TITLE:  Insurmountable Opportunities
SPOILER WARNING:  None that I can think of.
RATING:  PG-13
CONTENT WARNING:  Violence & strong language
CLASSIFICATION:  X; M/S friendship
SUMMARY:  Bill Scully, jr., and Fox Mulder investigate a mystery together.
NOTE:  There is a sequel to this story:  SEVEN DAYS IN NOVEMBER.  However,
both this story and SDIN stand alone.


                          INSURMOUNTABLE OPPORTUNITIES

                             by Brandon D. Ray



SUNDAY

Bill Scully was angry.

Nothing had gone right that day.  From the moment he woke up, to realize
that he'd slept through the alarm for the first time in god knows how many
years, the world had seemed to conspire against him.

First there had been the oversleeping.  Next had come the blowout on the
freeway, at seventy miles per hour.  At least he had managed to maintain
control of his car, and wrestled it over onto the shoulder.  He supposed he
should be grateful for that.  But even that piece of good fortune had taken
on sinister implications, in the light of subsequent events.  It was almost
as if Something was toying with him, before finally closing in for the
kill.

Against all odds, he got the flat changed and made it to the airport with
20 minutes to spare -- only to find that his flight had been delayed by
"mechanical difficulties".  Time had dragged on and on, while Bill paced
and cursed and paced some more.  Then, finally, his flight had been called,
and he had boarded the plane, thinking that maybe his troubles were over.

Fat chance.  The airliner's seats were packed, with not a single vacancy,
and to his despair he had found that his seat assignment had him sandwiched
between a salesman who would not shut up the entire flight, and a
college-age punk who all too evidently hadn't bathed nearly recently
enough.

Now, finally, after a seemingly endless purgatory of lame jokes from the
salesman and cheerful obliviousness from the unwashed punk, they had
touched down at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and were now
rolling towards the disembarkation gate.  Bill was out of his seat and off
the plane like a rocket.  He burst out of the companionway (as he couldn't
help thinking of it), and exited rapidly past the security check point.
All he wanted at this point was a drink and a nice, thick steak, medium
rare.  And then maybe another drink.

Eagerly, he scanned the swirling crowds, looking for Dana, who had promised
to meet him at the airport and drive him back to her apartment, where he
would be staying while he was in Washington.  Normally he would have stayed
with his mother, but she was out of town for the week, and Dana's apartment
was more convenient to the Pentagon in any case.  Then he froze in horror
as he spotted a familiar figure leaning up against a pillar.

Mulder.

For an instant, Bill thought wildly that it must be a coincidence.  He knew
that his sister and her partner traveled frequently when they were on a
case.  This had to be happenstance.  Mulder was here to catch his own
flight.  Probably going to Scotland to check in with the Loch Ness Monster.

But no.  The man had spotted Bill, and now was bearing down on him, that
dopey, infuriating grin hanging lopsided on the front of his face.

"Hi, Bill," Mulder said cheerfully, extending his hand.  "Welcome to
Lewinskyland.  Here, let me take one of your bags."  Still numb from shock,
Bill allowed Mulder to take his duffel, while keeping the garment bag
holding his two Class A uniforms for himself.  "No claim checks?" Mulder
went on.  "Good; I like to travel light myself.  C'mon; the car's this
way."

Mulder proceeded to thread his way through the crowd; Bill trailed along
after him grimly, while Mulder kept up a rapid fire of inane patter:  "Dana
said to tell you she's sorry she couldn't be here as planned.  She got
called out of town on short notice -- has to give a deposition in Cedar
Rapids, Iowa, of all places, tomorrow morning at eight a.m. -- that's eight
bells to you sailor boys."  Mulder gave an infuriating smirk at his own
"cleverness", and then continued to chatter all the way to the parking
lot.  There was a brief respite as they were exiting the lot, when Mulder's
cell phone beeped, and he took a call from someone named Langley --
probably someone in the FBI crime lab, Bill guessed, judging from the
technical nature of the conversation.  But then the call ended, and Bill
was once again the sole focus of Mulder's relentless personality.

Finally, they arrived at Dana's apartment building.  Mulder grabbed Bill's
bags and bounded up the stairs two at a time.  By the time Bill caught up
with him, he had already opened the door and charged directly into the
kitchen, dropping the bags in the living room on the way, and was rummaging
around in the refrigerator as if he owned the place.  Bill felt an
unpleasant prickling on his scalp, as for the hundredth time he wondered
just exactly what was the nature of his sister's relationship with Mulder.
So far, he had deliberately refrained from asking her about it, and had
privately resolved that he never would.  In his mind, she would always be
his baby sister, but she was also a grown woman, and entitled to her
privacy.  And besides, if he DID ask her about it point blank, he wasn't
sure that he would like the answer.

Mulder emerged from the kitchen, two bottles of beer in his hands.  He
tossed one in Bill's general direction -- which Bill juggled wildly for a
moment and then managed to hang onto -- and plopped himself down on the
sofa, popping the twist-off cap with one hand and clicking the remote
control of the TV with the other.  "Hope Rolling Rock is okay, " he said.
"I grew up on the stuff in New England, and I've kind of converted Scully
-- Dana -- to it."  Again, the idiot grin.  Bill ground his teeth together,
but didn't say anything.  "Anyway, why don't you go ahead and unpack and
get cleaned up.  I'll hang out here, and whenever you're ready I'll take
you out to dinner."

Shaking his head in disbelief, Bill scooped up his bags and headed for the
back hallway.  "Guest room is the second door on your left," Mulder called
after him, and again Bill's hackles rose.    *And just how in the hell do
you know THAT?  * he thought to himself resentfully.

Twenty minutes later, having unpacked, changed clothes and washed up a
little bit (the absence of any male toilet items in Dana's bathroom had
been considerably reassuring), Bill reluctantly emerged into the living
room again.  He had considered just crashing on the guest bed for a couple
of hours (he was tired, after all) in hopes that Mulder would get bored and
go away, but the good manners his parents had drilled into him in childhood
would not permit it.

Mulder was comfortably ensconced on the couch, working on his second beer
and watching what Bill at first thought was a football game.  Taking a
second look, he realized that it was some sort of retrospective of former
star players.    *If the guy likes football he can't be all bad,  * Bill
grudgingly admitted to himself.

Mulder waved his beer bottle at Bill.  "Hiya," he said.  "Feeling better?
I always hate flying; you never know what kind of crazies you're going to
wind up sitting next to.  But you get used to it; I think I must have more
Frequent Flyer miles than Captain Kirk."  Again he gave that annoying grin,
then finished his beer in three quick chugs, put the bottle down on the
coffee table and bounded to his feet.  "Ready to eat?" he asked.  "I've got
a real treat lined up for you."

Bill refrained from pointing out to Mulder that he had lived in this area
as a boy, and had attended Annapolis -- less than an hour away by freeway
-- for four years.  It was therefore highly unlikely, in Bill Scully's
estimation, that Mulder would know about any restaurant worth knowing about
that Bill, himself, didn't know about.  He did briefly toy with the idea of
telling Mulder he was too tired, and just wanted to make a sandwich and go
to bed.  But before he could act on the impulse Mulder had the door open
and was charging out into the hallway; resignedly, Bill trailed along
behind like a small boat caught in the wake of an aircraft carrier.

A few minutes later they were in Mulder's car again, tooling along the
Beltway, while Mulder continued to chatter:  "I'm really glad we're getting
this chance to spend some time together.  I know you don't like me very
much -- "   *Okay,  * Bill thought.    *So the guy isn't totally obtuse.  *
"-- and I'd like to get to know you a little better, and give you a chance
to get to know me.  As Westmoreland said -- you remember him; he was the
commanding general in Vietnam, poor bastard.  As Westmoreland said, 'There
are no insurmountable obstacles; there are only insurmountable
opportunities.'  I hope we can turn this visit into an insurmountable
opportunity.  We do have a connection, you know -- Dana."  And that much,
at least, was true, Bill had to admit -- if only to himself.

Mulder steered the car through an interchange, and thence onto a city
street, heading into Washington.  "So anyway," Mulder continued, "you're
important to Dana, and I'd like for us to get to know each other better.
I'll even go first.  So go ahead -- ask me anything."  Mulder grinned
toothily, and Bill was momentarily and unfavorably reminded of Howdy Doody.

Bill Scully looked at Fox Mulder in amazement.  This was unreal.  No -- it
was SURreal.  The man actually seemed to be serious, despite the bad blood
between them.

For reasons he had never fully understood, Bill had felt an instant
suspicion of Mulder the first time Dana had even mentioned his name.  That
suspicion had flowered into dislike, and then open hatred, as he watched
his sister's life gradually being consumed by this man's bizarre
obsessions.  He had watched Dana metamorphose from a reserved, serious but
basically happy young woman (or at least, so Bill believed her to have
been, before she met Mulder), into something strange -- almost alien.  Her
letters, previously clock-faithful at the beginning of every month, had
gradually become less frequent -- and when he did receive letters from her,
they were strange and troubled, and spoke of bizarre, impossible things.
Finally, she had stopped writing altogether, leaving Bill with no idea at
all of what her life was like, or what had caused the change -- except for
the certainty that Mulder was somehow at the center of it all.

Bill realized that Mulder was still waiting for him to say something.
Quickly, he rifled through his mind.  Something.  Anything.  "Uh..."  He
cleared his throat.  Maybe he could deflect the man by asking him about
Dana.  "Uh, what sort of case is Dana working on right now?" he asked
awkwardly.

Mulder seemed to shrug slightly, as if to say,   *Well, I tried.  *  Then he
nodded, and said, "You may have read about it, it was in all the papers
last year.  They called it the Saucer Scam.  A couple of farm kids from
Grinnell -- the McLain brothers -- got into cahoots with one of the local
TV stations, and whipped up a 'flying saucer'.  Fake of course -- it was
all sheet metal and scrap lumber, but with the TV station providing fake
'news' coverage of the supposed spaceship, they were able to make quite a
bit of money from tourists and such.  Scully -- Dana and I went in on the
first day, undercover, and wound up exposing the fraud."  He glanced at
Bill, and his lip quirked.  "We posed as brother and sister -- 'Sam and
Mary Cavanaugh'.  The desk clerk at the motel thought we were shacking up.
Anyway, one thing led to another, and now they're going through discovery
for the criminal fraud trial -- the FCC already yanked the TV station's
license -- and Dana's deposition is tomorrow morning, like I told you.  And
so there you are."

And so here they were, apparently.  Mulder abruptly steered the car onto a
side street, pulled up to the curb and turned off the engine.  He climbed
out of the car and headed down the block on foot at his usual frenetic
pace, Bill following along behind as before.  The neighborhood did not look
terribly reputable, and Bill was already having misgivings when Mulder came
to a halt in front of a seedy, run-down looking restaurant, with an
ancient, barely legible sign over the door reading "Pizza Italy".

