Malevolence

cover

TITLE: MALEVOLENCE

AUTHOR: CindyET

E-MAIL ADDRESS: cindyet@tdstelme.net

DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere is fine — I write ’em for you to read

’em.

SPOILERS: Grotesque

RATING: VERY strong R (Graphic Violence, Language)

CLASSIFICATION: X, Post-Ep of sorts for Grotesque

SUMMARY: When ex-ISU Chief Bill Patterson is found dead in his

prison cell with his face slashed and his eyes cut out, Mulder

and Scully pick up the hunt where they left off five years

earlier. Still convinced the killer is not a man but an evil

spirit, Mulder pursues his own investigative methods, bringing

him to the brink of insanity for a second time. Meanwhile,

Scully is desperate to solve the case before she loses Mulder

to his demons forever.

Disclaimer: Do these characters really belong to Chris Carter,

FOX and 1013 Productions? If so, no copyright infringement

intended. Entertainment, yes. Profit, no.

Author’s notes: “Malevolence” was written for I Made This

Productions Virtual Season 9.

Very special thanks go to great betas Brandon and MaryBeth.

They kept me on my toes.

MALEVOLENCE (1/1)

By CindyET

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

PROLOGUE

LOCATION UNKNOWN

12:16 A.M.

Water drips into a cracked sink.

Plop. Plop.

Blood drools from a knife’s point, dotting the floor and

staining the concrete.

Plop. Plop. Plop.

Terrible sounds in the dark.

The room is frigid, ramshackle. Solitary. A fitting place to

bring this man, to kill him. Better than the prison cell where

Patterson died screaming like madman for mercy.

This man screams, too. Naked, he is trussed to the pipes

beneath the sink. His frantic breaths vanish like ghosts above

his dark hair. A man in his prime, he is muscular, yet

enervated by his own fear.

He has vomited twice since being brought here.

In the end, he is just like Patterson — nothing but a bundle

of raw nerves.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that he doesn’t become

one, hmm?

The knife’s blade slices easily through the man’s cheek,

gouging a channel from his lips to his left ear, widening his

mouth into a ghoulish, jack-o’-lantern grin. Blood rushes from

his wound and he shrieks. Lightning-fast, the blade slashes his

right cheek to match the left. His eyes clot with tears. The

knife hovers above one glistening orb, its tip reflected in the

jet black of his pupil.

The awful knife dips, bursts his slick eyeball and scoops out

the socket. The other eye pops, too, just as easily as the

first. Sagging lids flutter over empty holes.

Blood pumps from the man’s disfigured face, draining his heart,

spreading his life across the bathroom floor. The growing

puddle haloes his head. Scarlet. Lustrous. A devil’s mirror.

The murderer leans close to inspect its reflection in the

widening pool.

Bald. Thorny-eared. Fanged.

At the sight of its own face, the demon tosses back its head, a

sneer curls its lips, and a mad laugh gurgles from its throat.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT I

D.C. CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX

LORTON, VIRGINIA

4:15 A.M.

“Whaddaya know, Scully? Warden threw a party. Let’s rock.”

Mulder shouldered past a uniformed guard and squeezed into the

crowded Lorton prison cell. Scully trailed a step behind,

stifling a yawn. Unlike Mulder, she needed more than a five-

year-old X-File to shake the cobwebs from her head at such an

early hour. She needed a second cup of coffee.

While Mulder had chattered non-stop on the drive from

Georgetown to Lorton, Scully had drained a Starbucks’ Latte

Grande and envied her partner’s persistent enthusiasm. They

were about to close a case…or not, if she were to go along

with his latest theory.

“Legend has it, Scully, that a fierce dragon named La

Gargouille lived in the river Seine near Paris,” he had

explained as he drove. “The dragon devoured ships and men

until the village was saved by St. Romanus. After the battle,

the creature was set ablaze. Its body was destroyed, but its

head and neck survived and was mounted on a building.” He

turned to grin at her. “How cool is that?”

“Totally cool, Mulder,” she said without enthusiasm. “But what

does it have to do with the death of Bill Patterson?”

“I’m getting to that. La Gargouille may have become the model

for gargoyles, an attempt by medieval society to embody the

evils of the world into manageable elements. Thing is, evil

isn’t so easily defined…or *con*fined, as the case may be.”

Only two hours earlier, ex-ISU criminal behaviorist Bill

Patterson had been discovered dead in his prison cell with

pictures of gargoyles sketched in blood on the cell’s

cinderblock walls. Official word was Patterson had committed

suicide. Sight unseen, Mulder already disputed the official

word.

“For over 1200 years the grotesque images of gargoyles have

been expressed in stone, clay, wood, oil, charcoal. Born again

and again, the spirit of evil resurrects itself through

tortured human expression, haunting men inwardly so that it

might revisit mankind for eternity.” Mulder’s fingers had

danced with barely restrained energy over the steering wheel as

he spoke.

Scully eyed the bottom of her empty coffee cup. “Your point,

Mulder, please, if there is one.”

“Mark my words, Scully.” The dash lights tinted his face with

a ghoulish glow. “It’s baaaack.”

Now pushing their way through Bill Patterson’s crowded

cell, Mulder and Scully tried to get a closer look at the

body. The room overflowed with agents from the FBI’s

Investigative Support Unit. No surprise. Not that long ago,

Patterson had been an icon in the unit. Heading ISU for more

than two decades, he had practically written the book on behavioral

science. Many of the men combing his cell right now had joined

the Bureau because they wanted to be just like him.

Patterson’s body lay atop the cell’s single bunk, draped with

a sheet. Macabre faces sketched in blood covered all four

walls.

“Agent Roberta Dressler?” Mulder targeted a tall, attractive

brunette taking notes in a back corner.

“Thank you for coming, agents.” Dressler tucked away her pen

and pad. She pinned Mulder with a gray-eyed stare. “Sorry to

get you out of bed so early.”

Following AD Skinner’s instructions, Dressler had called

Scully in Georgetown an hour ago when she couldn’t reach

Mulder at his apartment. Startled from sleep by the ringing

phone, Mulder had grabbed the receiver from Scully’s

nightstand and blurted out his name. Scully’s quiet “damn it”

reminded him too late he wasn’t in his own bed.

Ignoring Dressler’s smirk, Mulder edged closer to the body.

“What can you tell me?”

“Time of death is estimated at around 10:30,” Dressler said.

“May I?” Scully asked. She scraped past Mulder and lifted the

sheet from the corpse, exposing the dead man’s mutilated face.

Two deep knife wounds radiated from the corners of the

victim’s mouth all the way back to his ears. The eye sockets

were both empty. Blood soaked the man’s hair and clothes.

“We’ve seen this before.”

“So I heard. That’s why I called you.” Dressler sidestepped a

crouching photographer to stand beside Mulder. In heels, she

was nearly as tall as he was. “As the investigating agent who

put Patterson in here, I thought you might want to know about

his suicide.”

“Patterson murdered Agent Craig Nemhauser,” Mulder reminded

her. “He tried to kill me, too.”

“I didn’t mean to sound accusatory. Patterson committed a

crime and he deserved to be here.” Dressler’s crimson lips

pursed as she studied the corpse. “But…he didn’t deserve

this.”

“Have you located a weapon?” Scully asked.

Dressler nodded and called to another agent, “Delgado, pass

the knife, will you?”

A stocky, dark-haired man with a permanent five o’clock shadow

produced an evidence bag and handed it to Dressler. Inside the

bag, blood slicked a homemade prison knife.

“Patterson’s been under suicide watch for five years,” Mulder

said. “How did he get something like this?”

“We’re checking on it. His cell was searched on a regular

basis, of course. And Patterson had very little contact with

the general prison population. His mental condition…well,

let’s just say he never made much improvement.”

“I’d like to review his medical records and his psychological

profiles,” Scully said. “And I’d also like to perform the

autopsy.”

“We’re fairly certain Patterson committed suicide.”

“You think the man gouged out his own eyes?” Mulder’s brows

climbed.

“He was mentally ill, Agent Mulder.” Dressler indicated the

ghoulish drawings on the wall. “There are more of those. Let

me show you.” She crossed the cell to sort through a box.

Returning with a handful of sketches, she passed them to

Mulder.

“Deja vu.” He leafed through the stack of drawings,

recognizing the grotesque, devilish faces. Bald. Pointy-eared.

He waggled one at Scully. “Look familiar[DW1]?”

The drawings sent a chill through her. Mulder had recovered

hundreds of similar sketches from John Mostow’s studio after

the serial killer’s arrest, when Patterson had continued the

madman’s killing spree. If you want to know an artist, you

have to look at his art — that was the lesson Bill Patterson

taught young ISU agents. The lesson turned out to be his own

undoing…and very nearly Mulder’s, as well.

“This was no suicide.”

“Mulder…” Scully lowered her voice and leaned close to him.

The overcrowded cell offered little privacy and she wished

they could step into the corridor, away from Dressler’s

watchful eye. “This is a maximum security prison.”

“Ssssoooo…?”

“Who would have access to Patterson? Who would kill him?”

“Not ‘who,’ Scully — ‘what.’ I’m thinking the same evil force

responsible for Mostow’s murders in ’96 is also responsible

for Bill Patterson’s murder last night. It’s returned to pick

up where it left off.”

“Evil force?” Dressler asked, overhearing.

“It killed Patterson and it’ll kill again,” Mulder predicted.

“Really? And how would ‘it’ do that?”

“Maybe by relocating, transferring into another person the

same way it shifted from Mostow to Patterson. It might inhabit

a prison guard right now. Or one of Patterson’s visitors.”

Scully wanted to remind Mulder that Patterson had gone insane

because he had hunted John Mostow for three long years. Every

day and every night he had lived and breathed the horror that

was in Mostow’s head, imagining everything the killer

imagined. When Patterson finally caught Mostow, the violence

didn’t go away; it stayed alive inside him until it drove him

over the edge, turning him into a murderer too. His mental

breakdown had been the result of years of profiling the most

heinous of crimes. The paranormal had played no role in the

murders, then or now.

“Mulder–”

“Prove me wrong, Scully. Autopsy Patterson,” he challenged,

already moving toward the door.

“What will you be doing?”

“Researching these.” He waved the drawings at her before

disappearing into the hall.

Watching him go, Dressler asked Scully, “Does he usually jump

to the most unlikely conclusions?”

“Yes, Agent Dressler…he usually does.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

JOHN MOSTOW’S CELL

DEATH ROW

D.C. CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX

“What do you want?” John Mostow cowered in the back of his

cell, as far from the man beyond the bars as possible. He kept

his eyes focused on the floor, avoiding Mulder’s probing

stare.

Mostow had changed little in five years. A bit thinner. Same

close-cropped hair and beaky nose. Same wretched expression.

He’d lost a front tooth due to a combination of decay and a

prison fight. A cut healed on his chin. Sleeplessness shadowed

his eyes.

