TITLE: Justice, Interrupted
AUTHORS: Dawn Zemke and Sally Bahnsen
KEYWORDS: Casefile, MSR
SPOILERS: Through VS9; Justice, Interrupted Part 1
ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusively on VS10, then Gossamer
and Ephemeral. Others are fine, just let us know.
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully and Skinner belong to
Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox. No copyright infringement
SUMMARY: How far will one man go to see justice served?
FEEDBACK: Gratefully accepted.
AUTHORS’ NOTES: Many thanks to Michelle, dtg, and Vickie
for insightful beta, and to Suzanne for both beta and
Justice Interrupted — Part 2
By Dawn Zemke and Sally Bahnsen
The idiot up in 42 was at it again.
Helen Rezek tugged the pillow off her head, flopped onto her back,
and glared at the ceiling. Heavy footfalls–what was he wearing,
ski boots?–interspersed with sporadic thumps and thuds. No
basketball yet, but it sounded like he was just warming up.
Why me? She asked herself. Fifty apartments in this building and I
get stuck living under Mr. Insomnia. Why doesn’t he just move in
with Red permanently and put us all out of our misery?
Okay, so he was good looking. She and Carmen had bumped into
him at the mailboxes a few times, and even bathed in sweat the
man was gorgeous. Carmen was particularly fond of the cropped
off blue tee shirt that displayed his abs to rock-hard perfection. She
had stared at 42–Mulder, his name was–with a come hither look
of such unbridled lust that Helen had wished she could sink
through the floor. Subtlety was not one of Carmen’s strong suits.
So, yeah, he was easy on the eyes. But he was still a pain in the
ass. And the insomnia was the least of it. Gunshots, break-ins, dead
bodies–to hear Mrs. Leibowitz talk, he’d been dead himself. More
than once! He wasn’t pretty enough to outweigh all that. Hell,
George Clooney wasn’t pretty enough to outweigh all that.
Another thud, this one so loud she nearly jumped out of her skin.
Muttering all the things under her breath that she’d never have
courage to say to his face, Helen slid out of bed, added a pair of
faded gray sweats to the ratty tee shirt she was wearing, and
stomped out to the elevator.
The sharp crack of her knuckles against the wood felt good–so
good she had to rein in the impulse to let loose and pound. At first
she received no answer, though the thumping and thudding
abruptly ceased. Helen gritted her teeth and knocked again, more
insistently. Too late, Buster. You’re gonna get an earful.
The door finally swung open several inches to reveal a darkened
interior, and Helen sucked in a deep breath, ready to release two
years worth of frustration…
Except even in the poor lighting she could sense the face was all
wrong–thinning blond hair, nose too small, and that lower lip…
Best not to go there. She took hold of herself with a firm reminder
that she was pissed.
“I want to speak to Mr. Mulder.”
“He’s not home.”
Helen stopped the closing door with her foot, a little surprised by
her own audacity, and matched the man’s glare. “Then where is he?
And who the hell are you?”
For just an instant she thought she saw the bland expression on the
man’s face flicker, as if something dark and dangerous kindled in
the depths of his eyes. She jerked her foot from the doorway and
took a quick step back, but his voice remained matter of fact.
“He’s out of town. I’m a friend. He…asked me to take care of his
“Last time I checked, feeding fish didn’t require you to throw
things.” Shaking off her unease, Helen craned her neck to peer
over his shoulder. “It’s three in the morning, you know? Some of
us would like to sleep.”
The man drew farther back into the shadows and inched the door
closer to the jamb, effectively blocking her view of the apartment.
“Sorry. It won’t happen again.”
The apology was flat and insincere. Helen stared into the cold blue
eyes and decided it was enough.
“Make sure it doesn’t, or next time I’ll go straight to the landlord.
Your friend won’t be too happy if you get him kicked out of his
own apartment.” Her attempt to bluster came out more like a
He shut the door without reply, a fact for which she found herself
profoundly grateful. She walked back to the elevator, arms clasped
against her body in an effort to ward off a sudden chill that tingled
between her shoulder blades.
“Taking care of his fish,” she huffed under her breath, stabbing the
button and shuffling inside. “Why should I be surprised?”
What did surprise her was the feeling she couldn’t shake–the deep
relief of someone who has narrowly avoided a head-on collision or
just missed plunging over the side of a cliff. It was ridiculous,
really, to let one of Mr. Mulder’s oddball friends unnerve her so.
She let herself back into her apartment, engaging the deadbolt.
After a brief pause, she slid the chain lock into place.
Despite the silence from above, it was more than two hours before
she found her way back to sleep.
His head felt like a bowling ball–too large and heavy for his neck.
Mulder struggled to crack sticky eyelids, two thoughts cutting
through the muzziness in his brain.
What hit me–a sledgehammer?
My mouth tastes like a tofutti rice dreamsicle.
His attempt to rub the sleep from bleary eyes was cut short by a
sharp tug and the bite of metal. Surprise drove away the last of the
cobwebs. He snapped his head right, then left, teeth gritted and
cuffs rattling until the ice of logic cooled his rage from a boil to a
simmer. Tamping down the initial panic, he drew in a deep lungful
of air and slowly panned the room with forced objectivity.
The faint glow from a single lamp provided the only illumination.
Across the room a Jacuzzi burbled, a bottle of wine perched in a
silver ice bucket on the edge. The waterbed beneath him was king-
sized, the sheets lavender silk. Mirrors on the ceiling, the walls, the
headboard–all reflected the stunned disbelief on his haggard face.
He jerked the handcuffs against the steel rings conveniently built
into the headboard and groaned, head falling back on the pillow
with a thud.
“Oh God. Please tell me this is just a kinky dream.”
The trail of blood down the side of his neck, drying to rusty brown
on his collar, was hardly reassuring.
By a combination of wriggling and scooting, Mulder managed to
sit up. A quick inventory revealed that he’d been divested of cell
phone and gun, and that the handcuffs binding him to the bed were
his own. McNally had even removed his belt and shoes.
“Hey! Can anybody hear me? I’m a federal agent and I need help!
He called out until his voice disintegrated to a rasp and the drums
in his head turned from easy listening to heavy metal. No
windows, and the louder he yelled, the more the walls seemed to
swallow his cries.
“Soundproofed.” He bared his teeth at his own reflection. “Loosens
up those pesky inhibitions.”
Ten minutes of trying to separate the restraining rings from the
headboard achieved nothing but abraded wrists. Though his
headache had subsided, the still-healing muscles in his chest
throbbed, and a simple case of dry mouth had turned to real thirst.
Searching for a more comfortable position, Mulder froze when the
door abruptly swung open and Kyle McNally slipped inside.
His eyes fastened onto Mulder, sharply assessing, as he shut the
door and engaged both the deadbolt and chain lock. One hand on
the weapon at his side, he approached the bed, his wariness easing
to a smile once he confirmed Mulder was still securely bound.
“Glad to see you’re awake. We can get down to business.”
“I’ll admit I’ve had this fantasy plenty of times, McNally, but you
were never the one that walked through that door. Sorry to
The smile slid off Kyle’s lips and his eyes went flat and cold.
“You’re a real funny guy, Agent Mulder. The only problem is, I
don’t feel much like laughing right now. I spent the last hour
searching that dump you call an apartment for something that
belongs to me, and I’m a little short on patience.”
Mulder shrugged. “My partner always says I’m the only one who
could understand my own filing system. Maybe if you told me
what you were looking for…”
“You know what I’m looking for. I don’t know how you got your
hands on it, but I sure as hell don’t intend to let you show it to the
“I would’ve pegged you as a smart guy, McNally. ASAC in the
Violent Crimes section, a profiler. It was risky to cheat on your
wife, but just plain stupid to take pictures.”
McNally drew his gun and placed the barrel against Mulder’s head.
“Where is it? Tell me now or I pull the trigger.”
“Pull the trigger and you’ll never know–until the cops show up on
your doorstep to arrest you for her murder.” Mulder kept his voice
soft and steady, though he could feel his pulse hammering against
the cool steel at his temple.
Kyle didn’t remove the gun, but his demeanor did an about face.
“Look, I don’t want to hurt you. Fair exchange: You give me all
your copies of the email and I’ll let you go.”
“Such a deal.”
“Looks to me like it’s the best you’ve got.”
The headache was back. He suddenly felt dizzy, disoriented. “How
do I know you’ll keep your word?”
“You’ll just have to trust me.”
Someone was tugging him, pulling him aside. Mulder tucked his
chin to his chest, eyes slipping shut.
“Well?” Kyle prodded him with the gun.
“Trust you, huh? No problem. We all know you can be trusted,
don’t we, paisan’?”
Kyle gasped and stumbled backward a step, the gun dangling from
his hand. The eyes staring back at him were now black as coal.
“Th…that’s impossible, you’re…”
“You’re going to pay for what you did, buddy. To me, to Monica.
I’m gonna make sure of it.”
“You’re no better than the monsters we hunted; just another cold-
blooded killer. Remember how you usta talk about Patterson? You
said he was the lowest form of life–a nutcase who turned on his
own. Well, look in the mirror, Goombah. You got ol’ Billy boy
“I said SHUT UP!” Kyle backhanded him, the muzzle of the gun
catching Mulder across the cheekbone and rocking his head back
against the headboard with a sharp crack.
Mulder’s eyes slammed shut, an involuntary cry of pain wrenched
from his lips. One hand reflexively rose to soothe his rapidly
bruising cheek but the cuffs prevented it. Hazel eyes cracked open
to glare at Kyle.
“So much for trust.”
McNally had the gun pointed at his head again, but he couldn’t
mask the tremor in his hand. “I don’t know what kind of headgame
you’re trying to play, but it won’t work. You’ll tell me where that
file is or you’ll die chained to that bed.”
He holstered the weapon and walked to the door. “It’s your choice.
Think it over.”
Mulder didn’t want to ask; couldn’t stop himself. “I think better
when I’ve had a glass of water.”
Kyle smiled, but his eyes were steel. “A little thirst won’t kill you,
Agent Mulder. Yet.”
“This is Fox Mulder; I’m not home. Leave a message and I’ll get
back to you.”
The telephone receiver smacked into the cradle with a loud crack.
“Damn it, Mulder! Why won’t you pick up?”
Hands tucked under her arms and top teeth tugging on her bottom
lip, Scully paced the length of her apartment. Two calls last night,
another five this morning, and all had been met with the voice
recording from his answering machine.
Fear gnawed at her stomach like a persistent rodent, last night’s
anger at being ditched long forgotten. She should have known
better. Should have predicted how he would react to her concerns.
She hadn’t planned on telling him about the counselor until they
were home where she could explain it to him calmly, in the right
She huffed loudly. The best laid plans and all that…
Scully paced towards the phone again, her hand automatically
reaching for the receiver before she pulled it away and tucked it
back under her arm.
