New York Police Department, 15th District
Lynbrook, New York
“I think I saw this once on the cover of The Sunday Evening Post,” said Mulder, slamming the car door shut behind him.
Scully emerged a second later, her eyes squinting against the sun, her breath puffing out like tufts of fog in the cold air. She pursed her lips and shoved her hands in her pockets, allowed Mulder to steer her towards the front steps of Nassau County’s 15th District Police Department.
Oddly enough, through their many trespasses across the United States, none of their cases had ever brought them to the Island. They’d been to New Jersey once, a long time ago, and Scully remembered the mud and overturned trashcans and cracked sidewalks that had never—and would never—be fixed. She wasn’t quite sure what she had been expecting here, but this certainly wasn’t it.
When they’d first pulled off the Long Island Expressway to drive through the suburbs, Scully was surprised at how the slightly prosaic, small towns differed from the picture she had previously formulized in her head. Whereas she’d always recognized New York as a busy, bustling place, the land of opportunity and excitement, the majority of Lynbrook connected to the rest of Long Island by one-lane roadways and rows upon rows of old fashioned, doll-like houses. Mom and Pop stores with names like “Carl’s Cards” and “Fairy Tales” monopolized the strips of shopping centers that lined the roadways, and the only elementary school was a small, two story brick building. Oversized oaks, pines, and willows lined the sidewalks; branches reached towards the sky like bare hands stretching for the duration of winter. On one side of the street were an Auto-Body, a Dairy Barn, and a park with an outdoor skating rink. On the other side of the street, a neighborhood that backed the main road; colorful swing sets were visible through the slats of wooden fences.
“Nice neighborhood,” murmured Scully, who had fallen slightly behind. She gazed for a moment across the roadway, at a little yellow house that peeked above a deep brown fence. There was a barren swing set in the backyard, and on the porch, a rocking horse. A dull ache settled in the pit of Scully’s stomach as she pictured children toddling through the yard, giggling as they took turns on the rocking horse. Dana Scully didn’t have any children of her own, of course, but the idea of settling down had never been lost on her. The house, the husband, the kids—starting a family was like the train she had somehow missed while meandering on the platform.
Mulder turned in mid-step and began walking backwards, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “So, you want to put down a deposit now, or you want to wait until after we pick out furniture?”
Scully shot him a look. “Just walk,” she said, and she pushed her hand through the space between his arm and his jacket to open the door at the top of the steps. Mulder lowered his head and glanced down at her, his gaze darting quickly from her lips to her eyes to her lips again.
Her hand looped under his armpit, her body facing his, Scully realized that he had her effectively trapped. She froze for a second, and her warm, nervous breathing puffed out between them like steam from a locomotive. Mulder grinned. Scully straightened her back, fighting against the desire to lean in closer, to smell his after-shave, to close her eyes like an idiotic Scarlet O Hara and wait for him to kiss her. She was a reasonably young woman and he was a reasonably young man, and there were numerous biological reasons for the impulses weaving through her. She knew that. Of course she did.
But it was just not going to happen. She knew it. He knew it. The Handbook of Professional Conduct and Bureau Policy knew it. So why in the hell was she even thinking about such things?
Mulder raised his arm to allow Scully the courtesy of ducking beneath, a broad smile still plastered to his face. He looked self satisfied, as if he’d just been awarded the world’s largest cupcake. Scully gritted her teeth, jutted her chin, and shoved the glass door open, stepping purposefully into the heated waiting area. A hundred million frustrated thoughts raced through her head and she shoved them all down in favor of reaching for her badge.
The 15th District Police Station of New York,
Lynbrook, New York
Scully turned at the word, her eyebrows raised in question. A slightly stocky, small headed, grinning man ambled purposely towards Mulder and herself, his index finger waggling at her partner. His large ears poked peculiarly from his sparse brown hair, and his sparkling blue eyes were perhaps a bit too large for his small head. He reminded Scully of what Santa Claus must have looked like way back when, right before he married Mrs. Claus and discovered Egg-nog.
