Title: Nights of Shining Armor
Author: Gina Rain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Category: Casefile, MSR
Spoiler: Nothing specific. Takes place season 7-ish.
Summary: A tale of shared dreams, fractured fairy tales and great expectations gone awry. In short, Mulder and Scully investigate a serial kidnapping case.
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to CC and Co.
Special thanks to: Sybil. In addition to having endless patience with my sentence fragments, dashes and ellipses, she also makes some damn fine catches. She's a great beta, my biggest cheerleader and keeps me excited about writing. That's a pretty big challenge she meets beautifully and, for that, I thank her very, very much.
Oh take me in your arms
I want your tender charms
'Coz I'm lonely and I'm blue
I need you and your love too
Come on and rescue me
(Rescue Me, Aretha Franklin)
August 19, 1999
Subject: Please say you will
I hope I'm reaching the right person. Actually, I'm pretty sure I am. Your aunt told me where you worked. In case you didn't notice, they sat me right next to the charming lady at Mike and Wanda's wedding reception. After that, it was a simple matter of bribing the right people to get your email address <vbg>. Actually, as you well know, you are listed in your company's on-line directory.
It was so good to see you that day, even though I spent far more time getting reacquainted with your aunt than you. But, that's the way weddings go. You bridesmaids have to spend time with that pesky woman in white!
At the very least, I was happy I had the chance to say hello. And flattered you remembered me after all these years. Time and tide waits for no man and the years have not been especially kind to me, but I found you just as lovely and fresh as the last time I had seen you even though two decades (gulp) have passed.
So, does this mean that I am after your obvious discovery of the Fountain of Youth? No. I'm afraid it's too late for me. I merely would like to sincerely request the pleasure of your cyber-company. It's been so easy to lose touch with our childhood buddies and I would very much like to catch up with someone from the "old neighborhood." No one in my current circle of friends/acquaintances understands what it was like in the 60's when a neighborhood really was a collection of people who knew and liked each other. It would be nice to reminisce.
Hope to hear from you soon.
After reading the strange email, Jessica closed her eyes and tried to remember Todd as a child. He was five years younger than she was and a cute, pudgy, shy kid. That was about all she could remember. The man she briefly met again at her cousin's wedding was a really big guy she never would have recognized if Wanda hadn't muttered his name to her as he was walking in their direction.
She was probably 14 or 15 when his family moved. Her family stayed. Way too long. Way past the point of good sense.
Jessica shuddered a bit. The neighborhood had gone down so quickly. But, at one time, it had been wonderful. It truly had. And Todd had been a part of it all.
What was the harm in reminiscing, anyway?
Re: Please say you will
Sure. I'd love to catch up on old times . . .
November 17, 1999
The day after the first time they made love, Scully found herself staring at Mulder across the room. Those lips had been on her face, her eyes, her mouth. She tried to remember their exact texture, recall the exact pressure against her skin. She touched her own lips lightly. She would never quite view her body in exactly the same way. It was now a roadmap: this is where he kissed her first, this is where he touched her and she gasped, this is where he laid his head after they were done.
She hadn't realized she had closed her eyes until she opened them and found him staring at her with the smallest, shyest of smiles. There would be no smirking today. That much she knew. Loving Mulder, really loving Mulder, was going to be even more of an adventure than the one they had already been on. The man never did anything that meant something to him without total commitment. She'd be in for the ride of her life.
November 29, 1999
The urge to laugh was almost overwhelming. It literally hurt when she swallowed the sound as it tried to escape from her throat, but she knew it was only a manifestation of the hysterical panic she felt. If she gave in, she was finished.
Up until this moment, she would have sworn the worst thing that ever happened to her was waking up in this strange room as an obvious victim of kidnapping. Apparently, one should never make such definitive assertions. Fate tends to take them as a challenge and set the bar higher. She was now trapped in a fire with no means of escape. Kidnapping and being trapped in her worst nightmare was definitely worse than just a plain old abduction.
More and more smoke was coming in under the door, and she knew she had to stop thinking and start acting. She looked around the windowless room. The only furnishings were a single bed, and a night table containing a couple of gallons of bottled water and bags of assorted snack foods.
She knew she should touch the door. See how hot it felt. Maybe it had miraculously been unlocked since the last time she checked. She should check again. She should.
She should stop the rising panic and get up and do something but she wasn't sure if, as in her dreams, her feet could move.
She took a deep breath of thick smoke. The door wasn't hot but it was still locked.
She returned to the other side of the room and took off the bedding. She wadded up the sheets and stuffed it under the door, as far as the tight space would allow. She pulled off the pillowcase and poured some water on it. She couldn't remember the rationale behind it, but felt it was the right thing to do. She put it up to her face and lay flat on the floor in the furthest corner of the room.
Who was she kidding? At most, this would only buy her a few more moments of life.
A few more minutes.
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name . . . "
The door burst open. A large man stood in the doorway. For a moment, he was a silhouette against the smoke-filled room. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps Fate had turned nastier and he was actually the kidnapper. Maybe he wanted the pleasure of killing her off himself.
He approached her and she brought her legs up in a fetal position.
He held out his hand. "Don't be scared. I'm going to get you out of here."
Something about his face reassured her. She knew he could save her.
She took hold of the hand he offered, got to her feet and offered no resistance when he scooped her up in his arms and carried her out of her prison.
Five months later
April 7, 2000
Karen Noyes took the seat offered to her. She was nervous. It wasn't every day that you sat in front of a bona fide FBI agent, or two. Agent Mulder was a good looking man who already seemed interested in what she might have to say. Agent Scully didn't look disinterested but she didn't have that rapt attention thing going for her that her male counterpart seemed to have. She was simply leaning against the edge of his large desk, waiting patiently. Karen took a deep breath, said a quick prayer that someone would believe her, and began.
"I live in the same apartment house as my best friend, Jessica Lawrence. She has been missing now for three days. She went to work, went to the gym afterwards and disappeared. Her pocketbook and gym bag were lying under her car. Nothing was taken, as far as we can tell-money, credit cards-everything was in place. No one saw anything. And the authorities took down a report but no one seems overly concerned. Well, maybe I'm not being fair. They said they are investigating but no one seemed to want to listen to what I had to say. And I can't say that anyone has been gathering evidence or whatever in Jessie's apartment. I think they feel she just walked away from her life. But she wouldn't do that and, really, do you walk away without money?"
"What led you to this office?" Agent Scully asked.
"I called the local FBI office a few times. They didn't even seem to know about the case. I'm not sure what's going on. Isn't kidnapping FBI business?"
"Yes, it is."
"Well, anyway, I finally reached someone who listened to what I had to say and he told me I might want to contact you. There are some elements of Jessie's case that I think could help in tracking her down and they fall under the . . . paranormal? Is that the word?"
"The word to describe what, exactly?" Scully asked.
"Jessie's psychic ability."
"That would be the word," Mulder said with a slight smile on his face.
Karen nodded. "Jessie . . . well, maybe psychic isn't exactly right. I mean, she can't predict what lottery numbers will come out or anything. But she has these visions. Prophetic dreams, really. The only trouble is she has no way of knowing if what she's actually experiencing is a dream or a vision. Does that make any sense?"
"Sometimes her dreams are just dreams and sometimes they seem to come true?" Mulder asked.
"Yes. Exactly. And it's only later-when some part of what she has dreamt has come true or suddenly makes sense when it didn't before-it's only then that she understands it was a vision."
"Anyway, she had disturbing dreams over the last few months. Very disturbing. On at least two occasions, she seemed to be having these nightmares that she knew were not her own. They were very detailed and real but she knew she was not the 'star' of them. She also knew she had heard about these dreams before but she had one secret detail that the original 'dreamers' did not. She knew they were kidnapping victims. It was like these women were kidnapped and forced to live out their worst recurring nightmare. One had nightmares of being caught in a fire with no way out, and the other had dreams of drowning.
After a long internet search of recent kidnappings, she found two stories that had those elements in them. No one is listening to me when I try to tell them about Jessie and the dreams. I think they all think I'm nuts but I just needed to tell someone in case I'm right. I mean, in case Jessie was right and there is something in front of us we should be paying attention to."
"You think she envisioned her own disappearance, as well?" Scully asked.
"I think it's possible."
Scully leaned forward, "Tell us more."
Scully clicked the "download now" button for the fourth time. Once again, the "select a program" icon appeared. She slapped her palm against the side of the keyboard.
"Mulder, this file won't open."
"You've been downloading it for the past fifteen minutes."
"I know that," she said with exaggerated patience. "The download is complete but it's not opening."
Mulder walked over to Scully's desk and bent down to see her screen. She could smell his aftershave and almost feel the heat coming from his skin. The man had no concept of boundaries. It was one of the things she liked best about him.
"No offense, Scully, but two paper cups and a string would be more efficient at this point. We're going to have to requisition a new computer for you."
'There's nothing wrong with this one. It's just a little slow."
His right hand came over hers as it gently rested against the mechanical mouse. Her fingers involuntarily jumped at the feel of skin against skin. He moved his hand away.
"I'm sorry," he muttered.
Damn it. That wouldn't help things at all. In spite of expectations to the contrary, their relationship was not all smooth sailing. She had been right about Mulder's level of commitment. If he was preoccupied with a case and expected it to detract attention from the two of them, he backed off completely. After a few heavy-duty cases with no physical or emotional contact in between, she almost forgot what his lips felt like; how his body fit against hers.
"Just put your hand back, Mulder," she said, somewhat impatiently.
"Your wish is my command," he said and covered her hand with his.
He guided her hand along the mouse pad, interrupting the movement with a few left and right clicks, pressing her own finger down against the plastic. She had never viewed a computer mouse as an erotic object before but having his hand cupped and in motion over hers suddenly elevated the status of the lowly rodent.
"Adobe has disappeared from your list of programs. You had it before, right?" he asked.
