by Suzanne Bickerstaffe, and "Melody" (Eckphile@aol.com, email@example.com) August
Thursday, March 27
It was coming up on midnight and I was still at my
desk. Every time I closed my eyes I could still see Blevins' smirking face - I'm
sure he thought this 'special project' would be the final straw that would break
me. Although I was dead tired, it was worth putting in these long hours to meet
his impossible deadline. Another couple of hours work would
put me close enough to finishing to be able to go home at last. But the
coffeepot was empty, and I need more caffeine to keep
Walking back from the water cooler through the
darkened section gave me the creeps, so I kept my eyes on
my desk and the island of light around it. When I caught a movement out of the
corner of my eye I jumped, fumbled, and nearly dropped the glass carafe of water
in my hands. Agent Mulder was back, pacing silently around and around the table
where the SOC photos were laid out. Damn, that was how
many times he'd scared the shit out of me now?
He looked up as I stepped forward again, and gave me
a tired smile. "Chandra, you're still here? It's awfully late."
"I'm still working on Blevins' 'special project'," I explained as I poured
the water into the coffemaker and turned it on. "Another hour and I should
be gone. What's your excuse?"
"I just went by the photo lab to check on the status of those enlargements.
They told me they were finished and you'd already picked them up. I came
here hoping you'd left them out where I could find them."
"They're right here." I pulled them out of the file drawer where I'd put them
while I was working. I had thought about leaving them on the table Mulder was
using, but I was a little afraid they'd 'disappear' before Mulder had the chance
them. He didn't need more problems. "And I also have the transcript of the
interview with McNulty, if you're interested."
"Thanks. That'll be helpful - sometimes it's easier to catch things when you see
them in print." He took the envelope
and I sat down to get back to work. He wandered over to his
work table and sat, squinting to see in the dim light. I thought about telling
him to turn on the lights, but as focused as he was
I doubted he'd hear me. He reminded me a little of Sven that way. Ah, Sven....
Shaking my head, I got up and turned the light on
for him, then poured us both a cup of coffee. He didn't notice when I put his
down on the table beside him; he was totally absorbed in the photo enlargements.
Larry had done a good job
on them, I noticed, as I peeked over Mulder's shoulder. Even the enlargements
from the fuzziest part of the photo had come out usable. I made a mental note to
bring Larry some of the homemade cocoa cookies he liked so much.
I went back to my desk and got back to work, entering
the information from the old files into the database. From time
to time I'd look up to see what Mulder was doing. He drank his coffee
absentmindedly, and got up once to refill his cup. Most
of the time when I looked over he was frowning at a photograph, peering at the
transcripts through his wire rims, or staring into space. I recognized the
process. In the VCU they call it 'getting into the killer's mind', and I've seen
it in varying degrees in the other agents. I've never seen anyone like Mulder,
though. As the time crept past it was as if he turned inward completely - as if
he were watching the killer inside his mind somehow. It was a little
frightening, especially when I caught sight of his eyes. They'd gone blank.
Totally... vacant. No one home, insane - no, *malevolent*.... It made the hair
on the back of my neck stand up.
I think I've figured out why they call him "Spooky".
I tried to concentrate on finishing up the last file, but one eye wanted to stay
on Mulder and I kept getting goosebumps.
Little wonder I made no progress, but noticed every move he
One minute he had devil's eyes; the next, he shook his
head and blinked and was once again the Mulder I was familiar
Fatigue was in every line of his body as he pushed his chair back and stood up,
stretching until I heard his bones pop. Hooking his coffeecup with one finger,
he ambled over to refill it, then slumped gracefully into the chair next to my
"How'd you know I took sugar in my coffee? I didn't say anything when you
brought me a cup black."
It was just about the last thing I expected him to say. It took me a moment to
recover, and the surprise brought a bubble
of laughter to my voice as I answered, "I may be only a GS-05
clerk, but I *am* capable of doing that much investigation on my own!" He raised
his eyebrows and his lips quirked, and I caved.
"I saw Scully refilling your cup when she got herself one," I admitted. "She
put one cream in hers, one sugar in yours."
He chuckled. I really liked the way humor lit up his face; I wondered what he
would look like in other, happier situations.... Even exhausted and rumpled,
Mulder was one good-looking man.
"You look dead on your feet," I chided. "Why don't you go home and get some
rest? You've only been on this case two days and you've already made more
progress than the whole department did in seven months. No one's going to think
slacking if you take time out to sleep." Well, in point of fact Blevins probably
would, and Mulder's twisted smile said he knew
"I will in a bit. I wouldn't be able to sleep right now, anyway...." He sighed,
looking blankly out into the shadows of
the room. "Things are falling into place almost too fast. I keep thinking I'm
missing something, but I just can't see it. I wish we could eliminate the others
in the picture. It could still be one of them. At least we have full names for
those people now - we
have nothing more than a first name for that mysterious girl Vinnie was talking
about." He broke off and turned to face me. "By the way, I'm sorry for that."
"For what?" I had a good idea what he meant, but since
I was still feeling pretty uncomfortable about it, I chose to play dumb.
"The taped interview. I knew it was pretty rough stuff, and I intended to
say something to you before it started. I forgot." He angled his neck and
looked at me appraisingly. "I'm sorry it shook you up."
It was on the tip of my tongue to deny that hearing the
tape had done any such thing, but I knew he'd see through that in a New York
minute. "That's okay. It was my fault. I knew when you looked over at me that
you were giving me a chance to bow out. I-I thought I could take it, that
nothing I could hear would bother me anymore." I shrugged. "I was wrong."
He smiled a little. "You know, I'm just as glad it did."
I looked at him quizzically.
"There are some things people should never get completely hardened to.
That's one of the reasons I left the VCU in the first place. It came down to
a choice - either I would have to get hardened to all the horror around me
in order to survive, or I would have to leave. I left." He shrugged. "I'm
glad you haven't become hard like the others in here. I'm *glad* that
hearing what those kids did made you sick. And it did make you sick, didn't
Face warm with embarassment, I nodded.
"It's nothing to be ashamed about, Chandra. Shit, it made
me want to throw up, too. I'm just relieved that working in this place, being
exposed to everything that passes through here, isn't dulling your sense of
what's right and what's terribly wrong. A word of advice, though - if at some
point you find you *aren't* getting sick at that sort of thing, it's time to get
the hell out. Get out before this place twists you into someone you don't want
"Oh, with any luck I'll be long gone before that has a chance of happening," I
assured him. "This only only a temporary gig, a step on the ladder. Once I
finish my degree I'm out of here. Out
of this department, anyway. I want to stay with the Bureau, that's the main
reason I'm still here, but I hope to move up either into tech support or one of
the Computer Labs."
"Really? That's great, Chandra. I'll ask Scully to put in a good word for
"You'll ask Agent Scully? You won't do it yourself?" I asked, smiling.
He grimaced. "Scully has more pull with the scientific types
than I do. Besides, in certain areas, a word of recommendation from
me is like the kiss of death. We want to get you promoted, not
thrown out of here on your ear."
"Thanks," I said, warmly. Then changing the subject, I asked, "Are the photo
enlargements going to help any?"
"Some, maybe. Hopefully they'll at least convince the rest
of the unit that I'm not seeing things." He stretched to reach the
photos then leaned forward to show them to me. "Now it's perfectly
clear that these *are* black candles, and that this is a scrying dish. Even the
pentagram came out clearly."
I wouldn't have dared question another agent, but Mulder is so much more
approachable I ventured to ask, "Don't 'white' witches - what do they call them,
Wiccans? Don't they use a five-sided star symbol, too? What makes this
Mulder nodded and drew one on my notepad. "The "white" witch symbol has the
single point turned upwards, and it's called a pentacle. For black magic, the
point is down. It's easy to remember if you look at a pentagram with your
imagination. Facing up, the points of the v-shape look like the Devil's horns."
I shivered involuntarily. Mulder didn't notice, thankfully, and went on about
the pentagram in the enlargement. Looking
closer, I noticed something....
"It looks like it was drawn on the wall with pencil or charcoal, doesn't it?
Maybe they intended to paint inside the lines?"
I'd just been thinking aloud - a result of my fatigue - but Mulder nodded
absently. "That would make sense." He frowned
then, and shook his head. "I need to go home and try to stop thinking about this
for a while. This isn't getting me anywhere."
"Sven has a saying for this sort of situation," I offered helpfully, hiding a
smile. Hopefully one of Sven's sayings would have the same effect on Mulder that
they did on me.
"Who's Sven?" Mulder asked, sidetracked.
"Sven's my - what was that acronym the guys next door at the IRS dreamed up?
POSSL-Q? We live together. It's yet another on the long list of things
Blevins holds against me."
"Why should Blevins care if you live with Sven?"
"Because Sven was born and raised in Sweden, still has family and citizenship
there. Sven's in the process of getting his citizenship papers here, though,
he's already passed the test. There's just some red-tape snafu somewhere that's
"What's his last name? I'll see if I can find out what the problem is."
"I thought you didn't have friends in high places."
Mulder shrugged. "I have friends that might have friends...."
"We'd both appreciate it, if you could," I hurried to assure him. "His full name
is Sven Lindqvist." I wrote it down for him.
"So, what is the saying?" Mulder asked patiently as he
took the paper. It took me a moment to recapture the thread of our earlier
"I can't say it in Swedish - Sven says I mangle it. But it translates 'No matter
how you twist and turn, your butt is always
in the back'."
His eyes smiled first, then his face, then a laugh bubbled
up from his toes. I laughed, too, glad it had had the desired
effect. Mulder was still chuckling when his cellphone rang in
his pocket. He answered it so automatically I wondered if he'd forgotten it was
nearly midnight. Or was he used to middle-ofthe-night calls?
"Mulder," he said, then he paused to listen. After a
moment he flashed me what could only be described as a guilty
look, and I knew who the caller had to be. "Yeah, Scully, I know
it's late. I was working and lost track of time.... No, I'm on my
way home now, honest...." He turned away from me slightly now,
and I could almost see him crossing his fingers as he spoke. I had
to bite my lip to keep from snickering. "...And what are *you*
doing up at this hour, Agent Scully?" His lips quirked and I wished I could hear
the other half of the conversation. From the amused, bemused expression on his
face it was a pretty safe bet that
Scully was giving him an earful. He turned away from me slightly
and his voice dropped. I thought I could hear him asking her how
she was feeling, but why would he be secretive about that? He'd already
mentioned Agent Scully wasn't feeling well... It wasn't
long before he said, "I will.... G'night, Scully," in a soft voice, and hung up.
