Z1372

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Z1372

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Casefile/profiler/crossover

Rating: PG-13 for language, violence, mild sexual innuendo

Spoilers: Kaddish, VS12/13 various, CSI, Without a Trace, Cold Case

Summary: Mulder and Scully embark on a cross-country trek to thwart a kidnapper and memory

thief who may be connected to an old adversary.

Disclaimer: To Chris Carter and Jerry Bruckheimer, here’s the mega-crossover that never

happened, all in fond fun and with respect to the enforcement agencies and producers involved.

E-mail: fwidsvnt@ilfb.org

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Hotel Manhattan Continentale

New York, N.Y.

10:17 a.m.

“In the end, the essential question is not, ‘Are we playing God?’ Without wishing to debate

theology or the theoretical hand of God in the human genome – and, please, believe me, I don’t —”

A titter arose from the 150-some scientists assembled in the Versailles Salon, and Cedric Morsberg

slipped silently from his seat on the aisle near the back. The ongoing scrap between God and

Science had been escalating since Dolly the Sheep started making the tabloids, and Morsberg had

heard it all, even from the likes of the artfully tattered, pampered kids on the sidewalk outside the

hotel, chanting and screaming and, periodically, invoking the name and outrage of a deity to which

most of them likely did not subscribe.

“—I must argue that the quintessential question is whether we are acting with humanity. Are we

indeed acting as stewards of all over which we have been given dominion? Are we embracing that

which will serve our planets in the millennia ahead, or that which ultimately will spell our

downfall?”

Easing the ballroom doors quietly closed behind him, Cedric Morsberg sighed with amusement.

The Canadian geneticist had contemplated blowing off the initial breakout sessions for a peek

about Manhattan, perhaps a famous New Yawk bagel at the deli he’d spotted a few blocks down.

Morsberg was no hayseed down from the University of Guelph-Ontario to gawp at the New York

skyline – he’d lectured and consulted in the world’s major genetics hubs, and the Science Prize

he’d collected in Stockholm held an honored spot on a shelf above his cluttered desk. But this

incredibly was his first visit to the Big Apple, and he felt a certain tinge of adrenalin.

No, he’d attended Jason Kirschner’s bioethics session purely out of academic curiosity and, he was

forced to concede, a highly non-academic sense of amusement. The conservatives somehow

believed Man capable of usurping the dominion of a purportedly all-knowing, omnipotent God.

The liberals, to whom rational, existential fact was purportedly the only God, disregarded the most

essential mechanics of biology and the growing hunger of the planet –- a hunger that, unchecked by

technology, would consume Earth’s resources.

Morsberg himself had tweaked a few genes to increase phosphorous uptake in swine – a

development that could significantly reduce phosphate levels in manure and thus harmful runoff

from livestock farms. That angle had only peripherally interested the Toronto metro reporter who’d

visited his lab, instantly dubbed UG-213 the “Greenpig,” and conducted his own clumsy print

forum on bioethics. His stomach rumbled with acid and Starbucks, and Morsberg wished he’d

opted for the bagel.

Morsberg headed around the corner toward the Grand Ballroom, groaning as he spotted the “Out of

Order” placard on the men’s room lavatory. An old Latino man pressing the hotel’s initials into the

white sand of a now purely ornamental ashtray looked up.

“There’s another one, sir, one floor up,” the man smiled, head slightly bowed.

“Thank you,” Morsberg nodded congenially, and he cut across to the escalator. The mezzanine

floor was deserted this morning, reserved for afternoon business sessions by some insurance

organization. The geneticist was reminded of The Shining – not the book but the Nicholson film.

Morsberg had been taken with the chilling image of the twin girls haunting the Overlook’s

corridors – twins, the abilities they purported to possess, frequently elicited wariness, and he

suspected that fear played into societal perceptions of cloning. Not a paper there, but interesting

chat for the lab lunchroom nonetheless.

The men’s lavatory was encased in marble, lined in deep teak, cold despite the five-star hotel’s

meticulous control of its environment. He peeked under the nearly floor-length stall doors – the

place was his – and Morsberg entered the first cubicle. As he settled in, the scientist pulled the

conference program from the pocket of his hanging blazer. Mostly crop and biomedical sessions

for the next few hours, but a promising breakout on prion manipulation in cattle at one.

Morsberg replaced the agenda, and glanced at the wall to either side of him. Even in this pricey

Manhattan hostelry, the human instinct toward ego and identification prevailed. Morsberg’s

adolescent grandson of late had taken an interest in U.S. rap music, and his grandfather the

academician in turn had developed a fascination with the monomania of the “gangsta” community

and the culture of graffiti – “tagging,” as his grandson had patiently explained.

Here was a mix of the hackneyed and pathetic. Obscene verse prepossessed with excrement and

sex; hastily and deeply carved monograms; alternately misogynistic or homophobic observations

about unknown third persons. And the American classics – “Here I sit, all broken-hearted…”

Morsberg chuckled, his laughter ricocheting off the wood and marble. Then he spotted the partial

inscription, obscured by his blazer but directly in front of his face. He moved the jacket’s tail aside

and frowned. It was a number, carved with neat, thick block letters into the door. The number was

preceded by the letter Z – too obviously hand wrought to be some kind of serial number, but too

precisely produced and unadorned to be a personal tag.

The number disappeared momentarily as the lights flickered over Morsberg’s stall. Then the room

plunged into darkness. He glanced up curiously. Had some custodian assumed the room was

uninhabited?

“Pardon me,” Morsberg called. “Someone in here.” He blinked as the room again filled with

blinding light.

Then he heard the whispered giggling, low and, to his ears, conspiratorial…

The Java-nese Embassy

Washington, D.C.

1:32 p.m.

Three weeks later

Scully scanned the interior of the faux deco coffee shop, filled to the pine walls with congressional

aides, interns, students, lobbyists, and visiting taxpayers. It was a pleasant day in the Capitol, the

caseload was light, so she’d done the quarter-mile from the Hoover on foot.

Malone was seated to the rear, back against the wall, a folded Post in one hand and a Supragrande

in the other. As he spotted Scully, he flashed a tight smile and stowed the paper.

“OPEC just dropped their per-barrel price again,” the square-jawed agent rumbled, toasting with

his foam cup. “So, once again, it’s gonna cost more to get wired up than fueled up. Agent Scully.”

She pulled up a chair. “Agent Malone.”

“Not gonna have something? I mean, it’s on me. Well, the Bureau.”

“No thanks.”

Jack Malone worked Missing Persons out of the New York office. Mulder and Scully had worked a

task force with him about a year back – good outcome, but Malone and Mulder had developed a

predictable “rapport.” Malone was a dedicated agent, but his workaholic nature and – if the Bureau

grapevine were correct – a questionable relationship with an underling had cost him his family.

Scully had no real professional beef with the man, but his exclusive invitation had spurred her

defensive instincts toward Mulder.

“How’s your partner?” Malone asked, sipping his Supragrande.

“He’s fine,” Scully drawled. “What can I do for you, Agent?”

“OK,” Malone shrugged. “Got something that might appeal to him, but I thought I might run it past

you first. We didn’t exactly click on the Jensen case, case you didn’t notice.”

“I noticed. What’s up, Agent Malone? Is this case of yours supposed to appeal to Agent Mulder’s

profiling skills, or…”

Malone suddenly smirked, boyishly. “Or, I hate to say.”

Scully’s brow tweaked. The New Yorker shrugged.

“Perhaps I will have that coffee,” Scully said.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington

2:43 p.m.

“Cedric Morsberg,” Scully began. “Canadian molecular biologist, reported missing while attending

an academic conference in New York three weeks ago. His colleagues saw him abruptly leave in

the middle of a seminar about mid-morning, and that was the last anyone saw of him. He was

scheduled to deliver a banquet address that evening, and when he failed to show, the conference

organizers called NYPD Missing Person, who called in the FBI two days later.”

Mulder’s chair squeaked as he leaned back and propped his shoes on the desk top between a plaster

cast of a large, three-toed foot and a stack of Polaroids that portrayed a smiling couple flanked by

translucent, eyeless apparitions. “So far, Scully, it’s a three on the Snore-o-Meter — somewhere

between Sen. Lieberman’s ‘Joe-mentum’ speech and Wheel of Fortune visits Fort Lauderdale.”

“Agent Malone and his team failed to unearth any leads, and the press speculated Morsberg had

become a victim of street violence, never mind that he went missing in a busy section of Manhattan

in broad daylight,” Scully continued, unfazed. “The trail went cold for a week or so, until a witness

in Las Vegas recognized Dr. Morsberg from a CNN report, after the good doctor tried to panhandle

him. The locals pulled him in, only to find Morsberg had no memory of the last week-and-a-half or

even his own identity.”

Mulder’s chair snapped back into place. “Total amnesia?”

“Rarer than you might think. Psychogenic amnesia – the loss of the ability to remember one’s self –

is common in pop culture, in the movies, but scientists have never been able to confirm that it’s a

real phenomenon.” Scully perched on the edge of the desk. “If I had to guess, I’d say Dr.

Morsberg’s in a fugue state. The Merck Manual defines disassociative fugue as ‘one or more

episodes of amnesia in which the inability to recall some or all of one’s past and either the loss of

one’s identity or the formation of a new identity occur with sudden, unexpected, purposeful travel

away from home.’ Dr. Morsberg’s journey from Manhattan to Las Vegas certainly was sudden and

unexpected. The question is, was it purposeful?”

“That’s the question Malone wants us to answer?” Mulder smiled. “I didn’t get the impression he

held much regard for my particular criminological approach. What aren’t you telling me, Scully?”

His partner pulled a sheaf of folders from the bag at her feet. “After the Las Vegas P.D. identified

Dr. Morsberg, one of Agent Malone’s squad checked for cases that might have a similar ‘M.O.’ –

victims abducted, transported great distances, and released unharmed with no ransom demands or

apparent motive.”

“Could you narrow that down?”

Scully didn’t smile. “There’ve been at least four such cases over the last three years, Mulder. The

victims were found scattered across the U.S., but each disappeared in New York, seemingly

without a trace.”

Mulder straightened, frowning.

“And each victim,” Scully added, significantly, “had suffered nearly complete and to date

irreversible amnesia.”

Mulder was silent for a moment. “Pack your bags, Scully – I’m willing to indulge Malone. But let

me warn you: I’m not going anywhere near Kenny G or Sinbad.”

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Forensics Lab

10:23 a.m.

To Scully’s chagrin, Mulder had discovered a kindred spirit.

“Holy Lepidoptera, Batman,” the agent murmured as his childlike eyes scanned the dimly lit

interior of Gil Grissom’s office. Chemically interred insects stared with lifeless, compound eyes

from nearly every corner. “I didn’t realize you were THE Gilbert Grissom. Loved your piece on

blowfly development in the July Entomologica.”

The bespectacled, bearded chief investigator for the Las Vegas Crime Lab dipped his head

modestly. “I enjoyed equally your article on crypto-invertebratology in last month’s Fortean Times.

I understand we have a mutual acquaintance? Bambi Berenbaum?”

Scully chortled.

“Ah, yeah,” Mulder mumbled with a dreamy grin. “She helped me on a case a while back,

involving some anomalous cockroach behavior. Dr. Berenbaum has an exceptional…mind.”

“Ah, yes,” Grissom smiled back, cryptically. “Supple logic, a firm grasp of insectile psychology.”

