifted in and out of consciousness for most of the night. The first time  I'd surfaced only enough to vaguely note that I'd been bound hand and foot.  During another one of my brief moments of groggy wakefulness, I was able to  focus enough on my surroundings to discover I was lying on the floor of the  basement torture chamber. Some undetermined time later I opened my eyes and  spotted Anna Trainor kneeling beside me.

It took a few minutes but the double vision that had plagued me throughout  the night, seemed to finally fade away. The young girl must have read the  signs that at last I was truly awake, alert and aware. A soft, glowing  smile lit up her young, heart shaped face just about the time my sight  cleared enough for me to be able to appreciate its lovely sweetness.

The ache in my skull had leveled out to a dull, tolerable throb. I'd  suffered through more than my share of concussions over the years so I  knew that as long as I remained prone and held my head still, there was a  good chance I could keep the severe pain at bay. I glanced over to see  that Anna still watched my every move. She finally met my eyes and the  connection was opened, allowing the first few bits of communication that  passed between us. Our silent introduction was filled with curious stares  as we both took stock of each other.

It hadn't been a joke. The slim, exceptionally pretty teen who knelt beside  me was either Anna Trainor or proof that the old saying that we all have a  doppelganger somewhere is true. I'd stared at the young girl's photos on the  Missing and Exploited website for so long, with such intensity, the images  had been seared into my memory. I knew I was looking at that same girl.  Should I admit it now, that even if I'd hoped, I'd never really expected  this missing child would be what I was going to find, Scully? I know you are  numbered among those who see me as the eternal fool, chasing rainbows,  aliens, stopping only to slay an occasional windmill dragon. Do you know  though, that my wild goose chases aren't driven by faith, but by guilt? Do  ou understand the difference?

Maybe it's time I explained then, since you are usually by my side on what  you assume is my noble quest. I don't know if the truth will endear me to  you. You've put your life on the line for 7 years for what you've believed  to be an honorable cause. The truth is out there, and you think that's what  we're trying to find. It's going to be quite a shock to hear you've  jeopardized yourself for nothing more than a selfish, guilt-driven man's  life long attempt at penance. Not that this makes YOU any less noble. You've  been earnestly risking your neck, believing you were helping someone who  wanted to save the world. I think it's time you learned, I'm the one we've  been trying to save.

How about I lay it all out here first? Maybe I'll find a way of softening  what I tell you so it'll be easier to swallow. I doubt it, but here's a try.  Scully, you know that poster, the one that says "I want to Believe"? That IS  my credo. But, ever ask "what" it is I want to believe? Well the truth is -  I want to believe, somewhere out there there's a way for me to wash my hands  of my guilt. This is the quest I've been willing to let you die for.

December 13, 1999

You're feeling better and should be back at your "job" tomorrow. I'll make my  confession to you then. From what the doctors say, I'm able to travel now.  They're faxing out my records today and setting up arrangements for the  flight home. They've got me a room at GMC's rehab center and someone from  there will claim me at the airport. It's all set up for Wednesday. All taken  care of. You can be home and get your own life in order in time to make a  new start in the new millennium.

I was amazed that I was actually looking into the face of this young girl,  missing for so long. I hadn't known what I would find when I started on my  mission to unravel the mystery, especially after that last, out of nowhere,  call at the motel. That the small, pleading voice had been telling the truth  was not even on my list.

That this was the Anna Trainor whose photo was on the M&E data base was  obvious, but this young woman/child had changed. Gazing into those gentle  blue eyes I saw a knowledge born of having survived what I could barely face  thinking about.

I'd seen how Larry Jones treated his young, female houseguest. Anna had  spent close to 18 months as the captive/victim of a sexual deviant monster.  Soon, I was to learn that she had not been the first pubescent girl he'd  kidnapped nor the last. I reasoned Anna was still alive because she  possessed the courage to do what had to done to stay that way.

Was the nausea that was suddenly rising up in my throat merely a symptom of  having suffered a concussion? No, that a young girl had been forced to learn  such ugly lessons is what made my insides writhe and churn. Grimly I rolled  to my side, away from her, violently retching into the soft, cool dirt. The  gut wrenching convulsions brought groans of agony as I let the waves of  sickness claim me.

Nothing alien or paranormal filled me with as much horror as this monster of  a man. I wanted them out, these feelings of disgust. I felt if I didn't  cleanse myself of the vile, putrid stench that permeated this place, it  would smother me. The light touch of a hand on the back of my neck was a  cool, dry, welcome relief from the hot sweat that drenched me during this  desperate purge. Anna's soft, comforting caress reminded me so much of you,  Scully. Gradually, the painful spasm began to subside. My gasping breaths  slowed and with the girl's help I rolled over, inching away from where I'd  been sick.