Well into the early hours of the morning, she had tossed and
turned, wrestling in her mind with everything Mulder had said to
her. And no matter how hard logic argued in favor of PTSD, or
worse yet, brain damage, when she’d taken time to objectively sift
through all the facts, Mulder’s reasoning made a weird kind of
Perhaps it had been easier for her to believe he’d suffered some
kind of mental breakdown due to his near death experience. It sure
as hell beat the alternative: A disgruntled ghost determined to use
her partner as a means to right a perceived wrong? At least
medical science offered her a concrete path to a cure. But now…
She wasn’t so sure.
Everything Mulder had said to her last night… In the cold hard
light of day it didn’t seem quite so improbable. What if he was
right? While her mind had been busily rejecting each outlandish
claim he threw at her, in her heart she had known that what he was
suggesting was more than mere coincidence. How could he know
so much about Sal DeAngelo? And his wife?
Easy answers eluded her. And the truth was frightening. But the
image of Mulder’s stricken face when she’d suggested he had lost
his grip on reality frightened her more. And that, at least, was
something she could fix.
Finding herself back by the phone, Scully snatched up the receiver
and punched the redial button, her fingers nervously tapping
against her leg as the connection was made. On the sixth ring the
answering machine picked up. This time she waited for the beep
and left a message.
“Mulder, it’s me. I’m coming over.”
Weapon holstered and ID tucked into her pants pocket, Scully
snagged her jacket from the coat tree, her cell phone and keys from
the sideboard and headed out the door.
Morning rush hour and badly placed road construction combined
to stretch Scully’s already taut nerves to almost breaking point. By
the time she’d reached Mulder’s apartment, she’d given the car horn
a heavy workout and left a trail of bird-wielding motorists in her
Relieved to find a parking space in front of Mulder’s building,
Scully made a quick inventory of the other vehicles lining the
street. There was no sign of his car.
She ran lightly up the steps leading to the entrance and pulled hard
on the glass door. A young woman, dressed in sweat pants, long
sleeved tee shirt and running shoes stumbled out, her fingers still
wrapped around the handle.
Scully muttered a hasty, “Sorry,” and slid past the woman.
“Oh. It’s you.”
“Excuse me?” Scully half turned, her attention still focused on
getting to the elevator.
“If you’re here to feed his fish,” the woman flicked her eyes
skyward, “you’re too late.”
“I’m sorry, you are…?”
“The poor sap that ended up in the apartment beneath your
Scully shook her head, mouth opening and closing, but unable to
come up with an appropriate response.
The young woman cast Scully a disparaging glare, “Look, I’ve got
to go or I’ll be late for work.” With a quick swivel she turned, her
short, brown ponytail swinging in time to her footfalls as she
jogged down the steps.
Curiosity held Scully momentarily in place before urgency
overrode her confusion and she continued towards the elevator.
Three sharp raps on his door, followed by a succession of heavy
pounding, failed to produce any sign of life from within Mulder’s
Her fingers jittery and clumsy, it took Scully three attempts before
she found the right key and inserted it into the lock.
“Mulder? Are you there?” Scully pushed with her hip. The door
swung open and she stepped inside.
What greeted her sent the hairs on the back of her neck standing on
end and her hand reaching for her weapon. Disengaging the
safety, Scully wrapped her fingers firmly around the grip, only
marginally comforted by the weight of it nestled against her palm.
Mulder’s coat rack lay across the floor, an upturned chair behind
Moving cautiously, she made her way into the living room,
weapon held securely in both hands, barrel aimed towards the
Silence, heavy and ominous filled the apartment. Her own
breathing sounded unnaturally loud in the stillness.
She stepped around a large painting lying on the floor, the frame
splintered and the glass cracked. The fish tank, undamaged and
long devoid of any marine life, gurgled quietly on its shelf–a
deceptive illusion of normality.
The living room looked as if a hurricane had swept though it.
But she’d seen similar destruction before. Years ago, when Mulder
had been searching for a well-hidden bug. At the time Scully had
been surprised by his ability to turn his own apartment into an
admirable impression of a garbage dump. While somewhat taken
aback, she’d kept her surprise in check, reassured by the fact that
he appeared rational and all in one piece.
She wondered if what she was witnessing now was the result of his
frustration. Because he thought she was more willing to believe he
was crazy than accept his theory. …You’d rather believe I’ve lost
my marbles than open yourself to the possibilities.
Is that how he’d interpreted her concern?
Oh, Mulder. How could I have gotten it so wrong?
A quick search of his bedroom and bathroom came up empty.
Scully holstered her weapon and surveyed the devastation around
her with a critical eye.
His coffee table, upside down, was pushed up against the couch.
Most of what usually sat on his desk was now strewn beneath.
Drawers were open and teetering on the edge of their cavities, the
contents spilling onto the floor.
Nearly all of Mulder’s books and CDs had been dumped from their
shelves, piled in an untidy heap beside the couch. Ornaments and
photos, some intact, others smashed to bits, lay in a scattered mess
around the room.
One photo in particular caught her eye. The familiar face of a
dark-haired girl sitting on a tire-swing smiled up at Scully through
a spider web of cracks. The early stirrings of alarm were beginning
to escalate into full-blown panic as Scully scooped up the picture.
Even at his worst, she knew Mulder could never bring himself to
ruin this treasured memory of his sister.
She stood quietly in the middle of the living room, letting her mind
process the situation. What had happened here?
She turned in a slow circle, seeking anything that might offer a
The soft hum of his computer caught her attention. The hard drive
was running, the monitor blank, yet an orange light just above the
power button indicated it was switched on.
Maybe he’d left her a message.
She moved to his desk and jiggled the mouse. The screen burst to
life and Scully’s heart leapt to her throat.
“ACCESS DENIED,” blinked back at her.
Why would Mulder be denied access to his own computer?
Slowly, the pieces began to fall into place, and the picture they
formed made Scully’s blood run cold. Biting down on her bottom
lip and willing her hands to comply, she typed in the correct
password and gained immediate access. No message from Mulder
and no clue as to who or why someone might have been trying to
hack into his computer.
She drew small comfort from the fact that Mulder had probably not
been home when the intruder broke in. If he had, she felt sure he
would have been forced to type in the correct password.
But that still didn’t explain where he was and why someone would
want to search his apartment.
His words from the previous night came back at her. … Feeling
that I’m not myself. …An injustice to correct…I’ve gone over the
case file…If Sal knew they convicted the wrong man…
The wrong man.
If Mulder was correct, then that left the real murderer still at large.
And if he was on to Mulder…
Then she needed help.
Scully pulled her cell phone from her pocket and punched in
Skinner’s number. Long seconds stretched an eternity before her
boss finally picked up.
“Sir, it’s Scully. I’m at Mulder’s apartment.” She took a steadying
breath, surprised at the tremor in her voice.
“Agent Scully? Is there a problem?”
“I think so, sir. Mulder’s apartment has been ransacked. There’s
no sign of him or his car.”
She could almost hear Skinner’s jaw grinding as he processed what
she’d told him.
“What are you saying? Do you think he did it?”
“The thought crossed my mind, until I discovered that someone
attempted to log onto Mulder’s computer–and failed. I know he
was upset after I suggested he speak to a counselor, but… there’s
something more going on here, sir. I’m worried about him.”
“Okay, Scully, I’m in the car now. I’ll call ahead to the Bureau to
arrange for a forensics team, and ask the local PD to put out an
APB on his car. I should be there in…about thirty minutes.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Scully pocketed her cell phone, wondering if she should have told
Skinner about Mulder’s theory. But she was still having her own
difficulties coming to terms with it. She’d wait, and tell him in
Desperate to find Mulder, but mindful of the fact that she now
stood in the midst of a crime scene, Scully decided on a
compromise. A quick trip to the car provided her with a pair of
latex gloves, which she donned before carefully sifting through
some of the papers spread across the floor.
Twenty minutes of fruitless searching failed to supply her with any
new information on Mulder’s whereabouts.
Scully sat on the couch, head cradled in her hands and mind
grappling with everything that had happened in the last 24 hours.
She didn’t hear her boss enter the apartment.
“Sir.” Scully stood, stripping the latex glove from her right hand.
She watched Skinner’s gaze roam across the room, taking in the
destruction, before homing in on her face.
“Forensics should be right behind me. Have you found anything to
indicate where Mulder may have gone?”
“No. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some time to sift through this
mess. Whoever tossed the apartment was thorough.”
Skinner nodded and his eyes cut over to the window. A small
muscle above his cheekbone jittered and he grated his next words
through clenched teeth.
“What the hell is going on, Scully? Last night Mulder broke into a
dead agent’s home and scared the hell out of his wife. Now this.
Did he confide in you when you spoke to him at the police station?
Do you have any idea what he’s gotten himself into?” He tipped his
head toward Mulder’s overturned coffee table. “This would seem to
negate the post-traumatic stress theory.”
Voices drifted down the hallway, followed momentarily by several
agents bearing forensic gear. “Don’t have to ask if we’re in the right
place, ” a dark-haired agent smirked as he set down a box. “How
many times have we been here now?”
Skinner’s eyes narrowed and his voice turned dangerously soft.
“One of our own is missing, Agent. I suggest you cut the bullshit
and concentrate on gathering evidence.”
The reprimand had the desired affect. Scully watched with a
combination of amusement and satisfaction as all three moved
swiftly into professional mode, donning gloves, snapping open
cases and labeling plastic bags. Skinner’s hand on her elbow drew
her toward Mulder’s bedroom, out of earshot.
“Level with me, Scully.”
“I’m not sure where to start.” She laid one finger beneath her nose
and took a deep breath. “Mulder’s been…preoccupied by a serial
murder case involving the death of a woman named Monica
Mitchell. It’s a closed case–solved by the VCS about six months
ago. He believes they convicted the wrong man.”
Skinner folded his arms. “A VCS case? Is that why…?”
“Sal DeAngelo was the profiler on record.”
“Didn’t he know DeAngelo is dead?”
“Oh, he knew.” Scully poked her tongue into her cheek as she
chose her next words. “Sir, Sal DeAngelo died the same night
Mulder was shot. In fact according to Mulder, the incidents
Skinner huffed. He strode several steps down the hall, spun on his
heel and returned to Scully. “I’m not sure I’m reading you, Scully.
What does Agent DeAngelo’s untimely death and a closed murder
case have to do with the fact that Mulder is missing?”
“Mulder is convinced that Sal DeAngelo was murdered because
he’d discovered the identity of the man who really killed Monica
Mitchell. He believes his spirit and Agent DeAngelo’s
became…linked during his near death experience, and that
he’s…channeling Agent DeAngelo.”
“For lack of a better term.” Scully shook her head. “Look, I know
how it sounds. But even I have to admit that Mulder has been
experiencing something not explainable by conventional methods.
