Category: X-file, UST
Time Period: Between "Hungry" and "Millennium"
Spoilers: For Hungry, Millennium, Pusher, oh, just about the whole M/S relationship/friendship thing throughout the series.
Disclaimer: All rights to characters, previous episodes, the X-files in general, etc., etc. all belong to CC, GA, DD, Ten-Thirteen Productions, and Fox. No profit is made here. "I Finally Managed to Speak to Speak to Her" is a "Poetry in Motion" poem by Hal Sirowitz
Summary: The agents go to New York City in the late fall of 1999, working a case on multiple suicides. Witnesses, victims and investigators all confront the significance of their lives once presented with the threat of losing it. If you get a second chance to change your life, do you take it? This is a pre-Millennium fiction.
Feedback: ...appreciated at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks: Special thanks have to go out to all the people that helped me along with this story. After months of working in a vacuum, they got me to spit it out! Big thanks to Mori for sifting through the whole process with me and for some great suggestions. Thanks to Katvictory for her endless support and friendship even when she wasn't doing so hot herself. Thanks to Meghan for helping me with a first-time beta. Also big thanks to Bast Black for getting me to work on my characterization, my descriptions, consistency... heck! you really made me *think* about what I was writing! I couldn't have made this work without you guys!
December 8, 1999
New York City Subway
Bleeker Street Station
Thunka thunka...thunka thunka...
The number six train roared through the station, without the slightest regard for the scattered passengers littering the platform. The pedestrians' faces went from hopeful relief to disgust as they watched yet another train suddenly go "express" to 14th Street.
That was the third train to pass them in the last twenty minutes.
A disembodied voice, coupled with fractured static, cut above groans of unhappy commuters. "Attention at Bleeker Street. Due to congestion, this number Six train will be running express stops to Grand Central. We apologize for the inconvenience."
Michelle sighed along with her fellow pedestrians. Apologies were worth nothing during rush hour, especially on a local stop. A short Hispanic woman clicked her tongue as if she were scolding the aura of the entire MTA system like a misbehaving child. "Ay, de mi," she muttered, making sure Michelle noticed her annoyance. She scrutinized her orange grocery bag swelling with mangoes, and clicked the tongue again, just a little too loud to be a casual reaction.
Michelle rolled her eyes at the impatience of this woman. What was the use of getting all huffed up? There's nothing they could do anyway, unless you wanted to lose your fare by leaving and walking it. She had already missed her train to Grand Central, so she might as well wait it out.
Several southbound trains on the opposite track shoved the dense hot air through the station. Some loose strands of Michelle's hair caught the draft, and wafted away from her cheek. She dreaded the commute, but at least she had a soft, easy chair in her parents' living room to look forward to.
The all-too-familiar smell of urine crept up to her nose. She glanced around cautiously, being careful not to make eye-contact with anyone - an unspoken rule in the subway - and caught sight of the source of the rancid odor.
A man in loose sweats and a brown, fleece-collared jacket hobbled toward the edge of the platform. Michelle froze in her stance, trying to disguise the chills running up her spine with a nonchalant demeanor. He held a small plastic cup, in which he rattled his precious daily earnings.
She always felt sorry for these people, but could never get enough confidence to actually give them anything. What would they do with the money, anyway? She hoped they would get a nice steamy bowl of New England clam chowder, but she had a suspicion it went to some Southern Comfort.
She stared blankly onto the tracks, waiting impatiently for her graffiti-covered chariot to come and whisk her away. Then she heard the Coin Rattling Man move a couple of steps closer to her. She stiffened her jaw and shifted her weight in the opposite direction from him.
He stopped after two shuffles and then spoke: "Wha timeisit?"
She hesitated. None of these people had ever spoken directly to her before. She looked wide-eyed at the man, now taking in his features: dirty-blonde hair going gray, two days worth of five-o'clock shadow, and deep brown eyes framed by his leathery, squinting lids.
"It's five thirty-two," she said in a voice as flat and unexpressive as she could make it. She held her breath and subtly clutched the strap of her handbag as her heart pumped furiously against her ribcage, fighting to break free from her stiff and proper outer shell.
"Do ya hear it? The music?"
She slowly shook her head "no."
"I muss go."
She let out a breath through gritted teeth, as discreetly as possible. She perked her ears up, curious to see if she could hear this phantom music her querier had mentioned. What was she doing listening to the ramblings of a homeless man, anyway? Then she heard a thundering rumble in the distance. She glanced toward the blinding headlights, and then back at the man, now walking away from her, jostling the cup of change.
Her peripheral vision became blurry and narrowed, enshrouding the people around her. All her focus was hinged on the feet of the Coin Rattling Man, stepping nearer and nearer to the edge of the platform. The rumbling of wheels on tracks consumed her. She couldn't break her gaze. "What is he doing?" she struggled with her thoughts. Her basic motor skills became defunct; a cry of warning she wanted to scream was never heard by the other pedestrians. Everything was happening as if in a nightmare, where one cannot control the horror about to take place, where you want to run, but you can't. Only now, Michelle was forced to watch, forced to stand, unable to do anything to stop what this man was about to do. And then it was too late.
He had simply stepped off the edge of the platform into the rush of heavy cars. His precious coins flew up into the air and sprinkled down to the tile floor inches from her feet. Michelle slapped her hand across her mouth and squeezed her eyes shut. Screams echoed between the screeching of brakes. Someone ran to the pay phone to dial 911. Others ran toward the end of the station to survey the damage done.
Michelle slowly, timidly, opened her eyes. She stared at the plastic cup, empty, rocking slowly back and forth in the breeze. The doors to the subway opened, and all passengers were let out. Hundreds of feet swarmed into her view, engulfing the flimsy vessel until it was completely out of sight.
Among the passengers was another panhandler, one she fuzzily recognized from many trips on the subway, but never thought the sight of him would be so surreal. He was blind, she had gathered, and slowly made his way through the subway cars playing his accordion for handouts.
Now, he followed the sound of the crowd exiting the train, his make-shift cane slung over his shoulder, still playing his instrument as the chaos ensued around him. Watching him, all Michelle could think of was the eerie statement that poor, dead, homeless man had made to her right before he stepped into another world.
Scully tiredly flipped through the many case files Skinner tossed at her this week. All had seemed pretty cut and dry, considering their normal work load. Mulder was at his desk, engrossed with the internet, in what he called "research." She wondered if it was work-related. There was a passing moment, one she didn't want to admit to, when she had come across Mulder's "favorites" menu. She was sure she remembered seeing some choice Frohike-recommended addresses there, which began with "X," but were certainly not X-Files.
Speaking of X-Files, she had suspected Skinner was giving them easy cases due to Mulder's recent "brain surgery." The only one of interest was that one last week about the brain-eating burger boy. Mulder didn't even have to try with that one. He drew out the case for days, pulling this cute Colombo act, stringing the boy -beast?- along with stupid interrogations. She thought he was trying to make the case into something more than it really was. He tried to get the boy's psyche figured out before he finally clued her in on the boy's little cravings.
Mulder was more than ready to get himself into a serious case. It wouldn't surprise her if he were sifting through every resource he had just to get another possible X-File. She watched the intense gaze of her partner as he concentrated on typing an e-mail. He could really be intense, couldn't he? But that was Mulder. That was one of the reasons she had stayed on the X-Files so long; he had so much passion for what he did. It was something she had always hoped to achieve, especially since making her decision to join the Bureau.
Mulder wavered his stare in response to her unashamed scrutiny. He hit "send" on the e-mail, sat back, stretched his arms out and cracked his knuckles. This act was always rewarded by a wince from Scully. She hated it when he did that.
He beamed at her discomfort, irking her into shifting position in the swivel chair. She would never escape the wrath of Mulder's noisy joints. He continued to smile at her.
"What?" she spat out, now fully annoyed.
"Guess what Skinner gave me this morning?"
She tilted her head to try to get a side-glance at Mulder's screen. He clicked the mouse just in time to hide his windows from view. She crossed her arms. "An expense report on your internet usage?" Now Mulder was the one to shift in his seat.
"Oh, don't worry about that, Scully. I think my 'One Night With the G-man' ads on the Lone Gunman's website will cover the bill." He leered at her with his sparkling, hazel eyes, daring her to make a response.
"What do you charge?" she asked, casually flipping through the case files again.
"Ooh, is that a proposition?"
Scully held her tongue and displayed an excruciatingly repressed smirk.
Mulder leaned in over his desk, propping himself up on his elbows. "For you...? The first one's on me."
She raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips in mock interest, but never met her partner's eyes. If she did that, she'd have lost control, and Mulder didn't need to see her losing control.
Slapping down the manila folder onto her desk, she was finally able to meet her partner's gaze. She hit him with a stare straight on; a "cut the crap" look that ended the banter.
"So, what does Skinner have for us?"
He clapped and rubbed his hands together. "Grab your New York Knicks T-shirt, Scully. I got us two tickets to the Big Apple."
"What?" She perked up slightly. Mulder enjoying free-time? "You have tickets to the playoffs?"
"Well, no, actually. But I'm working on it." From beneath a pile of miscellaneous papers, Mulder pulled out a two-inch thick folder. "Contrary to popular belief, I have been following up on a possible X-File."
She took the folder from him and opened to a cover page with a list of names.
"Seems there have been numerous cases of subway-suicides lately," he informed.
"Suicides, Mulder? Not unusual. What makes this an X-File?"
"That, you see there, is a list of deaths that occurred in the past two weeks... all on the Lexington Avenue Line of NYC's subway system." He came around the desk to stand before her. "Imagine, Scully, all these people, from all walks of life... all areas of the country, as you can see from the profiles, converging on a two-mile strip of railway. Why? Have I been kept out of the loop, or is it just fashionable to die by way of steel wheels nowadays?"
