Fells Point is a neighborhood located to the east of Baltimore's famous Inner Harbor. It's known for its antique shops, restaurants, and nightlife. And because it was the location for the filming of "Homicide: Life on the Street."
Fell's Point, punctuated correctly with an apostrophe or without, is a popular part of the city. Like all big cities, Baltimore has its dark, seedy side, but this spot by the water ignores all that and shouts, "Welcome to Baltimore, hon!" "Baltimore" being pronounced, "Ball-i-mer."
Baltimore is also where three young men met their strange and untimely deaths.
The rain had ended earlier in the evening, leaving the streets slick, and with high water waiting to be splashed. The atmosphere was festive, and the nightlife sounded as if it were in full swing apparently undaunted by the puddles.
Mulder wanted to retrace David Graham's last steps, and he insisted that it be the same time of night-or as close as they could estimate. So out on South Broadway's wet bricks, he and Scully walked, making their way to The Crabmaster's Saloon. The Crabmaster's is a predominantly gay bar with live music and no cover charge.
Mulder was unhappily decked out in his Ray Bans and white cane. He hoped he still cut a dashing figure in his charcoal gray Armani suit pants that hung just a little low on his hips and that sported pleats at the waist. He wore what Scully told him was a Pierre Cardin, light blue cotton dress shirt, with a navy blue striped silk tie. It was far too hot to wear the suit jacket.
He had to hold tightly to Scully's hand and arm to keep from tripping on the brick's raised edges and from slipping on the wet pavement. The helplessness he felt was unbearable.
'How can I fucking work like this?' he thought as his toe caught on another ridge.
He could no longer read his partner's expressions, or see her gestures. Much of their communication from before was unspoken, consisting only of a nod of the head or the flicker of an eye.
God, how he missed looking into her eyes.
He shook his head, not understanding how he could have adapted to this black and featureless place. His only link to the world around him came from the sensations he used to dismiss.
He was a visual man. His formidable memory supplied him with visual images in detail and on command. But how was he supposed to recognize a murderer if he couldn't fucking see him? By smelling him, touching him, hearing him talk? He damn well wasn't going to taste him.
He was silent as Scully expertly guided him towards the bar.
Her soft voice came from his left, "Curb cut right, two o'clock," and she nudged him in that direction.
"The Crabmasters is in the middle of this block," she said. "We'll go through the double doors, take two steps forward, then one curb step down and into the pub. The bar itself will be along the left wall. The bartender's name is Brad Lang, and I know he's working tonight. We questioned him right after the killing two weeks ago. He remembers serving David Graham on the night of the murder. I don't think that any of the other staff that waited on the victim are here."
The air was thick and humid from the evaporating rain. The streets of Fells Point smelled of crabs seasoned in Old Bay, ladies' perfume as they emerged from the small theatres, alcohol, rain, vomit, and piss. All the scents a good city should have.
Mulder tapped Mr. Pointy to his right and found the curb cut. While holding Scully's hand, he approached the doorway and moved to stand a little in front of her. Then he crooked his elbow and placed Scully's hand around his upper arm. Entering a gay bar with a woman on his arm was the statement he wanted to make. If Scully noticed any of this silent posturing she made no comment.
The timeframe they were working in was from 11: 00 PM to 2:00 AM. They gave themselves some leeway since it was around 1:00 that Saturday morning that David Graham went missing, and 2:30 AM when his body was discovered in a neighborhood several blocks away. Scully's report traced the victim's 11:00 stop to be here at The Crabmasters.
Earlier, she'd told Mulder that they both had been here investigating almost two weeks before, right after the murder. They'd met with all the bartenders and servers at that time. According to Scully, one pretty, young female waitress had been so intrigued by this blind FBI agent that she very nearly pushed Scully down in order to "seat" him.
Mulder dismissed the event, but suddenly, as he stood in the foyer of the bar, something clicked. A small memory of their investigation appeared in the fog of his mind. This meaningless altercation between Scully and the waitress surfaced as clearly as though it'd just happened.
Mulder remembered hearing some icy words between the waitress and Scully. He knew that something had been going on behind him, judging by all the scuffling he'd heard. He'd genuinely thought it was funny until the waitress said under her breath, "He prob'ly has no idea what a dog she is."
As his mind replayed the scene, he winced inwardly, but hope dawned as he realized that his memory *would* eventually emerge. Still, he grasped Scully's hand and brought it to his lips. He pressed two quick kisses to her knuckles.
As Scully and Mulder sidled up to the bar, Mulder felt her hand reach into her pocket, probably to show their identifications. The bartender said, "No need, Agent Scully. I remember you and Agent Mulder from last time. Howya been? Any news on the killer?"
