Love Letters

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TITLE: Love Letters

AUTHOR: TCS1121

FEEDBACK: tcs1121@hotmail.com

HOMEPAGE: http://www.angelfire.com/scifi2/xfilesfanfic/ff.html

RATING: R

CLASSIFICATION: X, Angst

KEYWORDS: MSR, Case File

DISCLAIMER: 1013 and FOX own all of the X-

Files characters.

No money changes hands.

ARCHIVE: As you wish.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: “Love Letters” was written for the IMTP

Virtual Season 11—with pleasure and gratitude.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

SPECIAL THANKS:

To my sister Vanessa, for her journalistic expertise.

To Laura S: My friend and favorite first reader.

To Mori: Beta extraordinaire. Patient, kind and smart.

And a special thanks to KEstabrook: Comma queen

and insightful reader and beta. Karen makes me feel

like I can really do this.

Thank you, Little Sis, Laura, Mori and KEss.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~~

SUMMARY: Some things are supposed to happen.

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Xxxxxxx Teaser xxxxxxX

Leola moved her pen across the paper, scratching out the

six most important words she would ever write.

Her hands shook more with each passing year, and her eyesight

all but failed after the sun set, but Leola finished writing, patted

the stray wisps of gray back behind her ear, and opened a fresh

envelope.

She underlined one word, just to make sure, then placed her

neatly folded note alongside a tattered, yellowed newspaper

article. This would be the final one. The tears pooling in her

eyes finally fell, trickling down the deep lines of her sunken

cheeks.

She looked skyward, and smiled; then touched her index finger

to her forehead, chest, left shoulder, and right.

After taping the envelope closed, she turned it over and wrote

the last words:

To Agent Fox Mulder

Xxxxxxx ACT ONE xxxxxxX

X-Files Office

Hoover Building Basement

Washington, DC

Monday Morning, 5:00 am; the 8th of the month

*~~*~~*

Mulder unlocked his office door. He didn’t need to see the key

to know that it would fit, or check his watch; he knew it was

early.

Slamming the door harder than he needed to, he walked to his

desk, threw his coat over the back of the chair, and set the

Starbucks cup down. He rubbed his eyes and looked over the

debris covering his desk. On the top of an open magazine was a

crisp, white envelope. Written across the front, in shaky blue

cursive letters, were the words:

To Agent Fox Mulder

He flipped it over and peeled back the tape. After a couple of

minutes, he picked up the phone.

“Hey, Scully?” He spoke to her answering machine. “I know it’s

early, but can you get into the office?”

“Mulder?” Scully’s sleepy voice came through the handset.

“What time is it? Why are you at the office already?”

“I’m at the office, because I can’t sleep well when I’m all alone.”

He tried to sound playful, but the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet.

Through the receiver, he heard Scully’s deep sigh.

“Sorry,” he said. “Look, can you come in early this morning?”

A pause, then a yawn. “Mmm Hmm. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, but there’s something I need you to take a look at,

and the earlier the better.”

“I’ll be right there. Make sure you caffeinate me.”

They’d had a fight—well, not exactly. Last night, passionate

words had been exchanged regarding their separate living

arrangements. It was more accurate to say that Mulder had

thrown some words. To say that they had exchanged words

suggested that he and Scully had actually had a conversation.

The crux of the matter was: Mulder became lonelier and lonelier

on the nights he spent away from her. But Scully liked looking

forward to their nights together. She enjoyed waiting for him.

The anticipation made her feel like a teen-ager. “Well, like an

old teen-ager,” she’d smiled and said.

In a bit of a huff, he’d left her early. Unfortunately, his dramatic

exit had left him pissed off, aroused and unsatisfied. Even

after using time-honored techniques, he remained pissed off and

unsatisfied. And now, on top of it all, he was exhausted.

“What is wrong with me?” he asked the poster hanging behind

his chair. “How can I possibly miss her so much after all these

years?” It was his turn to sigh. “And, doesn’t she miss me, too?”

A little after six, Scully opened the door.

“Hey.” Her eyes sparkled as she walked in.

“Hey. Sorry about the early hour. Sorry about everything.” He

pointed to a fresh Starbucks cup.

She smiled and sipped. “Mmm. Starbucks French Roast,

Grande. You’re forgiven.” She sipped again and sat. “What

have I just forgiven you for?”

He hiked his hip up onto the corner of his desk, and looked at

her.

“You’ve just forgiven me for being an ass last night, and for the

ass I’ll make of myself tonight.”

“Oh, okay,” she said, agreeably, then looked up. “I’m looking

forward to that ass tonight.” She sipped again. “I thought you

were apologizing for getting me in here at six in the morning.”

“That too. You know, we could save gas if we car pool.” He

winked at her.

She shook her head good-naturedly. “I think there are rules

about that.”

“Just say the word, and I’ll break ’em.” God, he hoped that

hadn’t come out sounding pathetic. He continued quickly,

“Actually, other than wanting to see you first thing in the

morning, the reason I called is this.”

He handed her the envelope. “What do you think?”

“When did you get this?” Scully put her coffee down, read the

front, and carefully lifted the back flap.

“It was on the desk this morning. Nothing else was touched, as

far as I could tell. But…” He gestured at the mess on his desk.

She took out the first enclosure, and unfolded a white piece of

unlined paper.

“The handwriting on the envelope and on the note look the

same,” Scully said, and then read aloud: ‘This was supposed to

happen.'” She looked up at Mulder. “What was supposed to

happen? This?”

She picked up the other item.

“That,” he said, “is a newspaper article cut from the Washington

Post Review. But it’s dated the ninth.”

“Today’s the eighth.”

“I know. And look at the condition of the article. The paper’s

yellow and crumbling.”

“Yeah, it is.” Scully cocked her head, and read aloud, “Interstate

Closed for Ice Cream Cleanup

LAUREL, Md–A tanker truck hauling 8,500 gallons of specialty

ice cream overturned on southbound I 95 during the morning

rush hour yesterday.

A Toyota Celica, driven by Richard Marino, 24, veered in front

of the tanker, two miles past exit 33, south of Laurel, forcing it

off the road, where it overturned. No one was hurt.

Six thousand gallons of Dippin’ Dots ice cream dislodged from

the cargo and coated the roadway, closing the interstate and

halting traffic for several hours.

The remaining 2,500 gallons melted inside the damaged tanker,

spilling around the accident site and making removal of the

vehicle difficult.

It is not known what caused Marino to suddenly cut in front of

the driver of the tanker, Donald Hudson, 56. The accident is

under investigation.”

She paused. “Dippin’ Dots?”

“Yeah, it’s that pelleted ice cream they sell at stadiums and

theme parks.”

“Oh, right. The kind that looks like colored beads.” She briefly

re-read the article, and handed it back. “Why would someone

send you this?”

Mulder shrugged, and clicked on an old transistor radio. He

fiddled with the knobs until WBAL hissed through the small

speaker.

“So, Scully, when would you say the morning rush hour starts?”

“Well, the Metro charges rush hour rates from 5:30 to 9:30 on

weekday mornings. So I guess…” She looked at her watch.

“…that the morning rush is going on right now.”

“Well then, let’s settle down by the radio and wait for the news.”

He turned down the volume. “In the meantime, what does this

letter say to you?”

She looked at it, held it up to the light, and sniffed it. “The ink

looks like a gel pen or roller ball, and not faded or smudged. It

was written recently. The writer must not want us looking for

DNA evidence, hence, the tape on the back. The handwriting is

careful and deliberate, but a little shaky. Maybe the writer is

nervous or has an intention tremor. The writer is right handed.”

“And a woman,” Mulder added.

“Yes, probably,” she agreed.

“A woman who didn’t put an address on the front of the

envelope, but got it to me anyway.”

“Maybe she works here? Night cleaning crew?”

He shrugged again. “Maybe.”

