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Draw Down the Moon

Draw Down the Moon 10

John Wilkes was about forty-five, with a salt-and-pepper beard and black hair, a sharp nose and guarded, wary eyes. “Sheriff Harris, agents,” he said when they approached the porch. “Have you found my wife?”

“We have not,” John said. Wilkes’s gaze settled on him, and John slowly climbed the front steps until they were nearly nose-to-nose. “We have a warrant to search the property. We’d prefer your cooperation but we can do this without it.”

“My wife isn’t here,” Wilkes said, not moving from his position on the top step. “I don’t know where she is. I suspect she’s run away.”

“We still need to search the premises.”

Wilkes studied him, and his gaze rested on John’s left hand that clutched the warrant. “I see you’re married, Agent Doggett.”

“Yes.”

“Is your wife a virtuous woman, Agent Doggett?” Wilkes asked softly. “Is she chaste and obedient? Do you know what she’s doing while you’re away?”

John had to swallow to control his anger, and said in the same soft tone, “She is a virtuous woman. She is fierce and passionate, with a loving heart and a quicksilver mind. I adore the air she breathes. Now get out of my way.”

The deputies behind him shifted and muttered. Sheriff Harris cleared her throat, and Monica whispered, “John,” as if in prayer.

Wilkes looked away first. “You’ve got blood on your shirt,” he said, and went back into the house, leaving the front door open behind him.

***

Dana put off going to bed for as long as possible after John’s phone call. It had been a quiet day for her, hours filled with laundry and baby, but still she was reluctant to call it a night.

Sighing, she put her book aside and rose from the armchair to turn off the lights and check the locks. Was it always going to be this way when John was gone—longing for his presence and worry for his safety interfering with her meals, her daily activities, her sleep?
Their bed was too big and lonely without him, the house was too quiet—not because he was a noisy person, only that she found his little sounds so comforting.

She’d had two other phone calls that day, one from her mother—who was slowly coming to terms with her new marriage but still referred to John as ‘him’—and one from Mrs. Kersh.

Dana had seen the wedding ring on D.D. Kersh’s hand, but still had toyed with the notion that Kersh was locked into a recharging chamber in his office coat closet at night. It was difficult to imagine him with a wife and children, though obviously both existed.

Lisa Kersh seemed pleasant enough, mentioning how “Johnny” used to be more social before “this X-Files business,” but even so Dana turned down the offer of a party. It seemed like too much to ask from a woman she barely knew.

Brushing her teeth, Dana wondered if that was the real reason or if it wasn’t something more personal. She just wasn’t ready yet to meet John’s friends or even his family, to share him.

She’d grown insulated, she knew that. Too accustomed to one person being the center of her world, to everyone else drifting along the edges. It was hard to stop feeling alone, even though she was no longer lonely.

Dana put her clothes into the hamper and slipped on a t-shirt of John’s she’d snagged before he left. It smelled like him—woodsy and clean—and she sniffed the collar appreciatively as she walked down the hall to check on William one more time.

She peeked in through the half-open door—then pushed the door open, her heart pounding against her ribs. William’s cheerful room looked as it always did, lit by his cow-jumping-over-the-moon nightlight and piled with toys.

Except for the misty gray shape leaning over the crib.

Dana’s fingers gripped the doorknob. She squeezed her eyes shut and said in the loudest voice she dared, “You’re not real. You’re not real!”

She opened her eyes in time to see the shape reach one limb into the crib and drift over the baby’s cheek. William stirred, his mouth working, but did not wake.

“Please,” Dana whispered as she took a step into the room. “Please don’t hurt my baby.”

“. . . oh, Scully . . .” came a voice, almost familiar, shaded and soft as though from a great distance. The shape lifted its eyeless head to face her, and then turned to gaze—tenderly, it seemed to her—back down into the crib.

It was too impossible—it couldn’t be— “Mulder?”

She heard no voice this time but she felt the words as if they were printed on her skin. *Scully, my love . . . you have nothing to fear from me, now until the end of time . . . but there is a threat, a real and serious threat, and there’s so little I can do . . . you will never be unprotected, but you must tell your husband to come home. You need him. He needs you. Tell your husband to come home.*

“Mulder,” she said again. Her eyes stung. Her throat felt tight. “Mulder, don’t go.”

