Lucky Man by Meredith

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Lucky Man by Meredith

Lucky Man cover

Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 19:24:57 -0600
Subject: NEW STORY: “Lucky Man”


Title: Lucky Man Author: Meredith

Date: January 1999

Rating: R for rampant profanity
Classification: V, A
Spoilers: Tithonus

Disclaimer: I felt a little sorry for Agent Peyton Ritter.

Summary: The guilty are often not as they appear.

Thanks: To my beta pit crew: Lisa for her eagle eye, Deb for superior insight while braving Dew-induced back spasms, and Justin for not letting me get away with anything (thank god). Not even Mafioso!Mulder. <G>

Feedback: This is my first foray into the Land of Secondary Characters. I’d love to know what you think:


“Lucky Man”

When I try to remember the way it truly happened, I expect everything to be in slow motion. In my mind I would pull back the curtain so slowly, and see the events unwind in artificial stop-motion. Everyone’s movements would be explainable — mine, Fellig’s, Dana’s. I would be able to recount exactly what transpired and what went wrong.

But when I close my eyes all I remember is the pull of the gun’s recoil and the warm slickness of her blood on my hands.


12:17 PM, January 5


Ohgod. No no no no no.

I freeze, I’m frozen, I can’t move.

She slides down and slumps against the wall, like a doll, a broken doll—

And there’s blood, so much blood, so much blood — it’s streaked on the wall in wide, angry strokes…

It’s not paint, though it looks like the feeble first swipe of a roller against plaster—

It’s not paint, Peyton, it’s blood

“Come on, damn it!”

Put your hand on the wound and press, press hard.

Is she alive? Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let there be a pulse—

I can’t find a damn pulse, the blood is too slick on her neck, it’s too hot and I can’t hold the phone because I’ll drop it and I’ve got to LEAVE—

“I’ll get help…”


The hallway is empty, why isn’t anyone HERE?

My phone clatters to the ground and beeps at me, I wipe my hands on my pants, I’ve got to get a GRIP on the phone, get a GRIP—

“911 operator. What is your emergency?”

“Officer down. I have an officer down, 11… 1135 Dean Street, a Federal officer DOWN, Jesus, you’ve got to get here NOW—”

“Please identify yourself, sir.”

“Special Agent Peyton Ritter, NYC FBI, badge number 55932102, Special Agent Dana Scully has been shot in the abdomen, I repeat, shot in the abdomen—”

“An ambulance is on the way, Agent Ritter. Please stay on the line until the paramedics—”

The phone, the fucking phone falls to the floor again, my hands are shaking so much and the cheap piece of shit disconnects.

Get back to Dana. You’ve got to slow the bleeding.

I can’t go back in there, but I have to, it’s my fault, my fault—

Her eyes are shut now. I’ve killed her. Her blood keeps pumping out under my hand, her body must not know she’s dead. It’s been minutes now, and it keeps expelling her blood.

I’ve killed her.

I’ve killed my partner.

The bloody phone trills at me accusingly.

I punch send shakily, hitting a few extra buttons as my fingers slip-slide on the now-sticky keypad. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, the line was disconnected. How long until the ambulance gets here, because this is not good, Jesus this is not good—”

“Ritter? Is that you? What the hell’s going on?”

Holy Jesus. Her fucking partner. Ex-partner. Whatever. The nutcase. Fox Mulder.

I can’t think. Her blood is everywhere, it’s everywhere, and I just can’t think.


“Agent… Dana, she’s… been shot, Scully’s been shot —”

He disconnects before I realize I should have just fucking shut up. I could hear his fury in DC as clearly as the siren on the ambulance finally pulling up in front of the building, neither sound making me want to keep living.


I knew she was wrong about this case.

Grandmother Ritter was never what I thought a grandmother should be. They should be warm and soft and smell like fresh bread. Their arms should always be open and their hearts full of love.

Grandmother Ritter resembled a prune with a nasty castor oil habit. She was as wrinkled and gnarled as a diseased elm and just as embraceable. She was forever pointing out my so-called faults, the ones that would conspire to make me a failure while trying to uphold the upstanding Ritter name.

Don’t be flip, Peyton.

Don’t be such a namby-pamby.

You’re always so cocksure.

Cocksure. The word always sounded so crass, so almost-dirty coming out of an old woman’s mouth. It made me wince in embarrassment for her and for me.