Scully raised her voice to be heard through the din of music, laughter, and clinking glasses, "Getting there, we hope. Agent Mulder and I just wanted to go through the same motions as David Graham did the night he died."
"Okey dokey. Can I get youse a drink or somethin' while you're at it?"
"No thanks, Mr. Lang," Mulder said, leaning onto the bar. "I just want to go over some things with you if you've got a few minutes. We may have gone over all this before, but I need it fresh in my mind for tonight." He sniffed the air and decided that he couldn't tell where the onion rings started and the cigarette smoke ended.
"Okey dokey," the bartender repeated, "Shoot."
Mulder asked him to describe his last contact with the victim.
Brad Lang explained that David had come into The Crabmasters at around 10:30 PM two weeks ago Friday and stayed till a little after 11:30. He remembered that Graham had seemed a little "down in the mouth" and appeared to crave Brad's company. The latter had been busy tending bar on a busy night, and frankly didn't want to spend too much time with a "whining fag."
"But," Brad added as he paused and sipped a drink; "He was one beautiful boy."
Lang lost track of him after 11:30, thought nothing of it, and had no other information. No, he didn't think that Graham left with anybody. No, he wasn't overwhelmingly drunk. Yes, he was a little depressed when he arrived but seemed to be feeling better as the night wore on. But Brad attributed it to "Bartender's Math": The improvement in one's mood is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol in one's system.
Mulder rubbed the smooth surface of the bar with his left hand and tapped the underside of the bar with the cane in his right. He tried to get a sense of the place, and sat down on a now vacant bar stool. The pub was hot and noisy. He could hear the patrons' laughing, cigarette lighters flicking, and bottle tops popping open.
Imported beer, no doubt.
Mulder's mind wandered away from where he heard Scully finishing up the questioning. He absently slipped his tie off and put it in his pants pocket after unbuttoning the top two buttons of his dress shirt. He rolled his sleeves up to the elbows and flipped up his sunglasses to rest on the top of his head. With a cocktail napkin that he discovered on the bar, he wiped the sweat from his face. The soft scent of Ralph Lauren's "Polo" wafted up to him as he leaned back from the bar.
"It's a hot one tonight, isn't it?" a male voice probed Mulder's darkness.
"It was a hot one last night, too," Mulder replied politely.
A low chuckle, then, "You look ... very hot. Care to dance?"
He faced the direction of the flattering voice, squinted convincingly, and said, "Sorry, can't dance. I've got two left feet."
Mulder's left hand which was on top of the bar felt a large, warm hand cover his. A hot voice traveled to his ear and said, "C'mon, I'll teach you."
Before Mulder could protest, he was gently but quickly pulled to stand. At that moment, his sunglasses flopped down awkwardly over his eyes, and his white cane clattered to the floor.
Mulder sat down abruptly and heard an apologetic male voice say, "Hey, I'm sorry. I thought you were being coy with the 'I can't dance' line." The voice chuckled. "I guess I would've been insulted if you'd used the 'I can't see' line on me. I really hate that one."
Mulder's lips spread into a grin as he faced toward his "date." He said, "Yeah, I usually wait to see how the first date goes, and then see if I have to spring that on 'em."
Scully's pretty voice came from his other side, "He waited until our third date and *then* tried that line." Mulder felt her hands cup the tops of his shoulders as she stood behind him. "But by that time, I had his car keys, and he needed a ride home."
Mulder closed his eyes, tilted his head down and smiled, "Yeah, my driving sucks."
"It certainly does."
A young, amused voice said, as its owner stood, "Well, you don't dance, you can't drive worth shit, and you like redheads. I just don't see how this could work out between us. But if you ever change your mind about the redhead thing...."
A long finger briefly touched Mulder's lips, then moved away.
Mulder felt Scully lean into him as she whispered in his ear, "I can't take you anywhere. But he is the best looking guy in the place....not wearing shades." She handed him his cane.
"Yeah," Mulder said as he stood and took Scully's hand, "But I'm spoken for. And besides," he dropped her hand briefly to adjust his glasses, "You still have the car keys."
They walked out of the pub and headed over toward South Ann Street. Mulder allowed himself to experience the sensations surrounding him. The warm summer night was still humid from the early rain. Puddles were splashing under his shoes, and Scully's soft hand was firm in his, guiding his way. This moment felt natural; it felt right. Through all their years together, he thought, Scully had been guiding his way all along.
Scully stumbled and muttered, "Dammit," under her breath.
Mulder caught her arm and steadied her."You okay?" he asked as he held her up.
