Elliot grabbed his jacket and hurried to Olivia’s side as she headed for the door. “What did we catch?”
“Little girl, assaulted in her home.”
“Raped?” Elliot fell into step beside her.
“She’s at the hospital. I don’t know.”
Elliot shook his head as he pulled out his keys. “How old?”
He winced. “Any suspects?”
“Not that I know of. Mother called the ambulance when she found her this morning.”
“Found her? Where was she?”
Olivia shrugged and pulled open the door to the car. “The mother is Gloria Michaels; daughter of the late Thomas P. Winthrope.”
Elliot’s eyebrow rose. She shrugged. “Let’s go.”
Olivia led the way into the hospital room. The mother was sitting by the bed, her tear streaked face looked drawn and Elliot noted that she was wringing her hands continually.
“Mrs. Michaels? I’m Olivia Benson, this is my partner Elliot Stabler.” She displayed her badge.
The woman nodded after glancing at their badges. “Thank you for coming.”
“We realize this is a difficult time for you, but we really need to talk to you about what happened.”
“I know,” she said softly. “Do you mind if we step out of the room. I know she’s asleep but . . . “
“That’s a good idea,” Olivia nodded and held the door open. Elliot glanced over at the bed and shook his head at the sight of the sleeping child.
Rather than stand in the hall, a nurse directed them to a small consultation room and assured Mrs. Michaels that they would let her know if her daughter awoke.
Elliot held a chair for Mrs. Michaels as Olivia took the chair beside her. Olivia took out her notebook. “Could you tell us what happened?”
The woman shook her head. “I don’t know. I was asleep. Rachel was in her room.”
“It was just the two of you at home?”
“Yes. My husband’s on a business trip, in Atlanta. I’ve called him. He’s on his way home now.”
“You spoke to him?”
“Yes, I got hold of him before he left for his meetings this morning. He should be here in a couple of hours.”
“We haven’t been to your apartment yet. Is there an alarm system?”
“Yes. It was set. After I called 911, I had to disarm it to let them in.”
Elliot glanced over at Olivia. That was something that could be verified with the alarm company.
“I didn’t hear anything or see anything. When I woke up I heard Rachel crying and I went to check on her.”
“Do you have any help, maid, or housekeeper?”
“Yes, but when Todd is out of town, I usually give them the night off. Rachel and I enjoy cooking together.” Fresh tears filled the woman’s eyes then. “I know you have questions, but I need to get back to my baby.”
Olivia nodded. “We’ve just started this investigation. We’ll be in touch.”
“Thank you.” The woman shook their hands, then left them.
Once they were alone, Olivia met Elliot’s eyes. “She sounds sincere.”
“I want to see this apartment.”
As they were headed toward the elevator, they spotted Dr. Rodgers at the nurse’s station. They stopped to speak to her. “Elizabeth, do you have any information about Rachel Michaels?”
The doctor sighed. “She was attacked. She’s bruised but there was no semen and no evidence of latex. I’d say the perpetrator was unsuccessful, possibly interrupted.”
“Well, thank goodness for that. Let us know what else you find.”
She nodded and moved on. Elliot pressed the button on the elevator.
When they arrived at the apartment they were surprised to find Munch and Fin already there. Elliot stopped just inside the door. “I thought we were on this one.”
“We’re all on this one,” Munch said dryly. “It’s high profile.”
“Besides, who wouldn’t want to check out this place?” Fin remarked. “They own two floors here.”
Olivia blinked. “How long have they lived here?”
Munch looked down at his notes. “They moved in about a month ago. She inherited it from her father. Winthrope died eight weeks ago. She’s the only child so the entire family trust goes to her.”
“Have you been in touch with the security company? Mrs. Michaels said the alarm was on all night.”
Munch nodded. “They confirmed that. All doors locked and I don’t think anyone came through the windows, unless you think Spiderman’s a suspect.”
Elliot huffed and turned toward the girl’s bedroom. It was a little girl’s dream room, canopy bed, child-size vanity with pretend makeup and jewelry. The doll house took up nearly half of one wall. “Any fingerprints?”
“Not many. They have a better maid than I do,” Fin remarked. “They’ve been sent to the lab. This whole place was just redone; paint, carpet. Mrs. Michaels redecorated before they moved in.”
“Do we have the name of the contractor? We’ll need to talk to them.”
