Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Cover

Title: Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Authors: I Want To Believe (a round robin)

(Beduini, Char Chaffin, Lisa W, Leslie Sholly,

Kimberly, Regina, Lara Means, SueBee, Marty,

Laurie D. Haynes, Paige Caldwell)

Archiving: VS8 gets it exclusively for two weeks,

so after that, just ask us. Gossamer, Ephemeral,

IWTB, Clinique, Xemplary and these authors’

personal pages are fine.

Email: iwtbxf@yahoo.com

Rating: PG-13

Category: X, A, MSR

Note: Special thanks to Andrea for the idea and scientific

info, to Dlynn for editing several chapters, and to the rest

of the I Want To Believe List for putting up with our insanity.

Summary: Someone is murdering people in Philadelphia and

mutilating the bodies, which are left frozen solid at a popular

tourist attraction — only no one seems to have seen the killer.

Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the grisly case

before time runs out.

(Beduini)

Prologue

Hoover Building

Washington, D.C.

April 16, 2001

7:05 a.m.

The basement was cold.

She understood why — heat rises, and the basement

being…well, the basement…the term central heating

didn’t apply. Not that it seemed to matter to Mulder. He

was always warm. More than that, he generated heat.

Sometimes she could feel the warmth coming off of his skin

just by standing next to him.

Shivering, she stepped out of the elevator and walked the

short corridor toward Mulder’s office. She could see the

lights were off, even though the door was partially open.

It was early, but Mulder usually arrived early and always

locked his door, so she had every reason to believe that he

was already in. Rapping lightly with her knuckles, she

pushed the door open and stepped inside, her shoulders

slumping and her face falling with disappointment as her

hands dropped to her sides.

“Slides?” she said, nearly whining.

At the sound of her knock he’d looked up expectantly, a

soft smile playing at the corners of his mouth. Mulder

stood near his desk, his jacket off and his sleeves rolled

up to the elbow, despite the chilly temperature of his

office. The slide projector was pointed at the small

screen on the near wall, and he held the remote in one

hand, flashing quickly through the images to find the one

he wanted.

“Hey, Scully, pull up a chair,” he greeted her, ignoring

the whine in her voice as he reached over and pulled out

the armchair opposite his desk, positioning it to face the

screen.

She shivered and sat down in the offered chair while he

flashed through the remaining slides, shifting his weight

impatiently on his feet. He was excited about this case,

that much was obvious. When he found the image he wanted,

he stopped. Then, stepping forward, he placed his palms on

the back of her chair and leaned toward her.

She could feel the heat and electricity emanating from

him, and it felt great in contrast to the chill of his tomb

of an office. She leaned back against the chair, hoping to

receive a little more of his natural warmth through the

thin wool of her gray suit jacket. Her hands were like ice,

so she slid them between her thighs and the seat, feeling

the cold seep through the wool and rayon lining of her suit

pants.

“Rick Ramee, age 35,” Mulder started, his voice low and

surprisingly close to her right ear, making her squirm

slightly. His breath was hot on her neck, but she ignored

it as she looked at the image on the screen. Smiling back

at her was a young Afro-American male wearing a business

suit.

Mulder continued, “Husband, father of two. Resident of a

small, up and coming middle class suburb of Philadelphia,

reported missing by his wife after he didn’t come home from

work one night.” Still clutching the remote, Mulder

forwarded to the next slide, revealing the body of Rick

Ramee, bloodied, his face frozen in a death mask of horror.

Ramee’s arms lay crossed over his chest, and there were two

bloody stumps where his hands should have been. “Rick’s

body was found on display three days later, nearly frozen

at the foot of the clock tower in the town square.”

“Sans hands,” Scully commented.

“Sans hands,” Mulder confirmed. “The clock, reputed to be

one of the most reliable timepieces on this side of the

Atlantic, had stopped at precisely 2:04 a.m. Post mortem

exams of Mr. Ramee estimate his time of death at around…”

“2:04 a.m.” Scully supplied.

Mulder grinned briefly at her quick response and flipped

to the next slide. A Caucasian woman’s blurry image filled

the screen. “Rhonda Lewis, housewife, age 42.” He flipped

to the next slide to reveal Rhonda Lewis in a similar death

pose as Rick Ramee, her hands also severed. “Same place,

same scenario, two days later. This time, the clock stopped

at 5:16 a.m.”

Scully drew in a long breath and let it out slowly. Mulder

imagined he could almost hear the gears turning inside her

head as she processed the information. She already knew

where this was going, he was sure.

“Any witnesses?” she asked.

“Not a one.”

“Cause of death?”

He paused briefly. “You tell me.”

She turned her head to look at him. “There hasn’t been a

full autopsy conducted yet?”

He raised his eyebrows in a gesture he’d picked up from

her, and she closed her eyes with a soft grunt, her

shoulders slumping once again. Two autopsies to look

forward to and she hadn’t even had her second cup of coffee

yet.

“There’s more.” Mulder flipped to the next slide.

“Yippee.”

Mulder pressed his lips together at her lack of enthusiasm

and continued. “Tina Rodriguez, age 23, found early

yesterday morning.” The slide showed a young Hispanic

woman, her body posed in the same position as the other

two. “4:32 a.m.”

Mulder straightened and put the remote down on top of his

desk, robbing Scully of his comforting warmth. Walking over

to the door, he flipped on the over head lights, then

returned to the slide projector, switching it off.

“The Philadelphia P.D. has agreed to let us work with

them, given the…unusual…nature of the deaths.”

Scully stood and faced him, crossing her arms in front of

her chest and tucking her hands between her body and her

upper arms with a shiver. “I’m sure you’ve already got a

theory.”

He grinned. “Oh, I have lots of theories.” He looked at

her, noticing her discomfort. “You cold?”

She nodded and stepped forward, wrapping her icy hands

around his bare forearm, causing him to yelp with surprise.

“Jesus! At least give me a little warning if you’re gonna

do that.” He took her hands between his larger, warmer

palms and rubbed them vigorously, looking down at her with

amused affection. “Don’t tell me you forgot your gloves

again.”

“They’re in the pockets of my overcoat,” she replied with

a soft hum. She enjoyed the increase in tactility that had

slowly infused their partnership, knowing that he was

enjoying it just as much, if not more. Who knew that

kissing one’s partner at the stroke of midnight before the

new millennium would lead to so many more small, indulgent

pleasures?

“Am I to believe that the Philadelphia County Coroner has

an autopsy bay waiting with my name on it?” Scully looked

up at him as he stopped rubbing her hands and held them,

one of hers in each one of his, their fingers curling and

linking together.

“I told them you’d be there by ten. I’ve already

requisitioned the car, and the Philly P.D. has faxed over

their reports from the crime scenes. You can read them on

the way.”

He gave her hands a gentle squeeze and released them,

leaning over to grab his suit jacket off of the back of his

desk chair. Off his desk, he picked up a manila file with

an “X” on the cover, handing it to her before walking over

to the coat tree by the door. Then, shrugging on his heavy

wool overcoat, he said, “Get your coat and meet me

downstairs in ten.”

He offered her a grin and stepped out the door, calling

from the hallway, “Shut the door on your way out. And

don’t forget your gloves!”

************************

(by Char Chaffin)

Hands… damn. Why did it have to be hands? Of all the

pieces and parts of the human body, Scully had always

admired the human hand. Hands were the most tactile of the

outer extremities, with more nerve endings and amazing

musculature, given their relative size in comparison to

other body parts. Ladling out doses of tenderness and

violence in equal measure, capable of both those extremes

of physical retaliation within a split second of each

other… the human hand was a beautiful thing. She found

herself examining her own hands as she slowly buttoned her

overcoat, stepping to the mirror to adjust her scarf and

digging through pockets to find her gloves.

Scully had small, compact hands; the overall slender look

of them was aided by the professional manicure she always

kept up to date. Clear polish on the nails, no rings.

Simple and elegant, strong when needed and gentle by

choice. If she had ever wished for more, she supposed it

would have been a wish for longer fingers, so that her

childhood piano lessons would not have been so agonizing.

Standard octaves were hard to reach on a keyboard, with

small fingers. Scully shook her head; it was better not to

waste time dwelling on her past when there was a present to

worry about. She tugged on gloves as she locked the office

behind her, hoping Mulder had remembered to grab his keys.

As she walked to the elevators, Scully thought about the

slides she’d seen. In her mind she pictured the first one,

the Professional Suit with a wife and children. The look of

abject horror on his face was as if the final visual

filling his stricken gaze went beyond anything his

imagination could have conjured. Mentally, she ticked off

the overall scene: The crossed arms over the chest; a

classic death-pose… or was it? Whomever or whatever took

Rick Ramee’s hands – had they taken them while he was still

alive? Was his final rictus a direct result of seeing his

own hands severed, or were those appendages a trophy of

some sort, garnered from his body mere moment after his

death?

She leaned against the elevator wall as she pondered,

still rubbing her own hands together to stave off the chill

she felt beneath her wool gloves. The possibility that she

and Mulder were facing another fetishist was not lost on

her; it was the first thing that had come to mind as Mulder

had flipped through the slides. Scully shuddered and found

her mind wandering in directions best left un-wandered.

Pfaster… they could be facing another nut-bird such as

Donnie Pfaster; another fetishist could be walking the

streets of DC on the lookout for what he or she would

consider a nice pair of hands.

She shuddered again as she stepped off the elevator and

onto the floor, which housed the motor pool. She glanced

around until she spotted Mulder leaning against a

nondescript blue sedan. Her gaze settled on him, noting

the casual posture and thinking for at least the twentieth

time that week how beautiful the man was – and how utterly

unaware of his own appeal. Today he wore her personal

favorite, a charcoal gray suit which blended nicely with

his moss-green dress shirt. The color played up the green

flecks in his eyes, and even his ridiculous, wildly zig-

zagged tie couldn’t detract from the overall elegance of

her partner.

She walked toward the car, dreading the upcoming autopsy

even as she felt the familiar, albeit unwelcome, tingle

which usually signaled her inner excitement at beginning

another case. And she decided she’d rather scrub public

lavatories with her bare hands, rather than let him know

that excitement.

Mulder caught Scully’s approach and grinned at her as she

rounded the side of the car; his smile widened even more

when she tossed him a withered, “What, no Ford, Mulder?” He

chuckled and got in, buckling himself up and checking to

see if she’d done the same, before throwing a retort right

back at her.

“Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie, Scully… have some

respect for this classy Chevy, okay? It still has working

headlights.” He flashed the brights three times before

backing out of the slot and inching his way through the

narrow rows of parked cars.

Scully made herself comfortable and tried not to think of

the ‘thrill’ of performing several autopsies in a row. Her

neck would be killing her when it was all over, and she’d

reek of any number of funky excretions. She could hardly

wait. Mulder maneuvered the car through mid-morning

traffic, avoiding spots of black ice on the street, the

soft jazz station he’d chosen providing a soothing

background for the easy silence between them. It was

nice… this silence was actually nice. Too many times

they’d driven along Constitution Avenue in tight, miserable

silences, with a gulf of heated, unsaid words boiling in

the air around their heads.