She scanned the list. There were about twenty-five names, give or take. "Cult suicide?" She fanned out the rest of the papers, mentally estimating the amount of paperwork in the stack. There was more here than just some recent deaths. A coroner's report caught her eye. The date was from 1952. "What's all this?"
"I've been researching the history of similar deaths. No connections, yet. I have spoken to the detective covering the recent occurrences, though. He's going to be e-mailing me some more information later this morning."
She looked up at him, perched on the corner of his desk. There was something more to this that he wasn't telling her. Or, maybe Mulder was content to take on a "normal" case - well, normal for Mulder. She had to admit, though, anything was better than staring at their pencil-pocked ceiling all day.
"When do we leave?" she asked, practically feeling the excited tension emitting from her partner's skin. She almost wanted to find out why Mulder was so excited about this case more than she wanted to solve the case itself. It was like bailing a sinking ship at this point. Mulder wasn't going to let it lie. And curiosity was getting the better of her.
19 Elizabeth Street
Downtown New York City
The last place Michelle thought she'd be tonight was a Manhattan police precinct. She was looking forward to a quiet evening at home, eating her mom's leftover eggplant parmigiana straight from the Tupperware, and watching the Thursday night lineup on channel four. Instead, she was ordered a Number Two from McDonald's, and invited to wait in a small room with a small TV. She couldn't hear the TV very well. The many ringing phones, loud voices, and other such background noises that fill a police station kept distracting her.
Shortly after the meal, she was questioned by a Detective Spillman. He was a medium-sized man, with the prerequisite gut of having eaten one too many doughnuts. He had square glasses and a broad mustache below his nose.
"I'll have to run a tape recorder for your statement, Ms..."
"Michelle Carroll. I understand," she replied.
He started the interview with her name, where she lived, worked, and her reason for being in the subway at the time. He then asked her what she saw this evening. Michelle relayed the scene as if in a dream state. The words came out in dry tones, while her mind raced with the gruesome images of flying coins, phantom music, and unfortunate souls. She hadn't noticed the pitying look on the detective's face until she had finished. Maybe she didn't sound as confident as she thought. Detective Spillman clicked off the tape recorder, holding her gaze for a moment longer, and then jotted down a note on his clipboard.
After a deep sigh, he continued. "I understand this may have been a traumatic experience for you, Ms.Carroll." Spillman tried to say it gently. --That's the understatement of the year, Michelle thought to herself.-- "But can you think of anything that might have caused this to happen? Anything that might have triggered him to jump?"
Michelle felt regret at not having tried to give the homeless man even a few coins. Could that have prevented it? "No. Only, as I said before... he did say that he heard some kind of music..." She momentarily considered mentioning her thoughts about the accordion player, but dismissed it. Why should she bring an innocent bystander into this mess? He wasn't even there until after the fact. Her heart sank with guilt at the thought of having even considered it. What would he have seen anyway? He was blind, for God's sake!
"No, nothing else, Detective."
Spillman paused and squinted his eyes at her. After a few silent moments it was clear Michelle wasn't talking anymore. Unsatisfied, but resigned, he began, "Well, thank you..." Just then, another police officer poked his head through the door. "Will you excuse me a moment, please?" She nodded. She could see the detective walk through the maze of desks to greet two people, a man and a woman. After what seemed to be some small talk, she saw all three of them come towards the room in which she sat.
"Ms. Carroll, these are Agents Mulder and Scully from the FBI. They will also be looking into this case you have so graciously helped me with."
"The FBI?" Michelle silently wondered. Why would the FBI pursue a homeless man? She studied the couple of agents after a handshake greeting. The detective handed the woman, Agent Scully, the tape recorder and clipboard he had used to catalog her statement. She was very small, but seemed to be as much of a presence as her six foot plus partner. He was very good-looking; a little too much so. Michelle could never deal with overly beautiful men. They more than likely were full of themselves and cared nothing for girls like her. Agent Scully seemed to treat him as an equal. "Kudos for her on professionalism," Michelle inwardly cheered. She felt a little more at ease and relaxed into her metal folding chair.
Spillman continued, "Ms. Carroll has been a key witness to our most recent- um, unfortunate?" The two agents nodded.
"Michelle, we don't want to keep you here any longer than you have to be, so, may I just ask you for your work and home numbers? We may need to contact you, or any other witnesses again. I'm sure Detective Spillman has already questioned you?" Scully asked, as she turned to face Spillman.
The detective nodded, "yes," and then looked at Michelle, pressing his lips in a forced smile. Michelle compliantly wrote down her phone numbers. "Thank you, Michelle," Scully said, as she accepted the scrap paper.
The detective waited at the door to lead Michelle out of the station. She got up, and offered Scully a small grin before she left. Yes, it was nice to see a woman in the sea of testosterone surrounding her, she thought. As they made their way through the maze of desks her head felt light, as if it were being pushed around by the murmur of voices surrounding her. The detective steered her gently outside by her shoulder, and was nice enough to hail her a cab. No subway riding tonight.
Detective Spillman sympathized with the girl. No one should see anyone kill themselves in such a gruesome manner. He walked through the cacophony of the station to the waiting agents. This string of suicides was really taking a toll on him. Ms. Carroll had no idea what kind of situation she had been reeled into.
The little voice in his head was telling him that she was holding back. She didn't forget, she was only omitting what he needed to hear. He felt compelled to follow her - to ask her what she really saw - who she saw, in particular. And as much as he wanted to know, at the same time there was a fear deep within him that didn't want to face that evil he knew so well.
When he reached Mulder and Scully, they were already listening to the tape of testimonies from this evening, ending with Michelle's statement. Scully was jotting down some notes, and Mulder was listening intently while chewing on the end of his pen. He looked up at the detective when he entered, smiling, pencap held tightly between his teeth. Scully switched off the recorder, and gave her partner a scowl. The cap was released immediately.
"Any thoughts on Ms. Carroll's statement?" Mulder asked.
"Well, she was pretty shaken up, but she was extremely clear on her facts. I guess you don't forget a sight like that too quickly," the detective answered, scratching the nape of his neck.
"Did anything happen with today's occurrence that would help us to make a connection... a link to the other deaths?" Scully inquired. "We've reviewed all the profiles you sent to us, but everything seems random."
"Nothing that I'm really prepared to make any conclusions on. You're right, though. Things are pretty random except for the fact that these have all happened so close together, timewise." He dabbed a handkerchief at his brow, absorbing the beads of sweat that forced their presence like some uninvited guests. "And the fact that all the suicides occurred on the same subway line," Spillman offered.
He could feel Scully's eyes boring into him. True, he wanted help with the case, he needed it. But if someone else found out the real cause of these deaths, would he be able to explain it? Would these two be able to? He had just about given up on trying to stop these 'suicides'... he didn't think anyone would believe his theory. He hoped, with their reputation, that this pair would be able to make sense of it for him.
He felt the sweat trickling down his back. Scully continued scrutinizing him.
With a last glance at the clipboard, the female agent sighed and asked, "Do you have any contact information that we could use for tomorrow, Detective? I'd like to question the few witnesses that actually live in Manhattan, or are here on a regular basis."
"Of course, Agent Scully. It is already late tonight. I'll have a folder sent to your hotel as soon as I get it."
"Thank you, Detective," she accepted. "May we take the tape with us?"
"Of course, of course. Can I have one of the squad cars take you to the hotel?" and then to himself, "Anything you need agents, just help me solve this nightmare..."
"No, um," Mulder broke in, standing as he spoke. "I'd actually like to take the subway."
He had almost forgotten Mulder was there. Although he was the initial contact, he seemed secondary in the scheme of things. "Suit yourself," Spillman answered with a shrug.
Scully exchanged phone numbers for the hotel, both hers and Mulder's cell phones, and their rooms. With a a pocketful of testimony, and a whole lot of questions, they left the noisy, fluorescent-lit office for the brisk, dimly-lit streets around the precinct.
Mulder kept a hawk-eye on the detective as they exited the precinct. He didn't much like the nervous intensity in which Spillman was regarding his partner. Once outside, though, his focus switched toward going directly to the scene of the crime.
"C'mon, Scully, the number Six is just this way, and our hotel is only a couple of blocks from the Bleeker Street station. I'd like to check it out." He tried to encourage her to follow more quickly, walking backwards as he spoke to her.
"I'd like to get ourselves settled at the Grand, with some more evidence to go on, before we start running all over town," she answered him in an almost scolding voice.
He turned and walked alongside her, bumping his elbow into her arm. "It's on the way, Scully. Besides, I just want to get a feel for the layout of the scene."
The eyebrow was threatening to raise its presence. She still wasn't quite convinced of the validity of this case. When did she ever fully dive into his choices full throttle? But he felt confident there was something here besides a record of random suicide attempts. Scully would want more than a "feeling," though. She always challenged him into making his theories valid. True, he didn't have a strong direction for this case, but he'd get there, and she'd be there right along with him... he hoped.
"All right, just a look 'round," she sighed. Mulder could feel his own momentum picking up like a runaway shopping cart headed for the only BMW in the A&P parking lot, and Scully was the owner. There was no stopping him, and nothing to protect his partner from his onslaught.
They walked the few blocks in the brisk fall air. Mulder proudly wore the token Yankees cap she had bought for him, to show off his excitement of being in the Big Apple. Scully winced as a nip of cold air shot across her forehead. When they approached the subway entrance, a blast of warm air blew up from the stairwell. It was a welcome warmth, however, it lost its appeal once the stinging smell of disinfectant crept into the air. Scully wrinkled her nose, but obediently followed her partner as he swiped his recently purchased Metrocard, and clicked through the turnstile.
