Author’s Notes: Andrew Nam Thuong is one of the 117
Vietnamese martyrs canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
He was the mayor of his village, lived a holy life, served
as a catechist, and did indeed die of exhaustion and
dehydration on a forced march into exile.
In the Catholic faith, martyrdom is sufficient for
canonization. For others who are proposed for sainthood,
such as Mother Theresa, miracles are required before
canonization can occur. Saints DO NOT work miracles;
God works miracles. We believe that God may work
miracles through the intercession of our friends,
the saints. In the case of the Martyrs of Vietnam,
no miracles were documented nor is there any record
of supernatural powers on the part of these saints.
Any reference to such abilities on the part of Saint
Andrew is literary license on my part.
Summary: A plea for help from an old friend drags Skinner
into the heart of a modern day conspiracy.
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Tap, tap, tap.
The sound echoed off the sterile walls.
Tap, tap, tap.
Long legs strode purposefully forward – to business, to business,
Tap, tap, tap.
The stride was smooth, the steps curiously graceful, even as the
man moved ever forward, single-mindedly pursuing his objective.
Hard tile repeated and amplified the sound each shod foot made
as it connected with the corridor floor.
Light, bright and unyielding, glared down on the man as he moved
through the halls, unblinking and unforgiving.
Tap, tap, tap.
White was usually the color of innocence, of purity. But this
white stared unseeing as the man marched swiftly on. This
white was hard, and cold, and had a cruel glint to it. Light
so white, so sharp, it hurt the eyes to look and the mind to
And yet the man moved on, untouched by the cold, cruel glare.
Tap, tap, tap.
The air itself seemed braced for the man – cold and sterile. It
smelled of disinfectant and cleanser, but nothing would erase
the smell of fear that lurked beneath it all. Refrigerated air,
mechanical air, it oozed slowly through the air ducts,
trickling out almost stingily into the bright, white hall.
Tap, tap, tap.
Dr. Nicholas Braden.
*The* Dr. Nicholas Braden.
The *renowned* Dr. Nicholas Braden.
He tasted the name soundlessly on his lips, savoring its
feel, its flavor.
He’d walked this plane many times, borne many names.
Alexander the Great.
And most recently, Dr. Joseph Mengele.
Oddly enough, it was as a doctor, a supposed *healer,* that he
had realized the power in chemistry, in physics, in biology.
The power in cold, cruel steel.
The way it glinted in the light, the way it reflected a
subject’s fears, mirroring and multiplying them until
the emotion itself was a palpable blanket, warm and wet
and festering as he wrapped it round himself.
The man walked on, his shoes against the tile the only sound
to be heard. Others walked on soft-shod feet, scurrying quickly
by, head down, eyes averted, inaudible sighs of relief as they
escaped his notice. As he moved relentlessly forward, the
others braced themselves, one straightening a blouse, another
nervously polishing a stethoscope, each keeping still or
scuttling back to avoid the man’s attention.
But he had no time for any of them. It had come to him in
the night, calling him in from the warmth of his lair, pulling
him down to the lab. It was ever-hungry, ever-needy, and
now – it needed him. He smiled grimly – such was the price
for the comfort and prestige of his life. He chanced a look
around, almost tittering at the looks of horror and fear and
disgust that flitted across the faces that dared to meet his
This was what it was all about. This was what he craved.
The ability to control, to manipulate, to condemn all the
weak and frightened little people that walked this plane.
This was power.
To walk blindly forward – tap, tap, tap – to feel the cold
light glare at him, the people fear him, the walls echo his
presence. This was power.
He pressed a hand against a plate, watched as a reading was
taken, then slid into the room as the door rolled back. He walked
quickly between two rows of cabinets, a cruel smile on his
lips as animals screeched or howled in fear. He passed
several experiments, each holding some*thing* that lived,
and breathed, but had no being beyond soundless cries of
pain and terror.
This was power.
He moved past the animals, past the unnamed creations, into
the back of the room where the cold light shifted into dark
heat. He glanced around, then quickly prepared himself to
He had the power.
And soon, very soon, his power would grow.
An Ho, Vietnam
It was the poverty that got to him.
There were other things that bothered him — the
untreated diseases, the unsanitary practices, the
stealing and lying and cheating. There were the
things that sickened him, too. The handicapped babies
left to die in the elements, the fathers who abused their
daughters and then sold them into a life of slavery – some
as young as eight or ten.
But still, it was the poverty that struck him most.
All the other sins seemed to come from that one root
Would babies be left to die if there were enough for all?
Would fathers sell their daughters if they could feed and
care for all the children they had?
Would mothers leave diseases untreated and uncared for
if there were money for the doctor?
It opened his eyes in ways nothing else ever had.
Twelve years of Catholic school, moral theology and
social justice, liberation theology and ethics, he’d heard
it all, taken notes in all the classes, even led the debates
But this, this made it all real.
Here he was, eighteen years old and away from home
for the first time for any length of time. Here in
this awful hell of a war, brother killing brother,
women and children dying daily as collateral damage,
and it was still the poverty that got to him.
He glanced around the churchyard, watched the children
play, even as he cradled his rifle in his arms. How
did Father Madden function in the middle of a war like
He shook his head and brushed his dark hair back from his
face. His cheeks were wet again, and he stared unseeingly
at his damp palm. He’d cried a lot when he’d first arrived,
surprising himself with the depth of his homesickness and
the sudden, gut-wrenching desires he’d have for Mom to
“make it all better.”
But the sin and sickness he saw here was nothing his mother,
or any mother, could cure with a kiss and a cuddle and a
He shuddered as a baby wailed, then went back to munching
his single lunchtime sandwich in the dilapidated entryway
to the old church.
It was the poverty. It all came back to that.
In America, people had no understanding of poverty.
Even the poor kids in his school — the ones who
were there on grants and scholarships and other
programs — even they didn’t really understand
poverty. They all had clothes to wear and shoes
on their feet, food in their belly and a roof over
their heads. Almost all of them had televisions
and radios and telephones and a lot even had cars.
And those were the *poor* kids in America.
There was a tug at his pant leg and he looked down,
smiling gently at the dirty face and wide eyes that
looked up at him. A pat on the ground and a small
form was soon seated next to him in expectation.
He sighed, staring greedily at the sandwich. He
hadn’t eaten breakfast this morning, and he was
due to be out when supper was served so this would be
his only meal of the day.
He glanced down again, then broke a small piece of the
bread and cheese off, popped it in his mouth, and
passed the rest to the little girl. She grinned happily,
then began to stuff the food into her mouth. It stretched
her cheeks and distorted her features and she took on the
look of a chipmunk — a very dirty chipmunk.
“Water?” he asked.
“Mmmm — yeah,” she mumbled around the food. Her eyes
came up and something close to fear flittered through as
she hastily added, “Sir. Tank you.”
He laughed sadly as he rose, filling a tin cup and wetting
a rag at the same time. There were two uses for water, after
He passed the cup, watched as the child gulped, then waited
for her to finish. It was not a long wait — the food seemed
to have been inhaled — but a closer look told him that she
had tucked the remainder of the sandwich away, probably to
take to a small sibling or to someone sick.
“Tank you, mis’er,” she murmured again, her voice soft, with
the slightest hint of a baby lisp remaining on the sibilants.
He nodded, then reached out with the rag, washing her hands,
and then her face. He sighed as the dirt came away; there
were bruises on her cheek and chin. A heavy hand had
struck there. He sighed again, then wiped once more,
tenderly, and smiled.
“OK, little one. You are beautiful!” he said in mock
exclamation, laughing softly as she giggled and her skin
darkened in a blush. “Very pretty.”
She giggled again, then rose and smiled at him, dancing
away before he could find out who she was or try to entice
her to tell him about the bruises.
That was the way it was. They came in unending droves,
the children of the war. Battered, abused, dirty, unfed,
and often diseased, yet beneath the grime and the tattered
clothing, the serious demeanor, the beseeching eyes, their
hearts were those of children. They would laugh in an
instant, turn work into play, give hugs and hold hands,
and offer their trust to people as if they had never been
This was what he would do with his life. It had come to
him, first as a whisper, then as a command, and finally
as a shout that would not be denied. He was destined to
spend his life in service to those in need. How, he
wasn’t sure, but he would serve. That, he knew.
Twelve years of Catholic school, moral theology and
social justice, liberation theology and ethics. A lifetime
of privilege and comfort. A life full of blessings he had
no right to, yet had been given freely.
It was past time to give back.
He wiped his eyes again, offered a quick prayer of thanks
for his own loving home, and then rose to face the hike
back to his squad.
“Ah, Walter, there you are. I was looking for you.”
It was Father Madden, the man who ran this church. The
priest was in his early forties, tall and vigorous, with
a startling shock of prematurely white hair that always
seemed in need of a good trim. The children loved him,
the adults respected him, and he had taken an immediate
liking to the peaceful, prayerful man.
“Yes, Father? How may I help you?”
The courtesy that was so much a part of the culture
of this country seemed to come to him naturally now,
even when he spoke in his native tongue.
“I am going out to the grave.” Father Madden nodded at
the rake and shovel in his hands. “Would you like to
help me care for the resting place of the holy one?”
The holy one.
Andrew Nam Thuong.
It was a common enough expression here in the Mekong Delta.
There was no need to use the name of Andrew Nam Thuong —
everyone knew who *the holy one* was.
Born into a wealthy family, he had eventually become the
mayor of his village. A lifelong Catholic, he served as
a catechist to others and was taken in the persecutions
of the early 1800s. After months of confinement and
torture, including being put on display in a small bamboo
cage, he was forced into exile. On the forced march to
My-Tho, he had died from exhaustion and dehydration.
His body had been left on the roadside for insects and
animals, but a group of the faithful had slipped in
under cover of darkness and retrieved it, honored to
be able to offer their martyr a place in consecrated
Beatified in 1909 by Pope Leo, there were rumors that
Blessed Andrew had interceded for people in peril, actually
appearing in physical form to guide and assist those in
need. There was a cause before the Church for his full
canonization, along with many others who had died for the
faith in the persecutions of Minh-Mang.
Walter nodded to the older priest, then reached out and
took the tools, rifle slung behind his back. He fell
briskly into step as they headed out to the cemetery
behind the low-roofed building. The graves were old,
many unmarked, and it was only through oral history and
the few records that had survived that there was any
idea of which grave belonged to *the holy one.*
Since there was no definitive record, and since it was only
proper, all the graves were tended with the same care and
respect, but through the centuries legend had arisen and
one site was looked upon as the final earthly resting
place of the holy one.
Walter handed the rake to the older man, then dropped
wordlessly to his knees to begin to pull the few weeds
that had dared to show their heads since the last time
the graves had been cared for. From the courtyard of
the church he could hear the sound of children laughing,
shrieks of merriment as they chased one another, safe
in the church’s embrace.
It was rumored that Blessed Andrew had been a truly devout
servant of God, devoted to the Eucharist. Despite his
wealth and political advantages, he had lived austerely,
fasted continuously, and spent much time in prayer and
Walter sighed. Prayer and meditation. It had become more
important to him since he’d arrived in Viet Nam some six
months ago. Searching for comfort, blindly seeking relief
in something other than the ever-present sex and drugs
favored by so many over here, he had finally found this
small church. Depending on where his unit was at any
given time, and what they were called upon to do, Walter
made the two to four hour trek to the church as often as
he could — depending on the goodness of his CO for
permission to get away from the death and destruction
of the war.
It tore at him — this twin pull in his life. Patriot.
Soldier — following the orders his country had given
him. Bringing wreckage and ruin to this already severely
damaged land and its people.
Catholic. Servant. A young man who only wanted to know
what God was calling him to do with his life. He glanced
down in awe as he realized he was at *the* grave, his
hands resting on the soil that covered a martyr — a man
who could someday be a saint.
Maybe the holy one could work a small miracle — help
poor Walter Skinner figure out what to do with his life
once he got back to the World. That would be a small
miracle indeed, from a man who was rumored to have
been able to be in two places at one time.
“Give me guidance,” Walter murmured. Maybe that was how
the holy one found time for prayer and meditation. One
self could be out working for the poor, teaching and
guiding them, while the other self was locked away in
prayer, restoring the soul, seeking the strength to deal
with the atrocities that arose daily.
