Table of Contents
Locusts by Syn
Category: TA / R (for violence & profanity)
Disclaimer: These characters are owned by Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Television. No copyright infringement is intended and no money may be made from this story.
Spoilers: US Season Five up to “Emily.” Detective John Kresge is the San Diego detective who starred in “A Christmas Carol.”
Summary: An unexpected death begins a terrible journey for Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, one that threatens to tear their faith, their beliefs and their partnership apart.
LOCUSTS – by syn
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The bullet was lodged in his skull like an unwelcome guest.
Entering without invitation, staying too long and making one hell of a mess while there. There was blood, that was true, but along with the encrusted crimson rivulets that lined his face, there was sharp white bone and the dark brown stain of secret things surrounding his head, ruining the carpet upon which he lay.
His eyes stared sightlessly at the ceiling above him, two unblinking and bloodshot orbs. That ceiling had seen better days, but he would never know them, or even note the disrepair it was in now. There was nothing left for him to note, to see, to feel…he simply existed, an inanimate object, perfect within his lifeless surroundings.
For he was dead, absolutely so. There were no more thoughts or plans or futures to contemplate; the only thing left was the journey unknown, for his intangible parts. His spiritual being had abandoned his body against its will, and his anger at the betrayal was still evident in his down turned mouth and curled lips, both showing aging teeth.
Murder it was, plain and simple and even the dead man seemed to acknowledge it with rage.
But the means didn’t change the end, for the man who lay upon the floor of his own home, with his dark blood permanently staining the middle class rugs of his rented house, was dead and gone and eternally so. His body alone would await his wife and child’s return, wait for key to click in the front door’s lock, the discovery to be made and the horror of his family to begin. If alive, he perhaps wouldn’t have wished for what was to come, the terrible confusion to be followed by shrill screams and torn sobs, but he no longer had a say in the dispersion of his fate.
Just as he never had a say in it while alive.
But that was over and done with now, and there was little left for him to do, except bleed and stare and ruin those who had once loved him…those who’d loved the strong, stubborn, seemingly righteous man they thought they knew well, but they knew him not at all and he left them ignorant, with only a ghastly corpse left to tell the entire…the true, story.
But Bill Scully Jr. probably wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Mulder had taken his vacation the day after he and Scully had returned from San Diego.
They’d talked briefly before he’d left, leaving a pile of manila on her somewhat new desk, and a few humorous e-mails in her in-box. But nothing of note was said, there were no important recaps of recent events, the ones that tore Scully from the comfort of her independent life…her formerly barren life.
For when a woman was once with child, even against her will, she was forever with child.
And she could not forget.
But, this child was dead, almost kindly so, and Scully immediately returned to her job which was the cutting and searching and defining of human tragedy as seen through the stiff corpses of those who’d suffered a violent end at the hands of someone else. How she loved pathology; it had the emotional benefit of the story combined with the distance of science. So, Agent Dana Scully did her autopsies during her partner’s absence, absorbing her internal anguish over Emily and was comforted by the work.
She was a bit surprised that Mulder hadn’t called once during his furlough, for Mulder had the habit of calling her daily, even if separated by official sanction, but it was his vacation and she didn’t begrudge him the distance. Instead, she was almost grateful for the respite, for it meant that there were no hasty misunderstandings, no foolish spur-of-the-moment arguments based on things other than the facts at hand.
But on that bright and very cold Monday morning, her cel phone did ring.
“Scully,” she answered, waiting almost impatiently for her partner’s returning salutation.
“Agent Scully?” the deep voice replied, hesitantly.
“Yes?” she said, with an imperceptible sigh, the one she always gave when it wasn’t Mulder.
“This is Detective Kresge, San Diego Homicide.”
Scully hesitated for a moment before replying. She had no good memories of her last visit to San Diego. “Detective Kresge. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” came the polite…almost formal, reply. Immediately, Scully knew there was something…something, not quite right. In her capacity as a law officer, she’d used that tone with too many people…too many victims of some type or another to be unaware of when it was being used on her.
“Is there something wrong, Detective?” she asked, her heart uncharacteristically in her throat.
“Well, I’m afraid there is,” came the reply and it was then, at that moment, that Scully heard it. That terrible call of distress, the call of heart-broken women throughout all the world, throughout all times.
Scully heard the keening.
A sharp, piercing noise, a high-pitched scream that came from somewhere behind Kresge, coupled with the painful wail of a terrified infant. Shrieking it was, and loud enough to startle a person who stood, behind her desk, piled high with thick manila folders, nearly three thousand miles away. And it wasn’t one woman, but two of them, shrilling grief with their voices, a harmony of pain.
“What is it?” asked Scully, the pitch of her voice rising in unconscious empathy.
She could hear Kresge swallow twice, two harsh gulps. “There’s been a murder, I’m afraid.”
“Related to the Emily Sim case?” she asked, wondering at the chills that crept down her spine.
Scully’s throat tightened further, as the cries of the unknown victims, those poor torn and faceless souls who stood behind Kresge grew louder. “Then who’s been murdered?” she asked, her heart tripping, its beat furious within her chest. She heard Kresge take a deep breath before replying.
“Your brother, William Scully Jr.”
The phone fell from Dana Scully’s hand.
And for a long moment, she stood stock still, as over the dangling receiver the tinny sobs and cries of her sister-in-law, her mother and her infant nephew continued, echoing through the closed basement office. Suddenly, death itself had a face…and a family.
Kresge’s spoke again, sounding haunted over the wires. “Agent Scully?”
“Agent Scully?” he repeated.
But unbeknownst to him, the office was already empty.
The only thing she heard on the flight was his voice.
//Hey, Dimwit. Get out of my room!//
//Put me down, Billy! Lemmee go!//
The only thing she saw outside the window was his face, somewhere… somehow, etched into the clouds.
//Hey, Billygoat…Marissa says she likes you//
//Shut up, Dana!//
The only thing she felt when she closed her eyes, was his arms around her, just as when he’d scooped her into them after she fell from the tree, after she graduated med school…after Melissa’s death.
//Not bad for a Dimwit.//
//Oh, thanks Goatboy.//
The only thing that filled her mind was their last conversation, an argument, a furious screaming match over the phone two days after her return to Washington. Scully didn’t remember what it was about, she only remembered its heat and its fury, so akin to emotions as ugly as hatred itself. The phone had been slammed down so hard, her hand ached for hours afterwards. Oh, what were her last words to him? What could they have been?
But as hard as she tried to, Dana Scully just couldn’t remember.
//Love you, baby sister.//
//Love you too, Billygoat.//
Detective John Kresge was waiting for Scully when her plane landed, a mere six hours after receiving his phone call. There was no luggage visible, she appeared to have with her just her long trench coat and purse. She didn’t even bother to pack, he thought. Quickly, she strode toward him and he mentally prepared himself for the barrage of questions that was sure to come.
But Scully walked right past him…dazed.
“Whoa. Hold up, Agent Scully,” he called out, jogging after her. He caught up and grabbed her arm to slow her stride. When she turned around, he was surprised to see the extent of her shock. She was pale, trembling and looked as though she were ready to drop. A wave of pity rolled through him, along with a desire to sooth, but he shook it off.
That’ll only make this worse, he thought with an imperceptible shake of his head.
Scully looked up at him, her eyes slightly unfocused. “I have to go to my mother,” she whispered hoarsely and he felt the trembling running through the arm he held onto.
“She’s at the station with your sister-in-law and nephew,” replied Kresge, grasping her arm a bit tighter. She really looks like she’s about to lose it, he thought, trying to support her without being overbearing.
Scully looked confused. “Why are they at the station?”
Kresge immediately looked uncomfortable and slowly began to lead Scully from the terminal. “They asked to be taken there,” he said carefully. “We have a suspect in custody.”
“So soon?” asked Scully, as an unspeakable rage clawed its way up her throat and cleared away the dull and miserable fatigue of shock. “Are you sure its the right person?”
“Pretty damn sure,” replied Kresge, holding open the building door and pointing her in the direction of his car parked directly in front. Scully strode over and jumped in without waiting for him to help her.
Kresge entered at the driver’s side and started the car as he continued. “He was confirmed armed and we have people placing him at the scene at the approximate time of death. We also have eyewitness reports of him in a violent altercation with your brother at some point earlier in the day.”
Kresge looked over at her, trying to gage her reaction to this news, but Scully didn’t reply. Instead, she stared stonily ahead, biting her lip, as the car pulled out onto the palm tree line freeway. It was unseasonably warm, but Scully didn’t even loosen her trench coat. Instead, she actually drew it up higher around her throat, shivering at the onslaught of some imagined cold wind. Tears, silent and ignored, rolled down her cheeks, dripping unhindered onto her coat, but her eyes retained their enraged fire.
Kresge observed this silently from the corner of his eye and then turned back to the road as they flew along underneath the hot, bright skies of a California afternoon. He shook his head again. This was going to be worse than he’d originally thought.
The station house was the usual madhouse of activity, with flying clerks, dropped papers, circling lawyers and yelling criminals. Kresge shoved a path through the main lobby and bade Scully to follow him to the relative quiet of the back rooms. She walked behind him, not taking any note of her surroundings, her entire being focused on her goal.
To see what was left of her family…
And to see the man who’d destroyed them.
As soon as the halls grew clearer, Scully broke into a jog behind Kresge, not able to bear another minute separated from her mother, whose comfort she desperately needed…and whose grief she desperately feared. Kresge led her toward a small back room with an old wooden door and gently motioned her inside. Scully took a deep breath and entered, the tears already beginning to flow.
The woman sitting in the hard plastic chair in the middle of the room looked terribly old…much too old, much too frail, to be her mother. But upon closer inspection, Scully saw the familiar deep brown eyes shining through the redness and above the hardened lines and wrinkles that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
Scully knelt down slowly and took her mother’s cold, bone-thin hands between her own. “Mama,” she whispered, unconsciously reverting back to a child, one who was filled with terror at her mother’s distress. Maggie Scully did not respond to Dana’s greeting, but continued to sit, staring blankly at the far wall, her features collapsing under some great invisible weight.
Somewhere, in another room, Scully heard an infant crying. That must be Matthew, she thought dully. Her nephew was weeping, no doubt also terrified at his mother’s grief, clutched tightly in her arms, not understanding why his safe and comfortable world had suddenly shattered. Scully turned back to her mother and gently pushed a fallen lock out of Maggie’s eyes, caressing her cheek.
“I’m here, Mama,” she said, trying to get her attention…somehow. “I’m here.”
Maggie Scully slowly looked up and stared at her daughter, who shivered beneath her face’s blank dignity and completely drained expression. “Dana?”
“Yes, I’m here,” repeated Scully, brushing her mother’s cheek once more.
“Oh, Dana. Do you want to know something, Dana?” whispered Maggie Scully, her cheek twitching slightly. “About William. Your brother He…he…”
“Yes?” asked Scully gently.
“He didn’t want to come out,” said Maggie Scully softly, with a strange, blank smile. “He was such a stubborn baby, even when he was being born. I was in labor nearly two days with him, and it was such a circle…such a circle of hell. It never ended, it was like fire and I’d never felt such agony. After the second morning, I wanted to die, I wanted us both to die, even if only to make it stop.”
Scully nodded silently, the tears threatening to choke her.
“But then he was born, finally, it was then that I realized one thing,” continued Maggie Scully, her voice cracking and thick. “Yes, I realized one thing.”
“What was that, Mama?” asked Scully hoarsely.
Her mother looked down upon her and began to sob. “I realized how very much I loved him. Oh, Dana. I still love him. What am I going to do without my baby? What am I going to do?” The sobs became louder, uncontrollable and no amount of soothing would assuage their terrible violence.
Scully listened for a few moments, and then took her mother in her arms, rocking her back and forth, as she were a child. Finally, after nearly an hour, Scully rose and turned to Kresge, with a white face and blazing fury in her eyes. “I want to see him,” she hissed, enraged. “I want to see him now. I want to see the son-of-a-bitch who did this to my family.”
Kresge paled slightly, but nodded. “All right, but I’m warning you, this might not be easy.”
“I just want to see him,” she replied, coldly shoving past him.
Kresge complied and pointed Scully in the direction of interrogation rooms. “He’s still being talked to in Room 1013. You can view the proceedings from the two-way mirror, second down from the end.”
Scully tottered toward the room on a pair of unsteady legs, numb from kneeling. She braced a hand against the wall, sliding it down as she walked. The mirrored wall came into view and she took a deep calming breath before looking through it. Her gun weighed ominously against her hip, its cold weight biting heavily, but she ignored it, concentrating instead on memorizing the face of the suspect inside. To keep inside her heart to hate forever.
But as it turned out, that would be unnecessary.
For there, sitting behind the scrutiny of the two-way mirror, behind a battered table was a tall man with dark hair and a profile she knew better than her own. Scully looked twice, blinking with shock, but the apparition refused to change. Her head spun and her breath caught cruelly in her throat, because in the interrogation room, sitting handcuffed and silent in the chair, being questioned for the murder of her brother, was a man who Dana Scully knew very well.
For the man in that room was her partner.
Ensign “Turk” Wheedle looked exactly like a rat.
All he needed were the fishing line whiskers, a fat pink tail and he’d have been an exterminator’s dream come true. The giant rodent of legend…a wall-hanger. But as it was, Turk was just another lousy human being with pointy ears and an ugly face and those came a dime a dozen.
He’d joined the Navy to beat out a rap in Chicago; trying to avoid a few acquaintances who’d been asking too many questions about a large amount of narcotic alkaloid derived from coca leaves that had been last seen in his possession and was now missing. Turk swore on his granny’s grave he didn’t know anything about it, but unfortunately the man he’d fenced it off on had told the mob a slightly different story.
Finally, Turk figured that getting out of the country might be a good idea. There was nothing like hopping on board a ship headed to the ends of the earth to avoid certain entanglements. And, he got paid for it.
But after his duty abroad was over, and the Chicago gang had given up on his skinny rat-ass for the time being, Turk found himself stuck behind a desk in San Diego, working boy-Friday for the hardest-assed, biggest brass-balled, loudest-lipped Lt. Commander you could imagine.
Lt. Commander William Matthew Scully, Jr. of The United States Navy was one Drano-eating son-of-a-bitch who spent half his time writing up the poor bastards under his command and the other half making Turk run out and ream out the dry-cleaning boys over some damn wrinkle in his uniform. And that’s all he did. Until this afternoon, that was.
Turk gaped, then laughed, when he heard the news hushed down the chow line at 1630.
“Ding Dong, the CO is dead, man,” said the cook, as he slapped the runny potatoes onto Turk’s tray. “Someone plugged him up, but good. Bang, boy…right in the head, I hear. Right in his house.”
“Theys probably lined up to do it,” said Joe “Hearts” Piney to his right. “Hard-assed bastard.”
“Move it along!” yelled an officer from the back of the kitchen.
“No shit,” was all Turk said. “Right in the head?”
“Theys pickin’ his brains outta his pockets,” replied the cook before he waved him on and addressed the next sailor. “Hey. The CO bought a Yugo, man…”
It only took Turk five minutes to sneak from the chow hall back down to the office.
He carefully let himself in and then started rifling through CO Scully’s desk, searching for something…anything that could possibly be converted into cold, hard cash. His sniffing, rat-face poked and prodded through the drawers, and lit up when he hit the proverbial jackpot. A small package, carefully labeled and sealed, with big, bright shining red letters.
“TOP SECRET – MJ12/PENTAGON-SETI FIVE”
Oh, boy. Bet there’s something real good lurking in this baby, thought Turk, as he carefully peeled it open. Joe “Hearts” Piney had been nosing around for blueprints and test engine parts to sell to certain “interested” parties and was getting big bucks for them. Real big bucks.
And that’s just what Turk Wheedle liked best. His hands shook, his invisible whiskers trembled, as he finally got the box open and shoved aside the cotton filling as he took out its magical contents and held them high.
It was a tiny vial full of engine oil.
Turk stared at it with a disgusted expression carved into his pointy face. Now, who the hell would send the Lt. Commander a goddamn test tube of engine grease and label it “Top Secret”? Shit. Well, there went Turk Wheedle’s dreams of espionage, gold Kuggerands and a house in France. With a derisive noise, he threw it back into its small box, and set about sealing it back up again, nice and tight so when the MP’s came to clear out, everything would be ship-shape, A-OK, Navy-style neat.
When he was finished, he suddenly changed his mind. Why not show it to Joe anyway, he thought? Who knows? Maybe it’s some new fuel or special sort of grease. Maybe I’ll make a buck anyway. Hey, you never know. Carefully, glancing narrowly from side to side, Turk Wheedle pocketed his prize, never once noticing the tiny tag that sat, unmolested, glued the bottom of the box.
An infinitesimal piece of paper with microscopic lettering.
“USS TALAPUS/PIPER MARU”
They were only separated by three feet of battered wood and a single pair of handcuffs, but it might as well been a cold and endless ocean that stood between Dana Scully and Fox Mulder as they sat on opposite ends of the San Diego headquarter’s interrogation table in Room 1013.
Scully had entered the room as she imagined one would enter a gas chamber or climb the stairs to the guillotine, resigned, empty…and utterly alone. Mulder noted her entrance straightforwardly, his only outward sign of emotion being the slight trembling in his fingers, ten slim shaking digits, with his wrists encased in gleaming steel.
