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The Subtle Body

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Post Graduate Medical School and Hospital

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Aug. 15, 1893

10 a.m.


Keen but frustrated, Dr. Daniel Waterson prowled up and down the surgical theater bay repeatedly scattering and spooking the small herd of interns gathered round like sheep in a field. The grey maned, reportedly brilliant, surgeon and professor scanned the room with his sienna brown eyes and found all wanting. Though he was undoubtedly included in that disappointing host of students, colleagues, and invited guests observing this afternoon’s autopsy of a particularly gruesome suicide, Charles Burks III, found himself suppressing a smirk. Charmed by the turn of his own thoughts, he followed his fancy straight back in time to an afternoon he had spent studying a wolf in Philadelphia’s zoological gardens as a child. Keenly aware yet contemptuous of all the creatures around it, the alpha male seemed to know that aside from the bear that was half a garden away, it was the undisputed top predator of the compound.

This alpha male, however, had a particular prey in his sights – a diminutive young doctor who had dared to disagree with his eloquent and elegantly simple explanation for the death of the individual who was the subject of today’s exercise. Even on short acquaintance with Dr. Waterson, Burks did not need to be told that the man was not accustomed to being contradicted. As the first brain surgeon to be offered a position on the eastern seaboard, indeed the first to be appointed in the whole of the United States, Dr. Waterson’s declarations were usually taken as Holy Scripture in medical circles and for direct divine revelations among his own students.

Until the moment Waterson swiveled his and consequently the entire room’s attention to the sole woman in their midst, Burks had had a fleeting impression of quick hands attached to a compact frame bound up in a shapeless leather smock that fell to the tops of her shoes. At this distance and amid her fellow graduates, she looked but a child playing doctor. The gurney she leaned over to take notes on the body before them came up to just below her bosom. Yet she seemed unaffected by it all – alpha wolf included – pencil flying across rough lined paper every time her gaze landed on another detail as though her eye and hand needed no intermediaries. A cloud of flaming auburn hair perched atop her head and only partially shielded those in the seats farther up the theater from glimpses of the brightest blue eyes Burks had ever seen. Despite having become the focus of all present, her attention was totally taken up with the corpse in front of her – a nameless body whose exposed skin more closely resembled that of a spit-roasted pig than a man. Unfortunately for Burks’ sensitive stomach the smell emanating from the corpse made similar associations. Fortunately his mother’s elaborate summer barbecue picnics were at an end for the year.

“And tell us why, Dr. Scully, do you believe that the subject did not die as the result of the fire set in his kitchen while trying to asphyxiate himself in the oven?” Her title was given her with the barest amount of respect permissible in civilized conversation.

“I do not believe, sir,” she replied in a low, mellow voice Burks had not expected. “I observe that his limbs do not exhibit the degree of extreme flexion common in burning cases.” Everything about her intonation proved that she was reciting an oft-taught lesson back to its teacher. Her professor, however, seemed anything but pleased with his former pupil. “And-“

“Yes, well, the pugilist’s stance is not a universal consequence of exposure to extreme heat,” Waterson talked over her next observation as though she were not in the middle of making it. “You gentlemen may not be aware I have examined several cases of immolation in which—“

“And the subject’s air passages and lungs do not appear to have inhaled smoke enough for that to be the cause of death,” she continued gesturing to the pallid lobes in question in the body cavity before her.

“Then provide us, Dr. Scully, with definitive proof of your observations,” Waterson snapped with all the delicacy of an Army drill sergeant. His gaze bore into the young physician with the clear intent of discomfiting her. Burks, as his mother was fond of pointing out, held more sheepskins than he knew how to usefully employ and was therefore familiar with the vicious ways of academic gatekeepers. But even to him this level of rudeness seemed excessive. She was a doctor after all, not a first year anatomy student. The Jeering Episode as it was known in Philadelphia medical circles was not so far back in the past that its specter could not be resurrected to tarnish the reputation of the city’s most eminent surgeon.

While Burk’s outrage on her behalf grew, the lady herself seemed unfazed. “May I, Dr. Ridley?” she asked politely of the colleague who had exposed the chest cavity at the start of the internal examination. Peering avidly through glasses as thick as the bottoms of beer bottles, the pinch-faced intern had sheered through the ribcage with unprofessional glee. Now with an expression that combined a superior smirk with a flash of unwilling sympathy, the man dropped the scalpel into the instrument tray and stepped aside. With squared shoulders and a bracing deep breath, Dr. Scully took up the instrument, only a slight tremor in the tip of the blade betraying any nerves on her part and made her first cut.

Over the next quarter hour Burks and his fellow observers were treated to as cool and efficient a demonstration of the proper forensic investigation of the human lung under the most hostile scrutiny imaginable. From the pleural membrane to the trachea and all points south at every challenge Waterson threw at her, the young doctor provided clear evidence for her position and once the fluffy pink tissue of the lung’s interior had been exposed on the dissecting tray there seemed little more to be said. The man had not died of smoke inhalation, and appeared to have died before the fire reached his skin. Bafflement reigned in the theater along with the thick atmosphere of unease one experiences while witnessing a family argue in public. The interns were shuffling from foot to foot, determined not to make eye contact with their tarnished mentor or the object of his interrogation. The only two people who didn’t appear nonplussed were Drs. Waterson and Scully: Waterson because he would admit to no fault and Scully because she had already divined the cause of death, Burks was willing to swear to it.