Olivia nodded. “Are there surveillance cameras?”
“For a place like this? You better believe it. We have someone headed over to the security company now to retrieve them,” Fin responded shaking his head. “You’d have a better chance getting’ into Fort Knox.”
“So who managed it?” Elliot asked as he moved back out to the main room.
Elliot leaned back in his chair. “Okay, let’s go over it once more.” He ignored the groans of Fin and Munch. “The alarm was set; the cameras show no one entering the apartment. You know that leaves the mother.”
Olivia shook her head. “I don’t think so. She was too shaken; Elliot, I just can’t see her hurting her daughter. I don’t think she’s that good an actress.”
“So what does that leave us with?” Captain Cragen asked the room.
“A non-corporeal entity,” a strange voice said from near the door.
All five of them turned in that direction. “Uh, excuse me?” Cragen took a step toward the visitors.
Olivia gave the man a once-over, then again just for the pleasure of it. Tall, dark, well-built, but slim, his long trench coat covered a very expensive looking suit that fit well enough to be tailored. He had dark, intelligent eyes that held a hint of aloofness. Definitely not someone she’d kick out of bed.
Then she spotted the small redheaded woman beside him. The woman had taken note of her perusal of the man. She certainly wasn’t intimidated by it. Who were these people?
Even as Olivia thought it the woman flipped open her badge. “I’m Special Agent Dana Scully, this is my partner, Fox - “
Fox? The man’s name was Fox?
“Mulder,” Munch spoke before Agent Scully could finish. The male agent turned to face him and a look of recognition lit his eyes.
“Detective Munch. It’s been a long time.”
“It seems to have agreed with you.” Munch shook the proffered hand.
“I’ll have to let my friends know I got to see you.”
Munch looked surprised at that. “You’re still in touch with the geek squad?”
“Some of my best friends. They’ve really come through for me more than once.” Mulder felt Scully’s questioning look and gave her a nod.
Munch nodded, bemused and held his hand out to Scully. “I was going to say he was keeping better company these days.”
After a momentary hesitation, Scully shook the man’s hand. There was something about him that reminded her of Frohike, but this man could never be as dear to her.
Quick introductions were made, then Cragen turned to Mulder. “Would you like to explain your comment earlier? Non-corporeal spirits, isn’t that another name for ghosts?”
“I suppose so,” Mulder said quietly.
Elliot straightened up then and met Mulder’s eyes. “I’m curious as to why the FBI is involved in this case.”
“We were requested to look into it by Senator Webster. He was a friend of the victim’s grandfather. He heard about the, the nature of the case and asked that we aid in the investigation.”
“The nature of the case?” Elliot repeated.
“The fact that no one was seen coming or going from a highly secured apartment,” Mulder offered.
“So you are postulating that we’re looking at . . . Casper?”
“My understanding is that Casper was a friendly ghost. This one doesn’t seem to be,” Mulder responded.
Scully touched Mulder’s arm and he looked down at her. Some sort of silent communication passed between them and Olivia understood that she would not be having the opportunity to have this man in her bed regardless. She and Elliot were partners, good partners, but they didn’t have that . . . she didn’t even know what to call it, a nexus?
Scully took over then. “We run a division within the Bureau that investigates unexplained phenomena. Senator Webster had heard of us and requested our involvement through Assistant Director Skinner’s office.”
Mulder didn’t speak, but Olivia saw a hint of amusement in his eyes. Was it his partner’s description of their work?
Captain Cragen was silent for a long moment before he spoke. “Frankly, my first inclination is to turn down your ‘offer’, but, right now I’m not in the mood to get into a pissin’ contest with a U. S. Senator, so I’ll go along for now. The way I see it, maybe having a couple of extra hands on deck can help us solve this that much faster. I suppose you need to see what we have so far.” Captain Cragen met Scully’s eyes. “And just so there’s no misunderstanding, Detectives Stabler and Benson will remain in charge of this case. Interrogation room 2 is empty.”
Scully looked through the forensic evidence with Olivia. “He wasn’t successful. There was no penetration, but extensive bruising,” Olivia said quietly.
“You’ve worked in this area for a while, haven’t you?” Scully looked up at Olivia.
“She’s four years old.”
Olivia looked down at the floor. “It’s sick. There’s a lot of sick out there.”
