Devil’s Advocate 3: Walking Out of the Darkness
By Vickie Moseley (firstname.lastname@example.org) &
Susan Proto ( STPteach@aol.com )
Completed: July, 2001
Category: X-file, MSR, MT
Summary: Mulder’s involvement in a case 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 9. IMTP can be found at http://www.i-made-this.com/.
Thanks to our Beta-Readers, Mary, Dawn, and Sally, for their wonderful cyberEyes for detail. And thanks to Laurie for putting all the pieces together.
Previously on ‘The X Files’-
“Agent Fox Mulder?” she asked.
Mulder groaned, blinked and then looked back at her again. When he could focus, he was staring into unspeakable evil.
“Agent Fox Mulder, I’m placing you under arrest for the murder of Beth Stein.” Only Mulder could see the black fire that had replaced Linda Harper’s previously green eyes and the hideously twisted smile that played on her lips.
To be continued . . .
Mulder’s Summer Cottage
Quonachatong, Rhode Island
Mulder’s breathing quickened as he stared into the eyes of pure evil. He’d never seen this woman, never met her before in his life, but he recognized what was inside her, and the threat that was there. He couldn’t pull his eyes away from hers as she tugged his arms behind his back and cuffed his wrists together.
Vaguely he heard his rights being read, but that didn’t frighten him nearly as much as the cold seeping through the fabric of his shirt everywhere the woman touched him. The evil he heard from the shadows in the dark summerhouse now had form. Unfortunately, Mulder couldn’t be certain if it had taken over this woman, or if the evil had been there all along.
“He’s hurt, he needs to be examined by a doctor,” Scully was saying somewhere, but it was far away and he could barely make out the words over the ringing in his ears and pounding in his head.
“She’s right, Linda. We should take them both to the hospital.”
Skinner? Mulder wanted to look over and see his superior, try to warn him of the danger in their midst, but he found his eyes wouldn’t move from their lock on the woman still leaning over him. And Skinner had called this woman ‘Linda,’ like he knew her. Maybe this woman was just possessed. Mulder had vague memories of something taking him over, chasing Scully out to the rocks. Had he watched, or had he been chasing her? His mind refused to work fast enough to figure out the puzzle.
“I’m fine, I don’t need . . .”
“Andrews, you’re bleeding!” Scully again and the other voice had been Kenny’s. Kenny! Mulder tore his gaze away from Harper with a physical pain and looked frantically for Kenny. What the hell was he doing out of the hospital?
“It doesn’t hurt,” Kenny was telling Scully, but he wasn’t putting up a fight as she moved aside the scrub shirt that was already stained dark red at the shoulder.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Scully spat out with enough sarcasm to make even Mulder wince. She was pissed, she didn’t know what was happening and the whole place was going to hell in a handbasket-literally-if someone didn’t do something.
“Take him to the hospital, Scully. I’ll go with them.” Mulder knew that if he started screaming ‘the devil, the devil’ he’d more than likely end up in five point restraints with an assful of Haldol. He had to get Scully away from ‘it’, before something bad happened.
“Mulder,” Scully objected, turning her attention to her partner. “Track my finger.” She held her index finger right in front of his face and moved it slowly to the left. He followed it dutifully until right about his nose and then the pain blinded him and he blinked. “No, Mulder, you need to go to the hospital, too,” she told him sadly.
Harper reached over and grabbed Mulder’s arm and pulled him to his feet, stepping between the two partners. “I’ll make sure he’s checked out at the station. They have a doctor on call. If he decides he needs to be taken to the hospital, it will be in the secure ward,” Harper said sharply. “Now, Agent Mulder, you’re coming with me.” Harper looked over at Skinner, almost giving him an opening to object. “AD Skinner, we still need to get a statement from Agent Andrews. You should accompany Agent Scully and take him to the nearest hospital.”
“We should take Mulder to the police station in Providence,” Skinner said, not happy with the turn of events.
“No, it’s not that far to the station downtown. I know the facilities there. He’ll be better cared for,” Harper said, glancing up and meeting Skinner’s eyes. “I’m not heartless, Walter,” she said in a low voice. “I know he’s one of your agents, and I know he’s innocent until we have more evidence. But if we don’t place him in custody, the press will have our asses.”
Mulder winced as her grip on his arm tightened slightly. The last thing he wanted was to be alone in a car with this woman for any length of time. He looked at Skinner, not daring to say anything. For now, he was the only one who knew what they were dealing with and he was terrified that if the danger became common knowledge, they all could end up dead. Still, a little back up would be nice.
“Sir, let Scully debrief Andrews.” He left unsaid the wish that Skinner would then go with Harper to take him to the NYPD.
“I’d feel better if you went with him, Sir,” Scully said, her eyes never leaving her partner. Skinner might not have picked up on his distress, but to Scully it was as plain as the nose on his face. “Please. I’ll make sure Agent Andrews is cared for, and then I’ll take his statement.”
Skinner was confused by the unspoken looks he was getting, but seemed to come to an agreement within himself that it was best to go with the flow. “All right, Agent Scully. I’ll accompany AD Harper and Agent Mulder back to New York. I want a full transcript of Agent Andrews statement delivered to the . . .”
“The 5th Precinct. It’s closest to the Bureau office,” Harper supplied helpfully.
“The 5th Precinct by one o’clock this afternoon. And Agent Andrews, if there are any more ‘escapes’ from the hospital, you will be suspended without pay for insubordination, is that clear?” If he couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on, Skinner could still exert some authority over the situation.
“Well, if we’re all happy, can we get going now?” Harper smiled woodenly, and pulled Mulder by the arm across the rocks and toward the car. With one backward glance to Scully, he was gone from her sight. S
kinner had taken his arm, relieving Harper of the responsibility, and helped the handcuffed agent into the back seat of their rental. “I’ll have someone come back and get the other cars,” Skinner assured him as the AD pointed toward the other vehicles nearby. The small patch of gravel in front of his parents’ summerhouse was taking on the look of a Lariat rental lot. Mulder nodded dully.
His head was really starting to hurt, but he wasn’t about to admit it. The woman, Skinner had called her ‘Linda’, was talking and Mulder wanted to be sure he heard everything she said. The ride was long and silent. Skinner had insisted upon driving, if for no other reason than it gave him something to grip besides his peer’s neck. He couldn’t help but wonder why she was being so damned ‘by the book’ on this one. Hell, Mulder was one of their own.
One of _his_ agents.
Of course, Skinner couldn’t help but wonder if that was exactly the reason for Harper being so pig-headed about the whole ordeal. Since Mulder was one of his agents, and AD Harper was once in his bed… No, Skinner couldn’t believe that she could hold a grudge for that long. Perhaps her apparent instinct to ‘go in for the kill’ was what caused Skinner to ask her to leave his bed all those years ago. His wife, he’d later come to find out, wasn’t the best choice for him to spend his life with, but she was by far the better choice of the two.
He was worried that Mulder did indeed have a concussion, but since the drive back to New York City would take less then three hours, there was no point in making the man remain awake for the entire trip. So, he periodically called out to him to make sure that he did wake up.
“Mulder. Time to wake up for a head check, Agent,” he said just loudly enough to wake him up, but not so as to startle him.
“Yeah, I’m awake and more than half the population did NOT vote for George ‘W’, but damned if he isn’t in the White House anyway. Now if that ain’t an X-File, I don’t know what is,” he replied.
Skinner looked at Mulder through the rear view mirror. He knew the stab at humor was his agent’s attempt to add some levity to a very serious situation. However, when Skinner looked at Mulder’s eyes he did not like what he saw. Perhaps it was just the frustration of an innocent man being placed in the back seat of a car with handcuffs securely in place.
But when Mulder stared back at his superior, Skinner realized exactly what it was he saw the younger man’s eyes. Fear.
And Skinner knew that at that very moment, he probably had every right to be afraid.
19 Elizabeth Street
NY, NY 10013
By the time they’d arrived in Manhattan, Skinner woke Mulder up two more times. The last time was when they’d arrived at the 5th Precinct. He got out of the car immediately and walked to the other side to assist Mulder in getting out of the back seat. Skinner didn’t like what he saw.
“Mulder, you okay?” he asked as he watched the man sway slightly.
“Yeah,” was his succinct reply, but his chalky pallor and unsteady stance spoke volumes.
“Linda, I really think we need to get Agent Mulder to a hospital.”
“And I said we’ll have the doctor on call take a look at him, AD Skinner. Now let’s get our prisoner inside,” AD Harper responded angrily.
“He’s not a prisoner,” Skinner retorted with his mouth clenched. “He’s a suspect, but damn it, he’s not a prisoner. Do you understand me?”
Harper looked at the balding man and remembered seeing that expression only once before, and that was long, long ago. She never could understand why he hadn’t seen the humor in his wife finding her panties in his suitcase. Silly man should have found a woman that could laugh hurts off like she was capable of doing. “Just let’s get him inside so he can be processed and then the doctor can finally look at him. It seems to me that you’re the one holding up the process,” she answered by not addressing his comment. She turned and continued walking up to the door of the station, not waiting to see if Skinner needed any assistance in helping Mulder inside.
“Walter,” Mulder hesitated, but when Skinner nodded he continued, “Don’t trust her. Please, whatever happens, don’t trust her.”
“Don’t worry. I haven’t trusted the bitch in fifteen years.” Mulder had no idea as to what the hell Skinner was referring to, but it didn’t matter. It was the first time Mulder felt like smiling in days.
Mulder remembered going through this once before, though thankfully the jumpsuit they had him change into was not that putrid orange. No, it was closer to a puke green, but he thought ruefully, it matched his eyes.
His head was splitting at that moment, and he almost wished that Scully were there to browbeat them all into taking him to the hospital. But he also knew that the further away Scully was from AD Harper, the safer she was. Besides, Kenny Andrews looked like he could use some of Scully’s hovering even more. The kid looked like shit, and Mulder took full blame for that little development.
He wished he could remember what the hell had happened in the last twenty-four hours, but he couldn’t. Not clearly at any rate. The last thing he remembered really clearly was learning of Tom Anderson’s death, and even that seemed so long ago that it was a hazy memory as well. He sat on the bunk, closed his eyes, and leaned his head against the wall. If only the world would stop spinning long enough for him to be able to recall what was going on.
Scully knocked on the door quietly, but the answer to come in was immediate. She’d hoped the wayward profiler had managed to fall asleep after he’d been examined and had a few popped stitches resutured. It appeared young Kenneth Andrews was more like her partner than she already suspected.
“Have you heard anything?” Kenny asked anxiously.
Scully shook her head and sat down in the chair near the bedside. “No. I imagine it will be a while. They have to process him.”
“I can’t believe this,” Kenny said, lips in a tight line, shaking his head grimly. “He didn’t kill that girl, Agent Scully. No way.”
Scully bit her lip. “I know that, Agent Andrews, but the evidence . . .”
Kenny’s head jerked up and he glared at her hotly. “You, of all people, should know-”
Scully headed him off at the pass. “Andrews,” she interjected sharply, putting a halt to his recriminations. “I know he didn’t do it. But right now there is evidence to be considered. And I want to know, what exactly happened back at Biloxi? How did Mulder get to New York and how the hell did you get shot?”
It was Kenny’s turn to look recalcitrant. He licked his lips, stalled for time by pouring more water into the styrofoam cup and taking a long sip. Finally, he looked at her.
“I followed him to the airport. We’d left the hospital after Agent Alexander died, and we went back to the hotel. He’d told me he was going to his room to get some sleep. Honest, I don’t know how he was still standing. It’s like the man never sleeps or something! But then, I get like that sometimes, too,” he admitted sheepishly. “But next thing I know, I hear all kinds of yelling and stuff breaking in his room.
