Title:  Domination of Lies
Author and E-mail:  C Slatton at cslatton@pdq.net
Rating: PG  for language. (Put that bar of soap down!)
Classification:  X (X-File), S, H (I hope), A (if Mulder's anywhere around, ya 
gotta have it).
Keywords:  M/S friendship/UST
Summary:  Mulder, disillusioned with his beliefs, hauls Scully in on a case for 
Violent Crimes. And they stumble into a mystery that hits a little too close for 
Spoiler: As many as possible, apparently, through Detour.
Archive:  Yeah, sure. Whatever.

Disclaimer: Did I say I wrote this? I lied. Or maybe this is a lie. If I'm a 
liar, which lie do you believe? Welcome to Mulder's world... Anyway, here's the 
part where everyone seems to start whining about having to give credit where 
credit is due. Well, I'm proud to say I don't own these characters and you'd 
better be glad that someone with far more creativity and drive does own them 
(namely CC and Company) otherwise they'd have never seen the grand light of day 
and we wouldn't be out here wasting so much of our time worrying over people who 
don't even exist. So shad-up already, no one's forcing us to write this stuff!

Author's Note: If I were truely perverse, this thing would be called Death, Life 
and Oodles Noodles. But I'm not (you'll never take me alive!) so this is what 
you got. If you like it, tell me. If you hate it, tell me.  But tell me WHY. 
Monosyllabic flames will be appropriately dealt with, unless of course, they 
evidence good word usage.  My next endeavor requires, at times, a bit more --ah-
- colorful phraseology than I'm used to using and maybe you have something I can 
use... If you're skimming and notice reference to a psychiatrist and a psych 
hospital please note: Mulder is not in it! 'Nuff said.... You know who you are, 
you wonderfully twisted little minds...

Further Disavowals: Mulder Incorporated are property of 1013 Productions and 
Chris Carter, God love `em. The FBI, Quantico and the US Marine Corps 
Reservation are property of the Federal Government (isn't that us US tax payer! 
I own them!). Carl Jung was himself (I hope) and I have only paraphrased him 
here. Wallace Stephens is wonderful and is, or rather was, himself and I have 
quoted him, citing his authorship. The poem is "Domination of Black," copyright 
1954, printed in a number of fine anthologies and used here without permission 
with total lack of guile. Bob Dylan's quote is from "The Ballad of Judas Priest 
and Frankie Lee" and is used here under the same non-suspicious circumstances 
and intent. The John Douglas quote is from his book, The Mind Hunter.

If you recognize someone, then they're not mine.

The parks exist and I've tried to describe them as true to reality as possible. 
YADA YADA YADA.  On with the point of this little triad... (didn't think I had a 
point, did ya?)


        It was dark and quiet. After all the noise and chaos of the day, the 
silence was a treasure in small hands. Now only the stars, stretched horizon to 
horizon in their moonless void, stared steadily down at her through towering 
hemlock and pine.
        Stretched full length upon the snow, she stared steadily back. Both 
dainty feet, shoeless, rested very ladylike side-by-side, just below the hem of 
her white gown. Her arms were outstretched, palms up, the cups of her hands 
filling with fresh unmelting snow.
        Winds whispered and branches responded in hushed tones high above. Far 
below, the pale little girl lay quietly on an expanse of white.
        And stared unblinking at the still, silent stars.


        "Am I keeping you awake, Agent Mulder?"
        Mulder dropped the hand rubbing his eyes and sat up straighter. "No sir. 
I mean--"
        "Just how well do you know Dr. Bruner?"
        Mulder regarded Skinner across the desk. "Who?"
        Skinner set his jaw.  , 
Mulder thought.
        "When I walked into my office yesterday morning the two of you certainly 
seemed chatty enough," the Assistant Director prompted.
        Mulder shook his head; it seemed to help knock something loose. "The 
phone call? Ah, you weren't here and your secretary wasn't answering, I picked 
        "How long did you speak?"
        "No more than a minute. I didn't even get his name before you walked in 
and took the phone."   Mulder bit his lip 
        "Well, he certainly got your name, didn't he? Per his request, I'm 
sending you to see him." He tossed the agent a bio file, sat watching, turning 
his pen end on end as Mulder scanned the first page.
        "Dr. Emil Bruner, psychiatrist," Mulder read. He looked up playfully.  
"You made me an appointment. How thoughtful."
        "Not three years ago," Skinner explained, "Bruner was the top 
psychiatrist in DC. His patient list included twelve Congressmen, twenty-two 
Representatives and a number of high ranking military and Bureau personnel. He 
was discreet, trusted and sanctioned by two Secret Service investigations.  Then 
one day he literally chews the head off a former Ways and Means Committee 
chairman during an appointment."
        "I must have missed my newspaper that morning."
        "For security purposes, the death was officially recorded as a heart 
        "Heart attack?"
        "Heart attack."
        Mulder considered. "I can see how having his head chewed off could do 
that to a man.  Was any reason found for the good doctor's sudden penchant for 
        "No." Skinner grimaced, "Actually, I understand it wasn't cannibalism, 
at least not technically.  Apparently Bruner didn't ingest."
        Mulder nodded reasonably.  "And Clinton didn't inhale."
        Skinner wasn't laughing. Mulder couldn't help it: "Dr. Emil Bruner, 
 psychiatrist. And you made me an
        As usual, Skinner wasn't taking the bait. "Your appointment's in two 
hours. Dr. Heissman's the Director of the Institute. He'll see you have as much 
access to Bruner as security precautions will allow--"
        Mulder was shaking his head again but this time nothing was shaking into 
place. "Why is Bruner calling you?  How is Bruner calling you?  And just what am 
I supposed to be seeing him about? Or is Jodi Foster just unavailable for 
Silence of the Lambs II?"
        Skinner stared him down. "I'm glad to see you're feeling so well, Agent 
Mulder, especially considering you look like Dante's third level of hell.  Next 
time, try parking your smart-ass routine at the door. As for your question: 
Bruner is notoriously well-behaved, at least as long as he's not within biting 
distance of anything human. His first week in incarceration he attacked a 
psychiatrist, two guards and a nurse. Since then he hasn't been touched by human 
hands--at least not while he's conscious. Like most psychopaths, he manipulates 
his own therapy and as a psychiatrist he's better at it than most.  So when he 
actually is co-operative Heissman allows him a privilege or two. Like an 
occasional outside phone call. I don't know why he called me." He paused, played 
with his pen a moment without looking at Mulder.
        From across the desk, Mulder caught a whiff of the lie, small and white 
as it was and sat silently. Skinner passed him credentials and a Maryland 
driver's license. Mulder regarded the license, the name next to his photo said 
Dr. Heitz Verber. He looked up to Skinner's steely gaze.
        "You're going to Baltimore. Alone.  I'm telling Agent Scully you're away 
tending to personal business.  And that's exactly what I expect her to hear from 
you. You get in, you see Bruner, you get out.  You don't let that maniac inside 
your head. I don't want to hear from you until you're back here. Then you report 
to me.  Only to me. And in person. No phone calls. Certain people have expressed 
an interest in one phone call too many as it is." He lifted a file from the 
desk, revealing the unempty ashtray beneath.
         Mulder mused, unsurprised somehow, 
        Skinner regarded him, waiting for a reaction.  There was none and he 
nodded his admiration. 
        "I don't know what the hell all of this is about, Agent Mulder," he 
smiled humorlessly, "but then I hear that's what the I's for in FBI."


