Welcome To The Harem
[XFVCU 1x04] Catacomb by Deslea
Summary: A haunted monastery. A demented mystic. Another agent's mess. A hell of a lot of bodies. Part of the X Files VCU virtual series.
X Files: VCU 1x04
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Set eighteen months after The
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Post-series, casefile, XFVCU.
SUMMARY: A haunted monastery. A demented mystic.
Another agent's mess. A hell of a lot of bodies.
VIRTUAL SERIES SITE: http://xfvcu.deslea.com
AUTHOR SITE: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Spooky Awards 2004 eligible.
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are, come on baby
Don't fear the reaper, baby take my hand
-- Don't Fear The Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult
They called her the White Lady.
The White Lady, surprisingly enough, was a woman
cloaked in white. Local superstition is rarely
inventive. It is rarely logical, either. This may
go in some measure towards explaining why a saintly
postulant, who (they said) drew her final, gasping
breaths while awaiting her first promises as a nun,
would be said to haunt a monastery instead of the
eminently more suitable convent down the road.
But the convent was a modern building, light and
bright and clean. It was filled with vibrant young
women, exhilarated by ideology and mission. The
monastery was dark and empty, shrouded in shadows. A
catacomb of mystery encased in the protective
clutches of moss and leaves and earth, sprawling in a
bid to take back the places once denied by the
spectre of human dominance. It was fitting that the
White Lady should walk these hallowed grounds. Far
more nourishing soil for the growth of a legend.
The locals held this place with thrall. They did not
know that legends were not all that grew here. They
never dreamed, they said later. Never would have
believed...this blessed place...who would have
thought? They couldn't believe such evil would
reside right beneath their noses. That was what they
said. But it wasn't what they meant.
They meant they couldn't believe it happened under
the watchful eye of the White Lady.
Lydia Kersh's voice echoed along the halls, and her
father opened his eyes with reluctance. Regretfully,
he shook his head, clearing it of a delightful
delirium of steam.
"At this hour?" he called, shutting off the water and
stepping out of the shower.
His daughter's voice was muffled through the door.
"She didn't say anything about time travel, so, yeah,
He stifled a groan. "All right, give me a minute."
He dried off and put on his dressing gown in a rush.
Lydia was waiting, phone in hand, when he emerged.
She was already dressed for school. That meant she
was seeing a boy, Kersh thought. He hoped it was an
improvement on the last one.
"It's your secretary," she said. "Mom's gonna be
pissed. She was asleep."
He took it. "Thank you. And mind your language."
"Yes, Daddy," she said, entirely unintimidated. She
leaned up and kissed his cheek, still rough with
morning stubble. "I'm off. See you tonight."
"Laura?" he said into the phone, waving his daughter
off as she slipped out the front door. "It's a
little early, don't you think?"
"Sorry to bother you at home, Sir, but there's
something on the news that I thought you'd like to
Frowning, he went to the kitchen, and turned on the
kettle on the way through to his wife's little
portable. On the phone, he could hear a kettle
whistling in the background, and Laura's toddler was
singing to himself - clearly Laura was only
marginally more prepared for the day than he was.
"Any of the affiliates. It's top news. It concerns
some correspondence we had with the Catholic
Archdiocese of Baltimore last year."
"Hold on." He switched the television on and flicked
channels, bypassing commercials and cartoons. On
NBC, Katie Couric was interviewing an ageing actor
whom Kersh recognised but could not name. On WNVT,
he stopped, frowning, as scenes flashed before him.
Police officers trailed in and out of the remains of
an ivy-covered building, lugging their nondescript
yet unmistakable cargo of body bags, lining them up
in rows on the overgrown lawn. Twenty at least, to
Kersh's practiced eye. Off to the side, bulldozers
stood patiently, forgotten.
"That's St Gerebernus Monastery," he said at last. A
weighty feeling descended over him. He was already
counting the agents he had available on his fingers.
"We agreed that the FBI would supervise its
excavation," he said. He switched off the kettle -
no time for that - and grabbed Helen's notepad. At
the top of each page was printed, "Shopping List!" in
sickly pink letters. He started writing names.
"Yes, Sir. Looks like someone at the diocese dropped
the ball, Sir."
Kersh drew a line through Mulder's name. "That's an
understatement. We need to get this case away from
Baltimore PD. Can you do it? Now?" He put a
question mark next to Reyes.
"I think so, Sir. Our prior correspondence should be
enough for us to assert jurisdiction. I'll make some
"Good girl. Thank you." Kersh rubbed his temples as
he rang off. He looked down at his list, and, after
a moment, circled the names of Follmer and Spender.
It was going to be a bad day.
The agents in question arrived at the same time.
"Kersh sounded steamed," Jeffrey said before he was
even out of his car. "What's happening?"
Follmer shrugged, slamming his door and jiggling the
handle to make sure it was locked. "Not sure. But
it looks big." He nodded towards the throng across
the road. "If the radio is anything to go by, the
media is already out in force."
