Title - Doom Child: When She Was Bad
Authors - Neoxphile and Raesharra
Rating - R for violence
Spoilers - seasons 8+9
Summary - picking up where the last story ended, a horrifying playground incident at Will and Evie's school leaves Mulder questioning his adopted daughter's humanity.
Author's notes: sequel to Doom Child: Nature vs Nurture (AKA "Doom Child")
Webpage: Find both Doom Child fics and covers here
The bright fluorescent lights of the hospital corridors reflected in the polished tile floors, amplifying the light, and doubling the luminosity. Nurses and orderlies bustled about, deftly moving patients through the congested hallways and quickly updating the next shift on the triumphs and tragedies that occurred in the hours before. At the end of a long wing, devoted to pediatric medicine, a group of plainly dressed, concerned looking adults gathered outside a room. They looked horribly out of place in the white world of the hospital, dressed in browns and blacks, like a murder of crows in a covey of doves.
Trying to escape notice, I sat some distance from the group gathered outside a closed door. It was largely my fault that the group was passing such concerned looks amongst themselves. After all, if it weren't for me, the little boy lying quietly behind the doors would be up and rambunctiously playing with his friends at school.
The woman at the center of the gathering turned tear-filled eyes to me, for the first time noticing my presence. When her eyes met mine, her long face underwent a transformation from worried (or possibly grieving) mother to an avenging demon. When she spoke I suddenly came to realize why certain women were called "shrews." The ferocity in the face and the voice of the middle-aged woman was astounding. Like a diminutive shrew, I could easily see this woman taking on men twice her size and winning through sheer determination and venom. I wished I could appreciate the invective spewing forth from her from a distance, rather than ground zero, but I really didn't have much choice in the matter.
"What in God's good earth are you doing here!?" the woman hissed. "You dare show yourself in this place, you dare come close to my son?!? What, hasn't your little misbegotten spawn of a demon and a murderer done enough? Has the festering pustule of moribund diarrhea you call a daughter come to apologize, or have you come to finish him off for her?"
I put my best "Prince Charming" face on, and attempted to soothe the woman. This was made all the more difficult because I was well and truly buzzed by the cough and cold medicine to make myself intelligible to most adults. I traded a clear head for clear sinuses. I was sick, tired, possibly overdosed on Sudafed and Benedryl, and emotionally overstressed. Still, I tried. "Mrs. Parks, I came to see what I could do to help you. I feel that it is my responsibility, since it was my daughter that caused this unfortunate situation. Please, what can I do to help you?"
The words were not what Mrs. Parks wanted to hear. "Unfortunate? Unfortunate? Unfortunate?!" Each repetition was slightly louder and more strident than the last. "Unfortunate will be your family's living conditions after my lawyers get through with you, Mr. Mulder! Unfortunate will be the least description of it." The woman smiled with sick pleasure. "And you want to help me, well isn't that sweet. If you really want to help me than tie up that little godforsaken excuse for a child and drown her, like she should have been at birth, so she will never hurt another innocent child like my baby. My poor baby...." The woman once again dissolved into tears, as quickly as she had become angry. She turned away from me and moved to the back of the group, her hitching shoulders showing that she still cried for the boy. An average looking man with deeply worn lines in his face turned to face me before following his sobbing wife.
"I'm sorry Mr. Mulder, I really don't think there is anything you can do here. I'm sure our lawyer will be contacting you shortly. Please refrain from coming near my family." His short statement was a dismissal and I took it as such.
Grateful to retreat, I left the troubled family in peace. I had to salvage something of this mess. I also had to look into private schools in the area, as the parental outcry from this event would certainly cause a great deal of problems.
Enrolling William in a private school might save him from some of the problems that would afflict him at the public school he currently attended, especially since a large number of the schools population hadn't seen his sister nearly kill the boy teasing him. Evie, well I wasn't sure what to do with her. I couldn't risk other children being hurt by her. Maybe Mrs. Parks' suggestion wasn't so bad after all...Scully would want to get rid of her now. Hell, she hadn't wanted the girl in the first place. She'd probably want to be rid of me too, now. This little playground incident was going to break up my marriage. Why had I ever brought that baby home?
I blinked and looked around, and my medication-induced dream shattered. It had to be a dream, since I'd never regret saving Evie's life when she was a helpless baby, would I? I looked around me to make sure none of that had been real. Yup, the imagined group of people were nowhere to be seen. The only ones there were me, my children, and two police officers. And, of course, the little boy in the ICU.
The machines that surrounded him probably beeped a lot, but I was too far away to hear. My only view of the boy was through the window of his ICU room. Hunter Parks, pale skin, damp sandy blond hair, stiller than any eight-year-old had the right to be. Bigger than my son, but still pitiably small. I know what you're asking yourself, was the boy part of a case? If only he were, then I might have felt less culpability as I stared through the glass. The guilt was crushing.
I knew I shouldn't be there, but I had insisted that I be allowed to see with my own eyes. It's not as though staring at that frail little boy was what I wanted to be doing just then - I wanted to gather my little daughter in my arms, untangle her brown curls and dry her big blue eyes while I assured her that everything was going to be okay, but I couldn't. At least they'd allowed William to accompany us, rather than leave him alone and bewildered at school, and he, at least, tried to stop his little sister's tears. I could hear him talking to her behind me.
Tearing my eyes away from Hunter, I turned to look at Evie. She still looked like my baby girl, the child I'd adopted six years before, but now I knew. This little creature was capable of the violence they'd created her for - any doubt of that was erased by Hunter Parks' condition. Evie had done this. But why?
A hand tapped me on the shoulder, making me turn. The police officer didn't look friendly. "Satisfied?" I nodded silently; I'd seen. It was real. "It's time to go to the station to talk then."
I thought I'd bring the kids out to the car and drive them to the police station for the next thing we had to endure. But before I could go and pick Evie up another officer reached her with quick strides and took her small hand in his own. That made me feel both nervous and a little indigent, but I didn't say anything because their Dad creating a scene was the exact opposite of what my children needed right then. Instead I picked William up, and for once my independent little boy didn't protest he was too big. He put his head on my shoulder like he had as a sleepy toddler, so I knew that the day's events had worn him out too.
I wasn't surprised that he was tired, because I knew without him telling me that he felt responsible for what had happened because his sister had been defending him from Hunter-the-bully; strange to think such a small child was capable of causing terror. Will was wrong about his role in this mess, though, the fault was mine. "It's not your fault," I whispered in his ear. He just shook his head.
The officers walked out to the cruiser and opened the door before helping Evie in. I protested when they swung the door closed.
"Please, is that really necessary? She's only six." I kept my voice calm for William's sake, but I'm sure my eyes flashed a fire he couldn't see.
"She's dangerous," one officer said flatly. "You'll follow us in your car."
There didn't seem to be any point in arguing, so I just walked William to our car. After buckling his seat belt, William spoke for the first time since trying to comfort his sister.
"Is Hunter gonna die?"
I shook my head, willing my next words to be true. "I don't think so. He's got a couple of broken bones, and they had to operate to fix some bleeding on his insides, but people don't always die of things like that." For a moment I thought about relating the child's injuries to my own brushes with danger, but I decided that if I were seven, I'd find the confession more scary than reassuring.
"Good. Hunter's a jerk, but I don't want him to die," William said vehemently. "Dad, is Evie going to go to jail?"
"They don't put first-graders in jail, Will."
"So what's gonna happen?"
I owed him the truth. "I don't know."
Reaching into my jacket, I pulled out my cell phone and handed it to Will; I didn't want to tempt fate into making the day worse by attempting to multi-task. "Will, call Mom. Push the first button to dial her."
"What do I say?" William asked nervously.
"Tell her that we need her to leave work and meet us at the police station."
