Circles

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Title: Circles

Author: The VS10 Producers

Category: Mytharc

Keywords: case file

Archive: Two weeks exclusively on the IMTP VS10 site.

After that, please ask.

* * * * *

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Teaser

Scully Residence

December 27,1993

10:45PM

Maggie Scully slipped the key into the lock, opened

the door and went inside, deftly side-stepping the

neatly stacked boxes that lay just inside the foyer.

Pine and cinnamon scented the air, stirring up old

familiar memories of brightly wrapped Christmas gifts

and saucer-eyed children. She understood perfectly

her daughter’s propensity for trying to make

Christmas last a little bit longer. The best times

were always far too short.

In the moonlit shadows, Maggie could just make out

the Christmas tree standing in a corner of the living

room, stripped bare of all its finery. Tall and

green, its pine needles were still as fresh as the

day they’d hauled it through the front door.

Regardless, its stay in the Scully household was

over. Bill was never one to linger over silly

sentimentalities. He was never able to shed the

batten-down-the-hatches all-hands-on-deck attitude he

needed to captain a ship. Not even at home. And his

family knew, that come the day after Christmas, the

tree was history.

Maggie sighed audibly, her mood still troubled after

their abrupt departure from her daughter’s home. She

had expected to stay and talk awhile before hitting

the road. After all it was a rare occurrence these

days for the three of them to be together, and she

knew Dana had made a special effort with their meal

tonight. Maggie shook her head. Even as an adult,

Dana was still eager to impress her father, still

seeking his approval.

Tonight, Maggie had hoped that her husband would

finally give their daughter the encouragement she

craved. They’d discussed it on the way over, and she

thought that Bill would make the effort to tell Dana

he was proud of her, despite his wish that she pursue

a career in medicine.

When he’d failed to take the hint, she could have

shaken him. Her frustration flared to life again and

she turned to her husband, unable to hold her tongue

any longer, “Bill, we talked about this. Dana needs

to hear the words. She believes you disapprove of her

career choice–”

“And she’d be right…”

“Bill!”

“Now, hold your horses, Maggie. Disapproving of Dana

joining the FBI does not equate to lack of pride in

her successes. ”

“Then you should tell her…”

“Dana knows how I feel.” Captain Scully shrugged out

of his coat and peeled the scarf from around his

neck. He hung both items on the wooden coat tree

beside the door.

Maggie stood with hands on hips. “How?”

“She’s my daughter.” Bill Scully gave his wife an

affectionate wink. “Now, how about that cup of coffee

you promised me.”

“Bill…” Maggie’s argument was cut short by the

sharp trill of a telephone.

A brief look of surprise crossed the captain’s face;

he checked his watch and glanced at this wife, “I’ll

take it in the den.” He lifted his hand to his mouth,

mimicking the act of drinking from a cup and mouthed

the word, “Coffee?” Then, turning on his heel headed

towards the den, the sound of the telephone loud and

demanding at that late hour.

Bastard! “Pigheaded son-of-a…” Maggie cut herself off

before the fruits of being married to a naval officer

became all too apparent.

So, he was expecting a phone call from the base.

That’s why the big rush to get home. Asshole! She

stomped into the kitchen, more in the mood to prepare

a cyanide cocktail than a pot of coffee. Not only had

he hurried to get home for work reasons, but he’d

blown her off when she tried to talk about Dana.

She set about making the coffee, her movements jerky

with the suppressed desire to throttle her husband.

While the coffee was brewing, she leaned against the

countertop in silent fury. *Don’t think this is over,

Bill. I’m not done with this topic of conversation

yet.”

“Uh, huh.” Bill sat with one hip propped on the

corner of his desk, phone tucked tight into his ear.

Months of investigation were finally coming to

fruition and this was the phone call that would drop

the last piece of the puzzle into place. He hadn’t

told Maggie what had been going on at work; he hadn’t

wanted her worrying unnecessarily. One more vital

piece of information and it should all be over.

“Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yes.”

Bill shifted the receiver to his other hand and

grabbed a notebook and pencil from the desktop. He

listened intently as the officer on the other end of

the phone gave a brief summary of the day’s progress.

They finally had a name to go with the man they’d

been seeking.

Leaning the notepad on his thigh, he held the pencil

poised, ready to write. “Who?”

The answer hit him like a bullet, swift and painful.

“That’s…not possible…”

Maggie added two teaspoons of sugar to her husband’s

cup, and cream to her own. A few deep breaths and a

self-administered pep talk had calmed her slightly.

She knew how stubborn Bill could be at times and she

usually just let it ride. But on occasion… She

smiled to herself, suddenly amused at how the same

qualities that had first attracted her to him, the

ones she’d found so endearing—- his strength and

sense of order—- were the same things that could

drive her to distraction on a bad day. She sighed to

herself. Nothing like a good cup of coffee to begin

peace negotiations.

A quick stir with the teaspoon and Maggie headed back

to her husband.

Being careful not to spill the hot liquid, she pushed

the door open with her hip and entered, “Bill I…”

The crash of porcelain hitting the floor echoed

through her head as time seemed to slow down to a

frustrating crawl. “Bill! What’s wrong?”

Maggie stood frozen in place, her feet suddenly heavy

and uncooperative. She stared in horror as her

husband took a couple of staggering steps toward her,

both hands clutching at his chest. He opened his

mouth as if to speak, but his face crumbled into a

grimace of agony and Bill Scully sank to his knees.

Motor neurons suddenly kicked into life, sending

vital messages to Maggie’s numbed senses. She ran to

her husband, wrapped her arms around his shoulders

and lowered him onto his side. “Oh, my god! Bill!”

The handset lay on the floor beside him. She snatched

it up and held it to her ear. “H-hello. I need…”

But there was no one there. With trembling fingers

she hit 911 and waited to be connected.

***

Act I

Nine years later

FBI Headquarters, Washington, DC

Monday, 3:04 PM

The forecast had called for scattered showers so, of

course, it was pouring. The dampness seemed to seep

in everywhere, cling to one’s clothing, and make

squeaking sounds on linoleum as people carefully

navigated the hallways with wet shoes.

Mulder rarely saw his partner on a bad hair day, but

weather like this seemed to wreak particular havoc on

her. She’d clasped the unruly strands in a tight

ponytail at the nape of her neck in an attempt to

regain control, but the humidity seemed to be

winning.

As he tapped on the door to Skinner’s office, he

smiled down at her, receiving the expected smirk in

response. She was still fussing with the sleeves of

her blazer, which were probably still damp. Her

umbrella had snapped open on her in the office,

splattering both her clothes and all the papers on

his desk.

A grumbling “come in” sounded from the other side of

the door, and they entered. Skinner was at his desk,

paging through the contents of a file folder that

Mulder guessed was the case they were about to

receive.

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” he said without

looking up.

They took their customary seats, and waited. The

water trickling down the window behind Skinner served

well as a distraction during several minutes of

silence. A gust of wind blew large, full droplets

against the pane. It made them thankful they were in

a warm, dry place, even if it was Skinner’s office.

Mulder studied him patiently, his superior tapping

short fingernails on clean white pages. He glanced at

his partner, receiving a shrug in response. Skinner

closed the folder and sat back in his seat. His mood

was unreadable.

“I have a missing person case for you.” He slid the

folder across the desk to Scully. “Greta Wilson

disappeared a few days ago in Clayville, New Jersey.

Certain aspects of the case would seem to fit your

particular area of expertise.”

Scully opened the folder, holding it so Mulder could

read over her shoulder. She looked up almost

immediately. “*Crop circles*?”

Mulder knew the look Skinner was getting. He’d been

on the receiving end of it a few times himself.

The A.D. shrugged. “It could be a hoax, one made to

look like an alien abduction, but the fact remains

that a woman is missing. And there have been similar

cases over the past several years that we’ve only

just now found out about. They were never reported or

investigated.”

“All in the same town?” Mulder jumped in.

“Yes. The previous women were all returned safely and

refused to press charges. Arthur Wilson is the first

to take any action, but he hasn’t received any help

from local law enforcement. I want to know why.”

Mulder could sense Scully tensing up. Her thumb

pressed a wrinkle into the manila folder. “Sir, it’s

not that I don’t want to help Mr. Wilson, but I still

fail to see why this is an X-file.”

Mulder gently took the folder away from his partner

before she folded it into an origami pattern. His own

interest was definitely piqued, but he knew that

Scully was far from convinced.

“Why would the other abductees have refused to report

the crime?” he wondered aloud.

