TITLE: Faith Lives
CONTENT: Case File, Sk
SPOILERS: VS8-10, especially “Faith”
DISTRIBUTION: Written for I-Made-This Productions’ Virtual Season 10 and they have exclusive rights for the first two weeks. After that, anywhere is fine but I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know where. It helps inspire me!
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully and any characters you recognize belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Studios and have been used without permission. Anyone else belongs to me. No infringement of copyright intended.
SUMMARY: An old enemy reappears and the new person in Skinner’s life is suddenly in danger again.
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. Additional references
to surviving isolation and starvation are also literary
Summary: An old enemy reappears and the new person in
Skinner’s life is suddenly in danger again.
April 10, 2003, 3:30 pm
It hadn’t been so hard. Prisons are notoriously hard up
for medical help and within the first month of his placement
he was practically running the infirmary. Oh, he still
had to show up for head counts, but that was about it.
After the fourth time the guards had come to get him from
his cell in the middle of the night, it somehow became
easier to just let him sleep on a cot in the infirmary.
And there was a shower in the medical ward as well, so
he no longer had to suffer through the indignity of
He was just so innocuous looking. A middle-aged man,
a medical doctor who specialized in research. A man who
had pled not guilty, insisting it was his assistant who
had killed those people, conducted those outrageous
experiments. How could a man like him, a man who *revered*
life, possibly done those things he was accused of?
He’d been trying to *save* that boy, hadn’t he?
And such was his will that soon everyone thought that
It must be a mistake.
Dr. Braden’s lawyers would fix it and he would be released.
Everyone *believed* in him.
It was all so easy.
And then the riot broke out.
And the guard was shot.
And it just made perfect sense that Dr. Braden would be
right there, taking care of the injured man, telling the
other guards what to do. Walking right alongside the
dying man, as the others carried.
Right through the gates, right through the many, many
gates, and into the reception area, and out into the
ambulance, talking, working, trying to save a man’s
And then he was through the outside gate, into the
world, riding along in an ambulance of all things,
and he was *free!*
He continued to work on the guard all the way to the
hospital, followed the injured man in as he was wheeled
into the emergency room, and then, in the midst of the
confusion, he donned a white coat, slung a stethoscope
around his neck and walked away.
His hard-soled shoes hit the tile floor, announcing his
presence, announcing each step.
Tap, tap, tap.
I. Am. Back.
Tap, tap, tap.
Be. Very. Afraid.
Tap, tap, tap …
Crystal City, Virginia
April 11, 2003, 5:20 pm
“You’re sure you want to be here?” Skinner asked again.
He was thrilled when Andrew had accepted his invitation
to spend Spring Break with him, but after Mulder had
teasingly pointed out all the invitations Andrew had turned
down to spend Christmas with him, he was worried that the
boy felt obligated, and he didn’t want that. Apparently,
in order to stay with Skinner over Christmas, Andrew had
turned down a chance to go skiing with a group from the
school, a chance to go to Disney World with a friend,
and a chance to join another friend on a cruise.
Andrew looked up from unpacking and smiled. “I *like*
it here with you, Walter,” he said before he returned
to putting his clothes away.
Skinner looked around the room. It was already becoming
Andrew’s. He’d replaced the off-white bedspread with a
new plaid comforter in bright colors — Andrew’s choice.
Matching curtains hung over the window and the books in
the small bookcase were all things Andrew had brought
on visits and left here. The dresser and closet both
held clothes that Skinner had bought and left there so
that when Andrew came to visit, he wouldn’t have to pack
so much. He’d met the boy in October, so thus far, the
clothing was all winter weight, but for this spring
visit, Skinner had slipped in some new T-shirts and
shorts, and there was a pair of sandals in the closet.
And a light-weight windbreaker.
“Well, I like having you here, Andrew, really I do,
but I don’t want you to feel you have to come …
Especially if you have a better offer.” He tried to
smile as he spoke, but he wasn’t sure he pulled it
off too well.
“Better offer?” Andrew asked, looking at him quizzically.
Skinner looked at the floor. “Mulder, uh, told me you
could have gone skiing over Christmas. Or to Disney
“Ohhhh,” Andrew said, as if a light had just come on for
him. “Did Mulder also tell you that the ski trip is
arranged by the school? For kids who don’t have anywhere
else to go?”
Skinner looked up, his brow furrowed. “Don’t have anywhere
Andrew sat on the bed, then waited patiently until Skinner
joined him. “You’d be amazed, Walter,” he said. “There are
so many lonely kids at that school. They all have more
money than they need, have the best clothes, the best toys,
the ones who can drive have the best cars … But none of
it matters. So many of them are, like, empty … Nothing
“I was worried you didn’t tell me about the other invitations
because you were afraid it cost too much,” Skinner said
softly. “I can’t promise I’ll always be able to say ‘yes,’
but I don’t want you afraid to ask.”
The boy sighed again. “You spend too much on me already,
Walter,” he replied, waving at the room. The new computer,
his Christmas gift, sat on the desk, which was also new.
And he had a laptop, as well, to use at school.
“I have it to spend. It’s no big deal,” Skinner said,
his usual gruffness reasserting itself to cover his
“That ski trip — it was for all the kids whose parents
didn’t want them for Christmas. The Brothers arrange it
“What kind of parent doesn’t want their kid at Christmas?”
Skinner asked wonderingly.
“Rich ones, apparently,” Andrew responded, his eyes down
as he picked at the edge of the comforter. “Davey’s
folks were in Europe and it was just too much trouble
for him to go over for such a short time. I think
Tim and Justin’s parents were in Europe, too. And
Alfred’s folks were on some adult-only thing, somewhere
out west. Alan’s mom and dad got into a huge fight over
whose turn it was to take him. Mom said it was Dad’s
turn, and Dad swore it was Mom’s turn, and Alan was right
there finding out neither of his parents wanted him.
So he decided to stay at school.”
“That’s — awful!” Skinner exclaimed. “What’s wrong with
“Well, the trip to Disney World might have been fun, but
somehow, I didn’t see you letting me take off on my own
for a week with a couple of other guys from the school.”
“What? I thought Mulder said a friend invited you to go
“He did. Brian’s parents paid for him to go for a week
and told him he could take a friend, because they didn’t
have time to come see him this year.”
“You’re telling me this fifteen year old kid went to
Florida for a week by himself?” Skinner was appalled.
“Well, no, actually,” Andrew said, repressing a smile,
“Brian’s only fourteen and he did take George with him.
He’s fourteen, too, and his dad had business meetings
he couldn’t get out of, so he couldn’t come see him at
Skinner reached out and touched Andrew’s shoulder.
“You’re right. I wouldn’t have wanted you to go. Of
course, I’d have never known the trip was unchaperoned
if you hadn’t told me.”
“Yes, you would,” Andrew said smugly as he slid over
to sit next to the big man. Skinner slid his arm over
the slight shoulders. “You’d have found out when you
called Brian’s parents to check on the arrangements.”
“You know me so well, do you?” Skinner said with a
Andrew laughed. “Yeah, well, oddly enough, I like
knowing someone cares about what happens to me.” He
paused a moment, then added, “They got in trouble.
For stealing. Brother James had to go and get them
because no one could reach their parents.” Andrew
shook his head sadly.
“Probably did it deliberately. Looking for attention.”
Andrew nodded in agreement.
“I can’t believe all these boys are just dumped at this
school. I checked it out — it’s a really good school,
and I would have expected parents wanted their kids
there for that reason.”
“*You* wanted *me* there for that reason,” Andrew said
reasonably. “Lots of other people just want their kids
there because it is convenient.”
“What about the cruise?” Skinner asked curiously. “Was
that unchaperoned as well?”
Andrew shook his head. “No. Edgar’s mom hired some guy
to take him and a few of his friends. She had other plans
but she wanted to make sure her son had a good time.”
“She just hired some guy? What did she know about him?
What kind of checks did she run? How did she know she
could trust him?”
Andrew shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess she’s done it
before, because Edgar didn’t seem fazed by the idea, and
Charlie and Danny both got to go. Their folks were busy
“That’s still just — awful.”
“It’s really sad, Walter,” he said softly.
“I’ve always had someone to love me, to care about me.
First Father, now you.” He tilted his head and looked
around the room. “And because of you, I’ve got Mulder
and Dana now, too. And Dana’s whole family.” He looked
up and met Skinner’s eyes. “You’ve gotta know Mrs. Scully
is spoiling me rotten. She comes to visit every couple of
weeks and sends me cookies and brownies all the time. Tara
sends me pictures of Matthew and keeps me up to
date on what’s happening out there. I’ve even gotten a
few postcards from Bill from the ship.”