By common assent, they crossed the road, pushing past
the locals and flashing their badges at the police
officers holding them back. There were no reporters,
and as they walked up the drive, gravel crunching
beneath their shoes, Jeffrey saw why. The press
corps was comfortably ensconced further up the
driveway, past the hedges that obscured the view from
the street. They had a birds-eye view.
Kersh's voice could be heard before they even had a
chance to flash their badges at the rookie manning
the police tape. "Agents! Get your asses over here.
Jeffrey shrugged at the rookie, stepped under, and
jogged over, Follmer keeping step at his side.
Stepping through overgrown grass, he could see
Krycek, Fowley, and Reyes, along with two agents he
vaguely recognised from Violent Crimes. They were
gathered on the steps of the monastery with Kersh and
another, older man Jeffrey didn't recognise. Around
them, police officers were working, trooping in and
out of the half-demolished west wing, industriously
laying out body bags in rows.
"Agents Spender, Follmer," Kersh said at their
approach, "this is Agent Fuller and Agent Caleca from
VCU." Jeffrey nodded with that non-committal
catchall greeting he reserved for these situations.
"This is Father Giles from the Archdiocese of
Baltimore. He'll be your liaison with the diocese."
Follmer nodded. "What's the situation?"
Giles nodded towards the bulldozers. "We started
excavating at first light this morning. The
monastery closed in 1981. It's not particularly
sound, structurally speaking, and it doesn't hold
much historical significance. Our intention is to
build a hospice on the site."
"But when you did, you found bodies?" Follmer
queried. Krycek looked uncomfortable, Jeffrey
noticed. Diana was watching him with sympathy.
Giles looked uncomfortable as well. "Agent Follmer,
I'm not a local. I'm from Philadelphia diocese, here
on a temporary placement. I arrived about eight
weeks ago to replace the assets management director,
who had a heart attack recently. So I had no idea."
"No idea of what?" said Reyes.
"It's a body dump," Krycek said. "The building goes
seven floors underground, and the last five are
rotting to hell. People used to go to the top of the
spiral staircase and just dump them over the side."
"What do you mean, people?" Jeffrey demanded. "What
"Organised crime, mostly," said Giles, "at least if I
understand it correctly. I've gotten a crash course
in local lore from the reporters and neighbours since
we found the first body, and it's rumoured that
Satanists use the monastery as well. There are
stories of Satanic ritual and human sacrifice, but
it's hard to know what's real and what's just people
getting caught up in the excitement. Superstition is
a powerful thing, and people are very suggestible.
Especially in matters of religion. It's an ongoing
Jeffrey frowned. That explained Monica, but it
didn't explain the rest of them. Turning to Kersh,
he said, "Deputy Director, I don't quite understand
what we're doing here."
"That's our fault, I'm afraid," said Giles
apologetically. "I owe you an apology, Mr Kersh. My
predecessor kept your correspondence under lock and
key, for obvious reasons, and in the confusion after
his heart attack, it wasn't passed on."
Kersh nodded. "It's regrettable, but it can be
handled. Thank you, Father." Seeing the other
agents' confusion (except Krycek and Diana, Jeffrey
thought, wondering irritably if there was anything
those two didn't know first) he said, "XFVCU was to
supervise this excavation, Agents. We were aware of
the bodies down there - two in particular - and the
diocese was kindly cooperating with us to keep
publicity and embarrassment to a minimum."
"What embarrassment?" Reyes said. "I don't
Silence fell for a long moment, and then Krycek
cleared his throat.
Jeffrey stared at him, uncomprehending for a moment,
but then he understood. They were people he killed
for the Consortium while he was undercover.
"Agent Krycek's actions are a matter of public
record," said Kersh. "These deaths are already
documented in his testimony before the Congressional
inquiry. There is no question of charges against
him. But if the press gets hold of it-"
"Then we're back in the headlines and we can't do our
job," said Diana, speaking for the first time.
Kersh nodded. "Exactly."
Jeffrey was already thinking ahead, ticking over the
people there. They weren't going to give it to
Krycek and Diana - too much conflict of interest.
They were just here to help with fact-finding. And
Reyes was here for anything that smacked of Satanic
ritual. That left-
"So we get to clean it up," Follmer said. He sounded
"Well, I'm sorry to fuck up your day, Agent Follmer,"
Krycek snapped. More on edge than Jeffrey was used
to. Then, after a moment, "Sorry, Father."
"I was a prison chaplain for seven years, Agent
Krycek," Giles said dryly. "It's going to take more
than 'fuck' to burn *my* ears."
Jeffrey noted with some amusement that Kersh looked
"Well. Follmer, Spender, this one's yours. You'll
work through the bodies and farm them out. Anything
that looks like something for Violent Crimes, pass it
on to Fuller and Caleca and they'll take it from
there. Agent Krycek will fill you in on what to look
for in his cases-" Jeffrey mentally inserted
"victims" there "-and if there's anything left over,
it's yours." He nodded to the police officers.
