|Primary Characters:||Mulder, Scully|
|Warning:||references to rape|
|Description:||The agents are investigating a case featuring a serial killer and rapist. Mulder is abducted. Will Scully find him in time?|
“Take a look at this, Scully.”
Scully had hardly had time to remove her coat, and put down her brief case, but her partner was already deep into a new case. The slide on the wall flickered a little when she moved past the projector.
“Just a second.”
“Don’t finish that coffee. This might just turn your stomach a bit.”
She smiled a little at Mulder’s typical big brotherly attempt at joking. It was hardly likely that anything would affect her that way. Not after all the years of autopsies. But she put down her coffee mug and sat down.
“Yes, the man appears to have been strangled. What’s so special about that? I wouldn’t call that an X-file. But go on. Let me hear the rest of it.”
“I thought so.”
Mulder showed her six other photos, all of men, but the cause of death wasn’t the same in all of them. One man had been practically decapitated. Another had suffered a severe head trauma, two had been stabbed. She failed to see the connection. But she knew Mulder would get to the point. Eventually. He just loved making a bit of a show of it.
“These bodies were found in different locations. The first one, the African American, was found in New York. This one, in Philadelphia. Each one in a different location, first following the east coast, then moving by way of Louisiana through New Mexico to California, where the last victim was found three days ago.”
“Yes? I still don’t see the significance. All I can see are seven dead men, all of whom have been murdered.”
“Here, these are the pathologists’ reports.”
Finally something more tangible. Scully loved her partner, but sometimes she wished he would get to the point a little faster. As she looked through the autopsies she did find the connection, but still it didn’t appear in any way as if it was an X-file.
All the men had been sexually assaulted, before being killed in various violent and painful ways. A sex killer who targetet men. Perhaps that was a little unusual, but that was all. She was already formulating a diagnosis for the killer. But Mulder broke through her train of thought.
“I know you’re thinking this is no X-file. Am I right?”
Scully sighed a little. Here it came. Whatever it was, Mulder was sure there were traces of the supernatural in it. She pointedly refused to answer, just nodded impatiently for him to go on.
“Some agent in a local office on desk duty spotted the connection. Good man. I wouldn’t have looked twice at these cases myself.”
“Well, what was it?”
“Bear with me for just a second. All these men were heterosexual. That means they weren’t picked up in any gay singles’ bar. Three of them were married, two in permanent relationships, one of them a notorious ladykiller. The last one, I’ll grant you, might have been a closet case, because no one could tell us anything about his sex life. If he had one.”
“Even if they were all straight, I know that doesn’t prove much either way. This guy might have had another angle. But the last victim, Nicholas Farr, was seen as he disappeared into the suspect’s car. Two credible witnesses saw him being approached by this man. It was late, and dark outside, but the street lights were on and both witnesses knew the victim by sight, so there is no mistake.”
“He was on his way to meet his fiancee, but he never showed up.”
“There could be any number of explanations for that. Including that he simply didn’t want to meet her.”
“No. He wanted to meet her alright. In fact, he was the one calling her to ask her out that evening. They were going to celebrate their engagement.”
“Even so, Mulder -“
“Wait a minute, Scully. I’m getting there. The suspect was driving by, slowed down as he saw this guy. He leaned out of the car as if he wanted to ask directions or something like that. Mr Farr was impatient, looked at his watch pointedly, but in the end he approached the car. Two seconds later he was in the back seat of the car.”
“Then the suspect must have pulled a gun on him.”
“The witnesses, the victim’s colleagues and friends, didn’t see any gun. They were right behind him.”
“Well, did they hear what the suspect was saying?”
“His first words were: Excuse me, could I ask you – Then his voice dropped lower and they couldn’t hear him.”
“And this is your X-file? A man who left with another man instead of going to see his fiancee? It could have been a business associate that the others simply didn’t know about. Something urgent might have come up and -“
“Then where is this business associate? No one had seen him before. There’s nothing about him in the dead man’s diary. We have circulated the description, but so far nothing.”
“Isn’t there one thing you haven’t considered?”
“The victim, mr Farr, might have gotten cold feet and decided to forget about the engagement. For whatever reason. He could have called that mystery man in the car to come and pick him up.”
“Alright. If that had been all you still might have been right. I know it takes more to convince you than me. But I did think this was interesting enough to look further. It turns out that this suspect has been seen, or at least someone closely matching his description, in connection with two of the other cases. Again, no one knows who he is or what he calls himself. And in case you’re wondering. Most of these victims had a similar story. They were going to see someone they wouldn’t leave hanging like that. Loved ones; wives, mothers, close friends.”
Scully smiled at Mulder’s enthusiasm. He would find the most insignificant detail and follow it up until he found the X file behind it. His instincts in these cases were finely tuned, and maybe he did have a point. She just wasn’t convinced yet. There were times when he had been wrong. This could be one of them.
