Necessary Evil

cover

TITLE: Necessary Evil

AUTHOR: dtg

WEBSITE: http://dtg-xf.freeservers.com/ or

http://home.earthlink.net/~dgoggans/firsthtml.html

KEYWORDS: case file, MSR

RATING: R for a few rough words & situations.

SPOILERS: References to FTF and Field Trip.

ARCHIVE: VS9 for two weeks after release, then

Ephemeral & Gossamer. Anywhere else,

please let me know first.

SUMMARY: Mulder’s profiling genius may finally

have met its match.

DISCLAIMER: Some of the characters in this story

belong to Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox.

No copyright infringement is intended.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: This story was written especially for

IMTP’s Virtual Season 9. Special thanks

go to Bonetree, Michelle, Sally, Ten

and Vickie for sticking with me through

my rapid-fire rewrites. It’s hard to

beta a moving target. <G> Any flaws

that remain are mine alone.

****

Necessary Evil by dtg

****

TEASER

“Please, don’t do this. I promise, I won’t tell

anyone if you’ll just let me go.” She blinked

furiously, trying to clear her vision.

“Down on your knees.”

“No! Oh, please… why are you doing… ” She gasped

with pain as her tape bound wrists were jerked down

behind her back, forcing her to drop to her knees on

the gravel.

“I said, on your knees!”

Hands grasped her ankles and pulled, shifting her

weight heavily forward and driving the sharp stones

painfully into her flesh. She heard another length of

tape rip from the roll and felt her ankles being

bound tightly together. She could see her car, a

tantalizingly short distance away through the trees

where she’d parked under one of the mercury vapor

lights. For safety. She had known that the lot would

be mostly empty when she returned to it. And it *had*

been. The only other car had been parked next to

hers. All that empty space, and the last two cars had

somehow ended up side by side. Someone had been

hidden in that car. Waiting.

“My husband has money. He’ll pay whatever you ask if

you just let me go.” She cried out again as her

wrists were yanked roughly down toward her feet. She

felt the tape being wound around them, securing her

into a bowed position. Exposing her chest.

She could barely breathe now, terror combined with

the awkward posture making it a struggle to pull in

enough air to speak.

“I can get you whatever you want. Please, listen to

me. I have childr…”

The blade plunged directly into her heart. She had

only enough time to turn disbelieving eyes toward her

executioner.

“You *are* getting me what I want.” Her killer

watched the light fade from those eyes forever, then

pulled the blade free and walked casually back to the

car.

***

ACT I

Basement office

Monday, February 11, 2002

9:20 AM

Mulder’s pencil mercifully ceased its mind-numbing

table dance and back flipped into the ceiling. “Isn’t

it a little soon for your closed door sessions with

Skinner to be starting up?”

Scully put down the folder she’d been trying to focus

on since her return from Skinner’s office ten minutes

ago. “He’s worried about you, Mulder. He didn’t want

you on this case any more than I did. He just wanted

to know how you’re doing.”

“So why didn’t he ask me?” Mulder swiveled his chair

to face her with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Better yet, why didn’t *you* tell him to ask me?”

She turned her chair toward him and mirrored his

posture. “How do you know that I didn’t?”

He made a palm up gesture with his right hand and

raised his eyebrows, the unspoken question clear.

*Well, DID you?*

“For your information, I did. But he knows you,

Mulder. That’s why he’s concerned. I guess he’s just

not ready for another of your brushes with eternity

so close on the heels of the last one.” She let the

much-too-fresh memory darken her eyes. “Neither am

I.”

Her partner seemed to deflate at that, the irritation

draining out of him. He uncrossed his arms. “I know

that, Scully. But I’m not as fragile as the two of

you seem to think.”

Scully noticed the change in posture and softened her

voice. “It has nothing to do with fragility or

weakness. Skinner just wants to make sure that

I’m…”

“…keeping the leash short enough?”

Mulder finished her thought so accurately that it

made both of them smile. She wouldn’t have put it in

quite those words, but that was essentially what

Skinner had just assigned her to do. Keep her partner

away from the deep end.

In spite of his protests, she knew that Mulder

counted on her vigilance when he worked on cases like

this, but that didn’t completely eliminate his

resentment at being watched so closely. He had to

bristle once in awhile, just to preserve his dignity.

It was a routine they were both familiar with.

“So, what have you got so far?” She gestured toward

the growing stack of legal pads bearing his trademark

stream-of-consciousness scrawl.

He turned back to the desk and began to flip through

his notes. “It’s what I *don’t* have that’s driving

me nuts.” Scully raised an eyebrow at his choice of

words, and he shot back a quick *don’t even go there*

look. “There’s just nothing about the killings that

stands out. A single stab wound to the heart. No

trophies that we can identify. No mutilation. No

sexual overtones. No common locations. Yet they’re

clearly all the work of the same man.” He closed the

pad and looked up at her. “You should tell Skinner to

stop worrying. Even if I *could* get into this guy’s

head, it looks like the greatest danger to my psyche

would be terminal boredom.”

Both eyebrows went up at that. “A boring serial

killer?”

One corner of his mouth quirked up in a somewhat

abashed grimace. “Another poor choice of words. What

I’m trying to say is that the murders are so damn…

*impersonal*… I could almost believe they were the

work of a contract killer, except that there’s

nothing about the victims that makes that even a

remote possibility.”

Scully pulled a sheet of paper from the folder on her

desk. “Could there be a connection among the victims

that we’ve missed?” She looked over the list again.

Six men, three women, ages from 18 to 61, occupations

ranging from janitor to psychiatrist, both single and

married. All white with no single ethnic or religious

background predominating. No criminal history for any

of them. Vastly different economic situations from

borderline poverty to conspicuous wealth. Seemingly

nothing in common apart from the way they died. She

handed the list to Mulder.

He scanned it and shook his head. “The computers

haven’t come up with a single common factor and I’ve

had them input every characteristic I could think of.

But there *has* to be one.” He stood up and began to

gather papers together. “There’s a link, we just

haven’t dug deeply enough to uncover it.” He was

rolling his sleeves down, getting ready to put on his

coat. “We need to interview the next of kin of each

of the victims again, starting with the most recent.”

Scully let out a small, resigned sigh. It was going

to be a long day.

***

Home of Marcy Barringer

4810 Oxford Green

Reston, Virginia

11:15 AM

Marcy Barringer’s body had been found three days

previously in a wooded area adjacent to the Reston

Mall. Her husband had reported her missing when she

failed to return from work Thursday night, and a

jogger found her body on his predawn run just ten

hours later. Her murder was number nine in as many

weeks. The task force SAC’s request for Mulder’s

services had arrived on Skinner’s desk that same

morning, accompanied by a recommendation from the

Director himself.

What they now knew to be the first killing in the

series had taken place forty miles west of D.C. on

Thursday, December 13th. Every Thursday night since

then, there had been another murder, each taking

place incrementally nearer to the capitol. Reston was

thirty minutes from the Hoover building, and the

Director apparently wasn’t prepared to wait for the

bodies to start piling up on his doorstep.

The woman who answered the door of the well kept

colonial was dressed in a simple black dress and

heels. Her exasperated expression changed swiftly to

confusion when she realized she didn’t know her

visitors.

Mulder and Scully displayed their badges for her.

“I’m Special Agent Mulder with the Federal Bureau of

Investigation and this is my partner, Special Agent

Scully. May we speak with David Barringer?”

“He’s not here. I was just on my way to meet him at

the funeral home. I thought you were the babysitter.”

She leaned to one side and looked distractedly behind

them. “She’s late.”

“And you are…?”

“Karen Waters. David is my brother. Is there

something I can help you with?”

“We won’t take more than a few minutes of your time.

May we come in?”

The woman hesitated for a moment, then stepped back

and opened the door so they could enter. They

followed her to a small, cozy room with three book

lined walls. The shelves ran from floor to ceiling

and were crammed with hardcover volumes. She

gestured toward the couch as she sat in the arm chair

directly opposite.

“There was a police detective here yesterday. He

talked to both of us. What else do you want to know?”

“Agent Scully and I have just joined a task force

that’s working on a series of killings that may be

related to your sister-in-law’s death.”

“The detective already told us that it was the same

man who’s killed eight other people.” She looked from

Mulder to Scully. “Why haven’t you caught him?”

“That’s why we’re here, Ms. Waters.”

The woman’s posture sagged. “What can *I* tell you

that could possibly make any difference?”

“If it *was* the same man, then there may be

something that all of the victims had in common,

something that put them in contact with the killer.

Did your sister-in-law have any hobbies or special

interests, maybe a club or an organization where she

would have come in regular contact with strangers?”

“You think she *knew* the man?” The thought clearly

horrified her.

“Not necessarily, but she may have come in contact

with him recently.” The killer was planning these

murders well in advance. It was one of the few

aspects of his profile that Mulder felt reasonably

sure of.

She thought for a moment. “I’m sorry, there was

nothing like that. Marcy is…” Her breath hitched

and she looked away for a moment. “Marcy *was*

devoted to her family. There wasn’t much time for any

outside interests. Her family was everything to her.

She only took the job at the mall for something to do

during the day after Kimmy started school. They

didn’t need the money.” She pressed a curled index

finger to her lips, struggling for control. “If she

hadn’t been working, she would have been at home,

safe, instead of where that animal could get to her.”

The doorbell rang at that moment and the woman nearly

leaped from her chair. “That’s the babysitter. I’m

sorry, I have to go now.” Both agents rose and

followed her to the front door. They waited as she

admitted a teenaged girl who immediately headed for

the back of the house without even glancing at the

two strangers.

Mulder reached into his pocket and handed Karen

Waters his business card. “Please call if you

remember anything that might help. And we do still

need to speak with your brother as soon as possible.”

The woman studied the card for a moment, then nodded

to both agents in turn. “I’ll tell David you were

here. I’m sure he’ll call you soon.”

They had nearly reached their car when the woman

called to them. “Agent Mulder! Wait for a moment.”

They turned to see her coming down the walk with an

envelope in her hand.

“I was just going through the mail and found this.”

She handed the envelope to Mulder. “I don’t know if

that’s the type of organization you were referring

to, but Marcy spent time as well as money on it. I

never would have remembered it if I hadn’t seen that

bill.”

It was a window envelope addressed to Marcy Barringer

from Helping Hands, Inc. The return address was an

office building in the business district near

downtown D.C. Mulder handed the envelope to Scully

and turned back to Karen Waters. “I’m not familiar

with the name but it sounds like a charity.”

“It is. Marcy told me about the work they do with

needy families. Not handouts but helping hands.

Volunteers visit with the families and help them get

off public assistance by finding them jobs and

housing.”

Scully exchanged a look with Mulder. “Did she work

with the clients?” If so, it could be how she met her

killer.

Karen shook her head. “Oh, no. Marcy did fund raising

for them. It was something she could do from home,

calling prospective contributors and asking for their

help.” She smiled. “She was good at it. Marcy was a

very persuasive woman.”

“May I keep this?”

Karen shrugged and turned back toward the house. “I’m

sure it’s just a receipt or something. If it’s

anything David needs, please copy it and return it to

him. I hope it helps.”

Scully opened the envelope when they were in the car.

It was a receipt for $2,500. “I’d like to get a look

at her bank records to see how often she made

donations like this.” She held it up for Mulder to

see.

He made a noncommittal sound and started the engine.

“Where to next?”

***

Helping Hands, Inc.

Collier Building, Suite 910

Washington, D.C.

4:35 PM

Mulder had mentioned Helping Hands at the next

interview almost as an afterthought, and was

surprised to find that the victim had been a regular

contributor to the charity. When the next two

interviews yielded the same results, it became

obvious that Karen Waters had given them the link

they’d been looking for.

