Welcome To The Harem
Hitchcock Blonde by Shahara Zade
Summary: Deslea's rec: "This is just plain funky. An XF/Once A Thief crossover sees Krycek, Marita, Monica Reyes, and Victor Mansfield caught in a bittersweet moment by the sea. The Reyes characterisation deserves special mention for its endearing authenticity." See also Mean Reds.
TITLE: Hitchcock Blonde
AUTHOR: Shahara Zade
SPOILERS: Through S8 to be safe (XF) and the happier version
of Endgame (OAT)
RATING: R-ish (contains slash f/f, m/m/f, m/f, and a bit of animal
KEYWORDS: Marita Covarrubias/Monica Reyes/Alex
DISCLAIMER: The intellectual properties of Chris Carter, John
Woo, and Alfred
Hitchcock and Truman Capote are not mine. No harm was
intended and no revenue is being collected. Thank you, brave
betas: Sue, Shadowfox, Callie, Mary, and Deslea - who suffered
through multiple versions of this piece.
SUMMARY: The road to hell is paved with murky
intentions and mysterious women. A convoluted post-ep for
"Hang on, Lucy."
Blood flowed from her mouth and it was all wrong. Not that she
was dying, but that she was dying like this. A stupid accident.
She couldn't die like this, looking like some suburban housewife
in faded jeans. Her sweater had ridden up over her stomach as I
caught her; and there on the pavement, it suddenly seemed far
more immodest than the most revealing of her leather outfits. I
covered her body with my jacket and knelt beside her, listening to
her try to breathe through the holes in her chest.
"Don't call me Lucy. Victor..." She struggled to sit up. "Marita
Kendall...she isn't-" she closed her eyes, as if trying to think of
the correct term or phrase and sighed. And then she was gone.
Marita Kendall. I hadn't thought of that name in years, but
suddenly I was
expecting to see her out of the corner of my eye, smell her
perfume, hear her heels clicking on the sidewalk. Sirens
overwhelmed the phantom clicking in my head, and then my
partners were gently pulling me away.
When you get down to the bottom of the bottle, as Mama used to
say, the problem is that I'm a nice girl and a born sucker.
You grow up Latina in Slidell, Louisiana, and you learn to be a
real nice girl. You learn to smile like your mouth is full of
Vaseline. Smile till your jaw aches and maybe, just maybe, the
lynch mob passes by your house after all. You learn to smile
when your softball teammates ask if your mother really reads the
future and worships the devil. You give up trying to explain how
your mother is not Marie Laveau, and how Santeria isn't
Satanism. You learn to adapt. To stay open. To smile and try very
hard not to get your ass kicked. Smile to placate, to please. Keep
smiling because if you stop, even for a second, you'll start
I didn't want to think about Mama. I didn't want to think at all. I
trying to drown my memories in Jim Beam and melted ice.
Recent horrors contrasted starkly with the opulent marbled
columns and Persian carpets.
If you must sulk, you might as well sulk in splendor.
Dead boys and their broken fathers. Dead men and their broken
women. I'm not Mama, but sometimes I get a sense of
things...just a feeling...little more than good observation. Except
that it hurts more. Show me a good empath and I'll show you a
twelve - step junkie.
I had been stood up yet again by an acquaintance who was far
too hip to be seen north of Market Street anyway; and I was too
far gone to care. I was preparing to pay my tab and head back to
my room to sulk in private, when I was distracted by beige silk
crepe and Chanel Number Five.
"Is it as bad as all that?"
I didn't know what to say. She ran cool fingertips over the back of
"I'm Marita Freemont."
Freemont? Was she serious? Un-freakin' believable. Or maybe
she just had a wonderfully dry sense of humor.
Okay, so I'm a slut. A loose and easy woman. No Pants Reyes,
drooling over some ultra-femme she picked up in a hotel bar.
Well, I probably have more fun than most government
employees. I was a mess and she was exquisite - is there any
I didn't know what else to do. They had both lost so much. She
had become a sort of vicious surrogate mother to them and they
seemed too numb, too lost, and I did what she would have done.
Shellshock became aphrodisiac; and unshed tears, Spanish Fly.
I had been with both of them at different times, and we are
nothing if not physical people.
Just as a side note, How to Get Even When Your Fianc?e
Dumps You, In Three Easy
Steps: Sleep with her ex. Stay friends with her in the process. Be
so neurotic about it that said ex is driven back into her arms.
Repeat as necessary. Damned Continental minds, those two.
As they lay entwined in my arms like naked kittens, I recognized
the polite fiction of the situation. They had taken me to bed, not
the other way around. I had been ambushed by the Day Boy and
the Night Girl. Li Ann would have laughed at the references, that I
even knew the analogies. She's smarter than me; they both are.
My fondness for ancient literature began after I followed Mac out
a window, four stories up. He hit the trash bags in the dumpster.
I took mostly concrete. Our gentle, if slightly deranged Agency
librarian took pity on my convalescence and brought me Virgil
and Homer in addition to all the Machivelli and Sun Yat-sen.
