Title: Sisters Under the Skin
G'day everybody. This is my second attempt at an X-Files story. Thank you to all the people who wrote to me about Beastmaster. I really appreciated the time you took, and the really positive responses I got from everyone who wrote. It was so encouraging. I hope you like Sisters Under the Skin. Constructive comments are particularly appreciated.
The room had been painted red. Great splashes of gaudy arterial scarlet were sprayed across the ceiling and coloured walls, curtains, door, bed and carpet. The investigators' feet splashed and squelched through the mire.
"No sign of forced entry?" asked Mulder.
Detective Parkin shook his head, "No forced entry, no sign of a struggle. She opened the door, invited her murderer in, and brought him into her bedroom. Then she just laid down on the bed and let him..." he waved his hand vaguely at the carnage before them, never quite focussing on it. There was a slight smell of vomit about him, "...let him do this," he finished.
"What about drugs, head injuries...?" Mulder wandered about the room, occasionally getting in the way of the forensic specialists.
"No sign of head injuries," muttered Scully, "Though it's a little hard to tell at this stage," her fingers probed the mess of the woman's head, she seemed oblivious of the butcher shop about her, "There were no head injuries found on the first victim...uh, before death, anyway. And most of her results for drugs or other substances have come back clean. We're still waiting on a couple, but I don't think we're going to find anything there, Mulder."
Mulder nodded, "What suspects have we got? Husband? Boyfriend?"
Parkin shrugged, "Husband's in hospital. Poor bugger. He went into shock when he saw this. Don't blame him. I don't think you'll be able to talk to him before morning, the doc's got him pretty heavily sedated. I don't think it was him, though. He's just not the ripper type."
Mulder would decide that for himself. He would judge whether he thought Maureen Fraser's husband could walk into her bedroom and slash her throat with a blow so powerful it nearly cut her head right off. He would judge if this man was then capable of eviscerating his wife, opening her abdomen with fast, precise cuts, lifting her organs up onto her chest so that he could get deep inside her. The first one had been missing her uterus and ovaries, her kidneys and adrenal glands and her thyroid gland. The first one had had her diencephalon taken. Was Maureen Fraser's husband capable of hacking his wife's face open so that he could scoop out part of her brain? Mulder would know.
Mulder wondered whose task was the worst. Scully had to work like a necroscope, had to take apart the body bit by bit and find out exactly what had stopped it from working. Scully had to explore the last moments of that woman's life...and the first of her death.
For Mulder it was nothing so concrete. He had to chase down the shadows of the first victim's personality. The ripper had struck first ten days ago, and now he had to go back a step and locate the shade of the first victim. He knocked on the door of the motel unit where her widowed husband was now living.
Ron Hardie stared blankly at the proffered F.B.I. card for a moment and then stepped back and ushered Mulder in. There was a smattering of mess about the place, things like shirt boxes and shop bags. Hardie had obviously been unable to bring himself to go home since finding his wife's body, and he had bought himself new clothes. He wore training pants and a football jumper. His feet were bare. He was about the same age as Mulder, but looked a whole lot older. Mulder suspected he hadn't done very much sleeping since he found his wife in the bedroom. Hardie pushed a pile of plastic bags and receipts off a chair to make a place for Mulder to sit.
"Would you like coffee?" he asked, wandering over to a tiny kitchen.
Mulder shrugged, "Sure."
Hardie had bought himself a coffee maker, too, it was set up in the kitchen, its packaging on the floor nearby. There were several empty coffee packets about the place, clearly the machine had been earning its keep.
Mulder sipped his coffee, "You been drinking a lot of this stuff."
Hardie nodded, "When I sleep I see her. I can't sleep any more."
"Who killed her, Mr Hardie?"
Hardie's expression never changed, his eyes were still fixed on some imperceptible point before him, "If I knew that, if I knew who killed her, I would send him to go and get her back."
"Who were her friends?"
"I was. I was her best friend. We been married ten years. Been trying to have kids for the past five."
"No...Anna wants kids more than anything, you know? She'll make a terrific mother," he turned his gaze on Mulder, a strange little smile twisted his mouth, but his eyes were very far away now, fixed on some impossible future that only he could see, "Well, after the first couple of years went by and we had no luck, we knew something had to be wrong, so we went to the doctor for all these tests. What a bummer! I was okay, and Anna seemed okay, and then they found out that she just wasn't ovulating regularly. So the docs dosed her up on fertility drugs. Then she hears about this old woman, supposed to know a whole lot about phases of the moon and herbs and things..." he laughed and shook his head at the memory, "Anna...she came home with a box full of herbs and teas and lucky charms. You wouldn't believe it. She had a different potion to drink for every hour of the day. Well, what harm would it do? Then three months ago she starts to throw up in the morning. You know what that means, don't you?" he waited for Mulder to reply.
"She was pregnant?"
He nodded, beaming, "Uh huh. I said it must have been the fertility drugs, Anna swears it was the potions Fay Morgan gave her. Didn't matter. She was pregnant, that's what mattered. You should see what she did with the spare room. It's just the best nursery. Here, come and look..." Hardie stood up, as though he was going to show Mulder to the newly decorated room. He cast about for a moment, suddenly lost in the surroundings that did not fit his fantasy. He finally shrugged, "Doesn't matter, I'll show you later. Anyway, things were going fine and then she lost it..." his eyes brimmed with tears for a moment, but he blinked them away, "I told her it doesn't matter. You know, if she could get pregnant once, she could get pregnant again. Things like that, well...they happen. I told her it's just like nature's quality control. That's right, isn't it. And she'll get over it, won't she?"