Sir, from what I can tell, he’s been dreaming the last moments of
Agent DeAngelo’s life. In detail.”
“Scully, last night you were willing to put this down to stress. Are
you saying you believe him?”
Scully met his gaze squarely. “I’m saying Mulder deserves the
benefit of our doubt. Putting aside the more…paranormal aspects of
his theory, we both know there’s no better profiler. If he says the
courts convicted the wrong man…”
Skinner ran one hand along his jaw. “Then the real killer is still out
Scully’s throat tightened. “Or maybe closer to home.” She forced
the unwanted emotion back into its box, well aware of Skinner’s
scrutiny. “I need to speak to Vickie DeAngelo. Mulder may have
stumbled upon evidence when he was there last night. Something
that could give us a clue as to where he is now.”
Skinner looked at the bustle of activity in Mulder’s living room,
then jerked his head toward the door. “Go. I’ll oversee Forensics
and stay in touch with the police. Report back to me when you
“Thank you, sir. I’ll…”
Scully and Skinner looked up to see the dark-haired agent hovering
near the entryway.
“There’s a woman here who says she might know something about
Agent Mulder’s disappearance.”
Frowning, Scully strode toward the front door. Standing just inside
was a young woman dressed in a smartly tailored navy suit, her
chin-length dark hair cut in a smooth bob. It took a moment for
Scully to recognize her potential witness.
“You live on the third floor. I bumped into you earlier this
The woman nodded, hands fidgeting. “That’s right. My name is
Helen–Helen Rezek. My apartment is right under this one.”
“You have information regarding Agent Mulder?”
“I think so.”
Scully stepped closer, every muscle in her body on alert. “Did you
see something that might help us determine his whereabouts?”
“Yes. Um, that is, no. Not exactly.” Helen’s eyes darted between
Scully and Skinner. “I mean, I saw something, but I’m not sure it’s
“Why don’t you let us be the judge of that?”
“Sure. It’s just–I wouldn’t have thought twice about what happened
if I hadn’t seen all the cars out front this morning and heard the
commotion. I mean, he’s not exactly a model neighbor. He’s got a
lot of weird friends always coming and going–” She darted a
glance at Scully and flushed. “–and I hear him knocking around at
all hours of the night. Not the kind of guy you want living over
your head. Except he’s been really quiet lately, and I thought
maybe he was turning over a new leaf. Which is why I got so
pissed last night.”
Scully clung to her patience. “Last night?”
“This morning, really. Two a.m. and I hear all this godawful
thumping and banging coming from your friend’s apartment. It got
loud enough to wake the dead. So I got dressed and came up to tell
him off.” Helen frowned. “Except he wasn’t here.”
“Not according to his friend. He said Agent Mulder was out of
town, and that he was taking care of his fish.” She looked at the
wreckage with a mixture of fascination and disgust. “Guess that’s
not all he was doing.”
Scully and Skinner exchanged a long look. “I’ll take care of it.”
Skinner gestured toward the hallway. “Go ahead.”
“Thank you.” She impulsively laid one hand on his arm, then
jerked it back, heat rising to her cheeks.
As she squeezed past Helen Rezek and started down the hallway
she heard Skinner speak in what Mulder called his “take no
“You’ve been extremely helpful, Ms. Rezek, but I’m afraid I have
to ask you to bear with us for a bit longer. I’m going to get a sketch
artist over here and…”
He didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep until he woke up, arms pricking
with invisible pins and needles and tongue glued to the roof of his
mouth. Staring blearily at the less than flattering reflection above
his head, he tried vainly to moisten dry lips.
“Suppose room service…’s out of the question.”
It came out little more than a froggy croak, and he grimaced at the
effect on his throat. He levered himself up to peer at the red LED
display of the alarm clock on the nightstand.
8:23. AM or PM? In the windowless, soundproofed motel room
time had a disconcerting ebb and flow. He didn’t think he’d lost an
entire day–had he?
Judging by McNally’s demeanor, he doubted he’d been left alone
and unmolested for more than a few hours. In fact, he was certain
that McNally would only put up with him playing the strong silent
type for so long before deciding a quick bullet to the head was the
He was isolated, helpless, in the hands of a man who had already
killed his best friend with less provocation. Scully liked to tease
him about having more lives than a cat, but he was hard pressed to
see a way out this time.
Scully. A crystal clear image imprinted itself in his mind–the
carefully neutral expression she’d maintained as he’d driven away
from the police station. He’d hurt her.
If those are my last words, I can do better.
He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, praying to a God he’d tried not
to believe in and never allowed himself to trust.
Please, let me do better.
Anger bubbled up, and he jerked hard on the cuffs, heedless of
already abraded wrists. Something, a slight give in the left, caught
his attention. With some pretzel-like twisting he was able to
examine the metal ring more closely. One of the four screws
bolting the faster to the headboard had begun to loosen–no doubt
weakened by countless acrobatic feats Mulder refused to
One screw out of four. It was an outside chance, and even if he
managed to loosen them all, it still left his right arm locked to the
bed. Still, an outside chance was better than no chance, and any
action was preferable to lying there passively, like a lamb awaiting
Mulder gritted his teeth, grasped the chain, and began methodically
wiggling the cuff against the ring. And tried hard not to watch the
The DeAngelo Residence
Scully pressed the doorbell and stepped back, adjusting her suit
jacket with a sharp tug. Around her the neighborhood hummed
with early morning activity: chattering children wound their way
along the sidewalks toward school, a frazzled man juggled a cup of
coffee and briefcase as he attempted to open his car door, a
garbage truck rattled and clanked its way from curb to curb.
By contrast, the home before her was still, silent. Drapes remained
drawn against the bright sunlight and a paper sat untouched on the
front porch. Scully had just raised her hand, intending to ring the
bell a second time, when she heard soft footsteps and the door
cracked open to reveal a pair of wounded brown eyes.
Scully held up her ID and allowed Vickie DeAngelo to scrutinize it
and her face. After a moment the door swung wide and Vickie
motioned her inside.
“Come in. Can I offer you a cup of coffee?”
“Yes, thank you. It’s been a long morning, I’m afraid.”
She followed Vickie down the hallway to the kitchen and took a
seat at the small wooden table. Vickie, clad in faded jeans and a
pale blue sweater, poured coffee into two mugs and set one on the
table. Scully couldn’t help noticing how the clothing hung on the
woman’s slight frame.
Scully shook her head, sipping the steaming liquid. “Black is good.
Nothing to dilute the caffeine.”
Vickie smiled as she added a healthy dollop of cream to her own
cup. “I’m afraid I find coffee completely unpalatable without this.
Sal always said…” She broke off with a look of such intense
sadness that Scully had to look away. Vickie cleared her throat and
continued. “He used to say I didn’t like coffee–I liked cream with
“I’m sorry. You must miss him very much.”
Vickie sat down, swiveling the cup between her palms but not
drinking. “A piece of me is gone forever. It’s not easy learning to
function with a chunk of your soul missing.” The small line
between her brows deepened. “Which is why your partner upset
me so badly yesterday.”
“I’m sorry. Please believe me when I say that Agent Mulder never
intended to hurt you.”
“I just hope you find him so he gets the help he needs. I was a
cop’s wife, Agent Scully; I know the toll that kind of stress can
Scully opened her mouth to protest; thought better of it. “Mrs.
“Vickie. As I said on the phone, I need to know more about what
Agent Mulder may have been doing while he was here yesterday.
I’d like you to tell me, in detail, exactly what happened.”
Vickie brought the mug to her lips and blew gently on the hot
liquid, only to set the cup back down, untouched. “When I came
home from the store yesterday, there was a strange car in the
driveway. I looked around outside the house, but didn’t see anyone,
so I just went ahead and pulled into the garage. Some of the teens
around here aren’t too discriminating about whose driveway they
use to park their cars. I didn’t think too much about it.
“I came into the house and started putting away the groceries I’d
bought. And then I heard a noise.”
Vickie nodded. “From upstairs. A…a kind of a crash, like
something had fallen over.”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t want to panic, I mean, it could’ve been anything. The cat
is always jumping up on the furniture, knocking things over.”
Vickie licked her lips. “I walked into the living room and called up
the stairs.” She chuffed, blushing. “Something stupid, like ‘who’s
there?’ As if a burglar’s going to answer.”
“What happened then?”
“Someone–your partner–answered. Scared the hell outta me. But
that wasn’t the worst part. It was the WAY he answered me that
had me ready to scream.” She shoved aside the cup and laced
trembling fingers together.
“What did he say?”
“He said…” She drew in a long breath, visibly shaken. “He said,
‘It’s just me, sweetheart.'”
It felt like a punch to the gut, but Scully kept her face carefully
neutral. “Go on.”
“It knocked me for a loop. I…I was scared, confused, I didn’t know
what was going on. And he just kept talking to me like I was the
crazy one and he was trying to calm me down, sounding just
like…” A violent shake of her head and she popped up from her
chair. The coffee from her mug found its way into the sink,
followed by hot water and soap.
Scully stood and moved to her side. “Sounded like who, Vickie?”
“You’ll think I’m as nutty as your partner.”
She stopped fiddling with the dishes and pressed the back of one
sudsy hand to her lips. “I was married to the man for nearly fifteen
years. I know the sound of his voice as intimately as I know my
own name, and…” Dark, haunted eyes searched Scully’s face.
“Agent Scully, I would’ve sworn it was Sal talking to me. The
tone, the accent–he even called me ‘cara mia’ the way Sal did.
How…how could that be?” She laughed, a bitter, jagged sound.
“Maybe I am as nutty as your partner.”
“Vickie… I can’t explain what happened last night. I’m not sure
anyone could. What I can tell you is that Agent Mulder has been
experiencing a…connection to your husband. A connection that has
to do with a case Sal profiled.”
Curiosity drove some of the anguish from Vickie’s eyes. “A case?
Is that why he was in Sal’s office?”
Scully concealed her surprise. “Most likely. Is that where he was
when you found him?”
Vickie nodded. “Sal did all his Bureau work up there. It was his
territory, and after getting a peek at some of the casefiles he
worked on I was only too happy to stay out.” She frowned. “What
case was Agent Mulder interested in?”
“The murder of a woman named Monica Mitchell.”
Vickie grimaced. “Oh my God. Not that one. First Sal couldn’t let
go of it and now your partner?”
“What do you mean ‘Sal couldn’t let go of it’?”
“Just what I said. The case was closed. The killer was caught, tried,
and sentenced. But for some reason, Sal couldn’t seem to move on.
He kept saying something wasn’t right, that the pieces just didn’t
fit. It had started to become an obsession. Even Kyle was worried
“Kyle McNally. He was Sal’s closest friend, worked with him at
Scully nodded–the name was vaguely familiar. “Vickie, would
you mind showing me Sal’s office?”
Vickie dried her hands on a dishtowel, teeth gnawing her lip. “I
guess not. You must realize there aren’t any files up there anymore.
