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The Night Manager

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Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1910

 

“But WHY? Why must we do this every day? It’s boring!” The little girl rose to a standing position and pouted. She was hyperactive and petulant, with no patience for daily meditation exercises.

 

The mystic shook his head. He had never before dealt with such awesome potential in such a young child. Usually, powers to this extent didn’t manifest until early adulthood. The girl was only nine, and he knew that her strengths exceeded even his own. “It’s for your own protection, Nastya. You don’t want to get hurt, do you?” What he didn’t mention was that others needed the protection more than the girl did. “You must learn--”

 

“To control my mind. Yes, I know. You say this every day.” She pointed at a nearby window. “Can’t we stop and go outside, just for a few minutes? It’s so nice.”

 

The mystic was firm. “One more set of the breathing exercises first. Center yourself, and then we’ll go for a walk.”

 

The girl rolled her eyes, but she sat back down on the floor pillow and acquiesced. The old mystic continued to watch her. It was clear that she had been given all of this power for a grand purpose, but he couldn’t fathom exactly what it was. He’d seen visions of what he assumed was her future, but he couldn’t make sense of any of the images. He knew he had seen a faraway place. Enormous steel and concrete structures rose from the ground in cities teeming with people wearing strange clothing and horseless carriages moving on the roads at great speeds.

 

In each vision had appeared a particular man. At first, he’d thought him her future husband or lover, but their relationship was -- something different. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. There was something about that man, and also a woman with red hair. They were important somehow.

 

He kept all of this from the child. How could he possibly explain it when he didn’t understand it all himself? He also knew that his time with the girl would be limited, and he didn’t know how limited it would be, whether he’d have another 10 years or only 10 months to tutor her. With a long way to go and an abbreviated time to get there, it was better to concentrate on the mind exercises. The visions could wait.

 

Yekaterinburg, Russia, July 17, 1918

 

She was running through a thick forest, with no destination other than away from her captors, away from the death squad that had just murdered her entire family. She didn’t even know she was capable of running. Under normal circumstances, the bunions on her feet gave her too much pain to even try, but the bayonet wound that had penetrated her bejeweled corset was proving a much more serious problem. She felt her lifeblood flowing out of her, seeping through her many layers of clothing.

 

I shouldn’t even be alive right now, she thought. Her mind was fogging, and she struggled to center it, the way she had been taught as a child.

 

She tripped over a branch and plunged forward hard, unable to suppress a scream as she hit the forest floor. She tried to center herself again and concentrate on getting back up, but she had reached the end of her endurance. She had lost too much blood.

 

It isn’t supposed to happen this way, she thought as she felt reality slipping away from her. My visions--

 

As she struggled to remain conscious, she heard a WHOOSH, then felt someone picking her up and turning her over. She forced her eyes open and saw a face she recognized. It was one of the night guards, one who was always kind. She had suspected him of being enamoured of her.

 

“Sebastian,” she whispered.

 

He smiled, and his eyes glowed. “It’s all right, my love,” he cooed, drawing her up into what she thought might be a kiss.

 

In the moments before she lost consciousness, she felt a prick in her neck.

 

Alexandria, Virginia, 1994

 

Fox Mulder woke up screaming and flailing, nearly knocking his coffee table over as he jumped to his feet, his arms positioned to ward off an attack from unseen aggressors. When he got his bearings, he sat back down again, picked up his pot pipe, and took a long hit.

 

The weed Langley had supplied was smooth, and if he smoked enough of it, he would drift off into a short but usually dreamless sleep, a brief respite from the hell his life had become. Usually. Not this time. Instead, he’d dreamed of a white room and his beautiful, loyal, funny, and kind partner strapped down to a cold steel table, evil-looking medical instruments doing ungodly things to her as he watched, frozen in place, unable to even speak.

 

She’d been gone for 45 days now. It had been forty-five days of sleeping little, eating even less, and overall letting the rest of his life go to hell as he chased every lead he got, no matter how shaky, all over the country.

 

He’d even driven up to Delaware because someone on an obscure Usenet group had sworn that a group of “devil worshippers” was holding her hostage in their “cult house.” He’d found the “cult house,” which turned out to be nothing more than a long-abandoned structure on a rural road. He’d found lots of evidence of teenagers using the house to drink and smoke weed, but there was no satanic cult, and there was no Scully.