"These guys will be pulling out as soon as we can get
some agents in here. Baltimore field office is
sending over a team to get you started - it shouldn't
Jeffrey nodded. "Yes, Sir."
Follmer was looking over his shoulder. "Sir? How
many bodies do you think we're looking at?"
"Hundreds," said Krycek, without a trace of a doubt.
No one asked how he could be so sure.
"The incidents took place in 1994," Krycek said,
stiffly, as though reading from a crime report. "I
was partnered with a guy named Luis Cardinale. We
have files on him already."
"I remember him," said Fuller. "Career scumbag.
School of the Americas alumni. They got him while he
was awaiting trial."
"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Krycek said
dryly. "I remember he never used to wash his hands
after he took a piss. I hated that."
"Yeah, because that's so much worse than being a
hired assassin," Follmer said in an undertone. Diana
shot him a cold look.
Jeffrey cleared his throat and stepped between them.
"Krycek, you've been here before, how about you give
us the guided tour?"
Krycek nodded, and started up the stairs. "This was
the main lobby area," he said, pointing at the
rotting doors. He reached them and gave them a
shove, and they swung open in a cacophony of
protesting creaks. Passing through, Jeffrey
marvelled at the sheer variety of graffiti on the
walls and ceiling.
Krycek was pointing at a grand staircase. "That
leads up five floors, with a smaller staircase into
the bell tower. There's not going to be anything up
there - it's just too light, with too many chances of
discovery. It was understood among the Consortium
hitters, you only came here on a weeknight - never a
Friday or Saturday. Local kids came here to drink or
screw or do drugs those nights - it was a regular
"Not down in the basement, I take it?" said Fuller.
Krycek took his head. "No. They stuck to the main
wing. Big rooms with lots of nooks and crannies to
make out in."
"Brian, Father Giles wants to speak to us if you have
a moment," Linda Caleca called out from outside, and
Fuller excused himself.
Krycek led the rest of them off towards the west
wing, and presently, they reached the area that had
been demolished. The corridor ended abruptly in a
maze of beams and bricks, and light streamed in from
overhead. The staircase was in ruins, with
bulldozer-shaped chunks of wood missing, but the
Baltimore P.D. had assembled makeshift ramps in their
stead. He nodded down into the pit. "That's where
we-" and then he stopped with a grimace.
Diana stepped in, deftly bridging the gap. "Alex, we
should get an extract of your testimony for the
others. Do you have a copy?"
Krycek was pale. "Yeah. There's a transcript on my
computer at home. Marita could get it and email it
The transcript was available on any number of
websites, but what the hell? Jeffrey thought. At
least it would keep him and Follmer apart. "That
would be good," he said. "It would save us having to
question you about the deceased."
Diana touched his arm. "Thank you, Jeffrey," she
said, unusually gentle. "We'll be in touch." She
nodded to Krycek to go ahead of her, up the ramp and
out through the grounds, and he complied.
Follmer was looking at him in apparent disgust.
"What the hell is your problem, Brad?" he demanded,
turning away and heading back the way they came.
"'It would save us having to question you about the
deceased'?" he demanded. "What the hell was that
about? They're his victims, Jeffrey, and I for one
am sick of sugarcoating it."
"Those deaths were sanctioned-"
"By the FBI and by Congress and by the President
himself, for all I fucking know. I know." Follmer
sighed. "Look, I don't have a problem with what
Krycek did. I'm not Mulder. But I have a big
problem with this revisionist history crap. He
killed people, in our name, and that's something we
all have to live with."
"You think he doesn't know that?" Jeffrey demanded.
"There's no need to rub it in his face!"
"Why the hell do you defend him like that?" Follmer
said in exasperation. "Are you that far under
"You don't know shit," he snapped. "I've been where
he was, Brad. I was supposed to do a hit. I
couldn't do it. He was there, backing me up, and he
saved my life. You're right, he did do it in our
name, because we were too pissweak to do it
ourselves. So just fucking lay off."
Follmer looked mutinous, but he said nothing.
The work was constant, but monotonous, and in a way,
that helped. Tedium eased the tension between them,
and as the day wore on, it loosened their tongues as
"You know, you think you know someone," Follmer said
as they went over yet another body. "Monica and I
were together for two years. I had no idea."
"None at all?" Jeffrey said in disbelief.
"Not a clue. I mean, sure, she did a lot with alien
cults when strictly she was supposed to be working on
ritual abuse cases, but I just wrote that off to
personal interest." He zipped up the body bag and
rose. "This one's VCU," he said, driving a coloured
marker into the ground beside it. "Gang tattoos. So
we split up, and the next thing I know, she's going
on this witch hunt against the Deputy Director,
throwing in with this loose canon Doggett, and I'm
wondering what the hell happened to her. So I go in,
start trying to move things around and cover her ass
and get rid of this guy. Then they sit me down, tell
me she's been undercover for ten years - almost as
long as she's been an agent - and she's been
pretending to go after Kersh so they can keep her
there even though Kersh is being pressured from
above. Well, didn't I look like a horse's ass?"