For a long moment Mulder sat looking down at the phone in his hand, then he
seemed to remember where he was and reluctantly pushed himself to his feet. "I'd
better be heading home," he said. "I told Scully I was already on my way."
I had barely opened my mouth to tell him goodnight when
his phone rang again. He was grinning slightly as he answered it,
as if he suspected it was Scully checking up on him again.
"Mulder." His face registered surprise, and it was quickly apparent that the
caller wasn't Scully. "No, that's all right, I was still up...." He was
silent for a couple of minutes, his eyes remote. "No, I agree, I don't think
there's anything to worry about either, but it won't hurt to check.... All
right, I'm on my way."
"Duty calls," he said with a wry smile. "Thanks for the coffee, Chandra. Don't
work too late!" Then he was gone.
I sat staring at the empty doorway for several minutes
before I sighed and turned back to my work. I felt a lot like I'd just been
caught in a whirlwind. The clock read 12:38, and I
glared at the remaining files on my desk. Thanks to my goofing
off for the last hour and a half, I hadn't managed to get nearly as much done as
I'd thought I would. Crud.
There was no way I could work any more that night. I was exhausted, seeing
double, still unsettled by the things I overheard on the interview tape, and to
top it all off I wasn't wild about the middle-of-the-night drive home.
I'd done enough. I would finish the project tomorrow come hell or high water, I
resolved to myself, but tonight I needed sleep. Turning off the coffeepot and
flipping off the lights, I checked to make sure the door locked behind me and
End of Chapter Six
by 'Melody', and Suzanne Bickerstaffe (firstname.lastname@example.org, Ecksphile@aol.com)
Disclaimers and acknowledgements in Chapter One
J. Edgar Hoover Building
VCU Section Office
Friday, March 28, 1997
The morning started badly. I didn't get home last night - I mean, early this
morning - until nearly one, and I'd left a lot more work undone than I had
hoped. I *should* have gotten through a
lot more, but stopping to talk to Mulder.... Okay, so it was my watching him
that put me so far behind. My fault. Then on top of that, when I finally did get
home I found a message from Sven on the answering machine saying he had been
invited to visit the gallery owned by the man he'd had the meeting with. The
gallery was in
New York, so he'd be gone overnight. Wonderful. I didn't sleep well, alone in
that huge bed. I slept through my alarm this morning, not waking up until an
hour later when the radio turned itself off. This wasn't a major disaster. I
usually give myself plenty of time in the mornings to get up, eat breakfast, and
get ready for work. Sven wasn't home to get in my way or... distract...me. I
took a quick shower with my hair pinned up instead of washing it, since
it takes forever to dry, and by rushing a little I was ready to leave at my
normal time. It would have been fine. Except that the person in the car parked
opposite mine in the apartment building's lot decided to back out of his space
at the same time I did. You wouldn't believe the amount of damage a 5 mph
collision can cause
in modern cars. By the time we got that mess sorted out I was well and truly
It was a quarter till nine when I finally made it into the VCU. I almost
expected Blevins to be standing at my desk, but oddly
there was no one around. I hastily got myself settled, made
coffee, and got to work. It was only a few minutes later when
Agents Carlile and Santos came in. Johnson came in right behind
them and made a beeline for the coffeepot. Carlile, one of the
louder antagonists, called out, "Hey, Johnson, where's the Wonder
Boy this morning?"
Ben took a sip of his coffee before he answered. "Mulder hasn't come in yet."
Kasey Anderson, who was just coming in, added, "I heard
he missed a meeting with Assistant Director Skinner first thing this morning -
didn't even call in. His ass is grass," he practically chortled.
It looked like I wasn't the only one having a bad morning.
For a morning that started later than normal, it seemed to stretch on for extra
hours as I waded through piles of field notes
and dictation tapes. Mulder's clues the previous day had generated more
paperwork than I'd seen in months. It all had to be sorted out, labeled,
transcribed, and entered into the computer. Luckily I
didn't have to do it all myself - some of the dictation tapes went
to the typing pool to be transcribed. I took a stack of them over myself on my
way to a much-anticipated extended break. In my
hurry this morning I'd neglected to eat, and I was starving.
My friend Megan was waiting for me at a table in the
cafeteria. She's a clerk on one of the main floors and hears most
of the gossip before I do, and today she was practically bursting
at the seams. Rumors were rife this morning, she told me while
I ate. It was all over the building that Mulder was cracking again after only
two days back in the VCU.
"I really doubt that, Megan," I defended. "I worked late last night, and I
know Mulder was here until after midnight. He probably just slept through
his alarm or something."
"No way, Chandra. Mulder doesn't sleep, haven't you heard
that by now? No, he's gone off somewhere to hide or something.
Look, there's his partner, Agent Scully. I bet she knows where he
is and is just covering for him."
I looked up and caught sight of the petite redhead as she paused to pay the
cashier. If she realized most of the eyes in the cafeteria were on her, she
didn't show it. In fact, she didn't show any sort of emotion at all as she
collected her bagel and drink to leave, but as she passed our table on the way
out I was able to see
her eyes. They were shadowed, and she was holding herself so tightly
I was sure she was hiding *something*, but I had no clue what it
might be. Megan was going on about something but I didn't listen.
In fact, I pretty much tuned her out completely as I quickly finished eating.
Mumbling something about getting back to my paperwork,
I headed back to my desk.
Most of the guys were out on break or on other assignments. Johnson was sitting
at the table where the pictures were still laid out, studying the enlargements
Mulder had been working with the
previous night. Since Ben was one of the least likely to brush me off, I decided
to ask him.
"There are a lot of rumors flying about Mulder today." I
tried to make it sound conversational, but Ben saw through me and grinned, his
teeth a flash of white against his ebony skin.
"I'll bet. Old Spooky provides a lot of fodder for the mill, and on a pretty
regular basis, too."
"Some people think he's hiding."
He shook his head. "I doubt that. Mulder's not that sort."
I sighed. Ben wasn't being very forthcoming.... "What do
you think is going on, then?"
He put down the photos and turned around to face me.
He looked pretty serious. "Mulder has always been a kind of a
loner, Chandra. He's constantly going off on his own, checking
on things no one else will take on. Don't get me wrong - he
usually turns up something on his solo jaunts. And he's pretty
damn near one hundred percent when it comes to solves."
"So why does everyone make jokes about him?"
He shrugged. "He attracts a lot of attention, what with his solve rate and
everything. He doesn't play by the book, and seems
to get away with it. And I gotta admit, he's not very likable when
the guys are razzing him, either. He starts acting like a smartass
and rubs them the wrong way."
I didn't think that was fair. "He wouldn't do that if they didn't make all the
nasty comments," I pointed out.
"Yeah, I know," he admitted. "But you know what the guys are like in here.
That's what people remember."
He turned back to the photographs and I headed for the computer. I didn't agree
with what he'd said, but at least I had some idea what was going on now. Was
that what Agent Scully was hiding? That she was worried about him? *Had* he gone
off on his own again?
I settled back into my transcribing, as the agents began
to trickle back in from break. I didn't notice at first - they were talking but
I had my headphones on to listen to the tape. When they got louder, though, I
stopped typing and started paying attention. Blevins had come in from his office
and was making
some sort of announcement. I nudged the headphones aside so I could hear.
"The rumors you've been hearing around the building this morning are true, to an
extent," he admitted. "Agent Fox Mulder
did not report to work this morning, nor did he call in. All attempts to get in
touch with him have been unsuccessful."
"So what's new about that?" someone droned in an
exaggeratedly bored voice.
"They start checking the bars?" Santos smirked.
"No, no - the local loony bins. That's where the smart money's going."
"Money - hey, are we gonna have a lottery about this? I've got five bucks on the
loony bin," another called out.
"Mulder'll show up a week from now, after we have the killer behind bars,
and wonder what all the fuss was about. He's probably chasing some ghost up
in Maine or something."
"No, it'll be that UFO sighting down in Alabama - don't you read the
"Oh, good, maybe a gator'll get him."
"My money's goin' on the Sci-Fi marathon going on down
at the Rialto. We'll probably find him down there surrounded by a shitload of
jujubes and Milk Duds, dug in for the duration."
"Oh, no," declared Kasey. "If he's watching movies, then my money's on that
video porn collection I've heard rumors about. They'll probably find him colder
than a carp, with a terminal hard-on and a huge smile on his face." It was the
kind of remark I would have expected from Anderson - the bastard had never had a
thought originate north of his groin since I'd been there.
There was a ripple of laughter - I thought Blevins was going to bite through his
lip, he was trying so hard not to join in. I looked at him, sure the disgust I
felt must be written all over my face. With my usual luck, he of course glanced
over at me just at that moment. His face darkened, whether with embarrassment or
anger, I couldn't tell. I sighed - another black mark to add to my collection.
Well, I didn't give a damn. I couldn't believe this was going on. Hell, all the
leads they had managed to pick up had come from Mulder!
"Yeah," piped up Walsh, almost choking on his own laughter. "Maybe he found
the killer and the two crazy S.O.B.'s killed each other off. Then they'd
*both* be outta our hair!"
"Nah, we wouldn't get that lucky," another voice said.
I was completely disgusted by what I was hearing. This
was a fellow agent, for God's sake, who was missing, possibly in terrible danger
- if he was even still alive. This was a new low, even for these callused guys.
I turned back to my desk, thinking
it was perhaps time to put in a serious request for transfer. With horror, I
noticed two people standing in the doorway to the office. One was Agent Scully.
The other could only have been, from the descriptions I'd heard, Assistant
Director Skinner. They stood as
if carved in stone, Skinner livid with rage, and Scully.... God, I could only
imagine what she was feeling right now.
I knew that she and Mulder were close. I had seen them,
seen how fluidly they interacted, like the proverbial well-oiled machine. There
was trust there, and respect.... The rumor mill said they were much closer than
normal, even for partners. Of course,
I had heard the stories. The clericals always get the latest gossip first, and
according to the grapevine it was even money that they were lovers. But whether
or not they slept together - and it was nobody's business but theirs, really -
they were still close, and the betrayal by these guys had to hurt.
I couldn't take my eyes off Agent Scully. Except for the blue flame of her eyes,
her face was totally devoid of color. Whether it was from shock or fury, I
couldn't say. She was certainly entitled to both. It took every bit of
discipline I had to keep myself from screaming at the others to shut up, to just
shut up, as I saw every word strike her like a bullet.
