E-MAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere is fine — I write ’em for you to read
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.
Water drips into a cracked sink.
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
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
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.
D.C. CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“We’re fairly certain Patterson committed suicide.”
“You think the man gouged out his own eyes?” Mulder’s brows
“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
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
JOHN MOSTOW’S CELL
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
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
Mulder let Patterson’s drawings dangle between the bars. He
tapped the topmost sketch.
“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.”
Dressed in scrubs and sneakers, Scully leaned over the body of
“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
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.”
D.C. CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX
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
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
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.
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.”
“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
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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
Pop. Pop. We disappear from our view. Your eyes drain like
spilled milk. No use crying. You’re dead.
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,
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
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.
“Same as Patterson.”
“Yep. I’m thinking we might find another sculpture gallery
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
“What are you looking for?” His eyes traveled to the back of
“Not what, who–”
Mulder no longer listened. Abandoning Dressler and Scully, he
wandered toward a graffiti-covered door at the back of the
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“*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.”
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.”
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
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
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.”
“Scully, what’s the first thing we learned in detective
“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
“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
“I’ve seen this thing, Scully. I’ve been inside its head. I
don’t need a profile to find it.”
“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.”
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.”
JOHN MOSTOW’S STUDIO
1222 SOUTH DAKOTA STREET
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
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
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
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
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
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.
He grabbed the .380 from his ankle holster and charged up the
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?
Deciding to continue to the roof, he climbed the final flight
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
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
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.
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.
2630 HEGAL PLACE, APT. 42
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
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.”
“Is there something I can help you with, Agent?” Scully
“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.
“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
“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?”
“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
“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
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
The killer widened his victims’ mouths, too, with the slash of
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
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
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
Hearing the jingle of keys, she relaxed a bit. It must be
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.
“The monster. It exists. I saw it.”
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
**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.”
“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.”
“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
Scully gasped when he suddenly lifted the weapon and pointed
the barrel upward into his jaw. His finger curled around the
“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.
“Mmm hmm.” His jaw fell slack. A soft snore vibrated from his
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.
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
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.”
1222 SOUTH DAKOTA STREET
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.
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
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
“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
“I don’t know, Mulder.”
“I think I do.” His voice faded to a raspy whisper. “It sees
itself when it looks at me.”
“Mostow said it wants to see its own reflection.” He ran his
hand through his hair. His eyes shone overly bright with
“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.”
“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.”
“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
“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
Mulder chafed beneath Dressler’s critical watch. “Are you
“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
“Look, Mulder. You’re hurt and you’re ill–”
“You are not fine. Go with Dressler. I’ll take care of things
“Go,” she insisted. “I’ll find the truth.”
INVESTIGATIVE SUPPORT UNIT
AGENT DRESSLER’S OFFICE
“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
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
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
“It’s possible. How do you think the jury will see it at the
“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
“No, I didn’t ask permission. I just–”
“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
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
“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?”
“Don’t forget Patterson. You said it yourself, Agent Mulder:
Patterson’s death was no suicide. I’m finally agreeing with
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.”
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
“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
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
“I just ran into Dan.”
“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.”
Scully knew the answer even before hearing it.
“Agent Roberta Dressler.”
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
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.”
“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
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.”
“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
“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.”
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
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
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
Could professional jealousy be reason enough to brutally kill
Dressler had accused Mulder of that very motivation.
Scully picked up the phone and dialed ISU.
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
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…
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
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
“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
John Mostow’s warning surfaced in his memory: “You have felt
its hunger, so you know…nothing can be done.”
INVESTIGATIVE SUPPORT UNIT
“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
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.”
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
He turned his head. The blade raked his skin. Blood spouted
from the wound. Pain rocketed through him and he screamed.
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
A blast of wind rushed from the room. Inside, debris spun in
Delgado shoved the broken door out of the way and Scully
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
From behind the blocked door, Mulder screamed again.
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
The building ceased its terrible rocking. The gusting wind
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.
“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.”
“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. The way she saw it, her male colleagues were
granted every advantage, while she was denied equal
“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
“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
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.”
“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.”
His gaze flicked to the stack of sketches on Scully’s coffee
table. Mostow’s drawings. “I’m still leaning toward the evil
“No, really, Scully. You were there. You saw what happened to
“Nooooo,” he groaned. “Scullee! There was no report of an
“The building was a derelict, Mulder. Maybe the underpinnings
finally gave way.”
“Fine. Then how did Dressler get into Lorton to kill
“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.
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