"Sure," said Mulder, "What was the name of the fertility clinic?"
"Oh, that was Dr Oldfield," Hardie stood and began to walk towards the door, Mulder fell in step beside him, "I highly recommend him. He's very good, you know. Anna will be going back to him. You'll see. This time next year I'll be a dad."
Mulder left the tiny unit. Outside the sun was bright and almost warm for winter and Mulder needed that.
Mulder made his way through Dr Oldfield's waiting room. It wasn't a place he felt entirely comfortable. The room was filled with small children and women in various stages of pregnancy. The only reason men came in here was to have their sperm counted. He knew every eye in the place was on him as he made his way to the receptionist.
"I need to see Dr Oldfield."
"Do you have an appointment?" she asked, knowing full well that he didn't.
"No. But I need to see him urgently."
She waved her hand vaguely at the women in the waiting room, most of them intent upon the exchange going on, "Doctor's running a little late this afternoon. He had a delivery to perform this morning and..."
Mulder flipped open his I.D. and stuck it under the receptionist's nose, "Special Agent Mulder, F.B.I. I'm investigating a murder. Now I don't want to embarrass anybody by walking in on Dr Oldfield while he's with a patient, but I DO need to see him. Now."
The woman's lips thinned. He had won the battle, "If you'll just wait in here," she requested, taking him down a corridor and opening a door for him, "Doctor will see you as soon as he is through with his present client."
She closed the door. Mulder looked around him. It was more of a cubicle than a room. A bed, a chair, a washbasin, specimen jars...and a box of magazines. She had won the war. Mulder sighed. At least his wait didn't have to be boring. He picked up one of the magazines and flicked through it for a moment before dropping it back in the box. Only in a doctor's rooms could you find boring, tasteful pornography.
Dr Oldfield came in a moment later. He was a tall, broad man with sandy hair and a gentle smile.
"Special Agent Mulder," he showed the I.D.
"Oh. *Mulder*. Sorry. I *thought* Bernice must have mispronounced your name."
"I'm sure she did. Doctor, was Maureen Fraser a patient of yours?"
"Agent Mulder I'm sure you understand that as a doctor I have a legal and ethical requirement to respect my patients' privacy. If you want to know such personal details about Mrs Fraser, why don't you just ask her?"
"Mrs Fraser was found dead early this afternoon. Her throat was cut and her body was butchered," Mulder watched as the Doctor's complexion turned from pink to white to grey and he staggered back a step, searching for support from the chair behind him. "As you can appreciate," Mulder continued, "It is impossible for me to ask her anything. Now, you can answer my questions here and now, or I can get a court order and take your records apart. And I WILL take them apart."
The doctor was shaking his head, "I apologise. I didn't mean to be obstructive. I thought, when you said murder, that you were talking about Anna Hardie who died last week. She was a client of mine too, you know."
"So Mrs Fraser was one of your patients?"
"Yes. She'd been having treatment for months. Low fertility. Then about...oh, eight weeks ago the tests came back positive. She and her husband were over the moon. They'd been trying for years, you know. Then there was that bad news this morning."
"She rang quite early. Must have been just after her husband left for work..." his eyes lost focus for a moment as it suddenly occurred to him that he must have been the last person...aside from the murderer...to speak to her, "She'd begun to bleed."
Oldfield nodded, "This early in the pregnancy it does happen, and there's very little can be done. I told her to go to bed and lie down with a pillow under her hips. She said she would ring her husband once he got to work, he would probably be able to come home at lunchtime if she needed him."
"So you didn't make an appointment to see her, or go out and make a house call or anything?" said Mulder.
"There's no point, really. Besides, I'd just had a call that one of my other clients had gone into labour, and I do try to be there to catch the baby for my ladies. It's good for me as well as them."
"And who was that?"
"Who...? Oh, Mrs Reynolds. She had a boy."
Mulder went towards the door, "One thing before I go, doctor. Do you know Mrs Morgan?"
Oldfield shook his head, "She's not a client of mine."
Scully's words came in little cold puffs of air, "I can't be positive, not having seen the first body, but it looks to me as if both murders were done by the same person. There's the ripper element, too. Blood's come back on Mrs Fraser, she was pregnant, too."
Mulder shook his head, "Nope, she'd had a miscarriage. Same as Anna Hardie. I just spoke to the doctor. She phoned him this morning just after her husband had left for work, said she'd started bleeding."
"Two misses, two murders," mused Scully.
"What do you know about herbs and herbal remedies, Scully?"
She shrugged, "Not a great deal. A lot of medicines are based on herbal preparations. Why?"
"Anna Hardie's husband mentioned something about a herbal healer mixing up fertility potions. I'm just wondering if Maureen Fraser knew the same lady?"
Scully peeled off gloves, goggles and gown, "Well, I'm through here, let's go check out Fraser's kitchen."
The police had left. Mulder and Scully walked through the silent house. The air was thick with the smell of blood. Mulder wondered what they did to get rid of the blood from houses like this. He would have recommended arson. The kitchen was neat. A plate and a few toast crumbs were all that remained of Mr Fraser's breakfast, all that remained of the normal part of his life. Scully opened cupboards and poked about. Mulder peeked in canisters on the bench.