Thankfully, those days seemed to be over; they had found a

new understanding these past few months and had grown so

much closer. Out of the corner of her eye, Scully glanced

at her partner; Mulder’s entire concentration was centered

on driving safely over the slick roads. Both his hands

gripped the steering wheel, at the proper ten to two

o’clock positioning –

Hands….

She stared at his hands. They were strong and tanned, with

elegantly-shaped fingers and neatly-trimmed nails. She’d

felt those hands cup themselves around her face, so

gently… had seen them pound a perpetrator to the floor

when he tried to escape arrest. Extremes, again…

Mulder’s hands were the perfect example.

And Scully loved his hands.

“What is it, Scully? What are you thinking; what’s going

on behind those baby blues, hmmm?” Mulder’s voice, low and

commanding over the soft jazz, broke her out of her almost-

hypnotized state, and she jumped a little, before returning

his quizzical look with blushing pink cheeks.

She opened her mouth to prevaricate and instead found her

fingers reaching out to trace the light dusting of hair

along the back of his right hand as it rested on the wheel.

Mulder raised a curious eyebrow, but lifted the hand and

twined their fingers together. Scully felt the warmth of it

engulfing her cold fingers, felt that same heat move all

the way up her arm. She shook her head as she replied.

“Hands, Mulder … I was thinking about hands. I was

thinking, ‘Why hands?’ What would make somebody take

somebody else’s hands — although, maybe the answer is as

plain as the hand in front of my face.” Mulder stopped at

a red light and took the opportunity to study the pensive,

slightly worried look on her face. He thought a moment,

then spoke softly.

“Are we talking fetish here, Scully? I thought of that,

too. In what context I’m still not sure … but if that’s

what you can’t help but wonder, then I’m right there with

you, Partner. I’m not saying there isn’t something

distinctly x-Filish here, you understand. But maybe the

place we find ourselves beginning the search –once the

autopsy is over — has less to do with ritual and more to

do with a fetishist.” He stroked a thumb over her

knuckles, noting the worry crinkle still in place between

her eyes. He tugged on her fingers a little, making her

meet his eyes again.

“What else, Scully? That little frown tells me there’s

more.” Scully nodded and her sigh was heavy in the small

confines of the car.

“I just … well, I love your hands, Mulder. Your hands

are a comfort to me, sometimes. I just …” She trailed

off, feeling suddenly very silly and irrational.

Mulder smiled at her sweetly and let go of her hand, just

long enough to send all five of his fingers in a gentle

sweep over her cheek and down her jaw line to her

collarbone, where he caressed her soft skin reassuringly,

before he attempted to set her worries to rest.

“Scully… nobody’s going to get my hands. I promise you –

– no one’s going to hurt me.”

**************

(by Lisa W)

ACT I

Philadelphia City Hall

5:12 p.m., April 16

If Mulder didn’t hurry, she was going to hurt him –badly.

It was amazing how fast an affectionate mood could vanish

when left standing in the cold. Scully shivered as a

frigid wind swept through the courtyard below the clock

tower. When she glanced at her watch, she wasn’t surprised

to see the minute hand start yet another revolution around

the dial. Where was he? It was dark, and the last of city

hall’s bureaucrats had huddled in their coats and dashed to

the parking lot. One by one she had watched them go as they

impatiently pushed aside anyone who stood in their path.

They were ready to go home after a long day at work. She

couldn’t blame them. Her day had been long as well, but it

wasn’t over. It wouldn’t be over until Mulder showed

up…so where was he?

Almost immediately after they had arrived at the morgue,

Mulder had begun looking uncomfortable. His discomfort

wasn’t because autopsies made him nervous. It was due to

the fact that when surrounded by the tools of science, he

had nothing particularly useful to do and so began acting

like a chain smoker who had lost his cigarettes. He didn’t

know what to do with his hands.

Mulder not knowing what to do with his hands often lead to

his sticking them in places they did not belong. If

something perplexed or intrigued him, he appeared compelled

to reach out and touch it. Scully liked to think that was

one reason he so frequently touched her.

Before she could snap on a pair of latex gloves, Mulder

had managed to poke his fingers into at least three medical

instruments he shouldn’t have touched. He must have felt

her glaring at him because he gave a shrug and a smile

that, while not quite apologetic, had managed to mollify

her until he turned to leave. Scully had asked where he was

going, but Mulder had only waved his hand in her general

direction and said, “Research.”

Eight hours later Mulder had called asking her to meet him

at the City Hall clock tower. Scully glanced at her

watch…again. If Mulder didn’t arrive in the next ten

minutes she would…Well, Scully wasn’t sure exactly what

she would do, but she would be extremely grouchy while

doing it. She was good at being grouchy.

An icy wind whipped her trench coat around her, forcing

Scully to shove her hands into her pockets and stamp her

feet to ward off the cold. Maybe she’d cut Mulder’s

deadline to five minutes.

“What’s the verdict?” Mulder asked.

She turned to face him. “Half an hour ago the clock tower

was an attractive historic site. Now it’s a very tall

stack of stone.”

“I meant the autopsy.”

“Autopsies. There were three of them, Mulder. Three.”

He looked up at the clock tower, an elaborately ornamented

limestone structure which dominated the somewhat plain

Neoclassical building below it. “Looks like you finished up

in record time.”

“The cause of death wasn’t much of a mystery.”

He glanced in her direction. “Exsanguination,” Scully

explained. “They bled to death.”

When his gaze lingered on her, Scully felt her irritation

fall away only to be replaced by a vague sense of horror at

the details her autopsies had revealed. “Given the amount

of adrenaline in their systems I would say they were alive

when their hands were severed. In fact, they were probably

conscious.”

Mulder grimaced. “So we’re not talking about a death

fetishist.”

“Not as far as the death aspect is concerned. The hands

were taken first. Death was just the natural result.”

“So the obsession is with the hands.”

“And the horror.” Scully walked around Mulder, her heels

clicking against the cobblestone paving of the courtyard

which stood in the center of the municipal complex. “There

must be some sort of punishment or revenge motivation to

this. The killer made the victims suffer.”

Mulder grimaced. “A sadist.” A shadow seemed to fall

across his already dark gaze as an element of sadness

entered his expression. It never failed to amaze Scully

that as much as Mulder had seen, as many horrors he had

witnessed, Mulder never became inured to them. He had never

allowed himself to become cold or cynical. He still cared.

“Scully, you’re shivering,” he observed. “Maybe we should

go inside.”

As they crossed the courtyard, Scully was all too aware of

his hand resting on the small of her back. His palm

pressing against her as his fingertips curled into the

slight indentation on her spine was a familiar and welcome

gesture. She liked it. She enjoyed the way his warmth

seeped into her, taking the edge off the cold.

Pushing aside the yellow tape blocking the clock tower’s

entrance, Mulder opened the door. Scully eyed the tape

with an arched brow.

“Construction tape,” Mulder explained. “There’s

renovation work being done on the tower, and the Philly

P.D. decided to leave it rather than replace it with police

tape.”

“Did they also leave the door open?”

“No.” Mulder smiled. “This afternoon I discovered the

night guard — a very interesting man by the name Bill

Hodges — is quite the b-ball fan.”

“So the two of you struck up an immediate friendship?”

Scully asked with a touch of disbelief.

“He agreed to leave the door unlocked for a few extra

hours.”

“Was he as generous with the killer?”

“It’s a construction site, Scully. Security has a way of

becoming lax with workmen coming and going at all hours.”

Accepting this explanation, Scully entered the cavernous

stairwell. There was something almost Baroque about the

staircase despite the fact the brochure described the clock

tower’s architecture being in the French Empire

style…which only served to remind Scully that while

waiting for Mulder, she had time to read the brochure five

times.

“Mulder, where were you all afternoon?” she asked.

“I spoke with Rick Ramee’s wife. Standard questions. Did

he have any enemies? Had anything strange happened lately?”

“What did she say?”

“Nothing that would lead anyone to believe someone wanted

him dead. The same goes for Rhonda Lewis.”

“What about Tina Rodriguez?”

He shook his head. “Up until three weeks ago she lived

with her boyfriend in Houston. When I spoke to him, he was

in the process of making plans to fly back to Texas. As far

as I can tell there’s no connection between the three

victims.”

“Except their deaths.”

He paused in the open center of the stairwell and looked

at the richly detailed, deeply coffered ceiling seven

stories above before his gaze traveled down to inspect the

black and white tiled floor. “This is where the bodies

were found.”

Scully frowned. “I thought you said the victims were

frozen.”

“They were.”

“In a room with central heating?”

Mulder knelt to examine the floor. His hand splayed out

against the tile as his fingers slowly traced the grooves

between the checkerboard pattern. “How porous is marble?”

“Too porous not to have evidence of three bloody murders.”

“So they were killed elsewhere and brought here.”

“After they were quick frozen.” At Mulder’s questioning

look, she elaborated. “Rick Ramee’s time of death was

estimated at roughly 2 a.m., and according to the police

report, his body was found just after three. Given the way

he died, Ramee had to have been frozen after his death.

“That makes sense. He couldn’t exactly bleed to death if

his blood was ice.”

Scully nodded. “And with his body mass being as large as

it was the freezing process should have taken several

hours.”

Mulder stood. “So he was quick frozen and transported

here. Why?”

“Why cut off his hands? There are more efficient ways to

cause someone to bleed to death.”

“This wasn’t about blood.” Mulder’s quietly thoughtful

voice signaled he was trying to understand the mind of a

killer. He crossed the room and began climbing the stairs.

“Why hands, Scully? Why a clock tower?”

She had the feeling that he was only thinking out loud.

“Hands of time?” she conjectured.

He looked doubtful. “A serial killer into puns?”

“You have another theory?”

“Not yet, though I think you were onto something when you

said the killings were about punishment. Not only did the

victims die in horror, but the killer also preserved their

expressions in ice so that anyone seeing their bodies would

know the horror as well.”

Scully frowned as she gazed upward. “Mulder, does this

look familiar to you?”

He followed her line of sight. “Columns, arches, stairs —

what’s not familiar?”

She shook her head as she tried to wrestle her thoughts

into some sort of order. “I…A few weeks ago I went to

the Kreeger Museum for the Escher exhibit. There was an

etching there that sort of reminds me of this stairwell

with the way steps and arches turn back on themselves until

you’re dizzy.”

“Relativity,” he announced.

She raised an eyebrow.

He explained, “I aced art history in college. There was

this brunette art student who … never mind. It’s not

important. You’re right, though.” He tilted his head to

the side. “If you look at this at the right angle it might

remind you of that etching.” He paused. “Relativity is

also Einstein’s theory about time.”

She eyed him cautiously. “To be exact, General Relativity

explains the way time, space, and gravity are connected.”

“The clock stopped at the time of each death.”

“Mulder…”

He glanced at her and smiled.

