Sigil

Cover

Title: Sigil

Author: H Lynn (hlynn28@aol.com)

Category: X

Rating: PG-13

Keywords: MSR, Mild Angst

Spoilers: Je Souhaite

Comments and Archive Info: Written for the IMTP Virtual

Season 8 Project. It will be free to archive once it’s

posted to the ATXC newsgroup.

My Eternal Thanks to Chris T., who thought up the X-File.

🙂 All kudos for it go directly to her! And to Laurie, who

invited me to write and illustrate for the Virtual Season

Project — it’s been a pleasure to work with such a

talented and amazing group of people. Thank you for letting

me join!

Disclaimer: No production companies or animals were harmed

in the writing of this story. Only Mulder, and he’s okay

now, see?

Summary: A cryptic sigil is carved on the chests of a

murderer’s victims, causing Mulder and Scully to

investigate whether the suspect is familiar with the

occult, or another victim of the symbol’s power.

* * * * * * * * * * *

SIGIL

Prologue:

January 7 8:01 p.m.

The frigid wind from Lake Michigan wound its way through

the narrow alleys and streets of Chicago, forcing its

residents to either tighten loose scarves or head for the

nearest warm place they could find. Local weather reports

showed that the Chicago area was due for a direct blast

from the Arctic Circle, and the shelters were already

gearing up for an increase in tenants. Were, in fact,

hoping for it.

A young man in tattered clothing walked fast along Lower

Wacker, hoping to avoid both the freezing wind and the

homeless. The condition of his clothing was more for

fashion than anything else, and he was keenly aware of his

poor judgement by the feel of biting cold through every

calculated tear and rip in his jeans. He pulled his old

Army jacket closer around him, trying to keep in body heat

as best he could. If only he hadn’t spent so much time

playing video games up at North Pier, he grumbled inwardly,

he could have made it home before the sun went down.

His suffering had made him oblivious to his surroundings,

causing him to not recognize the danger before it was too

late. Two men came out of an alley he’d just approached and

surrounded him, one grabbing his arms while the other swung

something long, thick and heavy at his head, and connected.

He slumped in the grip of the man holding him, and the

other cursed softly. “Did you kill ‘im?”

“Nah, he’ll be fine. Check his wallet.”

The second man ungraciously dropped their victim to the

pavement, and found the battered leather wallet tucked into

a coat pocket. He tossed it to his accomplice then did a

quick search for any valuables. He’d almost given up when

his eyes fixed on a glitter of gold from around the boy’s

neck. Pulling out the thin chain of gold from beneath his

shirt, the second thug stared at its bizarre gold pendant

in puzzlement. Well, it could be worth something.

He was about to snap the chain when a large noise came

from the alleyway. His accomplice glanced at him in

surprise — there hadn’t been anyone in there just a minute

ago. Without words, they hopped to their feet and ran,

hoping that even without the necklace the loot would be

worth the effort.

After a handful of seconds, a figure came out from the

shadows, dressed in rags that made the boy’s outfit look

like brand new. Glancing from one end of the street to the

other, the old man walked over and bent down next to the

boy. Grey hair tufted out from holes in the man’s knit cap,

and his beard was brown with dirt and filth that made him

look oddly younger than he was. He took hold of the young

man’s shoulder and shook him gently, then with increasing

violence. The boy was still out cold.

The old man grinned in satisfaction. He stripped the boy

of his Army jacket with an efficiency that would have

surprised an onlooker, and put it on over his own thin,

worn clothing. Then his eyes settled on the gold chain and

its arcane pendant. With hardly a second thought, the old

man removed the chain from the boy’s neck and tucked it

into the pocket that had once held the wallet, then

disappeared back into the alley that was his home.

ACT I

January 9, 2001

South Lower Wacker Drive,

Chicago 1:24 p.m.

“It’s too freakin’ cold for this kind of thing,” the

police officer groused to his partner. Both were in their

Chicago P.D. winter gear; heavy leather jackets and

thermals to ward off the cold. The only white to be found

on the pavement was the chalky residue left from an earlier

salting of the roads.

“Tell me about it,” the other man huffed, his breath

forming a cloud of chilled mist. “You’d think even

murderers would stay inside when it’s 10 degrees below out

here.”

The two officers stood on the periphery of the crime

scene, looking out toward what little onlookers bothered to

watch. Most of the foot traffic avoided Lower Wacker when

they could, choosing the less claustrophobic Upper Wacker,

instead. Therefore, the fact that two figures were

advancing towards them quite purposely didn’t go unnoticed.

As the figures came closer, they could tell one was

definitely female, and a redhead. Quite a contrast to the

typical sight of knit caps this time of year, and a

decision she obviously regretted. Her partner didn’t look

much better, but they bore the reddened faces and ears

stoically.

“Must be the feds,” the first officer said, and the other

nodded.

The two federal agents caught the gist of their exchange,

and glanced at each other. The second officer tried to pin

down their shared expression. Bemused was the only word

that came to mind.

“I’m Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI,” the man said, flashing

his badge perfunctorily as his partner did the same. “This

is my partner, Agent Dana Scully. We’re here to see the

crime scene.”

The first officer pushed aside the crime scene barrier to

let them both in, and waved over to the mass of people in

the service alley. Some prodding and nodding started

amongst the group, then a tall man emerged and approached

them, looking younger than he had a right to be and more

self-assured than he probably was. The hood of his parka

hid the color of his hair, but from the blue of his eyes

and the paleness of his skin, Scully guessed he was blond.

“I’m Detective Ron Parks, you must be Agents Mulder and

Scully,” he held out a gloved hand. “I’m surprised that

you’re out here all the way from D.C., but I’m sure you

wouldn’t have come all this way for the weather.”

Mulder smiled and took the offered hand, starting to warm

up to the detective. “Or the Bears.”

Scully winced, but luckily Parks laughed. “Just wait,

Agent Mulder…someday you’ll eat those words,” he replied

as any loyal fan would do, then his mood turned

professional. “The body’s over this way.”

Parks led them through the wall of people surrounding the

scene, crammed into service alley no wider than ten feet

across and not much deeper. “Delivery crew found the body

this morning…this area of Lower Wacker has a lot of

service entrances for the high-rises above, on the street

level. Now, the Chicago office told us you were already on

your way, so I gather you haven’t heard anything much about

this third murder, huh?”

“Some,” Mulder replied. “We called the field office and

tried to get an update. They told us you were still

gathering evidence.”

“Well, sort of. You’ll see in a minute.”

They pushed through the last of the crowd, and Mulder and

Scully saw what he meant. The small alley was littered with

garbage, filthy by even city standards. Torn blankets and

plastic bags filled to bursting with detritus were crammed

along one wall, forming a makeshift sleeping pad. A

shopping cart filled with more paraphernalia was by the

side of it.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Mulder said

in hushed tones, for Scully’s ears only. His attempt at

levity only showed how disturbed he was by the scene.

“This is where the victim lived,” Parks said grimly, “if

you want to call it that. We left the body here since we

knew you were coming in. I figured you’d rather see the

scene firsthand rather than through photos.”

Mulder nodded, though his eyes were fixed on the corpse.

Scully noticed his reaction and tugged lightly on his arm,

knowing this would jar him out of his reflection and get

him back into the real world.

The body, like the ones before it, was of a homeless man.

The cause of death was the same as well — the man had died

from the wounds inflicted on him. Not an X-File in of

itself, unless you considered the peculiar nature of the

wounds.

A symbol was carved into the man’s chest; a circle with an

eight-pointed star in the center. The very center of it was

a hole, and lines radiated out from the hole to the inside

points of the star. On each star section another symbol was

carved in the flesh, and between each point within the

circle, an eye underneath a pyramid stared out at them. The

overall effect was eerie, at the least.

“We’re pretty sure the sign was made by broken

glass…there’s plenty of it to choose from,” Parks

gestured to the trash around them.

“It’s a sigil,” Mulder clarified. “And it’s the same as

the other victims. The hole wound is what killed him,

though, not the symbol.”

Parks frowned. “But what is it for? Some kind of demon

worship?”

Mulder grinned and looked at Scully, then focused back on

the detective. He pretended to ignore the sour look she

gave him. “Not exactly. It appears to be a power symbol.

The eye under a pyramid is Egyptian, most likely to

represent the power of the afterlife. The smaller symbols

look like Chinese ideograms, but they better resemble

ancient Celtic lettering — I assume those are words of

power. The star formation is something found in nearly

every form of magic, although not normally with eight

points. It’s not good, that’s for sure.”

“The symbol?” Scully asked.

“Everything about it, actually. It’s a hodgepodge of

occult magic, almost as if whoever created it took whatever

they found in occultism that related to power and made

their own sigil.”

Scully absorbed this quietly, then turned to Parks. “Did

you find a match for the fingerprints?”

“Nope, nothing at all. This guy’s not in the system — not

ours or Federal.”

“Great,” Scully muttered darkly. “So, we have no idea who

this could be? No eyewitnesses, nothing?”

Parks nodded, then shrugged. “People aren’t as concerned

about the murder of a couple homeless people. And the

homeless we’ve tried to question won’t talk about

it…almost as if they’re afraid they’ll be next if they do.”

“Trace evidence?” Mulder offered.

“The cold’s the only thing that’s been on our side, Agent

Mulder. Our forensic pathologist couldn’t find any usable

evidence from the others. And that was with conditions half

of what they are, here.”

Mulder glanced over, and noticed the glint of challenge in

Scully’s eyes. He smiled, “I don’t think Agent Scully would

mind having a crack at this latest victim.”

“…and as yet, the police have no leads on the killer.

This is John Talbot, on South Lower Wacker in Chicago. Back

to you, Juanita.”

