XxXxX Chapter Nine XxXxX There was a light snow falling by the time they reached the town of Bakersfield, Ohio -- population six thousand. "And two," Mulder added as they crossed the border. Scully squinted out the window as she drove, taking in the sparse number of buildings on the main drag. "Hopefully we won't be here long enough to count." "What's the matter, Scully? You have something against small-town charm?" "I like charm just fine," she answered as she pulled into the driveway of the Bakersfield Inn. The engine cut out. "But let's face it, Mulder -- we're not going to catch this guy here. Even if these murders were committed by the same man we're searching for, he's long gone from this place." "Ah, but the clues remain." They retrieved their overnight bags from the car and headed for the entrance to the Inn. He held the door open for her, and they both stamped snowflakes from their shoes on the mat inside. "Welcome," said a round-faced woman behind the front desk. She put aside an Agatha Christie novel to greet them. "You all must be the FBI, right?" "Right as rain," Mulder agreed. He brushed off his overcoat. "Or snow, in this case." "First of the season," the woman said. "You're lucky you made it in before it hit." She took out her ledger and consulted. "Let's see...I can give you separate rooms on floors one and two, or else I've got two rooms together on the second floor that share a common bathroom. Which do you prefer?" Mulder glanced at Scully, who said, "The joined ones are fine." She returned his look. "I'll just make sure to lock the bathroom door." "Okay, if you'll just sign here," the woman said. "Oh, wait, and I forgot. Pete Lydell dropped this off for you earlier." She handed then a thick manila envelope. "Great, thanks," Mulder said. "Is there anyplace to grab something to eat around here?" "No, sir, I'm afraid everything is locked up tight as a drum." She thought for a moment. "Let me see if I can have Patsy rustle you up something from our kitchen. It won't be much, but it'll take the edge off." "That would be wonderful, thank you," Scully said. His bag slung over his shoulder, Mulder had the file open before they reached the stairs. "Lydell says he'll meet us in his office tomorrow at eight-thirty," he reported as they climbed. "And these seem to be copies of the reports on two murders he told me about over the phone." Scully paused outside her door. "Anything new?" "Susan Perry's body was found here in Bakersfield," he reported, scanning as he flipped through the pages. "Dee-Ann Tucker was found in Kirby, where she apparently lived." He glanced at her. "I wonder how far away that is from here." "About ten miles back on Route 80," Scully answered. "We passed signs on the way into town." "Huh," Mulder said, eyeing the folders again. "I would have expected them to be closer together." Scully smothered a yawn in the sleeve of her wool coat. "You can give me the rest of the highlights in a few minutes. I've got dibs on the shower." He nodded absently and let himself into the room. Tossing his bag in a chair, he stretched out on the bed and turned on the nearby lamp. As he held up the top folder, a series of photographs slid out onto his stomach. The first one was a color portrait, air-brushed and matted, showing a young woman with a wide smile and mischievous hazel eyes. Her pink blouse was open at the collar, and he could just make out a delicate necklace that spelled out "Susan" gold script. A senior year portrait, he guessed, taken only a few months before she died. Just eighteen years old. Reluctantly, he traded the bright and happy picture for those that followed -- black and white crime scene photos showing her bruised neck, scattered clothes, and mutilated toes. When he held it up next to the light, he detected tooth marks on the side of her left foot. Her little toe had been chopped off. The photos from the second murder looked much the same. Dee- Ann Tucker died on or about February 3, 1982, having been reported missing by her mother the previous day. The search team found her body propped under a tree in the local schoolyard -- raped, strangled and missing both little toes. He had read both files front to back by the time Scully entered from the bathroom a half hour later. Her hair was wet. He gave an appreciative glance at the curved, bare legs that stuck out from under her robe, and an even more appreciative glance at the sandwich plate she held in her hand. "Courtesy of Patsy downstairs," she said, joining him on the bed. "Thank God," he said as he sat up. "Man does not live by peanuts alone." She tucked her legs under her and took one of the sandwiches