Summary: Mulder and Scully, working on a mysterious drug case, are dragged into the dark and dangerous world of the Los Angeles underground.
Author's Note: Song lyrics are included as a mood setter to this dark piece and are presented *like this. Credits will be included at the conclusion of each chapter. *Feedback MUCH APPRECIATED!!!
Sharon Kingston sat in her AP English final, pen poised over a blank sheet of paper. She'd sat like this since the period began; disoriented, completely unable to focus. Why can't I think of anything to say? she thought desperately. She tried to recall Hamlet, Camus, Kafka, anything to start her essay. But the words, the language soon mingled with gibberish; her addled brain grasped at straws.
*following the silent hedges needing some other kind of madness looking into purple eyes sadness at the corners works of art with a minimum of steel
She shouldn't have been taking this stuff. But nothing, nothing else could have gotten her through finals. She knew what it was doing to her system; hell, she'd been a DARE kid since the fourth grade. But since Spring Finals junior year, she had come to rely on it, to help her through these times of ultimate stress. And it paid off; she was now valedictorian of her class, going to Stanford next year. Everyone loved her. Her parents loved her. Success; that's what she got.
She brought her hands up to her face and opened a secret compartment on her trendy ringwatch. A sharp intake of breath; the white powder coursed through her sinuses as the tweak hit her bloodstream.
*pure sensation the beautiful down grade going to hell again going to hell again
Her eyes rolled back in her head as she savored the sensation. This new stuff was great; no more pisspoor shit like Eric gave her. Toni had gotten her this new tweak from Martinez; it was like powder magic. She could work now in a happy daze; hell, she didn't remember half the stuff she did this morning, but she knew she'd done it all. She was sure she'd succeed, and everyone would love her.
*self confidence leaks from a thousand wounds faults of civilisation burning the private paradise of dreams minus hands of the electric clock clock clock clock
Oh, shit. Only a half hour to go, five pages to write. Sharon focused her attention onto the page, only to stall again. Her pen scratched frustrated little marks on the blank smoothness of the blue book as she realized that the words, the thoughts, still weren't coming. This is it, she thought. This is everything. If I fail this test, everything goes. Non-grad status. Stanford shot. And how many people would be so disappointed.
She drummed her fingers onto the desktop with bruising intensity. Her mind clutched madly, desperately, at the texts, the insights that stayed maddeningly out of her reach. Frantically, not even trying to hide, she sniffed at her ring again.
*pure sensation the beautiful down grade going to hell again going to hell again again again again
Her mind swam with the shock. She'd never taken this much tweak in so short a time. But this was war; with her test, with her future, with her own mind. And she was going to conquer; she was going to be on top. And still the words wouldn't come. She beat at her temples with her fists, commanding, demanding the thoughts to manifest. And still the words wouldn't come.
She looked up; and by the doorway she could see a man, dressed all in black, looking at her; his steel-grey eyes boring into her soul. The gaze held her; her eyes widened in terror as she tried to break away, but couldn't. Silent words poured forth from the dark man's lips, a mantra of rage, of war. Suddenly, as he had appeared before her, he was gone, vanished into the marred, dirty woodwork of the classroom.
All sense of reality stopped as she blinked her eyes in frustration. A muted "Are you all right?" from her teacher never even reached her ears. Reality was chaos, perception dimmed as Sharon reached into her bag for a gun she didn't even know was there, didn't remember taking out of her father's prize gun case that morning. Perception follwed the down grade into madness, and Sharon couldn't even think as she raised the automatic and pulled the trigger.
Fox Mulder was not happy. He and Scully had been on their way back from a case in San Francisco when they got the call from Skinner. They hadn't even had a chance to rest; after 3 days chasing a purported "vampire" who just turned out to be a madman with a bad case of porphyria, they were ready for some downtime. They had strode quickly into the airport, expecting to be in D.C. in six hours, and in their own beds asleep in a couple more. Instead, they found their plans had changed.
He sighed, and blinked his tired eyelids. "So, what's the story?" he asked Detective James, one of the detectives on-scene.
"Very strange case, Agent Mulder. Sharon Kingston, age 17. Valedictorian of her class, 4.0 average student and all-around nice girl, goes nuts in her AP English final, takes out a gun and starts shooting. Kills seven people, including her teacher; there's 3 more people in critical at St. Joe's Hospital. Her body's over here." Mulder rubbed his eyes and followed the detective through the chaotic debris that was once an ordered classroom. Tragic, he thought. But what in the world does this have to do with us?
"Mulder." Scully was already at the body, latex-gloved hands examining the body. "Come take a look at this." Her voice was awed as she pointed to the face.
"Her eyes...?" Mulder's sleepy demeanor snapped into curious mode as he examined the yawning black holes that had once housed Sharon's eyes.
"I can't explain it, Mulder, but..they're gone. No trace of viscous gel, lens, retina, anything...Mulder, i don't know how, but they're simply gone. It was like, somehow, they were taken without a trace." Scully chose her words carefully, making it sound undeniably like an X-File.
"Scully, you know as much as I do that nothing disappears without a trace." He turned to Detective James. "Anyone touch the bodies before you got here?"
"No, not that I know of." The detective averted his eyes from the body, trying carefully not to look at the horrific sight before him. He'd been to some pretty gruesome murder sites before, but never like this. Never someone he knew. "Excuse me." He turned and started to leave.
"Detective James --" Mulder turned and laid a hand on the older man's shoulder. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah -- yeah." Detective James heaved a sigh. "It's just that...I knew her. My daughter was friends with her. It's just so...random, so hard to believe."
"I'm sorry."Mulder nodded his head in sympathy. Detective James bowed his head and left the room.
"Mulder, come over here." Scully's voice brought him back to the side of the body. "This is where the body fell when she had finally turned the gun on herself."
Scully pointed to a desk across the room, thirty feet away. "According to witnesses, she was standing at that desk when she began shooting."
Mulder raised an eyebrow. "Any weapon recoil you know of that throws a body thirty feet?"
"Maybe...some military arms...but certainly not the murder weapon."
"Excuse me, did you say she turned the gun on herself?" The coroner, who had just finished taking photos of the body, walked up to Scully.
"Yes...I presume that's how she died -- she turned the gun on herself."
The coroner shook his head. "She didn't die of a gunshot wound. In fact, there's no gunshot wounds on her."
"What?" Scully was incredulous.
"Come and take a look." Scully knelt down beside the body again and checked it for gunshot wounds. The look on her face was flabbergasted. "You're right," she concluded.
Mulder and Scully exchanged a look of intrigue. Mulder nodded. "Scully, have this bodywrapped and have an autopsy and toxicological done on it." He swayed on his feet and yawned. 72 hours was way too long to be working without a break. "I'm going to check into the hotel." He noticed similar bags under her eyes. "I suggest you do the same." She nodded.
"As soon as I'm done here. Go get some rest, Mulder...I have a feeling we'll need all our wits about us on this one."
"School Shootings: Is Anyone Safe?" The headline blazed across the day's newspaper as Scully perused its contents, sipping her coffee. She finished the article and put down the newspaper, sitting for some time deep in thought.
It didn't make sense.
"Whatcha thinking, Scully?" Mulder walked through the adjoining door that separated their rooms and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"It doesn't make sense, Mulder. Of all the crimes we've seen, this one definitely ranks up there as being one of the most senseless..."
"I know, Scully. Of course, this whole dangerous new trend of school shootings doesn't make sense at all." He sat beside her on the bed.
She sipped her coffee and sighed. "I remember my greatest fear in high school was that Charlie would get stuffed into a locker by Robbie Henderson." Mulder chuckled. "No one brought guns to school then," Scully continued. "And they certainly didn't use them." Her face gained worry lines as it crumpled into a grimace of sadness and regret. What was the world coming to, if one didn't even have the comfort of innocence?
"Hey," Mulder took Scully's hand and squeezed. "That's why we're here -- to understand why it happened so it won't happen again."
"That's just the thing, Mulder -- I can't for the life of me figure out the 'why' on this case." She grabbed the paper, opened it to a page that listed statistics on school shootings in the last five years. "Look at this list, Mulder. All the other incidents of high school shootings were done by unstable loners, individuals who usually had a history of mental illness or instability. Luke Woodham was a depressive with a possible connection to a Satanic cult. Kipland Kinkel was a psychotic obsessed with death and killing. But Sharon Kingston -- Mulder, Sharon Kingston was a well-loved, popular girl who had no enemies and always had a kind word to say to everyone. She was smart, she was pretty, the complete antithesis to the usual profile of a mass murderer. There's something more here, Mulder...I just can't put my finger on it."
She was unaware till then that her voice had rose in pitch and vehemency. She stopped, took a deep breath, and sipped her coffee.
"Scully...are you going to be okay on this case?" Mulder's concern ran deep. He knew from past experiences that certain cases hit a little close to home sometimes for Scully, and sometimes he wished she'd take it easy when those cases arose, for her own well-being. However, he knew exactly what her response was going to be.
"I'm going to be fine, Mulder. It's just that...from all accounts, Sharon sounded a lot like Melissa, and even myself back in the day...and I just don't understand...just can't see it happening. But you and I both know, it can happen to anyone, anytime...and the best thing to do is get to the truth." Mulder nodded in acknowledgement, and Scully turned and looked into his eyes. "I'm fine."
He smiled. "Okay."
Her cell phone rang. "Scully."
"Agent Scully? We have the autopsy and toxicological report done --"
"That was fast."
"This case is top priority. Anyway, we have some interesting findings... we thought you and your partner should come down here as quickly as possible."
"We'll be right there."
St. Joseph's Hospital
Scully stood in Pathology, listening intetntly as the lab technician took them through the report.
"Sharon Kingston died as a result of a massive shock to her system -- as if every nerve ending in her body fired at the same time. Her body couldn't handle the shock. The effect was like that of the body being struck by lightning -- although how she could have been struck by lightning while standing in a first-floor classroom with a clear sky outside, I have no idea."
"Any idea what could have caused it?" Scully's curiosity was building.
"The reaction could have been chemical -- here's the toxicological reports."
Scully skimmed them, nodding her head in clinical acknowledgement.
The lab technician nodded solemnly. "In quite large amounts...apparently she was a longtime user."
Scully shook her head. "Always the people you never expect."
Mulder bit his lip as a question sprang to mind. "Methamphetamines don't usually induce psychotic behavior...especially in someone who's otherwise completely healthy."
"You're right," the lab technician answered. She produced another report. "We found other things in her bloodstream...some unknown toxins; we have yet to determine exactly what they are."
Scully looked at her. "The meth was laced?"
"It would seem so."
"That still doesn't explain the eyes," Mulder interjected. "And the fact that her body was found 30 feet from the place where she died."
"True." Scully put down the lab reports. She turned to the technician. "Are the witnesses up to talking yet?"
"As ready as they'll ever be."
"It was horrible," Jennifer Briggs sobbed through the bandages that covered her face. "We were just sitting there taking our final...and Sharon was having some kind of a cow...she sat there, kind of clutching at her head sometimes...then she started acting kind of crazy, pounding at the desk. Mrs. Winters went over there to see if she was all right, and then...and then..." She could hardly get the words out. "Then she pulled out the gun..." Her face crumpled and the bandages became wet with her tears.