“Mark,” Mulder exclaimed, holding up a palm to the phone operator, who waved them through to the back offices with little more than a glance. Scully’s eyes darted curiously to Mulder, who seemed considerably nonplussed by the ‘Wildcat’ statement. She then focused on the stocky man she now knew as Detective Mark Guinness. She tried to picture the friendship that once existed between her partner and the Detective, but a mental picture just wasn’t happening.
“Fox Mulder,” Detective Guinness stated, as if he was announcing the president's arrival instead of her partner's. He pressed two hands to Mulder’s one hand and shook vigorously. “So good to see you again. Glad you could come out.”
Mulder nodded and grinned. “Hey, anything for a fellow Knicks fan,” he said, and motioned towards Scully. “This is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. Scully, this is Mark Guinness, ex Partner in crime, ex drinking buddy, ex pickup game loser—but only on Saturday nights.”
“Yeah,” laughed Guinness, and he stretched out a hand towards Scully. “Didn’t want to thrill the ladies too much, you know what I mean?”
Scully smiled a thin, tight lipped smile and nodded, inwardly grimacing as her hand waggled up and down obscenely in Detective Guinness’ firm grip. “Nice to meet you,” she said, and her voice wavered from her arm’s overexertion. Detective Guinness nodded in return, and Scully was glad when he finally relinquished her hand, for she was nearly positive he’d strained at least three muscles near her bicep.
“So, tell me all about Lily Harbor,” Mulder said, and his hand crept to Scully’s back as he weaved them through a tangle of wooden desks, wooden chairs, and metal filing cabinets. A gold strand of tattered garland hung loopily above their heads, one side dangling by a thin piece of scotch tape. Scully gazed up at the decoration for a moment and suddenly remembered the date: December 27th. Four days before New Years Eve. Just great. Another holiday made brighter by the wonders of paranormal activity and law enforcement.
“Got a bit of anger in her,” Detective Guinness commented, “Although, I mean, in all fairness she believes her sister to be missing. I’d probably be pissed as hell, too.”
Mulder raised an eyebrow “I take it then, that you don’t believe her sister is actually missing.”
Detective Guinness shrugged and waved to a passing officer. “It's not a matter of 'Do I believe,' Wildcat. It's a matter of when I believe it happened.”
Mulder nodded, glancing for a second to Scully. “And when do you believe it happened?”
“I couldn't tell you.” Detective Guinness sighed and waved an arm. “Right now, with the lack of evidence, I can't prove or disprove anything. All I know is that Kelsey Harbor has a birth certificate. She was alive at some point, and now she's gone.”
"But no other records," said Mulder. "And no previous missing persons' file with the department. You think she's still alive?"
Detective Guinness shook his head. “That’s just it,” he answered. “We have no way of knowing. Like I said, the girls have no records, no files listed anywhere in any computer system in this state or any other. The parents are allegedly dead, and according to Lily, nobody knew the girls because they were never allowed out of the house. There are no other living relatives, no friends, no acquaintances, nobody that can vouch for these two girls except the next door neighbor. And all he says is that he thinks the whole family's cursed. Says he's seen both of the girls, but only from the upstairs window of his house. Said they'd be looking out of the attic window into his house on occasion."
Mulder grinned at that last part and nudged Scully shoulder. Scully fought against the urge to roll her eyes.
Detective Guinness went on. "I mean…I’d get a search warrant for the house, but I don’t have probable cause yet. I can only speculate a psychological profile from what I saw when I dropped Lily off and picked her up.”
“And what did you see?” asked Scully.
“Not much. Bare walls, no photographs, a scant amount of furniture. Not many places for a person to hide. Depressing, from the looks of it, and old. There was a fair amount of dust on the lamp and the dining table. Nobody's cleaned that place for a long time.”
Scully nodded to herself. "And how did the parents die?"