Jeffrey laughed. "What made it worse was, Kersh was
her mentor. Went out on a limb to get her in to
begin with. He took a bit of a shine to her when she
was starting out. And I'd been telling him to pull
them in line."
"Serves you right for playing both ends against the
middle. I've got no sympathy," Jeffrey said, but he
was laughing, too.
"Yeah, that'd be right, asshole. And I suppose you
got in unscathed?"
"If you call, 'Hey, kid, your father's plotting the
end of the world, help us throw sand in his face, and
by the way, that guy you hate over there is your
brother' unscathed, yeah."
Follmer laughed. "Jesus. Sounds like a worse day
than this one. And that's saying something." He
flipped through a heavy sheaf of papers. "And we
have an ID."
"Thank God," said Jeffrey. "Some of these are never
going to be identified. Especially the older ones.
When we get to the bottom, we're going to be hitting
skeletons. It's a shit of a job."
Follmer shrugged. "Oh, I'll call in a specialist
team for that. I've got no intention of being here
when we get down to the those."
Jeffrey looked at him, askance. "You don't have the
power to delegate the case like that. You're not an
A.D. anymore, you know."
Follmer's jaw hardened. He said stiffly, "Kersh will
approve it. He only wants us here to cover Krycek's
ass. Once his bodies are out of the way, he'll let
us palm it off."
The logic was undeniable, even if it came across as a
clumsy save, so Jeffrey just shrugged and went on
with his work.
They were interrupted by a girl, screeching behind
them. "Let me go! I know my rights, goddammit!
Goddamn pig fuckers! Let me go!"
They rose, turning to look, and saw Agent Fuller
dragging over a teenaged girl by the arm. They
tramped through the grass overgrowth. Fuller looked
grim. The girl was still screeching obscenities.
"Looks like we've got ourselves a sightseer, Agent
Follmer," he said. "I found her in the old chapel."
"Fuck you. It's a public place." The girl's face
was red with anger, and possibly fear.
Jeffrey sighed. "Not only is this not a public
place, Miss, it's a crime scene. Or did you not
notice the - how many are we up to?" he asked over
"Eighty-nine," said Agent Caleca, not looking up from
her survey of another body.
"Eighty-nine corpses lined up on the lawn."
"Fascist pigs," she snapped, and then her anger
suddenly died. "Hang on, you're Jeffrey Spender."
Jeffrey suppressed a sigh.
"Oh, wow," she said, as though in awe. She stared at
the scar on his cheek, pulling away from Fuller and
walking around him. Fuller allowed it, shrugging a
little. "My mom cried when Katie Couric said you
were better. Said it was a miracle."
Jeffrey had not the slightest idea what to say.
"Miss," Follmer said, interceding, "you're going to
have to leave." His voice was surprisingly gentle.
"These people died horrible deaths. They deserve
The girl - and she *was* just a girl, Jeffrey
realised, sixteen at a guess - was very near tears.
"Look, I'm not here for that. I don't want to look
at -" she shuddered "- that."
"Then why are you here?"
"I was here on the weekend with this guy. I took off
my ring. It was in my way when I jer- juh- j-"
Jerked him off, Jeffrey mentally filled in. "When
you were dancing?" he suggested, helpfully.
Fuller was looking studiously in the other direction.
"Yeah. Right. Anyway. It was my nan's. She died
last year. Can't I please just get it? I promise
I'll go straight away."
The men exchanged looks and shrugged.
"All right," said Jeffrey, sighing. "I'll take you
where you need to go. Come on."
The girl nodded, and they traipsed back across the
The girl's name was Lizzie, and she liked to talk.
By the time she had retrieved her ring - an
astonishingly ugly piece of battered gold set with a
clump of dulled topaz - Jeffrey had been given a
crash course in Lizzie's home life (boring),
boyfriend (hot), school (her science teacher was
cute, for an old guy), and future (journalism). He
was quite exhausted by her by the time he escorted
her back through the main hall.
"I have to tell you, Brad, I'm not seeing any signs
of Satanic activity at all," Reyes was telling
Follmer as they passed.
"That's because there wasn't any," Lizzie
volunteered, stopping short behind them.
"Pardon?" Reyes said, turning around.
"This is Lizzie," said Jeffrey by way of explanation.
"She came here a few times."
"There weren't any Satanists," she said again. "That
was just a rumour the older kids started to explain
any lights and noises and keep the olds away. You
got stupid girls having little seances when they got
stoned, and idiots spray-painting pentagrams for a
lark, but there was never really anything here."
Follmer frowned. "How can you be sure of that when
you only came here a few times?"
"This place has been decommissioned," said Lizzie.
"There's a special rite they use when they stop using
a church like that. It's not sacred ground anymore.
Satanists wouldn't come here - there's nothing here
The agents exchanged glances. "Lizzie?" said
Jeffrey. "How do you know that?"