Scully nodded. “Do you have a suspect?”
Olivia shook her head. “But I don’t think it was a ghost.”
“I understand,” Scully almost smiled.
“Do you? I mean do you think it was a ghost?”
Scully tilted her head but wouldn’t meet the woman’s eyes. “I can’t rule it out.”
“Are you . . . you’re serious.” Olivia gaped at her. “This Fox, is he - “
“Mulder. He goes by Mulder.”
Olivia’s eyebrow rose. “You two seem close.”
“We’ve been partners for seven years,” Scully said smoothly, ignoring the innuendo.
“Seven. That is a long time. And he comes up with this kind of . . . “
“Theory. Detective Benson - “
“Olivia,” Scully nodded. “Yes, Agent Mulder does come at cases from a, a different angle. But he’s been proved right more often than not. Give him a chance.”
Olivia met her eyes and after a long moment, nodded.
The four of them stood outside the door of the Michael’s apartment. Elliot waited with undisguised annoyance for someone to answer his knock. This was definitely overkill, to have all four of them interview the parents, but Cragen had insisted. Maybe he wanted them to keep a rein on this Agent Mulder.
An older woman in a uniform answered the door. Olivia held up her badge. “We’re here to see Mr. and Mrs. Michaels.”
The woman nodded and stepped back to allow them entry. “This way, please.” She led them to a room holding several couches and chairs arranged in conversation groups. Munch had dubbed this ‘the study’ during his earlier visit to the place. “Mr. and Mrs. Michaels will be right with you.” She let herself out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Elliot shook his head with a bemused smile on his face. Mulder looked over at him, but kept quiet.
In moments the door opened and Mr. Michaels entered, his hand coming out immediately to shake with each of them. “Todd Michaels, thank you for coming.”
He was younger than Olivia had pictured, probably about the same age as his wife. Olivia recognized the disarming demeanor of a politician immediately. She wondered at her assumption of an older husband. “Gloria will be right with us. She’s getting Rachel settled. Can I get you anything?”
“No, thank you,” Mulder responded for everyone. “I know you’re glad to have your daughter home.”
“Yes, but I wonder that they didn’t want to keep her for a little while longer. She was severely traumatized.”
“Being home might be the best thing for her,” Olivia said smoothly.
“True,” he conceded and then looked over at the door as it opened again. Gloria Michaels joined them and took a seat beside her husband as Todd and Mulder, and belatedly Elliot rose. They all seated themselves again and before Elliot could speak, Mulder leaned forward.
“I understand this is your childhood home, Mrs. Michaels.”
Gloria looked around the room, then back at Mulder. “As a young child. I went to boarding school when I was eight.”
“Eight? Isn’t that a little young?”
“I wanted to go and I loved it.”
Mulder nodded. “But you were here for holidays and vacations?”
“Not really. I visited friends, traveled as I grew older.”
Mulder looked slightly disappointed. “So you haven’t spent a lot of time in the apartment.”
“No, I haven’t, not until we moved in last month.”
“I was hoping as a child you might have found some sort of hidden passage or entry that you might have forgotten about that isn’t covered by the security system.”
“No, I never found anything like that.”
He nodded. “I understand you had the entire place redecorated before you moved in.”
“Yes. Everything was very dated. I wanted to add color and light to the place.”
“Not have it the way you remembered it,” Mulder agreed.
“Did your parents live here long?”
“Since they married, over thirty years ago. They were living here when I was born.”
“Prior to moving in, when was the last time you visited?”
She stiffened slightly, but looked Mulder directly in the eye. “I hosted a reception here when Mother passed away, nearly five years ago. Since then I had not been here.”
“You didn’t visit your father, after he was alone?”
“My father was rarely ‘alone’ and he traveled extensively almost until his death a couple of months ago.”
“But I’m sure he spent quality time with Rachel.”
“He never met Rachel. Neither of my parents did. Mother died before she was born. Father didn’t seem that interested.” Todd’s arm went around his wife.
“I’m not sure where this is leading,” he looked at Mulder.
“Sorry, I’m just trying to get a feel for people who might be familiar with the apartment. Did the people who work here now work for your father?”
“No. Our housekeeper and our cook came with us from our previous residence. They’ve been with us since we set up housekeeping, and we’ve had the same nanny ever since Rachel was born. I trust them and in any case, none of them were here that night.”
