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XII

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cover art by Paisley ( on tumblr)

 

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12:30 pm, Tuesday afternoon, near the outskirts of Washington D.C.-

 

                “Easy does it, Mags, one foot after the other,” Melissa Owens guided her extremely still drunk friend up to the door of her duplex. “If you puke on my shoes I will be extremely frustrated with you, girl.”

                “Issa, I really have to pee,” Maggie’s slurred words were almost unrecognizable as the English language as she leaned against the porch column while Melissa dug her keys out of her purse.

                “Please don’t pee on my porch,” Melissa fumbled in her purse, “I’ve almost got the keys right now, just hold it a little longer.”

                “Have I told you today that I love you?” Maggie giggled as she tripped over the toe of one shoe, hiccupping in Melissa’s ear.

                “Only about four hundred times on the way home,” Melissa sighed, determining she’d rather off herself than be the designated driver again.

                Melissa’s expression was that of a mom taking care of her immature and irresponsible child. She swung Maggie’s arm around her and pulled her towards the door with the keys aimed out. What she knew is that her two other roommates had a party the night before, one that was supposed to be low key; quiet even. She unlocked the door and practically dragged Maggie into the house, leading her to the half bathroom directly in front of her, momentarily glancing at the mess in her apartment, nearly unaware of what was actually to come.

                “Do you need me to help you?” She watched as Maggie fumbled to hike up her dress to pee.

                “Nope! I got this,” Maggie propped up one arm against the wall, while the other tugged at her underwear, “Man, these things are awfully tight today…”

                Maggie closed her eyes briefly and went towards the kitchen, just in time to see the carnage that was left of it. There were at least twelve different bottles of alcohol, all nearly or completely empty, rested on the countertops next to the multicolored mixer cups.

                “Jesus, what did they do to my kitchen last night?” She half muttered as she began collected bottle by bottle, discarding them into the nearby glass recycling bin.

                She found a full bottle and smiled at it, deciding that it was the parting gift for her disaster of a Monday night and slid it into the mini-fridge next to her mixer set up. She put all of the redeemable mixing glasses, spoons, and shot glasses into the nearby dishwasher and set the water temp to hot before putting the soap into the dispenser, humming softly before acknowledging the obvious silence from the hallway.

                “Hey Mags you ok in there?” Melissa started back into the living space next to the half bath, picking up empty cups along the way.

                “Si, Chiquita, muy buena,” Mags giggled out the worst Spanish pronunciation that she could in her drunken state followed by a splash. “I just flushed my gum by accident! Should I try to get it?!”

                “Oh don’t do that, that’s disgusting, I’ll give you another piece when you’re done. Please, don’t fall into the toilet…oh dammit…" Melissa winced, as she realized that they had left the door open when they came into the house.

                Melissa half ran to the door and reached for the door handle to close it, where one of her roommates was hiding behind it. She pulled and pushed it shut just as the only testosterone ridden creature that lived in one of the bedrooms upstairs jumped out at her, making the loudest noise possible to scare her.

                “Jesus! Don't do that!” Melissa half shouted, backing away. “What if I had something in my hand, Miles, I could’ve killed you with it!”

                Miles Canton smiled as walked past her towards the kitchen, laughing nearly hysterically at her. “Sorry about that. Didn’t know you’d be a bonehead and forget to close the front door…I am an opportunist and I couldn’t pass up that perfect opportunity. I would’ve gladly have been impaled by something sharp and jagged just to see that look on your face.”

                “Next time I’ll hurt you,” Melissa caught her breath as Miles did his most offensive imitation of her while she walked over to check on Maggie, who had passed out after pulling herself off of the toilet.

                “Girls night out, I see,” Miles chuckled.

                “Hey at least you didn’t see her trying to pull down her panties earlier…and honest to God, it wasn't supposed to turn out quite like this,” Melissa rubbed her eyes, practically tripping on Maggie’s discarded purse. “I didn’t even get to drink last night. Andrea and Elisa are still out in my car, passed out.”

                “Well, they never expect this,” Miles whispered, as he picked up a beer bottle and tossed it on the floor. “Rachel had her friends over last night while you were out playing—fairly certain at least five people are still in the house. I couldn’t take hearing anymore bad karaoke versions of “Who let the dogs out?” and “True colors”…went over to Brad’s to get a few things accomplished.”

                “Thanks for the Warning?” Melissa half smiled as she slipped a couch pillow under Maggie’s head and pulled a throw over her, making sure she was lying on her side, “You know…when you reach 28 years old, you are supposed to be married and on your way to complete and total success in the business world. Hell, maybe even planning or already raising your first child.”

                She brushed aside a section of hair that had fallen down into her face as she addressed the issue of checking all of the rooms for any passed out party goers.