Despite having arrived at Helping Hands unannounced,

the two agents found themselves being ushered into

the manager’s office with an uncommon alacrity that

had them trading surprised glances. A stunningly

beautiful woman, nearly as tall as Mulder, rose from

behind the desk and shook their hands as Scully

introduced herself and her partner.

“I’m Elizabeth Saxon. You had some questions for me?”

She gestured for them to take the two chairs facing

her desk and returned to her seat behind it. She

leaned expectantly forward, smiled briefly at Scully,

then fixed her attention on Mulder.

“We’re investigating the death of a woman who did

some fund raising work for your organization. Marcy

Barringer. What can you tell us about her?” The woman

met Scully’s question with a blank look, then turned

back to Mulder.

“Marcy Barringer is dead?”

“Yes, Ms. Saxon, her body was found three days ago.

It’s been in the papers. You didn’t know?” Scully’s

tone prompted Mulder to shoot her a questioning

glance.

“No, I didn’t. I’ve been out of town. I’m very sorry

to hear this.” Her distress seemed genuine. “What do

you need from me?”

“Marcy Barringer’s death may be related to a series

of killings that we’re investigating. We’re following

up on some information that shows several of the

victims had connections to Helping Hands.”

Scully finally had the woman’s attention.

“What kind of *connections*?”

“Marcy Barringer worked for you. Two other victims

appear to have been regular donors. A third was a

recent client.” Scully watched closely for a

reaction. There was none. She saw Mulder at the edge

of her peripheral vision, his expression as impassive

as usual. He showed no inclination to join in the

discussion.

“I see. What can I do to help?” The woman directed

her question to Mulder who, to his credit, turned to

face his partner to wait for her response.

“We’d like to see a list of your clients and

contributors. We may need an employee roster as well,

but not at this point.”

Despite the fact that Scully was asking the

questions, Elizabeth Saxon seemed determined to keep

her focus on Mulder. She reached for the phone on her

desk. “Of course. Anything to help.”

While she spoke briefly with someone regarding

Scully’s request, the two agents undertook a silent

discussion of the behavior of their interviewee.

Mulder was amused. Scully, plainly, was not.

“We can pick up those lists, if you’ll follow me.”

Once again, she addressed her comments directly to

Mulder. She came around the desk and waited for him

to stand, then headed for the door.

Elizabeth Saxon led the way down a carpeted hall to a

wooden door marked “Records”. On the other side of

the door was a windowless room lined with filing

cabinets. It smelled of old paper and new plastic. At

a large metal desk in the center of the room sat a

man who was busily entering data into a computer, his

eyes fixed on a copy stand to his right. He looked up

and stopped typing when the door opened.

“Kevin, these are the F.B.I. agents I asked you to

get the information for. Agent Mulder, Agent Scully,

this is Kevin Hawkes. He’s been converting our paper

files to a computer database.” She smiled at the

young man. “It’s going to make our lives much easier.

Or so he tells me.”

Kevin blushed to the roots of his blonde hair. “Um,

it’s going to be very helpful… once it’s finished.

It’s been quite a job.” His lopsided grin was

ingratiating. “It would have made putting these lists

together a piece of cake. Instead, I’m afraid all I

have is a half dozen scratched out pages. They’re

complete but not very user friendly.” He handed a

small stack of pages to his boss.

“Thank you, Kevin. I’m sure these will be very

helpful.”

Elizabeth Saxon moved toward the door and Mulder

began to follow her until he noticed that Scully was

apparently not finished here.

“Mr. Hawkes, how long have you been working on this

project?”

The young man swallowed visibly and blushed even more

deeply than he had a moment ago. “Um, Ms. Saxon hired

me a couple of months ago. She, um, she’s been very

kind to me.”

He seemed to lose the power of speech at that point

and his boss came to his rescue. “Kevin came to us a

few weeks before Christmas. He had been living in a

group home and he needed some help getting on his

feet. When we learned of his expertise in computers,

we hired him to help with this project. He’s really

been a godsend.”

She turned toward the door again, seeming as anxious

to leave as Scully was to stay and ask more

questions.

“Kevin, do you mind if I ask what kind of group home

you were in?”

The young man raised his eyes to Scully’s. Something

flickered in them for an instant, pure and intense.

Then it was gone. He shook his head and returned to

his keyboard.

“Thank you, Kevin.” Elizabeth Saxon opened the door

pointedly and stepped through. When the agents

followed, she closed it firmly.

“Kevin is a very fine young man and I don’t want him

upset with needless prying into his personal

affairs.” She shot a meaningful look in Scully’s

direction before striding quickly back to her office

with the two agents in tow.

When Mulder and Scully caught up with her, she had

already resumed her seat behind the desk. Her hands

were folded in front of her once again, but the smile

was gone.

“I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have waited

for a warrant of some kind. I don’t wish to have my

clients or my contributors interrogated.”

Mulder could see the hackles rising and stepped in

before Scully could respond. “If you’d feel more

comfortable, then by all means, wait for the

warrant.” He’d dropped his voice to a throaty,

soothing baritone that gave Scully pleasant shivers.

His eyes were fixed on Elizabeth Saxon’s.

The transformation was amazing. The woman went from

cold fury to flushed pleasure in the space of a heart

beat.

“I’m sorry if I overreacted. This has just been such

a shock.” She smiled and walked back around the desk,

holding out the papers to Mulder. Scully, it seemed,

had ceased to exist for her.

“Thank you, Ms. Saxon.” He tried to take the papers

from her, but she held on to them for a moment

longer, touching his hand as she released them.

Mulder, Scully noticed, actually backed up a step.

“We’ll be in touch.” Mulder was already halfway to

the door. Scully gave the woman a curt nod and

followed him.

When they were safely in their car, Mulder sat back

and blew out a breath that puffed his cheeks. He

turned to face Scully and found her eyes twinkling

with amusement.

“Too bad we can’t bottle that boyish charm of yours,

Mulder. We’d make a fortune.”

His innocent ‘who me?’ expression melted quickly into

a sheepish smile. Scully knew that he wasn’t

oblivious to his own attractiveness, nor was he above

taking advantage of its effect when circumstances

warranted.

He put the key in the ignition, then sat back and

tilted his head to look at her. “So, what do think

about Mr. Hawkes? I don’t have to ask your opinion of

Ms. Saxon.”

Scully shot him a quick look. She decided to let that

one pass and answer his first question instead. “I

think Mr. Hawkes bears closer examination. At the

very least, I’d like to know what problem he had that

put him in a group home.”

“I agree, but I doubt very much that he’s going to

pan out as the killer. Call it a feeling.”

“I haven’t seen the profile yet. He doesn’t fit?” She

picked up the lists from the seat where Mulder had

laid them and began to scan for familiar names.

“That’s just it. There effectively *is* no profile.

Everything I’ve come up with to this point could fit

just about any Caucasian male in the city, including

me.”

Scully turned and regarded her partner closely. His

words had a defeated air that surprised her.

“Mulder, we’ve only been on the case for two days.

Don’t you think you might be expecting too much?”

He shook his head. “No, Scully. I’m missing something

obvious and it’s bugging the shit out of me. Nobody

who has it in him to murder nine total strangers can

possibly be this nondescript.”

“Well, we seem to be on the right track.” She held up

a sheet of paper. “I’m only two pages into the list

and I’ve got four of the nine victims.” She checked

the page heading. “They’re all contributors so far.”

More page shuffling. She looked pointedly at her

partner. “Kevin didn’t include the employee roster.”

“She didn’t ask him to, Scully. That was a ‘maybe’,

remember? I’ll go back and get it from her.” He had

his hand on the door handle, then paused and gave her

a wry grin. “On second thought, I’ll call and have

her fax it when we get back to the office.”

“Chicken.”

***

Hoover Building

SAC Wallace Gilmore’s Office

6:05 PM

A progress meeting with SAC Gilmore and the rest of

his task force had begun a few minutes ago. The new

information was received with the same odd blend of

relief and irritation that invariably greeted one of

Mulder’s breakthroughs. His genius for asking the

right questions was both admired and resented by his

peers– a fact of life that Mulder, unlike his

partner, had long ago learned to accept.

“This is a pretty obscure connection, Agent Mulder.

Do you really think the killer expected us to uncover

it?” Special Agent Linda Milligan was the only person

in the room other than Scully who didn’t seem to have

been struck dumb by the link Mulder had just laid out

for them. She was sitting forward in her chair and

her gray eyes were alight with interest.

Mulder was pleasantly surprised by her question. “No,

I don’t, which makes it all the more significant.”

The woman opened her mouth to respond, but Gilmore

threw her a stony glance and cut in. “Significant in

what way?”

Mulder heard the edge in the man’s voice but ignored

it. “If the killer didn’t expect us to make the

connection, he may not have made any attempt to

disguise its link to him.”

Linda Milligan quickly took advantage of the SAC’s

momentary silence. “So, you’re saying he may work at

Helping Hands? What about the man who gave you the

lists,” she consulted the report in front of her,

“Kevin Hawkes?”

Mulder looked directly at Scully as he began to

answer the question, turning back to Linda Milligan

only toward the end. “Hawkes is a possibility, of

course. But I don’t think we can afford to focus on

him exclusively.”

Gilmore picked up the report and tapped it on the

table as he stood up. “Whatever other possibilities

you may uncover, let’s not lose sight of Mr. Hawkes.”

He moved to his desk. “Keep me informed of your

progress.”

The meeting was over, and the task force members

began to disperse.

Linda Milligan approached Mulder and Scully a moment

later in the hall outside Gilmore’s office.

“I think I may have stirred something up with that

question.” She smiled ruefully at Mulder. “I’m

sorry.”

Mulder touched her shoulder briefly and shook his

head. “It was a good question. I wish I had a better

answer.” He smiled at her and Scully watched the

familiar flush rise in the woman’s face.

“I’m still sorry I asked it in front of the SAC.” She

slapped his arm softly, smiled at Scully and headed

off down the hall.

Mulder and Scully began walking in the opposite

direction. “You should really try to keep a lid on

that charisma, Mulder. I’m beginning to worry about

you.” Her expression was very close to a full smirk.

They reached the elevator and he leaned down to speak

softly into her ear. “*You* were immune for an

awfully long time.”

He stepped quickly into the empty elevator, then

stood there grinning at her. “Skinner wanted to see

us when we got back. I’ll try to rein it in before we

get to his office.”

It was a short, but interesting, ride between floors.

After a brief meeting with Skinner, who seemed to

want nothing other than to see Mulder’s current state

for himself, they returned to the basement office.

Mulder began to rework his profile from this new

perspective, tossing out virtually all of his

previous efforts. Scully’s review of the Helping

Hands lists had turned up the names of every known

victim: three clients and six contributors. While

Mulder factored that into the mix, she put in a

request for Marcy Barringer’s bank records and a

background check on Kevin Hawkes. The results would

be available before the end of business tomorrow.

Two hours later, it took everything she had to pry

Mulder from the office. He grudgingly agreed to go,

but only if she would come home with him for takeout

pizza. Blackmail rarely worked with her, but the

prospect of getting him to eat was too tempting to

pass up.

***

Mulder’s apartment

10:45 PM

Mulder had obligingly consumed half of the pizza

under Scully’s watchful eye before returning to the

profile. For the next two hours, they sat at opposite

ends of his couch while he tried to immerse himself

in the mind of their quarry.

Scully had brought a stack of medical journals along

and was midway through a particularly interesting

article when she became aware that her partner had

begun muttering under his breath. She glanced up just

in time to see the papers he’d been working on make a

high arc over the coffee table and fly in all

directions.

