Title: Little Monsters
Written: December 1, 1997
Spoilers: Small reference to several episodes including Pusher, Duane Barry, and Fire
Rating: PG13/R for Violence.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen and Fox. No copyright infringement is intended, and I won't make a nickel from this, so please don't sue me.
Summary: While investigating a 30-year-old case of governmental experiments on rural children, Mulder discovers a dangerous addiction more potent than his search for the truth.
"Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked...."
People were rarely in the basement of the J. Edgar Hoover building this early. 'Only the FBI's Most Unwanted,' Mulder mused as he quietly let himself into his own office. Quiet was essential, just in case there was someone lurking in the shadows. His level of paranoia was higher than usual. He was tense, nervous, given to moments of brutal anxiety. He was sweating right through his suit. His hands had developed a slight tremor. You had to look real hard to see it, but he knew it was there, he could feel it. He hadn't slept in days, not because he couldn't but because he knew he didn't have to. He also had not eaten in as many days. Food was not essential. The "booster" took care of everything.
As he sat down at his desk, he could feel IT in his inside jacket pocket as if it were alive, slithering like a snake. Sweet-talking and beckoning him. He knitted his fingers together as if he could wait out the desire, but it was too strong. His attempt to go without it, to work it out of his system, was failing. He burned and ached from head to toe. He had spent most of the night before hugging the toilet, dry heaving until he thought he'd puke up a few vital organs. His head pounded, his eyes felt as if they were going to explode in their sockets. Thick, foul tasting, bile-like fluid kept building up in his throat and mouth, threatening to choke him. But worse were the hallucinations -- sporadic, all-too-real and frightening visions, almost apocalyptic in nature. They had slowed down, for now, but he knew they would start up again. Like in his shower, less than an hour
He had no choice. He had to give himself another "booster". The promise of instant relief and temporary invincibility far outweighed the fact that he was about to shave another year off of his life.
A wave of nausea hit him. He grabbed the black trashcan from under his desk and leaned over it, knowing nothing would come out, but feeling better having the can there just in case. The can was suddenly filled to the brim with a million pink, squirming maggots. Mulder gasped and kicked the trashcan away. It was empty again. He covered his face with his hands, then wiped away the tears that had squeezed through his tightly shut eyes. Mulder made his decision.
He stood up and removed IT from his inside jacket pocket -- the covered hypodermic needle filled with green fluid. Part narcotic, part alien DNA, part God only knew what else. He sat it on his desktop and stared at it. This would keep him going for a couple of days at least. But there was only enough at home for another two or three days. After that, there was no choice -- pain and madness were inevitable.
He shook as an icy chill ran through his body. "One more time," Mulder said out loud, and he removed his jacket. He carefully unbuttoned the cuff of his once starched now sweat-soaked white shirt and rolled up the sleeve. He removed his belt, then sat down and looped the belt around his arm. Tighter, tighter, holding the leather strap with his teeth. He waited for the vein to bulge, then flipped the cap off the needle. There was a time he detested needles.
He aimed for the vein.
He didn't hear the door open, but felt her presence. It was like a radar signal going off in his head, an instant awareness of her proximity -- her soap, her perfume, her hair spray, her own natural perfume. He'd never noticed that kind of thing before. How could he have ignored it?
Mulder let the strap fall from his mouth. Caught. "Scully, this isn't what you think."
Mulder could tell how hard it was for her to keep it together. She was running on adrenaline. She'd had as little sleep as he and had been through so much more. She had almost died. And as it was so many times before, it was his fault.
"No? Then what is it, Mulder?" She could not hold it together any longer. Her eyes turned red, stung by tears. "I haven't been able to reach you for hours. I was afraid you were dead already."
Mulder trained his eyes on his arm, not wanting to look at her. A vein was standing up, blue-green and engorged with blood, ready to receive. "Right now, I wish I was."
"Don't say that. We can beat this. Please, put it down, Mulder," she said as she slowly approached, holding out a hand. "You don't know what's in there. You don't know the long-term effects. It's destroyed so many people already. Don't let it destroy you."
"I did it for you, Scully." A tear streamed down his cheek.
"I know you did. But I'm safe now. You don't have to do this anymore. Please, Mulder. Put it down."
"I can't Scully. I tried. I can't beat them without it."
"Yes, we can, Mulder."
"Because we're right? Because we're the good guys? No. Only the strong survive, Scully. Only the strong can beat them. Even if it kills me."
"Do you really believe that?"
"No. I want to believe."
"Then put it down."
"I don't have the strength. I don't think I can."
"We have to try. Mulder, please. Please."
Mulder jammed the needle into his arm.
Sometimes it was hard to work on days like this, Agent Dana Scully thought as she stepped into the elevator and descended to the basement level. Spring had a special effect on Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms, azaleas and such. Bold squirrels would actually approach you if you happened to be eating a hotdog or popcorn from a sidewalk vendor along Pennsylvania Avenue. Kids on skateboards instead of in school were out enjoying the break in the weather. By lunch time businessmen in shirtsleeves and business women wearing sneakers with their designer suits would crowd the streets as they left their gray cubicles for a taste of early warmth. Scully imagined taking a little walk herself at lunch. She could use a little color, after an exceptionally dismal winter. It was a shame she had to spend so much of her day cooped up in the basement, filing reports. She silent wished for an
Entering Fox Mulder's windowless office, one might not have thought the sun was out at all. The lights were off, and there sat Agent Mulder on the edge of his desk, oblivious to the glorious day outside, staring at disturbing images projected on a screen.
"Morning Agent Scully, nice of you to join us."
"Morning, Mulder. What's the slide show? Aliens autopsies? Sewer beasts? Fat sucking freaks?"
"Suicides," Mulder said dryly. "Apparent suicides." The images on the screen were gruesome -- self-inflicted gunshot wounds, crushed bodies in smashed cars, hanging victims. Scully, though never squeamish, still turned away from the screen.
Mulder handed Scully a file. The unmistakable X was imprinted on it. She sat down with a sigh to read.
"I agree there are some interesting coincidences," Scully began, the image of a suicide victim projecting onto her dark suit as she walked by the screen. "All were mid-to-late thirties. All had non-professional jobs but still seemed to live relatively well. All were exceptionally high scholastic achievers, graduating from some of the top universities in the country. But look, Mulder, they're male and female, black and white. One lived in Manhattan, another in Annapolis, another in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. How can these be ritual suicides? There's no discernable pattern."
"Keep reading," Mulder said.
Scully flipped through the pages again, looking for the common thread she had apparently missed. "Stafford Hills," she said. And then she saw the town's name again. And again. "Staff -- they're all originally from the same place?"
"Bingo," Mulder jumped up and leaned over Scully, pleased and excited at getting her involved in the hunt. "Stafford Hills is a tiny speck in the wilds of Southern Virginia. So it wouldn't be too farfetched to assume all the suicides knew each other. They probably played in the same sand box together."
"I'll admit it may be more than a coincidence, but that hardly qualifies this as an X- file. There's nothing here that indicates paranormal phenomena. Maybe it was some strange suicide pact. Whatever it is, Mulder, I think you're wasting your time."
"Think again," Mulder said, handing Scully another file. "An X-file from 1966. Go on, take a look."
Scully opened the file, and the first two words she saw gave her pause. "Stafford Hills?"
"In 1966, twelve children attending Stafford Hills Grade School disappeared over a 72 hour period. Eleven returned with no memory of where they'd been or what they'd been doing. The twelfth child disappeared without a trace. A few months later, the townspeople reported strange occurrences that included everything from missing pets to freak accidents.
"Look at this -- a teacher from Stafford Hills Grade School was found dead in the woods, an apparent suicide. A little girl -- Kathy Jenkins -- receives first and second degree burns over sixty-five percent of her body in a classroom filled with kids, but nobody knows how it started. A groundskeeper was found in the tool shed on school property, impaled on his own rake. A few of the townspeople seemed to believe that the children were somehow responsible."
"What, Children of the Damned? Come on, Mulder."
"What if," Mulder whispered, moving closer to his partner, his excitement building, "these five recent suicides are somehow connected to those disappearances? What if they are those disappeared kids? What if whatever happened to them is causing them to commit suicide thirty years later?"
Scully fought the urge to smile. "You believe they were abducted, don't you?"
Mulder said nothing. He reached over and turned off the slide projector, then turned on the office light.
"Why don't you just compare the files," she offered, "and see if the names match up?"
"The X-file from sixty-six conveniently didn't include names."
Scully did smile this time. "More likely to protect the children than as part of some grand conspiracy. Barring your abduction theory, if these five suicides are indeed connected to the twelve disappearances, that would leave seven more suicides to go."
"Six," corrected Mulder, "assuming the twelfth victim is already dead. So, Scully, I thought we could go poking around Stafford Hills for a few days. We can stop at Stuckey's for Pecan Logs."
Scully sighed. At least it was a beautiful day.
October 22, 1966
"Come here, my boy."
The pale, skinny boy took one step toward the black Nova. He was afraid of the Bald-Headed Man. That's what they called him. He was mean, and would take them away, just like they took away Lacy, if they didn't obey him.
"Closer," he said, with just a trace of a German accent.
The boy took another step and stopped, frozen. He could feel his knees knocking together inside his overalls.
Vapors rolled from the Bald Headed Man's mouth as he spoke. "I'm not going to hurt you. Do you understand how important you and your little friends are to me?"
The boy shrugged.
"I let you go home because I like you. But you have to be very careful. Nobody must know about the games we play. Making the ball dance in the air, moving the chair, we have to keep those games to ourselves. Do you understand? It's our little secret. If the others knew the games we played, I would have to go away, and they would take away the medicine that helps you play. Do you understand?"
"I ain't no little kid. I unnerstand."
"Good." Dr. Emil Vorcek patted the boy on the head, then reached into the glove compartment. "Oh, goodness. Look what I have here." He unfolded a white handkerchief. Several pea-green stained sugar cubes sat in his palm. "Treats for my favorite little friends."
"And the others, yes. Would you like these?"
The boy nodded and reached for a sugar cube. Vorcek snatched it away.
"First, you must promise me that you'll always do as I say. Because if you don't, I will take the medicine away, and it will hurt. Hurt so very badly, worse than you can imagine. I don't want that. Do you?"
The boy shook his head.
Dr. Vorcek offered the cubes again and allowed the boy to take one. The boy quickly popped it into his mouth, then stepped back.
"Don't forget to share these with your friends. See that they each get one."
The boy quickly picked the cubes out of the handkerchief and dropped them into the pocket of his overalls. As he reached for the last one, Vorcek grabbed the boy by his skinny little arm and pulled him close, almost through the car window.
"And if you ever try to use your skills on me," Vorcek said with a malevolent smile, "I will kill your mother, your father, your brothers, your little friends and your dog. Then I will kill you. Is that understood?"
The sugar cube almost caught in the boy's throat. He shook his head vigorously.
"Tell your friends, I'll do the same to them. Now go." He gave the boy a shove.
The boy ran from the car on rubbery legs, back to his friends hiding in the woods.
Antiquarian Book Store Herndon, Virginia
Robert Earl Stiegers always got a little dizzy walking down the winding metal stairs, especially when he had to bring down an armful of dusty old books. He let out a sigh of relief when he hit the bottom, then searched the store for the customer who had requested the musty, out-of-print volumes that sent him searching in the much- hated attic office of the store. Robert felt something behind him and gasped.
He turned quickly and stared into the face of a woman about his own age -- 37 - and only an inch or two short of his six-foot frame. Her face was a deep, smooth mahogany. Her eyes were so dark they seemed to drink in light. Her mouth, painted a pale coral, twisted in an I-know-something-you-don't grin.
'How beautiful' Robert thought for a second, until he recognized the smile, the face, and the odd shock of white hair mixed with long, tightly twisted dreadlocks. She wore all black, tight fitting pants and shirt, big Doc Marten's and a long leather trench coat.
Robert felt faint. "Lacy?"
"In the flesh."
He tried to smile. He couldn't. His face muscles would not obey. He was terrified.
"They told me you were dead."
"Shall I quote Samuel Clemens?"
"What do you want?"
"Is there someplace we can talk? Someplace private?"
Robert Earl led her up to the office. His fear was no longer of the vertiginous, winding stairs that squealed with every step, but of the woman so closely behind him.
The office was jammed with boxes and books and unruly piles of paper. As always, dust instantly triggered the burning urge in Robert Earl's sinuses to sneeze. But he held it in, not wanting to make a sound, but desperately wishing he could disappear.
Lacy closed the door, locked it and leaned back against it. "This isn't a social visit, Robert Earl," she said. Evidence of her smile was gone. "I know what you've been doing."
"What do you mean? I haven't --" Lacy held up a hand and instantly Robert Earl's mind went blank -- just for a second -- and returned. 'What was I saying?'
"I kept your secret all these years," she spoke in a monotonous whisper, her eyes fixed on Robert Earl's. "If they knew, they'd've killed you. Or worse, turn you into me."
She started walking toward him slowly. "I could have told them about you a hundred times, but I never opened my mouth. You were my friends. My only friends. But now you've gone too far. I can't let you do anymore damage."
"They threatened me. I didn't have a choice."
"Of course you had a choice! You could have come to me."
"I was afraid."
Robert Earl barely blinked before Lacy moved -- actually leaped and landed atop the desk behind him. She grabbed him by the back of his polo shirt and yanked him up, off the floor, and pulled him to her until their foreheads met.
"Do you feel better now?" she snarled. "You knew the rules. Now you pay."
Robert Earl remembered his own power. It was certainly no match for Lacy's but it may be enough to buy him some time, he thought. He pushed his way into Lacy's brain. It wasn't easy. It was like banging his own head against a brick wall, but eventually he found a tiny breach through her defenses and filled it with imagery that made Lacy begin to shake.
Robert Earl thought he was winning. He kept pushing. Then Lacy began to laugh. It was a strange cross between a hiccup and a growl. He felt nauseous as he realized she had been faking, playing with him. And then she threw him.
For the second he was in the air, he was surprised to be thinking how unusual this was, and wondering how would he explain this to anyone who might ask. But when he hit the wall all wondering ceased. Stunned, he lay upon crushed boxes, straw and Styrofoam popcorn.
And in a flash, Lacy jumped from the desk and landed right beside him. She pressed one of her Doc Martens against his chest and leaned down close.
"Tell the others I'm onto them. Tell them, we're aware of their activities. I could kill you, but I know you're nothing without them. So you can be my little messenger, or --"
She slipped into his mind with ease, like oil down a pipe. She saw every secret, every fear, every joy, every sorrow in the time it took to blink an eye. She latched onto of his greatest fears. Robert Earl began to howl. In an instant, she released him, physically and mentally.
Lacy stood up, straightened her coat, and put on black shades. She pointed at the front door. The latch automatically unsnapped, and the door opened. She didn't have to point to it. She was just showing off. Lacy walked out without turning back.
Robert Earl lay in a pool of his own urine, sweating and gurgling in fear. 'I have seen the devil, I have seen the devil' he thought.
Mr. Beckwith waited impatiently by the cash register. Robert Earl had left the three volumes of Irish poetry for him, but had disappeared before he could ring him up. And there was a tremendous amount of racket overhead.
A very pretty, very tall Black woman descended the winding stairs with such grace, Mr. Beckwith could not take his eyes off of her. And then her eyes met his.
A big wolf spider was suddenly on his shoulder. Mr. Beckwith hated spiders. He let out a shout and began slapping his shoulder, knocking books off the counter and knocking over displays in his frenzy to kill the furry arachnid. Then suddenly it was gone. So was the woman.
Robert Earl came down the stairs. He went straight to the cash register and opened it.
"It's about time," Mr. Beckwith said, still shaken by the thought of that spider he thought he saw. "You all right?"
"Peachy," said Robert Earl, as he reached into the register drawer and pulled out a small gun. "Just peachy." He put the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Once past Manassas, Route 66 takes on a true rural flavor, with a few upscale malls thrown in between to break the monotony of hilly land and lazy cows grazing. It had been a long time since Mulder had just gone for a drive for the pure enjoyment of it. He rolled down all the windows and let the warm air assault them. He smiled as he stole a glance at his partner next to him, shimmying out of her over coat and holding back her auburn hair to let the wind hit her full in the face. Her cheeks were already flushed -- kissed by the sun and from temperatures a touch over seventy.
Two hours later, the two agents were getting out of their bureau registered Taurus, stretching their legs and sizing up the town of Stafford Hills. It was quaint, and as expected, truly out of the way. You could go fifteen miles or more before realizing you'd missed the poorly displayed exit.
Mulder popped on his shades, and with Scully began walking down the narrow Main Street. The old civil war era built clapboard houses all had cannons or flags or both in their front yards. A plow chugged down the street along side a pickup truck with an old yellow dog in the back. Vintage vehicles -- no doubt souped up to wake the dead-- were parked at the Dairy Queen and KFC. Somewhere nearby radios played -- John Mellencamp and Randy Travis were competing.
An old man on a porch, drinking from a Mason jar, waved at the two agents.
"What do you think he wants?" Mulder asked.
"I think," said Scully, "he was just saying hello."
"Oh. I knew that."
The agents entered the Stafford Hills Municipal Building ten minutes before closing time. The pretty blonde behind the desk, not too long out of school, nearly dropped her Big Gulp when the agents showed her their badges. She barely noticed Scully however, her eyes locked on Mulder.
"We'd like to view the student records for Stafford Hills Grade School, nineteen- sixty-five to about nineteen-seventy."
"You need special permission for that," the blonde said, taking a seductive pull on her straw.
"How do we get special permission?" Scully intervened.
"Well," the blonde said, still directing her comments and attention to Mulder, "you have to come between the hours of 8:30 and 2:30, when Mr. Sheldrake is here. He's in charge."
"Which means," Mulder said, leaning over the counter, playing along with the girl's seductive game, "that when Mr. Sheldrake's away, you're in charge?"
"Pretty much," the girl said. "But don't say that too loud. Mr. Sheldrake's my dad."
"I see. So, Miss Sheldrake --"
"Amanda...what do my partner and I have to do to get special permission to get ahold of these records?"
"Promise you won't tell nobody?"