She crossed her arms. “You’ve made some quantum leap of

logic, haven’t you?”

“Why do people say that like it’s a bad thing? Quantum

deals with infinitely small changes.”

“Quantum mechanics has to do with sub-atomic particles.

Quantum leap means a sudden, significant change.” She

stopped abruptly. “Why are we talking about this? This has

nothing — I repeat, nothing — to do with the theory of

relativity. I simply pointed out that this stairwell has a

few elements similar to a drawing I saw a few weeks ago.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

She continued following him up the stairs. “Mulder,

clocks stop for many reasons.”

“I know that.”

“They measure time. They aren’t time itself.”

“I know that, too.”

A cold draft swept over her, and Scully pulled her coat

more tightly around herself. As Mulder waited for her to

catch up to him, she could see him mentally rubbing his

hands together.

“Tell me, Scully, how did our murderer have time to freeze

a corpse solid, transport it to a public place, and arrange

it in a ritualistic pose without being seen and without

leaving any tangible evidence?”

“He was very efficient.”

“Or he had all the time in the world.”

She shook her head. “Look, I may not know how he did it,

but I do know he did not stop time. Time cannot be

stopped.”

Mulder pushed open the doors to the observation deck. A

frigid blast of wind hit her as she followed him outside.

“What you’re proposing is impossible,” Scully insisted.

“I haven’t proposed anything.”

“Good. Then let me explain there is no possible way,

either normal or paranormal, to stop time. If time stops,

the universe ceases to exist. It’s that simple.”

“If you say so.”

“And it’s not that ‘faster than the eye can see’ thing

either. I still haven’t wrapped my mind around the concept

of rebellious teens existing like subliminal messages.”

Scully thought she heard Mulder chuckle as he placed his

hands on the observation deck’s handrail. Looking down

from their perch she noted that frosty fog obscured the

courtyard from view and that her breath made wispy ghosts

in the night air.

“Not to stop you when you’re on a roll. But, Scully, I

actually agree with you. I don’t think there is anything

paranormal about these killings.”

She blinked. “No mutant capable of controlling time? No

monsters?”

“Oh, there’s a monster involved.” His troubled gaze met

hers. “But the worst monsters always seem to be human.”

Mulder opened the door leading to the inner workings of

the clock, and Scully silently followed him into the

darkness.

************

(by Leslie Sholly)

Mulder poked around in the machinery inside the clock for

several minutes, while Scully’s hands grew icy and her nose

began to run. Finally, she could stand the wait no longer.

“Mulder! If there was anything here to find, don’t you

think the Philly P.D. would have found it by now? *I’m*

going to be quick frozen shortly if I don’t get inside

where it’s warm.”

“Sorry, Scully,” her partner said contritely. “How about I

take you out for a sandwich and some coffee? That’ll warm

you up.”

Scully realized she was not just exhausted and cold, but

hungry as well. And though she secretly wished Mulder

would choose something other than food to warm her up, she

wasn’t going to refuse his offer. “‘Kay,” she agreed.

Shivering, Scully followed Mulder back into the stairwell

and began to descend the staircase. Mulder, who had not

spent the past nine hours on his feet, practically skipped

down the stairs. In her hurry to keep up, Scully slipped.

For a sudden, sickening moment, she teetered on the edge of

the step, knowing with certainty that she was about to

plunge down the steep flight to the bottom. But at her gasp

of alarm, Mulder turned around, leaped up the steps that

separated them, and caught her before she could fall.

“Those shoes are going to be the death of you one day,” he

said disapprovingly. “What price vanity?” But he

tightened his grip on her, pulling her close into an

embrace. Scully, who had been shaking both from cold and

adrenalin, relaxed into his arms, suddenly warmer than she

had been all day. She relished the feeling of his left

hand holding her firmly while his right softly stroked her

hair.

Hands again.

She sighed.

“You okay, Scully?”

“I’m fine, Mulder. Really. Thanks for catching me.”

“Any time.”

Holding hands, they descended the rest of the way.

*************

6:25 p.m.

Sam’s Diner

Philadelphia

The coffee at the diner Mulder had chosen wasn’t

Starbucks, but it was hot and fresh and warmed Scully

delightfully. As the caffeine began to kick in, she began

to feel more like herself. “You can talk about the case

now, Mulder,” she said.

“What?” Mulder looked innocent.

“I know you’ve been waiting for me to warm up and wake up,

and I appreciate it. I feel much better now, so let me

hear some more wild theories.” She softened her words with

a smile.

“Well, what’s your explanation for the stopped clock, then?”

“I would guess it’s part of the killer’s ritual. He stops

the clock himself after he arranges the body.”

“And exactly how does he avoid detection while

transporting a frozen body and arranging it in a public

place?”

“All the murders have taken place in the middle of the

night, Mulder. He’s careful, and he’s lucky.”

“You’re forgetting that the clock reflects the time of

death, not the time he plants the bodies. The last victim

died at or around 5:16 a.m. He had to quick freeze her,

transport and arrange the body, do his trick with the

clock, and escape pretty quickly to avoid sunrise, when

he’d no longer be able to count on darkness for cover.”

“Look, Mulder, I don’t know *how* he does it. And the fact

is, we don’t really need to know *how*. Wouldn’t it make

more sense to think about *why*? Won’t thinking about his

motivation tell you more about who the murderer might be,

and how we can find him and stop him before he does this

again?”

“You’re right, Scully,” Mulder admitted, taking a sip of

his coffee. “I reserve the right to consider extreme

possibilities, of course, but if we go back to the boring

but useful questions of motive and opportunity, we may be

able to get more of a picture of the guy who’s doing this.

So what do we know about this guy?”

“He’s able to carry frozen bodies, and he was able to

subdue his victims through physical force, so we can guess

he’s a fairly strong man.”

Mulder nodded approvingly.

“He’s someone who has access to quick freezing equipment —

that should be something we can check out.”

“Good point. We should also consider the last known

whereabouts of the victims. That might help us pinpoint

his location further. Presumably since we haven’t found

any connection among the victims, we can conjecture that he

picked them because they were readily available to him.”

“Do you think we should assume so quickly that this is

random, Mulder? Maybe we just haven’t thought of the right

connection yet. Could there have been something…

special… about their hands?” Scully’s thoughts were

turning again, much against her will, to Donnie Pfaster and

his fascination with fingers in need of a nice manicure.

“I don’t know, Scully. That’s a question we can ask the

families — maybe see if they have any pictures that might

shed some light on that issue.” Mulder rose from the

table. “It’s getting late, Scully, and we don’t even have

a motel yet. I want to get us checked in somewhere and

then see what I can do about coming up with a profile of

the UNSUB. We’ll get an early start tomorrow.”

*************

ACT II

Motel 8

Philadelphia

6:30 a.m., April 17

Mulder let Scully choose the motel, so it was clean and

the bed wasn’t lumpy. After a relaxing warm bath, Scully

fell asleep easily, worn out from long hours of slicing and

dicing. But even in sleep she was unable to stop thinking

about the case. Her dreams were full of clock faces and

hands.

Toward daybreak her dreams turned to Mulder — not an

infrequent occurrence by any means. She dreamed of Mulder’s

hands, always his hands, strong yet gentle as they stroked

her hair. Lightly, they caressed her jaw line, touched her

lips intimately, before beginning to move lower . . .

Scully moaned happily in her sleep, her dream-body on fire

from Mulder’s touch.

But suddenly, she felt the hands no longer. She was

Aching, untouched, bereft. Now Mulder was speaking, saying

in a plaintive, childlike way, “I don’t know where they

went, Scully. I don’t know what happened to them.” Then he

held up his arms to show her bleeding stumps. “Can you get

them back for me, Scully?” he asked.

“They’re in my freezer, girly-girl,” Donnie Pfaster

announced. “Come on over and let me do your nails and I’ll

let you have them.”

The dream was so terrible that it woke Scully up. She sat

bolt upright in bed, breathing deeply and trying to still

the insistent pounding of her heart. “Only a dream, only a

dream,” she repeated over and over.

She was still saying this when she heard a gentle tapping

at the door that connected her room to Mulder’s. “Scully?”

he called.

“What’s wrong, Mulder?”

He opened the door and stuck his head in. “We’ve got to

go, Scully. I’ve just received a call from the P.D.

There’s been another killing.”

Scully took a deep breath to calm herself, as she tried to

shake off the horror of her dream. “Same M.O.?” she asked

in disbelief. “Aren’t they watching that clock tower?”

“There’s been a guard on duty since 8 p.m.,” Mulder told

her. “He didn’t see a thing until he discovered the body

this morning.”

“Who is the victim?” Scully asked.

“She didn’t have I.D. like the others. They haven’t been

able to identify her yet — the body was only discovered

half an hour ago.”

Something in Mulder’s voice made Scully turn icy cold

inside. “What aren’t you telling me, Mulder?” she asked

him.

“She… the victim was a little girl.”

**************** (by Kimberly)

2:35 p.m., April 17

A little girl.

Scully had grown accustomed to the many different masks

that death wore. She had to be, death was her livelihood.

What she couldn’t get used to — what she couldn’t shake —

was the chill that ran down her spine each time she saw a

small figure under the white autopsy sheet.

It was worse than death. It was innocence lost. Just as

the others, the victim had bled to death. Although the labs

weren’t back yet, Scully hoped that the child, at least,

wasn’t conscious for the ordeal that resulted in her death.

Scully tried to work out the kinks in her neck as she

scrubbed her hands at the steel basin, cleaning away

phantom blood from under her fingernails.

Lost in thought, she didn’t hear Mulder approach from

behind.

“Scully?”

“I’m almost done, Mulder,” she said softly.

He was tempted to ask if she was all right, but he already

knew the answer to that question. It was most assuredly not

“fine.” Even from his vantage point he could see her hands

moving fast and furious over each other, with the hard

bristled brush in between.

“Scully, if you keep that up, you’ll rub your hands raw.”

His solicitous tone only garnished a frustrated shake of

her head, but she dropped the brush and rinsed her hands.

Scully dried off her hands. “Do you have a name yet?”

“No. From what they can piece together, she was

homeless.” Again, his tone was soft, knowing the victim’s

profile simply added insult to injury.

Her eyes fell closed for a moment. She let out a heavy

sigh. “Homeless?”

Mulder nodded and chewed the inside of his lip for a

moment. “From what I understand the homeless population is

fairly moderate. The boys in blue didn’t appear too

shocked at the idea, just a little unsettled that no one

reported her missing.”

“But, Mulder, she can’t be more than eight years old;

there has to be someone out there looking for her.”

Scully’s voice took on the quiet rage that was bubbling up

inside of her. “Any belongings?”

“Yeah, but I haven’t had a chance to go through them yet.”

“Give me five minutes to change, and I’ll meet you

upstairs.” She turned away, and her tender hands quickly

grabbed her bag.

The clock ticked loudly in the quiet room as Scully

quickly stripped away the blood-sodden scrubs. Mulder

glanced at his watch as soon as he heard the soft snick of

heels on linoleum. Like clockwork, Scully rounded the

corner with 45 seconds to spare.