“Not to mention her tightly disciplined sense of—”

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“Before you boys start discussing Dr. Berenbaum’s thoracic exoskeleton, could we return to the

case at hand?” Scully sighed.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, your victim, Dr. Morsberg, has no knowledge of how he arrived on the

Strip,” Grissom shifted without missing a beat. “No sign of physical trauma or drug presence that

might account for his apparent fugue state. However, Dr. Morsberg’s clothing provides us a few

clues. The heels of his shoes exhibited slight but recent wear, as if he had been dragged for a short

distance. And we found some salt-like residue on his suit similar to highway de-icer. Which,

considering it’s June, should make it reasonably easy to trace–”

“Brine,” a self-assured voice announced. Mulder and Scully turned to face an arrogantly bored

young man in a lab coat with an expression, and Grissom’s brow rose in anticipation. “Hodges to

the rescue again. Your John Doe was swimming with the fishes – or at least, hanging with them.”

Grissom waited calmly. The lab technician coughed.

“Your compound is a brine – salt, sugar, and some assorted spices. I’m guessing it was used to cure

smoked fish — I also found some omega-3 fatty acids common in tuna and salmon, thus verifying

my brilliant conclusions. I’m screening the DNA right now, but my guess is Nameless Guy is the

victim of some kind of schmear campaign.” The bored technician smirked, awaiting a reaction.

“Get it? Smoked salmon, lox, schmear campaign?” Hodges rolled his eyes. “And they say Vegas

audiences are the best in the world.”

“See if you can pin down the specific brining compound – assuming we’re talking a commercial

food company, it should be easy enough to trace,” Grissom replied cheerfully. “Thank you,

Hodges.” The young man blinked and stumbled back into the corridor, and Grissom turned back to

his visitors.

“Occam’s Razor,” Scully murmured. “The simplest, most logical alternative: Morsberg was

mugged in Manhattan, dragged into some kind of food service or catering truck – probably at the

Hotel Continentale –- transported a few thousand miles, and unceremoniously dumped on the Strip.

The question is, why?”

“Witness?” Grissom ventured. “Maybe he saw something, maybe at the hotel?”

“The biotechnology conference pretty much consumed the hotel facilities, but they’d also booked a

one-day annual meeting of East Coast insurance claims adjustors,” Mulder reported. “The claims

guys all checked out, and there were no red flags in the guest register – geneticists, insurance

geeks, and Iowans in town to see The Producers. Besides, if Morsberg had witnessed a crime or

some uptown indiscretion, why not eliminate him altogether? Why ship him cross-country?”

Grissom considered, his eyes obscured by the glare of his desk lamp. “What if the amnesia came

first? Morsberg suffers some sort of physical trauma we haven’t yet been able to detect, or maybe

he sees something that induces an emotional trauma, thus the fugue. He wanders onto the hotel

loading dock and into a seafood delivery truck, collapses, and is locked inside. Except…”

“Except the driver surely would have unloaded some cargo somewhere between here and New

York,” Mulder concluded. “Unless our driver is near-sighted, or Dr. Morsberg has fins and a bad

case of wall-eye, it’d be kind of hard to miss an unconscious researcher in amongst the lox and crab

legs. I’d say that, for whatever reason, Dr. Morsberg was deliberately hijacked.”

Grissom lips twitched into a Cheshire smile. “Fish AND foul.”

Las Vegas Police Department – Detectives Division

12:46 p.m.

Despite his disheveled white mane and the deep creases surrounding his eyes, Cedric Morsberg

looked like a child lost at a mall, periodically looking to Lt. Jim Brass for answers to Mulder and

Scully’s questions. Brass, a middle-aged, dry-humored cop, smiled encouragingly but largely kept

his peace.

“I’m sorry,” Morsberg said again, meekly, as he glanced at the agents across the interview table. “I

simply have no idea about anything you’re telling me. Cedric? What an awful name, eh?”

“Not so awful,” Brass commiserated, turning to Mulder with a mischevious glint. “Right, Fox?”

“Dr. Morsberg,” Mulder continued, undaunted by the detective’s not atypical reaction to the

presence of feds in his chicken coop, “just what do you remember?”

Morsberg’s liver-spotted head drooped and shook from side to side. “I’m sorry.”

“Been like that since we found him,” Brass related. “Don’t know how you’re going to squeeze this

turnip dry. No offense, Dr. Morsberg.”

The scientist smiled for the first time. “Actually, I like turnips. Isn’t it odd I’d recall that, of all

things?”

Mulder turned to Scully. “You think I could penetrate his fugue?”

Scully frowned for a second, and her lips parted with realization. “You know how I feel about

voodoo psychology, but I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained…”

“Hey, guys,” Brass interrupted. “This supposed to be some kind of mind-reading act? Cause I’m no

Kreskin.”

“Different schtick, Lieutenant,” Mulder informed the cop. “Tonight’s headliner is the Amazing

Fox, hypnotist extraordinaire.”

“Great,” Brass sighed, pushing his chair back. “I prefer my magic acts with tigers, but it’s your

show, I guess.”

“Just remember,” Mulder warned. “What happens in Las Vegas under hypnosis stays in—“

The interview room door cut his admonition short.

**

“Dr. Morsberg,” Mulder prompted. “Do you need to use the men’s room? I think you do.”

Morsberg, who had sat docilely in his chair, hands folded in his lap, grimaced slightly. He nodded.

“Yes. I need to find the lavatory.”

Brass grinned. Grissom watched the performance, rapt. It had been a guess on Mulder’s part – a

boring seminar on bioethics, coffee consumed by the gallon to keep the conference’s assembled

scientists on task.

“This is the first time you’ve ever been here,” Mulder reminded the semi-conscious man, who now

was restless with imagined discomfort. “You must ask where the men’s room – the lavatory – is.

You’ve left the ballroom – you’re in the hallway. You need to go, badly. You must find someone to

help you.”

“Everyone’s inside, listening to the man. There is no one in the hall. I’ve found the lavatory, but I

can’t use it. The sign says it is out of order.”

Mulder waited patiently – he didn’t want to influence Morsberg’s memories – whichever ones

might remain. The amnesiac suddenly perked.

“There he is. A man in a white jacket. He’s older; he’s doing something with a trash can – no, an

ashtray. He sees I’m looking at the lavatory sign.” Morsberg smiled in relief. “There is another one,

upstairs. Thank you. Yes, this one is open, though I’m a bit anxious. This floor seems deserted. But

I need to relieve myself, and surely no one would try anything in broad daylight in such a nice

place.”

“Was there anyone in the lavatory?” Mulder inquired, gently.

“No, I am alone. I go into one of the stalls and sit.”

“Should I get a stenographer in here?” Brass chortled. Mulder glanced sharply at the detective, who

locked his lips with an imaginary key.

Morsberg’s forehead wrinkled.

“Doctor?” Mulder asked. “Do you hear something, see something?”

“The number on the door. It’s right before my eyes, as if it were meant for me to see.”

Mulder turned to Scully, who goaded him to return to his questioning.

“Can you see the number now?” he prodded. “You’re at a blackboard. Here’s some chalk. Could

you please write the number on the board for me?”

Morsberg nodded. His arm floated upward, and with clean, brisk classroom strokes, he inscribed a

series of numbers. The arm fell back into his lap.

“Would you read the number to me, sir?”

“Zed. One, three, seven, two.”

“Zed?” Brass mumbled.

“Dr. Morsberg was born in Kensington, England,” Scully supplied. “Zed means Z.”

“Yes,” Morsberg nodded, his eyes still shut. “Zed-1-3-7-2. What does this mean?”

“You got me, Doc,” Brass sighed. The cop jumped as Morsberg tensed, his chair rattling.

“Doctor?” Mulder whispered.

“I can see nothing,” he rasped fearfully. “The lights have gone out.” He winced, shielded his

unseeing eyes. “What is this? Why are they laughing? WHY ARE THEY LAUGHING?”

The Imperial Casino

Las Vegas, Nevada

6:12 p.m.

“Z1372,” Mulder repeated for the thirteenth time over the din of slots and partying, as a thick prime

rib was deposited before him. “Doesn’t sound like a phone number.”

Grissom shook his head, sipping his Pepsi. “Doesn’t correspond to any New York exchanges. The

same for Motor Vehicles, at least in New York and surrounding states – it’s not a local plate

number. Meanwhile, a colleague of mine, Lt. Taylor with New York CSI, is checking out the

mezzanine restroom Morsberg supposedly used. Though I’m sure the room has been cleaned

dozens of times since Morsberg’s disappearance, maybe that number’s still on the stall door.”

“If it ever was,” Scully cautioned. “The number could just be a piece of disjointed memory bobbing

to the surface. I’m more interested in how Dr. Morsberg’s memory loss may have been induced.

The CAT-scan shows no apparent insult to the brain, and he’s suffered no cranial injury.”

“Induced?” Grissom back-tracked. “Do you believe someone somehow erased his memory?”

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. Up in the room, they’d decided to bring their

criminologist/host into their confidence.

“We’ve found a series of similar incidents going back at least three years,” Mulder said, carving

into his meat. “Four victims besides Morsberg, apparently kidnapped in the New York area,

eventually found unharmed except for a complete loss of both short- and long-term memory. To

this day, none have recovered their memory.”

“Serial what, abductions?” Grissom murmured, disturbed. “What about the victims? Any pattern

there?”

“The first victim, Jeffrey Turealt, 41, was an employee with the New York State Department of

Corrections. A clerk at Riker’s Island. Turealt went into the city to take care of some personal

business but never came home to Staten Island that night. Wife and two kids, an essentially

anonymous job processing paperwork on prisoners, and no real interests outside the Yankees. He

was busted three months later in Nogales, N.M., dumpster-diving for lunch. Turealt had no

memory of how he’d gotten there.

“Dorothy Banbridge, 54, the second victim, worked for the New York Department of Motor

Vehicles. A faceless bureaucratic functionary, like Turealt – administered driver’s exams all day,

lived alone with two cats. Took her lunch break one day and never came back. She turned up

bussing tables at a diner in Miami – she’d been there two months.”

Grissom’s brow furrowed. “So we have three employees of the state, or the province, if you count

Dr. Morsberg. The University of Guelph is a nationally-funded university, and Morsberg’s genetics

work was conducted under a Ministry of Agriculture grant. Perhaps we’re looking at some lone

wolf anti-government extremist, a supremely disgruntled taxpayer with roots in both the U.S. and

Canada.”

“That hadn’t occurred to me,” Mulder drawled. “Unfortunately, Victim No. 3 blows that theory out

of the water. Ray Herrera, 26, researcher with Droxell-Melchin Pharmaceuticals. Disappeared one

night after work – said he was going drinking with some friends, but the friends never materialized.

Wherever he actually went, Herrera wound up in Mesa, Ariz., rounded up in an INS raid of a

construction site. But the agents involved were curious about his grasp of U.S. slang, Droxell-

Melchin had done some federal work on military bioweapons antidotes, and luckily, Herrerra’s

prints were on file. But, once again, Herrerra had no memory of his identity or how he’d arrived in

Arizona.”

“A compassionate kidnaper,” Grissom mused.

Scully replaced her arugula-filled fork. “How so?”

“Las Vegas, Mesa, Miami, New Mexico? Our kidnaper – or kidnapers – didn’t leave our victims to

languish in the wilds of Alaska or Wisconsin. He, she, or they didn’t want their prey to suffer, at

least in any immediate physical sense.”

