Title: Great Balls of Fire
Author: Vickie Moseley
Summary: Two words: ball lightning.
Spoilers: VS 8, 9, 10, and 11
Category: X MSR SA
Written for The X-Files Virtual Season 11
Archives: VS 11 exclusive for two weeks then
Special thanks to Obfusc8or and Sally for beta
services rendered. And to answer that age old
question, yes, I do watch the Discovery Channel.
OSHA: the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, a Federal agency that oversees
workplace safety. OSHA has stringent rules and
regulations about procedures in factories and
has the ability to close down any company it
finds out of compliance. Nobody messes with
‘I wanta file a grievance’: if a worker
(particularly a union employee) feels that he
has been unfairly treated or feels a violation
of the company policy manual has been committed
against him, he can file a grievance with his
union steward and the company management has to
arbitrate with the union to resolve the problem.
2630 Hegal Place
January 23, 2003
Red, white and blue lights fought for attention
with the bright orange and yellow flames
shooting from every window of the stone
building. Firemen, their yellow suits scuffed
with soot, yelled into mics hidden in their
helmets and grappled with fire hoses, which
seemed to be having little effect on the sea of
flames that engulfed the apartment complex. A
few of the residents huddled in the cold,
wrapped in the matching dark gray wool blankets
provided by the fire department.
A dark blue sedan pulled up to the curb, some
half a block away. The woman inside just barely
cut the engine before she was out on the street,
running toward the scene of the blaze.
In the light of the fire, she almost allowed
herself to believe it was a mistake. She had
almost convinced herself it was the other
building, the one to the north, not the building
she thought it was. But as she drew closer, she
could see the numbers plain as day above the
broken glass of the double doors.
Scully stood in stunned silence, not really
believing her eyes. The building was completely
ablaze. Flames licked out the windows, all the
glass had been shattered by the intense heat.
She choked on the noxious fumes of burning
mattresses and sofas, carpeting and appliances.
Above the cacophony of sounds, she could
occasionally pick out a muffled pop as a
television or computer monitor exploded. It was
a scene she would vividly remember in her
Frantically, she searched the small cluster of
residents, hoping to find a familiar face. She
caught sight of Mr. Szarflarski, the super for
the building. Holding her breath, she ran up to
the man and grabbed at his shoulder, spinning
him to face her.
“My partner. Have you seen Agent Mulder?” she
rasped, her voice already raw from inhaling the
heat and the smoke that hung heavy in the air.
The man’s eyes went wide and he looked around,
searching the crowd. “I didn’t see him, Ms.
Scully. Was he home tonight?”
His words hit her like a punch to the stomach.
“Yes, yes, I talked to him about an hour ago.
He was in the apartment. Are you sure you
haven’t seen him?”
The old man shook his head slowly, waiting to
choose his words before next he spoke. “The
firemen found some bodies and got them out, but
the floor started to collapse. They say the
fire started . . .” He dropped his eyes so that
he wasn’t looking at her. “They think the fire
started on the fourth floor.”
Scully stood there, staring up at the window she
knew so well. At that moment, the roof
collapsed, raining down through two floors
before catching and falling the rest of the way
to the ground floor.
“Please, tell me, where did the firemen take . .
.” Her voice simply wouldn’t cooperate any
longer, it gave out in the stress. But she had
“I think I heard them mention GWU. I guess
there’s a good sized morgue there,” he said and
reached around the blanket he was clutching to
touch her arm. “Maybe . . . maybe he went out.
Sometimes he goes running at all hours, Ms.
Scully. I hear him sometimes, midnight, 2, even
3 in the morning. Maybe he wasn’t there,” the
old man tried desperately to give him something
to hold on to, some hope.
Scully wanted to believe the old man, but she
needed proof. Spying a fireman with more
insignia than the rest, she fished her badge out
of her coat pocket as she approached him,
steeling herself for a confrontation.
“My name is Special Agent Dana Scully with the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. An agent, my
partner, lives in this building. What can you
tell me about the fire?”
The fireman lifted his protective visor and
squinted at her badge in the glare of the
conflagration. Finally, he looked up at her
face. “You think its arson?” he asked gruffly.
Scully shook her head in exasperation. “I have
no idea. But I want to know, where did it
start? Has anyone been taken to the hospital,
anyone not identified?”
The fireman shook his head and gave her an
irritated look. “Lady, I’m a little busy right
now. We found some people with smoke
inhalation, took ’em across the river to GWU and
GUMC. There were a couple of bodies recovered
from the fourth floor. What apartment was this
“42,” she replied breathlessly.
His eyes darkened and he drew in a breath before
speaking. “Maybe you better check the morgue.”
She shook her head, denying the words. It
couldn’t be true, he couldn’t be dead. They’d
been together just that afternoon, he’d teased
her about her alarm clock and music selections.
How could she lose him now after all this time?
Great Balls of Fire
by Vickie Moseley
for Virtual Season 11
Fairfax County Light and Power
Turbine Room no. 4
October 15, 2003
The huge turbine that was the workhorse of the
electric plant was purring like an enormous
lounging cat, its fan humming with the power to
light one hundred thousand households. Sleek
and shiny, the turbine sat much as it had for
the past quarter century, the giant wheel taking
the heat from the coal powered furnaces and
converting it into megawatts of energy and
casting them out on the Eastern Power grid as a
child might cast a handful of rocks into a pond.
The cavernous room was incredibly loud, but in a
white noise kind of way. The gray walls and
gray machine only echoed the gray clouds that
shown through the high windows up near the
twenty-five foot ceiling.
It was a majestic freak of nature when a bolt of
pure energy shot out of the sky and through the
glass panes of the high window. It struck the
turbine, arcing and dancing for at least a
second, a millennium in the life span of a
lightning strike, before vanishing to thin air,
leaving only damage in its wake.
The fire erupted quickly, as soon as the
lightning loosened its grip on the surface of
the machine. There were safety systems in place
that should have prevented it, but as sometimes
happens, all the safety technicians in the
plant, in the country for that matter, failed to
foresee the havoc a simple random lightning
strike could produce. The systems failed and
the fire spread.
The alarms rang out loud and shrill through the
engine room at the other side of the plant.
Several plant technicians hurriedly flipped
switches and threw levers in an attempt to keep
the power flowing. The big turbine was taken
‘off line’ to prevent it from surging the other
turbines into failure. But now that a blackout
had been averted, there was still the fire to
Plant fire control specialists suited up and ran
down to Turbine Room No. 5 with chemical fire
extinguishers and enough know how to control and
put out the fire. And put it out, they did.
Using all their equipment, they finally got the
fire under control and after a few more minutes,
it was completely extinguished. The men,
pulling off their helmets and gloves, patted
each other on the back and left the room secure
in the knowledge that their part of the
catastrophe was over. What they left was a
horrible mess of chemicals, soot and a Turbine
that would have to be up and running in less
than a week, when it would be required once
again to take up its burden and produce
electricity for the Washington, DC suburbs, an
area that sucked power more effectively than a
lobbyist at the end of a long legislative
Bill Robinson was the Turbine Room’s supervisor
and he stood near the end of No. 5, surveying
the damage. Most of it was superficial, he
knew. But until he could get a better picture,
he’d be hard pressed to know what parts could be
salvaged and what would require replacement.
Shaking his head at the work yet to be
accomplished, he reached over to the phone on
the wall near the door and called down to
“Jim, this is Bill. Get somebody up here to
clean up No. 5. And tell them to figure on some
overtime. This is a real mess!”
Ray Boulder was not an ambitious guy. He’d been
in the maintenance department at FCL&P for over
six years and had yet to earn a promotion or
more than the usual union cost of living
increase. At 5 foot 10 inches and tipping the
scales at just over one hundred fifty pounds, he
wasn’t very memorable in appearance. Dark hair
over dark eyes, a faint scar on his chin,
probably from a past bar fight that he had lost,
his personality matched his features–
undistinguishable. As he looked over the mess
that was Turbine No. 5, he swore loudly. Taking
up his rags and bucket, he proceeded to get to
work on cleaning up what others before him had
helped to create.
When he touched the metal with the wet rag, a
soft surge went through his hand. Ray had been
around the plant long enough to know that water
and electricity are a lethal combination. He
stopped cleaning and went to check the controls
on the far wall that would tell him if the
turbine was still ‘hot’ and operating. All the
needles were buried in the black area to the far
left of the gauge, indicating a cold engine.
Ray scratched absently at his thinning dark hair
and moved back over to the turbine to continue
When the second surge hit him, it wasn’t as
soft. He yelped and flinched, the rag dropping
to his feet. Frowning, he once again went over
to the gauge on the wall, tapping the faceplate
this time in an effort to dislodge the needle,
if indeed it was malfunctioning. The gauge
continued to mock him with its interpretation of
events. The turbine was definitely not showing
any signs of life.
More disgruntled than worried, Ray once again
picked up his rag and went back to work. The
work finally engaged him and he was
concentrating to the point where he didn’t hear
the faint popping sound behind him. He leaned
up, attempting to clear away some burnt and
peeling paint when the popping sound became
louder, right near his ear. He looked over his
shoulder just before the large ball of bright
light engulfed him in its plasma.
The next thing Ray knew, he was sailing through
the air. When he landed with a thud, every
muscle in his body flinched with static
electricity. Ray shook his head trying to clear
it. Flat on his back, he lifted his hands close
to his face to stare at them, noticing the light
feathering along his palms and the backs of his
hands where he had been touching the metal of
the turbine, almost like a tattoo done with a
child’s paint brush and red ochre paint.
Shakily, he let his hands fall to rest on his
chest, feeling his heart race like he’d just run
a marathon. He drew in a deep breath, still
trying to figure out how the hell he was alive.
The door to the turbine room opened and two
technicians and Bill Robinson came running in.
“Hey, buddy, you OK?” Bill asked Ray frantically
as he and one of the techs ran to assist Ray
while the other tech ran to the wall to check
the gauges. “What the hell happened?”
Ray looked up at Bill like the man had three
heads. “How the hell should I know? What did
you guys do, turn the damn thing on?” he
demanded. “I wanta file a grievance!” he added,
but his threat sounded more like a whine.
“No way, man,” the technician assured him. “We
were watching the gauges really close and this
one just lit up for a second. Bill knew
somebody was down here cleaning, we came running
to make sure they weren’t fried. We hadn’t
touched a thing!”
Bill was already on the phone, calling 911. Ray
tried to stand, but the technician held him to
the floor, though it didn’t take much to
accomplish that feat. “I don’t need a doctor,
I’m fine,” Ray objected.
“Sorry, um, Ray, isn’t it?” Bill stumbled.
“OSHA regs. You have to be checked out.