"Cross my heart," Mulder whispered, making a little X on the middle of his chest.
Scully cleared her throat loudly.
Amanda Sheldrake led the two agents to a dark, dank closet filled with archival file boxes covered with several years worth of dust and cobwebs. She pointed to the boxes the two agents needed, and Mulder pulled them down from the shelves. He and Scully dug in immediately.
Amanda Sheldrake watched them the entire time. Rather, she watched Mulder.
"You know, that old grade school hasn't been used in years, not since they built the big day school campus off route three. It's got air conditioning and they just put in another Olympic size swimming pool. Course, they waited till after I graduated to do that. Makes me so mad. Anyway, I wouldn't go near that old school now if somebody paid me."
"Why not?" asked Scully.
"I don't believe it, but folks say it's haunted."
"Really?" asked Mulder.
"Yep. I don't think there's ghosts or nothing. Still, you won't catch me over there. That place gives me the creeps. They would've torn it down long time ago, but it's kind of a historic site, 'cause they said it was a stop on the Underground Railroad back in slavery times."
"Do you know anything about the twelve kids who disappeared back in sixty-six? Do people talk about it much any more?"
"Not to me. All I know is the stories I heard when I was a little. Some kids wandered off one day and showed up three days later. They said they were lost. I never been that lost before."
"Any of them still live around here?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
"What about the girl that never came back?"
"Huh?" Amanda crinkled her nose to show her confusion. "Way I heard it all of them came back, then one of them disappeared again."
"Mulder," Scully interrupted, "take a look at this. A Mrs. Doris Rainey was the teacher, grades three through six, 1965 and 1966. Is she still around?"
"Old crazy lady Rainey? Yeah. She's at the old folk's home down the road from the Dairy Queen. But you ain't gonna get much outta her. She hasn't talked to anyone since they put her away for kidnapping that little black girl."
"Excuse me?" asked Scully. Mulder's curiosity was peaked as well.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. Mizz Rainey went crazy and took that girl, the one who disappeared. She just up and took her one night, sneaked in her house while her parents were sleeping and took her. I guess they thought Mizz Rainey killed her and did something awful to the body, buried it somewhere or something, cause they never found the girl. Mizz Rainey was put in the crazy house for about 25 years, but now she's out and she ain't much better. All that time, she never told anybody what she did to that girl and she ain't spoken one word. I don't know if I could do that."
Scully wanted to laugh, but instead, asked, "Do you remember the little kidnapped girl's name?"
"Nope, it was way, way before my time. And I think it was a kind of unusual name."
Scully and Mulder kept flipping through the dusty yellowed rosters for clues. Mulder stopped quickly and put his finger on the most unusual name on the list. There, buried under a hundred Beckys, Billys, Henry Joes and Earls:
"Lacy Jordan?" asked Mulder.
"I'll betcha that's it." Amanda smiled. "Wow, I'm helping the FBI. Wait till I tell my Uncle Frank. He's a State Trooper and --"
"Miss Sheldrake," Mulder interrupted, "Would you mind if we borrowed these files overnight?"
"If you promise you won't mess 'em up, or forget them."
"Cross your heart?" She batted her lashes.
"Let's go, Mulder," Scully said impatiently.
The black monolith that housed the bank and several small financial businesses in the county of Stafford Hills was generally considered by most an architectural experiment gone sour. It was just a big ugly slab surrounded by empty parking spaces. And, as usual, by five o'clock, office workers spilled out of the building and headed home, leaving Peyton Grey to the silence and emptiness of the hi-tech monstrosity he had secretly designed.
In the cavernous black and chrome conference room, Peyton Grey cranked up the air conditioner to near freezing, turned down the lights, opaqued the windows and sat a the head of the table. He often sat for hours that way, sometimes until well after midnight, conducting what he called his side job. He had an extraordinary talent, one people were willing to pay him insane amounts of money to use on their behalf.
It didn't matter to him that sometimes innocents had to die.
He placed his thick palms on the black lacquered conference table, the coolness sending a shiver through him. He never understood this affinity for cold; it must have had something to do with the booster. After his first booster, he was never quite the same. Even before the booster he believed he was different from everybody else -- from his family, his classmates, literally everyone. For a while this bothered him -- how could he live in a world where normal people bored him? And then he met Dr. Vorcek, and he had given him the booster.
Peyton concentrated on his work. His mind stretched out to find his target. A million thoughts of a million strangers raged in his head. He could "see" the thoughts and feel the emotions of everyone as he briefly touched them. He could recognize in an instant their weaknesses and failures. How miserable these people were. How easy it would be to simply zap each one of them out of their misery. A stroke here, a heart attack there.
The old Bald Headed Man was still living, but hardly alive. His body was failing him. He could barely see or hear. His muscles were weak and his old withered legs were useless. Each day Peyton chipped away a little bit more of the old man, increasing his agony, but never letting him die. He hadn't needed Vorcek in years, not since he had learned on his own to manufacture the "medicine."
Peyton was concentrating on the steady, painful movement of a blood clot when a new thought, an energy like his own but not as powerful interrupted. Peyton opened his eyes as Virginia Scurlock entered the conference room.
She hadn't changed much since childhood. She was still short and thin and pale to an unhealthy cast. Undernourished as a child due to circumstance, undernourished as an adult because of vanity. Her hair was teased high and fell low, as was the fashion in this neck of the woods. She wore pink far more often than most people would deem appropriate and reminded him of a mouse caught in one of those sticky traps -- constantly struggling to be free, until it ultimately tore itself apart.
"Peyton," she said in a strangled whisper, "Frank just called. Robert Earl is dead. Shot himself in his store."
"I know. I felt it when it happened."
"They're on to us. They're killing us off one by one."
"Don't panic Ginny. We can't panic now. We got enough in the kitty to go away and never come back."
"It ain't about the money no more! They know what we're doing, and they're gonna come after and us AND THEY'RE GONNA KILL US!"
Ginny felt the inside of her head become cold and tingly, like her brain was becoming numb. "Stop it, Peyton!"
The numbness began to subside.
"I know you're scared, Ginny girl, but fear will destroy us. We gotta keep ourselves together if we want to survive this. Remember that. We're short now, ain't but you and me and Clarence and Frank and Debralee left. We gotta be a team, or we're as good as dead. Are you with me, Ginny?"
Ginny nodded. She just wanted to run. But she knew it wouldn't take much for Peyton to reach out and find her and she'd be on a slab in her Uncle Ned's funeral home.
Peyton stood and approached Ginny, putting his arms around her. He knew the slightest show of affection would always bring her around. It never took much.
"You go call Frank and Clarence and Debralee. Let 'em know what's happened if they don't already know. And tell them we have to have a meeting. We got a couple more big jobs to do and then we can get the heck out of the country and start our family. You ready for that?"
Ginny nodded. She had to work hard to keep Peyton for seeing how she really felt.
Stafford Hills Grade School
The land surrounding the crumbling condemned one-room schoolhouse looked like a dead forest out of a dark fairy tale. A light rain was beginning to fall, putting a oily sheen on the branches and dead leaves.
Inside the school, several buckets and plastic containers were placed around the room to catch rain leaking from the old roof. A broken down upright piano that once led children in song was now a nest to rats. Broken, spider web infested desks and chairs were piled in a corner like old bones. In a back corner, however, a small but technically advanced array of portable surveillance equipment was hiding under protective heavy tarp.
Lacy entered the old school room and powered up the generator. It coughed, sputtered, then kicked to life. A dim lamp near her surveillance console cast a yellow glow on the room.
Lacy looked around, and could not help but remember. She could almost hear the voice of her old classmates screaming, laughing, and taunting.
She whipped the tarp away and sat in a broken chair. She turned on the tape recorder and listened to the conversation of her surveillance subjects as it was being recorded.
"I know you're scared, Ginny girl, but fear will destroy us. We gotta keep ourselves together if we want to survive this..."
A laugh escaped her coral lips.
Lacy continued listening to the surveillance tape as she removed her heavy leather coat and tied a rubber tube around her arm. From a silver case, she took a syringe filled with cloudy green liquid. As soon as a thick vein bulged she pumped the syringe for air bubbles, then jabbed the needle into the vein.
The nausea lasted only a few seconds. When she was little, the green stuff would make her sick for days. Eventually, it became hours, then minutes. She was just beginning to feel normal, when the pain hit. That stabbing pain in her head, right at the base of her skull. The green stuff used to help keep the pain at bay, but not anymore. She was getting worse. The pains were coming more often and stronger impeding her concentration. They warned her it would be this way. Another pain, stronger than the last hit her with such force that she was knocked out of her chair and onto the floor.
"I'M IN CHARGE!"
Instantly the pain began to subside, leaving her trembling, weak, sweaty, and momentarily disoriented.
Lacy pulled herself off of the floor and back into the chair. She took a deep breath and concentrated on the surveillance tape, and fantasized about Peyton Grey's death.
Stafford Hills County Home for the Aged
The agents pulled up in front of the Home. Men well over seventy-five sat on the clapboard porch playing board games and snoozing. The ones where were awake never took their eyes off the agents. One gray hair gentleman took an immediate liking to Agent Scully and offered her a lascivious wink. She pretended she didn't see it, and the look in on her face told Mulder to do the same. His smirk died as they entered the old house.
As they introduced themselves to the head nurse on duty, someone upstairs was howling. A doctor and two attendants were racing up stairs. "Don't fret," she assured the agents. "That's Mr. Emil. There's always something wrong with him. How can I help you?"
"I don't know what you expect to get out of her," the nurse said as she lead Mulder and Scully up the stairs to the now quiet hall of bedrooms, "but good luck. She ain't said a word since before Nixon." The nurse opened the door. At a window, bathed in the last bit of waning sunlight, sat an old woman in a wheel chair. White hair cascaded down her sloped back.
"Call me if you need me," the nurse advised, then left them alone.
"Ms. Rainey?" Scully said in her lowest register. "Ms. Rainey, we're with the FBI. We'd like to ask you a few questions concerning a few of your former students."
No response. Not a sound, not a movement.
Mulder took his turn. "Ms. Rainey, we understand you were a teacher at Stafford Hills Grade School the year the children disappeared."
Instantly the wheel chair turned around, and the woman, thin as a rail, with the look of sheer fright on her face, rolled toward them at such a speed, both agents took a step back. The woman stopped right in front of them.
"I knew somebody would hear me someday!"
'She looks like the Crypt Keeper,' Mulder couldn't stop thinking when he first saw the face of Doris Rainey. But the thought died when she spoke. Everything they had heard about the woman so far was untrue. She was quite a talker. She literally pulled the agents into the room, insisted they lock the door and close the blinds before she would tell them anything.
She beckoned the agents to sit on her old, worn Victorian couch.
"I was one of the first white teachers in all of Stafford County to allow black children in my class room. I did not abide separation of any kind. Even when the rest of the town talked about me, called me horrible names. Even when I woke up one night to find a cross burning in my front yard. I have always believed in this county, and loved it. But I cursed it the day the vans arrived."
Scully's eyes widened. "The vans?"
"I can trust you, can't I? If they had sent you, you'd have killed me and gone by now."
"You can trust us," assured Mulder. "Tell us about the vans."
The old woman took a deep breath.
"We received word that what they called Health Mobiles would be visiting our school from time to time to provide the children with health care their parents could not afford. Stafford Hills has always been a desperately poor county. I thought, how wonderful! A need would be fulfilled. But I knew from the moment they arrived in those big metal monstrosities that something was terribly wrong.
"You see, they would not allow any teachers to accompany the children inside the vans. They said it would intimidate the children, but how could that be? They trusted me more than they trusted their own parents most times. And we were discouraged from asking the children questions about what went on inside those vans. I heard the children mention sugar cubes, that they were getting medicine on sugar cubes. I thought, how odd...the county was already providing polio vaccines on sugar cubes free of charge. When I inquired, I was told to keep to the business of teaching. And then I noticed that some of my children were becoming very ill. And once a week, like clockwork, those vans would arrive."
Mrs. Rainey wheeled slowly towards a steamer trunk at the foot of her bed. Her arthritic fingers shook as she dialed the combination lock. Mulder and Scully both came to her aid, opening the trunk for her.
"This, of course, " continued Mrs. Rainey, "made me all the more curious. So I borrowed my brother's Bell and Howell and took home movies."
Mrs. Rainey reached into the trunk and pulled out a small silver film can. She gave it to Scully. Scully opened it and pulled out a plastic gray reel with brownish 8mm film.
"There isn't much footage," Mrs. Rainey went on, "but you'll understand once you've seen it."
"What prevented you," Scully asked, "from showing this until now?"
"I never knew who to trust."
Mulder took the film reel from Scully and pulled out a few feet. He held the strip up to the light, but could not see much.
"Do you remember," he asked, "the night twelve children disappeared?"
"As if it were yesterday."
"Do you know where they went?"
"I believe they were taken."
"The men in the vans."
"The children were in your class?"
"They were all in my class. Would you like their names?"
Mulder pulled from his inside jacket pocket the folded class roster. She provided them with names of every child involved, except one.
"What about Lacy Jordan?" asked Mulder.
Doris Rainey went pale. Her bottom lip began to quiver. She shook her head.
"Why did you kidnap her?"
"I was trying to save that child. She was such a bright girl, so smart, so quick. She didn't ask for that, what they did to her. But they wanted her. I had to get her away from them, but they found us, followed us in the middle of the night, and they took her."
"They broke the window of my Impala, and pulled her right through it, like she was a rag doll. I held onto her for dear life..."
She pulled a small, worn black patent leather shoe with a broken buckle out of the trunk and shined it against her dressing gown. She reverently replaced it among her keepsakes.
"...but those men were determined to have her. I still hear that poor child screaming in my sleep sometimes. And I still see the face of that man in the black sedan, so young, but so evil, smiling and smoking, smoking and smiling."
Mulder immediately shot a look at Scully. No other description was necessary.
"What about Kathy Jenkins?" Mulder asked.
"I tried to put it out," Mrs. Rainey said, holding up her hands. For the first time, Mulder and Scully noticed the old scar tissue among the wrinkles.
"Kathy Jenkins' little ragged dress went up like paper. The sheriff's report said she was most likely playing with matches. Most likely."
"How do you think it happened?" asked Mulder.
"They did it. The children. Those little monsters. That's what they made them. Little monsters."
The gray Taurus was the only vehicle on the winding, narrow highway. The high beams barely cut through the thickness and completeness of the backcountry night. Rain was falling rather hard now, each drop racing toward the windshield and splattering violently against it.
The temperature had dropped as well. So much for an early spring, though Scully. She had insisted upon driving, but now, with the road so slippery, she wished she hadn't volunteered so quickly. Mulder was using a pen-sized flashlight and read the notes and school records over and over again. He banged the penlight against his forehead when the battery began to die and the light dimmed. It didn't help.
"I can hear it, Scully."
"The wheels and gears of skepticism turning in your brain."
"I feel like we're chasing our tails, Mulder."
"Am I chasing yours, or are you chasing mine?"
"All we have are a few strange and random events and we're trying to weave the pieces together into a big conspiracy. It just isn't making sense to me, Mulder. How dependable is this Doris Rainey? I mean, everyone says she won't talk and as soon as we show up, she's spewing like Old Faithful. How do we know she's not just telling us what we want to hear?"
"The five suicides were from her class, Scully."
"I'm not saying an investigation isn't warranted. I'm simply questioning the angle you are pursuing."
"You heard her, Scully. One minute, little Kathy Jenkins is reading 'Fun With Dick and Jane,' and the next she's a bonfire. They used those kids--"
"'They' who, Mulder? We still don't even know who 'they' are."
"She described who was responsible, or have you forgotten all about our cigarette smoking friend?"
"That could have been anyone, Mulder." Scully took a deep breath, holding on tightly to the steering wheel. "I see where you're going with this. Health mobiles were not uncommon. Disappearing children, tragic but not uncommon. Do you really believe the Government would sanction the use of experimental drugs on innocent, indigent children --"
"Yes. And you do, too."
"But to what end? What on earth was their objective here?"
Scully could feel the car being momentarily taken by the slipperiness of the road. She adjusted and gripped the steering wheel harder.
"All right, Mulder. I will for the moment entertain the suggestion that someone may have exploited these children. But until we know more, I cannot subscribe to your theory. I need proof Mulder. Give me proof."
"Fine. First, let's get Doris Rainey's home movie transferred to videotape. Then, we'll go down the list and run a check on each member of the class and find out where they are. Let's start with -- Peyton Grey."
Peyton kept the room so dark that Ginny could barely see the faces at the conference table. Clarence Harvey was there. She remembered being eight and hearing her father, drunk, calling Clarence and his father terrible names, and warning her to stay away from him and "those people." Yet here they were in the same room, sitting in the dark and holding hands.
Clutching her other hand was Franklin Pickett. Frank's palms were sweaty, just like when they were kids. And he still mumbled under his breath. She remembered that his hair fell out after his first booster -- even his eyelashes and eyebrows. His hair never grew back. This along with his State Trooper uniform made Frank oddly attractive to Ginny.
And there was Debralee. She wasn't doing so well. Debralee was close to Robert Earl. His death hit her harder than anyone else at the table. Her mousy brown hair hung limp and obscured her face, which was red and puffy from crying. She hadn't cried this much since she'd lost her twin sister.
Ginny would also miss Robert Earl. Robert Earl was gentle. He liked old books and herbal tea. He was shy around women and never quite knew how handsome he really was, Ginny thought. She would miss the way he would --
Peyton's voice startled her so terribly she nearly leaped out of the chair.
"Concentrate on your work."
Ginny settle back, took a deep breath, and concentrated hard. This was always difficult for her. Her mind loved to wander. But what they were doing would fail without the concerted effort of each person at the table. And it didn't help that their number had been cut short. She closed her eyes and zeroed in on the image as Peyton had instructed. See the plane, he'd said. See the airplane in your head. And see it going down....
Stafford Motor Inn
The television was on, but the sound was down. Some idiotic sitcom had been thankfully interrupted for a special report, but Mulder was hardly paying attention. He paced the tiny room, stretching the phone cord the entire length. He had been asked to hold for an inordinate amount of time. He was getting antsy.