In less than a day, he already had some beard growth, making him look much older than his thirty-odd years and Scully stared at it after she sat, stared at the grey that was markedly mixed in with the browns and reds and wondered why she’d never noticed it before. You’ve never seen him anything but mostly clean-shaven before, she thought dully. No, you’ve never seen him quite like this before.
When she finally spoke, her voice was so far away it sounded foreign, even to herself. “If I ever needed the truth, Mulder, I need it now. I don’t want to ask you this, but I have to. I have to hear it from you.”
Blue eyes burnt deeply into hazel ones, the hues mixing through the air.
“Did you do it, Mulder?”
There was a pause, but when he did speak, there was no hesitation in his voice.
For a moment, Scully’s face collapsed, whether it was grief, relief or even disbelief, Mulder couldn’t be sure. But she recovered quickly, and the business-like questions followed, machine-gun fast. “What are you doing in San Diego? Why are you a suspect? Did you get into a fight with Bill? What were you speaking to him about?”
Mulder glanced pointedly at Kresge, who stood silent and still in the far corner of the interrogation room and then looked back at Scully. “I can’t answer those questions now. Not like this.”
“We can’t operate in private anymore, there’s no longer any chance of that,” she replied angrily, her voice uncharacteristically loud. “Everything you say is now part of the public’s and the military’s case against you. Mulder, if there is any thing that’s salvageable from this, you have to give it to me. It’s now or never.”
Mulder watched as Scully paled and flushed in turns and hated the fact that he was unable to reach out to her…hated the probability that his touch was the most likely the last thing she wanted.
“Scully,” he said carefully. “I came to San Diego on an unrelated case that had nothing to do with Bill. My encounter with your brother took place outside of this investigation. And yes, our conversation eventually turned violent.”
Here Mulder glanced again at Kresge, who appeared to be fighting the urge to roll his eyes. “But I did not kill him, Scully,” Mulder continued, his hands fluttering in the handcuffs, like two wild birds bound in chains. “You have to believe me.”
Scully stared stonily ahead, breathing hard…her expression unreadable.
“Never would I hurt you…or your family like that,” he whispered, leaning in toward her, fearing the terrible blank look in her eyes. “Never.”
“They have evidence, Mulder,” she whispered painfully in reply. “They have witnesses, a motive, places, times…all hard evidence. It’ll take more than a proclamation of innocence to free you.”
“Freedom isn’t what I’m interested in here right now. -You- have to know that I didn’t do this. You have to believe me. You -do- believe me, don’t you, Scully?” he asked, his eyes huge and plaintive.
He watched as she raised her hands from her sides and held them to her temples, brushing back limp hair from exhausted, haunted eyes. “You have to help me, Mulder,” she said, as the passion finally returned to her voice.
Her posture turned pleading. “You have to give me something to refute these charges. Please, Mulder, help me. Give me something.”
Mulder’s eyes turned cold…miserable. “Give you something to free me…or to make you believe me?”
Scully didn’t reply, but her silence was deafening.
Mulder sighed deeply, running his bound hands through his hair. “Fine. Come back tomorrow,” he said with resignation, glancing aside and meeting Kresge’s eyes once more, trying to match their coldness. “We’ll talk then.”
Scully nodded and rose, her legs nearly giving way beneath her. “Tomorrow,” she replied, feeling as though she wanted to cry, but the tears were painfully dry and stubborn and they refused to fall.
Slowly, she reached out to Mulder and their hands, but not their eyes, met, for the briefest of seconds. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Scully left the interrogation room without turning back and Kresge followed her out. Immediately, she began to move down the hall and stride toward the main lobby of the station with a surprisingly long and swift gait.
“I need to go over the eyewitness accounts, the evidence in hand and speak to the medical examiner,” she said, not turning back toward Kresge, but continuing to surge forward.
“We can go over those in my office, if you like. Agent Mulder’s indictment before the grand jury is being delayed. We’re negotiating with the Navy for prosecuting rights, they’re being pretty tight-assed about it,” continued Kresge, trying to keep up.
“Listen. I think that,” began Scully, but she stopped as the black dots began to burst open in front of her eyes. They were circles of darkness, exploding within her vision, then narrowing into a tunnel with the light turned into a swirling mass that ended as a tiny pinpoint of white, far…far away.
She heard voices, low at first, gaining in volume.
//Love you, baby sister//
The surrounding air turned heavy and slowly, the great, sharp technicolor of the world began to fade, as the world’s texture turned gracious and light…black and white.
//A circle…such a circle of hell//
She was fading and floating at once, surrounded by the voices as they grew deafening around her.
//-You- have to know that I did not do this.//
John Kresge caught her just before she hit the floor.
“They are like locusts, but they only devour each other.”
In a dark room, in a singularly harsh city, two men were talking.
“It’s the knowledge that does it. Impels them to destroy one another.”
“Wouldn’t it you?”
“Once they find out…that there can be only one, then the fear…”
“The great motivator…”
“…makes them do what normally they would not.”
“Or encourages impulses that already exist.”
“To murder most foul, as in the best it is….”
“…most foul, strange and unnatural.”
The cell that Fox Mulder was returned to that night was exactly one hundred and twenty inches by one hundred and forty eight inches. There was a lid-less toilet, a steel bunk without bedding and an endless barrage of noise and light invading between the uniform bars. He turned to the wall, then face-down upon the rock hard bed, and there, began to weep.
The last time he’d cried, truly cried, was on Samantha’s eighth birthday, almost exactly one year after she’d been taken. He hadn’t cried at all up until then, not a single tear, until that morning when he awoke and ran into her room thoughtlessly, to wake her and get her to open her gifts for them both to play with. When he saw the empty, made bed, the perfect stillness of her room…the small bear against her pillow, is when it had started. The long, endless, heartbroken sobbing, the kind that tore at one’s throat, one’s soul, and made you feel sick, not better, after you were done. And after it was over, he swore that would be the last time. Ever.
But here he lay, sobbing against cold metal, not caring who heard, or who saw, with a misery that tore at his throat, at his soul, and he felt sick, not cleansed or better as he cried. The truth, it seemed, had gotten the better of him, the knowledge he’d gained had betrayed him and he in turn was lost and frightened in its harsh light.
And fear, the great motivator, made him do something he normally would never have done, and he wept at his own, unthinkable, actions.
//Forgive me, Scully.//
//Forgive me for lying to you.//
The cloth over her eyes was cold, heavy and sweet smelling, reminding her exactly of her home, her mother’s care and fevers past. Scully tried to blink underneath it, letting the cool cotton brush against her eyelashes, then relaxed once more into savoring the blindness.
Perhaps it was all right now, maybe she just had a dream, a fever dream, hot and terrible. Everything was fine now, the nightmare was over and she was safe. Somewhere, in the back of her mind she heard the a chair scrape along wooden floors, soft steps padding, and then a baby’s tiny squeak of a yawn. Scully lay perfectly still, hopeful in her motionlessness, thinking that perhaps if she lay motionless for a certain amount of time, what she desired most would be in front of her eyes when she lifted the cloth.
Her brother would be sitting there, holding his son, his giant hands gingerly wrapped around the tiny, newborn body. Her mother would be looking on, in her calm, smiling way, while Tara would be doing busy work, her nervous hands and steps fluttering about the room, cooing each time she passed her little family. Finally, Scully would awake, pull the cloth from her eyes and they’d wonder at her when she rose, ask her questions and shake their heads.
—You dreamt what? Well, it was just a dream. See, we’re all here now. We’re all fine. Now, put all those bad, silly thoughts aside and sit with us. Sit next to Bill and Matthew, see how big he’s getting. No, not Bill…the baby, silly. Silly Dana, with her silly dreams. —
And then would come the best part.
The doorbell would ring, and there would be Mulder in the doorway, coming to take her back to Washington, back to their cluttered office or on some fantastic trip to the wrong side of normality. He’d smile at her mother, be charming to Tara, all the while winking at Scully. Slowly, he’d walk over to the rocking chair, over to where Bill sat with Matthew, they would look at each other and then together, they would lower their gaze and peer gravely at the baby for a long time, two men wondering at the miracle of life in a way that a woman couldn’t.
Then his and Bill’s eyes would meet over Matthew’s.
And they’d smile at one another…two men sharing secrets in a house filled with women.
— We’re glad you’re here, Agent Mulder. Dana had a dream. A silly dream.—
— Did she? What did you dream, Scully? —
— She dreamt the silliest thing imaginable. —
— What could that be? —
— Why, she dreamt that you killed me. —
Scully shifted at the sound of her mother’s voice, still unwilling to move or raise the cloth that blinded her, if only for one moment more. To stay in sleep, to escape a nightmare. How strange.
But her mother was adamant. “Dana,” she repeated, a bit louder. “Dana, are you still sleeping?”
Scully slowly lifted the washcloth from her eyes and the weight of remembered sorrow filled her. “No, Mom,” she replied, blinking in the dull yellow glow. It’s painful waking up, painful to open your eyes sometimes.
“Good, I was getting worried,” her mother sighed and she returned to her rocking chair, picking up the baby from a little blue carrier that stood on an unfamiliar table.
Scully stared at her surroundings, not recognizing any of them. “Where are we?”
“The Roget’s house. Bill’s house is still off-limits until the police are through with the investigation. Howard is away on a tour of Italy and said that Tara and the baby could stay here until their own house was ready again,” replied her mother, making small tucking motions with Matthew’s shirt, then leaning back and beginning to rock.
With a groan, Scully sat up, disoriented. “I don’t remember getting here. I think…I think…,” she stuttered.
Maggie Scully looked at her matter-of-factly. “You fainted in the station house and the detective thought it was best to bring you here. We had the base doctor, Colonel Jensen look at you when you arrived. He said you were suffering from shock and gave you a shot. Do you remember that?”
Scully shook her head, somewhat abashed. “No. I’m sorry, Mom, I don’t faint very often. I must…I must…”
Her mother interrupted, her expression unreadable. “Did you speak with him, Dana?”
Dana stared at her mother, at her now-aged and somewhat hardened face. She knew who her mother was talking about. Him. Formerly Agent Mulder, formerly Fox, now reduced to “him”. A nameless entity, a word not to be spoken…a single forbidden and foreboding syllable.
– Him. –
Scully looked down and stared at the carpet, her eyes aching as she tried to pull the brighter colors apart from the swirls of black they were entwined with. “Yes, I did.”
“And?” asked Maggie, a tinge of a chill creeping into her tone.
Scully bit her lip and breathed deeply. “He maintains his innocence. He said that he had an argument with Bill, but didn’t kill him. He says he just ran into him, that he was here on other business, and the argument escalated, but that it ended without murder.” Scully could feel her mother’s eyes trained on the top of her bowed head as she spoke.
“Do you believe him?” came the blunt…the damning question.
“Mom,” began Scully, her voice trembling and the tears starting once more, but this time they were deep and threatening to turn into sobs, terrible, soul-tearing ones.
“Do you believe him?” her mother repeated pointedly, seemingly oblivious to her distress.
—Do you believe? Do you trust? And are you willing to prove it? —
“Yes,” said Scully strongly, raising her eyes through her tears. “Yes I do. I believe him when he says that he didn’t kill Bill, and those that say he did are mistaken or lying. It’s all a lie, a mistake and it carries its own falsehood with it. And I’ll prove that it is, no matter what has to be done.”
When she finished speaking, she almost flinched in anticipation of her mother’s anger, the rage of a woman who’s own daughter was consorting, siding, with the enemy, but there were no accusations, no cries of “traitor”…in fact, there was no sound at all.
Instead, Maggie Scully simply continued to rock slowly in her chair, running her finger along her grandson’s tiny cheek. “Did you take a good look at Matthew, Dana?” she said, turning the baby slightly so that Scully could get a full view of his pink and perfect face. “Did you see his eyes? Those are exactly Bill’s eyes when he was a baby. I can even see Bill in the chin…the nose.”
Scully nodded tearfully in reply, and rose from the sofa. She walked over to her mother and knelt down next to the rocker, watching as Matthew yawned and stretched his tiny arms over the bundling. Scully examined his small face, and it was all in order, with two huge eyes, the tiny nose and baby lips.
Her mother’s voice continued next to her. “It’s all about posterity, Dana. Babies aren’t really created by accident, we make them with a purpose. They are here as representatives of ourselves, our future selves. To do the things that we can’t do when we are old or dead. To be the part of us that carries on, with our blood, and the piece of our souls that we give to them when they are born. We need that as human beings, Dana…we need to know that there will still be some part of us left behind when we are gone. That’s why it is so wonderful that Bill knew he had Matthew, but…”
“But?” asked Scully softly, her fingers reaching up and entwining with her mother’s.
Her mother looked down at her with a tearful smile. “But that’s why it’s so hard for me that Bill is dead. A good part of my future went with him.” Suddenly, her mother’s hand gripped Scully’s so tightly, it actually caused pain.
“I can’t lose any more children, Dana,” Maggie Scully whispered, her face crumbling and her eyes filling with fear. “I can’t. I’ll die…I’ll die in every way and there will be nothing left of your father and myself. It will be as though we’ve never lived. But, you…you understand that don’t you, Dana?”
A picture of Emily flashed before Scully’s eyes, but she willed it away.
“And I can’t let your brother’s killer get away unpunished. Because he’s robbed me, Dana. Robbed me of my eternity,” her mother continued. “So, I have to trust in you to find who did this, to find who did this to Bill, to us, and no matter how painful the truth might be, to follow its path unwaveringly.”
Scully nodded, not really understanding, but trying desperately to.
“You have to follow the road that’s laid out for you, Dana, and take all your intelligence, your courage and your heart along with you. And use them, especially your courage. Because when you come to the end of that road, you might find that the truth is something that will hurt you very badly and you mustn’t turn away from it. No matter how awful it is.”
Suddenly, Scully felt a pair of soft lips pressed against her forehead, and their warmth seemed to envelope her with strength, to shield her with an invisible, almost magical protection.
“Follow the road, Dana,” said her mother, appearing to Scully to almost shine in the lamplight.
Scully nodded in reply. “Follow the road.”
John Kresge greeted her the next morning with his usual slightly sour, slightly tired, expression. “Good morning, Scully, FBI. Sleep well?”
Scully brushed his question aside and got to the point. “Where’s Mulder?”
She’d arrived early at the station house to talk to Mulder and found that he was no longer being housed in the holding tank or interrogation area. Storming toward Kresge’s office, she’d entered without knocking.
“No good morning, no thank you for taking me home after I did a Lady MacBeth on your station house floor, not even a bag of donuts for your poor, starving civil servant,” he replied, tossing yet another file atop the huge, precarious one that stood before him, just waiting to topple over. “Just “where’s Mulder?” Figures.”
“Good morning, Detective Kresge,” said Scully, in a voice that would have froze steel. “I am looking for Fox Mulder. Do you have any idea where he is?”
“Yes, I do, Agent Scully,” replied Kresge, without blinking. “He’s being transferred downtown for formal booking, full paperwork and a meeting with his court-appointed lawyer. Seems like he couldn’t afford his own. And here I was, thinking that you J. Edgars lived the high life.”
“How long will that take?” asked Scully with exasperation.
“Anywhere from six to ten hours,” replied Kresge, lifting his cup to take a sip of cold coffee, glancing at the contents and then putting it back down as he thought better of it.
Scully glared at him with disbelief. “Ten hours?”
“Welcome to the wonderful world of bureaucracy,” he replied with a bored tone. He picked up a thick file and motioned for Scully to sit. “But, in my infinite consideration, I got this ready to tide you over during the wait.”
Scully picked up the heavy file curiously. “Is this the case file?” she asked, swallowing past the lump that rose once again in her throat.
“Yes,” replied Kresge, his tone softening somewhat. “In there are the eyewitness accounts, the time line of Mulder’s trip to San Diego and…” He hesitated with a slight grimace. “…the medical examiner’s report and full autopsy findings.”
Scully nodded, steeling herself. “Thank you, Detective Kresge.”
“John,” he replied, putting his hands casually in his pockets. “You can call me John.”
Scully looked up at him with slight bewilderment. “Oh. Thank you, er…John.”
Kresge rolled his eyes at her. “Keep trying,” he said with a short laugh. “You’ll get used to people’s first names eventually.”
For the first time in the past two days, the tiniest of smiles curled around the edges of Scully’s lips. “Maybe,” she replied.
“You can use the first empty office to your right for reading. If you have any questions, feel free to ask somebody else,” he said, leaning back and pulling another file out from the tenuous pile in front of him.
Scully raised an eyebrow at him as he looked up at her and gave her a wink. “I’ll be speaking with you soon, Detective Kresge,” she said coolly, as she left the office her heels clicking meticulously out the door.
“I’ll bet you will…Dana,” he replied with a grin to the empty room.
Four hours later, Scully was back in Kresge’s office, holding the folder open and shaking her head. “This makes no sense,” she said, with bewilderment.
“Murder never makes any sense,” replied Kresge, carelessly digging through a Chinese food container with a pair of chopsticks. Chewing, with his mouth full, he held it toward Scully as an offering.
She declined with another impatient shake of her head and sat in an office chair. “According to the time line outlined here, Mulder has only been in San Diego for two days.”