Besides, you don’t know how this could affect
you.” His thought for a moment and then his
eyes twinkled. “And you want all this
documented for any workers comp claim you might
have to make in the future.” Workers comp was
the winning lotto ticket to every blue-collar
stiff and Bill, having been blue collar once,
“Oh, yeah, right. Workers comp,” Ray muttered.
He didn’t’ really feel like getting up anyway.
His nerves were still tingling, like his entire
body had fallen asleep. He closed his eyes and
saw colored spots on his lids.
Fairfax Mercy Hospital
The ride in the ambulance was exciting at first.
He had wanted to do that since he was a kid.
But it wasn’t as much fun as he’d imagined
because he was strapped to a backboard and
forced to lie completely still. Ray didn’t like
the IV needle in the back of his hand at all and
liked the oxygen mask over his face even less.
Once at the hospital, it was three hours of
being poked with needles, prodded with little
rubber hammers and finally left alone for thirty
minutes, just wanting to go home.
Ray was just about ready to get up off the
gurney and make his escape when the cute little
blond haired doctor came back into his cubicle
at the ER.
“Well, Mr. Boulder, looks like this is your
lucky day,” the doctor told him, flipping
through her notes. “Your tests all look fine.
Aside from a little residual muscle weakness you
might feel, just from the shock, I would say
that you’re pretty darned good for a man who
took on an electrical turbine!”
“So, I can get out of here?” Ray asked, already
sitting up and looking around for his clothes
that had been taken from him earlier.
“I see no reason to keep you. I have discharge
papers here I need you to sign. I want you to
take it easy tonight, just go home and veg out
in front of the TV. And I think you should
probably take it easy tomorrow as well. I’ll
write you a note for work. Other than that, do
what you feel like doing. If you experience any
pain, especially pain in your chest or down your
left arm, call us immediately or just come back
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Ray assured her, grabbing
the papers. “Uh, the company pays for all this,
The doctor looked slightly bemused but nodded.
“Yes, I was assured that Fairfax L&P would be
picking up the bill. We won’t even send one to
your house,” she added with a smile.
“Thanks, Doc. I appreciate it,” Ray said and
then the woman left and he hurried to get
dressed and out the door.
His car was still back at the power plant, so he
had to take a bus to get it. By the time he got
there, it was already past 8:30. He cursed
angrily and got in the beat up old Chevy Caprice
Classic and gunned the engine. It coughed to
life and he pulled out onto the highway.
Three hours later
Falls Church, VA
Back room of Big Babe’s Bar and Grill
Ray looked down at his hand again and tried to
keep a straight face, but it was hard. A three
of clubs, a five of diamonds, two eights, a
jack, a seven and a queen of spades looked back
at him. Bumpkus! And he was already in the
hole for $150. He licked his lips and looked at
the other men seated across from him at the
poker table. “Uh, I’ll raise you three,” he
told the big man to his right.
“You ain’t got ‘three’, Rockie,” the man
“I’ll give ya a marker, Bennie,” he told a
smallish man with a hard glint to his eye.
“You run out of markers, Rock. Show Bert the
Ray looked each man in the eye and sighed.
Slowly he laid down his cards. The room broke
up into laughter.
“Some bluff you tried, there Boulder. Or should
I call you ‘Pebble’,” roared the man called Bert
who happily raked in all the chips from the
center of the table.
Ray glared at the man and sat back in his chair.
“I’m out,” he declared. He’d hoped his luck
from earlier in the day would have held, but
apparently, it was a fleeting as the feeling of
euphoria that had embraced him after leaving the
“You ain’t ‘out’. You gotta settle,” Bennie
Ray swallowed. He was completely tapped out, no
more funds available. He knew that any move on
his part at that moment would result in
tremendous pain, inflicted by any of the
gentlemen seated at the table. He would have to
try bluffing just one more time.
“I got my rent money in the glove compartment of
my car. Let me go get it.”
There was silence in the room, but Bennie and
Bert exchanged a quick look. Then Bennie smiled
at Ray. “Sure, Ray. Go on out to the car. But
don’t try no funny stuff,” he warned with a
“Nah, never,” Ray promised and quickly left the
room. He had to force himself to walk slowly
through the bar, his every instinct told him to
break into a run. But he made it to the door
and out to the parking lot. It wasn’t until he
got to his car that he saw he was not alone.
Bert and another man whose name Ray couldn’t
remember were standing by his car with short
steel rods about two feet long in their hands.
“We come out to help you find your way back,”
Bert said with a malicious grin.
“Uh, thanks,” Ray muttered, looking around
quickly for a path of escape.
“Ray, quite wastin’ our time. Get the money or
pay off the ‘interest’,” Bert said, slapping the
rod in his hands. There was no mistaking what
the ‘interest’ would end up being. The other
man with Bert chuckled at the joke.
Ray walked over to his car, between the two men.
He opened the door and was just about to slam it
shut when Bert grabbed it from his hand and held
it open. “None ‘o that,” Bert growled.
Ray reached over to the glove compartment on
autopilot. He somehow convinced himself that if
he played out the hand, he might be surprised.
Like maybe his fairy godmother had left two
hundred dollars in the car without him knowing
about it. With shaking hands, Ray opened the
glove box door.
His registration and an old parking citation
stared back at him.
“Just as we thought,” Bert said sadly. “Ray,
you jest don’t know when t’ quit. So we gotta
teach ya a lesson.” He pulled Ray out of the
car and with the help of the other man, pushed
him toward some trees near the edge of the
“No, please, don’t hurt me,” Ray begged.
“Don’t be such a pussy!” Bert ordered. “We’ll
try not to mess up your face too bad,” he
chuckled at his own joke.
“Please, you don’t understand, I’ve had a really
bad day,” Ray persisted.
“Yeah, well my day just got a whole lot
brighter,” Bert assured him. “Whaddya think o’
Ray was thrown down on the ground and he saw
Bert raise the length of pipe above his head
like a baton. Then, Ray heard that popping
sound again. He looked over Bert’s shoulder and
his eyes grew wide. It was that ball of light.
It was coming right for them. Ray rolled into a
tight ball, expecting both the beating from the
pipe in Bert’s hand and the jolt of electricity
from the ball of light. Neither happened.
He heard a loud popping sound and then heard a
stifled scream. When he looked up, both of his
attackers were engulfed in flames. Ray scurried
back on his hands and feet until his back hit
the base of a tree. The men were fully aflame
and it was scary, but fascinating at the same
time. Ray looked around for the ball of light,
but it was nowhere to be seen.
Dana Scully’s residence
Three months later
Fox Mulder wiped his face with his just removed
tee shirt, both were dripping with sweat. He
glanced over at the clock on the nightstand and
frowned. He was going to be fighting traffic if
he didn’t get a move on.
He looked down at his partner, snuggled up, her
head on her pillow and his pillow held tight in
the circle of her arms. She looked so damn cute
like that. He grinned, knowing full well that
there were only a few places he could call Dana
Scully ‘cute’ and live to see another sunrise.
Her bedroom was one such place, his bedroom and
on occasion, his couch, were the other two.
He leaned over the bed and brushed a lock of red
hair from her face. She stirred and one eye
“I’m just leaving,” he told her softly. She
opened her arms, inviting him back into the bed.
“No, Scully, I just got back from my run. I’m
all sweaty,” he whispered.
“I like you sweaty,” she murmured.
“I’m glad, but you make me change the sheets
when I get ’em all wet and smelly and I don’t
have time, not this morning,” he replied. “Go
back to sleep, you don’t have to get up for
another fifteen minutes.”
“Ummm, good,” she sighed. He kissed her
tenderly on the lips and when he drew back, she
was smiling in her sleep. He hated leaving her
like this, but it was part of their lives. Half
the time he had to get up and leave, so he could
shower and dress at his place. The other half
of the time, Scully had to leave him so that she
could get ready for work at her apartment. It
was a lousy arrangement, but they were hard
pressed to change it. Neither of them felt they
were quite ready to take the next logical
‘step’, whatever that meant. Sleeping over
seemed like a big step after all their years of
denial. They’d never even discussed moving in
together. Even after two plus years of great
sex, they were still getting used to the idea of
being a couple.
He let himself watch her for another minute, and
then reluctantly headed for the door.
J. Edgar Hoover Building, FBI Headquarters
Office of Assistant Director Walter Skinner
Scully skidded to a halt outside AD Skinner’s
door, tossed a quick smile at his assistant and
then tried to walk calmly into the office after
a perfunctory knock on the open door.
Skinner looked over at her, a slight scowl on
his face and then a glance over at her partner,
seated in his customary chair. Mulder was
engrossed with a file in his hands and didn’t
bother to acknowledge her so she bumped his
chair on her way to take her seat. He flashed
her a confused smile that she returned with a
“Sorry I’m late, sir. My alarm clock was set
for the wrong time,” she said with a thin-lipped
Mulder had the good grace to wince slightly and
give her an apologetic shrug.
“That’s all right, Agent, these things happen,”
Skinner said, giving Mulder a glare for good
measure. “This was just called down from the
Director’s office.” He waved at Mulder, who
handed the file in his hands to his partner.
“Five men have died in fires in the last three
months. All men have possible mob connections,”
Skinner explained as Scully flipped through the
pages of the report.
“They were burned, arson fires, possibly,”
Scully suggested, picking up a key paragraph on
“They weren’t really in buildings at the time,”
Mulder interjects. At his comment, Scully scans
the rest of the page and her lips form an ‘O’.
“They were set ablaze?” she amended her previous
“With no traceable accelerant,” Mulder added.
“And the bodies maintain an electrical charge
for up to 24 hours after estimated time of
“So the fire could have been caused by
electrical contact, but at extremely high
voltage,” Scully mused, going back to read that
section of the autopsy report.
“Well, at least none of them were found on
bridges,” Mulder muttered for Scully’s ears
only. She shot him a quick glance before
turning her attention back to their superior.
“You can see why you’ve been called in to do the
autopsy on the latest victim,” Skinner said,
sitting back in his chair.
Scully looked at the file folder suddenly,
noticing none of the usual markings of a case
for their division. “Is this case an X file,
sir?” Scully asked.
Skinner pursed his lips and regarded Mulder for
a minute, then looked back to Scully. “At this
time, the case is being classified as mob
related. There is an organized crime task force
already in place and it has been given the lead
on this investigation.”
Scully looked over at her partner, confused.
“So why are we here?”
“They want you, because of your expertise,”
Mulder explained calmly.
“But what about you?” she asked.
“I’ll just keep the home fires burnin’,” he
mugged. “It seems my invitation to this
particular ball got lost in the mail,” he said,
looked directly at the Assistant Director.
“Over my objections, believe me,” Skinner
quickly pointed out. “I specifically requested
this investigation go to the X Files Division.
That request was shot down.”
Mulder mimed getting shot in the heart and
Scully frowned at him.