The screen split to show both reporters, the female

anchorwoman on the right with her face molded in simulated

worry. “Thank you, John. Next, how the food you eat may be

making you sick…”

Her face flickered and faded, and the TV screen darkened

then crackled at the sudden lack of power. A young man

wearing a black T-shirt and tattered jeans tossed the

remote on the table, landing right on top of Christine

Aguilera’s face on an old copy of Rolling Stone magazine.

The sofa he sat on was stained and sagging in the middle,

but it supported his weight and that was all he really

wanted, anyway. Well, he wanted more than just that, but it

wasn’t something he could also find abandoned on a street

corner.

Sighing, he looked at the walls, trying to summon the

strength to move. He couldn’t believe it was gone. The last

thing he remembered was the grip on his arms, then nothing –

– until he woke up nearly frozen to death, and without a

wallet.

Without *it*.

The phone rang, and he scrambled up enough energy to reach

it. “Hello?”

“Brian? Hey, did you see the news?” a male voice asked.

“Yeah…yeah, I did, Mark.” A sudden anger started to

build in him, one that focused not on the murder, but the

murderer himself. Who, by all rights, should have been him.

The other young man chuckled. “Well, the word on the

street is that the murderer’s really whacked out and stuff,

carvin’ up the guy and drawing some kind of symbol on him.

Pretty gutsy, I gotta say.”

“Yeah,” Brian said, hearing the tone of approval in his

friend’s voice. “I know.”

“This wouldn’t be something you’d know about, would it?”

Brian didn’t know whether it was a challenge, or an

insult. Either way, he had to prove his worth. “I know

something about it.”

“Really, huh? Like what?”

“I know what the symbol was,” Brian replied before he

thought over what he was saying. But after a brief pause,

he shrugged and figured that he would have said it, anyway.

“‘Cause I did it.”

“Whoa, man. You did that? Nah, you’re just jokin’ with me,

aren’t ya?”

“I’m being real with you, Mark. It’s all me.”

“Yeah, well…if it’s you, why don’t you go and get rid of

that trash out on Madison, the one who tried to steal my

wallet?”

Brian didn’t recall it happening that way, but he was

probably mistaken. “Yeah, sure.”

Mark huffed in approval. “Well, you do this, and you’ll be

definitely be in, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I do.” He knew exactly what Mark meant. It was what

he wanted so badly, after all.

The receiver went dead, and he placed it back in its

cradle. He looked at the bookshelf, stocked with dozens of

occult and magic books, some real, some fake. The crowd he

hung with now had shown him the difference. They were the

real thing, not the Wicca chicks he’d seen in high school.

They dabbled in it as a fashion statement, hoping to find

identity in something every other girl was trying.

Well, he’d found his identity. Now he just had to get it

back, however he could.

Cook County Hospital Morgue

5:45 p.m.

Mulder found Scully in the lower depths of the hospital,

where weak fluorescent lighting made the white walls look

grey, giving him the feeling of walking through catacombs.

The chill from the morgue didn’t change that a whit. He

paused just past the doorway, taking a handful of seconds

to watch his partner in action before disrupting her work.

“Mulder, look at this,” Scully waved him over without even

turning, focused on the corpse in front of her.

“How’d you know it was me?”

“I know how you walk. Now, see this? Where the hole is?”

Mulder ignored her pointing finger. “What do you mean, how

I walk? My walk is the same as anyone else’s.”

She sighed, the realization that her partner wasn’t going

to let this one go settling on her heavily. “You shuffle a

bit whenever you go through a door. It’s a little scritch-

scritch sound. Now, if you could just…”

“I don’t shuffle, Scully.”

“Mulder…” her murderous tone stopped when she saw the

sly smile on his face. So, he was enjoying this, was he?

Well, she didn’t defer so easily. She glanced down at him,

then said, “…your fly’s open.”

“What?” His face blanked in panic as he looked down, where

he promptly found that he’d been fooled, as well.

“Touché,” he replied, his mood only slightly dampened. The

sly grin resurfaced. “Though I never thought you’d need an

excuse to look me over. So, you were saying…?”

She closed her mouth from the reply she’d started, and

willed her burning ears to cool off. “If you take a look

here, where the hole is…”

And so she entered into her description of what she’d

found, trying desperately to ignore secondary thoughts and

his presence next to her, rather than on the opposite side

of the table as he usually did. “…it’s about the diameter

of a nickel, but it’s not round enough to have been made by

a pipe. Also, the flesh around the entry wound looks like

it’s been torn, rather than cut.”

“A puncture wound?”

“Yes, but it wasn’t anything sharp. And there aren’t any

fragments or wood splinters to suggest something other than

metal. But it certainly wasn’t metal that did this.” To

emphasis her point, she poised her index finger over the

hole, then through it. “I think someone did this with their

finger.”

He frowned. “They’d have to be pretty strong to do that,

right?”

“They’d have to be nigh invulnerable, Mulder. This blow

went through the sternum and into the heart. A normal

person’s finger would have broken under the stress, and

definitely wouldn’t have punctured through ligaments and

muscle. Not this way, at least,” she gestured to the hole.

“You have any theories?”

“As to how a person’s finger made this hole? No, I don’t.

Nothing that science would support, anyway.”

Mulder was practically beaming. “You *do* have a theory,

then.”

“Well, if what you’re saying is right, then the person who

did this was protected — or strengthened — by this sigil

he drew. Although why he’d draw it on a person is beyond me.”

He shrugged. “Don’t know that, yet. It could be any number

of things — a tag or mark, a ritual gone wrong, or

right…or it could have just appeared on the man’s chest.”

“Just like that?” Scully couldn’t help replying, amused in

spite of herself.

“Maybe,” he replied. “I think we should canvas the

streets, see if we can find someone who saw something.”

“You think we’ll find something the police didn’t?” she

replied, already starting to put away her tools.

“Well, the police were looking for information about the

killer. What I’m looking for is a bit more specific than

that.”

Scully frowned, hoping he would clarify…but when he

didn’t, she only sighed and finished cleaning up, knowing

he would eventually explain himself. The hole in the center

of the sigil was an odd way to kill someone, and a nagging

urgency had grabbed her while she’d done the autopsy. She

shook her confusion and pondering thoughts away as they

left the hospital, hoping some tangible leads would help

them find the killer, before he killed again.

The Rainey Center for the Homeless

Chicago

6:12 p.m.

The city was well known for its architecture, but Mulder

was sure the Rainey Center didn’t qualify for that list. An

aging and stained relic from Chicago’s more industrious

days, the plain yellow brick building stood out among the

brown brick and grey concrete of the newer buildings around

it. At one time it had most likely been a business, but now

the rooms inside only held refugees from the cold.

Hence the reason they were at the shelter. It was the

closest to the murder site, plus they were more inclined to

have someone who may have information about the killer.

Unfortunately, the odds that anyone would come forward with

so many people around were pretty lousy, but Mulder had a

different method in mind.

The air inside was stale, processed one too many times by

inferior ventilation systems and heated only to the lowest

comfortable level. A hallway ran the length of the

building, and every fifteen feet there was a doorway

leading to an open dormitory-style sleeping room. The room

immediately to their left was a small office, and the woman

at the desk looked up at the new arrivals. The other side

had a opening leading a largish room that appeared to be

the main entertainment area — a beat-up pool table, a

couple of threadbare couches, and a TV that looked old

enough to have broadcast the Watergate scandal, live.

Several people were huddled around the TV to watch the

news…and it was covering the murder from last night,

Mulder noted with irony. An older black man stared past

them at the far wall, his clothes just barely presentable

by normal standards. On the street he’d most likely be

considered clean and neat. A few children peeked at the

federal agents from down the hall, and urgent female voices

pulled them back inside their rooms.

The middle-aged woman from the office was now approaching

them warily, probably sensing they were government people,

but not knowing from which agency. Mulder smiled to abate

the woman’s anxiety, and he could see her relax somewhat.

Scully pulled out her badge as he did the same.

“I’m Agent Scully, this is Agent Mulder, from the FBI.

We’d like to talk to the people you have sheltered here

about the three recent murders down on Lower Wacker.”

Mulder watched silently, letting her take the lead, as he’d

asked her to do. She’d been a little confused at his

insistance, but she hadn’t questioned it. She trusted him

enough not to ask.

After a bit of small talk, the woman identified herself as

Janice Kostler. “I share the administrative duties with

another gal, so if you need to know anything about that

night, you’ll have to talk to her about it.”

“The police already took her statement. We’re more

interested in speaking with the people in there,” Scully

nodded to the entertainment room.

“Sure. If anyone will talk to you, you’re more than

welcome,” Janice replied.

Mulder and Scully shared a look; hers was a questioning

one, and his was one of reassurance. A couple of steps took

them into the room, and all heads turned to Janice, who was

introducing the agents.

Scully stepped forwards and showed her badge for good

measure. “We’re investigating the three murders that you’ve

no doubt heard about already,” she gestured at the TV, as

the newscast on the murders was just now ending. “We’re

hoping that someone here could shed some light on this

case. If any of you knows something, it would be a great

help to us in catching this person.”

Mulder glanced nonchalantly around the room, his presence

ignored as he had hoped and expected. A mix of both gender

and ethnicity, most only stared at Scully in blank

comprehension. However, Mulder spied one man giving a

knowing look out the corner of his eye to another man next

to him. A tell-tale look that told Mulder what he needed to

know.

When no one stepped forward, Mulder came alongside Scully

and addressed the group. “I know you’re thinking that if

you tell us something, you’ll be next. The problem is, this

killer doesn’t care. He’s killing whoever he runs across,

and he isn’t going to stop unless someone stops him. Can

any of you do that? Can anyone stop him from killing again?”

Mulder turned and faced the man who’d gotten the glance

from his friend. “Can you?”

This sent a jolt through the man, and his knowing friend

was wide-eyed. The first man tried to reply. “I — I

don’t…”

“If you tell me who it is, my partner and I can stop him.”