“Humane brain thieves,” Mulder mused.

Grissom’s face grew meditative. “‘Cruelty must be whitewashed by a moral excuse, and a pretense

of reluctance.’”

Residence of Jeffrey Turealt

Staten Island, N.Y.

10:03 a.m.

“Jeff, baby, these are the FBI people I told you about,” Gwen Turealt said softly. Jeffrey Turealt

looked up disinterestedly from the couch, his remote hand silencing Judge Judy. “You talk to them,

and I’ll make you some more coffee, OK?”

Mrs. Turealt appeared some 30 pounds lighter and 20 years older than the photo of the couple

Mulder and Scully had been provided. As Scully inspected the dull-eyed man on the couch wearing

the New York Corrections Department sweatshirts and baggy jeans, she understood what had

added years and subtracted pounds from his wife.

“You know,” he said mildly. “I’m not gonna be able to tell you any more about what happened to

me any more I could the cops. Hope you had other business in town today.”

The agents settled into armchairs flanking the couch. Dust motes floated in the sun admitted by the

Turealts’ thick curtains, and Judge Judy mutely waggled a finger at a fish-faced man and an over-

made-up young woman.

“How are you, Mr. Turealt?” Mulder inquired. “Has anything come back to you?”

He shook his head, staring at Judy’s wrathful face. “Not a thing. I know she’s disappointed. She’s

always pushing scrapbooks and crap in my face, trying to get me to remember. Even had some of

the guys I used to work with out — kinda rough characters, you know?” Turealt sighed. “Sorry —

guess this ain’t easy on her, either. She seems like a nice enough lady. And I ought to get a job,

‘cept every time I try, they treat me like a retard or something. Tell you the truth, I guess I’d just as

soon be left alone, you know? Please don’t tell her that — I don’t want to hurt her any more.”

Mulder rose. “Sure, Mr. Turealt. Good luck.”

Turealt nodded absently, raised an arm, and Judge Judy’s tirade filled the room. In the adjoining

kitchen, Mrs. Turealt was turned toward the refrigerator, her back twitching with silent sobs. Scully

placed a tentative hand on her shoulder, and the thin woman turned with red eyes and an apologetic

smile.

“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Turealt whispered. “Most days, I can keep it together. It’s just, if you’d known

him, before, well, he was just a very dynamic man. Dynamic but sweet — he’d give you the shirt.

Now he just watches the soaps and Matlock and buys lottery tickets with whatever money I give

him.” She tapped a row of Big Ball Pick Five tickets clamped magnetically to the Amana.

“Sometimes, I wonder if he isn’t hoping to hit the big lotto just so he can get away from me.”

“Have you looked in any memory enhancement therapies?” Scully asked. “I know a researcher at

Johns Hopkins…”

“We’ve tried, agent,” she sighed. “He won’t go any more. Says it’s a lost cause.”

Mulder had strayed from the conversation to scan the tickets on the fridge. “Scully,” he murmured

suddenly. “Take a look at this. Mrs. Turealt, does your husband always play the same numbers?”

“I never noticed.”

Scully’s eyes moved from one ticket to the next. “26-3-1-7-2. 3172. Morsberg’s number.”

“It’s been planted subconsciously in Turealt’s mind. Except he can’t play a Z, so he converted it to

its alphanumerical equivalent.”

A ghostly smile crossed Mrs. Turealt’s lips. “He always was good with numbers.”

Palmetto Cabanas Apartment

Miami, Florida

2:30 p.m.

Dorothy Banbridge also had experienced a significant loss of weight.

“Fifty pounds, kids,” the former DMV clerk announced, pirouetting for her visitors. “Lost my

memory, lost my hips. I took one look at my lard-assed, nicotine-stained self, and wondered how

the hell somebody had done this to me. That’s how I think about that pinch-faced, tight-assed old

bitch — somebody else.”

Mulder scanned the studio apartment, which was carpeted in canvas tarps and newspaper. A dozen

faceless figures stood sentry over the virtually unfurnished space – hand-fashioned golem

seemingly created in Dorothy’s mentally sterile image. Each bore a UPC-style bar code on its

forearm.

“I have to say you’ve got an astonishing attitude toward your predicament,” he said. “Most people

who’ve had a lifetime of memories, experiences wiped away would be devastated.”

Dorothy grinned. “After my daughter came to take me home, I took a good look at old ‘Dot’s life.

Smelly cats and flavorless TV dinners. She spent her days making poor schmucks jump through

hoops. My Aunt Virginia, an equal dried-up husk, left me a sizeable wad that I’d put into tech

stocks when they were worth something, and I caught the first plane back here. I think Linda was

relieved her sour old lady was gone. She actually came down here to visit last month – never did

that when I lived in the city.”

“And these,” Scully gestured toward the figures, “are yours’?”

“Just started making them one day – almost like I had to – and the girl downstairs got her gallery

owner friend to look at them.” Dorothy’s laugh itself was girlish. “Turns out my little ‘misfortune’

made for a good ‘back story.’ I’ve sold 15 so far – ‘freshly mindless creativity,’ my artsy friend

says.”

“Mrs. Banbridge.” Mulder turned serious. “Have you ever recovered any memory of your

kidnapper?”

She shrugged. “Wish I could. He – sorry, he or she — saved me.” She inspected her golem. “You

find him, tell him I’ll cut him in.”

**

“You ever wish you could get a clean start?” Mulder posed as they left Dorothy to her new life. “A

second chance?”

Scully smiled as the Florida sun outside the apartment building caressed her face. “I don’t know,

Mulder. I guess I feel I’ve done all right with the first one. Maybe the road not taken leads to a

dead end. How about you? Any regrets?”

“Not getting the TiVO thing,” he concluded. “I tried to watch Lost the other night and was totally

effed up. Seriously, look at Ms. Banbridge up there – nothing to regret, nothing but future.”

“And Jeffrey Turealt? A shell without substance, without mission, living with a stranger he once

loved? I’ll take my past, Mulder – without it, I wouldn’t have my future. Our future.”

“There’s that. Hold on — either I’m stroking out, or my phone’s vibrating.” Mulder extracted his

cell. “FBI’s Most Unwanted. . .Yeah. . .Really?. . .Where? No, I think it’s a good shot. . .We’ll be

there.”

Mulder turned to Scully. “Grissom was able to track the brining compound to Marine Gourmet, a

seafood supplier out of Massachusetts. They ship product to 36 states, including New York,

Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. Marine Gourmet had three drivers in New York City the day

Morsberg disappeared. Only two have been with the company for more than two years, and one

only works the Eastern Seaboard. John Barry. Been trucking for 10 years, but the Mass State Police

haven’t found anything prior to that. Barry’s probably an alias.”

“So, have they rounded him up?” Scully asked.

“They didn’t want to spook him, so the plan is to intercept him on the road. He’s expected to hit

into the Indianapolis area tomorrow, and his coworkers say he always haunts the same truck stop.”

Scully sighed, staring longingly at the ocean a few blocks away. “Suddenly, I see chicken fried

steak in my future.”

City Market

Amarillo, Texas

3 p.m.

“Kee-rist,” Aaron Jostens snarled as mole sauce formed a new pattern on his latest power tie. He

had a two o’clock with one of the senior partners, and his only option would be to run to Dillard’s

and put out 30 or 40 bucks for a new Italian silk noose. Or send Renee out for one, except that was

probably viewed as outside the little airhead’s job description. She couldn’t book a conference

room to save her vacuous life, but, Jesus, she and every secretary and paralegal at Greene, Jakes,

Petrie knew their effing rights.

“Nice move, dude,” Danny Kenner, fellow associate, chortled. He’d suggested Thai instead of the

mob scene at the city market, and he considered his coworker’s mishap karma crapping down his

shirtfront. The firm seemed to nurture adversarial relationships, and Aaron merely scowled as he

considered possible payback for his smarmy young colleague (that Aaron was no slouch in the

smarminess department either was of no consequence).

“I don’t know why I ever left D.C. for this godforsaken outpost,” Aaron grumbled, signaling the

counter guy for some water. Or 7-Up – it was 7-Up you used to get stains out, right, or was it

Mountain Dew?

Danny sipped his horchata musingly. “Thought it was cause your neo-con boss got his ass kicked

last fall.”

“What, you the big liberal now, just cause you drive a Prius? I bailed weeks before election – I

knew he was toast in the district after what he said about the wetba—”

“Hey. Dude.” Danny glanced nervously at the Latino vendors and customers peppered throughout

the open-air collection of tables and booths, produce and knick-knacks. The only second language

spoken at Greene, Jakes was a dead one, and it was used largely to keep clients off-balance.

“I’m very hungry.”

Aaron and Danny hunched instinctively over the remnants of their food, ignoring the voice behind

their shoulders.

“Excuse me, gentlemen?”

“Kee-rist,” Aaron repeated.

“Look, bud,” Danny sighed, turning to the crusty middle-aged man in the torn suit jacket. “Tapped

out, comprende?”

“I’m hungry,” the man repeated, as if the young attorney had failed to understand his need.

“Sorry, dude. Betcha those guys over there’ll help you. Criminal law firm – big bucks.”

“It’s been days,” the man persisted.

Danny’s eyes frosted. “Fuck off, dude, or I’ll call the policia. Que pasa?”

Aaron swiveled around. “Jesus, big liberal. Here, man, here’s five bucks – just move it along,

oka—”

Aaron’s jaw locked in mid-phrase. “Kee-rist, man. What are you doing here? What the hell

happened to you, sir?”

“Who is he?” Danny demanded.

“Yeah,” the “homeless” man asked eagerly. “Who am I?”

“Aw, jeez,” Aaron breathed. “Everybody’s been looking for you, sir. We better call 911, Dan — I

wonder if he’s been drugged. Sir, you’ve got no idea how you got here?”

The man, unshaven, his mane of silver hair gone yellow, shrugged, then dug into his ripped pants

pocket. He thrust a used popsicle wrapper at the young lawyers. “I think maybe this might be

where I live. I don’t have any street, though, sorry.”

Aaron squinted at the five digits scrawled onto the wrapper. “2-3-1-7-2. Dan, man, is that a 2 or a

Z?”

Hoosier Heaven Truck Oasis

Indianapolis, Indiana

11:34 a.m.

“Breaker, breaker,” Mulder murmured into the wire with which he and the rest of the state-federal

team had been equipped. “You got any fix on the Fishman’s 20?”

“That’s a big negatory,” the Indiana State Police captain responded in a low baritone. “And, Agent,

you don’t knock off the C.W. McCall shit, I’ll come in there and break something else. You copy?”

“That’s a big 10-, I copy. Out.” Mulder caught his partner’s disapproving eye. “There’s one

grumpy smokie. By the way, you haven’t touched your ham steak. I don’t suppose…”

Scully shoved her plate across the formica. She stared glumly at the collection of truckers, tourists,

and old-timers feasting on breading and gravy throughout the huge, glaringly lit dining area. Travis

Tritt crooned for the lunch crowd. A biker studying the buffet was with the Indianapolis district

field office; an attractive young couple sipping coffee had been summoned from ISP highway duty

for the stakeout. Assorted law enforcement officers were occupying semi cabs at the periphery of

the parking lot.

“What if he decides on a Thickburger today?” Scully posed. “What if he breaks an axle?”

“Problem with you,” Mulder offered through a mouthful of cured hog, “is you see the glass as half

empty. Which reminds me, I need some more Dew. Where’s that waitress?”