"My brother Bobby puked like that after he fell off our ATV and hit his head.  Think you got a concussion like him? Where Larry hit you didn't bleed that  much but you know it sometimes bleeds inside? I wonder if you have a subdural  hematoma? Could you have one, you think? I know you're supposed check the  pupils to see if they're equal and reactive but I don't know what that really  means." Her chatter abruptly stopped and I watched with numb weariness, as  this animated young girl leaned over me and began to study my eyes.

"They both look the same to me. That's a good sign. Now, for that reactive  part, I haven't got a clue what it is much less how to check for it. I..."  Her eyes suddenly lit up and I found, even tired, I could muster a grin when  she smiled sheepishly, a blush of embarrassment giving a little color to her  too pale cheeks. "Yeah, duh. REACTive. Way to go, Anna. It means they're  checking to see how your pupils react to the light. My bad."

"If he left me my penlight, you can check them if you want," I offered the  wanna-be doctor. The raw sound of my voice startled me and I tried to  swallow, but found I was too dry. My throat felt sore from all my retching  and I knew that both this and thirst had something to do with the raspiness.  "Anna, is there any way you can get me some water?"

I watched in surprise as her eyes widened, and she paled until she was  almost transparent. Her "no" was quick, coming unbidden, and she pulled  away from me, pushing up to stand with a jerky stiffness, totally lacking  her normal fluid grace. "I, ah -- I have to go. I'll check back on you later  and try to ask him if he'll bring you some water."

Her voice stayed low, taut with nervousness. "He gives you water, but he won't feed you. He doesn't realize he's starving you. That's how you'll probably die, unless you're lucky enough and he winds up killing you first." Her light, sky blue eyes were darkly haunted as she spoke. There was a long silence as she mutely gazed down at me, looking as though she was teetering on the edge of saying more. Then she turned away and slipped wraith-like into the shadows.

December 13, 1999

I fell back to sleep, not waking again 'til it was light out. Until that  point, I hadn't realized that the basement had windows. The fact that the  three small 1 by 3 openings were 12 feet up the front wall did make them  lose their importance as escape routes. I noticed a small tumbler of water  sitting against the wall near my feet, and struggled to grab it, grateful  that I could finally quench my thirst.

I drained the glass in two gulps, then immediately was hit with the  knowledge it had been an eternity since I'd last emptied my bladder. I was  glad my hands had been bound in front; it did make matters simpler, but I  didn't wish to befoul my sleeping area any more than I already had. I set  about choosing and using bathroom facilities. Simpler didn't make it an easy  task. I was wearily doing my inching squirm back to the spot I'd designated  as my "bed" when I heard the light tread that announced Anna was coming down  the steps.

My mood was darkly bitter by this time. I was angry, at myself for the most  part, because I had so blindly stumbled into this. However, as unjust and  cruel as it sounds, I did feel a certain amount of resentment toward Anna.  Had her pleading phone calls not been so cryptic, so damn much like someone  staging some sort of childish, practical joke, I might have come here better  prepared. Had Anna chosen to play this a little less like "Twenty Questions"  and a bit more like "Clue", she might have been rescued by that point. I  certainly wouldn't have been on my belly, wiggling across a dirty basement  floor, wearing slightly soggy pants. I was not, as I said, in the most  reasonable, understanding frame of mind.

"What are you doing?" Anna asked, scurrying over, a frown clouding her face  at seeing my activity. "Fox, Larry can't see you moving around like this. I  told him you're still knocked out. I was gonna say you knocked over that  water. If he thinks you're awake he'll start in on you..."

"I had to pee, Anna," I muttered, feeling entirely too much satisfaction  over the shocked, somewhat embarrassed expression my reply brought.

"Oh-h," the girl meekly whispered. "Oh-h-h, sorry."

"Anna," I began, not quite finished venting my spleen. "You did bring me  here to do something other than get captured so you'd have some company,  didn't you? Do suppose you might be able to fill me in a bit more on our  situation? That way, maybe I could help you come up with a plan to get out  of here. This visit to Larry's basement is something I'll never forget, but  there are a few more things I'd like to see while I'm in the area."            

She studied me, then apparently choosing to ignore my sarcasm, hurried over  to begin our conference. "Fox, he's going out to get the next girl tonight,  so he's sleeping now..."

"What about your phone...?" I asked, calming a bit while she took a moment  to help me roll over to a more comfortable position for our talk.

Anna shook her head. "He ripped it out of the wall last night. He knew I'd  found a way to call somebody."