 

Mulder exhaled. Drinking and smoking weed had seemed like a fine idea to get past this latest letdown, and that’s all he had been doing since returning the previous evening. He knew he could get drug-tested at any time, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care about much of anything anymore. He ate little, slept even less, wore the same clothes for days, and showered and shaved when he remembered or when Skinner yelled at him to do it.

 

He was in the middle of packing his next bowl when he heard pounding at the door and Skinner yelling his name. He put the pipe down, not even bothering to conceal the pot or the paraphernalia, and wandered to the door.

 

Mulder had barely gotten the door open when Skinner growled, “Where have you been? It’s after one o’clock, and you haven’t been answering your phone.” He looked Mulder up and down, sniffed, then spotted the bag of weed and the pipe on the coffee table. “Jesus, Mulder. What the hell are you thinking? What if you get called for a random drug test?” Skinner pushed his way in.

 

Mulder shut the door and shrugged. “Then I guess it would be the end of my storied career.” He sat down on the couch, considered taking a hit right in front of Skinner just for spite, then decided against it and put his head in his hands. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered without her. 

 

Was that love? He didn’t know, but he was certain he didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t include Dana Scully. You could call it love, soulmates, or the Easter Bunny; the end result was the same. If she didn’t come back safe, he didn’t want to go on.

 

Skinner sighed. The apartment reeked of weed and beer. There were empty bottles all over the place, and Mulder clearly hadn’t showered or changed his clothes in days. Under normal circumstances, an agent in Mulder’s condition would be ordered to undergo a mandatory psychiatric evaluation, possibly paired with drug counseling. But these weren’t normal circumstances. The man was clearly out of his head with grief, having lost his other half. Skinner wanted to believe that Dana Scully was still alive, but he also knew that with every day that passed, the odds of her being found safe diminished. Officially, this was still a missing persons case. Unofficially, everyone knew it was a recovery operation, but he didn’t dare tell Mulder that.

 

“Clean yourself up now, Agent Mulder. You have a case.” He thrust a file towards the younger man. “A string of homicides in Los Angeles, could be the work of a cult. The victims are being exsanguinated.”

 

Mulder took the file and half heartedly leafed through it. “That doesn’t sound like an X-File.”

 

“The victims are the X-File. The coroner says the bodies are decomposing at rapid rates, and if the bodies are exposed to the sun, the skin starts burning as if it were in a frying pan.”

 

Mulder laughed bitterly. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me with this.”

 

“Is there a problem, Agent Mulder?”

 

Mulder threw the file atop the coffee table, and several empty beer bottles fell to the floor. “What do you expect me to do with those bodies? Autopsies aren’t what I do. They’re what my partner does. My MISSING partner. The partner that I know everybody in that goddamn bureau thinks is dead!” Mulder jumped to his feet and stalked over to the window. Part of him wanted to jump out of it, bust right through the glass. At least then, he’d feel something. He’d reached the point where he could no longer feel grief. He just felt nothing.

 

Skinner approached him from behind, the file in his hand. He threw it down on Mulder’s desk. “LOOK AT ME, Agent Mulder!” Mulder reluctantly turned his head to face Skinner. “I’ve been covering your ass for the past 45 days, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up. People are noticing your behavior, Agent Mulder, people who aren’t as patient as me, people who make sure you’re called in for a random drug test if you show up at the Bureau smelling like weed! You will be gone, and the X-Files will be gone with you.

 

“For god’s sake, look at yourself! You’re drinking like a fish, you’re not sleeping, you’re not eating, you’re not even bathing or changing your fucking clothes. I know you want to find Agent Scully. Goddamnit, I want to find her, too, but when you do find her, shouldn’t there be something for her to come back to?” He didn’t specify whether the “something” was Mulder himself, the X-Files, or both, a purposeful omission. How Mulder chose to interpret it didn’t matter. He needed to clean himself up and get back to work, give himself a purpose, give himself something to occupy his mind.

 

Mulder nodded and took the file from Skinner. He was right. Scully wouldn’t want to see him like this; she hated it when he got like this. She also wouldn’t want to hear that the X-Files had been closed because of his behavior.

“So,” Mulder began, “We’re looking at a reverse-vampire case?”