"Well, it's not there now," he clicked a few more times and the download began. "This should take another five or six hours. I'm going to print out the damned articles and you can read them the old fashioned way." He gave her hand a quick squeeze before breaking contact.
Within moments, Mulder handed her a small stack of reprints. She skimmed them while her computer made grinding noises as it worked through its download. Perhaps it was time to order a new one.
Same day, undisclosed location
Jessica woke up slowly. At least, that's what she thought she was doing. For all she knew, she could be continuing the mother of all nightmares. She looked around. It was the same setting it had been for the past few days. Perhaps she had died and gone to hell or, at least, purgatory.
She was in the upper level of a private house. That much, she could tell. At some point, there had been a fire. The walls were blackened; some were burned to the bare beams. The burnt odor mixed with those of mold and mildew. A lot of water had passed through this dwelling and a lot, apparently, had stayed in all its various cracks and crevices.
Jessie had tentatively explored the place. A new door had been installed recently; one that was not ravaged by fire. It was securely bolted and effectively cut her off from the lower level and, consequently, freedom. All the windows were boarded up from the outside. One or two had small gaps between the boards so she could tell if it was night or day, but that was about it.
There was no furniture anywhere. She was left with some bottles of water, boxes of Power Bars and a flashlight. There was toilet paper for the non-working toilet and antibacterial wipes for her hands. Basic needs cared for in a sub-basic way.
What a Prince.
Jessie was fairly sure it was a man who did this, although she never saw him. She had been putting her gym bag on the hood of the car when she smelled an almost overwhelmingly strong men's cologne. She was about to turn around when she felt a stinging sensation on her neck. The next thing she remembered, she was waking up in the abandoned house, alone.
It was her worst nightmare come to life.
End of Part 1
That afternoon was spent on the phone. Both Mulder and Scully engaged in one phone call after the other, punctuated by long periods of time when one or the other was put on hold. At some point, they both were on hold at the same time.
"Vivaldi, " Mulder called across the room.
"Jailhouse Rock," Scully replied.
"We should switch phones."
"It's the Muzak version."
Mulder faked a shudder.
Finally, it was time to compare notes.
"The Scarsdale PD received a phone call from a Michael Powers at 7:45 on the 4th. The gym Jessica uses is in a relatively small strip mall. There is the gym, a Chinese restaurant, a beauty salon and a Hallmark store. That's about it. Mr. Powers is a personal trainer at the gym and he was going out for his dinner break. His car was next to Jessica's and, as he was getting in, he noticed the bags sticking out from under her car. He took them and went back to the gym, where he and the office manager opened them. Guests sign in and out of the gym and Jessica had signed out nearly an hour before, after a 30 minute workout. They called her apartment, received no answer and then called the police." Scully said.
"Didn't the police think this was a little strange?"
"Absolutely. They also called her number and, when she didn't respond, dispatched a car to her apartment. They met Karen in the hallway when she came out to see who was 'making a commotion' in front of Jessie's door. She retrieved her spare keys, they did a quick walkthrough of the apartment, and determined that she had not come home after she left for the gym. So, they went back that night and the next morning and questioned the storeowners and some of the clientele.
"No one saw anything," Mulder said.
"Not a thing. They didn't hear anything, either. No screams. No car alarms."
"And they came to the conclusion that it wasn't an abduction because no one saw it?"
"No. They came to that conclusion because at 5:05 she had sent an email to her boss saying she needed emergency leave for at least a
week--possibly two-since she just found out her father was gravely ill and not expected to live. Her sister would be picking her up and taking her to the airport so they could fly out to California and spend his final days with him. They effectively closed the case right there."
"But the abandoned bags, and even the workout, make no sense, given those circumstances."
"No, they don't. Unless you take into account another 'abduction' at their precinct. It was also a woman in her thirties. A case where they went completely by the book and called in the Bureau. A case that was solved in about five minutes flat and was absolutely not an abduction, even though there were witnesses swearing they saw the woman being dragged away from her car. What they actually saw was a woman who had no regrets leaving her husband and kids behind to go off with a new boyfriend, but was drawing the line at leaving her Lexus."
Mulder gave a good-natured chuckle, "Women and their cars."
"In any case, they were looking for an excuse not to call us in and have egg of their collective faces again, and they found it with that email, even if they were left with a few loose ends."
"They didn't share the information with Karen."
"She's not immediate family and they just gave her the standard 'the investigation is ongoing' response."
"Why do I sense there is still a good deal of egg about to be used as a facial mask?" Mulder asked.
"Because they never actually called to confirm that Jessica was, indeed, in California. When I called them, they sounded as if they were giving the case about as much priority as they would to finding anyone's lost property. One simple phone call to Karen-a phone call I made, by the way-would have done the trick. Jessica's parents have been dead for years and she never had any siblings. So, as of a few moments ago, the closed case is
"Good thing I made shuttle reservations in between phone calls," he looked at his watch. "We actually better hurry. The plane is taking off in a couple of hours."
Mulder let out a small sigh. "I hope so."
Summit, New Jersey
Grace Del Vecchio glanced at her phone and frowned. She supposed pissing off the FBI was not the smartest move she ever made but, really, how could she know this man was really a Fed? It's not like anyone paid all that much attention to her case while it was happening and she couldn't imagine why they'd decide to do so three months later.
Still, she agreed to meet with this Mulder-person at the FBI field office in Newark. Why not? If he could get past security, she'd assume he was legit. She smiled at her own cynicism. When had she become so jaded? Probably about the time she woke up in the Atlantic Ocean, in freaking February, no less.
In a way, she hoped this Mulder was the real deal. She wanted to talk to someone who was actually listening. Not so much about the abduction itself but about her rescuer. Something about that whole scenario just never sat well with her. Nope. It never sat well at all.
Plane en route to NY
Scully put down the file of newspaper articles Mulder had printed for her. "Jessica certainly was determined to find these people. Neither one of these cases garnered national press coverage."
"They ended quickly and with good outcomes. Not on the press's top ten list. But, thanks to the joys of the internet-and choosing the right search terms-she tracked them down."
"And they do seem to fit her dreams-at least the way Karen related them."
"Yes, but we'll be able to tell more when we see her dream journal."
Scully leaned forward a bit in her chair. "So, did you reach both women?"
He smiled at the memory of those conversations. "Yes. They were like night and day."
"In what way?"
"Well, Tina Price, the first victim, was very open and . . . well, once she got started, it was hard to get her to stop talking. Grace Del Vecchio, on the other hand, wouldn't talk over the phone at all. I had to agree to meet her tomorrow at the NJ field office. Possibly, after a lie detector test, DNA typing and whatever else she can think of to confirm my identity, she might deign to give me an interview."
"You know you love a challenge."
He looked at her with a smile that reached his eyes and made them seem a shade warmer.
"Depends on who issues it." He leaned back against the headrest and got down to business. "Okay. Tina's story. She's a 42-year old nurse, living alone in Missouri. She got up to go to work, left her house, and as she turned back to lock her front door, she felt a sharp pinch. The next thing she knew, she was alone in a basement apartment with no windows and a locked door. She was kept there for two days with no contact with her kidnapper and was rescued after a few smoke bombs were set off in the hallway outside the door to this apartment. Apparently, a passerby saw the smoke coming through the door leading from the basement to the outside of the house, went inside and kicked open the door."
"They never found the kidnapper?"
"No. And there seems to be no apparent motive. One moment, it was a normal day, the next-as she put it-she was trapped in a nightmare. Only this one had a happy ending when her knight in shining armor arrived."
"You could have saved me a lot of reading, Mulder. So far, you've told me very little I haven't found in the newspaper articles."
"You have anything better to do up here, Scully?"
The comeback to his question was almost out of her mouth when she thought better of it. Their relationship, though drastically changed, was just not like that.
"Anyway, it wasn't just the recounting of facts. It was the way she said things. She mentioned the nightmare aspect more than once. She meant it quite literally, to her way of thinking. Tina's had a recurring dream of being trapped in a fire with no way out."
"So, you must have already come to the conclusion that Jessica channels other people's dreams."
"You would think so, wouldn't you? But I'm reserving judgment until I read the journals. Scientific proof is my life."
She didn't hide her smirk. He believed it all right.
"The second odd thing is that knight in shining armor bit. She seemed to be in the middle of some projected Stockholm Syndrome. Instead of falling for her captor, she fell for her rescuer, even though she had very little contact with him."
"Well, that's kind of natural, don't you think?"
"Yes, but what the papers don't say is the man disappeared right after he rescued Tina. He carried her out of the building-which was not actually on fire-laid her down in the backyard and left. It's believed he then made an anonymous phone call to the police to let them know her whereabouts and that's about it. She never even had a good look at him."
"You think he's someone with something to hide?"
"Or someone whose armor may be a bit tarnished."
Jessica clicked off the flashlight. She had quickly scanned the room and then turned it off to save the batteries. She didn't think she could bear not having the use of the portable light, even if it was only for a few seconds at a time. Her imagination didn't have to take giant leaps. In the dark, she heard noises: things scrabbling across the floor. The first night, her skin crawled continuously. Now, it just crawled when something was actually crawling across it.
She shuddered and got up. She paced a little. She knew she wouldn't trip over anything unless a rodent suddenly crossed her path but she didn't want to wander too far from the corner she considered home base.
She had been wrong. This was close to her worst nightmare but not actually the same. Many, many times she had dreamed about being alone in her old apartment-the one on Daly Avenue she had grown up in.
It had been a nice railroad-style apartment in a very old brownstone. Small rooms branched off of a long hallway that ran the length of the house. Old fashioned, but interesting. But her family had stayed in the decaying neighborhood too long. Landlords were already setting fires to their own buildings to collect insurance. The teenaged Jessica had watched as building after building had been abandoned. The scariest sight had been seeing her grandparents' old basement apartment two years after they had been forced to move and the building had been abandoned. The metal sheets that the city used to block off the windows and doors, to decrease squatting and illicit drug use, had been torn off one window. The room where so many Christmas Eve gatherings had been celebrated was now piled nearly floor to ceiling with rubble.