He sighed. “I mean, I’m so lucky. Most of my family is
*right here* — I get visitors all the time. And I still
get more mail than most of those kids.”
Skinner gave the boy a hug. “We’re glad you’re right
here. I wasn’t about to send you somewhere where I
couldn’t visit regularly.”
“I’m glad, too, Walter,” Andrew said as he leaned into
his guardian for a moment and then rose to resume unpacking.
“But for now, I’m hungry.”
Skinner laughed. “You’re always hungry,” he said in
mock-irritation. “I can’t seem to keep you fed.”
“Still growing, I guess,” the boy mumbled as he leaned
into the closet to put his shoes away. “So,” he said,
turning back to face Skinner, “what is for dinner?”
1826 Seven Hills Rd
Falls Church, Virginia
April 11, 2003, 7:10 pm
The door opened and a stunned face looked out at him.
“Braden!” the man gasped. “I thought you were in jail.”
“Prison,” Braden responded shortly. “And I was.” He
pushed his way into the house. “Now I’m not.”
“But — how?” The man stood there, staring stupidly
at the doctor as if waiting for instructions.
“Shut the door, Eli,” Braden said wearily. It was
always so exhausting to work with idiots. But then,
compared to him, *everyone* was an idiot. “I need to
talk to you.”
Eli shut the door.
Just then a voice called out, “Who is it, hon?”
Braden looked at the other man and raised an eyebrow.
“Uh, nobody, Mel.”
Braden’s eyebrow stayed up.
“I mean, just an old colleague — a friend.”
A young woman walked out of the kitchen, a toddler on
her hip. She extended a hand, saying, “Hi, I’m Mel,
Eli’s wife. And this,” she bounced the baby up and
down and smiled when the child giggled, “is Daniel.”
“Daniel?” Braden repeated.
“Daniel Thomas Juarez.”
“He’s lovely,” Braden said, smiling appropriately at
the drooling bundle of smelly baby. He carefully
avoided touching it.
“And you are …” the woman hinted.
“Oh, um, sorry, Mel,” Eli said. “Dr. Nicholas Braden,
Melanie Juarez — my wife.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Mel said, still smiling. “Your
name sounds familiar. Have I heard of you?”
Braden kept the smile plastered on his face and reached
out to grip Eli’s arm. “We worked together for a time,
your husband and I,” he said. “Research.”
“It was a long time ago,” Eli added quickly.
“Can you join us for dinner?” Mel asked. “I love to
hear old war stories from Elian’s bachelor days.”
“He can’t stay,” Eli said shortly, pulling from Braden’s
“No, actually, I can’t,” Braden responded. “I have to be
somewhere else shortly. I just needed to check on an old
piece of research with Eli.” He smiled again, dredging up
his most charming and winning ways as he gave a little
semi-bow to the woman.
“I see,” she said, obviously confused by the tension
between her husband and the other man. When Eli moved
to stand by her and placed his arm around her, she came
into his embrace easily.
“Nicholas,” Eli said, “have a seat in the living room.”
He nodded at the room behind them. “Let me just help
Mel get Danny settled and I’ll be right back.
Braden moved to the designated room but didn’t sit. He
stood by the large bay window and stared out over the
neatly manicured lawn. It wasn’t long before Eli was
“What do you want, Braden?” he asked wearily. “I won’t
go back to that kind of life — you have to know that.
I won’t do those things again.”
“It got you a child apparently,” Braden said smugly.
“Danny is adopted,” Eli replied. “I told you when I
left, I wouldn’t be involved in your sick plans anymore.
“You’ll help me now,” Braden said in an ice cold voice,
“or we’ll see how well your Melanie really likes hearing
the old war stories. That is what she called them, isn’t
“What do you want?” Eli repeated.
“Not much. I need a place I can conduct some studies in
isolation. I need nothing more than a private entrance,
a room or chamber for my subject, and a way to observe.”
“Is your subject willing?”
Braden just looked at him.
“It’s that kid again, isn’t it? The one you were always
“When can you get me a place?”
Eli sighed, then capitulated. “There was a place we used
to use — it’s vacant now. You can rent it. They’d probably
be thrilled to have a tenant again.”
“You rent it,” Braden ordered and Eli nodded.
“I also want you to help me get the boy.”
“No! I won’t be a partner to kidnapping.” Eli turned
and began to pace.
“I see. You’ll help me to secure a place to hold the
boy in complete isolation, but you won’t help me capture
him.” Braden laughed, “That’s a very slippery moral
slope you’re standing on, my friend.”
“I am NOT your friend,” Eli said, his voice filled with
frustration and fury. “And I won’t help you.”
Braden stepped over to him. “Yes. You will. You’ll
make arrangements for the place tomorrow — have the keys
ready for me. And then, rent a van on Monday and meet me
here.” He passed over a slip of paper with an address on
it. “We’ll go to the Smithsonian, get the boy, and you
can take me to my new lab. After that, I’ll leave you
alone. You can go on with your nice little parody of
the American dream, and continue your slide down the
slippery slope of ethics.”
“Don’t ask me to do this, Nicholas,” Eli pleaded.
“Should we call Melanie back in?”
“I hate you. I hate what you did to me — what you made
me become. I hate who you are and what you are.”
Braden cocked his head. “And what am I, Elian?” he asked
Eli stood with his head down, his chest heaving with
repressed emotion. “You’re evil, Nicholas. Pure evil.”
April 14, 2003, 8:45 am
“How’d the weekend go?” Mulder asked as he passed a cup of
coffee to his boss.
Skinner was leaning against the desk and he grunted “Thanks,”
as he took a sip of the fragrant morning brew. “Good,” he
said quietly, staring off into space.
“The coffee or the weekend,” Scully asked. When Skinner
didn’t respond, she tried again. “Uh, Sir? How’s Andrew?”
“Oh.” Skinner blinked and looked around, then a smile lit
his face as Scully’s question sunk in. “Oh, he’s great.
Just a great kid.” He turned and looked at Mulder. “You
were wrong, you know.”
Mulder’s brow furrowed. “About what?”
“Christmas. Andrew wanted to be with me.” Skinner couldn’t
keep the note of smugness from his voice.
Mulder looked embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to imply that
he didn’t, Sir. I was just,” he waved his hand in the
air, “letting you know what was going on.” He looked
down, his face still flushed. “Because kids don’t always,
uh, tell their, uh, parents,” his eyes darted up and he
risked a quick peek at Skinner to see how the older man
reacted to being called a parent, but Skinner seemed to
take it in stride, “everything. Sometimes, they’re more
comfortable talking to, uh, someone else.”
“You trying to tell me I’m old, Mulder? Think Andrew can’t
relate to an old man like me?” Skinner teased.
“Not at all!” The words shot out of Mulder’s mouth and the
only way to describe the look on his face was — aghast.
It made Skinner and Scully burst out laughing and it took
a minute before Mulder realized he’d been had, then he
reluctantly joined the laughter. “All right, all right,”
he mumbled good-naturedly as he slid into his seat and
sipped his own coffee. “I was just trying to help.”
Skinner sobered and nodded seriously. “I know that,
Mulder, and I appreciate it.” He turned his head and
included Scully in his thanks. “I appreciate all both
of you have done for the boy. Scully, he tells me your
mother is spoiling him rotten.”
Scully laughed. “Mom loves to bake. Andrew gives her
an outlet since I put her on notice NOT to send anything
else to me.” She patted her stomach. “Too hard to resist.”
“Now she sends stuff to me instead,” Mulder said with a
smile. “Which, I might add, works quite well.”
“Andrew said that ski trip was arranged by the school
for kids who didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Skinner
“Nowhere to go at Christmas?” Scully asked, appalled.
Mulder just shrugged. “It’s not that unusual. A lot
of boarding schools are just dumping grounds.”
“That’s awful!” Scully cried.
Skinner nodded in agreement. “That’s what I said. And
that trip to Disney you told me about?”
“That was completely unchaperoned. Two fourteen-year-old
boys with too much money, too much freedom, and too little
supervision. And they got in trouble as well. For stealing.”
“Probably the only way they could think of to get their
parents’ attention,” Scully observed.
Skinner nodded. “That’s exactly what I said. But the sad
part is, not even that got the folks to sit up and take
notice. One of the brothers had to go down and get them.”