“I don’t — I don’t know who it is,” the man stammered

out. “I know who would, though. He lives in that area, and

sees everything that goes down. Problem is, he’s been

missing as long as the killer’s been on the prowl. He’s

probably been killed, but they didn’t find his body yet.”

Scully glanced at Mulder dubiously. “What’s his name?”

“Frank. That’s all I ever heard anyone call him, anyway.”

“Any chance he’s the killer?”

“Frank?” The man gave a short laugh. “He’s a thief, but

he’s no killer. If he’s still alive, he’ll know. There’s

another guy who’s in the same area, but he’s totally crazy —

he swears he saw the guy who’s doing this. Claims it’s

the ghost of a Vietnam War soldier, coming for all the

comrades who abandoned him in the jungle.”

Mulder’s expression was one of intrigue. “Where can we

find him?”

“He’s not here…not yet, anyway. He might be at another

shelter, or if not, he’s on the streets.” Then the man

laughed darkly. “Not Wacker, though, that’s for sure.”

Spending a few minutes talking with the man, he loosened

up a bit more and gave a decent description of the possible

eyewitnesses they needed to find, and his usual hangouts.

Their confessor wouldn’t give his name for fear of his own

life, but a quick chat with the counselor gave them a

satisfaction that, if they needed to find the man again —

for whatever reason — they could do so with her help.

“So, what do you think, Scully?” he asked as they headed

down the steps.

“About what?” She stuffed her hands deep into the wool

coat’s pockets. “We have a possible witness to a murder to

find, albeit a possibly delusional one. This is just

regular detective work, now.”

He had to jog to keep up with her. “Except for the way the

person was murdered.”

“Mulder, can we discuss this when we’re inside the hotel?

Or at least the car?”

He was about to argue otherwise, but a sudden gust of icy

air persuaded him well enough. Soon they were headed off

back to the hotel, hoping to keep their noses and toes by

the time they got there.

ACT II

Same time

Somewhere along Lower Wacker

What warmth the sun gave during the day had long since

faded, urging those still on the streets to seek shelter.

For a certain young man, this meant his opportunity to find

what had been stolen from him was delayed until tomorrow.

Frustrated, Brian quickened his pace, hoping the movement

would keep his legs from going numb. He had an old school

jacket to wear in place of the one that was taken, but it

wasn’t the same. The loss of what was his grated on him

constantly, feeding a deep reservoir of anger.

He’d been stupid to walk along Lower Wacker that late at

night –even if the cold had made it seem unlikely he’d be

mugged. The thieves had made off with his wallet, but to

take the necklace and jacket made no sense. Neither were of

any true value except to him, so he assumed that someone

else had taken them both.

The fact that homeless people had started dying shortly

after made the deduction that much easier. A homeless

person, then, or someone who was around them. The sigil

he’d created had been tailored to his needs, but for anyone

else it was unstable and likely to go out of control. Not

that he felt guilty for creating something that already

caused three murders. If anything, he was almost…jealous.

He walked up the stairs to Upper Wacker, the neon signs of

closed shops painting the streets in bright candy colors.

Pools of blue and red made no ripple as he walked through,

ignoring the bright words that advertised goods in

calculated ways. Amused in a perverse way, he couldn’t help

thinking that he and neon signs had much in common — a

distraction typically ignored and always boasting what they

could never deliver.

Near North Side

6:42 p.m.

The warm air of the hotel lobby caressed her like a

paramour from a cheap, throwaway romance novel…not to say

she was familiar with that particular topic. Mulder

followed, the chill air from outside accompanying him. She

headed straight for the elevator as if hoping to outrun the

draft, and he had to run after her to make it before the

doors closed.

“What’s all that about, Scully? Trying to ditch me?” He

grinned, belying the concern in his voice.

“It’s nothing — just wanted to get upstairs so I can

unwind. I’m fine, really,” she smiled wanly.

He didn’t believe that for a second, but the elevator

stopped to let someone else in, and so the conversation

died for the moment.

They’d managed to get rooms on the same floor, but across

the hall and a few doors down from one another. It wasn’t

an ideal arrangement, but the clerk assured them it was the

best they could do, since a convention in town had taken up

the majority of the rooms in their hotel. As such, Scully

ended up getting to her room before he arrived at his, and

made sure her door was closed tightly.

She looked down to find her hands shaking, both from the

cold and from her own agitation. Immediately she started up

the shower in the bathroom, as hot as she could stand, and

unpacked her flannel pajamas. Mulder would be knocking on

her door in a few minutes, so she had to do this fast.

After getting in the shower, she mainly stood there under

the nozzle’s spray, soaking up the heat. The suddenness of

the anxiety had nearly stolen her breath away. She’d had

this before, but rarely — the Donnie Pfaster case, plus a

few incidents in the past, safely hidden from her partner.

She knew the fear was all in her head, but it would take a

while to wind down the normal way; instead, she opted for

the quick method, knowing how Mulder would react if he

knew. He didn’t need any more worries, and she didn’t want

him to know about this, regardless.

The most frustrating thing was the trigger — why this?

Why now, when she’d endured so much worse? As a doctor, she

knew what was causing it, but the facts didn’t comfort her

or take away the horrid crippling fear.

The air outside the bathroom was warm, but after the

humid, hot air of the bathroom, it felt thin and cold. Her

breath quickened briefly, but soon the fear wore off and

she grabbed the flannel pajamas and put them on. She didn’t

get a chance to dry her hair, though –someone was knocking

at the door.

Finding Scully in pajamas and recently showered had been a

surprise. Mulder noted that she’d opted for the towel-dried

look, as he watched her pull away from the door to sit on

the bed. He said nothing about the obvious shower as he

took over the hotel table and chair with his paperwork and

notes. “So, what do you think about this murder, Scully?”

He observed her quietly as she tucked her arms around

herself. “Aside from the odd hole in the chest, I’m not

seeing anything paranormal here. Is that what you wanted to

know?”

“I want to know what you think,” he replied softly, seeing

how off-balance and uneasy she was. “I’m sure things will

be coming in a bit clearer once we talk to this guy and

find the whereabouts of Frank…but for now, I’d say we’re

dealing with someone who has a powerful talisman, possibly

in the shape of the sigil drawn on the three victims’

chests. It might explain why he thought he’d seen a ghost.”

“Like a pendant, maybe?”

“Maybe, or it could be a sculpture, a pattern on fabric,

or even a rock with the pattern on it. But you’re right —

most of the time, a talisman is a pendant.”

“So, who’s killing these homeless people? You said it was

someone inexperienced in the occult…a kid?”

“Possibly. The talisman would give him power, so we’re not

necessarily looking for a strong person, here.”

“But why would he kill homeless people? Convenient

targets? An old grudge?”

Mulder sighed quietly. “If he’s trying to exert power over

others, it’s a place to start. If so, then the murder

victims will eventually increase in social status — if

not, then we might assume that the killer has a grudge

against the homeless. However, there’s one thing that

doesn’t fit.”

“What’s that?”

“If this *is* a kid, how does he know how to avoid

detection? There’s no evidence left at the crime scene, and

the people we saw tonight were afraid of saying anything,

almost as if the killer would know about it and come after

them.”

“Sounds like you’re saying the killer is also homeless.

Maybe even Frank?”

He shrugged and turned to face out the window, looking at

the rows of ivory lights within tall black boxes in the

distance. “He knows these people very well — it’s someone

who lives in the area, or nearby. The only problem is, what

would he gain by doing this? He’s killing people he knows,

but for no apparent reason. Neither of the victims were

known for drug abuse or criminal activity.”

“Maybe his reactions aren’t his own — maybe he can’t

control what he does.”

The comment was so quietly spoken, he wasn’t sure he’d

heard it. He turned from the window to look at her,

surprise etched into his features. Her gaze was fixed on

her hands, but when she realized he was watching her, she

glanced up to meet his eyes. She was unable to sustain it,

however, and her gaze shifted to the wall. “It’s a

possibility, isn’t it?”

“Very possible, yes,” he answered, concerned. Her hands

were shaking mildly, but then she tucked them in once more,

out of sight. “Are you cold?”

“I’m fine, thanks,” she replied, her voice calm and bland.

Now he knew something was definitely wrong. He moved over

to her and sat on the edge of the bed. “Can I have your

hand for a second?”

“Why? What for?”

clip_image002

“Humor me, please.” He held out his hand, and she placed

her right hand in his. He was startled to find it cold to

the touch. Without thinking, Mulder put his other hand over

hers and started to rub warmth into it. “You’re freezing.

Do you want me to crank up the heat?”

She grimaced, but didn’t pull her hand away. “No, it won’t

help. It’ll go away, eventually.”

“What is this? Was this just from being outside?”

Sighing, she closed her eyes in resignation. “It happens

every once in a while. Usually whenever I’m in a stressful

situation.”

His gaze softened, and he pulled her hand up to his mouth

so he could blow warm air on her skin. “What triggered it

this time?”

She looked away again, but he was having none of it. His

right hand released itself from hers and cupped her chin,

guiding her eyes back to meet his.

Her mouth opened, then closed. For a few seconds, he was

afraid she wouldn’t tell him, but then the words began

spilling out. “It was the cold, I think. When we were out

there tonight, Mulder, I just…panicked. I couldn’t stop

my reaction — I knew I was all right, but all I wanted to

do was get back to the hotel and get warm.” She took a

deep, shuddering breath, trying to reassemble some of her

lost control. “I didn’t want you to know, because I didn’t

want to upset you.”

“Upset me?” He repeated, stunned. He pushed away strands

of hair from her face, the tears in her eyes going unshed.

“Scully, if this ever happens again, I want you to come to

me and let me know, okay? No matter what — and I’ll do my

best to get you warm again, I promise.”

Her mouth forced out a smile. “Is that a promise or a

proposition?”