I accepted this news glumly then broached the subject of the freedom Jones  allowed her. "Anna, can't you sneak away, maybe try to get help, now while  he's asleep? Or, better yet, help me get free and we'll both try to get  away?" I had an idea what her answer would be, but had decided a little  urging might change her reply.

Tears sprang to her wide blue eyes and she shook her head with a panicked  intensity. "Fox, we can't take the chance he'd wake up and catch you. And I  can't. I can't leave this place. I can't get away from him. I've tried. I..I, I can't" Her voice dissolved into tears and once again, she stumbled off,  leaving me alone.

Of course, I understood Anna's situation. Abuse victims seldom find the  courage to leave without help. I knew that to the unaware, the act of  breaking away seems so undeniably simple. That the abused person appears to  willingly accept their prison, in fact to desire their tortured servitude,  is inexplicable to the unknowing. The cycle breeds enabling, and breaking  the chain of dependence is rarely easy. I knew Anna wasn't going to do it  by herself. I realized I would most likely have to drag her through the  door when we made our escape.


By nightfall, I had almost succeeded in working the rope free that bound my  wrists. Each sound, every creak from above made me cringe. I prayed that  Anna's lies to our captor that I was incapacitated would buy me enough time.  The girl didn't return to check on me. Larry apparently was getting a good,  long nap in before his late-night abduction chores began.

When I heard the door open and the unmistakable heavy clump of his boots hit  the stairs, I groaned knowing my time had run out. Anna had been right in  cautioning me to wait. I had a choice - lose a bit more skin and break my  wrists totally free; then somehow untie my bound ankles before Jones made  it downstairs so I could attack the mountain sized man before he knew what  hit him. Or, feign unconsciousness and pray he didn't check my bonds.

The overhead bulb flipped on, and I made the decision to pretend I was still  out. My pleas for luck were silent, but heartfelt. They were heard.

"Larry, it doesn't look like he's gonna wake up. Last time I was down here  to check on him, he knocked over the glass of water you gave him. He was  havin' some kind of fit. It doesn't look good, Larry. I think you hit him  too hard. He's gonna die. I think what you did is gonna wind up killing him." Anna's soft, young voice was music to my ears.

"You shut your mouth. I didn't kill nobody. You killed him. You're the one  brought him here. Don't you be telling me I killed him." The grumbling reply  was bitter with rage.

I exhaled gratefully when the harsh complaint was immediately followed by  the sound of three hundred odd pounds stomping away up the steps. I opened  my eyes to spot Anna standing at the foot of the stairs. She seemed to hold  her breath in anticipation, a sigh of relief at the loud noise, when the  truck pealed off, was mute but obvious.

I sat up, flashing a grin of thanks, revealing my surprise that my hands  were free. I never found out if her strained, pallid faced grin came from  her realization that we'd narrowly escaped discovery or at spotting the  damage my labors had done to my wrists.

"He didn't bother to lock up again," the girl admitted, avoiding meeting my  eyes.

"Well, good," I murmured, setting about undoing the ropes about my ankles,  choosing to ignore all that Larry's trust in her implied. Within moments I  was finished. The relief of finally being untrussed wasn't even  overshadowed by the wave of dizziness that washed over me after my sudden  change of position.

Her small hand on my elbow was all I needed to get my bearings. I smiled,  wanting to pull her in on the excitement I felt at our upcoming escape. But  as we made our way to the stairs, her mood darkened.

"You know how many times he's done this, Fox?" Anna whispered, her fingers  tightening on my arm until I had to gently pull away because of the pain.
"Look under the steps, that's where he puts the bodies."           

Her gaze had become dazed and glassy and I ushered her up to the house,  wanting to get both of us away from this place that reeked of evil. She  stumbled along beside me, compliantly following until we reached the front  door. That's when she stopped dead in her tracks.

"Fox, I can't go with you." Anna's eyes shone with a sad sureness that made  my own eyes fill in sympathy. "I've tried, somehow I always wind up back  here. I don't think I can leave."

"You can make it with me," I announced, putting an arm around her thin  shoulders, moving her through the entryway out into the icy, cold night air.
"This time you'll make it, Anna."

Together, we hurried down the long, dark driveway.

I was soon numb from the cold, but the sight of the blacktop highway ahead,  and headlights from passing cars, was silent testimony that our freedom was  only a few steps away. This kept me urging us on.

"I've never gotten this far, Fox," Anna whispered in surprise, a glimmer of  hope rising up, making her voice shake with excitement. "We're gonna make  it."

I glanced down to see amazed wonder lighting up her pale, luminous face.  The squeal of tires jerked my gaze away from that beautiful, gratifying  expression. I was almost blinded by the headlights as Larry Jones' truck  barreled down on us. I pulled my wits about me at the last moment to give  Anna a quick, straight armed shove as I leapt aside. The ragged, half torn  off bumper that fronted the bucket-of-bolts truck clipped my knee. I  windmilled, tossed spread eagled through the air to land in a clump on the  hard, frozen ground.