“Are you sure you don’t want any? Or is eating beneath the Bureau’s standards for field agent conduct?” asked Kresge, spearing a dumpling with a graceful gesture and popping it into his mouth.
Scully ignored him. “His plane landed at 9 am, Pacific Time and he was seen at Bill’s house only two and a half hours later. The drive from the airport to the house only takes about an hour and a half, so there’s only one hour of time unaccounted for.”
“Maybe he had something to eat,” replied Kresge, making a face as a wonton fell from his chopsticks’ grasp and landed messily onto a file in front of him. “A real maverick.”
“No, it’s not too much time that unaccounted for, it’s too little,” replied Scully. “Mulder said he was here on a separate investigation, one that had nothing to do with Bill and that their paths crossed accidentally before they fought. But according to this, it would appear that he came here specifically to see my brother. I mean, he was there almost immediately after landing.”
“Yeah, I noticed that too,” replied Kresge slowly, putting down his lunch.
“What do you think that means?” asked Scully, with a baffled expression, the disbelief hovering about her features.
Kresge looked at her for a long moment before answering. “I think that means that he lied to you. I don’t think he was here for any other reason than to meet with your brother. There was no investigation into anything, except the quickest freeway to your brother’s doorstep.”
Scully felt the chill roll up her spine, knotting at her neck. “No. There has to be something else, somewhere else he was before Bill’s house. There has to be an explanation for it.”
“Well, good luck in finding one,” replied Kresge casually, tossing the rest of his food in the overflowing trash bin next to his desk. “Because I sure don’t see it. But that’s why you’re the FBI agent and I’m the lowly, lunch-eating flatfoot.”
“He’ll be back soon,” said Scully, closing the file with a snap. “I won’t go any further into this until I talk to him. I’m sure there’s some mix-up here.”
“Fine,” replied Kresge. “Did you go over the autopsy yet?”
Scully shut her eyes for a short moment and then shook her head slowly. “No, not yet. I just…just…”
“No problem,” said Kresge, with unusual kindness. “I’ll be glad to walk through it with you.”
“That’s OK,” Scully replied, her mouth twisting with dark humor. “I am a pathologist.”
“Well, sometimes…” he started but was interrupted by the insistent ringing of his phone. “Excuse me,” he said, picking it up. “Kresge.”
Scully leaned back in her seat with a sigh and eyed the single container of food that stood on Kresge’s desk. She wanted to feel hunger, she wanted to feel thirst, she wanted to feel anything but the appalling pain that continued to spiral up her throat at every inopportune moment. But how can it end, when it’s only just begun?
Kresge’s loud and angry yell into the phone interrupted her thoughts. “Shit. What the hell are you talking about? Do you have an all-points out?”
Scully looked up him, curious as to the violence of his tone, but not really interested in its cause.
But Kresge was growing enraged, nearly snarling into the phone “How the hell could this have happened? What do you mean, he snapped the van lock? You can’t snap a damn van lock. Where the hell are you? No, I’m coming down there. Listen, don’t fuck around with me, just give me your location. Right. That’s right. I’m coming down. Yes, now. Right now.”
Kresge slammed down the phone with a furious gesture and snatched his coat from his chair, throwing a furious look at Scully in the process.
“What happened?” asked Scully, wondering at his anger at her.
Kresge threw on his jacket angrily and nearly leapt over his desk in his haste. “He busted out,” he snarled at Scully, who was staring at him with her mouth open. “Your oh-so-innocent partner went on the lam.”
“What?” asked Scully in shock, following Kresge as he ran out the door.
He turned to her with a furious expression as they both jogged down the hall, their heels clicking in tandem down the dirty tiles. “He escaped, that’s what I’m saying. He got loose and jumped from the transport vehicle. As of one hour ago, Fox Mulder is a fugitive from justice. Are you so convinced of your partner’s honesty now, Agent Scully?”
Scully didn’t reply, but followed Kresge as he slammed out the door, into his car. She jumped in next to him, bracing herself against the vehicle’s sudden reverse motion, clutching the door handle tightly…determinedly.
//Follow the road. No matter where it leads.//
They’d made two mistakes when they’d loaded him into the van.
They didn’t cuff him to the seat, they just left him free with the steel bracelets jangling loosely around his wrists. He was alone in the back and knew it was almost an hour to the downtown station house.
It’s hard to slip off a pair handcuffs, but not impossible.
The second mistake was leaving the van door just slightly askew. Locked, closed…but not quite clicked perfectly shut.
Three kicks opened it wide.
The road was flying past underneath him, the dividers a blur to each side. They were in the far lane, the lane by the road’s green-covered edge, lucky for him. What were they doing, sixty…eighty? On these California freeways you could never tell. He hoped it was sixty, because jumping at eighty usually meant a long box and a short funeral.
But Fox Mulder knew he had no choice. It wasn’t his fate that depending on this jump, it was Scully’s. She was on a deadly road and she didn’t even know it. There was no way to tell her, no way to explain, she had to travel it, there was no longer any choice, but there was no way in hell she was going to travel it alone. I’m going to be alongside of her, no matter what the cost. Even if it eventually costs me my life.
Even if it costs me her.
The yellow lines, the white dividers and the black asphalt continued to blur underneath him as he took that last deep breath of air…and with a single graceful jump, Fox Mulder leapt from the van.
To fly, to land upon…and to follow the road below.
It was killing him by small steps.
Steps taken through a narrow creek, one that was freezing even in the warmth of a California winter. The river’s rocks barred his progress as he made his way upstream, past the short trees, the dense undergrowth and the bloodhounds he knew were circling him at that very moment. Steps taken with the ache of an injured leg and the staining trickle of blood coming from someplace he could not see.
Yes, this journey was slowly killing him.
But it wasn’t the fear or the aching or even the bleeding that was killing Fox Mulder. It was the endless thoughts of his partner and the terrible pain and confusion he knew she was feeling during these black days, along with his own helplessness in the wake of that agony. Every step he’d taken to insure her safety, every step he’d attempted to make sure that she would be brought out of this terrible tangle of deceit…safe, whole, and alive, was another one further into a deeper circle of the inferno. He’d made unruly stumbles, haphazard strides into circles of misfortune, ones that he’d made no provisions for, and was now lost in their sharp maze.
Mulder had no one to blame but himself. He’d made the choice to take those steps without his partner by his side, and he would follow through, no matter what the outcome would be for himself. He fought the urge to give up, to return to Scully and to turn himself in to her and her alone for trial, accepting absolutely whatever verdict she might give to him, without question.
But he couldn’t. For them both, Mulder had to continue down the road before him and have faith in her trust. He had no choice.
Because without it, he thought, this journey will certainly destroy them both.
It was killing her by small steps.
Steps taken over hard asphalt, paint and tar, to the soft dirt where the smears of blood were still visible in the green of the divider grass, where her partner had taken his leap and fallen. Steps taken with an ache in her heart that refused to abate and a chill in her blood that even the hot California sun refused to warm. She was shivering underneath her heavy trenchcoat, and the ground began to look attractive, almost restful, in its own brutal way.
Yes, this journey was slowly killing her.
But it wasn’t even the murder of her brother, or the misery that was enveloping herself and her family that was killing Dana Scully. It was the concern for Mulder that refused to leave her, even in this time of grief that was supposed to be hers and hers alone. What really happened? Why did he leap? Did he lie to her and why? There had to be reasons for these things, these steps taken without her by his side, alone and without help of any type.
Scully knew he was hurt, and she felt it within herself, an injury that tore beyond mere flesh and bone. She fought the urge to wave off the surrounding officers and their hounds with her gun and find Mulder in the woods herself, accepting absolutely any excuse, any story he might give to her, without question.
But she couldn’t. For them both, she had to continue down this road before her and have trust in his faith. She had no choice.
Because without it, she thought, this journey will certainly destroy them both.
John Kresge flipped his cel phone shut and walked up behind Scully, who stood stock still, staring into the highway’s endless undergrowth as the search teams and bloodhounds continued to pour over the area. He sighed when he looked at her, so miserable and lost and he felt real sympathy for her situation. Kresge, for all his blustering, was a generous man who intensely disliked the unhappiness of others. Secretly, he felt this compassion was his greatest flaw, for someone had told him once that generosity was the last deadly sin, but he honestly didn’t know of any other way to be.
He tried to get her attention. “I’ve got some interesting news from the office,” he said, hoping to shake her out of her reverie.
“Really?” she replied halfheartedly, not turning around. “What is it?”
“Your brother’s clerk, an Ensign Timothy “Turk” Wheedle, was found this morning inside a latrine stall, dead. A single 9mm bullet in the back of the head,” continued Kresge, reading from his notepad. “The Navy’s holding a fellow ensign, Joe Piney, as a suspect in the shooting. Interested in checking it out?”
Scully turned around slowly and looked at Kresge with a raised eyebrow. “-Turk-?”
Kresge shrugged. “Hey, I don’t name ‘em. I just scrape ‘em up.”
Kresge motioned toward the police search teams who were gathering and multiplying like a coming storm. “So, why don’t we let these guys do their job? And try not to worry too much. They’ll catch up with him before he gets really hurt,” he continued kindly, trying to cheer her up.
“I think he’s already hurt,” replied Scully softly. “Badly.”
Not knowing what to say, Kresge simply shrugged in reply. With a sigh, Scully turned toward the car behind them and held her hand out for the car keys.
“Are you driving, Scully, FBI?” Kresge asked, with mock amazement.
“Yes,” she said, with a sad shrug. “I don’t get to do it that often with Mulder, so I might as well take advantage of the chance.”
With a broad smile, Kresge tossed her keys.
Everything about Joe “Hearts” Piney was thick.
His arms were thick, his neck was thick…even his head. He had a bright red face, permanently sunburnt and salt-bitten, and his thick fingers were scarred from rope and water, the truest tattoos of a sailor. Scully had seen men like this a thousand times before, all over the world and was always impressed with the similarities between them, no matter what race or creed they were.
Once a sailor…never to land, so the saying went and she believed it.
“I’m being framed, but I ain’t surprised,” were his first words to Scully when she sat in the brig’s interrogation room, a brightly lit, sterile area less than ten feet square. She became claustrophobic immediately and wondered how small the cells must be in comparison.
“After thirty years in this goddamn hole of a Navy, you know when your number is up. You know when they got you over a barrel,” he growled.
“Why do you say that?” asked Scully, trying to get comfortable in the hard wooden chair.
“Because I just do,” he replied with a scowl. “That’s the way they operate when someone’s gotten underneath protocol, down below the dress whites to where the dirt is laying around.”
“Pardon?” asked Scully, wondering at this thick, angry-looking sailor.
“You got me in here for the murder of Turk “Rat Boy” Wheedle. Well, I didn’t do it,” said Piney, adamantly. He took a toothpick out of his pocket and began to chew it compulsively. “Turk was a rat, plain and simple. The minute he heard that the CO listed off…”
“The minute he heard Lt. Commander Scully died?”
“Yeah, as soon as he heard that, he thought he’d hit the jackpot. The dumb rat decided to tear through the CO’s office and see if there was some bullion laying around. Instead, the asshole got a hold of the oil, the poison oil, from The Devil’s Circle,” said Piney, the tiny piece of wood snapping between his teeth.”
“Excuse me?” asked Scully, who had spent her life around sailors and knew they had a lingo for almost everything. “I’m sorry, what is that?”
“It’s a long story, Miss.”
Scully folded her hands. “I have time.”
Piney laughed. “So do I, I guess. All right, here you go. A couple of years ago there was a French junker, christened The Piper Maru…”
Scully’s breath caught in her throat, but she said nothing.
Piney continued casually. “So, one day she pulls into the Devil’s Circle, in the north Pacific, to try and raise up the remnants of something that went down there a while ago, just like a ship that passed by long before her…” Here he paused, a slightly superstitious glance passing through his features. “A sub christened The Zeus Faber.”
“But below that water, unknown to the Frenchies on the Piper, lay something called “the poison oil” which could burn a man’s flesh right off of his bone, and had taken down the entire crew of the Zeus some good decades before. Well, both crews suffered the same fate, which was being burnt to shit like a pig on a spit. Now, only the Black Ops knew about it, the oil, ya see, and the Frenchies just stumbled on it, as did the crew of the Zeus.”
“The Black Ops?” Scully, her voice unconsciously lowering to a whisper.
Piney laughed, a thick, short sound. “Yeah. What, do you think the Navy is just a bunch of tubs with boys scrubbing the decks, waiting for a war? It’s got the biggest and best secret intelligence division in the country, if not the world. Shit, half the spying and plotting on the Earth is done by the US Navy…that’s almost why it exists.”
“How do you know all of this?” asked Scully incredulously.
“Well, number one, sailors have to know the sea. She can keep her secrets from us, but when we find one out, we sure as hell let each other know. Only way to save your ass out there is knowing what to avoid. Everybody around here knows about The Devil’s Circle, they heard the rumors of what happened to the crew of the Piper. But -I’m- one of the only ones who knows about the poison oil, the shit that Turk got a hold of outta CO Scully’s desk. And number two…” Piney said, with a lop-sided grin, that showed off his two-day-old stubble.
“Yes?” Scully asked.
“I was on the USS Talapus, which was on a secret mission to salvage up that damn thing that the Piper was trying to run off with. When I was debriefed, I was told about the oil, the poison oil, that you were supposed to run like hell from and tell the captain about immediately.”
“The Talapus…” said Scully, almost to herself.
“Which, for your information, was commandeered by Lt. Commander William M. Scully, Jr.” said Piney, with a toothy smile. “A card-carrying member of the biggest gang of underhanded shitheads on God’s good earth, the Navy’s Special Foreign Task Force, a.k.a. Black Ops, for short. Who, no doubt, got wind of Turk’s little slight of hand trick with their special delivery to CO Scully and took care of him, but good.”
Scully found it increasingly difficult to swallow. “Are you certain of this?”
Piney shrugged. “Sure. But, if you’re asking me to prove it, well, that ain’t gonna happen. I can give you times, dates, ships, missions…but you ain’t gonna find none of it anywhere. All that stuff falls under “Need to Know” provisions. But it -is- true that they’re just using me as a patsy to take the fall for Turk’s murder,” he said sincerely.
Scully looked thoughtful for a moment. “Is there any possibility that these -Black Ops-, as you call them, murdered Lt. Commander Scully?” she asked, a slight hope rising in her heart.
Piney snorted and shook his head. “I wouldn’t bet on it. He was their Sunshine Boy, he’d just got a commission to the Northern Seas, but with these guys, you never know. But I doubt it.”
“Why?” asked Scully, almost angrily. “Why wouldn’t they do it?”
“Because he was an old time boy, born into the Ops, one of their own from day one and he tried to follow along like a good puppy. He wanted to be the best of the best of them. He wanted to live up to the legend. You know how the saying goes.”
“No, I don’t,” replied Scully, annoyed. “What saying?”
Piney stared at her, sucking on yellow teeth and grinning haphazardly. “Like father, like son.”
Scully felt the whirlwind, pricking at her neck. “Excuse me?”
Piney continued, oblivious to the now white-faced woman in front of him. “Look, the hard-ass was just following in his old man’s footsteps. Old Bill “Ahab” Scully, the Good Captain, they called him, but they didn’t know him like we did, was the first Black Ops captain to follow the ships that stumbled into the Devil’s Circle…to pull up what was left of the poor bastards that got fried by the poison oil.”
“No. I don’t think that’s…I mean…that’s impossible,” Scully stuttered, her breathing becoming erratic.
“Why is that impossible?” asked Piney, squinting.
Scully fought for breath. “It just is,” she gasped, clutching onto the splintered edge of the table.
Piney shrugged at her with his thick shoulders. “Whatever you say, lady. But somebody had to pull up the Zeus Faber and scrape up what was left of that crew off of the ocean floor. And you can bet shit for shinola that Black Ops wouldn’t let anyone but one of their own do it. Go look, lady. Check out the records, it’s all there. His name was Captain William Scully, and his ship was called The USS Starbuck.”
//Love you, Starbuck//
“Take a look, lady, you’ll find something on it,” Piney said, in a pleading tone. “Because I didn’t kill Turk, I swear I didn’t. I’m just a patsy, that’s all I am…a patsy for these men, who hide behind their dress whites and lousy medals.”
Suddenly, the door opened and an MP appeared holding his rifle high. “Let’s go, Piney,” he barked. He turned to Scully. “Time’s up, mam’. I’m sorry.”
Scully nodded, trying to breathe, as Piney leaned in toward her once more. “Remember, lady. I’m just a patsy…that’s all I am.” The MP took Piney’s arm and led him from the room as Scully sat underneath the brig’s harsh lights, her heart pounding.
//I’m just a patsy. That’s all I am.//
Perhaps you are, Joe, but you are not alone, she thought.
The dead have their secrets.
//Deceased is a Caucasian male, approximately thirty-seven years of age, one hundred and ninety pounds and seventy-three and one-half inches in length.//
But not for long.
//Examination of the hands showed three cuts, two above the left index finger, the other on the knuckle of the right hand, already scabbed. The left hand revealed traces of a brown-red powder between the knuckles of the first two digits. Upon analysis, this was identified as nutmeg, a common household spice used in cooking.//
Dana Scully’s eyes skimmed over her brother’s autopsy reports uncharacteristically fast. There was still a distance problem, still a personal story to overcome and try as she might, reading it was difficult. Science was all it was now, measurements and figures and chemistry, but underneath all that lay a man, a flesh and blood person, one that Scully knew all too well.
