Devil’s Advocate

Cover

Title: Devil’s Advocate

Authors: Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net) & Susan Proto

(STPteach@aol.com)

Completed: January 2001

Category: X-file, MSR, MT

Spoilers: None

Summary: Mulder willingly joins an investigation that may

be his undoing.

Archive: IMTP for the first two weeks, then MTA, the

Garden, the Pyramid, Ephemeral, Gossamer, and any other

site that has received prior written permission. All

others, please contact the authors.

Disclaimer: Mulder & Scully as well as all other

recognizable character references belong to Chris Carter,

Ten Thirteen Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox

Television. They are used here without permission. No

copyright infringement is intended. Unrecognized characters

belong to the authors.

Author’s Notes: This was written for I Made This!

Productions as one of the episodes of Virtual Season 8.

IMTP can be found at http://www.i- made-this.com. Thanks to

our Beta-Reader, Brandon Ray, for his infinite patience

and

wonderful cyberEye for detail.

Feedback: YES!

Devil’s Advocate

By Vickie Moseley (vmoseley@fgi.net)

& Susan Proto (STPteach@aol.com)

Prologue

Friday, April 6th, 2001

Monsey, New York

11 a.m.

The heavy wood door opened and a small, slightly built man

entered the sanctuary of the old temple. He moved about

the pews and quickly checked for dust and smiled with

satisfaction to find none.

Next, he walked through a small archway and entered the

old, but functional kitchen. He removed his formal, black

hat and placed it on the counter. The man’s long black

coat brushed against the old stove as he opened the door.

He peered in and wondered if that was a piece of bread, of

chomaytz, that still lurked in the dark recesses of the

oven. He reached in to pick it up, but his fingers swiped

at only air and the hard, cold metal of the appliance.

“It’s clean, Rebbe,” called out the young man who stood

quietly during the older man’s inspection. “You told me to

make it spotless. I’ve been working here since 6 o’clock

and I did as you said. Really, there is not one piece of

non-kosher for Passover food crumb in this entire

synagogue.”

“It doesn’t hurt to check, Reuven,” he responded in a

surprisingly strong, deep voice. Though he rose to his

full height, the younger man continued to tower over him.

The rebbe unconsciously stroked his long untrimmed beard.

His plain, black skullcap perched precariously on top of

his head while his long curly earlocks threatened to thread

their way in front of his lobes.

His physical appearance belied his vigorous energy; an

energy that was not normally expected of a man in his late

eighties. Reb Shmuel Zimmerman, however, was no ordinary

octogenarian. His small, orthodox congregation counted on

him to make sure their shul was free of any chomaytz, so

they would be able to celebrate the first Seder night of

Pesach tomorrow night without worry.

“Reuven, it looks as though you have done a fine job in

cleansing and preparing our shul for Pesach. Now we’ll be

able to enjoy the Sabbath tonight without worrying about

preparing for tomorrow. You may go and help do the same at

home,” informed the rebbe.

“You’re going home now too, aren’t you Rebbe Shmuel?”

asked the young man. “You should get some rest for

tonight’s service. You work hard, too.”

“Yes, yes, of course I will. I’ll be leaving shortly. I

just need to do a couple of more things here in preparation

for tonight’s service.”

“The shul is fine, Rebbe. You can go home too,” assured

the young congregant. At seeing the wizened old man nod

his head, Reuven smiled and bid him good morning. “I’ll

see you tonight at services, Reb Shmuel.”

The old man nodded and heard the heavy door of the temple

close behind the young member. Reuven Steiger was a good

person, he thought to himself, and someday he will be a

leader in our community. But for now, he worries too much!

Reb Zimmerman thought with a smile.

He moved about the old shul in a slow deliberate manner.

This was his sanctuary, his home. He found his peace here

and did whatever was necessary to make sure that his

congregation could find their peace here as well.

He finally ended up in the small room at the end of the

hallway, his office. He sat down at his desk and opened

the small book that would help him with the finishing

touches on tonight’s sermon. It had to be a particularly

good one tonight, as it would be one to not only welcome in

the Sabbath Queen, but it would be to inspire the coming of

the eight-day observance of Passover.

He turned the dog-eared pages of the old text. He’d used

it as his inspiration for many sermons past and prayed it

would continue to give him guidance for future sermons as

well.

As his gnarled fingers pointed to the words with great

care, the rebbe felt a sudden draft. He supposed it was

young Reuven returning to retrieve a forgotten hat or book.

The old spiritual leader continued to read and make sense

of the Hebrew text, while a second presence entered the

room.

“Reuven? What did you forget?” he asked without looking

up from his book. Seconds passed when Shmuel Zimmerman

realized he’d yet to receive an answer from his young

charge. It wasn’t like Reuven to be rude, thought the

rebbe. Finally, out of curiosity, Reb Zimmerman raised his

eyes.

And when he did, the beam of light aimed straight and

true, and bore a hole directly through the book that the

old man had clutched to his heart.

St. Gertrude’s Church

Chicago, Illinois

Saturday, April 14, 2001

9 a.m.

The church was dappled with colored light from the sun

streaming in through the stained glass windows. Dust motes

danced freely in the beams of red, blue and gold and gilded

the pews with a heavenly fire.

Father Mick Nelson grasped the aging wooden folding ladder

in both hands and carried it over to the far alcove of the

church. Only one statue remained to be uncovered and the

long season of Lent would be over, at least as far as the

outward appearances went. Tonight, a hundred candles would

light the altar as the holy water for the next year would

be blessed and the newly converted would receive the

sacraments after a year of study and prayer.

Mick remembered a time when he was new to the priesthood,

back when at least a dozen or so women would be cleaning

the floors, dusting the pews and uncovering the statues.

Back when Holy Saturday was the official ‘work day’ of any

parish. But times change, and most young women were now

working mothers, with Easter eggs left to dye and the

perfect gloves and hat to match the perfect Easter dress

left to find at the mall.

The Rosary Society now consisted of women not much younger

than Mick himself, a spry 70 years old. He chuckled

slightly, secure in the knowledge that he was still capable

of preparing the church, even if the ladies of the parish

were elsewhere occupied, or too frail to take up the task.

If he had time, he’d run Mrs. Mulligan’s feather duster

over the tops of the statues, but it usually seemed that

not much dust accumulated in the wake of the just three

year old heat pump/air conditioner that the parish council

had installed in the church. Still, it was the principle

of the thing — everything should be new and sparkling clean

for Easter.

He heaved the ladder more firmly in his hands. Dratted

thing was getting heavier. The old wood must be turning to

stone. He was certain the ladder had been there even

before the church was erected. It had probably somehow

escaped the great fire that burnt the city almost to the

ground in the late 19th century. Mick would never admit

it was his own body growing weaker, and not the ladder

growing heavier. Finally, both ancient artifacts made it

to their destination and he set the ladder at the foot of

the last statue.

The rickety old ladder groaned under his weight as he

reached over the edge to grasp the purple velvet covering

the statue. Michael the Archangel. Of course, as an image

of his patron saint, Mick had immediately taken a liking to

the marble edifice the first time he’d stepped foot in St.

Gertrude’s, almost 20 years ago. It was a fiery Michael,

one to strike terror in the hearts of anyone thinking they

might have an equal footing with God. The sword in his

right hand was held high, too high to cover completely with

the purple cloth. Only the rest of the body was covered,

leaving the penitent the impression that even during the

long 40 days of Lent, Michael was still ready to defend the

gates of heaven against all would-be invaders.

Mick smiled as he thought of how he’d missed those intense

eyes, carved into the marble in such a way that they

followed him as he made his way up the aisle of the church

on Sunday mornings. He always felt Michael to be something

of a protector to himself, personally. He’d always been

proud of the fact that he was named after the guardian of

the Kingdom of Heaven.

The velvet was slippery, and from his precarious perch on

the old ladder, Mick shifted his weight, so as not to

topple either the ladder or the statue. One hundred-year-

old marble statues imported from quarries just miles from

the Vatican were not that easy to come by, especially when

the roof of the church needed new shingles. He was

concentrating so hard at his task that he didn’t see the

cloud that apparently covered the sun, for the just

recently brightly lit church was suddenly plunged into

darkness. Rain on Easter weekend? His mother’s voice

echoed in his ears, foretelling of rain for seven Sundays

after if a drop fell on Easter morning.

It was his mother’s voice in his head that was the last

sound the old priest heard. Behind him was a flash of

light so intense that it blazed a shadow on the plaster

wall behind the statue, melted the lead glaze that held the

stained glass of the window and singed the wooden sill. A

flash of light so bright that it burned right through the

body of a 70-year-old priest, cauterizing the wound even

as it vaporized his still-beating heart.

A look of surprise on his face, the corpse fell to the

ground, still clutching the purple velvet that had been

draped over his marble protector. The velvet caught for a

moment on the statue’s shield, causing it to drift down and

gently cover the deceased in a purple shroud.

A form stepped out of the shadow, a man about 6 feet tall

with coal black hair and eyes that seemed to glow red. He

calmly walked over to the body hidden under the purple

velvet. With a smile of triumph on his face, he leaned

over and tenderly tucked the cloth around the body, then

turned and left by the front door of the church.

The statue of Michael stared on, frozen in horror at the

murder he’d just witnessed.

ACT I

Office of the Assistant Director Walter Skinner

Friday, September 21, 2001

10:45 a.m.

Walter Skinner looked up from the folder on his desk and

waved the two agents toward the waiting chairs. “This

won’t take long, Agents.”

Mulder stepped aside to let his partner take her ‘favorite

chair’ just to the right of his. He’d often wondered if

he’d been a Freudian what he might make of her almost

obsessive need to be to his right. As it was, he’d gotten

too used to their normal positions in this office to care.

“It’s good to see you back in the office, sir,” Scully

said, “How are you feeling?”

Skinner looked up and said, “I’m beginning to feel more

like myself,” and gave just a hint of a smile.

Mulder chuckled outright, however, and said, “Welcome

back, sir.”

Skinner smiled more broadly in acknowledgment of Mulder’s

recognition of his small joke about their last X-file.

Just as quickly, however, he returned to his AD persona.

“I just received this from Violent Crimes,” Skinner said,

extending a file folder across his desk toward Scully.

“It’s a potential serial murder case. Different cities,

same mode of death. The most recent murder occurred just

two days ago, a Lutheran minister was found dead at the

site of a prayer service that was to open the beginning of

classes at the parochial high school he headed up.

“The medical examiner in Chicago states that the priest

was killed by use of a laser,” Scully said, reading

directly from the file. “Sir, the first two victims died

of the same cause, within a week of each other.” She handed

the file over to Mulder. “Nobody thought to connect them

until just recently?”

Skinner shrugged. “The first murder in New York State

wasn’t reported immediately. It occurred in an Orthodox

Jewish Temple and wasn’t reported until the most recent

murder of the student made the press.”

“One priest, one Hassidic rabbi, and one Lutheran

minister,” Scully noted. “All members of the clergy,” she

mused more to herself than to the two men sitting with her.

“Are they filing charges for obstruction of justice? They

didn’t report the first murder for five months, why not?”

Mulder asked, flipping through the pages.

“No charges that I’m aware of, Agent Mulder. The death

was immediately reported to the Rockland County Sheriff’s

Department, and the medical examiner was called in as well.

He apparently signed off on a visual examination, but no

investigation was made because the M.E. concluded at the

site

that the death was not a result of foul play.” Skinner

paused momentarily before continuing. Hesitantly, he

continued, “It appears that there was some feeling that the

death was not… of an earthly cause.” Skinner craned

his neck, obviously uncomfortable with the reasons for the

lack of a report.

“The statement of the person who found the first murder

victim says he believed it was supernatural causes,” Mulder

corrected, reading from the statement. “Evil causes,” he

added with a lifted eyebrow.

“In any event, there have been three murders in just over

five months and the VCS has asked for the case to be

referred to the X-Files Division,” Skinner said, looking

directly at Mulder.

“They’ve had it less than a week. Seems like they might

at least ‘try’ to find a reasonable explanation,” Scully

said with a deep sigh.

“Nah, Scully. Not when they’ve got ‘The Spooky Patrol’ to

take all the really difficult cases off their hands,”

Mulder answered with a smirk. “I know those jokers in

Violent Crimes. Work to them is a four letter word.”

“I think you know what to do on this case, Agents,”

Skinner interjected impatiently. “If you don’t mind, I

have my own work to do. I’ll be expecting a report when

you’ve got something to go on.”

The two agents stood in tandem and Scully followed Mulder

out of the assistant director’s office. He was reading the

file folder all the way to the elevator, and Scully had a

hard time keeping the grin off her face as he deftly

sidestepped oncoming traffic. She knew a great deal of his

talent at this game was his peripheral vision, honed to a

razor’s edge after years spent on many basketball courts,

but to the layman, or other agents, it just gave more fuel

to her partner’s now titanic reputation.

“What’s so funny, Scully?” he asked, jolting her from her

thoughts. She must not have been too successful keeping

that smile off her face. She made a note to start

practicing that art again in front of the mirror at home.

“Nothing, Mulder. So, what else does the file say?” she

asked, changing the subject in the direction she knew he

would want it to go.

“The third victim was a Lutheran minister who teaches at a

small private high school in Missouri, about forty miles

southeast of St. Louis,” Mulder resumed reading. “He was

setting up for an outdoor prayer service before the

beginning of classes and was found with the same burn hole

through his chest. Well, at least this guy doesn’t seem to

hold too many prejudices. Next, he’ll probably go after a

Buddhist Monk.”

They had arrived back at the basement office and Mulder

took a few seconds to shed his jacket, drape it over the

back of his chair, and sit back with his feet on the desk.

He tossed the file back to his partner.

“All members of the clergy, as I was saying upstairs,”

Scully mused thoughtfully as she flipped through the pages

again. “Gee, Mulder. Maybe the devil’s doing it,” she

teased. But something about one of the crime scene photos,

the picture of the last victim, the Lutheran minister,

caught her eye. The man’s face was clearly shown in the

glossy black and white photograph and the look in his eyes

caused Scully to blink and look closer.

A chill ran down her spine. This person had seen

something. Something that could only be described as pure

evil. She’d seen pure evil before, and she didn’t know if

she was ready to go after it again.

” …surgical laser. So basically, the guys over at

VCS just didn’t look very far. I think this one’s pretty

easy, Scully.”

She looked up, startled, when she realized she’d just

missed half a conversation. “I don’t know, Mulder. Three

different cities, three victims, and how many people can

just stick a surgical laser under their overcoat and then

use it to kill a person. Those things are pretty bulky!”

Mulder’s feet hit the floor as he stood to come over next

to where she was standing. She was feeling unnerved by the

photo and her partner’s nearness unnerved her even more.

She held back a flinch when he took the file back and

started pacing.

“Scully, medical technology is moving forward at the speed

of light. Why, just the other day I was reading an article

where surgical lasers are becoming smaller and smaller. I

think it’s not impossible to find one that could be used.