She looked down at the autopsy reports and scanned them for any other piece of information that she might have missed at first glance. The ages of the victims ranged from 22 up to 36. Judging by the photos, most of them, if not all, were attractive men.
In the meantime, Mulder was rummaging through a desk drawer. Out came a nearly empty paper bag, that Scully suspected contained sunflower seeds, an old ballpoint pen, some old magazines, one of which was a Playboy, and finally a brown envelope, seemingly full of papers.
“Here. There was another case, earlier. Three years ago. In England, London to be exact. The same M O, but with one difference. This victim survived.”
“It seems the perpetrator was interrupted before he could finish the job. The man, a young teacher from Oxford, survived the attack. He was in a state of shock, following the trauma, but eventually the police could get some information out of him.”
“This should be interesting.”
“If you have the stomach for it. The perpetrator appears to be completely insane. But not some raving lunatic. Very controlled and efficient. Even though he was interrupted, he managed to vanish almost without a trace.”
“What about physical evidence? Fingerprints, DNA?”
“No. Nothing like that. He must have taken great care not to leave anything behind.”
“So, how did he pick up his victim?”
“The young man was a little unsure about it. He was at a train station, waiting for his train back to Oxford. This was a school trip, and there were children everywhere, and three more teachers. But apparently the other teachers were busy keeping the thirdgraders in line. A colleague of his, who was actually his girlfriend, said he was standing there with them.
When she had the last kid on the train, this guy wasn’t there anymore. No one had seen him leave. However, a platform guard ID:d him as he was leaving, in the company of a man that closely resembles our suspect. The guard says the young man looked as if he were drugged in some way. Not quite there, as he put it.”
“There you have it, then. Some sort of drug, that he sprays on his victims to get them more cooperative.”
“You could be right, except the autopsy reports don’t show any traces of a drug in those men’s bloodstreams.”
“If enough time passed between the administering of the drug until death occurred, no traces might be left.”
“Anyway, to go on, all this guy remembers is that he was in some isolated place with him. No windows or open doors. There was a sharp light in his face, but the rest of the room was dark. He says he doesn’t remember much of what actually occurred, but I think he just doesn’t want to say. All the police got out of him was that the guy was creepy. Made his skin crawl.”
“Hardly surprising. Most rapists probably have that effect on people.”
“I’m sure you’re right. But one thing that he does remember clearly is that the guy had some sort of commanding voice, and that he looked at him very strangely, almost as if he was getting inside his skull. Inside his mind.”
“Post-traumatic shock. It’s common in rape victims. Several women have reported feeling as if the man was still with them, even after he was sentenced and jailed. Or even shot dead by the police.”
“You don’t have to tell me that, Scully. But think about it. If you wanted to rape a man, wouldn’t it be practical if you could get inside his mind?”
“I imagine so. But why would a man need that sort of thing? Usually his physical strength would ensure his success.”
“Yes, in the cases where the victims are women and children perhaps. But these victims are his own size and strength. None of them were disabled or in any way physically weak. Tell me, how would you like a trip to Europe, all expenses paid?”
“Something tells me I will get one, whether I like it or not. So I take it we are headed for England?”
“No. Greece, actually.”
“Greece? But I thought you said -“
“Yes, the crime took place in London, but as you might imagine, the young man, Nigel Hawthorn, didn’t feel up to continue working as a teacher, and it seems he is now working part time as a hotel clerk on a Greek island. With his girlfriend.”
“The same. She has a relative who owns a hotel down there, and she suggested that the change of scenery might do him good.”
“So when are we leaving?”
“Don’t worry, you still have time to go back home and pack your bikini.”
“Bikini? I doubt we’ll have time for sunbathing or swimming.”
“You never know.”
Actually, neither of them had been to Greece before, and despite the reason for their trip, they both felt quite pleased with the change of scenery. In Athens, they changed to a smaller plane, which took them as far as was possible by air. There they spent the night at a small hotel, and the next morning very early, they walked down to the ferry.
When she saw the deep blue of the ocean, and the way the sun glittered on the surface, Scully remembered Mulder’s remark about the bikini. If they had time, she wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon on the beach, with Mulder. To see him in a swim suit would be the highlight of the trip.
“What are you smiling about, Scully?”
“Nothing really. Just this trip. Quite a change from our usual crime scenes.”
“You could say that. I’ve never been to Greece before, have you?”
“No, this is my first time. It’s wonderful. I actually always wanted to come here, and to Italy too.”
“Me too. Maybe we will get the chance one day.”