Without taking my eyes off the road I listened to William talk to his mother, and the conversation apparently touched on why we needed her, because I heard him say that Evie had gotten into trouble at school. It was all I could do to repress a hysterical laugh; "gotten into trouble at school" was the understatement of the century.
After a few uh-huhs and yes-moms, he hung up the phone and put it on the seat next to him. "She said she'll be there in half an hour."
They wouldn't let William into the interrogation room with us, but a female officer promised to keep an eye on him until Scully got there. Which was another thing, they wouldn't wait for her either. Both of these things annoyed me, but I was still trying not to make a scene.
Without asking, I scooped Evie up and put her on my lap when I sat in the chair. They didn't say anything, so I guessed that it didn't bother them - not that I intended to put her down in any case. She sighed and leaned into me, obviously tired. It made me wonder how hard this was going to be on her.
Shifting her a little, I leaned forward to speak to the officer sitting across from us. "So what are we talking about, here? Criminal charges or something else?"
"We want to figure out why this happened before we discuss legal consequences."
I shook my head. "I want to know what the bottom line is. Do I need to get my daughter a lawyer or not?"
"That might be wise," the officer admitted. Just at that moment, Scully strode into the room. I don't think I've ever been happier to see her in my life. Especially when I saw who she brought with her.
Apparently Scully had not only called the school to find out more about what happened, but after finding out the details, showed up with a lawyer in tow. Scully looked worried, and slightly angry. Oddly though, I got the impression it was the "Mother Defending Her Young" anger rather than the expected "Super Solider (nearly) Killed Someone" anger. Could the bond between Scully and Evie gotten so strong over the past few years? I still remember Scully's violent reaction to seeing Evie, and here she was now, preparing to do her damndest to defend the baby she had hated. Scully greeted the officers in the room politely, but coolly. It reminded me of the way she examined evidence when we were on a case together. She did, however, shoot Evie and me a loving, if tense smile. She ushered in the lawyer.
Although very young, at least in my opinion, Eric Fuller, was poised and all business. He had no sooner put his briefcase on the table before turning to officer waiting in the interrogation room with us, and said, "All right, we all know that this isn't going to lead to jail time because Miss Mulder is only six. Juvenile court, then, and I know the courts are inclined to listen to police recommendations... so what exactly are you planning to recommend, Officer...?"
The stony faced officer didn't even blink. "Banks. If we feel that the situation warrants criminal charges, we'll recommend a two week evaluation at Fairchild hospital. Things after that would largely depend on the evaluation."
Fairchild hospital. I repressed a shudder. There was no way in hell I wanted my little girl stuck amongst the crazies who screeched and drooled on themselves. I'd been in a mental hospital a time or two myself, and it was no place for a small child. I looked down at her curly brown head, though, and wondered. Was this child insane? Would I be doing her a disservice if I polished the truth to put her in a good light? Maybe I would be keeping her from getting help...or maybe she didn't need it.
My stomach in knots, I wished that I had a bottle of antacids to chew on. To put the icing on the cake, the antihistamines were just starting to wear off, and my head was fuzzing out again.
If the lawyer noticed my sudden angst, he didn't show it. Instead he merely nodded to the officer. "Thank you for your honestly. You can begin to ask questions now."
One small movement with his finger, and Officer Banks had started the tape recorder that had been staring at us on the table. To my surprise, the first question was directed at me, not at Evie. "Mister Mulder, have you ever known Evangeline to commit a violent act before?"
I took a moment to gather my thoughts...
Wolf Duster looked at the grass waving to him in the field. He noticed that there were patches in the grass that did not wave like the rest. Wolf decided to go out to the odd patches and investigate them. He was sure the aliens that took his favorite stuffed dog when he was a baby were somehow involved. He crept closer to the mysterious patches on that grassy knoll. Just as he was about to reach the first one, he heard-
A small, slightly damp, child launched herself from across the room and attached herself firmly to me. I gave a small ''Oomph'' as I picked up the little girl and sat her down in my lap.
"Daddy, Mommy brought me to the pool and we went swimming and I saw Jody there and William fell inna pool and Mommy jumped in after him and he doesn't swim too good and Mommy looks all funny now and..."
The little girl in my lap seemed to not need air to communicate, and she was aiming for the title of world's faster speaker. I was still parsing out the first half of the sentence when the phrase "William fell inna pool" finally caused me to raise my eyebrows and gesture with my hands to slow down and back up.
"Wha.. wha.. what? Why did William fall in the pool? He's a tadpole and you're a guppy. You don't have classes together, least I didn't think so. And isn't today your class day?" I ducked my head down to meet my daughter's eyes.
"Ummm... Well... kinda..." Evie refused to meet my eyes, and stuck a finger in the corner of her mouth while she squirmed. Deliverance, (or maybe not), from the question was served up by a disheveled red headed woman, looking somewhat like my wife. She breezed into the room rather like a hurricane breezes through Bermuda.
Scully looked like what the proverbial cat dragged in after a night out on the town. Her normal black suit was damp, clinging to her legs, and ... other portions of her anatomy. I appreciated the view. Her suit coat was prudently buttoned closed, but the formerly white, and now transparent, shirt beneath left my imagination a lot of room to work with. Her hair, sadly did not survive the impromptu swim party well, and had given her a rather Einsteinesque look. However, I rapidly reined in my critique of her new look when I heard what Scully had to say.
"Mulder, your daughter knocked William into the pool. Not only into the pool, into the deep end of the pool! I had to go in after him since the life guard was on the other end of the pool with people in the baby swim class!"
"She what?" I turned to my daughter, now sitting still in my lap, with concern and anger warring for dominance in my mind. I held her firmly in my lap, but wasn't about to let her eel her way off of it. I looked at Evie, who was hunched down, was looking shamefacedly down at her knotting hands, a picture of misery. "You knocked William into the pool?! How could you, Evie? You know he doesn't swim as well as you! Why did you do that?"
Although I didn't yell or shout the words, the effect was immediate on Evie.
"I'm sorry Daddy, I'm sorry! I didn't mean too!" The softly spoken words were barely audible. Evie huddled down even lower, though she wasn't crying. "I was just so happy to see Jody, and I was runnin' 'round the pool to say 'Hi' and Will was in the way and I just kinda moved him out of the way. I didn' think he'd be in trouble, since he's a tadpole and he knows how to float real good, an' then Mommy came running by and jumped in, an she got real mad, and said I couldn't have Jody over this weekend like she promised me a month ago."
I was shaken by this account of the events, so blithely described in the beginning of the conversation with a simple "Will fell inna pool." I didn't know what to think about Evie's rather cavalier attitude towards what amounted to pushing her brother into the pool in an effort to get to her current best friend, Jody Nesmith. I was grateful that her long hair hung down over her eyes, so she couldn't see the shock I was sure was showing on my face.
In a stern voice that did not match the confusion I felt, I told her "Your mother is absolutely right, Jody will not be allowed over this weekend, nor will she be allowed over any weekend this month, young lady. Haven't you been told not to run near the pool? And even though Will is a tadpole and can float good, er well, doesn't mean you can go pushing him into the pool. What if he had hit his head, Evie? He could have drowned. You could have killed him." I gently took hold of Evie's shoulders, and noted that she was so small the tips of my index fingers were separated from each other by only an inch or two at her spine. I pulled her over my lap before I lost my nerve. "You never," Spank "ever," Spank "ever!" Spank "endanger your brother like that again!"
I pulled her up and looked into my daughter's seemingly guileless blue eyes. "Right now you're bigger and stronger than he is, so you have to protect him, and look out for him. When he's bigger and stronger than you, he'll do the same for you. You don't want him pushing you into a pool just so he can see his friends, do you?"