        As the third set of security doors slammed and locked behind him, Mulder 
fought back the familiar wave of claustrophobia. He heard the breathing of 
inmates around him, felt the surveillance of numerous eyes locked between his 
shoulder blades and defied the urge to shake them off. Here he was, a hater of 
cages, walking into a world of cages filled with the caged of the world. Some 
he'd put here himself.  Freud would have a written a whole set of papers on him, 
he was certain.
        "Dr. Verber?"
        It took Mulder a minute. "I'm sorry, I was just, uh, thinking."
        Dr. Heissman's assistant nodded blandly. Apparently he was used to 
absent-minded academic types. Having met Heissman upstairs, Mulder understood.
        "I was just saying I'm late for my rounds so I'll be leaving you with 
Bruner's orderly." They had approached a fourth set of gates and Dr. Graham 
waved through the bars to a desk set in the corner. Yet another security door 
dominated the wall facing them and Mulder cocked his head. He could swear he 
heard chamber music. From the shadows behind the desk a large black man with 
graying hair rose and just seemed to keep on rising.  The man would have been 
formidable in a Packer's uniform; in his orderly's coat he was nonetheless 
        "This is Wallace," Graham made quick introductions as Wallace unlocked 
the door.
        "Sorry to interrupt your evening, Wallace."
        "'Wally's' fine, Dr. Verber." Wally's handshake was anything but 
disappointing but it was friendly enough. He smiled after the retreating form of 
Dr. Graham. "He never has liked coming in here." He winked conspiratorially at 
Mulder, "But then he got a good look at the last doc that got too close to Dr. 
        Mulder nodded.  He'd gotten a good look at the postmortem photos in 
Bruner's file.
        "Who's jamming?" he nodded in the direction of the ward.
        Wally smiled again.  "Oh, Dr. Bruner's the only patient on this ward, 
Dr. Verber.  He tended to play mind games with the other patients, you 
understand.  Just between you and me, I think he really started out intending to 
help them, but then--," Wally shrugged sadly. "He just can't help it, I guess. 
Anyway. He's pretty well locked in around here, so we try to give him what he 
wants when we can.  Keeps him happy. I'll turn it down for you, though. I'll be 
grateful for the break. He's had me play this thing over and over and over for 
the past three days."
        "It's Schostokovitz, isn't it? The one he dedicated to victims of war." 
Mulder was impressed that he could identify the piece so readily but the music 
had made quite an impression on him when he'd attended the concert on the steps 
of the Holocaust Museum.  But then the museum was an impressive place to sit in 
silence, as well.
        Wally laughed. "Sounds like the two of you went to the same music 
appreciation class. Me, I'm a Stones fan."
        Now Mulder smiled. "I don't imagine you get many requests for 
 around here."
        Wally unshot the bolt in the door with an appreciative chuckle but put a 
massive arm across the jamb as Mulder approached. "Dr. =
Bruner's been told of your arrival," he said, suddenly all business. "I wish I 
could tell you he was happy with it, but I couldn't tell. He's a hard man to 
read most times. I tried to put a chair in the hall for you but he had a little 
bit of a fit about that. I can get it for you, if you like. He's usually a 
little better behaved with company. No? Okay. Here's the rules.  Nothing but 
nothing passes from your hand to his or visa versa.  Any papers or whatever you 
might have for him goes through me. No exceptions. You stay to the center of the 
corridor. Do not touch the bars. Don't even get close to them. It makes him 
nervous. You need me, yell.  I can see you on the camera," he nodded at the 
monitor on the desk, "but we're wired for video only so you'll have privacy."
        He moved aside and let Mulder pass. Mulder heard "You be careful in 
there" before the bolt slammed into its housing and he found himself walking 
toward the cage of his nightmares.
        It dominated the end of the corridor: the standard bars reinforced by 
yet another set of bars placed four feet behind them. Between was a rubber 
network of mesh.  Someone was taking no chances. Bruner's lights were off, his 
sparse furnishings vague shadows; it was difficult to tell which shadow was 
Bruner. Mulder stopped a respectful three yards from the bars. 
        "Dr. Bruner?  May I speak with you, sir?"  Silence from within. Mulder 
thought about the breathing he'd heard in the other wards coming in.  The only 
thing he heard here was the hum of fluorescent lights; one of the fuses was bad. 
He felt the hair stand on the back of his neck. He had stood within striking 
distance of any number of career criminals and psychopaths, most without the 
comfort of bars or restraints, and had felt only healthy fear, fear designed to 
insure survival. Raging terror was a rarity in his psychological makeup.  The 
presence behind the bars, however, exuded a malice he found difficult to resist, 
as though it could reach through the cage and walk into his soul and take 
possession. Mulder allowed himself the acknowledgment that he was scared. It 
kept him from shaking visibly.
        He looked back down the corridor at the bolted security door with its 
tiny window then around for the camera.  It was positioned for maximum coverage 
of the cell.  Mulder estimated the best position to prevent any lip reading.  It 
put him an uncomfortable 3 feet from the cell. He smiled to himself.  
        He heard a slight--was it a rasp?--as he approached and stood as 
unthreateningly as possible: hands folded in clear view, feet close together, 
head lowered, his voice low-pitched and calm.
        "Dr. Bruner. I know you've been told to expect a Dr. Heitz Verber. I--"
        "Ever been on a foxhunt, Dr. Verber?" The voice was raspy and harsh like 
a seldom-used door. There was a deliberation in the speaking that went beyond 
the play of words.
        "Yes," Mulder answered cautiously.
        Still no movement within: "Were you the hound or are you the fox?"
        Silence on both sides of the bars.  Then Mulder answered quietly, "Fox."
        Bruner approached from the corner to Mulder's right, then stopped, his 
upper torso and face still in shadows.  He was a stocky man without being fat, a 
good half foot shorter than his guest. Mulder noted the form of the head: too 
large and round as a ball. A remarkable head to have so much twisted up inside 
        Mulder allowed himself to be inspected, wondering mildly if he should 
pirouette for his host.   He tried to recall 
whether random waves of giddiness accompanied sleep deprivation. 
        Bruner asked softly, "Did they tell you they have video only 
surveillance here?" Then softer still: "Did you believe them?"
        Mulder held quite still. Bruner inhaled deeply in the silence as if 
savoring some delightful fragrance. He bent sideways from the waist until one 
eye was free of the shadows for Mulder's perusal.
        "Do you know me, sir?" the agent asked.
        "Do you know yourself, little Fox?" Bruner mused without blinking that 
solitary eye.
        Mulder's mind jerked, a tectonic plate shifted in  his brain and burned 
clear to his gut.
        Once, many years ago, in the front room of his parents' house, someone 
had called him that. . He could still hear his father's booming 
laugh. He felt his hands grimy with playing outdoors, felt his head hot with 
anger at being brought in to be presented to grownups he didn't know, didn't 
care to know. Long before Samantha disappeared. Long before Samantha. When it 
was just Fox. Little Fox. He'd hated the name ever since.
        "There's no reason for you to remember me."  Again that soft rasp.  
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Mulder contemplated what kind of damage 
Bruner may have caused himself in attempting to appropriate the head of a Ways 
and Means Committee chairman. He slammed the thought down quickly and saw a 
slight smile tug on Bruner's jaw. 
        For the life of him, Mulder felt his knees begin to give and he sat down 
carefully, cross-legged in the floor, marveling at his own sudden loss of 
control. He had interviewed as many violent offenders as any seasoned agent  in 
the Bureau, most of them certifiable.  He had prepared himself for the usual 
ramblings, charming or not, highly articulate or not. All he had expected to 
receive from this meeting was a load of inconsequential BS. As far as he was 
aware, he had not set himself up for this reaction and it frightened him in a 
vague, disconnected manner he was unaccustomed to. His training held firm in one 
regard, however: he refused to break eye contact, to disconnect his level gaze 
from that one deep eye.
        The figure behind the doubled sets of bars and the dark mesh regarded 
him a long while before approaching the limits of his cell, his face at last in 
the light: an old man with sparse gray hair, eyes piercing hot and anything but 
feeble. Fox knew Bruner smelled blood. For a moment, the younger man's heart 
danced lightly against his chest. Bruner's eyes were eager and hungry, green, 
sea green and just as deep. , Mulder thought and that gnawing 
fire spread up from his gut and clamped around his heart. Making it beat harder, 
slower, listening.
        Bruner whispered,  "I didn't know your sister. I have no answers for 
you." There was a pause. He lisped sadly, "Should I not have asked for you to 
come? "
        Still Mulder refused to drop his gaze. He felt tears hot behind his 
eyes, forced his anger to dry them before they fell.  The headache he had managed to ignore all morning pulled a switchblade on 
his right temple.  Questions poured from the wound like a storm let loose. He 
did not trust himself to ask them. To trust no one sometimes included not 
trusting himself; he sat silent. He'd bitten his tongue in his struggle there on 
the floor. The blood was bitter and angry in his mouth.
        He concentrated on his breathing and watched Bruner settle himself on 
the floor, against his bars, mimicking Mulder's own cross-legged stance. The 
madman acknowledged his guest's recompose with a soft  "Ah."
        Above Mulder's head and behind him the bad fluorescent fuse popped 
again, sending the light into a flickering fit.  Bruner looked like an image in 
an old nickelodeon film, jerking and sputtering upon a dark screen.  Mulder 
heard Skinner's voice: 
           For all his anger, Mulder was tired; he felt he could 
sleep comfortably on the floor where he sat, with a psychopath for his rear 
        Bruner smiled softly at him, sea green eyes roaring joy as though he too 
could picture that and Mulder suddenly heard someone laughing.  After a moment 
he realized it was himself.
        Bruner was watching him, fascinated, waiting for him to recover before 
        "Have you ever prayed to die, Little Fox?"
        "Yes." It was stated as simple fact.
        Bruner began to smile again, thought better of it. "And were you angry 
at God when He didn't answer?"
        "He answered."
        "A 'no,' obviously." Bruner chanced an indulgent nod.
        "Actually, I believe the answer was 'yes.'" Mulder deadpanned. He was 
feeling giddy again. "He just hasn't gotten back with me on the timing yet."
        Now Bruner was laughing. It was silent and painful to watch.
        "You were not surprised by the question." It wasn't a question; Mulder 
didn't respond.  He recognized psychoanalytical bait with he smelled it. Bruner 
was not to be put off, however.
        "Perhaps, sir, you consider the subject of life and death only so much 
balls aching crap."
        It still wasn't a question, but if this was the only track Bruner had, 
Mulder could follow at least the first mile. "Nothing is ever about anything 
else but life and death, as you well know. Of course, that still doesn't keep it 
from being balls aching crap, does it?"
        Bruner smiled again. "And do you dream?" He asked. He was quite still 
but Mulder could sense him circling, searching for the wound in his new prey.  
Bruner repeated the question. "Do you dream, Fox?"
        "Only in Jungian terminology." A little humor between psychiatrists 
conducting clandestine sessions on the floor of a mental institution. Even Freud 
would have appreciated it. Mulder closed his eyes momentarily; he was certain he 
would need a tranquilizer soon. 
        "What colors do you see when you dream? There's quite a bit of red in 
your dreams, is there not?"
        "I'm red/green color-blind."
        "So you say. But not in your dreams, sir. No, you see quite clearly in 
that great land." He smiled at Mulder's silent acquiescence.
        "You've been dreaming the same dream for several nights," Bruner was 
uncomfortably sure of himself about a number of things,  things Mulder couldn't 
argue with. "What is it you dream, Little Fox?"
        Mulder opened his mouth to shut Bruner up with the Little Fox routine. 
He closed it again without quite knowing why.
        "Lately I haven't been dreaming much.  I haven't been sleeping well."
        "Because your dreams disturb you," Bruner insisted, smiling again. "What 
is it you dream?"
        Mulder regarded him, his chest pounding, his head too light.  "Of little 
girls in the snow."
        "I see why you choose Jung," Bruner answered patiently. "Freud would 
have had an orgasm over that, wouldn't he?"
        Mulder couldn't take his eyes off this monster in his cage.
        "Little girls in the snow. Ah." Bruner inhaled deeply again, savoring 
Mulder's confession through his open mouth, rolling it on his tongue.  "And what 
do your little girls speak to us of? Purity--no, no, we must never, but never 
confuse purity with decency.  Purity outside the Godhead is irrational. And it's 
not God you're dreaming of, or is it, my hunted Fox?" He closed his eyes, 
rolling the dream around again. "Little girls lost in the snow. Children." His 
eyes pierced Mulder again. "We are all the children of our darkest hours. What 
is your dark hour?  I think I know. How old are these little girls lost?" he 
       Mulder eyes fixed in sickening realization. "About seven or eight." 
Samantha had been eight  when they'd come for her.
        "And what are you pursuing?"
        Mulder was startled. "Pursuing? In my dreams?"
        "No, Little Fox. In your life. What are you pursuing? Peace? No. No, not 
yet, I think. Love? But love is so painful,  isn't it? One must be careful to 
avoid it once hurt, if possible. It is such a difficulty and after all, so much 
of what we call love is only so much emotional con. No." Bruner nodded at his 
new patient. "Justice, I think."
        "Truth," Mulder countered in a whisper. Listening to Bruner made his 
throat hurt. He told himself all of this was the cheap philosophizing and crap 
he'd come here expecting. Love and emotional con. Hell, psychopaths were the 
ultimate emotional con. Even to themselves. He wanted to leave. This  was a 
waste of time; Scully would tell him he was reading far too much into Bruner's 
"Little Fox" schpiel.  Still the little boy with the grimy hands burned in his 
guts and would not let him up from the floor. And Mulder was tired, like a man 
swimming so long against a tide he no longer cared if he went under.
        Bruner was shaking his head, the sea in his eyes darkening. "Truth," he 
almost spat the word. "A poor choice, offering little gratitude for the search 
while demanding much too much. Tell me, Little Fox, how do you fit that in a 
test tube? Not everything can be proved by scientific method, sir.  Not even the 
existence of Napoleon, given the nature of history in the hands of conquerors."
        Mulder regarded him blankly.
        "How do you know when you've found the truth?" Bruner asked patiently. 
"How do you test it for accuracy?"
        Mulder blinked slowly.  "Bob Dylan has a song that says 'Don't go 
confusing paradise with that home across the road.'" It was his turn to be 
patient. "Unlike the truth, facts can be manipulated. Never but never confuse 
facts with the truth, Dr. Bruner."
        "Ah." Bruner's smile was irritatingly indulgent. "And what truth do your 
little girls bring? Do you know?"
        "No. Not yet."
        "Perhaps they have no truth. What then?"
        "That's not possible."
        "How so?"
        "Because they're dead. And the dead always speak the truth. They have 
nothing else."
        "Unlike the living?" Bruner smiled and his heart froze when the young 
man on the floor smiled back. It was one of the most genuinely joyful smiles he 
had ever witnessed.  The same smile he remembered all those years ago.  The 
smile he'd thought for years he'd helped destroy. There was something in the 
eyes, however, he had not noticed before. They were the intense green of an 
animal. A wounded and angry animal. Bruner regarded the face that could hold 
such a smile. The soft and sleepy expression. The eyes that bled too deeply. 
Mulder returned his gaze steadily, unblinking. For the first time in many years, 
Bruner recalled fear. Unable to break Mulder's gaze, Bruner's eyes unfocused.
        "He was right," He rasped, so softly Mulder was not certain he'd heard. 
"You are the one."
        "The one what?" Mulder's voice was level but not kind.
        Bruner's eyes refocused. "What is it you pursue?" he repeated. "What is 
it you say you seek?"
         The word hung unspoken between them.
        Bruner nodded. "Seek and you shall find. But careful of your questions. 
There is a price." He smiled. "But then you already know that."
        Bruner closed his eyes abruptly and stood. "Time to go now, Little Fox. 
Run away home."
        Mulder heard something small hit the floor, skidding through the 
interior bars, sliding under the mesh, stopping just short of the outer bars.  A 
felt tip pen.  He sat frozen, eyes moving from the pen to Bruner's face. The 
shadow back across his eyes,  Bruner's jaw was expressionless as he stepped back 
into the shadows. "Quickly, now," he rasped.
        Mulder cursed his own fear; reaching in for the pen his hand shook.  
Then he was on his feet again, on his way out of this world of cages. He refused 
to run.


        "Come in, Agent Mulder."  Skinner held the door, regarding Mulder with 
that particular look that said the cat had swallowed the canary and the next of 
kin were over his shoulder requiring cat liver. As he entered, Mulder inhaled 
deeply, expecting the acrid smell of cigarette smoke; what he got was a 
chokingly powerful whiff of Skinner's Old Spice.
        The next of kin however were indeed seated expectantly at the conference 
table.  Mulder's alarm level heightened as Scully nodded at him from her 
position between Jeff Leichman, SAC for Violent Crimes and his shadow, Pete 
Glenn. Mulder stood watching Skinner take his seat at the table; Skinner waved 
Mulder to one of his own with a castigating look that was lost on no one.
        Leichman cleared his throat. Pete snapped to and passed a thick file to 
        "We've been discussing the possibility that you might be able to shed 
some light on a case we've been having some difficulty with, Agent Mulder."
        Mulder nodded at Leichman, sparing another glance for Scully. She raised 
her brows at him over her eyeglasses and her own pile of papers.  Mulder opened 
his file and was confronted with one of those photos that will put your life 
back in perspective. Even putting his glasses on, it took a minute to recognize 
the subject as human.
        The second photo, apparently of the same crime scene, was no better.  
The body was badly decomposed: the greenish-red skin had blistered and was 
beginning to burst, the nails loosen. Something gauzy and rotted draped the 
swollen torso. It was an out-of-doors scene; Mulder bit the inside of his cheek. 
Outdoor killings were the worse: the indignities of exposure to the elements and 
the casual eye were like a final hateful slap. It didn't help that this victim 
was obviously a child. Shots of the hands followed, each presenting a swollen 
hole in the center of the palm.
        He flipped through some typed reports and came to another set of photos. 
The subject was simply a set of bones laid out, what looked like fragments of 
paper scattered among the remains. Exterior crime scene. Child. The prints 
following showed the hand bones: one finger was missing.   He lifted the file 
and began digging for the next set of photos, feeling Scully's eyes on him. She 
had questioned him once about his penchant for looking at the pictures first, 
like a toddler with a storybook, she'd said. Behind his eyes, he heard John 
Douglas, his Criminal Behavioral Science instructor:  
        The next set of photos found, he dropped the file back on the table 
abruptly. This body had been a fresh find, only perhaps 6 hours old before 
discovery.  The skin was a waxy blue-gray, the corneas still clear, rigor mortis 
yet a few hours away. To Mulder, however, this was the worst of the three. There 
was something about the position of the body. Something tugging at the corner of 
his brain.  Something he could taste. Bitter and dark. Like blood.
        He shuffled back through the prints, laying them out on the table side 
by side, standing to get a clearer overview. Oblivious to the glances of 
satisfaction that swept round the table, he stared at the hand shots of the 
third set of photos. There was the same wound in the palm as the first victim. 
Mulder's eyes grabbed the hand photos of the second child and with a grim smile 
of satisfaction he located a grazing wound on one of the central metacarpals.
        He sat down and looked at Leichman expectantly.
        Leichman knew Mulder's reputation well enough to not get too cocky about 
the agent's apparent interest. He kept his most professional tone and manner. 
"All the girls are Jane Doe's," he explained, "approximately seven to eight 
years of age found in various national parks in Virginia. All are minus heart 
and liver, professionally removed." Leichman paused to let that one soak. "All 
were wearing paper hospital gowns. We've run every lead we could find and then 
some on unauthorized transplantation. Nothing. Ditto on unorthodox research and 
morgue thefts."
        "Any sign of sexual assault or necrophilia?"
        "None.  We suspect the killer's into organ specific fetishism but there 
are no signs of sexual aberration common to necrofetishists. No sadism, no 
        "What if the killer's just sexually dysfunctional?" Skinner speculated.
        Scully shook her head. "We would still expect evidence of sodomy or 
object rape. I don't believe this is about lust or domination. At the same time 
I can't imagine anonymous eight year olds as subjects for contract killings."
        Mulder was scanning the autopsy protocols for the free histamine tests. 
"He's certainly not into overkill. All the discernible damage seems to have been 
done postmortem."
        "Including the palm injuries in both hands," Leichman agreed. "I take it 
you noticed that on victim two, as well. We're assuming the both hands part on 
that one; there's no bone damage on the other hand. You're partner here has 
speculated it's some type of stigmata phenomenon."
        Scully opened her mouth but Mulder spared her the trouble. "You must 
have misunderstood, sir. Agent Scully is well aware of the difference between a 
phenomenon and a penknife. I'm sure the allusion is what the killer had in mind, 
        "This is cult-related activity then?"
        Mulder shook his head as much to clear it as to answer. "What makes you 
think it is?"
        Leichman frowned, feeling his hook begin to slip. "The stigmata wounds, 
the cross position of the bodies, the bodies being drained of blood and washed. 
Each one laid out under a tree..." He tapered off, looking around the table for 
        Mulder was back to looking at pictures. "Victim two is the only one 
missing a finger."
        Leichman nodded.  "Considering the state of the body, it's probably just 
a fluke. An animal may have run off with it, anything."
        "Are all the bodies facing the same direction?"
         "Uh. Up?"
        Mulder glanced up a little less than patiently. "In relation to the 
compass. East, west, what?"
        Leichman turned on Glenn who made a note. "We'll find out."
        Mulder rubbed his eyes. The six aspirin he'd choked down at the cooler 
hadn't made much of an impact. He didn't see Leichman's puzzled expression; 
Scully stepped in.
        "Most Christian burials are done with the body facing east," she 
explained, "toward the return of Christ.  However, since the majority of burials 
in this country are laid out along that same direction, Christian or not, it may 
or may not be significant."
        Mulder nodded.  "All the bodies facing west could mean a satanic cult 
but they're usually not so careful about the condition of their victims at the 
point of disposal."
        "They're also usually rather adamant about inflicting some form of 
torture on their victims," Scully added. "Especially children."
        Mulder winced, rotating a suddenly throbbing shoulder. "They're also not 
usually noted for their surgical skills," he said.
        "What if the positions are random?" Skinner was looking at Mulder's 
photo display from across the table.
        "That would be a surprise." Mulder conceded. "There doesn't seem to be 
very much random arrangement to the crime scenes. You say they're all found 
under specific trees?"
        Leichman looked back hopelessly to Glenn.  But this time Glenn's notes 
were up to snuff.  "Hemlock," he quipped proudly. "They're fairly common to the 
        Leichman nodded blankly. "Is that significant?"
        "It's apparently significant to our UNSUB." Unsub, unknown subject. It 
always amazed Mulder, this need to label the reprehensible, to give a breathing 
death a name. He was looking at the photos again. Three unnamed children. 
"Explain the washing of the bodies," he said.
        Leichman shook his head. "That's where it gets weird. They're not just 
clean. They're not just washed and dressed. They're immaculate.  Like someone's 
chemically sanitized them. And there's our situation. There  no evidence. 
Not so much as a loose dead skin cell. Forensic Botany found some spores but 
they're all indigenous to the forests the bodies were found in."
        Mulder smiled sweetly. "There goes your cult theory." He leaned forward. 
"I'm not buying the X-Files slant you're trying to feed into this, sir.  In the 
Hillside Strangler investigations, law enforcement only had two tufts of fiber 
as evidence after ten murders--"
        "But they had those two tufts. That's more than we've got." Leichman 
leaned forward, his face hard. "Look, Mr. Mulder, I don't care if this fits your 
protocol or not. This cannot be the work of some garden variety psychotic. You 
don't take three eight year olds and lay them out cold like that without making 
a mistake. Leaving something behind. Something undone. There should be some kind 
of evidence, damn it!"
        "First day of Academy training, sir," Scully countered, quoting: "'The 
single most important piece of evidence in any murder investigation is the 
victim's body.' We have three."
        Mulder stared down at the photos.  "What's this 
they're laying on," his voice was very quiet. "Snow?"
        "Yes, Agent Mulder," Skinner could have flayed him with that voice. 
"It's February. It's snowing in the mountains in Virginia."
        Scully sensed a storm brewing from Mulder's side of the table, a storm 
that had nothing to do with Skinner or Leichman. A storm whose eye was cold and 
too calm and focused in the photo Mulder was holding in one unsteady hand. The 
third victim. 
        "Perhaps I'm missing something," she announced, deliberately pulling the 
table's attention away from her partner. "If the killer has access to such 
sophisticated means of sanitation why go to all the trouble? Aside from the fact 
he could simply bury them in all this wilderness, surely he could get hold of a 
little sulfuric acid and get rid of the evidence entirely. No body. No 
investigation. No questions."
        There was silence around the table. Mulder had pulled out a felt tip pen 
to make some notes and was staring at it. He said almost absently, "Maybe that's 
exactly what he wants. Someone to ask questions." He almost whispered, "And, 
maybe, I am the one."
        Across the table, Leichman and Skinner exchanged glances of surprised 