"Here," Scully began lifting packets and bottles down from a shelf. Some were labelled with sticky labels, some with tie on tags. Each was written upon with tiny neat printing. Scully read each one as she picked them down, then stopped abruptly with a bottle containing a tincture, "Pennyroyal," she read. "Did you say they were supposed to be taking these to help with their fertility problem?"
"Well pennyroyal's an abortifacient. It can cause miscarriages."
"I think we'd better go visit Mrs Morgan," said Mulder.
Mrs Morgan lived on the other side of town. Her house was tucked away behind a picket fence. They followed a path past yew, laurel and oak trees. Jonquils dotted the lawn and they crushed sweet smelling herbs underfoot as they came along the broken pavers that led to the door.
A tiny woman answered their knock. She had slate grey hair, short and straight and thick, a little round body, and a wrinkled face with a pointed chin and sparkling brown eyes. She was wrapped in a mass of colour; a large crocheted shawl. Her mouth wore a pointed, "V" shaped smile, "Hello my dears," she said. She had a quirky accent and she peered at the proffered I.D.s, apparently without really understanding, but waved Mulder and Scully inside.
The house was cosy, reminding them how cold it was outside. The warm atmosphere inside held for them a complex array of aromas. A large cauldron simmered on the stove, filling the air with a savoury smell. Bunches of herbs hung from the exposed beams of the ceiling, their dark tendrils and brittle leaves imparting their own particular scent into the air.
"Do sit down my dears and have some tea," insisted the old woman. Scully backed off, standing in a patch of sunlight by the kitchen sink, but Mulder pulled up a chair and looked about him, smiling.
Scully could not make herself comfortable in the house. It seemed to have a life of its own that made it impossible to relax. Little sounds all about gave her the uneasy feeling of voices whispering, just beyond the realm of her senses though when she concentrated each voice became a simple sound. A tap dripped insistently in the sink behind her, there was a clock ticking in another room. A large black cat, sitting on a cushion on a kitchen chair stared at her, purring. The kettle hummed and sang to itself, warming on a wood fired stove which crackled with its own voice. The bunches of herbs hanging from the ceiling shifted about making small dry whispers of sound. Despite the fact that she was sure there hadn't been so much as a breeze when she and Mulder had arrived at the house, Scully could hear wind whistling past the chimney and the little old woman scuffed about the stone floor of her kitchen, chatting to them in her sing song accent.
"You're from England, aren't you, Mrs Morgan," said Scully, catching the tail end of something she'd been saying.
"I'm from the old place my dear," smiled the old lady, and Scully was vaguely troubled by the evasive reply.
"Mrs Morgan, what do you know about Anna Hardie and Maureen Fraser," said Scully.
The old woman dithered about while she answered, "Now my dear, those are two very sweet girls," she had three mugs before her and three little squares of muslin, "...and it broke my heart what happened to Anna. She was a lovely, lovely girl," she broke leaves from herbs drying on a rack in front of the stove, and dropped them into one of the little material squares. She took down an old tea tin, and added a spoonful of its contents to the second square.
Mulder seemed mesmerised by her fiddling. He leaned back in his chair and the cat reached out from its perch, waving one paw at him. The cat's claw snagged on the cuff of Mulder's sleeve and as he jerked his hand away its claws caught the back of his hand and raked red furrows. Mulder squawked and Mrs Morgan came bustling over.
"Oh dear," she soothed, patting at the bloodied hand with the corner of her apron, "Please forgive Piewackett, she meant no harm."
"That's okay Mrs Morgan," Mulder waved her away. The scratch was superficial and already the blood had dried up.
The old woman went back to her concoction by the kettle. Eventually she had added enough leaves to the little squares of material to suit her needs. She tied each with cotton string and placed them into the three mugs. She added boiling water from the kettle. Home made herbal tea bags.
"Mrs Morgan, were you giving drugs to Mrs Hardie or Mrs Fraser?"
"Scully!" Mulder sounded shocked.
"We found certain...herbal substances. Mrs Hardie's husband said you had been giving her potions that would help her overcome her infertility problem."
"Oh, my dear," Mrs Morgan placed a mug carefully before each of them and added a plate of cake to the middle of the table, "There was nothing in my herbals that could hurt them. We are all sisters under the skin and the first thing that we learn is to do each other no harm."
Scully sat at the table. She put honey in her tea and sipped it, savouring its strong minty taste, "Do you know the effects of pennyroyal on a woman, Mrs Morgan?"
"Now pennyroyal," Mrs Morgan nibbled a slice of the cake. She fussed over Mulder, picking bits of lint or something off the back of his coat, "That will bring on the menses. It will unmake what's been started."
Mulder stirred sugar into his tea and sipped it slowly. He took another slice of cake. Scully had been watching him out of the corner of her eye, that was his second or third slice of cake, and so far he hadn't asked the old woman a single question. Scully couldn't figure out what was going on in his mind. She sipped her own tea again.
"Mrs Morgan, did you know that Mrs Hardie and Mrs Fraser were pregnant when you gave them the pennyroyal?"
The old woman leaned over the table conspirationally towards Scully, "No. They really weren't you know."
Scully was shocked by the implications of what the old woman had said, lost in her strange world of herbs, she had decided that pregnant women were not pregnant, and gave them herbal extracts that could have been dangerous, and almost certainly caused the miscarriages. Scully stood to leave. If nothing else, this woman's trade in herbal remedies would have to be stopped. Mulder didn't move and Scully had to shake him by the shoulder to get him to leave his chair.