Mulder let Patterson’s drawings dangle between the bars. He

tapped the topmost sketch.

“Recognize this?”

“Leave me alone.”

“I can’t, John. It’s returned.”

“It never left.” Mostow drove the heels of his hands into his

eyes. His shoulders trembled. He refused to look at the

sketches. “It wasn’t me.”

“It wasn’t you…what?”

“I didn’t draw those.”

“No, you didn’t. But you know what they mean.”

“I…” Mostow’s brow buckled with frustrated fear.

“Why has it come back, John? What does it want?”

Mostow’s hands dropped from his face. He glared across the

cell at Mulder. “You know what it wants. You got inside it!

You felt its hunger. It wants you and it will find you.”

“I *want* it to find me.”

Mostow’s eyes widened. His lips curled with disgust. “That’s

what you say, but you don’t really want it. No man wants such

a monster. Once it has you, it won’t let you go.”

“It let you go.”

“Because it won’t be held prisoner. You’re a fool to think you

can control it.” Mostow turned his back on Mulder, pressed his

cheek to the cinderblock wall. “Leave me alone. There’s

nothing that can be done. It will kill just as it has always

killed. By my hand. By your hand. It doesn’t care.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

QUANTICO MORGUE

Dressed in scrubs and sneakers, Scully leaned over the body of

Bill Patterson.

“William R. Patterson, white male, six-foot-one-inches tall,

age 56, 176 pounds. The deceased has pronounced facial

mutilations…with gashes approximately nine centimeters in

length extending from the corners of the mouth back to both

ears…severing the internal maxillary and temporal branches of

the carotid artery, resulting in death due to massive blood

loss.”

She pressed a finger into the corpse’s left cheek.

“Each incision resulted from a single, deep cut through the

orbicularis oris and the zygomatic and masseter below.”

Moving on, she parted a bloodied eyelid.

“Left and right eyes have been enucleated. Nicks in the

supraorbital ridge remain consistent with the weapon recovered

at the scene.”

This was the same signature mutilation she had seen on

Mostow’s victims and then later on Patterson’s.

“Whoever fights monsters…” she muttered, quoting Nietzsche.

Examining the victim’s hands, she found traces of dried clay

on the palms and beneath the nails. She scraped samples and

bagged them for analysis.

She picked up a scalpel.

“I’ll begin with a Y-incision.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

D.C. CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX

LORTON, VIRGINIA

Mulder cracked a sunflower seed between his teeth and fast-

forwarded through the first of a short stack of surveillance

tapes. He sat alone in a small room equipped with a monitor, a

VCR, and little else. The videos documented Lorton inmates and

their visitors in the prison’s visitor’s room.

Each videotape was marked with a date that corresponded to a

sign-in sheet. The lists of signatures filled several binders.

Mulder had begun his search an hour before by skimming the logs,

starting with the most recent and working his way backward,

copying down the dates and names of everyone who had seen

Patterson during his incarceration. He then sorted through the

shelves of videos, pulling any that matched his list.

According to the logs, a representative of the Little Sisters

of Charity paid regular calls to Patterson four times a year

just as they did with all Lorton inmates. Patterson’s wife had

visited once a week for two years. Her calls became more

sporadic after that, until they eventually tapered off

altogether. The same was true of Patterson’s ISU colleagues.

Proteges and Patterson-wannabees called on him intermittently,

including Roberta Dressler and her sidekick Tony Delgado. Even

Mulder had visited — as recently as two weeks ago, after he

had received a letter written on prison stationery. One phrase

had struck a chord with him, compelling him to make the trip

to Lorton and question Patterson face-to-face. “With a snap of

its finger, it makes men lick the greasy floor of hell just to

see its reflection.” Mostow’s exact words, spoken years

before.

Funny thing was, Patterson denied writing the letter. Mulder

left Lorton having learned nothing at all.

Rolling a seed across his tongue, he scrutinized the monitor’s

fuzzy image. The tape — the most recent — included his own

visit.

A Little Sister of Charity appeared opposite Patterson on the

screen. Mulder slowed the tape to take a closer look. He’d

learned the hard way not to trust the Sisters. Linda Bowman

had posed as one of the nuns while visiting her brother Robert

Modell in Lorton back in ’98.

Jesus, that had been a hell of a case. He’d let the killer get

inside his head, and wound up pointing his gun at Scully,

coming closer than he’d ever imagined to shooting her. It had

taken him a long time to shake his feelings of frustration and

fear after that case.

Reaching for another seed, he watched himself take the nun’s

place opposite Patterson on the monitor. The ex-ISU chief

became agitated when Mulder showed him the note. He held up

his hands, palms out, as if pushing both the letter and Mulder

away. Mulder remembered Patterson yelling, “leave me alone,

leave me alone,” over and over again. With no other choice, he

had pocketed the letter. He had stood and turned to go,

casting a shadow across Patterson’s tormented face.

What the hell? He rewound the tape. Played the segment again.

For just a second it almost looked as if… Couldn’t be. He

replayed the tape once more.

Darkened by Mulder’s shadow, Patterson appeared to transform –

– for just a frame or two — into the hideous creature he’d

seen years ago in Mostow’s building. Bald head. Pointy ears.

Clawed hands. Abruptly Patterson returned to normal.

“Eeny meeny, chili beeny.”

Mulder replayed the clip again.

And again.

His cell phone rang and he paused the tape just as the

monster’s image fluttered across Patterson’s startled features.

Pulling his cell from his pocket, he checked the phone’s

display. Scully’s number glowed on the tiny screen.

“Whassup, Scully?” he said into the phone.

“Patterson didn’t kill himself.”

“Do tell.”

“The autopsy showed the angle of the facial cuts was all wrong

for self-mutilation. Other than what appears to be artist’s

modeling clay on the hands and under the fingernails, there

were no prints, hairs or fibers on the body. Toxicology came

back clean.”

“Dust off your Ouija board, Scully.”

“I’m not buying your demonic spirit theory, Mulder. At least

not until we’ve exhausted all the quantifiable possibilities.

Where are you now?”

“Still at Lorton.”

“Have you found anything?”

Mulder squinted at the tape. “Yyyyyes, but it probably doesn’t

fit your definition of quantifiable.”

“Well, I may have something that does.”

“Lay it on me, G-Woman.” Mulder drew an invisible circle with

his index finger around Patterson’s head, frozen beneath a

devil’s mask on the monitor.

“Agent Dressler called. She’s found another body.”

“Same signature?”

“Yep. She wants us at the scene. ASAP. 1465 Hazelwood

Street, Falls Church.”

Ejecting the tape, Mulder stood and grabbed his trenchcoat.

Phone trapped between his ear and shoulder, he pocketed the

video. “I’m on my way.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

LOCATION UNKNOWN

The sink drips. The air is cold.

Poor man. Soooooo frightened. Like a little boy, worried the

bogeyman sleeps beneath his bed at night.

He cringes on the floor, arms raised above his head, wrists

roped to the drainpipe beneath the sink.

Coward.

He is crying and the devil pokes at his tears.

The man’s bare chest hiccups with panic. Goose-flesh stipples

his arms, his legs, turns his nipples into hard, tight points.

Touch the knife there and he bleeds. A crimson drop swells up

out of pink flesh, looking like a jewel, rounded into a

perfect half-sphere of ruby red. The monster sees itself in

the drop’s satin-smooth surface.

Look, look, look.

The inside is outside.

Let’s see what you’re made of, young man. Slit the left cheek.

Slice the right. Listen to the baby wail.

Eyes wide open. I see me when I look at you. My eyes in your

eyes in my eyes in your eyes ad infinitum forever and ever and

ever, amen.

Pop. Pop. We disappear from our view. Your eyes drain like

spilled milk. No use crying. You’re dead.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT II

1465 HAZELWOOD STREET

FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Entrails and body parts swamped the pavement behind the vacant

warehouse; this had been a living human being as recently as

yesterday. Uniformed officers and plain-clothed agents

clustered around the gore, circling, buzzing. Like blowflies,

Scully thought.

Mulder broke trail through yellow tape and law enforcement, his

badge dangling from an outstretched fist, his trenchcoat

flailing in the November wind. Scully matched him step for

step, puddle for puddle, until the rainwater, bronzed by

flashing ambulance lights and lost blood, turned red beneath

her shoes.

With one graceful, practiced motion, Mulder pocketed his ID and

crouched beside the body.

“Check it out, Scully.” He aimed a finger at the corpse’s

scored face, the exposed cheekbones, the empty eye sockets. “A

face not even a mother could love. That makes two.”

She eyed a deep incision that ran from breastbone to pelvis.

Both the victim’s hands had been severed. One lay next to the

body. The other was missing. “This man wasn’t murdered here,

Mulder. There would be more blood. He must have been

transported. Unless your evil spirit has a valid Virginia

driver’s license, I think we can rule it out.”

Mulder tugged on a latex glove. He lifted the victim’s severed

hand from the pavement and examined the fingers.

“Clay, Scully.”

“Same as Patterson.”

“Yep. I’m thinking we might find another sculpture gallery

somewhere.”

She hoped not. Dismembered body parts swathed in wet clay had

proved to be a little too compelling for Mulder the last time.

Agent Dressler approached, a frown creasing her brow and the

damp breeze badgering her long dark hair. She joined the agents

beside the body. “The victim is Paul Martin,” she said. “He was

an agent in the ISU.”

“An FBI agent?” Scully asked.

“Yes. My partner, several years ago. I don’t need to tell you

how much I want to catch the asshole who did this.”

Mulder set the severed hand back on the ground. “I wonder what

happened to the other hand.”

“It’s possible the killer kept it,” Dressler suggested.

“A trophy?” Mulder stood to face the statuesque agent. “That

deviates from the signature. Mostow and Patterson sliced and

diced but they didn’t keep souvenirs. Maybe you just haven’t

looked hard enough.”

He scanned the edge of the parking lot where Agent Delgado

walked the perimeter with two detectives at his heels.

“Agent Mulder, need I remind you, we aren’t looking for Mostow

or Patterson.”

“What are you looking for?” His eyes traveled to the back of

the warehouse.

“Not what, who–”

Mulder no longer listened. Abandoning Dressler and Scully, he

wandered toward a graffiti-covered door at the back of the

building.

“Your partner has a one track mind. You aren’t buying this evil

spirit nonsense of his, are you, Agent Scully?”

“I’ve come to trust Mulder’s instincts.”

Dressler frowned and faced the wind. “If you don’t mind me

asking, didn’t Agent Mulder wig out during the Mostow case?”

“Agent Mulder’s investigation led to the arrest of a murderer.”

“Yes, but I heard he used some pretty unorthodox methods. Spent

the night in Mostow’s studio, took the murder weapon from

Evidence–”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Bureau grapevine. Never underestimate–”

“Scully!” Across the lot, Mulder stood just inside the

warehouse door. He beckoned the agents with a waggle of two

fingers.