“I could use a little of that ability,” he said under
his breath. “A little strength, please, Lord.”
“Pardon?” Father Madden paused in his raking, elbow resting
on the handle as a trickle of sweat made its way down his
face. “Did you say something?”
Walter smiled. “I was just saying, Father, that I needed …”
He broke off as the air was rent with a woman’s terrible
screech. He looked around in confusion, then as children’s
wails joined in, he leapt to his feet and raced after the
priest, back to the church.
What the hell was going on?
Walter followed Father Madden around a corner, then slammed
to a sudden halt as a wall suddenly seemed to materialize in
front of him. Through blurry eyes and ringing ears, he
could vaguely see it wasn’t a wall, but a fist — a really
*huge* fist — that had stopped him. He began to fold up,
like a mangled board book, with one limb going in one
direction, another going the opposite and the most
frustrating feeling that none of them were under his
He fell sideways, into a door, then somehow twisted and
slipped to his knees on the tiled floor of the church
vestibule. The world was growing dark. He tried to lift
his head to see what was wrong with the sun, but his neck
would not cooperate. An eclipse, maybe. It was the only
thing that would explain the sudden darkness.
He felt wetness on his face and managed to make a hand
obey him, dragging it upward to wipe his cheek. Wet,
yes, but sticky, too. That was odd. He tried to look down
at his hand, but his eyes had grown heavy and were shut
now, refusing to open again.
Something was very wrong and the thought of his mother’s
face crashed across his remaining consciousness. He felt
very bad and it occurred to him he’d been hurt and she
would not like that at all. This was a church, a place
of safety. If he was going to be hurt, it shouldn’t be
here, in the church.
The rest of his body folded up on the ground and his
head dropped back to lie on the cool tiles. He lay
quietly now, still confused, still not well, but no longer
fighting his recalcitrant limbs.
What the hell had happened?
It was the last question that crossed his mind and there
seemed to be an answer this time. It was a sound, as if
someone were trying to tell him something. He strained
Tap, tap, tap.
It made him shudder.
Tap, tap, tap.
It grew closer and he willed himself to lay still as the
sound stopped near him.
There was an immeasurable time of silence, and then it began
Tap, tap, tap.
Moving away, receding into the distance.
Tap, tap, tap.
It filled him with dread and overwhelmed the pain in his
Tap, tap, tap.
Walter groaned softly, exhausted, and let the sound and
the pain and the confusion and fear fade away as he finally
gave in to the darkness.
And in the courtyard, one last sound echoed.
Crystal City, Virginia
November 5, 2002 11:17 p.m.
He’d gone to the gym and worked out this evening.
It put him behind on the never-ending flow of
documents that required his perusal, notes, and
signature, but it was a necessity. He couldn’t
function if he didn’t work out on a regular basis.
The shower at the gym had been low on hot water,
so he’d cut it short there, and come home to luxuriate
in his own flow of steamy water. He was dressed again,
albeit only in a pair of sweats and a T-shirt, but he
was comfortable. He’d warmed up a single lasagna,
fixed a couple of pieces of garlic bread, and opened
a lovely cabernet from a local Virginia winery. It
hadn’t been a bad meal. He’d been busy with the
work he’d brought home ever since. It always amazed
him how petty so many of the memos were that crossed
He had looked at his empty wine glass and risen, intent
on a refill, when the phone rang. He answered without
thinking. “Skinner.” He glanced at the clock as he
spoke. It was late — past 11:00 — and he still had
paperwork to do before he went to bed. Who the hell
was calling at this hour?
“Walter Skinner?” the voice asked. “Walter Skinner
who was in country in ’72?”
“Yes …” he answered cautiously.
“I need your help, Walter.”
“Who the hell is this?”
“Father Madden, from the church. You remember me,
don’t you?” The man spoke in a hushed, yet intense
tone, and sounded out of breath.
“Father Madden?” Skinner shook his head. He hadn’t
thought about Father Madden in — Good Lord! — at
least 30 years. “I, uh, don’t know what to say.” He
paused, swallowing hard. “Your call comes as a big
surprise to say the least.”
“Walter,” the priest lowered his voice again, urgency
creeping in. “I know it’s an imposition, but I must
see you. Immediately.”
Skinner’s senses were on alert — the hair on the back
of his neck was erect. “You do know I’m in Washington,
“So am I,” the man hissed. “Please meet me at the
Basilica. How soon can you be here?”
“What’s going on, Father?”
“I don’t know who to trust, Walter. I need help.
I’m in trouble …” The urgency in the priest’s
voice ratcheted up another few notches. “Walter —
I’ve kept up with your career. I know what you do.
You can help me.”
There was a shuffling sound in the background, as
if someone were moving around, shifting their weight,
and the priest spoke to someone else. “Andrew — wait.
Just give me a minute — I told you he can help us.”
“Who’s with you, Father? Tell me what’s happening.
Are you in danger?” Skinner had a shirt on over his
T-shirt now, and was strapping on his holster.
“Just come, Walter,” the priest said wearily. “We’ll
be here — we don’t have anywhere else to go.” He
laughed shakily and the line went dead.
He pulled on a hooded sweatshirt, zipping it far enough
to keep his gun out of sight. Cell phone in one pocket,
badge and ID in another, he grabbed his wallet and keys
and was out the door.
It took him fifteen minutes to make the drive back into
the heart of the city. No problem with parking at this
hour. He slipped the car into the curb, clicked the
remote to lock it as he got out and went to stand before
It was huge — an enormous stone edifice with a tower
sweeping up over 350 feet into the air. Composed of
many different chapels as well as the large central
sanctuary, Skinner was unsure of where to go. As he
stood undecided, a side door opened and a figure beckoned
“Father?” he called softly as he stepped quietly to the
door. The priest was older now, his hair still a bright
white, though it had thinned some in the ensuing years.
He was still tall, almost as tall as Skinner’s 6’2″, and
he carried himself well for a man who had to be in his
“Walter, please, come in.” The priest darted fearful
eyes around the barren sidewalk and reached out, taking
hold of Skinner’s arm and leading him inside. “There’s
not much time.”
Skinner stepped into the vestibule, blinking as his eyes
adjusted to the light. For some reason, the priest’s
distressed tone and sense of urgency had him prepared to
be meeting in shadows, instead of here, in a brightly
lit church vestibule.
“What’s going on, Father?” The priest’s hand was still
pulling him forward, but Skinner stopped, crossed his
arms, and waited for an answer.
“Please, Walter. Come sit with us in the chapel. Let
me tell you what I need.”
Skinner moved slowly forward, following as Father Madden
slid quietly into a pew in the back of the Crypt Chapel,
one of the smaller chapels in the church. “Who’s with
you, Father? Why are you here? Are you in danger? From
whom? Why do you need my help?” He spoke quietly as
well, in deference to their surroundings, but his voice
was hard, and his tone insistent.
The old priest nodded. He was calmer now, less agitated
than he had been on the phone, and seemed more comfortable
just being in the church. He reached out with his left
arm, beckoning toward the far wall.
As Skinner watched, a shadow detached itself and moved
forward, into the light. As the figure moved forward,
Skinner could see that it was a boy, a young teen, with
dark hair. His vision must have been playing tricks on
him because as the boy stepped toward them, it appeared
as if he were bathed in the light. Skinner reached up
and rubbed his eyes behind his glasses, then looked again.
Just a boy — young, skinny, slightly hesitant.
The boy kept his head down until he reached the priest,
then looked up and smiled tentatively, and Skinner added
to his mental description. It was a young Asian boy.
And given that this meeting was called by a priest he’d
known in Vietnam, he was betting the boy was Vietnamese.
“Andrew, this is Walter.” The priest pushed the boy
forward slightly, nudging him until his hand reached.
“Pleased to meet you,” he said quietly, with a quick
look back at Father Madden. The boy’s voice was soft
but sure, and there was no trace of an accent. Pure,
Skinner shook the small hand, nodding, then looked at
the priest again. “Father, please — would you just
tell me what’s going on?”
“I want you to take Andrew — keep him safe.” Something
echoed quietly in the church, and the priest grew
agitated, his head darting back and forth.
Skinner shook his head. “I’m not social services,
Father, I’m FBI. If you have a problem, you have to
explain it to me …”
“Walter, please.” The priest laid his hand beseechingly
on Skinner’s arm as he rose, looking nervously around
again. “Come. Walk with me now and I will tell you
why you have to take Andrew, and why you need to keep
They walked slowly toward the front of the church,
passing various altars and statues in alcoves along
the way. Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Anthony
Mary Claret, Our Lady of Brezje. It had been a while
since Skinner worshipped here, but the names were
“Andrew is special, Walter. He’s not like you or me.”
Skinner raised an eyebrow as he studied the priest.
“Remember the attack on the church — the desecration
of the grave?” The priest shuddered slightly and
“You never knew — you had to get back to your unit.
Remember? They were moving out, and you wanted to
stay and help with …” The priest fluttered his
hands helplessly. “…help with everything — the
rebuilding, burying the ones they killed, restoring
the grave.” He shook his head, sighing wearily.
“There was just so much to do.”
They walked on in silence, past the Eastern Rite Chapel
and Skinner fought an unconscious urge to cross himself
as he looked at the icons on the walls. “There was
always so much to do.”
“I made you leave, Walter. You were so upset …”
Skinner shook his head angrily. “I didn’t understand
any of it. I was 18, I was killing people I didn’t know,
for reasons I didn’t understand. I was searching for
a pocket of peace in an enormous unpeacefulness, and
instead, there was just more evil …” Skinner shook
his head again. “God, Father, I haven’t thought about
this in years.”
“I know, Walter, and I’m sorry. Andrew comes from there.”
“From Viet Nam?”
“From the church — more specifically, from the holy one.”
Skinner stopped moving and turned to the priest, confusion
on his face. “From the church?” He looked behind him,
studying the boy who followed them. “He’s too young,
Father.” He reached up and rubbed at his forehead. “How
old are you, Andrew?”
The priest moved forward again, just as the lights went
out and the church grew dark. Two shots rang out.
Skinner whirled, throwing the boy to the ground, covering
him with his body as he pulled his own weapon. He rolled
toward the pews, shoving the boy underneath one. He rolled
again, this time toward the priest, slithering under the
pews until he could reach out and drag the old man toward
He left a trail of blood, glistening in the candlelight
of the many votives that lit the racks before the altars.
A pool where the priest had fallen stretched into a line
of bright red that followed the priest toward Skinner.
“Stop,” Father Madden commanded. “Take Andrew and run.
Run as fast as you can.”
Another shot rang out and chips of marble flew from the
walkway where the bullet hit — barely two inches from
the priest’s feet. Skinner was crouched, gun pointed
upward, but there was nothing to point at. The first
two shots had come from the side, the last one from the
“The boy knows …” the priest gasped. “You have to
get him out.”
“I can’t leave you,” Skinner hissed, gun still at the
ready. “Andrew, grab my cell phone and call 911. Tell
them you’re with a Federal Agent and I need help. Now!”
he ordered, tensing only slightly when he felt fingers
fumbling at his pocket. He could hear the boy
whispering into the phone.
“Gone,” the priest coughed. “You can’t save me and
you can’t protect him alone.”
Skinner could finally see something. There were at
least three figures advancing on them, sliding between
the chapels, the pews, and the shadows. He fired
twice, but missed both times and only elicited an
eruption of gunshots in their direction.
“Go!” The priest coughed again, blood flying from his
lips. “Save the b…” His chest rattled and he went
Skinner laid two fingers over the man’s throat, shook
his head and fired again. He reached back and grabbed
the boy’s wrist, pulling him backwards. They scuttled
crablike from the center aisle, huddling against the
far end of the pews.
“Father?” Andrew whispered.
“Shhh. C’mon. We’re gonna run.” Holding the boy
tightly, Skinner leapt to his feet and raced forward.
Past Our Mother of Africa. Past Our Lady of Peace.
Something whizzed by his head and he ducked further,
yanking Andrew along now as the boy struggled to
keep up with Skinner’s longer legs. He skidded left
at Our Lady of Hope and found the exit he was looking
for. With a wall between him and his pursuers, he
shoved the panic bar, and flew into the night. He
could hear sirens coming closer and he ran in their
He never saw the child turn and stare at their pursuer.