"She told me," Lizzie said, turning to face him.
"The White Lady."
"She's right," said Giles, "but don't ask me how a
seventeen year old Methodist knew that."
"It would explain a lot," Reyes said, sitting down on
the steps. "I'd noted the lack of serious signs of
Satanic ritual. There are certain hallmarks you'd
expect - certain desecrations. They were completely
absent. If it was known that the building was
"But how would they know?" Jeffrey wondered. "It's
not like there's a neon sign saying 'Decommissioned
Monastery, Right This Way.'"
"Don't borrow trouble, Jeffrey," said Follmer,
leaning back against a pillar. "We've got - how
many?" he called.
"One hundred and sixteen," Linda replied from across
"One hundred and sixteen corpses. Who cares why we
don't have any Satanic sacrifices? I'd call that a
"Stop thinking like an A.D.," Jeffrey said. "Aren't
you even curious?"
Follmer's face grew tight and closed. "No," he said
coldly. "I just want to get the job done.
Jeffrey sighed, and turned his attention back to
Giles. "What about this White Lady?"
"Local superstition," Giles shrugged. "She's
rumoured to be a young girl who died while waiting to
take her vows as a religious sister, who watches over
the monastery, waiting for someone to come back and
open it up again and let her take her vows. The
locals are divided into two groups - the ones who
think Satanists used the place, and the ones who
think the White Lady stops them." He frowned. "The
accounts are a little more consistent than you would
usually expect in these cases."
"You're not a believer, then?" Reyes said, a smile
playing around her mouth.
"The Church investigates hundreds of sightings and
miracles every year, Agent Reyes. Very few are
considered proven. The vast majority can be
explained by mental illness, or need, or extreme
suggestibility. And sometimes people are lying. You
get cynical. I suspect you have a higher prove rate
in your work than we do in ours."
Jeffrey opened his mouth to ask Giles what the Church
made of the Congressional hearings, but he closed it
again. Linda Caleca was coming up to them in a run.
"Linda?" he said. "What is it?"
"Follmer, Spender, you better get over here. There's
something you need to see."
"First, the good news. We found Krycek's people."
"Thank God," said Follmer. "Let's get them out of
"I don't think Scully should do the autopsies,"
Jeffrey said. "These people were killed by Krycek
and Cardinale. That's a little too close to how her
sister died for my liking."
"I agree," said Follmer. "The families have already
been notified that we're working here. Maybe we
should just send them to their local morgues. It
will save the families transportation costs - it's
the least we can do."
Caleca was writing busily in her notepad. "I'll see
to that." She closed it, and pointed to a cluster of
blue markers amidst the yellow. "Come over here.
We've found something a bit unusual."
She set off, tramping through the grass, and they
followed. She stopped before a row of nine body
bags, all open.
Follmer's mouth fell open. Jaw slack. "What the
Jeffrey dropped down beside one of the bodies. An
elderly man. He felt the neck, just to be sure.
"He's dead," said Caleca. "Long dead, going by the
clothes and his position in the dump. But I can
understand you checking."
"These bodies are perfectly preserved," Follmer said.
"How is that possible?" said Jeffrey. "It's a
hellhole down there. It's damp and there's decay
from hundreds of bodies-"
Linda Caleca shrugged. "Fortunately, that's not my
job to figure out, gentlemen. I'd say this fits the
definition of an X File, wouldn't you?"
"So much for palming it off," Jeffrey said as an
Follmer groaned, pinching the ridge of his nose.
"I'll be back," he sighed, and turned and walked
They watched him for a moment, and then Caleca
wondered, "What's up his nose?"
Jeffrey made a sympathetic noise. "I don't think he
likes paranormal cases."
They burst out laughing.
A telephone call to Scully confirmed that even
routine autopsies on the nine would take time. She
could call in other pathologists, but she wanted to
take a hands-on role in them all. After they
dispatched the bodies to Quantico, Follmer and
Spender left the site in the capable hands of the
team from Baltimore field office and called it a day.
By the time Jeffrey got to the Kryceks' apartment,
Alex and Diana were a fair way into the wine.
Marita's tone was indulgent when she greeted him at
"They're a bit rambunctious," she said. "They've had
a hard day."
"I'll bet," he said, letting her take his coat. "How
"He hasn't said much. It's a blow, though. You try
to put something behind you-"
Diana made room beside her on the couch when he
approached. "Jeffrey," she said, pouring him a glass
of wine. "Join us."
"Hello Diana," he said, kissing her fondly. "You're
"Yes, I am. And you smell like dead people."
He gave her a withering look. "I've showered, Diana.
"Well, your cologne smells like dead people," Diana
rallied. "Wherever did you get it?"
Oh, boy. He took a long gulp of his drink. "You
gave it to me."
Marita dropped down on the other couch with Alex,
"Alex was telling us about the time he and Cardinale
were at the monastery," Diana said.
