Chapter 1 - Bea
Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist
Upon arrival in the London airport, a tall, dark-haired woman was waiting. She could tell that Mulder was not surprised to see her, as he departed the international arrivals terminal. He knew her immediately and greeted her warmly with an embrace. “Bea!”
Bea and Mulder had met many years ago. They had been at Oxford University together, Mulder in Psychology and Bea in Journalism. They had become very close, experiencing a slightly torrid affair - Bea being engaged to another man at the time. Six months later, however, their relationship had ended in an explosive, messy breakup.
For both, the pain had felt fresh for years. Mulder had completed his Oxford degree the same year they broke up. He went back to the United States to start his career, getting recruited almost immediately by the FBI where he would become a golden-boy of the agency, well known for his investigative prowess and skill at profiling. He had worked - and solved - a number of high profile cases in those years, building his reputation.
Several years after starting with the Bureau, Mulder leveraged his distinguished reputation to go chasing aliens and mutant life forms in the dark world of the X-Files. Most people in the Bureau said it was a great waste of his talent. His reputation as a top notch investigator tarnished and he became laughably known as ‘Spooky’ Mulder.
Bea had another year at university after their breakup. She kept to herself mostly - too hurt to begin another relationship. After completing her course of study, she took a job with a London newspaper and started her new life.
Over the years, Bea became the top crime reporter in the UK. Her byline was famous. She not only reported on events, but her investigative and research skills had even cracked some cases. She knew nearly every detective at the Yard and was good friends with the Metropolitan police commissioner.
Mulder and Bea had different lives on opposite sides of the ocean and had had no reason whatsoever to connect for many years.
About a year ago, they had met again while Mulder was in London working a case. Bea was in the midst of working a big story about an escaped killer, and was very surprised to hear from Mulder. He rang her to ask if she wanted to meet him for a drink. Bea hesitantly agreed.
It was a surprise to both when they found the feelings of resentment and the bitter memories had gone and left them both with a comfortable, friendly feeling. They found they could talk without pain. They had no illusions of reestablishing their romantic relationship - they both had their own lives to lead and there was too much history for that. Still, they were comfortable with each other, and rekindled their friendship that night.
Mulder’s case had just wrapped up. He had a few days before he needed to be back in Washington. Bea told him about the story she was working on - it was an odd one - an escaped convict named Black - in for a life sentence, apparently, and escaped with no trace after 12 years.
Mulder was immediately interested and spent his days off investigating the story with Bea. It was all very hush-hush. They hadn’t been able to locate Black’s family or even find out which prison he’d escaped from. Members of the British government then made it very clear to Bea that other than warning the population to be on the lookout, they didn’t want any of the matter brought to light. This tweaked their interest, naturally. However, as it turned out, they found no answers and came up with only more unanswered questions. One thing they had each found in their time spent together, though, was a good friend. They had parted since then but kept in touch.
“Mulder!” Bea exclaimed as Mulder released her from his hug. “How have you been? Still chasing aliens?” She grinned at him. “Or shall I call you Spooky?” He gave her a pained expression at this. Mulder had filled Bea in on his new career path. He hadn’t told her about that awful nickname, but Bea was well known for her investigative skills.
Bea had straight, dark hair cut in a short pixie style. She was tall and sturdily-built, but even so, she still looked lean. She had a no-nonsense attitude that served her well in her job. She was English, born and raised in Manchester, although she was now based in London.
Bea’s father had done factory work in the industrial city, but had been determined to see to it that his daughter got as much education as he could afford. She’d gone to a good boarding school, her father picking up extra shifts when he could and putting every pound he could toward his daughter’s education. Later Bea was able to take up a prestigious scholarship which enabled her to attend Oxford.
“So, what’s up?” Mulder asked Bea.
She grabbed him by the hand and led him toward the exits. “Let’s go. I can talk and drive at the same time.”
Bea and Mulder left the airport in Bea’s car, a small economy model. For all her success, Bea was still that frugal child of a blue-collar father. Mulder folded his long legs into the small space and was quiet as Bea concentrated on the chaotic airport traffic.
They spent the first hour of the drive catching up on old times. Bea told Mulder about some of her bigger stories in the last year, including covering the murder trial of a celebrity. Mulder told Bea about a strange case he had worked in the Montana - mutilated cattle, and a case of serial murder where the victims were apparently killed by human pheromones.
Their small talk wound down and they both knew it was time to talk about why they were here.
With the dexterity born from often working from her car, Bea pulled a folder from the attaché case behind her seat. Mulder grimaced with a fake expression of fear, nodding toward the busy highway full on oncoming traffic. “I could have got that for you, you know.”
Bea passed him the folder. Mulder opened it. Inside were news clippings, wire reports, and scraps of paper covered with notes in Bea’s messy hand. Mulder looked at Bea curiously.
Bea explained. She had run across a pattern of odd occurrences while researching for work. She had been auditing local country newspapers - a good way to pick up a scoop sometimes - and strange items had caught her eye here and there. Amusing items in many cases, but very odd. She began saving the articles, first simply as a curiosity. A few days and several clippings later, she began to detect a pattern. There were strange things going on all around the United Kingdom and in her home base of London. She tried to explain this to Mulder.