“The former staff, they wouldn’t have keys?”
“I don’t know. All of the locks were changed and the security system upgraded.” Gloria rose abruptly, bringing Todd and Mulder to their feet. “I need to check on Rachel.”
Mulder nodded. “Thank you for your time.”
She hesitated a moment then nodded and turned toward the door. Todd walked with her. Elliot looked over at Olivia. “So we’re still talking ghosts?” He whispered, but in the quiet room, his voice carried.
Both Gloria and Todd turned to look at him. Scully saw that Gloria’s face had gone ashen. “I beg your pardon?” her voice shook slightly.
“I’m sorry. We’re still working on entry,” Mulder said smoothly, not showing his annoyance.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” Gloria whispered.
No one commented, noting her agitation. Finally Scully lightly touched Mulder’s arm. He looked down at her and nodded. “Before we leave, may we see your daughter’s room?”
Gloria hesitated, then nodded and motioned for him and Scully to follow. She opened the door and allowed them to precede her into the room. Elliot and Olivia continued to observe in silence, taking mental notes.
“Rachel’s not here?”
“She’s in the kitchen with Mrs. Franklin. I don’t want to leave her alone.”
Mulder nodded. He glanced around the room impassively then returned to the door. He stood there in silent concentration. After a moment he turned to Scully and nodded.
“Thank you, Mrs. Michaels. We’ll be in touch.” Scully turned toward the main room and spotted Olivia watching them. Mulder followed Scully from the room and allowed Mrs. Michaels to show them to the door.
Mr. Michaels met them in the foyer. “I don’t know what that crack about ghosts was, but I can assure you that my wife did not harm our daughter, if that’s what you’re inferring,” Todd’s voice was icy now.
Mulder met his eyes. “I know she didn’t.”
Todd blinked, but after a moment nodded and followed his wife from the room.
Elliot turned on Mulder then. “You know she didn’t? Would you like to explain how you know such a thing?”
Mulder shrugged and his hand came to rest on Scully’s lower back as he led her out of the apartment. Olivia and Elliot exchanged confused glances and followed. They were all quiet on the ride back to the station, and when they arrived, Elliot vanished.
Mulder turned to Olivia. “Do you know who Rachel’s pediatrician is?”
“It should be in the records, I can check,” she said as she turned and headed to her desk.
Olivia pulled the file and scribbled down a name, then turned back to them. She handed the paper to Mulder. “Would you like to get a bite?”
“Uh, sure,” Scully said.
“There’s a place we go to a lot; it’s just down the street.”
Mulder nodded and held the door for the women.
After the waitress took their order, Mulder looked around. It was obviously a cop hangout, but he didn’t spot anyone he knew. “Is Elliot going to join us?”
“No, he headed home. He’s delighted when he can grab an early evening. He loves nights when he can tuck the kids in.”
Mulder’s head came up. “He’s married?”
She nodded. “Yeah, he and Kathy are good. He has the whole package, four kids and all. The last two were twins.”
Mulder blinked at that and glanced over at Scully. She seemed to be concentrating on her napkin.
“What about you?”
Olivia shook her head. “Never married, no kids.”
“Does that bother you?”
“Do I want kids? Yeah. Do I think it’s going to happen? No. The clock is ticking like mad, but it’s probably for the best.”
“This job doesn’t lend itself to much of a home life. I see that with Elliot. Dana said the two of you have been partners for seven years.” Olivia changed the subject.
“Yeah, going on seven years,” he answered.
“Seven. That’s a long time for a partnership.”
Mulder smiled. “They can’t find anyone else to put with me.”
“Anyone else to go ghost busting with you?” Olivia glanced up and realized the waitress was back and flushed, hoping she hadn’t overheard.
He shrugged, taking a bite of his sandwich.
“Come on, that can’t be what you guys really do.”
Mulder looked over at Scully, as though inviting her to take it. Scully took a deep breath. “Yes, it’s what we do. But it’s not just that, we work the unexplained, the unsolved cases.”
“Any other ghosts?”
Mulder watched Scully. Finally she rolled her eyes and told her about the case involving Chester Bonaparte, then moved on to the case with Megan Forrester.