Marita's good humour faded, and Jeffrey caught her
eye. He knew what she was thinking. Retelling it
was probably very cathartic, but it was still
uncomfortable to hear. The memory of the rows of the
dead was fresh in his mind.
"Alex," he said abruptly, "do you know anything about
the White Lady?" He wasn't sure whether he really
wanted to know, or he just wanted to forestall the
Alex nodded, drawing Marita closer. "Sure. Nice
lady. Mad as a hatter, but harmless enough."
Jeffrey stared at him, holding his glass halfway to
his mouth. "What?"
"Well, she's off her rocker, Jeffrey. That asshole
Cardinale wanted to ice her. I told him she wouldn't
even remember us the next day."
"She's - *real*?"
"Of course she is. She's a vagrant. She lives
there. Scares off the pagans, rescues the odd girl
whose boyfriend won't take no for an answer. That
kind of thing."
Jeffrey was reeling. Mentally tearing down his
preconceived ideas and rebuilding. "What's her
Alex shrugged. "Demented mystic, I guess."
"Mystic?" Marita was intrigued.
"It was weird. She touched my arm, Mare. Got this
sad look on her face and said, 'You want so much to
be normal, but they took it from you. They took it
from me, too, you know.' Just - out of nowhere. She
sounded like she felt sorry for me."
Marita's face grew soft. Her eyes were bright. She
murmured something in Russian for Alex's ears only.
He smiled at her.
Jeffrey extricated himself from Diana, gently,
against her protests. "I want to go back to the
monastery," he said. "Do you mind if I take a
Alex said something in slurred Arabic. Knowing those
two, he figured it was something to the effect that
Diana wouldn't be getting any that night. Marita
rolled her eyes and shook her head as they giggled.
She rose to see him out while the others waved him
"Are you going to be all right with them?" he said.
"They're just letting off steam. And it beats the
alternative." He pondered the relative merits of
Drunk Alex and Morose Alex and was forced to agree.
He kissed her cheek. "Goodnight, Marita."
She stayed there at the door, watching until he was
out of sight.
Finding ghosts is difficult. Low-grade mystics with
a dose of religious mania, not so much.
He could have kicked himself for it later. He really
should have called Follmer, or at least taken in one
of the Baltimore feds who were guarding the scene.
But he went in on his own, his way guided by harsh
rays of light shining in through the windows from the
floodlit area outdoors.
She was sitting on the steps of the main staircase,
calmly, as though she had expected him. She was
draped in white - a sheet that doubled as a
rudimentary veil. Beneath the veil, unexpectedly
intelligent eyes peered out at him.
"You had a demon in you," she said. "It was black
like oil. They think you made a deal with it to get
Jeffrey sighed. "What's your name?"
"My name is Marie. Not many people ask me my name,
"Did you kill those people?"
"Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil, for thy rod and thy
staff, they comfort me," she quoted softly, and then
she began to hum.
He sighed again, and he got out his cellphone and
called Father Giles.
"It's a sad case," said Giles.
They were at St Catherine's Hospital just outside
Baltimore. A sleepy Follmer had elected to stay in
Washington and let Jeffrey handle it, which, on the
whole, was a relief. Giles had arranged the room and
had some quiet words with the registrar about Marie's
insurance, or rather her lack of it.
"You know her, then?"
"Not personally. But she's done the rounds of most
of the religious orders on the eastern seaboard,
trying to get one to accept her as a nun. She
appealed to the canon law tribunal at my diocese at
one stage. Church law excludes the mentally ill from
"Why is that?" Jeffrey wondered. "I had the
impression you couldn't afford to pick and choose
"Actually, I'd hazard that we need to be more careful
for that very reason, but that's a discussion for
another day, Agent Spender. It's to prevent
exploitation of the suggestibility of these people,
and because they're really not fit to make informed
decisions about taking vows."
Jeffrey nodded, understanding this. "What exactly is
the nature of her illness?"
"Well, I'm not a doctor, but the ruling of the
tribunal was that she was suffering from post-
traumatic stress disorder and religious mania
subsequent to childhood abuse. Some incest victims
dissociate their minds from their bodies during
sexual assault. Marie's belief was that St Dymphna
took her soul to another place while she was being
Jeffrey winced. This was a little too close to his
mother for comfort. All you really needed to do was
replace saints with aliens and rape with tests, and
there you had Cassandra. "I'm surprised she was fit
to make that kind of appeal."
Giles shrugged. "I think right now what she's
suffering from most is isolation and loneliness. My
understanding is that normally she's lucid -
extremely bright, in fact. She can't hold herself
together enough to hold down a job, but she can
rattle off the teachings of the religious masters and
discuss them intelligently."
Jeffrey thought about it. "Father Giles, do you
think she's capable of murder?"
"Everyone's capable of murder," Giles said,
unexpectedly grave. Jeffrey thought this was the
prison chaplain speaking now. "If killing someone
fitted into her religious mania in the right way,
yes, she could." He closed the curtain on Marie's
room. "Mind you, that doesn't mean I think she did
Jeffrey frowned. "I hope she didn't."