Scully shot him a sharp glare for his terminology.

She addressed Skinner directly then. “They could have

become enamored of their kidnapper. Perhaps this guy

is very charming. Once they were returned, they may

have wanted to protect him. It’s a common reaction to

the experience. You should know that, Mulder.”

Skinner shared a silent acknowledgement with Scully

as Mulder rifled trough the report.

“But crop circles to cover it up, Scully? It’s seems

like overkill. Why would he create a distraction if

he’s already won them over enough to keep quiet?” He

noticed she was still staring at Skinner, not wanting

to listen to him.

“I know this has some sensitive subject matter for

you both,” Skinner remarked quietly. “But, I do think

you two are best suited for the job. And, I’m sorry

to say, I agree with Mulder. We need an investigation

here and somebody has to help Mr. Wilson and his

family. We can’t leave a citizen stranded like that.

Plus,” he leaned back in his chair, “it seems we need

to jump start the local PD into some action.”

Scully looked very much as if she had more to say,

but instead, she nodded and stood up. Mulder quickly

followed suit. She glanced back at him over her

shoulder as she headed for the door. “I’ll go home

and pack, Mulder. You see about a car.”

He traded looks with Skinner and started after her.

“One bureau-issue Taurus, coming right up.”

***

New Jersey Route 55

8:40 PM

Scully was MIA. Distracted, pensive, she’d spent the

majority of the trip gazing out the window at

nothing. Mulder’s attempts at any of the distractions

they normally enjoyed on long car rides had fallen

flat. Truth or Dare, Watercooler Trivia– even My

Favorite Mutant– were all met with polite

disinterest. She didn’t seem to be angry with him,

she was just… someplace else.

He shifted his grip on the steering wheel and glanced

over at her, trying to catch her eye. When, after

several minutes, it became clear she was completely

oblivious to the overture, he sighed.

“Talk to me, Scully.”

She jerked a bit, pulling her gaze reluctantly from

the window to focus on his face. The dim interior was

lit briefly as they passed under a streetlight, and

he saw the faint creases marring her pale brow.

“About the case?”

“About why the case is bothering you.”

Her forehead smoothed and she huffed a little laugh,

but not before he caught the guarded look in her

eyes. “Mulder, the only thing bothering me about this

case is that we’re investigating it in the first

place. It’s a waste of our time.” She shook her head.

“Crop circles.”

“Bullshit.” He gritted his teeth, clamping down on

his irritation. The days of accepting “I’m fine,

Mulder” were over. They were past that, damn it.

“This isn’t professional differences over a case,

Scully. Something’s been eating at you ever since

Skinner handed us that folder. Is it your own

abduction? Is this hitting a little too close to

home?”

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Her lips compressed to a thin, bloodless line. “I was

kidnapped, Mulder. By Duane Barry, not aliens. Those

responsible for my disappearance, for the tests

performed on me, were very human.” She looked away,

jaw clenched. “Physiologically, anyway.”

His angry retort stalled as he caught a glimpse of

her trembling hands. Mulder took a long slow breath

and gentled his tone. “I know. I’m not discounting

the possibility that these women might have suffered

the same experience. Either way, it warrants further

investigation.”

He paused, realizing she’d somehow neatly steered the

conversation from its original purpose. “After all

you’ve been through… It’s understandable that this

case might push some buttons for you, Scully.”

“I’m all right.”

Something inside him snapped. His grip on the

steering wheel turned white-knuckled. “You aren’t all

right! Why is it so hard to admit that to me, Scully?

Why do you always have to be the strong one, so

perfectly in control? I love you, damn it! All of

you. God knows, I’m a basket case often enough. Do

you think less of me because of it?” He tore his eyes

from her and concentrated grimly on the road, voice

little more than a whisper. “Maybe you do.”

“Pull over.”

It wasn’t what he expected. A startled glance at her

face revealed little as he cautiously guided the car

onto the shoulder and flipped on the hazard lights.

He shifted into park with more force than necessary

and waited, glaring at the windshield.

“You know that’s not true.”

He blinked at the undercurrent of emotion in her

voice. Still unwilling to let go of his frustration,

he turned to study her face. The pure, undiluted love

there dried up the remainder of his anger.

“You’re right. But sometimes, Scully. Sometimes it

feels that way.”

“I’m sorry.” She tangled their fingers together but

turned to look out the window. “I was raised by an

officer in the United States Navy, Mulder. In a

household run with military precision. Logic,

self-control, discipline–those were qualities my

father prized above all others.” A tiny smile curved

her cheek. “A Scully doesn’t fall to pieces under

pressure, doesn’t give in to displays of emotion.

She holds her head high, rides it out.” A slight

pause and she squeezed his hand. “It’s not easy to

overcome twenty-one years of conditioning.”

Mulder lifted their joined hands, brushing his lips

across her knuckles. He tipped his head, one corner

of his mouth turning up. “You’ve been there for me

during some of the darkest days in my life. I’d like

to return the favor now and then.”

She swallowed; blinked. When she spoke her voice was

wispy. “I’d like that, too.” She licked her lips. “I

was being truthful when I said I was fine with this

case, Mulder. But I can’t say it hasn’t caused a

few unpleasant memories to resurface.”

“Is that where you were just now?” At her questioning

look, he added, “You’ve been quiet and distracted

since we left. You may be physically in this car, but

mentally you’re miles away.”

“I guess I was thinking about the women and what they

may have endured. You know, whether the kidnapper is

human or extraterrestrial doesn’t really change the

sense of powerlessness, of complete dependence on the

whim of your captor. The violation of your mind as

well as your body.” Her gaze turned distant,

contemplative. “Regaining some semblance of control,

even if only over the memories, means everything.”

“Are you saying you think that may be why the women

never involved the police?”

“It’s possible. Better to forget than dredge it up

over and over again. Reliving an experience may

eventually bring healing, but it’s a painful process.

Too painful, for some.” She seemed to shake herself

out of a daze. Her eyes dipped to the dashboard clock

and she squared her shoulders. “We’d better get

moving.”

He nodded and reached for the gearshift. “I have the

feeling Skinner’s going to be keeping tabs on this

case.”

“You might try to remember that when you’re dealing

with the local boys.” A hint of a smile curved

Scully’s lips, affection replacing preoccupation.

“And just for the record, Mulder? I love you, too.”

He grinned smugly and shifted into drive. “I know.”

Thirty minutes later they pulled into the parking lot

of The Ambassador, a motel that had little to warrant

the grandeur of its name. Mulder was whistling when

he returned from checking them in, a Cheshire cat

smile on his face. He slid behind the wheel,

jiggling two large plastic key rings in her

direction.

“Rooms 28 and 29, right around the corner. Two double

beds and a king, respectively.” He jockeyed the car

into a parking spot in front of the two doors and

waggled his eyebrows. “Wonder which room will be

seeing the most action?”

Scully rolled her eyes and got out of the car. “You

said it yourself, Mulder. Skinner will probably be

monitoring this investigation more closely than

usual.”

Mulder popped the trunk and handed over her suitcase.

“What’s your point? It’s not like we’re still in the

closet, after all. Skinner’s known for months that

we’ve been doing the horizontal mambo.” He leaned

into her space conspiratorially. “Scully, the man

gave us a gift voucher to a sleazy motel. I consider

that his blessing.”

She gave him the look–the one that left him feeling

like an errant toddler. “We’ve been over this,

Mulder. What we do on our own time, and what we do

while we’re on the clock are two very different

situations.” She plucked the key to 28 from his hand

and headed for the door. “You can have the king.”

“Sculleee! When we’re sleeping we are on our own

time.” Hearing the whine in his voice did little to

dispel the toddler image. He shut the trunk and gave

it one more try. “It’s conservation of resources,

Scully. Less water wasted washing sheets, less

manpower expended cleaning the room…”

She disappeared into 28 without a backward glance and

the door shut firmly behind her. Mulder hefted his

suitcase with a longsuffering sigh.

“God, I hope they have cable.”

Before he’d taken three steps the door opened and

Scully’s head popped out. This time she was the one

with the Cheshire cat grin.

“I had you, Mulder. Big time.”

* * *

Clayville Municipal Hall

Tuesday, 8:45 am

Mulder parked the car at a metered spot just a few

yards from the door of the Municipal Building. The

city fathers and mothers of Clayville had obviously

received some nice grant money or a fat real estate

tax increase, because the building before them was

very new, sporting a cornerstone dated 2001.

Mulder waited for Scully to join him on the

sidewalk, placing his hand at the small of her back.