"Good question." Detective Guinness frowned. "Lily hasn't been very forthcoming with information regarding her parents, and no official reports were ever filed. But she did say that the deaths were an accident. And that money was left."
Scully's eyebrow raised. "Allegedly dead?" she said. "Well, there's your probable cause right there. Homicide."
Detective Guinness' brows furrowed. "I see your point, Agent Scully. But this is where I run into problems. I wasn't able to find anything at all on either Alice or Frank Harbor. Not a death certificate, not a credit report, nothing. Lily said her parents didn't believe in state law, and their wishes were to be kept from outside contaminants until their deaths--hense the lack of state records. But since Lily's explanation of her parents' deaths seems sketchy at best, I thought I might be able to get a search warrant for the house if I trumped up the unexplained disappearances as possible homicides."
Scully waved him on. "But?"
"I'd have to say--" Detective Guinness paused and set his hands on his hips. "This is a bizarre situation--at least for me. Here I have a girl who says she's been kept in a locked house her entire life. There is a near total lack of information regarding not just Lily and Kelsey Harbor, but their parents as well. In case I haven't told you yet, Frank and Alice Harbor's birth records are nowhere to be found. They have no social security numbers filed with the U.S government. I went through every Frank Harbor and Alice Harbor in the tri-state area. Nobody matches up. It's as if they didn't exist--which is why I'm having problems trying to get a search warrant for the house. I can't investigate their deaths if, by law, they weren't ever born."
"Well, that's certainly odd," said Mulder, and he glanced curiously at Scully. "But both the girls have birth certificates, correct? And the parents owned a house--we know that much. So how was the house obtained without identification? Records of some kind must have existed. We might be able to uncover a few things if we do some digging."
"Or it could be a simple clerical error," offered Scully. And then to the detective: "I'm assuming you did the background checks by computer?"
Detective Guinness nodded. "Of course."
"So," said Scully. "That could be the problem. No system is one hundred percent accurate. An internal error could have temporarily erased Frank and Alice Harbors' birth records. And for that matter, if one record was corrupted then it's possible that all records regarding the Harbor family were corrupted. We could contact the state department and have them double check. "
Mulder shook his head. "I don't think it's that."
"So, what are you saying?" Detective Guinness asked.
Scully sighed and gazed around. A gaggle of uniformed beat cops stood around the room’s only plastic coffee maker. Scully caught the tail end of, “So I told her she had the wrong room,” and the burst of uproarious laughter that followed. The easy way in which the officers interacted tugged at something deep in Scully’s subconscious. Relaxation. Contentment. Lack of mutants. She wasn’t sure what she felt, but she tried not to dwell on it.
“Someone is hiding something,” said Mulder. “And at the very least, Lily and Kelsey Harbor had parents at some point. I think the key to finding Kelsey is in figuring out who was trying to erase the Harbors.”
The conversation, at that point, began to fade. One of the cops paused in mid-laughter and glanced up, winking suggestively at Scully as she angled around a desk that jutted from the far wall. Scully pursed her lips and turned away, her cheeks flushed with mild embarrassment. The flirtatious gesture might have been met with warmer reception if it had not been a woman doing the winking. Scully shook her head.
In a room filled with testosterone, she had somehow managed to find the lesbian. The 'Where's Waldo' irony in that was not lost on her.
Mulder elbowed her in the hip, and Scully blinked her way back to the conversation.
“I’d have to say—“ Mark Guinness paused and sighed. “Anything’s possible. Lily’s a little skittish, but I think I would be too if I had been locked up all my life. She seems too genuinely rattled to be lying about the disappearance, but obviously something else is not right here. Something about her story is off.”
“Off?” Scully asked.
"Yes," Mulder answered for her, his tone a bit too light. He folded his hands in front of his torso and turned to face her. "Mark, why don't you tell us again what happened. I didn't quite digest all of it the first time."
