Alex Krycek, Mulder, Scully and the X-Files belong to Chris Carter and 10-13 Productions. Xena, Gabrielle, and Callisto from Xena: Warrior Princess belong to Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal. All other characters belong to the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.
NOTE: This story was originally posted in installments with the temporary title Krycek. There are slight changes in wording Krycek but nothing huge, mostly small deletions here and there. This is a Xena/X-Files crossover. But really rather than Xena it is mostly my own characters I've created and written an extended storyline about: Langland, Jilly, Kimberly, etc. For my regular readers, this does not fit with my big storyline. I'm bringing together characters who never met, ignoring other characters and making other major changes for the sake of this being a good story. Just go with the flow and accept the way I present things here.
This story contains scenes of explicit sex, graphic violence, and a lot of rough language. This is NC-17 Adult's only.
You can find more work by Joe at Joe Anderson's Creative Stuff
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Echoes of Thermopylae: Part One
by Joseph Anderson
The wharf was dark and rats scurried about as the water lapped at the heavy supporting pylons. A tall figure in dark clothes carefully emerged from the darkness and looked around as if he was sniffing the air, then he walked near to a phone booth and waited. The phone rang, he looked at it then began running away seconds before the glass box exploded showering glass down on him as he covered his head with his good arm and made his body as small as he could.
"Very good, Alex! That's what I like to see: intuition, quick reflexes."
Alex Krycek looked over where the easy man's voice came from. He bared his teeth and got to his feet gracefully, crunching broken glass under his shoes. "You tried to kill me!" Two figures were barely visible in the darkness, both much smaller than him. Blonde hair could be made out on one who gave a girlish laugh. The first voice returned.
"If I wanted to kill you, Alex, you'd be dead. I tested you. Admittedly, you'd be dead if you failed the test."
"Jesus, what kind of sick fuck are you?" he said. The blonde figure jumped and was suddenly right in front of him and holding a small pistol to his throat. He saw brown eyes opened wide. Alex automatically registered the Armani blazer, tight black jeans and Italian shoes. He smelled expensive perfume.
"Watch your manners, shithead!" she said. Alex nervously saw how her mouth was twitching. Mulder would have a field day with this one, he knew. A high functioning sociopath, multiple personality, God knows. It was Jilly herself.
"Langland, I thought you wanted to talk. Call your dog off." He saw her eyes start to take on a strange blank expression. Maybe that wasn't the smartest thing he could've said, but he didn't want them to think he was some pussy.
"That's enough, Jilly. Jilly! Alex does have a point. How would you feel in his position?"
The owner of the other voice had sauntered up. He wore an expensive trenchcoat. Like Alex had heard, Langland looked like a pretty boy wimp; somebody who'd be traded for cigarettes in prison. In reality, if Langland ever went to prison he'd be running it within a week. Except Langland was too smart to ever go to prison.
Jilly stepped away from Alex but she answered Langland. "If somebody ever tried jerking me around like that I'd skin him alive. But Alex isn't me. He's just a little ratfuck errand boy. Just what we need."
Langland sighed and ran his hand through his long brown hair, "You're not helping the situation with that kind of talk, Jilly."
Alex Krycek wished he could kill her. He'd love to kill her. Fuck her and kill her. He wouldn't stand a chance.
"I'll bet he's fantasizing about raping me, Langland. Wants to beat my head in with in his wooden arm, then shove it up me. What d'ya think?"
"Jilly, people can think anything they want. Will you please let me talk to him now?"
Alex had heard of this, that Jilly and Langland were like some old married couple. It'd be funny if they weren't so deadly. The slender blonde woman gave him a demented smile then stuck her shiny little Beretta in her waistband. She seemed to just disappear.
"Where'd she go?" Alex said nervously. That was genuinely strange.
Langland answered, "Nowhere. She's just very good at getting around in the dark. She'll be back if you try anything. But you know better than that, I know. Want a job?"
"Just like that? After you nearly killed me?" He was trying to sound furious.
Langland said, "Don't, Alex. I'm a sneaking murdering liar myself. Considerably better than you. So just don't. I don't have time. I'm trying to keep the yen from sinking in relation to the mark and those idiots in Pakistan just bought a shipment of defective plutonium that I have to head off somehow. So just don't try to play me. I don't have time to do my own treacherous backstabbing in the field anymore. Do your job and I'll make you a millionaire. You'll be able to get back at your enemies."
"Any enemies?" Alex said hoarsely, thinking of Mulder and the cigarette smoking man.
"Of course. How can I be Mephistopheles if I can't offer something of value? Neither of them are really worth it, but that's your business."
"You can get to who I'm thinking of?" Alex said, meaning the smoking man.
Jilly reappeared at Alex's side but he kept from jumping. He felt something and looking down saw Jilly had stuck an ice pick in his artificial arm. She buttoned her coat and pulled it out. "You don't mind do you? That guy you're so scared of isn't what you think he is, and he's not what he thinks he is either. All those puppetmaster guys are really putz masters dancing to Langland's tune. The big secrets they are protecting are just something Langland put together to keep 'em busy so they wouldn't get in our way. Better than killing 'em because they'd just be replaced."
Alex said, "Wait! That can't be! The alien colonists...the black oil.."
Langland said with a smile, "Not real, like Jilly said. Oh, there are aliens out there but they don't have any interest in us and sure aren't here. If something like that colonization plan was real the Slithlocs would just go and turn the planet of whoever was behind it into a charcoal briquette. They made an example once and no one will want a repeat of that though."
"Why? And why are you telling me this."
"I'm telling you this so you'll work for me. The diversion has neared the end of its usefulness. So even if anybody believed you it doesn't matter. And why the Slithlocs protect Earth--that I think I'll keep to myself. You might be able to figure it out though. I'll give you a hint. The blood is the life."
"You could be feeding me something right now you want me to pass on." Krycek said suspiciously.
"Yes, I could. Probably am. Want a job? You'll do the same things you've done before, just with better pay and perks. You're a smart amoral killer, Alex. Just the kind of can-do guy I need."
"All right," Alex Krycek said.
Langland smiled and stepped forward and took his hand with both of his. "That's great!" He looked earnestly in Alex's eyes. "I'm glad." Alex heard Jilly make a snorting sound. Langland released his hand put his collar up against the cold and walked back into the darkness.
Jilly smiled in a friendly way now at Krycek. "We'll be in touch. Sorry about sticking your arm that way. Wanted to see how you'd react."
"I didn't react."
"Right. You were smart. If you'd gotten mad I'd have killed you. I'll send you a new jacket." She seemed to just dematerialize into the night again in that unnerving way she had.
Alex looked around the dark wharf, his eyes catching the moonlight. He could hear sirens, probably coming to investigate the explosion. Krycek seemed to sniff the air and then disappeared into the darkness himself.
The tall muscular young man looked around with a charming smile. That had gone well. Alex Krycek had carried out an assignment for Langland and enjoyed every minute of it. An industrial spy, a senior vice president who was a secret Zionist had been passing information to the Israelis for years. In reality he was passing it to Langland. God knew what Langland did with it since Krycek did some digging and was sure he owned the Silicon Valley company himself. At any rate Langland wanted him taken out now but at a precise moment. Something to do with when the markets close in London, an impending merger, and as a warning to others present. That was why it required someone with finesse.
Krycek had gotten to know the boring little man, pretending to be a sales representative for a microchip company. Playing him was enjoyable. He'd recognized him as a closeted homosexual so had seduced the man, letting him weep in his arms at finally being understood. He'd seduced his virgin teenage daughter the day before and his wife the day before that. The man was going to be in a meeting at the precise moment Langland wanted him killed. Krycek constructed a small locket with poison and a mechanism to puncture his skin when he pressed a button on a little transceiver. Alex had wept about losing his arm in a car accident and then begged the man to wear this gift. The little fool cried and agreed and said he would leave his family for Alex. Krycek was looking down at the bobbing dark hair of the man's daughter, glanced at his watch, picked up the transceiver and pressed the button just as he came in the girl's mouth.
"I love you!" she said emotionally a moment later. Her large white breasts mashed against his artificial arm.
Alex grinned as he reached with his index finger to pick a little of his semen from the side her mouth and tapped it on her nose. "I love you, too, Monica. Are you daddy's little girl?"
She smiled and began sucking his finger. Krycek wondered if she would like anal sex as much as her late father.
Now Alex was in Chicago to collect his fee. He headed toward the restaurant in Little Italy. Of course he was careful, but he didn't really see Langland killing him to silence him. Langland went to too much trouble to recruit him. As he arrived a beautiful sports car parked on the street caught his eye. Inside most of the patrons were just regular looking people but there were also characters who looked liked they'd stepped right out of a Martin Scorsese movie. Perfect. He loved the humor of it. He gave his name and a waitress led him to a table saying he had a reservation. Alex saw Jilly then. She was in a beautiful dress and coming out of an office. She snagged a waitress going by with a plate of food, studied it and sent her back into the kitchen. A moment later a fat man in chef hat stepped out looking embarrassed. It looked odd seeing the slender blonde obviously reaming this guy out with all these Sicilian hand gestures for emphasis. His face was red and he nodded and said something, then went back into the kitchen. Jilly turned and scanned the restaurant. She saw Alex but she didn't immediately come over. Instead she just started going from table to table greeting people and asking how everything was. Alex noticed how the mob guys looked at her. They knew at least partly who she was and that screwing with Jilly Snopes was no way to live a long life.