*I’m never far, sweetest Scully. I’m never far.*

The shape moved away from the crib, towards her, and Dana’s breath caught in her chest. She felt Mulder’s chuckle in her ears: *But I don’t stick around when you start kissing him.*

The shape passed through her. She thought it would be cold but instead she was bathed in warmth, and left with what felt like a kiss to her lips.

And then she was alone.

Dana let go o
f the knob and sank to her knees. She leaned her head against the doorjamb, covered her face with her hands and wept.

* * *

One deputy stayed in the house with Monica and Sheriff Harris—they all agreed Wilkes would not react well to having his house searched by two women—and John went with the other three deputies to the dry creek bed.

It was nearly three in the afternoon when they arrived. By seven, with pickaxes and shovels they’d cleared away the top strata of the area John said to dig, and changed to trowels and brushes for the more precise search.

John’s hands and arms ached from the work, and his head ached from the heat. The dry trees offered little shade. They all had taken off their jackets and rolled up their sleeves, guns glinting black in their holsters.

“Are you sure this is the right place, Agent Doggett?” one of the deputies asked him, sitting back on his heels.

“Yes,” John said, but he realized as he spoke that he wasn’t sure—that it was possible the entire vision was only a dream, like he’d been telling Dana all week. How could he explain himself if he were wrong? ‘My dead son told me we’d find her here’?

Forget that. Mulder could have said something like that—even Monica could believably rely on her feelings and intuition—but they’d all only think he’d gone off his rocker.

Hell, maybe he had.

“Agent Doggett,” one of the other deputies said from a few feet away. He looked up from the dig, his face starting to turn green. “I’ve hit tarp.”

John moved to the deputy’s side and brushed away the dark, loose earth. More black tarpaulin came into view, and the deputy gagged at the stench of decay. John abandoned the trowel and brush and began to dig with his hands, clearing away dirt from the tightly-wrapped corpse.

“Go puke if you have to,” he told the deputy sharply. “Then call the M.E.”

The younger man scrambled up the creek bank and John heard him heaving a few yards away. “Kids,” the other deputy muttered, and he began scooping away dirt with his hands as well.

Most of the body was revealed when John heard the second Jeep bounce up the dirt road from the house. He got to his feet, brushing off his hands, and climbed out of the creek bed. The Jeep stopped and Monica climbed out.

John met her halfway down the slope between the road and the creek. “We found her.”

“Oh, John,” Monica said and took his hand. “We’re not having much luck at the house. Will you come down?”

“Is Wilkes being difficult?”

“He’s not being helpful. I think you’ll know what questions to ask him.”

“All right.” He nodded back towards the waiting deputies. “Will you call the M.E.? The kid can’t keep his lunch down.”

Monica nodded and let go of his hand. “John,” she said as he started to walk back to get his coat. “I was hoping . . . I was so hoping we wouldn’t find anything. I wanted to be wrong.”

“So did I,” John said.

* * *

Wilkes sat at his kitchen table, his hands folded together.
Sheriff Harris met John at the kitchen door, scowling. “He’s not talking.”

“Has he requested his lawyer?” John asked, shrugging into his coat. Curtains were drawn over every window, casting the house in gloom. It was cooler than outside, but not by much.

Harris shook her head. “He doesn’t believe in lawyers.”

“Uh-huh. He’s probably right—the Tooth Fairy will have a better chance at keeping him out of jail.” He entered the kitchen, followed by Harris, Monica and Dempsey, the fourth deputy, and sat at the table across from Wilkes.

Wilkes’s face had the slightly bored, unfocused expression John remembered from detention as a boy. He leaned forward, placing his palms on the tabletop, and said conversationally, “We found Amy’s body.”

The passive mask cracked, but just for a moment. “Oh. So she did kill herself, then?”

So that’s the way you’re going to play it, John thought, but kept his tone unconfrontational as he said, “I’ve never seen a suicide where the victim tied her hands and feet together, wrapped herself in a tarp and buried herself four feet underground.”

Monica made a soft sound behind him but said nothing.

“Oh,” Wilkes said again. “It’s a murder investigation.”

“There’s surprisingly little left to investigate. The medical examiner can tell us when and how. I think I know where and I’m pretty positive I know who. What I can’t figure out is why.”

Wilkes looked down at his hands as John got to his feet and leaned over the table.