“I went over, and saw the broken lamp and papers tossed all over the place. But he told me he was just reading the Reverend’s last sermon and got a little carried away. He sort of pushed me out the door and said he wanted to get some sleep, but I was pretty sure that was bullshit, so I made it a point to keep an eye on him.”
Another sip of water soothed his throat and the young profiler continued. “About an hour or so later, I heard his door slam and when I looked out, he was driving off, so I, uh, kinda followed him. I managed to get on the same plane, but I couldn’t get a seat near him. He kept trying to brush me off, then he just plain ignored me. I figured I’d have better luck once we were on the ground. But I did call AD Skinner, just in case.” When he noticed Scully’s raised eyebrow, he confessed. “I didn’t know your cell phone number, so I just called the Bureau office to get Skinner.
“When the plane landed in New York, I followed him again. This time, it was weird; it was like he was leading me. He ducked down this hallway that was under construction and like a jackass, I went right after him. I tried to tell him that reinforcements were on the way. I could just tell he was trying to get to the next murder, maybe even stop it before it happened. But it was weird, when I stopped and really looked at him.
“His eyes were black, completely black. I didn’t recognize him right then. It scared me. Then he pulled out his gun and fired at me. But Agent Scully, he wasn’t aiming to kill me. He was less than twenty feet away from me. He could have put that bullet right between my eyes, but he aimed for my shoulder. He wasn’t trying to kill me, he just wanted to make sure I didn’t follow him any more.”
Scully closed her eyes and sighed. Too much of the last two days didn’t make sense. “Why would he go back to New York?” she asked, not really expecting an answer.
“I think . . .” Kenny started, but stopped and a blush colored his cheeks.
“You think what, Andrews?” Scully prompted.
Kenny shook his head. “Nah. You’ll think I’m loony tunes,” he said with a knowing smile.
“Agent Andrews, I’ve spent the last eight years of my life with a man everyone on the planet considers ‘loony tunes’ as you put it. Believe me when I tell you, I’ve come a long way in that time,” she smiled for a minute, but grew serious again. “What, Kenny? What were you going to say?”
“I think he’d made a connection with the killer. I think he’d figured it out, got into its head, or whatever. He knew exactly where it was going to strike next, but he didn’t know when and he didn’t know who the next victim would be. He just had to get there in time.” Kenny’s strength was being sorely tested and he let his head drop to his pillow before he spoke again. “I think, for a minute in the airport, I think it had him. That it was inside him.”
Scully’s hand rose automatically to cover her mouth. She remembered the look in Mulder’s eyes when he’d started to come after her at the summerhouse. It hadn’t been Mulder in those eyes. She didn’t know what it was, but it was not the man she loved.
“See, I told you. You think I’m crazy,” Kenny said ruefully.
“No,” Scully whispered. “No, I don’t.” It took a minute to get her voice under control. “Kenny, back in Biloxi, in Mulder’s motel room, there was writing all over the walls of the bathroom, all over the shower curtain in black marker. Some of it looked like Mulder’s handwriting but then it changed-dramatically so. It wasn’t Mulder’s writing. It wasn’t even in any language I’ve ever seen, and I have it on good authority that the only language Mulder took in school was French.”
“He was channeling it.” Andrews didn’t leave any room for doubt.
“You keep calling the killer ‘it’, Andrews. It’s not an ‘it’. The killer is a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ but not an ‘it’,” Scully said firmly.
“Not this time, Agent Scully,” Kenny said sadly. “This time, the killer is most definitely an ‘it’. And it’s scaring the shit out of me.”
Scully swallowed hard, she’d have given anything to steal Kenny’s water away from him and moisten her parched throat. “Do you think the killer is still . . . in him? In Mulder?”
Kenny shrugged. It gave Scully no comfort.
“Andrews, do you have any idea who, or ‘what’ the killer is?” Scully asked quietly.
Kenny nodded, almost imperceptibly at first, then more confidently.
“Tell me.” It was a command and Scully knew the answer the minute the words left her lips.
“Do you believe in the Devil, Agent Scully?”
A cold chill ran down her back. “I believe there is evil in the world, yes,” she answered in measured tones.
“That’s not what I asked,” Kenny shot back. “I asked if you believe in the Devil. The Devil with a capital D.”
“The guy with a pitch fork and tail?” she shot back, sarcasm coloring her tone.
“The fallen angel. The source of all evil. The Snake that tempted Adam and Eve,” Kenny said, rapid fire, as if she were on the witness stand or in an interrogation room. “The only being who can take your soul.”
“The Devil can’t take your soul, Andrews. You have to give it to him,” Scully said just above a whisper.
“Then I hope what I saw was a mistake. I hope I’m wrong,” Kenny answered in an anguished voice.
“Mulder would never give over his soul. Never,” Scully intoned firmly.
“Maybe it’s gone, then,” Kenny said hopefully. Then, as if he’d just thought of it, his expression turned dark again. “Or, maybe, it just found somebody else.”
If Mulder hadn’t known better, he would have sworn that he was in a scene from NYPD Blue. The small dingy room was painted a dull, pale green. It held a set of four chairs which surrounded a worn, square wooden table that was bolted to the floor. The only thing that was missing was Dennis Franz’s character traipsing in and demanding a confession or he’d smash Mulder’s head into the immovable table.
The man guarding him remained standing by the door. Mulder studied him quietly and wondered what was going on in his mind. Did he know what it was Mulder was brought in for? Mulder couldn’t help but chuckle slightly when he then wondered if the guy wouldn’t mind sharing that information with him.
“Thank you, Officer,” Harper said efficiently in her dismissal. Mulder watched the woman, identified to him earlier as an Assistant Director at the New York Bureau’s office, walk toward him. Mulder tried to make eye contact with her, but she avoided his gaze at all costs.
“Why am I here?” he asked.
“Mr. Mulder,” she retorted, pointedly using the civilian title, “surely you know why you’ve been placed under arrest.” She paused for a moment before she added, “Don’t play games with me, Spooky.”
Mulder couldn’t help but cringe at that last bit of interchange. She knew him, or at least she thought she knew him, but he didn’t have a clue about her. It occurred to him something was wrong with the current picture and it suddenly came to him.
“AD Skinner is unavailable for the moment,” she answered.
Pain suddenly pierced Mulder’s temples and he grimaced. He reached up to grasp his head but realized the foot shackle and cuffs still restraining him hampered his hands. “Would you take these off?” he asked softly as he tried to maintain his composure.
“Of course not. It wouldn’t be safe.”
“What do you mean? Please AD __,” he stammered. Mulder couldn’t remember the woman’s name.
“__Harper,” she supplied. “Assistant Director Harper, and that title gives me the authority to keep you in cuffs.”
“AD Harper, I’m not going anywhere,” and though he tried to keep the pleading tone out of his voice, he couldn’t help it when he said earnestly, “Please, I’m hurting here.”
“Yes, that’s a fact, now isn’t it Mr. Mulder?” she asked rhetorically.
Mulder sat quietly, shutting his eyes now and then when the headache became too intense.
“I think it would be in your best interests to make a statement and confess immediately.”
“Beth Stein had a hole in her chest the size of a softball, Mr. Mulder. Just like the others, apparently. Your blood was found at the scene of her murder, and it is quite obvious to my mind that you are Stein’s murderer. You were caught attempting to murder your own partner in Rhode Island. And I’m sure that once Agent Andrews is up to it, he will be happy to testify that you attempted to murder him as well when you shot him at LaGuardia Airport. So, are you ready to make your confession now? It really would be so much easier on all concerned if you would simply acquiesce and write down and sign your confession to all of your crimes.”
Mulder had closed his eyes during her diatribe but opened them when she fell silent. When he looked up at her he finally caught her gaze and shuddered at what he saw. The eyes that stared back at him were not of this world; an inherent evil peered back at him. “Who are you? My God, _what_ are you?” he gasped.
The AD returned his gaze and knew immediately that the man seated helplessly handcuffed before her knew exactly what he was dealing with. She kept her eyes on him and smiled, though no joy could be seen on her face.
“You know who I am, and you, of all people, know what I am,” she intoned in a voice that felt all too familiar to Mulder.
“Agent Harper!” The door had suddenly banged opened and Assistant Director Skinner strode into the room with purposeful steps. “What the hell is the meaning of this? Why is Agent Mulder in here without representation? Why wasn’t I notified that you were bringing him to the interrogation room when I specifically told you I was to be present for all questioning?”
“Walter,” she began, though it did cause her a bit of glee to see Mulder startle a bit at her familiar use of the AD’s first name. “I did try contacting you, but for whatever reason your cell phone was not connecting properly. I decided since this crime is in my jurisdiction, as we’d already discussed, that I would take the initiative to get it resolved as quickly as possible to avoid the media circus that I’m sure will occur when they hear we have a suspect in custody.”
“You had no right to begin deposing the witness without me present. I remember specifically instructing you __,” Skinner reproved.
“__And I don’t recall any bureau rule or regulation that required an Assistant Director at the New York Bureau to take orders from an Assistant Director at the DC Bureau, do you?” She paused momentarily and then said, “Let’s take this discussion outside. Now.”
As the two assistant directors walked out of the room, the officer walked in to stand guard over Mulder. As they stood outside of the room, Skinner remained quiet; he knew, of course, she was right, but he’d thought, given their history, perhaps she would have given him at least the courtesy of waiting for him to be present for the questioning of an agent under his command. He realized in hindsight that it was a foolish notion.
“And Walter,” she practically purred, “we are _not_ deposing a witness. Mr. Mulder has been placed under arrest for a heinous crime. I am interrogating a defendant, and I suggest that you come to that the sooner you come to that realization the better, so that we can close this case as quickly as possible.”
“Linda, you know these charges are bogus.”
“I know nothing of the kind, Walter. The evidence proves he was in the area of the murder. We have the bloody proof, and you can’t deny that. We were both witnesses to the incident in Quonochontaug. Agent Andrews had to use force to prevent Mr. Mulder from harming Agent Scully. And you know damn well that he was also responsible for putting Agent Andrews in the hospital with a bullet wound.”
“Damn it, I know nothing of the kind! There is absolutely no hardened proof that _Agent_ Mulder was responsible for shooting Andrews, and we don’t know what the hell was going on in Rhode Island. As for Beth Stein’s death, the fact that Mulder’s blood was found on a business card located at the scene does not in any way prove he was responsible for her death.
“There wasn’t a trace of his blood found anywhere near her body nor any of hers found on the business card. So stop acting as if you have the right to try and convict Mulder. He’s completely innocent of all these charges and I should think, as a member of the Bureau, you would want to do everything possible to prove the innocence of a fellow officer.”
“I don’t give a damn if he’s the God damned fucking director of the FBI; there’s enough evidence here to convict him and I don’t intend to let him get away with it. Since when do we ignore evidence simply because a suspect is a bureau officer? Why, Walter? Because he’s one of your little darling underlings? Shit, you were never so protective of me, dear Walter. What is it about Spooky that makes you want to protect his lovely little ass? Oh, Walter,” she said with a hint of pure malfeasance, “is there something you’re not telling me?”
“AD Harper, that is uncalled for and you know it,” Skinner seethed. The woman was pushing every one of his buttons, and they both knew it.
Meanwhile, Mulder remained mute as he listened to the voices coming from outside the room; he attempted to follow their ping pong style tirades but with little success. He wished he could assure Skinner that he was totally innocent of any wrongdoing, but in reality, he knew that wasn’t possible at this time. He couldn’t remember. When he’d overheard mention of Kenny Andrews’ shooting, Mulder couldn’t help but flinch in a hint of recognition of the incident, but he could not recollect anything that was proof positive of his innocence. Of course, when she’d inferred earlier that he was in the process of trying to harm Scully when Andrews came to her rescue, Mulder’s heart sunk. He couldn’t believe that anything would induce him to hurt his partner, but it was apparent something, his head injury perhaps, was preventing him from recalling his role in those incidents. The one thing he knew in his heart that he had nothing to do with was the death of Beth Stein. Unfortunately, that was the event that provided the circumstantial evidence of his presence at the scene. He couldn’t defend himself. He had no proof, other than a very bad headache and a feeling that something more powerful than anything he’d ever had to deal with before was responsible for all of it.
