November 10, 1920.
She’d been gone two weeks.
Two weeks to the day.
He’d gone back to the speakeasy the morning after, Dana’s coat safely secured in his briefcase, but there was nothing to find. They were three steps ahead of him the whole time, and now she was gone. All that was left were half a dozen overturned tables and, if he concentrated, the leftover stench of Alex Krycek’s hair oil.
“Why would they want her?” he asked, as Skinner stepped in the room behind him.
“We don’t know. The precinct hasn’t been contacted with a ransom, and there… there haven’t been any reports of a body.”
He’d squeezed his eyes shut, hoping for a moment that this was all a dream. But when he opened them, it was all still there, and he was still living this nightmare.
Two weeks later, it hadn’t gotten much better.
Skinner left the precinct for the day, practically dragging Mulder out by the ear, and very visibly locking the doors behind them so he couldn’t get back in.
Aimlessly, he made his way towards his apartment, with nowhere else to go.
“About time you showed up,” someone said, as he made his way down the apartment building hallway.
He looked up in surprise, finding his sister leaning against his apartment door.
“Half the building’s come and gone since I’ve gotten here!”
For the first time in two weeks, exactly, on the dot, he cracked a smile.
Samantha strode towards him, standing on her toes to hug him.
“What are you doing here?”
She pulled away and shrugged. “Your last letter seemed dire, and I was worried. Are you gonna let me in, or am I going to have to freeze to death in this hallway.”
Mulder chuckled, and reached for his key.
“I can’t believe our father let you come visit me. Alone.”
Samantha sighed, and dropped her coat in the doorway, kicking off her heels as she went. “‘Let’ is a strong word.”
He stepped over her coat and came to a halt. “Tell me you didn’t just leave a note and hop on the next train out of town.”
She grinned at him, wide and maniacal. “You know me so well.”
He sighed, already dreading the telegram he was going to get, but expected no less from his sister.
“You hungry? I don’t have a lot here, but I could find something for you if you like.”
Sam shrugged, and started fiddling with the knob on his brand new radio. “Mrs. Arsenault down the hall gave me soup a little while ago. I could use some tea, though.”
He nodded and reached for the kettle, but in that second, he froze. In the back of his head, he knew it wasn’t true, but for a second, more light started spilling through the living room windows, and the shuffling in the living room came not from his sister, but from Dana, dressed in her nurses uniform, making herself at home.
“Fox?” Sam said, walking hesitantly towards him. “You okay?”
He broke out of his trance, and turned to face her, eyes filling with tears.
“The woman who disappeared wasn’t just your coworker, was she?”
He took a deep breath to steady himself.
“The nurse who tended to me when I was sick…” he began. “We became friends. And the last few months, we’ve been seeing each other from time to time. And when we needed someone to act as bait, she willingly did it, and I shouldn’t have asked her to do it.” He took a shallow, wheezing breath. “It’s my fault, Sam. It’s my fault she’s gone, and it’s my fault we haven’t gotten her back yet. My old partner disappeared right when she did. It was a trap, and our only leads vanished with her. I was knocked unconscious because I wasn’t careful enough and now-“
His sister awkwardly hugged his side. “It’s not your fault, Fox.”
“I should have-“
“She sounds great. Smart. You wouldn’t have been so interested in her if she wasn’t.”
“We were a team, and I let her down.”
“Exactly. You were a team. You both got screwed over-“
“Sorry Mother. You were a team. You worked together. You were betrayed together. It was neither of your faults, so stop beating yourself up, and put that energy into finding her.”
He swallowed hard. “Alright.”
“I’m guessing this nurse is probably working towards escaping too, so between the two of you, you’re bound to get her back.”
He smiled, again.
“You wanted tea?”
The following morning, the precinct was packed with cops.
“You’re here,” Skinner said, as Mulder fought his way through the hordes of people. “First time in weeks I haven’t found you hunched over on that stoop.”
“My sister’s in town- what the hell is going on?”
“There was a break-in,” he said grimly. “Last night, the window to my office was broken.”
His jaw dropped. “What did they take?”