His waitress came over but before Alex could order Jilly came up and began speaking quickly in Italian to the girl.
"Hope you don't mind. I've got something special that's not on the menu," she said as she sat down opposite him and gave him a dazzling smile.
"Please," he said carefully. He wasn't going to be fooled. He'd seen crime scene photos that were probably her work. Alex also remembered her sticking an ice pick in his artificial arm just to see what he would do.
"Oh, relax. You're an employee now. I don't kill my employees...well unless they just can't make a decent roux no matter how many times I show 'em. Just kidding. No, really. Long as you do your job you got nothing to worry about from me," she said with a smile.
"What about Langland?" Alex said.
She rolled her beautiful brown eyes. "Oh, well, Langland...that's a different story. You probably understand him better'n me some ways, Alex. You're sorta like him...just about a million times less intelligent. That's not an insult, by the way."
Alex nodded. "I know what Langland is. I think I do anyway. That's not very reassuring."
Jilly grinned. "Every line of work has its drawbacks. It's your choice."
Alex was careful. She was disarming. It even seemed genuine. Maybe it was. He'd read the psychological profile the Bureau had on her. There were divergent opinions. Most considered Jilly simply an intelligent psychopath. Others thought she was a multiple personality, while one, Mulder now that Alex thought of it, thought she was a paranoid schizophrenic whose delusions nevertheless did not keep her from functioning. That was scary, Alex thought. That what she could be thinking as she looked at him had no relation to reality at all. She could think he was a talking dog or a figure from a Tarot deck or something but that didn't keep her from having a pleasant conversation with him.
She frowned and said, "Here," and tossed an envelope across the table to him. He looked around nervously. A place like this could very well be wired. Then he remembered Langland. He opened it and found a key ring. Jilly said, "That's to a safe deposit box and your new Ferrari that's parked outside."
He looked up at her and didn't say anything, still careful. That personality profile was seeming more and more germane. She looked contemptuously at him. "You did a good job, Krycek, but it kinda turns my stomach. You did what Langland wanted, but did you have to screw his wife and pop his daughter? You made him LOVE you! I mean, Jesus! Never mind. I know. This isn't like Thermopylae. The glory Sparta and her noble king, Leonidas, won that day will never die, Alex, ya'know? If I coulda been there! God! To die like that! Ya'know? Course you don't. You're just a little murdering fuck." Her voice got louder and louder and her eyes widened and she had a mad smile that was anything but friendly.
Krycek sensed a presence and looked behind him to see a huge man with a battered face and cauliflower ears. "Everything all right, Jilly?" the old hood said.
Jilly looked up at him and the mad light in her eyes went away and her mouth stopped twitching. "Yeah, Paulie, everything's fine."
The man lumbered off.
Jilly looked at Krycek. "Sorry. I shouldn't have gone off that way. Lotsa people think I'm nuts. They shoulda seen Callisto. That's all I can say." She got up. "Enjoy your new car while you can. Some heavy shit is coming down the pike and you're gonna be working." The meal came and she looked at it critically and said something to the waitress who brought her a portable rack of spices. As Krycek watched she seasoned his food, then began going from table to table followed by the waitress with the spice rack.
Krycek thought about what she had said. After he finished the best meal he had ever eaten and left, feeling Paulie eye him suspiciously, he went to the Main Library and found the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ancient History. At Thermopylae King Leonidas and three-hundred Spartans held a narrow pass and delayed the Persian army for days before they were killed to the last man. It allowed the rest of Greece time to prepare. Two soldiers hadn't fought because they had gone blind from some illness. After the battle one had himself led out by his helot and pointed at the Persians who he attacked. The other returned to Sparta where he was reviled as a coward and then committed suicide.
Alex then looked up Callisto and froze at the picture. It was a statue of a female warrior and beside her was a small girl dressed similarly. Both held some kind of ring weapon and wore demented smiles identical to the one he had just seen across the table from him. The statue had been recovered from the waters off Herculaneum, a Roman copy of a Greek original, and was traditionally said to represent Callisto and a child demon. Henry Sallwethy, the preeminent scholar on the period, felt the child was none other than a young Queen Jilly.
Alex began searching for the entry on Queen Jilly when someone sat opposite him. He looked up at Langland who smiled pleasantly.
"Thought I might find you here. Paulie told me Jilly started talking crazy about old battles and stuff. The entry on Jilly isn't really very good. Her brother Sam was so important that everybody else gets shortchanged. Jilly the Butcher was the greatest fighter who ever lived with the possible exception of Captain Angela and Shining Kush, but they don't say much except she was the older sister of Good Prince Samuel. And they are VERY uncomplimentary about me. Jilly never even would have had a kingdom without me but you wouldn't know that from history books. They talk like I needed her when it was the other way around."
"What's going on?" Krycek said.
"Don't worry about it, Alex. You can't understand. Just do your job. This is ancient history, so to speak. Like your new car?"
Krycek answered, "Yes. Is it going to blow up when you're finished with me?"
Langland's too handsome face looked pained. "Alex, why would you think that?"
The man sighed and said, "I hope it never comes to that, Alex. Do your job and there's no reason it ever should. Good work by the way. Jilly doesn't appreciate the style you showed but it's because she's really into that whole Thermopylae kinda attitude. Were you with his wife when you killed him?"
Alex said, "No, I was getting a blow job from his daughter."
Langland winced and said, "Ouch! I figured something like that. Like I said, good work. Brings back memories. Wish I had time for that kind of tom foolery."
"Thanks. Memories from the old days, Langland? How old?"
The handsome man smiled softly at Alex but there was a flicker in his eyes. "I told you not to worry about that."
Krycek kept his face expressionless, masking the terror he felt. Alex shrugged and said, "Okay."
Langland stood and sighed as he ran his hand through his hair. He looked away for a moment then looked back at Krycek. "You might require more sensitive handling than I anticipated. You're curious as a cat, I see that now. It's why you're good but it's problematical."
Alex was preparing to break Langland's neck. He thought if he was fast enough he could do it. Langland looked at him and said, "Don't, Alex. Even if you managed to kill me, which is unlikely since I'm tougher than I look, Jilly would come after you. She's not like me, Alex. She takes things personally. You've seen some crime scene photos, I bet. That's nothing to what she'll do to you if you kill me."
"You're going to kill me," Alex whispered raggedly as he got to his feet. His emotions were frayed and his control was loosening. A couple of students looked curiously over.
Langland said, "No, Alex. You're letting your fear obstruct your thinking. I hadn't realized quite how high strung you were; like a race horse. Losing your talents is the last thing I want to do."
Krycek tried to calm down, to consider what Langland said. He finally said quietly, "This is like when Jilly stuck that ice pick in my arm. You just want to see how I react."
Langland smiled, "You haven't disappointed me yet, Alex! Enjoy your new car." He turned and walked off leaving Alex to shakily sit back down. He saw Jilly emerge from some stacks of books and join Langland. She smiled brightly at him and came over to Krycek.
She studied him. "We're being rough on you because we've got some big plans, bigger than you can imagine. You're our boy. We'll make it up to you." She indicated the open book with the picture of the statue. "You wanna know about that stuff? Be careful what you wish for, Alex. You might get it. Oh, here." She reached into her Gucci purse and came out with a brown paperbag. "I made you some canolis." Jilly patted his shoulder and rejoined Langland.
As Alex approached his apartment he saw light coming from under the door. He tried the knob and it was unlocked too. He opened his door and entered his apartment, keeping his hand on his gun in his pocket. "Who are you?" He closed the door with his foot, not taking his eyes from his visitor.
There was a big dark haired woman sprawled on his couch with her arms clasped behind her head. She was dressed in blue jeans and a cowboy shirt and wore tooled boots. She smiled at him and he saw crafty blue eyes.
"I'm Kimberly," she said and brought her hands forward and cracked her knuckles. Alex noticed the bracelet of blonde hair she wore on one wrist. She waited for a response but when there wasn't one she said, "Keep poking around like you have been and you'll hear of me. Thought I'd drop by and say hello." She rose and picked a drink with ice up from his coffee table. "I helped myself. This is pretty good stuff. I was never a scotch drinker, always stuck with Wild Turkey, but this is good."
Krycek kept his anger down. She had something to do with Langland. Was it another test? Or was this an enemy? "What do you want, Kimberly?" he said easily.
The big woman downed the drink and said, "Langland is impressed by you." He heard the contempt in her voice. "Him and me go way back. Jilly kept me from killing him twice, no, three times."
"You want me to kill him? Even if I could Jilly would cut my head off."
Kimberly shook her head. "She'd do considerably more than that. No, my days of trying to whack that little weasel are over. You're getting in over your head, Alex, but you still have time to back out. This is my good deed for the day, warning you. Wouldn't have been my first choice but I do what I'm told these days."
"I can't back out. They'll kill me if I try now," Alex said. He walked into his kitchen and poured a drink for himself. He looked curiously at her and the big woman looked hesitant then brought her glass over for a refill. That was good to know.
She took a drink then said to him, "They'll let you go if the right people tell 'em to. There must be more to you than I can see. I sure wouldn't go to this trouble for you but Hades sent me."