Beth Stein’s murder.
The priest and the minister.
But what was it? What was it that could be in all of these places and cause these people to lose their lives in such a devastating manner?
Skinner and Harper re-entered the room. Mulder looked up at his superiors and then helplessly at Skinner. There was nothing he could offer his boss to uphold the man’s unwavering support. Next, he looked back at Harper, and the depraved glint in her eyes threatened to undo Mulder. She was now the cause behind all of it, though he didn’t quite understand how or why. All he knew was Linda Harper had to be stopped before the killing began again. It was up to him to convince them all that the evil was inside of her, and Mulder’s arrest in no way eliminated the very real threat that was still prevalent.
“Sir,” he called out weakly, “it’s her.”
Both assistant directors looked warily at Mulder, though each for their own reasons.
“Mulder? What are you talking about?” Skinner asked gently.
“It’s her. It’s in her.”
Harper’s expression changed from alarm to fury. “The man is crazy! I want him locked up in isolation where he can do no one else any harm,” she demanded.
“You’ve got to stop her,” Mulder rasped out as the pain in his head intensified. He knew he had only seconds before he succumbed to it. “Walter, you’ve got to stop her.”
“Get him out of here!” Harper practically screamed.
The guard that initially had been standing watch returned to the room and pulled the suspect up from the chair. As he held him by the elbow, the guard began prodding Mulder toward the door, and though the agent attempted to shuffle in that direction, he finally could no longer function.
“Oh God, Scully,” Mulder cried out just before the stabbing pain that lanced through his head caused him to lose consciousness.
Skinner immediately reached out toward his fallen agent. “Mulder, are you okay?”
“Walter, can’t you see it’s an act?” Harper asked cynically.
The guard had knelt down to do a quick check of the prisoner to be sure it was indeed not some ploy to make a break for it. “Ma’am, he’s not breathing.”
“What?” Skinner cried out as he too knelt down and immediately confirmed the guard’s diagnosis. He turned to Harper and instructed her to call for an ambulance. When she didn’t move, he demanded, “Linda, call for an ambulance right now, or so help me I will write this up and include every bit of information that can infer your responsibility for this man’s condition. Is that understood?”
She acknowledged him by walking to the door and calling out to anyone who might hear her, “Get an ambulance. Something’s wrong with the prisoner.”
“Damn it, Harper!” he cried out, knowing that the police would not move nearly as fast for a prisoner as they would have for a fallen agent.
Skinner continued to administer the chest compressions while the guard administered the life saving breaths. “C’mon, Mulder, breathe, damn it. You gotta breathe so we can get you out of this mess. Breathe!” Skinner implored.
After what felt like an eternity, but was really only a matter of minutes, the EMTs responded to the scene and took over. An airway was inserted to assist in Mulder’s breathing, and while the remaining vitals were checked, Skinner pulled out his cell phone. He punched in the number on his speed dial and waited for a response. “Scully? They’re taking him to Bellevue, so get the hell here as fast as you can. He’s in trouble.”
Scully tore through the crowded Emergency Department waiting room, flashing her badge in front of her like it was a hatchet cutting through dense jungle foliage. As she approached the desk, a harried young black woman looked up at her skeptically.
“May I help you?” the young woman asked, but by the raised eyebrow and the set of her overly red lips, Scully doubted her sincerity.
“I’m looking for a man who was just brought in by ambulance from the 5th Precinct. His name is Fox Mulder.”
The young woman frowned at Scully, but dropped her eyes to her computer monitor and tapped at the keyboard. “M-U-L-D-E-R?” she spelled out, not bothering to look up.
“Yes. First name is Fox. F-O-X,” Scully replied tersely. The agent’s impudence earned her a quick, narrow-eyed glare, but the young woman then continued with her task. Finally, she let a small smile cross her lips, just before the indignant scowl took its place.
“He’s a prisoner. They don’t bring them through here. He’s on the secure ward; they have their own ER. That’s floor 3. But you’ll need permission to get on the floor.”
“I’m his next of kin,” Scully offered.
The young woman smiled humorlessly. “I don’t care if you’re Sandra Day O’Connor, you’ll still need permission.”
Scully fought back a growl and forced herself to calm down. “Where do I go to get permission?” she seethed.
” The 5th Precinct,” the young woman said cheerfully and moved Scully to the left of the counter with one perfectly polished three-inch long nail. “Next!”
Scully started to reach for her gun, but reason won out. Instead, she glanced around and found the nearest bank of elevators. The elevator’s white walls were yellowed with age and large scratch marks, not all of them from metal gurneys, marred the surfaces. The second floor button was gouged out, leaving the tiny light bulb to shine through, as if it were somehow more special than the rest. Two of the four fluorescent overheads were graying out and stuttering. Scully sighed and closed her eyes, waiting the forever it took to get to the third floor.
Once the door squealed open, she was confronted with a nurse’s desk and double doors, obviously locked as evidenced by the keypad on the wall. She licked her lips, fished her badge out of her pocket and walked purposefully up to the desk.
“I’m Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI. I’m here to see a prisoner,” she said with a professionalism she didn’t quite feel. She wondered if the nurse had noticed how her voice cracked when she said ‘prisoner’.
“And the prisoner’s name?” the nurse asked. The woman looked to be somewhere between 45 and a 105, streaks of white in her tight black bun. Not someone to mess with, Scully was certain.
“Fox Mulder. He was brought here from the 5th Precinct.” The nurse looked down on a row of charts at the left of the desk, then back at Scully.
“He’s not here.” Then she glared at Scully, daring her to push the matter.
Scully was never one to back down in a fight, especially one that included her partner. “I know he was brought here. There is another FBI agent, an Assistant Director Walter Skinner, with him. AD Skinner called me as he followed the ambulance here. Now, get on that computer and tell me where I can find . . .”
Her tirade was interrupted by the opening of the double doors and a very pale Walter Skinner dragged his eyes up from their locked position on the floor and sighed in relief. “Scully, thank God,” he said in one long breath.
“Sir, what happened? Is it the concussion?” Scully asked anxiously. Skinner shook his head slowly, a dazed look on his face. “I have no idea what happened. One minute he was sitting in the interrogation room, talking to AD Harper. Then the next minute . . .” Skinner forced his eyes to focus on the small, worried woman before him. “He stopped breathing, Scully. Just like that. His eyes rolled back in his head and he just stopped breathing. The uniformed cop guarding him and I started CPR. When the ambulance got there, they couldn’t find a pulse. It all happened so fast!”
Scully went white as a sheet and grabbed for Skinner’s arm before she stumbled. “He’s not-”
Immediately, Skinner realized his mistake. “Oh, God, no, Scully, no! He’s alive. The EMTs worked on him at the precinct. They put him on a respirator bag and got his heart started. Then they loaded him for the ride here. AD Harper insisted on riding with him in the ambulance,” he said with a note of disgust. “I got here just a few minutes behind them, but I got to see him when they brought him through the hall. He was alive, last time I saw him.”
“Where is he? I want to see him, now,” Scully hissed, pushing past the AD toward the double doors. Skinner reached out one hand and stopped her before she’d gone three feet.
“They’re working on him, Scully. They wouldn’t let me near him. I doubt they’ll let you back there. This isn’t GUMC,” he reminded her sadly.
Scully bit her lip. “I’m well aware of that, Sir.” She drew in a few deep breaths. “Where can we wait?”
Skinner shrugged. “They really don’t have a ‘family lounge’ on this floor. I told the charge nurse that I was going down to the cafeteria. I, uh, I sort of told them that I needed to be informed the minute the prisoner was stable because he has to make a statement,” he added sheepishly. “It was the best I could do on short notice.”
“They don’t know he’s an FBI agent?” Scully asked, biting her lip again to keep unwanted tears at bay.
“Scully, when they look at him, all they see are the handcuffs,” Skinner said with a sad shake of his head. A nod was her only response. For a full minute she stared at the closed double doors. Skinner was afraid that at any minute, she’d break through the barrier, gun a-blazing. He let out a breath when she turned toward the elevators. Without a word, he followed her. Skinner was paged to the third floor over an hour later. She dumped her untouched container of yogurt, forced upon her by her boss, into the nearest trashcan and hurried after him to the elevators.
It took some finessing, but after a few white lies, including her position in the chain of command at the FBI, Scully was allowed to accompany Skinner into the ward where Mulder had been taken. Two of the three other beds were vacant, but Mulder had a roommate. The man was shackled to his bed and watched Scully walk by with manic glee. “Hey, bitch, c’mere. I need ya ta scratch an itch f’r me.”
Scully schooled her features and ignored the taunts. Skinner flashed the man a stern glare over his shoulder.
“You her pimp or somethin’? I can pay. Name a price.”
“Is it possible to get this patient moved to another room?” Skinner hissed at the doctor who was still scribbling on Mulder’s chart.
“Sorry. This ain’t the Ritz Carlton. We don’t ‘change roommates’ on this floor,” the young man said without bothering to look up. He wrote a few more lines, then drew in a deep breath and smiled artificially at the two visitors.
“What’s wrong? Is this related to the concussion he received earlier today?” Scully asked, holding back a gasp as she saw her partner for the first time since watching him drive off with Skinner and Harper. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Mulder was on a respirator, heart monitor pads in place and leads snaking out from under the worn blue hospital gown. There was no rapid eye movement that she could detect and had it not been for the hiss of the respirator, she wouldn’t have known that he was even breathing. ‘He’s not breathing, not on his own at least,’ she chided herself.
“Well, we did a CT scan on arrival. He’s got a mild concussion, but nothing to provoke these symptoms. I’m running blood work right now. I suspect PCP or maybe crack. If he has a history of heart disease in his family, either of those could precipitate-”
“He’s not on drugs,” Scully growled, turning a fierce, icy glare on the young doctor. “He’s an FBI agent, goddamn it!”
The doctor quirked an eyebrow, expressing silently his disbelief. “Yeah. Sure. Well, like I said I’m running blood work. But for now, all I can tell you is he’s stable. He’s breathing on his own; the vent is just helping. His oxygen levels were too low when they took him off the bag. I can’t tell you when he’ll be able to make a statement. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow.”
She listened with only half an ear, her eyes only for her partner. Scully wanted more than anything to touch his hand, brush his hair from his forehead, but that would give away too much . She had to settle for standing there, watching the ventilator hiss each breath with him. Her throat started to close up and she was certain the doctor and Skinner could hear her heart pounding in her chest.
Skinner came to her rescue. He handed the doctor a business card. “This is my cell phone. I really need to speak with this prisoner as soon as he’s able. I would appreciate it if someone could contact me, regardless of the hour.”
The doctor took the card and clipped it to the chart, making another scribbled note next to it. “Sure. That’s pretty much SOP around here. The desk nurse usually makes those calls.”
“Thank you,” Skinner said, taking Scully by the elbow and starting toward the door. He felt the resistance, but finally, she stumbled along behind him.
“Where are we going?” Scully finally broke the silence when they were out on the street again.
“Back to the precinct. I assume you got a statement from Agent Andrews,” Skinner said, hailing a cab. When Scully didn’t answer, he looked over at her, surprised when she refused to meet his gaze. “What is it? What did Andrews say?”
“Sir, I think this has all been overwhelming for Agent Andrews. I’m not entirely sure he knows exactly what happened at the airport,” Scully replied, again keeping her eyes anywhere but on her boss.
Skinner stood there, staring directly at his agent, ignoring the cab that had just pulled up to the curb, . “Did Andrews identify his shooter, Agent Scully?” The tone was not one that allowed for lengthy explanations.