from the plate. "Anything else of interest in the files?" she asked. "Looks like the same guy from DC," Mulder answered with his mouth full. "Both of the murdered girls had toes missing." "Did they have any suspects back at the time of the original investigations?" "Nothing that panned out. The local boys chalked it up to a drifter who had moved on to another town." Scully looked thoughtful. "Could be possible, I suppose." "No, our killer is a nice, corn-fed Midwestern boy, all right." he replied. "From a small town where everyone knows everyone. All we have to do is find out who knew this animal twelve years ago." "Great," she said with a sigh. "There are only six thousand people. Should take us no time at all." He shook his head. "There are two people who knew him for sure," he said, tapping the folders next to him. "We can start there." XxXxX Scully fell asleep halfway through "M*A*S*H," curled in her fuzzy robe with the blue light flickering over her face. He muted the television and watched her for a few minutes, letting the gentle rhythm of her breathing wash over him like waves. At last he rolled out of bed and padded on bare feet to the closet, where he found a worn cotton blanket. He took it back to the bed and sat by her hip as he tucked it around her, stretching across and caging her body with his own. She opened her eyes, and he froze in place above her. "Mulder?" "It's okay," he murmured, reaching up to stroke the curve of her face with his finger. "Go back to sleep. I'll take your room tonight." She blinked at him a moment longer, then stretched, arching under the blanket and brushing his belly with her own. He sucked in his breath as she released a sleepy sigh. He swallowed with difficulty and leaned down to kiss her temple. "Night, Scully," he whispered. As he moved to pull away, she stopped him with two hands on his chest. His face hovered inches from hers. "No, wait," she said. Breathless, he waited. "What?" "I think..." She shifted under him, her hands sliding up so her fingers splayed across his cheek. "I think the bed..." Her face tilted up to his. "...is crashing." Her hands fell away as their lips met, brushing first at one angle, then the other. They connected only with their kiss. Mulder quivered just above her, his fingers digging into the bed sheets. He tasted her mouth and smelled her skin and felt her twisting with need beneath him, her breath hot against his face. She whimpered, and he was lost, crawling over her even as she urged him into bed with eager, stroking hands. The blanket slipped to the floor. He panted in between frantic kisses on her lips, her ears, her eyes. The ends of her hair were still damp, and he took the curled tips in his mouth, sucking off the last sweet drops. He wanted to taste her everywhere. His cock poked around inside his sweat pants, and when she parted her legs he rubbed himself between them. "Oh, yes," she murmured, her eyes drifting shut. She slipped her hands under his shirt and stroked the length of his back, her nimble fingers finding the sensitive skin on the sides of his ribcage. "Scully," he whispered against her mouth, and she swallowed the sound as she wrapped her legs around him. Arching away from her, he tugged open her robe, releasing her body heat and clean, spicy scent into the air between them. Her fingers curled into his tee-shirt, tugging upwards, and he obliged her by shrugging it off. She returned her touch immediately, tracing his ribs down to his belly as she planted tiny kisses along his jaw. He tried, he tried not to go from zero to fucking in sixty seconds. The avalanche of need inside him almost didn't care that it was her hand on his cock, pumping so sweetly. But he forced himself to open his eyes. To see her. To remember the shadow curve of her waist, the warm weight of her breasts, the feel of her pointed hot tongue on his skin. Her breathing grew light and fast as touched between her legs. He stroked her gently before trailing hot and wet fingers down her thigh. Her hips jerked under his hand, and he returned to his purposeful rhythm at her center. She turned her face away, her cheek pushed deep into the pillow as she panted in little "oh" shaped breaths and followed the movements of his hand. He was prepared to rub her this way for as long as she needed, trying to give her the time to let go. But Scully clenched around him after only a few seconds, gasping and shaking under his fingers. He kissed the pulse fluttering at her throat, and she twisted her fingers in his hair. "Good," she said, licking her lips. Her eyes were still closed. "Take your time," he said as he rolled next to her. He traced