Title - Decoding the Enigma
Authors - Amy Jonas and MagsRose
E-mail - or - FRT-13 (PG - 13)
Category - AU/Gen/Het
Archive - Just let us know.
Feedback - Yes, please. Any kind is always welcome. We just like to know someone is reading this stuff.
Disclaimer - Without Prejudice. The names of all characters contained here in are the property of Chris Carter, et. al. No infringements of these copyrights are intended, and are used here without permission. All original characters are the sole property of Mags or Amy and may not be used without the author's permission.
Summary - In 1940, Private Investigator, Melvin Frohike thought he was working on a simple missing person case but he soon found himself embroiled in something far more sinister.
Authors' notes - After seeing the Maltese Falcon, Amy presented Mags with an idea for The X-Files characters in an Alternate Universe. Intrigued by the possibilities, Mags suggested a co-authoring effort. The result is the story you see here. Thanks to Erynn and Alison for betaing this for us.
A/N. This is a finished fic. Chapters will be uploaded either daily or every other day.
Decoding the EnigmaChapter 1 Monday, September 23, 1940
The hallway was dark. It was late in the evening but even during the day the dingy hall seemed to absorb the light that managed to make its way through the dirty film over the small window at the end of the hall. New bulbs wouldn't have made much of a difference even if the landlord hadn't been too cheap to replace them. The people who worked in the building liked it that way. It gave them the anonymity they wanted, something a brightly lit office building in a better part of town would not have afforded them.
Melvin Frohike's clients preferred the darkness and isolation since most didn't want anyone, especially the police, to find out why they required the services of a private investigator. His clients came to him because of his reputation for discretion. They hired him as a last resort to locate unfaithful spouses, people who owed them money, missing property that may not have been legally acquired in the first place or for some other reason that brought him face to face with the dregs of humanity.
Frohike didn't particularly like this type of work but it paid the bills. Occasionally, when his conscience got the better of him, he retreated into the darkness of his office with a bottle of Jim Beam. He had come to depend on this old friend to drown the inner voice that accused him of taking the easy way out, of making the quick buck.
Then there were those who came to him in desperation; those who felt that the authorities were not doing enough to find their missing loved ones. Often, these clients couldn't afford the services of the big name detective agencies located on the right side of the tracks, but Frohike's prices were reasonable and his reputation was first-rate.
These cases, when they worked out, made him feel good about himself again, that he was truly helping people. It was a feeling he thought he had lost when he quit the police force. Not every story had a happy ending but helping these people gave him a sense that his life had meaning.
Frohike dug in the pocket of his coat for his keys. From months of practice, he located the correct key by feel alone and opened the door to his deserted office. His secretary, Maggie, was not there. She undoubtedly went home at her usual five o'clock.
Crossing through the small reception area, he opened the door to his inner office.
He hung up his coat and hat then sorted through his phone messages. One jumped out at him. He was going to need to do something about that one before he went home. Frohike sat down behind his desk and, opening the bottom drawer, pulled out a bottle of Jim Beam and a glass. He poured himself a stiff one.
He was bone tired and he hadn't done anything more than sit around for most of the day waiting to testify in court. Late in the afternoon, he'd finally gotten his chance on the witness stand.
The case involved a woman who'd been accused of killing her cheating husband. The woman's family had hired Frohike to search for the husband, insisting he had faked his own death. Frohike tracked the man, finding evidence that he was alive up to three weeks after the District Attorney said he'd been killed. The trail had grown cold after that and, with time running out before the court date, Frohike had to give up the search.
This was not the first time he had gone up against the overly zealous District Attorney, John Byers. The man had it in for him, treated him like last week's garbage. Every time he was required to testify on a case this guy was prosecuting, DA Byers did his best to discredit Frohike. He'd like to think the man was just doing his job but even on cases in which he was testifying FOR the prosecution, Byers made it sound like Frohike said nothing more than a necessary evil to be tolerated only as long as needed.
He poured himself another shot: drinking this one slower than the first.
He picked up the newspaper, which earlier in the day he had thrown unread on his desk. Scanning the front page, he scowled in disgust. It was full of the war in Europe between Hitler and the Allied powers. It was only a matter of time, he thought, before we're pulled into that mess.
He tossed the paper into the trash then looked at his appointment book. In Maggie's precise handwriting, he noted that he had an appointment with a new client the next day. The Jennings case was the only other case he was working on so he could use the income.
He glanced at the phone. He had to make that call and he'd better do it before the alcohol kicked in. Frohike lifted the receiver and dialed the number.