“Yes, Sir,” Scully said, not offering more.
“Agent Scully,” Skinner growled in warning.
“The shooter was Mulder, Sir.” At her words, Skinner’s shoulders slumped; he closed his eyes, as if trying to shut out the images. “But there’s more to it than that, Sir. If I might explain.”
The cabby tapped the horn and shouted out the window. “You two want a ride or what?”
“Yes, we do,” Scully answered. She opened the back door and got in, Skinner right behind her. “5th Precinct,” she instructed the cabby, then looked back at Skinner.
“You said there was more. Continue,” Skinner ordered. His tone was angry, but not at anyone in particular.
“Andrews believes that Mulder made some connection to the killer,” Scully started.
“He got inside the killer’s head,” Skinner offered, disgust coloring his voice.
“Not just inside the killer, Sir. Andrews believes,” she hesitated, but Skinner’s glare broke the dam of her emotions. “Andrews believes we are dealing with the Devil. And that at the time Mulder shot him in the airport, the Devil was controlling Mulder’s actions.”
Skinner threw his head back against the cab seat. “Scully, do you have any idea how many serial killers have used the ‘Son of Sam’ excuse?”
“Sir, it’s not like that! I don’t think this is another ‘devil in the form of a talking dog’ alibi this time,” Scully said sharply. “I saw what Mulder had done to his hotel room. Sir, there was writing all over the bathroom, in black marker. Some of it looked like Mulder’s handwriting, like he’d run out of paper and had to put his thoughts down somewhere. He does that from time to time, but it’s usually the phone book and the back pages of the Gideon Bible that end up the victims to his assaults. But Sir, this time, the handwriting changed. As did the language the message was written in.”
“I don’t read ancient Sumarian, Scully,” Skinner spat out.
“Nor do I, Sir. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was something akin to Aramaic text,” Scully responded. Skinner nodded dully, still not quite believing. Finally, he turned to her again. “Scully, what was happening this morning, on the beach?”
It was Scully’s turn to lay her head back, but she was trying to avoid the question. The silence lay between them until Skinner was ready to ask it again, but she dragged her head up and shook it, as if trying to get her thoughts in order.
“I arrived at the summerhouse late. It was close to sunrise. I found Mulder in the living room. He’d made a fire in the fireplace, and he was lying on the floor right in front of it. He’d burned himself and was shivering; I was certain he was in shock. I got him up on the couch and we talked for a minute or two. Then-” She stopped, swallowed, and Skinner didn’t miss the crack in her voice that came with her next words. “Then he changed.”
“Changed how?” Skinner prompted.
“He, uh, his voice got strange. Low. Angry. He told me that he was going to . . . he threatened to kill me. I didn’t know what to do, so I ran.”
“You had your gun, your handcuffs, you could have immobilized him,” Skinner pointed out.
Scully shot him a stern look. “He was sick, Sir! I wasn’t going to ‘bring him down’ as you’re suggesting,” she hissed in disgust. “I did what I thought I should do. I ran to the beach. In his condition, I didn’t expect him to follow me!”
“So you ran, he ran after you. How did Andrews get there?” Skinner asked, puzzled.
“I don’t know, Sir. He arrived just in time, though. But Mulder said something just before Andrews appeared that might lend some credence to Andrews’ theory. Mulder was talking about shooting me and how they would never find our bodies. Sir, I’m convinced that if Mulder had shot me, he would have jumped in the surf and drowned. But Mulder was talking about it in the third person, as an observer. I really think he was being controlled at that time.”
“Is he being controlled now? Is that what’s causing this . . . episode he’s had?” Skinner asked, perplexed.
“I don’t know. I truly don’t know. But I have a feeling this is not over.”
Skinner and Scully walked into the precinct as if on automatic pilot. Neither agent’s face showed any kind of emotion; it was apparent they were both numbed by the whole experience to date. Skinner couldn’t help but chastise himself. If he’d only ordered Mulder not to involve himself on this case; if he’d ordered Mulder to return to DC when he’d found out that he had indeed, for all intents and purposes, become the senior profiler of record on the case. But there was a crazed serial killer on the loose and Spooky Mulder was once again heading up the cavalry. Skinner knew he’d had no choice but to look the other way.
“Until it was too late,” the AD sighed to himself, “What if we’re too late?”
Scully, on the other hand, was angry. She was angry with her partner for taking off on a case he had no business jumping into by himself. She knew she should have been at his side on this one. Why hadn’t he realized that before it came to this point?
The DC agents entered the doors of the 5th Precinct with Skinner in the lead. His eyes searched the entry hall, as he wondered where he would find AD Harper to discuss their next move. It was Scully, however, who spotted the female AD first.
“AD Harper,” Scully called out sharply. The agent was tired and desperate to get her partner out of that hellhole of a ward. “May we have a word with you?”
“Agent Scully,” Harper acknowledged and then merely nodded at Skinner.
“I want Mulder released from that…, from that…”
“…Prison ward?” Harper completed Scully’s thought, but there was no tone of helpfulness in her words. When Scully nodded in response, Harper chuckled in a mocking tone, “Oh, please, Agent Scully, but where else would you propose we keep a suspect who’s managed to get himself injured in the act of committing murder?”
“How dare you!” shot back Scully. “How dare you try and convict him when there is not one shred of evidence that supports your claim.”
“Oh? Not a shred, eh? Come now, Agent Scully. A business card boasting not only your Agent Mulder’s name, but about a quart of his blood was found practically on the latest victim’s body. I would say that’s a good bit of evidence, wouldn’t you?” Harper stood directly in front of the shorter agent with her arms crossed, and a piercing stare that quickly made Scully somewhat uncomfortable.
Scully couldn’t help but wonder what it was about AD Harper that had her so disconcerted so quickly. Though Scully had never truly believed in all of her late sister Melissa’s ideas about auras, Scully could definitely feel a certain negativity emanating from AD Harper. So much so that she felt it necessary to look away.
“Scully, are you all right?” Skinner asked with concern. She looked up at her boss, grateful for his immediate and unwavering support, and indicated with a small, but confident nod that she was okay. Next, Scully turned her attention back to AD Harper.
“I don’t believe you have proof positive that Mulder was the perpetrator of that crime. Remember, AD Harper, Agent Mulder was working this case. He was acting as a profiler for a serial murder investigation and in actuality, he was at the scene of the crime after the murder took place. He was investigating the crime scene, AD Harper.”
“Oh, really? And bleeding like a slaughtered pig enhances his investigation, how?” Harper retorted sarcastically.
As if a light bulb went on, Scully asked, “How did he get into a locked building?”
“The same way any criminal gets into a locked building, Agent Scully.”
“No, let’s use a little common sense here, AD Harper. It’s the Jewish holiday today, isn’t it? The library is a part of Yeshiva University, so common sense dictates that the library would have closed early yesterday, long before sundown, wouldn’t it? I’m sure the school could verify that for us, don’t you think?” declared Scully.
“You did have someone interview the security people, didn’t you AD Harper? We must have that information listed in the file,” stated Skinner with more animation than he’d exhibited in several hours.
“And one more thing. What was the time of death listed in the coroner’s report?” asked Scully.
“The victim was last seen at approximately 9:45 a.m.,” replied Harper.
“Yes, but was the time of death fixed at?”
“It must have been after 10:00 a.m.,” replied Harper.
“Damn it, what was the range? I doubt the coroner fixed an exact time; what the hell was the range?” demanded Scully.
“It’s in the report,” replied Harper.
Scully was suddenly sure she’d found a way to negate AD Harper’s accusation against her partner. “Agent Andrews stated that they disembarked from their flight at around 4:40 p.m. If the coroner determined death occurred prior to Mulder’s arrival at LaGuardia, that would certainly give him an alibi.
“And one would have to assume the library was closed prior to Mulder’s arrival, which would rationalize Mulder’s need to break a window to get into the building. That would explain the blood,” proclaimed Scully.
“The two of you are amazing,” declared Harper. “Listen to you! Unless you make it a habit of weaving fairy tales, what possible other reason could Fox Mulder have had for appearing at that library on that particular evening if not to kill her?” The AD stood with her hands planted firmly on her hips in a stance that dared her two companions to contradict her.
“What reason? He’s a profiler, AD Harper. Surely you know what a profiler does?” demanded Scully.
“I know EXACTLY what a profiler does, Agent Scully. I also know the normal ones do their jobs from within the confines of Quantico.” Harper’s emphasis on the word ‘normal’ did not get past Scully or Skinner.
“It’s apparent that Mulder takes his job that much more seriously, AD Harper. Especially since the head of VCU personally asked him to join the task force,” retorted Scully. “Surely you’re aware of Fox Mulder’s reputation as an extraordinary profiler.”
“Oh, I assure you, Agent Scully, everyone who has ever stood around a water cooler is more than aware of ‘Spooky’ Mulder’s exploits.”
Skinner stood between the two women and felt as if he were witnessing the finals of Wimbledon, given the repartee that was flying back and forth before him. “Agents, I believe our first priority should be to establish the time of death, so we can eliminate Mulder as a suspect. “Perhaps, AD Harper,” Skinner stated, “in your desire to maintain the lid on the media hype, you were a bit too hasty in arresting Agent Mulder. So, while I call the hospital for an update on Agent Mulder’s condition, you will locate the files which contain the needed information regarding time of death and library security.” When Harper made no move, Skinner continued, “AD Harper. If you don’t feel capable of taking the lead on this investigation, I’ll be happy to take over for you.” With great satisfaction, he watched Harper stalk off silently to gather the requested information.
Skinner’s slight smile slowly disappeared as he observed the obvious look of discomfort on Scully’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure, Sir, but something about that woman just…”
“What is it, Scully?”
“She scares the hell out of me, and I’ll be damned if I know why.”
Skinner and Scully took off for the hospital immediately upon learning that Mulder was finally conscious. They left word with AD Harper to join them once she’d found the necessary files. The two bureau members rode up the noisy, antiquated elevator to the third floor and produced their ID for the guards on duty. Scully knew the meeting they would be having would be a difficult one for her partner. Hell, it was going to be next to impossible to deal with for all of them.
As they were led to Mulder’s bedside, Scully shot a look at the crass patient who’d made a pass at her which shut him down before he had a chance to even think of saying something. She then turned and looked straight ahead towards her partner.
He appeared alert and was breathing unaided, which was a far cry from his earlier condition. “Mulder,” she called out breathlessly.
His head turned in her direction and he smiled with relief upon seeing her. “Scully,” he rasped, “fancy meeting you here.”
“Oh, Mulder, we’ve got to stop meeting like this,” retorted Scully. If there was one thing she’d learned in her ever changing relationship with her partner, the one constant they had was his sense of humor which she latched onto every chance she got.
Skinner cleared his throat and the partners quickly acknowledged that their boss was within seconds of seeing them make ‘goo-goo eyes’ at one another, something that was not in their immediate future’s plans. “Agents, I would assume that until AD Harper returns with the requested information, Agent Mulder’s privileges will not extend toward unlimited time with visitors. So, let’s see if we can actually get some work done and get a statement from Mulder while we’re being given the opportunity.”
Both Scully and Mulder nodded in agreement, so Skinner asked the broadest of questions, “Mulder, what the hell happened?”
“To be honest,” he began slowly, thoughtfully, “I’m not sure, Sir.”
“What’s the last thing you remember, Mulder?” asked Scully softly, and not without a little trepidation in her voice.
“I remember the beach. I don’t know why I remember the beach, I just remember running out to where the water was and…” Mulder stopped dead. His eyes opened wide with an agony that could only have been precipitated by remembering what he’d threatened to do. “Oh, God. Scully, did I hurt you?”
She shook her head vehemently, but then asked, “Do you remember why? Do you remember any of what actually took place on the beach?”