Mulder looked out of the window and could see red flashing from the neon vacancy sign a few windows down. Nothing stirred outside. Just the rain. He wondered what Scully was doing next door. The walls were so thin he could hear the shower running earlier, and knew the moment when she was done. He felt a little guilty. He never paid that much attention to Alex Krycek's coming and goings. He stayed with the image of Krycek, his fist pummeling his pretty-boy face. Better to imagine whipping the crap out of that turncoat than imagining his redheaded partner naked and wet from the shower.
"Are you still there?"
The voice of the old man startled him. "Yes! I'm still here. I'm trying to locate a Peyton Grey. I understand he lives --"
"Mr. Grey has not lived here for several years," said the voice on the other end. It was dripping with irritation.
"Would you have any idea where I might find him?"
"Not at this hour. You city folks may not mind getting calls all times of the night, but that don't chop cotton out her in God's country. People need their sleep."
"I can appreciate that," said Mulder. "But this is an emergency. If you hear from him, would you please have him contact me here at the Stafford Inn, or call the FBI in Washington, DC? It's important."
So much for the kindness of country folk. Mulder sat down on the bed just as there was a knock at his door.
Scully walked in. She looked tired, thought fresh from the shower. Her auburn hair was still damp, and she was wearing a dark green sweatsuit.
"Anything?" she asked.
"Not much. Peyton Grey still lives in Stafford Hills but no one seems to know where. He works for the Investment Bank. I left a voice mail for him. I also found the house he used to rent. Think I ticked off the landlord. Nothing yet on Virginia Scurlock, but Franklin Pickett is a Virginia State Trooper. We can check him out right after Peyton Grey first thing."
Mulder glanced at the television set. "Whoa, look at this." He grabbed the remote control and turned up the volume. On the screen was the result of an airline disaster. A plane had crashed just moments after receiving landing clearance. The wreckage of the jumbo jet was burning out of control. According to the newscaster, the number of casualties could reach well over 200.
"Terrorists?" Scully asked.
"I don't know." He had enough. He muted the set again and turned to his partner. "What did you find out? Better luck than me I hope."
"I think so. Nothing yet on Debralee Jenkins, though I'm willing to bet she's related to the deceased Kathy Jenkins. Clarence Harvey has a small estate approximately ten miles south of here. I say we pay him a neighborly visit first thing in the morning."
"Why wait?" Mulder grabbed his trench coat. "Let's piss off some more country folk. Get changed. I'll warm up the Taurus."
Clarence Harvey always did the same three things when he got home late like this. First, he would put on his favorite CD, a collection of classical tunes cleverly called "Bravo, Beethoven." Next, he would place a frozen dinner in the microwave and put on a pot of Kona coffee. While the food nuke and the coffee brewed, he would take a walk out to his modest stable and check on his horses. Three beautiful mares. He'd paid incredible amounts of money for them, but they were worth it.
He fed them, brushed them, talked to them. He told them his troubles. He told his horses things he would never tell people. He never trusted people. Not even his family. And especially not Peyton Grey.
What they had done tonight made Clarence shudder. He never worried much about doing things to people who deserved it. But how could he justify killing 203 people just because a "foreign investor" wanted one of the passengers dead, and needed it to look like an accident? If anyone knew the horrible things he had done, and allowed to be done....
But the money he made allowed him to buy and take care of his mares. At least there was some joy in his life. He picked up a brush and started brushing his favorite horse. "Atta girl, Maddie...atta girl..."
He felt the hair on the back of his neck begin to prickle, as if lightning was about to strike. That was his true talent. Not so much as making things happen, as knowing when something was about to occur. Lightning did strike, and in the split-second flash of white light Clarence saw a figure silhouetted against the hill in the horizon. He blinked once, twice, and the figure was gone. When he turned back to strap a feedbag on Maddie, he realized he was no longer alone.
Thunder rumbled. Clarence dropped the feedbag.
The last time he saw Lacy, they were just kids. She had once given him a look that scared him so badly that he wet his pants. He remembered standing in line for a fire drill and feeling the hairs on the back of his neck prickle up, just like now.
Thunder rumbled again like the stomach of an angry beast.
The Taurus pulled up to the driveway of Clarence Harvey's estate. The front door was open and several lights were on.
Mulder stepped out of the car into the drizzle, followed by Scully on the passenger side.
"I thought it was a myth," said Mulder.
"That people in the country didn't lock their doors."
"It is," said Scully. Both agents reached inside their coats and pulled out their guns.
They climbed the steps and checked the corners of the verandah, then knocked and the screen door.
"Hello?" Scully called out. "Mr. Harvey? We're with the FBI. We'd like to speak to you."
No answer. Just the sound of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Mulder nodded and entered with Scully watching his back.
Inside the house, the smell of coffee and spicy tomato sauce reminded the agents that neither had eaten for several hours. Scully found herself wishing she had a Pecan Log.
Mulder pointed to the full, steaming pot of coffee and the clean mug waiting on the sink. Scully found the frozen dinner dried and withered beyond visual recognition in the microwave. Mulder peered out of the window.
"There's a light on in the stable. Wanna see the horsies, little girl?"
Mulder pushed the door open with a big foot and Scully raced in, gun ready. Mulder followed. The horses were agitated, upset. It was no wonder. Mulder and Scully found Clarence Harvey. He was impaled through the gut to the wooden stable wall by a pitchfork. His eyes were still opened. He twitched once.
"Call an ambulance," Scully cried as she raced to the body and felt for signs of life. "Better make that a coroner."
Mulder ran out of the stable to find his cell phone. He was sure he'd left it somewhere in the car. He opened the door and peered inside. As he did, headlights-- brights-- flashed on, blinding him. Mulder raised a hand to shield his eyes and pulled out his gun. He heard an engine gunning, the vehicle heading for him, but his eyes had yet to adjust. He couldn't see anything. He fired once into the air as a warning, but it made no difference.
Mulder moved to leap out of the vehicle's way, but he was too late to clear himself. The car slammed into Mulder's side, winding him, knocking him hard to the ground.
Scully was at his side seconds later.
"Don't move! Keep still!" she demanded.
The car screeched away over the damp road, into the night.
"Aaaaaccch!" Mulder tried to rise, despite Scully's attempts to keep him down. He clutched his side and hissed through his teeth.
"I said keep still! You may have a couple of broken ribs."
"Say it ain't so."
Harvey Estate 11:21 p.m.
Stafford County Sheriff Irving Tucker was a nice, amiable individual, just the kind of lawman one would expect to find in a small town. He walked around the taped off crime scene overseeing the work his men and women were doing, making sure no one missed a single piece of evidence. He was very saddened by the death of Clarence Harvey, but he was also excited -- this was Stafford Hills' first real murder investigation in over a decade.
Mulder leaned against the Taurus hugging his aching side. He thought the pain would have begun to subside by now, but it only seemed to be getting worse. It hurt whenever he inhaled. It was getting harder and harder to hide this from his partner.
Scully divided herself equally between monitoring the investigation and hovering over Mulder. "You okay?" she would ask between requesting a finger print check or the collection of fiber samples or molding for mudprints.
"You need to be in a hospital."
"The paramedic already wrapped me."
"You need x-rays to determine the extent of the damage, Mulder. There could be internal bleeding. A broken rib could puncture a lung, and -- "
"Noted and filed. What have you found?"
"Not much. And you didn't see anything? The driver? The make of the car?"
"The brights were on. I was blinded."
Sheriff Tucker wandered over, and all three watched as attendants carried and loaded Clarence Harvey's covered body into the coroner's wagon.
"This is kinda odd for me," Tucker confessed. "I knew Clarence from when he was in high school."
"How well did you know him?" Mulder asked.
"'Bout as well as I know everybody else in this community. It's my job. He was always a little stranger than most, though. Kept to himself mostly, especially after his folks died."
"Were you in Stafford Hills the night Clarence and eleven other children disappeared?"
"Nope. I was a kid myself 'round then, living over in Faquier County. Funny you should mention that."
"We had a fire at the police station not two weeks ago. Not much damage, except for some incident reports, including the those old sixty-six reports about those kids."
"What was the cause?"
"Unknown. I figured one of the deputies was probably smoking, but there's no evidence to substantiate that."
"Did Clarence happen to pay the office a visit around the time of the fire?"
"Not to my knowledge. What are you getting at, Agent Mulder?"
"I dunno. Just a theory. Anything strange every happen while Clarence was around?"
"Anytime Clarence was around strange things happened. I remember once hearing 'bout how he'd pissed off his poppa something fierce. Must've back-talked or something. Anyway, the old man tended to drink and get a little loud. Got mad one night and threw a jar of peach preserves at Clarence. I don't know what kinda spin he put on that jar, but it came tearing back at the old man like a boomerang. Old man got fourteen stitches and a concussion. Strange part is, Clarence always said he did it."
"You mean he threw it?"
"No, sir. He thought it."
"The boy showed negligible results, as did the rest of the children. Oh, they could guess a few shapes on the backs of cards correctly, but beyond that, I would consider them in my professional opinion to be of no further consequence to the project. The girl, however, she's is a different story."
Cigarette smoke swirled around the other man's face as they walked along the lonely stretch of highway. "The black girl? I've seen what she can do. Impressive, indeed, but I can't exactly parade her around my superiors. Are you sure about the boy?"
"You don't trust me?"
"Of course I trust you, Emil. After all, I brought you in on this project. We'll take the girl."
He shook out a Morely and proffered it to Dr. Vorcek. "Cigarette?"
"Thank you, my friend."
The Stafford Motor Inn
When Scully knocked on Mulder's door the next morning to check on him, she found him dressed in a crisp white shirt and UFO tie, already at work and on the phone. He gestured her in, then grabbed his side, that slight movement enough to make him bend over in pain.
"Got it, thanks." Mulder hung up. "You're not gonna believe this, Scully."
Mulder grabbed his suit jacket and tried to put it on slowly. Every movement sent pain jack-hammering through his chest and side. Scully grabbed the jacket and helped him slip it on.
"I can't believe you still refuse to see a doctor."
"It's not that bad. Listen, Clarence Harvey's parents both died of massive strokes on the same night within hours of one another."
"Who went first?"
"Mr. Harvey, why?"
"It doesn't happen often, but wives have been known to die following the death of their spouses, sometimes weeks, days or hours after, and often under the same or similar circumstances."
Mulder sighed Why couldn't she see things his way?
"My money says Clarence Harvey's responsible. Let's go."
"Where are we going?"
Scully drove, heading towards the Stafford Office Park. She knew her partner wouldn't last the day going by the pinched look on his face. He was in pain but too obsessed by the chase to pay attention to his health. One more grunt, though, she promised herself, and she would turn the car about and find a hospital.
Mulder was fighting with his cell phone. He kept getting cut off and having to re-dial, only to be cut off again.
"Yes, this is Special Agent Fox Mulder again. What were you saying? What do you mean 'mislaid'? How do you mislay a body? What? Hello! Damn it! This is worse than AOL," Mulder grunted. As he pocketed his phone, another spasm of pain made him wince again.
"I'm fine! Just sore. Listen, that was the county coroner. Clarence Harvey's body was 'mislaid'."
"Mislaid? You mean they lost it? They lost the body?"
"That's the story. They 'expect to find it soon'. I expect they won't. It's starting, Scully. Disappearing evidence. Disappearing corpses. Don't leave your laptop in your motel room. The killer is so far ahead of us. Four more to go. Where's the list?"
"Wait a minute, Mulder. You think all of the victims were murdered? You don't believe they were suicides anymore?"
"I believe the killer somehow forced them to kill themselves, which, technically, makes it murder, yes. Each of those supposed suicides were carefully orchestrated murders, designed to look like random, unrelated suicides. The killer got sloppy with Clarence Harvey."
"Mulder, how do you make a half a dozen people commit suicide?"
"Does the name Modell remind you of anything?"
"Modell? But he's --"
"Not Modell, but the twelfth kid. The one Ma Rainey tried to hijack."
"Lacy Jordan? Mulder, you've lost me."
"C'mon, Scully, we've seen it before. Government experiments. Drug-induced psychokinesis. Better soldiers through chemistry. All of it being conducted right at the height of the Vietnam War. Eleven of those kids were failures, so they let them go. Erased their memories of the incidents -- the tests, the drugs -- and sent them merrily on their way. But one kid, one kid becomes the star pupil, and this kid comes back to take care of the others."
"But why? Why come back and kill her old classmates after thirty years? What, did they pick at her relentlessly and she never got over it? What's the point, Mulder? What's the motive?"
"I don't know yet, but AAAAAhhhhh!" Mulder doubled over and held his side when the car hit a pothole and lurched. He grabbed the dashboard with the other hand to steady himself.
"That's it!" Scully cried. We're finding the nearest hospital."
Mulder looked up, red faced and teary eyed. Something ahead caught his attention.
"No, wait Scully," he said through clenched teeth. "Stop the car."
"Pull over here. Pull over!"
Scully pulled off the road and stopped the car. Mulder stared at the old broken down structure at the very top of the hill. He forgot all about his injury as he climbed out of the car and began walking up the overgrown path toward the old Stafford Hills Grade School building.
When Scully realized where they were, she was out of the car in seconds and caught up with her partner quickly. Both agents headed towards the old building, but stopped within twenty feet. They could not go any further. Neither one knew why. Both pulled their service weapons.
Mulder saw his partner physically shudder. "You felt it, too, didn't you?" he asked, as a thin stream of cold sweat ran down the middle of his back.
The agents saw movement inside the building, through broken out windows. A figure in a long black leather trench coat and Doc Martens came out of the crumbling building. Her finely twisted dreadlocks were splayed across her shoulders. And she had the strangest patch of white hair.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked cordially. She pulled back her black trench as if showing the agents that she was not armed.
Mulder and Scully both held up their I.D.'s. Both were too far away for anyone to read their names without coming closer, but to the agents' amazement, she did.
"Agent...Mulder...and Agent...Scully. What can I do for the FBI?"
"You can start by telling us who you are and what you're doing here," Scully said flatly.
"I'm thinking about buying this land. Great old school house, isn't it?"
'Incredible eyes," Scully thought of the odd woman standing before her. She fought to ignore a weird tugging in the back of her mind, as if she was being split between two competing activities, both demanding her full attention.
"People say this land is haunted," Scully said, a little to loudly, trying to keep herself in the moment.
"I never believed in ghost stories. Monsters, demons, not me."
Scully looked over at Mulder. Strangely, he hadn't said a word. He was staring at the woman, his eyes locked on hers. It was more than staring. It seemed more like he was being held.
Mulder didn't hear his partner calling him. His eyes were fixed on the strange woman. There was a moment when he thought he had heard the woman's voice yet her mouth had not moved.
The woman took a step closer. "There's nothing here. Nothing. Now, get off my land. Please."
Mulder took a step forward, but one step was all he could take. Something held him back, something not from within, but strangely from without. "We just want to know --"
The woman held up a hand. Time stopped for both agents. Just for a few seconds.
When time resumed, the woman was gone.
"Damn it, Scully! Mulder and Scully both spun around, searching the area for the woman in the black trench coat. She was gone. Just gone.
"Which way...which way did she go?"
Mulder made a move toward the old school house, but again, something stopped him, something he could not identify.
"Did you feel it, Scully? We should have stopped her! We should have --"
Mulder doubled over in pain, dropping his Sig Sauer.
"That's it. I'm taking you to the emergency room, now!" Scully grabbed Mulder to to help him back to the car, retrieving her partners service weapon.
"No! Scully, I think it was her! I think it was Lacy Jordan."
"Maybe it was, but we can't deal with her now."
"Don't fight me on this! You need medical attention!"
"She's getting away!"
"She got away."
"We have to find her. Place her under arrest."
"And charged her with what?"
"I don't know. How about suspicion of being spookier than me?"
Stafford Hills County Hospital
Scully yanked hard on the vending machine knob, until the candy bar came tumbling out. She ripped of the wrapper and took a bite. Stale. She dropped the offending bar into a nearby trash can and wandered back to the waiting room.
Mulder appeared a few moments later, looking cowed. Chewed out hard by the doctor, no doubt, for not seeking medical attention sooner.
"How are the ribs?" Scully asked.
"Tender," said Mulder, "but I recommend the chicken."
"The doctor says they're not broken, but badly bruised. She says I should take it easy a couple of days."
"Now that's funny."
"You know me."
"Why don't I drop you off at the motel. You can get some rest and I will go see Peyton Grey."
"I'm okay, I can go..."
Scully shot him a look; he knew better than to argue.
"We can take a look at this, too." Scully pulled an unlabeled videocassette from her trench coat pocket.
Mulder's lips curved into a lascivious grin.
"Scully, is that what I think it is?"
"Actually it's the video transfer of Mrs. Rainey's eight-milimeter footage. I called the lab and had them deliver it here, just to be on the safe side."
The agents walked across the parking lot side by side. Scully kept her pace slow to accommodate Mulder's condition. She unlocked the door on the passenger's side and held the door open for Mulder. He did not get in right away.
"Mulder, what is it?"
"Have you ever known me to back down so easily?"
"You're still thinking about that odd woman."
"We don't know for sure."
"What stopped us? What stopped us from questioning her, or checking out the school house?"
"Lack of evidence?"
"She did something to us, Scully."
"Please don't tell me," Scully said as she walked around to the driver side, "you think she put the whammy on us."
Mulder stared at his partner over the roof of the car. "Scully, look me in the eye and tell me you didn't feel something."
Scully looked away, pursing her lips. "All right. I'll admit it. I did feel something. I was distracted. It was like my body was one place, and my mind another. And there was this odd sense of dread."
There was more, but she didn't want to tell him. Scully had experienced what a lot of people might call a vision. She preferred to believe exhaustion and anxiety contributed to activating her imagination. Whatever it was, she saw her darkest fear: She was lying in a coffin, in complete blackness, alive, screaming until her throat was raw, scratching at the lid until her fingers bled. And then the air began running out.
Scully ran a hand through her auburn hair. No, she would not tell Mulder this.
"We were both exhausted," she continued. "Neither one of us were thinking straight."
"She did something to us, Scully. Don't you want to find her? We need to go back and --"
"There's nothing there, Mulder. Nothing."
"That's what she said."