He never saw the man drop his gun and turn away.
He never saw the light that seemed to bathe the boy
and then, gently, fade away.
November 6, 2002 3:34 a.m.
Skinner looked over at the boy. He was sleeping on the
couch in his office, on his side with one arm curled
under his head to make a pillow. He looked younger
in his sleep, and very vulnerable. Skinner shook his
head and removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his
nose out of habit as he tried to beat back the headache
that threatened to explode his head. He opened his
desk drawer, pulled out a bottle of aspirin and dry-
The boy curled more tightly on the couch and Skinner
took his raincoat from the rack, and laid it gently
over him. The kid’s clothes had blood on them. He
looked down at himself. So did his, for that matter.
He checked the clock again — after 3:30 — and he
was lucky he wasn’t still at the church. It was only
because of his position that he had been able to leave
and take the boy with him. He reached up and rubbed
his neck with both hands, then began to pace. He’d
put the boy in protective custody, but he wouldn’t
be able to keep him at the FBI. He still had to work
in — he looked at his watch this time — about 4 hours.
He needed clothes, the boy needed clothes. He needed
information. Hell — he needed help.
He went to his desk, thumbed through the rolodex and
dialed a number. It rang twice, then a muffled voice
“This is Skinner.” He could hear the man straighten up,
even through the phone.
“I need you to come on in to work. Something’s come
up and I need some help.” He could hear Mulder mumble
to someone, and he shifted uncomfortably when he
realized it was Scully. Their relationship was still
a different concept to him, and while he approved, it
was still a bit awkward. “Can you bring me a clean set
of clothes — maybe you have a sweatsuit I can borrow?”
“What happened?” In his mind, he could see Mulder
getting up, starting to get dressed even as he spoke.
The sounds of feet hitting the floor, drawers opening
and closing, confirmed his mental vision. “Are you
“I’m fine. I just — well, there was a shooting and
I … I’ll explain when you get here. He looked
over at the boy — he needed new clothes as well.
“And ask Scully if I can borrow a sweatsuit from her
Mulder’s voice was muffled again, but Skinner could
still make out the words. “Get your blue sweatsuit,
Scully.” There was a pause, then, “I don’t know.
Just get it and we’ll go.” Then clear in his ear,
Mulder spoke to him again. “We’re on our way. Are
you sure you’re OK?”
“Just get here,” Skinner said gruffly. “And thanks.”
He hung up the phone then walked over and checked on
the boy. Still sleeping.
He moved to the window and stared out over the city.
The streetlights cast a pale glow on the area and he
was struck by the beauty of the nation’s capital.
A city designed for one purpose — to serve as the
seat of the nation’s government. And with that lofty
purpose in mind, there had still been a concerted
effort to make the city one of beauty. Most cities
of this size were strewn with skyscraping buildings
jetting non-scenically into the sky above. But there
was none of that in DC. There was a city ordinance
that prohibited such Goliath structures, and because
of that, the scene resembled more of a rural theme
park than an industrial state.
Supposedly, when L’EnFant laid the plans for Washington
DC, he designed it in the mold of Paris, complete with
grassy fields, long reflecting pools, and a sense of
beauty that would be lost in an urbanized relative.
That vision of a French architect lived today in the
clean lines of white stone that faced the buildings,
the trees that lined the streets, and the pockets
of grass and shrubs that peeked up on every corner.
Now, as he waited he looked out at the serenity of
the city as it slept. He was surrounded by history
— past history, living history, history yet to be
written. The trees had shed their leaves for the
winter and yet the sidewalks were clear. Without
turning his head, he could see the Old Post Office
to his right, the National Archives to his left.
Across the street lay the Justice Department, and
he laughed softly at the thought that anyone could
think true justice could be established by a department
of its own.
Thought turned his mind to the priest — it was up to
him to see to it that an old priest received justice.
He began to catalog what he knew.
The priest and boy were in trouble of some kind.
The boy was special. He had only the priest’s word
on that and nothing else to back it up. What was it
the old man had said? He came from the church.
Skinner looked over at the boy again. He certainly
appeared to be Vietnamese. But his accent was pure
American, so he had to have been raised here. And
he was far too young to be the offspring of someone
at the church at the time of the attack. Too young
by half. The priest had also said the boy knew, the
boy could explain. Well, when he woke up, that was
exactly what Skinner would expect. Explanations.
The elevator beeped and Skinner pulled back from
the window. He could hear soft voices in the hall,
then a quiet knock on his door heralded the arrival
of his agents.
It was time to get everyone up to speed and figure
out what to do next.
November 6, 2002 7:10 a.m.
“It’s at the bank.” Andrew finished toweling his
hair and stood abruptly, droplets of water flinging
across Skinner’s chest. He glanced over as Skinner
brushed the front of his shirt. “Sorry.” Scully’s
sweatshirt went over the boy’s head next and he reached
up and began to run his fingers through his hair,
trying in vain to remove the snarls.
“Scully’s waiting in the office,” Mulder reminded them.
“If you two are done, I’m sure she’d like to know
what’s going on.” He studied the boy a moment longer
then added, “She’s probably got a comb or something.”
Skinner followed Mulder and the boy from the men’s
locker room back through the FBI’s basketball court
and into the elevator. They had let the boy sleep
while Skinner updated his agents. Several hours of
discussion and speculation later and they had only
been able to conclude that they needed more information
about the priest, and that they needed to talk to
A short ride later and they were in the basement.
Scully sat at the desk, pulling what information she
could find on Father Richard Madden. It wasn’t much,
and she said so as the men entered.
“All right, then,” Skinner said in acknowledgement,
“back to you, Andrew. Father Madden said you knew
what it was.”
“And you said it was at the bank,” Mulder prompted.
“Can I have one of these?” The boy had his hand on
one of the danish Scully had produced while the males
were cleaning up. She nodded and he took a huge bite,
then mumbled, “Stuff ‘sat da bank.” He swallowed
and took another bite. “Father had the key to the
“What stuff?” Scully asked as the boy finished one
danish and reached out hesitantly for the last one.
“Papers.” The boy’s mouth was full and he was looking
around. “Do you have anything to drink?”
“Just coffee.” Mulder started to pour a cup but the
boy stopped him.
“Never mind. I’m not allowed to have coffee.”
“We’ll get you something to drink in a minute.”
Skinner looked at the boy. “How long have you been
with Father Madden?”
“Long as I can remember.” Andrew looked longingly
at the half danish Scully hadn’t finished and she
pushed it over to him. He smiled his thanks and
went back to eating, ducking his head in mild
embarrassment as he saw the looks he was being given.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I’m hungry all the time.
Father said it was ’cause I’m growing.”
“How did you end up with Father Madden?” Skinner
pulled a chair around to the front of the desk and
gently nudged the boy into it. “I mean, he’s not
your real father …”
“No.” The boy shrugged. “He told me my mother was
from An Ho, and she brought me to him when I was
just a baby.” He looked mournfully at the empty box
that held the danish, then turned to Skinner. “I
don’t remember my mom. Father says all we know is
in the papers.”
“Why were you running?” Skinner asked. “And from
The boy shrugged again. “I don’t know. We lived in
South Carolina until I was eight. Father adopted me
and he had a parish there in Summerville — Saint
John the Beloved.” The boy frowned as he spoke.
“Then something happened. We left and Father wasn’t
a priest anymore. He told everyone I was his grandson.
We moved a lot. About a year ago, he showed me the
papers and told me they were all about me.” The boy
rose and took a few steps, then stood still as if he
didn’t know where to go. “He started talking about
how I was special.” He shrugged again. “I didn’t
understand. The papers were all full of things I
didn’t understand. Medical stuff, I think. Anyway,
I didn’t feel any different. I was just tired of
“So what happened?” Scully poured coffee for herself
and took a sip.
“I told Father I was tired of moving. He’d been home-
schooling me for years, and I wanted to go to a real
school. You know, play ball, make friends, maybe have
a girlfriend, go to the prom in a couple years.” He
sighed. “Graduate.” He took a few more aimless steps,
kicking at the floor with one toe, then looking up to
fix Skinner with a determined look. “I just wanted to
be a regular kid for a while.” He dropped his head.
“I don’t feel special — I’m just me.” He moved back
to the chair and sat, slumping down into its embrace.
Dark eyes lifted to look at the three adults in the
room. “What’s going to happen to me now?”
“I don’t know, Andrew,” Skinner answered honestly.
“I’ve got you in protective custody, because of what
happened to Father Madden last night. But I won’t be
able to keep you indefinitely. Child Welfare will
get involved eventually. In the meantime, we need to
figure out what’s going on and I think those papers
are the place to start. Do you know what bank?”
The boy nodded. “Bank of America, in Richmond. The
one on East Main St.” He kicked his feet out even
further, sliding deeper into the chair. “The key is
at the Basilica. Father hid it in the confessional,
while we waited for you.”
Bank of America
November 6, 2002 1:06 p.m.
It had taken two hours to drive down from DC. The
rest of the time had been spent getting the key,
getting the warrant, and getting the kid fed. He
really did eat all the time, and was still thin
as a rail. Skinner glanced over at the boy as they
waited for the woman to open the gate to the vault.
He looked over his shoulder to the right, to where
Mulder and Scully sat, talking quietly as Scully
pointed to something on the paper in the folder she
held. The boy moved forward then, and he followed,
waiting as the woman pulled a box from the wall and
set it on the table.
“Can we get lunch when we’re done here, Mr. Skinner?”
Andrew sat at the table, and Skinner could see he
was trying hard not to look bored. He’d been asked
the same questions in slightly different forms during
the whole drive down and it was a tribute to the boy’s
upbringing that he hadn’t told them all where to stuff
“Mmmm-hmmmm” Skinner mumbled affirmatively. He had the
box open and was scanning the few pages there. He
was savvy enough to recognize “cloning” and “in-vitro”
but the rest of it was beyond him. He read a little
further, then gazed at the boy speculatively. If part
of these papers really did pertain to the boy, then he
was not only special, he was a medical miracle. He
gathered the papers together, closed and locked the box
and nodded at the boy’s eager look. “We’re done here.
Let’s go feed you. Again.”
The boy jumped up and raced out of the vault, heading
for the doors to the bank. Skinner followed quickly,
calling, “Wait for us, Andrew.” In the waiting area,
he saw Mulder and Scully rise, begin to move for the
doors and then everything seemed to shift into slow
A look of shock crossed Mulder’s face and he and
Scully both reached for their weapons. Skinner turned
to look at the doors just as Andrew cried out in pain.
Directly in front of him, standing by the double glass
doors, a man had the boy by the arm, yanking him hard
toward the door. Skinner pulled his weapon, crying,
“Federal Agent! Release the boy!”
People were screaming, an alarm had been set off and
its shrill cry echoed in the air. There were civilians
in the way, standing frozen in shock or laying on the
floor. Chairs were overturned, and as he stared at
the man holding Andrew, someone knocked a computer
off a desk, as if that would help anything. Scully was
on her phone, tucked in behind a desk, and Mulder
still stood with his gun pointed at the man who held
The man produced a gun and began to fire and he could
see Mulder duck and roll and take cover behind Scully’s
desk. Skinner jumped over a woman laying on the floor,
making his way to another desk. In the middle of his
leap, another gunshot rang out and he felt something
hit him in the chest. He landed near the desk, rolled
behind it and lost sight of Mulder and Scully. He
looked down to see the entire front of his shirt was
covered in blood.
“Oh, God,” he breathed out, and it was as much prayer
as it was exclamation. He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t
move, and he couldn’t breathe. He saw the red on his
shirt growing larger and larger and he knew this was
it. It hurt. Oh, God, it hurt so much! He closed
his eyes because it was too hard to keep them open.
‘I blew it, I blew it, I blew it. Father Madden trusted
me with the boy and I blew it. I’m so sorry. Dear God,
I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to die. I don’t even
know who the boy is — what he is. Hail Mary, full of
grace, the Lord is with you. I want to see another day.
I want to walk in the park. I want to see the summer.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Please don’t let me die. I haven’t got anything to
offer — but please don’t let me die. Bless me, Father,
for I have sinned …’
“Shhhh — Walter. It’s all right.”