 

The Marlex Motel, Canoga Park, California

 

The case was pretty much as Skinner had described: A string of victims, of both genders and of various ages, body types, and ethnicities, all exsanguinated, most having suffered severe burns due to post-mortem sunlight exposure. Mulder noticed that. The killer always moved the victims into the sunlight. Even the victims who were killed indoors had been dragged over to a sunny window. 

 

It was definitely an X-File, but without Scully’s expertise, Mulder didn’t understand what he was supposed to contribute. She was the only one who could do autopsies on X-Files cases properly. She knew what to look for.

 

It was after dark by the time Mulder approached a nearby motel that fell within the Bureau’s lodging allowance. He had thought of just not getting a room. There was nothing for him to do here, but he had to make a show of it, look like he was trying. One of the victims who hadn’t completely burned up by the time she was found, a young woman, had a stamp on her hand from the Blue Moon, a nightclub in this area. He’d go check it out.

 

At least they had alcohol there. Mulder fumed that he couldn’t bring his marijuana. Fucking airport security. Nothing helped him sleep better.

 

The front desk area was empty, and he rang the bell. “Just a minute!” a woman’s voice called from the back area. He heard what sounded like the same woman finishing up a conversation with a man, and then the woman emerged from the back. He noticed her eyes grow wide for just a moment, but then the woman quickly regained her composure. “May I help you?” she asked, and he thought he detected the slightest lilt in her voice.

 

He studied her for a moment. She looked so familiar, yet he couldn’t place her. She was small, about Scully’s height, with long brown hair and an exotically beautiful face. She was young, a teenager perhaps, and Mulder wondered if she was the owner’s daughter. But she wore a name tag that read “Anna - Night Manager,” and her demeanor was of a woman much older.

 

“Do I know you?” he finally asked. “I saw you look at me funny.”

 

The woman smiled. “No. For a moment, I thought you were somebody else, but I was mistaken. How can I help you?”

 

“One room, just for me. Three nights.” Mulder continued to look at her as she readied the paperwork and his key. Dammit, he’d seen that face before, but he couldn’t remember where. He realized he was staring and forced himself to look away. Maybe this is the owners’ daughter; maybe she’s older than she looks. Maybe he recognized her face from a file; maybe she’s an abductee and--

 

Mulder blanched, and the woman gave him a concerned look. “Are you all right, sir?”

 

He nodded. “Uh, yeah, just a sour stomach.”

 

“Well, I hope you get over that.” She handed him a key. “Room 6, straight that way. It’s next to the ice machine.

 

After Mulder left, the man from the back came to stand behind the woman. “You were very troubled by that man, Anastasia. I could tell. Why?”

 

“Sebastian, that’s him.”

 

“Who?”

 

Anastasia spun around to face her companion. “The man from my visions, from Grigori’s visions! I would know that man anywhere, Sebastian. That’s him.”

 

“So what does this mean?”

 

“I don’t know.” She turned back toward her desk. “I really don’t know, but that man is -- something terrible has happened to him. He’s overwhelmed with grief.”

 

Sebastian shook his head. “No, no, no, no. We don’t have time for humans’ problems. We have to find the people who are killing our kind before the humans do. You know that. The Council specifically requested that we take this on.”

 

“That I take this on, Sebastian. Me, not you. It’s my talents they want, but I’m going nowhere with this.” She pointed in the direction Mulder had gone. “That man has something to do with this case.”

 

Sebastian raised an eyebrow. “The killer?”

 

“No, not the killer. I’d have known. But something.”

 

**************************************************************

 

The Blue Moon had been a complete bust. Nobody who Mulder tried to question knew anything, or if they did, they weren’t telling. He could have gone at a few of them harder. He would have, had Scully been there to examine the bodies and investigate what he’d convinced himself was the most important facet of the case.

 

Now he wanted to get drunk, but he wasn’t going to do it in a nightclub where he’d just been waving his badge around. Luckily, there was a dive bar a block away; he’d passed it on the way to the club. 

 

Mulder didn’t stagger out of the bar until the bartender cut him off. The nightclub he’d ostensibly come to investigate was only a few blocks from the motel, so he had walked. It was a sketchy neighborhood, and nearly empty this time of the night, but the temporary buoy he’d gotten from Skinner’s stern talking-down-to had worn off. Mulder was back to not caring about anything anymore. What was the worst that could happen to him?