“A little of both,” he replied, hoping to lighten the

mood. And maybe hoping she wouldn’t be too opposed to the

idea.

She gave him a full smile in return, however, and he took

the opportunity to give her a light kiss. When he drew

back, he saw amusement mixed with something darker and more

melancholy than he expected to see. The idea that she might

have wanted more from him bounced around in his head, but

he discarded it. That way led temptation, and he’d be a

fool to think he could do more and escape the presence of a

freshly showered, pajama-wearing Scully while sitting on a

hotel bed.

He rose up and wandered back to the table. “Well, I’ve got

some thinking to do on this. The Vietnam aspect is bugging

me — maybe this *is* a ghost summoned by someone who

didn’t know what they were doing…”

“Except for the fact that the wounds were made by

something very solid.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m still working on that.” He gathered up

his things as if to leave, and Scully’s voice stopped him.

“Where are you going?”

He didn’t turn to look at her. “Back to my room. You

should get some rest while I work on this tonight.”

She got up off the bed and crossed over to the table. “I’m

okay, Mulder. Really.” When he didn’t stop piling up his

paperwork and files, she put her hand over his. He

instantly halted, as if afraid the slightest movement would

cause this moment to dissolve like frost on a sunny window.

To his surprise, she took his hand away from the files and

held on as if her strength depended on it. Her hand was

still cold, but was warming ever so gradually while in

contact with his.

He squeezed her hand gently, unwilling to let go for fear

of breaking the moment. Eventually, though, he had to say

something — and instead of saying what he wanted to say,

he asked, “You’re sure?”

“Positive. Now, what’s for dinner?”

“What would you like?” he tossed back, noticing the

deflection but letting her get away with it. Lord knew he’d

done the same himself, many times over. “Chinese? I heard

the Greek food around here is really good.”

Luckily, Scully was in the mood for spanakopita, and he

hadn’t had a good gyro for what seemed like ages; a local

Greek diner had both on the menu, and they delivered.

Mulder almost expected them to tack on a cold weather fee,

but the kid accepted the money and tip graciously. Soon,

the hotel room was filled with the smell of feta cheese,

spiced lamb, cooked spinach and cucumber sauce.

As they were finishing dinner, Scully joked, “You know,

Mulder, after eating all those onions, your chances of

getting kissed are about zero.” She didn’t realize her

mistake until she heard the words come from her mouth.

True enough, Mulder had picked up on it. “Are you implying

something was going to happen tonight, Scully?” Amusement

danced in his eyes, but his voice had deepened from

something she tried not to think about.

To backpedal now would be horrendous. But flirting with

him would be almost worse, in her emotional state. “No, it

was just a slip of the tongue — uh, I mean, it was a joke!

Just a joke,” she amended hastily, but the damage was done.

The smile he gave her hinted at things best left alone, and

to cover the pause, she took another bite of her spanakopita.

E. Madison St.

Chicago

January 10

9:25 a.m.

Businessmen and women in tasteful long wool coats and

matching accessories brushed up against parka-wearing

students, their only thing in common being the way they

shriveled from the wall of cold wind snaking its way around

buildings and through alleyways.

Some tolerated the cold because they had to — dressed in

ratty coats and gloves that had seen better days, they held

out cups as they solicited the passers-by, hoping to get

enough change to buy something. If it was for liquor, they

weren’t inclined to say. Not many homeless were out this

morning, but those who were collected near the bridge

spanning over the Chicago River, not more than a couple of

blocks from where the Northwestern train station dumped

thousands of well-off suburbanites into downtown Chicago.

Mulder had already called the Rainey Center that morning,

while Scully checked with a couple of others in the area —

no one matched either Frank’s description or the

description of the crazy man who’d last seen him. So,

Mulder and Scully had hit the streets, taking advice from

the police foot patrols where to find some of the spots

where the homeless hung out…and found themselves at the

Madison Street bridge.

The homeless men they first approached became defensive

and thought that they meant to arrest them, even though

they neither had the authority nor the inclination to do

so. Once the men were pacified, more with money than

assurances, they eagerly told the two agents that the

particular crazy homeless man they wanted was on the corner

of Clinton and Adams, west of the river.

Once they reached the corner, it wasn’t hard to find him —

he was telling anyone passing by that the souls of American

soldiers from Vietnam had come back to take their revenge

on the living.

“You’re hoping to get a lucid statement from *him*?”

Scully asked, her feet already numb from the cold. She’d

been fighting her panic for several blocks, although the

rising sun helped to allay those fears.

“Maybe not lucid, but something substantial. He’s our

ticket to finding Frank, if Frank’s still alive.”

Their witness wore his flannel jacket inside out, and sat

on top of what probably held the entirety of what he owned –

– a large duffel bag with a local college emblem on the

side. His baseball cap was tied to his head by a long,

filthy grey knit scarf, and his sneakers’ soles hung loose

in the front.

“Are you Tom?” Mulder asked, omitting the ‘crazy’ part of

the name that the men back on Madison had told them.

Tom looked at them in surprise. “Who are you? Have you

come, at last?”

Mulder turned to Scully, puzzled, then back to the

homeless man. “We’re federal agents, Tom. We’re here

investigating the deaths that happened over on Lower

Wacker…someone told us you knew a little something about

that.”

“Yes, yes…you *have* come for that! Good, good…it’s a

bad thing, being killed in Vietnam and all, but that’s no

reason to start hacking up your friends.” He stood and

grabbed his duffel bag. “Now you’re here, and I won’t need

to warn the people any longer!”

“Hold on there, Tom. We need to find out what you saw,

exactly,” Mulder said, since their link on solving this

case was about to bolt.

He narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Don’t you know…?

Wait, that’s why you’ve come to me…of course, of course!

I should have realized that!” He put down the bag but

remained standing, as if waiting for Mulder to proceed.

Mulder took the cue. “Tell me what you saw that night, and

who the soldier was, Tom.”

He scratched the side of his face. “Well, I was just

sleeping in a corner, you know, and George woke me up…”

“Wait a second — who’s George?” Scully asked, hoping for

a better eyewitness.

“He’s my pet rabbit, see?” Tom pulled out a small rabbit’s

foot from his coat. Scully gave Mulder a withering glare,

but Mulder ignored it. Tom continued on, oblivious to the

exchange, “Well, George always knows when bad things are

happening, so he woke me up. And that’s when I saw the

soldier. He was hurting Rupert for no reason! Rupert never

was in the war, it didn’t make…” Tom started to fade, but

then switched back, “But Frank! Why him? Why…”

“What about Frank, Tom? What happened to him?”

“The soldier got him! Not like it got Rupert, but it still

got its hooks into him. Makes him do things to his friends,

things he would, never ever do…”

“Did he kill them?”

The crazy man grew even more upset. “It wasn’t him! It was

the soldier! Don’t you see? You have to stop the

soldier…you can do that, or you wouldn’t have

come…please, help Frank…” He sank onto the bag in

misery, and let out a sob.

“We need to find Frank. Do you know where he is?”

“Where do you think he is?” Tom replied, exasperated.

“He’s hiding from the light. Ghosts don’t like the light.”

Scully frowned. “Lower Wacker? But the police combed that

area already.”

“They didn’t know they were looking for a homeless man.

Tom, do you recognize this?” Mulder held out a photograph

of the sigil carved on the last victim’s chest. “Was he

wearing or carrying anything with that symbol on it?”

Tom stared at it in horror, “I-I don’t know. Don’t

know…” The grief started to overwhelm him, until he lost

most of coherency. He rocked back and forth, muttering for

someone to save Frank from the soldier.

“Mulder, I hope you got something good out of that,

because I surely didn’t.”

“I think the soldier is related to whatever is possessing

Frank. Maybe the person who created the sigil was a former

vet…”

“Or maybe Crazy Tom isn’t just a name.”

He smiled at his partner’s display of wit. “Oh, I don’t

doubt that, Scully. But he based his delusions on

something. You saw the rabbit’s foot — he doesn’t use his

imagination to create from thin air, only to elaborate on

an event or an object.”

“Great. But how does that play into the talisman theory?

He didn’t recognize the sigil.”

“That doesn’t mean Frank didn’t have it on him. If he was

wearing a necklace, there’s a chance the pendant would have

been under his clothing.”

“Maybe,” Scully conceded. “Why don’t we head over the

bridge and go through South Lower Wacker — we have Frank’s

physical description, and what clothing he wears. We can

call the Chicago PD and have them start on East Lower

Wacker and go from there.”

Mulder grinned. “You know, I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to

spend a few hours outdoors combing through the urban jungle

for a homeless man we only know as Frank.”

“I’m certainly looking forward to it,” Scully replied in a

flat tone, her morose demeanor indicating the direct

opposite.

South Lower Wacker

10:15 a.m.

The young man started at the south end and planned to make

his way north, until the bend in the river forced the

street to curve right and follow along until it ended at

the lake. He now wished he’d made a template for the sigil,

but he never imagined that he’d lose the original. It would

have been simple enough to make another, but he couldn’t

remember the exact design, and he would need to borrow a

certain book of Mark’s again; it contained the spell that

bound the separate elements together. However, if he did

that, he’d have to admit that the original was gone, and

what little prestige he’d gained in the group would be

lost. They had no patience for fools who got mugged.

He had no idea how he was going to find it, let alone get

it back from whoever took it. Brian hoped he’d know what to

do when the occasion arose.

The chance turned out to be sooner than he expected. As he

passed an alleyway leading to a garage door — most likely

for an upscale hotel or restaurant above ground — he found

a ragged man dressed in an Army jacket. He slowed down

enough to read the name lapel, and stopped when he

recognized it. It was *his* last name.

“You thief…!” Brian managed to cry out before grabbing

the man, his anger flaring in a way he knew all too well.

And as always, he didn’t mind.

Taken by surprise, the older man pedaled backwards into

the alley, out of sight from passing cars. He stumbled into

a crate and fell over, Brian shadowing him the entire way.