I gasped to refill my lungs, all the while expecting to leave this world  with the bright, flashing eyes of Larry's beater finishing off the job of  making me road kill. I soon discovered that was a chore Jones preferred to  do by hand.

After Larry Jones finished with me, it was once more daylight before I was  able to open my eyes. My line of sight was limited from the corner where  I'd crawled, trying to avoid those monster sized clogs that had inflicted  such damage. I didn't spot our new fellow prisoner until Anna filled me in  on what had happened after I'd lost consciousness. I'd noticed that she had  failed in her own escape the night before. Her screams had punctuated each  blow Jones delivered to my body.

"I'm sorry," Anna murmured again, noticing I was studying her with a bleary,  one-eyed gaze.

"S'okay," I croaked, still trying to comfort her. The words seemed to stick  in my throat, coated with blood and pain. My head throbbed; the slow rhythm  of my pulse set the pace for its pounding ache. My ground level view was  distorted by the dark haze that this pressure cast over my sight. While two  concussions in less than two days was not a record for me, my other assorted  hurts assured that this holiday weekend was going to be one of my most  productive as far as my personal injury quota went. Each slight movement  let me know that on the Mulder torture scale, a torment gage that the fates  seem to be keeping on me, this adventure rated a definite 9. I didn't give  it a 10 at that point because it was Sunday; the weekend wasn't over.

"He brought another one home, Fox." Anna's voice broke as she nodded over  to the far wall, showing me where to look in order to see Larry's most  recent houseguest.

The girl hung limply, bound by the chains. Anna continued to softly sob,  her head down; the utter personification of desolate defeat.

"Where..." I was finding it difficult to make my swollen lips form the  words. I tried again, knowing any chance for escape for the three of us now  rested on Anna's small shoulders. "Where's Larry now?"

"I guess he's sleeping. He always goes to sleep after he..." Anna stopped,  biting her lip with embarrassment. I took this moment's silence to attempt  to settle my stomach. Hearing what had gone on while I was unconscious had  made me more than a little nauseous. "He locked the door this time."

"Shit." It was my turn to blush when my young friend laughed at my hastily  uttered expletive, but the word seemed to cover the frustration I felt at  hearing this news. I sighed. "How long does he usually sleep...um, after?  How long do you think we have?"

Our conversation was interrupted by the new arrival's frightened plea.
"Mister, can you help me?"

We both turned in surprise. I tried in vain to make it to my feet. Even  with Anna's help, sitting upright was all I could manage. My head reeled;  the biting fire of my splintered ribs burned with each breath. The  slightest movement filled my shattered knee with agony and told me I would  not be walking without constant protest from that joint.

"Anna, go to her," I murmured, nodding toward the now balefully sobbing  young newcomer.

Theresa's head lifted and a dazed, puzzled frown played across her battered  features. "I'm Theresa," she murmured, her brow furrowing even deeper when  she noticed I still urged Anna to go to her. "Who's Anna?"

I turned to Anna and her tear filled eyes suddenly overflowed. "I'm so  sorry, Fox. I knew you wouldn't believe me if I told you over the phone,  and when you got here, I, I...you thought I was still alive. I guess I just  wanted to still be alive."

I was struck mute, dumb with surprise, but the mystery unraveled quickly  with Anna's confession. She continued, softly whispering her story, her  head bent in shame.

"I died close to the end of summer, Fox. Right before it first started  getting cold. I guess I just finally starved to death. I knew it was  happening. I could tell that this wasn't just sleep because the pain finally  stopped. I stopped hurting. My body did, at least. Larry came down that next  morning, took one look at me and started cussing. It always got him mad when  one of us died. I don't know what he expected, the way he treated us, but  each time, it always surprised him when one of us died. I think he doesn't  like the guilt he feels after we die. Does that make sense, that Larry feels  guilty, but still keeps on doing this?"

I wearily shook my head, too tired to try to plumb the twisted depths of  this particular madman's psyche. While not actually losing any sleep over  the matter, I did ponder this strange, selective remorse for awhile. It  wasn't long until I decided that if recognition and admission of our sins
is truly the first step toward retribution, Larry Jones needed a bit of help  understanding what constitutes the do's and the don'ts in life. He just  didn't seem to grasp that his victims’deaths were just the last entry in his  long list of depraved transgressions.