"I'm sorry...that will be enough for now." The nurse pulled the curtain on the cubicle.
"Wait, wait...one more question..." Mulder shouldered his way past the nurse and leaned over by Jennifer's side. "I need to know something. When -- when Sharon was shooting -- did you see anything...out of the ordinary?"
Jennifer's eyes widened, and she swallowed, hard. "I don't know if I really saw what I saw...everything was so chaotic...but I swear I could have seen her being lifted up and flying through the air..."
Scully looked at her intriguingly. "Flying through the air?"
"Oh, I know it doesn't make sense at all, I was seeing crazy..."
Mulder shook his head. "No, no, it's fine..." His brow furrowed in thought.
"Jennifer, I have one more question for you..." Scully began.
"Oh no, she's been through quite enough, she needs her rest --" the nurse interjected indignantly.
"It's okay." Jennifer smiled through her tears. "Anything to help."
Scully nodded. "Okay, Jennifer...Did you know Sharon was using methamphetamines?"
"Sharon on speed? Yeah, I heard she tweaked sometimes when she had to study for a test...didn't know for sure though..."
"Do you know where she would have gotten her supply?"
Jennifer laughed softly. "There's a lot of tweakers in Burbank...more than you'd expect..."
"Any one in particular that may be dealing laced meth?"
"Laced? Oh, I don't know. Maybe..."
"Maybe the mallrats would know. Up by the mall."
Media City Center, Burbank, California
Armed with a little research into Burbank's criminal database, Mulder and Scully walked down San Fernando Boulevard in search of one Aldovar Martinez, suspected meth dealer who had been arrested the year before for possession with intent to sell. His goods had been laced with heroin back then; but lacking evidence he was released on probation on the possession charge only.
A good lead; and a possible killer.
They strode down San Fernando Boulevard, eyes and ears open. They passed many groups of teenagers out for a little fun that night, periodically stopping and asking if anyone had seen Martinez.
The answers were all the same: "Nope, don't know who he is." "Haven't seen him."
They passed an alley in which a group of black-clad, chain-wearing teenagers were gathered. They looked up suspiciously as the agents approached.
"Hey there," Mulder said lightly as the teens eyed him. He held up the picture of Martinez. "Any of you seen this guy?"
They remained silent. A few of them shrugged their shoulders.
Mulder pressed. "No one? No one at all? Come on, you have to at least *seenthis guy lately. No takers?"
Silence. "Mulder, let's go," Scully said softly as she took his arm to lead him away.
Mulder shrugged her off with a look that she'd seen before. Mulder had a hunch, a strong one; and he was playing it out. He turned back to the group. "Come on, guys. You know him. I know you do. You don't want me to bust you for obstruction of justice now, would you?" His pliant tone gained an edge of steel. Scully recognized his expert technique at work.
"Who wants to know?" A voice piped up from the back of the group.
Mulder's eyes brightened as he pulled out his badge and flashed it. "FBI."
The voice turned into a laugh, and Mulder took a look at his face. Spiky black hair; face masked by dark sunglasses and more metal in his face than Mulder thought possible. "So you know this man?" Mulder asked.
"Heh heh, yeah I do. But...he's kind of like Yoda, ya know...here, there, wherever he wants. Who knows when we'll see him next." He grinned.
Mulder nodded. "Okay, then, thanks for your help." The agents turned to leave.
Once they reached the corner of San Fernando and Palm, Mulder turned the corner and ducked into an alley, doubling back. "Mulder, where are you going?" Scully asked, following him.
"That was him."
"How do you know for sure? You couldn't see enough of his face to make a positive ID."
"That was him, Scully, I'm sure of it."
They continued stalking down the dark alley until a movement caught the corner of Scully's eye. "Mulder!"
They took off after the dark figure, trenchcoat flapping in flight. Mulder tackled the youth and wrestled him to the ground, cuffing him, reading his Miranda rights, and searching his pockets. He pulled out a bag of white powder and a bag of white pills and handed them to Scully.
"Where's your lab?" Mulder interrogated him fiercely. "Where'd you get this poison?"
"I don't know, man!"
"Where is it?!?" Mulder pressed.
"I said I don't know! I don't make the stuff!"
Mulder dragged him to his feet and gave him a disgusted shove towards the car. "Let's go."
*On a chicken-hunt, huntin' for a chicken Get paranoid when you hear my Glock clickin' Speakin' to the punk that's tweakin' With the bitch-ass styles I hit you like Deacon
Sancho grooved to the music as he walked back and forth in the darkness of his garage lab. Cooking was his thing; he was the mastah chef. Especially with this new ingredient...man, that shit was never better. He didn't question the dark man that gave him the stuff; he just knew when he cooked it into his batches, it was like liquid magic.
*I'm comin' ta fetch ya Yeah home direct ya Bury them bones Under my home and
Sancho walked over to a tub of white powder. He grabbed a pinch and inhaled deeply. That's the shit right there, he thought. So he took a little off the top; a little more than he should. But hey, that was the business. If you get caught, you're fucked; but in the meantime get away with as much as you damn well can.
He sniffed again and was filled with the heaven, the rush. He'd been up for 4 days straight now, cooking up the good shit day and night. His eyes were red and puffy, and he couldn't focus well; but it was worth it, was worth the rush.
*Take my weapon, step into a whole new realm And step back, as I take up the helm On the pirate ship I'm steerin' Droppin' the geran Just realize what you're hearin'
"You taking some of my shit?"
Sancho whirled around, startled. His eyes widened as the dark man stood before him, holding him immobile with his steel-grey eyes.
"No man, it's not like that, man, I don't take a lot of your shit, it's just --"
There was no sound in the garage lab; the air stood stock still and hung like a pall in the dingy one-bulb light. A new rhythm started to pound in Sancho's ears; hypnotic and overwhelming.
*I want to fly into your sun Need faith to make me numb
"So you think you can mess with me?"
"No man I don't think that at all, I...man, i'm only 18 years old, cut me a little slack!"
*Live like a teenage christ Im a saint, got a date with suicide
The dark man's steel-grey eyes began to glow slightly. Sancho's eyes widened in stark terror.
*Oh Mary, Mary To be this young is oh so scary Mary, Mary To be this young im oh so scared
"I told you I could make you live forever...I told you I could show you everything. And now look what you've done to me in return." The man's eyes glowed with fearful intensity.
"And now it's time to collect my due."
*You never said forever, could ever hurt like this You never said forever, could ever hurt like this
An indoor wind whipped up, flapping the dark man's trenchcoat as he kept Sancho locked in his gaze. Sancho's mind swam; the hypnotic rhythm pounded behind his ears. His hands flew up to his temples, attempting to stop it, to beat it out of him. The wind intensified to gale force.
*Spin my way out of hell, theres nothing left this soul to sell Live fast and die fast too How many times to do this for you? How many times to do this for you?
The dark man spoke a single word, and a detonation ripped through the small garage lab. Sancho's body flew through the air, slamming against the back wall and slumping to the floor.
All was quiet again as the dark man walked over to the body and passed his hand over Sancho's lifeless face. Collecting his prize, he left.
Scully had woken up with a stuffy nose. The long hard hours of work were exacting their revenge on her; a decreased immune system and resistance due to too much exertion and not enough sleep was beginning to take its toll. She'd received the call early that morning, around the same time she'd realized she had a cold. Another mysterious death; this time at a meth lab in Pacoima. Bleary-eyed, congested, she'd taken some cold pills and gone to work.
"How are you feeling?" Mulder asked as they stepped through the crime scene tape.
"Just peachy, thank you."
"I must say you look well."
Mulder shot her a look of boyish innocence. "I'm just telling the truth."
Detective James met them inside the garage. "Glad to see you two could make it. This isn't really our jurisdiction but since this case and ours seem to be directly related, the LAPD agreed to let us on."
"That's good of 'em." Mulder surveyed the scene. "Looks like your typical meth lab...vats...cookers..."
"Yeah...now here's something strange." Detective James leaned over conspiratorially. "There's been several witnesses that said they heard some kind of explosion or detonation last night -- but we can't find any trace of explosive, or fire, or anything. It was like the sound was there, the shock was there, but no fire."
"Uh huh. Could it have been a detonation, like a lightning strike?"
"Could be, but there's no evidence of that either."
"Mulder!" Scully called him over to the body. "Look at this."
He examined the corpse's face. Once again, two dark sockets yawned empty where the eyes should have been. The face was locked in a grimace of pain and fear; as if the boy had died of fright.
"Who was he?" Mulder queried.
"Sancho Valerio Rodriguez," Detective James supplied. "18 years old, lived in the house across the street. He was a small-time dealer and cooker, spent some time in Juvie a couple of years back for possession. Not a bad kid, but for running with the wrong crowd."
"I'd say." Mulder turned to Scully. "Any guesses as to how this kid died?"
"His manner of death is almost identical to Sharon Kingston's," Scully replied. "An autopsy should confirm that the cause of deaths are the same."
"Still, any guesses...?"
"Mulder, I don't know what killed these kids. These deaths literally defy explanation. I may get some answers once I get those mystery chemicals analyzed at the lab, but right now I can't even begin to make a hypothesis." She sneezed.
Mulder flashed her a little smile of sympathy, and she smiled back. He got up and walked around the lab, taking little mental notes as he surveyed the cooking equipment. Stopping at one of the back tables, he spied an aluminum bin filled with white powder.
"Scully?" He called her over to the table.
"Take a sample of this and bring it to the lab. I'll bet you ten to one that this meth is the same stuff Sharon Kingston had in her system at the time of death...and I'll raise you that those mystery chemicals show up in this mix as well."
Scully nodded and pulled out her evidence kit. As she scooped some of the powder into a vial, a violent sneeze erupted from her small frame. A little white cloud rose up around her head as the sneeze disturbed the powder resting in the bin.
She looked up, a little embarrassed, and sniffled. "Sorry."
Mulder smiled, amused, and walked back over to her. "Bless you."
Scully sniffled again, brushing powder out of her clothes and hair. "Thanks."
"You know, there are antibiotics for that kind of thing."
"I know. I'm on them."
He grinned at her. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." She completed taking the sample and moved on.
Rodolfo sat mutely in his living room among the sounds of grief. His mother wailed in the background, the pure misery of a mother mourning her son. Numerous uncles and cousins mingled respectfully and mournfully throughout the house, and his grandmother knelt at the altar, praying a novena for the dead.
"My baby! My Sancho!" the mother wailed as she rocked back and forth on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably, surrounded by family members.
Rodolfo sat stock still, eyes burning. He was the older brother; he should have stopped Sancho once he found out he was a cooker. But logistics and the law of the ghetto prevented him from questioning Sancho's new business venture. The money from Sancho's cooking put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Their mother never questioned where the money came from; she was just thankful that they had it. "Gracias a Dios," she would always say. And survival -- that was the ultimate law. So Rodolfo stood by while Sancho cooked. And now, he was sitting by, idle and impotent, while he saw his brother's dead body put in the bag and carted off to the morgue.
No more, he thought to himself, steeling his soul. No more bullshit. It's payback time. He got up and headed for the door.
"Rodolfo...where are you going?" his mother asked brokenly.
