[disclaimers in part 1]
"Without being dazed, let us evaluate the extent of my innocence."
~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~
MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2000
LONE GUNMEN HQ
When we get back from the med center, Frohike falls into bed after only a little bitching, and I check my email. Yes! Deb wrote me again! Her response to "people" was "together." Oh, yeah! I wish we were. I like the way this is going. 'Together' is such a great word. I answer 'please,' 'cause I really wish she was here right now. I want her so bad. But I've gotta get to work shuffling through Sari's computer, because it'll probably be a while before I get a response from Deb, and somebody has to do it while Byers is out of commission.
I hook up her box to a keyboard and monitor, isolated from our systems in case of nasty virii. We practice safe computing around here. Damn, this really is a mess. But I can see that Byers has already done a hell of a lot with the system. There's a heavy set of virtual viral nastiness here worthy of my own talents. Whoever did this has some hot kung fu, but mine's still the best. Too bad the guy's doing idle destruction instead of taking on The Man, like me and the guys. What we do is pretty damn dangerous sometimes, but when we score big, it's such a rush. Even our Narcboy Byers gets excited over a really good hack and crack session sometimes. The adrenaline high is totally incredible. There's nothing like it on the planet, except maybe a bungee jump, or... Deb...
Focus, Lord Manhammer, focus.
My nap wasn't long, but I certainly needed it. I'm feeling vaguely human again when I make my way out to the office, where Langly isactually working on Sari's computer. "It's a miracle," I say to him.
"Fuck you too, Fro. Feeling better?" He doesn't even look up. Must bean engaging problem.
"Yeah, thanks." I yawn and stretch, then head for the kitchen and make some coffee and a sandwich. Breakfast was lovely, but it was a few hours ago, and I need a little fortification before checking out our houseguest and working on the frame for her ex. Damn, I hate that bastard. It's not just because I hate men who hit women. It's got a lot to do with him messing up one of my boys, too. Nobody messes with them except me. Well, okay, Mulder and Scully. Life wouldn't be the same without our favorite fibbies. I'll have to give them a call later. Wonder if they've turned anything up?
I sit at the keyboard with my lunch, and Langly looks over at me. "Hey, where's mine?" he whines.
"You got two arms again, make your own." He sticks his tongue out at me, but gets up and goes to fix his own lunch. Another miracle.
Ah well, time to get started on my first task for the day: Sarasvati
Thomas. I pull up the basics first; DMV records, employment history, medical
records, credit history, court documents -- easy to find personal information.
It seems that our guest and erstwhile employer was born in Oregon in 1962,
has two siblings named Devi and Krishna (poor guy), and married her abusive
ex in 1995. Her parents are both academics, mom a Sanskrit linguist and
dad a professor of Asian Philosophy. I suppose that would explain the names.
She's got a BS in Environmental Studies and an MFA in Poetry, both with
Interesting combination. She's a member of several book and music clubs. Owns a tiny place just outside of Portland in addition to her apartment out here. Two parking tickets, both paid. One arrest while at Reed, for trespassing. The info says she chained herself to a bunch of other people around a tree as part of an Earth First! action in the Willamette National Forest. Not bad. That means she's got an FBI file somewhere. I'll have to have Mulder look into it. She worked as a volunteer escort at a women's health clinic for two years while studying at Antioch. Works a lot at food banks. Spent a year in some Hindu ashram outside of Benares, India. No funky finances. She's published some poetry books and an amazing selection of articles on a lot of subjects, from politics and natural history to an analysis of the Kama Sutra (ooh, baby), as well as a variety of essays. Won quite a few poetry prizes too. Seems like our guest is a real hotshot in her spare time.
The biggest parts of her history are the court and medical records surrounding
her abuse, divorce, and subsequent years of trying to keep Barry Guertzen
from killing her. She's been in and out of the hospital like a yoyo since
96, when she moved out. A dozen broken bones, at least, including a fractured
skull. Damn. Byers got off lucky with a damaged eye and a minor concussion.