Everyone has an agenda.
My overnight guests began to stir and squirm.
"We have to talk to you."
"Yeah, how long have you known?"
"About what?" I asked.
"Her name was Lucy?"
"And who is Marita Kendall?"
How could they think my loyalties so fragmented?
"Lucy was my own name for her. You can't work with someone
for years and years and never have something to call them by.
Something to curse them by."
"She was bossy. Like in Charlie Brown, you know. Lucy." They
stared at me, blinking. "Say what you will about Western pop
culture, but I think Charles Schultz deprivation is just sad."
I found myself pinned to the mattress, ears and neck and chest
bathed by warm tongues and breath. I could tell them about
Weary soreness seeped though my bones. Soreness for the
best possible reasons of course. There are advantages to
sleeping with gymnastically inclined ex-thieves, but this was
absolutely the last time. Tonight anyway. I was not as young as I
used to be. Thrusting into him in long deliberate strokes, I
watched his shoulders tremble.
Mac reclined against Li Ann's breasts, eyes squeezed shut, and
she cradled him from behind. She held one of his hands,
sucking the knuckles, and her other hand worked his cock. She
devoted intense concentration to matching my rhythm precisely.
She had some strange tantra theory about simultaneous
orgasm and spiritual transcendence. Whatever. She was
fascinating to watch though, brow furrowed, and then Mac was
coming and I was coming and it took everything I had.
* * *
"So you never did her?" Trust Mac to get to the point.
"Only once. And not until the end."
"Hey Li Ann, I think we're about to hear yet another helpless chick
in distress story."
I spent about six sputtering seconds hating him again. Crass.
Childish. "You really never know when to stop, do you?"
"Shut up, Mac. Marita Kendall was in the Director's last
thoughts...her last words. We need to now why," said Li Ann.
"The Dir-excuse me, *Lucy's* death was an accident. Not
related," he countered.
Actually, I agreed with Mac. "I can't imagine why she said it.
Maybe it was just something she carried around with her.
"You mean like her life was flashing before her eyes, and that's
where she ran out of-"
Li Ann shoved him hard enough that he rolled off the bed.
"Sorry." He lay down between us, resting his head on her
stomach. "Go on, Vic. I'll behave, I promise."
"There is a building down in New Westminster," I began, "where,
when I initially went to work for Lucy, I had my first Agency
apartment. Marita lived there too, four doors down. She was out
of town a lot, and we didn't meet for a long time. Occasionally, we
ran into each other, in the elevator, on the street.
"She always wore sunglasses, dressed in black suits, a distant
presence, murmuring into her cell phone. She could have been
a model or an actress or something...if it hadn't been an Agency
"One time, on a surveillance assignment, some place with
redwood paneling and Cuban cigars, I thought I saw her at a
baccarat table in a white gown, diamonds at her throat, sparkling
in the haze of smoke. She was surrounded by anonymous old
men. Another night, she was climbing into a limousine outside
the Tunisian Consulate. When I asked the Director, she shook
her head. Typical Director - right? Only then, she kissed my
cheek and then looked me in the eye and said, 'Please, don't
"Right. So eventually, I came home late and found her lying on
my couch. It was dark and I couldn't see who it was first. She
said, 'I'm unarmed, Mr. Mansfield. I just need to not be at my
place for a little while. I'm sorry to disturb you this way.'
'You...you remind me of someone I knew once.'
"I offered her a beer, thinking it should have been brandy.
"So a fellow agent comes to you for help and you seduce her?"
Mac grinned. "Vic, I'm shocked. And appalled. And very proud of
"I thought you said you were going to behave. Anyway, we just
talked. Talked all night...about nothing. Old movies, Etta James,
and when the sun came up she was still going on about some
safe topic - Kansas City Blues verses Bayou Blues maybe. The
light seemed refracted though her. She pulled the blanket I gave
her up to her chin and my chest contracted...that impossible
perfection. I let my eyelids drift shut, listening to the measured
vowels and consonants of her speech. At some point, I became
aware of her, close to me.
'Poor Alexei,' she whispered. It seemed she was speaking to
me, but she was not. 'Where are you?' Her cheek came to rest
against my shoulder, a warm damp weight.
"I reached up, see if she was ok, and she pulled back like I had
'I'm keeping you awake, Mr. Mansfield. I'll go. It will be all right
"The next day, I found a card inscribed in retro Palmer Method:
'Mr. Mansfield, my humblest thanks for your hospitality
Wednesday evening. I won't bother you again. M. Kendall.'
"Harsh. So you didn't-"
"Li Ann, gag him. Please." She scooped up the bowl of frozen
grapes we had been playing with earlier that night and began
pushing them between Mac's lips until he resembled a
"Continue," she said, popping a grape into her own mouth.
"I wrote on the back of the card: 'Please do. Any time,' and
slipped the card back under the door. Apparently she meant
what she said though, because I didn't see her around for
months. I assumed the Agency had sent her on some long-term
gig, and I had my own problems, with the Director's constant
tests of faith and loyalty.