And remember, all these men were killed in seclusion.

There was no one else in the temple, the church, the school

grounds. And before you say it, we both know there is

always a back door that can be jimmied open.”

“But Mulder, there is no mention of a jimmied door. Most

churches these days have security systems unless there are

several people around,” Scully countered, moving over to

perch on the edge of the desk, just to stay out of the path

of his pacing. “And where did you read this article about

surgical lasers?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

He smiled sheepishly. “Ah, did I tell you your Journal of

the American College of Surgeons came in the other day? I

think it’s somewhere on my desk.” He moved over to a pile

of papers nearly a foot and a half high and started digging

through it.

She shook her head and stilled his hand. “Forget it,

Mulder, I’ll buy a new one. It’s simpler. But that still

doesn’t explain . . .”

“Scully. If we take all the grunt cases from VCS, we

won’t have time for our cases,” Mulder said firmly, taking

the file folder and tossing it on the only open space on

his desk. “I think it’s time we stopped being the

‘whipping boys’. I’m going to give this one back to them.”

Scully chewed her lip for a minute. In the pit of her

stomach, that was exactly what she wanted. The photo of

the minister’s eyes was still haunting her. But another

part of her, the curious part that was only happy when they

were on a chase, didn’t want to let this one go that

easily. Besides, she couldn’t believe her partner was

willing to toss it aside, either, even though that’s

exactly what he was proposing.

“You don’t want it because they’re religious,” she accused

suddenly, realization brightening her eyes.

Mulder gave her a blank stare and then shook his head in

disgust. “Scully, do you really want to start this?

Because I’m beginning to hate this game.”

“What game?” she shot back.

“The ‘you’re a good Catholic and I’m a dirty atheist’

game. I really hate it. Look, just because I don’t go to

church every Sunday and you do doesn’t mean I hate

religion.”

“Mulder, you have told me, flat out, that you don’t like

organized religion,” she replied evenly. “And I’ve never

called you a ‘dirty atheist,'” she added, her voice

betraying the pain of that accusation.

He stood there for a full minute, looking like he was

going to try and prove her wrong. Then he dropped his head

to his chest. “Look, I admit there is some drawing power

to this case. The whole concept that someone might be

delusional to the point of feeling they are acting as

‘God’s Avenging Angel.’ The Good vs. Evil, and I would be

willing to bet that in each and every case, the killer

feels that the victim is somehow the evil one. I love that

kind of shit, Scully, I eat it up with a spoon and you know

it. But is it really an X-File?”

He had her stymied. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly when he

had taken control of the argument and brought it back to

the only point that mattered, but he’d done it. Damn him,

she always liked to do that. But grudgingly, she had to

agree. As interesting as the case might be, if the answer

could be found in the most recent JACS, there probably

wasn’t much there for the X-Files Division. Fighting it

every step of the way, a small smile grew on her face.

“You’re right, Mulder. This very likely is not an X-File.

And for the record, you owe me this month’s issue of the

Journal.”

“So, I give this back to the bad boys at VCS?” he asked,

not hiding his own grin in the least. “We have real

mutants to catch, Scully.”

“Speaking of which, I have a date at Quantico. They’re

backed up and called for reinforcements. I’ll be gone the

rest of the afternoon.”

“We still on for tonight?” he asked hopefully. She

couldn’t decide whether she wanted to kiss the little boy

look on his face, or scrub it off with a scrub brush. She

did neither.

“We are, but remember, my turn for the movie. I fully

intend to get something I want to see,” she warned, picking

up her coat and briefcase as she headed for the door.

“I’ll make sure the pizza gets there on time this time,

Scully. See you later.”

Mulder’s Apartment

6:55 p.m.

The doorbell rang and Mulder rose off the couch to

retrieve his wallet to pay for the pizza that awaited them

on the other side of the door. He went into his bedroom and

returned with a ten, a five, and a few singles.

That was Scully’s influence no doubt. There was a time

when he would have handed over $15 to cover the cost and

tip for a $13.99 large, extra cheese pizza. The first time

Scully saw him do that, however, she’d gasped and

immediately ran to pick up her purse to add a few singles

to the payment. The delivery boy looked at her with an

expression something akin to love at first sight, and then

muttered, “Wow, I hope he keeps you around,” and then in a

clearer voice, he expressed his thanks.

So now, Mulder had learned his lesson and automatically

produced the appropriate number of singles to cover a tip

that Scully was no longer embarrassed by. The amazing

thing was, it had become second nature to Mulder.

Guess you could teach an old dog new tricks.

“Grab some beers, will ya Scully?” called out Mulder as he

carried over the hot pie to the coffee table.

“Sure,” she replied and made her way into the kitchen.

She grabbed a couple of bottles that were chilling in the

refrigerator and returned to the couch where Mulder had put

down a couple of paper plates.

“You know, that case from this morning has some

interesting aspects to it, Scully.”

“No.”

“No?” he echoed.

“No talk of cases tonight, Mulder. I want this to be a

nice, relaxing time together. Please.”

“Relaxing, eh?” he said with his patented leer.

“Yeah, big boy,” she retorted, “relaxing.”

“Oh, Scully, if it weren’t for the fact that I was

starving at the moment, I’d be happy to help you relax,” he

said as he picked up a slice of the steaming, gooey pizza.

“Gee, Mulder, it’s not often I can say you’re thinking

with your stomach instead of your–” she began.

“–Damn! It’s hot!” he exclaimed as he tried to pick up

the first slice.

“Well, we’d just complain if it arrived cold, right?” she

asked with a wry smile. “Be patient, it’ll cool off soon

enough, Mulder.”

“Yeah, but I’m hungry now,” he replied. The fact that his

stomach chose that very moment to growl loudly threw both

partners into a fit of laughter. “See? The stomach don’t

lie, Scully.”

“No, I suppose not. Let me try,” she said as she deftly

removed the first slice with the help of a butter knife.

“Here you go, Mulder. Feast!”

Scully took one for herself and then the two of them

settled back to enjoy a video Scully had rented.

“Now, ya wanna tell me again why I want to see this film,

Scully?”

“It’s called “House of Mirth,” Mulder, and it’s a very

poignant story that is universal in its attempt to tell of

how greed can be the downfall of all who crave money

without earning it,” she explained.

“Um, right, but Scully, Caddyshack does the same thing and

we would have had some laughs while watching it, too.”

“Mulder, c’mon! You chose the movie last week. You didn’t

hear me crabbing when we watched Road Trip for the

seventeenth time, did you?”

“Okay, okay, I’ll be good, but Scully, they’re wearing

hats and gloves and stuff,” he pouted.

“Mulder…” she uttered with a warning tone.

Mulder closed his mouth around a bite of pizza.

“HOT!” he cried out immediately, although the utterance

wasn’t quite that clear. He dropped the pizza back into

the plate as he reached for his beer to take a cooling swig.

“You okay?” Scully asked with some concern.

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. His tongue felt like it had

swelled to twice its size in a matter of moments. “Damn,

‘dat was hot!”

“Poor baby,” Scully cooed. “Want me to kiss and make all

better?”

“Oh, ‘Cully, ‘dat’s the ni’tet t’ing you could ever ‘tay

to me.”

Scully, of course, burst out laughing.

Scully managed to scarf down two of the large slices and

two beers, while Mulder polished off three beers, three

slices, and was eyeing a fourth.

“You do realize you’re going to explode if you do,” Scully

said as she watched her partner wage an internal war with

himself.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Besides, if I eat it now,

what’ll I have for breakfast?”

“Oh, you’re such a gourmet, Mulder!” replied Scully with a

giggle.

“Yeah, that’s me. Hey, c’mere,” he said softly.

“What?”

“You’ve got some cheese on your sweater,” he said as he

pointed to her collar.

Just as it appeared that Mulder was going to reach over

with his fingers to pluck the piece of cheese up, Mulder

leaned in quickly and devoured his partner’s neck while

also managing to scoop up the cheese with his tongue.

She squealed in utter surprise and in utter delight.

“You taste good, Scully. A whole lot better than pizza,”

he said through alternating kisses and licks of the skin

exposed just above her collar.

“How good is that?” she asked in a breathy tone and

wondered if she’d be able to maintain any kind of composure.

Wondered why she would want to.

“Oh, good, Scully. Really, really good.” And with that

he stood up and scooped her up in his arms. “But I think

there are other parts of your anatomy that I want to taste

even more.”

“Only if I can join in this little dessert, too, Mulder.”

“Sure, Scully, I learned to play nice in the sandbox with

my playmates,” he responded.

And so did she.

He nibbled at her neck, just under her chin and then

slowly worked his way down to the hollow area of her neck

just where her cross lay. Scully lifted her chin up a bit

to allow Mulder better access and sighed in delight when he

continued his explorations.

And groaned when he stopped.

Why did he stop?

“Mulder?”

“Shh, listen,” he said in a whisper.

“Listen to what? I don’t hear anything,” she pouted as

she reached around his head in an effort to prod him back

to her chin, and her neck, and her chest, and her…

“That’s just it, Scully. I don’t hear anything,” he

agreed with a tone of wonder. “No phone ringing, no

doorbell buzzing, no gunshots through the window…”

“Mulder!” she cried out slapping his arm in quick

reaction while he laughed aloud.

“Think about it, Scully. This has got to be a sign. It’s

got to be some kind of omen.”

“Mulder, shut up and get back here, now!” she growled with

a hint of a smile.

“Simmer down Agent Scully,” he said with a chuckle, “no

need to pull out the weapon yet.”

“Oh, no?” she said with a lecherous grin, as she snaked

her hand down the front of her partner’s pants. “It seems

to me the weapon is very much in need of being pulled out.”

Mulder managed a low, very needy, groan before he was able

to replace his lips on just the parts Scully desired.

And then some.

Mulder’s Apartment

Saturday, September 22, 2001

5:45 a.m.

It was barely dawn when he reached over and lightly

touched her bare leg. He reveled in how good it felt to be

able to reach over and touch her at will. Her skin was so

soft, so smooth… Well, usually.

Mulder smiled when he realized how mortified Scully would

feel if she knew that he was playing with the light hair on

her legs. Maybe he’d offer to help her shave them, or wax

them, or whatever women did to make their legs feel silky

smooth. All he knew was right now Scully felt wonderful to

him, and he was perfectly content to have her in his arms,

hairy legs and all.

Slowly his fingers wandered towards her navel, and he made

small, loving circles around it before he found himself

moving up toward his favorite part of his partner’s

anatomy. He listened to Scully sigh contentedly.

She always knew Mulder was a breast man.

Slowly, Scully placed feathery touches on his knees and

thighs, which remained wrapped comfortably around her legs

like a Christmas present’s ribbon.

As his fingers reached more urgently for her, she answered

with her own fingers in kind. Mulder felt his urgency

build slowly at first, but the anticipation grew and the

excitement caused both of their bodies to respond

without inhibitions. Their mutual desire to satisfy one

another was their first priority, and as a result, their

breathing soon came in pants and quiet cries of blessed

release.

Scully reached around to draw him into a soft, but very

passionate kiss. He loved her back as he knew she loved him.

“Go back to sleep,” he quietly urged. “It’s still so early.”

“Mmmm,” she murmured and prepared to snuggle into him more

comfortably.

“Just a minute, Dana,” he whispered, as he unraveled from

her.

“Mulder?” she asked with her eyes still closed.

“Go back to sleep.” He slowly got out of bed and went

into the bathroom. By the time he’d finished with his

shower and dressed, she’d fallen back into a fairly deep

sleep.

He bent down and placed a light kiss on her lips.

“Sleep now?” she asked.

“I have to go out for a little bit. We’ll talk later. You

sleep.” He reached over and kissed her again. He walked

out of the bedroom into the kitchen to set up the coffeepot

for her. After he set the timer, he jotted a quick note

and leaned it against her mug.

He lightly danced his fingers over the note one last time

and then he left, locking the door behind him.

Mulder’s Apartment

8:45 am

“Mulder?” she called out as she stretched catlike amid the

rumpled sheets. She crawled out of bed and wondered how

long he’d been up. She realized it was quite possible he

was out jogging, though after this morning’s extension of

last night’s wondrous activities, she wasn’t certain how he

had the strength.

She knew she sure didn’t.

She went into the bathroom and took care of her morning

business, and made sure to run her toothbrush across her

teeth. She didn’t even remember which of the dozen times

she’d been over when he’d been injured that she’d left it

there. The only thing worse than kissing Mulder with

morning breath was trying to drink coffee with unbrushed

teeth.

She went into the kitchen, led by the aroma of the coffee

that had brewed only a short time before.

“Mulder, if ever there was a reason I loved you, this has

to be it,” she murmured aloud as she picked the pot up.

She noticed the note by her mug and picked it up as she

poured. Next, Scully carried both the steaming cup of

coffee and the note into the living room and sat down on

the couch. She pushed aside the box of leftover pizza over

to place her mug down.

Scully unfolded the note and managed to decipher Mulder’s

small, scrawling handwriting.

“SHIT!”

She read the short note again.

“SHIT, SHIT, SHIT!” she cried out. “Damn it, Mulder, what

the hell do you think you’re doing? And why the hell

didn’t you tell me?”

She threw the note down onto the coffee table, while at

the same time opened up the pizza box and picked up a cold

slice to munch on. A little comfort food was called for,

as Scully needed to fortify herself before she called

Quantico to ask Mulder why the hell he got himself assigned

to that damned case.

Mulder’s Apartment

4:35 p.m.

Scully was still fuming as she unlocked the door to

Mulder’s apartment. She didn’t bother to knock. She only

hoped he would be standing close enough that the door would

slam into him when she burst in. That would serve him

right, the bastard!

She hadn’t spent the entire day looking for him. No, she

vowed as she munched cold pizza, deliberately leaving

greasy fingerprints all over his leather couch, only to

wipe them clean after taking her shower, that she was not

going to run after him like some crazed fish wife. But as

she went to the cleaners and picked up her clothes, went to

the market and stocked her rapidly depleting supply of

feminine products and nonperishable grocery items, went to

the computer store to see if her new power cord had

arrived, she couldn’t shake the feelings that were invading

her thoughts.

Sure, this was not technically a ditch. Even she had to

admit that. He had told her exactly where he was going.

He had even stayed in the same time zone. She knew his

approximate location all through the day, and for once, she

was relatively certain that he was safe from physical harm.

But that was the rub. He might have been safe from

physical harm, but that wasn’t the only harm Fox William

Mulder was known to encounter and Scully knew that

painfully well. He wasn’t taking this case as an X-File.

Which meant he wasn’t expecting a nice, paranormal reason

behind these murders. In turn, that meant he knew, as only

he could know, there was a person behind these deaths.

Someone truly vile and depraved, someone hard to catch,

making the journey to follow him that much more difficult.

This was a John Mostow, a John Roche, a Luther Boggs, a

Lucas Henry, dare she even think it to herself, this was a

Bill Patterson.