Ironically, the nightmares about Daly Avenue only started after both her parents were gone. She was alone in the apartment with no way out. What had been a symbol for all that was cozy and welcoming now stood for the deserted and threatening. But this wasn't Daly Avenue. And she wasn't as helpless as she was in her dream.
She just needed to think and explore her options.
There had to be a way out.
End Part 2
April 8, 2000
Jessica Lawrence's apartment
Mulder was arranging papers in small piles on the soft gray carpeting of Jessica's living room when Karen let herself into the apartment. He looked up and saw her balancing the keys, a carafe of coffee and a tray of sandwiches.
"I'd help you but I'm boxed in by my own printouts," he said from his spot on the floor.
"No, don't be silly. I can handle it. Where's Agent Scully?"
He colored slightly, "She's out trying to find a Starbuck's."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I should have come sooner. Actually, I didn't think you'd still be here. But, then I heard you moving around-the walls are pretty thin-and I thought you might be hungry."
"There's nothing to be sorry about. We can never have too much coffee and the food is definitely appreciated."
She set them down on the table and sat on the couch near where he was organizing his papers.
"You sure have a lot of paper there."
"Yes, Jessica's computer is a treasure trove. We found the original connection between Jessica and the other two women."
"You mean, they had one, aside from the dreams?"
"It looks like it. They all belonged to the same Yahoo group: Dreamedy."
"Dreamedy?" Karen frowned.
"Yes, and I quote from the group's home page, 'Whether comedy or tragedy
If it's a dream you're wondrin' about
We provide the remedy
Right here at
Ain't poetry grand?"
"If you say so," Karen shrugged. Mulder laughed.
"That was Agent Scully's reaction, too. Jessica never told you about this group?"
"No, but there would be no reason for her to do so. I mean, she told me a lot about her dreams but I didn't ask for details about her on-line life. I know she loves the computer, loves the net and isn't necessarily shy about on-line friendships. That's about it."
"Well, we've been reading the message archives from the past year. One thread, last September, centered around the members' worst nightmares. Almost everyone contributed to this one. Long narratives on what they dreamed. Two of the descriptions definitely sounded like Grace and Tina's. I just have to confirm it with them but didn't want to wake them at this hour of the night."
Karen's face fell a bit. "So, you think Jessica forgot she read these descriptions and just let them play out in her dreams? That she doesn't really have any psychic connection?"
"I didn't say that. I found her dream journal entries on this. First of all, she had these dreams at the times the women were actually kidnapped. That's a psychic connection right there. Even if she read their descriptions word for word in September, why would she have those dreams in November and February, on the exact same dates of their abductions? And second, she has a lot more details-small little things that, again, I have to check with Tina and Grace about-but, there doesn't seem to be anything random about them."
Karen smiled again. "You know, Agent Mulder, this is really so refreshing. You have no idea how happy I am that you are not only listening without trying to get me professional help, but you're actually supporting my theory. I mean, I want Jessie back and I don't think anything should stand in the way. Even if something truly weird could help us find her."
"Actually, I do have an idea," They heard a knock on the door. "Ah, that will be Scully with the coffee."
Karen had already leaped up and answered the door. A pissed-off Scully stood there, coffee-less.
"Everything is closed. I thought this was the city that never slept."
"That's New York City itself. The state has plenty of drowsy moments. I brought coffee, Agent Scully."
Scully smiled and closed her eyes tightly for a moment, "Bless you," she walked over to the table while Karen ran into the kitchen for mugs. She came out and put them on the table and Scully began to pour. "For a while there, all the reading about sleep and dreams was putting me under. This is much appreciated, Ms. Noyes."
"Karen. Do you think you could stay with us for a little while? We are almost done with the printouts of the dream journal and the copies of some of the letters from the Yahoo list we think might be pertinent to the case. But I found a file on the computer that I would just like to skim through and print out and I'd like to ask you about what you might know about it. If you have the energy for it tonight, that is."
Scully nodded, took a sip of her coffee and went to the computer, as Mulder started putting each pile of paper in a separate manila folder and marking each one.
Jessica looked toward one of the windows. They had probably been boarded up at the time of the fire, which she thought might have been a while ago. Perhaps they wouldn't be that hard to break through.
There was really only one way to find out.
Jessica took off her running shoe and smacked the back of it against the glass until it broke. She cleared the larger pieces with her hands-placing them neatly on the floor. Cool air reached through the 1/4 inch crack between boards. April in New York was still chilly. Still, if she got too cold, 'home base' could be changed to another room.
She pushed against each board, punched each one, smacked each one with her shoe. Nothing.
She stood for a moment breathing the cold night air. It helped push the smells of the house into the background. The world was out there. Freedom was out there.
She needed to be out there.
"There is a file marked 'Todd' on Jessica's hard drive. Do you know anything about this?" Mulder asked Karen.
"Todd? Yes, I know all about Todd."
"They had an email relationship, of sorts," Scully said.
"Well, yes, I guess you could say so. He was a little wacky and maybe she overreacted. I don't know."
"Well, she seemed to be concerned about potential stalking. She saved email messages from him she seems to have forwarded from work," Scully said. "Some of them seem a little overly intense but I guess, not knowing the person behind them, we can't judge accurately. Did you ever meet him?"
"No. Jessie barely had contact with him as an adult. She met him again at some sort of family wedding. Her cousin invited him because he was the godson of someone or other. It was no big deal. She invited half the world. There were almost 400 guests."
"How did you get blackballed?" Mulder asked.
"I didn't. I was on vacation. Hawaii or the dull wedding of a near-stranger. It wasn't the most difficult choice of my life."
Mulder smiled in response.
"Anyway. I don't think they did more than say 'hi,' and then a few months down the line, he writes to her. She writes back. For the first few letters, everything was fairly casual. Gossiping about the good old days on Daly Avenue. Hey, I grew up in Queens. I know old neighborhoods, but Jessie drove me down old Daly Avenue once. What they were waxing poetic about is beyond me. That place was a shit-hole. Pardon my French."
Scully nodded in amused acknowledgement.
"So, as I was saying, it was very casual. Then, he started talking about what he had been doing all those years since he moved. Unbeknownst to him, Jessie had mentioned him to her aunt, who had talked about him with some of the old biddies that used to live on that block. They all had moved away decades ago but managed to know all kinds of personal details about everyone and had a pretty strong grapevine going.
Jessie knew Todd had been some sort of wrestling champ in high school and college. I think he even made it to the Olympics, but didn't win any medals or anything. Then, he got married, had a son, and things went south. His house burned down, and there were rumors floating around about that one. He lost his job. His wife took his kid and left. And he moved back into what was his grandmother's house. She's dead, though. So, he lives alone."
"What kind of rumors?" Mulder asked.
"That he might have torched the place himself. But, you know, old biddies, as I said. It made for a juicy story. Jessie said he was very honest in his writing. He told her she might have heard rumors and he would appreciate it if she didn't believe all she heard. And he said he had problems with depression and has some major heart ailments and stuff from past steroid use. All kinds of things like that. He also talked about custody problems with his ex-wife. For some reason, she didn't want him to see his kid at all. Of course, he made it sound like it was all her fault but there are always two sides to the story. Jessie sort of gave him the benefit of the doubt but understood that."
"So, she knew a lot about him."
"Yes. He was emailing her several times a day."
"And she was answering?"
"Yes. I mean, it was almost like a coffee break from work, you know. Anyway, then things got weird. And it was one of those moments where-if I had the guy in front of me-I'd probably say, 'Dude, you just signed your own death certificate.'"
"Because he started getting very poetic about her looks, her personality . . . all that stuff. He had done that a little since the very first letter but she sort of put it down to his b.s.ing her. Now, he was really turning up the crapometer. And, while Jess is pretty; she doesn't particularly think so. I actually think she felt he was either making fun of her in some way or trying to manipulate her. But, anyway, she put that aside. In another email or two, he asked her out. And that's where I had my 'dude' moment. The guy had the right approach in his first email to her. It was casual and nice. Just two old acquaintances reminiscing. If he had approached her about meeting and going out in the same way, she would have gone. But he said something about her letters giving him the strength to take a chance on love again and how it would be an honor to escort Her Gorgeous-ity to dinner at the Plaza, followed by a play and a chartered helicopter tour around Manhattan. I mean, it was overkill. Come on, a helicopter?
The last relationship she was in? You know how her computer is non-password protected? Well, it wouldn't be if she were still with Kevin. She would have had to lock him out of everything because he was such a control freak. She dumped him after only a few months. Too father-figure-ish for her. Not to get Freudian or anything but her dad had such control over her mother's life, that when he died, her mom didn't even know what to buy to make for dinner. She wasn't sure what foods she liked. She only cooked after consulting what he wanted. Even though she loved both parents desperately, she never wanted to repeat their mistakes in her own life."
"Do you think Kevin could have done this?" Mulder asked.
"No. He was pretty serious about finding a 'little woman.' He married the next girl he dated after Jessica. I think they are having a baby now."
"Okay, then. Back to Todd. Jessica wrote him back after the helicopter tour invitation and stopped their email relationship?" Scully asked.
"Not at that point. She wrote and very gently told him that she wasn't interested in dating him. Gave him the 'let's just be friends' routine. He seemed to back off and then, within the week, he was turning on what he felt was the charm again. She told him to stop. He did. Another few days passed and he referred to something she had mentioned very briefly in one of her first emails. It's a place she likes to go and relax. He said maybe they'd 'accidentally' meet there some day. Just like that. With 'accidentally' in italics and everything. She got pissed then and told him that was it. He was getting too stalker-y for her. He wrote and denied everything, she wrote and said they were obviously working under two different assumptions about their relationship and continuing to write was obviously giving him ideas she never intended for him to have. And that was it."