The worried mother answered the phone before it completed its first ring. "Mrs. Jennings, this is Melvin Frohike." He paused, listening to the woman, thinking of how broken up she had been when she and her husband, Daniel, had come to him the day before. "Have you found anything new," the woman on the other end of the line asked, hope evident in every word.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Jennings, I don't have anything to tell you yet but I've been checking around and I've got some leads I want to follow up on." He didn't want to tell her that he had wasted precious time sitting in the courthouse all day. He had asked a friend to do some snooping for him with the police but that would take a little time. He planned on meeting up with that friend the next day.
"It's been three days now," Mrs. Jennings said. Frohike could hear the tears in her voice. "Did you talk to Emma and her friends? Maybe there is something she would remember for you that she couldn't tell the police."
"I spoke with her mother. That's all I'm allowed to do. She said that Emma didn't remember any more than she told the police. The other girls all said the same thing."
"Someone must have seen something," she said, almost choking on the words. "She didn't just disappear!"
"We'll find her, Mrs. Jennings."
Alive or dead, he thought but didn't say it out loud. This bit of truth would have pushed the woman farther over the edge and what she really wanted from Frohike more than anything was hope.
"You'll call me the moment you know anything new?"
"Yes, I will."
"Thank you, Melvin. Good bye."
Frohike hung up the phone. He reached again for the bottle, the need for another drink almost over powering. His fingers caressed the label like a lover and he paused, startled by the sudden thought. Instead of pouring the much-wanted shot, he screwed the cap back on and shoved it back in the drawer.
It was time to go home and get some sleep. He prayed it would be dreamless.
"There's no story here."
Jimmy Bond winced at Jeffery Spender's imperious tone. His self-important attitude grated on the nerves of almost everyone at the newspaper earning the man an unflattering nickname, which was whispered behind his back in the bullpen.
His father, C.B. Spender, was the newspaper's ruthless owner/publisher and, while Jeffery tried to emulate his father, he just came across as a shallow version. So, the man was tagged with the unfortunate nickname of 'Spender the Lesser'.
It was meant as a joke but after a while it stuck. Everyone from Spender's fellow reporters to photographers to the late night cleaning guy used the name. Jimmy had often thought the name was unfair, but at times like this, it fit.
Jimmy glanced at Professor Langly. The lanky scientist was scribbling arcane mathematics on a chalkboard his blond ponytail swinging with each jerky movement. He muttered to himself as he worked attempting to explain his untested theory on how the Nazi codes could be deciphered.
Jimmy snapped a couple of pictures of the chalkboard and the professor as the man was working.
His assistant, Yves, stood off to the side at a desk sorting papers but Jimmy had the feeling she was more interested in his and Spender's conversation than the task at hand.
There was something about her that felt out of place in this lab with the preoccupied scientist. From the short conversation with her and the Professor, Jimmy knew she was smart, brilliant even but…
Yves lifted her gaze, looking straight at him. Embarrassed at being caught staring, he quickly turned his attention back to Spender.
"Professor Langly says he knows the secret to cracking the Nazis secret code," Jimmy protested. "That's a huge story. You…"
Spender just snorted. "You're a photographer, Bond, which means you take pictures. Leave the news to the professionals." Spender looked past Jimmy to Yves and grinned in a knowing manner. "Besides I know what you want to investigate."
Spender put his hat on. "A woman that beautiful…she's assisting the Professor all right and in more than just an academic way." Jimmy bristled at the crude remark but wisely kept his mouth shut. Despite the nickname, Spender was a reporter and the son of the owner. He could make life miserable if he decided to badmouth Jimmy to the other reporters.
"I'll be in the car when you can finally tear yourself away. And, hey," he nudged Jimmy with an elbow. "Get a couple of good shots of the doll there. We could use some new pin-ups." Spender turned to leave, chuckling to himself.
"Where's he going?" Professor Langly asked after finally becoming aware of the conversation behind him. "I thought he wanted to report the truth. This needs to be told."
Yves abandoned the work she was attending and joined the professor at the board. "Perhaps," Yves said in a smooth voice, "there was a breaking story that demanded Mr. Spender's immediate attention." Yves slid a hand up Professor Langly's arm in a gesture that was both reassuring and intimate.
She leveled a cool gaze on Jimmy. "Won't he require your photographic expertise, Mr. Bond?"