     "Relax, Scully.  It'll just be another nice little trip to the forest."
     Scully stopped peering out at the pines looming heavily on each side of the 
road long enough to glance at her partner. "That's what I'm afraid of." She sat 
back behind the wheel as he laughed. "Well, Mulder, you have to admit between 
mutant bugs, invisible moth men and cannibalistic wild women, our track record 
with the Forestry Service leaves a great deal to be desired. And to think I 
actually used to enjoy camping."
     "No camping. This trip is strictly hotel/motel."
     "Cluck, cluck."
     Scully slowed to allow a semi to pass. It was a moment before she felt safe 
enough to spare Mulder another glance.  He looked tired.  Which was probably why 
he hadn't protested when she insisted on driving them to Shenandoah National 
Park where Jane Doe Three had been recovered. The last time she had done sixty 
down Skyline Drive she'd been in the trunk of her own car with Duane Barry 
behind the wheel.  This time she wanted to be certain the trip was her idea.
     "Mulder, Do you ever get the feeling that the X-Files is just where we get 
to hang out until ViCap needs you?"
     He muttered, "You mean it isn't'?"
     "Why don't you try getting some sleep instead of playing with that pen?  
What is it? One of those novelty pens with a girlie picture in one end?"
     Mulder smiled. "No. Something much more interesting."
     Scully risked a longer look. "Now I know you need sleep."
     Mulder had taken the pen apart for at least the third time in as many 
hours, collecting the pieces in the rental car's cup holder.  He shook his head.  
"There's something here, Scully. What do you see?"
     "A broken pen."
     Once more, he began reassembling the marker, examining each piece carefully 
as he screwed and snapped the parts together. The sun came out from behind a 
cloud and set the powdery snow on both ground and trees glowing with unnatural 
fire. Mulder stared out at the splendor doing sixty-five miles per just past his 
window. The full length of Skyline Drive meandered along the crest of the front 
range of the Appalachians; up here, several thousand feet high with nothing but 
virgin forest on either side, the Bureau, Bruner and the rest of his life were 
far away and trivial.  He wondered what would happen should he simply walk off 
into that wilderness and never emerge. He sat a moment, absently turning the pen 
cap over and over in one hand. "Poetry with roots and sap."
     Scully followed Mulder's gaze up through the lush pines and barren birch to 
the rugged grandeur of the Little Stony Man Cliffs. "He causes it to rain on a 
wilderness in which there is no man," she quoted quietly, surprising herself 
that she had spoken aloud. Mulder looked at her curiously.  She blushed. "I've 
been reading through Job."
     He nodded. "And the point?"
     "Ahm. That God is faithful even when no one is looking? I don't know, 
looking at all this beauty here in the middle of nowhere, it just seemed to 
     Mulder looked back out the window silently.  He had known Scully had 
returned to her religious upbringing since enduring the worst of her cancer and 
had remained comforted by it even beyond her recovery.  He was grateful for the 
peace it seemed to give her. There were days he was  envious of it himself. He 
was thinking again about Bruner and what he had said about Mulder's anger.
     "Scully, do you remember the last time we were in the woods?"
     "Who can forget invisible moth men, Mulder?"
     He smiled. "I meant do you remember what you said when you were trying to 
get a fire started?"
     "As I recall, 'trying' was about all I managed," she smiled. "I recall you 
saying you had seriously considered dying but only when you were at the Ice 
Capades. Why, do you have tickets?"
     She looked at him carefully; he was staring out the windshield, avoiding 
eye contact but refusing the discourtesy of turning his head away entirely. She 
said, "I'm listening."
     "You said you were angry about your cancer. About the senselessness of it."
     She waited.
     He sighed. "This isn't exactly the question I think I'm wanting to ask 
but," he shook his head. "Did you ever get angry at God about your cancer?"
     "Yes. Sometime I think I'm still mad. But, Mulder, God didn't give me 
cancer.  It was those tests, when I was  abducted and that computer chip was put 
in my neck."
     He turned to look at her, his eyes hot, his mouth grim. "But if he's God," 
he demanded, "couldn't he have stopped them?"
     For a moment she thought he was on the verge of tears and the thought 
frightened her suddenly. This depression of his lately was getting out of hand.
     She began to speak, stopped, uncertain what to say. "I think," she said 
slowly, "we all have things happen in our lives that change us, for better or 
worse.  I think a lot of those things happen because of the decisions of other 
people and we can only make more decisions, hoping to make things right, or at 
least better.  And I think that God allows people to make those decisions, bad 
or good because if he controlled and manipulated everything he'd be no better 
than the evil we despise."
     "So he confines himself to miracles like flowers and forests and 
rainstorms--" Mulder sing-songed.
     "And the love people have for one another. And sometimes miracles like 
curing people of cancer, or at least providing the means for their cure."  She 
risked a long look at him. "Or putting people in the world that are strong 
enough to fight for what is right, who care enough to keep looking for the truth 
even when everyone else turns away. The basic requirements of the human heart 
are still faith, hope and love, as hokey as that may sound. No shortcuts. No 
substitutes. That's why I do this job, Mulder. That's why you do it, too."
        He sat looking ahead, still restlessly angry but thoughtful. She heard 
him whisper something that ended in "children of our darkest hours."
        "You're angry at God because he didn't keep your sister from being 
stolen away." Scully said gently. "Remember when the bounty hunter exchanged 
Samantha's clone for me? You made that choice, Mulder. To give up a woman you 
thought was your sister for me. You told me your father was upset because you'd 
lost her again." She paused. "Maybe God has to make those kinds of choices, too. 
And maybe he has to endure our anger and disappointment."
        Fox was silent. 
        She continued. "This depression you're experiencing... If there's one 
thing I've learned about you, Mulder, it's that you have way of delaying your 
responses to events.  It's part of what makes you a good investigator. Like the 
dreams you had years after you closed the Paper Hearts case. You've learned 
early in life to survive by delaying the effects of stress and here, with 
everything you've seen through this past year, in Russia, the cases--"
        "It's amazing," his voice was hard and abrupt. "I'm the clinically 
certified psychologist and everyone else wants to play armchair psych but me. 
I'm sorry, but just where was I supposed to have learned this survival technique 
so prevalent in your little theory?"
        "Your sister's abduction--"
        "Damn it, Scully, Samantha does not influence every area of my life."
        "Yes, she does."
        He stared at her in amazement.  There were no words in his mind. Just 
numbing shock. He refused to accept  her rational.  He could not accept it. He 
was angry suddenly, viciously, and it frightened him. 
        Scully glanced back at him, misreading his closed expression and his 
silence. "Mulder, with that psych degree of yours, haven't you ever considered 
that you might just suffer from survivor's guilt? That it colors your perception 
of everything else?"
        He had found his voice at last. It was flat and too hard. "Including my 
concept of God? Let's see, now, he's supposed to outlast us all.  And being God, 
he would know that, so do you suppose maybe He suffers from survivor's guilt, 
        This was getting a little to convoluted for her and he was becoming 
increasingly agitated. "You know," she said lightly, "I distinctly remember that 
in that same conversation you said you that you believed, and I quote, 'God is 
supremely indifferent as to whether we live or die--'"
        "No, I said 'Nature is supremely indifferent.' Even in my limited 
theology, the two terms are not interchangeable."
        "Of course not, that wouldn't leave you with much of a God to be angry 
at," she laughed, trying too hard to lighten the mood. "It's not nice to fool 
Mama Nature--"
        "So now I invent the God I want so that I can hate him?" He was not 
laughing. "And of course, you're on a first name basis with the right one and he 
makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Now who's delusional?" He looked away.
        This was not going well; she wasn't used to this kind of hostility from 
him. Her voice was quiet. "I'm not suggesting that an infinite being can be 
fully comprehended by a finite being, Mulder.  It's just that I believe in a God 
who wants to be known, that pursues us more than we pursue him."
       "Yeah, well then, it's a hell of a thing, isn't it," he said finally, 
"Now after all these years of pursuing Samantha, I finally find her and she 
doesn't even want anything to do with me. Looks like me and God have a few 
things in common, wouldn't you say?"
        She slowed the car and watched him, fearfully. "Mulder, you don't even 
know if this woman is your sister. She could just be another ploy. Another clone 
for all we know."
        *So,* he thought, *I should have peace, hope and joy over the fact that 
Sam may still be missing?* He didn't voice the thought.  He knew Scully was 
grasping at straws, trying to find something, anything to lessen his pain.  But 
his head felt like it would explode just at that moment; that if his mouth 
formed the words an aneurysm  of boiling anger would flood his brain and choke 
the life from him. Mulder looked down at the pen cap he gripped in both hands. 
The plastic was starting to buckle from the pressure. He hated the pointlessness 
of this. He hated himself for caring. He looked back up and out the windshield, 
willing himself to relax. To not think. He pointed to a small sign to the right.
        "There's the turnoff to the ranger station," he said hoarsely. He 
returned his attention to the pen but it was  obvious he no longer really saw 
        Turning off the well-traveled Drive, Scully slowed to accommodate the 
combination of blacktop, gravel and potholes that comprised the narrow service 
road.  The rumble of traffic faded behind them to the soft roar of wind high in 
the canopy of trees. Scully had resigned herself to completing the remainder of 
the trip in silence when Mulder suddenly jerked upright.
     "Scully, do you have a tweezers?"
     "Tweezers? In my makeup bag, I think."
     "Which is where?"
     "In my suitcase in the trunk. Why?"
     "Stop the car."
     "Mulder, what--"
     "Stop the car!"
     Scully braked quickly, pulling over to the side as far as she dared.  She'd 
scarcely came to a halt when he had his door open, skipping out as the brakes 
skid on the gravel shoulder.
     He rapped his open hand on the back window. "Pop the trunk, Scully."
     She complied, scrambling out of the car and pushing him away from her 
overnight bag. "Do you mind?"
     "I was going to let you open it."
     Scully found the little case quickly but held the tweezers tightly in her 
fist.  "How much are they worth to you?" she asked her exasperated partner.
     "You've been edgy and moody for almost two weeks. Now you're waxing 
philosophical and obsessing over a felt tip pen, for crying out loud. Just what 
is it you're up to, Fox Mulder?"
     "I'm not obsessing over the whole pen, Scully. Just the cap. See?" He held 
it in his open hand, innocent that he was, and she snatched it, dancing away 
with both the cap and the tweezer.
     "I'm just going to look at it, Muld-- Ohhh! Mulder, I'm going to hurt you! 
Stop it! "
     He submitted.
     "I'll give it back," she promised as he stepped away, shoving his hands in 
his pockets and setting his jaw. She  gripped the cap tightly, keeping one eye 
on him; he didn't usually surrender so easily. He rotated his shoulders tiredly, 
pacing with impatience and cold as she looked down the barrel of the cap at the 
bit of dark paper rolled up inside. Certain he had resigned himself to behave, 
she fished out the contents and pocketed the tweezer and cap to unroll it. 
Mulder peered over her shoulder intently.
     "What does it say?"
     Scully was silent a minute, turning the little paper this way and that. 
"It's just a blank piece of paper."
     "No!" He snatched it away, digging out his penlight in the bright sun to 
inspect the tiny strip. Finding as much as she did, he straightened, turning 
away from her, pacing first this direction, then that, finally slamming his fist 
against the top of the car. "God, I'm so sick of this crap!"
     She gave him a minute. "Mulder, what is it?"
     He shook his head, still without looking at her. "Just the same old BS, the 
same lies and double speak. Why do I do this to myself, Scully?  Why do I let 
them do this to me? To us? I've found Sam. Why can't I just walk away?"
     "Mulder, you can't close the X-Files. We've been over this before. The 
truth is--"
     "Out there, yeah. Right. But has it ever occurred to you, Scully that maybe 
I just don't give a damn anymore."
     "Scully, look at the past five years of your life, for Chrissake. We've 
been lied to by law enforcement in most of the continental United States, the 
CIA, the NSA, the NSC, and let's not forget our own beloved initials otherwise 
known as the Friggin' Bureau of Investigation. Both of us have been shot at, 
kidnapped, and used as lab rats. We've had family murdered. I haven't been 
exactly keeping score here but I do distinctly recall being stalked, surveilled, 
shot, shot at, stabbed, strangled, drowned, frozen, flash-fired, bombed and 
poisoned and quite frankly, my dear Dr. Scully, I'm tired."
     She stood silently absorbing the triad, flinching at the violence with 
which he flung the words.
     "Mulder, you lost the faith to keep looking once before. You just need to 
find it again."
     He stared at her, his eyes hard and much too green.   "No, I don't, 
Scully," his voice was flat. "That's just my point."
      She stood numbly, watching him as he took off up the road. After a moment 
she became aware of the frozen air turning her breath to mist and she collected 
her makeup kit. She had stowed the overnight bag in the trunk before she 
realized that this time he wasn't just pacing and was making pretty fair time. 
She started the car, hoping she could convince him to get in so they didn't make 
too odd an entrance at the ranger station.


