Great Balls of Fire

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Title: Great Balls of Fire

Author: Vickie Moseley

Summary: Two words: ball lightning.

Spoilers: VS 8, 9, 10, and 11

Category: X MSR SA

Rating: PG-13

Written for The X-Files Virtual Season 11

Archives: VS 11 exclusive for two weeks then

anywhere

Special thanks to Obfusc8or and Sally for beta

services rendered. And to answer that age old

question, yes, I do watch the Discovery Channel.

Legend:

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

OSHA

‘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.

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2630 Hegal Place

Alexandria, VA

January 23, 2003

2:35 am

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.

2630.

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

nightmares.

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

to know.

“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

guy in?”

“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

Act I

Fairfax County Light and Power

Turbine Room no. 4

October 15, 2003

2:45 pm

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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

control.

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

session.

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

maintenance.

“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.

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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

his work.

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,

knew that.

“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

Emergency Department

7:15 pm

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

here.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Ray assured her, grabbing

the papers. “Uh, the company pays for all this,

right?”

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

smirked.

“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

cards.”

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

hospital.

“You ain’t ‘out’. You gotta settle,” Bennie

reminded him.

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

good-natured chuckle.

“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

parking lot.

“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’

that?”

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

6:55 am

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

opened. “Mulder?”

“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

9:15 am

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

pointed glare.

“Sorry I’m late, sir. My alarm clock was set

for the wrong time,” she said with a thin-lipped

expression.

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

one page.

“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

statement.

“With no traceable accelerant,” Mulder added.

“And the bodies maintain an electrical charge

for up to 24 hours after estimated time of

death.”

“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

going?”

“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

2:45 pm

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

someone else.”

“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,

though.”

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

shoes.”

“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

this body.”

“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.

Act II

Fox Mulder’s apartment

6:45 pm

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

his arms.

“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

shoulder.”

“Hey, I tried to make sure you would get up in

time.”

“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

settings.”

“And a CD player,” he commented, getting out the

silverware.

“You don’t like my choice of morning

programming, Mulder?” she asked with a raised

eyebrow.

“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

eyes.

“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

dig in.

“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

money.”

She turned to give him a wide-eyed look.

“You’re kidding.”

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

months.”

“Mulder, you keep unfolding like a flower,” she

smiled and hugged him with her now wet and soapy

hands.

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

results back?”

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

Fairfax, Virginia

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

surprise.

“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

measure.

“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

month, too.”

“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

second man.

“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

on him.”

“You got it, boss,” the man said, and left with

his companion.

“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.

Hoover Building

Organized Crime Task Force

SIC Michelin’s office

8:45 pm

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

snarled.

“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

other.”

“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

phone.

X Files office

J. Edgar Hoover Building

next day

4:56 pm

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

X file?

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

extraordinaire.

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

night.

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

sniff.

“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

your victims.”

“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

to yours?”

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

innocently.

“No, I’m more than capable of handling that

particular assignment, thank you,” she replied

happily.

“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

befuddled voice.

“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

partner?”

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

up.

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

11:57 pm

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

hold.

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’

alone.”

“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

beady-eyes.

“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

for us.”

“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

laughter.

FBI Headquarters

The next day

9:15 am

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

an hour.

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

explanation.

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

lightning.

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

community.

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

with humans.

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,

standing.

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

6:21 pm

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

found her.

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

lover.”

“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

napkins.

“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

you out?”

“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

shoulders.

“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

record?”

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

and computers.”

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

left earlobe.

“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.

K&M Construction

14564 Canal Street

Alexandria, Virginia

11:13 pm

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

moustache.

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,

right?”

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

it!”

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

game.

“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

behind him.

“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

head.

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

Ray.

“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

steering wheel.

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

you?”

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

came about.”

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

Ray.

“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

silence.

Act III

FBI Headquarters

11:45 pm

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

room.

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

night?”

“So what are you trying to tell us, Scully?

We’re to be on the lookout for a really big

thundercloud?”

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

elevators.

“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

11:45 pm

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

arms.

“Ice water,” Ray relented and perched nervously

on the edge of the seat. “So, you gonna arrest

me?”

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

from.”

“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

got electrocuted.”

“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

up.”

“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

light’s appearance?”

“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

explained.

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

Alexandria, VA

12:10 am

“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.

already?”

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

window.

“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

task force.

“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

PD.”

“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

assembled crowd.

“He said he thought he was going to have an

explanation.”

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

dismissively.

“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,

Tysons Corners.”

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

arrived.”

“Call him. We need to track down this Mr.

Boulder and ask a few pointed questions.”

2630 Hegal Place

12:15 am

“Put that little peashooter down, Mr. FBI,” the

incredibly big man drawled as he walked into the

apartment. “I just want the little pebble

there.”

“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

the sofa.

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.

clip_image005

‘Water!’

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

door.

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.

4:45 am

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

receptionist.

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

with us?”

“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.

“Mulder, right?”

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’

station.”

Cathie didn’t even have time to write the room

number down on a card, Scully was already

running to the elevators.

Epilogue

Northeast Georgetown Memorial Hospital

Room 713

12:31 pm

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

coughing fit.

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

water gratefully.

“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

both.”

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

lunch!”

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

life.”

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

Georgetown

9:45 pm

“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

tomorrow.”

“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

sweetly.

“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

that apartment.”

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.”

the end.

One thought on “Great Balls of Fire”

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