“Everyone’s quick to blame the alien.” ~Aeschylus
illustration by Nina
Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb….
Klaus did not remember who had first sung this song to him. It could have been his mother, but she had died before he was a year old. He remembered nothing of her. Perhaps it had been one of the servants. But at some point, the song had come to mean safety and rest to him.
Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.
Schloss Eberbach had been built late in the thirteenth century. It was a fortress, fortified with thick stone walls. Virtually impregnable. Anyone should feel secure here.
And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went….
But then, Klaus should be able to feel secure anywhere. He was tall, strong, and skilled at hand-to-hand combat, and his Magnum was under his pillow, in easy reach. If any man on the planet could defend himself, it was Klaus. But he hadn't been able to, on… certain occasions.
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
Ouch. That line in itself was reason enough to forget this song forever.
He gave up the battle for sleep and opened his eyes. The glowing digital letters beside the bed said 3:37.
He rubbed his eyes, annoyed. At least when thoughts of that damned thief kept him awake, he could take a cold shower, or go out and run. Then his body would be numb and he would be exhausted and he could sleep. But with this, it was sleep that was the danger.
He was tired. His body was demanding sleep. Years of discipline had taught him to fall asleep at will, a conditioned reflex which almost invariably worked even when he was tense, worried, or in danger. After all, in his profession he might have to sleep under such circumstances, and lack of rest could cost him his life.
But this danger was too much.
With resignation, he switched on the bedside lamp, pulled out the latest issue of his favorite gun magazine, and forced his concentration onto the printed page.
When it was nearly five a.m., he fell asleep with the light on, his face pressed to the magazine.
His alarm went off at eight.
Three hours of sleep was not sufficient to make a considered decision, but then, he had little choice. He dragged himself into the office on time, feeling like hell, too groggy even to snap at the alphabets effectively. Not that they cowered any less; that, too, was a conditioned reflex.
Agent A had his Nescafé ready for him, as usual, but Klaus only took one sip. He had already had three cups at home, in order to fuel himself enough to get to work, and while he was still only half-awake, his heart was racing from the caffeine. He would wait until he really needed it before consuming more.
Relenting enough to rest his forehead on his hand, propping his elbow on the desk, the Major sifted through the files on his desk. He stopped when he found the report from his routine annual physical. Routine, except that it hadn't been due for another two months. He had insisted on taking it early, and had demanded more tests than usual, along with thorough X-rays. The only explanation he had given was that he couldn't sleep.
Now he went through the report intently, searching the charts and measurements which he scarcely understood for something, anything, that could give him an answer.
He didn't find it. The only problems the doctors had found with him, besides the inevitable effects of nicotine, were those caused by a month or so of inadequate food and sleep. The X-rays revealed nothing unusual either. There was nothing here.
Well. The only remaining course of action he could see was one which, a very short time ago, he had dismissed as too eccentric. He unlocked his bottom drawer, took out a form he had filled out one sleepless night without expecting to ever really turn it in, and headed for the Chief's office.
He ran into the Chief in the hall. The Chief was still wearing his hat and coat; he was arriving late, as so often.
"Were you caught in traffic, sir?" Klaus asked. His tone was sympathetic, but a faint smile twitched the corners of his mouth.
The older man scowled. "I was going to call you in this morning, Major. I've read the reports on your last mission, and you-"
Klaus cut the tirade short by handing him the form. The words stopped, choked in the Chief's chubby throat. He read over the form as if searching for a hidden trap.
"You're requesting vacation?" he gasped. "You?"
The Major shrugged grumpily. "I hate vacations, but apparently there is such a thing as working too hard after all. I can't sleep." He paused, then forced himself to finish. "It's affecting my performance."
The Chief looked at the form again. When he looked up from it, his expression had become understanding. Klaus seethed.
"I'm glad you can see that," the Chief said. "I was going to suspend you if you refused to take vacation. Take all the time you need. Go somewhere pleasant and relax. Have fun."
"I hate having fun. Sir." The Major turned to stalk back to his own office.
"You can leave as soon as you've debriefed your alphabets," the Chief called after him.
The alphabets stared out the window as their superior's black Benz disappeared around a corner, still not really believing it.
"Iron Klaus took a vacation?" Z said at last, bewildered.
G glanced at him, then smiled mysteriously and turned away from the window.
"Don't say it," A warned.
"Why not? We're all thinking it," G said. "How many vacations has the Major taken since we've known him?"
"One," B said. "And that one they made him take, when his school reunion happened."
"There's only one reason our Major could possibly want some time away from his work," G said, still smiling. "And that reason is English and larcenous and well-dressed."
"SHHHH!" A hissed. "What if someone told him you said that?"
G fluttered his lashes at the taller agent. "Are you saying I'm wrong?"
A swallowed. "I'm sure we'll have even more work to do with the Major away," he said hastily.
"I think the Major deserves it," B piped up. "He's been alone so long and it's so obvious that-"
"That if the Major ever thought that we had guessed at something that he didn't think we needed to know, we'd be living in igloos and fighting off polar bears before we knew what hit us," A finished firmly.
A brief silence answered his words, before the alphabets all scurried off to their desks. There really was, after all, a lot of work to be done.
Dana Scully made a neat incision and laid the scalpel down. "What do you think of this, doctor?" she remarked.
The other woman leaned close, frowning. "The liver is an odd color. Could be some kind of poison; let me get a sample and I'll send it to the lab."
Scully moved aside to let Dr. Kerry Weaver get a better angle and watched the woman's intent expression with approval. Her hair was a muted red, not Scully's fiery copper, not quite shoulder length. She wore no makeup, and the clothes under her white lab coat were the indifferent sort worn by those who are married to their jobs. Her grey-green eyes were fixed on her task like a laser beam.
Nothing like a capacity for concentration.
Dr. Weaver looked up abruptly and their eyes met. Scully simply held the other woman's gaze for a long moment without smiling or speaking.
Dr. Weaver looked down at the cadaver for a second, considering, and then back to Scully. "How long are you going to be in town, Agent Scully?" she asked.
Scully smiled. "At least a couple of days. Maybe you could tell me where a good restaurant is. You getting hungry?"
Dr. Weaver smiled back. Before she could reply, Scully's cell phone rang. She took it out and glanced at the display. Mulder, who else?
"Scully here," she announced, pushing the button.
"Scully, you won't believe what's just happened!"
"Probably not. What is it, Mulder? You're still here in Chicago, aren't you?"
"No, I'm in Cincinnati. But I won't be for long. We've got to get to Phoenix right away! Your flight's in one hour. Delta, flight 981."
"Mulder, I'm still in the middle of an autopsy, not to mention that I'll have to go by the hotel for my suitcase! And speaking of the autopsy, we've found-"
"Oh, right. Your suitcase. Hang on."
"Mulder!" she said, but received no reply except her partner's distant voice, asking someone a question. A minute later, he returned.
"Okay, Scully. An hour and forty-five minutes, flight 645. I'll see you in Phoenix."
"Are you flying there tonight? Where will you - Mulder!"
It was too late; he was gone. Scully glared at her cell phone, then looked regretfully at Dr. Weaver. A potentially lovely evening, gone.
One of these days, Scully told herself, I am going to tell him why he struck out with that entomologist Bambi Berenbaum.
Someday he would have to come to Vienna with a wealthy man, Agent G reflected as he paused in front of yet another window. Haute couture hardly figured into a petty agent's salary. He loved his work, but if he had learned of his own love of elegant clothing earlier in life, he might have chosen some other profession. As it was… well, he was still young and pretty. There was plenty of time to meet the right man, one who could support him in the style to which he aspired to become accustomed.
If it wasn't too late for the Earl of Gloria - and evidently it wasn't! - it wasn't too late for him either.
G moved on only as far as the next window. The mannequin in this one was sporting an absolutely adorable suit of the palest cream, with a tailored skirt and flared blazer. G studied it longingly for a minute before looking at his watch. There was plenty of time before he had to meet his contact and collect the data the man was bringing - he had set out early on purpose so that he could enjoy the excellent window shopping Vienna offered. He knew he couldn't possibly afford the suit, but he could go in and try it on, at least. Thank goodness he was already dressed normally, that is, in a dress. Some establishments became awfully squiffy about men who were dressed as men coming in and trying on women's clothing. Completely unreasonable of them, G thought.
G had gone inside and was torn between exploring the store's wonders in earnest - there were a dozen counters of jewelry he was just dying to look at - and hunting down that cream suit in his size when the sound of his alias made him whirl around.
"G, darling," the rich-as-cream English voice drawled, "what a pleasant surprise."
G felt all his flirtation mechanisms kick into gear. He fluttered his lashes up at the Earl. The Major wasn't anywhere in sight, so he couldn't take umbrage. "Lord Gloria. You look absolutely fabulous," he gushed, even as he fretted that he could never think of anything intriguing to say when Eroica was present. Men like that just scattered his wits.
Eroica smiled charmingly. "Sky blue is definitely your color, darling," he said. "Every man in here is looking at you."
G blushed at that, but he didn't mind; he knew that blushing suited him. But the Earl's words made him realize that he had better leave. If the Major was anywhere nearby, and saw G, then the Major would wonder if G had put two and two together and arrived at the obvious sum, and G would be shopping for a flowered snow suit.
G was casting about for an excuse to flee when Eroica stepped closer and leaned over him, eyes dancing with mischief. "I don't suppose this is a business trip, G? And that your strapping boss is anywhere nearby?"
"I thought he was with-" G stopped himself, knowing it was too late. The Earl's eyebrows were raised.
"With?" Eroica prompted.
G found himself even more speechless than usual in Eroica's presence.
"G." The Earl's expression was serious now. G swallowed. "Where is the Major?"
"On vacation," G squeaked.
"Vacation?" Eroica echoed incredulously. "Surely you mean he's pretending to vacation as a cover for a mission, don't you?"
"Of course," G said, seizing the excuse. Then realized he had made a mistake, because such hasty agreement was a clear sign of a bald-faced lie.
The Earl gave him an appraising look, then put a hand between G's shoulderblades, gallantly steering him deeper into the store. "Let me buy you a dress, darling. Has anything caught your fancy? And while you're looking them over, why don't you tell me all the latest gossip."
The adorable cream suit was made of cashmere, G soon learned. And a good thing, too, he reflected with resignation; he was going to need something both stylish and warm.
Klaus had managed to sleep on the plane. He had slept for almost the entire transatlantic flight, in fact, feeling secure enough to fall asleep for the first time in nearly two months.
That didn't prevent him feeling apprehensive as soon as he disembarked. America was not his favorite place, though as places that weren't Germany went, it wasn't too bad. There weren't likely to be many English accents to trigger distracting associations. And it was far away from home and most of the people who knew him, which, for the moment, was important.
The airport, of course, was the usual hell of screeching children and idiots talking on cellular phones. He stepped out of it into the slightly less horrible hell of Arizona heat. It was like stepping into an oven. Well, he had been prepared; he was wearing a sleeveless undershirt.
It was a relief to get into a rented, air-conditioned Benz and onto the highway to his hotel, even though he promptly discovered that Phoenix drivers were the absolute worst in America. Aggressive didn't even begin to describe it. Aggressive, psychotic, and just plain stupid all at once. He was going to have to start threatening to send errant agents here instead of Alaska. What an ignominy it would be to die of Arizona traffic after all the bullets and bombs he had evaded.
So stop acting like a first-year agent. This is a mission. Treat it as such.
And he did. He was traveling under a false name, and his suitcase contained no clue to his purpose. All of the books he had been reading recently in his search for answers had been dumped anonymously at a junk dealer's in Bonn; no one would find them in his home. The contact information he was going to use was safely stored inside his head.
He was going to look like an idiot, he knew. But then, the people he was here to talk to all looked like idiots too.
The hotel was medium-priced and very pleasant, though far from luxurious. The walls of his room were of dark wood paneling, and the blinds had been lowered against the relentless Arizona sunshine; a series of narrow bars of light fell onto the wall across from the window. The air conditioning was going full blast; the room felt almost like Germany.
In the safety of the quiet room, he hung up his suits, filled the drawers with neatly folded undershirts and boxer shorts, and ordered room service. Then he couldn't put it off any longer. He picked up the phone's receiver, glared at it for a minute, and then dialed a number he had committed to memory.
"Mr. Myers? My name is Josef von Luger," Klaus began. "I read about your… organization, and I wish to speak with you."
"For what purpose?" The voice on the other end was polite, gentle,
but a little guarded. "Are you a journalist?"
"I think I understand," the voice replied, warming up a little. "Would you like to come over this afternoon?"
Mr. Myers gave him directions, and Klaus set out well in advance of their four o'clock appointment. He took a cue from the hotel staff and cranked the air conditioning in the Benz to full blast. Heat and cold might be a matter of discipline, but there was no need to ignore the technological excellence of the temperature controls in a good German car.
The office was on the outskirts of the city, allowing Klaus to see a good deal of authentic desert landscape on the drive over. Genuine cacti with arms sticking out, just like in the pictures. Very few trees, little vegetation at all, and that little scrubby and sparse. The occasional mountains were not the gently sloping, grassy swells he was accustomed to, or the snow-capped grey beauties of the Alps. They were pyramids of red rock that stuck up almost straight out of the flat ground. And the ground was flat – he could see for at least fifty miles in all directions, just flat brick-red ground as far as the eye could see. Looking at the desert landscape from the coolness of his car was slightly surreal, like watching a Western in a comfortable movie theater, seeing the cowboys shield their faces from the blistering sun.
His father had taken a dim view of all things American. Klaus had never heard him overtly deride them, but as a boy he had sensed that cowboy movies were a semi-illicit pleasure that it would be best his father didn't hear about. This had of course added to the thrill of watching craggy-faced, hardened men gallop to their deaths on horseback, ruthless men living in a ruthless world. A world that Klaus had known somehow that he belonged in, even then. The landscape here matched the world Klaus lived in: pitiless, inhospitable, allowing survival only for those who wrested it from the environment by force.
But he had reached the small office park that was his destination now, and the true beginning of his mission. He allowed himself to sit in his car for a moment after parking it, steeling himself.
At four o'clock precisely Klaus walked into Mr. Myers' office in the three-room suite that housed the Phoenix Foundation for the Study of UFOs.
Mr. Myers didn't look insane. He actually looked quite ordinary, not quite middle-aged, a suit that wasn't as sharp as Klaus's, neatly trimmed brown hair, glasses. As Klaus shook his hand, he had the impression that Mr. Myers intended for his expression to be a consoling one. But he invited Klaus to take a seat and then waited for him to speak.
Klaus delayed his planned speech for a few seconds by glancing around the office. The walls were painted dreary off-white, the carpet a nondescript blue. As seemed to be the norm in this land of pitiless sun, the window was covered, in this case by a Venetian blind which kept the sunlight out completely, and the room was refrigerated. The only illumination came from the two lamps on Mr. Myers' desk, each of which threw pools of light below them and onto the ceiling.
Three bookshelves were crammed with UFO books, and on the walls were a few framed photographs of UFOs. From his reading, Klaus knew that these were ones which had not been explained away as swarms of insects or hoaxes or something equally dull. He had personally identified a couple of them as fighter jets, but they were American experimental models that Germany did not officially know existed, so he did not enlighten Mr. Myers. As a matter of fact, monitoring UFO reports had proved a fruitful way of keeping track of such advances in other nations. But the other photos he could not classify.
"I have read your book," Klaus began when he could put it off no longer. "As well as several others. I came to talk to you because you seem to have your… feet on the ground. More than most experts in this field. You have a strong sense of the scientific method." Mr. Myers only nodded, waiting for Klaus to come to his point. "I have a number of questions about your work, if you don't–"
Mr. Myers interrupted him. "They've come for you, haven't they?"
Klaus could not answer.
"More than once? Or did they start when you were a child?"
Klaus's chest was tight. After a moment, he groped for his vest pocket a bit desperately. "Do you mind if I smoke?" he managed.
Mr. Myers seemed about to object, but then said, "Go ahead." He stood and opened the window, raising the blind halfway, allowing a square of merciless sun to pour in. Klaus lit up and sucked in the smoke gratefully. Mr. Myers stood leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets, watching him with compassion.
"The first time, I was about twelve years old," Klaus said at last. "I don't remember very much about it. I think I tried to tell the adults, but of course they didn't listen to me." A sound of birds singing floated in through the window. Klaus was irritated; he didn't want to hear anything so cheerful now. "I think that they came for me several times over a few months, and then it stopped. And I forgot. I made myself forget."
"But you remembered at some level," Mr. Myers supplied.
"You could say that." Klaus chose his words carefully. "I always knew there was something in me, in my mind or soul, that I did not wish to look at too closely." No need to tell Mr. Myers what he had assumed it was.
"And did they come for you again during your adolescence?" he prompted gently.
"I do not think so. I think the last time was when I was twelve, but then, two months ago…."
"They came again."
Klaus's Adam's apple bobbed. "Yes."
"How much do you remember?"
"Enough." Klaus inhaled the last of his cigarette and promptly lit another. "Mr. Myers, tell me. How is this possible? Unless we are all deranged, these beings have to live millions of light years away, and they have managed to elude detection by our most advanced technology. They can apparently move right through walls."
Mr. Myers spread his hands helplessly. "They are far more advanced than we are, is all that I can say."
"Then why are they bothering with us? Why come all this way to poke and prod inferior beings? Surely their scientific curiosity must be satisfied by now. With their technology, they must be able to get all they need to know about us from a few hair samples, yet they continue to abduct the same people over and over again. Why?"
"If we could figure that out…."
"Then we might be able to discern a way to fight them," Klaus finished.
Mr. Myers looked faintly startled. "Fight them?"
"Of course. You don't propose that we simply continue to allow them to use
us as guinea pigs, do you?"
"There has to be something. Even if their technology is more advanced. Rome was brought down by barbarians. There is no such thing as an impregnable fortress or an invincible enemy. They have a weakness. They probably have several."
Mr. Myers looked at him for a minute. "I have never heard of anyone escaping. Or of anyone harming one of them."
"Never? Not even a disputed account?"
"No," he replied reluctantly.
Klaus frowned. Not only was this bad news, it was… odd.
"Mr. Luger – sorry, Mr. von Luger – tomorrow evening we're holding an evening of lectures about this. We hold them every week. They're not open to the general public. If you'd care to attend, you could question some more experts, and, well, find out that you aren't alone. You're not the only one."
"You were – taken?" Klaus asked. The other man nodded. "You don't mention that in your book."
Mr. Myers looked at his desktop. "There was no place for it in that particular work. I was discussing hard data, the sightings that can't be explained, the photos, the consistency in the reports of abductions." He shook his head and looked up, suddenly self-deprecating. "No, that's an excuse. The truth is that I didn't want to tell a world full of strangers about it. I'm sure you can understand that."
"You are the first person I've admitted this to," Klaus confirmed quietly.
Mr. Myers looked sympathetic. "You haven't been able to tell any of your friends? Family? Your wife?"
"I'm unmarried. No, I haven't spoken of it to anyone. They would think I had lost my mind." And he would have been suspended and ordered to see a psychiatrist and probably take drugs of some kind, and he would have become the laughingstock of the intelligence community – "He's stopped sending agents who screw up to Alaska, now he sends them to Neptune!" – and his father would – well, no point in dwelling on that.
He wondered abruptly what Eroica would think if he knew. Maybe he'd have been disillusioned. The iron-clad superspy gone barmy. A rather large chink in the armor. Terribly sorry, old chap, but I can't stop to waste my time on lunatics, you know how it is. Pardon me while I go find another unattainable lust object who won't bring me crashing down to earth with those dreary old shortcomings. Might have been able to live with bossiness and art ignorance, but paranoid delusions are just too unromantic–
"If you want to talk about your experiences, Mr. von Luger, I can give you the names of a few therapists who understand that–"
"Mr. Myers," Klaus interrupted, fighting to keep the irritation from his voice, "I am not here for sympathy. I am here for answers."