“The body is in at Quantico. I suggest you
clear your schedule to make yourself available
to the task force. The Special Agent In Charge
will be contacting you later today,” Skinner
said, ignoring the silent conversation being
waged in front of him.
“Yes sir,” Scully said finally. Mulder was
already out the door when she stopped and turned
back to her superior. “Sir, might I say that
I’m not happy with the direction this case is
“I’ll add your objections to my own, Agent
Scully. But in the meantime, you have work to
do,” Skinner said, picking up a file on his desk
and letting her know the subject was closed.
Scully caught up with her partner at the
elevators. “Mulder,” she started but the doors
opened and they entered the elevator car.
Mulder waited to see if anyone followed them,
and watched the doors slide shut, giving them
some privacy from the crowded hallway.
“Scully, chill out,” he told her, taking her
hand and brushing his thumb across her knuckles
lightly. “It’s one autopsy. You consult on
autopsies all the time,” he added.
“I just don’t like the way this case it being
given to Organized Crime,” she grumbled. “If
there was no accelerate, the unexplained
presence of an electrical charge long after
death, those two facts alone would tell us this
case qualifies as an X file. I don’t like them
cutting you out of the loop!”
He grinned at her anger and squeezed her
shoulder, their ‘on the clock’ equivalent of a
tender kiss. “Hey, I’ve been Monster Boy for a
long time, now. Maybe this is your chance to
become Monster Girl!”
She smirked up at him, placing her hand over his
and giving it a squeeze back. “I just hate the
thought of leaving you to your own devices for
any length of time.”
“What? You don’t trust me?” he cried, trying to
sound wounded at her words.
“I don’t trust you and that shipment of office
supplies we just got in,” she said dryly.
“Scully, I swear, I have no idea how those
pencils got in the ceiling,” he said, holding
two fingers of his right hand up and his left
hand over his heart.
“Yeah, well I’m locking the twelve boxes of
pencils we just received in my desk upstairs and
taking the key, just in case they decide to
sneak down to the basement and play,” she said.
“Fine,” he said with a pout. “Don’t trust me.”
Besides, he mused silently, her desk drawer was
child’s play to pick the lock.
FBI Academy at Quantico
Autopsy Bay C
She had just opened up the body with a Y
incision and was examining the internal organs.
As was often the case in burn victims, the
organs appeared ‘cooked’. She grimaced slightly
as she continued. It wasn’t that Scully was
totally immune to the gruesomeness she witnessed
on a daily basis. It was just that it wasn’t
enough to deter her from continuing to look.
What made many people recoil in horror and slam
the door just made Dana Scully more curious.
She was leaning forward, face close to the body
when the door behind her opened. She could hear
someone coming up behind her, she was positive
it was her partner. Mulder had a penchant for
sneaking up on her during autopsies and she knew
he wouldn’t be able to stay away from this one
for long. With a mixture of annoyance and
expectation, she stood up straight and turned
toward the footsteps.
“Well, Mulder what took you so–” Her sentence
hung like a fog in the room when she realized it
was not her partner, but a man she’d never laid
eyes on before. “Excuse me, I thought you were
“Wish I were that someone,” smirked the man, and
then he nodded at the body on the table, turning
his head as he viewed the internal organs on
full display. “Damn glad I’m not that guy,
Scully took a moment to compose herself, she
felt immediately uneasy with this gentleman.
“If you’ll excuse me, I’m working here.” She
turned back to the body.
“Yes, I know. I asked for your assistance. I’m
Grif Michelin, I’m the SIC for the Organized
Crime Task Force.”
Scully was glad she was turned away from the
other agent, because she knew her face would
betray her disgust. She took a deep breath and
pasted on a smile. “Agent Michelin, nice to
meet you.” She held up her latex gloved right
hand and shrugged in apology. “Sorry.”
“That’s OK, Agent Scully. Dana, isn’t it? I’m
just here to introduce myself, see if there’s
anything you’ve come up with.”
“I just started my internal exam, Agent
Michelin. It will be a while before I can make
my full report,” she said with forced calm.
“Oh, believe me, I’m not Spooky Mulder. I don’t
expect instant results. And I prefer first
names, don’t you, Dana? Call me Grif.” His
smile would have been dazzling if Scully didn’t
find it so oily.
“Well, regardless of your opinions of other
agents, _Agent Michelin_, unless you stand aside
and give me enough room to work, it will be even
longer until you get my report,” Scully said,
picking up her scalpel, the faintest tone of
threat in her voice.
Michelin only laughed. “I heard you were a
spitfire! But seriously, my people are working
on the assumption that this was a gangland
killing, possibly the start of a new gang and
this is their signature hit using fire. What do
you think so far?”
Scully was getting angrier by the minute, but as
SIC for the Task Force, it was a valid question.
She couldn’t help but feel she was getting a
taste of the medicine Mulder had been forced to
swallow for years. SICs who disregarded you as
an agent only to suck all information out of
your brain and then toss you aside, she had seen
it happen too many times to count.
“The bodies were burned, there is no doubt of
that. But it was not induced in any normal
manner. They were subjected to an electrical
field of some sort, extremely high voltage.”
“Car battery, powered up tazer, hell, a power
cord all could produce electrical current,”
Michelin pointed out.
“No, Agent Michelin, you’re not hearing me.
This is extremely high voltage. You don’t find
this voltage on any thing except some very large
electrical transformers. But even that theory
doesn’t work well because the induction of
electricity to the body was exceedingly quick
and there’s no obvious point of contact. I
would say this was done by a lightning strike,
but again, in death by lightning, you see
contact points and grounding points on the
“Lightning? That’s you’re working opinion?”
Michelin hooted. “What, you’re saying the ‘hand
of God’ killed this man? That’s a good one,
Dana. I can’t wait to pass that one along,” he
laughed bitterly. “C’mon, Dana. Spooky is all
the way back in DC. Try to remember what it was
like _before_ you met him and give me a _real_
scientific opinion. This body was found a good
ten miles from the nearest large transformer.
The scorch marks on the ground indicate the
murder occurred where the body was found. There
was not a cloud in the sky that night, so
lightning is out of the question. The
pathologist we had look at the first victim
tried that ‘lightning’ shit and obviously, we
have four more ‘lightning victims’ to account
for. I expected more out of you. I guess your
reputation has exceeded your abilities!”
Scully was seething. “I have work to do, Agent
Michelin. I informed you that my report is not
complete. Now I suggest you get the hell out of
this autopsy bay and let me continue examining
“I want something, Scully, something I can _use_
by noon tomorrow. I’m a nice guy, but I have
deadlines, too, you know,” he sneered.
Scully had already dismissed him in her mind,
but when she heard the door swing shut behind
her she let out a growl and kicked the metal
gurney in front of her. It hurt her big toe
like hell, but it made the rest of her feel a
little bit better.
Fox Mulder’s apartment
Two bags of take out were clenched firmly in her
teeth, her briefcase was slowly answering the
call of gravity and slipping off her left
shoulder, she had the keys in her hand at the
bottom of her purse but wasn’t able to
manipulate them around her wallet to get the
right key to the top and into her fingers. Just
as she felt success with the keys, the door
opened of its own volition. She almost ran into
the kitchen to drop the bags on the table.
“Just in time,” she panted, tucking her purse
and briefcase on the spare dinette chairs.
“Just part of the service, ma’am,” Mulder purred
and pulled her into his arms, kissing her
soundly on the mouth. She returned the kiss,
added a little attention to detail of her own,
and patted him on the bottom before pulling
away. “I’m starved.”
“So am I,” Mulder agreed, not letting her out of
“Mulder,” she said with a warning growl.
“Oh, all right. What are we dining on tonight?”
“Pad thai, curried chicken, sticky rice, but
we’re sharing that. Did you make more tea, we
drank the last the other night.”
“Two quarts, in the refrigerator. And I even
made ice this morning before I left for work.”
“Oh, that reminds me,” Scully turned and gave
him a sweet smile. “Mess with my alarm again
and this time the bullet won’t go through your
“Hey, I tried to make sure you would get up in
“Well, it’s going to go off at 7:00 tonight,”
she said with a shake of her head. “Next time,
just make sure I crawl out of bed before you
leave the apartment.”
He walked over to where she was pulling plates
out of the cabinet. “I will. I’m sorry. I
know this is a pain.”
She leaned back into him. “No, it’s not. If we
get to sleep together most nights when we’re in
town, I’m all for it. Maybe I should invest in
one of those alarm clocks with two time
“And a CD player,” he commented, getting out the
“You don’t like my choice of morning
programming, Mulder?” she asked with a raised
“Scully, how do I put this? NPR and ‘Morning
Edition’ tend to put me in a coma. I need
something a little bouncier to wake me up.”
“Mulder, I refuse to allow any of your ‘shock
jocks’ on my radio. It would fry the electric
in this building.”
They sat down and ate in silence for a few
minutes. He stole some of her curried chicken
and fed her some of his Pad thai. She was
breaking out the sticky rice when he decided to
broach the subject of her day.
“So, how’d that autopsy go?”
It had seemed like an innocent inquiry, but not
from the pink flush that colored her cheeks or
the fire that suddenly burned bright in her
“Autopsy? That went fine. The asshole in
charge of the task force, that’s another
matter,” she said, shoving him a plate of
dessert across the table but not dishing up one
for herself. She leaned back and watched him
“So, does the ‘asshole’ have a name?” he asked,
trying not to let his bemusement at her ire get
any of it directed his way.
He was successful, she smirked. “I suppose so.
His name is Grif Michelin. What kind of name is
‘Grif’ anyway?” she mused aloud as she picked up
his empty plate and took it to the sink.
“Not one to throw stones, I think it’s short for
Griffith. As in Griffith Michelin, III. Old
She turned to give him a wide-eyed look.
He shook his head. “I wish. No, Grif isn’t
part of the fortune, not directly at least. But
as a second or third cousin twice removed his
father more than made up for his distance by
using the family name to get some heavy hitter
clients for his law firm.”
“Is ‘Grif’ a lawyer? And exactly how do you
know so much about him?”
“Grif just barely squeaked through law school
but he couldn’t pass the California bar. Still,
his degree managed to get him a spot in White
Collar Crime. Not sure how he made the hop over
to Organized, but hey, I’ve taken a left turn or
two in my day,” Mulder said, eyes sparkling.
“And I know him because I taught him.”
“When did you ever teach?” she demanded, handing
him a plate that he dutifully dried with the
towel he’d picked up from the counter.
“Right after Patterson, right before the X
files. Nobody was sure what to do with me. I
wanted to investigate the X files, no one wanted
me doing that. Matheson was working his
connections. So I was in limbo. They had me
teaching basic profiling at the Academy for four
“Mulder, you keep unfolding like a flower,” she
smiled and hugged him with her now wet and soapy
He leaned down and accepted a kiss, then pulled
up, smiling back at her. “Obviously old Griffy
boy made an impression with you. Not one he
could use to run for President, I’d bet.”