“Or possibly a friend or relative of someone who works here.

Someone who has access to your office.”

He took the article. “Possibly.”

“Stop that. Or it could be that someone is just yanking your

chain.”

“Could be.” He nodded, crumbling a corner of the newspaper

between his thumb and forefinger. “My chain’s been yanked

before.”

He held his thumb up with the powdered newspaper clinging to

it. “How long does it take for newsprint to disintegrate?”

She paused to think. “Well, it depends, I guess. On whether it

was out in the sun, or if it had gotten wet, and how acidic the

paper was to begin with. It’s very easy to distress newsprint, and

that can be done relatively quickly.”

“I wonder if carbon dating would tell us anything.” He pondered

the newspaper dust on his finger.

“I don’t think carbon dating would work on something this

current, due to the amount of Carbon-14 and fossil fuel residue

in the air. Besides, it’s a trick, Mulder. Some woman wanted

your attention, and what better way to get it, than by placing a

mysterious envelope on your desk?”

He looked at her, and grinned mischievously. “A mystery

women, huh? Now that sounds interesting…” His voice faded,

and he raised his head. He got up, and turned the radio’s knob to

the right.

“…closed southbound. Traffic is being re-routed to Route 1

south, or I 295 south. It’s a mess out there, so stay away from I

95 both directions.

“Again, this just in: I 95 is closed just south of Laurel. A tractor-

trailer overturned, spilling its cargo all over the roadway. I’m

not sure what it was hauling—-hold on. What? Really? Well,

we’ve just got word that this stretch of I 95 is covered with

thousands and thousands of miniature ice cream balls…”

Mulder snapped it off, looked over his shoulder at Scully and

said softly, “Dippin’ Dots.”

“Dippin’ Dots,” she agreed. “Wow! I wonder how she

orchestrated it.” Scully picked up the fading newspaper article.

“Her timing was perfect.”

“Orchestrated it? You think the mystery woman had something

to do with the ice cream truck?”

“Well, maybe not the accident itself, but she obviously knew

about it before it happened.” She pointed to the newspaper

article. “I’m not accusing her of anything criminal; I’m saying

she might have heard somebody say something about causing an

accident. But it must have been planned in advance, otherwise,

how she could have gotten this newspaper article made up so

quickly? You’ve got to hand it to her.”

He stared at her.

“What Mulder? What’s your explanation?”

“I don’t have one yet. But, yes, she obviously did know

something in advance. What I don’t know is why would anyone

go to the trouble of making a newspaper article look like it’s at

least forty years old, and then sneak it onto my desk? If she

were trying to get my attention, why?” He tapped his chest.

“Why would she tell me?”

“It’s not always about you, Mulder.”

He raised his hands “Oh, here we go.” He stood looking down

at her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know what I’m talking about,” she answered evenly. “Not

everything is a deep conspiracy revolving around you. This is

just a prank, a ploy to suck you into something. Let it go for

now.”

“You’re actually considering that this newspaper article, and this

cryptic note…” He picked up the paper and read: “‘This was

supposed to happen.’ is just a practical joke

invented by a woman who wants to get my attention? Well,

guess what? She’s got it.”

“I still haven’t heard any of your theories,” she said stonily. “But

I have heard a little of your paranoia.”

“Maybe, then, we should investigate this, Agent Scully.” He

gritted his teeth. “After all, this is a federal agent’s office, and

someone broke into it, leaving information about a crash on an

interstate highway that turned out to be accurate.”

“Fine. Fine.” She stood. “You want to play it like this? I’ll

investigate. I’ll go and get some in-depth information on this

truck accident.”

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“Good. I’ll talk to the cleaning crew.” He took the handwritten

note, and stuffed it into the envelope. Then he held out his hand.

As Scully handed him the article, he said, “I’m spending the

night here. I will start a profile on her, and maybe ask the night

cleaning crew a few questions.”

“You don’t have to spend the night here.”

“Yes, I think I do.” He shrugged and turned away from her,

pretending to be engrossed in the newspaper article. Finally the

door opened and closed behind him, leaving him alone.

XxxxxxX

X-Files Office

Hoover Building Basement

Washington, DC

Wednesday Afternoon, 4:30pm; the 10th of the month

*~~*~~*

Tired.

He was tired. With two nights of almost no sleep, and two days of

almost no Scully, he was truly exhausted. Polite, stilted phone calls

between partners reporting no progress were all the contact he’d

had with her.

He’d gotten no information from the cleaning crews, nor formed

any insights about the author of the note. All that Scully had

discovered was that, in fact, thousands of gallons of Dippin’ Dots

ice cream had melted all over the highway. And over the phone,

she certainly hadn’t sounded like a sex-starved, teen-aged she-

devil, aching in anticipation for him.

Of course, he hadn’t exactly come across as the suave G-man

who couldn’t wait to make his redheaded lover wail in ecstasy

with a well-placed wave of his hand.

Mulder spun his chair around. “What is wrong with me?” he

asked the poster on the wall again. “I’m gonna call her, and I’m

gonna be nice this time.”

He swiveled back, picked up the Dippin’ Dots article, and

shoved it in the top drawer, along with the envelope it came in.

He folded his arms across the top of the desk, and dropped his

head down on them.

‘A shower would be nice, too,’ he thought, as his eyes drifted

shut. ‘I’ll go home, take a shower, buy some coffee, call Scully—

gonna be nice this time…’

Something tickled his cheek. He opened his eyes and focused

on the watch strapped to the wrist beneath his chin.

A little after five o’clock. He registered that he’d napped for

about a half an hour.

Scratching his cheek, he discovered the tip of an envelope

brushing against it. Blinking blearily, he sat up and read:

To Agent Fox Mulder.

~*~~*~

“A half an hour, Scully. That’s all.” He looked sheepish, then

said, “I wanted to get the gloves on and dust it before I opened it,

but I was still waking up.” He shrugged. “We can let the

fingerprint guys go over it, but I probably smeared mine all over

the place.”

“That’s okay, Mulder,” she said, gently. “I guess you haven’t

been sleeping well. Neither have I.” Scully smiled softly, and

reached her hand out.

He took it, and brushed his lips over her knuckles. “Are there

rules against this, too?”

“Probably. I’ll look it up…later.” She whispered.

He gazed tiredly into her eyes.

“I’ll look this up, too,” she said, as she leaned in and kissed him.

“Now, let’s see what your mystery lady has to say.”

“My mystery lady?” He grinned, liking the sound of it.

Like the first arrival, there were two enclosures. One had the

words: “This was supposed to happen.” Written in the same

shaky letters as before. The second enclosure was another

crumbling, yellowed news article.

“This article was cut from The New Post-Standard Review

newspaper of Syracuse, New York,” Mulder said. “And the

article is dated the 12th. Today is Wednesday the 10th. This is

from next Friday’s newspaper.”

Scully read aloud:

“‘Teen Mauled by Black Bears’

____________________________

Doctors unable to save boy’s leg

____________________________

By LeeAnne Matthews

Standard Review Staff Writer

A 19-year-old man is in critical condition after being mauled by

black bears early Thursday morning, after he jumped the fence,

breaking into the Max Hanson-Louise Griffin-Hanson

Zoological Park in Syracuse.

Daniel Purdy of Syracuse, suffered head injuries and multiple

bite injuries to the torso and both legs, inflicted by two black

bears housed in the bear pit exhibit.

A zoo security guard, Edward Levin, 56, was alerted to the

attack when he heard screams coming from inside the bear pit.

Levin fired his service revolver into the air, keeping the bears

away from Purdy until the paramedics arrived.

Doctors at North University Hospital, where Purdy was taken for

treatment, said that the injuries to his left leg were so severe that

it had to be amputated above the knee.

Purdy’s Blood Alcohol Level was .18, indicating that he had

been drinking heavily before managing to scale two security

fences, gaining entry to the black bear exhibit a little after

midnight.