"I didn't know she was even back until I heard her screaming. I
charged down the hall, and her place was wrecked. Velvet
armchairs lay on their sides like vanquished virgins, damask
curtains hung, half ripped from the window. Her laptop flickered
forlornly amid spilled ferns and shattered lamps. She crouched
on the floor, scratching at her bare face and arms, leaving bloody
tracks. I stepped on her sunglasses in my haste to get to her, to
make her stop hurting herself. I don't think she noticed. I don't
think she even saw me first. She moaned, half in Russian.
"Alexei, God! God! Nyet..."
"I grabbed her arms and held her. She flailed weakly, and at first
I thought she had wrapped yellow string around her fingers. But
it was hair. Eventually, she seemed to realize where she was.
Who I was. As if it explained everything, she said:
'He's afraid of the dark. They left him there in the dark.'
"I figured that she had received bad news via email, and it
involved a mission gone wrong, but she wouldn't tell me
anything more. I asked the Director again about Marita. If there
was anything I could do. It was one of the only times I ever saw
her waver. I mean really soften and hesitate. And then she said
there was nothing anyone could do. That Marita's problems were
universally out of my league. To stay away from her. Instead, I
became her friend. Sort of.
"I waited for the times the light was on in her window to show up.
She didn't seem to mind. In her remote way, she made me feel
welcome. Aside from me, she kept questionable company. I
assumed she was working honeypot detail and tried not to think
of it too much. I couldn't save her - I couldn't even save myself.
Once, when the gray haired man who answered her door
reeking of gun powder and stale cigarettes told me she was in
the shower, I took great pleasure in throwing him out. He didn't
get up off of the floor right away. He had a pinched expression,
not so strange since he'd just taken a swift kick in the gut. But he
looked at me...as if memorizing my face. Then he got up slowly
and pulled a cigarette from his jacket and asked me for a light
and there was something very smug in his question. As if he had
discovered something dirty about me while he was on the floor. I
slammed the door in his face.
"That night she wanted to hear about my childhood, and she
spoke of her own. But it was elusive. Nameless. Placeless. An
impressionistic recital, not what I expected. A life of swimming
and summer, Christmas trees, family and parties...happy. Not
her. I called her on it, and she smiled.
'Of course I'm lying, dear. You make such a tragedy out of your
childhood, I didn't feel I should compete.'
'Seriously,' I said. 'I want to know.'
'No. You don't, Mr. Mansfield. It's all the mean reds."
'I have a first name, you know. You mean like communists? Or
like the blues?'
"She laughed, silvery and unattainable. 'Both, I suppose. You're
afraid and you sweat like hell and you're not even sure what
you're afraid of. Except that something bad is going to happen, a
constant sense of impending doom.'
'Some people call it angst. Comes with the territory in this line of
work - don't you think?'
"My insinuated question was out of bounds. I wasn't supposed to
acknowledge what we were, what we did. She let me know I had
screwed up by rising quickly from her chair.
'I have reports to finish, Mr. Mansfield.'
"I was feeling bold.
'Who was he?'
'The older gentleman?'
'No. My- uh.evil twin. Was he one of ours? A Company man...or
'All of the above, among other things. But it doesn't matter
anymore-' She stopped, not looking at me. 'I really need to finish
those reports. Goodnight.'"
"This is a really depressing story so far, Vic."
"Mac is right. My God, I had no idea. You really cared for her. Did
you ever find out what she was involved in?" Li Ann drew her
knees up to her chest, resting her hands on her ankles.
"Not exactly. The last night I saw her-"
"You had sex! Finally!"
"Uh, are you going to let me finish, Mac?" I knew he wasn't being
deliberately crude. He is young enough that he doesn't yet
understand how tact and courtesy can be even more necessary
as lubricants between loved ones than between strangers. I
counted backwards from twenty, waiting.
Mac rolled onto his back. Li Ann absently reached down to
scratch his belly as he stretched. "Yeah. Go for it."
"I was sitting on the edge of her bathtub, watching her get ready
to go out. It was a casual thing, on her part anyway. She stood on
her tiptoes, in her slip, and leaned over the sink, applying various
creams and powders.
I was trying to be cool. Trying not to notice the strap slipping
down over one pale shoulder.
Our eyes met in the mirror and she dropped a brush in the sink
and the clink echoed. There was no other sound in the
apartment. Keeping her eyes locked on mine, she reached into a
side cabinet and pulled out one of those little pink plastic razors.
She hopped onto the counter top. I stood on shaking legs and
went to her, and she reached behind her and turned on the tap.
She didn't ask permission, I think she knew she didn't need to.
"She dabbed the top of my lip with shaving cream. It was the
most intimate thing she could have done. We didn't touch often.