"I'm gonna get them, Mama...I'm gonna get the bitches that did this to Sancho. It's payback time." He strode out the door with resolve.
"No, Rodolfo! No, m'hijo! I can't lose you too!"
But Rodolfo had already gone out the door.
Los Angeles County Crime Lab
"You were right, Mulder," Scully said as she and Mulder perused the lab test results. She pointed at a chart in the folder. "The mystery chemicals that we found in both Sharon Kingston and Sancho Rodriguez."
Mulder peered at the results. "Which are?"
"A number of things. First, here." She pointed at a molecular configuration on the chart. "This is a neurotoxin - similar to digitalis and in the same family, but about fifty to a hundred times more potent. It works as a hallucinogen and can induce psychosis in some cases."
"I see. And this?"
"Another neurotoxin. Usually found in the skin of certain West African tree frogs and used by natives as a potent poison."
Scully shrugged. "This toxin also produces generally the same effect as the first one. Hallucinogenic, causes a loss of control, of equilibrium..."
Mulder nodded. "Then this is what killed them."
Scully took a deep breath, bit her lip, and continued. "Well, it's not that simple, Mulder. We did find these toxins in the bloodstream, but not in fatal amounts. Not enough to produce such extreme condiions as was exhibited in the bodies. It simply wasn't enough to kill them. So, in effect, we're back to square one." She sniffled.
"How's your cold?"
"Oh, it's much better, thank you." Her face momentarily crumpled as if in discomfort.
"Yeah, I'm fine...just been feeling a little weird since we left the lab this morning. I think I better--"
Scully clutched her stomach suddenly and doubled over. Her other hand clamped over her mouth, she ran to the bathroom. Mulder ran after her, only to have the door shut in his face as he listened to her heave violently on the other side of the door. Frowning with worry, he stood there until he heard her vomiting cease.
"You okay in there?"
"Yeah," she called. "Sorry about -"
"Don't be sorry."
The door opened and Scully, significantly paler, staggered out the door. She swayed and Mulder caught her arm, supporting her.
"Don't tell me you have the flu now."
Scully managed a weak smile. "No...I don't know what it is..." Her speech was slightly slurred, and Mulder noticed her eyes trying to focus on his as she looked up at him lightly. "I don't have fever or any other symptoms; just...a loss of equilibrium I guess."
"You're exhausted." Mulder slipped his arm around her waist as he led her back to the lab table.
"I'm fine." She almost stumbled over her own feet as she walked blearily along.
"No, you're not." Mulder continued to hold her up as he spoke frankly. "And as a matter of fact, neither am I, if that makes you feel better. Now come on; we've both been going nonstop for almost a week now, you're sick, and I think we both need some rest."
He reached up and stroked the top of her head. "Go back to the hotel and relax. Take one of your bubble baths, or something." Scully smacked him playfully on the shoulder, slightly embarrassed. Mulder grinned. "I'll go back to Burbank PD and tell Detective James we're taking the rest of the day off. Then I'm going back to the hotel, and we're both sleeping. And if you don't sleep for at least ten hours, I'm gonna have you drummed out of the Bureau." Mulder smiled down at her. "Agreed?"
She looked up at him, and her unfocused gaze worried him a bit. She sighed, and smiled weakly. "Agreed."
"Good. I'll see you later." He placed a friendly kiss on her forehead and helped her steady on her feet.
As they walked out of the lab, a dark figure watched from the shadows, scrutinizing the two with his steel-grey eyes.
*the main attraction - distraction got ya number than number than numb empty ya pockets son; they got ya thinkin' that what ya see is what they sellin' make ya think that buyin' is rebellin' the frontline is everywhere, there be no shelter here
Rodolfo drove down Van Nuys Boulevard in his '75 Chevy Impala, eyes trained on the streets ahead of him. He'd gone to all of Sancho's hangouts and found nothing; only passing rumors that he was working with a mysterious man in black. Fuck this man in black shit, Rodolfo thought. I just want to find my brother's killer and cap his ass. But he found himself searching the streets, searching the city for the elusive man in black. The stress of his bottled-up rage was taking its toll, and he started having slight dizzy spells as he drove.
*there be no shelter here the frontline is everywhere there be no shelter here the frontline is everywhere
He pulled over on Osborne Street and walked into a bar on the corner. After drowning his sorrows in several Coronas, he staggered back out towards the car. Stumbling down an alley, he was blinded by tears as he realized he'd never share a drink with his little brother Sancho. Never again. He sobbed as he walked.
"I hear you've been looking for me."
Rodolfo whirled around and found himself face-to-face with the man in black.
His eyes narrowed. "Yeah, you motherfucker, I been looking for you." Suddenly cold sober, he lunged at the dark one. "Did you kill my brother?" he shrieked. "You killed my brother, MOTHERFUCKER!"
The dark man raised a hand, and Rodolfo froze in place, held by the gaze from his steel-grey eyes.
"Why can't I move?" Rodolfo was panicked. "Why can't I move?" He flailed uselessly at the air. "Puto! Carajo!" he screamed at the man in black.
"I'm sorry about your brother," the dark one said calmly. "But it couldn't be helped. There are certain repercussions when one crosses one such as me. Sancho knew that...and so will you."
His hold on Rodolfo released, and Rodolfo lunged at him. "Goddamn puto motherfucker!" he screamed. The dark man let Rodolfo get within inches of his face and froze him again. He regarded Rodolfo's raging features calmly as he raised his hand and blew some white powder in his face.
Slowly, Rodolfo's flailing and protestations ceased as the dark one walked around him, scrutinizing, gauging. Finally, Rodolfo stood stock still, motionless, eyes blank. The dark one walked up to his face and placed a capsule on Rodolfo's tongue.
Rodolfo did so.
"Good. Now do as I tell you."
*Sugar in the heart is burning Sweet on lips and eyes are glowing All the things you take are spinning 'round Such a waste but you can't taste What's coming down
Scully staggered into her bathroom, drenched with sweat. The freshness she had momentarily enjoyed after her bath was gone. She remembered how she had crawled into bed, completely exhausted and needing of some sleep. Mulder had come in to check on her, laying a hand gently across her forehead as he tucked her in, made sure she was all right, told her that he'd leave the adjoining door open so he'd be available any time she needed him.
Despite her protestations and assurances, she secretly enjoyed the attention and was supremely grateful for her partner's concern. Mulder may be a pain in the ass sometimes, she mused, but other times he could be a dear, dear man. She had drifted off to sleep pleasantly, dreaming of him, what might have been...
Until she had woken up in this cold sweat, disoriented, nauseated. It took all she had to crawl to the side of the bathtub and retch violently over the side. Her doctor's mind tried to take stock of all her symptoms; a customary contingency plan so that in case of her incapacity, Mulder would know what exactly was wrong with her and what to do.
There was only one problem: tonight her mind was spinning, slipping away, unable to grasp hold of any rational or medical thought, let alone the dexterity to voice them.
*Needle stings and blisters breaking Swinging moods and conscious fading
Scully gasped in panic. She'd always relied on her mind and quick wits to save her, even when her own body was failing. But now; now her mind and body were malfunctioning, fermenting, threatening to envelop her in darkness. She didn't even have the strength to call out Mulder's name in her distress. Another violent heave and she lost all sense of direction, developed vertigo as reality swam around her into a whirlpool of chaos.
*All the things you dream while spinning 'round Always it seems to bring you, bring you down
Suddenly her mind was not her own; she looked up and through her haze, a clear picture came through. A dark figure stood above her; steel-grey eyes penetrating into the depths of her will and holding her there, rendering her mentally and physically immobile. He whispered instructions and, to her horror, she felt her body obeying while her consciousness stayed prisoner.
*All the time you save You can turn this movie around You can turn this movie around Ferment Ferment Ferment
Mulder. If only I could reach Mulder. She screamed inside, commanded her mouth, her larynx, her lungs to scream out her partner's name. Tears streaming down her face, she screamed his name over and over, but no sound came out of her mouth. The dark one regarded her, in awe of her tenacity and in amusement at her failure. He laughed as she tried and tried to scream....fading sugar voices when the sweetness is fermented Ferment Fermenting, fermenting, fermenting, oh Light, your fading light Ferment your life Your fading light Ferment your life Fermenting, fermenting, fermenting
Finally, consciousness itself began to slip away, and Scully felt her body rise and turn in response to the dark one's commands. An inexplicable heat surrounded her, threatened to consume her. Her last glimpse of herself before she lost total control of her conscious mind was of herself walking toward the door that separated her and Mulder's rooms, right hand slowly unbuttoning the second, third buttons of her pajama top.
Mulder lay in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. He was worried about Scully. He'd never seen her get sick that fast; nor many people, for that matter. It was a little fast for the flu...
Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Gut feeling. The same gut feeling that gave him all his famous hunches, his legendary insight into the minds and hearts of criminals and conspiracies, led him to thinking tonight that something was most definitely wrong with Scully. His heart ached as he imagined the worst, although he kept convincing himself it was impossible: the possibility that Scully's cancer was coming back. An involuntary tear sprang to his eye as he recalled the most trying time of his life; and how he wished they would never have to walk down that dark path again.
He tried to lull himself back to sleep with images and memories of the pleasant times - how they had danced once to Cher in the middle of a crowded nightclub; how she had held his hand and stayed by him as he wrestled with his personal demons in a hotel room just like this one; that time so long ago in the car where she told him she wouldn't put it on the line for anyone else but him. Those are the times we have to live for, Mulder thought to Scully. Those are the times we have to stay alive for.
Still, the sinking feeling in his gut would not go away. He laid an arm over his eyes, trying to banish the feeling from his consciousness so he could at least get a good night's sleep.
The door that connected his room to Scully's creaked open, and Mulder sat up in bed as Scully stood, silhouetted in the doorway.
"Scully?" He got out of bed and walked over to her. "Are you all right?"
He was completely taken off guard by her response as, animal-like, she grabbed him by his t-shirt and kissed him hard on the mouth. Her tongue pushed its way onto his, probing and devouring his mouth as she kissed him with lusty abandon.
Am I delirious? Mulder thought as she pushed him back hard against the wall of his room. Alarm bells rang in his head as she kissed him again, biting his lower lip and drawing blood. Mulder asked himself again if he was dreaming or delirious as he felt himself become involuntarily aroused at her animalistic agression. He noticed her shirt top was open as she pushed him onto the bed and was on him, seeking him, touching him. He groaned involuntarily as she pressed her weight against his hip and he felt himself swell; the heat of sudden sexual stimulation threatening to envelop him.
Wrong. Something was horribly wrong with this picture. His sober mind, the mind of Special Agent Fox Mulder, fought against the waves of primal heat as rationality struggled to the surface. As much as you've dreamed about this, Fox, it warned him, this isn't right. There's definitely something very wrong here.
"Scully.." he gasped, torn between passion and control. "There's something wrong here..."
And then he knew it. In the heat of the moment, straddled across his body, Scully drew up a fingertip coated in white powder. She attempted to thrust the fingertip into his mouth, to touch the break in the skin she'd made when she bit his lip. He caught her wrist roughly in one hand while, with supreme effort, the other drew her head away from his neck.
"What is this? Scully?"