"Then be there at seven tomorrow and maybe we can give you some," the American replied, resigned.
Klaus nodded politely and left. This meeting had been mostly a waste of time. But he had no idea what else to do. He would be there the following night.
Mulder greeted Scully in Phoenix with the news that Ted Paulson, the man they were there to investigate, had been detained at a mental health institution. "They'll release him tomorrow unless he acts really buggo," a bored policeman had explained to Mulder. "He hasn't really done anything, he just seems erratic. They'll give him some happy pills and turn him loose in the morning."
The institution was fairly isolated, a short distance outside the city limits. It was built in standard institution style: sheer white walls inside and out, the rooms uniform in size and shape and color, irritating fluorescent lights giving out low-grade illumination throughout. The building itself felt like a straitjacket.
They were shown into a quiet room that contained a table, several chairs, and nothing else except for a mirror on one wall which they all knew was a window from the other side. One of the psychiatrists, a Dr. O'Hara, had insisted upon being present while they questioned Paulson; he sat a little apart from them and observed the conversation with a detached, knowing air that Scully considered the height of pomposity.
Paulson ignored the psychiatrist and instead focused on Mulder and Scully. "FBI," he said. "I knew it."
"What did you know?" Mulder asked promptly.
"You people know! You know that I'm telling the truth!"
"The truth is what we're here to determine, Mr. Paulson," Scully said patiently. Somehow she hadn't thought that either medicine or the FBI would one day put her in a mental institution listening seriously to ravings. And Paulson was raving. His hands were shaking, his eyes flitted about constantly, and his words tumbled over each other. Interrogation 101 could have told anyone that Ted Paulson was not a "reliable witness".
Anyone, that is, except Spooky Mulder. "Why don't you tell us about your experience, Mr. Paulson?" he asked. Scully tried to keep her expression neutral.
"The first time was when I was a kid. Maybe eleven. And they've come for me every few years ever since then. And there's always a lot of times together – they'll abduct me three or four times inside a month, then they won't show up again for a few years."
"What do they do to you while you're there?" Mulder prompted. Scully sneaked a look at the psychiatrist. He looked ever so slightly disdainful.
"They shine a light in my face so I can't see them clearly," Paulson said, starting to shake harder. His eyes lost their focus as he entered into the memory. "I can't move. Not that I'm strapped down or anything – I'm just paralyzed. I think they put something on my chest, though, that weighs me down, and I can hardly breathe. Sometimes I see their hands coming at me, with tools, syringes, things. Sometimes I see their – faces." His voice cracked on the last word.
Scully would admit one thing: he wasn't acting. The man was terrified.
"What do their faces look like, Mr. Paulson?" Mulder asked, leaning forward, attentive.
Paulson shuddered, then gave Mulder a narrow look. "Pale clammy skin, no noses, those big eyes – black, dead eyes." His expression became distant again as he lapsed into silence.
"You're not going to detain Mr. Paulson?" Scully asked the psychiatrist noncommittally.
The answer was a supercilious smile. "Doctor, if we detained everyone who believed that he had seen aliens, half the population of Arizona would be locked up. This is one of the nation's UFO hot spots, you know." Mulder nodded in agreement. "Ted isn't a danger to himself or others. He'll be on medication. And with counseling, he'll come to terms with his–"
Before the psychiatrist could finish, the door was thrown open unceremoniously and a short young woman stormed in. A tag clipped to the breast pocket of her snug navy blue vest identified her as a psychiatrist. "And just what kind of medication are you planning to inflict on my patient?" she demanded.
"Dr. Katchinowski." The older doctor did not seem pleased to see his colleague. "There is no need to eavesdrop through the one-way mirror. If you wanted to be present, all you had to do–"
"What kind?" she repeated.
"Pimozide, of course," he replied with an air of martyrdom.
"I don't need any fucking medication!" Paulson snarled, standing. The older psychiatrist quietly went to the door, opened it, and beckoned to someone outside while Paulson continued with mounting agitation. "I'm not crazy! It's the truth, and the federal government and the FBI knows it! They came for me, and they're going to come for me again! They–" But at this point two orderlies entered and firmly escorted him, still ranting, outside and down the hall.
The older psychiatrist gave Dr. Katchinowski a sour look. "Excellent work, Hep Cat."
"I suppose if I had come in here and pumped him full of dangerous chemicals, you would have said that without the sarcasm," Dr. Katchinowski retorted. "You know perfectly well that Pimozide causes insomnia, irritability, and in some cases, an increase in psychotic symptoms. And that's just the beginning. I don't suppose that you made any sort of inquiry into his current diet." When the older man only rolled his eyes, she continued fiercely, "That man obviously consumes a criminal amount of caffeine, and I saw at least four symptoms of the effects of food coloring. And I'm sure you're aware," her voice dripped with sarcasm, "that FD and C Yellow Number 5 reacts badly with Pimozide. I don't suppose it occurred to you to remove some chemicals from this man's system."
"We can't just unleash a delusional paranoiac onto the world without stabilizing medication–"
"How much evidence do you need to see before you admit that all that damned snake oil doesn't work? Now, if we use hypnosis to get to the bottom of his trauma, and teach him meditation and yogic breathing techniques to calm himself, and maybe some St. John's Wort to raise his spirits, then–"
Dr. O'Hara stood up and spoke with an air of finality. "I am not in the mood for your Jedi mind tricks, Hep Cat. We are putting Ted on Pimozide and that is final." With that, he stalked out, leaving Dr. Katchinowski with the two FBI agents.
Scully stood, looking the remaining psychiatrist over. Scully had been on her guard the minute the other woman had mentioned hypnosis; it had been a hypnotist who had convinced Mulder that he had seen aliens abduct his sister. And from her argument with Dr. O'Hara, this woman sounded like a natural-food nut. Though she did look healthy, Scully conceded as she sized her up; a lot of granola freaks looked like they had some sort of wasting disease, but Dr. Katchinowski's figure was trim under the neatly pressed shirt, her pale complexion clear and innocent of makeup, her shoulder-length black curls shiny. Her clothing was downright prim, the shirt buttoned up to her chin, the vest and matching longish business skirt impeccably ironed, giving her a vaguely anachronistic schoolmarm look. Her sole jewelry was a tarnished chain around her neck; the pendant was hidden inside her shirt.
"Dr. Katchinowski? I'm Special Agent Dana Scully." Dr. Katchinowski turned quickly, looked at Scully with wide eyes, and shook her proffered hand mutely. "And this is Special Agent Mulder. Why did you watch through the mirror instead of joining us?"
Dr. Katchinowski's entire demeanour had changed. Her fury had been dropped and she was standing with her arms held tightly to her sides, her head slightly bowed as if in deference to the others, and when she spoke, her voice was quiet and apologetic. "I didn't learn that my patient was being questioned until you had already begun. Naturally I was both interested and concerned, but I didn't want to disrupt your conversation."
Scully raised an eyebrow, and Dr. Katchinowski's eyes widened a little. "Thanks for not disrupting our conversation," Scully said wryly.
The psychiatrist looked as if she'd been slapped. Hardly the confident air one hoped for from one of her profession, Scully reflected.
"I'm sorry – I didn't mean to interfere with your work, it's just that the side effects of that stuff, for a man in his state of mind–" She stopped herself, and suddenly gave each of them a sharp look. "Why is the FBI questioning Ted?"
"We're investigating his disappearance," Mulder spoke up. "You may know that he was missing for three days under very mysterious circumstances. As his psychiatrist, can you shed any light on that for us?"
She ducked her head again. "I'm afraid not," she said, her voice shy again. She gave Scully a sideways look, biting her lip, before asking her, "The FBI doesn't really take this seriously, does it? I mean, UFOs?"
"People temporarily disappear all the time," Scully said swiftly. "I see no reason to conclude that extraterrestrial or supernatural forces are at work. But we do need to find out what was behind his disappearance."
Dr. Katchinowski sighed. "Your being here just fuels his fantasies, you realize," she told them.
"What makes you so certain that they're fantasies, doctor?" Mulder asked.
Please don't embarrass me too much, Scully prayed silently. If her partner would just give up all his outrageous theories, he would be one of the Bureau's stars. It was a criminal waste.
The psychiatrist looked at Mulder in surprise. "Didn't you get it? He says that he spent his absence on board a UFO. The little green men come to visit him all the time, he says."
"And you don't believe him."
She looked exasperated. "I don't say it that way to him, of course. And he doesn't trust me enough yet to tell me what's really bothering him."
"And what is that?" Scully asked.
"He hasn't told me yet," she repeated patiently. "But it's probably some problem with his parents. That's what's usually behind fantasies like this. No one cares if your parents liked your brother best, or if the kids in school picked on you. But say that aliens abducted you, or that your father was the High Priest of Satan and tortured you in Black Masses, and people can't hear enough." Disgust dripped from her voice.
"Thank you for your time, Dr. Katchinowski." Mulder passed her his card. "I just have one more question for you."
Dr. Katchinowski took his card as if she were afraid he would snatch it back when she reached for it. "Yes?" she asked nervously.
"Why did Dr. O'Hara call you Hep Cat?"
Irritation wiped out her shyness for a few seconds. "My first name is Hepzibah."
Mulder nodded. "I sympathize. My first name is Fox."
"Good God," Hepzibah said with feeling, and left.
Klaus was there for the lectures at seven precisely, but of course the sloppy Yanks running it didn't start on time. He chose a seat in the back of the room. At gymnasium and university, he had preferred to sit up front, where he could more easily grill the instructors, but intelligence training had taught him to make sure he could always see as much of the surrounding space as possible. None of the other attendees seemed particularly odd, as Americans went.
Examining the people around him was so deeply ingrained by Klaus's training that he did it automatically, even when he didn't expect to need to. Otherwise he might not have given a second look to the couple who entered just a moment before the lectures started. Colleagues, he was certain. The man was tall, with light brown hair, narrow eyes and a nondescript face; the woman petite and redheaded, with an impeccable makeup job. Both were wearing dark suits. Black suits with blazers in Arizona. Klaus mentally snorted; it was a cliché in the intelligence community that FBI agents always looked exactly like FBI agents. He had no doubt that was what they were. Aside from their clothing, the redhead was too coolly self-possessed for a woman as short, young and pretty as she was. And they both had that indefinable air of alertness people in this profession acquired, and that hint of coldness in their expressions that came from having to keep so many secrets.
He took note of them and then turned his gaze away, but remained peripherally aware of them. He had a slender hope that they wouldn't notice him and sense that he was one of their sort, but it was in vain; the redhead's gaze stopped on him and she nudged her companion. The man looked at him, nodded once, and then leaned to speak in the redhead's ear as the first speaker approached the podium.
The lectures weren't very informative to Klaus. One was pure speculation about the aliens' plans to conquer the earth. Another was a report about UFO sightings in the last couple of years, material Klaus's research had already made him familiar with. The final one convincingly debunked crop circles, which Klaus found encouraging; if these people were willing to listen to skeptics, they might not be total cranks.
Once the last lecture was over, Klaus stood and noticed the Fibbies moving in his direction. He stood still, waiting for them to approach; since they had apparently recognized him, it would be best to speak with them rather than rush out.
"It's Iron Klaus, isn't it?" the male Fibbie asked as he drew near. Klaus was resigned; being the best in his field meant being known.
"You have the advantage of me, Herr FBI," he said, telling them that he knew that much, at least.
"I'm Special Agent Mulder, this is Special Agent Scully."
Spooky Mulder. Klaus wanted to laugh aloud in despair. He had gone to a foreign continent with a fake identity to investigate this in privacy, and had walked into what amounted to an ambush.
"Ah." Klaus shook their hands. "Mr. Mulder. I have heard about you." And of all the Fibbies on earth, he was probably the one Klaus least wanted to see. Not that he wanted to see any of them.
Unfortunately, it was occurring to Klaus that, Yank lunatic or not, Spooky Mulder might be exactly the person he needed to speak to.
Used to his own notoriety, Mulder didn't bother to take offense. "Would you mind telling me what interest NATO has in UFOs?"
Yes, I would. "As you people are fond of pointing out," Klaus said curtly, "this is a free country. I have every right to attend lectures on any subject I wish here."
"If you're here on intelligence business, I'm sure that you'll agree that it's in our best interests to cooperate," Agent Scully said coolly. "We could conceivably be pursuing the same information."
Klaus now regretted having set foot on this benighted continent and attended this evening of crank lectures. If the FBI thought that NATO was interested in something on American soil, it could cause no end of petty turf wars as they demanded to know what it was. Inventing an imaginary mission was even more perilous; he could hardly tell them that he was spying on their government, one which was an ally of his own. Not that he had never spied on a friendly government, but he couldn't very well say that.
But the last thing that he wanted was for anyone to know that Iron Klaus believed that he had been abducted by aliens.
"I am on vacation," he informed them. "You may check with the Bonn office if you don't believe me. I happened to hear about these lectures and thought it would be amusing to take home a few stories about Yank eccentricity. You people are all clinically insane."
He saw a hint of tightly controlled annoyance in Scully's eyes, but Mulder's face lit up with sudden excitement. "You're an abductee!" he exclaimed.
"Mulder," Scully said sharply, and this time her feelings showed clearly enough: she was embarrassed.
"Look at him, Scully, he's got all the signs. You're a doctor; what do those dark circles under his eyes say to you?"
Giving Klaus a glance of apology, she tartly suggested, "Jet lag?"
"I've seen that haunted look in enough faces to know what it means!" Mulder declared. He looked Klaus in the eye. "They've been coming for you, haven't they, Major? When you're asleep? How long has it been going on?"
Klaus was too shocked to reply. Unfortunately, this confirmed the FBI madman's insight.
"Please, you've got to tell me what you know about this," Mulder was going on, intent as a hound on the scent. "If they're coming after members of the intelligence community, this could be even bigger than I thought!"
With a sinking sensation, Klaus realized that Mulder was right.
"The first time it happened, I was only twelve years old," he said slowly. "So I don't see how it could have anything to do with my work for NATO."
Mulder's eyes gleamed. Scully stared at him, obviously wondering if he was pulling their legs.
Mulder said, "Unless maybe they pre-programmed you to join NATO so that they could - my God! Maybe that's why they abduct people in their early teens: so that they will control the next generation of power brokers! This gets bigger all the time!"
"It sure does," Scully said, sounding far less than impressed.
Klaus drew a breath. "Can you tell me how to stop them?" he asked. "Or what they're after? What they are?"
"All I have is theories," Mulder admitted. "But–" Before he could continue, Mr. Myers appeared.
"Hello, Fox, good to see you again," he said to Mulder. "I see you've met Mr. von Luger."
"Just now," Mulder replied, accepting the alias without a blink. He was that much of a professional, even if he was nuts. He and Mr. Myers talked about the latest UFO news for a couple of minutes while Klaus and Scully eyed each other warily like a couple of strange cats. Then Mulder said, "I'm sorry to have to cut this short, you had some terrific speakers tonight, but I'll email you, okay?"
With that, they headed for the door. "Mr. von Luger," Mulder said, "why don't you join us for a cup of coffee so we can discuss this further?"
Herr Mulder, it seemed, had been to this area in the course of his offbeat research more than once. Klaus followed him and his partner in his rented Benz to an all-night diner not too far away. The place was vile. It was too harshly lit, revealing all too well the hideous turquoise of the plastic seats and the chips on the edges of the greenish formica countertops. The staff consisted chiefly of young punks. Their waiter was a perfect example of everything objectionable about his generation. All of his hair had been shaved off except for a small patch of bushy curls at the center of his forehead and the de rigeur scraggly goatee. Each of his ears had five earrings in them, and his nose had three. Tattoos of cartoon characters adorned his arms. He communicated mostly in grunts, and ambled away with their orders as if he had years to fill them in.
The diner didn't have Nescafé, but they did have a tolerable brand of instant coffee. They settled down with their cups, Mulder nibbling sunflower seeds. Klaus reluctantly told them his story, hoping fervently that he did not regret it later. He saw no other choice; the "experts" he had come here to consult had not been able to help him. Another agent, who believed in this sort of thing and knew a great deal about it – that could be the solution.
When Klaus was finished, he turned to the woman. "Agent Scully," he said, "what do you think?" She had been visibly restraining herself throughout his story.
"From a practical perspective, to travel millions of light years just to–"
"Then what has been happening to me?" Klaus demanded. "If you could explain it away, I would be eternally grateful." His tone was sarcastic, but in fact he meant precisely what he said.
She pursed her lips, all business. "Have you had your home examined for signs of forced entry?"
"I examined it myself. Nothing."
"Are you sure? Sometimes ventilation systems and–"
"Agent Scully, I live in a thirteenth century stone fortress. Breaching Schloss Eberbach is not merely a matter of sliding a window open."
"I see." She looked pensive. "Without being able to examine the site, I would have to say that this was probably a clever abduction by a rival agency using sleeping gas and–"
"They didn't ask me any questions," Klaus insisted. "Why would enemy spies kidnap me and not ask me any questions? And how could they do it, repeatedly, without leaving any sign or waking the servants or–"
"They probably used a combination of drugs and hypnosis to prevent you from remembering what they asked you," she answered. "I admit it's somewhat difficult to believe, but the only alternatives are that you were visited by beings from another planet… or that you're making all of this up."
Klaus wished he could believe her explanation. Her manner was somewhat cold, her voice analytical. Klaus found that he rather liked her, in his remote way. He seldom liked people at all, and women almost never. "Fraulein, I have seen plenty of terrorists and spies. They don't look like that."
"You saw them?" Mulder asked, leaning closer.
"Yes." Klaus's throat closed, and he felt his skin go to gooseflesh.
"Are they the tall greys, the dwarf greys, or the Nordics? And what kind of smell do you notice?"
"The dwarf greys. The smell is a horrible stench, like rotten eggs, just like all the accounts I've read."
Mulder was slipping into lecture mode. "Some people report pleasant smells, like flowers, usually roses."
Humph. "And what are Nordics? I haven't heard of those."
"Dwarf greys, tall greys and Nordics are the three most common types of beings seen by abductees. Nordics are the most human-looking ones. Their features are very human, and they're tall and fair-skinned with long blond hair."
"There are human-looking alien abductors with long blond hair who smell like roses?" Klaus asked, staring.
Mulder nodded. "Yes, though they're not as common as the greys.... Is something wrong, Major?"
Klaus sat forward abruptly and changed the subject. "Herr Mulder, tell me what you believe is going on."
Mulder made himself more comfortable. Scully had evidently heard this all before; rather than pay attention to her partner, she watched Klaus's reactions to his words.
"When I was eleven, my sister was abducted from our home and never seen again. I now believe that she was taken by aliens. I had blocked out most of my memories about it, but under deep hypnosis a few years ago, I began to recover them. I was already in the Bureau – I was a profiler – and I began to investigate the urban legend that the U.S. government has been covering up what it knows about aliens and their visits here."
Klaus frowned. "No offense to your nation," he said insincerely, "but it is notoriously inept at keeping secrets. I cannot imagine your government successfully concealing something like this."
"Not the elected officials, no," Mulder agreed. "But I believe that there is a shadow government working behind the scenes to conceal alien visitors. I've heard of people bribed and intimidated into keeping quiet about what they know, I've heard–"
"Why? What is the point of keeping this secret?"