She never touched me at all on purpose if she could help it. Her
left hand cupped my chin. With her right, she dragged the razor
over and over my skin. When I couldn't look into her eyes another
second she set the razor down. I couldn't see myself, the mirror
was steamed over, but I felt naked. I had worn a mustache from
the time I was seventeen. She unfastened my earring and I knew
what she was doing. I knew it was wrong, for her and for me."
I memorized the pattern in the sheets as I spoke. Following the
path of paisleys with my fingers, knowing if I faltered, even for a
moment, I wouldn't be able to tell them.
"I didn't stop her...I wanted to, but everything seemed to happen
in slow motion. She dropped my earring and we both bent for it
at the same time. Our noses bumped, and then she was kissing
me. Hard. Violent, and crying too I think. She pulled frantically at
my fly and I was sliding black lace up around her waist, the
whole time thinking; no, not like this...but it was too late. She
pulled me deep into her and she was so hot and so slick and I
remember listening to the hiss of the tap instead of her, because
even though I never learned Russian, I knew she wasn't
speaking to me. Then there was nothing but her arms around
me, her mouth on me, her flesh surrounding me..."
They were mercifully silent. Wide-eyed. I had allowed myself to
trail off. I was never any good at talking about sex. Through some
act of will I didn't know I had, I managed to stop fumbling and
make an end of it.
"When it was over, she turned smooth and impassive as marble
'I'm sorry. Go home, Mr. Mansfield. For God sakes, go home
before you really get hurt!'
"I had been dismissed, and I guess the Director knew because
the Agency upgraded me to this place the next day."
Li Ann had gone very still. Her question barely registered above a
whisper. "And you never saw her again?"
"No." My voice quavered only a little.
"We should find out what happened. I'm going over that office
with a fine tooth comb tomorrow...oh." Li Ann looked up at me.
Tentative. "Vic? Um- they offered me her position. I accepted."
"You're the new Director? Our new boss?" Mac sat up.
She ignored him, rushing on. "I know you have seniority, Vic. I'll
step aside if you want it, of course. They only came to me
because you've been so vocal about wanting to retire."
She seemed genuinely worried about my reaction. Relief
washed over me. I felt light. I didn't want the Directorship, but you
didn't refuse if you were asked. Li Ann wanted it. Lucy had
groomed her for it. Thank God. I took her hand and kissed the
inside of her palm. "Congratulations. You've earned this."
"What about me?"
"You've got friends in high places now, Mac. What tropical
assignment would you like? What kind of partners? In what
flavors?" She stopped, and then in a quieter tone said, "or do you
want out, too?"
* * *
So I got early retirement. A generous pension. I lay around my
apartment for weeks, seeing them intermittently. Sometimes
together, sometimes apart. It was always pleasant...friendly
faces, familiar bodies. Mac grew tan and returned bursting with
tales of action and conquest down south. Li Ann practiced her
Directorial dominatrix routine, so that she could write off the time
in the manner of her predecessor, but we always ended up on
the floor. Laughing.
I told myself I was just trying to figure out my next step. I
considered buying the diner down the street. Recruiting
waitresses from the local women's' shelter, providing child care
and college scholarships. Really doing something to help the
community that didn't involve gunfire and mayhem. I was kidding
myself. I was waiting for my last assignment from Lucy. I was
waiting for the phone to ring. When the call finally came, I knew
who it was even before I picked up, and as I heard her cultivated
tones and time collapsed in on itself, I remember thinking that
the problem with the past is that there's always more where that
"You seem so sad," she said. "I just want to know you." She
cradled my face between her hands and kissed me gently. I
sighed and opened my mouth to her and let my fingers run over
her collarbone. She pulled back.
"We're drawing attention. Are you staying here?"
The swift alchemy in her manner change was jolting. I had the
sense of being underwater, and rising too fast. Since when was
my life a porn film? At that moment, I didn't care. I pulled her into
the polished bronze elevator. Her mouth was soft on mine,
smearing reddish lipstick. I felt a rushing in my chest. My legs
began to buckle. At the door to my room I dropped the key card
twice as her hands roamed over my back.
I got the door shut somehow and backed her against it, grasping
her wrists, trying to recover my senses.
"This is crazy. We should stop."
"Mmm. Yes. Immediately," she answered. I was using my thigh
to hold her back and she ground against it, impossibly hot.
"I don't know you. You could be anybody."
"That's right." She freed one hand with a quick motion and pulled
me into another liquid kiss, fingers caressing the back of my
neck in circles. It almost hurt to break away from her.
"How do I know you're not a criminal, dragging me up here for
some nefarious purpose?" I turned my head so that her lips fell
along my jaw bone. She kissed her way up to my ear, insistent.
My nerve endings were firing wildly and she whispered, "You
Then I had to press my mouth over the silk of her blouse, feeling
the fluttering of her heart as I found a nipple with my teeth. I had
been trying so hard to forget, but I couldn't keep the edges from
peeling back inside me, slicing through skin and bone. I rested
my head on her shoulder. "How do I know
you're not planning to do something terrible to me right here,
Her voice came low. Luxurious. "Shall I?"