He looked into her eyes and was immediately horrified at what he saw. Her eyes, usually sparkling bright blue with the intelligence and wit he'd come to know so well, were dulled out tonight. Completely. He searched those once-beautiful eyes for any sign, any glimmer of the Scully he knew...but all he found was dullness. Mindlessness.
"Scully?" he breathed, almost afraid to speak. She just sat there, panting, face moist with saliva and sweat, waiting for him to release her so she could finish what it was she was doing. He averted his eyes, unable to look at her in that condition anymore.
He looked past her and saw a figure standing in the shadows by his window. A dark figure that regarded them with steel-grey eyes, mouth upturned in a twisted smile. With enormous effort Mulder shoved Scully aside onto the bed, got up and lunged at the figure.
"What the hell is going on here? What the hell have you done to Scully?!?" He ran for the figure, ready to bash his head in.
By the time Mulder crossed the room, however, the figure had vanished - and the window flapped open in the night wind. He looked out the window, searching for any trace of the dark man. Nothing.
"Shit!" Mulder pounded the windowsill in frustration.
"Mulder?" Scully's voice was small, scared, childlike.
"Scully?" Mulder turned and approached her gingerly. She was sitting on the bed, clutching her open pajama top around her in a weak show of modesty. She looked at him and he saw confusion and fear in her eyes. But most of all, he saw Scully again in those eyes, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Mulder, what happened? What am I doing here?" Her voice shook with confusion.
Mulder turned back toward the window and looked out. Weighing the possibilities, he chose the easy route. Not a complete account, but the truth nonetheless. "I don't know, Scully. I don't know."
He heard her begin to retch again, and he ran to her side, holding her head over the trash can as she was sick again. Weakened beyond the point of utter exhaustion, she asked the question over again as she lost consciousness.
"What happened...?" Her voice trailed off.
"Scully? Scully, wake up." Mulder tried to revive her, but to no avail. He checked her bases. Pulse thready, breathing shallow and irregular. Her body was going into shock. Mulder wasted no time as he picked up the phone and dialed 911.
Saint Joseph's Hospital
Scully opened her eyes to the sight of stark overhead lighting and white ceiling tile. Her mouth was dry and she had a slight headache. She cleared her throat, wondering where she was.
She turned her head and saw Mulder sitting at her bedside, relieved smile on his face. She looked past him and saw tubes, wires, I.V. tower...
Hospital. She was in a hospital. As a patient. She groaned inwardly as she realized that, once again, she had woken up in a hospital with no idea of what had happened or how she had gotten there.
"Mulder?" she rasped. "What..happened?"
"Well, you went into my room last night and gave me a bit of a... scare." Mulder chose his words carefully, so as not to implicate too much.
A brief flash of memory surfaced in Scully's mind, a pinprick of light in the dark haze that was the previous night's memories. A memory of herself sitting in Mulder's bed...sick...and...half-dressed?
"I remember...I was in your bed...and..." Her left hand made a weak, sweeping, suggestive gesture over her chest.
Mulder let out a little laugh, and set her mind at ease. "No, Scully, it wasn't anything like that." He relaxed in that half-truth. She wasn't in her right mind at the time, therefore she didn't have to know specifics of what she had done. He grinned at her. "You must have been dreaming again."
She returned the grin with dry, cracked lips. "Don't flatter yourself," she quipped, rebutting his innuendo. She swallowed with effort. "Is there water..."
"Oh...yeah." Mulder poured a glass of water from the bedside table and held Scully's head while she sipped. Scully let the coolness of the water penetrate her dry mouth and throat like liquid heaven and she leaned back against the pillows, eyes closed. "Thanks. I feel like I've been through the Sahara Desert without a canteen."
"That was from the vomiting..it made your throat sore."
Scully's face went back from relaxed to troubled. "Mulder, you have to tell me what happened. I don't...I don't remember much of anything. I seem to be doing that a lot lately." She sighed.
Mulder took a deep breath, and started. "We went back to the hotel... you took your bath and I made sure you were comfortable. Then I left you to sleep. A few hours later, you came into my room, feeling... rather...not like yourself. Then you were sick; and that's when I called the paramedics."
"Not like myself?"
Mulder took a deep breath again. "You were poisoned."
"What?" Scully's eyes widened, and she struggled to a sitting position. "Poisoned? With what?"
"With the same chemicals that killed Sharon Kingston and Sancho Rodriguez."
"What? Mulder, how did those chemicals get into my bloodstream?"
"I don't know." Mulder searched her face, looking for an answer. He knew her well enough, and trusted her enough, to know that the tainted contraband found in her system was not placed there of her own volition or even her own knowledge. Still, the evidence was clear; Scully had ingested methamphetamine laced with neurotoxins. How she had done so was the real mystery.
Scully searched as well, through recalled events of the past day and a half, for a moment when she could have possibly ingested tainted material. "I don't know either," she said hopelessly. Then --
"Oh my God."
She remembered the lab. Her cold. And the cloud of white powder that tickled her nose as she sniffled...
"Mulder...in the lab...when I sneezed...I think I may have inhaled some of the contraband."
Mulder gasped in realization as he, too, remembered that moment. "That's it, Scully. The contraband. That's the key."
"But, Mulder, I didn't even inhale enough to make me even slightly high on the meth, let alone be affected as much as I had by the toxins."
"No...not without help from an...outside power."
"An outside power?" Scully didn't follow.
Mulder produced a toxicological report and handed it to Scully. "Your digitalis variant...apparently it's a neurotoxin extracted from the skin of the bouga frog."
"The bouga frog; a type of Caribbean tree frog found in Haiti and other Caribbean isles. Its skin contains a potent neurotoxin, fifty to a hundred times more potent than digitalis and a strong hallucinogen." Mulder paused, checking the reference material again. "It is one of the main ingredients used in an ancient Voodoo tradition."
Scully looked at him quizzically. "What tradition?"
Scully's eyebrow shot up to her hairline. "Mulder, we are talking drugs here, not Night of the Living Dead."
"Zombification is a documented phenomenon," Mulder retorted. "There's biological and scientific documentation as to the nature and process of zombification. The other neurotoxins we found in your bloodstream and that of the victims -- they are also ingredients essential to the process of creating a zombie." He took the report back from Scully and deposited it back into the file folder. "Consider yourself lucky the recipe was incomplete -- otherwise you probably would have been sleeping in a coffin and buried alive right now."
Scully's brow furled and unfurled as she tried to comprehend Mulder's latest crackpot theory. "But -- Mulder, but how in such small amounts could I have been affected so completely? And -- anyway, Mulder, zombies have a master. Where was he?"
Mulder swallowed, and looked at the floor. "Last night, when you were in my room, I saw -- I thought I saw a man, dressed all in black, standing by the wall. Watching us. I approached him, tried to pursue him, but by the time I reached him, he had gone." He pulled another sheet out of the case folder. A police sketch adorned the front of the sheet. "He was about 5 foot 10, indeterminate age or national origin. About the only thing I saw that was clear about him were his eyes. Grey eyes."
Scully sat, looking at the sketch, contemplating it. "So you're saying this man drugged Sharon Kingston, Sancho Rodriguez, and myself, then somehow controlled us by the force of his will?" She turned and looked at him. "But how, Mulder?"
"A number of ways, Scully. We've seen this ability demonstrated before."
Scully gave him a puzzled look. Mulder leaned over the bed, took her hand, and whispered in her ear. "That's a lovely cerulean blue hospital gown you have there, Scully." He straightened and searched her face for acknowledgement.
Realization crept over Scully's face as she recognized the reference. Mulder squeezed her hand; she got it. "Get some more sleep; they'll release you tonight. Tomorrow we question Sancho's brother and cousin. They may have known about Sancho's activities and may provide us with some leads." He leaned over and brushed Scully's forehead with the back of his hand. "I'll see you later."
'cause the day I take a break from that As I rule where a tank of gas take me at I used to rock these Red, I rock Z's Now I rock the MB's With twelves and V's Today sun up high In the sky From NY La la me to MI
Hector worked on his '92 Acura Integra with the passion of an artist, testing the belts, the VTEC engine, and the newly installed nitrous tanks in the trunk. He ran his hand down the Integra's smooth fin, caressing it as he would a lover. He patted the tools of his drop kit approvingly as he surveyed his work - the Integra's body suspended a precarious six inches from the floor of his garage.
The Integra was his baby. She was the best. And he was going to prove it. Five days he'd stayed up; five whole days souping up the Integra. He walked around and started the engine. An enormous rumble shook the garage as exhaust poured out of the twin mufflers. He smiled to himself; a self-satisfied smile as he turned the engine off and rested his head against the headrest of the driver's seat.
*Reminiece as I'm cruisin' around the way Roll tight passed the park where I used to play Can't think of a better way to spend my day
One more day, he mused. One more day and I can take my baby to the race; collect my money and all the respect from everybody. His tired body tried to protest as he jacked the car up again to refine the hydraulics under the car. Man, I haven't had any sleep for five days, he thought, but it's worth it. Good thing Sancho hooked me up with some of his shit, or else I would never have gotten through with all this work. He sniffed again, uncomfortable with the new sensations, but just glad it had gotten him through this. One more day.
*Uh, still findin' my way Still growin' Petrol rowin' Move soon showin' Gots to get goin' losing the light And the freaks come out at night
A figure appeared in the doorway of the garage, partially blocking the light.
"Hey man," Hector protested, "Get out of my --" His exasperated expression turned into a smile as he saw his cousin Rodolfo standing there, ready to greet him.
"Orale, Rodolfo!" Hector wriggled out from under the Integra and ran up to embrace his cousin. "Que paso, meng? You gotta see my car, man, it's da shit..." He trailed off as he noticed Rodolfo's lack of response; even of any trace of competent thought.
"Hey man, what's wrong?" Hector inquired. Rodolfo stood there, silent as death, staring at the car.
"Dude, what the fuck's the matter with you?" Hector stepped around Rodolfo, attempting to get his face into the light. Suddenly a figure clad all in black stepped out from behind the wall, startling Hector. The dark one stepped in, backing him up a few steps.
"What the fuck...?" A strange dizzy sensation came over Hector as he stumbled backward and found himself face to face with his cousin. A slight puff; and millions of little white crystals assaulted his airways. The room started spinning about; Hector started to hyperventilate as the toxins started to constrict his larynx. A heat began to build in his body, starting from his toes; working up his body to the top of his head, setting his entire body aflame with unseen fire. A wind began to whip up in the garage; building and building up to gale force.
"Madre de Dios..."
The man in black smiled. "Mind if we use your car?" he queried flippantly.
A blast ripped through the garage, and Hector was thrown back, slumping against the shelves of tools on the back wall.
Silence. The dark one walked around to Hector's still form, and passed his hand over Hector's eyes. He stuffed his prize into his pocket as Rodolfo walked mindlessly to the driver's seat of the Integra and sat down.
The dark one opened the passenger door and seated himself. He leaned over to Rodolfo conspiratorially and pulled his prize from his pocket. A pair of eyeballs, formerly belonging to Hector, shone in the moonlight. The dark one grinned as he tossed them up and down in his hands.
"Para recuerdo," he explained.
Rodolfo glanced at the body of his cousin. An inner part of him, buried alive behind dull, soulless eyes, screamed and cried as the mounted losses tore at him. His head turned back and looked straight ahead.