He pried his eyes open to find Andrew kneeling beside
him. The room was strangely quiet and the kid was
glowing. “What’s all right?” he mumbled.
He felt a warmth hover over his chest, then slide
inside his chest and the pain was gone. He could
breathe again and the fear disappeared. He reached
out a hand and touched the boy. “Andrew? How?”
“Shhh, Walter. This is not the time. Close your
eyes and rest.”
He was suddenly very, very tired, and all he wanted
to do was sleep. His eyes slid shut and he forced
them open. “Andrew, stay with Scully and Mulder.”
The boy nodded obediently.
“They’ll take care of you.”
“You’re doing that just fine, Walter. Things happen
the way they are supposed to.” Andrew reached out
and touched his forehead and he couldn’t stay awake
any longer. “Sleep now,” the boy murmured.
Medical College of Virginia Hospital
November 6, 2002 10:49 p.m.
“I think he’s waking up.”
Skinner recognized Scully’s voice and felt a soft hand
on his forehead.
“Call his doctor.”
He could hear a chair scrape against the floor as someone
stood and then footsteps sounded as the person moved
to the door.
“Nurse. Please get Dr. Mateo.”
Mulder. He should have known. But what did they do
with the kid? Was he here too?
“He’s waking up.”
He floated for a time, no light, no pain, not even
thinking. Then softer steps moved into the room and
someone lifted his eyelid and shone a light in. It
hurt, and he moaned.
A voice he didn’t recognize called his name. “Mr.
Skinner? Can you hear me?”
Well, hell, as tired as he was he’d be damned if he
was going to waste energy talking to someone he didn’t
know. He’d just go on back to sleep.
But before he could drift away completely, Scully
started speaking again. “He’s more likely to respond
to someone he knows.” Her hand was on his head again.
“Sir? Sir, it’s time for you to wake up.” When he
didn’t move, she ordered, “Open your eyes.”
He groaned, but pried his eyes open obediently. The
light hurt and he slammed them shut again. “Light,”
“Mulder.” Scully spoke softly, but the lights went
down almost immediately, and he risked opening his
“Wha’ happened?” He swallowed hard; his throat was dry.
Mulder appeared with a cup of water and placed the
straw between his lips. He took a couple sips and the
dryness was eased.
The woman he didn’t know, presumably his doctor, was
back at his side now, fussing with something on his
head. The penlight was out and she was heading back
toward his eyes, but he closed them obstinately and
“I need to check your reactions,” she said.
“I’m reacting.” He batted the hand that was fussing
with his IV away. “Leave me alone.”
The woman started to say something, then he heard
Mulder interrupt. The voices faded as his agent
walked the doctor out of the room. Good. Now maybe
he could figure out what was going on. But damn!
The hand was back at the IV. This was confusing.
Didn’t Mulder just get rid of that doctor? He started
to push it away again, but met resistance.
“Not this time, Sir. Put your hand down and behave.”
He opened his eyes in time to see Scully smoothing a
piece of tape over the needle in his hand. Mulder came
back in and moved to his partner, his hand coming to
rest on her shoulder. She looked up and smiled, then
returned her attention to him. “What do you remember?”
“The bank.” His eyes grew wide as he scanned the
room. “Where’s the boy?” He began to cough and Scully
had the water there for him again.
Mulder’s voice was hard. “They got him.”
“What?” Skinner sputtered, water spraying out of his
mouth. “That’s impossible.” He started to pull himself
upright in the bed, then stopped, shocked when there
wasn’t any pain from his chest wound. He looked
down. Hospital gown. He sat up. Still no pain.
He looked up in confusion. “I was shot?”
Mulder and Scully exchanged confused looks of their
own. “Yes, Sir,” Scully replied.
Skinner clawed at the front of the gown, but it wouldn’t
give. He reached up to untie the back, but couldn’t
with just one hand. So he reached over, pulled the IV
loose. Now he could get to the ties. Scully was
fussing about the IV, but he tuned her out. He ripped
the gown loose. There was silence in the room as he
stared at his own unmarked chest. Slowly, he lifted
his head and repeated, “I was shot?”
Mulder nodded, looking at him quizzically.
“In the chest?”
“No, Sir.” Scully was speaking now, as she held a bit
of tissue over the small wound on his hand. “In the
head.” She looked at her partner. “And I’m beginning
to wonder if it was more serious than we thought.”
“In the head?” Skinner lifted a hand and touched the
bandage on his left temple. “But … I remember. My
shirt was covered in blood. Here.” He touched his
chest, over his heart.
“Head wounds bleed like a son of a bitch,” Mulder
replied. “I know.”
“No, Mulder,” Skinner spoke emphatically. “I was
shot — here.” His finger jabbed at his chest. “My
shirt was covered in blood. I felt the bullet when it
hit. I couldn’t breathe.”
“We saw you fall, Sir.” Scully touched his head briefly.
“The bullet hit here and you dropped like a log.” She
shook her head. “No chest wound.”
“The boy was there.” Skinner looked around again.
“They couldn’t have taken him. He was there — with
me.” Skinner rubbed his chest again. “He touched
me. He said something.” Skinner closed his eyes,
rubbed his nose. “Where the hell are my glasses?”
Mulder produced them and he put them on, his headache
receding as the room snapped into focus.
“The boy was nowhere near you, Sir.” Scully was
looking at Mulder again, concern evident in her face.
“I’m telling you, Agent, that boy was right there
next to me. He touched me. He spoke to me. He.
Was. There.” He reached over, fumbled at the rail
on his left, and then grunted approvingly when it
went down. He swung his legs over and then stopped
abruptly when Mulder grabbed his arm. He looked
back over his shoulder, puzzled to see Scully standing
with her back to him. “What?” he grumbled at Mulder
as he tried to shake his hand off.
“Uh, Sir? That gown you just ripped off was the
only thing you were wearing.”
Skinner froze. “Oh. I see.” He pulled his legs
back into the bed and tucked the blankets back
around himself. He was blushing from head to toe.
” ‘sall right, Scully.” Mulder laughed and Skinner
scowled at him. “He’s back in the bed.”
Scully turned around. She was blushing too, and there
was an awkward silence, then Skinner said, “Well. I’ll
need to use the facilities at some point, so if someone
“I’m on it, Sir.” Scully headed for the door, relief
apparent on her face. “I’ll get another gown.”
“Get me some clothes,” Skinner commanded. “And get
“Look, Mulder, while we wait, bring me up to speed
on the boy.” He was suddenly self-conscious of his
bare chest and he pulled the blankets higher.
“Cold,” Skinner said shortly, daring Mulder to make
a comment. When the younger man remained silent, and
managed not to smile, Skinner nodded approvingly.
“You were saying?”
“We don’t know who took him, but we have a pretty good
idea of why. We’ve got it narrowed down to two things.”
Skinner raised an eyebrow in question.
“The papers you took out of the box. Scully read
through them while we were waiting for you to wake
up. They detail in vitro and cloning experiments from
“About the time the boy would have been born.”
“Yeah.” Mulder began to pace, one hand running
through his hair. “The source of the clone DNA is
weird though. It’s never really specified, just
indicated that the donor wasn’t living.”
“The Holy One.” Skinner murmured.
“What?” Mulder stopped, turning to look at Skinner.
“The Holy One. The boy said his mother was from
An Ho. That’s where the holy one was buried.”
Skinner cleared his throat and Mulder passed him
“I don’t understand.” His agent pulled the chair
by the bed and took a seat.
“When I was in Vietnam, there was a martyr buried
at this church I used to help out with. Andrew
Nam Thuong. The Holy One. I was there one day and
the church was attacked. They killed just about
everyone.” He reached up and touched the bandage
on his head. “I was hit in the head and passed out.
They must’ve thought I was dead.” He shook his head.
“The priest — Father Madden — escaped into the
surrounding fields with several of the children and
“What does this have to do with the boy?” Mulder
studied Skinner carefully. “Are you implying what I
“They dug up the grave — the grave of the holy one.”
Skinner leaned back in the bed, closing his eyes.
“They took the body.”
Mulder shook his head. “When did this martyr die?”
“Eighteen thirty something.”
Mulder smiled. “Then it wouldn’t matter. There
wouldn’t be any viable DNA.”
“You’ve never heard of the incorruptibles?” Skinner
relaxed against his pillow. “I know the religious
aspects of your work aren’t what interests you most,
but I’m sure you’re fairly well-versed on the more
well-known aspects of hagiography.”
“Incorruptibles are saints whose bodies don’t decay.”
Mulder gave him a smart-ass look. “Are you saying
this Saint Andrew was one of those?”
“Not saying. No one knew. He’d been buried for close
to 150 years.” Skinner shrugged. “I’m just saying,
don’t discount viable DNA. We don’t know.”
“There wasn’t anything to indicate the boy was a clone.
Nothing clear. Cloning technology didn’t exist when
he was born.” Mulder seemed uncomfortable in his new
role as skeptic.
“True,” Skinner mused. “But then, most people think
there’s no such thing as nanite technology, either,
don’t they?” He stared at Mulder until the other
man looked away.
“OK — so you think the boy is a clone of this —
this holy one.” Mulder turned back to look at him.
Skinner ticked off points on his fingers. “The papers
seem to indicate the boy is the result of some type of
experimentation — cloning of something, right?”
“I swear to you, Mulder. I was shot in the chest.”
Skinner saw the skepticism on his agent’s face.
“I felt the bullet go in; I was dying.” Skinner
laughed as he remembered how the boy had seemed to
glow. “I saw the light.”
“Head injuries can do that, Sir.”
“The boy was with me.”
“He never left my sight, Sir. The man by the door
had him firmly in his grip. I watched as he was
pulled through the door and yanked into a car.”
Mulder fixed him with a firm look. “That boy was
never anywhere near you.”
“Hagiography again, Sir? The ability to be in two
places at one time?”
Skinner just cocked his head and stared at Mulder.
“That’s not all, Mulder.” Skinner touched his chest,
gently running two fingers across the sculpted pec
that covered his heart. He looked up at his agent,
calmly meeting his gaze.
“I was dying.” Skinner took a deep breath, still
holding Mulder’s eyes. “That boy healed me.”
November 7, 2002 10:42 a.m.
“Any luck on the name? Dr. Nicholas Braden?” Skinner
was sitting on a chair procured from who knew where
down in the basement office of his agents.
“His name is actually well-known in scientific circles.”
Scully took her glasses off and looked over at Mulder
“So you think he could have done this?” Skinner rose
and moved to stand behind her, reading over her shoulder.
Scully shrugged. “The technology didn’t exist when
Andrew was conceived. IVF — in vitro fertilization
— was just becoming a reality around that time.
Louise Brown was born in England in 1977 — she was
the first IVF baby. America’s first was born in Norfolk
in 1981 — also a girl. Nobody was even thinking
about cloning at that point.”
“But could he have done it?” Skinner was pacing now,
one hand massaging the small of his back. He may not
have any chest pain left, but he sure as hell ached
from the fall he took — whatever caused it.
Scully shrugged again. “I can’t give you any answers
that are certain.” She lifted the papers that had
been in the safety deposit box. “There’s mention of
transgenic research, adult bone marrow being used to
produce totipotent stem cells, recombinant DNA being
used to produce a genetic line with Mendelian traits …”
“Whoa!” Skinner stopped in front of Scully’s desk.
“English, please, for the rest of us?”
“Well, the donor is unspecified. It could be multiple
donors — it’s just not clear.” Scully picked up a
sheet and waved it at Skinner. “It looks like these
pages were torn at random out of some sort of a journal.
They’re not consecutive — each starts and ends in the
middle. The few dates I found are all over the place —
from 1972 to 1985. No consistency there, either.”
“The priest’s note said that Andrew’s mother brought
the pages with her when she brought him the baby.”
Mulder was leaned back in his chair, both arms
behind his head as he watched the interaction between
his boss and his partner.
Skinner picked up a page and began reading. “This one
talks about MAPCs –” He looked up. “Start there.
What are they?”
“Mesenchymal Adult Progenitor Cells. Those are stem
cells derived from adult bone marrow that have been
shown to multiply almost indefinitely in culture.” She
pursed her lips as she tried to work out the best
laymen’s explanation. “With the proper stimulus, these
cells could, theoretically, develop into any type of
cell in the body.”