Mulder led Bill inside, saying over his shoulder, "This is a great place.
Third generation, but totally authentic.  The owner's grandfather was a
cook at Mystic Pizza, the place in Connecticut where they invented the
pizza in the late 40s.  They still use olive oil as a condiment.  Scully
will never let me eat here; she says its bad for my heart.  You'll love it;
I guarantee it."  Bill, whose taste in pizza ran to Chicago style, nodded
weakly.  "Hey, Tony!" Mulder hollered at a man wearing a greasy apron over
faded Levis and a flannel shirt.  "Bring us a jumbo with all the
trimmings.  And a couple of beers while we wait, eh?"  Without waiting for
a reply, Mulder led Bill to a booth in the front of the restaurant, with a
view through a plate glass window of the street, and they sat down.

They had barely gotten settled before the man in the apron appeared with
two bottles of Rolling Rock and set them on the table.  The man -- Tony,
Bill remembered -- exchanged a few words with Mulder, then disappeared
again, and Mulder immediately launched into a seemingly endless story about
a giant fluke that supposedly lived in the sewers of New York City.  At
first, Bill was sure it had to be a tall tale, and he felt his eyes start
to glaze over, although he did manage to maintain, he hoped, a semblance of
polite attention.  But before long he felt himself being drawn into the
story, and then becoming genuinely interested, as he realized that, whether
he believed the fantastical details or not, he was at least hearing about a
side of Dana which he had never really seen or paid attention to before:
The professional, tough-minded investigator, devoted to truth and science,
and willing to risk everything in their pursuit.  Nor could he ignore the
light and animation that washed across Mulder's face and took residence in
his eyes and voice whenever he spoke of Dana.  Against his will (and better
judgment), Bill found himself warming to Mulder, just a little.

Finally, the story ended; before Mulder could launch into another one, the
pizza arrived, and it was everything Bill had feared:  countless toppings,
not all of which he could identify, smothered in melted cheese, which ran
off onto the pan in rivulets, and the whole mess floating in a sea of
grease.   As he watched in horror, Tony proceeded to pour more olive oil
over the top of the thing, before quickly and expertly cutting it into
wedges with a pizza slicer and serving the first two pieces onto their
plates.  Bill could almost hear his arteries harden, just from looking at
it.

Without hesitation or regard for the mess he was making, Mulder dived into
it.  Picking up his first piece, he rolled it into a cylinder and took a
huge bite off of one end, heedless of the cheese and tomato sauce squirting
out the other end.    *Well,  * Bill thought,   *when in Rome...  *  Very
gingerly, he picked up his piece of pizza, and proceeded to try to emulate
Mulder.  To his surprise, it turned out to be quite good -- excellent, in
fact, although he shuddered to think what his cholesterol count was going
to be in the morning.

Fortunately, Mulder didn't seem inclined to talk while he was eating, and
so the meal passed in relative peace and quiet.  Part way through, Mulder
called for another round of beer, and then for the check, and 45 minutes
later they were in the car again and heading back to Dana's.  Mulder
remained quiet on the way back, although he still seemed to be cheerful.
They pulled up to the curb in front of Dana's building, and Bill stepped
out of the car.  Mercifully, the other man did not seem inclined to come
inside with him.  "Hope you've had a nice evening, Bill," Mulder said, and
then waited while Bill climbed the front steps before throwing the car into
gear and speeding off into the darkness.

Bill let himself into the apartment with the key Mulder had given him.  It
was new and shiny-looking, as if it were freshly cut, apparently a
duplicate of the one Mulder had on his key chain (Mulder had joked about
charging him a buck fifty for the copy), which had again aroused Bill's
suspicions about Dana's relationship with the man.  He stood for a moment
in the living room, trying to decide what to do.  He considered the TV, but
then said to hell with it, and headed down the hall to the guest room.  He
stripped off his clothes, neatly hanging them over the back of a straight
chair sitting in one corner, and fell into bed and was sound asleep almost
as soon as his head touched the pillow.

                                                #           #             #

MONDAY

The next day was the first of the Pentagon meetings which Bill Scully had
come to Washington to attend.  The subject matter -- proposed downsizing
and outsourcing at the San Diego Navy Yard -- was frustrating for Bill; the
Washington bureaucrats (including some in uniform who were more bureaucrat
than sailor, he groused to himself) were even more so.    *Here we are out
on the line, trying to defend the country,  * he thought,   *and these clowns
are debating whether it's cheaper to make our own donuts or buy them from a
private vendor.  Jesus!  *  By the time 4:30 rolled around, he was more than
ready to call it quits for the day, and lost no time catching the Metro
back to Dana's apartment.

The phone started ringing as he opened the front door.  He hesitated for
just a moment, then decided to answer it.    *It might be Tara,  * he
thought, and realized guiltily that he had not called her since arriving in
Washington.  He scooped up the phone on the second ring.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Bill?  This is Fox Mulder."

Bill closed his eyes and suppressed a groan.  "What can I do for you, Fox?"
he asked.  He knew from conversation with Dana that Mulder hated his first
name; maybe using it would make him go away, or at least maintain a decent
distance.

Mulder didn't seem to notice the deliberate faux pas.  "Couple of things.
First, Dana called me this afternoon, and said she isn't going to be back
as soon as she hoped.  This case is apparently turning into a real bear --
the defense is raising all sorts of objections, making procedural motions
and the like --makes you wonder if they're bucking for jobs at the White
House.  Anyway, the long and short of it is that she won't be back until
Wednesday at the earliest."  Two days from now.  "The second thing is, I've
run into a bit of a problem on a case I'm on, and it's actually right up
your alley.  I was wondering if you could help me out."

"If it's a Navy matter you probably ought to call the Department," Bill
replied cautiously.

"Well, I've found that it pays to be careful who you confide in over at the
Pentagon," Mulder replied.    *You've got that one right,  * Bill thought
sourly.  "No offense.  And in any case, it's not really something the Navy
would be interested in, but it does involve seafaring -- you know, 'wooden
ships and iron men' and all that."  He gave a nasal laugh which instantly
brought to mind the grin that Bill hated so much.

He wanted to say no.  Lord, how he wanted to say no.  But he had sworn an
oath of service to the United States, and two decades and more of devotion
to duty would not permit that answer.  Besides, Mulder probably just wanted
to ask him a few questions.  How long could that take?  And if it helped
solve a crime, well, that was its own justification.  He sighed.  "All
right.  What can I do for you?"

"That's great," Mulder enthused.  "I knew you'd come through for me.  I'll
pick you up in twenty minutes."

"But --"  It was too late.  Mulder had already hung up.  Bill returned the
phone to its cradle, sank down on the sofa and buried his face in his
hands.  "How did I get myself into this?" he asked the room.  "This is like
the script for a bad movie."  He shook his head and looked at his watch.
Twenty minutes.  That barely gave him time to change out of his uniform and
grab a quick shower.  Wearily, he climbed to his feet and headed down the
hall.

Twenty minutes later, on the dot, he was standing on the curb in front of
Dana's apartment building when Mulder pulled up in his car.  Bill climbed
in, and they were off.  Once he'd gotten his seat belt fastened, he turned
to Mulder and asked, "So where are we going?"

Mulder looked at him briefly, and grinned the Grin.  "Your old stomping
grounds," he replied.  "Annapolis."

  *Great,  * Bill thought.    *There goes the evening.  * He had assumed they
were going to FBI Headquarters, or at least somewhere local.  Annapolis was
forty miles or so away; they would spend at least an hour and a half just
commuting there and back.  He closed his eyes and slumped down in his seat
resignedly, as Mulder resumed speaking.

"Early this morning," Mulder explained, "some fisherman found a boat
floating out in the middle of the Chesapeake.  Its running lights were on
and the engine was idling, and there was loud music blaring from the
cockpit, but there was no one on deck, and the boat seemed to be basically
just drifting in the current.  Being good citizens -- the fellowship of the
sea, and all that -- they pulled up alongside to check things out."

Mulder stopped speaking.  Finally, Bill opened his eyes and looked at him
inquiringly.  "And?"

Mulder nodded; he'd obviously been waiting for some sign of interest.
"They found five bodies on board.  Two married couples, all in their
forties or early fifties, and the adult son of one of the couples."  He
glanced again at Bill, apparently gauging his reaction.  "They'd been
hacked to bits with some sort of cutting tool, like a butcher knife or even
a small axe.  Actually, according to the telephone report I received,
several weapons were probably used, as the wounds are not all alike."

"So why are you involved?" Bill asked.  "More to the point, why am *I*
involved?"

Mulder flashed the Grin at him again.  "I'm involved because the federal
government has technical jurisdiction over every navigable body of water in
the United States.  Normally that means the Coast Guard, but they're not
really equipped for this sort of thing.  You're involved because I figured
if it happened out on the water you might have some useful insights.
Besides, it gives us a chance to hang out together.  You know -- the male
bonding thing."  Again the Grin.

"I really don't know how much good I'm going to be to you," Bill objected.
"The last ship I was on had a fuel bunker that was probably larger than
this entire boat of yours.  And  what I know about how to solve a murder
you can fit on the back of a grocery store receipt."

"But this isn't an ordinary murder," Mulder responded, his eyes glinting
with excitement.  "This happened on the water.  That makes it piracy."  He
glanced again at Bill.

Bill raised an eyebrow, amused in spite of himself.  "You expecting to
bring in Blackbeard, Mulder?  I hate to break this to you, but he died
almost three hundred years ago."

Mulder looked at him mysteriously.  "We'll see," was all he said.

The drive to Annapolis went surprisingly quickly.  Mulder wove in and out
through the late afternoon rush hour traffic with the deft reflexes of the
experienced big city driver, and kept up a steady patter about nothing
much:  Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run chase, how long it was likely
to be before the Redskins managed to win a game, the relative merits of the
Ford Taurus versus the Crown Victoria.

"I think on the whole I prefer the Taurus," he concluded.  "It's got more
headroom AND leg room, front and back, than any other car on the road
today."  By this time they had exited U.S. 50, and were cruising through a
quiet residential neighborhood of Annapolis.  The quiet streets, the quaint
colonial architecture, the smell of salt in the air -- all these things
brought memories rushing back for Bill.    *Those were good years,  * he
thought.    *I haven't been back here in much too long.  *

A few minutes later they pulled into the parking lot of the Anne Arundel
Medical Center.  As Mulder switched off the engine, Bill raised his
eyebrows in question.

"This is where they brought the bodies," Mulder explained.  He glanced at
his watch.  "The autopsies should be done by now.  Too bad Dana couldn't be
here; she just eats this stuff up."  Bill winced slightly at the image that
brought to mind, but Mulder appeared not to notice.

Mulder led the way inside and down the first flight of stairs that they
came to.  He called over his shoulder, "The morgue is always in the
basement.  Don't ask me why; it just is.  Something to do with a
subconscious desire by doctors to bury their mistakes."  He clattered on
down the stairs, and Bill wondered how bad it was going to be.