"Drive," the dark one commanded.
The roar of the mufflers erupted into life as they backed out of the garage and into the night.
*Just Cruisin' Where, baby, I don't care Just Cruisin' As long as you take me there Just Cruisin' Somewhere to clear my mind Just Cruisin' Just Cruisin'
Scully bent over the body of Hector Martinez in the cluttered garage, examining him. "It's all the same," she said, shaking her head. "Same symptoms, same M.O., same manner of death..."
Mulder leaned over her shoulder and peered at the body. "Even money you could just Xerox the autopsy report from Sharon Kingston or Sancho Rodriguez and you'd be dead on."
Scully smirked. "For you, it'd be a shortcut. For me, it would be sloppy forensic work."
Mulder grinned. "Suit yourself." He placed a hand on her shoulder.
"How're you feeling today?"
"I feel great, Mulder." She patted his hand.
He smiled, nodded, and walked around the garage, surveying its contents. He noticed the characteristic accessories of a soup shop: drop kit, mufflers, certain hoses and chains needed to install nitrous tanks.
He also noticed the twisted jack in the center of the garage floor and skid marks blazing a path out into the street.
"Someone took his car." He pointed at the skid marks.
Scully peered down at them. "So it would seem."
"Maybe our evil villain can't fly after all." Mulder thought fast. "If we could find the plate and description of the car..." He bent down and peered at the marks.
"1992 Acura Integra, silver, lowered, back fin, and...17-inch rims it looks like." Mulder's head popped up and he stared at her, overwhelmed by her intuition.
"Scully, you never cease to amaze me."
She held up a photo. "I found it by the drop kit."
"Mulder? Scully?" Detective James walked through the doorway that connected the garage to the main house. "Looks like the house is clean. The perp must have just concentrated his activity here in the garage."
"Good," Mulder replied. "Get a search out on a 1992 Integra, silver, lowered..." He handed Detective James the photo. "Also see if you can get a plate number from the picture."
"Good. We'll be back." Mulder took Scully's arm and started to walk out of the crime scene.
"Mulder, where are we going?" Scully asked.
"Following up on a lead."
"You'll see. Get in the car."
Los Angeles Orisha Temple
Mulder and Scully walked into the renovated warehouse that now served as a religious hub for practitioners of various West African and Caribbean arcana. The air was thick with the scent of spices, incense, and smoke. Scully's heels clicked on the cement floor as they glanced at the different shrines erected in honor of the gods of the Orisha. Colorful tapestries and paintings adorned the walls depicting the Loa, or pantheon of spirits.
They walked, and the further they walked, the more they felt like they were entering a whole other world. A world of mystery, of magic. It was almost palpable in the air as they walked through the old warehouse, Mulder's hand resting protectively on the small of Scully's back. Scully's nose wrinkled as they passed the altars dedicated to the practice of Santeria and Vodoun, altars decorated with the blood of various animals.
"May I help you?"
Mulder and Scully turned to face an old man, dressed in African livery.
Mulder flashed his badge. "I'm Agent Fox Mulder and this is Agent Dana Scully, we're with the FBI. We have some questions we'd like to ask you...Mister..."
"Okay, Mr. Gaulthier, we'd like to ask some questions about certain substances used in the practice of voodoo...?"
"You have come to the right place then, my son," Gaulthier replied in a heavily accented voice. "I am a houngan, a priest of Voudoun." He gestured to a room adjacent to the warehouse. "Would you like to speak in my office?"
They stepped into Gaulthier's office; although it seemed more like an African-goods exhibit more than an office. Rich, colorful tapestries lined the walls; bright paintings of the different gods in the Loa adorned the doors and side trim. His desk seemed to be not as much a desk as a display surface littered with various charms and artifacts from the Old Country.
Gaulthier sat in his chair with the practiced grace of a priest, a public figure. He motioned for Mulder and Scully to sit opposite the desk.
"Now," he said, "What was it you wanted to know?"
Mulder pulled out a vial of white powder and set it on the desk. He took a deep breath, and started to speak. "This is a mixture of chemicals found in the bodies of four murder victims. They contain several toxins...I did my research and I found that these toxins match the ones used by voodoo practitioners..."
Gaulthier's eyes perked up, and he leaned forward in his seat. "For what?" he asked in a whisper.
Gaulthier slammed his fist on the table, startling both Mulder and Scully. He muttered a few words in the Haitian native tongue, spells to ward off evil, and a few exasperated curses. Mulder and Scully looked at each other somewhat embarrassed; not sure what had caused the sudden outburst.
Gaulthier calmed down, took a couple of deep breaths, and spoke.
"I knew It was here. I knew It had come."
"You knew what, sir?" Mulder asked.
Gaulthier cleared his throat, and addressed the agents. "I am a houngan, or priest of Voudoun. I practice on the Right Hand of the Loa, or 'white magic' as you Americans would call it." His voice dropped to a whisper as he continued. "What you speak of is the bokor, or priest of the Left Hand...'black magic'."
He lit a stick of incense as a charm to ward off eavesdropping evil spirits, and continued. "I noticed Its presence not long ago...It walks in the Underground, corrupting the youth, creating an army of slaves to serve its dark designs."
"It?" Scully inquired.
"The bokor; the evil houngan. The Baka, or evil spirits, work through the bokor to create chaos in the world of the living. We had banished them, suppressed them, or thought we had...years ago. I felt its presence again walking this realm, and knew what evil it would soon stir in the world."
Mulder spoke. "We seem to have a common goal." He gripped the vial. "We will stop this."
Gaulthier gave a sad laugh. "You can't. I am not even sure you should."
"How do you mean?" Scully protested.
"What is a man without a right hand and a left? What is a day without light and darkness? The Loa is Being. Without evil, what does good matter?"
Mulder pressed his point. "It matters when innocent people are dying."
"Innocent people die every day."
"But they don't have to." Mulder laid the vial in front of Gaulthier. "You said the evil could be stopped. You yourself banished it years ago or so you said." He rose from his seat, and so did Scully. "Thank you for your time." He turned and left, Scully in tow.
Gaulthier sat for a long time, contemplating the vial of white powder on the desk in front of him. After a while, he sighed and pulled open the bottom right-hand corner of his desk. Inside was a book, dusty and yellowed with age. He dusted off the cover and held it reverently.
Mulder and Scully walked out of the temple into the bright sunshine. Mulder walked with the firm gait of determined indignance. Scully half-walked, half ran alongside him; while he usually adjusted his stride to accommodate her shorter one, this time he used his full stride, causing Scully to struggle to keep up.
"Mulder? Mulder!" she called. He stopped; she ran up to him.
"Jesus, Mulder, slow down."
"Dammit, Scully, he's not going to help us."
"So? He's our only chance, Scully. Our only chance to beat this thing."
"No he's not!" she protested. "Mulder, voodoo or no voodoo, this procedure lies in simple biology. And if we treat it that way, there's no reason why we won't catch this killer."
Mulder averted his eyes and started to turn to leave, but Scully held his arm and turned him back to her. "Mulder, you once told me to believe in extreme possibilities, but only when they were the truth. But what if it's a truth that's rooted in science? Look...science discovered this. And science is what's going to banish the demon."
She held him with her eyes until he nodded, slowly. "Good. Now come on."
Mulder's cell phone rang. They exchanged quick glances and he pulled out the device.
"Agent Mulder?" It was Detective James. "I got a lead on your Integra. It seems that Hector Martinez planned to race it at an underground race in Sun Valley tonight at 11 P.M. Not much of a lead, but maybe you can find some people there who could help you."
"Great. Thanks." Mulder turned off the phone and glanced at Scully.
"What was that about?"
"We have a lead." He walked on, shortening his stride this time. "You got a good pair of racing gloves?"
Sun Valley, California
*love machines on the sympathy crutches discount orgies on the dropout buses hitchin' a ride with the bleedin' noses comin' to town with the briefcase blues
The air was ripe for competition. The usually quiet street was filled tonight with engines revving like war cries. The teens with their Acuras and Hondas gathered together for the ultimate test. Underground racing. This was the rumble of the 90's.
Mulder and Scully pulled up about a half a block from the starting line. Mulder killed the engine and they watched the scene, keeping their eyes open for the silver Integra. The right silver Integra.
"There's about three of them out there," Scully observed.
"It's a popular car." Mulder got out his binoculars and scanned the cars. "None matching the plates on Hector Martinez's car." He folded the binoculars and put them away.
"What are we doing here, Mulder?"
"I have a feeling, Scully. I have a feeling that he'll drop by."
"Why? He knows this is the first place we'll look."
"What are you saying, Mulder?"
"When you were...sick...we didn't find him. He found you."
"What are you trying to say, Mulder? Mulder --"
He shushed her with a nod of his head. She looked in the direction he was looking in and saw a silver Integra pull up to the race site. Getting out his binoculars again, Mulder sighted the plate. His nod confirmed the positive ID on Hector Martinez's car. They opened the doors and stepped out of the car.
*When my car is hooked up Ya know ya want to follow me Your laws are minimal Cause you won't even think about the real criminal This has got to cease Cause we gettin' HYPED to the sound of tha police
Sirens blasted in the air from all directions. Police cars pulled in from every tributary street as the teens jumped in their cars and sped off, patrol cars hot in pursuit. A helicopter flew overhead, shining its bright light onto the scene as the police tried to break up the underground race.
"Hey!" Mulder shouted in indignation. "Hey!" He and Scully ran towards the nearest police car. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"What the hell do you think?" the officer snapped back. "We're breaking up an illegal race."
Mulder held up his FBI badge. "And you just ruined our stakeout! This was a federal investigation!"
"Too bad. Take it up with the LAPD." The officer sped off in pursuit of a fleeing Honda.
Mulder threw up his hands in exasperation. Scully walked around him, trying to keep track of the silver Integra in the bedlam their stakeout had become. She got a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach, as if something was about to happen; but she couldn't quite place her finger on it.
She turned, and there it was; she stood face to face with the man in black. His steel-grey eyes shone with gleeful malevolence as he matched her gaze.
"Mulder!" she heard herself yell.
Mulder turned to Scully, only to be knocked sideways onto the ground by a powerful body. He struggled as a tall Hispanic man with dull, soulless eyes pounded away at him, wrestling him into the dirt. They fought and struggled; one with the dogged determination of years of passionate questing, and one with the mindless intent of one who was being controlled. "Scully!" he yelled.
She tore her gaze away from the man in black as she turned toward her partner. "Mulder!" she answered. She drew her gun and aimed it carefully, waiting for a good clean shot.
Rodolfo was on top of Mulder now, pinning him to the dirt. He opened his mouth and white powder spilled out onto Mulder's face. Mulder took great care not to inhale as he attempted to roll over and rub his face in the dirt to rid it of the powder, powerful diaphragmatic exhalations blowing out what little of the powder got into his nose and mouth. "Scully!" he shouted again, and caught Rodolfo by the throat. With a supreme effort, he lifted Rodolfo's head up by an armlength, enough for Scully to take her shot.
Scully had her shot, and she knew it. Finger on the trigger, she began to apply pressure...