Dressler and Scully broke into a jog. They crossed the lot

quickly and joined Mulder at the open door. He led them inside

and across a wide, dark room. The sound of their footsteps

clattered against the walls as they walked. The empty interior

felt cold and it smelled of machinery oil and undisturbed dust.

Reaching the far wall, Mulder stopped and aimed the beam of his

flashlight at a jumble of ancient wastewater pipes. Mounted

atop one disconnected stack, the victim’s severed hand

protruded as if from a coat sleeve…with its middle finger

extended skyward.

“Think we did something to piss it off?” He spotlighted the

gruesome gesture with his light.

“This can’t be what it looks like.” Scully approached the hand.

“It must be…it must be some sort of anomalous rigor.”

“It’s flipping us the bird, Scully.” He walked a half-circle

around the hand, checking it from all angles.

“Agent Mulder, does this,” — Dressler tilted her head at the

severed hand — “give you any insight into the killer’s

motives?”

“You want a profile?”

“My team is already working on a profile. What I want is your

opinion. Your investigation during the Mostow case nailed

Patterson. Given the similarities in the signature, I called

you because I thought you might have something helpful to

contribute to this case.”

“My *opinion*, Agent Dressler, is that a profile identifies a

personality type…which implies the killer is a person. I

think we’re looking for something more extreme here.”

Dressler huffed with impatience. “You’re not going to say we

should be hunting an evil spirit, are you?”

“You have to stop looking for a man, Agent Dressler. You aren’t

going to catch this thing that way.”

“Exactly how would you suggest we catch him? Get inside his

head?” Dressler stepped closer to Mulder, pushing the limits of

his personal space. “Like Patterson did? Like you did?”

Mulder bristled at her suggestion. “Meaning?”

“Mulder,” — Scully took hold of his sleeve — “We need to

follow standard procedure: examine the victims and profile the

killer.”

“You’re wrong.”

“Mulder–”

“*You* examine the victims, Scully. *You* profile the killer.”

He pulled away from her. Pocketing his flashlight, he turned on

his heel and headed for the exit.

“Mulder, where are you going?”

“To catch this thing — my own way.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

FBI HEADQUARTERS

VIDEO PRODUCTION UNIT

“Back it up a few frames, Jerry.” Mulder hovered over the

technician’s shoulder while the young man rewound the Lorton

surveillance tape in slow motion. “There. Now magnify this

section here.” He tapped the computer screen.

“Yes, sir.” Jerry outlined the area with a dashed marquee.

Three clicks on his keypad and he enlarged the region eight

hundred percent. “It’s pretty dark.”

“Can you lighten it?”

“I can try.” The technician increased the brightness and

adjusted the contrast.

A face emerged from the shadows. Bald. Pointy-eared. Fanged.

The technician twisted in his seat to look over his shoulder at

Mulder. “What in hell?”

“It’s not in hell anymore, Jerry.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

QUANTICO MORGUE

Scully faced the autopsy table, eyes fixed on the Falls Church

victim. The deceased’s two severed hands rested palms down on a

steel tray beside the corpse.

“Paul Martin, white male, five-foot-ten-inches tall, 168

pounds, age 37. External exam reveals pronounced facial

mutilations, disembowelment and dismemberment.”

She fingered the ragged edge of one handless arm.

“Ligature furrows and abraded contusions are present on both

wrists, indicating the victim was tied and struggled before he

died.”

Using steel tweezers, she teased what appeared to be rodent

feces from the backs of the arms, legs and the bottoms of the

feet. She found no evidence of grass stains or mud. Martin had

been made to walk barefoot and lay down naked on a filthy

interior floor.

She bagged the evidence for analysis.

Although not a huge man, Martin was muscular, in good shape.

How had the killer managed to subdue a trained FBI agent? No

weapon had been recovered. Scully examined the facial

lacerations. They were deeper and smoother than the cuts on

Patterson. Opening one eyelid, she studied the empty socket.

“Pronounced scoring of the supraorbital ridge, most likely the

result of a very sharp knife.” The deep, well-defined gouges

had not been made by a dull prison shiv this time.

Scully’s cell phone rang. She stripped off her gloves and

pulled the phone from her lab coat pocket.

“Scully,” she identified herself.

“Scully, it’s me.”

“Where are you, Mulder?”

“On my way to Mostow’s old studio.”

“What for?”

“Scully, what’s the first thing we learned in detective

school?”

“Detective school?”

“Killers always return to the scene of the crime.”

“Mulder, that’s not true.”

“It isn’t? Coulda sworn I got that question right on my final

exam.”

“Mulder, John Mostow won’t be returning to the scene of any

crime; he’s still in jail.”

“But his evil spirit isn’t.”

Irritated by her partner’s single-mindedness, Scully massaged

an ache at the bridge of her nose. “Don’t you think our time

would be better spent examining the hard evidence at hand?”

“Do we have any?”

“Yes, we do. Mulder, does your reluctance to profile this

killer have anything to do with Patterson and his methods?”

“Scully, we both know that the statistical generalizations and

experiential theorizing of profiling, while sometimes helpful,

are incomplete and can often mislead an investigation, even

encourage investigative laziness. When we think we have all of

the answers, we collect only evidence that fits those answers,

and we erroneously think that a thorough investigation is no

longer requisite at all.”

“Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing now, Mulder? You claim

to have the answers and it’s making you turn a blind eye to

the physical evidence, the victimology, and the crime scene as

the primary behavioral and motivational documentation. Those

are the elements that will illuminate the offender’s

motivation. Once you discover the motive, you find the

killer.”

“I’ve seen this thing, Scully. I’ve been inside its head. I

don’t need a profile to find it.”

“Mulder–”

“After you’ve finished the autopsy, do me a favor, will you? Pick

up Mostow’s sketches from Evidence and bring them back to my place.”

Those damn drawings. Five years ago, Mulder had wallpapered

his apartment with those sketches. Studying them, Mostow’s

madness had threatened to engulf him, sinking him deeper and

deeper into the serial killer’s perverse mind.

“Mulder, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Scully. I’ll meet you later.”

“Mul–”

He’d ended the call, cutting her off.

Pocketing her phone, she turned to face the cadaver.

Maybe they should step away from this case, let Dressler solve

it rather than risk Mulder’s sanity again. Could he walk to the

edge of madness twice and not fall in?

“Mulder, I hope you know what the hell you’re doing.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

JOHN MOSTOW’S STUDIO

1222 SOUTH DAKOTA STREET

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Other than the bare walls and the empty back room, Mostow’s

ramshackle studio looked much as it had the last time Mulder

visited. After the murders, the building had stood vacant, a

“For Sale” sign nailed to the outside. No one had been

interested in purchasing or renovating the derelict. The

studio had been left untouched, with the exception of the

items related to the case — the drawings, the clay

sculptures, the miscellaneous body parts. These had been

collected for evidence. A strip of crime scene tape still

fluttered at the studio door.

Dust and rat droppings coated the floor in the main room.

Boxes of cereal and bags of chips had been gnawed and left

empty on the counters. The rumpled bed still waited unmade in

a corner.

In the back room, Craig Nemhauser’s blood permanently

discolored the studio floor. Mulder crouched over the black

stain and ran a finger over the dried gore. He remembered

Mostow’s cat lapping the puddle of fresh blood, drawing his

attention to Patterson’s final victim.

Recent footprints tracked across the stain, disturbing the

dust and the rat droppings. At least two distinct shoe sizes,

both large enough to be men.

Mulder rose, paced the perimeter of the studio. He ducked into

the cold bathroom where water dripped from a rusty faucet into

a cracked sink. The room smelled sour. Mulder pulled out his

flashlight and pointed its beam into the shadowy corners. His

light sent a knot of cockroaches scuttling for cover. He

followed one as it crisscrossed the concrete floor.

Jesus. The floor was covered with blood. Lots of blood. And

something else.

Mulder squatted and inspected the dark puddle by swiping a

finger through it. He rubbed the substance between his thumb

and forefingers. It was sticky. He brought it to his nose.

A wash of bile stung the back of his throat when he realized

he sniffed a congealing mixture of fresh blood and vomit. He

stood, wiping his hand on his pants.

Moving away from the gore, he swung his flashlight around the

room. His beam revealed a pile of damp clothes blocking the

drain of a makeshift shower.

He approached the pile. If Scully were here, she’d chide him

for disturbing evidence. He lifted a sport coat off the top.

Water drizzled from its sleeves and Paul Martin’s badge fell

from the breast pocket, hitting the mound of clothes below

with a wet slap. A little more fishing produced the agent’s

sidearm. Mulder dug deeper. Two pairs of men’s pants, two

dress shirts, two neckties, another suit coat. Another badge.

Shit. This one belonged to a Special Agent John Perry, also

from the Bureau’s ISU.

Mulder pocketed both officers’ badges and weapons. He left the

shoes and the clothing where they were. Taking a last look

around, he caught his own reflection in the mirror above the

sink. A horizontal crack in the glass appeared to run from the

corner of his mouth to his ear. Over his left shoulder he

spotted the ghoulish face of the monster he’d seen five years

ago.

Bald. Thorny-eared. The thing grinned at him, exposing a

glistening row of sharp teeth.

Spinning, Mulder drew his weapon.

The monster vanished beyond the door, its retreating footsteps

echoing through the studio. Mulder lunged after it, following

the sound of thudding feet through the main room and out into

the corridor.

Mulder sprinted down the hall. The monster was nowhere in

sight, but he felt certain it had come this way. Trusting his

instincts, he mounted the stairs at the end of the corridor,

two at a time, and jogged quickly to the second floor catwalk.

Footsteps hammered on the stairs at the opposite end of the

walk.

He ran toward the sound.

Skidding into the stairwell, Mulder clipped the railing with

his elbow. The impact sent a jolt of pain sizzling down his

arm and caused his gun to somersault from his hand. It bounced

over the stair rail and fell, landing with a clatter on the

cement — two floors below.

“Shit.”

He grabbed the .380 from his ankle holster and charged up the

stairs.

On the third-floor landing, he stopped and held his breath to

listen for the monster’s footfalls. Nothing. Nothing but his

own heart battering his eardrums.

Which way had it gone? Down the corridor or up to the roof?

Fifty-fifty chance.

Deciding to continue to the roof, he climbed the final flight

of stairs.

He burst through the outer door and squinted into the setting

sun. Blinded, he stiffened his arms and swung his weapon left

to right. He dodged to one side, trying to see through the

glare.

Then he smelled it.

A terrible stench, like rotting eggs or sulfur.

Where was it?

A knife flashed. It sliced the fragile skin at his temple. The

sting sent him reeling backward. Blood streamed from the wound

and swamped his right eye. He tried to aim his gun but

couldn’t locate a target.

A scorching breath of air seared the back of his neck.

When he turned, he found himself face-to-face with the

grinning monster.

Like a medieval gargoyle, it gawked at him with granite eyes.