"Larry pulled me down from the wall, then I watched him take my body and  stick it under the steps. When he left, I followed him upstairs. At first  he couldn't see me. But I think he felt that I was there. It wasn't until a  few nights later that I was able to make him see me." Her laugh was loud  and pure as quicksilver. "Fox, he wet his pants. I'm his worst nightmare."

My chuckle hurt, but it was unstoppable.

"I tried to leave. I told you the truth. After I died, I really did try to  leave. I knew he couldn't hurt me so I tried." Her grin had faded, dissolving  back into tears. I reached out a hand in comfort, amazed she felt so real,  so solid. Anna offered me a sad smile at noting my wonder. "She told me  you'd be able to see me. She said that you have more faith than anyone she'd  ever met. Faith and heart."

I felt a tightness growing in my chest, but I had to ask the question even  if her answer proved to be what I feared, "Who told you to call me? Who once  knew me, Anna? Who gave you my name?"

Anna smiled at the memory of her spirit mentor. "Lucy. She never told me  her last name, Fox, but she said you were the only one who could help me.  She said you'd helped her." Anna paused, her face screwing up in puzzlement. "Is that your job? Are you some kind of ghostbuster? Lucy never told me how  it was you helped her. Do you go around helping ghosts all the time?"

My first emotion was relief that my sister was not the spirit connection who  had given Anna my name. Within moments though, I was stung by the hard  pangs of guilt at thinking about Lucy, knowing I hadn't truly helped the  young woman. Do you remember her, Scully? Lucy Householder? Tell me what I  did for her, Scully? Except grieve when she died? The tears that came that  day in the basement stung, too.

"Who you gonna call?" I murmured, choking on the quip. Anna's lip trembled  taking in my sorry excuse for a grin. My tears began in earnest when her  arms went around me in comfort. Scully, they were warm. Her touch was warm  and caring. I buried my face against that small, thin, fully tangible chest  and together we cried.

Are there tears in heaven? I bet Anna could answer that question now. I do  know the dead weep for the living and that love can live forever.

December 14, 1999

Almost done, almost to the end. You noticed my mood today. You're tired,  though. I can tell you're still suffering the lingering effects of your  illness, so thankfully, the questions about my mental well being weren't  asked. For once, we're spared playing the 'fine' game. A pre-Christmas  miracle, I'm sure.

You left early today, a concession to your stuffy head and hacking cough. My  own chest is a bit tight, but there's no sign of fever so my lips are sealed. If I still feel any symptoms tomorrow, after I get to Georgetown, I'll  mention it. It's probably just because I'm so tired and just getting over  that bug. There's no way I'm NOT going to finish this tonight, though.

One of the first things I questioned Anna about, once we got our emotions  back under control, was what I'd seen that first night. She'd witnessed the  same ghostly apparition on several occasions after her death. The only thing  she was able to contribute was the knowledge that this "vision" featured her  as she had looked shortly before her death.

I speculate it is a moment in time, so filled with emotional energy, it  somehow caused a chemical reaction in the air, which caused the event to be  imprinted on the location. When certain atmospheric conditions are right,  it's showtime. I've heard about countless similar occurrences of this type  of a seemingly paranormal time loop. It's been likened to the past haunting  the present. A part of history that returns to replay over and over again.  Most of the sightings of these little spectral videos have been at  battlefields, murder scenes and execution sites.

What else did I discover about the afterlife during my association with my  young spectral friend? Well, by your estimation, I probably won't handle  life after death too well because of the lousy phone service. Anna spent  half a month learning how to use the telephone.      

It seems that non-corporeal entities have trouble even touching inanimate  objects. To be able to interact with anything that is not living in the
"real" world, a spirit's contact must be either totally instinctual, like  when they walk across floors, climb stairs, etc. Or they must learn to  concentrate, using the force of their will as a tool to make this contact.

Passing through solid objects presents much of the same problems, except,  of course, in reverse. Either you must learn how to make yourself walk  through walls and other such barriers without conscious thought, or you  have to learn how to command your essence to fit through the space between  the molecules. Understand, Scully? Good, because these little tidbits of  knowledge represent the only tools we had working for us when we made our  escape.

Because both Theresa and I were bound by the solid prison of the physical  world, it was up to Anna to free us from these restraints. All she needed  to do was to pass through the latched door at the head of the stairs, then  unlock the lock, check in on Jones to make sure he was still soundly asleep,  grab the keys to the manacles, and bring them down to the basement so we  could free the semi-comatose Theresa. Oh, I also wanted her to look around  and see if she could spot my gun, if she found the time. We were asking this  of a "rookie" spirit who had needed a month of intense training to learn how  to dial a phone. Nothing to it, right?