As soon as she reached his side, he placed his hand in

between her shoulder blades, guiding her into the small

room that the local police department offered.

Scully surveyed the pitiful pile on the center of the

table. It consisted of one battered Barbie backpack, a pair

of mismatched mittens, and a small wool blanket.

“This is it?” she asked incredulously.

“We should be damn lucky we even got this. They found it

in a trash can two blocks from the tower.”

She nodded in agreement and gingerly approached the

backpack. “I take it these came up clean?”

“As a whistle. Dusted and the only thing they found was a

partial from what looked like the child, but they couldn’t

come up with a match.”

Scully yanked the zipper open, pulling it down to obscure

Barbie’s plastic smile. The first thing she noted was the

omission of the one thing she expected –clothing. Instead

it held a box of colored pencils, worn to the nub, and a

battered sketch pad. She flipped the cover back, hoping

that the child would have written her name there, something

she had always done.

Unfortunately, the book was blank. However, the image on

the opposite page stilled her finger tips altogether.

“Scully, what is it?”

Scully said nothing as she turned the book around to show

him the page.

Although the vibrancy of the colors were lost on him, he

was nonetheless amazed. It was a perfect rendition of the

clock tower, except the trees were in bloom, and not barren

with the current winter frost.

He flipped through the pages to find portraits as well as

impressive landscapes staring back at him. They were

exquisite renderings — for anyone of any age.

“This is…” Mulder’s voice trailed off.

“Unbelievable.”

Scully was awestruck at the thought of such talent coming

out of such tiny hands — the victim’s hands. Mentally she

flipped through the profiles of the previous victims in her

head, coming up blank.

“Mulder, the other victims. Did they have any

‘abilities’?”

“Could you be more specific, Scully?”

She cocked her head to the side in thought. “I mean, when

you interviewed the families, did they mention any hobbies?

Any special talents?”

Mulder paused. “I remember reading that before she called

the police, Rick Ramee’s wife had called a local jazz club

where he played the saxophone on occasion.”

“The others?”

“Nothing I can remember — but I think it’s time we find

out.”

**************

3:15 p.m. April 17

(by Regina)

The car eased over to the side of the street and stopped

in front of a small brick building. Pulling the key out of

the ignition, Mulder slowly gave into the inevitable pull

of gravity. His head clunked against the steering wheel —

hard. He accepted the pain as a welcome diversion.

A few more thumps later and feeling completely self-

satisfied, he stepped onto the wind-blown street. A beat-up

hatchback passed dangerously close to the open car door,

whipping Mulder’s coat into a frenzy. The angry motorist

beeped, gestured and shouted mutely inside his closed car.

“Have a nice day!” Mulder called out with false gaiety as

he made his way to the entrance of the darkened

establishment. Pulling his coat straight, he checked his

watch — 4 p.m. The bar would scarcely be populated, if he

was lucky. If he was unlucky, it would be closed.

It looked like his luck wasn’t going to change — he

pushed at the door, fruitlessly. Heaving his weight against

the heavy, wooden barrier, he nearly tumbled into the dark

hallway when a strong hand opened it from the inside.

Narrowly missing the man who opened the door, Mulder

careened into the dimly lit bar.

“Can I ‘elp ya?” A thick Irish brogue filtered through the

darkness.

Maybe his luck was changing. Mulder caught his balance and

reached for his ID. The barman tensed when the agent

reached into his inner pocket.

“I’m just getting my ID.” Mulder produced it with a

practiced flourish. “We’re here investigating a series of

homicides.”

The stout gentleman relaxed and moved over to the bar,

satisfied that the tall stranger wasn’t a threat. Picking

up a worn towel, he started to wipe at the long bar’s

sparkling surface.

“You’re here about Ricky, aren’t ya?” Chucking the towel

over his shoulder, he gave an exasperated sigh.

“Mr. Ramee, yes.” Mulder eased his tall frame onto a

wobbly stool. “What can you tell me about him?”

The man ambled behind the bar, picking up items and wiping

them down. Hefting a large bottle of Jack Daniel’s, he

looked over at the agent. “I’ve already talked to the

police. Am I under suspicion, or something?”

Mulder shook his head vigorously. “Not that I know of,

sir. I just want to exhaust all possible avenues of

investigation.”

“S’alright.” He clunked the bottle down on the bar in

front of Mulder and leaned in. “I’ll let you in on a lil’

secret.”

His body pulled in by the promise of covert information,

Mulder hunkered down next to the man. “Go ahead.”

“Let me tell ya,” he said, softly. “Rick was the best sax

player this side of the Atlantic. The man should have been

a pro. But he wanted a family life. You know when you’re a

musician and you’re on the road, things happen.” The man

shook his salt-and-pepper head. “Things happen in your own

backyard, as this proves.”

“So he had a talent?” Mulder asked, his voice even.

“That boy had more than talent,” the barman replied. He

took a deep breath. “That man had a gift. His hands could

move mountains with melody.” Leaning his chin in his

crooked hand, he met Mulder’s gaze. “My people, the Irish,

we believe that people with the special gift of music are

touched. Touched by the merciful hand of God.”

************

4:35 p.m., April 17

Scully stood on the corner as the wind moved around her,

teasing her coat open and chilling her skirted legs. She

spotted Mulder’s car in the far lane of traffic and waved

him over. Cutting off a small car, he darted over to the

curb and stopped short as the slighted driver honked and

gestured futilely. She grabbed the handle and wrenched the

door open.

Plopping down inside, she looked at Mulder with a bemused

grin. “Mulder, you’re not supposed to inspire road rage on

the job.”

Easing the car back into traffic, Mulder craned his head

out of the partially opened window. “Did you see that car,

Scully?”

She clicked her seatbelt into place. “No, why?”

“It’s probably nothing,” he replied. “I just seem to be

attracting a lot of enraged drivers.”

Scully cocked her head to the side. “What are you talking

about?”

“Nothing.” His voice was distracted. “How was the Lewis

interview?”

“Oh, you’ll love this.” She flipped open her notepad.

“Rhonda Lewis was an accomplished architect. She won an

award for her redesign of one of the city’s major

attractions. Unfortunately, she was killed before the

renovations could begin.”

“Which attraction?” Mulder’s voice took on a piqued

curiosity. A yellow light flashed and he smoothly braked

the car.

Scully snapped her book shut. “The clock tower.”

(by Lara Means)

Mulder pulled a questionable and probably illegal u-turn,

earning them more honked horns, shaken fists and rude

gestures. Scully’s fingers held the dashboard in a death-

grip until they were headed in the opposite direction, then

she tossed a look at her partner.

His answering glance was all innocence. “What?”

Scully just shook her head with a sigh. “I assume we’re

going back to the clock tower.”

“Is there a manager or curator or somebody in charge there

we haven’t talked to?”

She dug through the pockets of her overcoat to find the

copy of the brochure she’d grabbed during their last visit

yesterday. “Um… the only contact listed is Claire

Bellingham, Public Relations.”

Mulder grimaced. “I hate PR people. They only tell you

what they want you to know.”

“Come on, Mulder,” Scully teased, “you know you can charm

information out of anybody.” She reached out her hand to

him, turning her palm up. “Just be sure to save some of

that charm for me.”

He smiled and took her hand, jumping slightly at the

contact. “Your hands are like ice, Scully.”

“Sorry. The gloves aren’t helping much.”

“Maybe I’ll get you a new pair for your birthday.”

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “You’re remembering my

birthday next year?”

“I remember your birthday every year.”

“We’ve been working together for more than seven years,

Mulder, and I can only recall two birthday presents — one

of which was quite late.”

“It’s the thought that counts, Scully.” Mulder gave her a

sly grin. “Didn’t you enjoy my last present? I know I did.”

Scully smiled, remembering the feel of her partner’s arms

wrapped around her that clear, late spring night. His warm

breath on her neck, his soft lips at her ear. The gentle

pressure of his hand at her hip as he pulled her body to

his. She knew he’d enjoyed her present — she could feel it

in his burgeoning arousal pressed against her backside.

She glanced at their hands, still joined on the seat

between them, and gave his a squeeze. “Yes, Mulder. I

enjoyed your gift very much.”

************

4:57 p.m.

Clock Tower Administrative Offices

They arrived at the clock tower shortly before five to

find the door to the administrative offices locked. A sign

there proclaimed office hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

They resigned themselves to coming back tomorrow, but

Mulder wanted to have another look around the clock’s inner

workings.

“How do you propose we get in there, Mulder?” Her partner

did an elaborate show of hands, like a magician doing a

trick, and produced a key. Scully smiled in spite of

herself. “Is this how you got that from your b-ball buddy,

Mr. Hodges? Sleight of hand?”

“While the hand *is* quicker than the eye, Scully, no.” He

shot her a big grin and a little wink. “I charmed it out of

him.”

Scully hid her own grin behind a shake of her head as

Mulder explained, “There are two guards on duty, they can

see us on the security monitors, and they know who we are.

Bill said it’d just be easier to give us a key.” Although

it was getting dark and the temperature was dropping,

Scully acquiesced, and they made their way up the stairs.

As Mulder examined the gears and pulleys, Scully kept her

hands shoved into her pockets and shifted from foot to foot

in an effort to keep warm. The wind whipped around her

legs, and she found herself desperately wishing she’d worn

slacks.

“Mulder, I’ve been thinking about the victims.”

“What about them?” echoed his voice from somewhere within

the metal.

“The bodies were all frozen after death, then placed

inside the clock tower building and discovered within an

hour or two after that.”

“Right…”

Scully exhaled, saw her breath vaporize in front of her

face, then licked her chapped lips. “I may have made a

mistake in estimating time of death.

Mulder’s head emerged from slightly below her, and he

climbed the short ladder up to the landing where she stood.

“Scully, you don’t make mistakes. Not about this stuff.”

“Nevertheless…” she mumbled, feeling as if she’d let him

down. He joined her and she stared at his shoes as she

spoke. “I think I may have been unduly influenced by the

preliminary reports. By what they *said* was the time of

death, based on when the clock was stopped.”

She felt Mulder’s fingers under her chin as he tilted her

face up to meet his. “Why are you doubting yourself now?”

“Forensic Pathology 101 — a body cools at approximately

one and a half degrees per hour, *if* the external

conditions are stable. A body decomposes more rapidly in

warm temperatures, less rapidly when it’s cold. That’s why

they’re kept refrigerated in the morgue, to forestall

decomposition.”

“So it’s been cold. That would throw off time of death by,

what, a few hours?”

Scully shook her head. “The indoor air temperatures

recorded when the bodies were discovered tend to support

the original estimates, but…” She took a deep breath and

steeled herself, then looked up into his eyes. “Mulder,

these bodies were frozen post-mortem, then placed inside a

heated building, where they would partially thaw before

being discovered. Since we don’t know the bodies’

temperatures when they were placed here, an accurate

estimate of time of death is almost impossible under these

conditions. You said the first victim, Ramee, was found

three days after his wife reported him missing — he

could’ve been killed that first night and kept frozen until

the murderer placed the body here.”