"No Daddy. I'll be good and protect Will while he's smaller than me, I promise." A much subdued Evie slipped down off of my lap, and stood staring at her shoes. She pointedly avoided looking at either Scully or me, or even William, who had quietly crept in behind Scully.
"You can go to your room and think about what you've done, and decide what you think your punishment should be. You can come out for dinner and tell Mommy and me what you think you should do to make it right." I put on my Stern Parent Face ™ to enforce the words.
Evie nodded slowly, and walked slowly out of the room. After a brief moment, I heard the soft thud of her footsteps going up the stairs.
After Evie departed the room, I turned to William. "Are you OK, Will?"
William ducked his head shyly, and nodded. I could tell he was disconcerted at his father's unusually harsh words to his sister. Truth be told, he probably didn't mind going in to the pool, and probably thought it was rather funny to watch Scully dive in after him. "Yes, Daddy, I'm OK."
"That's good, Will. Why don't you go upstairs and change out of your wet clothes? I'll challenge you to a match in Slowmon Area when you get back down. I'm sure my Peekaboo can beat your Orynx this time around." I smiled as I saw my son's face light up in anticipation of the coming match. Will galloped off at top speed, nearly effecting his own death as he tripped over the rug, and sprawled across the linoleum of the foyer. Before either Scully or I could move to assist, he picked himself up off the floor and pelted up the stairs to his room.
"Evie doesn't need to try to kill him, Mulder. He'll do himself in if he keeps running around like that." Scully's eyes softened at her son's antics. "Did you pull anything out for dinner?"
Distracted, I shook my head. "No, I didn't even realize what time it was until Evie came running in here. If you want, I can order take-out."
"Mulder, we've had global gourmet in the last week, take-out Italian, take-out Chinese, take-out Thai, take-out Mexican. I'd rather have stay-in American. There should be some chicken around here. I'll go thaw it out and you can go grill it. Well, after Orynx beats your Peakaboo again." Scully smiled wryly, know how loud and passionate the Slowmon Arena matches between the two men in her life got.
"Sounds good to me. I'll be there in about an hour to cook them. I figure if I do best two out of three I might have a chance this time."
Scully laughed, then squelched out of the room, courtesy of her still footwear to go find the elusive chicken. I walked across the room and began setting up the GameCylinder for the incipient tournament, but I still heard the echoes of daughter's words in my mind.
I stared at the lengthening shadows of the room from our bed, darkness stealing in to take the light, abducting the day and turning it into history. Omar Khayyam had it right. The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Today my daughter tried to kill my son. Today I had to consider that she is not, nor will she ever be, human. Her genes were designed for her to be a monster. A precious child as an outer packaging, the interior concealing a dark and murderous heart. I didn't want to believe it. She had decided her own punishment should be no ice cream, no park, and no Saturday morning cartoons on top of no Jody Nesmith visits for a month. I couldn't decide if she felt she was getting off lightly or not. She was so calm as she told Scully and I what she thought her punishment should be. I couldn't help but thinking that it was unnatural. She was subdued, but I could see she was angry with us. She obviously felt that there really wasn't anything wrong with what she did. She didn't seem repentant in the least. It was like she didn't even know what the consequences of her actions could have been.
Scully wandered into the room from the bathroom, where she had been engaging in the mysterious female night rituals before bed. It must have been obvious what I was thinking about. "Mulder, I know I got mad too, but it was an accident. I don't think she really thought about it. She saw Jody, and wanted to be with her. Will was just an unfortunate victim. And fortunately, all he got was wet."
"You won't say that if she kills him, Scully," I said heavily. "You called that child a monster when you first saw her and now I'm thinking you might have been right."
"Mulder, when have you ever seen her do something that deliberately harmed Will? Believe me, I watched the two of them closely when they were babies. She never once offered deliberate harm to Will, or anything else. The one time I saw her hurt him, they were roughhousing, and she was immediately contrite. She's strong, Mulder, very strong. She doesn't know that other children are not as strong as she is."
"She pushed him in, Scully! You were there! You can't tell me that she was acting normally when she came downstairs to discuss her punishment. She didn't think she did anything wrong but run around the pool! She didn't care that she knocked Will in!"
"Yes, Mulder, I was there. You weren't. I saw her knock him in. It wasn't deliberate, any more than it was deliberate when I stepped on my mother's cat when he ran under my feet. Look at it from her perspective. He was in her way, she probably couldn't stop, and the pool ledge was too narrow to allow her to go around. She knows he takes swimming lessons, so she knows he knows how to swim. Last week they were pushing the kids into the pool so that they could practice reacting if they weren't prepared to go. She doesn't know that Will didn't get that practice. She probably didn't think there was any harm, if she stopped to think at all."
"She said that he didn't swim well," I reminded her. "Evie told me he didn't swim well. She thought about it. She knew she'd knocked him into the pool. And she came up to me like nothing was wrong."
"She also said that he did float well. She's had a while to think about it Mulder. It's a twenty-minute ride from the Y. I also spoke to her about it while we were there, and so did the lifeguard on duty. She probably thought that that was going to be the extent of the actions taken. How often do we punish our kids when they've figured out what they did wrong? Be honest, Mulder. Would you be this upset about it if she knocked him down in the backyard? No, she got punished because she did it near water, where the consequences of her actions are greater."
I sighed, thinking about Scully's argument. It is true that we wouldn't have had such a long and depriving punishment if she had simply knocked Will over outside. But still, Evie had thought about it, and still did it anyway according to what she told me. How much of what she told me was a rehash of what Scully and the lifeguard said? How much was forethought? How much was malice? I shuddered at that thought. Could she be thinking, even now, of ways to get revenge on Will for what she saw as unjust punishment? What if, by our actions, we just caused her to focus her aggression and activated whatever programming her creators may have instilled in her?
"I'm worried about this, Scully. What if she goes after Will because of this? Maybe we should look into separating them for a while. We could send them to different schools or something."
Annoyance flickered across Scully's face, as she turned to me in the gloom. "Mulder, I think perhaps you're looking at this too deeply. She isn't some sadist you have to profile for the Bureau. She's a child. A little girl. This was an accident. She wasn't trying to hurt him, and she won't try to hurt him in the future. Let it go, Mulder, and go to sleep. I certainly am."
With those words, Scully got into bed, rolled over and turned away from me to face the wall. I was left alone in the cage of my thoughts for the rest of the night, wishing there were some way I could still believe that Evie was a normal little girl who loved her brother and would never harm him.
The next morning I decided that I'd over-reacted. The look Scully gave me while I was getting dressed suggested that she thought the same thing, so I wasn't surprised when the first words out of her mouth were, "So I guess you've changed your mind about corporal punishment."
Wincing a little, I finished putting on my pants. "Look, I feel bad about how I reacted. I probably shouldn't have spanked her. But on the plus side, I think she's going to be a little less cavalier around her brother in the future."
She was frowning at me. "You realize that's classic justification for beating one's kids, right?"
"Jesus Scully! Three swats on the butt is hardly child abuse," I protested.
"It's a start," she said grimly.
"How did it start with your father, Mulder? Just a few swats, or did he use the belt right off the bat?"
"What the hell are you talking about? My father wasn't abusive," I said stoutly. Okay, he gave me a beating the night that Samantha disappeared, but beyond that he never laid a hand on me. Hell, he barely looked at me. "I get the distinct impression that you're about to suggest that child abuse is self-perpetuating, and that abused kids grow up to become abusers."
She shrugged. "It happens."
I held my hands up in surrender. "I give. I swear on my mother's grave that from this day forward I will never resort to spanking either of our kids, no matter how appropriate that is to the situation."
"Good. Now, are you still convinced that yesterday's accident-" she stressed that last word, like I needed attention drawn to it. "-was an attempted murder?"