Mulder and Scully’s earpieces buzzed. “Table Five, our man just pulled into the lot,” the ISP

captain announced. “Think he’s heading your way.”

They’d decided to grab Barry as far from his truck cab — and any secreted weapons — as possible.

As the tall, leathery driver ambled into the dining room in T-shirt and jeans, Mulder saw no

obvious sign of a weapon. He nodded to the woman behind the register — an undercover ISP

investigator — and she picked up the phone next to a bowl of Starlight mints.

Barry took a booth at the counter, which was reserved for truckers, and briefly perused the menu

specials. A too-blonde girl in a too-tight uniform giggled as she poured his coffee. Barry gave his

order, and did not watch as the girl strutted off.

“Will the operator of a Peterbilt license number 12 V234 please report to the Service Desk at the

rear of the shop?” a disembodied voice droned over the lunch crowd. “That’s a Peterbilt license 12

V234.”

Barry called something to the waitress, who shrugged. He slowly climbed off his stool and started

toward the truck supply/food shop adjoining the restaurant.

“Wait ‘til he’s past the audiobooks rack,” Mulder advised Scully. He looked to the biker and the

caffeinated couple, who visually followed Barry toward the store.

Then Barry stopped.

“What the–” Mulder muttered.

The trucker turned slightly, scanned the dining room, and pivoted.

“Shit,” Mulder informed the team. “He’s onto us. Coming your way, Captain.”

The biker, the couple, and the agents bee-lined for the door as soon as Barry was outside. Three

truck cabs swung open, and Barry bolted, not for his truck, but toward a neighboring shopping

plaza. Mulder and Scully peeled off in pursuit.

Barry dodged pedestrians as he passed a video store, a Hallmark outlet, a baseball card shop, and

an H&R Block franchise. He then abruptly disappeared behind a rack of flowers on the sidewalk

before the anchoring Marsh supermarket.

“Great,” Scully puffed as she and her partner picked up their speed.

As they entered, Mulder nearly tripped on one of a few dozen bags of chips that had spilled from a

display near the entrance. A portly security guard was sprawled among the splattered snacks, and

wide-eyed patrons and checkers were frozen in fear, staring toward the aisles of food and sundries.

“He got my gun,” the guard wheezed. Scully noted a red patch spreading midway down his

uniform short sleeve, and rushed to his aid.

“Bread aisle,” a nose-ringed cashier yelled at Mulder’s back as he rushed past.

“Barry! FBI!” he shouted as he spotted the trucker preparing to round the turn past the generic

hamburger buns. John Barry slid, then spun, gun in both hands TV-style. Mulder walked slowly

toward him, his own weapon leveled.

“Mr. Barry,” the agent said calmly. “You haven’t killed anyone yet, and I’m sure an attorney could

establish reasonable doubt about your ‘hurting’ those people.”

“Wasn’t out to hurt anybody,” Barry growled, eyes wild and darting. “Just wanted people to get it,

you know, just get it.”

Mulder moved past the bagels. “Get what, Mr. Barry? The depersonalization of society? The

faceless cruelty of the bureaucracy, of corporate America?”

Barry laughed harshly. “Boy, you must have a couple of degrees after your name. No, ‘Agent,’

nothing fancy. Just remember, we may be nobody, but there’s a shitload of us.”

clip_image006

The hammer of the security guard’s gun clicked, and Mulder smelled fear and yeast. And cordite,

as an explosion sounded behind him and a hole blossomed in Barry’s forehead. The trucker, a

stunned look in his eyes, dropped to the linoleum, and Mulder’s gun hand dropped to his side.

The “biker” edged past the agent and knelt beside John Barry. He checked his vitals, looked up at

Mulder, and nodded.

Mulder nodded back, robotically.

Indiana State Police — Indianapolis Post

Indianapolis

2:10 p.m.

“He was one angry muthah truckah,” the ISP technician declared, shoving her rimless glasses onto

her forehead and pushing back from the now-open Powerbook they’d uncovered in John Barry’s

sleeper cab.

Like many confident and inexperienced felons — especially loners — he hadn’t bothered with

passwords. On the other hand, the state police cyber-specialist so far had found no mention of

Barry’s apparent victims or any plans to abduct them.

“Checked his e-mail last couple months — man should keep his folders cleaner,” the technician

tsked as Mulder and Scully bent toward the laptop screen. “He’s a worldly man, in his own way. Ze

da Silva from Sao Paolo, Ashok Kumar from Bombay, an HMayer from Vienna. All a bunch of

philosophical yada yada about alienation and how the world doesn’t care about the faceless

thousands.”

“Thousands,” Scully frowned. “Not millions? They can’t be talking about the poor or the

malnourished. Maybe some specific population? A regional culture on the brink of destruction? A

group suffering from some orphan disease the pharmaceutical companies won’t address? Mulder,

Herrera.”

Mulder shook his head. “Herrera’s research was in cholesterol reduction. My guess is these people

share a common affliction or social stigma. There’s a self-pitying note here along with the activist

outrage.”

“Well,” the technician sighed. “Unfortunately, he’s better at web maintenance — his history and

cache are clean as my Aunt Mavis’ house. Can’t tell you what trips his trigger.” She stopped with a

grimace, and patted Mulder’s arm. “Sorry, baby, bad choice of words.”

Indy Motor Plaza Motel

Indianapolis, Indiana

11:54 p.m.

“Our victims all were literally robbed of their memories, transported great distances, dropped off

far from their lives but left physically unharmed.” Mulder’s voice broke the long post-coital

silence. “It seems to be some kind of statement on the kidnapper’s part. He steals their identity,

makes them anonymous, removes them from their personal reality. Payback of some kind?

Revenge?”

Scully gently removed his cupped hand from her breast and turned to face him. “But he or she has

no desire to kill them. Wouldn’t that be far more satisfying revenge?”

“Maybe he or they consider robbing their victims of their lives, their memories to be a far more

lasting ‘lesson.’ Dropping them in warm, sunny climes may have been no act of compassion.

Maybe they simply want their victims healthy enough to live with their affliction.”

“But why these victims, in particular? Turealt was no hard-nosed prison bull, and although I’ve

wanted to throttle the clerks at the DMV from time to time, Banbridge certainly led an innocuous

life. Herrera was helping fight heart disease, and Morsberg was working to improve the

environment. Although I suppose the anti-biotech community might have felt otherwise…”

Mulder propped himself on his elbow. “I think we are talking about an activist conspiracy, but

nothing so sociopolitical. I thought the name John Barry seemed familiar, so I Googled it. I don’t

think our trucker friend is trying to conceal his past. I think he has none.”

He paused to let it sink in, and sink in it did. Scully looked up, eyes wide. “An amnesiac? Barry’s

an amnesiac himself?”

“‘John Barry’ is one of dozens of versions of ‘John Doe’ that have been adopted around the world.

Those e-mail addresses on his laptop? Ze da Silva is a Brazilian version of John Doe, Ashok

Kumar an Indian variation. Richard Roe is a legal term for an anonymous plaintiff. And I’m

guessing HMayer is Hans Mayer, an Austrian variation. I cross-referenced the names of Barry’s

pen pals on Google and found they were all members of an amnesiacs discussion forum called

fugue@nowhere. It’s sort of a support group-slash-bitchfest-slash-advocacy site for victims of all

forms of amnesia and memory loss. More social and educational resources for ‘New Lifers’ – that’s

what they call themselves; more funding for ‘incidental memory loss – they’re kind of bitter about

all the research money that goes to Alzheimers and not to amnesia victims.”

“How bitter?” Scully demanded.

Mulder shrugged. “About like any other survivors group – some are like Banbridge, liberated by

their amnesia to pursue new interests and lives. Some are relentlessly angry about the loss of their

childhood, their feelings for their families and loves, their treatment as mental invalids.”

“And where does our friend Barry fit into that spectrum?”

“In the deep end of the pool. He’s the semi-literate voice of empowerment: Free yourselves, let the

world know of our trials and our triumphs. It’s like those crazed La Leche League women who go

from maternity ward to maternity ward ripping the bottles from patients’ hands. Barely constrained

fury channeled into delusions of grandeur. He fits the profile, at least as the transporter.”

“You think these people, these ‘New Lifers,’ have formed some kind of radical cell?” Scully

breathed. “You think there may be other victims, all over the globe?”

“I don’t think so, even though I’ve got Frohike and the boys searching global missing persons and

hospital databases. The victims were all taken in New York – wouldn’t you assume Barry would

spread his crimes out across his routes, reduce the risk of detection? If he wanted to make a social

statement, he had a whole country to do it in. Besides, we’ve found no rational, physical reason for

what’s happening to these victims.”

Scully smirked. “You’ve got a one-track mind. However, at this point, I’m inclined to agree with

you. You believe Barry’s accomplice is, what, psychic, telekinetic?”

“I believe he’s almost certainly a fellow amnesiac – he and Barry hooked up somehow, maybe in

the New Lifer discussion forums, maybe some other way. The accomplice is based in New York,

likely land-locked there. In Barry, he found not only a kindred spirit, but a conduit to the rest of the

country. I think Barry was carrying out his will.”

“You think Barry was under his psychic control?”

“No. They were probably just two people with a common bond.”

Scully nodded. “Speaking of common bonds, I assume from the way you’re rubbing my ass, you’re

in the mood for some more nocturnal bonding.” She yawned. “Sorry, Mulder, but our little truck

stop gunfight has taken it out of me, and the combination of drunken revelry and diesel exhaust

outside isn’t making my hormones sizzle. Knock yourself out, but leave me out of it.”

“Could you at least roll over into a more accessible mode? Last month’s team-building exercise

clearly had no impact on you.”

Scully flopped onto her side, bunching her pillow under her head. “’Night, Mulder.”

“Buzz killer,” her partner mumbled, reaching for the remote. Mulder briefly considered the pay

adult block, sighed, and surfed upward past Letterman, Leno, and Frasier. The current HBO

offering was Pride and Prejudice (Mulder shuddered), and so he settled on CNN. A familiar head

floated in an inset above the handsome blonde anchor.

“…A nationwide manhunt launched four weeks ago ended with a bizarre turn today in Amarillo,

Texas, when missing Illinois Congressman Victor Mowery was found wandering a city market in a

dazed, reportedly disoriented state. Doctors at Houston’s St. Lucas Memorial Hospital, where the

three-term lawmaker was taken, are stating only that Mowery may be suffering some form of

advanced memory loss.”

Mulder’s hand again connected with Scully’s bare rump. “No means no, Mulder,” she mumbled.

“Wake up, Scully. Now.” His partner awoke immediately at the urgency of his tone. He directed

her to the screen, where a less disoriented Rep. Mowery was pumping farmers’ hands in some 2004

video.

“Mowery, a staunch conservative and strongly pro-Bush voice on Capitol Hill, recently split from

the White House over the Dubai/port controversy and the immigration issue, calling for a new

nationwide ID and immigrant registry program to, quote, ‘draw the line on unsecured entry at our

national borders.’ Mowery had been visiting New York to address a National Rifle Association

conference when he vanished seemingly without a trace four weeks ago…”

Mulder tensed, his profiler’s instinct sounding an alert. If this was what it seemed to be, Barry and

his accomplice had picked up their pace. Two victims within roughly a week. Barry’s partner likely

was growing impatient, more empowered, and even without his victim transport mechanism, he or

she may already be pinpointing new victims.