Mulder fiddled with a sunflower seed. Klaus reminded himself that the Fibbie wasn't one of his own alphabets; he couldn't yell at him to stop it, even though it was driving him up the wall. "I believe that the U.S. government has been exchanging technology with aliens. People keep trying to explain away UFO sightings by pointing out that they happen near military air bases; the UFOs are experimental aircraft. But I believe that they are experimental aircraft built using alien technology."
And I just told this Yank one of my two darkest secrets, Klaus thought with self-disgust.
Aloud he said dryly, "If the U.S. has such valuable technological contacts, I have to say that I envy you. An exclusive relationship with advanced aliens would indeed be a diplomatic coup that would put any Soviet defection in the shade."
"Do you think it might be possible that the governments of Europe might be running a similar cover-up?" Mulder asked, watching him carefully.
"No, I do not," Klaus said, truthfully. "I have never seen or heard anything to support that idea." Not that I'd tell you if I had. "If you are right, Herr Mulder, your country has the aliens to itself. I suppose I should be grateful the aliens chose a friendly nation and not Soviet Russia or Red China to befriend."
Scully smiled briefly. "Wouldn't that have made more sense, Mulder? Think of it – China. A huge population for them to abduct and experiment on, and a totalitarian regime that keeps everyone too frightened to ask questions. It would have been much more practical for the aliens to ally themselves with them than us."
"Maybe they chose us because of the melting pot," Mulder said, undiscouraged. "China is an ethnically homogenous nation. We are the most ethnically diverse nation on earth, we have a representative sampling from almost every group in the world. This country is a treasure trove of genetic material for them to experiment with."
"What?" Klaus said.
Mulder was really getting into it now. "I think that's what they're doing. Experimenting with genetic engineering to create a human-alien hybrid. In the course of my investigations, I've encountered former Nazi scientists." He broke off and looked at Klaus, as if afraid the mention of Nazis would offend him, but Klaus kept his expression neutral, and Mulder plunged on. "After World War II, our government made a deal with the devil; they gave Nazi scientists amnesty in exchange for their knowledge, for what they had learned by experimenting on Jews and other undesirables in the camps. I believe that they have been continuing their work here, in secret, in cooperation with aliens."
Klaus sighed deeply, gazing into his coffee cup. "You are saying," he said after a bleak moment, "that you are living in Nazi Germany." At Mulder's quizzical look, he pressed on, "That your government is committing unspeakable acts in the name of science and concealing it from its citizens. That was the situation in Nazi Germany. Only a handful of people actually knew what was going on, but the rumors kept traveling until towards the end no one could doubt–"
"Yes, you could put it that way."
Klaus grimaced. "If a totalitarian dictatorship could not keep such activities well concealed for one decade, how could a pushover government such as yours do so for half a century?"
"I'm not sure whether to be gratified or insulted by that," Scully remarked, lifting a well-shaped eyebrow.
"Herr Mulder," Klaus said evenly, "I have heard more theories than you can imagine about evil Nazi geniuses still at large and up to no good in Hong Kong or Brazil or Wisconsin, somewhere. None of them have stood up to examination. I have spent years of my life chasing down neo-Nazi terrorists who wish to revive that madness. They could not organize a Girl Scout bake sale. All they can do is kill random civilians. Hitler's movement is as dead as he is."
"That's his cue to tell us that Hitler's brain is being kept alive in a jar in the basement of the Pentagon," Scully said.
"Don't be ridiculous, Scully. Hitler's brain is at MIT."
Klaus looked at Scully. "Is he joking?"
"I can never tell anymore."
"Listen to me! Our government is conspiring with Nazi scientists and aliens to perform experiments in genetic engineering on human subjects! They've been doing it since World War II! I have reason to believe they've been monitoring thousands of Americans born in the last fifty years!"
"For what purpose, Mulder?" Scully asked in exasperation.
"To create the perfect soldier!"
"Let me get this straight, Herr Mulder," Klaus said. "You believe that a significant number of young Americans are the products of multi-generational experiments in creating the superman?"
Klaus looked pointedly at their waiter, who was lounging against the counter.
"It isn't working," Klaus said.
Scully suppressed a laugh with visible effort. "Mulder, maybe that's what's wrong with our society! Maybe that's why we have the lowest literacy rate in the industrialized world and soaring crime rates! It's because the genetic engineering experiments failed and we've created an inferior human being!"
"Or maybe it's just too much television," Klaus muttered.
Mulder elbowed his partner suddenly, oblivious to her annoyance. "And this proves what I was telling you the other day, Scully."
"What?" Klaus demanded.
Scully wearily explained, "I pointed out to him that the vast majority of abductees are on the fringes of society. They're not very successful professionally or personally, and don't feel they truly have a place in society. Aside from the obvious psychological benefits of being able to claim that aliens are interested in them even if their own species isn't, it would seem that if aliens were abducting humans, they would choose prominent people with valuable information and influence–"
"And I told you that they abduct the prominent people too, but those people don't come forward!" Mulder exclaimed. "They have too much to lose if they talk about what's happened to them. And you see? Is a NATO intelligence officer from an aristocratic family prominent enough for you? And he crossed the ocean under an assumed name before telling anybody about it!"
"That much is true," Scully conceded. "But Mulder. Have you ever heard of Occam's Razor? It's the principle that a hypothesis should never be developed beyond necessity. We don't need extraterrestrials to explain any of this."
It was clear the Fibbies were now in the well-worn grooves of an oft-repeated debate. Klaus pulled a few of those dreary green American bills out of his pocket and dropped them on the table. "Thank you for your time. I would consider it a matter of professional courtesy if you would both do me the favor of not repeating anything I have told you. Good evening." He rose, pulled on his coat, and walked out. He had little optimism that Spooky Mulder would keep his mouth shut. Word would get out. His reputation would be ruined.
Thus far, his mission was an unqualified disaster.
It had taken a lot of fluttering of lashes and proffering of cash aimed at a dozen different men, but twenty-four hours later Dorian had discovered where the Major was. Klaus was being careful to cover his tracks, even from NATO, it seemed. Josef von Luger indeed. And Arizona – what on earth was Klaus doing there, of all places? If it really wasn't a mission…. As Dorian chose his wardrobe for the trip, because of course he was going to Arizona as soon as he could get a flight, he entertained all sorts of unlikely speculations. Maybe Klaus was meeting a girlfriend there. Or a boyfriend. Or maybe this was a secreter mission than usual.
Unlikeliest of all, maybe Klaus really was taking a vacation.
But to Arizona? No, Klaus's patriotism was sincere to the bottom of his soul. His idea of fun, if he had one, would be set in Germany. If he wanted to enjoy himself, he certainly wouldn't go to America to do it.
Dorian's curiosity was piqued. He had to know what Klaus was up to.
He checked into the best suite Klaus's hotel had to offer. Once installed, all he had to do was watch the lobby until Klaus marched through it on his way to the parking lot. Then he broke in.
His paranoid darling was being even more secretive than usual. Nothing in the room gave any sign of what he was here for. The only reading matter was Klaus’s usual cars-and-guns fare, and of course a stack of that morning’s newspapers. No phone numbers, no notes, no special equipment.
But of course, there was the wastebasket. And Klaus hadn't thought to be careful what he left in it.
The only thing of interest was a crumpled note with the hotel's letterhead. Not in Klaus's forcible, angular letters, but in a neatly curving script, doubtless from one of the young ladies at the front desk. A phone message.
"Mr. Von Luger: Call Mr. Mulder." And a local phone number.
Dorian dialed the number and got the front desk of another hotel. He smiled and requested the hotel's address, then drove to it.
His luck was holding. One of the clerks at Mr. Mulder's hotel was family. It only took a little hinting that Mr. Mulder needed to see Dorian, ah, privately, for the young man to discreetly reveal the room number.
No one was inside, so Dorian was able to poke around at his leisure. What he found was very interesting.
The FBI. Well, well.
And judging from Mr. Mulder's books and barely-legible notes, it was the Nutcase Task Force.
His partner was evidently female, unless the FBI issued licenses to G's sort, and very dull. Her possessions included several dark suits, a couple of sets of workout clothes, some high-quality cosmetics, a laptop, a sheaf of casefiles, and the latest publications on law enforcement and medicine. In short, exactly what an FBI agent should be packing on an assignment. Appropriate almost to a fault. Just like Klaus, come to think of it. Either she believed she had to compensate a great deal for being female in this profession, or else she had something to hide.
Klaus and the FBI. This was a party Dorian had no intention of missing. But first, he was going to have to find out what all these intelligence types were up to.
Mulder and Scully reached the Luke Air Force Base at nine in the morning. Mulder had made the appointment with Colonel MacColl before he had flown out.
Paulson, Mulder had explained the previous night while Scully was trying to read the file, had served in the Air Force to get money for college, stationed in Arizona. During that time, he had been under the command of Captain MacColl, now a colonel. MacColl had officially reprimanded Paulson for minor infractions on several occasions. Mulder had done a little digging and discovered that MacColl had a record of being extremely hostile to UFO researchers.
"He had a couple of guys I know arrested for taking pictures near Area 51 four years ago," Mulder had informed her.
"Mulder, I grew up on military bases. Taking photographs without permission of restricted areas on military property is illegal. You know that. Of course MacColl had your friends arrested."
Mulder, naturally, had been disappointed at her sensible remarks, but had gone on to cite numerous articles that quoted MacColl's remarks about UFOs and Area 51. "Yeah, we've got ET in the vault next to the kamikaze dolphins!" he had shouted at some demonstrators with picket signs demanding that the government reveal its alien coverup. On another occasion, as he had some zealous UFO researchers firmly escorted out of his office, he had screamed after them, "Will you god-damned cretins get a god-damned life? We don't have any god-damned aliens here!"
"Sounds pretty suspicious, don't you think, Scully?"
"What sounds suspicious, Mulder?"
"An awfully heated denial, isn't it? Methinks he doth protest too much. Why else would he be so vehement?"
"Maybe because he's telling the truth? Because he's sick of having to deal with ludicrous allegations? Would you just consider that for one minute, Mulder?"
Mulder had started lecturing her about opening her mind. After listening to his oft-repeated exhortations for a few minutes, she had suggested tartly that he had a closed mind that could not accept that perhaps there weren't any aliens at Area 51, and he had gotten mad and kept quiet for most of the rest of that day.
But they still had their appointment with MacColl, and they arrived for it a few minutes early. They were shown into his office almost immediately by an African-American sergeant who remained by the door, stony-faced.
Colonel MacColl looked to be in his fifties, a tall, broad-shouldered man with bright red hair only slightly salted with grey. His expression was grim. When the agents entered, he was conferring with another officer; as they stepped inside, he quickly shoved a computer disk into his top drawer and banged it shut with what seemed unnecessary force, and adjusted the angle of his computer monitor a little to make sure they couldn't see it. His desk was piled with papers, and the phone was ringing.
"Sit down," he said gruffly, picking up the phone. "MacColl here," he said into it. He listened for a minute, rattled off a few orders impatiently, and hung up. Then he looked at his visitors. "What does the FBI want?"
"We're investigating Ted Paulson," Mulder spoke up. "Our data shows that he was under your command."
"That was years ago," MacColl stated. "What kind of trouble's he gotten into?"
"What makes you think he's in trouble?" Scully asked quickly.
"If he wasn't, why would you be asking about him? Besides, he was always getting into trouble. Stupid little things, mostly. Neurotic. Hardly Air Force material." The Colonel's voice was sharp with scorn. The other officer waited quietly.
"What kind of trouble?" Mulder prompted.
MacColl looked at one of the stacks of papers in front of him in a way that suggested that they were really much more important than pestering Fibbies, and answered with a show of great patience. "Minor insubordination. Drunkenness on duty. Habitual breaches of military etiquette. Uniform out of order. Trespassed on unauthorized areas on several occasions. Nickel-and-dime troublemaker."
"Unauthorized areas?" Mulder asked, instantly on Full Red Alert. "What was he doing?"
"Just walking in and wandering around, as I recall," MacColl said indifferently.
"What kind of unauthorized areas, sir?"
"Officers' clubs, high security areas, anyplace he wasn't supposed to be. Women's barracks, too - back then the rules governing fraternization were much stricter." From the Colonel's tone, he had approved of this.
"Why do you think he was trespassing on the high security areas, Colonel?" Mulder asked.
MacColl looked impatient. That is, more impatient than he had already looked. "Same reason kids sneak looks at their dads' copy of Playboy or try their moms' cigarettes. Because they're not supposed to. But by the time you're old enough to enlist, you really should have outgrown that kind of stupidity." He leaned back in his chair. "Now, are you going to tell me what Paulson's gotten into? Hasn't he grown up yet?"
Scully opened her mouth to reply, but Mulder cut in, "Last week, Paulson disappeared under strange circumstances for three days. When he returned, he informed authorities that he spent the time on board a UFO. He-"
Mulder got no further. MacColl shot to his feet, instantly livid. "Don't tell me that FBI agents have started believing this kind of crap!"
Scully drew a breath. "Sir, we are trying to determine-"
"Get out of here!" MacColl shouted. "And don't come back here with any more of this flying saucer bullshit! Unlike you damned Fibbies, I have actual important work to do, I don't have time to indulge anyone's god-damned fantasies about aliens! There is no such thing as aliens and I'm god-damned sick of listening to this crap! What's your name, anyway? I'm reporting you to your fucking Bureau - if they're actually employing morons who buy this crock no wonder the country's going to hell! We might as well have let the Soviets take over the planet if we were just going to-"
That was the last they heard as they were herded out the door by the sergeant, who then closed the door to the Colonel's office very firmly.
Scully sighed. "Nice going, Mulder."
"He's hiding something. I'm sure of it."
Scully closed her eyes. "He's not hiding anything. He just shared everything he knows about UFOs with us."
"Scully, excuse me, but you can be incredibly naïve."
"I need some coffee," she said wearily. Or a sane partner. Or a week at the beach.
"Mulder, I'm going to go talk to Dr. Katchinowski again. Now that she's been working with Paulson for a couple of days, she might have something more to tell us."
"I'll go with you."
"I don't think that's a good idea. You saw how shy she was. She might be more ready to open up to another woman, you know?"
He frowned. "If you really think so. I'm going to call the Major. I want to tell him more about what I know."
Sure, Mulder. As it stands, he might not yet be completely convinced that you're straightjacket material. But Scully just nodded agreement and got into the car.
Dana Scully, Stealth Lesbian, she thought wryly. She studied her partner’s face and saw no speculation about her there, only his usual absorption in his work and his wild theories.
At times she worried that working with a slightly deranged genius was going to ruin her career, but it had its points. One of those being that he was so intent on finding some shred of evidence for his theories that he remained oblivious to her personal life. Surely any other man would have wondered, or made a move on her by now. But he was more interested in aliens than in going bump in the night with her, and so her secret remained safe.
Secret. She had thought she was home free, once she’d finished her internship. Maybe it didn’t matter so much, these days, but she wasn’t about to take the chance. She’d thought she could open a practice and finally have a nice, discreet relationship, one that would last for years. Maybe a lifetime.
Then had come the amazing opportunity, never expected. The Federal Bureau of Investigation. What could be more distinguished? Would she ever have any other opportunity for accomplishment that equaled this?
Her personal life could wait. And if she wasn’t entirely satisfied living alone and devoting herself to her work, at least it offered her plenty of chances to travel, to meet women who lived in other states and couldn’t possibly expect a commitment from her.
Women like Hepzibah Katchinowski. Who, unless Scully was very much mistaken, wouldn’t mind meeting her outside of office hours.
The second time Dorian dialed Mulder’s room, he got an answer. Once he had Mulder on the phone, Dorian introduced himself, affecting one of his stuffier accents. Americans loved British accents. "I'm here doing research for my book, and one of the UFO chaps gave me your name, said you were the only one who could give me the real story," Dorian started – it never hurt to begin with a good dose of flattery – and plunged on with a lot of fake references until he was sure his quarry's head must be spinning.
A lot of nonsense and a couple of minutes later, he had secured an invitation to discuss occult rubbish. Mulder had agreed to meet Dorian before he knew what hit him. Within half an hour, he was sliding into a booth, one of those circular booths designed to accommodate large parties, in a loathesome coffeeshop. It was actually sort of fun to be in such a dive; it was like being in an old film noir about a private eye. Mulder helped the illusion along with his impeccable suit and serious expression. And Dorian was all ready to play the role of mysterious, alluring blond.
He had done what he could to pass himself off as a serious scholar. It wasn’t easy, as even in the drabbest suit he looked like a butterfly. Even if he did something to hide his hair, he was just too pretty. Still, he tied it back and wore a suit that even Klaus couldn’t have objected to, complete with a nice dull tie. And he listened to Mulder’s spiel about UFOs and government coverups with a serious, studious expression, without laughing even once.
“That’s all very interesting, Mr. Mulder,” he said when Mulder was finished, “but your explanation is a bit… mundane for my tastes.”
Never taking his eyes away from Mulder’s, Dorian launched into a theory a friend of his in London was wont to discourse on if not firmly discouraged. “My own contention is that some geographical areas are in some way conducive to paranormal events. If you chart sightings of UFOs, ghosts, yetis and lake monsters, you’ll find that they tend to happen in the same areas. Unless the plesiosaurs are in touch with the aliens, the most plausible explanation is that these are not distinct phenomena, but are connected to the place. How, I don’t know yet. I’ve been thinking it may have to do with irregularities in the earth’s electromagnetic field reacting with the electrical reactions in the human brain.”
Mulder pounced on this theory and started lecturing, almost to himself, about possible support for it taken from ancient legend and contemporary occult theory. And they let this sort run around loose over here, Dorian thought bemusedly.
After a few minutes he didn’t really listen to what Mulder was saying, only kept an unwavering gaze fixed on Mulder’s face. And, bit by imperceptible bit, moving closer to him in the confines of the booth.
“On the other hand,” Mulder said, changing course as he apparently realized that he was destroying his own theory, “this geographical idea of yours wouldn’t explain the photographs I have of unidentified spacecraft, among other things.”
Dorian let a moment pass before speaking, studying the other man with a gaze that was just barely this side of decent. In the pause, Mulder’s eyes suddenly widened, and he flushed very faintly. Dorian suppressed the urge to smile. Straight men were so cute when they realized that allure like Dorian’s transcended orientation.
“Surely most of those photos are secret military aircraft, Mr. Mulder,” Dorian countered, lowering his voice, allowing just a hint of sensuality to creep into it. Just a hint.
Mulder’s eyes flickered nervously up and down Dorian’s form, apprehension warring with curiosity. “You sound like my partner,” he said, a little dazed.
illustration by Lorraine
Just the opening he had been waiting for. “Your partner? That tall chap I saw you with, who had the long dark hair?” Dorian murmured, not breaking their gaze.
“Hm? Oh, no. My partner’s a woman, actually.” Mulder was so intent on his reaction to Dorian that it didn’t even occur to him to ask when he’d seen him with Klaus. Just as Dorian had planned.
“Really. I thought he didn’t look like an American.”
“He’s not,” Mulder answered absently. “He’s German.”
“He also didn’t really strike me as the sort to believe in aliens,” Dorian prompted gently, leaning just a hint closer.
Judging from the glazed look in Mulder’s eyes, Dorian wouldn’t have to be alone this night if he didn’t want to be. “Hard not to believe in them when they’re coming for you in the middle of the night.”
Dorian’s eyes widened in simple disbelief before he could control himself. “You’re joking!” he blurted.
Which entirely broke the spell he’d been weaving for the last hour. Oh, well. At least now he wouldn’t have to shake off an unwanted conquest.
“I’m not joking. He’s here to talk to UFO experts about his abduction experiences.”
“You don’t think he’s having you on?”