Mulder nodded slightly and moved away from her, chewing

absently on his lower lip as he frequently did when the

wheels were turning. He reminded her of the inner workings

of this clock in that way – the gears of his mind working

to puzzle out a solution. He turned back to his partner,

thoughtful, then spoke.

“And just because the clock was stopped at 2:04, that

doesn’t mean the body was dumped then, does it?” Mulder

looked into the clock works and glanced at what appeared to

be a control panel on the far side of the tower. “It’s the

middle of the night, right? The body could’ve been dumped

any time after the building was locked up, the clock

stopped, and the hands reset to 2:04.”

Scully gave her partner a tiny smile. She loved watching

his mind at work. “That sounds plausible.” He returned the

smile as hers faded. “Does this mean we’re back to square

one?”

Mulder shook his head, returning to stand in front of her,

close to her. “I think it means we’re on the right track.”

A gust of wind blasted through the tower, and Scully

shivered — although her reaction wasn’t entirely caused by

the wind. “Still cold?” he asked, and she nodded. He gave

her a seductive little grin and opened his overcoat. “Let’s

see what we can do about that.”

She slipped her arms around him, giggling silently at his

gasp when her hands touched his back. “Definitely gloves

for your birthday,” he murmured as she snuggled against his

chest. Mulder wrapped both his arms and his coat around

her, shielding her small body from the cold.

They stood there together, dimly registering the setting

sun and the passage of time. Scully listened to his heart

beating, strong and steady. She ran her hands up and down

his back, enjoying the feel of his smooth, toned muscles.

Mulder’s arms tightened around her, and one hand snaked up

to bury itself in her windblown hair. She tilted her head

back to look at him, and he smiled.

“Better?”

“Much,” she whispered, returning his smile. He stared into

her eyes for a long moment, then watched as they drifted

shut when he leaned in close. Another shiver ran through

her as his lips touched just the corner of her mouth…

But they both froze at the sound of a shotgun being pumped

behind them.

clip_image002

ACT III

(by SueBee)

Scully barely had time to register the sensation of

Mulder’s lips brushing against her mouth, when she heard

the pumping click of the shotgun.

They both froze, their faces barely an inch apart. In a

matter of seconds, clear gazes locked, decisions were made,

and promises were put on hold.

The comforting warmth that had infused them and enveloped

them, vanished in the icy wind when they drew apart.

Slowly, they turned toward the intrusive sound.

A large, hulking man stood before them. Scully had

guessed he was at least three inches taller than Mulder,

and layers of winter clothing did nothing to hide his

muscularity. A dark, cotton knit mask covered his face. The

hood allowed for some anonymity, but something in his eyes

appeared strangely familiar.

He pointed the shotgun at them and volleyed his aim back

and forth between Mulder and Scully. The beginning of a

smile quirked his lips as he drawled, “It looks like I get

to kill two love birds with one stone.”

Scully chanced a sideways look at Mulder. If her partner

was anxious, he was hiding it very well.

Mulder raised his hands, palm up.

“Hey, we knew the clock tower was closed, but if we’d

known security was this tight in Philly, we would have been

happy to come back tomorrow.”

Scully stared at the genuine beauty of Mulder’s elegant

fingers when they extended in a placating gesture. Her

viewpoint then shifted to the gunman’s hands. They were

encased in black leather, but she could make out the

partial flattening of one of his gloves. It was what she

had feared. Someone imperfect was seeking and slicing away

perfection in others. He was missing three fingers from his

right hand.

At that moment Scully felt oddly territorial and fiercely

protective. She wanted Mulder to put his hands away.

Almost as an offering, Scully raised her own hands to get

the assailant’s attention.

“Look, sir, this is just a misunderstanding. We’re Agents

Mulder and Scully from the FBI. If you’ll just let me pull

out my ID…”

She went for her identification before the gunman stopped

her.

“I know who you are, Dr. Scully. I hear you solve the

unsolvable, all with a few instruments and those delicate

little hands of yours.”

Scully felt the chill begin in her fingertips and race

down her hands. The sensation locked itself in a frozen

knot in her stomach.

Mulder looked carefully at Scully and back to the gunman,

whose eyes had shifted no higher than her raised hands. In

an effort to get the man to stop staring at her, Mulder

stated, “Well, we’re at a disadvantage here. You know us,

but I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of an

introduction.”

The knot in Scully’s stomach took another twist when she

heard, “Excuse my manners. You can just call me ‘Father

Time.'”

(by Marty)

Apparently satisfied with the impression he’d made with

his introduction, time stood still as Mulder and Scully

stood before the intruder contemplating their next move.

Mulder watched the man’s eyes for any hint that he’d make a

move toward him or Scully. When he did, Mulder was going to

lunge for the man’s mid-section and knock the shotgun from

his grasp. It was risky, but he knew Scully would take the

opportunity to pull her gun to subdue their suspect and

take him into custody.

They didn’t get the chance. The man looked from Scully’s

hands to Mulder’s eyes, gesturing with the barrel of the

shotgun for the handsome agent to step back against the

inside wall and away from his female counterpart. A

commotion of voices and footsteps grew loud as two unarmed

security guards burst up out of the stairwell and onto the

landing.

Father Time whirled to face the intrusion and fired,

sending a close range blast of buckshot into the chest and

stomach of one of the guards, and sending the shooter

reeling from the backfire against the public barrier just

next to the clock’s rim.

Mulder lunged at him, but missed grabbing his legs as the

burly man jumped the railing and hefted himself up through

the open colonnade and onto the face of the building.

Mulder scrambled to his feet in pursuit and climbed through

the opening onto the narrow stone ledge, heedless of the

fact that one misstep would drop him over 100 feet to the

ground below.

Scully rushed to the colonnade, wedging herself between

the railing and the base of the columns enabling her to

grab her partner by the shoulders while he steadied himself

and turned to face her.

Their rapid breathing vaporized between them and mingled

as they stood so close, face to face. Scully didn’t want to

let go, but she did, because they both knew the job came

first. “He’s headed for the roof. Take care of the guard.

I’ll be back,” Mulder assured his partner and he let go.

“I’ll call for backup.” Scully’s voice was all business,

but her eyes couldn’t hide her worry. As she pulled her

cell phone from her pocket and dialed 911, she watched

Mulder begin to inch his way across the ledge and across

the face of the clock. The hooded man was nowhere in sight.

Mulder followed, quickly fading into the darkness.

The second security guard came up behind the agent just as

she finished the call. “Bill’s dead! He’s got a hole clear

through him. We rushed up right when we saw you two on the

security cameras, and now Bill’s dead!”

“There’s an ambulance on the way. I’m sorry about your

friend. Did you see the gunman come up the stairs, also?”

“Naw, we only saw you two and came running, but the

cameras probably caught the killer. He’ll be on the tape.

He must have gone up the stairs when we were leaving the

office.” The guard was still obviously shaken, but Scully

had more to do than settle his jitters. Confirming that

there was nothing she could do for the man on the floor,

Scully told the guard to wait with the body for the

paramedics and rushed back to the ledge to check on Mulder.

“MULDER!”

She grabbed the columns on either side of her and used

them as leverage to hop almost high enough to go out the

opening. Another try would do it.

“Scully!” She whirled around to find an exhausted Mulder,

dropping back into the tower from another opening on the

far side of the clock.

“Where’d he go?” Her voice was high and thin when she ran

over to her partner and steadied him by the arm as he

caught his breath.

Mulder threw his arm around her for support, weighing down

her little frame. “I don’t know,” he panted. “I only saw

one way to get up to the roof, but I never saw him. There

must have been another way.”

“Maybe one of the back-up units will see something on the

street.” She grabbed Mulder’s hands and noted the cuts and

abrasions he got while climbing along the outside of the

tower. “We’ve got to get these looked at. The paramedics

are on the way. Mulder, your hands are frozen!”

The worry in her voice was obvious only to him, and as he

turned to stand on his own, he couldn’t help smirking at

her even though he was tired and winded. “Cold hands, warm

heart, Scully.”

He knew she knew he had caught her like a deer caught in

the headlights. She gazed up at him — to his warm hazel

eyes and beautiful full lips, feeling the urge to touch

them, but instead dropped his hands, thankfully turning her

attention to the paramedics coming up the stairs. This was

not the time or the place to be having this conversation.

Following the paramedics down the stairs with the dead

security guard, both agents worried about the threat Father

Time had made against them. Mulder was sure the killer was

going to focus his next threat on Scully. Scully was sure

the man would come after Mulder. The drive back to their

motel that night was uncomfortably silent.

***********

(by Laurie Haynes)

Somewhere in suburban Philadelphia

Father Time slammed the door of his house behind him. He

was breathing heavily from his narrow escape. He pulled off

his gloves and rubbed the three stumps that were all that

were left of the fingers of his right hand.

He grabbed a glass from the cupboard and poured a shot of

bourbon which he drained in a gulp that burned all the way

down. He poured another and went to sit down in his living

room, surrounded by his beloved clocks that he had

collected over the years. It was approaching the top of the

hour and he loved to hear them chime or cuckoo the time.

The top of the hour came and every clock in the house that

was made to do so, announced the time. Father Time took a

sip of his whiskey and tears ran down his face. He picked

up his favorite, a small grandfather clock and stroked it

stiffly with his intact left hand.

“You’re not sounding so good, Little Grandfather. I’m so

sorry I can’t tune you like I should.”

The oilfield accident that had taken his right hand’s

three fingers when a liquid nitrogen valve burst open and

spewed into his gloves, had also caused nerve damage to the

left hand. No longer did he have the fine motor skills

necessary for working on his beautiful clocks.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. Those people bragged

about their gifts when they used to come to him to fix

their clocks or to buy antique clocks he had restored.

After his accident, he couldn’t bear the looks of pity and

the whispering behind his back.

And his former friends in the Philadelphia Clock Society

were the worst of all. They had banned him from helping the

engineers restore the clock in the tower. And after he had

helped raise the funds — and contributed no small amount

from his own paychecks — to fix it. Oh, sure, they claimed

it was just that they didn’t want him to get hurt around

that machinery, but he knew the truth. They didn’t want a

cripple around their precious clock. Just because he didn’t

have the motor skills anymore to work on it didn’t mean he

didn’t know that clock like his own home.

Everywhere he went, it was the same thing — people would

stare at his maimed hand.

He recalled the day his girlfriend Sherri had told him she

was leaving. It had been a rough day of physical therapy

and he had come home to find her packing her clothes.

“Where are you going?”

“Away. I’m sorry, but I can’t handle this anymore. And all

your creditors have been calling wanting money.”

He reached out and touched her arm to plead his case.

She shied back and shivered. “Don’t touch me! It creeps me

out when you do that!”

“Sherri, babe, don’t be this way. I’m still the same man.”

She shook her head. “I want a whole man, not a cripple,

and I want a man who makes good money — like you used to.”