Alex smiled and caught her eyes, "'Hades.' Isn't that a bit much?"
Kimberly smiled at him, meeting his look with a sensuous one of her own. "Yeah, Alex, that's exactly it. Hades is some cheesy spy master. I can't fool you."
Krycek was careful, though he moved closer, "I didn't say that. Thanks for the warning."
She took another drink and looked appraisingly at him, then shook her head as if to clear it. "I just do what I'm told. Convincing people isn't what I'm good at. Since they sent me maybe they wanted me to fail. You and me, are alike in that way, Alex. Just dancing to someone else's tune whether we know it or not. You had some of that before but the guys you worked for were stooges themselves. You've moved up the food chain, Alex. You might actually get some real answers now if you don't bail like you will if you're smart."
"Hades is like Langland?" Alex said.
Kimberly laughed softly. "Oh brother. Lucky for you Helms isn't here. He wouldn't appreciate the comparison." She stopped and seemed to be listening then said. "I can't tell you anymore. Thanks for the drink."
Krycek just said, "Don't go if you want to stay."
Kimberly looked at him. "You're a bad guy, Alex. A real bad guy. But at least you're up front about it. How'd you lose your arm?"
"Some Russians sawed it off. If what Langland said is true, it was just part of his diversion. All those men living on the edge; just pawns. I was one of 'em."
She shrugged. "I know about you. It's a little hard to sympathize. I'm going now but I'll keep you in mind. I like you more than I should. I have lousy judgment. Ask my former army. We'll probably meet again. Don't ever try to trick me, Alex. It pisses me off. I'm not as good as Jilly but I'm good enough to kill you without breaking a sweat."
"What will happen if I tell Langland and Jilly about you?" Alex asked.
Kimberly set her empty glass down on the counter and said, "How do I know? Try it and see. What's the worst that could happen? Oh, wait a minute, you've seen crime scene photographs of what Jilly can do haven't you? Good luck with whatever you decide."
She picked up a black motorcycle jacket and shrugged into it, winked at him, and left his apartment. Alex sipped his drink and looked thoughtfully after her. He decided to keep this to himself.
"Dammit, Mulder! This had better be impor..." Scully's voice stopped as she saw the open folder on Mulder's desk. She closed the door behind her and walked over quickly and picked a surveillance photograph up. She looked up. "Krycek...who's he with?"
Fox Mulder said, "You need to get out of the lab more, Scully. Stop spending all your time with stiffs. That's Langland. He's the one who was actually being watched by Army Intelligence...wouldn't tell me why. One of my sources passed it on to me."
"Covarrubius?" Scully asked but Mulder didn't answer.
The small red haired woman pursed her lips as she studied the photograph. "That's Langland? He looks like my grandmother could take him. Shouldn't he be older than that too?"
"He's older than he looks, maybe a lot older. Scully, your grandmother would have to be one tough cooky, because she'd have to go through Jilly to get to him." He picked up another file and extracted a picture.
Dana Scully shrugged. "So. She doesn't look so tough either."
Mulder raised his eyebrows and handed her some other photographs. "My God! What's this?" She was looking at a glossy color picture of a room full of body parts. There were a number of guns visible lying around.
Mulder answered, "That used to be Salvatore "Big Sal" Collosimi and five of his men. Big Sal was an up and comer who wanted to be more than just a hood, wanted to play in the big leagues. There were witnesses to who went in and out. It was only her. Look close Scully. None of 'em were even shot. Jilly used chef knives. She left them sticking out of Big Sal in various amusing ways. That's an in joke for the mob guys. She's got a restaurant."
"Mulder, what kind of person would do this?" Scully said in amazement. She began looking at the other photographs which were also scenes of carnage. She could see a kind of pattern though, a strange sense the corpses and pieces of same were actually arranged.
Her partner saw what she did and said, "She's known for emphasizing presentation at her restaurant. Everything has to be just right. Read the profile, Scully. There's different takes on her. My analysis is in there but I'm a minority opinion. I think she's crazy as a loon but makes it work for her somehow. Most think she's just a real bad ass."
"Is this a Star of David?" Scully asked, studying one picture.
"That's from Namibia. Israeli mercenaries who did their job then wanted a bigger piece of the pie. That Jilly. What a card." He took the picture and studied it. "They were shot. They must've been pretty damn good."
Scully said, "All right, Mulder. We have Krycek consorting with an international arms dealer and whatever else Langland has his fingers in. So? Is it an X-File or do you just have a hard on for Krycek?"
"Oooh, Scully. The mouth on you! No. There's more to Langland and Jilly than just a James Bond villain and his psycho girlfriend."
The woman looked at him suspiciously. Here it comes, she thought. "Okay, Mulder. What makes this an X-File. Are they Venusians or something?"
Mulder said, "Can't you at least try to keep an open mind? And, no, they aren't Venusians as far as I know."
"Okay, let's hear it," his partner said resignedly.
"Well, I don't think I want to share with you now," Mulder said in a hurt tone.
"Fine," Scully said and turned and walked to the door.
"They're time travelers from Ancient Greece, Scully."
Scully stopped and looked at him, then closed her eyes. "Oh, God, Mulder."
"Scully, just hear me out. Look at this." He took some books off of a chair and opened them to marked pages.
Scully took a seat and began studying the history books closely, comparing pictures to the photographs of Jilly and Langland. Finally she looked up at Mulder's triumphant face.
"Mulder, this is fascinating. But hasn't the most obvious explanation even occurred to you?" From the disappointed guilty look he got she knew that it had. For a moment Scully felt like she was telling a child there was no Santa Claus. He nodded.
"Yeah, sure. But that doesn't mean it's true."
Scully said, "Fine, make me say it. I'll be the big bad witch. Langland and Jilly, whatever their real names are, intentionally modeled themselves on King Langland and Jilly the Butcher. You think she's delusional, right? Well, maybe this is her delusion and Langland goes along with it for whatever reason...to keep her working, to keep her happy. Who knows, maybe he just loves her. I'm sorry, Mulder. But doesn't that seem more likely than them having a time machine?"
"On the surface, Scully, sure. But it's just too close." Mulder winced at how weak it sounded. Langland was a genius and Jilly was a perfectionist. If they decided to adopt personas of course they would do it up right. And he was the one who had argued that Jilly was schizophrenic.
Agent Scully got up. "This is valuable, Mulder. Knowing this, maybe Langland's true identity can be discovered. And it should certainly help figuring out what makes Jilly tick. And Krycek, well...they are up to something no good even if it's not an X-File. I want a piece of Krycek myself, Mulder. I just seriously doubt a time machine is out there."
"Okay, Scully...you win."
"Oh, Mulder." She walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. "It's not about me winning." Scully looked at his I WANT TO BELIEVE poster. "Mulder, no one would be more excited than me if they were real. I love stuff about Ancient Greece. When I was a little girl I wanted to be Xena, if you can believe it."
"Who?" Mulder said.
"A hero type who went around righting wrongs with her trusty little sidekick."
"Don't say it, Mulder," she said warningly, looking up at his face.
Krycek stepped again into the restaurant. It was day and was closed. He noticed Paulie again, watching him. Alex would have to deal with him sooner or later. He knew the type. Alex just went to the office in back like he'd been told to. The door was open but he knocked on the door and Jilly looked up from her desk and beckoned him inside while she continued talking on the phone.
"Listen, how long have I been getting produce from you? I expect fresh friggin tomatoes. Is that too much to fucking ask? Don't 'Ah, Jilly,' me. Who do you think you're talking to? Yeah...yeah...see that you do. Now lemme talk to Mario..."
Alex tuned out and was looking at the pictures on the wall behind her. He recognized the woman from the previous night in his apartment. Except these looked like they were from late fifties and early sixties, and she still looked exactly the same. She was there with a handsome hood Krycek recognized as Cal Snopes. There were some pictures of them with a little girl and boy. He remembered the statue of a small child with Callisto.
"You gotta question?" Jilly said as she hung the phone up.
Alex shook his head. "Just admiring the pictures."
The blonde glanced at them and back at him. "Listen, Alex, I told you you'd be working. Here." She handed a file to him. "Langland wants this guy to be caught embezzling. Set it up."
Alex glanced inside: the personnel file on the Chief Financial Officer for an import export firm in Taiwan. There were pages of financial records too. "When?" he just said.
The phone rang and Jilly said quickly, "Inside of a month," before she picked up. She indicated for him to wait as she started talking to a rancher about what he fed his livestock. She opened her desk and took something out and handed it to him. Alex saw a credit card with his name on it, though it was strangely blank looking. Jilly shooed him away and Alex nodded and left her office. He felt Paulie's eyes and just walked over to him.
"Nah, faggot, just don't like your looks. We don't need you," the huge scarred man said with a sneer.
Alex smiled and lashed out with his wooden arm, sending Paulie crashing to the floor. Before he could get up Alex kicked him in the face and sent him sprawling. Krycek just stood watching him slowly get to his feet. "Guess, I see why they had to bring in new talent."
"Paulie...Paulie...use your head, will ya? That's enough." Jilly said from her office door.
"Ah, Jilly..." he said but silenced at a look from her and just glared at Krycek. Alex nodded at her and left as he saw Jilly looking at the old hood's face and brushing him off.