The laughter and jesting was trickling to a halt as the other agents noticed the
pair in the doorway. But Jerry Walsh, the selfproclaimed life of the party, had
his back to the door, and wouldn't shut his trap. "Hey, it probably wasn't the
murderer at all. He probably got his wish and got himself kidnapped by those
green - oh, sorry - *gray* men he likes to chase. He's probably sitting on his
ass in some UFO right now, driving them cr- " Jerry broke off as he realized he
had lost his audience. Some were studiously surveying the floor, others were
trying to make eye
contact with him, using head gestures in an effort to force him to shut the hell
up and turn around. Slowly, he did. His eyes
widened. Then, with a dusky flush coloring his cheeks, he
slouched down at his desk. Blevins, of course, was now acting
as if he disapproved of these goings-on.
"I was under the *impression* we all worked for the Bureau, that we were all on
the same team," Skinner thundered. Suddenly, Agent Scully cut in, her voice low
and icy cold, only a slight quaver betraying the rage she must have felt.
"With what Agent Mulder has experienced, being abducted
by aliens would probably be his worst nightmare." She paused, then began again
with more heat. "Then again, it would beat his having
to come back in here. What is *wrong* with you people? I don't understand you.
What makes you this way? Mulder was *ordered*
on this assignment, he didn't barge in because he wanted to. Christ, he wanted
nothing to do with you bastards! He's served his time in this hell. Nothing
would have made him happier than never to set
foot in this section again and never to lay eyes on any of you. But he did what
he was ordered to do. And what does he get for it?
I saw Skinner's hand move to take her gently by the arm in
a gesture that was at once restraining and oddly protective. His expression,
beneath the anger, was almost sad. Softly, he murmured, "Agent Scully, - "
Sharply, she shrugged away from his hand and turned furious
eyes on him. "No! I'm going to have my say. God knows it's
long overdue." She stepped forward, once again skewering the
agents in the room with her stare. "Ever since we came in on this case, we've
been subjected to your hostility and your resentment
and your bullshit. You couldn't solve this one on your own, and it hurt your
precious egos that Mulder was called in. Well, tough shit! Mulder is the finest
agent I've ever seen, and if you can't handle that, then keep it to yourselves,
instead of acting like a bunch of two-year-olds!" She paused for breath. When
she began again,
her voice throbbed with intensity and filled the room, growing stronger with
"Mulder wanted nothing to do with you *or* this case. He wanted nothing to do
with picking up after you, cleaning up your
mess. I was naive - I actually thought that something called professional
courtesy and respect between fellow agents in the
Bureau extended to the VCU," she spat out bitterly. "Mulder knew better. He
*knew* the reception he'd get from you. Do you think
he couldn't see your sarcasm? Or hear the remarks made behind his back? Is he
just 'Spooky' to you people? A freak? Oh, you'll use his talents, his gifts, his
genius, like the parasites you are. But treat him like a colleague, like a human
being? You fucking *hypocrits*!" she shouted. Suddenly, her hand flew to her
and she turned and rushed from the room.
I don't think I ever heard a silence so complete. Everyone just sat, stunned.
Skinner's eyes followed Scully down the hall.
Then he turned back to the assembled agents and strode into the
center of the room. A vein in his temple pulsed wildly. He hesitated, probably
to get himself under some sort of professional control. My eyes caught on the
sidearm he wore on his left hip, and
I was glad he was taking the time. He looked furious enough to kill right now.
I didn't wait for the diatribe to begin. Quietly, I picked up my purse and left
the office, looking for Agent Scully.
End of Chapter Seven
by Suzanne Bickerstaffe and Melody (Ecksphile@aol.com, email@example.com)
Disclaimers and acknowledgements in Chapter One
J Edgar Hoover Building
Friday, March 28
Behind me in the office Skinner was in high gear, delivering
a blistering tongue-lashing to the VCU agents. The hallway was deserted, but as
I approached the ladies room I thought I could hear the sound of running water.
I paused, my hand on the cool metal of the door. I hadn't thought about what I'd
say to her. But after what had gone on I knew someone had to *do* something,
something, to try to make some sort of apology. I blamed Blevins
for a lot of this - the callousness, the cutthroat competition, the lack of
teamwork, the unbridled egos. But he couldn't take responsibility for all of it.
These guys were responsible adults,
for God's sake. Supposedly civilized human beings. Nothing
could excuse the demonstration to which Agent Scully had just
been subjected. I took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
She was bent over the sink, her back turned to me, bathing
her face. I thought at first she had been crying - until I saw the bloodstained
tissues wadded up in the waste bin.
"Agent Scully! Are you all right?" My voice was sharp with alarm.
She straightened. She didn't turn around, merely looked at
my reflection in the big mirror as I moved to the sink next to her.
I could see where she had been scrubbing at a bloodstain on her blouse. There
was resignation in her face, in her voice. "I'm fine. I - I'm sorry, I know you
work in VCU and I should remember your
"It's Chandra - Chandra Jones. Look, I know it's none of my business, but
the blood - "
"It - it's all right. Really. Nothing to worry about. It was a nosebleed. I
get them sometimes."
"But - "
"It's... hypertension. High blood pressure. When I get upset I sometimes get a
nosebleed," she said dismissively.
I may not be a highly trained agent, but I know when I'm being lied to. "You
should get that checked out by a doctor," I said in a carefully neutral tone.
She snorted bitterly. "I *am* a doctor. And my own physician is more than aware
of my condition."
All right. I could see she had closed the door on that particular subject -
closed and locked it. I tried again. "I came
here - followed you, really - because... well... it's not enough, but I'd like
to offer you an apology for all that." I hitched my chin in the direction of the
office. "It was completely inexcusable. I
know why they're that way. It's the work. It makes them so hard.
They have to shut off their feelings, so the work doesn't get to them, and I
think they forget how to turn them back on again. But it still doesn't excuse
what they said, or how they've been treating you
and Agent Mulder."
She nodded and bent over the sink again. She finished
rinsing her face and I handed her some paper towels. "Thanks."
"You're awfully pale," I commented.
The wad of paper towels followed the bloodstained tissues
into the waste bin. "That's not surprising, all of my makeup just went down the
drain. I guess I'll just have to look like a ghost for the rest of the day."
It was begging the question. I knew it, she knew it, and
she knew I knew it. Sure, she was stubborn, tough. But still, she looked shaky.
I dropped my handbag on the counter and fished
around until my hands touched my makeup case. "The color's
probably not right for you - you're so fair - but you're welcome to use anything
in here, if you'd like."
She gazed at her reflection, then turned to me and took
the makeup case. "Thanks - I might scare people or start some
ugly rumors looking like this," she replied, a touch of bitterness
to her tone. She lightly brushed on some blusher and applied a
little mascara, then surveyed herself critically in the mirror. "I guess this
will have to do. Thanks."
"How about some coffee? You look like you could use
some." When she hesitated, I rushed on, "No, not back in the
office. Or in the cafeteria. I know a place on the next floor. It should be
deserted this time of the day."
Reluctantly, she nodded. "Yeah. I guess I could use
some coffee, thanks."
Normally I would have taken the stairs, but I still wasn't convinced Agent
Scully wasn't going to pass out on me. If she
were going to faint, I figured it would be safer in an elevator than on a
staircase. We glided silently up to the next floor. There
were few people in the hallway, and we reached the door marked "Custodian"
unquestioned. I grinned at my companion's quizzical expression and turned the
knob. Inside, a woman was seated at
the small rectangular table. I would have preferred if no one were there at all,
but as luck would have it, it was Elaine, a friend of mine. As Agent Scully
preceded me into the little room, I
gestured to Elaine that we needed the place to ourselves. She
nodded pleasantly at Scully, collected her lunch remains and her romance novel,
and left. Thank God it was Elaine - there were a
dozen others who wouldn't have left if we had sprayed the room
"I didn't even know this place existed," the agent murmured.
"I'm not surprised," I tossed over my shoulder, as I poured out two mugs of
coffee at the counter. "It used to be a custodian's office. But in the last
round of budget cuts, he was laid off. The cafeteria's too far to go for
breaks, usually - by the time you get there and wait in line, your break's
over. So a few of us appropriated this place for ourselves - fixed it up,
scavenged the table and chairs, brought in a coffee maker and the little
I looked around at the buttercup-yellow walls decorated with vacation snapshots,
picture postcards, and a bulletin board for messages and
job postings. "It's not much, but it's ours. Besides," I added dryly, "there's
just something about participating in a conspiracy within the very walls of the
J. Edgar Hoover building that's very exhilarating."
I carried the mugs over to the table. "I guess I'll have to swear you to secrecy
now. I'm sure if the existence of this place
were known, the head honchos would close it in a heartbeat."
"Your secret's safe with me," she replied, a ghost of a smile curling her lips.
I went back for the powdered creamer, stirrers, and packets
of sweetener, then sat across from her. "You know, if it's any consolation - I
really don't think most of them really feel that way about Agent Mulder. Most of
the guys probably just don't say
anything when the others start acting like jerks. Not that they shouldn't defend
him. But it's just that Agent Mulder's kind of a legend in the section, and some
of the incredible stories of his investigations.... Well, it makes it hard for
the guys to follow
in his footsteps, you know? Some of them can't handle that. So
they get angry and frustrated, and take it out on him."
"You should have been a psychologist," she observed wryly.
I shrugged. "More like just good old common sense."
We were silent for a while, sipping our coffee. I was relieved to see that a
little natural color had crept back into her cheeks.
Finally she spoke, although I think it was more to herself
than to me. "I really hope he's just ditched me again," she said softly, her
eyes staring into space.
The grapevine had been informative on that subject as well.
It seems Mulder was always striking out on his own, usually without
his partner's knowledge. Some of the grapevine participants believed it was just
Mulder reverting to type - the Lone Wolf, traveling
swifter and surer into hostile territory unencumbered. The romantics in the
group felt he was protecting his petite partner. The few who were well-versed in
women's issues were incensed either way. "Do
you think his disappearance might have something to do with this
case?" I asked.
She pulled herself from her dark thoughts with an effort.
"No, I... I really don't know, actually." She smiled briefly but
there was no humor in it. "Mulder doesn't lack for enemies.
Sometimes I think they'd have to take a number and wait in line."
She drained the remains of her mug like it was nectar from the
"Can I get you some more?"
She hesitated, then pushed her mug across the table
towards me. "Yeah, thanks. Why not. It's not like I'm going to
be getting any sleep, anyway - not until he shows up."