Skinner ground his teeth. “You’re not going to like this.”
“You have to be calm, because this is actually a good thing. We did get a statement from the butcher next door, apparently the ramp he uses to load and unload delivery trucks was out of place, and one of the meat hooks had glass shards on it. And we did find a scrap of cloth on one of the window shards, it seems to match fabric sold down near the docks, but I already sent someone to a seamstress to check.”
“What was taken?”
Skinner sighed, his shoulders hunched over further, like a weight was pressing them down. “The pocket knife that was used in the Monroe murder.”
Mulder stepped back. “You think it was the murderer?”
“I don’t know. It’s likely. But considering how much evidence and documents they left, clearly whoever stole it had a specific reason to. Either there was something about it they didn’t want us to find, or…”
“Or they needed to use it again.”
Mulder tried to steady his breath, and walked towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Skinner asked.
“I have to take a walk,” he mumbled, and pushed through the crowds towards the exit.
How he ended up there, he’d never understand. Was it muscle memory, or a subconscious desire for comfort and familiarity, but either way he ended up outside Dana’s house, just outside the gate. He paused there a moment, knowing no one was likely at home at this hour of the morning. The mother would likely be running errands. Missy at work, as Dana had mentioned before.
He stared up at the window on the right, almost daring the light to come on, and her frantic silhouette would appear, tossing skirts left and right to find the right one, because she’d missed the alarm for the third time that week.
But no silhouette showed, and he pulled himself away from the gate.
He turned, like a child caught snooping in their parent’s closet.
“What are you doing?”
Missy stood barefoot on the stoop, dressed in a much fancier dress than he would have ever thought she owned.
“I have an update,” he said, grasping for an excuse.
Melissa’s expression turned from anger to concern. “A good one or a bad one?”
“Do you want to hear it either way?”
She tiptoed to the gate, feet barely touching the walkway. “Do you want to be decked?”
He took an unconscious step back. “It’s relatively good news, but it sounds like bad news.”
Her arms crossed over her chest.
“There was a murder, several weeks ago, involving the same people that took Dana. The weapon used was stolen last night from our precinct, and we think this could be a lead in the investigation. Clearly it was important, and if we figure out what was so important about it, we may be able to track them down.”
Melissa furrowed her eyebrows and frowned. “That really doesn’t seem like much of a lead. There’s got to be more to it than just that, or you wouldn’t have come all the way over here.”
Before he could respond, a tall, auburn haired man poked his head out of the house. “Melissa?”
“Who is that you’re talking to?”
“No one,” she screamed back.
The man took a step out, into view. “Melissa, you are not married. You shouldn’t be talking to strange men on the sidewalk.
“Bite-“ she started, but Mulder felt the need to chime in.
“Sir, I’m a detective on her sister’s case. I was just reassuring her that it is our top priority to find Dana and we are searching every possible lead, no matter how little it seems.”
The man glared at him for a second, then stomped inside.
“Oh gosh, he’s really speechless, isn’t he?” she mumbled under her breath.
“Who was that?”
“Bill. My- our- older brother.”
“He’s the navy captain, right?”
Melissa forced back a smirk. “You really do know Dana well, don’t you?”
With the tip of her fingers, Melissa subtly batted the latch on the gate aside, and let it swing open with the wind.
“I really should go, I don’t know why I came,” he said, as she turned her back to him.
“You’re coming in. Lunch is almost ready, and I think you and Bill will be entertaining. And you at least owe me that.”
Being left without much of a choice, Mulder awkwardly passed through the gate, and shut it tightly behind him.
By the time each one of their plates were scraped clean, and lunch had come to an informal, awkward end, Fox Mulder knew three, crucial, things. First, Dana wasn’t lying when she said her mother’s potatoes were the best in the world. Second, that Bill Jr., if it not for his wife, and child on the way, would have been the perfect match for Skinner, in another lifetime. And third, and perhaps the most pressing matter, the man who stabbed Monroe was an infantry man in The War.
Upon following Melissa through the threshold, he was immediately confronted by a cold, long glare from Bill.