In addition, Rep. Mowery had been a high-risk grab. Morsberg had some notoriety within the

scientific and academic community, but the congressman’s abduction indicated the memory thief

was growing bolder, more oblivious to exposure.

On the other hand, Mowery’s visibility also offered a potential break in the case. How had this

high-powered politician come into the predator’s orbit. How had Mowery evaded what certainly

must have been a constant swarm of aides, cronies, and media types around him. And why

Mowery?

By now, the blonde anchor was chatting split-screen with a rumpled, bearded man surrounded by

book-lined shelves. A second, bow-tied young man listened impatiently, waiting to pay his two

cents.

“Well, while I don’t mean to seem insensitive to the congressman or his family, who I’m sure must

be deeply gratified at this point, there is a certain irony to Mowery turning up within a relative

stone’s throw of the border, stripped of his identity,” the bearded man smiled slightly, and Mulder

thought he detected a glint of satisfaction. “Mowery’s extremist response to the immigration issue

is the first step to an Orwellian society of nameless, bar-coded drones. IDing U.S. citizens like

cattle? Why not simply brand them, tattoo them?”

“C’mon, Carl,” the bow-tied man breathed in exasperation. “You and your pals trivialize the

Holocaust and its victims with this constant Nazi name-calling, not to seem insensitive. This man

may have suffered permanent mental injury, and all you can do, frankly, is make political hay—”

“That’s it,” Mulder gasped, fumbling for the remote.

Hotel Manhattan Continentale

New York

11:32 a.m.

“This isn’t some sleazy nooner between a horny securities broker and a fifty-buck hooker,” Malone

growled. “I can have your records subpoenaed in about a New York minute – highly appropriate,

don’t you think? Maybe shut things down here for a couple days while we stumble around looking

for clues. If your regard for your guests’ privacy really means that much right now. You want, we

can all go downtown and you can tell me why you sat on information that could have saved the

FBI a few thousand man-hours and the congressman’s family a lot of needless anxiety.”

Malone had all but demanded to be in on the interview at the hotel once Scully had sold him on

Mowery’s connection to their case. The agent had been New York liaison on the investigation into

the congressman’s disappearance. The New Yorker had been coolly civil toward Mulder, cognizant

that he’d invited him to a party Mulder now seemed to be hosting.

Mulder himself regretted opening the door to Malone, who’d immediately assumed the role of Bad

Cop without consulting his teammates. Especially as Mulder had divined how – and why –

Mowery had slipped under his entourage’s radar at the Waldorf East five blocks away.

Kurt Engler, supervising manager of the Continentale, gulped like a fish trapped in his sterile third

floor, glassed-in office. “Look. You have to understand, Agent Malone – when men like

Congressman Mowery need to relieve the pressures of the day, as it were, we are acutely aware of

the potential for a media shit storm, if you’ll pardon me.”

Malone smiled coldly. “First thing you’ve said today doesn’t sound like a shit storm, if you’ll

pardon me. You wanna get me all the records you got on the good congressman, round up any of

the night shift might have been working his floor, maybe see if your house cop knows the working

girl who filibustered the congressman’s brains out?”

Engler practically upended his lush leather chair. “We’re at your complete disposal, Agent

Malone.”

“I’m delighted,” the Irishman grunted as the manager scrambled out of his office. Malone turned to

Mulder and Scully. “Sorry, but I’ve got a degree in New York bullshit. Now, you say you’ve got

some kind of connection between Mowery and Morsberg?”

“And the rest of our ‘vics,’” Mulder said with an antagonistically serene smile. “You read those

files I FAXed over last night?”

Malone nodded. “Briefly. I think it’s a stretch. But it’s your party, I guess.”

“Let’s start with the first hypothetical victim, Jeffrey Turealt. An employee of the New York penal

system. In Records, as it turns out. Next was Dorothy Banbridge, a driver’s license clerk. What

would you say Turealt and Banbridge have in common?”

Malone smirked — a nearly imperceptible reaction. “Cattle herders. People processors.”

“Exactly. Turealt’s ‘clients’ are no longer people, just numbers. Banbridge’s job is plugging people

into a huge bureaucratic system. Now, with Ray Herrera, it becomes a little more convoluted.”

“Herrera. He was the drug guy, right?”

“The pharmaceutical researcher,” Scully nodded. “Specifically, Herrera conducted clinical trials for

experimental cholesterol-reducing drugs. You know how a blind trial works, Agent Malone?”

“You dose half the guinea pigs, feed the other half sugar pills,” Malone sighed impatiently. “So.”

“To avoid any risk of bias or false conclusions in testing, the volunteer test subjects remain

anonymous to each other and the research team. They’re assigned identifying case numbers.”

The lines in Malone’s inscrutable face deepened, and the office was smothered in silence. “I think I

see where you’re heading with this,” he finally murmured. “Congressman Mowery was touting this

national ID system, right? Assigning everybody a number?”

“And takin’ ‘way their names,” Mulder sang, echoing Johnny Mathis’ classic theme to Secret

Agent.

Malone looked to Scully, who stared ahead stolidly. He sighed and turned back to Mulder. “OK, so

our kidnapper, kidnappers, whatever, they’re stealing the identity of people who ‘steal’ other

people’s identities. Is that it?”

“John Barry was an apparent amnesiac who had become bitter about his memory loss. My guess is,

these victims represented the theft of individuality, of identity. They were the enemy.”

“Ah huh. And where does Morsberg come into this? He was a harmless egghead, probably never

ventured out of his lab before.”

“A world-renowned geneticist,” Mulder corrected. “The creator of the Green Pig, a cleaner, leaner

genetically engineered swine aimed at rocking the agricultural world. Morsberg maintained a small

herd of Green Pigs – a herd of genetically identical cloned pigs. Morsberg was at the vanguard of a

Brave New World, where, in the view of some unhappy citizens, humanity soon may lose its own

identity through cloning and genetic selection.”

“Whoa,” Malone interrupted. “You paint a pretty wild scenario, Agent Mulder. First of all, how did

our perp even hone in on Turealt, Banbridge, or Herrera. Not exactly high-profile celebs, are they?

What’s your connection there?”

Mulder smiled calmly, unruffled by Malone’s skepticism. “As soon as Mr. Engler changes his

trousers and gets that information you so politely requested, I hope to find out.”

**

As he was brought before the trio of agents, Anthony Ruggiero looked as if he might himself

appreciate a change of uniform. After checking the IDs of the entire floor staff for the day Cedric

Morsberg had disappeared, Mulder had selected the handsome, impeccably groomed young

bellman, then kept him waiting under Malone’s severe glower.

“Ah, there she is,” Mulder finally piped up. Anthony followed Mulder’s stare down the ballroom

corridor, his eyes narrowing as he spotted the darkly beautiful, strongly built young housekeeper.

“Agent Scully, you want to talk to Ms. Bunuelo? Agent Malone and I want to ask Anthony here a

few questions. Take Mr. Engler with you, in case you need any more personnel data.”

Scully nodded curtly, and she and the manager moved to intercept the girl.

“So, Anthony,” Mulder grinned. “You been working here long?”

Ruggiero’s eyes were fixed on Elena Bunuelo and, Mulder could see, Bunuelo’s were fixed on the

bellman. “Ah, yeah, about three years. It’s a pretty sweet gig – great tips.”

“I bet it’s pretty sweet,” Mulder agreed, jerking his head toward Bunuelo. “Staff all pretty

friendly?”

Ruggiero blinked. “Ah, I don’t know what you mean. We get along OK.”

“You get along better with some than with others, Tony?” Malone asked bluntly. “You’re a good-

looking guy, a veritable prince among the old guys and toads around here.”

“Well,” Anthony grinned despite himself.

“How would you like to keep this sweet gig, Tony?” Malone asked. In a nanosecond, he had

transformed from One of the Guys into The Man, and Anthony again tensed. “The morning that

guy disappeared, you know, the scientist, you and Ms. Bunuelo were on duty together. He

remembers somebody coming into the mezzanine john while he was trying to take a crap. The

lights went out, he called out, the lights went back on, and he heard some giggling. Now, I took a

piss a few minutes ago, and I noticed the light panel in there’s pretty well concealed. Staff-only

access, right? You and Ms. Bunuelo take a little coffee break, decide to grab a little mid-morning

delight? Cause I noticed you both got a couple black marks in your personnel files.”

“Hey,” Anthony said through his teeth. It was clear to Mulder the anxious young man was not

outraged at Malone’s challenge to his fair damsel’s honor. “Look, man, they get a good week’s

work outta both of us, and we weren’t hurtin’ anybody, you know? That mezzanine bathroom’s

usually vacant weekday mornings – the meeting people use the ones on this floor. C’mon, guys,

you gotta tell Engler about this?” The young man smiled sheepishly. “I mean, c’mon, look at her.

You was both young once, right? Hey, I didn’t mean that the way it sound—”

“Anthony,” Mulder said, sternly. “You’re going to pull something useful if you don’t chill. I don’t

see any reason for Agent Malone or I to tell your supervisor anything. But you did withhold

important information in a federal case. The Canadian authorities are very interested in what

happened to Dr. Morsberg, as well as the FBI.”

“OK, OK, we was in there, in the john. That guy, old guy, right? He was in the second stall, yelled

out when we hit the lights. It was pretty funny in a way, you know, but we didn’t want to get

canned, so we got the fuck outta there. I hung around here, waited for the guy to come out. Wanted

to see if he was gonna report us. But he made a bee-line for the street, and me and Elena, we went

back to work. The mood was pretty well fucked-up, you know?”

“That’s amore,” Malone observed.

“Thanks, Anthony,” Mulder smiled. “That’s very helpful. Just one more thing.”

“Anything, man.” Anthony looked like he’d received a gubernatorial reprieve.

“The custodian on this floor that morning, Mr. Perez.”

“Yeah, Juan. Nice enough old guy. Too bad he left – he was only here a couple weeks.”

Mulder already had noted that the old man who’d directed Cedric Morsberg to the mezzanine

restroom had failed to appear for work two days after the NYPD had interviewed him. The

assumption had been that Juan Perez was one green card short and the sudden police presence at

the hotel had spooked him. Working on a hunch, Mulder had Googled Juan Perez and John Barry

to find the two names had a common origin with Hans Mayer, Richard Roe, and John Doe.

“Funny old dude, though,” Anthony laughed. “Very old school, you know. Real polite, called me

Mr. Ruggiero like I was the mayor or something. Not real chatty, though, and he’d wear his

uniform home – most of us like to change the end of the day, but he never even came into the staff

locker room.”

“Anybody on staff particularly friendly with Mr. Perez?” Malone asked.

“Naw, not really. Everybody liked him OK, except Rashim.”

“Rashim?”

“Yeah, he works day shift, too. He and Juan had a little tiff one day – one of the guests, some

numb-nuts, dropped his Rolex in the lobby john, and Juan and Rashim went in for the rescue

operation. Rashim says Juan suddenly pulled rank, which he didn’t have anyway, cause Rashim’s

been here two years now. Juan wouldn’t reach into the crapper, which shoulda been no big deal for

him cause he was up to his mustache in terlets every day, was a whiz when it came to plumbing.

Told Rashim he needed to fish the thing out, got real insistent about it. Which Rashim made into

some big racial thing, you know? Which was bullshit, cause he was always askin’ about Mrs.

Cleveland’s grandkids.”