"Then let's go back to that school house. We'll go right now."
"No!" Why did he say that? Hadn't he wanted to, truly wanted to just seconds ago? That odd sense of dread -- just like Scully described -- came thundering back. He could feel the hairs on the back of his neck rising and a rush of adrenaline that made him want to run. Fire. In the back of his mind, all he could think of was fire.
"You win. I'll get some rest. We'll go later."
Both agents climbed into the car. Mulder winced when Scully slammed her door. She gave him an apologetic look, then silently helped Mulder into his seat belt. She couldn't help but notice that he had suddenly grown pale and broken out in a sweat.
Stafford Motor Inn
Mulder sat on the bed, back against the headboard, fiddling with the remote control to the rented VCR. Scully paced the floor, on the phone.
"Thank you. Please tell him I'll be there in about forty minutes."
She hung up the phone and began rubbing knots out of her neck, then sat down next to Mulder.
"Peyton Grey is in meetings the rest of the day. His assistant said she'll try and call him out."
Mulder reached over and placed a big warm palm on Scully's neck. She jumped at first, caught off guard, but settled down and allowed her partner this un-partnerlike moment.
"The man won't make time for the FBI?" he asked as he attempted to gently massage away Scully neck tension. "That's downright un-American. Scully, you've got a knot the size of Cleveland back here."
The impropriety of the situation made Scully feel all the more tense. She pulled away and forced a smile.
Mulder understood. He resumed his fiddling with the remote control, finally pressing the 'play' button.
"Here we go."
Both agents stared at the television screen as the black and white leader began its countdown from ten to one. Ancient, grainy gray images bounced on the screen, shaky hand-held camera images of a few dozen boys and girls from the sixties running and playing, swinging on old truck tire swings, waving and cutting up before the camera. All outside the Stafford Hill Grade School.
The image would quickly jump from one series of activities to another. More random shots of kids playing, then an interior shot. There was not enough light, and the film had certainly lost some of its clarity through the years, but both agents could tell they were inside the infamous schoolhouse. Well over thirty kids sat at desks vigorously raising their hands. At the head of the room, a fourty-year-old Doris Rainey presided over her class.
The image changed to outside again to a random shot of the woods surrounding the school. An unstable pan to the left revealed two Twinkie-shaped metallic vans parked near the school. There were none of the fun, playful images one would associate with pediatric medicine-- no clowns, no balloons, no lollipops. There was a long line of kids, all going one by one inside one van or the other. Men and women in lab coats seemed to be dividing the children into two separate groups. One little girl -- a little black girl -- was pulled out of line by stern faced, balding man.
"He's no Doctor Spock," Mulder said, sitting up, despite the pain. "I recognize him, Scully. He's in the photograph."
"The one with my father."
Scully barely heard her partner. She's was riveted to the screen.
The balding man pulled the little girl harshly by the arm, leading her to the other van. She tried to pull away, but the man simply picked her up and carried her kicking and screaming to the van. She had the oddest little shock of white hair mixed in with her little plaits.
"Oh my god, Mulder, you were right. It's her." Scully whispered. "That was Lacy Jordan we saw."
Mulder hit the pause button, catching a disturbing image of little Lacy frozen in mid- scream in the arms of Dr. Emil Vorcek.
Debralee Jenkins' favorite place in all of Stafford Hills was the new Giant. It was as big as a high school football field and fill with the best produce and the finest cuts of meats you could find in all of Virginia. Some of the fruits and vegetables came from the farmlands of old family friends.
Her favorite section was the international aisle. Debralee loved the fact that people from other countries ate such exotic fare. She stopped to read the back of a box of falafel mix. Very soon, Debralee would be living for good in some exotic place, eating exotic foods, though she had yet to make up her mind which country it would be. There were so many choices, and Peyton had promised to fulfill her heart's desire.
Debralee heard footsteps coming her way. She suddenly felt very cold. She turned. No one was there. She reached to return the falafel box to the shelf and felt a thin stream of warm air on her neck. She spun around with a gasp.
She almost didn't recognize the woman standing so close to her, practically towering over her. Then, she noticed the shock of white hair. Debralee almost spoke, almost screamed, but the woman put a finger to Debralee's lips.
"You know who I am?"
Debralee nodded again.
"Then you know why I'm here. I can help you. But first, I need you to help me. I want Peyton."
"Ssshhh. If you don't, you'll end up like Clarence and the rest, I guarantee."
Debralee nodded, and allowed Lacy to take her by the elbow and escort her out of her favorite Giant.
Stafford Hills County Home for the Aged
Fox Mulder could barely climb the stairs to the verandah. The elderly men watched the younger man struggle, an arm clenched around his sides, his face twisted in discomfort. Mulder hit the last step and let out a sigh.
He rang the door bell. The head nurse he and Scully had met the day before came to greet him. She did not look very cheerful. "Agent Mulder, right?"
"Yes. Sorry to bother you, but yesterday, when my partner and I came by to interview Mrs. Rainey, there was a man yelling. You referred to him as Mr. Emil. I need to know if that man's name is Emil Vorcek."
"May I see him?"
"I'm afraid you can't."
"Mr. Emil passed on during the night."
Mulder stopped, closed his eyes for a moment. Somehow, that was exactly what he had expected to hear but hoped he wouldn't. One step forward, two steps back.
"Has anyone come to claim the body?"
"Some men were here earlier."
"I guess. Is he in some kind of trouble?"
"Not any more," Mulder said dejectedly. "I need to get a cab back to my motel. May I call one?"
"You know, I think it's Reggie's day off."
One cab in all of Stafford Hills. Mulder cursed under his breath.
The nurse stepped back inside. Mulder turned, staring at the stairs he'd have to negotiate his way down. After much protest, Scully had reluctantly dropped him off on her way to see Peyton Grey, making him promise to call a taxi or wait for her. A cab - the only cab in all of Stafford Hills, was apparently out of the questions. He could wait for her or hoof it back to the motel. He decided to walk.
Scully paced the shiny black floor in the waiting area. The room was much cooler than it was outside, and Scully could feel herself begin to shiver.
There was a strange, muffled trilling, and Scully realized it was the high tech phone at the reception desk. The woman who filled that position answered it quietly.
"Mr. Grey will see you now," she announced to Scully. Scully gave the receptionist a quick nod and headed directly to the double doors. She was taken aback when the left door opened just as she reached for the knob.
Ginny Scurlock stood there, a hand extended. Scully thought the woman held her hand a little longer than she should have.
"I'm pleased to meet you, Agent Scully. Come on in."
Ginny escorted Scully to a medium size office with a window overlooking the parking lot. A handsome man in his mid-thirties stood up and offered his pale hand to Scully.
"Mr. Grey, I presume?"
"Agent Scully. So sorry to give the FBI such a run-around, but my schedule has been a might busy. Investor's is close to being bought out by another financial institution and everybody here is about as nervous as a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, 'fraid they're gonna lose their jobs."
"I understand, sir. I promise not to take up too much of your time."
"Won't you have a seat?"
Scully settled into a black leather chair that looked more comfortable than it felt. "Sir, my partner and I are investigating --"
"I know what you're investigating. I heard about Clarence Harvey, and I assume you also heard about Robert Earl Stiegers."
Scully quickly pulled out her notes and found Stieger's name on the list of former students, but not among the dead.
"Perhaps you could fill me in on Mr. Stiegers."
"You're the FBI, shouldn't you know?"
"My partner and I had a rather energetic night."
"He was injured in the line of duty. If you would be so kind..."
"Robert Earl ran a little second hand bookstore up in Herndon. He shot himself in the face in front of a store full of customers."
"Doesn't it bother you that another former classmates from Stafford Hills Grade School is dead?"
"It deeply disturbs me. But I can't say that I have kept track with all these individuals, or maintained a friendship with them. Don't you worry, though. I have no intention of committing suicide. How 'bout you, Ginny?"
Ginny shook her head.
"That's just it, Mr. Grey. My partner, and to a small degree, even I suspect that these are not suicides anymore."
"You mean you think they were murdered?"
"Mr. Grey, have you received any threatening phone calls, letters, or communications with anyone that may have given you cause for alarm?"
"I have to say no."
Scully looked up at the mousy woman in pink polyester standing near Peyton Grey's desk like a nervous little sentry.
"What about you, Miss Scurlock?"
"I have to say no, too."
Scully studied the woman's expression. She knew something. There was no doubt about it. But she was taking all of her cues from Grey.
"Sir, do you know Lacy Jordan?"
"Lacy Jordan? Lacy Jordan. Oh, Lacy Jordan! I remember her. She was that weird little girl with the white hair, back in something like third or fourth grade. You remember her, Ginny?"
Ginny nodded nervously, then turned to look out the window. Scully noted the reaction.
"Poor little thing got kidnapped by crazy old Miss Rainey, woo, back in sixty six. They never did find her body."
"That's probably because she was never a corpse. I have reason to believe that Lacy Jordan is alive, and may be responsible for the deaths of your former classmates."
"Go 'way from here."
"And it is also possible that you and Miss Scurlock, could be next on her list."
Scully noticed the woman shudder. Peyton Grey, however, was as cool as a cucumber.
"Alive! Why, that's great. But why would she wanna hurt me or Ginny, or any of us?"
"We believe it has something to do with the night you and your classmates disappeared. I wonder if you remember anything of that night."
Peyton sat back, relaying his grief with all the emotional depth and realness of a b- movie actor. "I'm afraid, Agent Scully, that after years of therapy and sheer frustration, I have yet to uncover from my psyche the events that unfolded that night. I am at a loss, as is my assistant Ginny, for anything that happened that night. All I remember is knocking on my parents' door at dawn, cold and hungry and confused.
"You share the same memory loss, Miss Scurlock?"
"I don't recollect nothing. I'm sorry."
"Do either of you remember the health mobiles that visited your school?"
"Come to think of it, I do," said, Peyton. "Big old shiny things. They check all of us for childhood diseases, malnutrition, ringworms, eyesight. They gave us candy after each check up. I was partial to Squirrel Nut Zippers and Now and Laters."
"Ever receive any medication on sugar cubes?"
"Sometimes. Used to use an eye dropper to drop liquid vitamins on the cubes. The sweetness took away the bitter taste of the vitamins."
"Do you recall the names of the doctors who administered these vitamins to you?"
"Don't recall if they ever even told me."
"Does the name Emil Vorcek mean anything to you?"
"Can't say it does."
"Ever suspect that you were getting something other than what they were telling you?"
"Agent Scully, we were just kids, simple farm kids. We had no reason to suspect anything. Are you saying we shoulda?"
"I'm saying it's possible things were not as innocent as they were presented. Have you or Ms. Scurlock suffered any odd or recurring symptoms?"
"If you count bursitis as odd. It does have a tendency to recur."
"No," said Scully. "I imagine it would be something a little more serious."
Peyton stood up, as if ready to call the meeting adjourned. "Well, if something comes up, I'll let you know. Wouldn't mind suing and getting back all them taxes I've been paying."
Scully stood, and felt the room tilt just enough to make her stagger. Peyton Grey reached out with those big pale hands and steadied her. Like his mousy counterpart, his touch lasted a little longer than it should have, just past the point of being polite. Scully pulled away and straightened her trench coat.
"I think it would be wise if you both considered being placed under protective custody."
"You mean arrest us?"
"No, sir, I mean, I can arrange to have the local sheriff keep watch around the clock, in case Lacy decides to pay you a visit."
"You can't be serious."
"Several people are dead. I'm very serious."
"Agent Scully, I see no reason for Lacy to even come round here. We never did nothing to her."
"I'm sure Mr. Harvey, Mr. Stiegers and the others could say the same thing. We may not be dealing with a sane individual, therefore her motives may not be clear. We are also trying to get in touch with Franklin Pickett, and Debralee Jenkins."
"Frank's a State Trooper. Last I heard Debralee works for the fabric store at the strip mall."
Scully pulled FBI business cards from her pocket, along with a pen, and quickly jotted information on the backs of both cards. "This is the motel where I'm staying. If you should hear from Lacy, or if perhaps you remember something, please don't hesitate to call."
She handed a card first to Peyton, then to Ginny, then headed for the door.
"I will call you and Mr. Mulder post haste," Peyton promised.
"Excuse me?" Scully said, her hair whipping back as she turned back to face Peyton Grey.
"I said I'll call you."
"I don't remember giving you my partner's name."
"I never told you my partner's name was Mulder."
"No, you didn't." Peyton held Scully's card up. "You gave me his card."
"No I didn't." Scully was positive. She saw the card as she pulled it from her pocket. She remembered. She looked at the card now in Peyton's hand. Sure enough, it said Fox Mulder. How did that happen? She could have sworn....
"Sorry," Scully muttered. Something wasn't right. She needed to get outside, to get some air. She felt nauseated, closed in. She needed to go. She quickly left the office and headed down the cold hall for the door.
Peyton and Ginny watched the agent leave. They waited until she was out of earshot, then:
"She's trouble." Peyton looked at the business card in his hand. Dana K. Scully, it read. "But she can be manipulated. Call Frank, tell him to empty out the drunk tank tonight. We may wanna put that little redhead under protective custody ourselves."
Dana Scully took a deep breath once she cleared the door and entered the parking lot. That was weird, she thought. Peyton with his down home charm and Ginny practically shaking in her shoes. As she headed back to the Taurus, she was struck by a thought. Scully removed the handful of business cards in her pocket. She shuffled through each card, twice, and not a single one belonged to her partner.
Scully could not get the meeting with Peyton Grey off her mind. Something about him had affected her the same way her impromptu meeting with Lacy Jordan had left her feeling uneasy. It was as if the two of them were wearing those old fifty's x- ray specs, and could really see inside her clothes. Or worse, inside her head. So many thoughts were plaguing Dana Scully's mind that she barely saw the woman who stepped out into the middle of the road, right in front of her car.
Scully shouted as she twisted the wheel hard to the left to avoid her, and missed smashing into a huge oak tree by a breath. Scully was thrust forward as she slammed on her brakes, the seatbelt the only thing saving her from flying through the windshield.
Scully shook her head clear then climbed out of the car. The woman was lying in the road unconscious. Scully checked her vitals, then pulled out her cell phone and called for help.
Thirty minutes later, the woman, who was identified as Debralee Jenkins, was being loaded onto the back of a coroner's wagon. Cause of death would be determined by an autopsy, but for now, the Stafford Hills County Medical examiner on duty was considering the cause of death a massive heart attack brought on by fright.
Scully tried to reach Mulder, but he was not answering at the motel. Must've taken a few Tylenol 3's, she thought, and was dead to the world.
A broad-bodied, bald State Trooper gestured Scully to join him by her car.
"This your car?"
"Yes, it is."
"Ma'am, I'm gonna have to ask you to submit to a breathalizer."
"Breathalizer? I haven't been drinking. Listen, I'm Special Agent Dana Scully, FBI, I'm investigating --"
The State Trooper reached under the driver's seat and pulled out a small silver flask. He opened it and took a sniff.
"That's not mine."
"Of course it isn't," the Trooper said nastily.
"This vehicle was rented. It must've belonged to the previous renter."
"Of course. Step over hear, please, ma'am."
Dana reached into her pocket for her ID. "There's been a grave mistake. If you'll just call my partner --"
Instantly the State Trooper pulled his service weapon and aimed it at Scully."
"Up against the car."
"Are you arresting me?" I haven't...!"
"Hands in the air!"
Scully raised her hands quickly.
The State Trooper grabbed her by the wrist and pushed her against the car. He
"What's the charge?" she asked.
"Driving while intoxicated. Resisting arrest."
"You have the right to remain silent...."
The State Trooper pulled her from the hood of the car and turned her around. She stared at his badge.
"...anything you say can be held against you in a court of law..."
Pickett pushed Scully into his squad car, climbed into the driver seat and took off before anyone had time to see or ask questions.
The blue light of the television barely illuminated the room. Mulder woke feeling groggy, not sure of where he was at the moment. He moved and pain shot through his ribs. Now he remembered.
He'd walked the few miles from the Home to the motel, and by the time he got there, he thought his ribs would explode. He took two Tylenol 3's and eased onto the bed, waiting for the pain to ease up. He was asleep in a matter of minutes.
Mulder carefully turned over and noticed the lateness of the hour. Where was Scully? Was she back in her room? Perhaps she had noticed he was asleep, and knowing how exhausted he was, elected not to bother him, to allow him this rare opportunity to rest. He began to yawn but it hurt too much. He stifled it as much as he could.
Mulder sat on the edge of the bed carefully and looked at the television. On the screen, an old William Castle movie was playing -- "Invaders From Mars." Cheesy special effects, but some good acting here and there. This movie was a favorite of Mulder's because it was about one little boy who knew the Martian's had come, and all the grownups who refused to believe him, and how they fell victim to their inability to believe. The scene that was on used to be his favorite scene, at least until his partner was abducted. It was the scene were the boy's mother lay face down on a glass table as Martian machinery is drilling an implant in the base of her neck. He quickly found the remote and turned the television off, plunging the room in darkness.
There was a vague flash of red. Then a flash of white, followed by a low and distant rumble of thunder. He moved to the window and saw that it was raining. The red neon sign hissed whenever water hit it. He also noticed the bureau-registered Taurus was not in its parking space.
Mulder forgot all about his aching ribs. He quickly turned on the lights and grabbed the phone. He dialed Dana's room. No answer. He grabbed his pants and a shirt, throwing them on haphazardly and stepping into his shoes without bothering with socks. As he was reaching for the door, the phone rang.
"Mulder, thank God. I tried you twice. Didn't you hear the phone ring?"
"I was sleeping, Scully, I'm sorry. What's up? Where are you? Are you okay?"
"Not really. I'm in jail."
"I've been arrested for drunk driving and resisting arrest."
"Scully, you party animal."
"This isn't funny, Mulder. The charges are fake, trumped up. I don't know what's going on around here, but no one's listening to me. And guess who had the duty of slapping on the cuffs? Franklin Pickett."
"Our Franklin Pickett?"
"The one and only. He knows what's going on, and he's trying to stop us. They're holding me on some weird technicality and I know it's bull. Mulder, you have to come down here and talk to them. This is the only phone call they're going to let me make. They said there's no bail."