     They never made it to the ranger station. Mulder had been too tired and 
disappointed to argue with her about walking and he was sitting beside her 
quietly when they came to the roadblock.  It was comprised of a single bright 
orange sawhorse in the middle of the road with a Jeep parked behind it on the 
shoulder. No one appeared to be home. Scully stopped, shared a shrug with her 
partner, and honked.
        There was a sharp thud in the Jeep and a yelp of pain as the vehicle 
began swaying. After a moment's effort, a heavy set man in a Park Services 
uniform came sliding out, puffing and groaning, backside first.
     Scully looked over at Mulder in bewilderment. He was watching the show, 
head to one side and she turned away quickly. He was about to smile and she knew 
that was all she would need to start laughing.  And once she started laughing, 
it would be all over.  She bit her tongue and tried to recompose herself as the 
gentleman approached her window.  He leaned over and she presented her badge.
     "FBI, huh?" He tried unsuccessfully to cover the top of his head with the 
few very long wisps he had left. "You folks runnin' a tad late, aren't you?"
     "I'm sorry?"
     "Well, the rest of the arson investigators arrived last night. We figured 
that was the last of you."
     Mulder leaned over to the window. "Exactly where was the fire?"
     "Up the road here another two miles.  Puts it almost dead center between 
Brown Mountain Overlook and Rocky Mountain, about a half mile from Big Run."
     "Mulder, that's--"
     "Jane Doe Three's stomping grounds," he nodded, keeping his voice low. 
"Sir, how large an area did the fire cover?"
     "Several acres in one direction, a good three miles in the other."
     "If we stay on this road then, we should be able to find it?"
     "Well, you won't see the fire damage from this road, but you'll come to 
another roadblock. That one's unmanned though." Scully smiled at him sweetly and 
he blushed. "Well. Yeah. You can just park there and proceed east of the road on 
foot just a little ways.  You'll find it okay. Just give me a minute to move my 
     It took more than a minute.
     "Mulder, don't you think you should get out and help him?"
     "It might hurt his feelings, Scully, seeing he's a local official and all. 
Besides, I wouldn't want to make him look bad after he just discovered the love 
of his life." He blinked at her innocently.
     "You're just jealous."
     "Damn right. You don't smile at me like that."
     Finally on their way again, Scully was careful to give the old gentleman 
her friendliest wave.
     "Suck up," Mulder grumbled.

     The old man had been right on target with his directions. Scully pulled her 
jacket closer; the trees that would have
provided a wind break here on the mountainside were now just so much sodden ash 
and debris. She stared across this bare spot on the Old Dominion and shook her 
     "Yeah, it is a shame," Mulder agreed, looking back at her.
     "Who'd want to do something so senseless?"
     He shrugged, his breath visible in the cold mountain air. "Maybe someone 
with something to hide."
     "You're so certain this has something to do with the body?"
     "I'm not certain of anything. I just think it's odd that in a park covering 
two hundred thousand acres, the one area recently favored by a killer as a 
dumpsite is also favored by an arsonist."
     They spun around to find a park ranger approaching in an ATV. He stopped, 
leaning out of the vehicle to inspect their badges.
     "Special Agent Dana Scully. Special Agent Fox Mulder. Uh huh." He 
straightened up and regarded Mulder blankly as he flashed his own credentials.  
"And I'm Ranger Rick Badger."
     Mulder was careful to keep his face expressionless. "Glad to meet you, 
     Ranger Badger squinted at him suspiciously.  "Most people like to make some 
kind of wise ass crack about now. But with a name like Fox, I guess you know 
     Scully closed her eyes so the ranger wouldn't see them rolling.
     Badger regarded Mulder's innocent face and spat thoughtfully on the sodden 
earth.  "Uh huh.  So, you folks out here to investigate the arson?"
     "Actually, no," Scully confessed. "The body of a little girl was found out 
here about twelve days ago.  We've just been called into the case and were 
coming to look over the area."
     "Yeah, I remember. Real shame, that.  Well, I'm sorry to have to disappoint 
but there's not much left but ash and dead animals. Climb on in, I'll take you 
out there, if you want. You need to hold on though. =
This trail drops about four hundred feet in a quarter mile."
     Bouncing along the rough terrain, Scully managed to ask: "What evidence has 
your team found for arson? Couldn't this simply have been an out of control 
     "Well, first off, campfires are banned year round in this area of the park. 
Second off," he shrugged, "you're in the forestry service long enough, you get a 
feel for different types of fire: how it burns, how hot, how high, how fast, the 
color of the smoke.  Then of course, the lab guys have been out, ran 
chromatography and spectrometry.  This one was probably set with a match or a 
cigarette, the two best igniters: after the burn, no evidence. It just goes up 
in smoke with the acreage."
     Mulder leaned from the back seat, one hand on the ceiling to keep himself 
from bouncing into it periodically.  "Was there any sign of diffused explosive? 
Nitric acid or--"
     "Naphtha," Badger nodded. "One of the choice accelerants of arsonists. And 
     Scully frowned. "I don't recall ammonia being especially combustible."
     "Arsonists use it to keep firefighters away, to let the fire burn longer.  
It also offsets the odor of any fuels used to accelerate the fire. Like 
gasoline. But like I said, this was naphtha, with a little benzene here and 
there. One match and poof! Of course, we're continuing our investigation. So far 
we have no motives, no suspects. Nada. Zilch. And here we are."
     The ATV lurched to a halt and Mulder and Scully looked around at the 
desolation and back at each other. This was the most damaged area they had been 
through yet.
     "Here we are where?" Mulder quipped, his adrenaline rising, anticipating 
the answer.
     "Your crime scene," Badger smiled grimly. "And mine. Ground Zero."
     Scully felt her stomach roll over. "Our crime scene is the fire's point of 
     In the back seat Mulder closed his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck. He 
smiled when Scully asked: "Know any good motels, Ranger Rick?"


        "Room service, heated pool open even in winter, five star hotel. Hey, we 
should splurge like this more often, Scully."
        "We're going to have a hard enough time convincing the Bureau we were 
here because the local motels were full of skiers."
        "Well, since we'll probably wind up paying for part of it anyway, what 
do you say we enjoy ourselves? Dinner and
        Scully sighed as the elevator chimed their floor. She knew he had to be 
kidding about the  dancing. She'd do well to get him to eat. "Dinner. No 
dancing. And no dinner till I wash this smell out of my hair." The wind had not 
been kind; they were both gritty with soot. "Give me about an hour," she said as 
he saw her to her room.
        He stopped and turned back to her, his hotel room key jangling in his 
hand. She was standing with her hand on the doorknob, her jaw working slightly 
like she was tasting her words before offering them to him.  Her face was 
pinched. The lighting in the corridor was not kind.
        "You really scared me. On the way into the park---
        He cringed and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Scully, I just-- I don't 
know, maybe I should have the water softener in my building checked out again."
        "Don't do this. Don't laugh this off. It's important to me."
        He looked down, half turned, wanting to be anywhere at that moment but 
where he was.
        "Please don't do it, Mulder. Please don't close the X-Files."
         He looked up, met her eyes and was suddenly unable to look away.  He 
concentrated on his breathing.
        Her eyes were bright. "We've come too far to quit now. To turn back 
now... it would be like betraying all we've lost.  we've lost."
        Mulder felt the room spinning, but it was a slow spin and lately he'd 
found himself getting used to the sensation. Scully was watching him. He heard 
himself speaking, his voice light, like it belonged to someone else.
        "Don't worry about it, Scully. The X-Files stay open. Hell, where else 
do I have to go? I'll see you downstairs in an hour."
        He turned on his heel and walked to his room with a surety of tread that 
belonged to another man.
        It took him minutes to shower. The hot blast of water was cleansing to 
his mind right now as much as to his body. But a few minutes more of prowling 
his hotel room half dressed convinced him he was entirely too wired to nap the 
rest of the hour. He riffled his coat pockets for the notes he'd taken at the 
crime scene. Three small scraps of paper if he counted Bruner's little joke. 
There wouldn't be much of a report. 
        He began sneezing from the soot he'd stirred up off the coat and helped 
himself to some tissue from the  bathroom, leaving the notes under a bottle of 
shampoo.  He'd get the hotel to dry clean the jacket before morning.
        The call to the desk took him to the window and the view of the pool in 
it's glassed enclosure below.  The glow of green subsurface lights was visible 
even through the condensation of the glass; it looked inviting even with it's 
backdrop of white-capped mountains. He had always left his bag pre-packed with a 
few items: extra boxers, socks. A Speedo. The hotel swore the pool was heated. 
With a good part of an hour left, he decided to investigate those claims.

        They were true to their word. Mulder had dived in quickly once out of 
the hotel robe and slippers; the air was freezing. He knew anyone seeing him 
would think he was crazy but then it would be even crazier to join him so he 
could be assured of having this gloriously warm and quiet world all to himself.
        He made several laps unhurriedly, allowing his muscles to stretch and 
warm, staying under as much as possible. He had always been a better swimmer 
underwater anyway. He felt the tension in his back and shoulders start to loosen 
and melt into the luninesence swirling around him. He felt the wall of the pool 
beneath his hands and kicked it away, swimming in earnest now. He failed to 
count the laps, enjoying this submerged reality and it's particular quiet, 
broken only when he rose for air.
        He was getting tired but he didn't want to come out. Not just yet. One 
more lap. This time with a challenge: no surfacing. Not for love or money or 
air. He kicked off the side of the pool, swimming with all his strength.
        He reached the far wall sooner than he expected and lost a little air in 
recovering and kicking back for the other side. Halfway back his lungs began 
screaming. He ignored them. His fingertips began tingling, itching to feel the 
pool wall, to claw him up for air. Still, he refused to surface, concentrating 
on his strokes; his kicking becoming sluggish as his muscles burned what little 
oxygen remained them. He thought of the little girls in the snow. The ones in 
his  dreams. The ones in the photos. Then suddenly, he found the wall and his 
body was propelling upward, his lungs filling with icy air, his body shaking 
from cold and oxygen depravation. 
        His lungs filled, he fell back into the water, back under to warm just 
brief seconds; then back up again, reveling in the frozen air supply.  A cry of 
triumph escaped from somewhere deep in his gut and he pushed off again, 
backstroking his way across the pool in luxurious =
abandon. As the pounding in his chest began to calm, he opened his eyes, staring 
up through fogged glass at the brilliant stars staring down at him.
        From her vantagepoint at her hotel window, Scully stared down at him as 
well.  She was shaking her head.


        Between the running water of his shower and the monotone of CNN's 
Washington Journal, he almost missed Scully's wakeup call.
        "Don't tell me you were sleeping that hard."
        Mulder sat on the rumpled bed toweling off one-handed. "Who slept? When 
we get back to Washington I'm taking a sedative and a day to sleep it off."
        "What's wrong? You can't possibly not be tired."
        "Bad dreams. Maybe it's something I'm eating."
        "More likely it's something eating you." She sighed into the phone. 
"Listen, how soon can we be in Richmond?"
        "Richmond? Three and a half, four hours, maybe. Why, what's in 
        "Jane Doe Number Four."
        It was Mulder's turn to sigh. "Who's working the scene?"
        "Local law enforcement handed it to the Richmond field office at first 
glance.  The MO's been put out to every police department and sheriff's office 
in Virginia. The Chesterfield County dispatcher called Agent Walter Hovind as 
soon as their deputy called it in.  Skinner says we're in luck, that Hovind's 
team is more reliable than most.  Knowing Skinner, that's high praise. Hovind's 
says it's about freezing in the area so he'll try to leave the victim as is till 
we get there, if he can. Mulder, it would be a great help if we could get to one 
of these girls in situ."
        Mulder was already half dressed. "I'll meet you downstairs in ten," he 
promised. Hanging up the phone he remembered he'd left the shower running.

        Twenty minutes later, Scully was debating whether to call up or storm up 
to Mulder's room. Deciding on the latter, she almost collided with him at the 
elevator. He pushed past her and she double-stepped trying to keep pace as he 
made for the front desk.
        "Mulder, I've already checked us out."
        "Great," he muttered absently, waving for the desk clerk.
        "What took you so long?"
        "Sorry. Something came up."
        "Between your room and the elevator?"
        "Excuse me," he said to the desk clerk, pulling a book from under his 
arm and fumbling to find his place. Scully recognized the bookmark: the little 
slip of paper from Mulder's mystery marker.  She almost swallowed her gum as she 
recognized the book: the Gideon Bible whose replicas graced the bedside tables 
of most every hotel and motel in the country. 
        Mulder handed this one to the clerk, careful to remove his bookmark.  
"Could I get a Xerox of this page please?"
        "Sir?" The clerk's expression was almost a carbon of Scully's.
        Mulder repeated his request, adding, "Please, we're in a bit of a 
        The clerk hesitated, then took the Bible from Mulder as if he were 
uncertain of which would bite first: the book or the half-shaved man offering 
it. He took a step, then turned suspiciously.   "Say, this isn't some kind of 
entrapment is it? Like copyright law infractions or something?"
        Mulder, startled, turned to Scully. "There's a copyright on the Bible? 
Who does the renewal forms for that, the archangel Gabriel?"
        Scully assured the young man it would be all right and he disappeared 
into the back office still squinting over his shoulder at her partner. 
        "What's all this about, Mulder?"
        In response, he presented the bit of paper. It was now faintly inscribed 
with the words: "St Luke 8:11-17".
        "It was laying on the bathroom cabinet when I took my shower this 
morning," Mulder explained. "I'm not sure, but I think the steam from the shower 
must have activated the ink."
        "Reappearing ink," Scully shook her head, waving the paper back to 
Mulder. "Someone's certainly taking the round about approach in trying to 
convert you."
        The clerk was back, presenting the fruit of his labors still warm from 
the copier.
        Mulder smiled, pocketing the paper, "Thanks. Well, Scully, let's get to 
Richmond before that body needs cold storage."
        The little clerk mouthed the word "body?" and backed hurriedly for the 
copy room as Scully followed her partner out the door.