Or thought she knew well.
//Analysis of matter taken from underneath the fingernails showed nothing of note. Examination of the palms showed two friction blisters, both on the left hand, one already drained, the other still intact. Analysis of fluid from this blister was inconclusive.//
Joe Piney’s testimony had shaken her, but not completely. The accused have a habit of saying anything and perhaps he’d found out who she was, known that she was Bill’s sister…and Ahab’s daughter. Scully wasn’t no longer in a position to take things at face value, especially with the situation as it was now.
//Trust no one.//
But still, the uncertainty ate at her, chewing at those dark places that Mulder had once beseeched her to open her mind to. So, she now had to find out…to know…
To be absolutely sure.
Closing the autopsy report, Scully picked up her cel phone and quickly dialed. After three rings, Langly’s familiar nasal tones came over the receiver. “Magic Bullet. We know what you don’t.”
“Turn off the recorder, Langly,” said Scully quietly into the phone.
“Oh…oh, sure,” he stammered and Scully heard the recorder shut with a snap. “Hey, Agent Scully…how, um…”
“I need a favor,” she whispered, feeling a frightened child once again, in the face of surrounding walls that seemed to have lives…and ears of their own.
“Name it, Agent Scully,” came Byers’ steady voice from over another extension.
“I need all the information you can dig up on the USS Starbuck, a Navy salvage ship, most likely commissioned anywhere between the years ‘45 and ‘60. I’ll take anything you can get,” she said, suddenly feeling her father’s presence, somehow, somewhere behind her.
She heard a sigh escape from Byers. “I hope this ship doesn’t have anything to do with Navy Intel.”
“Because breaking into there is like breaking into Fort Knox. They have incredibly sophisticated anti-hacking devices, even better than the NSA. We’ve tried a few times, but have never gotten anywhere.”
“I’ll take whatever you can give me,” Scully said. “Frohike has my personal E-mail address, have him give it to you and send anything you find there.”
She heard a slight hesitation in Byers’ voice. “Oh. I think you better give the address to me anyway, Agent Scully. Frohike isn’t…well, he’s away. He’s visiting his aunt…in The Rockies.”
“Really? His aunt lives in the Rockies?” asked Scully curiously.
“She’s Austrian. Reminds her of home,” Langly interjected. “But don’t worry. We have everything completely under control here. In fact…ow! Ooops, sorry about that. This recorder get really hot. Oh, I mean that this..uh…hotplate…”
“Never mind,” Scully sighed. “Just do what you can, OK? I’d appreciate it.”
“Hey, that’s what we’re here for. To uncover the deepest deceits of those who are unsuspect,” replied Langly. “To reveal the falsehoods that lay underneath trustworthy facades. To show the…”
Without a word, Scully flipped the phone shut.
John Kresge looked more than a little exhausted when Scully arrived in his office at 6 am. He’d spent the night there, as evidenced by his wrinkled suit and the slight trace stubble spread along his chin. The coffee had evidently stopped working hours before and he was much the worse for wear because of it.
He tossed a file toward her without so much as a greeting. “Ballistics,” he said hoarsely. “We have a match.”
Scully felt her heart plunge. “And?” she asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
“Two guesses,” growled Kresge, massaging his red eyes with his thumb and index finger. “It’s Mulder’s gun, of course, the one we confiscated from him upon arrest. So, we now have everything we need for a conviction. All we don’t have is the goddamn suspect.”
“You don’t have a motive,” replied Scully, picking up the ballistics report and giving it a careful examination.
“Excuse me?” asked Kresge, squinting at her.
“I said, you don’t have a motive,” repeated Scully, flipping through the file, noting numbers and points.
Kresge’s eyes widened considerably. “Wait a minute. You’re kidding, aren’t you? You aren’t completely convinced yet that he did it?”
“No,” replied Scully, looking up, straight into Kresge’s eyes. “Not until I have a motive.”
“Are you -kidding-?” repeated Kresge incredulously. “We have opportunity, witnesses -and- the murder weapon. I don’t know what school of criminology you went to, but the one I graduated from says that just about wraps it up. Look, I know he’s your partner and all, but there comes a time when you have to face the facts.”
Scully was sternly adamant. “I see the facts, but I still need a reason.”
Kresge leaned back, his hands clenching behind his neck in frustration. “According to your mother, there was a notable tension between them during your illness that often manifested itself aggressively on more than one occasion. Your partner’s violent streak, as reported by the co-workers of Dr. Calderon during the Sims case, can also be taken into consideration. Taken in conjunction with the physical evidence, I’d say we have a pretty good scenario for murder.”
“I don’t agree,” Scully replied tensely. “Agent Mulder was no threat to Dr. Calderon at any time.”
“He beat his face against a desk and pulled a gun on him. Sounds a little threatening to me,” retorted Kresge dryly.
Scully ran a trembling hand through her hair. “I still need a clear motive that is directly linked to my brother. Until I get that, I cannot honestly be convinced of Agent Mulder’s guilt.”
Kresge grimaced with annoyance at her. “Sure. Fine. Whatever. Since this is my jurisdiction, what you’re convinced of is of little consequence anyway.” He leaned back with his eyes closed, clearly frustrated and exhausted. “Goddamn it, this job. I’d have been better off with a woodworking degree.”
Scully sat quietly in the chair in front of his desk. “Did the search teams come up with anything?”
“No,” replied Kresge, angrily. “Mulder’s getting help, you know. There’s no way he could have broken the dragnet without it.”
He opened his eyes and his expression turned suspicious. “Let me ask you something.” His eyes narrowed pointedly at Scully, cold and hard. “You wouldn’t happen to have any idea who might be assisting him, would you, Agent Scully?”
Scully returned his glare with an icy one of her own. “No. No, I would not.”
Kresge didn’t flinch. A broad tinge of anger colored his words. “Good. Because the aiding and abetting of a fugitive, one’s who suspected of murder in the first degree, is a crime that isn’t taken lightly in the state of California. And when I catch who’s helping him, I’m gonna rake them straight over the coals until they wish they’d never heard the name Fox Mulder.”
His teeth clenched. “And I’m not kidding…Agent Scully.”
“I’m glad you take your job so seriously, Detective Kresge,” replied Scully coldly, refusing to bow. “But I assure you, I have no idea who might be assisting Agent Mulder in his escape or if in fact, anyone is. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help than that.”
“Well, if you -do- find out anything, I’m sure you’ll let me know,” replied Kresge stonily, opening a file in front of him.
They sat in silence for a long while, as the only sounds in the room were the scratch of Kresge’s pen against his file and of street traffic beginning to gain in volume outside the window.
Scully slowly looked up from the ballistics report in her hand. “You said you confiscated Mulder’s gun upon arrest. I assume you confiscated his other possessions, as well,” she said, running her thumb along the report’s edge and feeling the paper’s sharp bite.
Kresge didn’t look up. “Yeah…and?”
“I’d like to look at them,” she replied carefully. “There might be something in there that will shed some more light on this. At least for me.”
“Go ahead,” replied Kresge indifferently.
With a sigh, Scully rose and was almost out the door when Kresge called out to her. “Agent Scully?”
She turned around and was astonished at his expression, a pitiful combination of empathy and misery. His voice was still rough, like hundred year old bottle of whiskey.
“Agent Scully,” Kresge repeated, his features turning old before her eyes. “I once had a partner who went wrong too. He was skimming off of the local drug dealers, for a lousy three hundred bucks a week. “
“I loved this guy, loved him like a brother, and it hurt like hell the day I took him in, but I had to do it. If I’d turned the other way, which I was more than tempted to do, then all the work I’ve done before and all the work that I would ever do afterwards would be pointless. I have to uphold the law, I -have- to stick to the road of what’s right, or I might as well pack it in. You understand that, don’t you?”
//Follow the road. No matter how it hurts.//
“Yes I do. And thank you, Detective Kresge,” was all that Scully replied as she turned to leave. “Thank you.”
The first thing Scully took out of the evidence box was Mulder’s watch.
Battered and scratched, it still told the time, but barely, underneath cracked glass, encircled by a beaten wrist band. He needed a new one, Scully had told him and she even had bought him one for Christmas once, but after a polite period of wearing her gift, he went right back to his abused old standby.
“I don’t know, Scully,” he shrugged, when she glanced accusingly at his wrist one afternoon. “I feel unlucky without it. I figure if it keeps going in this condition, I probably will too.”
She pulled out his wallet next and ran her thumb along the old and softened leather. Clasping it between her palms, she held it there for a long moment, trying to imagine it still warm from Mulder’s coat, still warm from him, and then shook herself out of her reverie.
[Not now. There’s no time for this now.] With an annoyed gesture, she flipped it open and it was curious to see that Mulder kept photographs in his wallet, small faces with blurred smiles shining out from underneath the plastic.
There was a picture of his mother, very young and very beautiful, in perfect shades of black and white, with all the depth of a painting or sculpture. Underneath that, sat a picture of Samantha, with the pigtails and the Kodacolor of the seventies, in all their bright and gaudy shades. Scully smiled at it for a moment, but when she flipped to the next photo, her breath caught in surprise.
It was a picture of her.
Carefully trimmed and placed, a Polaroid taken in their office some years before. For a good moment or so, she couldn’t recall the circumstances or the time it was taken, whether it was summer or winter, or whether they had been in the middle of chasing mutants or men.
And then she remembered.
//Mulder, no. I’m eating.//
//I’ll tell everyone the jelly is a mole. Come on, I want to test out the camera. Gimme a smile. Come on, you are zee supermodel of zee world. Letz see zat smile…//
//My hair is a mess, it’s late, I probably have raccoon eyes, I have a damn donut in my mouth…//
//I’m going to kill you, Mulder. Give me that photo.//
//Are you kidding? I don’t think you have the cash it would take, Scully.//
//I have a gun.//
//Yeah, but I have the camera. Who fears what more?//
//I’ll get that photo someday, Mulder. You’ll see.//
Dana Scully closed her eyes against the memory and the tears that fell were hot and burning against her cheek. The urge to give up almost overwhelmed her, but she fought back against it, with a strength she didn’t even know she had. Taking a deep breath, she continued to examine the wallet and its contents, coldly, without emotion.
In it were three dollars, two credit cards, a gum wrapper and five pennies trapped in its bottom folds. She dug into the tiny side pockets and pulled out more torn papers and wrinkled business cards, some of them leftovers from cases she still remembered.
With a final dig, she pulled out a deeply buried slip of paper, one that had been folded and re-folded so many times, Scully thought it would fall apart in her hands. Two business cards were clipped to it, one for “Bay Savings Of San Diego” and the other for the San Diego Department of Motor Vehicles.
She unfolded the sheet carefully and read its heading.
“EMERGENCY ROOM ADMITTANCE FORM – NORTHEASTERN GEORGETOWN”
It was a photocopy of an old document from a Washington hospital, detailing the admittance of one Dana K. Scully to its emergency room, unconscious. suffering from an unknown ailment, sick and wounded unto death. The paper began to tremble in Scully’s hand with its photostated lines and the blurry handwriting wavering before her eyes.
It was the hospital admittance form from her return after her abduction. Filled out by the one who’d brought her there, one of those faceless, nameless men who no doubt had a hand in her torture, in the ruination of her body and soul, and almost, in her murder.
Nameless men…ever faceless, hidden in shadow.
But this one, this faceless, evil man seemed to, at least, have a name. For at the bottom of the form, there was a signature, no doubt one that its owner never expected to see the light of day, let alone the eyes of those who it concerned.
The form was signed “Robert Goethe.”
“Such a charming man.”
The elderly bank manager of Bay Savings of San Diego led Scully past the ancient and rusty filing cabinets to a back room, so blanketed in dust, that Scully felt she had to breath lightly just to avoid creating a dirt storm.
She turned to Scully with a thin smile. “Agent Mulder was so nice and so very interested in Mr. Goethe’s checking account. Now, we had to do some digging to pull up the microfiche of his canceled checks, but Mr. Mulder was ever so helpful. Why, he even rolled up his sleeves and pitched right in helping me look through all of our files.”
I’ll bet, thought Scully, but she said nothing.
“We don’t get very much business anymore here at Bay Savings, we don’t have all those new fangled ATM machines and direct deposit and such, but our old customers are very loyal,” continued the manager, peering at the handwritten file drawer labels. “Ga-Geth…Gev-Goa…oh, here we are. B. Goethe. That’s it. The account was under the name of Bob Goethe.”
“Thank you,” replied Scully, as the manager handed her the flimsy piece of film.
“Do you work with Mr. Mulder, Agent Scully?” asked the bank manager, leading her to the fiche-reading machine, a monolithic creation of hot bulbs, grey metal and glass, hailing a time long before.
“Yes,” replied Scully. “I di…I do.”
“Oh, well, you tell him Stella and the girls said hello,” said the bank manager with a giggle, referring to herself and the two ancient tellers who were dozing behind their perspective windows. “We don’t have handsome FBI agents coming in here every day, you know. And such a nice man, too.”
Scully nodded politely. “If…when, I see him again, I’ll tell him.”
“Well, if you need anything else, just give me a yell,” said the bank manager, walking with small steps toward the door. “Don’t worry about the noise, no one’s ever in here anyway.”
When she left, Scully sat before the fiche machine and after an attempt or two, the uniform line of checks finally came into focus.
//From the account of B. Goethe. Pay to the order of cash, for the amount of ten thousand dollars and zero cents.//
Next to each check front stood a copy of its flip side, the back of each check, stamped and cleared with its endorsing signature.
Endorse above this line. Signed “Lou Birde”.
Scully studied the handwriting on the front of each check carefully. It was boxy and written in hard-pressed, sharp squares, printed, not in script, with a unique and stern hand. By contrast, the handwriting of the endorsements were thin and nervous, changing with each signature, as if the owner of the handwriting wasn’t exactly sure -who- he was each time he signed.
//From the account of B. Goethe. Pay to the order of cash, for the amount of twelve-thousand dollars and zero cents.//
Endorse above this line. Signed “Linus Redwing.”
Scully continued to flip through the checks, wondering at their meaning, until she came to the last one and her heart stopped at the sight of the signature on the back. Maybe he’d made a mistake, he no longer felt vulnerable, or perhaps he’d been willingly careless that day, thinking that no one would ever find this one signature, from this one account, in this ancient and dying bank.
But nothing disappears without a trace.
//From the account of B. Goethe. Pay to the order of cash, for the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars and zero cents.//
Endorse above this line.
Signed “Luis Cardinale”.
“Such a nice guy.”
The young girl behind the desk in the San Diego Department of Motor Vehicles was almost beaming at Scully. “Agent Mulder was really so sweet and stuff. He was in here two days ago and but he was in an awful hurry. He kept asking me if I could find the photo of the guy any faster. You know, this Bob Goethe guy…”
“Yes,” Scully replied shivering, wondering why felt as though she were freezing to death in a place that had such a warm climate.
“But his license was expired, you know, so I had to dig him up. He wasn’t on the computer. I still got the blow up from the fiche machine in here somewhere though. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t file that fast,” she continued to rattle, smiling.
“Yes,” Scully repeated dully, a slight buzz sounding in her ears. She fought the desire to tell the girl to stop looking, no, I’m no longer interested…really I’m sorry I asked, I’m leaving now, yes…and I won’t come back.
//I’m sorry I asked.//
“Here you go,” said the girl triumphantly, waving the photocopy of the driver’s license photo in front of Scully. “I told you I had it. See, here it is.”
There it was.
The face of Robert Goethe. The nameless, faceless man, who now appeared to have both. He was handsome, square-jawed and fair, with eyes that seemed light blue or perhaps green, if one could tell these things from the dull grey of a photocopy.
And underneath the blank stare of those pale eyes, Dana Scully found she could no longer breathe. It was the whirlwind again, with the pricking edges of flying things biting into her skin, taking her breath, her vision, the light itself from her.
Perhaps it was her imagination, but she felt locusts in that wind, or perhaps they themselves -were- the wind, an endless whirling made not of air, but of an infinite number of furious, devouring creatures, taking her breath, her air, shutting out the sun itself, underneath the black and endless cloud of their bodies.
And they were starving, starving for her, these locusts, stripping her
mindlessly of her being, until all that was left were the inedible parts, the soft hair and sharp bone. She didn’t hear herself make any noise, but wondered if she could have been heard over their drowning wind. Scully could no longer see or hear or speak, and the vast expanse of her rational knowledge abandoned her, leaving her to know and understand only one thing.
That the face of Robert Goethe was the face of Mulder’s motive.
For the face of Robert Goethe was also the face of her brother…
William Scully, Jr.
//Love you, baby sister…//
//I love you -so- much//
Melvin Frohike didn’t like California all that much.
The twelve months of warmth, the ever-present freshness of the woods, the impossibly blue skies all added up to something he felt was inherently suspicious. Who exactly had decided that an average temperature of seventy-five degrees and less than five days of rain per summer would be bestowed upon this particular state?
He wasn’t much of a religious man, so God’s will was out of the question. The chaos theory of random selection didn’t cut it either. Therefore, one night, after a fine bottle of Jack Daniels, he’d decided that a government plot consisting of weather control machines and a giant satellite that deflected the sun’s rays directly over the San Andreas fault for some unknown, yet plausibly heinous reason, made a hell of a lot more sense.