“No. I’ve encountered my share of people claiming to have seen and experienced things they didn’t, but he has all the earmarks of the genuine article. Including the secrecy; fakers always want to tell everyone all about their experiences, but the ones who really have them are usually very secretive. He didn’t even admit to me that he was an abductee until I figured it out.”
No longer bothering to flirt, Dorian looked at the tabletop, lost in thought. “I see,” he said at last.
“So, Mr. Red, have you studied ley lines to see if they fit into your theory?”
“What? Oh, yes, of course.” Dorian looked at his watch. “I must dash, but let’s discuss this more later, shall we? I have your number.”
With that, Dorian beat a hasty retreat. Once alone, Dorian laughed aloud. Klaus, abducted by aliens? What alien would dare?
He had to get to the bottom of what Klaus was doing here.
Hepzibah had decided to be a psychiatrist when she was sixteen. That was when her mother had to be institutionalized, the effects of nearly two decades of abuse of prescription drugs having at last taken such a heavy toll that she could no longer function even in the minimal way she had all along. Throughout Hepzibah’s childhood, her mother had managed, in between the binges on various medications, to impersonate a functioning adult enough that no one cared to take action. Hepzibah’s father and teachers managed to overlook her bruises, her nightmares, and her habit of flinching when people touched her. Her life had been utter chaos until her mother was unable to maintain the façade at all and had to be, as her aunts tactfully said, “put away”. And watching the sobbing, shaking woman huddling in the corner of the institutional cot, a woman who bore little resemblance to the tyrant of her childhood, Hepzibah had tried, very hard, to forgive.
And she thought she had made progress, until her second year of college, when she had abruptly and for no apparent reason descended into black depression, relieved only by occasional anxiety attacks. The university doctors offered her antidepressants, but the memory of her mother’s uncontrolled behavior had given Hepzibah an aversion to medications of any kind; she even abstained from aspirin despite her frequent headaches.
But her state of mind had become steadily worse, until she was on the verge of giving in, because it seemed that her choice was between mind-altering drugs and a lifetime of being unable to so much as do her own grocery shopping.
That was when the miracle had happened. Her lifelong habit of compulsive reading meant that at just that time, a book about meditation had fallen into her hands. After using its techniques to soothe her panic attacks, she had become intrigued. Exploration of self-hypnosis, yoga, and carefully chosen herbal remedies had followed. Her interest as much as the techniques themselves had pulled her out of the depression, and the focus of her career was set. She was on a crusade against the hazardous medications and the archaic, barbaric techniques – electro-shock therapy, for God’s sake! – that had destroyed her mother by inches over the course of Hepzibah’s life.
She had grand visions of reforming mental health institutions all over the world, though as of yet she hadn’t even convinced her own immediate colleagues. She reminded herself of Dorothea Dix and Florence Nightingale and persevered. In the meantime, in her private practice she had solved the problems of literally hundreds of people by giving them the techniques they needed to control their own state of mind.
As for her own… she was still working on it.
"Under hypnosis," Hepzibah explained, leaning forward in her seat, "the human brain makes alpha waves. That's the same kind of waves the brain makes for any kind of creative activity, whether it's dreaming, fantasizing, or composing a symphony."
They were sitting on the sofa in Hepzibah's spartanly neat apartment, with a few relevant books open on the coffee table and a couple of cups of herbal tea slowly turning lukewarm.
Hepzibah's head was still spinning. When Agent Scully had called her, she had made it clear enough that this was a professional call. But discussion of what might lead to the alien delusion had blossomed into a far-reaching conversation about psychiatry in general, and the FBI agent showed every indication of being fascinated by Hepzibah's unorthodox approach. The discussion had begun at Hepzibah's office at the Institute, but they had become so absorbed that it had become necessary to repair to Hepzibah's home for access to her library, which filled every wall in her apartment to bursting.
Hepzibah was not given to optimism, but having a glamourous redhead hanging onto one's every word was apt to addle the judgment. And at this moment, Hepzibah was quite content to let it get addled.
"So memories recovered under hypnosis aren't reliable."
Hepzibah managed not to snort. "I should say not. People under hypnosis go where they want to go. They want to remember aliens, they remember aliens. They want to quit smoking, they quit smoking. That is all there is to it. And there is no solid evidence that there even is such a thing as repressed memories, anyway. I have seen too many lives destroyed by false memory syndrome to put much stock in it."
"But you favor the use of hypnosis?"
"It is a tool. Like any tool, it can be misused." Hepzibah remembered her tea, took a small sip, and set it down, her whole body tense with the joy of her favorite subject. "It's better than dangerous mood-altering drugs."
"So, the people who have recovered memories of being abducted by aliens under hypnosis? They wanted to remember this?"
"Or their therapists wanted them to. There are therapists who specialize in alien abductions, and their clients know this going in. They know what they're there for. It's a good racket, fueling the fantasies of disturbed people."
"Must be," Scully agreed. "But I got the impression Paulson was a little more than a neurotic who needed something interesting to whine about. He seems pretty serious about the aliens."
Hepzibah frowned, forgetting the other woman for a moment as she considered. "There is something more there. I'm consulting two neurologists tomorrow to see if they can shed any light on it." She gave Scully an inquiring look. “But… your partner believes in all this? They tolerate that at the FBI?”
“My partner’s theories may be a little… out there,” Scully replied firmly, “but he is a great agent.”
“I’m sure he is,” Hepzibah agreed hastily.
Scully smiled, studying her. Then changed posture and tone abruptly, dropping the professional crispness in a breath. "So, doctor, what do you do for fun around here? Mulder is harassing some poor German, and I need a native guide. Know anyone qualified?"
Hepzibah stared at the other woman, frozen in place. She had been firmly squashing hope ever since Scully had called her, and now it was crystal clear that there had been no need to do so.
Don't blow this one, Hepzibah, she told herself, but all she could seem to manage was a fair imitation of a deer caught in headlights.
Scully's smile widened. Aww, isn't she cute, she was visibly thinking. Hepzibah felt hot, despite her rigorously air-conditioned apartment. Maybe she should undo her top button.
"Um," she said, remembering that the other woman had asked her a question. "Not really. I have no social life."
Scully gave her a challenging chin down, 'Oh, yeah?' look up thorough her eyelashes that made Hepzibah's pulse race. "Really? A woman of your talents?"
"Well. Um." Hepzibah's vocal cords felt paralyzed. All of her finely honed relaxation techniques had temporarily vacated her mind.
"I can hardly believe it," Scully went on, clearly enjoying Hepzibah's flustered expression. "Mulder could be right. There may be something in the water in this town that makes people around here blind or crazy."
"Well, I spend most of my evenings at school – I tried acupuncture a couple of years ago and was intrigued at how effective it was, so I'm working towards certification as a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, and...." Hepzibah realized she was babbling and shut up.
"You're so health conscious. Do you ever have a drink?" Scully asked.
"A moderate amount of wine is very beneficial," Hepzibah retorted. When Scully didn't answer, just kept smiling, Hepzibah belatedly noticed the opening and started stammering. "I have a couple of bottles. I don't know anything about wine, I let the store guy pick them for me, but if you like...."
"Would you like me to open one for you?"
"Please do, Agent Scully," Hepzibah managed, relieved. She wasn't good at opening wine bottles at the best of times, corks having a lifelong grudge against her.
"Why don't you call me Dana," the other woman said breezily, rising. They both went into the kitchen. Hepzibah opened a cabinet and held up two bottles. Scully glanced at them and selected one. "And you... do you have a nickname?"
Hepzibah opened a drawer and proffered a corkscrew, then took two goblets from another cabinet. "People who want to annoy me call me 'Hep Cat'."
Scully took the bottle, briskly grasped it between her thighs, had the cork out in about half a second, and grasped both goblets in one hand and filled them with a smooth efficiency that had Hepzibah gaping.
"And people who don't want to annoy you? What do they call you?"
The other woman met Scully's challenging blue eyes and regained a measure of composure. "Hepzibah."
"Hepzibah," Scully repeated, offering one of the goblets. "Quite a mouthful."
"It's from the Old Testament," Hepzibah stammered. Unable to endure the silence, she went on to fill it. "It means 'She is my delight'."
Scully just looked at her for a long minute. "I like it," she said at last, setting down her goblet and the bottle. Then she stepped closer and cupped Hepzibah's face in her hands, making the brunette's knees buckle. "Hepzibah," Scully said softly, right before kissing her.
Hepzibah let herself melt against the other woman. Now, if only she didn't faint before they made it out of the kitchen, everything would be fine.
As it turned out, undoing her top button did help, after all.
illustration by Lorraine
Returning from the hotel's gym, Klaus opened the door to his room and stopped halfway through it. "God damn it," he said.
"Lovely to see you too, darling."
With resignation, Klaus stepped the rest of the way inside. "I don't suppose you'd get out of this country if I asked you nicely."
"If you asked me nicely, Major, I'd have to summon gentlemen with straitjackets. But then, that might be in order anyway.” Dorian was seated comfortably in the only real chair in the room, wearing an unusually tame suit that only made his tumbling curls and pretty face the more striking.
With a couple of choice German curses, Klaus closed the door behind him and took a few wary steps into the room. “How did you find out I was here?” he demanded, stern.
“I can’t divulge my sources.”
“I’ll send all twenty-six sources to Alaska,” he growled.
“Oh, don’t blame your poor alphabets. They’re more discreet than your new friends at the FBI. Though I’m dying to hear what business you have with the Americans.”
“There are things I am not at liberty to disclose.”
“Of course. So, Major, how can I help you? What are you trying to get out of that screwball Fibbie?"
It was Klaus's habit on any mission to prepare several lies for various contingencies. Now he told one of them. "We believe the Americans borrowed some of Germany's top-secret technology for their experimental fighter jets. My mission is to find out if this is true."
"Spying on our own allies?"
"Don't pretend to be naïve," Klaus snapped. "Don't you have secrets from your friends?"
"Like that aliens have been kidnapping me?"
Klaus was not quick enough to conceal the flash of stricken panic in his eyes. The lack of sleep and the pressure really were getting to him.
Dorian now looked very serious. Klaus could detect no mockery or playfulness in the Englishman's sculpted face. "Then it's true? You really believe that…."
Defeated, Klaus sank down on the sofa and put his head in his hands. "It's hard not to believe when it's happening."
After watching him for a moment, Dorian went to the minibar and poured a couple of drinks. He came to sit next to Klaus, keeping a reassuring distance between them, and handed him one. Klaus took it and stared at it, but did not drink.
"Major, talk to me," Eroica said. "Who else can you trust with this? You haven't told NATO, have you?"
"Just a couple of Yanks who are nutty even by colonial standards. Talk to me. Tell me what's going on."
Klaus did. His reputation was already as good as ruined, and he trusted Eroica more than a couple of Americans he barely knew anyway. He had rarely indulged that trust, and certainly had tried not to let the thief know it existed, but perhaps now was the proper time. When he was finished, he saw that Dorian was watching him nervously. "You think I'm crazy."
"I always have," Dorian said, with a little of his usual flippancy.
"Do you believe me?" Klaus found himself asking quietly.
Dorian studied him before speaking carefully. “Major, if anyone else in the world had said this to me, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. Since it’s you… and you obviously believe that what you’re saying is true….” He hesitated. “I don’t know what to think,” he said at last. “Have… have you seen a doctor?”
“Of course. No nice tidy solutions there. Believe me, if I could believe there was something physically wrong with me, causing me to hallucinate, I would be happy to accept such a solution. Almost anything would be better than believing that what is happening to me, is happening.”
Dorian looked at him steadily for a minute. "I don't think that you're lying," he said at last. "Will that do?"
"You do think I'm crazy."
"What do you care what I think about you?" Dorian said absently, then became lost in thought. He seemed to mull something over before looking back to the Major. There was sincere concern in his eyes, and Klaus did not know whether to be chagrined or gratified. "Major. What can I do?"
Klaus sighed. "I have no idea. That's why I'm here – I hoped that one of these people could give me some clue…."
"You're not used to not knowing what to do," Dorian said gently.
Klaus should have been angry. He wasn't. He was grasping at straws by now. Dorian was a straw.
"When did this start?"
"About two months ago."
"And when was the last time… this happened?"
"Last night. Going to another continent didn't help me at all."
Dorian thought about that for a few minutes. "Did those Fibbies tell you about Colonel MacColl?"
"I've never heard of him."
Dorian tsk'ed. "They've been holding out on you. And you an officer of an allied nation. Mulder thinks this MacColl bloke is part of the UFO coverup conspiracy."
"How do you know?"
"Before I met him, I broke into his hotel room and poked through his things," Dorian answered casually. Klaus looked sour, but did not bother to complain. "Why don't you call your trusty alphabets and get them to dig up whatever NATO has on Colonel MacColl?"
Klaus frowned and lit a cigarette. "I didn’t want them to know where I am."
"There’s one who won't tattle on you."
The Major snorted. "How can you be so sure?"
"Promise not to send him to Alaska?" At Klaus's glare, Dorian insisted, "It'll be very useful for you, cross my heart."
"I promise," Klaus agreed, resigned. He could always do something else to whichever of his subordinates it was.
"G accidentally let me know something was up with you. It wasn't his fault, truly; it was entirely due to my sex appeal. And now he's petrified of what you're going to do to him. He'll do anything you ask, trust me. He wouldn't dare tell anyone where you were."
"Verdammt. Very well. I'll call him from a pay phone; no need to let him know where I'm staying."
"Major. You need some recreation. Why don't you go hiking with me? There's mountain trails only an hour outside the city, and everywhere looks like a postcard. I'll be a perfect gentleman, you needn't worry on that score."
"Idiot," Klaus said automatically. "Tell me where you're staying. I'll contact you if you can be of use."
Scully and Mulder were both asleep when the phone woke them at 11:21 that night. Mulder answered the phone first. What he heard instantly galvanized him into full wakefulness.
He put the phone down and charged into the sitting room. “Scully! Get dressed!”
"UFO sighting?" Scully asked bleakly, sticking her head out the door.
"Nope. Two aliens have been shot," he retorted, a little smugness sneaking into his excitement.
"Paulson. He called the police and told them he's shot two aliens! Get dressed!"
In less than half an hour they were dressed and parking in front of Paulson's house. Hepzibah Katchinowski, bandbox-neat as ever in a grey suit, arrived on the scene only a minute after Scully and Mulder did. She gave them a wary look but did not greet them as they all made their way over to the officer in charge.
"Special Agent Mulder, FBI," Mulder said, flashing his credentials. Scully held up hers as her partner went on, "And this is my partner, Special Agent–"
"I'm Dr. Katchinowski. I'm Mr. Paulson's psychiatrist," Hepzibah cut in. Her voice was high, even a little shrill, and her entire body was tense, as if she expected to be attacked for interrupting. But out of her scowl, her eyes were anguished. "What's happened?"
"His psychiatrist, huh?" The policeman seemed distinctly unimpressed. Hepzibah, on the other hand, planted her feet on the spot as if she had more right to be there than anyone else. He took her name and number in a contemptuously leisurely fashion before explaining.
"911 got a call from your patient about an hour ago. He says that he's shot and killed two space aliens who came here to kidnap him. He's still in bed, he's too scared to move from the spot, and he's still got his gun, so the officers can't get in there. Think you can talk him out of there, doctor?" The cop's tone was skeptical.
"Just give me some time," she ordered, as if she had the authority to do so. "If I'm calming him down and winning his trust and then a bunch of cops come in waving guns at a crucial moment, we could lose all the ground I've won with him."
She started for the house, but the cop put a hand on her arm. "Now, just a minute, doctor. We're going to do what we find necessary to resolve this situation safely. If that means going in there 'waving guns', we're going to go in there waving guns. And we can't just let you walk in there. The man is armed."
Mulder saw the opening and took it. Stepping closer to the policeman, he spoke in a confidential tone. "Agent Scully and I will accompany the doctor and protect her from harm." He gave the policeman a man-to-man look that assured him that he would keep the lady doctor out of trouble.
"You carrying?" the officer asked.
"Yes, sir." Before more arguments could be raised, Mulder strode past him toward the house, drawing his gun. Hepzibah followed irritably, hurrying to keep up with his long legs. Scully, more practiced at taking long strides to compensate for her stature, brought up the rear. One thing she had to admit, her crazy partner could be pretty clever at handling difficult locals. Of course, this time they had ended up babysitting a fruit-loop shrink, but at least they were getting inside.
"If there are dead aliens inside, shouldn't we wait for the Men In Black to come and collect them and frighten us all into silence?" Hepzibah asked sarcastically as they reached the front door.
"She has a point, Mulder," Scully said. "Shouldn't operatives of that shadow government of yours be here sealing off the area and stealing the evidence?"
"That's exactly why we have to hurry," he said. Hepzibah made a little dash and managed to reach the stairs before the others did. She planted herself on them and blocked the way, folding her arms.
"Let me handle this," she ordered. "I am his psychiatrist, and I know what motivates him and what he needs."
"We have no desire to shoot your patient, Dr. Katchinowski," Scully assured her firmly. "I'm a doctor as well, you know. And Agent Mulder considers Paulson a valuable witness."
Hepzibah gave Mulder a withering look before turning to progress up the stairs.
Two uniformed policemen were standing outside Paulson's bedroom door. After looking at the FBI badges, they surrendered their place to the three newcomers. Hepzibah claimed a spot right in front of the open bedroom door. There was a very short hallway from the door into the room proper, preventing them from seeing Paulson or the expected aliens.
Hepzibah closed her eyes, took three slow, deliberate breaths, and visibly willed her muscles to relax. The annoyance and worry cleared from her face almost completely, leaving only concentration on the moment at hand. When she spoke, her voice was far lower and more pleasantly pitched.
"Ted?" Hepzibah began calmly. "It's Dr. Katchinowski. Are you all right?"
"I got them!" Paulson's voice was shaky. He was clearly even more agitated than he had been in the institution.
"Have you been hurt, Ted?" Hepzibah asked again, still speaking calmly.
"No. Not this time. I got them before they got me."
Hepzibah's words were evenly paced, slow, tranquil. "Are they still in there?"
"Yes. But I don't know when more of them might come for the bodies."
Hepzibah closed her eyes and drew another long breath. "Do you remember the FBI agents, Ted? Agents Scully and Mulder?"
The panic in Paulson's voice increased. "Are they here to get me?"
"We're here to protect you, Mr. Paulson," Scully said quickly. Somehow she didn't think right now would be the best time for Mulder to explain to Paulson that he believed him. "May we come in?"
Silence answered. After several moments, Hepzibah spoke again. "Ted? I'm going to come in there and talk to you. Is that all right?"
"You can't do that!" Mulder whispered. "He's got a gun!"
Hepzibah shrugged. "He's my patient."
"Dr. Katchinowski," Scully protested in a low voice, "Paulson is highly unstable and could unexpectedly–"
"Agent Scully," Hepzibah said with unexpected authority in her voice, "you may be a doctor, but I am the psychiatrist here. I know what I'm doing."
Scully lifted an eyebrow. Before any of them could speak again, Paulson's voice was lifted again. "All right, Dr. Katchinowski. You can come in. Only you. No one else, do you understand me?"
"I'll get him to let you two in after a minute," Hepzibah assured them in a low voice. Mulder tried to detain her with a hand on her arm, but she neatly evaded his grasp and walked in. They heard her soft footfalls stop for a moment, then proceed. Then a soft creak; apparently she was sitting on the edge of Paulson's mattress.
"Why didn't you help me stop her?" Mulder demanded of Scully, still keeping his voice low.
"Like she said. She's the psychiatrist," Scully replied. But the truth was, she had been impressed by Hepzibah's nerve. And any port in a storm….
Hepzibah was speaking quietly to Paulson, asking if he was all right, instructing him to take slow, deep breaths. Scully realized that Hepzibah's slow, rhythmic speech was calculated to lull her patient into a light hypnotic trance. Hepzibah was right; she did know what she was doing. Her patience seemed endless.