He held out his hands in defense. “I didn’t take it from

you, I swear! It was some old geezer…”

A punch to the jaw should have knocked the man out cold,

but the effects of the sigil applied to the homeless man,

and not Brian. His fist felt like it connected with a brick

wall. The homeless man was utterly baffled at why the young

man was clutching his fist in pain, but it only made Brian

even more angry. To be thwarted by your own creation…

He had to use brains instead of brawn, for once. The

homeless man didn’t want to die, but he didn’t know that

what he was wearing also made him invulnerable. Knowing

this, and hoping the man wasn’t quicker than he let on,

Brian pulled out a switchblade from his coat pocket.

“Give me what I want, and I’ll let you live.”

South Lower Wacker 10:40 a.m.

At Scully’s behest, rather than walking to the end of

Wacker and then walking back up, they started from Adams

and headed to the end, while the Chicago PD searched the

rest, broken down into three block lengths. Mulder and

Scully would get the last three blocks of Wacker, and

hopefully find Frank before he killed again.

It didn’t take too long, in the end. After peering in a

half dozen doorways and alleys, they found Frank — and

almost colder than the pavement he was lying on.

Mulder kneeled down carefully next to Scully, making sure

not to disturb the body. “How long has he been dead, Scully?”

“A few hours, I’d say. From the condition of his skin, and

the lack of a coat, he probably died of exposure.” A glint

of gold caught Scully’s eye, and she pushed the ratty mess

of a beard aside to display what looked to be a chain, with

a pendant.

“Is that…?” Mulder began, but Scully waved her hand in

dismissal.

“It’s just a Celtic good luck charm.” She held up the

pendant to show him the small round design. “It’s not your

sigil — I doubt it costs more than a buck or two at the

local Irish shop. He also has blood underneath his

fingernails, and there’s a bit on the edge of his

shirtsleeves, too.”

He stood up and started to turn, when his cell phone went

off. Mulder answered with a bit more petulance than he

wanted, but the news made him forget all about that, soon

enough.

“When? Just now?” he asked, astonished. “Okay. We’ll be

right down there.”

Scully looked up. “What happened?”

“Chicago PD says there’s been another homicide of a

homeless person, only about 20 minutes ago. It’s just down

the street from us.”

Scully’s eyes widened. “Well, it certainly wasn’t Frank.”

“No, but it might have been the original owner. A witness

says they saw a young Caucasian man fleeing the scene,

wearing an Army jacket,” he commented, then an idea struck

him. He turned to face Scully, but she’d made the same

conclusion.

“It’s the jacket, isn’t it?”

“It would be enough to make Crazy Tom think he was seeing

a soldier,” Mulder confirmed.

“And you said it could be on a piece of fabric — if he

drew it on the jacket somewhere…”

“…it would give anyone the power, not just him,” Mulder

finished. “But he didn’t intend that to happen, apparently.”

“Let’s head down there and talk to the witness. We’d

better confirm it before we head off chasing after someone

who’s liable to be very dangerous.”

The witness was another homeless man who’d had the poor

misfortune to pick that particular alley to huddle in for

the day. Wedged between the dumpster and the back wall,

he’d heard the scuffle and peered around the edge of the

large metal bin.

He told his story colorfully, craving the attention he

didn’t normally receive. “The young guy says, ‘Gimme what I

want, and I’ll let you live’, and then the other guy does

it. I couldn’t blame him, ’cause the young guy had a shiv

on him, y’know? A switchblade, I think it was. Anyway, he

hands the jacket over, and the young guy takes off his own

coat and puts on the jacket. Now I swear I wasn’t drinkin’,

but there was this glow, kinda like a lamp or something…I

dunno. But then the kid gets mad, madder than he was

before, and just stabs the guy!” The man shook his head in

sad amazement. “Like he didn’t already get what he wanted!

I don’t think he’d ever done it before, ’cause he was kinda

surprised, afterwards. Then he took off.”

“Did you see his face?” Scully asked him, braced against

the wall in the one spot where the wind couldn’t reach her.

“Well enough, I suppose. He was just a kid, though he

looked like a punk. The back of the jacket had one of those

drawings they like to do — I think it’s supposed to stand

for something.”

Mulder pulled out the photograph and asked in earnest,

“Was this what you saw?”

The man’s eyes lit up. “Yeah…yeah! That’s it! It was

pretty creepy, but then, this kid killed over a jacket…so

what’s the creepier thing, in the end?”

The police were already dusting for prints, so the

officers took the man back with them to the station to get

a sketch artist to draw what the suspect looked like.

Mulder looked at Scully, but he didn’t need to say

anything. The witness had confirmed it — the sigil was on

the jacket.

“Now we just need to find this kid, in a city of millions

of people, wearing an Army jacket with a strange design on

the back,” Scully commented sardonically as she fell into

step next to him. “Hopefully this boy has a record.”

“I think he will. Considering how deliberate the killings

were, I can’t help thinking that Frank was overwhelmed by

the sheer force of will imbued into the sigil…and the

jacket.”

“I smell a theory, Mulder.”

“I’ll regale you with it later, Scully,” he said

distantly, as he heard excited words generating from the

area of the body. He pulled Scully with him gently as he

headed back over to find out what happened.

An officer met him halfway. “They got prints. The coat in

the alleyway must be his — the size doesn’t match our

victim. There are partials on the metal buttons and a

couple on the body itself. Looks like it was struggle.”

“Good thing he put up a fight, then,” Mulder commented

quietly. “It may end up helping us catch this killer.”

ACT III

South Side 11:25 a.m.

He hadn’t expected the silence. The chaos and anger had

driven his need for retribution until his vision focused

only on the homeless man — he’d wanted to use the knife,

but hadn’t thought he possessed the guts to stab anyone.

He’d never been able to follow through, before.

The idea that such a filthy man had worn his jacket

sickened him, but when the bum had dropped the jacket on

the pavement, a dirty stretch of alleyway that made the guy

look clean in comparison — he saw red. How *dare* he? As

if the jacket were nothing more than cloth, as if he hadn’t

spent hours upon hours researching the idea behind the

symbol, and worked for days on the enchantment that made it

what it was…

After putting it on, he’d felt the rage triple-fold.

Sewage. Piece of trash. The audacity of the filth in front

of him was sickening; he had the knife up before any sort

of rational thought took hold, and after the second plunge

he began to reconnect to his own thoughts. The rage

dissipated into a numb cold that made the below-freezing

temperature feel pleasant, and his muscles slackened. The

homeless man, fright etched permanently into his features,

sank to the ground with an understanding of fate that came

only at the moment when it was met.

The silence following had jarred him from the last of the

anger, and fear came in quickly to replace it. From

somewhere deep inside him, an inner voice told him to run.

So he did.

Only when he was near his apartment did he check to see

that no one had come after him. A glance down at his hands

showed blood, but there was no stain on the jacket itself.

The blood stain ended where the jacket began. His black

jeans showed only a few dark specks of the man’s blood, not

noticeable enough to draw anyone’s attention — only his

hands betrayed his actions.

His mind flashed back to high school English from his

sophomore year, and a woman from some really old play who

couldn’t wash bloodstains from her hands. Might have been

Shakespeare, even. He chuckled darkly at thinking of a long-

dead playwright at a time like this; what would Mark think

of him?

Mark. He had to know about this. If he knew, then his

acceptance into the group was assured. The newly anointed

killer thought about cleaning up first, but then realized

he needed his hands and stained jeans as proof — who would

believe him, without it?

He turned to the north, tucking his hands into the

jacket’s pockets and knowing the blood wouldn’t rub off

while his hands were inside. And he smiled.

11: 42 a.m.

Crowded more than usual, the precinct was full of ne’er-do-

wells seeking refuge from the cold. Mulder and Scully wound

their way through the assorted collection of felons and

vagrants to the back offices, where the fingerprint

analysis results would be.

One of the detectives from the crime scene met them there,

a youngish Hispanic man who was nicer to them than to his

fellow officers — most likely hoping to squeeze one or

both of them later for inside tips on becoming a federal

agent. He’d introduced himself as Jorge Avalos, and had

managed to make sure he was the one the agents would call

on for help. As Mulder had shook hands with him, he could

only laugh at the irony of someone trying to court *his*

favor.

“Where’s Detective Parks?” Mulder asked, hoping to see a

glimmer of something other than charm on the man’s face.

He wasn’t disappointed. “He’ll be along, I’m sure,” Avalos

said, suppressing a frown. “He was looking into a lead from

the first three murders when this one was called in.”

Mulder was about to taunt the man some more, but a subtle

non-verbal cue from Scully stopped it before it even

started. Baiting was one of his favorite pastimes, but

Scully did have a point — whatever Avalos’ personality, he

was also here to catch this killer, the same as they were.

“The technician’s put the latent prints through AFIS, our

database system. We pulled a full thumb and index finger

print off the coat, plus a few other partials from the

buttons. We also have hair and fiber samples, but we’ll

need a suspect first for that to mean anything. Right now

our guys are going through that sector of the district,

trying to find out where the suspect fled to…but in the

meantime, we have this,” Avalos held out a sketch given

from the homeless eyewitness. The drawing was of a person

more boy than man, longish hair hanging into his eyes and a

sullen expression on his face.

Scully took the sketch from Avalos and stared at their

suspect with no small amount of melancholy. “Care to regale

me with that theory now, Mulder?”

He smiled, grateful that his partner had remembered to

ask. “For the most part, it’s a typical pattern. He’s

trying to gain power by using the occult, but I don’t think

power is the extent of it. He’s looking for recognition.”

“From who? The police?” Avalos interjected.

“Not public recognition,” Mulder shook his head. “At his

age, there’s only one kind of recognition he wants.”

“From his peers,” Scully supplied, and her partner nodded.