Sighing, I sat on the bed and began pulling on my loafers. "It was probably an accident. But she should know better-"
"Mulder, she's six. Kids that age don't know better yet, that's why they do things that are dangerous or foolhardy on a regular basis. William does the same sorts of things, you realize, he just hasn't managed to knock anyone into a pool yet." I thought that was a significant distinction, but she was on a roll, so I didn't think I could interrupt her and be heard. "You make a big deal of the fact that she's bigger than William, but two inches and ten pounds aren't a big enough difference to register with a little kid. I'm not even sure that William realizes that she's bigger than he is. At least, he might not have before you screamed at Evie yesterday."
"But she is stronger than he is. A lot stronger," I mumbled once she paused for breath.
"Then it's a good thing that they get along so well, then, isn't it?" she said evenly, then marched out of the room. I merely rolled my eyes.
I was about to leave the room when a small face appeared in the doorway. William looked rather sheepish, and dragged his foot behind him on the carpet. Something was definitely up.
"Do you want to talk about something, Will?"
I expected him to bound into the room and climb on the bed, but he came in and closed the door behind him. "I need to tell you something, Daddy," he said in a voice barely above a whisper.
"The pool yesterday..." he trailed off, staring at his feet. Then he lifted his eyes to look at my face. "Um...it wasn't Evie's fault I fell in."
"Will, it's nice of you to stick up for your sister, but lying about-"
He shook his head, making his red hair bounce. I needed to get him in for a haircut. "I'm not lying." William gave me a guilty look. "What happen was I was looking in the water, just wondering what it would be like to be in the deep end. Then Evie ran by, calling to her friend. She did bump into me, but just a little. Dad, I didn't fall in."
I gave him a puzzled stare. "Come on, I know you fell in. Your mom had to save you."
"I didn't fall in. I kinda jumped in." His face blazed as red as his hair.
"I'm sorry! When Evie bumped me, I thought it'd be a good time to jump in and see what happened. Then I figured out that I don't swim too good, and I got scared until Mom got me. When she thought I fell in 'cause Evie bumped me, I didn't want to get yelled at, so I let her think it was true. I didn't know Evie was going to get in trouble, or I wouldn't've done it," William said in a rush nearly equal to my daughter's top verbal speed.
Groaning, I covered my face with my hands. My kids were going to force me entirely around the bend, and I'd be committed again. Neither one of them seemed to have any idea how dangerous what had happened had been. How old were kids before they realized they were mortal? A new set of books on childhood development was definitely something I was going to order soon.
"Daddy?" My hands weren't over my ears, so his voice was loud and clear. "Am I gonna get a spanking too?"
I dropped my hands away from my face. "No, Will, you're not going to get a spanking, even though you deserve one more than you have your whole life." He cringed guiltily. "Instead, your punishment is going to be to do Evie's chores for the rest of the month."
"The month!? It's only the second of July!" William squawked.
I put a hand on his shoulder and steered him out of the room. "And you're going to apologize to your sister right now. Will! We thought she hurt you on purpose!" At least I did, anyway. William wasn't the only one filled with guilt.
Scully looked up from pouring milk on the kids' cereal. "What's up, Mulder?" she asked when she saw our son's red face. "Tell her." I prompted.
He took a deep shuddery breath. "Evie didn't knock me in. I jumped after she barely bumped into me." William turned his gaze to his sister. "I'm sorry you got into trouble."
"Are you still mad at me, Daddy?" Evie asked wide-eyed.
"No, Baby. You didn't do anything wrong."
"Okay," she said happily. "I forgive you, Will." Then she turned her attention to her cereal.
Scully, on the other hand, required a full retelling of William's story. I grabbed some cereal too, and gave Evie a sidelong glance. She didn't seem at all upset that her brother's lie had earned her a spanking. I wished I could be so forgiving, because right then I was hating myself for so quickly deciding that she could be bad.
What happened to the Mulder that had so eloquently explained to Scully that nurturing would make all the difference in this child's life, no matter what her nature? I missed that guy. I wanted to become acquainted with him again.
"Mister Mulder, have you ever known Evangeline to commit a violent act before?"
Blinking, I glanced at Officer Banks as he repeated his question. Evie stared up at me, looking like she trusted me completely. "No," I said firmly. "She's never violent."
"Never?" Banks looked skeptical.
"To my knowledge, before this incident, she's never laid a hand on another person," I replied.
Officer Banks decided to change tactics. "You have another child, yes? A little boy?"
The question annoyed me. Of course the officer knew that, given that consensus was that Evie had been defending her brother from a bully. "William."
"She was defending him when this incident took place, is that right?"
"I didn't witness the incident, but that's what I've been told."
Just then Evie piped up, startling me. "Hunter was gonna get Will hurt."
I closed my eyes, wishing she hadn't spoken. Now Banks was going to ask her questions directly too.
Except he didn't. "Do your children get along well?" he asked me instead.
"Better than most siblings I've ever known," I answered truthfully.
When they'd both been babies, William had broken the ice between Scully and Evie with his simple acceptance of his younger sister. And Evie had adored him ever since she was old enough to walk.
"No fighting?" Banks probed.
"Like I said, Evie never hit anyone before now. And my son knows enough not to hit girls as well."
"I didn't say hit. I want to know if they ever fight at all."
Well, I thought, there was that one time right before summer was over when they argued about their treehouse...
It was a hot, hazy, humid, miserable summer day. Not even the lemonade that Scully had prepared was staving off the incipient heatstroke that I could feel beginning. To William and Evie, of course, that meant run around as fast as possible and generally act like monkeys. I was honestly surprised they hadn't succumbed to heat exhaustion. Watching them was certainly making me exhausted. I wished Scully was here to take a shift, but she was away on an investigation for the remainder of the week, leaving me alone with the terrible twosome.
I unglued myself from the plastic chair I was melted into, and decided to call the kids to order before a trip to the hospital for dehydration was required. "Will, Evie! It's time to come inside now, it's too hot to stay out much longer!"
The kids stopped running around in circles, and ran like guided missiles to me. For a moment I was proud that I had elicited such a prompt response to my command to come in. Then they spoke.
"But Daddy...." Evie looked at me with her big eyes, and I was determined to stay strong throughout the remainder of the whine or request.
"It's so nice out, please, can we just play outside a little longer? I promise, we'll be good!"
I was staying strong, until Will got into the act. "Yeah Daddy, Puh-leeeze?" Have you ever had two sets of puppy dog eyes turned on you? It's somehow 4 times as effective. Still, although my resolve was crumbling, I was determined to be obeyed.
"If you guys keep running around out here you're going to make yourself sick. Then Mommy's going to yell at all of us, but especially me." I had no problem throwing Scully to the wolf cubs before me.
"What if we play in the treehouse, Daddy? Then we won't be running and then Mommy won't yell at us?" Evie's simple logic cut through my reasoning. She turned up the wattage on the puppy dog eyes.
I was undone. Completely. My kids could, did, and still do walk all over me. I figured, what harm could there be? It's not like they could run around in the treehouse, and they would be out of trouble for the time being. Then maybe I could get some work done and finish the next Wolf Duster book that my publisher was chewing my ears off about.
"If I let you play in the treehouse, do you promise not to leave it?"
A practiced duet of "Yes, Daddy!" reached my ears, and I nodded, please at least that I got my children to agree to something I wanted.
"I'll bring out you something to drink. Try not to kill yourselves while I'm gone." My children looked at me solemnly, then nodded. I busied myself in the kitchen, trying to find their drink pouches and failing miserably. Finally, I grabbed the Gatorade-clone juice from the fridge and poured it into some travel mugs. The clock blinked 1:30 at me as I passed. I walked out to the backyard, and attempted to climb the 8-foot ladder to the trapdoor entrance.