When Paulson's voice sounded calmer – actually a lot calmer, much calmer than someone who had just shot two extraterrestrials could be expected to sound – Hepzibah asked him what had happened. Scully and Mulder strained their ears to hear the account: this time, when the beings came for him, he hadn't been paralyzed, he had been able to reach for his gun. He had shot them and then called the police, but now he was afraid that other aliens would come to avenge their fallen comrades.
When his account was finished, Hepzibah asked if the FBI agents could come in. It took her a few minutes, but she got him to agree to put his gun on the bedside table. "We need to recruit her," Mulder muttered.
"Wonder how she'd do with a gunman who didn't already know her," Scully murmured back. Still, she was pleasantly surprised. The fruit-loop shrink had done it. Perhaps Hep Cat had more hidden depths than she’d thought.
"Agent Scully? Agent Mulder?" Hepzibah's voice came from the bedroom. "You can come in now."
Scully entered first, on the theory that a short, attractive woman would be less alarming to Paulson than a tall man. The only light was from the small lamp on the bedside table. A swift glance around verified that Paulson's gun was on the table, but it was still within his easy reach. They would do something about that promptly. Paulson was huddled in bed, still under the covers, sitting with his back against the headboard, clutching the sheets around himself. He had the fatigued look of someone coming down from extreme excitement. Hepzibah was sitting beside him, not close enough to touch, but with her gaze trained on him attentively. Like a good shrink, she was giving him her undivided attention.
Which had to be difficult, given that there were indeed two dead aliens lying on the floor in pools of bright red blood.
Behind her, Mulder gasped. "Get his gun," Scully muttered. Her partner obeyed woodenly. Once he had it, she stooped between the aliens.
Now that she was this close, even in the dim light she could see what had happened. She sighed and felt each chest for a pulse. As she had expected, there was none.
Reluctantly, she reached for the first alien's head and pulled his rubber mask off.
Mulder cursed softly in disappointment. Hepzibah glanced away from Paulson just long enough to nod grimly.
Paulson's eyes widened. Scully pulled the second "alien's" mask off, hoping that she hadn't undone all Hepzibah's good work.
"I know them!" Paulson gasped, his voice strangled. "That's Mike and Vinnie, from work!"
Hepzibah looked pained. "Yes. Listen to me. It will be all right. Continue to breathe slowly, into your abdomen…."
Paulson was staring at his dead coworkers, horrified. "I didn't mean to – I never would have – oh, my God–"
Hepzibah continued her soothing speech. Paulson visibly wavered between continuing to panic and falling back under her calming influence.
"What can we do, Dr. Katchinowski?" Scully asked quietly.
Hepzibah gave her an approving look, and in the same lulling cadences, she said, "Help me take Ted to the psychiatric hospital. They have facilities for, er, custody. The police would want to arrest him, but he doesn't belong there, Ted isn't a criminal. He needs a safe environment for the night where I can look after him."
"We'll take care of it," Scully said.
It wasn't too difficult for them to claim the right to take Paulson into FBI custody. Scully suspected that if the policeman had known they were taking him to a hospital instead of a federal prison, things would have been different. As it was, Hepzibah was able to coax Paulson to come with them quietly. The reality of what he had done was sinking in and he was showing signs of depression now, slumping his shoulders and weeping quietly. Hepzibah looked gloomily determined, and never stopped talking quietly to her patient.
Their combined credentials got Paulson into a private room in the criminal wing of the institution with a minimum of interference. Scully and Mulder left Hepzibah there with him; she stated that she intended to stay with him until he was ready to go to sleep.
"She's dedicated," Scully remarked as they got into the car.
"How early do you think you can get up?" Mulder asked.
Scully looked at the glowing numbers of the car's clock. It was nearly four in the morning.
"Eleven," she groaned. The adrenalin and caffeine were wearing off, and she could feel it.
"I'll knock on your door at 11:30 for our lunch date, then."
"Don't you think Iron Klaus will be interested to hear about this?"
Iron Klaus was. When he had heard the entire story, they sat without speaking at the coffeeshop booth for a few minutes.
"That was a vicious prank," Klaus said at last. "Those bastards got what they deserved."
"I'm going to question General MacColl again this afternoon," Mulder announced. "The truth is out there."
"I have to wonder if investigating Paulson will lead you to it after what's happened," Klaus said, thoughtful. “Tell me. Do you think this Paulson man genuinely believes that he is being abducted by aliens?”
“Absolutely,” Mulder said at once.
Scully considered before saying, “His behavior last night clearly demonstrated that he does believe in it, yes.”
Klaus stubbed out his cigarette and lit a new one, his motions unhurried and deliberate. A plan was at last beginning to fall into place for him. “We need a new approach. We need to find out what is happening, once and for all.”
“And we will do this how?” Scully lifted an eyebrow.
“By lying in wait for them. Watching to see exactly what they are. Possibly apprehending them, if we can.”
“I’ve been trying to do just that for years,” Mulder protested. “What do we
have that will enable us to succeed where so many others have failed?”
Comprehension began to dawn on the others’ faces. Mulder's eyes widened. "You mean…."
"They've come for me several times in the last two months. I have no reason to think that they intend to stop anytime soon. They will come for me again. They have abducted me once since I came to America already. So, if we were to lay an ambush – if someone could keep watch as I slept, stand guard until they came for me–"
“Then we can catch the aliens in the act!” Mulder finished, his eyes ablaze with enthusiasm. Noticing his partner’s wry glance, he urged, “Aren’t you with us, Scully? This is the opportunity of a lifetime! Think what proving that aliens exist would do for your career!”
“I’d rather not,” she said, wincing.
“Are you going to stand watch with me, though? It would be better—“
She looked harassed. "Of course I'll participate, if only to disprove the alien theory. Let me suggest that you and I sleep in the daytime so that we can keep watch over the Major at night. Perhaps if we use our suite, sit in the outer room with the bedroom door open so that we can hear if anything goes on–"
"Agent Scully," Klaus cut in, "I know you don't believe us, but I have to warn you just the same. I don't know what you two will be able to do against these beings armed only with a couple of pistols. I could be placing you both in grave danger."
"We're federal agents," she said crisply. "We accept the risks."
"I'd feel better if we could get more people," Klaus frowned, "but there's scant chance of that."
"Careful," Scully warned. "I've learned that if I make remarks like that, my partner makes a phone call and next thing I know, half the peanut brittle in town has put itself in sacks and shown up."
"Scully, just because my associates' theories fall outside your narrow preconceived–"
"I have another idea," she cut in smoothly, ignoring her partner. "Let's set up a video camera so that if anything happens, or doesn't happen, we'll have evidence."
"Good idea," Klaus agreed. They spent a few more minutes discussing the logistics before leaving the diner. Klaus drove back to his hotel feeling calmer. He had a plan now. It was something. Now, if he could only keep Eroica out of his hair….
He snorted as he parked his rented Benz. Fat chance of that.
He pondered that thought as he rode the elevator up to his room. Despite years of concerted effort, he never had managed to find any way of getting rid of Eroica when Eroica didn’t feel like being gotten rid of.
Like now, for instance, the Major thought as he unlocked his door to discover the thief lounging on the sofa again.
“I don’t feel like hitting you just now,” he announced wearily as he entered the room, “but break into my room again and I will. There's something called knocking. Try it."
“Since you ask so nicely,” Dorian said with a pout. “I’d expect a spy to be more appreciative of proactive gathering of information. Don’t you think it would give you an edge to learn what Spooky Mulder and his little redhead have tucked under their pajamas?”
“In the case of Mulder, I’m sure it’s a collection of books about ghosts and Bigfoot, and a videotape with a title like ‘Red Hot Cheerleaders’.”
Dorian blinked. “Actually, the title was ‘Sorority Sluts’. How did you….”
“It’s my job. I can tell you the color of Mischa’s wife’s underwear or whether Agent Scully is a natural redhead.”
“Yes. And she’s not ‘his’ redhead, by the way. People always insist on gossiping when a man and a woman work together, but I don’t think there’s anything like that between them.” He helped himself to a gin, then poured one for Dorian as an afterthought. “She deserves better than Spooky Mulder, anyway.”
Dorian’s brows lifted as he took the glass. “Is that so? What did she do to earn such respect from a misogynist like you?”
“I am not—“
“The only women you don’t hate on sight are nuns.”
“That is not true. I just don’t….”
Klaus glared, then turned his attention to his drink. There was nothing he could say now that Dorian wouldn’t twist to his own purposes.
“I would have expected her to think you were barking mad, being abducted by aliens and all.”
“She does. That’s why I think highly of her,” Klaus snapped.
“And I suppose that’s why you checked out the talk about her and her partner.” Dorian gave him a resentful look. “I had no idea you liked redheads, Major. What if I tint my hair? Would you prefer a bright copper or a dark auburn?”
“Idiot. Why the fuck are you here, anyway?”
“Oh, right. To give you these.” Dorian held up a few computer disks. “You can buy a laptop or something to look these over, can’t you?”
“What are they?”
“Everything from Colonel MacColl’s hard drive.”
Klaus stared at him. "What?" He was too flummoxed to mind that he sounded like an idiot.
"I've never broken into an American air base before," Dorian confided. "It was an exciting challenge. But I got into his office and copied all the–"
Klaus seized the diskettes and then froze, holding them carefully, looking at them. "Will they know someone broke in?" he asked.
"I seriously doubt it. I didn't leave any signs of my own presence, and Beck assures me that the copying gizmo he gave me is top-notch. I wouldn’t worry. Oh, I did take a quick peek through the Colonel’s drawers – mind out of the gutter, Major, I meant the drawers in his desk – but I didn’t see anything interesting. Of course, a lot of it was Greek to me, lots of boring documents about weapons I’ve never heard of. Nothing about aliens, though."
Without consciously deciding to do it, Klaus found that he had seized the thief's arm just above his elbow. He didn't jerk him anywhere or shake him, though, just held onto his arm. And looked at him for a minute. Eroica looked back at him, a little sadly.
"Do you realize what would have happened to you if they'd caught you?" Klaus asked quietly.
Eroica tossed his hair again. "I never get caught," he said pertly. "I've only ever been caught once, darling, and I was working for you at the time." When Klaus only continued to look at him, Dorian dropped the teasing tone and said more seriously, "Major… if that man knows anything about – about what's happening to you…."
My God, Klaus thought. The idiot really does love me.
“Spying is not your job,” Klaus informed him. “Don’t do this again. You don’t have any other copies, do you?”
“No, Major.” As Klaus turned, Dorian raised his eyebrows. “Where are you going?”
“To buy a computer.” Klaus tucked the disks into his jacket pocket. No way he was going to let them out of his sight for a minute. Except… “Verdammt. I don’t think I’ll be able to go through all of them this afternoon. May I leave them with you during the night?”
“Of course, Major. But why don’t you want to keep them yourself?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. I’m spending the night with Agent Scully,” he said, and strode out the door. He grinned a little at Dorian’s outraged gasp behind him.
“You’re – wait a minute! Major!”
He would let Eroica stew a little before explaining the night’s plans to him, Klaus decided.
Hepzibah leaned forward as she spoke, her neatly manicured hands making descriptive arcs in the air. “You see, in electroacupuncture, the use of an electrical current attached between two or more needles produces a flow of electrons. The flow of negative charges travels to other cells where there may be a paucity of electrons. It may travel up or down the electrical potential gradient.”
Scully frowned thoughtfully. “But the flow of electrons would produce a magnetic field. The result would be an even more complex electromagnetic field interacting with a biological system.”
“Precisely!” Hepzibah replied. “It has in fact been demonstrated that electroacupuncture causes significant physiological and psychological changes. It may be that this flow of electrons, oscillating at various frequencies, influences an interaction of complex neurotransmitters to react in a beneficial and complex manner.”
“You may have a point,” Scully conceded. “Virtually all neurodegenerative disorders involve abnormal processing of neuronal proteins.”
“Yes! And recently, indications were found that the discovery of prions may be related to the etiological nature of neurodegenerative illnesses.”
“But the use of electroacupuncture and its role with prions remains unknown,” Scully protested. “Though it would be very interesting to determine whether prions are frequency-sensitive to the use of electroacupuncture at various frequencies.”
”It’s being researched right now at the U. S. Naval Medical Center in San Diego,” Hepzibah informed her, nuzzling the base of Scully’s throat. “I’ll show you the studies when we get dressed.”
As agreed, Klaus arrived at the Fibbie's corporate suite shortly after eleven. From the main room of the suite, Klaus saw two doors and surmised that there were two bedrooms. Which meant that either the rumors about these two were unfounded, or else that they were being discreet. Klaus suspected the former; Scully seemed to alternate between respect for her partner's professional abilities and strained patience with his abstruse theories. There was a certain indefinable coldness about her that made the thought of any entanglement between her and her peculiar partner seem unlikely. Indeed, the utter lack of flirtation in her manner to Klaus set him at ease unusual for him with women.
The Fibbies had already set a video camera up in what appeared to be Mulder's room. It was trained on the bed. The Fibbies settled down in the outer room with coffee and reading material. Klaus went to bed, leaving the door open, and managed, after lying awake for a long time, to go to sleep.
Klaus found that once he managed to drop off, he slept somewhat better, knowing he was guarded by two people he trusted… as much as he trusted anyone. Their reliability was demonstrated that first night; dreaming of bawling out his alphabets, Klaus began to mutter in his sleep, and the Fibbies rushed in, guns drawn, and switched on the lights, waking him. Reassured by this vigilance, he laid down once more, flat on his back with his arms over the sheets as the nuns had taught him in school, and fell back asleep after only a few more minutes.
Klaus was back in his own hotel room by 8 a.m. Shortly afterward, there was a knock. Klaus opened the door to Eroica, who was wearing one of those disgraceful sleeveless red shirts, indecently tight pants, and an expression of mock astonishment.
"You were right," he exclaimed, "this knocking thing does work!"
Dorian had brought not only the disks, but also a hefty hot breakfast. Klaus quickly consumed the bacon and eggs before pouncing on the computer. He was too intent to remember to tell Dorian to leave, so Dorian stayed quietly curled in a corner of the sofa, reading some idiotic book about art.
“Order some lunch,” Klaus ordered absently precisely half an hour before noon. Dorian smiled, but complied without comment. Klaus did not look up from the screen as he consumed the hamburger and fries Dorian set beside him.
An hour later, Klaus at last pushed his chair back with a sigh. The data on the disks was the real thing, no doubt of that; it was exactly what he would have expected to find on a Colonel's computer. Including quite a few things a foreigner, even one from a friendly nation, really shouldn't have been seeing.
But not what he had hoped to find. Not even any anomaly that he could hope would lead him to the answers he needed.
Dorian looked up from his book. “What did you find?”
Klaus rubbed his neck. “Records of standard supplies. Routine military exercises. Blueprints for some planes I would really like to fly.”
“Nothing about UFOs?”
“Not a thing. Nothing that sounds like it could even be a cover for UFOs.”
Dorian looked crestfallen. “Mulder was so sure MacColl knew something!”
“Mulder is sure that there are people who turn into wolves at the full moon.” He studied the disks regretfully. After some of the things he had done in the line of duty, "borrowing" military technology from a friendly nation was hardly anything to make him lose sleep, and it was a common enough practice – at least two of the designs he had seen, he knew had borrowed heavily from British designs which neither America nor Germany officially knew about. (He had seen no leaps in technology which would have justified theories of extra-terrestrial origins.) But the material was too sensitive. He could hardly risk being caught spying on a friendly nation when it wasn’t even his mission. With resignation, Klaus wiped the disks clean.
Dorian shook his head slowly. "I don't think I'd ever be able to bring myself to do that."
"That's why I'm the NATO operative and you're the thief," Klaus retorted.
Dorian regarded him thoughtfully. "You're proud of that, aren't you? Being able to deny yourself?"
"'S a matter of discipline," Klaus replied curtly, rising.
"Must be that Catholic upbringing. Growing up with all those stories of martyrs and saints. You wear a double cross and save everyone and never take a thing for yourself."
"Not something I'd expect you to understand," he snapped, tossing the newly blank disks into a drawer and banging it shut.
A flicker of weariness showed in Dorian's eyes. "I understand better than you think," he said. "But really, you deserve to get some pleasure out of life."
With that, he rose and walked towards Klaus, unhurried, but with unmistakable intent.
Alarmed, Klaus backed away. "Stay away from me, you goddamn pervert!" he snarled.
Ignoring him, Dorian kept on advancing.
Klaus punched him.
illustration by Nina
Dorian fell to the floor, knocking over a chair. He crouched there for a moment, his hand to his jaw and his hair veiling his face.
Then he looked up, shaking his disheveled locks back enough so that his pretty face was visible behind a few stray curls, fixing a smoky gaze on Klaus. He looked like he'd just…. Klaus's breath caught in his chest.
Before Klaus could recover, Dorian rose in a fluid motion and moved straight toward Klaus again. Klaus retreated another step and his back met the wall. In a flash of panic, he struck Dorian again just as the thief moved within reach.
This time Dorian managed to stay on his feet, though he stumbled backwards. He stood still for a moment, again letting his hair conceal his face as he drew a ragged breath or two. Then he straightened, looked directly at Klaus, and took one stride towards him before stopping with a mere two feet between them.
"Well?" Dorian spoke quietly. "Would you like to hit me again, or are you finished?"
Klaus parted his lips to speak, but he found no words. How the hell did a perverted thief manage to make him so ashamed? When Dorian finally stepped towards him again, he clenched his fists but this time could not bring himself to strike.
"Stop it," he got out through clenched teeth.
Ignoring him completely, Dorian took the last step and pressed against Klaus. Klaus felt his every muscle tense at the contact with that lithe, warm body, the entire length of it pressed against him, their legs and chests touching, and…. His arms automatically went up to ward Dorian off, but he could only lay his hands flat against Dorian's firm chest without pushing him away, only a token resistance. It all happened in the space of one second; before he had time to react further, Dorian's lips were warm and pliant against his own.
Klaus let himself be pressed back against the wall, unable to stand up on his own, and found himself cooperating with the kiss enthusiastically, opening his mouth to the thief and feeling dizzy at the touch of the other man's tongue. It was absurd that such simple physical contact could inspire such delirium. There was no reason for him to lose all rationality, all willpower, and all ability to just move and escape the touch just because Dorian was kissing him, teasing his tongue with his own, lacing slender fingers through Klaus's straight dark hair with a somehow electrical touch….
No reason at all.
When Dorian finally released his mouth, Klaus regained a little of his will. He forced his hands to move up enough to clamp onto Dorian's shoulders and thrust him away without releasing him, holding him just at arms' length. Klaus closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath. He was shaking all over, he noticed with distress. And all he wanted now….
You can withstand him, he told himself sternly. You've been holding out for years. You're strong enough, you know what must be done. Shove him away, throw him out of the room, beat him unconscious if necessary. It's just a matter of moving your arms and legs, not difficult at all….
Dorian ran his fingertips along Klaus's rigid arm with a feather-light touch.
Klaus heard himself moan softly as he crushed Dorian against him and claimed his mouth again in a fierce kiss that must have hurt the thief. But Dorian didn't protest, only met his passion with equal fervor. Klaus tore at the other man's clothes; his hands were not steady enough to deal with buttons or zippers. It was Dorian who managed to undo his own fastenings enough that his clothes could be removed, and Klaus dimly noticed that his own clothing seemed to be falling away; he supposed that only a skilled pickpocket could have managed it so circumspectly. Klaus pulled Dorian down onto the bed roughly, not caring if he hurt him; he himself was now feeling such intense desire that it was literally painful.
