Martini’s was a small, out of the way restaurant, as humble and as quaint as a restaurant could get in downtown New York. The weather was cold, bitingly cold, and Fox Mulder rubbed his hands together in a desperate attempt to get warm. His breath fogged out into the early evening air and he wondered at the wind chill. At least 5 below today, he thought. Had to be. His eyes scanned the busy sidewalk for the fifth time and then he stared at the sky. No doubt it would probably snow later, too. But damn, it was cold. Damn damn damn. But he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to wait inside, even if it got colder and colder.
Sarah knows something, Mulder thought. He could feel it. She had something he needed, something that would break the case wide open, but she was afraid of talking, afraid of giving too much away. She’d sounded so nervous on the phone, Lord only knew what was going through her head. Likely scenario, Mulder thought, she’d get to the restaurant, stand outside, freak out and leave. If she hadn’t already rethought her decision, that is. And that was something Mulder could not allow, even if he had to drag out every single savvy investigative skill he had.
He was turned halfway around, leaning back against the restaurant’s brick wall, when finally he got a soft tap on the shoulder.
His head snapped around and he was faced with Sarah Jamison’s pale, ivory face, her nose reddened from the cold, her blue eyes bright and apprehensive. Mulder wondered briefly about what exactly was going on behind those powerful eyes of hers, what storms lurked there. Then, for an even briefer moment, he imagined her as he would imagine his sister. They’d both had the same blue eyes and dark hair. Did that same look haunt Samantha? He shook the thought away with a shiver against the brisk cold.
“Hey,” Mulder said, warmly. “You wanna go inside? The smell of spaghetti’s actually been making me hungry.” He made no mention of Sarah’s lateness, nor did he ask her about the case. If it took all night, he was determined to let her bring it up on her own.
“Right,” Sarah said. She forced a grin and walked ahead of him.
Mulder took a deep breath and followed her in, nudging his way past the few waiting patrons ambling around on the sidewalk. Some of Sarah’s dark waves flew in his face and he turned his head. Into the lion cage, he thought, this is it. Careful what you say. Mulder sighed.
He was so busy thinking and plotting and
enjoying the heat that wafted towards him that he didn’t even notice his
partner step out of a cab behind him, her arm inside the crook of another
“The spaghetti really is wonderful here,” Sarah offered when they got inside. “I mean, since you asked and all.”
Mulder nodded. “Good,” he said, swirling his straw around in his drink.
He watched Sarah out of the corner of his eye. She was pretty, very pretty, certainly pretty enough to be a top-notch actress in the industry. But her manner was soft and strange and very non-industry, as far as he was concerned. She’d probably be eaten alive out there, fighting for acting spots on her own. It also didn’t help that, adding to her softness, was a very quiet and seemingly complacent air. She didn’t seem like the type at all to go into theatre. From a profiler’s point of view, actors generally enjoyed their craft because they liked the attention and they sought the spotlight. Actors wanted to be noticed. But not this girl. Not Sarah. Sarah looked like she wanted to disappear. Her deep blue eyes had a far off look and her gently folded hands in her lap suggested that she’d been dominated more than once in her lifetime.
But acting’s also a world of fantasy, Mulder thought. A world of make-believe. Yes, now that all made sense. Sarah wasn’t interested in the craft, she was interested in pretending. Pretending to be someone else? Or pretending the world was something other than it was? Mulder wasn’t sure. But the more time he spent watching her, the closer and closer he became to finding out. He smiled softly at her, slumping his shoulders slightly so that he looked smaller. Better that I look like the nervous one then, he thought. It might make her feel better.
“You’re probably wondering why I brought you here,” Sarah said. Her fingers began to play with the green linen napkin in her lap.
“Well, yes actually.” Mulder nodded politely to the waiter who poured Sarah a new drink. “But whenever you’re ready.”
Sarah nodded. She stared off at a nearby ficus plant in a glazed brown pot. Her eyes seemed to water over and loose focus before she looked back at Mulder.
“There’s so much,” she said, and she picked at the breadstick on the plate in front of her. “But I guess I should start at the beginning.”
Mulder nodded. “They say it’s a good place to start.”