"No bail? It's not like you killed somebody."
"Well, Mulder, that's not exactly true. Debralee Jenkins ran out in front of my car. I didn't hit her, I know I didn't, but they're trying to railroad me with it, Mulder. Get down here and talk some sense into them, please?"
"I am on my way."
"Be careful. They could be after you next."
Mulder hung up, feeling motivated by righteous indignation. He was going to find Franklin Pickett and tear him a new one. He opened the door just as thunder rumbled. There was someone standing in the doorway. A small, mousy woman, drenched from head to toe. She shivered. Mulder couldn't tell if it was from the cold, or from fear.
"My name is Virginia Scurlock. Please, help me."
Five minutes, Mulder thought. He'd give her five minutes to explain herself, then he had to get down to the station to save Scully. He let the woman in and gave her a towel. She sat in one of the hard chairs near the window and blotted her hair dry, crying the whole time.
"I don't know where to begin," she said. "I'm so afraid."
"I never meant to do any of those things."
"Can you protect me? He doesn't know I'm here yet, but he will. We have to leave now."
"And go where?"
"Look, Ms. Scurlock. I want to help you. I do. But you're not telling me anything. My partner is in trouble, and I have to go to her. If you want my protection..."
The woman reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a gun. It was Scully's service weapon. She sat in on the table in front of her and went back to drying her hair. Mulder surreptitiously reached out and took it.
"I'm supposed to kill you. He wants to pin it on your partner."
"Who wanted you to kill me? Was it Vorcek?"
"Vorcek's dead, finally. He doesn't want anyone to know what we've done. He doesn't want anyone to know what we are."
"Who? You're not telling me anything. Who are we talking about here?"
Ginny put the towel down and locked eyes with Mulder. Her skin was chalky white, her lips near blue, her eyes red and nearly bulging from their sockets.
"He can read thoughts," she said in a harsh whisper. "He can crawl inside your head like a bug and see everything. He's inside mine right now, but I got up a wall. It's like this thing you say over and over again in your mind, and it keeps bad feelers out, but only as long as you can keep saying it. Right now, I'm so tired."
"What they did to you, what they gave you when you were kids, gave you the ability to read minds?"
"It's more than that. We ain't human no more. They told us we were better than people like you, you know, normal people. I just thought we were freaks. Please, Mr. Mulder, I don't want to die."
Ginny began to cry again. "Don't let her find me either."
"Lacy. You've seen her. She's been inside your head. She wants you."
"I don't know!"
She dropped her head and covered her face with the wet towel.
"I'll protect you. But you have to tell me everything."
She looked up at Mulder. Deeper circles showed under her eyes. "I've done so many terrible things. If we didn't they would hurt us."
Ginny suddenly sat up straight in her chair as if struck by an electrical current. She stood, listening to the stillness in the room.
"She's out there. God help me, she's out there!" She reached out and grabbed Mulder by the front of his shirt, pleading. "Help me!"
Glass exploded across the room as the windows were blown in. Mulder wrapped his arms around her and turned her away from the flying glass. He felt the impact of several pieces against his back, but was not sure if he were cut. The television tube exploded. Wind from outside whipped through the room. Light bulbs exploded. Even the red neon sigh outside exploded, leaving the room cast in utter darkness as cold rain pushed by the wind pounded like needles against them.
Lighting flashed as Ginny's head flew back and strange, strangling noises issues from her throat. She began to convulse. Blood shot up from her mouth like steam from a geiser. Mulder ducked in time to miss the spray.
He guided her violently jerking body down to the floor. As suddenly as it began, the woman's seizure stopped. She lay dead in Mulder's arms. Her bloody mouth was wide open. He turned away when he saw that she had swallowed her tongue.
Instantly the wind whipping through the room calmed and silence but for the sound of rain upon the roof was restored.
Mulder lay Ginny's body softly on the floor, then grabbed his service weapon. He ran outside, standing in the pouring rain, becoming drenched in the downpour, looking about feverishly.
"I know you're out here!" Mulder shouted over the rain, gun up and ready to fire.
Lacy stepped out of the shadows, as if she were part of the night.
"You killed her! You killed Clarence Harvey! Why are you killing them?"
Lacy said nothing. She stepped back into the shadows, into the dark seeming to disappear. She was teasing him.
Mulder raced to where she had stood. No sign of her. He quickly spun around. He could feel her. She was here.
Out of nowhere she appeared again and kicked the gun from Mulder's hand. Mulder swung out in retaliation, but she delivered another heavy-booted kick to Mulder's already suffering rubs that sent him crashing into the mud with an anguished cry.
Mulder tried to get up, but a big old Doc Marten came slamming down on his chest, pinning him down in the mud, the rain filling his mouth. Lacy leaned down just as lightening flashed.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a little white vial with a spray cap. Was it mace? She gave it a little shake, then sprayed it in Mulder's face.
Mulder recoiled and covered his face. He felt her boot lift off his chest and he rolled over trying to wash the spray out with mud and rainwater. His face burned like fire, like a million tiny ants racing into his eyes, his ears, his mouth. He began to wretch and cough, but nothing could relieve the burning. He could barely breath.
Lacy squatted down next to him and turned Mulder's face around to look him in the eye, holding him by the chin.
"Welcome to the club," she said and laughed.
She let go of his chin and remained in her crouched position, and for several minutes, watched Mulder helplessly writhe.
Stafford Hills Grade School
Fox Mulder awoke to the worse pain he could recall in a very long time. His entire body ached as if he'd been run over several times by a Mack truck. His vision was blurry, his mouth completely dry, he was sweating profusely and he was freezing. He moved to rub his face, but something stopped his left hand. The fuzziness in his mind began to clear up when he realized his left wrist was handcuffed.
Mulder sat up. More information began filtering in. He was undressed to his skivvies. His shirt, pants, and undershirt were folded neatly and sitting at the foot of the smelly old metal cot where he lay. A thin, lumpy mattress was under his back, and a scratchy old blanket that quite probably had fleas covered him. There was the constant sound of water dripping. He blinked several times before he could make out the filled and overflowing plastic buckets and containers around the room catching rainwater. An old generator hummed and vibrated on the other side of the room, and a dull yellowish light illuminated only a portion of the area.
Sitting up made Mulder's head pound. He let himself fall back down upon the flat pillow. His joints were aching and he wanted to vomit. He rolled over onto his side and let out a yell when his bruised ribs protested.
Lightning flashed and he could see her sitting across the room, perched atop an old wooden desk standing on it side. She sat leaning slightly forward, as if she were some wingless gargoyle on the roof of an Old World cathedral, as if gravity were not a concern. She had a huge black book in her hands. She began to read out loud.
"'Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy. Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers. They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear....' That's pretty good, huh? Psalms. It's the Old Testament, just in case you didn't know. Not that I know much about it myself."
Mulder jangled the cuffs around his wrist. His throat was so raw and inflamed he could not speak.
Lacy shook her head and continued to watch him.
Mulder tried to sit up again. Lacy stood and leaped down, hitting the floor a lot more gracefully than Mulder thought should have been possible.
She came to his bedside and reached for him. Mulder recoiled.
She reached out again, this time merely placing a cool dark hand on Mulder's forehead. "You're burning up."
'No kidding,' Mulder wanted to say, but still couldn't find his voice. He tried to swallow but the pain was intense, like swallowing an acid-coated golf ball.
"You just hang on, G-Man," she said, and wandered back across the room, into the shadows. "This isn't the worst of it. But when it's all over, you'll thank me. Why don't you try to sleep."
This was more than an idle suggestion. Mulder's eyes practically closed on her command and sleep overcame him in an instant.
Stafford Hill Lock-Up
Dana Scully knew she needed sleep, but she could not. She paced the small cell with her arms crossed to ward off the damp chill. They hadn't let her keep her trench coat, and the blanket on the cot smelled of urine and sweat and cheap scotch.
From what she could tell, she was the only person imprisoned on this lower level of the lock up unit. She'd called out a few times but no one had answered her.
'Where are you Mulder!' She paced faster at the thought of him. She didn't know if she should be angry or frightened. Mulder would never forget about her, leave her to rot in this cell. He would be there, unless something or someone had stopped him. Was he dead? Was his injury more severe the either of them, or the ER doctor had thought? Was he still in the motel room and suffering, unable to come to her rescue? He sounded fine on the phone. Perhaps Franklin Pickett had gotten to him already. Or worse, Lacy Jordan.
She felt that somehow Peyton Grey was involved with her imprisonment. He was not the country bumpkin he pretended to be. There was something in the way he looked at her, as if he were looking into her. There was something about his touch, when she stumbled, as if he wanted something from her. The thought of him and that mousy Ms. Scurlock made her shudder.
She heard keys jangling, the moaning of old metal, and then footsteps heading her way. It was a bout time! Scully ran to the bars and held on, trying to see who was coming her way. She saw a tall hairless man in a uniform. Franklin Pickett. Mulder was not with him.
Scully backed away from the bars as he approached with a lascivious smile. "I hope you find our accommodations to your liking, little miss. If there's anything I can do..."
"You have no right to keep me here. What you're doing is illegal."
"What're you talking about? You hit and killed Debralee Jenkins. You're gonna be in jail for a long, long time."
"I never touched her. She ran out into the middle of the road. I swerved and I missed her. If I had hit her, there would have been physical trauma --"
"She's dead. How do you explain that?"
"I can't. Not without an autopsy."
"Why don't you just relax and think of this as a little vacation from the FBI."
"Has my partner been here for me?"
"Tall, lanky guy? Dark hair? Kinda looks real depressed?"
Scully nodded, just to move things along.
"I seen him. On a slab."
"What do you mean? He's dead? How? When?"
Pickett looked at his watch.
"Right about now."
She didn't know whether to take him seriously or not. "I demand you release me," Scully said flatly.
A look came over Franklin that made her wish she could run.
"Don't you talk to me like that. You don't demand NOTHING. YOU DO AS I SAY!"
Scully was slammed back against the wall and held there by unseen hands. She tried to move and felt her throat constrict as if someone were choking her.
Franklin Pickett smiled. "You gonna do as I say?"
"Yes," Scully barely managed to say in a raspy voice.
"Course you are." Franklin let his eyes roam all over Scully. She felt his eyes like hands. She tried not to look him in the eyes, but his own eyes were locked into her like hooks.
"Ooh, wee. You just a little biddy thing to be a FBI agent. Look at you. I got hands bigger than your feet."
"Please, let me go."
"I ain't through with you. You shut up when I'm talking, you understand? You don't give the orders around here. I give the orders. I can do anything I want to you. You can scream all you like. This here is the drunk tank and can't nobody hear what's going on down here. We got the place all to ourselves. You be nice to me, and maybe the time will go a little easier."
Something like hands was rubbing up Scully's thighs. She did all she could to resist it, but she was helpless to stop him. How can you stop what you can't see?
"Hey Frank!" A voice from above called out.
Instantly the hands that held Scully released her and she fell hard to the floor.
"What you want?"
"Sheriff's looking for you."
Pickett turned back to Scully and grinned. "I'll be back later." He turned and headed back up stairs.
Scully's stomach turned as she heard the metal doors above being closed and locked back.
All the doctors and nurses disappeared, and suddenly. Lacy appeared over him, reaching toward this throat. Something cold was on his chest. Was he dying?
Mulder woke with a gasp to find Lacy sitting next to him, her hands on his naked chest.
"Ssshhh," she said. "It's just rubbing alcohol, to bring your fever down."
Against his better judgment, Mulder abandoned his protest and lay back into the pillow.
She poured more alcohol into her hand and gently rubbed over his chest, his sides, his stomach, and his neck, behind his ears, across his shoulders and down his arms. The alcohol felt jarring like ice water at first, but it soon became soothing. And her hands were gentle, something he had not expected. Mulder inadvertently moaned, and was embarrassed.
Lacy smiled. "It's okay to enjoy it. Turn over, let me get your back."
Mulder didn't move. No way would he turn his back on her. He opened his eyes and stared at Lacy. His throat wasn't as sore as earlier, so he tried to speak. It came out in a harsh whisper.
"What did you do to me?"
"I gave you what you always wanted."
"You poisoned me. What was in that spray?"
"What kind of virus?"
"A smart virus. You're sick now, because you're body is rejecting it, fighting it off. It will win eventually. Or you'll die. Don't worry, you're strong. What you're feeling will pass in a few more hours, and then you'll be thanking me."
"You said that once before. Why would I thank you for exposing me to a virus?"
"Because I've given you your dream. I've made you invincible."
Mulder stared into her eyes, looking to find the lie. He couldn't find it.
"Let me get your back, now."
"Take off the cuffs."
She didn't move, but the cuffs fell open and dropped on the floor behind the bed. How did that happen?
Mulder still didn't want to turn his back on the woman, but he did. Holding onto his ribs he turned his body away from Lacy, facing the wall. He noticed his ribs were not as sore as before.
Cool alcohol made him tremble under her touch. Finally the coolness won him over again and he began to relax. Something told him this woman had no intention of killing him. But if that were true, what did she want?
She tapped him on the shoulder. Mulder, who was beginning to drift back into sleep, turned over with a start.
Lacy handed him the half-empty bottle of alcohol and smiled. "You do your own legs."
Mulder slowly sat up, a little sore and a little achy and just plain sick. He threw back the old blanket and poured alcohol onto his legs. The muscled limbs, once burning like fire, instantly began to cool down.
"Why did you kill Virginia Scurlock?"
"I don't believe you."
"I didn't expect you would. But I have proof."
"Eventually. Don't you want to know about the virus?"
"Can I leap tall buildings in a single bound?"
Lacy wandered over to the old upright piano and hit a few keys. It was grossly flat and sounded awful.
"What I gave you is the culmination of 30 years of research, all in an aerosol vial. Ozone friendly, of course. The virus carries chemical signals, a lot like neurotransmitters, than stimulate and enhance unused portions of the brain, unleashing a variety of talents."
She began playing Moonlight Sonata, despite the sour notes and missing keys.
The sound of that old piano irritated him. "Knock it off," Mulder said harshly.
Lacy stopped abruptly. "Kill joy. In the spring of 1965, our government contracted an independent drug company to work with the military to develop and test a series of designer viruses. The idea was to introduce them into a small, controlled population and monitor it over the course of several years. Stafford Hills was chosen because of its mostly poor, working class denizens and because of its remote location. There were several failed attempts. They tried putting it in the water supply, injecting it into dairy cows and mixing it into the manure used to fertilize crops for local distribution. Didn't work. And then, in the fall of 1966, they decided to introduce it in its purest form to the thirty-nine students enrolled at Stafford Hills Grade School. Twelve out of the thirty-nine showed promise. Only one out of the twelve, actually knocked their socks off. You can imagine their... disappointment."
"Why was that?"
"We're talking the sixties, Mulder. We had yet to overcome, as it were."
"So you weren't a guy and you weren't white. You were still their golden girl."
"I was their lab rat. They kept me locked up and sedated because they were afraid of me, and studied me, hoping to find a way to pass on what I could do to more 'desirable subjects.' Eventually they brought me out of the closet, schooled me, trained me, taught me to use it and control it, all the time continuing to make the virus stronger and faster acting in its various mutations."
She sat down by her tarp covered control table and took from her pocket a small silver metal case. From it she removed a syringe filled with cloudy green fluid, and rubber tubing. She shrugged out of her leather coat and tied the tubing tightly around her arm.
"What are you doing?" Mulder asked, his throat dry, already knowing what he was about to witness.
"That little taste I gave you has already accomplished in you what would have taken three months of painful injections, three times a day, every day, back in the day."
She located a blood-engorged vein and deftly clicked the cap off of the needle.
"Personally, I prefer the directness of the needle," she said, as she jabbed it into her arm, pushed down the plunger and then quickly removed it. A thin line of blood ran down her arm. She licked it off and laughed as Mulder looked away.
Lacy sat in silence for a moment, then removed the tubing.
"At the tender age of nineteen, I became one of eight specially enhanced service providers for the United States Government."
"You mean assassins?"
"That was one part of the job, yes. I would not betray my employers by telling you whom I have killed. Suffice to say we were very successful, not to mention unique. Imagine not having to lift a finger, not to implicate yourself in any way. Didn't even need to be in the same room. Simple mind manipulation, and the contract could choke on his rice pilaf, or go into cardiac arrest, suffer a brain aneurysm, drive a car off a bridge, or publically pat the rump of an under-aged page right before the cameras."
"Our tax dollars at work."
"Well, I thought I'd skip the boring stuff and stick with the more prurient details."
"What happened to the other seven?"
"They each developed a very serious dependency on this stuff, a nasty little addiction that made them mentally unstable and unpredictable, hard to control. It wasn't so much the drug as it was the power. You can get drunk on this stuff. And then, it was discovered that all of the subjects were developing some very nasty cancerous tumors. These cancers, it turns out, were not accidents. They were designed to be...off-switches. They're all dead."
"What about you?"
"I have my share of tumors. It's just matter of time."
Mulder felt a sorrow for the woman that made him uncomfortable. Was she not the enemy?
"And me? What's my prognosis, now that you've exposed me?"
"Long term exposure to the green stuff is necessary. You'll be fine."
"Do you really want to know?"
"Find out for yourself."
Lacy squatted down by the bed. She looked directly into Mulder's eyes. She seemed almost giddy, as if about to open a present she's been waiting to get her hands on.
"I've never invited anyone in before. You're the first."