I poured more coffee for the both of us. Hopefully, Elaine
had spread some story - like incipient plague or something -
that would keep the break room off limits for a while. When I set
the mugs down again, I noticed Scully's brows knit in a frown,
and her lips moving silently. Once I sat down, she began to think
"The body in Richmond was the work of the same killer,
we're sure of that," she murmured. "He had been dead at least
four days when I did the autopsy yesterday. We found the portrait within arm's
reach of the body. He was in the photograph - the
victim, I mean. About twenty years younger, but it was definitely
him. And yesterday's witness just added more confirmation to it."
"Do you know yet if the portrait was left at the scene by the killer?" She
looked startled by my question. Blushing, I continued. "Sorry. I mean, I know
I'm only a clerk-typist, but I pick up a lot
of what's going on in the section. I heard the tape of the interview that you
and Agent Mulder conducted yesterday. I know that the
portrait is pivotal to the case, and...." I trailed off. Had I lost my mind?
What was I doing, discussing a case with an agent -
a consultant Special Agent at that? My last evaluation had
mentioned something about knowing my place and saving my
energies for the performance of the duties in my job description. Obviously, I
was going to have to work a little harder on that.
She smiled then, a genuine smile that made her look more
like a college coed than a physician or an FBI agent. "That's all right. I was
just thinking out loud. But you wouldn't be working
here if you weren't intelligent and extremely discreet. The victim
- Richard Cleaver - lived alone, estranged from his wife and kids
for many years. We know after talking to McNulty yesterday that
the killer brings the portrait along to the crime scene. But Mulder was already
pretty sure that was the case. The rest of the victim's place was pretty
cluttered and dusty, and there was very little dust
on the portrait, so it looks like he hadn't had it for long. Mulder was the one
who picked that up. I don't know anyone better at SOC investigation than he is.
How he does it, I can't even begin to guess...." Her eyes clouded with worry
Encouragingly, I said, "You'll find him."
"I wonder," she replied. She leaned forward, elbows on the table, massaging her
temples. "This has happened so many times
that I can't help but think that sooner or later our luck is going to run out.
Maybe this time...."
"He's strong and he's resourceful," I maintained. "And so are you. You'll
"*If* his disappearance has something to do with this case and that's by no
means certain - the interview with McNulty is our
best chance of finding him. Of the twelve people in the photograph, only four
men, including McNulty, and one woman are still alive.
We've made some headway on contacting the others in the picture.
Who knows, one of them may turn out to be the murderer."
"Well, that's progress. It sounds like you know a lot more
now than when I spoke to Agent Mulder."
She looked up from her mug sharply. "You spoke to Mulder? When?"
"Last night. Before he disappeared. He was here around midnight," I
explained. "I was here in the office, working late on a project Blevins
dump- ..er, assigned me, and -"
"What did he say? Tell me exactly what you discussed." Her whole demeanor had
changed - alert, analytical, determined. I was thankful I wasn't a suspect.
"Well, okay. He came down looking for the enlargements
he'd wanted made from the SOC photos, the ones of the witchcraft items and
symbols from the backgrounds. I asked him if he wanted
to see the transcripts of the interview with McNulty. I had just finished typing
them up and he hadn't seen them yet, so he asked
for a copy. I recall he said sometimes it was easier to catch things when he
could see them in print."
She nodded. "Good. Go on."
My brow furrowed. There was a lot riding on this - I wanted to get it right.
"Okay... he was different - more introspective, more remote. He didn't say
anything for a long time, just looked at the photograph and the transcripts. He
was kind of like the way the guys in VCU get - you know, when they're profiling?
Trying to get into the mind of the killer?"
She nodded again, a bit impatiently this time. "And did he say anything about
"No, not to me, anyway. He left a little while after."
"That was it? That's all he said?"
I could see the disappointment - verging on despair - now touching her face.
"Well...there was the phone call from you," I said hesitantly. "And then there
was another phone call."
"Another call? From whom?"
"I don't know. He never mentioned the name of the caller, I'm sure of that. But
he was concerned, and said he was on his
"On his way...," Agent Scully repeated, lost in thought. "Did it seem to you
that he was going to have to go some distance? Did
he use the phone again, to make plane reservations or anything?"
"No, not while he was in the office anyway."
"Did he give you any indication, any hint at all, whether the call had to do
with this case, or was it personal? His mother
hasn't been well," she explained. "I just want to be sure he hasn't gone up to
Connecticut to see her. I haven't wanted to call her - I don't want to alarm her
if I don't have to."
I closed my eyes and tried to think back to the previous night. "No, there was
nothing to indicate it was of a personal
nature. I heard the way he spoke to you, and his tone was different
on the second call. It sounded like something to do with his work."
I opened my eyes again and saw that she was slightly flushed. Did
it disturb her that Mulder's feelings for her were so transparent?
She stood up. "Let's go."
"Both of us? Where?"
"You're coming with me to Skinner's office."
"The AD?" I squeaked. Oh, the next evaluation was going to
be really something - assuming there ever *was* a next evaluation.
"You're not in trouble," she assured me. "I just want you to tell him what
you told me. Come on."
Making a mental note to apologize to whoever ended up
washing out our mugs, I followed Scully out the door.
- - - - -
Tiny as she was, I had a tough time keeping up with Agent Scully as we made our
way to the 'God pod' - the term we peons
used for the floor that housed the offices of the head honchos. Without
preamble, she strode into AD Skinner's outer office and addressed his
administrative assistant. "Is he in, Kim?"
"Yes, Agent Scully. Just a sec." Kim picked up the receiver and spoke into it
softly, then put it down with a smile. "Go right in, Agent Scully." If she was
surprised to see me go in with her,
she gave no sign. But that's Kim - *very* well trained.
Skinner rose from his chair as she entered, once more looking worried. When he
spotted me, he frowned a bit, but motioned us both into chairs. He looked
expectantly at Agent Scully.
"Sir, this is Chandra Jones, clerk in the VCU section. I believe she may have
been the last to see Agent Mulder before
The AD's head swiveled toward me. "Is this true, Ms. Jones?" Scully's gaze had
nothing on the piercing glare he gave me. Jeez, how could such nice brown eyes
seem so menacing?
Trying not to shrink back in my seat, I managed to return it calmly.
"Yes, sir. I was working very late last night. Agent Mulder came down to look at
some of the evidence. He stayed for about
an hour and then left."
"What time was this?"
"I would say between twelve thirty and twelve forty-five, sir."
"What were you doing in the building that late?" he rumbled suspiciously.
I guess Agent Scully could see that I was getting a bit intimidated. Well - more
than a bit. Smoothly, she said, "Section Chief Blevins assigned Ms. Jones a
large project with a close deadline."
Skinner turned back to me, his eyes narrowed. "Does
Section Chief Blevins require you to work those kinds of hours
often, Ms. Jones?"
"Not if I can help it, sir," I answered honestly. "I take classes at night
and I don't like to have to miss them."
The AD nodded to me as if he had dismissed the subject,
but I could see he had filed it away in his mind for further action. Damn, maybe
I had answered a bit *too* honestly. I knew that
the accepted drill was to make Blevins appear to be the perfect
boss, and myself the perfect employee - that's how the game
was played, that's how one got ahead. That was *not* what came naturally to me,
however, as my counseling sessions with Blevins
amply demonstrated. But I needed this job. The difference between
the relatively good GS-05 wages and what I could earn on the
outside was what paid for my college tuition. If Blevins got his ass chewed for
working me like a dog, or if Skinner got the idea I was a slacker -
I looked up sharply to see AD Skinner and Agent Scully
looking at me. "Sir?"
"I asked if there was anything else you can remember about
your conversation with Agent Mulder last night?"
"I'm sorry. No, sir."
"Did he say where he was going? That he was going to
check out a lead?"
"No, sir. I just got the feeling that the person who called him needed to
see him for some reason."
"Did he seem alarmed?"
I hesitated. "Not really alarmed. Concerned, yes - alarmed, no. Not an
emergency, just something that should be checked out."
The phone on Skinner's desk buzzed insistently. He picked
up the receiver. "Just take a message for me -" He listened for a
few moments. "I see. Thank you."
He turned to Scully. "They just found Agent Mulder's car on a road off of State
Road 382 near Croom."
"Croom? We had to go through there to get to McNulty's place," Agent Scully
"That's not the worst of it," Skinner continued grimly. "They
found blood on the hood of Agent Mulder's car. They've taken a
sample of it to the state police lab nearby for analysis. They're waiting for
the results now."
End of Chapter Eight
by 'Melody', and Suzanne Bickerstaffe firstname.lastname@example.org, Ecksphile@aol.com
Disclaimers and acknowledgements in Chapter One
Friday, March 28, 1997
I looked up at the clock on the wall in the empty office. It seemed hours since
the hands had shown any movement at
all. Nearly eight o'clock - my third late night in a row. Blevins' project had
been finished on time, piled in an impressive stack
on his desk. But the triumph I had expected to feel was missing. Not only was
Blevins not there, but I was worried sick about
After Skinner got that phone call this afternoon all hell broke loose. He
excused me from the room, but as I turned to
close the door behind me I saw his and Scully's heads bent together over the
desk, coming up with a plan of action. Before I even got out of the outer office
Skinner was barking out instructions to Kim over the intercom. Then, I hadn't
been back at my desk more than five minutes when he and Agent Scully strode into
the VCU section office and closeted themselves with Blevins.
Ten long minutes later they came out. Skinner's commanding figure drew every eye
in the office. "Approximately twenty minutes
ago I received a call stating that Agent Mulder's car had been found on a road
near Croom, Maryland. I need all the information you've gathered so far today
and I need it now. Status reports."
Ben Johnson stood up at his desk. "Sir, we've ID'ed the other people in the
group photo and have virtually eliminated them
as suspects. Martha Jo Gallegher died of leukemia several years ago. Walter
Jackson is living in Russia as a rep for an oil company. Charles Stiner became a
member of a religious cult about fifteen years ago, and is living in a commune
in Montana. There's no
phone there so we couldn't call to check on him, but we have the local cops
driving out to the commune to verify his presence there. Jack Ouellette -
Charlie, did you find out about him?"
"I spoke to him myself. He's in California, alive and well, and apparently
unaware of what's been happening to his former friends."