I knew Dana was wrong about Alfred Fellig. I knew she was grasping for a way to turn this case into something it wasn’t. After Kersh’s little warning, I knew she was out to weasel her partner into this somehow so they could take control, even though I was the one who initiated this investigation.

In the suddenly illuminated red-blackness of the darkroom, I knew that was a gun in his hand.

I knew, didn’t I?


3:45 PM, January 5

It’s so loud in here. Why they’re making us wait in a god-damn hallway is beyond me. Where are the waiting rooms? The ones with bad coffee and a muted TV in the corner and magazines on the floor and wailing relatives, for fuck’s sake?

I stand and pace. Once past my AD. I don’t look at his face. It would just be the same fake picture of concern and pity that was there an hour ago. Fuck. He didn’t know this woman. I didn’t even know this woman, which means the pity is etched there for me. I don’t fucking want it.

Once past the uniforms. They’re waiting ever-so- patiently to find out how to write this incident up. Death from friendly fire? An unpleasant accident that permanently sidelines a Fed? I wonder which alternative involves more paperwork. I can feel their amusement, their lofty misplaced superiority. Ha ha, what a joke. The fucking little Fed can’t handle his gun without shooting his partner. Pansy-ass suit.

Once past the swinging doors into the OR. They wheeled Dana through there three hours ago, her blood dripping a Hansel and Gretel trail for the janitors to obliterate with their mops. All part of their job.

All part of the job.

Jesus. Don’t let her die. God help me. Dear Lord, don’t let her die because of me….


I’ve never had a partner before. Contrary to television stereotypes, special agents are rarely assigned permanent partners. I work on a team, behind a desk. My firearm sits in my desk drawer from 9 to 5. I compile information. I review files. I perform grunt tasks for senior agents. I fact-check. I work on the computer so much I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome.

A highly trained agent with the FBI sustaining a repetitive motion injury most often associated with the secretarial pool. Fucking bullshit.

When I found those inconsistencies in the photographs and the reports, I knew I’d hit paydirt. This was a cover-up. A long-hidden crime spree. This — this was my reward for paying attention to detail. This was my ticket out. If I didn’t fuck this up, this assignment would get me into the field.

In my naive fashion, I imagined how easily the case would go. Three deaths, probably more. A suspect practically in hand. A little old-fashioned detective work, and badda-bing badda-boom — open cases closed, all thanks to Peyton Ritter and his eagle eye. Field Office, Anywhere, USA — here I come.

And to top it all off, they gave me Dana Scully. I’d heard of her, of course. The only agent at the Bureau who was also a forensic-trained physician. A crack investigator, recently freed from the cess-pool that was the X-Files. My luck was riding high.

I should have known then, I guess. I’m not normally a lucky man.


5:30 PM, January 5

They’ve all gone now, the uniforms, AD Coopersmith. I can’t leave. I don’t know why; there’s no point in either staying or going. At this point I’m incapable of action without a catalyst.

I scrubbed the blood off my hands and face as best I could, using hot water and the special hospital disinfectant soap. I still didn’t do a good job; flecks of rust cling to my cuticles and at the edges of my fingernails.

She’s in a coma.

They won’t tell me anything else, and they won’t let me see her.

The bullet penetrated at the bottom edge of her rib cage, where it deflected off bone and bounced around her insides like a pinball on a free ride before exiting through the lung.

She’s there, right down the hall behind thick glass and mini-blinds. She’s on a respirator, I saw that much when I peered in. A lot of other equipment is attached to her as well, machines I’ve never seen before and don’t know anything about.

I would give anything for it to be me in there dying instead.

This hallway is quiet. The nurses and doctors tiptoe from room to room, moving back and forth from one nearly dead patient to the next. They only talk at the end of the hall, down at the desk near the elevator. They laugh there, making grim jokes. They glance at me now and again, but mostly they walk right by as if I were just another plastic chair.

I wonder how long I can sit here before they make me leave.

The elevator bings, ominously. When the doors open, he’s standing there — stone-faced and emotionless. He walks steadily down the hall toward me, his shoes making a loud, even sound on the linoleum. He’s passionless, cold, his face a mask of nothingness.

A mask that takes me utterly by surprise when it explodes into raging fury as he grabs me by the lapels and slams me into the wall.