“I thought you said he was just here to update us,” he snarled.
“The kind officer is joining us for lunch, to properly acquaint us with the case.”
She glanced back at Mulder, who had stalled in the doorway, unsure of what to do.
“You can help me set the table,” she said, answering a question he hadn’t asked. “Bill, be on good behavior.”
In the kitchen, Maggie was bustling around, tossing spices and ingredients together in a hurry.
“Missy would you finish your brother’s coffee, and bring it to him?” Maggie asked, not looking up from her dish.
“So, the hour train ride, and four block walk, rendered him too exhausted to walk ten feet?”
“Melissa. I swear-“ Steam was practically coming out of her mother’s ears when she turned and found Mulder standing in the kitchen doorway.
“What is he doing here?”
Missy glanced back at him. “He’s here for lunch. He is going to update us about the case.”
Her mother opened and shut her mouth, like she was weighing rightful anger with proper manners. Eventually, her emotions came to a settlement, and she jutted her chin towards a cabinet.
“Plates and cutlery are in there, make yourself useful.”
And grateful for the purpose, he immediately flung open the cabinet and began his task.
The first few minutes of lunch were quiet, tension draped over the table like a tablecloth.
“So, about the case?” Bill asked, stabbing his chicken like it was a threat.
“We may have a link between an old piece of evidence and the current case. It could help us gather a proper list of suspects.”
“That’s something,” Melissa offered in his defense.
“What’s the evidence?” Bill asked, ripping his food apart.
“A pocket knife, used in a murder that was connected to a suspect in the case that Dana was helping me solve.”
He got three long glares.
“What kind of pocket knife was it?”
Bill chewed a bite of his food, but continued to speak. “Like what did it look like?”
“Wooden handle, steel blade. There was an inscription along the side, but we haven’t been able to figure out what it was, because it was so faded.”
“Like this?” he fumbled in his breast pocket, and pulled out a knife, sliding it across the table.
“Bill!” Maggie exclaimed. “You can’t bring a knife to the dinner table.”
Mulder turned it over in his hand, the weight, size, and style of it almost the same.
“Is it the same one?” he asked.
“The color’s too dark, and the inscription was carved into the handle, not on an attached plate. But other than that, yes, it’s the same.”
Bill finally took a moment to swallow his food before answering. “You’re looking for an infantry man.”
“The knife. It belonged to someone in the infantry. They have knives like that. My guess is that if you were able to make out the inscription, you’d know that.”
Mulder handed the knife back. “Thanks.”
“I gotta buddy coming by later. He was in the infantry and could show you his, if you’d like to check.”
“That would be great,” he said.
“Anything to help the case.”
“What branch of service were you in, Fox?” Maggie asked, for the first time showing a brief interest in him.
He glanced at her son, in full Naval uniform, and the sparkling, pin covered coat framed on the wall, and wasn’t sure how to break the news. “I wasn’t. I never fought.”
“You’re barely younger than Bill, though. Surely, it couldn’t have been an age issue.”
He hesitated. “No, it wasn’t. I just wasn’t interested in it. My father wanted me to go, but I was more interested in university than fighting. Bit of a coward that way…” he chuckled, alone, glancing around the table to see the other three agreed with that assessment.
They sat in silence for what felt like an eternity, the clock on the mantle ticking slowly.
“How’s Sarah?” Maggie asked her son.
“Well. She sends her love, but with her stomach growing more and more every day, she didn’t want to make the commute.”
“That’s so sweet. I do hope to come visit before the baby comes, and before your leave is up.”
“She’d love that.” Bill poked at the remnants of his lunch as the conversation came to another halt.
Just as Melissa was about to say something, a knock came to the door, and Bill rushed up to get it. “I got it. It’s probably Andrew, anyway.”
“It’s Andrew that’s coming?” Missy hissed at Maggie.
“Yes. He’s a dear friend of Bill’s, so be nice.” Her mother rose to greet their guest as well.
“Andrew? The man who tried to court Dana?” he asked.