"So that seems to indicate a killer who resides on the East Coast and who
possibly lacks the financial resources to chase these people all over the
country. Or lacks the time. Or both," Skinner summed up. "What about this
Dan Kravitz piped up. "We think her name is Phyllis Marchbanks. So far we've
been able to trace her whereabouts
only up to 1988. We do know she has a long history of
psychiatric admissions. The first was early in 1975, when
she attempted suicide following an abortion. There've
been... let's see... six others since that time, her condition apparently more
serious as time went on. The final admission
- that we know about, anyway - was in 1986 when she was
Baker Acted into Glenview Psychiatric Hospital in Virginia. She
was released in 1988. The usual - some shrink said she was cured. Since then she
seems to have dropped out of sight." He passed out copies of a fax of an old
snapshot to Skinner and the agents in the room. Craning my neck over Dan's
shoulder, I caught a glimpse of
the photo. Between the fact that it was a lousy photo to start with, the mess
the fax had made of it, and then the multiple photocopies, Dan wouldn't have
been able to recognize his own mother from the
copy in his hand.
"Well, since she's our best candidate for the suspect in these murders, we'd
better find those missing years fast." Skinner's
glare took in the agents seated around the office. "She's also the most likely
to be involved in Agent Mulder's disappearance. Narrow your search to the
geographic area we know she's frequented in the past - I think you'll find that
that also takes in just about all the murder sites. We need to move on this.
Blood was found on the
hood of Mulder's car. Tests are being conducted as we speak at
the Highway Patrol Lab near Croom to find out exactly whose
blood it is."
From Skinner's tone, it was clear he had already assumed
the blood would prove to be Mulder's. If even half the stories
passed along the grapevine were true, Mulder had a way of finding trouble. Rumor
had it that he had been close to being invalided
out of the Bureau more than once for injuries received in the line
of duty - and out of it. Maybe that's why his ancient eyes were always so full
"Is it really likely that Sp- Agent Mulder could have been overpowered by a
woman?" Jerry Walsh's voice was scornful in disbelief.
"Mulder hadn't seen this photo of Phyllis Marchbanks...
not that it would have helped much," Skinner observed dryly.
"He left here at nearly one o'clock in the morning. I got a followup call from
the Highway Patrol in Maryland while in Section
Chief Blevins' office. The officers who found his car also found fresh tire
tracks immediately in front of his vehicle. Apparently, the way they've
reconstructed the scene, someone feigning car
trouble or a flat tire might have flagged him down. If that person was
Marchbanks and seeing a woman alone and in trouble at that
hour, Mulder would have stopped to help out.... At least long
enough to find out what the problem was and use his celphone to
call for a tow truck. There were footprints in the mud by the side
of the road - a man's size 11 1/2 and a woman's size 8. Mulder
wears an 11 1/2. The man's footprints don't go back to his car.
So in answer to your question, Walsh - yeah, I think if Mulder were
unsuspecting, merely thinking he was helping out a woman in
trouble, he could have been overpowered. Maybe hit from behind
and toppled into the trunk of the supposedly disabled car."
I noticed Scully grow paler - if that were possible - as Skinner outlined the
Highway Patrol's theory on what happened to
Skinner continued. "Now what I want from you people is
this. Two of you - Agents Kravitz and Haddox - will stay here and continue to
work on finding this Phyllis Marchbanks. The rest of
you will accompany Agent Scully, Section Chief Blevins and myself
down to Croom. Chances are good that Agent Mulder is being held
in the area. Any information you come up with here is to be relayed to Agent
Scully or myself immediately. The Maryland Highway
Patrol and the local police will be backing us up. Kravitz, make
sure you stay in communication with them. They'll be given what information we
already have to expedite finding Marchbanks and
Agent Mulder. Those coming with me - you'll be wearing your vests
on this one. We're dealing with a deranged killer. While there's been no
indication that firearms are involved, we're going to play
it safe." His dark, glittering eyes swept the room. "I want to make myself clear
- I'm holding each and every one of you personally responsible for seeing that
this operation goes without a hitch and that Agent Mulder is recovered safely.
Am I understood?" There
were murmurs of agreement. "Very well. We'll meet in the parking garage,
sub-level three, in fifteen minutes."
Skinner strode from the room, Scully only a few steps
behind him. As she passed my desk I put out a hand to stop her.
"Good luck, Agent Scully. I know you'll find him." I spoke with more confidence
than I felt, hoping it would reassure both of us.
"Thanks. I hope so. We... we *have* to...." her voice caught, then she nodded
and quickly walked out the door, closely followed
by the others on the team. A couple still grumbled, still muttered about Spooky
deserving anything he got, but I was relieved that most seemed determined to get
their fellow agent back. Too bad it took something like this and Skinner's
harrangue to do it. Too bad Mulder wasn't there to see the change in their
The six hours since the rescue team left this afternoon had passed
excruciatingly slowly. Dan and Charlie, with some information gathered by the
Highway Patrol, had managed to trace Phyllis
Marchbanks - now just Phyllis Banks - to an address on the outskirts
of Croom about the time that the team reached the town. Then they
had left to join their colleagues, and I was left alone.
I finished the project by five - barely. I suppose I could have gone home.
Instead, I picked up the phone and called Sven. Patiently
I waited as the phone rang. He rarely even heard the phone before
it had rung half a dozen times. On the ninth ring, he picked up. Quickly, I
explained that I would be late again.
"I thought you would have been finished with the Demon
Blevins' project by now."
"I did, but... Sven, Agent Mulder is missing and they think
he may have been kidnapped by the serial killer they were after.
The others have gone to try to find him. I just... I really don't
want to leave until I know what happened."
He grunted. "This Mulder again. I begin to be jealous of
your Agent Mulder ~alskare~." While there was some teasing in
his voice, there was an underlying uneasiness.
I felt an unaccustomed twinge of guilt. I guess I had been mentioning Mulder a
lot in the rare moments Sven and I had
shared over the past couple of days. Despite his incredible looks
and less... well, visible... attributes, Sven could be very insecure where I was
concerned. "No need, my heart," I replied softly, my
throat tight. "I am forever yours. But... Agent Mulder is different from the
others, so... vulnerable, I guess you'd say. And he's a
decent guy who treats me like a human with a brain, and not like
some kind of servant. I just care what happens to him." I held my breath, hoping
he would understand.
"Stay, ~alskare~. I hope your Mulder is found safe. Come home when you can. I'll
be waiting up for you." His rich, deep voice held the promise of passion.
My heart leapt. Was it any wonder I loved this man?
"I adore you, Sven, my heart. I'll be home as soon as I know something. And
thank you. I owe you one."
He laughed then. "And I know what I want in return. I have changed my mind
again. I have a fresh canvas. Tomorrow will we start on your portrait."
I smiled, my cheeks warm with the blush that had
crawled up from my neck. If posing me went as it had the last
time, the portrait would never get started, let alone finished. "It's a deal,
beloved. See you soon, I hope."
"And I hope, as well. Be safe, Chandra."
"For you? Always." I replaced the receiver gently.
I tried to settle down with some work that had piled up while I had slaved away
on Blevins' project, but two hours passed and I
was no further ahead than when I started. I was just too nervous,
too keyed up to concentrate. What could be taking so long? Why hadn't anyone
called to let me know what had happened? As I paced
the office, I realized that that I was being somewhat unfair - no one would
expect me to still be around, on the odd chance anyone would bother to call here
anyway. I shut down my computer - work was out
of the question, I couldn't even think straight at that point, between fatigue
and concern. Restlessly, I tidied the office and started a couple of pots of
fresh coffee. The guys would be needing it when they got back.
I had just finished when several of them came in, grim-faced and blood
spattered. My heart sank.
Horrified, I went up to Haddox. "What happened?"
Normally he was one of the more approachable and affable agents
of the VCU crew. But not now... Tonight he was as grim as the
others and looked completely wiped out. His hands were clean,
but his clothing was liberally smeared with blood, and there were spatters of it
on his neck and in his hair.
"It went down, but not clean." He sighed and thrust a tape into my hands.
"You'll have to do the transcripts at some point anyway, so you might as well
hear it. But for Christ's sake, use
your headset. Frankly, I don't have the stomach to go through it again, and I
don't think any of the others do, either." He turned
his back on me and went over to the coffeemaker, poured himself
a cup and slumped down over his desk.
I was shaking as I took the tape to my desk and put it
into my machine, putting on my earphones. I waited tensely as the tape rewound,
then I stabbed the play button.
The voices on the tape were low, hushed. I turned up the volume. Someone I
didn't recognize was speaking.
<<...farmhouse, just through those trees. We think she's alone, other than Agent
Mulder. One of my guys managed to get
a microphone - a real sensitive, state of the art model - in there about an hour
ago. Taped it up to the outside of one of those little pet openings in the
kitchen door. We didn't hear much for a while
- just the sounds of someone moving around and a lot of muttering which didn't
make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Then....>>
There was a clicking noise on the tape, probably the
sound of another tape player being turned on. A hoarse, gravelly female voice
was saying with evident satisfaction, << <<So you've decided to wake up
<< <<Look... Phyllis... why are you doing this?>> >> My
heart thudded. It was Agent Mulder. He sounded weak, but he
<< <<I have to. I have to pay them all back for what they
did to me.>> >> The voice sounded strangely reasonable.
<< <<Did you kill Vinnie McNulty?>> >>
<< <<Oh, yes. I was there when he called you. He didn't
know I was there, of course. Pissed me off - I had to rush things with him,
couldn't take the time or the care I normally do. You
see, I knew you would be on your way.>> >>
<< <<Phyllis, this isn't going to help. Killing me isn't going to make you feel
A cackle chilled my blood. << <<Well, you're partly right
about that, FBI man. It won't be the same, but you'll have to do.
There has to be thirteen, you see.>> >>
<< <<Th-thirteen. Because of the thirteen in the coven....>> >>
<< <<That's right. Some of them are beyond my reach.
If I could, I'd get to all of them, make sure they all paid. But I
got the ones I could reach - got 'em good.>> >> I envisioned her
leaning over Mulder and gloating, and I shuddered.
<< <<What they did to you was terrible, Phyllis, but- >> >>
<< <<They *defiled* me!>> >> she screamed. With trembling fingers I lowered the
volume. << <<They fucked me and left me with Satan's bastard, and I
couldn't...>> >> The voice broke, took on a pleading quality << << I couldn't
get clean.... No matter what I
There was a few moments' silence. When she spoke again, she seemed under better
control. << <<But I found a way to get clean - all by myself. All that time in
those hospitals, and they couldn't find a way...but I did. By sending them back
the slowest and most painful way I could. So I could see how
scared they were, like that night I - ...Anyway, then, when they're dead, I wash
myself in their blood. And every time I do it, it
takes away a little more of the stink of their sin. But I'm not
clean yet. No, not yet. Thirteen - thirteen and I'll be clean,>> >> she finished
in a sing-songy voice.
