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Chapter Three

 

Trisha picked Scully up at seven-thirty and took her to Forensics. She’d made it to her autopsy and back within two hours. As expected, even with her skilled hands and eyes, nothing could be found. She met Mulder at the hotel and, after they finally picked up their rented Taurus, they went on from there to their first stop: The former home of Amber Henson--age 28, brown hair and Caucasian.

It was actually a small apartment that she’d shared with a friend. However, as far as questioning went, it didn’t seem as though the two girls knew one another all that well. Amber had been a struggling artist–-painter and sculptor–-spending all her time locked in her room creating and dreaming. Anya, her roommate, rarely saw her and was really only there to share the rent. According to Anya, Amber never talked to her family back in South Carolina and was very much an introvert, too focused on fulfilling her life long dream to be otherwise. After quick examination of personal items, and obtaining some of them, Mulder and Scully left and went on to the next girl.

The next stop was to the home of the sister of Shawna Adams–-age 30, black and living on her own. Shawna had been a woman on a mission to be an independent woman of the big city and one of the few African-American women making her way to the top of the corporate ladder. An introvert herself, Shawna only spent time with her kid sister on holidays, them having been orphaned in their mid-twenties. She wasn’t cold, just determined to make something of herself. To be someone that was a far cry from the girl she had been in Bronx.

Hours later, having gained only a small helping of extra information, Mulder and Scully had questioned the family members, friends, employers and professors of each victim.

Laurie Borden–-red hair, 23, New York City Ballet dancer. Training and performance came with twelve hour dance days and a very lonely social life.

Torrence Martinez–-Latin, 22, college student. She’d had a tendency to work hard, too hard, to get into Harvard. All of two close friends barely fit in to her schedule to just see a movie or talk about boys. After not making it in, she opted for NYU, her failure of never making it into the school of her choice only making her work harder.

Jennifer Wilkes–-blonde hair, 32, an off-Broadway actress. According to her homosexual, fellow actor roommate, Greg, he was the only one she saw outside of rehearsal and beating herself up to get into auditions. Day in and day out she practiced and memorized, convinced that one day directors of musicals by Andrew Lloyd Weber or Stephen Sondheim would recognize her talents and welcome her to their stage.

Kristin Raucci–-blonde, 27 and newly divorced. After her marriage broke-up, she’d boarded herself in her tiny sixth floor apartment and only left when she needed to buy food. This information came from her brother who, despite his efforts to make otherwise, hadn’t actually seen his sister in a year. He basically supported her, mailing her money and paying her bills.

Mary Howard–-brunette, 24, a depressed, orphaned poet. With little to no friends, Mulder and Scully had been forced to interview neighbors, finding out little.

Jolene Valencia–-brown hair, 24 and trying with all her might to be discovered. A pianist, guitarist and singer, she had a few fans and family support, but only left her apartment to perform. At the end of the night, she went home, stayed up all night to write and practice, slept all day and did her gig. Rinse, wash, repeat. She simply went through the motions, her life a routine.

Claudia Fitzgerald–-black, 30, a writer. According to her friends, she’d written several upon several novels. Novels that were rejected by every publisher she’d sent them to. She’d been finishing up a promising book when she died.

And finally it was back to Amanda Porter, a biology student who was set on being an Oceanographer. She was actually the most sociable of the bunch, living at home still but left the house every now and then to spend time with friends. However, she did often choose studies, career and emotions over socializing. In that way she was the same as the rest.

Mulder and Scully noticed this connection, amongst a couple of other things.

They stopped for a moment at Starbuck’s, preparing for a long night. Trisha had invited them to her place to run over what they had found out that day.

Throwing their empty cups away, Mulder and Scully headed straight for the Police station to meet with Gavin and, from there, to Trisha’s home.

XxX

Trisha Menzel’s Residence

7:37 PM

As soon as Gavin’s knuckles hit the wood, a howling bark was heard from beyond the door. Trisha shushing the animal could be heard as she made her way to let Mulder, Scully and Gavin in.

When the door opened, an excited miniature Beagle, his nerves jingle-jangled and his tail shaking his entire body, welcomed them. Trisha picked him up before he could make his escape out the door to romp around the yard.

"Come on in," she welcomed, holding the door open until everyone was inside.

"Deeogee loves to meet new people, so you’ll have to excuse his excessive spunkiness," she added, placing the pup on the ground so he could better acquaint himself with the strangers.