“We”? Was it possible that Mulder wanted to spend more time with her, privately? For a long time she had thought he didn’t, but lately they had seemed to move beyond their professional detachment. He didn’t appear to be shying away from intimacy as much as he had used to. For years she had been hoping for something like that, but until lately she had believed she was the only one who did. After this case, maybe she should –
No, it was better not to make any plans. That way you wouldn’t be disappointed. The ferry was approaching a small island. Several of the passengers were gathering their possessions and moving closer to the gangway. This was their stop too. Down at the docks, they asked for directions to the hotel. There was only one hotel on that side of the island, and that appeared to be the one.
Mulder had sent a telegram asking for an interview with Nigel Hawthorn and he had received a reply that was curt in the extreme. But they would be allowed to see mr Hawthorn. While they walked up to the hotel, it occurred to Scully that their efforts would be more worthwhile interviewing the witnesses, and viewing the California crime scene. She decided to bring it up with her partner, with no great hopes of being listened to.
“Mulder, don’t you think it would have been better to go out to California? Before the trail gets cold.”
“The San Diego field office is covering that end at the moment. I think this is more important. Can you see the average agent handling this interview? Don’t you think it calls for a deeper knowledge of witness psychology?”
“Yes, but -“
“Just go with me on this for a while, ok?”
“Yes, of course. Don’t I always?”
Ignoring that last comment, Mulder pushed on. How like him.
“Besides, when did you last get this kind of assignment?”
“You mean a serial killer case?”
But he wasn’t going to be sidetracked by Scully’s dry humor.
“No, one that takes you to the Mediterranean.”
Well, she had to agree with that. But sometimes the way Mulder ignored her input infuriated her. Still, as someone who had grown up with older brothers knew, it would take more subtlety to get around them. The direct approach was doomed to failure in most cases.
They walked in through the open front door of the hotel. Behind the reception desk, a man in his fifties greeted them. Later, upstairs, Mulder knocked on Scully’s door, and came in with hardly a pause. She sometimes wondered what he would say if he just once caught her while still in her underwear. Part of her cringed at the awkwardness of the situation, but another part found that she really wanted to know.
This time, however, she had simply taken off her thin sweater and was wearing a likewise thin blouse. Wistfully, she gave her summer dress a fleeting thought, but decided that the situation called for professional decorum.
Mulder was still wearing his suit, even the jacket. In all this sunshine? Well, that was his problem. And yet she longed to see him in more relaxed outfits, like jeans and tennis shirts. From experience she knew how good he looked in that. He seemed somehow younger and more mellow in his private clothes.
“Are you ready? Ms Wells will see us now.”
“Ms Wells? I thought the whole point of this trip was interviewing the victim, mr Hawthorn?”
“Well, it seems ms Wells has made herself his guardian. No one gets to him without going through her first. Put on your best behavior, Scully, or maybe ms Wells will make you stay behind after school.”
Sometimes Mulder’s sense of humor left a little to be desired. If the interview was as important as he claimed, surely a little more decorum was required? She didn’t smile, just got up to indicate she was ready to begin the interview.
Mulder hurried along down the corridor, down a half-stair, and took her to a door that gave every indication of leading to an office. He knocked once, and waited much longer than he had outside her door. Finally a woman’s voice from inside told them to go ahead.
Ms Wells was sitting behind a small, worn desk. From the looks of things, this room wasn’t used for more important hotel business. It was a bare room, the most outstanding feature of which was the window giving on the seaview outside. The woman herself didn’t look nearly as formidable as Mulder had tried to make her seem. She was petite, mousy-haired, and relatively insignificant, though not unattractive.
“Ms Wells. This is my partner, agent Scully.”
“Agent Scully. Now, won’t you sit down.”
There was something in her voice that hinted that there were hidden depths of authority in that small woman. Scully imagined that she detected some thinly veiled hostility in her eyes. Apparently, she was very much concerned about her boyfriend’s peace of mind.
And quite rightly so, considering what he had been forced to endure, only a few years earlier. Scully knew from past experience in her work how difficult the road to recovery was for rape victims, especially males. But they couldn’t waste the tax payers dollars for much longer, no matter how pleasant the surroundings. So she decided to push on.
“Ms Wells, we would appreciate being allowed to speak to mr Hawthorn.”
“Yes, your partner said there had been more cases – of the same kind.”
“I’m afraid so, and now it would be really useful for us to be able to interview the sole survivor of these crimes.”
Mulder gave Scully a look that told her he wished to continue the conversation. He usually did, but Scully didn’t see why she couldn’t be allowed to tackle this obstacle. Still, she let Mulder go on. She could see that ms Wells by no means appreciated their presence, but while that might be regrettable, they could not allow that to stand in the way of their investigation.
“You might understand that Nigel is somewhat reluctant to be reminded of the – incident. I have made it my business to keep away the press. People can be so inconsiderate.”
“I understand perfectly, but you must appreciate the fact that we’re most anxious to find the perpetrator, and stop him from ever committing such a crime again. And your friend, mr Hawthorn, is the only person who might shed some light on this man’s identity”.
