Title: Finding Zuzu's Petals
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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 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
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
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
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.
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