"Deeogee?" Mulder asked before realization dawned. "Ah, D.O.G. Clever." He knelt down to pet the dog on the head, Deeogee’s nose sniffing away at Mulder’s palm.

"That’s what they keep telling me," Trisha smirked.

Scully had joined in, scratching the dog behind the ear, his tongue sticking out and ever-wagging tail still out of control. Trisha took each of their coats.

Mulder watched Scully as she played with the pup, a gentle smile on her lips as the dog responded to her petting enthusiastically. Mulder had always had a soft spot for dogs and seeing Scully as eager to pay attention to the animal as the animal was to receive it, well, it made his heart melt and a warm smile cross his lips.

There were man-eating Pomeranians with yipping barks and then there were *actual* dogs like Deeogee whose only joy in life was having his fur stroked. As a rule, Mulder preferred the bigger dogs–-Labs, Retrievers, Rottweilers-–but Beagles weren’t so bad, he decided.

Scully finally stood up, brushing her hands together to get rid of any possible dog hair left on them. She then looked up at Mulder and smiled. He smiled back, a toothy grin really, and placed a hand on her lower back. Trisha and Gavin had already moved to the kitchen, so he figured they better do the same.

It smelled like garlic and tomato sauce. The room was filled with the mouth-watering aroma and Mulder couldn’t help but sniff the air.

"Homemade spaghetti," Trisha announced from behind a pot of rising steam. "The sauce is an old family recipe. I have a pasta maker, so these noodles are the real deal, guys." She then proceeded to dump the contents of the pot into the strainer over the sink.

"It smells delicious," Scully extolled.

Neither of them had really had the chance to eat all day, so to say that their stomachs were ready and eager for food would be an understatement.

"Go ahead and set-up in the den. Dinner should be ready in about five."

Mulder had the folders clutched to his side in one hand as the three of them made way to the den. A soft looking, brown couch welcomed their fatigued bodies. Setting the files on the coffee table in front of him, Mulder felt as though that was about as much ‘setting-up’ as they would need right now. Scully plopped down beside him, letting out a long breath. Gavin situated himself opposite of the pair in a green recliner.

Trisha lived in a descent sized condominium. It was bigger than most New York apartments and ten times cozier. Both Mulder couldn’t help but wonder how she afforded such accommodations on a detective’s salary. Then again, many wondered the same thing about Scully’s place and his clothes.

"Long day?" Gavin broke in.

"Very," Mulder replied succinctly.

"You sounded like you found out some pretty worthwhile things, though."

"Well," Scully began, "we found enough to at least head in a direction. Whether it be the right one, we’re not sure, but it’s hardly enough to really get us anywhere," she informed Gavin, honestly. "Mulder hasn’t even had a chance to come up with a theory yet," she added, smirking.

Mulder whipped his head around then nudged her shoulder playfully. "Give it some time, G-woman. We’ve only just begun."

At that moment, Trisha poked her head into the den. "Dinner’s ready!"

They sat down for a quiet meal, trying to avoid talking shop until it was officially time to. It was time for Mulder and Scully to learn a bit about The Badger’s partner.

She was 35, never married and came from a half Italian, half Greek background–-which explained the phenomenal cooking. At one point in time she had actually planned on being a chef, but at the last minute decided that law enforcement was her game. She was from the South–-a small town in Georgia–-and although she tried to avoid revealing so, she came from big money. She’d lived in Georgia up until she was eighteen before moving to New York. And there she’d stayed.

They all helped clear the table, washing their own dishes to make time go by faster and to lessen the load for Trisha.

"Whew, I’m stuffed," Mulder said, patting his stomach as he slouched down into the couch cushions.

"Isn’t she an amazing cook?" Gavin smiled

"Terrific," Scully replied, while Mulder simply nodded.

Deeogee had made a comfortable little spot on the couch and at this point was lying right beside Mulder. Mulder reached over and began to languidly caress the dog’s soft fur.

"Don’t get too comfortable, guys, we’ve got a case to tend to." Trisha carried in a tray of coffee with her reminder.

In an almost comical manner, Gavin and Mulder sighed heavily at the same time, causing their partners to chuckle.

"Suck it up, boys," Scully said, one corner of her mouth lifting into a half smile.

Mulder looked over at her, the ‘puppy dog’ look on his face. She cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow, not allowing him to get to her so easily. Mulder sighed again and looked over at Gavin.

"She’s tough," Gavin said, suppressing laughter.

"Tell me about it." A proud smile taking over Mulder’s face. Scully pushed some of her hair behind her ear and straightened her posture, casting her eyes away from Mulder to the folders in front of them.