“Agent Mulder believes he’ll have a record of misconduct.

But if he’s a juvenile, those records are sealed.”

“I know,” Mulder answered, looking disturbed. “Hopefully

those fingerprints will get us an ID on this kid, so we can

act quickly on it.”

“Jorge?” A balding man approached the detective, an

urgency to his voice and demeanor. “We’ve got a match.”

“On the Wacker kid?” Avalos smiled. “Ask and ye shall

receive, Agent Mulder. Let’s go find out who our murderer

is.”

The fingerprint lab, filled with cabinet files and several

computers hooked up to a main network, was quiet and cold

compared to the noise and heat from the outer offices and

holding area. An even younger man than Avalos manned one of

the computer workstations, causing Scully to wonder who had

let the police hire recruits straight from high school.

“John? Mike says you’ve got an ID on the suspect,” Avalos

started, heading over to the computer screen. Even from far

away, Scully could see that the small picture displayed on

the screen matched their suspect perfectly.

“Yep. Brian Powell, age 18. A high school dropout who’s

really racked up the numbers as a juvie. His last couple,

however, were tried as an adult. It’s small stuff, really —

attempted assault, attempted petty theft…”

“Attempted?” Mulder asked, and Scully could see the wheels

turning in his head.

“Yeah…from what I’ve been able to pull up on his

juvenile record, it’s a lot of attempts but no follow-

throughs. Almost like he wants to get caught.”

“Or maybe it’s just that he couldn’t go farther, until now.”

She looked at Mulder, knowing that tone in his voice all

too well. “You think the sigil on the jacket helped push

him past whatever phobia he possessed.”

He grinned at her in satisfaction. “That’s exactly what

I’m thinking. He needs the power in the sigil almost like a

fix — it gives him the confidence he doesn’t have.”

Avalos blew out a frustrated breath, already seeming to

regret his decision to attach himself to the two agents.

“So, what…if we take away the jacket, he turns back into

the punk kid?”

Mulder shook his head grimly. “It’s not that simple. The

natural tendency against killing another human being has

been destroyed. Now that he has that power, he won’t want

to give it up.”

“Does he have any family or relatives?” Scully asked. “If

so, he might try to hide out with one of them.”

John scrolled through the information, then shook his

head. “His mother lives in San Jose, and his father died

two years ago. No siblings. Wait a minute, though…”

Mulder’s head flew up. “What is it?”

“His father was a veteran who served in Vietnam. The

jacket could’ve been his father’s.”

“I’d say it *definitely* was his father’s,” Mulder

replied, looking meaningfully at Scully. “Maybe Crazy Tom

wasn’t so crazy after all.”

“Mulder, we don’t have any reason to believe that he saw

anything other than Frank in an Army jacket. You said

yourself that his delusions took over from there, like his

pet rabbit being a lucky rabbit’s foot.”

He ignored Avalos’ and the technician’s stares to focus on

his partner. “You know as well as I do that feelings and

memories can often be absorbed by inanimate objects — the

walls of a crime scene, for example.”

“But we’re talking about the memories and experiences of

Vietnam being imbued in a jacket, aren’t we?”

“Which were released or awakened when the sigil was put on

the jacket. With Brian’s frustrated desires and his

father’s horrific memories of the battlefield, what person

could endure that unscathed?” He leaned forward as if his

urgency could persuade her further.

“Brian could for awhile, apparently. The jacket didn’t

work for him at first.”

“What if that’s what set him off? The fact that the sigil

worked for others and not him?”

Scully shook her head. “That’s changed now, though.”

“Has it?” Mulder noted darkly. “For all we know, the

jacket and sigil are acting as a placebo. Since it never

affected him before, there’s no reason to think it would

suddenly work now.”

A hint of a disturbed smile quirked at her lips. “I think

you’re arguing my usual end, Mulder.”

He gazed at her, amused. “Are you saying the sigil *is*

controlling him?”

“I think it’s possible, at least. If what you’re saying

about the jacket is true, then the recent killings would

have stronger residual qualities than events from thirty

years ago.”

Pleasantly surprised, he nodded in assent, his wonder and

admiration clearly showing on his face. If she allowed

herself to think on it, there was also a hint of something

else beyond admiration…but with the others in the room

she didn’t dare pursue that thought.

It was Avalos who broke the moment. “Okay, so what does

this have to do with catching this guy?”

Mulder turned his attention from Scully to the detective.

“It means that we either have a sociopath on our hands, or

a partly-manipulated teenager. If it’s the first, we won’t

be able to rationalize with him. If it’s the second, we

might be able to talk him out of the spell he’s in.”

“So, what should I tell Parks and the guys out on the beat?”

Mulder blew out a slow breath, puzzling over the proper

response. “I think a show of force would be a bad thing,

especially if he has a hostage or victim within reach. In

his current state, he won’t hesitate to kill someone.”

“If anyone should encounter him, they should contact us

immediately and call for backup,” Scully threw a pointed

glance at Mulder, who looked away guiltily. “We don’t know

how powerful or how well-armed he’ll be. Hopefully, we’ll

be able to talk him down, but if not…”

“I understand,” Avalos replied, then turned to speak a few

words to John before heading out the door. John then

printed out the results twice and gave Mulder one of the

copies. As the technician left, Mulder glanced through the

information again before handing the copy to Scully.

“It’s times like this that all the old profiling templates

get dusted off and tried out for a fit,” Mulder commented

off-handedly as they stayed in the room, not quite willing

to head out into the noisy outer rooms just yet. “And of

course, none of them do.”

“What would drive a teenager to see violence as the

answer, Mulder? After seeing and studying so many cases

involving juvenile offenders, you’d think we would have

figured it out by now.”

His gaze drifted down to the computer screen. “Maybe it’s

genetics. Maybe it was his father, or a friend or

classmate. Or maybe it was even Must See TV,” he grinned

slyly, then sobered. “Whatever it was, it’s turned him into

a murderer.”

Scully thought back to the case of the missing Rachel

Marcussen, and the brother who had tried to kill her. But

where Jacob might have inherited a pathological disorder,

Brian seemed to have made a conscious decision to follow a

dark and dangerous path. Immersed in thought, she almost

didn’t notice her partner’s hints to leave. Giving one last

look at the boyish face of their suspect, she folded the

paper and tucked it into her coat pocket.

The street was deserted for the most part, with only a

handful of people dashing from one place to the next, heads

bundled up from the cold. Brian’s lack of headgear drew

more than one odd look, but he didn’t care. A secret smile

stole across his face whenever he saw someone walk a little

faster when he came into view.

He had already called Mark and agreed on a meeting place;

With the police out looking for him, he didn’t want to risk

Mark’s wrath by drawing the cops straight to him. If the

police knew who he was, then his apartment was also a bad

spot. In the end, they chose an abandoned warehouse not far

from the trainyards, south of downtown and some distance

away from the crime scene.

Mark and his gang had occasionally used the place for

their rites, so to Brian it made perfect sense that this

place would be where his acceptance into the group would be

made official, at last.

A white sedan passed by on a crossroad in the distance,

the sides unmarked but the large radio antenna and its

slower than average speed instantly put his nerves on edge.

An unmarked patrol car. Had they spotted him? If so, would

they turn around or try to circle the block and come up

behind him?

Unfortunately he had a timetable to keep, and it was cold

enough outside that the thought of trying to take a detour

wasn’t a pleasant one. For all he knew, the cops hadn’t

seen him. Still, he had to be cautious. The last thing he

needed was to slip up now, after everything he’d gone

through to get to this point.

Ducking his head down to stave off a sudden burst of

freezing air, he walked faster and glanced around for any

evidence of white sedans that drove too slowly.

Huddled in his unmarked car, Detective Parks reached for

his cell phone while keeping his eyes open for a glimpse of

olive green. He hated the fact that he couldn’t keep the

engine running so the heat would stay on, but he couldn’t

afford to tip off the suspect that he was parked just down

the street, behind a beaten and rusted pick-up truck. In

this weather, the exhaust would be instantly noticeable,

not to mention that with such a quiet street, the sound of

a running engine would carry quite a distance.

He dialed the number that the dispatcher had given him,

hoping that the kid wouldn’t spot him.

“Mulder.”

“Agent Mulder? This is Detective Parks. I think I’ve found

your suspect.”

The young man stared down both ends of the street, looking

for the unmarked police car in an occasional stream of

vehicles. None of them matched the car he’d seen earlier.

His confidence boosted a bit, he walked across the street

at a quicker pace than before, sparing only a glance to the

left and the right to make sure it wasn’t being followed.

Soon he was safely on the other side, and his walk turned

into a slow jog as the icy winds picked up pace as well.

An engine started in the distance, but the wind howled

enough that his ears never heard it. The car pulled away

from the curb and headed for a parallel road, and Parks

hoped that the agents would get here before the boy caught

on to the tail.

One thing Mulder hadn’t liked was parking the rental car

in one of the exorbitant parking garages in the city. It

didn’t help that with the bitter cold weather, more people

were driving and less spaces were to be had. Maybe some

were grateful to pay ten dollars for an hour’s worth, but

he was too used to taking the Metro for not much more than

pocket change. And unfortunately, waiting for a bus wasn’t

an option.

Thankfully they caught a ride with an officer already

heading that way. Avalos had disappeared to parts unknown

after Parks called them, and waiting for him to reappear

wasn’t on their timetable. They had to get to Powell before

the cops did, if they had any chance of this ending without

bloodshed.

Scully searched on their map for the two crossroads Parks

had given them. “It looks like he’s heading towards the

train yards,” she said.

“Abandoned warehouses always make for a good hideout,”

Mulder commented, only slightly joking.

“Our experiences with warehouses and trains haven’t been

the best, I’d say,” she replied, her tone darkly amused.

He turned to look at her, the last of his levity draining

from him. “No. No, they haven’t.”