‘The boy must have sneaked into the bear exhibit after the

night security guard made his rounds,’ said Raymond

O’Malley, the zoo’s director. [See Bear Attack, 5A]”

Scully stopped reading and looked up.

“He’s going to scale the walls tonight,” Mulder said. “And lose his leg

tomorrow.”

“Mulder, we don’t know that.”

“No, but my mystery woman does. She says it’s supposed to happen,

but I think we should try to stop him.”

“Mulder, no. Have you thought this through?”

“Yes. Maybe if we stop him, it won’t happen.” It made sense in Mulder’s

sleep-deprived mind.

“Stop him? How? By flying up to Syracuse and telling Daniel Purdy what

will happen if he leaves to go out drinking tonight? Or better yet, let’s

barricade him in his house until tomorrow morning. That’ll go over real

well.”

Mulder raised his voice, “So we should stand by and do nothing?”

“It’s a hoax! Someone had prior knowledge about a truck accident,

and now you think you have gospel proof that another accident will happen

tonight to some kid who breaks into a zoo? In Syracuse! Do you know

how crazy that sounds?”

“Why does it always come down to me sounding crazy?” He turned away.

“I’m not crazy. I’m trying to save a boy’s life—er—limb. How does that

make me crazy?” He was defensive and sounded irrational, even to himself.

“You’re tired. Things take on a different significance when you’re

exhausted.”

“I’m crazy and tired? What other diagnoses have you come up with for me,

Dr. Scully?”

“Go home, Mulder.” She grabbed her coat. “Go home, take a shower, and

get some sleep.”

She slammed the door.

Mulder stalked back and forth in front of the office door for a few minutes.

He stopped and threw himself into his chair.

“Shit. And I was gonna be nice this time.”

XxxxxxX

X-Files Office

Hoover Building Basement

Washington, DC

Wednesday Night, 10:30pm; the 10th of the month

*~~*~~*

“Hey Langly, it’s Mulder. Turn off the tape.”

After a few clicks: “It’s off, man. How’s it hangin’, dude?”

“To the left and down. Why, is your mother asking about me again?”

“Yeah, she thinks you’re a hottie. What’s up? Hold on…” After a couple of

clicks, Langly said, “You’re on speaker, man.”

“Okay guys, maybe nothing, maybe something. Is there a zoo in Syracuse,

called the Max Hanson–Louise Griffin-Hanson Zoological Park?” he asked,

reading from the newspaper article.

“Zoo animals, Mulder? You and Scully have a fight?” Frohike asked.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Hold on, Mulder,” Frohike interrupted. “Ready? Set. Go!”

“Look up Daniel Purdy, nineteen years old, also from Syracuse, while

you’re at it.”

“Got it!” Byers shouted.

“Damn! I want a photo finish; I got it, too,” Langly said in the background.

“Too bad. That’s your three to my three. We’re even.” Byers raised his

voice. “What do you want to know about the zoo, Mulder?”

“Does it have a black bear exhibit?” Although by now, Mulder knew the

answer.

“Yes, with two black bears.”

Langly’s voice chimed in. “I have Daniel Purdy. He’s only a teenager, but

already he’s got a record of drunk driving.”

“Ok, fellas, thanks.” He hung up without good-byes.

XxxxxxxX

X-Files Office

Hoover Building Basement

Washington, DC

Friday afternoon, 3:30 pm; the 12th of the month

*~~*~~*

Scully sat silently. But at least she had come into the office

when he’d called her. Her “errands” regarding this case had kept

her away from the basement.

Errands, and the fact that she seemed too angry to even look at

him at the moment might have caused her to stay away.

Mulder was hot and cold at the same time, but determined to be

professional, understanding, compromising, or whatever she

wanted him to be. He just hoped to be able to figure it out. His

eyes blurred with fatigue, and choosing the right word

sometimes took him a moment.

“I had FedEx send this, same day air.” Mulder handed Scully a newspaper

and held up the original article. “And here is the one we got on Tuesday.

They’re identical.”

Scully scanned the front page of the newspaper FedExed from Syracuse.

“Teen Mauled by Black Bears” was right below the fold.

“Down to the font, Scully. These articles are the same. And so are these.”

He spread the Washington Post Review’s Dippin’ Dots ice cream mishap out on

his

desk, placed the yellowed article next to it, and ran a tired hand through his

hair.

She looked from one to the other. “Have you considered that maybe she saw

the copy before it was printed?” Her pale skin looked white under the

florescent lights, and vague purple half-moons appeared beneath her eyes.

Mulder squeezed his eyes shut, and shook his head. “Are you tired of me?

Of what we do?” He opened his eyes. “Are you tired of us?”

She stared at him. “Why? Because I question you? Because I don’t know

where you’re going with this? Because I doubt that some woman has the

unearthly ability to send newspaper articles from the future?”

“No, because you doubt me. You’re not questioning me, Scully. You’re

mocking me.”

Scully pressed her lips together and looked at the wall over his shoulder.

“I’m not…” She cleared her throat. “I’m not mocking you. I don’t mean to

stomp on your theories, but you haven’t exactly been open to my ideas,

either. You’ve made up your mind and ignored everything I’ve suggested.”

She turned away. “And you’re not listening to me anymore. You haven’t been

for some time. I’m trying—-I’m trying to figure out why you stopped.”

Mulder opened his mouth, but no sound came.

She straightened. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, and I’m tired.” She tried to smile.

“At least you have a mystery woman keeping you company.”

He sighed. “I listen, Scully. I always listen. You can believe any crazy

thing you want about me, but don’t ever doubt that. Don’t ever doubt how

important you are to me: personally, professionally, in every way

imaginable. I told you once that I couldn’t do this alone. I know that more

than ever, now.” He walked around the desk and stood in front of her. “I’m

tired, too. And I’m sorry.”

He hesitated, and then gingerly cupped her cheek in his palm. She closed

her eyes and leaned into it. They were at work, and he knew without

looking it up, that this was already breaking the rules, so what the hell. He

gathered her into his arms.

“I’ve missed you.” He kissed the top of her head and tucked

it under his chin.

She wound her arms around his waist. “Me too.”

“And don’t worry. Dottie hasn’t been keeping me company. In all the nights

I’ve camped out here, I haven’t even caught a glimpse of her.”

“Dottie?”

Busted. His chest muffled her voice, but he’d heard her. Mulder bit his lip

and grimaced.

“I call the mystery woman Dottie, because of the Dippin’ Dots thing.”

She nodded, and he felt her smile. “Dottie the mystery lady.”

When she pulled back, Mulder noted her drooping eyelids and the slight

tremor to her fingers. She wasn’t kidding when she said she was tired.

Sitting in her usual chair, Scully said, “Okay, I’ll go along with this: A

woman, whom you call Dottie, has prior knowledge of an incident. She

somehow gets newspaper clippings before the incident occurs, and secretly

delivers them to your office. And while some lab work needs to be done on

them, the newspaper articles appear to match.” She trailed off. “I wonder

how she’s doing it.”

“You and me both.” He sat heavily on his side of the desk.

“So,” she continued, “if we suppose that Dottie does know that something is

going to happen, there’s a question we haven’t asked.”

“What’s that?”

“Why does she carefully write: ‘This was supposed to happen.’? If the

event chronicled by the newspaper article is supposed to happen, then

there’s nothing we can do about it. And if there’s nothing we can do about

it, why does she tell us in the first place?”

“I’ll ask her when I see her tonight.” He stifled a yawn.

“You’re staying here again? But…”

“The only way we’ll get any answers is by asking the lady who has the

answers.”

