IMTP VS8 Episode 16:
Art by HLynn
Author: H Lynn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Keywords: MSR, Mild Angst
Spoilers: Je Souhaite
Comments and Archive Info: Written for the IMTP Virtual
Season 8 Project. It will be free to archive once it's
posted to the ATXC newsgroup.
My Eternal Thanks to Chris T., who thought up the X-File.
:) All kudos for it go directly to her! And to Laurie, who
invited me to write and illustrate for the Virtual Season
Project -- it's been a pleasure to work with such a
talented and amazing group of people. Thank you for letting
Disclaimer: No production companies or animals were harmed
in the writing of this story. Only Mulder, and he's okay
Summary: A cryptic sigil is carved on the chests of a
murderer's victims, causing Mulder and Scully to
investigate whether the suspect is familiar with the
occult, or another victim of the symbol's power.
* * * * * * * * * * *
January 7 8:01 p.m.
The frigid wind from Lake Michigan wound its way through
the narrow alleys and streets of Chicago, forcing its
residents to either tighten loose scarves or head for the
nearest warm place they could find. Local weather reports
showed that the Chicago area was due for a direct blast
from the Arctic Circle, and the shelters were already
gearing up for an increase in tenants. Were, in fact,
hoping for it.
A young man in tattered clothing walked fast along Lower
Wacker, hoping to avoid both the freezing wind and the
homeless. The condition of his clothing was more for
fashion than anything else, and he was keenly aware of his
poor judgement by the feel of biting cold through every
calculated tear and rip in his jeans. He pulled his old
Army jacket closer around him, trying to keep in body heat
as best he could. If only he hadn't spent so much time
playing video games up at North Pier, he grumbled inwardly,
he could have made it home before the sun went down.
His suffering had made him oblivious to his surroundings,
causing him to not recognize the danger before it was too
late. Two men came out of an alley he'd just approached and
surrounded him, one grabbing his arms while the other swung
something long, thick and heavy at his head, and connected.
He slumped in the grip of the man holding him, and the
other cursed softly. "Did you kill 'im?"
"Nah, he'll be fine. Check his wallet."
The second man ungraciously dropped their victim to the
pavement, and found the battered leather wallet tucked into
a coat pocket. He tossed it to his accomplice then did a
quick search for any valuables. He'd almost given up when
his eyes fixed on a glitter of gold from around the boy's
neck. Pulling out the thin chain of gold from beneath his
shirt, the second thug stared at its bizarre gold pendant
in puzzlement. Well, it could be worth something.
He was about to snap the chain when a large noise came
from the alleyway. His accomplice glanced at him in
surprise -- there hadn't been anyone in there just a minute
ago. Without words, they hopped to their feet and ran,
hoping that even without the necklace the loot would be
worth the effort.
After a handful of seconds, a figure came out from the
shadows, dressed in rags that made the boy's outfit look
like brand new. Glancing from one end of the street to the
other, the old man walked over and bent down next to the
boy. Grey hair tufted out from holes in the man's knit cap,
and his beard was brown with dirt and filth that made him
look oddly younger than he was. He took hold of the young
man's shoulder and shook him gently, then with increasing
violence. The boy was still out cold.
The old man grinned in satisfaction. He stripped the boy
of his Army jacket with an efficiency that would have
surprised an onlooker, and put it on over his own thin,
worn clothing. Then his eyes settled on the gold chain and
its arcane pendant. With hardly a second thought, the old
man removed the chain from the boy's neck and tucked it
into the pocket that had once held the wallet, then
disappeared back into the alley that was his home.
January 9, 2001
South Lower Wacker Drive,
Chicago 1:24 p.m.
"It's too freakin' cold for this kind of thing," the
police officer groused to his partner. Both were in their
Chicago P.D. winter gear; heavy leather jackets and
thermals to ward off the cold. The only white to be found
on the pavement was the chalky residue left from an earlier
salting of the roads.
"Tell me about it," the other man huffed, his breath
forming a cloud of chilled mist. "You'd think even
murderers would stay inside when it's 10 degrees below out
The two officers stood on the periphery of the crime
scene, looking out toward what little onlookers bothered to
watch. Most of the foot traffic avoided Lower Wacker when
they could, choosing the less claustrophobic Upper Wacker,
instead. Therefore, the fact that two figures were
advancing towards them quite purposely didn't go unnoticed.
As the figures came closer, they could tell one was
definitely female, and a redhead. Quite a contrast to the
typical sight of knit caps this time of year, and a
decision she obviously regretted. Her partner didn't look
much better, but they bore the reddened faces and ears
"Must be the feds," the first officer said, and the other
The two federal agents caught the gist of their exchange,
and glanced at each other. The second officer tried to pin
down their shared expression. Bemused was the only word
that came to mind.
"I'm Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI," the man said, flashing
his badge perfunctorily as his partner did the same. "This
is my partner, Agent Dana Scully. We're here to see the
The first officer pushed aside the crime scene barrier to
let them both in, and waved over to the mass of people in
the service alley. Some prodding and nodding started
amongst the group, then a tall man emerged and approached
them, looking younger than he had a right to be and more
self-assured than he probably was. The hood of his parka
hid the color of his hair, but from the blue of his eyes
and the paleness of his skin, Scully guessed he was blond.
