Category Archives: Season 13

At Last

at last

AT LAST

AUTHOR: Traveler
RATING: PG-13 for language, mild violence.
CATEGORY.: Casefile
DISCLAIMER: Characters from The X-Files are property of FOX and 1013, I just borrowed them to fulfill a fantasy. No infringement intended…besides they don’t seem to have any use for them anymore.
SPOILERS: None that we know of.
SUMMARY: A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned to ask…How would Mulder look in a fedora?

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At last my love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song

Mack Gordon

CRADDOCK MARINE BANK

12:21 PM

Scully remembered the last time the two of them had been in a branch of this bank. The

desperate young man decked out in explosives and the young woman who had somehow

found herself between a bullet and Mulder. This was Craddock’s main office here in

D.C., a huge stately building built back in the thirties, its façade and pillars covered in

aged pink granite. As she followed him across the polished floor, her eyes took in the

huge marble columns and beautiful woodwork of the interior of the banking

establishment. It reminded her of something in an old movie. “Doesn’t this place remind

you of something out of a noir detective story, Mulder?” Scully asked as he stopped at the

unoccupied front desk. “You could play the part of Philip Marlow

“Philip Marlow?” he asked, turning to look at her with that quirky grin on his face.

Scully gave him a swoon, “You know the movie last night, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren

Bacall…”

Mulder chuckled, he didn’t remember much of the movie last night, “You watch too

many of those old movies, Scully.”

“They’re the best ones.” She was glad for the uneasy truce they had reached since last

evening. For the time being Mulder seemed to have put their heated discussion behind

him. She still wasn’t sure why he had insisted they come here today. It was something

he’d obviously planned but in his usual manner hadn’t provided much of the details. There

was something about the place that made her feel uneasy. As if at any minute a band of

trench-coated, fedora-wearing thugs carrying sub-machine guns would invade the place.

She chuckled to herself, maybe Mulder was right, she had been watching too many old

movies lately.

“Fox Mulder,” a well-educated voice said to her right. She glanced over to catch Mulder

accepting the hand of an expensively tailored gentleman with slightly graying hair.

“John McKinley, guardian of the Mulder estate,” Mulder greeted him, shaking his hand

vigorously with a grin.

“Glad to see you finally got that cast off your arm. Now maybe you’ll let me try and beat

you at some round ball.”

“I hate to admit it,” he turned to catch Scully’s eye. “But right now, you probably could.”

“Well, come on back to my office, I’ve got everything all ready for you,” John said,

turning to lead the way with a grin that made him look younger than his graying hair.

Mulder motioned for Scully to precede him as they followed John through a passageway

behind a partial glass divider and into a large cubical. “This must be Dana,” he said

reaching over the desk to extend his hand to her as well. “Mulder’s told me all about you.

It’s about time someone got through to that heart of his.”

“Ssscully,” she caught the hesitation in Mulder’s voice as he winced at her. “John is my

financial advisor.” She shook John’s hand firmly. “John, Dana Scully, my…partner.”

Mulder made the introductions as if it pained him and then took a seat. Scully glanced

between the two men. John bit his lip as if momentarily judging what Mulder’s definition

of ‘partner’ might be and then ran his tongue across his lower lip as he motioned for

Scully to take the other seat. “I just need your signature on a few things here Dana and

then I hope this gentleman is going to buy you lunch,” he looked pointedly at Mulder.

“Maybe someone could tell me just what it is I’m putting my signature on…?” Scully

said, turning to Mulder.

Mulder looked to John and then turned to his partner. “John brought it to my attention

that some accounts I have here should have counter signatures on them.” When Scully

looked at him questioningly, he continued. “In case something should happen to me—

someone should have access to the funds.” Scully felt that uneasiness again as she took

the pen John offered her.

“EVERYBODY DOWN! DOWN ON THE FLOOR! NOW!”

The voice was loud enough to make all three of them jump. A few screams erupted from

customers, a child started to cry. “YOU ALL GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR AND NO

ONE GETS HURT!” The sound of booted footsteps echoed around the cavernous bank

building, a semi automatic was cocked. “I WANT THE DRAWERS EMPTIED.

THESE GENTLEMEN WILL ASSIST YOU. NO ALARMS OR EVERYONE DIES.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND!”

John got to his feet but Mulder, rising with him, instantly reached to grab his arm.

“Wait,” he insisted turning to Scully. “Get down! Under the desk!”

“Mulder, no,” she started to get up, reaching behind her for her Sig.

“Damn it, Scully, get down, use your cell, get the police in here now!” He practically

shoved her down behind the desk. By now both John and Mulder were visible over the

glass partition.

“YOU TWO, OUT HERE NOW! HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!”

As Mulder and John emerged from behind the partition, hands in the air, Mulder could

see at least a dozen people lying on the floor. A young mother held her daughter against

her side trying to quiet her. The man doing all the yelling was standing center stage

wearing a President Bush mask, holding a semi-automatic rifle. Three other Bush

imposters had vaulted over the counters and were collecting cash from the drawers.

There were sounds coming from the vault as well. It was all too eerily familiar to

Mulder.

“UP AGAINST THE WALL, HANDS ON THE GLASS!”

Mulder turned around to his right to face the glass partition, keeping his arms close to his

body so as not to expose his service weapon. John followed his lead and they both placed

their palms on the glass. The sweaty marks John’s palms made on the glass alerted

Mulder that the man was scared to death. “Just do what they say. Take it slow,” he said

in a low voice, trying to reassure his friend.

“SHUT UP! FACE THE WALL NOW!”

From where he stood, Mulder was looking right at Scully as she placed her cell on the

desk, obviously leaving the line open. He tried to mouth a “No” as he watched her

remove her gun and check the clip; finally resorting to a furious shake of his head when

she finally met his eyes. He refused to let her be the hero here.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”

The booming voice made Mulder jump. He hadn’t heard the group leader come up

behind him and now he too was looking right at Scully. She never hesitated, rushing

along the partition to plant herself in the doorway, gun raised in defiance. “F.B.I., drop

your weapon now!”

From the corner of his eye, Mulder saw the man raise his weapon; he had no choice now

but to act. Instinctively pushing John out of the way he made a leap for Scully. She

heard the man’s weapon discharge and felt an impact, felt herself hit the wall and then the

floor came up and everything went black.

MARGARET SCULLY’S RESIDENCE

24 HOURS EARLIER

Mulder walked into the kitchen in search of a beverage only to find Tara trying to stir

something on the stove and balance Claire on her hip at the same time. An act, he had

decided long ago only a mother could do. He stepped over to her and reached his hands

out to the toddler. “Here, I’ll take her.” Surprised at his offer Tara smiled and let Mulder

pull her daughter into his arms. She giggled when he made a silly face and the two of

them stepped over to the screen door to check out the back yard.

It was a melancholy memory for Tara, Bill doing much the same thing. For some reason

he had been closer to their daughter than to Matthew, making her think that maybe there

was something to that father-daughter, mother-son relationship thing after all. Mulder,

somewhat to her surprise, had taken on the “uncle” status of his own accord. Over the

summer he had become Matthew’s sports coach and Claire’s own personal pony.

Mulder’s connection to the Scully family for the most part hadn’t been a good one though

in all honesty, even she could acknowledge that was not entirely his fault. He and his life

were hard to understand but what she did know what that he loved Dana, and cared very

deeply for all of them. As she watched him making faces with Claire she couldn’t help

but think that somewhere inside this man of mystery, there lived a father trying to find his

way out. She finished up and put the lid back on the pot, crossing the kitchen to where

Mulder was standing playing some kind of guessing game with her daughter.

“A baby looks good on you, Mulder,” she said when she reached the pair.

“Excuse me?” Mulder looked somewhat astonished by her comment, setting Claire down

on the floor.

She smiled at him. “You’re really good with the kids, especially Matthew. I’ve never

gotten the chance to thank you.”

Mulder looked down and then out into the backyard. “You don’t have to thank me for

anything, Tara, they’re great kids.”

“You always find a way to make time to do things with them. You wouldn’t do that if it

didn’t mean something to you. Maybe you and Dana should think about having some of

your own.”

Growing increasingly uneasy with the conversation Mulder chuckled under his breath.

“I’m forty-four Tara; it was never in the cards.” He looked at her now somewhat

confused. “You know Dana can’t have children.”

“Well, don’t give up on the idea.” Tara said, reaching out to touch his arm. “You never

know what life may offer you. There are other options, Fox.”

Claire was starting to tug on Mulder’s leg. “Come with me…”

“But first you have to make an honorable woman out of her.” When Mulder met her eyes

she continued. “How many years did it take you to admit to her you loved her? Don’t

take that long to ask her to marry you.” She reached down to take Claire’s hand.

“Claire, what are you doing to your Uncle Fox?” Scully’s voice filled the kitchen

startling them both. Claire let go of Mulder and ran across the kitchen into her arms.

“Come on, lets find you a seat at the table,” Dana picked the child up giving them both at

pointed look as she turned and walked out of the room.

Tara met Mulder’s eyes again, “Besides, you’d make Maggie very happy, and she needs a

little happiness in her life now.”

MULDER & SCULLY’S RESIDENCE

LATER THAT EVENING

Maggie’s dinner had been a quick affair. She and Tara and Scully had talked over what

the kids were up to and Mulder had sat and contemplated his conversation with Tara in

silence. They had stayed for coffee and pie and then headed for home for a quiet evening

together.

“What are we watching?” Mulder asked as he settled in beside her on the couch and

handed her the bowl of popcorn.

“The Big Sleep,” she replied.

“Guaranteed to put me to sleep, that’s all there is?”

“Bogie and Bacall, Mulder, classic film Noir, I love these old detective stories; tall dark

handsome men in trench coats and fedora’s lurking about in dark alleys or driving classic

cars.”

“Is that what it takes to win you over, a trench coat and a fedora?”

“You’re assuming you’re already handsome?” The impish grin on her face made him

smile, “You’d look great in one of those you know.”

“Yeah, I’d look like Indiana Jones’ younger brother.”

They sat in compatible silence watching the film and munching on the dry popcorn. She

found it odd for him to be so silent; he usually ran commentary through just about every

movie they watched together. Something else was evidently on his mind and had been

for the better part of the day, ever since she’d found him talking to Tara in her mother’s

kitchen.

“So what were you and Tara talking about this afternoon?” It sounded nosey and she

knew it. He didn’t say anything at first, reaching over and taking a swig of his beer. She

watched as he seemed to contemplate the bottle before setting it down. “The kids, she

told me I looked good with a kid on my hip.”

The comment threw her for a loop; it certainly wasn’t what she’d been expecting him to

say. They had long ago dropped any conversations of regrets and lost children, moving

on with the life they shared together. Mulder caught her distress. “She — was just

thanking me for spending time with the kids. I told her I enjoyed it.”

Putting the popcorn bowl aside she studied his profile for a moment as he turned back to

the movie. She knew it was there, deep in her own subconscious; a fear that her

infertility was keeping him from something he wanted but would never admit. “I know

you do. I can see it every time we’re with them.” She leaned a little tighter against him.

“Mulder, you’ve never really told me if you wanted children of your own.”

“Mini-Mulders? Now there’s a scary thought,” he answered in jest. “We’ve had this

conversation before, Scully,” his voice a soft baritone in her ear. He wrapped his arm

around her back, resting it on the cushion behind her, his hand coming to rest on her

shoulder. “All I want is you.”

She wouldn’t look at him, her eyes drawn to the black and white images in their TV

screen. He breathed out, the gentle puff billowing strands of her hair. His left hand came

up to cup her chin and he gently turned her face towards his, “Scully, look at me.”

His eyes when she met them were dark in the dim light of their living room. She watched

him swallow. His hand still cupped her chin. “Marry me.”

Her lips parted. Of all the things she would have expected him to say to her at that

moment, that was the furthest from her mind. He’d said it to her before in innuendo, in

making other comments like picking out china patterns over the years but at that moment,

from the look he was giving her, she knew for the first time he was absolutely serious.

Taken aback by the suddenness of the proposal she had no idea how to respond to him.

“What?”

He dropped his hand and smiled at her. “I’m asking you to marry me. You know, be

Mrs. Fox Mulder,” his eyes danced with mirth. “Of course you could still be Dana

Scully, which would probably be better since it would be a little inconvenient if we called

each other ‘Mulder’. Come on, what do you say, make an honest man out of me?”

It hit her then in that last sentence what the conversation with Tara had been about. It

was a comment her mother had occasionally thrown at her but never held against her.

And for all the wrong reasons it hit a nerve. “Is that what this is about? Making me an

honest woman? Just what are you implying, Mulder?”

She watched the smile disappear from his face. “I’m not IMPLYING anything. I have no

doubt about your integrity. I just don’t want anyone else to think otherwise.”

Scooting back from him on the couch, she was now out of arm’s reach. “What brought

this on? We have a marriage in every sense of the word but the piece of paper that makes

it legal. Why is that suddenly so important to you? Why now?”

“What do you mean, why now? Why NOT now?” His defenses were going up and so

was his blood pressure. How had a simple question turned into a heated debate? “We’ve

been living together for two years; this courtship has lasted for what, twelve?” Gunfire

erupted on the television; he picked up the remote and turned the television off tossing it

onto the table with a satisfying whack. “I see how people look at us. For years we’ve

lived with the rumors and innuendos. We’ve been mistaken for a couple ten times over.

In the personal and professional sense I don’t know how to introduce you to anyone

anymore — partner, friend, lover, roommate…”

“We ARE all those things. The only thing ‘wife’ will change is that you won’t need

‘partner’ anymore Mulder. The F.B. I. doesn’t allow married couples to work together,

think about that. You of all people should understand the uniqueness of our situation.

Somehow we’re flying under the F.B.I. radar right now because even though we live

together we’re still working together. Don’t you see? As it is now, we have the best of

both worlds.”

He glared at her then, “I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life in the F.B. I., Scully.”

Truth was neither did she but this was the first time she’d heard him admit it about

himself. She scooted back toward him, trying to put together the words that would make

him understand that their partnership went much deeper than any marriage possibly

could. “Mulder, listen to me for a moment.” Reaching to touch him she watched as he

turned away and launched himself off the couch. “I’m not saying no.”

“Well that’s funny,” he sneered as he turned back to face her. “Cause I sure haven’t heard

you say yes either.”

She closed her eyes and let out a breath of frustration. Opening them again she begged

him with her eyes, “How do I make you see that what we have here together is enough?

Somehow out of the ashes of our lives we’ve built a home here together. It’s made me

very happy. Are you telling me that you don’t feel the same way? How is our

relationship different from a marriage?”

“There’s no Mister or Misses in this relationship Scully, that’s what makes it different.

Legally we’re nothing more to each other than good friends.”

“That’s it? Good friends?”

He closed his eyes, let the sigh escape and then opened them again. “No — look, I’m

sorry,” he rubbed his hand across his forehead, for a moment she thought she saw it

shaking. “Forget I even started this conversation. I’m tired and I have a splitting

headache, I’m going to bed.”

With his recent history, she worried every time he complained of a headache. She was

suddenly struck with the thought that something else had prompted this conversation.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” their eyes met over his curt reply.

“Not that you would tell me otherwise,” she got up from the couch herself, the movie

long forgotten. Bending over to pick up the popcorn bowl and their two empty bottles,

she addressed him again. “I worry about you, about what’s happened to you since we

acquired that other artifact. I don’t want to lose you, Mulder.”

“You don’t want to lose me but you don’t want to marry me either is that it?”

“Dammit, Mulder, don’t put words in my mouth. It’s just that sometimes your obstinacy

frightens me. This has gone way beyond the fanatical. You’re so obsessed with the idea

that you’ve been given some gift — some window to the future that will somehow allow

you to prevent this Armageddon you believe is coming that you won’t even consider the

possibility that health wise, something could be terribly wrong. You worry about every

life but your own,” she let out another sigh as her shoulders slumped. Her eyes scanned

the room as if for divine guidance. It was a test of his patience but Mulder just stood

there waiting her out. “I used to think it was just your careless single-minded pursuit of

the truth. Now, I’m not so sure. These trips you take off the deep end…sometimes you

don’t seem like yourself. I wonder how far you’ll go with this.”

“You think I’m crazy, that I’m off my nut?” he questioned her with astonishment. “Are

you afraid of me Scully, is that it?”

“I’m afraid FOR you, Mulder. The toll this is taking on you physically. You just got

cleared for active duty from the last case. You cover it well but I know your leg still

bothers you. You don’t sleep well, these headaches…”

“How the hell did we get on this subject?” Mulder erupted, his arms flying out to either

side as he glared at her.

“Because, this subject affects the other subject! I’m tired of you taking the risks you do.

Can you promise me that if we were married that would change?”

They had been standing several feet apart in the living room; her arms full of dishes and

his head throbbing. Suddenly feeling the need to do something, he clenched his fists in

frustration and took the several steps towards her and grabbed the dishes from her hands.

“No, I can not promise you that so let’s just forget this conversation ever happened,” his

voice was flat as he turned away from her and headed for the kitchen clenching the dishes

in a death grip.

“I’m not forgetting you asked Mulder,” she said as he reached the doorway.

He stopped and turned to face her, “I know this isn’t the conversation we started but I

need you to understand something. I won’t lie to you, Scully. I take the risks I do

because I believe their outcome will be worth it. I believe the truth is out there, waiting

to be known, nothing has changed that. And if this ‘gift’ as you call it, will lead me to it

why would I not use it? You’re the one who told me God has his reasons — then there’s

got to be a reason for this.”

“Are you saying you believe this is a gift from God, Mulder?”

His head turned a little, in not quite a ‘no’, “What do you believe, Scully?” When she

didn’t answer he turned back towards the kitchen. “I need to see this thing through to the

end whatever its purpose, wherever it takes me. I just want to be certain that you’ll be

okay when it’s all over.”

Her brow furrowed as he spoke, “Us, Mulder, wherever it takes us. When will you

realize you’re not alone in this? Please don’t forget how much our partnership means to

both of us. It’s really all we need.”

She watched him stand there, mulling over her words. When he finally turned back to

face her it was for a totally different reason. “Don’t forget I need you to come to the bank

with me tomorrow, around noon, there’s something we need to take care of. Is that okay

with you?”

She wasn’t sure he had accepted her resolution instead reminding her of an appointment

he’d only mentioned the day before. “Yes, I remember, that’s fine,” she answered as she

watched him disappear into the kitchen.

D.C. GENERAL HOSPITAL

PRESENT DAY

She knew before she opened her eyes where she was. The scratchy sheets, the smell of

disinfectant, the echoes of voices in the hallway, the only question that remained was

which hospital she now found herself in. Her head swam and a brief bout of nausea

swept over her as she surveyed the room. The empty room she noticed with alarm.

“Well, look who’s awake,” the all too sweet voice of a nurse suddenly appearing in her

doorway drew her gaze in that direction; the sudden movement causing her vision to blur.

“A little dizzy,” she whispered.

“I’m not surprised honey,” the nurse came into the room, resting her hand on the bedrail.

“You have a nasty bump on the head, severe concussion, you’ve been in and out for quite

a while…”

The scene from the bank came back to her, Mulder coming at her, the sound of gunshots.

“Where’s my partner? Mulder?” She looked up at the nurse with alarm.

“I don’t know honey. I just came on the floor. There hasn’t been anyone up here to see

you that I know of. You need to rest. Your doctor’s prescribed some Compazine for the

nausea.” She could feel the nurse adjusting her IV and then her eyes drifted shut again.

The second time she opened her eyes was a little easier. The room didn’t seem to swim

as much and the nausea was gone. This time the room wasn’t empty either. She sized up

the figure sitting in the chair next to her bed. He dozed on, his head cocked at an

awkward angle against his left shoulder, his right arm in a sling. She hesitated to wake

him but the mere fact that Mulder was sitting beside her looking relatively intact made

her feel one hundred percent better.

As if on cue, he stirred, his eyes opening as he straightened his neck with an audible

crack. Catching her eye, he leaned over and pecked a kiss against her cheek. “Hey

sleepy,” he smiled gently, adjusting her blankets and taking her hand in his. She eyed

him carefully. He was dressed in his dress slacks and a green hospital scrub. The heavy

shadow across his cheeks made him looked haggard. He had a nasty bruise on his right

cheekbone. Tape from bandage dressing was visible under the neck of the shirt.

“What happened?” she finally asked letting go of his hand to caress the bruise.

“My face sort of got in the way of George Bush’s boot,” he replied, picking nervously at

his sling. “Right after you tried to pull one of my hair-brained stunts.”

She reached to grab his hand again, “And you stepped in front of the bullet.”

“It’s just a flesh wound, no major damage.” He tugged on the sling and looked up at her

again. “Actually, it was more like I leapt in front of it,” he said with a wince. “But yeah,

I tackled you; you hit the floor before I did. I’m sorry, Scully. They want to keep you

here overnight for observation.”

“Sorry for what? For saving my life?”

“I told you last night I could never make that promise to you.” He met her eyes again and

sighed, “Besides, it was more like you saved ours. The cavalry showed up just in time to

save the day.”

“And I had no right to ask that of you,” it was a fact she had realized last night even as

she was making the request. “What about John? Was anyone else hurt?”

“No, everyone is fine, a little shaken up,” he looked away from her. “They’ll probably all

be looking to bank elsewhere, somewhere Fox Mulder isn’t a customer.”

“What am I going to do with you, Mulder?” She tried to take his hand again but he

refused her.

“I don’t know, but I wish you’d figure it out,” his voice now suddenly full of frustration.

“Cause right now I’m at a loss trying to figure you out,” he finished abruptly and rose

from the chair stepping to the foot of her bed. “Look, I need to think some things over,”

she watched him look about the room, everywhere but at her. “I’ll call in the morning;

make sure you’re going to be released before I come back to get you.”

She was taken aback by his sudden act of departure, “Mulder?”

He turned around, “I’m tired Scully, I just want to go home.”

There was something in his manner that told her he wasn’t talking about being physically

tired. They’d been here before, she knew, asking themselves that question of whether or

not it was all worth it. But this was different, this wasn’t a question about the X-Files

future, it was a question regarding their own.

He smiled a weak smile and tugged on her toe beneath the blanket and then gave her a

gentle wave as he headed out the door. She lay there for a moment in the empty room

tugging the covers tighter as she drifted off again wishing for his warmth.

*

I awake to the sound of voices in the hall, male voices. I keep hearing my name

mentioned so I know they are talking about me. It irritates the hell out of me that they

don’t feel I should be privy to their conversation. One is my father; I don’t recognize the

other man.

“I just don’t think we should go through the Bureau on this. You start spreading her name

around any governmental organization and questions start to get asked about why some

Navy captain’s daughter needs government protection.”

“But you work for a governmental organization yourself Captain, you sound like you

don’t trust them yourself.”

“It’s not our government I don’t trust, it’s who might be listening to what our government

is doing that I don’t trust. You know as well as I do there are spies everywhere these

days.”

“Germany already knows we’re working on an A-bomb, Sir. What I don’t understand is

why she’s here and not at Oak Ridge with everyone else.”

“You don’t need to know why she’s here. All I’m asking from you is that you find me

someone to protect her, a bodyguard, someone you trust.”

“Someone that doesn’t work for the government.”

This is the second time today I’ve fallen asleep slumped over the lab table. We’ve been

working almost round the clock on this project and I am exhausted. But when I hear the

word “bodyguard” from my father I’m up off my chair and headed for the door, pulling

my hair back into a sensible pony tail and making an attempt to straighten my rumpled

clothes. I don’t need a damn bodyguard, what I need is a hot soak and a change of

clothes. They both jump when I open the door.

My father is standing there all proper in his Navy blues; this other man is tall and balding

with heavy glasses and a dark trench coat, obviously a Fed. I look at my father first,

“Don’t Dad, just don’t. I don’t need anybody watching over me, nobody has a clue what

we’re working on here anyway.”

“The Navy does and we don’t want the Germans finding out. It could mean the difference

between the success and failure of project!”

Out of the corner of my eye I notice this Fed put his hat back on and make an attempt to

walk away from this little family squabble. My father catches it too, “Where do you

think you’re going? I’m not through with you yet!” Then he turns back to me. “Dana,

honey,” he reaches out to caress my cheek and as much as I’m angry for his over-

protectiveness, I lean into his touch. “You look exhausted. Why don’t you go back to the

house, get some rest? Let me work this out.”

I am tired, and I want nothing more than a bed and those things I mentioned to myself

before. Go ahead Dad, work it out, just don’t expect me to go along with it. I nod and

turn to pull the door to the lab shut. My father and this Fed start to walk off down the

hall but not out of earshot. “Look Captain, I really think you’d be better off working with

the government on this but I might know someone, private dick, good guy despite your

first impressions. Is this going to be on your dime?”

“Will he be expensive?”

“Marty?” the Fed says, turning back in my direction. “Despite first impressions, he’s a

man of good character. I’m sure whatever you offer him will be fine.”

It takes me a while to find a driver to take me up to the estate. The Navy has put most of

its tactical personnel up in this Victorian estate just outside of Baltimore. My father must

have more clout than I imagined. When I finally get to my room I don’t even bother to

undress. I just pull the drapes and flop into bed.

I don’t know how long I slept; it felt so good to be lying in a bed again. Anna, our

housekeeper must have heard me stirring because she came into to inform me that we

would be having a guest for dinner and that maybe I should make myself look

presentable for once, I just hope it isn’t this Marty character.

I comb my hair and roll it into a chignon and then paw through the closet for a suit I

haven’t worn in ages. I need some heels. I hate looking up to people. I actually take the

time to put on a little makeup, Dad will be shocked.

When I get downstairs I’m disappointed to learn Dad, excuse me, the Captain, hasn’t

arrived yet. Seems there’s a big strategy meeting in the operations center so I get to do

the entertaining. Anna winks at me and then opens the door to the sitting room, “The

gentleman is waiting in here.”

“The gentleman,” as Anna referred to him is standing by the window admiring the

scenery. Smoke curling about his head. He turns when the door opens taking one last

drag before stubbing his cigarette out in the ashtray on the table. He’s about the same

height as the Fed who was here earlier only considerably younger. He’s dressed like the

Fed too in a trench coat. I watch him fumble with the well-worn fedora he’s been

holding. “The Captain is going to be a little late; can I have Anna take your hat and coat?”

He divests himself of the coat and hands them both to Anna who promptly bustles out of

the room. He’s dressed extremely well for his profession in a double-breasted suit and I

find myself unexpectedly drawn to his lanky form. Most of your private detectives look

like they shop at the thrift store. As much as his dark hair and smoky eyes intrigue me I

still don’t want him following me around. “You look like a much better dinner

companion than the Captain anyway, Doll.” I bristle at the salutation but the baritone

timbre of his voice makes me tingle, I know his type and I’m not going to let myself be

played.

“Yes, well, I’m not the one who asked you here Mr.?”

“Marty, the name’s Marty,” he replies rather distractedly sliding his hands into his

pockets.

I need something to do so I offer him a drink and walk over to the library table to see

what the men have left there. There’s only one choice so I pick up the bottle and show it

to him, “How do you like your scotch?”

“In a glass,” he replies rather sarcastically.

I choose to ignore his poor joke and drop some ice in the glasses. As I’m pouring us both

a scotch he digs in his breast pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. “Smoke?”

“No, thank you, I don’t smoke.”

“Well, neither do I, it just goes with the look,” a boyish grin crosses his lips as he lights

up. I walk over and hand him his drink. His fingers are cold.

I sip my scotch hoping it will steady my nerves. “Look — Marty, I’m not sure just what

you’ve been told but I’ve already made it clear to the Captain that I don’t need your

services.”

He swigs the scotch and sets the glass down, taking a drag on his cigarette, he meets my

eyes. “Just so we’re clear, I ain’t too thrilled about the prospect either. I don’t know what

your old man’s game is, Miss. But it seems that since he’s out there fighting a war the

least I can do is protect the home front.”

Obviously he’s been told the Captain is my father. He sizes me up and down and I find it

disconcerting until he meets my eyes, taking another drag on the cigarette. “Look Red, as

far as I’m concerned you’re just another job. Not that keepin’ my eyes on a dame is my

usual practice but I could use the cash.”

I’d like to smack him for using the word ‘dame’ but then I figure it’s just part of his

vocabulary. The ‘Red” on the other hand is another story. “My name is not Red.”

I watch him wander over and help himself to a second scotch, “What would you prefer I

call you then?”

I don’t even want him here, “Dana will be fine.”

He swigs most of the scotch again, “Yes, ma’am.”

I hate being called that too.

Dad finally shows up and we manage to get through dinner. Every time I look up from

my plate Marty, as he’s told us to call him is looking at me. He’s handsome in a roguish

sort of way and somewhere in his mysterious past he must have had a good up-bringing.

The pleasantries over, dad ultimately turns the conversation to the war. “Tell me Marty,

how is it that you’re not over on the front lines.”

Marty looks at me and then turns back to my father, “Somebody has to keep an eye on the

home front, sir.”

I don’t think my father likes his answer but you can’t argue with it. “Yes, well, if we don’t

win this war there may not be anything for you to keep an eye on. We all need to do our

part.”

“Isn’t that why I’m here?”

“Yes, and let’s get down to that.” Dad motions Anna to clear the table. “I’m sure you’re

aware of the Manhattan Project?”

“Yeah, it’s some science fiction project based on Einstein’s theory of relativity our

governments’ involved in to build an atomic weapon.”

“This SCIENCE FICTION project, mister, could wipe Germany off the globe!” My

father pounds the table with his fist and I watch Marty flinch at the vehemence.

“So you’re involved in this research?” Marty asks looking directly at me. Without a

cigarette he has nothing to do with his hands so I watch him play with his spoon left from

dinner.

“NO,” Dad’s voice booms in the room. “While the U.S. is busy working away at places

like Oak River and Los Alamos; intelligence reports have informed us that the Germans

may also be trying to develop atomic weapons. I’m sure you’ll agree we can’t let that

happen.”

“Yeah, I agree, go on.”

“Over the past several years our allies have been watching the activity at the Norsk Hydro

plant in Vemork, Norway. It’s been under Nazi control since 1940. The plant produces

heavy water.”

Anna brings coffee for all of us and leaves the room. I watch Marty stir his even though

he hasn’t put anything into it. “So what exactly is this heavy water?”

Finally I can get a word in on the conversation, “D2O, it’s the key to one type of reactor

in which you can breed plutonium from natural uranium.”

I watch Marty as he sips his coffee and considers this. He looks back and forth between

my father and I and finally addressed my father, “So, why haven’t the allies destroyed the

plant?”

“Two raids on the facility so far have failed.”

Marty sets his cup down a little more forcefully than he should. “I’m afraid I’m a little

confused here. If your daughter isn’t involved with the U.S. atomic research what makes

her a threat to German intelligence?”

“And why are you here?”

“Yeah, I was gettin’ to that.”

Let me explain this Dad I think to myself, “The importance of heavy water to atomic

production is that it provides one more way to produce plutonium for use in weapons,

completely bypassing uranium enrichment and all the other technological infrastructure

usually needed.” Marty must be smarter than he looks because he seems to be following

me so far.

“If Germany is able to perfect this process and produce enough plutonium to create

atomic weapons before the allies do, the results could lead to a global catastrophe.”

“Unfortunately, you’re probably right.”

“I know I’m right. What you don’t know is the effects these weapons will have on the

population. Aside from the destructive power and casualties of the initial blast, radiation

from them causes the onset of radiation sickness that could wipe out entire populations

and more importantly wipe out an army.”

“Radiation sickness?” he asks with a wince.

“Yes, our researchers have been sworn to secrecy but many of the civilians and project

workers involved are being subjected to lethal doses of radiation and becoming deathly

ill,” Marty looks like he’s going to turn green. “With the help of my father I have been

secretly involved in a research project to develop and test a drug that will combat

radiation sickness. Can you understand the value of that drug to an army whose sole

purpose is to take over the globe?”

“So, you’re not a threat to Germany, what they’d really like is to get their hands on you.”

“Which is why, Marty, you are here.”

“And these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange

even to the men who used them,” Marty looks at me with something like regret in his

eyes.

“Excuse me?”

I watch his lip quirks up a little, “H.G. Wells, smart man.”

My father gets up from the table, “War of the Worlds?”

“No, um, The World Set Free,” Marty answers as he too gets up from the table.

My father looks at the both of us, “Lets all hope so.”

Dad hustled Marty back off to the library shortly after dinner. He and my father talked in

private for a while. I suspect Dad was just sizing him up, but he must have decided he

approved of what he saw because I heard him tell Marty he would be in touch with him

soon. I hate all this secrecy, especially when I’m the subject of it.

I don’t know what to make of Marty myself. He seems out of place in his profession.

Aside from dressing poorly most of these private detectives are past their prime. I’m

ashamed to admit I noticed, but he seems to be right in the middle of his adding an air of

mystery about him. No wonder my father asked, he should be on the front lines with the

rest of the countries young men. I also got the impression he’s had an education. Perhaps

I’ll get more out of a conversation with him than I will the rest of the old stuffed shirts

around here. He’s certainly a lot more pleasing to look at.

Anna catches me daydreaming while she finishes cleaning up. “Dana, honey, you stay

away from that one. I saw your eyes dance when you got a look at him; he’s trouble with

a capital T!”

“Why Anna, whatever do you mean?” I ask her with mock astonishment that she would

even think such a thing.

“Men like him only have one thing on their minds. I don’t know what your father’s

thinking.”

I walk over to tap her arm as I head off again to my room, “Don’t worry, I have no

intention of getting anywhere near him.”

Once again I’m woken from a sound sleep by Anna only this time she’s frantic, “Dana,

Dana, you have to get up! The Captain called, you need to throw some things together,

get your research and be ready to leave in half an hour!” She’s hovering over me in just

her nightclothes and then she heads for the closet to dig out a suitcase for me.

I crawl out of bed and she grabs my arm, “Get moving, there’s been a leak, the Germans

know everything. They know where you are!”

Once I’m dressed she hurries me out of the room, “Get your research, I’ll pack for you!” I

head downstairs and find one of the lab assistants in the library holding a case. “I think I

have everything they asked me to bring you,” he says nervously handing the case over to

me. I set it on the table and open it. My journals, lab notes and several vials of test

serum are packed inside. When the young man reaches over to touch my arm I look up

into his worried expression. “Good luck,” he says to me before I head back out into the

main hall.

To my surprise, Marty is standing there just inside the door talking to Anna and holding

my suitcase. His coat and hat are spotted from the rain and his shoes have tracked water

across the polished floor. He turns to me almost immediately, “Come on doll, we gotta

split!”

So I’ve gone from “Doll” to “Red” to “Ma’am” and back to “Doll” in the course of one

evening. Marty and I have got to get something straight. Anna is handing me my coat

and I realize that I’ve just tumbled out of bed, I must be a sight. I bypass the coat and put

my hand on the banister, “Give me a minute to put on my face.”

Someone grabs my arm and turns me around; “You look just fine,” Marty says with an

intensity that I understand to mean we’re leaving now. Anna hands me my coat and we’re

out the door and into the rain.

He doesn’t say anything to me as he throws me and my luggage into the big Packard and

we head off down the drive. The car smells like cigarettes and our clothes smell like the

rain and I watch with some mirth as the brim of his hat drips water onto his lap but he

still doesn’t say anything as his eyes scan the road ahead of us. I’m a bit shocked by all

this and suddenly feel the consuming need to find out what’s going on. “What the hell is

going on?”

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He flashes a glance my way, “I don’t know. I got a call tellin’ me to come pick you up.

So here I am.”

“You usually just drop everything in the middle of the night for a call like that?”

I pull my coat tighter around me as I’m suddenly wracked by a chill. He must be

watching me out of the corner of his eye because he reaches out to turn up the heat.

“Didn’t have anything to drop.”

“No woman at home?”

“Home is where you hang your hat.” As if to emphasize his point, he looks right at me.

“I’m usually working most of the time.”

I don’t buy it. “I would figure you as a sucker for dames, Marty.”

“Well, you’re wrong, Sister.”

Wonderful, he’s added another name to the vocabulary. “Since we’re evidently going to

be stuck in the car together, I really wish you would just call me Dana.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says without taking his eyes off the road.

We’ve been driving for almost an hour now in complete silence, save for the constant

thumping of the windshield wipers. It’s raining harder and his eyes are too busy

watching the road and the rear view mirror to notice as I give him the once over. He

needs a shave but between his clothes and the big car, detective work must pay better

than I thought. I decide it’s time to find out what makes him tick. “So, what’s your story,

Marty?” I watch him as his dark eyes flash to the rear view mirror again.

“What do you mean my story?”

“I mean I get the impression you haven’t always been strapped for cash.”

He looks at me again as if trying to determine how many of his secrets to give up. “I

used to work for the F.B.I., got fired for insubordination.”

I know there must be more and he must realize this. I watch his lip curl before he

elaborates, “Lived off the family dime for a while but eventually even that ran out.”

I can put two and two together and remember the man who was talking to my father

yesterday. “There was an agent at the estate yesterday, did he hire you?”

“In a matter of speaking yeah, he’s my old boss.”

When he doesn’t elaborate I continue to pry. “Interesting business you have now.”

“You wouldn’t like my business, doesn’t pay very well.”

We pull into an old gas station and he cuts the engine. “I need to make a phone call,” he

says looking over at me. “Don’t get out of the car unless you have to.” It’s hard to see in

the driving rain but I watch as he runs inside and then the attendant comes out to fill up

the tank while he makes the phone call. A few moments later there’s a tap on my window

and I roll it down. “Don’t do that again unless you know who it is,” he cautions me as he

hands me a bottle of soda and then walks around the car. I hold the bottle for a few

minutes wishing it were a cup of warm coffee instead and then take a sip.

He gets in and takes a heavy slug from his own soda. Droplets of rain drip off the brim

of his fedora again and I start to chuckle. He looks at me, “What?”

“Don’t you ever take that thing off?”

“Not if I don’t have to.” He finishes the bottle and tosses it in the backseat. The car roars

back to life as he starts the engine and pulls through the station; the car bouncing through

the ruts in the unpaved surface.

“Where are we going?”

“You don’t need to know,” he doesn’t look at me when he replies and I’m instantly

irritated by his cockiness again.

“I think I have the right to know.”

He glances at me only momentarily, deciding that maybe I do, “Away from the coast.”

I must doze off because it’s almost noon before we stop again. This time at a dumpy

roadside diner called Molly’s. We’re somewhere in Pennsylvania now and he still refuses

to tell me where we’re actually going. Maybe he doesn’t really know himself. I head for

the bathroom while he picks out a booth near one of the windows; hanging up his coat

and surprisingly his hat on the rack next to the table. He turns around to catch my eye

and runs his hand through his hair before he sits down.

When I get back to the table he is already nursing a cup of coffee and a smoke. I can feel

his eyes on me as I glance through the menu selections. “Well Red, what’ll you have?” I

think he knows I hate that because when I look up his lip curls into a half smile. “I hear

the ‘possum is especially tasty this time of year.”

God, he is so infuriating but at the same time I’m beginning to feel myself fall for him

and I hate myself for it. It was almost as if he’d legally kidnapped me and I’d let him.

The busty waitress seems a little disappointed when she comes back to take our order and

finds that Marty isn’t alone. She refills his coffee and saunters away. Our meal comes

and I watched him attack his food like he hasn’t eaten in a week. He ordered breakfast

while I settled for a bowl of vegetable soup and a sandwich. I still couldn’t shake the

chill.

“So tell me about this research you’re working on? How is what you’re doing different

from what they say is going on in the death camps?”

He’d caught me with a mouth full of food and I almost choke, “How can you even ask me

that?!”

He puts down his fork and takes another sip of coffee, “Because I want to know if you’re

worth it.”

I throw the sandwich on my plate, “What do you mean, worth it?”

“If what you’re doing is worth me risking my life to protect you; it’s that simple Doll.”

“You’re not here because I asked for your protection,” I sneer at him.

“You’re right. I’m here because your father asked for it.”

I study him for a moment. This man isn’t the meticulously dressed gentleman who’d

come to the estate last night. This man looks tired. His five o’clock shadow has darkened

and his hair is unkempt and cascading over his forehead. He’s changed into a different

suit but I recognize the tie that now hangs askew from his unbuttoned collar. There’s

sadness in his eyes I haven’t noticed before. He holds my gaze for a moment as if

inviting me in before going back to picking at his breakfast.

“What do you think is going on in the death camps?”

“Things we shouldn’t talk about over a meal,” he acknowledges looking back up at me.

“Things that human beings shouldn’t be doing to other human beings. You’re not doing

things to other human beings are you?”

“Is that what you think?”

He puts the fork down with some finality. “No, I wouldn’t be here if I did. But I really

don’t know what to think because nobody’s tellin’ me much of anything, including you.”

The floozy waitress comes back to refill our coffee and when she leaves I proceed to tell

Marty what I’ve been doing in the bowels of that Victorian mansion. What the bombs

don’t destroy the radiation will take care of unless there is some way to combat it. This

applies to just about every living organism on the planet. What had begun as a war in the

trenches has now become a war in the laboratory. While scientists play with atoms it will

be the doctors who will eventually save the world.

“Do you have any idea will happen when atomic weapons are used in a war?”

I watch him pick up his spoon again and stir nothing into the black coffee. “Unfortunately

working for the government has its advantages. You learn a lot of things you’d rather not

know. But to answer your question — no, not exactly.”

“I thought you didn’t work for the government anymore.”

“That’s why I don’t.” Our eyes meet across the table, “What they had me doing didn’t

exactly live up to my high moral standards,” he says with a smirk but I can see the truth

of what he says in his eyes. “I get the impression you have morals of your own. What is

it you do that allows you to look the other way? How do you live with the lies?”

I take a sip of my coffee to ward off the chill he has given me. “I’m not looking the other

way. I’m looking straight ahead.”

“How so?”

I really don’t feel the need to defend myself to this man. I don’t know under what

circumstances he agreed to participate in this ‘undercover’ assignment and not know the

particulars and yet he obviously knows more about our situation than he is letting on —

being the ever protective male. I find it hard to understand him. I can’t figure out his

game either but he deserves to know mine. I set my coffee cup down with a satisfying

thump. “Hitler’s idea of creating a master race is nothing short of genocide. He wants his

Germany to rule the planet which means anyone he feels is a threat to that prospect or

inferior to his plan is expendable. And as I told you before if they’re successful in

developing atomic weapons before we do, we won’t be able to stop them. You know that

as well as I do otherwise you wouldn’t be ‘protecting the home front’.”

“Well, alright,” he says as he glances around the diner to see who might be within

earshot. “It’s just you and me here so explain this all to me.”

“I can’t explain everything. I don’t really know that much about atomic fission but what I

can tell you is that if we can’t figure out a way to keep the people involved in the project

alive; find a way to combat the radiation sickness or prevent it altogether…” I shiver,

the need to feel something warm envelopes me and I reach over and touch his hand. “I

can’t even think about it, Marty. It’s not just a war anymore, it’s a race.”

He looks down at my hand on top of his and gently extracts his from underneath it,

“Radiation sickness? Our own researchers are dying from it?”

“The exposure is not deliberate. One of the byproducts of atomic research is radiation.

As a doctor I can tell you that we’ve learned that depending on the proximity to the

exposure it can cause burns, cellular and vascular damage; fluid loss into the

gastrointestinal tract, terminal infection, hemorrhaging and eventually death. Scientists

had no idea of the extent of damage exposure would cause when they started this project.

This is why they’ve been sworn to secrecy. Until we’re able to come up with a cure the

public can’t know about the cause.”

“And you think this is morally right?”

“No, Marty, I don’t think it’s right,” I pick up my coffee cup, wrapping my hands around

it in another attempt to warm my soul. “But I think what I’m doing is right. Once these

weapons become available for use on battlefields the casualties, both civilian and military

will be catastrophic. So you see? The research I am involved in is two-fold. We need to

find a way to protect our own people. The project personnel and the rest of us in case the

Germans win. What I have in this case here is a key to that…”

“I wouldn’t have figured you for a doctor.” he says before I can finish.

“Does that surprise you?”

“No, but you surprise me,” he lights up another cigarette and takes a long drag on it.

“How’s that?”

“That you let me drag you out of that fancy house and out into the dark of night without

much of an explanation. You must trust me more than you let on.”

“My father trusts you.”

“As long as that’s good enough for you, Doll,” he says stubbing out his cigarette before he

slides from the booth.

By nightfall we’re crossing the Indiana state line. Marty has been driving for almost

twenty-four hours, he keeps rubbing his eyes and I can tell the coffee is no longer

keeping him awake. As we roll into Richmond he pulls up in front of the first cheap

hotel he can find and looks over at me as he kills the engine. “I gotta get some sleep.”

We get out of the car and he pulls a couple bags from the trunk while I grab my briefcase.

Inside the hotel he sets the bags down and heads for the pay phone he’s spied back in the

corner. Even with his back turned toward me I can still make out some of his

conversation. He’s asking about a tail and how many of them they think there are. He

turns around to glare at me and then slams down the receiver and stubs out the cigarette

he’d lit before heading back to where I’m standing. Grabbing my arm he steers me over

to the counter, “We need a room, front exposure,” he demands from the dumpy man

behind the counter as he scribbles something into the ledger and throws a ten-dollar bill

on the counter. The man looks at the ledger and then winks at me, “Sure thing.” I look

down to see Marty has scribbled Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the book before we follow this

loser up to our room.

The hotel sits on a corner and the room has windows that face both streets; two in the

front and one on the side. There’s a small table and two chairs; an old lounge chair near

one of the windows and one bed. Wonderful. “Bathroom’s across the hall,” the clerk

informs us as he points to the towels on the back of the door.

“Don’t you think we should get two rooms?” I ask Marty after our escort has left. He

makes the rounds of the room, checking the closet and then looking out all three windows

while I take off my coat and rummage through my bag.

“I thought you said your father trusts me,” he says pulling off his coat and jacket and

throwing them across the back of the old chair. He takes off his hat and sets it almost

reverently on top of them. It doesn’t surprise me to find he’s wearing a shoulder harness

with a good-size revolver tucked inside of it. His wrinkled shirt makes him look even

more disheveled.

I’m curious to know whom this contact is he keeps calling. Is he trying to find out who

might be following us or could he possibly be telling them where we are instead? “To

whom were you talking to on the phone downstairs?”

“The Navy’s been monitoring some overseas transmissions. They know you’ve left

Baltimore.”

“They?”

“The German hounds that are following us.”

“Why am I suddenly such a hot commodity?” I find myself asking. “I’m not the only

doctor involved in this project. What about the others?”

Marty is standing by one of the windows, I watch as he looks up and down the street

before he answers, “I don’t know about any other doctors. You’re the only one I’m

concerned about.”

I don’t believe him but I take some things from my bag and grab a towel from the door.

“Leave the door open,” he says to me as I leave the room.

In the bathroom I scrub my face and reconsider putting on the nightgown I’d brought

with me. Dad might trust him but I won’t take the chance. Besides if we have to make a

run for it I don’t want to be running in my nightgown.

When I get back to the room Marty has turned the lights off. He’s standing in the

shadows by one of the windows smoking again and I catch the glimmer of the flask he

has in his hand. As I shut the door and lock it he motions an offer of a drink. “It’ll warm

you up.”

“No thank you.”

I feel him watch me as I walk around the bed to put my nightgown back in the suitcase

and then reluctantly sit down on the opposite side of the bed. He turns back to the

window and I fluff the sad excuse for a pillow against the headboard and settle against it

closing my eyes. When the bed dips to my right I stop breathing. I hear him set the flask

on the night table and stub out the cigarette. He grabs the other pillow and turns to me,

“You’re not gonna use both of these are you?”

It’s all I can do to say no to him. For a moment I can feel the tension between us and then

he gets up from the bed taking the pillow with him. “Good night, Angel.”

He walks over to the old chair and sits down in it. Propping his feet up on the register

and tucking the pillow behind his head. His long lanky form looks horribly

uncomfortable but he’s exhausted and it doesn’t take him long to drift off. I sit for a while

and watch him sleep and then finally drift off myself.

It’s still dark when I awaken. I’m a little alarmed to find I’m alone in the room. I don’t

know him well, but I know Marty wouldn’t leave without me. The ragged spread from

the bed is draped over me, and I find myself snuggling into it with worry before I notice

the door is cracked open slightly and I can hear the sound of water running from the bath

across the hall. Needing to know it’s him so I climb out of bed and gather up a few things

for myself and step into the hallway. The bathroom door is open and I can see his

reflection in the mirror before he sees me. He isn’t a big man but he fills out an

undershirt nicely and I find myself watching him as he scrapes the last of his shaving

cream from his face. The bullet scar on his left shoulder intrigues me. I watch him

splash some water on his face and then his eyes catch me in the mirror as he towels

himself off. I can feel the blush rising in my cheeks and I know he sees it when he turns

around. “You lookin’ for me Red?”

Maybe in another lifetime, but I don’t say that, I just tell him I need to use the bathroom

and he smiles and walks past me. “Don’t take too long, we need to get out of here before

daybreak.”

I close the door and do my best to clean myself up in the sink and change into a clean

blouse and a pair of slacks. Before I know it someone is pounding on the door and I

nearly jump out of my skin, “Damn it, Red, lets go!”

He doesn’t even give me time to open the door before he’s throwing it open himself and

grabbing my arm, “We got company — we gotta move now!”

I try and grab my things as he’s pulling me from the room and across the hall. He’s

already dressed and he jogs to the front window while I throw my things into my

suitcase. “What’s going on?” I demand walking over to have a look myself. There are

three big black cars downstairs and I hear voices in the lobby below us.

Before I can even get an answer the window glass shatters around us and we both dive to

the floor in a heap. “Dammit, Red, what are you trying to do, get us both killed!” I roll

over and look up at him as he climbs off and then straddles my legs. A moment of eye

contact passes between us and then he yanks me to my feet. He’s got my case in his hand

and me by the arm and he’s dragging me across to the other side of the room. “The

hounds have caught up with us, that’s what’s going on!”

I watch as he throws up the sash and tosses both our suitcases out the window before

grabbing for the bag with my samples and notes. “You can’t throw that!” I grab it from

him and then watch as he starts to climb out the window himself. “What are you doing,

we’re two stories up!”

“I’m gonna fly,” he says with some irritation as he grabs my arm again. “There’s a fire

escape out here, now move!” He makes an attempt to help me out the window but I

shake him off and by the time I get myself out he’s already one story below me on the fire

escape. We get to the bottom of the stairs and I realize that they end about twelve feet

from the ground. I watch Marty turn around and lower himself down and then jump to

the ground. He’s tall; he doesn’t have as far to jump as I do.

He stumbles a bit when he hits the pavement and I watch him collect that damn hat and

put it back on before he walks around the bottom of the ladder to look up at me. It’s a

good thing I’m wearing slacks. If I were wearing a skirt he’d have a great view from his

vantage point. “Toss me your case!” He yells up to me and I have no choice to do so. I

watch him set it on the ground and then turn and extend his arms up to me, “Come on,

Red, I’ll catch ya!” I look down at him, despite our dire situation I watch this shit-eating

grin spread across his face from under the brim of that damn hat. I want to just smack

him but I don’t, I jump.

His hands catch me around the waist and my momentum allows them to slide up until

they’re almost cupping my breasts. The bastard holds me, my face inches from his and

for a moment I’m caught by the same desire I saw in his eyes only a few moments ago. I

feel him sigh and then he sets me down grabbing our two bags and turning up the street

away from our car. “Hey, what about the car!” I yell as I grab my case and take off after

him.

“Forget the damn car! Run!”

We run down the street in the rain. The droplets sting my face and it’s not long before

my hair and my feet are soaked. When gunshots ricochet off the wall to our right we dart

into an alley. Marty drops the bags and pulls out his gun looking back up the street.

We’re both panting hard; the cool damp air causing our breath to come out in bursts of

white fog. When I try and peer around the corner myself he grabs my arm and yanks me

behind him, “Not again, are you insane?” he yells. “What do I have to do, tie you up and

carry you?”

Just try it bastard, “I can take care of myself!”

Another shot ricochets off the brick above his head and our attention is drawn to a man

across the street. Marty fires twice and I watch the man drop. Jesus, he just shot a man!

The doctor in me wants to run out there to see what I can do but Marty has already turned

and grabbed our bags again with one hand. “Come on!” he yells at me again.

“But you just shot that man!”

“Yeah and lets hope I killed him, now come on!” There’s desperation in his eyes as he

motions me down the alley. I take one more look back at the man slumped on the

sidewalk and start to run. Marty takes one more look over his shoulder and starts to run

after me. “Where are we going?” I yell back.

“Just keep runnin’!”

The alley must cut between two streets because I can see the end up ahead. What if these

men are waiting up there ready to gun him down the moment we exit the alley? It’s me

they’re after we both know it. I splash to a stop and Marty almost careens into me,

“Christ, don’t stop!” he pants into my face.

“What if they’re waiting at the end of the alley?”

“They’re not, now move!”

More gunshots, they’re coming from behind us again. He looks right at me and says only

one word, “Run!”

I don’t know what to do when I get the end of the alley. I’m afraid to go out into the street.

When I turn around I see Marty stumble a little on the uneven pavement. He turns and

fires four more shots back up the alley until we both hear the empty chamber click. His

eyes flash to mine and he pockets the gun.

There are several cars parked here and I watch Marty frantically search them; stopping by

one to yank open the back door and throwing our bags into it. “Get in!” he yells at me as

he ducks into the front seat himself.

“You’re stealing a car!”

“Get in the damn car!” Some idiot must have left the key in it because I hear him start it

right up.

“Are you crazy?” I can’t believe this but I get into the car with him anyway. “You just

can’t steal someone’s car!” I don’t get a chance to say anything else before his lips are on

mine effectively shutting me up. It’s not a peck, it’s a hot desperate kiss and I find myself

responding to it before I pull back and smack him the way I’d wanted to just a few

minutes earlier when he was feeling me up. He closes his eyes, his face must sting, I

know my hand does.

“You feel better now?” he asks as he opens his eyes and stares back at me in the darkness.

I don’t know whether to cry or scream. Instead I just yell at him, “Just get us the hell out

of here!”

He pops the clutch into drive and hauls off down the alley. His hands clutch the wheel

tightly as we bounce along the rutted brick and then careen out into a street without

looking. Several shots ping off the back of the car. We both flinch with each one as he

steers the old car wildly down the street into the darkness. If those men behind us don’t

kill us, Marty will, I cross myself and say a little prayer for the both of us.

Somehow Marty manages to give the thugs the slip and after several hours of touring the

Indiana countryside we find another little diner and stop for a bite to eat. “What the hell

happened back there?” I finally ask after we have ordered our food. Marty stirs his coffee

and seems to contemplate just what he thinks he should tell me. “Those men weren’t

there to kidnap me; they were trying to kill me weren’t they?”

“The other two doctors you were working with have already been killed,” he confesses.

“Right now the Germans think you’re the only one capable of continuing the research.”

“Carl and Donald are dead?” I gasp, throwing my hand up to my mouth, I suddenly feel

like throwing up. “I don’t get it. I thought they wanted to kidnap us to continue the

research for their cause, now you’re saying they want us all dead? What else aren’t you

telling me?”

Marty takes a sip of his coffee and then sits back against the seat in our booth with a

visible wince, “I’m sorry, they told me not to tell you.” I watch him fuss like he can’t get

comfortable. He notices me eyeing him, “It happened the night we left Baltimore, when

they sent me to get you. Carl and his wife were found murdered in their apartment.

Donald was a hit and run victim”

“I don’t believe this, Carl and I went to Med School together, Donald was one of our

instructors.”

“Well, you better believe it, Doll. You said it yourself; the Germans aren’t interested in

saving lives. Hitler’s Germany is only concerned with building that master race. What

you’re working on would be detrimental to that process. So in answer to your question,

yes, they want you dead.”

As I sit and warm my hands around a cup of strong coffee I realize that Marty still has his

hat and coat on, he’s holding his left arm close to his side and when I meet his gaze I’ve

been a doctor long enough to see the pain there. “Marty? Are you okay?” I ask the

question before I look at his hands wrapped around his own cup and see the dried blood

on his fingers. Pulling his left hand away from his cup I turn it palm up, “You’re

bleeding.”

“Not enough to die from, Doc.” There’s no humor in his answer.

I’m silenced momentarily as the waitress comes back to plunk our food down on the

table. “Eat your lunch,” he says stabbing at his steak and then wincing when he tries to

cut it.

How does he expect me to eat while he sits here and bleeds? Hell, now that I think about

what happened back in Richmond, he’s probably been bleeding since we flew out of that

hotel room. “I’ll eat, but I’m not going anywhere else with you until you let me look at

you.”

He picks up his coffee again and in a mock toast says something I know he can’t resist,

“Here’s lookin’ at you kid.”

“I take it that’s a yes?”

We stop at an old gas station after we leave the diner and I drag him into the Ladies room

with me and lock the door. Under his coat and jacket I find the bullet that came through

our window had creased his shoulder. The same shoulder with the bullet scar. I few

inches to the right and he would have bled to death before we had gotten out of the room.

It’s messy but he’s right, not enough to die from. I don’t ask about the other scar but he

sees that I’ve noticed it. “Crime of passion,” he says with a mock smile. I clean and

patch him up and as we leave the restroom we get an eyeful from a couple waiting in

their car with their kids. I’m sure they think we were doing something else in that room.

The old Ford gets us to Chicago by nightfall. Marty finds us another hotel; fortunately

this one is a step above the last dump we had found ourselves in, only this time we’re Mr.

and Mrs. Jones. He asks the desk clerk about places to eat and then we head up to our

room. I open my suitcase and try to straighten up the clothes from this morning’s hasty

departure while he heads off down the hall to make another phone call. In a short while I

hear the door close behind me and I turn at the sound of his voice. “You got somethin’

nice in that bag?”

Thinking he has something else in mind I ask for an explanation. “What do you mean by

‘nice’?”

He slips out of his coat and jacket as he crosses the room and for the first time I feel

apprehensive of his intentions. “We need to go someplace with a lot of people,” he says

lying his coat on the foot of the bed and once again setting his hat on top of them. He

shoves his hands in his pockets, “A dance club maybe.”

“You want to take me dancing?” I almost laugh.

“I didn’t say we were gonna dance Doll, I was only askin’ if you got something you could

wear to a place like that? It’s less likely they’ll try something in a place full of people.”

I don’t get it. “I thought we lost them back there, aren’t we safer if we stay here?”

“I thought so too,” he looks up to catch my eye. “But the answer to both questions is

probably no.”

I don’t know how he knows this as I watch him amble about the room. He looks defeated

and it worries me. He needs to change out of that blood stained shirt himself if we’re

going out in public. I think about what I have packed in this suitcase that contains the

remains of my life. What does one wear to their own funeral? I could probably get by

with a suit I have and the blouse I’m wearing and some heels. “Can you give me some

time to get dressed?”

He hesitates for a moment, “Yeah — yeah, go ahead.” He digs a pack of cigarettes from

his jacket pocket and walks across the room to sit on the edge of the bed. I gather up my

things and head into the bathroom to freshen up and change.

The suit’s a light gray with a broad collar and I pop the collar of my blouse out to lie

against it. I wish I had some jewelry to dress it up but by the time I get my nylons on and

my heels it doesn’t look too bad. I sound like I’m going on a date I think to myself, what a

fool. A hair comb and some make up and I’m a different woman. I take one last

primping look in the mirror and then open the door. Marty’s right where I imagined he

would be, leaning against the window frame, watching the street below. He has on a

clean shirt and he glances at me a moment and then tosses his cigarette butt on the floor

and stubs it out next to the other two at his feet. He looks up again. “Will this do?” I ask.

His lip curls a little but I watch something like regret pass across his face. He nods every

so slightly, “Yeah, Red, that’ll do just fine.”

As we walk up the street towards the club the desk clerk told us about I get the eerie

feeling someone is following us. Marty must sense it too and he leans over to whisper in

my ear, “Just keep walking.” His hand comes to rest at the small of my back and I feel a

sudden sense of security rather than fear from his touch. When we cross the street in

front of the club our shadows follow us. If it weren’t for Marty I’d be running for my life

right now.

The club is called The Ivanhoe. It’s a restaurant and dance club like so many others that

dot the big cities these days. This one probably isn’t one of the more popular ones in

town but it’s nice to be dining in a place with tablecloths for a change. As Marty checks

his hat and our coats, I notice he’s wearing that same double-breasted suit he had on the

night he came to the house. Between the suit and his hat he looks right at home here, I

feel like I’m dating a mobster. But this is the closest thing to a date I’ve been on in

months and from the looks Marty is getting from some of the other women as we wind

our way though the restaurant, I’ve got myself a pretty good catch.

The maitre’ d finds us a nice table at the back of the room and we dine in companionable

silence. Being secluded way for the past several months makes me feel awkward in a

place like this. I don’t think our recent conversations would be appropriate. Marty has

been silent too. A little too silent and I can’t help but think there is another reason for us

being here. All through dinner he’s been watching the room when he doesn’t think I

notice. When I question Marty about it, he changes the subject. “You don’t believe I just

wanted to take a good lookin’ dame out to dinner?” he asks with a smirk.

I think that was a compliment but I’m not going to let the comment get by me. “You told

me before you weren’t a sucker for dames, remember? Besides, you already told me

why we were going out.” The smirk disappears from his face. Nice Dana, spoil his fun.

He’s ordered an after dinner scotch and he picks up the glass to clink the ice in it. “Yeah,

well, that wasn’t exactly true. Hot potato like you can get a guy in a lot of trouble if he’s

not careful.”

“And you always try to be careful?”

He takes a sip of his drink, “Doesn’t always work out that way.”

He acts like he’s speaking from experience. When I first met this man a few days ago I

didn’t want to know him, hell, I didn’t want to be seen with him. He seemed cocky and

arrogant back there at the estate. Now, I’m beginning to think it was all a front, a defense

mechanism to protect who he really is. Someone I find myself wanting to get to know.

“Are you speaking from experience?”

“Mostly bad ones,” he says with a sad smile. “Trust me, Red, there’s so much more you

need to do with your life than get mixed up with a guy like me.”

He’s left himself open and I take the opportunity, “And what kind of guy are you,

Marty?”

“The kind of guy you don’t want to get yourself mixed up with right now, Red. Trust

me.”

“I think we’ve already established that element of trust.”

“Well, maybe that was your first mistake. Someday Red, your science is going to save

the world. I’m just here to make sure that happens.” he looks up at me but I notice his

gaze go right past me. I want to turn around but that would be too obvious. I know

something is wrong.

“Marty, what’s wrong?”

He sighs again and sets his glass down. “Nothin’ you need to worry about, Red. You

want another drink?”

I don’t need reassurance, I need an answer. “We’re not going to make it out of here alive

are we?”

He looks at me with mock astonishment, while he signals the waiter for a refill on his

scotch. “What do you mean by that?”

“The two men who followed us here from the hotel are sitting across the room; you’ve

been watching them all night.”

Busted. He looks me right in the eyes, “Actually there are four of them and I’m gonna do

my damnedest to get us out of this room alive.”

It occurs to me then how ironic in a sense our situation has become. “You know back in

1934 John Dillinger was led to a place like this by the infamous ‘Lady in Red’. Right

before he was gunned down by a bunch of F.B.I. agents.”

“And here I thought I was the one with the sick sense of humor,” he smiles but we both

know this is anything but funny.