“You have ghosts recommending you to other ghosts?” Olivia was grinning now. “That is incredible.” She was shaking her head. Their food was gone now and Olivia’s beer as well as Mulder and Scully’s iced teas were empty.
“It keeps us off the street. How long have you been doing this?”
“Four years. People don’t last long in this division. Sex crimes are tough,” Olivia shrugged. “You were good with the Michaels. Do you have experience in this area?”
“Not really, not hands on, but I studied psychology.”
Mulder glanced over at Scully. “Uh, Oxford.”
“Oxford?” Olivia choked slightly. “Oxford . . . you’re a doctor?”
“I have my Ph.D., but I’m not as good as Scully.”
“You’re a doctor too?”
Olivia leaned back. “Damn, I took criminal classes at City College.”
“Which obviously worked for you. You had a wonderful rapport with Gloria. To do this as long as you have, you must have the insight as well.” Mulder remarked.
“Maybe what I grew up with . . . You never said why you wanted to see the Michaels’ pediatrician.”
“Families like that tend to use older established medical groups. I wonder if Gloria uses the same group that she was taken to as a child.”
“I don’t know. It’s just a hunch.”
Olivia looked over at Scully. “Does he have a lot of hunches?”
Scully huffed then, but smiled indulgently at her partner. “You could say that.”
Again Olivia relished the closeness of these two, then shoved it aside. “It’s getting late. I need to get home. Do you need a ride?”
“No, we’ll get a cab. Thanks.” Mulder rose and when Scully stood as well, he touched her back lightly. Olivia noted it, he was a gentleman, and he belonged to this woman. Scully met her eyes. Olivia nodded and they headed outside.
They reached Scully’s room first. She swiped her keycard and let herself in, Mulder following. She kicked off her shoes at the foot of the bed, rotating one ankle then the other. “I’m glad you finally loosened up a little at dinner.”
Mulder shrugged, removing his suit coat.
Scully pulled her blouse from her waistband and began unbuttoning her shirt. “Olivia’s a beautiful woman.”
She smiled when she felt Mulder’s arms come around her and his warm breath at her ear. “Who?”
She chuckled as he turned her toward him and finished the task of unbuttoning her blouse. “What’s your problem with Elliot?”
He rolled his eyes and stepped back from her as she watched him. “I don’t know, he reminds me of that prick Colton.”
“Tom?” she asked surprised.
“Not his intelligence. Stabler has to have what it takes to continue in that division for over twelve years, but his attitude . . . “
“Doesn’t believe in Reticulians?”
Mulder grinned and took a seat at the small table. “Yeah.”
“What do you think you’ll learn from the pediatrician?”
“Hopefully who hurt Gloria. She’s not telling us everything; I want to know if her past has anything in it like what happened to her daughter.”
“You suspect her father.”
He nodded. “But we need proof.”
She nodded. “I’m going to take a shower. Are you going to stay here?”
He grinned. “Want company?”
“Don’t push it Mulder; we’re on a case.”
“We’re off duty,” he countered, but stayed where he was, watching her disappear into the bathroom.
When she emerged in her robe, drying her hair, he was sprawled on her bed, watching a basketball game. Her eyebrow rose as he only moved over a little to make room for her.
“I’m going to bed, Mulder.”
He cut his eyes at her, but then heaved a put upon sigh and turned off the TV.
“You can watch it in your room, you know.”
“That bed isn’t as comfortable.”
“And you know that how?” she said dryly.
“You aren’t in it.”
Olivia led the way into the doctor’s office and discretely displayed her badge. “We need to speak with Dr. Sullivan.”
“She’s with a patient.”
“Okay, when she’s through we need to see her before she sees her next patient.”
“I, I’ll tell her.”
“Thank you.” Olivia turned back to Scully. “I should probably have let him ask her,” she whispered, keeping her voice low so Elliot wouldn’t hear.
“Do many women turn him down?”
Scully turned away to hide her smile.
They waited in the doctor’s office. It was a little crowded, but the women took the chairs as the men lounged behind them.
It wasn’t long before the doctor opened the door. She looked surprised at the crowd, but then turned and walked to her desk. “My receptionist said you needed to see me?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mulder spoke first. “You’re the pediatrician of record for Rachel Michaels.”
“That’s correct. This is about the attack?”
“It’s related,” Mulder admitted. “I’m wondering if this is the doctor’s practice that the Winthrope’s used when Rachel’s mother was a child.”