His eyes gleamed as they darted between combatants, for that is what they were at this point. Waterson’s failure to subdue her had done nothing but increase his determination to do so and her temper (Irish, surely with that coloring and that name) was not sufficiently cooled at having proved her point to give him an out to save his face. But how to get her to give up the information without asking for it? Waterson had put his brilliant mind to this question to the exclusion of all others. You could almost see the steam engine powering his brain overheating on the subject and smoke issuing in small wisps from his ears. On his own account, Burks would have gladly watched her eviscerate the brilliant surgeon in front of his students and the visiting company as quickly and as efficiently as she sliced up that lung. But, unaccountably, as she raised her blazing eyes to the good doctor’s dishonest ones Burks began to fear for her. She would not back down and he would not forgive.

“Dr. Scully,” he called half rising from his theater seat, feeling a distinct thrill when those blazing eyes tilted up his way. “What do you suspect? Poison?”

“No, sir,” she replied as though they had been civilly discussing the case all morning. “I see no evidence of poisoning through ingestion, though one would have to conduct a chemical analysis of tissues and fluids to rule that possibility out with certainty.”

“What then? A subcutaneous injection?” Burks posited before Waterson could interrupt, certain now that it would be many months before he was invited back to an autopsy session, if ever.

“Again, a possibility.” He would swear that she was charmed by the idea or perhaps by the artless way he had introduced it, a slight smile teased the corners of her full lips, but was not allowed free rein. “But with the epidermis in this condition finding the injection site would be extremely difficult, particularly if the murderer had the medical knowledge to administer such an injection properly.”

“Murderer…” Waterson huffed.

“Of course! He or she would know how and where to hide it and insure that the area was the most damaged by fire. Well, Dr. Scully, I admit to being quite baffled. Have you discovered the perfect crime? Tell us what you suspect.”

“Yes, Dr. Scully, tell us all what you suspect. And if you please provide us with clear and convincing evidence to back up your suspicions.” Sarcasm could not begin to encompass the sentiment contained in Waterson’s comments. Undaunted, she persisted.

“I am afraid, sir, that I suspect something much more mundane than the scenarios you have suggested. I noticed it when our assistants were laying out the body and the skull refused to stance properly.” Dr. Scully continued to address him rather than her mentor, grateful to be relieved of the weight of professional politics and eager to focus her mind on the facts of the matter.

She edged past Waterson and a stunned fellow intern to reach beneath the black, featureless, and encrusted head and lift it from the block on which it rested. Ignoring the crackle and squish that accompanied these movements she pointed to a depression almost at the base of the skull. “A subdural hematoma killed this man. It was created by a sharp, heavy blow to the back of his head damaging the occipital lobe of his brain. The extent of the damage to the interior of the skull cavity will become clearer once the brain is removed in the last stage of the autopsy. But given the extent that this bone is crushed on the exterior and the placement of the wound….”

“He was taken in a vulnerable moment,” Burks supplied for her.

Here she paused and for the first time emotion colored her voice as her eyes darted to Waterson’s and then quickly away. Burks could not put an exact name to such a complex expression. Grief, anger, regret, pain? “Yes. It’s doubtful he saw the attack coming – he couldn’t defend himself – nor could he have seen who struck him after the fact. Possibly it was someone he…trusted such that he would turn his back to them.” Then her voice and her manner firmed up as she lowered the head carefully back to the block. “With photographs of the crime scene it might be possible to reconstruct the event beyond what the body can tell us. But what is impossible is that after this blow was dealt him this man had the presence of mind or physical ability to build a fire in a cold stove, shove his head in it and self-immolate.” This last was stated so dryly that Burks could swear he heard the dusty, distant ringing of camel bells all the way from Egypt’s western desert.

“Much less write a suicide note….” he whispered in agreement. He could feel his grin extend from one ear to the other. She was perfection of a sort rarely seen. Loose jaws were being quickly shut all over the theater, and all were desperate to move about, clear throats, adjust ties, do anything to make the previous moment pass into memory a little faster. Doubting Thomas interns congregated around the head of their subject to examine the wound themselves and, as a consequence intended or not, placed a wall of bodies around Dr. Scully’s small frame.

Burks abandoned his chair and descended to the floor of the autopsy bay at top speed. “Dr. Waterson,” he boomed extending his hand to the city’s most eminent surgeon and waving him over. Perhaps grateful to have the center of attention back on himself, Waterson complied. “Charles Burks III, I believe we met at one of my mother’s fetes last spring in Bryn Mawr.” Years of experience among Philadelphia elites had taught him that his extensive education was a very fine thing, but if he really wanted to be taken seriously mentioning his widowed mother’s Main Line estate was a sure way to be humored in his eccentricities anywhere.

“Ah yes, Mr. Burks. What can I do for you?” Dr. Waterson seemed to be unbending slightly, though he seemed unable to tear his stony eyes away from Dr. Scully for any length of time. She was deep in conversation with Dr. Ridley and was not returning his looks. Dr. Daniel Waterson, eminent surgeon, criminally obtuse.