It was bad.  Bill took one look at the body in the freezer drawer, then
looked away.  He had seen his share of injuries -- even violent death.
  *You don't do twenty years in the Navy without that,  * he thought.  But
this --- this was the worst thing he'd ever seen.  Those wounds -- they
looked like they'd been inflicted with a fire axe.

Mulder said, "Well look at that."  Almost against his will, Bill found his
eyes drawn back to the corpse.  Mulder had donned a pair of surgical
gloves, and was gently probing a series of blue and purple welts scattered
across the victim's arms and upper torso.  Several of them had apparently
been cut open by the surgeons -- dissected, that was the word Bill had
heard Dana use.  As he watched Mulder probing, something popped out of one
of the welts and fell onto the freezer tray the body was resting on with a
dull, metallic clank.  Mulder picked it up and examined it, absently wiping
it clean with a corner of the sheet covering the body, then handed it to
Bill.

Bill turned it over in his hand.  It was a small metal ball, apparently
made of lead from the softness when he tried to dig his fingernail in, and
about the size of a large, somewhat lop-sided shotgun pellet or B-B.
Bill's eyes widened as he realized what it was, and he looked up at Mulder.

"Grape shot!" he exclaimed.

Mulder shook his head.  "Grape shot?  What's that?"

Bill's lips quirked slightly.  "'Wooden ships and iron men,'" he quoted
back at Mulder.  "Grape shot was a type of load used in cannon during the
Age of Sail.  It worked on the same principle as shotguns:  Rather than
firing one large ball, you fired a bunch of little pellets, the idea being
to rip the other guy's sails and rigging to shreds.  It was also used as an
anti-personnel weapon -- a broadside of this stuff would mow down sailors
on deck like so much wheat."

Bill handed the pellet back to Mulder, who looked at it thoughtfully.
"Cannons, huh?"

Bill shook his head.  "But Mulder, this couldn't be the result of
cannon-fire.  If this man had been hit with that kind of a blast, he'd have
been torn in two."

"What if he was at the outskirts of the blast?"

"Well -- maybe," Bill said grudgingly.  "You have to understand, I've never
actually SEEN the effects of grape shot; I've only read about it in books."

Mulder continued to look thoughtfully at the pellet, but did not reply.

"Who are you men?  What are you doing here?"  Mulder and Bill swung about,
to see a middle aged woman wearing surgical scrubs standing in the doorway.

Bill was at a loss; Mulder, however, calmly stepped forward, pulling out a
small leather folder and flipping it open.  "Special Agent Fox Mulder,
FBI," he said, and jerked his head towards Bill.  "And this is Captain
William Scully, United States Navy.  We're conducting an investigation into
this man's death, as well as the other four.  And you are?"  Bill couldn't
help but admire the way Mulder had turned the tables on the woman, and put
her on the defensive.

The woman sputtered, "I'm -- I'm Dr. Scarpetta.  Kay Scarpetta.  I'm the
Chief of Pathology at this facility."  She glanced at Mulder's badge.  "I
suppose it's all right for you to be here," she continued.  "But I wish
you'd checked in with me before you came down here."

"I apologize, ma'am," Mulder said smoothly.  "It certainly wasn't our
intention to bypass anybody.  We just wanted to take a quick look at the
bodies before we started digging into the matter."  He nodded at the
corpse.  "Are they all like that?"

"Pretty much," Dr. Scarpetta said, moving past Bill and tucking the sheet
back around the body.  The doctor raised her eyebrows inquiringly at
Mulder, who nodded; she then slid the tray back into its drawer and shut
the door.

"Have you determined the cause of death?" Mulder asked.

The pathologist shrugged.  "All five bodies were hacked and slashed
multiple times with a variety of weapons.  If you want my guess, the
weapons included an axe and some sort of bush knife or machete.  Cause of
death?  Blood loss, shock."

"Were the women sexually molested?"  Bill winced as  Mulder put this
question.

"No.  We found no evidence of that."

"What about this?"  Mulder handed over the pellet they'd found.  The doctor
nodded.

"All of the men and one of the women had those embedded in their bodies.
The one you saw was typical, both as to number and distribution."

"What do you make of it?"

Dr. Scarpetta shrugged.  "We're not sure.  One of the residents who
assisted me on the autopsies has a grandfather who collects guns.  He said
they look like pellets from some sort of antique shotgun or blunderbuss.  I
have no opinion, formally."

"But informally?" Mulder persisted.

Again, she shrugged.  "The resident's theory is as plausible as anything
else I've been able to come up with.  It doesn't really matter; the pellets
in no way contributed to death in any of the cases."

Mulder nodded and held out his hand.  The doctor dropped the pellet into
it; Mulder folded the pellet carefully into a handkerchief and slipped it
into his pocket, then stripped off his gloves and threw them in a covered
waste receptacle marked "Biohazard".

"Did the victims try to defend themselves?" he asked.

"Based on the cuts, bruises and abrasions on their arms, I'd say yes," the
doctor replied.  "It looks very much as if these people were being attacked
with some sort of edged weapons, and they raised their arms in an attempt
to ward off the blows.  And one of the women had some deep gouges on her
upper back, which would seem to indicate that she tried to run away."

"One last question, Doctor," Mulder said.  "What would you estimate as the
time of death?"

"That is difficult to say with precision.  But based on body temperature,
and the advanced state of rigor...I'd say four to eight hours before they
were found."

"Between 9:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.," Mulder mused.

"That would be my estimate," Scarpetta agreed.

Mulder glanced at Bill.  "Captain Scully," he said, "can you think of
anything else?"  Was that a twinkle in his eye?

"No, Agent Mulder," Bill replied gravely, playing the game.  "No, I think
you've covered everything."

"Thank you, Dr. Scarpetta," Mulder said, shaking the pathologist's hand.
"We'll be in touch if we have any further questions."  He handed Scarpetta
a business card.  "And if you think of anything else that might be useful,
please call me."

As they headed back up the stairs, Bill thought wonderingly,   *I could
actually get to like this, I think.  *  Aloud, he asked, "Where to now?"

"Down to the wharf where the boat was brought in," Mulder replied.

It was only a short drive from the hospital to the public wharves.  The sun
was just touching the horizon, casting long shadows everywhere, as they
walked out along the pier where the boat was tied up.  Bill noted that
Mulder had brought with him from the car a flashlight that looked like it
might do for a club in a pinch.

Reaching the end of the pier, Mulder ducked casually under the yellow tape
cordoning off access to the boat.  Bill shrugged slightly and went after
him.

The boat was unremarkable; a small pleasure craft with an open cockpit, a
twin screw inboard motor and, Bill estimated, probably two cramped
staterooms below decks.  The tide was in, so the boat was riding high, its
gunwales rising two or three feet above the pier.  Mulder vaulted easily
over the side and onto the deck; Bill was about to follow suit when he
noticed something interesting.

There was a deep gouge in the gunwale, almost as if some sort of hook or
clamp had been affixed to it.  The gouge was several inches deep and an
inch and a half wide, and the wood around it had buckled and splintered.

"What have you got, Bill?"

Bill looked up to see Mulder standing over him.  "I'm not sure," he
replied, and proceeded to point out the qualities of the gouge.  "I'd say
it was done pretty recently," he concluded.  "The wood down inside the
gouge doesn't look very weathered."  He shook his head.  "Funny."

"What's funny?" Mulder asked.

"Just...I don't know."  He shook his head.  "Just a notion I had.  But it
can't be."

"What couldn't be?" Mulder persisted -- and again his eyes had that odd,
intense glint in them.

"Well --"  Bill hesitated, then shrugged.  "If I didn't know better, I'd
say that gouge was caused by a grappling hook."

"A grappling hook?"

"Yeah.  'Wooden ships and iron men' again.  In the old days, sometimes an
attacker would want to send over boarding parties to try to capture a
ship.  The target vessel, of course, didn't usually want that to happen,
and would try to maintain as much open water between the two ships as
possible.  In order to force the two ships into contact, the attacking
vessel would often throw grappling hooks, with heavy lines on them; once a
hook was firmly seated, the rope could be used to drag the two ships
together."  He gestured at the gouge.  "This is pretty typical of the
damage you might expect from such an operation."

Mulder nodded thoughtfully.  "Very interesting."  He turned and trotted
towards the aft of the boat.  "Now come take a look at what *I* found," he
called over his shoulder.

Bill vaulted over the gunwale and strode after Mulder.  When he caught up
with him, Mulder was shining his flashlight (it was now twilight, and
details were getting hard to see) at rear deck and engine compartment.

Bill whistled in surprise.  The entire rear end of the boat looked as if it
had been caught in a mighty explosion.  The paint and varnish had been
stripped almost entirely away from the deck and the bright work, and the
entire area was peppered with hundreds, maybe thousands of pockmarks and
blisters.  Most impressive of all, there was a ragged hole five feet wide
in the engine compartment itself.  "Wow," was all Bill could think of to
say.

"Maybe there was cannon-fire after all," Mulder said with satisfaction.

"It looks very much like a classic example of a stern rake," Bill admitted.

"Stern rake?"

"The dream of any ship's captain during the Age of Sail was to come around
behind the enemy, and fire off a broadside directly at the stern.  It
brought maximum force to bear against what was often the most vulnerable
part of the enemy ship, and best of all, the enemy was unable to return
fire, because HIS guns were pointing out to the sides.  When you succeeded,
it was called a 'stern rake'."

Again Mulder nodded.  "I see.  This case is getting more interesting by the
minute.  Let's see what else we can find."

The two men proceeded to search the boat from fore to aft; other than minor
evidence that a struggle had occurred, however, there was no other evidence
of note.  Finally, Mulder admitted as much.  "I suppose the local
authorities have taken away anything really interesting that could be
carried away.  I'll find out where they took it in the morning, and go take
a look."

Bill smothered a yawn.  "Are we done for tonight, then?"

Mulder grinned, and nodded.  "And we need to get you back to Dana's and
tuck you in for sleepy bye."  He held out his hand.  "I do want to thank
you for coming with me tonight.  Your perspective on things has been
invaluable."

The drive back to Washington seemed almost friendly.


#          #          #

TUESDAY

  *Bill Scully stood in the back of the church, helpless, watching his
sister and Fox Mulder exchange wedding vows.  Bill's dress uniform was
newly cleaned and pressed, its snow-white perfection surpassed only by the
purity and simplicity of Dana's gown.  His medals sparkled and glinted in
the candlelight, creating a low-key counterpoint to the diamond necklace
around his sister's throat.

  *Bill knew that he should be happy for his sister, that this was a joyous
occasion; yet somehow, he could not.  Rather, he felt a rising sense of
dread, as if some evil force had invaded the church and was threatening to
engulf Dana, himself, and the entire congregation.