                “Expectations are made for dumbasses; don’t ever expect anything from life. Too many curveballs, remember?” Miles smiled as he noticed Maggie waking up. “At least you’re not pushing 40 and still searching for anything meaningful in your life.”

                “Miles! What are you doing here?” Maggie smiled up at him, wiping the fresh sweat from her forehead.

                “I live here, Mags,” Miles watched her as she started to look very sickly. “Hmmm, I think you’re going to puke.”

                Before he could even get her to turn over and towards the toilet, Maggie projectile vomited on the floor. It was that glorious neon green color from the shots of the Mean Green punch, coming back to bite not only her, but the unfortunate, sober friend who was to clean it up. Melissa turned around and heaved a sigh.

                “It’s going to be a long day,” Melissa pursed her lips together as she went for a towel and a can of carpet cleaner to clean up the vomit.

                “I’ll help you clean this up,” Miles started off toward the kitchen leaving Maggie and Melissa alone.

                “Miles, it would be more beneficial if you would take her up to an empty bed so she can get some sleep. Put her on her side, move the trash bin next to the bed along with a plastic cup of water. I want to avoid puke covered bedding if I can. I’ll stay down here and clean up this mess,” Melissa propped Maggie up so she would not be in the way of spraying the stained area.

                “You’ve got a point—besides, I can actually lift dead weight,” He moved over to Maggie and gently pulled her up in to a safe carrying position. “Come on, rock star, time for some beauty sleep.”

                “Hi, Miles,” Maggie was going in and out of consciousness as she grinned up at him.

                “Hey, kiddo, I think it’s bedtime,” Miles winked at Melissa as he carried her up the stairs.

                Melissa sighed and scrubbed at the carpeting, watching the green slowly fade away back to the soft bluish gray of the carpet’s normal color. She could hear a slow thud followed by a quicker series of thuds directly above her head.

                “Miles, are you ok up there?” Melissa’s voice strained as she shouted, head aimed upward.

                “I tripped over a trash bin—Mags is in bed, safe and sound,” Miles sounded winded as he shouted back to her from the top of the stairs.

                Melissa took the next forty five minutes cleaning the entryway and living room before taking a lasting look around, heaving a cleansing breath. She put the vacuum cleaner away and admired her work again, content with a sense of normalcy as she gathered up the cleaning sprays and carpet cleaner, setting each back under the kitchen sink. The noise of the vacuum was the least of her cares as she heard rustling from above her head again as she finished up the last of the recycling clean up, unapologetically dropping the glass recycling near the sliding door. She glanced back as three of her roommates’ friends came stumbling down the stairs and out the door, eyes half closed from hangovers. Satisfaction achieved, she thought, as the door slammed shut behind the last one. Melissa pulled kitchen cleaners out and set them onto the counter and realized the state of the kitchen was worse than she had first assessed.

                “Hey Miles, can you help me with the kitchen?” Melissa tilted her head toward the stairwell, projecting her voice quite well before furrowing her brow as she pulled the full trash bag out and set it near the front door this time, craning her head as she looked up the stairs. “Miles?”

                Silence filled the room as she sighed a little, ascending the stairs toward the top, the frustration turning to worry as the hallway became more and more visible to her side. The air went cold, sending chills down her spine, as she reached the top of the stairs. An overwhelming odor of perfume and flowers hit her nostrils sent her reeling as she steadied herself at the top of the stairs, just a few feet from the first bedroom door. It was not that pleasant kind of smell that you get when you have just put out a fresh pot of potpourri or a candle, but that of an intense spray or pile of dead flowers covering up another foul stench under it. The hair on the back of Melissa’s neck stood up on end, her senses hyper aware as she sucked in another short breath. Her hands began to shake as she pushed the door open. It was too quiet.

                “Maggie?” She felt almost relieved as she found her friend, covered up to the neck with blankets, head turned toward the window. “You awake, honey?”

                Something was not right.

                Melissa could feel her heart beating up in her throat as she inched her way to the bed. “Maggie…”

                Melissa saw the bluish color of Maggie’s lips as the light caught her face. She panicked inside as she reached for her friend’s shoulder in an attempt to wake her. Melissa’s heart raced, thinking that her best friend had choked to death in the bed until she felt warmth seeping up through the sheets against her palms, the squish of fluid moving back and forth under the pressure of her fingers. Melissa froze as she looked at her hands, the flash of red causing tunnel vision for what felt like ages until she could focus her attention on Maggie again.

                “Oh God,” Melissa tore the covers back, revealing the shadow of what was left of Maggie’s upper torso.