He didn't know what to do. He had never allowed himself to think about it. All he knew now was that he couldn't let go of Dorian, not if his life had depended on it. Dorian's eyes were hazy and his mouth swollen from the kisses, his pretty face flushed, his breath rapid and he clung to Klaus with equal urgency, though a bit more finesse. Klaus hardly noticed the other man's machinations, but somehow Dorian had steered them in the right direction and it was working as smoothly as if Klaus had done this a hundred times.
He had never believed all the things he had heard. He hadn't believed that one could forget everything in the world except the feel of skin on skin. He hadn't believed that getting just a little closer, touching just a little bit more could feel like a matter of life and death. He hadn't believed that one's senses could be fired to the point that the slightest contact became explosive. Most of all, he had never believed this act was as blissful as he had always heard.
He had been wrong.
Two hours later, Klaus woke from the first satisfying sleep he had had in two months. After the heart-stopping moment of completion, he had been dimly conscious of collapsing against Dorian before virtually blacking out.
Klaus allowed himself to relax against Dorian’s warmth, inhaling that eternal rose scent. He couldn’t recall ever having felt so relaxed in his entire life.
I can't believe the things I'm doing these days. Knew coming to America was a mistake.
Something cold formed in the pit of his stomach. He kept his eyes closed, even as he despised his own weakness. Not yet, he could hold on to the illusion just a few minutes longer…. He shifted slightly, arranging Dorian more comfortably against him. When Dorian only nestled close, Klaus dared to open his eyes.
He could only see part of Dorian's face pressed against his shoulder, but the Englishman was very beautiful. One tendril of curling hair fell across his pretty face. His eyes were closed and he looked deceptively innocent. Angelic, even. Protective coloration, Klaus thought wryly. Even though Klaus knew better, he couldn’t stop the thought that the serene expression on Dorian's lovely face belonged on a young bride ardently and purely in love with her new husband.
Klaus closed his eyes. Just as he'd expected, all it took was one tumble and he was thinking like a fop.
It was a long time before he felt Dorian stir. He opened his eyes reluctantly. Dorian was looking at him sadly.
Well, no reason for him not to be sad. This was impossible for both of them. Klaus touched the other man's face gently.
"I apologize for hitting you."
Dorian chuckled ruefully. "Could you be a little less romantic?"
"Yes. I need to ask for your discretion."
The Englishman sighed wearily, letting his head drop back to Klaus's shoulder. "You'll have it."
"Yes." Dorian's voice was matter-of-fact. "You'll see. When others are around, my behavior won't be a bit different." A minute later, Dorian asked quietly, "So you aren't going to try to pretend this never happened?"
Klaus stroked the other man's surprisingly soft skin. Dorian was strong, and had demonstrated that he could withstand pain if it suited him, but he bruised somewhat more easily than most; his fair skin was sensitive. It was an important distinction: he had the strength to endure pain, but he felt it keenly. Klaus spoke aloud to distract himself from the maudlin protectiveness that welled up.
"I always knew that if I ever had you," he said softly, "I'd never be able to give you up." Abruptly, he added, "Why? You know that you could have – managed this – at any time. If you'd ever – just persisted, like this, I would have…. Why now?"
Dorian looked away. "Because now you need me more," he said flatly. He did not sound happy about this.
“I don’t—“ Klaus began, but stopped. “Why didn’t you, sooner?”
Dorian rested his head against Klaus’s heart, and Klaus could feel his sigh. “How long is it going to be before you start nagging me to quit stealing?”
“Not long,” Klaus admitted.
“And you only children aren’t used to sharing your toys.”
Klaus’s blood was boiling instantly. “If you so much as touch another man—“
“I know.” Dorian’s voice sounded defeated. “You see?”
“Then why did you do this?” Klaus demanded.
“Because I love you. And because you need me.” Dorian’s voice sounded oddly muffled.
Klaus did not bother to argue. “Dorian… look at me.”
After a moment, Dorian did. He looked a lot more apprehensive than Klaus had expected. Looking at his beautiful face, Klaus thought all sorts of things he couldn’t possibly say. To make sure that he didn’t, he shifted position and kissed Dorian again, gently this time, with the tenderness he'd been too heated to offer before. And this too was met in kind. This time, they drew it out, letting themselves savor it, both of them pretending to forget that hidden moments like these were all that they would ever have together.
“You carry a lot of tension in your calves, Dana,” Hepzibah murmured as she kneaded said tension out with capable hands.
“Mmmmm,” was the reply. Scully was stretched out on Hepzibah’s large and firm-mattressed bed, bonelessly relaxed, allowing the other woman to fuss over her. After their exertions of the last couple of hours she didn’t know where Hepzibah got the energy to move from, but she wasn’t complaining. Some kind of dreamy music was playing, and incense was giving the room a seductive fragrance. Scully reminded herself with private amusement that her new lover was, after all, a hypnotist. “You are so good at this.”
“I should be. I put myself through med school as a massage therapist.” Hepzibah went to work on Scully’s right foot. “And a yoga instructor.”
The redhead almost purred. “I feel like a sultan.”
“I suppose that means you’ll expect a few more odalisques to fill out your harem.”
“Oh, just one would do. If she’s as multitalented as you.”
“Is that so?”
“Mmm hmm.” Scully reached out, trying to capture the other woman’s hand and pull her close. Hepzibah evaded her.
“Oh, no. I still have to do your other leg. I know you have two, I counted. You just be patient.”
Scully fell back on the pillows without argument. “Yes, ma’am.” She reached for her wineglass, almost empty.
“Wait a second,” Hepzibah said, and refilled it before handing it to her.
Scully took a swallow and contentedly watched the other woman’s hands skillfully turning her left leg into warm, comfortable jelly. “I could get used to this.”
Hepzibah flashed her a shy smile, and Scully’s own smile faded abruptly as she realized what she’d said. She closed her eyes to conceal her sudden unease.
I could, she thought. And with the sudden euphoria of a new idea, she realized, And everyone’s so sure that Mulder and I have something going that no one would ever suspect, now….
Hepzibah’s voice interrupted her racing thoughts. “We’re going to have to think about dinner sometime.” Scully opened her eyes and saw that same charming shy smile. The woman had no idea how attractive she was, none at all. “But not yet, right?”
Scully smiled and snuggled deeper into the pillows. “Not yet. Let’s keep on like this for a while longer.”
For at least a little while longer….
"Evening, Major," Mulder said as he opened the door to Klaus.
"Ehm. Evening." Klaus entered the suite tensely.
Scully was sitting at the table, typing rapidly into her laptop. She was wearing glasses that Klaus hadn’t seen on her before. "Evening, Major," she said, not looking up from the screen. "Are you intending to go to the lectures tomorrow?"
"Ehm. Yes." Klaus advanced into the room. So far neither of the Fibbies seemed to have noticed that anything was different.
What did you think, that it would be written on your forehead? he asked himself irritably. Of course, that was absurd. As long as he and the Earl were circumspect….
…Then he could hope that they might go for as much as a year or so without being detected.
"Then why don't you go with us. We can pick you up at your hotel, if you like."
"Yeah, you could meet the Earl of Gloria!" Mulder said cheerfully.
Klaus started. "What?" Oh, well played, Eberbach. Just like a first-year agent. Was his new… association with Dorian going to ruin him for espionage after all?
"He's an Englishman who's researching for a book about paranormal phenomena. I invited him to attend tomorrow." Mulder turned to his partner. "You should talk to him too, Scully! He has some very interesting theories–"
"I'll bet," Klaus muttered. Then turned red like an idiot when both Americans looked at him. "I've met the Earl." It would be no use, he was certain, trying to hide that.
Scully lifted a brow. Klaus suddenly knew exactly how his alphabets felt when he was giving them the Evil Eye. He kept his normal derisive expression firmly in place. "And?" Scully prompted.
"And, the man's a complete lunatic," Klaus said. "I'm not surprised he's taken up with paranormal bullshit."
"Paranormal bullshit like alien abductions, Major?" Mulder challenged.
Klaus grimaced and looked away. "Good night," he said, and went into Mulder's room to change into his pajamas. He would have to have words with his lover about meddling in this without telling him.
His lover. In the space of a few hours, everything had changed.
And he had just made an ass of himself in front of those Fibbies. This was exactly why he had resisted Eroica for so long. But now the deed was done, and he was going to have to find a way to conceal their true relationship. Just one more thing to deal with.
And it wasn't going to be easy for Dorian either. Klaus had no illusions about that. They both had a very difficult time ahead of them.
But in all honesty, Klaus could not say that he wished this afternoon had not happened.
He was still pondering this when he opened the door and shut out the lights. He sighed and settled down, flat on his back as always, arms at his side, outside of the blanket. Examining the ceiling, he considered what was before him. He could easily predict at least half a dozen things he and Dorian were going to fight about. Knowing that certain problems were going to arise didn't mean they could be avoided, either. It only meant that he could see them as he marched towards them.
But right now, his biggest problem was that either aliens were kidnapping him, or else he was barking mad. If that could be resolved, a little illicit affair, even with a male criminal, would pale in comparison.
Nothing like extraterrestrials to give some perspective to earthly concerns.
He had trouble getting to sleep. Which was usual these days, but this time it was for a different reason. He could not stop replaying the afternoon’s events in his mind. He wished to God that he could be with Dorian right now, tonight.
Of course, there was always the chance that the beings would then abduct Dorian as well.
And in between mulling grimly over the problems he anticipated, he thought about going to bed with Dorian again. And again. Nervously, he allowed himself to think, very tentatively, about things he had very carefully never thought about before. And as he had always feared, the thoughts were too powerfully compelling to discard.
He shifted position and tried to think of icebergs, or tanks, or anything other than Dorian Red Gloria, his face flushed and his eyes dazed, his lips slightly parted on a breathy moan….
“Verdammt,” Klaus muttered.
It was going to take a long time to get to sleep.
And when he did, the beings came for him.
It began as always, with the sensation of paralysis and the cold knot of fear in his stomach, fear even before the beings appeared. He opened his eyes to see the empty, dimly lit room, but his eyelids were the only muscles that seemed willing to respond. He strained to move his limbs, to at least shout a warning to his comrades, but it was no use. It was as if he were in a straitjacket, or buried up to his neck in cement. All of his crazed determination was impotent; he could not move a muscle.
As usual, after a moment he was struggling to breathe, as if some immense weight were bearing down upon his chest. And the while, his eyes did not stop frantically scanning the room, waiting for the creatures to appear.
The stench came before they did, the indescribable but utterly vile smell, worse than any earthly smell he had ever encountered. His blood went icy when the walls began to blur, and then the…things glided through them. Small creatures, perhaps four feet tall – if not for the paralysis they had imposed upon him, he would have made hamburger out of them. All of them with the same clammy grey skin, smooth expressionless faces, and worst of all, those opaque black eyes, dead like those of a shark. The mere sight of them filled him with atavistic terror. Had he not lost his faith years ago, he would have been convinced that these were beings out of Hell.
He fought, of course. He strained against the invisible bonds that held him, he gritted his teeth and with his iron will commanded himself to move.
It was no use. He couldn't move. He was helpless. And Iron Klaus was not used to being helpless. Good God, how much of his prowess had been driven by the submerged memory of these monsters' first visits in his youth?
He was Iron Klaus, feared by terrorists the world over, the scourge of the KGB, his name spoken in whispers on three continents. And he was utterly petrified and helpless at the hands of these alien dwarfs.
They glided to the edge of his bed and observed him implacably for a moment, while he continued to strive to move his frozen muscles. And then he was levitated off the bed – the blankets seemed to have simply vanished – and began to float towards the wall, feet first. No Fibbies came charging through the door to aid him. Klaus wondered if the aliens had them too. But he did not see them as he floated through the wall as if it were not there and toward the ship.
It was the same one that had come for him every time before, or at least it looked the same, a dark grey disk in the sky with no lights to attract attention. A door on the bottom opened noiselessly and he and his captors floated through it, into pitch blackness. Klaus would have been shuddering freely if he had been able to move at all.
A moment later a blindingly bright light came on right over his face. Klaus squinted to the extent that he could. His eyes adjusted some and he was able to make out those impassive, unnatural faces peering down at him, and those long-fingered hands reaching for him.
The scream he could not voice welled up in his throat and resounded in his horrified brain.
Despite his panic, he tried to pay attention to what they were doing to him. The instruments of gleaming silver metal were unfamiliar, but simple enough, some of them ominously sharp. Still, he preferred them to the touch of those rubbery fingers, probing, intruding.
It did hurt, what they did to him. He never understood what they did – were they taking samples? Injecting him with chemicals to see how his body reacted? All he knew was that various parts of his body hurt, one after another. In the morning he would be stiff and sore all over.
But pain had never much troubled him. It was the other things they did that enraged and panicked him the most. Those invading touches, violating him in a manner far worse than any pain. And he could do nothing. Nothing but lie there and seethe.
Why? What was there left for them to learn about him? They had already investigated every inch of his body a dozen times, seen his body’s reactions repeatedly. What fascinated them so, enough to keep them coming back time and again?
He was under the light for what seemed a very long time, enduring the pain and invasion while his heart raced in his constricted chest. At length they stopped, and he was floating through the air again, alone this time, in the chilly pre-dawn air back to the sanctuary of his bed.
When they released him from the paralysis, his eyes snapped open onto a room growing light with dawn. His relief was promptly wiped out by fear for his comrades. He leapt out of bed and rushed, as well as he could on his sleep-cramped legs, into the outer room.
Mulder and Scully looked up from their coffee and playing cards, their eyes a little puffy, their expressions calm except for a hint of concern at his entrance.
"Is something wrong, Major?" Mulder asked.
"This was not a nightmare!" Klaus bellowed for the tenth time, two hours later.
"Major, we were right in the next room the whole time," Scully insisted patiently. "We didn't see or hear anything from your room. There is no way that anyone, even aliens with advanced technology, could have taken you away without our detecting something."
"Major, I believe you," Mulder added, "but in this case, Scully's right–"
"Oh, thank you so much," she muttered.
"–neither of us saw or heard a thing. Either these beings are even more clever and powerful than we thought, or else this was a nightmare."
"Nein! This was no nightmare! It was exactly like all the other times. It was just as intense, just as detailed, just as… frightening," he finished reluctantly. “Do you think I don't know the difference between a dream and a genuine event? I have had nightmares. It is an occupational hazard – I am sure you both have them as well.” Both agents nodded briefly. "Are either of you Catholic? My childhood was full of tales of how the martyrs died. I had one especially nasty series of nightmares about being boiled in oil. The – abductions are nothing like that. I live with nightmares now. At least once a week I awaken drenched in sweat, reliving moments of believing I had less than sixty seconds more to live, of KGB guns pointed at me, of a pack of starving wolves, of bombs… I dream of my subordinates and – my acquaintances, of their close calls from real life being a little closer… of Agent G and that – that Englishman not getting out of that god damned flashy car before it went over the edge of that cliff…. I have lived with nightmares all of my life, and I can tell you that this was no nightmare!”
For a couple of minutes, none of them had anything to say. At last Scully broke the silence. "Why don't we review the tape, then."
Three irritable hours of going over the sped-up tape over and over again revealed – absolutely nothing. The Major's form remained there, lying almost completely still, throughout the night. There were no alien visitors, no levitations, not even any suspicious blurs or blackouts on the tape. Nothing.
"I did not cross the ocean for the sake of a nightmare," Klaus insisted. But now the evidence of his own eyes, and of people whose word he trusted as much as he trusted anyone's, was warring with what he knew in his own mind.
Mulder looked thoughtful. “If you’re that sure… maybe the aliens took us too, and wiped our memory, and replaced tonight’s tape with last night’s!”
His partner did not look impressed with this.
"We'll talk about it more later, all right, Major?” she said. “Right now, I am going to fall asleep standing up if I don't go to bed. Mulder, you'd better go to bed too. I mean it."
Mulder rubbed his eyes. "All right," he agreed reluctantly. He hesitated, then added, “We’ll figure this out, Major.”
“Get some rest,” Klaus said curtly as he walked out.
In the glaring Arizona dawn, he drove to the hotel. The Earl would not be awake this early, but Klaus thought he would probably be welcome. And even though the aliens had never come for him in the daylight, he still could not face being alone right now.
The day before Dorian had given him a key to his suite. Klaus found it with no trouble and let himself in quietly. It was, of course, a lavish one, quite unlike the spartan quarters that Klaus and the Fibbies were occupying. Vases of fresh flowers, a couple of bottles of champagne, and overly ornate furniture. Klaus shook his head and went into the bedroom, his steps silent on the plush carpet.
Dorian was slumbering quite peacefully in an enormous bed, snuggled down among the pillows under a fluffy comforter. His beautiful face was as angelic in sleep as it had been the day before. The air conditioning was going full blast, as usual in this desert clime, so the comforter was pulled up over the thief’s shoulders, but Klaus could see that he was naked beneath them. Or shirtless, at least.
He sighed softly. He was too upset for that thought to distract him much now.
Still. Just being in the same room as his lover restored a measure of calm to him. There was a desk in the room; Klaus didn’t think it was an antique, but it was designed to look like one. Americans. He sat down and helped himself to hotel stationery, where he took notes – in code, of course, one of the several he had memorized – about all of the facts he had about the aliens.
There weren’t many.
It was nearly eleven before Dorian stirred. “Guten Morgen,” Klaus said quietly, making the other man sit upright with a start. Then Dorian smiled.
“Glad to see you,” he said, lying back onto the pillows and stretching like a cat. “Should I get out of bed, or will you get in?”
“Don’t you want breakfast?”
There was a disturbing glint in Dorian’s eyes at those words, but he only smiled, reached for the phone, and dialed room service. He didn’t trouble with breakfast, only ordered a lunch of some fancy-sounding pasta dish, and a platter of fish and fried potatoes with a dark beer. He hung up with an impish smile. “I thought that was a safe bet, darling.”
Klaus nodded absently. “Danke.” Dorian gave him an inquiring look. “Get dressed,” Klaus ordered.
Dorian’s eyes widened theatrically. “I suppose I must look a fright.” He swept the comforter back dramatically and rose. Klaus discovered that he was indeed naked, and completely unselfconscious about it, though he did smile at Klaus’s unintentional survey of him.
“A fright,” Klaus agreed, and got hit with a pillow for it. A second later, Dorian had locked himself in the bathroom, and Klaus could hear water running.
Fifteen minutes later Dorian emerged, no longer puffy-eyed and disheveled, but with his luxuriant mane perfectly arranged and his face bright and alert. He strolled, casually naked, to the closet and started sorting through the garments. “Why don’t you pick something for me to wear, darling?”
“I don’t care,” Klaus said impatiently. “Just put something on.”
Dorian gave him a look over his shoulder. “Are we in a hurry? Are we going somewhere?”
“No, but I can’t talk to you with you running around like that.”
Dorian dimpled. “Am I a distraction?” he flirted.
“Dorian,” Klaus growled.
illustration by Nina
With a giggle, Dorian turned back to his closet and picked a relatively tame sleeveless blue shirt that matched his eyes, and snug-fitting white jeans. From a drawer he got out a pair of the silly silk briefs he liked, that felt wonderfully smooth under Klaus’s hands. Klaus allowed himself to enjoy the fleeting distraction of that thought while Dorian squeezed himself into the rest of the ensemble.
“Do you know how lovely it is to hear you snarl my name instead of my alias or my title?” Dorian asked lightly, coming to perch on the bed near Klaus. “Or any of your various pet names for me?”
“You know, like idiot, or Limey, or pervert….” When Klaus only looked at him, Dorian dropped his teasing demeanour and said quietly, “What is it? Did… did it happen again?”