Skinner sighed softly, then smiled again. “I’m glad
Andrew wanted to be with me.”
“You’re doing a good job of making him feel like he has
a home, Sir,” Scully said.
“He’s an easy kid to care for,” Skinner said, still sipping
the coffee. “No trouble, so appreciative for every little
thing, and so aware of everything. He’s very mature for his
age. None of that usual resentful teenager crap.”
“He’s had an unusual life,” Mulder said. “It probably
makes him appreciate the normal stuff just a little bit
Scully looked at her partner and noted the tension in
his body as he spoke the seemingly innocuous words. It
was obvious he could relate to not having had the ‘normal
stuff’ during his own teenage years. She went to stand
behind him, her hand resting on his shoulder. “What’s
Andrew doing today?” she asked, as she rubbed Mulder’s
“Meeting a couple of the boys from school at the Smithsonian.”
At Mulder’s amused look, Skinner raised his hands in defeat.
“Hey, it wasn’t my idea! He really wanted to go.” Skinner
flushed slightly as he admitted, “I’m going over around one,
take them for a late lunch.”
“I hope museums aren’t the only thing on the agenda for the
week,” Mulder said. “The kid needs to have fun, too.”
“Hey!” Scully smacked her partner softly. “Some of us
happen to think museums *are* fun.”
“Maybe,” Mulder said unsurely, “but most of *those* people
aren’t fifteen year old boys.”
Scully raised her hand to smack Mulder again, but Skinner
laughed and said, “Enough, you two. And no, Mulder, museums
aren’t the only thing. I’m taking Friday off and we’re
driving down to King’s Dominion.” The big man looked at
the floor, obviously uncomfortable as he added, “You two
want to come?”
“Love to!” Mulder answered for them both. “Man, I haven’t
been on the Rebel Yell in years! The Anaconda, the Grizzly,
the Shockwave! The new thing is open now, too — the Drop
Zone.” He grinned at Skinner. “Oh, yeah! I’m there!’
Skinner laughed. “Scully?”
She shrugged. “How can I say no to that much enthusiasm?”
She smiled at her partner. “Guess ‘I’m there,’ too!”
April 14, 2003, 11:30 am
“Skinner,” he barked into the phone. The interruption
irritated him. He was trying to clear his desk so that
when he left to get Andrew and his friends for lunch,
he could surprise them and spend the rest of the day
with them. Maybe they’d like to go to the National Zoo,
or take in a movie.
“This is Henley Anderson, at the Jonesville Prison. Is
this Assistant Director Walter Skinner?”
“Yes. Jonesville Prison.” Skinner’s eyes widened as
he recognized the name. “What happened?” he demanded.
“Well, Sir, Dr. Braden has escaped and you were on the
list of people to be notified if that happened.” The
speaker was obviously unhappy to be making this call.
“Escaped? Braden escaped?” Skinner paused, trying to
take it all in. Braden couldn’t have escaped. Jonesville
was a maximum security prison. Braden had gotten life.
This had to be a mistake. “How?”
Skinner listened with increasing concern as the man
started telling him about the doctor working in the
infirmary and how helpful he had been. What a good
man the doctor seemed to be. How useful he’d been to
everyone — inmates and staff alike. And then he
started talking about the riot, and how unexpected
that had been, and how they’d had to shut off part of
the prison, and the guard had been shot and the doctor
had probably saved his life. As Skinner listened, he
realized he had asked the wrong question. Someone else
could deal with ‘how.’ He needed the answer to a different
question entirely. “Wait. Never mind all that,” he
said, cutting the other man off completely. “When?
That’s what I really need to know. How long ago did this
happen?” Jonesville was almost four hundred miles away,
and if this had only just happened then Andrew should
be safe. Not even Braden could fly, so he was looking
at at least an eight hour trip if he decided to target
the boy again.
“Well, Sir, uh, Thursday.” The man seemed distinctly
“Thursday!” Skinner exclaimed. “That’s *four* days
ago!” Four days! Skinner could feel his heart rate
increase. Andrew could already be in danger. What
the hell had delayed his notification? “Why am I just
now being notified? I was to be notified *immediately*
if there was *any* change in Braden’s status.” He
pinched the bridge of his nose, fighting the headache
that had risen with this news, then hit a button on his
phone. When Kim stuck her head in the door, he covered
the receiver and said, “Mulder. Scully. My office.
She nodded and was gone.
“There was some confusion over whether or not he had
actually escaped,” the hapless man admitted, sounding
increasingly distressed to be the bearer of this news.
“Confusion? How could there be confusion?” Skinner
was fumbling at his bottom desk drawer, the drawer where
he had a copy of the file on Braden. He’d kept it, and
kept it up, ever since he had become Andrew’s guardian.
As long as Braden was alive, Andrew could be in danger,
but Skinner had thought the danger contained with the
man in Jonesville.
“I, uh, didn’t get to that part …” The guard cleared
“Jonesville is a maximum security facility. You tell me
how the hell Braden got out,” Skinner demanded.
“He, uh, apparently went out with the ambulance.”
Skinner could hear the discomfort in the other man’s
voice. Out with the ambulance? Skinner tried to work
through it. If there had been a riot, with injuries,
there would have been medical personnel called to the
scene. Maybe Braden was able to take advantage of that
fact. “He commandeered an ambulance?” he asked.
“Well, not really. We, uh sorta let him go along with
Skinner could not believe the words he was hearing. His
mouth dropped open and he stared at the wall for a long
moment, then said, “You let that madman just go along in
an ambulance? Was he injured?”
“Uh, no. Not him.”
“Was he at least restrained?” Skinner was beginning to
wonder exactly what idiot was running the federal government’s
maximum security facility in Jonesville. He was singularly
unimpressed so far. And his heart rate was still
“Well, uh, again, no.” The guard coughed. “Look here,
Mr. Skinner, you have to understand. Belton was dying
and the Doc, well, he’d been helping everyone so when
he came along, trying to save Belton, no one really thought
anything of it. I mean, the man’s a *doctor,* after
all …” The man’s voice trailed away as if the enormity
of what had occurred was just now sinking in with him.
“The man’s a convicted felon. He killed people in cold
blood. Tortured them. Kidnapped a young boy.” Skinner
shook his head in disgust. “He was in Jonesville to be
punished, not to work on his medical degree.”
“Uh, well, yes, Sir. We see that now. I can assure you,
the matter will be thoroughly investigated.”
“Fat lot of good that will do,” Skinner muttered. “Tell
me why I wasn’t notified sooner.”
“We, uh, thought he was just at the hospital. We, uh,
didn’t want to start a panic.”
“You didn’t want anyone to find out you fucked up.”
Skinner looked up as Mulder and Scully entered, puzzled
looks on their faces. “Well, you did fuck up, and believe
me, the whole world is going to know it. And if anything
happens to Andrew because of your fuck up, there won’t
be a place you can go to hide from me,” he added darkly
before he slammed the phone down.
“What?” Mulder asked.
“Braden’s escaped. Last fucking Thursday!”
“What can we do?” Scully was on her feet, coming around
the desk to lay a comforting hand on Skinner’s arm.
“Go get him for me. Please?” Skinner looked up. “I’d
go myself, but I’ve got to get the wheels turning to get
us jurisdiction in this. I’m not going to deal with
pissant locals who can’t even keep someone in a maximum
“We’re on it. Which museum is he in?”
Skinner shook his head, suddenly at a loss. “We’re
meeting in front of American History at one, but where
the kids are now,” he shrugged, “I just don’t know.”
“Didn’t you get him a cell phone for Christmas?” Scully
asked. “Call him.”
Skinner nodded, fingers dialing. “Andrew?” he said, the
relief in his voice evident. “No, no, nothing’s wrong.
I just thought, uh, that is, I can’t get down there to
pick you up.”
He listened a minute, then shook his head. “No, that’s
okay. I don’t want you to walk. Mulder and Scully are
going to come and get you and Paul and Simon. They’ll
bring you back here. Maybe the boys would like a tour of
Skinner smiled at Andrew’s enthusiastic response. “Good.
Well, I can show you guys around, then we can take off and
get something to eat.”
He listened again, frowning. “No, Andrew. It’s not a
problem and you’re not interfering with anything. I’ve
kept my schedule light this week. I *want* to spend time
with you — and your friends. It’s not an inconvenience —
I’m not like those other people who dump their kids and
Mulder looked at Scully. Andrew must have said something
reassuring, because the grim look on Skinner’s face
vanished, replaced by a smile. “All right. You meet
Mulder and Scully inside.”