Anna’s hands trembled before she left, just thinking about the difficulties  she faced in completing her tasks. But she knew we couldn't escape without  her help, so setting her mouth in a thin, determined line, she left my side  to begin her mission. Passing through the door took several tries. I had  struggled over in order to watch and offer her whispered encouragement. She  undid the lock leaving the door ajar, then vanished from my sight. I  slumped down on the bottom step to listen for any signs of trouble and to  start what was to be a long, nerve wracking vigil.

It was dark out when I finally heard the whisper-soft sound of Anna's return.  Her grin was wide, her face glowing with the joy of her success. The large,  many keyed ring was dropped into my hand and with Anna's help I limped over  to the back wall and began the task of freeing Theresa.                   

The young girl woke while I was working on the first heavy bracelet. Her  eyes widened when she spotted Anna. I know Theresa didn't realize Anna was  anything more than I had first assumed her to be. She thought she was  looking at another young girl, who had wound up being trapped in this  shared nightmare. You're the one who told me about what happened later,  aren't you, Scully? That's right. You told me Theresa had to be sedated  after my rescue. She just refused to believe there wasn't anyone else left alive in the house on Old Watson Creek but me.


December 15, 1999

Anna's brother just left. He came all the way up from Denver to see me.  Though he doesn't know it, I guess we have a couple of things in common.  He's in law enforcement, too. Denver PD. He had a younger sister, who  disappeared one night, without a trace. And he blames himself, for not  watching out for her after she'd been left in his care.

Officer Trainor drove up to tell me thanks for finding Anna. I didn't know  what to say. "Um, you’re welcome. I just wish it had been a lot sooner.”

He stood at the foot of my bed. It looked as if he couldn't decide whether  to bolt for the door, or to go ahead and tell me all the things he felt  obliged to say. The awkward silence that hung between us while he struggled  with his decision set my nerves on edge. I finally blurted out the only  words that seemed to fit.

"I'm sorry."     

He looked me in the eye and shared with me the one bit of comfort he'd  found. "You did help. Knowing is better."

That was his good-bye. And he's right, Scully. It's a lot better than never  finding the truth.

I had to laugh when the two teen aged girls introduced themselves. You would have thought the pair had just met at the mall. Their hushed giggles died, though, when we made it up to the first floor. It took both of them helping for me to hobble up the stairs. I knew I was going to slow them down, but it wouldn't have mattered if Larry Jones had just slept a little longer. I was quietly shutting the front door behind me when our captor cut loose with an ear splitting yell. How he'd gotten his bulk down from the upstairs bedroom without any of us hearing him is beyond me.

That's when I made my choice. I shoved Theresa toward the road, yelling for her to run. Then I turned and threw myself at Jones as he burst through the door, wrapping my arms around him in a bear hug. He fought to get away from me, panicking when he spotted Theresa, nude, sprinting with Flo-jo like speed, down the dirt drive. I grabbed his ankles and he fell, face first off the porch. When he stumbled to his feet, I grabbed him again, pulling him with me as I toppled landing hard on my back on the painted wooden porch. He stood over me, his black eyes shooting sparks of anger.

Our battle ended quickly. I lost, of course. His next kick was to my ribs. It stole my breath away. That's when I punctured my lung. Frantically gulping for air, I found I was drowning in my own blood. I didn't suffer for long, though. The next time his massive boot came forward it was with a mighty, fully arced punt to the side of my face and head. I was blinded by a bolt of bright light. I heard bones splinter with an explosive crack. Then the world was swallowed up by darkness.

I saw Anna one more time after that.

I wasn't much more than half-conscious when Larry returned from his vain chase to recapture Theresa. He breathed in harsh, panting, near sobs as hefted me up from the porch and hauled me inside. I was even less aware, after he had tossed me down the basement steps. I landed at the bottom in a limp heap of broken bones and blood. Through the fog, I could hear Larry stomping around on the floor above me, screaming blue oaths and angry threats that told of all the different ways he was going to kill me. I just hoped he remembered where he'd put my gun. I was more than ready for the pain to stop.

That's when I felt the light, cool touch of her hand my cheek. The basement was cloaked in darkness, but she shimmered now. She was a luminescent apparition of ectoplasmic energy. She was a spirit. A ghost.

"Fox, Theresa made it. She got to the highway and a car stopped for her."

"Good," my reply wasn't audible, but she heard me. She smiled.

"I can see a light now. I think everything's gonna be fine." Anna softly reassured.

"Fine," I whispered, echoing my agreement that all would soon be fine.

She sighed, her spirit's breath a soft caress against my flesh when she leaned close to whisper into my ear. She spoke in low, gentle soothing tones, kissed by the sadness of her news. "You’re going to die tonight. He's coming now to kill you, Fox. I'm so sorry."