                The sheets were stained and the blood was still pouring out of her wounds. Maggie’s chest had at least six puncture wounds, one of which looked as though it had been ripped open with a dull edge and finished off with fingers. Something was stuffed in the largest wound, but Melissa didn’t want to, or need to, get a closer look to find out. The fear overcame her as she stumbled backward, toward her bedroom to find a phone. She flung the door open, not caring how much noise she was making, and saw the phone perched on the edge of her night stand. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Miles in the doorway to her bathroom.

                “Miles?” Melissa’s voice cracked, tears streaming down her face. “Someone’s in the house. Maggie…she’s…”

                “You’ve got to calm down, Mel,” Miles took a few steps forward, his voice calm yet concerned.

                “There was blood everywhere, Miles—we’ve got to call for an ambulance,” Melissa took a step toward him, grateful he was there.

                “It’s ok, we’ll get this figured out,” Miles brought his hands out towards her, in an attempt to comfort her, his voice shifting from concern to monotone as he realized she was just a few feet from the phone.

                Melissa’s tears became silent as she glanced at his hands, fixating on his leather riding gloves as they were not on him before. He nodded at her as she reached for the phone, not immediately noticing that she was watching his every move. Melissa’s hand secured the phone as he brushed past her, getting a smear of blood on her from his wrist.

                “GET BACK!” Melissa beaned him with the phone receiver, shoving him backwards.

                “Fucking bitch…” Miles grabbed her by the ankle, pulling it out from under her as she tried to leap over him, her face hitting the floor hard in the process, bloodying her nose.

                “Let go of me! Somebody help!” Melissa rolled onto her back and kicked Miles hard in the face as he reached for her again. “You’ve lost your mind, Miles!”

                Miles tumbled backwards as Melissa crawled toward the stairs but couldn’t outmaneuver his recovery, taking a hard kick to the back that sent her forward down the stairs, tumbling head over feet all the way. Melissa landed awkwardly on the landing, her wrist snapping in the process causing her to let out a high pitched squeak of pain as she attempted to put pressure on to crawl away from him. Melissa reached for the door handle with her uninjured hand in time to get slashed across the top of her hand with the edge of the blade. Melissa let out another scream as she knocked over anything she could get her hands on to put obstacles in his way.

                “You’re only making this harder on yourself, Melissa,” Miles cocked his head to the side as she ducked into the same bathroom that Maggie had thrown up in earlier.

                “What is WRONG with you?” Melissa pressed her feet against the door as she realized that the door did not have a lock on it, sending her into a mental panic.

                “Call it clarity—you should feel flattered, I’ve chosen you,” Miles kicked at the bottom of the door until the wood began to give way beneath his foot.

                “Please let this just be a horrible nightmare—I want to wake up now,” Melissa sobbed, her eyes closing as pieces of the door chipped off toward her.

                The door gave way completely and came off of its hinges, the flight or fight response working overtime against Melissa as she kicked wildly but to no avail. Miles grabbed a hold of both of her ankles and began to drag her out of the bathroom, her fingers feebly attempting to grip onto the doorway to stall his attack further. Miles tugged one last time as Melissa’s fingers could no longer grip onto the wall, a loud, shrill scream escaping her lips until silence echoed in the duplex.

 

Three days later

FBI Headquarters (Mulder and Scully's office)

                The basement office door flung open and the lights flickered on as Scully’s fingers on her right hand flipped the light switch. She rolled her eyes at the lack of Mulder’s presence in the office. Scully dropped a paper bag on the edge of the desk, the odor of Mulder’s favorite donut wafting out of the top of the bag, masking the musky odor that hovered in the dark, somewhat dank office. Scully put a drink cup holder next to the bag, pulling her own from the cardboard carrier, leaving his.

                “Late again?” Scully draped her coat over the back of a chair as she sat down at his desk, shoving away a stack of papers in front of her. “Why am I not surprised?”

                Scully flipped through a series of files and focused in on the post-investigation report of Holman Hardt, immediately reading the case file as though it were the newspaper. She smirked at Mulder’s ability to make it seem like there was concrete proof of their investigation into Holman’s supposed ability to control the weather. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head as she read the conclusion statement about Holman’s ability being directly related to his emotional state, determining that his mood would reflect the outcome of weather patterning. Scully’s mind wandered back to her conversation with Sheila Fontaine in the bathroom of the small Kansas town’s high school reunion.

                “It seems to me that the best relationships—the ones that last—are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is…suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”

                Scully blinked and closed the file, resigning to putting her feelings back into the figurative box as she glanced at her watch. Mulder had never been late more than twenty minutes three days in a row and this was now the fourth consecutive day, tipping the scale for a full thirty minutes on end. Why are you late? Is she keeping you from your job now? Scully’s brain circled around the unwelcomed addition of Diana Fowley into their lives as Mulder’s attention seemed so fixated on her, a past delicately and irritatingly plastered in front of her like writing on the wall. Scully rolled her eyes as she turned in the chair, staring at the photographs on the wall behind her—the five by seven of Samantha, the large, poster sized image reading “I want to believe” and finally settled on a side by side investigatory image from the North Texas bombing fiasco. She pulled the pin out of the top of the photo and brought it closer to her face, looking at it under the desk lamp, immediately noticing the expression on her face.