Scully looked out the peephole in her door and saw a tall woman in a motorcycle jacket whom she didn't recognize standing in the hallway. It was eight in the morning and she had just gotten out of the shower. Opening the door she looked at the taller woman and said, "May I help you?"
"You probably wanna talk to me. I'm Kimberly."
Scully looked blank. "I'm sorry."
The big blue-eyed woman sighed, "Jeez. I don't why they chose me for this. Nobody remembers me anymore. Listen, Agent Scully, you and your partner are looking at Krycek and Langland. I'm up to my assets in this, though I still dunno why."
Scully studied her and said, "Come in." She was in a blue terrycloth robe.
The woman said, "Go ahead and get dressed."
Scully looked at her again and said, "Okay. The coffee will be ready in a little bit. I'll be right out."
"Okeydokey," Kimberly said.
A few minutes later Scully emerged from her bedroom and found Kimberly pouring a cup of coffee for herself. She took what looked like a platinum flask from a pocket and poured it in her drink. Scully got a cup for herself and shook her head when the woman held the flask up. She smelled whiskey.
"Kimberly, what exactly do you have to tell me? Who are you?" Scully asked.
The woman sipped her drink and said, "I'm Jilly's mother. That little ratfuck, Langland, is my son-in-law. Cal was right. We shoulda killed him when he first came sniffing around her. Too late now. Way too late." She sipped her coffee again and waited.
Scully studied her. She wasn't old enough unless she was incredibly well preserved. Scully asked, "What are their real names? Why are they pretending to be King Langland and Jilly the Butcher?"
Kimberly smiled. "Hey, I like that. I didn't even think of that take on it. Pretty good. Logical. Rational. Believable considering how over the top Jilly can get. That's you, right? Mulder's the one with intuition. Usually he's right but other times he falls on his face, and you have to bail him out, I bet."
Scully didn't respond, though she thought the woman had pretty succinctly summed up her and Mulder.
The woman continued, "Okay. So you won't believe what I have to tell you. I'll do it anyway. They aren't pretending. She's Queen Jilly and that bastard is Langland. 'Jilly the Butcher' huh? That's my girl."
She stood up and said, "Look up the Sword of Ares. Oh, what do you think of Alex Krycek?"
Scully stood up too. "I don't know what your game is. Krycek is a liar and a murderer. I have personal knowledge of at least two killings he is responsible for."
Kimberly said. "As many as that, huh? Gee. He is kinda cute though. See ya later, Agent Scully." She left her apartment. Scully frowned and picked her phone up to dial Mulder.
"This woman claimed to be Jilly's mother, Scully?" Mulder said as she came out of her apartment building and met him on the street.
"Like I told you over the phone, Mulder," she said shortly. "But she's not old enough. She also said they aren't pretending, that they really are who you think. Oh, and it sounds like she's got a crush on Krycek," she spoke ironically.
"I'm stumped on this one. Anything else?" Mulder asked.
"Yeah, she said to look up the Sword of Ares. I just did a search on the Internet. The Sword of Ares was a warlord around the same time as Langland and Jilly. Before Jilly and Langland carved their own kingdom out, she was the Sword of Ares' lieutenant. Oh, and my hero Xena was real apparently. Jilly was also related to her somehow. There are contradictory stories."
"Wow," Mulder said. "Did she look like her, the woman, I mean? The Sword of Ares?"
Scully looked up with annoyance. "God, Mulder. She's not the Sword of Ares. And, I can't say if she looks like her, though it wouldn't surprise me since she's playing the same game Jilly and Langland are. The Sword of Ares always wore a helmet with a chainmail veil."
Mulder said, "Hey, I've seen that. Some frieze of a battle was on the cover of my college history textbook. Was it that one?"
Scully nodded, "Yeah, and there was a statue from China too, and coins from all over the Near and Far East. She got around. As a rampaging mass murderer she was ahead of her time. That frieze shows the destruction of her army when she was heading back to Greece. Janice Covington found both of 'em."
"She still alive?" Mulder asked.
"Oh, Mulder. What are you thinking?" Scully asked.
The little old woman opened her door. The gun she held wasn't little. "Yeah, who are you?"
"We're federal agents, ma'am. You don't need that," Scully said placatingly. She and Mulder both held identification up.
"G-men, huh? Hoover was an asshole. Hypocritical little shit. Tried to get me deported as a pervert, like he did Chaplin, when he was bouncing Shirley Temple on his knee then going home to dress in an evening gown and take it up the butt from his aide." The old woman set the big .45 automatic down on a table next to the door. "Well, come on in. You here to arrest me for being a dyke? That the new crusade so the director can get funding?"
The old woman just turned around and walked into her living room. She wore wool pants, boots and a man's shirt. Mulder and Scully looked at each other and followed her inside. The walls were lined with books. An ancient looking hat, bomber jacket and bullwhip hung on a coat rack. A huge cat wound around their ankles. The woman sat down slowly and took a cigar from a box on the table and clipped the end off.
Mulder bent to pet the cat which hissed and scratched his hand, making him jump. He heard the old woman laugh. "Be careful of Ares, G-man. He doesn't like secret police anymore than I do."
Scully looked at his hand. The woman said in a different tone of voice. "Really got you good, huh? Sorry. Don't worry, he's had his shots. Lemme put something on that." She started to get up.
Scully said, "Let me get it. I'm a doctor."
The old woman shrugged, "Sure, honey. There's bandages and stuff in the medicine cabinet through the door there."
Scully quickly returned and began dressing Mulder's hand.
Mulder said, "Dr. Covington, we wondered if we could talk to you about the Sword of Ares."
The small old woman instantly became alert. "Kimberly? What about her?"
Scully and Mulder looked at each other. Scully said, "Ma'am, we are working on a case and there seem to be several people who have adopted the personas of among others, the Sword of Ares. We were wondering if perhaps you could shed some light on this."
Janice Covington peered at them. Ares jumped up beside her and she ran a wrinkled hand through his long gray fur. "Take a look at the pictures on the wall over there," she said and gestured with her cigar. Scully and Mulder walked over.
"That's her, the woman I met. But then who is this? She looks almost exactly like her."
Mulder said quietly, "Look, Scully." He pointed to a picture that showed a baby propped up against a wicked looking helmet with a chainmail veil.
"I love that. Jilly was such a cute baby," Janice Covington said, as she slowly came over looking fondly at it. "This one who looks like Kimberly is Melinda Pappas. Well, Fredericks, but I always think of her as Mel Pappas. Really, both of 'em look like Xena, of course."
"Are you saying that Kimberly really is the Sword of Ares?" Scully asked. The pictures looked like they were from forty years ago. She was trying to get a handle on what was happening. Were the pictures faked? Perhaps the woman she had met was a daughter of one of the women in the photographs. Maybe this was a shared delusion that had been quietly going on for years and years.
The old woman looked shrewdly at her and took a puff of her cigar. "She tell you that's who she was?"
Scully said, "Not exactly. She said she was Kimberly, that nobody remembered her anymore, and told me to look up the Sword of Ares. She said she was Jilly's mother."
Janice Covington smiled slightly. "Well, that's her all right. Was she drinking, by the way?"
Scully nodded and the woman shook her head sadly. "That's too bad. I really thought she had it licked. How bad was she?"
Scully was perplexed by how this conversation was going. "She seemed functional. I saw her in the morning and she was drinking though."
The old woman just looked sadly at the pictures. "You'd think that's the kinda thing dying would take care of. I guess not."
Mulder said, "Dr. Covington. How can she be the Sword of Ares? And how can Jilly and Langland be real?"
At the name Covington made a sour face. "Langland, that little rat bastard! I tried to just shoot him down like a dog when I saw how he had Jilly wrapped around his little finger. She wouldn't let me. I imagine she's done that quite a few times since, saving his weasel ass." She studied the agents again. She pointed at Scully. "You think I'm a crazy old lady, and you," she pointed at Mulder, "want to believe. I'll bet you make a good team, balancing each other out. Like me and Mel before she left me to live a straight charade--I shouldn't say that. Or kinda like Xena and Gabrielle, though that was more one-sided. The bard was more like a sidekick, I'm sorry to say, not an equal partner like me and Mel or you two probably are."
Scully didn't answer. These people kept summing her and Mulder up so quick and well. Were they that obvious?
"Or Jilly and Langland," Mulder said.
The old woman frowned again. "I guess. I just hate that little shit. He murdered Andre Charcot so I could get his grant. That's his idea of helping out. Poor Andre. I feel responsible."
Scully said, "Why are you sorry Gabrielle was just a sidekick?"
Janice Covington, "Family pride. My own vanity. I'm her descendant just like Mel and Kimberly are both descended from Xena. Kimberly's actually Mel's granddaughter, though I don't imagine you believe that. I'm telling you this since Kimberly came to see you, by the way. Her young self is probably somewhere around too. She wouldn't be any help to you though. Wouldn't know anything. I don't just go around babbling this by the way. Don't wanna get thrown in the loony bin."
Mulder said, "Ma'am, can you tell us what is going on?"
The old woman laughed. "Sorry, I don't understand it either. You just have to accept this stuff. Too bad Mel is dead. She might be able to just summon 'em up somehow and give you some answers. She's part of the family. But she's gone. You could go ask Jilly. Course she might kill ya if her and Langland are up to something."