When he finally had sobered up, he’d abandoned the idea, but as he sat on a back road directly outside of San Diego proper, waiting for his turn to pass a roadblock and the ten state troopers that surrounded it, it was all making sense again.
There was definitely something about this state.
Frohike didn’t shift in his seat, didn’t look around, but sat staring blasely ahead as he finally rolled up to the roadblock. A gigantic state trooper stuck his head in the driver’s side window and glanced suspiciously at the slightly grizzled man in heavy clothing who was driving a battered pickup with Colorado plates. Frohike returned the look, and for a moment they stared at one another, not unlike the Walrus and the Oyster of lore.
“License and registration, sir,” said the trooper, peering around the interior of the pickup’s cab.
After some digging and grunting, Frohike pulled them out from his wallet and handed them over. “Robert Downey Jr. on the loose again?” he asked innocently.
The trooper didn’t smile as he examined the documentation. “Are you here on business, sir?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m here for the Free Willy, Save-The Redwoods, and Personalized Pyramid and Crystal Convention.”
The trooper glanced at Frohike warily. “The what, sir?”
“Well, I don’t come here as often as I’d like, so I try to hit the multi-themed conventions. Saves time, money…”
“Have you seen this man, sir?” asked another trooper, handing him a wanted poster. A wanted poster with Special Agent Fox Mulder’s picture on it, in the blurry black and white of a hastily made photocopy, surrounded by the words “armed,” “dangerous” and “extreme caution.”
The very same Fox Mulder that was concealed in the hollow space directly underneath Frohike’s seat.
“Can’t say that I have,” replied Frohike, as the other eight troopers quietly peered, prodded and poked over, above and underneath his truck. “But he looks pretty dangerous, all right. Hope you catch him. I won’t be able to sleep at night with the likes of him around.”
The lead trooper waited until he got a clear signal from the others and waved Frohike onward. “Move along, sir.”
“Maybe I should get a gun,” mused Frohike, pulling the truck out of neutral. “Or some mace.”
“Move it along, sir,” barked the trooper, who had quite enough of this strange out-of-towner.
“How about a shotgun?” yelled Frohike as he hit the gas. “Think I should get one of those?”
And as Melvin Frohike drove away, out of the troopers’ sight, underneath the warm and sunny January skies of California, he shook his head once more.
Yep, it has to be a government plot.
Dana Scully was flying once again.
She’d fallen asleep with surprising ease that night, underneath a bedspread dotted with poppies, welcoming the darkness. There was a period of floating and dreams of home, peaceful and kind, until they were shattered by a sharp noise, one akin to breaking glass, and then, the flutter of giant wings.
When she dared to open her eyes and look toward her window, there they were. Creatures, not unlike the ones of her nightmares, from the dreams she still had of her abduction. Sitting on her window ledge, jabbering and screeching their glee, with terrible ape faces and frightful wings.
She tried to hide, to wake, to run, but it was no use. They were there for her and soon, she was taken away, carried by them through cold and black skies, to a very high tower, where they set her down, gently. When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw that a lone figure stood on that high ledge, unrecognizable in the surrounding fog, but familiar none-the-less.
“Well, if it isn’t my little Dana,” said the figure, with a sharp smile. “Nice shoes you have there.”
Scully looked down at her feet with surprise. Shoes, what shoes? But there they were, red and shining, a pair unlike any she’d ever worn before. Bright shoes, with pointed toes and heels that were just right, fitting her perfectly, like no other.
Crimson shoes, covered in blood.
“Those are mine. They belong to me,” said the figure cruelly. “Give them to me.”
But try as Scully might, they refused to come off.
“Fine. When the sand runs out, when the time has come, you’ll see. They’ll be mine…I’ll make sure of it,” said the figure, his voice gaining in volume, surrounding her, becoming the air itself.
“For there can only be one.”
When Scully finally awoke, she was trembling in every bone.
“This is bad business, Mulder.”
A dense canopy of trees lent a chilly grey light to the surrounding woods and Frohike began to regret his earlier assessment of California’s weather patterns. The forest floor was cold, damp and covered with a spongey combination of leaves, dirt and slithering creatures. Frohike wasn’t particularly fond of any of those things, especially the slithering parts.
“Yes,” replied Fox Mulder, in a haunted voice. “Very bad.”
They hadn’t lit a campfire for fear of discovery, so even that small comfort had been refused to them. But that’s what being on the lam is all about, I suppose, thought Frohike looking over at Mulder, who sat on his haunches on the forest floor, his head between his hands as if in painful thought. He sure doesn’t look too good, Frohike thought. Bone thin and paler than one could imagine, Mulder had certainly been through a ringer of the worst type.
“Frohike,” began Mulder, looking up at him with bloodshot eyes. “I appreciate all you’ve done, I probably owe my life, but I think you should take off. If you’re caught with me, it’s at least five to ten years in jail. And along with everything else, I can’t have that on my conscience. It would be too much.”
Frohike shrugged at Mulder with a cavalier gesture. “Didn’t you know? I’m already wanted in this state.”
“You’re kidding,” Mulder replied with a tired glance. “For what?”
“I hit Jane Fonda with a banana cream pie in ‘71,” replied Frohike. “The lawsuit is still pending. For a radical, she has some pretty tough lawyers.”
Mulder gave him a cursory grin and slowly stood. These woods -were- cold, but not as cold as the ice that was threatening to encase him, to crush him underneath its relentless weight.
The ice of cold lies that he himself had become a part of.
Frohike’s expression turned serious. “You know, I called Byers on the car phone this morning and according to him, she’s been actively investigating the USS Starbuck. Not only that, but he told me that she’s already been to both the bank and San Diego Motor Vehicles.”
Mulder blanched. “So soon?” he whispered.
“Well, you can’t really expect any less from her. She had a great teacher,” replied Frohike, shrugging. “The real question is, what now?”
Mulder ran trembling hands through his hair. “I’m not sure. I’ve made too many mistakes already to be allowed any more.”
Frohike nodded in agreement. Too many mistakes on every side, that was for sure.
“I can’t concentrate,” said Mulder, more to himself than to his companion. “All I keep doing is putting myself in Scully’s place, trying to even imagine what she’s going through. It’s distracting me from everything else. I’m not sure of the path anymore, I’m not sure of what has to be done.”
“There might be only one thing left for you to do,” replied Frohike gently. “And I don’t think it can be done here.”
Mulder nodded in reply. “The problem is, I don’t know if it can be done at all anymore.”
He turned a tortured face to Frohike who flinched at the sight. “Tell me. Do you think that Scully hates me now? “
“I don’t know,” replied Frohike, suddenly feeling very helpless. “That depends on her faith in you.”
“But faith isn’t blindness, Frohike,” replied Mulder, breathing harshly. “And with all that she’s seen, how could she still have faith in me? How could she still believe?”
“She’ll have to want to believe,” replied Frohike sadly. “And that’s what you’ll have to have to faith in. Her trust in you.”
Her trust in me, Mulder thought. Can she still trust in me? Or do I just have to have faith that she can? He peered up at the trees overhead, at the huge and ancient redwoods that stretched up further, much further than he could see. I know their leaves are up there, he thought, up there somewhere, for their huge and strong foundations down here tell me so.
We have a foundation, Mulder thought. Scully and I have a foundation that is even stronger than these trees, yes even greater than these giant and ancient lives, so why am I afraid? All I have to do is believe.
And believing in her is easy enough.
Mulder turned to Frohike, his face suddenly animated. “You know something? I think you were right.”
Frohike looked at him curiously. “That Jane Fonda has good lawyers?”
Mulder shook his head. “No. That what has to be done, what I have to do, can’t be done here.”
“This is John Kresge. I’m either away from my desk or out on assignment. Please leave a message at the beep or in case of emergency, dial O for the operator.”
Scully hung up the phone without leaving a message. Two hours before, she’d awoken to an empty house, with a throbbing head and no appetite, even though it had been almost a day since she’d eaten last. Walking slowly to the kitchen, she’d forced herself to drink a glass of juice and have a piece of fruit, choking dryly on almost every swallow.
She had to live, no matter how unattractive the prospect was beginning to look.
When she sat in the dining room, aimlessly dialing numbers on her cel phone and then hanging up before they rang, she noticed that a note from her mother lay on the table in front of her, a small slip of sanity shining out from the chaos.
“Tara, Matthew and I went to the airport to pick up your brother Charles who’s arrived for the funeral. You looked so exhausted last night and were sleeping so peacefully this morning, I didn’t have the heart to wake you. We should arrive back home sometime after noon and if you aren’t busy, join us and we’ll have a quiet lunch. I think that some time with your family would do you a world of good. Love, Mom.”
“P.S. Courage, my darling girl.”
Oh, Mom, I’m trying…I’m trying to be brave, thought Scully, as the throb in her temples turned sharp and cruel. I know that you warned me how very hard, how very terrible the road would be, but it wasn’t warning enough. Why didn’t you tell me that it was even possible that the world I knew, the world I trusted, was just an illusion?
I once had a partner whom I loved and trusted and I think he lied to me.
I once had a brother whom I loved and trusted…
And I think he wanted me dead.
Scully could feel time itself, like sand slipping away, winding itself a countdown to irreparable grief. It was worse than a ticking bomb, this seemingly inevitable and complete loss of her faith in all that she held dear. Faith was more than blind belief, she’d always known that, but how much can one see before the covering is rented…the veil is torn?
Oh, how she wanted to believe. But she no longer knew if she could. Didn’t know if she could still believe in Mulder, to have faith in the trust she’d always placed in him, if only for a little while longer.
Even with all that she had seen.
With a deep sigh, Scully lay her head down upon the table, feeling the wood cool and hard against her cheek. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine, for just a moment, a simple, easy life, one without sadness or fear…betrayal or grief. But the fantasy refused to stay, it was dispelled every other second by the visions and sounds of the past few days.
//Never would I hurt you like this…never.//
//Love you, baby sister…//
The voices were cruel and loud, almost overwhelming, but they were interrupted by a small click at the front door’s mail slot. Scully’s eyes flew open at the sound and she turned her head toward the door, reaching for the gun that lay holstered on the table in front of her.
Armed, she rose slowly, and headed toward the foyer, noting the small envelope that lay on the floor before her. Scully cautiously peered out the door’s tiny round window and saw no one. Kneeling down, she reached for the envelope and shook its contents out. With a jingle of metal, a motel room key, attached to a large green plastic keychain, dropped out.
Scully examined the writing on the keychain curiously.
//The Greenland Motel – Room 23//
The Greenland Motel had the same rows of faceless bungalows that every motel in the country seemed to have. Ugly white fronts, bland and endless, with matching doors and little gold numbers being the only mark that separated them. Scully parked her car in the dirt driveway in front of the first row of doors, remembering how many hours, how many days and nights she’d spent in places like this with Mulder and how she’d never noticed how truly ugly they were before today.
Scully approached Room 23 with quick steps and surprising flippancy. It was foolhardy to come there alone, without informing anyone of where she was, but she shrugged it off. She was beyond caring in a way that should have frightened her, but she refused to give thoughts of fear even a cursory notice.
It just didn’t seem to matter any more.
Scully came within five yards of the front door of the room and suddenly stopped. There was someone in there, she could feel it. She thought she saw tire tracks still fresh in the dirt in front of the door, thought she saw movement on the road behind her…
Thought she saw a man behind the curtain.
Pulling out her handgun, she approached the door with sharp steps. An irrationally angry, predatory part of her secretly hoped it was someone she would have reason to take a shot at, if only for the pleasure of being able to feel the gun hot between her fingers and the control in her own hands once more. The door was red like blood, and her breath started to come in short, enraged pants as she quickly walked up to it.
Come on, you bastard, whoever you are, or whoever you’ll try and pretend to be, she thought. Tell me another story, tell me some more lies, or just give me one good reason to blow your head off. You caught me at a good time, you nameless, faceless bastard. It’s your lucky day.
Because I’m ready for your fairy tales. I’m good little Dana, remember? With my pigtails and an innocence that only exists for you to laugh at. Come on, whoever you are. Here I am, sweet, stupid little Dana, all tucked in and ready to dream some more.
Come on, tell me another bedtime story, you son-of-a-bitch.
So I can shoot you without any guilt at all.
Scully didn’t knock when she reached the door, she didn’t wait, she simply entered furiously… thoughtlessly. The wood cracked beneath her enraged kick and the lock flew off, clattering to the thinly carpeted floor of a room that was a study in every shade of green imaginable. Green carpets, green curtains…even green wallpaper assaulted her view for the first second.
But she shook it off and concentrated instead on the figure that stood before her, unmoving and quiet. The gun shook in her hands as the figure came into view, clearly outlined against the green.
“Federal Agent! Put your hands up,” she cried, in a voice that demanded to be heard… obeyed.
And Fox Mulder did as she said.
The gun in her hand was seventeen ounces of steel, tin, powder and death.
A shining piece of silver, the slightest bit over a pound, solid enough to make her wrist ache with its power and her fingers curl easily around the cold smoothness of its handle. The pad of her index finger was only hovering over the trigger, not touching it…no, simply poised right above it as she was trained to do. The trigger was to be squeezed, never pulled, and deliberately returned to the firing position after each round.
Twenty-five shots in thirty seconds, that was the Bureau requirement. Scully had squeezed off twenty-eight in her first attempt on Quanitco’s firing range, now she could pull off thirty-two, an almost unheard of score.
But, at that moment, all she would have needed was one.
For the man she’d always believed was her partner, the man accused of being her brother’s killer, was directly in front of her, dark, unshaven and so thin, he appeared to be a mere shadow of the person Scully once knew. For a long time, Scully merely stood with him in her sights, the gun growing heavy in her hand, her stance studied and stiff.
One shot is all it would have taken, it was all that was needed, but her finger still did not budge.
As for Mulder, there was no movement at all upon his part. He stood without words or supplications, just with ten rough fingers, pointed skyward, scratched and bloodied palms forward, elbows bent and a dull and reddened pair of eyes peering at her, haunted and tired.
One shot. A single bullet that would have been clean, easy and perfect excusable. But her hand held, the pad of her finger still merely hovered and after a long period of perfect silence, the only shots that Scully fired at Mulder were questions.
But they were as hot, as hard and as brutal as any bullets.
“Why did you go to my brother’s house?”
“To force him to confess to you his role in your abduction and illness,” came Mulder’s immediate answer, from lips that were dry and cracked.
“And if he didn’t?”
“Then I would kill him.”
Kill him. Kill him dead, with a single bullet to the head. Mulder had gone to Quantico too, and could fire thirty in thirty, with a hand strong enough to pull the trigger, not squeeze it, but still keep control over his weapon, aiming it perfectly at the broad, level temple, filled with life and blood and pulse that lie directly in his sights.
One shot, that’s all he would have needed.
“Did my brother confess?”
Oh, this whirlwind, Scully thought. What a deadly, suffocating thing it was. She held onto her gun tighter, and raised it carefully, but her vision was blurring. There was hot water scalding her eyes, and she blinked furiously to clear her sights. One shot was all she had left, and she couldn’t miss.
For it was her last bullet and her life was at stake.
“Then did you kill him, Mulder? Tell me. Did you kill my brother?”
The whirlwind ceased, for the briefest moment, and Dana Scully felt its calm center, the eye of the storm surrounding her, with warm air cushioning her and holding her upright within an awful tempest.
“No,” was Mulder’s only and simple reply.
Dana Scully slowly lowered her gun.
She turned around, as her surroundings blurred about her and she reached blindly for something to hold onto. By some grace Scully found a small hotel room chair, which she slowly sank into, as one would sink into a lifeboat or raft. Her gun drooped uselessly from her hand and slipped gently to the floor as she felt herself disappearing further into the endlessly green surroundings.
“Then what happened, Mulder? Please tell me,” she whispered, wiping her eyes with the back of her hands, a fruitless and childish gesture. “I can’t go on like this. I can’t…I can’t tell the difference between the truth and my nightmares anymore. You have to tell me. You have to give me a place from where I can start believing again.”
Mulder sat down in a chair across from her and the distance between them was the same as in the interrogation room, but without the battered table in their path. His voice was slow and his words were chosen carefully as if he’d mulled them over for too many long hours alone.
“I think we both were framed, Scully,” began Mulder softly. “Both myself and your brother, Bill. Me by my own foolish impulsiveness and him by people I have yet to fully discover.”
She looked up at this, with a curious and confused expression, her face streaked with tears.
Mulder folded his hands in his lap, with fingers entwining and unfurling uneasily as he spoke. “About two months ago, while you were recovering from your illness, I received an E-Mail from an unknown source, which included a scanned attachment of the admissions form from the night you were brought back after your abduction.”
“The admissions form from Northeastern Georgetown? The one that was in your wallet?” asked Scully.
“Yes. The one that I’d demanded to see after your return. When I first downloaded this form, I put it aside and tried not to pay too much attention to it, but soon, it started to eat at me,” he said, an old rage still sparking somewhere in the back of hazel eyes. “Because this form, Scully, was the ability to discover who had actually taken you away from me, and that was something I wanted more than you could imagine.”