They were lucky to find a train just approaching. They hopped on and found seats. It was way past rush hour, so the train was quite empty. Shiny orange and yellow seats lined the sides of the car. Flashes of another passing train allowed them to see snippets of other passengers as if they were frames on a strip of film. The rhythm of the wheels clicking on the tracks was emphasized occasionally by the flickering fluorescents.
Scully was content to read the many advertisements that decorated the car above the handrail. Mulder wasn't so passive, and decided to analyze the few other passengers on the train, only to receive quick, embarrassed looks, or just nasty scowls. "Guess eye-contact still isn't well accepted," he thought, and decided to join Scully in reading the ads.
Above the handrail a "Poetry in Motion" poster caught his attention. It read:
I finally Managed to Speak to Her
She sat across from me
on the bus. I said, "The trees
are so much greener in this part
of the country. In New York City
everything looks so drab." She said,
"It looks the same to me. Show me
a tree that's different." "That one, "
I said. "Which one?" she said.
"It's too late," I said; "we already
passed it." "When you find another one,"
she said, "let me know." And then
she went back to reading her book.
He could almost hear Scully's sing-song voice bleating out those last few lines. She'd never believed anything he'd described until she had seen it for herself. Didn't Catholics "believe though they have not seen"? "Different rules for those who are not the Son of God, I guess," he thought silently. He could relate to the guy looking out the bus window, observing the trees, making comparisons with his knowledge of the world, while she concentrated on her books, her facts, noting every stop, yet never realizing the potential of the trip in-between.
He dragged his glance down to his partner. She passively moved her eyes along the lines of a Doctor Zizmore advertisement. He studied her profile, the straight lines of her nose, her smooth cheeks... taking on a slight tinge of pink? Must be the cold. As he was about to discuss the piece of literary work with her, he realized that Bleeker Street was the next station. He touched Scully's arm, signaling her to get up. The above handrail was a little high for her, so she held onto Mulder's arm, in an attempt to balance herself against inertia. The train doors opened with a sickly "bing-bong," and they exited.
As a local stop, the Bleeker Street station wasn't very large. The walls were covered in blue and white tile, with the occasional decorative mosaic indicating the name of the stop. They were on the uptown side, the same side Michelle was on when the homeless man decided to check out. Although there was a dingy feel to the place, the station was kept neat. Mulder wondered just how much of the crime scene was left. The trains were running again, obviously. The MTA must be pretty efficient at cleaning things up. They may just have to rely on photos the police took when called in on the job - if there were any.
Scully's heels echoed along the length of the platform, as she took in the sheer emptiness of the place as it was between trains. There wasn't even a booth attendant selling tokens. It like being in a void, of sorts. They had been called in to investigate, but now it seemed they were being fed limited evidence right off the bat. Mulder crouched at the end of the platform, dragging his fingers over the rough tile floor. He felt a little dejected. Attempting to ease his disappointment, Scully began, "I don't think there's much here to look at, Mulder. Maybe Spillman will have something more for us in the morning."
Mulder didn't answer. He just sort of stared at the empty tracks, morbidly looking for any signs of blood, fabric... anything. He pulled out his penlight, the beam disappeared into the darkness. He was too far away for the light to be of any use. "Damn," he cursed inwardly. Empty. It was just so empty. But how could it be? The dull rumble in his stomach was becoming something that he couldn't ignore. Dissatisfied and hungry, he accepted that maybe Scully's earlier suggestion of heading for the hotel wasn't such a bad idea after all.
On the walk to the Grand, Mulder couldn't shake the feeling that there was something about the station worth investigating. All outward appearances seemed to point to nothing. Scully, as usual, seemed unimpressed, or just plain impatient. What was with her? He almost felt like she was pressuring him, even though she hadn't said a word. It was like having the excitement of a fireworks display going on in his gut, and they had to leave before the finale just to beat the holiday traffic.
They arrived at the hotel, which was by no means anything like the rat-holes they were used to. They were greeted by a large entranceway, with dark stained wood panels and a hunter green tile floor. Beyond that was a strangely elegant industrial style staircase lit from beneath each step. The rest was a little artsy, but once they were in the main hallways, it all seemed like a souped up Holiday Inn. This was New York City, after all. If you really wanted a cheap motel, you probably wouldn't be spending the whole night there.
As soon as he was settled, Mulder knocked on the door across the hall, and asked his partner if she wanted room service while they looked over the profiles. She agreed and joined him in his room about half an hour later.
"I'd like to speak to these witnesses tomorrow," Scully muffled through a mouthful of linguini primavera, pointing at a list of local witnesses.
Mulder sat pondering the remaining french fries from his burger deluxe platter. He was silent for most of the meal, only breaking the stride in his research to chomp a mouthful of juicy meat. She sat across from him, tapping the end of her pencil on the table as she waited for his acknowledgement of their morning plans. He glanced up at her a split second, and then continued to pour over the next profile.
Scully left the small table covered with papers and leftover dinner plates, bounced onto the bed, and ended up sitting indian-style in the center. "I'm beginning to think that this is a real stretch for a case, Mulder. I think maybe Spillman is reaching for a connection that just isn't there."
He tossed a half-eaten fry into the bed of lettuce he never touched. "So what's *your* theory?"
"I think these are just random suicides that happened close together. I think there will be more to come." Mulder looked at her with a frown. "We *are* less than a month away from what a lot of people believe is going to be the end of the world - even though it isn't really until next year."
"The Millennium? I never thought you'd be one to go for apocalyptic beliefs, Scully," he said, curling a smirk. "Seas boiling, turning to blood, and the sky falling on our heads?"
She cringed a moment at the image, remembering the darkened waters in Africa. He didn't know about what she had gone through. Pushing the old demons aside, she replied, "I think people don't want to see it end, and they're taking matters into their own hands."
She watched him consider a moment. There had been evidence of such occurrences and paranoia before. She had a point. "Like what happened when they broadcast that old 'War of the Worlds' radio show?" he added to the theory.
Scully nodded. "People just got scared and started jumping out windows. Paranoia can go a long way."
"You think it can go back forty-seven years?"
"What do you mean?"
"Look, remember when I said I had been researching the history of similar cases?" She blinked back her acknowledgement. "There have been suicides happening on the Lexington Avenue line since 1952."
"Mulder, I saw your research, and you only have fifty other suicides since this two-week string. That's only one or two a year. In New York City alone, there are hundreds of deaths yearly. How can you say that those are connected to this case?"
He shook his head in denial toward her attack. "There's something there, Scully. Your theory makes sense, but I'm not sure it's the right one." He started putting the files back into the manila folder. "This has been building up over the years. An apocolypse could bring out fear in people, start up a cult suicide, as you suggested yesterday. I haven't completely ruled that out. But these people have never met one another, nor had any similar life experiences before they came to New York. They only shared similarities in their deaths."
Mulder's erratic tidying up was a sure sign that he didn't know how to explain his thoughts to her. She watched him jam stapled packets into random folders violently, in an attempt to distract her from the line of conversation.
Beneath the last of the profiles, he uncovered Scully's laptop. "Mind if I borrow this for a while?"
"Just want to look some things up." She could nearly see the wheels turning in his head. He was being short with her. He had a theory and wasn't willing to share, yet. In her six-year experience with Mulder, Scully had learned to trust in his judgement. True, sometimes his arguments were extremely far-fetched, and she always played the skeptic, but the creeping reminder of all the times he had been right, or close to it, made itself known more and more. Maybe he was actually going to go by the book this time, as she had hoped with so many of their past cases. Then she second guessed herself. Mulder? Go by the book? No. He was up to something.
After several seconds of more silence, she decided he wasn't going to offer her any insight to his theory, and she excused herself to her own room. The curiosity ebbed at her as she prepared to settle in for the night. She had her normal routine: change, brush the teeth, wash the face, check for unsightly blemishes on her forehead. She wasn't really obsessive about these things, but staring into the mirror at her own eyes seemed to pull everything together after a long day. It was like taking inventory on herself, to recognize her own face. Mulder saw her every day, knew her mannerisms, how she moved, how she glanced, what her expressions meant. She certainly knew those things about him.
As she finished vigorously scrubbing her teeth, she thought about how she longed for something to recognize as "home," instead of living eighty percent of her life in hotel rooms like this. Mulder was such a loner. Did he ever feel like he was missing out on a constant, like a home?
She made numerous faces at herself in the mirror: scrunching her nose in a frown, widening her eyes in surprise, lifting that one brow in suspicion. Her form of de-stressing was being just a little silly. Keeping up a serious front could get tiring, even for her. She finally ended with the look she gave Mulder in his apartment hallway a couple of weeks ago, while he cradled her face in his hands. Did he read the expression correctly? He was, after all, the one who dropped his head - this time. She ended up planting a big wet one on his forehead. She touched her own lips, brushing them lightly with her thumb as she had done to him. She sighed and closed her eyes tightly. Did he know how she felt? Was he anticipating it and just wasn't ready, or did he assume she was going for the forehead, as she had done so many times before? How did he see her? She thought of him in the room across the hall, plugging away on the few facts they had. What did he see that she had overlooked? What questions did he ask?
Mentally flipping through the pages she had read over dinner, she began thinking about the case again. And what was with that detective, anyway? She remembered him sweating a waterfall before her, fidgeting with every movement. She felt he wasn't really being professional enough for having worked on this string of suicides as long as he claimed. Maybe it was just the end of an unusually stressful day. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but was concerned that maybe he was unable to handle the violence of the case, and was hasty in deciding to call the Bureau in to investigate.