It stood less than a foot away, and although it appeared to be

made of stone or clay, it moved as if flesh and bone. In its

clawed hand, it gripped a silver-handled knife. Blood — his

blood — painted the knife’s blade.

The sun dipped below the skyline, casting the roof in shadow.

Mulder’s trenchcoat slapped in the cold wind. Blood rained

from his jaw, each bead turning to spray in the gusting air.

He raised his gun. Aimed at the gargoyle’s stony chest.

The monster opened its mouth, its lips stretching impossibly

wide around its jagged teeth. A hair-raising laugh poured from

its throat and its fiery breath rolled over Mulder, singeing

his face. Blinking against the corrosive fumes, Mulder lifted

his hand to protect his eyes.

The terrible heat rattled past.

Mulder lowered his arm.

The devil had disappeared.

Three strides brought Mulder to the fire escape, which was

little more than a ladder welded to the side of the building.

He looked over the edge. The ladder met with a landing at the

floor below, where a set of stairs zigzagged to the ground.

He swung out onto the ladder. Blood still streamed from his

face, staining his shirt and dripping downward between his

feet. He climbed halfway down the ladder and then jumped with

a stomach-churning clank onto the iron landing below.

Crouching, he looked down through the metal grate. He felt

dizzy. Not from the height but from loss of blood. Fingering

the wound at his temple, he allowed a second or two to pass

before he attempted to stand.

Where had the damn monster gone?

Weak-kneed, he stood and rattled the third floor door handle.

Wet clay coated the knob. The door was locked. Should he take

the time to pick the lock or should he climb down to the

ground and search the building from the bottom up? Calling for

backup would be a waste of time — the monster would be long

gone before help arrived.

Shit, it was cold.

He decided to intercept the creature from below.

Teeth chattering, he descended the fire escape at a trot. His

head ached where he’d been cut. The steps blurred beneath his

hurrying feet, came into focus, and then blurred again. On the

second floor landing, he slowed and tried to control his

lightheadedness by bending, hands on his knees.

“Shit.” Too much time. He was going to lose the damn thing.

Sucking in a lungful of frosty air, he jogged down the last of

the steps. When he jumped to the ground, his knees buckled. He

fell to the pavement, hitting his head hard. Stretched on his

stomach in the alley, Mulder lost consciousness.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Lying down on the job?

Watch out! Whoever fights monsters should see to it that he

does not become a monster. Good advice, yes?

I’ll be back for you tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

Other fish to fry tonight. Other fair-haired boys to fillet.

Eeny, meeny, miney, my. Catch an agent in a lie. If he

hollers, make him cry. One jab, two jabs…who’s next to die?

*I* am the abyss, Agent Mulder, and I am looking into you.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT. 42

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

9:23 P.M.

Keys jangling, Scully let herself into Mulder’s apartment.

With the exception of the fish tank, the place was dark. And

the phone was ringing.

Scully deposited Mostow’s drawings on the coffee table. She

hurried to the phone, picked up the receiver and identified

herself to the caller.

“Agent Scully?” The voice at the other end sounded confused.

“This is Agent Dressler. I was…I was expecting Agent

Mulder.”

Me, too, Scully thought. She’d been trying to reach him on his

cell phone for the last two hours. Tucking the phone between

her shoulder and ear, she shed her coat. “He’s not here.”

“Oh…”

“Is there something I can help you with, Agent?” Scully

prompted Dressler.

“We’ve found another victim. A…another colleague of mine.

Special Agent John Perry. He is…he *was* assistant to ISU

Chief Frank Wilcox.”

Jesus, another ISU agent. These victims were not the anonymous

young men Mostow had preferred.

“Where?”

“A parking garage in Arlington.”

“Same signature?” Scully sank onto the couch. She leafed

through Mostow’s drawings, spread a few across the table.

Dozens of ghoulish faces scowled up at her, sketched in

pencil, ink, charcoal, even blood.

“Yes. Both arms were amputated, too. And his head was…Jesus,

the bastard cut his fucking head off. Filled the mouth with

some sort of clay.”

Scully closed her eyes, shutting out the horrible faces of

Mostow’s drawings.

“Do you want me to come down to the scene?”

“No, the body’s already on its way to Quantico.” Dressler

sounded tired. “What I want, Agent Scully, is to catch this

damn killer. I’d appreciate anything you or Agent Mulder could

do to facilitate that.”

“We’re on it.” Scully tried to sound more confident than she

felt. She worried again about Mulder. Where was he?

Dressler hung up and Scully considered what to do next. Return

to Quantico. Wait for Mulder. Call the crime lab.

She dialed the lab.

“Hey, Jen. It’s Dana. Got anything for me?”

“Good news and not-so-good news.”

Scully leaned into the leather cushions. Toeing off her shoes,

she placed her feet on the coffee table, careful to stay clear

of Mostow’s drawings.

“Give me the not-so-good news first.”

“The rodent feces you sent over are from an ordinary, run-of-

the-mill Rattus norvegicus, found throughout the city and the

continental U.S. Mixed in with the rat droppings, I found

cockroach legs, antennae, shell casings. Nothing unusual about

that, really. Want my expert opinion?”

“Always.”

“Your killer needs a maid service.”

Scully smiled, despite her frustration with the case. “What’s

the good news?”

“I discovered a couple of microscopic flakes of dried blood in

your sample. They didn’t match the victim’s type.”

“Can you run an RFLP?”

“No, the sample is too small. I can try a PCR, but as you

know, PCR tests are extremely sensitive to contaminating DNA

at the crime scene. And considering all the rat droppings…”

“Run it anyway. What was the type?”

“Your victim was A-positive. The sample was O-negative.”

“Thanks, Jen. Let me know if you come up with anything on the

PCR.”

“Will do,” the lab technician agreed and hung up.

Scully rose from the couch and crossed to Mulder’s desk. She

powered up his computer and punched in his password of the

week. “STEPPINGSTONE.” The choice had come from a recent

conversation between the two of them…about their romantic

involvement, of all things — a subject they usually avoided.

A chance after-hours meeting with AD Skinner’s secretary at

Pete’s Grill spurred the discussion. Caught in public with

fingers intertwined, Mulder had snaked away his hand and

waited for Kim to leave before apologizing to Scully. He

reminded her that the Bureau’s good ol’ boys tended to come

down particularly hard on female agents who slept with their

partners and he didn’t want her to suffer the inevitable

insults. He said he already knew from personal experience how

it felt to wear a millstone of mockery. He didn’t want her

reduced to a stereotype by a bunch of catty bullpen gossips or

judgmental superiors — she was too fine an agent.

“They’ll accuse you of sleeping your way to the top, Scully,”

he had said.

“The top?” She’d laughed. “Is ‘Spooky’ Mulder a step *up* the

corporate ladder?”

He had seen her point and laughed, too; she was more apt to be

ridiculed for tossing away her career on a misguided pleasure

ride with the company crackpot than with trying to move up the

metaphorical food chain.

“I-I-I-I’m not your steppin’ stone,” he had crooned the old

Monkees’ tune and then gave her hand a quick squeeze —

beneath the table.

Using the password, Scully logged onto the Internet and

initiated a search for “gargoyles.” She settled into a chair.

Her Web search revealed several dozen sites. She selected a

link to the University of North Carolina and scanned the page.

**…an inordinate number of gargoyles have wide, open mouths

with protruding tongues — a symbol of devouring giants. Among

the most hideous faces are those that are, literally, pulling

the face with both hands, stretching the mouth, an act called

“girning,” a threatening gesture, which serves to remind us

that we are vulnerable to forces larger than ourselves.**

Many of Mostow’s drawings depicted these open-mouthed

gargoyles.

The killer widened his victims’ mouths, too, with the slash of

his knife.

Scully knew from VICAP statistics that serial killers fell

into one of four broad categories: visionaries, missionaries,

hedonists, and power seekers.

Mostow had been a “visionary,” acting in response to voices in

his head, receiving instructions from them to justify and

legitimize his acts of murder.

Patterson had fallen into the “missionary” category; he had

felt responsible for purifying society by expelling its

undesirable components — an extension of his job at ISU.

Pleasure, often including sexual satisfaction, was the reward

for hedonists, whose crimes tended to be the most sadistic. So

far, none of these murders exhibited any sign of sexual

assault.

Power seekers, the final category, desired to control the life

and death of others to such a degree that it served as an

intrinsic motive to murder.

The man who killed Paul Martin, John Perry, and maybe Bill

Patterson, could easily fit into any one of these categories.

Or none of them. He already fell outside the “normal” profile.

Most serial killers targeted weaker victims — or victims they

perceived as weak — women, children, the elderly. This killer

had murdered three FBI agents, all powerful men. Did that mean

he perceived them as weak, too?

Perhaps murdering strong, capable men added to the killer’s

perverse pleasure, inflating his own opinion of himself.

Unlike Mostow and Patterson, he apparently didn’t feel the

need to sketch pictures of gargoyles. Outside of Patterson’s

cell, not a single drawing had been found.

Maybe this killer didn’t want to keep his demons away.

Damn it, where was Mulder? Profiling was his bailiwick, not

hers.

Scully scrolled down the page. One contorted stone face after

the next rolled by.

A thud sounded at Mulder’s front door. Scully reached for her

weapon.

Hearing the jingle of keys, she relaxed a bit. It must be

Mulder. Finally.

The door swung inward and Mulder stumbled across the

threshold. At the sight of fresh stitches on his forehead,

Scully rose to meet him.

“Mulder, what happened?” She took his arm and guided him to

the couch. His fingers were frigid and his gait unsteady. His

eyes appeared unfocused. “Where have you been?”

“Hospital.” His hand lifted to his brow.

“So I see.” She tugged his cold fingers away from the wound so

she could inspect it. “Sit,” she ordered.

He obeyed, dropping to the couch.

Eight even sutures dotted his temple.

“How did you get cut?”

“I saw it, Scully.” His eyes settled on Mostow’s drawings.

“It?”

“The monster. It exists. I saw it.”

“Where?”

“Mostow’s studio.”

This can’t be happening, she thought, not again. Running off

on his own, refusing to answer his phone, insisting he saw

demons and ghouls and evil spirits.

**You still haven’t told me what you were doing in Mostow’s

studio, Mulder.**

**I was working.**

**At 3:30 in the morning? I haven’t seen or spoken to you in

almost two days. You haven’t been returning my calls–**

**This thing exists, Scully. It’s real.**

**It? What are you talking about?**

**Whatever keeps killing those young men.**

**Mostow killed those men, Mulder, and out of some sick

alliance, some other person is continuing where he left off.**

**Whoever attacked me wasn’t a person.**

Of course, in the end Mulder had been wrong. The killer had

been a person — Bill Patterson, driven mad by the very

monsters he chased.

“Tell me what happened, Mulder.” She sat beside him. Combing

through his hair with her fingers, she inspected his skull for

signs of further injury. She discovered a nasty welt where his

head had hit the pavement.