“Oh yes, he made quite the impression. He
belittled my initial assessment, made snide
comments about our work and threw around a few
veiled threats. I was ready to turn my scalpel
on him, but he left.”
“I thought they tossed his ass out on the street
years ago,” Mulder agreed. “But then, there are
a few others like that,” he added with a grin.
“I’m glad I’m just consulting on this one. If I
had to actually work with that asshole for any
length of time–”
“Oh, Scully, I’m getting very turned on,” he
murmured in her ear. She shook her head and
accepted his kisses on her neck. “Hey, mind if
I take a look at your report–when you have the
She looked up into his eyes. “You know, Mulder,
‘Grif’ would probably be very upset that you
were sticking your nose in this case.”
Mulder bit on his lip and nodded slowly. “So
you don’t want me to look at it?” he asked,
trying hard not to sound as wounded as he felt.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all!” she
corrected him. “I would love to have you look
at my report. And when we figure it out,
without the aid of his little task force, I want
to have a front row seat when we rub his nose in
it,” she grinned.
Mulder gazed at her in open adoration. “Wow,
Scully, I knew you were a wild red head, but
this vicious, vindictive nature is a whole new
side of you. C’mon, leave the dishes, I have
plans for you tonight!” He pulled her toward
the bedroom and she followed willingly.
K&M Heating and Air Conditioning Warehouse
Greene Street and 68th Street
2 days later
Carlos Mendera was not a happy man. He’d spent
most of his life building up a business and now
it appeared that someone was trying to horn in
on his operation. Worse yet, his people, the
blithering idiots he called ‘cousins’, couldn’t
even tell him _who_ was behind the murder of
three of his better ‘enforcers’. He slammed a
meaty fist down on the ancient metal desk,
making the two men in front of him jump in
“You’re telling me you have no idea who this
gang is or where they come from?” Carlos
demanded, slamming his fist down again for good
“Carlos, we done looked everywhere. We roughed
up some guys at the docks in Annapolis and one
of the ‘Banderas’ gang up in Baltimore.
Nobody’s sayin’ nuthin’!”
“Besides, we ain’t the only ones being hit,
boss,” the other man chimed in nervously.
“Orlando lost a couple o’ his goons in the last
“Probably shot each other in the dark,” Carlos
said with a grunt. “Look, you dumbshits, I got
a shipment comin’ up from Bogata in four days.
It don’t look good to my suppliers to have dead
bodies lyin’ around. Luis, nose around a little
more, find out about the two goons Orlando lost.
Do we know how they died?”
“Fire, that’s all we know, boss,” answered the
“We did find out somethin’, boss,” the first man
added suddenly. “There’s a Fed nosin’ around.
Guy by the name of Mulder.”
Carlos leaned forward, his face a picture of
renewed concern. “A Fed? DEA?”
“Nah, FBI,” came the quick reply.
Carlos smiled. “A friend of our ‘friend’?”
The man shook his head. “I don’t think so,
boss. We ain’t been told to look out for this
guy. I think he’s working the case himself.”
Carlos shook his head slowly and chewed on a
well-manicured thumbnail. “I don’t like it.
Contact our friend, find out what you can about
this Mulder joker. We may have to keep an eye
“You got it, boss,” the man said, and left with
“Mr. Michelin, you better be worth what I’m
payin’ you,” Carlos muttered to the walls before
dragging a logbook over, put on his glasses and
got down to work.
Organized Crime Task Force
SIC Michelin’s office
The phone rang, startling Michelin. He’d been
going over his notes of the afternoon, wondering
how in the hell he could make all the angles
work. He knew bringing Dana Scully in on the
case would be a waste of time, but higher
authorities had overruled his objections. Now
he just had to work around her, as well as he
could. But he still needed answers.
He grabbed the phone, anxious to get rid of any
caller that late at night.
“Michelin, and make it brief, I’m busy,” he
growled into the receiver.
“Now, that ain’t no way to talk to an old
buddy,” Carlos replied with a smile that didn’t
make its way to his voice.
“I told you never to call me here,” Grif
“What, the FBI tapping its own phones now?
Shuddup, I gotta tell ya somthin’. You got some
dipwad playing in your playhouse. Name’s
Mulder. He one of yours?”
“Shit,” Michelin cursed under his breath. “Fox
Mulder is FBI but he’s not one of my guys.
Where’d you hear he was working this case?”
“My guys heard about him. What’s his interest
in this? He trying to horn in on your turf?”
Carlos asked, more curious than ever because of
Michelin’s obvious lack of details on this new
agent. “This guy don’t work for Internal
Affairs or nothin’, does he?”
“It’s called Office of Professional
Responsibility and I would dare say Fox Mulder
is the last person they’d assign to work there,”
Michelin huffed. “No, he’s probably nosing
around because his girlfriend is supposed to be
consulting on the case.”
“She that slicer you mentioned?” Carlos asked,
but then didn’t wait for a reply. “She come up
with anything? You know, I get first crack at
this asshole who’s been offin’ my boys!”
Michelin shifted the phone to his other ear and
leaned back in his seat. “We have a deal,
Mendera. You keep me in the loop, toss me
enough to get me that ASAC position and I’ll
keep you in the loop. One hand washes the
“Just make sure you don’t start lookin’ for
other hands to wash, comprendo, Agent Michelin,”
Carlos growled and slammed the phone back on the
receiver. “‘Cause if you cross me, you end up
dead, little man!” he said to the silent black
X Files office
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Mulder was deep in thought as he stared at the
pictures spread out before him. Five bodies all
burned beyond recognition. All five identified
by dental records and vehicles not far from the
scene of the murders. Two of the victims were
found together, the others were singled out.
Mulder chewed on his thumb and frowned. So far,
all they knew was that each man was connected to
organized crime. He leaned back and put his
hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling.
Hell, he mused, maybe this was an organized
crime hit. But why did it feel so much like an
Murder weapon, his mind shouted back. Fire. He
grimaced slightly. It was a lot of years since
that word could cause terror in his heart and
he’d faced fire a couple of times in the
meantime, but the thought of fire still gave him
the willies. Not that he’d ever admit that to
Scully. Not unless she hog-tied him, of course.
He smiled at that image. Maybe, if he could get
some nice nylon rope before the weekend . . .
He shook his head to clear his mind. Not the
time for fantasies now. Besides, he knew that
unless there was a break in this case, Scully
would likely be working all weekend, going over
every minute detail of the previous autopsies,
at the beck and call of ‘Grif’ Michelin, bastard
The autopsy photos, although interesting,
weren’t giving him any information. All three
of these men had something more in common than
‘work associates’. They were all killed at
night, all within walking distance of their
cars. Near their homes? He flipped through
some pages of the reports. No, not near their
homes. Near a common place? Again, it appeared
that the murders didn’t occur at a common place
or even in the same town.
Mulder tilted back in his chair, propped his
feet firmly on his desk and stared at the
ceiling. Five men, all in the same line of
work, criminal activities, and all dead. What
could be the common thread? If they’d all died
at the same time, he’d have no doubt that it was
connected to their ‘associates’. But they’d
died separately, over a period of a couple of
months. It appeared to be hits, but it was a
damned unusual signature. What did men like
that do on . . .
Inspiration struck when he finally found the
connecting piece. All the men had died on the
same night. Thursday. The common thread was
Thursday. Now, all he needed to do was dig a
little, make a few phone calls and find out what
the hell there was to do in the greater
Washington DC metropolitan area on a Thursday
Two hours later, his ear was starting to burn
and his right hand index finger was feeling
bruised, but Mulder felt triumphant. It had
taken a little subterfuge, a few white lies and
a whole lot of moxie on his part, but he now had
the schedule of a weekly traveling poker game
and the names of some of the participants.
With his list firmly in his pocket, he headed
out the door in search of a killer.
One hour later
Scully pushed open the door to the office,
noticing immediately that it was empty. Where
the hell had Mulder gone now?
She’d just returned from another go round with
SIC Michelin. The man had gone from
insufferable to potential homicide victim in the
space of ten minutes, a new record for Scully.
She could take his arrogance; she could even
take his demeaning attitude toward her and her
profession. What was really making her look for
places to stick her scalpel where his severed
artery wouldn’t stain her lab coat was the way
he kept invading her personal space every time
he was around her.
Sure, they hadn’t taken out an ad in the Bureau
employee newsletter, but her relationship with
Mulder had been office canon for years even
before they _had_ a relationship, at least in a
physical sense. She knew Grif was simply
finding new and inventive ways to push her
buttons but that realization did nothing to
dampen her anger.
She wanted nothing more than to go to her
apartment and soak in a hot tub. But Michelin
wanted a detailed report on the tox screenings
of all five victims and she’d stuck her foot in
her mouth, telling him she’d have it to him
first thing in the morning. That meant at least
another two or three hours in the office. She
closed her eyes and cursed the day Grif
Michelin’s mother looked at his father. And
then her cell phone rang.
“Scully, where are you?” Mulder asked.
“I’m in the office. Where the hell are you?”
she shot right back.
“I’m on my way to a poker game, actually,” he
said with a smile she could detect even through
the phone line.
“Poker game? Mulder, do you even know how to
play poker?” she asked, trying shake the
‘fishwife’ image from her mind.
“I’ll have you know I won the money for my plane
ticket back to the states one summer from an all
night poker game after orals,” he said with a
“Playing a bunch of rich, spoiled preppies,
Mulder. I’m not surprised. But why did you
decide to take up the sport right now?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s the connection between
“Tell me you aren’t going to this game to find
the killer,” Scully said with a heavy sigh.
“Mulder, we’ve had this conversation too many
times . . .”
“Hey, this does not count as a ditch,” he
defended himself. “I’m calling you right now,
at 7:35 pm, to tell you the exact location and
the nature of my meeting.”
“You make it sound like I’m your appointments
secretary,” she growled.
“I’m sorry,” he said contritely. “I know you
worry, Scully and I also know that in the past
I’ve given you just cause . . .”
“In the past? Try last week,” she huffed but he
ignored her comment and continued on.
“I’m telling you where I’m going and what I’m
doing. I’m just checking the place out. It’s a
traveling poker game. I’ll sit in, play a few
hands and unless I lose my paycheck early, I’ll
be home by 11, Scouts Honor!”
“Once again, Mulder, you were an Indian Guide,”
Scully ground out through clenched teeth.
“Whatever,” Mulder quipped. “Scully, I have my
gun, I have my cell phone, I’ll be fine. Now,
are you going over to my place or should I come
She sighed, remembering the report she had yet
to start. “I’ll be at the office, more than
likely,” she said dejectedly. “I promised
Michelin a report first thing tomorrow.”