Several times she paced up to the door, and turned back. She looked at her cell phone a couple of times, contemplating calling Mulder before charging over. Finally, she sat on the corner of her bed, staring at the closed door of her hotel room, at the tiny maid icon on the door tag. What was her theory? It was logical and sound. So why was she obsessing over it? Because Mulder thought differently? Since when had she let him sway her opinions?
She decided to let it go. She would stick to her guns unless *proven* otherwise. Hers was simply one of many theories, that's all. But it was too easy not to be challenged. She wanted to challenge herself as Mulder did.
In answer to her subconscious hope, her cell phone rang.
"Hi, it's me. I think you might want to come over here."
"You've got something?" Damn, he was good. Maybe she was a hindrance. No. She had no idea what he had yet. He could be claiming the bogeyman again.
"Yeah, well, you'd probably have more insight on this, I think."
"I'll be right there," she answered. Beeping off the phone as she slid it into the pocket of her robe.
She found Mulder on the bed, mimicking her earlier position there, sitting indian-style. She hopped up next to him and followed his gaze toward her laptop. He brought several windows to the front.
"I couldn't get much more on the victims, obviously. I did notice that many of the deceased didn't have strong ties with anyone. Maybe one or two people, but generally, they were loners."
"As with many suicide victims, Mulder. This isn't a new discovery. They more than likely felt hopeless in their lives, and decided to end it," Scully offered.
"That's what I thought. So then I figured I'd just check up on them, to see if they had any mental illness. Maybe another cause for suicide..." he tapped his forehead, "sanity might not have been all there. So I pulled up past medical records."
"I didn't see anything unusual before."
"Well, no, you're right. Not in the mental health department... pretty clean. Then I started looking at the autopsy reports, and..."
She puffed her chest up a little in pride before putting her glasses on to read the files. It always felt good to know that Mulder relied solely on her for something.
He opened a bunch of new windows on the laptop. "Do you see these, here..." Mulder pointed to the catalog of injuries on each report. "Every one of these victims has old scars of some sort; and they're not scrapes on the knee from childhood."
Scully read through the autopsy reports, taking a fresh look at all the minor injuries and, as Mulder put it, "old scars." The range was from multiple fractures in the legs, to deep scars on the wrists, to bullet wounds. The thump in her heart sank to a low beat. She was almost afraid to voice her deduction. Autopsies told so much about the story of an individual. Most of the time they weren't happy, in her experience. Separately, these scars would mean nothing, but to compare them now... Her voice was quiet as she answered, "These old injuries, Mulder, may be proof that they've all tried to kill themselves before, if that's what you're thinking."
Mulder breathed out through his nose. So that was his theory, but the question still stood as to what made these people all come to New York to cash in their chips? Scully continued to flip through the reports on her laptop, pushing some stray hairs behind one ear. She could feel his eyes upon her bare cheek and neck as she searched through her files, and when she peeked over at him, he snapped his gaze away like a love sick ninth-grader.
The shrill ring of Mulder's cell phone cut through and shattered their concentration. Mulder hopped up to retrieve it from the table, and answered.
She peeked her eyes over the screen, eavesdropping on Mulder's half of the dialogue.
"Yes, Detective, thank you... "
He paused to listen to the man at the other end. His lashes fluttered, and he began to pace back and forth. Finally, he stopped dead in front of the bed, staring at her intently, as if he could include her in the conversation by telepathy. The look was cold, unmoving. She half wished humans *were* capable of reading each other's thoughts. What would Mulder think of that? For now, she would just have to wait.
He broke the gaze, and rubbed at his eyelids. "Yeah," he said distractedly into the phone. "Yes, we would appreciate that. We're still up. Um... I'll expect it soon? ...Thank you, again. Good night."
Mulder flipped his phone shut, and pushed down the antenna with his chin. Scully tried to look focused on one of the reports, as she waited impatiently for his recount of the conversation.
"Robert Mason... he was a witness." He spoke in a low tone, still half brainstorming as he did so. "Spillman is sending the latest reports to us tonight, and will have photos for us at the station tomorrow morning. He's going to be on a call uptown, so we'll get them from his partner."
A witness was dead. If Mulder was right, and as morbid as it may sound, the new death may give them a lead to a viable end. However, she still felt like he was fishing for a connection, as the detective was.
It was about an hour before an envelope with papers and disks arrived. Scully was on the reports as soon as she could bring them up on the screen, with Mulder over her shoulder to catch a glimpse himself. At first, nothing really remarkable came up. Then, Scully noticed a line that connected Mr. Mason to Mulder's theory. It was a long shot, but it could connect him. Bruises, some old and yellowed when examined, were present on the arms, suggesting the use of hypodermic needles.
"He could have been a heavy drug-user and OD'd a couple of times. He could have tried to kill himself that way, or..." She sat back, and looked at him, squinting her eyes, "He could have just been high when he jumped." Scully studied the text-filled screen. No evidence of narcotics was present in his body at the time of impact. "Well, regardless, Mulder, what does a past suicide attempt have to do with the current events?"
Was this the "last stop" so to speak, for these people? Had they all tried so many times that there was just no other way than to throw themselves in front of a train? And why this train? She looked back at Mulder and noticed him pressing his temples. She pulled one hand away to look into his now watery eyes.
"I'm getting a headache, Scully. I wish I could still think about this more, but my brain just doesn't want to function right now."
"Lie back." she said, immediately concerned. What could have brought that on so quickly? She hoped it wasn't a leftover side-effect from that black-lunged butcher's experiment. "I'll get you some aspirin, and then we can resume this in the morning, O.K?" She held his forehead while he nodded in assent. She was up and back in a matter of seconds with pills and a plastic cup with water. He slugged them down, and then gently lay back onto the bed.
"You just get some rest, Mulder." She kissed him on the forehead like a mother putting her child to bed, vaguely remembering her thoughts from before. "I guess this is just the way it is," she thought silently as she looked down at his face, eyes shut and slightly pinched from the pain behind them.
"Sorry, Scully," he whispered.
She brushed the hair back from his forehead, shut the light off, and exited with the laptop under her arm.
The next day, after picking up materials from the Detective's partner they spent the morning reviewing statements of witnesses that lived or worked in Manhattan, with little success. In the early afternoon, they planned to visit a witness named Keisha LaMoore. She lived on West 46th street, near the theater district. Mulder, feeling confident with his bearings, suggested taking the subway again. It was brisk out, so he shoved on his Yankees cap, in the hopes of avoiding another headache. They took the train to Grand Central Terminal at 42nd Street.
They exited the subway caverns to emerge into the brightly lit Grand Concourse. The starlit ceiling yawned above them. Horoscope signs, elaborately painted in gold, decorated the ceiling; a reminder of forces unknown controlling the fates of the ant-like humans scurrying across the expansive floor. The murmur of voices faded before they even had a chance to echo off the distant walls.
They made their way out of the terminal, dodging single-minded commuters and dazed-looking tourists. They started walking west, following the numbered buildings. It was then that Mulder realized they were in for a little walk; he didn't know the west side was so far.
Scully rolled her eyes and prepared for a stretch of the legs. She looked up at him and blinked against the chilly wind. She clutched her coat a little closer to her neck, and tried to keep up with her partner.
By the time they reached Times Square, she was shivering. Mulder noticed her tapping her heel on the pavement while they waited for the light at the intersection to change. As she tried to hide a strained look of discomfort, he spotted a street vendor in the heart of the Square selling hats, gloves and scarves tacked onto a pegboard. He pulled on Scully's arm, suddenly deciding not to cross here, but to head uptown toward the vendor.
She followed him obediently, still holding the lapels of her coat around her neck. They stopped at the newsstand-converted-hat-shop. Mulder scanned the walls filled with multicolored and textured knit items. His focus settled upon a white sock-cap that looked like it was made of cashmere. He knew that in all probability it wasn't, but still thought it would be fitting for Scully.
"That one, please," he pointed to the hat.
"Five dollars," the vendor answered. He gave the man a ten, and received his change from a gas-pump attendant sized wad of bills.
"Thank you," he said, accepting the hat. He then turned to Scully and held it out to her.
"What's this?" she looked up at him, surprised, for she hadn't realized the purpose of stopping here right away.
"You're freezing, Scully. Come on, let me get this on you. You don't have to play strong this time. It's really cold out here." Before she could protest, he pulled the cap onto her head, smoothing down the short curls that peeked out beside her rosy cheeks. He was right, the hat suited her perfectly. The snowy-white wisps of the faux cashmere framed her face beautifully.
He looked at her for a moment. Then, stroking the side of the hat, he let his fingers slide ever so lightly down the side of her cheek, almost as if by accident -- almost.
"Better?" he asked her, as her eyes, pools of blue, melted into his soul.
"Yeah," she looked down toward the sidewalk. "Thanks. You didn't have to pay for it, you know. I could just as easily have..." He gave her a hard stare. She acknowledged him again for a split second and mumbled, "Thanks."
It wasn't often that Scully allowed anyone to take care of her. He almost felt honored that he had helped to relieve her discomfort. He blew hot air onto his fists, and glanced around, realizing just where they were. "This place has changed some since I was here last."
"And why were *you* in Times Square, Mulder?"
He cleared his throat, "Uh, just here with some friends, having a night out... looking... for a... good... time..." he mumbled the last two words. She looked at him wryly, the corners of her mouth curling up. Mulder began to fidget. Attempting to change the subject, he began, "Do you realize in a couple of weeks these streets are going to be packed to the gills to see the Millennium come rockin' in with Dick Clark?" He then looked up at the giant-sized marquee sign. "Look, they've already started to erect the tower for the ball."