The band has started up in the other room. They’re playing a set of Glen Miller tunes but

they’re nowhere near as good and yet I still feel myself drawn to the music. I hadn’t

realized I’d closed my eyes until someone is touching my hand. I trace the hand up to

meet Marty’s eyes. “You want to dance, Red?”

I’m shocked that he’s asked but in a world full of chaos and uncertainty there’s nothing

more I’d rather do. As we head for the dance floor his hand comes to rest at the small of

my back again. It feels like it belongs there and I cherish the warmth if only for the

moment. The band starts up a new tune and we step onto the dance floor. With my heels

our height difference isn’t as bad and I fall easily against him. The band goes through

String of Pearls and then into Glen’s theme song, Moonlight Serenade. Marty pulls me

tighter against him I hear him swallow hard.

“Did you ever see Glen Miller?” I whisper to him.

“No, never had time for something like this before,” he pulls back a little and looks down

at me. I don’t believe him. He’s a good dancer.

“And now you wish you had?”

He leans against me, “If we were two other people in a different world.” His throaty

voice almost chokes and I understand how he feels. But we’re not two other people. He’s

a two-bit private eye and I’m a doctor with a very important job and no time for romance.

I have a world to save. What the hell am I doing here?

The band has a vocalist and she starts in on the next tune, “At last — my love has come

along. My lonely days are over — And life is like a song. At last — the skies above are

blue and my heart was wrapped up in clover.”

Marty pulls me close again and rests his cheek against my head; I cup the back of his

neck as she continues her song, “The night I looked at you I found a dream that I can

speak to. A dream that I could call my own; I found a thrill to press my cheek to

a thrill that I have never known.”

The gun beneath his jacket reminds me that this is no ordinary date but I feel something

happening between us that I think both of us swore at the beginning of this charade never

would. It feels a lot like love but I sense that Marty feels he’s unworthy and I’m afraid to

act on it. His head comes up and he turns to look at me. My arms are still wrapped

around his neck. “Damn, you’re beautiful,” he whispers and then he’s kissing me again

desperately and I can do nothing but kiss him back there on the dance floor as the song

finishes behind us.

“You smiled, and then the spell was cast; and here we are in heaven; and you are mine at

last.”

When the music stops we both break the kiss and just stand there holding onto each other

as the crowd leaves the floor. The momentary bliss is broken as I feel him tense in my

arms. I look up to meet his concerned eyes and he whispers “I’m sorry,” before he pulls

away from me. He’s looking wildly around the room. I follow his gaze and see the men

who followed us standing in the doorway between the restaurant and the ballroom. I

think I catch the face of someone I recognize behind them but I’m not sure. When the

men catch us looking they scatter into the crowd. I’m suddenly terrified and grab Marty’s

hand, “Marty, what do we do?” As the band starts up Marty looks at me and begins to

pull me off the dance floor, “Come on!”

We wind our way through the crowd and end up in the lobby of the restaurant. He

scrambles into his coat and hat then helps me into mine pulling it tightly around me.

“You ready?” he asks.

I’m not sure what he’s asking me and can only nod in agreement before one of the men

finds us. While he’s looking around for the rest of his party Marty shoves me out the

door and once again we find ourselves in the cold rain. He grabs my hand and we run

back up the street to where we’d parked the old car. His legs are longer than mine and

he’s practically pulling me along as we run. I can hear the sound of running feet behind

us. I’m more certain than ever that we’re not going to make it.

When we reach the car I stumble on the curb but he catches me, opening the door and

practically throwing me inside. He slams the door and I can only make out shadows

through the wet windows as he rounds the car himself. Everything happens so fast, he’s

in the car and we’re pulling away from the curb immediately. Out of the corner of my

eye I catch another dark car pass us in the other direction. As we speed up the street the

sound of gunfire erupts behind us. He pushes me down in the seat.

It’s several minutes before the pressure of his hand relaxes on my back. I’m shaking,

from fear or the cold I’m not quite sure. It’s raining hard making it difficult to see where

we are going. I reach over to touch his hand on the wheel and realize instantly that it is

the hand of a much older man. My gasp catches his attention as I pull my hand away and

turn to look at the man seated beside me. It dawns on me then that this car had been

running when Marty had tossed me into it and what had occurred back there on the street

was one of the oldest tricks in the book, the old switcheroo. I look over to meet the eyes

of Agent Skinner, Marty’s old boss and realize what sacrifice has just been made.

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He doesn’t say anything at first, fighting to see through the rain and the wipers as they

slap back and forth across the windshield. “Who was in the other car?” I demand fighting

my emotions even though I think I already know what his answer will be.

As I suspected he doesn’t answer. I look around the car and see my luggage and my

briefcase in the back seat. “Who planned this? You? Did he know about this? Dammit,

answer me!”

Skinner looks over at me, “He planned it Dana.”

As we drive on through the darkness I suddenly remember what my father had said about

not wanting the government to know where I was. This man works for the government.

God, it couldn’t be. “This was a set-up wasn’t it? You set him up — it was you he was

calling all the time wasn’t it? You let him believe he was getting me out of Baltimore

safely but the whole time you and the Germans were right behind us. You used the

information he gave you against us.” I wanted desperately to get out of the car. “Where

are you taking me?”

“The same place Marty wanted you to go.”

“Dammit, he never told me where we were going!”

“There was a lot he couldn’t tell you. We’re headed to The University of Chicago; which

you may or may not know is one of the countries top atomic research facilities. If what

you’re carrying in that case can aide in that project then you need to be where it will do

the most good. Marty was interested in saving just more than your ass, Sister.

You have it all backwards; use that pretty little head of yours to think. Someone in the

military leaked the information that you’d left Baltimore. You don’t think they monitor

our information in the same way that we do theirs? I did my best to keep you two steps

ahead of them but it didn’t work. Now they think you’re dead.”

I sit and fume in silence for a few minutes, trying to put things together in my head.

“You don’t get it do you?” he finally asks. “What you were to him?”

“What are you talking about? He hardly knew me. I was a job to him; just like I’m a job

to you.”

“This was no job to him. I’ve know Marty a long time, Dana. I’ve seen him with dames

before but I’ve never known him to fall for one. Not like he fell for you. He loves this

country and he loved you,” he catches my eyes in the darkness of the car. “I heard it in

his voice every time he called me.”

I laugh, a bitter sarcastic laugh. Who is he kidding? Better yet, who am I kidding? I’d

seen the desire in him several times on our trip across the Midwest; he’d never acted on it.

Face it Dana you weren’t his type. “He didn’t want me; all he wanted was the cash.” I say

without thinking.

“You’re right, he didn’t want you,” Skinner takes his eyes off the road to pin them on me.

“He needed you.”

“And that’s supposed to be enough? There’s a war on in case you haven’t noticed. The

world’s going to hell in a hand basket. It’s going to take more than needing each other to

us through this.”

“Sometimes all you really need is each other.” I look over at this man who Marty

considers a friend and suddenly feel sick. He wasn’t doing this for the government; he

was doing it for a friend who’d done it for me; he’d never see the damn cash.

One of the last things Marty had said to me was ‘I’m sorry’, I’d misunderstood him.

Dammit it, I’m the one who should be sorry and I suddenly feel the overwhelming need to

tell him so and I don’t want to save the world without him. I look over at this imposter,

trying to draw his attention, “Who was in that other car? Where’s Marty?” When he

refuses to answer I try again, “Stop the car!”

Mr. Skinner ignores me so I jump across the seat and try to take the wheel from him, turn

the car around and go back and find Marty. We wrestle for control of the wheel in the

rain. “Stop it, Dana — Dana…

D.C. GENERAL HOSPITAL

PRESENT DAY

Someone was calling her name, “Dana, Dana, hey — sleepy…” She felt the touch of a

hand along her cheek, “Come on, Scully, wake up.” Opening her eyes, she blinked at the

image above her; the dark hair and hazel eyes, the labels of his trench coat and that damn

hat. “Marty? Oh God — Marty,” she flung her arms around his neck, trying to pull him

down. “Oh God, you’re alright…” Though somewhat surprised he followed her into the

hug.

“Marty?” he said, breaking into a smile. “Scully, it’s me, Mulder.”

Mulder? The name hit her then and she pulled back to look at him again recognizing the

bruise that tinted his right cheek. “Who’s Marty?’ he asked as she settled back against the

pillows and covered her face with her fingers in embarrassment.

Dropping her hands, she shook her head in disbelief, “He’s–I…” she watched as his

brows furrowed.”Oh, Mulder, never mind, I must have been dreaming,” she looked up at

him a bit sheepishly.

“Wow, must have been some dream,” he kidded as he sat down on the edge of the bed,

leaning over to prop himself with his arm on the other side of her hips. “You ready to go

home? I heard the doctors already released you this morning.”

She pursed her lips and his gaze followed her hand as she reached up to snag the hat from

his head. “Where did you get this silly hat?”

“The other night you didn’t think it looked silly on Bogie,” he sounded a little

disappointed by her reaction.

“So you went out and bought one?”

He snatched it back and put it back on his head so it sat a little off to the left. “What do

you think?” he asked hopefully. “Am I turning you on?”

Her vision of tough guy Marty with the chains around his heart came back to her. He’d

left her without her even getting the chance to know it. Mulder’s heart on the other hand

had always been right there; raw and exposed for her taking. He’d offered it to her many

times over.

“Scully?” She focused on Mulder again.

“Hmm?”

“I said, what do you think?”

She ran her finger along the brim and he dipped his head, “I think you look — damn sexy,

Mulder.” He smiled then, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Maybe I should break into that Rod Stewart song, “Do you think I’m sexy…”

She laughed as he moved to the beat of his off-key singing. “Please,” she laughed

waving her right hand back and forth. “Of course I think you’re sexy. I’m just glad you

never figured it out yourself and I have you all to myself because I have no intention of

letting you go.” She reached for his right hand, “Ever.”

“I hope not,” he answered looking down at their joined hands.

It was then as she studied him more closely that she noticed the shadows under his eyes,

the lines that became more pronounced with fatigue. “Actually you look tired.”

She watched as his face turned serious, “Yeah, I didn’t get much sleep last night. The

headache I had the other night came back with a vengeance.”

She thought about all the other restless nights he’d had lately but would never admit to

her. That he was acknowledging it now began to worry her. His headaches in the recent

past had always been accompanied by periods of what he called visions and what she still

preferred to call hallucinations. “Mulder, is everything alright?”

She watched him hesitate; knowing full well that he was weighing what he should tell

her. Avoiding the confrontations that usually came with their discussions of his mental

health of late he’d been keeping things to himself. He needed to understand she was only

concerned about his well being but knowing he needed to realize it on his own. He

glanced away as he finally spoke, “Alright? Now there’s a loaded question. Yeah,

Scully, I’m fine.”

As soon as he’d said it he knew how wrong it was. He watched the concern spread across

her face.

“It’s starting again isn’t it? The hallucinations? Mulder, we really need to find you a

doctor and get you some help. We both can’t go on like this.”

Anger flared in him, “I really wish you’d stop saying that, Scully. I am not hallucinating.

The only thing a doctor is going to do is prescribe some anti-psychotics or worse yet, fit

me for a straight jacket.”

His denial only irritated her, “Then what do you call them Mulder? If these really are

precognitions of the future how do we convey them to anyone who won’t think you’re out

of your mind?”

“Sarcasm will get you nowhere. You think I’m enjoying this?” She could see the veins in

his neck as he fought to control his temper. No, she knew he wasn’t enjoying it. So why

was he so adamant about protecting it?

“Well I’m not enjoying it either, Mulder, so talk to me.”

“Why, so you can try and fucking rationalize what I tell you?”

“No,” she tried to stroke his hand, offering him reassurance in hopes of keeping this

conversation from escalating into something like they had been through the other night.

“So I can help you,” she answered, trying to keep her voice calm. “When we hide the

truth from each other it only works against us, you told me that. I just want to be sure

that when this is all over YOU’RE going to be alright.”

He had told her that and he remembered how he’d felt everytime she’d kept the truth

about her illness from him. He let out a shaky sigh, and began his confession.

“Honestly?” He watched as she nodded hopefully. “I can’t remember the last time I felt

ALRIGHT Scully, and it certainly wasn’t last night,” his eyes sought out hers for support.

“That explains why you look the way you do. What happened last night?”

“Bad dream, really bad dream,” her eyes begged him to continue. “I’ve been catching bits

and pieces of it for the past week, when I was alone last night it unfolded in all it’s glory.”

“Oh, Mulder.”

He shook his head, “I was in some sort of antiquated medical facility, strapped down on a

table and surrounded by a group of German doctors…”

She closed her eyes, the Germans from her dream; the moment she found Mulder

strapped to that table in the DOD several years ago all came rushing back to her.

“Hey,” Mulder reached up to brush her cheek. “Maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this

now.”

“No, no, if you stop you’ll never tell me the rest of it.” His hand had suddenly grown cold

in hers.

“They’d shaved my head and imbedded some sort of electrodes into my brain. One of

them injected me with something, God Scully, it burned through every part of my body.

There were others there, I could hear them screaming. The gulag at Tunguska had been a

health spa compared to this. I don’t remember anything else. I woke up to my own

screams drenched in sweat.”

Scully hesitated a moment before she spoke. She wanted to tell him there had been

Germans of a different kind in her own dream but he didn’t need to hear about that now.

There was something more important she was trying to get to. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there

for you…”

“No, no,” he shook his head. “You’re listening now, that’s all I ask.”

It hit her then that maybe that’s all he had ever wanted; someone to listen and not

condemn. “Do you think it was a flashback or something to do with The Holocaust?”

“I don’t know,” he answered letting go of her hand. “From what I remember, nobody was

speaking German at the DOD,” he tried to pull a smile from her but she only looked more

concerned. “Don’t you see, these aren’t visions of the future, they’re moments from the

past? Moments we should have learned from. You said it yourself, we bury the dead

alive, that that’s what consciousness is. They’re trying to speak to us, Scully. Only

nobody is listening.”

“Except you?”

“God, Scully, don’t you think somebody needs to?” His eyes pleaded with hers, “You

know years ago Cassandra told me that I was the one she believed could stop what was

happening. I brushed her off then. I was so frustrated and angry and tired of the bullshit

that I refused to listen to her. But what if she was right?”

She squeezed his hand, “You know, Mulder, maybe you don’t realize it, but I’ve always

been listening to you and what I do know is that these dreams you’re experiencing now

have only led us to some other horrific event. What if this dream is the same? Why can’t

you understand that you’re not in this alone? Mulder, I’m worried about you.”

A gentle smile crossed his lips, “I know you are but I don’t want you to be. If I thought I

was a danger to anyone, including myself I would let you know. I will promise you that.”

“I will keep you to that you know.”

He nodded ever so slightly and then met her eyes. “Listen, about yesterday, I didn’t mean

to run out of here like I did but I meant what I said — about needing some time to think.”

“About what?”

“Us, and about what you said the other night. It wasn’t very fair of me to spring that on

you like that Scully, I’m sor…”

Before he could say anything else she reached up to put her fingers to his lips. “Mulder,

don’t apologize, that’s not what I want. It was just a surprise, a wonderful surprise and

flattering and very sweet and I reacted badly. I should be the one to apologize.” She

couldn’t look at him with the hat on anymore and she reached up again to pull if off his

head. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I took a beautiful moment away from us and

I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s okay…”

“No, it’s not okay. All I could think about was our not being able to work together

anymore if we were married. That it would end our partnership. A legal marriage would

only keep us apart in a most important way and I don’t want that to happen. I got angry

because I couldn’t make you see it that way.”

He leaned over and kissed her gently, “Well I do now,” he pulled back a little and

watched as a soft smile graced her lips. “I am happy, Scully, that confession I made to

you in my hallway all those years ago — you still have no idea how much you’ve changed

my life. This relationship we share has made me whole again and for the first time in my

life, I am happy.”

He reached for her then, taking her head in his hands and using the pads of his thumbs to

caress her cheeks, “You’re right Scully, right now we do have the best of both worlds. A

marriage certificate is just a piece of paper and what you and I have goes much deeper

than that.”

The intensity of his gaze unnerved her. When he spoke again his voice cracked with

emotion. “Having each other is all that’s really important.”

The phrase seemed eerily familiar, Skinner’s words as they’d driven though the dark night

without Marty echoed in her mind. The sacrifice he’d made for her in her dream. She

played with Mulder’s hat realizing how very much alike he and Marty were. She suddenly

worried about where he was going with this. “But you suddenly felt the need to ask for

one.”

He looked down at her hands that continued to play with his hat. “I asked because I got

to thinking about what Tara said to me about the time we have left; and what your family

has always thought of me and because I thought our relationship had become something

that maybe you wanted to sanctify in the eyes of God but didn’t think that I did,” he

looked up. “I want you to know what you mean to me. You’re all I have left Scully. I

can’t lose you either.”

She did know, how could he think she didn’t? Words had never seemed necessary where

her devotion to him was concerned. She’d proved it over and again and her family knew

it too. But when he’d asked her for the ultimate commitment, she’d turned him down. It

saddened her to think she hadn’t realized this, that maybe now for some reason, it was too

late.

“Mulder, what do you mean, the time we have left? We have all kinds of time don’t we?”

When he didn’t answer her, she asked him again, “Don’t we?”

“They both know what it’s like to lose a partner, Scully. To have that bond and lose it.”

“And we wouldn’t because we’re not married? Mulder, why is this suddenly so

important? You said I was right, about our partnership.”

She watched him pick at her blanket. “You are,” he acknowledged, looking up. “As

much as I would like it to happen, if we got married, we’d very likely lose the partnership

and I’m not willing to risk that now either — despite what your family thinks of me.”

She reached out to still his hand, “They accept my lifestyle Mulder. Tara is grateful, and

mom loves you. Besides, it doesn’t matter what they think, I love you, for better or for

worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until — for

as long as we both shall live. I do.”

“Your mom accepts me, Scully. Don’t for once think that I’m the type of guy she

envisioned her baby girl spending the rest of her life with.”

He straightened up, the realization of what she’d just said finally sinking in. “What?” He

looked right at her, “What did you just say?” It warmed her heart to see the same smile

from the other night spread across his face.

“I said, I do,” surprised to find she’d rendered him speechless, she went on. “I’ve trusted

you with my life, Mulder, I always have. How could you not think that I trust you with

my heart as well?” She watched his eyes search hers, “Mulder, you are the most amazing

person I have ever met. You’re dark and mysterious, and yes, maybe you are a little

dangerous. But you’re also brilliant and wonderfully caring and though I hate to

encourage you, you make me laugh.” She watched as his lip curled but before he could

say anything, she continued. “You’re a dreamer, Mulder and I admire you for holding on

to those dreams with more courage than an army. You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had

and a hopeless romantic and though you can be infuriating at times, you’re irresistible,”

she reached up to caress his face, her fingers playing into his hair. “And I love you for all

those things.” She glanced down and picked up his hat to put it back on, “With or

without this silly hat. You have my heart, Mulder, always. As my work partner and in

every other meaning of the word, don’t ever doubt that. And I do, want to spend the rest

of my life with you.”

She watched as he studied her face, his eyes dilating with desire and then he swallowed,

hard. “Do we need to exchange rings on that or what?”

“God is watching, Mulder, he knows,” she reached up to brush her thumb across the

bruise on his cheek.

“I’m glad then,” she watched his eyes suddenly dance. “Because of all the gin-joints in

the world, I’m so very grateful you walked into mine, partner,” he whispered as he leaned

over to kiss her again.

A tap on the door broke them apart; she smiled at him in reference to his apropos use of

the movie quote. “Excuse me,” the floor nurse who Scully had met earlier was standing in

the doorway. “Sorry for the — interruption,” she nodded to Mulder when he turned to

look at Scully. “I’ve got Dana’s release papers ready. They’ll be at the desk,” she

motioned down the hall and then shyly pulled the door to.

“Please tell me you brought me a change of clothes?” Scully asked when he turned back

to her. She watched him get up and bend down to pick up a duffle bag.

“Picked them out personally,” he said as he set the bag on the bed and reached up to

straighten his hat. “I’ll go find your release papers.”

“Mulder wait,” once again she reached for his arm. “I need to apologize for something

else. The way I acted at the bank the other day.”

“What do you mean?

“I wasn’t very polite to your friend at the bank. It just all seemed so secretive on your

part you didn’t really explain why we were there.”

“I told you, I just needed your signature on some things. I talked to John this morning, he

said he’d come by the house when you’re feeling better, we can take care of it then.

“Have you been holding out on me?” she asked with mock seriousness.

He stepped back a few steps and her hand dropped from his arm. “They’re just

investment accounts Scully. Though there’s enough there for a healthy retirement,” he

said with a smile. “And maybe help Tara put the kids through school. I want you to have

access to them.”

The ‘in case something happens to me’ he didn’t say crossed quickly through her mind.

“Then invite him to dinner, I think I owe him one.”

“Thanks, he’d probably like that better than trying to beat me on the basketball court.”

After he’d left the room in search of her release papers she opened the duffle, shuddering

to think what he might have packed for her but relieved to find he’d packed her some of

her favorite casual clothes and a pair of flat shoes. Though the nurse had succeeded in

changing the subject of their conversation she was determined to take it up with him

again. Her Mulder alarm had gone from yellow to red. He’d been more forthcoming than

usual about his disturbing dreams but she still had a sense that he was hiding something

from her. She remembered the sacrifice Marty had made in her dream. She would not let

Mulder do the same. Maybe her science would save the world one day, but she needed

his beautiful mind to help her do it.

A few minutes later Mulder came back with an orderly in tow steering the customary

wheelchair for her ride to the door. “You ready Doll?” he joked, falling into the part.

When she nodded, he kept it up. “Good, then what do you say we blow this joint?” The

orderly rolled his eyes as he helped her into the wheelchair. Heading down the hall to the

elevator, she couldn’t help but notice the looks that were directed their way. Mulder had

no idea how he looked in that hat.

When Mulder pulled up with the car she reached in to pluck his hat from her seat and slid

in beside him. The orderly shut the door and tapped the window. Mulder put the car into

gear and pulled away. As they headed down the drive and out into traffic she played with

his hat. Creasing it just so and straightening the brim. She could see him watching her

from the corner of her eye.

“So, you gonna tell me about this Marty guy or what?”

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Webster’s definition of the word “Partner” is as follows:

1. a person who shares or is associated with another person in some action or endeavor;

associate 2. one of two persons who contribute capital to establish or maintain a

commercial venture and who usually share in the risks and profits 3. silent partners 4. a

husband, wife or lover 5. either of two persons who dance together 6. a player on the

same side or team as another

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According to a website I found there really was a club in Chicago called The Ivanhoe

back in the 40’s. I’m a closet fan of Big Band music. Google Glen Miller and listen to

some of his music, it had a sound all its own. Thanks to my ebuddie Chris for the

information on John Dillinger and her endless poking. And thanks to Vickie and Chuck

for their beta work and to Martin for the wonderful artwork, you’ve satisfied my secret

desire to see Mulder in a fedora. The idea for this story came to me last summer on a

drive to South Carolina. My husband and I were listening to an early morning radio

program on of all things, fashion of the 1940’s. One of the tunes in the piece was AT

LAST a song composed by Mack Gordon for a 1942 film titled ORCHESTRA WIVES.

In my own little universe, it seemed to fit Mulder and Scully; the story just grew from

there. There’s a quote from STAR TREK in here somewhere.

Underneath the Stars

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Underneath the Stars

Written by: Erin M. Blair

Mulder smiled to himself as he led Scully to their bench at the Lincoln

Memorial. “We hardly come here anymore. I’ve been missing it.”

“I know the feeling, Mulder. Why now? Why so late? It’s almost ten o’clock

at night.”

He put his hands in his pockets and felt the lining of his trench coat. Then,

he felt a gust of wind blow open his jacket. It was nippy from being outside

in early March. He was shivering underneath his clothes. “I don’t know. I

guess I miss being here with you.”

“Aw…”

“Do you need anything to warm you up?” He asked, tempted to gather

her in his arms. He wanted to show her off like a prized painting because she

deserved to hear everything.

Not until they flush out the Consortium.

Until that moment comes, he was sharing this beautiful night with Scully.

They both looked up to see the only light coming from the stars, it looked as

though they were watching over them..

“I only want you, Mulder.”

“What?”

“I only want you to keep me warm.”

“Always.”

“And thanks for bringing me here. I believe your sister is smiling at us.”

He smiled through his sudden tears. “You remembered.”

She nodded. “Yes. How these stars are old souls looking for new homes. It

described them perfectly. I’d never thought of them that way. When we read

her diary and found what happened to her, I believe she’s watching us, even

guiding us to search for the truth. No matter how sad; no matter how painful

and no matter how happy – she is watching us.”

“Thank you.” he slipped his hand around hers.

“I have to believe that.”

Her words touched him and nodded. “I know. I believe the same thing,

Scully.”

~~

The End

Snowthunder

Title: Snowthunder

Author: Vickie Moseley

Summary: Snow and lightning can make for plenty of thunder.

Rating: E for everyone

Category: Fluff (just like the white stuff that came from the

sky)

Written for the Virtual Season 13 “Lights in the Sky” special

Archive: two week exclusive on VS 13, then anywhere

Disclaimer: Scientific disclaimer: During the Blizzard of ’06, I

don’t know that there was lightning during the snowstorm.

However, it is documented that some parts of Nebraska got

over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours. So I figure it had

to have been coming down pretty hard some of that time. If

there wasn’t any lightning, there probably should have been.

Fan fiction disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.

Comments: vickiemoseley1978@yahoo.com

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Snowthunder

By Vickie Moseley

I-80, Eastbound

100 miles out of Lincoln, NE

March 20, 2006

8:14 pm

“Have you noticed we’re the only car on this road, Mulder,”

Scully ventured to speak after half an hour of silent foreboding.

All around them was white. Not for the first time since they’d

started out that day was she wondering how her partner

managed to keep the car on the road — it all looked like a

blanket of marshmallow fluff to her.

“What time does our plane leave?” he asked, ignoring her

comment.

She looked over at him and noticed his fingers were in a white

knuckled grip on the steering wheel. She felt some relief; at

least he wasn’t oblivious to their precarious situation. But at

the same time, it angered her that he seemed to be pushing on

when reason and common sense would have had them holed

up in some high school gymnasium by now. Only in the

Midwest would there be a blizzard on the first day of spring!

“Scully? Departure time?” he repeated in a low growl.

“Nine forty-five,” she said through clenched teeth. She glanced

at the speedometer. They were crawling along at just over

forty miles an hour, as fast as they dared to go in the slick and

deep snow. “I don’t think we’re going to make our flight,” she

said quietly.

“No, right now I’m just hoping to make Lincoln,” he admitted.

“Maybe we should stop,” she suggested.

He took his eyes off the windshield long enough to give her a

dubious look. “Have you seen an exit sign lately?” he asked

derisively. “Because if you have — ”

She was about to answer, and not very politely, when Mulder

let out a gasp and steering wheel seemed to take on a life of its

own. Mulder fought for purchase against wheels that were

intent upon blazing a new trail, one not in the visions of the

civil engineers who designed the interstate system. The car

spun helplessly, leaving the two occupants slightly seasick.

There was a terrifying second when the world seemed to up-

end and then just as quickly, the car stopped, windshield now

pointing at a 45-degree angle to the horizon.

The only good thing about spinning out and sliding into a ditch

in a blizzard was the fact that it tended to include a soft

landing. Since both agents were wearing their seatbelts, and

the car’s front end was pointing upwards, thus avoiding any

airbag deployment, injuries were of a more emotional nature.

It took Scully a few moments to calm her pounding heart and

work the kink out of her neck enough to look over at her

partner. He was staring straight out the windshield, his panic

look firmly in place.

“Mulder?” she ventured, but one look and she knew it was not

the time to speak. They sat in strained silence for a few

minutes and then Mulder seemed to gather his inner resources

and look over at her.

“Cell phone?” he asked.

She dug through her purse, pulling the phone out and clicking

the on button. She chewed on her lip. “No Service,” she said

sheepishly.

“A hundred miles out of Lincoln and they don’t have cell

towers,” he stormed, then just as suddenly, he took a deep

breath, forcing himself to calm down. “Sorry. I know that’s

not your fault.”

“Mulder, I’m sure they have trucks out. Someone is bound to

find us,” she offered.

“Scully,” he said, licking his lips. “While you were asleep a little

while ago — ”

She frowned at him. Then, she realized something. The radio

was off. Mulder’s constant companion on any long car ride —

any oldies station he could find. When she’d fallen asleep after

the last fill-up, the radio had been on. Now, the car was silent.

“Mulder, why did you turn off the radio?”

” — and you know how these state troopers are, always closing

this or that with the first snowflake — ”

“Mulder, what was on the radio that caused you to turn it off?”

she demanded, fear now gripping her chest tightly.

“They closed the interstate,” he blurted out. “About two hours

ago.”

She looked at him with confusion. “How could they — ”

“They said the storm is right over the I-80 corridor. It’s stalled.

But see, I knew we were only about 150 miles from Lincoln and

I figured that we could make 150 miles easy and if it got bad

we could pull over in some little town along the way — ”

“They closed the interstate and you kept going?” she clarified,

her voice taking on a particularly shrill tone.

“I didn’t think — ”

“Well, that’s sure as hell painfully obvious,” she shot back.

Suddenly the sky was lit in all directions and almost

immediately a clap of thunder shook the car and rolled for

several seconds.

“Scully — ”

“We’re in big trouble,” she answered.

“Doesn’t that mean — ”

“Very heavy snowfall. Yes. Sometimes as much as 3 or more

inches an hour,” she finished his sentence. “Mulder, we’ll be

buried.”

The next flash seemed to surround the car and the thunder

roared and rolled even louder. “It’s right over head,” she said.

“Really? I was sort of hoping it was going to be one of those

times when we ‘lose nine minutes’,” he tried to joke. She

wasn’t buying it. “OK, serious conditions here.”

“Turn off the car,” Scully said suddenly.

“Scully, we need the heat — ”

“Carbon monoxide, Mulder. The exhaust pipe is surely clogged

with snow at this point. We can’t risk it.”

He nodded reluctantly and in a second the engine stopped but

the car lights stayed on, running off the car battery. “What

provisions do we have?” he asked.

She unbuckled her seatbelt and crawled into the back seat. In

a few minutes, she’d pulled down one section of the backseat to

reveal the interior of the trunk. It took some pulling and one

nail was lost to the cause, but before long she had both their

suitcases and briefcases lying out in the back. She zipped open

first Mulder’s case and started handing him articles of clothing.

“Layers, lots of layers.”

“Of all times to forget my sleeping bag,” he pouted, but did as

she ordered. It wasn’t easy for him to get his sweatpants on

while sitting at the steering wheel, but soon they were both

layered to the point it was difficult to move.

“Scully, not to be a worry wart, but how much air do you think

we have in here?” Mulder asked, noting that the windows were

now covered with snow.

“We should have enough for a while. Snow doesn’t pack down

that hard. If it gets stuffy, we can make a hole with the ice

scraper out the window,” she suggested. She crawled back into

the front seat and started to rummage around the floorboards,

smiling triumphantly when her search was successful.

“Hungry?” she asked. In her hand were a bag of sunflower

seeds and a 32 oz. bottle of water.

“So that’s what you were doing inside while I was pumping the

gas,” he said with an answering smile. He took the seeds and

tore open the package with his teeth. After pouring out a

handful he handed the bag back to her. “So, I guess this

means you really do love me, huh?”

She smiled at him and shook her head. “Guess so,” she

agreed.

The lightning flashed around them, the thunder seemed to

shake the car for hours, even though it was only a couple of

seconds. Mulder reached over and took Scully’s hand, noting

how cool it was. To his dismay he also found it was trembling.

Drastic times called for drastic action.

“Hey, we might not have sleeping bags, but nothing says we

have to stay in the front seat,” he suggested with wiggling

eyebrows. “C’mon.” He dropped her hand and climbed

between the bucket seats. When he was settled the back, he

patted his lap. “Hey, good lookin’ — wanna neck?”

She couldn’t help herself, she burst out in giggles. “‘Neck’,

Mulder?”

“Yeah, well, we live together, we share a bed, but when was

the last time we necked in the backseat of a car, Scully?” he

asked playfully.

“Mulder, we’re stuck in a ditch in the middle of a blizzard on a

closed road that no one is going to travel down for days — and

for your information we have NEVER ‘necked’ in the backseat of

a car!” she exclaimed, but before he could apologize, she was

sitting in his lap. “Hi there,” she said coyly.

“Hi,” he replied back, giving her the shy smile she found so

endearing.

“So, how do we go about this ‘necking’ stuff,” she asked,

batting her eyes for effect.

He chuckled and leaned forward. “Well, if I remember correctly

— what I’ve read, mind you — you kinda start like this . . . ”

The lightning had moved on from overhead, but every once in a

while the car still shook with the sound of thunder. The car was

shaking for other reasons, as well and the two people in the car

need not have worried about keeping warm. The windows were

fogged and sweating. It was just starting to get interesting,

from Mulder’s point of view, while he tired to figure out the best

way to remove the three layers of sweatpants and dress pants

he was encased in, when Scully froze.

After a minute, he noticed she wasn’t returning his favors and

started to get worried. “What? What is it?”

“Isn’t it awfully bright in here?” she asked. She barely had the

words out of her mouth when the car started to shake violently,

sending her sliding off Mulder’s lap to land on the back of the

seat.

It was bright, very bright and the shaking had turned into

movement. He grabbed for her to keep her from tumbling any

farther because the car was slowly being dragged up the side of

the ditch. Without warning, it stopped.

They looked at each other in terrified silence until there was a

pounding on the driver’s side window. Muffled by the wind,

Mulder thought he heard someone yelling.

He scrambled to get into the driver’s seat and unlock the door.

Shoving against the now frozen lock, he finally got the door

open and was greeted by a wide-eyed young state trooper.

“Thank God,” the trooper said, shaking his head. “Are you

alone?” A beam of light was flashed around the car, finally

landing on Scully, still in the back seat.

“Um, no,” Mulder said, although he realized it was a moot

point. “My partner — ah, we’re with the FBI, we were trying to

get to Lincoln — ”

“Well, this car will never make it there under these conditions.

C’mon, I think there’s room in the truck cab. We’ll take you to

the nearest town and you can pick up your car when the

weather breaks.”

Kearney, NE

10:45 pm

It had been a long and near silent ride to the neighboring city

of Kearney. Mulder couldn’t help but notice the grins that were

exchanged between the trooper and the state highway

department truck driver, but both men were polite enough not

to laugh out loud in the agents’ presence. He just hoped they

weren’t the type to write letters to their Congressman.

Scully’s face still burned bright red in the light of the dash.

Whether from the wind beating it had taken while they moved

from stranded vehicle to state truck, or from the rather

compromising position they’d been found in — Mulder would not

even venture to guess. But he was pretty sure she wasn’t

speaking to him. For that matter, he was just a little afraid

they might live their lives with her never speaking to him again.

It certainly didn’t help matters that she had to sit in her

partner’s lap for the ride, since room was indeed limited.

When they arrived in Kearney, they were taken to the high

school where the Red Cross had set up a shelter in the gym.

Cots were assigned, along with blankets and pillows. Coffee,

hot chocolate, tea and snack foods were in plentiful supply.

After the initial rush, they were able to make their way back to

their cots and settle in for the night.

The silent treatment was killing him. As Scully took off her

shoes and prepared to lie down with her back toward him,

Mulder couldn’t take it anymore.

“OK, I’m sorry, I’m really, really sorry,” he blurted out,

probably a little too loudly.

She rolled over and eyed him critically. He did his best to look

contrite. In fact, he looked pretty darned miserable. She sat

up on her cot and rested her arms on her drawn up knees. “Do

you even know why you’re apologizing?” she asked with one

raised eyebrow.

“For not stopping when the road was closed, for not pulling

over when it got really hard to see, for making us miss our

plane, for trying to seduce you in the middle of a blizzard — ”

At her harsh look he lowered his voice. “Well, for _almost_

seducing you in the middle of a blizzard.”

She sighed and shook her head. “I’m not mad at you, Mulder.”

It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. “You sure could have

fooled me,” he shot back.

She looked at him again, this time with a bland expression.

“Mulder, in all the time we’ve been together, how do I usually

express my disgruntlement with you?”

“You yell at me. You slam things. You get this little wrinkle

right in the middle of your forehead and you give me the death

glare that never fails to turn my bowels liquid.”

She snorted. “Nice image, thank you,” she said dryly. “Mulder,

have I done any of those things tonight?”

He thought for a moment and then slowly shook his head. “No.

You haven’t. Which is what has me so scared,” he admitted.

“I’m afraid I’ve really screwed things up this time.”

Her soft chuckle should have given him some comfort, but it

only confused him more. “OK, then why have you been giving

me the cold shoulder since we were rescued?”

She leaned over and grabbed his shirt collar, since he’d long

since dispensed with his tie. She pulled him over so that he

was only inches from her face. “I’ve been trying to figure out

how the hell we’re going to find someplace dark, quiet and

_deserted_ in this school full of refugees so that I can finish

having my way with you.” She smiled at him and gave him a

small shove so that he landed on his own cot.

His grin was first delight and then deviousness. He looked

around, carefully surveying their surroundings. “There has to

be a janitor’s closet around here somewhere.”

Outside, the thunder boomed.

the end.

Crazy Lights

Title: Crazy Lights

Author: Skinfull

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, no harm.

Summary: VS “Lights in the Sky” Special. Just a bit of fluff for fun. (F.F.F.)

Feedback: skinfull@undergroundtales.com Love all feedback. Thanks in

Advance!

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Crazy Lights

By Skinfull

Mulberry State Forest

Wisconsin

Saturday 10.22PM

The light was so bright she felt it burn through her tightly screwed eyelids. Her hair

was whipped around her face and a strange humming sound exploded into the night

air. Mulder was lying beside her with his hands over his head, trying desperately to

cover them both with his body and the sleeping bag. Scully reached out one hand

and grabbed him, holding onto his elbow as tight as she could when suddenly it was

jerked away.

“NO!” she screamed opening her eyes but pulling them closed again. She caught a

glimpse of him being dragged away, his fingers digging long trails in the dirt as they

grasped for her.

“Scully!” his voice came though the night, hovering over her then fading away.

And suddenly it was over. Plunged into darkness, it took a moment for her eyes to

adjust.

***

FBI Basement Office

Washington DC

Friday 5.45PM

“No wait Scully don’t!” Mulder bustled in through the office and dropped his coat

across his desk. He took her arm and pulled her over to the filing cabinet, his smile

wide and expectant.

“Mulder?” she watched as he rifled through the files still smiling and even tapping his

foot. “Please…it’s Friday…it’s nearly six…”

“I know Scully I know…but wait till you see what I have.” Mulder found the folder he

was looking for and slapped it onto the table behind him. Then he reached for his

coat and removed a bundle of pages from the pocket.

“Let me guess…a case.”

“We really should have you tested for psychic abilities Scully.” As he rummaged

through the folder and pages he found the right ones and held them out to her.

“What’s this?”

“Two witnesses from the same town matching separate accounts from thirty years

ago.”

“Witness to what?” She read over the new statements first. “No Mulder.” As her

eyes scanned the words her head started to shake in dismay.

“Last night Jacob and William Verheim both witnessed various colored lights in the

sky over a forest that runs along the outskirts of their town. They’re twin brothers

who were walking home from a friend’s house at the time.”

“Lights in the sky?” she added dubiously.

“Thirty years ago in that same area for eight nights in a row, Bill and Shane Verheim

both witnessed similar lights in the same spot.”

“Brothers?”

“Yes. Shane is the father of Jacob and William, and Bill is his twin brother.”

“So…Wisconsin?”

“Yes. I have Kim booking our flights as we speak. I spoke to Skinner about it and

we’re leaving in the morning.”

“To do what exactly?” Scully pulled on her coat. Mulder folded his own coat over his

arm and followed her out to the garage.

“Don’t you see Scully?” He said excitedly, and she had to admit it was a lovely sound

to hear in his voice so happy. “Thirty years ago this phenomenon started and now

it’s starting again. Only this time we’ll be there to see it, to collect hard evidence!”

Scully sat into the driver’s seat and gunned the engine as Mulder climbed in beside

her and shuffled through his folder.

“So why aren’t we flying out tonight?” she asked, pulling out of the garage and onto

the street.

“Kim couldn’t get us any flights.”

***

Mulberry State Forest

Wisconsin

Saturday 2.20PM

In the back seat of the pick up truck Mulder unfolded the map over and over again

until he located the area he wanted. Scully was sitting in the front exchanging small

talk with Sheriff Nolan and the agent glanced down at his shoulder bag

conspiratorially. He hadn’t told Scully that he had intended on sleeping out in the

forest. The tent he packed was rolled up to mere nothingness and stuffed at the

bottom of his bag. He’d managed to put the sleeping bags and equipment into the

trunk before Scully noticed, but thus far, she hadn’t brought up a mention of the

motel they’d be staying in. And yet, he wasn’t hopeful.

“This is the area,” the sheriff said and he pulled the truck up to a small clearing.

They were more than five miles deep into the forest and the road they had been

driving on was all but non-existent. They all climbed out of the truck and Mulder

circled the car to stand next to the sheriff, pointing out something on the map.

“What were they doing walking through this forest at night?” Scully asked as she

looked around at the thickness of the dense trees around them.

“This forest is twelve miles wide and fifteen miles long. It’s a long walk around.”

“And how intoxicated were they?” she added as she came around the car to join

them.

“Their blood alcohol levels were taken at 0.17.”

Scully glanced at Mulder as if it were answer enough then folded her arms across her

chest and walked towards the edge of the clearing. Mulder took this opportunity to

take their stuff out of the trunk and bid the sheriff goodbye. The sound of the engine

starting made Scully turn with a start and she headed over to Mulder as Nolan drove

away.

“Where is he going?” she asked, that suspicious expression firmly on her face and

looking pointedly at him.

“Back into town,” Mulder said swiftly.

“What about us? Are we walking?” she looked up to him and then noticed the bags at

his feet. “What’s that? Oh don’t say it…”

“Scully we need to be here for the night to make sure that we collect all the evidence

that’s available.” He kicked one of the bags and waggled his eyebrows. “Tent,

sleeping bags and some provisions.”

“Oh no Mulder, you didn’t!” she scowled up at him but he had a slight curve in his

lips and for a second she did think he was joking. Until he unzipped one of the bags

and pulled out a folded tent. ”

***

Mulberry State Forest

Wisconsin

Saturday 10.12PM

Scully shifted in her sleeping bag, wondering for the thousandth time why she was

sleeping in a chilly tent when they could be at home in their warm bedroom. A chill

from the open flap made her look up and outside she could see Mulder’s silhouette

sitting by the fire. They didn’t usually go to bed after an argument. Well, she

pondered with a smile; they did, but not separately. Deciding it was her turn to

apologize, she unzipped herself from the sleeping bag and climbed out into the cool

night air. Her stockinged feet made soft cracking sounds on the dry leaves as she

approached him but he didn’t turn around. She plopped down next to him and buried

her cold hand between her legs to keep them warm.

“Mulder, I’m sorry,” she said nudging him with her elbow. “I shouldn’t have said

that.”

“No you’re right. It’s not really a real investigation.” He sighed as he picked up a

long stick and poked the fire, still refusing to look at her.

“C’mon,” she continued. “It was a genuine report by the local people here in

Farnsworth. It needed to be checked into.”

“Just not by us?” he suggested, casting only a sideways glance her way.

“Well maybe, but I just didn’t think that our investigation would warrant roughing it

again.”

Mulder looked behind him at the large four-man tent, electric lamp, air mattress and

double quilted sleeping bag then smiled. “This is hardly roughing it Scully.” He

teased nudging her back. Then he relaxed and placed a heavy arm around her

shoulder, pulling her over to him and setting her between his legs, her back resting

against his chest.

“We’ve been out here for hours and so far we haven’t seen anything.” She said

tentatively, not wanting to fight with him again.

“No,” he countered as he kissed her neck and nibbled on her ear. “But we have had a

good time! Good to get away from it all. ”

“Yeah.” She rolled her head to give him better access.

“Okay. We’ll just stay tonight then if nothing happens we’ll pack up and go

tomorrow. And I’ll cook a great outdoors breakfast.”

“Okay.”

Mulder resumed the soft kisses on her neck and was moving her hair aside when the

night sky exploded in a barrage of fireworks. Both of them jumped up startled, while

Mulder’s hand rested on his gun that was strapped to his hip.

“Jesus,” he muttered as he looked up at the colorful lights. “This town is crazy!”

“Wait…” Scully hurried back to the tent and he heard her rummaging through their

bags. When she came back out to him she was holding the file folder. She quickly

flipped through it to find the page she wanted then passed it to him, her finger

pointing out a specific line in the witness statement. “Look.”

Mulder took the file and read through it carefully. He flicked to the back of the report

and pulled out a second witness statement.

“Lights in the sky. Red, blue, orange.” Scully said trying to keep the smugness out of

her voice. “Fireworks. They all just saw fireworks.”

“No,” He looked up to the still exploding light show and grimaced. “The fireworks

were present on the nights of the viewing but that just means that they preceded the

unexplained lights.”

“Mulder…” Scully sighed then her shoulders slumped as she reigned in her next

damning comment. “Okay. One more night.”

“Looks like we’ll only need one more Scully!” He said pointing up to the fireworks

that littered the sky. As they died down, a small stream of white lights speared the

sky. They trailed after each other, the first light the brightest, and streaked an arc

across the moonlit clouds.

“What is that?”

“Get the camera!” Mulder yelled as he reached for the binoculars that were lying

beside the fire. As he focused the lens Scully ran back to stand with him, but he dare

not even glance at her for fear of loosing his sight. “Do you see them?” he said but

she didn’t reply. “Scully! DO YOU SEE THEM???”

“Yes…yes…what are they?”

The four lights swirled in figure eights, seemingly coming towards them then spread

out in a line sinking and rising at great speed.

“Helicopters?” Scully said although even she knew they couldn’t be.

“Where’s the closest Air Force Base?”

“There is…Volk field Air National Guard…and General Mitchell but that’s Air Force

Reserve.”

“Both those fields are over 150 miles away.”

They were both quiet for a moment as they watched the lights come closer. They

swooped and swirled, dived and soared then finally joined up into one large intense

light.

“What are they Mulder?” There was a tinge of fear in her voice and it was the one

thing that could pull his eyes away from the binoculars.

“I don’t know.” He took her arm and they backed away from the fire, both of them

crouching low in front of the tent. Suddenly the wind was kicked up before them. It

churned around them throwing up dirt and dust into their eyes. The light was

brighter now and seemed to take up the whole sky. The wind was stronger too and

they crouched low to the ground, covering their heads with their arms. Their eyes

were screwed tightly shut against the increasing burning light.

The light was so bright she felt it burn through her tightly screwed eyelids. Her hair

was whipped around her face and a strange humming sound exploded into the night

air, hurting their ears. Mulder was lying beside her with his hands over his head,

trying desperately to cover them both with his body and sleeping bag. Scully reached

out one hand and grabbed him, holding onto his elbow as tight as she could when

suddenly it was jerked away.

“NO!” she screamed opening her eyes but pulling them closed again when the

brightness blinded her. She caught a glimpse of him being dragged away, his fingers

digging long trails in the dirt as they grasped for her.

“Scully!” his voice came though the night, hovering over her then fading away.

And suddenly it was over. Plunged into darkness it took a moment for her eyes to

adjust.

The dust was still settling as she slowly sat up and looked around for him. She

scrambled to her feet and ran across the clearing, calling out his name, yelling out

for him and waiting for him to respond. But there was no reply.

She was alone in the eerie silence.

Before the wind had died down she was back in the tent rummaging through their

bag and reaching for the cell phone. Miraculously out here she managed to get a

weak signal. She called the sheriff and told him in no uncertain terms that he

needed to get up to the clearing with a search and rescue team ASAP. She left him in

no doubt to the manners of hell that would rain down on his office if he didn’t hurry.

By the time the sheriff arrived with three officers in tow and one search dog, Scully

was fully dressed again in full FBI mode, her gun was strapped to her back and she

had Mulder’s ankle gun in her hand. She met them in the clearing and instructed

them where to look. The moment the officers had left, the sheriff grabbed her arm

and stopped her from running off.

“What the hell happened here?” he asked somewhat annoyed by her commanding

his officers and at how quickly they responded.

“My partner was…taken.”

“Taken?” The sheriff scratched his head just beyond the rim of his hat. “By who?”

“I don’t know. We need to have this place combed. The longer I stand here talking to

you the less chance we have of finding him.”

“We won’t find anything in this dark.”

“Then we’ll set up a perimeter. We’ll clear out a 200 yard radius then I want

roadblocks set up in a twenty mile radius of this clearing.”

Her word was final and Nolan saw no way of changing her mind so he called the

state police and asked for back up. Scully had contacted the local FBI field office and

was waiting for a team to arrive, but knew it would be three hours before they did.

When all teams reported back in and the roadblock was in place, Scully watched as

the FBI forensic team set up perimeter lighting. That lit the clearing up like midday

sun. Immediately they set about searching for evidence and Scully longed to be

combing the ground with them but knew better to leave them to do their job.

When one member of the team stood up and called for extra lighting, Scully rushed

over to him. He was kneeling on the ground on the far side of the fire from where

the tent was pitched and before him was a large set of tracks.

“What are they?” she asked.

“Look like tire tracks,” the agent said as he lined the tracks out and got ready to take

a casting from them.

“They are tire tracks from a John Deere Cable Skidder.” Scully and the other agent

looked up to the sheriff who tipped his had with a smug smile. “And I know the only

man who owns one in about a fifty mile radius.”

***

Mulberry State Forest Centre

Wisconsin

Saturday 11.45PM

Scully stepped out of the car and trailed the sheriff to the front door of the centre. It

was a small wooden cabin that she was sure couldn’t contain more the one room and

she spotted a small outhouse in the back. The sheriff knocked on the door and

removed his hat as they waited for a response. Heavy footfall came towards the door

in a strange stop start way, then the door swung up wide. Scully peered around the

sheriff’s shoulder only to see the doorway empty.

“Shane?” the sheriff called out then took a step in and saw a body lying flat on a

small mattress next to a couch. “Shane.”

Scully hurried over to him and crouched over the still body only to be hit with a

strong wave of alcohol.

“Oh my,” she muttered, covering her nose and mouth.

“Yeah…Shane’s a drunk.”

“Shane Verheim?”

“Yes.”

“This is the man who filed the original complaint at the FBI thirty years ago.”

“I remember that. His brother and he were involved in a forest fire that year.” The

sheriff walked around the room and located the almost empty bottle of gin. “After

spending a week out here on a drinking binge after a high school party, they came

back into town with their UFO stories.” Smiling now, Nolan took a swig of the gin

straight from the bottle. “Man that was some party.”

“You were there?” Scully checked Shane’s pulse and rolled him over onto his side to

sleep off his drunken stupor.

“I went to school with the two of them. Hell, this is a small town. I went to school

with everyone.” Nolan laughed again and it grated on Scully’s nerves. There was

something odd about this guy.

“What about his brother?”

As if on cue a back door across the room slammed open and another man came

falling in, drunk and laughing almost uncontrollably. Scully whipped out her gun and

aimed it rigidly at the stranger.

“Oh hey!” the stranger exclaimed at the sight of Sheriff Nolan and Scully in his room.

“Now it’s a party!” He barked out another laugh and comically slapped his thigh.

“Sir!” Scully called out and she urged for him to get down on his knees, with her gun

waving at him to comply. “Down on your knees!”

“That’s Bill Verheim.” Scully lowered her gun cautiously but didn’t reholster it.

“I suppose you’re looking for him.” Bill said and Scully was instantly aware of

everything at once. The hair that stood on the back of her neck, the goose bumps

that rippled across her arms and the breath that caught in her throat.

“What did you say?”

“I said,” Bill said with obvious deliberation. “I said I suppose you’ll want him back.”

“Where is he?” Scully wanted to lift her gun up and shove it under this bumbling

stranger’s chin.

Laughing again, Bill shucked a thumb over his shoulder. “Out in the shed. He’s a

riot!”

Scully hurried past Bill with Nolan on her heels into the dark yard where the large

Cable Skidder was parked and into the shed behind it. It was a small shed about

twelve foot square and in the centre was Mulder tied to a chair. His head was

lowered and not moving. Scully raced over then slowly lifted it up. His eyes were red

rimmed and glassy but they were open.

“Mulder!” she called frantically, trying to untie his hands from the back of the chair.

“Scchhhhully?” he wheezed, his breath slurred and heavy with alcohol. “Ish tat you

Schhully?”

“Oh god!” After checking his pulse and pressing his limbs for any damage, she

pushed his shoulders back and made him sit up. His head lolled from side to side and

a wide leering smile curved his lips. “Are you drunk?”

“Lightshh Schhhuly, I saw these wonderful lightshh.”

“Huh, I bet you did.”

Sheriff Nolan helped her lift him up and they brought him out to the car. She

contacted the federal officers at the crime scene and arrested the Verheim brothers

immediately. Back in the Sheriff’s office, after three hours of questioning the

brothers admitted to Mulder’s abduction.

“Okay so you do admit it.” Scully said, as she brushed her hair away from her face

and sipped another taste of the luke warm sludge that passed as coffee from a

Styrofoam cup.

“Yes. It was a great plan and it worked,” Bill said triumphantly. Nolan was

questioning Shane in the other room but any progress reports he made were

frustrating.

“Okay just go through it with me one more time. What were the lights in the skies?”

Bill laughed harshly slapping the table. “Remote control gliders.”

“And the lights?”

“Just Mag lights attached to the gliders with control settings.”

“How did you take him?”

“Oh you’ll love this bit.” He leaned forward on his elbows. “We built an attachment

for the cable slider to help us drag fallen trees from underbrush. After a few

adjustments we were able to fix it so it would grab him.”

“Okay it makes…sense. But why?”

“Why?” Bill looked around the small room that was passing for an interview room.

“You’ve seen this town? And you still need to ask me why?”

” Just tell me.” Scully prodded, her patience waning.

“To be famous of course.”

“What about the file you lodged thirty years ago?”

“Yeah, no one came looking for the lights that night. We tried to gain attention of

anyone we could for over a week but nothing happened, so we gave up.”

“Why now after all this time?” Scully asked again not sure if it was good to hear this

or not. “Why were the new reports made by your sons?”

“Well we didn’t want to seem too obvious.”

Scully shook her head both in shock and confusion. He seemed to be genuinely

telling the truth. He seemed to be unaware of how much trouble he was in and he

didn’t seem concerned.

“What was the alcohol you were drinking this evening? That you gave to my

partner?”

“That wasn’t just alcohol! It was moonshine. The best moonshine in Wisconsin. Ha!

Gave to him? He all but drank it himself. And man did he have some cool stories.”

Scully had enough. The smell of alcohol in the room was getting to her and she

wondered if she was getting drunk by proxy. Bill’s voice was slurring more and his

eyes seemed to be drooping lower with every second that passed.

“Mr Verheim you are arrested with the plotting and abduction of a Federal agent.

This is serious and you are looking at jail time. I’d sober up if I were you.” He just

shrugged as if this was all part of the plan. Shaking her head in dismay Scully left

the room.

In another interview room she found Mulder sipping a cup of black coffee holding his

throbbing head in his hands.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, sitting next to him and rubbing his back gently.

“A little hung over. Like a Mack truck ran over my head actually.”

“Still?” she said surprised and wondered again just what was in that alcohol.

“It was amazing Scully.”

“It was?” she turned to face him and frowned.

“The lights in the sky were beautiful.”

“Mulder…” she began to tell him the truth then saw the look of wonderment in his

eyes and the small childlike smile on his face. “Yeah, they were beautiful.”

He smiled again and sipped his coffee and Scully sat back in the seat next to him.

She’d tell him tomorrow, she decided.

Tonight she just wanted to hold him.

The End.

Skinfull

March 2006. ©

Angel de la Muerte

header

Title: Ángel de la Muerte

Author: Skinfull

Rating: NC 17

Classification: MT Case file, X A

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, no harm.

Summary: A man on death row has found a connection to the outside

world.

Feedback: skinfull@undergroundtales.com Love all feedback. Thanks in

Advance!

Authors Notes: Quotes from The Holy Bible and The Satanic Bible. I don’t

believe in god or the devil so none of this was meant to offend. VS EP

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Ángel de la Muerte

By Skinfull

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

March 10th

“Lights out in ten,” the voice boomed mercilessly over the crackling

intercom. Marcos Gomez slowly turned the page of the bible over and

blocked out the sounds of the other cells around him. There were eleven

other prisoners in this block and each of them felt the need to be heard. Their

shouts and cries were loudest at lights out, when the still silence of night

brought with it the sense of fear.

The soft footfall of the guard approaching his cell made him look up and

Marcos turned his head in time to see Kevin Patterson watching him through

the bars.

“Still reading that bible Marcos?”

“Yes.” Marcos levered his legs off the mattress and stood to face him fully,

his fingers keeping his page in the bible.

“A little late for that isn’t it?”

“Never to late to repent!”

“Well it’s lights out.” The guard lingered for a moment more then moved

onto the next cell.

Marcos stood up from his bed, walked over to the sink and placed the bible

on the floor by his feet. He turned the pages to find the passage he wanted

and slowly closed his eyes. Twisting the faucet he let the water run over his

index finger then he circled the ground around him, leaving a light circular

trail. Deep soft breaths filled his lungs and he loosened the muscles in his

chest to take it all in. He unbuttoned the prison issue denim shirt and tossed

it onto the mattress behind him.

The heavy clunking of the lights being switched off let him know it was

exactly eleven pm. The sounds of the cellblock slowly died down to the

almost eerie silence he was waiting for.

He locked eyes with his reflection on the stained, dirty mirror before him

and concentrated on his breathing. On his back a colorful tattoo marred his

smooth skin. The large picture of a bloodied pair of angel wings covered his

back, reaching across his scapula from one shoulder-blade to the other. They

were spread out as if in flight but scarred and battered, dripping blood

graphically around his back.

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“I who am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for,” he

said softly, his voice barely a whisper in the darkness. He felt his body

swaying as the mantra passed his dry cracked lips over and over.

***

Providence Cancer Center

Washington DC

March 10th

“I’m sorry Mrs. Robinson, but there is nothing else we can do for your son.”

The hallway seemed such a cold place to be imparting news like this and Dr

Woodrow never liked it. But when the patient was as close to death as James

Robinson was, he knew the family never liked to be more then ten feet away

from his bedside. “I have called the Chaplain.”

“How long do you expect him…to…?” her words faltered and the doctor

squeezed her hand reassuringly.

“I’m afraid there is no way of telling. His organs are failing rapidly. It could

be a minute from now or an hour. But not much more after that.”

“Thank you doctor, for everything.” Vickie Robinson dabbed at her eyes

with an off white silken hanky then turned to the door of her son’s room. As

she opened the door to go in a strong hand rested on her shoulder. She

turned into the warm friendly face of the Chaplain who smiled sadly and

followed her into the room.

“Mrs. Robinson? I am Father Robert Kelly.”

“Hello Father.” They both approached the bed slowly and the priest turned

his back to rest his bag on the chair by the window. He opened it with a soft

click and reached inside. He lifted the purple sash to his lips and gently

kissed the embroidered cross, before placing it carefully around his neck and

slowly running his hands over the silky material, smoothing it over his chest.

From his bag he took out the small bible and clutched it over his heart with

both hands. In the doorway he watched as two prison guards held the door

open, standing guard over the patient with heartless diligence.

“This is a private matter,” he said stiffly, approaching them with a stern look

as he grabbed the door. “Would you step outside please?” His words and his

clothes carrying more weight then direct orders. With reluctance the guards

took a step back and the priest closed the door after them. “It’s just past

eleven PM. I’ll begin the final blessing now,” he said softly as he blessed

himself and genuflected at the foot of the bed.

“Thank you Father.” Vickie bent over her son’s head and gently kissed him

on the forehead. His skin was cold and clammy but she couldn’t pull away.

Tears fell from her red weary eyes as she rested her forehead on his.

“I love you James, I’ll love you forever,” she managed to say, her voice

aching past her throat. “I forgive you.”

After blessing and anointing him the priest spoke softly in words she

couldn’t comprehend before finally blessing himself again.

“Per istam sanctan unctionem et suam piissimam misericordiam, indulgeat

tibi Dominus quidquid per tactum,” he muttered softly his voice still echoing

in the silent room.

He sprinkled the room with holy water and prayed aloud waiting as Vickie

responded carefully through a teary, choked voice.

“By the Faculty which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a plenary

indulgence for the remission of all your sins, and I bless you. In the Name of

the Father and the Son and the Holy Sprit. Amen.”

Vickie’s breath caught in her throat as her crying took over her body,

wracking her with heavy sobs. Father Kelly placed an arm across her

shoulder but Vickie shrugged it away. She grappled to hold her sons arm and

pulled it up to her face, coming close to pulling out his IV Lines.

“Vickie, be careful,” Father Kelly began but her sobs were out of control.

She threw herself over James and held on but Fr Kelly pried her hands away.

He took her hands and held them in his own. He muttered a soft prayer then

led her out of the room past the officers to the chapel where they knelt and

prayed together.

The heart monitor in the room beeped slowly, the silence growing longer,

heavier between each shrill beep. The soft thud of the door closing,

disguised the sound of the whispers.

“I who am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for.” James

opened his eyes and took a long deep breath. Then whispered again, “I who

am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for.”

He pulled the oxygen cannula from his face, sat bolt upright and glanced at

the door. With one hand he lifted the bed sheets off his legs as the other

ripped the EKG nodes from his chest.

The room filled immediately with the shrill sound of the monitor alarms as

they were detached, so with one look at the door he raced over to the

window and lifted the latch off. The window swung open, caught in a gust

that swirled into the room, kicking the curtains up behind him.

James lifted one foot onto the windowsill and hefted himself up easily.

Looking down he glanced at the 15-foot drop, then without hesitation he

propelled himself into the air. He landed with a soft thud on the grassy ledge

below and took off into the night’s shadows before he had a chance to look

back.

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

March 10th

Marcos slowly opened his eyes and held his breath as the room stopped

swaying. His chest ached with the burning need for oxygen, so carefully he

sucked in a shallow breath and watched his reflection as his chest rose and

fell slowly. Only the soft sheen in the hall from the emergency lights

illuminated the darkness of the cell.

Carefully he lifted one hand over his shoulder and gingerly touched the

throbbing center of his tattoo. The blood seeped out of his skin painlessly as

he traced his fingers over his belly in a small simple movement.

His head was slick with sweat from the excursion but the smile on his face

was immovable. With a soft sigh Marcos bent to retrieve his bible and

lurched for the bed, his body finally giving up its bearing and he fell into an

uneasy slumber.

“Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins,” he

murmured softly before he succumbed to the darkness.

***

Mulder and Scully Duplex

March 11th

Dana Scully slowly combed her hair back and lifted it into a tight ponytail.

No matter how tight she kept it several strands managed to get free and

gently tickle her neck, but it was the best she could do. It was going to be a

long day at the office she realized with a sigh as she mentally ran through

the list of meetings she had lined up for today.

In the mirror she could see Mulder behind her, where he stood in the kitchen

wearing only his boxers and an open freshly ironed shirt. She turned to him

as he spread the black pants across the ironing board and slowly pressed the

steam iron onto them. His tongue appeared at the side of his mouth in

concentration and she couldn’t hold back the soft giggle. It was that adorable

look he had on his face.