...and a sonic blast ripped through the still night air. Scully dropped her gun as an unseen force swept her forward, causing her to fall on her stomach. Keeping her eyes on Mulder, she watched as Rodolfo's body flew through the air, landing in the street a good forty feet away.
Scully ran to Mulder's side and helped him up. "Mulder! Are you all right?"
He looked at her with urgency. "We have to get back to the hotel."
"Mulder...the boy..." She looked off in the direction of the body.
"Scully, we have to get back to the hotel NOW. It's imperative." He got up and ran towards the car.
Scully took one last glance at the boy, and followed.
Mulder burst into the bathroom of his hotel room and turned on the sink full-blast. He splashed water onto his face earnestly, urgently. He brought out the antibacterial wash he always kept with him in his travel case and scrubbed his face until it hurt. He turned up the hot water until the temperature was on the verge of scalding. Still, he went through the cleaning ritual over and over, determined to be rid of any toxin he might have been exposed to.
"Mulder?" Scully's voice sounded through the door. "Are you all right?"
"Mulder? What's going on?"
"Hold on I said!"
Scully opened the door to the sight of a shirtless Mulder, face red with scrubbing and slight scalding from the hot water. Her impatient face turned into a look of concern as she saw him.
"Oh, Mulder..." She walked over and turned off the tap. She took his face in her hands and examined the raw spots, the burns. His head jerked back in pain and refusal to let her tend to him.
"The boy...I think he got some of the powder on me." He swatted back her hands nervously. "I-I tried not to inhale or ingest any of it... but you can't be too sure..."
"Mulder, I think we should get you to a hospital. If you think you've contracted any of the toxins, you should --"
"No, Scully." He smiled nervously. "We've seen enough of hospitals the past few days."
"Still, Mulder, if --"
"Just no." He attempted to reach for a washcloth. Scully picked it up for him and ran it under cold water. Patting it gently over his reddened face, she spoke. "Mulder...this case is starting to wear down on you. On both of us. I called Detective James, and issued an APB out on our mystery guy."
"They won't find him."
"Who knows? Maybe they will." Scully continued. "We'll both get some sleep. In the morning, we'll try and find the car again. She rinsed the washcloth, and helped him up and out of the bathroom, slipping her small arm around his waist for support. "Go to sleep, Mulder. Relax. You'll be fine."
He lay down on the bed, and Scully pulled up the covers around his shoulders. "You did this for me a couple of days ago," she said with a smile. "It's time for me to return the favor." She turned on the TV and flipped it to the Playboy Channel. "There."
Mulder grinned up at her. "You know what I like."
Scully started to walk back to her room. "I'll leave the door open in case you need me."
"No. Scully, don't." She turned around and regarded him quizzically.
He bit his lip. "If in case I...am in a state where I'm not...quite... myself..." He gave her a pleading look. "I don't want to be in a position where I could hurt you. Lock your door tonight, Scully. Please."
She looked at him worriedly, then sighed. "Okay, Mulder. Nothing's going to happen to you. Good night." She walked in her room and closed the door.
He listened for the click of the lock, then relaxed and made himself comfortable. He was only watching the TV for a few minutes before fatigue and an odd lethargy overcame him; and he fell asleep.
Two Hours Later
Hands were on him, touching him, stroking his skin languidly. The touch burned like fire. He could feel a tongue flick up and down his torso in a languid rhythm, seeking out all his sensitive spots and making him plunge into a sea of pleasure.
*you let me violate you you let me desecrate you you let me penetrate you you let me consecrate you
I am dreaming, Mulder told himself as the woman's hands and tongue worked their magic on his body, feeling himself swell to epic proportions as she mercilessly assaulted his erogenous senses. He'd had good dreams like this before, but nothing quite so vivid. He tried to open his eyes, but he found neither the strength nor the willpower to. His mind spun like a million halcyon dreams as he reveled in the power of this dream. Passion rose in him, hot like a sea of lava; he groaned with pleasure as the unknown woman of his dreams stroked him up and down with expert, langorous fingers.
*help me i broke upon my insides help me i got no soul to sell help me the only thing that works for me help me get away from myself
He felt thighs on either side of him, and groaned as warm, hot flesh made contact with his center. His dreamscape eyes opened and she was there, flesh and blood to him, real to him. Mind filled with psychedelic flavors and hot, sweaty dreams, he looked at the very real-looking, real-feeling dream woman on him. His mind seemed to focus on everything and nothing as he crushed the image of his luscious, red-headed partner to him.
Hell, he thought to himself. It's a dream. I can indulge. His mind spun into a heady downward spiral as he clutched the hair at the back of her head and crushed her lips to his in a hot, passionate kiss. His unsteady, unfocused mind reveled in the vividity of the dream, the very real touch of her, the heaven that was her. His hands traced the curve of her thighs as he longed for her to be the real her, longed to hold the real her like this, longed to be complete and one with the real her. He ran his hands over her alabaster skin as she kissed him again.
*i want to feel you from the inside ... my whole existence is gone you get me closer to god
The kiss was like liquid heaven as, losing all control, he plunged into her mouth, tongue seeking, feeling, playing over her lush lips like an erotic seeker. "Scully..." he breathed in a harsh whisper.
Her dream-lips pressed into his again for another kiss. Her tongue bore a present this time; he rolled the oblong object around in his mouth, uncertain of what it was. It sobered him up a little; his grip loosened on her skin as he wondered why the hell he had a pill in his mouth. Pills aren't exactly my idea of erotic bliss, he thought to himself. He turned to the dream-Scully on top of him.
She began to laugh. And with her laugh, her beautiful visage began to change...the skin turned a horrible shade, her face lost as it changed to a horrible countenance. The laugh rose and fell; and other voices joined it, a cacophony of malevolent voices filling his ears. He then shook as realization came over him. He was pinned to the bed, prisoner of the creature he had only a few moments before had known as someone else, someone he was making love to. The hag flashed him a gruesome smile as his senses swam, his only certainty being that he no longer had any will of his own.
He felt himself obey the command as the pill slid down his throat. Horror woke him up for good as he opened his eyes and looked around the room. Drenched in sweat, he struggled out of bed as he fought to stand and face the dark figure standing in the corner of his room.
*bamboo puncturing this skin and nothing comes bleeding out of me just like a waterfall I'm drowning in
He staggered toward the dark one, but he was stopped by those piercing steel-grey eyes.
"Stop." The command was given almost derisively.
Mulder stopped in his tracks. A hypnotic rhythm sounded in his ears; a new melody of low tones, pleas from the dead. The cacophony of the grave filled his brain like a wave, sweeping him under in the riptide of sensations that were not his own. He fought to speak, commanded his brain to command his speech centers.
"Scully!" he wanted to scream to his partner, sleeping peacefully in the other room. "Scully!!!"
But no sound came out. He tried and tried again, called out to the one person that could help him.
*two feet below the surface i can still make out your wavy face and if I could just reach you maybe I could leave this place I do not want this
I do not want this, Mulder screamed to himself, to Scully, to the dark figure holding him captive with those steel-grey eyes. I do not want this.
The answering laugh from the dark one was joined by a host of demonic laughter, building in him like a curse. Mulder held his white-knuckled fists to his temples as the sound brought him down; the voice of the grave beckoning to him, pulling him down.
He collapsed to the floor.
*I'm stuck in this dream it's changing me I am becoming... drowns out all I hear there's no escape from this my new consciousness it won't give up it wants me dead goddamn this noise inside my head
No, his inner consciousness screamed as it dwindled down to nothingness, drowned out by the screeching voices of the grave. I do not want this!
The dark one smiled at him. "Of course you do not want this," he said, calmly, with malevolent charm. "No one does."
Mulder lay on the floor, his consciousness, his life, following the downward spiral into the grave. His last thought sparked, glowed, and faded like an ember falling to the ground. Scully...
The dark one smiled. "Welcome to the Left Hand of the Loa."
Mulder's chest rose once, twice, and was still.
Scully had not slept well the past few hours, a gnawing feeling starting to grow from the pit of her stomach. She didn't like the look on his face when she had first walked in the bathroom; that red, abrased face, relaxed yet tense. She recognized it immediately. The Panic Look. Cleaning him up and assuring him he was all right, she had tucked him into bed and gone to sleep in her own.
Yet still she had the feeling that everything was not right. Part of her was angry and annoyed at what he might do in the heat of his dogged determination; Lord knows he had done so many infuriating things before. And part of her was afraid for him; afraid he'd let his demons possess him once more, grip him by the collar of his passionate desire to believe. She tossed and turned restlessly as she pondered the unanswered question she held within herself; had held within herself through all the trials and tribulations that had plagued them for all the years they'd been together.
Like a wannabe telepath, Scully sent that question out to Mulder; placing the weight of it on his imagined shoulders. Of all the times you've placed your belief in all that was out there, she asked him wordlessly, why couldn't you once have placed your belief in me? The question twisted in her chest like a vise, as the growing worry and trepidation about her partner in the other room built in her heart.
So, finally, in the dark minutes before the dawn, she had slipped out of bed and tiptoed quietly to the door that joined their two rooms. She knocked, once, twice.
A heartbeat; her hand poised on the lock, not wanting to turn it for fear of waking him, but knowing (if he was there) that he probably wouldn't be asleep anyway. A moment of resolution; she turned the lock and twisted it open. A gentle push, and she was inside.
Rumpled bedsheets, keys resting on the dresser, television muted and digital snow casting dancing shadows on the walls.
But no Mulder. Scully took quick stock of the room, and strode purposefully to the bathroom. I don't care if I catch you at a...bad moment, she thought, but as long as you're here...
Half-used soap, spilled bottle of antibacterial wash, travel bag on the counter.
But no Mulder.
Scully's pounding heart jumped into her mouth as she pounded the counter in frustration. "Dammit, Mulder!" she yelled to no one in particular.
Her partner had ditched her again.
Conflicting thoughts and feelings rushed at her like waves as she made her way back through Mulder's empty room. Dammit, Mulder... She sent her thought out to him again. Don't you know I would follow you to Hell and back, if you'd only let me? She reached for the keys on top of the nightstand. And I'll be damned if I don't follow and track you down now.
Her train of thought stopped with her stride as she stared down at the keys in her hand.
Mulder hadn't taken his keys.
Something was definitely wrong.
Her anger at his ditching her turned into concern and fear as she wondered if maybe something had happened to him. Her investigative mind, the mind that belonged to Mulder as a partner, took over just as the part of her that belonged to Mulder as a friend and ally clutched at straws. She gripped the keys with renewed purpose as she reached for the doorknob and pulled it.
"He's gone, isn't he?"
She gasped, startled as she opened the door and found the slight figure of Gaulthier standing in the doorway.
"How...how did you..."
"I was warned as such." Gaulthier held up a small bag filled with meal, stones, and other religious items. "The Loa warned me."
Scully stared at him for several moments, torn between whether or not to gamble her partner's life on this old man's beliefs. If I were Mulder, she thought, I would go with him on the strength of my belief, turn blindly to extreme possibilities in order to save my partner's life. She swallowed, thoughts and emotions conflicting in her inner consciousness. But that was always the difference between us, Mulder. I don't think I'm quite ready to believe. I'm still a little bit afraid.