The year 2000 wasn't that far away, as Scully had pointed out last night. As forgiving as he was toward myths and unexplained phenomenon, he was skeptical that the world was going to come to an end at the stroke of midnight. So, another New Year's Eve come and gone, no doubt. And did he have any plans, any hot date to take out dancing? Was there anyone he could hold tight and kiss under a shower of balloons and confetti like he saw in the movies? Or was it really all going to go to hell? He looked down at Scully who was in turn watching him ponder the ball, or so she thought. "She's probably going to be with her family that night: all the sensible Scullys gathered around the T.V. with a basement full of bottled water and canned vegetables - just in case," he imagined to himself.
"We'd better get over to 46th Street, Mulder. Ms. LaMoore is waiting for us."
"Right," he answered. They started a brisk pace uptown, now both of them with pink cheeks, but for different reasons. Mulder had to get his thoughts together. He had to concentrate on the case. As they walked, though, visions of Scully in a long, black, backless dress with confetti sprinkled in her hair kept popping into his mind. God, he'd love to have a perfect evening like that. But if the world did come to an end, what good would it do? --My last chance to show her how I feel...-- He glanced down beside him again. Scully was plodding forward, her breath puffing out into the cold air. --If I get the chance... what have I got to lose?--
Ms. LaMoore's apartment building was in front of them before they knew it. Scully pressed the button marked 3B, and they waited for an answer.
"Hello?" a smooth, female voice answered.
"Ms. LaMoore, it's agents Scully and Mulder from the FBI. We spoke to you earlier on the phone," Scully yelled into the speaker.
"Come right up, darling," the voice answered, followed by a faint buzz from the door.
They walked up three flights of stairs to apartment 3B, to find Keisha LaMoore waiting with her apartment door already open. She was a slender black woman of middle years, her hair frosted with blonde highlights, wearing draping scarves that reached down to her ankles. Beneath them she wore a plain black jumpsuit, equally as flowing as the scarves.
Beyond the threshold was a small apartment with ridiculously high ceilings and walls adorned with many theater posters. "Can I offer you two a drink?" Ms. LaMoore inquired as she clicked her long red fingernails in a wave toward the kitchenette.
"No thank you, we're not permitted to on the job," Mulder chimed in. "Do you mind if we start right away?"
A small pout formed around Keisha's pink-painted lips. "Of course." She sat primly on the edge of a black leather chair, and motioned the two agents toward a couch of the same fashion. Before starting, she gathered up some loose documents from the coffee table and set them beside the photo of a pre-teenage boy. Mulder caught sight of the top page, the words "child custody" mentioned in the title.
Scully began, "Can you tell us anything you remember from the incident you witnessed two weeks ago?"
"Yes, dear," she said in her smooth, slow voice. "A young man in a business suit stepped up to the edge of the platform in the 77th Street station, then mumbled some words to me, and plummeted out onto the tracks," she explained, throwing her hands out in front of her dramatically to emphasize the man's "plummet."
"Do you remember what he said to you?" Mulder asked.
"Something, I do recall, about how he came there. He was hearing something that called to him."
"Did you hear anything?"
"No, not then."
"What do you mean?" Mulder shifted forward, becoming anxious at the statement.
"Well, after the tragedy," she paused to rest her hand over her chest and to take a short breath. "I just couldn't get this music out of my head. You know, like when you've heard a song on the radio, and it keeps playing over in your head?"
"Yes, I've had it happen."
"Well, this went on for three days."
"The same song?"
Keisha nodded, and then slumped back into the creaking leather. She closed her eyes and took several long, slow breaths. It seemed as though she were trying to calm herself by listening to her own bodily rhythms.
"What kind of music?" Mulder continued.
Keisha whipped her eyes open, broken from her meditation. "Well, I'm not quite sure, but I could almost say it sounded like an old love ballad of some sort. An accordion, maybe." She scrunched her face in distaste.
"Have you been on the subway since the incident, Miss LaMoore?" Scully gently asked, noticing the sudden exhausted demeanor this woman held. The memory of the incident seemed to be draining her energy.
"Lord, no. I've been too afraid."
"Afraid of what?" Scully asked.
"The same fate."
They watched Keisha wring her hands, and her gaze wander everywhere except toward them. "What makes you think you will die on the subway?" Scully continued. Keisha stared out the window, eyes welling up with tears. Mulder edged even further toward the end of the couch, and took Keisha's shaking hand.
"You've tried to kill yourself before, haven't you, Keisha?" He glanced at Scully, and then at the pile of documents Keisha set aside. "Is that why you are having trouble keeping your son?" She didn't look at him, but her answer was clear as the tears broke free from her eyes.
"They won't..." Keisha swallowed her tears. "They won't let me have him back. It happened so long ago, and I was getting better. I was. And now this."
They all sat in silence for a few moments. Mulder kept a comforting grip on Keisha's hand. He could see Scully in the corner of his peripheral vision, twisting her face in confusion. Sometimes it was easier for him to pick up on a pattern than it was for her. He focused again on Keisha, who was composing herself to speak again.
She turned toward them, and revealed her dampened eyes . "I've felt it calling to me. I haven't left this apartment in the two weeks since the tragedy." Her composure was definitely failing now. She slid her hand from Mulder's grip, and dropped her head down into her palms. "I'm hearing the music."
Scully was a little dumfounded. Why would Keisha's witness of the suicide have again brought up a need to kill herself? If anything, she should have gained a greater fear of death, not to embrace it.
"We need to have someone keep an eye on her, Scully," Mulder demanded, as she followed him down the narrow staircases, out to the cold, windy streets and back downtown toward the Shuttle train.
"Do you really think she'll go through with it, Mulder? I mean, most people that realize they need help are already on the road to recovery. I don't think she's that desperate."
"She may not be desperate, but I don't think she's going to have a choice in the matter."
"Meaning, I think there's something calling, reeling these people in to kill themselves."
"Great," she muttered and quickened her gait to keep up with her partner's long, excited strides.
"There's something I remember from Michelle Carroll's tape that stands out now. Do you remember her describing the scene to Detective Spillman? She was very specific."
"I remember it, but I'm not sure what fact you are remembering."
"She said the homeless man told her that he heard music."
"Music," she repeated dryly.
"What if that man didn't have any control over his actions? He was being drawn in, just like Keisha feels that she is being drawn in."
Scully avoided making a Pied Piper comment, hoping her partner had a better explanation before putting a fairy tale bug in his head. "So what makes only certain people hear this? And why weren't the other people on the platform affected in the same way?"
"My guess is, this music is like a Siren call. Scully, did you ever read the Odyssey?"
"By Homer?" she stared at Mulder incredulously as they waited on the corner to cross the street. "That's a myth, an ancient poem!"
"All myths are based on some truth, Scully. Think about it. Odysseus was tempted by the music, or songs of the Sirens while on his quest. He was forced to choose between their song, which would lead him to death, or choose his quest, which would lead him back to his homeland, his life, and end his treacherous journey."
Mulder paused as they crossed to the other side, and began to descend into the Times Square station. "He had to choose between life and death. Death was so easy and comforting; to follow the Sirens' beautiful song. Life was difficult, but the hard journey would be so much more fulfilling."
"Are you suggesting that the people who died were tempted by some mythological Siren?"
"I'm saying, all of these people were once faced with the prospect of choosing death and overcoming it. But now, whatever is creating this 'call' is bringing back that choice of death."
They boarded the train across town. Scully sat while Mulder hung over her, holding to the railing. In Mulder's world, it would explain how the past attempts at suicide would tie into the case, but Keisha was still alive -- so far. "We only have one person saying that she hears music, Mulder."
"Correction, we have two. Remember Michelle's statement. I want to go talk to her again."
Michelle's Studio, 3:45
Michelle was just coming back from the Ladies' room when she noticed two people, wearing black trench coats, standing in her manager's doorway. This would be a lot less awkward if she had an office of her own for them to wait in. Mulder saw her approaching and acknowledged her return.
The air felt almost thick with tension as she passed the few occupied drafting tables; their owners trying just a little too hard to avoid her eyes. After a quick, understated greeting, she led her visitors into the break room, closing the door behind them.
"What can I help you with, agents?" she asked, crossing her arms and holding her sides tightly.
"If you don't mind, we'd like to ask you something else about yesterday's incident," Mulder said.
"Sure," Michelle answered with raised eyebrows. She motioned for them to sit at a round table in the corner of the room.
"You mentioned that the man who jumped from the platform told you that he heard music."
"Yes," she replied plainly. Her stomach was fluttering. She shouldn't be nervous. She wasn't on trial here; she was only a witness. "Better to keep my answers short and to the point anyway, " she silently vowed.
"Did you hear anything?"
It was then that Michelle felt the blood drain from her face. She cleared her throat and glanced down at her fidgeting hands. "Well, I didn't hear anything when he asked me, no."
"But..." Mulder led, leaning ever so slightly toward his partner, to make sure she picked up on the ambiguity of her statement. So much for short answers.
"I don't know if it has any significance, really. I saw another homeless man, or a panhandler rather, after the man jumped onto the tracks." She swallowed and then continued. "I've seen him before. He plays an accordion on the train for handouts, usually during rush hour. He was there, coming off the train with other passengers... after..."
Michelle noticed Mulder's expression change into one of intense interest, as if he were a cat about to pounce on his next meal. "You've seen him before? Can you describe him?"
"Um... he usually has on a plaid shirt and khakis, a golfing hat... he looks kinda like he's Italian. He's a little shorter than me." She lifted her hand in front of her nose to show the height of the panhandler. "He always carries a long pole with a wheel attached to the end." Mulder scrunched his forehead in question. "He's blind," Michelle answered.
He side-glanced at his partner a moment, as if he were mentally jabbing her with a 'told ya so.' He didn't look back at Michelle until he was already half through his next question. "Did you take the subway to work this morning?'