“Of course, odd happenings in London aren’t all that, well, odd,” Bea continued, “but coupled with everything else…”
Mulder looked skeptical.
Bea continued, “Then I sent my assistant up north - where I believe the focus of the whole thing is - to have a look round and…” She hesitated a moment. “Well, the strangest thing…”
Mulder jumped in, eyebrows raised. “She didn’t come back?”
Bea laughed suddenly, caught by surprise. “No, of course she came back. Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? She went up there and she came back - almost immediately. Said she forgot an appointment with the dentist. And when I asked her about the trip, she had no memory of anything at all.” Bea gave Mulder a serious glance. “All she remembers is she got there, remembered the appointment, and came right back. But,” Bea paused a moment, “she charged her expenses. There’s a bill for a room, meals, a car rental… And she was gone two days. Something happened to her. She’s been my assistant for years. I know she wouldn’t lie to me. I think she truly doesn’t recall anything.”
Mulder’s eyes registered interest at this and he paused his perusal of the articles. “Memory loss? Unless she’s had some kind of mental issues in the past… No? Well then, that is something. Sounds like some kind of directed memory loss.”
“And when she arrived at the dentist - no appointment. Poor thing. She’s sure there’s an error by the clerk and won’t hear a word about it.” Bea kept her eyes on the road as they went through a patch of heavy traffic.
Returning to the folder, Mulder started to read through some of the articles. They were odd bits and pieces from around the U.K. Many were about peculiar happenings in railway and bus stations. Most referred to people described as strange-looking, oddly dressed, or foreign. The articles were recent - within the last two weeks. Mulder read a few at random.
At King’s Cross Station in London, a young boy had been miraculously saved after falling off the platform onto the tracks of an incoming train. Mr. Edward Jameson of London had been hanging from the platform, his legs held by fellow passengers, trying to reach the boy when the child had inexplicably flown into his arms. Mr. Jacob Silverman told a reporter at that same moment, he’d noticed a group of oddly-dressed people. “One man, he had a stick. This stick he pointed at the boy and he said something I couldn’t understand. Then the child was saved.” Mr. Jameson had no comment except to say something about a strong gust of wind, or that he must have been closer to the child than he thought.
A man was struck by a motorcar in Wandsworth. Passersby indicated he simply stepped out into the street, looking at automobiles with what was described as a “curious expression.” Ambulance personnel reported that the man was delirious en route to hospital. “He was carrying on - said a lot of stuff we didn’t understand - and then he went on and on about not wanting to miss the World Cup. Had to be delirious, because everyone knows the football World Cup isn’t even this year.” The police had reported it as a suicide attempt.
A very recent article from the Pugleton Daily noted that the small northern village of Pugleton had reported to the county that its annual summer visitor tally had climbed from twenty five last year into the thousands this year. Bea had attached a note that she could find no published events in the surrounding area to explain the jump.
Another article from Pugleton reported Mr. Angus McDermott was walking his dog in a nearby woodland when he emerged at the edge of a moor and spotted three extremely tall golden poles topped with rings. His dog then ran off back into the woods, acting very strange. Mr. McDermott left to find his dog, resolving that he would return next day to investigate. The following day he couldn’t find anything - in fact he couldn’t find the spot he had been earlier. This was very odd as Mr. McDermott had lived near Pugleton all his life, and was believed to know every inch of the country.
There were many more articles, notes, and telephone interview transcripts. Bea and her assistant had been phoning many of the subjects of the articles and were getting more and even stranger information. People who had given statements to police about a group of unruly men in a northern pub had, a day later, recalled nothing about the incident. A woman who had been hanging out her washing when a stranger suddenly appeared out of nowhere right before her eyes, now said she must have been mistaken.
“Can you see it?” Bea asked Mulder. “Or am I a nutter? I think something’s been building up the last couple weeks. Its gathering steam. I think something big may be happening any day now.”
Mulder nodded slightly, interested, although his expression showed he was by no means fully convinced.
“I think a big group of people - odd people - foreigners or something - are gathering somewhere near the village of Pugleton. For what reason, I can’t tell. I don’t know why it worries me, but I am curious. Could be a story in it somewhere.” She hoped she was not leading him on a fool’s errand.
She pressed on, “Perhaps nothing will come of it, but my instincts say otherwise.”
Mulder nodded. His instincts were telling him something as well. He guessed where they were headed, knowing they were in for a long drive. Having slept for most of the flight over, he wasn’t tired, well used to strange waking hours from his work on the X-Files. He didn’t exactly know why he was intrigued. There really wasn’t much evidence here - nothing concrete - nothing even that substantial.
These events were innocuous and odd. But something piqued the FBI agent’s interest. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing at attention and he got that feeling in the pit of his stomach - the one he got when he knew he was on to something. This was like working an X-Files case. Strange, unexplained, and seemingly unrelated phenomenon could all be pieces of a larger puzzle. The completed puzzle would be the ‘truth.’ Mulder always believed if he could put enough pieces together he would have it.