        In nearly one hundred fifty miles Mulder had managed to finish shaving, 
consume half a bag of sunflower seeds and exceed seventy-five at every available 
opportunity.  Scully had manned the cell phone and calls both to and from the 
Bureau's Identification Division, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children 
and the National Forestry Service. No, there were no matches on the victims. No, 
there were no reports of fires at the crime scenes of the first two victims.
        Mulder had shrugged at that one.  "Victim one was removed from the scene 
three months ago. Victim  two, six weeks.  Given the weather and the elements, 
what could possibly have been left to find that Heissman's crew wouldn't have 
        "Granted, but I refuse to believe no one's reported these kids missing," 
Scully said to her reflection in the vanity mirror.  Her makeup needed some 
serious touching up.
        In site of the James River, Mulder pulled into a gas station. "We've got 
another twenty miles. Next stop is Pocahontas State Park and all the 
investigating time your bladder can handle." He popped the trunk without further 
comment and went inside to pay for gas and soft drinks. He needed something to 
wash the aspirin down.
        Scully pushed the trunk closed before heading for the ladies room. She 
appreciated Mulder's thoughtfulness but she knew what it took to run with the 
old boys network and had removed the word primp from her vocabulary early on.

        Unlike the massive Shenandoah National Park, Pocahontas was just over 
seven thousand acres with fully developed picnic and camping facilities, bicycle 
paths, fishing and an impressive swimming pool complex. Although the pools were 
closed awaiting Memorial weekend, there were still plenty of hikers and campers 
trying to peer past the police barricade.  Mulder and Scully skirted a local 
television crew, stepping under the yellow tape for the short hike to Swift 
Creek Lake.
        Even from a distance Swift Creek Lake was anything but. Local 
development had left it silting and shallowing; aquatic plants and algae blooms 
made it difficult to tell where the lake and land parted company.
        Scully frowned as she and her partner exchanged winter gloves for latex. 
"The other victims were found in remote trail areas.  This is practically 
downtown Richmond on a Sunday off."
        "Maybe our UNSUB didn't appreciate the lack of attention. Or maybe he's 
just hedging his bets against firebugs trying to upstage him."
        "You don't think he set the fire himself?"
        "Why? Because the thought of Spooky Mulder and the Enigmatic Doctor 
Scully sniffing around suddenly frightened him? It's not his work, Scully. It's 
not his style."
        If Mulder had already developed a sense of their killer, he was way 
ahead of his partner. She was glad of it.  This was what he did best: getting 
into the head of the perpetrator and developing a workable profile. Her job was 
to keep him objective. And sane enough to get back out of whatever demented head 
he found himself wandering in.
        They found the highly praised Walter Hovind leaning against the "No 
Swimming" sign. He reminded Mulder of Fruhike with a trenchcoat and a badge. 
Fruhike in a trenchcoat was a frightening enough thought but the badge... Mulder 
caught sight of the little plastic covered shape on the snow and shook off his 
foolishness. Hovind led the way, reporting on the morning's activities. 
        "She was found by a couple of local weekend warriors. They say they 
didn't touch anything. I believe them.  Coroner estimates she'd been here maybe 
eighteen hours judging from the fixed lividity but with the temperature it could 
have been longer. The Chesterfield Med Ex's a good man, he's kept the body as 
found. Beyond that," Hovind shook his head, "we've combed the area for every 
footprint and broken twig within an acre. Here's your only clue."
        He pulled back the plastic sheeting to reveal their silent hostess.
        Scully knelt, hearing herself mentally composing the autopsy report: 
White female, approximately seven to eight years of age. Subject is past rigor 
mortis, corneas cloudy, skin slightly greenish. 
        Mulder was uncharacteristically pale as he squatted beside her, his 
hands resting between his knees.  There was something almost sacrilegious in the 
thought of disturbing the little figure.  Her jaw had dropped slightly during 
the loosening of rigor mortis and she lay very daintily, very sweetly, very 
pale, her mouth open just so, her hands just so still. No bruise or look of 
terror disturbed that quiet face as it stared up at the towering hemlock above 
her. Except for the milkiness of her eyes, she looked like a work of art. The 
work of art of a madman. Somewhere in the colder part of his mind he noted she 
was facing due east.
        Mulder looked away to his left, to the little arm extended due south.  
He took the child's hand, lifting it several inches from the dirty snow. It 
managed to be even colder than the winter chill. He stared a moment at the 
little wound in the palm then closed his hand around hers and stared at nothing.
        Scully gently lifted the paper gown, gloved hand probing the surgical 
scars approximate to heart and liver. She looked up at Mulder. She continued 
looking at him silently. He didn't notice.
        She looked up at Hovind; funny, she hadn't noticed how old he looked 
before. But everyone looked older when standing over the dead. She said, "I'd 
like to get her to an autopsy room ASAP."
        "Coroner's ready to release her to the Richmond Bureau unless you prefer 
flying her straight to Washington."
        "No. I think she's waited long enough."
        Mulder had replaced the girl's hand and stood, looking up at the 
hemlock.  "I'd love to see this guy's House-Tree-Person test," he said quietly.
        Hovind, clueless to Mulder's psychology background, followed the agent's 
gaze well enough. "We've checked the tree over, even had one of the Park 
Service's experts check it for markings, odd pollen, rot and bugs. Nothing." The 
little man shook his head. "They say take only pictures and leave only 
footprints. We should get so lucky with this SOB." He turned. "Hey!  Let's get a 
body bag over here!"


        It was exactly thirteen minutes after ten when Scully emerged from the 
autopsy bay to find Mulder asleep on the medical examiner's couch. Pulling off 
her mask and gloves, she watched him a moment as he lay so deceptively still. He 
was in REM sleep, eyes moving rapidly beneath their lids, his mind cataloging 
and detailing even now. She collected her data and her laptop and padded quietly 
down the hall to complete her report in the deserted reception area.  She was 
settled in with a fresh cup of coffee and earphones when he gasped in his sleep.

        It was dark and quiet. He was outside, looking up at stars. Their light, 
resplendent in their distant somewhere was devoured by the dark. Snow fluttered 
against his skin, licking light from his face. All about him, he felt the 
unconquerable dark; it stalked him, enveloped him, pervaded him.  Resplendent 
white beckoned at his feet but he didn't want to look down.  He hated looking 
        He always saw the same thing when he looked down.
        He closed his eyes, lowering his face involuntarily. The snow and wind 
were patient and soft. They knew he would eventually come round. He always did. 
He had no choice. His eyes fluttered; opened; focused upon the ache and sorrow 
of whitened earth.
        She was there. Laying quietly on the snow. Waiting. Like the snow and 
the wind she was patient.  Like him, she had no choice. He approached like a man 
treading holy ground; the trembling that possessed him had little to do with the 
cold. He knelt by the little form. Took her hand. Wrapped it in his own. Willed 
it to warm, knowing it wouldn't. 
     He sensed her invitation, struggled against it. But it was such a small 
thing; he could not refuse her. He took his place, laying down beside her just 
beyond the span of the little arm. She never moved; never turned her head, yet 
he could feel her eyes upon him, trusting and unafraid. He felt the chill of ice 
and snow against his back, felt the colder presence beside him, his left side 
going numb from the cold she radiated. The numbness spread to the center of his 
body; his heart growing sluggish. Arms frozen by force of death, his fingers 
clawed the snow in desperation. , his mind screamed. 
     This was new ground. He had never allowed the dream to go on so long. He 
struggled to release himself; his brain ignored him, his silent screams went 
unanswered. She lay quiet beside him waiting for what came next.
       They were no longer alone. A mass of eyes fluttered above them: soft, 
raspy, fluttering blue-green-silver set in a field of deep iridescent blue. A 
cry, metallic and harsh, many-throated, echoed above his silent screams. Then in 
a blink, they folded and disappeared into the cold black that was the forest 
around them.
	 A figure of shadow emerged from the darkness, darker than the darkness. 
It approached, lumbering and massive, hunched across the snow. It moved on human 
feet, stopped, blocking several thousand stars from his view. Hands, dark as 
midnight and huge reached out and he was helpless to stop them. Then he felt the 
object in his mouth.  The part of his brain struggling for consciousness 
identified the object as undissolved aspirin he had failed to swallow or had 
regurgitated in his frozen fight.
     Her voiceless answer came from beside him.
     The voice was his sister's.
     And still the hands of the shadow returned, shoving the object down and 
suddenly he was choking. Frozen in the snow, he gasped, fighting for air that 
could not come, his mind reeling, the shadow retreating in the darkness closing 
around him, his sister's voice in his ringing ears.

        Scully heard the thud and the crash and threw the earphones across the 
desk in her dash for the hall.
        He was struggling on the floor in a tangle of files and coffee table 
bric-a-brac. He was blue, his hands clawing at his neck. She knelt behind him, 
fighting him to reach under his ribs. She performed the Heimlich. Nothing. 
Mulder pushed her away, his eyes bleeding panic. His desperation unnerved her 
and she looked around for the only help he would allow her to render: she found 
a cup of cold coffee on the desk and tossed it in his face.
         He took a deep noisy breath, then another. He slumped back in the 
floor, hands over his eyes, luxuriating in the oxygen supply.
        "Oh, God. Oh, God." His voice was harsh, like his larynx had been 
damaged. Scully knelt and felt his neck, recoiled as he jerked.
        "You're all right, Mulder. It's okay."
        His eyes registered recognition and he tried to relax as her physician's 
hands probed first his neck, then his chest and abdomen. Satisfied, she let him 
sit up.
        "What was all this, Mulder? Were you eating something or--"
        He shook his head. "Just a dream," he rasped.
        "That was some dream."
        He closed his eyes again, took another deep breath, let it out slow and 
controlled. "I want to see your report."
        "The report will keep. I'm taking you to the hospital."
        He shook his head, pushed her away and stood shakily. "It was just a 
dream, Scully," his voice cracked with effort. He swallowed hard. "It's called 
an incubus dream. The subject wakes--"
        "The subject wakes choking, screaming or shaking. I've read the 
literature.  The literature also says that these dreams are unusual in adults." 
She pushed him into the ME's restroom. "Is this like any of the nightmares 
you've been having lately?"
        He shrugged noncommittally which was usually his reluctant yes.
        "You get the coffee washed off and I'll print out my report for you.  
But I'm warning you, Mulder, you start flaking out on me, I'm giving you a 
        She heard a croaking "Promises, promises" through the closing door then 
the sound of running water.
        Mulder leaned his arms on the little cabinet, letting the cold water run 
over his hands until they had stopped shaking. His fingers had finally stopped 
tingling. He looked up at his reflection in the mirror above, looked quickly 
down again. He began scooping doubled handfuls of water onto his face. He worked 
at it compulsively until he felt he would drown himself. He fisted his hands, 
forcing them to be still, rested his forehead on the misty faucet. It was a long 
time before he turned off the water and dried his face. He did not look back at 
the mirror.
        Scully didn't comment as he emerged. They stood face to face as he read 
the report and she watched him. He handed the papers back to her and mentally 
prepared himself for some major hell.
        "Where are the x-rays?" His voice was just over a whisper and cracked.
        "X-rays are in the evidence file. The results are in the report."
        "I would like to see them. Please."
        "You think my report is incomplete?"
        "I think your report is exemplary. As usual." He swallowed, trying to 
cool his burning throat. "May I see the x-rays, please?"
        She lead the way to the exam room and popped the sheets of film into the 
clips of the light box. She stepped back, jaw set, watching him select and focus 
on a single negative. She stepped up behind him, staring around his shoulder. 
The film was a frontal shot of the lower jaw, neck and upper thorax.
        "Is there any lateral film of the neck?" he asked even as he shuffled 
through the remaining film on the shelf.
        "No, Mulder. What exactly are you looking for?"
        "Something that might show the throat. Without the vertebrae in the 
        "Is that too much to ask, Scully?" Her look stopped him cold. He sighed. 
"I'm sorry, I know you don't take the x-rays. I know you performed a thorough 
examination while I sat on my backside--"
        "It's not about that, Mulder,  and you know it. Look," she said calmly, 
"I'm going to drink one more cup of coffee, then I'm going to call Skinner. Then 
I'm going to a motel and get some sleep. If you want to spend the rest of the 
night here, that's your business. I'll drive us back as far as Alexandria but I 
am not fighting the traffic into DC. That's your job. Clear?"
        She didn't even wait for his nod.
        She turned.  He looked like hell, she thought,  but he had that pathetic 
look she'd always been a sucker for.... Jeezus.  "What, Mulder?"
        "Mind if I look down her throat?"
        He shrugged. "The view?"
        She close her eyes wearily. "Sure. Fine. Whatever."       
        When she returned from the coffee pot, Scully paused by the window 
looking into the autopsy bay. Mulder had located little Jane Doe's drawer. The 
lights in the office were low, giving her a clear view as he stood over the 
child on the shelf. His back was to her; the weight of horror rested on his 
shoulders. She no longer wanted her coffee but welcomed the sensation of the cup 
hot in her hands. It somehow made the scene before her a little less surreal.
        Mulder stepped slowly around the end of the shelf, his eyes never 
leaving the body as he circled. He pulled the sheet down from the little face 
and placed it softly across her shoulders. Scully caught her breath. There was 
something about the way he adjusted the sheet; like a man tucking a loved child 
into bed for the night. Or a dear little sister.
        He stood there a moment regarding the cold open eyes. He stepped back, 
entranced, listening. He placed his hands on her stomach, lightly and very 
deliberately. Still his eyes had never left those cold sightless pupils.
        Scully felt the hair on the back of her neck begin to rise. When the 
phone buzzed beside her she almost dropped her cup, hot coffee splashing on her 
shoes. She snatched up the receiver to find Skinner on the other end. He had 
received her e-mailed report.  She clarified a few details and assured him Agent 
Mulder was working on his profile even as they spoke. Her confident voice 
hesitated as she turned back to the window.
        Mulder's fascination dance with the victim was done, apparently. He had 
donned latex gloves and was probing the girl's mouth with forceps and a dental 
mirror. Scully tapped on the window and was ignored.
        Skinner's voice filtered through the receiver. "It there a problem, 
Agent Scully?"
        "No, sir. Agent Mulder and myself were just verifying our findings and--
what the hell?"
        Mulder was examining something gripped in the forceps and seemed to need 
to hold himself steady to do so. He almost fell across Jane Doe in his effort to 
remain standing. Scully barely gasped out an "I'll call back" before hanging up 
on Skinner and running for the exam room.
        Steadied now, he held out the forceps for her to see.
        "Mulder, it's-- It's a sunflower seed."
        He closed his eyes, sighed deeply. "I noticed that."
        She held his hand to remove the forceps from his grip. He surrendered 
the grisly trophy without comment and turned back to the body.  Scully busied 
herself with the evidence, preparing to make microscopic slides. Out of the 
corner of her eye she watched Mulder lean over the child and--was he whispering 
in her ear? Scully held her breath and heard "...good girl. You did just fine" 
and then his voice dropped lower. She watched his reflection on the stainless 
steel backsplash as he gently swept an unruly strand of hair from the lifeless 
forehead and reverently consigned little Jane back beneath her sheet.
        Scully turned back to the seed, prying it gently open. Her cry brought 
Mulder to her side. Together they regarded the tiny piece of metal cradled 
within the shell.
        "Mulder, it's a computer chip."
        "Scully, I'm suddenly very turned on." His voice was still raspy. God, 
he sounded like Bruner.
         Sunflower seeds.  He touched Scully's 
arm. "I've got to make a phone call."