"He never contacted her again?"
"Nope. You know, I guess some folks might consider Jessie a little cold. But she's not. She's just fiercely independent and she just has never fallen in that way. I mean, I think it might be nice if you loved someone that much that you'd want to be consumed by their passion, if you don't mind me getting all Harlequin on you. But if you don't feel that way, and the other person does, it's just smothering."
Staten Island, NY
He looked at the information on his computer. Someone was using Jessica's computer.
Someone was more than using it; they were searching it. They had logged onto Dreamedy and were looking through old email.
Damn it. He thought they weren't paying any attention to the case. He had been fairly careful not to be seen but she had left the gym a little too quickly. It was still light out and he had to work quickly. And the injection had dropped her like a sack of potatoes. He could do little more than kick her bags under her car and get the two of them out of there before someone saw anything.
Shit. He should have taken the time to get those bags out of there. If he had, no one would even have noticed that she was gone at this point.
There was nothing left to do. He had to improvise and step up his timetable. He went upstairs to pack a small bag.
They reached Scully's room first and she paused a moment before attempting to put the key card through the slot.
She looked at the files Mulder was loosely holding against his chest.
"What time is your appointment with Grace DelVecchio?" She asked him.
"9:45. I figure I have to leave here about 7:45, in case of traffic."
"You sure you don't want me to come along?"
"No. You didn't talk to her, Scully. She might even be more paranoid than I am."
"That's not possible," she said, sliding the files out of his hands and clutching them to her own chest.
"Hey, just what do you think you're doing?"
"Leading you not into temptation. I'll read these in the morning. If you toddle off to bed right this minute, you might get about three to four hours of rest."
"Yes, dear," he said, mockingly.
She stared up at him, feeling a sudden sadness washing over her. There were no real casual endearments between them.
Not for the first time, she wondered why this was harder than she ever thought it would be. On the few occasions they decided to share a bed, it was not difficult at all. It was pretty much non-stop passion from sundown to sun-up. Work was work. Flirting still existed but it was no more intense than it had been before. But casual, non-working, non-intimate moments seemed to take on a tension that wasn't there before. Or maybe it was just her perception. Or, maybe . . .
Just maybe . . .
She really wanted to feel his lips against hers again and needed to justify why she just didn't take the man by the collar and pull him down to her. She wouldn't, though. She never wanted him to feel she was trying to distract him from work. And the man worked nearly all the time. They both did.
"Sweet dreams, Mulder," she said as she looked up at him.
He quickly looked to his left and right and confirmed that they were alone in the hallway. He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. They were as soft and warm as she remembered. He pulled back and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Nice hallway. No bees," he said, his eyes warm and smiling, as he leaned forward and kissed her one more time, this time lingering a bit over the inside of her lower lip.
"Night, Scully," he said as he turned and walked down the hall to his own room.
It was only when she was alone, with the scent of his after-shave lingering on her cheek that she realized she had forgotten all about the zip disk in his pocket. Ten to one, he would not been getting three to four hours of sleep tonight after all.
End of Part 3
FBI Field Office
April 8, 2000, 9:47 AM
Mulder was casually sipping a large cup of coffee in an interrogation room. Nice touch, he thought. Put a paranoid woman in an interrogation room like a common criminal. That should make her warm up to him all right. He startled a bit as the door suddenly sprung open and the woman in question was ushered in the room.
She was tiny. Barely five feet tall, with what they used to call "big" hair and really high heels. He smiled. The Scully Syndrome.
Grace was not smiling at him. She looked him up and down, and sat carefully on the edge of the chair he gestured to.
"It won't collapse, I promise." He said.
"The chair. It's not a trick chair. You're sitting in it like you're prepared to bolt."
"I am prepared to bolt. So, what is your story, Mr. Mulder?"
"I have a story?"
"You must. I mean, I can't figure out why in the world anyone suddenly cares about something that happened a couple of months ago when they didn't give a crap when it happened."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Actually, there has been another abduction and we feel there might be a possible connection to yours. It's as simple as that. It would really help if you could go over the details of your kidnapping."
She narrowed her eyes.
"Can I get you some coffee?" Mulder asked.
"No," she said and added half-heartedly, "thank you. Jeez. See, this is what happens. I'm forgetting the manners my mama taught me. She must be rolling in her grave. I'll help."
"Okay. Do you mind if I tape our conversation?"
"Sure. Knock yourself out," she waited as he turned the recorder on. "Okay. The sad part is, there aren't that many details about the kidnapping. And, if you ask me, that's why no one cared about it or even gave it much thought. Maybe they felt I did it myself or had some friends who were playing some hokey trick on me.
I left work on a Tuesday night. I work as a waitress at a local dinner. My car was parked in the back lot. It's dark back there. Just a single sensor light that went on as I passed behind the dumpster and went to the cars. I felt a sharp pinch on my leg. I looked down and saw nothing. Then, I must have passed out. I remember nothing until I felt this incredibly cold jolt. I mean, I just woke up instantly and realized I was under water. In my down jacket. You know how hard it is to surface when you're wearing wet duck feathers? So, I'm struggling to get up and the waves keep knocking me over. I don't think I was actually in water over my head but the freaking waves were doing a number on me worse than if I had been dropped in the middle of the ocean. And it was so cold. Those idiots who dump themselves in the freezing ocean on New Year's Day-I forget their names-they should all be locked up as menaces to society. Freaking lunatics."
"But you were rescued?"
"Yeah. And this is what I wanted to talk about to the fucking Feds. No offense," she nodded to him in deference. He smiled back. "I mean, I was happy to see him at that second. Who wouldn't be? I'm floundering around out there in my wet clothes that are bringing me down. I'm half drugged-that much I know. I've swallowed half the freezing Atlantic Ocean and here's this guy coming toward me. He immediately yells out that I shouldn't worry, he's gonna save me, so I didn't think of the guy who nabbed me. And, at that point, I wasn't even sure what had happened to get me into that water. All I really knew was I was drowning. Just like in my dreams. So, he barrels over the waves. He was a big, tall guy. I get sucked down again, and I feel him grab my jacket and pull me up. Then, he tosses me over his shoulder and walks to the shore. He dumps me on the dry sand, asks me if I'm all right and then says he's calling for help. I never saw him again. The cops and ambulance showed up a few minutes later. I think I was half out of it by the time they arrived."
"They received an anonymous phone call?"
"They couldn't trace it?"
"No. It was from a pay phone."
"And what bothers you about your rescuer?"
"Well, I can understand someone not wanting credit for doing something good. I mean, 'no good deed goes unpunished' and all that. What I can't understand is how anyone could have been on that beach that night, unless he was up to no good. It was cold. When I say cold, I mean cold. It was about 7 degrees. And with the wind chill-it was worse. And I woke up when I hit the water. If I hadn't, I would have drowned. It's as simple as that. As it was, I was gonna drown in a few minutes. So, you're asking me to believe that the kidnapper dumps me in the water, runs off, and a kind rescuing type of guy just happens to be walking along the freezing cold beach at 1:30 in the morning, sees me drowning and rescues me before I can drown? Nuh-uh. He was right there. That freak was the kidnapper. He must have dumped me, saw that I woke up instantly, walked a little distance from me and when I surfaced, played the role of the hero."
Mulder nodded and waited for her to continue. She seemed to be thinking out loud.
"Hell, can you even call it a kidnapping? My shift was over at 10. I was abducted for three and a half hours. So, someone grabs me, drives me to the shore, dumps me in the water and rescues me. Weird, huh? Unbelievable, huh? The Feds must have thought so for all the time they spent on my case. They didn't call me a liar to my face. I mean, after all, they did have a call about coming to rescue me and I sure as shit needed rescuing. I was in the hospital for a few days with hypothermia and all that crap but they didn't quite buy my story. Kept asking about friends or boyfriends with weird senses of humor. Hey, I have friends who laugh at South Park and crap like that. But they aren't cruel people who would try to drown me for a laugh."
Mulder put his hand to his mouth for a moment and leaned back. She was squinting at him again. Finally, he leaned forward. "Did you get a good look at him at any time?"
"There was a full moon. I saw him as he hovered over me after he laid me out on the sand."
"You think you could work with the police artists to make a sketch? It would really help."
"Sure. I can try. I mean, I want to help this other person. I don't want some other woman feeling this way. All creeped out and non-trusting and stuff."
He nodded. "You don't know anyone named Todd, do you?"
"Todd? No. I never met a Todd in my life."
"Do you belong to a Yahoo group called
"Not anymore. Real life became a lot more scary than a bunch of dreams."
"But when you did, what was your screen name?"
"Jersey Girl 71."
"That's what I thought. Did you have any personal connection to anyone on the list?"
"You think one of them did it?" She asked, leaning forward.
"I didn't write to anyone off-list," Grace said. Mulder stood.
"Well, I think I'll go in and ask for a sketch artist. Want that coffee now, while we wait?"
"Sure. Why not?" He finally got the smile she denied him when they first met. She looked nice when she smiled and he no longer felt his ass was in any danger of being kicked.
Continued in part 2/2
Title: Nights of Shining Armor
Author: Gina Rain (email@example.com)
Part 2 of 2
See notes and disclaimers in section 1
Scully's hotel room
Scully laid face down on the bed, her upper body rested on her elbows, as she read over the files containing the reprinted posts from Dreamedy.
She had already compiled a small list of the differences between the two women's original descriptions of their worst nightmares and Jessica's own interpretations of their dreams.
She looked sharply at the door as it began to open. Before she even had a chance to reach for her gun, Mulder poked his head through the door.
"Mulder, I could have shot your head off."