Mulder said, "Thank you for your time, ma'am. He handed his card to her. If you think of anything that might be helpful could you give us a call?"
Covington took the card. "Sure, G-man. Always glad to help one of Hoover's stooges. Sorry about your hand." She followed them to the door. As Scully stepped out she felt a pat on her behind and looked with surprise at the old woman who grinned at her.
It was late evening and Krycek was walking down the street thinking of how to proceed with Langland's new assignment. If he spoke Chinese he would just fly to Taiwan immediately, but he didn't, so he was arranging what he could from here and looking for a translator. He'd play it by ear if he needed to kill the translator as a witness. Too many dead ticked people off. Mulder and Scully were still after him for that ski lift operator. All he needed was some obsessive Chinese cop after him too. As he was passing a bar he just glanced inside and a motorcycle jacket and dark hair caught his eyes. He pushed the door open and walked inside.
She was sitting alone at the bar. He looked around. It was a pretty rough looking place. He took a seat beside her and she looked over with bleary eyes. There were five empty shot glasses in front of her. He saw she had something in her hand. Alex just reached over and took it and she allowed it after a second. He recognized one of the photographs he had seen in Jilly's office. It was her with a little dark haired boy on her lap.
"Hey," she said.
Alex glanced around. This didn't look like any place for a good looking woman to get shit faced in. Usually he wouldn't think of something like that. He wasn't sure why he was now.
"What are you doing, Kimberly?" Krycek said quietly.
"What's it look like? I'm performing brain surgery."
"Where are you staying. I'll call a cab for you," Alex said.
She said, "Nowhere. I just dropped out of the sky. Don't worry, I'll find some place." She got up and said, "I'll be right back." She walked unsteadily to the Lady's Room. The bartender came up.
"What can I do you?"
"Beer," Krycek said.
As the bartender placed it before him he said quietly, "I'm glad you showed up. Some guys been eyeing her. I tried sending her home in a cab, too. Lady needs a friend."
Krycek nodded and said, "Who was checking her out."
"Over by the pool table. The two bikers."
Krycek picked his beer up and walked over by the pool table. He guessed they'd had a hard day in the crystal meth lab and were here to relax. He could just imagine what they planned for Kimberly. One of 'em, a burly guy with a sleeveless denim vest and a beard said, "Need something?"
Alex smiled and said, "The lady's leaving with me. Hope you aren't too disappointed."
The other one, a skinny speed freak in a leather jacket covered with patches said, "What's it to you?"
"Friend of mine," Alex said.
The first one shrugged and said, "No problem."
Krycek went back to the bar. When Kimberly emerged from the restroom Alex set his unfinished beer down and said, "Come with me."
She looked at him with those amazing blue eyes. There was something of Jilly in 'em. "YOU'RE telling ME what to do?" She smiled, then said, "What the hell..where to?"
"My place. You need somewhere to sleep."
She looked at him again. "Okay, lover."
Alex smiled slightly. He saw her pull a wad of hundreds out and just peel one off.
"Lemme get his too. Keep the change."
"Yes, ma'am," the bartender said. They left the bar and continued walking down the dark street. The neighborhoods changed fast. They weren't that far from where Krycek's apartment was and it wasn't too bad there. He felt a hand pat his shoulder.
"My knight in shining armor. Did you warn off those shitheads while I was in the can?"
Alex looked at her. "Yeah. You knew they were watching you? But you just kept drinking?"
"My horse had tougher guys than them in her turds."
Alex did a double take then said, "They might come after us now. I don't think they were too impressed by me."
Kimberly smiled. "They just don't appreciate all your sterling qualities." She stopped and seemed to listen then stepped into an alley. Krycek followed her in and they waited. Moments later the two bikers appeared searching. Alex kicked, breaking the right kneecap of the skinny one. He turned to deal with the bigger one who had a knife out. Kimberly also had a knife out and was grinning.
Alex said, "Take your friend and get lost." The big man glanced at him then at Kimberly who shrugged and stepped back. He carefully walked over to his moaning running partner, then jumped at Alex. Krycek was expecting it but Kimberly was already there,tripping him and running him head first into a wall with a sickening thud. Krycek and Kimberly looked down at the dead staring eyes and Krycek instantly went over to the other one with the broken knee who was desperately trying to scramble away. He slashed at Alex with a knife but Krycek blocked it with his artificial arm and hit him in the throat with his other hand. He dragged his choking form deeper into the alley and broke his neck. Alex was breathing raggedly now, his adrenalin pumping. He looked up at Kimberly and saw her smiling at him.
"Think it'll be okay?" Kimberly asked.
"The bartender could put us with them."
Kimberly said, "Get your car. I'll wait here. Do you have a tarp or something? We don't wanna leave traces in your trunk."
"I'll figure something out," Alex said and quickly left, not running so he wouldn't attract attention.
In the alley Kimberly looked ironically at the two bodies and said, "Thanks boys. That's what I call a fun first date."
The light hit her eyes and Kimberly winced. She frowned and looked over. She was in bed with somebody. Looking to her other side she saw an arm on the floor. She lifted covers up and looked down. She was naked. She sighed. It began coming back to her now. After her and Krycek buried the bodies, first chopping up the fingers and faces to make identification difficult, they'd come back here keyed up. It was exciting. Cops and robbers action had a different feel than laying siege to cities and fighting armies. Alex had kept on being the perfect gentleman. She just ripped his clothes off. Alex couldn't stop her and finally understood that he wasn't remotely in her league. He smiled and gave up; there were worse ways to be overpowered.
She had been pretty pent up. She hadn't been laid in, God...she started thinking back. Not since Cal. When she was losing it there at the very end she vaguely remembered trying to seduce Joxer...Jesus, Meg and his kids were just a few tents away...Jesus. Joxer had kissed her forehead and left. God, it was...well, subjectively it was years; objectively it was hard to say considering how she was always being jerked in and out of Tartarus and the Elysian Fields where time was fluid, or sent here or there in history when Hades or somebody wanted some discrete asskicking carried out, or they wanted one side to win in a battle, so they'd send Kimberly to make it happen. When Alex Krycek looked at the picture of Sam and then tried to actually take care of her it all just came tumbling out. This little one-armed errand boy thought he had to rescue HER: Kimlee, Destroyer of a Thousand Cites; Kushranhara; the Sword of Ares. It was just so goddamn cute!
She looked over at him again and traced his lips with a finger. He was a real bad guy. She thought of Weldon and Cal. So were they but not in quite the same way. Alex here had a sneaky vicious streak. But she still liked him. She was sure he'd done things that would make her despise him. She hoped she didn't learn them, at least for a while. For the first time she began to understand a little what Jilly saw in Langland. As the Sword of Ares she had probably crucified or had buried alive a hundred guys just like Alex Krycek: agents sent to spy on her or murder her. They were talented but not spectacular, and didn't stand a chance against someone like her or Xena.
Why had he tried to help her last night? If he was trying to play her he wouldn't have tried sending her home in a cab. Even a ratboy like Alex Krycek had another side to him. She saw him wince a little in his sleep and reach for his missing arm. Bad dreams. Kimberly had told him it was hard to sympathize. But it was getting easier and easier for her.
Jilly looked up from where she was sitting on the couch reading Cosmopolitan. Langland had just come in. "What happened?" she said.
The handsome man took his stylish trenchcoat off and glanced at her, wondering how she did that. If he asked that he could say exactly why, as he analyzed a thousand variables. But Jilly didn't think like that, he knew. She could just feel things.
"Something's up, Jilly. Might be the gods."
Jilly said, "Shit...which one?"
"I don't know yet. But something is happening with Krycek."
The blonde stood up. "He's not good enough for any of 'em to want him as a favorite. It's about us."
"I tend to agree but we should keep an open mind. Remember Angela. Neither of us saw that coming. Sam too for that matter. I doubt Alex is ever going to displace you or I, but there twelve Olympians, Jilly. He might have talents we're blind to because of our own orientation."
"Jeez, Langland. Could you be any more pompous? We mighta missed something. Can't you just say that?"
He ran his hand through his hair and didn't respond. Jilly got up and came over and put a hand on his arm. "Sorry, honey. My temper...you know...I try but...well..."
"I know, Jilly. I know I'm sorta stiff for you."
She grinned, "Really?"
He smiled softly at her.
"Want me to kill him?" Jilly said as she scratched her head.
Langland shook his head. "No. I don't want to lose him unnecessarily. It would mean setting our plans back, aside from I just like how he handles things. He makes me nostalgic. Reminds me of myself."
Jilly laughed, "From when? When you were six."
He smiled, "About that. Besides if a god is interested in him we might anger whoever it is by killing him. I'd rather not have a replay of that little scene."
Jilly winced. "I know, babe. Weldon could be one mean mother. The gods didn't have to turn him loose on you like that. They coulda just whacked you. Didn't have to let a seven foot Celt turn you steak tartar."
Langland shrugged. "When I killed his reincarnation I angered half of Olympus who had plans for him. They aren't a very forgiving bunch."
"Athena shoulda warned you. She shoulda stood by you. You were her boy."
"There were too many. And, well, it was also the way I killed Siegfried, Jilly. You don't know everything. I was trying to psych Kimberly out but it backfired on me. It had the desired effect on her but in the process I seriously ticked off several gods."
"Kimberly?" Jilly said. "Her spirit or something? What could psych out Mom? What did you do, Langland?"