  *The ceremony reached its conclusion, organ music welled up, and the happy
couple turned to face the assemblage -- but Bill realized, first with
surprise and then with mounting horror that this was not the Recessional he
was hearing, but a dirge for the dead.  But no one else seemed to notice,
and Mulder and Dana commenced to walk back up the aisle, arm in arm.

  *Bill tried to step forward, tried to say something, to shout a warning,
but found himself unable to move, unable to speak, barely able to breathe.
He stood watching, helpless and immobile, as the newlyweds proceeded
towards him, towards the back of the church.  On Dana's face was a look of
indescribable joy, such that it made Bill's heart ache; Mulder's, however,
was twisted and deformed into a lewd mask of hatred and lust.

  *Desperately, Bill struggled against whatever it was that held him there,
but to no avail.  Mulder and Dana swept past him and out the door.  In
desperation, Bill shouted in his mind:  (Dana!  No!)

  *The organ music intensified, and now Bill heard a low growling noise
rising from the congregation.  In horror, he saw that their features, like
Mulder's, were perverted, distorted, barely human.  Inexorably, they were
rising to their feet and moving, moving out of the pews, and advancing in
his direction.

  *(Dear God!) Bill shouted again in his mind.  (Please help me!  Help me
save Dana!)

  *And all at once, he was free!

  *By now, however, he was completely surrounded.  His nostrils flared as
they detected the unmistakable sweet, musty odor of decaying flesh  The
inarticulate, animal growling had risen both in volume and in pitch, until
now it was a shriek of rage and hate, nearly drowning out the organ, which
continued to play.  Desperately, Bill tried to push past the crowd, tried
to break free to go after Dana, but a dozen hands clutched at him, digging
deep, bloody furrows in his skin.  He tried to fight his way free, now
swinging his arms wildly, and lashing out viciously with his feet.

  *Something struck him in the back of the head, and he fell to his knees,
gasping and sobbing in pain and terror and grief, as the creatures around
closed in and rained blows down upon him....  *

Bill awoke with a start.  His skin felt cold and clammy, and his pajamas
and the bed clothes were soaked with sweat.  The gray half-light of dawn
filtered sleepily in through the bedroom window, and on the nightstand,
next to the bed, the hands on the illuminated clock face stood at five
minutes past six.

Bill sat up slowly, and shook his head, trying to clear it.  Gradually, his
thoughts settled down, and he began to sort out what was real.  Already,
the details of the dream were fading, leaving him only with a pervasive
sense of fear and foreboding.

By the time he left for the Pentagon, and another round of meetings, the
memory was completely gone.  Nevertheless, despair seemed to settle over
him like a heavy, gray blanket.  Unable to remember the cause, he
nonetheless felt as if he were suffocating, and the Navy Department
officials he met with seemed to him to be unusually stupid and malignant.

After his last meeting, rather than returning directly to Dana's apartment,
he went for a walk in Crystal City.  Normally, a long walk in the late
afternoon was the perfect antidote for stress and jangled nerves.  But
today nothing seemed to help, and Bill found himself sinking deeper and
deeper into depression.  Finally, he boarded the Metro and headed back to
Dana's.

He was in no mood to cope with Fox Mulder, and of course the man was there
waiting for him, sitting on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table,
eating chips and watching television.  Scarcely had Bill cleared the
threshold before Mulder had bounced to his feet, brushing off crumbs onto
the carpet.

"Great!  You're home," he said.  "Let's get going."  And he brushed past
Bill and headed for the door.

"Wait a minute!" Bill protested.  "Where are you going?  I'm not going
anywhere."  Feeling petulant, he sat down firmly on the spot Mulder had
vacated on the couch and munched a potato chip.  "I have just sat through
two straight days of loathsome meetings with a bunch of know-nothing
landlubbers.  I am tired, I am hungry and I don't want to go racing off
again to look at dead bodies or...or whatever1"  He popped another potato
chip into his mouth and crunched it loudly and defiantly, glaring up at
Mulder.

Mulder walked over and stood in front of him.  "Bill, I'm sorry -- I was
thoughtless.  Look, we can drive through Wendy's or something on the way.
But you've got to come with me."

"Why?"

"Because I need you."  Mulder sat down next to Bill and half turned to face
him.  "I spent all day downtown doing research, and I think you'll find
what I've discovered to be very interesting.  A year ago, more or less, a
team of marine archeologists discovered a shipwreck off the coast of North
Carolina.  Based on what was left after two or three centuries in the
water, it appears to have been a late 17th Century or early 18th Century
sailing vessel.  Based on various things, not least of which was the exact
location of the wreck, the team finally came to the conclusion that they'd
found the QUEEN ANNE'S REVENGE.  That was Blackbeard's flagship, and it was
sunk in battle in the same general vicinity where the wreck was found, in
1718."

"We do study naval history at the Academy, Mulder," Bill said, arms crossed
and voice as remote and forbidding as he could make it.  He tried to
imagine himself in command and Mulder as a lowly ensign, and found it
helped him regain his sense of control.

Mulder ignored his comment.  "So anyway, these marine archeologists have
been bringing things up from the wreck for the last year -- cannon, an
anchor, things of that nature.  And here's the kicker:  You'll never guess
who was one of the three co-leaders of the team that has been working the
wreck."

"Try me," Bill said sourly.

With a dramatic flourish, Mulder said, "The co-leader, one-third of the
triumvirate, was Dr. Angelo Brevetti, Professor of Marine Archeology.  Who
just happens to be the poor bastard who used to inhabit that hacked up
corpse we saw yesterday."  Mulder looked annoyingly pleased with himself.

"Let's cut the crap, Mulder," Bill said.  "What, exactly, are you
suggesting?  More importantly, what do you expect ME to do about it?"   He
held up his hand.  "Strike that.  I really don't care.  I've had a long,
miserable day, and I'm going to take a shower.  Then, I'm going to find
something to eat, and I'm going to bed early and try to get some rest.
Now, is there anything else you wanted to tell me?"

There was a long silence.  Finally, Fox Mulder seemed to shrug slightly,
and rose to his feet.  "If that's the way you feel, then that's the way you
feel," he said, and turned and left the apartment.  Bill waited until the
door closed, then allowed himself to sag back into the sofa cushions --
and, for the first time in nearly 36 hours, Bill Scully smiled.

                                                      #          #
#

WEDNESDAY

The next day was more of the same:  More meetings, more yammering, more
bureauspeak.  By lunchtime, Bill Scully's head was pounding, and his
stomach was churning with acid.  He had not slept well the night before,
and the bilge he was having to wade through at the Pentagon wasn't helping
matters any.

His conscience was also bothering him.  As he pushed his tray through the
line at the cafeteria, he thought about the previous day.  He didn't know
what had come over him, but whatever had caused his foul mood, it had been
unfair to take it out on Fox Mulder.  Bill had agreed to help the man with
his case, and he had had no right to go back on his own word.  Nor was it
just a personal favor Mulder had asked of him; viewed in context, it was a
legitimate request for assistance -- albeit through somewhat unorthodox
channels -- from another government agency.  Bill knew his superiors would
almost certainly not see things that way, but he had agreed to help Mulder
on that basis, and it was, to Bill's way of thinking, tantamount to
dereliction of duty for him to back out the way he had.

Bill worked his way rapidly through the chef's salad and iced tea he had
selected.  He regretfully decided against going back for dessert -- as he
grew older, he was finding it more and more difficult to control his
waistline -- and glanced at his watch.  He still had almost twenty minutes
until his next meeting, and he knew in his heart how he ought to spend
them.

Sighing to himself, he disposed of his tray and walked back to his CO's
boss' office.  Borrowing a telephone from the Admiral's secretary, he
dialed a number he had copied from Dana's rolodex before leaving her
apartment that morning.  It was answered on the third ring.

"Fox Mulder."

"Mulder it's me," he said.  "Bill Scully."  There was silence at the other
end of the line.  Bill cleared his throat, and went on awkwardly, "I, uh, I
want to apologize for the way I treated you last night.  It was
inexcusable."    *This had better count as penance,  * he thought, and then
went on, uncomfortably, "I, uh, was wondering if there was still anything I
could do to help."

There was just the briefest moment of hesitation, giving Bill time for the
ungenerous hope that he would get credit for good intentions without
actually having to DO anything.  Then Fox Mulder said, "Sure.  There are
still some leads I need to follow up on, and I could definitely use your
help with them.  When are you free?"

"Well, I do have  two more meetings this afternoon," Bill said resignedly.
"But I should be done by 4:30 or so.  Getting back to Dana's apartment
takes about --"

Mulder cut him off.  "Look, why don't I just pick you up at the Pentagon
City Metro station, okay?  That'll save us at least half an hour, maybe
more, depending on the traffic.  About 4:30, you said?"

"Yes."

"Great; it's a date."  The man rattled on, as if the harsh words of the
night before had never been spoken.  "Oh, by the way, Dana called me just
before you did.  They've had more delays, she didn't really go into
details, but now it looks like she won't be back until Friday evening."

"Oh," Bill said, disappointed.  "I leave on Friday afternoon.  And the
ticket's non-refundable."    *Damn!  *

"Yeah, she mentioned that.  Tough break.  She said to tell you she's sorry,
but it can't be helped.  I'm sure an old salt like yourself understands
about the call of duty."  Mulder gave his patented nasal laugh.  "But she
said she'll catch up with you at Christmastime, if not before."  A moment's
pause.  "Look, I gotta run; talk to you later."

The afternoon seemed to drag by -- and another four hours under fluorescent
lights in stuffy conference rooms wasn't helping his headache at all.  Bill
sat and watched and looked at charts and listened to a vice admiral with
forty years of military service soberly discussing the relative merits of
putting Coca-Cola versus Pepsi in the vending machines, and inside Bill
felt his soul start to shrivel.  He actually found himself looking forward
to spending the evening with the relatively inoffensive Fox Mulder.

At last it was 4:30, and he was free.  He almost bolted from the Pentagon,
heading for the Metro station, and a few moments later he and Mulder were
tooling down the Beltway once again.  As they sailed through the exit and
onto Highway 50, Bill belatedly realized that by allowing Mulder to pick
him up directly from the Pentagon, he had lost the opportunity to shower
and change out of his uniform.    *Oh, well,  * he thought.  His naval rank
had already come in handy once -- and this WAS, after all, something
vaguely resembling official business, at least by the rationale that he was
operating under.   *And an officer in the United States Navy is never really
off duty, in any case.  *

"Annapolis again?" Bill asked.

Mulder nodded.  "I've arranged to hire a small boat," he replied.  "I want
to go out on the Chesapeake and check out the spot where the bodies were
found."

Bill was amused.  "This was out in the middle of the Chesapeake, wasn't
it?"  Mulder nodded.  "You aren't expecting to find clues are you?
Footprints, maybe?"  He chuckled at his own witticism.

