Chapter 7: Iced Tea

     VAN DE KAMP RESIDENCE
LANDER, WYOMING
12:23 P.M.

     They pull up outside the modest two-story home, located deep in the Wyoming countryside. Just as the boy said, his mother is home; her Toyota is parked in the drive.

     “Sure you’re up for this?” Mulder tries to sound casual, but he’s looking at Scully with concern.

     “I’m sure.”

     “K. I’ll let you do the talking this time.” He smiles. “I must have lost my edge; maybe you’ll have better luck getting through to her.”

     They walk up the steps of the rundown front porch, sidestepping a baseball glove that’s seen better days and a weathered toy car; faded remnants from the past that strike Scully as sinister under the circumstances. There’s a sinking feeling in her stomach. She shoves it down, steeling herself, and raps on the door.

     The woman answers on the second knock, eyes guarded.

     “Yes?”

     “Mrs. Van de Kamp? I’m Dana Scully, this is Fox Mulder. We met yesterday at the police station.”

     “I remember,” the woman responds coolly, folding her arms. She doesn’t step aside, doesn’t invite them in. “What do you want?”

     “We believe your son could be in danger. We’re former FBI agents.”

     “The police said it was a random assault; I was told the man who attacked Isaac died. Look, this has been difficult enough without—”

     Mulder interjects. “You don’t think it’s odd that the man in question failed to overpower a boy half his size? Or that of all the kids at the school yesterday, your son was the target? Almost too convenient, given what he’s capable of, wouldn’t you say?”

     Scully frowns at him, a warning. So much for letting me do the talking.

     Mrs. Van de Kamp isn’t a tall woman, but she straightens at Mulder’s verbal assault, the hardness in her face making up for what she lacks in stature. “Mr.…what was it? ‘Molder?’ You say you’re FBI, I want to see a badge.”

     “It’s ‘Mulder’, Mrs. Van de Kamp, and we’re former FBI. We’re retired. But that’s not—”

     “Then you’re here on personal business?”

     “You could say that.”

     “Well, then, Mr. Mulder, Ms. Scully—I don’t see any reason to continue this conversation. I’m not interested in whatever crackpot theories you’re selling. Goodbye.” She moves to close the door, but Scully reaches out, blocking it with her arm in a last-ditch effort to get through.

     “Mrs. Van de Kamp, it’s important you listen to us. Please, for the sake of your son’s well being, and possibly your own. Is there somewhere you can stay? We’d be happy to put you up in a hotel—”

     The door slams before Scully can finish her sentence. She jerks her hand back just in time to avoid her wrist being crushed in the frame.

     There’s a long, dumbfounded pause. They hear the deadbolt lock with a confident thud.

     “That went well,” Mulder quips. “Guess I’m not the only one who’s lost my edge.”

     She frowns as they trudge back to their car. “I’ll case the house again tonight.”

     He opens the driver’s side door, stepping aside to let her drive. “I’ll join you.”

     “No. I can handle it, Mulder.”

     “I know you can handle it, Scully, but I’d feel better knowing you weren’t out in the middle of nowhere, alone. Humor me, alright?”

     “I won’t be alone; four bars, even out here in Nowhere, Wyoming.” She waggles her cell phone at him, proving the point.

     “OK, fine,” he shoots back. “Do me a favor, though, and tell me why you’re so eager to get away from me.”

     Her mouth drops open; he’s touched a nerve. She steps into the car without a word, settling behind the steering wheel, pointedly ignoring his expectant expression. He wants an explanation, and she can’t think of one that won’t hurt.

     “I’m not trying to get away from you, Mulder, I’m just…it’s been a rough week,” she mutters, gritting her teeth against the lie.

     “So…let me help,” he narrows his eyes. “You don’t have to do this alone.”

     She huffs, opens her mouth as if to protest, but decides against it. “Fine. If it makes you feel better, we’ll do this one together. OK?”

     He relaxes. “It would. Y’know…we could make a date of it. Take-out sandwiches, sweet tea, coffee…maybe after, we can drive up to the local make-out spot. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for a little second-base, under-the-shirt action.” He waggles his eyebrows, leaning in with a boyish leer.

     She bats him away, failing to suppress a laugh. Only Mulder could consider spending the night in a car a date.

     He sits back, happy to have tempered the tension, at least for now. “Seriously, though…when was the last time we got to hang out like this?”

     “I’ll agree to it, but on one condition.”

     “Oh? What’s that?”

     “No second base. And,” she smiles a little, starting the car and shifting it into gear, “bring your own iced tea.”

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