“Not really. It’s as if I was there, but I wasn’t there. I mean, I felt as if I was out of my body watching someone else controlling it. Weird, huh?” Mulder answered.
“Yeah, weird,” Skinner murmured. He hated to bring it up, but he knew that it was going to come out eventually. “Mulder, do you remember what happened at the airport with Agent Andrews?”
Mulder’s expression was blank. He hadn’t a clue as to what the AD was referring and pressed him for more information. “When were Kenny and I at the airport, Sir?”
“Several hours ago. You were investigating a crime scene in the south when you apparently had this sudden urge to come to New York City. Agent Andrews followed you on the flight to LaGuardia Airport.”
“Oh, jeezes, and someone shot him,” Mulder responded.
“Not someone, Mulder,” Scully said gently, as she grasped his unaffected hand. “You shot him.”
“Mulder, he’ll be fine. He just had a shoulder wound.”
“Oh great, now he’ll really be Spooky, Jr. We’ll be sporting matching shoulder scars.”
The couple couldn’t help but laugh a bit at that, if only to relieve some of the tension in the room.
“Why did you shoot him?” asked Skinner, attempting to get the needed information as quickly as possible.
“I don’t remember- Oh,I don’t know,” he added hastily, as he suddenly recalled details that he would have much preferred left forgotton. “I mean, I didn’t consciously want to shoot him, but on the other hand…” Mulder paused and took a deep breath. He was about to say something that even he didn’t understand. “On the other hand, I knew someone needed to get Kenny out of the way. Kenny was going to be a hindrance to someone or something, but I knew nothing as to exactly what that obstacle was.”
The three of them continued talking, Scully taking an occasional note and both she and Skinner asking clarifying questions. Almost forty minutes had gone by before the guard came over with the ten-minute warning before their visit would have to end. “When can I get out of here?” Mulder asked earnestly.
“Mulder, you’ve had a serious cardiac episode,” answered Scully.
“Yeah, but my doctor’s here now, so you’ll let them release me into your care, right Scully?” he asked, waggling his eyes a bit.
Suddenly it dawned on both Skinner and Scully at the same time that Mulder was unaware that he was in a prison ward. The fact that there were uniformed guards probably didn’t surprise him since he himself was a FBI agent and most likely under watch for his protection.
“Mulder, we have to wait until AD Harper finds the appropriate information before we can release you,” informed Skinner.
“The proof of your innocence,” affirmed Scully.
“Proof? But you know I shot Kenny.”
“No, Mulder,” Skinner sighed, “No, we’re talking about the latest murder. A young woman by the name of Beth Stein.”
Mulder’s expression turned from surprised to perplexed. He had no idea as to whom Beth Stein was or why Skinner would assume he had anything to do with her murder.
“Mulder, do you remember going to Yeshiva University from the airport?” The agent shook his head, mutely, and Scully then asked, “Do you remember driving to Quonochontaug?”
“No, Scully, I honestly don’t, but I obviously scared the hell out of you again, didn’t I?”
She nodded, silently. He already knew how frightened she was for him; she didn’t need to add to his guilt by verbalizing her fear. “I’m sorry, Scully.”
“I know,” she acknowledged. Just then, the guard walked over and informed them their time with the prisoner was over.
“Prisoner? I’ve been arrested?” Mulder asked incredulously.
Just then, AD Harper appeared at the entrance to the ward. The other prisoner immediately noticed the tall blond woman, dressed to the nines, enter the ward.
“Hey Chickie,” called out the little weasel, “I got something for you. You got something for me? C’mon, Chickie, show me what you got, and I’ll show you mine.”
“A.J. knock that crap off or you’ll find your way back onto the block a whole lot faster than your little mangy body can heal,” shouted the guard.
It was quiet for a short time.
Harper walked over toward Mulder’s bed, stopped in front of AD Skinner, and offered him a file. “Here. You’re right. The time of death doesn’t jive with Mulder’s flight plan. We’ll have to release him.”
“Thank you, Linda, for being so forthright and prompt in locating the information needed to free my agent.”
“Of course, Walter. Anything for an old friend.”
And at that moment, the silence was broken by the sounds of monitors beeping and shouts of Code Blue while a multitude of white uniforms surrounded Fox Mulder’s bed. The agent stopped breathing, once again.
“GET HER OUT!” shouted the voice from near the ward’s entrance.
“Who the hell is that?” called out one of the guards.
“GET HER AWAY FROM HIM!” he screamed even more loudly.
“If you don’t leave this floor immediately, we’ll have to place you__.”
“PLEASE! You’ve got to listen! Get her out of here! She’s killing him.”
AD Harper turned to face the person who was voicing the histrionics. And upon facing him, Kenny Andrews fell to the floor, in a heap. “Everyone, out of here,” shouted a man, obviously a doctor, who was placing paddles on Mulder’s chest. “George, clear this room! Get them off this floor now, damn it!”
George, the guard at the door, shook himself from his wide-eyed stare at the man crumbled at his feet and motioned for the three agents to move into the hall. Two nurses were now assessing Kenny. Scully heard a shout for a gurney and another crash cart.
The elevator doors closed before Scully could tell if Kenny was breathing or if they’d been successful in getting Mulder’s heart started. She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to her superior. “Sir,” she choked, but then she looked around and noticed they were the only ones in the elevator. “Sir,” she repeated, this time her voice firmly under control. “Where is AD Harper?”
Skinner looked perplexed as his eyes scanned the tiny elevator compartment. “She was right here . . .” His voice trailed off and he drew in a breath and focused on Scully. “Is she still back on the ward?”
“She was right beside me when the guard called the elevator. I was certain she got on with us,” Scully said, her eyes roaming the elevator just as her boss had done seconds before. She shook her head slowly and chewed on the corner of her bottom lip. “Sir, I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.”
Skinner looked at her incredulously. “A pattern, Agent Scully? Care to enlighten me?”
She shot him a guilty look. “I’m not certain, and I need more time. Sir, could you go back to the precinct and make sure the charges have been dropped so Mulder can be transferred to a regular ward as soon as possible. I’d like to stick around here and make sure he and Agent Andrews are all right.”
The Assistant Director was amazed at the complete turn around in her demeanor. She’d been so emotionally distraught as they were escorted on the elevators, now she seemed to have forgotten all about her partner and his condition. “Scully, you appear awfully, well, calm. Scully,” Skinner’s tone was gentle and he placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Scully, his heart stopped again,” he said in a whisper. Scully looked up at him with a sad, but knowing smile. “I know. The minute AD Harper entered the room. And Agent Andrews collapsed the minute she looked at him,” she reminded the man now staring at her in total disbelief. “Now that she’s gone, I have a feeling they will both recover fairly quickly.”
“Scully, are you saying . . . Look, I’ve known Linda Harper for years. She’s a consummate bitch, yes, but what you’re suggesting . . .”
“Sir, calling her a bitch doesn’t give her nearly enough credit,” Scully said through clenched teeth. “But now we know who we’re really looking for. She was right under our noses for the last 36 hours. I’m not letting her get away that easily.”
Skinner eyed her warily. “You have no proof,” he said quietly. “What you’re saying is based as much on circumstantial evidence as the case against Mulder.”
“I know that, too, Sir, and that’s why I’m going to stay here. I have to talk to Mulder as soon as he wakes up. I think he has the proof, or at least knows where to find it. Then I’ll have to find AD Harper.”
“Don’t you mean ‘we’ have to find AD Harper?” Skinner reminded her.
“No, Sir, I meant what I said. I have a feeling this has just become a lot more personal.”
“If you’re right, I doubt she went back to the precinct,” Skinner said evenly.
“Oh, I’m sure she’s in hiding. But that’s all right, I have a feeling we might be able to track her down now. I just need to talk to Mulder a little more, get more of a handle on where he was going with the profile. We just need to find her most likely target.”
“You don’t think she’ll come back after Mulder and Andrews?”
“No,” Scully said with a firm shake of her head. “She wants them out of the way, but only because they could hinder her actions. She has bigger fish to fry.”
“And killing them would . . .?”
“Draw too much attention to herself. Plus, while both Andrews and Mulder are alive, the two profilers on the case have not been replaced. The case is basically at a standstill and she’s able to move freely. Kill either or both of them and there is the possibility that the case could be expanded to include their deaths.”
“Scully, you aren’t suggesting that Tom Alexander’s death was something other than an accident, are you?” Skinner was rubbing his forehead, obviously reeling from the paths his agent’s logic was taking.
“I don’t have evidence to point to that, Sir, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”
“Then you better talk to Mulder. I just hope he’s able. And I’ll make sure he’s been released. While I’m at it, I’ll see what I can do about finding AD Harper.”
By the time she got back to the secure ward, Mulder was stable, but unconscious. Kenny had been taken to the X-ray department to determine the cause of his collapse. Scully was standing by the nurses’ station when the call came through from Skinner that all charges had been dropped against Agent Mulder. It took over an hour to get Mulder moved into a regular room on the fourth floor.
After a complete exam, which the younger agent slept through, Kenny had been deposited in the bed next to Mulder. Scully had dragged a chair between the two beds and sat down with a heavy sigh. She started going over the piles of paper she had collected from his motel room in Biloxi. How she’d managed to keep hold of them through the chaos of the last few days was an X-file in and of itself, she had decided.
He had several sheets of paper just outlining the lives of the victims. She could find little in common, as he had concluded-at first. Then one word jumped out at her from the page. Exorcist. He’d written it in all caps, large, chunky block letters, and he’d underlined the word twice. She thought back to her interview with Reuven Steiger and his wife Rifka. How the young man, so out of touch with the modern world in so many ways, had a very firm understanding of the work of God. How Rifka had told her that the Rabbi, her father, had been studying the Jewish teachings associated with exorcism.
Scully shook her head. “No, it doesn’t fall that easily into place,” she muttered.
“Scully?” The voice from the bed startled her, she’d been so deep in thought. She looked over at Mulder and realized it was the first time she’d been able to talk to him in person, alone, for a long time. Sure, it was only three days on the calendar, but in her heart it felt like they’d been separated for a lifetime.
“Mulder, I’m right here,” she told him, getting out of her chair so that she could stand closer to the bed. She picked up his hand from where it was lying by his side and gently kissed the knuckles of his fingers. “Open your eyes, Mulder. You’re going to be fine.”
Slowly, his eyes opened a crack and he saw her. He smiled and blinked his eyes closed. When he opened them again, more fully, he took in the room around him and groaned in defeat.
“Not again,” he sighed in exasperation and slammed his lids shut.
She couldn’t help the broad grin the tugged at her lips. “Yes, once again, G-man, you have landed flat on your back in the hospital. Now, since I know you aren’t at death’s door, open up those eyes and answer some questions.”
One eye opened defiant of its master. “Oh. This is an official visit. I should have known,” he growled.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she countered back. Glancing over her shoulder, she made sure Agent Andrews was still out for the count. Then she leaned over and kissed her partner sensuously on the lips. Happily, he responded in kind. When they broke the kiss by mutual agreement, and a definite need for oxygen, he was smiling at her.
“Better. You’re getting the hang of it,” he told her. She allowed him a minute to stretch, and gave him a worried look when he grimaced against a pain on the left side of his chest.
“How did I bruise a rib?” he asked, rubbing the area absently.
“From either of the two times you’ve been defibbed, I would guess.”
He shot her a disbelieving look. “I’m not in ICU,” he pointed out, as if that statement alone would disprove her answer.
“You were, at least the secure ward’s version of ICU. Not as posh as the upper floor, but you’ve been intubated and they had to defib you twice. All in the last five hours,” she noted calmly, checking her watch. “Don’t you remember?”