"The first?" And then he knew. Somehow he knew. The first ever to be invited inside her head. He didn't know how. He just took a deep breath and --
Mulder flinched as if someone had jabbed him in the chest with a sharp object. A flood of images assaulted him. In the time it took him to blink, he knew everything there was to know about Lacy Jordan. He saw her as a child, her family, her friends, her life. He saw her abduction, heard the cries of Doris Rainey, saw and felt the tests, her training, her first kill. He saw the doctors with their needles and tubes, how mean they were to her, the names they called her thinking she was too sedated to hear them, but she heard them! He felt her hatred of her captors, the detachedness she was trained to feel for he kills, her pain and total aloneness. He saw her locked in what appeared to be a bank vault, so afraid of her were her captors. They'd created a monster and feared what they had created. How horrible to be a girl of fourteen and realize you are a monster! How horrible to live without human contact unless it was to be injected or restrained. Living a life of virtually no human contact until they brought her out to study her or hurt her or show her off to their consortium benefactors. He saw her strapped to tables and tested over and over again, he saw the hands of the male doctors and military men creeping to places they should not have gone while she was strapped down and knocked out. She was fully aware of it, but powerless to stop them. He saw the tumors growing inside her and knew the agony they were causing. He saw the myriad times she had been shot, stabbed, hit and returned to her vault/tomb/home with not a thank you or an apology. He saw her terror and outrage the day she found out that some of what she was being injected with all her life came from a dead thing kept inside a jar that wasn't even from world. He felt the pain and the burning and the sickness and saw the hundreds of times she begged them crying, "kill me, kill me, please, kill me...."
Mulder awoke with a start, fighting to catch his breath. His head was still full of images, his own memories competing with those of Lacy's. How had he been able to do that? The very idea made him anxious, excited. As frightening as it was, he wanted to experience that sensation again.
There was no sign of Lacy, and he was handcuffed to the bed again. There was a one gallon size jug of orange juice beside the bed with a note attached. "Drink this, you'll need it." Next to the jug was a huge folder filled with newspaper clippings, email hard copy and photo copied articles. Mulder struggled to sit up and grabbed the juice first. It was cold and the carton was sweaty. He downed about a quart of it non-stop. And then he reached for the file. Several pages fell out. He reached down and picked up an article about a Mexican airline disaster, pages that looked like laboratory documentation, an article about the bombing of a government facility, and an old, yellowed photograph of the class of sixty-six. Twelve little heads were circled in red. The child that was Lacy was the only one not smiling.
Mulder sat back and began to read.
Stafford Hill Lock-Up
Scully awoke with a start. Someone was there. She practically fell off of the cot and spun around, looking for the intruder.
Another visit from Franklin Pickett was the last thing she needed. Scully had just about convinced herself she was safely alone. She turned and found Lacy standing outside the cell, smiling.
"We haven't been properly introduced," Lacy said.
"I know who you are," Scully said evenly, working hard not to betray her fear.
"Where is he?"
"He's at my place, sleeping. You look like you could use a couple more hours yourself. Why don't you lie down, relax a bit. You'll see Mulder soon, I promise."
Dana found herself becoming quite sleepy.
"What are you doing to me?"
Scully barely made it back to the cot before sleep overtook her.
Lacy watched the petite redhead sleep, and took a moment to linger inside the woman's head. She saw Mulder quite prominently there. Lacy felt a twinge of jealously, but quickly dismissed it. As Scully slept, Lacy placed a message in her head. She would never know where it came from or why she felt compelled to say it. It was something Lacy knew she could never in a million years say herself. It wasn't necessary, not even rational, but Lacy wanted someone to know.
She was not a monster.
Mulder awoke remembering Scully. He had dozed off while reading the files. Lacy's evidence and notes implicated Peyton Grey, but he wasn't ready to accept it, not until he talked to Lacy again.
He found the cuffs had been removed. He even felt better, like the bug had passed, but it had left him weak and sore. He rose and found his undershirt, shirt and shoes and quickly put them on and headed for the door.
Mulder spun around the find Lacy standing behind him. Where had she come from?
"I've got to get to Scully."
"She's okay, for now."
"How do you know?"
"I paid her a visit," said Lacy as she came around to block the door. "I thought you'd like to know she's okay."
"Get out of my way."
"Let her be for now. They're not going to do anything to her until they've got you. Leave now and you're both dead."
Mulder felt dizzy. Lacy reached for him, to help him stay on his feet, but Mulder pulled away. He sat down on bed and rubbed his face, feeling hot and slightly feverish again.
"At least let me get back to the motel room. In case you forgot, there's a dead body in my room, lying in a pool of blood. Someone may want to talk to me about that."
"Already taken care of. It's in my trunk."
"Hope it doesn't get too warm today."
"Did you read the stuff I left you? I thought you'd appreciate my attempt at writing a profile on Peyton Grey. I realize it's not as good as your stuff, but...."
"You want me to believe that Peyton Grey is responsible for all of that?"
"Yes. And the others."
"Why did they let them go, why did they keep you?"
"Someone on the inside engineered it."
"I knew I liked you for a reason, Mulder. Vorcek had his own agenda. He falsified the test results and had the children released. The Government-sponsored project continued, with me as the flagship subject, and Vorcek as head goon. Meanwhile, Vorcek conducted his own side-project with Peyton, Ginny, Clarence and the others. He continued to administer the drug for years to the very individuals who are now suddenly turning up dead."
"And the disasters? You're telling me they are responsible for everything in this file? The Aero Mexicali crash of ninety-one? The outbreak of cryptospyridium in the drinking water in Washington, D.C.? The Amtrak derailment in Boston? Boris Yeltsin's heart trouble? The last six World Series?"
Lacy nodded. "And more, probably from as far back as nineteen-seventy-two, but, this was all I've been able to compile. Eleven individuals working in concert, for whatever entity, foreign or domestic would pay their outrageous fee. The politics weren't at all important, just the fee. Think of them as high-priced prostitutes with Vorcek as their pimp."
"Why didn't you blow the whistle on them earlier?"
"I only recently acquired the contract to see to Vorcek's retirement. I stumbled upon this information in my 'research'. All of this could have been prevented if.... I always knew what Peyton and the others could do. But they were my friends. They swore they would come back for me."
Lacy didn't have to answer. Mulder knew her so called friends had abandoned her, left her like the biblical scapegoat, to be slaughtered for their sins.
"I kept their secret, knowing that if it were revealed, they would either be destroyed, or worse, have done to them what was done to me. All this," she said, pointing to the thick file, "because I believed a lie. I had a choice, report them to my superiors, or stop them myself."
"So you killed them?"
"No, I didn't kill them."
Mulder shook his head and smirked in disbelief.
"I didn't kill them. I went to them, one by one, to give them a chance to stop."
"It's just a coincidence they ended up dead?"
"Peyton killed them. Together they'd amassed an incredible fortune. Peyton never cared much for sharing."
"I can't believe after all these years, after they deserted you, you'd still try and save them."
"They were my friends."
Lacy could feel Mulder's deep distrust. "I'm not lying. You can read me if you want."
"How do I know you've been showing me the truth?"
"You can only hide what you see on the outside. I've read you a dozen times over, Fox Mulder. That's why I chose you to help me."
"What do you mean, 'chose me'?"
"The day we met, that's when I knew you were the right man. We share the same enemies. The men who did this to me, turned me into a walking toxic waste dump, they're the same men who are responsible for your sister."
Mulder froze with anger and indecision. He remembered Doris Rainey's description of the Smoking Man. The Cancer Man. It could be true. And there was something in the back of his mind, a residual from the trip inside Lacy's head earlier. Or it could be another manipulation?
"What do you know about my sister?"
"Samantha? Only what I've seen in your head. They know her. And they know where she is."
Mulder stood up. "Where is she?"
"I don't know."
"Then what good does this do me?"
"None. I just thought you'd like to know."
"Can't you 'read' them and find out where she is?"
"Do it yourself."
Lacy stood up and walked to her console.
Mulder sat back down, frustrated. He knocked the files to the floor with an angry swipe, then covered his face. Was this another lie just to ensure his cooperation? He'd been spoon fed untruths so often that he never knew where the truth ended and the lie began. His head ached from information overload, from the virus, and from worry about Scully. This was all just too much.
"Okay," he snapped. His voice was loud and threatening. "Enough dancing around the issue. What do you want from me? Why give me this virus? So I can see inside people's heads, peep at their dirty little secrets? So what? What does this do to make me 'invincible'? How do I save my partner and get the bad guys?"
"I think it's time," she said, keeping her back to Mulder as she spoke, "to show you what you can do. Stand up."
Mulder sat defiantly. He knew if Lacy really wanted him to do anything, she could make him. So he sat up, stood up, and adopted a don't-mess-with-me stance that was superfluous where Lacy was concerned, but it made him feel at least marginally in control.
"Take off your shirt," she said.
"I said --" Lacy turned around, and pointed Mulder's own Sig Sauer at him.
"-- take off your shirt."
Mulder felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickling, pins and needles in his armpits, and a wave of nausea in his gut. His finger tips were numb as he began to unbutton his shirt.
He dropped his shirt on the bed and then pulled his tee shirt over his head, dropping it beside the shirt. Damp cold assaulted his bare skin.
"Anymore'll cost you extra," he said.
"That'll do, thanks." Lacy pulled the trigger.
Even as he heard the report, felt the hot slug slam into his abdomen, even as he staggered back from impact, he refused to believe he had been shot. But only for a second. The pain was overwhelming. The rush of his blood instantly warmed his cold hands. Mulder doubled over, his face twisted in agony, his knees hitting the floor, and looked at the gaping hole in his gut from his own gun.
'This is it,' he thought. 'This is how it ends.' His body began to tremble uncontrollably. He expected weakness to take him all the way down, anticipated being taken under the dark, gentle blanket of unconsciousness which would then taxi him painlessly to death's door.
But it didn't happen.
He heard laughter, and looked up into Lacy's smiling face. God, she was beautiful, he found himself thinking, along with a laundry list of expletives to describe her treachery. But her laughter was not of the conqueror. She laughed as if she knew a secret and was dying to share it with him.
That was when Mulder felt it. He had no idea what to call it, or how to describe it. He spasmed hard -- once, twice.
"HUH!" escaped from his throat, rushed through his lips as he felt the rejection process begin. His stomach muscles, which should have been torn asunder from the slug began to flutter hard.
"Huh! Uhn! What's happening to me?"
Lacy put the gun down and sat on the bed, watching, smiling. "Easy, Mulder. Just ride it out."
Mulder lifted his bloody hands from the wound and watched as the slug was suddenly expelled from his body, virtually spat out of the hole it had created like an indigestible piece of gristle. It hit the floor with a clang.
He stuck his index and middle finger into the deep bloody wound and felt pressure pushing against him. New tissue was regenerating and knitting itself into place. Within seconds, the hole in Mulder's abdomen was closed. He wiped away the blood that was quickly drying and saw a quarter-size patch of new, pinkish skin. He could not still the quivering of his full bottom lip as he looked up at Lacy with her Cheshire Cat-like grin.
"It's a kick, ain't it?" she asked, and threw him a damp towel.
When he felt Vorcek die, Peyton was angry, but not because the old man was dead. He'd been slowly killing the old man himself for the last ten years anyway. He was angry that someone else had cheated him out of the pleasure of snuffing the doctor. What really angered him was that the killer was Lacy.
Lacy was good, he thought, as he slowly emptied the conference room safe of several hundred plastic capsules of the booster medicine and piled it into a metal brief case. She was subtle and quick; she never lingered for her own personal pleasure, like he did. What good was having such incredible abilities if you denied yourself pleasure?
As for the FBI agents, they had made it necessary for Peyton to improvise a bit, but it only once again proved his superiority. The federal agents would actually be quite useful. He knew Mulder was on the way, and he knew Lacy had introduced him to the booster. Once introduced, there was no turning back. He could use the addiction that would surely come against Mulder, convince him to assist in his get away with the promise of a healthy supply, and then he'd simply dispose of the agent. And if the addiction wasn't enough to convince him, it was quite evident from his few trips in and out of Dana Scully's psyche that this Mulder character would move heaven and earth for her. Peyton loved predictability in people.
Peyton removed the eleven passports, dropping all but his own into a brass sink and lighting a match to the pile. He watched as his former friends' passport pictures curled up and burned, sending thin clouds of toxic smoke wafting into the air.
'Call me, Frank,' Peyton thought. In a moment, just as the passports' flames were reduced to ashes and embers, the phone rang.
"Peyton, what you want?"
"Frank, it's terrible. Terrible." Peyton began loading fat stacks of cash into another brief case. "Ginny's dead."
"Ginny? NO! How?"
"Lacy killed her. It's time to go, Frank. I think we have to light a fire under our plans. We're gonna have to leave the country now. Bring that Agent Scully with you. I figure she can help us get out if things get hot."
"You said I could have her."
"And you can, soon as we're safely out of the country. Now get rid of anybody who knows your comings and goings, grab the redhead and get over here. And watch your back. Lacy's out there."
"I'm on my way. Hey, Peyton? How'd Ginny go?"
"It was painful."
"I'm gon' kill Lacy myself."
"You just be careful Frank. It's just you and me now."
Peyton hung up the phone. It's just you and me, now, he'd said. He didn't mean Franklin. He was talking about the money.
Stafford Hill Grade School
Lacy put the safety back on Mulder's Sig Sauer and handed it to him. His face was pale, his stomach fluttering from the anger, fright and elation.
"How...? The rest of the words got lost.
Lacy gave Mulder his shirt.
"I wouldn't go throwing myself in front of an oncoming train, or hopping on top of any grenades," Lacy said with a smirk. "Even invincibility is not without limits."
"I should be dead," Mulder said as he buttoned his shirt with shaky fingers. He was shaking all over. The shock of it had not yet left him. Lacy had fired at him, point blank. He had seen the damage, felt the damage, and knew intellectually that one of the most painful and lethal ways of dying was a bullet wound to the gut. Yet here he was, still standing, his fingers still stained with dried blood, his blood still drying on the floor. At least Lacy had had the foresight to spare his white shirt by having him remove it.
He should have been mad, should have been ready to tear Lacy from limb to limb. But he could not stop feeling as if he'd been give a brand new toy. The best toy.
"I still don't get it," Mulder said. "How can this happen?"
"I'll explain it to you another time." Lacy rubbed her temples as if a serious migraine were coming on.
"I spent half my career getting my ass kicked and losing my gun. Where were you when I needed you? Lacy?"
Sweat was pouring off of Lacy's face as if she'd been standing in the rain. She rotated her neck a few times to ease the creeping pain, but it kept coming. She rose on shaky legs and then hit the floor. She held her head and fought back the urge to scream and vomit. It had never hurt like this before. Lacy blacked out.
Mulder didn't know what else to do. He checked her pulse, which was racing, and wiped the sweat from her brow with his sleeve. He lifted her head and placed a pillow under it, then took her hand and held it. Her hand was ice-cold and clammy. He stroked her forehead, much as she had done him in while in the throes of his virus-sickness. Lacy's eyes fluttered and she coughed once as consciousness slowly returned.
"That was Peyton," she said in a raspy whisper. "He knows we're coming." She tried to sit up. Mulder helped her, and propped himself against her so she could lean back.
"They're moving your partner."
"I can't, it hurts, I can't see right now. You have to find her."
"How? How do I do this?" he asked as he helped Lacy to her feet.
"Just put it out there, concentrate. Look for her. You know her better than anyone."
Mulder tried. He didn't know exactly how to do it. He concentrated hard, pushed outward, desperate to find Scully the way Lacy had found her. Nothing. Mulder picked up a broken chair and slung it against the wall. The crash sent a new wave of pain through Lacy's skull.
"It's not happening! I don't know what I'm doing. I can't...I can't find her!"
Lacy stood and said moved slowly over to the console and sat down. She removed her coat and tied the rubber tubing around her arm.
"The dosage I gave you...I only gave you a taste. I didn't want you going after world domination on the first day."
"Then give me more."
"How am I supposed to beat this guy if I'm only half as strong as him?"
"That's what I'm here for," she said as she pierced the vein with the needle.
"Look at you, you can't even swat a fly right now."
"You're right, Mulder. And if you take any more of this stuff, this could be you. Is being the stronger worth this to you?"
"I just want enough to guarantee I can stop Peyton Grey."
"Stop him? You going to bring him to justice?" She pulled the needle from her arm and placed her head down, waiting for the drug to work it's magic.
"You're a fool, Mulder," she continued. "You can't bring him to justice. What jail do you think can hold him? What judge can pronounce sentence? You can't bring men like him and Vorcek and the rest of them to justice because there is no justice. Not for them. There is only retribution."
"What does that make you?"
"You know, it's easy to think that you're better than the average junkie, but believe me, you both have one thing in common. You think you can control it. You can't. You think you're riding it, but it's riding you. Already you're craving more. You're tripping on power you haven't even tried yet, Mulder. Now who's becoming the monster?"
"Look, either give it to me, or don't! I don't need to hear your self-righteous philosophizing."
Lacy looked at Mulder. She saw his anger. Felt it. Understood. She held up an unused syringe already filled with the green fluid.
"Don't you have the spray?"
"All gone. Just the needle. How badly do you want it?"
Mulder hated needles. He stared at it, considered turning it down, then thought of Scully. He reached for it. She snatched it back quickly before Mulder could touch it.
"Don't stare too long into the abyss," she said, and placed the syringe into his open hand.
Stafford Hills Lock Up
Scully woke up and stretched. Her neck and her back were stiff from the old mattress. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. When she opened them, she noticed that her cell door was sitting open.
Scully rose and walked toward the door. This could be a trap. She walks out of her cell, and Franklin Pickett would yell escaped prisoner and shoot her in the back. It wouldn't be a surprise, considering the events that led up to her incarceration. But then again, perhaps something was wrong and she should investigate.
Scully wished for her own gun as she slowly and cautiously crept out of the cell and moved toward the stairs. She could hear nothing but for the muffled ringing of telephones. Why was no one answering them?
She made her way up the stares and to the door of the office. She saw no movement behind the frosted glass. She reached for the knob.
Something was in the way as she tried to push the door open. She put her shoulder into it and pushed harder. Whatever it was moved. She looked inside.
Sheriff Irving Tucker lay on the floor in a pool of blood.
Scully's breath caught. She stepped into the office, and three deputies lay bleeding one the floor as well. And the phone kept ringing.
Scully went to each one and checked for vitals. All were dead. It occurred to Scully a little too late that Franklin Pickett was not among the dead.
She raced for the door.
A long arm wrapped around her throat and pulled her back against a thick, warm body. "Not so fast, shorty."
"You killed them?"
"No, you killed them. That's the report I'm filing. You used your feminine wiles and got stupid old Sheriff Tucker to open the door for you, then you grabbed a letter opener and pig-stuck each and every one of them."
"No one's gonna believe that."