"No, of course not.  I may be a landlubber," he looked briefly at Bill and
grinned, "but I'm not THAT stupid.  No, I want to check the area for signs
of paranormal manifestations."

Bill hesitated.  "You're kidding, right?"

Mulder shook his head.  "Not at all.  That's what I've spent the last
couple of days researching -- and I had Langly and Frohike working on it,
too, trying to track down references to previous paranormal incidents in
that area.  We all drew a blank, but I'm not ready to give up on it; I
think if we can just go out there, we may turn something up."

Bill couldn't believe his ears.  He had gathered from Dana that Mulder had
a rather...unusual belief system.  But this...it was too much.  He shook
his head.  Mulder glanced at him and grinned again.

"You don't believe me, do you?" Mulder asked.  "That's okay; Dana never
does, either.  She keeps me honest -- I don't know what I would do without
her.  She's my other half."

The stark statement floated there in the air between them for a pair of
uncomfortable minutes, while Bill tried to think of something to say in
response.  Finally deciding not to go there, he went back to the original
subject.  "All right," he said.  "Tell me what you think is going on."

Mulder nodded.  "Well," he said.  "First off, there are the odd wounds.
You remember the pathologist thought they might have been inflicted with an
axe or a machete, but they equally well could have been done with a saber
-- or sabers, more likely.  Second, you yourself identified the grapeshot
we found, both in the body and embedded in the ship."

"Boat," Bill said automatically, correcting Mulder's terminology.

Mulder smiled.  "Okay, boat," he replied, then went on with his analysis.
"By the way, I took that pellet we removed from the body to an expert I
know at the Smithsonian.  He confirmed your identification.  Third, as I
told you last night--"

Bill grimaced slightly, but Mulder didn't seem to be making a pointed
comment.

"--my research turned up the fact that one of the men on the boat was the
co-leader of a team of marine archeologists who found what seems to be the
QUEEN ANNE'S REVENGE, and for the last year they've been bringing up
artifacts.  Now, there are plenty of cases on record of ghosts coming back
to haunt people who have disturbed their graves, and while Blackbeard
didn't go down with the REVENGE, he did die in the battle.  The victors
decapitated him and took his head back on a pole -- literally -- but the
rest of his body they apparently just heaved over the side.  So it's
entirely possible that his spirit, or ghost, if you prefer, would still be
haunting the wreck, and might be annoyed at having it disturbed."

Bill said, "You're really serious, aren't you?"

Mulder looked at him, then back at the highway.  "Yes, I am," he replied.
"I've been studying things like this for years.  And I like to think, after
all that time, that I know what I'm talking about."

There wasn't much to say to that, so Bill didn't try.  Several miles went
by, while he sat in silent contemplation.  At last, he shifted in his seat,
and spoke again.  "So if we accept your theory for the moment --" Mulder
nodded.  "-- what do you expect to gain by going out to the spot where the
boat was found?  If I understand your theory correctly, you think that
Blackbeard's ghost is taking revenge on the people who have disturbed his
grave.  And while I can see where...the ghost might have somehow tracked
this guy down more easily when he was out on the Bay, I don't understand
why you would expect the ghost to still be hanging around over an unmarked
patch of open water, more than forty eight hours later."

"Good question," Mulder said.  "Show's you're capable of thinking outside
the box.  The answer is, of course, that I don't expect to find the ghost
still there.  But if it really WAS a ghost, there may be traces that would
still be detectable."

"How?" Bill asked suspiciously.

Mulder laughed.  "Let's leave that until we get there," he said.

They made the rest of the trip without talking.  Bill sat staring out the
window at the strange yet familiar scenery rushing by, while Mulder
whistled a succession of pop tunes from the 70s, just enough off-key to be
truly annoying.  Finally, they arrived at the Annapolis waterfront.  A man
was waiting for them at the boat rental dock, obviously annoyed at having
to stay late.  His annoyance faded somewhat when Mulder flashed his
platinum, government-backed American Express card at him, and before long
they were pulling away from the pier in a small inboard motorboat.  Mulder
had brought along a small valise, which he had taken from the trunk of the
car, but he did not volunteer to explain what was in it, and Bill was too
stubborn to ask.

Mulder wordlessly handed Bill a scrap of paper with some coordinates on it;
Bill took a brief glance at the chart they had found in a compartment under
the pilot's seat, and laid out a rough course that should bring them to the
spot indicated.  "We should be there in half an hour, forty-five minutes,"
he told the FBI agent.  "May as well sit back and enjoy the ride."

They cruised for awhile in silence.  Taking his own advice, Bill leaned
back in his seat and tried to relax.  The sun had set a short while before,
and the brighter stars were beginning to appear in the deepening twilight.
The smell of salt was strong in the air, and in the distance he could hear
seagulls.    *This is what I joined the Navy for,  * Bill thought.    *Yet I
get to do it so seldom anymore.  I've been landlocked for over a year now
-- that's to be expected in any Navy career, of course.  Yet, even when I
draw my next sea duty, the ship is likely to be so big, and I'll be so high
up the chain of command, that I might just as well be working in an office
on shore, for all the time I'll get to spend like this.  *  He shook his
head in self-reproof.    *But that's what I signed up for.  I've had a
successful career; with any luck, I'll get my star before I'm fifty.  But
sometimes the price seems almost too high.  *  And he thought again of the
Pentagon, and shuddered at the thought of spending a two year tour there,
surrounded by ambitious, brown-nosing captains and commanders, taking
orders from clueless civilians in the Defense Department, office politics,
paperwork....Dammit, he was a man of action!  He wasn't cut out for that
kind of life.

"Penny for your thoughts," Mulder said, breaking in on Bill's reverie.

Bill shook himself.  "Oh...nothing.  Just woolgathering."  Mulder nodded,
and waited to see if he would go on.  "I was just...thinking about things.
About my next assignment.  That sort of thing."

"I can understand that.  It must be pretty exciting -- doing something
different every few years, living in exotic ports, that sort of thing."

"It has its moments," Bill admitted.  "Kind of rough on a family, though."
And he realized with a stab of guilt that he STILL hadn't called Tara.
Looking for a way to change the subject, Bill leaned forward and pushed the
GPS button on the dashboard.  The small computer percolated for a second,
consulted with the orbiting satellite network, then coordinates flashed on
the readout.  Bill compared them to the figures Mulder had given him, and
said, "Looks like we're almost there.  Maybe another five minutes."  In
fact, it was only three minutes before Bill was able to push the button
again, nod in satisfaction, and kill the motor.  "We're here," he said
simply.

The two men looked around.  The last remnants of twilight had fled, leaving
them in total darkness.  There was no moon that night, leaving only
starlight to illuminate the seascape.   Off in the distance, to the west,
Bill could see lights of human habitation, and to the northwest there was a
skyglow that had to be Washington.

"I don't see anything, " Bill remarked at last.

"Neither do I," said Mulder.  "But I didn't really expect to."  He opened
the valise, and drew out a small device somewhat larger than a TV
remote-control, and just as studded with buttons.  "Frohike loaned this to
me," he explained.  "He got the idea from a friend of his from New York, a
guy named Spengler.  Of course, Frohike improved on the basic design; this
one is smaller and more sensitive than the original model.  It's called a
PKE Meter -- PKE stands for 'psychokinetic energy'.  Supposedly it can
detect disturbances in the psychokinetic spectrum."  Mulder held up the
device, as if he were demonstrating a new brand of CD player, and went on,
"With Frohike's improvements, this model can even detect the residue left
behind after a paranormal event, although of course the traces do fade over
time.  But Frohike assured me that after only two days, if this really was
a ghost, or ghosts, there should be no problem picking up the trail."

Mulder switched the device on; immediately, numbers started appearing on
the display, constantly changing, and it started issuing a series of
high-speed clicks like a geiger counter.  Mulder grinned and looked up from
the device at Bill.  "Bingo!" he said, and proceeded to walk the length of
the boat, staring at the display on the PKE Meter.  Finally, he leaned over
the side and briefly thrust the nose of the gadget into the water.
Straightening up, he went on, "This little patch of ocean is hotter than a
massage parlor on a Saturday night."  He walked back up to the prow,
swinging the meter from side to side.  "And it looks like the signal is
strongest in that direction," he said, pointing off to the south-southeast.

"That's the direction to the mouth of the Bay," Bill commented.

Mulder nodded.  "Which fits right in with my theory.  Remember that the
shipwreck is off the coast of North Carolina.  If that's where the ghost
normally hangs out, it would make sense that he would want to go back there
after he'd finished with business."  He looked over at Bill.  "Feel like
taking a little ride?"

Bill shook his head, and said flatly, "I am NOT taking this, this...dinghy
all the way to North Carolina.  That's well over 200 miles, and some of it
is open ocean.  Even if we made it, it would take more than a day, and I
doubt if we've got the fuel for a trip that long.  And we didn't bring any
food at all. "  His stomach chose that moment to remind him that they
hadn't even taken the time to drive through a fast food place on the way
here, and growled noisily.

Mulder shook his head.  "I had no intention of asking you to do that.
Believe it or not, I do have some common sense.  What I want to do is
follow this trail for a little ways, and see if it really does seem to be
heading for the ocean.  That's all.  Ten, twenty miles, and then we can
turn back."

Reluctantly, Bill acceded.  It was not an unreasonable request, even if he
didn't believe in that silly little gadget that Mulder was still swinging
around.  And with luck they'd still be back at the pier by ten o'clock, and
home in bed by midnight.  "All right," he sighed, and restarted the engine.

They proceeded on out into the Bay, and gradually the lights that had been
visible on the shore faded, although the skyglow from Washington was still
quite pronounced.  Mulder stood in the prow of the boat, wearing a life
jacket at Bill's insistence, holding the silly little meter in front of
him, and occasionally ordering slight changes to their heading.  Bill took
these instructions with fair equanimity; it was, after all, Mulder's
party.  After more than an hour, however, and having covered nearly fifteen
miles according to both his own dead reckoning and to the GPS, Bill called
out, "Haven't we gone far enough yet?"

Mulder turned his head to look at Bill, then looked back at the meter and
out at the Bay in front of him.  Then he shrugged his shoulders, turned and
walked back to the pilot's seat, where Bill sat.  "I guess so," he said
reluctantly.  "We really can't go all the way to North Carolina, and short
of that, I doubt if we'll learn anything more out here.  Let's head for
home."

Relieved, Bill spun the wheel, and brought the little boat around, heading
back towards Annapolis.  At that moment, there was a muffled sound halfway
between a twitter and a beep, and Mulder pulled his cell phone from a
pocket.

"Fox Mulder," he said, and waited while whoever was on the other end
talked.  "Are you sure?....Yes, sir, yes, I agree, it sounds like...Yes.
I'll be there as soon as I can.  Where did you say, again?"  Mulder dug in
his pocket and took out the stub of a pencil and a scrap of paper, and
scribbled something on it.  "All right.  I'm on my way."  He closed the
phone and put it back in his pocket, then handed the scrap of paper to
Bill.  "Know where that is?"