“A man’s character is his fate, don’t you think, Scully? It’s

not a choice but a calling. Sometimes the weight of this

burden…” His voice faded off, distracted by the images on

the coffee table.

“Mulder, what are you talking about?” She held a finger up in

front of his face. “Focus, Mulder.” She tried to draw his

attention away from Mostow’s drawings. “Did they x-ray you?

Check for concussion?”

He continued to stare past her.

In frustration she gathered the drawings into a pile and

placed them face down on the table.

“They would come alive at nighttime, Scully, while their

protectees were asleep. They would fly over their territories

to stand guard. At dawn, they would return to their places of

rest on the rooftops.”

“Who, Mulder?”

“Gargoyles.” He slouched into the cushions. Leaning his head

back, he closed his eyes. “Evil can approach and sometimes win

out over us, Scully. We are not immune.”

“Mulder–”

“We need protection.”

“Mulder, you’ve been injured. You’re tired–”

His eyes flew open. “I *saw* it, Scully!” He dug into his

pockets. “It left these behind.” He withdrew the two guns he’d

found. He placed them in his lap and then fished out the IDs.

“Am I making these up?” he challenged[DW3].

She took the IDs. Paul Martin. John Perry.

Mulder caressed one of the guns, tracing a crooked path over

the grip.

Scully gasped when he suddenly lifted the weapon and pointed

the barrel upward into his jaw. His finger curled around the

trigger.

“It let me go, Scully. Twice. Why?”

“I…I don’t know.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Mulder,

please…” She held out her hand for the weapon.

Head shaking, he looked miserable. She watched his Adam’s

apple glide against the gun’s barrel as he swallowed.

“Mulder, give me the gun.”

He turned red-rimmed eyes on her. And offered her the weapon.

She slid it from his light grasp. Plucking the second gun from

his lap, she carried them both to the desk where she placed

them, side-by-side, next to the computer. With a click of the

mouse, she closed the browser window. The hideous photos

vanished, leaving only a blank, blue screen.

Should she demand he give her his own guns, too? He looked

ready to fall asleep.

“It murdered them in the bathroom.” Mulder’s eyes closed once

more, his face tilted ceiling-ward.

“At Mostow’s?”

“Mmm hmm.” His jaw fell slack. A soft snore vibrated from his

throat.

Scully went to him. She studied the stripes of dried blood

still marking his cheek. A purple-black bruise mottled his

right eye where he’d been cut. The stitches at his hairline

puckered his raw skin. His vulnerability made her chest ache.

She unfolded the Indian blanket that decorated the back of the

couch and gently laid it over him. His eyelids fluttered but

he didn’t wake.

Returning to the phone, Scully dialed Agent Dressler’s number.

Watching Mulder sleep, she told Dressler what little she knew

about his discovery at Mostow’s studio.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT III

MULDER’S APARTMENT

The phone rang, jarring Scully from sleep. She was startled to

find herself in Mulder’s living room, curled in the chair that

faced his couch. Mulder slept stretched on the sofa beneath

his Navajo blanket.

The phone didn’t wake him. His dark lashes rested without

moving against pale cheeks. The bruise on his brow had

swallowed his entire right eye. Protecting the wound in the

crook of one arm, he still wore his trenchcoat and shoes.

Scully ignored the ringing phone and rose stiffly to check

him. Her neck and back ached from sleeping in the chair. She

chided herself for not going to his bed instead, but her worry

had anchored her to his side.

The phone stopped ringing.

She bent and pressed her palm to his brow. He burned with a

low-grade fever.

She was about to search his medicine cabinet for Ibuprofen

when her cell phone rang. The high-pitched trill startled

Mulder and he opened his eyes.

“Sorry,” she apologized and retrieved her cell from her coat

across the room. “Scully,” she said into the phone.

“This is Agent Dressler. There’s been another murder.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

1222 SOUTH DAKOTA STREET

WASHINGTON, D.C.

6:20 A.M.

Scully led the way through the long, cold building, retracing

a familiar path to Mostow’s studio. Mulder trailed her,

uncharacteristically reticent and trying to hide the fact that

he shivered from his fever. Neither of them had bothered to

change their clothes. It seemed ludicrous to shower and dress

before going to such an odious place. Even the air here felt

contaminated by the killer’s depravity.

Agent Delgado, looking a little green around the gills, met

them at Mostow’s studio door.

“Body’s on the roof,” was all he said, pointing limply upward.

“This way,” Mulder murmured. His palm steered Scully toward

the stairs. Delgado shadowed them down the corridor.

They walked without talking. Up the stairs. Along the catwalk.

More stairs.

The feeble glow of dawn greeted them when they stepped out

onto the roof. The air was icy cold. An investigative team

worked in silence, spread out from one end of the roof to the

other, a distance of about one hundred yards.

“Oh, God…my God.”

Nothing Scully had seen — in the field or in the morgue —

prepared her for the debauchery she faced on the roof of

Mostow’s building. Mulder spun on his heel, turning his back

on the atrocity to stare at the brightening sky. Delgado

loitered at the door, eyes on his wingtips.

Scully walked stiff-legged, palm pressed to her mouth, picking

her way past silent ISU agents bent at their tasks. She

followed a course of blood and bone at her feet. The placement

of body parts reminded her of a plane wreck, with

unrecognizable bits and pieces scattered over an unimaginable

distance. The level of violence staggered her.

She paused when she encountered what remained of the victim’s

head. Signature knife wounds ran from the corners of the mouth

to the ears…which had been sliced away. The eyes were gone.

The scalp removed. A bullet hole pierced the back of the

skull.

Dressler joined Scully. She nodded at the decapitated head.

“The victim was Frank Wilcox,” she said, her voice unsteady.

Scully’s eyes widened. “ISU Chief?”

“Yes. We found his clothes, his badge, downstairs.”

Jesus. This…this could have been Mulder.

She glanced over her shoulder at him.

He paced the edge of the roof, still watching the sky. Frosty

air sifted from his lungs, floating heavenward with each

gulping breath.

“We also found this.” Dressler held up an evidence bag

containing a SIG P228.

It looked like Mulder’s gun.

Scully glanced at him again. Did he have his gun on him?

“Excuse me.” She abandoned Dressler and headed for Mulder.

Sensing her approach, he turned to face her.

“Why did it let me go?” he asked when she stood beside him at

the edge of the roof. He shivered openly now, no longer caring

if she saw him tremble. “Why did it kill this man instead of

me?”

“I don’t know, Mulder.”

“I think I do.” His voice faded to a raspy whisper. “It sees

itself when it looks at me.”

“Mulder–”

“Mostow said it wants to see its own reflection.” He ran his

hand through his hair. His eyes shone overly bright with

fever.

“What are you saying, Mulder? That you’re evil?”

“It’s looking for condemned souls like itself, the evil born

in each of us. We’re all repositories for our own dark fears

and horrific imaginations.”

“Stop it.”

“Scully, it is what it is.”

“Don’t do this.” She stilled his fidgety hands with her own.

His skin was fiery, despite the morning chill. “Step away from

the case, Mulder. Now.”

“I can’t. It won’t let me.”

“You talk as if the killer is doing this, murdering these men,

to get to you.”

“That’s exactly what it’s doing.”

“Mulder…” She paused to steady her voice. “Mulder, are you

wearing your weapon?”

He reached beneath his coat and felt for his gun.

“No, I…I dropped it last night. In the stairwell. I chased

the monster up to the roof and–”

The clack of heels silenced him. Dressler cleared her throat.

“You saw the killer?” She studied the bruise circling his eye.

“Can you describe him?”

A humorless laugh chuffed from Mulder’s lungs. “Yes, but you

won’t believe me.”

“Agent Mulder, if you know anything that will help us with

this investigation, I’m all ears.”

Mulder squinted at the tall agent, gauging her sincerity, and

then shook his head. “Your refusal to accept the truth is

blinding you to the facts, Agent Dressler.”

The gray-eyed woman met his stare. “I’m not blind to the fact

that it was you who led my team to this crime scene. I’m also

not blind to your current condition.” She tilted her head at

his blood-soaked clothes and swollen eye. Holding up her

evidence bag, she asked, “Is this your gun?”

He looked at the weapon and slowly nodded. “I think so.”

She pocketed the gun. “Agent Mulder, why don’t you stop hiding

behind a smoke screen of paranormal mumbo-jumbo and tell the

truth. What happened up here last night?”

Confusion clouded his face. “You aren’t implying that I…?”

He looked past her at the widespread gore.

“I know you visited Patterson at Lorton several weeks ago. I

checked the logs last night.” She stepped forward, shrinking

the space that separated them. “Strange thing is, when I went

to view the tape, I couldn’t find it. You wouldn’t happen to

know where it might have gone, would you, Agent Mulder?”

His gaze fell away. “It’s at VPU. I left it with Jerry.”

She nodded. “I have a theory about this case, Agent Mulder.

Care to hear it?”

“Yes.” He raised his eyes to look at her.

“I think the only specters here are the ones that haunt you —

the memories of your transfer from the ISU years ago and your

failure to live up to Patterson’s expectations. I think you

presumed to be Patterson’s next golden boy, but he passed you

by. That burned you. It still does.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Exactly my point.” She licked crimson lips. “Agent Scully

called me last night and told me you returned to your

apartment with the badges and guns of Agents Martin and

Perry.”

“I found them here, downstairs in the bathroom.”

“Yes, but how did you know to come here?”

“I didn’t. I was following a hunch.”

“Well, I followed a hunch, too.” Her stare was unblinking. “I

called the SCI-Crime Lab last night on my way here. Do you

know what they told me?”

“No.” The word passed almost without sound from his dried

lips. Perspiration slicked his forehead and cheeks.

Scully wondered where Dressler was going with this. The rat

droppings, the blood — what did they have to do with Mulder?

“The lab analyzed a sample of blood recovered from Paul

Martin’s body. The test showed the blood was O-negative.

That’s your type, isn’t it, Agent Mulder?”

It was, but–

“Forty-six percent of the U.S. population has type O blood,”

Scully said on his behalf.

“True. That’s why I’m curious to receive the results of the

PCR.”

Mulder chafed beneath Dressler’s critical watch. “Are you

arresting me?”

“Not yet, but I’d appreciate your cooperation while we wait

for the test results. I’d like you to come back to

headquarters with me.”

Mulder shook his head. “You’re wasting time, Agent Dressler.

We need to be looking for the killer…the *real* killer.”

“Mulder…” Scully hesitated. He wasn’t going to like what she

was about to say. “Maybe…maybe you should do as she asks.”

“Scully?” His frown told her he felt betrayed by her alignment

with Dressler.

“Look, Mulder. You’re hurt and you’re ill–”

“I’m fine.”

“You are not fine. Go with Dressler. I’ll take care of things

here.”

“Scully–”

“Go,” she insisted. “I’ll find the truth.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

INVESTIGATIVE SUPPORT UNIT

AGENT DRESSLER’S OFFICE

QUANTICO

“Have a seat, Agent Mulder.”