Anthony snapped his fingers. “An’ you know what? I don’t think Juan was real crazy about the

cops, neither. He’d always kinda hang back whenever security was on the floor, and one time,

when Tiny – he’s one of the security guys – was trying to get some from one of the working girls

he’d caught hustling in the lobby bar, Juan called him some name under his breath. Geez, what was

it. Yeah, mah-gear-doh or somethin’, which must be Spanish for lowlife perv, huh?”

“Thanks, Mr. Ruggiero,” Malone said dismissively. “That oughtta be about it for now.”

Anthony sagged with relief. “Yeah, sure. Anything to help.” He glanced anxiously at Elena

Bunuelo, flanked by Scully and Engler. “And you guys won’t…”

“Bye, Anthony,” Mulder said. “You have a nice day now.”

The bellman barked sourly. “Yeah. It’s off to a freakin’ great start.”

**

“What are we doing here?” Malone sighed as Mulder studied the infamous mezzanine stall. “I

usually prefer to come alone, and without the female company, nothing personal, Agent Scully.”

“Besides, Mulder, the stall door’s been taken to the CSI lab,” Scully noted, perched on the edge of

the sink. “They haven’t been able to bring out any trace of the number Morsberg claims to have

seen. Certainly, any other possible trace evidence was collected weeks ago.”

Mulder peered into the blue sanitized water below, as if seeking a vision. “I just thought it might be

useful to revisit the crime scene, get some sense of what Morsberg might have seen, what our

kidnaper might have been thinking. That’s what I get the big profiler bucks for, you know. Oh,

shit.”

“Brilliant discovery,” Malone muttered. “I coulda told you that.”

“No,” Mulder sulked. “I dropped my pen. The good one, Scully – the ten-year one from the

Bureau.”

Scully frowned. “Why in the world did you bring that along?”

“Jesus, and I just bought this suit. I don’t want to get it wet…”

She sighed and crossed the tile. “Good thing we didn’t need to wipe your backside, too, Mulder.

Step aside, G-Man.”

Malone sighed again. “Christ. I’ll get it, OK? Wouldn’t want the king of the profilers to get Tidy

Bowl on his off-the-rack special.” The missing persons specialist removed his jacket, hooked it on

the next stall door, and rolled up his right sleeve. Mulder patted Malone on the shoulder as he

began to kneel.

“That won’t be necessary, Agent Malone,” Mulder informed him, displaying his Bureau-supplied

Bic Ultra-Fine. “See that, Scully?”

“What?” Malone snapped, snatching his jacket from the adjoining stall.

“I have to concur with Agent Malone, Mulder,” Scully said. “What?”

“I’ve got your number,” Mulder sang. “Just what you’re loo-king for!”

“He starts doing show tunes,” Malone warned Scully, “and I shoot him.”

The National Library of the Holocaust

New York

2:13 p.m.

“You’re a little out of my cultural context here,” Kenneth Ungar told Mulder, folding his hands

over his stomach as he leaned back among the volumes of Judaica, under a grainy, blown-up photo

of the liberation of Auschwitz. Scully could scarcely tear her eyes away from the horror of the

camp’s cadaverish inmates, blinking into the light of a new day they thought they might never see.

Ungar had provided some valuable insights into Jewish folklore during an investigation involving

the Hassidim years ago. He had leapt at the opportunity to again assist the agent, who had what he

considered a Talmudic sense of logic and justice.

“I know,” Mulder said. “But I need to know about tattoos.”

Ungar adjusted the embroidered yarmulke resting on the back of his bare scalp, smiling grimly.

“The camp tattoos. The ultimate dehumanization, objectification. Well, as you may or may not

know, the SS sorted its prisoners into two groups: those immediately killed in the gas chambers,

and those to be put to work in the forced labor camps. After their heads were shaved and their

personal possessions removed, the surviving prisoners were officially ‘registered.’

“Beginning in 1941, this registration consisted of a tattoo placed on the left breast of the prisoner.

Later, the Nazis placed the tattoo on the inner forearm.”

Scully exhaled. Now, she understood Mulder’s restroom demonstration. “Perez” had not wanted to

reveal his tattoo, his disfigurement, to his coworker.

“Jewish prisoners weren’t the only ones marked — all prisoners other than ethnic Germans and

police prisoners were tattooed.” Ungar glanced silently out a side window for a moment, as if

reflecting on the incomprehensibility of it all. “Most people believe all Holocaust prisoners were

given tattoos, but after 1941, only the prisoners of Auschwitz were branded this way.”

Mulder leaned forward. “And there was a system, a code, to the registration process. Right?”

“Yes – the monsters were nothing if not efficient. The numbering scheme was divided into what

was called the ‘regular series,’ with each group of prisoners eventually branded with a different

identifying prefix. Jews eventually were tattoed with the letters A or B. The AU series indicated

Soviet prisoners of war. The identification EH denoted trouble prisoners, those who refused to

work in the camps or acted up and who were sent for ‘re-education,’ or erziehungshaftlinge.”

“And the letter Z,” Mulder inquired.

“Ah, yes, the Ziguener – next to the Jews, perhaps the most despised of the Nazis’ ‘enemies.’”

Ungar turned to Scully. “The Ziguener were the gypsies, the Romany peoples that roamed Eastern

Europe, Asia, even the British Isles. Many of the rom were rounded up with the Poles, and they

were given their own ‘special’ brand – the letter Z.”

Scully looked to Mulder, who nodded slowly as if a theory had been confirmed.

“One other thing,” Ungar added. “Women were registered under a separate system than their

husbands and brothers. Anyone bearing a Z series tattoo was a male prisoner.”

Mulder leaned forward. “Ken, could we trace one of these tattoos? How hard would that be?”

“My God,” Ungar murmured. “I don’t know, Fox. There are some detailed records – ‘death books’

– for the Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Gross Rosen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen camps –

maintained in Arolsen, Germany. But those documents have been released gradually over the years,

and some of the information is sketchy. I don’t know how quickly you could turn around an

individual request with the International Tracing Service.” The scholar paused. “This survivor, this

Gypsy – what has he done?”

“If we’re right, what was done to him,” Mulder said. “More than 60 years after his imprisonment,

he’s taking his revenge on those who in his mind are robbing us of our identity and individuality.

Somehow, he’s stealing their memories, their lives, just as the victims of the Holocaust were

stripped of their identities, their families, their dignity. Just as the victims of the SS were loaded

into boxcars and shipped off to the camps, he’s dislocating his victims.”

Ungar closed his eyes and scratched his temple. “It never ends, the cycle of devastation and tragedy

those madmen set in motion. Victims become predators.” His eyes opened. “I’ll see if I can help

you get the wheels rolling with the ITS – I have connections there who owe me.”

“Thanks, Ken.” Mulder rose. “Just one last thing. You told me you knew a little Polish, right?”

“They suffered in the camps with us – the language of persecution has become universal to me.”

“Magerdo. That mean anything?”

Ungar laughed darkly. “Magerd’o. It’s Polish Rom. It means stained, unclean. Unfortunately, my

friend, the language of loathing and self-loathing also is universal.”

**

They’d discovered their special connection, their shared fate, about four years ago, when the boy

paid one of his nearly daily visits. He’d been working on the U-joint beneath the sink, and,

forgetfully – the mind slips with advanced age – he answered the boy’s familiar call in his

undershirt, what the young animals called a wife-beater. The punks – he’d been guilty of many sins

– too many to count, when the time came – but he had never raised his hand to a woman.

The simple and curious boy had asked about the tattoo. Years ago, he’d thought of removing it – it

threatened the new life he’d brought to this new land nearly 50 years ago. But aside from some of

the sly old ways he had inherited from his now extinct kumpa’nia – according to some educational

TV show he’d watched one night, more than a half-million Roma were slaughtered in Hitler’s

purge – the faded blue Z was the last remnant of his proud Rom heritage.

After a moment of panic, he realized his days in this world were few and that he could live perhaps

a few years longer through this friendly and inquisitive young man. He told him the story – well,

most of it – and to his initial dismay, the boy wept. He was touched by his young friend’s

sensitivity, so rare in the children today, and was astonished to discover their common bond.

The boy himself had had his identity ripped away – no less traumatically, but with no possibility of

ever retrieving it. A car crash, the doctors had theorized after repairing the boy’s extensive injuries.

Months in Bellevue – surely a foretaste of hell – failed to restore the boy’s memory or surface any

parent or sibling. An act of kindness, or what had appeared to be, had supplied him a home, bread

on the table, honest work, a family of sorts. But what had been taken – by God, an 18-wheeler,

whatever cruel force out there – could not be returned, and the boy felt an instant kinship with the

old gypsy.

The boy began to return in the evenings, and they had long talks – about the outrages of everyday

life, about the way of the modern world, about the storm troopers of the SS who marched in jack

boots and the modern-day Nazis who trod the Earth in Florscheims and Thom McAns, stealing the

dignity and identity of all around them.

At the same time, he began to see what was in the boy – his gift. The boy would talk of the people

who had crossed his threshold each day, revealing details they could not possibly have offered up

consciously. While his slate was clean – or perhaps because of it — he seemed to absorb bits of

memory, harmless pieces of information, from those he’d encountered.

One day, he’d ventured out into the wild streets, visited the boy, watched him toil, watched him

relate easily and cheerfully with those around him. Then, as he watched them leave, one by one,

with frowns of confusion, absent retrieval of coats and cases nearly forgotten, it hit him. And he

knew it was baxt – fate, karma.

He, too, had been a talented boy, as his captors had discovered. He knew things, he caused mischief

in the camp, he traveled occasionally beyond the barbed fences of his Hell. The guards grew wary

of the young Rom whose parents and uncles and aunts had been shot before his terrified eyes, and

he nearly met his fate in the ovens.

However, word had spread, and, one day, he was whisked from the camp to what had been a

sanitarium near Dusseldorf prior to the madness of the Reich. A barrage of questions, tests, curious

examinations followed, all performed by an educated young man only a few years his senior.

Strughold had a deceptively calm and disarming manner, speaking in low tones, proffering small

treats and privileges when the questions became intense or the tests arduous.

Most of the tests involved identifying shapes printed on cards sealed inside thick envelopes,

attempting to describe people and places in other rooms within the hospital, making Strughold and

his silent “assistants” see things that did not exist to the human eye. Strughold was very interested

in his family’s history – especially in the “gypsy tricks” of his grandparents and parents. The

German talked of curses and science in the same breath, as if he shared the Romany understanding

that both were woven into the same fabric of this world.

When the bombs fell and the soldiers came to end the tests, he never learned of Strughold’s fate.

He traveled to America – the clan was dead or scattered, the opportunities reportedly rich across the

sea – and assumed a new name, a new faith, and a new life in New York. It had admittedly been a

fairly satisfying new life – he had applied his energy at first toward the larceny of his tribe and then

toward hard, diligent work.

And now, as the last of his tragic, triumphant, twisted life drew to a close, karma, baxt had

delivered a chance at immortality, a chance to right an insane world, literally to his doorstep.

Stein’s Uptown Deli

4:14 p.m.

“All right,” Scully said, fanning her matzo ball soup. “We’re looking for an at-least 80-year-old

gypsy who in all likelihood assumed a new identity when he came to the U.S. The horrors of the

concentration camps weren’t fully known to Americans until well after the war ended, so I doubt

any Ellis Island records would especially mention the Z series tattoo. As a gypsy–”

“Romany,” Mulder corrected through a mouthful of his mountainous corned beef sandwich.