The seriousness of the moment made her uncomfortable, he

could tell. At a red light, he glanced over to her hands,

hoping that whatever fear and stress she’d had earlier had

passed. To his relief, her hands were steady as she held

the map.

His gaze turned back to the pedestrians crossing in front

of them, most bundled up beyond recognition. A young

student passed by, his black leather jacket covered with

white symbols and letters, most unrecognizable. He meant to

prove his toughness by the lack of headgear and gloves, but

instead he’d pulled himself inward and shivered as he

tugged his backpack to rest better on his shoulders.

It struck him then that there was something missing from

the last victim, something that with the other evidence had

seemed irrelevant.

“Scully, did you notice that the fourth victim didn’t have

the sigil on his chest, like the first three?”

Her head raised from the map, her expression puzzled. “You

know, you’re right. But, what’s your point?”

“It’s just curious, that’s all. If he was being coerced by

the jacket, as you say, wouldn’t the M.O. still match?”

“Well, we’re still not sure why they were put there in the

first place. Maybe it was nothing more than an elaborate

way to tag the victims.”

“But Frank wasn’t a willing participant…wait a minute…”

Scully looked at him, the same thought running through her

head. “Maybe it was his way of trying to get caught?”

He blew out a slow breath, the pieces beginning to fall

together. “Could be. Or he might have been trying to lure

out the person who owned the jacket. The sigil was

mentioned on the news, wasn’t it?”

“I think so. But does that matter?”

“For my theory, yes.” The light turned green, and he

stepped on the gas with a bit more enthusiasm. “His anger

at knowing the murders were done by someone who stole the

jacket from him would have been enough to push him over

that edge. He may not have known that the man he killed

wasn’t the original thief.”

“We can’t assume that. If he’s able to be talked to, we

have to give him that chance.”

“What if he’s another Jacob, Scully?”

Her head bowed for a second, the image of the unlikely

murder suspect coming to mind. “Jacob was a child…Brian

Powell is an adult in the eyes of the law. But even if he

is, we’ll know it soon enough, won’t we?”

“I just don’t want to give this Powell guy a chance to

harm anyone else. If he *is* dangerous, we can’t afford to

hold back when the moment comes.”

She nodded in agreement, and a tense silence fell between

them. Neither wanted to contemplate on who the young man

might target first.

Brian took a quick look behind him before entering through

a back part of the warehouse that jutted out shallowly,

used primarily as a docking area. Whoever owned the

property hadn’t used it in years, so the local kids and

gangs had alternately used the place for meetings, raves,

and gang activity. When Mark and his group had taken over

the spot, no one had come back in fear of whatever might

still linger in the walls and floor. Paint marks still

covered the back door, a ward against trespassing that most

couldn’t identify. The power remained somewhat potent, but

for him the only trouble was an uneasy feeling as he’d gone

past it.

His footsteps echoed loudly in the vacant space, the

ceiling nothing more than an intertwined mesh of I-beams

and broken light fixtures. Graffiti covered most of the

walls, and the majority were from gangs long since

disbanded. The front of the warehouse was subdivided into

smaller rooms, one being the front entrance and lobby area

to the left of him, which connected both to the main

storage area and a group of offices extending to the right.

All of them had windows facing out to the main area, but

only one had a door facing out to the rest of the warehouse.

Mark appeared from that door, what once had probably been

a foreman or manager’s office. Dressed all in black, his

boots scuffed violently against the oil-stained concrete.

His hair spiked and dyed black on one side, the only thing

on him that didn’t seem to swallow light were the pendants

that hung on the ends of a long black string of leather.

He’d most likely been keeping tabs on him as he walked up

to the warehouse, to make sure he’d come alone. Since he

was still here, Brian had to assume he’d seen no one.

“You said you had evidence,” Mark said, taking another

step closer. He didn’t look like he wanted to be there, but

what he had to show Mark wouldn’t take long. The idea that

his acceptance into the group was so near made him smile.

“Sure do. You’ll have to come a little closer than that to

see it,” Brian replied, feeling bolder already. Mark

frowned sourly but did as asked.

With little fanfare, Brian pulled his hands out of his

pockets, along with the knife. As expected, the blood was

still there, although it had darkened and started to crust

over. Mark stared first at the blood, then the bloody

pocket knife.

Disbelief battled against surprise on Mark’s face, until

at last he realized that Brian wasn’t bluffing. “Man, you

did it. You *did* it.”

“Told you I would. Didn’t think I could, did you?” Brian

replied, grinning even further at the other’s amazement.

Shock turned to mild disgust. “No, I didn’t. I never

thought you’d actually do it. What are you, crazy?”

“What are you talking about?” Brian asked, confused. Panic

was beginning to well up in his voice. “You said if I did

it, I’d be in. That’s what you said!”

“Man, I said that so you’d leave us alone. You never could

finish anything, so I thought…” Mark trailed off,

realizing that revealing his true thoughts might not be a

good idea.

It came too late, unfortunately. Brian had figured out the

rest. “You thought that if you told me to kill someone, I’d

never get the guts to do it. Well, I did! I killed the

piece of trash that stole my jacket!”

Mark’s eyes narrowed, then he laughed with something akin

to relief. “Your jacket..? Oh, man! I don’t believe

it…you really had me fooled for a second there, Brian.

You know, for a second I thought you *had* killed those

homeless people on Wacker.” He chuckled, then took a closer

look at Brian’s bloody hands. “What is that, fake blood? Or

wait–that’s right! Rafael gave you his cow’s blood ’cause

he knew his parents would freak if they saw it.”

That Mark was denying what he’d done was worse than the

initial rejection. Anger already building came to a head,

and caused his temper to snap. His hands grabbed around

Mark’s throat, the blood making it hard to get a solid

grip. The would-be friend tried to force his arms apart,

but the sigil’s power made the effort futile.

Brian thought about using the knife, but that would be too

quick. Mark gasped and squirmed, managing to utter a couple

of words between stifled breaths.

“Don’t do this…It’s all…good, I swear! …You’re in!”

“I thought you didn’t want me in, Mark.” He tightened his

grip. “You don’t think I can kill someone? You believe it

now, though, don’t you?”

“Ye –Yeah…please…”

“Please, what?”

“Don’t….kill me!”

Brian only smiled, not accepting his friend’s conversion

in the slightest. And he squeezed ever so slowly on his

once-friend’s neck.

Mulder pulled in behind Ron Parks’ car, the street

deserted except for them. It was less than ideal, but he

had the feeling that time was of the essence. The detective

was already out of his car and heading over to them,

concern etched into his features.

“He went around back about seven minutes ago. I just

looked into one of the front windows, but there are offices

taking up the space up front. I can’t see directly into the

warehouse. I could hear two young men talking, so I guess

this is a rendezvous.”

Scully took a deep breath, not liking this at all. “The

person he’s meeting doesn’t know what he’s capable of…we

have to go in.”

“We don’t have back-up, and we don’t know the layout,”

Parks countered. “Going in without knowing what’s up could

get more than this other guy killed.”

“I think she’s right, but we’ll need a plan of some sort.

Are there any windows on the side?”

“None at the first level. It’s all cinder block until you

get to the top,” Parks pointed to the three story

building’s grid windows, large but totally inaccessible.

“Then we’ll have to go in front and back. Detective Parks,

you go around back while my partner and I go through the

front. Wait until you hear us yell before coming in, okay?”

“Sure, although I’m sure the department’s going to have my

hide for disregarding procedure.”

Mulder patted the man on the shoulder in mock-comfort.

“You haven’t lived until you’ve disregarded procedure,

Detective. Let’s go break some rules.”

Parks’ eyes widened, and he turned to Scully. “Is he

kidding?”

She shook her head solemnly, a trace of amusement on her

face. “Not even remotely, I’m afraid.” Parks turned away

and headed down the alley, more concerned now than ever

about his professional fate.

Scully bit back a comment to Mulder about teasing local

law enforcement, and tightened her collar closer around her

neck. The heat from the car was seeping away, replaced by

the sensation of cold creeping in wherever an opportunity

presented itself. The air was so frigid that she could feel

the moisture freezing in her nose and mouth, reminding her

of a time before…

No! I will not allow this, she scolded herself, although

the panic had already begun. She tried to combat the fear

with logic; Cold is only a lack of heat, and we’re in a

major city. This isn’t Antarctica, and I’m not going to

freeze to death. If I survived being dunked into a cold

Minnesota river, I can survive this. Her hands continued to

shake, however, and a chill she knew all too well settled

in her hands and feet, and started to climb by icy tendrils

up her arms and legs to her chest.

She took a deep breath, trying to keep the panic down.

Mulder was at the front door and looked back to his

trailing partner, confusion being replaced by concern.

“I’m fine,” she answered his silent question softly,

hoping this one time that he wouldn’t see through the

bluff. If he did, he never let on — he waited for her to

join him and picked open the padlock on the front door. The

rusty hinges protested in use, but more in effort than in

sound. Mulder didn’t hold out too much hope for catching

Powell off-guard, but hopefully they could drive him over

Parks’ way.

The dusty interior was a small paneled room that at one

time had been a lobby. A door to the left probably lead to

the offices Parks had mentioned. A solid door straight

ahead opened to the main area, they assumed, and Mulder

tried out the knob to make sure it would turn. It worked

well enough, and Mulder paused in order to give Parks

enough time to get ready in the back. If things went

smoothly, they could have Powell surrender in a matter of

seconds.

Parks found the dock easily, the shallow extension just

wide enough to have the back door built into the side,

leaving the larger area for the trucks to park against.

Someone had sprayed black paint over the door’s narrow

window, leaving him little choice in opening the door. He

had to admit, the markings were odd for gang tags, but his

expertise wasn’t in gang-related crime. For all he knew, it

was a new trend.

He turned the knob, surprised to find it open. A tingling

sensation crept over him, but he ignored it as adrenaline.