He tapped his pencil on a yellow legal pad lying on the desk. “I’m creating

a profile, and I want to see if I have her right. She’s young, probably of a

first or second-generation ethnic culture. Latina, African-American, or possibly

middle-eastern, but I’m leaning more towards Puerto Rican. She shakes

either because she’s nervous, or writing quickly, or both. Dottie’s either

involved in, or knows about something dangerous, and she’s trying to get

out of it. Or at least to get our attention so we can help her do something

about it.”

“How do you know she’s young?” Scully asked.

“She’s gotta be spry to get in and out of here—-while I’m here-—without me

seeing her.”

“And Puerto Rican?”

“Possibly,” he said. “Or another culture closely tied with religion. I’m

basing the nationality on the night staff I know we have working here, and

Dottie’s religious leanings, due to her desire to alert us to something bad.

She wants us to be aware that a wrong is about to take place, and while we

can’t stop the things that are supposed to happen, she feels that it’s her

mission to tell us about them anyway.”

He leaned on his elbows and stared at Scully across his desk. “Dottie said that

something was supposed to happen. Something that is supposed to happen

is something that is preordained. Only God can preordain events that hurt,

maim, and kill.”

“As well as save, heal, and cure,” she pointed out.

“True, but Dottie hasn’t mentioned any healing. Yet.”

Scully stood and sighed. “Try and stay awake tonight so you can ask

her, okay? Then you can come home to bed.”

“You can stay here with me if you want.” As he winked at her, the pencil

he’d been tapping the desktop with slipped out of his hand and fell to the floor.

“If you’re lonely I can make room for the both of us down here.” When he

leaned over to pick up the pencil, something under his desk caught his eye.

“Scully?”

“Yeah?”

“Shit.” He sat up and dropped an envelope on the desk.

Scully spun around and walked past his desk to the counter. Mulder put on

a pair of latex gloves, reached inside the desk drawer for a letter opener, and

carefully teased the envelope open.

Scully placed two brushes and a bottle of fingerprint powder on the desk.

Just before she dotted powder on the fiber brush, Mulder carefully unfolded

the pieces of paper. “Another: ‘This was supposed to happen.’ And another

article.” He read:

“In the Nation

From the Boulder Times and World News:

Flash Flood Kills Two

__

Mago Vista National Park, Colorado

Two experienced hikers were killed sometime Saturday, when a

flash flood, caused by a remote thunderstorm, sent a 9-foot wall

of water careening through a narrow ravine, ultimately filling it

with 30 feet of water, at Mago Vista National Park, Colorado.

Park authorities recovered the bodies of Emmanuel Harris, 29,

and Domingo Hayes, 28, both instructors at The Climbing

Academy in Boulder, from the murky water of El Quinto Lake,

in the far northern section of the park.

David Wright, of the National Park Service, was quoted as

saying: “The hikers were probably taken by surprise, as the

weather was sunny and dry at El Quinto Lake.”

Scully was silent.

“This is Friday afternoon. Two men are going to die sometime

tomorrow, Scully.”

She looked from the envelope she’d begun dusting, to Mulder’s

eyes. “Then you’d better book us a flight.”

Xxxxxx ACT TWO xxxxxX

The Climbing Academy

Boulder, Colorado

Saturday Afternoon, 4:55 pm; the 13th of the month

*~~*~~*

Mulder knocked hard on the door to the Climbing Academy.

“We’re closing!” A male voice inside shouted. “Come back

Monday!”

“FBI! Open up!”

“Mulder…” Scully warned.

“I bet it’ll work,” he said, frowning, as he pounded the glass door

with an open palm. “Invoking the sacred FBI acronym opens

doors all over the country.”

A young, muscular, blond man opened the door. He narrowed

his eyes at Mulder and asked, “FBI? Really?”

“Really,” Scully said, showing her identification. “I’m Agent

Scully; this is Agent Mulder. We’re looking for Emmanuel

Harris or Domingo Hayes.”

“They’re gone.” The man stepped aside, and the agents entered

The Climbing Academy. “They’ve been gone.”

Hung on the front walls, near the counter were boulderpads,

hammers, harnesses, and rope. Sunglasses, chalk bags, pitons,

helmets, carabiners, and various other forms of climbing gear

were in the display cases in the front of the store and lining the

side walls.

A schedule of rock climbing classes was posted with the dates,

times, and instructors. The classes looked evenly divided

between instructors Emmanuel Harris and Domingo Hayes.

The young man turned toward an open cash register.

Apparently, he had been counting and stacking bills, closing out

for the weekend. “Manny and Domingo left early. You won’t

find ’em, either.”

“Why won’t we find them? Where are they?” Mulder felt a

sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Do you have any way

of reaching them?”

“It’s very important that we speak to them; their lives may be in

danger, Mr…?” Scully said.

“Oh, sorry, Harris. Eli Harris. I’m Manny’s brother, and that’s

how I know you won’t find him.” He slammed the cash register

closed. “Domingo and big bro’ like to go out to those hard to

find cracks in the Earth and climb up ’em. They’re excellent

climbers, so I doubt that their lives are in danger.”

“If we told you that they’re climbing somewhere near El Quinto

lake, what would be the best ravine up there to explore?”

Mulder kept his voice professional and tried not to sweat.

Eli Harris wrote in a ledger as he spoke. “El Quinto is a huge

lake, and there’s a lot of good rock up there. I don’t know about

the best, but Raven’s Wing Pass and Milagro Azul are both good

climbs, and both in the northern part of the park near El Quinto.”

He looked up. “Oh, and Athapaskans Way is in that area, and

that one gives you a real nice workout. But, really, don’t worry

about them; they know what they’re doing. Look, FBI people,

I’ve got a date with Tandy O’Shea in ten minutes, so I’m

leaving.”

“One more thing,” Mulder said. “How would we get up to El

Quinto Lake?”

Harris snorted. “Hey, man. There’s only one way to get up to El

Quinto.” He looked from Mulder to Scully, and smiled. “You

gotta climb.”

XxxxxxX

“A helicopter, Scully. That’s what we need.” Mulder jogged

nervously down the main street, looking in the windows of the

various shops.

“Mulder,” she trailed behind him, “we can’t just rent a helicopter

and hire a pilot. We don’t even know where the climbers are.”

“Then give me an alternative.” Mulder stopped. He was tense.

“We only have a few hours of sunlight left. That ravine may

have already flooded, and those two men are in trouble.”

“It’s Saturday evening. Where are we going to find…?”

“Than give me an alternative!” He turned to her. “Stop telling

me what I can’t do, and tell me how to save them!”

She was silent for a moment. “You certainly are putting a lot of

faith in Dottie and her ability to predict the future.”

“That newspaper article is real, Scully, and you know it.”

“Do I? When I try to figure out a rational way that a woman

could get ahold of newspaper articles a day before they’re

published, you say I don’t have faith in you. You say you listen

to me, but your faith is so firmly bound up in the mystery

cleaning woman that you don’t want to hear what I’m saying.”

“This is not the time, Scully. After we save those hikers, maybe,

but not now.”

“And maybe we can’t save them. Maybe it *is* supposed to

happen. Just like Dottie said.”

“So you feel comfortable giving up on these young men, then?

Well, why don’t you just save yourself some time, and take a pen

and sign their names on their death certificates right now?” He

pointed his finger at her. “We’re as good as murderers if we

don’t try to save them. We both know they’re going to die if we

don’t find them.”

“If indeed the ravine does flood, I will not be responsible for

their deaths. And neither will you. You’re not God, Mulder;

you’re not even close. In fact, if the articles are true, you’re

putting us in the impossible position of trying to prevent the

unpreventable!”

“But you’re not trying! And because of that, neither one of them

will live to see thirty. How does that make you feel? It makes

me sick. So, go ahead, sit back and watch them drown.” He

whirled around, and stalked away. He was tired, angry, and

defeated.

He opened the door to their parked rental car, got in, and waited

for Scully to follow him. And waited.