As she turned for the door, Scully looked back at Mrs Morgan, "Did you know that Maureen Fraser was found dead this morning? Murdered?"
The old woman blanched, and might have fallen to the floor if it hadn't been for Mulder grabbing her by the arm and gently lowering her back into her chair. He fussed about her.
"Will you be all right Mrs Morgan? I think we should stay."
Tears poured down the old woman's face, "No, my dear. It's just the shock. She was a dear girl and I'll miss her. You go on now. You go on with your F.B. eyes," she waved them out the door, dabbing at her cheeks with a lavender scented hankie.
"I don't believe you did that, Scully."
"I don't believe you sat there like a lap dog and let me do all the talking."
"She's just a sweet little old lady."
"Who gives abortifacients to pregnant women."
"We don't know that for sure."
"Oh, Mulder, come on. What's with you?"
Mulder was silent for quite a while. Eventually he said, "Sorry, Scully."
"I guess she kind of reminded me of someone, and I needed to like her a lot. It's hard for me not to trust her. She's so much like Nana Fitzie."
"Was that your Mom's mother?"
"No. Mom's parents died when I was a baby. I don't remember them at all. Nana Fitzie was Mike Fitzpatrick's Grandma. He was one of the guys at Oxford. His Nana lived not far from the centre of town, in one of those boxy little houses by the river. It was great. We used to all go there when we needed a bit of TLC, you know. Down to Nana Fitzie's for crumpets and tea and fruitcake that would keep you fed for about a week. I guess Mrs Morgan just really reminded me a whole lot of Nana."
Scully thought of her own grandmothers and how much she loved them. Neither was like this strange, slightly sinister old woman. She told Mulder about her grandmothers. Grandma Scully lived in Seabright New Jersey in a sprawling old house by the water that made Scully think of a beached ship. To think of her was to think of cosy evenings by the fire, the family gathered about for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and sitting up in her little room, watching the ships come and go through the fog, listening to the sounds of the bridge being raised. Grandma Reilly was rosy cheeked, and thoughts of her brought with them the smell of lilac and lavender, sitting on the swing under the apple tree, playing with her dog and eating crisp, fresh apples and home grown tomatoes in the hot summer sun.
"What about your other grandma, Mulder? Did you ever know your dad's mom?"
"I knew her," Mulder did not tell Scully about his other grandmother. The old woman smelt of cigarettes and beer, and, too often, of whiskey. Visits to her house were filled with the sound of raised, angry voices. It was just another bone in the skeleton in the Mulder closet.
"What was she like?"
"Nothing like your grandmothers, Scully."
It was late when they got back to their motel. They ordered take away and sprawled all over Scully's floor with notes and Pcs and empty pizza boxes and soft drink cans.
"I'd be interested," said Mulder, "In knowing more about Dr Oldfield's patients."
"I think you're on the wrong track, Mulder."
"Well think about this. How many X files do we have that relate in some way to pregnant women, children, clones, and abortion clinics?"
Scully conceded the point with a grunt.
"I'd like to know what sort of fertility regime he was using on Mrs Fraser and Mrs Hardie, and if he was using it on any others. And I'd really like to know what happened to any babies that were born as a result."
"I can probably get in there tomorrow and check the records."
Mulder flicked a half chewed pizza crust at one of the boxes on the floor, "Why wait?" he said.
Scully flicked through the files. She located the Fraser and Hardie files, "They look like standard fertility drugs at normal dosages, Mulder. The only thing I don't recognise is this *Vitacompound* that he gave them when their pregnancy tests came back positive. It seems reasonable to assume it's just a trade name for a vitamin shot, though."
"Assume nothing, Scully. Can we see who else has had Vitacompound?"
They searched files, the computer only found eight others who had been given Vitacompound.
"If it was that innocuous, I'd expect him to give it to everyone," commented Mulder.
Scully ignored his 'I told you so' expression, looking in detail at the eight files, "Not one of them survived, Mulder."
"Mothers or babies?"
"Babies. Look, five of them were aborted. Chorionic villi sampling came back showing abnormalities, the mothers decided to terminate. Dr Oldfield did the terminations himself. The other three were second trimester miscarriages. The women were admitted to hospital and Dr Oldfield did a D and C on them."
"Sounds like a pretty big coincidence, Scully."
"He's working with women who have fertility problems, Mulder. Women with fertility problems have deformed chromosomes and babies that die. That's what fertility problems are all about," she was rummaging around in a filing cabinet, tracking down the files of the women whose chorionic villi results had come back showing abnormalities. She poked through them one after another, and then, frowning, held up two in comparison. She put one down and picked up a third, "Mulder there's something really odd here."
He moved behind her, peering over her shoulder so he could see what she was pointing at.
"Klinefelter's Syndrome," she said, pointing to a group of three little black wormy cut outs at the end of a row of pairs.
"I guess they didn't want to have a kid with mental retardation," shrugged Mulder, "Seems fair to me."
"They've *all* got it, Mulder."
"I didn't think it was that common."
"It isn't. This is just the same set of chromosomes. He's lied about the chromosome tests and deliberately aborted those five children. They could have been perfectly normal, Mulder."
"...Or so abnormal you wouldn't even recognise their real chromosomes..." muttered Mulder, "Scully, we need to find out what those women were really carrying."
"I can go through hospital records in the morning. There should have been histologies done of the aborted foetuses," said Scully.