“Fascinating discussion today, doctor. Most enlightening. I do realize that this sort of thing falls outside the scope of your normal rounds,” he continued confidentially lowering his voice, as though embarrassed to have to bring up the fact that the good doctor had the victim of a crime lying in his autopsy bay and that, had all his students deferred to him as he clearly wished they would, a vicious and crafty murderer would be resting easy tonight. “Through my late father’s contacts in City Hall I have made several acquaintances in local law enforcement I can inform so that this matter can be dealt with discreetly.”

Waterson seemed a bit taken aback, but grateful nonetheless.

“Ah…hum, most kind of you, sir. I would appreciate that. You have your acquaintances contact my secretary and make the proper arrangements” Waterson produced his card and handed it over as though proffering a coveted ticket to a rare social event before glancing a fourth time in the direction of the petite redhead only to be denied yet again. For a moment his gaze betrayed an almost lupine hunger. None of the sympathy Burks had felt for that captive predator all those years ago resurfaced. That wolf with its keen nose and sharp eyes had not carefully selected his cage and made himself comfortable nor tried to convince others of his kind to share it. “I’ll have my findings written up and delivered to the detective in charge.” Dr. Daniel Waterson, eminent Philadelphia surgeon, husband to heiress Barbara, father to two lovely children on whom their great uncle, the steel magnate, dotes….

Burks decided to let it pass, given that lodging a protest would likely not result in a different outcome. Besides he had an idea. A good one. That is, if Dr. Scully were interested.


West Philadelphia Twin Houses

242 Melville Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sunday, Aug. 20, 1893

2:15 p.m.


Fox William Mulder squinted at the common wall between his house and the neighboring twin as he reclined on the long sofa in the front parlor. Rolling his tousled head to the right, he shut one hazel eye and aimed an imaginary pistol at the end of his long arm, wondering idly if a few strategically placed bullets between the portrait of Grandmother Katherine and Samantha’s last watercolor had a chance of permanently silencing the Peacock boys.

“Give it back!”


“Ma guguh ta me!” That was a rough translation.


Probably not, even though it sounded as though their mouths were fastened to their side of the wall in just that spot to aid maximum sound penetration. Still…aiming and embedding those bullets through layers of lave, plaster and brick might relieve his nerves, he thought, both eyes now sweeping the room in search of a firearm. One explosive release of tension, since he’d learned that screaming through the wall only encouraged their caterwauling. And the shock alone could possibly quiet the brats next door for a few blessed minutes – he could claim the weapon discharged while he was cleaning it….

That Mulder continued to wade through the probable and improbable outcomes of a spur of the moment impulse while passively searching the chaos of his rooms was proof enough of his exhaustion. By nature he was not a man to weigh all consequences before taking action – thought and deed followed close on each other’s heels in most of his dealings, and not necessarily in that order. Finally, having no luck in spotting a firearm among the books, newspapers, photographs and chemistry apparatus that rose up in tapering piles like stalagmites from a cave floor, he abandoned the inspiration, wryly admitting to himself that any half trained Philly cop would take one look at his house and conclude that cleaning of any sort was not an activity that Fox Mulder engaged in willingly. Anyway, the Peacock’s howling hell spawn would be some other unfortunate neighbor’s problem before very much longer.

These last months’ parade of policemen, informants, photographers, and assorted odd characters – some bearing dead bodies or parts thereof wound in bloody sheets and some not – had finally convinced the woman of the neighboring house that he was an unsavory character and the favorable lease terms he provided did not make up for it.


Mr. Montgomery Propps was now howling out his own fruitless incantations from within a prison cell in 11 Street Dock awaiting trial for the vicious ritual murders of six young women and at month’s end Mulder would bid a fond farewell to Mrs. Peacock and her brood. That her charmless, slow witted husband was unable to secure more than a week’s gainful employment in the whole bustling metropolis of Philadelphia might have played a bigger role in the Peacock’s decision to return home than him practicing his unusual profession next door, but the why made little difference to Mulder. He’d refund their damn rent and live on soda crackers and water if it meant they’d vacate a week early.

Mulder wasn’t sleeping. At all. But he had to admit that had more to do with Monty Propps than the Peacock boys.

At last exhaustion or hyperventilation drew this afternoon’s vocal expressions to a close and nothing but faint gibberish could be heard through brick and plaster now. As though suddenly freed from sonic chains, Mulder hoisted himself up from the sofa and began a much more characteristic pacing along a worn path through his belongings.

More accurately, it was Victim Number 6, as the papers called her, who was keeping him awake. Her name was actually Amanda Parker. Her family lived in Baltimore and had yet to be informed of their daughter’s spectacular fate. Amanda Parker, she of the strong face, long brunette tresses ending in unruly curls and grey green eyes, their color dulled from exposure to the late summer heat and dust. He could still see it, frozen on that strong face by the rictus of death – a faint expression of acceptance, of welcome, perhaps even of hope.