 

He didn’t notice the mugger until the guy had his gun pressed into Mulder’s kidney. “You know what this is. Wallet and watch, man. Wallet and watch.”

 

Mulder sighed. “You don’t want to do this, kid. I’m a federal agent.”

 

“I don’t care if you’re the fucking President!” The mugger jammed the gun against Mulder’s back harder. “Wallet. And. Watch.”

 

Mulder thought he could turn around and take the guy, so he tried -- his second miscalculation that evening. His reflexes slowed down by the alcohol, Mulder wasn’t able to execute the move correctly or pull his weapon on time, and the mugger pulled the trigger. Mulder felt the bullet tear into his abdomen, and after he hit the ground, the mugger came to stand over him and aimed his gun at Mulder’s head.

 

Mulder closed his eyes. Scully, if there’s another side, I will find you there.

 

Instead of another shot, he heard a whooshing sound, and then the mugger screaming. Mulder opened his eyes and tried to position himself to see, but it was dark, and he found he couldn’t move. But he heard a woman’s voice; the night manager’s voice.

 

“None of this ever happened, and you never saw me. Now go.” Mulder heard someone beating a hasty retreat, and then, he saw the face of the night manager -- including a pair of fangs.

 

She looked around, concerned. “We don’t have much time,” she said, “so I don’t have time to explain this, but you need to drink.” She used one of her fangs to slice open her wrist and held the gaping, bleeding wound over Mulder’s mouth.

 

Fear breaking through his alcohol-induced haze, Mulder whimpered. The woman sighed and looked directly into his eyes. “You must drink. You must.” He still didn’t want to, but he couldn’t stop himself from opening his mouth and drinking the blood straight from the open wound. He thought he would be repulsed, but the taste was earthy and primal. It also relaxed him similarly to marijuana. Even before the night manager removed her arm, Mulder was falling asleep.

 

********************************************************

 

He woke up in his motel room, to the sounds of the night manager arguing with the man he’d heard at the front desk.

 

“Have you gone INSANE?” the man was yelling. “What if someone had seen you?”

 

“Nobody did.”

 

“But somebody could have, and then, you compounded your offense. Saving him was bad enough, but then, you had to make him a fucking Familiar. The Council will--”

 

“You know what? Fuck the Council and their bullshit fucking rules. They won’t sanction me, because they need me on this. They need my talents.”

 

Mulder didn’t completely grasp what these people were talking about, but he decided he liked the woman right then and there. He knew what it was like to go up against “councils.”

 

“Shit, he’s awake.” 

 

The man threw up his hands, and the woman came across the room to be at Mulder’s side. He sat up -- and it all came back to him. How could he possibly have sat up? He looked down at his clothes; they were covered in blood, but there was no wound. There was no pain. In fact, physically, Mulder felt better than he had in his life.

 

“I do know you, Agent Mulder,” the woman said, “But we’ve never met before. I think you have some sort of file on me?” She could feel him searching his tortured mind for the information. “My name is Anastasia Romanov.”

 

Oh my fucking god, that was it. The Anastasia Romanov file. That’s where he’d seen the face, but Anastasia Romanov was only 17 when she was allegedly murdered, and this woman looked … more like a teenager than a woman.

 

“You haven’t aged,” Mulder sputtered. 

 

Anastasia laughed. “Oh, I’ve aged, but my body hasn’t. It’s one of the perks.” She shot a strange look at the man, who pulled the curtain aside to look out the window.

 

“It’s nearly daylight. You need to wrap this little, um, reunion up.”

 

“That’s just Sebastian. Don’t mind him. Anyway, we seem to be running into situations where there’s just no time for me to explain things, don’t we, Agent Mulder?”

 

Mulder suddenly felt a chill go down his spine. If he was alive, and not wounded anymore, what did that mean, especially since Anastasia had hypnotized him to drink her blood. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO ME?” Mulder jumped out of bed and looked in a mirror. He saw his reflection, but then he also saw Anastasia in the background, so…

 

“That’s a myth,” she said. “But no, I didn’t turn you. You were bleeding out from the gunshot wound, and vampire blood has healing properties. Trust me, you’re 100% human, but since you had to drink a lot of my blood, you’re also what we call a Familiar.”

 

Mulder’s head was spinning. He wasn’t entirely sure what Anastasia meant, but this was all too much. 