“Gypsy’s actually a derogatory term. And given the prevailing attitude toward the Rom on both

sides of the ocean at that time, my guess is you’re right about his concealing his identity. Too bad

the hotel doesn’t issue photo IDs – would’ve made things a lot simpler. Ah, well – maybe Malone’s

sketch guy can be of some help.”

After interviewing a half-dozen employees who’d worked closely with “Perez” (“Racist old spic,”

Rashim had recalled), Mulder had suddenly announced a time out. The neighborhood around the

Continentale had largely given way to high-rise condos, and Stein’s was one of the last family-

owned, non-organic, non-fusion, non-dietarily correct restaurants within blocks. The small crowd

of senior early-birders and schmoozers was beginning to swell as the first wave of 8-to-4ers

clocked out.

Scully glumly sipped at her chicken broth. “So this is all about revenge, retribution? After more

than 60 years, Mulder?”

“Something tripped our man’s trigger, and I have a half-assed guess what it might be. Profiling

101, Scully: Look at the first victim.”

“Turealt. The prison clerk? You think our man served some time at Riker’s.”

Mulder shook his head. “Like a lot of families fragmented by Hitler’s purge, our guy’s tribe, clan,

whatever, may have filtered into the U.S. gradually, over the years. Maybe our undercover Rom

kept track of some of his ‘family,’ and maybe some of his family pursued the ways we associate

with his culture. I asked Malone to check any prison deaths involving Rom convicts over the last

five or six years. That could have been the catalyst – a beloved family member killed in

confinement, under the watch of a government the Rom have never trusted. From there, he became

a man on a mission.”

“This assumes Tureault was the first victim,” Scully noted. “If our man…”

Mulder looked up as his partner trailed off with a polite smile. A tall redheaded young man hefted a

pitcher of water.

“You guys need a fill-up?” he asked, grinning amiably. The voice was flavored with corn more

than corned beef – perhaps one more small-town boy who’d sought the bright lights of Broadway.

“Sure,” Mulder murmured. As the waiter replenished his water, the agent frowned and glanced at

the menu board behind the counter. “Hey, you guys serve breakfast?”

The boy nodded eagerly. “Mr. Stein makes the best corned beef hash in town. Got lox and bagels,

cheese omelet. No bacon or nothing – we’re kosher – but we get a pretty good crowd.”

“Can I ask your name?”

The grin vanished momentarily, then returned. “I’m Adam.”

Mulder reached into his jacket and pulled out the photo Malone had supplied. “Adam, could you

tell me if you’ve ever seen this man before?”

The young man squinted at Cedric Morsberg’s portrait. “He looks awful familiar. You think he was

in here at breakfast time?”

“Maybe,” Mulder suggested. “This man left the Continentale kind of suddenly about three weeks

ago, in the middle of a convention. It was mid-morning – maybe he stepped out for some of that

corned beef hash or a bagel.”

“Gee, like I said, we get a pretty big crowd in the mornings. I just can’t remember.”

“No. 12!” a gruff voice called as a platter rang on the stainless steel cafeteria counter. A stout man

with a florid expression arched his thick brows. “Hey, Adam, pastrami won’t slice itself, you

know?”

The waiter beamed sheepishly at Mulder and Scully. “Gotta go. Coming, Mr. Stein!”

“I suppose it’s possible,” Scully considered as Adam retreated. “I know those seminars are pretty

deadly if you don’t take an occasional break.” She picked up her spoon, then placed it back on the

table. “Mulder. Smoked salmon. Lox. Maybe Barry wasn’t delivering seafood to the Continentale.

Could he have targeted Morsberg here, maybe overpowered him outside?”

Mulder leaned back, his corned beef forgotten. “Turealt was running errands in Manhattan.

Banbridge disappeared during her lunch break, and I remember seeing a DMV branch a few blocks

away. If Congressman Mowery wanted a little nosh after his, well, big nosh, he wouldn’t have

wanted to be seen at the Continentale, would he? I think you’re right, Scully – this may be where

Barry hunted his prey.”

“Not to take away from my being right for a change, but what is Barry’s connection to our

mysterious Rom? There were three victims – at least – before our suspect went to work at the

Continentale, presumably to target Mowery and Mosberg. Did Barry join forces with the Unknown

Gypsy at some point along the way? Except you connected Turealt to the Rom, not Barry, didn’t

you?”

“Eat your soup, Scully,” Mulder ordered.

**

He waited by the door after buzzing his young friend up. As he grew older, he economized on

activity as much as on groceries. He pulled open the door as he heard the sneakered feet pad down

the hall.

The boy proffered the parcel, and Marxmann accepted it, placing it on an end table. He gestured

toward an overstuffed chair where a glass of iced tea awaited.

“I can’t stay today,” the young man said politely. “I just wanted to tell you something.”

An instinctive alarm went off in the old Rom’s head. “Sit. Talk to me.”

His guest remained standing. “I just wanted to let you know how much your friendship’s meant to

me over the years. It’s really helped me feel like I haven’t been, you know, alone.”

“I’ve enjoyed your companionship, as well,” he replied with an uncertain smile. “What, are you

going somewhere? I thought we had important work to do.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” the boy assured him. “But I think your work is done.”

He staggered slightly, bumping into his chair. “What do you mean? They need to know.”

“The stories you’ve told me. The pain you’ve gone through. It’s enough. I’ll carry on. I promise.”

“Wait, just wait. Let me get you some tea, and we can talk about it.” He turned toward the kitchen.

Suddenly, he felt the warmth of his friend’s hand on his sloped shoulder, and realization sank in.

“No,” he whispered.

“Yes,” a loving voice responded, and the pain disappeared.

**

“May have your guy,” Malone said as he intercepted his colleagues in the Continentale’s lobby. “I

thought about Ruggiero’s comment about ‘Perez’ being a whiz at toilets, and I called the district

Plumbers and Steamfitters’ pension department. A few of the old-timers are still around, and they

recalled a guy from around this neighborhood who retired maybe 20 years ago. Claus Marxmann —

came to New York after WWII, apprenticed for a few years and put out his own shingle. Kicker is,

our witness remembers a tattoo on Marxmann’s arm. Never knew what it meant, never asked.”

“Probably never really wanted to know,” Mulder guessed. “I don’t suppose this guy would know if

it was a Z series tattoo?”

Malone arched an eyebrow.

“You have an address?” Scully sighed.

**

After working the call button for several minutes, the agents flashed a warrant at the building super

and ascended the stairs toward Claus Marxmann’s second floor apartment.

“Can’t understand it,” the super grunted. “Old Claus hardly ever goes out. Jesus, hope he ain’t

kicked. Takes a tankerful of chlorine and ammonia to get the death smell out, especially if they let

loose when they go. You know? Well, here we are.”

Malone tried an initial courtesy knock. To his surprise, the door quickly swung open, and a bleary-

eyed old man stared out at the quartet in the corridor. “Hello?”

“Claus Marxmann?” Mulder asked.

The old man, wrapped in an oversized cardigan and corduroys, nodded and smiled contritely. “I

don’t know where he is. Is this his home?’

Scully nudged Mulder aside and looked into the man’s face. “What is your name, sir?”

“My,” he sighed. “I don’t believe I know.”

Scully looked to Mulder. “May we come in, please?”

“I suppose so,” he said politely with a European accent, stepping aside. Scully took his arm and led

him to a couch. The room was tidy and spare — the furnishings were nice, evidence of a reasonably

prosperous life, but the walls were bare. Malone headed down a hall beyond the living room.

“Sir,” Mulder spoke. “May I see your arm, please. Your right arm?”

“My arm.” The man seemed amused by the request. “Well, certainly.” He rolled up his cardigan

sleeve, then the sleeve of his chambray work shirt. Faded blue ink appeared in the form of a Z.

“What do you remember, sir?” Mulder asked.

Marxmann leaned back against the cushion and studied the plaster ceiling. “Well, now. I had my

lunch. Then you and your friends came to call. That’s it, I suppose.”

Mulder nodded and rose. He found the kitchen and rooted in a garbage can under the sink. The sole

content was a crumpled brown bag, which Mulder carefully poked open. The smell of vinegar and

garlic wafted up from a smaller wax paper bag.

“Scully,” he breathed, mind whirling. “You and Malone take care of Mr. Marxmann. I’ll be back.”

“Where are you going?”

“Gotta see a man about a kosher dill,” Mulder informed her as the apartment door closed.

**

Like the old movie cliché, it was quiet. Too quiet. Mulder knew something was wrong as he

entered Stein’s Uptown Deli and the tinkling bell was all he heard.

A dozen heads turned from the scattered tables, from the front counter. Their faces bore identical

expressions of blank semi-interest. Their eyes were wide, unfocused, and vaguely frightened.

Mulder recognized one of the deli’s odd inhabitants. He wore a stained white apron and blinked

vacantly.

“What’s your name, sir?” Mulder ventured, his throat dry and tight.

Stein stared at Mulder for a full five seconds, then glanced at a ticket in his hand. “Number 23?”

The agent’s heart began to pound even as the irony hit home. He turned to a young blonde in

leotards and a Knicks cap. “What’s your name?”

The blonde opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

“Anybody,” Mulder called out. “Tell me your name. Anything.”

The customers mutely regarded each other and Mulder. “Sorry,” an obese old man whispered.

Mulder rushed to the glass door, searched for a lock, then shoved a table in front of it. Treat it like a

disease, he told himself – isolate and quarantine, then call Scully and 911.

“Adam!” he shouted. “Adam! You have to stop this. These people, they’re innocent.”

“I’m not trying to hurt them.” The redheaded boy stepped from behind the counter, patting Stein on

the arm. “I’ve freed them.

“Freed?” Mulder laughed despite himself.

“They’re free of all the pain and guilt their memories bring them every day,” Adam “Stein”

explained calmly. “Every terrible, shameful thing they’ve done, everything that’s been done to

them.”

“Like you freed Mr. Marxmann?” Mulder inquired, perching on the edge of a table to put the boy at

ease. His hand nonetheless hovered near his holster. “You wanted him to forget, to be able to

forget, what the Nazis did to him and his family. That’s what you two wanted to do, wasn’t it?

Punish those who reduce human beings to numbers, to casefiles, who would erase man’s

individuality.”

“That’s what he wanted, Mr. Marxmann,” Adam murmured, regretfully. “I think John just wanted

to make some kind of point. He was always awful pissed off. Oh. I’m sorry, sir.”

Mulder suppressed a smile at the absurdity of the memory thief’s apology. “But you needed him –

you and Mr. Marxmann.”

“John was our regular fish guy, and we’d talk a lot while I was helping him unload the truck,”

Adam said. “One day, it just kind of spilled out that I was an amnesiac. He said not to let it get me

down, that it meant I was free from all the hang-ups the world piles on us in the form of memories.

That’s from the website he was going to start. Anyway, he told me not to tell anybody, but he’d had

total memory loss, too, years ago. See, he couldn’t get a CDL – trucker’s license – if they knew he

was a New Lifer.” Adam shook his head sadly. “It isn’t like he can’t learn to drive, right?”

“Right. So you two got to be buddies. Who said whose memories you were supposed to wipe out?”

Adam looked hurt. “That’s kind of a cold way to put it. But I guess you aren’t wrong. I started

telling Mr. Marxmann about the people who’d come in each day. Folks like to talk to me, and I just

seem to know about them, you know, mentally. Mr. Marxmann said Mr. Turealt made a living

taking away people’s names, sticking them in boxes like the Nazis stuck him in that concentration

camp.”