Dorian made a little gesture of annoyance, the sort that was often accompanied by a muttered “Damn!” All he said, however, was, “Tell me.”
“There’s nothing to tell you that I haven’t already. Except….” His throat constricted.
Dorian leaned over and clasped his hands. “Klaus, please, talk to me. I want to be here for you.”
“Neither of them saw a thing.”
“The FBI agents. Neither of them heard or saw anything. And there was nothing on the videotape. Nothing.”
Dorian bit his lip.
Klaus abruptly seized Dorian’s shoulders in a viselike grip. “Dorian, tell me the truth. Do you think I’m crazy?”
Dorian examined his face, worried. Gently, he said, “Let go of me, Klaus. You’re hurting me.”
Klaus forced his hands to relax. Dorian did not move away. Instead he clasped Klaus’s hands in his own.
“No, Klaus. You are not crazy. Repressed and uptight, yes. Under way too much pressure and overstressed. But not crazy.”
“Then how is this possible?” Klaus demanded. He found, to his own annoyance, that he was beginning to shake.
“Klaus, I’m not dismissing what you’ve told me. I know you’re in earnest. Just tell me: why are you so certain this was not a dream?”
“If I dreamed it, or imagined it, then I could just as well be imagining you right now. It was every bit as real.”
Dorian hesitated. “Klaus, you’ve met a lot of other people who believe in aliens, and who have been – or believe they have been – kidnapped by them. Surely you’re not all crazy, whatever’s going on.”
“Maybe they – we – are all crazy. But most of them are harmless.” Klaus met the other man’s eyes again. “But in my job, if I’m suffering from delusions, I could endanger people. Good people. I could even harm my country, or NATO. And….” He stopped. Dorian twined his fingers more closely with his. Klaus forced himself to go on. “If you lost your mind, you could live out your days with your pictures and statues at Castle Gloria, attended by those pretty young men of yours.”
Dorian dimpled. “What a capital idea! I’ll start going barmy this minute.”
Klaus ignored this. “But me? I’m a trained killer. I would have to have myself locked up where I couldn’t be a danger to anyone. In some dreary institution with concrete walls.”
Dorian’s clasp tightened. “That is not going to happen.” He tugged at Klaus’s hand, and when Klaus allowed himself to be pulled to sit on the side of the bed next to Dorian, pulled Klaus close in a tight embrace, as if by holding on tightly enough he could save him from all future peril. “My love… one thing I know, and that’s that madmen never worry that they might be mad.”
Klaus wished he could be reassured. At last he pulled back. “I was thinking – well, this might sound….”
“Any idea connected with this situation is going to be extreme. Tell me.”
“Well, if they were extraterrestrials, then even if they are incredibly advanced, they should have left some sort of trace. Flesh and blood and metal just aren’t that indetectible.” Klaus looked at the other man. “What if these things aren’t aliens? What if they’re something… supernatural? I’ve never believed in any of that rubbish, ghosts and whatnot, but….”
“But in the face of overwhelming evidence, you’re willing to consider the possibility,” Dorian supplied calmly.
“You make it sound so reasonable.”
Dorian hugged him again, more gently this time. “It is reasonable. You’re just upset.”
Just then there was a knock. Dorian kissed him quickly before rising to answer it, as if it were quite normal, as if twenty-four hours before the same gesture wouldn’t have gotten him beaten senseless.
In the outer room he could hear the door opening, someone wheeling in the room service cart, and Dorian fluttering around arranging things to his taste. Dorian always did fuss about things like that.
And he really means it, Klaus thought dazedly.
The hotel employee departed and Dorian appeared in the doorway, looking absolutely edible in that tight getup, with his shining curls tumbling over his shoulders and his eyes all wide and hopeful and concerned. And now Klaus knew just how soft that skin was, and how firm was the lean body within, and how the inside of that provocative mouth tasted.
“Come along, lunch is here,” Dorian said. “And after we’ve eaten, we’ll do whatever you like.”
The words were spoken, for a change, without an ounce of innuendo, but Klaus felt the corners of his mouth twitching up. Dorian looked downright shocked before recovering himself and smiling back.
Still smiling, Klaus rose and claimed a kiss before sitting down to eat.
If he was going to be locked up soon, he decided with sudden recklessness, first he was damned well going to enjoy himself for once in his life.
It wasn't as awkward as Klaus expected it to be, having Spooky Mulder introduce him to "Mr. Red" at the lectures that evening. He made a brusque greeting, and the arch of Agent Scully's eyebrow was fleeting enough that he was reassured. Dorian flirted subtly with Mulder in between yammering some nonsense about UFOs and “ley lines”, whatever they were.
Get used to this, Eberbach. Your lover is a lunatic.
Agent Mulder, on the other hand, was intent on speculating about Ted Paulson, who had disappeared again. Over Dr. Katchinowski’s strong objections, he had been put on Pimozide and allowed to post bail provided he keep taking the medication. He had once more vanished without a trace. Mulder, of course, was certain he was on a spaceship. Scully had spent the entire evening trying to find some more mundane indications of his whereabouts and her temper was wearing a bit thin.
A short, stoutish woman strolled by. "Hello, Spooky," she said as she passed. Even in those four syllables, she had a clearly audible Southern drawl.
Mulder glanced around, then glowered at the woman's departing back.
"You know her?" Klaus asked.
"She's a professional debunker," he grumbled. "She doesn't believe in anything."
"Her book about the Roswell Incident was fascinating," Scully said sweetly.
"Scully, that book totally ignored the numerous eyewitness accounts–"
"None of which corroborate each other–"
To Klaus's relief, Mr. Myers announced the beginning of the lectures. They all sat down, Dorian sitting next to Mulder and whispering to him now and then. If he was trying to make Klaus jealous, the Major resolved, he would ignore it. At least until they were alone, when he would give his lover a piece of his mind. The debunker and her companion, a pretty young lady who was apparently a secretary, sat two rows in front of them.
The first speaker, a manager of a shoe store, spent forty-five minutes describing his ordeal of being sexually violated by the aliens in far more detail than Klaus really cared to hear. Then he launched into an account of the advice for cultural survival with which the aliens generally concluded their molestations. Klaus wondered idly why the aliens thought that shoe salesmen were the best recipients of such advice. Unless Mulder was right, and the Congressmen and tycoons being abducted simply didn't come forward. And ignored the advice, come to that....
"They always say the same thing to me," the speaker said, his voice full of earnestness. "To stop sacrificing our planet's ozone for the sake of industry. And they've said the same to numerous other abductees. My reading verifies that this advice is almost universal among abductees, but that it's changed with the times. Clearly the aliens are keeping tabs on us. Today they warn about the environment. In the 80's, they preached nuclear disarmament. And in the 70's, they tried to raise our consciousness about social injustice."
"Great," the debunker muttered. "The aliens are Democrats."
The next lecturer, a dowdy woman wearing a flowing dress with ersatz American Indian embroidery all over it, expounded on the very theory that Klaus had begun to entertain, that the "aliens" were not extraterrestrials at all, but spirits of some sort. She was a flake, he concluded promptly, but at least the thought had occurred to someone else.
The next speaker, it turned out, was Hepzibah.
She approached the podium as if it were a guillotine, dressed with her usual buttoned-up formality. She visibly took her ritual three deep breaths, but they didn't help her as much as usual this time. Clutching her notes as if they were a lifeline, she cleared her throat.
“My name is Dr. Hepzibah Katchinowski,” she began nervously. “I’m a psychiatrist at the Phoenix Center for Mental Health.
“I’d like to begin by discussing the case of Anne Jeffries.” She shifted her notes, studying them for one more minute before continuing. “Her family found her one day lying on the floor, disoriented and rumpled. For a long time after that she could not remember what had happened, how she had gotten there, until the experience was repeated. Then she began to recall being attacked by ‘little men’. They would somehow induce paralysis on her and carry her helpless to a structure floating in the air, where they sexually violated her before returning her home. They abducted her several times over the next year.
“The ‘next year’ was 1646, when Anne Jeffries was arrested for witchcraft. According to her, the ‘little men’ who abducted her were elves, and the floating structure they whisked her to was a ‘castle in the air’.”
“So they’ve been coming here for at least three centuries!” someone in the audience murmured. Hepzibah heard it and was stopped.
“No!” she exclaimed. “These things that she saw weren’t space aliens!”
A rather unsympathetic silence followed. Hepzibah froze like a deer in the headlights for a moment, and Klaus found himself feeling embarrassed for her. Visibly, she gathered herself. Then she lifted her chin and plunged in.
“Alien abductions and stories from earlier eras of being kidnapped and molested by elves, incubi, or demons are startlingly similar. In almost all cases, the beings attack a person in his or her sleep. The experiences begin with a feeling of paralysis, often accompanied by pressure on the chest. There is a feeling of being watched, of others present in the room. Also there is a feeling of overwhelming terror. Next comes a sensation of floating through the air. Sexual, um, sensations follow, and then the victim is returned to the original location and the paralysis released. On awakening, at first the victim has no clear memory of what happened, but as they continue to analyze and apply their conscious mind to the experience, that conscious mind fills in an explanation that makes sense given their cultural context. It hasn’t been fashionable to believe in elves for a long time, so no one sees them anymore. Aliens, on the other hand, while a little unusual, fit into our current belief system. This is the same principle that makes a Christian’s near-death experience involve a vision of Jesus while a Buddhist’s includes Buddha and so on.
“Alien abductions,” Hepzibah paused to draw another of those breaths, “are hallucinations.” Protests and catcalls began to fill the room, but Hepzibah raised her voice and continued. “Sleep paralysis is very common – it is a part of sleep, actually, that prevents most people from getting up and walking around when they dream. What’s known as sleep paralysis is an extreme version of it, just as somnambulism is an anomaly in the other direction.” At this point, the heckling from the audience grew so loud that Hepzibah had to stop.
Disgusted, Klaus stood up and glared around the room. At a nudge from Scully, Mulder followed suit, though with less conviction. It worked; the jeers began to quiet.
“Kindly allow the lady to finish,” Klaus said, giving an especially icy glare to one of the louder hecklers. The man swallowed and tried to look invisible. The debunker awarded Klaus with a dazzlingly approving smile. Klaus turned back to the front of the room. “Please continue, Frau Doktor.”
Rescued, the doctor actually looked trapped. But she set her jaw stubbornly, straightened, and continued. “The extreme fear associated with the experiences is so intense because the hallucination directly stimulates the fear centers in the brain. It’s like having fear injected directly into the bloodstream. Also, most abductees report very strong smells, usually bad ones. There is a simple neurological reason for this; olfactory illusions typically accompany visual ones. Incidentally, lots of Bigfoot witnesses emphasize how rank Sasquatch is, and vampires were supposed to smell terrible.
“Abductees genuinely believe what they are reporting,” she went on. “They are not lying, and they are not crazy. Hallucinations are physically caused, and aside from the effects of the stress of having them and worrying about them, they don’t negatively affect any other area of life. These hallucinations seem absolutely real because they happen right in the brain, bypassing the five senses. Experiencing a hallucination is like having the source code to your brain hacked into.”
She paused, looked down at her notes, and then looked around the room with resignation. “Thank you for your time.” She stepped away from the podium.
Mr. Myers, looking as if this night had been far more than he had bargained for, blurted to the room at large, “That’s it for tonight, people.” Then he started conferring in low, rapid tones with a couple of other people. “I didn’t know she was going to—“ was all that could be distinguished.
A mob promptly gathered around the psychiatrist. “You two, help me get her out of here,” Klaus snapped to the Fibbies, and they fell in behind him without protest.
Klaus managed to elbow aside the other people who were crowding around Dr. Katchinowski, who looked like a deer in the headlights. Most of them were angrily telling her that she didn't know what she was talking about. A few were trying to ask questions. Klaus forced a path to her side, and he and his colleagues gathered around her. Agent Scully took the doctor’s arm and they ushered her out to the parking lot, Dorian trailing behind them.
"Must be nice to be six feet tall," she said to Klaus a little breathlessly as they escaped into the cool night air. "So who are you? One of the men in black come to abduct me for talking about UFOs?"
He released her arm promptly. "Excuse me, Frau Doktor. I did not intend to alarm you. I merely wished to be of service, and to speak with you. I am… Major Von Luger."
Hepzibah's gaze went immediately to Scully. "I was kidding. Am I really under arrest?"
"No," Mulder assured her, turning on the charm, though it still didn't seem to be working; she looked less nervous, but not particularly charmed. "We're just very interested in what you have to say. Could you spare some of your time to discuss your findings with us?"
Hepzibah surveyed them, still alarmed. Klaus stepped a little closer to her. "Frau Doktor," he said, "I have been having hallucinations of the kind you describe. I came here from Europe to find out what these things were that were coming after me. You've told me. Now I need to know how to make them stop."
Whether it appealed to the maternal instinct all women were supposed to be born with, or to her calling as a healer, she was suddenly calm and in charge again. "Of course I can help you," she said in a tone of quiet assurance, taking his arm. He knew that the assurance was an act, all part of the bedside manner that doctors and therapists had to learn, but it was good to see nonetheless. More reassuring to him, however, was the spark of professional interest in her eyes.
"Dr. Katchinowski," Klaus explained, "I have never believed in any of this. UFOs, ghosts, psychic powers – it's all rubbish." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mulder scowling, but ignored him. "But when these – creatures started snatching me from my home in the middle of the night, I saw no choice but to believe it, even though I knew that it was impossible. I have scarcely begun to believe that aliens are real, but now I cannot believe that these are mere nightmares."
She nodded, her face showing only concern. "These are not ordinary nightmares, Mr. Von Luger. They are a bona fide sleep disorder. You could probably get a medical discharge from the military with it." She spoke with a humorous quirk of her mouth, but he frowned deeply.
"A discharge is the last thing I want. What about a cure?"
"It can be cured," she said calmly. "I'll call some colleagues of mine who specialize in sleep disorders first thing in the morning, if you like. Why don't you come to my office at nine and we'll talk about what else we can do."
"Therapy?" Klaus asked queasily.
She grimaced. "Let me tell you a little about what I do, Mr. Von Luger. I don’t believe in therapy as such. I think it's a scam designed to keep people neurotic so that they'll have to keep shelling out to the shrink for two appointments a week for years. I try to empower people with practical techniques for mood management and self-control so that they can stand on their own two feet as quickly as possible. I believe in immediate practical help with real life, not digging down into the subconscious. I only discuss my clients' childhoods and traumas and such enough to find out what they're afraid of so that I can help them find weapons against it."
He nodded in hesitant approval. "Very well. But let's make it one o'clock. I intend to stay awake till dawn and sleep during daylight." His lips thinned. "I seldom have those hallucinations in daylight."
“What position do you normally sleep in?” she asked.
“On my back, of course,” he answered in surprise.
“Sleep on your side tonight. Trust me on this,” she said, and got into her car.
Hepzibah walked into her apartment with relief. She immediately changed into loose-fitting sweatpants and T-shirt, put a disk of Celtic music in the CD player, lit some moldavite incense, and sat crosslegged in the middle of the living room floor on a light pink Oriental rug just large enough for her to lie down on, thick and comfortable.
She closed her eyes and drew slow, rhythmic breaths for a few minutes before beginning a yoga sutra. She was only a minute into it before there was a knock at her door.
Reluctantly she rose and crossed to the door. She had to stand on tiptoe to look through the peephole. It was Special Agent Mulder.
Hepzibah opened the door with the chain still attached. "Yes?"
"Dr. Katchinowski, I need to talk about… Major Von Luger. May I come in for a few minutes?"
Resigned, she let him in. "Sit down," she said, gesturing to the couch, and folded herself on her rug in half-lotus. "Well?"
"Do you seriously believe that UFO abductions are just bad dreams?" he asked.
"Would I have said it in front of a room full of people if I didn't? I have to admit I'm standing on the shoulders of giants, however. This isn't my own theory. Many others have held the same view. Carl Sagan was one of them."
Mulder was shaking his head slowly. "Dr. Katchinowski, I have seen things in the course of my work that lead me to believe that there is in fact a government coverup of alien contact."
"Like unexplained lights, deformed fetuses, lost time...." His voice trailed off. She held his gaze. “The truth is out there!”
“Maybe the truth isn't out there,” she said patiently. “Maybe it's in here.” She tapped her brow.
He stood up and started pacing back and forth. "I know that there's an alien coverup! The way my investigation keeps getting blocked, the recovery of the repressed memories, the unexplained events–"
"What was that about recovery of repressed memories?" Hepzibah said sharply.
"A few years ago, I underwent several sessions of deep hypnosis and recovered my repressed memories of aliens abducting my sister when I was a kid. She was never seen again."
"Agent Mulder," Hepzibah said slowly, "memories recovered under hypnosis are highly dubious. I am a hypnotist, and I know. There is no solid evidence that there is any such thing as repressed memories. That field has more charlatans than any other branch of therapy. There are two hypnotists here in Phoenix who specialize in recovering memories of alien abductions. One of them owns a Jaguar and a Benz. The other has a Rolls. They both have large houses. With pools."
"I know them both!" Mulder exclaimed. "They're trying to help people, they're not motivated by money!"
Her face grew stony. "I think you had better leave, Agent Mulder." She stood, went to the door, and opened it.
"You could be preventing Von Luger from learning the truth about his experiences!"
"It is late, Agent Mulder. I am not in the mood to be told that the motives of scam artists are pure after the career sacrifices I have made for my convictions. It's the men in white coats, not the Men In Black, who need to be after you. Leave now or I will call the police."
Looking suitably chastened, Mulder left without further protests.
Hepzibah had gone through enough sutras to release her anger over the conversation when there was another knock. "If it's Mulder, I'll turn him into a frog," she muttered as she went to the door.
It was Agent Scully. Hepzibah let her in at once.
"May I get you something to drink?” Hepzibah asked. “Purified ice water, herbal tea–"
"No, thank you." Scully perched on the couch and Hepzibah settled beside her, knees drawn up to her chest, watching the FBI agent intently. "I apologize for coming here so late, but I thought it important to speak with you."
"I hope you aren't going to tell me that I should let Major Von Luger believe that he's being kidnapped by spacemen."
Scully looked surprised. "No. No, actually, I don't think he believes that any more than we do."
"He put on a convincing act."
"That's his job. He's not just military, Hepzibah. He's NATO intelligence. A spy."
"Is he one of the good guys?" Hepzibah looked away and shifted position slightly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to be flippant."
"Yes, he's one of the 'good guys' – Germany is an allied nation – but he's also a foreigner. Allied doesn't always mean entirely trustworthy."
Hepzibah's eyes moved back to Scully's face. "I don't understand."
"I believe that the Major’s true purpose here is to scout our military technology. I think the UFO story is a cover."
Hepzibah laced her fingers together, considering for a long moment. "He gave me the impression that he means exactly what he told us."
"I would like to speak with you again after you've had a few sessions with him and see if you still think so."
Hepzibah held the other woman's gaze. "I can't do that. It would violate doctor-client confidentiality."
"Is national security a good enough reason for you to break confidentiality?" Scully asked quietly.
Hepzibah lowered her eyes.
"You know where to find me," Scully said after a long minute, rising. "I understand that this is a difficult conflict of interests for you, Hepzibah, but if you learn anything that verifies what I've told you, please call me."
Hepzibah did not rise, but did look up and catch at Scully’s hand. “Can you stay?” she asked softly.
Scully looked at her with genuine regret. “I wish I could. But Mulder will wonder where I am.”
Hepzibah released her. “Right. Later, then.”
Hepzibah was left alone to finish her nightly yoga routine. When she was finished, she felt cleansed and relaxed, as usual. Serenely she made her way to her bedroom and flipped on the light switch.