"Not by keeping your gun on the dresser, " he said, looking at the furniture in question, then putting the appropriate sheepish expression on his face. "I sort of realized you could hurt me as I was opening the door. I'm sorry. I got a spare keycard downstairs. Flashed my badge. I thought you might be napping."
"Hey, there's s first time for everything. Actually, I thought you might still be asleep from last night. We got in very late and you didn't have to go anywhere." He shrugged. "Why not?"
"For the same reason you hauled your ass up," she frowned at him. "We have a case. For the record, I got up, had breakfast and have been working ever since."
Mulder removed his jacket, tie, shoes and socks and unbuttoned the top three buttons and cuffs of his dress shirt. He plopped down next to Scully in the same position she was in--face down--but he was doing nothing to hold his body up. He rested his head on his folded arms and looked at her instead.
"Tell me all you've done, Scully. I'm just gonna close my eyes for a minute while I'm listening."
"Don't be silly, Mulder. Take a nap. You're the one who needs it. Did you get any sleep at all last night?"
She shook her head, "The zip disk."
"Mmmm, hmmm. Don't be mad."
"I'm not. We'll talk about the case later."
"Just a couple of hours, Scully. Don't let me sleep any longer. I still want to try and arrange something this evening," he popped his head up, suddenly. "Frohike. I need to contact him."
She put her hand between his shoulder blades and pushed him down. She leaned over and whispered in his ear. "Relax. I called him. I gave him Jessica's ISP# and he's going to check and see if anyone hacked into her computer. He's going to do a little hacking himself to find access the member list of the Dreamedy group and we'll take things from there, all right?"
"Mmmm," she watched his lips as they formed the silent words, "and you wonder why I love you."
She smiled. He never quite said that out loud.
But it was enough. For now.
Scully's hotel room
Scully was still making notes when she felt Mulder's hand reach out and grab the list she made earlier. Even half-asleep, he had unerring accuracy.
"You still had fifteen minutes," she said, looking over her shoulder at the alarm clock, yet knowing he'd never go back to sleep.
"Don't need it. What's this?"
"A comparison between Tina and Grace's original nightmares and what Jessica dreamed. You did confirm that they were on that mailing list?"
"Yes. Grace in person, Tina by cell phone in the car. Remind me to recharge my battery, by the way. This list is perfect. She definitely got the details right."
Scully raised her eyebrow. "Tina's list has 'potato chips and Poland Springs.'"
"Yes, and both were thoughtfully provided by her kidnapper. 'Dry ice,'" he read. "Okay, this is more symbolic of something that produces smoke but is harmless. So, it's an accurate detail of the homemade smoke bombs. "
Mulder laughed as he read down the list.
"What's so funny?" Scully asked.
"Yes. That's why I put a question mark after it. I'm not sure it wasn't a typo."
"She was wearing a down jacket."
Scully smiled. "So, she was cooperative after all?"
"Yes. There was a little resistance, at first . . ."
"Then you flashed her those baby hazels . . ."
"Baby hazels. That's a scary thought. Actually, I think she just wanted someone to believe her. Her abduction was so short and witness-free that I'm not sure anyone took her seriously. The fact that her case ended up in the newspaper was due mostly to her knowing someone on a local paper who pushed for it to get picked up by one that was city-wide. She thought it might help get the guy. It didn't. She does have a good memory for detail, by the way," he got off the bed and walked over to where he deposited his jacket when he came in the room. He sighed as he dug through the inner pocket. "I'm getting old, Scully. I used to be able to stay up for days but I was so tired I forgot to show you this."
He handed her a sheet of paper that had a computer-generated picture of their suspect. The face Scully looked at was not one she'd normally envision under the circumstances but years of law enforcement told her there was no such thing as 'normal.'
He was a heavy-set, slightly balding man with a friendly face. She wondered how the sketch artist worked that one out. Most of these pictures looked like mug shots or DMV photos, not like head shots being submitted for a remake of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
The phone rang and Scully picked it up. "The lovely Dr. Scully, I presume."
"Hello, Melvin," she teased.
"I know you can't see me, but I'm trembling over the intimacy, Dana, my love. Tell that partner of yours to switch on the laptop. I've sent you both a present."
"What is it, Frohike?" she said, gesturing to Mulder and the laptop on her desk.
"I found out who has been hacking into Jessica Lawrence's computer. Well, I mean, aside from the usual spam artists and potential virus-spreaders. He has been doing it so often it wasn't hard to find. A man named Todd Spector. 36-years old. Lives in Staten Island in a home he inherited from his grandmother. He's a divorced father of a 3 year-old son. Former IT professional let go due to 'bizarre and unprofessional' behavior, which was not detailed in his personnel records, at least not the computerized ones. He seems to be living off an inheritance his mother left him when she passed away last year. Anyway, aside from all of that, he made quite the hobby out of hacking Jessica's computer. His last attempt was just last night. He did, indeed, know she was part of Dreamedy and signed up himself, sometime last August, but never participated.
I sent you his both his driver's license photo and the one his company had on file for him, along with all current and past addresses and phone numbers. You can shower me with affection now, Scully."
"Consider yourself showered."
"Ah, beautiful and amusing. I shall await your next request for information with bated breath."
"Thank you, Frohike."
"Any time, toots," he said, and hung up.
"Frohike just called me, 'toots," she informed Mulder as she walked toward him and the laptop.
"Want me to beat him up for you?"
"No, I'll enjoy doing that myself. What have you got?"
"We've got ourselves a match. Take a look." He held up the computer-generated photo next to the ones on the screen. They were all, in fact, pictures of Todd Spector: Suspect Number One.
End of Part 4
April 8, 2000
Someone was in the house. She had heard the noise of breaking boards coming from downstairs hours ago. After that, silence. The board she had managed to remove lay on the floor in pieces. Her foot was sore from kicking at it. Her heart was sore after seeing absolutely nothing but land to her left and right; not another house or human in sight.
Jessica felt her breath hitch as the panic began to rise. Whoever was downstairs, she wished he would stay there. Or leave.
She grabbed the box of Power Bars and dumped them out. She put the cardboard over her face and tried to breathe into it.
Calm. Calm. Nothing good could come through panicking.
She felt her stomach clench as she heard footsteps walking up the stairs.
She was about to meet her kidnapper.
Theresa Spector's House
Staten Island, NY
When Mulder and Scully arrived at Todd Spector's house, all they found was a nosy neighbor who virtually ran out of her home to talk to them. She had seen him leave, before dawn, with a suitcase. He hadn't seen her as she looked through her bedroom window. She was up early making sure her husband got off to work on time and heard Todd's screen door open and close a few times. That, apparently, was a rarity. Todd was quiet. She never really saw him coming or going on any kind of regular basis.
After briefly searching the home for evidence, all they found in the museum-like atmosphere was a messy upstairs bedroom where Todd, apparently, "lived." The rest of the house looked like it hadn't changed much since it's former owner died. Nothing was out of place but everything was covered in dust.
They confiscated his laptop as evidence and moved on to the next address on their list: the one belonging to Todd's ex-wife.
"I had to give up," the former Mrs. Todd Spector informed Mulder and Scully shortly after they sat down in her small, toy-cluttered living room. Jonathan Spector, her son, was down for a nap. "You can only live with someone like that for so long before you feel as if he's sucking you down with him, you know?"
"Well," Mulder said with a smile. "Actually, we'd like you to tell us anything you can. How about starting at the beginning of your relationship?"
"Okay. I met Todd in high school and we went on to college together. He was cute and big in a nice, beefy kind of way. He was a wrestling champ. He actually was good enough to get into the Olympic trials. But, that was just about the time when anti-doping came into the Olympic spotlight, and his coach had pretty much been supplying him with steroids for years. At any rate, sometime during the trials, drug testing began and he bowed out before they tested him. He knew he'd be discovered and didn't want his family to suffer through the scandal. Of course, his dad was still alive and didn't understand at all. He was a rather boorish man. He felt that there was no bigger scandal than dropping out of the competition. He always talked about getting someone else to switch urine or blood or whatever. In other words, cheat and take victory any way you can. At any rate, Todd came back feeling like a disappointment to his family.
He thought of waiting for the next Olympics. But when he went off the steroids, all the muscle went to fat. That was okay by me. I didn't care. He was a sweet guy, you know? And by that time, I loved him for him, not as a champion athlete. Besides, I was just glad he was off the steroids. They had already done some damage to his heart and his mood. He had a tendency to get depressed and moody.
Anyway, after graduation, he got a job in computers before they became the everyday pieces of equipment they are today. We got married. For many years, we were not able to have a baby. And then I got pregnant, and our troubles began. Todd was jealous. Before Jonathan was even born, Todd was jealous of him. He felt he wasn't getting enough attention. He suddenly worried about his appearance. Somehow, he got hold of steroids again. Somehow," she scoffed at her own words. "The man could get anything from anyone. He had contacts all over the world thanks to his trusty computer. Even though the steroids had done such bad things to his body, he was still convinced they would suddenly turn him into the athlete he was in high school and college and I'd suddenly pay more attention to him than the little unborn baby I had waited for so long. So, he took them. He also started lifting weights and working out. And getting nasty. Not physically nasty or anything, but just very whiny about the baby and how I never needed him for anything but sperm. Stupid things like that. I hear paranoia and mood swings are kind of part of the whole drug package. Maybe. Maybe not. He always had an overly quiet personality that leaned toward depression. After Jonathan was born, things got even sillier." Theresa looked around a little and reddened, before leaning into Scully. "I was . . . nursing Jonathan and Todd felt-well, only he should get that privilege-and I mean that quite literally. I'm just not used to that kind of thing."
Scully nodded. "There were some rumors going on about a fire in your home?"