Kyle came and took them all back to Quantico after…”
“I know. I’d just like to take a quick look around. Maybe it will
give me an idea as to what Agent Mulder was doing here.”
A moment’s hesitation before Vickie nodded. “Sure. I suppose
there’s no harm in that. Follow me.”
Scully stood in the center of the study, trying to see through
Mulder’s eyes. She ran a finger along the psychology and
criminology texts, studied the diplomas. Something perched on the
edge of the desk caught her eye and she crossed the room to pick it
A mangled photo of four men, frame bent and glass missing.
Vickie reluctantly left her spot in the doorway and took the picture
from her hands. “That’s Sal, Kyle, and two of their friends from
work.” Her index finger caressed the face of a dark-haired man
with olive skin and a beaming grin. “I found it after the police
hauled off your partner yesterday. He must have knocked it onto
the floor when he was using the computer–there was broken glass
“Agent Mulder was on this computer?”
The sharp edge to Scully’s voice pulled Vickie’s attention from the
photo. “Not only was he on the computer, he logged into Sal’s
email. I can’t imagine how he figured out the password.”
“Would you show me?”
Vickie pressed her lips into a thin line. “Look, I appreciate you
wanting to find your partner, but that’s Sal’s private email and your
A deep sigh but Vickie sat down, grumbling as she booted up the
computer. “I don’t know what you think you’re going to find. Kyle
volunteered to check things over last night, and he said it all
looked fine.” She stood and motioned for Scully to take the chair.
Scully clicked her way through the various folders that contained
bits of profiles, reference data, and personal notes. She opened
Sal’s email and scanned through the entries without noting
anything unusual. She was about to shut the window when
something caught her eye.
“Vickie, would you have deleted any of these emails?”
“Deleted? Are you kidding? I can still barely bring myself to dust
in here. Like I said, Kyle came and took all the file folders away,
but otherwise this office is just like Sal left it.” She leaned over
Scully’s shoulder to stare at the screen. “Why?”
Scully pointed to the received dates. “There’s a significant gap
here. It’s as if a week or two of emails is missing or was deleted.”
“Maybe Sal did it.”
Scully stared at the screen, the creeping feeling at the back of her
neck screaming that those missing emails were more than just a
coincidence. That they just might hold the key to Monica
Mitchell’s killer, and Mulder’s location.
There was one sure way to find out. But the woman hovering at her
back wasn’t going to like it.
“Vickie, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take this computer with
The DeAngelo Residence
Scully loaded Sal’s hard drive onto the back seat of the car.
Turning briefly toward the house before shutting the car door, she
caught a glimpse of Vickie watching her through the window, face
tense and arms folded tightly across her chest. Scully’s initial
suggestion that she take the computer had been met with an
emphatic “NO!” and it had taken some persuasive arguing before
Vickie had reluctantly agreed to part with it.
Scully settled herself into the driver’s seat and started the ignition,
hoping she could make good on her promise to have the computer
back in Vickie’s possession by the next evening. Now all she
needed to do was retrieve the missing emails. And she knew just
the guys for the job.
Turning out of the quiet suburban street, Scully joined the stream
of traffic heading back to DC. When she reached a straight stretch
of road she pulled her cell phone from her pocket and hit 4 on the
speed dial. Balancing the phone between ear and shoulder she
waited for someone to pick up.
“Frohike, it’s Scully.”
“Ah, the delectable Agent Scully. What can I do for you this fine
“Unfortunately it’s not so fine. I need your help.”
Scully could almost see the smile slip from his face and the quick
squaring of his shoulders.
“You could say that.” Scully heaved a sigh, and ran her tongue
over dry lips, “It’s a long story, Frohike, but he’s missing. And I
may have a piece of evidence in my possession that will shed some
light on his whereabouts. A hard drive, actually.”
“What can we do?”
She smiled to herself. No questions, no second-guessing. Straight
down to business, just as she’d hoped.
“I need you to meet me at the Hoover. I think there’s a block of
emails that have been deleted. A few days, maybe a week’s worth.
I need you to recover them. Mulder’s safety may depend on it.”
“Hey, you know us, Scully. Our kung fu is the best.”
“I’m counting on it.”
She hit end and had the phone halfway to her pocket when it trilled
in her hand.
“It’s Skinner. Where are you?”
“I’m heading back to the Bureau with Sal DeAngelo’s computer.
“Scully. We’ve had a report on Mulder’s car.”
She swallowed around the lump in her throat and forced her voice
to remain steady.
“Sir, is he…?”
“I don’t know. The details are sketchy. A patrolman spotted the car
on a routine check and called it in.”
“Rock Creek Park. I’m headed there now. Do you know it?”
“Yes. Thank you, sir. I’m on my way.”
Scully dropped her cell on the seat beside her and pushed the gas a
little harder. What the hell had Mulder been doing at Rock Creek
Rock Creek Park
Scully eased her foot off the gas. Tiny stones crunched under the
tires and pinged against the undercarriage as she made her way
along the narrow gravel road. It wasn’t hard to find the right place.
Red and blue lights from a police vehicle telegraphed the location
as effectively as a neon sign.
When she rounded the bend, Mulder’s blue Taurus came into view.
Seeing his car surrounded by law enforcement officers and
forensic specialists sent her stomach plummeting and created an
ache so deep in her chest it momentarily robbed her of breath.
Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off a long rectangular area
surrounding the vehicle–a sight she was all too familiar with in
relation to Mulder.
Scully pulled the car into a vacant space. She sat, engine still
running, hands locked firmly around the steering wheel and eyes
glued to the action ahead of her. She wasn’t sure she could face
this again. Not after everything else they’d just been through. It
was too soon.
A sudden onslaught of emotion constricted her throat, her breath
hitching around a small sob. She pressed the palms of both hands
to her eyes, physically holding the sting of unwelcome tears at bay
while at the same time wishing she had the luxury of simply
surrendering to them.
Mulder had to be running out of chances. He couldn’t continue to
tempt fate and expect to walk away. Somewhere along the line his
luck was bound to run out.
Willing uncooperative limbs to move, Scully pushed her door open
and climbed out of the car. She took a deep breath, straightened her
jacket, and walked toward the crowd of investigators.
A firm hand on her arm halted her progress.
“Sir…” She swallowed, and then forced her mouth to ask the
question she wasn’t sure she wanted him to answer. “Is…Agent
“No, Scully. There’s no sign of him.”
Relief weakened her knees and she felt herself sway. Skinner
steadied her. “Easy does it, Scully.”
“Come and sit down.” His large hand grasping her elbow and
guiding her away from the car was so Mulder-like she wanted to
cry. Instead, she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the
other and convincing herself there was still hope of getting Mulder
Skinner led her to a park bench. She eyed him from beneath a
loose strand of hair before stubbornly pushing it behind her ear.
“I’m fine, sir.”
“Sit down, Agent Scully.” Lips pursed into a tight line of defiance,
already self-conscious over her display of emotion, Scully perched
on the edge, refusing to give the impression she intended to stay.
Skinner dropped down beside her, leaning forward and propping
an elbow on each knee. He clasped his hands and fixed his eyes on
the patch of dirt between his feet.
“Sir, what have they found?”
“The crime scene boys have done a preliminary search of the
vehicle. Nothing appears out of the ordinary. However…” Skinner
cast a quick look in Scully’s direction and sat up straight. “We have
found bloodstains on the ground about 30 feet from the car.”
Scully kept her face impassive, although she was sure the
pounding in her chest could be heard in the next county.
“We’re sending a sample to the lab for analysis.” Skinner paused
and met Scully’s gaze, his voice losing some of its official edge.
“We’ll find him, Scully.”
Scully laid the back of her hand over her mouth, stilling the quiver
in her bottom lip. Not now. Not here.
“They also found faint tire tracks near the blood. They’re not in
great shape but we’re making a cast. It’s the best we’ve got at the
“Actually, no, it’s not, sir. I’ve got Sal DeAngelo’s hard drive in
Skinner looked startled. “How did you…? No, don’t tell me.”
“When Mulder paid his little visit to the DeAngelo residence
yesterday, Vickie found him at her husband’s computer. I checked
it over. I’m not certain, but some of Agent DeAngelo’s emails may
have been deleted. I have a strong feeling they are connected to
Skinner nodded, stroking the line of his jaw with his finger. “We
can get it to the lab and have…”
“Sir…I’d rather keep this part off the record. If what I suspect is
true, Mulder may be the person responsible for deleting those files.
He would never destroy evidence without a good reason, but then,
he hasn’t exactly been himself lately. I just think it would be better
to keep our cards close to our chest for now.”
Skinner tipped his head to the side, eyes narrowing, “What do you
have in mind, Scully?”
“The Lone Gunmen. I’ve arranged for them to meet me at the
Skinner raised an eyebrow. “You’re having them go to the
“I know, sir, but I didn’t feel comfortable keeping such a key piece
of evidence outside normal channels. I know their methods can be
a bit…unorthodox, but if anyone can recover those missing emails,
they can. And we’re running out of time. They can work in the X-
Files office; that way the hard drive is still in our custody.”
A brief hesitation, but Skinner nodded. “You’re right to see that the
computer doesn’t leave our sight. It could affect the credibility of
any evidence we might recover, when it comes time to prosecute
our killer. ” He grimaced. “Just keep an eye on them.”
“I will.” A sudden thought occurred to Scully. “When they
searched Mulder’s car, did they find the Mitchell case file?”
“No. As far as I know they’ve found nothing except for a few
personal items. Why?”
Scully chewed the inside of her cheek before continuing. “Mulder
told me he’d been reading the Mitchell file. He even offered to
show it to me last night, which means he had it in his possession. I
haven’t seen it at my place, so it should have been in his apartment
or with him when he came here.” She surprised Skinner by
swearing softly. “Without that file we’re working blind.”
Skinner nodded slowly. “I think it’s about time we spoke to
someone who was on the case with DeAngelo.”
“Sir, if you’ve no objections, I’d like to contact Kyle McNally. He
was the agent in charge and a close friend of Sal DeAngelo. I want
to speak to the man convicted of Monica’s murder, and Agent
McNally will be able to provide me with his name and where he’s
“Go ahead, Scully. Forensics is almost finished with the car and
“There’s one problem. The boys should be on their way to the
Bureau. The hard drive is still our best lead. They need to begin
working on it as soon as possible.”
Skinner worked his jaw, gaze traveling between Scully and the
activity surrounding Mulder’s car. He sighed. “Give the computer
to me. I’ll babysit the three stooges.” A slight twist to his mouth
took the sting out of his words. “And you can go speak to
“Thank you, sir.”
Violent Crimes Unit
“Hey, McNally! You coming to the game tonight?” Corey
Peterson leaned back in his chair. Index finger hooked into the
knot of his tie, he yanked it down to reveal the top button of his
shirt. With practiced dexterity he popped the button with thumb
and forefinger and let out a quick sigh of relief.