“I tried to be cautious of it, tried to proceed without passion or anger, but I couldn’t. It represented everything that I hated, and after Samantha, there was nothing more I wanted from this life than the person who’d signed the bottom of that single piece of paper. And there is was, in black and white, right in front of me.”
“So I followed its trail. All I had was the name, Robert Goethe, but it seemed to be enough. I went through every Robert Goethe in this country, slowly, methodically, trying to narrow down the list as much as possible. It took a while, but after what happened with Sam, I knew how to search through the tiniest details.”
“After some misses, I finally had a hit. Two weeks ago, I found the checks paid out to Luis Cardinale and I swore that I was on the right trail. When I finally uncovered the driver’s license with your brother’s picture on it, I thought I knew for certain. It all made sense. There was the Naval connection, the proximity to you, his attitude toward me…it just seemed to click.”
“I was furious…enraged. I don’t know if rage is even the right word for what I felt on the way to his house that morning to confront him. But when I arrived there, Scully…when I told him that he would confess to you what he’d done or I’d kill him on the spot, do you know what he said?”
Scully shook her head, her hand trembling against her mouth.
Mulder’s eyes filled with tears. “He told me to kill him, because he would never falsely confess to hurting a hair on your head, even if it meant his death. Because he’d rather be dead, than for you to think, even for a single moment, that he loved you any less than life itself.”
//Love you, baby sister.//
“He denied everything and I saw the truth in his face…I saw it in his eyes, Scully. At that moment, he looked so much like you, I knew that he wasn’t lying to me. And I can’t tell you how ashamed I was,” said Mulder, his eyes focusing somewhere beyond the motel room walls. “But even worse than that, it was then that I realized it was all a set-up. The admissions form, the checks, the driver’s license…the entire thing. And I’d fallen for it hook, line and sinker.”
“I’d been fed this information by people who knew I’d follow the bread crumb trail they’d created. A trail that was made to lead straight to Bill and they knew I would eventually end up confronting him about it. And they waited for it. Waited for the opportunity not only to kill your brother, but to frame me for his murder as well.”
“Bill realized it too. He told me been around the intelligence community long enough to see what was happening. We talked for a short time and he suggested that I leave quietly, wait in my hotel room and he’d make a few phone calls. I wasn’t to leave the hotel until he got back to me with some more information. But I never heard back from him.”
Mulder lowered his gaze to the floor. “And I think you know the rest.”
She knew the rest all too well. Her eyes welled up at the memory of the nightmare of the past week, the endless days and nights of misery without hope. Without looking up, she reached out and felt an unsteady hand meet hers, five fingers slowly curling around her own in an uneasy grip. Scully squeezed the fingers back, remembering the short clasp of hands in the interrogation room, but this time, she looked up and her and Mulder’s eyes finally met.
“Scully,” Mulder said, biting his lip with distress. “I’m out here not only because I refuse to be framed and convicted for a murder I didn’t commit, but more importantly, to make sure that I got a chance to tell you the truth in a setting that was safe. To fully explain to you the reasons for my actions and make clear my later conviction of your brother’s innocence. And to make sure that you knew, without a doubt, that I did not kill him. You do believe me now, don’t you?”
“Mulder,” she said, squeezing his fingers so tightly between her own, it caused pain. “I believed you before. In my heart, I knew the truth, but I had to have the answers. I just had to know what had happened.”
Trembling, but with dry eyes, she brought her hand up to Mulder’s cheek and felt rough stubble and thin bone. “But I never lost my faith in you. Never. Please believe that.”
“I do,” he replied, and reaching across the space that divided them, Mulder folded her to his heart.
When Mulder’s arms wrapped completely around her, holding tightly in a very warm embrace, it was only then that Scully began to cry.
She cried for her dead brother, in the way that she couldn’t cry before. All their lives, he’d been brusque to her, sometimes cruel, but his heart had held true to her, even when hers had failed. She wept at the memory of their last words to one another, angry, hurtful ones, and at all the times she’d forgotten to tell him the truth.
That she loved him dearly, with a part of her that belonged to no one else.
She cried for her doubts, doubts in her brother, in herself…in Mulder. She could feel his thin and cold fingers combing through her hair and the slight rock of his body as he held her, a motion meant to soothe and comfort, even though she knew he was the one in greater need of assurance. She wept at the memory of the past few days, and how she might never had gotten a chance to tell Mulder the truth.
That she loved him dearly, with a part of her that belonged to no one else.
And her faith in him could never have faltered.
An hour later, Scully was still cradled in her partner’s embrace, the now-dried tears burning and itching against her cheeks. She sniffled once, and thought about sitting up, but it was too warm, too safe a haven to leave just yet. They hadn’t said a word for that entire hour, but there was no need to, as they both knew the truth.
They were partners again.
Not without problems, serious problems, but still…once more, they were partners.
“I hope I don’t end up in Mexico,” she heard Mulder say finally, with a bit of black humor in his voice. “I’m completely red bean intolerant.”
“Mulder, I’m going to the morgue,” said Scully abruptly sitting up. There was steel in her voice. “They’re releasing Bill’s body to the funeral home tomorrow morning, that’ll give me approximately twelve hours to find something they’ve missed.”
“Are you sure you can do that, Scully?” asked Mulder, with a slight grimace. He reluctantly let her go, as she stood up and began to gather her things, with short quick movements.
“I don’t have a choice,” she replied, a strong fire visible in her eyes. “It’s the only piece of evidence that can’t lie. Mulder, if I can’t somehow prove that you didn’t kill Bill, then it’s over. Every piece of physical and circumstantial evidence points to you. You’ll be convicted without a doubt.”
She turned to him with a pale expression. “And California has the death penalty, you know.”
Mulder nodded shakily. “I know. Listen to me, Scully. I want you to be very careful. I have a strong suspicion that your life is in danger as well.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Scully.
Mulder looked at the floor. “Just a hunch.”
“In danger from who?”
“I don’t know. It could be anyone. Navy Intelligence, the Consortium…the San Diego Police. I have nothing concrete, I’m just asking you to please be careful and watch your back. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.”
Mulder stood up and pulled her tightly to him once more, wishing for a hundred things at once. He could hear her reply tremble against his chest. “I will. Be careful yourself, Mulder. I know it’s better for you out there, but it’s going to be hard none-the-less. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to find anything that will help you get out of this.”
“I have faith in you, Scully. If anyone can help me, it’s you,” he whispered against her hair. “I’m sorry that you had to go through this. It was my fault, and I’m so sorry.”
Her replying voice was strong. “It’s the fault of the person who killed Bill. And I’m going to find them, Mulder. For both of us.”
“I know you will,” he replied simply.
Mulder pulled back from her, and they looked at each other appraisingly for a long moment. “You should eat something,” they said to each other simultaneously. Slowly, a smile cracked across both their faces.
“Like Frick and Frack,” Mulder said with a grin and Scully nodded in reply, smiling at his warmth.
Mulder’s expression turned serious. “If you have to reach me, call the Lone Gunmen’s office. I’m not going to tell you where I am, only because I don’t want you more compromised than you already are.”
“I should have known,” said Scully dryly. “You’re Aunt Frohike, I assume?”
Mulder shrugged. “If I have to be. Believe me, this on-the-run thing isn’t as anywhere near as much fun as it looks in the movies.”
Scully nodded, and as Mulder turned to leave, she called out to him. “I’ll be in touch,” she said, and then added almost shyly, “and I’ll be praying for you.”
“I know,” he replied with such gratitude, that Scully felt her heart stop at the sound. “So long, but not goodbye, Scully.”
“Not goodbye,” she replied and watched him as he gracefully climbed out the back window and disappeared into the woods behind the motel.
After he was no longer to be seen, Scully sat on the edge of the motel room bed, closed her eyes and took deep, cleansing breaths. Slowly, she felt the calmness of the whirlwind’s disappearance and the presence of peace and strength fill her soul again. It was such a wonderful feeling, all other things around her faded away. She didn’t listen to the noises that came from the room next door, didn’t hear the traffic outside the motel room,…
She didn’t hear the unlocked front door slowly squeak open.
But, a moment later, Scully did hear the click of a gun cocking and she quickly looked up in shock.
Only to see Detective John Kresge standing in front of her, his index finger merely hovering above the gun’s trigger, not touching it, with her directly in his sights, his stance studied and stiff. Before she could move, speak or even exclaim, he was already talking, in a voice that held both rage and steel.
“Dana Scully, you are under arrest,” Kresge said harshly, the gun held steadily… dangerously, as Scully gaped at him and at the gun in his hand.
Seventeen ounces of steel, powder, tin and death.
“For the crime of aiding and abetting the escape of a suspected felon…Fox William Mulder.”
March 29, 1967
My dearest Starbuck,
While this letter is most likely a missive you will never lay eyes upon, it is one that demands to be written. I write it for posterity, that vague illusion of eternity that all human beings deign upon themselves, hoping to escape the cold specter, not of physical death, but of obscurity, which is the black and terrifying hint of what is, perhaps, the true fate of all humanity.
I too, have labored under the illusion of eternity, through that mechanism given to us by nature, creating flesh from my flesh, bone from my bone, and with this, have attempted to insure that some small part of myself will continue, living on past the void.
I have also attempted to accomplish this through my life’s work, of which I am not proud, but realizing early on that the need for survival, the instinctual impulse to prevail is something that cannot be ignored by any man, no matter how strong, how righteous, he tries to be. And while I may have gone forward without hesitation, it was not without regrets.
Therefore, one day, when you discover what I have done, what I have -attempted- to do, you will call my actions into serious question. I understand and expect this, for already I see the workings of your restless and wonderful mind. All I ask, is that you judge me not as your father, but a man like any other, a man who could not bear the thought of unremitting death.
Remember, my darling Starbuck…I loved you enough to give you life.
“I trusted you at first, but that was my stupid mistake.”
The gun in John Kresge’s hand shook slightly and Scully’s eyes followed the trembling barrel nervously, a shining dot of silver against the motel room’s bright green background. Kresge’s breathless panting had calmed, but the fury in his features didn’t abate.
“Did you really think that I didn’t suspect you were an accomplice to his escape?” asked Kresge angrily. “And that I wouldn’t follow you just to make sure? Look, I may not be an FBI agent, but I’m not an idiot. Or…maybe that’s what you think I am.”
Scully shook her head. “No, I…”
“I see it now,” interrupted Kresge, starting to seethe. “That’s what I am to you. Some idiot dog, like Toto, or maybe just a two-bit flatfoot following in the footsteps of the great FBI agent. I hate to break this to you, but you got it backwards, Scully, FBI. This is -my- town, and I make the rules around here.”
Kresge’s eyes narrowed to slits. “And the first rule is, thou shalt not aid and abet a murder suspect.”
“When I came to this room, I was unaware that Agent Mulder was here,” she stumbled, raking her hands through her hair. “I had no idea.”
Kresge was unimpressed. “So? I don’t see him in handcuffs now, do I? Or don’t they teach you in the FBI that you’re supposed to arrest fugitive felons? I was sitting outside the whole time. You entered the room, were inside for over an hour and then, guess who comes out the back window, but a fugitive who just happens to be your partner.”
“He’s just lucky I can’t hop fences after busting my back during my last chase,” said Kresge bitterly.
“Detective Kresge, you have every right to arrest me, and I’ll go quietly,” said Scully, slowly, her voice thickening with tears. “But I know that Agent Mulder is not a murderer.”
Kresge rolled his eyes with disbelief. “Not this again.”
“He has not committed any crime.”
“He killed your own brother, for God’s sake!” Kresge yelled.
“No, he did not,” replied Scully with quiet conviction.
“Oh, for the love of…” cried Kresge, his voice cracking with frustration.
Scully continued in the same even tones. “Detective Kresge, you told me that you had a partner whom you cared for, who’d been accused of a crime. If the circumstances had been reversed, if you’d truly believed that he was innocent, wouldn’t you have done everything in your power to prove that innocence?”
Kresge turned pale and didn’t reply.
“I believe that Agent Mulder has been framed and that I’m the only person who can prove it. But I need an opportunity to find that proof and I’m asking you to give me that chance. The chance to make sure that an innocent man isn’t sent to prison, or worse, to the gas chamber. Please give it to me …give me the chance to prove my partner’s innocence.”
Slowly, John Kresge lowered his gun and looked away.
“I promise that you won’t regret it,” finished Scully quietly.
Kresge’s lips set in a hard line. “All right. You have twelve hours, Agent Scully,” he said flatly, refusing to look back at her. “Twelve hours to show me something that’ll give your theory some credence. If you come up empty-handed, I’m taking you in, end of story. Is this understood?”
She nodded gratefully. “Yes. Thank you….John.”
But Kresge simply stalked to the door without a backwards glance. “You have twelve hours. And don’t make me come looking for you.”
The dead have their secrets.
//Subject has been dead for four days. Core temperature is negligible and rigeur has begun its exit from the body, rendering it malleable in the upper extremities.//
But not for long.
//Entrance wound is located directly above the outermost line of the left eyebrow, no exit wound is visible.//
Scully had two hours left from the twelve that Kresge had granted her. The past ten had been spent in the San Diego county morgue with her brother’s remains and every ounce of pathological skill she could muster. There was no terror of her brother’s corpse, no time given to mourning, she relied simply on her science, cold and calculating.
Tomorrow she would weep, but not now.
It helped that he didn’t look like Bill anymore, he appeared smaller, older than the man she’d always looked up to with a volatile combination of resentment and adoration. As she worked, Scully focused absolutely on the small things, tiny bruises overlooked, small scrapes and cuts, anything that might save Mulder and her from a long and certain prison term.
Oh, if only he could talk, Scully thought in frustration, as the minutes ticked away. But this is the only form of communication he has left. Please, tell me your secrets, Bill, she thought. Confide in me, your sister, whom you claimed to have loved. Please talk to me.
Tell me what happened and I swear you will not have died in vain.
Scully tore off her surgical cap with a frustrated sigh. This was not happening. She couldn’t find anything of use and it was truly beginning to look hopeless. She paced away from the body and then back, trying to think furiously of anything that she could possibly have overlooked. Snatching up the autopsy report, she flipped through it without really reading it, just scanning the words she’d gone over a thousand times before. The letters faded and melded into one another, uselessly…
Until one sentence caught her eye.
///The left hand revealed traces of a brown-red powder between the knuckles of the first two digits.//
Scully looked up and stared at his left hand.
///Upon analysis, this was identified as nutmeg, a common household spice used in cooking.//
Scully turned back to the report for a long moment. She knew what nutmeg was. An everyday, ordinary spice, found in every kitchen cabinet, to be sprinkled in soups or pies or stews. An innocuous little red can or jar of brown powder, sweet-smelling, and spicy.
But Scully also knew something else.
That nutmeg is a poison so lethal that when it’s introduced into a human bloodstream, death occurs within minutes. No trace is left behind, or whatever traces do exist are easily explained away. It’s a studious assassin’s weapon, used only by those who deal in death wholesale.
With a trembling hand, Scully walked back to the body and parted the
fingers, one by one. Peering closely between the first two digits, the miracle suddenly appeared and Scully nearly cried out at the sight of it. A round, red mark less than one tenth of a millimeter in diameter. A tiny pinprick.
An injection mark.
>From a hypodermic needle filled with an extract of nutmeg.
“That’s all I have, sir.”
The clerk at the Naval Photographic Archive and Library was so old, he creaked when he moved. He put the last of the dusty photo albums down in front of Mulder, who nodded at him politely, hoping that the thick glasses perched on the end of his nose were truly indicative of very poor eyesight. The wanted posters were circulating further by the moment, and even the local news had gotten into the act, flashing Mulder’s face across thousands of screens a night.
Not very conducive to conducting an investigation, Mulder thought wryly. But, it’s not like I have a choice. “Thank you. So this is all from 1955 on?”
“All the official docking and landing portraits of all Pacific navel assignments from that year onward,” wheezed the clerk. “There’s also some documentation of ship christenings in there, we built quite a few boats in the sixties. You know, I think I’m in one of those pictures. I’m the young, handsome fellow, with the three nurses on each arm.”
“I’ll be sure to look for that one,” Mulder replied, opening the first book and waving away the copious amount of dust that rose.
“You do that,” replied the old clerk, shuffling away with tottering steps. “And when you find it, give it to me, because I’ll be damned if I remember that day.”
Mulder smiled in his departing direction and then turned to the task before him. Nearly two dozen large photo albums stood stacked, each full of similar photographs. Small boats and huge ships, landings and takeoff, crews and captains, all standing still for the sake of posterity.
Slowly, Mulder turned page after page of these photos and soon, they all began to meld into one another, all identical grey boats and uniformed men, but he forced himself to focus on each one until, toward the end of the tenth book, he found the photo he was looking for. It was an ordinary Naval boat, one like all the rest, except for a unique inscription on her bow.
“The USS Starbuck.”
Mulder let out a long whistling breath and pulled the book closer. Examining the short series of photos carefully, he quickly picked out the leader from the group of sailors who stood there, smiling stiffly at the camera before taking off on a journey into the unknown.
Captain Bill Scully was certainly a striking person, thought Mulder, as the tall man in the gleaming dress whites stared back at him. He was straight-backed, pure military and crisply uniformed in all the pictures…except for one.