"Rumors. Yes. I suppose there were. Probably started by my mother who could never keep anything to herself. Listen, this sort of has to be off the record because I can't possibly pay back my half of what we received from the insurance for rebuilding on the property. And I never had proof, anyway. Todd was becoming increasingly
depressed and moody as Jonathan began to coo and crawl and do all the cute things babies do. One night, there was a fire. He woke me up and immediately began to carry me out of the house. He was going to go back for the baby but I wouldn't let him leave without him. I pounded on his shoulder a bit and then he dropped me, ran to the nursery and grabbed the baby-like it had been his idea all along. Then, he got us all out of the house and called 911 from his phone in the car. He kept going on and on about how he saved his family and then got really angry with me for not showing him his "due" appreciation. But, how could I? I don't know if he truly would have left Jonathan in there to die, but I do know that his son was not his top priority. And I think his top priority was being some kind of hero to me. Kind of living out a fairy tale or something by rescuing the damsel in distress and forgetting about the damsel's baby. The fire inspectors never found any proof. They put the whole thing down to faulty wiring but Todd had the knowledge to rig that. We stayed together with his mother for a while but he was getting more and more moody, more and more resentful of the baby and I just couldn't deal with it anymore."
"How did he lose his job? We just have an odd notation of 'unprofessional behavior.'"
"Yes. That began while I was still pregnant. He would just get furious over things. If a vending machine didn't work, he'd more or less attack it. I think the straw that broke the camel's back was when he couldn't get a computer to do what he wanted it to and he basically ran his fist through the monitor. That's when they let him go."
"You said you didn't feel he was a violent person," Scully said.
"And he's not. Not toward people. He needed to take out his aggression on something and he used inanimate objects to do it."
"And what is your relationship like now?" Mulder asked.
"Now? I try to stay away from him. He doesn't do anything but give me the cold shoulder anyway, but every once in a while he kicks up a fuss about his right to see Jonathan. Jonathan is a happy little 3- year old. When he meets with him, Todd basically does nothing but plop Jonathan in front of the tv with cheese doodles and stories of how bad mommy is."
"Did he ever mention a woman named Jessica Lawrence to you?"
"Was he unusually attached to memories of his childhood?"
"I guess so. He always brought up his boyhood days in the Bronx but I didn't think too much about it. I talked a lot about my childhood in New Rochelle. Childhood can seem idyllic in retrospect. I guess he could have fixated on it later. That kind of seems like something he might have done after I left. Since he blamed the baby and all. Maybe he needed to go back and once again be the 'boy' everyone loved."
Mulder looked at Scully. Civilians were getting better and better at pop psychology.
They thanked Theresa Spector for her time and left the house. Mulder stopped on the front porch.
"How about a small detour on our way back to the hotel?"
Daly Avenue, Bronx, NY
In a little over an hour, Mulder and Scully were making their way through split-personality streets that were architecturally interesting. Some had brand new buildings, some had stream-cleaned, renovated pre-war apartment houses, and nearly all the streets had some greenery nearby. The borough was a little less 'gray' than they expected.
When they found Daly Avenue, they found themselves on one of the refurbished blocks. They got out of the car and started walking down the street.
"There doesn't seem to be a 2064 anymore, Mulder. That was Todd's old building. Let's try 2070. That was Jessica's building," Scully said, reading the address from her notebook.
The front and inner door of the brownstone was open. Mulder and Scully had to squeeze past a couch that was currently being moved through the front door.
"Could you tell us where the superintendent is?" Mulder asked one of the muscular young men moving the couch.
"Apartment 1. Something wrong?" he asked, taking in the agent's formal appearance.
"No, not at all. We just have some questions for him."
"About someone in here? Cause I don't want to be movin' in no hotbed of crime. I got kids."
"No. This is ancient history," Mulder said with what he hoped was a reassuring grin. The last thing he needed was for the landlord to sue the FBI for a lost source of income.
"Good. Can't be too careful nowadays."
Mulder made his way around the furniture and went down a long hallway.
"I was kind of hoping for an abandoned building," he told Scully.
"So was I."
"I don't think she's here at all."
"It doesn't seem likely, does it?"
He knocked on the door to apartment 1 and flashed his badge. In a few moments, he was let into an elderly Russian woman's apartment.
"My husband is Super here. Vell, not really. Ve own building. Bose of us. But most people don't know that. He's downtown now. Vis his buddies. I can help."
"How long have you owned the building?" Scully asked.
"Not too long. Four years. That's it."
"Well, we actually just have a few questions. Are all the apartments filled?"
"Yes. We have vaiting list. No waycancies for couple of years at least."
Mulder took over the questioning. "Is there a storage area, perhaps in the basement, or any kind of maintenance room?"
"There is furnace downstairs. For oil-to heat the house. It's wery old and big."
"Have you been down there lately?"
"Sure. I need to bleed it vonce a veek."
"Uh-huh," Mulder said, not knowing exactly what that meant but not feeling the need to ask. "So, there is really no place for anyone to hide. Maybe an old dumb waiter shaft?"
"Nah. Those ver boarded up years ago. All have been painted over so many times, you'd never get them to open vizout making hole in vall."
Mulder pulled out Jessica and Todd's pictures. "Have you ever seen these people before?"
"No. Vait. Let me get my glasses," she scooted into the kitchen and was back again in a moment. "Him. Yes. Only him. He's next on apartment vaiting list. The Ortiz family is moving out, he vill be coming in vith new vife."
"When did he get on your list? You said it was a couple of years wait," Scully said.
The old woman blushed. "Vell, not too long ago. He pay three month deposit in advance."
She pulled out a ledger. "'Mr. and Mrs. Todd Spector. Due to move in May 1st. ' He pay for apartment in early March."
As they walked down the stairs of the brownstone, Scully turned to Mulder.
"Everything did come full circle, Mulder. But he's not holding her here. He's planning on bringing her here as his wife and start a new life where their lives began."
"Well, we know one thing with almost total certainty. He's not planning on hurting her. If anything, I'd say he's planning his biggest 'rescue.'"
The kidnapper was toying with her. She had heard his footsteps just outside her door a few hours before and then he went back down the stairs. Now, she heard them again.
Home base. Jessica had crouched down in the corner she considered home base, after quickly placing remnants of the board against the window. Hopefully, the kidnapper wouldn't realize she had knocked it out.
Oh, who was she kidding? He probably had more important things on his mind: torture, rape, murder.
What was that children's book? She couldn't remember. The one where the girl got really, really tiny. Maybe she could make herself so small, no one would know she was there.
The door opened with a bang.
"Jessie. Thank God."
She opened her eyes. That voice was vaguely familiar. The man before her was vaguely familiar, too. Aw, shit.
"Yes, I've come to rescue you."
She felt her shoulders relax a bit, but she also had a vague feeling of unease.
What was he doing there?
He was reaching out a hand to her.
She didn't want to take his hand. A few months before, he had been bragging about possibly stalking her during the coming summer. He had talked about life and love and second chances to make correct decisions. That didn't make sense. What second chances? They were children when last they met. They didn't make decisions that had any kind of outcome on the adults they became. That didn't make any sense and this didn't, either.
Her thoughts whirled around her and faded into a white haze. Literally. She felt herself being momentarily pulled into a state of non-being: not life, not death. Then the haze cleared and she once again saw the man's thick hand extended toward hers. That way led to non-being. She slapped his hand away and he took a small leap backwards in surprise.
"What . . . " he sputtered. "I'm rescuing you. I'm here."
"Why are you here? Where is here?"
"Because you were kidnapped. It's in all the papers."
"And how did you know where to find me if the police obviously couldn't?"
"Um . . ."
"You brought me here."
"Of course I didn't. What are you talking about, Jessie?"
"Of course you did. Why was I so freaking stupid that I believed you actually faded into the woodwork when I asked you to?"
"Jessie. You are under a lot of stress. Let me take you away from all of it."
"I'm not going anywhere with you. You want to rescue me? Open the doors to this place and stand back and let me leave with your car. I will call for help as soon as I get to the nearest gas station."
"Jessica. You need me. I'm not letting you go alone."
"I told you. I'm not going anywhere with you."
There was anger and confusion in his eyes, but confusion reigned. After a few moments, he made a decision.
"I'll come back for you in the morning. I'm sure, after you've gotten over the surprise of someone kindly rescuing you, you'll change your mind. In the meantime, I will stay here and guard the place. Make sure the kidnappers don't return to kill you . . . or worse."
He turned and left, locking the door behind him.
Mama had been right. Jessica was a little nuts.
Who knew she would give him so much trouble? And after he did his two trial runs, too. There was no trouble with those two girls at all. In fact, they seemed to appreciate his presence when he came in and rescued them. They didn't slap his hand away and reject him.
It was such a good plan. Set up a series of kidnappings with Jessica as the last victim. The kidnapper struck members of a certain mailing list and made them relive their worst nightmares. Perhaps whoever had looked at her computer already figured out that connection. Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing after all. Well, except for the fact that he hadn't been very careful about hacking into Jessica's computer and probably left a trail. That was careless. Still, all was fair in love and war and once they were married, no one would question his taking a peek at her on-line life.
And they wouldn't suspect him of the other two kidnappings. For heaven's sake, Tina lived in Missouri. And even though Grace was much nearer, geographically, they still wouldn't suspect him of being physically able to drag her out of that water-not with all his physical ailments. Still, he had been working out. He was perfectly able. They just didn't have to know that.
But it should have been easier with Jessica. She should already be snuggled with him somewhere, showing him her appreciation of his rescue efforts and getting to know him as an adult. As a man.
The problem was, she was always so independent. She used to walk down Daly Avenue, after she lost her baby fat, with her matching outfits, oblivious to the world. Hot pants and a tank top or halter. Everything fit in all the right places but she didn't seem to give a second thought to the effect she might have on those around her. The older boys would pass by in cars and shout things at her-compliments, to their own minds, and she would just walk on and ignore them. Even though he was younger, he wanted to take those boys aside and tell them that was not the way to win a lady's heart. It was crude. This was not a crude girl. This was a princess who was oblivious to her own beauty.