He worried his eyetooth with his tongue, a gesture she knew indicated that he was trying to work the pieces together in his mind. “I remember being interrogated,” he said slowly, shaking his head. “Everything is really fuzzy, Scully,” he admitted after some time.
She nodded and took his hand to squeeze it, not letting go. “I’m sure it is. And really, not much of it matters. But Mulder, I need to know something and it’s very important. Do you remember anything about what happened at the library yesterday afternoon late? Anything at all?”
He laid his head back and stared at the ceiling. “I remember being told I was being held for the murder of Beth Stein,” he said quietly, drawing out the last words. He chewed on his bottom lip and refused to look at her. “The New York AD . . .” Suddenly, it was if he’d been slapped. His head jerked up and he gripped Scully’s hand in his. “Scully, the AD–Harper, you have to stay away from her!”
“I’m ahead of you, Partner, but not by much. I have some suspicions about Linda Harper.”
“She’s the one, Mulder,” came a croaked voice from the other bed.
Scully turned to find Kenny was pulling at the oxygen cannula and trying to sit up. She quickly moved over to his bed and gently pushed him back in place, replacing the oxygen over his protests.
“Stay right where you are, Agent Andrews,” she warned.
“Better listen to her, Kenny. She shoots first and asks questions later,” Mulder said with a mischievous grin.
“Quiet, or I’ll do it again,” she tossed back over her shoulder. Two sets of wide eyes greeted her, but so did complete silence. She smiled in triumph and sat down between the two of them. “That’s better. Now, Mulder, do you remember anything at the library?”
Mulder sighed in frustration. “I don’t,” he said, shaking his head. “I wish I . . . wait a minute,” he held up his hand and closed his eyes, as if trying to conjure up a picture in his head. “A book. Scully, I can see the book Ms. Stein was reading,” he said excitedly.
“Yes,” Scully encouraged.
His excited expression turned to disgust. “It was in Hebrew,” he sighed, dejected again.
“Mulder, you have to concentrate. Do you remember anything about the symbols, have you seen any of the symbols before?” she prodded.
He looked up at her with a frown. “I know what it was, Scully. In my gut, I know what she was studying. It was the Kabbalah, the Jewish teachings of mysticism.”
“And that’s where the ritual on exorcism would be,” Scully supplied to his agreeing nod.
Kenny looked from one agent to the other with wonder. “OK, I gotta say it. Does this mean the devil really did do it?”
“It sure looks that way, Kenny. From where I’m sitting, it sure looks that way,” Mulder said with a worried frown, as he watched his partner leave to search for more answers.
Mulder absent-mindedly played with the remote control while he searched for something on the television that would keep both Andrews and him occupied. He wasn’t having much luck. Finally, Andrews asked, “Is there a ball game on? Have the playoffs started yet?”
Mulder shrugged and began the search again. Both men had lost track of time in general and the calendar in specifics. Mulder heard Kenny’s voice again, but his words didn’t register. “What?” the older agent asked.
“I asked how long have you and Agent Scully been together?” Andrews asked.
“This is our ninth year as partners.”
“You guys have been a couple for nine years and you’ve managed to avoid marriage? That’s pretty amazing!” exclaimed Andrews.
“Whoa! A couple?” asked the usually unflappable Mulder. “We became *partners* nine years ago, Kenny. Who said anything about being a ‘couple?'”
“Who said you needed to say anything?” retorted the younger man. “It’s pretty obvious.”
“Oh, yeah. Obvious,” Kenny smiled. “Any two people who can tolerate as much as the two of you dish out to one another, must be a couple.”
“Well, you see, it’s not like that…”
“Yeah. Sure. Fine. Whatever,” retorted Kenny sarcastically. He was on the verge of bursting out laughing because he knew he just pushed his mentor into a corner, and there was no way he was coming out of it unscathed.
“Kenny, it’s not exactly common knowledge…”
“You mean no one’s ever suspected? You’re gonna tell me you two are not the subject of the day around the water cooler?” he asked incredulously.
Now it was Mulder’s turn to laugh out loud. “Oh, no, I never said that. We’ve been the prime targets around the water cooler from the day Scully and I partnered up. They’ve had us screwing like bunnies practically since day one.” Mulder took a deep breath and then confided softly, “The truth of the matter is, we’ve only been together in, umm, well, the biblical sense for a couple of months now.”
“You’re kidding,” Kenny responded, but upon seeing Mulder’s expression, “You’re not kidding. Holy shit, whodduh thunk it? I had you two pegged as practically an old married couple.”
“Well, in reality, I guess you’re not that far off. We bonded pretty quickly, Scully and I, even if it was only platonic at first. I guess you can say we’ve been soulmates forever.”
Kenny nodded at this; he knew exactly what Mulder was talking about.
“Umm, Kenny, I’d really appreciate it if you’d keep this between us, okay? Scully and I, well, we’re not quite ready to spring it on the world yet.”
“Don’t want to see anyone get rich off of the ‘relationship pool’ yet, eh?” Andrews said smiling. “Sure, I understand. No one will hear anything from these lips.”
Mulder smiled and said his thanks, but then asked, “What about you? Are you involved with anyone?”
“Yeah,” Kenny said, as the smile on his lips turned into a beam that lit up his face. “Kerry. Her name’s Kerry.”
“How long have you two been an item?” asked Mulder.
“Would you believe eight years?”
“What? Andrews, you’re only what, twenty-four?”
“Hey, I’m gonna be twenty-five next month,” he replied quickly.
“You’ve been dating this girl since you were sixteen? You’ve got to be kidding?” Mulder exclaimed incredulously.
“Well, yeah, I guess we have. In fact we met at her sweet sixteen party. I’d come with someone else, and well, we just hit it off, and we’ve been together, for the most part ever since.”
“For the most part?” Mulder questioned.
“We went to separate colleges. Our parents insisted upon it, because they couldn’t believe we could really and truly be so in love with one another as to exclude any possibility of other relationships. So, I went to the East Coast to school at Boston University, and Kerry went to the West Coast to UCLA. We graduated and met back in DC and moved in with one another. We informed our parents that we were together and that no one was ever going to separate us again.
“Of course, now here I am sharing a room with you, Mulder…not exactly the way I imagine either one of us would prefer to spend an evening,” Kenny said with a slight, wistful sigh.
Mulder silently concurred; he would have much preferred to be in the arms of a certain red-haired agent. Unfortunately, she’d gone back to the 5th precinct to expedite the paperwork that would ensure Mulder’s release from custody. Any charges that he might have incurred due to the LaGuardia shooting were moot, as the victim refused to press charges. The fact that Harper chose, for whatever reason, to ignore that aspect of the case didn’t hurt either.
“Hey, isn’t that Yankee Stadium?” asked Kenny as Mulder continued to surf through the channels.
“Yeah, it is,” Mulder said with a smile. “Well, looks like we got ourselves a ballgame.”
The men watched for a few more minutes before either one realized that it was no ballgame. “What the hell is this, Mulder?”
“Dunno,” Mulder answered, shaking his head in confusion as well. They watched for several more minutes.
“Rock concert?” asked Kenny.
“Maybe. But the guy doesn’t exactly look like someone who’s the leader of a rock band, does he?”
The camera panned over the stage that was set up right behind the pitcher’s mound. It centered on a short, slight man apparently in his late fifties to early sixties. He wasn’t singing, but he was certainly dancing up a storm and obviously enjoying himself while he encouraged the crowd to join with him in song and dance.
Mulder was just about to turn the channel when an attractive, Hispanic nurse came in to do a blood pressure and temperature check. “Hi Boys, I’m Elena and I’ll be your nurse this evening. After the briefing I just received, I’m surprised to see you’re both awake.”
Mulder smiled at that. It was no wonder that she was surprised, given the fact that only a couple of short hours ago he’d been in cardiac arrest. At the moment, the only things that ached a bit were his ribs from the enthusiastic CPR and his throat from the respirator tube.
Actually, he felt pretty damned good. He looked over at Kenny and saw that his temporary partner was doing a little better as well, though he’d certainly bore the brunt of the injuries. However, it was nothing a little Demerol couldn’t cure.
“Oh, it’s Palo!” Elena remarked as her gaze found the television.
“Palo?” echoed both patients.
“Palo Ruiz! You haven’t heard of him? His tour has been expected here for weeks,” she stated.
“Who is this guy?” asked Kenny, wondering why his pretty young nurse seemed to know so much about the old man on the tube.
“He’s an evangelist who’s been touring the U.S. Where have you two been? Under a rock? There’ve been billboards and advertisements all over the city and suburbs for the last couple of months. He even made the local evening news, because the Yankees got kicked out of their own stadium! They were supposed to make up a rainout, but Palo stood firm and said the word of Jesus Christ could not wait for a baseball game. Believe it or not, Steinbrenner actually gave in. The Yankees went and played it at the other team’s stadium,” she said with admiration.
“He’s an evangelist, you said?” asked Mulder, suddenly tense. Kenny felt the change in mood as well.
“How big of a crowd will he play to?” inquired Kenny.
“Oh, the Stadium’s sold out. It’s been sold out for weeks now, which is why Steinbrenner didn’t argue, I guess.”
“How long has this guy been around?” Mulder wanted to know.
“Oh, he’s been fairly well known in the Hispanic communities for decades. The man’s been preaching since he was a child. Talk about longevity. It’s only in the last few years that he’s become more mainstream. His ministry tends to target teenagers with Christian rock bands,” informed Elena.
“Kenny?” Mulder whispered as he pushed the covers down to ankles.
“I’m right behind you, partner,” Kenny replied as he did the same, albeit a bit more awkwardly.
“No way, Kenny. You’re not going anywhere with that shoulder.”
“And there’s no way I’m letting you go anywhere without someone to cover your back.”
“I’ll call Scully.”
“Bullshit, and you know that *I* know that. There’s no way in hell you’re gonna let Scully come within two miles of this guy.” Kenny stared hard at the older agent and continued, “Am I right, Mulder?”
He sighed because he knew his young associate had his number big time. “Kenny, I really don’t think it’s a good idea…”
“Forget about it. Demerol is a wonderful thing, but the dose I received was just enough to take the edge off the pain. It wasn’t enough to make me loopy.” At Mulder’s skeptical expression, Kenny insisted, “Really, Mulder. I’m fine. Please, don’t shut me out here. You *need* me on this one. You know you need me.”
As both men swung their legs over the side of their respective beds like swimmers in a synchronized swimming event, Elena finally spoke. “And where in heaven’s name do you both think you’re going?”
“Get us the AMA forms, Nurse Elena. We’ve got a date with a certain Hispanic evangelist,” replied Mulder.
“I can’t let you leave here,” she responded.
“I know, I know. That’s why we need the forms. Please, Elena, it’s very, very important,” pleaded Mulder as he continued to climb out of his bed. Kenny was a step or two behind him.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” mumbled the young nurse as she left quickly to seek help with her two crazy patients.
Scully walked into the room with a huge grin on her face. She was pleased with herself, since she’d effectively taken on the NYPD and the New York Bureau office to get Mulder’s charges wiped clean. When she saw the two empty, perfectly made-up beds before her, the smile disappeared. Turning around, she headed for the nurses’ desk to find out where the two missing agents were taken.
There was obviously a shift change, as none of the nurses on duty looked recognizable. “Excuse me, but could you tell me where Agents Mulder and Andrews have been taken?”
“Taken? Who?” asked the obviously preoccupied nurse sitting behind the desk, looking at a computer screen.
“In Room 534, the two FBI agents. Mulder and Andrews. Mulder, tall, good-looking, hazel eyes, 40 years old? Andrews, tall, good-looking, dark eyes, around 25 years old?”
“Oh, you mean Kenny and the Fox!” confirmed the older nurse. “Oh, they’re gone.”
“They’re gone,” Scully echoed without emotion.
“Yes. They’ve been discharged.”
“They’ve been discharged?” she repeated, but this time it was with decidedly more feeling.