"Yes, I'm okay," she said haughtily. "Jesus, Mulder, and I wore the two inch heels tonight instead of the three inch ones because I knew we'd be walking on the brick streets."
"Scully, we're not on the brick streets now."
"Shut up, Mulder."
"Besides, the difference between being 5'5" and 5'4" is hardly worth the trouble."
When Scully said nothing, Mulder thought, 'I didn't realize you could actually *hear* someone glare at you.'
He clamped his teeth on his lower lip and bit back a grin. After a few more blocks, they arrived at Peg Leg Jim's Saloon. There were two short steps up into the bar, which he maneuvered without Scully's help.
This bar seemed bigger than The Crabmaster's and sounded very crowded.
Scully said, "It's a little past 12:30, and by our estimation, David was here right around this time before he was killed."
"Tell me what you see," he asked. "This may very well have been the place David Graham was last seen alive."
Without hesitation, Scully described the scene.
"To the left is a long horseshoe shaped bar with about twenty people sitting on bar stools. A couple of dozen more are standing by, either drinking or ordering drinks. One of the bartenders is the same one we questioned almost two weeks ago. His name is Connor Lambert, and he claims to have served David Graham drinks up until the time Graham left the bar at around 1:00.
"There are two other female bartenders working tonight. I believe one of the female bartenders, I can't remember her name, also remembered seeing David here on the night in question.
"There are four or five small, two seater tables close to the bar and a few more larger tables at ten and eleven o'clock, set further back. Along the walls to the right are booths, and it seems that they're all full right now."
Mulder interrupted her, "Why can't you remember her name, Scully?"
"What?" she asked, surprised.
"The female bartender. Why can't you remember her name?"
"I....uh...I have it written down somewhere. Why? Is it important?"
"I don't know. You don't seem to think so," he said simply as he moved forward. 'Seltzer water being poured makes a crackling sound' Mulder thought as he maneuvered towards it.
"Ahh, the Fibbies are back," the bartender's voice smirked. "Here on business, agents...or for pleasure?"
"We're still on the clock, Mr. Lambert," Mulder replied genially.
"Agent Scully, doesn't he ever let you have any time off?" Connor's voice drifted softly past Mulder to connect with Scully who stood behind him. "You're going to have to ditch him one of these nights and come out and play."
She remained silent as Lambert resumed, "I'm sorry, Agent....sorry, what's your name again?"
"That's right; sorry Agent Mulder. Is there anything new in the investigation? Catch the killer, yet?"
"We're closing in on something. It won't be long now."
"Won't be long, huh? That's great. Then Agent Scully will have some time for pleasure after all." Again Lambert aimed his voice behind Mulder.
"Mr. Lambert," Scully's tone was business-like, "You stated that David Graham was here from about 12:30 to 1:00 AM on the night in question. That's not very long. Wasn't he having a good time?"
"Well, Agent Scully, many of my gay customers tell me that they can get in a whole lot of bar time if they hop them real fast. Some of 'em really like to go the distance." His voice oozed over her. "Sometimes when you're lookin' for love, it doesn't take very long to know that you're in the wrong place."
Mulder positioned himself where he hoped was directly in front of the bartender, "Yes, but he left while the night was still young. Did he seem depressed or upset to you? Did he talk to you about where he might go or what he might do next?"
"Agent, you know better than any of us what it feels like to be dancing in the dark. This guy was alone and lonely in a crowd." His voice came from slightly above him. Mulder guessed that Lambert must be on the tall side. 'Just my luck,' he thought. Scully liked tall.
The tall voice continued, "But, yeah, he came in alone and wasn't having much luck with the 'clientele' here. I'm sure he must have been feeling unloved and unwanted. But, hey, we all feel like that sometimes, don't we?"
"Do you, Mr. Lambert?" Mulder asked. "Ever feel unwanted?"
Mulder heard a throaty chuckle, "Well, it's a little different for me."
"Why, because you're a little different from the rest of us?" Mulder continued.
Lambert ignored the question and said, "This guy who got himself killed must'a figured he'd only feel like a new man if he got away from this place. He needed new blood, so he left. That's how I see it. But it sure looks like it turned out to be the kiss of death for him."
" 'Kiss of death.' That's a peculiar turn of a phrase, Mr. Lambert."
"You think so, Agent Mulder?"
Mulder stood aside and smiled, "Thank you, Mr. Lambert. We've got everything we need from you. You've been very helpful."
"I hope so, Agent Mulder. I aim to please. Speaking of aiming to please... Agent Scully, whenever *you* feel lonely or unloved, you know where to find me."
|Part 4|In A Flash|Part 6|