Sometime around 3, she was sitting at a stoplight when

a memory hit her so hard and so real she had to pull off

the road. It was an image of her partner, her lover,

finally, and he was lying in a hospital bed in the

psychiatric ward, hands and feet bound to the bed rails.

“Scully, you can’t tell me that after all these years, you

didn’t see this coming.” Sure, at the time it was a jest,

but more so an accusation.

Yes, she had stood by and said very little each time he

plunged himself into the ‘abyss of darkness’ as he waxed

poetic in their field report. But each time, she noticed

with horror that it was getting harder and harder for

Mulder to find his way back out of the darkness. His

greatest fear, besides losing her, was losing himself to

that darkness, becoming another Patterson, the negative of

the man he aspired to be. And here he was, running headlong

into a situation that could very possibly fulfill that self-

made prophesy.

The door squealed open and hit the wall with the force of

her entrance. The bang resounded loudly, but it was met by

silence. Only the fish tank created any white noise. Then

she heard a dresser drawer open and she headed resolutely

for the bedroom.

He looked up expectantly when she entered. “Scully, where

ya been? I tried your apartment but the machine picked up.”

“What are you doing?” she demanded, hands on her hips.

For a moment it occurred to her he might mistake her

question. She meant both in general, with this case, and

specifically, as he was taking clothes out of his dresser

and putting them in his suitcase.

“There was another murder, just today in Biloxi,

Mississippi. The task force is meeting first thing

tomorrow morning. Tom booked me on a flight tonight, I’ve

got to be out at Dulles in half an hour.” He glanced at

his watch. “Shit, make that 25 minutes. Hey, this

morning, did you see my razor in the bathroom?”

She blinked at him. He had no idea how angry she was at

that moment and apparently it wouldn’t really matter if he

did. She willed herself to calm down. “Did you check on

the floor next to the sink?”

He grinned at her and gave her the thumbs up as he hurried

across the hall. “Bingo!” he cried triumphantly. “I

really need to get one with those shower holders, like you

have,” he grinned again and stuffed the razor in his travel

bag. “Good thing you’re here. I don’t know if I need long

term or short-term parking. Give me a ride to the airport?”

Realizing it was her only chance to talk to him, she took

it. “Sure. But Mulder, I really want to talk for a minute.”

“Twenty minutes on the Beltway, Scully. That enough

time?” He grabbed the suitcase and his briefcase and

headed into the hallway.

She was following behind him, a position she always hated.

Not so much because of its submissive role, but because she

was never sure if he was listening to her when she couldn’t

see his face. “Mulder, why didn’t you tell me you’d gone

to VCS and offered your services?”

“I tried to tell you, Scully. Last night,” he tossed over

his shoulder as he locked the door. “Remember, you

declared no shop talk.”

She bit her lip to keep from screaming. She had meant

general, run of the mill debate on the merits of a case,

not announcements of transfers, no matter how temporary.

But, of course, Mulder wouldn’t see the significant

difference there.

“Besides, I didn’t call them. After you left yesterday,

Tom Alexander called me.” Scully thought hard and finally

remembered, Tom Alexander, the new head of VCS. At her

furrowed brow, he supplied more information. “Tom and I

shared a room at the academy.”

“He asked for your help,” she said flatly.

“He reminded me that I owed him one. And I did. He

pulled my ass off a roof in Hogan’s Alley that was about to

collapse. I could have been laid up for weeks with

whatever broken bones I would have acquired. He never

collected, so I agreed to give him a hand here.”

“Mulder, you know how these cases affect you!” Scully

cried out in frustration as the elevator doors opened and

they entered the car.

“Scully. Relax. I’m one of the profilers. I’m not even

the main one! Tom has a new kid, a little wet behind the

ears, but all the makings of a really good behavioral

scientist. I’m just there to, well, as Tom put it, potty

train the kid.”

“Like you were just there to help out Bill Patterson?” she

asked, her voice sounding like an accusation even to her

own ears.

Mulder took a long look at her. She could see him trying

to figure out what the problem was, and failing miserably.

“Is this about this morning, Scully? Because I made

coffee. I even left a note,” he pointed out as the

elevator doors opened and he took off down the hall toward

the outer door of his building.

“No, Mulder, this has nothing to do with leaving me in bed

this morning,” Scully said with a heartfelt sigh. The man

was so dense at times, his brilliance was like finding

diamonds in a dark cave. “This is about why you left VCS

to take over the X-Files. This is about how wrapped up you

get in profiling. This is about your sanity — or, in this

case, your lack thereof!”

Mulder stopped so abruptly she had to sidestep him to keep

from plowing into his back. He turned toward her and the

look on his face chilled her to the bone. It was a look of

utter betrayal and she tried to remember every syllable

she’d just uttered that would have invoked such a response

from him.

“You think I’m crazy, Scully?” he asked in that deadly

calm voice she’d learned to both love and despise. She

loved it when he directed it at anyone he was

interrogating. She despised it when he directed it at her.

“You know better than that,” she shot back, when she

recovered sufficiently from his glare.

“You think helping out on this case is going to drive me

over the brink?” By this time they were standing outside

her car and she dug through her pocket for her keys.

“Mulder, I think every time you take a profiling case,

it’s playing with fire. Each time it’s harder and harder

for you to find your way back. And don’t stand there so

sanctimonious and try and tell me that’s not true. That is

what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid for you!”

She watched him as he visibly tried to get his anger in

check. He took several deep breaths. Then he swallowed

and looked down at her, his eyes clear and just like the

sun coming out from behind the clouds, a small smile broke

out on his face. “Eight years and I’m still getting used

to having you cover my back,” he said tenderly. He pulled

her over into his arms for just a moment, placing a kiss on

the top of her head. “I’ll be good. I’ll be careful. And

most of all, I won’t get in too deep. I promise.”

“But I won’t be with you,” she countered and tried very

hard not to sound like the whiny fishwife image she’d been

fighting all day. She unlocked his door to avoid looking

at him.

“Scully,” Mulder sighed. “Somebody has to stay behind and

keep the home fires burning. I really don’t think this is

going to take that long. I’ll watch the kid, give him some

pointers, and tell Tom our slate is clean. With luck,

we’ll catch this bastard quickly. But either way, once the

kid is up to speed, I’m history.” He got into the car and

reached over to unlock her door. She got behind the wheel

and buckled her belt before speaking again.

“You honestly believe that you will leave an open

investigation, with the perpetrator at large?” she asked,

keeping her eyes on the road as she pulled away from the

curb.

“You think I can’t?” he shot back.

“I’ve never seen you do it, Mulder. Not once. Not once

in eight years. That’s a pretty long track record.”

“Yeah, but look at us. Who would have thought last night

or anything like it would happen after eight long years,”

he countered with a devilish smile. She wasn’t buying and

he shook his head in exasperation. “Scully, things can

change. I want them to change. I don’t want to be known

as ‘Spooky’ for the rest of my life.”

She stared at him, almost making him reach out to take the

wheel before she turned back to the road.

“OK, I probably will. But I don’t want to go crazy. That

is not something I put on the list of things I want to do

before I retire.”

“I don’t like this, Mulder. I want that on the record.”

“Duly noted, Agent Scully.” He reached over and squeezed

her leg just above the knee. “I’ll call, really. And if

you think I’m losing it, you have my permission to use my

credit card, buy a plane ticket, come to wherever I am and

kick my ass, now, how’s that?”

“If that comes to pass, Mulder, you better be prepared.

Because I’m flying first class,” she muttered, but let the

subject drop for the rest of the drive to the airport.

Biloxi, Mississippi

Sunday, September 23, 2001

8 a.m.

Mulder should have felt more rested, having gone straight

to the motel room the previous night, but he didn’t sleep.

His mind was already on the case, and he was anxious to

finally meet with the team and see what they’d come up

with. The kid managed to get a flight out that morning and

was already at the Biloxi Bureau Office when Mulder

arrived. “Gotta stop thinking of him as that,” muttered

Mulder to himself as he entered the hastily set up meeting

place. Surprisingly, Tom Alexander was the first to greet

him.

“What the hell are you doing here, and who’s running the

shop back at Quantico?” asked Mulder with a smile.

“I decided someone had to watch and make sure you

remembered how to profile, Mulder,” Tom replied with a

hearty handshake. “Good to see you again. Sorry it

couldn’t be under more pleasant circumstances.”

“Yeah, but you know I’m happy to try and help you guys

out,” replied the agent.

“I know, Mulder, and I do want you to know I appreciate

it. I got a call from your AD; he was none too pleased

with me and made no bones about it,” informed the VCS head.

“Yeah, well, Skinner is a bit of a mother hen when it

comes to his people,” Mulder replied with a laugh. “You

gotta forgive him, he’s not used to people overruling his

directives.”

“I wouldn’t overrule your AD’s directive,” responded Tom

immediately, and then as sudden realization hit, he

practically moaned, “Damn it, Mulder, you didn’t–” reacted

Tom.

“Yeah, ‘fraid I did, but don’t worry about it. Skinner’s

gotten used to it.”

“Remind me to send the man a nice bottle of wine, Okay?”

“Tom, there is a definite reason you were promoted to head

of VCS,” Mulder retorted, smiling.

“But, it’s cost me half my salary to pay for the Grecian

Formula to cover all the gray hair guys like you give me,”

Tom replied in kind. “C’mon, let’s go meet the team. I

also want you to meet Kenny.”

“Kenny?”

“Kenny Andrews, our up and coming profiler

extraordinaire,” Tom reminded.

“Oh, the kid,” Mulder muttered more to himself than aloud.

Tom heard him anyway and simply laughed. “Feeling your

age a bit, eh, Mulder?”

“Don’t remind me, Alexander, okay? C’mon, let’s go put

‘the kid’ through his paces.”

When Tom pointed out Kenny Andrews, Mulder wasn’t sure if

he should be working with the guy or taking him to the

playground and push him on the swings. He looked around

twelve years old. Mulder couldn’t help but wonder if he

_ever_ looked that young.

“Remind you of anyone, Mulder?” Tom asked interrupting his

thoughts.

“Should he?”

“Mulder, everyone had the same reaction to you when you

hit VCS.”

“Reaction?” echoed Mulder.

“Oh c’mon, Mulder, is your memory that short? Patterson

had been touting you as the VCS savior. Now of course, I

knew you were just a mere mortal, having seen you in your

underwear and all, but these guys figured you were their

new superman and in you walk, looking about as old as their

teenage sons. I thought the guys in the bull pen were

going to lose their lunch!” he said laughing at the memory.

“You mean, much like I feel about now,” Mulder retorted.

“Jeeze, Tom, how old is the kid?”

“Old enough, Mulder, but for your information he’s turning

25 in a few months.”

“Twenty-four? The kid is 24 fucking years old?” Mulder

repeated in amazement.

Tom paused momentarily and then said, softly but with a

seriousness he held in reserve, “Look, Fox, the kid’s good.

Real good. But there’s one little problem.”

“Problem?”

“Yeah,” Tom answered, “a problem. He reminds me of you.”

Mulder knew Tom wasn’t joking at this point. “He gets in

deep?”

“Yeah. He can get himself in real deep. I need you to

show him the way out, Fox.”

Mulder drew in a deep breath and then let it out in one

loud blow. “Sure, Tom. Let’s go teach the kid a thing or

two about how to be spooky and still keep your marbles.”

“That’s why I knew you were the man to call, Mulder,” Tom

replied as he clapped his hand on Mulder’s shoulder.

Tom turned his face away from Mulder’s and as he continued

to walk him over to where Kenny Andrews was sitting, Tom

could only wonder who was going to help Mulder keep his?

As they drove to the site, Mulder tried to keep calm. He

knew the kid was nervous; he was meeting his idol or so

he’d said about a dozen times, so it wasn’t surprising that

Andrews kept sputtering and tripping over his words. Each

and every time he tried to offer a piece of data regarding

the latest information, he stuttered and found it

impossible to get it said without stopping and starting

countless times.

Mulder could only wonder how the hell this ‘child’ could

ever remind Tom Alexander of him. If there was one thing

Spooky Mulder was, he was smooth in his delivery of the

facts to the point of being glib, which was one of the

reasons he’d developed a goodly number of enemies in the

VCS bullpen. No one liked a wise ass, particularly a wise

ass who was almost always right and made everyone around

him look like an idiot.

The only thing that saved Mulder was that as he got deeper

and deeper into a case, he’d become less and less talkative

as he got deeper and deeper into the profile. Once that

happened, everyone knew there was no talking to ol’ Spooky,

since he was no longer just himself. He was more the UNSUB

than he was Spooky Mulder, and very few people had the

stomach to deal with him when he got to that point.

It was one of the reasons he knew he had to get out of

VCS. He knew, since there was no one person who was

willing to cover his back a hundred per cent of the time

when he was profiling, he had to save himself. Patterson

didn’t like it, but Patterson didn’t like anything that

went against his way of thinking.

Mulder was glad Tom Alexander was the new head of VCS. He

was a good man. He was the type of man who would look out

for his people in a way that Bill Patterson could never

look out for Mulder. Kenny Andrews would be okay if he got

himself in too deep. Though at the moment, Mulder couldn’t

for the life of him figure out how Kenny Andrews ever

became a profiler. He hadn’t shut up the entire time they

were driving to the site, which was approximately a twenty-

minute ride. Mulder was never so grateful to feel the car

stop so he could get out and escape the kid’s incessant

talking.

As he stood up, Mulder took a look all around him to see

what the area looked like. It was pretty much an open

field that had a large tent set up with several cars and

trucks parked to the rear right side of it. There were a

couple of local police cars parked in the location they’d

just parked. Mulder assumed it was to keep curiosity

seekers beyond the taped off section of the murder site.

The driver of the car, Agent James Sandborne was a native

of the area. He said hello to the two local law enforcement

officers and introduced Mulder and Andrews.

“So, Jimmy, you think you really need all the big guns in

here to solve this one?” asked Officer Jeremiah Thompson.

“Well, Jerry,” Agent Sandborne began, “I tell ya. It was a

bit of a surprise when the reverend passed on, dontcha

think?”

“Could be it was just his time,” offered Thompson’s

partner, Officer Avery Millstone.

“That’s true, Avery, that’s true. But we just want to

make sure that was the only reason he died and moved on to

his place in heaven, ya hear?” Agent Sandborne explained.

“Well, we hear ya, Jimmy. Y’all let us know if there’s

anything we can do for ya,” Officer Thompson offered.

“Well, that’s right kind of you, Jerry. We sure do

appreciate that,” Agent Sandborne said. And with that the

three agents began moving toward the taped off site.

“Agent Andrews, I want you to know you just witnessed the

work of a master,” stated Mulder emphatically.

“Excuse me?” asked Andrews.

“Andrews, Agent Sandborne is a master of diplomacy.”