I could hear her repeating her horrible little song, along with some staccato
ripping sounds in the background.
<< <<Phyllis, don't do this.>> >>There was no plea to the words, just a
dignified, almost sympathetic calm.
<< <<I have to. But with you, I'll take my time. It's your own fault; after all,
you spoiled the last one by rushing me. I won't be rushed this time. You've only
been bleeding for a few hours -
we have lots of time to go.>> >>
<< <<I wasn't one of them, Phyllis.>> >> Again quiet, reasonable. My God, I
would have been screaming by now. How
could he -
<< <<I know *that*. I'm not crazy, you know. But there has
to be thirteen...thirteen and I'll be clean.>> >>The words were patient, as if
she were talking to a slightly slow child. There followed a long, tearing sound
- fabric, I thought. << <<Now, don't move. This is very sharp, and I wouldn't
want to get an artery by mistake. Too much waste in arteries, can't control
<< <<Phyllis, don't - >> >>There was a sudden, sharp intake
of breath, a bit-off gasp.
<<Oh, God!>> It was Agent Scully. There was a click, presumably as the tape from
the house was turned off.
<<How long ago was this?>> Skinner's voice demanded.
<<Not quite ten minutes ago,>> the unfamiliar voice replied. <<Your people were
just pulling up. We didn't want to blow this
thing by rushing the house when your people weren't in position.>>
<<You did the right thing, Captain MacKenzie,>> Skinner
said, but I could tell he hated having to admit it - he spat the
words out like they were toxic. Then, more softly, <<We'll get him out, Agent
Scully. We have time, and we have to use it to our best advantage. We get one
chance to do this right. One false move on
our part and ->>
<<I know, sir... I know,>> she cut him off. She knew it,
but she didn't have to like it, any more than I did.
<<Scully...>> A sigh. <<I have to listen to the rest of
this - for any clues as to the layout in there, her state of mind, where she is
in relation to Mulder.... You don't have to hear it.>>
Skinner's voice was almost gentle, nearly unrecognizable from
the furious AD who had given the VCU guys such a tonguelashing.
It was a totally different side to the man, a very unexpected side.
And it was obvious that he cared for Agent Scully a great deal.
<<No, sir. I'm fine. Go on.>> There was another click and the tape from the
<< <<...going to take forever at this rate if you keep clotting off. I guess I'm
just going to have to open that up again....>> >> There was another indrawn
hiss, and over it, an involuntary sound, probably from Scully. << <<There,
that's better now.>> >>
Damn straight that microphone was sensitive... I could hear each drop of
Mulder's blood as it dripped into something deep and hollow and metallic. I
wiped my forehead and upper lip where a
cold sweat had broken out, and tried to get control of my rebellious stomach.
<< <<Another one, now.... No! Don't move! There... hands bleed so well, don't
you think? There was an odd noise, a soft rustling of plastic-like material. <<
<<There's no point in doing
this if I don't collect every drop, FBI Man.... Don't worry, you
won't feel the tape coming off, if that's what you're worried about.
By the time the bag's full and I untape it, you won't be feeling
much of anything. Such nice big veins you have. Makes it so
much easier on the both of us...>> >>
Skinner's voice was quietly urgent. <<Captain MacKenzie,
I want what's going on in there piped into us directly. Can you do that?>>
<<No problem. Just take a minute... Herington! Get
over here.... He's our best sound man, Mr. Skinner, the one that
got the mic in there in the first place.>>
<<We'll get him out, Scully.>> The AD's voice was steely. There was no answer
For the next few minutes of the tape, Skinner outlined a course of action to the
assembled lawmen. The microphone from the house was plugged right into the tape
from the scene, but mercifully, not a lot seemed to be going on in there - just
Phyllis' demented ramblings, Mulder's calm attempts to reason with her, and
worst of all, the steady drip of Mulder's blood. Then there sounds of movement,
as if the team was moving through the trees
and brush. I imagined them surrounding a lonely, dilapidated farmhouse.
Skinner spoke next, in a hoarse whisper. <<MacKenzie!
She seems pretty focused on Mulder. What are our chances
of getting someone close enough to see into the house?>>
The captain seemed hesitant. <<It's risky. I mean, it would be easier when we go
in if we knew the layout. It would be even better if we could draw your agent's
attention, so he knows we're here and can distract her when we make our move.
But if she
sees us.... Well, it's your agent who will pay the price. I dunno. I guess that
makes it your call.>>
Skinner was silent for moment. When he continued, his
voice had that 'I hate this, but I have to say it anyway' tone again. <<Get your
best man ready. But give me a moment, all right?>>
<<Agent Scully!>> The words were still whispered and
must have failed to get her attention. There was another sound
of movement through brush. Evidently Skinner was carrying the
A long silence. <<That's the second nosebleed you've had within the past few
hours, Agent Scully. Is there something you
need to tell me?>> Skinner's voice sounded - I don't know, stilted or something,
like he knew he was being recorded, and was trying
to get his message across without having to actually say it.
<<No. No, sir. I'm fine.>>
<<We'll talk about this in my office on Monday.>> He sighed. <<Scully, I have a
decision to make and I'm asking for your input.
We can send one of MacKenzie's SWAT team guys close to the
house, close enough to see in, get the lay of the land in there, hopefully even
tip off Mulder that we're here and ready to go in. If he can distract Marchbanks
when we make our move.... Well, you're
a trained agent, you know as well as I do what that could mean. A cleaner
operation, less risk all around. But- >>>
<<But if she spots MacKenzie's man, she could decide to
kill Mulder immediately. Is that it?>>
<<Yes, that's it. It's a decision *I* have to make, but I can take your opinion
into consideration. I know how.... I know that
you and Mulder....>>
<<It's all right, sir.>> Any tentativeness was gone from her voice now. This was
Special Agent Dana Scully speaking. How
she managed to draw that line, to cut off her emotions from this situation was
beyond me. God knows I couldn't have done it.
<<Send the man in. It's the decision Mulder would make,
and it's what we would do if it were anyone other than Mulder in
<<But it *is* Mulder.>>
<<I know. But it's still the right decision.>>
<<Thank you, Agent Scully.>> Skinner's voice sounded
strained, as if he were speaking around a lump in his throat.
There was another rustling sound. Then the volume of the microphone in the house
was increased slightly.
<< <<...very nicely. But too slowly, too slowly. There's such a thing as too
much of a good thing. Hold still....>>
A bitten off cry, then Mulder spoke again. << <<Phyllis,
this won't work. *My* blood isn't going to cleanse you.>> >>
A sharp slap rang out, and when she spoke, she was angry.
<< <<No! *you * don't understand, Mr. FBI Man. I don't have any choice in the
matter. *They're* the ones. I won't carry the stink
of their sin around on me the rest of my life! This is the only way.>> >> There
was another long tearing sound. << <<Now
*don't* move this time. If you kick over that bucket and spoil this,
when I'm finished with you I'll find your pretty little partner....>> >>
<< << How - how...aagh!>> >> He was panting now,
though whether from fear or pain or anger or weakness, I didn't
know. His voice was certainly weaker. << <<How did you know...
about my partner? You've never... seen her.>> >>
A short unpleasant laugh. << <<And what makes you think
that? I knew about you, didn't I?>> >>
Mulder sounded stunned. << <<You... You were watching...
when we went to Vincent McNulty's house. He said... he had a
feeling like.. he was being watched.>> >>
<< <<For months. You think it's easy, doing what I do? It takes planning.>> >>
The volume on the house mike was turned
It was MacKenzie again. <<Director Skinner, this is Bob Lin. He's my best guy
for this sort of thing.>>
<<You've been briefed? Good. Now if you can get Agent
Mulder's attention, indicate that we'll be making our move in ten minutes. Do
*not* attempt to signal him if it in any way increases
the risk of your being seen by the suspect, is that clear? We need
to know where they are, if the suspect is armed and with what,
entrance routes, impediments, and Agent Mulder's condition. When
you're finished, get the hell out of there and report to me
<<Good luck, Lin.>>
End of Chapter Nine
by Suzanne Bickerstaffe and 'Melody' Eckphile@aol.com, email@example.com
Disclaimers and acknowledgements in Chapter One
Evening, March 28
Excerpts from Audiotape of Rescue Scene
For the next couple of minutes, the agents surrounding the house must have been
holding their collective breath, because
there wasn't a sound from them. The microphone in the house
was relatively quiet, too - just Phyllis singing her nasty little song again.
There was no sound at all from Agent Mulder. Then suddenly -
<< <<Phyllis - Phyllis, I need to talk to you.>> >>
<< <<You haven't got anything to say that I want to hear,
FBI Man.>> >>
<< <<I want to understand, Phyllis. Talk to me, help me understand why you're
doing this. I want to help you.>> >>
<< <<Oh, you'll help, all right. You're going to help make
me clean again.>> >>
<< <<But I'm trying to tell you, it's not going to h- >> >> Another hard slap,
and Mulder fell silent.
<< <<Not another word. I have to concentrate on what I'm doing. I have to do it
just right....>> >> The house grew quiet again.
There were some scuffling sounds. Then Skinner said,
<< Good work, Lin. Report.>>
Lin must have been in good shape - he was barely out of
breath from his exertions << It was close. The back door is locked but not
bolted. It should go down fast. There are seven windows in all - three at the
back of the house, two in front and one on each side. Two of the ones at the
back are open an inch or two, the rest of 'em are locked. The sashes are old,
and will probably either jam or squeak if we try to open 'em, so I think the
front and back doors are our best bets. I couldn't check the front door, it was
too risky. The front porch is a mess of dry rot - I got away with it because I
don't weigh much, but some of the rest of these guys will go right through if
they put a foot in the wrong spot. I doubt the front door is used much. The
car's pulled around back, and the path up to
the front is overgrown with weeds and shit. My bet is she keeps
that door locked. Again, with the dry rot, it should break down
easy, but we'll have to make it in really fast. They're in the
living room, not a dozen feet from the front door. She has your
guy strapped to a wooden chair. There's a table set up about five
feet away from him with knives, plastic bags, duct tape, and some other shit.