“DAMMIT!” The pencil followed, hitting the far wall

before bouncing back nearly at her feet.

They were silent for a long moment, Mulder seemingly

as surprised as she was by his outburst. Then he

sagged back against the couch and blew out a huge

breath that took the last of the tension with it.

“Feel better?”

He looked over at her with a tired smile. “A little.”

He scrubbed both hands roughly over his face and

leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees.

She moved next to him and placed her hand gently on

his back, rubbing slow circles over the knotted

muscles.

“You need to get some rest, Mulder.” She squeezed his

shoulder and got up. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

It seemed to take him a moment to process what she

had just said. She had her coat on before he

responded.

“It’s late, Scully. Why don’t you just stay here?”

“Would you promise to get some sleep if I did?” She

paused at the door with both hands on her hips.

“Well, not right away.” His mouth curved into a

sleepy grin that made her tingle.

“Our first interview tomorrow is at 8:00 in the

morning, Mulder,” but she was already pulling off her

coat.

He stood up and came slowly toward her, his eyes soft

and smoky. “I’ll set the alarm.”

***

Casey’s Bar

Tuesday, February 12th

2:28 AM

“Good night, Harvey. I’m outta here.” Eight hours on

her feet were two more than she’d been ready for

tonight, but then she hadn’t counted on Tim not

showing up. *Next time he wants me to cover for him

so he can entertain another of his ‘friends’, he can

just piss up a rope.*

She grabbed her coat and purse from behind the bar

and scooted out just ahead of the night manager,

Harvey Kendall, as he stopped to secure the back

door. He was having trouble with the lock, as usual,

and was still mumbling curses at it as Micki got into

her car.

“Please start.” It was the same prayer she offered up

every time she turned the key on nights like this. “I

promise to buy you a new battery as soon as I get

done paying for your tires, okay?” A 1985 Nova with

180,000 miles on it had seemed like a bargain at

$500. That was before the transmission repair, the

alternator and four new tires had reared their ugly

heads.

With both eyes closed, she pumped the gas pedal once

and turned the key, releasing a huge sigh of relief

when the engine roared to life. *Yeah, I hear it.

Muffler’s going, too.*

She was two blocks from home when she remembered the

cats. There had been barely more than a handful of

dry food to feed them before she left for work and

four sets of green eyes had regarded her balefully as

she had divided it among their dishes. There was a

convenience store on the next block. The price would

be outrageous but she was in no mood to drive the

five extra blocks to the all night supermarket.

The small parking lot was deserted and she weighed

the danger of car theft against the likelihood that

the damn thing wouldn’t start again if she shut if

off. With a weary sigh, she left the engine running

and dashed into the store.

She returned with her purchase a few minutes later,

too delighted to find her car still there to take

note of the car that had appeared next to hers. If

she had, she might have wondered where its occupant

might be since she had been the store’s only patron.

***

Mulder’s apartment

7:17AM

He was on his way out the door when the phone on his

desk started to ring. This early, it couldn’t be good

news. Scully had left over an hour ago with her hair

still wet from a quick shower. She’d be on her way to

work by now, but she would have called his cell

phone. He walked back to the desk and snatched up the

receiver with a faint sparkle of alarm tingling along

his nerve endings.

“Mulder.”

“There’s been another murder.” It was SAC Gilmore.

“I’m having the police preserve the scene for your

arrival.”

“On a Tuesday? You sure it’s the same guy?”

“I’m sure. You will be, too, when you see her.” He

gave the location and Mulder straightened quickly in

surprise. “Casey’s Bar? Do we know the victim’s

name?”

“Yeah, Michelle Manrow, 28. She was…”

“She was a bartender.” Mulder’s voice was soft.

“You knew her?”

“Yeah. I knew her.” *Well, I’d say that about does

it, Spooky. Looks like 86 is your lucky number.*

“Be sure you include that in your report, Agent. I’ll

expect it on my desk by this afternoon.”

When Mulder didn’t respond immediately, the SAC hung

up. It was nearly a minute before Mulder replaced the

receiver. He didn’t think to call Scully until he was

halfway to his car.

***

Casey’s Bar

7:52 AM

Scully had been only a few blocks from Casey’s when

Mulder reached her and she’d arrived at the scene a

good twenty minutes ahead of him. He found her

talking with a uniformed officer when he entered the

alley behind the bar. She looked up as he approached,

excused herself from the conversation she’d been

having and crossed to meet him.

“This could be a copycat.” Mulder kept moving toward

the body and Scully fell into step at his side. “Her

hands are tied in the same manner, but the wounds are

different.” When they reached the body, he crouched

next to it and pulled back the sheet. “It’s not

Thursday. And I checked the list, Mulder. Her name

isn’t on it.”

Micki Manrow lay on her left side with both hands

taped to her ankles behind her back. The front of her

shirt was soaked with blood, but most of it had come

from the gaping wound in her throat. Mulder replaced

the sheet gently and stood up.

“If it *was* the same guy, he’s changed his spots.

Was she killed here?”

“No. It looks as if she was killed elsewhere and then

dumped here. The night manager was contacted shortly

after the body was found. He said he watched the

victim drive away about 2:30 this morning.”

Mulder rubbed both hands roughly over his face. “He

must have followed her from here. But why bring her

back? And where’s her car?”

“The police are looking for it now.” She placed her

right hand gently on his arm. “Mulder, I know she was

a friend of yours. I’m sorry.”

Mulder nodded and looked away for a moment. “Who

found the body?”

She gestured toward a middle aged man in a running

suit talking with two detectives. “He was on his

morning run and needed to relieve himself. This was

the first secluded opportunity.”

Mulder smiled and shook his head. “That’s too stupid

to be a lie.”

His partner returned the smile. “I thought so, too.”

“Agent Scully?” One of the detectives who had been

talking to the jogger came trotting over to them with

a cell phone in his hand. “We located the car in a 7-

Eleven parking lot four blocks west of here on the

corner of New Hampshire and H. We’ve already pulled

the security video. The Forensics lab can make you a

copy if you want to stop by later this morning.”

Mulder was already heading for his car. Scully

thanked the detective and followed after him, bracing

herself for the storm she’d felt coming the moment

she’d heard his voice on the phone.

***

7 Eleven

912 New Hampshire Ave

8:14 AM

Mulder had wedged his car into the last open area in

the parking lot, leaving Scully to park behind a

squad car at the curb. She found him sitting in

Michelle Manrow’s car, gripping the steering wheel

with latex gloved hands.

“Mulder?”

His gaze remained fixed on the windshield. “There’s

blood in the trunk. He took her back to the alley in

the trunk of her own car, then drove it here and

parked it.”

“Mulder…”

He released the steering wheel and began to search

the interior of the car, flipping down the visors,

poking through the contents of the glove box and

shining his flashlight around the litter strewn

floor. His movements were just a little too tight,

skirting the edge of control.

Scully moved away, recognizing his need to deal with

his anger before they could get back on track. She

spotted someone she knew from the D.C. Crime Scene

Unit and spent the next few minutes catching up on

what little evidence had been obtained from the car.

Mulder pulled her aside as she was finishing her

notes. “I’m heading back to the office. I’ll see you

there.”

“I won’t be long.”

He gave her a quick smile and left. As far as she

could determine, he hadn’t spoken to anyone on the

scene but her.

***

ACT II

Basement office

11:10 AM

Scully had reviewed the records of all previous

autopsies, but this was the first of the victims she

had been able to process herself. The wounds of all

the previous victims looked like straightforward

executions with no hint of the anger displayed in the

killing of Micki Manrow. The killer’s pattern had

changed, but she was certain now that it *was* the

same man. The tape bindings on the wrists and ankles

were distinctive, as was the upward angle of the

chest wound and the type of weapon used to deliver

it. None of those details had been made public, so

the possibility of a copycat was remote in the

extreme.

Mulder was sitting in front of the VCR when she

returned to their office. He stood up and stretched

when she walked in.

“How’d it go?”

“It’s the same man, Mulder. I’m sure of it.”

Mulder nodded as he aimed the remote at the VCR and

began to rewind the tape. “Not a copycat.”

“The chest wound is identical: an acute, upward angle

into the heart made with a long, thin-bladed weapon.

The throat wound was delivered first, based on the

amount of blood…” She saw him wince and mentally

kicked herself for being so graphic. Now was not the

time for professional detachment. This victim had

been his friend. She softened her tone. “The tape

bindings were the same, too. I don’t think there’s

any doubt it’s the same man.”

He nodded. “I have to agree, but that presents a new

problem. Micki had no connection with Helping Hands.

Either that link is nothing more than a hell of a

coincidence, or the killer knows we’ve made the

connection.” He clicked the ‘stop’ button on the

remote and stared at her. “Maybe he saw us yesterday

at Helping Hands.”

“Maybe we saw *him*.”

His eyes darkened with an expression she knew all too

well. “You think it’s Hawkes.”

“I think we need to talk to him as soon as the

background check comes back.”

He moved to the other side of the desk and lowered

himself into the chair as if he’d aged twenty years

in the past few minutes.

“Mulder, if it *is* him, there’s no way he could have

known that Micki was your friend. Besides, it

wouldn’t make any sense for him to strike out at you.

*I* was the one pushing him yesterday.”

He leaned forward and propped his elbows on the desk,

pressing clenched fists against his eyes. “Whether he

chose her for my benefit or not, she’s dead because

he was still out walking the streets. And we’re not

going to stop him with what I’ve come up with so

far.” He dropped his hands to the desk and regarded

her with weary eyes. “I picked up a copy of the

security tape.” He gestured toward the VCR. “It

confirms the clerk’s statement. Micki came in at 2:40

AM and left six minutes later. The clerk went out for

a cigarette break at 3AM, came back in at 3:12. No

other customers until 4:30, then two D.C. cops

stopped by for coffee.”

Scully leaned her hip against the desk, arms crossed

over her chest. “The clerk didn’t see or hear

anything?”

Mulder picked up a typed page from the stack in front

of him and handed it to her. “His statement says that

there was a car in the lot when he went on his break.

He thought it was odd since there was nobody in it

and he hadn’t had a customer since Micki left.”

She looked up from the statement in surprise. “Did he

remember anything about the car? Color, make,

anything?”

“Dark two-door. That’s about it.” He shoved the chair

back from the desk and stood up. “See if you can get

them to rush that background check. I’m going to pay

a visit to Elizabeth Saxon. She’s protecting Hawkes

and I want to know why.”

Scully gave him a half smile. “Well, you’ll probably

get a much warmer reception without me.” The gentle

jab earned her the soft chuckle she’d been trying

for.

Mulder headed out the door, grabbing his jacket as he

passed the coat rack. “Call me when you get the

results of the background check. I’ll see what I can

charm out of Ms. Saxon.” He gave her a wink and

closed the door before she could find something to

throw at him.

His newfound ability to pull out of a mood still

caught her off guard. Just a few months ago, her

teasing attempt to lighten him up would have met with

a very different response.

A sudden rush of emotion made her throat ache and

blurred her vision for a moment. They could so easily

have lost it all.

She shook her head, impatient with her own self

indulgence. This was one of the side effects of their

relationship that she *had* anticipated. She picked

up her notes and turned to the computer.

Her plan was to create a matrix of all the data they

had uncovered, something like the ones she had used

to solve logic problems in college. She was halfway

through typing the names down the left side of the

matrix when she saw it, and her fingers froze in mid

stroke.

“It can’t be that simple.”

She reached for the phone.

***

Helping Hands

12:15 PM

“Agent Mulder.” Elizabeth Saxon crossed to meet him,

taking his outstretched hand in both of hers. “I

heard on the news that there’s been another murder.