Evie, nimble as a squirrel, stuck her head down the trapdoor. Rather than break my neck going up the rope ladder carrying two travel mugs, I handed them up to her. Sternly instructing her that she and her brother needed to drink the juice, I left them to their own devices and went back to pound the keyboard and give Wolf something constructive to do in his search for the evil aliens.
It was the scream that woke me out of my writing trance. It was a horrifying sound. At first I thought it was the cat fighting with the neighbor's toy dog again. Then I heard the distinct sound of my children crying. I don't remember running to the door, I don't remember going through the screen door, but I do remember seeing Will writhing in pain on the lawn, his face red with his lips an unnerving white. Evie was looking down out of the trapdoor, and her face was bone white, like a fine, porcelain doll. A loud, fine, porcelain doll. She was screaming "DADDY!" with all the force her body could muster.
I skidded to a halt next to Will, my shoes slipping on the wet grass. In the back corner of my mind, I realized it must have been after 5pm, since the only reason the grass would have been wet today was if the lawn sprinklers had gone off. The grass painted my knees green.
"Easy, Will, let me see." I cradled Will gently in my lap, and held him close to me. I could see that he was favoring his left arm, which seemed to bend in the middle. Maybe I don't have Scully's medical degree, but even I could tell that wasn't right. The scream in my ear confirmed that it was the major source of the boy's pain after I gently touched it.
"Evie! Get out of the treehouse this instant. We have to take your brother to the hospital right now!"
Evie lightly jumped down out of the trapdoor as I picked up Will and ran him over to the car. Evie beat us there and opened the minivan door so that I could put Will in his booster seat. She waited for me to get out of the doorway, then climbed into her own seat and installed herself. I ran to the driver's side door and realized I didn't have any keys. I growled at my kids not to move.
I ran back into the house. I grabbed the key off the key hook, then pulled a 180 as I realized my wallet was on the table. I sprinted to it, stuffed it into my short's pocket, and raced back out the door. It slammed shut then bounced back open. I was already in the car and backing out the driveway when I saw it. I promptly ignored it and put the 'van in drive.
It was the most harrowing drive I've ever undertaken. I can remember high-speed chases in the Bureau that were less nerve-wracking. The minivan weaved and tilted around traffic. Once, going around a corner, I thought I'd tip it over, but the wheels landed with a heavy thump. Evie was white-knuckled, grabbing on to the armrest, and was soundless. Will was crying, hiccupping occasionally.
I screeched up to the emergency entrance of the local hospital, and was yelled at by a guard. I didn't hear what he said, lost in the echoes of the tires, that had sounded like my son's scream. I yelled in response, "My son's arm is broken!", then leapt out of the door. I threw open the side door, and unbuckled Will from the seat. Evie unbuckled herself, and hopped out the door. She remembered to close it. I ran through the hospital door.
She caught up with us a moment later, as I was arguing with one of the nurses, who were examining Will. I didn't want to hear that my son was low on the triage list. Didn't they understand he was hurting? Finally the nurse gave me a clipboard with what seemed to be an inch of paperwork on it, a pen, and some very heavy duty Tylenol which was summarily given to my son. With a disapproving glare, she directed us to the waiting room to the right (for non-life threatening injuries).
We found some chairs, welded together, and sat down in them. Will sat, leaning up against me with his eyes at half-mast, his arm clutched to his chest like it was his teddy bear. On my other side, Evie was watching me fill out the insurance paperwork. These forms were horrible, long, and confusing. I'd never had to fill them out before. It was easier to fill out the form for shooting a suspect than this paragon of bureaucracy. Why weren't they coming to treat my son? How long was he going to suffer?
"Daddy, you wrote the wrong number." Evie pointed to where I had transposed the digits of the street address.
I fixed the error, and proceeded to fill out the next two pages. Still no doctor. Still no nurse. Still no help for Will.
After what seemed like hours, my patience ran out. I threw the clipboard across the room, told my kids to stay put, and stormed back into the reception area, demanding to know why my child had not yet been seen.
The hatchet-faced woman that I mentally dubbed Nurse Ratchet got up from behind the desk.
"Sir, your child will be seen as soon as we can. But your child isn't the only one here that needs medical attention. Several other people have come in today, and most of them are much worse off than your son. Be happy, he's only got a broken arm. We can fix that. See her?" The nurse pointed to a woman with a shell-shocked expression. "The guy she was with just got shot five times by a gang. Him, we may not be able to fix. You aren't doing anyone any good yelling your head off here, and you're disturbing the other people and preventing us from doing our work. Let us do our jobs, sir. Kindly sit yourself down in the waiting room. You'll be seen when we can spare him the time. If you persist in this behavior, we'll have to have the guards escort you out."
She leaned against the desk, and I realized I wasn't going to get around her, no matter how hard I tried. If we got thrown out, then who would treat Will. I sighed, and went back to the waiting room. As I left the lobby, I paused to look at the clock. We'd been in the waiting room for about 15 minutes.
It was another 3 hours until someone could finally look at Will. Doctor Reins pronounced the arm was broken, but that it was a simple fracture. Will was going to have to wear a cast for a while, and then he'd be back to normal. The doctor took Will somewhere within the labyrinthine depths of the hospital to put on the cast, and Evie and I went back out to the waiting room where Will would be delivered once his arm was firmly encased in plaster.
I was calmer now, and as Evie sat down beside me, I decided to find out exactly what had gone on back at the house.
"Evie, what happened today, how did Will get hurt?"
Evie leaned against me, and I could see she was tired. "Will wanned to go in the house; said he had to use the bafroom. I told him he couldn' go. He tole me he could. I sat on the door so he couldn' leave, and Will tried to go out the win'ow. I told him not to, but he did anyway. I grabbed his arm to make him stay, an' he pushed me, an' then he fell."
Dumbfounded, I was about to ask my daughter why wouldn't she let Will leave the treehouse, when my butt started to vibrate. Startled, I jumped and grabbed the phone out of my back pocket. It was Scully.
"Where are you, Mulder? Are you Ok? Where are the kids?" Scully's questions were fired off like rounds from a M16.
"We're Ok, Scully. The kids and I are at the hospital. Will's arm is broken."
"Mulder, what happened?! I just came home and the front door's wide open, the screen door is broken, and you and the kids are gone!"
"I thought you weren't coming home until the end of the week?" I asked, dodging the questions I was still working to find answers to.
"Mulder, the case got reassigned to the locals. Now stop avoiding my questions and tell me what happened!"
"Will apparently fell out of the treehouse after Evie wouldn't let him leave it."
"What?! Weren't you there watching them? Why wouldn't Evie let him leave?"
"I was working on the book, Scully, and I didn't think they'd be in any trouble in the treehouse. I don't know why Evie wouldn't let him leave. I was trying... hold on, I'll call you back in a minute.... The doctor is coming back with Will."
Doctor Reins delivered my son up into my care with careful admonishments on not getting the cast wet. There was a list of instructions that the doctor handed me, and a prescription to fill for pain relievers, and another one for anti-inflammatory medication. Will was staring at his cast. It ran from his hand to his elbow, and had been covered with some sort of neon green wrapping that hurt my eyes to look at it. I tried to convince myself that it was the color that was making my eyes sting, not that I'd failed my son, not that my daughter forced him to jump out a window to escape her.
Evie and I walked out to the lobby, and Will just trudged along quietly behind us. The three of us stopped on the sidewalk, bewildered, as our minivan was nowhere to be seen. Evie and I walked back into the hospital, and will still just trudged along behind us. I asked the head nurse on duty (no longer Nurse Ratchet) where the minivan might have gone off to.
"Well, that is a no parking area, so I suspect that it was towed away. We need the area kept clear for the emergency cases brought in. I suggest you contact JD's Garage in the morning. They're the one's that typically take away the vehicles. They'll open at 9 am tomorrow."