She's ripped his clothes so she can get at his arms and legs. It's... shit, it's
thee damnedest thing I ever saw, sir. She's cut him up, he's bleeding like hell
from at least half a dozen
places, and she's.... collecting his blood. She has these big plastic bags taped
around his wrists, and he's bleeding into those pretty bad. There's a couple of
buckets on the floor that the blood from his arms is dripping into. There's
blood on the back of his head, too, but
that looks dried. And he's pale, real pale. >>
<<Did you get his attention?>>
<<Yes, sir... and he saved both our asses. When I
looked in the front window she had her back turned, doing something
at the table. So I signaled your guy and he nodded. Then she
suddenly turned around toward the window. He called her, got her attention,
started talking to her. I think he pissed her off on purpose so she'd
concentrate on him. That's when I bailed.>>
<<Is Agent Mulder going to be any help to us when we
<<The way he looks? I really doubt it. He could pass
out any minute. And- >>
<<What is it, Lin?>>
<<In my opinion, sir, I think we'd better get in there
fast. She's got his tie off and his shirt unbuttoned and she was slicing open
the front of his undershirt. I think she's getting
ready for something - like maybe she's gonna go for his throat
or chest next.>>
There was a muffled expletive, then <<Thanks, Lin, good
work. >> Scuffling sounds.... <<MacKenzie, get your people
in position. I wanted to go in when it was dark, but I don't think
we dare wait that long. You'll go in the back door. Have teams
ready to go in through the windows at the back and west side of
the house - but *only* when you hear the doors go down, clear?
You've got four minutes to get into position, and for Christ's sake keep it
<<Yes, sir. Coming...>> More rustling.
<<Johnson, I want you, Walsh, Anderson and Haddox to
go in the front door - take a ram, it's probably locked. Be careful on the
porch, it's rotted and you could go through it. Mulder's been signaled, he knows
we're coming. He'll distract her if he's able,
but he's in bad shape and I don't know how much we can count on
his help. The rest of us will cover the east windows, the garage and her
vehicle. This woman is *not* to get away. Clear?>>
<<Get in position. We move in exactly... three minutes.>>
I heard Johnson crawl off, his voice in the background briefing the others.
<<Agent Scully.... How much of that did you hear?>>
<<More than I wanted to.>>
<< I think we're going to need your medical skills more than your abilities as
an agent this time, Agent Scully. Hang back.
As soon as we go in call EMS. I don't want to call them now - if
they come in with their sirens blaring, it's all over. We'll get Marchbanks
restrained, then you see what you can do for Agent
<<Sir, if this has anything to do with ->>
<<The only thing it has to do with, Agent Scully, is the fact that you're a
medical doctor. There's going to be about twenty people in there capable of
taking the prisoner down - you're the only person here who can do something
beyond rudimentary first aid. You can't
do Mulder any good if you get caught in the melee and need medical attention
yourself.>> Skinner's tone did not invite argument.
<<Yes, sir.>> Still the good soldier, but obviously upset at not being in the
I wiped my sweating palms on my skirt. My drycleaner was
going to be rich.
The next two minutes passed with only my galloping
heartbeat to listen to. Then there was a whisper. <<Everyone's in position,
<<Very well - in thirty seconds.>>
A few seconds later, the microphone from the house came to life again, first
with the sounds of someone walking around, handling some implements that chinked
<< <<Phyllis, what... what are you doing?>> >>
<< <<Too long. It's taking too long. Something's not
right - I can feel it, it feels wrong, it feels like it's going to be spoiled.
And I have to get this stink off. I have to wash and get their stink off.>> >>
Mulder suddenly seemed more alert, his voice raised as if he knew someone
outside were listening. << << You won't be able to collect the blood if you cut
my throat....>> >>
<< <<Why don't you let me worry about that, eh? I'm an
old hand at this....>> >> There were more staccato tearing sounds,
and more of the soft rustle of plastic.
<< <<I can't let you do this, Phyllis....>> >>
<< <<*You* don't have much choice.>> >>
Come on, come *on*, I thought frantically. Go in, go in *now*.
Suddenly, there was a muffled crunch from outside and an enraged howl from
inside the house. Almost simultaneously there
was a yell from Mulder, a soft thud, and two deafening crashes. Then bedlam
<<Federal agents! Move ba->> <<Wait, where's - >>
<<Get her, she's got - >> <<Drop it, drop it n- agghh!>>
Then gunfire - lots of gunfire.
There was a moment of perfect, stunned silence, then -
<<Man down, man down!>>
<<Fuck! get a paramedic, quick! Ben! Ben!>>
Ben? Ben Johnson? What -
<<Two - no, three men down! Somebody for Christ's sake call the fucking
<<...nah, suspect's deader than a doornail....>>
<<Christ, have you ever seen so much fuckin' blood?>>
<<Where the hell are they?>>
Then Scully must have appeared. Skinner's voice bellowed over the shouts and
cries, <<Scully - see if you can help Johnson. No, I'll get Mulder. Just see to
The cacaphony was dying down, enough to now hear a
ghastly, gurgling, choking sound.
<<Ben, take it easy, we're trying to help you.>> A clearly horrified Agent
Scully. <<You - Santos? Hold his neck right here. Pinch together -*hard* - and
don't let go for anything. Ben! Stay with us! Come on, Ben, don't give up on
Jesus! Ben.... No wonder the guys....
<<Mulder, hold still,>> Skinner commanded from nearby.
<<I'm going to cut the straps and get the chair off of you. Now, hold on!>>
<<No pulse! Haddox, do chest compressions, I'll breathe him. Santos - just keep
pinching that artery....>> Scully sounded breathless as she cared for Johnson.
<<Agent Scully - Anderson needs help! Gunshot wound in
the arm, >> called someone from a distance.
<<Tell him to get in line!>> she yelled, then breathlessly, <<...three, four,
five.......one, two, three, four, five....>>
The wail of an ambulance began to grow more insistent in the background.
<<Don't move, Mulder. No! Don't try to get up.>> Skinner's voice was quiet and
firm, but even he sounded shell-shocked.
<<No, leave those alone.>> There was some murmuring I couldn't quite catch; if
it was Mulder, he was awfully weak. <<She's working on Johnson. I don't know,
maybe we should keep those. No! Agent Mulder, don't you dare pass out on me -
that's an order. Come on, Fox, stay with me.>> There was a faint whisper, then
the AD said dryly, <<I think that constitutes insubordination, mister. I could
write you up for that.>>
The scream of the siren finally stopped and there was the clatter of boots.
<<Jesus Christ - Marty, call for another unit! It looks like a fuckin'
slaughterhouse in there! Christ, where do I start?>>
<<Here!>> called Agent Scully. <<Slash wound across the throat, severing the
jugular and the carotid. He arrested two - no, three minutes ago. Take him
*now*, and send for two more
<<Already called in, lady. All right, buddy, keep doing the compressions while
we get him into the MAST suit. Vitals?>>
<<No pulse, no BP, no spontaneous respiration.>>
<<Save him! You've got to save him!>> I think it was Jerry Walsh's voice.
<<Take it easy, buddy. We'll do our best, but.... Okay, on
my count we move him to the gurney. Ready? One... two... three.... Good.... Okay
- Fred, compressions, Marty, you bag him. We'll
intubate on the way - if we can. You - holding his neck - you move with us out
to the van.... Howard, we'll have to carry him over that fuckin' hole in the
porch. Okay, out! Everyone clear, coming
through. Clear the way, please!>>
<<Agent Scully, is he gonna be okay?>> It was Charlie. <<I-I don't know
Charlie.... It doesn't look good....>> <<Scully!>>
All sound from the audiotape was drowned out for the next
several seconds by the siren of the ambulance pulling away from the farmhouse.
<< -kay.... I'm here, Mulder. Sir, get his legs up on the chair, shock position.
Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me?>> Mumbling....
<<I know, but it's okay now...>>
<<I didn't know what I should do about the.. bags.... I didn't know if - >>> For
once, Skinner seemed totally out of his element.
<<Take them off. Just untape them and get rid of them.
It's mostly clotted, certainly contaminated. They won't be able to
use it for an autologous transfusion, if that's what you were
<<I don't know what the hell I was thinking, at this point. Just... it's just
that he looks so pale.>>
<<I know.... Mulder - stay awake, Mulder! Sir, I have some gloves you can
<<It's a little late for that, wouldn't you say? I'm covered in blood already,
his, Johnson's, and that woman's. Hold on, Mulder.
I'm just going to unbag you here....>> There was another tearing
noise, somewhat more muffled than any previous.
<<*Shit!*>> That was the first thing Mulder had said that I could make out, but
then his voice fell back to murmurs.
The AD chuckled. The sound struck me as strange, for some
reason I couldn't quite grasp. Then I realized it was because I don't think
anyone had ever heard him do it before.
<<What did Mulder say, sir?>>
<<He said at least Phyllis promised not to hurt him when
she tore of the tape.>>
<<Quit bitching, Mulder. Sir, apply firm pressure to those incisions. I'm going
to try to take his blood pressure if I can find
a spot on his arm to put the cuff.... It's gonna feel tight for a minute,
Mulder. ..Sixty over forty....Pulse - Christ, Mulder, slow
down! - one forty eight.>>
I took a guess that that wasn't good, confirmed a moment
later by Agent Scully. <<It's official, Mulder, you're in shock. Can
you find him a blanket, please, sir? We need to try to keep him
<<No problem, Agent Scully.>>
Multiple sirens in the background grew progressively louder.
It seemed every emergency vehicle in Maryland was converging on
the farmhouse. It was a couple of minutes before I could hear anyone talking on
<<Thanks, sir. Here you go, Mulder.>> More mumbles....
<<Yes, I know you're cold,>> she said sympathetically.<<...but we
have to leave your arms and legs out for a minute while we get you bandaged.
You're still bleeding, Mulder, we have to get it stopped.>> There was another
sound of ripping, paper this time, I thought.
<<Sir, take these dressings, fold them up and tape them down tight
over the incisions. Here....>> More mumbles. <<Yes, Mulder, 'more fucking tape',
we have to stop this bleeding. ...Yes, good, that's
More clomping of boots. <<Paramedics!>>
<<Over here!>> Agent Scully called. <<There's one in the kitchen, too, a gunshot
<<Andy, kitchen.... Okay, ma'am, just move aside.>>
<<I'm a doctor.>> The tone could have frosted Miami. <<He's suffering from
hypovolemic shock secondary to blood loss. BP is
sixty over forty, pulse one forty eight, respirations thirty. He's responsive to
verbal cues, but just barely. Start an IV of normal saline, wide open. Two, if
you can. You'll have to start it high in
the cephalics - lower down, his arms and legs are a mess. And he's
type AB negative, so you'd better call ahead to your lab and the
local blood bank. And start oxygen - by mask.>>
<<Yes, *ma'am*!>> The voice lowered, muttering, <<Hey
pal, is she always like this?>>
More mumbles, followed by a chuckle from the paramedic.