Bill glanced at the paper, and nodded.  It was a small town on the western
shore of Kent Island.  "Very bourgeois," he commented.  "Upper level
bureaucrats, university professors, those sorts of people."

"Can we get there in this thing?"

Bill glanced briefly at the chart, then nodded again.  "Yeah.  It'll take a
couple of hours, but we can do it.  Why?  What's happened?"

"The killer -- or killers -- have struck again," Fox Mulder said flatly.
"Only two people this time -- a man and his wife.  Their daughter became
alarmed when they didn't answer the phone, and drove over and found the
bodies, hacked to bits, just like the first bunch."


#          #          #

It was an older, rambling house, sitting at the crest of a small hillock
overlooking the Bay.  From what Bill could make out in the darkness, the
architectural style was late Colonial -- perhaps early 17th Century.  Every
window was ablaze with light, and the flashing strobe of a police car was
partially visible past the southwest corner of the building.  A pair of
lights, independent of the building, bobbed about on the lawn leading down
to the water -- policemen searching for clues, Bill supposed.  To the
north, about a third of a mile away, the occasional passing headlight
marked the toll bridge linking Annapolis to Kent Island and the Eastern
Shore.

Mulder led the way off the pier, and the two men trudged up a well-worn
path towards the house.  Abruptly, one of the bobbing lights changed
direction and started moving towards them.  A few seconds later, Bill and
the FBI man found themselves in the center of a bright circle of light.
"Don't move," a woman's voice from behind the flashlight warned them.

Mulder carefully raised his left hand to shield his eyes; with the other
hand, he extracted his I.D. folder from a pocket and extended it towards
the voice.  "I'm Fox Mulder, from the Bureau," he said.  "I think you might
be expecting me."  He gestured with his head.  "And this is Captain William
Scully, United States Navy."

After a few seconds, the light moved off of them, and as his eyes adjusted
back to the dark, Bill saw that the woman holding it was wearing a state
police uniform.  "Sorry," she said, not sounding very sincere.  "Things are
kind of tense around here right now."

"I understand," Mulder replied.  "Okay if we go on up to the house?"

She held up her hand, and said, "Just a sec."  She took a microphone off of
her left shoulder.  "This is Anderson," she spoke into it.  "That FBI man
is here; he's got some guy from the Navy with him, as well.  FYI."

A voice crackled back to her after a second.  "That's 10-4, Pepper.  We'll
pass the word.  Tell the agent  the Lieutenant would like to see him at his
convenience, in the library on the first floor."

"10-4," she replied.  "Anderson out."  She raised her eyebrows at Mulder.
"You get that?"

"I got it," Mulder replied.  The state trooper nodded, and turned away to
resume her slow sweep of the lawn.  Mulder and Bill moved on up the
hillside, towards the house.  They passed several other troopers, and also
a couple of men in different uniforms, presumably from the local police or
sheriff's department.  Nobody else stopped them, however; apparently the
word had already been passed, alerting everyone to their presence.

Mulder pushed open a screen door, and the two men stepped inside.  They
found themselves in the kitchen.  A state trooper stood by the sink,
casually examining the dirty dishes stacked next to it.  He looked around
as Bill and the FBI agent entered the room.

"Fox Mulder, with the Bureau," Mulder said, extending his badge folder once
again.  "And this is Captain Scully, USN.  I'm looking for your
lieutenant."

The man nodded, and gestured with his head.  "Through that door, down the
hallway, second door on your right."

Mulder glanced at the stack of dirty dishes.  "Looks like they didn't have
time to clean up after dinner," he remarked.

The trooper shrugged.  "The Lieutenant hasn't made a determination yet; but
based on that and a few other things, yeah.  It looks like it probably
happened shortly after dinner."

Mulder nodded, and led Bill out into the hallway and down to the door
indicated.  Inside they were greeted by an older man in plain clothes, who
immediately moved towards them.

"I'm Lieutenant Tragg.  You must be the FBI man," he said, extending his
hand.  "Agent Mulligan?"

"Fox Mulder," Mulder corrected, shaking Tragg's hand.  "And this is Captain
William Scully, U.S. Navy."  Bill held out his hand, and Tragg took it in a
firm but not crushing grip -- although Bill had the distinct impression
that Tragg could have crushed his hand, had he chosen to do so.

"Pleased to meet you both," Tragg said.  "Now, may I ask what your interest
is in this case?  Headquarters said you'd be coming over, but they didn't
say why."

Mulder nodded, and proceeded to give a brief resume of the first set of
murders.  "We put a bulletin out on the wire yesterday morning," he
concluded.  "Apparently someone at your HQ made the connection and gave us
a call."

"I see," said the Lieutenant.  "Are you asserting jurisdiction, then?"

"Not yet," Mulder replied, shaking his head.  "I want to take a look around
first, ask a few questions."

Tragg nodded.  "Fire away."

Bill cringed inwardly, and waited for Mulder to start asking about ghosts,
but the FBI man seemed to have a little more sense than that, and began
with routine inquiries about estimated time of death, whether there were
any witnesses, and the like.  The bodies, Tragg revealed, were husband and
wife.  Both were in their mid-40s, and both were on the faculty at the
University of Maryland, the man specializing in higher mathematics, the
woman in marine archeology.  Mulder looked significantly at Bill when he
heard that piece of news, then reached into his pocket and pulled out the
pellet that he and Bill had found Monday evening.

"Ever see anything like this?" he asked Tragg.

The other man raised his eyebrows slightly, took the pellet from Mulder,
and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger.  He looked up, glanced at
Bill, and then looked back at Mulder.  "How did you know?"

"How did I know what?" Mulder asked, a sudden intensity in his eyes.

"The back lawn, leading down to the water, is thick with these things.  The
back outside wall has a few embedded in it, too, although it's hard to see
in the dark."

"Were there any in the bodies?"

Still puzzled, the Lieutenant nodded.  "In the woman there are quite a
few.  I didn't see any in the man, but I haven't examined him very closely
yet.  We're still waiting for the M.E.," he said apologetically.

"Where were the bodies found?" Mulder asked.

"Around the north side of the house," Tragg replied.  "Too early to say for
certain, of course, but it looks like they were trying to run away, the man
carrying the woman, when they were attacked from behind.  Really ugly, just
the way you described that other corpse:  Lots of deep slash marks and
gouges; looks like it was done with an axe, or something."

"Or something," Mulder agreed.    He held out his hand, and the Lieutenant
dropped the pellet back into it.

"What are those things, anyway?" Tragg asked.

Mulder looked at Bill.  "Captain?"

Bill cleared his throat nervously.  "Uh, they appear to be grapeshot."  At
the look of mystification on the Lieutenant's throat, he went on, reciting
the same explanation he had given Mulder two nights before.

Tragg shook his head.  "I don't get it," he said.  "Are you saying this
house was bombarded with cannonfire?"

Mulder shrugged.   "We don't know.  But that's certainly what it looks
like."  He slipped the pellet back into his pocket, and added, "May we see
the bodies now?"  Bill was suddenly very glad that they hadn't gotten
around to eating supper; he guessed that this might be pretty bad.

It was.  The bodies still lay sprawled on the grass where they had fallen,
the man's body partly sheltering his wife's, as if he had crawled on top of
her to protect her.  There were deep gouges across his shoulders and lower
back, and the head was nearly decapitated, attached only by a thin band of
flesh perhaps two or three inches wide.  The woman didn't seem to have as
many slashes on her, but as Tragg had indicated, her body was covered with
the welts they had seen on the victim in the morgue.  Bill's eyes widened
as he saw that her right arm ended in a raw, bloody stump, just below the
elbow; it reminded Bill of an injured Marine he had once seen, who had lost
a foot to a land mine.  A pair of glasses, belonging to the husband judging
by their size, lay on the grass nearby, looking lost and forlorn.

Unable to look away, Bill watched in appalled fascination as Mulder pulled
on a pair of surgeon's gloves and knelt down to get a closer look at the
carnage.  Tragg looked like he wanted to say something, probably wanting to
warn the FBI agent not to disturb the evidence, but he held his tongue.  In
any case, Mulder didn't touch anything, but just squatted there looking.
Finally he glanced up at Bill.

"What do you think, Captain Scully?" he asked.  "Does it look like the same
perp did this?"

Bill swallowed, and nodded.  "Looks like," he said.

Mulder straightened up and turned to Tragg.  "Lieutenant, I am now formally
asserting federal jurisdiction.  The Bureau will fax the paperwork to you
in the morning.  In the meantime, your people may continue their
investigation, but please make sure they know not to disturb ANYTHING.  I'm
going to call in a CSU, but I doubt if they'll be able to get here much
before dawn."  He stripped off his gloves and extended his hand.  "I want
to thank you for your help; sorry we have to pull the rug out from under
you."  Mulder and Tragg shook hands; then Mulder turned and led Bill away,
back down the hill towards the boat.

Mulder pulled out his cell phone and hit one of the speed dials.  Bill
waited while he spoke to someone about getting a Crime Scene Unit sent
out.  As Mulder was putting away his cell phone, Bill asked, "Where are we
going now?"  He was almost afraid to hear the answer.

Mulder replied with an apparent non sequitur.  "How fast could one of those
old-style sailing ships go?" he asked.

Bill shrugged, oblivious to the fact that Mulder couldn't very well see him
in the dark.  "I dunno.  Three, maybe five knots.  On a good day, with the
right wind."

"The bodies were found at around eight," Mulder muttered, apparently half
to himself.  "That's... three hours ago, near enough.  They'd already had
dinner when the attack came, so add on another hour, maybe.  Four hours,
three to five knots...So they couldn't have made more than twenty miles
since the killings, check?"

"That sounds about right," Bill said cautiously.  "Probably less.  Assuming
your guess as to the time of the attack is correct."  They reached the
boat, and Mulder vaulted over the side, causing it to rock precariously.
Bill followed, somewhat more cautiously, and continued, "Look, Mulder, what
are you getting at?"

Mulder's eyes seemed to glitter in the starlight.  "I want to go after
them," he replied.

"That's what I thought," Bill sighed.  "You really believe this stuff,
don't you?"  He held up his hand.  "Never mind; this is your
investigation.  Which way, Kemosabe?"

Mulder reached out to the dock and unwrapped the mooring line.  "Why don't
you start out heading for the mouth of the Bay; I'll get you a more precise
heading in a moment.  But we should be able to overtake them long before
they get to the open ocean, correct?"

"If there's anything there at all," Bill replied, and proceeded to back the
boat away from the pier, then brought it about and headed south.  Mulder
opened his valise and pulled out the PKE Meter again.  He walked up and
down the length of the boat, taking readings, then frowned, shook his head
and did it again.  Finally he returned to the pilot's station.