“So you could grow a baby from these?”
Scully gave a semi-shrug. “Possibly. There’s current
research into using these cells to help treat Parkinson’s
and some other neurological disorders.” She sipped
her coffee and looked over at Mulder for a moment before
returning her attention to the AD. “We’re not at the
point of growing babies yet.”
“Not that we know of, anyway.” Mulder finally joined
the conversation and Skinner was glad the man seemed
to have found his open mind again.
Skinner put the page down and picked up another.
“What about this? Transgenic germline?”
“That involves identifying a specific genetic trait
in one strand of DNA, pulling it from the original
and splicing it into a new strand. The recombinant
DNA is integrated into the chromosome of the germline
cell and can be passed on to offspring as a Mendelian
Skinner stared at her. “Again?”
Scully rose and moved toward the door. “Mendelian
traits? Remember your high school biology? Brown
eyes dominant, blue eyes recessive? Those are
“So our guy wanted to be able to pass on a specific
trait?” Skinner took Scully’s seat at the desk
and sat, waiting.
“It appears that way. Germline cells are the ones
that allow that kind of — inheritance, shall we say?
Somatic cells are the ones used for gene therapy — go
in, snip out the bad stuff, slip in the new, and voila!”
She waved her hand in a large circle. “No more Tay
Sachs.” She leaned up against the door, crossing her
legs at the ankle. “That’s not even possible now.”
“So what was our guy trying to isolate?” Mulder had
moved to the desk and taken the paper from Skinner.
“Does it say?”
Scully and Skinner both shook their heads, then Skinner
spoke. “No. But I have an idea.” He looked up as
Scully moved back to the desk and both his agents
stared down at him. “Let’s assume that I’m right, and
this guy was working with DNA from the saint. What if
he thought the ability to work miracles was something
that was determined at the genetic level?”
“Oh, please …” Scully snorted softly. “The whole
definition of miracle is something that happens that
surpasses natural powers and is ascribed to the
divine or to supernatural causes.” She shook her
head. “Wouldn’t a miracle gene shoot that whole
Mulder shrugged. “He’s not saying that the gene
exists, just that Braden may have believed it did.”
“And he may have thought he had identified it.”
Skinner rolled his shoulders and leaned back.
He shuffled through the remaining pages and pulled
one out. “Here, at the bottom, he talks about pulling
samples from the marrow of the … Damn! It stops
there. That’s the closest we have to an identity
of the donor.”
“He details failures on this page.” Scully lifted
another sheet. “Cells that wouldn’t divide. Embryos
that were deformed. Spontaneous miscarriages.” She
looked up. “This almost looks like a summary of time
put in and attempts made prior to a success. Like
‘see how hard I had to work to make it all come out
“He talks about one success.” Skinner lifted the page.
“‘With this power, I will rule the world.'” He shook
his head. “What kind of insanity is that?”
Mulder shrugged and backed away from the desk. He poured
a cup of coffee and carried it back to Skinner.
“You think the man was trying to clone a saint — to
identify a genetic ability to work miracles.” He looked
at Skinner. “I’m not sure you should be inquiring
about someone else’s sanity.” He grinned to soften
“This from the man who believes in aliens.” Skinner
rose and began to gather the papers together. “Sane
or not, we need to find this man Braden. He’s the
only lead we have to the boy — and I am, by God,
going to find that boy.”
“He worked at the Jones Institute in Norfolk in the
early eighties. Maybe we should start there.” Mulder
pulled Scully’s coat from the rack and held it for her,
then handed Skinner his before putting on his own.
“Norfolk’s only 4 hours away.”
Unknown Research Facility
November 7, 2002 1:15 p.m.
Andrew sat on the floor, his legs pulled up to his
chest and his arms wrapped around them. It was cold
and he was hungry. He missed Father Madden. He
needed to go to the bathroom. He was scared. He
didn’t want to be here anymore. He tried praying,
like Father had always told him to do, but it all
just seemed so pointless. It hadn’t helped so
Tap, tap, tap.
His body stiffened at the sound and he began to cry
again. He hated this. The man was coming for him
and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
Tap, tap, tap.
Andrew closed his eyes and pulled his legs tighter.
He dropped his head, forehead resting on his knees
and rubbed his face back and forth, trying to stop
Tap, tap, tap.
The man had killed puppies. Little baby puppies.
Right there in front of him. And then ordered him
to fix them. Andrew sniffed and wiped his nose on
his pants. What kind of insanity was that?
Tap, tap, tap.
His arm hurt where the big man had dragged him out
of the bank. He wondered if Mr. Skinner was looking
for him. Would he even know where to look? Andrew
had tried to read the papers Father had put in the box,
but they hadn’t made sense. He couldn’t remember if
there had been any names in there. If there were, maybe
Mr. Skinner could find him from the names. He snuffled
into his pants. Mr. Skinner had to find him. He didn’t
have anyone else.
Tap, tap, tap.
The door opened and Andrew looked up, staring at the
man’s eyes. They were cold and black, and the boy
cringed back, trying to crawl into the wall.
“Ah, Andrew. You’re awake.” The man smiled but it
never reached his cold, black eyes.
“Please let me go. I won’t tell.” Andrew’s voice
was soft, pleading, and he inched away as the man
“Andrew,” the man said softly, “I’ve been looking
for you for 15 years. I’m not about to let you go
now.” He reached out, grasping the boy’s arm and
Andrew shrank from the cold touch. “You are the
culmination of this life’s work.” He pulled the
boy to his feet roughly, fingers biting into his skin.
The doctor dragged the boy down the hall, no longer
speaking. Andrew closed his eyes, tears trickling out
beneath the long lashes. He offered up a silent prayer.
‘Please, Father, no more puppies.’ His breath caught
and he swallowed a small cry. ‘I don’t want to see
more puppies die.’
The man opened a door to another room and tugged him
through. It was a small room, with a long window
in one wall. Through the wall, Andrew could see people
standing in a line. There were about ten of them, and
they all looked scared. Most of them stared at the
ground but there were two, a tall black man and a teenage
girl, about his age, who were staring up, over the
window, looking at something he couldn’t see.
The man looked at Andrew, then pointed at the window.
“You have the power, boy,” he said. “And I gave it to
you.” He touched the window three times — tap, tap,
tap — and Andrew shuddered. “You will do my bidding.”
A shot rang out and Andrew jumped, watching in horror
as the girl cried out, then fell over, her chest
exploding in crimson. Andrew leaned into the window
staring in disbelief, then began to slide to the floor
as his legs gave out.
“You can save her, boy,” the man said. “You have the
Andrew covered his face with his hands and cried.
He wanted the puppies.
November 7, 2002 3:20 p.m.
“Do you have any idea where he might have gone when
he left here?” Skinner sighed softly and rubbed his
eyes beneath the glasses as he listened to Mulder
questioning the fourth person. A little browbeating
and heavy use of “FBI” had elicited a list of seven
names — people who had worked with Braden in the
eighties who were still employed by the Institute.
The local office was working on tracking down people
who had worked with the man but had moved on to other
The woman shook her head, but she cast a furtive
look about the room as she did so. Her hands were
clenched together before her, and she was sweating.
Mulder smiled up at Skinner — sure they were thinking
the same thing.
This one has something she’s trying to hide.
“Ms. Giametti,” Mulder began, “this is very important.
What can you tell us about Dr. Braden?”
The woman shuddered slightly, and clasped her hands
even more tightly. “He was a genius. An excellent
doctor — one of the best, if not the best.”
“But?” Mulder prodded gently.
It was all Skinner could do to hold his place and
his tongue, and let Mulder work the woman.
Her eyes cast about the room, almost as if she were
seeking a way out. She refused to meet Skinner or
Scully’s eyes, and she only glanced briefly at Mulder
before she dropped her head and studied her white-
knuckled hands. “He was — difficult — to work for.”
She cleared her throat and swallowed hard. “He was
a genius — he really was.” Her eyes rose now, to
meet Mulder’s. “His theoretical work was years ahead
of anyone else’s.”
“But he was difficult?”
“All brilliant men are.”
Mulder looked up to find Skinner smirking and he
turned away quickly, flushing. He shook his head
slightly, refocusing on the woman before him and
asked, “Ms. Giametti, do you know where we can
find Dr. Braden?”
Her eyes stayed glued to her hands and she shook
Frustrated, Mulder rose and removed his coat, holding
out one hand to keep Skinner from moving closer. He
sat at the table again, and scratched the back of his
neck. “Ma’am? We believe that Dr. Braden has kidnapped
a young boy and we need to know how much danger this
young man is in.”
The nurse’s head came up and she lifted one hand to
cover her mouth. Her eyes looked haunted.
Mulder narrowed his eyes as he studied the nurse.
“Is Dr. Braden going to hurt this boy? Has he done
“I — I don’t …” The woman was pale, and her hands
were shaking slightly. “He, uh, well, it wasn’t known
at the Institute, but, he, uh, used human subjects.”
Skinner moved forward. “Human subjects? For what?”
The woman seemed to shrink into herself. She avoided
making eye contact with the AD, and began to fidget.
“You know what we do here, right?” She looked up
briefly at Mulder, then dropped her eyes again. “Dr.
Braden — he was working on various advancements in
“And that means?” Skinner tapped his foot on the floor,
a staccato sound — tap, tap, tap.
The woman jumped, her eyes skittering wildly around
the room. It took her a minute to place the sound,
and she relaxed marginally, lifting one hand to scrub
at her face.
Skinner and Mulder exchanged a puzzled glance.
“Reproductive medicine, Ms Giametti.” Skinner pulled
a chair out and joined his agent and the woman at the
table. “I’m afraid I don’t have time to pull this
out of you one word at a time. Tell me what you know
about this man Braden. Tell me what this man wants
with the boy. Tell me why talking about Braden is
making you so nervous.”
Mulder pushed back from the table and folded his
arms. Skinner got the message loud and clear. If
you’re going to screw up my interrogation technique,
then you do it. If the situation hadn’t been so
critical, he might have apologized — or laughed.
As it was he gave Mulder an ‘I’m sorry — what else
could I do?’ look and then fixed the woman with a
steely glare. “I’m waiting.”
“The Joneses — Dr Howard and Dr Georgeanna — were
still practicing then. They found out Dr. Braden
was, well, skipping some of the protocols.”
“And?” Skinner’s foot was itching to tap again, but
he forced himself to be still.
“He was allowed to resign. He, uh, left.” She clasped
her hands again, wringing them together.
One side of Skinner’s mouth pulled down as he stared
at the woman. She was lying again — he didn’t need
Mulder’s gift of interpretation to see that. But why?
“How do you know he left? How do you know any of this?”
Skinner pulled the folder over that Mulder had been
working from. It held the list of current employees,
and the positions they had held twenty years ago.
His brow furrowed as he found Linda Giametti’s name,
then his eyebrows shot up as he looked at the woman
again. “You were his nurse. You worked directly
The woman nodded miserably. “He rushed things. He
made these incredible leaps. He didn’t follow the
rules, but he got things done.”
“Why are you so reluctant to talk to us about this?”
Skinner nodded toward Mulder. “If you aren’t
forthcoming — immediately — I am going to start
an investigation into your life that will make
Watergate look like a couple questions asked by
The woman covered her face with her hands and began to
cry. Mulder and Skinner exchanged looks that shifted
from puzzled to completely baffled. Mulder left briefly
and returned with a box of tissues, which he placed
in front of the woman. She grabbed a handful and
continued to weep into them. After several minutes,
the tears slowed, and then stopped. Skinner poured
a glass of water from the pitcher on the table, and
pushed it toward her.
“What the hell did that man do to you?” he asked in
“He gave me a child.”
Customer Service Zone – Central
November 7, 2002 5:27 p.m.
“The man kidnapped a boy from right here in Richmond.
It just happened yesterday. All the proper forms were
filed. Your people were involved from the get-go.”
Mulder stopped a moment and scrubbed his face in
exasperation, then turned his back to the Precinct
Captain. Or the ‘Customer Service Zone’ Captain,
as they were so politically correctly called here
in Richmond. He took two steps towards Skinner then
The older man was standing by the door to the room
they were using, both arms folded across his chest
in as clear a message of closed body language as Mulder
had ever seen. He watched the local police captain
through narrowed eyes, and his brow was furrowed in
what Mulder thought was pain from his head injury.