“If you could come in here and help me I might get this done quicker.”

“Mulder, ironing isn’t a two man job.” She sauntered by him and lifted one

of the freshly popped slices of toast from the toaster. He watched her in

mock annoyance as she spread raspberry jelly over it and sat at the table to

eat.

“If I had my way we’d send all our clothes to the cleaners!” He concentrated

again, smoothing the iron up one leg of the pants.

“Mulder if you had your way we’d just throw them out and buy new ones!”

“No, you know I hate shopping.” He said before yelping as the iron grazed

the top of his fingers. “Oh I give up. They’ll do.”

He pulled them off the board and gave them a gentle shake, then held them

up to examine them closer. One leg was perfectly ironed and smoothed with

the crease down the front but the other was still crinkled and scruffy.

“Here let me. Have your breakfast.” Scully finished the last bite of her toast

then took the pants from him. Mulder smiled gratefully and kissed her neck

as she passed by. He grabbed his toast and buttered it heavily then added a

generous layer of marmalade. Checking his watch he saw it was just past 6

am and flicked on the TV.

“I’m just gonna check the news. Don’t want to get caught in another traffic

jam on the bridge.”

Scully finished ironing his pants and joined him in the living room where

Mulder stood right in front of the screen.

“Here. And hurry we’re running late.”

“Okay, okay,” Mulder conceded as he held the toast between clenched teeth

and slipped into his pants and zipped them up. “Oh nice and warm,” he said

with a quirk in his eyebrow.

“Mulder…your shirt!” Scully pointed out the dollop of orange marmalade in

the center of his shirt.

Through a mouthful of toast, Mulder muttered a curse, rolled his eyes and

raced upstairs to the bedroom to change. Scully shook her head and checked

her watch again. Then the flashing blue police lights on the screen caught

her eye. She recognized the Providence Cancer Center and quickly turned up

the sound.

“The doctors here at the Providence Center didn’t expect James Robinson to

make it through the night but it seems he had other plans.” The camera cut

back to the footage of James Robinson being led into the hospital on a

gurney. Several prison guards flanked the paramedics who wheeled him in.

“He arrived here last week after taking ill in State Pen. In North Carolina.

He was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer two years ago and his health has

been degrading ever since. The hated debate continues over the lack of

health options for inmates and James had always been a spokesman for the

cause. Convicted for Murder of three men and the attempted murder of

another three years ago James was serving a life sentence.”

“Are you ready?” Mulder came up behind her and circled his arms around

her slender waist. His lips found the sensitive spot at the nape of her neck

and he kissed her teasingly.

“Mulderrr! lets go.” She flicked off the TV and tossed the remote onto the

couch, but Mulder didn’t move. His lips were intent on kissing and tasting

her neck and he showed no signs of stopping. “Mulder?” she said leaning

her head to one side to let his lips travel to her ear.

“Mmm?” he murmured against her skin.

“As much as I love this, stop it or we’ll be really late.” She wriggled free

from his grasp and whirled to face him. “C’mon.”

***

American University

Washington DC

March 11th

The halls bustled with students moving quickly between classes and James

Robinson blended in perfectly. The baggy jeans and tee shirt he had stolen

from the university laundry block made him look like just another student

lolling around the quad.

Just this once. That’s all. Then it’ll be over, please god just this once! He

whispered to himself as he felt the familiar hot flush of pain wash over his

body.

Then as if his prayers had been answered he watched as Professor Daly

stepped into the sun and started to make his way across the open square.

James stood up and moved to intercept with him, his fingers nervously

gripping the sweaty handle of the knife in his pocket. Deftly he fell into step

behind the professor marveling at the way he hadn’t been recognized yet.

“Professor?” Startled, James turned to see a young female approaching them

holding out a folder. “Professor you left your folder in the lecture room.”

“Oh thank you Jane.” As Prof. Daly reached out to grasp the folder his eyes

flickered over to lock with James’s and for a moment it was as if he had

been propelled back in time. The same cold blue eyes, the same look of hate

and determination sparked behind them “Oh my god!”

“Professor?” Jane watched the exchange that passed between them.

“Can’t be saved this time Daly!” With a surge of angry hatred James pulled

the hunting knife from his pocket and lunged at the professor. He stabbed

wildly, tackling him to the ground and straddling the older man’s bleeding

chest. Finally finding her voice, Jane dropped the folder and screamed in

horror, backing away from the macabre scene.

The quad was crowded with lunching students who raced over at the sound

of the frightened screams. James let out a feral roar as he stabbed over and

over again, lifting the knife over his head and plunging it down into Daly’s

chest with as much strength as he could muster. Some students shouted at

him to stop as other circled closer to stop him. But with the knife swinging

in vicious wide arcs there was nothing they could do, less they be hurt

themselves.

James stabbed the fallen Daly again in the chest, twisting the knife and

leaving it in his torso to the hilt then shakily stood up. From behind him two

campus guards approached their guns held out in front of them as they

shouted at him to back away from the professor. But James paid them no

attention. He stared at Professor Daly as his eyes glazed over and his chest

deflated, his body finally giving out.

“Oh my god!” one of the students shouted at the sight of the dead professor

and blood everywhere.

“Thank you God!” James roared as loud as he could before finally closing

his eyes as his body fell limply to the ground.

***

X-file Basement office

March 11th

Mulder jumped up from his chair as Scully walked in handing over her coat

from the rack. Startled she watched as he threw on his own coat and smiled

widely at her.

“I just went to the bathroom, what could possibly have happened in the last

two minutes.”

“The bat phone just rang Scully, clear your calendar.”

“What?”

“C’mon,” he said ushering her out the door towards the garage. “I’ll fill you

in on the way. We have a job to do. ” he added in his best Adam West

impersonation.

“Skinner knows?” she queried carefully, remembering the last meeting in

Skinner’s office where he promised to have them locked in the basement for

the next three months. That was only yesterday, she realized with a sigh.

“It was Skinner who switched on the bat signal.”

“Mulder, enough with the Batman references!” she said wearily as she

climbed into the car beside him.

“Sorry I couldn’t sleep this morning so I got up and there was a marathon of

Batman cartoons on.”

“Figures. So what’s this case?” she buckled up as Mulder peeled through the

streets at full speed.

“Professor John Daly was murdered this morning at American University.”

Mulder’s voice became solemn and low as he described the murder. “He was

stabbed fourteen times by James Robinson with a hunting knife in the

middle of the quad at lunch time.”

“James Robinson?” Scullys mind tingled with recognition. “There was a

news item about a James Robinson on TV this morning.”

“The one and the same. James Robinson was a convict who escaped from

Providence Cancer Center last night.”

“Escaped? He was a terminally ill cancer patient. Given minutes left to live.

He wouldn’t have had the strength needed to stab someone.” Scully watched

the road for a moment. “Mulder he was all but dead already!”

“Never the less there were over fifty eyewitness to the murder.” Mulder

pulled through the campus parking lot and stopped the car at the edge of the

police tape.

“What makes this an X-file?”

“You said it yourself Scully. This man was at death’s door.”

A misty rain clung to the air as they made their way across the quad. A

uniformed officer lifted the crime scene tape as they flashed their badges and

directed them towards the detective in charge.

“Is James in custody?” Scully asked softly as they approached the small

crowd of forensic technicians and police who surrounded the scene.

“He’s dead.” Scully looked up startled as Mulder took a step forward, his

hand outstretched to meet the hand of Detective Reece.

“Hi, glad you could make it out here. Jason Reece.”

“I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is my partner Dana Scully.” Scully

nodded grimly, casting her eyes around the scene. Both bodies had been

covered over with blue tarps but the left hand of the professor had snaked

out, showing the shallow pool of blood that nestled in its palm.

“What can you tell us happened here?” Scully asked as she stepped around

the detective and crouched low next to a forensic technician.

“Professor Daly left his lecture room at 13.40 and was walking across the

quad to his office. He was attacked without provocation by James Robinson

with a diamond back 4.25 hunting knife.”

“May I?” Scully asked the technician as she reached for the corner of the

tarp.

“Yes, we’ve finished here, we’re waiting to transport him to the morgue.”

“ Fourteen stab wounds in total,” Reece continued as Scully lifted the edge

of the tarp. John Daly’s face was contorted in a grotesque image of terror,

his eyes wide and glassy sending a shiver down Scully’s spine. “After which

James Robinson stepped away from the body and then collapsed himself.”

“Collapsed?” Mulder asked watching as Scully remained on her haunches

and turned towards the second tarp. “Was he subdued?”

“No, witness’s say he stood away from the professor then shouted out…”

Detective Reece checked his notebook. “Thank you god,” then he just

collapsed.”

“Are you aware that James Robinson-“ Mulder began but was cut off by

Reece’s waving hand.

“Yeah, yeah I know. Escaped from the cancer center last night?” the

detective said with a grimace. “The state police have already been here and

identified him. I had to practically wrestle them off the body to stop them

from moving it. Because he was an out of state prisoner I had to call the

FBI.”

“Did he have a history with the professor?” Mulder asked.

“It was the previous attempted murder of Professor John Daly that had

James in the State Pen.”

***

Quantico Autopsy lab

March 11th

Dana Scully shifted her weight from one foot to the other as she let out a

deep sigh. Deftly she closed up the last of their autopsy incisions as her mind

reeled from the information she had just collected. She nimbly cut off the

final stitch before she covered the body with a teal green sheet. She crossed

the room to her clipboard and filled in the final notations on the attached

form. As she ripped off the latex gloves the large heavy door opened with a

groan.

“You done in here?” Scully turned to see a small heavyset man peering in

around the door.

“Almost.” She turned back to the form and continued writing, suddenly

aware that the stranger was still watching her. “Can I help you with

something sir?” she said over her shoulder.

“I just wanted to get the body back to storage…” he said nervously, his eyes

flicking from her to the covered corpse.

“You can take it, I just have a few notes to finish.”

“Thank you ma’am.”

Scully turned back to her notes and concentrated on jotting down her

thoughts and conclusions before they escaped her. Moments later when the

door opened with another groan, she rolled her eyes heavenwards.

“I just need a few more minutes!” she bit out angrily without turning around.

“Scully?”

It was Mulder who walked across the small lab towards her, his face a

picture of bemusement. His tie had been loosened almost half way down his

chest and his shirt collar was twisted and turned. The pants he’d taken so

much care in ironing that morning were caked with mud and grease, the left

leg ripped almost up to his knee.

“What happened to you?” she asked holding back a smile.

“The cab I took got a flat tire.”

“What?”

“Long boring story Scully. You done here?”

“Why is everyone trying to rush me out of here!” Scully snatched up her

clipboard and took the tape from the tape recorder. “I just need to wash up,

change my clothes then we can leave.”

“Did you find anything?” Mulder asked trailing behind her into the locker

room provided.

“James Robinson died as a result of heart failure.”

“He had a heart attack?” Mulder asked surprised. He was standing over the

sink cupping his hands under the faucet and throwing water over his grimy

face.

“No.” Scully pulled off the soiled scrubs and slipped back into her pants.

“His heart stopped. As did the rest of his organs. His whole body shut

down.”

Mulder dried his face with some paper towels and turned as she slipped into

her blouse. His eyes flickered appreciatively over the soft curves he knew so

well but pushed those thoughts aside with a small shake of his head.

“His body experienced severe organ failure. But that’s not the surprising

part.”

“No?”

“The effects of his deterioration came on so fast it’s impossible to confirm

the time of death.”

“But we know when he died.”

“His body doesn’t,” she said as she slipped into her shoes and turned to face

him fully. “His core temperature had dropped over 8 degrees. Liver mortis

was in stage three which should have been impossible.”

They walked back though the lab and out into the car lot. “Rigor mortis

takes only 6 hours to set in and for liver mortis it can take up to ten hours for

the discoloration to take place but James was alive less then four hours ago.”

“If you didn’t know about the murder at the university, and the exact time of

death — if you were given this body to examine, at what time would you

have placed time of death?” Scully took the keys out of his hand and

unlocked the car. She sat in and buckled up before turning to him. He was

watching her intently, waiting for her answer as if he already knew it.

“I would have put the time of death between 16 and 20 hours ago.”

“That’s just about the time last night when he was read the last

rites…according to his patient chart.”

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

March 12th

“Don’t you think it’s strange doc?” Marcos said with a smile as the doctor

prepared the injection in front of him.

“What’s that Marcos?” without care for his bedside manner the doctor

grabbed Marcos’s arm and held it out tightly. He pressed the needle to his

skin and inserted it, swiftly finding the vein with ease.

“I get a little cut and the prison board goes mad trying to patch me up.” He

winced at the sting from the needle. “I guess they want me in perfect shape

for the electric chair, huh?”

“It’d be a waste of good tax payers money otherwise.” The doctor packed

the syringes and medical stuff away into a small metal case, which was

taken from the cell immediately by a guard. “So how did you cut yourself

this time?”

Marcos glanced over his shoulder, the bleeding marks along his tattoo

seemed more natural then any scar on his body. And after 14 years in the

American penal system, he mused, he’d had more then his fair share of

scars.

“Dunno. Must have scratched it during the night.”

The doctor didn’t believe him but refused to be drawn into the lie. Instead he

concentrated on applying the disinfectant to Marcos’s back, cleaning off as

much as the dried blood as he could.

“This is the third time this month that I’ve had to come and sort this thing

out,” the doctor groused, his eyes glaring in disgust at the angel wings tattoo.

“I don’t know where the real blood stops and the image starts.”

“Art Doc, its all art.”

“Pfft.” The doctor shook his head but supposed the argument was pointless,

so he pushed it aside and hurriedly cleaned his patient up.

“Think you could hurry up a bit doc. The Chaplain is coming round for

confessions in a few minutes.”

The doctor seemed surprised at Marcos’s genuine apprehension for possibly

missing his appointment with the prison Chaplain, but then reminded

himself which block of the prison he was in. The confessional times of the

week were always popular on death row.

“Never too late huh?”

“No sir. It says so right here,” Marcos tapped the bible he held so tightly in

his free hand “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is

covered.”

“Maybe it’s not the bible you should be reading Marcos. Ever try reading

the… other side?” With a smirk the doctor stood up and quickly examined

his bandaging. “Think you might fit in better over there.”

***

12th Precinct

Washington DC

March 12th

The compact office seemed to get even smaller with the rows and rows of

files that were stacked up against the walls, on shelving and every flat

surface that was available. Detective Reece sat behind his desk working

amongst the files, seemingly oblivious to the clutter. When there was a

knock at the door he stood up to see over the piles on his desk. Through the

frosted glass, he immediately recognized the silhouettes of the two FBI

agents he had spoken with yesterday and glanced around the room at the

disorder then sighed in dismay.

“Come in,” he called out, stepping around the desk and clearing the piles of

files from two seats. The door partially opened before colliding against a

stack of boxes and careening back against Mulder’s head. With a groan

Mulder held his hand up against the door and slowly tried to open it again.

“Security system?” Mulder asked, gingerly stepping sideways through the

door to squeeze into the office, his left hand rubbing the red mark where the

door had whacked him on the forehead.

“Yes, not sure if it’s to keep people out or to keep me in though!” Reece said

with a laugh as he shook both their hands and offered them a seat. “So you

found something in the autopsy?”

“Yes.” Scully pulled two pages from the file she was holding and passed

them over to Reece. “You said that two state police officers identified the

body?”

“Yes. Is there a problem? It is James Robinson, isn’t it?” Reece said

glancing at the page of autopsy report she handed him.

“It is James Robinson, of that there is no doubt. But the time of death is

incongruous with the extremis effects on the body. Also as you can see from

his hospital records, James Robinson had no tattoos or defining marks

anywhere on his body, and yet the body I examined last night had a pair of

angel wings inscribed across his back from shoulder blade to shoulder

blade.”

“What does this mean?” Reece asked confused. “Is it Robinson or not?”

“Oh it is Robinson.” Mulder confirmed. “And apparently after gaining a new

lease on life he escaped from the cancer center, went to get a tattoo then

killed an old professor.”

“Is there a point to all this?” Reece asked, his voice finally showing the signs

of exasperation.

Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance.

“To be frank detective, no.” Scully admitted with a sigh. “But aren’t you

curious to know how this man managed to survive long enough to kill

someone? How, when examined during the autopsy, the signs of death far

exceeded the time of death?”

“Look, this was a cross state murder. So I called the FBI.” Reece said with a

thin smile. “As per regulations.”

“You just didn’t expect us to actually investigate anything,” Mulder finished

for him.

“What is there to investigate?” Reece stood up and walked around the desk.

He leaned his hip back against the sturdy wooden corner of the over sized

desk and folded his arms across his chest. “James Robinson was witnessed

stabbing this guy, then he died as a result of his cancer.”

“What about his tattoo?” Mulder countered.

“Maybe he got it in the pen. Maybe the hospital records are old. Who

cares?”

Again Mulder and Scully exchanged a glance. Mulder stood and held his

hand out to the detective. “I guess there is nothing else here for us to do.”

“No. Thank you for your speedy autopsy and I will be sure to file it in my

report.”

Scully cast a withering look around the room that was already littered with

files and reports. She stood with Mulder and followed him out of the room.

They weaved their way through the station and out to the car. In silence they

buckled up and Mulder drove them back onto the road.

“Strange.” Scully muttered half to herself and half aloud.

“Sorry?”

“It’s strange. This case. Why would Skinner put us on this case if it was just

for the fact that FBI presence needed to be there for an out of state

prisoner?”

“Maybe Skinner didn’t put us on this case.”

“But you said-“

“Skinner called me and told me about this case. But who told him?” Mulder

drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as if his mind needed the

rhythmic distraction to keep his thoughts flowing easily. “If it was just

because of the cross state arrest then it wouldn’t have reached Skinner.

Those bulletins go straight to the Law Enforcement Cooperation Dept.”

“Did you ask Skinner?”

“No. He called the office and gave me a quick run through on the file and

told me to get out to the university ASAP.”

“Maybe we should ask him where he got the bulletin from.”

***

Providence Cancer Center

Washington DC

March 12th

The soft rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor was soothing. Cian Ford

clung to the sound for the lifeline that it was. Every passing second that it

continued to make that noise, was another second god had granted him to

live on in this world. He lolled his head to the side, no longer able to hold it

up and looked towards the priest as he donned his confessional garments.

His dry tongue came out to lick at cracked lips but it was no relief. Finally

the priest turned to face him and smiled warmly.

“Hello Cian,” he said gently as he upturned a small bottle of holy water on

his fingers and slowly made the sign of the cross on Cian’s forehead. “How

are you feeling today?”

“A bit better,” Cian said with a smile but the effort of talking sent him into a

spasm of coughing. The priest rested his hands on Cian’s chest as he waited

for his coughing to subside. “A bit…”

Cian opened his lips for the glass of water the priest held up to him and he

took a small sip before resting back onto the bed.

“Are you ready?” the priest asked, tapping his hand on the bible.

“Yes Father.” Cian closed his eyes for a moment and waited for the priest to

settle in the wide comfy chair beside his bed. “Bless me Father for I have

sinned. It’s been two days since my last confession.”

“Yes my child.”

“In those two days I have thought a lot of death. My own death.” The priest

nodded sagely but no sound passed his lips. “I am afraid Father. I need to

gain the forgiveness for the things I have done in my life. I need to beg for

forgiveness from her.”

“You ask me for forgiveness and I will forgive in the name of the Lord.”

“No Father,” Cian’s voice hissed painfully. “I need her forgiveness.”

“Cian,” the priest sat forward and rested his hand on his shoulder. “I know

you need the forgiveness but…”

“Please Father. Before it’s too late…find her. Let me ask for my forgiveness

before I die or else I fear there will be no hope for me.”

The priest watched Cian’s watering eyes before finally letting out a deep

rooted sigh. He stood up and approached the bed, resting his hand on Cian’s

forehead and closing his eyes. Cian closed his eyes too and concentrated on

controlling his breathing.

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son,

has reconciled the world to himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us

for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church,

may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins,

in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

***

M&S Apartment

March 12th

Mulder spread the file out on the kitchen table, his fingers leafing through

the open pages as his eyes darted across the words. Across the room Scully

stirred the pot and hummed mindlessly in the back of her throat.

“I can’t see it.”

“Leave it Mulder. You heard Skinner.”

“There has to be a reason. Has to be…” he muttered, frustrated as his fingers

pulled out the autopsy notes Scully had printed. “The body can’t decay as

rapidly as that. There was no drugs in his system?”

“No, the tox screen came back negative.”

“Then what happened to him? What made him able to leave that hospital

ward?”

“Clear the table Mulder, dinner’s ready.” As she tipped the pasta into a

colander and ran a gush of water through it. She added sauce and cheese

then spooned it onto their plates but when she turned around, she saw he

hadn’t moved so she dropped the pan and walked over to him. “Hey,

Mulder…leave it.”

He looked up distractedly and cast her a crooked smile before turning back

to the files.

“Well at least eat first.” She said, squeezing his shoulder as he acquiesced to

her command and shuffled the pages to the side of the large table. They ate

in relative silence, inane conversation floating between mouthfuls of pasta

until finally they had eaten their fill.

As Scully took their plates back to the sink Mulder pulled the report pages

back in front of him. She sighed as she spied him sinking lower in his chair,

holding the crime scene photo as close to his face as he could.

“I know why you’re doing this Mulder,” she said with a smile as she walked

around behind his chair and started to massage his shoulders. The tension in

his muscles was hard and unmovable, despite the ministration of her small

fingers. So she leaned down and gently kissed the nape of his neck.

“Doing what?” he asked rolling his head forward to allow her greater access.

“Immersing yourself in this case.” She said lifting her lips off his neck long

enough to talk and blow a soft waft of cold air across the wet skin she’d just

kissed. “You afraid of the mound of paper work that’s waiting for you on

your desk.”

“Waiting for us Scully!” he countered dropping the photo back to the table

and leaning forward to rest his forehead on the smooth wooden surface.

“Excuse me but I have completed most of my reports. While you were

wiling the hours away I was busy.” Her hands roamed up his back, feeling

the tight muscles under his pale blue shirt. At his collar she turned her

fingers in and pulled the material down to allow her more access to his skin.

“I wasn’t wiling the hours away…I was keeping busy.”

“Not doing reports.”

“You know Scully it’s hard work doing nothing all day,” he said with

indignation, but she imagined the smile curving his lips.

“I bet,” she muttered under her breath as she leaned over him to kiss him

again but he was too quick for her. In one smooth motion he sat up and

reached around to her, pulling her to the front and depositing her onto his

lap.

He kissed her hungrily and his mind absently wondered when he had last

made love to her in the kitchen. She laughed into his kiss as her arms looped

his neck to pull him tightly against her. In no time she had managed to

unbutton his shirt and he hadn’t even realized it until he gasped in pleasure

as her roving hands found the warm skin of his chest.

In the living room the phone rang loudly, but as he pulled away from her to

answer it she dragged him back with a moan and kissed him harder. All

thoughts of interruptions were banished from his mind as she pulled her lips

away from his and traced warm wet kisses along his jaw to his ear. His

hands rested on her hips, frozen in their search for the cuff of her blouse as

her lips moved further south on his chest. Somewhere in the back of his

mind he heard the answering machine click on and their recorded message

play out to the air in the emptiness of the living room.

“…please leave a message.”

“Hello? Hello? Oh no, a machine,” there was a pause and then the sounds of

shuffling pages. “This is Father Robert Kelly from the Providence Cancer

Center. I am calling for Ms Scully. I need to talk to you as soon as you get

this message. You can reach me at 555-2113 any time day or night.

Eh…thank you…Please hurry.”

***

The close air from the unseasonable early spring warm spell still clung to the

night like a drowning man to a life raft. With the windows open and a humid

breeze wafting over their bed Scully glanced balefully at the broken AC and

cursed Mulder for not calling the repairman when it quit working the

previous fall. For a man with alleged photographic memory she often

wondered how it was so selective. She looked over to Mulder’s sleeping

form and cursed his ability to sleep anywhere.

Lifting her legs over the side of the bed she stood and slowly padded her

way across the room. Remembering she was naked, she decided to leave the

lights off as she walked across the landing and quietly made her way

downstairs. In the kitchen she filled a large glass with chilled water from the

fridge and took a long gulp before refilling it again. Turning back with her

drink, a new chill settling in her stomach, she glanced across the room at the

table. The report pages had been spread across it and they spilled onto the

tiled floor. The dinner plates still languished in the sink waiting to be

washed but the mess wasn’t enough to wipe the smile from her face.

The memory of Mulder’s almost feral growl as he lifted her off his lap and

set her onto the table before leaning over her and pinning her down, made

her laugh. It had been a while since she had seen him so frisky and he

usually took more coaxing than that to get him away from a case file. Not

that she minded. She loved the coaxing part. And knew he did too,

prolonging his defeat for as long as he could before finally giving in to her

persistent kisses.

With a sated moan, Scully arched her back and felt her muscles straining

against the over use but it was a good feeling. A familiar feeling she

admitted with a wicked smile. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that she

couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was time she woke Mulder up too, she mused, her

smile emitting a low chuckle as she passed through the hallway on her way

back up the stairs.

Passing the doorway to the living room she spotted the red flashing light on

the answering machine, casting an eerie red glow about the room. She

wandered over to it and pressed the play button.

“Hello? Hello? Oh no, a machine,” there was a pause and then the sounds of

shuffling pages. “This is Father Robert Kelly from the Providence Cancer

Center. I am calling for Ms Scully. I need to talk to you as soon as you get

this message. You can reach me at 555-2113 any time day or night.

Eh…thank you…Please hurry.”

Frowning, Scully pressed the play button and listened to the message again.

Standing in the living room transfixed in thought she didn’t hear Mulder

walking down the stairs behind her.

“Hey,” he said engulfing her into his warm arms. “What are you doing up?”

When she didn’t respond, he loosened his arms and turned her around to

face him, worry etched on his face when he saw the blinking light on the

answering machine.

“Scully? What is it?”

“Nothing, I …don’t know.”

“What was the message?” Mulder asked but even as the worried words

spilled from his mouth, he pressed the play button and listened to the frantic

priest on the tape. “What’s that about?”

All of a sudden the fear he usually confined to the dark recesses of his mind

roared forward in a tidal wave of raw emotion. Had she been seeing a priest

at the Cancer center? Had she been seeing doctors there? Why hadn’t she

told him? All these questions flew past his thoughts in a second and his grip

on her shoulder tightened in his growing panic, his fingers digging into her

soft flesh.

“I don’t know. I never met him before. I don’t know a priest called Robert

Kelly.”

“Maybe you should call him.”

“I will, I just want to grab a robe,” she admitted as she whirled out of his

reach and raced up the stairs with Mulder close on her heels. He too had

followed her down the stairs without a stitch of clothing so as she threw on

the terry cloth robe and tied around her waist, he pulled on a pair of sweat

pants.

Scully lifted the phone off the hook and quickly dialed the number the priest

had recited. It rang three times before an old nervous voice answered on the

other side.

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Ms Scully. I’m returning a call I received earlier from Fr. Robert

Kelly.”

“That’s me. Thank you so much for getting back to me, Ms Scully. Before I

say anything, I need to know if you are who I think you are.” The priest

rambled.

“What’s this about?” she asked trying to avoid any eye contact with Mulder

as he leaned back against the windowsill in front of her, watching her face

intently.

“Are you the same Melissa Scully that attended University of Marylandin

1989?”

“…Excuse me?” Scully was stunned into shock. “Melissa?” Mulder stood up

his hands dropping to his sides.

“Yes, I’m looking for Melissa Scully.”

“My name is Dana. Dana Scully.”

“Oh dear, I am very sorry to have bothered you.”

“No, no wait!” Scully said before he could hang up. “Melissa is my sister.”

“She is?”

“She was. She died 8 years ago.”

“Oh, I am very sorry to hear that.”

“What is all this about?” Scully asked her anger and confusion diluting her

voice.

“I’m afraid it’s not something I can’t discuss over the phone. All I can say is

its in regards to a man named Cian Ford.”

The simple sound of his name sent a hot flush of anger through Scully’s

blood. Mulder watched in horror as her face paled and her eyes glazed over.

He rushed to be by her side, grabbing her arm and squeezing it gently as his

other hand cupped her shivering face.

“Scully?” he said urgently trying to wake her from this trance.

She shook her head a little and her eyes blinked, creasing her face in what

looked like pain. In her ear the priest was still speaking but his words meant

nothing to her. All she heard was that name repeated over and over.

“If you would care to meet me?” The priest’s gravelly voice finally broke

through.

Scully cast Mulder a wary look, knowing he would disapprove of her

meeting this man. And certainly he wouldn’t let her go alone.

“Of course.” She had to know. She had to find out. “Tomorrow.”

“Yes. There is a diner on Lincoln Avenue. Jake’s.”

“I know it.”

“Wonderful. Tomorrow morning at 9?”

“Okay Father. I’ll see you then.”

Scully hung up the phone and stared at her hands as they wrang the life out

of the belt of her robe.

“Scully? What is it? What happened?” Mulder’s voice was soft and

soothing, chiseled with care and comfort from years of practice with his own

traumas and those of others, but it was tinged with an underlying wave of

worry.

“It was…oh Mulder…”

“What? What is it?” he was getting more worried now as her voice broke,

her tears falling over her pale cheeks.

“Oh god!” she whispered into the darkness of the room. A flood of emotion

washed over her, anger, fear, frustration and despair all vowing for

supremacy.

Knowing his words wouldn’t make her feel any better Mulder wrapped his

arms around her and held her against his chest. She cried openly, hot tears

falling against his heart until finally only silent sobs racked her chest,

shaking her against him. Suddenly the warm spring air wasn’t enough to

keep her shivering at bay. He led her upstairs still tightly holding her, glad

she was letting him comfort.

Without a word, he maneuvered them over the duvet and slowly pulled her

robe away. Beneath the covers he tucked her small trembling body back

against his own and tried to cover her as much as he could with his warmth.

***

14 Mill Street

Alexandria

March 13th

The large hospital bed looked out of place in the living room. The floral

pattern that adorned the walls, the large pink rosettes that covered most of

the carpet and the lacy curtains that were closed over the window, added to

the bed’s misplacement. But it had been like that now for so long that Gerry

Black hardly noticed it anymore. He could barely remember a time when he

hadn’t been sleeping on this bed, in this room.

Pfft, Sleeping! He thought with a bitter laugh. When was the last time he had

even slept?

The tubes pressed uncomfortably down his throat helping him to breath but

stopping him from talking. The IV cables that wound their way over and

back into his arm gave his blood the energy it needed to move around his

body but it stopped him from lifting his hands, to scratch his nose, to caress

his wife’s face or anything else he had dreamt about doing one more time.

His eyes wandered around the room and fell on each piece of equipment that

took over the small space. The heart monitor beside his head beeped

mercilessly and no matter how many times he had wanted them to move it,

they could never guess what he was trying to say. As he gestured frantically

with his eyes and moaned around the tube in his larynx they gently tried to

soothe him. Eventually sedating him again when he got agitated.

The breathing apparatus was the most annoying. Knowing that if it wasn’t

for this artificial lung he would be in sweet oblivion by now he cursed it

with a glare, purposefully contracting his throat around the tube as if he

could physically hurt it in the way it was hurting him. The IV bags that hung

overhead, dripping rhythmically into each arm were more of a hindrance

than anything else. His arms had become too heavy to lift and the needles

had left a numbing area around the inside of his elbows from the amount of

times they had been stuck into him. He didn’t mind the numbness. It

reminded him that this was nearly all over.

With a jerk he turned his head to the large clock over the television and he

had to wait a moment for his weary eyes to focus. He pricked an ear towards

the door to his left where the nurse was sleeping.

At last, he felt his lips smiling around the tubes and he slowly closed his

eyes. The mantra he wanted to shout out at the top of his voice came quietly

to his mind, circling his thoughts as if it were going to attack, then pounce.

“I who am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for.” He

said in his mind. Hearing his own voice speak so loudly and clearly in his

mind gave him power. Gave him the strength he needed. He said it again and

again and continued to repeat it until finally he felt his throat gagging, his

larynx rejecting the tube and his fingers moving off the bed sheets.

With a hard pulsating cough, Gerry reached up and pulled the tube out of his

throat. Even over the cough he found himself laughing and the sound of his

strong voice pounded more blood around his body.

“I who am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for.”

Miraculously, Gerry swung his legs over the side of the bed and pulled all

the wires and connections off his body. He glanced around the room,

knowing he wouldn’t see it ever again but could only smile at the prospect.

With slow steady steps Gerry crossed the room to the hall and unlocked the

heavy front door. He stepped out into the warm night air and closed the door

softly behind him with a resonate click.

Over the horizon he could see the first tendrils of daylight caressing the city

ahead of him. Gerry took a lungful of sweet fresh air and stepped off the

porch.

“Beautiful Morning,” he muttered cheerily before walking away.

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

Marc 13th

Marcos took a deep slow breath and tried to calm down his erratically

beating heart. His hands braced the slippery surface of the sink, loosing their

grip immediately. He fell to the floor with a thud but could only smile.

“Look upon mine affliction and my pain; LORD!” he shouted out through a

painful cough. Blood from his back was smeared over the concrete floor

where he’d fallen. “LORD oh LORD MY GOD, forgive all my sins.”

Marcos crawled across the floor over to the bed where he managed to pull

himself onto the mattress. Like before he reached over his shoulder and

smeared his hand across the wetness on his back. With careful precision he

was surprised he was capable of, he drew symbols again on his belly, trailing

a long line of red blood across his torso when finally the exhaustion was too

much for him, he fell back onto the mattress, asleep.

***

Jake’s Diner

Lincoln Avenue

March 13th

It had taken way too much effort to convince Mulder that she would meet Fr.

Robert Kelly on her own. Now as Scully pulled up outside the diner and

peered in at the patrons through the large windows she felt weary. Her mind

struggled to focus and all she could recall was that name.

Cian Ford.

The name she had learned to hate for so long. A name that instilled

everything she hated, everything she despised and everything she feared. It

had been nearly fifteen years since she had heard it and she was surprised at

how quickly all these emotions exploded in her. She thought she had put

them behind her, but it seems forgiving and forgetting wasn’t as easy as she

thought.

The weather seemed to match her mood as a dark cloud threateningly blotted

the sky. She stepped out of the car and locked it behind her, almost willing it

to rain. Slowly, she made her way across the path and hesitated a second

longer at the door. It opened with a dull creak and she spotted him

immediately.

Fr. Robert Kelly sat in a booth at the back of the room watching as she

slowly crossed the room . She bee lined for the booth and slid in across from

him without saying a word. A waitress, who’d watched her progress through

the diner, appeared by her side immediately and poured her a cup of thick

treacle like coffee into two waiting cups.

“What can I get for you hun’?” she said her Boston twang, confusing and out

of place. Scully glanced up and shook her head, with a click of her tongue

the waitress walked away.

“Ms Scully…” Kelly spoke softly, his eyes darting around her face as he

tried to figure out where to begin. “I guess there is no easy way to say this.”

“Just say it,” Scully hissed, surprised at her tone. The emotion that churned

in her had nothing to do with this priest, but it was he who pulled them all

from her past.

“I work at the Providence Cancer Center. I called you on behalf of Cian

Ford.”

“Why?” she spat out.

“He is dying. He is dying of Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia. He could die any

day now. He asked me to contact Melissa so that he may apologise to her.”

Scully’s eyes widened with shock as she listened to the words tumble from

the priest’s mouth.

“When you called me yesterday and said that your sister was no longer with

us, I hoped that you might help. That you might accept the apology on her

behalf.”

“Apology?” her voice was barely above a whisper.

“Over the past year Cian has been reformed. Religiously he has led so many

groups in the community in the name of the lord, preaching and offering

comfort where necessary. Now he is earnestly trying to atone for assaulting

your sister.”

“You mean raping her.” It was a correction more then a question.

“He is sincere in his request and if you could help me offer him this last

vestige of peace…..”

Scully watched his lips moving, glaring straight ahead and not seeing. just

the distress on her sister’s face that night. She barely listened to the words

but watched as they spewed out of his mouth, his kind eyes and beautific

smile left her cold and she sighed as her shoulders slumped. She slid out of

the booth and walked away without uttering another word.

***

Ocean City MD

Washington DC

March 13th

Gerry Black pulled off his jacket and stared out at the sea. The waves

crashed relentlessly onto the shore, coughing up white horses along the sand.

The roar of the water, the soft sand under his bare feet all collided to make

him smile. He tore at his shirt and pulled that off as well, discarding it in the

sand behind him as he made his way purposefully towards the water.

Pausing only to pull off his sweat pants discarding them behind him with a

laugh he walked on, his stride increasing. Long wide steps took him to the

waters edge where it lapped his toes like a dog welcoming his master home.

He smiled at the soft, cool sensation and stepped further into the water. Knee

deep, hip deep, waist deep. Further still he kept walking, holding his arms up

high to keep his balance.

The warm sea water was like salient solution to his wounds, basking in the

gentle caress of the waves he bent his knees and dipped his whole body

beneath the surface. He floated below the waves for as long as he could, his

lungs screaming for oxygen when he finally thrust himself upwards and

gulped down some air.

In the distance he could hear someone calling him. He turned to the shore to

see someone waving at him but he ignored it and continued to make his way

further out to sea. Pushing his legs off the bottom he thrust his arms over his

head, swimming easily through the waves until finally he could hear the

voice no longer. His arms ached from the exertion but he had to keep

moving. Something was calling to him and he needed to answer. Nothing

else mattered.

When his legs became to heavy to kick and his arms too weak to tread water

he felt himself sinking, but he couldn’t put up a fight. This was what he

wanted, this was why he was here, he told himself as he closed his eyes and

allowed his body to sink further.

His lungs ached and fought against him, begging for air but he refused.

Instead he welcomed the darkness. The heavy sensation that engulfed his

head, the peace he had sought for so long was finally surrounding him in its

tight embrace.

Thank you God, he said to himself as the darkness swallowed him.

***.

X-files Basement Office

March 13th

Mulder looked up at the clock. All day he had been watching the minutes

tick away. Slowly, painfully the minute hands circled the clock. And with

every glance his eyes were tugged back to the phone.

She left straight after breakfast, asking him to cover with Skinner for her.

After holding her trembling body all night in his arms he asked her to talk to

him the second she woke. But she refused, brushing the concern and comfort

he offered away. She raced around the house, showering, dressing and

avoiding him until finally he caught her in the kitchen. As she bit into a slice

of wheat toast he threw question after question at her, stopping only when

she rested two fingers across his lips.

He was sitting at the kitchen table, wearing blue boxers and an open white

shirt and he had managed to pull one sock on during his barrage of

questions. But the other hung limply in his hand when she touched him.

“Please Mulder,” she said, her voice but a whisper.

His lips moved to speak again but she replaced her fingers with a kiss,

muffling his voice. It was a lingering kiss and Mulder kept his eyes open for

the duration, watching hers flutter closed. When she pulled away she put her

fingers back on his lips and leaned in close to whisper into his ear.

“I’ll be back at lunch and I’ll answer all your questions then.” Then before

he could reply she swiftly moved away and left.

Now that lunchtime had passed and she still hadn’t called he was worrying.

Her cell was turned off but he left dozens of messages on their home phone.

But still there was no response. He knew he shouldn’t chase after her.

Shouldn’t try to talk to Fr. Kelly who had left the message but all of a

sudden he couldn’t resist. His fingers grabbed the phone as if they had been

expecting this command from him and quickly called the number that the

priest left on their answering machine.

“Hello?”

“I’d like to speak to Fr. Robert Kelly?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“Hello. My name is Fox Mulder, I’m a friend of Dana Scully.”

“Oh I hope she is okay,” the priest said sadly.

All the hairs on Mulder neck jumped up to attention. He had to catch his

breath to stop it from leaving his body and he sat up straighter in his chair.

“Sorry?”

“She left in such a hurry.”

“Where? Where did she go?” Mulder shouted into the phone wondering how

bad it would be to threaten the life of a priest for information.

“I eh, I’m afraid I don’t know. She left without saying anything.”

“What were you meeting her for?” Mulder demanded.

“I’m afraid that is a private matter-“

“Is she sick?” Mulder’s voice was no longer the threat it had been moments

ago. Instead it had turned into a pleading tone, begging for mercy. “Is this

about her cancer?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that.”

Mulder felt his heart sink, his stomach agonizingly twisted and turned as he

said goodbye and hung the phone up. He banged out her cell number again

and cursed at the sound of her voice asking him to leave a message.

“Dammit Scully,” he shouted at the empty room then started at the sound of

the phone ringing. “Hello?” he said frantically into the receiver.

“Agent Mulder?” It was Skinner’s surprised voice. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes sir, I’m just waiting for a call.”

“Has Agent Scully returned from her meeting yet?”

“No. She should be here any minute. How can I help you sir?”

“I have a case I want you and Agent Scully to look into.”

“A case sir?” Mulder glanced up at the clock and watched another few

second pass by.

“Missing persons.” Skinner sighed frustratedly on the other end. “Will you

come up to my office for a few minutes?”

“Yeah. I’ll be right there.”

After replacing the receiver Mulder pulled out a page from the legal pad on

his desk and wrote a quick note to Scully, asking her to wait here if she came

back. He grabbed his jacket and hurried through the hall to the elevator.

Quicker he got up there the sooner he’d be back, he mused as he pressed the

elevator button for the tenth time.

***

Holy Trinity Church

March 13th

Sitting half way up the church in the center of an empty pew, Dana Scully

interlocked her fingers on her lap and let her eyes flutter closed. The priest

on the Alter was motioning for the patrons to kneel for the blessing of the

Eucharist, and the silence of the church was broken but the shuffling of

clothes and the creaking of wood as almost forty people knelt forward at

once.

Without even realizing it, Scully found her self pushing forward on the seat

and resting her knees on the cushioned step. Her hands came up to the back

of the pew in front of her and she rested her forehead on them. The soft

chanting of the congregation praying reminded Scully of a meditation chant

she learned from Melissa.

They sat facing each other cross-legged late one summer evening in the tree

house Charlie and Bill had built. Melissa showed her how to cross her legs

and tried to show her how to empty her mind. But it was no use. Too many

questions, thoughts and ideas swam through her mind that she had trouble

clearing it.

“C’mon Dana, concentrate.”

“I’m trying.”

“No you’re not, you’re sitting there thinking about our summer reports or

next terms subjects, or Mark Gibson!” Dana blushed and smiled and

Melissa roared with laughter. “Okay try this with me…”

Melissa rested her hands on her knees and watched as Dana did the same.

She straightened her back and lifted her chin in a defiant pose before softly

uttering three words.

“Thath Savithur Varenyam, Thath Savithur Varenyam, Thath Savithur

Varenyam.”

“What does that mean?” Dana asked watching her sister with a slight

grimace.

“It means God, the Sun, most adorable and enchanting. Say it with me.”

“Thath Savithur Varenyam, Thath Savithur Varenyam, Thath Savithur

Varenyam.” The two girls chorused in unison. They repeated it over and

over again until Dana could no longer feel her legs. She sat back with an

audible oomph and slowly stretched her legs out in front of her. They tingled

with the first signs of a cramp and she looked over at Melissa who was still

sitting cross-legged, her lips barely moving as she chanted.

As Scully recited the Nicene Creed with the rest of the church she found her

lips reciting another phrase.

“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and

earth, of all that is, seen and unseen… Thath Savithur Varenyam.”

She looked up to the Alter where the priest was walking towards the front

step to pass out the Eucharist. She watched as the patrons filed up for it and

slowly she took her seat again. Her body seemed to be wiped free of energy.

Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking as she pressed them together and squeezed

them between her knees. A cold chill engulfed her as she tried desperately to

seek the answer.

***

14 Mill Street

Alexandria

March 13th

Mulder parked at the curbside and walked through the throng of onlookers to

the front door. The officer on duty glanced at his badge and pushed the door

open for him. In the living room, Detective Reece looked at Mulder with a

frown but greeted him. They shook hands stiffly and Reece led Mulder over

to the far side of the room.

The first thing Mulder noticed was the hospital bed and all the medical

equipment. The machines had all been turned off and were without a patient,

but they still added the sense of impending death to the room.

“Strange that you got called in on this case?” Reece asked pointing to the

room with his chin as his hands reached for his notebook and pen.

“Coincidence?” Mulder said with a half smile. “Maybe. Any leads?”

“No ransom note or demands. No contact has been made with the family.”

“You think it’s a kidnapping?”

“The missing person is Gerry Black. Aged 72, he was suffering from the last

stages of lung cancer. This man has been bed ridden for the last two months

unable to move his arms or legs. As good as paralyzed.” Gerry gestured

towards the medical equipment. “He’s been on life support for the last 4

weeks and was a DNR case.”

“What motive do you think there is for kidnapping?” Mulder looked around

at the floral patterns on the walls and carpets that he guessed had been out of

vogue since the Carter administration. “Was he rich? Powerful?”

“No. Retired English teacher.”

“So other then the fact that you don’t think he walked out of here you have

no basis for the kidnapping theory?”

“Do you honestly think he just upped and walked out of here?” Reece spat

out angrily.

“I don’t know detective. That’s what I’m here to find out.”

Mulder walked away from Reece and crossed the room to the bed. By the

door to the kitchen an elderly lady was being comforted by an officer.

Mulder examined the equipment for a moment longer before deciding to

approach them. He asked the CS Technician if the room had been dusted and

the tech nodded as he took a few more pictures. Mulder picked up the IV

tube for a closer look and noticed the tape that held it in place had been

ripped. The tracial tube for the oxygen was slick with blood as if it had been

carelessly tugged out of the patient’s throat.

Looking up to see the wife calmer now, he approached her slowly, a gentle

curve on his lips in place to reassure her he was there to help.

“Hello Mrs. Black. I am Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI.”

“You will find him won’t you? He won’t be able to make it far without his

oxygen.”

“What time did you realize he was missing?”

“At seven when I came down the stairs. I always wake him at seven so we

can watch the sunrise.” She sobbed anew. “We were taking a trip out today

to see the ocean. He loved the ocean. He just wanted to see it once more

before…before….”

Mulder touched her hand with a sympathetic squeeze.

“And he was gone?”

“Yes. The bed was empty. At first I thought he’d fallen but he was nowhere.

His tube had been pulled out and he was missing…just gone!” she started to

cry again and the other officer put an arm around her shoulders.

“Do you have any home help working with you?”

“Yes, A nurse. Sarah Wilcox.” The wife looked behind her to the kitchen

table where a younger woman was sitting as if in a daze. “She was sleeping

in the room over there but she said she heard nothing.”

Mulder looked over to the other door and saw through the open gap a single

bed and a wardrobe. How quiet would you have to be not to disturb someone

in the next room? He mused as he remembered the blood on the oxygen

tube. Having been the victim of too many oxygen tubes in the past he knew

how painful they were to remove, inducing severe coughing fits in their

wake.

“Thank you for your time.”

“You will find him won’t you?” she pleaded with him, her hand squeezing

his arm surprisingly strongly.

“I will certainly do everything I can.”

In the kitchen Mulder spoke with the nurse for a few minutes, confirming

the same things he had just heard from Mrs. Black. As he crossed the living

room again he spotted Detective Reece calling an APB out with Gerry

Black’s description. Reece put the phone back into his pocket and nodded

his head at Mulder.

“Still think he walked out of here?”

“It could be any number of things,” Mulder admitted, not wanting to claim

one theory. “The medical equipment was just yanked out. Possibly by the

wife.”

“You think the wife did it?” Reece said a little too loudly for Mulder’s

liking. He yearned to have Scully by his side, to bounce his ideas around

without them being taken as gospel, or ridiculed by the local cops.

“I’m hypothesizing…” Mulder glanced around the room and opened his

mouth to speak when Reece’s phone rang. As the detective took the call

Mulder pulled out his own cell and speed dialed Scully’s number. Cursing

her answering machine again he hung up in time to see Reece’s face pale.

“Lock up that scene. We’ll be right there.” He snapped his phone shut.

“What is it?”

“A body washed up on Ocean City beach this morning. Matched the

description of Gerry Black.”

“Lets go.”

***

X-file Basement office

March 13th

Dana Scully stepped wearily off the elevator and walked slowly down the

hall to the doorway. Hesitating for a moment, she took a deep breath before

reaching for the handle then pushed it open quickly, stepping into the empty

room.

The darkness surprised her as she expected to see Mulder huddled at his

desk, pretending to be finishing his paperwork. She reached into her pocket

for her cell phone only to find it switched off. Remembering then how she

had turned it off at the diner before she met Fr. Kelly. Tentatively she

pressed the power button and watched with guilt as it registered all the

missed calls. They came from a mixture of Mulder’s Cell phone and the

basement landline. Hurriedly she pressed the speed dial and called Mulder.

“Scully!” came his instant reply. From the wind behind him she guessed he

was outside but there was more noise there too. It didn’t sound like traffic

she decided, but it was just as loud.

“Mulder, where are you?”

“At a crime scene on Ocean City Beach. You?”

“I’m at the office. I’ll be there in about an hour and a half.”

“No wait Scully, can you meet me at Quantico?” he asked. “I need you to do

an autopsy.” Their talk would have to take a backseat.

“Alright.”

Scully hung up and glanced at the clock. Six o’clock was the worst time to

get to Quantico. Across the city traffic and over the bridge. She felt a

pounding in her head pressing into her temples and wondered if this day

would ever end.

***

Quantico Autopsy lab

March 13th

After parking her car Scully took a moment to calm her nerves. Her head

pounded, her hands gripped the wheel with white-knuckle ferocity, and her

back felt like the sand dunes of the Sahara with knots seizing up every

available muscle. Inside the wide glass doors of the Quantico building she

could make out Mulder pacing the tiled floor. His hands were resting on his

hips and every few seconds he lifted one to his mouth.

Sunflower seeds. She mused with a smile, feeling her fingers loosen around

the leather wheel. As soon as she opened the door and stepped onto the path

Mulder raced through the door, hurrying up to her. He grasped her shoulders

the moment he was within reach and pulled her against him, oblivious to

their surroundings or the curious onlookers leaving the building for the

night.

“Mulder?” she soothed, her face crushed against his chest.

“I was so worried,” he said holding her away for a second then pulling her

back into a hug.

“I left my phone switched off by accident.” She murmured, relaxing into his

hug and feeling her body melt against his. The weariness she was feeling

washed over her suddenly and she fought it back.

“Are you okay? Where have you been all day?”

“It’s a long story Mulder.” She stepped away from him and brushed her

hands down the front of her crinkled suit.

“Do you want me to ask Dr Wright to do the autopsy?” he asked, for the first

time fully seeing the tiredness in her eyes.

“No, I’m here now. I just need to get started.”

“Lets go in.”

With his hand on her lower back he steered her in through the building and

into the lab locker room. She slipped off her jacket and blouse and pulled on

a dark navy scrub top. Mulder sat on the center bench beside her as she

changed, telling her about the case.

“Why did Skinner call us for this?”

“He wouldn’t say.” Mulder took a seed shell out of his mouth with one hand

and replaced it with a full seed with the other. “I think he’s working on

orders to give them to us.”

“Why? Is there a link between this case and the Robinson one?”

“At the crime scene the coroner said that the body had decomposed past the

twelve hour mark.”

“And?” She slipped the scrub pants on and pulled on a pair of sneakers

Mulder had brought in from the car.

“Gerry Black was alive a little under five hours ago, according to two

witness’s at the beach.”

Fully changed now and ready to perform the autopsy, with a second wind,

Scully stepped through to the lab where the body was prepped and ready for

her. Mulder sat quietly in the corner, the only sound he made was the

snapping of the seed shells as he cracked them quietly. Aware that he was

watching her and also how worried he was about her, Scully made an effort

to conceal her exhaustion and concentrated on the autopsy.

The moment she examined the body she saw the similarities between this

body and the body of James Robinson. His corneas were clouded and misty,

liver mortis had settled past the point she would have expected for a body

that was alive only hours ago. And even though he’d been in sea water,

which should have staved off rigor, it had already claimed his legs, which

were stiff and immalleable.

She spoke confidently, clearly into the mic overhead, noting her confusion at

the state of decay for each discrepancy she found. Mulder remained in the

background leaning against the counter and watching her work. His ears

perked at every mention she made of something she didn’t expect but he

held his silence, not wanting to disturb her. He couldn’t help himself when

he’d seen her climbing out of her car. Couldn’t quell the need he felt to hold

her in his arms and kiss her worries away. And his own. Now watching her

work diligently on the autopsy when he knew all she wanted to do was sleep

made his heart swell.

He cursed himself for asking her to meet him here, knowing that Wright

would have performed the autopsy without hesitation. But after spending the

day apart, unsure what was happening with her, without her support he

needed to get her close. Needed to see her working as if it would be a

reassurance to himself that she was okay.

Mulder moved his eyes over her back, watching the play of her shoulder

blades through the thin material of the scrubs as she lifted her arms to place

a lung into a scale. The sudden vision of him drawing a bath for her, rubbing

oil onto her skin, massaging her painful muscles into remission made him

smile. As soon as she was finished he would do just that he decided, shaking

his head to remove the image and focusing back on the body on the slab.

“Mulder this man was dying of lung cancer?”

“Yes.”

“He had no right being out of bed. I can’t understand how he was alive.”

“A witness at Ocean City saw him walking across the beach, he stripped

away his clothes and then waded out to sea.”

“Are we sure it was him who was walking?”

Mulder pushed himself away from the tall counter and walked over to the

body, averting his eyes from the open Y incision on his chest.

“Positive ID.”

“It’s impossible. He was on oxygen life support. See this?” Scully pointed

with her scalpel at Gerry’s throat where his trachea protruded from his neck.

“Eh, yeah,” Mulder said with an uncomfortable cough.

“The tube was pulled out with considerable force. This tube was keeping

him alive and without it he would have died in seconds.”

“So he wouldn’t have made it to the beach alive?”

“No. He wouldn’t have made it across the room alive.” She spoke

definitively as if there was no more to be added.

“Whether he could leave the room or not, he was seen crossing the beach

and going in for an quick dip.”

“All signs of post mortem decay point to the fact that Gerry Black died

between the hours of six and eight this morning. He couldn’t have been seen

at Ocean City beach alive.”

“So we should be dragging the beach for another body?” Mulder said

flippantly.

“No Mulder,” she said with a tired sigh as she covered the body and pulled

off her latex gloves. “But you can’t argue with the science.” She crossed the

room and threw her gloves and goggles into the waste bin before turning

back to him. “There is any number of factors that could distort the witness

account.”

“Like what?”

“Like were they facing into the sun? How far away were they from the

person they saw walking down the beach.”

“The witness, Brian Hoffman, was facing north. so the sun couldn’t have

impeded his eye sight.” Mulder said as he circled the table where Gerry lay.

“He was about 200 feet away from him as he waded out to sea and he also

recalls a large intricate design that seemed to be tattooed across the victims

back.”

“Tattoo?” Scully, who was pushing the heel of her hands into her eyes to

ward off the powerful headache she was feeling, looked up suddenly. “The

medical reports didn’t have a tattoo listed on his body.”

“Help me with this.” Mulder stood alongside the body and lifted back the

tarp from it. He snapped on a pair of gloves and waited for Scully to do the

same. He grabbed Gerry’s torso as Scully squeezed her hands under his

shoulders. “On three…” Mulder said getting ready to lift him. “Three!”

They lifted him up and rolled him over onto his stomach. Even though the

body had been discolored from its exposure to the seawater and the decay of

muscles and blood vessels had left a staining beneath the skin, the tattoo was

plainly visible.

A pair of bloody angel wings stretched from shoulder to shoulder, red and

raw as if it were fresh, the sight of it making Scully gasp.

***

M&S Duplex

March 13th

Mulder brushed her hands away from the plates and steered her over to the

couch. He pushed her into the soft cushions with a smile and bent over her to

press a chaste kiss to her cheek. Waggling his finger he silently told her to

stay put and returned to the kitchen to clean up. After washing everything up

and clearing the table from their late dinner he joined her back on the couch

and lifted her feet to rest on his lap.

“Tired?” he asked pulling her shoes off for her and gently massaging her

feet.

“Mmmm,” she murmured letting her head fall back against the armrest and

wiggling her toes in his hands.

“Want me to run a bath for you?”

“Oh god yes!” she said in a hoarse voice that surprised him.

“Okay, wait here.”

Scully sank deeper into the couch as she listened to him puttering around

upstairs. He hummed a tune she didn’t recognize but it still made her smile.

Ten minutes later he called her up and stood waiting at the top for her. When

she reached him he rested both hands on her shoulders, steering her into the

bathroom where he proceeded to remove her jacket. Too tired to fight him

off and climb in herself Scully just yawned as he hung her jacket up and

started to unbutton her blouse.

“I’m undressing you Scully and you yawn?” he teased, smiling as he folded

it clumsily and dropped it onto a chair beside the sink.

“I’m just worn out Mulder.”

“I know.” His fingers grazed her shoulders and turned her around before

him. Her bra followed her blouse then he turned her round to face him again.

As tired as she was she couldn’t help the smile as he unhooked her pants and

pushed them down her legs, lifting one foot then the other to release her

fully.

“Now, get in and scoot forward,” he said matter of factly as he turned his

back to her and rummaged for something on the shelf. The bubbles in the

water tingled on her skin as she stepped into the hot bath and scooted

forward to huddle in the middle. Before she realized what he was doing he

had hunkered down on the tiled floor beside the bath and was rubbing

something on his hands. “Sore?” he asked as his hands started to massage

small circles into her shoulders.

“Mmmm,” was all she could manage as she lolled her head forward, resting

her chin on her chest and letting her body melt under his touch.

Mulder worked and kneaded his way across her back and as low as her

tailbone, massaging her back carefully with just enough pressure to banish

all the knots in her muscles. He finished by gently rubbing her with a soft

sponge then pushed her back to lean on the bath pillow.

“Now, should I do the front?” he said with a smile, waggling of his

eyebrows but her answer was cut off by the sound of the phone ringing.

“Saved by the bell,” she murmured as he pulled himself up and left the

room.

Mulder hurried across the landing to grab the phone in the bedroom.

“Hello?” he said curtly, his mind awash with the image of her naked and

soapy in the bath and how untimely this call was.

“Agent Mulder?”

“Yes.”

“This is Detective Reece. I just got a copy of the autopsy your partner did on

Gerry Black.”

“Yeah.”

“The tattoo on his back is the exact same as the one that was on James

Robinson’s.”

“That’s right. I’m having the ink tested and the blood around the tattoo to

see if we can link it to a particular vendor.”

“It doesn’t make sense.”

Mulder almost laughed. “It rarely does detective.”

“What does it mean?”

“I don’t know…yet.” There was a stiff pause on the other end.

“I will canvas the city tattoo parlors and see if anyone remembers doing this

design.”

“Good idea.”

“If Gerry Black was murdered then this could be a calling card.” Reece said

his voice taking on a new level of excitement as he landed on a theory.

“The tattoo is the only link we have so far so we need to follow it as soon as

possible.”

“I’ll let you know if we find anything.”

“Thank you detective.”

Mulder hung up the phone and turned to go back to Scully when he noticed

with dismay that she’d sauntered in to the bedroom wrapped up in a heavy

towel. She walked slowly across the room and perched herself on the corner

of the bed.

“You okay?” he asked wondering if now would be a good time to throw out

the full barrage of questions or not.

“No. Not really.”

Immediately he was by her side. One arm across her shoulder the other

grasping her tightly, interlocking fingers that rested on her lap.

“It’s about the phone call? And where you’ve been all day?”

Silently she nodded, a rogue tear crossing her cheek.

“It all happened so long ago I thought it was over. I thought I had put it

behind me.”

“What? What happened?” Mulder’s voice was almost quivering with fear as

his eyes darted from her face to her hands and back again.

“The call last night was from a priest. Fr. Robert Kelly. He was calling on

behalf of a man named Cian Ford.”

“Cian Ford?” Mulder racked his brain to see if she had ever mentioned the

name before. A shot of irrational jealousy bursting in his heart as he

wondered if it was an ex boyfriend.

“Melissa attended University of Maryland for a while. Three full terms. But

at the end of her third term she was attacked one night leaving the library.

She was raped by Cian Ford.”

“Oh my god…” Mulder whispered, tightening his grip on her.

“He was arrested and sentenced to a six month suspended sentence,” she

spat the words out. “That bastard deserved more.”

“Why is he calling you?”

“Fr. Kelly called for Melissa. Cian Ford is dying of Chronic Lymphoid

Leukemia and he wanted to apologise in person to her. Atone for his sins.”

“How convenient that he finds the need to repent on his deathbed.”

“When I told the priest that Melissa had…died, he asked if I would accept

the apology.”

“Oh Scully,” Mulder whispered as he moved off the bed and knelt before

her.

“I eh, I don’t know what to do,” she said with a harsh laugh, reaching up to

wipe her fingers across her cheeks to stem the tears. “I keep wondering what

Melissa would do and immediately I hear her voice saying that she accepts

his apology, but I don’t know if I can do it.” She let out a harsh laugh and

looked up to the ceiling. “I spent most of the day at my church today.

Praying for the answer. Forgiveness is such an important part of my faith but

now that I am faced with this decision I don’t know if I can go through with

it.”

“I have faith that you will do whatever’s right.” Mulder said squeezing her

hand supportively.

“No Mulder. Don’t you see? I already know what the right thing to do is. I

just don’t know if I can do it.”

***

12th Precinct

Washington DC

March 14th

Detective Reece stepped carefully out of his office and crossed the room to

the notice board. Pictures of the deceased had been pinned up along with

maps and photos of the crime scenes. Slipping it out of its envelope he

produced a photo of the tattoo on Gerry Black’s back and pinned it in the

center at the top of the board.

“Sir!” one of the officers called out to him, holding the phone between his

ear and shoulder, he frantically waved his arms for Reece to join him.

“What is it Goldman?” Reece asked as the young black agent wrote

something down on the pad beside him. “You got it? Where?”

Goldman thanked the person he was talking to and hung up before standing,

smiling broadly at Reece.

“Sacred Art Tattoo Studio on Canal road has a match. Here’s the address.”

Reece patted his pockets to make sure he had his keys, pulling them out

along with his cell phone as he hurried across the room to the main entrance.

He called Mulder’s number quickly and held the phone up to his ear as he

unlocked his car and jumped in.

“Mulder.”

“Mulder, its detective Reece. We have a match for the tattoo.”

“Where?”

“Sacred Art Tattoo Studio on Canal Road.”

“I know it.”

“I’m about fifteen minutes away.”

“I’ll see you there.”

Mulder placed his cell phone back into his pocket and turned to see Scully

standing with him, grabbing her jacket off the stand.

“We have a match for the tattoo design.”

***

Sacred Art Tattoo Studio

March 14th

Mulder pulled the car up alongside Reece’s and hurried out. The studio was

a small room no bigger then the X-files basement office but its walls were

painted a deep scarlet color that seemed to make it even smaller. The ceiling

was a swirl of colors with designs and photos showcasing the skin artist’s

talents. Several photographs were framed on the wall of specific designs

each with dates engraved on a metal tab that was fixed to the bottom of the

frame.

As soon as they walked in the door they noticed the large print facing them.

Obviously their favorite design, it had a prominent position greeting

potential customers the moment they stepped foot in the studio.