And the effects of the half hour of yoga were instantly annihilated by the sight of a strange man sitting on her bed.
Hepzibah jumped, crying out, then put a hand to her chest as she caught her breath. “What the hell are you doing here?” she snapped, annoyed.
The man tossed his curling golden mane over his shoulders and spoke with an aristocratic English accent. “Whatever happened to ‘Eek, save me’?”
She lifted an eyebrow. “Somehow I doubt you’re here to subject me to the proverbial ‘fate worse than death’. You were at the lecture, weren’t you? Are you another UFO nut?”
He snorted. “Hardly. Allow me to introduce myself: Dorian Red, Earl of Gloria. I’m here to discuss your new patient, the German.”
"I'm sure you realize that confidentiality forbids–"
"But it's my fault. I've driven him round the bend."
Hepzibah gave a helpless look to a nonexistent audience. "What are you talking about?"
Dorian leaned back. "Well, to begin with, I'm sure you pinged him."
"Surely you must know an advanced closet case when you see one. If not as a headshrinker, then at least as one of our sort." He arched an eyebrow. "Those shoes look very comfortable, doctor."
"I don't really care if you out me," she told him stoutly, blushing.
"Nothing could be further from my mind." Dorian leaned forward again, becoming serious. "The Major, on the other hand… it's all very well for you, but he can't come out any more than that charming redheaded Fibbie could."
"Are you saying Agent Scully–"
"Better get your gaydar honed, darling. But back to business. You can tell he's a repressed homosexual, can't you?"
She hesitated, then said, "I can't violate a client's confidentiality."
"I thought so." Dorian laced his fingers and bit his lip with unaccustomed uncertainty. "The Major and I... well, it's complicated."
Hepzibah settled down in a chair and looked at him, waiting.
Fumbling for words, Dorian began to explain. "You see, the first time we met, I could tell. I mean, it's screamingly obvious, at least to one of us, isn't it? You should have seen the way he looked at me, ogling me the whole time he was heaping insults on my head."
Hepzibah couldn't entirely restrain a smile at this.
"So I flirted with him, just because it was amusing to watch how it made him blow his top. I never thought I'd see him again. But... well, I did. We just kept running into each other, and before I knew it…."
Dorian was examining his twined fingers now. "One day I realized that I was in love with him."
With professional tact, Hepzibah let a moment pass before asking, "Have you told him this?"
He laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, yes. Many times. The first time I said it, he slugged me."
"Misplaced aggression. I'll have to get him off the caffeine," Hepzibah muttered. "Probably either soda or some horrible chemically tainted instant coffee." Then she focused on the Englishman again. "Sorry, go on."
With a suspicious look, he asked, "Do you imagine that cleaning up his diet will fix everything up just fine?"
"Don't be absurd," she said. "Of course it won't. There's still that little thing called a soul to contend with."
"You believe in souls?"
"For want of a better word. Now go on."
"The thing is, it started as a game. I'd see him and flirt with him. He would have a tantrum. It was a game. But it got serious somewhere along the way. I fell in love with him, and he…." Dorian fussed aimlessly with his hair for a minute. "It’ll never work." His tone was a shade too insistent. "I'd ruin his reputation, and his career. And I'd be a liability in so many ways – he has a lot of enemies, and they could use me against him. Not to mention that he's an utter control freak. He'd expect to dictate my entire life. I've never followed anyone else's rules in my life. I'm not about to start now."
"How do you think the Major feels about you?" she asked, patient.
"You sound like a shrink," he retorted, peevish.
"I am a shrink."
"Quite. Well." Dorian lifted his chin. "He's in love with me too. But he'd die before he admitted it." He met her gaze. "Even to himself."
"You really think that coming out to himself is that bad for him?"
"I’ve thought about this a great deal. It's not easy for either of us to understand," Dorian said earnestly. "I'm a dissipated aristocrat whose father rogered every pretty man in the British Isles and half the ones on the Continent. You're a headshrinker with a lot of offbeat New Age ideas."
She drew herself up. "The principles I apply in my practice are derived from ancient teachings and are scientifically validated by–"
"I'm sure." Dorian waved a hand dismissively. "But like me, you're in a position where you can afford to be eccentric. He isn't. He's Catholic, to begin with. He's an atheist, but he's still Catholic. He's an only child, so if he doesn't marry and produce an heir the Grafdom will end. I realize that Grafdoms aren't a big deal to Americans, but on our side of the Pond, I assure you they're a very big deal indeed. And then there's his career. He's military, for God's sake." Dorian leaned forward, looking at her intently. "But you know, none of that's the worst of it, for him. Never mind his bad language and his Machiavellian tactics; he's the most dyed-in-the-wool Puritan I've ever met. It's his own overdeveloped moral sense that would probably cause him to self-destruct if he ever laid a hand on me. Well," he amended, "at least a nonviolent hand.“
Hepzibah mused for a minute, then looked at him. "I don't believe that – that sex will cure anything, Mr. Gloria. If you hoped for my help in your seduction campaign–"
"Don't you understand?" Dorian was exasperated. "I've been hanging 'round him all these years, teasing him and frustrating him, and I've driven him mad."
Hepzibah lifted an eyebrow. "So you think this is your fault?"
"Of course it is. Can you cure him, ‘Frau Doktor’? Can you make him stop having these alien hallucinations?"
"You know, there's an outside chance that this isn't about you."
Dorian looked at her uncomprehendingly.
She gathered herself. "Yes, I can cure him. Now get out of here. And don't break into my apartment again. If you want to speak with me, my phone number's in the book."
"Understood," Dorian said, and climbed out the window. He heard her promptly locking it behind him and chuckled.
“Where have you been?” Klaus demanded as soon as Dorian entered his hotel suite.
“Oh, just a little breaking and entering,” Dorian said casually, hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outer doorknob and locking the door.
Klaus scowled. “We are going to have to discuss your profession, Dorian.”
Dorian tossed his mane, moving toward his lover with feline grace. “I knew you would try to reform me.”
The thief chuckled richly. “Saved by the love of a good man, mm? I’m not going to quit, my love. You’ve been too pernicious a good influence on me already.” He stopped in front of Klaus’s chair and placed his hands on the German’s shoulders, caressing the strong muscles beneath the suit. “In any case, right now we should be celebrating Dr. Catch-a-mouse-ski’s glad tidings.”
Klaus’s scowl faded. He studied Dorian's face. "Why are you doing this?" he asked.
Dorian began to form one of his playful replies, but stopped. He returned Klaus's gaze soberly. "Do you have to ask?"
"I shouldn't have teased you so all these years. I just thought it would never – but never mind the foolishness. In spite of the nonsense, I meant the things I said. I love you. It's the simple truth."
That was what Klaus had hoped to hear. But now he had no idea what to do. He lowered his eyes.
"Klaus?" Dorian breathed. He allowed one hand to lightly stroke Klaus's throat.
"Dorian." The name stuck in his throat. He swallowed. "If you're not serious–"
Dorian moved swiftly forward and caught Klaus's mouth with his own. And instantly they were both swept up in a current too powerful for either to control or resist. Dorian felt a hint of fear with the passionate yearning, because it had never been like this before.
When Klaus released his mouth at last, Dorian breathlessly backed towards the bedroom, gently tugging Klaus’s hand. Klaus followed obligingly, his eyes glittering. When Dorian paused to relieve his darling of his so-proper suit, he felt some of his mischief returning.
“You’ve been careful not to think about any of this for years, haven’t you?” he asked as Klaus’s blazer fell to the floor.
“Yes,” Klaus admitted, reaching for Dorian’s shirt. Dorian brushed his hands away and started unbuttoning Klaus’s shirt instead.
“There must have been some things that you were especially careful not to think about,” he purred, the slightest lilt of a question in his words. Klaus’s gaze met his own, equally alarmed and intrigued. Dorian smiled and leaned close to murmur in his lover’s ear. “Why don’t you tell me what they were. You did say you were going to stay up until dawn….”
“Ehm.” Klaus cleared his throat. His face turned very red. “Well, I was thinking… that is… if you wouldn’t mind….”
Dorian laughed, pulling him toward the bed. “Oh, I can tell this is going to be good.”
Scully had staunchly refused to go back to that loathesome diner, so she and Mulder waited for the Major in a decent coffeeshop. Mulder’s new friend, the English Earl who was writing some crank book, tagged along. Scully wasn’t sure how the Earl had managed that, and she suspected Mulder wasn’t either.
Maybe her partner was about to broaden his horizons, she reflected with amusement as she studied the two of them, sitting across from her in the booth.
And maybe the Englishman would keep Mulder busy enough, one way or another, that she could slip away to visit Hepzibah this evening.
The desultory conversation about incubi died down when Major Eberbach showed up, taking the empty seat beside Scully. “Good evening,” he said to them all, giving her a correct nod.
He looked better. Tired, but infinitely less tense. That hunted look Mulder had pointed out was gone. Maybe he’d been in earnest after all. Well, you couldn’t stay in this business without developing a suspicious nature.
Good job, Hepzibah, Scully thought, smiling. And carefully schooled her expression even as she allowed herself to explore this new emotion: this pride in someone else’s accomplishment.
Was this what it could be like?
“Still impressed with Dr. Hep Cat, Major?” Mulder asked dubiously.
“Yes,” the German replied shortly.
“What was that about sleeping on your side?” Scully asked.
“Ah. Dr. Katchinowski told me that was the most common and effective folk remedy for sleep paralysis. She had a chart showing that almost all episodes happen to sleepers lying on their backs.” He shook his head. “All those years, the nuns who ran my school insisted that we sleep that way. It’s remained my habit ever since.”
“And you’re satisfied with her solution?” Mulder demanded.
Satisfied with her solution, Scully mused. Satisfied? It didn’t get more satisfactory than Hepzibah. Cute, smart as a whip and charmingly shy, not to mention good with her hands. Scully would never find anyone better.
Maybe, just maybe, it was time to think about taking a risk.
The Major sighed. “It is rather galling to learn that I crossed an ocean under an assumed name because of a sleep disorder. But then, anything is better than being abducted by aliens.”
“What are you going to do about that sleep disorder, Major?” the Earl asked.
“Continue treatment here in Phoenix for a couple of months. They said it shouldn’t take longer than that to get it under control.” He shook his head slightly. “It’s going to be difficult to accustom myself to sleeping on my side after all of these years.”
“I expect you’ll manage,” the Earl said airily, stirring his coffee with more grace than the activity strictly required. The Major shot him a guardedly annoyed look.
“What else did Dr. Katchinowski say?” Scully asked.
The German turned to her politely before answering. “She asked if I had any reason to think any of my relatives had had similar hallucinations,” the Major was saying. “This disorder is apparently partly hereditary.”
“And?” Mulder asked, all eagerness again. “Do you think your father was abducted too?”
The Major snorted. “I would like to see someone ask my father if he had ever seen aliens. He did experience sleep paralysis accompanied by a hypnogogic dream at least once that he told me of – he experienced the paralysis and the sensation of being carried out of his bed by enemies – but he didn’t interpret them as aliens.”
“What did he ‘interpret’ them as?” Mulder was leaning forward, intent.
The Major met the other man’s gaze levelly. “S.S. agents. It was during the war. My father was a tank commander, and army officers who ran afoul of the S.S. tended to die under suspicious circumstances.”
Mulder looked embarrassed. “I see,” he managed to say.
“So it looks like Dr. Katchinowski has closed this case,” Scully said with satisfaction.
"I don't know, Scully," Mulder said dubiously. "This Dr. Hep Cat seems like kind of a crank to me."
Scully lifted a brow. Mulder had the grace to turn pink. Before anyone could speak again, Mulder’s cell phone rang.
“Mulder here. Skinner!” He stood up and took a few steps away to speak in rudimentary privacy.
“Thank you for all of your assistance, Agent Scully,” the Major said formally.
“I’m just glad it turned out so….” She paused, searching for a word.
“Logically?” the Earl supplied cheerfully.
The German rose. “Excuse me. Starting tomorrow night, I’ll be spending the night at the sleep clinic, but I’m on my own tonight, and I am exhausted.”
The others rose as well. “It’s been most instructive, Mr. Von Luger,” the Earl said in a correct social tone.
“Humph,” the Major said. Scully stood and leaned against the table to wait for Mulder. She glanced his way; he seemed quite intent on whatever Skinner was telling him. Drat. If he was that excited, it probably meant they were going to have to leave before she could see Hepzibah again.
But then, she had some vacation time coming up….
As these pleasant thoughts began to take shape, she glanced at the other two men, making their way to the door. And for a few seconds she forgot everything else in her astonishment as the Major’s hand absently reached to take the Earl’s arm.
What kind of agent was she, that she had missed what was going on between those two?
The German held the other man’s elbow for perhaps half a second before realizing what he was doing and snatching his hand away as if he’d been burned. She could clearly see the tension in his neck and knew he was making a deliberate effort not to turn around to see if anyone had noticed. She turned away and pretended to be watching Mulder in case he did turn around.
Chill, Major, I’m family. Your secret is safe with me.
And would she always be able to remember, when she was with Hepzibah, not to give them away by any such fleeting gesture? And if she forgot herself for one second, as even Iron Klaus just had, would she be lucky enough to be noticed only by people who wouldn’t betray her?
“We’ll be right there,” Mulder was saying, returning to her side. He pushed the button and gave her a triumphant look. “You’ll never guess who just turned up in Colorado, Scully!”
“How did he get to Colorado?”
Mulder smiled. “He doesn’t remember. He just showed up in a park there, wearing the same pajamas he was wearing when he disappeared. They were perfectly clean, by the way.”
Scully sighed. “Mulder, even crazy people can get on buses.”
Undaunted, Mulder said, “Let’s go pick up our things. A.D. Skinner wants us in Colorado right away.”
Back in their suite, Scully packed with swift efficiency, and then sat on the edge of the bed for a few minutes, holding her cell phone and fighting with herself.
She almost called, but the image of Iron Klaus’s hand jerking away from his lover’s arm was replaying itself over and over in her mind.
“Are you ready, Scully?” Mulder called through the door.
Scully considered for one more second, then tucked the phone into her briefcase and snapped it shut. “Yes, Mulder, I’m ready,” she answered, and stood up to open the door.
illustration by Sabrina
“Couldn’t you have kept your hands off that deranged Fibbie?” Klaus grumbled once they were safely inside Dorian’s suite.
“But straight men are so cute when I flirt with them,” Dorian protested innocently. “Like little frightened bunny rabbits.”
“Idiot.” Klaus dropped onto the divan and Dorian curled up beside him, snuggling close.
“You didn’t seem to mind that little redhead checking you out.”
“Agent Scully was not checking me out! She is much too professional for such behavior.”
“And Dr. Catch-A-Mouse-Ski?”
“Don’t call her that. She’s the most sensible doctor I’ve ever met, even if she is wasting herself on psychiatry.”
“Good heavens. I had no idea you were so fond of American women.”
Klaus grimaced at his lover. "Don’t be absurd. It’s only that women generally put me on edge, but those two don't bother me."
Dorian smiled mysteriously, but said nothing.
Klaus looked at him, uneasy. "Was this a mistake? Should I have left things the way they were?"
"Now that I've had you, I can't give you up," Dorian whispered into his neck.
"That wasn't what I asked."
"It wasn't a mistake." Dorian's voice was choked. "But I never expected this. I'm glad, but – I don't know what to do."
"What do you want to do?"
Dorian was stopped. "I want to love you," he said at last. "And you? I know I'm causing you a lot of trouble, just by being your lover–"
"As long as you are, I will contend with the complications that result."
Dorian smiled slightly. "You're in for the long haul?"
"Do you think I would have started this if I hadn't intended to see it through?"
"There you go, acting like yourself again. So. We will make it work."
"Do you mean that you'll make it work? You're willing to deal with–"
Klaus looked at him. Now Dorian was pale too, his eyes enormous, and he looked downright scared.
That reassured Klaus. If the thief looked scared, he was taking this seriously.
"Don't ever promise me anything you can't deliver, Dorian."
"Never." Suddenly Dorian smiled, like the sun coming out – the gentle sun of Europe, not the blinding one of Arizona. "Which is why I won't promise to stop stealing."
Dorian laughed. And kept laughing until Klaus made him stop.
Hepzibah was lighting incense in preparation for her evening meditation when the phone rang. She seized it at once, not bothering to conceal the flare of hope from herself.
“Dr. Katchinowski? This is Special Agent Fox Mulder.”
“I’m calling to let you know we found your patient. He’s in good shape physically, but he’s mentally disoriented. After his escape I’m sure we won’t be able to send him to an institution instead of a prison, but you can probably get permission to examine him and possibly treat him when he’s moved back to Arizona to stand trial.”
“I suppose they’re pumping him full of mind-altering drugs,” Hepzibah said sourly.
“I believe so. But at least he’s alive and unharmed.”
“Yes….” Hepzibah drifted into thought, planning how she could convince the judge and the police to let her treat her patient properly after the fiasco, probably caused by the combination of Pimozide and food coloring and caffeine, what had they been thinking….
“So we’ll notify you when he’s returned to Arizona,” Mulder’s voice broke into her thoughts.
“Right – wait, returned? Where is he now?”
“Colorado. That’s where he was found.”
“And that’s where you are?”
“Is Agent Scully with you?”
“Yes, she’s on the computer writing her report. Do you need to speak to her?”
Hepzibah noticed that she was clenching her jaw, a habit it had taken her first two years of yoga to break. She commanded the muscles to relax. “No. Thank you for calling me. Goodbye.”
She put down the phone and wrapped her arms around herself, hunching her shoulders, bowing her head.
Well, what did you expect? she asked herself.
“Hep Cat, you’re a fool,” she murmured aloud.
She straightened, drew a breath all the way down to her root chakra, held it, and slowly released it.
Then she lowered herself onto her small pink rug and made peace, yet again, with the universe.
Klaus’s first sensation on awakening was that of a weight on his chest. For a few seconds he hoped it was Dorian, but the smell in his nostrils was that of rotten eggs, not of roses, and when he tried to move his arms, he couldn’t.
His eyes snapped open, and in the darkened room – where was he, anyway? – he could see indistinct but menacing shapes moving toward him, their obsidian eyes implacable, chilling. The fear coursed through him, now-familiar fear that had been a stranger for so long….
“Mr. Luger? Mr. Luger! Can you hear me?”
Klaus’s eyes really opened this time, and squinted at the glare of an antiseptic white hospital room. His heart was hammering so hard he thought it would break his ribs, and his breath was labored, his skin clammy.
And the beings gathered around his bed, supporting him in a sitting-up position, were American medics, not alien abductors.
“Mr. Luger? Can you understand me? Do you know where you are?” the young woman on his right asked gently.
Klaus had never thought he would be glad to hear one of those flat, drawling Yank accents. Certainly not this glad. Americans were, on the whole, preferable to aliens.
“I am very well, Fraulein,” he said, just to hear her giggle at the honorific. Which she did right on cue. It was a sane, normal thing to hear. She applied a stethoscope to his chest, then gently pulled each of his lids back to examine his eyes. He complied with her brief examination patiently, and after a couple of minutes his breath and pulse had returned to normal.
“It really worked,” he said, mainly to himself.
“Were you experiencing the sleep paralysis nightmare?” asked another of the medics, a man a little older than himself.
“Yes.” He answered their questions and then asked, “What time is it?”
“In that case, I believe I shall go back to my hotel. There would be no point in going back to sleep at this hour.”
“You’re an early riser?”
“All right, then. We’ll see you again tonight.”
Klaus stood up and waited for them all to leave. Alone, he dressed and then departed for his hotel. Not for the small barren room he had rented himself earlier, but the suite on the top floor. Dorian would be waiting for him.