"Um…sure," he said, confused by the sudden twinge of disappointment. Was Spender right, Jimmy thought as he turned to follow the reporter, were they more than co-workers? He paused, his hand on the door and glanced at the pair. Langly was once again intently focused on the chalkboard but Yves had returned to the desk and her paperwork, a frown on her lovely face.
Jimmy closed the door, heard the soft click of an automatic lock engaging. Despite Spender's assertion that there was no story, Jimmy felt there was something going on with the eccentric Professor and his enigmatic assistant. He just needed to figure what it was.Tuesday, September 24, 1940
It was after ten before private investigator, Melvin Frohike, rolled into work. Maggie, her long, blond hair rolled up and held in place at the back of her head with a pencil, looked up from her typing to check what kind of mood he was in. He had on his usual trench coat and his hat was pulled down over his eyebrows.
"Good morning," she said softly, suspecting he had a hang over. "Would you like some coffee? I just made it."
Maggie took the grunt her employer gave her as a 'yes' and got up to pour him a cup while he unlocked the door to his inner office.
She gently set the coffee on his desk and watched as he rummaged around in his file cabinet. He had not removed his hat and coat so Maggie knew he would not be staying.
Finding the file, Frohike sat down at his desk with it and flipped through the papers it held. Maggie waited until he looked up at her before she said, "You have a three o'clock appointment today." She reminded him.
"Yeah, I saw that," he said indicating his appointment calendar. He made some notes on a piece of paper.
"Will you be here or should I call the client and reschedule?"
"No, I'll be here." Frohike folded the paper he'd written on and stuffed it in his coat pocket. He got up and exited the office leaving his coffee untouched.
Maggie closed the file on his desk, quirked an eyebrow as she read the front of the folder then replaced it in its drawer.
The waters of the Potomac stretched out in either direction, its surface rippled by a cool, northerly breeze. On the opposite bank, the Washington Monument rose from the earth, reaching toward the azure sky.
Yves Harlow sat on a bench in the West Potomac Park, ostensibly admiring the view but her relaxed, outward appearance was a façade. The events of the past few days had forced her to come to a decision she had considered only as a last resort.
She checked her watch then scanned the nearly empty park. Off to her left, by the river's edge, a couple stood beneath one of DC's ubiquitous cherry blossom trees. Their posture was very intimate. She heard the slap, slap, slap of feet on pavement, turned halfway to see a man with graying hair running along the sidewalk. He glanced briefly in her direction but didn't stop.
The runner passed a tall, thin man wearing a suit tailored to fit his slim frame. One glance and Yves knew this was the man she was waiting for. There was no mistaking his look or the way he held himself.
The thin man stepped off the sidewalk and, crossing the short expanse of grass, joined her, taking a seat on the left side of the bench. He looked out toward the monument.
"Did you bring the package?" He asked in a tone one reserved for discussions of the weather.
"The package stays where it is," Yves responded, "until I'm confident you won't interfere with its delivery."
"That's rather arrogant since you approached us." The man glanced at her, irritation flashing in his dark eyes. "We want to know what you're doing on American soil and why we weren't notified of these activities."
"As I explained when I called, I'm safeguarding a package that is of extreme importance to the Allied Forces," Yves countered evenly.
"Vague answers will not compel us to assist you."
"His safety has already been compromised," Yves snapped. "I will not compromise it further by revealing classified information to a messenger." Her codes had been green lighted, why was this man disregarding protocol and asking such direct questions in the open?
Surreptitiously, she took in her surroundings, searching for the thin man's backup. Was it the lovers? They were still under the cherry tree; the woman's back was against the tree as they kissed.
She continued to watch the couple but her thoughts returned to her contact. This man and their conversation made her uneasy. Had the reporter mentioned her and the professor to someone? Were the SS and the Nazis aware she was protecting the very thing they sought?
"Look, Miss Runtz –"
Thin Man's words were cut of by a grunt of surprise. Yves snapped her attention back to him. His lips were a tight, thin line, his eyes wide with surprised pain. He looked down, clawing his chest. Blood was spreading out from the center of his shirt staining his hands.
Yves surged from the bench, her hand diving into the small handbag she carried to conceal her Browning .32 ACP pistol. Her heart pounding, she searched for the source of the bullet. She hadn't heard the report of a gun, which meant the shooter was using a silencer.
The thin man's final breath was a desperate gurgle for air and then silence.
Her gaze landed on the couple still leaning against the tree kissing. The woman was nearly hidden by the man's body. Yves couldn't dismiss the possibility that the romantic interlude was a pretense to hide the fact that the woman was the shooter and the man was shielding her.