I thanked the woman for the information and mentally kicked my own ass. I should have listened to the guard instead of acting like the sky was falling earlier. I looked up at the clock, and it was past 9pm. With a heavy heart, I dialed Scully.
"Scully, can you come give us a ride home?"
When we got home, Will was given some toast and then put into bed. Evie was sent straight to bed without dinner. Scully looked tired, worried and angry. I felt like I'd been though a blender on frappe. We decided that our family would discuss the incident in the morning.
I was too tired to sleep, so I went into the den. The monitor was on, and fish were swimming serenely across the screen. I wished I was as calm as the digital creations. What the hell happened today? Why had Evie trapped Will in the treehouse. Why wouldn't she let him go to the bathroom?
I kept pacing around the room, stopping by the window that had a view out to the treehouse. I was angry at myself for ignoring the kids for that long, and angry at Evie for stopping Will from leaving the treehouse by conventional means. He wouldn't have been hurt if she hadn't been being stubborn about not letting him leave. Because of her, we now had what was probably several hundred, if not thousand dollar medical bills to pay, Will was going to be in pain for who knows how long, and .... I stopped that train of thought. I tried to tell myself that it couldn't have been as bad as she made it out to be. It couldn't have been. In my soul, though, doubt was taking root like bittersweet. Was Evie trying to hold Will captive in the treehouse? Why would she do that? Certainly for no good reason, I'm sure. The moon arced overhead, heedless of my anguished thoughts that were painting my daughter as a sinister monster.
I was still in the room when dawn broke. I watched light slip stealthily across the floor, and slowly climb up the walls. Above me, I could hear Scully getting out of bed, walking to the bathroom, the water pump running indicating the toilet had been flushed, and the creak of the stairs as she descended to the first floor. She turned into the kitchen, and presently I could hear the quiet tick of the timer for the toaster. Shortly thereafter, I heard the quick feet of my son and Evie.
I decided the confrontation had best be done quickly, and marched into the kitchen.
The scene was the same one it had been every day for the last year. Scully, in her robe, was making breakfast (or at least making sure the toast didn't burn) and the kids were seated in their customary positions at the table. I sat down, and cut to the chase.
"Will, what happened yesterday?"
Will didn't look up from the table. "Evie wouldn't let me leave the treehouse. I had to go to the bafroom and I told her by she said I had to stay. When she blocked the door, I tried to go out the window, but she grabbed me. I wanted her to let me go, so I pushed her. I didn't hit her, I promise, Daddy, and when she let go, I fell."
"Evie, is this true?" I knew the answer from what she told me from last night, but I figured that Scully to should hear it. Once she heard the confirmation, would know I wasn't being unreasonable with my proposed punishment. I wanted Evie under room arrest. I didn't want her around Will unless she was actively being supervised by Scully or myself.
I was about to voice my thoughts, both on my daughter's reprehensible behavior and the fact that I never wanted her around Will again, when Scully asked a simple question that stopped us all in our tracks. "Why didn't you let Will leave the treehouse, Evie?"
"Daddy said that we were 'posed to stay there. He said that we could play in the treehouse so long as we promised not to leave it. Will was breaking his promise to Daddy by tryin' to leave, so I thought that I should make him stay." Evie was looking at me pleadingly, and I was looking shockedly back at her.
"Is this true, Will?" Scully asked the question calmly.
"Yes, Mommy." Will's cheeks were as red as his hair.
Scully leaned up against the counter while I gaped like a fish at this turn of events. Never had I thought that she would have stopped Will from leaving based on my words.
Scully regarded Will. "Will, pushing people is like hitting them. You shouldn't do it. You wouldn't like it if it were done to you, would you?"
"Why don't you two go play with the Game Cylinder for a bit. I need to talk to your father."
I heard my own death in those words. Scully was about to verbally flay me alive. The children ran off, happy to have some spare video game time, and seemingly escaping unscathed from their parent's wrath.
"How long were they out there, Mulder?"
"fourandahalfhours," I mumbled back in reply.
"You left our kids. Alone. For four and a half hours?! What were you thinking? Don't you know that it was over 96 degrees outside yesterday? And you made them promise not to leave the treehouse?" It's funny. Scully always goes very cold when she's angry. Down right icy. She was very angry with me right now.
"I'm sorry, Scully, you know I lose track of time when I'm writing. I figured the kids would come in when they got bored or hot. I truly had no idea that Evie would keep William-"
Scully interrupted me with a slicing motion of her hand. "Don't you dare pin this on Evie. She was only obeying you. This was you. All you, Mulder. You need to start thinking before you say things like that! Those kids could have died out there, all for a promise you forced them to make and because of your neglect! You were supposed to be watching them!"
Scully left the room, her robe billowing out behind her. The belt on it snapped and jerked; a striking snake looking for a victim.
Evie and Will were happy, and if they had been angry with each other, it was forgiven and forgotten. They never knew how close Scully and I came to divorcing one another over the matter. We did eventually come to an agreement about it, but it was a very long time before she trusted me with the children again. And she always arranged for a babysitter on the days that I was working on a book.
I came back to the present with a rush. "Officer Banks, I've never seen my son and daughter fight in earnest" After all, I never actually saw the altercation at the treehouse, so I don't know how much of a fight that was. The only people that actually knew what happened were Scully, Evie, Will and me. "Sometimes I see them squabble over a toy, but they usually resolve it by paper, rock, scissors. They don't fight with each other or with other kids."
Banks gave me a skeptical look, and jotted something down in a notebook. I realized then how stupid that sounded given what Evie had just done to Hunter.
"Look," I said, leaning forward over Evie so I could catch Banks' eye. "I'm sure the incident today was just a terrible accident-"
"Uh uh, Daddy," Evie piped up again, making me lean back.
"What are you saying, Evie? That you did this on purpose?"
To my shock, she said, "Yes."
"My God!" I yelped, completely panic stricken. She was a monster after all. "Why?"
Seeing the expression on my face, she slid off my lap and stood so she could see both Banks and me. "Because of the man."
"What man?" Officer Banks asked sharply.
"The one Hunter was talking to."
"What could they possibly been talking about that would make you hurt Hunter?" I asked, trying not to cry.
When I'd once asked myself if the seeds of the world's destruction sewn into the souls of children like Evie, or if upbringing could overcome, I hadn't known then that the answer to the latter question was no. They would be true to their design no matter what.
"They was talking about taking Will away," Evie said solemnly. "And hurting Will. So maybe he'd die." She turned to me with an imploring look. "I didn't wanna hurt Hunter, Daddy, but he was gonna take Will to the man. He was."
Banks motioned to my daughter. "Evie, come here." After a few seconds she walked slowly over. "Tell me about this man."
"Like what about him?" she asked, which was a fairly logical question for a six-year-old.
"Do you remember what he looked like?" Banks asked in an oddly gentle tone.
"Uh huh. He's tall like Daddy, but skinner. He got blond hair, and mean looking green eyes, and a beard like uncle Byers."
The description didn't sound like anyone I knew, but it didn't really mean much. There had been so many people over the years whose bad side I'd gotten onto, and I didn't tend to remember a person's eye color, anyway.
"Was he driving a car?"
"Yup," Evie agreed, nodding her head. "A big black one." She paused, then gave Banks a hopeful look. "Wanna know the license plate number?"
Banks looked stunned. Turning to me, he asked, "Do you think she could give it accurately?"
"Yes. She's got a phenomenal memory." And the strength of five men, and...
"Let me get a pen and some paper, then I'd like to hear it, Evie."
When he walked out of the room, I looked at my daughter. And for the first time since we'd gotten there, I felt hope. Maybe she wasn't evil, or completely insane after all. And maybe we were going to get out of here and go home with Will and Scully. Maybe.