Apparently Andrew offered to be outside, because Skinner
disagreed. “No, Andrew, no!” He took a deep breath and
lowered his voice. “That’s okay, son. I know Mulder and
Scully appreciate the offer, but I’d rather you stay
He nodded when he got Andrew’s agreement. “They should be
there in about fifteen minutes.” Skinner cleared his
throat. “Take care, kid. I’ll see you soon.”
Andrew spoke again, and Skinner nodded. “Yeah. Me, too,”
he said as he closed the phone. He stared at it for a
minute, wondering why he found it so hard to tell the boy
he loved him, especially when Andrew said it to him so
frequently. For some reason, he just had trouble with
the actual words and he always ended up with the lame,
‘me, too’ response. He shook his head, then looked up
and said, “Air and Space. I should have known. Where
else would a group of boys go?”
“We’re on it.” Scully looked at her partner. “Shall
He nodded. “It’ll be just as fast and we won’t have to
worry about parking.”
“Just get him back here, please?” Skinner asked as he rose
to walk out with them. “I appreciate this — I really do.”
Mulder nodded and Scully laid her hand on the big man’s
arm again. “We care about him, too, you know.”
He nodded again, watched as they left the office, then
turned back to his secretary. “Kim, this is what we
need to do…”
Air and Space Museum
April 14, 2003, 11:46 am
“Your dad sure does worry about you, Drew,” Simon said
as the boys waited on the steps of the museum.
“He’s not my dad. I told you that,” Andrew replied.
“He’s my guardian.” Andrew cast a long look at the
doors. “We’re supposed to wait inside,” he added.
“He sure acts like a dad,” the boy said wistfully. “Well,
like I guess a dad should act.”
“Your father loves you, Simon,” Andrew said, patting his
“Ah, let’s face it, Madden, you’ve got the best family of
any of us, and you’re not even related to any of them.”
Paul couldn’t help the bit of resentment that slipped into
Andrew shrugged. “I’m lucky,” he said softly. “And believe
me, I know how lucky I am. But really,” he added, tugging
at Simon’s arm, “we’re supposed to wait inside.”
“That why you never get in trouble? Don’t want to risk
them dumping you?” Simon asked, as he refused to budge.
“Walter would never dump me,” Andrew replied. “I stay out
of trouble because it’s the smart thing.” He shot a look
at his friends. “You should do the same thing.”
Paul snorted but Simon nodded, then looked up to see a
man approaching them. “Hey, Madden, that the guy your
guardian is sending for us?”
Andrew turned in time to find himself face to face
with a gun. “Don’t move, any of you,” the man snarled.
Simon and Paul froze, the color draining from their faces.
Andrew looked at the man and said, “Dr. Braden.”
“Let’s move over there,” Braden said, gesturing with the
gun he kept half concealed with a jacket. The boys
moved obediently to stand by a low wall that bordered
the upper plaza-like entrance to the museum. “Sit,”
he ordered, nodding as Paul and Simon obeyed, but shaking
his head at Andrew. “Not you. You take this.” He passed
over a plastic bag with a cloth inside. “Hold that over
“No,” Andrew said simply.
“It will only put them to sleep. You can either hold that
over their faces, or I will shoot them.”
Andrew blanched at the total lack of concern over the
distinction between sleeping and dying and moved to kneel
by Paul. “I told you we should have waited inside.” He
noted the look of fear in the boy’s eyes. “I’m sorry,”
he whispered, pulling the cloth from the bag and holding it
to the other boy’s face. Within seconds, Paul was slumped
asleep against the wall. Simon was next and he succumbed
as easily. Andrew dropped the bag and the cloth and rose.
“Now,” Braden said, “use that phone on your belt and call
Skinner. Tell him that he’s lost. I’ve got you, and you’re
not getting away from me again.
Andrew opened the phone and pressed a button.
“Walter?” he said in a tremulous voice.
“Andrew! What’s wrong?” Skinner’s worried voice rang from
the cell phone.
“Dr. Braden is here,” the boy said, his voice breaking.
“He made me drug Paul and Simon — they’re by the wall
at the museum.” His breath hitched as he fought to keep
from crying. “I’m sorry we didn’t wait inside, Walter.
“Andrew — Mulder and Scully are coming. Hang on, son!
Just hang on. They’ll be there any second.” He pressed a
button again, and Kim appeared. “I’m calling the locals,
calling the museum — Air and Space, right? Help is coming!”
He nodded when Kim disappeared again and knew that she would
have the area swarming with cops within seconds.
“Just hang on, Andrew,” Skinner said, as he rose and
raced for the door. “I’m coming.”
“Walter,” Andrew said, a sob escaping as Braden twisted
his arm and yanked him forward. “He’s got a gun, Walter.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry …” The boy sobbed again.
“Thanks for everything, Walter, thank you.”
Braden tugged again and Andrew stumbled against the curb
then found himself being tossed into the back of a van.
“I love you, Walter. I wish you really were my dad.”
“Andrew!” The cry rang out in stereo, and Andrew looked
up from the phone to see Mulder running toward him, Scully
“Mulder!” he cried as he was shoved backwards.
“Go!” Braden ordered the driver, and the van shot forward,
but almost immediately slowed due to traffic. “Go, go,
go!” Braden screamed. “Go around them, go over them,
go through them! I don’t care, just go!”
Mulder raced along behind, slowly gaining on them as
the van was hampered by other cars. Braden shoved the boy
again, then handcuffed him to the side of the van. The
phone fell from the boy’s hands and skittered across the
metal flooring. Braden managed to get one door shut, but
then Mulder was there, clinging to the open door as he
struggled to pull himself up and into the vehicle.
Braden kicked out at the agent, but Mulder hung on
stubbornly. The van lurched and the door swung wildly,
but Mulder maintained his grasp.
“What’s happening, Andrew?” Skinner’s voice came through
the phone. “Andrew???”
“Walter!” the boy cried. “Walter!”
“Shut up,” Braden snarled as he pulled a tire iron from
the wheel well. He turned and brought it down heavily
across Mulder’s arm.
The agent screamed in pain, lost his grip and tumbled
backward into the street. The van slammed to a stop
as a car cut them off, and Braden looked around worriedly.
Scully was still racing toward them, but as she reached
Mulder, the traffic cleared enough for the driver to take
off. Braden tossed the phone out, then pulled the second
“You’re mine now, Andrew,” he said calmly. “And you’ll never
get away from me again.”
Andrew sniffed as his nose began to run and tears still
fell from his eyes. “Walter will find me,” he said softly,
and Braden slapped him, the boy’s head rocking back from
the violence of the blow. “Walter will find me,” he
insisted stubbornly. “He will.”
Behind the van, Mulder cradled his injured arm and watched
as Scully ran forward to pick up the abandoned phone.
Through the receiver, they could both hear Skinner, still
screaming, “Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!”
April 14, 2003, 2:30 pm
Skinner’s office had been turned into a command center.
Half a dozen agents sat around his conference table, and
techs were busy setting up additional phone lines and
Mulder and Scully had finally returned from the hospital.
The good news was his arm wasn’t broken. The bad news
was that his elbow and forearm were extremely swollen
and tender and the whole area was rapidly turning into
a kaleidoscope of purples, blues, and reds. Skinner knew
that before it was healed, yellow and green would be
added to the palette. The arm was currently resting in
a sling and Skinner had seen Scully have to fuss at
her partner twice already for trying to take the arm
out. It would be his right arm.
A young agent appeared, a faxed printout in her hand.
“Truck was rented this morning by James Smithson,
1829 England Ave, right here in DC.” She seemed very
pleased with herself as she announced, “I’ve already
dispatched agents to the address.”
Mulder snorted in disgust. “Don’t bother,” he said.
“It’s an alias.”
The room grew quiet as everyone turned to stare at him.
“Mulder?” Scully asked quietly.
“In 1829, James Smithson, a wealthy English explorer and
collector died and left all his artifacts to the United
States. To establish a museum.”
Some heads were nodding now, but for the benefit of
those that weren’t, Mulder went on. “We know this museum
as the Smithsonian.”
“He thinks he’s being clever,” Skinner said under his
breath, as he waved the report away. “Keep the APB on
the truck, have someone watching the rental place, and
make sure forensics gets first crack at it when the
damn thing turns up.”