Mulder opened his eyes. He was sprawled over the front seat of

the car. His sticky eyes and dry tongue told him he’d been

asleep for a long time. The tickets under the windshield wiper

told him exactly how long.

In his sleepy haze, he reasoned that Scully must have gone home

without him. He let himself out of the car, and stiffly walked a few

blocks to the newsstand. The headlines of the afternoon

edition of the Sunday Boulder Times and World News read:

Flash Flood Kills Two

XxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxX

Baltimore Sun Times

Driver of stolen SUV plows into lunch crowd

at Fells Point

__ __ __

Catonsville man steals neighbor’s vehicle,

kills three, critically injures four at a sidewalk cafe

__ __ __

By Paul Arnett

sun times staff

Three people were killed and four were injured, including a four-

year-old boy, when a man

crashed a stolen SUV into a crowded outdoor restaurant

yesterday afternoon.

Ellen Peterson, 27, Harmon Lyle, 68, and his wife

Mary Lyle, 69, all of Baltimore, were

killed when Jason Miller, 31,

lost control of the 2001 Cadillac Escalade

he had stolen from his neighbor and drove it into a

group of diners at Le Cafe Rouge, on Thames Street in

Fells Point.

Jason Miller was arrested and taken into custody when the SUV

ran out of gas on Boston Street in Canton.

According to police, Miller had an argument

with his Catonsville neighbor, Bryan Bates, over a table saw

that Bates had allegedly failed to return. Miller reportedly

pushed Bates down, took his keys and drove off in the SUV.

The Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles has no record that

Miller ever obtained a driver’s license.

XxxxxxX

At a quarter to noon, Mulder left his car parked in an outdoor

metered lot and ran two blocks to Thames Street in Fells Point.

The newspaper said that the accident would happen during lunch,

so he wanted to be standing on the sidewalk in front of the bistro

waiting for the SUV to appear. He had planned on ordering all the

patrons to stay inside, safely away from the street. However, a

jackknifed tractor-trailer on the Baltimore beltway had screwed

up his plans to be there early.

He was checking his watch when

squealing tires, burning rubber, and terrified screams ripped

through the air.

“Shit!”

Mulder drew his weapon and ran to the northeast

corner of South Ann and Thames Street. Across the intersection,

the car thief plowed his stolen, black SUV up onto the crowded

sidewalk. Midday shoppers and workers on their lunch break,

enjoying the unusually mild weathe,r were all caught off guard.

“Move!” he screamed from the curb. “Everybody get back!”

The heavy vehicle jumped the curb, and its front bumper

snagged a young woman by her red hooded sweater.

‘Oh, God. That must be Ellen Peterson,’ he thought in horror.

He watched her arms fly up as the tires dragged her under. Her

long black hair caught so quickly in the front wheels, that she

was mangled before she could scream.

Mulder wiped the sweat from his eyes, brought his gun up, and

assumed a wide, two-fisted stance. But the SUV was moving

too fast to target.

The driver cut the wheel to his right, accelerated, and slammed

into a bewildered elderly couple sitting at a little outdoor table.

The impact threw them into the air, and they flopped to the

ground a half a block away from each other.

Harmon Lyle’s body landed and rolled, stopping six inches from

Mulder’s foot.

The vehicle skidded into the crowd once more before driving

away. In the eerie silence, Mulder stood gripping his weapon,

looking at the devastation.

Blood stained the sidewalks, dripped down the gutters, and ran

into the sewers. Body parts and human splatters covered the

storefront windows, and a piece of a red sweater clung to an

overturned bistro table. A little boy moaned.

Mulder wrapped his arms around his stomach, lowered his head,

and sobbed.

XxxxxX

He knocked politely. He was bone-tired, shell-shocked, and

depressed, but damn it, he was going to be nice this time. He

blinked, and realized that he had no idea what time it was.

Scully opened the door a crack. “Mulder, I don’t want…oh,

God.”

Calmly taking his arm, she led him inside. “What’s happened?

Are you all right?” She brushed his face with her cool hands, and

sifted her fingers through his hair.

‘I must look like death,’ he thought. ‘I’ve seen enough of it today.’

“Mulder, talk to me.”

“I couldn’t stop it, Scully.” He forced his mouth to move. “It

happened right in front of me, and there was nothing I could do.”

He tugged her hands away, and laced his fingers gently with

hers. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the things I said in Colorado.

I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you since the first letter

arrived. I was wrong. I know now that there was never anything

we could have done to save the hikers or that boy’s leg. And

there was nothing I could have done to save those people today.”

“What people?”

He didn’t hear her. “The little boy died, too. The four year old.

But the article didn’t say that, because this was sent to press

before…” His voice caught. He reached into his jacket pocket

and handed her the envelope with the article from the Baltimore

Sun Times.

“Oh, Mulder,” she said softly, after reading the headlines. Her

white, silk nightgown swished against her ankles as she walked

him across the room. They sat together on the sofa.

“Don’t do this to yourself.” She touched his forehead with the

backs of her fingers.

“Am I crazy?” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back.

“Have I gone off the deep end this time thinking I’m so

important, and so powerful, that I can stop the unstoppable?” He

opened his eyes. “Are there some things that are just supposed

to happen no matter what?”

“You said it earlier, about things being preordained.” Scully

unbuttoned his top buttons and took off his tie. “Yes, I believe

we have free will, but I also believe that some things are meant

to be. I don’t know why you were told about these tragedies and

what the horrible reasoning was behind them. I know it’s not fair

to you.”

“Or to you. To us. God, I’m tired. I just want to sleep and

make it all go away.” He turned to her, blinking her into focus.

“Do you forgive me? Have I ruined it between us? God, I can be

such an ass…”

“Yes, you can be an ass, but it would take more than a few tense,

exhausted words to ruin things. We’ve been together a long

time, and I know you. I accept you.” She shrugged. “I love

you.”

He relaxed and whispered. “I love you, too.”

“But there are things we need to discuss. Things you need to

know.” She took his hand. The lights in the room were dim, but

she was clear, shining brightly in his tired eyes.

“I may doubt you from time to time, but I’ll never leave you on

your own. I believe that we can always work things out, so

never doubt where I’ll be in the end. I admire you for your

strengths and accept you with all your faults, just as you accept

me.” She kissed his cheek. “Some things are meant to be.”

He swallowed and held her hand to his chest. “There may be

times when I might not listen to you like I should, but I’ll always

need you with me, helping me.” He smiled shyly. “Even if I

don’t know it at the time.”

His voice dropped to a whisper. “Every day, I am grateful that

you accept me as I am.” He kissed her cheek. “Every day, I’m

grateful that you are in my life.”

She scooted down, nuzzled her head against his chest, and

hugged her arms around his waist. His heartbeat slowed as he

relaxed into her embrace.

“But Scully, it’s not over yet.”

“Yes, it is. Throw them away, Mulder. If another envelope

comes, just toss it out.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes, you can.”

“Scully, I don’t think we were ever meant to do anything about

those events. I think we were just supposed to believe that they

were going to happen.”

“Ignore them, Mulder. Let what’s supposed to happen, happen

without you.”

He sighed, and straightened up. “Could you ignore this?”

He reached into his shirt pocket and unfolded a single, yellow,

newspaper clipping. “Maybe this one is for you, Scully; so that

you’ll believe. Maybe the letters won’t stop until we both do.”

He handed her the article. “I hope I’m wrong.”

__ __ __

The Capital-Gazette Newspaper

Annapolis, Maryland

Mother arrested for drowning

3 year-old in family bathtub

__ __ __

By Luz Rodriguez, Staff Writer

__ __ __

A 3 year-old Annapolis girl was killed Friday when her mother

held her underwater in a bathtub filled with hot water.

Police discovered Raven Thomas’s body at the bottom of the tub

when they arrived at the Annapolis apartment where T’avian

Randolph, 22, lived with her daughter Raven, 3, and son Jaquon

Brooks, 6 months. A neighbor heard screaming from Randolph’s

apartment and called the police to investigate.