For, on the bottom of the page, there was one photo of Bill Scully in civilian dress, clothed in a dark black suit, standing before a map of the Pacific ocean, with two similarly suited men besides him, both with narrow eyes and suspicious expressions. Mulder felt a slight pricking along the back of his neck at the sight of these two men, so strange, so different, from all the rest.
But to me they look vaguely familiar, thought Mulder uneasily, as he reached for the magnifying glass that the clerk had lent to him. He brought the glass down to the page itself, thinking all the while…yes, there is something about these two men, something I recognize, especially this one on the left.
//I think I know…I should know…I think that…//
With a sharp shock of recognition, Mulder realized who he was looking at.
It was his own father…Bill Mulder.
Mulder peered at the photograph, trying to calm his breathing, which had suddenly turned short and harsh. He swallowed dryly as he stared at the other man in the photo. This man also was known to Mulder, but not as intimately as his father. He had short hair, a sharp face and a singularly brutal pair of eyes. There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about him, except for those extraordinarily cruel eyes…
And the lit cigarette in his right hand.
Mulder brought a trembling hand to his mouth and the air around him turned bitterly cold.
But the smoker took no notice of his distress, and continued to stare back at him from the photograph, unseeing…uncaring. Mulder ran a shaking hand through his hair and shook his head miserably.
//Oh, my God, Captain Scully…what have you done?//
//What have you done?//
The man with the weak chin had always considered himself a bit of an actor.
Small lies in everyday speech, in everyday life, had given way to very large, very complicated lies, thus creating for him a single, great role. What is an actor but a professional liar, he’d heard said many times, and nothing could be closer to the truth. He was only an amateur as of yet, but practice does make perfect.
His favorite play of late was Richard III. His imagination was excellent as he pictured himself in black velvet, with a sonorous voice that would reach the very back rows of the house. A tiny itch on his back would turn into the mistake of a careless midwife, a huge hump to plague and revile.
//So wise, so young, they say, do never live long.//
Now, he had no love for the terrible Duke, the monster who stole and kept a throne by creating a virtual river of blood. No, the man with the watery eyes didn’t like Richard because he was a killer.
It’s just that he understood him better than most.
Understood what drove him, what made him the beast he was. It was fear of obscurity that drove the wily and humpbacked devil, a terrible fear of unremitting death. For no one would remember the poor, misshapen Duke, but who could forget the great and bloody tyrant? The man with the thin lips didn’t want to be a tyrant, or a murderer, but fate was offering him very little choice.
Therefore, if he couldn’t play the hero, he was determined to be the villain.
And what a villain he would be. Tomorrow, Dana Scully would be joining her sister and her brother, like the princes in the tower, like Dorothy in the castle. Her death would bring him no pleasure, but it would create a certain insurance of posterity, and would alleviate his own terrible fears. Fear was his great motivator, driving him to actions he normally wouldn’t contemplate, making him do things he normally would not. Or perhaps, he allowed, it was merely encouraging impulses that already existed.
To murder most foul, as in the best it is…most foul, strange and unnatural.
It was regrettable he had to kill her as he’d killed the others, but he had no choice. For, as he knew well enough…
There can be only one.
In a dark room, in a singularly harsh city, two men were once again speaking.
“We’ve discussed the rationale of fear, but have we ever truly considered the problem of inheritance?”
“We’ve made the provisions, but those who refuse to follow our decrees…”
“…have created their own Providence.”
“But there is still a fundamental problem….”
“Yes. And I remember another poem…listen. “Her cabin’d ample Spirit”…”
“…it fluttered and failed for breath.”
“To-night it doth inherit…”
“…the vasty hall of death.”
When Fox Mulder had jogged the entire four miles back to the motel room that he and Frohike were hiding in, he arrived completely out of breath. Not only from the run, which had been an arduous one though the hills of San Diego, but from the image that refused to leave him no matter how fast and how far he ran.
The image that was contained in the photograph that sat quietly in his pocket.
The one of his father, Scully’s father and the smoker, standing together, shoulder to shoulder as comrades or even soldiers in a foxhole, bound together through some strange twist of fate. Mulder tried to keep running, far away from the picture and the inevitable heartache it presented, but there was no escape, it seemed. For him or for Scully.
Breathing harshly, he ran the last one hundred feet to the motel room and bent over double for a moment, trying to catch his breath with limited success. Mulder clutched the stitch in his side and knocked on the door, three short raps, followed by a soft kick on the bottom, to let Frohike know it was him.
Mulder grimaced. He’d better not be taking his shower this late, Mulder thought with annoyance. He knocked again, a bit louder this time, and waited.
The wetness of a cold sweat began to bead at his neck. The truck was still here, Frohike couldn’t have gone anywhere, unless he decided to check out the surrounding areas, or maybe…
Without warning, the door opened and a very pale version of Frohike stood in the doorway.
Mulder let out a long sigh. “Jesus. Don’t scare me like that, Frohike. I’m getting too old and at the moment, I’m aging by the minute.”
“Mulder, I really think you should…” began Frohike, his left cheek noticeably trembling.
Mulder looked at him carefully and noted his distress. “Is everything all right?” he whispered.
But before Frohike could shake his head no, a voice sounded from inside the room.
“Isn’t it dangerous for you to be standing outside, Mulder?”
With huge eyes, Mulder pulled Frohike’s loaned revolver out from his jacket. He motioned for the older man to step aside, ignoring the urgent, almost pleading, shakes of his head. With a quick yank, he pulled Frohike outside and entered the room with palpable violence, the gun extended. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the motel room’s dim light, but even blind, Mulder noticed something immediately.
The pungent smell of burning tobacco.
And when Mulder’s eyes finally did adjust, he could hardly believe them.
“You,” whispered Mulder to the dark figure seated calmly in front of him, silhouetted in the grey light of the motel room. “But…they told me you were…that you were…”
“Rumors of my death,” replied the smoker, taking a deep draw on his cigarette, as Mulder stared at him in shock.
“…have been greatly exaggerated.”
Dana Scully tried to keep from rolling her eyes at the incredulous tones that were coming out from the receiver of her mother’s phone. “That’s right. It’s lethal. The injection mark is clearly defined and with more advanced testing, it became clear that the gunshot wound was fired post-expiration. I know…it seems outrageous, but if you come down here I’ll show you the test results. Yes. Please.”
She heard a long suffering sigh come from the other end. “I know, Detective Kresge, it’s been a long haul for all of us. But you’re doing wonderful work,” she said placatingly into the phone, hoping for a pleased response.
She wasn’t disappointed. “Yes, wonderful. Top quality. So, can you come down soon? Within the hour? Great. Thank you.”
She hung up with a sigh. Now, all she had to do was call the Gunmen, to see if they’d found anything on the USS Starbuck, and more importantly, to see if they could get her in touch with Mulder. The news about the poison administered to Bill, even if it didn’t clear Mulder completely, was a long step in the right direction, or at least one that should hearten him…force him not to give up.
With a nervous, trembling hand she dialed the Gunman’s phone number, but before there was a ring, she felt a hand on her shoulder and whirled around with huge eyes.
Scully breathed in relief at the sight of the person standing behind her. It was just her brother, Charles Scully. A thinner, smaller version of Bill, with softer features and kinder eyes. Scully rose to embrace him, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding tightly.
“Hey, big sister,” she heard him whisper in her ear, as his arms tightened around her waist. “It’s just me, Chucks. How’s my Danabug?”
“I’m fine, Chucks,” she replied, smiling tearfully at his use of their childhood nicknames. “I’m fine.”
Charles pulled back and looked closely at his sister. “You look pale…tired. Mom says you’ve been working with the San Diego Police non-stop.”
Scully shrugged. “There’s been a murder, Charlie. And I think I have more of a personal stake in this one than most.”
“Yes,” he replied gently. “But you have to be careful. After your illness…”
“I’m fine,” she repeated firmly. She reinforced the statement with a brief smile and then nodded at the tray that stood on the end of the table. “What’s that?”
“Just a snack,” said Charles as he picked up and then placed the tray down in front of her. “Toast with jam, an orange and spiced tea.”
Scully looked at him, a tiny grin playing around the edge of her lips. “That’s my sick-meal, Charlie.”
“What?” asked Charles, feigning innocence. “What sick meal?”
Scully sat, picked up the orange and slowly separated the parts, as the cool juice ran down her fingers. “You know what I’m talking about. When I was sick, with the flu or a cold, this is the meal that Mom always made for me. Light toast, tea and an orange. And, as I remember, you were the one who always brought it up to me.”
“Do you know why, Dana?” asked Charles, sitting next to his sister, reaching out and carefully brushing a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
Scully shook her head, smiling still. “No, why?”
“I wanted you to get better fast,” he replied, grinning. “Remember, you were the only one who’d pretend to let me beat you up once in a while.”
“As long as you knew I was only pretending,” she laughed back, suddenly very glad to be back in the comfort and safety of her family.
Charles returned the smile, but a dark look lingered in the back of eyes. “Mom said that Bill’s funeral’s been delayed because of your investigation.”
Scully bit her lip before replying. “Yes. I’ve found some important evidence that will be necessary for the apprehension of Bill’s murderer.”
“I thought the police caught him,” said Charles slowly…carefully.
“They caught the wrong man,” she replied firmly, putting down the orange. “Besides, Agent Mulder is no longer in custody, so we have time to investigate further.”
“Oh,” replied Charles gently. “I see. But, you know, we have to bury Bill sometime, Dana.”
“I know,” she replied sullenly, feeling guilty at Charles’ obvious reluctance to have a battle with her. Scully knew that her younger brother was never the confrontational type. He’d always been the peacemaker of the family and often got picked on all the more because of it. Even by her.
“Dana,” Charles asked softly. “You aren’t just doing all of this because this man who’s been accused of murdering Bill is your partner, are you?”
Scully’s ire immediately sparked, but she fought it down and tried to answer thoughtfully. “No, Charlie, I’m not. I’m very much interested in finding Bill’s killer or killers, whom we now know for a fact did not include Agent Mulder. All I’m interested in is the truth, Charlie…same as ever.”
With a sigh, Charles nodded. “All right, Dana. If you say so.”
Trying to smile, Scully took her brother’s hand and held onto it tightly. “Don’t worry. Family still comes first, okay?”
At this, Charles looked up, his eyes lighted with sincerity. “Dana, will you do me a favor then?”
“What’s that?” she asked curiously.
“Come out with me tonight, just you and me,” he begged. “For a quiet dinner, or even just a walk. Dana, I feel like I’ve missed so much, been absent for so long, even during your hardest times. Part of me always rationalized that Mom and Bill were here for you, that you really didn’t need me, but I know that wasn’t right. And now, that’s it just you and me…”
“Of course, Chucks,” replied Scully, tightening the grasp on her brother’s thin hand. “I think you and I need some time to talk, to be together. I don’t want any more wasted moments, no more time thrown away.” She rose and embraced Charles tightly, reveling in his warmth. “No matter what happens, at least I still have you. Thank God.”
“And I you, thank God,” he replied softly into her hair. “Thank God.”
“You certainly got yourself in it this time, haven’t you?”
The smoker actually smiled brightly at Mulder, a yellow and toothy grin cracked into his face. “But I still don’t underestimate you, Mulder. I’ll bet my dying breath you are full of surprises yet.”
Mulder glared at him, the gun still leveled firmly at the smoker’s chest. “Funny. I thought you had your dying breath a couple of months ago.”
“Oh, no,” replied the smoker jovially. “You know the saying. “You can’t keep a good man down.””
“I’ve also heard you can’t kill the Devil,” replied Mulder, growing more annoyed than angry. This man, while evil and infuriating, was always too intriguing to simply kill. Mulder always had a terrible soft spot for “interesting” people, and few were more interesting than him.
The smoker’s expression slowly turned quite serious. “No matter what demonic sorts of power your active imagination endows me with, Mulder, I won’t live forever. None of us will. And that, in fact, is the entire point of my visit to you this afternoon.”
“Really?” asked Mulder harshly. “Actually, I’m glad you’re here. Because I have some questions to ask you. Perhaps you can explain some more about -this- to me.” He pulled the photograph from underneath his jacket, and tossed it in the smoker’s direction.
By either good aim, or some strange wind, the photo landed directly onto the smoker’s lap and he picked it up with slow disdain. After a short glance, the smoker merely shrugged and carelessly tossed it back at Mulder. It floated for a moment and then landed gently on the motel room’s dark carpet.
“What really is there to explain? It seems very obvious to me,” the smoker said disinterestedly.
“It’s not obvious to me,” Mulder spat back. “How about clarifying?”
But the smoker was nonplussed. “It’s simply a reminder that history repeats itself. That what was, is now, always will be.” The smoker smiled continued to smile brightly at Mulder, with a fantastic energy.
“Mulder, Scully…and me. Then. Now. Always.”
Mulder turned away with a sick expression. “I can’t believe this.”
“Why not?” asked the smoker disdainfully. “You seem to be able to believe whatever is fed to you. This sort of truth should come naturally to you by now. Or else, we haven’t done our jobs. But enough of that. I’ve come here to save a life actually,” the smoker said with a renewed focus. “The life of your partner.”
“She -is- in danger, isn’t she?” asked Mulder quickly, the adrenaline already beginning to make his heart pound. “From her brother’s killers. Isn’t she?”
“She’s in danger from many things, but there are some more pressing problems with, shall we say, fraternal entanglements,” replied the smoker easily. “And that would be a shame, since this whole situation was completely avoidable. But you can blame him for that.”
The smoker pointed a yellow-stained finger at Captain Scully’s visage that stared back at them from the floor. “He knew the rules, but it was his own choice not to follow them, even though we had predicted such an outcome…”
The smoker nudged the photo with his foot, flipping it over so both the elder Mulder…and Scully, could look at him no more. “He knew there could only be one.”
“One what? And who is after Scully?”
“Find her, show her the photograph,” the smoker said. “I think she’ll understand.”
Mulder shook his head furiously. “I can’t do that. Scully worships her father. That photograph would break her heart…it would kill her.”
“What she doesn’t know could kill her,” replied the smoker casually. “Tell me something, Mulder. When your father died, what was your inheritance?”
Mulder looked at him, his eyes narrowing. “There was none. I received nothing. My mother is the inheritor of the estate. Both houses and all the rest, are hers.”
“Wrong,” replied the smoker gleefully, nearly rubbing his hands together in delight. “You’ve already inherited so much more than that mere bit of meaningless nothing. But you just don’t know it yet. And neither do any of them…except for an ambitious few.”
“Who? Who understands this?” asked Mulder, trying to fight back against the pounding of his heart.
“The rest of the beneficiaries. Mulder, all of us will die someday. And when that time comes, someone will have to take our places. But, by then, our positions will belong to no ordinary men. We are royalty, Mulder, and only those of royal blood can take our place.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Mulder whispered, the realization, the horror of what the smoker was saying, just beginning to dawn on him.
But the smoker only smiled at him in return, the same sharp and cruel grin that Mulder had seen from, what seemed to be, the very beginning. “Because I like you. I like her too. I always have, and you’d better start to believe that. Because she’s going to die unless you understand what I am saying to you. So perhaps you should consider…”
But, before the smoker could finish, Mulder was already on his way out the door, screaming for Frohike to start the truck, get the hell in, that they were heading for San Diego, right now. Yes, now…right away. Don’t argue, just get in, we don’t have a moment to spare. Because Scully was in horrible…terrible, danger of death.
>From an unimaginable source.
The smoker merely smiled in Mulder’s departing direction. Once again he nudged the photo with his foot, flipping it back over. “It’s always been this way, you know,” he said to the faces on the floor.
“Mulder, Scully…and me.”
They were driving through the darkness of a long, warm winter’s night in San Diego.
After leaving a message with the Gunmen, Dana Scully and her brother Charles headed out to a lengthy dinner, where little was eaten but much was spoken. Scully had found great relief there, in her brother’s company, a safety and security that she’d been denied, actually denied to herself, for such a long time.
There -was- no place like home.
She’d been content to let Charles take charge and followed along willing. The freeway was poorly lit, and he was driving a little bit faster than she would have liked, but she said nothing. She didn’t even know where they were headed now, but she shrugged it off and let his decision take her to where it would. Scully leaned back against the headrest, not speaking, but listening to her brother’s voice sound in her ear, comforting words of everyday life and everyday problems and everyday wonders.
She listened to stories about her little nephew and how he’d outgrown “Babe” and was now only interested in the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. She smiled at the secret knowledge of her sister-in-law’s obvious third pregnancy, but merely shrugged when Charles asked for her opinion on his wife’s strange behavior. They spoke quietly of mortgages, credit approvals, utility costs, of all the mundane things of life and Scully enjoyed every moment. Just the sound of Charles’ voice was soothing and wonderful in its own quiet way.
How comfortable…how comforting, her brother was to her now.
Especially in Mulder’s absence. She tried, with great difficulty, not to worry about her partner, tried to have faith in his strength and in the belief that everything would turn out on the side of justice, and that she was doing the right thing now, making the correct balance between him and her family. Kresge and she would work on the grand jury proposals tomorrow, the Gunmen would prep Mulder for his surrender and everything would be fine.
So she wanted to believe, and therefore, so it would be.
Charles soothing talk continued in her ear as the car speeded down the dark freeway. “Two weeks ago, there was a Shakespeare Festival down on the base. Some of the versions presented were quite good,” he said, as he turned the car down one of tinier of the local roads. “One in particular was excellent.”