"You're a brave woman."
"I believe in getting myself back on track, no pun intended, as soon as possible. Besides that, I can't afford to take a taxi every day." She looked over at Scully, hoping to draw on the strength she had seen in her yesterday. Scully gave her a small, reserved smile.
"Some people wouldn't agree with that mode of thinking," Mulder put in.
She watched Scully shift her weight uneasily in the seat. Mulder continued, "There's something else we have to ask you, Michelle. It's a little personal, so please don't be offended by it." Michelle politely waited for his question, unable to find the logic in the tall agent's line of questioning. "Have you ever considered committing suicide before?"
In a brief moment of shock, Michelle could do nothing but give Mulder a blank stare. She sat there for a few seconds that felt like minutes. Then she slowly began to pull the sleeves of her sweater up, laying her palms face up on the break room table across from the two agents. Faint scars broke the unblemished skin of her arms right at the wrists.
"It was a razor," she shakily whispered. "I was in the tub. I guess I wanted to take the dramatic route as the poor starving artist." Michelle uneasily watched Scully brush her fingers across her wrist; then she relaxed when the agent's grip rested upon her palm. She gazed at the red-haired woman, who had a pitying, questioning look.
"I felt alone. I was living in Manhattan, which really isn't so far from my parents' house up in Westchester. I'm living with them again now. I wanted my own life, so I moved here thinking I could be independent. If I even so much as set foot in their house, I felt like I was failing. But I was really on the road to seclusion and didn't realize it.
"I had no real connections in the city, except at work, and how close can I get to people here?" She glanced toward the closed door. "Nothing had purpose anymore. I had short relationships with men. I just got to a point where I didn't feel wanted anywhere." Michelle paused for a long time. She then looked at Mulder, suddenly aware of the confession she made in response to his question.
"How did you know?"
"We have a theory, Michelle, at least on what type of people are committing suicide in this chain of events."
"Chain?" God, there were more?
"I guess Detective Spillman didn't give you the whole history of this investigation. I think you have a right to know," Mulder began. "There have been many suicides on the subway in the past two weeks, and we think there may be a connection."
"Others?" Michelle thought for a moment, trying to think of how she could have missed something as big as this in the news. She searched through her memory of the past two weeks. "Yes, I have been delayed almost every night going home because of an 'incident' at one station or another."
"We believe that the deceased may have been victims to suicide attempts in the past. That's why I asked you before." Michelle caught her breath when she heard Mulder's statement. Could she be in trouble, too? "Have you seen the blind man since last night?"
"No, I haven't," she said, caught a little off-guard at his interest in the panhandler.
"Well, please, Michelle, tell us if you have anything else. I think we're close on this, so don't worry." He flashed her a smile in an unsuccessful attempt to calm her.
She had a weird, sick feeling that these agents had been exposed to so much violence, that it really didn't bother them any longer. A queasiness tickled the edge of her stomach as she remembered her own fairly recent brush with violence. As a subliminal reaction she tightened her fist, and was surprised to feel an extra pressure there, in her palm. She had almost forgotten that Scully was still holding her hand. She released it sheepishly, apologizing to the agent. "Sorry about that."
Scully shook her head, "Don't worry about it," and turned to follow Mulder out of the break room.
Downtown 86th Street station, 3:45 p.m.
Detective Spillman lumbered down the staircase to the downtown station at 86th street. He slid through the turnstile and waited on the platform for the arriving train. He entered passively, finding a spot to hold onto the railing. One car away he could hear the sound of music playing; a sad old Italian ballad floating through the car with the rhythm of the traveling subway.
Scully and Mulder decided they should head back to Keisha's apartment, just to make sure she was all right. It was getting on toward rush hour, and the streets were becoming crowded.
"Well, I think we have a source for the accordion music," Mulder said at length. "The problem is, he's going to be hard to find. We can't go riding the subway day and night just to catch this guy."
Scully nodded distractedly as she dialed the number to Detective Spillman's office. She got his partner. "May I speak to Detective Spillman?"
She frowned into the receiver, shielding her free ear from the noisy grunting of a garbage truck.
"He's not back yet? Well, we need to get to a witness' apartment building right away, Detective. Is there any way you can get us there quickly?"
She huffed out a breath as she listened to what could only be a negative answer. With gritted teeth, she responded, "Thank you," and beeped off the cell phone. She glared at Mulder, obviously frustrated. "Looks like we're taking the train again, Mulder."
They quickly walked to the station, and shot up the express line as soon as it was available to transfer. As they emerged from their car at the 42nd Street station, they saw a familiar figure across the platform; a medium height man, with a gut and square glasses, wearing a lined trench coat, waiting for the uptown local train. Mulder was about to call out to the detective, but second-guessed himself before doing so. "Why is the detective here, taking the train? He was supposed to be uptown already on a call," he thought to himself. He grabbed Scully by the wrist and led her across to the local train, one car away from where the detective got on.
"Mulder, what are we doing? Isn't that Detective Spillman?" She started to move toward the connecting door to the next car when Mulder laid his hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him, concerned. In a low, but nevertheless harsh voice, she countered, "And shouldn't we be going west?"
"Scully, Detective Spillman is already supposed to be uptown. What's he doing here? And why isn't he taking his patrol car?" He spoke softly, bending his head down close to her ear.
She returned a whispered response near his own ear, her breath dancing over the sensitive skin near his collar. If an observer was unaware of the conversation taking place, he might have mistaken their intimate postures as those of lovers. "Maybe he thought he could get a lead? Maybe he's searching the subways day and night like you said we would have to, to find the accordion player?"
"How would he know about him?" He received a hollow stare from Scully. "As far as we know, we're the only ones who have made this connection. How did *he* find out?"
The pattern on his tie suddenly appeared to be of great interest to her as she struggled with the concept. "What about Keisha, Mulder?"
He stared past her and into the next car. He could nearly feel the blood draining from his face. At the end of the car he saw a black woman in a leopard-skin patterned coat and a furry hat, balancing herself uneasily against one of the vertical poles. It was Keisha. Her eyes were as unsteady as her body. Mulder was surprised no one else noticed her apparent weakness, especially the detective.
"Mulder?... Mulder?" Scully pleaded with him. He was at a shocked standstill. Everything in his body wanted to run through that door and help the woman, but he became uncontrollably fascinated. His peripheral vision seemed to narrow to the point where he could only see Keisha. His soles felt glued to the floor, and his hand gripped the railing above Scully's head with such force that his knuckles were turning white.
He faintly saw a ghostly image meld with his own reflection in the glass of the connecting door. It was a short figure, wearing what looked like a pale-colored golf cap.
His reverie was shattered when he realized a piercing scream was coming from the next car. Keisha was pounding her ears, her eyes streaming with tears of fear. The woman pushed through other passengers to reach the next exit. Scully reacted automatically, and burst through to the next car, pausing only a split second to shake the arm of the detective. He didn't move, and only stared straight ahead at Keisha in what appeared to be a standing coma. She didn't wait for a reaction from him but yelled loudly for Mulder.
She plowed ahead through to Keisha, who, still shrieking, was already through the first door, and in-between the two cars. Passengers, seeing Scully's determination, reacted like the parting of the sea. A new panic forced her to push harder as she saw Keisha climbing up the barrier between the cars, attempting to make a jump for it. Scully was there in no time, pulling at Keisha's waist as the woman's screams mixed with the air rushing around them.
Mulder, now broken from his trance, was back with the detective, trying to shake some sense into the zombified man, when he heard it. White noise from the train began to take on the form of a ballad, a slow, sad ballad, as a high-pitched instrument would sound. He spun his head around, searching the crowded train for Michelle's description. He was nowhere in sight. He must have been mistaken. Now he heard nothing.
He looked back at Detective Spillman, whose eyes narrowed from the comatose gaze, and his mouth drew into a devious, evil grin. Mulder heard the shout of two women at the other end of the car.
"He's there! Can't you hear him playing it?"
"No, Keisha, there's nothing! Nothing! Come down from there! You're going to kill yourself!"
No music. Mulder tried desperately to convince himself of his own sanity. There was no music, but Keisha was scared enough of it to try and escape by killing herself first? Why? Unless... he was a Pusher. What if Spillman was making her see and hear the musician? Mulder, out of a primitive fear for himself, remembering his past experience, decked the detective in front of a train full of passengers, who were now all wide-eyed and cringing from the activities in the car.
The detective fell to the floor, supposedly unconscious. But nothing changed. Mulder could still hear Scully struggling with Keisha at the far end of the car.
"Mulder, I need you!" Scully. He gave one last look at the fallen officer, and then flew over to Scully's aid. Keisha was still shaking with determination to escape the invisible foe. She had an iron grip on the barrier, along with one foot, ready to lunge forward at the first sign of Scully's weakness. Mulder's extra strength was enough to pry her off, and at least get her back into the car, but she still whimpered for her life.
Keisha slumped to the floor and leaned against the door. The two agents crouched in front of her, Mulder holding tightly to her shoulder. "Keisha, there's nothing!" Scully pleaded.
"No, no... I have things to live for now! I don't want to go!" she cried out.
"What do you see? Who's forcing you to go? Is it that man?" Mulder pointed to the unconscious body of the detective sprawled out on the floor where he had left him.
"No, not him..." Keisha said, sounding exhausted. Her eyes were frantically directed past both agents to the empty space behind them.
The two agents were mystified. How could they prevent an assault on an invisible enemy? Scully helplessly looked around at the other passengers. Then she stopped her scan cold and focused a moment to her left. Mulder followed her gaze toward an overloaded delivery boy and his bicycle up against the side doors. He was wearing a Walkman and bouncing his head to the rhythm of some rap music faintly heard from the earpieces.