 

“Listen, I’d love to continue this conversation,” she told him, “but unless you want Sebastian and I hiding in this room all day, we need to go right now. I can come back after dark. Can I trust you not to get yourself shot again until then?”

 

She gave Mulder a sly smile, and he had to appreciate her wit. He nodded, and the two vampires were gone.

 

What the hell was a Familiar?

 

********************************************************

 

Another victim turned up the next morning, what looked to be an older man, no identification, the body burned beyond recognition.

 

Mulder reexamined the files on the victims who had been identified. With a slightly clearer head -- amazing that an encounter with vampires had cleared his head -- he noticed that all of the victims had led solitary lives, with no known relatives and few if any acquaintances. All of them either worked at home or worked night jobs.

 

Someone was hunting vampires. Vampires, Scully!

 

When his mind turned to Scully, he felt himself getting lost again. Thankfully, it was near nightfall.

 

That night, in the back office of the Marlex Motel, Fox Mulder was given a crash course on vampires, Familiars, and the mysterious Council his new vampire acquaintances kept going on about.

 

Since he had drank so much of Anastasia’s blood, he was now bonded with her, not as closely as Sebastian, who was her maker, but they now had a psychic connection of sorts. Anastasia told him that while he wasn’t indestructible, he would heal from injuries and illnesses more quickly than before. He also found out that as a Familiar, he was impervious to vampire hypnotism -- but he wasn’t impervious to Anastasia’s numerous psychic powers.

 

“It started when I was a little girl,” she explained to him. “First, I knew how people were feeling. I could tell if they were sad or mad or gleeful. Then, I started being able to see inside their minds, not just words but images. And if I concentrated, I could do things. I could move things, just by thinking about it hard enough.”

 

“And that’s when Grigori Rasputin started training you,” Mulder said.

 

“For my own protection. He said he’d never seen such power in a child so young. It scared him, the things I could do, and I couldn’t control any of it.” He saw a flicker of sadness in her eyes. “He taught me as much as he could before he was killed. He knew he wouldn’t have enough time to train me properly. He had visions, prophecies of the future. I started having them, too, and he taught me how to interpret them. We both saw you, with the red-haired woman, Scully, who was taken from you. I can see her in your mind.”

 

Mulder felt a pain in his gut at the mention of Scully’s name. He was surprised when Anastasia reached out to pick up the small crucifix hanging around his neck. She smiled at him. “That’s a myth, too, but if this were silver, I couldn’t touch it. That part is true. You’ve seen that the sunlight part is true.” She put the crucifix back in its place. “When I was turned, I retained all of my powers. All vampires have some psychic ability; that’s how we can glamor humans, but I’m uniquely gifted.” He saw something flash across her face that indicated she didn’t see her powers as gifts; quite the opposite. “The Council needs me to find this exsanguination killer before the humans do. He’s putting us at risk of exposure, and if they capture him, the risk is worse.”

 

“Believe me, Anastasia, nobody would believe him,” Mulder assured her. “Shit, nobody believes anything I say.”

 

“They won’t take the chance, and despite my misgivings with the Council, I don’t think they’re wrong on this one. Most humans don’t know about the healing properties of vampire blood. I think this killer knows, and that’s why he’s killing us. He drains all of his victims. I’ve seen some of the people in your mind, your own Council. What do you think they might do if they knew vampire blood could save people from gunshot wounds?” The desk bell rang, and Anastasia went to answer it.

 

Other than her looking too young to be a motel manager, she blended in well, Mulder thought. There was nothing unusual about her, nothing that would make people question her. That Sebastian guy, who apparently worked at the Blue Moon, looked rather ordinary, too.

 

“How is this killer finding his victims?” Mulder asked Anastasia when she returned. “If all of your kind live covertly, how is he identifying you?”

 

“We think he might be finding them at some of the vampire bars in the Valley,” Sebastian said as he entered the room. “At least three of the victims were customers at the Blue Moon.”

 

Mulder thought back to his unsuccessful interviews at the club; that’s why they’d gone nowhere. This community was very good at keeping its secrets. An idea occurred to him. “Did you ever think that the killer might be a Familiar?”

 

He could tell that the vampires had not. “Well, there aren’t that many of them,” Sebastian explained. “The Council frowns on us making Familiars these days. It’s too risky. They want us to stay away from humans, not get personally involved with them.”