Gaulthier searched her soul with his penetrating gaze, taking her hand as if to urge her, give her strength to believe. Still she wrestled on the edge between tangible reality and the first few steps toward belief.
Her cell phone rang, breaking the silence. A little startled, she fumbled for the phone and pressed the answer button.
"Agent Scully? Detective James here." His voice sounded tired but urgent. "We've just recovered the body of Rodolfo Rodriguez from the race site...we've got some interesting findings you might want to take a look at."
She glanced again at Gaulthier, and spoke quickly into the phone.
"I'll be right there."
She had chosen her path -- the well-worn, reliable path of science that had always stayed firm beneath her feet. With quiet resolve she looked at Gaulthier with moist eyes.
She shouldered past him and walked to the car.
Scully had been working for close to nine hours straight, performing the autopsy on Rodolfo Rodriguez. She supervised and helped calibrate the toxicological tests. She prepared slides for microscopic evaluation; she pored through botanical texts, attempting to identify the various toxins found in the blood. She had literally picked the body to the bones looking for clues. All for the case, but mostly to take her mind off of the one thought that nagged at her, unnerved her.
Mulder was missing.
The thought burned in the back of her mind. Maybe I can believe. Maybe I should begin to believe, for the sake of finding Mulder. Her eyes and thoughts clouded over as she weighed the possibility and the realization that came to her. After all these years, after all she's seen and done, she was still afraid to believe. Afraid that, in taking those first few steps toward extreme possibility she would lose her firm foothold and plunge into the world of demons she'd had to save Mulder from time and time again. No, all rational thought told her, convincing her to grip the rock-solid ledge of science once again. There's always a way. Science will find the answer to this madness. And science would bring her closer to finding him.
"Agent Scully?" The lab technician tapped her on the shoulder for the third time.
"Wha-at?" Scully turned around, slightly dazed.
"The toxicological report." The technician slid the thin document in her hand. Scully stared down at it, dumbly.
"Look..." the technician recognized work-related fatigue when he saw it. "You've been working like a dog all day. Get some sleep, okay?"
"You need rest."
"No," Scully mumbled. "Not till I find him..." She continued staring at the report. Suddenly, as if the world shifted slightly, causing all the pieces to fall together, Scully's eyes widened and brightened in realization. She grabbed a firm hold on the document and ran towards the car, leaving a puzzled lab technician to witness her flight.
Once inside, Scully dug frantically through the piles of paper that sat in the car; Mulder's personal paranormal encyclopedia he insisted on taking everywhere. There Scully found her Grail. Neatly folded on top of the other case papers, was a page on zombification. She scanned the list of chemicals needed for zombification and the list of chemicals found in Rodolfo Rodriguez's bloodstream.
Tetrodotoxin....equals a gland secretion of the bouga toad. Various neurotoxins...equals toxins extrapolated from the skins of West African treefrogs... Botanic classification....zombi cucumber...
Everything. A perfect match.
Scully's mind reeled at the implications of that comparison. Her next course of action was clear; if not to put Scully's mind and fears to rest, but to take the next step in the quest to reclaim Mulder. A step which she necessarily had to take; that first step, a leap of faith into the unknown. At least, she thought to herself, clutching the document, she had science as a rope, an anchor to reality; as she had been Mulder's anchor so many times in the past.
But now -- now was the time to take that first wary step. Scully adjusted the seat in the car, backed up, and drove feverishly towards downtown.
Los Angeles Orisha Temple
Scully held her breath, walking through the coolness of the temple as she pursed her lips in determination. The reports clutched tightly in her hand, she headed towards Gaulthier's office.
"Did science give you the answers?"
Scully gasped, and whirled around as she spotted Gaulthier on the floor. He wore the traditional robes of a Vodoun priest and sat cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by incense, candles, and other affects of arcana. A diagram was spread out before him, made of cornmeal and millet; a dead chicken splayed out in the center. Scully flinched almost invisibly at the latter.
She pursed her lips and answered Gaulthier. "Science has told me all it can." She took a deep breath and continued. "Now I need you to finish telling me the answer."
Gaulthier looked at her with a sage's eyes. "Is it that hard? To believe?"
Scully's eyes watered as she gave him her response. "I've always believed there was always a scientific explanation. For anything. For everything."
Gaulthier smiled. "In this world, yes. But there are other worlds" -- he made a sweeping gesture indicating all the things around him -- "for which there can be no explanation." He held his outstretched hand to Scully. "Will you believe?"
Resolve built and faltered like a pulsing light within her. She took a deep breath and stepped off the ledge of certainty. She grasped Gaulthier's hand. "For his sake."
Gaulthier smiled and led her to a sitting position on the floor behind him.
From somewhere a drum beat. Gaulthier raised his hands to the sky, eyes searching above him to an unseen world. Scully found herself also raising her eyes, looking for what she was almost afraid to see.
Gaulthier started the chant.
*Gras, Mari gras Puis entrez, puis entrez Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye
The drum rose to fever pitch.
*Zan·yi, ki zan·yi ou ye la, zan·yi Kwala Megi-ye se Kwakwa Gras o, gras o se pou sen-an la vi miyò m·m Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye
Gaulthier repeated the chant as the rhythm pounded in Scully's ears.
From somewhere, a chicken was handed to Gaulthier. He raised a ritual knife and cut off the animal's head. Scully gasped as he collected the chicken's blood in a gourd, but could not turn her eyes away as the drum beat a heady rhythm that pounded in her chest, punctuated in sync by her own racing heartbeat.
*Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye A wan·nan·nan kisi, blakonmen blakonmen
She watched as Gaulthier traced a pattern in the floor and raised the gourd to his nose, smelling the primal fragrance of the still-warm blood. He handed the gourd to Scully.
"What?" Scully gasped.
"Your answer is here. Drink."
Her face registered confusion, pain, revulsion. "I...I can't!"
"Drink! Here is where your answer lies. You must believe!"
Scully stared at the gourd, heart pounding in her ears. She reached out a tentative hand, unable to comprehend what it was she was about to do. Shaken in her resolve, she pulled back. The drumbeat surged forward, bringing her to the edge again as one clear thought cemented her resolve.
Scully grasped the gourd with both hands and raised it to her lips. That baby step into the unknown she had been only planning to take turned into a full-fledged leap of faith as the hot blood poured down her throat, a warm sticky feeling filling her.
*e a ... Mèt Gran Shimen e a ... Legba Atibon e a ... Katawoulo e a ... Vye, Vye, Vye Legba e a ... Loko Atisou e a ... Gran·n Ayizan Velekete e a ... Dan Misi Wèdo
A vision hit her like a sucker punch to the face. Filled with light, she was everywhere and nowhere as her mind reeled from the power, the presence of the Loa.
"Oh my God..." she exclaimed, and fell back, eyes staring into the unseen. Gaulthier caught her head and held it throughout the duration of her vision.
*Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye m'rele ... Dan Wezo m'rele ... Danbala Wèdo Ten·ngi m'rele ... Danbala Wèdo Djen·nke m'rele ... Odan Wèdo Yèmen m'rele ... Odan Misan Wèdo
Cries filled the air as she explored this her new world, searching frantically for Mulder. "Mulder!" her mind's voice called, seeking, searching. Spirits were all around her; some laughing in the morbid cackle of the dead, others silent, pointing fingers, guiding her way. "Mulder..."
And then she saw him. Buried by shadows, hovering somewhere between life and death. The small salvaged remnant of his own consciousness, kept imprisoned in this realm of existence, wrapped in the blanket of dark subservience. Scully moved towards him, her mind's voice small, broken.
Mulder's spirit-visage looked up at her with helpless, pleading eyes. "Scully...?"
"Where are you?"
He looked up, helplessly, at the dimensions, the dark corners of his prison. He shook his head, indicating ignorance.
Scully searched, searched this dream-world for clues. Another vision hit her. Night. A bridge. Globes of light shining in the darkness, in threes. A feeling of age. An overwhelming feeling of death.
She knew this place. If only she could find the dark one.
And, as if summoned, the dark one stood before her, laughing, steel-grey eyes conveying pure evil and hate. He pointed to the darkness where Mulder lay, helpless. A single spoken word and the door slammed shut, enveloping him in darkness.
"No!!" Scully wanted to scream. But a dark force hit her from all sides, and the world went black.
Scully awoke in Gaulthier's office, lying on a makeshift cot. She opened her eyes and looked around groggily, taking in her surroundings. She sighed audibly and adjusted her tired body on the cot. She felt as if a truck had hit her.
"How do you feel?" Gaulthier's gentle voice cut through the silence.
She spoke honestly. "Like a truck hit me."
He smiled. "They usually feel like that the first time."
"First time they visit...are visited by the Loa."
Scully smiled skeptically. "So I've been in contact with evil spirits?"
"Spirits of all kinds; spirits of the air, water, good and evil. They exist to inform -- and yes, warn -- the world of the living."
He leaned fowrard, a more serious expression on his face. "What did they tell you?"
Scully's face grew thoughtful as she searched her memories. Her breath caught in her throat as she remembered the image of Mulder, trapped in a realm she could not understand or comprehend has having perceived.
"I saw him...he was...enveloped in darkness...he was...God, I've never seen him so helpless in my life. Not when he'd been close to death, fighting hypothermia and a deadly virus, not when he was lying in the hospital fighting for his life from a gunshot wound..." She blinked, fighting the lump that rose in her throat. "That's what was missing. All those other times he was fighting, fighting to come back. But -- Mr. Gaulthier, this time he didn't seem like he was fighting. He didn't seem like he could."
"Perhaps because he cannot." Gaulthier closed his eyes and uttered a slight prayer. "What else did you see?"
"Umm...I saw a bridge...ummm...it had lamps...three globes of light." Scully's face grew more worried as she searched for the memory. "There was something about that place...something...like..."
She spouted out the first word that came to mind, though it didn't make any sense.
Gaulthier's face relaxed into cool comprehension. "Mulder stands on the bridge between life and death. It is like that with the zombi."
Scully's eyebrows shot up. "The zombi?"
"He is being controlled by the dark force, his essence trapped in the spirit world while his physical being remains at the total whim of the bokor." Scully's face registered incomprehension. "In a scientific sense, his body has been taken to the point of death by neurotoxins -- the same ones your partner found in the drugs. We must reclaim him -- take him back from the control of the dark one."
Scully nodded, albeit helplessly. "But where...?"
"I know the place."
Colorado Street Bridge
They had been waiting at the bridge for three hours now, Scully pacing around nervously while Gaulthier sat on the sidewalk, arranging various arcane objects around on the ground and setting up a makeshift altar. The historic Pasadena bridge had been going under restoration work yet again, following yet another string of suicides that had marred the bridge's history since its construction.
Scully was growing impatient. "Is there something we can do?" she asked in her high-pitched, worried tone.
"We must wait."
Scully was tired of waiting. She walked over to the rail and looked out at the view. How different from the East Coast, she thought. There you look over a bridge and you see water. Here you look over a bridge and you see freeway. She sighed, and relaxed inwardly on that off-topic thought. Anything to ease my mind about this.