Sarah blushed and looked down. “Yeah,” she said. “I ah…” Mulder watched her aptly and folded his arms softly on the tabletop. He made no motion to interrupt her or egg her on. She would start when she was ready—or so he hoped---and then he would get the information he needed.
Information that would hopefully save Scully’s lif---no, he thought. This isn’t about Scully. Do NOT go there.
“The beginning… The very beginning that would make sense of everything to come later, is what had started before I came to New York. Back home, actually. You see, I was married young,” Sarah paused, surprising Mulder with the word “marriage.” It was a startling thing to hear, especially from someone so young and lonely looking. Surely she wasn’t married, was she? He didn’t remember seeing anyone who could have been her husband, nor had he heard her mention one.
“My parents…” Sarah took another quick sip of her drink and cleared her throat, saying, “excuse me… they were good friends with a neighboring family, a couple with two young boys, one only a few years older than I. See, it’s tradition where I come from—especially on my father’s side—that I be matched with a man of decent breeding. Someone my parents approved of.”
The waiter came back and placed a bowl of salad in front of Sarah, a bowl in soup in front of Mulder. Both nodded their appreciation and Sarah continued.
“But the older boy—Roger his name was, my grandmother didn’t like him. He had a vicious temper and these eyes… sometimes he looked as if… as if he wanted to kill someone but he didn’t know when or why.” Sarah shivered at the memory. “I never liked that look and I never really liked him. But my parents agreed that he would be the one and I never disobeyed them. They didn’t see what I saw. They never really looked in Roger’s eyes.” Sarah picked up her fork and began to play with her salad, pushing cucumbers around as she spoke. “I was nineteen and he was twenty two, both of us too young and too inexperienced for anything. But my father was convinced that Roger would take up the family store, and both he and my mother were very sick. Deathly sick. My father had cancer, my mother a blood disease. Our family had little money to treat either illness and my mother wanted grandchildren before she passed. So I married.”
Mulder’s eyes glinted with confused, yet rapt interest. All this adds up somehow, he thought. Something bad happened to her in the past. And I’m not sure exactly what it is but… It sounds like she’s being blackmailed… by the killer. The killer is connected with her through her past? Could that be? Is she innocent or guilty?
“Roger started beating me,” Sarah said, not looking at him. Her eyes held steadfast upon the napkin in her lap. “It wasn’t bad at first, then my mother and father passed a few months later. And Roger had no reason to use discretion anymore, so he drank what he pleased and he went out with his despicable brother until late, then he came back and beat me for whatever reason. There seemed to be no end…” Sarah sighed. “My grandmother was a refuge, my only family in the world, so I went there. She told me to get away, to defend myself. A divorce might mean dishonor for her family, but at least then I would be safe.”
“Dishonor?” Mulder could not help but ask.
Sarah forced a smile and placed her fork down. “Yes,” she said. “I um, I should have mentioned---my grandmother—my father’s mother, is Araje.” She shrugged her shoulders. “We don’t exactly live in pueblos and go around with warpaint on our faces, but some of the barbaric old ways still exist. Prearranged marriage is one of them.”
Mulder nodded and took a sip of his soup. Despite the case, he really was hungry. “So your mother wasn’t Araje?”
“No,” Sarah said. “My mother was English. –American with English descent or Anglo or whatever you want to call it. My father was full-blooded Araje though.”
Mulder took another sip and nodded. He leaned an elbow on the table, accidentally scrunching some of the green and maroon tablecloth closer. Sarah’s drink slowly gravitated towards Mulder’s plate.
“One night there was a fire,” Sarah said. “The power had gone out. Roger came home drunk with his brother and he um.... he knocked a c-c-candle off the mantle. The fire grew and grew and I screamed, but he was too drunk to care. He came at my grandmother with his fists and I grabbed a pot from the kitchen and hit him over the head.” All at once Sarah’s eyes took on a strained, painful look. Mulder felt for her. “Roger died in the fire and his brother, Jack, fled. I don’t know what happened to him. My grandmother and I ran to the woods, through the back way to her house. Both of us knew that when the police came, something bad would happen to me. There was no way to prove that I didn’t cause the fire or that I didn’t kill Roger. And if not the police, then Jack would… well, he would kill me if he found me. So my grandmother told me to leave, to get far away, to protect myself from the police—and from Jack, whose temper was as bad as his brother’s.”