 

Anastasia looked as though a lightbulb had gone on above her head. “But it happens, Sebastian. You know it does. This would all make sense!” She started pacing back and forth, reminding Mulder a bit of himself when he latched onto a theory. “An angry Familiar, someone who didn’t want to be made one, or someone who fell out with the vampire who made them. But why not just kill us? Why steal our blood?”

 

Mulder thought for a moment. “Maybe it’s not for the killer. Maybe he’s selling it, or he’s giving it to someone else. You said I had to drink a lot of your blood to heal, Anastasia. That means the amount needed corresponds to the severity of the injury.”

 

She nodded. “Or the illness. If the illness is really bad, like cancer that’s spread everywhere, the effect is temporary at best. I don’t know why. Even we don’t understand how our blood heals.” She stopped pacing. “My god. I think I might know how to find the killer.”

 

*********************************************************

 

The trio returned to the Blue Moon, and Anastasia made a beeline for a table occupied by a young dark-haired woman smoking a cigarette, someone who hadn’t been there the previous night. The woman apprised Mulder as he approached with Sebastian. “My, my, Nastya, you do attract handsome men. I haven’t seen this one before.”

 

“Cut the bullshit, Kristen,” Anastasia said as she pulled up a chair. “Whatever happened to Richard? I think he may be the one doing this.”

 

Kristen laughed as she stamped out her cigarette. “Richie? You must be kidding. He’s a sweet old man.”

 

“He wasn’t sweet when he was young, and you turned him into your Familiar,” Anastasia reminded her. “He wasn’t sweet when you broke things off with him.”

 

“Yes I did -- 30 years ago. I assure you, he moved on. Got married, had kids, and everything,” Kristen told her. “He came to see me a few months ago. He wanted me to turn him and his wife, full-on turn, so that they could live together forever. I didn’t want to take on that kind of responsibility. Some of us would rather steer clear of the Council’s watchful eyes.”

 

“A few months ago?” Mulder interrupted. “How many months is a few?”

 

Kristen raised an eyebrow, then gestured to Anastasia. “Well, you certainly have a live one here. Where’d you find this one, and what do you intend to do with him?” She gave Mulder a seductive smile, which he returned with a stony stare. She sighed. “Well, you’re certainly no fun. If you must know, two and a half months ago, but I don’t see what this has to do with anything. I told him no, he got mad, but then he left. I haven’t heard from him since.”

 

Mulder and the other vampires looked at each other. The murders had started two months prior. “Do you know where we could find him?” Mulder asked.

 

********************************************************

 

“What I don’t understand is how he’s getting the drop on you,” Mulder said as he drove the trio to Richie’s home in nearby Van Nuys.

 

“Vampire hunters have existed throughout history,” Anastasia explained. “You know that, and you know we’re not indestructible.”

 

“Because the bodies decompose so fast after death, he must be incapacitating his victims, then draining them while they’re still alive,” Mulder mused.

 

“Silver,” Anastasia offered. “It weakens us.”

 

They finally pulled up to Richie’s house, a small home on a quiet street. “Can you tell if he’s in there, Anastasia?” Mulder asked.

 

She looked at the house and concentrated. “No, I’m only feeling one person, a woman. She’s in a lot of pain, very ill -- dying. It’s cancer. It’s everywhere.”

 

Great, he’s probably out hunting, Mulder thought, but they couldn’t do anything about it now. The best chance of catching this guy was to wait for him to come back. They waited in an uncomfortable silence. Sebastian had been dead-set against Mulder coming. Their instructions had been to find and dispatch this killer before the humans could get hold of him, but he suspected that Mulder wouldn’t go for that. Anastasia had insisted he come because of her visions. Sebastian had told the petite vampire what he thought of her visions, which had been entirely the wrong thing to say. Mulder couldn’t help but smile through the pain at the sight of her dressing this much taller man down the way Scully often did to him.

 

“You’re thinking of her,” Anastasia said, interrupting his train of thought.

 

He fingered the crucifix around his neck. “Always.”

 

“Please don’t give up on finding her, Mulder.” Anastasia stopped short of saying he’d find her again. The truth was, she didn’t know. She could control her mind-reading and object-moving powers very well, but the visions either came to her or they didn’t.

 

Soon after, a car pulled into the driveway, and an older man got out, carrying a satchel. It was him, Richard Keenan. He entered the house. “Stay here,” Mulder told the vampires. “He might be able to hurt you.” 