<<Good thing I didn't hear that, Mulder. And - John, is it?
I'm riding in the back with him on the way in.>>
<<You're the doc. I'm just going to get his IV's started and finish the pressure
dressings. Maybe get him in a MAST suit. Then
<<Sir, could you stay with him for a second? I want to check on Anderson.>>
<<I'll be here, Agent Scully.>>
Her voice was a whisper this time, perhaps meant for his ears only. <<I won't
leave you, Mulder. I'd never leave you. I'm just going to check on Anderson for
a minute, and then I'll be back. I'll be with you in the ambulance on the way
in, and in the ER. And I'll be with you when you wake up in ICU. Aren't I
always? ...No, don't try to talk.... I know.... Hang on, Mulder.... I nee->>
The tape snapped off with a sharp click and began to rewind.
Unsteadily, I got to my feet. Something dropped on the jacket of my suit. It was
only when I put my hand to my face that I realized my cheeks were wet, wet with
the tears I didn't know were falling. I went over to Charlie, who was still
hunched over at his desk.
He sat up, his face devoid of expression though his eyes were red. "She heard
us. Someone went through that fucking porch. Sounded like a fucking gunshot. We
broke down the door and we
were in in less than two seconds. Mulder tried - threw himself over in the
chair, trying to knock her down before she could get to the door. But she was
too fast - her arm came up and Ben was spouting blood like a geyser...."
"Charlie, is Ben...."
He looked up at me dully. "Didn't make it. DOA."
"Oh, God!" I felt the tears start again. "Anderson?"
"He's not bad, he'll probably be released from the hospital in the morning."
"And Agent Mulder?"
He shook his head, and my heart just about stopped. "I don't know. Skinner was
at the hospital for a while, but left to go break the news to Ben's wife Sheila,
and stay with her until her mother gets there to be with her. Agent Scully's
still with Mulder, hasn't left his side as far as I know. They were taking him
into surgery when I left."
The phone rang. I stepped back to my desk and picked it
up automatically. "VCU."
"~Alskare~....? ~Alskare~, are you all right? What happened?"
"Oh, Sven!" The sound of his deep voice, so strong and
caring, triggered the sobs I had been trying to hold in.
"Chandra! What's wrong? Oh, no... Things have not turned out so good. Stay put,
love. I'll come to get you. Can you meet
me out front?"
"Th-thank you, Sven."
He murmured something gentle in Swedish before he
hung up. I fumbled to get the phone's handset back in its cradle and found my
purse on my chair by touch. Nearly blinded by tears,
End of Chapter Ten
by "Melody", and Suzanne Bickerstaffe (firstname.lastname@example.org, Ecksphile@aol.com)
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Several weeks later, Friday
I was still in a daze as I finished cleaning out my desk. I'd been offered a
promotion this afternoon that was both a step up
and out of the VCU, into a position in Computer Crimes. It was a bottom-rung
position, true, but far better than I had dared to hope for when I had put in
for transfer after the Phyllis Marchbanks case. I hadn't cared at that point - I
just wanted out. The attitudes of the unit after Ben Johnson's death and their
unanimous shift to
the opinion that it was somehow all Agent Mulder's fault was just
the last straw. I couldn't stay here any more.
Shoving the last desk drawer shut, I put the last few personal items in the box
to take with me. I was forgetting something....
My coffee cup. It wasn't special or expensive, but I didn't want to leave
anything of mine behind. I fetched it from the shelf by the coffeemaker and had
turned around to put it with the rest when a
faint sound made me look toward the door. The shape of a man
stood in the shadows.
I didn't jump, but I did catch my breath.
"You're getting better," said an amused voice. One I recognized, but had never
expected to hear again. I began to smile.
"Mulder! What are you doing here?" As he stepped forward
I could see he'd lost weight, and his slow steps didn't quite mask a limp. I
dragged a chair closer and he sank into it with a surprising amount of grace.
"You aren't supposed to be back at work yet, are you." I made it a statement.
Even I could tell he was still in pain. And I'd bet all my savings he refused to
take pain medication, too.
"I'm okay," he assured me, "just not quite back to normal speed. I'm cleared
to come back to work on light duty on Monday."
"I hate to tell you this, Mulder, but that's still a few days away."
"I know - Jeez, you sound like Scully," he complained, but
he was grinning so I knew he was teasing. "I just came in for a little while to
get out of my apartment. I was going stir-crazy."
"Well, I'm glad you're feeling better. Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"So what are you doing wandering the halls of the VCU this late on a Friday
night?" I asked a few moments later as I handed
him a cup.
"I'm waiting for Scully. She's doing an autopsy and asked
me to wait for her." He made an exasperated sound and shrugged.
"Well, more like she *ordered* me to wait. She saw me limping and told me I
shouldn't be driving yet, so she's going to drive me home."
"So what's causing the limp? Overdo it chasing the nurses
at the hospital?" I couldn't resist teasing him a little, and his reaction made
it worthwhile. For an instant he looked startled, then he laughed.
"I wish! I had a male nurse that looked like that football player they used to
call the 'Refrigerator'! No, one of the cuts around my ankle was a little too
deep and got part of my Achilles tendon. It's taking a while to heal. So, what's
with the box?" he asked, gesturing to my desk. He wanted to change the subject,
I realized. He didn't want to talk about his injuries any more - or
the case, either, I suspected. So even though I could see the edge
of bandages peeking out from under his sleeves, I did my best to ignore them and
just talk to him. It got a little easier when I suddenly remembered part of our
late-night conversation weeks ago.
"I just got promoted. I start in Computer Crimes Monday morning... Thanks to
you, most likely. You put in a good word for me, didn't you?"
He looked confused. "No, I didn't. I was planning to get Scully to do it for me
- I was afraid a recommendation from me would more
likely get you fired than moved up - but things happened and I
didn't get the chance to talk to her about it."
Now I was confused. I hadn't requested the Computer
Crimes division, and Agent Mulder was the only one I've ever told
about my computer classes.... "If it wasn't you, and it wasn't Agent Scully...."
I broke off, realizing I was speaking aloud. Mulder was shaking his head.
"Scully would have mentioned it if she had," he said firmly. "It has to be
someone else. Who else knew you were taking computer
"Just Sven, and the people in the class. I don't even know
most of their names." That reminded me of something else - "Sven's citizenship
papers finally came through, along with a letter of apology. You wouldn't have
had anything to do with that, would you?"
"Indirectly, maybe. I made a phone call to some friends
who said they'd look into it, but I haven't gotten back to them. It could be
that whatever was holding them up cleared on its own."
"Well, thank you anyway. Sven and I both appreciate it."
"There you are." Another voice sounded from the doorway, and I looked up to
see Agent Scully coming in. "I wondered where you'd gone. I thought you were
going to get a cup of coffee while I finished up."
"I did - just not in the morgue. I think they put formaldehyde in it over
there. Chandra's tastes much better."
"I can't argue with that," Scully said, pushing her hair back with one hand. She
looked tired, although her suit was crisp and her makeup perfect. I motioned her
to a chair and stood up to get her a
cup of coffee, too. "I can get it myself," she protested even as she sat down.
"My treat tonight -- I'm celebrating my last day in the VCU,"
I told her.
Mulder piped in, "Scully, did you by any chance put in a recommendation for
Chandra to be promoted?"
"No, not yet. I was going to - it's already written up on my laptop, waiting
to be printed. Why?"
"My promotion was to the Computer Crimes department, and
no one here knows I've been taking computer courses - except Agent Mulder."
Scully frowned, thoughtful as she sipped her coffee. Then she tilted her head to
one side and looked at me. "You mentioned taking night classes once, Chandra,
but I don't remember your saying they
were computer courses." I couldn't recall it, and I must have looked puzzled,
because she gently reminded me, "When we spoke to
Assistant Director Skinner, in his office. About your working late."
Well, that wasn't actually the subject of our discussion in Skinner's office,
but now I did remember it coming up in passing.
I looked up just in time to see another example of their rare communication -
Mulder gave her an inquiring look and she
returned it with an "I'll explain later" nod. Was their code
something instinctive between them, I wondered, or had it
developed over their years of working so closely together? ...Then
it registered what Scully had said. Was she implying that AD Skinner...?
Scully broke my chain of thought when she spoke
gently to Mulder. "It's getting late, Mulder, and I'm tired. Are
you ready to go home?"
"Sure, Scully. Why don't you go on out? I'll be right
behind you." Another look flashed between them, too fast for me
to catch. Scully nodded and got to her feet.
"Thanks for the coffee, Chandra. Good luck with your new position." Then she was
Mulder got to his feet a little more slowly. "I didn't come down here just for
coffee, Chandra. I came to say thank you for
all your help during the Marchbanks case."
My help? "I didn't do anything..." I started to say, but he cut me off with a
wave of his hand.
"You helped me every way you could, even when it got you in
hot water with Blevins. And Scully told me how you supported her
when she needed it. You told her and Skinner I had gone to meet someone after I
left here that night, so that they'd already set the search for me in motion
before they knew for sure I'd been kidnapped. That saved some time, and probably
my life. To you it may not seem like you did much, but believe me, I appreciate
Damn the man, he was going to make me cry....
"You'll do great in the Computer Crimes section," he assured
me seriously, then gave me a sudden cheeky grin that went all the way
to his eyes. "Besides, it'll be nice to have a friend to call on when we need
help from the Computer department!"
I laughed, "Any time, Agent Mulder. All you or Agent Scully
have to do is ask."
"Well, I'd better get going. If I don't get moving Scully will be coming
back down to get me. Want to walk out with me?"
"Thanks, but I'd better not. I need to finish locking up here before I leave,
then I have to go out through Security to get my new
ID badge. You'd better go on, don't keep Agent Scully waiting."
"Well, goodnight then, Chandra."
"Goodnight, Mulder. Take care."
I watched as he made his way out, following him as far as
the doorway so I could watch his progress down the hall. I smiled as
he reached the elevators - Agent Scully was waiting patiently for
him, leaning on an open elevator door to hold it on our floor. She didn't speak
as he reached her, just straightened away from the door.
His hand went possessively to the small of her back as they stepped
into the elevator together. And just before the door slid closed, I heard his
voice say, softly, "Let's go home."
Spooky and the Ice Queen, indeed.
End of Spooked