She covered the half dozen yards in seconds. "Hands where I can see them," she ordered in a low, menacing voice, training her little pistol on the woman. "Nice and easy."
The woman's eyes fluttered open then widened is alarm. "Mitch," she said, "Mitch!" Mitch continued to kiss her neck. "Mitch, stop!"
"What?" Mitch asked, irritated. At the expression on the woman's face, he turned and saw Yves. A second later he registered the gun. He stepped in front of the woman in a protective gesture.
"No," Yves commanded, her voice harsh. She pressed the muzzle against the side of his neck. "Move away from her and show me your hands." She took a step back, giving him room. "Slow and easy."
The man did as he was ordered, showing his empty hands.
"Now you," Yves indicated the woman. The blond desperately glanced from Yves to the man, her lips quivering as she tried to hold back the tears. The woman was either an accomplished actress or innocent. Yves suspected the latter. But she had to be sure. If she were wrong she would be as dead as the thin man.
"Hands," Yves prompted, chambering a bullet. The ominous sound broke the woman's paralysis. Weeping, she slowly raised her shaking hands.
They were empty.
The crack of the gun was unmistakable.
A bullet whizzed past Yves' head, plowing into the tree inches from the couple. Shards of bark sprayed over them.
The woman screamed.
"Stay down," Yves ordered. But the couple was already fleeing in the opposite direction.
Pushing them from her thoughts, Yves peered around the tree, scanning the park. Where was the shooter? She felt vulnerable. The cherry tree was too thin to provide much protection. She was an easy target.
A gunshot cracked again. A split second later the bullet gouged a hole in the trunk just inches from her head.
Adrenaline racing through her, Yves stepped from the tree and fired three successive shots then ducked behind her meager cover, trying to make her body as small a target as possible.
She had four bullets left, not enough for a lengthy firefight, let alone that her little Browning was meant to be a close range weapon.
How long before the police arrived to investigate the couple's claims of a woman with a gun in the park? The sniper's gun cracked again. Yves felt the shudder of the tree with the bullet's impact. She would be dead long before the police arrived.
She had a sudden, clarifying thought. If the shooter wanted her dead, she would be dead already. He'd had ample opportunity. No, she decided, he needed her alive in order to get what she was protecting.
She had been captured once before. She had endured three days of interrogations before turning the tables on her captors and escaping without telling them anything. She did not intend to go through that again.
She took a steadying breath then stepped from behind the tree, her pulse pounding with adrenaline, muscles tense and ready. Purposefully, she strode toward the cluster of cherry trees.
When she was a dozen steps past the bench that held the dead man, she stopped.
She would make the shooter come to her.
The squeal of tires ripped her attention to the parking lot where a black sedan sped toward her. Then another car roared in from the opposite direction. Fear snaked through her, clutching at her chest.
She was trapped.
Both cars screeched to a halt, boxing her in. Two men exited the first car, one from the second – all three training their weapons on her.
"Drop your gun!" A man with bushy eyebrows screamed.
"Do it now!" shouted a second man with wide, thick lips.
Yves dropped the Browning. Hearing it hit the ground, she raised her hands, palms facing out. Eyebrows and Thick Lips approached her cautiously. Eyebrows kicked her gun out of her reach then picked it up.
"Hands on your head," Thick Lips ordered.
Yves complied and, while he patted her down for additional weapons, she flicked her gaze to the third man. He had immediately separated from the other two and was now trotting to the park bench.
She didn't have much time. If she was going to do something, she needed to do it fast before the third man discovered that the thin man was dead and alerted his associates.
"She's clean," Thick Lips announced. He grabbed her wrist, wrenched it down.
It was now or never.
Planting her feet, she yanked her arm from his grip. When he turned toward her, she hit him in the face with the base of her palm. She felt cartilage give way as the force broke his nose. Blood spurted out, smearing his lips and chin.
He grunted in surprise and pain. Yves followed the move by swinging her left foot high in the air, connecting with his wrist, sending the gun flying.
The instant her foot touched the ground, Yves followed it with a round house kick to his chest that knocked him backwards. With Thick Lips momentarily off balance she turned on the second man, snapping off a series of quick kicks to the face and chest. The last blow sent him crashing against the sedan, his head connected with the door and he slipped to the ground unconscious.
Yves spared a glance toward the park bench. The third man had made the grisly discovery and was now running to assist his associates.