He strode through the techs who were still swarming
about the office, until he stood at the head of the
table. “I’ve had copies of all Braden’s info made
for each of you. Edwards — you coordinate with Norfolk.
I want everyone who ever worked with Braden interviewed
and reinterviewed. I want to know if anyone has seen
or heard from him in the last four days. Ferrer — you
do the same thing with the Richmond people. Polski —
you head up the interview and research team here in the
He paused a moment, looking at the grim faces throughout
the room. “Let’s listen to what Mulder has to say, then
you can each give me a list of who you want on your team.
Work together. I don’t have to approve anything — I just
want the final listing.” He turned and looked at his
agent. “Mulder? You ready?”
Mulder nodded and moved to stand beside Skinner. “This
is rough,” he said by way of preamble. “I sketched most
of this out in the ER, but I think we can safely say that
Braden is an egomaniacal psychopath with delusions of
godhood. He has fixated on Andrew Madden and in his own
warped worldview, has decided the boy is critical to
his — Braden’s — success at his self-proclaimed god
status. He has already demonstrated a cold-blooded
willingness to kill without remorse and without provocation.
He has no qualms about taking innocents and will use
whoever or whatever he deems necessary to achieve his
Mulder licked his lips and swallowed, looking at Skinner
out of the corner of his eye. The older man stood
immobile, a solid slab of unmoving granite with not the
first emotion cracking his stone face. “Braden tortured
the boy last time, and the Assistant Director. It is
very likely he will resort to this method of persuasion
again. The threat of such acts makes it imperative that
we find the boy before too much more time elapses.”
“Agent Mulder?” an older man in a gray suit called, “do
you think this bastard is working alone?”
Mulder shook his head. “He was in the back of the van
with Andrew. Someone else was driving. So we know he
has at least one accomplice.”
“What exactly is it that Braden wants?” a middle-aged
woman with bright red fingernails asked.
Mulder shot a look at Skinner and watched as the AD
stirred and prepared to answer. “Braden is convinced
that Andrew is a clone of a long dead saint. And he
believes Andrew has the ability to work miracles.”
“Miracles?” the woman laughed. “The man is nuts.”
Mulder, Scully, and Skinner exchanged glances. Now
was not the time to go into their own experiences with
Andrew. “I think we have established that, Agent Farrow,”
Skinner said quietly. “And unless there are any other
questions …” He paused, but the room remained silent.
“Then let’s get to it. Whatever resources you need, you
come to me. I’ll see to it you have it.” He paused
again, taking his glasses off and holding them loosely
in his right hand. He dropped his head and his left
hand came up and rubbed his eyes, then settled on the
bridge of his nose. The room remained silent while he
replaced his glasses and slowly swept the room with his
stony gaze. “This boy is my ward. My son. I want him
found. Get out there and make it happen.”
April 14, 2003, 3:00 pm
At three o’clock, the team leaders had presented him
with their team listings. Edwards and Ferrer had left
to set up conference calls with their people in Norfolk
and Richmond respectively, and Polski had his team
assembled in another conference room two floors down.
At four o’clock, he’d met with the Director and managed
to give a halfway coherent briefing. He’d been given
a tremendous amount of autonomy in this, but Mueller
had made it clear it needed to be by the book. By allowing
Skinner to not only stay involved, but in charge, he was
violating policy on how to handle family involved
incidents, and Mueller wasn’t about to let the case
fail because of Skinner’s involvement.
Skinner had dutifully responded with ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no,
sir’ as appropriate, had added the requisite ‘thank you,
sir,’ at the requisite times, and was, quite frankly
amazed he’d gotten out of the meeting without punching
something or someone. But he’d made it and gotten back
to his office in time to field a phone call from Jonesville,
the Warden this time. It had been all political apologies,
and Skinner had hung up in disgust.
At five o’clock, the truck was found. It had been abandoned
on the Georgetown campus and a zealous campus cop who aspired
to greater things connected it with the APB he’d heard about
on his police scanner. Skinner had gone with Mulder and
Scully to take a look. There was a body in the back — a
man with no identification who had been shot through the
back of the head. The handcuffs that had secured Andrew
to the van’s wall still dangled from their hook and he
could see the traces of blood that coated the thin metal
bands. It had taken every bit of his strength not to
pound the hell out of the van wall.
Instead, he had crawled out with exaggerated care, and
stood on the pavement while Scully completed her initial
examination. Mulder joined him.
“Braden killed him,” the younger man said.
Skinner nodded. “He didn’t need him anymore.” He turned
to face Mulder, his eyes haunted. “Oh, God! What if …
Andrew …” The words would not come, but Mulder seemed
to understand and he reached out and gripped Skinner’s
“He *needs* Andrew. He’s not going to kill him. He
sees Andrew as the culmination of his life’s work and
he is convinced he can bend the boy to his will.”
Mulder took a deep breath and sighed. “It may not be
pleasant for Andrew, but Braden won’t kill him.”
Skinner nodded slowly. “Thanks,” he said as Scully
jumped down from the van.
“I’m ready to go. I’ll print him as soon as we get
to the morgue, run it through the database. Cause of
death is pretty clear cut — gunshot to the head —
but I’ll check to make sure he wasn’t drugged first,
and to be sure there isn’t anything else going on we
need to be aware of.” She looked at her watch as two
techs moved into the van behind her and began to prepare
the body for transport. “I should be done in a few hours.”
Skinner nodded and walked away.
Mulder took a moment more to reach out to touch her. “Be
as fast as you can, Scully,” he said quietly. “Skinner’s
hanging on by a very thin thread. And we desperately
need a break.”
“Stay with him, Mulder,” she murmured as she nodded
acknowledgement of his words. “I’ll be back as quick
as I can.”
It was almost seven o’clock by the time he and Mulder
were back at the Hoover. He took phone calls from
Edwards — now in Norfolk — and Ferrer — now in
Richmond — and then had an impromptu meeting with
Polski. Nothing new on any of the fronts.
He checked in with Mueller again, talked to the DC
Metro Police Chief to thank them for their invaluable
assistance in canvassing for people who had seen the
truck, and then made a polite call to the head of
Georgetown’s campus security, reaching him at home to
thank him for the good work of the young cop that
By the time he was finished, his jaw ached from grinding
his teeth and forcing himself to speak civilly.
His office still swarmed with agents and techs, but Mulder
had refused to leave. At eight o’clock, Skinner looked
over to see Mulder reading Braden’s file, his lower lip
bitten between his teeth as he concentrated and his
arm out of the sling again as he took notes. Skinner
walked over and waited to be acknowledged, but Mulder
never looked up. At length, he cleared his throat and
watched as Mulder blinked owlishly up at him through his
glasses, then slowly lifted a hand to remove them.
“Put your arm back in the sling, Mulder,” he ordered
Mulder shrugged. “I need to make notes.” He winced as
he slowly set the arm back in the sling.
Skinner shook his head. “I’ll assign you a steno. You
can dictate.” He looked around for the bottle of pain
pills he remembered seeing Scully carry in. It was on
the corner of his desk. He read the instructions on the
label, then opened the bottle and shook out two. He laid
them on the desk while he poured a glass of water, then
handed the pills to Mulder. The younger man made a face,
but he threw the pills into his mouth, then accepted the
water and swallowed.
“I hate these things,” he groused.
“Dulls the pain,” Skinner said, wishing it were that
easy to dull the pain he was feeling.
“Dulls everything,” Mulder complained. “I always end
up feeling like my brain is in a fog and nothing is
“I’ve got to get out of here,” Skinner said and Mulder
nodded as he began to pick up the papers he’d spread
before him and reassemble the file he’d been working
“Come on down to the basement,” Mulder offered. “It’ll
be quiet and Scully will look for me there first when
she comes back.” He rose, handed the laptop he’d been
working on to the AD, then hefted his files and notes.
When he left, Skinner followed.
April 14, 2003, 6:00 pm
Braden looked around the small office area. He hadn’t
had much time to make it comfortable, but that could come
later. For now, he had a table that he could use as a
desk, with a small lamp on it. There was a straight
back chair that would have to do until he could get
something better, and a camp cot, off to one side that
would serve as his bedroom. He’d have preferred a place
with a bathroom in the unit he used, but there hadn’t
been a lot of time and he was lucky Juarez had found
something even this close to his requirements.