The pressure of her form against my own became too much.
She was going to kill me after all. Dizzy with arousal, I wanted to
ask her what she liked, but I had forgotten how to talk. Silently, I
urged her to the bed. She lay back with her legs dangling over
the edge, and I knelt, found the zipper of her skirt. All beige.
Beige skirt, sheer beige stockings, beige shoes. I stripped off
the shoes and stockings, leaving them in a heap beside the
She had incredible legs, smooth and pale, waxed.
I kissed the insides of her thighs, running my tongue over the
hairless folds of her sex. This brought an immediate response
from her, a sharp intake of breath. I made a hard point with the
tip of my tongue and rubbed it across her clit. She swelled under
my tongue, and as she neared climax, she rocked, side to side. I
sucked at her until the tremors in her body stopped and she
pulled at me.
"Oh yeah, my name is Monica." I crawled up on the bed beside
her and kissed her, and she pushed me onto my back.
"You're wearing too many clothes, Monica." She straddled me
and began working the buttons of my blouse.
It isn't that I don't love men. Men like John Doggett, the proverbial
white knight. Good men. Men, women...to love one you have to
love them all a little bit. Sometimes I think that, given time and
resources, you could love everyone in this world who is good
and just. I don't cast love spells like Mama, but I have this
probably unhealthy fuck-it-all-better approach to pain
management. I lay on my back, waiting for my heart to resume its
normal beat, still throbbing. My back stung with sharp cuts from
her French manicured nails.
I passed the cigarette to her. "Tell me about him."
"Who?" She asked.
"The guy you're trying to forget. It isn't working, you know. He's
sitting here on the bed beside us...or might as well be. So, go
ahead and talk about it, you'll feel better. It's okay, I've been a
depressed straight girl magnet my whole life. I'm a good sport,
you can tell me anything."
She passed the cigarette back. "It isn't that simple."
"Oh. Now I get it. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." I picked up
Marita's arm, pretending to inspect it.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for the tattoo."
"What?" The planes of her face smoothed out, tranquil
expression deliberate. There was a sudden, cold wariness
beneath the soft fantasy surface.
"You know, the one that says Fag Hag in big purple letters."
She smiled and it was beautiful. Some people do not appreciate
"Perceptive, but not for the reasons you think. He is obsessed
with a man though. A man who died recently."
"What are you doing here then?"
"Hedging my bets probably." She turned her head away. I took
one last long drag and pressed the butt in the ashtray on the
"I've been there."
She rose and began pulling on her clothes. I wanted to hold her
again, to feel her arms and legs wrapped around me, to chase
away the night with her. Maybe she preferred to sleep alone. She
began to walk towards the door, then turned back to face me.
"I have this recurring dream," she said. "I'm standing at the edge
of the Black Sea, in Varna, and a man I don't know comes to me
in a great ship with crimson sails. Get in, he says, and you will
be prosperous and never suffer again. I want to go with him, but
somehow I can't, and the tides carry him away. Then Alex comes
to me in a leaking rowboat, and he says, get in and you will
regret it. In fact, you will probably die and it will take eons and
will hurt. And you know, I get in that boat every damned time."
She chuckled, a tortured sound that I didn't know how to answer.
She turned back to me, and said lightly, "Come with me up the
* * *
I waited beside the doorman, awkward, not really expecting her
to show. When she did, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or swoon.
The roadster was an unlikely shade of sky blue, top down.
Italian. Fast. Her buttery white leather jacket matched the interior.
I remembered to breathe.
"Aw...damn. Thank you God. Goddess. Whatever."
The corner of her mouth twitched at my reaction. She handed me
a pair of sunglasses. Great. What I needed was another shower.
A cold one. Even behind the darkened lenses, the bright
optimism of that morning blinded me. We rode past Easter egg
houses, past old men playing bocce ball in the park, over the
bridge, following the highway to the sea. The wind roared in my
ears, and as she drove, I caught her occasional side-glance.
There was nothing to say. Nothing worthy of breaking the
perfection of riding in that sunlight and watching the wind work
loose strands of her hair from its tortoise-shell clip. We passed
between redwood and eucalyptus trees, whipping around
curves, tires screeching. When the needle crossed the 100-mph
mark, I closed my eyes.
* * *
Hitchcock Blonde by Shahara Zade 2/2
(Disclaimers in part 1)
Lack of evidence never justifies a conclusion, but we would have
to drop the pretense soon. Cliffs are not sexy.
"Marita, who is it?"
"What do you mean?"
"The car following us. Your mystery man?" She sped up again
and panic tightened in my throat. "Marita, we can end this. We
can get a restraining order easily. It didn't come up earlier, but
I'm a federal-"
"I know who you are, Agent Reyes."
"Uh...oh." I would have to consider the implications of that later. I
went for my handbag. My badge and cell phone. My weapon. I hit
the cell pre-set for the New Orleans office. A courteous recording
informed me that my account was no longer in service. What the
"He will have gone through the preliminaries by now, Agent
Reyes. Erasing you. Isolating you. Your friends and family aren't
dead yet, but your credit and bank accounts, your possessions
and affiliations, they're mostly gone by now."