Mulder took a quick glance at the older Sandborne and

observed him turn a couple shades of red.

“Thank you, Agent Mulder. Thanks for noticing,”

acknowledged Sandborne.

“Right,” muttered Andrews who was obviously still unsure

of what the hell Mulder was talking about.

“Agent Andrews, Agent Sandborne here just let the local PD

know that we are on their side, and we’re not trying to

steal anyone’s thunder or glory. He’s also let it be known

that we don’t consider ourselves supermen and that we don’t

necessarily have all of the answers and that we would be

happy to turn to them as the experts of the area for help

if we need it,” Mulder pointed out.

“Oh.” Andrews stood silently for a moment, and then said,

“I guess it’s important to establish some kind of rapport

with the local police, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Agent Andrews, it is. And if you don’t know how to

do it, or you know you don’t do it very well, then you

don’t ever hesitate to allow a master to do the deed. I

know of only one other person who’s as good as Agent

Sandborne,” Mulder said with a hint of a smile, “and I’ve

learned over the last several years to stick with what I

know best.

“This time, whether you know it or not, Agent Andrews, we

were both smart enough to keep our mouths shut and let

Agent Sandborne do what I have never been able to do, and

that’s make nice with the locals.” Mulder offered his hand

to Sandborne and said, “Thank you, Agent.”

Sandborne took Mulder’s hand and shook it firmly. “You’re

welcome, Agent Mulder,” he said and felt a kind of pride he

hadn’t felt in a long, long time.

As soon as they entered the tent Mulder sensed it. It

wasn’t anything he saw, but rather, it was a chill that

went right through him. He felt himself involuntarily

shiver as he placed his hand to his cheek, as a way of

measuring the temperature. His fingertips felt like ice.

It was a balmy 74 degrees outside.

Suddenly, Mulder felt slightly dizzy and somewhat overcome

with the wave of stench that permeated the air. He looked

at Agent Sandborne for an explanation, but to Mulder’s

surprise, Sandborne appeared as if nothing was unusual.

“Oh, goddamn!” rasped out Kenny Andrews. “Do you smell

that?”

“Smell what?” asked Sandborne, “I don’t smell a thing? I

mean it’s warm and everything, but it’s not hot enough for

the body to decompose in less than three hours. So, what

exactly is it you smell, Agent Andrews?”

“But, it’s vile,” he began, and then added, “Why is it so

damn cold in here?”

“What the hell are you talking about, Greenhorn?”

Sandborne asked and then he turned to Mulder and

practically chuckled in amusement, “Kids, right?”

Sandborne shook his head and informed Mulder that he was

going to check in with the other pair of local law

enforcement to see if there was any new information that he

could wheedle out of them.

“Good idea, Agent,” Mulder agreed quickly. The men nodded

and Sandborne was off.

“Agent Mulder, I’m not crazy,” Andrews implored.

“I know.”

Andrews looked surprised momentarily, and then he sighed

with relief. “You smell it, too?” Mulder nodded and

Andrews asked with a bit of hesitation, “What the hell is

it?”

“I don’t know, Agent Andrews, but it appears it’s going to

be up to us to find out, doesn’t it?”

Mulder began his survey of the area. As was his usual

procedure he began at its perimeter and moved slowly inward

toward its core. As he observed his surroundings he noted

as many details as possible, and relegated those details to

his memory for future reference.

The experienced agent caught a glance of his young protŽgŽ

as he carefully examined the body of the victim. Mulder

was very curious to hear his findings and more importantly,

to hear his impressions. Mulder suspected that Tom

Alexander was right; Agent Andrews had the intuitiveness to

be a damn fine profiler. Only problem with that was, it

could also be his downfall.

As Mulder walked the circumference he noted how the grassy

path in the aisle on the right side of the tent was worn

away, almost as if the grass died in that particular area.

Mulder found it curious that the rest of the grounds

appeared to be rather healthy; it was only in that

particular area, the right aisle on the edge of the tent,

that it was eroded away. There were many brown patches as

well and several, albeit small, totally bare sections.

Mulder knelt down and with a gloved hand pulled up some of

the deadened grass. Surprisingly, the grass felt warm, and

when Mulder raised it to his nose to sniff it, there was a

faint burnt smell.

He suddenly flashed on a darkened shadow hovering above

him. Mulder had no idea as to what it was, but it startled

him and he quickly jumped up from his kneeling position.

He looked to see if anyone else saw what was standing right

before him, but the others walked around, business as

usual. The agent took a deep breath and quickly placed the

sample into a plastic evidence bag and moved on in his

circular investigation.

At one point Andrews and Mulder crossed paths and the men

found themselves taking opposite routes. They stopped and

stared at one another briefly. Mulder’s eyes had grown

dark and focused; he was not surprised to see the younger

man’s do the same. There was no need to talk at this

point. Discussion and comparison of observations would

come later. Both men needed a chance to absorb and

assimilate the crime scene. Andrews traveled toward the

outer circle of the murder site, while Mulder moved within

a couple of yards of the victim.

Again, something flashed before Mulder. He couldn’t

decide if it was in his mind’s eye, or if it was something

actually present at the scene. He looked around quickly to

see if anyone else was reacting to the black cloud of a

shadow that blocked his path to the victim. He wondered if

the kid could feel it and wanted to call out to him to look.

But he couldn’t. His voice remained suppressed in his

throat and all Mulder could do was shudder with a feeling

of both fear and disgust. As suddenly as it appeared, it

disappeared and Mulder found himself walking quickly toward

the victim.

He knelt down again and this time touched the black

minister with his gloved hand. Flashes of images quickly

took a foothold in Mulder’s mind and he couldn’t shut them

off.

“Amen, Brothers and Sistas,” cried the Reverend Abraham

Stewart, otherwise known as Reverend Abe. “Let me hear an

AMEN!”

“AMEN!” cried out the congregation.

“This is to tell our God, our Lord, Jesus Christ, our

Savior that we trust in him and that we KNOW that if we

have faith in Him, He will save us!”

“AMEN!” responded the crowd, their cries even louder than

before.

Mulder felt something on his shoulder and then someone was

shaking him.

“Agent Mulder? Agent Mulder, are you okay?” asked

Sandborne anxiously.

“What?” Mulder shook his head as if to get rid of some

cobwebs that had suddenly taken up residence.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he said even though he didn’t

believe a word of it.

“Are you sure? You looked kind of out it,” probed

Sandborne.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” Mulder stood up, and felt his bones

crackle a bit. Damn, he thought to himself, I am getting

too old for this shit.

“Well, then if you’re okay, would you mind going over and

seeing if the greenhorn’s all right? He’s acting a little

funny over there too.”

Mulder looked over to where Kenny Andrews stood. It was

the right aisle of the tent and Mulder could see the

younger man was almost swaying with his eyes shut tight.

“Shit,” he muttered aloud. Mulder moved as quickly as he

could to Andrews’ side.

“Agent Andrews!” Mulder called out and then grasped his

shoulder and shook him. In a low, but firm voice, he

ordered, “Andrews, come on back. Now, damn it.”

Andrews opened his eyes and uttered very softly, “Amen.”

The drive back to the bureau office was a quiet one.

Sandborne had tried to make a little small talk at first

but soon realized that neither Agent Mulder nor Agent

Andrews were up for any chitchat.

He pulled into the Bureau parking lot and watched as they

both got of the car in tandem; Mulder exited from the front

passenger side and Andrews from the rear. Their movements

mirrored one another’s and Sandborne felt himself shudder

just a bit at the sight. They left without looking back or

saying a word.

“Do you drink coffee?” asked Mulder. The younger man

shook his head and Mulder smiled for the first time in

hours. “Well, if you’re going to become a first class

profiler, Andrews, you’re going to have to find a caffeine

source.”

“No problem, Agent Mulder,” he said as he hoisted a small

duffel bag up from the corner of the office. He pulled out

two twenty-four-can cases of Coca-Cola. “And there’s

plenty more where these came from.” Kenny exhibited his

first smile in a few hours as well.

Both men breathed a small sigh of relief, though neither

had been aware of any real tension between them. It was

more of the situation; it was the crime. It was the fact

that they were able to see things no one else had been able

to see.

The kid was scared to death about it.

Mulder was resigned.

“So? Tell me what you’re thinking, kid,” Mulder said.

The younger man blushed a bit; he wasn’t sure if his hero

was making fun of him or not. He wanted to be taken

seriously, but if Mulder was going to treat him as if he

were a schoolboy, then there was no sense in even bothering

to share his thoughts.

“Listen,” Mulder hesitated. Some might think Mulder was

able to read Andrews’s mind, but the older agent would have

been quick to point out there was nothing magical about

being able to read someone who wore his heart on his

sleeve. Hell, Scully had been able to do that with him

often enough. He was able to keep everyone else at an

emotional distance, but not her.

Never Scully.

“Listen, Andrews,” he began again, “when I call you kid,

it’s not an insult, okay? Shit, I’m the ‘old man’ in this

little alliance we got going, so let’s not walk on

eggshells with one another, okay?”

Andrews nodded, and said, “Well, old man–“

“–Let’s not get carried away, Kid, okay?”

Andrews noted the small smile on Mulder’s face and

continued, “It was damned near one of the oddest

experiences I’ve ever had.”

“How so?” Mulder probed gently.

“I felt like I was seeing flashes of the scene. I mean,

before the guy was murdered.”

“Yeah,” Mulder acknowledged. The kid looked at Mulder

with his head cocked and wore a puzzled expression.

“What?” asked Mulder.

“You’re not going to even question it? I mean, you’re

just going to accept it at face value?” he asked

incredulously.

“No one’s ever accepted what you have to say without

giving you an argument?” asked Mulder.

“Screw that! I’d love an argument; it’s the out and out

dismissals of my ideas that piss me off.”

“Yeah,” Mulder said with obvious affection in his voice,

“arguments can be a very good thing. Keeps you honest.”

Andrews nodded at that and then asked, “You believe me.

You saw them, too, didn’t you?”

“Now I know why Alexander picked you out of the lot as

someone to watch,” Mulder said with a smile. “Yeah, I had

some flashes, too. You tell me about yours and I’ll tell

you about mine,” he said lightly.

The kid laughed and nodded his head in agreement. “I kept

seeing this black thing hanging around me, and it was cold.

Damn, Agent Mulder, it felt so damned cold every time it

appeared.”

“I saw that too. Oh, and it’s just Mulder, please.” Kenny

nodded and then Mulder asked, “What happened just before we

left. What were you seeing then?”

“Everything, I think.”

“Such as?” Mulder probed.

“The people were sitting in the seats. The reverend was

standing up on the stage and whipping those guys into a

frenzy. And that’s all. The next thing I remember you

were standing next to me and telling me it was time to come

back here.”

“That sounds like something similar to what I

experienced,” Mulder acknowledged.

“You’re kidding,” Andrews reacted incredulously. Mulder

assured him that he was not kidding, so the kid said, “This

is incredible, Mulder. I mean, what the hell does it mean?

Why were we the only ones to feel this… this… damn!

I don’t even know how to describe it! How the hell am I

supposed to put this into a report?” Andrews expressed with

pure frustration.

“Don’t worry about that. The facts will present

themselves, Andrews and we’ll have a report, with or

without our so-called icing on the cake details,” assured

Mulder. “Now, tell me your impressions of the crime scene.”

And he did. Kenny Andrews spoke for a solid thirty

minutes before Mulder was able to even ask a question.

Mulder shook his head in admiration. The kid was good.

Really, really good.

And it scared the hell out of Mulder because he knew just

where that ability was going to lead the poor guy.

“So, based upon the scene and the attributes you’ve

described, tell me your first impressions of our UNSUB,”

Mulder encouraged.

It was the first time all day that Kenny Andrews appeared

speechless.

“Talk to me, Kenny,” Mulder encouraged quietly. “It’s

just you and me in here.”

“I don’t know,” he began hesitantly. “I don’t know if I

want to know.”

“I know, but if we’re going to prevent this from happening

again, we’re going to have to start profiling this…”

“Thing,” interjected Andrews. “This entity,” he

practically

spat. “Mulder, the preacher was described by witnesses as

a good man. They said he had some inflexible religious

views as is often the case with a fundamentalist sect, but,

basically, they said he was a good man.

“He was seared through his heart, Mulder. Straight

through his heart. This looks like something out of God

Damned Star Wars, but it’s not that, Mulder. I know it’s

not that.”

“How do you know?” Mulder quickly asked.

“I… I don’t know, I just do, damn it! C’mon, this is no

technological genius we’re dealing with, and you know it!

This is evil, Mulder, this pure evil.”

The younger man stood off in a corner with his arms

wrapped around his own body to prevent the involuntary

shudders from traveling through his body. Mulder looked

away for a moment; he needed to regain control of his own

body’s reaction.

The kid was good, Mulder had to admit it. He agreed with

everything he’d stated. Now, what to do about it.

Mulder looked at his watch and realized he was going to

have to check in with Scully soon. He knew she was going

to ask about the progress of the investigation and how the

kid was getting along. He knew he was going to have to

tell her something.

He also knew he was going to have to lie through his teeth

in order to buy himself some time.

Act II

Office of the Assistant Director

Monday, September 24, 2001

8:15 a.m.

Scully rapped on the glass so as not to startle Kim as she

sat listening to the voice mail on her phone. Kim smiled

and waved her to the couch against the wall opposite her

desk. Scully thought about standing but thought better of

it and sat on the edge of the cushion.

She hadn’t been totally surprised when a message on her

own voice mail told her that the assistant director wanted

to see her the minute she got into the office. She even

expected the fact that her superior’s voice would hold that

strained quality it usually had when he was considering the

options of a life sentence for killing her partner, or just

10-20 for attempted murder.

But that didn’t make it any easier to wait for the chewing

out she was expecting. One of these times, she vowed

silently as she waited, she was going to tape one of these

sessions and force Mulder to listen to it, all day long, if

necessary.

Kim finished getting her messages and looked up at Scully.

“Boy, I don’t know what your partner did this time, but I

lost a coffee mug this morning because of him,” she said

with an exasperated huff.

“I’ll make sure he replaces it, Kim,” Scully assured the

woman, just as the inner office door opened and Assistant

Director Skinner loomed in the doorway.

“Scully. Now.” Without waiting for her to join him, he

returned into his office and took his place behind his

desk. Scully couldn’t resist a quick peek in his

wastebasket, situated next to his desk as she passed it on

the way to her seat. Sure enough, the colored remains of a

light brown coffee mug littered the bottom of the can.

“Don’t bother sitting, Agent. This won’t take long,”

Skinner growled and Scully resisted the urge to cringe at

the sound of his voice. Instead, she straightened her back,

squared her shoulders and waited for the coming storm.

“I assume you were informed of your partner’s recent

defection to Violent Crimes Section?” Skinner asked, low

and menacing. It was a double-edged sword. A yes meant

she knew before the AD and that was bad for her. A no

meant that Mulder hadn’t even bothered to tell his partner,

and that would be even worse for Mulder.