Was it the same man?”

“That’s not why I’m here.” His voice and his body

language were all business.

She released his hand and moved to one of the chairs

in front of her desk, gesturing for him to take the

one facing it. “I understand. You’re not at liberty

to discuss it.” She folded her hands in her lap. “You

said you had some questions for me.”

“What can you tell me about Kevin Hawkes?”

Her expression darkened immediately. “Why are you and

your partner so interested in Kevin?”

“Why are you protecting him?

She looked as if she were about to deny it, then

changed her mind. “Kevin is special. He’s very

bright, but he’s not as stable as he appears to be.

None of what’s happened to him is his fault. The way

your partner seems to have seized upon him as her

main suspect gives me cause for concern.”

“My partner had some questions that she didn’t have

an opportunity to address when we were here

yesterday. You seem very confident that Kevin isn’t

the killer and I’m interested in knowing how you can

be so sure about a man you barely know.”

She regarded him levelly for a moment. “I have

excellent instincts about people, Agent Mulder, and

I’m never wrong. I suspect that you operate in much

the same way.” She paused as if she expected a

response but he only gestured for her to continue.

“My volunteer staff here is small and I often have

to help process new clients. That’s how I met Kevin.”

“Does that processing include asking background

questions? Do you know how he came to be in the group

home?”

“Kevin has had a very hard life. His parents were

killed in a fire when he was eight years old. With no

living relatives, he ended up in foster care. He was

twelve years old when his foster parents were

murdered in front of him by a man who was never

caught. Kevin was able to call for help but when the

police arrived, he was catatonic. He stayed that way

for four years.”

“Was he ever considered a suspect?”

That seemed to surprise her. “Of course not. He was

only a child. How could he have overpowered two

adults and done something like that to them?”

Mulder tilted his head, conceding her point. “But he

remained under psychiatric care after he came out of

the catatonia?”

“He had no memory of what had happened. I gather that

there were other emotional problems, but I don’t know

the details. He’s on medication now and will be for

the rest of his life, I suppose.” She reached over

and took Mulder’s hand so quickly that he didn’t have

time to react. “He’s *not* a killer. No matter what

the circumstances seem to indicate. I need to know

that you believe in his innocence.”

Mulder gently pulled back his hand and stood. “I need

to talk to him.”

“He called in sick today. I can give you his

address.” She got up and walked around the desk to

write it down. “He lives in the basement apartment in

my building.”

Mulder felt a shock of recognition when he read the

address. Hawkes lived only a few blocks from Mulder’s

own building. It was one coincidence too many for his

taste. “I know this area. A little pricey for a man

just off public assistance.”

A faint flush rose in her cheeks. “Well, it quite

literally *is* my building. I own it. Kevin needed a

place to stay and I was having a tough time finding a

tenant for the basement apartment. I don’t charge him

full rent, of course, but it’s better than having it

sit vacant.”

“He said you’d been very kind to him. I would call

that quite an understatement.” Mulder was impressed

by her generosity, but at the same time, it made him

vaguely uneasy for reasons he couldn’t quite put his

finger on.

Her eyes grew distant for a few seconds. “He and I

have a lot in common. It felt good to be able to

help.” She gave him an appraising look. “I think you

would have done the same. It may conflict with the

tough image you have to project, but I’ve never seen

such compassion in a man’s eyes.”

Mulder was stunned to feel the heat rising in his

face. She was simply trying to win him over and he

knew it, but she’d somehow managed to hit a button he

wasn’t aware of. Any hope that she wouldn’t notice

the effect she’d achieved withered when he met her

delighted gaze.

“I’m sorry, Agent Mulder, if I’m making you

uncomfortable.” Her voice and her expression said

exactly the opposite.

His cell phone rang at that moment, and he hoped the

relief didn’t show quite as plainly as he suspected

it did. He nearly snatched it from his pocket.

“Mulder.”

“Mulder, it’s me.”

He turned his back on Elizabeth Saxon’s satisfied

smile and walked a few steps away. “Did you get the

background check?”

“No, it won’t be ready until after 3PM. I was going

over the list of victims’ names and I spotted

something that may mean nothing, but…”

“What, Scully?” Her hesitance was odd.

“It’s the names, Mulder. The victims’ names.”

Mulder quickly ran through the list in his head.

Manrow, Barringer, Aldringham, Winchester, Becket,

Dover, Lancaster, York, Dundee, and Greene. All

Anglo-Saxon surnames, but not unusual. Did she mean

*first* names?

“Similar in what way?”

“They’re all… I don’t know… *English*. Like

characters in a Dickens novel. Well, except for the

last two.”

He was speechless. It had been staring him in the

face for three days.

“Mulder?”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” He shoved the

phone back in his pocket and glanced back at the

woman whose smile had vanished. “I’ll be in touch.”

***

Basement Office

1:25 PM

“How the hell could I have missed this?” Mulder was

pacing rapidly in front of his desk as he gestured

wildly with the list in his right hand.

Scully was watching him from her seat behind his desk

where she had been when he stormed into the office a

few minutes ago. She rose and snagged his wrist as he

turned to begin another circuit.

“Mulder, sit down.” He sighed heavily and closed his

eyes for a moment, then plunked down in the seat she

had just vacated. Scully pulled a chair up next to

him and turned him so they were facing each other.

“The names are a message, I think we agree on that.

And they’re English, native to the United Kingdom.

After I called you, I looked them up on a genealogy

website. He chose these people from a list, based on

the fact that their names meant something to him. But

what?”

He was shaking his head. “There *is* no message,

that’s his point. He chose the names because they

were neutral and unremarkable, just like the way he

kills. No emotion, no meaning. Nothing. That’s why

the profile is so damn universal.” He ran the fingers

of his right hand roughly through his hair. “I’m

doing a piss poor job of explaining it, I know. We’ve

been looking for meaning when the *absence* of it is

the message.”

“So how will this help find him?”

clip_image001

“I don’t know.” He swiveled the chair back to face

his desk and gave the stack of legal pads a shove

that sent them tumbling to the floor. “A conventional

profile isn’t going to catch this guy.” He tipped his

head back and closed his eyes for a moment, then

turned to the keyboard and began to type.

***

“Thanks, Mark… No, I’ll pick it up myself in a few

minutes. You’re a lifesaver.” Scully hung up the

phone and turned to see Mulder tapping away at the

keys, as focused as he had been for the past two

hours.

He hadn’t heard the phone ring and she knew she would

have to touch him in order to get his attention.

Breaking his concentration when he was like this was

difficult and he rarely welcomed the interruption. It

would be better to wait until he surfaced on his own.

Mark Christiansen had worked at top speed to complete

the background check on Kevin Hawkes, as a favor to

Scully. The undeniably cute young man from the

Records unit had an obvious crush on her and she had

taken a wee bit of advantage of that fact to gain his

cooperation. Like Mulder had done with Elizabeth

Saxon, except that Mulder had seemed less the

instigator in that little interaction than the object

of it.

There were a few other names she needed Mark to check

out. All of the Helping Hands employees had to be

screened now, and Scully had just decided to add

another name to the list. Elizabeth Saxon’s gender

made her monumentally unlikely to be the killer, but

there was something about the woman that bothered

her.

She got up and crossed to the door, looking back at

Mulder still huddled in front of the computer as if

it was a roaring campfire. *He’ll never know I’m

gone.*

***

The phone was ringing again.

“Dammit.” He spun his chair toward the sound and

snatched the receiver up to his ear. “Mulder.”

Silence for a beat, then “Agent Mulder? It’s

Elizabeth Saxon. I… did I call at a bad time?” Her

hesitant, wary tone made him ashamed of himself.

He took a breath and tried again. “Sorry, I was in

the middle of something. What’s up?”

“I need to see you right away. I’ve come across some

information that I think you need to know about.”

“What is it?”

“Please, I don’t want to talk about it on the phone.

Can you come to my office?”

She must have sensed his reluctance.

“I think you’ll want to talk to Kevin after I tell

you what I’ve found, Agent Mulder. I can keep him

here for you.”

“All right. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

He scribbled a quick note to Scully and headed for

his car.

***

Elizabeth Saxon’s office

5:08 PM

“What did you want to tell me?” Forty minutes of rush

hour traffic had fried his patience. *This better not

be a ploy to get me over here.* As soon as the

thought crossed his mind, he heard Scully’s voice in

his head. *A little full of ourselves, are we

Mulder?*

Elizabeth Saxon stood up when he entered the room.

She crossed to meet him, holding out a handwritten

list. “This is what I wanted you to see.”

He took the list from her and scanned it quickly.

“What am I looking at?”

He had left the door open behind him and she walked

around him to close it. “It’s a request I received

from my accountant to verify some overtime payments

to one of my employees.” She came back to stand in

front of him. “These are all for Kevin Hawkes.”

There were a dozen dates on the list, each

accompanied by a start and stop time and the total

hours worked. The first was December 13th. The last

was the night Micki was murdered. He looked up at

Elizabeth and found her swaying slightly, her eyes

losing focus. He dropped the list and grabbed her by

the shoulders.

“Are you all right?” When she shook her head weakly,

he helped her to the couch and sat her down.

“I guess it just hit me. Could I have some water?”

She pointed toward a plastic sports bottle on her

desk. When he handed it to her, she took several long

swallows. “I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe

Kevin could do anything like this.”

Mulder tilted his head slightly and watched her for a

moment before turning to retrieve the list from the

floor. He held it out to her. “What do you think this

proves?”

“Don’t you see? He was here alone on the nights those

people were killed. I always let him use my car when

he came in late at night to work, so he wouldn’t have

to ride the Metro. After he signed in with the guard,

he could easily have left by my private door,

committed the murders and returned the same way.

The guard would testify that he was here the whole

time. It’s a perfect alibi.”

“It’s hardly an alibi. He would have to know that

you’d testify to what you just told me.”

She shook her head. “No, he knows how much I trusted

him. He would expect me to believe in his

innocence… to vouch for him.” She bowed her head.

“And it might have worked.”

When Mulder didn’t respond, she looked up at him.

“Are you going to talk to him now?”

“You said he called in sick today. Is he here?”

The question seemed to surprise her. “I…I called

him and said I needed his help with something. He got

here a little while ago, and I gave him a project

that would keep him busy until you arrived.”

When Mulder turned to leave, she grabbed his arm.

“Please be careful. I’m afraid of what he might do

when you confront him.”

He reached down and disengaged himself. His

expression was neutral. “Is he in the office where we

met him yesterday?”

“Yes, at least he was an hour ago when I gave him the

project.”

“I’ll just be asking him to come with me to make a

formal statement. There’s no need for you to be here

if it’s making you uncomfortable.”

She nodded. “If it’s okay then, I think I’ll go home.

I just can’t face the thought of seeing him taken out

of here in handcuffs.”

“I doubt it’s going to come to that.” He almost

smiled.

She picked up her coat and walked with him to the

lobby. When he turned toward the records office, she

went out the front door.

He had just reached Kevin’s door and had his hand on

the knob when she came running down the hall toward

him, wide-eyed and out of breath.

“He’s gone! He took my car and he’s gone!”

***

Hoover Building

SAC Gilmore’s conference room

7:18 PM

The entire task force was seated at the large oval

table, each with a copy of Mulder’s hastily typed

report. SAC Gilmore sat at the head of the table and

A.D. Skinner was at the opposite end, flanked by his

two agents.

Gilmore closed the report and laid it on the table in

front of him. He folded his hands on top of it and

looked directly at Mulder. “You don’t believe the

evidence you yourself gathered, Agent Mulder?”

“I didn’t say that. I believe the evidence, I just

don’t think it makes Kevin Hawkes the killer.”