“Want I should kick his ass?” Mulder asked
“No, I’m more than capable of handling that
particular assignment, thank you,” she replied
“Well, I guess I have to give you first dibs,
then. So, keep the bed warm, or I’ll keep the
bed warm, hey, did we ever decide what bed we’re
warming tonight?” he asked in a slightly
“My turn tonight.”
“Then I better stop by the apartment and feed
the fish,” he reminded himself absently. “I’ll
catch you later, G-woman.”
“Just don’t lose the rent, G-man.”
“Affirmative,” he replied crisply. “Hey, did
you know that I’m madly in love with my
Her whole face broke into a broad smile. “I
heard that years ago. That’s old news.”
“Yeah, well, I hear she’s madly in love with me,
too,” he taunted.
“Now, _that_ you can take to the bank, Mulder.
Try to get home in one piece.”
“I promise,” he answered. “As an Indian Guide.”
Before she could make any response, he’d hung
Scully shook her head and slipped her phone back
in her pocket. While talking to Mulder she’d
booted up the computer and now she sat staring
at the desktop icons. Double clicking on the
little blue ‘e’, she waited for the FBI homepage
to appear. Now, where to start?
Nero’s Palace Italian Restaurant
Tyson’s Corner, Virginia
Benito Orlando glared at the two men sitting in
front of him.
“Whaddya mean you got no idea who’s doin’ this?
Either it’s Mendera or some new slob but I don’t
pay you goons to sit on your asses doin’
nothin’!” the olive skinned man said, strangling
his knife and fork in each hand. Orlando wasn’t
a tall man, but what he lacked in stature he
made up in sheer meanness. In his youth he’d
been known as ‘pollo de muerte’, little chicken
of death. It was a nickname he was proud to
The taller of the two men licked his lip
nervously. “It ain’t Mendera, boss. He’s as
pissed off as you.”
“Then it’s a new bunch, some outsiders. Has
anyone checked with the Banderas up in
Baltimore?” Orlando demanded.
The second man, small with beady eyes that
seemed about to burst into tears shook his head
emphatically. “Boss, Vito’s tellin’ the truth.
We checked with Banderas, we checked all the way
up to Atlantic City. There ain’t no new gangs
forming. This guy, who ever he is, he’s workin’
“So we got some mope tryin’ to play Wyatt Erp,
is that what you’re sayin’?” Orlando asked,
calming down enough to put his knife and fork
gently back on the table.
Both men nodded in unison, a freakish imitation
of two life-sized bobbleheads.
Orlando leaned back in his chair, an oily smile
on his face. “So, he’s alone. That just makes
our job easier.”
“But boss, we got no idea who he is!” cried
“And we ain’t the only ones looking for him,
neither,” interjected the tall one. “The FBI is
gunnin’ for him.”
“For what?” Orlando asked, confused.
The taller man shrugged. “Knockin’ off
enforcers,” he said with a bemused expression.
Orlando chuckled at that. “Boy, it’s gotten a
lot more confusin’ since the days when my
granddad used to send tortellini and lasagna to
J. Edgar for his little parties,” he huffed.
“But I never thought they’d be doing our work
“There’s a rumor that he’s hittin’ guys after
poker games. We was gonna check that out,”
beady-eyes jumped in, now that the boss seemed
in a better frame of mind.
“So what the hell are ya doin’ here?” Orlando
roared. “Get your asses out on the street. And
don’t come back till you have word on this guy.”
“You wants us to ‘erase’ him, boss?” beady-eyes
asked, feeling more secure by the minute.
Orlando considered the remains of his veal
scaloppini intently before looking up at his two
associates. “Nah. You goons had your day. Now
it’s time to bring in the big guns. Just tell
me where he is, I’ll do the rest.”
The little man deflated slightly but nodded,
heading out the door with his companion.
“So, who do you think the boss is gonna call?”
beady-eyes asked his friend.
“Ain’t gonna call no ‘ghostbusters’, that’s for
sure!” replied the taller man. “I’d put my
money on Benny callin’ Vinnie.”
Beady-eyes sucked in a breath at the name.
“Vinnie . . . the Torch?”
“Hey, ya gotta fight fire with fire, right,” the
tall man reasoned and they both broke into
The next day
Scully sat staring so hard at the blank screen
that her eyes began to cross. She had been
through all the possible medical sites, and even
a few of the more in depth crime statistical
sites and had come up with nothing. It didn’t
help matters that she’d waited up until well
past midnight for her partner, cursing his video
collection for it’s complete lack of anything to
amuse her while she tried to forget about the
case. She’d fallen asleep on his couch and he
hadn’t managed to wake her when he carried her
into bed. Even so, she’d awakened 30 minutes
late to find he was nowhere in the apartment.
Now she was tired, grumpy and wanted nothing
more than to have Skinner call up and tell her
they were required on a case in Middle of
Nowhere, Kansas and their flight was to leave in
Mulder must have sensed her foul mood because
he’d left a note on his computer screen telling
her he had some research to do that would take
him out of the office for most of the day.
Scully was pretty sure he was off in a corner of
the building using a covert computer to find
casino sites and practice up on his poker
abilities, but he turned off his phone to escape
detection and she hadn’t had a chance to call
him on it.
Now, she sat where she’d sat most of the day
before. The computer screen was still blank,
waiting for her report. Mulder had equipped her
computer with several of his favorite bookmarks,
a pastime she had repeatedly scolded him about.
As inspiration struck, she was glad to have
them. As much as she tried to rationalize the
bodies she’d seen in the last few days, there
seemed no logical or plausible explanation. At
least, not an easily arrived at plausible
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, she
clicked on ‘favorites’ and let her eyes scan the
list. She grimaced, but finally clicked on the
‘Weird Science Database’. Thank heavens Mulder
was not in the room to see her at that moment or
she would never live it down. Most of the
entries were of no merit to the case, it wasn’t
a ghost, she doubted to the extreme that it
could be attributed to alien abduction. Two
words jumped out at her from the screen: ball
Ball lightning, Scully already knew, was another
name for plasma electricity balls that seemingly
appeared out of thin air. They were sometimes
connected with storm activity in the atmosphere,
but sometimes they just appeared with no source
and disappeared in an equally mysterious manner.
Some accounts considered them harmless, but on
occasion they had started fires, fried
televisions and wrecked havoc before vanishing
into nothing. For years, scientists had doubted
the validity of claims of ball lightning, but in
the last couple of decades, several respected
scientists had documented some of the eyewitness
accounts and the phenomena was grudgingly
receiving official recognition in the scientific
Among the pages of scientific explanations of
ball lightning there were several eyewitness
accounts of encounters with the plasma balls.
As she clicked on each entry and read the
stories, each person’s ordeal began to take on a
familiar tone. Of course, there were no cases
of people who had actually been touched by the
balls of floating plasma. It seemed in most
cases the witnesses could outdistance the balls
or the balls actually seemed to ‘avoid’ contact
But what if that wasn’t the case?
Scully tapped her foot and grabbed the mouse
again, this time looking for sites on electrical
injuries. Just from her own observation, she
was positive the voltage to produce such massive
destruction within the victims had to be much
higher than ordinary household current.
Lightning, in whatever form, seemed a more
plausible explanation. This was the connection,
the cause. And, Scully gleefully mused, it had
scientific, or at least ‘fringe’ scientific,
After several hours of reading, she opened a
clear screen and started to type up her report
for the Task Force.
The X Files office
When he’d not gotten an answer at her apartment,
Mulder hadn’t bothered calling her cell phone.
She was most likely still in the basement,
working on her report. That’s exactly where he
Her head jerked up when she heard the door swing
open. She reached for her gun, but quickly
dropped her hand and allowed herself to break
into a huge grin. “Is that a pepperoni pizza in
that box, G-Man?”
“Either that or I’m really glad to see you,” he
shot back and deposited the pizza box on the
flattest pile of papers on his desk.
“Pepperoni, half mushrooms for the fungus
“Mulder, you old softie!” she exclaimed, opening
the box and pulling out a slice. “You didn’t
wake me when you came in last night. So, how
much did you lose?” she asked, reaching over to
her desk to grab a handful of tissues to use as
“You wound me, Scully! ‘How much did you lose?’
What, have you no confidence in my ability to
master the simple game of poker?”
“We’ll play ‘the simple game of poker’ with Bill
and Tara the next time Mom has a family
gathering, and we’ll see how well you’ve
mastered it,” she smiled coyly. “How much are
“Forty-three bucks,” he said with a sigh and
grabbed out his own slice. “But I could have
won it back if I’d been able to stay out past
curfew,” he added with a dejected slump to his
“You were several hours past curfew in my house,
sailor. Any leads on a possible UNSUB?” she
asked, settling down on her chair.
“Nada. But I found out there’s more than one
game. There’s another one tonight. Apparently
gambling is alive and well in Northern Virginia
and the Maryland Suburbs, Scully. All that
potential tax money and no body to collect it.”
“Well, I may have stumbled on the murder weapon,
so to speak,” she grinned, pleased that at least
she’d made some progress on the case. “Assuming
these were actually murders,” she added, moving
to pick up sheets from the printer and handing
them to her partner.
Mulder sat down at his desk and read quickly
through the printed pages. When he got to her
findings, he looked up in surprise, a smile
spreading across his features. “Dear Diary,
today Dana Scully used the words ‘ball
lightning’ in an autopsy report. My heart
leapt!” He skimmed the rest of the report and
handed it back to her. “Good work, Scully. But
are you sure you want to put that on the
Scully took the pages, straightened them and sat
down across the desk from Mulder. “It’s the
only explanation that makes sense, Mulder.
There was no ‘point of contact’ burns, the
voltage was extreme to say the least. I would
say these men were just the unfortunate victims
of plasma electricity.”
Mulder pulled on his lip, staring off toward the
darkened back of the office. “You think this
was, what? An act of God?”
“Mulder, look at the evidence. Ball lightning
occurs naturally, there are hundreds of
documented and eye witness reports . . .”
“And in all those reports, Scully, how many
deaths occur each year?”
Scully dropped her eyes and tried not to look
rattled. “Well, to be perfectly honest . . .”
“None, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve done a little
homework on ball lightning myself, quite some
time ago. I ran across the same websites you
found when we were investigating some deaths by
lightning a few years back. And I distinctly
remember that ball lightning had accounted for
no deaths, according to the documentation.
However, I did see evidence of several fried TVs
Scully’s face fell. “You don’t think it’s ball
lightning,” she said calmly.
He smiled at her. “You give up too easy,
Scully. No, I think it’s quite probably ball
lightning. I just don’t think it’s ‘occurring
naturally’ as you seem to think. I think it’s
being directed at these men,” he poked his pizza
slice in the air to make his point. “I think it
truly is being used as a murder weapon. That is
the only way to explain how five different men
could die of the same ‘naturally occurring
phenomenon’. The only remaining question is who
is committing the murders.”