“So, how do you want to play this? Good agent/bad

agent or ‘I’m from the Government, I’m here to

help you’?” he asked with boyish grin.

“Mulder, Skinner made it clear that the local police

weren’t interested in our being here. I say we play

it straight, ask as many questions as they’ll answer

without giving us any bull and continue on our

way.”

“Oh goody! I get to be bad agent this time,” he

responded gleefully.

“I can’t take you anywhere,” Scully said with a

deep sigh as he opened the door for her.

Inside the building it was warm and bright and still

held the aroma of new carpeting and freshly brewed

coffee. A glass partition separated the visitors from

the woman sitting at the desk, immensely engrossed

in the latest Harlequin Romance. Mulder wiggled

his eyebrows down in Scully’s direction and

approached the glass, bending so he could speak

through the metal filter.

“Excuse me, I’m Special Agent Mulder with the

FBI and this is my partner, Agent Scully. We’re

here to see Chief Donaldson.” To prove his identity,

Mulder pulled out his wallet, gold badge catching the

overhead lights and reflecting back off the glass

divider.

The woman held up an index finger to either signal

a pause or check for wind direction, Mulder wasn’t

certain which, and proceeded to wait until she

reached the bottom of the page before turning her

attention to the two agents. With exaggerated

slowness, she put the book aside and smiled up at

them. “Sorry, Chief Donaldson’s out of the office

until Tuesday. I can leave a message,” she suggested,

pulling over a pad of scrap paper.

Mulder smiled tightly. “No, I’m afraid we need to

speak with someone sooner than next week. Is it

possible to speak with the second in command?”

A frown replaced the woman’s feigned helpful

smile. “Deputy Chief Ambrose is out sick. Sorry.”

Mulder bit his upper lip and felt his blood pressure

rise a few notches. Scully unobtrusively put a hand

on his arm and took a step closer to the glass. “Is

there anyone here we could speak with regarding a

missing person’s case?” she asked sweetly.

The woman’s blank stare lasted a full minute. Just

when Mulder was about ready to take out his weapon

and see if the glass was indeed bulletproof, the

woman reached over to the phone on her desk and

quickly dialed a number. “Jeff, there are two FBI

agents out here. Can I send ’em back to you? They

want to know about a missing persons case.”

A few seconds of silence filled the air, the woman

picked at a hangnail. “I know, but everybody else is

gone. Looks like you get the sticky end of the

lollipop, buddy,” she said with a sarcastic smirk.

She hung up the phone and looked up at Mulder with

undisguised distaste. “He’ll be right up.” She then

picked up her book and found her place again.

In short order a well dressed young man opened a

side door and waved Mulder and Scully in to the

inner office. He turned on his heel and led them

through a maze of standard office cubicles to the

last one. Grabbing a chair from the cubicle next

door, he set it down and motioned for the two agents

to take a seat. Finally he looked at his visitors.

“I’m Jeff Harrison. What did you want to ask about?”

he said. Mulder noted that the greeting did not

include the customary offer of a handshake and was

relieved. He wasn’t sure if he could shake the man’s

hand. His neck, maybe, but a hand might require too

much self-control.

“Detective Harrison,” Scully started, noting her

partner’s bright red flush of anger. “We’re here to

help with the investigation into Greta Wilson’s

disappearance. Her husband contacted our office…”

“Domestic dispute,” Harrison said shortly.

“Excuse me?” Scully asked, tilting her head.

“Domestic dispute. Happens all the time. A married

couple fights all the time in the city, gets this

idea that they need a change of scenery and move to

the sticks, but he keeps beatin’ on her or she keeps

cheatin’ on him. Sooner or later one of them has

their fill of it and runs off. It’s not a missing

persons case.”

“Is that what happened the other times?” Mulder asked

coolly. Scully noted the air in the room had dropped

twenty degrees just from the sound of his voice.

Harrison looked dumbfounded. “I don’t know what

you’re talking about,” he said, nervously shuffling

papers on his desk. “What other times?”

“You said ‘it happens all the time’. We’ve received

information that other women have gone missing, but

they returned. Are you saying those were ‘beatin’

and/or cheatin’ situations as well?” Mulder leaned

back in his chair and crossed his legs. Scully

instinctively sat forward, watching every move the

detective made.

“Miscommunication. Notes get mislaid, messages aren’t

written down. You can look at our records. We don’t

have any official reports of missing persons.”

“Except Greta Wilson, right? Her husband reported her

missing two days ago. As of late yesterday, he’d not

heard anything from your department,” Mulder said,

leaning forward now, resting his elbows on his knees.

“Look, if you’re accusing this department of . . .”

“I’ll take it from here, Jeff.” A tall man with dark

curly hair, receding just a touch at the temples,

filled the doorway of the cubicle. “I’m Chief

Donaldson. Is there anything I can help you with?”

Scully noted that the young man looked extremely

relieved to have slipped off the hook. She turned

her attention to Chief Donaldson. The agents stood

and Mulder again pulled out his badge, flashing it at

the Chief.

“Chief, we heard you were out until next Tuesday,”

Mulder remarked innocently. When his comment received

no reaction other than a stern glare from the Chief,

he continued. “I’m Agent Mulder with the FBI. My

partner, Agent Scully,” he said, turning slightly

toward her. “We’re attempting to get some information

on the disappearance of Greta Wilson.”

Donaldson nodded. “Let’s talk in my office,” he said.

“Thanks, Jeff. Go see if Gracie needs any help

filing.”

Scully scowled as the young man headed in the

opposite direction. “He’s not a detective?”

“Who said he was a detective? He’s a file clerk,”

Donaldson replied curtly. Scully’s blood pressure

reached the boiling point just as Mulder’s had.

Once in Donaldson’s office, Mulder noted there was

only one chair for visitors. When the Chief made

no effort to obtain another, both agents stood. “Has

there been any progress on the investigation?”

Mulder asked, frustration coloring his tone.

Donaldson seated himself at his desk, then made a

few keystrokes on his computer. “Let’s see,

Ambrose took the statement just yesterday,

contacted her former employer, they haven’t answered

back—looks like no progress at this time.” He looked

up at Mulder and smiled. “You know, it’s very

possible…”

“That this was a domestic dispute and she just ran

off with her boyfriend?” Mulder supplied

sarcastically. “At least that was the ‘official

opinion’ of your file clerk! Chief, I get the feeling

that your department really isn’t taking this

disappearance very seriously.”

Donaldson bristled, a flush coming to his cheeks

that matched the red in Mulder’s eyes. “Look, this

isn’t New York. When someone goes missing, a child or

someone like that, we take it seriously. But I’m not

going to waste manpower chasing after some Eva Gabor

wannabe who’s decided she doesn’t like the Green

Acres as much as her husband tried to convince her

she would. That’s their business and they’d do best

to leave law enforcement out of it, so we can

concentrate on some real crimes.”

“There have been other occurrences,” Mulder said

through gritted teeth. “Were those ignored as well?”

Donaldson narrowed his eyes to mere slits. “There

have been no official reports. Now, if you don’t

mind, I do have other business to attend to.”

“Chief, if I need to subpoena you and drag you before

a Grand Jury for obstruction of justice, I’ll do

that. Have there been other occurrences where people

have gone missing?”

It looked like a Mexican standoff, but Donaldson

was the first to blink. “Over the years, there have

been a few knee jerk reports. But the women turned

up safe and sound and every last one of them refused

to discuss it. Their husbands took them back,

probably to save their marriages and we just dropped

the investigations for lack of evidence. That is all

I have to say on the matter. Now, I’ll ask you

nicely, remove yourselves from this office or I

will.”

Without a word, the two agents left the office and

the building. Out on the sidewalk, Mulder stopped

and looked back toward the door, pulling a few

seeds out of his trench coat pocket and popping

them in his mouth. “Bet he’s never been invited to

the National Organization of Women’s fundraising

luncheon,” he grinned over at Scully. Scully shook

her head, but couldn’t keep the grin off her face. It

faded as soon as they were settled in the car.

“So why would every one of those women refuse to

make a statement? Are they willing to buy into the

‘cheatin’ heart explanation?” Mulder asked as he

started the engine and backed out of the parking

space.

“Most of them probably don’t remember what happened

to them, Mulder,” Scully said quietly, staring out

the passenger side window. “And the ones who do

probably don’t want to.”