"Don't you think that's a little paranoid, Marita?"
"Paranoid is just another word for longevity. In another six hours,
you will have vanished entirely. I am sorry. Unfortunately for both
of us, it isn't me he wants, it's you. Ready to jump?"
"I have to crash the car. Alex will know better, he taught me the
trick himself, but his colleagues will be diverted for a while. It's
always better to avoid them if possible. At the count of three, I'm
going to put on the emergency brake. Try to go out at an angle
and don't forget to tuck your chin and roll on impact-ok? One-"
"Two..." She unbuckled her seatbelt and then reached over and
unbuckled mine. Her manner was hard, matter of fact. She could
have been discussing an order of office supplies.
The car began to skid.
* * *
Nothing was broken and I had blackberry brambles to thank for
that, but I didn't want to move. Everything hurt.
"You are *so* under arrest."
"Are you injured?"
"Yes. Get away from me."
"We need to get moving. Come on."
"You have the right to remain silent.where's the car?"
"Down on the rocks. Come on, we can be seen here."
"I don't think so."
She leaned down and said, "If you want to retain any room for
negotiation at all, shut up and follow me." I shrunk from that
coldness, dazed and stung by the abrupt shift. Her hand closed
over my arm, urgent. I caught a flash of her again from the night
before, taut body yielding to me, mysterious. Sensuous.
"Marita?" She swallowed, pain flooded into her features like a
beam of light, distorting her expression. Only gradually did she
go blank again, calm and beautiful and distant.
"Marita?" I said again. Instead of answering, she released me
and began making her way down the slope. I should have
climbed back up to the road. Found help.
But I followed her.
* * *
In a more mundane context I would have loved that beach house,
its rough-hewn wood beams, the stone fireplace, the canopied
beds and the feather quilts. I gulped my sherry, watching the
mist float over the beach. Beads of it had collected in her hair like
silver pearls after our hike. She had begun interpreting the
events of the past few hours and how they related to John's
case. The dead agent in Montana had made some unusual
enemies and allies. Somehow, after I had cooled down, I felt
worse for her than for me.
"This cloak and dagger thing, you can't just get out, Marita?"
"There is no out."
"And it never gets easier?"
"No. It never gets easier." She seemed so tired, a scorched shell
on the inside. I wanted to reach out to her, to brush her hair out of
her face with my hands, but I didn't dare.
"At least tell me the good parts."
"Alex is a mercurial man, unfaithful, violent, manipulative. He
"I said the good parts."
"Those are the good parts."
Leave it to me to get seduced by the inamorata of an unbalanced
black ops man.
"And he thinks I'm Jeremiah Smith? Or that Smith is
"Not anymore. I determined you were Monica Reyes and not
Jeremiah Smith last night. I told him as much this morning, but
in the mean time he found out about your mother."
"What about my mother? My mother was a disreputable old
"And she was a respected vaudun priestess. Look, Alex gets
kind of crazy sometimes. Somehow he's gotten it into his head
that you could-"
The ceiling swam around me, spinning to meet the floor. So that
was what they wanted. Funny in any other context. "I don't do that,
Marita. That stuff my mother did was mostly fraud anyway. Even if
I could, I wouldn't, it affects both medium and spirit irreversibly.
don't care what Alex wants, he didn't have to watch that poor
woman screaming for her partner!"
"Actually, he did, and it's part of the reason he's so intent on
somehow...I don't know. I won't let him force you; we have
enough blood on our hands. The irony is, he will think I have
betrayed him, but everything I have done has been to keep him
as clean as possible. Spiritually speaking."
Damn. She loved him. I crushed my fourth cigarette into a
chipped Waterford crystal ashtray. The gum was in my purse. In
the car. Fish food now. He used people, hurt people, and she
loved him. And I had fallen for her. The thing reeked of screwball
comedy. Or Greek tragedy.
"You're his Jiminy Cricket. So what do we do? Keep running?
Hope he doesn't catch up and attempt to force some kind of
s?ance at gunpoint? What will he do when nothing happens?
What would he do if something did happen, if the ghost of Fox
Mulder possessed me and beat the shit out of him?
Look, this is California, surely we can find some sort of conflict
"I already called one."
"You mean you called someone bigger and badder than Alex to
*persuade* him not to put a bullet in my head when I refuse his
"Not exactly. I wouldn't allow anyone to harm him if I could help it.
The key to dealing with Alex's various fixations is distraction.
Years ago, I found the perfect distraction and managed to keep it
hidden. Held it back like the ace you play only when you have to."
Marita did not look as smug or proud as someone who had
found the perfect solution to a difficult problem should look. Her
eyelids had dropped to half-mast. As the sky darkened, she
chewed her lower lip. She looked guilty as hell.