Seeing that the interior was dark, and that the sound of

bodies moving was from some distance away from his

position, he risked going in.

The tingling increased as he stepped through, then a solid

force slammed into him, sending him flying outside onto the

cold pavement. His head connected with the ground first,

and his vision went black before he even had the chance to

wonder what had hit him.

Her fingers numbed from both the cold and her irrational

panic, Scully’s grip on her gun shifted in an attempt to

restore circulation. Mulder glanced at her and whispered,

“Let’s go on three.”

She nodded, hoping the adrenaline would warm her up. She

heard Mulder softly count to three, his hand twisted the

knob and he flew the door open. “Federal agents!” they

shouted as they trained their guns forward, in anticipation

of any threat.

The scene they came upon was the one they dreaded. Powell

had a man about his own age held above him, his right hand

around the man’s bloody neck while his left held a knife.

From the slumped position of his victim, the man was either

dead, or just about to be.

Powell turned towards them, still holding the young man

above him in a way that would quickly tire any normal

person. He paused as if unsure what to do next.

Scully took a quick look towards the back of the

warehouse, wondering where Parks was. “Drop him now, and

step away! Do it!”

Mulder gave her a look, and nodded his head towards the

back of the area. She nodded, understanding what he wanted.

Since Parks hadn’t shown, someone had to cover the back.

Wishing against the worst, she turned and ran for the back

entrance, hoping Mulder wouldn’t try anything dangerous

before she got into place.

“Step away from him now, and put your hands behind your

head! Do it!”

Brian considered the man with the gun’s request, but to do

that would be defeat. He’d done that several times before,

but no longer. He wasn’t going to give up anymore. And with

a decision more instinctual than anything else, he raised

his knife to attack.

A shot rang out, and he felt a brief moment of pain in his

hand before it ceased. Looking down, he saw fresh blood

mixing with the old, and realized with slow clarity that

he’d been shot. However, it didn’t hurt too badly, and from

looking at the wound he realized it wasn’t really much more

than a deep scratch.

The bullet would have likely shattered his hand, but

instead it hadn’t done more than slight gouge. The man,

surprised that the bullet hadn’t fazed him too badly, now

aimed for Brian’s right arm and fired.

To Mulder’s amazement, both of the bullets barely seemed

to faze the teen. He contemplated the chances of survival

if the boy decided to rush him with the knife, but it

appeared that the boy’s relative inexperience in being a

murderer played in his favor; rather than attacking Mulder,

he was attempting to make a run for it.

Mulder aimed and fired one last time, now aiming for the

young man’s right calf, hoping the distance from the sigil

would weaken its effect. The bullet was true, but the shot

didn’t even slow him down. The fact that he was heading for

Scully gripped Mulder with horrible dread as he chased

after the boy, hoping to reach him before she did.

Powell went through a door to the left of a large covered

opening, something that reminded Mulder of a big metal

garage door. It probably lead to a docking area, and with

it another door to the outside. The door had already swung

closed by the time Mulder got there, and without

considering anything but Scully’s safety, he flew open the

door and aimed his gun to the right.

The darkness was broken only by a sliver of light — the

door leading to the outside was cracked open slightly, and

he could see there was debris from wooden pallets and piles

of old junk strewn across the way. He gave it little

thought and dashed around the broken pallets and rusted

machinery, not seeing the dark blur until he was on top of

it. A wooden slat connected with his head and he fell

backwards, the blow causing his vision to dim and his

thoughts to scatter.

The young man crept out from his hiding place, lost in the

thrill of the moment, no longer heeding any sense of guilt

or fear. It would be so easy to kill him. The plank he’d

found had broken from the pallet at a sharp angle; it would

go through flesh if it had sufficient force behind it. He

smiled cruelly, knowing very well that he had more than

enough strength for the task.

Scully found Parks first, alive but losing body heat fast

from being spread out on the pavement. The two shots she’d

heard had just been followed by a third one, and she needed

to make sure she was in position before the suspect ended

up running past her.

The door was open slightly, and she could hear the sound

of another door opening on the far side. Bracing herself,

she tried to stifle the shaking in her hands and commanded

her fingers to move against the stiffness. When the suspect

didn’t immediately appear, she placed one hand on the

doorjamb and kicked the door open the rest of the way,

pointing her gun into the dark room beyond.

She saw the back of their murderer first, the light

silhouetting him against the dark of the room. Mulder was

on the floor, clutching his head while their suspect raised

a broken plank of wood over the agent. From the jagged

point on the wood and the way he held it…

“Stop or I’ll shoot!” She yelled, but as she feared, the

young man didn’t stop, didn’t even acknowledge her

presence. Her hands steady even as the rest of her felt

colder than ice, she aimed at the man’s back and fired.

The young man paused, looked down at his chest in

confusion, then collapsed to his knees and fell over. From

the limp way he landed, Scully was sure that the shot had

been a fatal one, and one that had nearly killed on impact.

Mulder blinked in an effort to focus his eyes, needing to

see what was going on. He felt a gloved hand on his face,

and at last his vision cleared enough that he could see who

was there.

The auburn-framed face smiling at him was a happy sight,

and he sighed in relief. He’d heard the gunshot and felt

the floor shake from someone’s fall, but he didn’t know

what had happened to whom. “Scully, you’re okay?”

“Yeah, but it looks like you’re not,” she said, checking

his scalp for abrasions. “If that had been metal instead of

wood…” She swallowed, covering her sudden emotion with a

flurry of movement, tucking his jacket tighter around him

and forcing him to lie still. “Well, it’s over now. He’s

dead.”

“Check on the man inside, he might still be alive. And did

you find Detective Parks?”

“He’s out cold, but he should be fine. Back-up should be

arriving any minute now.” She stood up to go check on the

other man, while Mulder called the dispatch to tell them to

send for medical assistance. Scully returned quickly,

causing his mood to grow even darker.

“He’s dead?”

She nodded. “He was dead before we showed up. The blood on

his neck isn’t his, though. I’d say it was from Brian

Powell’s previous victim.”

Mulder looked down to the boy, still amazed that while his

three bullets had done little, Scully’s only shot had taken

him out. Blood was obscuring the sigil, but he could still

identify the point of entry –right in the middle of the

sigil’s design.

“How did you know, Scully?”

“Know what?”

“Where to shoot him? I’d already shot him three times, and

it had no effect.”

She looked at him incredulously, until she saw exactly

where her bullet had landed, then saw the superficial

wounds on the young man’s hand and leg. She knew grazing

marks when she saw them, and the fact they weren’t made her

even more uncertain.

“I…I didn’t, Mulder.” Their eyes met for a horrified

instance, before the sound of sirens in the distance drew

their attention away from the somber thought.

Epilogue:

Cook County Hospital, E.R. 1:57 p.m.

Mulder sighed at being checked out once again at a

hospital, although he’d been relieved to hear the

concussion wasn’t severe enough to keep him there. However,

their return flight would be delayed for the next couple

days due to both Scully’s and the E.R. doctor’s concern.

Ron Parks was doing well, for the most part — a few

internal lacerations and concussion kept him bedridden, but

the doctors assured him he would be fine. Any attempt to

get an answer from him about what had happened was met with

a shrug and an assumption that he’d been kicked. The person

supposedly responsible was never found, nor mentioned.

“Ready to go?” His partner asked, appearing from behind a

pale blue curtain. Her mood seemed light, but from her eyes

he could tell she was haunted by the thoughts of what she

almost hadn’t done.

“Just about,” he patted next to him on the bed, and Scully

joined him with no little amount of curiosity. She hadn’t

sat down for a second or two before Mulder’s hand engulfed

hers. Confused, she was about to say something when he

smiled unguardedly. “Your hand’s warm.”

She nodded, having realized it earlier. “It’s probably

from the adrenaline. I don’t think it kicked in until right

before…before I fired my gun.”

His fingers entwined with hers, as Mulder felt her mood

deepen. “You couldn’t have done anything differently,

Scully. He was beyond saving at that point.”

“Mulder, I doubt the police would believe you. And I’m

sure Brian Powell’s mother wouldn’t it see it that way,

either.”

“What about you, though? Do you think there was anything

else you could have done?”

She exhaled, then closed her eyes. “No, and that’s the

frustrating part of it all. I’m sure that if I hadn’t

fired, he would have killed you. Maybe I subconsciously

thought of the center of the sigil because that’s where

Frank’s killing blow was.”

“He could have picked up on it from wearing the jacket. If

Brian’s thoughts and memories were influencing him, there’s

a chance he knew its weakness, too. Maybe it was a clue for

us to find.”

She stared out at the curtain, mulling it over in her

mind. Mulder never knew if she accepted the idea or not,

because she finished her original thought. “When I fired my

gun, I couldn’t feel the panic or the cold. All I saw was

him trying to kill you, and all I could think was that I

had to stop him. Nothing else mattered.” She tried to

smooth out a wrinkle in her slacks, then continued, “I had

someone else to think about, besides myself. And while I

know the panic can come back, I know it won’t be caused by

the cold. Now, would you like to get something to eat? I

know I’m starving.”

He felt her hand pull away as she stood up, and instantly

missed the contact. Maybe this trigger was dealt with, but

she’d mentioned how this had happened before. He vowed he

would take care of her if it ever happened again.

“Sure, where to? You want to get Greek food again?” He

stood up to join her, but he moved too quickly and almost

collapsed back into the bed for his trouble. Scully caught

him by the arm and stabilized him, then slipped underneath

his arm as support. The move surprised him, but not

unpleasantly. His arm tightened around her shoulders as

they headed off slowly from the area, avoiding nurses and

personnel who tried to steer around them.

“Anything, Mulder, but no onions.” He looked down to see

Scully watching him, a slight smile on her face. Unlike

before, her meaning was very clear, and he smiled in

response as his arm dropped to rest around her waist.

The End.

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