"I think I'd like to ask Grandma Morgan just why she did give those women abortifacients. And have another quiet word with Dr Oldfield."
Mulder drove them back to the motel. He watched Scully out of the corner of his eye. She was pale in the streetlights, "You look tired."
"Gee, Mulder, I don't know why that should be. Three in the morning's my best time," she felt awful. She had a pain in her stomach. Their rooms were adjoining, he walked her to her door.
He peered at her face as she turned the light on, "Get some sleep, Scully. I'll be round for breakfast."
She kicked the pizza boxes into a corner as she changed into a nightshirt for bed. Sleep did not come easily, though. She stared at her watch, three forty. The watch had been a Christmas present from her mum. It had phases of the moon on it. A slip of moon glowed back at her. God's thumbnail. She tossed in bed for ten more minutes, then lay, staring out of the window. Outside, the moon was fat and full and red as blood. She decided that the colour must have come from lights reflecting off the clouds around it, or maybe there was a really large fire somewhere nearby. She frowned at her watch, wondering why it was out of phase, perhaps it needed a new battery. When she looked back at the moon, it was a silver sliver.
Scully dozed and slept, eventually waking with a cramp that knotted her stomach. Her legs and nightshirt felt wet and when she brought her hand away it was covered in blood. Oh, God, she thought. Usually her period was so well behaved. Now it had come two weeks early, and she was unprepared. She was in a quandary, did they have "Dial a napkin" in the yellow pages? She wasn't going to ring the slob on the front desk and ask him if he would mind nipping down to the chemist shop for her. She had two sensible alternatives, either she could ask Mulder, or she could just stand in the shower for the next three days. The way she felt, the latter alternative seemed most inviting.
Mulder knocked on the door, "Scully are you up?"
"Come on. Open the door."
"I can't, Mulder. Just come in."
"What? It's locked."
"Well break in then."
Mulder slipped in with a skeleton key, "What's the matter Scully? What happened?"
She was sitting up in bed with all the blankets bunched around her. She had a headache that would kill an elephant and cramps in her stomach and back. She felt as if her kidneys were trying to filter ice water and she had probably ruined the motel's mattress.
"Mulder, I need you to get some things for me."
"What things? What's happened? Are you all right?"
"Just get the things, Mulder," she handed him a list and slumped back into the covers. She couldn't bear to see the look on Mulder's face.
Mulder read the list as he went out the door. His expression of concern did not alter. All he could think of was that at some stage in a normal past he might have been requested to do the same sort of thing for Samantha. He had a feeling of having been accepted into a profoundly intimate aspect of Scully's life, and he felt oddly privileged. As well as the necessary requirements, he bought a small bunch of violets and gave them to Scully.
"I'm going to talk to Mrs Morgan. Take it easy Scully. I'll meet you later at the hospital."
Mrs Morgan met him at the door almost as if she had been expecting to see him. Her bright little eyes glowed and her mouth pointed itself into a smile, "Hello, my dear. Will you come inside and have some tea with me?"
He followed her into the kitchen with its singing kettle and purring cat, "Mrs Morgan, I need to talk to you about why you gave pennyroyal to Mrs Fraser and Mrs Hardie."
"Who, dear?" she poured boiling water into mugs and cut fresh cake while the brews steeped.
"Anna and Maureen, Mrs Morgan. You knew they were pregnant when you gave them the pennyroyal," he stirred sugar into his tea and squeezed out the home made tea bag.
"No, my dear, only when a woman is carrying a child in her womb is she pregnant. That's what the word means. With child," she smiled at him as she spoke, as though she was trying to educate him to some entirely new concept. She sat opposite him, fiddling with a small collection of material and a wooden peg from a basket.
He bit into a slice of the heavy fruit cake. It was breakfast and he was hungry. The bite he had taken was too big to politely spit out, but there was something wrong with it, it tasted strange and bitter. He searched about for a napkin or something to spit it into, but there was nothing. In desperation he filled his mouth with the tea to wash it down, and that was even worse. He choked the mess down, hoping his expression didn't offend Mrs Morgan.
"You see," she continued, apparently oblivious of his discomfort, "What Anna and Maureen were carrying wasn't babies, my dear. So they couldn't have been said as pregnant. Parasites it was. I was just helping them rid of the parasites."
Mulder sat watching her. Somehow, in the last few moments, something had gone badly wrong for him. He could see and hear, he was quite aware of his surroundings, but he couldn't move. Nothing worked. It almost seemed as if he had forgotten how to command his limbs, as if he had lost that part of his brain which controlled his muscles. He sat there, staring at her, the cup of tea still mid way between his mouth and the table. He couldn't even finish putting it down.
"I *am* sorry my dear," said Mrs Morgan, getting up from her end of the table and coming round to where Mulder was sitting. She gently took the cup from his hand and placed it on the table, "But I couldn't have you in the way. You might get yourself hurt, and I feel responsible enough for what happened to Anna and Maureen. Stand up now, my dear."
It was as though he was under some kind of hypnosis. Mulder's body obeyed, he stood. He felt her hands slipping up across his chest as she took his coat off him. She laid the coat down in a corner beside the wood burning stove.
"There you are, my dear, a little spot for you. I hope you won't be getting too dusty or cold. You just lie down and be comfortable now."