“See it Scully?” Mulder asked pointing it out and seeing her nod. They

approached it slowly and Mulder lifted his hand to touch it as if he expected

to feel the bumpy texture. “May 1999”

“We don’t have a title for it.”

Mulder swung around to see Reece approaching them, his face encased in a

deep frown as he looked down at his notepad.

“No name?” Scully asked studying the design closer.

“No. They have an exclusive deal with their designs though. You pay extra

for the tattoo to ensure that it is never repeated.”

“Looks like someone should get a refund.”

“Our designs are never copied.” They all turned to see a large heavy set man

approaching them his face contorted in anger. On his nose he had three

piercings, more through his eyebrows and one in the middle of his lower lip.

His shoulders were a canvas for a multitude of designs that reached below

the cuff of his t-shirt, and down to his fingers. “No one could do it if they

tried.”

“Do you recall who bought this design?”

“Our designs aren’t for sale.” He swept his arm around at the various photos

that donned the walls. “Our customers make their own designs and we

ensure exclusivity.”

“This is Dean Lebowski the owner,” Reece provided.

“Well it looks like someone messed up,” Mulder said to him, holding out the

photos of James Robinson and Gerry Black, both lying face down and

showing their bloodied identical tattoos. “So do you recall who was the

original customer for this design?”

The tattooed man looked incredulously back at the picture on the wall and

saw the date.

“That was over five years ago. I don’t remember.”

“Sir I hope you are not impeding a murder investigation?” Scully said softly,

somehow managing to infuse her voice with authority and understanding.

“Not his name anyway. I remember the design though. It took three weeks to

finish.”

“Why so long?” Mulder asked.

“You can’t just imprint the body like that without giving it a chance to heal.

You need to nurture the skin around the art and treat it properly or it will

reject it. The guy was tall though. Taller than me.”

“Was he Caucasian?”

“No. Hispanic, with numbers tattooed on his shoulder.”

“Numbers?”

“Yeah, like sides of a dice. Strange tattoo. I asked him what it meant but he

didn’t say. He never said anything.”

“You don’t recall a name?”

“No but there was something else.” Dean stepped closer to the photo and

lifted his hand to his chin, finger reaching up to twirl the metal ring that

pierced his lip. “He was on the news.”

“The news? Recently?”

“No, No.” Dean whirled around turning to face them. “Back then. I think I

remember because he paid double the fee we had agreed on and we were

throwing a party at the Dragon hole pub that night. He was on the news. Was

arrested for some murder in the city. We recognized him immediately as

they dragged him out of the building with no shirt on.”

“Do you remember who he allegedly murdered?”

“No I don’t.”

“Okay thanks. You’ve been a great help.”

Mulder and Scully stepped away to the main door. His hand was on her

elbow as he led her out onto the street and over to the car.

“We need to get a search started on all murder arrests that year. Starting in

May.”

“Mulder what does this prove?” she said exasperatedly. “If he was arrested

and convicted then most likely he’s still in prison. And besides, there were

no prints found at the house where Gerry Black went missing and if this guy

had taken him we would have found a match from his penal record.”

“It’s the only link we have to go on.”

“To go on what?” she asked incredulously.

“The murders.”

“Mulder, James Robinson was seen stabbing Prof Daly before collapsing

and succumbing to the disease that was already killing him. And Gerry

Black was in the midst of a painful degrading death. Isn’t it possible that his

wife decided to put an end to his suffering?”

“Possible yes. But that doesn’t account for the witness report of Black

walking into the sea, or the fact that both these man didn’t have enough

strength to lift their own hands but performed these amazing acts.”

“So the power of the tattoo?” her voice was polished with skepticism.

“Maybe it’s a residual effect, from the power transference,” Mulder

muttered squinting his eyes as he blurted the thought out, still piecing it all

together.

“What?” Scully turned around to face him fully, her face awash with

confusion and disbelief.

“Just a theory Scully, it would explain everything.”

“It explains nothing Mulder. You’re looking at all the evidence, what little

there is and you come to the conclusion that someone is giving them the

strength to act out on one final wish, one final deed before they die?”

“Yes! I hadn’t seen the reason before but now you have voiced it, yes. Some

sort of righteous wish, granting them the ability to finish what they started,

to tie up loose ends or die with dignity.”

Scully shook her head sadly at the thought that she fed his theory more

substance than it deserved.

“Well before we chase down that fountain of power there is something I

need to do. Can you get a lift with detective Reece?” she held out her hand

for the car keys.

“Yeah sure. Are you going to be okay? Want me to come with you?” He

didn’t need to ask where she was going, he already knew.

“No I want…need to go alone.”

Mulder placed the keys in her hand and closed his fingers over hers, holding

them there for a long moment. With a sympathetic wink he offered her all

the support he dared in this public setting before turning back towards the

studio.

***

Providence Cancer Center

Washington DC

March 14th

“Into Thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit. O Lord Jesus Christ, receive

my spirit. Holy Mary, pray for me. Holy Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of

mercy, do thou defend me from the enemy, and receive me at the hour of

death.”

The verse was powerful enough to carry through the partially open door and

into the hallway where Scully stood leaning against the wall. Nurses passed

her by glancing at her curiously but it wasn’t an uncommon sight to see

despair in the halls on the cancer ward. Slowly she took a deep breath and

pushed herself away from the wall. She breathed in steadily, waiting a

moment longer before clearing her throat and taking a step forward.

She pushed the door open further and watched for a moment as Fr. Kelly sat

beside the bed in a large recliner, bent forward with a rosary dangling from

his fingers.

Cian Ford lay back on his bed, his head slumped towards the priest but his

eyes were closed and his lips moved in unison with the prayers. Neither of

them noticed her for a second so she stepped further into the room. The

sound of her heels on the linoleum floor brought her presence to their

attention.

“Ms Scully!” the priest jumped up out of the chair with an agility she

wouldn’t have expected from him. “You came.”

“Yes.” Her eyes were fixed on Cian’s face and she wondered if he was still

alive.

“You came…” Cian croaked out, lifting his head a little off the pillow and

prying his eyes open. “Thank you for coming. I thought…”

“I wasn’t going to come.” Her feet remained rooted to the spot halfway in

the room. She refused to step any closer.

“I don’t know how to say this. I’m just so very sorry. For everything I put

her through. And her family.”

“Did you know her? Did you just pick her? Why? Why Melissa?” the

questions poured out of her mouth before she could stop them. She had

promised herself she would speak as little as possible but now found the

words spewed out of their own accord.

“I don’t know. It never happened again.”

“I’ll take comfort in the thought that you singled her out for it then,” Scully

spat out bitterly.

“I met Father Kelly and he taught me how to ask for forgiveness. I want to

repent, please let me repent.”

“Repent? Because you feel genuine sorrow?” She looked around the room at

the various machines hooked up to his fragile body. “Or is it because now

you’re gripped with fear for the retribution for what you did?”

“Christ is with me right now.” Cian started to cough and Fr. Kelly jumped

forward to help calm him down.

“Then you don’t need my forgiveness.”

“Please…” Cian urged through another spasm of coughs.

“I want you to feel every bit of this agony every single moment until it ends

for you, and then maybe you’ll begin to understand what you did to my

sister, what damage you did to her peace of mind and sense of self.” Scully

took a step back as if her words stung even her. “You’re getting exactly what

you deserve. I hope you rot in hell.”

Her eyes locked angrily with Fr. Kelly’s as she backed away and walked

swiftly out of the room. Scully stormed through the hallway, her breath

pushing out of her lungs as she took each step, tears stinging her eyes and

her heart beating wildly in her throat. As she got into the car and pulled the

belt around her she fell forward onto the wheel, crossing her arms around

her waist as if she was in pain and she wept.

For a long time she stayed like that. The tears had dried, staining her cheeks

in red streaks across her pale skin and her eyes were swollen and sore. Her

breath was shaky and shallow as she pulled a tissue from the glove box and

wiped her face as best she could. She twisted the rear view mirror to get a

better view of the results of her tears and then the glinting of her gold cross

caught her eye.

For a moment she stared at it. Stared at the cross on the gold chain and felt

her heart sinking. Shakily she lifted her arms up behind her neck and

struggled with the fastening. Finally the latch clicked and she unhooked it

from the loop, pulling the chain from around her neck.. In the silence of the

car she held it up before her and watched as it dangled from her hand.

The sudden shrill sound of her phone ringing made her jump. She hastily

shoved the chain into her jacket pocket and grabbed the phone out of the

glove box.

“Scully.”

“We have a match. Marcos Gomez. Currently a guest of the state services in

Wallens Ridge State Prison.”

“Virginia?”

“Yes. I’ve got two flights booked from Dulles in 80 minutes. Do you want to

come?”

“Yes Mulder. I’ll meet you there.”

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

March 14th

Mulder was unusually quiet for the duration of the drive. Instead of his usual

banter he immersed himself into the case file and studied it carefully, all the

while making a pile of seed shells on the dashboard tray before him. Content

with his quiet mood, Scully had taken the time to clear her mind. Silently

she chanted in her mind the long remembered words Melissa had taught her.

“Thath Savithur Varenyam, Thath Savithur Varenyam, Thath Savithur

Varenyam.” And she was surprised when they seemed to give her the calm

that she was craving.

After they arrived Mulder seemed to sense her need for peace and quiet as

he remained so all the way to the prison gates, where their guns were

checked and ID numbers noted.

“He’s been incarcerated here for the past two years. He is currently on death

row and awaiting execution.” He said suddenly startling her.

“Where was he before Wallens Ridge State?” she asked flipping through his

prison records to view his picture.

“As you can see from his records he’s made personal appearances in

correctional facilities in many cities across the country

They were led through a maze of corridors, each one looking the same as the

next until finally they stepped through two large metal detectors that led into

a separate building. The guard that was showing them the way passed a

keycard through the gateway to another officer who bore a different insignia

on his uniform. Mulder glanced down at the image of the American eagle

with a scripture in its beak.

“Different officers for this block?”

“In Wallens Ridge there are different officers for each block. We rotate on a

weekly basis so no bond can be formed with the inmates. Our uniforms

match the cell block insignia,” the guard stated as he tapped his badge with

two fingers and then pointed to a matching plaque on the frame over the

cellblock entranceway.

“How long have you been working at this prison?” Scully asked.

“Four years last month.”

“Do you know Marcos Gomez?”

“I do not know any of the inmates.”

Scully and Mulder exchanged a glance but she continued to question him.

“What visiting rights does he have?”

“He is allowed to have visitors that have been registered on a pre approved

list with the facility. Each visit takes place in a private room where they are

separated by glass. No visitors are allowed to touch the prisoner at any

time.”

“How many visitors are on the list to see Marcos?”

“None. In the two years that he’s been incarcerated here he hasn’t received

any civilian visitors. The Chaplain is the only one he speaks to. Him and

Doc Morgan.”

“Has he required a lot of medical treatment?”

“Some. It’s all in his file,” the guard said looking pointedly at the folder in

Scully’s hand. “This is it.”

He opened the door and ushered them into a small room. One wall was

prefab covered in regulation notices and housed a large window with a table

up against it. Beside the table were a chair and a phone. On the other side of

the window Mulder saw the cordless phone was fixed to the wall.

“Cosy!” he said as he pulled the chair out and let his partner sit down.

“I’m not entirely sure what you intend to find out here.”

“Those men are getting their power from someone, or something. The only

thing we have that links them is this Gomez tattoo.” He slapped the file on

the table and opened it onto the picture of Garry Black’s back.

“That’s not a link. It’s a supposition.”

“His wife said that she had never seen that tattoo on his back before. His

wife who bathed him daily from head to toe. She was almost happy to see

this, thinking initially that it wasn’t Gerry’s body and her husband was still

alive.”

“Isn’t it possible that who ever killed him inscribed this on his body before

dumping him into the sea at Ocean City?”

“Yes it’s possible but not likely. What about the witness who saw him

walking into the sea?” he urged her to explain that one but she was stumped.

Fortunately then, the door in the room across from them swung open and a

large thick set man walked in. He was wearing blue denim jeans, a denim

blue shirt and slip-on canvas trainers. His hands were cuffed to his waist and

his feet were chained together, making him shuffle further into the room

where he plopped down into the seat behind the glass window. Once he was

seated the guard came in behind him and fixed his cuffs to the table, giving

him enough slack on the chain so that he might reach the call button.

“Hello Mr. Gomez, I’m Special Agent Mulder with the FBI and this is my

partner Agent Scully.”

“Hello.” Gomez pressed the talk button with a slow sardonic smile. “What

can I do for you on this fine day?”

“We are investigating a murder in Washington DC and we have a few

questions we wanted to ask you.”

“I didn’t do it!” he said laughing in a startling maniacal fashion, releasing

the talk button to hold up his hands and clash the cuff chains together.

“Do you know anyone by the name of James Robinson?”

“No.”

“Gerry Black?”

“Don’t know that either.”

“Do you have a tattoo on your back Mr. Gomez?” Scully asked suddenly

fixing him with an impatient glare.

“Do you?” he retorted.

“Answer the question, Mr. Gomez.”

“Are you an admirer of body art Agent Scully?” he asked as he unbuttoned

the metal fasteners on the front of his shirt. With some degree of difficulty

he managed to lower it off his shoulders and droop it low across his back.

Slowly keeping his eyes locked with Scully’s he twisted around, turning his

back to them. His tattoo was almost an exact copy of the one she’d found on

the two bodies except his looked older. The edges were frayed with scars

and cuts and the amount of blood depicted on the wings looked more

graphic, vivid.

“Did you design it yourself?” she asked.

“Yeah. Got it done in a place in DC.”

“Sacred Art?” Mulder chimed in.

“That’s it. They were real proud of it and took a picture of it when it was

finished.”

“You were arrested for murder, Mr. Gomez.” Scully said steering the

conversation away from the tattoo. If he did have something to do with the

deaths of Jason Robinson and Gerry Black then she was sure it had noting to

do with supernatural powers from a tattoo.

“That’s right.”

“In 2003 you were convicted of the murder of Jayne Donovan. Your wife?”

“You did your homework,” Marcus said tightly but it was obvious his mood

had changed. Mulder wanted to stop this line of questioning, pull the speaker

off Scully but he knew better then to do anything.

“It’s not the first time you were in trouble with the law was it?” she held up

the file close to the window and flicked through the pages of arrests. “Since

you turned 16 you have racked up an impressive record with the law. Petty

theft, Grand Theft Auto, aggravated assault, resisting arrest, attempted

murder, 2 counts and murder.”

“What’s with the history lesson?” Marcus sat back in his chair and rattled

the chains around his wrists.

“I also see your approved visitor list is empty.” Scully leaned forward and

dropped the file onto the table carelessly. “Have you found God, Mr.

Gomez?”

“He found me.”

“And you have been repenting regularly with almost daily visits from the

prison Chaplin.”

“Would you deny me the chance to repent Agent Scully?”

“Not if you were truly repentant.”

Mulder sat forward and placed a hand on her arm. Suddenly the conversation

wasn’t about the case or the man on the other side of the glass. It had taken

on a new meaning, a new angle for her. Mulder took the speaker from her

and was annoyed at the spiteful smile that twisted Marcus’ lips.

“Thank you Mr. Gomez. We have no more questions for now.”

Scully stood up, gathered the pictures off the desk then walked out into the

hallway to wait for Mulder. He joined her shortly afterwards and the guard

beside them signaled for Gomez’s escort to return him to his cell. They were

led back through the maze of corridors and shown to their car. The car was

double checked then they were escorted back to the main gates of the prison

grounds.

“They don’t take any chances there do they,” Mulder said as he slipped on a

pair of shades and turned onto the main road, kicking up a cloud of dust

behind him. “So what do you think?”

“I think he has nothing to do with it.”

“What about the tattoo?” Mulder protested.

“What about it?” Scully ran her fingers through her hair. She knew she

wasn’t giving him the time he deserved to explain his theory but she

couldn’t help but blatantly dismiss it. “If anything it proves that one of the

tattoo artists from the Sacred Art Studio is a suspect.”

“They have all been questioned and have alibis for both nights.”

“C’mon Mulder, the link is tenuous at best. And at worst…”

“At worst?” he urged her to continue. He was fully aware of her mood, the

dark cloud that hung over her head from the moment she’d received that

message the other night but he didn’t believe it warranted this reaction.

“At worst it’s a bad guess. An unprofessional leap?”

“Is that what you think this is?” the anger and hurt in his voice was palpable

but she had uttered the words now and couldn’t take them back.

“Tell me Mulder,” she said with a sigh. “Tell me what you think.”

Mulder pressed harder on the accelerator and sped though the dust roads to

the highway. She watched him from the corner of her eye. Watching his

fingers grip the wheel tighter, his knee flexing tensely under his pants and

the deep frown that creased his brow.

“Mulder?”

“Do you see which the exit?” he asked curtly, keeping his attention on the

road signs.

“Mulder!” she touched his elbow and turned in her chair to face him fully.

“I’m sorry. I’m in rotten mood and I just snapped.”

He stared down at her for a moment, looking at the sorrow in her eyes and

his resolve melted.

“Ok.” His hand slipped over hers and squeezed reassurance.

“But still…this tattoo link. It can’t be the only thing connecting these people

to Gomez. There must be something more.”

“I agree. There has to be another connection.”

“Gerry Black was treated for his cancer at the Providence Center before they

sent him home for home care.”

“So was James Robinson.”

“But there is no mention of Marcos Gomez ever attending that hospital.” She

flicked back to his medical records in the back of the file. “He was treated

for numerous cuts and scrapes on his back, several times but that seems to be

the extent of his injuries.”

“What about his visitors?”

“Like the guard said none. The prison doctor, Dr Charles Morgan.”

“Does he have any connection with the Providence Center?”

“There is no record here about him.” Quickly she flipped through a few

more pages of the file, her eyes scanning the words swiftly. Just his

connection with Gomez.”

“Might be worth checking out. Who else?”

“The Prison Chaplain.” She checked the list again and froze.

Mulder glanced at her and watched in a split second as her face paled.

“Scully, what is it?” he asked

“Fr. Robert Kelly.”

“What?” That name that he had been cursing for the last two days. That

name that he never wanted to hear again.

“Fr. Robert Kelly is the prison Chaplain. He is also the chaplain at

Providence Cancer Center.”

***

Providence Cancer Center

Washington DC

March 14th

“It is time my son.”

“I’m ready father.”

Fr. Robert Kelly smoothed his hands along the front of his garments and

reached out to take Cian’s hand. Cian lay listlessly on the bed, his face

contorted in pain as the final stages of his life closed in around him. Kelly

reached for the small crucifix that lay on the bedside and lifted it up to

Cian’s dry cracked lips so he could kiss it. Then from a small dish he pulled

out a silver spoon and gently sprinkled holy water all around the bed.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy. Glory be to the

Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” Cian’s words were choked

and painful, each one dragging his breath from aching lungs.

“Hear us, holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God: and be pleased to send

Thy holy angel from Heaven to guard, cherish, protect, visit and defend all

that dwell in this house. Through Christ our Lord.”

The priest made the sign of the cross over Cian’s body and then blessed

himself, all the while whispering words of prayer under his breath. He

dipped his fingers into a bowl of ointment and held it over Cian’s body.

“By this holy unction and his own most gracious mercy, may the Lord

pardon you whatever sin you have committed,” he uttered then made the

sign of the cross on Cian’s forehead, lips and chest. His lips moved in a soft

prayer as he washed his hands with holy water and wiped them on a small

towel that hung of the sash that circled his waist.

“Remember not, Lord, the offences of Thy servant and take not vengeance

on his sins.”

“I who am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for,” Cian

mumbled incoherently as his head lolled from side to side.

“May almighty God bless you, Father and Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen..” Fr

Kelly looked at his watch and smiled. He rested his hand over Cian’s

forehead and felt the fever growing stronger. Cian moaned uncomfortably

but the priest hushed him. “It’ll all be over soon my son.”

Carefully he packed up all his belongings and slipped them into a small

leather bag. He turned back to Cian once more, then blessed himself as he

left the room.

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

March 14th

As soon as he returned to his cell Marcos stripped off all his clothes and

walked over to the sink. He filled the shallow basin with as much water as it

would hold then dipped his hands in, cupping cool water into his palms.

“That these waters may be sanctified by the power, and effectual operation,

and descent of the Holy Spirit.” He lifted the water up high and let it seep

though his fingers. “That this water may be unto the bestowing of

sanctification; unto the remission of sins.” Again he filled his hands and

lifted it high. “That he will graciously enable us to perfect sanctification by

participation in these waters, through the invisible manifestation of the Holy

Spirit.”

This time as he lifted the water up high, he held his head back and tipped it

over his face. Rivulets of water splashed over his skin, down his back,

forming a puddle on the ground. He felt his heart rate increasing, the

adrenaline cursing more blood throughout his body as the familiar euphoric

feeling washed warmly over him.

“In this arid wilderness of steel and stone I raise up my voice that you may

hear. To the East and to the West I beckon. To the North and to the South I

show a sign proclaiming,” he intoned softly, trying to keep his voice neutral.

He was afraid of attracting any attention from the guards on duty so he kept

as quiet as he could. “Death to the weakling, wealth to the strong!”

He felt his tattoo pulsating, throbbing painfully but it was a good pain. The

pain helped him feel alive. With both hands he reached over his shoulders

and traced his fingers into the seeping blood.

A dizzy wave of nausea curled around his stomach but he pushed the

unpleasant feeling aside, concentrating on his reflection in front of him.

“I who am the joys and pleasures of life which strong men battle for,” he

incanted, struggling to keep his voice even as the pain in his torso increased.

The room seemed to sway around him but he gripped the sink tighter with

one hand, while the other drew designs on his stomach with the blood that

seeped from his back.

“For I stand forth to challenge the wisdom of the world;

to interrogate the “laws” of man and of God.”

***

Providence Cancer Center

Washington DC

March 14th

As soon as they got back to DC Mulder was on the phone to Detective

Reece. Without explanation he asked Reece to get a unit over to the center to

apprehend Fr. Robert Kelly for questioning and to his credit, Reece didn’t

ask for one. He jumped into the driver’s seat and Scully made a call.

“This is Special Agent Dana Scully, I need you to get an address for me,”

she said to the information department at the Bureau. “Fr Robert Kelly.

Prison chaplain in Wallens Ridge State Prison, Virginia and Providence

Cancer Center here in DC. I’ll be on my cell when you get it.”

“This morning.” Mulder said as they cleared the slip road on the highway,

crossing four lanes of heavy traffic in one dangerous swoop. “You went to

see Fr Kelly.”

“Yeah.” Her eyes were fixed on the road ahead.

“Did you speak to Cian Ford?” he asked in a strangely quiet voice.

“Yes. Why? You don’t think…” her voice trailed off. “But Melissa is dead.

Anything he might have to finish with her is long over.”

“You’re not.”

“Look Mulder-“ she began but he cut her off, his eyes alight with a quiet

terror.

“No Scully. You look. This man is a convicted rapist. He is a member of Fr.

Kelly’s dubious flock. Don’t make this easier for him.”

“Easier?” she scoffed. “Mulder I saw him this morning and he could barely

lift his head off the pillow. His legs have probably atrophied beyond use and

I’d be surprised if he was still alive at this point.”

“Gerry Black was all but paralyzed. James Robinson was read his last rites.”

“This doesn’t mean anything.”

“I can drop you home.” He ventured, prepared to take the verbal outrage he

was sure she’d blast him with.

“I’m coming.” Her voice was strong but quiet and it almost scared him

more.

“Scully-“

“Just drive Mulder.”

For the rest of the journey he was silent. Fuming but silent, she noted. But

nothing could make her go home in the middle of a case like this and he

should have known better then to ask her. Their matching moods were

clashing in the somber darkness of car but neither of them would back down.

Detective Reece was standing in the lobby of the Cancer center talking

quietly with one of the nurses when they both walked in through the double

doors.

“Where is Fr. Kelly?” Mulder asked immediately.

“He’s in the chapel.” Reece walked over to meet them and led the way

though the corridor to the large ornate doorway of the small hospital church.

Scully pushed the door open with her shoulder, walking in first and spotted

him immediately, kneeling on the red velvet carpet at the foot of the alter,

staring up at the crucifix in prayer. Two uniformed cops stood either side of

him.

“Fr. Kelly?” she said curtly. She watched as he blessed himself then slowly

got to his knees and turned to face her.

“Ms Scully. Have you come back to lay to rest your trouble with Cian?”

Scully took a steadying breath, grateful for Mulder’s attentive presence.

“No. I haven’t.”

“She knows him?” she heard Reece whisper to Mulder.

“I’m afraid you are too late now my child. He passed a little over twenty

minutes ago.”

“Do you know a prisoner called Marcos Gomez?”

“Ah yes. Marcos.” The priest walked over to the first pew and sat heavily

into it. “He’s a great student. I fear he may have taught me a few things too.”

“And James Robinson?”

“Yes,” Kelly said with a hint of sorrow in his voice as he bowed his head

and blessed himself. “Such a hard life for someone so young.”

“Gerry Black?”

“A wasted life. He was so strong. Stuck down with that dilapidating illness.”

“What did you do to these men?”

“Do to them?” the old priest laughed but there was no mirth in his smile.

“Nothing my child.”

“Fr. Kelly,” Mulder stepped forward and stood directly in front of the

elderly priest. “Cian Ford just passed away?”

“Yes.”

“Did you help him in the same way you helped the other men?”

“Of course!” he replied indignantly, offended at the thought that he wouldn’t

have helped in any way he could.

“Where is Cian’s body?” Mulder pressed, resting his hands on his hips.

“Cian is gone.” Fr Kelly blessed himself again and glanced up to the

crucifix.

“Where?”

“To where he belongs.”

“Mulder, this is useless.” Scully said exasperatedly, crossing her arms over

her chest.

“Look Scully,” Mulder took her elbow and led her away from the onlookers

who were watching the interaction closely. “Whether you believe me or not

you have to believe him. Believe the evidence.”

“What evidence?”

“Before each of them went missing they were blessed or cursed or whatever

by this man.”

“Mulder-“

“Now you know Ford was with him before he died,” he said making air

quotes with his fingers on the final word. “So there could be a chance that

whatever he gave these man to get their second wind he’s done the same for

Cian Ford.”

Scully had no rebuke so she kept her lips tightly shut.

“I want you out of this hospital.” Before she could argue he put his hand up

to stop her. “You know you’re the obvious target. I’ll call in for his file and

investigate all other possibilities but not with you here. Not like this.”

“I’m fine Mulder.”

“I know you are.” His fingers tightened on her arm offering the only comfort

gesture he could in this public room. Then lowering his voice slightly he

added, “I want to keep you that way. Let me take you home.”

All of a sudden she was too tired to argue. She saw his argument and

admitted she would ask him to do the very same if their roles were reversed.

With a sad smile she wondered if he would agree to leave though.

“Ok.” The word was a sigh uttered through tight lips. She conceded easier

then Mulder expected and it scared him.

***

Office of Ass. Direct Skinner

Hoover Building

March 14th

Skinner stretched back in his tall leather chair and raised his arms over his

head. A few bones in his back cracked satisfactorily and he sighed with the

pleasure. Letting his arms fall onto the table with a slap he sorted out the

rumpled pages before him and slipped them into a slim folder. A soft knock

at the door drew his attention up and he glanced over to see Kim edging

around the door.

“Sir, I’m about to leave. Can I get you anything before I leave?”

“No thanks. Have a good night.”

“Goodnight sir.”

Before she could leave the phone rang but Skinner waved her away reaching

for it himself.

“Hello?”

“I’m looking for Assistant Director Skinner?”

“You’re found him.”

“This is Detective Jason Reece.” Skinner recognized the name immediately

and felt a shiver travel up his spine wondering how badly Mulder had pissed

this man off, to warrant a phone call. “I am trying to contact Agent Mulder

but he seems to have turned his cell phone off. Do you know where I can

reach him?”

“Agent Mulder is on scene at Providence Cancer Center.”

“No sir,” Reece said carefully. “That’s where I am. He left here about an

hour ago to go back to Georgetown with Agent Scully.”

Skinner’s blood pooled at the pit of his stomach.

“An hour ago?” He did a swift mental calculation and shook his head. “Keep

trying him on his cell. I’ll go out to his place and see if I can catch him

there.”

Without waiting for Reece’s reply Skinner slammed the phone down and

pulled his jacket off the stand as he headed for the door. He was in the car

and pulling out of the garage and speed dialing Mulder’s home number at the

same time. When there was no answer he left his cell on automatic redial

and concentrated on his driving.

***

M&S Duplex

March 14th

The drive from the hospital was silent. Mulder cast worried glances at her

but she faced out the window, her thoughts buried deep, her emotions

hidden. She didn’t wait for him as he pulled up and locked the car. He

opened the door of the house and she walked straight in and raced up stairs.

Mulder stood in the hallway and watched after her for a moment then

sauntered into the kitchen.

Sitting quietly at the table he listened to her footsteps as she crossed the hall

and opened doors. He heard her switch on the taps to run a bath and decided

he needed to speak to her before he left. Glancing at his watch he hurried up

the stairs.

“Scully?” he called out and walked to the bathroom. Steam curled around

the room but she wasn’t there. He walked to the bedroom and called her

again. “Hey, Scully?”

The room was dark and the curtains were drawn, it took a moment for his

eyes to adjust. His fingers were fumbling for the light switch behind him

when he saw the faint outline of a figure standing across the room at the

head of the bed.

“Scully? What’s going on?” he said into the darkness and the silence that

replied him was terrifying. Finally his fingers found the switch and he

flicked it on, blinking away the light he saw Cian Ford facing him with

Scully lying passed out by his feet. In his hand he was holding a gun and it

was pointing at Mulder’s chest. He wanted to reach for his own gun but he

couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe or think. His mind screamed in frustration

and his body ached as he fought his instincts to lunge for Cian. All the while

his eyes fell on Scully’s body and immediately he registered the lack of

blood. Glancing again at the gun Mulder recognized it as a tranquilizer gun

and part of him was relieved.

Cian watched him with a crooked smile. Mulder watched as the barrel of the

gun was lifted and seemed to be aiming at the top of his chest towards his

left shoulder. Cian smiled again and his lips parted then he winked and

squeezed the trigger.

***

Providence Cancer Center

March 14th

Reece stared at the Assistant director of the FBI for a moment, waiting to see

if he’d smile or laugh, give any indication that he was joking but his face

remained deadly serious. Skinner paced the small chapel with one hand

resting on his hips and the other holding his phone to his ear.

“I want a full team out there to see if there has been any forced entry. If so

get in there and find out what the hell happened.” He barked into the phone

then ended the call and dialed a different number. For a moment there was

nothing, only the sound of Skinner’s feet pounding out a rhythm on the tiled

altar. “Baker? It’s Skinner…yeah, I need alpha team ready to go in ten

minutes…Okay.”

Skinner turned to face Reece.

“I went to the house. There was no one there but Mulder’s car was parked

outside. Neither of them is answering their cell phones.”

“I have an APB out on Cian Ford but we haven’t gotten any feedback yet. I

have a team at the precincts checking on any connections, any property he

has and they’ll call me as soon as they find something.”

“I have a swat team setting up at the Hoover building ready to go as soon as

you get me an address.”

“Of course, I’ll call in and check.”

Skinner nodded as he ushered hurried out to his car, Reece tight on his heels,

and started the drive back to the FBI building.

***

Chesapeake Bay

March 14th

Mulder started to come to and slowly realized he was traveling in the back

of a pick up truck. His hands were tied behind his back. with plastic cable

ties and his ankles strapped together with rope. He tried to sit up but his

forehead connected with the hard plastic covering that closed over the flat

bed of the truck. Falling back he slumped over on his side to relieve his

hands and saw Scully’s body lying next to his.

“Scully?” he said, his voice deep and groggy. With his head he nudged her

shoulder but she didn’t respond. His head pounded painfully, pulsating

through the fog of the sedative. He could tell they were traveling at speed

and it was a bumpy road, too bumpy to be a main road. There was little or no

passing traffic and soft sounds of country music came from the front of the

truck.

Mulder realized that he would have one chance of surprising Ford. One

chance of helping Scully get out of this and he had to take it. He shuffled

down to the back of the truck bed and braced his feet against the frame.

Pushing himself further down and pressing his knees to his chest he waited

for the truck to stop. He felt the car slowing down and finally stop. His legs

were almost cramping, the familiar tingling feeling beginning to creep up

from his toes. He heard the front door open and the footsteps approaching

the back of the truck on a gravel surface.

Mulder held his breath and braced his legs off the frame again waiting for

Ford to open the covering. Slowly the lid was pushed back and Mulder

threw himself at the opening.

His legs plunged forward with such force it lifted his upper body and

scraped his hands along the bed of the truck. But there was nothing there.

Nothing for Mulder to hit or connect with. With a sinking heart he realized

Ford was standing away from the truck removing the cover remotely.

“Finished?” Ford mocked as he approached. Mulder tried to get up again but

his legs refused to help, now stinging painfully with cramps.

Then he felt something connect with his skull, making him fall roughly to

the ground. Dazed and confused he struggled to roll over onto his back, but a

pair of large hands grabbed his shoulders and lifted him up. Mulder

struggled against the hands, fighting for his chance, fighting to be free but it

was no use. His strength was drained from him. Ford grabbed Mulders

elbows to lift him up and as Mulder fought back a painful snap cut into his

arm. White hot pain seared his elbow and he felt himself lose the light he

was fighting for. He was hoisted over someone’s shoulder and a warm

trickle of blood seeped from the gash on his head, into his hair.

The next time Mulder woke there was a length of purple satin cloth stuffed

in his mouth and tied at the back of his head, making it impossible for him to

scream. He lay now in front of a roaring fire trying to move away from the

blazing heat but it was no use. For every inch he moved he was dragged

painfully back in place. Ford seemed to intentionally grab Mulders broken

arm sending fresh wave after wave of pain up his arm.

The heat from the fire wasn’t helping him as he grappled with the darkness

that crept in around the edges of his consciousness. His eyes lost focus and

his neck lolled heavily from side to side, but he fought the emptiness and

pried his eyes open further. Across the room Scully was lying in the same

fetal position she had been in the truck. Still out cold and still painfully

vulnerable.

The satin was damp and clung to his skin from his heavy breathing but as he

worked it over his lips he loosened it enough to be able to spit it out and

scrape it past his chin. He blinked slowly, his eyes searching to room until

he found Ford.

“What do you want?” he called out to Ford, unable to bring him into

complete focus but knowing who he was.

“What do I want?” he laughed harshly stepping over to Scully and pressing

her ribs with his foot. “Oh I already asked her nicely. But she refused. So

now I guess I’ll give her something that will make her beg.”

Ford was swinging something in his hands but Mulder couldn’t make it out.

His eyelids became heavy and lowered slowly and no matter how much he

fought he couldn’t open them. Plunged into darkness again, Mulder didn’t

know how much time had passed.

Suddenly a sharp pain bit into his arm and he yelped. His eyes flew open but

he was blinded by the glare of an overhead lamp that seemed to burn into his

retinas. Slowly as his senses awoke, he realized his shirt was missing.

Searching For Scully he tried desperately to figure out how long he had been

passed out for, then he spotted her and sighed. She lay by his feet, flat on her

back and naked. The steady rise and fall of her chest was reassuring but it

was all futile at the sight of her so defenseless. His head slumped to the side

and he saw a small prick of blood on his elbow where Ford must have stuck

a needle.

“What did you do to me?” Mulder slurred, his dizziness sending a wave of

nausea through his head and straight to his stomach. His arm throbbed with a

heavy pain and it was all he could do not to pass out again.

“Preparation is the key. And we don’t have much time left.”

“Preparation for what?” his head thumped and banged out painful rhythms

that pulsed spots before his eyes. His eyes were fighting a loosing battle to

stay open.

“Just relax. I can’t promise you’ll enjoy it but you will be giving a dying

man his final wish.”

He stepped into the light and Mulder saw he was naked too. Horror flashed

over his mind and he shuddered in revulsion at the prospect of what Ford

was planning with Scully. Then Ford stooped by the fire and threw in

another log, when Mulder saw it on his back.

It was faint but unmistakable. Before Mulders eyes closed again they

focused on Ford’s back. The outline clearest as if the rest was waiting to be

filled in. The angel wings were strong, wide and seemed to shimmer in the

firelight as they moved and throbbed like a heartbeat.

***

clip_image006

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Death Row

Virginia

March 14th

The soft squeaking that broke the silence was strangely rhythm less. The

guard stepped onto the row of cells and watched for any movement. But the

hallway was dark. The emergency lighting that kept the doorways visible

showed little else. But the noise was persistent, soft but high pitched. Every

two or three seconds once or twice, shattering the silence on death row.

“Hello?” the guard said taking his flashlight off his belt and fumbling to

switch it on. The strong beam of light spilt the darkness in two. He stepped

past the first cell casting the light over the sleeping occupant and walked on.

As he approached Marcos’ cell the squeaking became louder. He turned

quickly and shone the light on the bed only to see it empty.

clip_image008

“Hey!?” he said carefully throwing the light around the small cell until it

caught what he was looking for. At the end of the bed, on the cold concrete

floor Marcos lay, shivering violently. His feet twitched in spasm scraping

the leg of the metal bed making the soft squeaking that had alerted the guard.

Immediately the guard pulled the radio from his shoulder and pushed the

talk button down. “I have an inmate down, needing immediate medical

assistance.” His left hand pulled the bunch off keys off his belt. He scrabbled

for the right one then inserted it as the radio cracked to life.

“What cell?”

“Cell eleven on eagle block!”

“Do not enter that cell,” the reply ordered, freezing the guards shaking hands

over the keys. “Wait for back up. Over and out.”

The guard’s hand stayed over the keys and he held the light onto the

convulsing body. Every molecule in his body wanted to go onto that cell, to

roll the body onto his side and make sure he didn’t swallow his tongue but

the barked order rang in his head. It seemed like hours passed until he heard

the pounding footsteps running towards him.

“What’s going on Brian?” the other guard shouted as the cell door swung

open and he rushed over and saw Marcos. “Oh Christ!” He turned his head

sideways and spoke into the radio that was strapped to his shoulders. “Lights

on!”

With a heavy electrical clunk the lighting in the whole block came on,

flickering and stuttering to life.

“He’s having a fit!”

“Where is all the blood from?” the guard fell to his knees and rolled Marcos

on to his side, lifting his upper leg to press his knee into his chest. An

expanding pool of blood seeped around him soaking the guards knees and

staining his brown uniform.

“His back, Christ look at his back.” Brian said pointing to the bloody mess

that covered his upper back from shoulder to shoulder.

“This idiot must have cut his back?” The guard held him tightly as Marcos

shuddered and convulsed.

“His own back?” Brian looked at the scars and cuts that bled openly and

wondered how a man could reach around like that to injure himself.

“This place will do strange things to a man,” he said with a wisdom that

came from too many years working on Death row. “He’s due for execution

tomorrow. Why the hell weren’t you watching him?”

“I was checking the block!” Brain defended. He had only been working

death row for three weeks and had yet to see an execution.

“Oh Fuck!”

With a heave the guard rolled Marcos onto his back and watched as his

mouth foamed and spat blood from his clenched teeth.

“Where the hell is the doctor?”

The hammering of running steps halted any reply as the doc came careening

into the cell. He knelt by Marcos’ head and opened his medical bag. Swiftly

filling a syringe with diazepam he pressed it carefully into a vein in

Marcos’s bloodied arm. They all watched with bated breath as the

convulsions continued.

“He’s not breathing!” Brian said as the doctor pulled an oxygen bag out of

his kit and passed it to him.

“Use this.” As Brian fixed the mask over his mouth and pumped the bag

with his own breathing pattern the doctor prepared another dose of

diazepam. But he didn’t need it. Slowly the convulsions stopped and became

only a mild shivering. The Doctor placed the stethoscope to his chest and

listened to his breathing. Holding up his hand for Brian to stop breathing he

waited but there was no response.

“I need to get him to the infirmary.”

Outside the cell another guard was waiting with a stretcher. They lifted him

onto it and carried him out of the cell. As they walked him down the hall,

with Brain pumping oxygen for him, the other inmates they all jeered and

yelled.

“Cant kill em if they’re all ready dead, Cant kill em if they’re all ready

dead!” they chanted aloud, seeing their escape, seeing their freedom in the

form of death by their own choosing.

***

FBI Hoover Building

March 14th

“I checked all of Ford’s records and it seems that Fr. Reilly wasn’t being

entirely truthful with you. Cian Ford was convicted of the rape of two

women. He served six years out of a nine year sentence and was let out for

good behavior.” Reece spoke clearly, casting glances at the crowd

assembled in the garage. The alpha team was all set and ready to go when

they had pulled in and Skinner quickly took control of the situation. As soon

as Reece got the phone call he shouted at Skinner and suddenly the room as

a flurry of activity. “Cian Ford owns a place on Chesapeake bay. He was

diagnosed with Lymphatic cancer shortly after his release from prison, then

bought the place to recuperate in.”

“Okay, we leave in five.” Skinner walked away and opened the trunk of his

car. He lifted the felt cover and checked the store of weapons that lay hidden

underneath. He pulled out two Kevlar vests and handed one to Reece, who

was beginning to see Skinner as a man of few words. They drove silently to

the FBI Garage and he knew the drive to the bay would be quiet as well.

Leaving the man with his thoughts Reece strapped up and checked his gun.

Pulling on a windbreaker he nodded at Skinner who climbed into the car and

gunned the engine.

They drove for miles in silence until finally Reece pointed to a small dirt

road that steered off the main stretch. Half a mile further Reece instructed

Skinner to pull up and park. As soon as the car stopped they jumped out and

waited for the swat members to join them.

“Half a mile through these trees is the hut. It’s a small split level building

facing north east.” Reece gave a swift description of the land surrounding

the building and how it looked out over the bay “There will be only one

point of escape so we need to make sure it’s blocked. If he gets into the

forest he’ll be lost.”

On a laptop Detective Reece had a map of the grounds and was showing

them to everyone. It was a secluded fishing hut on the edge of Chesapeake

Bay with wooded ground surrounding the house. Through the cover of the

trees they had planned to sneak up as far as they could then search the house

and see if they were here.

When everyone had been given their orders they all rushed forward through

the trees to the agreed point. From the edge of the wood they were only 20

feet away from the back door of the house. Skinner nodded to Agent Griffin

who switched on his infrared binoculars and scanned the area.

“I see three figures in the front of the house. Facing the east. Two aren’t

moving. The other is standing near the door.” Griffin whispered.

“You two stake out here and make sure he doesn’t come out the back way.

Griffin, Dunne and Reece follow me to the north side. Two more,” he

pointed at another two swat members and gestured for them to flank the

building from the south and another two to approach the west side.

Silently Skinner signaled to the other agents that he would be stepping

closer. Crouched low he hurried over to the sill and ducked low. He let his

heart calm down and took a deep breath. Holding it in his chest he popped

his head up over the sill for a second and peered into the window.

He spotted Mulder who was huddled on his side with his back to the

window. Skinner couldn’t tell if he was alive or not but he pushed that

thought away. He tried to see more of the room but his view was blocked by

a tall arm chair that was planted before the window.

Skinner looked over to the wooded edge where the other agents were

waiting and gestured for two of them to join him then peered in again

through the slit.

Skinner searched the room as best as his vision would allow him but he

couldn’t see Cian. Agent Griffin crouched beside him while Reece took his

spot on the other side of the door frame. Skinner took a second for everyone

to prepare then nodded at Griffin and gestured to the door.

The Agent nodded grimly then stood up against the door and with one well

placed kick at the lock he broke it in and it smashed open with a clatter. He

stood back as the others barged in. Reece entered first and Skinner watched

in horror as he jerked back with an explosion of Kevlar on his chest.

Scully’s breath caught in her throat as she opened her eyes to unfamiliar

setting. Her memory came roaring back to her. Walking across the hall to

grab some towels then entering the bedroom to undress. The anger she was

feeling at Mulder ordering her away from the hospital was still fresh then the

image of him standing by the window took over. A blot of fear coursed

through her body and she struggled to remember what happened next.

The explosion of gun fire burst all around her and she tried to sit up. But her

head was too heavy. Her body felt like it had been glued in place and

nothing seemed to be working. She rolled her head to the side and saw

Mulder huddled by the fire, looking cold and afraid. Glancing down at her

own naked body her mind suddenly screamed in protest and her body

responded.

Abruptly she found the strength to sit up to see Cian Fords hunched figure

crouched below the window exchanging gunfire with whom ever was

outside. As quietly as she could Scully inched her way over to the couch

where a blanket was tossed across the cushions. She reached out to grab it

but a sparkle caught her eye. Beneath the couch glinting in the fire light was

a small hand gun. She recognized it immediately as Mulder’s and grabbed

for it swiftly.

“Put. It. Down.” The smooth barrel of a shot gun pressed into her temple.

Cian’s voice was low and harsh as he gestured to the gun in Scully’s hand

with a small nod of his head, his eyes never leaving his hers. Slowly as she

could Scully snapped on the safety and lowered the gun to the floor. Her

knuckles brushed the barrel of the shotgun as she moved, making her

hesitate when she thought of grabbing it. But from the corner of her eyes she

could see Mulder. Lying still and completely vulnerable in the firelight, her

heart lurched, with pain and anger.

Scully carefully stood up again, starring daggers at Ford who was jerking the

gun over his shoulder to make the agent move. With her hands up in

surrender Scully crossed the room to Mulder’s side and knelt down beside

him. She reached out to check his pulse and found it slow but strong.

“What do you want?” she asked glancing away from Mulder to see Cian

backing towards the table that was against the opposite wall..

“I want to finish what I started.”

“Finish?” Scully looked at an old woolen blanket draped over the couch by

the door and she longed to grab it so she could cover his body but she didn’t

dare move.

“I asked you for forgiveness but you wouldn’t absolve me.” Cian’s voice

was hurried and strained. He was sweating profusely and Scully guessed he

wasn’t completely free from the pain of his cancer. “You had your chance to

help me but it’s too late now. It won’t be long before it’s too late for me. Too

late to ask forgiveness so I guess I’ll just have to make it worth my while.”

“Too late?” Scully asked trying to keep the conversation going, trying to

keep him talking so he wouldn’t notice the shadows that crossed the

window.

“I don’t have time to explain!” he shouted the gun shaking unsteadily in his

hand. The barrel was aimed square at Scully’s chest and she took a deep

breath as she tried to inch away. “I’m not going to die in that hospital bed!

I’m not going to die without my dignity like that. I decide when it’s time! I

decide!”

“I don’t understand!”

“You don’t need to understand.” He jerked the gun towards the window to

get Scully to move over to it. “I decided it’s time and I’m leaving with a

bang!”

With the barrel of his gun he motioned for her to walk over to the door. He

walked behind her, keeping low and out of line of sight then told her to close

the door. Then he instructed her to pull the dresser over to it and block it.

She dragged the heavy dresser across the carpet Cian watched her body as

her muscles strained and flexed and he smiled with anticipation. Then as she

stood up and turned towards him he jerked the gun over to the windows and

told her to cover them too.

“You wont get out of here Cian. Pieces of furniture wont keep them out.”

He laughed again as he watched her turn a couch over onto its side and place

it in front of the window.

“Get on the floor!” he said softly, his voice harsh and menacing. He made

Scully lie on her side and bend her knees to bring her feet up to her butt.

Roughly he pulled her arms down behind her and looped the belt over her

wrists then around her ankles. Trussing her up like a deer at hunting season.

She struggled against the binding and when she wouldn’t lie still he lifted

the gun and slammed it against her temple, stunning her into submission.

“If you just sit there and be quiet I won’t hurt you, but if you don’t…” Ford

grabbed the shotgun again, pressing it roughly under Scully’s chin then

shoved him back, making her roll and twist over her tied limbs painfully.

She watched as Cian pulled the bag closer to Mulder and gruffly flipped the

unconscious agent onto his stomach. Mulders arms bent awkwardly by his

side and Scully realized his left arm was broken. She could see the forearm

bruised and swollen already and seethed with anger.

“I intend to leave this world as I entered it.” Cian said distractedly. “I feel so

much closer to god like that.” Cian’s hand stroked Mulder’s back and pulled

on his arms to bring them down by his side. Scully winced at the cracking

sound of his arm snapping but was more fearful by the lack of reaction from

her partner. Noticing her gaze Cian smiled at her. “I will help him to feel

close to god. Our journey made together will be easier.”

“He doesn’t need to feel close to god.” Scully could make out Mulder’s

shallow breathing, the slight movement of his chest as he struggled for

breath.

“I’m afraid he is not long for this world either. Do you offer him

absolution?”

“He doesn’t need my forgiveness. He has nothing to repent for.”

“Everyone has sins that need forgiving. Even you…What about me?” Cian

continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “Do you offer me absolution?”

“Forgiveness? Is it my forgiveness you want?” Scullys mind reeled as she

tried to stall for time. To stall whatever thoughts were staining Cian’s mind.

“I need you to forgive me. I you cant forgive me for what I did to Melissa

maybe you can forgive me for killing him?” Cian nodded his head towards

Mulder’s body.

“Killing him?” Scullys rage engorged her mind and she felt the need to

scream, to shout, thrash and wail as loud as she could but the bindings on her

hands and feet were too tight.

“Maybe you can only forgive for sins against yourself…” Cian stepped away

from Mulder and crouched by her head. “Would you forgive me for killing

him?”

“No. Never,”

“Well I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t need your forgiveness. The

devil is at the door and I don’t have time to beg.” She strained to get away

from him but it was no use. “I have stuff to do and your friends outside

aren’t gonna let me finish. I cant have you causing any more delays. You’ll

get your turn.”

Rolling away only exposed more of her body then she wanted him to see.

Anger flared anew as she watched Cian’s hand touching her shoulder.

Without taking his eyes off her Cian fumbled behind him for a bag and

pulled it up in front of her. She watched in revulsion as he took out a syringe

and flicked the top

***

Wallens Ridge State Prison

Hospital Wing

Virginia

March 14th

The doctor examined the chart carefully. Flipping the pages over the top of

the clipboard with a flick of his wrist. He shook his head slowly and

replaced the chart on the end of the bed. The nurse was finished cleaning

Marcus’ back and had applied a slim bandage. And was coving him up with

a warm heavy blanket.

On the other side of the bed was the Prison warden, wearing a pair of

rumpled brown slacks and a white undershirt. He had pulled on his trench

coat and his glasses but his hair was too ruffled to complete the image.

“Well?” the warden asked gruffly, barely glancing down at the prisoner.

“He’s suffered a stroke.” The doctor spoke clearly and slowly. He was used

to stabbings, punch ups, even the rare gun shot but never this.

“A stroke?”

“I’ll need to do an autopsy to be sure.”

“Autopsy? Is he dead?” At last the warden looked down to Marcus’ still

body and glazed over the oxygen ventilator that sank into his mouth to his

lungs and saline IV.

“As good as.” The doctor walked around the bed and stood at the head. He

fingered the IV and checked the dosage. “His brain is dead. He won’t

breathe without that ventilator. All tests have come back negative for any

brain activity.”

“Prison policy…” The warden began as he shifted his weight from one foot

to the other and slipped his hands into his coat pocket.

“Yes sir I am aware of the policy. There is a DNR statement on his chart.”

The doctor went back to the chart and filled in the current IV dosage. “We

don’t expect him to live through the night.”

“Okay. I’ll inform the state authorities.”

“Yes sir.” The doctor passed him the chart. “I need you to sign to authorize

the autopsy.”

The warden scribbled his signature on it and handed the chart back. He

caught the doctors eye and held it for a second.

“Get it done and get it done quickly and cleanly.”

“Yes sir.”

“I don’t want to go through any bad press for this. Schedule the cremation

before you start the autopsy. I don’t want any time wasted.”

***

Chesapeake Bay

March 15th

Mulder’s head pounded heavily and the more he focused on the light the

more he became aware of the stabbing pain in his left arm. He tried to roll

over but the pain was too much. He was stuck. Couldn’t move. He

remembered the drugs he’d been injected with and tried to shake the dense

feeling that settled in his head. With a soft grunt he lolled his head to the

other side and spotted them.

Tied up and rigid Scully was trying to move away from Cian as he held the

syringe to her arm. She was bucking beneath him and jerking her arm away

but Cian was too strong for her. Mulder gathered up all his strength. Luckily

Cian had straddled Scully with his back to Mulder giving him the chance to

move without being noticed. He managed to get his knees beneath his chest,

but his head seemed to be glued to the wooden floor. No matter how hard he

tried he lacked the strength to lift it. With his right hand planted flat on the

floor he held his breath and pushed himself up roughly. Kneeling now he

turned to see Cian get the syringe into her arm.

The sound of her voice yelling in pain seemed to give him a new boost of

strength. With a feral growl Mulder jumped to his feet and careened towards

them both. He half fell half tackled Cian, the power of his lunge taking them

both to the ground in a tumble. Pain seared through Mulder’s left arm in a

wave of white hot aching.

Cian rolled with him, yelling in shock, but Mulder felt his body collapsing

as he watched Scully roll away from them both, the syringe still painfully

sticking out of her arm. Cian landed on his back with his feet tangled in

Mulder legs. With all his strength Mulder pinched his thighs together

holding Cian in place.

“Skinner!” Scully called out and for a moment Mulder thought she was gone

mad. Until he heard the pounding on the doorway. The dresser that was

blocking it shook with the ferocity of what he knew was his superiors hefty

shoulder slamming against it from the other side of the door. Suddenly the

window pane across the room smashed and the couch that blocked it started

to shake as other agents fought for entry.

Cian stretched over his head where the shot gun was resting just inches out

of his reach. He squirmed under Mulders grip and tried to grab it as Scully

tried to wriggle free from her bindings. Mulder’s eyes started to loose focus

as his body lost all his strength. Cian’s fingers gripped his gun and with his

shoulders he braced himself off the floor and threw himself into an upright

position. He aimed the gun at Mulder’s chest but before he could fire a loud

thumping sound came from the roof.

Plaster and dust fell around them as the thumping continued. With a new

wave of power Mulder marveled at the adrenaline and grabbed the barrel of

the gun with his good hand. They both struggled to their feet, each trying to

get the upper hand on the gun. With his left hand throbbing in pain Mulder

gritted his teeth and grabbed the trigger, jamming in thumb in behind it so

Cian couldn’t fire. But with every jerk and pull of the gun new waves of

pain flashed up his arm to his spine.

Cian tackled him, jumping with him onto the table, smashing it to bits as

they both fell against it under their combined weight, making him loose his

grip. Mulder grunted but ignored a sharp pain in his leg and tried to pull the

gun up to aim at Cian. Scully managed to pull one hand out of the belt loop

and hurriedly worked on the others.

Cian grappled Mulder tightly with one arm, punching him in the side with

the other, over and over mercilessly. With his left hand in excruciating pain

from finger tips to shoulder Mulder fought blindly against the assault but

found there was little he could do. He slammed his right fist down on his

attacker’s shoulders, back and head but it seemed to have little effect on the

enraged man. He tried to buck him away but his leg didn’t seem to be able to

move. Imagining it pinned beneath Cian’s Mulder tried another way, but it

all seemed so futile. With a grunt Mulder rolled over to his left taking Cian

with him and crushing him against the splintered wood, then jerked his knee

to connect with Cian’s groin.

Finally it was enough to make him loose his grip and Mulder crawled away

from him, yanking the gun with him. Hearing Cian scuffling behind him

across the broken table and tried to get up, but the other man was too fast.

Mulder spun around to see him wielding a sharp stake of wood that must

have broken off the table and watched his eyes glare red then roll back into

his head. Cian held the stake up high, intending to plunge it into Mulder’s

chest but Mulder kicked him away. The front door was banging almost off

its hinges from the combined efforts of the Agents outside with riot door ram

smashing into it; Mulder prayed they would hurry up.

Cian’s face contorted into a wicked caricature as he lunged for Mulder

again, the stake swinging wildly at his chest but missing and spearing

Mulder’s leg instead, as Ford lost his footing. Mulder yelled out in agony,

falling back against the onslaught of pain that engulfed his body. Bright

spots of white hot pain dilated his eyes and he tried to blink them away,

aghast to see his assailant pressing harder onto the stake.

The wood was impaled in the front of his left leg, right through his thigh,

and out the other side into an expanding pool of blood that gushed onto the

wooden floor. Cian’s smile stretched further across his face, distorting his

features and for a second Mulder saw them change completely. His eyes

slanted and glared crimson red while his lips sharpened into a grotesque

grin.

clip_image009

“Too late for me but at least I went out with a bang.” Cian stood over

Mulder’s squirming body and lifted his hands up to the sky. “Thank you my

god!” He roared loudly with a final laugh then slumped forward onto

Mulder, crushing the stake further into his leg.

The door finally blasted open pushing the couch and dresser across the

room. Agent Griffin hurried over to Mulder with his gun aimed at Cian then

carefully shoved him aside. He checked Cian’s vital signs.

“He’s dead!” he yelled over his shoulder at Agent Dunne who was sweeping

through the room, flanked by Murphy and Jones.

“Scully… check Agent Scully!” Mulder called out, jerking his arm over to

her as he tried to sit up but Griffin’s strong hands pushed him back down.

“We’ll get her too Agent Mulder. Just relax.” From his shoulder Griffin

pulled free a small radio transmitter and switched it on. “The room is clear. I

have two agents down. Suspect is dead.”

“Acknowledged.” Came the terse reply but it wasn’t enough to assuage

Mulder’s fear.

“Is she okay?” he asked blinking his eyes as tears pooled in them, distorting

his vision. He couldn’t hold his head up any longer and a strange chill settled

over his body making him shiver.

“Mulder, I’m fine,” he heard her say, her voice seemed only inches away

and suddenly he could feel her hands warm and comforting on his chest. He

looked over to her and saw she was wearing an FBI windbreaker, her legs

still bare poking out at the bottom.

“Thank you,” he muttered and she wasn’t sure who he was speaking to. Her

eyes traveled the length of his body to the large stake that was imbedded in

his leg. It must have been 2 by 2 inches square and she grimaced at the

thought of the germ laden splinters that she was sure had broken off into his

leg. “You’ll be okay Mulder, just lie still, and try not to move.”

“Move? I just want to sleep…” he said, his body finally giving up the battle

for strength.

“No Mulder you can’t sleep, not yet, stay with me.”

Sharply she slapped his cheeks to keep his attention. His eyes flew open and

rolled around the room, focusing on nothing before closing again. Griffin

loosened his grip on Mulder’s shoulders as he felt them slacken beneath his

fingers. He looked up to Scully and could see the worry etched so plainly on

her face. Her eyes were red rimmed and seemed heavy as she struggled to

keep them open and her fingers quivered as they reached out to touch her

partner’s face. Before she had to ask for it one of the Agents handed her

their jacket and she balled it up beneath his leg.

“Your tie, gimme your tie!” she snapped at Agent Griffin who deftly pulled

the tie from around his neck. He lifted Mulder’s leg as Scully slipped the

material under it and tied a makeshift tourniquet above the wound. “Keep his

leg elevated.” She showed Griffin how to hold the leg up high to help stem

the bleeding. Then she pulled the arms of the jacket out either side of his leg

and bundled it up against the protruding stake. Moving back up to Mulder’s

foot she pressed her two fore fingers to the middle of the inside of his foot.

“He’s definitely nicked his femoral artery.”

“Agent Scully?” Skinner’s voice was like an oasis in an eternal desert. She

had felt so alone, so helpless until his heavy hand squeezed her shoulder. “I

called for EMS. They should be here any second.”

“I need to stop the bleeding, keep pressure here,” She took Skinner’s hand

off her shoulder and placed it onto the now soaked jacket. “Keep it tight.”

She moved to his arm and noticed the twisted angle of the elbow and

forearm. But she decided against moving it. She pressed the back of her

hand to his cheek and gently stroked it. But there was no reaction. No

movement, grunts or winces as strapped his leg up. And it scared her.

“Excuse us.”

Everyone looked up to see two EMTs hurrying in through the battered door

and then placing their equipment around Mulder. Dunne helped Scully to her

feet and tried to lead her out of the room but she refused to move. She stood

over the EMT and told him what had happened. How Mulder had been

injured and how long he had been unconscious. She hurried over to the

fireplace where the needle she pulled out of her arm had been discarded.

“Here, he was injected with a sedative that is still affecting him.”

They worked swiftly and assessed the damage carefully. They replaced all of

Scully’s handiwork with bandages. Then attached a saline IV to his arm, an

oxygen mask over his face and a neck brace firmly in place.

“Okay we have to get him to the hospital.” One EMT hurried out to the

ambulance for the back board as the other gathered up the equipment.

Carefully they slipped him onto the board and tied him on with slim red

straps before lifting him onto the stretcher and placing him into the back. As

they stepped outside another ambulance took off down the dirt track taking

Agent Griffin.

“Are you coming?” the driver said as his partner climbed into the back with

Mulder. “You look like you could do with a once over yourself.”

Scully watched it all in relative silence her mind seemed to be working

through a thick fog where thoughts failed to materialize into actual concepts.

AD Skinner was by her side immediately helping her up the metal steps.

“Are you okay?” he asked as he tightened the blanket around her.

All she could do was nod. Then the EMT slammed the door after her. He

climbed into the driver seat and took off.

“How is she?” Reece asked softly.

“She’s fine. No real injuries. Just drugged and bruised.”

“And Agent Griffen?”

“He was lucky. The bullets hit his vest. Right in the center. If it wasn’t for

the new equipment…” Skinners words hung in the air sending shivers down

each agents spine. “I think he’s broken a rib or two but noting fatal.”

“Just got confirmation from the CS Unit, sir,” Agent Dunne called out as he

stepped into the room.

“Good. Start getting scene filed and processed.” Skinner ordered. Griffin

looked up gratefully at the distraction and called the others to help him.

***

American University Hospital

March 15th

Scully rested her head back on the chair and craned her neck, stretching it as

much as she could. Her back screamed for her to move, to walk, stand even

but she was reluctant to leave his side. He lay sleeping on his bed, eerily

quiet, despite the numerous machines hooked up. One IV was on his right

hand, his left arm was in plaster from his shoulder to his fingers, an oxygen

cannula taped over his face and nose while his leg was up in a sling to keep

it from swelling.

She had woken up in a room just before sunrise and found Skinner sitting by

her bedside reading a report. At her movement he put the file away and

stood up beside her. He explained about Mulder’s surgery and also filled her

in about the case but her mind was still groggy and she couldn’t concentrate.

Cian Ford had injected her with a sedative to keep her from fighting him.

And she was struggling to kick the effects away.

The wound on her head was superficial enough not to need stitches but still

looked painful. She got slowly out of bed and pulled on a hospital gown. She

needed to see her partner. Skinner helped her down the corridor to Mulder’s

room and with a compassionate pat on her shoulder the he led her to a chair

by his bedside.

“There is nothing you can do now,” he had said as he pushed Scully into the

chair. “The operation went well and he is expected to make a full recovery,

though he might be here for a few days and out of the field for some weeks.”

Scully looked over at the clock over the bed. That had been seven hours ago

and she was still sitting in that chair. His hand was warm, his brow was clear

and his heartbeat was strong and steady, but still he slept. She watched,

waited and listened for any sign of him waking but he offered her nothing

more than the steady sound of his breathing.

When Skinner walked in again later he was partly surprised to see her still

sitting there. He imagined the battle she’d had with the nurses to get her

back to her own bed.