Father Time brushed away his tears with the sleeve of his

shirt as he returned to the present. He’d show her. He’d

show them all. He’d already taken care of the three adults

who had been his customers. And the little girl — she’d

made him furious the way she would make a face every time

she saw his hand.

He got up to get another glass of whiskey from the

kitchen. Opening his freezer, he pulled out eight plastic

bags. He pulled the severed hands out and began stroking

them with his right hand. With his left, he unzipped his

pants and reached inside to take hold of himself.

Father Time moaned in delight as waves of pleasure moved

through him. When he was through, he cleaned himself up and

put the hands back in the freezer.

Eight hands. He needed four more, one for each numeral on

the clock. He was saving Sherri for last, so he had to

decide who would be next.

He remembered the redheaded FBI agent and her partner.

From reading about them in the paper, he knew she was a

doctor. She had the hands for it — small, beautiful and

nimble. Of course, he’d have to take out her partner, too,

but that would be a real pleasure. He went to his closet

and pulled out his Army surplus rifle with the infrared

scope. He’d had a gunsmith mount the scope, and told the

smith he wanted to use it for hunting deer. The rifle was

just one part of his small arsenal. He began to clean it

and adjust the sights.

**********************

(by Marty)

Motel 8

9:15 a.m., April 18

The next morning, Mulder knocked on Scully’s motel room

door, ready to go back to the clock tower and search in

daylight. The agents were meeting the clock tower’s

security chief and Detective Michaels, from the Philly

P.D., to go over the events surrounding Father Time’s

attack. When Scully answered her door, she had her cell

phone pressed to her ear.

“Okay, well, thanks, if you locate Mr. Malloy, would you

please have him call me right away at the number I gave

you?” She nodded. “Okay, um, thanks again.” Scully ended

the call. Her bright blue eyes sparkled as she repeated her

telephone conversation to Mulder.

“I’m trying to reach Steve Malloy, Tina Rodriguez’

boyfriend. He was supposed to be returning to Houston with

her body for her funeral; but according to his father, he

hasn’t left Philadelphia yet. I’m hoping he might tell us

what might have been special about Tina’s hands.”

Mulder matched her enthusiasm for the puzzle with his own.

“Father Time is stalking these victims, Scully, because

they all exhibit a particular gift that they can do with

their hands — Rick Ramee, because he played a mean

saxophone; Rhonda Lewis, because she was a talented

architect; and the little homeless girl, because she drew

beautiful pictures. I’m sure Tina’s boyfriend will confirm

she was gifted also.”

“But why them, Mulder? As far as we’ve been able to tell,

these people had no connection to one another at all.” The

furrow in Scully’s brow deepened as she struggled to make a

connection.

“Maybe the connection is with Father Time. Maybe they each

had something he lost, or something he wanted.” Mulder

paced the room, unconsciously touching Scully’s belongings,

one by one, until he returned to face her in the center of

the room.

“Did you notice his hands?” Mulder nodded he did and

waited listened for more. “It would seem fairly obvious

that a man missing three fingers might have a fixation for

the hands of other people — in this case, seemingly gifted

people.”

“Yeah, but it begs the question, Scully. What is he doing

with the hands he takes?” The agents paused while a dozen

morbid thoughts raced through their minds.

“I don’t know, but I’ve got a bad feeling we’re going to

find out soon enough.” Scully shrugged on her suit jacket

while Mulder handed her her coat.

“And it should be easy enough to find a man missing three

fingers from his right hand in this town. C’mon, are you

ready? We’ve got to get back to the clock tower.” Mulder

was already half way down the hall before Scully grabbed

her phone and her keys and locked the door behind her.

*************

The news media were already circling for their story when

Mulder and Scully drove up to the building at 9:30 am.

Mulder side-stepped a cameraman and reporter who tried to

block their way, while managing to flash his badge and lift

the police tape for Scully and him to pass under at the

same time. They met the head of security and the police

detective in the security office for a short debriefing.

The video tape from last night had turned up nothing. The

gunman wasn’t on the tape entering the door to the building

or on the stairs leading to the clock tower landing. He

didn’t appear on the tape until he was suddenly on the

observation deck holding a shotgun on Mulder and Scully. It

was as though he appeared out of thin air. When they

finished the meeting, the agents continued on alone up to

the clock tower observation deck.

There were no obvious clues. Other than the blood stains

left by the dead security guard, and some scattered

buckshot and powder residue near the body’s outline, there

appeared to be nothing else other than the usual dirt and

debris that typically collects on porches or balconies,

including some leaves and needles swept in by the wind from

the surrounding trees. Scully took out her flashlight and

walked into the darker recesses of the area, back to the

other side of the clock from where the guard was shot.

Mulder was anxious to get back out onto the ledge to see

if he could find the path the killer took when he

disappeared, but he was hesitant to leave Scully alone on

the observation deck. Not when he knew that Father Time

could appear out of nowhere.

In the darkest corner, Scully waved her flashlight over

the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. Finally, something

caught her eye, or rather the lack of something. The floor

along the back wall was surprisingly free of dust and

debris. Everywhere else Scully had searched, the floor was

stained with the residual effects of weather and the wear

and tear caused by tourists trampling over the area in high

volume. In this one area, however, it appeared to be

freshly cleaned.

Scully pensively paced along the wall, noting the size and

shape of the area that interested her. “Mulder, look at

this…” As Mulder approached, she swept the area with the

beam of her flashlight and pointed to the floor.

“What do you see?”

“It’s more like what I don’t see.” She indicated an arc

emanating from one side of the wall, extending toward the

center of the room, culminating on the other side of the

wall. “It’s like someone wiped away the dirt from this

center point here, with a large implement,” indicating the

exact center. “Yet there aren’t any marks on the floor that

would indicate that. It’s too clean.”

“Well, can you figure out what might have caused it?”

Mulder had all the faith in the world that she would. Once

she latched onto a puzzle, it was very rare that she didn’t

solve it.

Taking a small knife from her coat, Scully stooped to

scrape any material that might be on the floor into an

evidence bag. Mulder, recognizing that she was fully

concentrated on her task, returned to the colonnade and the

clock, looking for any clue that might indicate how the

gunman had gotten away.

Grasping one column, half determined to jump back out onto

the ledge, Mulder stilled when he heard the faintest sound,

a drip…hiss, very close by. He waited for the next, but

was more than surprised when a drop hit the cuff of his

shirt sleeve. He jerked his arm back in reflex and looked

at what had hit him. Then he touched it.

The pure revulsion he felt resonated in his voice with a

loud “Yeeeuch!”

“What did you find?” Scully approached her partner with a

wary eye, wanting to know if he had found anything

pertinent to the case, yet eager to keep her distance if it

was unpleasant.

“Pigeon shit.”

Scully was more than amused by the disgusted look on

Mulder’s face, but chose to not to make matters worse by

laughing while he attempted to fling the drippy white goo

from his hand. “You really have to start taking my advice

and stop putting your fingers into everything you find,

Mulder. One of these days it’s going to be something you

can’t shake off.” Years of experience with this man had

taught Scully to be prepared. She reached into her pocket

and produced a foil wrapped moist towelette left over from

the previous night’s Chinese dinner.

Quietly grateful that his partner was so good at second

guessing him, he accepted the offer and took the package

from her fingers. He looked down at her bemused face,

regarding her with affection while he cleaned his shirt

sleeve.

At that moment, the perpetrator — the offending pigeon,

and a few of his closest family members, flew out from the

clock works over Mulder’s head. The agents ducked, fearing

that the first splat wouldn’t be the last. When the

feathers cleared, they stood back up and realized where the

gunman might have gone — into the clock.

Mulder craned his neck around the clock’s rim, shining his

flashlight upwards to see from where the birds had come.

“There’s stuff up there, Scully.” Mulder stretched through

the colonnade to see more, but he couldn’t quite make

anything out. But there was definitely more up there than

just birds.

Scully grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back

inside. “What do you think you’re doing? You aren’t going

to go back out there without some equipment. You won’t do

yourself or this investigation any good if you get yourself

killed.”

“I’ve got to find a way up there,” Mulder indicated the

higher reaches of the clock works. “Didn’t Detective

Michaels tell us that there was an assistant engineer on

the tower renovation project who worked with Rhonda Lewis

before her murder?”

“What are you going to do?” Scully clearly understood that

Mulder had a plan.

“I’m going to ask him to get me up there. I want to find

out what’s behind this clock.”

***********

About an hour later, Jack Adams, now the senior engineer

and architect on the clock tower restoration project, met

Mulder and Scully on the observation deck with a small,

portable scaffold. The two men were able to maneuver the

contraption next to the clock works at a height even with

the actual clock stem and climbed up to peer into the works

with a flashlight. The engineer stayed on the ground,

seemingly to chat up the pretty red haired agent.

“Rhonda was really gifted when it came to renovating and

preserving these old historical monuments, Miss Scully. Did

you know this tower dates from just after the Revolutionary

War? In fact, this clock was a gift from the people of

France to commemorate their independence from the French

king in 1789. It was one of the clocks from the Bastille.

You know, the place where they locked away all those

prisoners.”

The man rambled on while Scully watched Mulder poke deeper

into the recesses of the clock. “That’s an interesting

highlight in history, Mr. Adams, but …” Intently, Scully

shone her flashlight under Mulder’s shoulder to help light

the area.

“Oh yeah, you hear all sorts of these stories when you

work in these old buildings. Well, I could tell you

stories…”

“I’m sure you could, Mr. Adams, but…what is it, Mulder?”

Scully stepped forward trying to get a better look.

Mulder didn’t respond, but it was clear that he was

amazed. It wasn’t easy to amaze Mulder, but there it was —

the glint from a sharp angular blade, hidden behind the

gears and obviously not part of the clock. It was part of a

small guillotine jammed behind the clock gears and out of

the way of the moving parts. He reached in to tug at the

device, but it was wedged in tight.

“Hey, Jack, can you give me a hand here?” Mulder reached

down to help Jack Adams scale the scaffold and steadied him

as he climbed higher up to get a different angle of

approach. When Adams stuck his upper torso down into the

clock works to grab at the guillotine, he saw something

else.

“Mr. Mulder!” Mulder turned to look up at the engineer

just in time to see him pull a thick steel-mesh hose with a

heavy nozzle from atop the highest gear. Following the hose

with the beam from his flashlight, Mulder discovered that

the hose was connected to a very large silver cannister,

marked “Liquid Nitrogen,” which was also mounted high in

the clock behind the gears.

He turned his head to see Scully, who was anxious to learn

what he saw. He smiled thinly and shook his head in

astonishment. The puzzle pieces were falling into place. As

one more piece aligned itself in Mulder’s mind, he met

Scully’s eyes and said, “There’s liquid nitrogen up here,

Scully. Father Time has been bringing his victims right

here, to this tower, amputating their hands, allowing them

to bleed to death and flash freezing them here so he could

display them down in the foyer days later.” He thought for

a moment. “But why isn’t there any blood evidence? The

victims bled to death. Even if he was Mr. Clean, there

should be trace evidence from the victims.”