According to the police report, after the officers discovered

Raven’s body, Ms. Randolph admitted that she had held her

daughter under the water, stating, “[Raven] don’t listen, and has

a real bad sass mouth-—she needed a real good lesson…”

Ms. Randolph was arrested and has submitted to drug testing.

Jaquon has been placed in protective custody. Charges are

pending against Ms. Randolph until the investigation is

completed.

__ __ __

“Oh God, no.” Scully’s hands shook as she finished reading.

“Not that.”

“I can’t pretend I didn’t read it,” Mulder said softly.

“And if this happens, and I believe, then what?” Scully’s eyes

were wide.

“I don’t know.” He stood. “But I do know that a little girl is

going to die tomorrow, and we won’t be able to save her.” He

handed her another piece of paper.

This was supposed to happen.

“We have to try,” she looked up.

He nodded and stepped away.

“Mulder?”

He turned his head.

“Stay with me?” Now she was focused on him. “Please?”

“Tonight, and for however long you want me. Don’t ever doubt

that, either.”

XxxxxxX

Annapolis Public Housing

333 Admiral Halsey Court

Apt. 5B

Annapolis, Maryland

Friday Morning, 1:30 AM

*~~*~~*

Mulder was determined to arrive at T’avian Randolph’s

apartment complex before sunrise, so they left Scully’s

Georgetown apartment right before midnight.

“The article said that the neighbor called the police after hearing

screaming coming from Randolph’s apartment,” Mulder said

from the passenger’s seat.

Scully took the East exit onto Route 50 and headed towards

Annapolis. She glanced over at him. “We’ll wait out in front

of the apartment, and at the first peep, we’ll go in. Maybe we

can stop this.”

In the early morning hours, there was little traffic. Annapolis is

only a little over thirty miles from Georgetown, as the crow flies,

so they made it to T’avian Randolph’s apartment in good time.

But what Mulder had failed to consider was that once the clock struck

twelve midnight, the day changed from Thursday to Friday.

The police car flashed bright blue and red in the early morning

darkness, and T’avian Randolph’s apartment was ablaze with

every light turned on inside.

Scully sat on the wet floor and sobbed silently as the coroner

removed Raven Thomas’s lifeless little body.

The little girl was fully clothed, and her thin, bare arms stuck out

from her oversized blue bib overalls. She was soaking wet, and

the sodden denim made her tiny body heavy. It was had been

difficult lifting her out of the bathtub.

The warm bath water had made the child’s body warm as Scully

tried vainly to breathe life back into her.

The girl’s mother staggered down the hall. Her arms were wet to

the shoulders, and her tattered gray sweatshirt dripped with each

step. She stomped on a coloring book left in the middle of the

floor and kicked the crayons. Little purple houses were drawn,

childlike, on the walls in crayon, and lopsided purple flowers

trailed up one of the doorframes.

“What did I tell you, Raven! You leave yo’ stuff out, you gonna

get it! You draw on the walls again, you gonna get it even

more!”

T’avian Randolph whirled around, “And you keep messin’ up the

whole goddam house!” She swayed when her bare foot kicked

at another crayon, and her cuffed wrists clinked as she bumped

against the wall. Two Annapolis police officers straightened the

impaired woman up, and walked her to the front door.

“And clean yo’ fuckin’ room!” T’avian stopped, and yelled into

the bathroom. “Jesus, Raven! Why do I have ta keep tellin’ you

that? I’m gonna hafta show you how to clean up again, ain’t I?

First yo’ room, then the walls. You little shit!”

The officers removed the woman, who was screaming at her

dead daughter. The coroner took the little body out.

Mulder pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and rubbed.

Blinking to clear his vision, he slowly walked over to the

bathtub, where Scully stood staring down. Through the dusty

water, he saw a purple crayon lying on the bottom of the tub.

Xxxxxx ACT THREE xxxxxX

6:00 am; the 25th of the month

*~~*~~*

“It’s been seven days since the last letter.”

“Seven or eight? What day is it, anyway?”

“It’s Thursday, Mulder.”

“So seven days since the last letter, and six days since the last

death, right?”

“Yes, the letter came last Thursday, the eighteenth, and Raven

died early Friday morning, on the nineteenth. I thought you said

that you slept better over here.”

“I do.”

“You still sound pretty exhausted.”

“And you’re still pretty.” Mulder raised his face from Scully’s

chest, and looked up at her. “Do you think the letters have

stopped?”

“No.” She stretched her arms high over her head, and yawned.

“I don’t believe that a complicated system, created to send letters

and newspaper articles before the event occurs, was designed

merely to prove that it can be done.”

“Sometimes people climb mountains just because they’re there,”

Mulder mumbled, sinking his head back onto her chest.

“So?” she asked. “Do *you* think it’s over?”

He shook his head. “Nope.”

He pulled her head down for a quick kiss, and then pushed

himself up. Sitting on the edge of the heavily-quilted bed, he let

his bare legs hang down. “No, I don’t think it’s over. But what

you said about the complicated messaging system-—I don’t think

it was the messaging that they wanted us to be interested in.”

“What then?” Scully asked. “And who’s ‘they’?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t know.” He dry-washed his face. “The

only thing the events had in common was that they all

happened.” He looked over his shoulder at her. “Maybe that’s all

we’re supposed to know for now. We’ll have to wait for more

clues and see.”

“I hate waiting for clues,” she said. “Especially since the ones

we’ve been receiving are horrifying.”

He half turned on the bed. “You know what? I think they had to

be horrifying in order to attract our attention. After all, how

much effort would we have put into this if the news stories were all

as benign as the ice cream truck? The question is: why do we

even have to pay attention?”

Mulder tapped his fingers on the sheet. “Why does the sender

want us to believe that the events will happen?”

“And why does Dottie use the past tense: ‘This was supposed to

happen’ instead of ‘This is supposed to happen.’?” Scully shook

her head, and her hair fell away from her eyes. “A puzzle within

a puzzle. I just hope it’s over soon.”

“So do I,” he agreed.

“Well,” she stood, and stepped away from the bed, “I’m going to

shower, eat breakfast, and see if I can find somebody to car pool

with to work.”

“Wait.” Mulder hopped off the bed and rushed into the

bathroom.

“Mulder,” she said, exasperated.

A minute later, the shower came on. He opened the door, and

scented steam billowed out behind him.

“Ladies first.” Mulder gestured politely toward the open door.

“Oh, okay.” Scully smiled, and moved past him. “Thank you.”

“FBI guys, next,” he said softly. Smiling to himself, he stepped

out of his boxers, tossed them against the wall, and followed her

into the bathroom.

XxxxxxX

“This time,” Mulder said looking down at his desk “we were

both right. It’s not over.” He picked up the envelope and handed

it to her, not bothering with gloves this time. The prints they had

lifted didn’t match any on file.

“You want me to do the honors?” Scully asked.

“Please.”

She paused, and took a breath.

“Hmm. The writing on the front seems shakier on this one than

the others.” She peeled the tape off the back, and pulled out the

contents.

“Do you think that means something?” he asked, as she began

reading.

Scully’s eyebrows arched, and she pressed her lips together.

“What? What does it say?”

She handed him the article and the letter.

__ __ __

From the Washington Post Review

Gunman kills four students, hostage negotiator

__ __ __

Officer slain while negotiating release of students

__ __ __

Gunman commits suicide in gun battle with police

__ __ __

By Louis Malcolm Kane

washington post-review staff writer

__ __ __

A gunman opened fire and killed four children as they attended

morning mass in the chapel at the St. Francis Day Academy in

Northwest DC yesterday.

A hostage negotiator, sent in by DC police to secure the release

of the students, was also killed. His name has not been released.