Ms Wells frowned slightly, as she sat playing with her pen. She didn’t look up at Mulder when she replied.
“I could refuse. You have no jurisdiction in this country, nor over us as British subjects.”
“True, but I’m afraid your refusal to let us see mr Hawthorn would only delay the inevitable. We could confer with our colleagues at Interpol, and return in a few days’ time with the proper documentation. Surely you would wish to spare your friend that ordeal? Wouldn’t it be preferable to simply sit and discuss the matter in these agreeable surroundings?”
Ms Wells hesitated a moment. Scully could see that she was considering refusing anyway, and perhaps leaving the island with her boyfriend, rather than allowing them near him. It was a touching picture of protective devotion. Mr Hawthorn could consider himself lucky to be on the receiving end of so much love. But ms Wells appeared to change her mind again.
“Very well. I will take you to Nigel.”
And she showed them out of her office, downstairs and out the back door. It opened on a terrace, that lead to a downward winding path towards the beach. The season didn’t appear to have started in earnest, so there were not many sunbathers. On a bench some distance off from the tourists, a thin, pale young man sat.
Scully observed that despite the brilliant mediterranean sun, the man seemed to have only the barest traces of tan. He must have been very attractive before the incident, as his girlfriend tactfully referred to it, but now he seemed pale, and his eyes that met hers appeared shadowed.
“Nigel, darling. The American FBI agents have arrived. Do you think you could speak to them for a moment?”
Nigel didn’t appear to have any resistance in him. He just slumped down a little, then raised his head to face them.
“Yes, by all means. You don’t have to stay, Dora, I’ll be alright. It’s not the first time I’ve been interrogated by the police.”
Ms Wells again hesitated, then turned to go back to her duties, with one last penetrating glance at Mulder especially. Scully thought it might be best if she handled the interview, and for once Mulder seemed to agree with her. He stayed in the background. Was he being sensitive or could it be that a male rape victim unnerved him a little? Whatever the reason, Scully felt that she would deal with the matter in a professional yet sensitive way.
“May we sit down, mr Hawthorn?”
“Oh, of course. I apologize. Please.”
He appeared relieved when Mulder remained standing. Even though he kept a low profile, she could tell he was listening attentively to every word.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name, miss – ?”
“Scully. Dana Scully.”
“I daresay you already know my name.”
“Yes, Nigel, if I may call you that?”
Nigel didn’t seem to care either way. He just shrugged indifferently. She had never expected this interview to be easy. These kinds never were, but it seemed she would have to pry every word out of the victim, piece by piece, while at the same time taking care not to upset him. Thank you, Mulder, she thought. You just had to find an X-file in this tragedy, didn’t you?
“Nigel, do you think you could describe the perpetrator?”
“It’s all in the police report. Surely you have access to that?”
“Of course, but anything you might be able to add will be appreciated.”
“I don’t see what I can tell you. He was well dressed, ordinary looking. Like any business man in a regular business suit. Thousands of men like that go back and forth between the City and the Home Counties every day. The only thing that might be considered unusual was the fact that it was relatively early. Usually the crowds would come around 7 in the evening. It was only about 4 p m. The children, you see.”
“Yes, of course. But what did he look like, personally? Tall, short, dark, blond, young, old? Any distinguishing marks?”
“He was of average height. Maybe in his late forties or early fifties. Dark hair. Look here, I’ve already been through the whole thing with our police.”
“Please try to remember. It would help us in catching this man.”
“And it’s my duty to cooperate? Have you any idea of what it has been like? I was unable to continue my work as a teacher. Try to imagine the loss of authority I’ve suffered, apart from everything else.”
“I do realize what you must be going through, but don’t you think you deserve justice? If we are able to catch this man, he will most likely face the death penalty. He has killed seven American men. Most judges would give him the electric chair for that.”
“With all due respect, how could you, either one of you, have any idea of what it’s like?”
“Nigel, I have worked with victims of this sort of crime before. Both as a medical doctor and in my current line of work. And my partner here has a degree in psychology, so -“
“So you think you know all about it? That man got inside my mind, he took away all my self esteem, all my dignity. He robbed me of something that I can never get back, and you are telling me I have a duty to help you with your investigations.”
Now Mulder broke in. Scully knew it had been too good to be true that he would stay out of the interview. Oh, well, like she had told the victim, Mulder did have a degree in psychology. Maybe he really could reach him where she had failed.
“Have you considered that by facing up to the indident, confronting what happened, you might do yourself some good? It has been proven that victims who are able to follow through the entire process of giving evidence, and helping ensure that the perpetrator gets his punhishment, actually experience some relief in their suffering. They feel that they take back some of what they’ve lost.”