“Not necessarily.” Scully shone her flashlight back into

the corners of the observation deck as she returned to the

clean spot on the floor, thinking aloud. “One of the

properties of liquid nitrogen is that it doesn’t like to

stick to other elements. Instead, it pushes them away. That

would account for why the floor over here is so much

cleaner than the rest. If the killer was spraying the area –

– the victims — with liquid nitrogen, it would freeze the

human tissue, the blood, everything and blow the small

particles away. There’s enough wind up here to remove the

evidence in a few minute’s time. We might find some traces

on the ground surrounding the building, though.” She was

puzzled as she turned to face Mulder again. “But it would

take a lot of liquid nitrogen and prolonged exposure to

freeze a human body. A lot of it.”

“It’s a pretty big canister, Scully.” He felt he might

know the answer, but he wanted to hear her say it.

“No, there has to be another source somewhere, otherwise

how would he replenish his supply for each victim? We’ve

got to find the source. When we do, we might find the

killer.” The partners resolved on their next course of

action without speaking. Thanking Jack Adams for his

assistance, they made ready to leave the premises when

Scully’s cell phone chirped out a call.

It was Tina Rodriguez’ boyfriend calling. “Thank you for

returning my call, Mr. Malloy. I was hoping you could

answer one more question we have concerning Miss Rodriguez.

Uh huh… Did Tina have any hobbies or special skills where

she might be considered talented? Uh huh… That helps us

very much, sir. Yes. Thank you for your time.” She stopped

their progress down the stairs by touching Mulder’s arm and

stopping herself as she ended the call.

“I just found out what the third victim did that might

make her interesting to our killer, Mulder,” Scully said,

using a voice that sounded ever so proud that she made

another connection. Mulder’s face softened when he heard

that coy competitive lilt to her voice, secretly loving it

when she showed him hers after he showed her his.

“What’s that, Scully?”

“Tina was a concert pianist. Her boyfriend just told me

she was hired by the Philadelphia Symphony to be their new

soloist. He says she was quite gifted.” Scully turned and

continued on down the stairs with Mulder in tow.

Mulder followed his partner, considering the evidence.

“Gifted…It seems like this is one attribute you don’t

want to have in this case, Scully, to be gifted.”

*****************

Clock Tower

4:30 p.m., April 18

(by Laurie Haynes)

Scully stood beside Mulder as the forensic techs

meticulously went over the gear room, searching for any

evidence that might help catch the killer.

Mulder rubbed his chin in thought. “Well, there’s not any

kind of container here big enough to hold a person, so he

must have killed them elsewhere, frozen them in the

nitrogen and then brought them to the tower, where he

sprayed them again right before taking them to the foot of

the tower. That explains why we found no blood at the

scene.”

“But if the guillotine is the murder weapon, there should

be blood here.”

“Good point. Any thoughts on that?”

“Maybe it isn’t the murder weapon after all. Maybe it’s a

decoy to keep us from looking for another murder site.”

“Could be,” Mulder agreed. “You know, I’ve seen big tanker

trucks carrying liquid nitrogen. Surely, something that big

would be easy to spot.”

“Well, if you have an LN generator, you don’t need a big

tanker. A generator could easily fit in a room.”

“OK, then,” said Mulder. “We check out companies who have

sold such generators — or places that have them to produce

their own LN. One thing, though.”

“What’s that?”

“How is he getting the bodies here without being detected?

The police have been watching the clock tower, but the

killer still gets by them.”

Scully drew her coat closer around her and shivered.

Mulder put his arm around her and drew her to him. “C’mon.

Let’s leave the techs to it and go to the motel and get

something hot to drink.”

“You buying? I’m freezing,”

Mulder chuckled lasciviously. “I’ll warm you up. First,

you can change into something more comfortable…”

Scully laughed and punched him on the arm. But she didn’t

draw away.

They walked like that to their car, never realizing that a

pair of eyes, out in the night, followed them.

******************

Motel 8

6 p.m. April 18

Both agents hit the showers after returning to the motel.

Scully luxuriated in the hot streaming water, shampooing

her hair and ridding herself of the memory of the odor of

the victims she had autopsied.

But nothing could wash away the memory in her head of the

little girl with the severed hands.

As Mulder showered, he turned the case over in his head.

Since the hands were severed and not left with the body, it

seemed likely that Father Time was a fetishist. From his

nickname and the site of the crime, it could easily be

inferred the man also had a thing for clocks. A clockmaker?

Or repairman? Mulder decided to have the police check the

local jewelers.

He sighed. In a city the size of Philadelphia, that would

take a while. He shut off the water and grabbed a towel,

drying himself, then wrapping it around his waist. Walking

out of the bathroom, he sat on the bed and picked up the

phone. Mulder first called the Philadelphia police

detective assigned to the case to ask him to check out area

jewelers and suppliers of liquid nitrogen and LN

generators. Though they hadn’t seen Father Time’s face, his

size and the lack of fingers were identifying marks in

themselves.

Mulder hung up, then dialed Scully’s room.”Dinner’s on me.

What do you want?”

“I’m tired of pizza. Is there a deli nearby that delivers?

I’d love a corned beef sandwich and a cup of soup.”

“Sounds good to me. Lemme call them. When you’re dressed,

come on over and we’ll talk about the case. I’ve got some

ideas I want to run by you.”

Mulder looked in the Yellow Pages and found a deli that

was open late and also delivered. He ordered a Philly steak

sandwich for himself, the corned beef for Scully and two

cups of the soup of the day.

Within 15 minutes, he heard a knock at the door and Scully

saying, “It’s me, Mulder.”

He opened the door and invited her in. She was dressed in

flannel pajamas and a heavy terrycloth robe. Mulder himself

had donned a clean sweatshirt and sweat pants.

“Food should be here pretty soon. I made coffee, want some?”

“Please.”

He poured two cups he’d made with the small coffee maker

provided by the motel. He handed one to Scully and she

wrapped both her hands around it.

“…so obviously, this guy gets off on clocks,” Mulder

concluded and told her about asking local police to check

out jewelers and liquid nitrogen suppliers.

“Not to mention, this specific clock,” Scully added.

“Right,” agreed Mulder. “What’s the deal with that?”

“We should probably check out any organizations connected

with the clock tower.”

Mulder nodded. “It seems pretty obvious, from the taking

of the hands, that Mr. Time is a fetishist. It’s likely he

gets a sexual thrill from the killings and/or the removal

of the hands.”

“Did you notice his fingers were missing on his right hand?”

“Yep. Got an APB out for a big guy with three fingers

missing. But it’s a large city.”

She sat down on the bed opposite the one he had been lying

on.

“Then there’s the angle of him going after gifted people,”

she said. “But how does he know they’re gifted unless he

somehow knows them? There’s got to be something else in

common.”

“Yeah, we’ll have to go around to each of the victims’

homes and try to identify anything in common.”

A knock came on the door.

“Must be our food,” Mulder said, grabbing up his wallet

from the bedside table where it sat beside his holstered

gun.

He first peeked through the curtains to make sure it was

the delivery boy, then opened the door.

“That’ll be $18.52,” said the boy.

“For sandwiches and soup?”

The boy rolled his eyes. “Plus the delivery fee.”

“Just pay him, Mulder, and shut that door! You’re letting

all the cold air in.”

“OK, OK,” he replied and gave the kid a $20 bill. “Keep

the change.”

The delivery boy pocketed the money and moved away from

the door to return to his car, parked over to the right of

the room.

Mulder fumbled with the bags, trying to shut the door.

As he did, he heard a loud crack of gunfire and almost

immediately felt something strike him in the shoulder —

hard — throwing him to the floor and leaving him

breathless.

“Mulder!” Scully cried and instinctively grabbed his gun

as she dove for the floor. There was a screech of tires and

somebody peeled out of the parking lot — whether it was

the delivery boy or the shooter, she didn’t know just then.

She crawled over to Mulder and slammed the door shut. With

her free hand, she felt for a pulse and found it —

thready, but there.

Scully grabbed a towel Mulder had thrown on the bed.

Wadding it up, she pressed it against the bullet wound in

his shoulder. Reaching her hand under him, she felt for an

exit wound and found it.

Mulder groaned as she applied pressure.

Someone began pounding on the door. “Hey, you guys all

right in there?”

It was the delivery boy.

She opened the door, grabbed him and pulled him down.

“The shooter could still be out there.”

The boy’s eyes widened and his face paled. “I didn’t think

about that. I figured that was him that took off out of

here.”

“Probably, but we don’t know for sure. Look, I’m an FBI

agent and this is my partner. He’s been shot. I want you to

call 911 and tell them ‘officer down’ and give them our

location. I’ve got to take care of Mulder.”

The boy did as instructed.

“Hang on, Mulder,” Scully whispered to him.

“Followed…us,” Mulder muttered.

“No shit, Sherlock. Now be quiet. An ambulance is on the

way and you’re going to be fine.”

Truth was, she was very concerned about the amount of

blood he was losing and only hoped an artery hadn’t been

hit.

“‘K, Scully. Scully?”

“Yes?”

“You … all right?”

“Fine, Mulder, I wasn’t the one that was shot.”

“Careful.”

She heard the sirens as the ambulance and the police

pulled up outside the motel room.

Within minutes, the EMTs had Mulder strapped to a

stretcher with an oxygen mask over his face and an IV

running to replace fluid volume. They started to roll him

out to the ambulance.

Mulder clumsily reached up and moved the oxygen mask.

“Scully!”

She was beside him in a moment. “I’m right here, Mulder,

I’m going with you.”

He reached out his hand to her and she took it in her own.

His skin was clammy and cold, not at all like the warmth he

normally radiated.

(by Paige Caldwell)

“Sorry, Miss,” one of the EMTs apologized as he detained

her from climbing into the back of the ambulance. “There’s

no room for passengers.”

“I’m not a passenger,” Scully replied in a determined

voice. “I’m a doctor. His doctor.”

“Do you always make house calls in your pajamas?” the EMT

asked, giving her a dubious look.

“Depends on the patient,” she responded evenly. “Look,

I’m packing more than just latex in my robe pocket. I’m a

federal agent and this man is my partner. If you won’t let

me treat him, then at least let me protect him.”

“I don’t know,” the EMT paused. “It’s against protocol.”

“Against protocol? That will suit him just fine,” she

commented, turning her attention to her partner who was now

writhing on the gurney. He was frantically tearing at the

straps, grappling with the other EMT who was trying to

restrain him.

“Mulder, what is it?” she tried to reach his outstretched

hand, not understanding why he was so agitated.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the flash of light

even before she heard the explosion of gunfire. The blast

shattered the windshield of the police car, the bullet

puncturing the larynx of the officer inside. He had been

on the radio, calling for back-up while the EMTs moved

Mulder towards the ambulance. None of them had seen the

killer return. No one, except Mulder, who was strapped on

a gurney gasping for breath.