Melissa was taken aback, once again, by his thorough knowledge of her sister’s life, but nodded. “Same one. But I think ‘tried’ is a strong word. He barely got two words in before she was rejecting him.”
She rose, leaving him with that thought, and the privacy to smile at it.
“So good to see you.”
“You too.” The two men greeted each other, and Andrew gave a hug to Maggie and a nod to Missy.
“And who’s this?” He stared at Mulder, an icy chill to his gaze.
“Fox Mulder,” he said, extending his hand.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Mr. Mulder is a detective on Dana’s case. He was just filling us in.”
“Oh, I am sorry about that. I just heard about her.”
“Thank you,” Bill said. “You could actually be useful, though. Mr. Mulder was just telling us that there is a suspect weapon that they’re looking for, and it appeared to be an infantry knife. You have your’s on you? I’m sure he’d like to see it.”
Andrew stared at Mulder as he spoke, the chill never going away. “I’m afraid I left it at home today, sorry buddy.”
They kept eye contact, as Bill reassured him that it was fine, and clapped him on the back.
“We were just finishing up lunch, although we do have leftovers if you’d like,” Maggie chirped.
“That’s alright, Mrs. Scully, I can’t stay long, I’m afraid.”
“Why?” Mulder asked, more aggressively than he’d intended.
Andrew stared at him for a moment, almost analyzing his entire being. “I have to get back to work, unfortunately. A snag came up in the… project I’m managing, and I have to deal with it.”
“So important,” Maggie cooed, reaching up to tap him on the cheek. “I’m sure you’d like to catch up with Bill though, so we should all leave you to it.” She stared pointedly at Mulder, as if trying to force him out of the house with her eyes.
“I’d better be going,” he said, watching Maggie’s shoulders relax at the thought of having him gone.
“It was lovely to have you. Do let us know if there are any… concrete developments with the case,” she said, and stepped out of his path to the door.
And so he left, feeling Andrew Sullivan’s icy glare on his back until he was out of sight of the house.
Given his recent habits and routines, the logical place for him to have gone would be back to the precinct. But as he walked, he found himself heading back towards his apartment, and too tired to change direction. They could handle the situation without him. And useless and exhausted, he collapsed on the couch, clutching Dana’s coat to his chest, and fell asleep.
He awoke to a siren that passed just below that cold, broken window. In the doorway, Sam’s shoes and coat had appeared, and he figured she’d gotten in hours before and gone to bed, and he best not wake her. He lay still on the couch, nearly frozen from the November chill, holding Dana’s jacket closer, and feeling the soft material between his fingers, running up and down the length of it.
One spot, he kept fixating on. A lump on the right hand side, that he kept feeling between his fingers. Probably a clump of the lining balled itself up, or a small coin. It was only after laying there for a few minutes, fixating on all the things it could be, that he realized it could also be a piece of paper. A very specific piece of paper.
In a blind panic, he raced for the kitchen drawer, ripping it out of its socket and shuffling the papers frantically, looking for scissors.
He then grabbed the hem of her coat, paused briefly to whisper “I’m sorry” to Dana, wherever she was, and then began hacking into it.
Stuck between seams in the lining of her coat, was a scrap of paper, folded into itself.
For a moment, he stopped, holding it in his hand like an archaeologist might hold a groundbreaking discovery, and told himself not to get too excited. For all he knew, it was just a receipt or a scrap of newspaper.
After three deep breaths, he carefully unfolded the paper.
This was it.
The exact thing he’d been looking for.
The exact person he was looking for.
His heart nearly stopped, and it all rushed over his head.
“Fox?” Samantha asked, standing yawning in the doorway.
“Go back to sleep,” he said, fumbling for an envelope to safely transport the paper in.
“What are you doing?”
“At two o’clock in the morning?”
He pulled on his coat, the collar skewed, but he couldn’t care less. In his right hand, he clutched the envelope like it was the most important thing in the world.
“I have to go. Lock the door behind me. And go to sleep. I won’t be back for a while.”
Tired, but unwilling to argue, Sam nodded.
With that, he rushed towards the door, shutting it behind him as he raced out into the night.