“Hope of what?” Mulder asked aloud, running his hand impatiently through his already disheveled hair. Certainly not hope of being reunited with the rest of her body, parts of which even now had not been recovered. She, at least, had had the good sense to vacate the premises long before these varied dislocations had begun. He had to believe that or she would haunt him forever. He knew for a fact Propps liked them quiescent as china dolls while he worked. That’s what the laudanum was for. But he could not escape the thought that Victim Number 6 might still be resident in her wholeness, her faint hope saved for more plausible rewards than a world beyond this world…if only Skinner had called him sooner, if only they had let him see the bodies of Victims Number Four and Five sooner, if only he had seen the details Propps’ was looking at sooner.

Shaking himself all over like a wet dog, Mulder tried to shed the vision. It was over now. He had to let it go. He had to. If he could just put some real sleep between himself and all the things he had witnessed in the last three months. The gruesome realities and the visions that were bloodier still. Some unconscious distance between himself and Victim Number 6.

Amanda, close your eyes…please…

Butting up against his desk, desperate to find his mind a new occupation, he snatched up Chuck Burks’ overly enthusiastic, bossy missive wondering whether he should take this seriously and whether there were any tea biscuits in the house that hadn’t gone stale.


You must meet a new acquaintance of mine, Dr. Dana Scully, a brilliant pathologist with a fine analytical mind and, I believe, the perfect complement to your band of merry criminologists. We’ll be coming out your way for tea this Sunday afternoon. Don’t make us go to mother’s house. You know how talk of science bores her. Do be properly bathed, dressed, combed and at home at four. Don’t try to run us off before we’ve had the chance to talk. See if you can get Iris to dust things up and make a proper tea. You won’t regret it.


If his friend thought he was being clever by omitting the feminine pronouns from his missive he was in for a rotten surprise. As soon as the note was delivered Friday afternoon, he’d telephoned Langley in Center City, asking him to find out all he could about Dr. Dana Scully before Sunday. Here two days later he had begun to collect the various bits of information in a file on the good doctor.

On paper she did seem brilliant as Chuck claimed. She’s been trained in physics and medicine with a good dollop of chemistry thrown in, though she did not claim chemistry as one of her fields of expertise. After graduating from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, she’s begun her residency in the maternity ward at the South Philly dispensary though she still seemed keen to gain more experience in surgery and pathology.

Good luck, Dr. Scully, he thought sourly. Surgeon’s appointments were as scarce as hen’s teeth and these days seem to be bestowed only on high profile specialists so that the hospital in question could claim to have the “first” of something. Like that brain surgeon fellow whose name appeared or was placed in the newspaper almost every other day – Waterson. Funny no one seemed eager to appoint the “first female surgeon in the city of Philadelphia” just yet.

Most of her former teachers and fellow students spoke highly of her, none ill, according to Langley’s interviews. Mulder, who had a developed talent for sensing disquiet in the smoothest of waters, found this information troubling. That level of approbation was an alarm bell in a field as cutthroat as the medical profession. It was easily assumed that, as a woman, it would be wise for her to make herself pleasant to those with the power to place obstacles in her already rocky career path. But it takes a lot of effort to please everyone all of the time – to be ever perfect. Possibly there was a strong religious influence, maybe even some military service tradition in her family. Langley hadn’t started investigating her blood connections and as yet had procured no picture of his subject either.

Mulder’s eyes narrowed in concentration. He had never been fond of the military or the ecumenical mindset. Rigidity of either sort would hamper the work.

And frankly he was a little offended that his old friend Chuck believed he needed to be eased into the suggestion that a female medical doctor might be a help to him. He knew they existed, even if he had never met one before. Discovering that this Dr. Scully was female did not mean he would dismiss her abilities out of hand.

“I’ve drawn your bath, Mr. Mulder,” Iris interrupted his indignant musings to direct his attention to the front staircase with one imperious finger, “and laid out a freshly pressed suit on the bed. Now hurry up. You have less than an hour before company comes.”

“Iris, have you been reading my mail again?” His housekeeper Iris Henderson, a middle aged trooper who mothered him more than Teena Mulder ever had, stared back at him with a no nonsense smirk. Scents of vanilla and fresh bread floated around her sturdy frame in faint wisps. She must have just come from shopping, though at the moment she clutched a broom, dustpan and dust rag in one rawhide fist while waving insistently upstairs with the other. Certainly the howling from next door would have covered the movement of an artillery battery, but he would have smelled it long before now if she’d been baking.

“I do when I’m in it,” she replied firmly and disingenuously. “Shame on you for having no hospitality laid on for guests. Mr. Charles may put up with your mess and your moods, but I doubt this lady doctor has any time for them.”

“And my files too, I see,” Mulder continued as though she hadn’t spoken. “Isn’t today your day off? What are you doing here? Don’t you have a family of your own to pester or some house of worship to bend a knee in? Trust Burks to forget that since he’s waited on hand and foot seven days a week. I’ve a mind to—“

“To get upstairs and wash and shave yourself. I’ve kissed my grandchildren and prayed to God today. Now give me room enough to make this rat’s nest of yours halfway respectable.”

“Woman, when I need—“

“When was the last time you ate a hot meal? Or put on a clean shirt? You ran me out of the house near every day for the last two weeks. I feel like I’ve stolen wages.”

Mulder sighed in frustration, briefly rubbing his eyelids with thumb and forefinger. It felt as though he were grinding salt into his corneas. “I hold you blameless. Believe me, Iris, you did not want to know what that monster—“

“I’ll take your plain word for that, Mr. Mulder, watching you bear the burden of it now. But let me help you set things right again. Let me do this.” Caught off guard by the unexpected weight of sincerity in her voice, Mulder backed up then swiftly covered with mock annoyance.