The outburst seemed to have drained Nigel of all energy. Defeated he looked from Mulder to Scully and back again. There was no way of knowing if Mulder’s claim had made any impression on him. Scully was beginning to think that they had wasted a trip after all. But somewhere the stricken young man must have found some strength he hadn’t even known he had. He drew up, took a deep breath, and finally there was some color on his cheeks.
“You have no idea how I want that to be true. Very well, what else do you need to know?”
“I was wondering how it was that you went off with this total stranger. Do you think he might have given you some drug?”
“Drug? I really don’t see how he could have. He didn’t touch me. It was just the eyes – I don’t know. After I had looked into them, everything was like a dream. It was as if I wasn’t myself anymore. Normally I would never go off like that for any reason. I was working. But even if I hadn’t, I would never have gone off with a stranger. And yet I did. I have no explanation for it.”
“What did he say to you?
“Just excuse me do you have the time, or something like that. I looked at my watch, and told him, though come to think of it, there were clocks everywhere on the platform. He could have looked at any one of them. But one doesn’t wish to be impolite. Then he asked about the train, when it would be leaving, and I told him. After that I hardly remember anything. I just walked away with him. Don’t ask me why.”
Mulder exchanged a look with Scully, then continued the interview. He asked Nigel about where the man had taken him, and what had happened once they got there. Nigel didn’t remember much of the trip to the house where he had been kept. Simply that he had gotten into a car and they had travelled for some time.
Once there, the memories appeared to be even more sketchy. Trying to recall those details caused Nigel even more distress, but he struggled with it anyway. Apparently he wanted to rise to the occasion, following Mulder’s advice.
“As if what he did to me, physically, wasn’t enough, it was as if he was inside my mind. I mean literally. This doesn’t make any sense, but it really felt as if there was someone inside my mind. I could feel some kind of presence. I know, it sounds insane, but that’s exactly how it felt. Eventually, I blacked out, and I didn’t come to, until the police and paramedics were there. Something must have disturbed him, because when the police got there he was gone, and as far as I know, they haven’t been able to find any traces at all of him.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why it’s so important that you try to recall anything that might help us identify him.”
“I realize that, and I wish I could, but there really isn’t anything more I can tell you. Don’t you think I want to see him brought to justice? It’s just that I’m not sure I can face the trial.”
“Just help us find him, and I’m sure we won’t have to use your testimony in court. There is enough physical evidence from the bodies, to convict him, if only we can find him. Well, we do appreciate your help, Nigel. I promise you we will find this man and bring him to justice.”
Scully too, got up, and formally took Nigel’s hand and shook it. It felt cool, and weak. Not the handshake of a man who was in control of himself and his emotions. She was glad the interview was over. It had been a strain on all of them, she thought.
Some of what the young man had told them reminded her uncomfortably of her own abduction. She too, had trouble remembering anything about that time. Something, if not someone, had been inside her skull, and brought her close to dying of cancer. She better than many others could sympathize with the ordeal Nigel had gone through. And when she had found out about the removal of all her ova, she had felt violated in a way she might almost have felt, had she been raped.
They walked back to the hotel in silence. She knew Mulder would be disappointed that they hadn’t been able to acquire more useful information, but she also knew that Nigel’s words about “something inside his mind” would only set her partner off further.
At times he reminded her of terrier with a rat. Once he had his teeth into an interesting phenomenon, he would never let go, no matter the cost to him, her, or their families. But she had come too far to look back. His cause was now hers, for better and for worse. Upstairs in her room, they sat down to discuss what they had learned.
“Mulder, I’m sorry you didn’t get more out of the victim. But the police report should have given you some idea of what to expect.”
“It did, but still, you have to admit that this man must have some unusual powers. In some way, he must have hypnotized his victims.”
“There is one thing that has struck me as slightly odd, if we are even talking about the same perpetrator. In London he left no traces of any kind, but in these last cases, he appears to have done just that.”
“Yes, that is a bit strange, but I’m sure we have the same perpetrator in both cases.”
“I thought you might. Well, since we’re stranded here until the next ferry leaves in the morning, I suppose there isn’t anything else we can do. How do you feel about going down to the beach?”
Mulder’s mind seemed already to be back on the case, but at her question he looked up, and appeared to change his mind.
“Why not? I’ll meet you downstairs in say half an hour. I just want to ask ms Wells a question I forgot about before.”
“Ok. See you then. I can’t wait to see your swimsuit.”
“Swimsuit? No, I didn’t bring one, but I’ll change into something more comfortable and we’ll sit under some parasol and have a drink or so.”
“Don’t you like swimming?”
“What? Oh, yes, I do. But I’m really more interested in the case.”
“But since we can’t do any more work, why can’t you do your thinking out in the water?”
Mulder stared at her for so long she was afraid of having made a mistake. He mustn’t get the idea that she was hitting on him. That would make their work together untenable. But he seemed to enjoy being asked. As always, his smile affected her. She could feel herself smiling back at him.