“Yes, they signed themselves out,” she explained. “Of course, we tried to convince them it wasn’t in their best interests, but as they very clearly pointed out, they were grown men and in their right minds,” the nurse began to explain.
“_Right minds, my ass,” Scully mumbled just clearly enough to get the nurse’s attention.
“I’m sorry, dear, but who are you?” she asked as she realized the angry woman standing before her was probably close to taking her head off. “Special Agent Dana Scully. I am ‘the Fox’s’ partner, but when I catch up with him he’s going to wish we’d never stepped foot on the same planet, much less the same office.”
“Now, dear, calm down. I’m sure he had a good reason,” the older nurse began when she heard Elena’s footsteps approaching the desk. “Wait, now here’s Elena. She was the boys’ nurse; perhaps she can offer you some information.”
The older nurse quickly stepped out from behind the desk and whispered something into the young Hispanic woman’s ear and then walked hurriedly away from the area.
“Hi, I’m Elena,” she said as she offered her hand to Scully. “I think I can help you.”
Scully held her cell phone in her hand as she had a heated debate with herself. Should she call Skinner or not? If she called her boss, he would feel obligated to call in backup and possibly impede her attempts to get to her partner and wayward cohort as soon as possible.
She decided to hold off calling the AD until after she’d arrived in the Bronx landmark. She figured if she scoped out the place first, she’d have information for her boss and he would be less likely to order her to haul her butt back to headquarters.
Scully was determined to find her partner and Andrews before they met up with any more trouble. However, given the fact this was Fox Mulder she was looking for, Scully had to figure trouble would be more likely to find him first.
Hailing a cab took more effort than either agent thought it should, until Kenny pointed out to Mulder that he still sported the bright orange hospital bracelet signifying his recent stay on the prison ward.
Kenny’s pocketknife proved its worth and soon they were on their way to Yankee Stadium.
“I’d much rather be on my way to box seats on the first day of the playoffs,” Kenny muttered as they made their way through the crowded streets near the stadium.
Mulder looked over at him with interest. “A Yankee’s fan?”
Kenny tilted his head defiantly and nodded. “My grandfather played for a Yankee’s farm team back in the 50’s,” he said proudly.
Mulder grinned broadly.
“So, I suppose you’re an Orioles fan. No, wait, you’re from New England. A BoSox fan,” Kenny profiled his mentor with narrowed eyes.
“Neither,” Mulder said with a shake of his head. “Yanks and only Yanks. I have a cap from when they were in the Series in ’99.”
“Wow, which game did you drive up for?” Kenny asked innocently.
Mulder stared at the back of the cabby’s headrest. “Well, no. A friend got me the cap; I wasn’t feeling well at the time.”
Kenny nodded and stared out the window. “Read Spanish?” he asked.
“Took French in high school and college,” Mulder said, shaking his head. All around them were signs, billboards and posters some in Spanish, some with English translations. ‘Hear the Word of God!’
“You think we’re crazy, coming here like this?” Kenny asked, never taking his gaze off the scenery out his window.
“I wouldn’t be here if I thought it was crazy, Andrews. Why? You having second thoughts?”
“What if we go in there and nothing happens?” Kenny blurted out, turning finally to look Mulder square in the eye. “What if we stir up a bunch of shit, and it’s for nothing?”
“Well, we could just not go. We could find the motel Scully’s staying at, grab a few beers, kick back and watch the whole thing on the tube,” Mulder suggested wryly. His expression turned serious. “Of course, we both know something bad is going to happen here tonight and I, for one, would rather live with the humiliation of being wrong then the guilt of being right.”
“The thing I like about both those scenarios, Mulder, is that we come out alive,” Kenny said thoughtfully and returned to review the posters and signs out the window.
The cabby dropped them at the front gate. Although Mulder was currently without his badge, which was still back at the 5th Precinct, Kenny was equipped with all vital identification and even had his service weapon. That proved to be enough to gain both men entry, though somehow Mulder doubted that would have been the case if it were a ballgame going on that day.
“We should be calling for back up,” Kenny pointed out as they moved through the turnstile.
Mulder huffed and pointed to the uniformed New York Policemen standing at the bottom of each set of stairs. “I think we can count on the boys in blue if we get in a tight spot. But remember you didn’t want to stir up ‘any shit’ if we didn’t have to. We’ll just play it low key for now. Besides, I don’t think she’ll be that easy to find until she’s ready.”
Mulder nodded to a small group of NYPD beat cops that stood near a concession stand, while Kenny explained they were looking for a fellow agent, an Assistant Director. He didn’t bother to mention why they were searching for the woman, but he did give a brief description. No one they talked to had seen her.
After circling the stadium, Kenny was starting to get more and more concerned. “She’s here, I know she’s here,” he said through clenched teeth, as he scanned the ever-increasing crowd of people.
“We need a higher vantage point,” Mulder said, chewing the inside of his cheek.
“Let’s check out the place from the nosebleed seats,” Kenny suggested and they headed off at a trot for the stairs.
As they climbed the steps to the top loge, Mulder had to shake off a strong feeling of vertigo. He wasn’t afraid of heights as a rule, but something was making him dizzy and each time he looked down at the stage just off the pitcher’s mound, he felt the whole world tilt on its axis.
“I think she’s someplace near, Andrews,” he whispered sharply. One look at his companion confirmed his suspicions. Andrews seemed to be gasping for each breath.
“Where?” Andrews choked out.
Mulder scanned the stadium, blinking hard against the graying edges of his vision. Finally, his eyes came to rest on the broadcast booth, sitting directly across from them on a lower level. He could just make out a figure standing to the left of the booth, in the aisle between reserved box seats.
With a shaky hand, Mulder pointed toward the figure. As he did so, the woman jerked her head, and even though it was a distance of well over 500 feet, Mulder was sure he saw her smile at him.
“Mulder! Mulder, it’s her, isn’t it?” Andrews called out anxiously. Andrews turned quickly to Mulder for validation, only to see him sway on his feet. “Mulder? You okay?”
Before Mulder was able to reply, he felt the world go black and began to fall down the stairs.
“Mulder!” screamed Kenny. The painkillers combined with his bad shoulder prevented him from moving fast enough to grab his mentor. However, a member of the Stadium Security Staff was fast enough to halt Mulder’s descent from causing too many more bumps and bruises. Kenny moved as quickly as he could to the fallen man. “Hey, Mulder, you okay?” When all he got was a grunt in reply, Kenny suggested they get him sitting up in a chair. The security guard was forced to do most of the work, but between the two of them they got Mulder seated.
“Damn chair’s hard,” Mulder mumbled.
“Sorry,” Kenny smiled, relieved to hear his partner alert, “I didn’t think to bring my Yankee seat cushion.”
“Should’ve,” was the quick reply.
“You okay? I mean, maybe we should call it a day.”
“I’m fine,” Mulder said, but as he attempted to stand up it was apparent the conglomeration of injuries and medical emergencies he’d recently undergone had caught up to him. He lost his balance and fell back into the seat. “Then again, maybe I’m not a hundred per cent.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” retorted Andrews. “Mulder, I’m going to call AD Skinner. I can’t do this alone, and you’re in no condition to guarantee backup.”
Mulder nodded his assent and watched the younger man pull out his cellular.
Scully entered the Stadium at Gate 2 by Monument Park. She’d never been much of a baseball fan, having only shown some interest since her partnership with Mulder. However, even she could appreciate the names of the great Yankee legends prominently displayed by Monument Park. Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, and of course the man who it’s said actually built Yankee Stadium, Babe Ruth.
She wished her partner were standing at her side at that very moment, appreciating the historical significance of those names with her. But Scully knew she hadn’t time for feeling sorry for herself; she had a job to do. Though she’d promised herself that she’d call Skinner once she’d arrived at the stadium, Scully decided to hold off and see if she could locate the two AWOL agents.
Moving to her right, she started heading down the left field line. As she looked around her, she felt somewhat surprised that the crowd was as large as it was. She’d never heard of the evangelist, Palo Ruiz, before, but apparently he had quite a following. What astonished her even more were the numbers of young people in the stands. Apparently Ruiz wasn’t the usual Holy Roller; he had an appeal that attracted teenagers as well.
Slowly but surely, Scully made her way toward the third base site when she heard the murmurs of the crowd turn into cheers. A group of three young people took the stage that stood in the center of the infield and picked up some musical instruments. One of the group, a tall, gangly young man with a trendy hairstyle that had his hair moussed to the hilt, stood in front of a microphone.
“Hello, New York!” shouted out the performer and the crowd responded with cheers. “We are “TRINITY” and we’d like to perform for you tonight!” he continued enthusiastically, to which the audience responded in kind.
Music began to spread throughout the stadium; a soft rock that wasn’t unpleasant to not-quite-middle-aged ears. Scully strained to hear the words more out of curiosity than desire, and heard the expected references to Christ and the Word of God. Teens began dancing in the aisles and clapping to the music; it was an orderly crowd, which Scully was sure was quite a different situation from other ‘concerts’ the NYPD were used to policing.
As she passed just beyond third base going toward home plate, Scully looked up into the crowds and to the broadcasting booths. She wasn’t sure what drew her eyes up into the crowd, but her gaze honed in on the other object of her search.
Harper. She was smiling a menacing grin that sent a chill through Scully’s body. She turned her eyes toward the direction Harper was looking, and Scully picked out her partner and his young cohort immediately. Any casual observer would have been astonished by Scully’s ability to pick out her partner among thousands of people; for those two, it was simply a fact of life. They watched each other’s backs; that too was a simple fact of their lives. When Scully saw her partner seated with Andrews and security nearby, she knew he was safe for the moment. She had a job to do, so she quickly ascended the concrete steps to the next level.
“Yes, Sir. I know, Sir. Absolutely, Sir.” Kenny stood returning affirming answers like a man teeing off at the driving range. Finally, he rolled his eyes, smirked slightly, and said, “He wants to talk with you,” as he handed Mulder the phone.
“Gee, thanks.” Mulder took the phone and prepared himself for his boss’s tirade, only to be surprised to find him anxiously asking him if he’d heard from his partner.
“No. I didn’t want to contact her, because I didn’t want Scully within ten miles of this place. Sir, you have no idea of what this entity is capable of!”
“Oh, yes I do,” replied Skinner quickly. “I have a very good idea. The problem is that Scully is probably in the stadium at this very moment.”
When Mulder murmured denials, Skinner continued, “You were ratted out, Mulder. A nurse at the hospital has just informed me that she spoke with Scully earlier and told her of your plans. I was on my way over there when I got Andrews’ call.”
“Damn it. Damn it!” Mulder began to look furiously around the stadium to see if he could spot his partner. There was no way he wanted Scully to take this woman on by herself. “How far away are you?”
“I’ll have a police escort. I should make it in less than fifteen minutes, so for crying out loud, Mulder, stay put.”
“Mulder, damn it,” demanded the AD, “that’s not a request. That is an order,” which Skinner knew was going to be disobeyed if Mulder had anything to do with it. Which meant only one thing.
He had to get to Yankee Stadium in less than ten minutes.
Scully climbed the stairs and then began moving closer to the press box area, which was just above the club level seating. She was quite sure AD Harper hadn’t seen her; it appeared that all of her energies were focused on Mulder when she’d pinpointed her in the crowd.
“Hey Lady, move the hell outta the way!” came the shout of an indignant audience member.
“Well,” Scully mumbled to herself, “so much for spreading the word of the Lord.” She continued to move toward the position where she’d last seen Harper, and hoped Harper hadn’t chosen to move too far away. Moving more purposefully, Scully looked to where she thought she’d last seen the AD. As she scanned the area, a smattering of applause began to slowly but surely crescendo in her ears.