“Alright, alright, have it your way, but don’t touch that pile there – or that one. When I write my report for the court I’ll have use for all of that and in that exact order. Nothing is to be removed from them. Do you hear me?”

“Not even the dust?” she asked blandly. “Is the dust important too?”

“And stay out of those photographs if you value your peace,” he continued, shuffling toward the stairs, reluctant to leave the recent locus of so much speculation and pain.

“Just as you say, sir,” Iris mocked, though Mulder saw her suppress a deep shudder. Clearly Dr. Scully’s file was not the only one she into which she had peeked. And now, like him, Iris had sights she could not un-see. He should buy a safe.


Melville Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sunday, Aug. 20, 1893

3:50 p.m.

Glancing at the composed face of the young woman strolling at his side, Burks could not believe how nervous he was as they made the turn onto Melville Street. He felt like an anxious matron launching an untried debutante into Philadelphia society with absolutely no idea whether she knew the proper fork to use with her salad or could dance a passable waltz. And that was on Mulder’s behalf. But despite the strong probability of a major faux pas on the part of his old friend, he still wanted these two to meet.

He already counted it a major victory that Dr. Dana Scully had agreed to travel across the Schuylkill to be introduced to the city’s first practicing criminal psychologist. To be honest, he’d shamelessly dangled the fact that Mulder was responsible for the identification and capture of Monty Propps as bait. That madman’s heinous crimes had been featured in every Philadelphia newspaper since the spring, each rag’s reporters vying month after month to wheedle out more lurid details of each succeeding victim from the police. Every gruesome detail gleaned was presented in broad sheet outrage to an ever more shocked and curious readership. From Mulder, Burks had gathered that the terrorized public did not know the half of it.

Despite the case having got her full attention, Dr. Scully had a middle class child’s natural suspicion of the Ivies, particularly when the person in question practiced a discipline that was barely a decade old on this continent. Burks set himself to persuading her over coffee in a very respectable establishment two days after the very enlightening autopsy session. He’d feared that she wouldn’t remember him, but apparently she had asked the policemen who’d come round to collect the body how they had found out about the case and his name was mentioned.

He made his greeting and his demeanor as avuncular as possible, though it was difficult once he caught of glimpse of her without her butcher’s apron. When she joined him at the ridiculously dainty wrought iron table and seated herself squarely in the spindly chair opposite him she looked a picture. Her lime green jacket and skirt complemented by a pert little hat cocked jauntily on her masses of red curls screamed middle class but her bearing and attitude was pure professional. She wasn’t looking for a romance. Fine.

After reintroductions and his formal compliments on her pathological acumen were made, Burks ordered coffee and biscuits and began some gentle probing about her professional prospects and plans for the future. She met these inquiries with vague generalities and a level regard that urged him to get to the point of his invitation. She seemed genuinely taken aback when he asked whether she would be interested in periodically consulting as a professional pathologist on criminal cases with a friend of his.

“It would not be in a formal capacity with the police, I’m afraid. My friend and colleague is not even ‘officially’ employed by them. He’s more of a…specialized consultant. Someone with a particular talent for finding criminals of this type. He would, however, compensate you for your scientific contributions to his investigations.”

“He’s a private detective?”

“More of a psychological investigator. His approach to his subject is…ahhh…more intuitive than analytical I would say, but he’s very effective,” he tried to explain.

“Intuitive science? How is that accomplished? How are his results checked and reproduced?” She sounded genuinely curious if a little dubious, so he tried to answer her honestly.

“It’s a young discipline. Outside of Penn and Johns Hopkins, I don’t know that there is anyone doing the fieldwork that Mulder does – focusing on criminal cases. Most psychological research is still attempting to explain how the ‘normal’ human mind functions.”

“So he is a pioneer in this field.” She said ‘pioneer’, but Burks heard ‘loose cannon’.

“A very reluctant one. You see, in order to apprehend the suspect Mulder attempts to put himself into the mind of the criminal – see what they see, understand the world on their terms, however perverse and twisted those terms may be.”

She sat back in her chair, her grave expression saying what she would not out of politeness. This was dangerous work. Still, encouraged by the spark of excited interest in her eyes, Burks plowed ahead undaunted.

“His results are checked when the criminal is apprehended. I know that sounds circular, believe me. But at present I wouldn’t say that his results are reproducible in the strictest sense. He takes every case individually. I suppose after a certain number of cases are properly diagnosed one might…begin to build models of behavior based on recurring traits…but since the cases the police so far have invited him to consult on are ones of extreme, violent deviance it’s hard to find comparative… um…material. There aren’t many Monty Propps out there, thank God.”

“But then, how does he do it?” She was beginning to sound frustrated. Not that she didn’t believe him, but she needed a deeper understanding.

Oh, I have her well and truly hooked now, Burks thought, almost giddy with excitement and self-congratulation. He’d known as soon as he realized that the reason she withstood every rude challenge from her mentor was not to survive and conquer yet another professional gauntlet nor to prove her superior abilities yet again among her peers nor even to shut Waterson’s smug mouth, if only momentarily. It was because she would not allow the crime she had perceived done against a featureless stranger to go unpunished.