“Ok, I’ll see what I can do. They probably have some sort of shop downstairs. But I can’t guarantee anything. I don’t know what they wear here in Greece.”
Despite the ominous reason for their trip to Greece, Scully felt that she and Mulder had come closer than ever before. He had opened up to an extent previously unheard of. There was even a brief mention of the woman he had been involved with during his studies in England.
On the plane back to the USA, their mood changed again. They were back on the job, and now more than ever they needed their concentration. After a brief stop in Washington to unpack, and then pack again, and to get a night’s sleep, they flew out to California the next day.
Jet lag was making Scully’s thoughts sluggish and she kept trying to clear her head. Her coffee consumtion reached staggering heights. Mulder on the other hand seemed to have no problem whatsoever of concentrating on the case again.
At the San Diego field office they were given an office to work from, and soon they were immersed in paper work. Just as Scully had thought, there was the significant fact that in the first case no physical evidence had been left, while here, there was much more to go on. But as yet there was no way of tracing the suspect.
As Mulder had told her, the description had been circulated all over the country, to all law enforcement agencies. Some information had been gathered, but so far they were no closer to catching the perpetrator. After lunch they decided to go and interview the witnesses again and since both witnesses were at work, they would also view the place from which the murdered man was abducted. Later they would find the location the body had been found.
Not unexpectedly, the interviews and both the locations proved only partially useful. Nothing new emerged. Back at the office they continued reviewing the case files over and over again, but it was pretty clear that there weren’t getting anywhere. Scully was prepared to return to Washington until new developments arose, but Mulder was adamant. So they decided she would fly back to cover their currently open files, and he would stay behind to continue with the case.
The phone signal cut right through Scully’s dream. She remembered it had been something about one of her brothers. They had been out fishing, and he had fallen in. Something like that had really happened, and in real life, he had managed to pull himself out with no harm done. But now she and her other brother had stood watching helplessly as he sank under the still, black waves. The last thing she’d seen of him was his hand outstretched as if begging for help. Help she was unable to give him.
One minute she was caught in that moment of horror, the next she woke up to the sound of her phone ringing. Perhaps it wasn’t anything as mysterious as a sixth sense that made her suspect it was something to do with Mulder. But she immediately knew that it did, and that something was wrong. It was 3.47. What the time would be in California, she couldn’t for the moment figure out.
“Agent Scully? Agent Phelps, San Diego field office here. I’m afraid I have some bad news. Agent Mulder is missing.”
“You mean he hasn’t called in recently?”
“No. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it seems the suspect in the case he was working, has abducted him.”
“Are you absolutely sure?”
Scully was instantly wide awake. This was impossible. The one thing that simply could not, must not happen.
“We have witnesses who can confirm the incident. It appears agent Mulder was approached by a man matching the suspect’s description. They exchanged a few words, then agent Mulder got into the car and the suspect drove off with him. No word had come in about his whereabouts. I’m sorry.”
“I’ll catch the first flight out.”
“Don’t worry. We have a major search operation underway. Local law enforcement agencies are on the lookout. We will find him before it’s too late.”
“Thank you, agent Phelps.”
Scully wondered how the man could sound so confident. But then it wasn’t his partner. It occurred to her that even if they were able to find Mulder alive, his career could well be over. Remembering the young British teacher’s words, she winced at the thought of what would be said behind Mulder’s back if he ever was able to return to work.
On a more personal level she found the thought of anything like that happening to her partner even more painful. It only took her 20 minutes to be dressed and ready for departure. Fortunately, many airlines flew to San Diego and she had been able to get a ticket for a flight leaving only an hour and half later.
Outside the airport in San Diego, a bureau car was waiting for her, as she had been promised. The agent driving it, a woman of her own age, wasted no time chatting. Scully was taken straight to the office, and was briefed about all the latest developments. Very little had come in, during her time in the air, but she could see that every available agent was working on the case.
The grim looks on their faces told her that she wasn’t the only one who was concerned for the welfare of a fellow agent. But it took all the rest of that day, and most of the next before their first serious break occurred. Someone had spotted the car the suspect was driving and from there the trail led to a building in a wealthy suburb.
As Scully pulled up in front of the house, followed by a whole task force, armed, and wearing bullet proof vests, she noticed that house was far too modest a term for that place. Mansion was closer to the point.
Nightfall covered their movements, and the house was silently surrounded. Snipers were posted in various locations around the house, covering all doors and windows. Neighbors were hurriedly moved from their homes, for their own safety, as much as to provide the agents with room for observation.
Maps and plans of the entire area were brought out and perused in the dim light of flashlights, and later, in the well lit living room of one of the nearby houses. All possible entries and exits to the house where the suspect held agent Mulder were taken into account and kept under watch.