“Why you spent two years convincing Amy to marry you and then proceeded to make her life a living hell. Why you isolated her on this farm, why you forbade her to visit her family or make friends, why you didn’t let her leave to see a movie or go to the library or buy a pair of shoes. Why you wouldn’t even let her have a child. Why you beat her and humiliated her and tortured her, why you made her last hours so terrifying and horrible.

“Most of all, I can’t figure out why you would do all this to a woman who only wanted to love you.”

Wilkes continued staring at his fingernails and frowning.

“You planned it out,” John went on in his calmest voice. “You told her every step you were going to take, and when she begged and promised you were only more cruel. You broke her. And when you knew you’d broken her, you forced her onto her knees and cut her throat and watched her die.”

Wilkes sighed and put his hands flat on the table too. “Am I under arrest?” he said in an almost bored voice.

“Yes. You are. Where is the bed sheet?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Bullshit,” John spat. “You couldn’t keep Amy’s body in the house with you but you kept that fucking bed sheet so you could admire your own audacity. Your own little souvenir.” He stared into Wilkes’s dead, bored eyes. “We’ve got you without it, you know. There’s no point in hiding it any longer.”

Wilkes’s eyes shifted towards the doorway to his bedroom, then he closed them and sighed.

“Sheriff Harris, will you Mirandize him, please?” John said, and took off for the bedroom.

The bedroom had been searched: the drawers were open, clothes were shoved aside in the closet, boxes were open, and the sheets and bedspread had been pulled back.

“We’ve looked in here already,” Monica said, following behind him. “We didn’t find a thing.”

“He wants it close, remember?” John closed his eyes and pondered. If I were in Wilkes’s shoes . . . he shuddered at the thought, then steeled himself. Gotta think like a wifebeater. Gotta think like someone who can’t let go . . .

He stepped to the bed and yanked away the covers, then pulled off the fitted sheet on top of the mattress. Another sheet was beneath it, spattered with rust-colored stains. “DNA tests will prove that blood belongs to Amy Wilkes.” He folded it up the sheet and gave it to Monica, who held it reverently. He knelt on the floor and snapped on a pair of latex gloves, lifted the top mattress and felt around between it and the boxed springs.

“What are you looking for now?”

“Murder weapon.” He didn’t have to search far—he knew Wilkes would want the knife close enough to fondle, and it was just beneath the still-occupied side of the bed. He showed the knife to Monica. It was a hunting knife with a thick, leather-wrapped handle and a narrow, shining blade.

“John, this is freaky,” she said.

“Just doin’ my job. Think they’ll start calling me Spooky?” He took an evidence bag from his pocket and dropped the knife into it.

“How did you know all that stuff? About how he treated her? We didn’t get that from questioning her acquaintances.”

“I don’t know—I just did.”

Monica shook her head. “Do you feel all right? Do you feel like you’re going to faint again?”

“I feel okay.” He started back to the kitchen, where Wilkes still sat at the table, but now with handcuffs around his wrists. “Got them,” he said to Harris, who exhaled what sounded like a sigh of relief.

“Poo
r Amy,” she said. She prodded Wilkes to his feet. “I never liked you much. Now I know why. Poor, sweet Amy.”

Wilkes scowled and said, “You wouldn’t say that if you had to live with her. The whore.”

“Shut up,” John said to him. “Shut your fucking face. You may have lived with her but you never knew her. Never knew her at all.”

“I won’t be spoken to that way,” Wilkes complained to Harris. “Police brutality!”

“Don’t ask me for sympathy,” Harris said, and Dempsey grunted in agreement as he led Wilkes out to the waiting Jeep. “Tell me something, Agent Doggett. How do you know all this, about their relationship, about Amy? You didn’t know her before, did you?”

“No.” He glanced at Monica uncomfortably, who was watching him closely too. “Deductive reasoning. Years of experience. You know. I was a beat cop for a while—you see this all the time.”

“Right,” Harris said, looking like she didn’t believe him, but she didn’t ask any further questions.

* * *

Monica insisted he go home early. “You’re not well, John. You need rest, maybe an MRI scan.”

“The EMT said I was fine.”

But she was stubborn, and got one of the deputies to drive him the three hours to the nearest airport. “I’ll finish up the paperwork and bring back the rental car. You go home, have Dana take a look at you, maybe take a day or two to recover. Skinner will understand.”