“I, I wasn’t here then.”
Mulder smiled and Olivia saw the woman relax slightly. She wanted to smirk at Scully, but curbed the impulse. “I can tell. But do you know if she did come here as a child?”
“I believe so. I think I heard that Dr. Jacobi treated her. He retired several years ago, right after I came.”
“Would his records be here?”
“No, not for former patients. But you wouldn’t be able to get access to them in any case without Mrs. Michaels’ consent.”
“I understand. Do you have Dr. Jacobi’s home address?”
“I can get it for you.”
“Thank you,” Mulder’s smile made Olivia shiver. Dr. Sullivan wasn’t immune either. Elliot rolled his eyes but kept quiet.
When they left the office Elliot grabbed Mulder’s arm, turning him toward him. “What’s your game?”
“My game?” Mulder asked mildly.
“We work sex crimes, not alien abductions.”
“You’ve done your homework,” Mulder’s voice was cool.
“Elliot, what’s your problem?” Olivia stepped between them.
“This guy isn’t even trying to find the person that attacked that little girl. He’s told the mother to her face she’s not a suspect - “
“She’s not,” Scully interrupted. “We’re going to see Dr. Jacobi. If you don’t want to come with us, that’s your choice.”
Elliot opened his mouth, but when both women faced him just closed his mouth without further comment. Mulder pulled opened the back door of the car for Scully, then climbed in beside her. Olivia took the front seat next to Elliot.
“Will you at least tell us what you expect to learn from Dr. Jacobi?” Elliot asked.
“Maybe why she moved out when she was eight years old and stayed away until her father’s death.” He went silent then. Olivia looked back at Scully, but didn’t push.
An older woman answered the door when Mulder rang the bell. He displayed his shield and her smile slipped. “Is there a problem?”
“No ma’am. We’d just like to speak with Dr. Jacobi about a former patient.” Mulder smiled encouragingly.
“Oh, please come in. I’ll call Samuel.” She led them to the living room, then excused herself. Shortly an elderly man, walking with the aid of a cane, joined them.
“I’m Dr. Jacobi. How can I help you?” He took a seat in a wingback chair and looked at first Mulder, then Elliot. Olivia glanced over at Scully, but neither spoke.
“Were you the pediatrician for Gloria Winthrope Michaels?” Mulder took the lead.
“Gloria? Yes, many years ago. When she went away to school, she began seeing the school physician.”
Mulder nodded. “But you saw her when she still lived at home.”
“Did you see her often?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Was she sick a lot, have injuries?”
The old man’s eyes narrowed. “I’m afraid I can’t discuss a patient with you, especially one as well known as Gloria Winthrope.”
Mulder nodded. “Were you a friend of the family?”
“Yes. Her father and I did some business together.”
“Profitable?” Olivia asked.
Dr. Jacobi looked over at her, his eyes narrowed. “You could say that.”
She smiled and turned back to Mulder. He bit his lip for just an instant, then was serious again. “Profitable enough to protect the man?”
“Was Mr. Winthrope molesting his daughter?”
Elliot’s head whipped toward Mulder as Dr. Jacobi reared back, his mouth agape. “I, I don’t believe you asked me that.”
“That’s not really an answer, Dr. Jacobi.”
“Please leave my home.” He rose to his feet, his manner ice cold.
“We can get a warrant for your records.”
“The man is dead. Don’t try to destroy his reputation. Let him rest in peace.”
“That’s exactly what I want to happen. This conversation is just between us. If what I suspect happened is true, the statute of limitations is long over. The only way this information would get out is if we do request a warrant.” Mulder sounded just as cold.
“You would really do that?” The old man was pale now, his breathing heavier.
Mulder just met his eyes.
“Things are different now.” Dr. Jacobi looked away first, and resumed his seat. Scully saw that his hands were trembling.
“Different?” Elliot spoke then, catching up quickly.
“Things like . . . that, don’t happen in good families.” He wouldn’t look at any of them. They remained silent.
“You want us to walk in there and ask Mrs. Gloria Winthrope Michaels to allow us to exorcise her apartment in order to get rid of the ghost of her father?” Elliot’s hostility was clear.
“We need to discuss this possibility with her. I’ll do it, but I don’t work with victims like this. I don’t want to make it worse.”