I weakly nodded. I knew, one way or another, it was all finally gonna end.

"I think I'm gonna like this part, Fox. You'll see, you'll like it, too."

She vanished without a good-bye, disappearing the moment Larry came rushing down the stairs. He'd found where he'd hidden my weapon and he was smiling.

December 22, 1999

So, as always, I wind up finishing a report you started. That this precise, detailed, neatly typed, single spaced composition is an unadulterated admission of my heinous invasion of your privacy goes without saying. There goes my sainthood. Sorry to disappoint you.

I listened to your message when I got home from my mother's. Though it didn't say a word about where you were heading, I knew instantly it was not a vacation. You claimed you were looking for some answers. I knew you were searching for Zuzu's petals.

You're right, our badge does open doors. You'd put the plane tickets on your card. The passenger list confirmed you'd left for Denver, Colorado that morning, renting a car at the airport. With a weary sigh, I maxed out
 my plastic and followed you to Denver. That's when the real work began.

Since your last charged purchase was the gas you got in Cheyenne, I was forced to go back to the basics. For the next two days, I broadened my search in the ever widening circles that is the norm. Calling every hotel, motel and bed and breakfast in what wound up being a 60 mile radius is not how I'd planned on spending my weekend, but I knew I had to find you. Let's just call it "partner's instinct". It's been honed from being "Mrs. Spooky" for so long.

I hit the jackpot at 4:30 Sunday afternoon and made it to Chugwater by
5:30. After talking to the people at the motel and grabbing your things that they'd stored thinking you'd abandoned them, I went to talk to the sheriff. I was at the substation when Theresa was brought in by the good Samaritan who'd picked her up. That the child was screaming hysterically about the need to rescue "Fox" was telling. I see your point about being born lucky. Your parents didn't name you John or Dave.

It seemed to take forever for the locals to round up the necessary bodies and for us to make it out to the site. It took every bit of strength I had not to blindly rush into that house when we heard the shot fired. Finding Larry Jones dead of a self-inflicted round to the head offered some relief. At least until we discovered how he'd left you.

We found the remains of eight young girls under those stairs. All had been abducted from vacation cabins or campsites within the tri-state area of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. All had been between 12 and 14 years old at the time they'd gone missing. Anna Trainor had been the last to die. Given the basement was both cool and dry her body was not that badly decomposed. She had literally starved to death.

You spent 6 days in the ICU. A double digit count of broken bones, including a fractured skull, plus a punctured right lung and lacerations to both your liver and spleen just might help you get that 10 you seem to crave so badly.

It's early Christmas Eve morning and you’re asleep, softly snoring in my guest room. I brought you home with me, from your home away from home, GMC. I was not surprised to learn (by illicitly reading this report), that you ignored the warning signs of the medical condition that almost killed you. I was angry, but certainly not surprised. That you would play a mad sort of Russian roulette by hiding chest pains, after suffering a collapsed lung less than a month before, is just another irritating character trait I've almost grown accustomed to.

I'm sorry. Mulder, I AM sorry. I hadn't meant this to be a scolding lecture. This is meant to be my way of reassuring you. It's meant to be both comfort and confession. This is my way of telling you my eyes are open and I know this man named Fox Mulder, better than he knows himself.

It's time I tell YOU a little story. A Christmas tale. I know you know the tale but like you said the joy comes in the telling.

It was our first Christmas as partners. Christmas Eve night you showed up at my door bearing gifts, though we'd decided we'd forego exchanging presents. We were both sure it was best, since we'd also decided that it was best to keep our relationship purely professional. I couldn't say much to you about reneging on this agreement of no gifts, though. I'd bought you one, too.

I offered you some eggnog and we began a nice if somewhat awkward visit, both stumbling through strained, non-work related chit-chat. Then you noticed what I was watching. Even then I could read you, and though you tried to cover your discomfort, I could tell my taste in holiday movies was not the same as your own. It's funny, though, how whenever a person finds something upsetting, something they'd just rather not see, their eyes are drawn to it.

By the time Jimmy had stumbled to the bridge and was contemplating the plunge, we both were silently engrossed in the post-war classic. Both just sipping our Christmas cheer, getting lost in Capra's heart-string pulling, melodramatic, fairy tale. You were quiet when the tape ended, not moving from where you'd sprawled out in my dad's chair, your long legs stretched before you. I had slipped over to grab the tape when you began talking.

Your voice was soft and low; your story was a catharsis. A confession of sorts. You were 12 the first time you'd watched this Christmas classic. It was not a film that instantly endeared itself to young, almost teen boys, but in that long ago pre-cable time, that particular hospital only received three channels in the best of weather. On nights like this particular Christmas eve, there was only one coming in.