Mulder curled up on the coat and the old woman bent down over him. She took the shawl off her shoulders and covered him with it, and then moved back to the table where she'd been fiddling with the peg. Mulder couldn't see properly what she was doing, something with red embroidery silk. She tucked it under a corner of the shawl that covered him, "That lovely gal you were with will make it right, my dear," she said, patting him reassuringly on the shoulder.
After cleaning herself up in a long, very hot shower, and taking a handful of painkillers, Scully crept back into bed. It was midmorning when she woke again and hauled herself down to the hospital. She went through the records, looking for results on tests done of the aborted foetuses from the eight women. None were there. When she asked about them, she was told that Dr Oldfield had all of the records transferred directly to his clinic. The only time any of his clients' records were at the hospital was when they were actually receiving treatment there.
"Do you have any of his patients here at the moment?"
The clerk checked through the files, "Uh huh, Mrs Reynolds was admitted early Tuesday morning. She had a boy."
Scully took note of Mrs Reynolds' room and went upstairs.
Mulder could hear Mrs Morgan in another room. It sounded as if she was talking to someone. He couldn't quite hear the words, though, only the sing song sound of her voice. The cat moved from its chair and went through the door to join her. Mulder was left alone in the room, unable to even call for help. He stared at the kitchen sink. It was a very old concrete sink with a single brass tap dripping away. Something must have happened to the washer all of a sudden, because as Mulder watched, water began to pour from the tap. Sunlight filtered through from the window and lit up the sink. He hadn't noticed before the moss that grew up a crack in the concrete. Lichen grew down from the sink, spreading across the floor.
He heard someone knock on the door and Mrs Morgan bustled past him. He knew the voice at once.
"Mrs Morgan? I'm Dr Oldfield. I wonder if I could have a moment of your time."
"Of course, my dear. Come in."
Mulder's heart froze. He had mentioned the old woman's name to Dr Oldfield, and it suddenly came very clear to him who the ripper was. Those women would let their doctor in. They would go to their bedrooms and lie down for him, probably because he said he wanted to do an examination. He certainly had the strength to deliver the killing blows to those women, and the knowledge to perform the brutal surgeries on their bodies. The question of motive seemed obvious to Mulder. Eight other women had been given Vitacompound and lost their babies, each time it was Oldfield who had taken the aborted or miscarried material. The two women Mrs Morgan had "helped" were brutally murdered, and parts of their endocrine system taken. Oldfield's experiments had failed, and he wanted to know why.
"I believe you knew Mrs Fraser and Mrs Hardie?"
"That's right, my dear. Come inside and sit down."
They walked right through the kitchen. Mulder couldn't even hold his breath as Oldfield's shiny shoe planted itself and then lifted away, not ten inches from his face. It was impossible not to notice a grown man lying on the kitchen floor with a brightly coloured rug spread over him, but Oldfield did not respond at all to him.
"You gave them abortifacients, didn't you, Mrs Morgan."
"Now my dear, it's only an abortion if a child is lost. You know that."
"Both those ladies were pregnant."
"So they had been told."
"It's time for you to stop hurting my patients."
"It's time for us both to stop, my dear."
What followed was a brief sound, a grunt of surprise and pain that was cut short. Mulder wasn't sure, but he thought it sounded like a male voice. Then he heard something soft and heavy fall to the floor. A body. Then nothing. No voices, no footsteps, no sounds at all. After a while the cat came out of the room, its feet padding on the cold floor. It sniffed Mulder's face and then curled up on the rug beside him.
Mrs Reynolds sat very gently on the edge of her bed and gazed down at the tiny blue wrapped bundle in the cradle beside her.
"Isn't he beautiful?" she clucked.
Scully nodded, "He looks a lot like you," she whispered.
Mrs Reynolds looked suitably pleased.
"He was born Tuesday morning, wasn't he?" the morning Maureen Fraser died, Scully thought.
"That's right. The contractions were getting closer and closer together, and we called Dr Oldfield, and he said to come in. We came in about four in the morning, and Robbie was born at eight twenty two."
"And what time did Dr Oldfield come in?"
Mrs Reynolds laughed, "Oh, not till after nine. That's fairly typical, isn't it? You see your specialist all through the pregnancy, he's there for the rehearsals, and then he's late for the main event."
Scully read the medical notes from Mrs Reynolds. All of the laboratory tests had been done here at the hospital, which meant that if what she had been told earlier was true, all of the results had to be back at Dr Oldfield's clinic. She was getting a very bad feeling about that man.
There was no sign of Mulder in the hospital foyer. Scully stepped outside to call him on the cellular phone. There was no reply. She'd had to keep her phone switched off in the hospital, perhaps he'd tried to call her then. She decided to go to Mrs Morgan's, follow his tracks. With luck he might have told the old woman where he was going next. He might even still be there, eating toasted crumpets by her cosy wood burning stove.
Mulder was cold. The fire had died down in the stove and chill was creeping up him from the floor. Even the cat snuggled against him didn't keep him very warm. The house had gone quiet, too. The clock was no longer ticking in the other room, the wind had died down and the tap had somehow turned itself off. It wasn't even dripping now. It was so quiet, he heard a step on the path and a knock on the door.
Scully! Oh, Scully, *please* come in.
"Mrs Morgan?" the knock again, and the sound of the door opening, "Hello?" Cautious feet in the passageway, coming towards him, "Mrs Morgan? Is anyone here?"