Elliot just looked at him, but Olivia nodded. “I’ll do it.”
Elliot turned to stare at his partner in disbelief. “You’re kidding.”
“I don’t know that it’ll work, Elliot, but something happened to that little girl, something that we know probably happened to her mother at that age.”
“Which makes it more likely that the mother did it.”
Olivia shook her head and rose. “Then don’t come, but I’m going to try it.”
She moved toward the door. Mulder and Scully followed her and after a moment Elliot snatched up his jacket and followed them.
It took some convincing, but finally, Gloria Michaels gave in. They had to know what had happened to Rachel.
Mulder opened the door to see a slightly older woman, matronly, in a simple blue shirtwaist dress with a white sweater, her hair a little more gray than blonde. She carried a black leather bag that matched her low-heeled sensible shoes.
A smile lit her face, transforming it. Her eyes shone with curiosity and a little amusement. He stepped aside and she entered to see the others waiting just inside. She held out her hand to Mulder. “I’m Mary Aligood. Pleased to meet you.”
“Thank you for coming. I’d like you to meet my partner, Agent Scully. This is Detective Benson and Detective Stabler.” She shook hands with each of them.
“And this is Gloria Michaels,” Mulder said as he continued the introductions.
Mary stepped over to her and shook her hand as well. “You have a lovely home, Mrs. Michaels. You recently redecorated, didn’t you? There’s so much color and light.” She nodded. “Your instincts were correct; this is exactly what was needed. We just need to go a little farther. I’m not what you expected, am I?” She looked Gloria directly in the eye.
Mary smiled even brighter. “I suppose I could come in here wearing veils and charms, and call myself Madame Marvella or something like that, but to be honest, it’s just too much trouble. This is much more comfortable. I’ve been plain old Mary for 53 years. It fits.”
Gloria, and Elliot, both blinked at that.
“Is your little girl here?”
“No, my, my husband has her.”
“That’s wise. There’s no need for her to be here for this. May I see her room?”
“Yes, this way please.” She led them to Rachel’s room and let Mary lead them inside. She looked around the room. “This is every little girl’s dream room. It’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”
Gloria was obviously at a loss. “Yes. Do, do you have children?”
“Yes, they’re teenagers now.” She shook her head indulgently.
“Can they do . . . “
“Yes, to different degrees. Right now neither can do very much, but I’m hoping when puberty is over . . . “ She smirked, laughing quietly at some personal memory.
“Can you help us?”
“I’m certainly going to try.” Mary looked over at Elliot. “You don’t believe in this at all, do you?”
“Is that a problem?” he asked.
“Not really. All I ask is that you don’t ask me questions while I’m working, okay?”
He nodded, bemused. “Do you feel some sort of evil presence?”
“Actually what I’m picking up is shame and guilt. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he had no where to go for help. His father told him over and over, keep this in the family.”
“Yes. His father abused him. It was all he knew, but being who they were, the secrets had to be held deep.” Mary looked over at Elliot. “That happens a lot, doesn’t it?”
“Well, let’s get started. Do you have a picture of your father?”
“Yes, I pulled one out. Just a minute.” Gloria left them. When she returned shortly, she handed Mary a photograph. She took it, but didn’t look at it. She drew a rattle out of her bag and made a circle of the room rattling vigorously at the four points of the compass. Then she returned to the bed and finally looked at the picture. After a long moment she closed her eyes.
Scully felt the room grow cool. She looked up at Mary. Her lips were moving but no sound emerged. Mulder’s hand touched her arm and he winked at her. She relaxed, remaining quiet.
“It’s different now. Even if he is there, he won’t be able to hurt you.” Mary turned as though she was addressing someone else in the room. “You don’t want to hurt her any more, I can feel that. You need to go on.”
Elliot’s mouth opened to question her, but Mary’s finger came up to stop him, even though her eyes were closed.
The lights in the ceiling blew out then, throwing sparks, and causing everyone but Mary to jump. The room grew even colder. “There’s no reason to go all theatrical. Everyone here wants to help you, and keep your granddaughter safe.”
A small ceramic figurine jerked off the shelf and crashed into the opposite wall. Then Scully felt a cold hand caress her inner thigh. She gasped and Mulder grabbed her, pulling her to him.