Mulder’s tone was mild and reasonable. Skinner had

been on the receiving end of that calm, infuriating

equanimity on many occasions and he could see it was

having the same effect on SAC Gilmore. He cut in

before Mulder could further fuel the man’s

frustration. “We’ve got the police looking for

Elizabeth Saxon’s car and we have the suspect’s

apartment under surveillance. I’m sure Agent Mulder

means that the evidence, while compelling, is largely

circumstantial.”

If Mulder appreciated his boss’s intervention, it

didn’t show in his expression. “It’s all too

convenient. All but the last victim are connected to

Helping Hands where there just happens to be an

emotionally disturbed man with full access to the

victims’ names and addresses. This man also just

happens to have the use of a car and documented proof

that he wasn’t at home when the murders were taking

place.” Mulder picked up his report copy and flipped

it toward the center of the table. “All that’s

missing is a video of him committing the crimes.”

Gilmore wasn’t swayed. “And he fits your profile,

Agent Mulder. To a tee.”

“So do at least a quarter of the men in Virginia,

including you.” Mulder’s tone was treacherously close

to insolence. This time his partner jumped in.

“I agree with Agent Mulder in that the evidence seems

too convenient, but we won’t really be able to make a

determination until we can talk to the man.”

“Which you did yesterday. Agent Mulder’s report

indicates that *you* suspected Hawkes almost

immediately and requested a background check, the

contents of which are nothing if not disturbing.” A

copy of the background check was included in Mulder’s

report. It confirmed what Elizabeth Saxon had told

him. “The suspect’s flight would seem to validate

your first impression.” Gilmore looked pointedly at

Mulder who returned his gaze levelly. “He may in fact

be in the process of killing his next victim as we

speak, a possibility that could have been prevented

had you been allowed to act on your instincts when

you first talked with the man.”

Skinner looked from Mulder to Gilmore, his expression

unreadable. Then he pushed his chair back and stood

up. “I’m sorry, but I have another meeting.” He

looked at Mulder. “Keep me informed of your

progress.” He turned and left the room.

Gilmore frowned slightly at Skinner’s abrupt

departure and also stood, signaling the end of the

meeting. “We’re covering all avenues of egress as

well as we can with the resources available. There

will be a progress meeting here tomorrow at 3PM,” he

again directed his gaze at Mulder, “unless something

happens before that.”

The room began to empty. Mulder and Scully, being

farthest from the door, were the last to leave. When

they went out into the hall, Gilmore was waiting for

them.

“Agent Mulder, I’d like a word with you,” he glanced

at Scully, “in private.”

Mulder nodded at Scully. “I’ll catch up with you.” He

read the caution in her eyes and acknowledged it with

another nod.

The SAC wasted no time in getting to the point. “This

case too normal for you, Mulder? Is that the problem?

Because if it is, I want to know before somebody

*else* dies while you’re busy ignoring the obvious in

search of the bizarre.”

“Sir, I don’t believe I’ve proposed any theories,

bizarre or otherwise. All I’ve said is that the

evidence is too pat to be anything but contrived.”

“Contrived by whom? And for what purpose?”

“That I can’t answer. But the killer *does* have a

goal, and when we find it, we’ll find him.”

Gilmore looked at him for a long moment. “You already

found him, Agent Mulder. And you let him get away. I

hope no one else has to die before you acknowledge

your mistake.”

***

Scully was waiting next to Mulder’s car when he

reached the parking garage.

“What did he want?”

Mulder unlocked his door and leaned one elbow on the

roof of the car. “The usual. He wanted to remind me

that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, or something

to that effect.” He gave her a small grin. “It’s

okay, Scully. I’m used to it.”

She hesitated for a moment, biting her lip. “Mulder,

what makes you so sure that it isn’t Kevin Hawkes?

The evidence points overwhelmingly in his direction.”

“That’s part of the problem. It’s all too cut and

dried. When have you ever seen a case this perfect?”

“He even fits your profile.”

“Such as it is, yeah. So does Skinner. So do I.”

She studied his face for a moment. “Why don’t you

come over tonight? We could make popcorn and watch

old movies.” Her hand rested on his arm.

“You worry too much.” He took her hand and squeezed

it gently. “Go home and take a bubble bath.” The

corner of his mouth quirked up. “I’m thinking of

doing that myself.”

“Get some rest, Mulder. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She matched his smile.

Mulder got in his car and watched as she walked to

hers, then pulled out of the garage and headed for

home.

***

Shell Service Station

Baltimore, MD

7:19 PM

He only had four dollars in his pocket. If he pumped

more than that, he was screwed. As the numbers rolled

closer to the mark, he began to let up on the handle

every couple of seconds, treading the fine line

between being financially embarrassed and getting

enough gas to make it back to Alexandria. This would

buy him no more than a quarter of a tank but it was

better than the fumes he was running on now.

He released the handle with a flourish as the price

rolled to an obliging stop at $3.94. Close enough.

It was a busy night. There were four people ahead of

him in line for the only open register, and every

damn one of them was buying lottery tickets. He was

weighing the merits of just tossing his money on the

counter when the sound of his name made him look up.

There was a police scanner somewhere behind the

counter and Kevin couldn’t believe what he was

hearing.

“…wanted for questioning Kevin Jerold Hawkes, 24.

Subject is five nine, one hundred fifty pounds …”

What the hell? He looked furtively at the other

patrons and saw no sign that they were paying

attention.

“…ten murders have been attributed…”

He reached the front of the line as the dispatcher

began to give a description of the car he was

driving. His boss’s car.

He paid for the gas and speed walked to the car,

trying very hard not to look like a fugitive. The car

was a liability, but leaving it abandoned at the pump

under the glaring fluorescent lights would be worse.

That BITCH! ‘I can help you,’ she’d promised him.

That sweet, beautiful face… smiling with her eyes,

lying with her heart.

He tamped down his fury with an iron will. It

wouldn’t do to draw attention to himself… not now.

Not yet.

He pulled carefully into traffic and headed for

Alexandria.

***

Saxon Arms

Alexandria, VA

9:35 PM

Four hours and thirty minutes into a four hour

stakeout, tempers were wearing a little thin, but

that wasn’t the only reason she was ready to throttle

her smirking partner.

“Why are you so fascinated by all this, may I ask?”

She flipped the empty paper cup onto the floor of the

bureau issued sedan and fixed him with steely gray

eyes.

“I’m not ‘fascinated’, it’s just that I’ve had fifty

bucks in the pool for the last two years. The last I

heard, it was worth over two grand. I think Rawlings

is just sucking up the interest.”

“I’ve never understood why Mulder and Scully, above

every other couple in the Bureau, draw so damn much

attention. Who the hell cares if they do it or not?

They wouldn’t be the first and they damn sure won’t

be the last.” She peered up and down the street for

the tenth time in the past thirty minutes. “And where

the hell is our relief?”

“They’re late. And no, they wouldn’t be the first.

There’s just…”

A gunshot from inside the building had both agents

out of the car and running. They were halfway to the

building when the front door flew open and a woman

wearing nothing but a short, untied robe came toward

them at a dead run.

“He tried to kill me! Oh my God, he tried to kill

me!”

Agent Linda Milligan reached the woman first,

grabbing her by both shoulders to drag her to a halt.

Her momentum was such that it pulled them both around

in a half circle before it dissipated, leaving the

woman facing the building she had just fled.

“Who tried to kill you? Was it Hawkes?”

“YES! Kevin Hawkes. He’s in my apartment, third

floor.” She was crying now, the hysteria changing

rapidly to shock. “He’s dead. I killed him! I killed

him!”

Elizabeth Saxon’s green eyes glazed over and rolled

back as she crumpled to the sidewalk.

***

Saxon Arms

10:04 PM

The call from SAC Gilmore had been terse and vaguely

gloating. Scully was certain that his pleasure at

telling Mulder the news must have been exquisite.

She pulled up just as doors on the Coroner’s van were

being closed. She got out quickly and held up her

badge.

“Just a moment, please.”

The attendant gave her a weary look, opened the doors

and stood back. Scully rolled the stretcher out

partway and unzipped the plastic bag enclosing the

remains of Kevin Hawkes.

There was a neat, round hole in the middle of his

forehead and his expression was one of utter

astonishment. His shocked blue eyes stared back at

her above a mouth still open in surprise. The image

of him blushing at her question yesterday afternoon

put a lump of pity in her throat, and she quickly

closed the bag.

“Thank you.” She stepped back and watched the van

pull away.

She went directly to the third floor apartment and

found it filled with people. CSU techs were

everywhere, taking photographs, slipping pieces of

evidence into plastic bags, dusting every surface for

prints. They threaded through the crowd with the

grace of toreadors. At the center of their dance was

the yellow tape outline that marked where the body

had lain, a scarlet spray decorating the center.

Mulder wasn’t there, although she had seen his car

out front. Gilmore was. He smiled broadly when he

turned and saw her.

“Agent Scully, glad you could make it.”

“Yes, Sir. Where is Agent Mulder?”

Gilmore smirked shamelessly. “He was here a minute

ago. Check out the killer’s apartment down in the

basement. Mulder’s no doubt down there trying to

disprove his death.” He clearly found himself

incredibly witty.

Scully turned on her heel and left the apartment,

stiffening her back against Gilmore’s undisguised

glee.

She found Mulder in the basement apartment which was

a wasteland compared to the one she’d just left. With

Hawkes having already been identified as the killer

to everyone’s (with one notable exception)

satisfaction, there was nothing left to investigate.

He was crouched in the middle of the sparsely

furnished living room with one of the CSU techs. They

were poking through the contents of a cardboard box

with latex gloved hands.

Mulder looked up and smiled in her direction. As he

often did, he seemed to have sensed her presence

before she even entered the room.

She returned his smile. “What’ve you got there?”

He fished a roll of duct tape out of the box and held

it up for her. “A smoking gun?”

The tech braced his hands on his knees and stood up.

“Looks that way.” He looked down at Mulder. “You seen

enough?”

Mulder dropped the tape back into the box and rose

effortlessly to his feet. He peeled off the latex

gloves and dropped them into the box. “It’s all

yours.”

The tech picked up the box and headed for the door.

Scully stepped back to let him by, then crossed to

Mulder.

“Go ahead, Scully.” He smiled. “You *did* tell me

so.”

“You’re only right 98.9 per cent of the time, Mulder,

by your own calculation.”

He chuckled softly at the memory, which was the

reaction she’d been hoping for. She reached for his

hand and gave it a gentle tug. “Come on. Let’s get

out of here before Gilmore drops by. One more smirk

and I’ll deck him myself.”

They threaded their way through the mass of news

media people in front of the building and reached

Scully’s car.

“I could come home with you… make you some tea?”

Tempting though her offer was, Mulder had something

more pressing. “Thanks, but I want to stop by the

hospital for awhile. I’ve got some questions for

Elizabeth Saxon.”

Scully couldn’t hide her dismay. “Why, Mulder? What

will questioning her accomplish now? The killer has

been found.”

“Has he?”

“There was physical evidence in his apartment and he

was shot trying to kill his boss. You can’t seriously

think he *wasn’t* the killer.”

“It’s too damn tidy, and I’m not just saying that

because it looks like I was wrong about Kevin Hawkes.

As for the physical evidence, *I* have a roll of duct

tape in my apartment as does every man in America. I

just want to talk to her and clear up a few details

while it’s all fresh in her mind.”

“She’s being treated for shock. How reliable do you

think her memory is *now*?”

“Better than it will be tomorrow.” He placed his hand

lightly on her shoulder. “Look, there’s no reason for

you to stick around and join me on Gilmore’s shit

list. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Scully extracted a promise from him to keep his visit

short and inconspicuous, then got in her car and

drove off.