Scully frowned and looked back at the screen.
Mulder was correct, five deaths, even by regular
lightning, would be skirting the edges of
extreme possibility. And it did feel like a
crime was being committed. “I just don’t see
how we’ll be able to find the killer, Mulder.
What are we looking for, somebody with a really
big plasma ball? They might stand out in a
crowd,” Scully reminded him dryly.
“I’m not giving up on the poker game, Scully. I
think there’s something there.”
She rubbed the back of her neck with one hand
while clicking off the computer with the other.
“OK, Mulder, go play poker. But I warn you, I
don’t make loans.”
He came up behind her, took over the neck rub
with his own hands and kissed her just under her
“I was hoping to get an advance on ‘services
rendered’,” he whispered in her ear.
“In your dreams, G-man,” she laughed. She
turned her head and pressed his fingers to her
lips. “I have a task force meeting at 8,” she
said with a disappointed sigh.
“That’s OK. The poker game starts at 9,” he
said, tapping her nose with his index finger.
“We’ll meet up at your place at . . .”
“God knows when,” she supplied. “Mulder, I’m
going home and taking a hot bath when this
meeting is over. If I’m still there when you
get in, drain the tub and carry me to bed,” she
requested with a big yawn.
His smile was enough to brighten a darkened city
block. “I think I can handle that,” he said
cheerfully. “See you tonight,” he added,
snagging the last piece of pizza and heading out
the door, leaving her to finish her report.
14564 Canal Street
Mulder licked his lips and stared hard at his
cards. Two eights, two aces, and a six of clubs
stared back at him. Dead man’s hand. Scully
would not be pleased. He looked around the
table and considered his options. “I’m out,” he
said flatly and threw the cards on the table.
“Mr. Ed-u-kay-shun is out, gentlemen,” said the
dealer, a wirey African-American with a gleaming
smile. “That brings us to you, Rockie.”
Ray Boulder looked nervously at his cards.
Squat. Nothing there. A five, a seven, a jack,
and two threes. It was worse than nothing. And
he knew he was already in the hole. There was
only one option. “I’ll raise you ten,” he said
and stared straight across the table into the
eyes of the large man with a big black
Four of the men at the table, including Mr.
Moustache, broke into uproarious laughter.
“Rockie, you ain’t got squat,” bellowed the
Moustache. “Now don’t go diggin’ youself in no
hole you can’t climb outta. Just lay down the
cards and call it a night.”
Ray sat there, resisting the urge to squirm.
But then he thought about the last several weeks
and a calm smile came to his face. “Sure, Al.
What was I thinkin’? Just kiddin’ around, ya
know how it is.” He placed his cards face down
on the table. Al’s smile turned up a hundred
watts as he raked his winnings into a pile in
front of him.
“I’m out,” Mulder announced, pushing back his
chair. The dealer smiled at him as Mulder
handed over four twenties and a ten, his losses
for the evening.
“Pleasure playin’ wid ya, Marty. Come back
anytime,” the dealer laughed. He then turned to
Ray. “So, we come to the Rock. Dig out the
wallet and cough up 5 pictures of Mr. Jackson,
and be quick about it, we got a game to finish.”
“Nah, Jake, let’s call it a night,” Al said with
a stretch and a yawn.
The other men looked nervously at Al, but no one
said a word. Jake’s eyes darted from Ray to Al
and back again.
“I’ll settle up with Rockie, here,” Al said with
a forced smile. “Besides, he owes me all the
money he’s out. Why make everybody else wait,
The table immediately broke into nods and
mutters of agreement. Before Mulder had a
chance to reach for his jacket, most of the men
had fled the small conference room at the back
of the construction company office.
“Al, look, I have the money,” Ray blurted out.
“It’s all back at my car. I don’t like comin’
into these games with too much money on me, ya
know? No tellin’ what might happen. Let me go
get it and I’ll be right back,” he assured
“Lemme walk ya to your car, Rockie,” Al said
with an oily smile. “So you don’t have to walk
all the way back.” He turned and glared at
Mulder. “Hey, you, rube,” he sneered. “Beat
Mulder looked from Ray to Al and knew
immediately that he shouldn’t get involved. It
was a gambling debt; no court in the land would
defend the man. He had no business getting
involved. Scully would absolutely kill him if
he got mangled in a fight over a stupid poker
“Um, I need a ride,” Mulder said calmly,
unobtrusively rubbing his ankle against his
other ankle, checking to make sure his spare gun
was indeed still in place. He could hear
Scully’s sigh as if she was standing right
“Bus stops half a block down to the left,” Al
said with a frown.
“Oh, yeah. Well, trouble is, I’m tapped out,”
Mulder continued. His hand was itching to reach
down to his gun, but he forced himself to stand
tall and look straight into Al’s eyes. His mind
flashed a strange image of staring down a cobra.
Al regarded Mulder coolly and then swiftly dug
in his pocket, coming up with a handful of
coins. He tossed the coins down on the table,
just inches from where Mulder stood.
“Now, I repeat, beat it!”
“Sure thing. Nice playing with you,” Mulder
said quickly, scraping the coins into his hand
and depositing them in his pocket. There was no
point in antagonizing the man, who outweighed
him by at least 150 pounds. Mulder shrugged on
his jacket and left by the door he’d come in.
‘Go home, go home, go home,’ a voice that
sounded incredibly like his partner’s sang in
his head, but Mulder looked around the
industrial park and spotted a good hiding place,
a darkened alcove across the street. Sure, Ray
had tried to cheat, that much was obvious.
Mulder had watched as the little man palmed
cards during the night, and he was certain Ray
was trying hard to skip out on the money he
owed. But Mulder knew he couldn’t go home with
a clear conscious if the man was beaten.
Besides, Mulder reasoned, maybe Ray could give
him some information about the games and the
players that could lead to their killer.
‘Right,’ Scully’s little voice growled
sarcastically in his head.
Al and Ray wasted no time coming out of the
construction office. Ray was a few feet ahead
and Al was staring holes in the man’s back.
When they arrived at Ray’s beat up old Caprice,
Al didn’t wait any longer. He grabbed Ray by
the collar and lifted him up into the air,
slamming the smaller man down on the hood of the
car before raising his fist to pummel Ray’s
Mulder reached down and unholstered his gun,
preparing to step out and break up the melee,
when he heard a loud noise, like a giant balloon
popping. Suddenly, from nowhere, a ball of blue
light at least three feet in diameter appeared
behind Al. As the giant man stepped back to
renew his assault on Ray, he was engulfed in the
ball and static electricity danced off every
hair on his body. He was lifted off the ground
at least four feet into the air and with a noise
that rivaled a sonic boom, he sailed a dozen
feet and landed in a smoking heap in the middle
of the deserted street.
Before Mulder could move, Ray was jumping in the
front seat of his car and shoving the key in the
ignition. Coming to his senses after witnessing
such a display, Mulder ran to the passenger side
of the car and pounded on the window.
“Open up, Ray. I’m with the FBI!” he shouted
through the glass of the passenger side window.
His gun still plainly in sight, he pulled out
his identification wallet and plastered it
against the window.
Ray’s eyes grew wide, but he dropped his hands
from the steering wheel. Slowly, he leaned over
and unlocked the car door, allowing Mulder to
open it. Mulder slid in the seat and looked at
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said in a rush.
“I think you know something about some deaths
that have been occurring lately. I just want to
talk to you.”
“I ain’t done nuthin’ wrong,” Ray cried out,
shaking his head and beating his fists on the
steering wheel. “I didn’t do that, there’s no
way in hell I could do that,” he stammered,
looking terrified out at where Al’s body still
smoldered in the wane light of the street lamp
half a block away. “I didn’t do it,” he said,
spent from his panic and laid his head on the
Mulder considered his options. “Look, will you
come with me? I think I can help you.”
Ray turned his head and peered at Mulder. “You
said you were FBI. Why do you want to help me?”
Mulder smiled. “Because I think you have a
unique ability that you don’t even know and I
think we need to figure out how you can control
it.” Then he grew serious. “And you were
present at the deaths of six individuals.”
“Scumbags!” Ray spit out without lifting his
head. “They were nothin’ but scum!”
“That might be the case, Ray, but they were
killed by something you say you had no part of.
What if the next time it decides to turn on
It was obvious to Mulder and the thought had
crossed Ray’s mind. He raised his head and
nodded in agreement.
“So, where you wanta go?” Ray asked. “I don’t
got much gas.”
Mulder refrained from chuckling. “My apartment
is just on the other side of town. We can go
there, relax and you can tell me how all this
Ray shrugged and started the engine. As he
pulled away from the curb, neither man noticed a
black Lexus SUV a block down the street, which
waited until Ray turned and then followed them,
not even slowing down as it passed the
smoldering remains of Big Al.
Mulder pulled out his cell phone and punched a
couple of buttons. The phone rang a few times
and then voice mail picked up. “This is Dana
Scully. Please leave a message and I’ll get
back to you as soon as I can.”
Mulder cursed softly and then straightened in
his seat. “Scully, it’s me. Look, I think I
found a really big lead. But I need you to do
something for me. Call the Alexandria PD and
tell them there’s another stiff outside K & M
Construction at 145th and Canal. Don’t bother
with the autopsy just yet, I can give an
eyewitness account. Call me when you get this,
OK?” He shut off the phone and looked over at
“You were there, right? At all six deaths?”
Ray nodded, concentrating on the road ahead.
“What was the address?”
Mulder shook his head and looked out the window.
“2630 Hegal Place. Just take this road another
couple of miles and you’ll run into Hegal. Then
take a left.” The rest of the ride was in
Conference room 4B
Scully sat quietly at the back of the room of
agents, glaring at Grif Michelin who was calmly
listening to each man or woman’s report. The
meeting had started at 8 and she was certain
she’d be on the way to Mulder’s apartment by 10
at the latest, but Grif seemed to relish in
particularly long meetings. Her ass had fallen
asleep at least 45 minutes ago.
“And that brings us to our ‘consultant’, Agent
Scully. Come on up and tell the folks about
your ‘revelation’, Agent Scully,” Michelin
crowed as he waved Scully up to the front of the
Scully tamped down the rage boiling within her
and stood, collecting her papers with measured
deliberativeness. With head held high, she made
her way to the front of the room. Surveying the
gathered agents, she looked them each in the eye
and began her report.
“You’re out of the friggin’ mind, Scully!”
“I thought we had the ‘sane’ half of the
partnership working on this task force!”
“What a minute, didn’t I see something about
ball lightning on the Sci Fi channel last
“So what are you trying to tell us, Scully?