“Hey! Earth to McNally.”
Kyle McNally stared intently at his computer monitor, eyes fixed
on the image of flying windows leaping toward him. But his
thoughts had turned inward. His mind’s eye viewed an
unwelcome slideshow of a once beautiful woman covered in blood.
Of a man, caught in the glare of headlights, face twisted in
confusion, then frozen in horror.
“Hey!” A firm slap on his shoulder sent Kyle to his feet, hands
clutching the shirt of the man standing before him. It took a
moment for the bewildered face only inches from his own to
register as that of Agent Peterson.
He released him immediately.
Shock sent Corey Peterson reeling backward. Mischief replaced
by confusion, he dusted off his shirt and massaged the area where
fisted knuckles had dug into soft flesh.
McNally ran a trembling hand through his hair. “Jeezus, Peterson,
what are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?”
Peterson eyed him suspiciously, “You okay, Kyle?”
McNally scrubbed at his face. When he answered an underlying
irritation coated his words. “Yeah, I’m okay. What is it with
everyone around here and their sudden interest in my health?”
“You gotta admit, McNally, you haven’t exactly been yourself
lately. Is there something you want to get off your chest?”
A sudden stab of panic turned his blood to ice. He stared at
Peterson, eyes narrowed, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Peterson dropped his voice an octave. “Hey, it was tough on you
when Sal died. Hell, it was tough on all of us. I know it bugs the
hell out of you that we haven’t been able to catch the creep who did
it. And…” Peterson paused, choosing his words carefully. “I saw
the memo this morning.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Peterson? What memo?”
“You haven’t heard?”
“About the new profiler.”
“McNally! Pick up the phone!”
Both men turned to see an older, disgruntled agent seated across
the room, one hand cupping the mouthpiece of his handset, the
other signaling for McNally to take the call.
Giving Peterson an irritated glare, Kyle turned back to his desk and
scooped up the receiver.
“This is Kyle McNally.”
“Agent McNally, I’m Special Agent Dana Scully. I work in the
Hoover. We haven’t actually met, but I think you may be able to
help me with a case my partner was looking into.”
An unpleasant tingle ran up McNally’s spine. He turned to Corey,
still lingering at his side, and pressed one hand over the phone.
“Private call. Give me some space, will you?”
Peterson held his gaze for a second before returning to his own
desk, brows pulled into a tight frown, muttering to himself about
‘only trying to help.’
Kyle pitched his voice smooth and friendly. “Agent Scully, what
can I do for you?”
“My partner, Agent Mulder, is missing, and I think his
disappearance may be connected to a case you worked with Sal
DeAngelo. It involved the murder of a woman, Monica Mitchell.”
Kyle fought to keep his tone neutral, “Yes, I know the one you’re
referring to. We caught the killer. He’s already stood trial and been
“Where is he currently being held?”
He ground his teeth together–there was no way to withhold such
information without further raising her suspicions. “Maryland
Correctional Adjustment Center. But I don’t see how that…”
“We have reason to believe you may have convicted the wrong
man. Agent Mulder…”
“Agent Scully, I know all about Agent Mulder. I got a frantic call
from my best friend’s widow after she found him, uninvited, in her
home. I suggest…”
“With all due respect, Agent McNally, from what Vickie
DeAngelo has told me, her husband held the same concerns as
Agent Mulder. She told me that he couldn’t put the case to rest,
said there were certain things that just didn’t add up. He
“Sal was under a lot of stress. He thought he saw something that
wasn’t there. Trust me, we got the right guy. We had hard physical
evidence–his prints were on the murder weapon and Monica’s
blood was all over his clothes. This is a cold-blooded killer, Agent
Scully, responsible not only for Monica Mitchell’s death, but four
other young women, as well. A jury found him guilty, and now
he’s going to die for his crimes.”
“You didn’t share Agent DeAngelo’s doubts?”
“Look, Agent Scully, Sal was my friend. He was an excellent
profiler, but he had an obsessive streak a mile wide. This wasn’t
the first time he couldn’t let a case go.” Kyle dabbed at a drop of
sweat sliding down the side of his jaw. “I’m sorry your partner is
missing. I’m not sure what he’s told you, but after the way he was
“Thank you for your candor, Agent McNally, but I need to check
some things out for myself. Please give me the name of the man
who was convicted.”
Hand slick with perspiration, Kyle locked his fingers in a firm grip
around the telephone receiver. His jaw ached with the effort of
maintaining control. Reluctantly, he supplied Scully with Gary
The erratic clatter of fingers tapping on keyboards and the friendly
buzz of bullpen banter came to a brief lull as Kyle slammed the
receiver back in its cradle. He gave the trashcan a satisfying kick
and ran a trembling hand through sweat-dampened hair.
McNally swiped at his coat, draped over the back of his chair,
cursing loudly when it snagged around the backrest. With an extra
tug he pulled the coat free and snatched his briefcase from beside
“Hey, McNally! Where you going?” Peterson rose halfway to his
“I’m taking some personal time.” Without looking back, Kyle
strode purposefully toward the exit.
Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center
Scully handed over her weapon, squaring her shoulders as she
waited for the bars to slide open. Clad in a bright orange coverall,
Gary Jansen sullenly watched her step into the cell.
“Just my luck. First beautiful woman I see in longer than I can
remember, and she’s a Fed.”
Scully folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “Special Agent
Dana Scully. How did you know I was FBI?”
Jansen snorted. “I’ve talked to enough of you to last a lifetime.
Eventually you all start looking alike.” He shifted on his bunk so
his back was propped against the wall. “What do you want?”
Scully took a half step closer. “I’d like to ask you a few questions
about Monica Mitchell.”
Dark eyes narrowed. “Look, you’ve got me right where you wanted
me. Why the hell can’t you leave me alone? No one believes a
word I say anyway.”
“What if I were to tell you I have reason to believe you did not kill
Something–hope?–flickered in Jansen’s eyes before they went flat
and hostile. “Yeah? Well it’s too bad you weren’t around when it
counted, lady. In case you haven’t noticed, the jury already made
Scully bit the inside of her cheek, struggling to remain calm,
professional. “Mr. Jansen, someone very, very close to me may be
in the hands of the real killer. Now I realize you don’t know me,
and have little cause to trust me. On the other hand, you have
nothing to lose by talking to me. And possibly everything to gain.”
She submitted to his scrutiny for several long minutes before he
nodded. “All right. Go ahead.”
Relief left her feeling weak-kneed, but she forged ahead. “What
really happened the night Monica Mitchell died?”
Jansen dry washed his face with both hands, then let his head drop
back against the wall with a thump. “Somewhere around eight
o’clock that night I drove to Monica’s house. She hadn’t been
returning my calls, so I’d decided to just show up on her doorstep.”
“My understanding is that you’d broken up nearly a year previous.
Why were you trying to see her? Were you hoping to rekindle the
Gary snorted. “Hardly. She owed me money, nearly five hundred
bucks. She kept promising she’d pay me back and I’d let it slide for
months. Then the brakes on my car went out and I needed the
“So you drove over without calling first. What happened when you
“I rang the bell, pounded on the door–no answer. I started to get
pissed off because I was pretty certain she was there. Her car was
in the driveway and when I walked around the house I could see
lights and hear music playing.” He paused and grimaced. “Okay,
here comes the stupid part.
“I still had a key to her place. Don’t ask me why–I’d been in
another relationship for months and I certainly had no intention of
ever using it. I was just so damn tired of Monica giving me the
runaround and there it was, hanging on my keychain.”
“So you let yourself into the house,” Scully murmured.
Jansen began rhythmically tapping his head against the cinderblock
wall. “Ever notice how you can justify practically anything when
you feel like you’re getting screwed? I told myself it wasn’t
breaking and entering because, after all, she’d given me the key.
And besides, I was entitled to that money. If I gave Monica a little
scare in the process, it was no more than she deserved.” His lips
twisted into a bitter smile. “If she could see me now. Too bad she’ll
never know she got the last laugh.”
He sucked in a long shaky breath. “She was face down on the
floor, halfway between the living room and the kitchen. “I… at first
it was like my brain couldn’t understand what my eyes were
seeing. I thought she must’ve hurt herself or something–how’s that
for dense? I ran over and scooped her up in my arms, tried to get
her to wake up, t…to breathe. There was so much blood.”
Scully observed Jansen carefully during his speech. She was
interested to note that despite his earlier bravado he appeared
deeply affected by the memories. Increased respiration, the slight
stutter, the nervous movements of head and hands. If Jansen was
faking, he was one hell of an actor.
“You said you tried to get her to breathe. Was she still alive?”
“No.” Jansen spit out the word, sharp and cold. “When I turned her
over, her eyes were wide open. And the knife…there was a knife
sticking out of her belly. That was when I realized just what I’d
stumbled onto. And how it was going to look when the cops
“So you panicked and ran.”
“Damn straight, I did! I never belonged in that apartment in the
first place, and now I had her blood all over me.”
“And your prints on the knife.”
“I tried to wipe them off. Guess I was too rattled to do a good
enough job.” His lip curled. “Shoulda just left it in her. That’s what
I get for being sentimental.” But the pain in his eyes belied the
brutality of his words.
“I’d say that’s what you get for fleeing a crime scene. You might
not be here right now if you’d faced up to what happened.”
“Yeah, right. You’ve gotta admit, Agent Scully, I was the perfect
patsy. It’s a story as old as time–the ex-lover becomes insanely
jealous over the guy who replaced him. Hell, Monica and I were
never shy about fighting in public, before or after we split. There
was no shortage of witnesses to that at the trial.” He sat forward,
cradling his head in his hands. “Bad enough when I thought I was
taking the rap for Monica’s murder. But when they dragged out
those other dead women…”
Scully didn’t respond for a moment, replaying Jansen’s words.
“Gary, are you saying Monica was involved with someone?”
A nasty laugh. “Agent Scully, Monica was always involved with
someone. She wasn’t the type to let the sheets get cold, if you know
what I mean.”
“Do you know if the police checked him out?”
Jansen’s head popped up. “As a suspect? No, I don’t think so.”
“Because they already had their man.” The sneer faded and he
sighed. “Anyway, Monica was seeing the guy on the down low. He
A spark of hope flared, warming the cold inside her. Somehow
Scully knew instinctively that this was it. This is what she’d come
“She told you about him?”
“She liked to rub my nose in it now and then. See, Monica was an
ambitious little lady and I never really measured up to her
standards. I was good enough for a screw and a few laughs, but she
dropped me like a hot potato when Mr. Wonderful came along.”
Tamping down her excitement was excruciating, but Scully kept
her features bland. “What did she tell you about him?”