A mistake, he shouldn’t have brought everyone along. He knew the man had been a pervert, but he had believed adult women would be safe.
Mary also took a step toward Scully, but was obviously speaking to someone else. “Thomas, don’t do this. Look into my mind. I’m telling you the truth.” Her lips moved silently again, faster, more urgently this time. Then her tension lessened. “I know you’re scared, but he can’t hurt you.” The slight smile slipped away. “I promise.”
Everything was completely silent then, as though everyone in the world was holding their breath. Then Mary staggered, as though all of her energy had vanished. Mulder caught her and led her to the bed. She sat there for a moment breathing deeply, then nodded to him.
“Is it over? Is he . . . gone?”
Mary gave them a tired smile. “Yes. He’s gone. Can you feel it?”
Gloria looked around. “I can. It feels . . . lighter.”
Olivia wanted to agree, but she kept quiet looking over at Elliot. He didn’t want to believe, in fact he didn’t want to be here at all, but he was hanging in there.
They all heard the front door open and small feet running toward them. “Mommy!”
“In here, baby.” Gloria called out.
The little girl slowed down when she saw all the others in her room, but they didn’t hold her attention. She looked around, as though seeing the place for the first time. She wandered over to the dollhouse and touched some of the furniture, then turned and smiled at Mary. “Who are you?”
“I know. This is your room, isn’t it?”
She nodded. “Do you like it?”
“I like it very much. I always wanted a dollhouse just like that one.”
“You can play with it if you want.”
“I would like to do that, but I’m not going to be able to today.”
“Can you come back?”
“If you need me, I’ll come back.”
Rachel nodded and impulsively gave her a hug. Mary returned the hug and smiled at Gloria. When Rachel returned to her mother, Mary turned to Mulder.
“Agent Mulder, I need to talk to you for a moment.”
“Is there still something - “ Olivia moved closer.
“Not with this case. But I do have some information for Agent Mulder and Agent Scully.”
Mulder nodded and his hand moved to Scully’s back. They followed Mary back to the den, leaving the others in Rachel’s room.
“I have a message for Agent Mulder.” He nodded, waiting. “When Gloria pulled her father’s picture, she pulled several others.” Mary picked up one that Mulder couldn’t see from the desk and looked down at it, then held it against her chest. “He said it’s not over and to be careful.”
Mary nodded. “I’m to give you this.” She held out the photograph and watched Mulder’s eyes widen. It was a group shot. Mr. Winthrope was on the left, but standing next to him, smiling at the camera, was Cancerman.
“Your friend Elliot asked about evil. That’s the word for that man.” Mary said quietly. “There’s one more message, but it’s from me.” Mulder looked at her. “Stick with her,” she looked over at Scully.
A ghost of a smile came to Mulder’s face. “I promise.”
Mary looked at them, then seemed to be watching the space around them.
“Mary? What do you see?” Scully’s brow furrowed.
“What? Oh, I’m just seeing the most lovely shade of purple. Well, I need to get home now. If you ever need me, please give me a call.”
“We will,” Mulder said solemnly.
Mary nodded and headed for the front door. Scully accompanied her to the door. “Agent Scully,” Mary stopped and looked down at her. “Don’t underestimate your place in Agent Mulder’s life or quest. You are essential to the work. Only together can you create the miracle.”
While Scully stood stunned, Mary let herself out of the apartment. After a moment Scully returned to Mulder. Olivia joined them. “Everything okay?”
“She was able to give us some information on another case we’re following.”
Olivia had been watching Mulder, but at Scully’s tone, both she and Mulder looked toward her. His brow furrowed but Scully gave a tiny shake to her head. Olivia took a deep breath; she would get no more from these two and she wasn’t sure she wanted more.
“Mulder, I got an email from Olivia in New York.” He looked up, waiting. “No problems at the Michaels’ home. She was just checking in. She’s talked to Mary a couple of times, gotten some help from her, but she’s keeping it on the QT.”
Mulder grinned for a moment, then sobered. “You never told me what she said to you after you left the room.”
Scully looked down at her monitor. “Pretty much the same thing she said to you, that we . . . belong together.”
“Did you need a psychic to tell you that?”
Scully chuckled then. “I’m staying despite that.”
Mulder growled and rose, taking her hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
She nodded and followed him out.
Author’s note - Megan Forrester was in my story, “Daughters”.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.