        If the road to success was never easy, it was obvious to Scully at least 
that she and Mulder were well on their way to greatness. With an entire series 
of interdepartmental screw ups and miscommunications it was noon before all the 
last minute paperwork had been completed, a quarter of two before the Coroner 
got back from lunch to sign the death certificate and four twenty when she and 
Mulder finally saw Jane Doe Four off in her hearse for the trip to Washington.
        Walking across the parking lot to their rental car, Mulder used his cell 
phone and left one more message for Dr. Heissman.
        Scully, again in the driver's seat, listened as Mulder fought a losing 
battle with someone named Graham. His voice had mended but that fact seemed to 
do him little good in this conversation. She waited as he punched a bitter 
finger at the power button.
        "Okay, 'Dr. Verber,'" she asked, "What's so important at the Maryland 
Institute for the Criminally Insane?"
        "I'm trying to see if my commitment papers have been accepted."
        "Uh huh. Need a recommendation?"
        "It's always good to know I can count on you, Scully."
        "Seriously," he smiled, stretching back in the passenger seat. "Tell you 
what, let's play a game."
        "Anything to keep from answering a direct question, right?"
        "What's wrong, Scully, you never played games on family road trips when 
you were a kid?"
       She started the car and pulled out into the traffic of Greencourt Road. 
"This isn't the one where you try to locate the license plates that spell out 
naughty words, is it?"
        "Your parents were obviously far more open-minded than mine. No, this is 
simple word association. I say something and you say the first thing that pops 
into your head." He smiled and popped a sunflower into his.
        "You can pick my brain only on the condition that I get to pick yours 
        "Between nightmares, case reports, and phone calls I've only had about 
three hours of actual sleep this week so just don't expect any money back 
guarantees on the quality of my answers. I go first, okay? First word. White."
        He met her disapproving gaze with one of his own. "White," he said.
        "You used that one already."
        "White," he repeated.
        "Uh, blank."
        "As in you're blank or is that the association?"
        "That's the association. You know, like a blank space."
        Mulder tilted his head, thoughtfully. Then, "Blank."
        "God, you're irritating. Blank.  Fill in the."
        "No, I meant 'fill in the blank' was good."
        "Thank you. Is it my turn yet?"
        "No. Dream." He gave her a warning look this time.
        "An answer to a question you haven't yet learned to ask yourself," she 
sing-songed, quoting her partner's long
standing position on the subject.
        "Suck up," he said.
        "That's not part of the game, I hope."
        She'd made him laugh and only then realized how much she'd been missing 
        "No," he said, still smiling. "Okay. Hum. Snow."
        "White. And don't say white again. I'm fresh out of white associations."
        "Quiet." She looked at him. "That was your word, not a request," he 
        "Oh. Ah, let's see. Quiet. Loud." She looked over. "Loud. Your =
tie. There, that's two associations for the price of one. Now is it my turn?"
        "As in sunflower?" She knew where this was going. "Your favorite snack. 
Your father's favorite snack. Your father's experiments. Computer chips. 
Implants. Abductions"
        Mulder nodded quietly staring out at the window as Interstate 95 crossed 
the Ann River. The smile was gone.
        "Word of God," he said.
        She felt the storm brewing again; considered her answer. "Truth."
        Mulder turned to look at her. He opened his mouth, closed it. Opened it 
again. "The seed is the word of God," he said aloud to himself. "The seed is the 
truth." She looked at him puzzled. "St. Luke 8:11-17," he answered, turning back 
to the view outside without seeing it. "Someone wants us to find the truth, 
Scully. It's out there and at least one person wants us to find it." He turned 
back to her, his eyes shadowed. "The frightening thing is: I think that person 
is our suspect."
        She changed lanes, passing a Winnebago with an "I love New York" bumper 
sticker plastered above Oregon plates. "Okay. My turn," she said. "Did our 
suspect give you that pen?"
        "Are you sure?"
        Mulder closed his eyes, seeing Bruner's cage, seeing Bruner's eyes 
burning against his retina. "I'm sure."
        "I promised Skinner he'd have your profile today."
        "I e-mailed it about noon. If he'd had any problems with it he'd have 
called by now." He tried to rub at the sudden pain in his right temple.
        "Give me the highlights."
        He moaned, suddenly tired and apathetic. He shook his head to clear it, 
tried to remember his report. "Killer is organized, method specific, victim 
specific. Highly intelligent. High social competence. Highly educated, 
obviously,  a surgeon. Probably involved in research of some sort. Sexual 
competence. Geographically and occupationally mobile. Possibly, make that 
definitely, part of a team of at least two. Probably more. UNSUB two, 
specifically our body dumper, is also organized, method specific. Feels a bond 
with these kids and may possibly be the  one abducting them in the first place. 
If he is the abductor, conventional profiling would tell us he is a white male 
approximately twenty-five to thirty-five. I would disagree, putting him more of 
a grandfatherly type, in his mid-fifties to late-sixties. He's also highly 
intelligent with moderate to high social competence, well educated, mobile and 
sexually competent. He's also experienced personal suffering first hand. He 
controls his crime scene, personalizing the victims and leaving little evidence-
        "Try no evidence."
        "You know as well as I do that nothing disappears without a trace. It's 
like you told Leichman. The evidence is there. The bodies. Their positions. The 
arrangement of the crime scene. What is and isn't there. It's a pattern. That in 
itself is a clue. We just don't know how to read it yet."
         "What is this about his experience of personal suffering? That's 
something you've gotten from the crime  scenes?"
          "From the victims," his voice was barely a whisper.
          "From the victims or your dreams about the victims?" Silence. "Mulder, 
answer the question."
          He signed. "Okay, Scully, you name me one person who's made it to 
fifty-five without experiencing personal suffering of some type.  Or thirty-five 
for that matter."
         "That's not a direct answer but I'll concede the point. You also said 
he personalizes the victims. I don't see that."
       Mulder's eyes were closed, his speech soft. "Look at the care given to 
the crime scenes, Scully. These kids are not just dumped there. They're laid out 
in a very specific manner. He has to realize that every element at the scene is 
a potential clue or has the potential for revealing something. Like the paper 
gowns. Why put them in the paper gowns when he could lay them out nude and not 
have to worry about the paper catching hold of a fiber, a hair, an eyelash? He's 
concerned enough about their dignity to clothe them. What does it matter? It 
matters because he cares."
        They drove in silence for a few minutes, passing the familiar signs 
marking the US Marine Corps Reservation and the Quantico FBI Academy opposite.
        "I've been thinking about the stigmata thing," she said. "Are you 
        He rotated his neck, feeling the pull in his left shoulder. "No, Scully. 
What about the stigmata thing?"
        "Couldn't that just be a form of haematodipsia? A sexual compulsion to 
see, taste and touch human blood? And that in turn be attributed to 
        "Could be. But I don't think so," Mulder opened his eyes, looking out at 
the road. "I don't think these are thrill killings, not for the killer and not 
for the guy laying these kids out. I think he's using the stigmata as a smoke 
screen. Or maybe, he's imitating a crucifixion because he thinks that's what the 
girls are: a sacrifice. Maybe that's the only form of protest to this thing he's 
        "But you don't believe this is cult related."
        "There are many kinds of sacrifices, Scully." He was digging in his coat 
pocket. "I think he believes these killings to be more of a sacrifice for a 
greater good. Like using lab rats for cancer research."
        "Evidenced by the missing organs?"
        "Surgically removed missing organs," he emphasized. He tried swallowing 
four ibuprofen without water, winced as they went down.
        "So we're supposed to believe he's a noble benefactor of mankind? You 
        "I'm fine. There is such a thing as a successful psychopath. These 
people blend in with the population, lead
lives of relative normalcy but they're essentially psychopaths in their 
attitudes and ideology. Many of them join the medical profession or the ministry 
because they believe themselves to be noble benefactors of mankind as you call 
them.  Their egomania is such that they believe that they have the right to do 
anything they want so long as they can justify it to themselves. And having no 
concept of truth, no clear distinction between truth and a convenient lie, they 
can justify anything. Especially to themselves. You have nurses administering 
lethal doses and calling it mercy killings. You have psychiatrists ripping out 
the throats of Ways and Means Committee chairmen and declaring they're doing 
their country a service--"
        Scully's eyebrows made a leap for her hairline. "Excuse me?"
        Mulder shrugged, ignoring her, his eyes shut again. "Maybe that one 
 doing us a favor. Who knows?"
        In sight of the Washington Beltway Scully said, "Enough of that. Now 
it's my turn to profile. You."
        Mulder peeked at her through the slit of one eye. The hell she hadn't 
given him the evening before was on it's way now he was sure. It couldn't be too 
bad, though; they were less than fifteen minutes away from his apartment.
        Scully intoned: "Patient suffers from sleep disturbances, loss of 
appetite, various physical complaints including muscle cramps, pinched nerves 
and headaches--"
        "I've only had one headache," he corrected. "It's just that it's lasted 
two weeks."
        "Patient vacillates between periods of apathy, anxiety, depression and 
extreme irritability--
        "Irritability? Who the hell's irritable--"
        "Diagnosis is adjustment disorder due to prolonged stress, possibly 
leading to a breakdown if he continues ignoring his need for real rest." She 
stopped the car in front of his building.
        "Point taken, Dr. Scully." He said, collecting his bag. "I'd invite you 
in but I've got a hot date with a sedative."
        "Good. You look like hell."
        "So I've been told."
        She gave him her best park ranger smile. He waved and shook his head, 
giving her a smile that was too tired to be anything but genuine. She watched 
him retreat into the gathering twilight.
        "Good night, Mulder."


        She drove the thirty-five miles to Annapolis with the car radio blaring 
golden oldies. Her brain was tired and she was ready for a few hours of much 
needed down-time: a long, warm bath of bubbles with a scented candle in the  
soap dish followed by some herbal tea with her feet propped on the back of the 
        She was more in need of the downtime than she knew: she was halfway 
across the lawn before she realized every light in her ground floor apartment 
was on and the front door was standing open. She dropped her bag on the walk, 
adrenaline rising along with the gunsite of her pistol, and made her way 
carefully toward the door.  With training ingrained by drill and experience, she 
paused, back to the wall beside the door, listening for the faintest sound. 
There was a soft footfall =
several rooms in, no voices.
        She stepped in quickly, silently, muzzle scanning with her line of 
vision the disarray of furniture and bric-a-brac. In the back of her mind she 
assessed the obvious damage: nothing major, nothing stolen. This was no thief. 
The realization made her heart pound in earnest; the front rooms assessed, she 
followed her pistol site down the hall to the half open door of the bedroom.
        Scully paused beside the doorjamb, repeating the caution that had 
brought her to the front door.  She heard rapid breathing behind the door and 
hoped that, whoever he was, he didn't have a calmer partner waiting farther in 
the room.  In one quick movement she rushed the door, slamming it hard into the 
intruder and jumped past him, firearm aimed lethally. 
        "Don't move!"
        The figure behind the door moaned; she'd knocked out both his breath and 
his weapon--her bedside lamp.  He rolled over in the floor and sat up blearily.
        "Hi, Dana," he said weakly, staring down her gunsite. "You wouldn't 
shoot your own brother, would you?"
        She holstered the weapon and helped him up. "What are you doing here?"
        "Well, Mom and Tara met up in New York for a week on the town. I got an 
early leave and thought I'd come out and visit with my baby sister."
        Scully regarded him blankly, an uneasy feeling in her gut. "Oh?"
        "Yeah, well, you know," he said sheepishly. "We're always wondering just 
what it is you really do and I thought I'd show some overdue moral support, show 
some interest and," he shrugged, looking around. "And when I got here, well, 
things looked pretty interesting. Are you okay, then?"
        "I'm fine." She began righting furniture. "We're on a case right now and 
I just got in from Richmond." She walked back through the apartment, closing 
riffled cabinets and drawers. "It doesn't look like they took anything. Are you 
sure you didn't surprise them and scare them off?"
        "I've only been here a few minutes. I didn't see or hear anyone. God, 
I'm glad you're okay. I walked up and looked through the door and feared the 
worst after Melissa..." his voice trailed off and he looked back wistfully at 
the door where Melissa had died. Someone had mistaken her for her sister.
        Dana wanted to ask Bill how long he was staying. She knew she couldn't. 
She sighed and sat down on the couch. 
        Bill stood over her, hands on his hips. "So, Agent Dana, does this kind 
of thing happen often?"
        She smiled tiredly. "No. Not to me anyway. They're usually too busy 
breaking and entering at Mulder's to bother me much." She jerked up off the 
couch. "Oh, God. Mulder." She found the phone under the coffee table and hit 
speed dial. Bill waited, watching her face as Mulder's answering machine picked 
        "Mulder, it's me. Pick up the phone." She bit her lip nervously. 
"Mulder, pick up the phone! Fox Mulder, if you don't pick up this phone right 
now, I'm coming over there!"
        Bill left the room silently and began turning off lights throughout the 
apartment. When she tossed the phone on the couch he was waiting for her by the 
        "Bill, I'll be back--"
        "I'm not letting you go over there by yourself. God knows what you'll be 
walking into," he raised his hand to quiet her protest. "I know you're trained 
and all that crap but you're still my sister.  I'll follow you in my car if I 
have to. I mean it, Dana. Besides, if in he's trouble maybe you both could use 
my help."
        "Bill, you don't even like Mulder."
        "I think he's a cold hearted SOB but I know he's saved your life once or 
        "More than once or twice."
        "Whatever, but--"
        "No 'but.'" Scully pushed past him, walking fast, flinging words back at 
him on the way to the car. "I know you think he's at fault for every danger I've 
ever been in, but this is my job, my choice, do you understand?  It's the work I 
do that puts me in harm's way. Fox Mulder didn't make that choice.  I did. If 
you can't at least grant me that much respect then you might as well go home 
now. Mulder and I are both under enough stress as it is without putting up with 
an attitude from my family."
        Bill bowed an apology, scooping up her bag off the lawn as he passed it. 
"I'm sorry. You're right. I'll be civil." He was barely in the passenger seat 
when she put the car into drive.
       "I just hope he's still alive for you to be civil to," she snapped.
       Three blocks later, Bill asked, "They teach you to drive like this in the 
       "Your tax dollars at work."