“Nothing specific. That he had a hotshot job and was climbing his
way up the ladder. That he’d tell his wife he was going out of town
on business and then sneak off to some sleazy motel with Monica.”
He rolled his eyes. “And that he was gonna get a divorce so he
could marry her.”
“You didn’t believe that last part?”
Jansen shrugged. “I guess it’s possible. I learned a long time ago
not to underestimate Monica. She might’ve looked like Barbie on
the outside, but on the inside…”
His lips curved. “On the inside, she was Xena. Nothing stood
between her and what she wanted. Not for long.”
Except this time, Scully thought. This time, she met her match.
“Thank you for talking to me, Mr. Jansen,” she said aloud. “You’ve
been very helpful.”
“Is that it?” He sprang to his feet, though he was careful not to
approach her. “That’s all? What about me? If you believe I didn’t
kill Monica, what are you going to do to get me out of here?”
Scully signaled the guard to open the cell. “I’m going to find the
man who did.”
For the first time, Jansen’s composure broke. “Please, hurry.
There’s not much time.”
I know, she wanted to scream. Instead she walked briskly past the
whistles and catcalls and tried not to wonder if she was already too
Mulder collapsed against the mattress, sweat trickling down his
temples to darken the satin sheets. His head ached, his shoulder
burned, and the inside of his mouth had turned to sandpaper.
Nearly seven hours of focused effort had earned him a bruised
wrist, bloody fingertips, and the three screws squirreled carefully
under the pillow. All for naught, unfortunately, due to the one
stubborn holdout that refused to budge. The steel ring holding the
left handcuff jiggled and spun but refused to pull free.
Mulder’s eyes fluttered closed and he drifted, exhaustion
temporarily overcoming fear. Not awake, not fully asleep, images
flickered through his mind, jumbled and hazy.
Soft, strong hands moving over the tight muscles in his shoulders
and chest, first soothing, then arousing. Reaching up to tangle his
fingers in hair like red silk, pulling her down, lips brushing, then
clashing. Breathless laughter: Mulder, this is supposed to be
therapy. Silencing her with another kiss: It’s working, I feel better
…I feel better already, Scully. Why should I have to sit around for
another three weeks before…? Blue eyes radiate anger and tears
while her hand traces still tender flesh. Damn it, Mulder, for once
in your life can’t you exercise a little self-preservation? This time
you weren’t poised on the edge of the abyss–you were in freefall.
Her voice breaks and suddenly only anger remains, like a knife to
his heart. Don’t you get it? For three minutes I lost you…
…I’ve lost you. Blue eyes shimmer, darken. Short copper tresses
lengthen to a cascade of long black curls. She drops to her knees,
heedless of the cold, muddy ground and traces a name etched into
stone. I told you to call the damn tow truck. If you’d listened to me
the first time, this never would’ve happened. If I’d gotten there five
minutes sooner… Sobs wrack her slender shoulders and she
presses her cheek to the icy granite. Oh, God, Sal, I’m sorry. Five
minutes and I’ve lost you forever…
He groans, struggling to reach past an impenetrable barrier.
Vickie. Cara mia…
“…Vickie. So sorry.”
Pain exploded along Mulder’s jaw, wrenching him to full
consciousness. He blinked, struggling to think past the buzzing in
his ears and the taste of copper on his tongue. Kyle stood over him,
fist upraised, his face nearly purple with anger.
“Hi, honey. How was your day?” His rapidly swelling lip
contributed an unintended but effective lisp.
“I want you to tell me where the disk is–now–or I’m going to
show you just how tired I am of your little Twilight Zone act.”
“I’ve heard dehydration causes memory loss.”
They glared at each other in Mexican standoff fashion for several
long minutes before Kyle stalked into the bathroom, cursing under
his breath. Mulder heard the crackle of cellophane wrapping and
then the blessed patter of water on plastic. He propped himself up
on his elbows, remembering the loosened cuff when it rattled.
Darting a quick look at the bathroom, he carefully shifted his body
to conceal the loosened bracket.
Kyle returned, water in hand, but simply stood beside the bed.
Mulder struggled unsuccessfully to conceal how desperately he
wanted the contents of the cup. He instinctively ran his tongue over
cracked lips, though his mouth was too dry to provide any real
“Maybe you should decide how badly you want this.” Kyle waved
the water in front of his face.
“I could say the same about the disk.”
Kyle gritted his teeth, grabbed Mulder by the hair, and thrust the
cup to his lips. Mulder gulped down two delicious mouthfuls
before the water was swiftly withdrawn. He pressed his lips tightly
together to hold back a whimper of frustration.
“That’s enough for now.”
Mulder pulled his lips into his mouth, sucking every drop of
moisture from them. “You’re a real prince.”
“Give me the location of the disk and you can have all the water
you can drink.”
“Last I heard, dead men don’t need much.”
He saw the fist coming this time, but couldn’t move fast enough to
dodge it. Mulder’s head rocked back and warmth gushed from his
“I’m tired of the smart mouth, too. You’d better come clean or…”
Kyle’s voice faded as the white noise in his head grew louder and
his vision swam in and out of focus. This time he clearly felt
himself shoved gently aside as another presence took over.
“Managgia! You really think he’s gonna give up the only thing
keeping him alive? If so, you’re stupid as well as crazy, paisan’.”
Kyle stumbled back a step, eyes huge. “I told you to stop that.”
“You’re the one who needs to stop. How far you gonna take this?
You cut up your girl, pinned it on an innocent man, ran down your
best friend like a dog in the street. Now you’re ready to kill this
poor schmuck? When’s it gonna end, Goombah?”
Kyle dropped the cup; clapped his hands over his ears. “Shut up,
SHUT UP!” He lowered his hands and stabbed one finger at
Mulder’s chest. “You’re dead, paisan’. I watched them bury you. So
you can stop spouting this bullshit, because I’m not buying it.”
The eyes regarding him darkened to black. “You watched ’em put
me in the ground, all right. And you were right there to comfort
Vickie when she was ready to follow me. How’d it feel, huh?
Holding my wife in your arms, knowing you’re responsible?” His
voice rose in an eerie imitation of Kyle’s. “We’re here for you,
Vickie. Anything you need, day or night, you just call.”
Kyle’s face went chalk white and he swayed on his feet. “That’s
imposs… How could you…?”
His lips stretched into a bloody grin. “Because I was there, you
bastard. I was there.”
Kyle turned and fled.
The X-Files Office
Their bickering was driving her nuts.
“Are you about finished with that?”
“Keep your pants on, Hickey. I’m going as fast as I can.”
“Which is exactly why you should’ve let me do it.”
“Like you’d be any faster.”
“My mother would be faster.”
“Oh yeah? Well, your mother is…”
“Gentlemen, this isn’t helping Mulder. Frohike, move over a
“Ow! Watch it, that’s my foot!”
Scully shoved back her chair, stood, and strode out of the office,
the staccato tap of her heels barely registering above the raised
voices. She stabbed the elevator button with her thumb, folded her
arms, and tucked chin to chest as she listened to the car rumble
down the shaft.
She’d been going over her notes, trying to fit the pieces she’d
gleaned from Vickie and Gary into some sort of cogent whole. One
that would somehow point her in the direction of the killer–and
Mulder. Her head throbbed from too much caffeine and too little
sleep, and her body felt like a tightly coiled spring. One more
minute cooped up with the poster triplets for annoying computer
geeks and she wouldn’t be responsible for her own actions.
The elevator doors slid open and she nearly collided with Skinner,
who was studying a piece of paper in his hand. Scully took three
quick steps backward, allowing the AD to exit the car.
“Excuse me, sir, I was just…” She shook off her surprise. “Is there
something new on the case?”
“Ted just dropped off the composite put together by Mulder’s
neighbor. I thought you’d like to see it before we start distributing
Scully accepted the proffered sketch, a frown creasing her pale
brow as she scrutinized the bland features. “Nothing particularly
striking. Didn’t the guy have any distinguishing features–a mole,
Skinner cupped the back of his neck, massaging the flesh with a
grimace. “Ted said it took her a long time. She claims it was pretty
dark in the apartment and he only opened the door a crack, so she
couldn’t see much.”
She started to hand the sketch back to Skinner; hesitated, her frown
deepening. “Still… There’s something about him, about the eyes,
that seems almost…familiar.”
Skinner ducked his head to better see her face. “Funny you should
mention the eyes. According to Ted, that was the one feature she
was completely sure of. She said they ‘gave her the creeps.'”
Scully studied the face a moment longer, then returned the paper to
Skinner with a shake of her head. “It’s not going to be much help,
I’m afraid. That could be anyone of a hundred guys–a thousand.
We need something concrete, damn it, we’re chasing shadows.”
Skinner’s eyebrow lifted at the slip. “How did things go with
Jansen? Did you learn anything new?”
“Only that Monica Mitchell was an ambitious woman who knew
exactly what she wanted. And that she was involved with a married
“You think he could be the killer?”
Scully pursed her lips. “I think maybe Monica wouldn’t take ‘no’
for an answer.”
“Then we need to concentrate our efforts on finding out just who
this mystery man is.” Skinner thrust his chin toward the office
door. “Have they had any success?”
“Getting on my nerves, yes; with the computer, nothing yet.”
The acid tone brought Skinner’s eyes back to her face. “Scully,
we’re doing everything possible to find Mulder. It’s been less than
twenty-four hours, you can’t expect…”
“With all due respect, sir, if the man in Mulder’s apartment found
what he was looking for, Mulder may already be dead. If by some
chance, however, he left empty handed, Mulder’s only hope may
be for us to find it first. Whatever ‘it’ is.” She glared up at him,
anger her only shield against the deeper emotion she refused to
reveal. “I can expect, sir, and I do.”
Before Skinner could respond, Byers barreled out of the office. He
pulled up short when he saw Scully and Skinner.
“We’ve found something. I think this is it.”
Scully darted a quick glance at the AD before following Byers into
the office. Langly and Frohike, clustered in front of the computer,
parted like the Red Sea when they saw Skinner on Scully’s heels.
“It’s an email with an attached photo, nearly a year old,” Frohike
explained as Scully skimmed the writing on the screen. “Looks like
it came into the guy’s work computer and he forwarded it to this
…wonder how the lovely Mrs. Kyle McNally would feel…
Scully’s sharp intake of air drew four pair of eyes. She gripped the
edge of the table, knees turned to jelly. “Oh my god.”
Alarmed by the uncharacteristic behavior, Skinner grasped her
elbow. “What is it, Agent?”
“Scroll down to the photo.” She forced the words past numb lips,
the sound of her own heartbeat deafening.
There was a brief power struggle as both Frohike and Langly went
for the mouse. With a low growl of impatience, Skinner batted
away their hands and took control of the device himself. He gave a
cursory glance at the photo before returning his gaze to the more
troubling sight of Scully’s chalk white face.
“Scully, what is it?”
“Let me see that sketch again.”