“You son of a BITCH! I told you to find her, not SHOOT her, you fucking IDIOT!”

I can’t move. I let him pound my body into the concrete wall, knocking the air out of me and jarring my teeth as my head whipcracks backwards. He’s 10 years older and 20 pounds lighter, and I’m a doll in his hands. A broken, bloody doll….

“Sir! Please! Stop this at once!” A nurse appears from nowhere and pulls Agent Mulder off me. I want to tell her it’s all right, I deserve it, he should be allowed to kick my ass — but he puts his hands in the air, a sign that he’s done throttling me. His face is white with anger. If this weren’t the ICU, he’d beat the shit out of me. And I’d gladly let him.

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I need to see Agent Dana Scully.”

“Are you family, sir, because she’s in critical condition—”

“I’m her partner. I’m her medical power of attorney. I need to see her.”

At the word “partner,” the woman looks askance at me, the man who’d been introduced to her as Dana’s partner. When her eyes meet his again, the confusion over the multiple meanings of this trifling word is outweighed by the legal standing he waves like a get-in-free card.

“Follow me, then. She’s in very unstable condition….”

The nurse heads off down the hall, not immediately noticing that Agent Mulder hasn’t yet moved to trail her. His eyes thumbtack me to the wall like a poster of a wanted felon.

“She dies, you die.”

I nod. He didn’t even have to say it.


6:30 PM, January 5

The call finally came, delivered through the hospital switchboard because my cell phone was bagged as evidence. OPR review, 10 am tomorrow. They’ll lynch me. And Mulder might as well.

It seems fitting, somehow. Disgrace at my own hands. If not at the FBI, then somewhere else. Perhaps at Father’s brokerage firm, if I’d been weak enough to follow that path. Or at any other profession I’d hope to run away to. In the end, it’s no surprise.

Time to leave, then. As I walk past Agent Scully’s room, I scrub rock salt in my wounds with steel wool and gaze through the glass. He’s sitting next to her, cradling her palm against his lips and cheek, his eyes closed. I can see the tear tracks on his face.

It’s then that I realize I haven’t killed his partner.

I’ve killed his lover.


Back at Quantico I had an affair with another agent in training. It was brief and brilliant. We were both determined to make it through the grueling training, and we were both determined to make a name for ourselves in the Bureau as soon as possible. Like minds, like attitudes, like personalities. Different backgrounds, different races, and eventually different assignments.

We split as quickly and easily as we’d started sleeping together, shaking hands and patting backs as we packed our bags for New York and Los Angeles. I haven’t spoken to her since, and I think about her rarely.

The Bureau is not a place to find love. A casual fuck, maybe, although I haven’t found that to be necessarily true since graduating from Quantico. We’re all here because we’re just as sick as the bastards we’re trying to catch. Our egos are enormous, we’ve got well-hidden inferiority complexes, we’re obsessive workaholics, and we’re strangely fascinated by everything evil and twisted. And yeah, we think we’re superior enough to rid the world of those who would do wrong.

Not a place to meet your soulmate, if you ask me.

I’m young, part of the self-assured, brash wave of new agents who don’t know jack about discrimination. Dana Scully was nothing to me but a resource, a warm body to work a case with, a sharp mind to lend insight into the problem at hand. It didn’t matter if she wore a skirt or had breasts or was a cross-dressing transvestite. It just didn’t matter.

But maybe it should have.

It was my responsibility to protect her, to back her up in all facets of the investigation. It was her responsibility to do the same for me. Did I forget this somehow? Did it slip my mind? Did I assume that she had a handle on the situation, that she didn’t need my assistance? That I didn’t need to look out for her?

I didn’t know her. I didn’t know how she worked, what made her tick, what her strengths and weaknesses were.

She’s so damn small. I didn’t know she was standing behind Fellig, I swear to god.

She was so damn small.

I wonder what would have made me cry at her bedside. If she were my real partner, if she were a man, if I’d known her longer. If she were my lover — possibly, and yet maybe not.

I can’t even find tears for myself.


11:15 am, January 6

The reality of my situation didn’t even sink in when I handed over my ID and gun. Someone else possessed my body, forced it to calmly forfeit the badges of honor that I’d come to rely on as the definition of who I am. Probably the same entity that forced me out of bed and into the shower as if it were just a regular day. Probably the same alter-ego that actually let me look in the mirror while I shaved.