Mulder leaned in and studied Sarah’s eyes again. They were muted blue now, guilty, sad and pained. She looked worn and used. The word ran over and over again in Mulder’s subconscious. Used, used, used. Sarah looked used. She looked like someone had taken this secret from her, twisted it and aired it for their own purposes. Yes, he thought. She was definitely blackmailed. It all went back to his original idea about this girl---that she was somehow a party to all these accidents, but not a willing one. It would make sense if she’d been blackmailed. If she had something the killer wanted—and Mulder was more certain now than ever before that there was a killer, then Sarah was the perfect victim. Soft, complacent, beaten. Yes, Sarah would have suited perfectly.
God, Scully would be amused, Mulder thought. She often enjoyed stories like these but rare was the time she actually believed them. But what would it take to make her believe? Mulder wondered.
Mulder siltently pondered the possibilities, his fingers absently picking at a breadstick half sitting on his napkin. This was no murderous spirit or telekinetic poltergeist, he thought. No. This was a person, a vengeful, powerful person who was killing people, eliminating these---red herrings perhaps---to get to the one he wanted. Yes, that was it, this was all to entrap someone. But who? Scully? No, Mulder thought. No and Yes. It was Scully and yet, it wasn’t. It was Sarah. But then, that didn’t make any sense. Were there two killers? And how was it that they killed undetected? Was it hallucinogens, like he had originally suspected? Something to do with the rye grains that made a person go crazy? Mulder frowned. It was all still so convoluted.
“Agent Mulder?” Sarah asked, apprehensively. “Do you…do you want me to stop?”
Mulder head snapped up out of his thoughts and he blinked. His hazel eyes refocused, losing some of their profiler glaze, and he opened his mouth. Cleared his throat. Shit, he thought. Good going.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I was just digesting some of this soup. Stuff could clear your sinuses and cure the common cold.” He grinned goofily, his mouth turning up in that disarming way of his, as he tried to return control of the situation to Sarah. He certainly didn’t want her up and running out before he could puzzle all this out.
“Please continue,” he said softly.
Sarah swallowed uncertainly and took a deep breath. “My grandmother was a descendent of the old ways, the traditional ways. She had many family keepsakes, weapons and heirlooms because her side of the family went way back, back to the wars of the tribes, back when my people fought for land because the English were taking it all away.”
The waiter returned and quietly removed the salad and soup. Sarah’s caesar had been left, practically uneaten, while Mulder’s bowl was taken half full. Neither of them noticed when the abandoned food was taken away. Then another sculpted glass jar of breadsticks was placed on the table, along with fresh white plates, and the waiter floated away as if on a breeze.
“Back during the days of battles,” Sarah went on, “the Araje used a weapon, a powerful psychological tool that killed many without ever needing a sword or rifle. It was a secret weapon that helped us keep our lands and our people alive. You see, there was a powerful mushroom—small but powerful--- and a powerful powder from inside the mushroom that was created by our medicine men. It was made up of seeds and grains, natural material. If used the right way, with the power of the mind, this weapon could bring on psychosis. Grand hallucinations, death. It helped keep our enemies away."
Mulder's eyes widened with interest and he nodded.
“But years later, years after the battles, our people began turning on each other. The weapon was banned by our leaders then, when the tool was passed down as an heirloom but used as a weapon. Secret police from high levels of government even came to the Araje during the fifties, when word got out about a tool that could kill by using the mind. They considered it a matter of national importance that this weapon be confiscated and kept secret. They ransacked villages and took what they could find, swearing our officials to secrecy by giving them money and making them sign contracts to keep the money coming. But my grandmother, she saw the police coming and hid in the woods. She didn’t want the men to take away a part of her history, something that her mother had given her, just as her mother before her.”
Mulder began to drum his fingers impatiently and excitedly on the table. Slowly, things were beginning to make sense, even though they were still as confusing as ever.