Skinner handed her the drawing, grinding his teeth as he waited her
out. She studied the drawing, then the photo, finally holding the
piece of paper beside the monitor. The resemblance between the
two was obvious.
“I’d say we found our killer.” Skinner frowned, reaching out to take
the sketch from her trembling fingers. “Let’s get a copy of that
photo, start running it…”
“I know who it is, sir. And I’m guessing you do, too.”
Her soft words had the impact of a scream. Skinner broke off,
expression blank with surprise. “What?”
“I saw that face just this morning in a photo on Sal DeAngelo’s
desk. And I spoke to the man not more than four hours ago when I
called for information on Gary Jansen. Sir, that’s Kyle McNally.”
Skinner’s incomprehension faded to disbelief. “McNally? Isn’t he a
profiler in the BSU?”
Scully nodded, some of the color returning to her cheeks as anger
replaced shock. “Profiler, ASAC, Sal DeAngelo’s best friend.” A
pause. “Monica Mitchell’s killer.”
“And Mulder’s kidnapper.” Skinner strode over to Mulder’s desk
and picked up the phone.
Scully turned back to the screen. “Jansen said they’d sneak off to a
motel. That must be where this photo was taken.”
“Either that or the dude has the kind of bedroom most guys just
dream about–” Langly grunted as Byers elbowed him in the ribs.
“Is there anything else we can do to help, Agent Scully?”
“I’ll need a copy of this file on a disk. Maybe with a little
enhancement we’ll be able to pick up a detail that can tell us where
this place is.”
“Your wish is our command.” The response was delivered without
the usual leer, communicating Frohike’s worry more clearly than
Scully forced a smile, ashamed by her earlier impatience. “Thanks.
You three have been an enormous help.”
“You know we’d do anything for you and Mulder.” Byers glanced
a bit nervously at Skinner, who was barking into the phone. “If you
don’t mind, we’re going to keep looking. Just in case there’s
“Of course. Take all the time you need.”
Skinner hung up the phone. The clenched jaw and stiff shoulders
told Scully all she needed to know.
“He’s not there now, is he?”
“He left around noon–hasn’t been back. No one seems to know
where he is or how to get in touch with him. I can try calling his
“I doubt he’s got Mulder stashed in the basement.” Scully stared at
the disk Frohike placed into her hand. “I don’t know how Sal
DeAngelo came into possession of this email, but it may be the
only thing that’s kept Mulder alive. And our only hope for finding
him that way.”
Skinner gestured toward the door. “Then I suggest, Agent, that you
The exquisite torment of thirst, the sensation that his mouth had
somehow become one with the Gobi Desert, had been completely
eclipsed by this new misery. Mulder blinked back sweat that
persistently dripped into his right eye and tried to concentrate on
the gradually loosening handcuff rather than his screaming
“Good thing…I never had that…cup of coffee.” He ground the
words through gritted teeth as he worked the bracket back and
forth. “Something to be said…for dehydration.”
His eyes sought out the clock and he tugged harder, grimacing at
the bright sparks of pain in his wrist. McNally had been gone over
an hour. The little voice in his head–the one he ignored all too
frequently–whispered that it was now or never. McNally was
nearly out of patience, and Mulder was nearly out of time.
“Some mess you got me into, paisan’. Set up the chess board–I got
a feeling we’ll be meeting face to face real soon.”
The intruder that had somehow taken up residence in his soul
remained silent, and yet… Mulder could feel him there, grief and
anger simmering on a low boil. He shivered, torn between dread
and empathy, and rattled both handcuffs.
“Should see me now, Scully. You thought…I was crazy…when I
dreamed about him.” He punctuated each pause with a vicious
yank on the chains. “Now I’m actually…talking to him.”
A grinding scrape of metal on metal and the final screw flew
through the air, landing on the carpet with a barely audible plop.
Mulder lifted his newly-freed arm and watched a trickle of blood
run from wrist to elbow, momentarily mesmerized.
Shaking off the shock-induced stupor, he sat up, only to groan in
frustration. Focused on removing the loose bracket, it had never
occurred to him that the phone was on the left side of the large bed.
Even with his wrist no longer tethered to the headboard, his
fingertips barely brushed the corner of the nightstand. Mulder
lunged against the right cuff, nearly pulling his shoulder from its
socket, to no avail. His lifeline to Scully perched cheerily on the
table, oblivious to his curses.
Mulder slumped back onto the mattress and glared at his reflection.
Hours of tedious, agonizing work and what did he have to show for
his pain? No means to call for help, no weapon… The only object
within reach was the empty cup, and the damn thing was made of
“What’s up with that?” he growled at himself in the overhead
mirror. “Silk sheets on the bed and they can’t afford real glass…”
He watched a slow, cunning smile spread across the face of the
man in the mirror.
Mulder scooted onto his knees and turned toward the mirrored
headboard. Grasping firmly the bracket that now dangled from the
left handcuff, he brought it sharply against the glass with as much
force as he could muster. There was a crunch like breaking
eggshells, and several hairline cracks radiated out from the point of
impact. Clamping his lower lip between his teeth, Mulder raised
the bracket and smashed it against the mirror again. This time the
glass shattered, several shards popping out to land on the pillow.
Mulder picked up the largest, sharp as a knife and tapered to a
wicked point. No match for a gun, but maybe he could make sure
McNally had some ‘splainin’ to do back at the bullpen–and get in a
few licks for the man he’d failed. He tucked the other pieces of
glass beneath the pillow.
“Bring it on.”
Mulder flung himself onto his back, pressing the broken bracket
back into the headboard as best he could.
“There. What is that?” One manicured fingernail pointed at a white
patch on the purple sheets.
“Looks like a towel. Hang on.”
Rob Eddings, the irreverent whiz kid of photographic evidence,
zoomed in on the object. Several clicks of the mouse, and Scully
and Skinner could clearly see a white towel draped across the end
of the bed.
Skinner leaned closer, adjusting his glasses. “See the gold near the
top? Looks like some kind of emblem.”
“Probably a logo for the hotel.” Eagerness seeped into Scully’s
voice. “Can you clean it up enough to read it?”
“Patience, grasshopper. I’m trying.”
Scully realized she was breathing down the Edding’s neck; stepped
back a pace, flushing when she felt Skinner’s gaze. “I know you
“There…we…go.” More clicks and the gold lettering on the towel
sharpened. Rob frowned. “That’s about as clear as she’s gonna get,
“Looks like an A.” Scully traced the letter, careful not to touch the
screen. “Here’s the point. And this is the cross bar.”
“Except there’s something running diagonally through it. It almost
looks like a fork.” Skinner looked down at Eddings. “We’ll need a
printout of this.”
“Gotcha covered.” Eddings reached over, pulled the photo off the
printer and handed it to Scully. “Hope it helps you find Agent
“So do I.” Scully smiled at the young agent. “Thanks, Rob. Hope
we didn’t cause you any trouble, jumping the line like this.”
Eddings chuckled. “No problem. I’ll just blame it on the AD.”
Skinner gave him a quelling look that appeared to go completely
unnoticed. Not for the first time Scully reflected that Eddings and
Mulder were two branches off the same tree.
“I’m going to start searching for hotels online,” she told Skinner as
they stepped into the elevator. “If we proceed from the assumption
that the name begins with the letter A, and factor in
the…peculiarities of room design and clientele, we should be able
to narrow the field to a manageable number.”
“The DC police have put out an APB on Kyle McNally and I’ve
got some of our own people looking for him, as well. If he
surfaces, we’ll be waiting.”
Scully stared at the floor indicator light as it tracked their descent.
“I’m afraid I tipped him off when I called about Jansen. He knows
I’ve connected Mulder’s disappearance to the Mitchell case.”
“You had no way of knowing one of our own would be the killer.”
Skinner shook his head. “His own wife hasn’t got a clue. She told
me he’s been sent out of town on a case. Asked if she could pass a
message to him when he calls home.”
The elevator lumbered to a halt and the doors opened. Skinner cast
a final intent look at Scully’s face before stepping out. “I’m going
to check in with the boys in blue. Keep me apprised of the
The doors began to roll shut but Skinner stopped them with an
outflung arm. “Scully, if not for your sound investigative
technique, we wouldn’t have that photo. Whatever happens…you’ve
done everything you could for Mulder.”
She tipped her chin up and coolly met his concerned gaze. “I
respectfully disagree, sir. I haven’t found him–yet.”
She held on to the illusion of confidence until Skinner removed his
arm and allowed the doors to close. Sagging against the back wall,
Scully pressed trembling fingers to her lips.
“When I bail you out of this one I expect some serious groveling,
Mulder. Don’t you dare deprive me of the pleasure.”
She’d regained her composure by the time the elevator reached the
basement. The Gunmen were still huddled around DeAngelo’s
computer, though Frohike and Langly apparently had put aside
their squabbling. Scully sank into her chair with a sigh and booted
up her computer.
“Find anything new?”
Langly glanced up from the screen, poking at his glasses with one
long finger. “Only that the dude bookmarked some righteous porn
“Terrific,” Scully muttered.
She’d pulled up Google and was beginning a search when Frohike
wandered over. He lifted the photo and squinted at it.
“Well, what do ya know? The guy was playing nookie with her at
The Atlantis, huh? At least he has good taste.”
She was concentrating so hard it took Scully a moment to process
his words. Her head snapped up. “You recognize that logo?”
Frohike snorted as if the very question insulted his intelligence.
“Of course I do. It’s The Atlantis. Classiest no-tell motel there is.
Way I hear it, they cater to all appetites. If you can’t find it there, it
By this time Byers and Langly had picked up on the exchange and
come over to stare at the picture in their friend’s hand.
“He’s right. See? This object across the ‘A’ is a trident. That’s the
Atlantis’s trademark.” Byers flushed at Scully’s raised eyebrow.
“Um–so I’ve heard.”
“How far is it?”
A brief, silent consultation before Frohike spoke up. “It’s in
Hagerstown, about an hour from here. I can draw you a map.”
Scully stood and snatched up the phone. “Do it.”
He’d have sworn he was too wired to sleep, but his body had other
ideas. A puff of cool air carrying the faint scent of fall leaves and
fireplaces brought Mulder out of a light doze. He winced when his
fingers closed reflexively around the glass shard, nearly piercing
the skin. Leaning up on his elbows, he scooted back toward the
headboard, attempting to shield the broken bracket with his body
as much as possible.
McNally pocketed his keys but remained standing just inside the
door. In the muted light the glitter of his eyes gave Mulder the
distinct impression he was being examined like a particularly
interesting bug. A fifty-pound weight settled on his chest, and a
tingling sensation began at the back of his neck, shooting down his
spine. He pressed his thumb against the glass shard, the bright
spike of pain driving back panic until he could breathe again. He
batted his eyes.
“See anything you like?”
The wisecrack seemed to pull McNally from a daze. His lip curled.