Giles clapped him on the shoulder. "Me too.
Goodnight, Agent Spender."
He was most of the way back to Washington before his
troubled mind found rest.
"They weren't murdered."
Jeffrey gave a sigh of relief. "You're sure?"
Scully nodded. "They were all old, in poor health,
and showing signs of some kind of disease or acute
illness. There are no wounds and no detectable
toxins. I can keep looking if you really want me to,
but I honestly think there's nothing to find."
Mulder spoke from the kitchen through the hutch.
"The profiles of the victims are similar - they all
appear to be long-term homeless. My guess is they
were fellow squatters at the monastery. I think this
Marie of yours saw herself as some kind of spiritual
guide on their final journey."
Beneath the relief, Jeffrey felt a pang of
disappointment. "So...there's no case."
Mulder came back out into the lounge. William was
squirming on his hip, and he let him down. "Afraid
not. It's a pity."
"Why do you say that?"
"She'd probably get better psychiatric care in
Jeffrey thought he was probably right. "What about
the condition of the bodies?"
Scully spoke. "They arrived at Quantico in much the
condition you documented, but they deteriorated
fast." William toddled over to her, and she picked
him up, still speaking. "They decomposed at an
accelerated rate until they reached a condition
matching their estimated age post-mortem."
"How do you explain that?"
Scully shot him a mischievous smile. "Jeffrey, the
beauty of consultancy is, it's not my case. I don't
have to." He laughed, and she went on, "Honestly,
Jeffrey, I haven't the faintest idea. But it's not a
homicide, so I don't know that it really matters any
"I like seeing you like this," he said abruptly.
"Like what?" she wondered. Openly curious.
"Able to let it go like that. You're not carrying
the world on your shoulders now - either of you.
Scully smiled a little at that. "We're healing. It
Mulder spoke. "But what about you, Jeffrey? What's
on the agenda for you?"
Jeffrey shrugged. "I'm going to head up to
Baltimore. Tie up some loose ends with Fuller and
Caleca. Officially, it's still our case, but I don't
think that will last long. Brad wants to farm it out
to Baltimore field office now that we've done what we
were sent to do." He was careful not to use Krycek's
name, but he was sure they were all thinking it.
"The aftershocks just keep on coming," Mulder said
"Yeah, they do. And we'll keep riding them out."
They were silent for a long moment.
"You know, Jeffrey, I'm glad the bodies didn't stay
the way they were," Scully said at last.
"The Church would be interested, I think. The
incorruption of the dead has long been associated
with sainthood. This woman is clearly disturbed and
vulnerable. I think she should be spared that kind
of interest. At least while she's still alive."
He thought about it. Thought about Father Giles'
practiced brushing aside of the details of the
condition of the bodies the previous day. About his
words about suggestibility and exploitation. "I
think you're right," he said. "I think Giles thinks
so, as well."
"Sounds like a good man," Scully said.
Jeffrey thought he was, too.
Diana looked up at his approach. "Jeffrey," she
said, kissing him fondly on the cheek.
"How's your head?" he wondered with a smirk.
"Hurts a bit. Did I really say you smelled like dead
people? Marita was teasing me about it this
She blushed. He didn't think he'd ever seen her
blush before. "Sorry."
"It's okay." He smiled at her, squeezing her hand.
"What brings you up to Baltimore?"
Diana half-turned to look at the monastery. "Alex is
identifying the victims," she said. "Agent Caleca is
getting ready to ship them out." Sure enough, Alex
was standing with Linda outside a cold storage unit
that had clearly arrived some time the night before.
There were two body bags on the ground before him.
He was looking down at them, face grave, Marita
holding his hand at his side.
"How is he?"
"Struggling," she said. Then, more softly, "After
guilt comes responsibility."
He looked at her, his expression a query.
"Guilt is where we mourn for our failures in our
duties to ourselves," she said. "Responsibility is
where we mourn for our failures in our duties to
others. That's what he's grappling with, Jeffrey.
It's what we're all grappling with."
He didn't understand - not really. But he understood
enough. He said in a low voice, "I love you, Diana."
She looked up at him in gratified surprise. "I love
you too, Jeffrey."
They stood there, holding hands in the cold morning
"Well, you finally got to palm it off."
Jeffrey's tone, on the whole, was one of relief.
Truthfully, he admired the deft way Follmer had
managed it. He'd put the idea of delegating the rest
of the job to Baltimore field office to Kersh in such
mildly inoffensive terms that Kersh had been happy to
approve it. Keeping Kersh happy wasn't always the
easiest of tasks.
"Thank Christ. I can still smell the death on me.
It's going to be a week before I feel clean again."
And indeed, Follmer was washing his hands in the
basin even as he spoke.
Jeffrey frowned. He'd barely noticed it, actually.
His internal burns had not healed as well as his
external ones, and his sense of smell was not
particularly strong. And in truth, his own phobias
ran more in the other direction. The smell of bleach
and sterile rooms.