He made a few more notes in the log he had begun, then
dropped the pen and watched as it rolled to rest next
to the cell phone. It had been a last minute decision,
to take Eli’s phone, but until he was sure he was safe,
and could run a phone line of his own, he didn’t want
to be completely without a means of communication.
With a barely suppressed laugh of excitement, he rose
and walked to the door of the small room that held his
creation. The boy huddled on the floor as far from the
door as possible, and flinched when Braden entered the
His touch neither rough nor soft, but purely impersonal,
he pulled the child to his feet and held him there.
“Do you know the story of your namesake, Andrew?” Braden
asked conversationally as he stripped the boy to his
The room that would hold his project for the next month
was small, completely covered in tile, including the
ceiling. There were no furnishings, no bed, no chair,
no rugs. Just cold, bare tile and a metal drain in the
center of the slightly sloping floor.
Andrew looked up and saw a sprinkler nozzle in the ceiling.
The lighting was bright, but recessed. There were no windows.
The single door had an observation port in it and Andrew
could see there were cameras and probably microphones as
well in the ceiling by the recessed lighting.
“What do you want with me?” the boy asked.
Braden shook his head. “I asked you a question.”
Andrew sighed. “Saint Andrew was a fisherman. He was the
brother of Saint Peter. He’s the patron saint of …”
Braden slapped him. “Do you think you are being clever?”
Andrew shook his head in confusion, his hand coming up
to cradle his cheek.
“Your namesake,” Braden reiterated, “your *father.*”
“I’m just a kid,” Andrew said softly, struggling to
swallow a sob. “And I don’t know who my father is.”
“You are far more than just a kid. Your Andrew, the
one who made you, was once punished by being locked
in a box for a month. No food, no water.”
Andrew looked around at the small room, a sense of panic
threatening to overtake him.
“When he emerged at the end of the thirty days, he was
perfectly fit, perfectly healthy.” He narrowed his eyes
and stared at the boy. “I wonder if the same will be
said of you.”
April 14, 2003, 11:48 pm
Scully had returned with very little news. The dead man
was Elian Juarez and agents were on their way to contact
his wife. Traces were being set up on Juarez’s home and
office phone, and on both his and his wife’s cell phones.
They were combing records of property Juarez owned or
rented and were looking for connections with Braden.
But it was late now — businesses were closed and things
would move slowly through the night.
And he couldn’t stand the tension, the waiting, any
He’d excused himself from his agents, left the refuge
of the X-Files office to come here — his other refuge.
At least here, he could burn off some of the anger that
kept threatening to overtake him.
He started with the weights, knowing how foolish he was
to be here without a spotter, and not caring. He lifted
the bar, felt it drop to his chest and then he began to
push. The monotonous rhythm was oddly soothing and he
lost himself in the simple drive of up and down, up and
down. He pushed until his muscles began to burn, then
pushed past the burn until sweat dripped from his skin
and stung his eyes. And still he pushed on. Up and down,
up and down, up and down. He pushed until the burn turned
to an ache and then the ache to real pain, and still he
pushed on. It was only when he couldn’t push again, when
the heavy bar rested tight against his chest and he had
to reach down to his furthest reserves to lift it off,
it was only then that he stopped.
He lay on the bench for a long moment, panting as he
struggled to bring his breathing under control. When
he could stand, he wiped his face and chest with his
towel, then looked around, trying to decide what to do
next. Normally he’d have worked his legs, but he needed
something more active, more aggressive, and his eyes lit
on the heavy bag off by itself in the corner.
Without bothering to tape his hands, without putting on
gloves, he moved to the large leather sack and began to
pound. His arms began to burn almost immediately, but
he ignored the sensation.
This was better, much better than the weights. This let
him visualize Braden’s laughing face and pound the shit
out of it over and over again.
This let him beat the man for taking Andrew, for daring
to harm that precious child.
This let him work out all his fury, all his anger, all
his aggression, holding the image of Braden before him
and hitting it, beating it, pounding it, smashing it,
taking it apart, taking it to pieces …
Over and over and over, he beat the bag. His knuckles
bruised and then tore, and he was vaguely aware of bloody
streaks on the brown leather.
He continued on.
In his mind’s eyes, Braden fell repeatedly, his nose broken,
his eyes swollen shut, his cheekbone shattered.
Skinner smiled wolfishly as he watched the imaginary Braden
take yet another fall, collapsing in a heap of pulverized
There was a sound now, a low, monotonous drone that reeked
of suffering and pain, and he broke from his pounding long
enough to look around and try to place its source.
He was vaguely aware of Mulder and Scully standing back,
calling him, but the other noise drowned out their words.
He was staring at them blankly, still trying to place the
odd sound, when his cell phone rang.
He stumbled exhaustedly forward, falling against Mulder
as the other man tried to keep him upright with just one
good arm. Skinner grimaced. Maybe he’d overdone the
workout just a bit.
He looked around. The cell phone was still ringing, but
the other sound was gone, and that was when he realized
it had been him. He had been making that ungodly cry
of unrelieved agony.
He lifted the phone and croaked, “Skinner.”
“Walter?” said a small voice. “Can you come and get me
April 15, 2003, 12:30 am
“Andrew!” Skinner made frantic motions — track the
call, contact the phone company, find out where he
is. “Where? Where do I come?”
“I’m in a building, Walter. It’s like a laboratory.”
“Where, Andrew?” Skinner was pacing, one hand running
repeatedly through his sweat-soaked hair. “Where is it?”
“Not sure, exactly, Walter, but it’s got to be in the city.
We didn’t drive real far.” Andrew paused, thinking. “And
Dr. Braden told the other man that real estate like this
was cheap in the city — ’cause of where it was.”
“That’s good, Andrew, real good.” Skinner took a deep
breath. “What kind of phone are you using?”
“A cell phone. Not mine — not the one you got me.
He threw that out the van.” Andrew was quiet for a
minute. “I’m sorry.”
“Hush,” Skinner said gently. “It’s not important. You
are all that matter. Are you loose? Can you get away?
“I can’t get out, Walter. He’s got me locked in a little
room. I can’t get out of the room. Not really. But Doctor
Braden is gone now. He’ll be back soon, and I have to be
off the phone by then.” The boy’s voice broke. “Please
come get me, Walter. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Shhhh, Andrew,” Skinner soothed, “I’m coming. We’re
working with the cell phone company to find out where
you are. I’m coming, kiddo. As soon as I have an address,
I’ll be there. You know that, right?”
Andrew nodded, then realized Skinner couldn’t see the
movement and said, “I know, Walter.” He shivered as
he glanced around the room. “I think it could be some
kind of a warehouse,” he said softly.
“Are you okay, Andrew? Did he hurt you?”
“He hit me a couple of times, that’s all,” Andrew answered
slowly and Skinner’s gut twisted. “I’m a little sore,
but I’m all right.” There was a sound and Andrew jumped,
then said, “He’s coming back, Walter. I have to go now.”
“Andrew! Wait! Can’t you hide? Can’t you run?”
“I have to go,” Andrew repeated. “I’m going to leave the
phone open. Maybe that will help.”
Braden came around the corner and blinked. For a minute
there, it had looked like the boy was standing in the
outer room, by the table he was using for a desk. But —
that was impossible, wasn’t it? Of course, with this boy’s
abilities, nothing was impossible. He moved to the door of
the tiled room, and stared through the observation port.
The boy was safely locked in the room, still huddled in a
corner as far from the door as he could get. He couldn’t
have been at the desk, could he? Braden shook his head
and took a long pull on the coffee he’d just poured, then
stared at the boy again.
This time it would work. This time the boy would break
and he would do as he was told. This time, the saint
would be his.
April 15, 2003, 1:20 am
“We’ve got an address! The cry echoed in Skinner’s office
as the agent slammed the phone down and held up a piece
of paper triumphantly. “It’s somewhere within a four block
radius down in the warehouse district. I’ve got the
Skinner grabbed the paper and whirled, snatching his coat
up as he headed out the door. Scully followed him
immediately and Mulder took long enough to tell Polski
to get *everyone* down to the area — FBI, DC Metro, and
anyone else they could borrow from the neighboring cities.
Assured that support would be on the way, he raced after
his partner and his boss and caught them in the parking
garage. Scully was almost forcibly restraining Skinner,
arguing that he needed to wait until Mulder arrived.
“I’m here,” he called out as he jogged up. “Polski’s
getting everyone mobilized. Backup will be right behind
us.” He deftly snagged the keys from Skinner’s hand and
passed them to Scully before climbing into the back.