Mulder sluggishly pulled himself from the couch to retrieve the files from the small table at his feet. Opening the top one, he pulled out what they had used to take notes.

He then proceeded, with Scully’s assistance, to go over everything they had found out that day; pointing out the possible connections. The only connections at this point.

The victims were very introverted for one reason or another, this much was true. However, small things also connected them. Not having paid much attention to it at first, Scully had noticed on the autopsy reports that the victims all had traces of caffeine recorded found in the blood samples. Not all that strange of a finding for most cases, but as usual, an X-File had its exceptions. Caffeine was the substance used in upper pills, such as No-Doz. Taking that into consideration, Mulder and Scully had kept an eye out for drugs consisting of this lone ingredient. Such pills had been found among each and every victim’s belongings and according to most of the loved ones, the victim’s had suffered from insomnia. Self-induced insomnia that, for the majority of them, had only started a week or so prior to their deaths.

Another connection, small but valid, was that each victim had lost a loved one in the last five years: A Parent, both parents, a sibling, other family, a lover or a dear friend.

Shawna Adams and Mary Howard had both been orphaned in the last few years. Amber Henson’s mother had lost her battle with cancer only six months before her own death. Laurie Bolden and Claudia Fitzgerald had each lost their fathers. Torrence Martinez had lost her brother in a car accident while Jennifer Wilkes’s brother had committed suicide. JoLene Valencia’s best friend had died in a skiing accident and Amanda Porter’s boyfriend of two years was shot during the hold up of a convenient store.

It took all of thirty minutes to dish out the information, followed with discussion. After some consideration, Trisha broke in with a question, her brow crinkled in confusion.

"What about Kristin Raucci?"

"What about her?" Mulder asked.

"Well, who did she lose?"

"Her husband. It wasn’t necessarily a permanent loss, since it was divorce, but I figure that could be almost as intense depending on the relationship and–"

Scully interrupted him before he could continue. "Actually, it wasn’t her husband, Mulder," she began. Mulder turned to look at her, urging her to continue with the question in his eyes. "Danny, her brother, pulled me aside while you were on the phone with Gavin. Remember?"

"Yeah, I remember stepping outside but I didn’t think anything happened while I was gone."

Mulder was a little confused on why Scully hadn’t mentioned any of this before, but he assumed maybe she was waiting until all four of them were together. Maybe it was something she didn’t want to have to repeat.

"Well, he told me why his sister’s marriage fell apart." She looked down at her hands and pursed her lips. She brushed one thumb over the other before taking a deep breath. She squared her shoulders and looked directly at Mulder when she spoke. "They’d lost a baby, Mulder."

The expression in her eyes weighed heavy on Mulder’s heart. It had only been a few months since the loss of Emily and though he knew Scully was doing her best to hide how it had affected her, he knew it was an act. A role Scully had perfected to fool those around her into thinking everything was okay. And everyone believed it. Everyone but Mulder.

"He didn’t go into much detail," she went on to say. "All he said was that the baby had come down with a 103 fever within two days. After a week in the hospital, she died." She shrugged with the last statement, as if it didn’t bother her in the least.

Mulder stared at her a moment and then they locked eyes. His eyebrows knitted together and he began to chew on his bottom lip. He wanted to say something to her. Something comforting, but it wasn’t the time or the place. Scully blinked and broke the trance.

"That poor woman," Trisha sounded.

"Yes," Scully replied simply. She cleared her throat and regained her composure. Mulder had yet to tear his eyes away from her.

He really didn’t want this case to bring back anymore memories than she was already trying to fight. But he knew that no matter how many haunting moments from her past ganged up on her, she would stand tall and strong and battle them until the end. She was Scully, after all.

Finally, he snapped himself out of it and tried to pick up where he had left off.

"Now all we have to do is find out why the victims were so intent on taking the caffeine pills," Scully added after a beat. "I think if we can find the link there then we will have something substantial to give us a starting point."

"Did you take anything to forensics?" Gavin asked, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, balling his hands together under his chin.

"Yes, actually," Mulder said. "I don’t think they really thought to take anything too personal, so we were able to obtain each victim’s purses or, at least, the belongings that had been inside them. You can find out a lot about a woman by the contents of her purse. Am I right, Scully?"

"I wouldn’t know, Mulder. A purse is dead weight when it comes to chasing down mutants. Or, for that matter, chasing down you," Scully quipped, one side of her lips pulling up into a half smile.