“Agent Scully?” Skinner said, softly touching her shoulder. With a start she

looked around to him and saw his worried expression. “I brought you these.”

In his hand he held out a small plastic bag. She peered inside and found a

pair of jeans and a sweater. Some underwear and sneakers. They were

clothes from the change bag she usually stored in Mulder’s car. For nights

when he’d take a wrong turn on the way home and bring her to Maryland for

a romantic night off, or Langley AFB to spy on the flight tests. With a smile

of gratitude she took the bag and stepped into the bathroom to change.

At long last she felt human again. She splashed cold water over her face and

pulled her hair back into a ponytail before emerging.

“Feeling better?”

“Much. Thank you.”

“I spoke to the doctor and he said he’ll sign your discharge papers as soon as

you’re ready.”

“Good.” She took her seat next to Mulder again and clasped his hand.

“How is he doing?” he asked lowering his voice to a dull whisper.

“He lost a lot of blood. They gave him almost four units during the surgery.

He was lucky that the stake that impaled him missed his bone. It nicked his

femoral artery which was almost worse but the surgeon said they patched it

up completely. He’s going to have another great scar to show off.”

“Yeah he collects those like others collect baseball cards. When will he…”

“His body shut down to compensate for the lack of blood. It’ll take a while

for him to regain that strength again.”

“Agent Scully,” Skinner said suddenly. “It’s about the case.”

Scully turned around and saw Skinner backing away from the bed. He

walked over to the window across the room and waited for her to join him.

Reluctantly she let go of Mulder’s hand and walked over to him. In his hand

he held a slim file and he opened it towards her. There were several photos

inside of Cian Ford lying on his stomach.

“This picture was taken the morning that Cian left the hospital.” He held out

the photo and she took it to look it over, not registering the point Skinner

was trying to make. “This one was taken last night at the coroner’s office.”

“His back,” she murmured as she spotted the difference immediately. His

back was covered in the tattoo she remembered so vividly on James

Robinson and Gerry Black. “What happened?”

“I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on it.”

“I can’t explain it sir,” she hesitated wondering what Mulder would say.

Wondering if he would mention Marcos Gomez. But she couldn’t bring

herself to do it.

“Okay.” Skinner sighed. “There is something else.” He hesitated for a

moment as if he was unsure whether to tell her or not. “Father Robert Kelly

died last night in his cell.”

“What?”

“He was found this morning.”

“How did he die?”

“He bled to death.” Scullys hand covered her mouth and she knew, even

before Skinner spoke what he was about to say. “On his back was a large

tattoo resembling this one,” Skinner tapped the photo of Cian with his

fingers.

“Blood loss from a tattoo?” she queried incredulously.

“It was covered in deep wounds around the edges that bled out. No one can

really explain….”

“What about Marcos Gomez?” she asked her mind clicking through the fog

as her thoughts formed and began processing with familiar speed.

Skinner was silent for a moment. He looked down at the file in his hand and

took a deep breath.

“His execution is due on the 30th,” she said looking around the room for a

phone. “We have to stop it. We have to find out what he did to these

people.”

“It’s too late. He is already dead.”

“What?” her voice rose with her anger. “How?”

“At eleven twenty last night he suffered a stroke.” Skinner paused to let his

words sink in. But she didn’t utter a word. It was as if her thoughts had

frozen in shock. “He was in a coma and never regained consciousness.

Prison policy is for a DNR agreement to be placed on all Death Row

inmates. At quarter past one he arrested and died.” Skinner looked away and

stared at the passing traffic on the street below.

“He had daily contact with Fr Kelly, who spoke to all three men.” she said,

unsure what she was saying as her words seemed to tumble past her lips

without her control.

“That doesn’t prove anything. Fr. Kelly was locked up in his cell last night.

Alone.”

“It’s the only link. He must have been able to control them, like puppets.”

“Agent Scully-“Skinner began seeing her weary eyes darting around the

room.

“No!” she yelled. “He did this. He controlled all of this!”

“Agent Scully!” Skinner grabbed her arms and held her gently as she tried to

squirm away from him. “It’s too late. There is nothing you can do.”

She seemed to slump in his arms and he released her into the chair by the

wall.

“We have to try. We can’t let all this be for nothing.” Her words were soft

and haunting making Skinner reach for his cell phone.

“He is already dead.”

“Then let me do an autopsy.”

“The autopsy was performed by the prison pathologist immediately after his

death and the body has already been cremated.” Skinners voice was low and

resigned and it grated on Scully’s nerves as he spoke.

“That’s ridiculous!” She scoffed at the impossibility of it all. Her body was

humming with the need to react, to move, shout, scream, anything. “Then

get a copy of the autopsy report.”

“I cant. I tried.” Skinner sat down in the empty plastic chair next to her and

handed her the file. “Prison files are sealed.”

“Since when?” Scully rummaged through the pages as if expecting to find

something he missed.

“Since the warden decided the death of a death row inmate on the eve of his

execution would be bad publicity.”

“We can’t let them bury the evidence like this.”

“Agent Scully if you have some concrete proof that Marcus Gomez

instigated all of this then I will gladly go to the warden myself and demand a

copy of his autopsy.” He let his words hang but she didn’t have a reply.

“Otherwise I’m afraid there is nothing we can do.”

They stared at each other for a few seconds and she finally looked away.

Skinner touched her shoulder and closed the file. His simple gesture

knocked the wind out of her sails and she felt her shoulders slumping

further. It was over, she decided as she watched him leave the room. There

was nothing else she could do. No matter how many cases she worked on or

how good their solve rate was, it was the unsolved cases, the cases that

remained open and raised more questions then they answered that haunted

her the most.

Taking a deep breath she lifted herself out of the chair and slowly walked

over to Mulder. She slipped her hand beneath his and lowered herself into

the other chair suddenly feeling wearier then she could ever remember

being. Idly her hand went up to her neck in an instinctive move to touch her

chain. But it wasn’t there. With a sigh she remembered taking it out of her

pocket and placing it on her bedside locker and now longed to feel the

comforting chain circle her neck.

“Hey.” His voice was painfully croaky but it sounded like a heavenly

melody to her. His dark eyes met hers over the bedclothes. He looked

groggier than she did.

“Mulder!” she jumped up and hugged his chest, careful not to hit any of the

tubes. “How do you feel?” she stepped back and kissed his cheek but as she

pulled away his hand reached up and pulled her in for a deeper kiss.

“Better now,” he said as he released her. Just that small exertion seemed to

have his strength flagging again.

“How does your leg feel?”

“Feels like a UFO landed on it,” he looked over to her with a wan smile.

“How about you? Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” his eyes, suddenly

scared and serious raked over her.

“No. He injected me with a sedative and that kept me groggy for a while but

I’m okay now. Just tired.”

“Is he dead?” Mulder asked cautiously afraid of the result.

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“Yes. Pronounced at the scene.” She seemed about to add more but then

didn’t. Mulder squeezed her hand and frowned.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Fr. Kelly is dead. He died last night in his cell.”

“And Gomez?”

Her silence was enough.

“We have…we have to…” Mulder struggled to sit up but the groggy pain

that was settled in his head flared up with the sudden movement. He winced

as his leg screamed in protest.

“It’s no use. He had a seizure in his cell last night. There was nothing they

could do. He has been autopsied and cremated already.”

Mulder let his head fall back onto the pillow heavily and shut his eyes

against the wave of pain that washed over his body to a dull thump in his

leg.

“Relax Mulder. You had major surgery last night. You lost a lot of blood

and you’re going to be weak for a while. Use the pain pump. ” She lifted his

hand and closed it over the pump by his side and closed his fingers over it,

helping him press it.

“So that’s it?” he said and she knew he wasn’t talking about his injury. “We

get nothing? Again?”

His frustration was palpable, made all the more obvious by his lack of motor

control from the rush of Demerol. He needed to get off the bed and pace

around the room. Get his limbs working to get his mind warmed up. She

knew he’d be egging to go for a run as soon as he could but recovery and the

physical therapy would take precedence over that.

“Skinner might be able to do something. If we can get authorisation for an

autopsy on Ford, maybe we can…”.

“We can what Scully?” he tested looking at her through hooded eyes.

“Find out how he managed to walk away from his death bed.”

“You think Marcus Gomez gave them the recipe for some miracle drug?”

“I don’t know Mulder.” This time the resignation she heard was from her

own voice. Scully leaned further over her partner’s body and tried to get

him to look at her, to see the comfort she offered in her own eyes.

“Mulder,” she said softly squeezing his shoulders to make him look up. “It’s

too late.

“So that’s it?” Mulder said bitterly. “Just go back to status quo?” He looked

down to his bandaged leg and grimaced. “After a couple of months of

therapy I’ll be back to normal and we can move onto the next case.”

“It’s always like this. It’s always going to be us and them. Hasn’t it always

been like that?” she said with a soft laugh. Her frustration was slowly ebbing

away. The familiar feeling of defeat settling in its place.

“I dunno Scully. I just feel like something needs to change.” His eyes fell to

her neck and he didn’t fail to see the missing chain. “Something has got to

give.”

His words stung. Words of surrender. Would he lose his fight? His energy to

keep going? She squeezed his hand and he squeezed her back, his eyes

rolling over her face where the blue and yellow bruise stained the skin on

her temple and disappeared under her hair.

“You’re hurting.” He spoke quietly and reached a finger up to touch the

nape of her neck, brushing the warm velvety skin there where her cross

would normally be resting. She looked down at him then took his hand in

hers.

“I was.”

“And now?” A sudden and powerful weariness washed over him and he

struggled to open his eyes.

“And now I’m not,” she said cryptically, kissing his fingers. Mulder knew

there would be more to that but his body was finished with this conversation

for now.

“Go to sleep Mulder,” she whispered against his cheek, brushing a soft kiss

where her lips touched him. “I’ll be here when you wake up.” Her words

were enough to push him over the edge and he released his grip to let the

exhaustion win.

The End.

Skinfull

Jan 2006. ©

My Dream of Scully with the Dark Red Hair

Title: My Dream of Scully with the Dark Red Hair

Author: Vickie Moseley

Summary: Dr. JD Dorian of Sacred Heart Hospital comes face to

face with his latest fantasy girl — Special Agent Dana Scully. Too

bad she had to bring her partner with her.

Category: Crossover, MT, SA H

Rating: Tuesday night NBC prime time

Disclaimer: Zach Braff and Bill Lawrence are responsible for

everything Sacred Heart related. Chris Carter and his many

minions are responsible for all things X Files. I just shook ’em all

up in a big zip-lock bag.

Archive: 2 weeks exclusive with Virtual Season 13, then

anywhere

Written for the Virtual Season 13 Crossover Special

Dedicated to my buds on the VS — sorry it wasn’t exactly what you

were looking for Donna, but they just wouldn’t cooperate!

comments to vickiemoseley1978@yahoo.com

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My Dream of Scully with the Dark Red Hair

by Vickie Moseley

Sometimes, it’s nice to look at the other side, to see what your life

might have been like if you turned left or turned right or maybe

just never got out of bed. There’s always a little bit of longing for

the life not lived. And sometimes, that other life just falls right

into your lap.

It’s a beautiful sunny day, but then it always seems to be sunny

when the air is fresh, the birds are singing and I manage to snag the

last chocolate glazed donut with colored sprinkles from the

convenience store near the hospital. I take my prize to the cash

register with great anticipation. I don’t even mind that I’m third in

line.

It’s a secret game of mine to listen in on people standing in line

with me. I don’t mean eavesdrop, exactly, but I don’t stand there

and hum to myself or try to recite the multiplication tables in my

head. If I just happen to hear a juicy conversation, where’s the

harm? Like the couple right ahead of me.

“Mulder, would it hurt you to humor me this once?”

My my my, she is a hot little number. Red hair, perfect body,

heels that make her head about even with her boyfriend’s shoulder

— she looks almost as good as my donut.

“Humor you. Scully, I told you already, I just want to go home.

I’ve had the week from hell — ”

I’m bored already. Mr. Personality is one big whine-fest. I feel

sorry for the little red head. I wonder if I can get her phone

number. Have to check out their license plate as I leave the store.

I lanced a boil of an employee of the DMV just last month, I could

call in that favor.

” — your head! And you didn’t sleep at all!”

Whoa, I missed something good. Have to stop getting distracted.

Listening in is serious work. Now what was that about sleep?

” — case, Scully, this case from hell we’ve been on! Look, I don’t

want to argue. I don’t want to go to the hospital. I just want to get

on that plane and go home! Is that too much to ask?”

Hospital? Did he just say hospital? Wow, this could be my

chance. I could get them over to the hospital, put Mr. Whiney

Pants on a gurney and lose him in X ray while I work the old JD

magic on Drop Dead Gorgeous here.

“Pump number 6 and . . . and . . . Sccccc-ulllllllll-y?” Thump!

Just like that, Mr. Whimper-Imper is flat on his back passed out on

the floor. My angel in red is kneeling down beside him, loosening

his tie. Any minute now I expect her to look up terrified and

scream ‘is there a doctor in the house?’

“Call 911, tell them Officer Down. Get me ice, I need ice and get

his feet up. You, there, find a roll of paper towels in the aisle

behind you. Hurry people, he’s bleeding all over the floor!”

I realize I’m the guy who’s supposed to get the towels. OK, not

what I expected but I turn and grab the first roll I see and rip off

the plastic wrap. As I kneel down next to her, I put my hand on

her shoulder. “Miss, I’m a doctor. Let me take a look.”

I anticipate adoring eyes, undying gratitude. I get “What’s your

specialty? He needs a neurologist.”

Crap! Why didn’t I go into Neurology? Oh, yeah, I hate all the

extra paperwork. So, how do I answer and still find my way to her

glowing adoration? “I’m a second year resident, but our hospital is

just three blocks up the street.”

One of the most fun things you can do in the medical field is get to

ride in the back of an ambulance. It’s a bit crowded back here,

with Agent Mulder — as I found out when his partner introduced

me to the unconscious guy on the floor, the two EMTs, Agent

Dana Scully — my goddess with the titian tresses, and me, but we

manage the three blocks in just a wink of an eye.

“You really didn’t have to ride with us, Dr. Dorian. I feel bad

leaving your car back at the convenience store.”

“Agent Scully, didn’t I tell you to call me JD? And I can run back

and get my — um — vehicle later.” There is no way I’m telling a

vivacious and beautiful FBI agent that I ride a scooter to work!

It takes no time at all to go three blocks at top speed. Before I can

even get a good grip on the safety strap, we’re at the hospital. I

have to hop out so they can remove the gurney, and I help Agent

Scully hop out after me. She fails to notice this chivalrous

movement and focuses on the gurney. Oh, yeah, and the guy on

the gurney.

“Mulder. Mulder, can you hear me? Mulder, if you can hear me,

squeeze my hand. Mulder, feel my hand? Just squeeze it.”

I’m ready to squeeze her hand just to get her to leave the poor guy

alone! Oh, no. She has a look in her eyes. She reaches up to his

face and — oh Man! That had to hurt! Pinches his earlobe hard

enough to leave an imprint of her nail! If he slept through that —

“Darlene! What have you brought me now?”

Crap! Just once, could Dr. Cox call me by my given name? Heck,

by a guy’s name! Is that too much to ask?

“My name is Dana Scully, I’m a medical doctor and a Special

Agent with the FBI. This man is my partner Fox Mulder, 44 years

of age, no history of chronic medical conditions. He received a

blow to the head — blunt trauma — approximately 4 hours ago, but

refused to be examined by paramedics at the scene. His eyes were

not dilated at the time, and, aside from tenderness at the point of

impact, he was not complaining of any pain. We were at the

convenience store down the street just a few minutes ago when

suddenly he lost consciousness. I want a complete CT scan of his

head and a neurosurgeon and OR on standby. He has no allergies

to medications, is not currently taking any prescriptions, he hasn’t

eaten in the last 14 or more hours and his blood type is O neg.”

Dr. Cox looks at me. I shrug. “They were standing in front of me

in the line at the Gas-N-Go and he passed out.”

Cox is good at times like these. “Well, Doctor Agent Sister Sally,

why don’t you go with Dr. uh, um, ah, Dorian to admitting and fill

out all the nice papers so we can legally examine and treat your —

ah, partner, Agent Mulder here. And when we know something,

I’ll go find you. How does that sound?”

My chance at last!

“I’m not leaving.”

Man, I never saw that shade of flame come out of someone’s eyes

before.

“You’re not staying.”

Oh, oh. He’s using that voice. That voice he perfected long ago on

a bunch of interns probably still roaming the basement and attic of

this very hospital — souls lost for eternity . . .

” — and a gun and I have no intention of leaving my partner. Now,

I suggest you examine him and start ordering some tests or I will

do it myself!”

Darn it! Missed more good stuff! Whatever the first part was, Cox

has just turned three shades of apoplectic, but Doctor-slash-Agent

Scully is not leaving the room.

“Doris — go get an admitting clerk down here.”

I send an admitting clerk to the ER — they weren’t too happy about

it — and wander to the nurses’ desk. Carla is busy scribbling on a

chart, Eliot is trying to pick a piece of something out of her teeth in

the glass on the drug cabinet, and my best buddy Turk is staring off

into space. Looks like a normal day to me.

“Guess who I just brought into the ER?” I love it when I can do

that. They all look up in happy anticipation. Gawd, this place just

eats up gossip with a spoon.

“Jude Law?” Poor Eliot — she is so starstruck.

“No.”

“Beyonce?” Ow, from the look on Carla’s face, Turk should have

kept his mouth shut!

“No.”

“Michael Chiklis.” I look at Carla and shake my head. That was

obviously payback for the Beyonce guess from Turk.

“No. Look, you’ll never guess, really.”

“Orlando Bloom!”

“Eliot, be quiet,” Carla hushed her. “Go on, JD. Who’s in the

ER?”

“Two FBI agents!”

Incredible. I can actually hear the birds chirping outside!

Everyone is turning away, so I have to get their attention again.

“The guy agent passed out right in front of me at the Gas-N-Go.”

“Guy agent? Is he cute?”

Turk gives Carla the evil eye. Eliot is nodding her head

enthusiastically.

“I didn’t really notice, but his partner is fantastic!”

Turk rears back and Carla and Eliot giggle. Oh, yeah, they weren’t

there. “No, it’s not like that. His partner is a woman!”

Turk’s respect for me glows anew. Carla and Eliot go back to

scribbling and picking teeth.

“So, she’s an FBI agent, huh?”

“Yeah and she’s a babe! Red hair, blue eyes, little short pixie build

— ”

“I always thought you liked ’em long and leggy?”

“Nah, man, I tell ya, you see her and you’ll know what I mean.”

“So — let’s go!”

“What? Where?”

“Let’s go down to the ER and check her out!”

Hmm, did I remember to tell him the part about her carrying a gun

and how she flayed Cox’s butt? Probably not. Oh well . . .

“Sure.”

“Turk!”

Oops. I thought Carla was occupied scribbling. She’d been

listening. Turk is gonna get —

“Just where do you think you’re going?”

Turk is my best bud, but there is no way I’m standing too close to

him right now. When the bombs fall, it’s best to get out of the

way.

“Um, this guy passed out, Carla, baby. It could be a whole bunch

of stuff. Head trauma, maybe. I might be able to assist on the

surgery.”

That set off bells in my head. “Oh, yeah, she said something about

having an OR and a neurologist on stand by. He had a head

trauma.”

“*She* said?”

“Did I mention she’s a doctor?”

“You said she was an FBI agent.”

“She is. And a doctor.” I’m positive she said that.

“OK, this I gotta see.” Oh no, not Eliot! This should be a guy

thing!

“Me too. An FBI agent who’s a Doctor AND a woman! I want to

see this Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”

Now Carla too?? Darn it all!

“If we all go, we’ll scare her.”

“OK. Then just me and Eliot will go.” Carla puts down the chart

and heads to the elevators.

“On second thought, what could scare an FBI agent right?” Turk

and I have to hurry to catch the girls.

When we get to the ER, Agent Scully is nowhere in sight. Dr. Cox

is standing near the nurses’ station, writing on a chart. Carla stops

short, making Eliot, Turk and finally me plow into her. Cox looks

over at us coolly.

“I sent him to have a CT scan.”

I try to appear nonchalant. “And his . . . partner?”

“The redhead went with him. Something about she couldn’t leave

his side in case he woke up and started spouting national secrets or

some stupid excuse. At least she’s out of my hair for a while.”

“If there’s a subdural hematoma, can I . . .” That’s my Turk, always

looking for a chance to showing his aptitude with sharp objects.

“It’s up to Bob, Goldilocks,” Cox sneers at Turk. “But if it means

staying in a room for more than 15 seconds with that she-demon,

you might reconsider. Now, unless you’ve all decided to seek

other employment, I suggest you four get back to whatever you’re

supposed to do here.”

Because I do have other patients, I decide to go check on some of

them. By the time I get back around to X ray, it appears that a

crisis is in full swing.

“I don’t care what you have to do, I want all doors locked,

everyone who was anywhere near the X ray Department must be

interrogated, I want someone to find my damned partner!!”

Owww, maybe I’ll just go back to my patients —

“Dr. Dorian, thank God!”

Then again . . . She looks at me with all the adoration I first

envisioned. Or maybe she’s just looking at me because I’m a

friendly face. Anyway, what the heck do I care, she’s looking at

me.

“Agent Scully, what happened?”

She closes her eyes and puffs a stand of titian silk hair back in

place. “I turned my back for a minute, not more than sixty

seconds, and he’s gone!”

“Dr. Cox?” I ask. But I can’t honestly say anyone, save his wife

Jordan when she’s looking to tear off his balls, has ever been upset

at not seeing Perry Cox.

“No, of course not! That man is a complete and total asshole! No,

my partner, Mulder. He was on a gurney right here,” she points to

a spot on the wall where there could have been a gurney at one

time, “and when I came back, he was gone.”

“Maybe they took him in for his X ray,” I suggest helpfully.

Wow. The flaming eyes again. How does she do that and not

catch her eyebrows on fire?

“Don’t you think I thought of that? I checked with the X ray tech.

They still had two people ahead of Mulder. I can’t believe you

people only have one CT scan in this hell hole!”

“We’re having a fundraiser at the end of the month, hopefully — ”

“I don’t care!” she yells, and I’m embarrassed to say I’m terrified

and extremely turned on all at once.

“I’ll help you look for him.” It’s the least I can do. Especially if I

get to wander the halls with her, and especially if she’s not

threatening me with her gun. Just as we’re about to start off on our

search of the premises, my name is broadcast on the PA system.

“Dr. Dorian. Paging Dr. Dorian. You 10 o’clock boil is waiting

for you. Paging Dr. Dorian.”

Damn, forgot all about that boil. If the man didn’t sit on his ass all

day long — “Look, Agent Scully, I have to run. But I promise, I’ll

help you look as soon as I get this one little patient out of the way.”

I return to find that Eliot is now guiding the beautiful Agent Scully

through the nooks and crannies of Sacred Heart. It’s a wonder to

behold. I envision Eliot and Agent Scully, in bikinis — with

shoulder holsters and. . .

“Dorian! What the hell is going on around here and what have you

got to do with it?!” I wish Dr. Kelso didn’t always have to yell

right in my ear.

Agent Scully heard him and spun on her heel. “You must be Dr.

Kelso,” she says, eyes flaring again. “I paged you half an hour

ago.”

“I was in a very important consultation,” Kelso replies. It probably

had to do with his golf swing. “How can I help you, young lady?”

“I’m Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI. My partner, Special

Agent Fox Mulder was brought into this — establishment — some

three hours ago with a head trauma. Now, he has been — taken. I

want every available personnel helping in the search effort. He

could have an intracranial bleed. If I find him and he’s — I want

him found and I want him found NOW!”

Eliot is chewing on her lip, but I can see that look in her eyes.

She’s already filing out an application to the FBI in her head.

Kelso just looks suitable mortified.

“My dear woman, I can assure you — ”

“Assure me after he’s found,” Agent of my dreams says and turns

away from Bob to continue searching in every room down the

hallway.

“Dorian!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go find her damned partner and get the two of them out of here.

They’re disrupting the whole hospital.”

“Yes sir.”

Hey, at least I got orders to help her now.

We’ve been searching the hospital now for almost two hours. I

was pretty sure we wouldn’t find him in labor and delivery, but

Agent Scully insisted. Good thing that woman was having her

sixth child and didn’t seem to mind us traipsing through the

delivery room. Come to think of it, maybe she wasn’t joking when

she offered to help us with the search —

But we are now in the cafeteria, and as I suspected, not a gurney or

unconscious Federal Agent in sight. Agent Scully is alternating

between close to tears and going completely postal. Eliot looks

bored to tears. My feet are starting to hurt. And just when it looks

like things can’t possibly get any worse —

“Hey, you still lookin’ for that FBI agent?”

Oh, no. Not him. Not the Janitor. If he waltzes in here and tells

Agent Scully right where she can find her partner, I’ll kill myself.

“Doug down in the morgue — have you checked with him?”

All blood drains from Agent Scully’s face and for a minute, I think

she might faint. But just as I reach out to stop catch her if she falls,

she grabs a handful of my shirt and pulls me down to within an

inch of her face. “Take me to the morgue — RIGHT NOW!”

I decide the stairs are fastest. I would lead this parade, but Agent

Scully has pushed past me and is dragging me down the steps

behind her. Eliot is next and the Janitor is bringing up the rear.

I’m just trying to keep my feet under me. She might look tiny but

the woman has an arm!

We get to the morgue and we say a quick ‘hi’ to Doug, who looks

rather startled at the sudden onslaught of living, breathing people.

Agent Scully pulls her ID from her suit pocket — god, can there be

a bigger turn on than a tiny little woman pulling out a badge and

flashing the gun at her hip at the same time?

“I want a search made of this morgue. I want to see every body

that has arrived here since 8 a.m. this morning.”

Doug looks at me, and then at the Janitor — why does he look at

the Janitor? Is Doug implying that the Janitor has more authority

in this situation than I do? I’m a doctor, after all. He’s just the —

he’s just a . . . ah screw it. He has more authority than I do.

“All I got was this one,” Doug is saying, walking over to pull the

sheet off a woman in her mid to late 1000s, “and that one over

there.”

Against the wall is a gurney, the body covered with a sheet, only

one foot sticking out. The toe tag is visible from this distance.

‘John Doe’.

If I thought Agent Scully was going to faint earlier, she was

looking tan compared to how she looks now. She bits her lip and

walks very slowly over to the gurney. Eliot looks over at me and

swallows hard. She’s got such a soft heart, Eliot. Even the Janitor

looks dismayed.

Death comes to us here at Sacred Heart every day of the week.

Sometimes it’s a blessing, the only way to end mindless pain.

Other times, it’s too sudden, too inappropriate. But it always hurts

to watch. I can see by the look in her eyes that Agent Scully has

been searching for more than her partner today. She’s been

searching for that someone we all want in our lives. Now, she’s

found him — but too late.

I’m having a hard time swallowing around this rock in my throat.

Eliot has silent tears falling from her eyes. I hear the Janitor trying

to disguise his sniffle with a cough. Even Doug looks like he’s

about to lose it. Just as she reaches out to pull the sheet and see the

body . . .

It groans.

Then, one of the legs move. And the other. And the body shifts

and rolls over onto its side.

Agent Scully grabs the sheet and pulls it down, stopping at the

waist. On the gurney is her partner, the same guy who was Mr.

Whiney Pants, the same guy who passed out right at my feet this

morning. Only now he’s rubbing his eyes and stretching, letting

out a long yawn. Finally, he sees her.

“Scully. Wow. CT scan done? Hey, what time is it? Did we miss

our flight?”

She stands there, stunned for a moment and then launches herself

in his arms. He’s surprised, but grateful and hugs her back. Then,

he looks around and notices where he is.

“Scully . . . what’s this thing on my toe?”

On Dr. Kelso’s orders, Agent Mulder was bumped to the front of

the line in X-ray. The CT scan showed no abnormalities of any

kind, and Dr. Cox released him to the care of his personal

physician, the lovely Agent Doctor Scully. Somehow the Janitor

even got their car from the Gas-N-Go. Just as my shift was

ending, both agents were preparing to leave.

“You two crazy kids take care, now,” I tell them. Agent Mulder

looks confused and Agent Scully looks like she might shoot me on

the spot, but thinks better of it. I’m shocked to pieces when she

latches onto my neck and gives me a big kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Dr. Dorian, for everything,” she says.

As I head down the street to collect my scooter from the Gas-N-

Go, I notice that the birds are still singing, the sun is still bright in

the sky. Maybe, if I’m really lucky, I’ll get the last slice of

pepperoni pizza from the convenience mart. At the end of the

hospital lot, a non descript Ford Taurus pulls to the curb.

“Can we give you a ride to your car?” Agent Mulder calls out,

sounding a lot more pleasant now that he’s had a good seven-hour

nap.

I look in his window and see Agent Scully, smiling at me. Boy, I’d

give anything —

“Nah. Thanks, anyway. It’s such a nice day — I think I’ll walk.”

the end

God and Bad Planning

God and Bad Planning

Author: Martin Ross

Category: Crossover casefile

Rating: R for language

Summary: When a serial killer is loose and a curiously ill

Katrina survivor seems to be involved, Mulder and Scully

meet a formidable adversary — Dr. Gregory House.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully are the creation of Chris

Carter, Greg House the brainchild of Paul Attanasio, Bryan

Singer, David Shore, and Katie Jacobs.

E-mail: fwidsvnt@ilfb.org

clip_image002

New Orleans, La.

Sept. 5, 2005

4:37 p.m.

Rose Anne shook the plastic jug in frustration. A small

eddy of water glinted at the bottom, in the late afternoon

light seeping through the grimy attic window, and memory

stabbed at her heart.

She’d been listening to the local weather when the waters

hit — keeping up with the taxes on the house kept Rose

Anne tapped out, and even basic cable was beyond the meager

paycheck she brought home from the cannery. She’d kept to

herself, both at the plant and on the block, and no one had

called or stopped by to see to her welfare as Katrina

approached.

Rose Anne had stocked up on as much canned meat and snack

food as she could swing at the dollar store, and had filled

a milk jug with pure Jefferson Parish tap — not too much

Avian flowed in this neighborhood. She settled back and

waited for the storm to pass, anticipating at worst a few

days without power. The idea of leaving her late mother’s

home was inconceivable, the logistics of leaving town

impossible.

She’d grabbed as much as she could after the levee broke,

and Rose Anne had been living on store-brand pseudo-Spam,

ranch-flavored tortilla chips, and carefully rationed sips

from the jug. As darkness and fear and eventually despair

had set in over the last five days, Rose Anne had lost

track of the sips, and the water soon would be gone.

She’d heard periodic shots in the darkness, and before the

generic dollar store batteries had given out, Rose Anne had

listened in horror to accounts of the insanity and chaos at

the arena. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, or the End of Days.

Rose Anne had lived her entire life in the city, and she’d

learned to turn a blind eye to the revelry, the debauchery.

It wasn’t too tough — the French Quarter was more concept

than concrete reality in Rose Anne’s working class world.

This had been all too real — the wrath of the Lord come

right to her doorstep. His vengeance, the scouring of the

city from the Earth’s face?

“Ma’am?”

Rose Anne jumped at the disembodied voice, and the milk jug

sloshed across the rough wood of the attic floor. She

crawled to the window, and tears stung her eyes as she

regarded the military chopper hovering over the now flooded

street. She caught sight of the moon near the horizon – an

apparition in the waning daylit sky, a hazy scythe waiting

to claim the night. Rose Anne leaned back, gratefully.

“Ma’am, this is the U.S. Coast Guard.” The amplified voice

brought her back to the dusty attic. “We’re going to send a

man down to retrieve you. Just stay put — we’ll be back

around in a few minutes.”

Rose Anne nodded mutely, then slumped against a trunk full

of her mother’s old dresses. Her dry lips began to move in

prayer, as if they were acting autonomously…

Megalomart

Plainsboro, N.J.

Four months later

“Attention, Megalomart customers. Winter’s here, and

Megalomart has all your automotive winterization needs.

Sur-Grip radial snow tires are on special this week with a

$40 mail-in rebate, and a gallon of Arctic Fire antifreeze

is only $7.99… So make Megalomart your first stop today,

before winter stops you.”

The robotically nasal Eastern accent of the assistant

manager pricked at Rose Anne’s brain even as she silently

swept cookies, roasts, detergent, socks over the UPC

scanner and into the gaping maw of a red recyclable bag.

While few of her customers would’ve noticed – or indeed

might have bothered to – Rose Anne actually enjoyed the

comforting repetition and isolation of her new job. While

she interacted daily with hundreds of shoppers in the

center of a virtual retail circus, only a few acknowledged

the non-descript girl, and most of Rose Anne’s co-workers

were sympathetic toward the world-changing events that had

brought her to New Jersey but respectful of her politely

reticent nature.

Absently, by rote, Rose Anne spun the carousel another

turn, and carefully nestled a bag of hotdog buns into its

cocoon before spinning to a new bag.

“Thanks.”

She looked up, suppressing a gasp. The woman, in a

chartreuse jersey and stretch pants, was as broad as a bus,

but her beaming smile was as radiant as a Gulf sunrise.

“I’m sorry, ma’am?” Rose Anne stammered.

“The buns,” the customer explained, blushing slightly now.

“Most a’the times, you guys just toss ‘em in a bag and

squoosh ‘em good with a couple cans a’ beans. Thanks for

taking the time, sweetie.”

Rose Anne’s hand paused over the scanner, and a smile broke

through her customary reserve. The woman blinked at the

cashier’s transformation. “No problem, ma’am.”

“That’s a beautiful accent you got, honey,” the customer

cooed. “It’d figure you’d be from outta town, you not

squooshing my buns and all. You from the south, right?” The

large woman suddenly paused. “Ohmigod. You’re one of them,

ain’t you?”

Rose Anne’s smile vanished, and her gray eyes widened in

fear.

Tears filmed the shopper’s eyes. “Oh, sweetie, how awful.

It musta been awful.” Her plump fingers reached over the

scanner and seized Rose Anne’s. “That gawdammed Katrina.”

Rose Anne fliched imperceptibly at the blasphemy. “My

husband’s a trucker – he took a buncha food and shit down

there after it happened. You OK, baby?”

Rose Anne’s shoulders relaxed. The arrival of the Katrina

evacuees had made front-page local headlines for a week,

and a well-meaning TV reporter had shadowed several for two

more. Rose Anne had declined the exposure – the CNN

coverage of her rescue had been enough visibility – but the

media spotlight had spurred a flood of offers. Megalomart

had provided work for few hundred of the evacuees, and a

local developer known (very publicly) for his charitable

efforts offered up (very publicly) a bank of temporarily

rent-deferred apartments in a reasonably safe neighborhood

not too far from here.

“I’m just fine, ma’am,” Rose Anne murmured, gracefully

wriggling free. “Thank you so kindly for asking.”

“Hey, Sally Freakin’ Struthers.” Rose Anne and the woman

turned to a broad bald man in a leather jacket and a

grease-stained tee. “I got 20 minutes ‘til the freakin’

game starts. You wanna haul that gargantuan ass a’yours?”

The woman’s eyes dried instantly, and she thumped her chest

in a common New Jersey gesture. “Fuck you, Easy Rider.”

“Hey, you go fu— Jesus! Lady? Lady?”

Rose Anne’s face had grown even grayer as the pair

bickered. She’d grabbed at the card reader, and it had

uprooted as her body slid to the floor…

“Ohmigod!” the woman screamed, turning to the mob of

shoppers. “Somebody call 911, please, for Gawd’s sake!”

A petite redhead sprinted from the front of the store,

where she’d been chatting with the manager and a youngish

man in a black suit. “I’m a doctor!” the redhead announced,

nonetheless holding up what was clearly an FBI ID. The

biker nearly bolted instinctively, then placed himself in

check out of a second instinct that had evolved through

years of bar fights and drug scrapes. “Get an ambulance!”

the small woman barked at the manager, who broke out a cell

phone.

“Ohmigod,” the large woman whispered.

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

Plainsboro, N.J.

9:23 a.m.

FBI Special Agent Dana Scully eyed the closed ICU door and

the doctors and nurses consulting inside. Her partner had

gone off in search of the hospital administrator, and she

waited tensely, as concerned about the health of the young

woman as the continuation of her investigation.

“Got change for a dollar?”

Scully glanced at the source of the query, a thin, unshaven

man in a wrinkled shirt, rumpled corduroy jacket, jeans,

and sneakers. He leaned on a cane, and his eyes were baggy,

protuberant, expectant, and, she thought, somewhat wild.

“No,” the agent said simply, turning away.

“C’mon,” the derelict sighed. “At least look. I don’t have

my morning coffee to wash down my drugs, I’m absolutely

useless for the rest of the day.”

“I’m positive I don’t have any change,” Scully said icily.

“You must be hellaciously anal retentive, or one heck of a

money manager.”

Scully whipped out her ID, and flipped it open in the man’s

face. “I’m extremely busy right now, sir. You’ll need to

cadge a cup from someone else, understand?”

“Well,” the man huffed, turning and hobbling off. “Somebody

woke up with Mr. Grumpypants this morning.”

Before Scully could squelch the response she had yet to

formulate, the ICU door whooshed open, and an amiable-

looking man in a lab coat approached.

“Agent? Dr. Patel. Your witness, suspect, what? Well, she’s

stabilized for the time being. But I’m going to ask you to

hold off for a little longer, at least until tomorrow.

We’re looking at, ah, some rather odd symptomology here,

and I need to call in a specialist.”

The last was spoken seemingly with some reluctance, but

Scully pressed on. “What happened to Ms. Boudeaux? I’m a

doctor, and from what I–”

“You called him yet?” Scully turned to see an attractive

woman in an expensive suit and heels clacking down the

hall, Mulder in tow. She extended an exquisitely manicured

hand. “Dr. Lisa Cuddy – head of medicine. As I explained to

your partner, we want to cooperate fully, but our patient’s

health is tantamount. I mean, she’s not going anyplace,

right?”

“Of course,” Scully nodded, waving off her impatient

partner with a look.

“Great.” Cuddy returned to the chafing physician beside

Scully. “So, did you talk to him yet?”

“Just about to.”

Cuddy’s brow arched. “Well, shoo. He doesn’t eat attendings

unless they provoke him. Ah, there he is. House?”

Scully followed her gaze, seeing only the derelict coffee

cadger. The man’s eyes popped, and he started to beat a

retreat.

“DR. House,” Cuddy repeated with a tone of mingled

authority and exasperation. The derelict’s shoulders

slumped, and he pivoted on his cane.

“Great,” Scully breathed as she hustled after Cuddy and

Mulder.

“It’s not my baby, Cuddy,” Dr. Gregory House stated. “Guys

in the pool think it’s the Prince of Darkness.”

“Dr. House,” Cuddy smiled sweetly. “These are Agents Mulder

and Scully with the FBI.”

House inspected Scully with a frown. “Ah, yes, the

Changeless Woman. If I accidentally slice off a pair of

testicles or sew a sponge in a patient today in my

stimulant-free condition, it’s on you. You two here about

my taxes? Cause I promise, I haven’t filed any in years.”

“House,” Cuddy sighed. “Rose Anne Boudeaux, 27, brought in

about two hours ago following what appears to be a cardiac

episode. There are some curious complications, and I need

you to consult with Patel.”

“Curious complications?” House waggled his brows. “Why,

Cuddy, you do know how to whet the appetite. Get Foreman.”

“I’ll take two days’ clinicals,” Cuddy offered, flatly.

House smiled wolfishly and glanced at the agents.

“What’s so interesting about Blanche DuBois, or whatever

her name is?” the doctor inquired. “Why’re Efrem Zimbalist

Jr. and Agent Hypothermia so interested?”

Mulder reached absently for Scully, then withdrew. Scully

inhaled slowly.

“Ms. Boudeaux may be an important witness in a series of

local crimes,” she murmured. “It’s essential that we talk

to her.”

House leaned in on his cane, now intrigued. “Local crimes.

What, slugging the parking meters? Check kiting? Rampant

buggery’s certainly out of the question.” His eyes grew

intent. “Only series of crimes playing here in town I know

of are the road show of Rent and the Ripper Murders.” House

leaned in further toward Scully. “The frat kid and the drug

dealer they found torn up last month. Lots of talk about a

serial killer, really exciting stuff. C’mon, Big Spender,

give. You two are straining at your leashes like Michael

Moore at a Bush fundraiser. That girl’s not just some

witness, is she?”

“We’re not at liberty to—” Scully said evenly.

“Quid pro quo, Agent,” House sang. He frowned. “Or is that

tempus fugit? Gee, all that Latin sounds pretty much the

same to me.”

“There is some evidence to indicate Ms. Boudeaux could be

materially involved in the murders,” Mulder provided,

waving off Scully’s objections.

“There you go,” House smiled beatifically. “That was so

tough? OK, lead me to the little homicidal maniac. First,

though, I need a cup of java.” The doctor reached into his

pockets and looked distressed. “Except I don’t seem to have

any change…”

Scully crossed her arms, her face a blank. Mulder’s hand

plunged into his pants pocket.

“Oh, they’re still there,” House assured him, jerking his

head toward Scully. “Though I think it’ll only be a matter

of time.”

**

“Agent Scully,” House announced as he hobbled into the

room. Two young men and a woman in lab coats stopped

laughing and looked up, Scully thought with some

trepidation. “Meet Pete, Julie, and Linc.”

One of the two men, a goateed African-American, exhaled and

stood. “Dr. Foreman. He’s Chase, she’s Cameron. You

actually an agent, or did House not get his a.m. coffee

yet?”

“Youch,” House winced. “Agent Scully’s a triple threat.

She’s a G-woman – is that politically correct? – and a

pathologist.” The last he pronounced with exaggerated

reverence.

The female physician, a pretty brunette, waited, then

frowned. “But you said she was a triple threa—”

“Just don’t,” Foreman sighed. “Rose Anne Boudeaux, right?”

House crossed to a white board mounted on an easel, and he

picked up a marker.

“Let’s start with cardiomegaly.” House scrawled the symptom

on the white board. “Ms. Boudeaux apparently has a heart

the size of Montana, and blood pressure to match. Periodic

heart palpitations…Joint pain…Anemia…”

“Joint pain?” Foreman the neurologist queried. “Is the girl

from rural Louisiana? Joint pain and limb weakness present

in Lyme disease, and irregular rhythm. Maybe the anemia’s

actually fatigue.”

House nodded. “Interesting, if exotic, choice. But our

girl’s Nawlins born and bred, her lymph nodes are as smooth

as Angelina Jolie‘s ass, and you didn’t let me get to the

excessive urination. You never let me get to the excessive

urination, and that pisses me off. Thanks for kicking us

off with a laugh, though.” House wheeled around to Cameron.

“Does our perky little immunologist want to throw in HIV

for a few more chuckles?”

“Cardiomegaly is fairly common post-mortem in HIV-infected

patients, the infection can cause anemia, and

antiretroviral drugs can cause diabetes in HIV-positives,

thus the excessive urination,” Cameron noted with an

admonishing smile. “But you wouldn’t have asked if you

already knew.”

“Ah, science.” House waggled his brows at Scully, who

stared back blankly, then turned to his third protégé,

who‘d been trying to avoid the attention. “Chase? C’mon,

now. Tall, blonde, and stupid‘s no way to go through life,

son.”

“The wild card’s the gray pallor,” he murmured hastily with

an educated British accent. “They thought it was just

paleness or cyanosis associated with the heart episode, but

the skin discoloration hasn‘t gone away, and her sclera and

mucus are also gray. Osteogenesis imperfecta would explain

the discoloration in the whites of her eyes, but her teeth

look fine and her bone structure looks strong. Same with

lower respiratory infection for the gray mucus — none of

the other symptoms are presenting.”

“History?” House demanded.

“That may be difficult,” Scully piped up.

“She speaks,” House gasped.

“Ms. Boudeaux was a Hurricane Katrina evacuee,” the agent

continued. “In a lot of cases, medical records for many of

the hurricane survivors were wiped out in the flood. To

complicate things, Ms. Boudeaux is poor – she was some kind

of factory worker in New Orleans. There’s a secure web

clearinghouse set up to share any evacuees’ medical records

that have been salvaged — http://www.katrinahealth.org. But it’s

questionable whether she’s even seen a doctor in years.”

“More likely a witch doctor,” Foreman murmured.

Cameron stared at her colleague, stunned. “Stereotyping? I

can’t believe it, especially from…”

“From?” House grinned. “Because he’s an oppressed minority,

immune to the sociopolitical feeding chain? Methinks the

ugly specter of urban bigotry rears its blow-dried head.

Maybe a little residual Northern resentment, just to spice

up this festering brew? You think the little cracker caught

something from waving a spoiled chicken head?”

“Hey,” Foreman objected. “I never called anybody a cracker.

Maybe I was generalizing, but don’t a lot of folks down

there practice some unorthodox forms of medicine?”

Chase laughed. “Maybe we need to look for voodoo dolls

under her bed.”

“Quit trying to impress the hot little bureaucrat,” House

sighed. “Actually, Foreman’s intolerant little hatefest

contains a kernel of truth. A poor woman raised in a rurally

influenced polyglot culture where the lines of science and

religion frequently cross.”

“Folk remedies,” Cameron exclaimed. “Of course.”

“I wasn’t finished discoursing,” he said, witheringly. “But

since you enjoy flapping your rose petal lips and playing

Margaret Mead so much, you talk to the little cracker, see

if she’s been self-doctoring lately. Oh, and find out what

kind of factory she worked in. Chase, you run down to

Megamart…”

“Megalomart,” the Brit mumbled, still smarting.

“What-ever. Get down there and check for any possible

environmental factors. And grab me a box of Vegetable Thins

while you’re there. The real ones – not the bloody store

brand. Foreman?”

“Let me guess,” the young doctor rolled his eyes. “I get to

break into her apartment and riffle through her personal

effects.”

“You’re the only burglar on call today,” House said

apologetically. “Think of it as an exercise in cultural

tolerance – see how the crackers live. You might also think

about zydeco lessons, study up on your Paul Prudhomme.”

Foreman threw up his hands and stalked out of the room.

House nodded and turned to Chase with an expectant look.

Chase blinked, then scrambled from his chair and out into

the hall. With a patient smile, Cameron shook her head and

rose.

“You planned this, didn’t you, to get us alone together?”

House asked, eyeing Scully with mock anxiety. “You’re not

going to try something, are you? It’s a cripple thing, right?”

Scully stood. “I think I’ll accompany Dr. Foreman, just to

keep things legal. If you don’t mind.”

House stuck out his tongue. “You suck the fun right out of

the room.”

Rose Anne Boudeaux residence

Plainsboro, N.J.

12:08 p.m.

“Contemporary Dollar General,” Foreman whistled as the

building manager retreated down the hall. “Girl doesn’t

watch much Martha Stewart.”

“The flood left her – a lot of them – with virtually

nothing,” Scully murmured as she scanned the spare

apartment. The furnishings were mismatched and likely had

been donated or gleaned from the Salvation Army. The yellow

plaster walls were bare except for a car insurance calendar

with a single date circled in red, and a pair of disparate

end tables held only an anonymous coffee mug, a dog-eared

Bible, and a used transistor radio.

“No TV, no stereo,” Foreman marveled. “All work, no play,

looks like.”

Scully studied the young doctor. “If you don’t mind my

asking, how do you work for that man?”

Foreman, who’d strayed over to the calendar and flipped

through the pages, glanced up. “House?”

“He’s insulting, inappropriate, and unprofessional. He

seemed to evince little interest in Ms. Boudeaux beyond her

unique symptoms and our investigation. His comments to you

and your colleagues were demeaning and borderline

actionable. Dr. Cuddy told me you passed up a promising

post with Johns Hopkins to come here. And what was that

crack about your being the only burglar on call?”

“Youthful indiscretion,” Foreman said simply, with a

resigned smile. “Look, House’s an absolute eff-up as a

human being and a total asshole, but he’s also one of the

top diagnosticians in the country. Doesn’t give a damn

about the patient, but he’s got about a 99 percent save

rate. Never sees one if he can help it, but he’s got a

supernatural sense about what ails them. Kind of Dr.

Kildare meets Dr. Lecter, without the charming Anthony

Hopkins demeanor. You know what it’s like working with

somebody who thinks he’s always right, almost always is,

and makes you feel like the moron even when he isn’t?”

Scully was silent. “I’ll check out the bathroom.”

“I’ll take the kitchen.”

The refrigerator echoed Boudeaux’ monastic existence: A

half-package of bologna, flirting with expiration; three

slices and two heels of generic white bread; a half-gallon

of milk; a half-two-liter bottle of something called Dr.

Popper, dressed uncannily like its more prosperous cousin;

and (Foreman chuckled) a large bottle of McIlhenny’s

Tabasco. Nothing exotic or expensive. Foreman was about to

give up when he noted a foil-wrapped parcel on the bottom

rack.

It was a cheap aluminum pan – the type you’d get with a $2

apple pan. Foreman’s grandmother had always recycled pie

pans like this a dozen times, guarding them like

Tupperware. Foreman pulled up the top foil, and a wave of

chocolate, nuts, and a comforting mélange of spices struck

his olfactory glands. A half dozen dense squares were lined

up neatly around the pan.

“What in the good Lord’s name are you up to, son?”

Foreman’s heart jumped at the stern demand, and he nearly

dropped the pie pan. The blocky old woman – a short,

square-jawed septuagenarian of indeterminate race – stepped

up and pried the pan from his hands.

“I asked you a question, young man,” she repeated with a

thick southern patois.

“I’m a doctor,” Foreman stammered.

“Rosie’s doctor?” The old woman abruptly transformed from

gargoyle to grandma. “How is my little flower?”

Foreman had found the reticent girl more weed than flower,

but he knew an opening. “She’s really sick, ma’am. Are you

family?”

The senior frowned distastefully. “Only family she got

isn’t hardly worth speaking of. I’m Lorena deMoray, Rosie’s

neighbor down the hall. We came up together after the

flood. How’s she doing?”

“I’m really only supposed to talk to family…”

“She’s the only family I got these days, and I’m hers.

Don’t you go all official on me, young man.”

“All right – maybe you can help me.” Foreman sat on the arm

of the threadbare couch. “Has Ms. Boudeaux been ill lately?

Any infections, aches or pains she can’t explain?”

The woman squinted. “Nooo, not that I can recall. And we

see each other almost every day. She helps me with the

trash and the shopping, and I bake a bit for the girl.

Rosie’s come nearly to skin and bones since they dropped

her here, and I’m trying to fatten her up.”

“That your cake I found in the fridge?”

DeMoray beamed as if she were at the county fair judges

table. “That’s Rosie’s favorite. You go on, help yourself

to a chunk now.”

Foreman smiled indulgently. “No, thanks.” He looked up as

Scully reentered the living room, staring from him to Ms.

deMoray.

“Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI,” she drawled. “And you

are?”

“FBI?” the old woman breathed. “You think somebody tried to

hurt my Rosie?”

Scully relaxed. “No, ma’am. I’m simply investigating a

series of murders in the area over the last few months,

and…”

“That sweet child wouldn’t hurt a fly if it landed on her

last scrap of bread.” The transition again was jarring –

deMoray’s face had turned to stone, and her voice was icy

and unwavering. The old woman turned to Foreman. “Y’all let

me know how my Rosie’s doing, you hear? I got to run.”

“Well,” Scully concluded as deMoray’s apartment door

slammed.

“Yeah,” Foreman agreed. “Little defensive, don’t you

think?”

“Could merely have been maternal instinct kicking in,”

Scully suggested, though she didn’t sound entirely

convinced. “Ah, I found something that may be interesting,

though probably more to you than to me. C’mon.”

Foreman followed, and paused curiously in the bathroom

doorway as Scully slid open the medicine cabinet and the

shower curtain.

“Hmm,” Foreman pondered with the sly smile of a

kindergartner ready to ace Show and Tell.

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

12:32 p.m.

Rose Anne was silent but polite and compliant as Cameron

checked her IV, but the presence and interest of the soft-

spoken woman soon put the displaced Louisianan at ease.

“And there’s no family we can call?”

The gray-skinned girl looked up cautiously. “No, ma’am.

Closest thing to real family is Miz deMoray — she and I

kind of keep an eye on each other, and…” — a dazzling

smile materialized — “…and she makes sure I ‘keep a little

flesh on my skinny bones.’”

Cameron smiled back, then turned serious. “It must have

been horrible, waiting in that attic for help to arrive.”

“I knew God would see after me, and I had plenty of water.

Even though if them folks hadn’t come in a couple of days,

I’da probably been in trouble.”

“Rose Anne, did any pigeons ever nest in your attic?

Sometimes, the dust from dried bird droppings can get into

the lungs and cause histoplasmosis. That might help explain

the strain on your heart.”

“Mama always kept our house spotless, and after she died, I

always tried to do the same.”

“OK,” Cameron sighed. “Try to keep your eyes open.” She

flashed her light into the girl’s blue-and-gray eyes;

dilation was normal. “How about work? I understand you had

a factory job before you came here.”

“Iberian Queen Soup. I filled the cans with shrimp bisque,

oyster stew, terrapin stew and the like. Money wasn’t too

hot, but the family in charge, they were good people.”

“Ever feel ill, tired at work or when you quit for the da–

?” Cameron paused, clicking off the light and examining

Rose Anne’s face. Frowning, she gently lifted the girl’s

chin and brushed her cheek with a finger. Rose Anne pulled

back.

“Rose Anne,” Cameron asked, “how did you get those

scratches?”

**

“Hypertrichosis.” House added the symptom to his growing

list. “Cracker Girl’s developing a five o’clock shadow, but

going a little weedy on top.”

“Facial hair growth, patchy scalp hair, plus the high blood

pressure,” Cameron noted. “I checked her clitoris — it was

significantly enlarged.”

“Always go right for the naughty bits,” House tsked. “And

how long since the Menstrual Fairy’s come to call?”

“She thinks at least three months. It‘s happened before,

she thinks. She has to shave and use depilatories

periodically.”

“Amenorrhea,” Chase concluded. “It fits with the facial

hair and the thinning scalp.” He turned to Mulder, who’d

been silently absorbing as much medical jargon as he could

process. “In secondary amenorrhea, a patient who’s been

having regular or irregular periods suddenly stops having

them for several months.”

“Me, Chase,” House stated. “Him, you don’t need to brown-

nose.”

“There was the stress of the flood and the hurricane, and

she looks fairly emaciated,” the chastened Chase continued.

“All of that could’ve brought on the amenorrhea. Now she’s

storing up testosterone.”

“Or maybe she’s got polycystic ovary disease,” offered

Foreman, still smarting slightly from Cameron’s jumping the

gun on his revelation about Boudeaux’ armory of hair

removal products and tools. “But that doesn’t explain the

discoloration or the joint pain.”

“Could be multiple conditions. Maybe Cracker Girl’s just a

modern gal, wants to have it all,” House suggested,

twirling his cane.

“Stop it,” Cameron demanded sternly. “This woman has lost

her home, her life as she knew it. She’s suffering from a

life-threatening illness — maybe multiple illnesses — and

you’ve reduced her to some snaggle-toothed cultural

stereotype. Her name’s Rose Anne.”

“Uh oh,” House sighed. “We’ve got a bleeder.”

Mulder coughed. House turned, frowning. “Yes?”

“If it helps, I found a CNN interview from after Ms.

Boudeaux’ rescue,” the agent reported. “That grayness in

her eyes and lips, it wasn’t on the tape. Whatever’s

happened apparently’s happened since she came to New

Jersey.”

The diagnostician nodded thoughtfully and turned to

Foreman. “See if the air conditioner guy’s still working

upstairs. I want a second, private sector opinion.”

“Man’s just trying to help,” Foreman pointed out.

“Et tu, Foreman?” House asked. “Cameron, take a gander at

Cracker Girl’s — oops — Betty Lou’s ovaries.”

**

“Dr. House!”

“Cane, don’t fail me now,” the doctor murmured, stepping up

his pace.

“Dr. House!” Mulder repeated. House bee-lined for the

stairwell.

“House,” Cuddy called sourly as she turned the corner

toward him.

“Sorry, FBI,” House told Cuddy, swiveling toward the agent.

Cuddy glared and corralled another staffer, and House

smiled at the amiable young man in the suit. “Bet she calls

you Mulder in the sack, right?”

“What?” Mulder choked.

“Your pitbull partner. I can’t see her shouting, ‘Fox,

baby!’ Too seventies, too Boogie Nights.” He leaned in with

a lascivious wink. “Oh, come on, Mulder. When Cuddy

introduced you two and Agent Scully took her customary

umbrage to me, you didn’t stand back and smirk like one of

the good old boys. You didn’t leap to her defense like the

loyal and supportive fed that you so obviously are. You

started to reach for her in that intimate, protective way

that says you sip from the same milk carton. Then you

backed off, respecting her ‘space’ – possibly a habit

cultivated from cohabitating with Agent Scully and her

monthly visitor. ”

Mulder’s face had drained of blood. He blinked at House,

then burst into laughter. “Actually, she calls me her

undercover mole. Truce, Doctor – you don’t try to profile

me, and I won’t try to profile you. I just want your gut

reaction to something. This amenorrhea – could it cause any

kind of mental delusion or psychotic behavior?”

“Amenorrhea itself’s generally a symptom of some larger

problem, like polycystic ovary disease. In and of itself, I

don’t know if could cause our hairy little gal to mutilate

and partially masticate a drug dealer and a frat boy. That

is where we’re going with this, right?”

“Hypertrichosis’s often caused by an adrenal malfunction,

though,” Mulder persisted. “Couldn’t whatever’s behind this

also be spurring her adrenalin levels into the red?”

House signed, unshaven cheeks puffing. “Why do they always

watch ‘E.R.’? I’m missing my afternoon coffee-and-Vicodin

break, Agent Mulder. Can we fast-forward to the wow factor

here?”

Mulder’s hand plunged into his pocket and emerged filled

with currency.

**

“Lycanthropy.” House nodded as he sipped at his tepid

vending machine coffee. “Of course, the answer was staring

us in the face all the time, and I was too foolish to see.

Cracker Girl’s a werewolf.” The diagnostician slapped his

forehead.

Mulder smiled, ignoring his sarcasm. “You ever heard of the

loup garou? French explorers along the Mississippi and

eventually Cajun populations in the South told of shadowy

half-men, half-dogs or wolves attacking livestock and even

settlers. Some Louisiana oystermen even describe benign

werewolves that shucked oysters in the night, while they

were asleep.”

“I’ll have Foreman check to see if Rose Anne’s been hitting

the raw bars heavy lately.”

“I’m not necessarily suggesting Ms. Boudeaux is a

lycanthrope.” House smirked at “necessarily.” “But the

delusion, whatever you want to call it, of becoming a

werewolf has been documented regularly since the Middle

Ages. Scientists have speculated the delusion was fostered

by the prevailing folklore of the times combined with

conditions such as hypertrichosis or other endocrine

disorders such as adrenal virilism, basophilic adenoma of

the pituitary, masculinizing ovarian tumors, or Stein-

Leventhal syndrome. In some cases, the rye bread eaten by

medieval serfs may have been contaminated with the ergot

fungus, which causes hallucinations and could encourage

supernatural delusions.

“I’m not asking you to buy into some wild horror movie

scenario, Dr. House. But isn’t cultural orientation and

superstition part of the patient’s history?” Mulder began

to tick off his fingers. “Ms. Boudeaux suffers from

hypertrichosis. She’s always been something of an outcast,

a loner with low self-esteem. Maybe imagining herself a

werewolf both feeds into her sense of alienation and her

need to be special. Add to that her erratic emotional

state. If this ammenorrhea of hers has surfaced only

recently, it stands to reason that she may have had other

menstrual abnormalities in the past, right? Maybe more

severe periods, marked by depression, anger, intense pain.”

“Voice of experience?” House posed, tipping his cup.

“There was a calendar on Ms. Boudeaux’ apartment wall. Each

month had one date circled. That date marked the arrival of

the full moon. The menstrual cycle has long been tied to

the lunar cycle, just like the tides and many animal and

human behaviors, and the full moon has long been a pop

cultural icon in werewolf lore. Here’s a poor, uneducated

girl raised in a culture where science, religion, and magic

have been closely tied together, even today. Ms. Boudeaux

is sprouting hair and her skin is turning gray. What if

she’s somehow embraced the delusion that she’s a werewolf,

a loup garou?”

“Roaming the moors and the Safeway parking lots in search

of human flank steak,” House extrapolated in Karloffian

tones. “Look, Agent, if that’s really your name. Even if

Cracker Girl’s suffering some kind of severe menstrual

psychosis every full moon and feels like ripping into human

flesh — no offense to Agent Scully — I’m not sure her

enlarged heart could take the stress of tearing apart New

Jerseyans. Unless…” House’s eyes popped, and he looked at

Mulder in stark terror. “Unless she actually is a werewolf.

Jeepers.”

The agent peered around the cafeteria and leaned toward

House. “Doctor, I’m going to share some information the

media hasn’t been given about the Ripper Murders. I’m going

to ask you to keep it to yourself, though.”

“That’s a mistake.”

Mulder smiled. “OK. You know the victims were mutilated and

semi-cannibalized. We found DNA in the victims’ wounds, but

the results of the lab screen were, uh, inconclusive.”

“Roger Ebert was wrong. You’re the true master of suspense.

Inconclusive how?”

“Well, the analysis identified both human and animal DNA.

Canine or lupine DNA, to be precise.”

“Of course. And how does this implicates Cracker Girl?”

“The night of the first murder — the frat guy — a witness

saw a young woman in a Megalomart smock near the crime

scene, which was in a really marginal part of town. We

think the frat guy went there to score some pot. We checked

the work schedule at the Plainsboro store for the night of

the killing, and the assistant manager said Ms. Boudeaux

received a call in the middle of her shift. He said she

seemed agitated, upset. Ms. Boudeaux has a nearly perfect

work record, so he let her go without any questions. She

came back an hour later and told him it had been a wild

goose chase, or words to that effect.

“We checked her out — it’s like an old Dragnet episode.

She keeps to herself, is friendly but doesn’t socialize

with her coworkers, has no boyfriends or, from what we can

see, any real friends beyond Ms. deMoray. No connections we

can find between her, the dead college kid, and the drug

dealer, and the drug dealer appears to have no connection

to the kid — he deals in meth, hard stuff. But here’s the

kicker: We were able to secure a DNA sample from Ms.

Boudeaux–”

“Do I want to know how?”

“No — we were told to move carefully since she was a

Katrina victim who’d been highlighted in the media, so we

were legal but creative. Thing is, although the lab

findings on the crime scene DNA were inconclusive, there

were some similarities between the suspect DNA and Ms.

Boudeaux’.”

“She’s kind of plain, I’ll admit, but I wouldn’t call her a

dog.”

Mulder paused. “There’s one other thing. Ms. Boudeaux’

grandmother moved to New Orleans just before she gave birth

to Rose Anne‘s mother, Ruth. I checked into the small town

where she lived before she became pregnant, and it turned

out no one had any knowledge who the father had been. It

may have been a young woman’s pathetic attempt at

deflecting her shame, it may have been a delusion, but the

grandmother claimed she’d been sexually assaulted by some

kind of wild creature. Once again, I won’t speculate on the

veracity of her claim. But what if Rose Anne somehow

believes she’s tainted with the blood of the loup garou?”

House‘s pager sounded, and the physician consulted its

readout.