He reached out tentatively and lightly touched the
other man’s arm, waiting until he had Skinner’s
attention. “You need to take something for the pain,”
he said softly. “Take a few minutes, get something
to drink. Take a couple of aspirin.” Skinner looked
past him and Mulder turned to see what had caught his
attention again. Scully was still talking to the
Captain. “Go on, get out of here for a bit,” he
reiterated. “Scully and I will have the warrant and
backup organized before you get back.”
Skinner stared at Mulder, then nodded slowly. He
reached over to the chair, pulled his coat from it,
then slid into it. Without a word, he walked out
and disappeared down the hall.
It took about fifteen more minutes to convince the
locals to approach a judge about a warrant. Given
that there was federal involvement and a big push
to get into the site they had identified as Braden’s,
Mulder felt confident that it would come through
within the hour.
“I’ll stay on this, Mulder.” They had the room to
themselves for a moment and Scully took advantage
of it to walk over to her partner and lean against
his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and rested
his chin on her hair. “You need to go find Skinner
and tell him we’ll be good to go. He needs to be in
on how many people we take and how we approach.”
Mulder stroked her back idly, but made no attempt to
move. “Does he seem OK to you, Scully?”
She shrugged within his embrace. “More on edge than
I’m used to seeing him.” She pulled back and looked
up to meet his eyes. “This is all very personal to
him. The priest being killed. You know he feels he
should have done something.”
“I understand that.” Mulder nodded and she leaned
back into him, tightening her arms around him.
“I still think he’s having an unusually hard time
maintaining his objectivity.”
“There’ve been some unusual things occurring. Whatever
he thought happened when he banged his head, I think
it shook him up more than he’s admitting.” Scully
reluctantly pulled away from Mulder. “And he probably
doesn’t need to be left alone any longer.” She stretched
up on tiptoes and met Mulder’s lips halfway, indulging
in a long comfort kiss. “Go. Find him.” She pushed
him gently toward the door, then sat and opened her
briefcase. “I’ll wait here.”
AAA Self Storage Facility
November 7, 2002 6:02 p.m.
“His car’s here all right, Scully.” Mulder looked
up at the five-story building. “I don’t see the idiot
at the moment, but I do see a piece of plywood that has
been pulled loose.” He shook his head in disgust.
“Captain Albertini said that we should have the warrant
within the next half hour.” Scully’s voice was worried
through the phone. “Just try and find him and get him
out. Convince him a coordinated effort to track down
Braden will be more effective than Lone Wolf McQuaid.”
Mulder snorted. “Not sure I’m the best person to try
and sell that story.”
“Do the best you can,” Scully said, laughing. “As
soon as I have the paper, I’ll be there.”
Mulder shined his flashlight at the door of the
facility. Down in the warehouse district, on the
James River, it was a run-down building in the midst
of other run-down buildings. More than half of the
area was vacant with boarded up windows or broken
ones. This building bore a weathered sign identifying
it as the AAA Self Storage facility. The front office
had a plate glass window, covered with iron bars that
cast eerie shadows as he flashed the light around the
interior. No sign of his wayward boss, and why wasn’t
he surprised? He didn’t expect it to be this easy.
The nurse in Norfolk had told them that she had been
desperate for a child — and she and her husband had
no means of raising the exorbitant fees in vitro cost
in the early days. Braden had offered her the procedure
for free — in exchange for help with his projects.
She’d been with him as he converted the upper stories
of this old storage facility into a state of the art
And now Skinner, in probably the rashest move of his
career, had broken in and was somewhere in the building,
looking for Braden and the boy. Despite the fact that
they had nothing substantial to indicate Braden would
Mulder pried the plywood out from the wall and entered
through the broken window — assuming he was following
in the AD’s footsteps. Once inside, he shifted the
flashlight to his left hand and drew his weapon. The
first floor seemed to be what was advertised — a self-
storage facility. Doors lined the parallel corridors
leading into small 6×6 and 8×8 spaces. He moved
carefully through the entire first floor, finding stairs
leading up in the east, west and north corners. The
elevator — a large freight model — sat unmoving in the
office and he elected not to try it.
He pulled his phone once more and tried Skinner’s
cell. Still not turned on. Hell, the man probably
didn’t even have it with him. Mulder rubbed at his
forehead in frustration then decided on the east
stairwell. It was dark and dusty — dusty enough
to annoy, but not to help. The dirt tickled his
sinuses and made him want to sneeze, but it wasn’t
thick enough on the floor to give him tracks. He
still didn’t know where Skinner was.
The exit to the second floor was unlocked, and Mulder
moved on stealthily upward. Third floor — also unlocked.
Skinner had probably gone to the top and was working
his way down. Mulder entered the third floor and looked
around. From his vantage, it appeared as if the whole
floor had been opened up and then bisected. The room
before him was huge. A worktable ran along the back
wall, and empty animal cages were stacked on the other
two. In the center were larger cages, several work
stations, and an exam table. Mulder shuddered as he
thought of what these animals had been subjected to in
the name of research.
He moved back to the stairwell and went up another floor.
This door was also unlocked and he entered into a maze
of small rooms. It reminded him of a hospital — or a
prison. He moved to the first door and tried the knob.
Locked. He peered through the grimy window, then reached
up and scrubbed at the dirt with his shirtsleeve. A
second look through the window, and he took an inadvertent
step backwards, bile rising in his throat. A skeleton
lay on the bed, a rotting hospital gown still clinging
to its form.
The next door revealed much the same, only these bones
lay on the floor, and in the third room, the bones were
a puddled mass, barely visible beneath the window, as
if the person had been clinging to the door when death
overtook them. Mulder fought back the nausea, standing
bent over with his head between his knees. If Braden,
or anyone else *was* here, he was totally vulnerable
for the moment. He just couldn’t escape the fact that
this so-called doctor had apparently abandoned his
research, and left his subjects behind to die from
thirst and hunger.
Mulder went back to the stairwell and headed up to
the top floor. The door was locked. He frowned, then
studied the door. It was solid, steel-jambed, and
looked newer than the doors below. With his gun held
out to the right, he pushed against it with his left
shoulder — and then fell through when it opened
suddenly. Rolling onto his back he raised the gun up
to point at — Skinner!
The older man had his weapon trained on Mulder, and
stood unmoving for a long moment. Then he lowered
the gun, and reached down to pull his agent from the
floor. “God, Mulder! You make enough noise to wake
Mulder laughed shakily. “There’s plenty of them to
wake.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Did
you tour the fourth floor?”
Skinner folded his arms over his chest. “What the
hell are you doing here, Mulder?”
Mulder drew himself up to his full height and met the
AD’s glare. “I might ask you the same thing, Sir.
You are aware we don’t have the warrant yet.”
Skinner turned his back and started to step away.
“Get out of here, Mulder. You get in enough trouble
on your own. You don’t need to be here with me.”
Mulder took a couple of quick steps and grabbed the
older man, pulling him back around. “*You* don’t
belong here,” he hissed. “You’re going to do more
harm than good.”
Skinner shook his agent off. “You’re a fine one to
talk.” He took a step backwards, then stopped. “Look,
Mulder, I found signs that someone’s been here —
Mulder shrugged. “Homeless people — coming in the
same way you did.”
“No.” Skinner reached behind him and pulled something
out of the waistband of his pants, holding it up for
Mulder to see. Scully’s blue sweatshirt. “Andrew
was here. He may still be somewhere in this building.”
He tucked the shirt back into his pants, one arm hanging
down behind him in an almost comical parody of a tail.
“All right,” Mulder said softly, “where do we start?”
“There’s another locked room over here.” Skinner nodded
to his left and began to move. “I was about to open it
when you, uh, made your presence known.”
Mulder trailed Skinner, then stopped at the door he
indicated. “Any suggestions as to how we open it?”
“What floors did you check?”
“Third and fourth. Why?”
“No sign of anyone?” Skinner was standing stiff before
the door, speaking in a hushed tone.
“No — just the ones he left behind on four.” Mulder
shrugged. “You think there might be keys or something?”
Mulder moved to an open area a short distance away.
“Did you search? Maybe we can find something to
He was interrupted by the sound of wood smashing and
looked back to see the door broken down and Skinner
standing on top of it — inside the formerly locked
“Or we could just knock the thing down and make sure
everyone knows we’re here,” he muttered, moving back
quickly to stand beside Skinner.
The room was full of equipment — most of it
unrecognizable. There was a medical feel to it, and
Mulder was willing to bet that Scully would be able
to identify some of it — if she ever arrived with
the warrant. One of the machines was humming, a
soft, almost subliminal sound that made his jaw hurt,
and he reached out to touch it.
“Don’t!” Skinner cried as his hand connected with the
metal casing. A gauge on the faceplate shot into the
red and stayed there, and he could see the electricity
arc through the air as he tried to pull back.
The pain was immediate. He was blown back across the
room and it felt as if every nerve in his body was on
fire. He hit the wall, crumpled, and didn’t move.
Skinner raced across the room, dropping to his knees.
His gun fell to his side, forgotten. Mulder’s hand
was burned where the current had connected. He
straightened the younger man’s akimbo limbs and gently
laid his head flat on the floor. Two fingers at the
carotid in his neck revealed no pulse. Skinner laid
his head on Mulder’s chest — no heart sounds. He
studied the man’s torso — he wasn’t breathing.
The hairs on Skinner’s body were standing erect from
the electricity that bled off Mulder. His skin tingled.
He lifted Mulder’s chin to open the airway, then gave
two big breaths into the unmoving man’s mouth.
The rules of CPR were fuzzy in his head. Was it five
compressions or fifteen? Did five go with one man or
two man CPR? Did he use his whole hand or just
the heel? He studied his agent, realizing he didn’t
have time to debate the intricacies of proper rescue
breathing with himself. The man was dead. He gave
a couple of compressions, another breath, then pulled
back to observe and listen.
Skinner could feel the panic overtaking him. He slammed
his fist down on Mulder’s chest — wincing at the
strain. This couldn’t be the right way to give CPR!
But he couldn’t remember, and he didn’t know what
else to do. Holding Mulder’s nose closed, he breathed
into his mouth again, two more breaths. His knees
were beginning to hurt and his own chest was tight
with the effort he was making.
And still Mulder did not move.
Skinner leaned over and placed his head against Mulder’s
He was kneeling back, ready to resume compressions,
when he felt it.
Pressed hard against his neck.
He froze, raising the other arm in surrender and
“You’re a doctor, Braden,” he breathed, pointing
in desperation to the man on the floor. “Do something.”
Braden shrugged and nodded toward Andrew, who was
huddled against the wall, bare-chested, his face
fear-stricken. “Ask him. He can do something.”
He reached down and plucked the sweatshirt from
Skinner’s pants and tossed it toward the boy.
“Andrew …” Skinner pleaded. “Please …”
The boy’s face scrunched in pain and he began to
cry. “I can’t! Why won’t anyone believe me when
I tell you I can’t?!”
Braden looked at Mulder, sniffed disinterestedly,
and kicked at his leg. When Skinner leapt to his
feet, the doctor stepped back two steps and pointed
the gun at his face. “You’re coming with me,”
“No.” Skinner said shortly and dropped back beside
Mulder. He administered two more compressions.
“C’mon, Mulder,” he begged softly. “Help me out
here.” As he leaned over to breathe into the man’s
mouth again, a shot rang out.
With no further sound, Skinner collapsed on top
of his dead agent.
AAA Self Storage Facility
November 7, 2002 6:40 p.m.
There was something warm on his chest. Mulder forced
his eyes open and looked up into Andrew’s face.
“Are you OK now, Agent Mulder?” the boy asked.
Mulder nodded slowly. His chest hurt. His hand hurt.
He lifted the hand in question and looked at it. Burned.
“Wha’ happened?” he murmured groggily.
The boy shrugged. “I don’t know. I was locked up in
one of the rooms on the floor under here. I’d been
working on a way to get out and I finally did. I heard
a loud cracking sound — and when I got up here, I saw
you on the floor.”
“Skinner?” Mulder croaked.
Tears filled the boy’s eyes. “The doctor shot him.