He reached over and found her hand on her lap,

squeezing it gently. “Scully, I know this is really

tough—”

“Mulder, I’m not ready to assume alien abduction,

or even military abduction,” Scully said, pulling her

hand away and crossing her arms. “Maybe there’s

something else here. Maybe it could be as simple

as a domestic dispute.” At his disapproving glance,

she dropped her eyes. “I just don’t want to jump on

the alien bandwagon until we find more evidence of

their involvement.”

Mulder stopped at the red light at the corner and

turned to look at her. “But you aren’t dismissing it

out of hand,” he offered, an affectionate smile on

his face.

She let a grin steal across her lips. “Mulder, after

all these years, I know better than to dismiss

anything out of hand. Now, let’s go over and talk to

Mr. Wilson. Maybe he can give us some insight

into this.”

“Yes ma’am!”

* * *

Act II

Wilson residence

Clayville, N.J.

9:30 AM

“Arthur Wilson?” Mulder asked as he pulled out his

ID. Upon seeing Wilson’s nod, Mulder introduced

himself and Scully. “May we come in, sir?” When the

man failed to respond in either word or deed, Mulder

added, “Please? Or we’re going to need life jackets

soon, Mr. Wilson.”

Mulder’s words shook Wilson out of his trance, and he

stepped aside quickly. “Sorry,” he muttered, closed

the door, and then led them into the living room.

“Will you help me? Please,” he pleaded, “I don’t

understand why she’s still missing. This makes no

sense.”

“Mr. Wilson, what doesn’t make sense?” asked Scully.

“That she’s still missing. I mean, first of all

there’s been no one looking for her. Can you imagine

that? The cops keep telling me there’s nothing they

can do about it. Of course that was after they’d

asked me about my marriage and whether me and the

little missus were having any problems,” the

distraught man’s voice began to escalate. “If Greta

ever heard herself referred to as the ‘little missus’

you can be sure there’d be hell to pay. The woman has

a brown belt in karate. Who the hell do they think

they’re dealing with here, Ma and Pa Kettle?” ranted

Wilson, the anger in his voice becoming more evident

with each passing syllable.

“Have you spoken to your neighbors?” asked Scully.

“I tried, but every time I’ve gone over to try and

talk with them, the housekeeper or the nanny answers

and they refuse to speak with me.”

“Well, what about the police? Have they tried to -”

began Scully.

“- Agent Scully, do you have any idea of what I’ve

been dealing with here?” Arthur Wilson asked angrily.

“They keep trying to convince me that she ran away

with her lover from New York. They haven’t lifted a

finger to try and find her. Not one damn thing!”

“Mr. Wilson,” Mulder said softly, “is there any

possibility that the police department’s assumptions

might have some validity to them?”

“No.” Wilson answered quickly, and though the agents

gave some consideration to the swiftness of the

response, both concluded it was due not to

bitterness, but rather to confidence in his beliefs.

“None whatsoever, ” he continued. “The thing that’s

getting me so pissed off is that they won’t lift a

finger to try and find her. God knows who the hell

has her!”

“You think she’s being held against her will?”

interjected Scully. “On what evidence do you make

that assumption?”

“Well, if she weren’t being held against her will,

she’d be back by now! I’m telling you – someone’s got

her!”

“Okay, sir, I think it would be best to start from

the beginning,” suggested Mulder in a quiet, non-

threatening manner.

“I’ve already told the police everything I know.”

“Yes, but given the amount of support the local PD

has been giving you of late, it might be best to

start over with us,” Mulder said.

“Yeah, of course.” He drew a deep breath, blew it

out, and then took a moment to take a good look at

the two strangers who stood before him. “Christ,

almighty, you’re sopping wet. You want something hot

to drink? Tea or coffee, or something?” he asked,

suddenly contrite.

“Actually, a cup of coffee sounds pretty good at the

moment,” Mulder admitted. Scully couldn’t help but

nod.

“C’mon, let’s go into the kitchen. I’ve got a pot

going round the clock.”

Wilson led the partners down the long center corridor

of the colonial home. They entered the large kitchen

where Wilson pointed to the oversized island for the

agents to plant themselves. He grabbed the coffee pot

and three mugs and clanked them softly down onto the

faux marble counter top.

“Nice place,” remarked Mulder. “How long have you

been here?”

“Not all that long. We moved here from New York two,

no I guess now it’s almost three months ago. I’d just

gotten a promotion with my company, so my sales

territory grew by a few hundred miles. We figured

with the additional traveling, it was better for us

to be more centrally located to my clients. So, here

we are in good old Clayville, New Jersey,” he said

with a sigh.

“You don’t seem to be very enthusiastic, Mr. Wilson,”

observed Scully.

“Forgive me, Agent Scully, for not exactly being

enamored with a place that’s all but told me that the

fact my wife has been missing for over 72 hours is

not their concern.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wilson; of course that’s

understandable.” Scully paused for a moment,

wondering if she should push. She decided the need

for information was paramount. “You mentioned your

wife has a brown belt in karate. What other interests

does she have?”

“My wife loves reading – damn, she’s voracious, you

know? She can read two and three books at one time. I

know I never could do that – too damned confusing for

me.”

Scully smiled and looked over at her partner briefly.

Greta Wilson certainly reminded her of someone she

both knew and loved. “I know what you mean, sir. I’m

a one-book-woman myself.” She smiled, and then gently

asked the question that was upper-most on her mind.

“Mr. Wilson, was your wife happy about your moving to

Clayville?”

“Yeah, Agent Scully, as a matter of fact she was. It

was a mutual decision that we figured would benefit

both of us. Greta is this A-type personality, you

know? She was a bank officer at one of the largest

banks in Manhattan and working these ridiculous

hours. Everything you heard about so-called banker’s

hours is bull; she put in ten and twelve hour days

easily.

“Well, when I got the promotion and the extra money

that went with it, we decided now was the time to try

and start a family. We decided that Greta would be a

stay-at-home mom. And yes, Agent Scully, that was a

mutual decision, too. Greta didn’t want to watch our

child grow up via the video camera. So, she’s taken a

leave of absence from a job that she doesn’t plan on

returning to, and we’ve been trying to conceive.”

Mulder gave Scully a quick glance. She returned it

with a small smile to let him know she was okay with

the subject matter. One of these days she was going

to have to have a serious talk with her partner about

his protectiveness.

“So, you moved here and while you traveled, Greta set

up house?” asked Mulder.

“Yeah. Well, she tried.” Arthur smiled, but fatigue

cramped its full effect. “Greta was a helluva loan

officer, but she was not exactly June Cleaver. We

finally called in a decorator to help put the place

together. We’d been living in a pretty small

apartment in Queens, New York, so we had a lot of

empty rooms to fill in this house. It was driving

Greta crazy, so we hired someone to decorate and get

everything ordered and arranged. Fortunately, we had

a nice little nest egg from living in that small

Queens apartment, so we could afford that luxury.”

“The house looks lovely,” said Scully.

“Thanks. Now if Greta could only come home to enjoy

it.”

“What did she do all day? I mean if she was leaving

the decorating of the house to someone else, how did

she occupy her time?”

“It was hard at first, especially since I was out of

town for days at a time. It got better when the

Quilting Bees sent her an invitation.”

“The Quilting Bees?” echoed Mulder.

“Yeah, it’s some kind of women’s club. They get

together and make quilts. I think they do other

things, you know, like for charity, but they

primarily make these giant quilts,” explained

Wilson.

“Not exactly like getting a workout in a dojo, is

it?” remarked Mulder.

Wilson let out a small chuckle. “That’s true. Greta

didn’t know what the hell to make out of it at

first.” Wilson’s curled up into the first true smile

since the Mulder and Scully had arrived. “When she’d

first learned of the Quilting Bees, Greta told me of

how she’d flunked Home Economics in high school. Of

course, when her own teacher, in an attempt to help

poor, helpless Greta, sewed the zipper into her skirt

project backwards, Greta figured that it was a sign

from above that everything she wore was best left to

the professionals – you know, Lauren, Armani, Wang.”

The smile quickly faded.

“What I wouldn’t give to have her be on a damn

shopping spree right now,” he said softly. Both

agents nodded in understanding.

“But she joined anyway?” prodded Mulder.

Wilson nodded. “Yeah, she figured it was a good way

to get to know the other women in the community.

Greta wasn’t exactly sure if she was going to fit in;

she’s a professional, white collar working woman, you

know? She brought home the bacon, but she

was never one to really take the time to fry it up in

the pan. So, she joined, but not without a lot of

trepidation.”

“How did it go?” Mulder asked.