He wanted to remain standing — as a show of defiance — but

the truth was he felt ready to collapse, so he chose one of

two chairs that faced Dressler’s desk and sat.

Dressler hung up her coat.

Agent Delgado loitered just inside the closed door. His

purpose was to keep out angry ISU agents who wanted their

colleagues’ killer behind bars. The rumor that “Spooky” Mulder

might be guilty of murder had traveled through the department’s

grapevine like the spark on a lit fuse. Before Mulder entered

the building, everyone from the janitor to the top brass had

already heard the accusation.

Mulder’s cockiness and arrogance had earned him few friends

during his tenure in ISU; many of the Unit’s agents still

carried a grudge. Fresh from the Academy, Mulder’s disregard

for the opinions of his fellow agents, as well as those of his

superiors, rankled even after thirteen years.

Guarding the door, Delgado whittled at his teeth with a

toothpick. His pretended nonchalance irritated the heck out of

Mulder.

Hell, everything irritated Mulder about this situation.

To be accused–

“Tell me about last night, Agent Mulder,” Dressler said. She

smoothed a nonexistent wrinkle from her skirt and sat at her

desk. “How did you get that cut on your head?”

“I…” What could he tell her? That an evil spirit attacked

him? She already considered him crazy.

A row of grisly crime scene photos lined her desktop and drew

his eye. Martin and Perry — hacked to bits.

“You think I did that?” He thrust his chin at the photos.

“I think that’s a more plausible explanation than your

possession theory.”

He shook his head. “You’re wrong.”

“We’ll see. The lab will be calling with the PCR results soon.

The test will prove whether or not the blood found on Paul

Martin’s corpse is yours.” She steepled her fingers and leaned

back in her chair. “Do you know a good lawyer, Agent Mulder?”

“The PCR will prove nothing. It’s entirely possible my blood

contaminated the scene a priori,” he argued. “I was cut five

years ago in John Mostow’s studio — by Bill Patterson. The

victim could have picked up traces of my blood from the

floor.”

“It’s possible. How do you think the jury will see it at the

trial?”

“This will never go that far.” He shook his head. The movement

caused a stomach-churning ache to shoot from his swollen eye

straight to the back of his skull. “I didn’t kill those men.”

“Then why steal the Lorton surveillance tape?”

“I didn’t steal it.” Mulder feared he might throw up. His back

and neck burned with fever; his fingers felt numb with cold.

“Did you ask permission to borrow the tape? According to

Lorton–”

“No, I didn’t ask permission. I just–”

“Stole it.”

“*Borrowed* it.”

“I see very little distinction between the two.”

The phone rang. Dressler glanced at the caller ID.

“That’s the lab. Anything you want to say, Agent Mulder,

before I take this call? A confession could help you.”

He pressed his lips together and shook his head.

Dressler picked up the phone. She nodded while she listened.

Her gray eyes never left Mulder’s face. She ended her

conversation with a thank you and an order for a copy of the

report to be sent to her office ASAP.

“Well?” Mulder asked when Dressler hung up the phone.

“Agent Mulder, I’m placing you under arrest for murder.” She

stood and signaled Delgado. “You have the right to remain

silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a

court of law. You have the right to be speak to an

attorney…”

Delgado tossed his toothpick into the trash. Pulling handcuffs

from his coat pocket, he crossed the room to Mulder’s chair. A

frown thinned his lips. While Dressler continued the Miranda,

he yanked Mulder to his feet and cuffed him.

“You’re making a mistake,” Mulder insisted. “You have

nothing.”

“I disagree.” Dressler narrowed her eyes. “I’ve got plenty.

One…” — she held up a finger — “you stole a surveillance

tape from Lorton prison that showed your visit with Bill

Patterson just weeks before his death. Two…” — another

finger went up — “you visited Mostow’s studio last night at

the approximate time Frank Wilcox was murdered. Three…” —

she extended a third finger — “you returned to your apartment

with an unexplained cut on your head and Martin and Perry’s

guns and badges in your possession. Four… — she held out

all but her thumb — “your service weapon was found at the

scene. It’s been fired, Agent Mulder. And the deceased has a

bullet hole in the back of his decapitated head. And finally,

five…” — she opened her entire hand — “traces of your

blood were discovered on Martin’s body. Need I remind you, it

was your own partner who performed the autopsy and collected

the forensic evidence?”

“That’s all circumstantial. What about motive? What possible

reason would I have for killing three ISU agents?”

“Four agents.”

“Four?”

“Don’t forget Patterson. You said it yourself, Agent Mulder:

Patterson’s death was no suicide. I’m finally agreeing with

you.”

Dressler came around her desk and stepped directly in front of

him. “Agent Mulder, I think you’ve followed Bill Patterson’s

footsteps straight to the loony bin. I think you’re

copycatting his murders and you’re responsible for the deaths

of four men.”

“You’re wrong, Dressler. You couldn’t be more wrong.”

Delgado opened the office door. “Want me to transport him?”

“No, thanks, Tony. I’ll drive him myself.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

QUANTICO MORGUE

The decapitated head of ISU Chief Frank Wilcox gaped at Scully

from a nearby table tray. Beside it, a shallow basin contained

what was left of the Chief’s butchered remains.

Wilcox’s mouth, like Perry’s, had been stuffed with clay,

forcing the jaws open and plugging the throat. A bullet had

entered his head from the back, tearing through the parietal

lobe and lodging in the clay just behind the superior

maxillary. Scully had removed the bullet more than an hour ago

and sent it down to ballistics.

Earlier, Dressler had argued against Scully performing

autopsies on either Wilcox or Perry. She claimed Scully’s

objectivity was unlikely, given that Mulder was under

suspicion for their murders. At Scully’s request, Skinner

intervened. He had okayed her involvement, telling Dressler

that Mulder was innocent until proven otherwise and that

Scully’s professionalism was not under suspicion.

The AD’s decision appeared to infuriate Dressler, but she

backed down, conceding to Skinner without another word. Her

quick surrender surprised Scully. Dressler hadn’t played her

ace: her suspicion of the agents’ romantic relationship. Her

reticence allowed Scully to return to the morgue.

Hands thrust into Perry’s chest cavity, Scully checked his

lungs.

“Evidence of bronchial occlusion indicates the mouth was

packed with clay while the victim was still alive. The

presence of blood in the lungs suggests the clay was

introduced into the oral cavity only after the face was cut,

causing the victim to inhale both blood and clay before

dying.”

Jesus, this killer was a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. Or a madman.

Scully knew from VICAP statistics that most serial killers

were not insane. Yet it was hard to reconcile what she saw

here with the acts of any sane person.

Of course, Mulder would insist this wasn’t the work of a

person at all.

The phone rang and Scully set down her scalpel. She removed

one bloody glove and answered the phone.

“Hello, Dana; it’s Jen,” the technician said. “I’m probably

gonna get in trouble over this, but I thought you should

know.”

“Know what?”

“I just ran into Dan.”

“From ballistics?”

“Yes. He told me the bullet you recovered from Frank Wilcox’s

head…it was your partner’s.”

“Why didn’t Dan call me himself?”

“He said he was under orders.”

“Who’s orders?”

Scully knew the answer even before hearing it.

“Agent Roberta Dressler.”

x-x-x-x-x-x-

EN ROUTE TO LORTON CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX

“These cuffs aren’t necessary.” Mulder glared at Dressler from

the back seat of her car.

She glanced at him in the rearview mirror. “Standard

procedure, Agent Mulder. I think you know that.”

“Was it standard procedure to parade me through the bullpen?

Or was that for your own entertainment?”

“I don’t find anything about this case entertaining.”

She steered onto the freeway. Mid-morning traffic filled all

four lanes.

Mulder heaved a sigh. His march through ISU had created quite

a spectacle. All the agents he’d managed to tick off during

his tenure in the Unit — which appeared to be most of them —

vacated their offices to witness his humiliation.

“Look at that,” — someone had sniggered — “Dead man walking,

and it ain’t no X-File!”

“Hey, Mulder, maybe you’ll be rescued by the Mother Ship. Beam

me up, Spooky.”

“You get one call, Mulder. Better phone hooooome.”

The laughter did little to drown out the more serious name-

calling. “Arrogant prick.” “Freaking crackpot.” “Goddamn

embarrassment to the Bureau.”

The worst came when someone said, “Looks like Mrs. Spooky’ll

be collecting widow’s benefits before long.”

Mulder squirmed at the memory and slumped lower in Dressler’s

back seat. He didn’t mind being the target of insults; he’d

become used to them over the years. It rankled, however, that

Scully’s reputation hinged on his own. He hated the idea of

dragging her down with him.

Christ, his head ached.

Dressler changed lanes and passed a slow-moving minivan.

“What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror,

Agent Mulder?” she asked.

“You missed your exit,” he told her, ignoring her question.

“Lorton’s back that way.”

“We’re not going to Lorton.”

“What happened to standard procedure?”

“You know, Agent Mulder, Patterson never should have called

you in on the Mostow case.”

“Excuse me?”

“I never understood his reasons. Maybe another agent could

have prevented…” Her voice trailed off. She watched the road

and stepped more heavily on the gas.

He studied her face in the mirror. Only her eyes were visible.

Gray and cold. Full of anger.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” he asked. He clenched his fists and

tested the handcuffs, tugging until the metal cut painfully

into his wrists. He was trapped. “You’re the one. You killed

them…even Patterson, didn’t you?”

“What do you see, Agent Mulder…what do you see when you look

at yourself in the mirror?” she asked again. “God’s gift to

the world?”

He said nothing. With the doors locked, there was no escape

from the car, not until she stopped and let him out.

“Maybe you think it’s okay for you to ignore protocol, Agent

Mulder. Maybe you think it’s okay to step on other people’s

toes. Do the ends really justify the means?”

“What ends are we talking about?”

“You’ve enjoyed every advantage.”

“Me?”

“Do you know how often Bill Patterson praised you?” She

gripped the steering wheel until her fingers turned bone-

white. “And you…you were so goddamn ungrateful. The rest of

us, we…I…we walked through hell for that man, hunting his

damn monsters until that was all we ever saw when we closed

our eyes at night. And he…he never realized it. He never

noticed the things we gave up. Little bits and pieces of

ourselves. Years of our lives. Our peace of mind. It didn’t

matter. No matter how hard–” She shook her head. “But

you…you were the prodigal son. He said we could all take a

lesson from you. He held you up as the ideal, the

quintessential profiler. And then *you*,” — she pounded the

heal of her hand against the wheel — “you…walked…away

from him. You quit the Unit.”

“That’s not how it was–”

“Don’t tell me how it was! I was there, Agent Mulder.” Tears

swamped her eyes. “It wasn’t fair. I worked hard, followed his

orders, his methods, believed in him, and then he…he called

*you* to help with the Mostow case. I asked first, you know? I

asked if I could head the team and he…he just laughed at

me.”