"Then I guess I can make 'em believe it. Let's go."
"Where are you talking me?"
"Peyton wants us over at the Office Park."
Scully scraped her heel down Franklin's shin. He yelped in pain and surprise. She broke away, then kicked the big trooper in the groin. He doubled over and grabbed himself, his pale face turning beet red.
Scully ran to Tucker's body and pulled his service revolver from the sheriff's holster. She aimed it at Franklin.
Franklin looked at her and smiled through his agony. Suddenly the gun was moving on it's own. Scully fought to hold on to it, but the barrell of the gun was slowly being forced up to aim at Scully.
Franklin pulled himself together and stood up. He walked angrily toward Scully and physically took the gun from her. Then he punched her. Scully hit the floor hard, unconscious.
"Shoot. I hate it when they pass out."
Franklin Pickett scooped Dana Scully up off of the floor and carried her out of the squad room.
Mulder stepped on the rubber mat that activated the automatic doors. He entered with Lacy at his side. The lights were low, and the building empty of workers.
"She's here," Mulder said with surprise. He had actually found her, felt her. He felt the deepest connection with Dana Scully ever. It was as if she were wired to a monitor inside his head. His senses were working overtime. He'd never experienced anything like this. He could count the rhythm of her heartbeats, and tell she was in distress. Mulder wanted nothing more than to find her, and bring pain to the one who had brought her distress.
"Go find her. I'll handle Peyton."
"No," Mulder said. He knew she was weak. He knew Lacy was dying. "We'll both find Scully, then we'll go after Peyton together."
"Forget it, Mulder. This is my job. This is what I do. I don't know anything else. You've got your FBI career, and your partner. You need to find her and get out of here as quickly as possible, because they won't allow for witnesses."
Mulder turned to her with a questioning look. He thought he smelled cigarette smoke, but he realized it was only in his head. Before Lacy could say another word, he knew.
"They're coming for you."
"They know Vorcek is dead, and I haven't reported in, which to them means I'm rogue, a liability. Can't have their monsters hanging out in society. There's one more injection with my name on it, but it won't be the green stuff this time."
"Then you should leave now, while you can. Just go."
"And do what? Go where? What are they going to do, kill me? Mulder, I'm already dead."
Mulder couldn't help it; he fumbled by the cuff of her leather coat until he found her cool hand, and squeezed it.
"Besides, you can't handle Peyton alone. If I'm going to hell tonight, I'm going to take the devil with me. Find your partner. I'll take care of the Peyton Grey."
She pulled her hand out of Mulder's grip and headed toward a bank of elevators.
Mulder stepped off the elevator and was greeted by frigid air from the over working air conditioning system. The silence was so complete, he cleared is throat just to see if he could still hear it. He walked in the direction his senses dictated, pulling his gun from the back of his pants and holding it ready.
He saw the double doors at the end of the hall and knew that was where his partner was being held. He picked up his pace but still kept up his guard.
It did not register at first what was happening. Mulder realized he had been walking an inordinately long time and had yet to reach the door. It seemed like it was moving away from him. The faster he moved toward the door, the farther the door seemed to retreat from him. Mulder stopped. All the walking had done nothing to close the gap of distance. Then Mulder realized someone was playing with his head.
He stopped and closed his eyes, gun held high and ready. He sought the energy that had forced this illusion on him. There inside his head he met Franklin Pickett. He felt the man laugh.
Mulder opened his eyes and found he was standing right in front of the conference room door. Another step and he would have gone through it. Mulder reached down and touched the gilt knob and turned. It was not locked. He counted three to himself and kicked the door open.
The entire room was in flames.
Lacy walked past a bank of elevators with black mirrored doors and walls. DING! She stopped and watched as one of the elevator doors opened. It was empty. She realized it had been sent for her. Lacy stepped inside. The door closed.
Before she could press a floor button the elevator car began to move. It ascended faster than the manufacturer would recommend, if it were being powered by a conventional energy source. But this had a signature all its own.
The car stopped abruptly and the door flew open. There was a small stairway and a door. Near the door was a sign and an arrow -- ROOF ACCESS. Lacy made her way up the steps and walked out onto the roof.
Peyton Grey was standing right on the edge, as if about to jump. His back was to Lacy, but he didn't need to see her to know she was there.
Lacy stepped closer and tried to read him. He was closed to her. He was strong. Stronger than she hoped. This was going to take a while.
"I'm gonna miss Stafford Hills. Well, maybe not that much."
Peyton Grey turned and offered Lacy a smile. He hopped down and approached Lacy, but left a good ten paces between them.
"Been a long time, Lacy. Years been good to you?"
"I've been good. How 'bout you?"
Peyton laughed. "I'm glad to see you, despite what you might think."
"Why'd you do it, Peyton?"
"I had my reasons, thirty-seven million little tax-free reasons. And you know how I've always felt about people."
"There's one thing I need to know before I kill you, Peyton. Why did you leave me there? You could have taken me with the rest. We could have all walked out of there together. I kept your secret all along. You said you'd come back for me."
Peyton shrugged. "I lied. See, that was your problem, Lacy. You always believed what people told you. They told you they were gonna make you like Superman. But look at you. You falling apart, girl. They told you you'd be serving your country, but what has your country done to serve you? And I heard about them funny little cancers they gave you. I'm so sorry. Perhaps I can help you out of your misery."
Lacy reached inside his head but hit another wall. He sent energy back at her, triggering the tumor in her head. She collapsed to her knees and let out a scream that could be heard over half of Stafford Hills.
Fire raged through the entire room. Very little was left untouched. 'I'm going to burn,' Mulder thought. He could not move, except to cover his face. He could run not away, he could not proceed. Fear seized him and held him powerless. All he could do was stand there a feel the flames lapping violently around him, and feel the smoke filling his chest and forcing him to cough. He tried to bend his knees to get down low, but even that was more effort that he could conjure up. Mulder was going to die.
Franklin Pickett sat comfortably in a conference room chair watching Mulder. He began to laugh, so thoroughly amused was he. Scully sat in a chair opposite Pickett, her eyes darting between the gun Pickett was holding on her, and the strange behavior of her partner. Her heart nearly leaped from her chest when the door opened and Mulder appeared. But then, he immediately let out a cry and covered his face as if he were being attacked by a swarm of killer bees. What was terrifying him so?
She knew Pickett was playing his mind games. She didn't know how he could do it, but somehow Pickett was making Mulder believe that something was attacking him. But what was it? She couldn't see anything!
She watched her partner as, in his mind, fire leaped onto his right arm and began eating away at his clothes, burning into his skin, devouring his flesh. He yelled, and began to beat the flames from his arm.
Scully knew then. Fire. She had seen his reaction to fire before. He had even confessed to her his fear of fire. She had to risk being shot by Pickett to save her partner from madness and death.
"Mulder! It's not real!"
"Hush up!" Pickett said, raising his gun filled hand and threatening to smash her with it.
Mulder could hear a voice, just barely over the roar of the raging fire.
"Mulder! There's no fire!"
Mulder opened his eyes and found that he was standing in the cool, flame-free conference room. He uncovered his face and found Scully and Pickett sitting across the room. Mulder aimed his weapon at Pickett. Pickett merely smiled and kept his gun trained on Scully's head.
"You sure looked funny, slapping at nothin'," Pickett said with a toothy grin.
"Happy to amuse you," Mulder said. He looked at Scully and realized that her chin was bruised and she was slightly disheveled.
"You okay, Scully?"
Scully nodded noncommittally.
"Let her go, Frank, and we can call it a day."
"Who? You mean Red? Can't. She's our ticket out of here."
"Let her go, and I'll be your ticket."
"Let her go," Mulder demanded. "You can take me. I can get you out of the country."
"Peyton's already got that worked out so we don't need you, bro."
Mulder raised his hand and made a show of relinquishing his gun, placing it on the table and stepping away from it.
"Hush!" Franklin yelled at Scully. "Women!"
"Look, said Mulder, slowly moving closer. "Let her go, and I'll do anything I can to help you and Peyton get out. I can. I'm one of you now."
"You like this little redhead, don't you? Don't bother lying to me cause I can read you like a book. Let's see what else is up there."
Mulder could feel Franklin's telepathic fumblings and realized that he was as stupid as he acted. His little tricks with the fire and the moving door were hardly original ideas. Mulder was able to ride right back on Franklin's energy and read enough to know the man had the IQ of a squid. The only reason he wore a uniform was because of Peyton, and he had never enforced the law a day in his life. Being a deputy was just a way to protect Peyton's interests. And Mulder didn't like what he saw in the man's head about Scully. It made his forehead and cheeks flush with anger.
Mulder found something else up there too. It was a surprise at first, but then he remembered an earlier conversation when they first arrived to Stafford Hills.
"Wait till I tell my Uncle Frank, he's a state trooper." Amanda Sheldrake, the little post-high school Lolita at the Municipal Building -- this was the Uncle Frank to whom she had referred. She was there, in his head, and it wasn't pretty. Mulder felt his stomach turn at the thought of what Franklin imagined doing to his own niece. Mulder saw the numerous times Franklin had peeped through windows, keyholes, "accidentally" walked into her room, and offered candy for a kiss closer to the lips than an uncle should. He wanted to beat Franklin Pickett to a pulp right there. But he had to save Scully. First.
"Amanda, she knows. She knows what you think about her."
Franklin looked panicked. Mulder could see the gun wavering in his hand.
"She told your sister," Mulder whispered. "She's telling her right now."
"Liar! She don't know nothing! I ain't never done nothing to her! I seen her but it was by accident! What do you now about it?"
"Everybody going to know, Franklin. She told your sister, and now she's goint to tell everybody. They'll know your secret. They'll know what's in your head."
"No!" Franklin turned the gun on Mulder.
Guilt, thought Mulder, is one heck of a weapon.
Scully held her breath. She didn't approve of this, thought Mulder out of his mind, but to move or utter a sound right now could mean the end for both of them. Pickett was obviously psychotic and one step from pulling the trigger, and Mulder had yet to pick his gun back up.
"Let Scully go," Mulder whispered, walking closer to Franklin, "and I'll make sure they leave you alone."
Franklin leaped to his feet, pushing the chair back against the wall. He held the gun so close to Mulder's forehead that Mulder could feel the cold radiating off the metal barrel. Mulder didn't blink. He was invincible.
Scully stood slowly, just out of Franklin's line of vision. She moved slowly behind him.
"Nobody will hurt you," Mulder said, almost cooing as one would to a small child who's fallen and skinned his knee. "Nobody will hurt you because of the dirty thoughts in your head."
Franklin was shaking, near tears. This was the thorn in his side, his Achilles heel. He loved Amanda since she was a baby, but something strange started happening when she became a little girl. He hated himself for it and Peyton promised nobody would ever know.
"Put the gun down," Mulder coaxed.
Scully saw her one and only chance and took it. She threw herself into Franklin's body, knocking him to the floor. His gun went off as he impacted on the polished marble, the bullet finding a home in the tiled ceiling. The gun skittered a few feet away, out of sight.
Mulder leaped atop Franklin and did his best to keep the man down. Franklin may be stupid, but he was strong, Mulder thought. Franklin's ham-like fingers clenched around Mulder's neck, shutting off his air. Did invincibility cover asphyxiation? Mulder wondered?
Scully moved across the room to Mulder's gun. "Mulder! I have him!"
Mulder was not in the mood to listen. This pervert had horrible things in mind for Scully and Mulder wasn't sure the man deserved to live. Mulder managed to break Franklin's hold and punched him in the face. Franklin was dazed, so Mulder punched him again. And again. And again for good measure. Franklin lay there, eyes closed, mouth opened.
Mulder stood up, spent from the fight, his knuckles bloodied, and felt himself stumble on his own feet as he found his way to Scully. He wrapped his arms around her and breathed a deep sign of relief.
"Mulder, you okay?
"Yeah." Scully gently pulled away and held Mulder's gun out to him.
"You hang on to it, Scully. You sure you're okay?"
"Yes. Mulder," she said, tucking her parnter's gun in her waistband behind her back. "What in God's name is going on here?"
"I'll explain later. We have to find Lacy."
"Yes, and I have a feeling she's going to have her hands full."
Mulder and Scully started for the door. Something went off inside of Mulder's head. Franklin's gun. It was already too late.
It all seemed to move lightening fast for Scully -- too fast to comprehend and react to -- but for Mulder, the world slowed down. As he turned around he saw Franklin crawling across the floor and reaching for the gun.
Franklin held the gun up and aimed, the barrel pointing just below Scully's head. Mulder grabbed Scully, completely covering her with his own body.
Franklin fired. Once, Twice. Three times.
Scully felt the impact through Mulder, felt his body jerked as each shot slammed into him. Heard the thin sound of pain from his mouth with each shot. She saw it in his face. The first bullet hit Mulder in the left shoulder blade. The second hit him in the middle of the lower back. The third hit just below the first.
Blood was running from the side of his mouth in a thin river. He gave her a weak smile. His mouth moved, but no sound came out.
He looked into her eyes for a second, and then light in his eyes died.
"Mulder, no," she said, her voice cracking with grief.
Mulder fell, knocking Scully to floor and landing on top of her. The force of the fall knocked the wind from her. The back of her head hurt from where it hit the floor. She lay stunned, Mulder's blood covering her, Mulder's still warm body on top of her.
Mulder's dead. Mulder's dead. Those bullets were meant for me. Mulder's dead. The words played like a litany. Something inside Scully's head simply shut down. The room went black.
Franklin Pickett stood up and kicked the two. "Dang!" he yelled. He was bleeding profusely from the mouth and from a cut over his eye from Mulder's pummeling.
"See what you get!" he shouted.
He stuck his gun in his belt and left the conference room in search of Peyton.
"I'M IN CHARGE!"
Lacy forced herself back on her feet and leaped on Peyton. She slammed his head in the ground, again and again, then pushed off and landed deftly on her feet. Using her Doc Martens as weapons she kicked Peyton in the face and sent him rolling across the floor of the roof. She kicked him again. And again. She grabbed him by the back of his jacket and lifted him up.
"Here's a happy little thought for you!" she yelled. And then she invaded his brain. This time she found a way in and let loose everything she had. She hit him with a barrage of fears and frightening images that scared her even to conjure up. Peyton screamed and scrambled to get a way.
There was a sound from above. It was a helicopter. Lacy fought to keep focused on what she was doing. But that split second diversion was all Peyton needed. Peyton slipped into Lacy's psyche and let her have it.
Searing pain tore through Lacy's head like a red-hot poker in through the brain. She yell again and released Peyton, falling back against a brick wall, feet tripping over buckets and rags and other window cleaning equipment. It hurt so badly she could barely see.
Peyton climbed shakily to his feet and brushed off his suit jacket. He removed a white handkerchief from his inside jacket pocket and wiped away the blood from his lip.
"You fight like an alley cat. Got me all excited!" he said as he approached Lacy.
She tried to push away from the wall, to resume the fight, but there was not strength left. What point was there to struggling? What need was there to survive? Lacy slid down the rough brick wall and felt the world begin to slip away.
"Oh, don't go yet, Lacy girl. The fun's just begun. You ever been dropped out of a helicopter?"
"I'm going to kill you."
"I don't think so."
Peyton grabbed Lacy by the collar of her coat and pulled her up on her feet. She was like a rag doll, dead weight, but Peyton had no trouble pulling her about.
The helicopter pilot saw Peyton with the semi-conscious woman in his arms and climbed out of the helicopter, ducking from the still revolving blades.
"Sir! Do you need an ambulance? Can I help you?"
"No, but you can take a flying leap."
The pilot did not know what came over him, but he turned and ran and kept running until he reached the edge of the building. Then he jumped.
He propped Lacy up against a wall. "You stay there, now, y'hear?"
Peyton wandered back by the entrance to the roof and grabbed his two brief cases. He ran to the helicopter and tossed them inside. When he turned back for Lacy, she was gone.
"Now I though I told you to stay put?"
Lacy came out of nowhere and landed on Peyton's back. They rolled along the roof floor until they came to the edge. Lacy, on top, pulled Peyton up and forced him toward the edge. His hands reached out and grabbed her face. His fingers went for her eyes. She pulled back as far as she could.
Lacy turned and faced the barrel of Franklin Pickett's gun. He fired. The bullet entered her head just above her left eye.
She let go of Peyton and staggered back. She reached up and touched the hole in her head. There was very little blood. That's not a good sign she thought.
Lacy didn't even feel it when she fell. All she could think of was how lovely was the sky.
Mulder's eyes felt like they had grit in them, and his mouth was dry as if it had been stuffed with cotton. He was cold, really cold. When he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was red hair splayed on the floor. And then he remembered.
Mulder pushed up on his elbows and found Scully lying unconscious under him. He pushed up onto his knees and noticed the blood. He remembered the shots fired, and the pain; still he checked Scully to make sure the bullets hadn't torn through him and hit his partner.
He lifted her shirt and saw, to his relief, that despite the blood, there were no wounds. He felt the back of her head and found a small knot where she'd undoubtedly banged her head on the way down. Mulder brushed the hair from her face and kissed her forehead.
"You'll be fine," he whispered. He stood and felt around his body. The burning in his back let him know he was still mending. Three shots to the back, yet he was standing, breathing, living. Mulder smiled. He could get used to this.
Relieved that Scully would recover, and that he was still alive, he went in search of Lacy.
"No!" Peyton yelled, "SHE WAS MINE!"
Franklin thought he had done a good thing, but now he had gone and made Peyton mad. Bad move.
"I'm sorry, Peyton, but I thought she was gonna kill you!"
"SHE WAS MINE!"
"She killed Ginny! I owed her!"
Peyton walked over to Franklin, breathing hard like a bull about to charge. Franklin cringed.
"Don't hit me, Peyton!"
Peyton reached out, just until Franklin ducked, then grabbed the man and pulled him into a hug.
"I'm not going to hit you Frank. I'm never gonna hit you again, unnerstand?"
"Thank you. I'm sorry I shot Lacy. Is she dead?"
"No, but I bet she wish she was. I thought we'd drop her out of the helicopter, see if she can bounce."
Franklin giggled. "Can I push her?"
"You wanna take away all my fun?"
"Okay, you push her. We ready to go now?"