"This is really weird," he said, in what Bill judged to be the
understatement of the year, "but I think we're heading in the wrong
direction."  Bill looked at him inquiringly..  "I'm getting really powerful
readings," Mulder went on.  "Much higher than before.  But they don't lead
in the direction we're heading."  He turned, and pointed towards the
stern.  "Instead, they seem to lead off THAT way."

"So what do you want to do?" Bill asked.

Mulder shrugged.  "It's our only lead.  I guess we go after them."

"I knew you were going to say that," Bill complained, and proceeded to
bring the boat around to the north.  Mulder moved back up to the prow and
took some more readings, then instructed Bill to adjust their course
slightly.  He then came back to the pilot's station again and sat down.

"How long do you think it will take us to overtake them?" he asked.

Bill shrugged irritably.  "How the hell would I know?" he replied.  "IF
it's one of the old sailing ships, and IF it really did have a four hour
lead...then we can probably overhaul them in about an hour, maybe a little
more.  But those are a couple of big 'ifs'."  The two men sat in silence
for a few minutes, then Bill added, "Just out of curiosity, and supposing
for the sake of argument that you're right, what, exactly are you planning
to do when we DO overhaul them?"

Mulder laughed, and said, "I was wondering when that would occur to you.
The answer is I'm not sure.  We'll have to burn that bridge when we come to
it."

"That's very...encouraging," Bill muttered to himself.

"Why do you think I'm such a happy guy?" Mulder asked.

They continued on up the Bay, passing under the toll bridge, and Kent
Island fell behind them.  Every few minutes Mulder took another reading
with his gadget, and twice he ordered an adjustment to their course,
causing them to angle to the northwest, in the general direction of
Baltimore.  As the hour approached midnight, a fog started to drift in
across the Bay, and the temperature dropped.  Bill found himself wishing he
had brought something heavier than his uniform jacket, although Mulder
seemed to be completely insensible to the cold.

At length, the fog became so thick that Bill had to throttle back.  Mulder
looked at him questioningly, and Bill shrugged.  "Fog," he said.  "Won't do
us any good to maintain top speed if it makes us run up on a sandbar, or
collide with another boat."  Mulder was obviously unhappy, but he nodded.
Bill thought about it a minute, then shrugged again and edged the throttle
forward just a little, and the boat's speed increased by a knot or two,
which seemed to make Mulder feel better.

The fog continued to thicken, and the temperature continued to drop; twice
more Bill had to reduce the throttle, but still they continued to make
progress.  Finally, the shore appeared out of the mist, dark and shadowy
and forbidding.  Bill throttled back yet again, until at last they floated
motionless, the engine idling, just a few yards from the western shore of
Maryland.  "Where now?" Bill whispered.  He didn't know why he was
whispering; it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Mulder frowned, and stared at his PKE meter.  He took several readings, and
slowly walked the length of the boat.  "It should be right around here," he
muttered.  "The numbers are maxing out no matter which way I check."  He
massaged his chin thoughtfully.  "What do you think?"

Before Bill could answer, there was a muffled booming noise, and Mulder
whirled around.  He listened intently, and was rewarded when the noise was
repeated.  He pointed to the north.  "That way," he said.

"Are you sure?" Bill asked.  "Fog can distort sound, you know."

Almost as he spoke, there was another boom.  "That way,"  Mulder repeated
firmly.  "Get it moving."

Bill shrugged, pushed the throttle forward, and brought the boat around to
the heading indicated.  The temperature continued to drop, and Bill started
to shiver, clamping his teeth together to keep them from chattering as the
cold, moist air seeped into his bones.

"There!  Look!"

Squinting, Bill Scully leaned forward over the wheel, peering into the fog
and trying to make out what Mulder was pointing out.  Finally, he made out
a large, shadowy object rising up out of the water.  Reflexively, he pulled
back the throttle until the little boat was barely creeping forward.
Gradually, as they drew closer, Bill was able to make out more details, and
a prickle of fear ran down his spine as he realized that he was looking at
an old-fashioned sailing ship.  He couldn't make out enough detail to
identify it precisely, but there was no denying what it was.

In Bill's mind, alarm bells were ringing, and every instinct was telling
him to turn around and get out of there.    *It's got to be a replica,  * he
thought, but somehow in his heart he knew it wasn't.  He felt panic
bubbling up, but  he forced it back down again, and made himself
concentrate on what was happening.

"Let's try to work our way around it," Mulder said.  He had returned to the
pilot's station and was standing next to Bill.  "The ship looks like it's
tied up to a pier."  Sure enough, after a few minutes of maneuvering a
small pier materialized out of the fog, and the great, hulking ship was
nestled up beside it.  Bill steered his small command up next to the ship,
made his line fast, and the two men clambered up onto the pier.

"There's no one here," Mulder observed.

Bill nodded.  "Pretty sloppy security," he said tersely.  He felt tight,
confined, overcontrolled, and he remembered suddenly how he had felt the
first time he faced real combat.  He walked towards the gangway, trying to
peer upwards through the mist.  There didn't appear to be anyone on deck,
either.

Abruptly, there was the sound of a scream piercing the fog, followed by
three unmistakable gunshots in rapid succession.  Bill whirled around in
time to see Mulder pull a gun from under his jacket and go charging off the
pier and into the fog.  Feeling suddenly very naked, with no weapon of any
sort with which to defend himself, Bill ran after him, cursing under his
breath.

There was another shot, and Bill realized that the sounds were coming from
off to his left somewhere.  He altered his course and continued running,
searching desperately for Mulder.  He was tempted to call out, but didn't
wish to draw  the attention of whoever was firing the gun.  There was still
another shot, this one very close by, and suddenly a figure appeared out of
the fog.  Bill skidded to a halt and stared in horror.

The man approaching him looked like something out of TREASURE ISLAND.  A
dark, sinister-looking greatcoat swirled and billowed around him as he
walked, revealing a torn and tattered white chemise.  The cuffs of his
weathered and mudstained breeches were tucked into high leather boots; on
one hip he wore a cutlass, and on the other a brace of pistols.

And his head was on fire.

No, that wasn't right, Bill realized as he looked closer.  Rather, the man
had woven a dozen or more candle stubs into his beard and lit them, and the
flames surrounded his face with a wreath of fire, sending
malevolent-looking smoke billowing up into the fog.

With an unearthly shriek, the stranger drew his saber from its scabbard.
It glinted and glittered in the candlelight, and Bill's eyes widened as he
realized that the man must have seen him, and that the dark splotches on
the saber must be blood.

With another shriek, the man flourished the saber over his head, then
lowered it and charged at Bill.  Bill suddenly realized that he had been
standing stock still for much too long; now he ducked and dived, and the
saber whipped past him, missing his neck by inches.  He hit the ground and
rolled, then scrambled to his feet, already breathing hard, more from the
shock than the exertion.

He turned to face his antagonist again; the other man seemed to be taking
delight from Bill's predicament.  His face was lit by an unholy grin as he
lowered the saber and charged once again, and again Bill was forced to dive
and roll.  This time the tip of the saber actually nicked his forehead, and
instantly blood started streaming down his face, blinding him in one eye.

Desperately, he struggled to his knees, but the other man was already
preparing for another charge, and Bill knew that if he tried to get to his
feet he would never make it.    *Mulder, where the hell are you?  * he
wondered.

The man charged again; Bill ducked under the saber and grappled him around
the waist.  They struggled together for a moment; the other man was wiry
and amazingly strong, and Bill realized with a thrill of renewed fear that
this was a fight he might not be able to win.

The stranger hammered at him with the butt of the saber, raining blows down
on Bill's back and shoulders, and Bill cried out in pain.  He lowered his
head and butted the other man in the midriff, forcing him to stumble
backward in order to avoid losing his balance.

Unfortunately, it also caused Bill to lose his purchase, allowing his
assailant to open the space necessary to bring his saber back into play.
The man swung the saber once, twice, and the second time Bill barely
managed to avoid the slashing blade.

Clambering to his feet once again, Bill backed quickly away, trying to put
some distance between himself and the stranger.    *I've got to find some
way to gain the initiative,  * he thought.    *I've got to get inside that
sword again.  *  But even as he formulated the thought, he felt his heel
catch on some sort of obstruction and he went over backwards almost before
he realized what had happened.

His head struck something hard, and the world started spinning around him.
Dazed and confused, he tried to move, tried to climb back to his feet, but
he couldn't control his limbs -- and he realized that he was about to die.
Sadly, he moved his lips, trying to croak out a last confession, but before
he could finish the universe spun out of control, and everything went
black.

                                                                #
#          #

THURSDAY

Bill Scully awoke in a hospital bed.

The first thing he was aware of was a dull throbbing in the back of his
head.  The pain surged and pulsed through his brain, interfering with his
thoughts, but he finally decided that this was a good sign.  After all, if
he was able to feel pain, and think about feeling pain, then it stood to
reason that he wasn't dead, after all.  He groaned, and opened his eyes.

Fox Mulder was sitting in the chair next to the bed.  He held a book in his
lap, but he was sitting up straight and looking at Bill attentively.  Their
eyes met, and Mulder smiled.  It seemed warm and genuine.  "Good morning,
sleepyhead," he said.

"Good...morning?" Bill asked.

"Well, actually it's early afternoon.  But what's a few hours among
friends."  Mulder smiled, and Bill found that he was able to smile back,
despite the throbbing headache.

"I know this is going to sound stupid," Bill said.  "But where am I?"

"You're in Anne Arundel Medical Center," Mulder replied.  "You remember;
where we met that nice Dr. Scarpetta.  Fortunately, you turned out not to
be in need of her services."

"Am I --"  Bill stopped, and decided not to ask how badly hurt he was.
Time enough for that when the doctor arrived.  Instead, he inquired, "What
happened... last night?"

Mulder nodded at the implicit question.  "It was last night; you've only
been out for a few hours.  As to what happened -- I was hoping you could
tell me.  I didn't see a thing."

"You're kidding."

Mulder shook his head.  "Nope.  I heard that scream, and the gunshots, and
I raced onto the shore -- and promptly got lost in the fog.  Then I heard a
couple more shots, and some shrieking, and that led me to you.  But by the
time I found you, you were already flat on your back and out like a light.
What happened?"

"I...I'm not sure," Bill replied.  He tried to think about it, but all he
could dredge up were some crazy memories about a man with a head made out
of fire...which of course was impossible.  "Everything's all mixed up, I
guess.  Maybe it will come to me later."  Mulder nodded, as if that were
the reply he'd been expecting.  Bill continued, "Uh, what...what was that
ship doing there, anyway?  Did you ever figure it out?"

Mulder shook his head.  "By the time I was sure you were okay and in good
hands, and made it back down to the pier, the ship was gone."  The FBI
agent frowned.  "So was my PKE meter.  I don't remember where I put it; I
guess it must have fallen over the side into the Bay, although I spent a
fair amount of time looking around in the shallows after the sun rose, and
couldn't find it."