Mama told him not to do that, or the boys would beat him up.
It was that damned Billie Jean King's fault Jessie was so independent. Jessica used to be a fan of tennis and that was when Billie Jean was number one on the circuit. The woman couldn't just shut up and play. She had to talk about women's lib and equal this and equal that. No wonder Jessie was so messed up. You had to watch who your children idolized.
Still, even the most spirited of horses could be broken. Not that he was comparing Jessie to a horse. He would never do such a thing. And he didn't really want to break her spirit. But she needed some time to think. She needed some time to realize she didn't have to go through this world alone and not every man was crude. There were some knights of old, ready to rescue their fair maidens and give them the lives they deserved.
All they wanted in return, was a little appreciation.
That wasn't too much to ask for, was it?
End of Part 5
April 9, 2000
"Well, we're going to have to look at things from a different angle tomorrow. He has to be keeping her somewhere," Scully said, as she got up from the bed where she had been making some notations in one of the files.
"I'll just read over these again and then turn in."
She shook her head. There was no stopping him. She went to the door.
"Goodnight, Mulder. Try and get some sleep."
"Night," he said, without looking up from his files.
She turned back to him and watched as he read the same file for probably the hundredth time.
He looked up and saw her staring at him with a frown on her face. "What? I said 'goodnight,' didn't I?"
She nodded. "Todd has it all wrong, you know."
"Well, of course he does. He's not exactly a stable individual."
"I meant, about the knight in shining armor business. You're one."
"One what?" he asked, still taking peeks at the file.
"A knight in shining armor."
"I am?" He said, looking up finally.
"Yes. It's not about swooping in and rescuing a woman. It's the way you conduct your life. The sacrifices you make for what you believe in. The way you're ready to fight any battle . . ."
"Tilt at any windmill?"
"That, too," she smiled. "Still, the one heroic act Todd is building his hopes on wins a woman's gratitude, not her love."
"Are you trying to tell me something, Scully?" he said, with a coy little smile.
"Maybe," she said.
"Wait a minute. I suppose the outcome of that speech is not a given after all. It could go two ways."
She gave him a slow smile. "Yes, I guess it could."
The smile suddenly left her face. "It's almost irrelevant. The truth of the matter is, the armor sometimes gets in the way when all a woman wants is to feel the knight's arms around her. That's the day-to-day practical dilemma. 'Night, Mulder."
She turned and walked out of the door.
A half hour later, she heard a knock on the door. Before she could even get up, he was announcing himself.
"Scully, it's me. I'm using the key. Don't shoot."
He walked in wearing a hotel robe and slippers. She sat up in bed and looked at him. "That's nice, Mulder. Scare the people next door with talk of gunfire."
He gave her a pointed look. "We are in New York. It's cold out there."
"Most people don't walk around hallways half-naked."
He gripped the sides of his robe. "I don't do things by half, Scully," he said with a leer. He walked over to the bed and slipped the plush robe off and slid into bed beside her.
"Armor's off," he said, cuddling closer.
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is. Here, feel."
"The armor is never off, Mulder," she said, not sure why but knowing she had to pursue the
He moved back a bit. "I'm here, Scully."
"Yes, but I didn't want to force you to come here. That's my problem. I didn't want you to feel manipulated into making a choice between work that you need to do and our relationship."
"I wasn't manipulated. I finished what I was doing and then came here. I know that wasn't easy for you. You never complain and if you even hint at something, I want to take notice."
"It's not just this place or this moment, Mulder. This has been going on from the beginning. We have an all or nothing relationship with not a hell of a lot of time for long, passionate nights together."
"So, you'd settle for a grope here and there?" It was his turn to shake his head. "You deserve more."
"And so do you. So, we're 'settling' for nothing. Does that seem right to you? If the world would end tomorrow, I'd be a whole lot happier knowing I spent a couple of hours with you than if I couldn't even remember the scent of your skin because I wasn't close enough to smell it." He looked at her and his eyes seemed a shade darker, a shade warmer, and a lot more mischievous than they were a moment before.
"I didn't have time for a shower. You might not like the smell of my skin."
She gave him a look.
"Okay. You can smack me now."
She shook her head and put her arms around his waist. "I don't want to smack you. I want to kiss you."
"Um, feel free?"
She buried her head in the crook of his neck and bit him softly. Then she kissed his 'wound.' He ran his hands down her back and to the edge of her pajama top. He bunched up the material and was prepared to lift it off when she stopped him and pushed him on his back.
"Just lay back and relax, Mulder."
"I'm relaxed," his voice went up an octave on the last syllable as she reached down and grabbed his erection. "Sort of."
She straddled him and sat back against his thighs. Her fingers were softly, but steadily becoming reacquainted with him. He enjoyed watching her like this. She was so serious as she set about her task of arousing him. She was also sexy as hell in a red pajama top and no bottoms. Her thighs encased his in creamy whiteness and he could feel her lack of underwear against his skin. She looked at him as he watched her and a faint color rose to her cheeks.
"I was reading before. You can turn off the light, if you want to."
"First, with the grip you have on me, that might be risky business. And second, I like looking at you."
She nodded and looked down at him as her hands moved faster on his skin. He saw her smile as he let out a deep moan. A job well done. And she thought he was a workaholic.
Suddenly, she stopped.
"What?" he asked.
She looked down at his fully erect penis, as it seemed to hover near his belly. "I like what I see, too," she said. She lifted off her pajama top and grabbed his forearms and pulled him to a sitting position. She lifted herself up, positioned him against her and slowly sank down. She was wet and warm and very ready for him. Maybe quick gropes weren't so bad after all.
"You are mine," she said, pressing her bare breasts against his chest. He looked down and saw their bodies pressed together. Scully's skin was so much lighter than his. The sight of her perfectly round bottom bouncing steadily against his thighs made him smile. It was not a sight he ever really expected to see and never wanted to take for granted on any level. At the same time, he knew he had been running scared. He had been so thrilled at the changes in their relationship, he was worried about his commitment to the x-files. And he supposed recommitting himself to his work while at the beginning of a new phase of a relationship was lousy timing. But she hung in there.
He threw his head back as she increased her pace. He needed to hold on a bit longer. He wanted to feel her coming around him. Feel the ripples of pleasure emanate from her body to his and push him over.
She hung in there all right. And she didn't want him to change. She just wanted him to give her whatever he could. And he sure as hell could do better than he had been doing.
Scully reached behind him and grabbed the headboard and then began riding him like a madwoman. Her breaths were coming fast and furious and finally, finally she gave a soft cry and he felt her orgasm. He held her still as he pumped up into her and matched her cry with one of his own. In a moment, they were a sodden heap of loose limbs as they both lay like rag dolls against the headboard.
"I'm yours, huh?" Mulder asked, in a voice filled with spent passion and pure fatigue.
"Did I say that out loud?"
"You sure did. Before you wiped me out. You want to take it back?"
She shook her head. He ran his hand down the small of her back and rested his big palms on her behind. He could feel one of her tiny aftershocks. It made him smile. "Good. I like a possessive woman. And you take such good care of what belongs to you. How could I possibly complain?"
"Go to sleep, Mulder," she whispered softly.
"Yes, dear," he said and took her with him as he scooted down the bed until he was flat on his back and she was lying like a blanket above him.
End of Part 6
April 9, 2000
Todd set up the homemade smoke bombs at the entrance to the house and right outside of the entrance to the second floor. If all went well, he'd be carrying Jessica down those stairs and looking like the true hero he was as he carried them both out through the billowing smoke.
It wasn't part of his original plan. After all, a fire was part of Tina's nightmare, not Jessica's. But he needed to do something to hasten her acceptance of him and this might turn the tide. Besides, since this wasn't a real fire, there was no real danger. He wouldn't make that mistake twice in one lifetime.
He shook his head to wipe out that particular memory. Times were different now. He would get the girl and they would live happily ever after. It was just the way life was meant to be.
Scully hotel room
Scully was wide awake within a couple of hours. She listened for Mulder's deep rhythmic breathing but it wasn't there.
"You're awake, aren't you?"
"What are you thinking about?"
"Us?" he said, opting for political correctness but falling a bit short in the delivery.
"I'm thinking of Daly Avenue."
"I'm thinking of how much of an effect a 14-year old girl could have had on a 9-year old boy."
"Ah, Scully," he said, gripping her bare shoulder. "You have obviously never walked a mile in our Reeboks. You are talking about a shy little kid. Jessica was probably nice to him in that condescending way young teens have to
demonstrate their superior manners whilst pleasing their parents. She had sprouted in all the right places and that old male ego kicked in and convinced the little pre-pre-pubescent that she liked him-liked him."
"So, that obsession doesn't concern you?"
"No. If his life was falling apart and he was unable to fill the role he felt destined to fulfill with his own wife, he would embrace the past where things were simpler."
"Then why are you thinking of Daly Avenue?"
"Todd's family left just as the neighborhood was changing. He was not there when the buildings were being burned for insurance. Years later, while semi-stalking Jessica, in the middle of some sort of steroid abuse, romantic overload combination, he finds out the very ironic fact that her worst nightmare centers around that semi-burnt out shell of a neighborhood. Although, if you look at her original post, she never mentions anything being burnt out. She just mentions being completely alone in her now empty apartment with no way out. It's more a dream of loneliness, than fear, but he might not have taken it that way.
I'm pretty sure he took the other two women to establish some sort of serial kidnapping fantasy that he could use to convince Jessica he truly saved her. And he probably had the full intention of going to Daly Avenue, finding an abandoned building and setting up an old apartment to keep her in. But nothing has stood still. What he found was a neighborhood in the middle of urban renewal. A good place to take a new bride, too, perhaps-if they are into the nostalgia of reliving their childhoods as adults. But now he needs to keep her somewhere similar."