Scully walked right past him. Her ankle almost brushed her nose. How could she not notice him lying there? She went into the room where Mrs Morgan and Dr Oldfield had vanished earlier. He was afraid. What if Oldfield was waiting there for her? What if he was hiding round the corner with his slashing knife?
"Oh my god! Mrs Morgan?" the beep sound of her dialling her cellular phone, she called police and ambulance. Two dead.
Scully came back into the kitchen and looked about. Dammit, Mulder, she thought, where are you when I need you? There was a patch of colour on the floor. Strange how she hadn't noticed it before. She realised it was the old woman's shawl. It seemed odd that she would hang it up on the floor like that. The black cat was curled up on it. Perhaps the cat had dragged it down from a chair or something. Scully bent over the shawl and realised that Mulder was staring at her.
For a horrible moment she thought he was dead too. He lay so still under the shawl. Then his eyes blinked.
"My god, Mulder, what are you doing?" she shooed the cat away and pulled the shawl off him, expecting to find his arms bound.
"Mulder what's happened to you?" she scooped him up in her arms, running her fingers through his hair, searching his head for bumps, a concussion might explain his behaviour. There was nothing though. The first ambulance took Mulder to the hospital. The second took the bodies of Dr Oldfield and Mrs Morgan.
Dana Scully had been set three problems and she went about solving them with logic and science and all the rational tools at her call. She ordered tests for Mulder. His signs made no sense. It was as though his somatic nervous system had come unplugged. Just that and nothing more, yet in a system as interdependent and complex as a living body, Scully *knew* there *had* to be more. She ordered an MRI brain scan and a cat scan of his brain and entire spine. At least he wasn't going to fidget during the procedures.
She performed the autopsies on Oldfield and Mrs Morgan. The cause of Oldfield's death was straightforward. She sat beside Mulder and read to him from her notes. Talked to him about what she had found.
"We had the cat put down of course. I know it seems a little unfair, but there was no one to look after it, and after all, it had killed a man. I've heard of dogs attacking to protect their owners, but this is the first time I've heard of a cat doing the same. I'm quite surprised that an ordinary house cat had the strength in its jaws to break a man's neck, but there was no question about it. We measured its bite and compared it with the marks on Dr Oldfield's neck. They were identical."
Mulder listened with a sort of passive intensity. Scully had moved his head so that she could easily make eye contact with him as she sat beside his bed. There was no sound or other reaction from him, though. Not even his breathing or blink rate altered. He could move his eyes, that was all. From time to time, when she would have expected an emotional response from her partner, the pupils of his eyes would contract or dilate. They were interrupted occasionally by a nurse who would poke about in Mulder's mouth or rearrange his limbs, pressing on his skin, testing him for bedsores. A thin tube was threaded down his nostril. Mulder could not eat. It had come both as a surprise and a relief to Scully to learn from the nurses that he had full control over his bowel and bladder and used a bedpan when they put him on it. She had not needed to order an indwelling catheter for him.
"He did the murders, Mulder. The police have impounded all his records. I didn't want to take any chances. I've made copies of all the relevant files. This one isn't going to get away."
Scully reached for his hand and held it. It was limp and heavy as lead. Already the physiotherapists had to work on him twice a day, stretching his tendons against the inevitable shortening that would curl him back into a foetal position. His muscles were wasting, his blood was pooling, his body was corkscrewing down into a paralysed pretzel.
"Dammit Mulder, I know you're in there somewhere."
She watched as his pupils dilated.
Scully could find no explanation for Mrs Morgan's death. As far as she could tell the old woman had literally given up the ghost. The nearest Scully was prepared to concede was perhaps she had been shocked to death by the threat of Dr Oldfield, and even by seeing her cat kill him. There was no doubt that Oldfield had committed the other murders. He'd had a knife on him that matched the size and shape of the blade that had killed the other women. Scully was not prepared to guess at how the cat had known about the knife. It was still in Oldfield's pocket when he died. Perhaps like Melissa Scully, the cat read auras.
She ordered more blood tests from Mulder.
"We had to think of something to keep you entertained, and the nursing staff took offence at the videos I wanted to bring in for you."
"Mulder. Give me something. Give me a clue. Was it the cat?"
She stared at the test results from his blood.
She tried to think of every illness or disease process that had as part of its description "paralysis", and she searched for it in Mulder. Parkinson's Disease? Multiple Sclerosis? Some virus related to the cat scratch?
Skinner came to visit him. He moved quietly through Mulder's room, confused at first by the twisted way Mulder was lying in the bed. He finally came into Mulder's line of sight and frowned. Mulder was lying on his stomach, his head turned to one side, one arm twisted behind him, the other curled around in front, fist tucked under his chin. Skinner rang for a nurse.
"He....doesn't look comfortable," Skinner complained, gesturing at Mulder.
The nurse plumped Mulder's pillow, checked his pulse, bagged the bedclothes around his feet, poked something into his mouth and checked the tube in his nose.
"Mr Mulder seems fine to me."
"But he's all...twisted."
"That's sims," said the nurse, as if it was some kind of rational explanation and then she left.
Skinner shrugged and turned back to Mulder, "I'm sorry, agent Mulder. I did try," he had to scrunch himself down to make full eye contact with Mulder. It wasn't a comfortable position, he balanced himself with one hand on Mulder's bed.
"Agent Mulder, I want you to know that everything possible is being done to find out what is wrong with you. Agent Scully has been working day and night. She has the full backing of the F.B.I."