When Skinner started to protest, Scully cut him off as
she got into the car. “You don’t need to be driving,”
she said, “and you know it.” She stared up at the AD
through the driver’s window, the motor running, and Skinner
bowed to the inevitable and walked around, getting into
the passenger seat. “Polski’s getting the troops in
motion?” he asked as he buckled up and Scully backed
smoothly out of the parking slot.
“Yeah,” Mulder replied. “He’ll have locals meet us there,
and everyone in the Bureau has been scrambled. The whole
area will be crawling with LEOs in no time.”
“Braden’s clever,” Skinner mused. “The machinery was
rigged in Richmond.” He shot a look over his shoulder
at Mulder, remembering the fear that had gripped him
when he thought his agent was dead. “We may need
explosives experts, maybe dogs. And fire and rescue.
I want them standing by.”
Mulder was nodding, his cell phone at his ear and he
began relaying Skinner’s instructions to Polski back at
the Hoover. He finished and then listened, making
‘uh-huh’ noises at intervals, and then said, “All right.
We’ll see you there,” as he hung up.
“Polski says they finally found Juarez’s wife. They
woke her up. She says Braden was there Friday night,
and then Juarez was gone all day Saturday. Should have
been his day off, so she assumed it had something to
do with his visit from Braden, but she didn’t ask
“Any word on property?”
“She gave us a list of everything they own — not much.
Just the house they’re living in and a vacation property
in the mountains — about six hours away.”
“What about family?” Skinner asked.
“Juarez was an only child. He came to America from
Cuba when he was twenty. Put himself through school.
The rest of his family is still in Cuba. Her family
is a different story. She’s got 6 brothers and sisters,
over a dozen aunts and uncles, and more cousins than even
I can remember. They all own property. Research is
running it down now — trying to see if any of it could
be in the area we’re heading for.” Mulder growled in
frustration. “Everything’s closed! We’re working on
tracking down owners and property manager numbers —
Polski’s been waking people up all night — but we still
can’t pin down anything definite.” He sighed. “At this
point, we’re going to be relying on a door to door search.”
Skinner nodded. “That’s about what I expected. By nine
this morning, when everything starts opening up, I want
Andrew found and this whole matter put behind us. I’m
not sitting around waiting for the sun to come up!”
The designated four-block area had been cordoned off by
several additional blocks. Much of the area consisted of
vacant and abandoned warehouses, and as the uniforms and
agents slowly worked their way through the buildings,
homeless people were being forced out of the spaces they
had claimed as home.
A DC Metro Police Captain was coordinating local effort,
and Skinner approached him immediately. “I’m AD Skinner,”
he said, his hand extended.
The man took his hand in a firm grasp and shook. “It’s
your boy, then,” he said sympathetically.
“Yeah,” Skinner agreed. “Give me an area. I’m going in
with my agents.”
“Is that such a good idea?” the captain asked.
“Give me an area,” Skinner growled, “or I’ll just get
started on my own.”
The captain studied him for a moment, noting the
resolution in his face, then nodded. “Guess I’d be the
same way if it was my kid,” he muttered, turning to
point to a map he had laid out on a car hood. “Three
blocks in,” he said, pointing. “An old warehouse that
has been turned into office space. The building itself
is huge — four stories, takes up half a city block —
and there must be hundred little cubbyhole offices
on each floor. We haven’t started there yet.” He
looked up at Skinner. “You and your people want to take
Skinner nodded. “Thanks.”
The captain handed him a radio. “It’s already tuned to
the frequency we’re using. Just check in regularly —
every half hour.” He looked at his watch. “First check
at 2:25. Got it?”
Skinned nodded again. “You’ve got a good plan in place.
You run the search organization.” He gave the man a
tight smile. “I’ll tell the rest of my people to
report to you. Keep it organized — but let’s find
“Yes, Sir,” the man said, his hand coming out again.
“I’m Mason — Ephraim Mason.”
“Nice work, Mason,” Skinner said, shaking hands one
more time before he turned and walked away.
He rejoined Mulder and Scully, told them where they
were going, and began walking. Mulder called Polski
again, relaying Skinner’s latest instructions to check
in with Captain Mason for search assignments. There
was a tense moment when he thought the other man was
going to fight for control, but Polski bit it back and
merely said, “Fine. If that’s what the AD wants.”
“It is,” Mulder said with finality, closing the phone.
All around them as they walked toward their building,
they could see law enforcement officials working their
own assigned territory. Shadows were visible through
broken windows as people worked methodically through
the buildings, seeking any sign of Braden or Andrew.
Andrew had called from this area — he had to be here
somewhere. It was just a matter of finding him now.
And Skinner worried that so many cops, so much activity
was going to attract Braden’s attention, make the man
panic and try to move the boy. But they had no choice.
There was too much territory to cover to mount anything
close to a covert assault. Blanketing the area with
cops and FBI agents, so many that Braden wouldn’t stand
a chance of escape, was the best way to force the man
into the open. He’d already made it clear he wouldn’t
kill Andrew — so Skinner didn’t really fear for the
boy’s life. But Braden had hit him, and Skinner didn’t
want the boy to suffer. And with Braden convinced
the boy had healing powers, he couldn’t be sure the
insane doctor wouldn’t do something life-threatening
to the child, and then expect him to heal himself.
Skinner shook his head and increased his pace.
April 15, 2003, 3:18 am.
Braden stared through the window into the tiled room.
The boy was hunched over in the corner, throwing up.
“What’s wrong with you?” he called.
“I feel sick,” Andrew muttered. “My head hurts.”
He looked up and met Braden’s eyes through the window.
“I’m thirsty. Can I have some water?”
“No,” Braden said simply. “You might as well get used
to it. You get nothing — no water, no food — for as
long as it takes for you to realize you have no choice
but to accept your destiny.”
“I don’t have a destiny,” Andrew said plaintively. “I’m
just a kid.”
“Hardly,” Braden said dryly. “I made you with the cells
of a saint, and you carry that power within you.” He
cocked his head, studying the boy as the coughed and then
threw up again. “If you feel so bad, why don’t you heal
“I can’t,” the child sobbed. “Why won’t you believe me
when I tell you I can’t?”
“You can,” Braden insisted. “For that matter, you can
save yourself. If you really wanted to, you could heal
yourself, save yourself, free yourself. You have the
power of miracles within you — you need only use it.”
“Don’t you understand?” Andrew cried. “I can’t work
miracles. Only God can do that. Only God!”
“Then appeal to your God for rescue,” Braden said.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” Andrew said, staring
up at Braden’s cold eyes, visible through the small
window in the door. “Sometimes God works a miracle to
show us something, to teach us, or guide us, or help
us. And sometimes, it is the absence of miracles
that is supposed to help us learn. It is in the absence
that our faith is strongest.”
“This should surely test your faith then, Braden said as
he slammed the cover over the window and walked away.
Andrew was left crying in the corner. He crawled away
from his sickness, fighting the urge to be sick again
that the odor ignited, and settled in the other corner.
“Dear God,” he prayed. “Please don’t let anything happen
to my friends. Take care of Walter and Mulder and Dana.
Don’t let anyone be hurt looking for me, but please — let
them find me soon.”
April 15, 2003, 3:42 am
“Next floor?” Scully asked wearily. Skinner nodded and
they began the climb to the third floor. It was time-
consuming to open every door, and emotionally draining as
each time they had to be geared up to find themselves
vulnerable to attack from whatever was behind the door.
They were all exhausted.
Scully and Skinner had done most of the door opening,
as Mulder’s injured arm made it almost impossible to hold
his weapon. He had the gun out, held loosely in his left
hand and ready to switch to his right if need be, but
there had been no need thus far.
There’d been a number of scares so far, as the building
apparently still had power and there had been lights on
in some of the offices. At first, they’d taken that as
a good sign, but as door after opened door revealed
nothing but dirt and dust and emptiness, the adrenaline
rush of seeing a light began to fade.
They’d made three check-ins with Mason and knew that
every building now had a team assigned to it. No one
had turned up any sign of Andrew or Braden. The only
people found thus far had been far too many homeless who
were losing their rent-free space this night.
They entered the third floor, Skinner high and Scully
low, with Mulder following. It was empty. A single nod
at the first door and they began the routine again —
position on either side of the door, Mulder behind Scully
out to the side a bit. Skinner placed his hand on the
door. A silent count of one, two, three. He pushed the
door inward and he and Scully flowed forward, guns pointing
at an empty room.