“Scully,” he wheezed. “Get down…”

Dropping to her knees, Scully pressed up against the

bumper of the vehicle and reached inside her pocket for her

gun. Her eyes scanned the perimeter of the parking lot

for the sniper. She couldn’t see him. The only person in

her line of vision was the EMT, who suddenly held up his

hands.

“Don’t shoot me…” he cried.

Behind the door of the ambulance was the Father Time, his

gun leveled to blow a hole through the EMT’s chest. Through

the broken window, he spied Scully and waved her out with a

jerk of his rifle. When she hesitated, her hand still

clenched around the cold metal of her gun, the killer

snapped.

“Time’s up, Dr. Scully. Just lift those pretty, little

hands where I can see `em, nice and slow.”

Scully glanced at the EMT who resembled a deer caught in

headlights. He was petrified, unmoving, incapable of

dodging a bullet at close range. Forcing herself to stay

calm, she relaxed her grip on her gun and lifted her hand

from her pocket.

“You’re in complete control,” she told the killer,

carefully reciting the FBI’s script for hostage

negotiation. Now was the time for protocol, for complete

adherence to the Bureau’s modes and practices.

“Damn straight, I am,” Father Time retorted, “I choose the

moment rather than let it choose me.”

“You can also choose between life and death,” Scully

responded in a modulated tone. “One man is already dead.

Now, you can choose life. The man inside the ambulance is

in need of medical attention. Please let me help him.”

“Can you help this?” Father Time demanded, wriggling his

stumps of withered flesh before her eyes. “Dr. Scully,

have you been touched by the hand of God?

Scully cringed away from the man’s sordid breath, his

words summoning a face from her past. She no longer saw

Father Time, but Donnie Pfaster. No wonder her hands were

so cold. From the onset of this investigation, she had

felt the chill of her past. It wasn’t just a foreshadowing

of another monster or a similar pattern of atrocities. It

was the memory of her hands, frozen around her gun. It was

time standing still while her finger pulled the trigger,

again and again…

“Hand of God?” she said in a quivering voice. “No, not

this time.”

“Ten hands, Dr. Scully. I only need two more to complete

the numbers of the clock.”

“Ten?” she gasped.

“I’ve already made a little house call of my own, doctor.

You may have stolen my guillotine, but Sherri managed to

lend me a hand, anyway.”

Stunned, she listened to the killer continue.

“I only need two more to complete the numbers of the

clock. With each pair, I’ve collected talent and dexterity.

With Sherri’s hands, I’ve severed my past. With your

hands, I’ll be able to graft my future.”

“I wouldn’t count on it…” she commented, averting her

head from his whiskey-laden breath.

Father Time snickered, his gaze fixed on her trembling

hands. Scully felt a cold sweat break across her skin, far

more chilling than the frosty, night air. The expression

on his face suggested more than just the threat of a sudden

gun blast. He was visually measuring the span of her

fingers as if each severed digit promised him hours of

pleasure.

“Yeah, you’ll do just fine,” the killer murmured, licking

his lips with sadistic delight. Gun still pointed at the

EMT, he reached out and yanked Scully towards him. When

she opened her mouth to speak, he clamped his disfigured

hand over her mouth.

Scully fought for breath, trying not to gag at the putrid

smell of rifle grease mixed with semen. Bile was

regurgitating from her empty stomach, clogging her throat

and suffocating her reason. Over the stubs of gnarled

flesh, her eyes strained towards the ambulance. She could

see Mulder tearing out the IV line, his breath clouding the

oxygen mask with frantic white bursts.

Scully knew that Mulder would fight past shock and pain to

help her. His heart, in danger of arrhythmia, was trying

to jump-start his body into action. She needed to stop his

alarm before it stopped him. The warmth of his love would

not be spent in the few seconds of a desperate act.

She wouldn’t allow Father Time to choose Mulder’s moment,

any more than she would let Pfaster’s memory defeat her.

Instantly, her mind shifted gears. It was time to wind

down the fetishist with the fine motor skills of his

perversion. Parting her lips, she used the tip of her

tongue to trace a circular pattern into his palm. She knew

that the clockwise motion would stimulate more than just

his curiosity.

Just as she knew that her hands were cold for a reason.

When Father Time groaned with delight, Scully made her

move. She quickly slid her fingers into the pocket of her

robe. The chill of her skin reacted instantly with the

cold metal of her gun, freezing intent and aim in one

deadly movement. With one turn of her wrist, she shoved

her gun into the killer’s abdomen.

Without a blink of an eye, she fired.

At point-blank range, the impact of the bullet threw

Father Time backwards and propelled Scully forwards. Like

broken hands of a clock, each of them spun out of control

before toppling to the pavement. Landing on her back, she

turned to find the killer lying on what remained of his

stomach. Twisting his head around, his steely eyes met

hers’.

“Time’s up,” she whispered, stretching her arm out to

knock the rifle from his reach.

Father Time choked out a bloody laugh. Even in the last

minutes of life, he still thought he could choose the hour

of his death. Dipping his knuckle in his own blood, he

traced the outline of a clock. Placing his hands inside of

it, he murmured his last words.

“Only time will tell…”

In the distance, Scully swore she heard the chiming of the

tower clock before it halted abruptly. Glancing down at

her wrist watch, she realized that it, too, had stopped.

************

9:15 a.m., April 20

Two days later, Scully arrived at the hospital to find

Mulder’s nurse grumbling outside of his room.

“How’s the patient this morning?” she asked cautiously,

noting how the nurse’s hands were tightly clenched around

his chart.

“Same as usual,” the nurse responded. “A pain in my ass.”

“Yeah,” Scully nodded sympathetically. “Mind if I take a

peek at his chart? I know it’s against protocol, but…”

“Honey, for all I care you can take the chart, read the

chart and smack Mr. Mulder upside the head with the chart,”

the nurse exclaimed. “I’m washing my hands of him.”

“They were too cold, anyway!” Mulder yelled from inside

the room.

“See what I mean?” the nurse cried. “All I was trying to

do was give him a sponge bath.”

“Allow me…” Scully took the chart and waved it in the

air. “Maybe, I can lend you a hand and we’re not talking

about a sponge bath.”

Pushing open the door, Scully walked briskly into his room.

“What are you doing out of bed, Mulder?”

“Looking for my clothes,” he answered, paddling barefoot

over to the closet. “I’m being discharged this morning.”

“Says who?” she ridiculed.

“Says my personal physician,” Mulder responded, shooting

her a hopeful look. “C’mon, Scully. Time to put your

‘John Hancock’ on my discharge papers.”

“No,” she said firmly. “Only your surgeon will choose

that hour.”

“But, I’m freezing in this joint,” he whined, tugging his

suit jacket from the hanger. “Why is it that hospitals are

so damn cold?”

“Lots and lots of reasons,” Scully teased, readjusting the

tone of her voice to placate his petulant mood. Taking the

jacket from his hands, she folded it carefully over her arm

and continued, “Cold temperatures prevent germs.”

“Yeah, what else?” he retorted, grimacing with pain as he

reached up to yank his slacks from the shelf.

“Well, it’s rumored that some patients make their nurses a

little hot under the collar,” she said, confiscating them.

“Perhaps, Risk Management keeps the hospital cold for the

protection of the patients.”

“Anything else?” he asked stubbornly, trying not to groan

as he bent over to retrieve his shoes.

“Maybe, the cold will keep said patients in bed,” chuckled

Scully, arching her head to one side. “Rather than walking

around with their hospital gowns open in the back.”

Mulder twisted around and frowned.

“You could have mentioned this sooner, Scully.”

“And miss out on the view?” she snorted, grabbing his shoes.

“Care to help me out, Scully?” he countered. “I can’t

reach the laces.”

“My hands are full,” she replied, giving him a smug grin.

“But, I thought you came here to tie up loose ends,

Scully,” Mulder baited. “Or, was I just imagining our

earlier telephone conversation.”

“Only time will tell,” Scully said in a tantalizing voice.

Dropping both clothes and shoes on the chair, she ordered,

“Turn around, Mulder.”

“Don’t hurt me,” he cried in a fake whimper. “And, please

tell me that your hands aren’t still cold.”

“Does this feel cold?” she purred, slowly gliding her

hands up his back.

“No,” Mulder gasped. “It feels… you feel… warm …

wonderful….”

Scully laughed softly to herself. Slowly, she traced the

downward curve of his spine, pausing at each vertebrae to

apply pressure to conceal her true intent. With each sweep

of her fingers, she was hooking the ties of his hospital

gown.

“All done,” she announced, giving his ass a playful smack.

“What?” Mulder glanced around to find his hospital gown

completely tied. “How did you do that?”

Scully wiggled her fingers in front of his eyes.

“Gifted, remember?” she joked. “Now, be a good boy and

get back into bed.”

“Will you tuck me in?”

“You never give up, do you, Mulder?”

“Not when it comes to you,” he said, climbing back into

the hospital bed. As she drew the blanket up to his chest,

Mulder caught her hand and whispered, “I’d do anything for

you, Scully.”

“I know, Mulder,” she answered solemnly, sitting down on

the edge of his bed. “Which is why I had to stop Father

Time, myself.”

“You took an incredible chance, Scully. One second off

and you could have been killed.”

Scully turned her head and glanced out the window

thoughtfully.

“Maybe, time was finally on my side, Mulder,” she murmured.

After an uncomfortable silence, Mulder asked,

“So what happened at the coroner’s office? Were they able

to explained how Father Time arrived ‘sans hands’?”

“No, but they did find them,” she advised in a cryptic tone.

“Inside the clock tower?” he prompted gently.

Scully faced her partner and nodded.

“I don’t know if it was some type of malicious joke,” she

said. “Father Time gunned down a security guard and a

police officer. Maybe the ‘boys in blue’ decided to make a

memorial of their own.”

“Maybe…”

“Mulder,” Scully’s voice dropped an octave to sound out a

low warning.

“Don’t you find it odd that your watch stopped at exact

moment of Father Time’s death?” said Mulder.

“It must have been damaged when I fell,” she argued.

“What about the tower clock, Scully?” he asked. “Was that

damaged, too?”

“You’re not going to imply that Father Time had a

paranormal connection with the clock, are you?”

“Maybe time was his accomplice,” he suggested. “How else

would he be able to sneak the victim’s bodies by the guards

at the tower?”

“I don’t know,” Scully murmured. “I’m not sure I want to

know.”

For a minute, Mulder said nothing. He gazed down at her

hand, instantly noting how her fingers were trembling.

“I say we don’t give this creep another minute of our

time,” he concluded, massaging her palm with his thumb.

Scully closed her eyes and sighed.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“I know that Pfaster did a number on your head,” Mulder

relayed, reaching up to softly stroke her hair. “Don’t let

Mr. Freeze do the same thing.”

“I won’t, Mulder,” she nodded. “This time, I know my

heart was in the right place. It was with you.”

“Cold hands, warm heart, Scully?”

“And, even warmer lips,” she murmured, leaning over to

kiss him.

The End

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