Married young, a grandmother with quick thinking, a weapon passed down… Sarah’s story was jumbled and strange, but intoxicating all at the same time. It would explain so much… and yet, so little. But more importantly, what she was talking about, if it could be obtained and proven, could mean a breakthrough for him, for the X-files, and a validation of his work. A weapon that could kill by using the mind—it was certainly enough to make his partner eat crow, if in fact such a thing existed.
“On the day that I ran,” Sarah whispered, obviously not wanting the entire restaurant to hear this next part, “she handed me something very dangerous—this weapon. And she told me to run. ‘Use this to protect yourself,’ she said to me, and run far away. ‘Nobody will know what this is but you will, and you will use it to save yourself,’ she said. She knew that I needed to get far from her, from the fire, from my dead husband and his horrible brother. So I did. I ran away and I changed my name. I came to New York to start a new life but…”
“But someone found out about your past,” Mulder said apologetically. “And now someone is using it against you. Someone has this weapon.”
He ran his hand supportively across the table and took her nervous fingers in his own. He squeezed their hands together softly then, a show of strength, and looked Sarah straight in the eyes. Soft Italian music played in the background, violins and such. The candles up above flickered becomingly upon Sarah’s soft, dark hair. There was something lurking in the blue depths of her eyes that spoke of admiration. Admiration and something… something Mulder pretended he didn’t see.
Sarah’s lower lip quivered and she sucked in breath after breath. “I… I don’t think I should say anymore. But I thought, I thought you needed to know, I---“
“Please tell me,” Mulder said softly. “Tell me who is doing this to you. They killed your friend Jennifer. I can put them away.”
“You can’t,” Sarah said. She looked down at their entwined fingers with thoughtful, hooded eyes. Her shoulders hung pathetically. So young, Mulder thought. So young and so like Samantha in so many ways. Is this what she would have looked like?
“I’ll help you,” Mulder said, meaning the phrase in more than one way. “I’ll—“
Both looked up then, and Mulder’s sentence abruptly halted. Sarah stared straight and longingly into Mulder’s hazel eyes, mistaking his sudden halt in discussion as a realization of new love. Certainly, Sarah had never been so quickly and readily accepted by a man, and by such a handsome man at that. Could it have been that he thought her beautiful? Desirable? Lovable? Her breath caught in her throat at the idea. She felt ashamed of herself for even being here. He thought her so innocent and sweet when she was really.... Oh goodness, she felt horrible. Their fingers still clutched each other.
Mulder, on the other hand, was staring wide-eyed and horrified past Sarah’s sad blue eyes. He was looking past her dark head, past the line of carefully placed ficus trees and past the wall of red and green booths. He was staring into another set of dark blue eyes, a set of eyes that was set within an ivory complexion and made brighter against a short mane of copper hair. He was staring into his partner’s surprised eyes, watching as she took him in and gazed definitively and angrily down at his and Sarah’s entwined fingers. Her expression was bold and thunderstruck, yet defiant and rebellious all at the same time. There was jealousy written all over her face and yet, she looked… looked glad to see him there. To see that he had caught her eating out with---
Mulder’s jaw clenched. His teeth ground together in his mouth.
Marcus Welsch, that old boyfriend of hers he thought, with contempt and uncontrollable rage coursing through his system. So, she really WAS going out on a date, goddamn it. She’d told him the truth. And the way that Marcus was looking at her---like he wants to… wants to… Oh no, I’ll kill him first.
Mulder looked back at Sarah and watched as she finally realized that he was staring not at her, but instead over her shoulder. Mulder read the confusion in her eyes but felt he had nothing to say. He knew that anything he said at this point would be short and angry, as his limits were certainly being tried. How the hell was he supposed to explain why he looked so startled? Why it would be hard to concentrate now, with Scully sitting there with that… that damned man, oogling over him only feet away? But what if they left, if Marcus took her back to her room and then they---
“Isn’t that Agent Scully?” Sarah asked then, watching Mulder with a curious expression.
Mulder took a deep breath. His eyes were still locked with Scully’s, their gazes squaring off in the dim light of the restaurant.
“Yes,” he said lowly, as nonchalantly as
he could make himself sound. There was love and anger and sadness
and defiance in both his and Scully’s expressions. “Yes, it certainly