“I found out on Saturday, sir,” Scully answered honestly.

“I heard from him briefly last night. He and the other

profiler were putting together a preliminary profile.

Everything seemed fine.”

“It would have been nice of him to at least give me a

heads up, after I called SAC Alexander following our

meeting Friday and explained that the X-Files Division was

much too busy with its own cases to offer assistance on

this one,” Skinner intoned evenly. Scully could see the

little vein throbbing at his neck and wondered how close he

was to red-lining on a blood pressure scale.

“Sir, as Agent Mulder explained it to me, this is a

personal favor to SAC Alexander. They have a new profiler,

and Agent Mulder agreed to come in strictly on a consulting

basis. Once the new agent has his feet under him, Agent

Mulder will be leaving the task force and returning his

attention to his own division. In the meantime, I am

pursuing the other cases that the division is currently

investigating.”

Skinner was unearthly still for a good minute. Then his

expression softened somewhat and he drew in a deep breath.

“Off the record, Scully. This is a profiling case. I

really hate to think he’s working this without…”

Scully didn’t need a road map to know that the AD was

disturbed that she wouldn’t be providing her partner with

back up, professional or otherwise.

“I have expressed my own concerns to Agent Mulder, sir,”

she assured him. “He seems intent on helping VCS out, but

only in as far as the new agent needs assistance getting

started. He is aware of the potential hazards this case

poses.” To her great relief, Skinner’s expression told her

he was able to read between the lines. She was going to be

on top of this, all the way.

“You will be keeping in contact with him?” It was more of

a statement, worded as a question. In other circumstances,

it probably would have been issued as an order.

“Absolutely, sir,” Scully responded, nodding for emphasis.

Skinner still wasn’t happy, but he seemed to relax a

little. “Next time, Scully, remind him that I can be

reached off hours and if something like this comes up,

that’s exactly how I would prefer it be handled.”

“I will do that, sir,” Scully said, rising to leave while

the conversation was on relatively neutral ground.

Before she got to the door, Skinner called her name.

“Scully, that goes for you, too.”

Scully didn’t say anything, just nodded. Message

received, if she had any problems with Mulder or detected

any problems, she was to bring them to Skinner first.

She just hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

Dana Scully’s apartment

8:15 p.m.

The bag of groceries held out until she got the door

unlocked. As she stepped into her apartment, the bottom

ripped out and the contents, including a dozen eggs and a

sixteen-ounce tub of yogurt, spilled out onto her hardwood

floor. Anger would have been her first emotion, but she

was just too tired. Instead, she kicked at the mess with

her foot and trudged off toward her bedroom, shedding her

suit jacket and pants as she went.

In jeans and a sweater, she returned to clean up the mess.

Six of the eggs were history, but that still left enough

for an omelet on Saturday. She sighed to herself. If

Mulder was finished playing ‘big brother’ to the new guy in

VCS, maybe she could make that a nice six egg omelet and

share it with her partner next Saturday morning. That

thought made her smile. The rest of the contents of the

bag were relatively unscathed, so she scrubbed up the egg

yolk and yogurt and put the groceries away.

Dinner consisted of the contents still clinging to the

inside of the tub of yogurt, which she would never admit to

anyone. “Five-second rule, Scully,” Mulder had once

enlightened her. “It takes germs at least five seconds to

infect something when it lands on the floor.” At the time,

she’d been appalled that her partner could eat food that

had fallen on the motel shag carpet, but as the case they

were on grew longer and the runs to get food grew fewer and

farther in between, she found the economic sense in his

actions. Besides, she was just too tired to cook.

She glanced at the phone at least four times before

deciding she needed a soak. She hadn’t had a good bubble

bath in… She couldn’t remember how long it had been

since she’d had a good soak in the tub. It was once a

Friday night ritual, when the two agents weren’t on a case.

But since she’d been spending Friday evenings with Mulder,

she’d traded her bubble bath for something more engaging.

She smiled as slipped into the tub and let the bubbles

tickle her chin. She and Mulder had finally crossed the

line, that invisible line they’d drawn in the sand over

eight years ago. She drew in a deep breath, thinking how

nice it would be for him to surprise her, sneak in her

apartment and join her in the tub. There was enough room,

more than enough. She lay there until the water grew cold,

waiting for him. It was with a touch of disappointment

that she climbed out of the tepid water and toweled herself

off. It was only 10 p.m., but she was dead tired, and

now deliciously warm, so she crawled into bed and drifted

off to sleep with the image of Mulder’s arms around her,

holding her close.

She was running through an empty airport. It looked

almost like Dulles, but it could have been any of a hundred

airports she’d been in all across the country. She

couldn’t help wondering where all the people were. But

more than anything else, she knew she had to find her

partner.

The gates flashed past her as she ran, and the end of the

hall seemed to be getting further and further away. She

was certain that Mulder was just in front of her, at some

gate she was running toward. Outside, dark clouds engulfed

the runways and lightning flashed, illuminating the

concourse in eerie shadows.

She saw him, finally, probably no more than fifty yards

away. She called out to him and he turned toward her,

started to come forward to greet her. A dark shadow formed

between them, and Mulder was obscured from her view. She

called his name and heard him call back to her, but his

voice sounded farther away than she knew him to be. His

voice sounded muffled, and then she heard him yelling,

telling her to run, to get away.

She was about to turn, figuring that he would follow.

When she didn’t hear his footsteps behind her she looked

over her shoulder and saw him struggling. He was fighting

with the shadow, which had taken the form of a human, much

taller than her 6-foot partner. The shadow was at least 10

feet tall and Mulder was quickly losing his battle. Scully

watched in horror as the shadow took hold of Mulder’s neck

with long arms and with one quick twist and a loud snap,

Mulder’s eyes went wide, his body went limp and he dropped

to the floor. She couldn’t tear her eyes from his lifeless

expression as she started to scream.

Sirens were blaring and she couldn’t move, nor could she

break her gaze from the man lying now mere yards from her.

The shadow seemed to grow even larger and was bearing down

on her when the sirens grew so great that she had to clasp

her hands over her ears…

It was the phone! Catching her breath, she frantically

glanced around her darkened bedroom, finally realized she’d

just had one hell of a nightmare. The phone went silent

for a moment, then started ringing again. She fumbled with

the receiver and finally picked it up with a shaking hand.

“Yes, Scully,” she panted, her voice cracking almost as

badly as her hands were shaking. Cradling the phone

against her shoulder, she wiped at the tears still wet on

her cheeks.

“Scully, you OK?”

She almost cried out in relief. Mulder. Just the person

she needed to hear from most. She took a moment to draw in

a lungful of air and calm down. She didn’t want him to

know she’d been crying in her sleep. Or what she’d been

crying about.

“I’m fine, Mulder. I was asleep.”

“Asleep? Scully, it’s 11:25 at home. Since when do you

go to bed before the late news is off?” Mulder asked,

trying to keep his tone light but failing to hide his

concern completely. “You sure you’re OK?”

“Hey, you know how paperwork wears me out. I was

exhausted when I got home. I took a bubble bath. . .”

“Stop right there, Scully. I know all about your dirty

little secret. You get in a bath and you’re out for the

night. And I’d rather not talk about you soaking in a tub

of bubbles unless I’m there to partake in the festivities.”

“Awfully presumptuous, aren’t you G-Man?” she teased. It

was so good just to hear his voice. Her dream was fading

with each breath she heard him take over the phone line.

“I mean, who said my tub’s big enough for the both of us.”

“I can squeeze in there somewhere, Scully,” he shot back

and she didn’t try to hold in her laugh.

“So, did you get the new kid straightened out?” she asked.

Hearing his voice, she wanted him home more than anything.

The dream was fading, but the anxiety it produced was still

ripping through her veins. She didn’t like Mulder being

hundreds of miles away with no one but a wet behind the

ears newbie watching his back. It was too easy for her to

remember her own experience with a raw recruit. Her side

still ached from time to time to remind her.

“Kenny? He’s a good kid, but I might have to hang on a

couple more days. Hey, I need a favor,” he said, deftly

switching the subject.

“Ah, Mulder,” she groaned. “I hate your favors!”

“Scully! You haven’t even heard this one! Give me a

chance, please,” he whined.

“Yeah, Mulder. One chance. Like the one chance I gave

you in Chaney, Texas, and the one chance I gave you in

Arcadia Falls, California, and let’s not forget the one

chance I gave you in Pentwater, Michigan…”

“Hey, hold up there! This one is nothing like those other

times, Scully, I swear.”

“Spill it, Mulder. What’s the big favor?” she asked dryly.

“Run up to Monsey, New York and get an exhumation order

for the rabbi who was killed in April.”

“Mulder! That rabbi was Hassidic!”

“Yeah, so? They didn’t do an autopsy, Scully. We need

that information for the profile. Besides, Hassidic Jews

abide by the same laws and authorities we all do.”

“Oh, well, then why don’t you ‘run up to Monsey, New York’

and get the exhumation order, Mulder?” she taunted.

“Because you’re much harder to turn down, Scully,” he

replied quickly and she could almost see the leering smile

on his all too handsome face. A smile she would have dearly

loved to scrub right off his kisser at that moment.

“Oh, all right. I’ll go. But they have every reason to

deny this request, Mulder. You have very little to go on

and the other autopsies haven’t given you any additional

leads,” she reminded him.

“I know, Scully. But those other autopsies weren’t done

by you,” he pointed out. Damn him, he was always using

praise to get his way. She’d have to get him for that,

someday.

“So, it’s late. Are you calling me before you turn in?”

she asked, no longer wishing to spend their precious time

arguing over exhumation orders.

“Nah, actually, we just cracked open Kenny’s second case

of Coke and we’re going to get started on the preliminary

profile.”

“Mulder, did you say…”

“Coca-Cola, Scully. That Coke. Kenny doesn’t imbibe

caffeine the same way you and I do. I have a pot of motel

bathroom coffee and he’s shootin’ Cokes.”

“Well, remember to get some sleep, all right? You made me

a promise.”

“One I fully plan on keeping, Scully. I’m fine. Really.”

Even as he spoke the reassurances, a cold chill ran the

length of her spine and suddenly all she could see was the

shadow snapping his neck and Mulder falling dead to the

ground at her feet. She had to take several deep breaths

to keep from crying out again.

“Mulder…” she started. She wanted to warn him, force

him back home. Short of that, she wanted to get on the

first plane to Biloxi and stick to him like glue, making

certain neither of them ended up in any deserted airports.

“I know, Scully. I really miss you, too,” he answered

back tenderly, totally misunderstanding what she was trying

to put into words. “But I’ll see you soon. Hey, this week

it’s my turn to pick the movie. I’ll make sure I’m home by

Friday night.”

“Mulder, please, I just…”

“Just a minute, Kenny. Look, Scully, I gotta go. The kid

can’t figure out how to hook up the modem on the phone in

his room. I’ll try to call you tomorrow. And let me know

about the exhumation, we really need that autopsy.”

“Mulder…”

“You, too. Talk to you soon.” The line was disconnected

before she could slip in another word. She laid the phone

down its cradle and let the tears fall hot down her cheeks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

10 a.m.

As Scully punched in the touch-tones to place the call to

Monsey, New York, she realized her fingers still trembled

slightly. No matter how hard she tried to talk herself

into thinking her dream last night was nothing more than a

manifestation of her missing Mulder, she knew that it was

more than that. She couldn’t even call it a nightmare. It

was more than that, too.

A vision. It was more like that, and it scared the hell

out of her.

She heard the phone ringing on the other end and drew a

breath in anticipation of the voice on the other side. She

grasped the receiver more tightly in an effort to calm her

skittish fingers.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Mr. Steiger?” asked Scully tentatively. She

hesitated momentarily as she realized she wasn’t quite

certain how to pronounce the witness’s first name.

“Yes, this is Reuven Steiger,” he responded.

Oh. That’s how, she thought to herself with a small

smile. “Mr. Steiger, my name is Dana Scully and I’m a

special agent with the FBI, in Washington. I need to speak

with you to clarify some details regarding Rabbi

Zimmerman’s death last April.” She’d realized she wasn’t

sure of the pronunciation of the rabbi’s first name as

well, ‘Shmuel.’

“I’ve already spoken with the police, Miss Scully. I

don’t know what else I could possibly add,” he said in a

soft, but firm voice.

“There’s always a possibility that some detail has been

left out, Mr. Steiger. Please, it would be of great help if

I may speak with you in person.”

There was silence for several moments, and Scully feared

her request would be refused. “Mr. Steiger?” she asked

hopefully.

“Miss Scully, please understand, it’s not that I wish to

be difficult,” he began in his soft toned voice. “Tomorrow

evening is Erev Yom Kippur, the holiest of holy days for

the Jewish people. I must be free to help my family

prepare for it; I don’t want to seem rude, but I have

little time to rehash a statement that I’d already given to

the sheriff.

“That was a very difficult time for me; for my entire

family and the congregation of our shul. Please understand

if I’m reluctant to relive it.”

“Mr. Steiger, I do understand, and it is not my intent to

intrude upon your family during your holiday. I can catch

a shuttle to New York this afternoon. We could meet, and

then I’ll be out of your hair shortly after that. I

promise.”

Scully wondered momentarily to herself if she weren’t

going to be damned to hell for lying to the young man. She

was going to ask permission to exhume the body of the man’s

Rabbi, for heaven’s sake. If that wasn’t getting into

one’s hair, she wasn’t sure what was.

“Very well, Miss Scully, I’ll meet you in our synagogue’s

office this afternoon. Do you have a time in mind?”

Scully knew there was a hourly business shuttle that left

Dulles on weekday mornings, so she was fairly certain that

if she moved quickly she could catch a flight, grab a

rental car at the airport and be in Monsey by one o’clock.

Monsey, New York

1:15 p.m.

As Scully entered the aging building, she couldn’t help

but feel the conflicting sense of peace and unrest that was

pervasive throughout. She was overwhelmed with feelings of

discord within herself, but couldn’t account for any of it.

The building resembled the one she’d been in New York City,

when she and Mulder battled an unexplainable phenomena, a

golem.

She noticed that there were pews on the ground level,

where she stood, as well as above in a balcony. She also

noted lightweight, sheer curtains, which hung from the

balcony pews, and wondered what their purpose was. The

wooden pews were well maintained and cared for. The temple

was old, but it was well cared for.

“Hello?” she called out tentatively. “Mr. Steiger?”

“Yes, yes, coming,” responded a voice.

Scully wasn’t sure what she was expecting Reuven Steiger

to look like, but based upon his soft-spoken tone and

demeanor over the phone, she knew she’d never imagined the

form that stood before her.

Reuven Steiger stood at least six foot three inches,

perhaps four. All she knew was that this young man

certainly would tower over Mulder. He stood straight, so

his posture accounted for every millimeter of his height.