"Couldn't you please elaborate, Marita? I need to have some
idea of what to expect. I think you owe me that much." I crawled
back into official business mode as fast as sanity would allow.
"His name is Victor Mansfield," she said. "You'll understand
when you see him."
I hate California. The veggie burgers at the drive-through. The
self-actualized yuppies in their Saabs and Beemers.
She had to have known I would figure it out, and she had trusted
that I would keep my mouth shut. For her. Until she needed me.
Her Alex had finally gone out of control and I was supposed to fix
it. Non-fatally. Show up and play bait and switch. Humiliating, but
there I was, crammed into an economy rental, crawling down
Highway One towards Bodega, riding to the rescue. Pathetic.
The mailbox at the end of the driveway was inscribed, M.
Daniels. Ha. Marauding sea gulls would have been an
improvement. Lucy had left me quite an inheritance, a safe full of
documentation on Marita Kendall. Daniels. Covarrubias. She
was at least a triple; spent a lot of time in ugly places, doing ugly
things. She spent a lot of time with someone named Alex Krycek.
I knew my target immediately. Even in the twilight. Even at a
distance. Had to be him, he was wearing my skin. The reports
had prepared me somewhat. No solid explanations to how or
why, of course. Like so much that came from Lucy, it just *was*.
He hadn't known. From the way his hand shook as he sighted
down his arm at me, his back to the door. No one bothered to
brief him. Poor asshole. Then again, Marita had called me in as
damage control for him. Fuck sympathy. I understood why she
did it though, even as I pointed my own gun carefully between his
eyebrows. It was disturbing.
Behind him, Marita opened the door. It took a conscious effort not
to look at her too long. Not to register shock. The years had taken
a toll on her, or maybe it was just the night. I was glad Lucy's
reports had been so vague, I didn't want to know.
"Miss me much, lyubov maya?" His jaw barely moved as he
"You said Smith wasn't here."
"That isn't Smith. But he's human." Nice of her to remember.
"Nice timing, Marita. Care to go into detail?"
"If you put the gun down." She spoke slowly, as if he were a
"Sorry. I don't have that much time." His fingers twitched on the
"Alex, the technology was available, you know that. I didn't tell you
because...oh damn it, he was safe..."
"He was safe from me, you mean- never mind," he shook his
head, "it's irrelevant now. Let me in."
She pushed the door open wider and he backed in.
He didn't really look so much like me. An inch, maybe and inch
and a half shorter. Wiry, more compact. He held himself as if
constantly aware of his own balance. I know cleaners. Never
could relate. It wasn't the killing; it was killing someone who
wouldn't kill you first if they could. That kind of precise distance.
looked at Alex Krycek and saw a guy that could do that. Squeeze
the trigger and walk away and sleep just fine at night.
I looked at Marita, and saw that she would stand by him until the
awful end. The dark woman beside Marita paled as he brushed
past her, and I wondered how she had been drawn into their
vortex, if she too had dropped everything for a satin plea over a
phone line. His semi-auto probably held a modified clip,
eighteen bullets. I had to buy time. Distract him. Do the job and
"What is it you want, Alex? Why are we here?" I asked.
"Agent Reyes is going to do me a favor."
Agent Reyes. That explained the woman's relative composure.
Marita hadn't mentioned that part. Reyes swallowed and,
strangely enough, smiled. She must have been terrified, but she
contained it behind walls of careful construction.
"You kidnapped a federal agent, Marita?" I asked. I had hated
being her doomsday weapon. I had wanted to sit Marita down
and make long speeches on how angry I was with her for doing
what she had done. The anger drained away. I wasn't sure if she
had diplomatic immunity in this situation or not. Maybe we would
live long enough to find out.
"I can't do what you want, Alex. Have some compassion, the man
is dead. Leave him in peace," Reyes said, her voice small like a
Alex faced her. "I just need to talk to him, ask him some things...I
have to...it's not so much, is it?"
She looked like she might cry. "It's wrong. Unconscionable. The
Invisible World sucks you in, and when you call the spirit, you
bind it to you. It becomes trapped between planes. We don't have
the right to do that to him!"
His humanity slid away, and in a blur of motion he had her. He
pressed the barrel of the gun into her ribs. The situation was
"Reyes," I said, desperate, "I'm counting two guns in the room
here, his and mine. If all he wants is some table rapping, don't
you think you could just go with it? Play along? Hell, make it up if
you have to!"
The two men glided like dancers, circling each other, energy and
grace waiting to explode into violence. I had lost my weapon at
the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, hadn't been ready when Alex
grabbed me. His hand was hard on my arm, the creak of his
leather jacket vaguely obscene. I let go of a breath, defeated.
Marita was in trouble and I would help her if I could. Simple.
Complicated. My own trouble seemed secondary. In a surge of
adrenaline clarity, I knew I would do it. Not because Alex was
terrorizing me, but because he was broken and she needed him
whole and I could do it. I would call the Guede, the spirit of Fox
Mulder. Talk to it. Let it talk through me.