Scully rolled her tongue in cheek, met her partner's expressionless gaze with a raised eyebrow. Mulder nudged his chin up a notch higher with his index finger. A single crackle of tension rolled between she and Mulder for the barest of moments. The thought that she either wanted to fuck his brains out or bend his goddamned finger back until it popped off his hand, was shortlived. And inconsequential. Mostly.
Detective Guinness cleared his throat. "I'm sorry?"
"Please," Scully said, breaking her gaze with Mulder to face Guinness. "Continue."
The detective spread his arms wide as if in explanation. “Lily says her sister went missing around 5pm. We know that she was at the terminal around this time—with her sister, she says. The problem, however, is that the security cams picked up nothing. Nobody, as far as we can tell, was with Lily. And yet… Kelsey Harbor had a boarding pass checked by security at the gate, which means she had to be there, in the flesh, because a ticket can’t be checked without the individual ticket-holder present. But that particular camera, oddly enough, was out of service when Lily says she went through the gate. So who was with Lily? That’s what we can’t figure out. When we asked the security guy on duty, he says he remembers Lily, but he can’t seem to remember whether Lily was alone or not. Which was the same vague answer the ticket lady gave me, and the same vague answer the cab driver gave me. They all remember Lily’s face, but everything else is a blank. The cashier at the food court was slightly more helpful, telling us how she thought Lily was talking to herself and what-not. But to be honest with you, the only person who seems to have a continual straight answer is the neighbor. Mr. Needle, Nessel—something—“
“Noodlebaum.” Scully folded her hands in front of her stomach and glanced back and forth from one man to the other. “George Noodlebaum.”
Detective Guinness nodded. “Noodlebaum, right. That’s it.”
“Who,” Scully continued, “is under the impression that Kelsey Harbor is not a person, but rather, a very elaborate apparition conjured by her eighteen year old sister—a witch, whose only goal in life is to lure her disabled neighbor across the lawn with her wicked chants… and the obscene hanging of her underwear out to dry.” Scully took a deep breath. “Is that the short of it?”
Detective Guinness’ lips thinned, his cheeks reddening as if embarrassed, and he shrugged at Scully. Mulder cleared his throat as if he was uncomfortable with Scully speaking at all.
“Yes, well…” Detective Guinness frowned and motioned towards his desk. “I don’t have any better ideas.”
Mulder leaned down and whispered in Scully’s ear. “See? Another person without any better ideas.”
Scully resisted the urge to snort, her eyes staring straight ahead. “Great,” she mumbled back. “I’d say our work here is done. We should catch the next broom back to Washington.”
Lily was busy biting and scraping the skin around her fingernails when she first saw them: the tall, handsome man and the skinny, red-headed woman. Detective Guinness motioned for them to come around the desk and stand in front of her, both of them sporting perfect posture and grim expressions and… what was the red-headed woman wearing? Donna Karan. Lily could swear the red head was wearing Donna Karan. She'd seen that suit in an issue of Cosmo.
“Lily,” said Detective Guinness, his thick hand outstretched to the handsome man and the well-dressed woman. “These are Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of the FBI. They’re here to aid in the search for your sister. They want to ask you some questions, if that’s alright.”
Lily took a breath and gazed up at the man—Fox Mulder, was his name? And her heart suddenly began gallivanting around her chest a hundred times a second. Fox Mulder was lean and tall, and he had deep brown hair that dripped ever so slightly into his long lashed, hazel eyes. Fox Mulder had a strong jaw, a sturdy stance, and he smelled good. He smelled like… coconuts…or something. Fox Mulder was beautiful, so incredibly beautiful, and he was everything that Lily had ever described to Kelsey about the perfect man. Plus, he was in the FBI, which meant that he had to be smart. All men in black were smart. A smart, handsome, perfect man. Oh, if only Kelsey could have laid eyes on him.
