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.
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.
April 16, 2001
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
“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
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
“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
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
“There’s more.” Mulder flipped to the next slide.
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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 –
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)
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
Mulder grimaced. “So we’re not talking about a death
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
Scully frowned. “I thought you said the victims 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
Mulder stood. “So he was quick frozen and transported
“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
“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.”
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.”
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
“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
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
“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
(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
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
“You okay, Scully?”
“I’m fine, Mulder. Really. Thanks for catching me.”
Holding hands, they descended the rest of the way.
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
“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
“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
“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.”
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
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?”
“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
“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
“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
“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
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.
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
“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.”
“Nothing I can remember — but I think it’s time we find
3:15 p.m. April 17
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
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
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
“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
“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’
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
Plopping down inside, she looked at Mulder with a bemused
grin. “Mulder, you’re not supposed to inspire road rage on
Easing the car back into traffic, Mulder craned his head
out of the partially opened window. “Did you see that car,
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
“Nothing.” His voice was distracted. “How was the Lewis
“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
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.”
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
“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
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
“Mulder, I’ve been thinking about the victims.”
“What about them?” echoed his voice from somewhere within
“The bodies were all frozen after death, then placed
inside the clock tower building and discovered within an
hour or two after that.”
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
“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
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.
“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
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
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
“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
The knot in Scully’s stomach took another twist when she
heard, “Excuse my manners. You can just call me ‘Father
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
“Oh yeah, you hear all sorts of these stories when you
work in these old buildings. Well, I could tell you
“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
“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.”
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
“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.”
“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
They walked like that to their car, never realizing that a
pair of eyes, out in the night, followed them.
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
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
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?”
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
“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
“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
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 delivery boy pocketed the money and moved away from
the door to return to his car, parked over to the right of
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
“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
“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
“‘K, Scully. Scully?”
“You … all right?”
“Fine, Mulder, I wasn’t the one that was shot.”
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.
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
(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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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 …
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
“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
“I know, Mulder,” she answered solemnly, sitting down on
the edge of his bed. “Which is why I had to stop Father
“You took an incredible chance, Scully. One second off
and you could have been killed.”
Scully turned her head and glanced out the window
“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.”
“Mulder,” Scully’s voice dropped an octave to sound out a
“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
“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
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