Banks returned a minute later. "Go ahead and give me that number, Evie."
Evie recited a number, then held out her hands to Banks once he wrote it down. "I remember what the thingie on the back of the car looks like too. Want me to draw it?"
"Okay, sure," Banks agreed, handing the pen and paper over. I knew he was humoring her, since he could have gotten the model from the license plate number.
While we watched Evie drew a shaky approximation of the Chevy emblem. "Here."
"Thanks, Evie." Banks took it from her. "I need to make a phone call, then I'm going to come back and talk some more to you and your dad."
"Okay," Evie agreed, then walked back to me. "You're still mad."
"I'm confused, Sweetie," I said, picking her up again. "This isn't easy to understand."
"Yeah," she agreed. "I don't like today."
Though the thin walls I could hear Banks having a heated conversation with someone on the phone. Evie could probably hear it too, but she didn't look up until Banks cleared his throat in the doorway.
"Evie, tell us more about what happened," Banks invited. "What makes you think Hunter was going to bring your brother somewhere?"
She shrugged. "'cause he said so."
"Nope. To another boy. He was bragging that a man was gonna buy him an X-Box 360 just for dragging a littler kid over to him."
"Did he say that the child he was going to drag off was your brother?"
"Uh huh," Evie said with conviction. "His friend said 'who?' and he said 'that little redhead kid, Billy Mulder.' Will hates to be called Billy, but there isn't no other Mulders at school 'sides us."
"Did your brother hear this conversation?" Banks asked. I knew he was trying to see if the kids would be able to attempt to collaborate the story. I didn't like the tactic.
"Don't think so. His class was late coming out to the playground. I was gonna warn him to stay away from Hunter, but 'fore I could, Hunter grabbed him."
"So you beat him up."
There was a knock at the door, and another officer stuck his head in. "Banks, can I speak to you for a moment?"
"Excuse me." Pushing the paper and pen towards Evie, Banks suggested, "Why don't you draw a picture?"
I watched through the window as the two officers conferred. There was a lot of hand waving, and they looked excited, but not angry.
As Evie settled down to drawing, I remembered something else that had happened three years earlier.
When Scully got home from Christmas shopping with both kids, she looked like she was exhausted. Which struck me as strange, since they'd only been gone about three hours.
"What happened, Scully?"
Dropping the bags on the bed, she looked up with a wearier look. "The kids decided to play a trick on me. We were in the clothes section of JC Penny's and they vanished. Poof! For a second there I worried that they'd been beamed up."
"A sensitive wife wouldn't make jokes like that," I told her with a scowl. "What really happened?"
"I looked everywhere, then I got help from some employees. We found them hiding under a clothes rack. The clothes were so long that their feet didn't even show."
"Hiding from what?"
Scully shrugged. "I don't know. I tried to ask them, but Will just insisted that Evie made him hide. She's three, how could she make him do anything?"
Smirking to myself, I remembered things my sister "made" me do, and she was a lot younger than me than Evie was compared to her brother. "Sisters can be persuasive."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Missy dragged me into all sorts of trouble when we were young."
"Did you ask Evie why they hid?"
"Mulder, she's so young that I didn't bother to. Feel free if you think she could come up with an answer we'd understand."
"Her speech is getting clearer," I protested.
The kids were downstairs, playing with over-sized building blocks. "Hey Evie, come here." She toddled over with a smile. "How come you and Will hid on Mommy in the store?"
Shaking her head, she said, "Not on Mommy."
"Then on who?"
I concluded that Scully was right and let her go back to playing. "So, did you get anything out of her?" Scully asked a while later.
"Not really. She said they weren't hiding from you, but she didn't know who they were hiding from."
"They probably weren't hiding from anyone, Mulder. Little kids aren't really strong on reasoning. Hiding sounded like fun, so they did. Maybe they were pretending to be in a cave or something. Who knows."
"You're probably right," I agreed.
But now, given that Evie may have just saved Will's life, I wasn't so sure. Had she made William hid from someone after all? It was foolish to ask her about it now, since there was almost no chance that she remembered the incident. Still, I couldn't help but ponder it myself.
After a while Banks rejoined us. He looked mildly pleased when sat back down.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"You are free to take Evangeline home, Mister Mulder."
"What?" I blinked, confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that you can take your children home. We'll be in touch with you."
"Do you mean we're going to have to come back tomorrow?"
Banks shrugged. "Probably. We'll definitely be seeing you again soon."
I got up and tried to keep myself from clenching my fists. It was great to be going home, but it only mean that our indecisive state would be prolonged. Casting Banks an angry stare, I took Evie's hand and walked out to meet Scully.
As soon as I sat Evie next to her brother, Scully drew me aside. "What's going on, Mulder?"
"They're sending us home." I gave a frustrated sigh. "We're supposed to come back later on."
"Why the hell would they send us home only to come back later?" Scully demanded to know, and I couldn't answer that question. "That's definitely not standard operating procedure."
"I don't know. And it makes me nervous," I admitted.
"Me too. But it's time to put on our brave faces," Scully said firmly. Agreeing, I took her hand and walked back to the kids.
"Time to go home, Daddy?" William asked, looking up at me expectantly.
"Yeah, Will. Time to go home." At least for now. I turned and gave the interrogation room an apprehensive look. It would only be a matter of time before we were back there. A big part of me wished that they'd simply keep us and get everything over with. There had to be a reason they were sending us home, but I didn't know what it was.
All that tense evening, Scully and I tried not to let our worries show. Even though I'm no art critic, I'd say we made a credible show of being calm, normal, parents who weren't still worried that our youngest daughter was going to be put in a mental hospital at any moment, or that we were going to be sued over what she'd done.
It must have been a pretty good act, because neither of the kids seemed to have any idea that our ordeal wasn't yet over. We made them hamburgers and fries, and they giggled as they ate. Evie used one of her fries to paint a picture in ketchup, and William copied her.
I haven't been so relieved to put them to bed since they were both babies.
"Daddy, read us a story!" William demanded.
I did, but not without a sense of surrealism. This could be the last night that Evie and William sat on his bed and listened to me read to them both before Evie was sent to her own bed. It could be the last time that Scully reminded her to brush her teeth... It made me pay more attention, trying to memorize these simple routines that I'd barely been aware of before, in case they never came again.
When the kids were tucked in, Scully and I sat in the living room, and let our masks fall off with relief.
"God, what do you think is going to happen next?" she asked quietly, but I could still hear the tinge of terror in her words.
"I wish I knew." Sighing deeply, I looked at the floor. "I think it might depend on what happens with Hunter. If he wakes up-"
"And if he doesn't?"
"If that happens, we'll have to deal with what comes of it."
She shook her head softly, either in denial of what I'd said, or of the idea that the boy might not get better.
Lacking anything else to do, I turned on the ten o'clock news, desperate to give mind something else to attempt to focus on, if only for thirty minutes.
When the picture came in, the anchor looked far more cheerful than she had the right to be, and I cast her an accusatory look. "It's great that the boys' basketball team in Rosewood has finally broken that 87 game losing streak."
"Isn't it, Claire?" the other insipid anchor agreed. "It's been a long time coming."
Anchorwoman Claire smiled her agreement, then put on her serious face. "In developing local news, a kidnapping has been thwarted-"
Straightening up, I looked hard at the TV, and beside me Scully gasp.
"- a man claiming to be working under the direction of someone who hired him, spent the afternoon 'collecting' children from their schools and babysitters' homes. When he was apprehended there were frightened children in his vehicle, and he'd been trying to force a fourth into his car when police stopped him. All four children are unharmed, and have been reunited with their families."
"That's good to hear," Mister Insipid agreed. "It must have been a tense day for all the families involved."
Scully reached for the phone, "We need to call the police."