Russell Ames, 42, of Rosslyn, VA, used a Glock .40-caliber

pistol to kill Sharon Fields, 7, Anthony Garelli, 9, Sean Murry,

11, and Vincent Russo, 11. Ames later turned the weapon on

himself after firing at police officers.

Ames was a custodian at the St. Francis Day Academy until last

week, when he was fired for too many work absences.

__ __ __

This was not supposed to happen.

__ __ __

Mulder was silent for a moment. “When is this going to

happen?”

“Today,” Scully whispered. “During morning chapel.”

Grabbing his jacket and looking at his watch, he said, “Let’s

go.”

XxxxxxX

St. Francis Day Academy

Northwest DC

Friday Morning

XxxxxxX

“If it’s not supposed to happen, it won’t,” she said from the

passenger’s seat.

“Scully, the only way it won’t happen is if we stop it. We’re

supposed to stop it from happening. This event—-the one that is

about to unfold—-is the whole point of all the letters—-of all the

newspaper articles. I’m right, I feel it.”

“The hostage negotiator gets killed,” Scully said, not looking at

him. “Is that part of the plan?”

Police cars circled the area.

“I don’t know.” He looked at her steadily. “But you know I

have to do this.”

“Mulder, it’s out of control.”

“It’s not,” he assured her. “We’re finally in control.”

“You don’t know that!”

“No,” he agreed. “I don’t know that, but I believe it.”

She finally looked at him. “I’m afraid for you.”

He nodded. “But this is what we’re supposed to do. You have to

guide me. You know how I think. You know what I need.”

“This time you have faith. You believe and I don’t.” She

smiled a watery smile. “That scares me, too.”

He smiled back, touching her cheek. He blinked, and then

reached into his pocket. “I just thought of a way to increase the

odds.”

He punched the speed dial and spoke into the handset, “Turn off

the tape, guys.”

Gunshots rang out from inside the chapel; Mulder thrust the cell

phone into Scully’s hand and bolted from the car. He held his

badge up as he ran to the sheriff’s vehicle. The policeman held

up his hand, acknowledging him as he approached.

“Sir, this isn’t an FBI matter…”

“It’s okay, officer. You have a hostage situation in there, don’t you?”

He pointed at the chapel.

“Yes, sir, but we have it under control. The negotiator is in

transit, and will arrive shortly.”

“Listen, officer. We don’t have time. The gunman’s already

beginning to unravel.”

Two more shots ricocheted within the building.

“I’m an experienced hostage negotiator. I need some ears so I

can get information from my partner…” He looked over at

Scully, who was standing next to the car, speaking frantically

into the cell phone. “We can’t wait for your guy; I gotta get in

there now.”

“He’s right. Let him go.” A husky officer arrived with an

earpiece and a wire, and handed them to Mulder.

He nodded his thanks, placed the earpiece receiver deep into his

ear, and slipped the thin transmitter into his breast pocket.

Scully touched his arm.

He turned to her. “I have to go in.”

“I know.” She clasped his fingers lightly. “I told you I accepted

your faults and admired your strengths. This-—what you’re

about to do–is one of your strengths.”

“I can’t do this without you.”

“You won’t. I’ll be here, and the guys are working on it right

now.”

The officer handed Scully the transmitter/receiver. She let go

Mulder’s fingers and stepped back, never breaking eye contact.

He swallowed and said, “I’m coming back, Scully.”

clip_image004

“I know you are.” She tried to smile. As she whispered into the

transmitter, her voice caught. “You damn well better because I’m

not done with you yet. Do you hear me?”

“Loud and clear.” He turned to the officers. “Let’s do this.”

XxxxxxX

“I’ll kill them! I swear to God, I will!”

The masked man grabbed the child’s hair and yanked the boy’s head

back. He pressed the muzzle of his gun into the child’s thin neck.

“Back off, man! Everybody, back off, or he dies! They all die!”

“Nobody has to die, Russell.” Mulder stepped out from the

shadows in the chapel, both hands raised and empty.

<“Keep him talking, Mulder. The guys have information

coming in for you.”>

“You’re in control of this, Ames,” he soothed. “I’m just here to

help you get out of here.”

“You know there’s no way out of this for me, don’t you?

As soon as I popped off that first round, it was over.”

“It’s not over, there’s always a way out. Let’s find the right way

out of this.”

“I didn’t mean to shoot! I didn’t! And now-—now look at it.”

Ames pulled the child around so Mulder could look into the

boy’s frightened eyes.

“Let him go. Let them all go.” Mulder’s hands stayed high, and

in plain sight. “Let them go home. Their moms and dads are

waiting for them.”

<“Mulder, he doesn’t care about the kids. He was abandoned by

his parents at a McDonald’s when he was five. Now listen to

me. He doesn’t care about the kids or their parents.”>

“I’m not going down for this, I’m not!” He swung the gun away

from the terrified child and waved it toward the other children

cowering in the front pew. “I didn’t do anything!” He tore off the

mask and fired a shot at the altar.

“Give me the gun, and we’ll talk! That’s all we’ll do, Russell.

Let them go, and we’ll talk.” Mulder took a shaky step forward.

“What do *you* know? You got a job, you got a life, I got

nothing.”

<“Things, Mulder. He only cares about things, not people.

Frohike said Ames is into a lot of debt from buying salvaged,

used, and vintage items.”

“That can’t be all.” Mulder raised his voice at Ames, but he

meant the words for Scully.

<“Trust me. The only thing he cares about is whatever he’s

restoring. Something antique. That’s what he’s spent all his

money on. Maybe all this time, too. Maybe that’s why he was

fired.”>

The little boy whimpered.

“Shut up!” Ames bore the barrel of the gun deep into the boy’s

chest and pushed his finger all the way into the trigger guard. “I

said shut the fuck up!”

<“A car! Mulder, he’s spent his life savings on a car!”>

“These kids are so young,” Mulder said quickly “And you want

to kill them before they even get to go to their first dance, their

first football game, before they get a chance to drive.”

<“A 1968 Nova. That’s what he’s been working on.”>

Mulder saw Ames soften.

“None of these kids are near old enough to take the wheel for the

first time. I mean, I learned to drive when I was fifteen.”

Mulder fumbled for a model of another muscle car. “On my

dad’s 1969 Pontiac GTO. You remember what that was like,

right?”

Ames let up on the trigger. The terrified child’s eyes were wide,

and staring at Mulder.

“Shit. Your dad let a kid drive a car like that?”

“Hell, my dad didn’t know.” Mulder’s mind raced, looking for

the right things to say to the hostage taker. “If he ever found out,

I’d have felt the business end of his belt—-didn’t matter if I was

five or fifteen.”

Mulder lowered his arms. “The old shit wouldn’t let me near his

car. I had to sneak it out of the garage when he wasn’t home.

Which was okay, since he wasn’t home for most of my life. My

mother was too drunk to care.”

“Hey, don’t talk about your parents that way,” Ames squinted at

Mulder, letting go of the boy’s hair without looking at him.

“They’re still your parents, and you don’t talk about them that

way.”

The little boy crawled into a pew.

<“Get him talking about his car, Mulder. He’s disintegrating.”>

“At least you fucking had parents, you fuck. What did you come

in here for? To be my friend? To talk about kids and cars, like I

don’t know what you’re doing?”

The gunman pulled the slide back and fed another round from

the magazine into the chamber of his Glock .40. He aimed

at the head of the hostage negotiator two feet away.

“Did you think I was crazy and stupid? You

stupid fuck!”

“Russell, you don’t want to kill me. You don’t want to kill

anyone.”

“Like hell I don’t! I got nothing to lose! Don’t you fucking tell

me what I want! You don’t know! You don’t know shit!” He

pulled the trigger.

Nothing.

“Fuck! Jammed! Fuck!”

Mulder lunged, but the terrified man swung the gun around, and

slammed Mulder’s temple with the butt end.