So it had started as a personal vendetta for “Marxmann.” “And Dorothy Banbridge, people were

just pictures on a driver’s license to her.”

“They couldn’t help it,” Adam noted. “It’s what’s happened to us, to society. We didn’t hate ‘em or

anything. Well, maybe John did, a little. Especially that congressman guy. John called him the New

Age Hitler and the scientist guy, Morsberg, Dr. Mengele Jr. Didn’t know who that was until I

Googled him at the library. Actually, the guy seemed kinda nice.”

“Adam,” Mulder interrupted, gently. “Barry’s gone now.”

The boy’s face drained. “John? No. God. What happened.”

The agent had decided on a shock approach. “He tried to kill us, my partner and I.”

“And you killed him,” Adam mumbled incredulously. “You going to kill me?”

The last was a challenge rather than a concern. “No, Adam. But you know this has to end. That’s

why you freed Mr. Marxmann.”

“I freed Mr. Marxmann because of his pain, but also because he was wrong. So was John. This

isn’t about getting even. This is about fixing things. Things have gotten too fu–, sorry, too screwed

up because of our memories. People can’t forget about what’s been done to them, forget about their

prejudices. History just reminds us who we hate and why. Look at these people – free of their pain,

free of what they’re supposed to think, what they’re supposed to feel. We want to help people

forget.”

Mulder was silent for a moment. “We, Adam?”

Adam smiled — to Mulder, like some fresh-faced icon of a mad religion. “I’m not special, Mr….

Gee, sir, I don’t know you’re name.”

“Fox.”

“Weird. No, I’m not special or anything, Fox. I’ve got a talent, I guess – maybe ‘cause I’ve got

such a big hole in my memory, I take in other folks’ memories like a sponge. But it’s something I

can teach other people like me to do. I taught John. It just takes practice and concentration.”

Mulder’s hand twitched near his gun, and his eyes darted at the dehumanized shells around him.

“How many others have you taught, Adam?”

“None yet – that’s what John’s website’s for. We’re going to help train New Lifers to give New

Life to others.” Adam frowned. “Guess I’ll have to learn a little web authoring, now that John’s

gone.”

“I’m sorry, Adam,” Mulder said, getting to his feet and fishing for his cell phone. “You’re going to

have to come along with me, OK?”

Adam stared at the agent for a moment and moved forward. “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?

It’s like John said – you’re afraid of us. You shouldn’t be, really.”

“Adam, move back,” Mulder said, punching Scully’s pre-programmed number, pushing his jacket

back to reveal his weapon.

“You’ve probably killed a lot of people, haven’t you?” Adam asked softly. His eyes filled with

sympathy. “You’ve seen a lot of dead people, a lot of evil things, haven’t you? The memories,

they’ve just got to eat at your soul.”

“Adam, don’t.” The gun came out, but it hung at Mulder’s side as Adam’s inquiry seemingly

summoned thoughts of Samantha, of Mom, of the trail of death and tragedy that had dogged his

search for The Truth. The ghosts lingered perpetually at the threshold of Mulder’s conscious.

“Let me help you, Fox,” Adam smiled, his eyes filling even as Mulder’s blurred. As the boy

reached for Mulder, the gun came up…

**

“Hard to picture this guy masterminding a game of canasta, much less a cross-country crime

spree.” Malone shook his head as he regarded “Marxmann,” who now was being escorted from the

apartment by a crew from Bellevue. He looked all of his eighty-plus years, and looked

bewilderedly from one paramedic to another. “Guy was a plumber, you say?”

Scully glanced up from the couch. Mulder’s abrupt departure had concerned her. “We’re hoping

Interpol can help expedite the search for this man’s real identity. You saw that tattoo on his arm?”

“Holocaust survivor,” Malone grunted. “We had a case. So I guess this is it, huh? Barry’s dead,

Marxmann’s a vegetable. We ever gonna know how they pulled it off, what they did to the

congressman, those others?”

We may know, but you’ll believe what you will, Scully reflected. “Those mementoes we found in

the bedroom – Herrera’s watch, Mowery’s Capitol ID, and the rest – could provide a lead. Maybe

we’ll find some latents. Marxmann almost had to have had an accomplice beyond Barry.”

Malone was about to respond when Scully’s cell phone sounded. She whipped it open. “Scully.

Hello?” She consulted the number on the small display screen. “Mulder?”

“…Let me help you, Fox…” The voice was faint, but familiar.

“What?” Malone asked. Scully hushed him.

“…get rid of all that pain, all those memories…” Where had she heard that voice? Young,

solicitous, sympathetic…

Even Malone heard the screams that erupted suddenly over the line, and Scully suddenly

remembered.

**

The first thing they spotted were the faces in the window of Stein’s Uptown Deli – staring, empty

faces, similar to the countenances in the photo Scully had seen at the Holocaust library.

clip_image008

“What the–?” Malone murmured, sidearm primed. A crowd was forming behind the blockade the

NYPD had set up several storefronts away, but the agents had specifically requested no sirens or

flashers. He’d been prepared for a by-the-books hostage situation, but the people at the window

appeared merely lost, out of focus. “Hey, Scully, what the hell are you doing?”

Scully had rushed the deli entrance, disregarding the potential risks. The door was unlocked, and to

Malone’s astonishment, no gunfire greeted her.

He was seated at the table nearest the counter, his gun on the formica before him, his cell phone

broken on the tile floor. He looked up blankly as Scully slowly advanced.

“Mulder?” she asked, yanking a chair over to her partner.

He blinked. “What?”

Scully struggled to breathe. “Oh, Jesus, Mulder.”

Mulder sighed. “He’s back there, Scully,” he said, wearily, waving toward the counter. Scully

slumped in relief.

“What happened, Mulder?” she asked, squeezing his hand. Malone hefted his weapon and edged

around the deli counter.

“Shit, Mulder, what did you do?” the older agent drawled. Scully stared briefly into Mulder’s eyes,

then joined Malone.

He was in the corner, curled into a fetal crouch. Adam’s eyes were wide and filled with horror, his

lips quivering, his red hair sharply contrasted against his ghastly white pallor.

“Just keep him away,” the boy rasped, hugging the wall. “Fucking keep him away from me.”

Scully stared questioningly over the counter. Mulder’s face was buried in his hand. She left the

traumatized boy to Malone.

Mulder looked up as she approached.

“He got into my head,” he said, almost inaudibly.

“How did you–?”

Mulder closed his eyes. “He found something.”

Staten Island, New York

5:17 a.m.

Gwen Turealt started at the rustling in the guest room next door. She glanced blearily at the digital

readout on the bedside clock.

Jeff had moved into the room next door shortly after his return from the hospital — it was too

uncomfortable, somehow unseemingly for them to share a bed. Jeff normally slept like the dead,

with no memories to generate the fodder of nightmares, and she climbed out of bed to check on

him.

Her husband stood by his rumpled bed, fully dressed in the Corrections Department uniform she

had been unable to throw away. Jeff smirked as he spotted her.

“I come home wasted last night?” he asked. “Sorry. You go back to bed — I’ll get the coffee on.”

What the fuck?, Jeff thought as his now-slender wife threw her arms about his neck.

Miami, Florida

8 a.m.

Dorothy Banbridge’s fingers froze as they shaped the cheekbones of her latest golem. She’d had an

order for five more, and the apartment resembled a cocktail party in Rod Serling Land.

Had I cleaned the litter boxes?, she thought.

You have no cats, she responded.

“Oh, shit,” the artist murmured, returning to her work.

Philadelphia Police Homicide Division

Philadelphia, Pa.

Three weeks later

In May 1999, Philadelphia Homicide Det. Will Jeffries placed a standard cardboard document box

on a metal shelf in a basement room of the PPD’s police headquarters. The box was inscribed

respectfully but simply with the name Briese and the legend 5-17-99, the date Robbie Briese

effectively was laid to rest.

No one ever determined who had slit Robert Arnold Briese’s throat and left him buried shallowly

in a thicket on the city’s outskirts. Truth to tell, despite the headlines that had followed the teen’s

disappearance and subsequent discovery, the case quickly went cold.

It took an exhaustive, nationwide search of national medical and dental databases to thaw out the

Briese case. In the end, a very unique crown led FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully

to Philadelphia. Robbie Briese’s medical records then led the agents and the PPD’s Cold Case

Squad to Ron and Sharon Briese.

Robbie had sustained a few major injuries in the collision outside Brooklyn. The pickup driver with

whom he had hitchhiked had been killed instantly, and the teen awoke in post-op with no memory

and no identity. An AP story syndicated across the U.S. failed to yield the boy’s ostensibly frantic

parents, but a Manhattan delicatessen owner reading of Robbie’s potentially indefinite confinement

in the Bellevue psych ward offered him a job, an apartment above his restaurant, and a seat at his

family table. Max and Betty Stein looked to the Book of Genesis for a name for this fresh-faced,

memory-less, sinless “new” man.

“You definitively identified that body as your son’s,” Jeffries said gently from his perch on the

interview table. Sharon’s fingers were wrapped tightly around her husband’s, and the large cop

noticed Ron’s knuckles turn white under her sudden pressure. “That wasn’t your son; that wasn’t

Robbie, was it?”

“We were confused,” Ron managed. “We were grief-stricken.”

“Too grief-stricken to notice the body in the woods didn’t have a missing fingertip on the right

hand?” Jeffries prodded. “I would think you’d have looked for any indication that your son might

not be dead.”

“How did he lose that fingertip, Mr. Briese?” Det. Lilly Rush asked. The insurance agent glanced

sharply up at the blonde cop.

“He was playing with my power tools one day,” Ron rasped. “You know eight-year-olds.”

“Robbie was quite an active boy, wasn’t he?” Jeffries smiled serenely. That was when he was most

dangerous. “The doctors in New York found at least a dozen old injuries – broken bones, a cracked

vertebra, joint trauma.”

“You said he was in an accident,” Sharon protested.

“These injuries dated back to early childhood,” Lilly reported. “A behavior problem, your son?”

“He was always a handful,” his mother murmured.

“Sharon,” Ron cautioned.

“They said it was a ‘learning disability,’” she continued, her voice rising. “He was wrong, just

wrong, from the beginning. The way he tormented his classmates, the way he looked at us. Take

your hands off me, Ronald.”

Ron Briese withdrew his hand and stared at his wife in abject misery. “I think we’ll want to get an

attorney now.”

“I wonder whether it was the accident, the abuse, or just something in his genetic makeup,” Scully

pondered on the other side of the two-way glass. “No wonder he wanted to forget, to remake

himself into Adam.”

“They were both victims,” Mulder muttered. “Marxmann left his identity in a black hole in

Germany, Adam – Robbie – on a New York highway. But they couldn’t leave their horrors behind.

Whatever they lost, that stayed with them.”

Mulder had tried to see Adam at Bellevue, but the mere mention of the agent’s name had sent him

into a catatonic state. Scully knew Mulder now was thinking not about the darkness within the

Holocaust survivor or the abused boy, but about the secret place in his own head where

otherwordly horrors might lurk.

She wanted to reassure Mulder, let him know that whatever had been buried within him wasn’t an

intrinsic, organic piece of Mulder, that together they’d root it out and destroy it, wipe it from

memory and make new memories.

“Let’s go home, Mulder,” Scully said.

end

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