"A burnt out shell of a place . . . "
"Right. And his ex-wife mentioned getting insurance to rebuild on the property. She said nothing about the property itself being sold. So, that building might still exist."
"There's only one way of finding out," Scully said, as she made a mad dash to the bathroom to get dressed
Todd and Theresa Spector's house
New Rochelle, NY
Jessica watched the smoke as it came through the bottom of the door.
She felt no panic. She had actually felt very little panic since she found out Todd was responsible for her abduction. As frightened as she had been when he was writing the notes, once she had seen him again, she knew he wouldn't hurt her. Their relationship hadn't really changed a bit. They knew nothing about each other as adults. They were still interacting as they did as children. He was a pain in the butt kid and she was the one he had a crush on. And everyone knew a 14-year old girl could kick a 9-year old boy's ass.
"Smoke bombs," Jessica heard herself saying. "Todd!" she yelled.
She remembered the article about one of those women whose dream she shared. Todd must have been responsible for her kidnapping and subsequent rescue. He was the common factor between herself and those women. Damn.
"Todd!" she yelled again.
The door burst open and he stood in the doorway, in true super hero pose. She wasn't buying any of it.
"Toss those bombs out of the window so the smoke can dissipate."
"What bombs? There are no bombs. We have a small fire. I don't want to alarm you but it's necessary that you leave right now. I'm here to save you."
He approached her and grabbed her hand. She stretched her other arm down and picked up a shard of glass from its pile on the floor and scratched his hand from elbow to wrist. He pulled away sharply and watched the blood drip to the floor.
"What the hell are you doing, Jessica? I'm only here because I love you and want to get you out of here. God, you're like a rabid dog or something."
"I'm going to show you a rabid dog in a moment. Now, I'm leaving here and you can do what you fucking well please but if you're planning on killing me or something, you better do it now."
Todd looked insulted but stood aside as Jessica started down the stairs. After a moment, she could hear his footsteps slowly following as she carefully made her way through the smoke. The white mist was so thick in front of her and, once again, she felt as she had the first time Todd had extended his hand toward her. She felt as if she were lost in time and space-in a world somewhere between life and death.
She heard a wheezing sound behind her and then felt a thud as Todd fell against the creaky banister. She had enough time to brace herself against it as his body fell down the entire flight of stairs and landed in a heap at the front landing.
She saw his bright blue shirt through the billowing smoke and ran down the stairs. She touched his neck for a pulse and didn't feel one. Jessica flung open the door. It wasn't locked. As the smoke started clearing out the front door, she could see Todd's car and freedom.
But she couldn't leave a dying man. Certainly not this one. Leaving him to die would leave herself with a lifetime of guilt. There was a bond between the former residents of Daly Avenue. She couldn't fully understand it, but she respected it. She had to at least make the attempt to save him.
She left the door open and went back to him. She checked for a pulse. If it was there, it was faint and she couldn't find it. The damned jackass had heart failure as he was trying to 'rescue' her.
Jessica cursed herself for not taking CPR courses or for really finding out what to do in an emergency. Finding a phone, at this point, would have to wait. He would be long dead by the time she located one. He probably needed CPR now and she'd just have to wing it.
She remembered compressions and mouth to mouth. A certain amount of time for each. She could do that. She made sure his airway was clear and then breathed into his mouth for 8 seconds. For some reason, that seemed like a good amount of time, considering she didn't really know how long she had to do this. Then she did the compressions for double that time, cursing all the way.
"You think," she said, pushing down on his chest, "that I need to be saved from something. Well, "she said, pressing down again, "I don't. I stopped believing in fairy tales long ago." She breathed into his mouth for the requisite amount of time. When she was done, she started the compressions again. "You didn't even see your opportunity to be a hero when it was right in front of you. Your kid, you idiot. He wasn't out to get you. He was out for love. All kids are. And you're his daddy. You can do no wrong in his eyes. Not at this age. You could have been his hero. But, no, you have to act like an ass and leave him through whatever the hell it is you did, that pissed your wife off so much she doesn't even want you to see him." She stopped for more mouth to mouth. "Well, you're not dying on my watch. You can have that second chance. That much I can give you. For old times sake."
She kept up the compression and breathing until she found the faint pulse she was looking for. She continued doing what she was doing because she didn't know what else to do.
When Mulder and Scully came running through the door, Jessica was shocked to hear sobs in between her rescue efforts. The sobs were coming from herself.
Daly Avenue, Bronx, NY
April 11, 2000
"Look at it," Jessica told Karen as they walked down the street. Jessica kept looking at each building in wonder, Karen wondered if perhaps they should double check Jessica for injuries. The place, while improved since the last time she had seen it, was still just a notch or two above a shit-hole.
"Jessie, it's been one day. This is really not the time to be here."
"Agents Mulder and Scully said Todd put us on a waiting list for an apartment here. I just want to get that cleared up with the landlady. No one is moving here and she can rent to whoever she wants."
"A phone call would have been sufficient."
"No," she said, looking around. "I need closure. This will do it. She looked at the community garden. "This has taken the place of two houses. My grandparents lived right about here. It was the corner house. Todd and his family lived in the building next door. It's so funny. I still can't remember anything specific about Todd from the past. He was just a little kid who played in the streets and just moved away at one point."
"Well, you made more of an impression on him, obviously."
"No. I think the idea of me made more of an impression on him. He didn't know me at all."
"What do you think they are they going to do with him?" While Jessica had spent half of the night before filling her friend in on the details of her questioning and her long sessions with the two FBI agents, she spent most of the following day sleeping. This morning, she was pretty determined to go straight to her old neighborhood and no amount of discouragement could change her mind.
"Well, after he gets released from the hospital, there will be a trial. He'll be down for three counts of unlawful imprisonment or worse. I don't know. I imagine there will be an insanity hearing, perhaps. I know Agent Scully said something about there being a whole hell of a lot of steroids in his blood. I have no idea what will really happen."
"What do you want to happen? I mean, I'm sensing a whole nostalgia thing going on here, that makes me think you want to fix things somehow. You have that knack, you know."
"Well, there are some things I can't fix. I guess I faced those facts. I will go out there and tell the truth. Whatever happens afterwards is up to the courts, Todd and his family."
She stood in the middle of the street and looked around. The house she had spend the first 19 years of her life stood just a few steps away from her. Suddenly, she couldn't move.
"You know, this place has changed but still reminds me so much of childhood. I can almost hear the laughter. But if I walk in that building for the first time since our moving van took us to a new life, it will be my worst nightmare. Everyone is gone," she could almost see her dad's bright blue eyes, her mother's warm smile. "Let's go. Let sleeping dreams-and nightmares-lie. I'll call the landlady from home."
Without another word, Karen linked her arm through her best friend's, gave her a tiny squeeze and headed back toward the car.
Plane on the way back to Washington, DC 9:45 AM
"What's wrong?" Mulder leaned over and briefly rested his chin on Scully's shoulder. She was looking out the window of the airplane at nothing but clouds.
"Jessica is kind of haunting me a bit."
"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts," he teased.
"Well, the jury is still out on that one. This was such an odd case, Mulder. In a way, it was not even an x-file."
"Oh, I don't know about that. There were the prophetic dreams. There was also that disturbing life-death vision Jessica experienced twice during her captivity. That could signal a whole new realm of psychic ability."
"Mmmm. When push came to shove, Jessica held her own. Chances are, even if we never had shown up, she would have gotten out of it just fine."
"And that makes you sad?"
"No, no. We served our purpose. It was wrong to brush off Karen Noyes' concerns. It was wrong to ignore facts due to possible repercussions with the FBI. After yesterday's dressing down, I'm sure the Scarsdale P.D. will never ignore proper procedure again. And I am glad Jessica was able to keep her head. I talked to the doctors who examined her. There is sure to be some post-traumatic stress and she might need a bit of therapy for that, but I think she will be all right. Considering the fact Todd was playing on the worst, subconscious fears of these women-they didn't do half as badly as one might expect."
"I guess that's the crucial difference. Dreams are scary because of their ethereal qualities. Add some substance to them, and they can become manageable."
"I guess so."
"You're not going to tell me why Jessica haunts you?"
"Of course I am, Mulder. It was heart wrenching when we walked in and she saw us. She had been sobbing as she was doing the CPR."
"It was an emotional overload."
"I know. For that split second, I felt all those emotions with her. It's also ironic. Todd spent so much time weaving dreams of being her knight in shining armor and she was put in a position where she had to decide whether he lived or died."
"It's not easy being a hero, is it?" he asked, brushing her shoulder with his.
"You tell me," she said, brushing his shoulder right back. "Mulder?"
"Hmmm . . ."
"You want to come over tonight? We could just order in, have a nice bath or something and turn in early? Does that interest you at all?"
He lifted her hand to his lips and brushed her fingers lightly against his mouth.
"Very much so, My Lady."
"Ugh," she said, pulling her hand from his. "No heroes, no courtly anything. Tonight, it's just me and you, okay?"
He smiled and leaned down to place a quick kiss on her shoulder.
Scully looked at him as he leaned back against his chair and closed his eyes.
This was comfortable. This was easy. And they were doing this just fine.
And, even with the roller coaster dips in between, she had been right.
It was the never-ending ride of her life.
I like author's notes. I don't know why. Just a chance to continue gabbing, I guess.
This story is dedicated to my mom, because even though she isn't "allowed" to read my stories, she "knows they are great." How's that for unconditional love?
And it's also dedicated to the echoes of laughter from childhood memories. And to the fuzzy vision that comes with age, turning what was sometimes torture to live though into a Donna Reed episode <vbg>.
Christmas-time brings out the sentimental fool in me.
Thank you for reading this and have a very happy holiday season.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Gina Rain
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