Mulder watched until she turned the corner, then

headed for his own car.

***

ACT III

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital

Alexandria, VA

Room 320 10:55 PM

Mulder found Elizabeth Saxon flat on her back,

staring blankly up at the ceiling. She raised her

head up when he entered the room and smiled when she

saw who it was.

“Agent Mulder. What a nice surprise.”

She reached out her right hand to him and he had the

absurd impression that she wanted him to kiss it. He

gave it a brief squeeze.

He pulled a chair close to the bed so she could see

him in her supine position. “Do you feel up to

answering a few questions?”

“I’m okay for someone who was almost killed by a man

she trusted.” She shook her head and looked away.

“I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.”

“It’s all right. I understand.” He waited until she

turned back to him. “Can you tell me what happened?”

“I’ve already given a statement to the police. What

else do you need to know?”

“I’ll get a copy of the statement. Is there anything

you’ve remembered since the police were here?”

“No, I haven’t. Like I told them, he was already in

my apartment when I came out of the shower. Maybe I

left the door unlocked, I don’t know.”

“He attacked you?”

She closed her eyes. “He never said a word, just came

at me. I ran to the desk and got my gun. I shot him.

Then I ran out of the building and found two FBI

agents right out front.” She turned to face him

again. “That’s really all there is.”

Mulder stood and touched her shoulder briefly.

“You’ve been very helpful. If there are any more

questions, I’ll contact you at your office.” He

turned to leave.

“Agent Mulder?”

He turned back at the door.

“I’m sorry it was Kevin.”

“Yeah. So am I.”

***

Basement Office

Wednesday, February 13th

12:09 PM

Mulder had come in to the office cloaked in one of

his introspective moods with little to say about his

visit with Elizabeth Saxon. Long experience told

Scully not to press him. His instincts had failed him

this time, and she would just have to let him work

through it.

There were several passably interesting cases waiting

to be reviewed, and they spent the morning going over

them. As lunch time approached, Scully suggested that

they go out for a change.

“How about something greasy and unhealthy, Mulder?

That ought to boost your spirits, not to mention your

cholesterol.”

He brightened noticeably. “Now, that’s a…”

The phone rang and he rolled his eyes at her

comically as he brought the receiver to his ear.

“Mulder.”

He glanced at Scully and mouthed *Elizabeth Saxon*.

“No, that’s all right. What’s up?” He listened for a

moment. Whatever she was saying seemed to be making

him slightly uncomfortable.

“Uh, I’m sorry, I already have plans.” Another pause,

then he began to shake his head. “No, not at all.

Maybe another time.” He hung up and sighed audibly.

“You seem to have made quite a conquest.” This didn’t

seem to be amusing him as much as it had the first

time. She suddenly regretted teasing him.

“Not funny.” He closed the folder he’d been working

on and stood up. “I’m starving. Where are we going

for lunch?”

They wound up at Casey’s and Mulder spent the whole

time talking about Micki Manrow. Scully had known

they were friends, that he would stop by Casey’s to

see her from time to time, but nothing specific.

Hearing him now, having his own private wake in her

memory, touched her in a way she couldn’t explain.

“I met her at a very low point in my life, right

after the OPR hearing on the Dallas bombing. Skinner

had just told me we were going to be blamed for it…

and you had just asked me if my heart was still in

the work.” He had been studying his hands as he

talked, but he looked up at her now to let her see

in his eyes what he couldn’t put into words. “She was

a good friend.”

By the time they left to return to work, his mood had

lightened. As they walked back to the Hoover

building, they resumed their debate on which of the

pending cases they would work next. Mulder’s

preference was the six unexplained deaths in western

Montana. It was Scully’s *least* favored for a number

of reasons, not the least of which was its disturbing

similarity to the case a few weeks ago in Elmwood,

Ohio. The one that had nearly killed him.

“Scully, six perfectly healthy women between the ages

of twenty and thirty, found dead in their cars with

no discernible cause of death. In a town with a total

population of 473. You don’t think…”

“Agent Mulder?”

They both stopped and turned toward the voice,

directly into Elizabeth Saxon’s adoring gaze.

***

Basement office

Tuesday, February 19th

5:40 PM

“I’m not sure this is a good idea, Mulder.”

Elizabeth Saxon had begun calling him at the office

the day after their ‘chance’ encounter. She had then

called him twice on Thursday and three times on

Friday, her excuses becoming more transparent each

time. He’d come in to the office this morning looking

grim and exhausted after a three-day weekend spent

dodging the woman’s calls and hoping she would take

the hint. Scully had spent *her* weekend helping

redecorate her mom’s kitchen. As much as Mulder hated

the smell of paint, he’d spent all day Sunday helping

her, just to avoid the phone.

When the calls had resumed this morning, he’d agreed

to meet the woman for coffee after work. It had

become apparent that nothing short of the unvarnished

truth was going to get through to her.

“I’ll admit that I don’t have much experience

discouraging crushes,” there was a definite twinkle

of mirth in his eyes, “but I *do* have a degree in

psychology.”

“Psychology isn’t going to do you much good in this

situation. A woman as smitten as Elizabeth Saxon

appears to be isn’t likely to welcome being told

she’s delusional.”

“Delusional, Scully? She’s delusional because she

finds me irresistibly attractive?” His exaggeratedly

wounded look was not totally feigned.

“You’re *completely* irresistible, Mulder. I think

I’ve conceded that on a number of occasions.” That

got her a grin. She’d recently spent Valentine’s Day

(and night) demonstrating just how irresistible she

found him. “I’m just saying that you’re not going to

be able to talk her out of feeling the way she does.

It doesn’t work that way. And she obviously thinks

you are attracted to her, too. If you do manage to

convince her you’re not, she could become an even

greater problem than she already is.

“‘Hell hath no fury’? I think that will be less

likely if I use a little charm when I discourage

her.”

“Would that be the same charm that got you into this

in the first place?”

“Cute, Scully.”

***

Scully’s apartment

Georgetown, MD

8:15 PM

The bubbles were going flat all around her, deflating

in a quiet chorus of hissing pops. And the water was

becoming too cool for comfort. Scully opened the

drain, stood up and turned on the shower to rinse the

soap off and wash her hair.

When she shut off the water a few minutes later, she

heard the phone ringing. Mulder, no doubt, reporting

on his meeting with Elizabeth Saxon. She quickly

toweled off and donned her robe. If it had gone as

badly as she expected, she was going to invite Mulder

over for some tea and sympathy.

The machine was cutting off at the end of his message

as she reached the living room. The phone rang again

an instant later as she was reaching for the

receiver, but it wasn’t Mulder’s number on the caller

id. It was a trunk line at the Hoover building. She

was frowning slightly as she picked up the receiver.

“Scully.”

“Agent Scully, it’s Mark Christiansen. I was just

leaving you a message and the machine cut me off.

Must have been a little long winded. I’m sorry to

call so late but you said you wanted the results as

soon as possible and I just finished.”

She smiled into the phone. “Mark, are you still at

work?”

She could almost hear him blushing. “It’s okay, I had

some other work I had to finish, too. This took a

little longer than I expected. You didn’t mention

that I’d be searching databases in London.”

Alarm tingled through her. “What do you mean?”

She heard him shuffling paper. “Elizabeth Saxon, AKA

Elizabeth Dresser, AKA Elizabeth Masterson, born

Elizabeth Alice Baker on June 14, 1963 in Sisters of

Charity Hospital, London, England.”

Scully’s mouth went dry. “She’s a British citizen?”

“Not any more. Married Henry Masterson in 1989, a

psychiatrist at the clinic in Boston where she spent

a few years as a patient after college. She renounced

her British citizenship shortly after they were

married. He died in a fire two years later, leaving

her a very wealthy woman. She then married Walter

Dresser, an IBM executive from her old hometown. She

moved back to London for a couple of years, then came

back to the states when Walter met an untimely end in

a car accident. She changed her name legally to Saxon

a little over a year ago, just before she set up the

charity she runs and, from all appearances, largely

funds from her own money.”

“Mark, where did she go to college.”

He flipped some pages. She already knew the answer,

but the word still hit her like a physical blow.

“Oxford.”

***

Elizabeth Saxon’s apartment

8:17 PM

Scully was right. This wasn’t going to be as easy as

he’d hoped. He had agreed to meet her for coffee, but

telling her at Starbuck’s had felt wrong. So he

agreed to have dinner with her. Then the table at the

restaurant had seemed too, well, *public* for the

conversation he had in mind. So here he was, in

precisely the last place he wanted to be, and she

seemed way too happy to have him there.

“I’m such a klutz with a corkscrew. Could you give me

a hand, Fox?” Her voice floated out from the kitchen,

soft and warm with the invitation that had been in

her eyes all evening. And now she was calling him

‘Fox’.

He looked heavenward for a moment, then rose wearily

from the couch and went out to the kitchen. She held

out the corkscrew and a bottle of wine.

“I’m cutting up some fruit and cheese. Why don’t you

take that out to the living room and I’ll be with you

in a moment.” She gave him a radiant smile and turned

back to the counter.

Mulder was starting to feel a little sick. He set the

bottle and corkscrew on the table and walked over to

put his hand on her shoulder.

“Elizabeth, we need to talk.”

She must have heard something in his voice, because

she froze in mid chop. She spoke without turning

around, just the tiniest tremor in her voice.

“Why do I not like the sound of that?”

He took her gently by the shoulders and turned her

around to face him.

“Look, I’m doing a terrible job of this. The reason I

agreed to meet you is that I think I’ve given you the

wrong impression about…”

She reached up and pressed her fingertips against his

lips.

“Please don’t say it, Fox. We’ve only known each

other for a few days. You haven’t given it a chance.”

“Elizabeth, I’m sorry. This has nothing to do with

you or how long we’ve known each other. I’m not

interested in pursuing a relationship with anyone.

Not at this point in my life.”

She looked into his eyes for a long moment, her

expression blank. Then she smiled sadly. “I knew you

were too good to be true.” She turned away from him

and leaned against the counter. “It’s okay, Fox.

Really. I guess it doesn’t matter that I caught your

killer for you, at the risk of my own life.” There

was a slight edge to her voice and her back had

stiffened.

Mulder took a step backward. “You didn’t do that for

me, Elizabeth. You said he was going to kill you.”

All of his internal alarms were going off

simultaneously.

“I did more for you than you’ll ever know.”

It happened so quickly and in such close quarters

that he had no chance to react. One moment, she was

resting against the counter with her head bowed. The

next, she was flush against him, pressing both hands

into his chest. There was incredible, numbing pain in

her touch and he felt his legs buckle. He couldn’t

feel his arms at all. The pain radiated out from his

chest, into his belly then down his legs and up into

his head. He began to sag toward the floor, but it

seemed to have disappeared. And he just kept

falling…

***

Scully’s apartment

8:20 PM

She’d hung up with Mark and dialed Mulder’s number.

It rang twice and then the machine came on. She

waited for his message to play out, then called out

to him. “Mulder, it’s me. Pick up if you’re there.”

Clearly, he wasn’t.

It was almost eight thirty. He was meeting her at

Starbuck’s at six. Where the hell could he be?

She punched in his cell phone number. *Answer your

phone, Mulder.*

It didn’t even ring. She heard the first words of the

wireless company’s “Customer is out of range” message

and hung up. Why would his cell phone be turned off?

She felt the first flutter of panic and took a deep

breath. What she’d learned about Elizabeth Saxon was

disturbing, but it didn’t necessarily make her

dangerous. She was two years behind Mulder in college

and probably never even saw him. He certainly didn’t

know *her*. It was nothing more than a coincidence.