"Touché." He threw his hands up in defeat.

"I guess we better wait until we hear something before we do anything else," Gavin concluded, smiling at the banter and leaning back into his seat. "Thanks, you guys. You’ve really kicked this case off. I guess we were just asking the wrong questions."

"Forget about it, Badge," Mulder said with a shrug of his shoulders.

Trisha rose from her seat and began to collect the empty coffee mugs. "If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll do the other dishes while time still allows. I have a feeling that, with these two on board, we may be working pretty hard in no time." She winked at the two agents before turning towards the kitchen.

"She’s a little obsessive compulsive, you’ll have to excuse her incessant cleaning," Gavin whispered, jokingly.

"I heard that!" Trisha shouted from inside the kitchen. "And there is nothing wrong with a clean house."

They all shared a quiet laugh before Scully stood up. "I think I’ll give her a hand; give you two some time to catch up." Mulder nodded and she disappeared into the kitchen.

"You’ve got quite the partner there, Mulder."

"Well, you know, she keeps me on my toes. Doesn’t let me get away with much." Mulder smiled at Gavin. "You and Trisha seem to have quite the partnership, too, Badge."

"Eight years and you kind of have to. We’ve been through a lot with one another. Everything." Gavin finally took the time to loosen his tie and lounge in the chair. Mulder did the same.

"I hear you on that."

"Especially on the personal level."

There was a tone in Gavin’s voice that gave something away. Gavin cleared his throat and began to play with a piece of thread on the recliner. Mulder leaned forward, picking up on what his friend had just said in ‘guy code.’

"So, you two have, uh . . ." Mulder started, trailing off almost as if he had given the question a second thought, therefore stopping before he could finish.

Gavin did it for him.

"Slept together? Oh yeah. It’s not much of a secret around here, so you don’t need to worry about asking me about it. But, yeah. It was a while back. Two, three years into us working together, I think." Gavin chuckled humorlessly. "I can’t really remember."

Mulder was saddened by the last statement. Saddened by the idea that it had just been a fling between two such incredible people who seemed to work so well together.

"Did it change anything?" Mulder pressed on. "I mean, especially given that you never became romantically involved."

"Nah. Well, it was different. I’ll give you that. Awkward for while, but we got over it." Gavin shrugged then brought his hands up and folded them over his stomach.

"So, I’m guessing it never happened again."

Gavin laughed heartily, throwing his head back into the cushion. "Man, you really miss guy talk, don’t you?"

Mulder replied with a half grin and a side tilt of his head.

"Maybe three times. Usually after a grueling case. It happens, you know? You get caught up in what all happened and the next thing you know you can’t keep your hands off one another. I guess it is some kind reassurance for us. To know that despite what happened, we were still alive. Touching made it real and waking up with one another kind of, I don’t know, rest assured the fact that both of us were still there, safe and sound."

It kind of hit home for Mulder. Sex was never how he and Scully reassured that the other still existed, of course. However, they went deeper than that at times. Emotions would well up inside and they would spill their hearts out to one another. They would hug or kiss a forehead or caress a cheek. But never sex. Not Mulder and Scully.

Gavin noticed the change in Mulder’s expression and squinted his eyes as if trying to read it. Then it dawned on him.

"Wait a minute, Foxy, are you telling me that you and Dana haven’t . . . In six years you have *never* even . . . Wow. How? I mean, that’s an amazing amount of control on your part."

Mulder snorted a laugh and nodded his head in agreement. "Don’t I know it."

"This have anything to do with The Boa?" Gavin asked, half amused and half concerned.

Mulder wasn’t quite sure what he meant at first, but it sank in and he opened his mouth in a silent ‘ahhh.’

"The Boa, a.k.a Phoebe. Well, she did *squeeze* a lot out of the Casanova out of me. The proverbial knife in heart, if you will. I saw her a few years ago."

"Really now? That must have been interesting."

"I’m not sure if that is the word I would use," Mulder laughed out. A beat and Gavin prodded Mulder for the real reason.

"There’s more to it than that, isn’t there? With you and Dana."

"Yeah. There is. With us it would be more than just sex, you know? It would have to be. She’s all I have, Gavin. I can’t lose her to something so petty as *just* sex. Sex is easy. Romance . . . that’s a tough one."

Gavin whistled and shook his head, a knowing grin taking over his face. "Wow, man, you’ve got it bad." At this point, Gavin was laughing a full belly laugh, his body shaking. The sleeping Deeogee jumped at the loud sound, looking at Gavin with tired eyes.