People began wildly applauding and stomping their feet. Quickly, Scully looked toward the stage to see the object of the audience’s excitement. A small, agile looking man of about sixty stood quietly at the microphone. He held up his hands in an attempt to silence the crowd, but that only seemed to give the large group impetus to rally their hands together even harder.
Finally, the noise died down enough for him to begin to speak. “Good evening, my friends. I am Palo Ruiz.” Those simple words caused the stadium to erupt again in applause and shouts of adulation from the large crowd. It took several minutes before Ruiz was able to speak again, during which time Scully anxiously searched the crowds for signs of Harper’s location.
“My friends,” the dynamic presence began, “it is my goal to help the people of New York experience a spiritual awakening. We need to revitalize our faith and encourage those who are lost to come home. We need to be bold enough to shout out our love for His Glory! We need to be brave enough to share our faith and love for His Word! We need to teach our youth that loving Jesus Christ is not old-fashioned; it is in fact a modern day act that should be celebrated. And we will celebrate it! We’ll celebrate it in song, and in dance, and in the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
“Let us join together in this renewal of our faith! Let us grasp the hands of our neighbors and share our love of God and be ready to shout to the world that we are a force to be reckoned with! We are the new energy for our Christian brothers and sisters. We are ready to say ‘BE GONE to the Powers of Darkness!’ We are ready to accept and declare that God is real and he is in us and he is in control! God is love! God loves us, and we love God.
“Let us renew our faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ! Let us drive out the Powers of Darkness. Let us beat him out of all those who doubt and help them learn to love and trust in the ONLY one who can save us. Lord, give us the strength to banish the Powers of Darkness. We must exorcise all that threatens our faith and belief in you, our Lord, our Savior. Jesus, give us your strength!”
The music began amid shouts of ‘Amen’ and ‘Jesus Save Us’. Ruiz remained standing at the microphone, silent with the exception of his own clapping hands in rhythmical time to the soft rock beat. It was then that Scully saw Ruiz reach over and lift the small, white leather-bound book. It was a bible, of that Scully was positive. It was for that very reason she knew Ruiz to be in danger. Scully felt that, like the book on Kabbalah that Beth Stein had held and the texts held by the victims before her, the bible in Ruiz’s hand was as good as a target with a bright red bull’s eye right in its middle. Getting to Ruiz would be of no help. She had to find Harper. She had to get to the AD first, before she could get to Ruiz, or there would be a tragedy played out before thousands of people. It suddenly struck the agent that this was the first time ‘It’ was being so bold. All of the other attacks were done out of the public eye; this was the first to be played out in front of others.
Which meant only one thing to Scully. Harper assumed she would not fail.
Skinner arrived at Yankee Stadium in record time. He felt a sense of uneasy relief when upon his arrival, he noted that there was no unusual activity. He also knew, much to his consternation, that the chance of there being no problems at the revival meeting was little to none. Skinner walked over to meet Agents Mulder and Andrews on the ground level behind home plate. The two younger men indicated to Skinner that they’d felt it was important that they get closer to Palo Ruiz, since they no longer had a beat on where AD Harper was located. Mulder was the first to notice the arrival of his boss.
“Sir, you got here fast.”
“Where is she?” he asked in non-response.
“I don’t know,” replied Mulder, unsure as to whether he was referring to AD Harper or his partner. In either case, the answer remained the truth, as Harper was no longer in the location in which Mulder had first spotted her.
“Mulder, look!” Andrews called out. “Something’s going down; I can feel something’s going down real soon.”
“Shit! Where is she?” shouted Mulder in frustration. There was little doubt as to whom Mulder was referring. “Sir, Scully must have gone after Harper.”
“I’m going to head out toward the stage area. Keep your eyes out for both Harper and Scully, and for God’s sake, contact me if you see either one of them. He handed over one of two small walkie-talkies that he’d borrowed from the NYPD station.”
“I’ll come with you, Sir,” Mulder said as he attempted to stand.
“Do me a favor. Don’t. I would really like for everyone to come out alive on this one, okay?” When Mulder began to argue, Skinner cut him off, “Mulder, I’m serious. You’re in no shape to assist physically on this one. You could put innocent bystanders in jeopardy, not to mention Scully and me. Stay put, okay? Please?”
Upon seeing Mulder’s slight nod, Skinner turned to Andrews and directed him to stay directly at Mulder’s side. “You are under no circumstances to attempt to play hero, Agent Andrews. I am counting on you to stand watch _with_ Agent Mulder. Is that clear, Agent?”
“Good, because we’ve all got our jobs to do.” And with that, the AD journeyed his way toward the stage.
Scully descended the rather steep, narrow steps which eventually led her toward the lower levels. The agent felt that the longer Ruiz held onto that bible, the better target he made of himself. Suddenly, Scully felt a close presence… too close.
She looked up but saw nothing directly in front of her, other than Palo Ruiz clutching his bible. She then turned her eyes to both the left and right, but again saw nothing that should cause her to feel uneasy.
Finally, Scully turned and looked upward and behind her.
Harper was directly above her, practically hovering over her, from several steps above. Scully looked directly into the AD’s eyes, wondering if she would see something beyond the reality that she’d always known.
The music played on while Ruiz swayed to it. Meanwhile, Harper stepped down, taking each step slowly and with extraordinary precision. Harper’s gaze never left Scully’s and felt like it was scoring right through the younger agent. But Scully never broke sight of her; she maintained her stance and held Harper’s gaze, showing nothing in her affect but determination.
Once Harper stepped on the same level as Scully; it was apparent that a showdown was imminent. The fact that not one person in their immediate area appeared to sense something going down surprised Scully; she’d understood New Yorkers to be more savvy than that. But they moved about the two FBI agents, as if having them stare down one another was the most natural thing in the world.
That thought actually caused Scully to smile slightly to herself; perhaps things were more normal than she’d first realized. This was New York, after all.
“You can’t stop me.” Harper maintained a glaring stance, refusing to give an inch in their standoff.
“You have to be stopped,” Scully replied.
“And you think you can do so? Don’t be foolish. This has nothing to do with you, you know. You are not one I have to worry about.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Scully, hoping that if she engaged her in conversation she might discover a way of stopping her.
“You are not one who can harm me!” Harper’s voice had taken on a new cadence, one that was similar to that of Mulder’s while he called out to Scully on the beach. It chilled her now as it chilled her then.
“Why do you say that? Why can’t I harm you?” she demanded to know.
“Because your beliefs are arbitrary. You and your science; you could never truly believe that I am capable of being exorcised from this earth. I have been here from the dawn of time and I will remain here until well beyond its dusk.”
Harper’s eyes took on a glazed expression. Apparently those around her were not nearly as blase as Scully had first believed. Those who had seats adjacent to the women now moved further back; they remained attentive to the proceedings, but from a safer distance. Or so Scully hoped.
“How can you say that?” Scully demanded to know. “I’m a Catholic, a practicing Catholic. I believe in God. I have faith.”
“But your faith is always at a crossroads with your science, Agent Scully. You must always balance one with the other, and your science always wins.”
“No! No, you’re wrong…” she responded, but with less conviction than she’d hoped.
“Am I? Foolish girl. I am never wrong. I have a power that little men like him can only dare to pray to have. I am all-powerful; I am all-seeing; I am the Power of Darkness that can lead the way to the truth. I am the truth!”
It was hearing those words that caused Scully to understand what she needed to realize to defeat the entity that stood so confidently before her. She knew then that her enemy would be at her mercy, which her heart knew she would have to provide.
“You have lost,” Scully said, softly but with conviction. “You have lost, and you don’t even realize it.”
“I can NOT lose.”
“But you have. I know truth, and you… you are _not_ the truth.” Harper peered into Scully’s eyes and gasped with sudden revelation. She raised her hands and instantly moved toward Scully to strike her.
Scully effectively blocked the AD’s move and struck her hard in the head. She briefly considered pulling out her service revolver, but there were too many innocent spectators.
The crowd that had surrounded them now watched in morbid fascination as the two women pelted one another with blow after blow. Shouts of “Fight! Fight!” erupted around them, which caused that many more people to edge closer and closer to the scene.
Scully felt the strength of Harper’s blows increase with each strike as if fueled by her rage. And though Scully knew she should have felt herself weakening, she did not. In fact, it was just the opposite and she indeed felt herself invigorated.
The petite agent met each smack with one of equal strength, which caused her opponent to become increasingly bewildered. The fight continued for several minutes before the security force arrived to gain control of things. Little did they know that their services would be abruptly and authoritatively rejected. Every time a guard attempted to enter the fracas, that guard was powerfully lifted up and sent flying by Linda Harper. Each and every guard that attempted to intervene was summarily, roughly cast aside. Finally, however, the blows began to take their toll on the physical bodies of each woman. Though their spirits, both dark and light, were willing to continue to battle, the bloodshed was increasing on both sides along with the bruising and welts. Finally, Scully threw her entire body into a leg kick that snapped Harper’s head back and sent her sprawling down the concrete steps.
The crowd unexpectedly became more excited to the point of agitation and exhorted Scully to ‘Finish her off!’ Scully was ready to do just that, but not in the manner the crowd was expecting. She pulled out her service revolver just as AD Skinner pushed through the crowd.
“Scully? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Sir,” Scully replied as she maintained a steady aim on her captive. “Would you mind cuffing our suspect?”
“It would be a pleasure, Scully.”
Harper glared first at Skinner and then at Scully. “You can’t win. I don’t understand, how can you win?” intoned the surreal voice.
“Because you misjudged me, badly.”
“What do you mean?”
At that moment, Mulder and Andrews appeared next to Skinner. Though Mulder wanted nothing more than to rush to Scully to be sure she was all right, he held back as his partner began to speak.
“You claimed that my science skewed my ability to see the truth. You claim _you_ are the truth, and that’s where I gained my strength, Harper. You see I know the truth. I’ve seen the truth. I may not always have recognized it as quickly as I should have, but I’ve always come to accept it.”
“How? Why?” The evil tones slowly dissipated.
“Why? Because I know what truths are out there.” Scully paused, took a deep breath, and looked at her partner. “And I want to believe. I believe.”
Scully smiled at the young woman lounging against the hallway wall. “Don’t tell me they kicked you out?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Just for a minute. They’re changing. Sheeze, like there aren’t curtains in there or anything,” replied the pretty blonde with a twinkle in her eye. “So, all checked out and ready to roll?”
“The doctor released them, they were both here just for observation. Now it’s up to us to make sure they don’t overdo for the next day or two.”
Kerry nodded. “I have a real good idea of how I’m going to accomplish that,” she said with wink. “He can’t get into trouble if he doesn’t get out of bed. How about you two?”
Scully was saved from having to answer by Assistant Director Skinner, who had just walked off the elevator.
“I was hoping I’d catch up with you here.”
“Sir, I thought we were all meeting at the airport,” Scully said, a little confused. She knocked lightly on the door to the hospital room and heard the ‘come in’ from Mulder.
“I got some news I thought might be best to share immediately,” Skinner said, following Kerry into the room. “Assistant Director Harper was found dead in her cell this morning. It’s being ruled a suicide.”
Scully went white and sat down hard on Mulder’s bed. Mulder joined her, putting his arm around her shoulders in support. “How?” he asked, knowing it was a question his partner wanted answered.
“She ripped the sheets and strangled herself. They are pretty sure it happened fast, since the guard checked the cellblock every hour on the hour. It must have occurred between 5 and 6 this morning.” Skinner looked uncomfortable with that explanation.
“Then it’s over,” Kenny said quietly, putting his arms around Kerry, who just looked confused.
“I don’t know that we can say that,” Mulder said with a shake of his head.
“Then what do you think happened?” Kenny asked.
“I think ‘it’ didn’t need her anymore. It was done with her. So it killed her and went back to where it always goes,” Scully said just above a whisper. “And from there, it will return someday. We just have to be on guard.”