“Okay, I guess. She didn’t say much about the women

or the meetings. In fact, she’d always be real quiet

for a couple of hours after she’d come home. It was a

little strange, but I figured it was just because she

was marking out new territory for her.”

“Quiet how?” probed Mulder.

“I don’t know; she was just quiet. She didn’t talk.”

“If you asked her a question, did she answer you?”

asked Scully, picking up the line of questioning.

“Well, as a matter of fact no. She’d just go into the

bedroom and lie down to go to sleep. I just figured

she was tired.”

“And when she woke up? How was she then?” asked

Mulder.

“Fine. Like she always is. Why? Do you think this has

anything to do with her being missing?” asked Wilson

anxiously.

“It’s probably nothing, Mr. Wilson, but we’re going

to look into every possibility. Do you have the names

of the Quilting Bee members?”

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I just know that most of the

women from this development are members.”

“That’s fine. Here’s my card. If there’s anything

else that you can think of that might help us to find

Greta, call that number.”

“Okay, I will,” he said as he accepted the card.

“Please find my wife, so that we can get the hell out

of here and go back to New York where we belong.”

Both agents nodded their assurances that they would

and let themselves out. Scully turned to Mulder and

said, “Never knew quilting could be so damned taxing

that you’d need to take a nap afterwards.”

“Just what I was thinking, Scully. Think maybe we

need to pay a visit to the Quilting Bees?”

* * *

Clayville Community Center

11:10 AM

Obviously, the nice fat grant money hadn’t extended

to the Clayville Community Center. There was no doubt

in Mulder’s mind that this building was the product

of a rural township. But that wasn’t to say it was

unattractive. It was small, and well maintained, and

it looked as sturdy as any modern-day structure.

Maybe more so. Its fine architecture almost resembled

that of a church. White cement rendered exterior

walls, long rectangular windows, and a tower that

could easily pass for a belfry.

They found a parking space in front of the building

and pulled over.

“Quilting Bees.” Mulder muttered to himself as he

climbed out of the car. “Bees, Scully. You know you

gotta wonder…”

“Don’t even go there, Mulder. This has nothing to do

with bees. It’s just a name.”

“But…”

“Mulder.”

He grinned at her. It was cruel how easily she bit.

“C’mon, Scully. Lets go see why quilt-making is so

tiring.”

Large oak doors, chocked open with a brick, framed

the entrance to the Community Center. They made their

way through a small foyer adorned with pamphlets and

posters offering various community activities to the

townsfolk of Clayville. Ahead of them was a set of

double glass doors leading into the main hall. Mulder

stood back and let Scully pass in front of him.

A group of about a dozen women were seated in a

circle at the back of the hall. A table laden with

small patches of material sat beside them. A picture

of concentration, they all sat with their heads

bowed, working industriously over the intricate

pattern on the quilt. Not one of them was speaking,

and not one of them was even remotely curious about

the intruders.

Mulder leaned down and whispered to Scully, “When

they called it a Quilting *circle*, I didn’t think

they meant it literally.” Then he cleared his throat

and addressed the women, “Excuse me?”

In unison all the women lifted their heads and stared

at the agents, their expressions blank and eyes

strangely vacant.

Mulder took a step towards them, reached into his

pocket and held up his ID. “I’m Agent Mulder and this

Agent Scully. We’re with the Federal Bureau of

Investigation.”

The women continued to stare.

Scully moved beside Mulder. “We’re investigating the

disappearance of Greta Wilson and were wondering if

we could ask you some questions.”

A woman with short blond hair who looked to be in her

early 30’s stood up. “I’m sorry. We can’t help you.”

Mulder took another step forward. He wasn’t quite

sure why, but this woman made him feel that if he

made a sudden move she would scamper off like

frightened deer. “Her husband said she was a member

of this group.”

“She was. But now she’s gone.”

“Did she mention to any of you that she was leaving?”

Mulder let this eyes scan the faces of the others who

seemed content to let the blond woman speak on their

behalf.

“I told you, we don’t know anything.”

“Mrs.…?”

“Johnson. Lizzie Johnson.”

“Mrs. Johnson, the local police are under the

impression that Mrs. Wilson left because of marital

problems. What do you think?”

“I couldn’t say.” The woman laced her arms defiantly

across her chest.

Scully moved closer to the group. “We’ve just been

speaking with Greta Wilson’s husband. He’s extremely

worried about her.”

When there was no response, Scully sighed quietly

then continued, forcing her voice to remain calm and

composed. “Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Wilson believes

something bad has happened to his wife. We would

really appreciate some help. Any insight at all to

her state of mind before she disappeared. Did she

seem anxious or upset?”

“She seemed fine. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to

get this quilt ready for the church raffle.” The

woman returned to her seat.

A quick glance at her partner, a deep breath and

Scully decided to try another tack. “It’s very

beautiful,” she said, nodding towards the huge quilt

stretched taut across a wooden frame. “It must have

taken you a long time to make.” For the first time

since entering Scully noticed the elaborate pattern

of circles sewn into the material. She’d never seen

anything quite like it.

“Not so long.” The woman gathered up her needle and

began stitching.

Mulder could feel his partner’s growing frustration.

Cutting her some slack he calmly took over the line

of questioning. “Mrs. Johnson. Ladies. A woman is

missing. More than likely being held against her will

and I find it strange that you are able to sit here

and treat this matter as if it is nothing unusual.”

Despite their persistent silence, Mulder sensed he

had hit on something.

Scully moved back to her partner. “Mulder…”

Mulder ignored her, instead, he propped his hands on

his hips, stared directly at Lizzie Johnson and

continued with his train of thought.

“Maybe because here, it’s *not* unusual. Greta Wilson

isn’t the only woman to go missing from Clayville, is

she? It’s happened to you, all of you, at some time.

And you were all returned. That’s why you’re not

concerned. You expect her to come back.”

Lizzie Johnson held his gaze. “I’m sorry, I don’t

know what you’re talking about.”

One of the other women found her voice. “Lizzie,

maybe we…”

“Shh. Quiet, Alison.”

Mulder turned to a young woman who looked as if she’d

rather be offering herself up as a sacrifice to the

gods than speaking out of turn in front of the FBI.

He spoke quietly when he addressed her. “Alison? Can

you tell us anything about what happened to Greta?”

Lizzie jumped to her feet again. “Agent Mulder! I

must insist that you leave now. I’m sorry about

Greta, but we can’t help you.”

This time when Scully’s hand found his elbow he

allowed her to pull him aside, out of earshot.

Mulder lowered his head speaking directly into her

ear. “Hey, Scully, I thought I was playing bad cop

today.”

When she answered, her breath was warm against his

cheek. “Mulder, we’re not getting anywhere here.”

“They know something, Scully. I’m sure of it.”

“Maybe they do, but they’re not going to tell us.

We’re wasting our time.”

As much as he hated to admit it, Scully was right.

These women weren’t going to give them anything. At

least not intentionally. Coming to a decision, he

nodded quickly and straightened up. He placed his

hand on Scully’s shoulder and gave it a gentle

squeeze then turning back towards the women he

offered Lizzie Johnson his card. “If anything comes

to mind, anything at all, please call us. Both Agent

Scully and myself can be reached on our cell phones.

Any time.”

Reluctantly, Lizzie accepted the card and with a

slight incline of her head bid them good day.

The women sat like statues, no one daring to move or

speak until the agents were completely out of sight.

Alison Mackie held the edge of the quilt in tightly

clenched fists, eyes shifting nervously between

Lizzie and the others. “Oh God. It’s happening

again.”

“Alison, I told you to be quiet. We agreed not to

talk about it.”

“But it’s longer this time. It’s never been like this

before.”

An older, heavy-set woman, her face lined with

concern said, “She’s right, Lizzie. This is

different.”

Lizzie Johnson turned on the group, eyes blazing, and

lips pulled back in an angry snarl.

“Do you think I don’t know that?! We’ve all been

through it, some of us more than once. But there’s

not a darn thing we can do to stop it.” She paused

taking in the bewildered faces staring back at her.

“We have to try and forget about it. We’ve all got

families that need us. Billy’s only just now starting

to trust me again. And I don’t want to give him any

reason to be getting stupid ideas about me playing

around on him.” She paused, softening her tone, eyes

turning distant and bright. “He still looks at me

funny when I leave the house. Like he’s wondering if

I’m going to come back. We’ve gotta let it rest.”

The women looked at each other. Lizzie was right. If

they just kept quiet, didn’t draw attention to

themselves then maybe they would be safe.