 

Sebastian fumed as Mulder headed for the house. When the agent was out of sight, the vampire made to exit the car. “We can’t let him go in there alone, Nastya. You know that. This is our kind’s problem. We need to take care of this.”

 

Anastasia nodded and reluctantly got out of the car. Her lover and maker was right. Richard Keenan couldn’t be taken by the human authorities alive.

 

******************************************************

 

Mulder crept to a window with a light on and peered inside. It was a bedroom, in which an older woman slept on a hospital bed. Richard came in holding a large glass of red liquid and woke the woman. “Here you go, darling. More of that Chinese elixir that works so well.”

 

The old woman shook her head, and Richard looked crestfallen. “No, Richie. It’s not working anymore.”

 

“NO! It will work, Marion!” Richard sounded desperate, and Mulder saw a bit of himself in the older man. “It always has!”

 

Marion gave him a sorrowful but firm look. “No, Richard. It worked for a while, but not anymore. I can’t eat anymore. I don’t even want to drink water anymore. It’s time for me to go.”

 

“Maybe you just need to drink more. I can get you more! It’s not that expensive.”

 

“Yeah, what’s a few vampire lives in the grand scheme of things?”

 

Shit, Mulder thought as he watched Sebastian enter the room. I knew they wouldn’t stay put. He ran around to the front of the house, and as he suspected, the vampires had simply twisted the doorknob off. Superhuman strength wasn’t a myth.

 

By the time he got back to the bedroom, Richard was warding off Sebastian and Anastasia with a large silver necklace, the two vampires were arguing again, and Marion was in tears. Mulder approached Richard with his weapon drawn. “Richard Keenan, you’re under arrest. It’s over. Give yourself up.” 

 

Richard waved the jewelry at him, but Mulder kept advancing. “So you’re not one of them?”

 

“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” It was Marion. She sounded very weak. Anastasia studied her for a moment, then looked gravely at Richard.

 

“She’s dying, Richard -- and I mean, right now. No amount will make her better now.”

 

Ignoring Mulder’s gun, but still clutching his silver, Richard rushed to his wife’s side. “It’s going to be okay, darling. I’ll get you more medicine. I’ll get you better medicine.”

 

“Please, Richie,” Marion’s voice was little more than a whisper. “Could you hold me, just for a minute?”

 

Richard climbed halfway into bed with his wife and hugged her. She put her head on his chest. “Always love you,” she whispered. And then she was gone. 

 

Richard clutched his wife’s dead body and screamed. Sebastian tried to make a move toward him, but Anastasia held him back. She could see into this man’s mind. She knew what was going to happen next.

 

That’s why she wasn’t surprised when, so quickly that Mulder didn’t have time to react, he pulled a handgun out of the nightstand, placed it under his chin, and pulled the trigger.

 

*****************************************************

 

Marlex Motel, the following evening

 

After Richard Keenan blew his brains out, Mulder sent his two vampire companions away and dealt with the aftermath. The official story he told the police was that Keenan had believed that having his dying wife drink blood would cure her cancer. Mulder had tracked him to his home and forcibly entered when he heard the shot.

 

He booked an overnight flight back to D.C. so that he could see the night manager again. She was alone. “Where’s Sebastian?” Mulder asked.

 

“At work. He’ll be around later. She looked at his luggage. “Checking out?”

 

Mulder nodded and handed her the key. She clutched his hand and gave him a very serious look.

 

“You cannot give up on finding her, Mulder. She still lives. That I can promise you.”

 

He felt drawn into Anastasia’s eyes, not the way he was drawn into Scully’s, but still drawn. She was a beautiful woman, but the feeling he got was more like what he would have for a sibling, perhaps if he’d had a twin. It was difficult for him to wrap his head around, but at least it was a feeling. He was finally feeling something again. “Thanks for everything. I think I needed this case.” He turned to go. The devastation was still there, but he’d gotten the boost he needed to carry on just a little while longer.

 

“I’ll see you again, Fox Mulder,” Anastasia promised him as he exited the motel.

 

She didn’t tell him about the vision she’d had after she’d left the Keenan house, the one where she’d seen Mulder, Scully, and an infant in a future that wasn’t so distant. 

 

She didn’t tell him that the infant could move things with his mind.