I shook my head. "I think we should wait until tomorrow." I disagreed. Privately, I was worried that we were going to have to grab the kids and flee into the night. If it was true that the man wasn't working alone, we might be visited during the night.
As if reading my mind, Scully's face blanched. "Do you think someone is going to come here too?
"I don't know. The news people said they were all taken from schools or babysitters' homes, not their own homes. But I think we ought to take turns keeping watch tonight, just in case."
"That's a good idea," she agreed, but one look at her face told me something I'd already suspected. Neither of us was going to sleep a minute all night.
It was bleary-eyed and yawning that I answered the phone in the morning. "Fox Mulder," I said sleepily.
"Mister Mulder, it's officer Banks."
Instantly alert, I said "Yes?"
"We need you to bring your daughter back to the station right away."
"Are you going to take her away from us?" I demanded to know, before my tired mind remembered that a juvenile court judge would decide that, not this man.
"We need to speak to Evangeline immediately," Banks reiterated.
"Yeah, we'll be there," I said sullenly.
Evie isn't an easy kid to wake up in the morning, and the fact that it was Saturday didn't make her any better about getting out of bed. After a lot of cajoling, she got dressed and followed me out to the car.
"Back to the police?" she asked me, and her big blue eyes looked frightened by the idea.
"Yeah, we're going to talk to officer Banks some more, like we did yesterday."
"They gonna put handcuffs on me?" She held out her tiny wrists, and it hurt to imagine that cuffs that small might be manufactured.
"No, Evie. Kids don't go to jail with handcuffs."
"Oh." I braced myself for her to ask what did happen to bad kids, but she didn't. Instead she turned her head and looked out the window.
Banks greeted us with a faint smile. "Thank you for coming back."
"It's not as though we had a choice," I grumbled as we went back to the dreaded room.
Ignoring that, he asked, "Have you seen the news?"
I nodded. "And it is related to...this?"
"Yes. I was called away yesterday because a man matching the description Evie gave us was just picked up after attempting to lure a little girl into his car. He was driving a large black Chevy. And there were three other little kids with him, none of them his. He confessed that he was 'picking them up' for someone who was interested in them."
"I said I watched the news," I reminded him, but glad to figure out the probable reason why we'd been sent away the day before. "Are the kids okay?" I asked quickly, scared he was going to say they weren't despite what anchor Claire claimed. Their poor parents-
"They're fine. Had the hell scared out of them, of course, but they're physically fine. From what the perp said, it was just because we found him quickly, though. The man who employed him seemed to have some nefarious plans in mind, from what he hinted at."
"He was gonna take Will too," Evie insisted.
To my surprise, Banks grinned at her. "Yes, he told us that too, Evie. That's why I wanted you to come back here today to talk. It's not okay to beat people up, but if you hadn't, I think your brother would have been kidnapped."
"What about the creep the perp was working for?" I demanded to know. If he was still out there, who knew when he'd make another attempt to gather up little kids? Maybe Scully and I should pack up as soon as I got home.
"The perp threw him under the bus. It seemed to be his opinion that the man was off his nut anyway, since he claimed that the kids were created by the government or some such nonsense, and could move toys with their minds."
"That does sound pretty nutty," I agreed, trying my best to keep a straight face. Officer Banks didn't need to know that William had horrified my wife when he was an infant by turning his mobile without touching it. He was completely normal now, ever since the shot Spender had given him, so it didn't seem worthwhile to mention it. Nor did I deign to tell Banks about the other couple with an extraordinary child who'd once contacted her.
"Apparently the nutcase was the only survivor of some sort of cult meltdown in Canada a few years back. Last night there was a standoff in his yard, and officers were trying to get him to come peacefully."
"Was?" I asked, anticipating his next statement.
Banks looked grimly satisfied when he returned. "It's all over. He wouldn't come peacefully."
Glancing at Evie, I was relieved to see that she didn't seem to understand the implications of that statement, or perhaps hadn't even heard what he said. She was happily drawing a picture of a house.
"Are you sure he was working alone?" I demanded to know, still scared for my kids.
"There were things he'd written on his computer. It was just him and the kidnapper, we're sure of it."
"Good." Relief filled me.
"Evie?" Banks said, and then paused until she looked up. "It's time for you and your family to go home for good," he added.
"Okay," she said agreeably.
I, however, wasn't as ready to go with the flow. "That's it?"
"As soon as the perp was collared, an officer went to the hospital and spoke to Hunter's parents. Once it was made clear to them that their son had unwittingly taken part in an attempt to kidnap your son, they decided that they didn't want to press charges against Evie after all." He smiled. "It helped that a boy visiting blurted out that he'd seen a man offer Hunter the X-Box 360 that Evie told us about too."
"Imagine that," I said sardonically. "I suppose Hunter's family is hoping we don't take legal action against them as well."
"That'd be my guess," Banks agreed. "And I think you'll be happy to know that Hunter woke up around six-thirty this morning, too."
"Thank God," I said reverently. Even if the kid was a brat, he was only eight, and like my own two kids, probably wasn't capable of fully thinking out consequences yet. But that didn't mean part of me didn't think he'd gotten what he deserved. Not that I'd ever admit it to Evie.
She held her arms out to me to pick her up, and once I did, Banks looked her in the eyes. "If anything like this ever happens again, go get a grown up to help. You're lucky that the bad guy didn't take you and your brother both when Hunter got hurt, instead of running away."
She nodded, but I saw it in her eyes: even at her age, she knew that she could overpower an adult if necessary. "Yeah, okay."
"Be a good girl," Banks told her with a smile. "I hope I don't see you here again, unless you decide to become a cadet when you grow up."
"What's that?" she asked, looking puzzled.
"That's what they call people studying to become police officers," I explained, shifting her so she was settled better on my hip.
"Oh, okay. Maybe I'll do that." She told Banks with one of her patented smiles. "Or maybe I'll be that other kind of police like Mommy and Daddy was." I tried not to grin at that. I'm not sure the FBI would know what to do with a recruit like Evie.
Then we were out the door, heading home to where William and Scully waited for us. I don't know which of us was the happiest to be going home. Actually, it was me. One bad guy was in jail, the other was dead, Evie wasn't in legal trouble, and I'd had my faith in my daughter restored. It's hard to be more relieved than that.
Wolf duster sat on the little mound in the middle of the grassy knoll. He had measured the distances between the 4 round areas at the corners of the square, and from the round area in the middle of the square to a corner. The corners were 90 feet apart. The area in the center was 60.6 feet from the corner that Wolf measured to. He thought long and hard about what this might have meant to the evil aliens.
He was still thinking about it when the sun was going down. Leslie Jeeter, Wolf's best friend in all the world, walked up to the little hill on which Wolf sat. Leslie sat down beside her friend, and asked, "Whatcha doin'?"
"I'm trying to figure out why evil aliens would make a square 90 feet on a side, and with a circle 60.6 feet from a corner."
"Wolf, the evil aliens didn't make this, Ol' Man Rameriz did." Leslie sighed, and shook her head.
Wolf looked up with shock and surprise. "Ol' Man Rameriz? Why would he make a square 90 feet on a side, and with a circle 60.6 feet from a corner? Is he in league with the evil aliens?"
"No, Wolf, Ol' Man Rameriz is not in league with the evil aliens. He built it to play baseball on, Wolf. You're sitting on the pitcher's mound of the high school baseball field. See, you can see the school through the trees over there." Leslie pointed to a big, beige building, on the other side of some trees.
"You mean there's no evil aliens?" Wolf asked.
"No, Wolf, there are no evil aliens here."
I looked up from the monitor, and glances at the room. On the middle of the floor Evie was playing with Will, with lots of truck motor noises and laughter. No, Fox, there are no evil aliens (or evil super-soldiers) here, either. I got up and went to play on the floor with my kids.
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