He dragged him off to the elevator.” Andrew dropped
his head and his voice was a mere whisper. “I was
too afraid to try and do anything.” A sob caught in
his throat. “I didn’t want him to catch me again.”
Mulder reached up, touching the boy’s arm. “You
weren’t supposed to do anything. Not your job.”
He paused, breathing heavily, then repeated, “It’s
not your job. Our job. We’re supposed to keep you
“But what about Mr. Skinner?” The boy’s face was a
mask of worry and despair.
“Skinner can take care of himself. He’s surprisingly
resilient.” Mulder smiled at the boy. “You’d be
amazed at what he’s been through and lived to tell
“The doctor is mean,” Andrew announced. “He’s scary.
I, uh, I think he’s insane.”
Mulder laughed. “No surprise there. I think we can
all agree on that point.” He tried to pull himself
up, failing when his legs refused to cooperate. “Look,
Andrew, do you think you can help me up?”
The boy shook his head slowly. “I don’t think you
should get up. You were hurt pretty bad.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed as he studied the boy. “I
thought you were downstairs when it happened.”
“I was. I, uh, I mean, it just looks like you were
hurt pretty bad.” The boy slid back from Mulder,
composing himself. “Anyway, Agent Scully is almost
here. She’ll know what to do.”
Mulder twisted his head, craning to look at the doorway.
“How do you know she’s here?”
“I can hear them, can’t you?” The boy smiled and cocked
his head, pointing at the east stairwell.
Mulder focused and sure enough, he could hear steps,
and then, whispered conversation, and then Scully and
another man were shoving open the door and coming
through — she went low and the other man went high.
Mulder nodded approvingly. Scully preferred to come
“Over here!” he called, waving. “Braden’s gone.”
Scully holstered her weapon and raced to his side.
Her hands began a frantic journey over his body, first
at the wound on his hand, then across his torso, checking
for broken bones. She traced his arms and legs and then
held his face gently, looking into his eyes. “Hey, you,”
she whispered. “You all right?”
Mulder nodded. “Something knocked me back from the
wall over there.” He nodded in the direction of the
bank of machinery. “It was shocking.” He smirked
up at her, the smirk turning into a full-blown
smile when she rolled her eyes and smacked him — oh
so carefully — on the arm.
“You’ll live,” she said, rising. She reached down
and offered him a hand and this time his legs were
willing to work. Seeing him steady on his feet, she
turned to the boy. “How about you, Andrew? Did he
The boy shook his head, then turned his back to them,
wrapping his arms around himself. They watched as his
thin shoulders began to shake. Scully moved to him,
wrapping her arms around him and pulling his head to
her shoulder. She stood there, just holding him while
he cried, making soothing little nonsense sounds and
rubbing his back.
Mulder watched, confused by the emotions this scene
was creating for him. He felt proud watching Scully
comfort this child, and proprietary as he observed
*his woman* being the nurturer. He shook his head.
Scully would not approve — but he couldn’t stop the
feelings. He also felt a little at a loss. Scully
had seemed to know right away what to do, and he hadn’t
even thought to ask the boy if he was all right.
Around them, the Richmond PD was beginning to take the
place apart. Doors were being opened, papers and
instruments were bagged and tagged, cameras flashed.
Braden wouldn’t be able to come back to this place
He stepped closer to Scully and the boy, reaching out
tentatively to stroke the boy’s head, and was rewarded
when Andrew pulled from Scully’s embrace and looked up
” ‘m sorry,” Andrew said softly, sniffling. “I’m not
always such a crybaby.” He sniffed again and Mulder
gave him his handkerchief. “Thanks.”
There was a cry from the stairwell. “There’s a bunch
of dead dogs down here,” an unknown voice called.
“How do you want to bag them?”
Andrew started crying again, softly this time, and
he pulled away when Scully tried to embrace him.
“They were puppies …”
Mulder and Scully exchanged a confused glance. “Can
you tell us what happened to the puppies?” Mulder
The boy shook, an all over body shudder, then blew his
nose loudly. “He killed them.” Andrew swiped at his
eyes. “He killed them all and told me to fix them.”
Andrew looked up, anger warring with confusion in his
eyes. “It doesn’t work that way!” He hands trembled
at his side, and this time, when Scully pulled him into
her arms, he let her.
“Thrwrpplto,” he mumbled into her shoulder.
“What was that?” Mulder asked. He had one hand on
Scully’s back, the other, injured one rested lightly
on the boy’s back.
Andrew lifted his head. “There were people, too.”
November 7, 2002 6:40 p.m.
Skinner lay in the back of a van. It was dark, inside
and out, and he hurt. His hands were cuffed behind
his back — with his own cuffs, he felt sure — and
his ankles were wrapped with duct tape. His glasses
were gone so everything was out of focus, and already
his head ached. His left arm hurt, a sharp burning
pain across the bicep, and the cloth of his shirt
was sticky. He smelled blood.
The van stopped suddenly, and he jerked. Using the
momentum, he tried to roll up to a sitting position,
but was immediately overcome with nausea. Eyes closed,
he breathed slowly through his mouth, working to keep
the bile from rising in his throat.
“Shhh, Walter. Be still.”
Skinner’s eyes popped open to a fuzzy Andrew, shrouded
in the shadows of the van. “Are you all right?” he
asked the boy.
Andrew nodded. “Be quiet, please.” He cast a fearful
glance toward the front of the van.
“Can you undo my feet?” Skinner scooted toward Andrew
but the boy drew further into the shadows.
“I can’t,” he whispered.
Skinner lay still. It was both painful and awkward to
lay on your own arms and hands. It arched the back and
made your head fall at an uncomfortable angle no matter
how you moved. He closed his eyes, fighting both the
nausea and headache. “You need to help me get loose,
Andrew. Then when he comes to get us out, I can
“I don’t think you can,” Andrew replied, still
whispering. “Your arm is hurt and I know you don’t
feel good.” He stared at Skinner from his dark corner.
“Shouldn’t you just rest, or something?”
As if Andrew’s words were a reminder of his own reality,
Skinner felt the exhaustion of the past few days steal
over him. His eyes slid shut and he struggled to
open them again. “Andrew,” he murmured softly, “if
you can’t get me loose, then you have to be ready to
run.” He rolled onto his side, moving inches closer
to the boy, but still not able to touch him. “Do
you hear me? When Braden opens the door, I’m going to
jump on him — and you run. Run as far and as fast
as you can, got it?” Skinner paused, drawing in a
deep breath as he fought to stay awake. “Don’t look
back. And no matter what happens — keep running.”
Customer Service Zone – Central
November 7, 2002 10:15 p.m.
Mulder looked at his hand. It hurt. The white
gauze bandage stood out in stark contrast to his
darker skin. The tape covering it itched. He
absently used one finger of his other hand and
began to pick at it. “I honestly don’t know where
to begin to look, Scully,” he murmured. “Braden’s
got Skinner — we’ve got Andrew. You know that
bastard is gonna wanna make a trade.”
Scully reached out and took his hand. “Stop picking
at the tape.” Her smile softened the words.
He turned her hand in his, bringing it up to his
lips and gently kissed her palm. “It itches,” he
said, his eyes staring into hers.
“I know.” She pulled her hand from his and carefully
stroked his stubble-covered cheek as he leaned into
They broke apart at the sound of steps, and looked
at the door to see Andrew standing there, smiling.
“I thought you were hungry again,” Mulder said, looking
at his empty hands.
“The machine didn’t have any more chips.” The boy
shrugged. “Maybe we can go to Burger King before
they close?” he asked hopefully.
“You eat enough to feed a horse!” Scully walked over
and nudged him playfully as she spoke. “I can’t
imagine why you aren’t 7 feet tall and weigh 400
“A horse!” The boy bounced excitedly over to Mulder.
“He said something about horses.” Andrew was vibrating
with excitement. “I remember him talking about taking
me to the farm, to see the horses.” His excitement
quickly calmed as he dropped his head and added, “I
didn’t want to go.” He looked up to meet Mulder’s
eyes. “I thought it would be like the puppies.”
Scully looked at Mulder. “We’re practically in the
heart of Virginia horse country. Could be he has
something else around here.”
“Won’t be in his own name though.” Mulder paused,
thinking. “I’ll try and come up with some variants
on his name. Get someone to find out Braden’s relative’s
names, his mother and grandmother’s maiden name.”
Scully was nodding as she walked out of the door of
the small interrogation room they were using as their
“What about that nurse? Giametti? Check that as well,”
Mulder called to her back, accepting the little wave
she gave over her shoulder as acknowledgement. He turned
and gave the boy a big hug. “That’s great, Andrew!
Thanks! You’ve been a huge help — you gave us a place
The boy beamed and then sobered. “Do you think Mr. Skinner
will be all right?”
Mulder nodded. “I think Dr. Braden will want to take
care of him. He knows that Skinner is the only thing
he has to trade.”
“He wants me, you know.” Andrew’s head was down and he
dragged one foot in a circle on the tile floor.
Mulder bent slightly, placing both hands on the boy’s
shoulders. “He’s not going to get you, Andrew.
Scully — Dana and I — we’re not going to let him
get you.” He tightened his grip slightly. “You have
to trust me on this.”
Andrew winced slightly and Mulder released him. “I’m
sorry. Did I hurt you?”
The boy shook his head. “No.” When Mulder still
looked at him worriedly, he repeated. “Really, you
didn’t hurt me. I just, uh, have this feeling that
something bad is happening.”
“It’s been a rough couple of days for you, Andrew.”
Mulder rubbed the boy’s back. “I know this has been
like a nightmare. But it’s going to end soon. We’ll
find Braden and it’ll all be over.”
“How are you going to get Mr. Skinner then?” The
boy’s head was cocked at an angle as he met Mulder’s
“Well, I may not be quite as big and brawny as the
AD, but I have been known to kick some butt in my
day,” Mulder said with a smile. “Don’t you worry.
When the time comes, we’ll get Skinner out.”
Rolling Hills Horse Farm
November 8, 2002 1:13 a.m.
“No more!” The agonized shriek was ripped from his
lips as the cattle prod hit him again. His knees buckled
and he hung from his wrists once more. He’d long
since lost control of his bladder and bowels, and
the smell of his incontinence and blood mingled with
the other odors in the night air.
His own cries echoed in his ears as he struggled
to get his feet under him and take his weight off his
overtaxed wrists. He had no idea of how long he had
been here. He’d lost track of time in the van, falling
asleep — or unconscious — somewhere along the line.
When the van stopped, and he came to, the boy was gone.
Distracted by concern for the child, and hobbled by
the tape at his ankles, he’d half-stumbled, half-
fallen out of the van, knocking Braden to the ground
but not doing any real damage. And certainly not
doing anything to win his freedom. Skinner sighed
and sucked at his lip. He’d bitten it at some point
and it was still bleeding.
Arguments and demands to see the boy had been useless.
Braden insisted the boy was still in Richmond. The
doctor claimed the boy had been left behind, locked in
a room on the fourth floor of the facility. But Skinner
knew better than that. The boy had been there when
Mulder died, watching with a horrified expression on
his face. And the boy had also been in the van, talking
to him while they traveled to this farm in the Virginia
Skinner had fought as Braden held an ether-soaked cloth
to his face, trying not to breathe, but with his hands
cuffed and feet secured, it had been a losing battle.
He’d finally drawn a breath, and succumbed to the
chemical’s sleep-inducing properties. It was the second
time in a short period he’d been unconscious — first
in the van and then, here. He’d come to tied up in
this old horse barn, this particular stall having been
pre-established to hold a human being tied with arms
raised and legs spread. Skinner shuddered to think
of what Braden had used this setup for.
Three times since he’d been here, Braden had come in,
announced to the air, “You can save him,” and then
hit him with the cattle prod. The first hit had been
on his abdomen, and his bladder had released, but he’d
managed not to scream. Braden had left then, turning
off the light and plunging him into darkness. He stood
gasping, panting hard as he prayed for the pain to wear
The second time, it had been on his arm. Braden had
torn the sleeve off his shirt and Skinner could see
that he’d been shot — grazed really. His arm had a
deep crease across the bicep, and the blood had dried.