No wonder she's been so worried about him. Sari's been in and out of shrink
offices over the years too, but that doesn't really surprise me. She's
pretty damn together for a woman who's been through what she has. Astonishingly,
unless the FBI file on her reveals something really strange that nobody
else knew about, our Ms. Thomas is clean as a whistle. Not
even a whiff of secrecy or conspiracy about her. I don't think I've seen a cleaner personal history in years. Looks like my day for miracles. It also looks like my guts were right. This woman is no Mata Hari, thank God.
"Hey, Langly, check this out." He's returned with his lunch and leans over my shoulder at my amassed information.
"Impressive," he says through a mouthful of BLT. "Almost too good to be real."
I chuckle. He's right, of course. But those traffic tickets and the
protest arrest attest to the fact that she's quite human, as has
seeing her around Byers. And the ex puts her firmly in the realm of the real. "No shit, Blondie. But real enough. I'm gonna ask Mulder to check for an FBI file on her later today, though. That'll be the last thing I need to see on her. Seems like, aside from the ex, she's pretty safe to be around."
"Yeah," Langly says, "aside from the ex. I doubt that Byers would say she's safe to be around." He rolls his eyes. Well, there is that. But we're taking care of that particular annoyance. At least then Byers will be safe with her. He really needs someone to help him get over Susanne. She may not be hot for him -- yet -- but I still think that Byers has it bad for her. There's definitely something between the two of them, even if they only just met. After all, it only took a look in the eyes for Byers to get lost in Susanne.
Frohike dug up a lot on Sari's history, but she's so clean she practically
glows in the dark. Kinda spooky, really. We just don't
meet people like that in our business. She seems for real to me, though. I can't really imagine it being a coverup for anything. I'm working on her computer again, almost done destroying the virus complex, when my email goes off. It's the Deb Song! Time to see what my private doctor prescribes. I pull up her email and read 'beg.' Oh, God, she's gonna drive me crazy. What should I say next? Words, man. They are like so powerful. And she's got me on my knees with that one.
LATER THAT EVENING
"I cancelled out on dinner with my mother for this, I'll have you know," I chide Mulder as we pull up to an empty space near the Lone Gunmen's HQ. Secretly, I'm relieved. Bill's in town for the night, and I'm happy to skip the latest in the family melodrama. But why pass up a perfectly good chance to guilt Mulder?
"And I'm supposed to feel bad about this?" he asks. Well, it was worth a try, anyway.
"I was hungry." The truth is, I'm starving, having spent my lunch hour working on this Barry Guertzen thing. I only had a cup of yogurt and I'm ready for some real food.
"Shouldn't be a problem. Frohike's usually got something good working in the kitchen."
"Mulder, you can't just invite yourself to stay for dinner."
"Sure I can. Besides, when they see what we have for them, they're going to owe me."
"Mulder, I can understand why the Bureau might be interested in this man, but why the guys? This RICO stuff isn't really what they deal with, certainly not on any direct level. And wouldn't that be 'owe us'?"
"Let's just say, it's payback time."
Yes, but for who? Frohike greets us with "you want to get through security,
you have to get through me first." When he lets us in, I note that the
lair is slightly neater than usual. It's still a disaster, but there seem
to be fewer crushed cans, empty beer
bottles, and crusting plates left lying around. It's about on par with Mulder's apartment. It hasn't looked this clean, relatively
speaking, since January, when the guys' lives went to hell. I don't know who did this, because Byers is still at GWU, and he'd be in no shape to do this even if he were here.
"Where's the blonde bombshell?" Mulder has noticed, as have I, the lack of Langly's presence.
"His turn to babysit Byers."
"So what's cooking, Frohike?"
"Excuse me, do I look like Julia Child?" Frohike demands. I almost burst out laughing. Frohike as Julia Child; now that's an image.
"No, you're uglier." Mulder's lack of manners is appalling, but I remind myself, I am now in that scariest of alternate universes, the Guy Zone.
"You're in luck. I roasted a chicken with sage stuffing. Agent Scully, would you care for some?"
"Frohike, you're a god among men." He looks embarrassed, but pleased at the compliment. For a long time, I felt Frohike was no more than an odd, paranoid, dirty old man. He is that, but he's also one of the best friends one could ever hope to have. And he can cook, too.