Until the investigation is complete, you’ll be on suspension with full pay, Agent Ritter.

Reality strikes as I walk out of the conference room to the averted gaze of my coworkers, fellow agents and support staff. Where do I look? At the floor? At my shoes? Straight ahead of me as if nothing happened?

It would be better if they would just stare and jeer at me rather than cringe and look away in silence. I’m an embarrassment. Something to be scorned, shunned. I’ve failed Agent Scully, I’ve failed the Bureau, I’ve failed myself. And I’ve failed every young agent who thought the next great chance could be his ticket out.

If they terminate me, my career in law enforcement is over. If they don’t terminate me, it’s still over. This incident will go on your permanent record, Peyton Ritter. There’s no escaping the footnote of “killed fellow agent during unprovoked encounter to arrest suspect.” Tattoo a red letter A on my chest — I’m history.


2:00 PM, January 6

He’s still in her room when I arrive at the hospital, only he’s now alone.

I panic, plain and simple.

“Is she…?”

“Tests,” he hisses, the glare in his eyes only a little dimmed despite the haggard look on his face. “There’s been some unusual brainwave activity. Now get the hell out of here.”

“I… please, you don’t understand…”

“What don’t I understand, Ritter? The fact that you shot your fellow agent in response to the suspect holding a camera, for Christ’s sake? Just what in that scenario is so fucking confusing?”

He’s standing now, his face 3 inches from mine, twisted in a combination of fear and hatred that I simply can’t fathom. I speak, even though it’s like taunting an armed killer.

“I shot Fellig. When I entered the darkroom, the light was strange, and I thought the camera was a gun. I’d heard them arguing, and I thought Dana was in danger. I didn’t know she was standing behind him. I swear to god, I didn’t know,” my voice is quavering, I hear it as if it were being piped in from the next room.

“Agent Mulder — do you have any idea how terrible I feel? To know I shot a fellow agent? To know that if she dies, it’s on my head? For god’s sake, you have no idea what it’s like, you can’t have a fucking clue what I’m going through …”

The tears come now, hot and insistent and without warning. I swipe at them angrily, exhausted. I’m so fucking tired.

He doesn’t slug me, he doesn’t apologize. Just stares at me with that god-damn blank slate face. Tabula rasa, I think. I’m slowly going insane.

When he speaks, his voice is calm, deadly. It makes me think of vipers. “Oh no. I know exactly what you’re feeling, Ritter. That’s why I want you to savor it. If she dies, I want you to roll that guilt around in your mouth until that’s all you can taste. I want that guilt to sour every bite of food you eat, everything you drink, every word that falls off your god-damn tongue for the rest of your fucking life. Because I know what guilt tastes like, and it’s the least punishment you’ll deserve.”

He shoves past me, our shoulders knocking in the narrow door frame. I stand still, letting his acidic words burn their meaning onto my already flayed skin.

I stand there for a very long time.


January 11

I didn’t go back to the hospital when she came out of the coma three days later. The nurses said she was disoriented and weak. The last thing I needed to do was to ask forgiveness of someone who might not even recognize her would-be killer.

I waited until Coopersmith told me she was in the clear. She’d make a full recovery and probably leave New York in a few days. I waited as long as I could, until delaying the inevitable any longer might inflict more pain than any of us already felt.

And yet I stood for 20 minutes at the end of another hall, this one in the recovery ward, waiting again, until he left the room. I was a chicken-shit.

I don’t even remember what I said to her. I mumbled and stuttered, mixing banal pleasantries with life and death confessions in some bizarre form of apology. I embarrassed myself, and probably her. But she nodded her acceptance, and in the short time I worked with her I got the idea that that was enough. I was forgiven and would be mostly forgotten, except for in her nightmares.

As I left the room, who should greet me but my old friend Agent Mulder. I braced for the inevitable verbal castration, or maybe a physical blow. But he just met my gaze. In his eyes I thought I saw something akin to forgiveness. I was probably mistaken.

“You’re a lucky man,” he said before entering Dana’s room.

I nodded in reply, once again. After he was out of my sight, I laughed the bitter laugh of the dead.

Am I, Agent Mulder? Am I really?




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