* * *

Outside Clayville Community Center

11:45 AM

Mulder slipped the key into the ignition and started

the engine. Beside him Scully was fuming, chewing on

the inside of her cheek as she stared out the window.

“That could have gone better.”

She swiveled in her seat, turning the full force of

her glare upon him. “Could have gone better? Mulder

that was nothing but an exercise in futility; a

complete waste of our time.”

“I disagree, Scully. I, for one, learned a lot.”

One eyebrow crawled up her forehead. “You did.”

He nodded, deadpan. “Quilting is obviously a much

more complicated process than I ever realized.”

Oh man, there was that look again, and this time she

was not amused.

“Okay, okay.” He held up both hands, partly in

surrender, partly to ward off any sudden

(though perhaps deserved) blows. “I was kidding about

the quilting. But I am serious when I say that I

don’t believe the interview was a total loss. They’re

scared, Scully. Couldn’t you feel it?”

She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I don’t know. I

guess I felt something, I’m just not sure what it

was. They were so damn tightlipped but…” She raised

her eyes to his. “I did get the sense some of them

were uneasy. And not just about us.”

Mulder nodded. “I’d venture to say whatever happened

to those women is a lot scarier than a couple of

agents on Uncle Sam’s payroll. The question is, where

do we go from here?”

“We haven’t examined the mysterious crop circles

yet.” Scully’s tone made it clear that she filed crop

circles in the same category as “The Whammy.” “Maybe

it’s time we went out there and took a look at what

all the fuss is about.”

He leaned in close, until his nose brushed the soft

flesh of her cheek near her ear. “You trying to get

me out in the middle of nowhere so you can have your

wicked way with me, Agent Scully?”

She astonished him by placing her hand on his thigh,

tantalizingly close to certain portions of his

anatomy, and giving it a gentle squeeze. “I don’t

have to get you in the middle of nowhere for that,

Mulder. I can have it pretty much anywhere I please.”

Her voice was low and husky, just the way she sounded

when they…

She was getting too damn good at this. He swallowed,

resisting the urge to shift in his seat. “I was

thinking a bird’s eye view might be best. Maybe the

state police have an extra helicopter we could

borrow.”

“You really think they’ll hand over a helicopter and

pilot when we tell them we want to view crop

circles?”

Mulder shifted into drive, doing his best to ignore

the hand still resting on his leg. “Just ask ’em in

that voice, Scully. The helicopter is in the bag.”

State Police Headquarters

2:20 PM

“I’m Jack Weston; I’ll be your pilot.”

Not bad, Scully noted as she shook the young man’s

hand. Early thirties, jet black hair and big blue

eyes. Not exactly the shy, retiring type, if the

1000-watt grin he flashed her was any indication. She

was both irritated and amused to feel Mulder bristle

at the pilot’s attention. When would he ever learn?

She hadn’t given another man more than a passing

glance in years and now… She enjoyed an inward

smirk. Last night should’ve assured him how she felt,

if nothing else did.

Mulder scowled at her a little as they settled into

their seats and Jack began his pre-flight checks. He

fastened his seatbelt, glaring first at Jack’s back

and then her.

“You look awful damn happy for someone being forced

to investigate crop circles. What are you thinking

about?”

Sometimes he growled just like Skinner–a fact that

he’d vehemently denied when she once pointed it out.

Scully allowed the corners of her mouth to turn up in

an enigmatic smile. “Bubble bath.”

He blinked, knocked off balance by her answer. Scully

turned to look out the window, humming a little under

her breath. Twice in less than two hours. She was

getting good at this.

“We should reach the area you want to see in about

three minutes,” Jack called back. “What did you say

you were looking for? Some kind of circle?”

“Crop circles. Impressions in vegetation caused by

the extreme heat and weight generated by an alien

craft–in this case in a cornfield.” Mulder launched

into lecture mode, obviously buoyed by her remark.

“They’re often characterized by…”

“Let me get this straight. You’re hunting aliens? As

in little green men flying space ships?” Jack’s

question lacked malice, yet dripped with incredulity.

“You telling me the federal government pays you to do

that?”

Mulder settled back into his seat with a smirk. “God

bless America, land of opportunity.”

Jack shrugged. “Whatever. At least I’ll have

something to tell the… What in the hell is that?”

Mulder peered over Scully’s shoulder as the

helicopter dropped to a lower altitude. The

impressions were unmistakable, whorled and

twisted paths where the dried, brown stalks had been

flattened and pressed into the earth. The tracks

covered a large section of land, anywhere between 20

and 30 acres in size.

“One heck of a big crop circle.” Mulder frowned,

leaning closer to the glass. “Or maybe more than

one.”

Scully gazed down at the flattened corn, mesmerized

by the intersecting lines and curves. And then,

abruptly, her eye found the pattern and everything

clicked sharply into focus. Her breath caught in her

chest, jaw dropping in sheer disbelief as her brain

tried to make sense of what her eyes were seeing.

“Scully?” Mulder’s hand cupped her shoulder, warm,

reassuring. “What is it?”

She met his concerned gaze for only a moment before

the landscape drew her back like a magnet. It was

either one hell of a coincidence or…

“I thought you said you learned something about

quilting today, Mulder.” She shook her head at his

puzzled expression, chuffing a shaky little laugh.

“Look again– not at the individual lines and

circles, but at the pattern. Can’t you see it? The

design is just like the one in the quilt those women

were sewing!”

Mulder blinked, eyes widening in disbelief, then

delight. “You’re right! They’re identical!”

Jack, momentarily forgotten by them both in the

excitement of discovery, motioned for their

attention. “I’ve already made one circuit of the

field. What do you want me to do now?”

Mulder moved to make eye contact. “Can you land?”

Jack hesitated, then chuckled. “Why not? To hear you

tell it, I won’t be the first craft to touch down in

that field.”

As the pilot maneuvered the helicopter into landing,

Mulder grinned and jerked his thumb in Jack’s

direction. “He’s beginning to grow on me.”

Scully rolled her eyes. Moments later she was

struggling to follow Mulder, who had jumped out of

the chopper the moment the runners touched the

ground, face alight with glee. She had a

sudden, vivid memory of him on a deserted road in

Oregon, dancing in the rain. Gritting her teeth, she

fought to keep up, but the faster she tried to move

the deeper her heels sank into the mud.

The trill of a cell phone brought them both to a

standstill. They each grabbed instinctively for their

pockets, Mulder coming up the winner.

“Mulder.”

Scully watched his impatience transform first to

surprise, and then the intense concentration that

signaled a Mulder on the scent.

“When?… Where is she now?… I understand, but we

really need to speak with her… Yes, today. We can

be there within the hour… Thank you.”

He pocketed the phone and strode rapidly back toward

Scully, face grim. “This will have to wait, Scully.

That was Mr. Wilson. His wife has come home.”

* * *

Act III

Wilson residence

6:20 PM

Greta looked exhausted. Dark circles beneath her

haunted eyes stood out starkly in a face pale as

moonlight. Her blouse and jeans hung limply on her

thin frame, and her blonde hair looked as if she’d

recently raked through it with nervous fingers.

Her husband sat next to her at the kitchen island,

urging her to drink some hot chicken broth. She

pushed it away several times, until it finally

spilled and cascaded over the countertop and onto the

floor.

“I really wish you’d come back at another time, Agent

Mulder,” Arthur pleaded as he sopped up the rest of

the broth with some paper towels.

“I apologize, Mr. Wilson, but we need to know what

your wife can tell us while the memories are fresh.”

It was Mulder’s greatest fear right now. He wanted to

be sure their evidence didn’t remain locked inside

this woman’s mind.

Greta stared mutely at a splash of broth her husband

had missed. She hadn’t moved or acknowledged their

presence, and Mulder’s frustration was beginning to

show. “You have to let us talk to her.”

“Look at her. What can you do but make matters

worse?” Arthur Wilson put his arm protectively around

his wife’s shoulders.

“She needs to talk about what’s happened. She needs

someone to help her remember.”

“It’s not going to be you. You don’t care about her,

only about what she can tell you!”

Mulder’s eyes flashed a warning, and Scully stepped

forward to place a hand on his arm.

“Mr. Wilson,” she interjected, “I understand your

concern, but Agent Mulder and I are here to help,

just as you asked us to do. I’m also a medical

doctor, and I can assure you that your wife will not

be harmed by talking to us.”

“I’ll talk to you, Agent Scully.”

Three startled pairs of eyes turned to Greta Wilson.

She looked back at them with a shaky smile as her

husband pulled her into a fierce hug.