"Alex, I won't allow this!" Marita started towards him, hesitant.
"How badly do you want to die, lyubov maya?"
"It's okay, Marita. I'm going to do it."
"I know the ritual, that's all. I've only seen it done...never wanted
Once, when I was about ten, I found a gris gris on Mama's altar
in the attic. It was made from bone and black bird feathers, and
when I held it in my hand, it seemed to grow and pulse. I held it
with every hair on my body tingling, my heart thudding in my
throat, until Mama found me and took it away. I release a breath,
feeling it hiss between my teeth.
"I won't make any promises, Alex. I remember the divination rite-
that's all-okay? I will try to petition the Loa. We will need
something that belonged to Agent Mulder."
Alex pushed me against the table and reached into his jacket.
He pressed the balled up cloth into my hand and I almost
dropped it. Boxers. I'm usually not a squeamish woman, but god.
Marita flinched. It must have been an old pain...but still raw.
Alex must have been too young to have all those things I saw
etched in his face. Regret. Sadness, cut wide and deep. It was a
horrifically private thing to witness, lacking both accusation and
I recoiled from the damage they inflicted on one another,
standing there, but even in conflict the seemed to draw
something from each other, feed each other. The air almost
sparked with overcharged ions. I was never a jealous lover, and I
couldn't begrudge that adoration. That fierce light. What happens
to us inside when we love that which is dark? Does it eat us?
Destroy us? Heat spiked around them. Whatever hurt-games
they played out, they belonged to each other. I didn't want to see
anymore. Anything to make it stop.
"Did you also bring-" I began.
"In the car. Marita, will you bring the rest of the things?" She
slipped from the room in absolute allegiance.
Victor asked, "Isn't there supposed to be a full moon or
"No, that's strictly Hollywood, those graveyard
extravaganzas...those deserted crossroads. Works just as well
on the kitchen table...if it works at all."
I thought of Mama in her red shantung housecoat, the smell of
chicory coffee and old blood in my nostrils...Mama saying,
"You're over the line, girl, headed straight to hell."
"Right behind you, Mama," I whispered under my breath, and
waited for Marita to return.
* * *
The chicken squawked and I swayed on my feet. "I just can't do
this, Alex, I'm sorry." I was supposed to offer the sacrifice, the
ebo, to Mama's gods: Eleggua, Obutala, Yemalla,
Shango...except that I couldn't kill the poor chicken. Ridiculous. I
was hardly vegetarian. Chicken Caesar salad was my favorite
Tuesday lunch. But the creature was alive and warm and I was a
hypocrite. Alex sighed, then picked up the bird and snapped its
neck, calm, without hesitation. I shuddered, because I knew
somehow it could have been my neck just as easily.
The rite seemed to progress well at first. I couldn't believe I
remembered the words, couldn't believe the truth of the rolling
power in my gut, Mama's daughter after all.
"What's wrong now?" Alex demanded sharply.
"It isn't going to work." Emotion swept over me. Confusion.
Denial. Fox Mulder had been dead...but when I called the Guede,
no one came. There was no spirit to come, because he wasn't
dead. "Look." I pointed to the blood beading backwards over the
cloth and herbs in the Pyrex bowl.
"We did everything right," Alex protested. "I read the texts..."
"I can't call dead that aren't dead."
"What?" I wondered if he would kill me. Kill us all. He seemed
capable, black gloved hands held too stiffly at his sides.
"I don't know what else to tell you...I saw the body. Marita said you
saw the body." I felt numb. If Alex decided to take my life, I
probably wouldn't even notice.
His voice went raspy. "I've got to get back there."
Marita lingered only long enough to whisper, "Thank you," and
followed him out into the night. Victor leaned back against the
stove and watched her go, gun still clutched. I don't know what
he thought he was going to do with it. He finally set it down on
the table and massaged one hand with the other, tension
draining out of him. His eyes were cool and gray, with swirling
flecks of green. Soulful eyes, sympathetic eyes. She had called
and he came to her, another white knight. I saw what she had
done to him, how she used him. Monstrous.
My head was splitting.
We collapsed together on the porch steps, exhausted beyond
grasping at formalities.
"I have a friend who can fix your identity theft problem. She might
ask you for some information in return...only because of me...the
Alex thing...but her intentions are honorable. Data you give her
will never hurt anyone."
She smiled, fatigued. Vulnerable. "Kinder, gentler treason?"
Some of the color had returned to her cheeks.
"You'll get your life back, Agent Reyes."
"I don't know if I want it back."
"They'll need you for the investigation."
Monica seemed to hide behind the dark halo of her hair, bent
forward, rubbing the back of her neck. Rather than push her, I
closed my eyes, listening to the ocean. After a while, I got up,
leaving her with her own thoughts long enough to rummage in
She had not moved when I returned, and she accepted the beer I
offered her without comment. After several long swigs, she
rested her head against her knees, resigned.
"Alright, Victor Mansfield, whoever you are...this is what I know."