       Mulder wasn't answering his door either.  Bill shrugged helplessly at his 
sister's frustration. "Hey, at least his door is still locked. Yours was 
standing open."
       She shook her head in answer and fumbled for her key ring.
       "You have a key to his apartment," Bill stated flatly.
       Dana looked up at his clinched jaw and rolled her eyes. Bill defended 
himself: "I'm only implying that he's a healthy single male, and this kind of 
situation could be potentially embarrassing."
       She slipped the key into the lock and turned it. "You're implying that 
Mulder has a personal life.  He'd be flattered. Stay back."
       She upholstered her gun, entering the darkened apartment expecting the 
worse. Light from the hall showed her what she feared: his apartment had been 
searched as well. She stepped over papers and books, her gun scanning the room 
nervously. Bill flipped the light on behind her and she jerked.
       Bill was by the kitchen door. He raised a finger to his lips and pointed 
through the kitchen.
        She joined him in the doorway and peered to the right, cursing whatever 
architect that would put a bedroom off a kitchen. She pushed Bill back and 
allowed her gun to proceed her.
       Mulder's bedroom door was partially open.  If anyone was lurking behind 
it in the dark, they were far more professional at this than Bill had been. She 
bit her lip, took a deep breath and slammed into the door.  It bounced against 
something soft on the floor and Scully scrambled for the light switch with a 
sickening feeling in her gut.
       A basketball. She sighed and looked over at her partner, asleep in the 
       "Mulder?" He didn't move.  She shook him. He moaned softly and pushed her 
       Bill spoke from the doorway. "Why don't you just let the man sleep?"
       "He's usually a light sleeper. Something's wrong." She felt his forehead 
and checked the pulse in his neck. No fever, and his BPM were good. She checked 
the bedside table: a glass--she sniffed: water. Turning on the bedside lamp she 
searched the drawer, found an old watch, some letters and several old Lone 
Gunman newsletters. She trotted past Bill, into the bathroom, stepping over a 
damp towel.
       There on the cabinet she found what she'd been looking for. A medicine 
bottle: the prescription was a sedative, thirty to be exact, the date was two 
years old.  She dumped the contents into her hand on her way back to the bed. 
Three left.
       She shook him in earnest now. "Mulder. Fox, its Dana. Wake up."
       He complied blearily. He was too groggy to be coherent and she had to ask 
him twice, "How many pills did you take?"
       "One," he finally managed, falling back to sleep even as he spoke.
       "Are you sure? Mulder, are you certain you only took one?"
       He nodded, tried to speak then gave up. She sat on the edge of the bed a 
moment more and Bill switched off the room light, coming in to stand over her.
       "Is he okay?
       She nodded. "He's been depressed and moody lately, probably from 
exhaustion considering our recent workload, but I don't think he's suicidal. 
This particular drug has a number of side effects, though: tachycardia, 
respiratory depression, increased motor activity during sleep."
       "You want to stay and keep an eye on him." He shrugged at her look. "He'd 
probably do the same if the situation were different. I know I would." He shoved 
his hands in his pockets. "Do you think these guys will be back?"
       She sighed and shook her head. He patted her shoulder. "I'll help clean 
up." He didn't wait for her to protest.
       They quickly had the place in fair order: at least the furniture was 
upright. Books filled the top of the desk. Bill hadn't minded the opportunity to 
do some snooping into the personal effects of this man who's life so intertwined 
with his sister's and Dana had pretended not to notice. He sat on the couch, 
sipping coffee and reading when she returned from checking on her patient again.
       "Listen to this," he said, then read: "Now it is a peculiarity of psychic 
functioning that when the unconscious counteraction is suppressed it then begins 
to have an accelerating and intensifying effect on the conscious process. A 
condition then arises in which not only no inhibiting counteraction takes place, 
but in which its energy seems to add itself to that of the conscious direction--
." He nodded at her blank look.  "Yeah, me to. And that's one of the parts he's 
highlighted. Is he really that smart or does he just not have any books in 
       She smiled, stretching out in the chair. "Graduated Oxford suma cum laud 
with a degree in clinical psychology. Graduated Quantico with highest honors.  
Commendations out the yin yang, I've heard tell. He's really that smart. 
Unfortunately, he's also willing to follow his own ideas and gut instincts even 
if that means mowing over a few egos here and there."
       "Or looking like a total idiot."
       "That too," she conceded. "Mulder seems to have been blessed with the 
gift of not giving a damn about what people think about him.  Sometimes I envy 
that." She smiled.
        Bill flipped a few pages and read aloud again: "The drawing of a 
spellbinding circle is an ancient magical device used by one having a special or 
secret purpose in mind. He thereby protects himself from the perils of the soul 
that threaten him from without and attack anyone who is isolated by a secret." 
He flipped back to the book's cover: " And I thought all his weird ideas were original."
       She smiled but Bill was thoughtful as he laid the book aside. His voice 
was quiet. "Melissa said something to me once I've never really understood but, 
I don't know, it seemed important to her at the time. She said there are some 
things, some people, places, events, in this world that are precious. Things you 
wrap your life around. Things you hold onto gently. But you hold them at any 
cost." He looked up. "She said Mulder understood that as a truth in his own 
life. That what he was holding on to might cost him his life. Dana, I don't know 
what that something is but I just don't want it costing you your life."
       She looked away and sighed. "How is that all the men in my life are going 
through a philosophical phase at the same time?"
       "All of them?"
       "All right, both of them, smart ass.  What's this about, Bill?" 
        He looked down sheepishly. "When we had the baby baptized Tara and I 
started going back to church." She waited. "Well, Father Mitchell was talking 
about how we often sow what we reap. If we want justice and mercy then maybe we 
should start showing a little." She raised her brows at him, still waiting. He 
cleared his throat.  "You're right. I always blamed your partner for all the 
times your life was in danger, for all the things you've suffered... Because he 
supported you in this dream of yours. Of being in the FBI. I blamed him. I 
refused to allow you to grow up and make your own decisions. My baby sister." He 
couldn't look at her. "And I was jealous, too. Because you no longer needed us 
as your moral support, as your shoulder. You had him. And he would stand with 
you, right or wrong."
       "Unlike my family?"
       "You know we stand behind you, Dana."
       "But not without criticism."
       "If we're critical, and we are," he conceded, "it's because we care."
       "And Mulder doesn't care because you don't think he's critical of me?"
       He regarded her, his little sister, remembering her tears when she'd 
killed a snake because of his childish dare. Remembered her tonight entering two 
apartments, ready to take human life. He missed the old Dana. But if she was 
gone, he'd take whoever was in her place.
       "He'd better not be critical of you.  I'll kick his ass."
       She smiled. "That might not be quite as easy as you think."
       Bill cocked his head. "Well, you never can tell. He and I might still get 
round to proving that." He smiled. "So, how does the couch sleep in this place?"
       "I should have known you would know that. Just a statement, don't get 
bent out of shape." He stood. "Why don't you get some sleep? I'll go back to 
your place and try out the guest room and come back in the morning bright and 
       "Not too early," she said, "it's Saturday."
       He fetched her bag from the car and hugged her goodnight.
       "Tell Sleeping Beauty in there to behave himself." He winked at her, 
locking the door as he left.
       She helped herself to a shower and a blanket then was back in the bedroom 
to check on Mulder again. His breathing was regular but he sighed fitfully now 
and then, fighting with the covers. Still she could see no REM activity; the 
dosage he had taken would depress REM sleep anyway, at least until its fullest 
effects had waned. No, this time the problem was not dreams but the extent of 
his fatigue: even with the sedative, he would be plagued by neuralgia and muscle 
       She was too keyed up to sleep and found herself straightening again.  A 
suit still in it's cleaner's bag laid over the back of the one dining room chair 
that had remained upright through the search. 
       She was hauling it to the closet when the phone rang.
       "Mulder residence."
       "Is Mr. Mulder in, please?" The voice on the other end was a tenor or low 
alto, oddly asexual, twisted by a raspy half-whisper.  Scully felt the hair on 
her arms stand up. Probably static electricity from the cleaner's bag.
       "I'm sorry, Mr. Mulder won't be available this evening. Would you like to 
leave a message?"
       "And who might you be?" The tone was pleasant enough.
       Scully looked again at the suit she was holding. "Housekeeping," she said 
       "Just tell him someone was doing a little foxhunting."
        "Excuse me?"
        The dial tone was her only explanation. "Fox Mulder," she said to the 
room, that's weird even for you."
       Then she and the dry cleaning were back to the bedroom. Her mission 
accomplished Scully reached for the pull chain to turn the closet light back 
off. The flash of foil paper caught her eye. She paused. There on the shelf next 
to boot boxes and several old yearbooks were gifts wrapped in Christmas paper.  
The poinsettia print was frayed and dull with age.
       Curiosity was too much. She glanced back nervously at Mulder's quiet face 
and carefully pulled the packages down. One was obviously a puzzle of some sort, 
the second quite light; the third may have been books.  All were graced with 
name tags inscribed with the same adolescent hand: "To Samantha, From Fox."
       Events unknown to her played out in her mind. Samantha had disappeared 
only a month before Christmas.  Knowing Mulder, he would have already been 
buying gifts for his family by November. These were the gifts Samantha never 
	The puzzle rattled at her jealously, drying the mist that had formed 
across her eyes. The man behind her moaned at demons in his sleep. She returned 
the packages carefully, snapped off the light, closed the door.        	
	Mulder gasped, pushing at a corner of the blanket across his chest. She 
brushed back his hair, shushing at him softly and he relaxed again, his 
breathing calmed. She adjusted the shade of the lamp to direct the light away 
from his eyes and padded back to the living room, suddenly very tired.


       Agent Jake Perez woke her on her cell phone at seven.
       "Oh man, did I wake you?
       "Yes," she said a little less than graciously, then instantly regretted 
it.  Knowing Perez, he'd probably stayed at the lab all night working on the 
package of evidence she'd sent with Jane Doe Four s body.  She'd certainly 
applied enough feminine charm in her call to him the day before.  Of course, 
with Perez, it didn't take too much effort.
       "Agent Scully, I'm sorry--"
       "No, it's okay. Really. I was waiting for your call, in fact." She let 
her voice drop only just enough to hint at being provocative. "It's good to hear 
your voice."  she thought, 
       There was a pause on Perez's end. "Ah. Listen I got the results back on 
that computer chip you asked me to look over. You were right, of course. It's 
almost a dead match for your implant."
       Scully was wide awake now. "How's Biology coming on the chemical workup?"
       "That's pretty interesting, too. Results are still fairly preliminary, as 
you know, but there appears to be some kind of cellular damage."
       "What kind of cellular damage?"
       "Like these kids have been frozen."
       "Perez, they were exposed to frigid temperatures: snow, ice--"
       "No. Not elemental deterioration. This is far beyond that. In fact, I'd 
swear these girls were cryogenically frozen. Is that possible? I mean, based on 
what you and Agent Mulder have going on out there?"
       "Perez, I hate to ask this but, I'm going to need a listing of all 
facilities capable of cryogenic freezing--"
       "Pete Glenn's already on it. Apparently he's been following your work 
pretty closely. I think he's quite happy with what he's seeing in your reports."
       Scully smiled. "Thanks. That's good to hear. I really appreciate the OT 
you've put in on this, Perez. It's good to know there are people in the 
department I can count on when it really matters." She was sincere this time. So 
why did it sound like such a suck up job?
       Perez's stuttered response and goodbye assured her that she hadn't lost 
her soft touch, however and she collected her things for a shower.  Mulder was 
still out cold, covers askew, his face tight. She was glad he was sleeping but 
doubted he'd gotten any real rest.
       She'd finished updating her report and was enjoying the quiet and her 
second cup of coffee when Mulder's phone rang.
       Bill's voice was bright on the other end. "So, you guys eat donuts or is 
that just for local law enforcement?"
       "Actually, I'm more the breakfast croissant type."
       "Ah, Ms. Sophistication.  Will do. I'll be out of here in about twenty 
minutes.  I managed to get most of it picked up, but you know how I am with 
       "I'll tell Martha Stewart not to worry about her day job. Drive 
       She stood and stretched luxuriously.  Oh, well. Time to get the show on 
the road. And Mulder in the shower.
       Daylight filtered in through the curtain near the bed. She snapped off 
the bedside lamp and shook his arm.
       "Muld-- Oh!"
       The room did a double loop and she found herself flung on the bed, penned 
down by his weight and staring down the business end of a 9mm Glock. It was an 
impressive view.
       "Good morning," she said, catching her breath.
       Mulder stared at her a second longer then swore. "Damn, Scully, don't you 
ever knock?"
       "Can I get up now?"
       He jerked, suddenly realizing their positionand rolled off her. His 
attempt to stand was none too steady, however and she sat down next to him on 
the bed. 
       "You're still a little groggy from the sedative. I don't want you getting 
in the shower until you've had some coffee."
       He nodded. "I'm sorry about that," he nodded his head back to her landing 
zone. "I was dreaming again..." He brushed back his hair, staring at nothing in 
       She patted his knee on the way to the kitchen. "Bill will be here with 
breakfast in about half an hour--"
       "Bill? As in brother Bill? Your brother Bill?" he called after her.
       "Mulder," she warned, handing him a steaming cup, "I've talked with him 
and he feels he's been unfair and he's trying to extend you a little mercy--"
       "So does the death angel, I'm told."
       She sighed and gave him the Look. "I don't want you antagonizing him."
       "Who, me? I'm Mr. Congeniality, remember? Okay, okay."
She stepped back out of the room and he called out to be heard. "You know, you 
might want to tell him sometime that you don't need a brother. You have a .38. 
And that you use it on me ocassionally." He lowered his voice as she came back 
in. "He would enjoy hearing that last bit." He rubbed  sleep out of his eyes and 
looked over her update. "Well, well. Agent Perez's been a busy boy. Scully, 
you're a heartless tease."
       She ignored him. "Are we ready for that shower?"
       "This part of that 'we' is. How about your half?"
       "Well, since you apparently don't think it's safe for me to sleep alone 
don't you think--"
       "Mulder, it is so important for your personal safety that you not finish 
that sentence."