Lily cocked her head to one side, her long brown hair falling like a waterfall over her shoulder. “Sure,” she said, her eyelids lowered, her pulse racing. “You can ask me anything you want.” She faced both of the Agents but spoke only to him: Fox Mulder. Out of the corner of her eye, Lily could see the red head staring at her with a raised auburn eyebrow.
Fox Mulder nodded, either oblivious to Lily’s stunning beauty or else simply preoccupied, as he pulled up a small wooden chair from one side of Detective Guinness’ desk. He turned the chair backwards, straddled it, and rested his arms on the slatted back. Agent Scully—the red head—stood directly in back of Fox Mulder, her arms crossed stiffly over her Donna Karen-designer chest. Silent. Her blue eyes straight ahead. The suit was obviously there, but the woman was on a beach somewhere with Gilligan and the Skipper.
Detective Guinness patted Lily’s shoulder and moved to his desk chair. But Instead of sitting down he moved behind the ugly swivel, his hand on his hip as if ready to pull his gun. Lily tried not to find that upsetting.
“So,” Fox Mulder began, a handsome smile edging the corners of his mouth. “Tell me about your parents.”
Lily’s heart nearly froze at this, her tongue drying out in her mouth. Frank and Alice. Why did he want to know about Frank and Alice? Weren't the FBI supposed to be the best at finding people? The smartest agency in the United States? Tendrils of desolation wormed their way through Lily's circulatory system. Kelsey was gone, taken by some madman or else some terrorist, probably tied to a chair, pleading for her life, like that one poor girl in True Lies. Kelsey was in danger, God damn it. Why did Fox Mulder want to know about her miserable, rotten, lunatic, dead parents?
“Why?” Lily asked suspiciously.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Fox Mulder said. “You said I could ask you anything.” His eyes sparkled when he spoke, when he smiled his perfect smile. He smiled at her—only at her. Lily gazed at him and found she could refuse him nothing.
“My parents,” she said, a razor-sharp edge in her voice, “were convinced that the world was Satan’s hand-basket. They had very zealous religious views of things . They moved to Lynbrook when they married and inherited money from my dead grandfather. They never left the house. They never let us leave the house. Not even when we were sick. That’s all I know.”
Fox Mulder nodded. “Were you sick often?”
“No,” said Lily, disturbed by this line of questioning. She pressed her arms around her chest to keep herself from shivering. She’d spent close to five hundred dollars and seven months using fashion magazines, the TV, and a stolen Gateway Desktop as makeshift psychiatrists to help her forget. To try and reacquaint herself and her sister with the rest of the world: the world that had stopped turning because their parents had wanted to remove themselves from it. All the years of bibles and closed curtains, dresses that fell to her ankles, sinners and the devil, waking up at one in the morning to stare out of the upstairs window and wonder "what if?" She'd promised Kelsey that it was all over now. That nobody would ever hurt them again. What had gone wrong?
“How did your parents die, Lily?” the red-head suddenly asked.
Lily’s head snapped up to meet the challenge; a pair of wide, serious blue eyes gazed back at her. The expression of mistrust in those blue eyes was chilling.
“I don’t see how that’s any of your goddamned business,” Lily snapped, feeling as if she had suddenly been put on trial The thought of her mother and father, of all of the years spent praying for forgiveness and all of the horrible punishments and ideals, made her queasy. She didn’t want to even think about it. She couldn’t.
Lily looked to Fox Mulder, his handsome face like an anchor. “I want to find my sister,” she said, her lower lip trembling. “I just want to find my sister. Why won’t you people help me?”
Fox Mulder nodded and sighed as if coming to an agreement with himself. He shot the red-head a quick glance, then returned his piercing gaze to Lily’s face. “Okay,” he said. “Tell me all about your sister.”
Lily swallowed, and a pang of misery stabbed at her chest when she thought of her only sister. Sixty Minutes, Dateline, Law and Order—Lily had watched all those shows fervently for seven months and she knew what happened when a person went missing for more than twenty four hours. The body ended up floating in some river, wading down some stream or rolling down a grassy hill. Eyes gone, ears gone, lips gone, the skin eaten away like an Alligator had gnawed on the flesh. Oh, Jesus.