We’re to be on the lookout for a really big
A full ten minutes after the break up of the
meeting and her mind was still reeling from the
taunts and accusations flung at her. She was
angry enough to break into tears, but that was
one thing living with an asshole brother like
Bill had taught her – never let them see you
cry. She collected her papers from the podium
and headed for the elevator. She’d go down to
the basement, toss her report in the garbage,
drive to her apartment and bring that bottle of
chardonnay into the bathtub with her. If she
didn’t drown herself in a drunken stupor, maybe
Mulder would come home and take her to bed.
Maybe, just maybe, she’d let him keep her in bed
for the next month.
The last person she wanted to see was Grif
Michelin leaning against the wall next to the
“Quite a show you put on in there tonight,
Scully. Do you do matinees on the weekends?” he
asked with a smirk. Scully wanted nothing more
than to knock out his two perfectly matched and
artificially white front teeth.
“I gave my report, Agent Michelin. And now, I’m
going home,” she replied through gritted teeth.
She started to stab at the elevator button, but
Michelin’s hand shot out and grabbed her at the
sleeve. “Scully, when you get home tonight, do
us all a favor and tie a bell around your
partner’s dick. Or better yet, cuff him to the
bed for a while.”
“Remove your hand right now or I’ll have you up
on harassment,” she seethed.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” Michelin purred. “If
anybody’s been ‘sexually harassing’ you, that
would be Mulder. But I want you to listen to me
and listen good. Your partner is in deep shit
if he thinks he’s going to work on this case
behind my back. I can have you both exiled to
some field office in Nebraska, if I so desire.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Scully
ground out, ripping her arm from Michelin’s
grasp. She hit the button to call for the next
car with a little more force than necessary,
almost breaking a nail in the process.
“Just tell old Foxy boy to keep his dick where
it belongs and out of my investigation. Or I
can’t be held responsible. Got it?” He turned
on his heel and swaggered down the hallway.
“Fuck off,” Scully muttered, but Michelin was
already out of earshot.
It didn’t take long to toss the report, grab her
coat and purse and start for the door. But in
her haste, her purse strap caught on the edge of
her desk, causing her purse to tilt and the
contents to spill all over the floor.
“Goddammit,” she shouted to the walls and
stooped down to pick up the mess. As she was
putting her cell phone back in its holder, she
noticed the message symbol was blinking.
Punching in the appropriate numbers, she
listened to Mulder’s message.
“Goddammit to hell!” she shouted louder. As
usual, Mulder had run off and left her with all
the dirty work. Angrily she punched in the
number for the Alexandria Police Department as
she headed out to her car. In minutes she was
on the way to 145th and Canal. She was mad
enough that she wanted to tell him off, but when
she dialed his cell phone, she got his voice
mail. Refusing to give up the satisfaction of
yelling at him in person, she disconnected the
call without leaving a message and threw the
phone on the passenger seat. The rest of the
ride to the crime scene was spent devising
tortures for both her partner and Agent Grif
Michelin, each more gruesome than the last.
2630 Hegal Place
Mulder unlocked the door to his apartment,
ushering Ray into the darkened foyer. He
flipped on a light and nodded toward the sofa.
“Take a load off. Want something to drink?”
“Beer?” Ray requested innocently.
Mulder just stared back at the man with crossed
“Ice water,” Ray relented and perched nervously
on the edge of the seat. “So, you gonna arrest
Mulder got the water and heading back into the
living room. “I’m not altogether convinced that
you’ve committed a crime, Mr. . . . um . . .”
“Boulder, Ray Boulder,” Ray said, taking the
glass from Mulder’s hand.
“Ah,” Mulder said with a knowing smile. “That’s
where all the ‘Rockie’ references were coming
“Yeah, well it ain’t because I was a heavyweight
champ,” Ray snorted. “It’s usually a put down.”
Mulder nodded again. “Ray, how long have you,
uh, been witnessing this . . .”
“The blue ball?” Ray offered. He stared down at
the glass of water as if hoping it would supply
an answer. “Shit, I don’t know. A couple of
months now, I guess. It started right after I
“You were electrocuted?” Mulder asked in
surprise. “You look pretty good for . . .”
“Nah, I was just shocked real bad, that’s all.
Made my hair stand on end, that sort of stuff.
Didn’t even lose a full day of work, dammit,”
Ray groused. “But it was that night, after a
poker game, that I saw it for the first time.”
“Tell me about it, Ray,” Mulder prodded.
“Well, see, these two goons were gonna rough me
“Like tonight,” Mulder interjected.
“Yeah, like tonight. And all of a sudden, I
hear this noise and this big blue ball of light
and the two goons go up like a cheap roman
candle. I mean, I couldn’t do nothin’, ya know.
I ain’t no doctor!”
“No, of course not,” Mulder said dryly. “So you
had nothing to do with the ‘big blue ball of
“What, like ‘summon’ it or something? Christ,
no! I mean, it scared the shit out of me! I
didn’t want nothin’ to do with it.”
“But you have been, shall we say, using it,
haven’t you, Ray?” Mulder nudged. “Sort of like
a ‘bodyguard’, maybe?”
Ray tilted his chin up in defiance, but refused
to meet Mulder’s eyes. “Look, it ain’t my fault
if it happens to not like it when some two-bit
goomba is trying to bust my nuts. For all I
know, it’s my goddam guardian angel.”
“Or fairy godmother,” Mulder deadpanned. “Look,
Ray, you had to know that this thing was lethal.
And yet you continued to put yourself in
situations that caused it to respond. That
could be considered premeditated,” Mulder
Ray bristled immediately. “Hey, we ain’t
talkin’ about no murder charges, are we? Coz, I
don’t think I’m in too much danger o’ that!
Who’s gonna believe this shit? No cop I know.
An’ besides, it ain’t like I was takin’ out
‘upstanding model citizens’. These pukes had
rap sheets as long as your arm! If I had any
part in this, I was doin’ a public service!”
“Ray, Justice isn’t _that_ blind,” Mulder said
tersely. “But you realize, you’ve been stepping
on some big toes. Aren’t you afraid somebody’s
going to come after you?”
The small man laughed at that. “You saw what
this thing can do tonight. Bring ’em on! I
ain’t afraid of nothin’!”
There’s a bang behind them, like a gunshot, but
when Mulder reached for his weapon and looked
around, he realized it was the lock on his door
giving way as it was kicked inward. A man was
standing in the now open doorway, a sawed off
shotgun straddling his arms. “Maybe you better
start being afraid, now, Ray,” Mulder whispered.
145th and Canal
“What the hell did that?” demanded the
Alexandria Police detective who had arrived at
the scene just minutes before Scully.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Scully
answered tersely. “Did you call the M.E.
The detective frowned at her but nodded. “Yeah.
They should be here in about half an hour.”
Scully closed her eyes, wishing she were
anywhere else but the middle of a deserted
street in an industrial park waiting for a
morgue wagon. Finally, she opened her eyes and
looked around. A few cars were scattered up and
down the street. One about two-thirds of a
block down looked awfully familiar. She jogged
down the street and looked in the driver’s side
“Mulder?” she called out, but it was apparent
the car was abandoned. If he’d left his car,
where was he, she wondered.
The disgruntled detective caught up with her,
touching her shoulder to get her attention.
“You wanta come here and give me something to go
on?” he pleaded.
“Sure, just as soon as I call my partner,”
Scully said, but stopped as she was pulling her
phone out. Several other cars had arrived and
even from half a block away she recognized one
man out of the rest. Grif Michelin. Foregoing
her call, she stormed over to the head of the
“Come to see for yourself, Agent Michelin?” she
spat out as she approached him.
Michelin turned toward her, eyes ablaze. “And
why the hell didn’t I get a call from you, Agent
Scully. You look like you’ve been here a while.
I had to hear about this from the Alexandria
“I called the Alexandria PD,” Scully shot back.
“And I’m here because Mulder witnessed the
killing. He left me a message while I was in
the meeting tonight and directed me to find the
dead man here.”
“So why didn’t he stick around? Where is the
Spookster?” Michelin asked, eyes scanning the
“He said he thought he was going to have an
Scully could almost see a blue vein bulging out
on the agent’s neck. “I thought I made it clear
that Spooky Mulder was to have no part in this
investigation!” he roared.
“And you also made it clear that you were
unwilling to listen to any explanation that
didn’t fit into your limited world view,” Scully
shouted right back.
It took some effort, but Michelin brought
himself under control. “So, you still think
this was done by ball lightning?” he smirked.
“Yeah, I do,” Scully sneered. “And I bet it had
something to do with the poker game that took
place in that building right there,” she added,
pointing to the construction company office.
“That’s an office building,” Michelin said
“And a traveling poker game meets there on
Thursday nights,” Scully explained. “Or at
least it did tonight.”
Michelin’s eyes grew wide and Scully saw
something in them, something the agent was
hiding. Before she could question him on it,
another agent shouted at them from the curb.
“Agent Michelin, we found something!”
Michelin glared at Scully for a moment and then
trotted over to the agent. “What is it?”
“It’s a wallet. Belongs to a Raymond Boulder,
Michelin took the wallet and stared at the
license, then walked over and looked at the
burned corpse still lying in the street.
“Unless he really gained weight, not to mention
grew a few inches, this license doesn’t belong
to this guy.”
Scully was beside him in an instant, taking the
wallet from his hands. “Then it must belong to
the killer,” she deduced.
“Do you think Mulder took him in?” Michelin
asked. It was the first time he’d asked a
question honestly all night.
“I don’t know. He might have. But I don’t
think he would have taken him to the police
station. I was about to call him when you
“Call him. We need to track down this Mr.
Boulder and ask a few pointed questions.”
2630 Hegal Place
“Put that little peashooter down, Mr. FBI,” the
incredibly big man drawled as he walked into the
apartment. “I just want the little pebble
“You don’t wanta do this,” Ray said quietly,
looking anxiously over the big man’s shoulder.
“You ain’t gettin’ no help from above this time,
pipsqueak,” the man growled and with one hand he
cocked the shotgun.
“Um, I really wouldn’t do that,” Mulder said,
watching the same spot Ray was so fixated on
right behind the big man with the gun.
“No Fibbie gonna tell me what ta do!” the man
sneered and took aim at both men as they sat on
What happened next, Mulder would be hard pressed
to say. The minute the man’s fingers tightened
on the trigger, Ray launched himself at his tree
trunk-like legs, bringing him down. Almost
simultaneously, there was an enormous pop and
crack and a glowing blue ball, six to eight feet
in diameter appeared, engulfing the man, Ray and
half Mulder’s living room in its center. There
was a second where all the light bulbs in the
room popped from the electric surge. There was
a sizzling sound and the room exploded in fire.
Mulder was mesmerized, unable to move. He could
feel the heat of the blaze as it blistered his
skin, could see the bodies writhing on the floor
within the flame, but was frozen to his spot.