"Yeah, her spirit. You don't want to know, Jilly. You'll get mad at me too. It's all over and done with anyway."
Jilly said, "Whatever. So what about Krycek?"
"Let's just watch him," Langland said easily. "Oh, I hear he had an altercation with Paulie."
Jilly shook her head. "God, Langland, was Paulie always this stupid? He couldn't have been."
"No. I think it's all those years in the ring, not to mention all the times he's been in fights and shot or whatnot. He's getting older and it's all coming out now I'm afraid. Paulie is on the verge of being a real liability. I.."
Langland stopped and looked at the knife an inch away from his face. Jilly's eyes were wide and mad looking. She said, "Paulie has protected me and Sam our whole lives. He got shot once doing it. My dad always said he felt safe when Paulie was covering his back. Paulie used to pick up Sam from school everyday and would buy me ice cream. Now just consider that before finishing your thought here."
Langland said, "I was just going to say we should send him to a doctor to check him out, and maybe find him a nice cushy position so he doesn't hear things he shouldn't. Maybe buy him a gym so he can hang around with other ex-fighters."
Jilly lowered the knife. "I knew that's what you were thinking, honey!"
Langland smiled. "You must be psychic."
Alex's eyes snapped open at a sound and he saw Kimberly fastening her bra. She bent over to pick up some blue panties and stepped into them. "Hey," he said and she looked at him and smiled.
"I'd make you breakfast but I actually kinda like you. Don't get the wrong idea though." She pulled her blue jeans on.
He got up trying to keep his side with his missing arm turned away from her. He spotted his artificial limb on the floor and walked over to pick it up and quickly attach it. Looking back up he saw Kimberly putting her cowboy shirt back on and not looking at him. Alex asked, "What wrong idea might I get?"
She looked back at him and said, "If things fall out that way I'll kill you. This won't change that. That said, thanks for everything last night...in the bar..in the alley...here." He couldn't read her expression. She had compassionate eyes but there was something else in them too.
Alex said, "What makes you think I wasn't just trying to get close to you? You're involved in this somehow. Maybe I was just trying to hedge my bets."
Kimberly came over and handed his shirt to him. He cursed to himself as his prosthetic arm got tangled. Kimberly looked away from him again. She said. "I don't think you'd say that if you were trying to play me. I think if you analyzed how you've acted with me you'd wanna hide in embarrassment because it's so far from what you think you are and everybody else thinks you are."
Alex didn't answer. She was right. He just seemed to be a different person around her. He pulled his underwear and pants on.
She continued, just watching him. "Nice butt, Alex, speaking of which, but you're no Hercules either. Langland wouldn't want you as his errand boy if you had anything resembling scruples regularly. Maybe I remind you of your first girlfriend or something."
Alex looked at her. She said, "Hope I don't have to kill you, Alex. I really do. If you're on the wrong side when the shit hits the fan...well, Alex..stay out of my way."
"Are you trying to scare me?" he said. He remembered how easily she had overpowered him the previous night. It had reminded him of when Jilly had been appearing and disappearing ghostlike on the wharf.
Kimberly shook her head as she checked the clip in her pistol. She had a Beretta like Jilly but it looked like a 9 mm instead of the small one Jilly carried. "Trying to help you, Alex. Like last night when you thought I needed help. What I said before still applies. You're out of your league and should get out now."
"Jilly's already given me a new assignment for Langland. It's too late."
Kimberly looked at him sadly, took her platinum flask from a pocket and took a swig.
Langland glanced down at his beeper then took a cell phone from his pocket. "Yeah?"
"Mr. Langland, this is Charlie. I wanted to let you know that Paulie's in the hospital."
Langland stopped breathing. He said, "What's he doing in the hospital?"
"He just keeled over. Paramedics said it looked like a stroke. Mr. Langland..Mr. Langland?"
"Thanks for calling me, Charlie. Have you called Jilly."
"Yes, sir. Called her first. I know how she feels about Paulie. She didn't say nothing though about it. Just said I should call you."
"Thanks, Charlie. Charlie...goodbye." Langland's hand was shaking and he looked around. He was in the open. She could be anywhere with a sniper rifle though she'd probably want to be a lot more hands on with him. Langland analyzed it even as he knew a chakram could take his head off any second. This would be the last straw. From her point of view he'd finally crossed the line. Like Thermopylae. She was King Leonidas, Paulie was her loyal soldier dying where he stood in rank, and Langland had finally revealed himself as the Greek who showed the Persians the way over the mountain so they could attack the Spartans in the pass from both sides. Jilly still loved him. Wouldn't matter. He'd finally gone too far. He began walking over to where his Corvette was parked. He was completely innocent here. Kind of ironic really. He'd orchestrated wars for profit; created famines merely as diversions; loosed plagues on populations to test theories; acquired power and wealth beyond what his most paranoid enemies imagined; and he was going to lose it all because an aging punchy hood with high cholesterol had one plate too many of spaghetti. Too bad Kimberly and Cal weren't here. They'd love to watch.
He knew it was useless but he had a role to play and dialed the restaurant. Jilly picked up. Langland said, "I had nothing to do with Paulie. Why would I? I told you what I'd do."
Her voice came purring back at him and he felt sweat break out on his upper lip. "Sure, honey. I know you'd never lie to me. You'd never do something like that when I told you not to. Well, there was that one time, and that other time, and when we were in Moscow when it was so cold. I can't count when you killed Falconi since I'd never specifically asked you not to jam an ice pick in his ear. That was when you popped my cherry. You figured I wouldn't avenge Uncle Jimmy, or let my parents, since I cared so much for you."
Langland took a handkerchief and dabbed at his upper lip. "Jilly. You know I love you. Look at what we've been through together. Listen to me. Poisoning Paulie would be stupid. When have I ever done anything stupid? I'm not stupid; I'm evil. Ask anybody."
"Sure, honey. I know. You wouldn't think you could get me to accept anything no matter what. That I was so much dumber than you that you could train me like a dog. Well, that one time, I guess; and those other times. Couple of people have called me that now that I think of it. Your dog. Your bitch. Hmmm. Your boy Krycek you like so much called me that when we saw him on the wharf. Why don't you come by the restaurant and I'll fix you up something extra special. Gotta go, later honey."
"Jilly!" Langland said but heard a click.
Langland looked at the man who had come up beside him. They were meeting in a busy zoo. Jilly probably wouldn't come after him in a public place full of families and kids. She wasn't like him.
"Hello, Ahmat. What do you think of Jilly?" he asked.
The man said, "Fast, dangerous, possibly delusional. Old school weapons master. Scary bitch."
Langland said, "That 'bitch' is my wife." The man shrugged. Langland studied him. "You aren't afraid of me and you aren't afraid of Jilly. You took out those Israelis and made everybody think it was Jilly. Bonwazi got what he wanted and nobody knows he carved his way to it."
"This going somewhere?" the man asked and looked down at Langland. He was just under six feet tall and had dark curly hair and a thick mustache. He had a slight Indian accent but with something English about it as well.
Langland said, "Me and Jilly had a misunderstanding. I want to work it out but I want you to keep me alive in the meantime. Oh, by the way, do you know Ares?"
"Who's that?" the man said.
"Just somebody. Far as I know he's not involved in this but you're his kinda boy. Just thought I'd ask."
The man shrugged and then said, "Hundred-thousand up front. We'll take it from there."
Langland smiled and shook his head slightly and the man frowned. Langland said, "You don't know Jilly as well as you think. I'll give you twenty-million dollars to keep me alive six months. Probably be over a lot sooner but that allows time for variables. If she kills me you get nothing. You'll probably be dead too though so it won't matter to you."
"Twenty-million dollars? Why not go in a bunker somewhere in Central America if you've got that kind of money?"
Langland said, "Because I've got business to transact and she'd just come and kill everybody in it with a Ginsu knife before she ran me through a sausage machine anyway. That's why. Unless I somehow made it really impregnable. Then she'd just drop an atomic bomb on me. She's got money too."
"You're serious?" Ahmat said.
The man glanced away then back at Langland. "Why don't I just kill her?"
Langland looked down a moment and in a low voice said. "She hasn't tried to seriously kill me yet. Just made laughable attempts, trying to unnerve me. Showing contempt, I suppose. This is all just a misunderstanding, Ahmat. If there is absolutely no other way you can go after her but not before. That's the deal."
Ahmat sighed. "I understand. I've got an ex-wife myself. It's crazy but I still think...maybe. And she DID try to kill me. Course, she was no Jilly."
Langland looked at him with surprise. "That's exactly right. I hope she doesn't seriously try to kill me. If this works out like I want, you'll have twenty-million dollars and I'll be with Jilly. Everybody will be happy."
Ahmat said, "But you don't expect that. You expect her to come after you."
Langland nodded. "You'll probably earn your pay, Ahmat. Oh, Ahmat, I know you're a great fighter...but don't assume you can beat Jilly one on one."
Ahmat said with irritation, "What makes you say that?"
Langland wasn't worried about Ahmat killing him. The man was a complete professional and wouldn't kill someone for annoying him. Not like Jilly sometimes did. "You shot those mercenaries in Namibia, Ahmat. That was Jilly's only problem with being blamed for that. It made it look like she was slipping."