Or it had, before Braden laid the cattle prod in the wound
and pulled the trigger. He’d screamed that time,
and lost his footing, falling forward to hang heavily
from his wrists. Braden had waited, as if expecting
someone to magically appear, then turned on his heel
and left. Once more, he’d been left in darkness — and
The last time was the worst. The point of the prod
had been placed firmly against his groin and held there
for an eternity. The front of his pants began to smoke
as the electrical current threatened to start a fire.
Braden had only stopped when Skinner had collapsed,
screaming, hanging heavy from his arms, slack-jawed from
The doctor looked around, as if there were someone
there that Skinner could not see and said, “You can
end all this.”
“Who? Can end? This?” The words dribbled from Skinner’s
lips in little drops of pain. Every breath was agony.
His crotch felt on fire. In some far recess of his
brain, he was almost thankful he’d already wet himself
because he had serious doubts as to whether he’d ever
be able to perform that function again. Or any other
function that required that particular body part rising
to the occasion. He moaned slightly and tried not to
“He’s just…” Skinner twitched in his bonds, pulling
himself upright until his feet were beneath him and
his weight was off his arms, “… a boy.”
“He is far more than that.” Braden’s eyes glittered
madly in the dull light of the yellow bulb on the
rafter. “He is power — complete and total power.”
Skinner sucked in air, willing his heart to calm
and his body to cease to ache. No chance of that
he realized as even the slightest movement relit
the flames of agony in his groin.
“The boy is capable of anything.” Braden wasn’t
even looking at Skinner now. He paced across the
double stall, speaking to himself. “He can be
anywhere, do anything. He can heal — or he can
destroy.” Braden paused and stared at Skinner.
“He is the greatest weapon ever made — and he
is mine! The man jabbed a thumb at his chest.
“I gave him life!”
“God gives life, Braden.” Skinner coughed weakly.
“I made him!” the man howled, furious at being
contradicted as he bragged of his accomplishments.
“I teased the vital components of that child right
out of a dead man.” He strode to Skinner, made a
fist, and punched the big man in the gut.
Skinner ‘whuffed’ as his body reacted. Air forced
from his lungs and he instinctively tried to bend
to protect himself, but his bonds prevented it. He
swallowed hard, trying to force back the sudden wave
of nausea that swept over him.
“I made life out of death,” Braden crowed. “Powerful
life!” He calmed suddenly and began to study Skinner
and the big man felt the first real tendrils of fear
seep like ice through his belly. Braden reached out and
touched Skinner’s crotch. The doctor’s fingers lingered,
assessing size and, perhaps condition. He looked up at
the AD. “I am always looking for good candidates for
my reproductive studies.”
Skinner stopped fighting the nausea and threw up.
It had the desired effect.
Braden pulled back his hand as if he’d been burned and
jumped back, glaring at the bound man. “You’ll regret
that,” he said, then he marched out, slamming the stall
door behind him.
Skinner looked up as Braden left the barn, the light
from the single bulb above his head going out as the
doctor denied him even sight. His feet still under him,
Skinner stood, swaying slightly, and tried to determine
how he was going to get out of this one.
Rolling Hills Horse Farm
November 8, 2002 4:10 a.m.
“God!” Scully breathed the exclamation softly into the
cold night air. “There must be twenty buildings out there!”
“Twenty-three,” Mulder muttered, the night vision glasses
stuck firmly to his face.
“He could be in any of them.” Scully rearranged her arms
to push down a particularly long piece of grass that persisted
in tickling her face as she lay beside her partner.
Mulder dropped the glasses and turned to look at Scully.
“The team’s in place. I think our best bet is going to
be a quiet but direct assault.”
“Two people for the smaller buildings? Three or four for
the larger ones?”
Mulder nodded and began to crawl backwards, down from the
crest of the hill they had used as their lookout point.
Below them, in a curve of the road, local officials and
FBI from the Richmond Bureau waited for instructions.
As Officer-in-Charge of this little operation, Mulder
quickly made the team assignments. “No radio contact,
unless you find the suspect or the AD. Anyone else you
pick up is a bonus. Take ’em down, secure ’em, do what
you have to do, but finding the Assistant Director is
our primary objective here.” He looked around at the grim
faces of his team. “Any questions?” Mulder waited a beat,
then said, “Let’s move.”
Agents in jackets emblazoned with ‘FBI’ and officers whose
jackets read ‘Police’ began to move. Pairs and small groups
spread up and down the road and began creeping across the
rolling hills and through the fields, all heading for the
loose cluster of buildings spread across several acres of
farm. Mulder and Scully and three others from the Richmond
Bureau slipped through tall grass toward a large barn off
to the left and farthest from the house.
As they made their way forward, they could see others
entering their assigned buildings like shadows disappearing
in the night. Before they reached their objective, the
radio at Mulder’s belt crackled. “Mulder.”
“We’ve got Braden!” The man’s voice was excited, nervous,
tense. “He swears he’s rigged the whole place to blow,
says we tripped an alarm on the perimeter and he’s already
There was a violent ‘BOOM’ and the barn before them was
suddenly engulfed in flame. The night shifted into day
as other buildings went up and the flames lit the dark.
People scrambled away from the burning buildings. Horses
reared, their frightened cries echoing in the night as
people scrambled to avoid their thundering hooves. Screams
filled the air. Mulder could see two people dragging a
man from a smaller stable, and when he looked behind him,
he saw someone else carrying a woman from the remains of
a small shed.
Everywhere he looked, there was fire. Two agents were
manhandling Braden out of the house — the only structure
He had set off at a trot toward the man, determined to
make him reveal Skinner’s location, when Scully’s cry
halted him. He turned to see her pointing at the large
Skinner was coming out, walking through the fire. He
moved steadily toward them, seeming to slip *between* the
flames. The AD had one hand extended, out to the front and
slightly to the left, and he wore a dazed expression.
Skinner cleared the barn doorway just as the overhead rafter
collapsed. Mulder darted over, catching the exhausted
man as he fell forward, dragging him away from the fire.
In the distance, he could hear the sirens as the fire trucks
Other hands were there, helping him lift and carry Skinner
out of the fire’s path. They hauled him far into the field,
and laid him in the soft grass. Scully was examining him,
but he lifted a hand and pulled Mulder down. “Andrew,”
Skinner gasped. “Did the boy get out, too?”
Mulder shook his head. “Andrew’s back in Richmond, Sir.
He’s still at the police station. I didn’t want to risk
putting him with Child Services until we knew this situation
Skinner was shaking his head violently. “No, no, no! He
was here. He’s the one that untied me — he led me out.”
The AD began to struggle, trying to get back to his feet.
“Shhh,” Scully soothed as Mulder and several others held
the man down. “Sir, the boy is not here.”
Skinner pushed upward one more time, then collapsed back
into the soft ground. “I saw him,” he cried. He lay
back, closing his eyes and whispered again, “I saw him.”
Georgetown Preparatory School
November 13, 2002 7:45 p.m.
“Are you getting settled OK, Andrew?” Skinner asked
from his seat on the boy’s bed.
“All right, I guess.” The boy was standing by the
window, gazing out into the night.
“Classes OK? Having trouble with anything?” Skinner
rose and moved to stand behind the boy.
Andrew shrugged. “I’m a little behind, but the teachers
here — they said they’d help me in the evenings.”
“It’s not going to be all school, I hope?” Skinner
reached out and tentatively laid a hand on the boy’s
shoulder. When his touch was not rejected, he squeezed
“Not all.” The boy turned beneath Skinner’s hand and
looked up. “They’ve got a pretty good soccer team, and
Father Brian said I can work out with them for now,
maybe try out in the spring.”
“Sounds good, kiddo.” Skinner led the boy back to the
bed, sitting beside him. Andrew fidgeted uncomfortably,
his face revealing worry. “What’s bothering you?”
“Who, uh, how …” He flushed and looked away, fighting
some inner battle with himself, then met Skinner’s
eyes again. “This place isn’t cheap, Mr. Skinner.” He
swallowed hard. “They told me you were paying for me.”
Skinner nodded slowly. “It’s OK, Andrew. It’s no big
deal for me.”
The boy’s eyes were wide as he looked up at the older
man. “It’s a very big deal for me, Sir.” He rose and
walked back to the window. “I, uh, I don’t really have
anywhere else to go.”
“You’ll be safe here, son. Braden’s going to be locked
up for the rest of his life. No one’s going to bother
you here. You can have that normal life you were talking
about.” Skinner watched quietly as the young man moved
through the room, touching things without conscious
thought. It was as if he were reminding himself that
this place was real, it was here, he was safe. “I’ve,
uh, set up a small allowance for you, too. Father Michael
will give it to you however you like — weekly, monthly,
whatever works for you.”
The boy flushed again and dropped his head. His
voice was soft. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know I didn’t have to.” Skinner cleared his throat.
“I wanted to. It’s, uh, 80 bucks a month. Is that
The boy shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s way more than
I’ve ever had before.” He rubbed one toe back and forth
across the rug, staring downward at its path. “You
don’t have to,” he repeated.
The room was silent for a moment, neither one looking
at the other, then Andrew moved. He came to stand
in front of Skinner, waiting for the man to look up
and meet his eyes. “I can’t give you what you want.”
He spread his hands helplessly. “I can’t give you
Skinner shook his head. “I don’t want anything, Andrew.”
He reached up and took the boy’s hand, bringing it to
his heart. “You already gave me my life.”
The boy pulled back slowly, breaking contact with the
AD, and then stepped back. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You were there. You healed me. You healed Mulder.”
Andrew shook his head. “You’re talking miracles.
You sound like Dr. Braden.” It was an accusation.
“No,” Skinner corrected him gently. “Not like him
at all. I don’t want to *use* you, Andrew. I’m just
privileged to know you. And I’m more grateful than
you can know for what’s been given to me.”
Andrew turned, facing away from Skinner and the big
man waited patiently. As he watched, the moon moved
across the window and the boy was bathed in its
silvery light. “Don’t you understand, Walter?” the
boy asked. “I’m not him — I’m not your saint. I
don’t care how I was made — I’m just me. Andrew
Madden. Nothing special, nothing unique. Just a boy.”
A cloud blew before the moon and the light faded.
“Father Madden was the only one who wanted me for me.”
His voice broke and Skinner took his arm, turning him
gently and then pulling him into a hug. He stroked
the black hair and rubbed the thin back as the boy
sobbed. “Shhh,” he soothed. “It doesn’t matter.”
Skinner pushed him away, holding him with two hands
as he waited for the boy to lift his head and look
at him. “You are special, Andrew. Just you. Andrew
Madden. As special and unique as they come.” He
reached out and wiped tears from the boy’s face. “You’ve
been through more in your short life than most would face
in ten lifetimes. You’re strong and good, capable of
great love and great deeds.” He shook his head. “And
you don’t have to work miracles to be worthy of my
respect and love.”
Andrew stared gravely into Skinner’s eyes. “Will you
come and see me sometime?”
The older man nodded. “And between visits, you call me
if you need anything. Money, clothes, whatever. You
can ask me for anything.”
The boy fell into his arms again and Skinner held him,
soft shushing noises flowing from his lips. When
the boy was cried out, he murmured, ” ‘m tired.”
“I know.” Skinner stood and pulled the covers back
on the boy’s bed. “Go put your pajamas on. It’s
early, but it won’t hurt you to turn in. You’ve had
a busy couple of weeks.”
Skinner fussed with the bed, then pulled a card from
his wallet and added his home and cell phone numbers
to it. When Andrew came back from the bathroom, he
handed it to him. “Call me — anytime, from anywhere.
I’ll come.” He stared at the boy. “You understand?”
“Yes, Sir.” Andrew climbed into the bed, and Skinner
awkwardly pulled the covers up.
“I’m not very good at this,” he said.
The boy smiled. “You’re doing fine.”
Skinner stood staring down at the boy in the bed.
“Well, then.” His voice was suddenly gruff. “I
should go.” But he didn’t move.
The boy lay quietly, waiting.
“You’ll call me? If you need anything?”
“Well. I should go.” Skinner cleared his throat,
then leaned down and swiftly kissed the boy’s forehead.
He turned and stepped quickly to the door.
“Walter?” Andrew’s voice was soft.
Skinner stopped and looked back at the bed. The moon
was clear again and Andrew glowed in its light.
“You believe in God?”
“Remember — people don’t work miracles. God does.”