"Shut up," Mulder said, monotone, trying to suppress the smile playing on his lips.

"No seriously, you’re in deep."

"Yeah, yeah." Mulder looked in the direction of the kitchen, shyly.

"Mulder, why don’t you just–" The chirping of a cell phone interrupted Gavin.

"It’s mine," Mulder said. He pulled the device from his pocket and answered,"Mulder."

Gavin leaned in trying to listen in on what was being said but Mulder only let out a few grunts before he thanked the caller and hung up.

"What is it?"

Mulder tucked his phone back in his pocket and started gathering the files and notes. "They think they found something."

XxX

9:42 PM

The four officers entered the Forensic Lab with haste, anxious to see what had been uncovered.

Trisha and Scully had been sitting at the kitchen table, laughing about something, when Gavin came in and told them the news. In just a few seconds, they were all out the door.

Gavin pushed open the double flap doors, Mulder followed him while Scully and Trisha trailed behind, side by side.

The room was filled with all kinds of equipment, some things Mulder and Scully recognized from the lab at the FBI. Three people sat at respective stations. One woman, with her chestnut hair pulled back into a pony-tail, looked at something through a microscope. A stout, balding man typed away at the computer keys in one corner, occasionally referencing an open manila folder. And at a metal table, surrounded by Dooney and Burke’s, satchels, wallets and Ziploc bags filled with random trinkets, stood Carl Plymouth–-the man who had called Mulder. He was tall, six foot five, and a muscular black man with a goatee. His hip rested against the table as he wrote something down on a clipboard.

"What do you got?" Gavin asked.

Carl looked up from his clipboard and set it aside. He took off his latex gloves and threw them in the waste basket before replying.

"Not sure." He shifted his attention to look at Mulder. "You might want to ask a psychic."

"Ha ha," Mulder said humorlessly, figuring the comment was a jab at his reputation. Carl tilted his head to the side, raising his eyebrows. He was serious.

"You’re kidding, right?" Mulder asked, now somewhat amused.

"I wish I were. It’s interesting what you miss when you’re not sure what to look for. Did you search all of these items before bringing them to us?"

"No," Mulder said. "There really wasn’t much time. We glanced over a few things then decided to leave it to you guys. Now what is this about asking a psychic?"

"Well, after looking through purses, wallets and the few items you collected we found something among each victim’s belongings. This," Carl handed Mulder a Ziploc bag, inside a blue card with silver print:

We Belong to the Stars

131 Forsyth St.

New York, New York

(212)555-2234

"It’s a psychic network," Carl informed the officers. "Some people call, but they have walk-ins on occasion, too. It’s not a lot, but it’s something."

Mulder handed the bag over to Scully to look at the card herself. She glanced at it briefly before allowing Trisha and Gavin to take a look.

"We’ll investigate it tomorrow," Gavin said. "It’s getting late and Mulder and Scully have been out all day." He looked at the agents to double-check and they both nodded in agreement. "We’ll head over there early in the morning, let’s say, around eight."

"All right. Are you going to need any of this?" Carl asked as he started to gather the items and put them in a plastic container.

"Nah, we’ll just take this card, that’s all. Thanks, Carl."

"No problem. It’s my job," he said, flashing a Crest white smile.

"Have a good night," Gavin said. They all waved before heading toward the double doors and made for the exit.

"What do you say we meet at the station at about 7:45 and we’ll head for Forsyth Street from there?" Gavin asked Mulder and Scully.

Mulder looked to Scully and they exchanged glances before Mulder nodded and said, "That’ll work."

"All right then. See you in the morning. You two have a good night."

"Goodnight, Dana. Goodnight, Mulder," Trisha said with a wave.

Mulder and Scully simply replied with a nod and a smile before turning to the car. Mulder got in on the driver’s side while Scully made herself comfortable in the passenger seat.

Driving down the street, the traffic having died down, Mulder snuck a glance at his partner. She was staring out the window, fatigue evident in her posture and eyes.

"You gonna make it up to your room or do I need to help you set up camp in the car?"

A half smile pulled at Scully’s lips and she turned to him. "I guess we’ll see when we get there," she replied lazily. After a beat she asked, "So, did you and Gavin catch up on old times?"

"More like new times."

"That’s good. I’m glad." Her words were beginning to slur and her eyes were slipping shut.

"Close your eyes, Scully. I’ll wake you when we get there."

The sound of the heater was the only response he got in return.