“Been fun, Circus Boy,” House muttered, using his cane to

lever himself out of his chair, “but I got a date with a

bearded lady.”

**

“I need outta this place!!” Rose Anne wailed, sweeping her

lunch tray to the floor. “Where‘s Miz deMoray! Get her

here, now! Tell her to take me home!”

Eyes wide, Cameron turned to House, who was poised in the

doorway. “It’s like Jekyll and Hyde,” she breathed. “She

was all sweetness and light just an hour ago. You think

she’s presenting some kind of manic episode or dementia?”

“That’s not all,” Foreman warned, displaying Rose Anne’s

chart as Chase and an orderly tried to calm their thrashing

patient. “Her kidneys are shutting down — already some

necrosis starting. She‘s going to need a new kidney fast.”

House eyed Rose Anne. “Who’s this deMoray? Her boss?”

“Neighbor lady, sort of surrogate grandma from the old

’hood,” Foreman supplied.

“Rose Anne said she was the closest thing to a real

relative she had,” Cameron said.

House turned abruptly, expression thoughtful. “That’s what

she said? Exactly?”

“Yes…”

House pursed his lips and nodded. He shoved past Cameron

and Foreman.

“Oh, this oughtta help,” Foreman moaned.

“Rose Anne,” House said, limping to her bedside. The girl

fell silent, eyes narrowing.

“Who’re you?” she asked, suspiciously.

“Paul Prudhomme — I’ve been on the Palm Beach Diet. Look,

we need to contact family — your brother, father,

whoever.”

Rose Anne’s gray face went paler. “I got no family — just

Miz deMoray.”

“Yeah, yeah. She’s ‘the closest thing to real family’

you’ve got in this world of misery. Which suggests there’s

a cracker in the woodpile, a sheep in black clothing.”

Rose Anne stared hostilely at House.

“C’mon,” he murmured impatiently. “Your kidney’s on the

fritz, and we need a spare. So spare me the southern

melodrama and give with a name. I assume he or she must

still be in town.” He leaned expectantly on his cane. “OK,

then. I’ll give you another 24 hours, and you can give me a

next of kin.”

“House,” Foreman gasped.

Rose Anne’s jaw quivered, and her eyes began to fill.

“Y’all don’t understand. I can’t…”

“Fine.” House turned toward the door. “Been real, y’all.”

He halted as he spotted Scully, her eyes filled with fury.

“Dr. House, a minute, please,” the agent said through her

teeth.

House shrugged at Rose Anne. “The old ball and chain.”

“What the hell kind of doctor are you?” Scully demanded in

the hallway. “That girl in there is terrified, and you

bully her?”

“Ah, yes, that’s right. You’re part of our little

Hippocratic community. Mind if I talk to Dirty Harriet for

a minute, Dr. Scully?”

Scully’s stone expression softened microscopically. “What?”

“Think like a cop for a second. Why else would Cracker Girl

have been hanging out in the ‘hood in her spiffy Megalomart

jacket when those guys got processed into Alpo? Why would

an otherwise robotically loyal worker abandon her cash

register to troll those mean streets?”

Scully inhaled sharply, and she looked into House’s face

with fresh eyes. “To protect someone.”

“Now that’s the feisty little bichon friese we all know and

cross the street to avoid. And I’m gonna guess that with

her little monochromatic complexion problem and

personality, our blue collar belle probably isn’t burning

up the romantic court. Assuming Auntie Lorena hasn’t been

chugging Geritol and steroids, that leaves family of the

probably lowlife variety.”

The agent whipped out her cell phone. “It could explain the

DNA from the victims — might be a sibling. FEMA or the

city should be able to get me a list of Katrina evacuees in

Plainsboro.”

House nodded and turned back toward Rose Anne’s room. “Just

do me a favor. You decide to blow this guy away, aim high.

I need his kidney.”

**

“Robert Thibodeaux,” Special Agent Monica Reyes supplied as

Mulder flipped open a pad. “Thirty-two, relocated in

Plainsboro following the hurricane. He has a lengthy but

generally boring yellow sheet going back to 1989. One

assault — a bar brawl in the Quarter. Family includes one

Rose Anne Boudeaux, a half-sister.”

“Yes,” Mulder murmured into the cell phone. “I appreciate

the fast work, Monica.”

The agent was based in the now-recovering Big Easy,

specializing in ritual and cult crimes. She’d helped Mulder

wrap up an unsolved child murder the previous spring. “Hey,

happy to help. The only reason Thibodeaux had a Bureau flag

was an interstate beef about four years ago.”

“What was the beef?”

“He got caught transporting pitbulls from Louisiana to

Mississippi. He rolled over on a dog fighting ring and

didn’t do any time. Agent Mulder? Fox? Hello?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “This may be it, Monica. Thanks. And,

um, sorry, you know…”

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” she sang. “I temporarily started

smoking again, and the guys are still trying to get their

bearings, but once those billions of your tax dollars start

rolling in, we’ll be back in business.” She laughed. “I

guar-on-tee.”

Mulder chuckled and said his goodbyes. Scully arched her

brows expectantly.

“C’mon,” he said, jerking his head toward the hospital

parking lot. “Gotta see a man about a dog.”

Residence of Gregory House

Plainsboro, N.J.

8:10 p.m.

“I should have known,” Wilson said, finishing off his

second beer. “‘Let’s pick up some chicks and howl at the

moon.’ Right.”

House shrugged and snagged the last slice of pizza as the

creature on screen lunged at its human Happy Meal. “I’m

reasonably sure I said ‘flicks.’ Besides, you‘re married,

remember? Not happily, obviously, or you wouldn‘t be here

watching Howling I through III with a cripple.”

“Don’t start,” the oncologist mumbled. “Why the horror

fest, anyway?”

“Research. Agent Mulder’s incipient schizophrenia whetted

my appetite for ’80s lycanthroploitation cinema. If you’ll

call us in sick with Cuddy tomorrow, we can rent American

Werewolf in London and Bridges of Madison County. No

werewolves, but bone-chilling nonetheless.”

“Why’s the guy bug you so much, anyway?” Wilson asked,

propping his feet on the arm of the couch.

“Shh, the alpha wolf’s about to disembowel the nosy cancer

doctor.”

“It’s an authority thing, isn’t it? Or is it just the idea

of someone possibly being a little further outside the box

than you? Actually, Mulder’s theory sounds like something

you‘d come up with when your Vicodin‘s wearing off.”

“Thanks for reminding me.” House riffled through the jumble

on his coffee table, and retrieved an amber bottle. He

shook out a pair of pills and downed them dry.

“All right, that’s it,” Wilson concluded, stumbling to his

feet. “Call me a cab. My miserable marriage is preferable

to this.”

“Hey, you’re gonna miss Teen Wolf II.”

The oncologist toasted with his Coors. “This is the only

Silver Bullet I need tonight. Later.”

“Buzz kill,” House muttered as the door closed behind him.

As he propped his infirmed leg on the table, one of

Wilson’s depleted beer cans rolled onto the carpet. He

stared at it for a second, then clicked off the onscreen

carnage.

Residence of Robert Thibodeaux

Plainsboro, N.J.

10:01 p.m.

“Robert Thibodeaux?” Plainsboro P.D. Lt. Frank Delman

called, rapping on the warped apartment door, .38 clenched

in his free hand. Mulder and Scully and two Kevlar-swathed

uniforms flanked the detective in the dim, urine-perfumed

hallway. “Plainsboro Police — would you please open up?”

They heard a sudden shuffling beyond the thin door. Delman

looked to Mulder, who nodded. A heavy cop shoe pistoned

against the doorknob, and the door cracked and surrendered.

After a second without gunfire, the uniforms rushed the

apartment, followed by Delman and the agents.

“Don’t fuckin’ shoot!” a skinny, shirtless man with a thick

beard yelled in a thick southern patois as he displayed his

empty hands. A mouthful of brown teeth emerged in a

reptilian grin as one of the uniforms braced him over a

wobbly linoleum table. “What the hell? Rosie give me up or

somethin’. Stupid girl don’t have the brains God give her.”

“Your sister didn’t roll over on you,” Scully informed

Thibodeaux. “Though it was sweet of you to let her take the

rap for a couple of murders.”

“Hey, those weren’t no murd–” the Cajun transplant

objected before clamping his cracked lips shut. “I want a

fuckin’ lawyer.”

“Absolutely,” Mulder said pleasantly. “Perhaps he can

explain ‘mitigating circumstances’ to you.”

Delman glanced curiously at the agent.

“I know what happened, or at least I think I do,” Mulder

continued. “You willing to go to prison for this?”

“Mulder,” Scully murmured. “Are you saying he’s protecting

someone else?”

“Not exactly, Scully.”

“Hey, Loot,” one of the uniforms shouted from the filthy

hallway. “Gonna check out the bedroom.”

“Yeah — don’t touch nothing, though,” the detective

responded, eyes shifting from Thibodeaux to Mulder and

back.

The agent began to speak, then froze, blood draining from

his face as he spotted a wet, brown object on the floor

next to Thibodeaux’ ancient stove. The meaning of the

dehydrated, mangled pig ear shot up Mulder’s spine.

“NO!” he shrieked, breaking into a flat run down the hall.

“Don’t op–”

Too late, the uniform swung open the door, and a large,

white missile flew at him. The cop tried to gurgle for

assistance as the dumb, brutish pitbull seized his throat.

Mulder leveled his weapon.

“You drop that gun, man, or I swear I’ll give him the

order!” Thibodeaux yelled, grinning. “Rest of you, too! Or

your friend there, he’s gonna be ten miles of bad

hamburger.”

A sharp crack shattered his bravado. Plaster dust snowed

from the hall ceiling. Rose Anne’s half-brother jumped. The

dog, jaws poised around the cop’s trachea, appeared to pay

no heed to Mulder’s shot.

“I thought this was what you’ve been trying to avoid, Mr.

Thibodeaux,” Mulder said with steely calm. “I’ll take him

out with one shot to his tiny little brain. You want that?”

“Motherfucker,” Thibodeaux muttered plaintively, regarding

Remy anxiously.

“That’s why we found human DNA in the victims’ wounds,”

Mulder continued. “He got away from you — twice — didn’t

he? By the time you called your sister to help you find him

and located him yourself, he’d already killed that college

kid. You figured it was an accident — just Remy doing what

instinct and a lifetime in the ring had taught him. But you

love him, don’t you? You knew we’d put him down, and you

had to protect him. You watch a lot of C.S.I.?” Mulder

smiled grimly at the skinny felon, whose eyes popped in

surprise. “I figured. You thought that if somehow you

contaminated Remy’s DNA on the bodies with your own saliva,

we couldn’t prove he mauled those men and have him

euthanized.”

“Christ,” Delman snorted despite the situation. “Dumbass.”

“Your choice,” Mulder offered, cocking his trigger for a

second shot. “Or should I say his?”

Thibodeaux glared through a miasma of tears. He regarded

the tautly muscled primitive beast, which stared back with

something he read as love.

“Release,” Thibodeaux snapped, slumping against the table.

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

8:15 a.m.

“We’ve ruled out neurology, immunology, parasites,” House

announced, tapping the white board with his cane. “Just for

kicks, how about toxicology? Oh, I don’t know, maybe heavy

metals?”

“Makes sense,” Foreman said. “The kidney overload, the

compromised liver, the sudden rage. Run a tox screen?”

“Wait,” Chase protested. “We didn’t find any environmental

contributors either at her job or her apartment.”

“Noo,” House said. “Your colleague failed to find the

source of the toxin. Sentimentality and misplaced respect

for his elders fogged his occasionally facile instincts.”

Foreman sat up. “Hey, there were no special household

chemicals, the fridge was virtually bare–” The doctor

closed his eyes, exhaling slowly.

“Great watching an acute deductive mind at work.”

“Hold on. You think Boudeaux was poisoned?”

House considered. “I’d rather say she was nearly

misdiagnosed to death.”

Residence of Lorena deMoray

Plainsboro, N.J.

10:22 a.m.

“I hope y’all like your coffee,” Mrs. deMoray purred. “I

tend to make it a might stronger than the custom for

northerners.”

“It’s delicious,” Mulder smiled graciously, taking a sip of

the robust brew to demonstrate. The muted sounds of traffic

leaked through the thin apartment house walls, diluting the

antiquarian time capsule the displaced senior obviously had

attempted to create for herself.

“And how is my little Rose today?” the tiny woman inquired,

folding her spotted hands in her lap. “Them doctors taking

good care of my little flower?”

“They’re doing their best,” Scully began. “But they need

more information before they can treat all of her symptoms.

We were wondering if you might shed some light on her

illness.”

Mrs. deMoray’s company smile vanished, then reappeared.

“Whatever you mean, child? I’m no doctor.”

“Mrs. deMoray, we found some sweet bread in Rose Anne’s

apartment, and we sent it to the lab. You want to know what

we found?”

The old woman was silent.

“Silver, and reasonably high concentrations of it,” Mulder

continued. “You’ve heard of the loup garou, haven’t you,

ma’am?”

“I’ve heard the stories, of course.”

“It’s more than a story to you, isn’t it, Ms. deMoray? I

checked up and found you and Rose Anne’s grandmother had

grown up in the same rural parish. From what I’ve been able

to glean from some of the folks in your old hometown, your

childhood friend created quite a sensation when she became

pregnant with Rose Anne’s mother.”

“They were hard times for Ruth and hers’, and I find it

unseemly to bring it up.”

Mulder smiled sympathetically. “I can imagine what the

times were like, especially in a rural town in the South.

Telling her parents she’d been attacked, impregnated by a

loup garou, a werewolf, was clearly a desperate move.”

“It wasn’t any ‘move,’” deMoray hissed. “Nobody but a few

of the old folks and myself believed the poor child. I

suppose that was a blessing for her baby.”

“Because if people had suspected her lineage, they might

have went after the girl.”

“Don’t you mock me, son.”

“Believe me, I’m not. Whatever the truth of your friend’s

condition, you believed her. You also feared what might be

in her daughter’s blood. And her granddaughter’s blood.

“You watched over Rose Anne in New Orleans, watching for

any sign she might not be ‘right.’ When the flood hit, you

came with her to New Jersey, I think to safeguard her as

much as her potential victims. When the murders started

occurring here, you recalled Rose Anne’s increasingly

agitated behavior with the passing of each lunar cycle. Her

stress, her drastic loss of appetite had pushed her into

amenorrhea, a condition that causes excessive facial hair

production. You feared that somehow, the trauma of her move

here had brought her lycanthropic blood to the surface. You

had to act, to protect her and the people of the

neighborhood.”

Scully leaned forward. “The most popular notion of killing

a werewolf is with a silver dagger or bullet – it’s the

stuff of old horror films, but it was the only option that

appeared open. Except you didn’t want to kill Rose Anne –

you simply wanted to ‘cure’ her, or at least deal with her

‘symptoms.’ You reasoned that if a silver bullet would kill

a werewolf, daily trace amounts of silver might suppress

the werewolf within Rose Anne. You’ve been dosing that girl

with silver. Ms. deMoray, I understand you were only able

to save one personal item when you were evacuated from New

Orleans. Your sister told me.”

The old woman was a statue, skin pale, lips pursed.

“May we see your grandmother’s silver, please, Ms.

deMoray?” Mulder asked calmly. “We can get a warrant to

confiscate it, but I’m hoping that won’t be necessary. I

know you didn’t mean to hurt Rose Anne.”

Ms. deMoray inhaled sharply. “Hurt her? Whatever do you

mean? I was trying to help that child.”

Scully looked helplessly to Mulder, then reached for the

woman’s gnarled fingers. “Unfortunately,” the agent said

softly, “you didn’t.”

Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital

4:42 p.m.

“Cadmium,” House announced as he entered the element on the

white board with a flourish. Cameron and Chase appeared

puzzled, but Foreman grinned with realization. “The

symptoms of silver poisoning alone generally are harmless

enough – gray discoloration of the sclera and the skin,

occasional emotional flare-ups which in Cracker Girl’s case

amplified the effects of her amenorrhea. Silver toxicity

used to be a lot more common when colloidal silver was used

as a home remedy and there was no OSHA to watch over

industrial working standards.

“Alone, the silver Witchee Woman filed off Grandma’s

cutlery and mixed into her ‘special brownies’ might only

have left Rose Anne in a colorless state and a blue funk.

But, Cameron, quick, what do old spinsters do with the

family silver? No offense — I said ‘old’ spinsters.”

The young woman sighed. “I don’t know… They store it away

somewhere, maybe bring it out on holidays, polish it, I

suppose…”

House’s cane cracked down with a triumphant thump. “They

polish it and polish it and polish it, like a myopic high-

schooler without a prom date. And the older you get, the

less painstaking the polishing is. The ornate crevices of

each knife and fork – don’t tell Cuddy I said ornate

crevices – were virtually caked with years of accumulated

silver polish.”

“Polish loaded with cadmium,” Foreman finished. House

tapped his nose in approval. “The renal failure, the

cardiomegaly, the joint pain. Read a NIOSH study on worker

cadmium exposure last month — pretty serious stuff.”

“Plus, Cracker Girl used to worked at a cannery — a

seafood soup cannery. She could have been taking in trace

amounts of cadmium from shellfish and the solder from the

cans for years. Nothing lethal, ‘til the Cajun Lucretia

Borgia tried to ‘cure’ her.”

“So the old lady didn’t realize she was dosing the girl

with cadmium as well as silver, and the girl had no idea

she was being dosed,” Foreman

“This is positively medieval,” Chase breathed, shaking his

head. “Boudeaux had to have wondered about her symptoms.

She could’ve saved that kidney.”

“She’s poor, and she didn’t trust doctors.” House shrugged

and considered. “Hmm, maybe Cracker Girl’s not so dumb

after all.”

**

“Dr. House.”

House turned on his cane to face Agent Scully, trailed by

Mulder.

“Sorry, Clarice, I’m stalking somebody else these days. You

and Dr. Van Helsing heading out?”

“I hardly know why I bothered,” Scully began tersely, “but

I wanted to thank you for your role in resolving this case.

And congratulate you for saving that young woman’s life. I

have to be honest — I’d considered lodging a complaint

with Dr. Cuddy about your conduct throughout this case, but

in all good conscience, I can’t bring myself to do it.”

The doctor smirked crookedly. “Nothing a modern-day Dr.

Schweitzer couldn’t have done, at least with the help of a

redneck sociopath with two good kidneys. As for the case,

well, why don’t we just keep that our little secret, huh?”

Mulder shook his head. “Why is so hard for you to accept

that there’s more to this universe, to the human condition,

than what’s in the Merck Manual and Gray’s Anatomy?”

“Well, Horatio,” House smiled mirthlessly, “science saved

Cracker Girl’s life — superstition almost killed her. The

problem is, true believers like you never know when to stop

believing and start reasoning.” He started toward the

hospital lobby. “Get the kosher meal on the plane — you’ll

eat better.”

“Dr. House.” Scully’s voice was low, but the intensity of

her tone stopped the diagnostician. He turned back,

expectantly.

“And just what do you believe in, Dr. House?” the agent

murmured, evenly. “God? The beauty of this universe? The

fundamental value of each human life? Your patients?”

“Scully,” Mulder warned.

Scully crossed her arms, eyes locked on the doctor. “No,

I’d like to know. How about yourself? Do you believe in

that? Or is this all just some glib, bitter pastime for

you?”

House stared mutely at the agent, his expression blank. “I

believe,” he finally started, “in the fundamental

restorative powers of a good cup of java. I’m gonna guess,

though, that you don’t have any change on you.”

Scully waited for her answer. Then Mulder stepped forward

and faced House. He extended four quarters. House accepted

them and looked around Mulder at his partner.

“Didn’t think so,” he grunted, and limped away.

*end

The Mindhunter

Title: The Mindhunter

Author: Vickie Moseley

Summary: Medium/The X-Files crossover. The Phoenix area

District Attorney’s resident psychic, Alison Dubois, is about to

make the acquaintance of the FBI’s top profiler and his enigmatic

partner. None of them will ever be the same.

Category: crossover, X

Rating: good for all

Disclaimer: (Crossovers make these things so complicated).

Thanks to Kelsey Grammar, also known as Dr. Frasier Crane for

Alison Dubois and her family and co-workers. Thanks to Chris

Carter for Mulder and Scully and seven wonderful years plus some

episodes later. Thanks to me for putting them all together, stirring

gently for five minutes and ‘voila’! No copyright infringement

intended in any case.

Written for the Virtual Season 13 Crossover Special.

Archive: Two weeks exclusive on VS 13 and then everywhere

Dedication kisses to: Martin, who bugged the bejeebees out of me

until I finally in desperation got this baby written — back at ya, big

guy! Lisa, who did such wonderful artwork and made me go back

and fix the ending. Donnaj, Randi, Sally, T (and baby Erin) and all

the VS producers and writers and artists and betas old and new

who have kept the dream alive.

Comments: vickiemoseley1978@yahoo.com

clip_image001

The Mindhunter

Dubois Household

February 27, 2006

1 am

The television screen is dark, then suddenly springs to life.

“Tonight . . on the Mindhunter,” a deep throated voiceover booms

through the speakers. “The FBI’s top Profiler comes face to face

with the one man who could break his near perfect case-solved

ratio . . . maybe forever — ”

A series of pictures flash across the screen.

A man in very nice charcoal suit, his dark hair shining in the sun.

A petite woman with red hair looking up at him and smiling.

A close up of a satellite dish and a television set.

A body bag lying in an alley, partially unzipped.

Flashings zooming in to reveal different faces — Devalos, Scanlon,

Alison.

Now in motion, the screen shows a hand zipping closed the body

bag, camera honing in on the face of the body —

Joe Dubois.

She bolted up so fast, she shook the bed. Breathless, she gasped

for air. Slowly coming back to her surroundings, Alison Dubois

looked over at the other pillow and found it empty.

Most people had dreams at night. They dreamed of the cars they

wanted to buy or of stairways that led to nowhere. They dreamed

of flying through the clouds without benefit of any devices.

Sometimes they dreamed of loved ones long ago absent from this

earthly plain. Psychologist told them that their dreams were

working out their daily stress and strife. But Alison wasn’t most

people

Alison’s dreams had an unnerving propensity to come true.

Wide-eyed and frantic, she crawled across the bed and off the other

side. Pulling open the first door she came to, she flicked on the

light and found the bathroom devoid of life. She absently turned

off the light and hurried down the hall.

In the living room, the television droned on. She found him asleep

on the sofa, remote clutched possessively in his hand.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Alison crept around the sofa to kneel in

front of it. Carefully she extracted the remote and clicked off the

television, plunging the room into near darkness. She reached a

hand up and brushed the longish hair off her husband’s forehead.

In that moment, she was able to banish the terror of seeing him

dead in the body bag in her dream. He was alive and warm . . and

completely asleep.

“Joe? Joe, honey, come to bed,” she cajoled softly.

He awoke slowly, smiling when he saw her face. “Whatimizit?”

he slurred, rubbing the back of his hand across his sleep moistened

lips.

“Ah,” she looked over at the VCR clock. “Quarter after one,” she

whispered low, so they didn’t wake the girls asleep in their rooms.

“Oh, man, I’m sorry, sweetheart. I got so interested in that show, I

must have dozed off.”

“This late?” she asked as he got to his feet, scratching parts he

made a point never to scratch when their three daughters were in

attendance.

“Yeah, the game ran late, so they moved the airtime back.”

“Was the show any good?” she asked, glad to get her mind off her

dream and onto more mundane tasks, like helping her half-asleep

husband to bed.

“Yeah, yeah it was. Some new crime drama. This was the pilot. I

think it’s gonna be a good one. Comes from a different angle.”

“Crime drama,” she said dryly. “Gee, I’ll have to pencil that one

into my viewing schedule.”

“Hey, maybe it will give me some insight into your job,” Joe said,

stopping long enough next to the bed to pull off his tee shirt.

She crawled back across the covers to her side of the bed and lay

down. “So, what is this next Emmy award winning series called,

anyway?” she asked with a yawn.

“Mind . . . something or other. I can’t remember. It’s on again

tomorrow night.” He got under the covers and punched his pillow

a few times before sinking into its surface. “Mind . . . hunters!

That’s what it was, Mindhunters.” He leaned over and kissed her

lips. “‘Night, sweetheart.”

He didn’t see the look of worry on her face as he drifted off to

sleep.

Phoenix Arizona District Attorney’s Office

February 27, 2006

9:00 am

Alison smiled at the administrative assistant as she paced outside

her boss’s office. District Attorney Manuel Devalos was a busy

man and that morning, he appeared swamped.

“Maybe I’ll just go to my desk — ” Alison started to say to the

woman when Devalos looked up and saw her through the glass

wall. With a sharp jerk of his hand, he motioned for her to come

in.

“Alison, I was just about to call you. Have a seat,” he offered,

pulling files from stacks and arranging them at the front of his

blotter. “We’re just waiting for Lee, he should be here in a

minute.”

Alison nodded. She was used to working with Detective Lee

Scanlon, the only other person DA Devalos seemed to rely on

almost daily. As if on cue, and carrying a styrofoam cup and half a

chocolate iced cake donut, Scanlon awkwardly opened the door

and joined them.

“Sorry. Missed breakfast. And dinner last night, for that matter,”

Scanlon said apologetically. “Hey, Alison.”

Alison smiled in the Detective’s direction and tried to ignore the

donut, which seemed to be calling her name. Or was that the

District Attorney?

“Alison,” he said, obviously not for the first time. “There, finally,”

he muttered as she turned to face him. “There was a murder last

night. Lee was called out to the scene.” Devalos handed a file

folder over to her and she started to leaf through it. At a few of the

pictures, she had to turn her head.

“I know, I’m sorry to pull you in on this so early in the morning,”

Devalos sympathized. “A few hours ago, we got a call from

Washington DC. The FBI put out a bulletin requesting

information on any crime that matched certain criteria. This one

was a dead ringer, if you’ll pardon the expression.”

“The vic was strangled, but not before being sexually assaulted,

object rape from what the ME could determine at the scene,”

Scanlon reported from his notes. “Death occurred between 10:00

and midnight. ME further suggested the murder took place

elsewhere and the body was dumped in the alley.”

The pictures shook in her hand as she flipped through them again.

“Did you say the body was found in an alley?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Scanlon said, hesitantly. “You gettin’ vibes on this one

already?”

Alison shook her head. “I don’t . . . no. It was . . . Joe was

watching this show last night, I think I heard it and incorporated

part of it into my dream. It’s nothing,” she said unsurely.

Devalos was not as easily persuaded. “What, exactly, did you see

in your dream, Alison? You know you can trust us not to belittle

your abilities.”

She looked up and smiled. “No, no, it’s nothing like that. I just —

it seemed like a television promo for a show, a series. The name of

the series was The Mindhunter. I got some flashes; saw a body in

an alley. Then I woke up and Joe wasn’t in bed yet. I went out to

find him and he had fallen asleep watching this pilot for a new

series called Mindhunters. See, it’s all coincidence.”

“Your husband watches those cheesy crime dramas?” Scanlon

scoffed. “Get the poor guy a sports package, for cripes sakes!”

Devalos smirked, but covered it quickly. “The FBI is sending

some agents to go over the report, examine the crime scene. I

know you have a station wagon and since I really didn’t have

anything else lined up for you this morning — ”

“You want me to pick them up from the airport?” Alison

suggested.

“See, I’m convinced you’re psychic,” Devalos joked. She tilted her

head and gave him a stern expression, which just made him

chuckle. “Yes, if you don’t mind, I would like you to pick them

up. They’re flying into Sky Harbor, American Airlines Flight 42,

arriving at 11:21 am.”

“How will I know them?” Alison asked.

Scanlon snorted beside her. “They’re FBI. You’ll spot ’em a mile

away!”

“Just hold up a sign saying ‘District Attorney’. They’ll find you,”

Devalos said, ignoring Scanlon’s snide comment. “Besides,

Alison, you’re psychic — remember?”

American Airlines Flight 42

25 air miles out of Phoenix

Fox Mulder lightly touched his partner’s cheek, where it rested on

his shoulder. Immediately, Dana Scully jerked her head up and

looked around.

“Easy, Scully. They just put on the seatbelt sign,” Mulder cooed.

“Sorry,” she said, wiping at the corner of her mouth. She looked

down at his shoulder, noticing the telltale spot of wetness.

Apologetic eyes searched his.

“It’s due at the dry cleaners when we get back home, anyway,” he

assured her. “Besides, you haven’t drooled on me in at least 6

hours,” he teased.

“If you didn’t hog both pillows,” she shot back, straightening her

jacket. “Did you get a chance to read through the fax we got from

the Phoenix PD?”

“Yeah. I’m sure this is our guy, Scully. Ligature marks are

consistent with shipping twine, blunt object rape, blind alley dump

— ”

“So we’re dealing with a serial. But Mulder, do you really think

this guy is one of the Adams from the Litchfield Experiment?”

“You saw the PCR on the scraping from the victim’s fingernails in

Denver, Scully. You told me it showed 56 chromosomes.”

“Eve 6 told us the Adams were all dead — that she, Sally Kendrick

and Eve 8 were the only ones left.”

“Gee, Scully, I was pretty sure you knew the male from the female

of the species — PCR wise at least. And might I remind you, the

woman you’re talking about was wearing the latest in straight

jacket apparel when we interviewed her,” Mulder countered.

She shot him a glare. “If we are dealing with one of the Adams, I

just can’t figure out why he’s surfaced all of a sudden. Cindy

Reardon and Teena Simmons killed their fathers almost 12 years

ago. The original Litchfield children are in their late forties by

now.”

“Maybe he was in an institution, like where we found Eve 6.

Maybe he recently got out,” Mulder suggested. “All I know is that

we’re not more than 12 hours behind him and that’s as close as

we’ve been in weeks. I want to nail this bastard, Scully. I want to

solve this case so we can go home and sleep in our little bedroom

and not have to face seeing more pictures of strangled bodies in

alleyways for a while.” He rubbed the back of his neck. She

twisted so she could massage his shoulder.

“You came back too soon,” she chided. “You should still be on

medical leave.”

“I have a very forgiving personal care physician,” he said with a

ghost of a smile.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

11:25 am

Touchdown was smooth and deplaning was accomplished with a

modicum of shuffling. Mulder led the way through the concourse

toward the baggage claim area.

“I’ll grab the bags, you hit the Lariat counter,” Scully advised as

they approached their carousel.

“No need, the District Attorney said he was going to send someone

to pick us up.”

“Wow, hospitality,” Scully murmured. “There’s your two-suiter,”

she pointed and he reached for his bag. He spotted her bag and

snagged it from the track.

“Now, who looks like an employee of the District Attorney’s

office?” he asked, searching the crowd of recent flyers and waiting

family members.

Scully spotted the sign and pointed. “I think that’s a likely

candidate,” she said.

“And they said you couldn’t cut it in the field,” he teased.

“Who said?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.

“They. You know ‘they’?” he replied with a grin. He shifted the

luggage and nodded toward the area where the woman was holding

a white piece of paper with the words DISTRICT ATTORNEY in

bold red marker.

“I sure hope you’re our ride,” Mulder said, extending his hand to

the woman.

“I sure hope you’re with the FBI,” she replied with a nervous smile.

“Alison Dubois. I work with DA Devalos.” She reached for each

agent’s hand in turn.

“Fox Mulder. And this is my partner, Dana Scully. It’s really nice

of you to give us a ride to the office.” All the while Mulder was

shaking her hand, Alison had a strange look on her face. She

glanced over at Scully and then back at Mulder. Alison just kept

staring at them. Flashes of her dream came back in full force along

with a jumble of other images that left her almost dizzy. She

shook her head to clear her thoughts.

Scully looked from Alison to Mulder. “Ms. Dubois? We’d really

like to get started, right, Mulder?”

“Absolutely,” he agreed. “Lead on, Ms. Dubois.”

“OK,” Alison said reluctantly. “My car is just over in short term.”

They arrived at the car and Alison opened the back to allow

Mulder to stow the luggage. “Excuse the car seat,” she apologized.

“No problem,” Scully said with a smile. “My niece is still in one.

I have to borrow it when I take her anywhere.”

Alison glanced over at Mulder sitting next to her in the front

passenger seat. She had a very clear picture of Mulder crouched

on the floor making a funny face to a tiny blond girl and holding

the same child, now very sick, on his shoulder. “Do you have

children, Agent Mulder?”

Mulder choked and looked back at Scully. “Uhh, no, no I don’t.

I’m not married,” he said, a faint blush coloring his cheeks.

Alison frowned, shook her head again and put the car into gear,

backing out expertly. “Oh, I thought — ” she stopped and

swallowed. “I’ll take you to DA Devalos’s office. Det. Scanlon is

there and he can take you to the police station and by the crime

scene, if you want.”

“I would like to go to the morgue,” Scully said from the back seat.

“Det. Scanlon can take you over there. It’s not far,” Alison assured

her.

“So, Ms. Dubois, what exactly do you do in the office?” Mulder

asked, settling in his seat.

Alison licked her lips nervously. “Oh, this and that. I was in law

school when I met the District Attorney and he persuaded me to

come work for him part-time.”

Mulder looked over at her. “And Mr. Dubois? Does he work for

law enforcement, too?”

Startled, Alison glanced over at him. “Oh no. Joe’s an engineer.

He works for an aerospace firm in Scottsdale.”

“Hear that, Scully. There but for the grace of J. Edgar — ”

Alison looked at Scully in the rearview mirror. “I don’t

understand.”

“Scully has a degree in physics,” Mulder explained. “But she took

a left turn and became a medical doctor.”

“I thought you were an FBI agent,” Alison refuted, shaking her

head.

“I am. I turned right not long after the left turn. I’m a forensic

pathologist,” Scully clarified.

“And you’re a profiler?” Alison asked, making another quick

glance at Mulder.

“Was a profiler, yes. I left that division several years ago.”

“But if you aren’t a profiler now — ?” Alison was becoming

irritated with the whole conversation.

“Scully and I are in a division unto ourselves. We specialize in

some rather unusual crimes.”

“Unusual, how?” Alison prodded.

“Unexplained,” Mulder countered. “Cases that normally would be

closed without resolution. We use — a different approach, if you

will, to get the answers that solve those cases.”

“I’m sorry, I thought this was a serial murder case,” Alison

reasoned.

“It is, on the surface. But there was some evidence left at one of

the crime scenes that leads us to believe there is something unusual

at play here.”

“You keep using that word — unusual. What exactly do you

mean?”

Mulder turned back toward Scully, who sat back in her seat with a

superior expression on her face. No help there. “Actually, Ms.

Dubois, we aren’t at liberty to disclose exactly why we think this

case is unusual. At least, not at this time.”

Alison gave him a dubious look and shrugged. “Well, be sure to

let me know when you find the right time.”

Phoenix Police Department Conference Room A

February 28, 2006

6:45 pm

Mulder rubbed the back of his neck again as Scully tossed another

set of test results into the folder on the desk.

“So, don’t keep me in suspense,” he begged.

“There are 56 chromosomes in the sample,” she said flatly. “But

Mulder, I’m beginning to think this isn’t one of the Adams.”

He frowned, but listened.

“I had the Whiting Institute for the Criminally Insane send me Eve

6’s PCR. I compared it to the sample we have from ‘Adam’.

Mulder, they are similar, but it’s not a complete match.”

“Would you expect it to be?” he asked, sitting forward.

“Yes, pretty much. But there’s more. I asked for the PCRs for

both Teena and Cindy and then I compared all four results.

Mulder, the sample from this Adam is different from Eve 6, but it’s

actually closer to Cindy and Teena.”

Mulder sat back in his chair, eyes wide. “You mean Sally

Kendrick didn’t just give the world two little clones — ”

“She gave more,” Scully completed his thought. “We’re not

looking for a man in his 50’s. We’re looking for a young man in

his early 20s. We’re looking for a sibling of Teena and Cindy.”

Mulder closed his eyes and leaned back. “That would explain how

he overpowers the victims.” He sat forward suddenly. “Scully,

that would give us an idea of what he looks like, too, wouldn’t it?

Wouldn’t he have the same facial features as the girls?”

Scully thought about that for a moment. “Most likely, yes. We

never saw a picture of the Adams. If you remember, the picture

Eve 6 had on her ‘family album wall’ was just the Eves. But I

guess you could assume that he’d have similar facial features.”

“Well, I may end up the ass, but I’m going to get someone back at

the Bureau to have a composite worked up using Teena and Cindy

as the basis — young male, 22 – 25 years old. Then I think we

could find time to grab a bite to eat, because I’m starved.”

Dubois Household

6:45 pm

“No, no, no, no, a thousand times no!” thirteen year-old Ariel

Dubois reiterated for her younger sister. “You can not use my

markers! Those are for my art class and if you use them, you’ll

lose the caps just like you did last time I let you use them!” To

drive home her point, the willowy blond flipped a pigtail behind

her shoulder and turned her back on her sister.

Bridget, all of eight years old and built like a small bulldozer,

lowered her eyelids and scowled. “I did NOT lose the caps! I put

them in the bag and YOU knocked the bag off the table with your

stupid hair stuff and they all fell out!”

“Girls, girls, please, could we just once get through homework

without bringing in the Fifth Armored Division?” Joe Dubois

pleaded. “Bridget, don’t we have other markers around here

somewhere so you wouldn’t have to borrow your sister’s?”

“Where’s Mommy?” the little girl whined. “She bought new

markers last Saturday and I can’t find them.”

“Mommy said she’d be a little late,” Joe said with a sigh. He

finally had the dishwasher filled and closed the door to it with a

satisfying click. The machine hummed happily.

“She’s always ‘a little late’,” Bridget moaned, plopping down at the

kitchen table, chin in her left hand, full on pout firmly in place.

“Mommy has an important job,” Ariel said scornfully.

“You didn’t say that when she was late picking you up from play

practice the other night,” Bridget shot back angrily.

“I was only five minutes late, you just wanted to get home to call

your friend Elisabeth,” Alison said calmly, coming in from the

front hall. She walked over, kissed Joe briefly and then opened a

drawer under the kitchen countertop. “Here, a new box of

markers, the washable kind. But remember — ”

“Don’t let Marie get them, she colors on the wall,” Bridget recited

from rote. “Thanks, Mommy! I’m glad you’re home!” She

hugged her mother for a second and then ran off with her prize.

“You need to start leaving notes where you hide things,” Joe

lamented.

“I’m sorry. I really thought I’d get home on time tonight, but we

have these FBI agents working on a murder case — ”

“I saw it on the news. Said it was a burglary but there was no

forced entry. They think the murder took place at the guy’s house,

but the body was found in an alley. Said the murder victim was a

body builder and too big to be subdued and strangled. They were

saying there’s speculation that it was more than one person who

committed the crime,” Joe said thoughtfully.

“Well, they’re wrong. It was definitely one guy. One of the agents

did the autopsy. She found scrapings under the victim’s

fingernails. And they found fingerprints in the victim’s house.”

“So they can catch this guy pretty quick then, huh?” Joe asked. “I

mean, if they have fingerprints and all.”

“You would think,” Alison said, digging through the refrigerator

and coming up with a plastic container of leftovers. “You made

stew?”

“Dinty Moore kindly compiled the ingredients. I heated it up,” Joe

confessed. “So why wouldn’t they be able to catch this guy?”

“Because the prints might belong to a completely innocent friend

of the murder victim. Because this isn’t the first killing like this

and they haven’t caught the guy yet. And because those two FBI

agents are . . . downright spooky,” Alison rattled off. “Are we out

of diet cola?”

“I saved you one, bottom shelf.”

“I knew there was a reason I married you,” she smiled contentedly.

“Now, don’t get all offended, but when you, of all people, call

someone else ‘spooky’ — ”

She frowned at him and raised an eyebrow. “OK, maybe not

spooky. But they are hiding something, I just know it.”

“Alison, they’re FBI agents. Their business is to hide stuff,” Joe

remarked, joining her at the table. “What stuff are they hiding?”

“They’re having an affair. I’m positive about that one.”

“You got a vibe?”

“No. I could tell by the way he leaned into her when he was

talking to her. And he puts his hand right here,” she pointed to the

small of her back, “every time they walk together.”

“Oh, yeah, well, with hard evidence like that . . . ”

“Maybe not just an affair, either. I think they’ve been together for

a long time. And he said he doesn’t have any kids, but I got a flash

of him buckling a little girl in a child seat.”

“Maybe she has kids,” Joe suggested.

“No, she has a niece.”

“Is one or both of them married?”

“I don’t get that impression. But if they’re single, why would they

hide an affair?” Alison drained her cola and sat back, crossing her

arms.

“Maybe because they work together. That’s a big no-no in many

office settings,” Joe theorized. “Besides, maybe they were simply

being professionals.”

“I think there’s more to it than that,” Alison she said reluctantly. “I

saw them, together, in a dream last night.”

Joe cocked his head. “You didn’t tell me about this one.”

She shrugged. “There wasn’t much to tell. It was like a promo or

something and then I woke up and you were watching the show I

was dreaming about. I didn’t think anything about it.”

“Well, give them the benefit of a doubt, until you have something

concrete to go on,” Joe offered.

LaQuinta Inn,

10:45 pm

Mulder was in the shower when the call came. Scully ran into the

adjoining room to answer the phone and tried hard not to pant into

the receiver. It was the Phoenix PD. “Yes, Det. Scanlon, what can

I do for you?”

Mulder walked out of the bathroom to find the bedroom deserted.

He heard Scully talking and followed into the adjoining room just

in time for her to end the call.

“Yes, we’ll be waiting,” she said and returned the receiver back to

the base.

“Don’t tell me — ” Mulder began.

“Dress fast, Scanlon’s on his way. They found another one. And

Mulder, this time he didn’t dump the body in an alley.”

14576 Mesa Drive

Scottsdale, AR

11:45 pm

The deceased, Andrew Juarez, was the former captain of the

varsity football team at his college. Scully stood quietly talking to

the ME while Mulder surveyed the scene.

“You say his wife found him like this?” Mulder asked Scanlon.

“Yeah. She works nights — he works days. Her story checks out.”

Mulder looked at the body with ligature marks and all the signs of

strangulation, then over to the tiny dark haired woman sobbing in

the arms of a neighbor. “Yeah, I believe her,” he said. “What’s her

name?”

Scanlon checked his notebook. “Anita. Anita Juarez. They’ve

been married two years, no kids.”

Mulder only half listened as he walked over to the woman. “Mrs.

Juarez, I’m very sorry. I’m Special Agent Mulder with the FBI.

Do you think you could answer a few questions?”

The woman looked up at him, grief evident in her face. “If it will

catch the monster who did this, I’ll answer every question you

have,” she said tearfully.

Mulder led her off to the sofa and they talked in quiet tones.

Alison moved nervously around the evidence team until she

spotted Scanlon.

“Sorry about this, but Devalos wanted you out here,” the Detective

apologized.

“It’s OK. Joe’s getting kind of used to it,” Alison muttered. She

glanced over at the body on the floor, noticing it was in a state of

undress. Suddenly, she had a flash of a television screen. On the

screen, she saw a man going to the door, answering it. He let

someone in and started toward the living room. Suddenly, the

visitor pulled something out of a case — a length of twine. He

walked up behind the man, who was pointing to a projection

television. The visitor lashed out, wrapping the twine around the

man’s neck —

“I think I know who did it,” Alison said aloud. Scanlon hurried

over to her, taking her by the arm. “Did they have a TV repairman

here recently?” she asked, loud enough to be heard by everyone in

the room.

Mrs. Juarez looked over at Alison. “We had satellite TV installed

last week. Andy wanted to get all the baseball games this season.

They had a special.”

Mulder rose and walked over to Alison and Scanlon. “What makes

you think this has something to do with a TV repairman?” he

asked.

Alison glanced over at Scanlon and then back at Mulder. “I, uh, I

just — ”

“Ms. Dubois, could we have a word, privately?” Mulder asked

formally. “Outside?”

Scanlon held his hands up in surrender and Alison reluctantly

followed Mulder out of the house.

“OK, spill,” Mulder ordered as he leaned against the side of

Scanlon’s car.

“I don’t know — ”

“You can cut the ‘I’m just a poor law student running errands for

the DA’ act. You had a vision or hallucination in there. I watched

you. You zoned out. Now, what the hell is going on?” he

demanded.

Alison bit her lip. “You won’t believe me if I tell you,” she said,

shaking her head.

“You have no idea what I would believe,” he shot back. “Try me.”

She licked her lips. “I have a gift. More like a curse some days,

but generally, I consider it a gift.”

Mulder’s face slowly morphed into an excited grin. “You’re

psychic?”

“I have dreams. Sometimes I have visions, during the day. Other

times, dead people just walk up and start talking to me.”

“Wow,” Mulder said and whistled in appreciation. Suddenly, a

thought occurred to him. “You never sold life insurance, have

you?”

Alison looked at him as if he were crazy. “No, I have not.”

“Good,” Mulder replied. “Don’t.” He licked his lip. “You sure

about this TV thing?”

“It was the satellite installer, I’m sure of it,” Alison affirmed.

“But they had the dish installed last week,” Mulder reminded her.

“Look, the vision didn’t go into details,” Alison explained. “Maybe

something went wrong with the signal and he called the company

to get someone to take a look. I just know this guy was here today.

I saw him kill that man!”

“OK, OK, I get it,” Mulder soothed. “I need to tell Scully.”

“Wait,” Alison said, grabbing his sleeve. “You believe me? Just

like that?”

“Why? Are you lying?” Mulder asked.

“No! Of course not! I’m just not used — I don’t usually have

people believe — ”

“Ms. Dubois, you see, I want to believe,” Mulder said with a faint

smile. “Now, I really have to go back and find out more about the

satellite company they ordered the dish from.”

Phoenix PD

Conference room 1

March 1, 2006

3:00 am

“Mulder, it’s a bust.” Scully said tiredly. “We woke up the owner

of the satellite company, only to be told he contracts out

installation services. We call the contractor, only to be told they

use day labor and sometimes they hire people on for just a few

days, as was the case recently when every satellite dealer in the

greater Phoenix area decided to have preseason baseball packages

on sale, and we have a list of over 200 names of installers. We

need to go back to the hotel and let the computer try for a match.”

Mulder sighed and rubbed his neck again. “You’re right. Let’s try

go back to the room and try to get some sleep. But how do we get

there? Scanlon picked us up.”

She dangled a set of car keys in front of his face. “They finally

gave us a car to use.”

He sighed in relief. “More of that hospitality.”

Scully nodded, relieved as he was. After she packed up her

briefcase, she stood and stretched. “So, you really think Alison

Dubois is psychic?” she asked with a smirk.

“Scully, she’s the real thing,” Mulder replied, pulling on his suit

jacket. “I talked to Scanlon. He’s convinced.”

“Mulder, she works with him, she’s a friend. I tell people all the

time that you’re amazing.”

“Scully! You talk about our sex life in the FBI locker room?” he

whispered in her ear, and then pulled back so she could see his

look of feigned indignation.

She smacked his arm and shook her head. “Seriously, Mulder. I

really think we might be chasing a wild goose here.”

“Do you have another line of inquiry we aren’t following up?” he

retorted.

“No,” she admitted. “I just don’t want you to place too much faith

in a 30 something former housewife-slash-former law student who

has visions of murders.”

“You believed Clyde Bruckman,” Mulder pointed out irritably.

She stopped and crossed her arms, glaring at him. “Mulder, Clyde

was a very lonely man who — ”

“Correctly predicted that I was going to be attacked by a killer in

the basement of a hotel, after I’d stepped in a banana cream pie,”

Mulder recited. “Alison is the real thing, Scully. Just wait.

Besides, at least we’re making some headway. We never would

have picked up on the installer if not for her.”

Scully refrained from further comment while she unlocked the car

and they both settled into their seats. By the way he was sitting, he

was pretty steamed at her. When they were on the road back to the

hotel, she spared him a glance. “Look, Mulder, you know that I

accept a lot more now than I ever did when we were first

partnered,” she said evenly.

He blew out a breath and grudgingly nodded his head.

“I’m just saying that until she does something like tell us ‘this is the

guy, he lives here, go get him’, Alison Dubois really doesn’t help

this investigation that much. Not to mention I question the wisdom

of bringing a civilian to a crime scene.”

“We took Clyde to a crime scene,” he interjected.

“We took Clyde where he told us to go. We didn’t know it was a

crime scene until the car got stuck in the mud.”

“The mud used to bury Claude Dukenfeld,” Mulder reminded her.

She had to smile at his uncanny ability to pull names from cases

over a decade past out of thin air.

“Look, I don’t want to argue about this,” Scully said tiredly. “I just

want to be careful how much time we spend following up leads

Ms. Dubois gives us.”

Mulder leaned his head back against the headrest and reached

down to take her hand. “I only follow where you lead,” he said

with mock seriousness.

Scully rolled her eyes at his rock song reference. “I wish.”

Dubois Household

6:30 am

The television screen shows nothing but static. The man is

standing with his back to the viewer. He is hitting a remote control

with barely concealed rage. “Friggin piece of — ”

A doorbell rings. The man sighs and tosses the remote on the

coffee table where it clatters and then falls to the floor with a

plastic crunch. “Damn,” the man mutters as he crosses to the door.

On his way he passes a window and the viewer can see the TV

repair truck at the curb. “Dish R Us” it reads on the side panel. He

opens the door and the viewer follows him as he turns back to the

television, never showing the face of the person who has just

entered. The man points to the TV and growls “200 channels of

static! Fix it, please!”

Two hands appear with a length of twine between them. They

move behind the man, his back is turned and can’t see them before

it’s too late —

Alison let out a startled gasp and opened her eyes wide. Panting

for breath, the alarm clock next to her went off and scared her out

of her wits. She slammed her hand on the top of the machine,

silencing the buzzer.

“Joe,” she called out. She heard the shower running and tossed the

covers off to get out of bed. “Joe,” she called to the bathroom door

as she entered.

“Hey, there,” he said, sticking his head out of the curtain. “You’re

up. I thought you’d sleep.”

“You set the alarm,” she accused.

“Oh, darn, sorry. I forgot to turn it off. I woke up before it went

off. I have that meeting this morning with Chan. I need to be on

the road in about an hour. You’re taking the girls, right?”

“He’s going to kill somebody today,” Alison said absently. “I have

to call Scanlon and those FBI agents.”

“As long as you get the girls to school,” Joe reminded her and

stepped out of the shower. He kissed her as he passed, noting the

faraway look on her face. “You aren’t going to remember to take

them, are you?”

She looked up at him, as if just noticing he was in the room with

her. “Ever hear of a satellite company called ‘Dish R Us’?” she

asked. Without waiting for an answer, she walked out of the room

and over to the telephone by their bed.

Joe looked in the mirror and sighed. “Looks like I’m taking the

girls again,” he told his reflection with reluctant acceptance.

District Attorney’s office conference room

8:05 am

Scanlon had the Greater Phoenix area yellow pages opened before

him, scanning each page carefully. “Nope,” he said, turning the

book so that Alison could see it from across the table. “Not a ‘Dish

R Us’ in there.”

“Maybe it’s new. Maybe it’s opened since the yellow pages came

out,” she suggested anxiously.

“Alison, maybe the guy bought a truck and painted that on the

side,” Scanlon suggested.

The door to the conference room opened and the Agents walked in.

Mulder was carrying a tray of Starbucks and set it down on the

table. “Compliments of our Uncle,” he said, passing out the cups.

“Now, Alison, tell us this dream.” He sat down in one of the chairs

and settled back, giving her time.

“He’s a repairman, that’s obvious. He comes to the house and they

let him right in. As they’re explaining what’s wrong, he walks up

behind them with the twine and — ” she stopped, uncomfortable

going any further.

“Did he look like this man?” Scully handed over the computer-

generated composite they’d received from the Bureau in DC.

Alison shook her head. “I never see the killer. I see through his

eyes.”

Mulder shuddered and sat forward. “OK, well, we have a truck,

we have the name of a company that doesn’t exist.”

“Mulder, panel trucks are easy to disguise,” Scully offered. “He

may have a white panel truck, but we can’t rely on the fact that he’s

going as ‘Dish R Us’. He could change it easily to something else.

“But this murder happens today, right Alison?” Mulder asked.

She looked furtively over to Scanlon, who shrugged back at her. “I

don’t know. It could happen today — it could have happened last

week and the body hasn’t been found.” She leaned back in her

chair, looking defeated. “Sorry, it’s not an exact science.”

At Scully’s less than lady-like snort, Mulder shook his head. His

eyes scanned the room and landed on a classifieds tabloid next to

the phone book. He frowned and picked it up. “Have you looked

through here?” he asked.

“Classified ads? Yeah, but most of the ads don’t have names of

companies — they’re all independent and self-employed, probably.

Just phone numbers. There wasn’t a ‘Dish R Us’ anywhere,”

Scanlon assured him.

“What better way to allow yourself some freedom of movement,”

Mulder said, looking over at his partner. “You’re right, Scully.

This guy could be changing the appearance of the truck every time.

That way, if there are any witnesses, it would turn up a dead end.”

“OK, so what are you suggesting?” Scully asked, sitting forward.

“We bait a little trap,” Mulder said with a smile. Scully’s eyes

widened.

“Mulder, I do not like the sounds of that,” she said evenly.

“With proper back up,” he said forestalling her first objection.

“And with the ‘bait’ in kevlar underwear, to the chin,” he added.

“Scully, we’re spinning our wheels here. We have to do

something.”

“Getting you killed is not what I had in mind,” she said with arms

crossed in front of her.

“So we’re just going to call down the list until one of these guys

tries to off you?” Scanlon asked derisively.

“Pretty much, yeah,” Mulder shot back.

“You have a good time with that,” Scanlon said, sitting back to sip

his coffee.

Alison picked up the composite picture of the suspect. Her eyes

were drawn to Mulder and then back to the picture. “He’s looking

for you,” she said quietly.

“He wants to be caught,” Mulder agreed.

She shook her head. “No, he’s looking for you, Agent Mulder. He

wants to find you. Or for you to find him.”

“See, Scully. Even Alison agrees, I make the best bait,” he said

waving his hands for effect.

Alison looked over at Scully. “I don’t like this, either. But I think

it may be the only way to catch him.”

With Scanlon and another detective on the phone making

‘appointments’ with the nine listed satellite repair services in the

classifieds, Mulder was escorted to the Department’s supply room,

where he was outfitted in a bulletproof vest and a choke proof neck

enclosure. A loose fitting cable weave turtleneck sweater obscured

the neck protection from view. Devalos provided a furnished

vacant house to be used for the sting operation. By a little after

9:30 everything was arranged.

“This is a safe house, we’ve only had to use it a couple of times,

but it’s all state of the art,” Scanlon explained as he adjusted the

view of the living room now coming up on the computer monitor.

“The camera is hidden in the wall clock above the fireplace. We’ll

have a perfect view of anything going down.”

“It better not be Mulder,” Scully muttered under her breath. At

that moment, her partner came out of the bathroom, tugging at the

loose sweater.

“Is there A/C in this place? I’m burning up with all this crap on,”

he said irritably.

“You wanted to play ‘bait’,” Scully reminded him as she checked to

make sure the neck protection was fitting properly. “Mulder, do

not take any chances. If this is an Adam clone — ”

“Super strength, super intelligence, yeah, Scully, I remember,” he

said gruffly. Looking down into her worried face, he softened his

tone. Gently, he cupped her cheek. “I’ll be careful,” he promised.

She pressed his palm against her face, turning her head just slightly

to give the pad of his thumb the briefest of glances with her lips.

“Make sure you do,” she whispered back.

Alison tried to stay out of the way, hanging back by the computer

Scanlon was watching so intently. The monitor was split between

four views, one of the living room, one of the interior of the

garage, one of the front door from a camera on the exterior wall of

the garage and another showing the back yard.

“Lee, a truck is coming,” Alison said, pointing to the front door

camera. Sure enough, a white panel truck was pulling to the curb.

“Show time, Agent Mulder,” Scanlon said with a nod of his head

for luck.

“Watch my back,” Mulder tossed over his shoulder as he walked

out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him. It was a short

hallway to the living room, and he glanced once around to make

sure everything was in place. His ankle holster was a comfortable

weight on his left leg, his belt holster covered by the thick sweater.

The only thing out of place was the steady stream of perspiration

trickling down his back to pool in the general vicinity of the elastic

on his boxers. The doorbell rang and Mulder drew in a deep

breath, striding over to open the door.

Three hours later

“Just a loose connection there, Mr. Hale,” the fourth repairman

said as he handed Mulder a clipboard with the invoice attached.

“Just sign here and that’ll be $75, cash, check or credit?”

Mulder gritted his teeth and pulled out his wallet. “I had no idea

you guys made this much,” he said, barely concealing his

contempt.

“Well, if we worked a straight 40 hour week, maybe. But these

things are pretty reliable. Once you get acquainted with the system

— ”

“Gee, look at the time. I have to get to the office. Thanks so much

for being so prompt,” Mulder jumped in, ushering the little man

out the door. Leaning against the closed door he looked directly

into the camera. “Who wants to trade places?” he asked.

“Nobody,” came the three voices from the next room.

The call came in on Scanlon’s phone at 3:30. After listening

intently, the Detective looked up at Scully, muttered a curse to the

person on the other end of the line and disconnected the call.

Standing, he rolled down his shirtsleeves and pulled on his jacket.

“There’s been another one. Tempe. We need to get over there

now,” he said tersely.

Mulder was already at the door. “We have another appointment in

half an hour,” he said. Scanlon was dancing on the balls of his

feet, waiting to be told to go. “OK, how’s this. Take Scully and

check out this new one.”

Scully immediately put up an objection. “Mulder, I won’t leave

you here unprotected,” she protested.

“Scanlon, send a unit — unmarked — over here and have them park

up the street. Scully, we haven’t seen him so far today and we now

have proof that he’s already killed somebody. We need to get over

there and see if there is anything fresh we can use,” Mulder

reasoned.

“I’ll stay,” Alison offered.

Mulder and Scully both frowned at that prospect. “It could be

dangerous,” Mulder said shaking his head.

“Look, I’ll sit here and watch the monitors. And I can call for the

police down the street if anything happens,” she suggested.

Scanlon went over and jiggled the doorknob. “Alison, lock this

door, it’s reinforced steel under this veneer. You can see the living

room clearly. If Agent Mulder is not alone, under no

circumstances are you to open this door, understand?”

She nodded, paling. “I get it. Now you better get going,” she said.

After Scully and Scanlon left, Mulder sat down in the chair the

Detective had vacated. “He’s coming here, isn’t he?”

“He wanted them out of the picture. But Agent Mulder, I don’t like

doing this,” Alison admitted.

“I don’t like it, either, but I see no other choice.” He stood and

started toward the door.

“She’s gonna be really pissed at you if you get yourself killed.

You’re her one in five billion, too, you know,” she said timidly.

He looked at Alison over his shoulder. “Yeah. I know that. But

thanks for the reminder,” he said with faint smile.

The doorbell rang. Mulder pulled the bedroom door shut behind

him, waiting to hear the click of the lock into place before going

into the living room.

Alison had a bird’s eye view of the encounter. The young man

who walked into the room was no more than 24, had dark hair on

the black and white surveillance picture. He was easily as tall as

Mulder. Mulder didn’t turn his back on the young man, facing him

down for a few minutes. With a glance over to the camera in the

wall clock, where Alison could see a very blank expression on the

agent’s face, he purposely turned and bent over the projection

television taking up a corner of the living room.

Adam, or Jay as the nametag on his shirt identified him, stalked the

two feet to stand directly behind Mulder but didn’t reach into his

bag. Alison watched in horror as a small ice-pick style stiletto

dropped from his sleeve and into his hand. In a movement so swift

the camera didn’t show it as more than a blur, Jay jabbed the

stiletto firmly and to the hilt into Mulder’s side. The sharp blade

sliced neatly through the agent’s borrowed Kevlar vest, missing

any ceramic plates that might have deflected it. In almost the same

motion, Mulder drew the weapon at his ankle and fired point blank

into Jay’s chest. Both men were down before Alison had a chance

to scream.

Phoenix Baptist Hospital

6:50 pm

A very shaky Alison gave her statement to Scanlon, who took it

along with the video from the surveillance camera. Not much

more was needed at the scene. Jay was pronounced dead at the

scene before Scully had a chance to make it back to the safe house.

Mulder was stabilized as much as possible and taken to the nearest

trauma center, Phoenix Baptist Hospital, just a few blocks away.

After going home quickly to feed the kids and cry on Joe’s

shoulder, Alison was back at the hospital, checking on Scully. She

had a bag in one hand and a cup of Starbuck’s in the other.

“Low fat soy latte, vanilla,” she said handing over the cup to the

agent, who had yet to acknowledge her presence. Scully took the

cup with forced movements, her eyes dull. “Have you heard any

more?”

Scully looked up at Alison and nodded to the seat next to her.

When the psychic had settled down beside her, the agent’s chin

started to tremble. “The blade punctured the lung. There was

major blood loss at the scene.” She stopped long enough to brush

tears from her cheek. “He’s still in surgery. They haven’t come out

to talk to me yet.” Her voice trailed off and she looked away,

toward the entrance to the waiting room.

Alison slipped her hand over Scully’s, where they rested on her

knees. She squeezed gently. “He loves you. He’ll pull through,

just on the strength of that love,” she assured the agent.

Scully’s head snapped up and her eyes flashed, but when she saw

the look of tender understanding in Alison’s face, she lost all her

anger. “I just . . . I mean I thought it would get better. I thought

after I’d told him how I felt about him he would take better care of

himself. But that hasn’t happened. He still takes risks like this and

. . . I don’t know how to make him stop,” she said tearfully.

Just as Alison reached over to give Scully a much-needed hug, a

man in scrubs appeared in the doorway. “Family of Fox Mulder?”

Scully was up and moving toward him in a heartbeat.

Alison watched as the doctor spoke briefly to Scully, who nodded

and hurried down the hall with him. Alison found herself in the

lounge, but not quite alone.

“Why did you do it?” she asked the sullen young man who had

been slouching in the corner all the while she’d been talking to

Scully. “Why kill all those people? Why come after Agent

Mulder?”

Adam laughed bitterly and stood up straight, turning almost toward

the window and then coming to pace in front of Alison. “The

better question is why not Agent Scully,” he said calmly,

instructing her. “She was there with him most of the time. But I’d

already decided to divide and conquer. She would have been easy

prey once he was gone. So why did I do it? I knew I could get

their attention. I wanted them to come to me. They destroyed my

family. They imprisoned my sisters before we could even meet. It

was all about vengeance. ‘Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord’,

isn’t that what all the wealthy preachers teach?” He turned back to

face Alison. “I wasn’t born, you know. I was created. Just like the

atomic bomb. Not my fault I went ‘boom’, is it?”

“You were too born,” Alison said defiantly. “Some woman carried

you in her womb, someone loved you. And you turned your back

on them to become this — this thing you are.”

Adam/Jay looked down at Alison where she sat. “You really think

love is enough?” he said with a sneer. “You really believe all that

shit you were shoveling to her?” he cocked his head toward the

seat Scully had just abandoned.

“Always,” she shot back.

“Well, I wasn’t the only one like me. There are others out there.

Maybe love can overcome genetics.” He turned and walked

toward the door, fading out of view. “But I doubt it,” he said just

before his image winked out of sight.