“Being brilliant helps, I suppose,” Burks said with a chuckle, realizing that he had known Mulder for so long that he had ceased to think about these aspects of his friend that others might find odd or disturbing. “Mulder sees all and forgets nothing. And I don’t mean that figuratively.”

Another dubious look, a gently arched eyebrow, and a challenge in her voice this time. “I’ve read that total recall only occurs in children – that they lose that faculty as they age.”

“Not in Mulder’s case, I’m afraid. He is a natural mnemonist. It is very annoying. Don’t ever play cards with him,” Burks warned with a rueful grin remembering the times he’d ended up handing over half of his monthly allowance to Mulder after a long evening at the poker table.

“Yes, but my understanding is that people who can remember everything have difficulty focusing on anything. They can make lists of facts and recount sequences, but beyond that they aren’t known for their intuitive abilities—“

“Fox Mulder is not some carnival sideshow attraction,” he said more vehemently than he had intended, then gave her a quick smile to soften the rebuff. “He-he has an extraordinary faculty for empathy that…” Burks felt suddenly uncomfortable, that any further attempt to describe Mulder to her or to anyone would force him to venture into territory that the subject of their conversation would find too personal. After all, Mulder hadn’t even met her yet. His spur of the moment inspirations were all well and good when they didn’t involve peoples’ lives, but, Burks reminded himself, they could also be quite wrong. Perhaps a little caution was in order. He was assured of her interest now in any case.

“What?” she pressed, her blue eyes delving into his, as though he were deliberately withholding some detail that would tie the entire puzzle together. He plastered on his most ingratiating smile. She sat back in her chair suspecting that she had been indiscreet and embarrassed by it.

“I’ll let you decide for yourself after you meet him. Then perhaps you can explain Mulder to me.”

“Very well. I am interested to meet your friend. One more question if you’ll permit, Mr. Burks,” she said, employing her own winning smile, which was quite charming on first acquaintance.

“Yes, Dr. Scully?”

“If my services would only be required on an irregular basis as Mr. Mulder only consults with the police on an irregular basis, what is his regular occupation? What does he do?”

Shrewd and doesn’t miss a trick, our Dr. Scully, Burks thought approvingly. The question was legitimate. If Mulder was going to compensate her, how was he going to do it?

“Mr. Mulder is probably the most active man of leisure you will ever meet. He supports himself from the interest on his inheritance. And as for his regular occupation, it is very irregular.”

“More irregular than attempting to enter into the minds of vicious criminals?” The eyebrow had ascended again.

There was no point sugarcoating it. Mulder certainly wouldn’t. Maybe if she had a few days to get used to the idea she wouldn’t find it so objectionable when his friend started spouting off about ghosts and demonology and telepathy and whatnot as soon as introductions were made.

“Yes, Dr. Scully. In addition to being our city’s foremost criminal psychologist, Fox Mulder is also our city’s foremost investigator of paranormal phenomena.”

The eyebrow had almost slipped off her forehead and disappeared into her hairline before she managed the polite query, “Is our city in great need of one of those?”

Yet here she was still. For all the world looking a little apprehensive as they made their way up the sidewalk to 242. Today she was in her black Sunday best, still managing to look sharp and vibrant against the crisp fall air. He was on the point of taking her elbow to guide her up the stairs when a shriek and a howl went up from the front parlor of the neighboring house and two grimy, ill-favored children tumbled out the front door and halfway down the porch steps. One had latched his splayed teeth onto the ear of his opponent while the other appeared engaged in gnawing off his assailant’s arm at the elbow.

“Stop that right now!”

Burks thought his face must be just as shocked as the two boys’. They instantly stopped trying to devour one another to stare at the lovely lady barking orders at them like a stevedore instead.

“Get up those stairs and wash those cuts out.” She still had their attention, but this command was a little too complicated. Neither child, peering out from under their mops of unruly hair and heavy shelf like brows, looked as though “wash” was a concept with which they were familiar.

“Now!” To emphasize her point, Dr. Scully gestured to the front door of their home emphatically. This, they seemed to get the gist of and both boys picked themselves up and shuffled back inside.

Before they disappeared back behind murky windows, Mulder had appeared on his porch dressed, pressed and combed as ordered, but looking a good deal more gaunt and exhausted that when Burks had last seem him – before Propps had been captured. Dark half-moons rested beneath his changeable eyes and his skin had taken on a sallow hue. But a jaunty cowlick escaped his chestnut mane and waved over his forehead at the same untamable angle and Mulder’s irrepressible humor still shown through as he shot a wry, bemused glance between his visitors and the next door twin.

“Dr. Scully, I presume.” he said in a deep mild tone. “I see Chuck has introduced you to my neighboring tenants.”

Without assistance, the young woman gathered her skirt, made her way up the steps, and extended her hand in an almost masculine gesture. “Mr. Mulder, I’m Dana Scully.”

“A pleasure to meet you, doctor.” Mulder took her proffered hand and gave it a few firm shakes while favoring her with a self-consciously direct gaze in a mild parody of the stolid businessman’s etiquette. But as his examination of her face deepened, Mulder retained her small hand, his own face becoming completely unguarded, as though a desperately important question hovered at the tip of his tongue and he would not release her until it was asked.