“Oh, sweetheart! Are you okay? Are you sure?” The man

was babbling in his excitement, and his wife patted

his arm absently as she looked directly at Scully.

“I’d like to talk to you. Please.” She gently

disengaged herself from her husband’s hug and got

slowly up from the stool. “We can go to my room.”

Scully walked to the woman and steadied her with an

arm around her shoulders. As they headed down the

hall, Mulder moved to join them, but Scully shook her

head. He nodded reluctantly and watched the two women

enter a room at the end of the hall, closing the door

softly behind them.

* * *

“Greta, I’d like to do a quick exam, if that’s okay.”

The woman smiled faintly. “A house call?”

Scully smiled, too. “Special circumstances.” She

placed two fingers on the woman’s wrist and noted the

not unexpectedly rapid pulse. “When was the last time

you slept?”

Greta frowned in concentration. “It seems like a very

long time… I don’t really remember.”

Scully lifted the woman’s chin to look closely at her

eyes, then began to move her fingers along the jaw

and throat, probing gently for swollen glands. When

she reached the back of the woman’s neck, the breath

froze in Scully’s lungs. She bent closer and lifted

the woman’s hair back to verify what her touch had

located. There was a small red scar at the base of

Greta Wilson’s neck.

“What’s the last thing you do remember?” Scully

forced her voice to a neutral register as she

continued her exam, her heart pounding with

recognition.

Greta closed her eyes and sat quietly for several

minutes. She shook her head in defeat.

“I remember dreams. Scattered images that don’t make

sense to me.”

“Do you remember anything about being in a field? Do

you remember being with the women in your quilting

circle?”

“Only the meeting last week. And no, I haven’t been

in any kind of a field.” She began to cough

uncontrollably. After a moment, Scully went to the

door and called down the hall for Mulder to bring a

glass of water. He brought it a moment later, with

Arthur Wilson hot on his heels. Scully handed the

glass to Greta, and silenced their questions with a

look.

The coughing abated, and Greta sagged forward,

bracing her hands on either side. She was facing away

from the two men, and Scully gently stroked the hair

away from her neck as she caught Mulder’s eye. He

followed her gaze. Scully knew the instant he spotted

the scar.

She sat down next to Greta and spoke softly. “What

happened at the meeting last week?”

Greta sighed deeply, coughed one more time, and

latched her hand onto Scully’s arm for support. “The

usual. We completed one of the presentation quilts

for the festival. It came out beautifully.”

“I saw it. It was very beautiful. Tell me, Greta,

where did you come up with the pattern for it? It was

very unusual.”

“I don’t know. The other women in the circle had

designed it. This was the first big project I had

participated in.”

“Have you ever seen the pattern anywhere else?”

Greta was silent again for a long moment. “No,” she

finally answered.

“Are you sure?” Mulder interrupted.

“No.”

“No, you’re not sure, or no, you don’t remember?”

The grip on Scully’s arm tightened and Mrs. Wilson

began to breathe loudly again, as if she were ready

to cry.

“Maybe that’s enough for today,” Arthur suggested,

anger still an undercurrent in his voice.

“Mrs. Wilson–”

“Mulder, please,” Scully stopped him. Then to the

woman at her side, “Mrs. Wilson, can you answer our

questions?”

“I can’t. I can’t because I don’t know. What’s

happening to me? Do I have amnesia? Am I losing my

mind?” Then she really started to cry.

“I think that is enough for today,” Scully stood up,

giving Greta’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll

come back and talk some more another time, when

you’re feeling better.”

Greta nodded but never looked up.

The man walked them to the front door, then followed

them out onto the porch and closed the door behind

himself. “Agents, I’m sorry if I’m being difficult.

It’s just…”

“There’s no need to apologize,” Mulder demurred. “We

understand. Please call us if her condition changes.

Otherwise, we’ll just stop by tomorrow afternoon to

speak with her again, if that’s all right.”

Wilson nodded. “Yes. If– *when* she’s better.” He

walked inside and closed the door, defeat in every

line of his body.

*****

The Wilson Residence

Greta and Arthur Wilson’s bedroom

Wednesday, 7:10 PM

Greta Wilson had a splitting headache. More than

anything else, she wanted to sleep. Sleep all day,

all night, all month. She wanted to wake up and find

out that this was all a nightmare. Leaving her job,

moving out to the country, joining the circle. A

nightmare that would disappear with the first rays of

daybreak and never return.

But she knew that wasn’t the case.

As she stood in her bathroom, her reflection stared

back at her. What was happening? How could everything

have gone so wrong so fast? Just six months ago she

was successful, looking up the ladder of her career.

She’d joked to one of the support staff about

changing the drapes in her boss’s office when she got

in there.

And now, there was nothing but black void and

terrifying feelings that weren’t even real memories.

Greta prided herself on her memory. She was excellent

with figures, fantastic at recalling small,

insignificant details. That’s how she’d gotten so far

in her old job. But there were four days missing from

her life and she had little hope of ever reclaiming

them.

She opened the medicine cabinet with a shaky hand and

started rifling through the bottles and jars. Didn’t

they have anything for a headache? Her hand landed on

some sleeping pills that she’d gotten when they first

moved to Clayville. Surprisingly, the darkness and

the quiet at night seemed to cause her difficulty

sleeping. She was used to noise, she was used to

activity. But the pills had worked and after a few

weeks, she’d become accustomed to the silence at

night. Now, she welcomed that silence, that darkness.

It was someplace to hide. She clutched the bottle and

struggled with the childproof cap, shaking one pill

into the palm of her hand. Replacing the bottle on

the shelf, she cupped her hand under a stream of

water from the faucet and used the mouthful to

swallow the pill. Closing the medicine cabinet door,

she went back into the bedroom and crawled into

bed under the goose down comforter.

The phone rang. She glared at it a second, willing it

to stop. Where was Arthur? Why wasn’t he answering?

On the fourth ring, she groaned and sat up, grabbing

the receiver. Her greeting was cut short. A frown

carved its path across her forehead. She stared

blankly at the dresser against the wall. After a few

moments, she nodded. “Yes,” was all she said and she

carefully replaced the receiver.

Slipping her feet to the floor, she walked the few

steps back into the bathroom. This time she didn’t

stop to look at her reflection in the mirror, she

just opened the medicine cabinet and let her hand

close around the bottle she’d just used. The cap

didn’t cause her any trouble this time, and when it

was removed, she shook the remainder of the bottle,

two dozen pills, into her hand. Very methodically,

picking them up one by one, she swallowed each pill

dry. With a blank expression she once again replaced

the cap on the bottle and put the bottle on the

shelf, closing the cabinet door. On stocking feet she

returned to the bed and lay down, closing her eyes,

this time for the last time.

****

Ambassador Hotel

7:35 PM

Mulder pulled the car into a space near the motel

door. Scully was out of her seat and halfway to the

door before he could catch up with her.

“She knows something, Scully. You saw how she was

acting,” he said as she opened the door with her key.

“Scully, what about the chip?” For a moment, he was

afraid she was going to close the door on his foot,

but instead, she moved farther in to the room,

allowing him to follow her.

“Mulder, she was upset, I’ll give you that. And yes,

there was a chip in her neck, I’ll grant you that we

need to investigate this further. But from what I

could see, she knew nothing. She couldn’t tell us

where she’s been, and she definitely didn’t know

anything about the chip or the crop circles. I can’t

see where that little exchange at the end, which

almost caused her to break down completely, got us

anywhere on this investigation!” She tossed her purse

on the bed and was pulling off her coat when she

stopped dead in her tracks.

“You know, you two really should consider marriage

counseling if this keeps up.” At the sound of the

voice in the darkness of the back of the room, Mulder

pulled his gun. Alex Krycek stepped into the room

just as Scully flipped on a light.

“Nice welcoming committee, Mulder,” Krycek said with

a smirk and then looked over at Scully. “At least

Agent Scully isn’t ready to drill me,” he noted with

a ‘cat who ate the canary’ grin.

Mulder didn’t move from his position, didn’t lower

the gun. After a moment, he raised the weapon to eye

level. “Krycek, I suggest you either leave or start

talking because my finger has been itching all day.”

“He’s such a tease,” Krycek quipped to Scully. “Put

the gun down, before you hurt somebody. I’m unarmed.”

He held his arms out and turned toward Scully, a

silent offer for her to frisk him. Scully stepped

closer and patted him down. When she looked up at

him, their eyes met and for a fraction of a second,

she saw the other Krycek, the one she’d met in

another dimension, smiling down at her. Shaking her

head to clear the image, she stepped back.