"Were there...more killings?"

Mulder's lips tightened, and he nodded.  "Three people, and guess what?
One was a marine archeologist."

"So the case is still active?"

"Technically," Mulder replied.  "And I've got a few other leads to follow
up on.   But as a matter of practice...that marine archeologist was the
third of the three co-leaders of the group working on the QUEEN ANNE'S
REVENGE."  He shook his head again.  "I've got a feeling we've heard the
last of this."  He changed the subject.  "By the way, I took the liberty of
calling in sick on your behalf," he said.  "It took a few phone calls, but
I finally reached someone at the Pentagon who knew who you were and was
willing to accept the message.  Oh, and my boss will vouch for the fact
that you were injured in the course of an official investigation, so you're
off the hook in that regard.  He also said we can probably get the Bureau
to pick up the medical bills."

"Thanks," Bill said in surpise.

"I also spoke to your wife."

"Tara?  You talked to Tara?"

Mulder nodded.  "Yeah.  It seemed better to have it coming from me than
some TOTAL stranger.  She's worried, of course; wanted to jump the first
flight out here.  But I reassured her that everything seems to be fine."
He grinned that old grin, but this time it seemed somehow like an old
friend rather than an annoyance.  "It's not like you were hit in a vital
area."

"Thanks a lot," Bill muttered.

Mulder continued, "The doctors want to keep you another night, but they
said there's no reason you shouldn't be able to catch your flight home
tomorrow -- barring the unforeseen, of course."

"Of course.  What about Dana?"

"I didn't tell her.  Tara said not to.  She said Dana would only worry, and
there will be plenty of time to tell her later."  Mulder shrugged.  "My
guess is that Dana will be pissed about that when she finds out, but Tara's
your next of kin, so I felt I had to defer to her.

Bill nodded.  "Tara's right," he said.  "And so are you.  Dana's a
complicated person."

Mulder smiled, and again there was that light and animation that always
seemed to enter his eyes when he talked about Dana.  "How well I know it,"
he said.  "I just hope I'm not anywhere nearby when she DOES find out.
Maybe I can get myself sent to Europe on assignment for awhile, or
something."

That forced a laugh out of Bill.  "Don't worry; I'll make it clear to her
that you're not to blame."

"Thanks," Mulder said, and then he stood up.  "Well, now that you're awake
and up to date, I'd probably better get out of here and let you rest.
You'll probably want to call your wife, too."  He headed for the door.

Bill licked his lips, and said, "Mulder.  Wait."  Mulder turned around in
the doorway, a question mark on his face.  "Uh....you don't have to go.  If
you don't want to."  Mulder raised his eyebrows in query.  "I mean it,"
Bill said, surprising himself as much as he was doubtlessly surprising
Mulder.  "Why don't you stay awhile, and we can talk."


#          #          #

FRIDAY AFTERNOON

"You know, this really isn't necessary," Bill said for the third or fourth
time, as Mulder steered his car into the parking lot at Ronald Reagan
Washington National.  "I could have taken the Metro."

"It's no trouble," Mulder said in response, sliding into a parking space
that Bill would have guessed was too small.  "I'm always looking for a
chance to play hooky on Friday afternoon."

Mulder jumped from the car and pulled Bill's two bags from the trunk.  He
ignored Bill's attempt to take one of them, and led the way into the
terminal, and Bill trailed along behind, feeling slightly foolish.  The
only outward sign of their adventure was a neat bandage on his forehead
where the sword -- or something -- had slashed him.  Bill had only vague
and imperfect memories of what had happened, and what he DID remember he
was inclined not to believe.    *When someone hits his head,  * he reasoned
uncomfortably,   *things can get rather scrambled.  *

Bill already had his boarding pass, and he didn't have any checked luggage,
so he was able to bypass the ticket counter.  He expected Mulder to drop
out at the security checkpoint, but instead the FBI agent dropped Bill's
bags on the x-ray conveyer, flipped his badge at the guard, opened his
jacket to show his gun, and walked around to the other side of the metal
detector, where he again scooped up Bill's bags.

"I see there are some perks to being in the FBI," Bill remarked once they
were away from the checkpoint.

Mulder smiled slightly.  "I probably shouldn't have done that," he
replied.  "We're really only supposed to do that on official business.  But
what the hell."  The two men walked in silence for a few minutes.  They
reached the designated departure gate just as the overhead speaker
announced first call for boarding.  Bill turned and took his bags from
Mulder, who reluctantly released them.  "Well, I guess this is it," Mulder
said.

"I guess it is," Bill replied.  They stood looking at each other for a
moment, then Bill shifted his bags around so that his right hand was free,
and stuck it out at Mulder.  Mulder hesitantly returned the gesture, and
the two men shook hands.  "I want to thank you," Bill said.

"Thank me?"  Mulder looked surprised.  "For what?  The cut on your forehead
or the bump on the noggin?"

"Neither of those," Bill replied.  "What I want to thank you for is the
opportunity to get a better idea of what Dana's life is like."  He shook
his head.  "No, that's not right, either.  What I really want to thank you
for is getting in my face, and forcing me to get to know you better.
And...I'm glad this turned out to be a surmountable opportunity."

Mulder smirked.  "Golly, Bill...does this mean we're going steady?"

Bill rolled his eyes, and shook his head.  "Sorry; I'm a married man."

Mulder smiled back.  "I guess I'm kind of spoken for, too, in a way" he
admitted.  "Sometimes I wonder why Dana puts up with me."

"I'm sure she does, too," Bill commented wryly.  Again the overhead speaker
announced his flight.  "Look, I'd better get going," he continued.  He
switched his bags around again, and turned and headed for the gate.  At the
last minute, he turned around again.  Mulder had already started to walk
away.    "Mulder!"  Bill called, and waited while Mulder turned back to
face him.  "You take good care of my baby sister, you hear?  Cause if you
don't, I'm gonna come back and kick your ass!"  And without waiting for a
response, Bill Scully spun on his heel and hurriedly entered the gate, and
walked onto the plane.

The trip back to California was the most relaxing flight he'd been on in a
long time.


#          #          #

FRIDAY EVENING:  EPILOGUE

Dana Scully was tired and frustrated.  It had been a long week in a fleabag
motel in Cedar Rapids, and to add insult to injury she'd wound up spending
most of her time cooling her heels in the lobby of the federal courthouse.
By the time the week was over, she'd been ready to kill the defense
attorney, and she wasn't real crazy about the prosecutor, either.  She'd
relieved some of her stress by fantasizing about doing autopsies on the two
men, but that only helped so much.

What peeved her most of all was that those two cretins had caused her to
miss a rare chance to spend some time with her brother.  Her only
consolation was the sure knowledge that God would eventually bring the two
lawyers to account.  She knew it was wrong of her, but she couldn't help
treasuring in her heart the anticipation of that moment.

She heard the TV playing before she unlocked her apartment door, and knew
that Mulder must be inside.  And she was right:  There he was, slouched on
the sofa, an open box from Pizza Italy sitting on the coffee table next to
his feet.  Well, that settled one question:  He and Bill apparently hadn't
killed each other in her absence.  At least, Mulder was sitting there, very
much alive, and Dana was reasonably certain she would have heard from Tara
if anything had happened to Bill.

Time enough to get the details later; what she really wanted right now was
a beer.  She dropped her bags by the door, walked into the kitchen and
opened the refrigerator.  She was about to grab a bottle of Rolling Rock --
Mulder had apparently finished her supply, and bought a new 12 pack, which
was very sweet of him, and would probably allow him to live until morning
-- when she spotted two bottles of root beer sitting in the back of the
fridge.

  *Mulder!  *  She smiled the fond smile that she never let Mulder see,
pushed the 12 pack out of the way, and carried the two bottles of pop back
into the living room.  She sat down on the sofa next to her partner, and
handed him one of the bottles without comment.  She twisted the cap off her
own and  took a deep swig, then kicked her shoes off and put her feet up on
the coffee table next to his.

Mulder leaned forward, grabbed a piece of pizza and a napkin, and handed it
to her.  Mushroom and black olive; her favorite.  Again she smiled her
secret smile -- it was safe to do so; his eyes were still glued to the TV
-- and took a large bite.  She hadn't realized how hungry she was.

"You know," she said, still chewing, "this stuff is really very bad for
us.  Cholesterol."  She shook her head reprovingly, and took another bite.
On the TV screen, a caveman was running frantically through the jungle,
carrying a woman over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.    *DINOSAURUS!  *
she thought, identifying the movie instantly.  "We must have seen this
movie a dozen times," she commented aloud.

Mulder smiled briefly.  "Probably," he replied, still watching the
television intently.  "Sure beats the hell out of JURASSIC PARK."

He leaned back into the sofa; Dana finished her slice of pizza in two more
big bites and decided that reaching for a second piece wasn't worth the
ribbing he would give her.  Instead, she said, "I like this movie.  I just
wanted to make it clear for the record that we have seen it before.
Several times."

"Twelve times, Scully," he corrected.  "You said twelve times."

"I haven't actually been counting," she admitted.  "It might be eleven.  Or
thirteen."

"But you said twelve times," her partner persisted.  "I think you should
stick with that number.  Your hunches are usually pretty accurate."  They
watched in silence for a moment while a tyrannosaurus fought with a
brontosaurus.  The brontosaurus lost, of course, just as it had the other
twelve times they'd seen this movie together.

"I don't see any blood, Mulder," she said at last.  "Did you and Bill get
along okay?"

Still watching the television, Mulder waved his hand dismissively.  "It was
fine," he said.  "We had a few beers.  We had a few laughs.  He's really
not that bad a guy."

Dana stared at him in disbelief, then shook her head.  If her partner and
her brother had actually managed to bury the hatchet, that would be a minor
miracle.  Still, stranger things had happened -- most of them since she
started working on the X-Files.  She'd have to call Tara in the morning,
though, and see if she could pry the truth out of her sister-in-law.  In
the meantime, that pizza was smelling awfully good, and Dana was still
feeling hungry.  Tentatively, she reached out for another slice.

"Cholesterol, Scully," Mulder reminded her, that annoying, endearing grin
on his face.

"Sometimes I wonder why I put up with you, Mulder," she replied, and
defiantly picked up another piece of pizza and took a truly huge bite out
of it, disregarding the cheese and tomato sauce that squirted off the sides
and ran down her chin.  With a sigh of contentment, she again leaned back
into the sofa cushions, and rested her head on her partner's shoulder.
"You know," she said, "Bill really doesn't understand about us, Mulder."

"Nobody understands about us, Scully," Mulder replied.  "We're unique."

"I guess that's true," she said.  And after that she was quiet, and the two
friends sat together, eating pizza, drinking root beer, and watching
television, far into the night.

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