You watched to pass the time. Even then, waiting was not easy for you. Waiting for your parents to come to claim you for a Christmas pass away from a psychiatric clinic was nothing short of torture. Still, the story captured you and absorbed you. Regret, depression and guilt were hardly strangers to you, why else would you be spending this holiday eve at that place.

Your parents wound up not coming until the next morning because of the weather. You fell asleep in the chair, in front of the television. You wound up sleeping in your coat after the night nurse roused you just enough to get you back to your room. You woke before dawn, knowing why you'd not been claimed by your parents and convinced this desertion was just.

As you lay there in the dark, you thought about the movie and the message it was meant to tell. Huddling in your bed, trying to warm yourself on this frigid morning, you stuck your hand in your coat pockets. That scene in the film, where George Bailey finds his proof he's returned to his "wonderful life," danced across your mind. That's when you found her mitten. During that long, terrible month you'd just weathered, you had forgotten many things, not the least of which was that small, knitted glove.

She'd asked you to hold it for her while she helped you make that first snowman of the winter. You stuck it in your pocket, not even giving the action a second thought. Samantha asked, Fox did. Not always, sometimes you'd balk. You couldn't let her think you were THAT easy. But letting her have her way made you both happy. After 9 years of big brotherhood, you had your role down pat. Even when you griped and let her know what a spoiled rotten, pesky little brat she was, Samantha knew that you were just spouting the lines that your part required.

The mitten made the memories come. They made you cry, but they reminded you
-- you were a good brother to her, Mulder. What would her life have been without her Fox. And she taught you how to love, purely, selflessly. You learned what has made you a 'good' man.

I know it hurts to remember, Mulder. But stay with me because this next part is important. It's true, you know all there is to know about guilt and sorrow and loss. These painful emotions molded you, too. They made you who you are today. But, you do what you do, Mulder, because you learned, that each life you touch, each act of kindness, is another petal in your pocket. Something to touch, to remind you of her and all you learned by loving her.

This is the real truth, Mulder. I believe you are a hero. You make me feel like one, too. But, you see, you forgot the most important attribute in your definition of a hero. Strength, courage and heart. We look to each other to find courage. Together we are strong. It only stands to reason where my heart lies. You are where I look to find my heart.

December 25, 1999 5:30 AM

For most of my life, the television was not just a piece of furniture. It was my friend. My faithful companion. Always there for me, awake and alert with the touch of a button. Instantly ready to entertain. Bathed in the comforting glow of its pale, flickering light, I somehow felt less alone.

Pitiful, huh? I am a loser. When you get right down to it, Eddie Van Blundht was pretty perceptive. Scully, you have to admit, he certainly was able to see exactly what you felt was missing in our relationship. He knew precisely what to do to remedy the problem. Eddie didn't waste 7 years pouring his heart out on paper, writing down and downloading into zip files, all the things he should have been saying to you.

Well, it's a new solar year and I'm pagan enough to feel reborn with the solstice. I'm the new Fox Mulder, improved and ready to work at open communication in my relationships. Go ahead, Scully, read what I've just been pondering on this page. It might be stupid, but it's exactly what I feel at 5:42 a.m. on Christmas morning, 1999. The new Fox Mulder is ready to share everything with you.

More than you care to know? I admit, my mind is often a strange and terrifying place. Hell, this is just my conscious mind. The thought of going deeper scares me silly. Why do you think I'm an insomniac?

I slept last night. I think I even dreamed. Nice, normal, regular, sane kind of guy dreams. I awoke this morning and the television set is still off. I'm stuck in bed, wide awake as always, but today is different. Today, I'm content. My entertainment - a serenade. At first, I couldn’t quite place the aria that floats out from your steamy shower stall, concert stage. I've never heard it sung in that particular key, with the notes bent in quite that manner, but finally, I recognize the words. "Joy to The World." The carol, not Hoyt Axton. Oh, I think you sang the first verse in Latin. That's probably what threw me. Right?

You've got our day planned. After your shower, we're going to sip a little eggnog (sans liquor due to my medication) and curl up together (here in your room) with a couple of my favorite flicks. (My favorites from the collection in my bookcase, not my underwear drawer). If we drift off, no problem. The Christmas dinner with all the trimmings your mother prepared for you and your ailing houseguest is microwaveable and ready whenever we are. Somewhere in there, I think you have opening gifts and watching a certain holiday classic on the agenda.

Perfect. I can't think of a better way to spend a Christmas. I have gifts to open, movies to watch, and food to eat. I know now that I *have* you.
I even wound up uncovering a pretty amazing truth these last couple of days. You know what I discovered, Scully? It really is a wonderful life.

The End


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