March 2, 2006

9:05 am

The nurse had just come in to take his vitals. The doctor had

removed the vent just a few hours before and now Mulder looked

like he was just sleeping late on a Saturday. Scully ran her fingers

over the tape securing the IV to his hand. When the fingers of his

hand flexed, she pasted on a smile and waited.

It didn’t take him long to open his eyes. Hers was the first face he

saw, the only one he looked for. He smiled weakly at her before

closing his eyes again briefly and then blinking them open once

more. He swallowed roughly and grimaced. An attempt to clear

his throat only caused him pain.

“Want some water?” she asked and didn’t bother to make him

answer. She held the straw up to his lips and he sipped greedily.

“You’re being nice. I must have really been in a bad way,” he

rasped. At her trembling chin, he reached out and clasped her

hand. “Sorry. Probably not the smartest thing I could have said,

huh?”

“Mulder, do you realize — no, I know you do. You knew full well

what was likely to happen and you took the risk anyway,” she said

too calmly for his liking.

“Should learn to keep my mouth shut,” he muttered. “I’m sorry,

Scully. But you can’t accuse me of knowing that he was going to

stab me. I had on body armor not to mention that neck brace.”

“Mulder, you still knew he would try and kill you. But you went

ahead and took the risk.” She couldn’t look at him. Tears were

hanging on the edges of her lashes.

He reached over and cupped her cheek, stroking it with his thumb.

“We take risks every day. I won’t lie to you and say I didn’t expect

him to come as soon as you and Scanlon left. But Scully, if our

places had been reversed, can you honestly tell me you wouldn’t

have done the same?”

“I don’t want to lose you like that,” she said softly.

“Scully, I’m doing everything I can. I wore the vest, I wore the

neck protection. Hell, I wore my ankle holster. And I knew that

Alison could see everything and would call for backup and

ambulance immediately. I covered all the bases. Aren’t you the

one who gets mad at me when I try to keep you out of harm’s

way?”

She put her hand over his and held it there. “I just hate — ”

“I know. I do, too,” he said tilting his head. “But it’s the life we

have and I’m not sure I want to change any of it.”

“I supposed it’s not the same as a ditch,” she admitted.

“Not by a long shot,” he agreed.

There was a rap at the door and Scully called ‘come in’. A large

bouquet of balloons appeared to float into the room, coming to rest

on the bedside tray table. Alison emerged from behind them.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” she asked Mulder with a smile.

“Not bad, considering,” he said hoarsely, nodding toward the water

cup again. Scully accommodated him and put the water back on

the table.

Alison nodded and bit her lip nervously. “Just wanted to tell you

that DA Devalos is writing a letter of commendation to your

superiors in Washington. He really thought you both went out of

your way to catch this guy.”

“Alison, you were instrumental in our tracking him down,” Scully

said.

“Thank you, Agent Scully. That means a lot to me.” Clearly

flattered and slightly embarrassed, Alison turned to Mulder. “So,

when are they letting you out of here?”

He looked at Scully who rolled her eyes. “Three days, four if he

causes any trouble,” she told Alison while staring right at her

partner.

“Well, I’d be happy to give you a ride to the airport, when they let

you go home.”

“We’d like that. Thank you,” Scully answered for both of them.

“I’ll let you get your rest,” she said, heading for the door. “Oh, one

thing, Agent Mulder. When you get home, don’t blame Agent

Scully for the puddle in den upstairs. You’re the one who left the

window open during the warm spell before you left last week.”

Scully looked over at Mulder and crossed her arms.

Mulder looked at her sheepishly. “Think we better call your

mom.”

The end.

Lied to the Federal Government about UFO Abduction

Lied To Federal Government About UFO Abduction

Author: Elf X

Category: Crossover — My Name is Earl/XF, humor

Summary: Earl Hickey’s gotta get his karma right, with the help of a

couple of guardian agents.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: The X-Files and My Name of Earl belong to other folks – I’m

just gonna borrow ‘em for a while.

clip_image002

When I heard the knock at the door, I sort of halfway figured it might be

the video people, after Halloween 3.

A lot of folks didn’t care for that one — probably thought it strayed too far

from the basic theme of the original Jamie Lee Curtis classic. But I liked

it, I guess maybe too much, because I’d watched it four times over the past

three days, and it was only a one-night rental. They tell you there’s no late

fees, but that always had sounded, well, maybe a little too good to be true.

I grabbed the DVD and yanked on my jeans. 9:30 a.m. — those video folk

were an early-rising bunch, all right.

I figured almost right off the couple on the other side of the door didn’t

represent the Bigscreen Video corporation. They were too well-dressed,

and they weren’t wearing the snazzy green Bigscreen vests. The man was a

nice-looking fella, and the woman — a redhead — was pretty enough in a

high school principal sort of way.

The man smiled. “Mr. Hickey?”

That’s when it hit me. “Morning. Look, I appreciate your freedom of

religious expression and all, but I got a pretty fair workin’ relationship

with Jesus, thanks.” I started to close the door on them, but the man put his

foot in it.

“Mr. Hickey, I’m Agent Mulder, and this is Agent Scully. We’re FBI.”

My mouth went kind of dry. “Wow, they sure are serious about their late

rentals.”

**

I guess it all started about a week ago, after I called Washington to try to

cross No. 76 off my list. I was hunkered under a desk — the tax fella had

went out to lunch, and I figured he knew some way to deduct the long-

distance charges — but they put me through to an agent right away, which

made me feel pretty good about all those federal tax dollars I’d paid on all

those cigarettes I used to smoke.

“You want to recant your abduction?” the woman agent squeaked after I

told her my business.

“No. I’d like to kind of just take it back. I was confused that night about

the aliens.”

I didn’t hear anything on the phone for a second except her breathing. It

was nice breathing, no disrespect or anything. “Sir, I don’t remember this

ever happening before. I wish my partner was in today. Can I have him call

you, Mr. Hickey, is it?”

“Oh, no, ma’am. He doesn’t need to bother. Just take my name off the

alien kidnapping list or whatever, and thanks.”

I hung up and slipped out right as the tax fella got back from Little Burger.

I pulled out the list and, with a sigh, crossed off No. 76 — “Lied to federal

government about UFO abduction.” That one had bothered me — making it

up about the little gray guys when there were honest folk out there who’d

been anally probed and poked for real. See, the problem was, I’d just about

run dry of excuses for being out too late with the guys, and Joy — we were

still betrothed then — had threatened to change the padlock on the front

door (another story).

“C’mon, Joy!” I’d whined, banging on the door.

“I told you not to get in so late,” she snapped from the other side. “You’ll

wake up the kids, and they gotta take the laundry to the Wash-o-Mat

tomorrow early.”

I thought fast, which wasn’t easy because I’d had a half-bottle of Wild

Turkey. “You gotta let me in — I been, ah, I been, you know, abducted. By

aliens. Space aliens.”

Now, Joy was what you might call a carnivorous reader — she kept up on

current events and all, mainly in those grocery store papers with the

Bigfeet and Michael Jackson. Some fella about twenty miles down the

road had been on the news the other night, said he’d went up on a

spaceship and got a free procto before they dropped him back in time for

Mr. Conan O’Brien’s show. I figured I had that plausible deniable stuff

they always talked about with the politicians.

Sure enough, I heard Joy work the dial on the new bike lock she’d

installed, and her eyes were big as E.T.’s when she opened the door. “You

was abducted?! My poor baby. You come in and I’ll get you a beer. Hold

on, Baby — I’ll get you a pillow for your, you know, nether regions. They

did probe you, didn’t they? They musta probed you.”

I got a little nervous when the feds came by and the TV folk. Luckily, the

federal folk didn’t seem too interested in details, and it was lucky I’d had a

summer rash at the time — nature had called at Saturday’s Pony League

game, and the thicket near the diamond had poison oak or ivy or some

such obnoxious weed. But I’m as patriotic as the next fella, so I felt a little

guilty about lying to Uncle Sam, even if the old guy didn’t seem to give a

rat’s ass.

**

This guy, Agent Mulder, did, though. Now, I’d had my periodic

encounters with the law enforcement community at the local, county, state,

mall, and Park Department levels (the judge was unsympathetic to my

argument that the park folk hadn’t specifically posted No Peeing signs).

After Agents Mulder and Scully told me they weren’t looking to send me

to Guantanamo Bay or nothing, I told them about my checkered past (just

the stuff that was past the statute of limitations), the lottery, my list, and

karma. Mulder seemed to be interested in that — he was a naturally

inquisitive fella.

“According to the Vedas, if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; if

we sow evil, we will reap evil,” he told his partner, who looked kind of

drowsy. “Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant

reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future.

The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction.

Not all karmas rebound immediately. Some accumulate and return

unexpectedly in this or other births. According to the Vedas.”

I didn’t actually know the Vedas, though they sounded like good Christian

folk. “Shit happens,” I agreed. “I’m just trying to get my karma realigned. I

hate to put a bad rap on folks, even if they’re alien folks.”

Agent Scully yawned. Agent Mulder leaned forward on the couch, almost

ripped his pants on a spring. “Look, Mr. Hickey. I’m just going to ask you

straight out. Were you coerced in any way to recant your account of the

abduction?”

I just looked at him. He sighed.

“Did anybody threaten you so you’d take back what you said?”

“Ohhh. No, sir. I just wanted to set the record straight. Karma, like I said.”

“Nobody visited you?” Agent Mulder pushed. “Maybe they said they were

from the government, told you what happened was part of a secret

experiment or asked you to keep quiet for the national good?”

I scratched my head. “You mean like Will Smith in that movie?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, seriously. “Kind of like that.”

Agent Scully made some kind of noise, and struggled off the bad cushion.

“I’ll be out in the car. Mr. Hickey.”

“Ma’am.” I turned back to Agent Mulder, who was still staring at me. He

was beginning to spook me a little. “Look, I’m sorry I lied to you folks,

really. You know how it is, don’t you, when the little woman’s always

riding your ass like a mechanical bull?”

He glanced at the door and kind of sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I do. OK, Mr.

Hickey, I guess that’s it. We’ll close the file.”

Agent Mulder looked so disappointed, I felt kinda bad for him. “Hey, I do

think I saw some strange lights one time. ‘Course, it was July 3rd, so who

knows…”

“It’s OK, Mr. Hickey,” Agent Mulder smiled, getting up. “We get false

reports all the time – no need to make a federal case out of it. It’s just…”

He paused, then shook his head.

“It’s just what?” You know sometimes how your brain tells your mouth to

keep shut, but your mouth says, Who are you telling to shut up?

“Well, Mr. Kellogg – the man who claimed to have been abducted a few

days before you – called us the same week you did and recanted, uh, said

he hadn’t been taken. But I took the call, and he seemed anxious, worried.

You don’t know Orrin Kellogg, do you, since you had – purported to have

had – the same experience?”

“Gee, Agent Mulder, I sure don’t. Sorry. Say, you know if this Kellogg

fella’s married? Or used to be? Or maybe has a real, er, assertive

girlfriend.”

The agent smiled. “I’ll ask him,” he said, reaching for the doorknob.

**

“Felt kinda sorry for the guy,” I told Randy, who was trying to look me in

the eye as he went for the last cheesestick. Appetizer distribution had

always been an issue for Randy and I, ever since the folks took us to the

Chuck E. Cheese for my 10th birthday and we got tossed out for throwing

marinara sauce on the mechanical banjo-playing bear. “Probably has a real

boring job, same old same old all the time. Something like UFOs and

spacemen, well, it probably puts a little zip into his day.”

“Feel kinda sorry for the cereal guy, too,” Randy said, biting into his ill-

gotten mozzarella stick. His forehead wrinkled up, and he stared into the

hollow stick. “Hey, there’s no cheese in here. Thought it felt kinda light.”

“Cereal guy? Randy, what in the world are you talking about?”

“You know, the Kelloggs guy. The other guy got took by the

extraterritorials. How’d this get out of the factory without any cheese?”

Luckily, Darnell came out of the kitchen at that point with a bucket of

wing sauce. “Hey, Earl.”

“Well, hey there, Crabman. Randy got a dud cheesestick. You think maybe

you can hook him up?”

“Sorry – sold the last order,” Joy’s latest spouse said, looking apologetic.

He took his responsibility to the hospitality industry seriously. “How about

some jalapeno poppers?”

Randy looked like he might cry. “Kinda had my heart set on that last

cheesestick.”

“I got some pickle chips for the burgers. Maybe I could drop ‘em in the

fryer, see what happens.”

“Popper’s’d be fine,” Randy sighed.

Crisis averted. “What about Kellogg? Why you feel sorry for him?”

Randy popped the cheesestick tube in his mouth. “Well, you know, if he

was the only guy got taken by the aliens, then he’s kind of a nut, you

know? But since you said you got took, too, he maybe wasn’t a nut. But

now that you’ve – what’s the word that FBI guy used?”

“Recanted.”

“Since your alien story got all recanted, now the guy’s a nut again. They

did a couple of writeups in the local papers about him getting poked by the

aliens, and he talked about how he wasn’t lying, ‘cause why else would

you say you got took, too? Gee, you know, this is even worse, ‘cause if

you hadn’t said what you said, he probably wouldn’ta started talking to all

the newspapers and, oh yeah, those UFO guys at that convention down at

the capital. Oh, and Dateline. Said in one of the stories his girlfriend up

and left him after the first story came out. You think those poppers are real

hot?”

I pushed my tenderloin away and reached into my pocket. “Well, thanks a

lot, Randy. I just got one up on the list, and now I gotta add a new one.”

Randy hung his head, then looked up sadly. “You know, I shoulda went

for those fried pickle chips.”

**

Mr. Kellogg only lived two towns over, so Randy and I stocked up at the

Gulp-and-Grab and hit the road. I wanted to Mapblast the sucker, but the

public library computer had caught some kinda high-tech sexually

transmitted virus from one of the local high school kids looking for naked

women.

Luckily, there were only really two streets in town, and Kellogg lived a

block from the Pizza Hut — a personal dream of Randy’s, and, if I had to

be honest about it, probably myself. The Corn Nuts hadn’t set too well on

my brother’s gut, so we had the noon pizza buffet first to kind of settle it

down and plot our strategy so I could cross Number 123 — “Helped UFO

abductee make a jackass out of himself” — off the list. The plotting didn’t

go too hot, so we thought we’d just drop in and say hey.

Thing is, about a couple dozen other folks had had the same idea, ‘cause

Mr. Kellogg’s front yard looked like one of those conventions down at the

Holiday Inn where they sell you comic books in plastic covers and Captain

Kirk talks about what it was like to eat donuts with Dr. Spock. Half the

folks in front of Kellogg’s house looked like the kids Randy and I used to

beat up at school and the other half like the kids Randy and I used to beat

up at Halloween parties. A couple had big rubber heads like that dead alien

on that FOX autopsy show.

“So, hey, what’s up?” I asked some portly fella who was wearing a T-shirt

with a flying saucer on it and a cap with “NAPI.” “Nappy?”

“Network of Affiliated Paranormal Investigators,” he sighed. “Who you

with? MUFON? CSETI? APRO?”

“I was in 4-H,” Randy mumbled. “’Til Earl and I accidently barbecued the

reserve champion Duroc.”

I signaled Randy to shut up. “You wouldn’t know if Mr. Kellogg might be

home?”

“He’s in there,” the geek fellow said, pointing to the house. “Kellogg’s

been in hiding ever since the MIBs got to him.”

“MI-who?”

“Men in black. The Man. ‘Fact, a couple of ‘em went in a little while ago.

Well, one’s actually a women in black. Well, more like slate-gray

pinstripe, you know? Uh, gotta go, dude.” He walked off about 10 feet and

turned his back to us.

Guess if we’d skipped the pizza buffet, Randy and I coulda got to Mr.

Kellogg before Agents Mulder and Scully. I was trying to figure out our

next move when a couple of the UFO folks started staring at me. They

went their leader over. He looked like somebody the NAPI fella would

give a wedgie to.

“You’re Earl Hickey, aren’t you?”

“Yeah…” Now, who says any publicity’s good publicity..

“Who got to you guys, man? The government or the EBEs? They threaten

you?” The new geek turned to his pals. “Hey, guys, it’s the other abductee,

Hickey.”

Suddenly, I had a fan club. This was turning out to be an awful lot of

trouble just to fix some bad karma. I didn’t want to just tell the UFO folks

I’d lied, cause then Mr. Kellogg would be the only nut job and I’d never

get him off my list. But if I told this bunch I had been probed by little

green men, it’d be like, well, like throwing M&Ms at an anthill. You know

what I mean.

Then it got worse. “Mr. Hickey?”

“Well, hey, Agent Mulder,” I nodded as he parted the sea of UFO folks

like Moses in a black suit. “Agent Scully. Small world.”

Agent Scully looked at the growing crowd of flying saucer people. “Yes. I

can feel it closing in already. Quite a coincidence, your showing up here.”

“We felt like pizza,” Randy blurted. “They got a really great Pizza Hut

here. I mean, I know we got one back home, but it’s the sausage. I think

they make their own sausage here. Cause it’s, like, you know, real good.

The sausage. I think they make it here.”

Thinking quick on his feet wasn’t what you might call my brother’s

strongest point.

“You said you didn’t know Kellogg, Mr. Hickey,” Agent Mulder smiled.

“Well, I guess I was just curious, you know — wanted to see if he got took.

Plus, like Randy said, we wanted to see if all this hype about the sausage

was true.”

Mulder grinned. “Well, your theory about the assertive wife or girlfriend

didn’t pan out.”

“Big surprise,” Scully murmured, glancing at a redheaded fella in a

Babylon 5 tank top.

“Mr. Kellogg insists he made up the abduction story to get some headlines,

even though his original account was fairly detailed. I’m afraid you guys

wasted a trip today. Unless that sausage was pretty hellaceous.”

“Oh, yeah.” Randy’s head bobbed. “It lived up to all the press.” Stick-to-

itiveness was one of Randy’s strong points.

“Don’t listen to ‘im, dude,” the UFO folks’ leader growled at me. “It’s a

coverup. A disinformation campaign. The truth’s out there, man.”

I grabbed Randy’s arm. “Yeah, well, live long and prosper, OK? Sorry

your abduction fell through, Agent Mulder.”

“What about the list?” Randy complained when we reached the car.

I leaned on the hood. “Randy, sometimes karma’s like a bad engine. The

pistons get too hot and sludge starts to build up and one day, blam, she

locks up. Sides, I get the feeling this fella woulda found some way to make

an ass out of himself even if I have screwed with his karma.”

Randy nodded slowly and opened his door. “We gonna stop for gas?

Cause I could use a Fudgsicle.”

“There you go.” The ability to move on was also one of his strengths.

“Mr. Hickey? Earl Hickey?”

I looked around and saw two love handles and a couple of thighs peeking

around an oak tree in the next yard. The fat fella — guess that’s

judgmental; coulda been a hormone problem like I saw once on Rikki

Lake — scampered to the car, jumped in the back, and rolled the window

down.

“Orrin Kellogg. I snuck out the back door and came down the alley. I

recognized you from the TV reports.”

“Well, like that Limbaugh fella says, you can’t trust the media all the time.

I reconsidered my story.”

“Recantered,” Randy corrected.

“Yeah, I recantered my story. I lied to my woman and the federal

government, and I recantered to get my karma right again.”

My weight-challenged fellow recanter frowned. “Karma?”

“Yeah. It’s like what the vegans say about your comatose actions coming

back to bite you in the hindquarters. That’s why me and my brother Randy

drove out here today — to try and fix your karma, too. I feel like maybe I

mighta busted it a little.”

Mr. Kellogg looked kinda weird at me, which to be honest was a major

achievement for him. “My karma’s fine.”

“You sure about that? Cause Randy here, he kinda feels like maybe I left

you hanging out in the wind when I recantered.”

“Recanted. No, I’m not, uh, hanging.”

“Cause it ain’t any never-mind to me. I’m not gonna be running for public

office any time soon – I could just recant my recant-, recant-, recantering?

‘Cept then, I’d have to put lying to the federal government back on my list,

and it doesn’t really seem fair to Agent Mulder, to yank him around that

way, you know?”

Mr. Kellogg rubbed his face. “I said, don’t worry about it. I’ll be glad to

have those people leave me alone.”

But I was on a roll, and on those rare occasions when I’m on a roll, it’s

hard for me to put on the old brakes. “Hey, how about this? I say I saw

about you in the paper, and I was consumed with envy and jealousy, so I

made up all that crap about getting’ probed. That way, you’re not a liar.

‘Cept, of course, for lying about recanting yourself. Wait a minute: You

did get took in the first place, right?”

“Jesus,” Mr. Kellogg said. He ducked down in the seat. “I’m asking you to

leave it alone, OK?”

“They ain’t threatenin’ you, are they?” Randy whispered. “The Men in

Blue?”

“Black, Randy. Yeah, the federal boys aren’t making you recant? Or the

aliens? That it? Those suckers wanna come back for you?”

“Not yet!” Mr. Kellogg bellowed. A few UFO folk turned around, and he

crouched even further.

I wondered what he meant by that. “What do you mean by that?”

Mr. Kellogg drooped back in the seat and closed his eyes. “You two just

aren’t gonna leave me alone, are you?”

“Not until I figure out how to come up with a karma patch for you.”

He sat up again, and looked at his fan club back at the house. “Let’s get

out of here.”

**

“You really ought to have some pizza,” Randy suggested as Mr. Kellogg

sat real quiet on his side of the booth. “The sausage is real good. I mean,

they don’t make it themselves or nothing – I just told those FBI agents that

– but…”

I pointed toward the buffet. “Randy, I think they put out some pepperoni.”

“Oh. Yeah. Excuse me.”

When he was gone, I leaned over the table. “Look, Mr. Kellogg, I sure

don’t want to cause you any more trouble than I have already, but it seems

kinda like you’re caught between Iraq and a hard place. Why don’t you

just level with me? You in trouble or something?”

Mr. Kellogg started ripping his straw paper. “Look, Mr. Hickey, Earl? Do

you actually believe in UFOs, extraterrestrials?”

I thought about it for a second. “You know, I guess I used to be kinda

skeptical about such things. Don’t know if Randy ever has forgive me for

telling him about the Tooth Fairy, even though it seemed like the right

thing at the time, him getting’ beat up by the rest of the football team and

all. Now, I don’t know. The way the Lotto and that car smacked me at the

same time, the way I discovered karma? Well, heck, maybe there are alien

folks out there. Hell, maybe there’s something to that old Tooth Fairy.

Never actually didn’t see him. Or her, it…”

“Mr. Hickey,” Mr. Kellogg interrupted, glancing around the Pizza Hut.

The place was deserted except for us, and the waitress and the manager

were lugging cans of tomato sauce from the back. “I’m only going to do

this for a second, so please stay focused.”

I focused, and he did it.

“Holy shit!” I yelled.

“What?” Randy asked, juggling two plates as he slid back into the booth.

“Holy shit,” I repeated.

Randy looked at me and then Mr. Kellogg. “What? Hey, c’mon. What

were you guys talking about?”

My heart was going a mile a minute, and my head was standing on the

road about a mile back from my heart, scratching its, well, you know what

I mean. “Do it. Show him.”

Kellogg rolled his eyes. “Christ. What if they see me?”

I stretched around. “Manager’s got his hand on her ass. Either way it goes,

I think we got a few seconds. Go ahead, show him.”

“Oh, all right.” He did it again.

“Holy shit!” I jumped again even though I knew it was coming.

“Wow,” Randy breathed. “Do it again.”

**

“Kellogg was a poor candidate for abduction,” the space alien told us,

“But we were, well, we were behind in our experimentation…”

“You guys got a quota, like Amway or the state troopers?” Randy asked,

licking his fingers.

“I was on a solo acquisition mission,” the alien went on, giving my brother

a dirty look. “He was out on State Road 15, trying to find a wheel cover

he’d lost, or maybe he’d found a wheel cover, I don’t know. Anyway, it

was a routine recovery.”

“With the tractor beam and all?” I asked.

He looked at me the same way he’d looked at Randy. You’d think with all

that advance technology and driving around for light years with no

McDonald’s and all, they’d be a mite more patient. “Yeah, the tractor

beam. But the minute I get Kellogg aboard, he screams, grabs his chest,

and just drops dead. I tried to reactivate his neural network, but, well, you

would have had to see the shape of his cardiac system. I still have it

somewhere around the house…”

“Yuck,” Randy burped, and his face turned kind of green.

“So, at this point, I could just proton-reverse the body – no fuss, no muss,

and his neighbors just figure, hey, serial killer.”

“’Be my guess,” I agreed.

“But then I think, wow, what a wonderful opportunity to study humanity,

its customs, you know, what makes it tick.” Then Space Alien sighed.

“Crap, who am I kidding? What I was really thinking was, Jesus, what a

shit job: Pick up, probe, dump. Pick up, probe, dump. And here’s this guy,

dead, and it’s not like we keep a log or anything. Who’s to know if I just

slip into his skin? So I run the ship into the lake at the edge of town.

Except these kids are there, uh, fornicating, and I have to make up this

whole thing about me abducting me. Then things really got out of control

after you came out of the woodwork.”

“If I’da known,” I apologized.

“Not your fault. Except I can’t get rid of the geek squad at the house. They

come from all over – had a group from Tokyo stop by last week. I thought

it would stop when I said I’d lied about the abduction, but it only brought

out the conspiracy buffs.” My new extraterrestrial buddy sighed. “Hate the

thought of going back. You’d be surprised how far Kellogg’s disability

checks go when your metabolic needs are satisfied with empty

carbohydrates.”

“And you got a Pizza Hut a block away,” Randy reminded him.

“Well, sure.” Space Alien looked at me, shaking my head. “What?”

“Sorry, man. Just you really speak human good for an alien, like you took

classes. ‘Cept for that meta-, meta-, metabonics stuff, of course.”

Thought he oughtta know, is all.

**

“We are not telling this to anybody,” I told Randy on the way home. “You

hear me? Not a solitary sole. Pinky swear, Randy.”

“I shwear,” Randy pledged through a mouthful of Cornnuts.

**

The door to the Crab Shack flew open like something out of an old

western, which meant it had to be Joy. “I wanna see this alien,” my ex

demanded.

“Randy!” I yelled.

His chair squeaked. “She tricked me, Earl. She asked what was goin’ on,

and I said nothing, and she said, nothing like hell, she could see I was

lying, so I made up something, and she said I was lying again, so I was

trapped, see?”

“I wanna see this alien,” Joy ordered. “You’re gonna set up a meetin’ or

something.”

“Joy, the man – I mean, well, the man – just wants to be left in peace. I

promised him.” I glared at Randy, who fumbled with his chicken finger.

“Look here,” Joy growled, clicking the table with her nails. It’s not what

you’d call real dramatic or anything, but she does her own without

“imported labor,” and she’s skittish about table-thumping. “You owe me,

Earl. You screwed up my Bigfoot picture. I coulda bought a 31-inch flat-

screen high-definition with the money the Enquirer woulda paid me.”

Now, I have to admit that perhaps I have to shoulder a share of the burden

for that one, though if I hadn’t suggested a campout at the limestone

quarry instead of King’s Island, she and the kids would never have even

seen Sasquatch in the first place. And she was the one who wanted to save

a few bucks with the 20-shot roll stead of the 36. And how could

anybody’ve predicted those sorority gals’d be sunbathing bare naked at the

quarry in the middle of September?

But I stood firm. A promise to a space alien is worth a Bigfoot hiding in

the bush, I say. “I’m sorry, Joy, but all that poor guy – alien fella, whatever

– all he wants is to retire to a nice dead guy’s house on Earth and watch

TV. It’s the American Dream, like what the Statue of Liberty says about

refusing to let the wretches come on shore. Leave him alone, Joy.”

Joy set her jaw, and it’s quite a jaw, I gotta tell you. “You take me to your

space fella, or I’m gonna call the Action Seven News Squad and the

Weekend Shopper – all the major media – and flush old E.T. out.” She

squeezed a Kodak disposable out of her jeans. “Y’all pick me up at eight –

I’m gonna shoot me a alien.”

**

“I think there’s a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses by the pool lookin’ for you,

Earl,” Catalina shouted from inside Unit 5.

Randy and I’d gone back to the motel to think out our strategy over some

Judge Judy – I hoped all that jurisdictional wisdom might just rub off. But

sure enough, Agent Mulder and Agent Scully were over by the pool,

catching a little sun and staring at the film on top of the water.

“Well, hey there, Agents,” I called, playing it as cool as I could.

Agent Mulder grinned, jumping off one of the loungers. “Hey, Mr. Hickey.

Wanted to talk to you a little more about that little visit to Mr. Kellogg’s

today. I’d like to close the books on this case, so Agent Scully and I re-

interviewed the kid who’d reported seeing a UFO the night Mr. Kellogg

was ‘abducted.’ Well, it turned out there was a second witness that night,

who wasn’t supposed to be with our first witness. It’s amazing how

forthcoming they both were once we offered to verify their whereabouts

with their parents.”

“Sounds like a couple kids could use some 4-H,” I tsk’ed.

“Yeah, well, turns out the kids actually saw what they believed to be a

spacecraft, crashing into a lake near here.”

“Lake?” Randy gasped. “We got a lake around here?” This was why, no

matter how much he begged me, I never took my brother along on Poker

Night.

“We’ve asked the State Police if they can spare a diving crew, even though

the lake’s reportedly a few hundred feet deep,” Mulder said. “Meanwhile,

we’re interested in why, if there actually was a UFO in the area, Mr.

Kellogg would recant his story. Or you yours’, for that matter.”

Agent Scully kind of rolled her eyes, like maybe she wasn’t quite as

interested as her partner.

“Maybe it was, you know, that swamp gas stuff,” I suggested. I wasn’t

burning up the court any too hot on Poker Night, for that matter.

**

Karma seemed to have taken an off ramp, got lost at the first intersection,

turned around, come up the wrong side of the on ramp, and ran right into

the grill of a Peterbilt.

If they found that spaceship at the bottom of the lake, then Agent Mulder

would probably never leave Mr. Kellogg alone, and I’d never get Number

123 off my list. Worse yet, Agent Mulder might figure I was lying and that

I had been snatched by space guys. Or worser yet, if he found out about

Mr. Kellogg, Agent Mulder might think I was a space guy, and I could

wind up getting probed at Area 51 or wherever the place is where Joy says

they’re keeping the Loch Ness monster and Jimmy Hoffa and probably

that Bigfoot we saw on vacation.

And that’s when it hit me like a drunk Teamster smacking one of those

fellas on Bravo.

**

“I was gonna watch Lost,” Randy complained. “I heard they were gonna

get off the island tonight.”

“They ain’t never gonna get off the island,” Joy snapped from the

backseat. “It’s like Gilligan. Who’da watched the danged thing if Thurston

Howell had went home and bought out Microsoft or Ginger had went back

to Hollywood and boffed Brad Pitt or the Professor had went, I don’t

know, back to community college or whatever…?

“Joy, I think he gets the idea,” I suggested, turning off onto Reservoir

Road.

“Why are we meetin’ this alien fella way out here?” Joy grumbled. “Earl

Hickey, you better not be thinkin’ about smacking me with a shovel and

dumping me in the lake so I won’t tell about your alien buddy. ‘Cause

Darnell knows where I am.”

Randy frowned. “I thought you told Darnell you were at the Megalomart

so you wouldn’t have to split the alien money with him.”

“Crap,” Joy pouted.

“Relax, Joy – nobody’s killing nobody, unless the mood happens to strike

you,” I said. “Mr. Kellogg said he’d meet us here so you could get your

Enquirer picture.” I checked the rearview mirror – they’d followed us from

the motel like I figured they would.

“Okee,” I declared, pulling in near the picnic tables. The kid on the nearest

table jumped down and came over to the window.

“Got my money?” he asked. Teenagers today are so obsessed with money.

Personally, I think it’s the MTV. However, I gave him the $20 out of the

lottery money.

“You sure I’m like not gonna get busted for this?” he asked. “My folks’d

kill me.”

“Nobody’s killing nobody,” I promised. Kinda warming up to that one –

maybe I’d make it my line, like Arnold’s Hasta la vista or that thing

Fonzie always said to Opie. “You got those books I asked you for?”

“Yeah, in my bag. First time I used that library card in three years, dude.”

“Great. Joy, you all loaded up?”

“Just bring on the alien, Earl,” she yawned, whipping out the Kodak.

I flashed the brights twice, real quick, and turned off the car. It was a

pretty night out, with the crickets singing and Randy munching away on

his Turkey Jerky and Joy sighing every few seconds. “So, how’s that gal

friend of yours?” I asked the kid.

“We broke up,” he said, all sad-like. “Kristen saw something about

lesbians on Springer and decided she was bi-courteous or something.”

Love’s a strange critter – sometimes you just oughtta not even try to pat it

on the head. “Wow, that’s rough, man.”

“Yeah.”

That’s when he heard the bellow – guess that’s what you’d call it. It was

somewhere between a lion and elephant and Rambo.

“Hot damn,” I said, jumping out of the car. “Grab your camera, Joy!”

He came out of the woods, bellowing again. I hoped he wouldn’t overdo it.

“Holy shit!” Joy screamed.

“Wow,” Randy whispered. Joy kept screaming.

“Daylight’s – I mean, moonlight’s burning, Joy! Get your picture!”

“But, but this ain’t no alien!”

“Joy, I promised to make it up to you for screwing up that Bigfoot picture.

So get on out there and shoot Bigfoot!” Bigfoot stopped about 10 feet

away and kinda shrugged. He was seven feet tall, probably about 400

pounds, and covered with what I think you call auburn hair, but he coulda

used a few acting lessons.

“Mr. Hickey!” It was Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, running toward us.

With their guns out. Now, I gotta admit I hadn’t seen that little twist

coming.

“Joy,” I yelled. “Take your damn picture!!”

She snapped out of it. “Don’t you curse at me, Earl Hickey. And you,” Joy

snapped at the monster. “You stand still. And look fierce or somethin’.”

Bigfoot blinked, then snarled, then blinked again as Joy snapped off three

or four shots.

“Git!” I yelled. Bigfoot nodded and ran back into the woods just as Agent

Mulder got to the car. Joy shoved her camera in her jeans.

“Mr. Hickey,” the agent panted as Agent Scully peeled off after Bigfoot.

“What was that–?”

Randy sighed real big, like we’d rehearsed in the mirror back at the motel.

“OK, guys – the gig’s up.”

“Jig,” I said. “Yup, I guess the jig’s up.”

“Lost him, Earl!” Mr. Kellogg came out of the woods, wheezing. Then he

looked at Mulder and gasped, you ask me, a little too fakey. Yeah, maybe

a few more acting lessons, all right.

“Jig’s up, Orrin!” I called back. “C’mere, uh, Kid.”

The kid looked at me, then Agent Mulder, then me, and picked up his

school bag. I reached inside and pulled out the books I’d asked him to

check out.

“Greg,” Agent Mulder murmured. “Coming out to the lake alone these

days? Guess it cuts out the middlewoman, huh?” He glanced at the books.

“Sasquatch: Man or Beast? The Secrets of Bigfoot. You into

cryptozoology, Mr. Hickey?”

“Heck, no, Agent. We just like to get together and look for strange critters.

We been doin’ it for a year or so now, though we had to kinda lay low

after Greg and his girl caught Orrin here stalkin’ Bigfoot. We didn’t want

a whole mob down here, getting’ all the good Bigfoot pictures.”

Agent Mulder’s mouth dropped open, and he shut his eyes like he was

passin’ a gallstone. “So you two made up the abductions to divert attention

from this creature?”

Mr. Kellogg and I nodded. After a second, Randy forgot he wasn’t

watching one of those dinner shows and started nodding, too.

“Then why are you here, Greg?” Agent Mulder asked.

“He caught on to us, and we had to cut him in,” I said. “He’s a smart one.”

Agent Mulder looked at the kid, whose pinkie was halfway up his nostril

and looked kind of doubtful at me. Then he turned to Joy, his hand out.

“Ma’am, I’m going to need that film.”

“Like hell,” the ex fired back. “Not until my check from the Enquirer

clears. I pay my cigarette taxes – I know my First Commandment rights.”

“Ma’am, what you’ve got here could be a major scientific revelation.”

“Then you go halfsies on double prints at the Megalomart – you’ll get ‘em

after I cash in.”

“I’m a federal agent,” Agent Mulder squeaked.

“Less you use that gun, I don’t know you can win this one, Agent,” I told

him. “I’d take the double prints.”

He sighed. “Fine.” Then he went off into the woods looking for Agent

Scully.

Mr. Kellogg sidled up. “You think it’ll work?” he asked nervously.

I shrugged. “Once the word gets out, I think your geek friends’ll go

looking for crop circles someplace else. Uh, you got a little, ah, fur on your

right cheek there…”

“Oh.” The brown patch like sucked back into his face.

“Wow,” Randy said. “Do that again.”

**

Turns out Joy shoulda popped for the good $10 disposable camera. Agent

Mulder got his double prints, all right, but what was in ‘em coulda been

anything from a grizzly to a stray Wookie who’d took the wrong turn at

the cineplex. Just the same, he hung around for the next coupla weeks

looking for Bigfoot. Probably a nice change of pace for him.

Joy cashed in all right, but not from the Enquirer. Seems Bigfoot’s kinda

low on the freak meter these days compared to Michael Jackson. But she

was able to score $132 on eBay, and she agreed to keep Mr. Kellogg’s

secret if I didn’t tell Darnell where she’d got the money for her spa day at

the Feel and Peel down near the Walgreen’s.

The UFO folks left town after the local paper reported that Mr. Kellogg

and me had been sitting on what Agent Mulder called a “cryptozoic

protohominid.” Randy thought Agent Mulder oughtta knock off the

highbrow talk if he ever hoped to get anywhere with Agent Scully, though

I think maybe she leans toward the Melissa Etheridge type, not that there’s

anything wrong with that. The Bigfoot sighting turned out to be the best

thing that ever happened to the county – folks flocked from all over the

place to see the big hairy fella, and there’s talk the Annual Horseradish

Festival may get renamed the Bigfoot Bash next year.

Young Greg’s supernatural experience fired up his creative moose, and he

started writing something called “slash” for the Internet. I read one, and

well, while it wasn’t my glass of tea, far be it from me to squash the boy’s

imagination.

Best of all, I got to cross No. 123 off my list and get my karma with Mr.

Kellogg right. The original Mr. Kellogg’s rich aunt passed on a few

months back, and he plans to open a comic book store on the main drag

with what she left him. I hope it works out for him – this country was built

by folks who had a dream and, in some cases, a big wad of somebody

else’s cash.

The Consequences of our Actions

consequences

TITLE: The Consequences of Our Actions

AUTHOR: Jo-Ann Lassiter

EMAIL ADDRESS: Jolassi555@cs.com

DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Two weeks exclusive on VS13. Then post anywhere. Thanks.

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters created by Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions. Characters used without permission. No infringement intended.

RATING: PG-13

CLASSIFICATION: S, R

SUMMARY: Is someone out to get Mulder?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: M&S are an established couple.

THANKS: To Vickie, for the great beta and for all her ‘suggestions.’ Thanks especially for whacking me upside the head (but very gently) until I got Maggie Scully’s character right. I needed it. A lot.

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Teaser

Thursday, February 9

Maggie Scully’s House

6:10 p.m.

“Hi, Mom.” “Hi, Maggie.” Scully and Mulder greeted Scully’s mother as she gestured them into her home.

“Hello, Dana… Fox,” Maggie returned, as she gave each a peck on the cheek. “It’s so good to see you both.”

Mulder smiled. Scully’s mom always made it sound as though she hadn’t seen them for years.

“Come on through to the dining room. Supper’s all ready.”

After hanging up his heavy winter coat, Mulder started to lead the way when Scully’s hand on his arm pulled him up short. He gave her a questioning look.

“We forgot the wine in the car,” she told him. “Would you mind getting it?”

Since he found it hard to deny her anything, he smiled and said, “Not at all.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, then slipped back into his coat. “Be right back.”

Leaving the door slightly ajar so he could get back in, Mulder approached the car, aiming the remote and pressing the button to deactivate the alarm system and unlock the doors. Just as he reached the driver’s side door, he noticed movement out the corner of his eye. Before his eyes could lock onto the figure and the switchblade it was wielding, the knife flashed in the light from the street lamp, and Mulder found himself on the ground cradling his right arm.

Even though he heard the swiftly-retreating footsteps, Mulder still looked around to make sure no other attacker was in sight. Only when he was sure he was alone did he inspect his wound.

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Grateful that he’d elected to wear his heavy coat for the short walk out to the car, he sighed in relief at the relatively shallow cut he could see beneath the cloth. Even so, it hurt like a son of a bitch.

Now that the shock of finding someone monkeying around with Scully’s car had worn off, Mulder wondered just what nefarious deed he’d interrupted. Still wary of who might be lurking about, Mulder checked the area where his assailant had been hiding and found the tire flat, punctured no doubt, by the same blade used on him.

After finding no other damage–Mulder figured he’d made his appearance just as the man was getting started–he retrieved the wine from the back seat, and reset the alarm.

He entered the house and went through to the dining room without removing his coat; he wasn’t sure how deep the slice was, and he didn’t want to bleed all over Maggie’s rugs. “Scully, can you call the police?” he asked as he placed the wine bottle on the table. “I caught someone trying to use your tire for a pincushion.”

Her head whipped up from where she’d been helping herself to a slice of chicken. “What?” Her eyes latched onto the bloody fingers clutching his arm, and she dropped the serving fork with a clatter. “Are you all right?”

He shrugged. “I think so. Cut me a little, but my coat took the brunt of the attack.”

“Come on, Fox,” Maggie said, nudging him gently. “Let’s get you to the bathroom and let Dana take a look.”

Mulder wasn’t about to argue. “Okay, but someone should call the police. If I didn’t go out there when I did, he might have done some serious damage to your car,” he told his partner.

“Screw the car, Mulder,” she said. “Let’s make sure you’re okay first.”

“You take care of Fox; I’ll call the police,” Mrs. Scully said, heading to the wall phone.

“Okay, Mom,” Scully said, leading Mulder up the stairs to the bathroom.

Once there, she helped him out of his overcoat, then his suit jacket. Both were torn and bloody, but when he saw the damage to his favorite shirt, he almost cried; the sleeve was soaked. That blood stain would never come out.

“Oh, Mulder,” Scully said in a particularly forlorn tone. “I love this shirt on you.” Even in his distress, it was hard to suppress a smile–Scully’s feeling was precisely the reason it was his favorite shirt. “I’ll just have to find you another one exactly like it,” she said as she helped him out of it.

Even though she was being careful, it still stung when she pulled it away from the wound, and his chuckle turned into a hiss.

“Sorry,” she apologized, as she maneuvered him to the sink. She adjusted the water temperature to her liking, then took hold of his arm. “This is going to hurt,” she told him, looking into his eyes.

He knew it would. “It’s okay. Go ahead,” he said with a nod. Then he gritted his teeth, trying his best to be manly and not gasp and groan, which is what he really wanted to do.

As the water cleaned the residual blood away, Mulder could see that the slice measured about four inches–a little longer and deeper than he’d originally thought. Not deep enough for stitches, he hoped. He didn’t relish the thought of spending an evening in the emergency room.

Scully studied the injury for a minute, then said, “It doesn’t need stitches, but I’m going to bandage it up. You’re up-to-date on your tetanus shots, so we won’t need to go to the hospital.”

Happy with this diagnosis, Mulder nodded and dutifully held his arm under the running water while she left to get the first aid supplies. He balked when she wanted to dry the still-bleeding cut with one of her mother’s towels, but Scully assured him that this was one of the towels her mother kept on hand for just this sort of occasion. Upon closer inspection, he noted the faded stains of cuts, scrapes and skinned knees gone by.

After she’d dried his arm, she sprayed it with an antibiotic, and applied the bandage, snug but not too tight. “Does that feel all right?” she asked him.

He nodded. “Yeah. It’s good.” He gave her a grateful smile. “Thanks,”

She patted him lightly on his other arm. “You’re welcome. I wish I didn’t have to put you back together so often, though.”

Even though this time it really wasn’t his fault, he felt a little ashamed by the sentiment she’d expressed. “I know,” he said in a quiet voice, meeting her eyes briefly, then glancing quickly away. He shivered from the chill air on his bare arms.

If Scully noticed his discomfort, she didn’t comment on it, devoting all her attention to putting the first aid kit back in order and stowing it back in the bathroom cabinet. When she finished, she gave him such a smile of affection that his goosebumps fled as quickly as they’d arrived. “So what happened out there?” she asked.

He recited the events as he recalled them, ending with, “I don’t know if he hit any other cars. I didn’t think to look.”

“Good,” she said. “There may have been more than the one you surprised.”

He nodded. “The cops can check to see if any other cars were damaged.”

She tapped him lightly on his arm. “Come on. Let’s see if they’re here yet.” She handed him a long-sleeved, button-down shirt. “Don’t ask,” she said before he could even formulate the question.

As she helped him into it and buttoned it for him, he was relieved at how loosely it hung on him. That meant it had belonged to Bill, not Charlie. He almost laughed; a few years ago, he would *never* have thought of Bill as the ‘good’ brother.

When they got downstairs, Maggie hurried over to them. “How are you doing, Fox?” she asked him, then looked to her daughter for the answer.

Amused, Mulder let his partner respond. “He’s okay, Mom. His arm’s sliced a bit, but it’s not too bad. He doesn’t even need stitches.”

Scully’s mother smiled at him. “That’s good.” She glanced at the front door. “The police are here. They found a few other cars damaged, and they’d like to speak with you, Fox.”

Nodding, he headed for the door, but Scully stopped him. “I’ll ask them to come inside since your coat’s not wearable at the moment.”

Not too eager to go outside without his coat or even his suit jacket, Mulder readily agreed. “Okay.” He hung back while she went outside, then returned a few minutes later with a police officer.

Mulder gave his statement and as much of a description as he could of his fleeing attacker; fifteen minutes later, the police left and Mulder, Scully and Maggie finally sat down to dinner.

After the exciting start to the evening, they enjoyed a quiet meal, then Scully drove them home, and Mulder fell asleep in the car.

**

Thursday, February 9

Near Maggie Scully’s House

6:12 p.m.

The woman watched from the shadows as the boyfriend interrupted her hired thug’s task. The minimal damage to the car was disappointing, but when the boyfriend fell to the ground clutching his arm in pain, inspiration–and not a small amount of exhilaration–struck.

Damage to mere inanimate possessions no longer interested her. Personal damage was a much more satisfying plan of action.

Dana Scully’s latest conquest was her target now. If the woman didn’t know anything else about Dana, she knew that Dana would suffer for the harm wrought upon someone close to the female agent, especially when Dana discovered that Dana was the source of that harm.

For Dana had harmed someone who had loved Dana, someone the woman had loved. Dana had not loved him back, but the woman could forgive her that. But he had loved Dana more than he had loved the woman.

And for that Dana could not be forgiven. For that she would suffer.

**

Act I

Saturday, February 11

Baltic Ice Skating Arena

Baltimore, MD

9:47 a.m.

“Hey, Matty… You been holding out on me, buddy?”

The little boy skating beside Mulder looked up at him curiously. “What do you mean, Uncle Mulder?”

“You told me you’d never been on ice skates before, but here you are skating like a pro.”

Matthew’s face lit up. “D’you really think so?” Then the smile changed to fear. “Honest, Uncle. This is my first time. I didn’t lie to you.”

Mulder skated them out of the line of traffic on the rink. “Hey, easy, buddy. I was only kidding.” He knelt down so that he was eye level with Scully’s nephew. “I’m not mad at you. I was only putting you on.”

Matthew nodded solemnly, and Mulder could tell he didn’t fully understand. He placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I only meant that I’m proud of you. You’re doing a great job of skating for your first time.”

Mulder got a glimpse of Matthew’s broad smile before the boy threw his arms around the agent’s neck and hugged him for all he was worth.

Caught a little off-guard at first, Mulder quickly returned the hug, pleased that Bill’s son didn’t harbor the disdain that Bill had so freely displayed toward Mulder. He enjoyed spending time with the boy, and was almost desperate for Matthew to like him, too. Although initially wary of his presence, Matthew was growing more and more used to ‘Uncle Mulder’s’ being a part of his life.

“Hey, you two.” At his partner’s voice, the man and boy separated, both grinning at each other before giving their attention to Auntie Dana.

“Uncle Mulder said I’m doing real good!” Matthew said, beaming.

“I know! You are!” Scully smiled at her nephew. “I was watching.”

She knelt beside Mulder. “I came to see if you boys wanted to join me in a cup of hot chocolate.”

Mulder winked at Matthew. “I don’t know, Scully,” he said. “Are you sure the three of us will fit in that little cup?”

The young boy giggled at that, and Scully tousled his hair. “Come on, you two. Let’s go see how big those cups are.”

Mulder straightened, wincing when the boy bumped against his sore arm. He was grateful when Scully didn’t say anything, although he was sure she noticed. Scully had wanted him to skip the day they had planned with Matthew, but Mulder had convinced her that he’d be fine, and she’d eventually given in. Neither of them had wanted to disappoint the little boy.

“You two go ahead,” Mulder said. “I’m just going to visit the men’s room.” He looked at the child. “Matt? You need to go?”

Matthew shook his head. “I wanna go to the snack bar.” He was practically bouncing out of his skates with excitement.

Mulder chuckled. “Okay. I’ll meet you there.” He took off ahead of them, heading for the opening to exit the ice. As he was rounding the far side of the rink, he looked up when he heard a gaggle of loud voices coming off to his left. His mind had no sooner registered the group of teenaged boys shoving and pushing at each other when they ploughed right into him, bashing him into the boards and then landing on top of him.

As they peeled off from him, he couldn’t prevent a cry of pain. Squeezing his eyes shut against the pain from his injured arm and from his wrist, he lay there panting, listening to the boys’ laughter as they fled.

“Mulder!” He heard Scully’s voice not too far away.

Knowing Matty was with her, and not wanting to frighten the boy, Mulder opened his eyes and forced a smile onto his face.

“Are you hurt?” his partner asked.

He heard the anxiety in her voice and saw Matthew standing stock-still, his eyes wide open, staring at Mulder. Motioning his partner closer, he whispered, “My wrist. And I think my arm’s bleeding again.”

“Are you all right, sir?”

The voice came from behind Scully; Mulder recognized the muscular man dwarfing his partner as one of the rink guards. “I think I sprained my wrist,” he told the man. As the guard knelt at Mulder’s side, the agent said softly to his partner, “Scully, why don’t you take Matthew to get that hot chocolate?”

“I’m not leaving you here, Mulder. You could be seriously hurt–”

“I’m a registered EMT, ma’am,” the man said. He glanced at Matthew, who looked scared to death. “Perhaps it might be better for the boy if he didn’t see his dad in pain,” he said in a gentle voice.

Both Mulder and Scully opened their mouths to protest that statement, but when their eyes met, they agreed to let it slide.

Scully nodded and led Matthew away. “Come on, Matty. We’ll let…” She looked at the man questioningly.

“Larry,” he said.

She smiled at Larry. “We’ll let Larry help Uncle Mulder up. He’s much too heavy for us.”

Mulder stuck his tongue out at her, and Matthew laughed. Then the boy became serious once again. “Are you okay, Uncle Mulder?”

“Sure am, buddy. I’m just gonna let Larry look me over. It’s the rules, you know. You and Auntie Dana go get a hot chocolate, and I’ll see you in a few minutes. Okay?”

Matthew nodded. “Okay.”

Scully looked upset to be leaving him, but what could they do? Matthew had already been traumatized by his father’s death; now that he was growing closer to Mulder they didn’t want to put him through seeing his friend suffering.

As they skated away, Mulder asked Larry, “Can you give me a hand up?” Between his already-injured right arm and the sprained wrist on his left, he was finding it hard to lever himself off the ice. He took in a group of teenaged girls who giggled behind their hands as they skated by his prone form. “Besides freezing my ass off, I’m not too thrilled at being the center of attention.”

The medic’s eyes scanned Mulder’s body. “Are you sure you’re not hurt anywhere else?”

Mulder shook his head. “Just the wrist. And I think my arm’s bleeding, but that’s from an injury I already had. The fall reopened the wound.”

Larry nodded, then grasped the arm Mulder extended. To Mulder’s relief, his extraction off the ice and out of the rink was handled with a minimum of pain–both physical and mental. Once he was upright, aside from a few cursory glances, his exit went largely unnoticed.

After checking him over, the medic wrapped an ace bandage around his wrist and applied a fresh dressing to his arm. Mulder was grateful for the sling the medic insisted he wear; his wrist was killing him, and he knew from past experience that it would feel better in a raised position.

When Mulder came out of the small infirmary, he found Scully and Matthew waiting for him. He let them help him to the nearest bench, where Scully removed his skates and replaced them with his sneakers.

As she went to tie them for the one-handed Mulder, Matthew asked, “Can I do it?” He looked at Mulder and then at his aunt. “My dad taught me how to tie my shoes right before…” He looked away and swallowed. “You know.”

Mulder exchanged a glance of sympathy with his partner. “Sure, Matty,” Mulder told the boy. “I’m sure he taught you real good.”

The agent waited patiently while the boy very carefully tied his sneaker, and then tied a double-knot. Mulder looked at Scully, and they shared a smile. When Matt finished the other sneaker, he gazed up at Mulder. “There! Now you won’t fall and get more hurt, Uncle Mulder.”

Mulder felt his eyes filling; he turned his head and blinked rapidly, trying to clear the water away. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “Thanks, Matty,” he said sincerely.

“You’re welcome,” the boy said, smiling shyly.

Mulder returned the smile, then looked at Scully’s and Matthew’s sneaker-encased feet. “You didn’t have to change out of your skates,” he said, feeling embarrassed at ruining Matthew’s day. “I’m all right. Why don’t you go and skate some more?”

The child squeezed onto the bench beside him. “But we want to take care of you, Uncle Mulder.” The boy inched his small hand into Mulder’s larger one, and Mulder grasped it gently. The agent looked helplessly at his partner, no idea what he should say.

“Uncle Mulder is sad because he thinks we aren’t going to have any fun because he has a sore arm,” his partner told Matthew.

“But I *did* have fun,” Matthew insisted. “I learned to skate, and Uncle Mulder told funny jokes that made us laugh.” He looked up at his aunt. “And you tickled Uncle Mulder and made him laugh, and we had pancakes with whipped cream in a real restaurant, and we had hot chocolate in the middle of the day!” The little boy smiled at Mulder. “I had lots of fun with you and Auntie Dana.” The small hand in Mulder’s grip tightened. “But I was scared when those bad boys crashed into you.”

Mulder swallowed. “I know, Matty. I’m sorry.”

Matthew snuggled against Mulder. “But you’re okay, right, Uncle?”

Mulder studiously ignored the throbbing pain in his wrist. “You bet, buddy.”

“Come on, boys,” Scully said, giving Mulder an unnecessary hand up, which he appreciated nonetheless. “I know at least one young man who needs a nap.”

Mulder smiled. She could have been referring to her nephew, but he was pretty sure she wasn’t.

He acquiesced gracefully and followed her out the door.

**

Tuesday, February 14

Mulder’s & Scully’s Duplex

Georgetown

10:43 p.m.

“Whew! I’m bushed. All that dancing was nice, and I hope you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day, Scully, but I am so wiped.” Mulder unlocked the door and followed his partner inside.

“Oh?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Barely remembering to close, let alone lock the door behind him because he knew what that combination of eye plus ‘oh’ meant, Mulder suddenly perked up. “I stand corrected,” he informed her. “My second wind has just kicked in.” Sidling up beside her, he asked, “Did you have something in mind?”

“Mmm hmmm.” She touched a finger to his collarbone and slid it down slowly; when she reached his belt she brought her smoky–he swore they were smoky–eyes to his. “Something…” she said in the voice that always caused an immediate reaction in what she said was her very favorite body part.

He looked down at said body part. “Well, I’m ready.”

She followed the direction his eyes had taken. “I can see that.”

When she made no move to take this further, Mulder almost whined his dismay. While this particular game annoyed him, it also aroused the hell out of him. Another few seconds and he’d start trembling from trying to restrain himself. Oh, the hell with it, he thought. “Sculllly…” he whined.

Apparently she’d been waiting for it, because she burst out laughing. “God, I love you like this, Mulder.”

He was so whipped because he knew she did and even though it was torture for him, he endured it because he also knew that it turned her on, and that was always a good thing.

“I’m glad your wrist wasn’t sprained after all, because what I have planned for you might be a bit… strenuous. And you’ll need all your body parts in good working condition.”

Oh, yeah, this was worth the expensive dinner and the dancing until he thought his feet would drop off. A happy Scully was a playful, energetic, and dangerous Scully.

And, as Mulder so often thought of himself, he was *made* for danger.

**

Wednesday, February 15

Rock Creek Park

Georgetown

6:16 a.m.

The sun was getting ready to make its appearance when Mulder noticed the headlights. The pick-up was approaching from the west, and from the way it was weaving all over the narrow road, he watched it rather warily. There was nothing more dangerous to a jogger than a vehicle with an impaired driver at the wheel.

As the truck drew closer, it veered away from him, but he kept an eye on it nonetheless; about fifty feet from his position, it careened right toward him. In his desperation to get out of harm’s way, Mulder lunged for the side of the road, not unaware that he was hurtling himself over the side of a steep hill. Still, Mulder thought, grunting from the impact of protruding rocks against his torso as he tumbled down the incline, it was better than the damage the car would have inflicted on him if he’d been hit.

His plunge came to an abrupt halt when he ploughed into a large oak, his head bouncing off like a three-pointer to the backboard. The brilliant sunrise hurt his eyes only a moment before it dissolved into blackness.

**

Mulder’s & Scully’s Duplex

Georgetown

7:05 a.m.

When Scully emerged from her shower, she was surprised to find no trace of her partner.

“Mulder?” Her inquiry was answered only by silence. Figuring he must have fallen asleep after his run, she dried off and dressed, deciding to let him sleep a little. Although they’d both been up late due to the evening’s ‘activities,’ Mulder had still been up and out the door when she’d cracked open an eye to peer at the clock.

She’d groaned at the numbers displayed before her; there was no way in hell she’d ever be out for a jog at 5:30 on a winter morning. Yet Mulder went, religiously, every day. Out by 5:30, back by 7. What a disappointment not to find her naked partner waiting by the bathroom door for his turn at the shower today.

“Mulder, you’d better get a move on if–” She stopped short when he wasn’t in bed like she’d expected him to be. “Mulder?” Quickly checking the rest of the house confirmed the fact that he wasn’t there.

A glance at the clock showed the time as 7:20, not overly late, yet late enough that she felt justified in calling him. When she received no answer, she began to worry in earnest. His phone wasn’t there, so she knew he had it with him. She knew he just might not be hearing it, but that coupled with his lateness was all the reason she needed to go out and look for him. She grabbed her medical bag before she made her way to the car.

Grateful that she’d gotten his route out of him for just this occurrence, she put the car in gear and headed for Rock Creek Park.

**

Rock Creek Park

7:31 a.m.

Mulder’s first thought upon awakening was if he’d gotten the number of the truck that had hit him. His eyes popped open when he remembered that that was pretty close to what had happened.

Upon realizing that the sun was fully risen, he checked his watch and swore. Relieved to find his phone still in his pocket *and* working, he pulled it out–taking note of the five calls he’d received from his partner within the space of ten minutes–and punched in Scully’s number.

“Mulder, where are you?” had never sounded so good.

“In the park,” he told her. “I fell down a hill.”

“You fell?” He was grateful for the disbelief in her voice.

“Well, dove is a more accurate term,” he said, trying not to groan as he climbed to his feet.

“Are you all right? I’m going to honk my horn. Can you hear it?”

It sounded so loud, he jumped. “Yeah! You’re right on top of me, Scully.”

“Are you injured?” she asked.

He tested his limbs, and everything seemed to work, so he told her, “Just a few bruises, and one hell of a headache.”

“Did you hit your head?” He saw her coming into view and waved to her.

“Yeah. I was out for about an hour.”

“You were unconscious that long? Stay right where you are,” she ordered.

He waited until she was by his side, then clicked off as she did the same. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” she returned, gently pushing him back to the ground. “Any dizziness, nausea?” she asked, probing his head with her fingertips.

“A little,” he admitted, feeling a slight fluttering in his stomach at almost the instant she asked. The dizziness he’d been fighting off since he woke, but now that he allowed himself to relax a little, it became more pronounced. He was glad he was already sitting down.

He’d been gritting his teeth while she’d been examining his head, and he breathed a sigh of relief when she finally stopped. “How’s it look?”

“You’ve got a pretty good-sized lump there,” she told him as she did the finger-tracking thing. “Hm. Pupils are a little sluggish. You know what that means.”

He sighed. “Concussion. Hospital. Great.”

She helped him back to his feet, and then kept hold of him as they made their way back up the hill. He was able to hold it together until they reached the top, and then he collapsed to his knees. He was shaking, his head hurt, and he needed to throw up.

“Are you all right?”

Afraid to open his mouth, he shook his head, which only served to crank up the headache–and the nausea. He lost last night’s dinner right there in front of her. Too miserable to be embarrassed, he accepted her strength as she supported him, then her comfort after he’d crumpled into her arms.

She let him rest a few minutes, then settled him in the car, telling him she was driving them straight to the emergency room. For once, Mulder didn’t argue.

The hospital had all the best drugs.

**

Act II

Thursday, February 16

Mulder’s and Scully’s Townhouse

2:14 p.m.

“So what do you think, Scully?”

Her partner’s sleep-roughened query sent a tingle up her spine while concurrently giving her heart failure. She’d been in the process of tucking a blanket around his reposing form when he decided to scare the life out of her.

“Jesus!” she declared, jerking back and holding a hand to her chest. “I thought you were asleep!”

“I was, for a minute, but I can’t get comfortable here.” Rolling carefully to his side, he grunted his way to a sitting position on the couch, then leaned back into the cushions. “God, I’m just one big black and blue.”

Scully studied him for a moment; he wasn’t too far off the mark, really. Someone was chipping away at him, piece by piece; they’d agreed on that after the car incident. “Do you know who could be doing this, Mulder?”

He shook his head. “I can think of any number who’d want to kill me, but none who’d want to just bruise me.” He looked up at her. “It’s kind of weird, don’t you think?”

It was, but she had a theory about that. “Maybe it’s someone who has some sort of grudge against you, but isn’t a killer.”

“You mean someone who has enough screws loose to cause physical harm, but not enough to go all the way?”

She frowned at the analogy he’d used, then nodded. “Who have you pissed off lately?”

He looked surprised and hurt. “Why do you assume that I’m the antagonist?”

She immediately felt remorseful. “I’m sorry,” she told him, walking over and sitting beside him. “It just makes sense that it would be someone you’ve had contact with recently, someone you rubbed the wrong way, for whatever reason.”

While he was absorbing her words, she very gently stroked his back between his shoulder blades. God knew, she loved him, but not too many other people felt the same.

Finally, he let out a weary sigh. “I don’t know, Scully. I can think of any number I may have ticked off, but not to this extent.” He brought his gaze up to meet hers. “But somebody who’s gonna do this probably doesn’t need much incentive.”

“Well, we’ll just have to limit their opportunities to get at you.”

“How are we going to do that?” he asked around a yawn. “We don’t have any proof that these weren’t unrelated events. We don’t have any information about the driver of that car, those boys might have picked me at random, and the guy outside your mother’s didn’t even know I was coming back out.”