He was dressed formally, much more so than Scully would

have anticipated, but the suit was slightly wrinkled which

told her he didn’t own many of them. This one was badly in

need of pressing and she suspected he was getting one more

wearing out of it before he traded it in for a suit

reserved for the Jewish High Holy Days.

She held out her hand in a gesture of introduction, but he

shook his head slightly and said softly, “Forgive me, Miss

Scully, but it’s not considered proper. May I ask you to

join me in the office. Please?”

Scully nodded her head as she withdrew her hand. Though

the situation could have easily made her feel foolish or

humiliated, Reuven Steiger’s quiet manner did neither, and

if anything actually put her more at ease.

When they entered the office, Scully was somewhat

surprised to see a woman in the room as well. “Miss

Scully, this is my wife, Rifka. We felt it would be more

proper if my wife was present when I met with you.”

Scully felt like smacking her head; of all the utmost

stupidity on her part! Of course Reuven would be

uncomfortable meeting with her alone. As a Hassidic Jew he

would not normally meet alone with a female officer.

Scully hoped her faux pas did not hamper her interview too

much.

“Rifka, this is the police officer I told you about,” said

Reuven as he interrupted Scully’s thoughts.

“Mrs. Steiger, it’s nice to meet you.” This was received

by a nod of acknowledgment by the younger woman. Scully

kept her hand at her side. “I would like to clarify that

I’m not with the police here in New York. I am a federal

agent out of Washington DC.”

“Yes, I’m sorry. We do know that.”

“Very well, I promised to be as brief as possible, so why

don’t we begin?” offered Scully. At the nod of the couple,

Scully began asking general questions regarding the events

that led up to Rabbi Zimmerman’s death and what Reuven, the

first person on the scene to find the rebbe, did.

“Then, as I told the sheriff’s deputy, I walked into the

office to see if the rebbe was still there, which I’d

strongly suspected.”

“This was before Friday night services?” interrupted Scully.

“Oh yes, well before. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon.

Rivka had made some soup for Shabbat dinner, and she asked

me to bring a bowl of it to Reb Shmuel since she was sure,

as was I, that he hadn’t left for home to eat before

services.”

“Why is that?” asked Scully.

“Why is what?”

“Why didn’t the rabbi leave? What do you believe he was

doing that prevented him from going home for a noon meal?”

asked Scully.

Steiger looked pensive for a moment. Scully watched his

reaction closely, this question had not been asked in the

earlier report on file. “He was always studying, Miss

Scully. He was always trying to learn more the ways of our

God.”

“Such as?”

“I don’t understand,” replied a confused Steiger.

“Rabbi Steiger–” Scully began.

“No, Miss Scully. I am not a rabbi. I have not achieved

that honor. Reb Eisenberg is our religious leader now. I

am merely his assistant as I was Reb Shmuel’s assistant.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just that it seemed as if you were so

aware of the inner workings of the Temple and you seem to

be here as much as the Rabbi.”

“He was,” murmured Rifka.

“He was?” echoed Scully.

“Rifka, please, you are here as an observer,” said Reuven

with firmness that Scully hadn’t heard up till now. “Now,

Miss Scully, if there are no other questions, my wife and I

need to get ready for our holiday.”

Scully hesitated; she wanted desperately to follow up on

Rifka’s involuntary comment, but she knew the younger woman

would not willingly respond if her husband did not want her

to answer. Scully was also not sure if she had the nerve

to make the request that Mulder had made of her. She took

a deep breath and moved forward.

“Mr. Steiger, there is one more question, request

actually. There was never a full autopsy performed on Rabbi

Zimmerman. Can you explain why not?”

Reuven eyes widened slightly; it wasn’t a question that he

should have been surprised to hear, but nonetheless he

wasn’t quite sure how to answer it either.

“I found him at 2:30 in the afternoon. We had a

very narrow window, Miss Scully.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” interrupted Scully.

“Narrow window for what?”

“To bury our religious leader according to Jewish Law.

You see, you can’t have a funeral on the Sabbath, nor can

you have one on the first day of Passover, which happened

to follow the Sabbath this year. Judaic law dictates that

we bury our dead within twenty-four hours.

“This was our rabbi, Miss Scully,” Steiger implored. “If

we didn’t have a service for him that afternoon, we would

have had to wait till three days later, which would have

also been the second day of Passover. We didn’t want to do

an injustice to our rebbe. We wanted to give him a proper

burial, immediately.”

“I can’t imagine that you were able to organize the

service that quickly, Mr. Steiger,” responded Scully

somewhat skeptically.

“Miss Scully, this is a very small community. It doesn’t

take a great deal of effort for us to all come together in

a time of need. Our rebbe needed us. There was no

question as to whether we would be able to accomplish our

task,” responded Reuven.

“But Mr. Steiger, how could the police allow you to bury

the rabbi without a formal inquiry. His death was

untimely; it was unexplained,” queried Scully.

“It was anything but untimely, Miss Scully. The rebbe was

a man well into his eighties. He had a long, full life in

which he garnered a community of followers that would do

anything for him. The timeliness of his death was not in

question.”

“But the manner? Mr. Steiger, you reported to the police

that he had a hole in his chest!” declared Scully with a

hint of ire. The pathologist in her couldn’t understand

how the rebbe’s congregation wouldn’t want to know the

cause of their religious leader’s death.

“I explained exactly what I saw, Miss Scully. I withheld

no information and the county medical examiner took a

number of pictures. It was quickly determined that there

must have been a terrible accident that caused the burns to

appear. I don’t know why, but the medical examiner

decided, after much discussion with the deputies involved

that it would not be in the best interest of the community

to conduct an autopsy. They claimed they wouldn’t be able

to derive any new information from it anyway. The medical

examiner did evaluate the body’s condition and determined

the death was of unknown origin,” explained Steiger.

“I don’t understand how the Rockland County Sheriff’s

Department could just allow the M.E. to conduct a

superficial

exam and claim an autopsy was not needed. This was highly

unorthodox!” declared Scully, unaware of the pun she’d

unintentionally made.

Even Rifka chuckled, to which Scully opened her mouth and

muttered a quick apology. “Miss Scully, if I may speak?”

Rifka actually looked over at her husband for permission

rather than Scully, and when he nodded slightly, she

continued. “You have to understand something else about

this community. It has had a difficult history in the

area. We have been subject to some strife in recent

history, and the people of this community are not always,

shall we say, willing to cooperate with the authorities.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t; there is nothing in

Jewish Law that says we should not cooperate with the

authorities.

“But understand, that many of our community members are

rather sheltered; they rarely if ever leave the area.

Their whole life revolves around the small area that is

Monsey. The sheriff’s department is not always a body that

our community puts its trust in. The death of our rebbe

was a shock; it also occurred right before the Sabbath and

a major Jewish holiday.

“That in and of itself would have been enough to set off

demonstrations by anti-Jewish groups; the rebbe’s death,

unfortunately was welcomed by all too many hate groups. We

wanted our rebbe to be buried in peace. We didn’t want

there to be any questions regarding the virtue and piety of

this great man,” concluded Rifka.

“Why would anyone question that?” asked Scully curiously.

Reuven stood up. “There was no reason to question it,” he

stated quickly in a tone that indicated the conversation

was over.

However Scully still needed to make her request. She

remained seated and with a gentle firmness stated, “Mr.

Steiger, the FBI wants to exhume the rebbe’s body in order

to perform an autopsy.”

“What?” gasped Reuven. “No!”

“But, Mr. Steiger, you must understand, we need to see if

there’s any forensic evidence to support similarities in

the deaths of three clergy members. The Catholic priest

was also killed in Chicago around the same time as the

Rabbi. There was a Lutheran minister killed over the

summer and just recently there was a Baptist minister who

was apparently killed in a similar manner in Mississippi.

We have to find out what killed these men.”

“It would be impossible to even consider exhuming the

rebbe’s body before the end of the High Holy Days. Please,

Miss Scully. You must understand what such a request would

do to this community so shortly before Yom Kippur. Please,

Miss Scully. Please do not ask us to do this now,” Steiger

pleaded.

“I understand, Mr. Steiger. We’ll wait, but understand

that I can get a court order, and will do so if necessary.

I’ll return on Friday morning, Sir.”

Reuven sat down heavily in the chair and simply nodded.

He stared vacantly into space and remained mute.

“Are you all right?” Scully asked with concern. He nodded

in response but didn’t speak. “I’ll speak to you on Friday

morning, Mr. Steiger.”

Scully was about to step out the door when she turned to

Reuven and said quietly, “Have a good day, Mr. Steiger,

Mrs. Steiger.”

Reuven raised his eyes and said softly, “Thank you, Miss

Scully.”

Rifka gave her thanks as well, and then said quietly,

“I’ll walk you out, Miss Scully.” She turned to her

husband and said, “Reuven, finish up; we need to go home

soon.”

He nodded and numbly watched her accompany Scully out the

door.

“I have but a moment to speak, and then my husband will

become worried that I have ill spoke,” whispered Rifka

hurriedly as she and Scully arrived at the door to the shul.

“What is it? What did you mean before when you said

Reuven didn’t spend all his time here anymore?” asked

Scully.

“The rebbe was a wise and wonderful man, Miss Scully. He

wanted to learn all that God had to offer him. That

included the words of Kabbalah; that’s Jewish Mysticism.”

Scully nodded her understanding and Rifka continued.

“There was a section in the Kabbalah that Reb Shmuel began

studying with great interest.”

When Rifka hesitated, Scully urged her to continue, if for

no other reason that both women feared Reuven would

discover them deep in discussion. “I see you wear the sign

of the cross. Are you Catholic, Miss Scully? When Scully

nodded ‘yes,’ Rifka said, “Then you are well aware of the

history of exorcism in the Church?” Once again, Scully

nodded.

“Miss Scully, were you also aware that there are exorcists

on the payroll of the Catholic Church even today as we

speak?”

“You’re kidding?” Scully retorted, and then seeing the

expression on her companions face realized she was doing

anything but. “Rifka, how is it that you are so aware of

all of this? You’re obviously an educated woman; you’ve

been out in the world, haven’t you?”

“Miss Scully, my full name is Dr. Rifka Steiger. I am a

pediatrician with a full time practice in Rockland County.

I also helped the medical examiner determine there was no

need for an autopsy.”

“What? But how could you?”

“I had to, Miss Scully. I had to protect Reuven.”

“Reuven? Protect him from what?”

“From whatever evil did that to Reb Shmuel. The rebbe was

teaching Reuven about the Kabbalah, about exorcism. The

two of them would sit and study and argue all through the

night, and would never stop if I didn’t come to drag both

of them home.”

“Both of them home? You say that as if–” Scully said

bewildered.

“I say it as if Reb Shmuel was my father. My father,

for a Chassid was a very worldly man, Miss Scully. He

didn’t have to, but he allowed me to go into the world to

learn the ways of modern medicine so I could be of service

to our community.

“Reuven and I loved my father very much, Miss Scully. Our

community revered him, but he was traveling down a

dangerous, religious path. If the elders in our religious

community got wind that my father was studying about

exorcism, there would have been problems. Big problems.

“I did not want to see my father’s name tarnished, so I

convinced the M.E. that it wasn’t necessary nor good

community PR to order an autopsy on the beloved, elderly

community rebbe,” she said, and then softly added, “May God

forgive me.”

“Forgive you for what, Rifka?” Scully asked gently.

“Forgive me for letting the devil get away with murder.”

Biloxi Fairgrounds

9:45 p.m.

The storm had been brewing over the Gulf for about two

days, so when it finally hit land, it brought with it gale

force winds and driving rain. Mulder stood just outside the

big tent, watching the wind whip the top and billow it up

into a grotesque imitation of a mushroom cloud.

He jerked at his suit jacket collar in a feeble attempt to

stop the rain coursing down his neck. When he’d left

Washington, he’d forgotten his raincoat at the office. Not

that he would have bothered to remember it this time. He

was just running out to get another look at the scene.

That’s what he’d told Kenny and that’s what he’d written

in the note he left for Tom. Kenny had started to come

along, but one look from Mulder and the kid had cringed and

went back to the computer, searching for any possible

connections between the victims, schools, military service,

any thing they could go on.

From the outside, and to the other task force members, the

trail was beginning to grow cold. No new murders in three

days and no evidence from the most recent murders to point

the task force in a direction to follow. Only Mulder and

Kenny felt any progress was being made. But the progress

was in knowing the killer’s motivations, and not

necessarily in figuring out exactly who it was doing the

murders.

They’d stayed up all night hammering out a profile.

Several sheets of yellow legal pad and about a dozen number

2lead pencils fell victim to Mulder’s temper during the

long hours. He cautioned Kenny on placing too much

reliance

on the ‘feelings’ they’d both had at the crime scene at the

fairgrounds. But at the same time, he knew in his gut that

the dark shadow and the chill he’d felt was as much

tangible evidence that would lead them to the murderer as a

fingerprint or a DNA sample.

The burned ground had haunted his dreams, when Mulder had

finally fallen asleep for half an hour just before dawn.

He could see the dark shadow passing over the green grass,

burning everything in its path. That dark shadow was

filled with hatred and cold, an evil so all-encompassing

that it took Mulder’s breath away.

Kenny had experienced a nightmare, too, though he wouldn’t

confide in Mulder. He’d been sprawled across the bed, not

even having removed his shoes, when Mulder had gotten up to

take a shower. When Mulder came back out, the young man

was sitting up stiffly on the edge of the bed, breathing

heavily. Mulder was certain he saw the tracks of dried

tears on the kid’s face. That just served to strengthen

Mulder’s resolve on what he had to do.

There was no way he could let the kid face this evil. He

was still too young, too inexperienced, too much of a

tenderfoot to face anything so heinous and destructive.

Mulder knew he’d have to face this thing himself, alone.

The wind howled around him, giving the big tent the

ominous feel of a giant yawning mouth, waiting to devour

anyone who neared it. Mulder wiped more rain from his face

and walked under the edge of the tent. The wind was blowing

so hard that the tent only marginally protected him from

the torrential downpour. Cautiously, he pulled out his

Maglight and moved further into the tent.

The images played in his head again. The Reverend Abraham

Stewart was standing tall and proud on the raised platform.

He didn’t use the podium that had been placed there for his

convenience. He preferred to be close to his congregation.

He held a worn Bible in his hands, opened it with a tender

caress of the gold leaf pages and began to recite.

“Then the devil took Him to the Holy City;” Abraham said,

his voice slow and low with emotion.

“Amen, brother!” shouted many in the crowd.

“And he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and

said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, then row yourself

down; for it is written He will give His angels charge

concerning You; and on their hands they will bear You up

least you strike your foot against a stone.'” Sweat poured

from his face as Abraham held the book high above his head

and raised his face to the Lord.

“Amen! Hallelujah!” shouted the crowd.

“And Je-sus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is

written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test!'”

The Reverend Stewart closed the book and closed his eyes.

Reaching forward, he touched the head of a woman kneeling

down in front of him.