So where the hell *are* you, Mulder?

***

Elizabeth Saxon’s apartment

8:31 PM

Awareness returned with a stinging slap that rocked

his head to the side and left the taste of blood in

his mouth. He was propped against something soft and

his hands were bound tightly behind his back. He

opened his eyes and found Elizabeth Saxon kneeling at

his side.

“You’re a real piece of work. I can’t believe I let

you do this to me twice.”

He blinked, trying to focus eyes that felt like they

were coated with sand. “Eliz…”

She backhanded him with his own gun.

“*DON’T* you dare pull that ‘concerned friend’ crap

with me again! I’ve had all I can stomach.”

She rolled back on her heels and stood up, towering

over him with hatred blazing from every pore. “You

and I are going to take a little drive to the

country.”

She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and hauled him to

his feet. When his knees started to buckle, she

tightened her hold and jerked him upright.

“If you pass out on me, I promise you won’t like what

I’ll do to bring you around.” She held on to him for

a moment, watching him shake his head trying to clear

it. Then she backed up a few steps and felt behind

her for his topcoat draped over the arm of the couch.

She hung the coat over his shoulders. “Wouldn’t want

you to catch your death.”

“What makes you think I’m just going to follow you

meekly to your car so you can kill me?”

“What makes you think I’m going to kill you, Fox?”

She smiled. “We’re just going to find somewhere out

of the way so we can talk.” The smile slipped. “Just

like old times.”

“Old times? We don’t *have* any ‘old times’.” The

effects of whatever she’d used on him was wearing

off. He began to work on loosening the tape around

his wrists, hoping the coat would cover the movement.

“Wrong again, Agent Mulder. But don’t worry about

that now. We’ll have lots of time to reminisce when

we get where we’re going.” She picked up her own coat

from the couch and slipped in on. “Move very

carefully out to the parking lot. If you try to get

away from me, you die.”

“Two murders in your apartment in the same week might

generate some attention.” He stiffened his stance but

softened his voice. “Look, untie me and we can talk

right here. You can even keep the gun for now.”

“That’s very generous of you, but I’d be willing to

take my chances with the law. I’m a very convincing

liar and I’m not afraid to give myself some equally

convincing injuries to back up my claim of self-

defense.” She pointed the SIG at his head. “Don’t

test my resolve. I promise you’ll lose.”

Mulder quickly reviewed his options. If he pushed

this woman, she would kill him. If he went along with

her, she’d probably kill him anyway, but it would buy

him some time. Scully had to be wondering where he

was by now. Eventually, she’d come looking for him.

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere private. Now, move.”

They walked quickly to the parking lot. Mulder turned

toward his captor’s car, but she grabbed his arm.

“We’re taking *your* car.” She pulled his keys from

her pocket and opened the passenger door. When she

had him situated and firmly buckled in, she moved to

the other side and got in behind the wheel. She

placed the gun in her lap.

“Sit back and relax. We’ve got a long way to go.”

***

Saxon Arms

9:09 PM

“Hello. This is Elizabeth Saxon. I can’t come to the

phone right now. Please leave a message.”

Scully pressed the ‘END’ button and worked on

leveling out her breathing. Mulder’s car was not in

the parking lot, but she hadn’t expected it to be.

She was here to see the last person she could be

certain had been with her missing partner.

She had finally called Skinner as she was driving

here from Mulder’s apartment. She had quickly

summarized all that she knew, including how she had

found Mulder’s apartment empty and undisturbed. The

background check had alarmed their boss as much as it

had her, but she could sense his discomfort as he

asked the obvious question.

“Are you certain that Mulder isn’t… well, *with*

this woman somewhere? I don’t mean to be indelicate,

but if she’s as attractive as you describe… ” He

left the rest unsaid but clearly understood.

“Sir, I’m not certain of much at this point, but I

*do* know that Agent Mulder is not on a *date*.”

At Skinner’s stunned silence, she had apologized for

her tone and promised to call him with an update

after speaking with Saxon.

She listened at the door for a moment before she

knocked. When there was no response, she efficiently

picked the lock and entered the living room.

A single light was burning in the kitchen off to her

right. The living room was in shadows. She reached

along the wall, found a switch and flipped it.

The coffee table was shoved out of place, sitting

perpendicular to the couch. In the kitchen, she found

two empty wineglasses and an unopened bottle of

Beaujolais on the table. A cutting board on the

counter held sliced apples and cheese.

Scully quickly checked the bedroom and bath to assure

herself that she was alone in the apartment, then she

returned to the living room and began to search for

evidence that her partner had been there. She found

it almost immediately when her toe brushed against

something tucked just under the front edge of

the couch: a black leather wallet holding Mulder’s

badge and ID.

***

State Route 50 E

45 miles E of D.C.

10:06 PM

He’d been leaning forward to ease the pressure on

his shoulders, but the position was making the

muscles of his lower back clench in protest. He

winced as he moved back against the seat and Saxon

noticed.

“We’ll be turning off the highway in about an hour. I

can let you stretch your legs for a bit then if you

promise not to make me shoot you.”

Mulder turned toward her, leaning half against the

car door. “Where are we going?”

She looked at him appraisingly for a moment, then

looked back the road ahead. “I don’t suppose it

matters at this point. Who are you going to tell?

We’re going to a cottage I have in Rehoboth Beach.”

“And then what?”

“And then I’m going to tell you a story, Fox.” She

smiled at him again. “After that, I guess we’ll just

have to see.”

***

10:16 PM

“It’s me, Frohike. Hurry up.” Scully stood at the top

of the open metalwork stairs listening impatiently to

the clank of innumerable locks and bolts being

disengaged. The door finally opened and the little

man stood back as she pushed past him into the lair

of Mulder’s favorite paranoiacs.

Byers, dressed impeccably as he always was no matter

what hour of the day or night she saw him, stood next

to the congenitally rumpled Langley.

“You said it was an emergency. Where’s Mulder?”

“That’s what I need you to help me find out.” She

handed Byers the folder she’d stopped at the office

to retrieve. “This woman,” she pointed to the black

and white photo that had come with Mark

Christiansen’s background check, “has taken Mulder

somewhere. I want to know where.”

Three sets of eyes lingered for a moment on the

undeniably beautiful woman in the picture, then rose

as one to look at Scully. Byers spoke first.

“Did he, uh, did he go with her willingly?”

Frohike glared at him. “Of course not.” He turned to

Scully. “Who is she?”

She quickly outlined the profiling case and Elizabeth

Saxon’s connection to it, describing her apparent

attraction to Mulder as objectively as she could. “I

couldn’t reach him on his phone, so I went looking

for him. I found this under the couch in her

apartment.” She held out his badge.

“So what can we do?” Langley moved to his computer

and cracked his knuckles.

Forty-five minutes later, Scully was on her way to

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with a copy of Elizabeth

Saxon’s real estate transfer in her hand, more

certain than ever that Mulder’s life was hanging

in the balance.

***

Route 404, 3 miles NW of Denton, MD

11:15 PM

“I’m pulling over here to use the restroom. You’re

coming with me.”

It was a small rest area with a single wooden

structure and room for about two dozen cars. The only

other occupant was an idling tractor trailer rig

taking up one entire side of the asphalt lot.

Elizabeth walked around the car and opened his door.

“Try to get away and I promise, you’ll regret it.”

She pulled roughly on his aching shoulder until he

stood next to the car, then she prodded him in the

back with his gun until he moved toward the building.

He stopped opposite a pair of doors and looked at her

over his shoulder.

“Which one?”

“The Women’s, of course.” She reached around him and

opened the door, insuring his cooperation with another

painful jab.

“I can’t afford to take my eyes off you, so I’m

afraid modesty will have to go by the boards.” She

placed him against the wall next to the first stall

and unzipped her jeans with one hand, keeping his gun

pointed at him with the other. She backed into the

stall and used the toilet.

When she was finished, she wrestled her jeans back up

and approached him cautiously. “Do you need to use

the restroom?”

He shrugged the coat from his shoulders and twisted

around, sticking his bound hands toward her. “Yeah.

Untie me.”

She smirked at him. “Nice try, Fox. If you need to

go, you’ll just have to let me help you.”

“No.” The revulsion on his face was echoed in that

single word.

Her expression went utterly blank and the gun wavered

for an instant. When she spoke, her voice had lost

all inflection. “I won’t touch you.” She motioned him

toward the exit and waited until he moved before she

picked up his coat. She placed it back on his

shoulders with an odd gentleness and opened the door.

When they were back in the car, she started to turn

the key but stopped and turned to face him.

He was shocked by the tears coursing down her face.

“You’re such a bastard.” Her voice was a husky

whisper, thick with tears. “But you’re so damn

beautiful.”

“Elizabeth, I…” She cut him off.

“I knew you wouldn’t recognize me. I didn’t want you

to. But I thought… after you talked to me… ” Her

eyes grew distant for a moment, then turned back to

him. “I’ve loved you for half of my life.”

Mulder’s brow was knitted into a deeply puzzled

frown. “Elizabeth, I have no idea what you’re talking

about.”

“You were in love with someone else. Someone who

didn’t deserve you. But the things you said to me,

the way you touched me…” She took a hitching

breath. “I thought you could love me.”

“Please believe me, Elizabeth. Whoever you’re

thinking of, it wasn’t me. I…” The fury in her eyes

made him stop.

“IT. WAS. YOU. You have no idea what I’ve been

through, no idea what I’ve done for you… to change

my appearance, my voice… my LIFE! I’ve done things

that no one should have to do, just to bring us

together. I thought that once you saw me again, once

I helped you get your job back…”

“What…” Mulder’s mouth had suddenly turned to dust.

“What are you saying?”

“Just shut up and listen to me.” She swiped furiously

at her cheeks. “On June 14, 1985 you went to a

friend’s graduation party at a pub. It was my twenty-

second birthday and I was there celebrating alone.

You and I had had a couple of classes together that

term, but you didn’t even recognize me. You told me

later that I reminded you of someone you had lost,

and that’s why you approached me. We talked for hours

while you tried to drink yourself into a coma. Then I

took you home with me, and we made love until dawn.”

Memory flooded back.

He hadn’t wanted to go that night, still raw and

bleeding from Phoebe’s most recent betrayal, but the

lure of alcohol induced oblivion had overcome his

desire to lick his wounds in private. He had arrived

late and spent the first hour trying to catch up.

He’d just drained his fifth pint of dark ale when

he saw her, alone at a table in the corner. What had

drawn his attention was her long, brown hair and the

way she was curled in on herself, as if the world was

closing in.

Two hours later, his brain sodden with way too much

ale and his wounded ego seduced by her obvious

adoration, he’d gone home with her and fucked her

until he passed out.

Remorse and a killer hangover had arrived

simultaneously, and he’d left before she awoke. He

never saw her again, in part because he was trying

not to, but mostly because Phoebe was suddenly back

in his life. Until this moment, he’d completely

forgotten the entire incident.

He struggled to find his voice. “Elizabeth…” But

what could he say? ‘I was drunk.’? ‘I needed somebody

to fuck Phoebe Greene out of my system.’? ‘I didn’t

recognize you because you’re pretty now.’? He tried

again. “Elizabeth, I…”

She continued as if he hadn’t spoken.

“I followed your career, read all about the fame you

were earning with your profiling ability. And then,

it was all over. You lost it all and ended up with

nothing. That was when I realized how I could help

you. I knew you would be grateful, and I knew that

once you saw me again, saw how I’d changed myself

into a woman you would love…” Her expression

hardened along with her voice. “But you’re just like

every son of a bitch I’ve ever known, aren’t you,

Fox? You never cared about me. I was just something

to do until Phoebe looked your way again. I know that

now.” Her eyes took on a distant expression.