With a sinking feeling, Burks expected his companion to recoil and pull away, already convinced that Mulder’s oddness outweighed the opportunity. Instead her smooth, unshakable demeanor had been replaced by wide open blue eyes. Her face became a mirror for his, catching and throwing back every expression slightly altered by a native sympathy. Burks felt a frisson not unlike one he experienced as a boy standing too close to the electric dynamo at the Centennial Exposition. He wasn’t sure whether the smile that spread across his face was the result of nervous delight or fear.

“Mulder, old boy, might we go inside before your neighbors make a reappearance?” he asked, raising a guiding hand to Dr. Scully’s elbow and prompting Mulder to release her.

“Of course, but no need to worry, Chuck. Dr. Scully appears quite capable of protecting you,” Mulder teased, ushering them through the door and into the parlor.

“That is undoubtedly true, but I missed my luncheon today and I’m famished. Tell me you persuaded Iris to leave something tasty for us.”

“Better than that, I believe she’s concocting something in the kitchen even as we speak,” he said, offering the best, and cleanest, chair in the room to Dr. Scully. He took the high backed desk chair and as usual Burks was left to fend for himself, finally settling on the low sofa.

“Did I hear you say that you rent the house next door to your neighbors?” she asked, eyes scanning the piles of books and clippings lined up in neat rows next to the desk, then beyond to the shelves packed with books, sections divided with newspaper clippings, pencil sketches, handwritten notes, and the odd photograph. She appeared more intrigued than put off by the barely contained chaos.

“Yes, though not for very much longer,” Mulder said with a gratified sigh.

“I wonder that you did in the first place,” she observed dryly.

“Why is that?” Mulder asked, a faint challenge.

Dana Scully seemed to struggle briefly searching for a polite way to say something impolite, but finally gave out with, “Because it is a bad idea when cousins marry.”

Mulder’s eyes were positively sparkling. Burks felt like a boiler about to blow a valve. But it was Iris’s barely muffled whooping from the dining room that triggered everyone’s laughter. The doctor got herself under control first and offered as a red-faced Iris made her way into the room and began to lay out the tea on the freshly dusted low coffee table, “Forgive me. That was very rude.”

“Not at all,” Mulder said with a brief chuckle. “Quite astute, in fact. I will remember to consult you before I let the space again. Iris, are you—“

“Right as rain, Mr. Mulder,” she answered brusquely throwing a quick assessing glance at Dr. Scully before turning to leave. “Enjoy your tea” sounded more like an order than a wish.

Burks was happy to see that Iris had already poured so it was just for them to doctor the beverage as needed. For all his Boston Brahmin upbringing, Mulder could no more serve tea than he could dance a ballet and Burks didn’t want Dr. Scully put in the position of having to hostess her own visit, assuming she would adopt that role in any case. So he jumped in the breech by snagging the first cup and saucer and handing it to Dr. Scully who added a dash of milk and politely took a small crust-less sandwich from the tray. Mulder collected his own cup, ignoring the food. It was left to Burks to appreciate fully Iris’s culinary skills.

“Mr. Burks has told me a lot about you, Mr. Mulder. The city’s first and only criminal psychologist.” She left the title hanging there as if she expected him to begin expounding on his own brilliance.

“Well, isn’t it nice to be so highly regarded by our Mr. Burks.” he said turning an inquiring almost suspicious look to his friend. “You’ll find on longer acquaintance that, outside of a few offices in the Philadelphia Police Department, few share his opinion.”

“If you'd be interested to hear my credentials—“

“You are a medical doctor with experience in pathology, surgical procedure, and chemistry,” Mulder declared, gulping down the last of his tea. “Currently, you are in residence at the Washington Avenue dispensary, working primarily in maternity services.” Seeing the suspicious glance she threw toward the sofa, he continued, “No, Mr. Burks only provided me with your title.” He shrugged a little self-consciously, setting cup and saucer behind him. “I am an investigator, so I investigated.”

“I see. Is there anything that your investigation did not turn up that you’d like to know?” Her flat refusal to take offense meant she had taken this for yet another gauntlet.

“What interests you about the work that we do?” Mulder asked abruptly. “Most of it is bloody and harrowing. Safely delivering babies would be much easier.”

“Clearly you have never been witness to a live birth, Mr. Mulder,” she returned dryly. “Bloody and harrowing describe it pretty well.”

Another loud snort from the dining room where Iris was conspicuously dusting.

“Iris, would you care to join us for tea?” Mulder shouted at the wall behind him.

“No, thank you, Mr. Mulder. I’ve work enough of my own to do.”

“These sandwiches are a peach, Iris,” Burks contributed through a mouthful.

“Thank you, Mr. Burks. Convince your friend to eat a few before he wastes away to nothing.”

“Thank you, Iris.” Mulder was trying to look and sound annoyed, but something about the barely suppressed smile on Dana Scully’s face was distracting him, Burks thought. Then as the lady returned her own cup and saucer to the tray, Mulder reached behind him and took up a file thick with photographic prints with an almost sorrowful expression. “Would you care to see an example of some of the evidence you might be asked to give your scientific opinion on, Dr. Scully?”

