Title: La Llorona (1/12)
Rating: PG (mild language)
Spoilers: Not really, but assumes everything through at least Amor Fati.
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a series of deaths in Albuquerque, NM.
Feedback: Yes, please. firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive: Not to Gossamer. I'll submit directly there. Yes to anywhere else. Just let me know, please.
Disclaimers: Even if I were trying to make a profit, which I'm not, I don't think this would help. All things XF belong to the folks at FOX/1013. The version of the La Llorona legend read by Mulder is from the University of Texas at El Paso's website and includes an additional portion based on an account posted at the Texas State Historical Association website. This information is used without their knowledge or permission. No copyright infringement intended.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to all those who gave me feedback and information along the way as I've labored over this story for the last 3 or 4 years (you would think that much time would make it really good, but...) Thanks also to those who helped me out with some of the Spanish language stuff and to my mom for giving me a little book about La Llorona. Thanks to my hometown of Albuquerque for the inspiration. And VERY SPECIAL THANKS to my Lil Sis for being such a brutal, brutal beta!
Author's Notes: The legend of La Llorona (pronounced "yo-rrró-na") is found throughout the Southwest and in Mexico in several different forms. The version of the story I drew upon came from the few accounts I heard in my youth and from an account posted at www.utep.edu, which is the story Mulder recounts, with one small addition from another version, because I thought it made it sadder and creepier. If you're interested in other versions of the story, give it a Google. Almost all the locations used in this story really exist, except for Casa Cabeza de Baca. If you're ever in Albuquerque, eat at El Pinto. ;0) / / / /
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sunday, July 25, 1999
Ben Montoya's eyes snapped open. He held his breath, listening to the quiet around him. Something...
A heavy cloud was moving across the sky, its towering bulk beginning to cover the sun. He blinked up at it from the dappled shade of a slim tree. For the past several days, big clouds had made their way from south to north, trailing ragged curtains of ineffectual moisture, taunting the city with rain that evaporated before it touched the ground.
But today was different. The freshening breeze was cool and moist with the promise of real precipitation, the scent of the air shifting from dust and sweat to the blessed rare perfume of rain.
Ben shifted on the sun-warmed quilt and nudged his dozing wife.
"Honey, get up. I think we should round up the kids and start packing up."
"Hmm..." she snuffled from the crook of her folded arms. She didn't want to open her eyes.
"It's gonna rain." Ben sat up and stretched, allowing the breeze to cool his sweaty back.
"KatieStevenKristy!" he called, turning his head from one side to the other to cover the length of the park. "Come on, kids. It's time to go!"
Steven and Kristy looked up from the edge of the pond where they had been feeding the resident ducks and geese. Dropping the last of the breadcrumbs, they raced each other up the bank.
Marla Montoya had finally raised her head from the pillow of her arms and watched her two younger children hurrying to obey their father.
"Where's Katie?" she asked as the children plopped down on the blanket.
"She said she wanted to see the beavers," Steven said, pointing north toward the bridge that crossed the nearby Rio Grande. "She said you can sometimes see them from the bike trail over there."
Marla's eyes went wide. Ben scrambled to his feet.
"Stay with your mother," he ordered as he clambered up to the road that circled the park. He trotted down the road toward the bridge and went through the entrance to the bike path. It turned from the road and went down below the bridge. His eyes searched the banks frantically.
"Katie! Katie, where are you? It's time to go!" he called, trying to keep the edge of panic out of his voice. The children had been told not to go near the river alone, but Katie was getting older, more independent. "KATIE!" he barked. "Get up here right now!"
He stopped, now beyond the bridge, listening for her, hoping he would hear her rustling through the reeds near the water. Thunder rumbled overhead and fat drops of rain began to fall, pelting the surface of the river below.
Her socks and shoes were placed neatly on a rock.
"Katie?" he breathed, suddenly deeply afraid.
The Albuquerque Search and Rescue squad found her body about a mile south, caught among the branches of a fallen tree.
Wednesday, July 28, 1999
Manny Garcia had no good reason to be out on a night like this. Lightening tore through the prematurely blackened sky, illuminating the storm clouds. Thunder exploded over his head making him cringe as he hunched his way through the heavy rain.
He had no reason to be out, but he was compelled. His heart ached and tears ran down his rain-washed face. He had thought this pain had lost its knife-edge after twenty years, but tonight it had returned as fresh and sharp as it had been on that terrible day.
He stumbled along toward the riverbank, his mind knowing that she could not be there, but his heart hoping against all logic that he would indeed find her. If she was anywhere, she must be at the river. That was where he had to go.
At last he came to the sandy edge of the water where he paused to look up and down the river. She had to be there. Something made him turn to face south along the way he had just come. Was it a voice? A whisper...a cry?
"Híja?" Could he have walked past her in the dark? She was such a small thing. Something was there. Something black against the darkness. Was that her?
"Híja?" He moved forward a step or two. There it was again—that voice. It was not a whisper this time. It was singing, or weeping, or...
As the black thing began to take shape and come nearer he could see the beauty, the sorrow. He felt a squeezing in his heart and an icy burning touch on his shoulder.
No, no, it wasn't her.
Manny Garcia began to scream.
Tuesday, August 3, 1999
The airplane bucked and bounced as it made its final approach toward the airport. The updrafts and other wind currents formed by the uneven terrain of the Monzano Mountains made it feel as though they were driving down a bumpy dirt road rather than slicing through the clear, dry air of New Mexico.
Scully gripped the armrests and looked out the little window to her left. It was mid-summer and the earth below was baking in the hot Southwestern sun. Off to the south, huge clouds billowed up.