“You know, I always heard you were a pain in the ass, Mulder.
The stories don’t do you justice.”
“You obviously haven’t been talking to the right people.”
Kyle didn’t reply, but he stepped close to the bed. His right hand
drifted to the small of his back and touched something tucked into
the waistband of his slacks.
Mulder futilely attempted to wet dry lips. “You know, it’d be in
your best interest to let me use the little agent’s room. Otherwise
I’m afraid at least one of us is going to regret it.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary.”
Damn. I hate it when I’m right.
Mulder kept his expression neutral. “If you really want that disk…”
“It’s too late for that now. Your partner’s poking her nose around,
asking all the right questions. It’s only a matter of time before she
figures things out.”
“Then turn yourself in. This doesn’t have to end badly.”
Kyle chuffed a bitter little laugh. “I killed my best friend, Agent
Mulder. It already has.”
“Is that regret I hear, McNally?”
For the first time something like remorse flickered in Kyle’s eyes.
“I didn’t want to kill him, he left me no choice. Sal was a good
friend, but he never would’ve kept his mouth shut.” The emotion
vanished as quickly as it had appeared. “This is all Monica’s fault.
That cheap little hustler got exactly what she deserved.”
“Of course, cheating on your wife is hardly the moral high
That stare again. Flat. Assessing. “How do you do it?”
It wasn’t the reaction he’d expected. Mulder eyed Kyle warily.
“Sound like…him. I can understand where you came up with the
idea. I’ve heard about the stuff you and your partner investigate–
aliens and Bigfoot and crazy shit like that. What I don’t understand
is how you knew those things about him. About…what happened.”
Mulder sensed it–the slow burn of anger and betrayal. He tried to
push back, determined to remain in control, but it was like trying to
stem a tidal wave with a bucket. “You mean how it felt to be
blinded by headlights and to hear the sound of your bones
breaking? Or what it was like watch your best friend drive away
while you choked to death on your own blood?”
Kyle recoiled, face a sickly gray. “That doesn’t mean a damn thing.
Your partner’s a pathologist. You could easily have picked up that
information from the police report, or the autopsy.”
And suddenly, Mulder found he owned the anger as completely as
the tortured soul of his unwelcome guest. As one they turned on
Kyle, zeroing in for the proverbial kill.
“How about this, paisan’? You took your foot off the gas for a split
second before you ran me down.” A nasty, jeering laugh. “You
were almost too chickenshit to go through with it.”
Face twisted by rage, McNally snatched a Bureau-issue Sig from
his waistband and leveled it at Mulder’s head. “I’m going to shut
you up, once and for all.”
“Do it like a man this time, you bastard. Tuck it right under my
chin and look me in the eye when you pull the trigger.”
Kyle propped one knee on the mattress and bent over. With one
quick motion Mulder rolled toward him, swinging his left arm in a
wide arc. The heavy steel bracket dangling from the handcuff
caught Kyle across the cheekbone, splitting skin. He yelped,
swaying as blood sprayed from the wound. The gun slipped from
his fingers, falling to the mattress with a soft thump, and he
tumbled on top of Mulder.
McNally’s weight drove the air from Mulder’s lungs and pinned his
left arm to his chest. He dug his heels into the mattress and bucked
his hips, attempting to throw Kyle off so he could use the chunk of
glass. Kyle rammed an elbow into Mulder’s chest, fingers
scrabbling for the dropped Sig. The blow, though lacking in real
force, connected with still healing muscles and tissue. Mulder
screamed and nearly lost his grip on the glass, vision graying
around the edges and an insistent hammering in his head.
Their struggle had knocked the gun halfway across the slippery
sheets. Kyle, sensing his advantage, planted one hand over
Mulder’s heart. He raised up, forcing Mulder’s chest to support the
full weight of his upper body, while he reached for the weapon.
“Get ready, paisan’. I’m gonna send you back to hell where you
belong.” He leaned across the mattress, legs shifting slightly to
maintain his balance.
With a howl of rage and pain, Mulder brought up his knee squarely
between McNally’s now parted legs. Kyle shrieked, rolling onto his
side in a fetal curl. With superhuman effort, Mulder scrambled
onto his knees, respiration reduced to sobbing gasps for air. He
knocked the gun off the bed and pressed the razor sharp piece of
mirror into Kyle’s throat. Kyle groaned, then gasped as blood
oozed from the edges.
“Time for you to join me, you son of a bitch. Let’s see how you
like it on this side.”
The pounding in his head became a single, deafening bang. Scully
and Skinner blew through the door with a gust of cold air.
“Federal Agents. Freeze!” Guns leveled, they stared at the tableau
“It’s okay, Mulder. We’ve got things under control. Let him go and
Despite his giddy sensation of relief, Mulder wondered at her
careful, soothing tone. He blinked at a stinging drop of sweat,
reflecting that he must look pretty bad for Scully to use her
“Put it down, Mulder.”
His fingers wouldn’t move–in fact, they pressed the shard more
firmly into flesh. Beneath him, Kyle whimpered again and more
blood trickled down to darken the sheets. Mulder gaped at his own
hand, willing the digits to obey. Stunned, then frightened when
they defied him.
“Don’t do this.” He said it aloud, not caring how it sounded. Scully
and Skinner already thought he was crazy. Might as well go for
broke. “It’s over.”
“Mulder…” She trailed off when Mulder lifted huge eyes to her
face, pleading. Skinner remained silent, watchful.
Mulder closed his eyes, mentally following the connection, his
voice soft and reassuring. “He’ll pay for what he did, and Gary
Jansen will walk out of prison a free man. Justice has been served,
Sal. You can let go.”
A bewildering jumble of emotion rose up within him–regret,
sorrow, release. It flooded his soul like an enormous wave,
breaking over him, washing through him.
And was gone.
Mulder dropped the makeshift knife and moved back against the
headboard. He pressed one hand to his chest, shivering as he
watched his boss efficiently take McNally into custody.
“You all right?” Skinner’s inquiry was as business-like as his
“Yeah.” He looked up at Scully. “I’m okay.”
She unlocked the remaining cuff, fingers discretely massaging torn
flesh, eyes communicating everything Skinner’s presence
restrained. A feather-light touch to his bruised cheek and the lump
on the back of his head, then a raised brow. “You’ll still need to see
a doctor.” A pause. “But I think we can dispense with the
So he wasn’t the only one with regrets. One corner of Mulder’s
mouth turned up. “Deal.”
The adrenaline rush ebbed and he was suddenly aware of a need
more pressing than any of his other aches and pains. “Uh, Scully. I
do have a bit of a problem. In fact, I’d call it an emergency.”
She snapped to attention. “What’s wrong, Mulder? Is it your chest?
“Uh-uh.” He lurched to his feet, barely resisting the urge to dance.
“My bladder. If I don’t make it to the bathroom in about ten
seconds I’m going to contaminate a crime scene.”
Scully folded her arms as he staggered past her. “Damn it, Mulder,
that’s not funny. You had me really worried.”
“Brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘pissing you off,’ huh,
Scully?” He flashed her an impudent grin as he shut the door.
She sighed and shook her head. Mulder’s irreverent sense of humor
had apparently survived intact–and so had he.
Two days later
Skinner closed the file folder and leaned back in his chair. “I’ve
read your report, Agent Mulder. You must admit your account of
the events is more than a bit…unorthodox.”
Mulder shrugged. “I’ve given you the truth. How you choose to
interpret it is completely up to you.”
“Is it true that Agent McNally has admitted culpability for the
murder of Monica Mitchell?” Scully asked.
Skinner nodded. “And of Agent DeAngelo, as well. We have a
signed confession.” Skinner gave Mulder a shrewd look.
“According to the DC cops, he was eager to cooperate, even
waived his right to have an attorney present. They said he seemed
anxious, kept muttering some nonsense about burying the dead.”
Mulder’s face revealed nothing. “And Gary Jansen?”
“Should be released within the next 24 hours, if he hasn’t been
already. He owes you his life, Mulder.”
The hint of a grin tugged at the corners of Mulder’s mouth but his
expression was wistful. “Not me.”
Skinner glanced uneasily at Scully, then forged ahead. “At any
rate, McNally’s confession omits our need for the email that cost
Agent DeAngelo’s life–and nearly yours, as well.”
All traces of the smile vanished. “I believe that’s called irony, sir.”
Scully turned from Skinner to her partner. “That reminds me,
Mulder. Where did you put the floppy disk McNally was after? He
certainly tore up your apartment looking for it.”
He smirked. “I subscribe to the ‘hide in plain sight’ rule, Scully. I
labeled it and put it with all my other disks.”
Both eyebrows soared. “You labeled it? As what?”
The smirk became a grin. “Porn.”
She rolled her eyes and turned back to Skinner. “Is that all, sir?”
“I’d say that’s more than enough, Agent Scully,” Skinner replied
As they stood up he reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a
piece of paper. “By the way, you might be interested to know that
the owner of The Atlantis was quite upset when he learned a
murderer had used his establishment to hold a federal agent
hostage. He doesn’t want his reputation tarnished by the negative
“Some reputation,” Scully muttered.
“Be that as it may, he insisted on giving me this certificate for two
complementary nights in one of the deluxe Jacuzzi suites.”
Mulder snickered. “Walter, you dog! Who’s the lucky lady?”
Skinner slowly stood and walked around his desk, face unreadable.
Scully glared at Mulder. “Sir, I’m sure Agent Mulder intended no
disrespect…” She trailed off when she realized Skinner’s expression
was smug, not angry.
“Actually I thought I’d pass it along to you two. I’m sure you’ll
figure out what to do with it. There’s a three day weekend coming
up soon, isn’t there?” He pressed the coupon into Mulder’s hand
with a cheery shark’s grin.
Mulder stared blankly at the coupon while Scully’s cheeks flushed
and she searched futilely for an appropriate response. As if
oblivious to their discomfiture, Skinner sauntered back to his desk,
sat down, and began reading from a file folder. He glanced up at
them over the top of his glasses.
“That’s all, Agents. Dismissed.”
It wasn’t until they were alone in the elevator that Scully found her
voice. “Well. I guess that’s his way of telling us he knows. How do
you suppose he found out?”
Mulder shrugged. “Does it matter? Cat was bound to squirm out of
the bag sooner or later.”
She scowled at him, hands propped on hips. “You’re awfully calm
about this! Aren’t you the least bit concerned that our boss now
knows we’ve both been playing doctor?”
Mulder shrugged, never taking his eyes from the certificate his
hands. “Nah. Skinner doesn’t care, Scully. As long as we aren’t
playing tonsil hockey or doing the naked pretzel in the office, he’ll
look the other way. Right now we’ve got something far more
important to worry about.”
“Really? And what would that be?”
He waved the certificate in front of her nose, a kid with a new toy.
“How soon can we use this?”