“Really,” said Scully, not truly paying attention to her brother, but staring out somewhere beyond the stars that hung very dimly over San Diego. “Which one was that?”
Charles Scully turned to face his sister…
With his weak chin, his thin lips and his watering eyes.
“Richard III,” he replied, with the smile of the actor…the murderer, shining from his face.
May 10, 1959
My dearest Bill,
How quickly the time has flown while you were here with me upon shore and how slowly it goes now that you are back to sea these past six weeks. My daily routine is dull once again, with the usual rounds of cooking, cleaning, shopping and taking care of the baby, all the duller that you’re not here to enjoy the home I make.
The baby’s fine, he’s -that-close to walking and his latest beloved word is “truck”. I bought him a little blue one and he refuses to part with it, even insisting on sleeping with it every night. He sends much love to his darling “da-da’”.
Now, to the hard part of my letter.
Bill, I went to the doctor yesterday, as I was feeling sick the past four mornings in a row, and he gave me quite the news. It appears that I’m having another baby. Now, I know darling, that you’ve made it quite clear, in fact, were quite adamant, that you only wanted to have one child, but I’m afraid that God has insisted otherwise. I hope you understand and are not too upset about this, as there is little to be done now.
Please write back soon, my darling husband, as it worries me that you will be unhappy with my news.
Remember that I love you more than life itself.
While the winter days were still warm in San Diego, the nights were most certainly chilly.
Dana Scully wrapped her trenchcoat a bit more tightly around her as she and her brother Charles strolled slowly along the scenic walkway that stood in the older part of the city, called The Promenade. In the distance she could see the little bridge that she and Melissa once skipped over as children and there was the old theater, dating all the way back to Depression days, now silent and dark.
They walked silently for a good while, their steps clicking and echoing in unison through the fog. Scully breathed deeply of the Pacific sea air, so very different than Atlantic air. “It’s so quiet here,” she said to her brother. “Almost deserted.”
“That’s what I always enjoyed about it,” he smiled back at her. “The one place on earth where no one can annoy you.” For a long moment, Charles looked carefully at her. How pretty she is, my sister Dana, he thought. Even prettier than Melissa is…
“But the view is spectacular,” said Scully, leaning over the Promenade’s old iron fence and looking out over the city. “You can see all of downtown from here. Look at all those cars on the freeway, unbelievable.”
“Yes. And if you look behind us, you can see the town the way it used to be. There are the old factories,” said Charlie, pointing to the dark, ominous buildings behind them. “The old saw mill, even the old theater.” She turned and took in the sights and as she did, Charles felt very glad that his sister was enjoying the view…
Because it would be the last one she ever had.
He knew he couldn’t delay the inevitable much longer, even though a small part of him desperately wanted to. Silently, he cursed his father, for being the coward that he perceived him to be. Imagine, trying to worm your way out of the Consortium, denouncing the Project, trying to ignore the fact that you were born to be an inherent part of its grand design and always would be. What madness. What idiocy. What…
But Charles’ black thoughts were interrupted by a voice that sounded behind them, sounding strongly out of the darkness.
“It was going to be so easy, wasn’t it, Charlie?” asked the voice.
At this unexpected sound, both Scully and her brother whirled around, away from the Promenade’s view only to see the last person on earth either one was expecting.
Scully’s eyes widened in disbelief and horror. “Mulder, what are you…”
“It’s him, Scully,” gasped Mulder breathlessly, stepping out from the shadows, the gun in his hand shaking in Charles’ direction.
“What?” she asked incredulously, as Charles slowly backed away behind her. “Mulder, put down that gun.”
“Tell her, Charlie!” Mulder screamed at the shrinking figure. “Tell her about the Project, about the inheritance…”
“Madman,” Charles growled under his breath.
“About how they told your father that he could only have one heir to his place in the Consortium and how any other children would have to be eliminated along with the rest of the human race…”
“Lunatic!” cried Charles.
“And how you tried to guarantee that that single heir would be you. You and your descendants. Tell her, Charlie!”
“Mulder, stop…” Scully whispered, reaching into her handbag for her gun. Her hand came up empty. To her complete horror, she discovered that the gun…her gun…was gone. “Stop it.”
“You hired the killers who murdered Melissa. Did you take Scully away too, Charlie? Are you the one the Elder warned her about at my “funeral”? Did you kill your brother by yourself, or did you hire people to do that too? Did you, Charlie?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” whispered Charles. “You psychopath.”
He turned to his sister with innocent eyes. “This man is insane, Dana. You know I would never hurt you or anyone else. I don’t understand this.”
Mulder turned to Scully with pleading eyes. “It’s him, Scully. Please believe me. It’s him.”
Scully shook her head, her entire body trembling. “Give me the gun, Mulder. Please…give it to me.”
“I’ll give you the gun, Scully, but you have to believe that this man, your brother, is a murderer. He murdered Melissa and Bill, and now wants to kill you. He has to kill you to insure his place in the Project. To insure that your father’s ruinous inheritance falls to him.”
Scully said nothing, but simply reached out her trembling hand. “Trust me, Mulder…and give me the gun. We’ll work this out.”
With a resigned air, Mulder slowly lowered the gun and held it out to his partner. But before she could get its handle within her grip, her brother twisted it away from her, nearly breaking her wrist in the attempt.
“I’m sorry, Dana,” Charles said calmly, backing away and training the gun on Mulder, as Scully stared at him, holding onto her injured hand in painful shock. “But I think that this man wants to accuse me of something I haven’t done.”
“Run, Scully,” said Mulder to his partner, as the horror, the truth…the terror, of Mulder’s words dawned upon her. “It’s the only chance we have. He wants you more than me. Run…and don’t stop.”
“Don’t run, Dana,” interjected her brother. “Everything’s all right now. I have him.”
“Run, Scully,” repeated Mulder, as if in agony. “It’s the only way. Run!”
With one last glance at her partner, then at her brother, Dana Scully stepped back, turned away… and ran for her life.
As she fled, the lighted parts of the promenade faded from view and the darkened, abandoned buildings grew closer. She could hear grappling in the distance, the sound of two men fighting, bodies crashing into fences and then into each other. Scully kept running, with the cobblestones flying out from underneath her heels and her breath sounding harshly through the streets…
As the single blast of a handgun fired out from behind her.
Scully was still running hard, sweat pouring down her face, her hair in her mouth and a terrible burning stitch in her side. Her ankle twisted painfully on a loose piece of wood, but she kept running even as the agony seared up her leg.
She was hunted now, a hunted animal, and she had to run…
Scully searched desperately for any signs of habitation, but Charles had picked his trap well. The entire Promenade seemed deserted…condemned, and there wasn’t a single sign of life, let alone a phone in sight. Nearly keening with frustration at leaving her cel phone back at her mother’s house, she ran onward, not certain of the direction she was headed, but sure of one thing.
The footsteps that were clattering behind her.
Ignoring the pain in her side, Scully ran onward with tottering and breathless steps. She finally arrived at the door of the old World Theater, and threw herself against its rotting wood. With a snap, the rusted lock gave way and she entered its dark foyer.
The dust was choking her as she stumbled blindly through what seemed to be a maze of walls, filth and unseen obstacles. She carefully grasped along the still velveted walls, heard the scurrying of non-human feet, and finally, felt another wooden block with a metal handle, the obvious outlines of an inside door.
She yanked on it and it gave way easily, on still-working hinges. It was the door to the theater itself, she realized. She nearly tripped over the back row of chairs, as her eyes were still not quite accustomed to the near pitch blackness that surrounded her. The middle aisle must be…no, here it is, she thought, and Scully worked her way down it as quickly as possible, hoping to find her way to a back exit, perhaps one that lay somewhere off the side of the stage. The aisle ended with a bump and Scully felt around the edges of a long wooden platform.
The stage. This is it, she thought.
With a groan, Scully pulled herself up onto the stage, a black, filthy piece of wood and crawled blindly across it, searching for a place to escape. But before she could grope her way to the rear, the main door of the theater opened slowly, with a creaking, unearthly noise.
Nearly panicking, Scully quickly felt around and discovered a small cubby at the foot of the stage. It was the old prompter’s box, a hideaway built into the stage itself. She quickly lowered herself into its filthy and dust-filled depths, as footsteps began to sound up the main aisle.
“Dana?” Charles Scully’s voice was sonorous and smooth and sweet.
Dana Scully nearly screamed at the sound of it.
“Now, Dana…we can make this hard, or we can make this easy. Come on, big sister, you’ve been around long enough to know the rules of the game by now.”
The ancient wood floors groaned as Charles walked upon them, with slight clicking noises, heel to toe, toe to heel. Scully could hear him flipping the theater seats up, aisle by aisle, as though he were looking…searching for something. It was with horror that she realized he was hunting….
Hunting for her.
“It was all -his- fault, Dana…Dad’s fault. He knew there could only be one of us, that he was only supposed to have one heir. This all could have been avoided, but no, Dad thought he could decide against the rules. He thought he could just talk, or even act his way out of being a part of the Project.”
The seats in the fourth aisle were flipped up.
“I don’t want to die, Dana. The time’s coming when all of us will disappear, and the Chosen will be the only true human beings left. Can you imagine what it will be like for those who are not chosen, Dana? It will be as though we’ve never lived. Never even have existed for our own short time. It will be unremitting death, Dana. And I can’t have that. I can’t…”
The seats in the second aisle were flipped up.
“So come on, Dana,” he said softly, the weak beam from his flashlight now reflecting off of the stage’s back wall. “Don’t make this hard for both of us.”
Charles Scully climbed upon the stage.
“Strange,” he said, standing center-stage, the dim light reflecting around him, making him look shorter and almost hump-backed within its gloom. “I always see theaters as palaces, full of finery and blazing lights. But not so here…”
With a sigh, Charles looked around, and then…with a slight, crooked smile, he noticed his sister’s terrified visage, cowering in the open square of the prompter’s box directly in front of him.
“Oh,” he said softly, raising Mulder’s gun. “Well, well. There you are. You know the saying, don’t you, Dana? So wise, so young,” he began loudly, his eyes not leaving his sister’s. “…they say, never live long. Dearest Dana, I am not in the giving vein to-day.”
“For a grievous burden was thy birth to me. Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy. The sons of Edward sleep in Abraham’s bosom…”
He aimed the gun. “As shall you.” he finished, the trigger underneath his hand.
But, without warning, the floor gave way and a stage trap-door beneath him opened…
And Charles Scully fell screaming to his fate.
Scully shrieked aloud at her brother’s sudden disappearance from her view, but gathering her strength, she hauled herself out of the prompter’s box and crawling carefully, she peered down into the now swinging trap door. Beneath her, broken and askew, on the theater basement floor, lay her brother, Charles Scully, his eyes staring up at her, open…and sightless.
Scully ran to the side of the stage and flew blindly down the wooden stairs, past decayed ropes and dust-covered mechanics, useless and rotted with rust. She searched for an entrance to below-stage and once finding it, she opened it only to see…
Her partner, Fox Mulder, sagging and bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound to his shoulder…
His hand still on the trapdoor lever.
“Your mother told Byers where you both had gone.”
Mulder spoke softly to Scully from his bed in the ICU of San Diego General, trying to explain the events of the past few hours to her, as she sat quietly next to his bed, her face still blank with grief and shock.
“First to Adagio’s for dinner and then probably for a walk. Frohike and I looked at the map and realized that the Promenade was the closest thing approximating a scenic walk. But we were stuck in a traffic jam, so I headed there on foot with Frohike to follow behind, bringing the police.”
Scully silently nodded at him, her face stark white and expressionless.
Mulder leaned back against the stiff hospital pillows, trying to find easy ways to say the things he had to, but there were none. How hard, how horrible this all must have been for her. How horrible it must still be.
“After you took off, I grabbed the gun back from Charles, but he pulled another one from his jacket. I assume that one must have been yours, the one he took from your purse in the restaurant. He got off a shot with it and winged me, but I still managed to follow. I was trying to get to back to face him from stage-side, but things turned out differently than I’d planned.”
Scully nodded again, but still said nothing. Her face was such a study in grief, that Mulder’s heart nearly broke to look at it. How he hated this situation, but for some reason, he felt a slight bit of relief that the blame hadn’t been entirely his. This had been planned from the start, from her father’s missions onward, and both of them had been dupes in the game.
Both of them. Together. Then…now…always.
“I’m sorry, Scully,” said Mulder gently, reaching out his good hand and gently running it through the soft red hair that hung like a curtain over Scully’s miserable features. “I am so sorry, for your father, and both your brothers. But in some strange way, I think you should remember that it wasn’t really them, Scully, it was the entire plot, the conspiracy that surrounded them, the things that were planned for them that made them what they were. Maybe they never had a choice…nor a chance.”
“Maybe like us,” Mulder whispered sadly.
“Mulder,” replied Scully hoarsely, as she took his hand and clutched it tightly against her cheek. She placed a small kiss on its back before continuing. “I don’t care for what they expect of us. I don’t care what’s been planned for us. I intend on following my own path. And that always was…and always will be, right besides you.”
Tearfully, Mulder caressed her cheek, as the hospital door slowly opened, revealing Detective John Kresge in the doorway. He looked at both Mulder and Scully for a long moment, wondering if he was interrupting something intimate. With a shrug, he knocked on the door frame, and smiled at Scully’s jump.
“Just your friendly neighborhood flatfoot with the update, guys,” he said, with a wry grin. “How you doing, Clyde?”
Mulder grinned back at him. “Not bad, copper. Are you hauling me in tonight?”
“No. Actually, that’s what I came to tell you. With the new evidence and the testimony given tonight by Agent Scully here, the DA decided to drop all charges, including the flight from justice. You must have friends in some high places, Agent Mulder,” said Kresge casually.
Mulder thought back to the smoker’s words for a moment and then shuddered. “Yeah,” he replied dismally. “Guess so.”
“So, my work here is done,” said Kresge, pushing back his dark hair from bright, honest eyes with a sarcastic grin. “One down, four hundred more to go, I guess.”
“Thank you, John,” said Scully, lifting up and hand and grasping Kresge’s warmly within her own. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“Any time, Scully, FBI,” said Kresge as he shrugged with embarrassment. He squeezed her hand back with a kind smile.
Mulder looked on at their hand-hold with slightly narrowed eyes. He made a mental note to refund those two Chargers tickets he’d planned on bestowing upon Kresge for a thank-you gift. Scully, FBI he nearly harumphed to himself.
“Guess there’s just the funeral left,” sighed Kresge sadly. “It’s a real shame, Agent Scully. I’m sorry it happened to your family this way.”
Scully turned away from Kresge, her eyes drifting out toward the dark window, past the buildings, the trees and the black sky. “Perhaps there was no other way.”
“No other way at all.”
On a dark and cold day, Maggie Scully buried both of her sons, next to her eldest daughter.
She had taken the news of Charles’ betrayal and death more stoically that Scully could have imagined possible. It was as though a realization had come to her, a realization of the meaning behind mysteries past. Mysteries that her husband had always alluded to, but never fully explained. Oh, she was still strong, stronger than all of them, but her face was grey with grief and Scully saw that sorrow would now be a permanent part of her mother’s demeanor.
Scully could hear Tara weeping next to her mother-in-law, holding Matthew tightly. He slept throughout the service, throughout the burial of the father he would never know.
Charles’ widow was conspicuously absent, along with his children. Perhaps there had been mysteries shared or discovered, and she’d wanted no part of them. But, knowing what those mysteries might have been, Scully thought, who could really blame her.
When the service had ended and her mother, her nephew and her sister-in-law had started the walk back to the limousine, Scully lingered for a moment at the graves of her three siblings.
There was Melissa’s, already aged and worn with the elements, covered with three seasons worth of green.
There was Bill Jr.‘s, fresh and new, the grave marker in its place, and covered with flowers fromloved ones and friends waiting to hide the dirt that would bury him for all of eternity.
Then there was Charles, without a marker or flowers, just a hole to be covered up, taking him into the darkness that he’d built for himself.
Scully stared at them for another long moment, trying not to think of prophecies or vague conspiracies, but the thoughts refused to let her go. She was alone now, there were no others left in her family from her generation. Alone…without the others. Completely.
She shook the thought from her mind, but the voice from her head as she walked away from the graves was persistent…unwilling to give up its prophecy.
//There can be only one.//
All comments are very welcome. Thanks for taking the ride with me. or
DEDICATION: For my dear friend, William “Billy” Doyle who passed away last May. Rest in peace, dear friend.
THANKS: Special thanks to my editor, Kate C. I couldn’t have done it without you. Also thanks to Mara, Punk M., Deb, Karen Rasch, Rachel, Trillian, Jo-Anne, The Primal Screamers & AOL Fanfic Junkies for their constant support and feedback. Also so many thanks to everyone who sent me letters for my writing, you make this more fun than it should be. Thank you! (And thanks to my poodle, Crumpet. A fine pet and…a real sport! <big grin>)
ALLUSIONS/QUOTES: The following works of art were either quoted from or used as inspiration, without permission. “The Wizard Of Oz” by Frank Baum, “Richard III”, “Hamlet” & “MacBeth” by William Shakespeare, “Murder In The Cathedral” by T.S. Elliot, “Requiescat” by Matthew Arnold, and the movie “Charade”.
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