a circle around the nipple closest to him and tried to control the spasms of his hips against her thigh. "Time," she answered, tugging down the waistband of his pants. He slid them down and off in one motion. They kissed face to face for several long moments before she rolled herself on top of him, the terry cloth robe slipping down to her elbows like a wrap. Her breasts peeked out from between the folds, and he watched her eyes as he took both nipples in his fingers and rolled them gently back and forth. Her lips parted, her eyelids heavy, she reached behind her to stroke him from root to tip. After another moment, she shifted onto her knees. He squeezed his eyes shut briefly. "Slow," he warned through clenched teeth. "Yeah, yeah," she agreed, positioning him between her legs. She slid downwards a couple of inches, then stopped, and he forced himself to hold back a groan. "Okay?" he asked. He could feel himself pressing tight inside her. "Mmmm." She closed her eyes and wrinkled her forehead the way she did whenever she was thinking hard about something -- her lips pursed, her skin flushed. Thinking about fucking me, he thought, and nearly went over the edge right then. "Oh," she said, a sound of surprise and delight as she opened up and he slid all the way inside. She leaned down and kissed him softly, then drew away to look into his eyes. "Well?" He kissed her back, once hard. "Mayday," he said, and then gripped the bed as her laughter rippled through him. She reached up and matched her palms to his, folding their fingers together. He bumped his hips against her, and she made a small, choked sound of pleasure as she bore down with an answering push. They made love slowly at first, her cheek against shoulder, his hands caressing her smooth back under the robe. Then her fingers found his nipples with a light scrape, and he began to sweat. She licked the side of his neck. "Can't," he said, more to himself than her, as the tempo started to carry him away. "Can'tcan't." He was pumping himself into her with smooth, short strokes. "You can," she whispered back, her breathing uneven. She sat up, bringing him deeper, and he groaned. He held her hips as she rose and fell, until the pulses of pleasure began shooting down his spine. She swooped down and kissed him, and he hugged her tight as he shook and shook. When he opened his eyes again, his heartbeat slowing, Scully was draped over him with a satisfying dead weight. He mapped the individual ridges of her vertebrae with his fingers, learning every velvet ridge. Her skin was every bit as peach-fuzz soft and smooth as it had been under his hands seven years earlier, when she had dropped her robe for him in the candlelight. He felt a lump form in his throat at the small reminder of her innocence back then, amazed that the same star-bright, cocky young woman was the Scully he now loved. He kissed her ear, and she tightened her arms around him. Her hips, he noted, were still bucking against his at odd intervals. The inner clenching sent shivers though him, but he softened and slipped out of her all the same. She twitched and murmured something into his shoulder. "More?" he breathed, reaching down to stroke her lightly. She buried her hot face in his neck and nodded, already pushing against his fingers. He let her set the easy pace. His need assuaged, this time he could pay attention -- feel the edges of her teeth against his shoulder, hear the hitches in her breathing. He urged her on with whispered words, the damp threads of her hair tickling his lips. She came with a quick yelp and a long, shuddering sigh. Afterward, they drifted in a pile of heavy limbs and lazy kisses. Through sleepy eyes, he noted the grainy shadows dancing on the ceiling, and he chuffed against the fragrant hollow of her throat. "What?" she murmured. "We left the TV on," he explained, amused. She kissed the back of his neck. "So turn it off," she said. So he did. XxXxX Sheriff Lydell, as Mulder and Scully discovered, was actually the county sheriff and worked out of the neighboring town of Kirby. The six inches of snow had been cleared overnight, so Scully had no problems on the roads. Even the cows were out, twitching their tails at the side of the road as they rooted around under the snow for something to eat. At the Kirby town border, they passed a small sign that read "Ohio Is For Lovers." Scully smiled. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead, but when she stretched her hand across the seat, she found Mulder's fingers there, waiting. They parked outside the gray concrete building where Sheriff Lydell's office was located. He greeted them inside with hot coffee and a pair of old leather chairs on rickety wheels. "Sit, sit," he insisted. "I'm glad you were able to make it despite the storm." Not the usual phenotype for a small-town Sheriff, Scully thought as they sat. Pete Lydell was perhaps four inches taller than she was, with thinning hair, wire-rimmed glasses and a caterpillar moustache. He chewed it for a moment before launching into his explanation of why he had contacted them. "Susan was the first murder I investigated," he said, clearing his throat. "So far, Dee-Ann has been the only other one. You can see then why I remembered them. I almost couldn't believe it when I read your bulletin off the wires yesterday." Mulder pulled out the files he'd brought with him. "It does seem like your two murders here fit the pattern we've seen in our case. I think it's likely that we're looking for the same perpetrator." "Sonofabitch," Lydell murmured. "After all these years." "What I need from you is anything not found in these files," Mulder said. Lydell gnawed his upper lip again as he thought. "It was a long time ago," he said slowly. "And I don't think there's too much that didn't make it into the files. Susan was just eighteen years old, you know, and Dee-Ann had a three-year old daughter at home. We wanted this guy bad, looked at every angle we could." "I think the killer probably knew these girls," Mulder said. "At least casually. And it's possible that he knew them from the same place. I know they lived in different towns, but were you able to come up with any connection between the two of them?" "See, that's the thing. We looked at that." Lydell shook his head. "They didn't go to school together, didn't work together, didn't attend the same church...didn't even have any mutual friends that we could find." Mulder frowned, and Scully held out her hand for the files. "May I see those?" He gave them to her. "What about the smaller things -- repairmen, hairdressers, that sort of thing?" Mulder asked. "Nope." Lydell sighed. "We checked out those folks, too, and every one of them came back clean." Scully noticed that both victims had work addresses on Sycamore Street, and pointed that out to Mulder. "Are these two places close to one another?" she asked Lydell. "They're about three blocks apart, yes. Susan was a checker at Byron's Pharmacy, and Dee-Ann worked part-time at Lucille's Restaurant." "Is that near here?" Mulder asked, already getting up from his chair. Scully rose, too. "Sure, it's our main shopping area. Just down the street and around the corner." "Then let's start there." They side-stepped the icy patches on the sidewalk as Lydell led the way to Sycamore Street. The shoppers were already out and about, bundled in thick winter coats with their noses buried in their collars while they hurried from store to store. Lydell jangled a cow bell as he opened the door to Byron's Pharmacy. He took off his wide-brimmed sheriff's hat and approached the young man behind the counter. "Morning, Steven." "Hey, Sheriff. You here for more of those cold pills?" "No, I'd like to talk to Jerry, if he's around." Steven nodded to the rear of the store. "Sure, he's in back doing the ordering." Jerry had a large belly and an easy smile. He pumped Lydell's hand several times before scraping several chairs across the room so Lydell, Mulder and Scully could sit, too. "What can I do for you folks today?" he asked, eyeing the strangers with curiosity. "It's about Susan, Jerry." The older man needed no further clarification. "Oh," he said, the light dimming from his eyes a bit. He shuffled some papers on his desk. "Is there...is there some new information?" "This is Agents Mulder and Scully from the FBI," Lydell explained. "They think the man who killed Susan may be in Washington, DC now." "I see." His mouth tightened. "Killing more little girls, right?" "Not if we can stop it," Mulder answered gently. "That's why we're here." "Jerry, we need to know who else worked here at the time Susan did," Lydell said. The other man's eyes widened. "You think it was one of my people? No way anyone I knew could have hurt that sweet little girl." "Probably not," Lydell soothed. "But just for the record, who was working with Susan back then?" Jerry leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin. "Well, let's see now. I don't have need for a lot of people. Back then, it was Susan and Nick Greer and Martha Vilbin." He frowned. "You can't possibly think Nick had anything to do with this." "Nick Greer is one of my deputies now," Lydell told Mulder and Scully. "I don't think he could be involved. For one thing, he still lives right here in town. Never been to DC