"Don't you feel any satisfaction about it at all?" he
said at last.
"It was a wash-out, Jeffrey," Follmer said, shutting
off the water. "There was no perpetrator to catch."
"So? You've got to stop thinking like an A.D."
Follmer brought down his hands on the bench, staying
them before they could really slam there. "Would you
fucking get off that?" he said. Too late, Jeffrey
remembered other, less neutral times he'd said it.
"I don't mean it like that, Brad. I'm not talking
about being a jerk on a power trip, I'm talking about
sweating the details. Stop thinking about the bottom
line so much and enjoy being an investigator for
once! We solved a case!"
"I guess," he said. Slightly mollified.
In truth, of course, Jeffrey had been the one to
solve the case. Brad had all but washed his hands of
it. But that was exactly why he had to rouse his
partner's interest. He didn't want that to happen
again. He sighed, not certain he'd made any impact
at all, and he sat down at his desk.
Behind him, Brad spoke. "It's not that I don't
understand the interest, Jeffrey." Jeffrey turned in
his chair to look at him. "It just...doesn't get the
job done. It was a red herring, and it distracted us
from our responsibility to all those families who
were waiting to bury their dead. And *that* was the
Jeffrey frowned. He'd had to reconcile so many
losses, and the loss of conventional grieving markers
themselves - he still had no idea what had become of
his mother's body - that Brad's apparent respect for
the dead felt like an empty token. Something devoid
of any real meaning to those people or the people who
had been left behind. But it was also more decent a
rationale than he'd given him credit for. Guiltily,
he said, "I didn't think of it like that."
Brad sat on the edge of Doggett's desk and sighed.
"Accountability was my job, Jeffrey. We talk about
accountability to Skinner and to Kersh, but it's
bigger than that. They're just the pipelines. And I
can't just...*stop* thinking like that. It's just
how I do my job."
"Is that why you killed Rigali?" Jeffrey asked before
he could stop himself. Then, horrified with himself,
he said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
Brad shrugged. "In a way, I suppose. We empowered
him. We indulged him because he was the devil we
knew and he was a way of getting to the devils we
didn't. A lot like what we did with Krycek,
actually, although the responsibility was greater
there because we made Krycek what he was." Jeffrey
nodded in understanding. "We made all sorts of
calculations about acceptable risk, and we made
mistakes. I made mistakes," he corrected, a shadow
passing over his features. "And I was wrong to go
about it the way I did, but yeah, that's why.
Responsibility is a heavy thing, Jeffrey."
"But it can distort, too," he said. Slowly.
Figuring it out as he spoke. "Sometimes it's okay to
just do our bit of the job, and make the best of it,
and leave the burdens up to the people above us, you
know. That's what they're there for."
"Maybe." They fell silent.
"I heard from Father Giles," he said finally.
Brad raised his eyebrows. "Yeah?"
"He's found a convent that will take Marie as a lay
sister. Apparently it's some kind of arrangement
where the sister doesn't take vows, so that's okay on
the mental illness side. She'll do untrained work,
maybe hospice work. They'll look after her, too."
"That's good. Someone needs to look after her."
"Well," said Brad, rising. "Let's get back to work."
Jeffrey nodded. "Let's."
So they did.
I honestly don't know how well this one works. I'm
still feeling my way around Jeffrey and Brad and the
kinds of push-pulls they have about roles and power
and responsibility. I think there are a lot of mixed
signals between them, and this story feels like a bit
of a mish-mash of those signals. I think it's
honest, but I don't know how user-friendly it is to
read. If it wasn't, I hope you'll bear with us as we
explore how these characters spark things off in one
another. I've found them very interesting and very
challenging. We do have a fairly clear idea of where
they're heading, but we're still working out exactly
how that hangs together.
St Gerebernus was the priest who sheltered St Dymphna
from her sexually abusive father and fled with her
from Ireland to Belgium in the seventh century A.D.
He was murdered while protecting her. Both are
invoked as protectors of abuse survivors and the
This story was inspired by and loosely based on the
stories and legends of Staten Island Monastery.
The story of the White Lady is loosely based on the
legend of Deacon White, who is alleged to haunt St
Patrick's College in Sydney, the seminary where I did
my theology degree. (Due to the costs involved in the
restoration of the 115-year-old building, the
seminary has now moved, and the site has been leased
to a tourism college). The saying goes that Deacon
White died in the influenza epidemics of the 1920s
just weeks before his ordination to the priesthood.
He is claimed to walk the corridors of Moran House at
night, ringing a bell, pleading for someone to ordain
him. I never saw him, but I've stayed in the
infirmary where he died, and dude, that's one
melancholy place at night. Let's say I wouldn't be
Thanks as always to the XFVCU team, especially
Maidenjedi and Eodrakken Quicksilver, for bouncing
ideas, cheerleading, and generally being there in my
corner. Couldn't have done it without you.