Now it was time to raid the place. They couldn’t afford to give the suspect time to finish off his victim. Scully felt cold inside at the thought of what her partner might have endured, might still be enduring right now.
Outwardly no sign of her tension was seen. Calmly and meticulously she checked her weapon, and made sure the vest was zipped in place. She checked all her backup ammo, and put it back in her pockets.
Everyone was in position. The leader of the operation silently directed his team into action. All doors and windows were broken down simultaneously. Scully was with the main force as they came through the front door.
Moving cautiously from corner to corner, always covering their backs, the team went from room to room. When the entire ground floor was secured, they moved up the stairs to the next floor. Door after door was kicked down, and the rooms searched. All were empty, except one at the end of the corridor.
In a large double bed, she could see Mulder. He appeared to be unconscious, and standing over him was the man they had all been searching for. One hand was on Mulder’s forehead, the other hung loosely by his side.
Her weapon was in her hand. She took aim at the man who had dared to lay his hands on her partner. Everyone else waited for her next move, while still covering the suspect. This was her call, her partner whose life was on the line.
“Step away from that bed. Keep your hands where I can see them. Go on.”
The man didn’t appear to have heard her. Suddenly she heard a familiar voice from behind her. She didn’t turn around or even for a second allowed her concentration to fade. How had Skinner managed to get here so fast?
“Agent Scully, I’ve got him covered. Go to Mulder. And you. You heard my colleague, get away from him. Now.”
Scully could imagine Skinner in his Vietnam days. The authority in his voice was only too familiar from her own father. But she didn’t allow herself to relax. She circled around to the other side of the bed, still with the man in her line of sight. Her finger squeezed the trigger. One move and she would –
Finally the man seemed to have heard them. He looked up and was instantly alert. Avoiding his eyes, Scully raised her gun and repeated her order. Further back she could hear Skinner do the same, but she still hadn’t seen him. The man took one step in the direction of Skinner and the other members of the team. He too raised his hands.
Skinner’s bullet hit him squarely in the chest. For a second it didn’t appear to affect him in any way. He moved closer. The next shot made him stagger backwards, and now his chest seemed to explode.
Scully wasn’t really paying attention. All she could think about was Mulder. Was he still alive? And even if he was, what would have happened to him? She was vaguely aware of the man crumpling up and falling over. There was no weapon that she could see.
Then she was bent over Mulder’s still form. Her physician’s hands were already searching for a pulse, any sign of life. When she felt the slow beating under her partner’s skin, she allowed herself one second of relief. Then she continued her examination. She could hear the others surrounding the suspect, but she had already turned her attention away from them.
“Call the paramedics. Now.”
“They’re standing by outside.”
“Get them up here.”
“Wait. I’ll drive you to the hospital myself. Let the paramedics do their job.”
Scully looked into Skinner’s face and saw her own concern mirrored on the otherwise so stony features. It occurred to her that in this matter, he was as emotionally involved as she was. All professional detachment was missing. She could imagine how his face had looked as he pulled the trigger, once, twice. It must have given him some satisfaction to be allowed to kill the man who had taken Mulder from them.
She had been about to do the same. The thought frightened her. This was not the way she should have been reacting. That had always been her forte: keeping her head clear even under the most difficult of conditions. And now, she had lost her head. It was some small consolation that their quiet, enigmatic boss had done the same.
When they arrived at the hospital, Skinner chose to stay outside. He didn’t appear to be eager to face Mulder right now. She didn’t know what she would find out in there, but she wouldn’t let that stop her from going to her partner’s side, now that he needed her more than ever. Whatever had to be done would be done.
She wouldn’t stop and think about it. If you didn’t give yourself over, anything could be faced and dealt with. Even her sister’s death, even the knowledge of her own cancer. You just took one step at a time, and her first step this time led her into Mulder’s room. It was a private room, and she was alone with him. From what she could see, he was still unconscious. So she sat down beside the bed to wait. When he came to, hers would be the first face he would see.
The man was standing over him. He could feel those hands moving over his skin. When had his clothes been taken from him? He didn’t remember. Why was he lying here, naked, while a strange man was touching him? He should be up, out of the bed, fighting back. But he couldn’t move.
It was as if he was seeing himself from a distance, through some kind of haze. Part of him wanted to scream, to stop him, somehow, but for some reason he was just lying there, accepting it. After a while the images of himself became too hard to take. He tried to close his eyes to stop himself seeing what was happening to him. But the worst horror of all was that it didn’t stop.
Even with his eyes closed, he could feel it all. His mind was a blank. This was beyond endurance. His last conscious thought was of Scully. He had never been able to tell her he loved her. Never told her how much that kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve had meant. Now he knew he would never be able to tell her. He could hear someone screaming. That person wasn’t visible, but suddenly he knew that someone was him.