“BE GONE! I say, Satan! Be gone from this woman of the

Lord!”

And the woman began to writhe and fell backward, eyes

rolling back in her head, shaking uncontrollably. The

reverend kept shouting, “Be gone, Satan! Be gone, you

fallen angel! You have no place in God’s world. Be gone!

Be gone!”

Mulder stumbled under the wave of anger and hatred that

rushed into him. Humiliation, despair, betrayal all warred

against each other for his attention. But most of all,

overriding everything else, he was filled with revenge.

“Agent Mulder?”

It was like coming up for a breath when he’d been under

water too long. Air was sucked into his lungs not by the

act of breathing, but as a vacuum is filled with the seal

is broken. He swallowed hard, tried to quiet his heart

where it pounded in his chest.

“Agent Mulder, I’m sorry. I tried to call you on your

cell phone. I think we might be out of range of a cell.”

“Andrews, what the fuck are you doing out here?” Mulder

growled, not even sure why he was suddenly so angry.

“I’m sorry. I know you wanted to come out here alone, but

I needed to find you. It’s important.” The kid was

trembling, but as far as Mulder could tell, it was probably

from the wind and the storm.

“Well, you found me. Now, what the hell do you want?”

Kenny swallowed and licked rain off his lip. “There’s

been an accident.”

Act III

Biloxi Mercy Hospital

10:30 p.m.

“They said the accident happened sometime around 9. The

car was struck head-on by a drunk driver,” Kenny explained

as they got off the elevator.

“The other driver?”

“Dead at the scene. Mulder, we haven’t been able to get

hold of the next of kin.” Kenny chewed on his lip and

looked all the more like a kid of 24.

Mulder stopped and shut his eyes, rocking back on his

heels. It hurt. He didn’t think it was possible to hurt

this much when it wasn’t even…

“I’ll make that call. But first, I want something to go

on.”

Kenny nodded and pointed in the direction of the nurses

station.

Mulder pulled out his badge and showed it to the nurse

behind the desk. “I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder with the

FBI. I understand another agent was brought in tonight.

Thomas Alexander.”

The nurse took a minute to consult her computer screen.

“Yes, Mr. Alexander was brought by ambulance. I’m afraid I

can’t give you much information, except to tell you he’s

been taken to surgery.”

Mulder nodded his thanks. “Is there a pay phone nearby?”

The nurse smiled and pointed to a bank of phones just

across the hall. Mulder headed over, picking up the first

receiver and closing his eyes again before dialing a number

by heart.

“Sally? It’s Mulder, Fox Mulder. Yeah, long time for

sure. Sally, you need to get down here to Biloxi. Tom’s

been hurt.”

Biloxi Mercy Hospital

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

6:15 a.m.

Mulder paced the small waiting room. Other agents had

arrived shortly after him and Kenny, but he pointedly

ignored all of them. Sally Alexander was booked on a 5:30

flight from Falls Church, Virginia. She was due at the

Biloxi airport at 6:45. Mulder hoped she’d get there in

time.

More than once he’d started to call Scully, but had

stopped himself. What could she do but offer her sympathy?

He missed her voice, wanted to hold her in his arms, but

that felt like it would be comfort for himself and he

wasn’t the one needing comfort. Sally needed comfort. He

needed to be strong for Tom and his wife.

He hadn’t seen Sally since the wedding. Tom’s brother had

been the best man, but Tom had asked Mulder to stand up

with him as a groomsman. Sally had tried several times

during the reception to hook Mulder up with her cousin, but

he’d managed to escape that fate. Now, he couldn’t even

picture the girl in his mind.

“Mulder, want some coffee?” Kenny was standing there, a

Styrofoam cup in one hand and a familiar red can in the

other, looking way too much like a hopeful puppy begging to

be patted on the head. Mulder stamped down the urge to

smack the kid across the room and shook his head.

“No, thanks.”

“Do you think…”

“We don’t know anything, Andrews,” Mulder spat out, but

when he saw the wounded look on the young man’s face, he

struggled to get hold of his temper. “Look, Kenny, the

doctors don’t know anything right now. He made it through

surgery. That’s the good part. But with the kind of head

trauma he sustained, well, let’s just say a coma might be

the lesser of two evils.”

“It all happened so fast. One minute he’d called from the

police station telling me he wanted to look at our profile

and then next minute the hospital was calling. The phone

number to my motel room was the last number he’d dialed on

his cell phone,” Kenny said miserably.

“Don’t blame yourself, kid. You had nothing to do with

this. It was an accident.”

“Still, he was thinking about the case. Maybe his mind

wasn’t on the road…”

“Stop it, Kenny! I mean it. Just get off that track

right now. You had absolutely nothing to do with this.”

Kenny was silent for a minute, then he squared his jaw.

“Yeah, but if I’d given him a good profile, we’d have

closed this case already and he never would have been on

that road.” Without giving Mulder a chance to reply, he

turned on his heel and left the waiting room.

Mulder closed his eyes again and trembled with the effort

it took him to keep from putting his fist through the wall.

A hand on his shoulder brought him around to reality.

“Fox, it’s been a long time.”

Sally stood beside him, looking a little older than when

he’d last seen her. She was still blonde, what most people

would call ‘perky,’ but there was a fear in her eyes that

he would have given anything to replace.

“Yeah, too long. Sally, I don’t know what to say,” he

muttered as he drew the petite woman into a loose hug. She

drew away quickly and wiped at her eyes. “I just talked to

the doctor.”

He didn’t want to know. But he had to ask. “And?”

Slowly, she shook her head. The tears left little tracks

on her cheeks. It was everything Mulder could do to keep

from wiping them away. But that wasn’t his place. He bit

the inside of his lip to keep from crying.

She started to say something else, but someone called her

name — one of the doctors Mulder vaguely remembered from

seeing earlier in the night. He was coming toward them with

a very serious look on his face.

Suddenly, Sally froze. The doctor hadn’t gotten within

10 feet of them and she was shaking her head back and

forth.

“No. No, it can’t be. No.” She started walking backward

and ran right into Mulder.

“Mrs. Alexander, I’m very sorry,” the doctor started to

take her shoulder, but Mulder waved him off. He turned

Sally in his arms and held her while she cried.

Kenny watched helplessly from his seat near the wall. A

noise startled him and he realized Mulder’s jacket was

ringing. He reached over and dug out the older agent’s

cell phone.

“Hello?” he said, hesitantly. “Um, Agent Mulder’s phone.”

“Who is this?” asked a terse voice on the other end of the

phone line.

“This is Agent Kenneth Andrews. Now, who is this?” Kenny

shot back.

“Agent Scully, Agent Mulder’s partner. Where is he?”

Kenny looked across the room. Mulder had managed to get

Sally over to a bank of chairs on the opposite wall and was

holding her while she sobbed uncontrollably.

“He’s indisposed at the moment. Can I take a message?”

He had to hold his hand over his ear as the P.A. system went

off paging a doctor.

“Where are you? Are you at the hospital? What’s

happened? Where’s Mulder? Is he hurt?”

She was asking the questions so fast and furious, Kenny

almost couldn’t get a word in edgewise. “Hey! Agent

…Sculder? Calm down! No, he’s not hurt. Yes, we are at

the hospital. There was a car accident. SAC Alexander…

he was in a car wreck. He, uh, he… he didn’t make it.”

Kenny felt his throat close up and croaked out the last

words. He didn’t want to cry, but he wished he were

anywhere else so he could break down.

“Tom? Tom Alexander’s dead?” came the voice on the phone.

“Oh God, Mulder must be devastated,” she said with a sad

sigh.

“Well, right now he’s pretty busy trying to calm down

Tom’s wife,” Kenny told her.

“I better get down there,” Scully announced. “I don’t

know when I’ll be able to get a flight, but I’ll be there

as soon as I can.”

Biloxi Blues Motel

8:12 a.m.

Mulder exited the rental and slammed the car door. Hard.

Kenny jerked in reaction and immediately clambered out of

the driver’s seat to follow him. Mulder didn’t want to

deal with the kid at that moment. He couldn’t. He’d just

finished holding Tom Alexander’s widow in his arms in a

vain attempt to console her, but all the while berating

himself for selfishly wondering if he would be able to

solve this case without his friend’s steady hand.

Tom knew when he’d agreed to have Mulder join the team

what they were both getting into. Mulder was going to do

his damnedest to find the killer, and Tom was going to do

his damnedest to keep Mulder from going insane.

Tom had seen it happen all too often while both were

working under Patterson in the early days. Bill would pass

out serial cases for his people to profile; only Mulder

always seemed to get twice as many. Maybe because Mulder

could solve ’em twice as fast. The problem with that was

that Mulder would never have any down time. More than once

Tom had found his former roommate holed up in a tiny office

in the VCS dungeon at Quantico staring into space. More

than once Tom had been tempted to call for an ambulance,

and only when Tom had screamed threats of just such an

action, did Mulder snap out of his trance-like state.

But now Tom was dead, and Mulder’s immediate tether to

sanity was dead too. His true lifeline was miles away and

on the trail of more information for the case, so he

couldn’t count on Scully at that point for comfort. All he

had was a profiling newbie who was probably going to get

himself killed because he had no idea what the hell they

were dealing with. And the last thing Mulder wanted to do

at that moment was try and explain it to the kid.

Tom’s death hurt. It wasn’t only because Tom was a

steadying force for him on this case. Nor was it just

because Mulder had lost a friend; Tom was someone Mulder

was able to associate with a pleasant memory from his VCS

past, a rarity in and of itself. But Tom’s passing,

coupled with Mulder’s seemingly inability to console Sally

Alexander over her husband’s untimely death reminded Mulder

of something. No matter how good of a profiler he still was

it didn’t negate the fact that he was still a mere mortal

and subject to the same rules of life, and death, as all

men were.

And the combination of Tom’s death and the gut feeling he

was getting about this case made that epiphany all the more

frightening to Mulder. Mulder was scared to death, and that

did not bode well for either him or the kid in this case.

Fear could work for you in that it could make you cautious

and wary of taking foolish steps. However it could also

work against you; it could freeze you from taking the

necessary steps to prevent another killing. Mulder was at

a crossroads. He was ready to stand frozen in place, but

then the kid spoke.

“Mulder, wait! You’re right! There was nothing I could

do to have prevented this. It was a damned drunk driver,

and Tom was in the wrong place at the right time. But

Mulder! Damn it Mulder, look at me!” he screamed as the

older agent had continued to walk away from him. Mulder

halted and turned to look at the Kenny.

“Mulder, you couldn’t have done anything either. There

was nothing you could have pieced together to prevent that

drunk from slamming into Tom.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Andrews?” Mulder

asked tensely.

“You KNOW what I’m talking about. You KNOW!” he

practically screamed.

And the truth of the matter was, Mulder did know, but what

disturbed him most was that the kid knew too. He’d already

sensed that Kenny had the makings of a good profiler; he

hadn’t realized that Kenny had the makings of another

‘Spooky’ Mulder. But for the kid’s sake, Mulder knew he

couldn’t let on that Kenny was on the right track. That

would be too dangerous.

“Andrews, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

I’m going to go into my room and get some shuteye. I

suggest you go into your room and do the same.” And with

that he turned and left Kenny Andrews staring at him with

his mouth slightly agape.

As the door to Mulder’s room slammed shut, the younger

agent remembered he hadn’t told him that his partner had

called and was on the way. The way Mulder was acting, it

could wait.

Mulder entered the small motel room and prayed Kenny

wouldn’t decide to play nursemaid and knock at his door.

He practically held his breath as he listened for the slam

of the door to the room next door. When he did hear it,

Mulder sighed with relief and sat down on the bed that was

covered with files and papers with scrawls of notes.

Though he was practically dead on his feet, Mulder had no

intention of sleeping. There was a killer to be caught,

and Mulder knew that he was the only one who had a chance

of doing it. He didn’t understand how he would accomplish

this as yet, nor did he understand why, of all people, it

should be him to do so, but neither of those mattered.

What did matter was that there was a killer, an entity that

was capable of picking off people at will and leaving them

dead with a hole in their heart.

As Mulder felt himself become emotional at the thoughts of

his victims, he knew he had to keep himself in check. He

needed to pull himself back from the case and begin to

think more objectively.

He stood up and stretched. He looked for something to use

as leverage to crack the vertebrae in his back. What he

wouldn’t give for his stickball bat. When he couldn’t find

anything he placed his hands firmly on the small of his

back and bent backwards. He experienced some relief and

then bent forward touching his toes. He did some stretches

to both sides and then tried to relax his neck and

shoulders.

His head felt somewhat clearer and he allowed himself to

get his mind back on the case. There were still so many

questions that he had no answers for. What was the UNSUB’s

motivation? The victims were all clergymen, but why those

particular men. There seemed to be no commonalties among

them other than they were leaders in their respective

religious communities.

What were the common traits among the victims that would

lead the UNSUB to pick those particular men. The reverend

was in his 40s, the priest was in his early 70s, and the

rabbi was in his 80s. There seemed to be nothing these

men’s backgrounds that indicated a common ground. The

rabbi was a widower, the reverend was married, and the

priest was celibate. He knew he was beginning to clutch

at straws.

Mulder began to pace around the room as thoughts began to

form. He held a pen in his hand and a yellow legal pad in

the other. He began scratching the words down as his mind

brainstormed leaps of seemingly incongruent thoughts.

Beliefs.

Common.

Teachings.

Religious.

Renegade.

Religious renegades. Mulder looked at the pairing of

those two words and wondered why that made sense to him.

What would make a man be considered a religious renegade?

How could men in their 70s and 80s be renegades? What were

their beliefs? Beliefs. It came back to that again.

“Damn it! Damn it! What the hell was I thinking!” he

cried out as he flung the notepad to the floor. Mulder

began to furiously pull at the papers on his bed. He

picked up file after file, paper after paper, index card

after index card of copious notes until finally, he found

the part of the report that held a seemingly innocuous

piece of data.

The paper was from the Zimmerman file. It was an

accounting of the body as it was found in the synagogue.

Though Mulder had reviewed and reviewed the details, few as

there were due to the lack of an autopsy, the one item

Mulder did not concern himself with was what Mulder now

believed was the key that would unlock the door to the

reasons behind the murders.

The elderly rebbe had been clutching a copy of the Sefer

ha-Razim, a book of ancient writings otherwise known as the

Book of Secrets. It was a book of magic, written by a

Palestinian Jew of the Talmudic period, dealt with the

forgotten field of Jewish magic. Apparently Reb Zimmerman

had been looking to rediscover it.

Mulder then searched frenetically for the next piece of

information that he hoped would tie these men together.

Father Michael Nelson, 70 years old was the parish priest

at

St. Gertrude’s for almost twenty years. There was nothing

out of the ordinary about that, but Mulder knew there had

to

be more. There had to be… “Holy shit!” he exclaimed

aloud.