Scully thought it over. As unlikely as she thought it was that these were unrelated, she knew he was right. They had no proof that anyone was out to get her partner. Still…

“I don’t care. I’m going to ask Skinner for protection for you. If he says no, we’re no worse off than we are now.” Mulder sighed; she knew how he hated being babysat, but an unhappy Mulder was better than a dead Mulder. “It won’t be for too long,” she told him. “Just until we find out who’s doing this to you.”

“Can’t you be my bodyguard?” he asked in a dejected voice.

“For the most part, I will be. But I’d like someone sitting outside watching the house. Maybe whoever’s doing this will think twice if they realize we’re aware of the threat and, consequently, that we’re actively investigating these attacks.”

Mulder nodded. “Okay. I can live with that.” With a groan, he rose to his feet. “Where do you want to start?”

His actions belied his words as he shuffled to the bedroom. She could tell his head was still killing him by the slow, careful tread of his step. Stealing a glance at the VCR clock, she noted that he had another half hour before he was due for his pain meds. She caught up with him and guided him into the darkened bedroom. “I’ll call Skinner, and you lie down until you can take another Percocet.”

“Uh, huh,” he said around a grimace, as he settled onto the queen-sized bed.

“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned by his compliance.

“I have the mother of all headaches,” he said in a voice that was so filled with pain, it brought tears to her eyes. She was tempted to disregard the timetable and just give him a pill, but she knew that the span of time between doses was there for a reason. As a physician, she’d been trained to respect and adhere to those types of rules; as a woman, though, she couldn’t stand to see Mulder suffering.

She’d blow off the half hour this once, but if it became a common occurrence, she’d have to request something stronger. Of course, if his head hurt that much, she’d have him back in the hospital so fast his head would spin, as well as hurt.

“I’m going to get you something for the pain, Mulder.” She patted him gently on his shoulder. “Be right back.”

He didn’t open his eyes, but she heard the croaked out, “Uh, huh.”

Upon returning, she found him with his arms wrapped around his head. After calling his name a couple of times brought no reaction, she tapped him lightly on his arm.

“Scully?”

“It’s me,” she said softly. “Come on. I have something that should help with that headache.”

Removing both arms, he gazed up at her through squinted eyes. “Oh, thank God. I thought I imagined it.”

She smiled sadly. “You didn’t.” She held the pill out. “Open.”

When he complied, she placed the pill against his lip, and he took it into his mouth. His hand was trembling, so she guided the glass of water to his lips, and he swallowed enough to get the pill down.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

She sat with him, massaging his temples, until he fell asleep.

**

Tuesday, February 21

Baltimore, Maryland

12:25 p.m.

It was very frustrating. After her successful encounter at Rock Creek Park, Fox Mulder had become virtually untouchable.

Someone was always with him, and she was dismayed to discover that his home was under surveillance. She knew that eventually the security would relax, but she had no desire to wait it out.

Revenge would be hers, and she was not about to wait for it.

**

Tuesday, February 21

X-Files Office

4:46 p.m.

“Whoa. Slow down, Mom. I can’t understand you.”

At the anxiety in his partner’s voice, Mulder looked up from the file he’d been reviewing. Cases from the past few years had yielded nothing, so now they were digging back into cases from five and six years ago. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

She held up a finger for silence, and he watched his partner’s countenance change from curiosity to alarm. “Is she sure? She didn’t arrange for a neighbor to meet them, and Matthew went off to get a soda or play video games or something?”

The mention of Scully’s nephew’s name brought Mulder’s full attention to his partner’s conversation.

“All right… Yes… Okay, Mom. Stay put. Mulder and I will be right over.” She flipped her cell phone shut and looked up, her face a picture of shock.

“What is it, Scully?” he asked, rising quickly and walking over to her. “Did something happen to Matthew?”

His partner nodded dully. “Tara took the kids to the mall after she picked up Matthew from school. They were in the ladies room… Tara was changing the baby’s diaper…” She looked up at him. “She turned away for a minute, and when she turned back he was gone.”

Mulder’s investigative skills kicked in. “She didn’t hear anything? He didn’t make any noise when he was taken?”

Scully shook her head. “She said no. She does remember the outside door opening and closing, but no one came in or went out. At the time she thought it was strange, but she was distracted with the baby. She figured whoever it was didn’t want to come in because of the smell from the diaper.” His partner took a breath. “That’s what took her attention for so long. The baby was a mess.”

“What about at the mall? Didn’t anybody see anything?”

“Uh…” Scully seemed to forget the question for a minute, but then she focused. “I couldn’t get any more details out of my mother. She was near hysterical.”

“I don’t blame her,” Mulder said sympathetically. He grabbed their coats. “Come on. Let’s go.” He slipped his coat on, then helped his shell-shocked partner into hers.

A horrible thought occurred to him as they waited for the elevator. Was he somehow responsible for Matthew’s abduction? Had this person taken Matthew because he couldn’t get to Mulder? If the same person was responsible for what happened at the ice rink, that person would be aware that Matthew somehow meant something to Mulder.

The elevator dinged its arrival, and he ushered Scully inside, hyper-aware of his fingers on her back. What would she think if her only nephew had been abducted because of her relationship with Mulder?

She should hate him for it. She should rue the day she ever laid eyes on him, and wish she’d never met him.

Yet she wouldn’t. She’d tell him that no one blamed him, and no one hated him, and it wasn’t his fault.

She’d be wrong.

**

Wednesday, February 22

En route from Baltimore to Georgetown

1:06 a.m.

Scully was exhausted. Although Tara had called the police and given her statement almost immediately after Matthew went missing, the two trained investigators knew they needed to hear the story for themselves. When they arrived at Tara’s, however, they were confronted with two hysterical women; a brief second of eye contact was all the communication they’d needed to know how they’d proceed.

Mulder sat in the living room with Tara while Scully tried to comfort her mother in the kitchen. Once she’d settled her mom at the table with a cup of tea, they’d paid more attention to what was being said in the other room than to each other.

Scully hoped the gentle timbre of her partner’s voice helped to calm Tara’s nerves a little; she knew it did wonders for her own nerves, and it seemed to be working on her mother, too. When Tara’s frenzied responses quieted down enough that Scully could no longer hear them, she knew that Mulder had succeeded in assuaging Tara enough that she could more clearly think through what she could remember.

After about half an hour, Mulder had come to the kitchen to ask her mother to stay with Tara while he and Scully discussed their next step. They’d decided that it would be in their best interests to check in with BPD, and let them know of Mulder’s and Scully’s personal involvement in this case and their intention to pursue an investigation.

The police lieutenant they’d spoken with had been more than happy to let the Feds take over the investigation. Overworked and understaffed, the police department wasn’t about to turn down an offer of help. After clearing it with Skinner, the case was theirs.

They’d gone to BPD to retrieve witness statements–which boiled down to an elderly couple recalling a boy of Matthew’s description walking hand-in-hand away from the ladies room with a woman of around thirty-five. Not much to go on, but the couple recalled how frightened the boy had looked, although he went with the woman willingly. After having been shown a picture of Matthew, they thought it might be him but they couldn’t be sure.

But it was the best lead they had, and Mulder had told her his gut said it felt right. And then he’d told her why.

Since she’d learned to trust Mulder’s instincts, she went along with his belief that whoever took Matthew did so because he couldn’t get to Mulder. She hated that she believed that, but it made sense.

She glanced at her partner, then kept her gaze on him as they took the on-ramp to the beltway. He was beating himself up over this, and no amount of support, no heartfelt assurances that she still loved him, would penetrate that thick skull of his. No one did self-flagellation like Mulder.

Yet, she’d try anyway. He’d acknowledge it, and he’d appreciate it; he just wouldn’t believe it. And Scully would get frustrated and angry and shut him out. And Mulder would accept it because it’s how he believed she should feel toward him. Which would only increase her frustration because she’d proven him right.

Maybe she’d try another approach this time. No support, no heartfelt assurances. Just two agents striving toward finding one little boy.

“Do you think our perp is a woman?” she asked him.

“What?” She’d startled him out of his thoughts, and he took a moment to regroup before nodding. “Yes. I do.”

“Someone you know? Or knew?”

He blew out a breath. “I’ve been trying, but I can’t think of anyone who would do this.”

“No one you’ve spurned in the past few years? Maybe this has nothing to do with any of our cases.”

He drew in a breath, then let it out slowly. Pursing his lips, he shook his head. “I haven’t been close to a woman in years, Scully. Except for you.”

She couldn’t help but smile at that before her mind returned to business. “Maybe someone had a crush on you, made a pass at you that you didn’t reciprocate?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. How would I know? God, I’m so tired I can’t even think any more.”

She had to chuckle. “Mulder, all you do *is* think.”

He allowed a small smile to crease his face. “Maybe. But it’s not very productive thinking.” He glanced at her before turning back to the road. “Mostly, it’s *de*structive thinking.” Another shrug. “You know.”

Indeed she did, but she wasn’t about to fall for that encouragement trap crap. “Yup,” she answered simply.

The surprise on his face was almost comical; were it not for the serious nature of the subject matter, she would have laughed out loud. He looked thoughtful for a minute before his expression changed, and he nodded his head in understanding. “You’re trying a different tactic this time.”

It was her turn to shrug. “You’re going to feel the same regardless of what I say or do.”

He ducked his head as if trying to hide from her. “It’s not intentional, Scully. I can’t help the way I feel.”

She nodded. “I realize that.”

He drove in silence for a few miles, the sound of their breathing the only sound in the car. “I know you love me, no matter what,” he said finally.

She looked hard at him. “Do you? Do you really know that, or are you telling me what you think I want to hear?”

He took in a shaky breath. “I know it. Even when you don’t want to, you do.” Taking his eyes off the road, he turned pleading eyes upon her. “But I don’t know if that’s right, Scully. I don’t know that you should love me sometimes.” He looked away. “I don’t know if I want you to.”

She closed her eyes and sighed; so much for changing tactics. This man could try the patience of a saint. Just when she thought she’d broken him of that ‘I’m responsible for every bad thing that happens in Scully’s life’ mindset, he finds a new way to prove that she hasn’t. Did he truly think she should stop loving him whenever things went wrong? Did he think it now?

“And is this one of those times?” she asked him.

He almost smiled, shaking his head. “No. I don’t think that this was a direct result of anything I did. This perp may be fixated on me, but I think a lot of it’s in her mind.” He glanced over at her. “You’re probably more aware of women noticing me than I am. Has anyone seemed… I don’t know… enthralled by me lately? Anyone looking when I wasn’t?”

Scully didn’t have to think too hard. She noticed any time some woman cast an appreciative eye Mulder’s way. Of course, she wasn’t about to let on to him, so she waited a respectable fifteen seconds before answering. “Oh, twenty or thirty, but that’s nothing new.”

At Mulder’s startled look, Scully laughed. “What? Are you going to tell me you didn’t know?”

Mulder shook his head, then a blush colored his cheeks. “Well… not that many.” He gave her a sideways look. “Are you sure you’re not padding that figure a little?”

She smiled at him. “Not really, stud. Everywhere we go, women’s gazes linger over you. One glare from me, though, is usually enough to back them off.”

He looked like he didn’t believe her but he smiled anyway. “Thanks. I think.” He stole a glance at her. “So… anybody glare back?”

“Nope.” She met his glance. “I would have remembered.”

He blew out a breath. “So we’re back to square one.”

Ashamed that they’d been joking while poor Matthew was going through who-knew-what, Scully dipped her head. “Yeah. No suspects and no leads.”

“I guess we’ll have to hope that whoever has him still wants me, and contacts us.”

Her head snapped up at that. “Contacts you, you mean.”

He shrugged. “Whatever.”

“No,” she said, knowing exactly what he would do when that call came. “You will not go off on your own. You will not sacrifice yourself, even for Matthew.”

He had the good grace to look properly chastised. “I won’t,” he said without an ounce of conviction in his voice.

“Mulder…” she said in a warning tone. “Promise me you’ll tell me if you get a call. Promise me you won’t take off and leave me in the dark as to your whereabouts.”

“Scully…” She knew he was loath to promise because he was afraid that when the time came, he would disappoint her. Yet she knew that if she got him to commit to a promise, he would at least consider her feelings before he went off half-assed and did something they’d both regret. So getting him to promise was important, and she would not back down.

“Promise me, Mulder,” she pressed. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t go, I’m just saying I want you to let me know. I want to be able to cover your back if anything happens.” She frowned. “Which we know usually does.”

He took a deep breath, then nodded his head. “I promise. I’ll call you right after I get the call.”

She squeezed his knee gently. “Thanks, partner.”

Mulder didn’t say anything; he just nodded his head solemnly and laid a hand over hers.

They drove the rest of the way in silence.

**

Wednesday, February 22

X-Files Office

4:20 p.m.

When the call finally came, Scully wasn’t with him. She had gone to church to pray with her mother, and when Mulder phoned her, he got her voice mail. Assuming she had turned the ringer to silent, he could do nothing but leave her a message.

He gave her the address he’d been given, even though he knew it would not be the final destination. The caller, who was not a woman, he noted, directed him to leave his gun and cell phone at home, and to be at the address provided–a pay phone, he suspected–in fifteen minutes. Mulder knew the location and knew that he had no time to spare to call his partner. He called her anyway.

Since he took the call on his cell in the basement office, Mulder was certain that the kidnapper could not see him, especially since he was told to leave his phone and gun ‘at home.’ Still, he didn’t know what resources this person had, and he didn’t want to take any chances with Matthew’s life, so he did as instructed and left his weapons and his phone on top of his desk.

He took a second to grab an item from his bottom desk drawer before he ran out the door.

**

Act III

Outside of St. Theresa Catholic Church

Baltimore, MD

4:49 p.m.

“Damn!” Scully swore after she’d listened to the message.

“What is it, Dana? Did something happen to Matthew?”

She heard the fear in her mother’s tone, and chastised herself for reacting as she did in front of her. “No, Mom. I’m upset because the kidnapper called Mulder, and he’s gone off to meet her alone.”

“Why did the kidnapper call Fox?” Mrs. Scully asked.

Oh, damn. She really didn’t want her mother to know that Matthew was taken as some kind of vendetta against Mulder. They’d followed standard kidnapping procedures, enlisting the aid of a team who were standing by at Tara’s home, waiting for the ransom call. That the call would most likely come to her partner had never been disclosed to her mother or Tara.

“We…” She hesitated and took a breath, glancing at her mother, but unable to maintain eye contact. “We think Matty may have been taken by someone who knows Mulder.”

“What do you mean, Dana? Why would a friend of Fox’s take Matthew?”

Oh, God, this was going to be hard. “She’s not a friend of his, Mom. She’s…” How could she put this so her mother wouldn’t blame Mulder? “We think some woman… some woman who Mulder might not even know… has been attacking him or having him attacked. When we put him under protection, we think she took Matthew to get to Mulder.”

“What? Some… She took…” her mother spluttered. Then she grabbed her daughter’s elbow, forcing her to face her. “You’re telling me this is because of Fox? Some crazy woman took my baby because she wanted Fox?”

Although she didn’t want to, Scully nodded.

Mrs. Scully released her and turned away. When she started speaking in a low voice, Scully had to strain to hear her. “I don’t know whether or not Fox is responsible for this atrocity, Dana. And I know it’s not fair to him, especially since he’s gone to try to get Matthew back…” Her mother spun back around to face her. “…but sometimes I wish you’d never met him. Sometimes I think we’d all be better off if you’d never brought him into our lives.”

Scully felt her eyes sting with tears. It hurt to hear it, hurt to find herself agreeing with her mother. And it hurt that Mulder was well aware that she sometimes felt this way, sometimes wished he’d never crossed her path. Yet if they hadn’t met, she couldn’t help but feel that she would have missed out on the most enriching experience of her life by not knowing him, not being loved by him, not loving him.

It was true that his presence had at times hurt her, but she knew without a doubt that his absence would kill her. So she was sorry about her sister, her brother and her nephew, but she’d never be sorry Mulder was in her life.

Even when he was.

**

Unknown Location

7:05 p.m.

An old hand at blindfolds, Mulder fought against the claustrophobic effect the hood was beginning to have on him. He estimated an hour and a half had passed since he’d been ordered to strip naked and change into a whole new set of clothes; it had almost killed him to trade the Armani for the ever-elegant hospital scrubs and slippers. They wouldn’t even let him keep his own socks and shoes!

As he bid adieu to another article of clothing, his hands were tied behind his back and the heavy burlap sack was unceremoniously dropped over his head. The cloth was thick and smelled of rancid water buffalo, and his first breath in caused him to gag. As he tried to prevent himself from vomiting, it hit him that that’s what the smell was: someone had already beaten him to it. For the next few minutes, he was occupied with keeping his lunch where it belonged.

By the time he’d adjusted to the odor, and he’d given his mind a good talking to about dwelling on the pure ickiness of what he’d been forced to wear, they were well under way and he hadn’t a clue in hell as to which direction they were heading.

He’d congratulated himself for recognizing the clothes switch scenario from an old McGyver episode, but the throw-up in the hood was pure genius. Of course, more than likely it wasn’t intentional and was provided by a previous ‘guest.’

Mulder froze. The ‘previous guest’ was probably Matthew. Poor kid must have been scared to death to… “Hey!” he addressed his ‘escorts,’ two men.

“Whaddaya want?” came a gravely voice from the front seat.

Mulder ‘looked’ toward the voice. “Did you take the kid?”

After a beat, ‘Brutus’ answered, “Yeah. What about it?”

“Is he okay?” Mulder asked. “Was he hurt or sick?”

“Kid puked in the car.” A chuckle. “But you probably guessed that.”

Well in control of himself now, Mulder said, “Yes, I did. But was he okay after that? Why’d you have to put the hood on him anyway? He’s a little kid. He wouldn’t know where he was.”

“The broad said he doesn’t see where he’s going, and she’s payin’ the big bucks, so we covered ‘im up.”

Mulder nodded. It would do no good arguing with them over the method they’d selected. It was over and done with now. “So is he all right?”

“Kid’s fine.” Mulder felt the car stop. “You can see for yourself in a minute.”

When he got out of the car, Mulder listened intently trying to get a fix on what kind of setting they could be in. He heard a brook or stream running nearby, and a few wild birdcalls. It was a cinch they were in a wooded area; the smell of pine was strong, even through the stinking sack, and he could feel the needles beneath his slippered feet. And Brutus and the phantom cursed a blue streak about having to ‘schlep in and out of the freakin’ jungle.’

He had to give them credit, though. They didn’t push or manhandle him during their trek; each took an arm and guided him unerringly through the forest. As seeing-eye dogs, they were a credit to their profession.

After about five minutes, they stopped, and Brutus rapped on the door. “It’s us. Open up.”

The door opened a few seconds later. Mulder was led inside, and the hood was pulled off. Finally. Blinking from the sudden onslaught of light, he took a few gulps of fresh air, savoring the sweetness of it until he spotted Matthew lying on a bed, asleep. After ascertaining that he was in good shape, he faced the woman who had planted herself about a foot from where he was standing.

“So you’re him.” She looked him up and down, almost timidly.

Mulder stared hard at the frail-looking woman, wracking his brain for some sort of recognition to pop into his brain. Nothing. Who was this fruitcake? “Do I know you?” he asked her.

She shook her head. “No, Mr. Mulder.” She gave him a grimace that he guessed was supposed to be a smile. “I don’t know you, either.”

Mulder was totally confused. “Then why…” He gestured toward Matthew with his chin. “What have I done to you?”

The woman sighed. “Not a thing. It’s not you who’s responsible. It’s *her*.”

Mulder didn’t know about whom she was speaking. His mother? His sister? What could either of them have done to this woman that she’d hate him so? “I don’t understand,” he said. “Who are you talking about?”

“*Her*.” She practically spat the word out. “He thought I was *her*.” Her eyes were full of loathing when they met his. “He would call for her. He always called for her.” He didn’t think it possible, but the hatred in the woman’s eyes grew stronger. “But she wasn’t there. I was there, and still he called for her.” As she looked back into her mind, her expression softened. “But I was there for him.” She looked at Mulder. “I pretended to be her, and I pretended it was me he loved.” She looked away again. “But it wasn’t me he loved. It wasn’t me he wanted.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, feeling this woman’s anguish. “But I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The woman pushed him into a chair. “Your lover. Dana.”

Mulder was stunned. “Scully? You’re talking about Scully?”

The woman’s upper lip curled up in a sneer. “Yes. For years I took care of him. Not out of a sense of duty, but out of love. And when he died it wasn’t his daughter he said goodbye to. It was his lover.” She stabbed him with her eyes. “*Her.* Your lover.”

Mulder just stared at the woman who vacillated between heartbreakingly vulnerable and heart-stoppingly scary. He had an idea of whom he might be dealing with now, and it gave him no measure of encouragement. For clearly the woman detested his partner, and whether or not those feelings were justified was irrelevant. She obviously felt they were, or he wouldn’t be here right now.

“What happened?” he asked softly. Then he added, “Maggie.”

Her head jerked up, and she stared at him in surprise. “She told you? About my father?”

Mulder nodded slowly. Scully had told him all about her affair with Daniel Waterston, Maggie Waterston’s father. About how he came into her life again after ten years, and how she left father and daughter to mend the bridges between them. And in the middle of finishing her tale, she’d fallen asleep on his couch. It was the first night they had slept together.

He looked at the woman standing before him. It seemed that things didn’t work out nearly as well for her as they had for him.

“Did she tell you that she broke up their marriage? That my father left my mother and followed her to Washington? That he moved there to be near her?” The woman looked calm, so Mulder answered honestly.

He shook his head. “She told me that she loved him, but she didn’t know he was married when she started a relationship with him–”

“That’s a lie!” Maggie screeched.

Mulder’s attention was drawn away from the furious woman by a whimpering sound off to his left. Maggie’s shriek had woken Matthew, and the boy was cowering under the covers. When he spotted Mulder, he scrambled out of the bed and ran to him, throwing his arms around Mulder’s middle. “Uncle Mulder!”

The agent wanted so much to hug the frightened child, but his hands were still bound behind his back. “Hey, buddy. You okay?”

Not giving any indication of letting go, Matthew nodded into Mulder’s stomach.

“Oh, for cripes sake!” Maggie forcibly pulled Matthew away from Mulder, and threw him onto the bed.

“Uncle!” Matty screamed, and Mulder’s heart clenched at the terror in that small voice.

“Hey, what’d you have to do that for? He wasn’t doing anything wrong.” He looked at Matthew. “It’s okay, Matt. You’ll be home soon,” he tried to soothe the terrified boy.

When Mulder looked back at his captor to ask her to take it easy on the kid, he sucked in a breath when he saw the malice in her eyes. A nod from her, and he was seized by Brutus and the phantom. “For God’s sake,” he pleaded with her, “do whatever you have to to me, but not in front of him.” He indicated Matthew with his head. “Don’t make him watch something like this.”

Maggie seemed amused by that. “Let him go,” she told the men, and they complied. Mulder sighed in relief at the reprieve, however brief it might be.

“Just what it is you think I’m going to do to you, Mr. Mulder?” she asked in a mild tone that scared the shit out of him.

“Uh… Beat me up?” He swallowed hard. God, he hoped that’s all she planned to have done to him. This woman was so off her rocker.

“And you don’t want her child to see that?”

Wha…? “He’s not her child. He’s her nephew,” Mulder corrected. Maybe she’d let Matthew go if —

‘I know that!” she yelled into his face, splattering him with her spittle. “He’s her brother’s son, so he’s of the same blood. That makes him hers.” She tilted her face in curiosity. “And yours?”

Having no idea what she was getting at, Mulder let his gaze slip away to the boy huddled in the corner, and he shook his head. “No. We’re not related.” He had a sudden thought that might garner him a little kinship with the crazy woman. “I have no family left.”

She studied him carefully, reading his face. “Neither do I,” she finally said softly.

“I’m sorry,” Mulder said sincerely.

“Me, too,” she said, turning around to gaze wistfully at Matthew. Suddenly, she pivoted on her heel and cracked the back of her hand across Mulder’s cheek. Totally unprepared for her attack, Mulder lost his balance and landed flat on his back, stunned. When he could think again, he found her towering over him, enraged.

“She said the same thing. To me. And to him. Right before she left him.” She lifted her booted foot and kicked him in the side with all the might of the truly insane. “She left! But he didn’t. He stayed, waiting for her to come back.” She looked down on him with distaste. “But she wasn’t coming back, was she?” She spat in his face. “Because she was with you.”

Mulder was beginning to get the picture; ignoring the wetness dripping down his face, he said, “But you didn’t want her to come back, did you, Maggie? You were glad when she didn’t return.”

“That’s right. She didn’t deserve him.”

“But it didn’t work out the way you thought, did it? He still wanted her.”

Maggie nodded. “He waited. For five years, until he got sick.” She looked at him, then helped him back up to his feet. “Alzheimer’s. He deteriorated pretty rapidly.”

Afraid that saying anything would trigger another outburst, Mulder just nodded.

“I kept him with me. Took care of him.”

Again Mulder nodded. He backed away when he saw the change come over her.

“When he was out of his mind, he thought he was with her. When he came back to reality, I could see the disappointment in his eyes.” She stabbed him with her eyes. “Do you what that feels like? Your own father disappointed because you were there and not some floozy!”

Mulder had to laugh at that. Oh, yeah, he could relate. “As a matter of fact, I do,” he said, and immediately wished he could take it back. Christ! When would he learn to keep his big yap shut?

“You don’t know anything!” she shouted at him.

“Right. Right. You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about,” he tried to backpedal.

“Don’t patronize me!” she shrieked.

He backed away, but it was right into the waiting arms of Brutus and the phantom. “Mr. Mulder is concerned about the boy’s delicate feelings.” She nodded approvingly at him. “Very commendable.” Her gaze shifted back to something resembling sanity. “I have nothing against you personally, Mr. Mulder. But your suffering will cause her to suffer.” She glanced back at Matthew. “I took the boy as bait. He won’t be hurt.”

Mulder nodded. “I’ll hold you to that.”

She chuckled, shaking her head. “It’s too bad you chose the wrong person to love, Mr. Mulder. If it wasn’t for that one flaw–and it’s a big one, mind you–I think I could go for a charmer like you.”

Mulder tried to suppress the shudder that thought produced. God, why did he attract all the loonies?

With a tilt of her head, she indicated the door. “Take Mr. Mulder far enough away that the boy won’t hear his screams.”

Mulder nodded his gratitude even as he pondered upon the absurdity of thanking the person who was giving the order to beat the living shit out of him.

**

6:16 p.m.

Scully stormed into the basement office and headed straight for Mulder’s desk and the bottom drawer.

Damn it, she’d wasted a good half hour mollifying her mother and trying to explain to Tara–and the agents at her house–why the call came to Mulder and not Tara. Surprisingly, her sister-in-law took the news much better than her mother, assigning the blame not to Mulder but to the woman who had fixated on him. She told Scully that she was glad it was Mulder rather than some nameless agent who went after Matthew because she knew that he’d do whatever it took to protect her son.

Scully felt a little better at that, even though she was worried out of her mind at just what lengths Mulder would go to to protect Matthew. Because he felt responsible for Matthew’s kidnapping, he was sure to call the brunt of the woman’s wrath upon himself and away from Matty.

Which is why she was in such a frenzy right now. Mulder’s message had told her where he’d been directed to go, but he also said he was certain it was only the first of many stops. And he’d left his phone and both his weapons–and his badge–behind. She nodded her approval; if the accomplices didn’t know Mulder was F.B.I., they might be more compelled to keep him alive.

She opened the desk drawer and rummaged around inside until she came up with the item for which she had been searching. It had been sort of a semi-serious joke gift from the gunmen to her when she and Mulder had informed them that they were officially a couple.

They’d taken her to the back room and presented her with what they called a ‘Mulder tracker.’ Simply put, it was a highly-sophisticated, almost undetectable electronic bug that was designed to be attached to the skin behind the ear. Painted a Mulder-matching flesh tone, it was near impossible to see once he put it on.

She’d loved it, he’d pretended to be insulted by it, but they both never thought they’d ever have to use it. It had been stuck in that bottom drawer for so long that she’d forgotten it had ever existed; trust Mulder’s steel-trap mind to remember it.

Taking the calculator-sized tracer out and placing it on her desk, she turned it on. A second later, she was rewarded with a red blip.

Mulder.

The trouble was, she didn’t know how to make heads or tails out of what she was seeing. She guessed she should have taken the gunmen up on their offer of lessons.

Digging through her purse, she brought out her phone and hit speed button 4, marveling that three paranoid geeks merited a number higher than her doctor or her hairdresser. “Turn off the tape,” she said automatically.

“Scully?” John Byers asked.

“It’s me. I need your help.”

Byers’ “Anything” brought a smile to her face. She could always count on her geeks.

“Long story short, Matthew’s been kidnapped, Mulder’s gone after him, and he’s wearing the bug.” She eyed the device. “I need your help to find him. I don’t know how to work the tracker.”

“Okay, Scully. We’ll be right over. Where are you?”

“In the office. How soon can you be here?”

There was a pause of about ten seconds, during which Scully tapped her foot impatiently. “Give us half an hour.”

She checked her watch. “Right. I’ll be out front.”

Disconnecting the call, she turned off the tracker and went to inform Skinner. She and the gunmen would lead the way, but the troops–and an ambulance–would be right behind her.

**

Unknown Location

7:47 p.m.

“I don’t care what she’s paying us. That broad’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.”

When Mulder looked up at the strange voice from where he was lying among the pine needles, he was blinded by a bright flash. Blinking his eyes to rid them of the spots marring his vision, his fuzzy mind focused upon Brutus and the phantom. Did the phantom just speak?

“Yeah, she’s as batty as a fruitcake,” Brutus ground out, “but she’s rolling in dough.”

Even through his pain, Mulder spluttered a laugh. These two were the embodiment of ‘all brawn and no brains.’

“Somethin’ funny?” Brutus asked, looming over him.

Mulder breathed in, gasping at the sharp pain with which his ribs rewarded him. “Just agreeing with you,” he lied. “Maggie’s missing a few buttons on her remote control.”

The phantom snorted in amusement. “You got that right, partner. Look, don’t let on to the whacko that we went easy on you.”

Mulder stared up at the man. This was going easy on him? His eye was swollen shut, he had several broken ribs, and he was pretty sure at least one tooth had been knocked out. He didn’t want to think about what they would have done to him if they had given it their all.

He nodded his compliance, though, in case they had been considering round two. At least they had untied him before they pounded the crap out of him.

“Look, I gotta take another picture,” Brutus said. “Try to look a little more beat up, will ya?”

Mulder blinked in confusion. “Picture?”

Brutus pointed the small digital camera at Mulder. “Crazy lady’s orders. Rough you up, then take a bunch of pictures from all different angles.” He shrugged. “Hey, everybody’s got a fetish.”

“Just do it, will ya,” the phantom growled. “She’s alone with the kid again.”

Mulder’s senses perked up at this. “Why? What does she do to him when they’re alone?”

Brutus scowled at him. “Nuthin’, man. She just don’t like the kid. Says he looks at her all the time.”

Mulder breathed a sigh of relief, his imagination having gone wild for a moment. “He’s just scared. He was probably looking to her for comfort.”

The phantom grunted. “Well, he’ll never see it from her. That’s got to be the coldest bitch I’ve ever seen.”

“Did she hurt him?” Mulder asked.

“Nah. Mostly she ignores him. We give the kid his meals and take him to the bathroom. She don’t want nothin’ to do with him.”

“Think she’ll let him go?” Mulder asked hopefully.

“Not a chance,” Brutus answered. “She hates that Dana chick, and really gets off on how the kid’s goin’ missing, and now you, are making her crazy.” The man chortled. “Like she should talk.” He shook his head. “Nutty broad.”

A couple more flashes, and Brutus put the camera back into its case, then slung the strap over his shoulder. “Well, let’s get you back, pal.”

When they finally got him to his feet, Mulder thought he might pass out; he’d forgotten how very much broken ribs could hurt, and his side was killing him. Letting the two men support him, he began the long trek back to the cabin. They let him take his time, neither manhandling him other than to keep him from falling flat on his face. ‘Pros,’ Mulder thought, and wondered how someone with Maggie’s background had ever found them.

As they approached the cabin, the door was yanked open before they could reach it. “Get him in here and over there with that kid. He’s driving me crazy.”

“That’ll be a short trip,” the phantom muttered, taking the words right out of Mulder’s mouth.

“Hurry it up,” she said, waving an arm toward Matthew’s cot.

“What’s the rush?” the phantom asked.

“Did you take them? Where are the pictures?” she asked instead of answering.

“They’re right here,” Brutus said, unslinging the camera bag from his shoulder and holding it out to her. “In the case.”

“Good, good,” she cackled, grabbing it and scuttling over to the counter beside the sink.

Mulder exchanged a look with the phantom, and Brutus whispered, “She really needs to get a life.”

Mulder’s laugh quickly changed to a grunt of pain when the men lowered him to the bed. He lay still with his eyes tightly closed before he remembered about his audience. “Hey, Matty,” he said, forcing his eyes open to find the child watching him anxiously.

“Uncle Mulder,” the boy choked out, taking in Mulder’s black eye, the only visible sign of the beating he had just been dealt. “Did Jim and Jock hurt you?”

Mulder blinked. Jim and Jock? He’d been calling them Brutus and the phantom for so long now he’d forgotten that those were not their real names. Well, whoever they were, at least they’d cared for Matthew, much more so than that bitch in the kitchen. For that and ‘taking it easy on him,’ he owed them.

“Just a little bit,” he told Matthew.

“She made them, didn’t she?” Matt asked, eyeing the woman distastefully. “She’s mean.”

Mulder nodded. “Did she do anything to you? Hurt you?”

Matthew shook his head. “She doesn’t talk to me. She talks to them to talk to me.”

Mulder patted the boy’s hand. “That’s probably for the best, Matt. She’s a little… unbalanced.”

“You mean she’s crazy,” Matthew said, surprising Mulder. “I already know that. Jock told me. He told me to just do what I was told and be quiet, and she’d leave me alone.”

“And you did, right? You didn’t do anything to make her mad at you?”

Matthew shook his head. “Even when Jim and Jock were gone for a long time and I had to go to the bathroom real bad, I didn’t say anything.”

Mulder smiled. “Good boy.” He made the mistake of shifting just then, closing his eyes and biting his lip until the pain was bearable. “Oh, God,” he uttered when he could breathe again.

He found Matty’s eyes glued to him, tears tracking down his cheeks. “What’s wrong, Uncle Mulder? Does your eye hurt real bad?”

Mulder decided not to lie to the boy. “Uh… Well, yeah. But my stomach is hurt, too.”

“Why did they hurt you?” Matthew asked. “I didn’t think they were mean like her.”

“They aren’t,” Mulder hastened to reassure him. Mulder didn’t want the boy any more frightened than he already was. “They work for her, though, and she told them to hurt me.”

“But they didn’t have to! Couldn’t they tell her no?”

“I don’t think so, Matty. When you work for someone, you have to do what they tell you if you want to get paid.”

“Even if it’s something bad?” he asked. He looked at Mulder, appraising him. “You wouldn’t do something bad if someone told you to, would you, Uncle?”

Mulder sighed. “Probably not. But I’m not the same as them.”

Matthew sniffed, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “I want to go home.”

“I know, Matty,” Mulder said, gathering the child into his arms even though it hurt like hell. He could withstand a little pain, and Matthew needed the closeness.

And, if he was truthful with himself, so did he.

Come on, Scully, he thought, as he found himself slipping into unconsciousness. Find us.

**

Outside the Hoover Building

6:59 p.m.

“You’re late.”

“Traffic was a bitch,” Langley said as he helped her up and into the van. “Do you have it?”

She settled herself into the front seat across from Frohike, who was driving. “No, I left it in the office,” she said, as she handed it over.

“Nice,” Langley said, his tone indicating that he meant anything but. “You’ve been hanging around with Mulderman too long. Picking up some of his more nasty habits.”

Scully felt properly chastised; after all, it was she who’d requested their help. “Sorry,” she said. “I just need to find them.”

“We know, Scully,” Byers, sitting across from Langley in the open back compartment, said. “We want to find them too.” He tilted his head, and she read puzzlement there. “”Do you know why your nephew was kidnapped?”

“To get Mulder.” She sighed. “It’s a long story.”

“It’s going to be a long trip,” Langley said. “I’ve got a fix on them, but they’re about two hours away, in Virginia.”

Scully settled herself in more comfortably, and began her tale.

**

Somewhere in Virginia

9:22 p.m.

Mulder awoke with a scream when someone pushed on his side. Through the rushing in his head, he heard a woman’s voice. “Wake up, Mr. Mulder. The boy keeps calling for you, and he’s getting on my nerves.”

Looking around groggily, Mulder found Matthew curled into his side, crying. Oh, God, he’d passed out on the kid. “Matty. Hey, Matty, c’mon, buddy. I’m sorry I fell asleep on you.”

“Uncle?” Matthew crawled up closer to Mulder and laid his head on Mulder’s shoulder. “I was scared.”

Mulder wrapped an arm around the boy, snuggling him to his side; he gritted his teeth against the agony just that small movement produced. “I know. I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“I couldn’t wake you up,” Matt sniffed. “Jim and Jock left, and the lady yelled at me ’cause I was crying.”

Mulder perked up at this news. “They left?”

Matthew nodded. “She doesn’t like me,” he whispered. “So when Jim and Jock left I tried to wake you up, but I couldn’t, and I was scared and I started crying, and she yelled at me.”

“I’m sorry, Matty. I won’t fall asleep again. I promise.” He hoped that was a promise he wouldn’t break, but he felt truly awful. Whatever was wrong with him, it was much more than a few broken ribs. Sneaking a peek over at Maggie, he found her sitting at the kitchen table, carrying on a conversation with a laptop computer. God, she was getting battier by the minute. He wondered how long he was out, and whether Scully was here yet.

“Matty, was I asleep for a long time?” he asked.

The boy nodded vigorously. “A real long time.”

Mulder sighed. He supposed to the scared boy, anything over five minutes was a long time. How he wished he had his watch; he was kind of glad, though, that he’d left it back in the office. At least that was one thing he wouldn’t have to replace.

Shifting around, trying to see if there was a clock in the place, Mulder was pulled up short by an excruciating stabbing in his side where Maggie had kicked him earlier. Using the hand that wasn’t wrapped around Matthew, Mulder felt down his side and almost cried out when he reached the spot. Oh, crap, it was soft and squishy and it hurt like blazes. That was so not a good sign.

Goddammit, Brutus and the phantom worked him over for a good ten minutes, and the bitch lands one lucky blow and damages a kidney. How very heartening to find that the Mulder luck was still in full force. Christ, would he *ever* catch a break?

“Does your stomach hurt, Uncle?” He looked up to find Matthew watching him with a sympathetic look on his face. Damn if his expression wasn’t the mirror of his aunt’s! For a brief second, Mulder allowed himself to wonder if their children would look like Matthew, and he smiled.

“Yeah, but it’s okay, Matty. When your aunt Dana gets here, she’ll get me fixed up.”

“Auntie Dana’s coming?” he asked excitedly, keeping his voice down. Smart kid, Mulder thought, impressed that he’d had the sense to keep his voice quiet.

“Any time now,” he said, and hoped it was true. As much as he wanted to keep his promise to Matthew, he could feel himself disconnecting from this plain of existence. It was only Matty’s presence by his side, and the fear of leaving him alone with Maggie, queen of fruitcakes, that kept him conscious.

Suddenly, the door was kicked in, and blue-coated F.B.I. agents swarmed into the interior of the cabin. Mulder strained to find his partner, breathing a sigh of relief when he spotted her shoving her way through the sea of men to get to him.

“Mulder! Matthew! Are you all right?” She took in both their appearances anxiously.

“I’m okay, Auntie Dana,” Matthew said, launching himself into her arms. “But Uncle Mulder has a hurt eye and a hurt stomach.”

With Matthew now by her side, Scully approached him on the bed. “Mulder? Where are you hurt?”

“It’s not too bad, Scully,” he said, indicating the boy with his eyes.

She caught on right away. “Matthew, I’m going to take you to stay with some friends of mine for a few minutes while I look at Uncle Mulder’s injuries. Their names are John, Melvin and Ringo. Okay?”

Matthew looked fearfully first at Scully, then at Mulder. Mulder smiled encouragingly at him. “Don’t worry, Matt. They’re great guys, and they’ll take really good care of you until your Aunt Dana and I come to get you.”

“Okay,” he said, still unsure.

Scully smiled, and started toward the door when she came upon two agents who were escorting a cuffed Maggie Waterston to the door. Scully stopped dead in her tracks. “Oh, my God. Maggie?”

“You!” Maggie shrieked upon seeing Scully. “It’s all your fault! But I made you suffer for it. I made you suffer like you made me suffer.”

“Maggie, what?” a still-stunned Scully asked the woman.

“He’s dead,” Maggie said, calmly. “I had to suffer, and you had to suffer. That’s all there is to it.”

Scully stared at her for a second. “Daniel? Your father’s dead? When? How?”

“Not that you ever cared, he died two weeks ago. In *my* arms, calling *your* name.”

“Oh, my God. Maggie, I’m so sorry.”

“You always say that!” she shouted. “But sorry doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t make my father love me instead of you. It doesn’t do anything!”

Starting to fight against her captors, the agents nodded to Scully and hauled the struggling woman outside.

Scully glanced at Mulder, letting her eyes slide away. “I’ll be right back,” she said in a dazed voice, taking Matthew’s hand and leading him outside.

She returned five minutes later with two paramedics in tow. Mulder lay as quietly as he could while they took his vitals and got him ready for transport. They’d confirmed the damaged kidney, along with three broken ribs and a few assorted cuts and bruises. They said they weren’t too concerned with the ribs, but they wanted to get him to the hospital as soon as possible because of the internal bleeding. An I.V. and a couple of bandages later, and he was in the back of the ambulance, partner by his side.

“I can’t ride with you, Mulder,” she said not meeting his eyes. “I have to take care of Matthew.”

Now that Matty was safe, and Scully had come to their rescue, Mulder felt that it was okay to let go. Besides, whatever was in that I.V. was making him drowsy as well as dulling the pain. “I know, Scully,” he slurred. “I’m gonna sleep now anyway.”

“We’ll meet you at the hospital,” she said, climbing out when the attendant indicated they were about to leave.

“Okay,” he agreed, watching the doors close through heavy lids.

Nighty-night, he said to himself as he drifted away.

**

Act IV

Thursday, February 23

Western State Hospital

Staunton, Virginia

12:46 a.m.

“Dana!”

Scully lifted her head from where it had been resting atop Matthew’s to find Tara and her mother rushing toward her. The gunmen, who had been scattered amongst the chairs in various forms of repose, sprang to their feet as her family approached. “We’re going to stretch our legs, Scully,” John Byers told her softly. “We’ll be back later.”

Scully nodded and looked up at her mother. “Shh,” she shushed, holding a finger in front of her lips and indicating the sleeping boy with her gaze. “He’s exhausted.”

“I should think so,” Maggie Scully huffed, sitting beside her daughter while Matthew’s mother took the chair next to her son. Tara apologized with her eyes as she took her son’s weight away from Scully and onto herself. Scully smiled and relinquished her hold on her nephew.

“How is Fox?” her mother asked, the usual warmth toward her daughter’s partner noticeably missing.

“In surgery,” she answered. “He came in with blunt trauma injury to his kidney, and the IVP–that’s the test to determine the extent of damage–showed some bleeding. They’re repairing it now.” She glanced at her sister-in-law and found her listening raptly. “He’ll have to stay here about a week; when they assess the functioning of the kidney after a couple of days, if it’s improving, he’ll be released to bed rest at home.”

“That’s good news, Dana,” Tara said. “I’m glad he’ll be okay.”

“Thanks, Tara,” Scully said. She looked over at the sleeping boy. “Mulder watched over Matthew for you,” she said quietly.

Before her sister-in-law could reply, her mother said, “I suppose it’s the least he could do, considering this was all his fault.”

“Maggie!” Tara rebuked her.

“I’m sorry, Tara, but you know that none of this would have happened if Dana wasn’t involved with Fox. That woman wouldn’t have known about Matthew if she and Fox hadn’t taken him skating that day.”

“And *you* know that it wasn’t Mulder’s fault that this woman fixated on him.”

Maggie shook her head and looked at her daughter. “I’m sorry, but this is the last straw. I love Fox like my own son, but I have to place the blame this time squarely where it belongs.”

“On me,” Scully interrupted.

Her mother sighed. “No one’s blaming you for this, Dana.”

“No one’s blaming Mulder, either,” Tara said sternly with a meaningful look at her mother-in-law.

“I am,” Maggie said. “Matthew could have been hurt or–”

“But he’s not,” Tara interjected. “He’s my son, and I don’t blame Mulder for this. If anything, I’m grateful to him for putting himself in harm’s way to save Matthew. My God, Maggie, the man is in surgery, and Matthew doesn’t have a scratch on him!”

“Mom?” a sleepy little voice asked.

“It’s me, Matty honey. Are you okay?”

“Uh, huh. I was scared, but then Uncle Mulder came and I wasn’t scared anymore.” The child scrunched up his face. “Well, I was once when Uncle Mulder fell asleep and I couldn’t wake him up. But then he did, and I wasn’t scared anymore.” Looking up at his mother, he asked, “Can we go home now?”

“Of course, sweetheart,” his grandmother answered. “You can sleep in the car, and when you wake up you’ll be in your own bed. How’s that?” She smiled at the boy.

He returned the smile. “I like that.” He looked at Scully. “Isn’t Uncle Mulder coming?”

Scully started to answer, but her mother beat her to it. “No,” she said so coldly Scully wondered what had happened to her sweet mother. “He’ll be staying here for awhile.”

Matthew nodded gravely. “Uncle has a hurt stomach. Is that why he can’t come home with us?” he asked his grandmother.

“I really don’t know, Matthew.” Scully heard the unsaid, ‘And I really don’t care.’

She closed her eyes. “Mom, there’s something you should know.”

Maggie shook her head. “I really don’t care to,” she said. “Someday I may be able to forgive Fox, but this isn’t it.” She looked into her daughter’s eyes. “I can’t stop you from seeing him, but I don’t think I want him around us for awhile.”

Scully’s mouth dropped open. “Mom… You can’t mean that!” God, she had to set this straight right now, whether her mother wanted to hear it or not.

“I do, Dana. I’m really so angry at him right now, he’s better off–”

“Mom, she was after Mulder because of me.”

Maggie stopped in the middle of her tirade, staring at her daughter. “What?”

“That woman didn’t know Mulder. She knew *me*. She was trying to get at me by hurting Mulder.”

“Dana, you’re not making any sense. What are you talking about?”

“When I was in med school, I met a doctor… that woman’s father. He and I were seeing each other until I found out he was married. I broke it off, and didn’t see him again until a few years ago. I found out from Maggie–that’s his daughter–that he had followed me to Washington, and had been living here for ten years, hoping that we might rekindle what we had. He left his wife and his daughter, and followed me.” She looked into her mother’s eyes. “Are you getting what I’m saying, Mom? This woman kidnapped Matthew and put Mulder in the hospital because of an indiscretion of mine fifteen years ago. So if you want to blame anyone, blame me.” She took a deep breath. “Because I do.”

“No. Dana, you…” Maggie looked disbelievingly at her daughter. “You were always such a good girl. You wouldn’t go out with a married man. You wouldn’t do that.”

“Well, I did, Mom. And Mulder’s paying for it.”

“Dana, honey, it wasn’t your fault. That woman… Clearly, she’s not well.” Maggie laid a hand on her daughter’s shoulder.

Scully laughed mirthlessly. “Not my fault. All is forgiven.”

“Of course, honey. You couldn’t know this would happen. You were young; you made a mistake. No one’s going to hold that against you.”

“Of course not, Dana,” Tara said, and Scully was grateful for the sincerity and understanding in the other woman’s voice.

“Come on. Let’s go home,” her mother said, taking Scully’s arm and starting to walk toward the door.

Scully resisted her mother’s pull and shrugged free. “You don’t think I’m leaving Mulder, do you?”

Mrs. Scully’s mouth opened in an ‘oh.’ “No, of course not. Um…” She looked back at her daughter. “Dana, about what I said about Fox… I’m sorry. I just thought…”

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“You thought what Mulder is so afraid you think. That everything bad that happens to us is because of him, that you really wish he’d go away and never come back, that we’d all be better off without him. Do you know it would kill him if he ever found out what you really think of him? He adores you, Mom. And Matty, Tara, and the baby. We’re all the family he has, and you wanted to take that away from him.” She focused her gaze on the floor. “I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for that.”

“Dana…” Scully heard the tears in her mother’s voice. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say. I was harsh to judge Fox the way I did, but I can’t help the way I felt. I was so scared we’d never see Matthew again. And it was because…”

“Of me. It was because of me. Not Mulder. Me.”

“I’m sorry, Dana.” Her mother stepped up to her and kissed her on the cheek. “I love you.” She looked toward the operating room doors. “Both of you. Tell Fox for me.” She met her daughter’s eyes. “Please.”

Scully sighed. “Okay, Mom.” Normally, she’d say, ‘I love you, too,’ but she couldn’t bring herself to say it. She didn’t know when she would.

“Bye, Matty. I’ll see you in about a week, okay?” Scully kissed her nephew and gave him a big hug, which he returned.

“Okay, Aunt Dana.” His gaze slipped toward the doors behind which they’d taken her partner. “Uncle Mulder, too?”

“I don’t know,” she said, with a glance at her mother. Her mom’s pronouncement about not wanting Mulder around them still stung, and she didn’t actually retract it. But Matty didn’t have to know about it just yet. She forced a smile for her nephew’s sake. “We’ll have to see how he behaves. If he’s a good boy and takes all his medicine, I *might* let him come.”

Matthew giggled. “Tell him to be good.” Then he turned serious. “Did Uncle Mulder get hurt because of me?”

Scully stared at him in surprise. “Of course not. What made you think that?”

“Um… nuthin’.” He scuffed a shoe against the tiled floor.

“Did you hear us talking, Matty?” Tara asked, gently.

He hunched his shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Scully tilted his head up so she could see his face better. “Matty, listen to me. Uncle Mulder didn’t get hurt because of you. He got hurt because of me.”

Matthew gazed into his aunt’s eyes. “Because that lady didn’t like you?”

“That’s right.”

“She didn’t like me, either,” he said softly.

Scully placed her hands on the boy’s shoulders. “But she didn’t like me because I did something bad. You didn’t do anything bad, Matty. She knew that.” She hugged him to her. “Uncle Mulder knows that, too.”

When she let him go, he smiled. “Okay, Aunt Dana.” Then he joined his mother where she was waiting next to Maggie.

Scully waved and said her goodbyes, and went back to waiting for word on Mulder.

**

Western State Hospital

Staunton, Virginia

2:33 p.m.

When Mulder woke and didn’t see her, Scully could almost taste his disappointment, it was so palpable. At this point in time, however, she wasn’t sure she deserved so deep an emotion from him.

“Mulder,” she called softly from the other side of his bed. He gave no indication that he’d heard her, so she stood up and laid a hand on his cheek. “Hey, partner.”

He closed his eyes, and she could feel his smile beneath her hand. “I thought you might have taken Matthew home.”

“And leave you here alone?” She shook her head. “No. Tara and my mom came here. Tara left the baby with a neighbor.”

Mulder nodded. “What about Matthew? He okay?”

“Matthew’s fine,” she was quick to assure him. “Because of you.”

“Not me. You. You’re the one who got us out of there. All I did was present myself as a convenient target.”

“Thereby taking the focus off of Matthew and onto yourself.”

He shrugged. “It’s what I do, Scully.” Taking in all the lines and machines attached to him, he added, “And so well.”

She took his free hand in hers. “I’m sorry.”

His look was one of confusion. “Why? What’d you do?”

“It’s my fault. She fixated on you because of me. She hurt you because of me.”

He frowned. “When you thought it was someone who was trying to get back at me, you tried to convince me that it wasn’t my fault. Why is it now that the roles are reversed, all of a sudden it’s your fault?”

“Because it is. Mulder, what I did hurt this woman. Hurt her enough to drive her to kidnapping and hiring professional muscle.”

Mulder turned his hand over where it lay beneath hers and grasped her hand. “You made a mistake, Scully. God knows, I’ve made enough of them. But you didn’t make her father not love her. Hell, you tried to get them to reconcile. If there’s any blame to be placed for what happened to Maggie Waterston, it belongs to her father.”

“Mulder, he was sick–”

“For a short time, yes, he was. But he had years to prove to his daughter that he loved her.” He squeezed her hand. “But he didn’t.”

“Oh, Daniel,” Scully mourned.

“And what about Maggie herself?” Mulder asked. “She’s a grown woman. She chose to remain in her father’s home instead of pursuing a life of her own. She’s not the only child who grew up in a home where love was given sparingly, if at all.”

Knowing that he counted himself among those unloved, Scully nodded. She saw his point. She really did. “Okay, Mulder. Your arguments are valid.”

“I know you’re not convinced, Scully. I wouldn’t be, either. I know what you think, and I know what you feel because they were my thoughts and feelings until…” He stopped short, pressing his lips together.

“Until you found out you weren’t to blame.”

He let out an exasperated sigh. “Yes.” A thoughtful expression came over his face. “I kind of want to thank you.”

She tilted her head in bewilderment. “For what?”

“For showing that you can screw up, too, ’cause I have to tell you–I was beginning to get a complex.”

That made her smile. “Glad I could help.”

“You did,” he said, gazing at her with fondness. “Now when can I get out of here?”

She laughed out loud at that. “I think that’s the only thing about you that’s predictable.”

“Really? Well, I’ll have to work on that.” Then he lost his playful demeanor. “Seriously, though, Scully, I know it’ll take time, but you need to forgive yourself. I have.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think you have.”

“Scully…” he started to protest.

She held up a hand for silence, and he closed his open mouth. “You haven’t forgiven me because I know that you never blamed me.”

His ‘caught’ smile appeared on his face. “I didn’t think you’d want to hear that. I didn’t think you’d believe me, actually.”

She hoped that the smile she gave him showed him how very much she loved him. “I can read you like a book, Mulder. I’d have believed you.”

He gave her the goofy lovesick grin that she positively adored. “So are you okay with this now?”

She sighed. “Not yet. But I will be.”

“You’re sure about that?”

Instead of answering, she moved her face closer to his, so that they were eye to eye.

After a moment, he smiled. “Yes. You’re sure.”

**

Thursday, March 2

6:15 p.m.

Mulder’s & Scully’s Duplex

Because he’d recuperated so well, Mulder was released to bed rest at home two days earlier than scheduled. Which meant he’d been home for two days and was now bored out of his mind. Which meant that he’d had too much time to think.

During his stay in the hospital, Scully and the gunmen had been his only visitors. Granted, it was a long haul to the hospital, but now that he’d grown closer to Scully’s family, he’d anticipated a visit or at least a phone call from her mother. He shifted on the couch as he heard a key in the front door lock.

“Scully,” he asked the second his partner walked in the door after a day at work. “Is your mom okay? She’s not sick or anything, is she?”

The slight hesitation before she removed her coat alerted him that something was not right. “Did something happen?” he asked with dread. “I know your mom is aware of the circumstances concerning Matthew’s kidnapping, but I haven’t heard from her once since this whole thing was resolved. Is she mad at you?”

When Scully didn’t answer but continued fiddling in the closet, something horrible occurred to him. “It’s me? She’s mad at me?” Feeling heartsick, he asked softly, “What did I do?”

His partner shut the closet door and walked swiftly to the couch, keeling by his side. “You didn’t do anything, Mulder.” She rested a hand on his chest. “Mom and I had… words. She said some things, and I said some things, and she may feel that a call from her wouldn’t be welcome.”

“What did you ‘have words’ about?” One look at his partner’s face, and he knew. “It was about me, wasn’t it?”

Sighing, she nodded. “When I listened to your message, I was outside the church with her. I had to explain why the kidnappers called you and not Tara.”

Realization struck suddenly. “Oh.”

“I didn’t have a chance to explain what really happened until they came to pick up Matthew. But before I could, she said some things…”

Mulder felt numb. “Oh.”

“I sort of lost my temper, and… that may be why she hasn’t called. Not because of you, Mulder, but because of me.”

He nodded, barely aware of the action. For Scully to have lost her temper with her mother, Maggie had to have said some awful things about him. Mulder didn’t want to hear them, but he couldn’t help himself. “What did she say?”

His partner looked distressed. “Oh, Mulder. You really don’t need to know. She apologized, and said to tell you that she loves you.” She tried to smile. “I did tell you that in the hospital, remember?”

“Yes,” he said softly. At the time, it had warmed him that Maggie would send him that message. He felt kind of cold now, though. What had Maggie thought before she knew the truth? “What did she say, Scully?”

“Mulder…” His partner looked like she was about to cry.

“Please. I have to know,” he whispered.

Scully took a breath, then let it out. “She was upset that Matthew was taken because of you. She… said she didn’t want you to come around for awhile.”

Only Scully’s announcing that she no longer loved him could have hurt more. Mulder was no fool; he knew that ‘awhile’ really meant ‘forever.’ He closed his eyes, feeling tears prickling beneath his lids. He really should have known that he wasn’t destined for a life of family picnics, little league games, and dance recitals. But, oh, how he’d looked forward to it.

Scully brushed a hand through his hair. “I don’t think she feels that way any longer, Mulder,” she said gently.

Even if she didn’t, he wasn’t altogether certain she was wrong; he’d brought nothing but grief to her family.

A knock on the door interrupted his misery, but he couldn’t muster up the energy to open his eyes just for another visit from the lone gunmen.

He was, therefore, so shocked to hear Maggie Scully’s voice that he sat up much too quickly for his recovering body to handle. Catching only the briefest glimpse of Maggie, Tara, and the children before he fell back down, Mulder bit his lip to keep from screaming out.

“Mulder!” he heard Scully cry, and the next conscious thing he was aware of was Scully by his side. Behind her, he could see the entire family looking on. “Mulder, come on, talk to me.”

He coughed to clear his throat. God, how embarrassing was this? “Uh… sorry,” he apologized, feeling better now that his insides had stopped trying to beat their way out.

Maggie caught his eye. “How are you feeling, Fox?” The question was asked hesitantly, uncertainly, as if gauging her right to ask.

Mulder, equally unsure of where his relationship with her stood, replied with a neutral, “Fine, thank you, Mrs. Scully.” Only after he’d voiced it was he aware that he’d reverted back to his more formal addressing of his partner’s mother. His eyes skittered to Scully’s, looking for some sort of guidance.

“What are you all doing here?” she asked. Mulder noted that although she included the whole family, she directed the question to her mother.

Tara answered instead. “I called the hospital on Tuesday, and they said that Mulder had been released.” She looked at Mulder. “We thought you might not be up to an outing, but maybe you wouldn’t mind some visitors…” She held out a bag. “…bearing dinner.”

Mulder’s eyes lit up as they took in the familiar shape of the Chinese take-out bag. He looked hopefully at his partner.

She sighed, taking the bag from Tara. “You can have some,” she told him. “Thanks, Tara. This is great,” she said with a smile. “Mom,” she nodded, and Mulder noted the strained smile on both women’s faces.

Excited though he was by the prospect of eating real food, he tempered his enthusiasm, settling for a much toned-down version of his “yesss!” which made Matthew giggle. “Hey, buddy,” he called to the young boy. “How are you doing?”

“Okay,” Matty answered. After looking to his mother, Tara released Matthew’s hand, and the boy bounded over to Mulder, arms outstretched. Mulder looked on, horrified, preparing himself for a very painful bonding.

“Matthew!” three alarmed voices rang out, and the child stopped dead in his tracks, inches from his target.

“Easy, Matthew,” Tara chided him gently. “Uncle Mulder’s not healed yet.”

Matthew studied Mulder for a few seconds, then asked. “How come you’re not better yet, Uncle? Why did they let you go home from the hospital if you weren’t all better?”

“I *am* better, Matty. I’m just not all the way better. You can still hug me, but easy. Okay?”

Matthew smiled and leaned in very carefully for his hug. Then he stood up and sniffed. “Can we eat now?”

Scully laughed, leading the way into the kitchen.

Mulder stayed where he was. He’d learned his lesson tonight; no sudden moves for him. Closing his eyes in preparation for rising, he was surprised to feel a hand grasping his arm, helping him to a sitting position. His eyes popped open to find Maggie Scully watching him. Her scrutiny made him nervous, and he froze for a moment before he found his tongue. “Mrs. Scully. Thank you.”

“I suppose from the way you’re acting, that Dana told you some of our conversation.”

He nodded. “A little.”

She nodded as well. “I was very angry at you, Fox.”

He ducked his head in shame. “Yes, ma’am,” he said softly.

He felt the couch dip where she sat beside him. “Fox, look at me.”

Conditioned to obey the parental command voice, he complied, even though he was afraid of what he’d see.

“It was unfair of me to judge you so harshly for Matthew’s kidnapping, especially when you actually had nothing to do with it.”

He wanted to cry. What he was going to say next was going to break his heart, but he had to let her know. “But you were right,” he said softly. “Everything you said, everything you thought… It all still applies.”

“Oh, Fox…” She took his hand in hers and held on to it. “You’re a good man. Of that, I have no doubt. Dana wouldn’t be so fiercely loyal to you if you weren’t.” She pierced him with her eyes. “But you hold yourself responsible for much of the bad that happens to this family. Granted, you are sometimes involved in some way, but I don’t hold you responsible for any of it.”

He was surprised, to say the least, and looked up at her. “Why?”

“Because I know you would do anything in your power to prevent harm from coming to this family. And that whatever did happen was beyond your control. How can you be responsible for something over which you have no control?”

Oh, he knew. “By just being here. By allowing myself to share in your family. By allowing ‘Them’ to see that I care. It’s something they can use against me, and I’m so damned selfish that I keep on doing it even though I should stay as far away from you as I can.” He gazed imploringly into her eyes. “But I don’t. And I can’t. To lose any of you would…” He swallowed another of those damned lumps. “It would just hurt so damned much.” He took as deep a breath as his ribs would allow. “So you see, Mrs. Scully. I am responsible.”

“You’re not the only one who has enemies, Fox. I know Dana does, as did Bill. If we live every second of our lives in fear of what could happen, we’re not really living, are we? We’re keeping guard, staying safe, but for what? Life is taking risks, and if you’re ours, then we’re going to embrace you, and we’re going to love you.” She paused until he looked into her eyes. “Because we do love you, Fox.”

He blinked away tears. “Thanks, Mrs. Scully.”

“What happened to ‘Maggie?'” she asked.

“I… wasn’t certain I was allowed that privilege any longer.”

She rose to her feet, helping him up as well. “No one in our family calls me ‘Mrs. Scully.’ And you’re family, Fox.” She pulled him to her and gave him a gentle hug. “Don’t you ever forget that,” she whispered in his ear.

He was nearly overcome by the love he felt for this woman, and the love she had shown him. “I won’t,” he vowed.

“Good boy.” She let him go, then she started toward the kitchen. “I’ll just give you a moment alone,” she said with a gentle smile.

He needed it. The emotional rollercoaster hadn’t quite come to a stop, and he didn’t feel quite ready to face the family. He smiled. His family.

“Mulder?” He hadn’t realized he’d been standing there with his eyes closed until Scully touched him. “You okay?” She glanced toward the kitchen and her mother. “Everything all right?”

He pulled her toward him. “Look into my eyes.”

The End

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