“Where are we going, Agent Dressler?”

“Now it’s my turn–”

“Agent Dressler, where are you taking me?”

“Now it’s my turn to snap my fingers, Agent Mulder, and make

you lick the greasy floor of hell.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

ACT IV

QUANTICO MORGUE

Scraping clay from John Perry’s lungs, Scully wondered how

Mulder was faring.

Dressler’s accusations were ludicrous, of course, despite the

circumstantial evidence. The victimology was every bit as

important as the physical evidence; both things together

served as documentation of the killer’s behavior and motive.

Scully believed that. Find the motive and you find the killer.

She’d said as much to Mulder only yesterday.

So what was the motive?

She put down her scalpel.

Out on the roof of Mostow’s building, Dressler had insinuated

Mulder’s motive was fueled by professional jealousy. Scully knew

better. Mulder wasn’t like that. He walked his own path; rising to

the top meant nothing to him. He was more than satisfied with his

life in the basement, as long as he was allowed the freedom to

pursue the X-Files.

“Come on, Dana, put the pieces together,” she said to herself.

“Look at the victims and figure out who killed them…and

why.”

The victims had all been strong, healthy FBI agents. Trained

to hunt criminals. They were good at it. Each had earned their

way to the top of ISU. Patterson and Wilcox had both served as

Unit Chief. John Perry had been Wilcox’s right-hand man,

second-in-command. Paul Martin was only a step behind with

fifteen years of service and commendations up the yin-yang.

Scully yanked her gloves from her hands and tossed them into

the trash with a rubbery slap. Hurrying, she crossed the room

to a computer station.

The person who murdered these men was someone who could get

close to them, someone they trusted. A colleague.

She logged onto the Bureau employee database and brought up

the ISU staff list.

Who would want to kill four agents and implicate Mulder?

She scanned the list for agents whose work history extended as

far back as ’88 to ’91, the years Mulder spent in the Unit.

There were quite a few.

Including Roberta Dressler. Was it possible–?

Scully opened Dressler’s file.

Born in ’63

Graduated from the Academy in ’89

Assigned to Violent Crimes Section, Behavioral Science Unit in

’91

Mulder had been in the Unit for almost three years by that

time. He had already gained himself a reputation…as a

crackerjack profiler, and as a renegade who often preferred to

work outside the mainstream.

The database showed that when Mulder was assigned to the X-

Files in ’91, Dressler was paired with Mulder’s old partner

Jerry Lamana. Scully remembered him from the Eurisko case. A

real ladder-climbing opportunist. The guy had stepped all over

Mulder during the investigation into the death of Benjamin

Drake. Went so far as to steal Mulder’s profile right off his

desk and present it as his own.

Dressler and Lamana were reassigned a year after they were

paired. She was then partnered with Wilcox, Martin and Perry

in rather quick succession. Their partnerships lasted anywhere

from nine months to a year. In between, she was assigned to

background checks and general grunt work — the kind of stuff

handed to agents fresh from the Academy…or when they were

placed on punitive probation. Unfortunately, FBI personnel

records didn’t detail disciplinary actions.

Agent Dressler’s transitory partnerships and constant

reassignments were unusual, but not unheard of. The Bureau’s

rumor mill often reported similar professional breakups,

speculating on personal reasons behind a split. Male/female

partners in particular became targets for innuendo. The

durability of Mulder and Scully’s own pairing was a testament

to their professionalism, as well as their ability to ignore

the office gossips.

Scully scanned the victims’ personnel files. She found that,

with the exception of Patterson, they had all been promoted

within the department after splitting with Dressler. Yet

Dressler had never received a single promotion, not once in

ten years.

Could professional jealousy be reason enough to brutally kill

four men?

Dressler had accused Mulder of that very motivation.

Scully picked up the phone and dialed ISU.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

MOSTOW’S STUDIO

Mulder groaned. Lying on his back with his arms pulled high

over his head, he realized his ankles had been tied together

and his wrists tethered to…to what? He twisted in an effort

to see what held him. His vision blurred and his head pounded.

He blinked several times before he could make out the knot of

rope securing his wrists to a water pipe. Somewhere above him,

a faucet dripped.

Where in hell…?

He remembered…what? A car ride…with Agent

Dressler…to…to Lorton.

God, his head hurt.

Dressler had…pointed her gun at him. She had ordered him out

of the car.

Where had she taken him?

This place looked like…

Mostow’s studio.

Dressler…

Dressler was the killer.

She must have hit him over the head.

Jesus, his skull felt ready to explode. Pain radiated through

him and he moaned again.

A scraping sound drew his attention to a shadowed corner of

the room. Something moved in the dark.

Damn it, he couldn’t see; it was too dark or his vision was

too fuzzy. He blinked again, trying to bring whatever it was

into focus.

The smell of sulfur flooded the room. Mulder’s stomach rolled.

He held his breath. Even so, the stench filtered into his

nostrils, insinuated its way into his sinuses.

The thing stepped closer.

Mulder squinted into the dark. He dimly saw what looked like

the monster from the roof. A hideous gargoyle, gray and

seemingly as solid as carved granite. Bald. Pointy-eared. Long

claws curved from its bent fingers. Sharp teeth glistened

between over-stretched lips.

This wasn’t Dressler, any more than it had been Patterson five

years ago. This was a malevolence as old as mankind.

It held a knife.

Mulder pictured the blade slipping into Frank Wilcox’s flesh,

reducing the ISU Chief to a pile of unrecognizable bits and

pieces.

“What–” Mulder’s voice scraped past taut vocal chords. “What

do you want?”

Sidling closer, it chuckled. A deep, hollow gurgling sound,

like water through a sewer pipe.

Jesus, the creature looked as solid as stone, carved from rock

like the medieval gargoyles on the cathedrals of Europe. Yet

its movements were smooth, even graceful.

Mulder struggled to free himself, but the ropes held him

securely in place.

Squatting, the monster dipped its head until its face hung

mere inches above his own. Pressing the tip of its knife to

Mulder’s lower eyelid, it smiled, revealing two horrible rows

of razor-sharp teeth.

Mulder licked dry lips. “Care to share the joke with the rest

of the class?” he whispered.

Another laugh burbled from the creature’s throat. Using one

long claw, it traced an invisible line from the corner of

Mulder’s mouth to his ear. The pressure caused the muscles in

his cheek to twitch. The nail left behind a rising red welt.

Tunneling its spiky fingers through Mulder’s hair, it combed

dark locks away from his feverish brow. It traced a thumb over

one eyebrow, around the black eye. Its nail ticked across the

tiny sutures at his temple.

Mulder stared into the monster’s inky pupils, lured by his own

astonished reflection.

John Mostow’s warning surfaced in his memory: “You have felt

its hunger, so you know…nothing can be done.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

INVESTIGATIVE SUPPORT UNIT

QUANTICO

“What do you mean Mulder and Dressler have disappeared?”

Scully paced toward Tony Delgado, fire in her eyes.

The stocky man closed a file folder and set it down in front

of him on his desk. He turned in his chair to face her. “They

were on their way to Lorton,” he said.

“They never arrived.”

“I tried to reach Agent Dressler right after you called. When

she didn’t answer, I dispatched a team. I’m still waiting–”

“God damn it!” Scully’s fist hammered his desk, causing him to

jump. “Dressler is the killer.”

“Have you lost your mind?” He stood to face her.

“Why else would she kidnap Mulder?”

“It’s more likely he kidnapped her.”

“She plans to kill him, just like she killed the others.”

“You’ve got it backward, Agent Scully. Mulder is the one who

has been arrested for murder. He may be able to pull the wool

over your eyes, but he isn’t fooling the rest of us. Your

judgment in this matter is–” Delgado stopped himself.

“Say what you mean, Agent.”

His eyes dropped to the floor. Uncomfortable, he cleared his

throat. “Rumor has it, you two are…more than partners. Your

perspective is likely to be…compromised.”

This was exactly the type of judgmental misconstruction she

and Mulder had hoped to avoid by keeping their romantic

involvement secret.

She reigned in her temper, lowered her voice.

“Mulder is in trouble.”

“It’s Dressler who’s in trouble.”

She stared Delgado straight in the eye. “Can we at least agree

we need to find them?”

Delgado nodded. “Where do we begin?”

“I think I know.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

MOSTOW’S STUDIO

Crouching over Mulder, the creature hummed while it undressed

him. Its song was no more than a tuneless, tinny gurgle. The

sound grated like fingernails on a blackboard.

clip_image002

It fumbled with his tie, loosening the knot at his neck and

sliding the silk from his shirt collar. The creature tossed

the tie over its shoulder into the shower. Perry’s and

Martin’s clothes no longer clogged the drain there; they had

been removed by the same ISU agents who had scraped Frank

Wilcox’s dismembered body from the roof.

Unfastening Mulder’s shirt one pearly button at a time, it

worked carefully, almost gently, slipping each button from its

hole with painstaking precision. It paused for a moment to

stroke a stain of dried blood on the breast pocket. Its long,

clawed fingers traced back and forth with a scritch-scratchy

caress.

Shirt unbuttoned, the monster pushed the fabric aside to

expose Mulder’s bare chest. The chill of the room raised

goose bumps on his feverish skin. He shivered when the creature

laid an icy palm on the flat of his stomach.

Its coarse fingers grated upward across his skin. Scouring

like sandpaper, it followed the curve of his ribs to his

breastbone. Stopping directly over his heart, it tapped his

chest with a sharp claw. Once, twice, three times.

It brought the knife to the spot and sliced a shallow line

into the skin. Not deep, but Mulder yelped from the sudden

pain. Blood seeped from the wound, pooled in the hollow of his

chest and trickled downward toward his navel. The creature

smiled.

It lifted the knife to Mulder’s jaw. Skimming the blade along

the bone, it scraped the flesh just enough to redden the skin.

It inched the knife upward and stopped at Mulder’s left eye.

The tip combed his lower lashes, one fine, dark hair at a

time.

Mulder didn’t blink, the point was so close…

“Go back to hell,” he said through gritted teeth.

The monster’s wide smile disintegrated. Anger glowed in its

eyes.

The pipes beneath the sink rattled. The floor trembled.

Somewhere overhead, a support beam groaned. The monster

hunkered over Mulder’s body, its knife ready. It opened its

mouth.

When it roared, the fiery odor of sulfur rushed at Mulder’s

face, swirled around his head. Its breath burned with a thousand

years of depravity. Its evil expanded to fill the room. Mulder

couldn’t catch his breath. A sudden buildup in air pressure

popped his ears.

The floor vibrated, creaked and then bucked. With a clapping

crack, the concrete fractured beneath Mulder’s shoulder

blades.

The entire building shuddered. A ceiling tile shook loose and

spiraled to the floor. Mulder’s heart hammered in his chest.

He jumped when the mirror above the sink suddenly exploded and

spewed a blizzard of needle-sharp fragments into the air. The

creature’s knife nicked his cheek when he flinched.