as far as I know." "No short-term workers you might have hired around that time?" Mulder asked. Jerry shook his head. "Sorry, no." "Thanks, Jer," Lydell said as they rose. "You've been a big help." "Sure thing." Jerry glanced from Mulder and Scully to the Sheriff. "You'll let me know if..." "I promise," Lydell assured him. "Anything I hear, you'll be the first to know." They left the shop, and as they walked down the blocks to Lucille's restaurant, Lydell said, "Susan was Jerry's niece. Her death about ripped him apart." At Lucille's Restaurant, the owner, a man named Bud Lovett, also vouched for every single one of his employees. Most still lived right in the area, and he couldn't imagine any of them hurting poor Dee-Ann Tucker. Outside on the street, Lydell sighed. "I was afraid it would turn out this way. We interviewed most of these folks at the time of the murders, and nothing popped out even then." "Maybe he didn't work with the women," Mulder replied, scanning the storefronts. "Maybe he worked near them." Before Scully could reply, Mulder was stalking across the street, his open coat flaring in the wind. She followed with Lydell close on her heels. "You going to go store by store?" he called, sounding confused. "Not necessary," Mulder answered without looking back. "Tell me -- what kind of shoes were Susan and Dee-Ann wearing when they disappeared." He came to a sudden stop on the sidewalk. "Susan had been dressed up for a holiday party," Lydell answered. "And Dee-Ann was a bridesmaid in her sister's wedding the day she was killed. So they were both wearing fancy-type shoes, I would say." "Exactly," Mulder murmured, tipping his head back to look at the store sign hanging over their heads. Scully followed his gaze. SILLIMAN'S SHOE SHOP Scully turned around and faced the street. With a chill, she realized she could see both the pharmacy and the restaurant from where she was standing. "You won't have too much luck asking in there now," Lydell said. "Silliman's changed ownership about six years ago, when Norma Burnheardt retired." "Does she still live nearby?" Mulder asked. "I think she moved to Indiana to be with her kids. But we can try to get her on the telephone." The wind blew then, swinging the wooden sign above their heads. "The sooner, the better," Mulder said grimly, and they began the walk back to the office. It took them a half an hour to track down Norma Burnheardt in Indiana, but she was friendly and eager to help. They put her on the Sheriff's speaker phone. "I'm especially interested in any young men you might have had working with you in late 1985 or early 1986," Mulder said. "Perhaps someone who left the area soon after that." "Oh, sure," she said immediately. "That would be Carl Quinten. But you can't be looking for Carl. He used to give lollipops to the kids and spent hours with the ladies, helping them pick out shoes. He was a quiet boy, a nice boy." Scully felt her heart begin to pound. She picked up the nearest pen and wrote on a piece of paper, "Carl Quinten is on our list -- paroled recently in DC." Mulder glanced at the paper and nodded. "Do you know where Carl went when he moved, Mrs. Burnheardt?" "He had a cousin in Maryland, I believe." Just then, Mulder's cell phone rang, and he excused himself to the other side of the room. Scully kept one eye on his back as she thanked Norma for her time and hung up the call. A minute later, Mulder returned. "Vee lied to you," he said. "What do you mean?" "I mean that this guy sure seems to think she can ID him. That was Grenier on the phone. The D.C. cops responded to a nine-one-one call at the apartment of Jimmy Cho yesterday night and found him unconscious with the place a mess. This morning he told them a guy in a Richard Nixon mask did it, and awfully concerned about Vee." "Where is she now?" "No one knows. Her mother put her on a train yesterday afternoon, but Vee never got off on the other end." "Jesus," Scully breathed. "Did you tell him what we found out here?" "Yeah, but we're a little too late." His hands fisted, and he looked away. "They found another body this morning." XxXxX End Chapter Nine. Continued in Chapter Ten. I don't know if y'all want warm holiday wishes from a woman who writes about serial killers, but I offer them all the same. ;-) Joanne, if you can answer your own question, then you'll have the whole thing figured out! Feedback would be lovely. Comments, questions, concerns and chocolate to firstname.lastname@example.org Holiday wreaths with pine cones and ribbons to my three beta readers, Alanna, Alicia and Jerry! Thanks for all your help.
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