She stood there for several minutes, fingering the small vial Gaulthier had given her. Zombi salt, he had said, to bring the zombi back from the realm of the dark spirits. I wish I'd had time to analyze this, she thought, insecure in her incomplete knowledge of the substance, not knowing whether she'd do him more harm than good. Yet another test of her faith; a step, a leap away from the safe ledge of science. She sighed, and pounded the rail with her fist in frustration. If only it were simpler, she cried inwardly. If only...
Her thoughts were interrupted by a presence she sensed behind her. A presence just behind her left shoulder, tickling her peripheral consciousness. "Gaulthier?" she asked falteringly.
She turned around slowly and found herself face to face with Mulder.
She approached him with trepidation; the slow deliberate walk of the agent approaching a suspect. "Mulder..." She gripped the vial in her hand, which stayed securely inside her front pocket.
Gaulthier looked up from his meditations to see Scully face to face with her lost partner. Eyes hardening in resolve, he began the chant.
"Mulder," Scully began. But her attempt at speech was cut off as Mulder stepped into the light and she saw his eyes. Dull. Soulless. Devoid of all personality or competent thought. The lump in her throat returned as she faced the image of her partner, her friend; but seeing a plaster cast of him would have been just as effective. There was no Mulder here, in those glazed-over hazel eyes. Nothing.
*L'ange du seigneur dit à Marie Venez, mon Dieu, venez O Jésus venez en moi, dans l'eucharistie Vierge sainte exaucez-nous
Gaulthier began with a prayer, spreading cornmeal in the shape of a cross upon the ground. There was a sacrifice to be made tonight; and he was prepared, as he had been long ago, to make it.
*Hélas, hélas la Madeleine Sente zan·y, sente zan·y Salut Marie Gras, Mari gras
A single word shattered the silence. A command barked from an unseen source. Scully's head turned towards the sound.
Her attention was turned roughly back to Mulder as he grabbed her by both arms and flung her to the ground. A small cry escaped her lips at the shock as she hit the ground. Disbelieving, uncomprehending, she offered little resistance as Mulder picked her up again.
*Sainte Philomène vierge martyre Gras, Mari gras
Sweat broke out on Gaulthier's brow as he concentrated on the flame, burning brightly in the center of the makeshift altar. The inner rhythm of the Loa built in him like a surging wind, and he channeled his force, his strength, into his task.
Scully gasped as Mulder carried her roughly to the rail and pushed her up against it, applying enormous pressure as he leaned her over the side. She struggled desperately as her mind tried to steel itself, convince herself that her fight was not with her partner, her fight was not with her best friend. She fought a force darker than Mulder's personal demons ever were. She was fighting for her own life.
*Zan·yi, ki zan·yi ou ye la, zan·yi Kwala Megi-ye se Kwakwa Gras o, gras o se pou sen-an la vi miyò m·m Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye
Gaulthier's voice rose in volume and ferocity as a wind whipped up around him. He looked up and found himself face to face with the dark one. Deep, warm black eyes faced cold, steel-grey ones as they challenged each other, silently. The wind seemed to grow needles and barbs, and Gaulthier flinched inwardly as they cut into his skin and made him bleed. Still he continued the chant, invoking every spirit, every Saint in the Voudoun pantheon for assistance.
*e a ... Grand Père Eternel e a ... Perpétuel Secours e a ... Jésus Christ é a ... Saint Antoine de Padoue
Almost the entire upper half of Scully's body dangled precariously over the side of the bridge as she stared down to the bottom of the bridge, imagining in terror the plunge to the dry riverbed below. No, she thought. I can't let this happen. Can't let fear -- or love -- get the better of me. The man above her, her assailant, was not her partner or her best friend. Mulder, at that moment, was the perpetrator of crimes against her person; and Scully the FBI agent steeled herself for self-defense. The man above her became the evil she spent her life fighting against. He became Donnie Pfaster; he became Duane Barry, Leonard Betts, the mysterious man Mulder claimed had been an alien bounty hunter. He became the unseen conspiracy that had taken her memories and had almost taken her life.
The rage and adrenaline built in her like a storm; rose to fever pitch. With an enormous cry she pushed him backward, sending him reeling from the force of her maneuver. He came at her and she kicked him, punched him back again and again; years of FBI hand-to-hand combat training paying off as she fended off with vehement force every single one of his attacks.
And yet Mulder pressed the attacks relentlessly; his subservient, mindless body refusing to register pain, only a reaction to the force of her attack. Scully, however, saw only red as she stuck like a zombie herself to her purpose -- self-preservation. She would fight him as long as she needed to with the combined force of her memories and fears.
*Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye
Gaulthier, weakened by the many wounds sustained by the dark winds surrounding him, relentlessly continued the chant to its desired end.
The dark one responded with chants and inhuman cries of his own, summoning shades of demons to lure Gaulthier off course. Heart hardened with resolve, Gaulthier kept his eyes locked on the dark one, chanting, always chanting. The spell had to be completed.
The scuffle behind them caught the dark one's attention, and he turned to see Scully fighting valiantly -- and successfully -- with his slave. The dark one barked a sharp command.
A shadow of some dark spirit flew in Scully's eyes. Fighting it fearlessly, Scully batted it away. Having won her mini-battle, Scully turned her attention to Mulder a half-second too late.
With inhuman speed, the figure of Mulder caught ahold of Scully, fingers digging into her skin, bruising it. He shoved her roughly up against the rail once more, this time pinning her down with his own weight and bringing one hand up to her throat. Scully's resolve shook as the terror of asphyxiation came upon her. She struggled for each breath as she struggled for the strength to shake him off.
*Apò Lisagbadja Awangansiye
Gaulthier's chanted words cut through the dark one like a knife. His attention having been momentarily diverted, the dark one screamed in pain as Gaulthier's chant slid home. With an inhuman wail of sheer diabolical rage, the dark one flew at Gaulthier, knocking the smaller human onto the ground. With claws and teeth, the dark one attacked again and again at Gaulthier's ravaged body. His strength and life ebbing from his body, Gaulthier nevertheless continued the chant, words growing fainter but never faltering in purpose.
Scully's consciousness started to fade in and out as she struggled more and more weakly against Mulder's relentless chokehold. Her oxygen-starved brain searched desperately for one last defense.
The salt. The salt. Scully reached one blood-stained, knuckle-split hand into her pocket and drew out the vial.
The dark one stood triumphant, poised for the kill strike.
Gaulthier's dying breath formed the last words.
A flash of dark incandescence.
With a cry, Scully broke the vial over Mulder's forehead. Millions of little crystals insinuated themselves in his sweat, his airways, his facial orifices.
A blast ripped apart the night air. With a scream, the dark one seemed to disintegrate; pieces of him being pulled out of thin air into another place; one inhabited by darkness. His demons and minions seemed to follow him into the abyss as a rift opened, accepted its prey, and closed.
Mulder's hand loosened its grip on Scully's throat just as her weakened system threatened to give up. He fell against her; both their bodies slumping to the ground. Exhausted and emotionally drained, Scully pushed Mulder's dead weight off of her as she coughed repeatedly, welcoming fresh draughts of air into her lungs.
Her crisis over, her attention turned to Mulder as she examined him gingerly. Her trepidation soon turned to costernation as she noticed no breathing, no pulse. She whipped out her cell phone and dialed 911.
"This is Agent Dana Scully of the FBI, I have an agent down, require -immediate- medical attention, Colorado Street Bridge..." She threw down the phone as she immediately started CPR. His skin was salt to the taste as she administered mouth-to-mouth, her hands working feverishly as she pumped his chest. She checked again and again for any signs of breathing, any signs of pulse. None. She tried and tried again. "Mulder, no!" she screamed at him, commanding him to life. "You're not going to die! Not like this..."
Tears streamed down her face as a new adrenaline rush racked her tired body and she worked on him, again and again. Slight pulse. Still no breathing. Her movements fell into a rhythm; the desperate rhythm of a doctor -- no, a friend -- trying to save her best friend's life. Trying to save herself.
She was still working on him when the paramedics came.
Glendale Memorial Hospital
Scully sat at Mulder's bedside; the same exact spot she had been sitting in for two days. Wires and tubes surrounded him, connected him to myriad machines and monitors. The hiss of a bellows followed its movements up and down as the respirator inflated and deflated Mulder's lungs, carrying precious oxygen to the brain.
He had lain in a coma ever since the medics brought him to the hospital. He had gone extensive detox for the many neurotoxins that had assaulted his system; neurotoxins that, Scully was told, had brought his system down to the point of, and appearance, of death. No one knew for sure what the chemicals had done to his brain. Scully sat beside him every second, every minute; much like he had done for her, much like she had done for him before. It was an unspoken mandate they had imposed on themselves a long time ago, just as their unspoken friendship and unbreakable bond had built between them.
Scully sat there, eyes red with fatigue, keeping silent vigil over her partner and friend. She grasped his hand as if maybe, by her touch, she could pull him back to the world of the living. As always, her thoughts spoke to him in whispered tones.
*Twilight fades through blistered avalon The sky's cruel torch on aching autobahn Into the uncertain divine We scream into the last divide
"Mulder, I know where you are. I've seen you. I never thought I'd say anything like this, but it's all clear to me as I saw you in my vision, standing on the bridge between life and death. I've given everything to bring you back; my fear, my faith, my own sacred rationality."
*you make me real you make me real strong as I feel you make me real
"We've been through so much, Mulder; we've been, quite literally, through Heaven and Hell together. Don't let it end here. I tried, so hard, through science and faith, to save you; but it was ultimately through double-blind belief that I was able to. A strength you gave me. Mulder, you have meant so much to me; if for no other reason, come back so I can tell you how much."
*lately I just can't seem to believe discard my friends to change the scenery it meant the world to hold a bruising faith but now it's just a matter of grace
"This is what you've taught me. That, if nothing else, if all else fails, I will always have the strength of your beliefs."
*a summer storm graces all of me highway warm sing silent poetry I could bring you the light and take you home into the night
"Now all I ask in return is that you take the strength of mine."
*it meant the world to hold a bruising faith but now it's just a matter of grace
The lump in her throat, which had lain there since that terrible night two days ago, grew perceptibly as she choked back tears. Her eyelids drooped as fatigue and emotional weariness threatened to close them. Her entire being willed her to succumb to the welcome embrace of sleep. She was about to slip into dreamless, exhausted sleep when a slight movement grazed her vision.
Her eyes widened and brightened as Mulder's eyes opened and he turned his head to face her. One bright, huge tear escaped and slid down her cheek as she smiled warmly at him.
"Hi." Her heart stood still as she searched for any signs of brain damage. She prayed for response, recognition.
She got her answer. Mulder's eyes, no longer dull, but full of life, brightened in recognition as he beheld her.
"Hey, Scully. You won't believe where I've just been."
Song Credits: "Silent Hedges" by Bauhaus "Cock the Hammer" by Cypress Hill "Long Hard Road Out of Hell" by Marilyn Manson/Sneaker Pimps "No Shelter" by Rage Against the Machine "Ferment" by Catherine Wheel "Just Cruisin'" by Will Smith "Devil's Haircut" by Beck "Sound of Tha Police" by KRS-ONE "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails "I Do Not Want This" by Nine Inch Nails "Becoming" by Nine Inch Nails "Lapriye" -- Traditional Haitian religious chant Transcribed by Estelle Manuel "To Sheila" by the Smashing Pumpkins