His head smacked the hardwood floor. His vision blurred. The

earpiece and lifeline to Scully popped out and rolled out of

reach.

Ames brought the gun up, snapped the slide, and checked the

chamber.

“You think you’re so goddammed smart!”

A child began crying.

“Shut up! SHUT UP!” Ames fired straight up. The bullet

lodged in the chapel’s old oaken beams.

“You think you can stop this! You think you have any idea…”

He stood over Mulder and aimed down.

‘No Kevlar today,’ Mulder thought surreally as he scrunched his

eyes shut, waiting for the impact.

With the barrel of his gun pointed dead on Mulder’s chest,

Russell Ames pulled the trigger,

“Scully, I’m so sorry,” Mulder whispered into the transmitter in

his pocket.

“Fuck!”

Another child cried. The Glock made soft clicking sounds, but

nothing else happened.

Ames slapped the slide back two more times, and dropped the

unspent rounds to the floor. Mulder placed his hand on the back

of the pew and slowly stood. The world spun for a moment.

Something warm and sticky dripped down the side of his neck, but he

made no move toward the gunman.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Ames chanted as he fed new rounds into

the magazine and let old ones fall out. Finally, he aimed the

gun at his own temple.

“Russell, it’s over,” Mulder said softly, holding his hand out.

“It’s not over until I say it is.” Ames placed the muzzle at the

side of his head.

“Listen to me, Russell.” Mulder walked slowly to the distraught

man.

“I’ll do it. I’ll do it.” Ames sobbed, his quivering finger firmly

on the trigger. He turned and looked at the burning candles on

the altar. “God, please help me do it.”

“Give me the gun so you can go home and rebuild your car.

That’s what you want, isn’t it? To get that Nova running? Not

doing this.” Mulder gestured widely with his arm.

Ames hiccoughed a sob. “They fired me, and I couldn’t afford it

any more. Nobody would help me fix her.”

He looked up at Mulder with tear-filled eyes. “I just wanted my

job back so I could fix the car. This is all wrong. I never meant

to take that first shot. I just wanted them to listen to me, and

give me my job back.” He dropped the gun. “This wasn’t

supposed to happen.”

The doors burst open, and the chapel filled with uniforms.

Children were whisked out to the waiting arms of their parents,

Russell Ames was escorted out in handcuffs, and Mulder’s back

was sore from so much patting.

When he emerged into the midmorning sunshine, Scully

wrapped her arms around him. “Thank God,” she

whispered. “Thank God.”

Swallowing hard, he said, “I’m going to have to break another rule.”

She touched the dried blood crusting on the side of his head, and

then reached up, cupping his face with her palms. “You’d better.”

He took her into his arms, tilted her head up, and kissed her

soundly. As he did, he could have sworn that he felt his back

being patted again.

“I was scared at first,” he whispered into her ear. “But then, I

wasn’t. Does that make sense?”

Scully nodded against him, then slipped her hand into his

jacket pocket and removed the receiver. “I heard it all.”

“What do you think?” he asked carefully.

She looked up with misty eyes. “Glocks don’t jam,” she said

simply. “And certainly not twice.”

Mulder nodded and smiled softly. “I can’t explain it, Scully.

Except to agree when they said, ‘This wasn’t supposed to

happen.'”

He hugged her close and tucked her head under his chin as she

trembled. Kissing the top of her head, he looked at the scene

around him.

Parents and children were tearfully reunited, while reporters

swarmed, asking questions. Police officers lit up victory

cigarettes, and newspaper photographers clicked away, taking

pictures of the chapel, the children, and the gunman. Yet they

mysteriously ignored the FBI partners embracing intimately.

Far across the street, a lone mother hugged her son. She was

crying; kissing his face and hair. The boy was Ames’s

frightened young hostage.

The young mother stood and smiled. Looking skyward, she

touched her forehead, her chest, her left shoulder, then her right.

And finally, she looked over at Mulder. “This was supposed to

happen,” she said, ruffling her son’s hair.

She was a block and a half away, but Mulder clearly heard what

the dark-haired, tear-stained, young woman had said.

XxxxxxX

Scully’s apartment

Sunday morning

XxxxxxX

“What do you think that was all about? I mean, in the realm of

the universe, what was the significance of saving those

children?” Scully stroked Mulder’s hair, carefully avoiding the

three little stitches on the side of his head.

“I don’t think it was for all those children, Scully.” He looked up

at her. “I think it was for just one.”

“What?” She was baffled.

“I don’t know why I think this, but I know I’m right.” He sat up

to face her. One of the quilts slipped to the floor. “I was wrong

about some of the things in Dottie’s profile.”

“Tell me,” she said. Her eyes glittered in the early morning light.

“I said that Dottie was young. I was wrong. She was, in fact, a

very, very old woman. Old enough to have saved those

newspaper clippings so long that they yellowed and turned

almost to dust.”

Scully shook her head, “Mulder, that’s imposs-—”

Mulder gently placed his finger on her lips. “Just listen, please.

It gets better.”

She smiled softly, and spoke around it, “Okay.”

“When she was a young woman, the worse thing that could

happen to anyone, happened to her. Her young son was

killed during morning mass, in a senseless shootout with a

distraught gunman.”

Scully’s eyes widened, but she didn’t speak.

“I was right when I said that she was religious. Dottie was more

than religious. She was a truly pious woman who, even though her

only child was slain when he was eleven, remained faithful to

God throughout her long lifetime. As her life was ending, God

must have said something like, ‘You are my beloved daughter,

and I have found favor in you because of your unwavering faith

in me. I will give back what you have loved most and lost.'”

Scully blinked before whispering, “You’re describing a miracle,

you know.”

clip_image005

“Yes, I know. One that included you and me.” He paused to

smile. “And the Lone Gunmen.”

“How…” She took a halting breath. “How did you come up with

this explanation?”

He looked into her eyes, kissed her cheek softly, and whispered,

“I’ve come to realize that there are more worlds than the one you

can hold in your hand.”

She gasped, and her eyes filled.

“See?” he said. “I’m learning.”

She swallowed a few times to get her tongue working.

“Are you all right?” he asked with a grin.

“Fine.” She brushed her eyes with her fingertips and put her

arms around his neck. “I’m fine.”

And to Mulder’s surprise and delight, she leaned into him and

kissed him with teen-aged passion.

Xxxxxx EPILOGUE xxxxxX

Leola closed the cover of the old scrapbook where several

yellowing newspaper articles remained stuck under the

clear, brittle sheets. She lovingly rubbed her fingers across the

raised letters on the front.

A Scrapbook of Current Events From Around the Country

By

Vincent Russo

Social Studies Project

Fall Semester, 2003

Sister Mary Elizabeth Malone’s

Fifth Grade Class

She glanced at the wall in front of her. Below a crucifix of the

Risen Lord hung another newspaper article. Yellowed as the

ones in the scrap book, but carefully matted and framed, placed

so that Christ looked down upon it with outstretched hands.

From the Washington Post Review—-Saturday edition:

__ __ __

Standoff with gunman at school ends peacefully

__ __ __

Hostage negotiator persuades gunman to surrender

__ __ __

Four children safely reunited with waiting parents

__ __ __

By Louis Malcolm Kane

washington Post-Review staff writer

On her desk, among stacks of paper and white envelopes, sat a framed

portrait of Vincent at his college graduation. Various pictures of

Vincent, his wife and children, and Leola’s great-grandchildren

graced the walls and shelves.

The sun had set, and she knew she had seen her last twilight. It

was dark now, but that was okay. She would awaken to a bright,

new light.

She took a last look around, patted the scrapbook cover, and

whispered to the pictures of her family surrounding her, “It’s all

right. Some things are supposed to happen.”

XxxxxxxxxX

END of Love Letters

By TCS1121

http://www.dippindots.com/

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