‘Get out! Get out NOW!’ It was Scully, but it
wasn’t Scully. It was that little voice in his
head that always said what Scully would say to
him at just the moment he needed to hear it. He
looked over at the door. The flames had quickly
spread across the hard wood, licking up the
varnish like it was saltwater taffy. There was
a wall of fire between him and the door. Smoke
was choking all the air out of the room and he
crouched down, trying to decide whether to run
through the fire or just lay down and die.
He squinted through the smoky haze and could
make out the way to his kitchen. Picking around
the small dinette that was already smoldering
and caught fire as he approached, he ran the
last few feet to the sink and grabbed the towel
from the oven door handle. He doused the towel
in water and hurriedly wrapped it around his
face, covering his nose and mouth. As an after
thought, he seized the sprayer attachment to his
faucet and soaked his body liberally. Without
bothering to turn the water off, he huddled down
as far as he could and crab walked toward the
It was no use, the last ten feet would be
through flame. He could just make out the
hallway, and saw the flames licking the walls
out there. Making sure of his direction, he
closed his eyes and ran as fast as he could.
It was one of his worst nightmares revisited.
The hallway was going up as quickly as his
apartment. For a moment he was lost in a sea of
smoke, fire and panic, but again, that little
voice called to him. ‘Left, the stairway is
left’. He didn’t even think to doubt it, he
just turned left and ran like hell.
The stairs were crowded with other tenants
fleeing the inferno. His heart was racing, his
flight instinct taking control of his actions.
It was a struggle to not climb over the other
people as desperate to escape as he was. On the
landing of the second floor, he caught sight of
one of his neighbors, straining to get her
father, who was in a wheelchair, down the
stairs. His heart almost burst in his chest,
but he knew what had to be done. Clutching the
arm of the most able bodied man next to him, he
pointed toward the woman and her father. “We
have to help them get out!”
The man, Mulder recognized him as the new tenant
above him, glared at him for a moment, but
nodded and hurried down the last few steps to
the landing. Together, they hoisted the old man
out of the wheelchair and began carrying him
down the remaining two flights. Mulder looked
over his shoulder and could see the daughter,
still fighting to get the wheelchair down the
stairs. “Leave it, don’t block the stairs,” he
shouted up to her. A moment of indecision and
the woman shoved the wheelchair into the hallway
and joined them as they hastened to the exit.
Mulder didn’t even notice they’d reached the
bottom until the cold air hit him like high tide
hitting the beach. It completely knocked what
little oxygen he had out of his lungs. He was
coughing, gasping for breath that refused to
come. His lungs felt on fire. The last thing
he remembered was seeing a creature in yellow
snatch his arm and then all was darkness.
Dana Scully’s car
It was too hard. She didn’t want to go in.
She’d called both morgues and neither had been
able to identify the bodies taken from the scene
of the fire. She’d gone to George Washington
University Medical Center and had barged into
the morgue, demanding access to the victims.
One by one, she examined each corpse, each time
going through the dread of lifting the sheet,
only to find a moment of relief, then pounding
fear when she realized that she hadn’t found her
partner yet. He was still out there. She had
to keep searching.
She looked up and saw the familiar Emergency
Department entrance to Northeast Georgetown
Memorial Hospital. Not here, could they have
taken the body here, just blocks from her
apartment? What cruel irony to find Mulder so
close and yet gone. She parked the car in a
spot she knew wouldn’t be towed and dragged her
feet all the way to the door.
The Emergency Department was bright and hectic.
People sat in the chairs or stood shivering
nearby, some wrapped in blankets. She walked
with heavy heart to the information desk,
drawing out her badge to display it for the
A friendly face greeted her. “Agent Scully! I
wondered when you’d get here,” exclaimed the
young woman behind the desk. “Cathie Mosely,
you remember me from your partner’s last visit
“Oh, Cathie, yes.” Scully fought to find her
composure. “About my partner . . .”
“I think they have him settled in a room. Let
me check,” Cathie said, turning to her computer.
Scully almost collapsed with relief and elation.
“Yes, Mulder, Fox. Can you tell me the room,
please?” She didn’t even care that she made it
sound so dire that she find him.
“Room 713, right across from the nurses’
Cathie didn’t even have time to write the room
number down on a card, Scully was already
running to the elevators.
Northeast Georgetown Memorial Hospital
He coughed, long and hard. It made his ribs
rattle and his head ache. But it woke him up as
effectively as a bucket of cold water. He
glanced around. Oh, yeah, hospital. Had he had
this room before? But there was a scraping of a
chair and he turned his head. Ahh, much better!
Scully! Before he could enjoy the view, he
started hacking up a lung again.
“Try to relax, Mulder. Here,” she handed him a
cup of water. “Just sips. We don’t want you to
choke on top of everything else!”
“I found the killer, or rather what killed those
men,” he rasped out, allowing her to press him
back against the pillows.
“Raymond James Boulder. 1347 East Elm, Tysons
Corners, Virginia. Thirty-six years old, worked
for Fairfax Power and Light Company. Deceased,
or at least I’m almost certain that was him the
firemen found in your apartment.”
“He was the source of ball lightning, Scully,”
he said, his voice trailing off into another
Scully waited patiently for him to recover
before she spoke. “Yes, Mr. Boulder was a
victim of an industrial accident at his job the
day of the first death. Apparently he became a
conduit for ball lightning.”
“There was another guy, a hit man,” Mulder
choked out the words and took another sip of
“Vincent Pallano, a.k.a. Vinnie the Enforcer,
a.k.a. Vinnie the Fist, a.k.a. Vinnie the Torch.
Before he was burned to a crisp tonight, he was
a member of the Orlando Crime Family.
Apparently he was following Ray or you, or
Mulder looked over at the clock on the wall.
“Was I out of it for days again? You sure seem
to know a lot of stuff for just a little after
That earned him a smile that lit her whole face.
“I did spend a considerable amount of time
piecing together the facts about Ray this
morning. But as far as Vinnie is concerned, a
little bird told me. Or rather, told the D.A.
One of the Orlando gang was pulled over for a
routine traffic violation. When they realized
he’d also violated parole, he started singing
like the first robin of spring.”
“He’s giving up his family? Guy won’t last
long,” Mulder said around a cough.
“He’s going WPP. New name, new identity. But
among the people he gave up was a certain FBI
Agent with strong ties to all the major
organized crime families in the Metro DC area,”
she said with a smug grin.
Mulder eyes grew to the size of saucers.
“Michelin? Get outta here!”
“Grif Michelin is currently suspended from duty,
without pay and is under house arrest. His
career, from the looks of it, is over!”
“And they say there is no Santa Claus,” Mulder
grinned. “OK, so that’s the good news, what’s
the bad news. How long is my sentence here?”
“Actually, you can leave as soon as we find you
something to wear. You did suffer some smoke
inhalation, as you might have guessed from the
coughing. You have second degree burns on your
exposed skin, but the firemen were quite
impressed that you had the presence of mind to
get your clothes wet before braving the fire in
the hallway. They think you were incredibly
stupid to try running through the fire, but it
was that or jump, so you took the better route.
For that matter, I was quite impressed. Mulder,
you’ve come a long way since the Venerable
Plaza,” she said proudly, caressing his cheek.
“I can honestly say I owe it all to you, Scully.
I kept hearing you tell me what to do. It was
like you were right beside me. You saved my
Tears were sparkling in her eyes as she let him
kiss her palm. “I wish I had been with you. It
would have saved me several hours of panicked
worry,” she whispered. Giving them just a
moment to revel in this one more escape from the
clutches of death, she slipped her hand from his
grasp and ruffled his hair. “Your apartment, on
the other hand, did not fare so well.”
Mulder closed his eyes. “How bad?”
“Total loss, Mulder. The whole building. I
went by there this morning, when the doctor
assured me that you were fine but just needed to
sleep. Two of the exterior walls are still
standing, but the building owner was there and
said he has no intention of rebuliding. He’s
going to demolish what is left and sell the lot.
It will probably become a parking lot for the
apartment complex next door.”
“Great,” Mulder said with a heavy sigh. “So, I
have no where to go. Think Skinner would notice
if I crashed on the sofa outside his office at
night?” he asked with a wry grin.
“I think I have a better idea,” Scully said,
leaning over to kiss him.
Dana Scully’s Apartment
“This is just ’til I find a new place, Scully.
We work together, we spend a lot of time
together, I don’t want us to get on each other’s
nerves,” he said, helping her move clothes from
one of the dresser drawers to make room for the
contents of the Joseph A. Banks sacks sitting on
the bed. He picked up the sacks and dumped them
in the drawers, missing Scully’s look of total
dismay at his ‘organizational skills’.
“Mulder, it’s fine. We won’t get on each
other’s nerves. If you haven’t managed to get
on my nerves yet, I think we’re fairly safe.”
“But we’ve never . . . cohabited before, Scully.
I tell ya, this is more than either of us
intended. I’ll start looking for apartments
“The doctor let you out of the hospital because
I assured him you would rest. Instead, we spent
three hours in the mall restocking your
wardrobe. The only thing you’re going to do
tomorrow is sleep in,” she said firmly. “I’m
going to call for the pizza. Anything special
you want on it?”
“Is requesting hot peppers too much?” he asked
“No, as long as they don’t sneak over to my half
of the pizza,” she said with a smile.
A few minutes later, she found him on her sofa,
trying to lie down. His legs were bent at the
knees and he looked totally miserable.
“It’s a little short,” he said, sitting up.
“You’ve been on it before, Mulder,” she scolded.
“Only to sit. To sleep, you always let me take
the bed. Hope you don’t make me sleep on the
couch,” he said, drawing her down onto his lap.
“Behave and you can stay in the bed,” she
promised, kissing his forehead. She ran her
hand over his head, brushing his hair back at
the same time. “Mulder, are you OK with all
this? You lost all your clothes . . .”
“I can’t believe I’m going to work wearing
Joseph Banks,” he said with a groan.
“All those videos you don’t own . . .”
“More Frohike’s loss than mine. I haven’t
watched them in years.”
“You lost your sofa . . .”
“I know, Scully. I’m feeling that right now,”
he said sadly.
“And your poor fish.”
He sighed deeply. “Yeah, those guys had been
with me a while. That one molly was close to a
year old. And the tank, did I ever tell you I
got that tank the week after I graduated from
the Academy? I bought it when I moved in to
She kissed him tenderly on the forehead. “I’m
just glad you didn’t share its fate.”
He shrugged and she could see he was struggling
with his emotions. Then he tightened his arms
around her. “I didn’t lose anything I can’t
replace, Scully. All I really need is right
here in my arms.”
“Good answer,” she said, leaning down to capture
his lips in a kiss. “And one of these days,
we’ll get you some more fish.”