“He’s telling the truth, Mulder. He doesn’t have a

weapon,” she said, trying to cover her embarrassment.

“At least not one we can find,” Mulder allowed

reluctantly. He holstered his weapon, but kept his

hand on the grip. “You have five minutes.”

“What is this, Name that Tune?” Krycek asked. At

Mulder’s stare he shrugged. “OK, it’s not like I need

to point you kids in the right direction. I just

thought I’d save you a little time.”

“What are you talking about?” Scully demanded.

“Greta Wilson, for one. And about 15 other upstanding

women of this fine community, for another. They might

not remember what was done to them when they all

vanished into thin air, but it goes back a long time

and it will continue. Unless it’s stopped, of

course.” Krycek flashed Mulder a toothy grin. “If

you’re man enough to try and stop it, I should say.”

Mulder closed his eyes and refused to take the bait.

“We suspect the disappearances are related to the

quilting circle and to the crop circles we saw

outside of town.”

Krycek shook his head angrily. “Stop looking at the

obvious! They want you to make that connection. What

you need to do is look farther, deeper.”

A quick look over to Scully and Mulder decided

against mentioning the chip again. He glared at

Krycek. “And this is news?” Mulder huffed. “Stop

being so damned cryptic and tell us what you came

here to say!”

“You flew over the field, right? Did it ever occur to

you to look closer? Go look at the corn, Mulder. Take

a look at the ground around the field. It might just

lead you to the real perpetrators of this little

disappearing/reappearing act. And they might not be

as far away as you think.”

Scully exchanged a quick glance with Mulder, then

looked back at Krycek. Could they have missed

something that easy to find?

“Go back to the field,” Krycek told him.

“It’s almost dark,” Mulder pointed out.

Krycek rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Then use

those high-powered, over-priced flashlights you’re

always losing,” he growled. “Wasting taxpayers

dollars never seemed to bother you before. I can tell

by the layer of dust in the adjoining room you rented

to keep up pretenses,” he added with a cheshire cat

grin.

“What’s out in that field, Krycek? Burn marks?”

Mulder asked once again ignoring the smart remarks,

but his patience was obviously growing thin.

“You two kids have a good time at that field. And

remember, curfew is at 11 on a school night.” Krycek

said, heading for the door.

Mulder grabbed his arm. “What are we going to find,

Krycek?” he seethed.

clip_image006

The double agent just smiled. “Guess you’ll have to

go out there and see for yourself. Oh, and Mulder,

next time, let Scully play ‘bad cop’. I think that

would be so much more enjoyable.”

* * *

Scully’s room

11:39 PM

Hunger had driven them to the Denny’s across the

highway after Krycek’s visit, and the debate that had

drawn stares from their fellow diners was still in

progress.

“I can’t believe we just let him walk out like that,”

said Mulder, his body language showing every bit of

the tenseness his voice held.

“We had nothing to hold him on, Mulder. What did you

expect to do with him? Handcuff him to the bed frame

until we figured out what he’s up to?”

Mulder shook his head. He knew she was right, but

that didn’t ease the frustration. He walked over to

where their suitcases lay and lifted them to the bed.

Then he opened them both and started rifling the

contents.

“Mulder, do you mind? I’d like to have something to

wear tomorrow that’s not totally wrinkled or torn.

What are you looking for anyway?”

“Damn it, Scully!” he said, his voice tense. He

continued to pick through the clothing until he found

what he was looking for and laid it aside. Then he

began a search of his suitcase. “We looked at that

field! What the hell is he not telling us?” he said,

continuing to sift through the articles inside.

“I don’t know; you never know with Krycek. There’s a

real possibility that it’s nothing more than a red

herring.”

“What are you talking about? Look, Krycek has always

been sneaky and underhanded, but the information he

had always led us somewhere.”

“True, but more often than not, his information led

us to blind alleys. You know that’s true, Mulder.”

“I know, I know. But even his blind alleys took us

somewhere, even if we didn’t always see where we were

going.”

He picked up the small, black object and held it as

if testing its heft. “Hmm, they sure do make these

suckers a lot smaller. Here ya go partner; heads

up!” he called out as he gently tossed it over to

her.

She looked at him with an incredulous expression.

“You’ve got to be kidding, Mulder. It’s almost

midnight. What can we possibly hope to find now that

can’t wait till the morning?”

“Red herring or not, Scully, we’ve got to go check it

out, now. Krycek doesn’t just appear out of the blue

because he likes to make social calls; he was here

because he expects us to go check it out. And that

means now.

“Now? Mulder, you said it yourself – it’s dark out

there. What the hell are we supposed to see?”

“Hey, Ratboy was right about one thing,” Mulder said,

as he hefted up the other small, but high-powered

flashlight. “These suckers cost the taxpayers an arm

and a leg; we might as well get our money’s worth out

of it.”

* * *

It was easy to forget how damn dark it got out here

in the middle of nowhere, Scully mused. Their high

powered flashlights seemed barely adequate in the

vast blackness that marked their path.

As they approached the perimeter of the crop circle,

she raised her flashlight to look at the corn. “This

is too strange,” she said in a whisper.

“What?”

“The corn, it’s bent.”

“Well, of course it’s bent, Scully, how do you think

it gets formed into these huge, intricate designs?

Besides,” he added with a small smile, “didn’t you

see ‘Signs’? Crop circles around the world have corn

that’s bent.”

She managed to choke back her chuckle. “No, it’s

more than that. Look how it’s bent. They’re too

perfectly angled, in the same spot on each ear of

corn. It’s… odd.”

While Scully continued to look at the corn, Mulder

bent down to check out the ground. “Scully! I think

I’ve found something.”

Scully walked away while still mulling over how the

corn could have been so consistently bent without

being broken. She knelt down near her partner and

asked him what he’d found.

“I guess the movie forgot to mention the tire tracks

that go along with the circles. Look.”

“Too small to be a four by four,” she commented.

“Yeah, way too small, but it would have to be to get

around here.” He studied the marks, then snapped his

fingers. “Of course.”

“You gonna let the rest of the class in on your idea,

Mulder?” She smiled. Scully always did enjoy

watching her partner make those giant leaps.

“Golf cart.”

“Golf cart?” she echoed.

“Yup, they’re very maneuverable and small enough to

get around these cornstalks.”

She couldn’t argue. “Okay, so now what?”

“There’s got to be a reason these tracks are here.

Let’s go follow the yellow brick road.”

They found themselves weaving back and forth,

following the intricate pattern of the crop circle’s

design as they followed the tire tracks to the other

end of its perimeter.

“It’s not leading anywhere, Mulder. I really think

this is a waste of–”

clip_image008

“What the f–?” called out Mulder.

Bright lights flooded the area leaving some to shine

directly on the agents, blinding them.

“SCULLY!”

“I’m here, Mulder! I’m right here!”

The intense lights blinded them. They stood side-by-

side with weapons drawn, unable to see anything but

blinding white.

Suddenly, the distinctive sound of weapons being

cocked chilled their blood. “Oh, shit,” Mulder

offered. “Scully, lower your weapon.” The lights

began to dim, and they could see a dozen or more

armed soldiers wielding machine guns in front of

them. Corn rustling in the dark told them there were

at least another dozen soldiers behind them.

“So, do you like your red herring pickled or boiled,

Scully?”

“He did it to us again, Mulder.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know this time,” he replied,

and then turning to his captors, he said, “What do

you want from us?”

Suddenly the lights brightened and temporarily

blinded them again. Then, from out of a halo of

lights a single officer approached. Scully shielded

her eyes in an attempt to identify the person.

Immediately, an arm grabbed her from behind and

pressed his arm firmly against her carotid arteries

on both sides of her neck. She pulled futilely at the

arm for a few seconds before the darkness took her.

“No!” Mulder cried out, “Leave her alone!” He rushed

over and tried to free her, but before his hands

could get a good grip, another soldier stepped

forward. Mulder only had time enough to recognize the

butt of a rifle headed his way before the impact sent

him to the ground.

One of the soldiers spoke into a walkie-talkie. “It

is done, sir.”

“They are contained?” came a voice, scratchy with

static, through the speaker.

“Yes, sir.” He then ordered the others to drag the

now unconscious bodies of the two agents to the backs

of the two small golf carts that awaited them.

“They’ve been loaded up, sir.”

“Excellent, lieutenant. Bring them to me.”

“Yes, sir, Commander Scully.”

* * *

End (1/2)

Continued in Patchwork

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3 thoughts on “Circles”

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