Finally Mulder opened his eyes and looked up at her. At first she didn’t think he really saw her. It was as if he didn’t remember her, or as if he wasn’t focusing properly. But then their eyes met and she winced at the pain she saw reflected there. Then he turned away from her, wouldn’t look her in the face.
She could understand how he felt, but she had something to tell him that she knew he would want to hear. He recoiled from her outstretched hand. That spoke louder than words. Maybe she should leave him be, until the turmoil his mind was in had settled a little.
But he had to know what the doctor had told her only an hour ago. It was important that he understand. His emotional state frightened her. She had seen patients in similar conditions and many of them had never recovered. Somehow she had to find a way to reach him.
“Mulder, listen to me. You’re going to be alright. There are no injuries, nothing. Your doctor just gave me the report, and you’re fine.”
He didn’t appear to have heard her. She sighed. But she couldn’t give up, she had to get through to him. Now. It wouldn’t do to allow him to slip further away from her. Why was he being so difficult? It was always the same.
When he had been found in the hallway of a burning hotel suite, having inhaled smoke to the point of losing consciousness, he had been exactly the same. Even though he was in a state of shock he rejected her attempts at comforting him. He always had to be the big brother.
For once, why couldn’t he let down his guard, and let her take care of him? Men. So big and strong, and yet such fragile little egos. She would never understand him, but that didn’t stop her from loving him. It was something she didn’t want to admit to herself, but it was a fact. She had loved him ever since the first case they had worked together, out in Oregon.
“Mulder. You’re going to listen to me. Look at me.”
For a second she thought she had failed, but finally he turned back to face her. Again, she reached out and touched him. She grabbed his hand and held on to it. This time he didn’t pull away. At last. Would he never realize what was in his own best interests? Content that she had at last imposed her will on him, she went on.
“Nothing happened. You’re not injured in any way.”
“But I know something did. I know. He was- I could feel- I can remember it all clearly.”
“I don’t know why that is, but the – uh – physical examination revealed no signs of any – hm – assault. Like I told you, you are not injured in any way.”
“But Scully, I know that -“
“Maybe he hypnotized you to make you believe that.”
“I’ve been hypnotized before, remember? It’s not something that happens without you being aware of it. What about hallucinogenic drugs?”
“The toxicology report came up empty, just as your blood work. Nothing of any kind out of the ordinary. Except for one thing. There are unusually high levels of stress hormone. But that is only natural, considering what you just went through.”
“Or thought I did.”
Mulder’s voice was slowly returning to normal, and his face had come to life. Whatever he thought had transpired between him and that man, nothing had. He was alright.
That left the question of why seven men were dead, all showing signs not only of sexual assault, but also of severe physical trauma to their bodies. Was this really the same culprit?
Would they ever have the answer to that question? At least the man responsible was now dead. No one else would suffer the same fate. And she had her partner, and friend, back safely. That was all that mattered for the moment.
It felt good to finally be back in their own office. The familiar surroundings would do them both good. Scully put down her briefcase and began going through her mail. Automatically she turned on her computer, and suddenly there was the sound declaring she had a new email.
She put down the envelopes she was sorting through, and clicked the mail icon. There was no sender. Anonymous email. Well, that happened often enough. It was no cause for alarm.
But when she opened it, she had to sit down. There was a hard knot at the pit of her stomach. Her face must have gone white, because Mulder got up and stood behind her, reading over her shoulder. From the sound of his indrawn breath she could tell that the contents of the email was getting to him too.
You think you have won? Think again, you smug bitch. You may have killed my lover, but I’m still out here, and one day I’ll be back, to finish the job. Don’t get too comfortable with your sexy partner. The next time, you will be there to watch. Remember me, because I won’t forget either one of you. Until next time, bitch.
Two perpetrators. So that was the answer. Now she understood why in both the first and the last case there had been no physical evidence. And why the tissue samples from the dead suspect didn’t match the DNA found on the bodies of the seven victims. It was the second man who got physical with the victims.
The first man contented himself with violating their minds. Why hadn’t they found anything indicating two perpetrators? How long did they have until he struck again? All her sense of contentment had vanished. She was left with the uncomfortable feeling of being watched. Somewhere, some time, this nightmare would begin again.
But would it? If only the first man had that hypnotic power over his victims, surely the other one would find it far more difficult to get his hands on new victims. Certainly Mulder wouldn’t be that easy to catch the next time, and she would be there, watching him, guarding him, constantly.
She got up and turned to face him. What she saw in his eyes encouraged her to do what she had done so many times before, in her dreams. She pulled him close, and he held on to her just as hard. Together they would get through this too. They would. That parasite out there wouldn’t be allowed to prey on their fears any longer.
It was over. Whether he accepted it or not. It was their choice, not his. When she felt Mulder’s arms around her, she turned and held on to him. Together they would keep each other safe.