Without a word, they pulled back, moved to the next door
and repeated the process. The tiny, cell-like offices
opened off on both sides of a narrow, dark hallway. They
followed it to the end, opening ten doors on each side,
then turned and walked over to the next corridor and began
again. The rooms in this hall were different. They seemed
to consist of small suites. Each door opened into a small
office-like area, but there were two other doors at the
back. One opened into a cramped bathroom, and the other
into a fully tiled area with a drain in the floor.
Skinner shook his head. This was weird. He couldn’t
begin to imagine what this area had been used for. He
looked at Scully, and tilted his head in silent inquiry.
She shrugged. “Medical research, maybe?” she whispered.
“Something with animals that required a place to wash
Skinner nodded. “Keep alert.” He jerked his head back
at the door. “Let’s keep going.”
It was the sixth door on the left side. They positioned
themselves as they had a hundred times before tonight.
Mulder hung back, ready to come in if needed. Skinner
and Scully on either side of the door, weapons at the
ready. The silent count. One. Two. Three. Skinner
pushed the door. They rolled inward, eyes scanning,
weapons up and pointed at — Braden!
The doctor had a gun as well, and he screamed a single
“Noooooo!” then sighted on Scully and pulled the trigger.
Mulder was coming through the door, racing for his partner,
knowing he was going to be too late to shove her out of
Skinner was diving at her as well, flying through the
air with no thought of anything other than taking her out
of the line of fire.
But he, too, realized it was too late. There was nothing
that could be done. The bullet flew true — aimed straight
for her heart.
And then the air seemed to shimmer and time seemed to slow
down. Skinner could actually see the bullet as it made
its way toward Scully. He could feel himself moving
infinitely slowly through the air, literally flying as
his feet were completely off the floor. Mulder had his
gun up, pointing at Braden as he still moved toward
Scully and Skinner saw the moment his agent pulled the
trigger. He could see the little explosion as the
hammer ignited the gunpowder, as the bullet dragged
itself out of the muzzle, as it moved as if through
mud, inching toward Braden.
Skinner could see all of these things, feel all of
these things as clearly as if they were everyday occurrences.
Braden’s cry still hung in the room, the sound eerie
in the time-slowed air. Mulder was screaming as well
now, and his slow-motion words were garbled, unintelligible,
but Skinner knew they were some form of “Not Scully, not
Into the shimmering air, Andrew suddenly appeared. He
stepped from behind a table and Skinner could feel his
brow furrow as he wondered if the boy had been there all
along. The child moved to stand in front of Scully,
and everything snapped, the bullet again moving faster
than could be seen, slamming into Andrew’s head. Braden
fell, shot through the heart by Mulder. His single cry
pulled all of their attention, and when he looked back,
Scully was in Mulder’s arms, saying, “I’m okay, I’m okay,”
over and over again.
Mulder was completely out of the sling, both arms clutched
his partner to his chest. His gun hung laxly from his
Skinner moved to check Braden, confirmed the man was dead,
and retrieved the weapon.
And then it hit him.
The boy had been out here.
He’d been shot.
He looked around frantically but there was no sign of
“Where’d he go, Sir?” Scully asked, as she looked around
Skinner shrugged. “You did see him, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” Mulder mumbled. “Not sure even I believe it,
but I saw it.”
Skinner moved forward and flung open the bathroom door,
then the door to the tiled room. “Andrew!” he cried,
racing to the slender body slumped in the corner. “I’m
here, Andrew,” he whispered, reaching out to lift the
Exactly in the center of the boy’s head was a single
round hole. The entrance wound of the bullet. It was
then he realized the boy was not breathing.
“Get an ambulance!” he ordered, and then found himself
shoved to the side as Scully pushed in and took over.
From that point on, he could do nothing but wait.
Georgetown Memorial Hospital
April 20, 2003, 05:35 am
“How did he do it?” Mulder asked.
Skinner shrugged. “Who knows? You’ve heard what they
said. There was no way he could have moved after he was
shot, so it had to have happened in the tiled room.”
“I saw him,” Scully said firmly. “He put himself in
front of me. He took that bullet to save my life.”
“I saw him, too, Scully,” Skinner agreed. “I just
don’t have any answers.” He sighed softly. “And now,
I guess we won’t ever get any.”
“Are you sure you don’t want us with you, Sir?” Scully
asked quietly. The three of them stood just outside
the curtained alcove that was Andrew’s room.
Skinner shook his head. “Thank you, but no.”
“Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure this
is the right decision?”
“He’s gone, Mulder,” Skinner said in a quiet and resigned
voice. “Brain dead. That means dead. The body breathes
because a machine forces it to. The heart beats, but only
reflexively. The spark that made Andrew is gone, and it’s
time to let the body go as well.”
“How long …” Mulder looked away, uncomfortable.
Skinner shrugged. “Maybe two minutes, maybe ten, once
the ventilator is removed. He won’t breathe, but his
heart may keep beating for a little bit longer.”
Mulder held out a pair of Andrew’s sweatpants, and a
T-shirt of his own. “Thought you might like to dress
him before …”
“Thanks,” Skinner said as he accepted the clothes. He
looked at Scully, noticing the white stuffed rabbit she
carried. “What’s that for?”
She blushed. “Easter bunny,” she said, her eyes not
meeting his. “I don’t think Andrew had too many traditional
Easters. I thought …” She blushed again then held the
rabbit out. “I thought he might like this.”
Skinner’s throat tightened. “Thank you — thank you, both,”
he said as he looked at his agents. “Thanks for being
here, and thanks for caring.” Scully’s hand came out and
rested on his arm for a moment, before she dropped it and
moved to stand by Mulder, his arm wrapping around her.
“Do you two want to, uh, say good-bye?”
Mulder looked at Scully and she nodded, then they slipped
behind the curtain. Skinner stood unmoving, the clothes
and stuffed bunny dangling from one hand while the other
was held in a fist at his side. When his friends came out
several minutes later, Scully was crying softly and Mulder’s
eyes were red. She reached out and gave the big man a hug,
pulling him down so she could whisper, “We’ll be right here,
waiting for you.”
He nodded his appreciation, unable to speak. Mulder placed
his hand on Skinner’s shoulder and Skinner reached up,
covering it with his own for a brief moment before he
drew a deep breath and moved behind the curtain.
The chair he had requested was there — facing the window
so that he could see the sun rise. He moved quickly to
the bed, waiting while the nurse removed the catheter,
and then disconnected the IV lines. He slipped the pants
onto Andrew, then watched as the ventilator tube was removed.
He sat the unresisting body up, sliding the T-shirt on
over Andrew’s head, and listened to the silence. The lack
of machine sounds was shockingly loud in the small cubicle.
“It won’t be long,” the nurse said quietly as she moved
to leave. “He’s not in any pain.”
Skinner nodded and then lifted the slight body up and
moved to the chair. He sat and held the child — the
young man — who had so suddenly become such an important
part of his life. Andrew drew a ragged breath as he
was settled against Skinner’s broad chest.
“I’m so sorry, Andrew,” he whispered, his voice thick
and raspy with unshed tears. “I don’t know what you
want me to learn here — I don’t know what God wants.
All I see is you — dying — and I’m helpless. I don’t
know what to do …”
He sat in silence and listened to Andrew struggle to
The sun was just becoming visible, rosy pinks and golds
lighting the horizon, as around the world, Christians
celebrated Easter. How ironic, Skinner thought, that on
this day of resurrection, he would be holding a child and
waiting for death.
He shifted the boy, holding him so that the first fingers
of dawn that came through the window would touch his face.
“I love you, Andrew,” he murmured against the child’s
hair. “You were a blessing to me.” He settled back,
still not ready to let go, but unprepared to fight anymore.
Andrew still breathed, and as the minutes passed, it
slowly occurred to Skinner that he wasn’t supposed to
be doing that. They’d told him he wouldn’t breathe.
Without the ventilator, that would be it. And yet,
instead of silent immobility, the small body moved, the
chest rising and falling, each breath becoming smoother,
When Andrew shifted in his arms, Skinner jumped. “Andrew?”
he cried, twisting the child in his arms. Large dark
eyes stared back at him.
“Love you, too,” Andrew said in a dry and cracked voice.
” ‘m thirsty.”
“You’re — alive!” The tears that Skinner had been holding
back fell unabashedly now and he kissed the boy’s face.
Andrew nodded and leaned into Skinner’s arms. “It’s
Easter, Walter. A time for new beginnings.”