Summer of Love
My submission (as a sub) for the X-Files Alternate Universe Fanfic Exchange (2021) is now on Ao3!
San Francisco, CA
July 21, 1967
It was a summer of change and upheaval and Agent Mulder stood on the corner of Haight and Ashbury. The hilly San Francisco district had become the center of the counterculture movement, with musicians and artists lining the streets just outside their apartments. The 1950s Beat generation had sought out the quaint and cheap housing of the underpopulated district, and by the 1960s, the anti-establishment movement had grown and morphed with the rise of the Vietnam War.
Mulder stood in awe of the color that surrounded him. Reds and yellows, greens and blues swirled like a life-sized tie-dye shirt. It was a stark contrast to the shades of grey and black that roamed the streets of Washington D.C. Life was teeming, and everyone seemed friendly, or at the very least accepting, of everyone else.
As Mulder admired a young woman skating by on roller skates, her long brown hair blowing behind her, his thoughts were interrupted.
“What are we doing here, Agent Mulder?” Agent Doggett’s gruff voice came from beside him.
Doggett’s patience was wearing thin and they’d only just arrived in the Golden City. He knew damn well they were searching for a murderer.
Mulder had gone to their subterranean office Monday morning, wound up with too much caffeine and not enough food in his stomach. He’d been up half the night studying their potential new case: a man who liked to abduct women and hack them up. Not all the victims’ body parts were found, but Mulder had noticed a clear pattern surrounding the killings, a possible motive that transcended purely killing for pleasure. There was premeditation, and Mulder was certain that all the killings were connected to a single killer.
“Staking out the place,” Mulder replied, his eyes searching up and down the sidewalk for a potential starting place. All the bodies had been found in the Haight-Ashbury District, likely by someone familiar with the area.
“The entire neighborhood?”
“Fine,” Mulder relented, “we’ll get a feel for the area. Let’s see what connections we can make. You never know where one person might lead us.”
The sun beat down on the suit-clad agents and Doggett took a long sip of his coffee, turning his head to a mob of people crossing the street together. “We stick out like a sore thumb.”
Doggett had reluctantly agreed to fly out west with Mulder to investigate the mass murders - four women so far - and hopefully apprehend the sick bastard leaving dead hippies carefully posed near dumpsters and in back alleys. Mulder was grateful for the help and the backup.
“It’s all happening here,” Mulder had insisted, arms spread, gesturing to the cityscape before them. “Every single one of those bodies was left within a quarter mile radius on this cross street. He lives here. He picks these women at rallies or in bars, courts them, earns their trust, and then takes them back to his house to seduce and then kill them. Of that, I am certain.”
“And we’re sure they weren’t raped?” Doggett asked.
Shaking his head, Mulder replied, “There is no indication of rape from the evidence. The women had sex willingly. It’s only after the seduction and intercourse that the women were murdered.”
“Alright, Mulder,” Doggett said, “but the one thing I don’t understand is why these women are all dolled up. Too much makeup for the so-called hippies.”
“I’m not sure why yet. Something in the way this sicko operates, playing out fantasies maybe.”
“I sure hope you’re right about this, Mulder.”
“Me too,” Mulder replied, a stone sitting heavy in his gut at the thought of all the cut-up bodies.
Mulder had presented the senior agent with plane tickets and that is how they had ended up in San Francisco chasing down a murderer at the height of the Summer of Love.
Both men hoped Mulder’s hunch would lead them to their suspect and not on some wild hippie chase.
“There.” Mulder said, pointing in the direction where a large group of people, mostly hippies, were making their way to a gathering. Cheers erupted as a guitar strummed. “Looks like we found ourselves at a peace rally.”
Doggett acknowledged this with a curt nod and the two men made their way across the street, weaving their way around people, to the very center of the crowd. A shirtless man with stringy hair played guitar, singing about peace, love, and acceptance.
The song ended and the man tucked a long strand of hair behind his ear.
“Let’s all have a moment of silence for our fallen heroes,” he said, bowing his head.
“This is so damn touching,” Doggett sarcastically muttered to Mulder, who could not suppress a grimace. These young kids had lost fathers and brothers, and even sisters, to the war. But Doggett was not wrong. Optimistic crowds could sing about peace, but little would improve without extreme policy change. The United States was too invested in the war, had too much at stake.
The crowd collectively bowed their heads and closed their eyes. Some placed their hands over their hearts; a quiet fell upon the street.
“Do you see any possible suspicious people?” Mulder whispered.
He and Doggett took the opportunity to scan up and down the street. People had gathered not just along the sidewalk, but spilled into the street, blocking the road. No one seemed to mind, though, and the peace rally continued to grow in size.
Through the sea of bent heads, a woman caught Mulder’s eye. She was rather small - he would not have noticed her had it not been for the bent heads - with a halo of red hair among the brown and blonde. But that wasn’t what stood out to him. Those blue eyes, clear as a summer’s day, were not closed in a silent prayer but looking right at him. She ducked her head when she noticed him.
“Thank you,” the singer broke through the silence.“That was truly groovy. I felt all of your love coursing through me. I’m sure that our fallen brothers felt it too.”
“Let’s get the hell outta here,” Doggett said. “We’re not gonna find him now. We’re looking for a hippie in a haystack.”
The crowd swayed in unison as music resumed playing, and the two agents, frustrated that their suspect didn’t jump up and present himself, pushed their way through the masses. As they neared the end of the mess of people, an older, long-haired, scraggly man grabbed Mulder’s arm.
“The end is nigh! You have to believe!” he yelled in the agent’s face.
“I want to believe,” Mulder returned, not unkindly, while attempting to pull his arm away. The man was clearly down on his luck.
But the vagrant pulled Mulder in closer. He smelled of booze and body odor.
“NO!” he howled. “Trust no one!” Then turning to the crowd, he yelled, “Look at this one! He’s one of them! He’s the Man!”
The two agents felt the eyes of all the crowd turn and stare at them as they were singled out. Some booed and hissed at them.
But from the throng came a voice over the microphone announcing, “Friends! Brothers and sisters! ALL are welcome.” People whooped and hollered back, others clapped at the call for acceptance.
Mulder tried harder to extricate himself. The bearded man had surprising strength and put up quite a fight, resulting in a tug of war with Mulder’s arm. Eventually, Doggett came to the rescue, gripping the assailant’s fingers and prying them off of his partner’s arm. Backward inertia from the opposing pulls forced Mulder to suddenly fall onto some of the rally attendees.
High-pitched screams came from beneath him. Mulder struggled awkwardly as he realized at least a couple of women had broken his fall. He winced as his head collided with something and very suddenly realized that Doggett’s firm grip pulled him to his feet. He immediately turned to offer his sincerest apologies. They had not intended to call attention to themselves so publicly.
As Mulder brushed himself off, he recognized the face of one of the women - the redhead with the piercing eyes. They were even more magnificent up close and he momentarily lost the ability to form words at his surprise, instead offering his hand, which she accepted.
Meanwhile, Doggett had offered the two other women - a tall brunette with a sharp face, and a lovely redhead with long wavy hair and kind eyes - his help, ensuring everyone’s safety and well being.
“Our apologies, everyone,” offered Doggett. “My friend here has a knack for getting himself into trouble. I hope nobody is hurt.”
“Yes, sorry,” Mulder chimed in, remembering his manners, his eyes glued to the smaller of the redheads.
She held out her hand to him and gave him a genuinely warm smile. “I’m Dana Scully.”
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