She heard Thick Lips growl of anger. Instinctively, she sidestepped and aimed a kick at his solar plexus. He dropped to all fours, gasping for breath, spat out blood and started to rise. A drop kick to the back of his head put him down. He wouldn't be getting up anytime soon.
Without warning, a locomotive crashed into her, pinning her against the car. Her heart pounding in her ears, Yves found herself staring up into the furious face of the third man. He was bigger than she estimated, easily over six feet and from his iron grip, solid muscle.
"You're not killing anyone else," he growled.
"I didn't kill him." Yves said calmly even as her mind raced trying to think of a way out. She would never win a grappling contest with him. Her only chance was to get him to drop his guard. She decided to tell him the truth. "There was a sniper in that copse of cherry trees." She indicated with her eyes but his gaze didn't leave her face. He obviously thought it was a ploy.
"It's true," she insisted. "Check for yourself. There should be shell casings most likely from a sniper's rifle."
"Yeah? And why should I believe you after you attacked two Federal Agents?"
"Federal Agents?" Yves stared up at the man, hiding her relief. "You're with the FBI?"
"Don't be coy," the man snapped. "It won't work"
Yves glanced at the two unconscious men. "They never identified themselves as such." She lifted her gaze, studying the alleged agent. She noticed that his ears stuck out prominently from his head. "And so far I haven't seen anything to prove your claim."
Ears frowned, glanced down at the men as if deciding something. "Don't move," he told her. He backed away from her but not enough to give her room to do anything. He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a leather case. He flipped it open. "My badge."
She took it from him and studied the identification. It appeared genuine. "Looks like we're on the same side, Agent Doggett," she said, handing it back.
He returned his ID to his pocket then gazed at her. "Are we?" he asked. At Yves quizzical expression he elaborated. "We ran a check after you called. There is no one by the name of Lois Runtz. Who are you, really?"
"Lois Runtz is code to tell my superiors I've been compromised. My real name is Yves Harlow." Yves smirked. "Tell me Agent Doggett, what did MI6 say when the Bureau contacted them?"
Doggett looked surprised at the question. "How..." He interrupted himself by answering her. "They claimed they don't have an agent named Lois Runtz."
Doggett saw a shadow pass over Lois Runtz's - or whatever her name was – face and then just as quickly disappear.
"What else did they say," she asked.
"Just that they asked us to send their regrets but they hope to see you at William's birthday party." Doggett studied her face. "What does that mean?"
"They are instructions to continue to do what I was sent here to do," Yves said. There was more to the message but she kept it to herself.
"Which leads us to the reason for this meeting," Doggett said. "What is this package and why is it so important?"
Yves' mind whirled with unanswered questions. Why hadn't the agents identified themselves at first contact? How did the sniper know about the meeting? Why didn't the sniper take her when he had the chance? There had been close to a full minute before she 'surrendered' and the FBI showed up, it was plenty of time to take her.
"Miss Harlow," Doggett prompted her.
Yves stared up at him, mentally kicking herself. How could she be so blind? It was an old trick: lulling the target into a false sense of security and let her reveal her secrets on her own. And she had nearly fallen for it. Was he with the SS or had Agent Doggett sold his loyalties? How deep into the FBI did the SS influence go?
"The package," Yves said finally, keeping her expression carefully neutral, "is safe for the moment. Before I can reveal anything about it, I must be assured it will remain with me at all times."
"I can't promise anything," Doggett said. "That's up to my superiors."
Yves stepped away from Doggett. "I understand." She stopped and took a deep breath, glanced at Bushy Eyebrows. He had tucked her Browning in his pants while Thick Lips was frisking her.
It was a shame to have to lose the Browning but she didn't have a choice. "Thank you Agent Doggett," she said, inflecting appreciation in her voice, "for your assistance."
"Don't thank me until you've been brought in and –"
Yves whirled, hitting him with a roundhouse kick then swept his legs out from under him. She followed him down, snatching his gun from his pocket and jamming it against his neck. "Agent Doggett," Yves hissed, "If you want to live, stay down until I'm gone. If you get up before then I will not hesitate to kill you and the two sleeping beauties. Understand?"
When he grunted his assent, she stood up, keeping his gun trained on him. She backed up until she felt hard metal against her back. A quick glance into the car told her that its keys were still in the ignition. She scrabbled with the latch, opening the door. She paused only to shoot out two tires of the second car before leaping into the driver's seat, starting the car and flooring the gas pedal sending a shower of gravel over Agent Doggett as he scrambled to get out of the way of his own car.