Everything I did… it was all for nothing.”

His stomach was rolling. “Elizabeth, what did you

do?”

She focused on him, smiling. “You know, Fox. I can

see it in your eyes. I killed those people for you.”

***

Route 404

11:31 PM

Scully gripped the wheel with one hand, holding the

cell phone away from her ear with the other in an

attempt to lessen the damage from Skinner’s booming

condemnation.

“Sir, I couldn’t wait. Mulder is in serious danger, I

know it.”

“Agent Scully, we have an A.P.B. out on Mulder’s

car. The police will pick them up. You’ve put Agent

Mulder *and* yourself in danger with this stunt, and

you’ve given her a hell of a head start.”

“Mulder knows she’s delusional, Sir, but he has no

idea she’s a killer. I have to get to him before he

finds out the hard way.”

She could hear him pacing. “You are NOT to enter that

house without backup. I’ll have the police go there

now and stake it out. Contact me when you get there.

I’m on my way.” He hung up.

She disconnected the call and slammed the phone onto

the seat with such force that it bounced off the

dashboard toward her face. She flinched reflexively.

When she looked back up at the road, there was a car

directly in front of her, pulling out of the rest

area to her right. She braked sharply and fought the

wheel for a moment to get the car under control.

It was Mulder’s car.

clip_image002

***

Mulder turned quickly in the seat as the headlights

bore down on them. Elizabeth Saxon glanced casually

over her shoulder and stepped on the gas, leaving the

skidding car in their wake.

***

Scully’s SIG was in her hand. She had no memory of

pulling it from her holster. In the brief flash of

her headlights, she had seen Mulder looking back from

the passenger seat. She knew he hadn’t seen her.

She could follow them all the way to the house and

risk setting up a barricaded suspect with a hostage.

Or she could stop the car somehow and risk getting

Mulder killed in the crossfire. As she was weighing

these equally unappealing options, the car ahead

switched abruptly to the left lane, opening the lane

ahead of Scully.

***

“Elizabeth, what are you doing!”

She had switched lanes with eyes riveted on the rear

view mirror.

“It’s your partner, Fox. I’d recognize that red hair

anywhere.”

He turned to look in the side mirror. Without the

glare of the headlights coming directly at them, he

could see the car. It was Scully’s, and he felt cold

fear for the first time since this nightmare had

begun.

***

Scully slowed to let Mulder’s car pull ahead and to

give herself time to think. If the woman had seen

her, she wasn’t giving any indication. Scully was

helpless to do more than watch them pull away,

knowing that her partner’s life depended on her not

provoking a confrontation while he was so vulnerable.

She picked up her cell phone to dial Skinner’s

number, her eyes riveted on the passenger side of the

car ahead.

***

Mulder turned to Elizabeth. “It’s over, Elizabeth.

Don’t let what I did to you ruin the rest of your

life.”

She glared at him. “Too late, Fox. The damage is

done.”

“No, it’s not. You can be helped. *I* want to help

you.” He glanced back at Scully’s car, and Elizabeth

saw the look in his eyes.

“You’re afraid for her, aren’t you? It’s written all

over your face.” When he turned back to her, she

twisted her lips in disgust. “Are you fucking her,

too?”

“NO!” He answered too quickly and she sneered at him.

“Maybe I’ve been going about this all wrong.” She

picked up the gun from her lap and thumbed off the

safety.

Mulder was thrown forward as she stepped hard on the

brakes, bringing Scully’s car abruptly alongside. His

partner’s startled face turned toward him and their

eyes met for an instant.

From the corner of his eye, he saw the SIG coming up,

pointing at Scully’s head from a distance of less

than ten feet.

He threw himself at the gun.

***

Scully barely had time to register the flash of brake

lights. Before she could react, Mulder’s car was next

to hers and she found herself looking directly into

his eyes. An instant later, he was moving to his

left. The sound of a gunshot and the accompanying

muzzle flash turned her blood to ice.

“MULDER!”

***

The gun discharged, blinding them both with the

flash. His momentum was transferred to Elizabeth and

she jerked the wheel to the left as she fell toward

the door. The rear end slid to the right and

continued around until the car was skidding

backward at close to fifty miles an hour.

Elizabeth pulled desperately at the wheel and

succeeded only in sending it into a 360 degree spin

that carried it over the median and across the

opposite lanes into the dark trees beyond.

***

Scully watched in horror as Mulder’s car spun out of

control across the road. When it reached the opposite

shoulder, it caromed off a utility pole and flipped

end over end into the dark, throwing sparks and

shards of glass and metal in its wake.

***

EPILOGUE

Anne Arundel General Hospital

Annapolis, MD

Wednesday, February 20th

9:21 AM

“Agent Scully?”

She was just coming out of Mulder’s room, on her way

to the nurses’ station to raise a little hell, when

A.D. Skinner’s voice turned her around. He was coming

toward her at his usual brisk pace, his face creased

with concern.

“How is he?” Skinner came to a stop at her side and

placed his hand on her shoulder.

“He hasn’t fully regained consciousness yet, Sir, but

he’s going to be fine. I was just on my way to speak

to his nurses.” She did not attempt to disguise her

irritation. “Why don’t you go in and see him? I’ll be

right back.”

She turned on her heel and continued on her mission.

When she reached her goal, she grabbed the first

nurse she could reach and explained, in no uncertain

terms, her opinion of the LPN who had just fled

Mulder’s room in terror after badly bungling an IV

insertion under Scully’s watchful eye.

“I want a new kit brought to me. I’ll handle it

myself.”

The nurse regarded her calmly and explained that the

LPN had already told her about the ‘problem’ in room

318. She would be sending another nurse down shortly.

Her tone was so kind that Scully immediately

regretted her outburst.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be difficult, but the

woman hurt him trying to insert a simple IV and I

don’t want her near him again.”

The nurse smiled a bit stiffly. “You’ve earned

something of a reputation in the past few hours, Dr.

Scully. I think she was just nervous. I’ll come down

and take care of the IV myself. Would that be okay?”

Scully smiled back. “That would be fine. Thank you.”

When she returned to Mulder’s room, she found Skinner

leaning over his bed. He looked up with the same

concerned expression he’d worn in the hall.

“He’s in a coma?”

“No sir, he’s unconscious. He’s been awake a few

times, not enough to know where he is yet, but his

vitals are all good. He has a concussion and some

cracked ribs, but he’s going to be fine.”

Skinner’s relief was evident in the way his entire

posture relaxed. “That’s good news.”

The nurse Scully had spoken with earlier came into

the room with a fresh IV kit.

“Sir, let’s go out to the lounge for a few minutes.”

She smiled at the nurse and received an understanding

nod in reply. Truce was declared. She really didn’t

want the nursing staff in an uproar. Mulder would be

having that effect on them himself soon enough.

They walked a few steps down the hall to a small

waiting room and sat on the couch.

“Agent Scully, you have some explaining to do.” With

his immediate concern for Mulder resolved, his anger

over her actions had apparently returned full force.

Scully nodded. “Yes, Sir. I know that. But I want you

to understand that I had no choice under the

circumstances. Mulder had no idea who this woman was,

or how dangerous she could be. If I had allowed them

to reach their destination, I’m certain she would

have killed him.”

“You allowed her to get a head start before you

called me.”

“That wasn’t my intention, Sir. It just worked out

that way.”

He snorted at that. “We’ll discuss this tomorrow

morning in my office.”

“Yes, Sir.”

There was a brief, awkward pause.

“So Kevin Hawkes wasn’t the killer after all.” The

concern was back in his voice.

She shook her head. “No, sir, he wasn’t. Mulder was

right about that from the beginning. Hawkes was just

another of her victims.”

He shifted uncomfortably and glanced toward Mulder’s

room. “I understand there were journals found in her

apartment which seem to indicate that she planned

these murders to… attract Agent Mulder.”

“One of the task force members stopped by a little

while ago and told me about them. I gather that

Elizabeth Saxon was quite specific about her plans.

She apparently believed she would come out of this as

the heroine who found the killer, and that it would

somehow bring Mulder to her.”

“She thought killing ten people would bring Mulder to

her?”

“She was a textbook sociopath, Sir. I… came across

her medical history when I was trying to find where

she had taken him. Sociopaths are totally devoid of

remorse or compassion, willing to do whatever it

takes to get what they want. Killing those people was

nothing more to her than a necessary evil.”

“Where the hell did Mulder come in contact with her?

And how could he not have recognized her when he saw

her again?”

“They were both at Oxford at the same time, though he

clearly didn’t remember that. I would guess that

she’s changed her appearance drastically over the

years.” Scully sighed wearily. The tension of the

past few hours was beginning to catch up with her.

“When he finds this out, you know what it’s going to

do to him.” Worry was etched deeply into his face.

“Yes, Sir. I do.”

“Dr. Scully?” The nurse they’d left in Mulder’s room

was standing in the door to the waiting room. “I’m

finished, if you’d like to go back to the patient’s

room.”

“Thank you.” Scully and Skinner stood.

“I’ll see you in my office at 8:00 AM tomorrow.” He

tried for another stern look, but his heart was

clearly not in it.

They parted at Mulder’s door and Scully resumed her

place at his bedside. He was very lucky, though she

doubted he’d agree for the next few days. In addition

to the concussion and cracked ribs, he had a head

laceration that had required twelve sutures. There

were also two burns on his chest which she suspected

had come from a high voltage stun gun. That would

explain how a 120 pound woman had been able to subdue

an armed FBI agent.

“Skinner is *really* pissed, Mulder.” She caressed

the stubble on his pale cheek and ran her thumb

gently over his swollen lips. “I think I’m in for a

taste of what he usually saves for you.”

She reached for his hand and brought it up to her

lips for a soft kiss. Then she turned her head and

rubbed his knuckles against her cheek. “Come on,

Mulder. Wake up.”

“I’m awake.” The sound of his voice brought her head

up so quickly that she accidentally bumped the newly

inserted needle in the back of his hand, making him

wince in pain.

“Oh, Mulder. I’m sorry.” She rubbed the spot gently

in the way she knew he loved. “How do you feel?”

He looked at her with such sadness in his eyes that

it made her throat ache. “Scully, it was her. She

killed all those people. She killed Micki. For me.”

His voice was tight with pain, not all of it

physical, she knew.

She cupped his cheek, then moved her hand up to

smooth the hair back from his forehead. “I know.”

He swallowed painfully. “What happened to her?”

“She’s dead. She was thrown from the car. Her body

was found crushed beneath it.” The woman would have

killed him without a second thought. Scully felt no

regret at her death, but the pain in her partner’s

eyes made her cringe at what she’d just said.

“I knew her… a long time ago. I…”

“At Oxford.” Her voice was very soft.

“For one night… I didn’t know how much pain she was

in, and I didn’t care. I treated her like…” He

couldn’t finish the thought but she read the rest in

his eyes.

“Mulder, you were what? Twenty-two? Nothing you could

have done would justify what she did to those people.

Or to you.”

He took a deep breath and immediately regretted it.

“Ribs hurt?” She laid her hand softly against his

side.

“A little.” He shifted uncomfortably and Scully

reached for the call button. A nurse appeared shortly

and injected pain medication into his IV port. His

eyes began to drift shut almost immediately.

“You sleep, Mulder. I’ll be right here.”

He mumbled something and reached blindly for her

hand. The fierceness of his grip surprised her.

“…needed a friend…” and he drifted back into the

dream he’d been having before he awoke… about a

sad eyed girl with curly hair, sitting alone in a pub

on a warm summer night.

***

End

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