Ahmat frowned again then glanced around. His hand flicked out in front of Langland's face. The smaller man saw he had caught a small dart. Langland followed Ahmat's gaze and saw her just smiling at him. Jilly disappeared into the crowd. Ahmat smelled the dart, recognizing the scent of curare.
"See, Ahmat. That's what I mean. Fooling around." Langland said.
Alex opened his door. "Jilly..." Her eyes were kinda scary looking and she was smiling in that crazy way again.
"Can I come in, Alex?" she said as she stepped past him. Alex closed the door and looked at her.
"I'm flying to Taiwan, tomorrow, Jilly. What do you need?" he asked.
The slender blonde woman was weaving a little bit, Alex saw. "Oh, you're leaving the country are you? That's convenient. You carry out another little job for Langland he gave you personally?"
Krycek was frightened. He said, "No. What kind of job?"
Jilly said, "Like slipping something in Paulie's food that Langland gave you. Something like that, Alex? You don't like him anyway."
"If something happened to Paulie it wasn't me," Alex said. He remembered those crime scene photographs again. He thought of how Kimberly had overpowered him like a child. She said she wasn't as good as Jilly.
Jilly was trying to control herself. Langland had probably used Alex Krycek to get to Paulie but she wasn't sure. And she remembered what he said about something going on with Krycek. Jilly didn't want to anger any of the gods either. If she discovered for sure Krycek poisoned Paulie she'd skin him alive but not before.
Alex was afraid he was going to die. Jilly looked out of her mind as she just stared at him. Before he knew what was happening he fell to his knees and held his stomach. He looked up and she kicked him in the face like he had Paulie. Then she grabbed his prosthetic arm, wrenched it off, and stood looking down at him with that demented smile. Alex lunged at her but she actually jumped over to land behind him, then kicked him again. Krycek found himself on his back with Jilly standing over him.
Jilly pointed his own hand at him and said, "Have a good time in Taiwan, Alex. You might as well go ahead and carry out that assignment. When you get back things will probably be changed around here. If I find out it was you who did that to Paulie, wherever you are, I'll find you. Not coming back won't do you any good."
She tossed his arm contemptuously aside and left, slamming the door behind her.
"Oh, hello, Alex. I'm pleased to see Jilly hasn't eviscerated you."
Krycek was nervously looking around. He had been watching one of Langland's office buildings that he knew he visited frequently. Instead of his Corvette he emerged from a massive limousine with tinted windows. Alex recognized an armored vehicle when he saw one. It could probably take a shell from a tank. Alex approached him. The driver got out and watched. Alex had never seen him before. He was about the same height as he was but built heavier and had a Middle Eastern look.
"She thinks I poisoned Paulie for you! The only reason I'm alive is she isn't a hundred percent sure," Alex said, trying to remain calm. He looked at the driver. That bodyguard meant he couldn't do what he had intended. "She said I should just go to Taiwan and do that job and when I got back everything would be different."
Langland was listening to Krycek with a slight smile. Even as stressed as Langland felt and as much as he missed Jilly, he could still appreciate Krycek. He was electric in his fear for his life. He had half expected him to try to capture or kill him and hand him over to Jilly. He may have aborted that plan when he saw Ahmat, demonstrating his quick wits once again. Langland still felt something else was happening with Krycek, something Alex himself couldn't hope to understand. There was something slightly different about him. Not just his fear.
"Well, then that's what you should do, Alex. She'll be angry if you don't since she told you to, and getting her angry isn't something you probably want. As you've surmised, Jilly and I have had a falling out about Paulie's unfortunate condition. When you return there may very well only be one of us. I'd advise you to hope it's me. If she succeeds in killing me you may be next whether she is sure you killed Paulie or not. You remind her of me a bit."
"For Christ's sake! Why did you poison Paulie?" Alex said furiously. He heard a chuckle and looked over at the new bodyguard. "What's so funny?" The bodyguard shrugged.
Langland said reassuringly, "Alex, I didn't do anything. She just thinks I did; and if I had you're exactly who I would have used. An unfortunate misunderstanding and I'm sorry you are getting caught in the middle of it. You and I are both innocent victims of circumstance. Where's the justice, right, Alex?" He said the last with a sardonic twist. Obviously they both deserved anything that happened to them from most people's point of view.
Krycek was listening closely, furious and frightened. If he had taken Kimberly's advice he wouldn't be in this predicament now. He looked over at that bodyguard again. He'd like to go kick his ass like he had Paulie but he knew not to try. The man chuckled again seeing the look. Alex looked back at Langland, considered mentioning Kimberly but changed his mind. She at least seemed to genuinely like him even if she did say that she'd kill him if need be. He was just a tool to Langland.
"All right. I'll head to Taiwan and take care of that business." Alex said.
"That's a good boy," Langland said and patted his shoulder. He continued into the building, the bodyguard beside him. Alex watched them then quickly walked off.
Stepping out of her office Jilly sensed something. She began scanning the room. Good dinner crowd for a week night. She caught movement from her peripheral vision and knew those two had been watching her but looked away when she glanced their direction. She held a hand up and the girl on the register came over to her.
"Veronica, who are those two at table five? Did they have a reservation?"
"No reservation. They waited thirty minutes, and somebody canceled," she answered. Her voice was quiet. She was Paulie's niece. Jilly had told her to take the night off but she said she'd feel better with something to do. "They haven't ordered yet," she added.
"Thanks," Jilly said and patted her arm. She began going from table to table like always. When she saw the waitress approach them she worked near. They were trying to watch her but be sly about it. It had been a while since she'd killed some cops. Might be about time.
"I'll just have the spaghetti," Mulder said.
Jilly was proud of her waitress for not rolling her eyes. She walked up and said, "Can I make a suggestion? As long as you're here you oughta get something other than just spaghetti."
Mulder and Scully looked up. There she was. Scully said, "Please."
"Bring 'em that antipasto was working on earlier. Then the calimari in white sauce for him and the Milanese eggplant for her. Get the '65 red. Bring the salads now." The waitress wrote it all down and walked off. Jilly took a seat and studied them.
"Um, thanks for ordering for us," Mulder said. He was remembering Big Sal and his men.
"Which are you? Local, FBI, Treasury Department?" Jilly finally said as the salads and bread arrived.
"What are you talking about?" Scully said gamely. Jilly smiled at her and Scully felt a shiver.
"FBI," Mulder said, taking a bite of his salad. Scully looked at him then back at the blonde woman and nodded.
"What do you want? You're welcome in my restaurant but I get the feeling food isn't really why you're here." Jilly spoke lightly and smiled sweetly.
Mulder said, "What is Alex Krycek doing for Langland?"
A peculiar light came into her brown eyes. She said, "Now that's a pretty good question. I wouldn't mind an answer to that myself." She stood up. "Enjoy your meal, Fox, Dana."
Scully said, "Your mother came to see me."
Jilly had been turning away but she froze and turned back. "My mother is dead."
"She was killed in Persia at the Last Stand of the Sword of Ares. You warned her it was a trap but she went in anyway, destroyed by her own arrogant pride," Scully continued. She was carefully watching the woman. She wouldn't characterize her as completely psychotic like Mulder thought. But she was definitely not the poster child for mental health either.
Jilly said, "No, as a matter of fact she survived that. She was killed later in Greece. She committed suicide by charging a bunch of Athenian lancers in the combined force the city states sent after her under Xena. They don't realize it was her because her abilities had deteriorated so far by that point. She was only a good general and great fighter. A shadow of what she was when we were teaching the barbarians what blood meant."
Mulder said, "You mean barbarians like the Chinese who invented printing."
Jilly looked at him. "That's right. Like them."
"Can we go to your office and talk?" Scully said.
Jilly sat back down and said, "No. Your meals are coming. What did my mother say to you?"
Mulder and Scully both noted how wide her eyes had gotten and that she seemed to weave a little. Janice Covington had essentially warned them against coming to see Jilly but they'd ignored it. They were federal agents after all. They'd like nothing better than to arrest her for any of the numerous murders they were sure she had committed for Langland.
Scully said, "She knew we were investigating Krycek and Langland and thought we probably wanted to talk to her. She said she was your mother. However, she wasn't old enough. She wasn't really the Sword of Ares anymore than you are really Jilly the Butcher."
Jilly reached a hand out and grabbed Scully's arm. "Describe her to me."
Scully met her gaze. "About five ten, dark hair, blue eyes."
Jilly released her and pointed to her own wrist.
Scully said, "She had a bracelet of blonde hair."
"She was drinking at eight in the morning."
Jilly nodded and stood up. She looked at the two agents with a wide smile. "If you expect answers from me, you've come to the wrong place. I dunno what she's doing here or why she would contact you and not me. If I did know I wouldn't tell a couple of feds who wanna put me in the electric chair. I have nothing to tell you about Krycek. That's your job. Word of advice: watch for crossfire, agents. Enjoy your meal." She walked off and began going to other tables asking if everything was okay.
Jilly was sitting on a bench in the park. She had stale bread crumbs from the restaurant and was tossing them to pigeons. She looked up and saw him, as he knew she would. She nodded and he approached her and sat beside her. Jilly held the bag up and he reached in and took a handful of bread crumbs and began tossing them to the pigeons.
"You're Ahmat," she said. He looked good, dressed in an expensive jogging suit. Lots of places for weapons. "What's up? Here to sell your boss to me or to kill me?"