John called Dana from the airport to tell her he was on his way. He watched people pass by as the phone rang, wondering how many of them had secrets too. He sighed and leaned his head against his hand, rubbing his forehead. He didn’t want to start thinking that way—he didn’t want to suspect everyone he met of crimes they hadn’t committed. If this is preternatural insight, I’d rather just stumble along blind, he thought.

“Hello?” Dana finally answered the phone, sounding breathless. “This is the Doggetts’.”

“Hey. It’s me.”

“Oh, John,” she said with relief. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m so glad to hear from you. Are you all right? How is everything going?”

“It’s done. I’m coming home.”

“Oh, I’m glad.” There was a slight pause, then she said, “I guess you’re not going to tell me you found Amy Wilkes in a women’s shelter pulling her life back together, are you.”

“No. We didn’t. We found . . .” He glanced around to make sure no one was listening, and said in a low voice, “We found the body. And the murder weapon. And some other things. He made a full confession—it’s not even going to go to trial, I think. A guilty plea and he gets locked away until Doomsday.”

Dana said, her voice low too, “That’s the best we can hope for. Did he hurt you?”

“No,” John said in surprise. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh . . . I . . . I had some bad dreams. I hate it when you’re away, John. I miss you so much.”

“I miss you too. But I have to go, Dana. It’s part of the work.”

“I know. I still hate it. So you’re coming home now?”

“Yeah. My flight leaves in an hour. The arrival time is one . . .” He checked his ticket again. “One forty-two.”

“I’ll come get you,” she said firmly. “I need to see you.”

“Honey, it’ll be two in the morning when we get in. It’s too late. I can get a cab.”

“I need to see you,” she repeated. “I’ll take William to my mother’s and drop Monica off at home and you and I can have a little time together. I just need to see you. I’ve been so worried.”

“I’m okay, babe. You won’t need to bring Monica home, though. She’s staying a day or so longer, to finish things.”

“Why aren’t you staying?”

He coughed. “She’s sending me home early. I, um . . . I had a problem earlier today.”

“What kind of problem?” she said, instantly Dr. Scully again. “Is it your heart?”

“No, honey, my heart’s fine. My heart’s fine. I passed out for a minute or so. Hit my head. I’ve got a bump and a nasty headache but I’m okay.”

“You’re not okay if you’re fainting, John. What if it was an aneurysm, or a small stroke?”

“It wasn’t a stroke,” he said, trying to sound reassuring. “I promise I feel like me, I feel like ninety-five percent. I don’t need a hospital. I just need to come home and get some sleep—and you. I need you. That’s all I need, baby. I just need to come home.”

Dana didn’t answer for a minute or two. He was about to ask her what was wrong when she said, her voice slightly thick, “I’m going to pick you up. What’s your flight number?”

“Dana—”

“We’ll talk when you land. What’s your flight number?”

“Three-eight-nine-seven.” He rubbed his forehead again. “I’ll be looking for you. I love you.”

“I love you too. I’ll see you soon.”

They said goodbye and hung up, and John thought maybe he ought to let her take him to the hospital after all, if it would give her peace of mind. Every part of him rebelled at the idea, though. He just wanted home and wife and comfort, not strangers and tests.

The wait was long, the flight was uneventful. He drank a Coke and ate his pretzels, and watched the darkness slide past the windows. His eyes slid closed too and he heard a voice whisper in his ear, “Love makes you strong, John . . . love is the only power you need.”

John awoke with a small gasp, and looked at his seatmate who was still sound asleep. No one else was awake, either—no one could have spoken to him. He shook his head and leaned back, took some deep breaths and tried to relax.

At last the plane landed at Dulles, and John gathered up his overcoat, suit coat and carry-on baggage. He walked up the concourse, wondering if Dana would be there after all or if she would be too upset to come. No, he thought, that’s not Dana at all. She would be there if she said she would be.

It took him a few moments to locate her, and when he did he had to pause a moment and drink her in with his eyes. Oh, she was beautiful—she was everything good in the world, everything worth coming home for. She was searching for him too, and when she caught sight of him she smiled. Their eyes held each other as they made their way to each other, and he let go of his suitcase and wrapped her up in his arms. She kissed his cheek and then his mouth, and pulled back to look into his eyes.

“All right?” she said simply.

“All right,” he said, and that was all there was to say.

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