"Hold her down, Mulder," she ordered, as she sprang up toward the messenger and pulled the radio and headphones off of him.
"Hey!" he shouted. Mulder would care less at a time like this what personal property meant, but the burden of "Special Agent" was always present in the foreground of Scully's duties. She quickly dug out her ID for him.
"Sorry, I desperately need this. We'll compensate you," she quickly explained, shuffling back toward Mulder and Keisha as fast as she could. She pushed the headphones onto Keisha's ears and turned on the radio full blast. The woman flinched from the volume at first, but began to relax her pained expression and ceased the tearful pleading for her life. Mulder's tense grip loosened. He let her lie back against the door, and then turned to Scully, who was sitting beside Keisha, doing the once-over to make sure she was OK.
The train pulled into the 59th Street station. Needless to say, everyone in the car decided to either transfer, or to wait for the next train. Someone had reported the activity to the conductor, and officers already swarmed the platform as the train arrived. Both Keisha and the detective were placed in separate ambulances, and the two agents were escorted back to the station by car.
On the way, Scully kept a close eye on her partner. He was rubbing his temples with more and more force as the distance between them and the subway station grew. The streetlights skirting across his face revealed the deep creases in his forehead. She took his Yankees cap off him and turned his face toward her. He looked at her with pain-dampened eyes. All she could think was that the headaches were back. This was their most active case since his incident, and it looked like he wasn't faring well.
"Too bad about them, huh? I always knew Spillman was a freak for these cases, but I never expected him to become one," the officer driving said out of nowhere. The two agents barely acknowledged the statement. "Yeah... he was always the first one on the scene with these subway deaths. Kinda morbid, actually, the way he got obsessed with them. He had a sixth sense for this type of thing..."
Scully interrupted her scrutiny of her partner to consider the half-heard comment of the officer. Spillman was obviously involved. No one could doubt that. And they didn't need another opinion clouding the evidence. She was actually a little annoyed that he would butt in. She let the thought slip away, caring only that her partner was safe, in her presence, and all other parties were receiving proper care.
Mulder lay his head back on the seat while Scully brushed his bangs back, away from the nearly invisible old scar at his hairline. They continued the journey downtown in silence.
Weill Cornell Medical Center East 68th Street
Detective Spillman awoke to the sight of blue curtains and the murmur of the emergency room. He couldn't move any of his limbs. Panicking, he looked down, and saw his wrists and ankles bound with velcro restraints. The sound of metal scraping on metal grated through the soft voices in the surrounding room as Scully pulled back the curtain. She briefly ducked her head back behind it, then opened it further and entered, followed by a smug Mulder. He was none too disappointed to see Spillman in this position.
The two agents stared at the vulnerable detective in his hospital bed. "Why am I here?"
"Why don't you tell us?" Mulder interjected harshly.
"What..." the words caught in Spillman's throat. "What are you talking about? All I remember is exiting my patrol car up on 90th and then blacking out." He pinched his eyebrows in thought. "Did I have a heart attack?"
"You don't remember anything?" Scully put in, expression absent from her face, but clearly a burning curiosity in her tone. He shook his head "no."
"You didn't have a heart attack, Detective," she answered. "Do you remember a woman named Keisha LaMoore?"
"Yes... I know the name... a witness from one of the early cases."
"Yes. She's also here in the hospital."
Spillman tried to sit up straighter in his bed, but was painfully reminded of the impossibility of the act when the Velcro scratched his wrists. "Why?" he grunted.
"You lured her to the subway. You made her think she was supposed to die. You pushed her into committing suicide!" Mulder spat out, anger burning in his eyes.
"I - I don't know what you're talking about, Agent. I haven't seen that woman since I originally questioned her." Sweat started to bead on the detective's forehead, but this time he couldn't use that handkerchief to mop it up.
Scully placed a hand gently on Mulder's chest, urging him away from Spillman's bed. "We'll be right back, Detective," she said apologetically. Closing the curtain again, she took Mulder out into the hall. "Mulder, you can't start accusing the detective outright."
"But he was 'pushing' her, Scully. We've both been through this before! How else would Keisha be the only one seeing that musician? He knew exactly what..."
"No, Mulder, I don't think so. You're making this personal. This is different."
Mulder shifted from foot to foot impatiently. "How do you know?"
"I don't know. But I do know that it seems Spillman has no memory of what happened today." She crossed her arms in front of her, probably more to hold in her exasperation than to show it. "And if he was 'pushing' her, why did she still see the musician when the detective was knocked out? By you, I might add."
He mimicked her crossed-arm stance, but came off like a stubborn child. With no answer to counter, he turned his head aside to avoid Scully's accusing gaze.
"Besides, Mulder," she slowly added, "I think your siren theory may be a better explanation than I realized." The thick fog of his stubbornness slowly faded as he remembered that she had placed the headphones on Keisha. Maybe he *was* making the case too personal - or maybe he was being drawn in as well. He was reminded of when he, himself, had been "pushed". He had almost killed Scully, but more pertinent to the case at hand, he had almost killed himself. God, was he being reeled in, too?
The harshness in his attitude toward his partner melted into one of apology and shame. "What's going on, Scully?" He slumped down into an available chair. Scully came to stand beside him and rubbed his shoulder gently.
Drowsiness was all Detective Spillman could feel. The blue curtains surrounding his bed hung loosely. Fuzzy shadows danced behind them... getting fuzzier. He fell smoothly into a deep slumber.
He dreamed of a long hallway, with many doors. Walking along, he could hear the murmur of conversations, people arguing, or laughing. Towards the end of the hallway, he came upon a door that emitted the sound of a slow, love ballad. It was so soothing; he was drawn to it. He pushed the door open without effort and entered into a pool of warm, yellow light. The music was louder here, but he could see no one inside. He searched around, finding only some old, wooden furniture, weather-beaten and dusty from age.
He recognized the room from his childhood. He had spent almost a year here recovering from his own accident in the 77th Street station on the Lexington Ave. Line. He was only five. He was out with his mother on various errands in and around the upper east side. Like most five year olds, he was curious, daring, and he tested his balancing skills too hazardously on the platform edge. He fell in front of the train, but survived, due to an alert conductor who slammed the brakes hard as he saw the boy fall. It was when he was being pulled up by EMS workers that he first saw his spectral guardian. He had never left him for the rest of his life; his punishment for having tested his will carelessly.
Everything his guardian saw, was seen through Spillman's eyes. His life was a nightmare, a filter for this blind ghost, feeding on the struggle of lives once lost. How could these people not know? Not know that their lives were so precious? They had been given a second chance, and they were blowing it all away. His companion judged them... chose which were not worthy, and forced Spillman to seek them out. But now he was weak, he was near the end... the last chance... his sightless guardian may never see life again if he died. This time, it was forever...
"Take that, you bastard!"
The song filled the room as if an entire orchestra surrounded him. It went on slower, and slower, louder and louder... and instead of many instruments playing, it melted into one tone: an accordion. He began to panic, covering his ears, spinning in place and whimpering for help. He didn't want to see any more deaths!
He became sleepy. He dropped heavily to the floor, dust spitting up in clouds from between the loosened boards. The notes were so long and drawn out now, that it became torturous.
Finally, the song became one long, never-ending tone, high pitched, and the entire room blasted into an explosion of light.
They both heard the rustle of excited movement inside the emergency room. Scully left Mulder to investigate the source of the panic. She saw detective Spillman's bed surrounded by doctors and nurses, preparing to jump-start his heart. The blaring sound of a flatline pierced the air. She rushed forward.
"Please move aside, ma'am."
She stepped back and watched the doctors try to revive Spillman. Electrical charges buzzed through the air. The sickening sound of a heavy body landing on a creaky stretcher repeated three times.. then the fourth... After several more tension-filled attempts, the panic stopped, and they covered his body with the available sheet. Mulder stood close to Scully, watching the slow departure of the staff, waiting with her for an explanation.
One of the doctors came over to them. "Are you Agents Scully and Mulder?"
"Yes," Scully answered, "what happened to the detective? We had only left him not two minutes ago."
"Apparently, his heart just stopped. He has had a heart condition since childhood, according to his records. A mysterious one at that. Seems he has never received chemical treatment for it. His doctor believed it was psychological. Had an appointment today he never showed up for." He handed Scully a clipboard fat with records. "I assume you were working with him?"
"Yes... and we think that he might be a suspect in the case... or, at least, he could have given us information on one," Scully said, half considering the detective's condition. She slapped the clipboard with the back of her hand in frustration.
"I'm sorry. Do you have any contact information we could use to get in touch with his family?"
"I'll get right on it," Mulder offered. Then aside to Scully, "Do you want me to see if I can arrange an autopsy?"
She nodded "yes." Scully stared at the lump of sheets that was Detective Spillman. Had he seen the siren, or musician, or whatever? And if he did, why wasn't he affected the same way as Keisha? He was affected in a completely different way - more subtle. Was there something he didn't tell them?
Mulder returned to report that Spillman had no immediate family to speak of. If she wanted to order the autopsy, he thought it would be a safe bet that no one was going to object.
She nodded again. Seems she had a loss for words with Mulder just now. Why did Mulder react the way *he* did? *Was* he being pushed again? And by what? An accordion-playing ghost? It was almost too much to wrap her brain around, but it was the only logical explanation considering what had happened. But logic didn't play into this one. She had to challenge her normal mode of thinking, especially now that Mulder was "part" of the case.
Perhaps Detective Spillman was a victim as well? The doctor's statement about Spillman's heart condition echoed back to her. It was psychological... She remembered the officer driving the patrol car. Spillman was the first officer on the scene with each incident... Could he have known who would die? Did he have a choice? What if he was a beacon to a supernatural Siren... preying on weakened spirits? And how weakened would Spillman be if that were true? How many had he seen die?