Ahmat shook his head. "Now that's not a very nice thing to say first off. Langland just wants me to keep him alive. He says this is a misunderstanding. Why don't you believe him?"
Jilly looked at the big man beside her. "What the hell kind of killer are you?"
Ahmat shrugged. "I help people out with problems. I'll have earned my pay if I can get you to just believe him. People have strokes all the time."
The blonde woman said coldly, "You don't know him. He's playing you like he plays everybody. I just never believed he was also playing me. No matter how many times my parents or whoever told me I wouldn't believe 'em. Look, Ahmat, tough guys like you and me; Langland uses us, tricks us, and discards us when we're no more use."
Ahmat said, "Me maybe, not you. He wants you back. He doesn't want me to kill you unless there's no other way to save him. I have a feeling he'll try to stop me even if it is the only way. He's miserable over there."
Jilly stared at the pigeons again. She stayed alert in case he was just trying to put her off her guard. She said, "I know he misses me. I know he loves me, as much as he's capable of. He went too far. I told him not to hurt Paulie. He thought I'd let him get away with it like before. Like when I asked him to keep his nose clean while I was in Greece. When I came back he'd bankrolled something like five insurrections, destabilized the world economy, and killed God knows how many people. Ya'know why he said he did it?"
"Why?" Ahmat said.
"He was bored." She paused then said grimly, "But this was different. This was one of MY people; somebody who took care of me and my brother. Langland figured he could sweet talk me like before. He doesn't understand the difference. He's got no loyalty so why should anyone else? You must have been a soldier, right?"
She studied him. "Do you understand what I'm saying or are you just such a ratfuck mercenary you'd sell your own men out?"
Ahmat sighed, "Usually it's not as black and white as that. Captains are scheming, men are being bribed, you have to be flexible. I've never sold out completely in the way you mean."
Jilly said, "You asked why I don't believe him. I've heard him say maybe fifty times over the years that so and so was sloppy, was stupid, was a traitor who just didn't know it yet. And sure enough, pretty soon they caught pneumonia, or they had a heart attack, or were in car crash, or their horse kicked 'em in the head even though they were experienced horsemen. I carried out six or seven myself for him. So when he says Paulie is on the verge of being a liability and he suddenly has a stroke; yeah, I'm skeptical."
Jilly stood up and emptied out the rest of the bread crumbs. "Just don't pin all your hopes to Langland, Ahmat. I'm gonna kill him. But if you somehow stop me, remember what I told you when he gives you that warm smile of his, looks in your eyes, and sticks a shiv in your gut."
"I will," Ahmat said to her back as she walked away. He considered killing her now but knew she was ready for him.
Langland was at his desk in the penthouse reading a journal on Biochemical Engineering. Ahmat was sitting on the other side of the room doing a crossword puzzle. He set it aside and stood up. Langland looked at him. His intercom buzzed.
"Mr. Langland, there is someone to see you."
Langland said, "Who is it?"
"She says she's your mother-in-law...sir...sir"
Langland glanced at Ahmat and said, "Ask her to come in."
The office door opened and Langland watched Kimberly amble in wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a motorcycle jacket. In the old days she never would have been seen dead like that. She used to be a real clothes horse. Well, she was dead he thought.
"Small world, Kimberly," Langland said.
Kimberly smiled thinly at him but her real attention was on the other man in the room. He was watching her the same way. "Langland," she said. "You finally went too far. Surprises me. You're not stupid; you're evil."
"I wish you'd tell Jilly that. I'm innocent..." he paused as Kimberly made a derisive snorting sound. "...of Paulie's condition. He just coincidentally had his stroke right after I had made comment to Jilly that he might become a problem. She jumped to conclusions."
Kimberly was listening to him and broke out in a wide grin. "I believe you, Langland. She can make her own decisions. Jilly tell you Paulie used to crawl around with her on his back like a horse? He'd take her out for ice cream a lot too."
Langland nodded tiredly. "The ice cream. I didn't know about the other. Somewhat surreal considering who they were. What are you doing here, Kimberly?"
"Tell you the truth, fuckhead, I'm not sure. Hades uses me for situations that require a little more finesse than Helms can muster. Could be he just sent me here to enjoy myself watching Jilly make you into Swiss steak."
"I'd have thought you would have toned down somewhat in your feelings about me, Kimberly. Wasn't what Weldon did to me enough? " Langland said resignedly.
"Nothing could ever be enough for what you did to Siegfried! But that was then. I'm happy to see you get yours for what I've seen you do here." She turned and approached the bodyguard. "Who are you?"
"Ahmat," he said simply.
She saw what he was looking at. Kimberly held her wrist up with the bracelet of Callisto's hair.
"You modeled yourself on terrible Kushranhara?" There was something in his voice.
Kimberly heard Langland chuckle. She said, "Kushranhara wasn't so terrible. No worse than anyone else back then."
Ahmat said, "The village I'm from is near an ancient river. Before Kushranhara it was a place of life where the women went to wash their clothes and gossip. After her our village became famous for its warriors because we saw what being peaceful had brought us. Kushranhara and her murdering bandits were carving a swath through our land. The rajah refused to pay her tribute and the people all supported him taking pride in his bravery. The armies met at the river, the rajah personally leading although he was only a boy."
Langland watched Kimberly with interest. She had gone pale.
Ahmat continued, "Now I understand it, of course. Our men were just soldiers in a peaceful land. Most had probably never been in a real battle and since they outnumbered the enemy, were proud and confident. The boy rajah had said after he defeated Kushranhara he was sure he could convince her to be righteous and he intended to release her. He saw women washing clothes in the river and said he would clean her soul the same way."
Kimberly said in a hoarse whisper, "He said that, huh? Nice kid. Lotta class. Lotta heart."
Langland said easily, "Too bad he never got to grow up, right? Who knows? Maybe he could've been some great philosopher king who averted the bloodshed of the next three thousand years."
Ahmat stopped talking not understanding exactly what was going on. He had simply been relating some local history since he was offended. Her bracelet of yellow hair meant to him what a swastika would've meant to someone else. He'd asked to be sure she wasn't wearing it for some other reason. Kimberly seemed petrified and Langland seemed amused.
"Go on, Ahmat...please. I need to hear this." Kimberly said. Langland nodded at him.
He continued, "The armies met. The rajah's army simply showed up. Neither he nor his advisors really knew anything about tactics. Not like Kushranhara who had been fighting continuously for years and almost seemed to have studied Clausewitz and Bonaparte..." he paused as he heard Kimberly sharply draw in breath. "So of course she hit them in their flanks which turned them into headless chickens since they were inexperienced, and separated them into nice easily digestible parts. The story is that bodies were piled as high as the roofs in the village. I doubt that, though if Kushranhara wanted to make a point, I suppose it's possible."
"It wasn't Kushranhara," Kimberly said. "It was Jilly...or maybe Weldon. They came riding up grinning at me, crazy with blood the way you get...and Weldon thought you could stack fifteen bodies right on top of another without 'em falling over, and Jilly said 'no way, nine tops.' So I said I'd split the difference and would take eleven...being the leader, you know..keeping them happy. I won. The pile fell over when it was twelve high. Jilly noticed how upset the prisoners were by it so she and Weldon made another pile that was wide enough to just stay there. The more feared I was the less likely people were to defy me. That's why I let Jilly do it. It was right by the river bank and turned the water red. They made the prisoners pile 'em up. If one started giving them lip Weldon or Jilly would kill him and add him to the pile."
Ahmat didn't say anything. He'd dealt with madness before.
Langland had his soft smile and said, "What was terrible Kushranhara doing all this time?"
Kimberly looked at him. "I told 'em to stop it since I never killed people unless I had to. Pile up the dead but don't hurt anybody else.
Langland chuckled again. "A real humanitarian. Kushranhara had to attack them when they didn't pay her tribute. No choice. She was the true victim, when you think of it."
She paused again then said to Ahmat, "I wanted to know where their general was. A prisoner told me the rajah himself had led them. I laughed and said that was a demonstration of what was wrong with hereditary monarchies. So I had a couple of men ride off with orders to bring the rajah. I was talking to some prisoners about where the treasury was when my men came riding back up and just threw this body at my feet. Jilly came walking up just then and said 'I wondered where that was.' I hadn't spotted it but the very outside edge of her chakram was visible in the boy's abdomen. He was naked of course. Everything a rajah wore was valuable so my men had stripped him. He'd just hit puberty, I guess. Little hair on his body, but not much. Jilly yanked her chakram out and it spilled his guts all over."
Ahmat said quietly, "What did you say?"
Kimberly looked at the floor, quiet for a moment then answered, "Watch it, Jilly. You almost got some on me." She looked back at Ahmat. "I'm sorry. It was a beautiful place. I remember that." She walked to the office door.
Langland said to her, "Hope you enjoy watching Jilly give me what I deserve, Kimberly. Everybody should get what they deserve."
She stopped but didn't turn around, then opened the door and left.
Ahmat said, "Is she mad or playing a role?"
"Neither," Langland said. "You can't believe this but she is Kushranhara. I have no way to prove it to you though. So you have to wonder if I'm mad or playing a role."
Ahmat looked at him and shook his head. Then he sat down and returned to his crossword puzzle.
Continue on to Part Two