He watched as Mulder's pupils contracted down to pinpoints of doubt. It was impossible for Mulder to know how much Skinner had done to protect him. To even tell Mulder the things he had done, the number of times he had risked his own life for his subordinate, would, in itself be a risk. He moved closer to Mulder as though he needed to impart a secret. His hand rested on Mulder's arm.
"The *full* backing of the F.B.I. agent Mulder."
When he left Mulder was left feeling the spot on his arm where Skinner's hand had rested grow cold. He had a draught down his back where the nurse hadn't quite tucked him in, and his head itched. Worse than that, he was left with the very uncomfortable feeling that whatever had caused his paralysis was something totally new. Even that man who skulked about in Skinner's office, smoking cigarettes and running everyone's lives didn't know what was going on. But he wanted to find out. And he wanted to own it.
None of it made sense. If Mulder had been a toy, Scully would simply have put new batteries in him. He wasn't broken. There was, as far as she could see, no illness. She'd done toxicology on Mrs Morgan's cake, and the half drunk cups of tea on the kitchen table. Aside from wondering who in their right mind would want to choke down catnip tea, and cake laced with tansy, Scully could find nothing odd. It was simply a matter of not knowing what to look for, though. Scully knew that. It was the only rational answer.
She worked herself day and night so hard that when she came home in the early hours to find her door unlocked, she was convinced she had simply forgotten to close it properly when she had left that morning. It wasn't until days later that she even thought to look for the records from Dr Oldfield's clinic, and of course they were gone. She didn't tell Mulder. His condition was bad enough, he didn't need something like that depressing him.
She searched through the old woman's personal effects. Maybe she'd stuck him with a hatpin laced with curare. It was a stupid thought, but at this point Scully had pretty much run out of sensible ideas. She searched through every thread of the old woman's clothes from her baggy cotton knickers to the torn apron. Scully frowned at that. Mrs Morgan had been wearing that same apron the day they had visited, and Scully was sure it hadn't had a corner torn off it that day. Maybe the cat's claws had got snagged again? No...Mrs Morgan had used that corner to dab at the cut on Mulder's hand. Now it was gone. No blood. No corner. Maybe the old woman was phobic about AIDS.
Scully folded the clothes and put them back in the bag. She tried to think. The shawl. The old woman had been wearing it, and then Scully had found it on top of Mulder. Scully reached for the package containing the shawl. It had been hand crocheted, a hundred and forty four hand crocheted flowers, and probably as many different yarns made up the shawl. Scully dragged it out of its bag, maybe there was some unknown virus in one of those yarns. Maybe Mulder was allergic in some idiopathic fashion. She flicked the shawl open and something fell rattling to the floor. Scully frowned and picked it up.
It was a peg doll. She hadn't seen one of those since she was a child. Several thick dark hairs had been glued to the top of its head. Two black dots represented its eyes, a smaller two its nose its mouth was a small straight line. A piece of fabric, the bloodstained corner of Mrs Morgan's apron, had been wrapped around its body, and the whole thing was tied in three places with red embroidery silk, across the mouth, upper body, and where its ankles would have been. Scully slipped a scalpel under the silk and cut it off. She turned the doll round and round in her fingers. The fabric had been twisted and knotted into place. The doll looked as if it was wearing a pair of trousers. In the same neat hand that had drawn the half face...and written the names of herbs on labels in murdered women's kitchens, were the initials F.M. on the upper part of the doll's body.
Her cellular phone began to ring and Scully reached for it without thinking, "Scully."
"It's me," the voice was hoarse with disuse and for a moment Scully didn't recognise it. When she did, her surprise was so great she dropped the doll. She nearly dropped the phone, as well.
"Yeah. Come and rescue me Scully. They won't take this tube out of my nose without your permission."
"Oh, god. Mulder."
"Don't deify me Scully. Just come get me."
He looked tired and sore.
"It's a long time since I've spent this long in bed and got up exhausted," he grumbled somewhat wistfully.
"I'll need to do some more tests," said Scully.
"I don't suppose you'd like to consider some more subtle form of torture?"
"Mulder don't you want to know what happened to you?"
"Why? I'm better now."
"Suppose you have a relapse."
"We both know I can't have a relapse, Scully."
Nothing showed on any of the tests. Mulder didn't like the pincushion treatment. Eventually she gave up. She listed it as "idiopathic response to unknown allergen." It was a stupid explanation, but only she knew how really stupid the truth was.
Mulder expressed a sort of angry resignation when she told him what had happened to the copies of the files she had made.
"We can get hold of the ones the police still have," she suggested.
"Scully, I thought you'd been working with me long enough to know better than that."
The original files had gone. Quite legally, of course. To the F.B.I. The young policeman showed them the paperwork. The scribbled signature on the receipt. Mulder could almost smell the cigarette smoke in the ink.
"It's gone Mulder."
Scully drove him home, walked with him through his house.
"Scully did you clean my house while I was in hospital?"
"No I just organised the mess so I could get through and feed the fish. Pizza boxes in that corner, dirty clothes over there. I wanted you coming back to a familiar environment."
"A physician who truly cares."
She left him stretched out on his sofa watching the television. He had a lot of television to catch up on. He had a couple of weeks of life to catch up on.
She went to her own home and slowly packed the medical journals and textbooks that she'd been plundering. She took the little peg doll out of her bag and sat it on her desk. Somehow the doll represented a rational explanation. If only she knew the right questions to ask, the right tests to perform.