She watched Mulder make arrangements for the autopsy. She almost couldn't believe she was buying into Mulder's original theory. Well, she had prayed for a challenge, hadn't she? If she only knew Mulder's unintentional version of it was going to end up being a reversal of the roles... So much for being a skeptic this time. "Wait, Mulder," she interrupted him.
"Hold on," he spoke into the receiver. Then to her, "What's up, Scully?"
"I don't think we need the autopsy." She said it against her better judgement, but she was almost certain that she would find nothing. And she was almost more certain that the suicides would stop.
Mulder was taken aback, "Are you sure?"
He looked at her with knitted brow and slackened jaw. Scully nearly laughed out loud at the expression. So was this what she looked like most of the time? She had never been on the receiving end of disbelief, she had always been the one dishing it out.
After a long moment, Mulder seemed to realize that she had a theory, and he nodded in affirmation. As he returned to his call, he took a quick back-glance at her, and then canceled the appointment.
Greenwich Village, 9:30 a.m.
Michelle popped the plastic top off her paper coffee cup, leaned over it, and allowed the hazelnut steam to cling to her chin and nose. She inhaled deeply, eyes closed, and thought of the warm, soft bed she had left behind two hours ago. As she tore open the sugar packets and let the tiny crystals fall into the light-brown beverage, she caught sight of her reflection in one of the many picture frames surrounding her computer screen.
"Oh, God, I have circles under my eyes," she griped silently. What a nightmare she'd had last night.
She had dreamed of a long hallway with many doors. All of the rooms behind them sounded occupied, voices muffled through the walls. There seemed to be no end to it. She ran and ran down the hall, always hoping that the next stretch would be the last, only it never was. Then, as if it were a reversal of death's journey, a light behind her grew brighter and started chasing her. She ran harder and harder, her long shadow bouncing before her on the floor with each sprinting step, until she was completely engulfed by the light.
When she awoke, she could feel her lungs burning as if she really had run the distance in her dream. After that, her mind was too wired to get back to sleep. Three hours of exhausting, nightmarish slumber did not a happy camper make. Yes, this large coffee was going to help a lot.
She took her first golden sip and let the nutty-sweet liquid expand its warmth down her throat. "Mmm... this better do the trick," she whispered.
She heard the studio phone ring at the far side of the room. One of her co-workers picked it up. After some low, introductory conversation, she heard her name mentioned. "Who's calling at this un-godly hour?" she whined, and glanced at her wristwatch: 9:32 a.m. Well, if she lived in California, it would be an un-godly hour.
She rested her forehead in the palm of her hand, waiting for the expected shout of her name across the studio. It came, and the sound nearly did a merengue through her already throbbing head. "I'll pick it up over here," she yelled back, squinting against a hangover-like pain. She chuckled. If she really did have a hangover, she would at least know that she had gotten some sleep.
After picking up the receiver to a nearby phone, she took a large gulp of her coffee, and then pushed the red flashing hold button.
"Michelle, this is Agent Scully." Michelle winced. She admired Scully for carrying an ever-present professionalism about her, but she could have at least said, "good morning" first.
"Yes. What can I help you with, Agent?"
"I wanted to let you know that we are finished investigating this case, and will not require your assistance any longer."
"Oh." She felt like she was being unexpectedly severed from a ten year relationship, even though she had only become involved in the last few days. "Is that it? Will I have to speak with Detective Spillman further? Do I still have to be concerned for... my life? " she asked, trying to cover all her bases. She squeezed her cup gently, tensing the muscles that lay beneath the imperfect skin of her wrist.
There was an empty pause over the line. Michelle's instinct told her that meant bad news. "I don't have an easy way to tell you this, Michelle, but Detective Spillman is dead. He died last night of a...," another empty pause, "...heart attack..." She said it almost like she really wasn't sure what a heart attack was. She began again in a less solemn tone. "You don't have anything to worry about, Michelle. I don't think there's any threat to your life. Of, course, if you think you will need to talk to a doctor to cope with these past days' events, I would certainly recommend it."
Michelle both sighed in relief, and fought to keep her stomach from churning at the knowledge of the detective's death. She was repulsed at the idea of talking to a complete stranger about her problems, AND pay to do it. "I think my family will help me out, Agent Scully, but thank you for your suggestion." She casually wondered if this woman ever let her personal relationships go any further than a simple handshake. Did she always go to a specialist to solve her problems like she went to them to solve a case?
Michelle suddenly realized that in the past year her family *had* become very important to her. To grow up and make her way in the world, they were the first thing she felt she had to sever from her life. Now, her parents' support was the key factor in helping her get back together and succeed in her adulthood.
When she had first met this female agent, she had thought that she was the epitome of what she wanted to become; the kind of face she wanted to display to the world. Now she knew it was an empty life to have nothing but your career to look forward to.
A deep curiosity burned within her, and she began to wonder who this woman really was. Before she knew what she was saying, the words were already out of her mouth. "Do you ever confide personal business with your partner, Agent Scully?"
She was answered with another moment of dead air. Embarrassment, hot coffee and lack of sleep made Michelle's face turn instantly red. She was definitely grateful this was a phone conversation. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't pry. Forget I said that."
"No... no, I don't mind," Scully said at length, her voice quiet as if she held the receiver a little too far away from her mouth. "Yes, I do, in some things. In fact, recently he's become one of my closest friends. He isn't really the one whom I would call a helpful ear, but I can usually count on him to give me the opposing argument to my opinions."
"It's good to have someone like that, though. To have someone to listen, I mean"
"Yes, it would be."
Michelle didn't miss the tense of her response. Pity wasn't the word to describe what she felt for Scully just then. She had seen the strength of this woman, and although she kept up her G-woman front, Michelle felt that she had given her just the right push to make her realize that getting personal wasn't the end of the world. Michelle marveled at her own skills of philosophy and decided to test her boldness further.
"I'm glad the case is over, Agent Scully. But I do have to say that this experience has put a lot of things in perspective for me."
"I think I know what you mean."
Michelle smiled into the receiver.
"Well, we appreciate your help," Scully continued. "Thank you, and... Take care, Michelle." Scully finalized, with a returned smile in her voice.
"You, too, Agent Scully."
Michelle hung up the phone and took another sip of her large coffee. Her co-worker, Angela, sat down at the workstation next to hers, and stared morbidly at the screen. Michelle had worked with this woman for almost three months now, and still didn't really know who she was.
She leaned back in her chair and cleared her throat quietly. "Hey, Angela?"
"Mm hm?" her co-worker answered, still engrossed in her work on the computer.
"You want to do lunch today?"
Angela pulled her gaze away from the screen to focus on Michelle. A wide grin split her face, revealing pearly white teeth. "Sure. We've been a little slow around here lately, anyway, haven't we?"
"Hey, gotta break up the daily grind somehow, right?"
They both giggled and decided on 1:00 at the deli across the street.
Mulder escorted Keisha back to her apartment by cab. She was considerably calmer this morning.
As he walked her up the front steps he couldn't help but think that her uneasiness toward her imminent death had been completely lifted. He had felt a similar effect once he and Scully left the hospital yesterday.
"Well, Keisha, I guess this is it."
"Yes, Agent Mulder. I'm sorry your partner couldn't be here as well. I would have liked to say goodbye."
"She had to get some things straightened out for her report on the case. We still don't have a definite solve... In fact, I don't even know what she's going to write. I thought I knew what was going on, but..." He tilted his head toward Keisha, who was standing on the top step, looking a lot older and softer without her fancy fabrics and layers of makeup.
His memory wasn't clear of the exact events that had taken place yesterday. It frustrated him to know that he was so deeply involved, that he became part of the case. It was inexcusable, especially if Scully had needed backup. What would have happened if he hadn't snapped out of that trance? Would Keisha have survived?
Keisha had some things to work out for herself. She was going to have to pull some major strings to get her son back. Mulder had offered to write her a letter of recommendation, explaining the events. Perhaps it would help her. She deserved to have her life back.
"It was good to meet you, Keisha," he said, pressing his hands around one of hers, and then skipped down the stairs.
"Agent Mulder," she called after him. He turned in response. "Thank Agent Scully for giving me something to live for. I think you should, as well."
He smiled uncertainly back at her, and then slammed the door of the cab behind him. They pulled away and out into traffic. As they passed through Times Square, Mulder thought about what Keisha had said. Had he been spared from being completely drawn in by that so-called Siren because he had something to live for?
Scully was the one who called out to him in that subway car. No matter how many times she had done it before, for whatever reason, she was the one he grasped onto. The tie between them had become so taut over the years, a multi-strung cable, unbreakable. He glanced up at the giant marquee sign at the head of the Square as they waited for a traffic light. Maybe he could finally get his chance to *have* a life worth living. Stop chasing shadows. What if next time he wasn't so lucky? As they left the mid-town cacophony behind, he thought of the coming New Year, and where he wanted to go with the rest of his life.
When he arrived at the station, Scully was bent over a spread of manila folders, gathering them up into a pile. Unnoticed, he looked at her with a deep sense of respect. If luck had played into anything at all, it certainly shined on him when he was paired with this woman as a partner.
When she turned to greet him, she smiled her Scully smile; an unspoken "hi" just for him. Maybe that dusting of confetti wasn't so unrealistic after all. As he stepped forward to help her gather extra paperwork from the table, he knew, right then and there, how he had gotten this far, why he had cheated death so many times. He owed it all to her. He decided exactly what he was going to do next year. The sonata was not over, and he had yet to ask his partner to dance.
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