There it was. The details were finally starting to fit

together. Mulder read the long list of Father Michael

Nelson’s cleric duties. They included the normal activities

associated with a parish priest. He said Mass, visited the

sick, taught at the Parish School of Religion, helped out

at the local soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities. All

normal priestly activities, but in addition to all of that,

Father Nelson’s included one other job description. It was

the small, tiny notation in the last line of the section of

official duties that held Mulder rapt. It was a position

that few probably would have taken the time to take note

of, given all of the mundane job descriptions that preceded

it.

Exorcist.

Father Michael Nelson was on the Church payroll as an

exorcist and had been apparently for the last thirty years.

Mulder suspected business must have been at an all time

high when the Linda Blair movie came out in the 70s,

settled down as soon as the furor of the movie died. He

couldn’t believe there was actually an official position

within the Church. He almost laughed. Almost.

The final puzzle piece was the reverend. Once again the

profiler did a furious search of the multitude of papers

that lay strewn across the bed. He picked up the papers he

sought and began to read the notes of the Reverend

Stewart’s last sermon. Though Mulder realized that as an

evangelical preacher, Stewart probably rarely followed his

sermons to the letter, the notes were still a good

indicator of what the man’s ideology was.

He read through paragraph after paragraph, wondering if

perhaps he was wrong in his thinking, until he got to the

third paragraph on the fourth page.

“And I say onto you, Brothers and Sisters, that we have

the power to rid ourselves of sickness, to rid ourselves of

accidents, to rid ourselves of those which we seem to have

little control! How can we do that, you ask, if we do not

have the control?

“We can, because I know what is in control and I know that

we must be rid of it and I say to you, Brothers and

Sisters, I know HOW to rid ourselves of the evil. I know

how to give you back the control you so desperately need,

so desperately want. I know, Brothers and Sisters, who the

evil culprit is that wants to control our lives, and that

evil is none other than Satan himself!

“How do we obliterate our lives of the malfeasance that

threatens our lives and our children’s lives? And how do

we do this? We must work together, my brothers and

sisters, to excise the depraved entity that wants to work

its way into our souls. We must be willing to open our

hearts and our minds to the knowledge that we can exorcise

this demon from our lives and I ask you all for an Amen!

“Amen!

“Amen!

“Amen!”

There was a sudden pounding on the door that shocked

Mulder back into an awareness of his surroundings that was

missing only moments before.

“Mulder! Open the damn door! Now!” screamed Kenny,

“Mulder! Please, open the damn door before I shoot it

open.”

It took Mulder several seconds to get his bearings and

then he looked around. He wasn’t in a revival tent; he was

in a motel room. He wasn’t standing amidst hundreds of

people swaying together in an emotional show of support for

their spiritual leader, but rather he was standing beside a

bed strewn with files and reports and notes. The lamp had

unaccountably fallen from the night stand and now lay in

several pieces at his feet. For some reason, his throat

felt raw.

He walked haltingly toward the door. He opened it and

Kenny pushed his way into the room.

“What the hell is going on in here, Mulder?” the young

agent asked angrily. Mulder almost smiled to himself;

suddenly the kid didn’t sound like a kid any longer. When

Mulder didn’t answer, Kenny began a tirade of his own.

“I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing by

keeping me out of the loop, Mulder, but it’s not going to

work. It’s not going to work, do you hear me?” Kenny

observed the disheveled appearance of the man whose

reputation he so admired and envied. Now, Kenny Andrews

wondered how this man, given his current condition, was

going to solve this case, and was he going to allow Kenny

to help him solve it?

“You doing some redecorating, because I don’t think the

Bureau will pick up the tab,” he added, pointing to the

broken lamp.

Mulder stood absolutely silent and still. Andrews had no

idea if the man had heard anything he’d just said.

“Mulder, what were you doing in here?” he finally asked as

evenly as possible. Andrews realized he had to remain calm

and rational in order to counterbalance Mulder’s erratic

behavior if they were to get any further on the case. He

waited patiently for Mulder to respond. He’d wait all day

and all night if he had to, when finally Mulder spoke.

“I was looking for links between the victims. I was

looking for possible connections,” he said in an almost

toneless voice.

“It sounded like you were trying to raise the dead in

here, Mulder,” Kenny said with a hint of humor. Mulder

recognized the younger man’s efforts to lighten the mood

and smiled slightly. It appeared to Kenny that Mulder was

finally beginning to relax; of course, the inexperienced

agent knew nothing of Mulder’s ability to deflect and

camouflage.

“I was reading the reverend’s last sermon. Guess I got a

little carried away,” he responded, though in reality

Mulder had no memory of reading the sermon aloud.

“Jeeze, Mulder, you are the master of the understatement,

ya know?”

The agent responded with a wry smile and nodded. He then

said, “Look, I really am kind of tired. I think I need to

lay down and sleep a bit, okay? We’ll meet for a late

lunch, early dinner and talk more of my findings.”

“But, Mulder–” Andrews tried to contradict, but Mulder

would hear none of it.

“I’m dead on my feet, kid. A good friend of mine is dead,

and I’ve got a really strong feeling that we’re going to

have a fourth victim real soon if we don’t get our acts

together. I need to sleep. We’ll get something to eat in

a little while.”

Of course, if the younger, less experienced agent had the

knowledge and insight that Dana Scully had, or even the

late Tom Alexander had, Kenny Andrews would have known

immediately that something was definitely wrong with that

picture. Scully would have told Kenny that Mulder never

eats when on a profiling case. Alexander would have told

the kid that Mulder never sleeps while on one either.

Mulder was bluffing the kid big time, and the kid fell for

it hook, line, and sinker. Kenny told him to knock on his

door when he awoke from his nap, to which Mulder replied,

“Will do.”

clip_image002

Mulder picked up his pen and began scribbling notes on the

first piece of paper that he could find. When he ran out

of paper he moved on to the next convenient writing

surface, the wall. He stood in front of the wall, writing

and writing some more. His theory was starting to come

together, and his profile took the shape he knew that it

could.

Mulder identified his one aspect of his theory and listed

every fact he could that supported it. After each and

every point was bulleted, he then moved on to the profile

itself. Mulder knew this was the trickier of the two; he

was able to explain with inextricable, but at the same time

indisputable facts, how the three victims were tied

together.

Mulder also came to the realization it wouldn’t matter one

way or the other whether Scully was able to gain permission

to exhume the rabbi’s body; it wouldn’t give them any more

information than they already had. He wrote as such on the

wall as a reminder to call Scully and tell her as such, so

the rabbi’s family wouldn’t needlessly be put through that

particular trauma.

The notes consumed him and he wrote continuously on the

wall for the next hour and a half. Much of what he wrote

was jumbled and chaotic, but given the right interpreter,

the words fit together like the pieces of an intricate

jigsaw puzzle. The words came out of him as if going

through a sieve; in no particular order but none of the

waste, much like the salted water would cascade through a

colander leaving only the ingredients for a meal offering

sustenance.

As the weary agent came to his final words of his profile,

Mulder’s sense of time and place began to wane. As he lost

track of his surroundings, his mind suddenly focused solely

on one fact. He inexplicably knew there would be a fourth

victim very soon. And just as suddenly, he knew, without a

doubt, the identity of the killer.

Without a doubt, Mulder knew where the killing would take

place.

Without a doubt, Mulder knew who was to be killed.

“I have found my new vessel,” intoned the agent in a

trance-like voice. “I have found my new bridge to the upper

world who will do the acts that will save my soul. You have

done battle with me in the past, Agent Mulder… but

fighting silly school board members and preachers with a

fetish for snakes were mere skirmishes. Now, you must deal

directly with me. And this is a war that I will win.”

And with that, as if in some kind of hypnotic state, Fox

Mulder picked up his jacket and keys to take off for the

next site of his latest victim. He would need to arrive as

soon as possible, as he needed to achieve his goal before

the descent of the sun or he might not find the strength to

succeed.

It was time to deal with a new enemy of Hell.

“MY enemy,” murmured Mulder.

Kenny heard the door slam. He never hesitated; he simply

picked up his coat, keys, and opened the door. He saw

Mulder walk to his car and though the younger man called

out to him repeatedly, Mulder never responded. Kenny ran

to try and get in front of the car and block him, but at

the last second Kenny had to jerk out of the way as Mulder

would have certainly run him over.

Kenny noticed an older couple drive up to the office

entrance of the motel. He ran to the car, waving his FBI

identification and commandeered their 1993 Ford Taurus. As

the shocked couple looked on, the agent drove off with a

screech. He had no idea if what he did was legal or if he

were going to be written up from now till kingdom come. All

he did know was he had to keep his eye on Mulder.

The man was not acting like himself; it was as if he’d

taken on an entirely new persona, and Kenny was scared

shitless that his mentor was going to kill himself because

of it. He tailed the rental and wondered if Mulder

realized he was being followed. It seemed impossible to

Kenny that Mulder wouldn’t sense it, as Kenny made no

pretensions of trying to conceal himself. But if he were

aware, Mulder gave no indication. He drove straight and

true with no attempts made to lose Kenny on the highway.

The younger agent soon realized their destination was the

airport. “Where the hell do you think you’re going,

Mulder?” he asked himself.

Mulder pulled up to the United Airlines terminal and

simply left the car. When a security officer approached

him, Mulder pulled out his ID badge and wordlessly moved

on. Kenny hoped that approach would work for him as well.

He stepped out of the car and immediately pulled out his

ID badge, though his fingers weren’t nearly as dexterous

as he fumbled with the cover. “Official business,” he said

just loudly enough to be heard, and he continued on his

way.

The security guard appeared somewhat incredulous and

muttered something about, “Damn bureaucrats,” and then made

the decision to move the damn cars himself.

Meanwhile, Mulder walked the path that led him directly to

the ticket agents for departing flights. Kenny called

after him, but once again, Mulder refused to acknowledge

him. The younger agent couldn’t understand what was going

on.

When he finally came to Mulder’s side, Kenny asked, “What

in the hell is wrong with you?”

Mulder looked at Kenny but said nothing directly to him.

He simply turned back to the ticket agent and said, “New

York.”

“We have a flight that’s scheduled to depart shortly and

land in LaGuardia at 4:27 p.m.,” the pert young agent

replied.

“Nothing that lands sooner?” Mulder asked. At the shake

of the young woman’s head, Mulder said, “Fine, book it

please.”

“And what about me, Agent Mulder, or have you forgotten

that I’m working on this case too?” asked a disgruntled and

confused Agent Andrews.

“Not this time. You stay here and mop up,” was Mulder’s

terse reply.

“Like hell!” declared Andrews, and he turned to the agent.

“Book a seat for me too, and put it on his card.” The

ticket agent looked reluctant until Andrews whipped out his

FBI ID again, this time smoothly presenting it, and the

ticket agent seemed convinced. She issued the ticket and

Kenny quickly walked in pursuit of his obviously ailing

mentor.

The two men displayed their weapons and badges to the

flight attendant at the door and boarded the plane almost

immediately but were not seated together, which didn’t seem

to phase Mulder in the least. He totally ignored Kenny no

matter how many times Kenny tried to get his attention.

Finally, the man seated next to Mulder asked the younger

man politely, but firmly, to kindly let his seatmate alone,

as it was obvious he wasn’t in the mood to chat. “Perhaps

once the plane lands, your partner will be more open to

making up with you,” he offered.

Kenny returned to his seat red-faced, as it was obvious

the stranger mistook Kenny’s pleas as those of Mulder’s gay

lover apologizing over some kind of lover’s spat. He was

too embarrassed to try and talk with Mulder again at that

point, and he also realized the likelihood of Mulder

willingly opening up to him once they landed was

practically nil. Andrews needed backup.

He picked up the telephone that was nestled into the seat

in front of him. The wonders of modern technology were a

given to this young man, but nevertheless he did appreciate

them. Andrews placed a phoned call to the only person in a

position of authority that he could think of at that point.

“Hello, I’d like to be connected with Assistant Director

Skinner please. This is Agent Kenneth Andrews calling with

regards to the Biloxi murder case.”

When Skinner finally got on the line, Andrews explained as

clearly but as calmly as possible the situation as he now

saw it. He expected Skinner to be at the very least

surprise, and the very most incredulous over his agent’s

behavior, but Walter Skinner seemed neither surprised nor

incredulous. If anything, he seemed resigned.

Skinner asked what time his plane was scheduled to land

and Kenny told him. He then informed Kenny that he was

going to catch the next shuttle to New York and that Kenny

was to do whatever was in his power to detain Agent Mulder

at the airport until his arrival. With a bit of luck,

Skinner shouldn’t be too far behind them. Andrews quickly

agreed and felt grateful to the man who was ready to take

ownership of this new problem.

Mulder had no overhead luggage, nor did Kenny, so

disembarking was relatively painless. Kenny continued to

follow the older agent until he saw Mulder approach the

escalator that led upstairs.

“Mulder, please! Wait for me!” Kenny pleaded. Now Andrews

knew there was no doubt he felt terrified for his fellow

agent. Mulder was not acting anything like himself, and he

didn’t understand why. All he did know was that he had to

find a way of keeping Mulder at the airport until AD

Skinner arrived.

“Agent Mulder, I need you to explain what your next step

is,” Andrews stated in an attempt to get his companion’s

attention. Mulder, however, simply ignored him and was

about to take a step onto the moving staircase.

“Mulder, you can’t leave! We have to wait here; we need

backup, Mulder! Don’t you understand? We can’t do this

alone,” Kenny pleaded as he grabbed onto Mulder’s arm with

as much strength as he could muster.

Mulder, however, was not to be deterred. Now having the

strength of twenty men, he easily threw the younger, weaker

man off of him. He took a quick look around and set his

eyes on a new destination. He knew the younger man,

determined now, would follow him.

As Mulder turned down a corridor that led to little-used

offices in the terminal, Kenny once again tried to grab him

and hold him still.

“We’ve got to wait here, Agent Mulder. We’re getting

reinforcements, but we have to wait here until he comes.”

“Until WHO comes?” asked Mulder through clenched teeth.

“The AD I called the AD from the plane,” Kenny

confessed. The expression Mulder wore upon hearing this

information frightened Kenny. It was almost as if the real

Mulder had reemerged momentarily, and the older agent’s

expression showed a fear that Kenny knew exceeded even his

own.

“Walter Skinner?” Mulder rasped. Kenny nodded his

confirmation.

“No!” came the dissonant voice so quickly that it startled

Kenny that it caused him to flinch. Which gave Agent

Mulder just enough time to remove his service revolver from

his holster and promptly fire toward the now shocked Agent

Andrews.

As Kenny Andrews slumped, bleeding to the floor, Fox

Mulder replaced his weapon and headed toward his original

destination.

He had his next victim to attend to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To Be Continued in the Season Opener of I Made This!  Devil’s Advocate Part 2

Productions, Virtual Season 9, coming July 2001

4 thoughts on “Devil’s Advocate”

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