"Just a moment, let me see if our guest is ready. Sari?" he calls. An unusual name. I think it's the one Byers kept saying last night.
As I approach the table, I notice a large ginger cat occupying the tool cabinet that passes for a sideboard. I'm allergic to cats, so I don't approach. Mulder, however, goes over to it and scratches its ears. "Well, well, if it isn't Cardinal Richelieu, waiting to move in for the kill," he says. It purrs appreciatively. It's got a good engine -- I can hear it across the room.
"Cardinal Richelieu has no taste," I comment to Mulder, joking.
"Actually, he's very discriminating, and not fond of strangers, but for some reason, he and Mulder seem to have hit it off." I turn my head to see a tall, slender, dark haired woman entering the room. She walks over to me, extending her left hand. "Hi, I'm Sari Thomas."
"Dana Scully," I say, shaking her hand. Her fingers are thin and light, but her grip is confident. Her voice has a certain bearing as well; pleasant, well-modulated, authoritative, as though she spends a lot of her life behind a microphone. I wonder if she's staying here. If so, she's a braver woman than I'll ever be. I spent a night here once, and ended up handcuffed to the wheel of Frohike's gas guzzling gunboat, with Esther Nairn pointing my own gun at me. Not an experience I'm eager to repeat.
The dining table in the lair is circular and worn. Probably a leftover from the same whorehouse where they got that disgusting red sofa. I'm always nervous about sitting there. God knows who's been on it and what they've done there. Sari sits at my left and Frohike at my right, with Mulder facing me. Mulder seemed a bit put out when Frohike took one of the chairs closest to me. But it gives me a chance to get to know Sari a little better. I learn that she's an environmental lobbyist, and has been preparing a white paper to present to a Senate subcommittee later this week. Apparently the boys got involved when her computer was hacked. I ask the obvious question, if she thinks her ex was involved in the hack. She's not certain, but after a moment she says no. "So why we are investigating him?" I ask.
"I'd rather discuss that privately, after dinner, " she replies.
Talking to Sari, unlike most individuals I've interviewed, is surprisingly
easy. She's forthcoming and direct, two qualities in
short supply in our lives. It's refreshing to have an intelligent conversation with a literate, insightful woman. Our talk relates
mostly to her work and the work that the boys are doing for her and then a brief history of how she met Byers, and where. She understands that I will be checking everything she tells me, but I don't get the sense that she's hiding things. The only break in her composure comes when we talk about her ex and how he had beaten her and Byers. She'd come to dinner wearing a loose shirt with long, full sleeves and no sling, but it hadn't taken me long to see that her right arm was cast, and from the swollen, bruised state of her fingertips I knew the injury was recent. Asshole. I'd kill him if I could. The guys are my friends. I don't take their abuse lightly.
"I saw Byers last night, after you'd been discharged," I tell her.
"Do you think he'll be all right?" She has good control, but exhaustion and worry are taking their toll on her. There's an unhappy edginess in her voice.
"From reading his charts and talking to his surgeon, I believe he'll recover fully. Assuming, of course, that he doesn't try to get on his feet too rapidly."
"He's such a sweet guy, Dana. I barely know him, but he's done more for me than most of the friends I've had for years. I hate to see him hurt like this." She sounds like she's about to cry. I take her hand.
"That's Byers, all right. Always the first to put his ass on the line for someone else. He'll be alright, Sari, don't worry. Now, I don't know what your long-term plans are, and I'm sure you have instructions from your doctor, but my prescription for you right now is to call it a night and get some rest."
"I have work to do," she protests. She doesn't know I've worked with Mulder for eight years. Believe me, I'm a pro when it comes to this kind of stubbornness.
"Your only work tonight is to make yourself comfortable, get into bed, and sleep. You've been through a lot, and you need to get better."
"I can't rest, not with everyone else working so hard on my behalf..."
"Sari, this is what we do. Honestly, you're in the best hands with these guys. And in addition to having a lot of useful skills, they have the best hearts in the world. You're safe here." I'd love to be able to guarantee her safety from her ex for the rest of her natural life. And maybe what Mulder and I found today can help her have that.
end part 12