Her hand pressed over her mouth to suppress a wave of nausea, Lily swallowed and began, “Kels…Kelsey. She’s my best friend. My only friend. She said she wasn't hungry but I knew she hadn't eaten…” She shook her head and paused, feeling incredibly foolish. Weak. “She walked slower than me. She always did… Oh God.” A sharp, sudden pain shot through Lily’s spine. A terrible idea grasped her like cold, sharp fingers.
“Kelsey ’s dead, isn’t she?” Lily's eyes grew hot with tears. This marked the upteenth time in one day that she had cried. Something deep inside of her ordered her to bend down and pray, to beg her vengeful God for forgiveness. 'Lily Ann Harbor, what is the matter with you? Do you want the basement again? Or maybe I should take away something else?'
Motherfucker. All of this hysteria was beginning to make her feel nauseous. Her feet felt numb, her arms tingly. Her ears were ringing. If Kelsey was dead, then—No. No, it couldn’t be.
“Lily,” Fox Mulder said, and he gently touched her arm. “If it helps, I don’t believe your sister is dead.”
Lily nodded mutely, her senses overflowing. Anger. Sorrow. And something else. What was it?
Love. Ah yes, that must have been it.
A hundred million invisible pricks shot up and down her hand, the intense heat of Fox Mulder's touch and his nearness like a match on her arm. Lily took a stuttered breath, feeling suddenly too warm and too stifled. She sniffled, her hand rubbing her nose, and stared at Fox Mulder with silent reverence.
Fox and Lily. Lily and Fox. Magic, pure magic.
A short, loud pop suddenly broke the air between Fox Mulder and Lily, and both of them nearly jumped out of their skins. The world when white. Then burning hot. Lily gasped in horror.
"Oh, shit. Scully--"
"Cover your eyes!"
A rainbow of white hot sparks and finely shattered glass exploded out of nowhere. Another pop sizzled above their heads, and the sparks drizzled around Fox Mulder, Lily, and the red-head like crazed pixie dust particles. The sparks burst and rolled to ash as they bounced off the dirty linoleum beneath their feet, and Lily, her mouth opened in shock, let out a shriek that came from the bottom of her chest.
“God,” gasped the red head, and she wrapped her fingers around Fox Mulder’s shoulder, her blue eyes cast at the ceiling, her other hand shielding her forehead. “Mulder, Are you alright?”
Fox Mulder squinted, his hand shielding his eyes, and he turned to Lily. Lily swallowed nervously and nodded. She couldn’t quite remember the last time she’d been so rattled. “We’re alright,” said Fox Mulder, and he shook his head.
“Jesus,” said Detective Guinness, and he nearly tripped over himself trying to get around the desk. He stared at the ceiling opened mouthed, set his hands on his hips, and whistled. “Well, I’ll be damned. That’s some electrical short alright. Looks like the bulb just shattered.” He eyed the red head with a guilty looking smile. “Please don’t get the wrong idea, here. It’s not like we’ve got the best electricians in town, but I swear to you it’s not usually dangerous. Really.” He pointed to Fox Mulder. “Must be your partner, Wildcat. Strange things always happen when he’s around.”
“Tell me about it,” said the red head, still staring curiously at the ceiling.
Lily smiled to herself and gazed at Fox Mulder, running the nickname ‘Wildcat’ over and over again in her mind. Her cheeks felt flushed, her hands sweaty. Wildcat. Wildcat Mulder. Wildcat Fox Mulder. Mr. And Mrs. Wildcat Fox Mulder. God, how she wished Kelsey was here. Kelsey was just so much smarter than she was. Kelsey would be able to figure out where that nickname had come from.
“Wildcat,” she whispered, and giggled.
Continued in Chapter 5