Beyond the closed bathroom door, out in the studio, an easel

toppled. A stool slid and collided into a wall. Paint jars burst,

one after the next, hurtling bits of glass across the room. A

maelstrom of brushes and oil rags and paper wheeled into the

air, spinning out of control. The building hummed with a

magnetic charge, snapping and crackling with static electricity.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

When a violent jolt shook the long hall outside Mostow’s

studio, Scully and Delgado stopped dead in their tracks. They

turned a wary eye to the shimmying catwalk overhead. The SWAT

team waited behind them, guns ready, eyes searching for the

source of the temblor. Metal squealed when a second booming

pulse reverberated through the building, bending the stair

railing and causing the catwalk to break free at one end.

“Watch out,” Scully warned and led the team forward. She

ducked when a ceiling beam groaned, cracking the sheetrock and

blasting them with plaster dust.

Was this an earthquake?

Delgado’s face paled. The derelict building didn’t look as if

it could withstand any sort of severe stress.

“Let’s hurry.” Scully staggered toward Mostow’s studio,

dodging fallen debris as she ran.

Dust and the stink of sulfur fogged the air.

“What’s causing the smell?” Delgado shouted, hand to his nose.

Scully shook her head.

She reached the door and yanked on the handle. Damn it, the

door was stuck. The warped frame pinched it solidly in place.

Another quake rattled the building. A fissure zigzagged down

the wall beside the doorframe. Above them on an upper floor, a

ceiling collapsed with a thunderous crash.

“Get that door open,” Scully yelled to the SWAT team, “before

we’re buried alive.”

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Mulder struggled against his ropes.

The creature straddled his hips, as heavy and cold as a

boulder, pinning him in place.

It tipped its stony head. A sneer curled its lips.

It raised the knife.

“Why…why kill me?”

The monster laughed. An explosive guffaw. Sulfur churned from

its throat. Its roar blasted through the room like a sonic

boom, rocking the walls. A storm of dust fell when the ceiling

gave way and the tiles rained down.

“Because…I…can,” it hissed. It brought the knife to

Mulder’s cheek.

He turned his head. The blade raked his skin. Blood spouted

from the wound. Pain rocketed through him and he screamed.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Scully heard Mulder’s cry.

“Open that door…now!” she ordered.

The SWAT officers increased their efforts, pummeling the door

with their battering ram. Three, four more hits and the door

popped free.

A blast of wind rushed from the room. Inside, debris spun in

frenzied cyclones.

Delgado shoved the broken door out of the way and Scully

stepped inside.

Visibility was terrible. Dust stung her eyes and skin.

Across the room, broken beams and collapsed cinderblocks

barricaded the entrance to the studio and the bathroom beyond.

Mulder must be trapped inside with the killer.

Another massive tremor shook the building. Cans and jars

plummeted from high shelves and bounced from the countertop to

the floor. The eerie wind battered a bank of overhead lights;

two fluorescent tubes shook free and somersaulted downward.

They exploded on the concrete. Scully lifted an arm to protect

her face from the spray of glass.

“Dig this out,” she ordered, pointing to the debris that

blocked the door.

The team moved in. Ignoring the choking dust, they cleared

ragged chunks of concrete, twisted metal beams, broken panels

of plasterboard.

From behind the blocked door, Mulder screamed again.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

The monster gripped Mulder’s hair. It forced his head back,

exposing his throat. He cried out when the tip of the knife

slipped into his skin, just below his jawbone. The pain was

ungodly. The knife seesawed toward his chin, following the

bone. Blood wept from the lengthening wound. Mulder’s lungs

stalled. Tears flooded his eyes.

With a slap, the bathroom door flew open. Scully stood at the

threshold, her gun pointed at the creature’s back.

“Drop your weapon!” she demanded.

The monster stopped cutting and growled. It swiveled to glare

at Scully. Eyes fastened on her, it pulled its knife from

Mulder’s jaw and aimed the blade at his heart.

When its arm dropped, Scully fired. Her bullet pierced the

creature’s head, drilling a dime-sized hole between its angry

eyes. Clay exploded from the back of its skull, showering

Mulder with a spray of fine sandstone.

The monster slumped and tumbled sideways. Its knife clattered

to the floor.

Scully hurried to Mulder’s side. She squatted and applied

pressure to the wound at his jaw, staunching the flow of

blood.

The building ceased its terrible rocking. The gusting wind

died away.

Delgado stepped forward and rolled the creature off Mulder’s

legs. Clay crumbled away from the thing’s hideous face.

Beneath the monster’s mask, Roberta Dressler stared back at

them with astonished, dead eyes.

-X–X–X–X-

EPILOGUE

SCULLY’S APARTMENT

10:59 P.M.

“Hold still, Mulder.”

“Scully…” He squirmed, not wanting to be doctored.

She sat beside him on the couch, trying to inspect the

underside of his chin. He had showered and changed into a

clean t-shirt and sweats. With the blood washed away, his

black eye stood out darker than before. A new row of stitches

lined the underside of his jaw, nearly hidden in the stubble

of his beard.

“Mulder, I can’t see.”

“Scully…”

“Mulder, let me look.”

Surrendering, he rolled onto his back and placed his head in

her lap. Bare feet propped on the far arm of the couch, he

pointed his chin ceiling-ward. “Better?”

“Yes. Thank you.” She checked the sutures. “No sign of

infection. Your fever appears to be gone, too.” She laid a

palm on his forehead, one more time, just to be sure.

“I’m fine, Scully, really.”

She resisted the urge to check the abrasions on his wrists

again. He was safe; he was here. Dressler was dead. Reaching

behind her, she switched off the table lamp. Only the fire in

the fireplace lit the living room. She watched the flames and

absently combed her fingers through his hair.

“I read your report, Scully,” he said in a low voice. His

eyelids drooped as he relaxed beneath her caress. “I’m not

sure I agree with it.”

“Roberta Dressler killed four men, Mulder, and she tried to

kill you, too. What’s to argue?”

“I’m not arguing the ‘what,’ but the ‘why.'”

“She killed her colleagues because she was frustrated by what

she perceived to be an unfair professional environment.”

“Perceived?”

“Perceived. The way she saw it, her male colleagues were

granted every advantage, while she was denied equal

privilege.”

“There might be some truth to that.”

“Perhaps.” She carefully avoided the stitches at his temple as

she smoothed his hair.

“The Bureau has its share of good ol’ boys, Scully. You see

that sort of prejudice yourself all the time.”

“Not that often.”

He opened his good eye to look at her. “Fine…’Mrs. Spooky.'”

She took his point and smiled. “Dressler felt powerless. She

sought to control life to such a degree that it finally served

as a motive to murder. It’s one of VICAP’s categories for

serial killers.”

“Power Seekers.”

“Yes. You told me yourself she idolized Patterson. It must

have infuriated her when he asked for your help and not hers

on the Mostow case.”

He nodded. “She couldn’t reconcile my piss-poor attitude

toward Patterson with his apparent admiration for me.”

“That’s true. But there was more to it than that.”

“What are you thinking?”

“Did you know she slept with Patterson?”

This opened both his eyes. He stared up at her. “Where’d you

hear that?”

“Water cooler.”

Now he smiled, too. “Must be true then, huh?”

“No, but the point is, she heard the rumors. Whether she slept

with Patterson, or her partners for that matter, is

irrelevant. She was the one accused of impropriety, not them.

They were promoted. She wasn’t. That was bound to fuel her

anger at them…and at you.”

“Me?”

“If you recall, she called here in the middle of the night,

and you answered my phone.”

“She assumed I was taking advantage of you.”

“A common misconception,” she teased. She smoothed a wrinkle

from the front of his t-shirt, leaving her hand over his

heart. “You know, I wondered why she didn’t bring that up when

she launched her protest to Skinner about Wilcox’s and Perry’s

autopsies. Given the circumstances, my involvement with you

could have been construed as a conflict of interest.”

“She wanted you to find the evidence to incriminate me.”

“I think so. She projected her own circumstances onto me. It

would have been a complete victory for her if I had been the

one to put you in your place.”

“Downtrodden female agent triumphs over hound dog partner.”

“More than anything, Dressler wanted to be Patterson’s protegee,

to rise in the ranks. We may never know what methods she

undertook in hopes of climbing the corporate ladder, but it’s

obvious she was passed over, time and again. While her

partners were promoted, she grew increasingly outraged.”

“You’re saying she simply snapped one day?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. What are you saying, Mulder?”

“I’m thinking it was more than professional jealousy and

office politics that turned Dressler into a murderer.”

“Meaning…?”

His gaze flicked to the stack of sketches on Scully’s coffee

table. Mostow’s drawings. “I’m still leaning toward the evil

spirit theory.”

“Mulder–”

“No, really, Scully. You were there. You saw what happened to

Mostow’s building.”

“An earthquake.”

“Nooooo,” he groaned. “Scullee! There was no report of an

earthquake.”

“The building was a derelict, Mulder. Maybe the underpinnings

finally gave way.”

“Fine. Then how did Dressler get into Lorton to kill

Patterson?”

“I don’t know, Mulder, but it’s not entirely impossible.”

“And how do you explain the creature you saw in Mostow’s

studio? The pointy ears, the fangs, the claws?”

“It was nothing more than clay.”

“No, Scully. You saw it. I saw it.” He sat up and swung his

feet to the floor.

“I don’t know what I saw, Mulder. Everything happened so fast.

And *you*,” — she gently rubbed him between his shoulders —

“were suffering from a concussion and a fever.”

He shook his head. “What about the surveillance tape from

Lorton? There was proof on that tape.”

“The tape is gone, Mulder. I checked. Dressler must have taken

it and gotten rid of it.”

He slumped forward and let his hands dangle between his knees.

His eyes scoured the gargoyle pictured in the uppermost

sketch. “It wanted revenge, Scully, for my role in Patterson’s

— in *its* — incarceration. It failed to drag me into the

abyss the last time and it returned to finish what it

started.” He stood, groaning from his bruises, and turned to

give her a hand up.

She allowed him to pull her to her feet.

“It’ll be back,” he predicted.

He looked exhausted. His eyes traveled down her hall. “Bed?”

he asked, tilting his head in the direction of her bedroom.

“You go on ahead, Mulder. I’ll just be a minute. I want to put

a few things away.”

He nodded and lightly kissed her lips. “Don’t be long,” he

murmured against her mouth. Releasing her hand, he shuffled

down her hall.

As soon as he was out of sight, she gathered Mostow’s

drawings. She took them to the fireplace and dropped the

entire stack into the flames. The edges curled and the

uppermost sheets turned black. She stood for only a moment

watching the horrible faces disappear before she turned and

followed Mulder down the hall to her bedroom.

THE END

Author’s notes: Feedback, good or bad, is welcome on this or

any of my stories. Send comments to cindyet@tdstelme.net.

Visit my other fanfic at my Web site at

http://cindyet.xfilesfanfiction.com.

=00

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