The plane banked to the right, to complete its wide turn skirting the higher, rougher Sandia Mountains just to the north of the Manzanos, before approaching the runway.
Mulder was snoozing in the aisle seat, his suit jacket and a half-empty pack of sunflower seeds tossed on the middle seat between them. The plane was blessedly empty and quiet—the middle-of-the-week, middle-of-the-day, St Louis-to-Albuquerque leg of their flight obviously off-peak.
Mulder awoke as the plane touched down, blinking at the light streaming in the windows as he scrubbed at his face.
"Nice nap?" Scully asked with a grin.
He nodded with a sheepish grin of his own as he unbuckled his seatbelt—well before the captain had turned off the 'Fasten Your Seatbelt' sign.
The bright heat assaulted them as they stepped from the plane to the Jetway, but they were soon inside the air-conditioned terminal.
"They were saying the temperature is 102 degrees, Mulder," Scully commented as they strode through the terminal toward the baggage claim area. She eyed the planes and service vehicles sparkling in the sun out on the tarmac.
"Yeah, but it's a dry heat," Mulder responded.
They picked up their luggage and the keys to their rental car and took the parking deck elevator to the top tier.
Though a smudge of smog hung low over the city, the sky beyond the mountains to the east and out over the mesa to the west was a clear, deep turquoise blue.
Mulder peeled off his suit jacket and donned his sunglasses as he looked out at the terrain. He had been to New Mexico often enough, Roswell being one of his personal Meccas, but it was such a change from the East Coast that it always impressed him.
As Mulder eased the rental car down the ramp toward the terminal exit they had an unobstructed view of the mesa on the western horizon. Three long-extinct volcanoes, The Three Sisters, as they were sometimes called, sat on the horizon, but off by itself, further in the distance, a craggy mountain stood alone.
"See that mountain, Scully?" Mulder began. "That's Mount Taylor. It's about 75 miles away."
When he didn't elaborate on this bit of geographical trivia, Scully prompted, "Yeah...?"
"Do you realize that being able to see that mountain from here is kind of like being able to see the Washington Monument from Baltimore?"
Scully considered a moment. "Well, that mountain is a lot bigger than the Monument, Mulder."
"Yeah, but the distance is the same," he insisted. "It's the air, Scully. There's no humidity to speak of so you get this amazing clarity."
Scully smiled, added, "And the amazing heat." She nudged the air conditioner up a notch.
"But 102 degrees here is more comfortable, relatively speaking, than 102 in DC," Mulder persisted. "Without the humidity your perspiration can evaporate more quickly. Cools you down faster."
"But it's still 102 degrees!" Scully laughed.
Mulder shrugged with a smile, squinting up at the late afternoon sun bearing down unhindered on the city that spread before them. He pulled onto I-25 and headed north toward the center of town.
Scully had donned her own sunglasses. "What's the name of the detective we're meeting?" she asked. She reached for the briefcase beside her feet, pulling the case file onto her lap.
"Robert Sanchez," Mulder replied. He squirmed his right hand into his pants pocket and retrieved a pack of gum, using his teeth to pull out a stick. He offered the pack to Scully, but she shook her head absently, absorbed in reviewing the case details. He dropped the pack into his shirt pocket and popped the gum into his mouth, relishing the sharp mint flavor and the bursting "flavor crystals." He really wanted his sunflower seeds, but his jacket, with its pocket stash, was flung out of reach on the back seat.
Detective Robert Sanchez leaned against the hood of his car, sipping a soda, relishing the breezy cool of the shady street. Ordinarily he might resent out-of-state "Fibbies" inviting themselves into one of his investigations, but this time he actually welcomed the intrusion. He really needed a break on this case and if his friend Mike Turner in the FBI's Albuquerque Field Office was right, this particular pair of agents might really be able to help.
"Hey, Mike, it's Bobby."
"Hey, Bobby, how's it going?"
"Eh. You know. Listen, I've got a question for you."
"I don't know if you've heard, but I've got a couple of your people coming out here from DC to work on our River Killer."
"I'd heard a rumor. I was wondering why you didn't call me if you wanted the FBI to help with your case. You trying to hurt my feelings?"
"Actually, this guy called me and offered his help. A guy named...Mulder...Fox Mulder. You know him?"
Mike didn't answer right away, then said, "Fox Mulder is a good agent. When he was with the Investigative Support Unit he was considered one of the best profilers the Bureau had ever seen."
When Turner hesitated again, Sanchez spoke. "So if he's not a profiler now, what does he do?"
"Well, he and his partner...they work on something called the X-Files—cases that are kind of...unconventional, I guess."
"Well, they call him 'Spooky' because he's always been a little...um...he has kind of far-out ideas. But they say he knows his stuff. And he can still catch killers."
Unconventional. Far-out. Maybe this "Spooky" guy was just what he needed for this case. There were rumors going around in the valley that were starting to bother Sanchez, despite his best judgment as a cop.
Up in the Heights or out on the West Mesa the people might whisper in a half-embarrassed way about the possibilities, but down here in the valley, especially among the old viejos, the stories were spoken aloud and with confidence. They were sure they knew what was happening.
Sanchez wasn't sure where he stood. He was an experienced homicide detective who had seen his share of ugly death. He knew what people were capable of doing to each other and nothing really shocked him anymore.
But he also knew the old traditional stories—his grandfather had told him the tales often enough when he was growing up—the stories that could still send a chill up his spine.
But he was a modern man, college-educated. The stories couldn't be true.
But when the rains came...
He shook his head. You're a cop, Bobby.