                “Comfortable?” Mulder’s voice sent Scully into a momentary guilt driven panic as she swung around in the chair, nearly crumpling the photo between her fingers.

                “Don’t do that…” Scully covered her ass with an annoyed tone as she haphazardly pinned the photo back to the wall.

                “Ouch, Scully, really—I didn’t MEAN to be late today,” Mulder let out a whine as she slid out of his chair and leaned against a nearby shelf.

                “Ouch what, Mulder? I brought you coffee and something sweet—how is that worthy of an ouch?” Scully practically threw the bag at him, going off half-cocked before sinking into the chair beside the desk.

                Mulder didn’t answer her, simply turned toward the tack board, pulling the pin out of the center of his head on the photo she just put back up. Scully pursed her lips together, immediately feeling even guiltier as she realized he was simply poking fun at her. Mulder smirked as he opened the bag, audibly happy with her choice of donut as he pulled out the bear claw, biting off a section, savoring the sweet.

                “So what’s up doc?” Mulder noticed she was visibly uncomfortable as he took a sip of his coffee.

                “That’s what I was hoping you’d have an answer for…you said you had an interesting development at five thirty this morning,” Scully shrugged her shoulders, taking another drink of her own coffee.

                “Oh, that’s right—local case that Skinner wanted me to look into late last night,” Mulder dug through the files on his desk top, pulling a paper thin file from the melee, passing it to her. “Two victims so far; Margaret Sciulara, 29 years of age, found in an upstairs bedroom of a duplex being rented by Melissa Owens, 28, no signs of struggle, stabbed six times in the chest—Melissa was found at the bottom of the stairs, propped up, thirteen stab wounds, six of which were localized to the chest. She fought back.”

                Scully flipped through the crime scene photos, the grisly images of what was left of Melissa’s chest cavity, looking more like a hollowed out vessel than the remnants of a woman in the prime of her life. She set the photos side by side of Maggie and Melissa’s wounds, immediately fixated on just how much more brutal Melissa’s end must have been. Scully focused on both gaping wounds, noticing flecks of metal reflecting light with twists of faded red and green woven in.

                “Mulder, what exactly are in these wound tracks? I am seeing bits of metal, red and green sections…what am I looking at?” Scully knew there was more to this story than a double homicide.

                “The photos are at the bottom—they almost overlooked them until one of the medical examiners pricked their fingers on the thorns,” Mulder pushed aside the top of the stack, pulling out four photos for her.

                “Thorns?”

                “Is there an echo in here? Scully, just look at the photos,” Mulder laid them out in front of her, one after the other.

                The first photo showed a knotted long stemmed rose, the stem in the shape of a heart, the petals perfectly intact, a wire bow wrapped neatly around the bud. In the second photo, two roses were knotted together in a complicated, intricate shape. They were considerably less neat than the first one but considerably more complicated, the wires weaving in and out of the loops before running through both buds.

                “Any signs of sexual assault? Mutilation?” Scully didn’t see any notes on either topic in the file, hoping that a coroner would’ve at least taken a look at the instances.

                “I checked with the lead investigator, who did the cursory details on scene saying something that the first one had no signs of sexual abuse while the second was not quite as lucky…” Mulder trailed off, looking surprisingly sick, which was an unusual and rare occurrence.

                “Dare I ask the result?” Scully looked sobered as she meekly inquired.

                “Lets just say that parts of her went into an evidence bag,” Mulder continued. “I know this isn’t exactly what I typically bring to the table but an X File made it across my desk before we started working together of a 21 year old girl who had died in similar circumstances. I didn’t know that the methodology was even remotely similar at the time but I noticed it this morning that she, too, had a rose stem buried in her chest—a detail that was overlooked by local PD because she had been dead for going on three months at the bottom of a hill in blackberry bushes.”

                “What makes you think they’re related?” Scully couldn’t help but invoke her skeptical inquiries as she looked at the old case file side by side with the other. “This is arguably conjecture, Mulder…assumptive at best.”

                Mulder unclipped a photo from the back of the file and slapped it down in front of her, the twists of wire around a loop of a long stem missing the bud. “Reasonable conclusion.”

                “Touché,” Scully nodded, continuing. “When can I take a look at a body?”

                “Never thought you’d ask,” Mulder gathered up the files and got a head start on Scully out of the office.

 

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Chapter 2 will be up soon—this could likely be long and I want to make sure I’m spacing it out in due course. Please review! I love feedback!