“The Propps case?” she asked. At his nod, she stood, removed the long pin holding her hat in place, and set both aside – clearly a get down to business gesture for her. She approached the desk where Mulder offered her his chair, but preferred to remain standing. Burks, who had already seen more than enough of the business to last him a lifetime, kept his seat and his plate before him, determined to finish his late lunch without stomach upset. Besides, he was more interested to watch the discussants than to see more evidence. They faced off on opposite sides of Mulder’s desk like chess opponents, as his friend laid out the photos in four groups, explaining as he went.

“I was not consulted until the third victim was found and then two days after the fact. I sent Frohike, he is the photographer I have on retainer, to the scene to gather as much visual information as he could but by that point –“

“By then the scene had been too disturbed to be of much use. Those third precinct duffs turn every crime scene into a parade ground,” she muttered bitterly. At Mulder’s surprised look, she gave him a dry smile. “Surely your investigation turned up the fact that I am second generation Irish, Mr. Mulder. I have more relatives in the police department than there are shells on the shore.”

“Very well,” smirking slightly, Mulder pressed on. “So for the first three victims all we had to go on were written descriptions, a few sketch drawings from the coroner’s office, and police reports. The families had already buried the bodies. Frohike was able to get to the fourth and fifth scenes much quicker but again by that time the victims’ bodies or what remained of them had been removed. I didn’t see them myself for another two days.”

“Problems with the coroner?” she asked knowingly.

“It took Police Chief Skinner, pressure from who knows how many city fathers who didn’t like the reputation Philly was garnering as a human slaughterhouse, and a threatened lawsuit from my attorney John Byers to get me access, but we finally got it. Alvin Kersh will be the death of me.” He huffed out a huge breath then gathered himself and pressed on, laying out the remainder of the pictures for each girl. “But at least by this point there were some patterns emerging. Tell me what you see.”

“I cannot say anything about Victim 3 without the body,” she began decisively, shuffling through the photographs and pulling up views of the last three bodies and the scenes and setting them side by side. Only Victim Number 6 was recorded in situ. “There’s something wrong here,” she said slowly. At Mulder’s unamused snort, she persisted. “These wounds were made at the scenes where the bodies were discovered? Are we certain of that?” At Mulder’s slow nod, she paled. “Was he…was he collecting the blood?”

“Very good, Scully. Yes, he was, as he divided them,” Mulder didn’t seem conscious he had dropped the proper title from her name. “There was far too little blood at any of the scenes for it to be otherwise.”

“Pleeeease,” Burks interjected plaintively.

“Sorry, Chuck.”

“Why? Why was he collecting it?” she asked almost fearfully.

“Blood magic,” Mulder said simply.

“Surely you don’t believe–“ she began indignantly.

“It doesn’t matter what I believe. He believes it. That was the need he served by killing. It was his harvest at every new moon.” At her raised eyebrow, Mulder stopped and shook his head dismissively a mask of indifference covering his expression. “I’ll know more at the next new moon when he’s…deprived. I expect he’ll be much more open to interrogation then.”

After staring at his bland face for a long minute and not finding the answers she was seeking, Dr. Scully turned her attention back to the photographs. Less analytical now, but not horrified either. She, like Mulder always had, could look past the gruesome objects into which Propps had tried to make them and saw young women whose lives had been senselessly cut short. She will be good at this, Burks thought, another jolt of self-satisfaction running through him. She picked up a photograph from the last pile.

“Small mercy from such a monster,” she muttered. “But at least they had already died.”

“What? Why do you say that?” Mulder asked sharply. “What makes you say that?”

She seemed a little taken aback at his intensity, but answered promptly. “They’re too clean. In order to drain them he is making cuts at major arterial junctions. If they’d been alive – their hearts pumping – there would be…spray. On them…on the floor.”

At his plaintive moan, Dr. Scully looked at him for what seemed like the first time in hours. “I’m sorry, Mr. Burks.”

He had just begun to enjoy the sight of her flushed face, bright eyes, mental faculties at the height of their powers, when Mulder slumped forward, his eyes closed, arms locked, each hand gripping a corner of the desk, a sheen of sweat covering his face. “I say, Mulder, are you alright?” He was ignored.

“Are you absolutely sure, Scully?” he demanded in a low voice. “The laudanum didn’t just depress the heart’s function to a rate that…”

“No, I’m sure of it. Even with a slower heartbeat the pressure in the veins would have forced the serum out at an uncontrollable level. Without special equipment to gather it, he-he would have lost part of his…his harvest,” she finished with a hard swallow.

Mulder straightened up, threw his head back and released one long controlled breath. When he looked up again his face was relaxed in a way Burks had not seen in weeks. With a faint bitter smile, he bent down to speak directly to her as though there were no one else present to hear.

“Do you realize that if I had had a trained pathologist on call, Kersh would have had to allow me access to those bodies sooner? That if you had been consulting with me for the past month we might have saved her?” he asked quietly, tapping the last pile of photographs with one slow finger.

“I don’t deal in counterfactuals, Mr. Mulder,” she replied simply, but not unkindly. “The world as it is provides me with fodder for grief enough.”

“Well, then you leave that part of the work to me,” he replied with a smirk. “The job is yours if you want it, Dr. Scully.”