       By the time Bill arrived, Mulder was showered and dressed and standing 
over the fax machine with a phone to his ear. 
       "Yes, ma'am, I'm aware its Saturday, but surely you have at least one 
scientist who might be working on the weekend? You know,  in the spirit of 
discovery? Yes, I'll hold." He nodded at Bill and rolled his eyes at Scully. "No 
wonder this nation's losing  our technological advantage. The Smithsonian can't 
even keep a biologist on staff for the weekend."
       She helped Bill lay out breakfast at the table. "I told you, Mulder, 
Glenn's handling it already--"
       "Glenn had better be handling the update on my profile."
       "Since when did you update your profile?"
       "Since about five minutes ago." Then back to the phone. "Yes, sir. This 
is Special Agent Fox Mulder with the FBI.  May I ask your specialty, please? 
Cellular Biology? Great. I'm going to fax you some data and I'd really like your 
       Scully, her mouth full of breakfast sandwich, pulled the discarded 
profile off the fax and returned to the table. She let Bill peruse it while she 
poured another cup of coffee.
       "Wow. Dana, I thought you said this killer of yours hadn't left any 
       "Nothing useful. Mulder's just matching known psychological patterns to 
criminal methods and victimologies. General stuff at this point."
       "This is what you call a general description? It looks to me like all you 
need is his name and his shoe size."
       "About a twelve, maybe twelve and a half," Mulder quipped, off the phone 
and peering into the bag on the table. He settled for the coffee.  "Dr. William 
Rickman, Cellular Biologist extraodinare says he's seen better freezes.  
Apparently whoever's freezing these kids is using some pretty old technology. He 
says it looks like some results he's seen of government research done in the 
fifties or early sixties."
       His phone rang and he was up again. "That'll be Forensics. I asked them 
to see if we've got any more sunflowers planted in our other victims."
       Scully looked up from the profile to stare at her partner on the phone. 
If looks could kill Bill was certain they'd be sizing Mulder up for a body bag.
       Mulder raised his voice. "No, sir. Agent Glenn, if you would just calm 
down and listen--Yes, sir, I'm aware of that. No, sir! I stand behind this 
profile. Yes, I will be at the meeting Monday and I'll be happy to explain-- 
Sir, with all due respect, people's kids are dying here. Just put out the APB 
and-- Yes, as a point of fact, I will come in today and explain my rationale. 
Well, I'm sorry if that's not convenient--" It was obvious he had been hung up 
on. He slammed the phone down to find Scully standing over him holding the 
       She read. "Accomplice is a Black male, muscular, late sixties possibly 
but not probably early seventies, six two to six four, 210 to 250 pounds with a 
very slight limp, preferring his left side?" She looked up. "Mulder, are you out 
of your mind?"
       "I don't want to hear it, Scully."
       "You have no evidence to back this and you know it--"
       "Glenn's not putting out the APB," Mulder was so angry he could scarcely 
see her, let alone hear her.
       "Do you blame him?"
       "Yes, damn it! Just once, I'd like to see someone in this Bureau operate 
with the courage of their convictions."
       "He  operating with the courage of his convictions, Mulder. He just 
doesn't have enough courage to spare for  convictions.  What are you 
basing this physical description on? Your dreams?"
       "I've seen him, Scully."
       "In your dreams," she repeated.
       Mulder paced away then back again quickly. "Yes," he conceded. "Scully, 
I've been dreaming about this case every night for two weeks--"
       "We've only been on this case four days, Mulder."
       "I noticed that, too. Does that tell you anything?"
       The phone rang and he snatched it, still glaring at his partner. "Yes, 
sir," he said into the receiver. "No, sir, I haven't lost my mind." He rolled 
his eyes at Scully. "Yes, sir, Agent Scully is here and she's seen the report." 
Her hands were on her hips. "No, sir, she does not agree with my assessment." 
She relaxed but only just. "Yes, sir. Yes,  sir. No, sir. Yes, sir." She tapped 
her foot. Mulder raised his eyebrows at her. At the table, Bill was laughing 
softly; they ignored him.
       Mulder said "Yes, sir," one more time and Scully thought she would 
scream. He handed her the phone. "Skinner," he said.
       Now it was Scully's turn to "Yes, sir."
       The Assistant Director's voice sounded no more irritated than usual. 
"Agent Scully, since I'm fading the heat on this, I suggest that the next phone 
call, fax, e-mail or smoke signal coming from either one of you gets  on the 
receiving end. Is that clear? Put Mulder back on."
       Mulder accepted the receiver and barely got his name out before Skinner 
cut him short. Mulder  shut his eyes suddenly, gratefully. "Yes, sir. Thank you, 
sir. I--" Scully heard the dial tone.
       Mulder actually smiled. "He's putting out the APB."
       "On  recommendation. Mulder, you had better be right. It's one 
thing to go into that meeting Monday with  looking like idiots and quite 
another to haul Skinner into it--"
       "Forensics called Skinner.  It seems the Doe Family finally showed to 
collect their kids. The first three bodies have been claimed from the morgues in 
       "Claimed by who?"
       "Well, that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question, isn't it? Because 
by an odd coincidence the release records have all disappeared."
       The room was silent. Mulder's desk clock chimed hollowly.
       "So, all we have is Jane Doe Number Four," she said.
       "And Number Five. He laid her out last night, Scully."
       "In your dream."
       "I need to talk to Bruner."
       "If he's a doctor at that institution you called yesterday, I agree."
       "There weren't any messages on my machine when you came in this morning, 
were there?"
       "Well, I guess that puts all my fears to rest," Bill chirped. "She was 
here all night. It's comforting to know you didn't notice, Mulder."
       Scully interrupted Mulder's response, giving Bill her Look. It had about 
the same affect on him as it did Mulder: specifically none.
       "Someone called last night about nine or so," she said. I thought it was 
an obscene phone call at first. I'm still not
so sure it wasn't."
       "And you didn't take a message?" Mulder quipped sweetly. "What did she 
       "I couldn't tell if it was a man of woman but they said something going 
on a little foxhunt--"
       Mulder blanched white. Even Bill recognized something had jumped track. 
He gave Dana a questioning glance as Mulder disappeared into his bedroom. Fox 
emerged again, shrugging into his overcoat. She heard the jangle of car keys.
       "Mulder, what are you doing?"
       Her partner paused at the door. "I'm going to seek psychiatric help," he 
said reasonably, then disappeared. 
       She grabbed her own coat and trotted out after him.  Bill sat a moment 
longer at the suddenly quiet table before jerking up to follow suit.  When he 
reached the porch, Mulder had started his car and Dana was slamming her palm on 
the passenger window. The door lock clicked open and Bill pushed past her, 
climbing into the back seat. Dana and Fox stared at him. 
       He shrugged. "I haven't been anywhere interesting since I got here."
       Mulder turned back around and looked at Scully glaring at her brother. 
The expression on her face made him smile  and he glanced at Bill in the 
rearview mirror.
       "So, Bill. Do you like Baltimore?"
       "I live for Baltimore."
       Mulder grinned and even Dana's scowl didn't dim it.  "Well," Mulder said 
to no one in particular, "Looks like the Scully family reunion's about to do a 
road show." He turned to Dana, "What was that road game you were mentioning 
       Dana's intriguing suggestion of what Mulder could do with himself made 
Bill blush as she slammed the door.


       Forty-five minutes later, Bill and Dana found themselves sitting in the 
anteroom of the Maryland Institute for the Criminally Insane.
       Dana leaned forward on her bench, peering down the long corridor that had 
swallowed Mulder fifteen minutes before. There was still no sign of him. She sat 
back, her frustration obvious.
       Bill tried a little humor. "Real fun guy, your partner. Does he often 
take the two of you off on weekend outings to mental institutions?"
       "Only if he can find one that will take him on an out-patient basis." She 
wasn't smiling.
       They sat in silence several minutes. Bill inspected his nails, picked 
lint from his coat and generally fidgeted until Dana's look stopped him cold.
       He cringed playfully then pointed to his ear. "You're missing an 
       She reached up and verified the information absently. "Probably fell off 
when Mulder threw me onto the bed--" Her face blanched white then turned several 
shades of brilliant red. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I mean, it's 
not what you think."
       Bill's face was expressionless. "I'm not thinking anything. Should I be 
thinking anything?"
       "Bill, there's nothing going on between myself and Mulder."
       "Uh, huh," he was enjoying this. "That's what I thought."
       "Mulder and I--"
       "Speak of the devil," Bill quipped as Mulder's footsteps echoed back up 
the hall.
       "I'm sorry you guys had to wait like that--"
       "Oh, that's okay," Bill smiled sweetly. "Dana was just trying to explain 
how she lost her earring in your bed."
       Mulder turned pale and stayed that way. He stared at Scully, keeping Bill 
at several arm lengths and well aligned in his peripheral vision. "Scully, if 
you want me dead, don't wait for your family to do it, just shoot me yourself. 
God knows you've had the practice."
       Scully rolled her eyes from the ceiling to her brother. "It was a joke, 
       "Mulder's not laughing." Bill was.
       "This is insane. Bill, next time, you're staying home." Then to Mulder: 
"Did you get to see Dr. Bruner?"
       Mulder shook his head. "They won't let me in. Apparently, he's had 
several psychotic episodes and--"
       "He's a patient? You're consulting with a mental patient?"
       "Maybe he can find your earring."
       "Shut up, Bill."
       Bill's smile faded as his focus shifted up the hall. "Mulder," he said 
softly, "I think one of your friends is loose."
       Mulder turned.  Shuffling down the hall toward them was one the patients 
he'd noticed in Heissman's waiting room. He was  a young man, probably early 
twenties, emaciated and stooped. His shuffling stopped periodically as he 
approached but not from fear or trepidation; it was simply that the voice 
telling him to go on had ceased. And then of a sudden he was off again until the 
voice ceased again at Mulder's elbow.  =

       Eyes of watery blue peered up at the agent's six-foot height and 
struggled to register why they had sought him out.
       Mulder waited patiently.  He knew that somewhere in this mind of turmoil 
thought struggled on. Too wide of its mark, perhaps, but nevertheless, Reason 
stalked it's owner. It was simply an  unfortunate twist of fate that Reason was 
always seeking him where he was not to be found.
       Mulder's patience and that of the young man's was rewarded when the 
vacant eyes at last focused and a wizened hand held out a crumpled manila 
       "You dropped," the young man lisped, stopped, then began again. "You 
dropped your file, Dr. Verber."
       Then he was off again, back up the hall in his halting little shuffle. 
The threesome watched him in fascination. By now, Bill was certain he'd taken a 
sharp left into the Outer Limits. If this is what driving with Fox Mulder got 
you, Dana was right: next time he'd keep himself at home.
       It was Scully who stated the obvious. "Mulder, you didn't come in with a 
       She was speaking to his back again: he was heading out for the car. This 
time Bill didn't wait to be last out the door.
       Back in the backseat, Bill experienced a wave of deja vu: Dana was 
slamming her door again. Mulder was ignoring her, again, rifling through the 
papers he'd shaken out of the envelope. After a moment's silence he handed them 
to Dana who shuffled through them before tossing them back to Bill.
       "They're blank, Mulder," she said, back to the obvious again. "And here 
we sit fresh out of shower steam. Are you going to tell me what this is all 
about or do we have to play twenty questions like yesterday?"
       For a moment her only answer was the shuffling of papers from the 
backseat. Mulder stared through the misty windshield, and shook his head just 
barely, chewing his lip.
       "Seek and you shall find, he said," Mulder mumbled. "There's a price." He 
turned to Scully. "I don't mind paying the price, at least God knows I'm used to 
it. But would it be too much to ask if just every so often I could get a 
straight answer?"
       "St. Mary falls Mary Regina 55?" Bill puzzled behind them. "Is this 
Bruner some kind of religious nut or does he just have a thing for Catholics?"
       Mulder turned and Bill offered him one of the sheets from the file. "This 
is the only page with something on it," he explained.
       Mulder accepted the page and stared in wonder at the broken handwriting a 
half inch from the bottom of the page. The hand was light, all caps, penciled. 
"ST MARY FALLS MARY REGINA 55." He looked back at Bill with such open admiration 
that Bill almost blushed.
       "The St. Mary Falls," Mulder smiled, looking over to Dana. "George 
Washington National Forest off the Blue Ridge Parkway."
       "Great," she said. "Here I go again. Down Skyline Drive."
       "Bill," Mulder said, "consider yourself a junior G-man for the weekend. 
Boys and girls, let's go do some hiking."

        The commuter plane touched down two hours later and Bill managed to get 
his photo taken in front of the "Welcome to Staunton, Birthplace of Woodrow 
Wilson" sign while Scully signed out for a rental car. She handed Mulder the 
        "If this turns out to be a wild goose chase, you, sir,  are going to be 
out quite a chunk of change for this little weekend trip."
        Mulder was studying his map as they walked to the car. He didn't look up 
as he asked, "So, is big brother coming with us or would you prefer to leave him 
here with his political idol?"
        Scully waved for Bill and he waved back and sat down on a bench several 
yards away. She left Mulder with the car and went to fetch him, exasperated.
        "I don't get it, Dana. I've sat in that plane with you for half an hour 
listening to how insane you think this all is: Mulder following clues based on 
the advice of a psycho and, what did he call them,  precognitive dreams? And 
yet, here we are.  If it's so insane, what are we doing following him off in his 
        She sighed. "Because Mulder's dreams and delusions have an annoying 
habit of becoming reality."
        He stared at her. "Dana, even if there is something out in those woods, 
I've read the brochure. Saint Mary's Wilderness is almost ten thousand miles of 
just that. Wilderness." He nodded at Mulder, leaning on the hood of the car, 
still staring at his map. "With that kind of ground to cover, he's going to need 
directions from Rod Sterling."
        She sighed again and shrugged. "Come on, Bill. It'll be a nice little 
trip to the forest."