"Yeah, we're ready to go."
"You got our money?"
"It's in the helicopter."
"I'll get Lacy."
Peyton started walking toward the helicopter while Franklin went to Lacy. He kicked her once. She didn't respond. Her eyes were open but it was as if she wasn't even there.
"Git up!" he demanded. He reached down and grabbed Lacy's arm and pulled it over his shoulder, and dragged her to the helicopter. He dropped her at Peyton's feet.
"Oh, Frank, there's one more thing I gotta take care of."
Franklin had no idea what caused it, but he heard a tremendous snap, like wood being broken in half. And then there was pain, and he found himself sprawled on the roof floor. He looked down at his legs and screamed. The bones in both legs had been snapped like twigs and his legs were splayed in the most inhuman position.
"Thanks for all your help Frank, but I'll be taking this trip by myself."
"Please, Peyton! NO! Please!"
Franklin heard another snap. It was his neck.
Scully moaned as she came too. Something wet and cold was all over her. She opened her eyes and blinked. She saw the ceiling, which meant nothing until she saw the bullet hole.
Scully sat up. Mulder was there earlier, he'd fallen on top of her, before she passed out. Mulder was dead. Three bullets in the back. There was no way he could have survived. But where was he?
She looked down at her clothes, soaked with Mulder's blood. His blood also stained the floor where they lay. But there was no sign of Mulder. She could only imagine that Franklin had taken his body. But why?
Scully rose on shakey legs. There was pain in her lower back. She realized she had fallen with Mulder's gun still tucked into the back of her clothes. She was going to have a nasty bruise. Thank God the safety was on.
Scully headed for the door to find Franklin, Peyton, or Lacy. It didn't matter. Someone was going to pay for Mulder.
Mulder hit the roof just as Franklin Pickett's neck was wrung like a chicken's. He saw Lacy on the ground, trying to move. A quick sweeping assessment of Lacy told him she was dying.
Mulder didn't mean for that to slip out. Peyton looked up at the sound of his voice.
"It's the FBI boy! You still alive? Look at you!" Peyton said with a laugh.
Mulder looked down at himself. His clothes were soaked with blood and he was as white as a sheet. He looked disoriented and he could barely stand on his feet. He could still feel the wounds in his back closing and the bones fusing back together.
"I'm taking a little trip. Care to go along?"
"Actually, I don't think you're going anywhere."
Peyton put a foot on Lacy's throat.
"She's alive, for the moment. Make one move and I'll be forced to take a step."
"Leave her. Take me."
"What on earth for? Martyrs are no fun. Your partner, however....?"
Mulder turned to the roof entrance. There was Scully, gun ready.
Her mouth dropped and her eyes widened when she saw her partner there, bloody but very much alive.
She saw Peyton Grey and trained the gun on him.
"HANDS IN The AIR!"
"Oh, for goodness sake," said Peyton shaking his head. "You two are relentless."
"HANDS IN The AIR NOW!"
Suddenly Scully couldn't breathe. It was as if the air had suddenly disappeared, or some cosmic vacuum had just sucked all the oxygen away. A deep, strangling sound escaped her as she reached for her throat, dropping her gun.
"Scully!" Mulder raced to Scully and caught her before she hit the ground. Her own hands were wrapped around her throat. Mulder tried to pry her fingers away, but they would not be moved.
"It's gonna be a pity to kill you two, Fox Mulder," Peyton said.
"Then don't. Let her go."
Mulder felt a mental tug. He looked down at Lacy and saw her eyes. She winked. Mulder knew, keep Peyton occupied.
Mulder tried to force his way into Peyton's head. Peyton reacted as if he'd been tickled. He reached in and found Mulder's must vulnerable spot and laughed.
Mulder got the signal from Lacy and threw himself across Scully to protect her.
Lacy pushed with her all she had left. She found the fuel tank. All she need to do was create one little spark...
The helicopter exploded.
Invincibility had it limits.
Mulder looked over at the twitching body, then turned away. Small fires had broken out in places where burning pieces of the chopper had landed.
Mulder rose off of Scully. She was no longer fighting for air.
"Mulder, what happened?"
"Peyton lost his head."
He pulled his partner to her feet and held on to her arms, helping her steady herself.
"No, I mean you! You! I saw Pickett shoot you. There was blood."
"Mulder you have three bullet wounds in your back," she demanded as she tried to pull Mulder's shirt away and examine the damage.
"No, I don't."
"I don't understand."
"I'll explain later. You going to be okay?"
"Besides being terribly confused, I think so."
"Starting to get a little hot up here."
He turned to where Lacy was still lying semi-conscious. Scully saw and knelt down to get a look at the wound on Lacy's forehead and check her vitals.
"Is she still alive?" Mulder asked. Another bit of the helicopter exploded and sent flaming bits soaring.
"Not for long. Help me get her off this roof."
Mulder stood in the parking lot, looking up at the fire as it raged on the roof, slowly making its way down one floor at a time. Scully sat with Lacy, keeping tabs on her vital signs until the paramedics arrived. She was shocked that someone who had sustained a gun shot wound in the head as she had would still be alive and somewhat lucid.
She was even more shocked when Lacy asked to sit up.
"I don't think that's a good idea."
Lacy held out a hand. Mulder reached down and took it and gave her a pull. Lacy sat up and held her head down, obviously in pain.
"Mulder," Lacy said, "I have to get out of here. They'll be here shortly."
"Who'll be here?" asked Scully.
"You're in no condition to drive," Mulder told Lacy.
"Drive where?" Scully demanded.
"I'll be fine."
"Lacy, let me drive you where you're going. Scully can say and wait for the police."
"Would someone please tell Scully what's going on?" Scully cried.
Mulder turned to her. "I have to do something. It won't take long. Stay here, I'll be back as fast as I can."
"I'll be back and I will explain everything."
Mulder helped Lacy to her feet. Scully was surprised to see the woman actually able to walk on her own.
"Here's a little souvenir."
Mulder looked away from the darkening road at Lacy. He held out his hand. She placed something small, metallic and cool in his palm. Mulder held it close and saw it was the slug from Lacy's head.
"Don't say I never gave you anything," she said with a waning smile.
They were back on the road to the Stafford Hills Grade School. Mulder had no idea why she wanted to go back there when she should be heading away from her captors.
"There's something there I need," was all she would say.
When they reached the old school house, she told Mulder to turn off the ignition.
"This is where you get out," she said to Mulder.
He reached up and turned on the light. "Lacy, I can help you."
"Help me what?"
"The men who did this to you. They have to pay. They have to be held accountable."
"To you, to me. To the public."
"No," she said with a weak laugh. "Tell the public there's a drug that can make a man or woman virtually invincible... Do you really think they'd do the right thing? You know what it's made of. Do you think the men responsible will admit to any of this? Be assured they've already anticipated a breach in security and are at this very minute covering up every possible loose end."
"So that's it. We continue allow them to get away with it, participate in their acts of duplicity with our silence, by turning our heads, by hiding the truth to protect the very men who would destroy us as a means to their diabolical end. I'm sick of it. I can't do that anymore. Somebody has to tell the truth."
"You'll be shouting at the ocean, Mulder."
"They I guess I'll have to keep shouting, 'till someone hears me."
Lacy winced as a jolt of pain shot through her head. She reached into her inside coat pocket and pulled out her silver metal case, and handed it to Mulder.
"This is the last of it. Your partner Scully, can analyze it. You'll need this if you want to expose them. I pray you can, Mulder."
Mulder took the case and opened it. There were four green liquid-filled syringes. He licked his bottom lip, and felt a strange hunger overtake him.
"Don't," said Lacy. "Don't even think about it."
Mulder dropped the case into his pocket, and nodded.
"They're coming," she said.
Mulder reached for the ignition.
"No. Get out. Be my witness. Tell them what you see. I know this sounds dorky, but I want you to..."
"I want somebody to remember me."
"I'll remember you."
She smiled. "Yeah, right. Now get out."
The door to the driver's side opened on it's own. Mulder got out and closed the door.
Lacy climbed over into the driver's seat. She turned the ignition, gunned the motor a few times. And then, she let down all her mental defenses. She wanted him to know. Needed him to know.
It hit Mulder like slap to the side of his head. He saw what she had planned and Mulder lunged for the car door.
He banged a palm on the window, as if she'd stop and let him back in. She simply smiled and waved.
The engine gunned again and the car started moving.
He saw in his head the explosives she had attached to the bottom of the car. He also saw and heard the convoy of black ops trucks and jeeps moving in their direction. He thought he caught a whiff of cigarette smoke.
And then, just as it had that first day he met Lacy, time ceased for the moment to exist.
When it returned, Lacy's car was at the bottom of the hill.
The explosion sent a ball of fire high into the air, lighting up the burgeoning night, the force of it throwing Mulder to the ground.
He lay there and watched as the black ops convoy engaged its prey, as Keflar -suited personnel quickly surrounded the vehicle and attacked it with fire extinguishers.
Watching the fire made him long for yet another cigarette. He reached for his pack of Morelys and realized he already had a fresh one in his mouth waiting to be lit. He pulled out his lighter.
He was angry. He'd wanted her alive. He'd wanted to see her again after all these years. After all, he'd practically considered her a daughter. Not that he ever really treated her like one, but it was his insisting that kept her alive all these years, despite the early death of the project. He knew about the tumors, but he still could not bring himself to having her destroyed. He was so proud of what he had helped make her.
One of the men under his charge wandered over, pulling his Kevlar hood off.
"She's dead, sir."
"Show me the body," the Cancer Man insisted.
The younger man waved to the others.
Two men carrying a stretcher approached. On the stretcher was the burnt remains of the passenger behind the wheel. One could hardly tell it was human. Smoke still wafted from the charred, disfigured corpse, and the Cancer Man turned his head away as the smell of burning flesh became stronger.
"Dispose of it."
The men with the stretcher walked away.
Cancer Man took a long drag of his cigarette, and remembered Lacy as a girl.
Mulder saw the charred body from his vantage point and turned away. He'd forgotten all about the lost time. He saw Cancer Man being presented the body like a roasted pig on a platter, and he wanted the man dead. He wanted him to die.
Mulder reached into his pocket and pulled out the silver case. From it, he removed one of the syringes.
"Don't stare too long into the abyss," Lacy had said. But Mulder had the perfect justification. Sometimes to kill a monster, you had to become one.
He rolled up a sleeve, and didn't even bother looking for a vein. He jabbed it into his arm and pushed the plunger down.
Mulder lay back and allowed the poison to infiltrate his system. And then he turned his attention to Cancer Man.
He could see him at the bottom of the hill, supervising his men as they sanitized the area of all traces of Lacy's presence. Soon they'd make their way up to the school house to sanitize it, to destroy her equipment and erase all evidence of her existence.
Mulder felt power coursing through him like blood. He also felt his anger for the wrongs against the people he knew and loved build to a fever pitch. He had to kill the Cancer Man. He had to kill him now. For Samantha. For his parents. For Scully. And now, for Lacy.
He zeroed in on Cancer Man, saw him lighting yet another cigarette. Mulder reached inside and found the man's heart, heard his tarnished heart beating. Then slowly, gradually quickened its pace, making it work twice as hard, three times as hard as it had too.
He saw the Cancer Man stop in mid-speech and rub his chest. Mulder pushed farther, quickening the pace even harder. He saw the fear on Cancer Man's face as his chest seized and ached. He saw the Cancer Man stagger back toward his car, still holding his chest, his eyes tearing, his face beet red, his hands trembling.
And then his conscience jumped on him like a rabid dog. No, Mulder. This is murder. You're one of the good guys.
Mulder found himself having a two-way argument with himself. Part of him wanted to take the Cancer Man's heart in his mental hand and squeeze it like a tomato. The other part of him continued to insist that justice must be done. Had to be done. The line had to be drawn.
Mulder pulled back and released his prey, then lay flat on his back, looking up at the stars. He wanted to cry. But there wasn't time. He had to get back to Scully. He gathered himself up and headed back to meet his partner.
Cancer Man let go of his shirt front and took a deep breath of relief. The pain had subsided. He'd never felt pain like that before. He thought for a moment that once back home he should arrange to have himself checked out. Then, by force of habit, he brought the still burning cigarette up to his lips and took yet another drag.
"Let's get moving!" he ordered his men, and climbed into his black sedan.
Mulder could tell how hard it was for her to keep it together. She was running on adrenaline. She'd had as little sleep as he and had been through so much more. She had almost died. And as it was so many times before, it was his fault.
"No? Then what is it, Mulder?" She could not hold it together any longer. Her eyes turned red, stung by tears. "I haven't been able to reach you for hours. I was afraid you were dead already."
Mulder trained his eyes on his arm, not wanting to look at her. A vein was standing up, blue-green and engorged with blood, ready to receive. "Right now, I wish I was."
"Don't say that. We can beat this. Please, put it down, Mulder," she said as she slowly approached, holding out a hand. "You don't know what's in there. You don't know the long-term effects. It's destroyed so many people already. Don't let it destroy you."
"I did it for you, Scully." A tear streamed down his cheek.
"I know you did. But I'm safe now. You don't have to do this anymore. Please, Mulder. Put it down."
"I can't Scully. I tried. I can't beat them without it."
"Yes, we can, Mulder."
"Because we're right? Because we're the good guys? No. Only the strong survive, Scully. Only the strong can beat them. Even if it kills me."
"Do you really believe that?"
"No. I want to believe."
"Then put it down."
"I don't have the strength. I don't think I can."
"We have to try. Mulder, please. Please."
Mulder jammed the needle into his arm.
He could not push the plunger down. He sat there watching as blood seeped up around the needle.
"Help me," he said, his voice cracking as tears stung his eyes.
Scully went to him, pulled the needle from his arm and pulled him to her. She stroked his hair, and felt his body tremble against her.
"You know I will," she said. Scully squatted down to look Mulder in the face. "We'll go back to my place. We'll stay there as long as it takes for this stuff to work out of your system. Let me take care of you. Okay?"
Mulder shook as a pain spasm tore through his chest like a precursor to a heart attack. He closed his eyes, squeezing out tears. "It hurts!"
"Don't tell anyone."
"I won't. No one has to know."
The chest pain began to subside. "I don't know if I'm strong enough for this."
"Then we'll have to find the strength, Mulder." She took his hands and squeezed. He squeezed back and tried to smile.
"Just so long as you know what you're getting yourself into," Mulder said. "I'm a real pain when I'm sick."
"When you're sick?"
Mulder tried to smile. He let Scully pull him to his feet. She grabbed his jacket and led him to the door.
Three Days Later
Mulder woke up in Scully's bed. The sheets were cool under him. The room was dim, as if twilight were descending upon the city. He ached from head to toe, felt as if there was barely enough strength to move. He looked to the side and found Scully sitting there, smiling at him. She looked relieved. And very, very beautiful.
"Finally," she said. "Any longer and I'd have to charge you rent."
Mulder moved his mouth to speak, but nothing came out at first. He tried again.
"How am I doing?"
"You tell me."
"I feel like I've been through a wheat thrasher. Twice."
"I think that would have hurt a lot less. You were pretty bad off. You gave me quite a scare. The hallucinations, the shakes, the vomiting, the sweating. You went through four sets of clean sheets."
"Did I hurt you?"
"I survived. And so did you."
She reached to the bedside table and picked up a white bowl with a spoon in it.
"This is chicken broth. Think you could put down a little?"
"I'll give it a try."
She held the spoon to Mulder lips. He tasted it, and immediately coughed.
"Slowly," Scully warned, then offered him a bit more.
It went down a lot smoother, and triggered his appetite.
"How long was I out of it?"
"It's Thursday evening."
Mulder whistled through his teeth.
"Have you filed the report?"
"Yes. Inconclusive. There's a copy for you, when you're up to it."
"I told him you had a virus."
"That's an understatement."
Mulder sat up, pulling himself forward.
"I should go."
"Don't be ridiculous. Stay till morning at least. I'll drive you home."
"Sure. You want some more broth?"
Scully reached for the bowl, and brought it around, but stopped. Her eyes lost their focus, and her mouth fell slack as if some internal battery had just run down. Mulder's stomach clenched in fear.
"They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows," she said. But it was not Scully's voice. It was Lacy.
Mulder shook his head. Was this yet another hallucination? Had the green stuff not fully worked its way through and out of his system?
"'They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear. They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, 'who will see them?' They plan their injustice and say, We have devised a perfect plan.'"
Mulder recognized the words. Lacy had read some of these very words to him aloud. Psalms, Old Testament.
"'But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down.' You are the arrow, Fox Mulder. And one day, you will bring them to ruin. Not everything dies."
And then, Scully dipped the spoon into the broth and held it up. She saw the look of shock on Mulder's face.
"Mulder? What? What's the matter?"
"Didn't you hear yourself?"
"Hear myself what? Mulder, what are you talking about?"
"You quoted Psalm."
"I quoted what? Mulder, are you hallucinating again? Mulder, What is it?"
"Nothing," he said. He reached out and stroked Scully cheek. "Nothing at all."
Costa Carreras, Mexico
The nurse appeared over her and smiled.
"How are you feeling?" she asked with barely a trace of a Spanish accent.
"Sick. Really sick."
"Not a surprise."
The nurse held a paper cup to her lips, and she drank a small amount of water. It didn't make her feel any better.
"The doctor is here now," the nurse announced and stepped aside.
The doctor was short, very grey, but had a wide smile. He spoke only in Spanish. The nurse translated as he spoke.
"He says you are not yet responding to the treatment. This is not surprising, because of the advanced nature of your cancer. He says he is surprised you are still alive. He says you must be patient with the drugs, for these are all experimental drugs, and are considered unorthodox treatment methods in the United States. He also says...."
Her mind started to drift away. She'd barely made it to Mexico. Her getaway vehicle came very close to being discovered. And it was a good thing the fire had time enough to burn before her employers got there, or they would have known immediately that the charred body was not hers, but Ginny Scurlock's. Smart of her to keep the body in the trunk of her vehicle.
Lacy thought of Mulder and his partner Scully. If she lived through this, she would have to pay them a friendly visit someday.
She relaxed into the thin pillow and willed the drugs to fulfill their promise of a cure.