"I'm Detective Ron Parks, you must be Agents Mulder and
Scully," he held out a gloved hand. "I'm surprised that
you're out here all the way from D.C., but I'm sure you
wouldn't have come all this way for the weather."
Mulder smiled and took the offered hand, starting to warm
up to the detective. "Or the Bears."
Scully winced, but luckily Parks laughed. "Just wait,
Agent Mulder...someday you'll eat those words," he replied
as any loyal fan would do, then his mood turned
professional. "The body's over this way."
Parks led them through the wall of people surrounding the
scene, crammed into service alley no wider than ten feet
across and not much deeper. "Delivery crew found the body
this morning...this area of Lower Wacker has a lot of
service entrances for the high-rises above, on the street
level. Now, the Chicago office told us you were already on
your way, so I gather you haven't heard anything much about
this third murder, huh?"
"Some," Mulder replied. "We called the field office and
tried to get an update. They told us you were still
"Well, sort of. You'll see in a minute."
They pushed through the last of the crowd, and Mulder and
Scully saw what he meant. The small alley was littered with
garbage, filthy by even city standards. Torn blankets and
plastic bags filled to bursting with detritus were crammed
along one wall, forming a makeshift sleeping pad. A
shopping cart filled with more paraphernalia was by the
side of it.
"One man's trash is another man's treasure," Mulder said
in hushed tones, for Scully's ears only. His attempt at
levity only showed how disturbed he was by the scene.
"This is where the victim lived," Parks said grimly, "if
you want to call it that. We left the body here since we
knew you were coming in. I figured you'd rather see the
scene firsthand rather than through photos."
Mulder nodded, though his eyes were fixed on the corpse.
Scully noticed his reaction and tugged lightly on his arm,
knowing this would jar him out of his reflection and get
him back into the real world.
The body, like the ones before it, was of a homeless man.
The cause of death was the same as well -- the man had died
from the wounds inflicted on him. Not an X-File in of
itself, unless you considered the peculiar nature of the
A symbol was carved into the man's chest; a circle with an
eight-pointed star in the center. The very center of it was
a hole, and lines radiated out from the hole to the inside
points of the star. On each star section another symbol was
carved in the flesh, and between each point within the
circle, an eye underneath a pyramid stared out at them. The
overall effect was eerie, at the least.
"We're pretty sure the sign was made by broken
glass...there's plenty of it to choose from," Parks
gestured to the trash around them.
"It's a sigil," Mulder clarified. "And it's the same as
the other victims. The hole wound is what killed him,
though, not the symbol."
Parks frowned. "But what is it for? Some kind of demon
Mulder grinned and looked at Scully, then focused back on
the detective. He pretended to ignore the sour look she
gave him. "Not exactly. It appears to be a power symbol.
The eye under a pyramid is Egyptian, most likely to
represent the power of the afterlife. The smaller symbols
look like Chinese ideograms, but they better resemble
ancient Celtic lettering -- I assume those are words of
power. The star formation is something found in nearly
every form of magic, although not normally with eight
points. It's not good, that's for sure."
"The symbol?" Scully asked.
"Everything about it, actually. It's a hodgepodge of
occult magic, almost as if whoever created it took whatever
they found in occultism that related to power and made
their own sigil."
Scully absorbed this quietly, then turned to Parks. "Did
you find a match for the fingerprints?"
"Nope, nothing at all. This guy's not in the system -- not
ours or Federal."
"Great," Scully muttered darkly. "So, we have no idea who
this could be? No eyewitnesses, nothing?"
Parks nodded, then shrugged. "People aren't as concerned
about the murder of a couple homeless people. And the
homeless we've tried to question won't talk about
it...almost as if they're afraid they'll be next if they do."
"Trace evidence?" Mulder offered.
"The cold's the only thing that's been on our side, Agent
Mulder. Our forensic pathologist couldn't find any usable
evidence from the others. And that was with conditions half
of what they are, here."
Mulder glanced over, and noticed the glint of challenge in
Scully's eyes. He smiled, "I don't think Agent Scully would
mind having a crack at this latest victim."
"...and as yet, the police have no leads on the killer.
This is John Talbot, on South Lower Wacker in Chicago. Back
to you, Juanita."
The screen split to show both reporters, the female
anchorwoman on the right with her face molded in simulated
worry. "Thank you, John. Next, how the food you eat may be
making you sick..."
Her face flickered and faded, and the TV screen darkened
then crackled at the sudden lack of power. A young man
wearing a black T-shirt and tattered jeans tossed the
remote on the table, landing right on top of Christine
Aguilera's face on an old copy of Rolling Stone magazine.
The sofa he sat on was stained and sagging in the middle,
but it supported his weight and that was all he really
wanted, anyway. Well, he wanted more than just that, but it
wasn't something he could also find abandoned on a street
Sighing, he looked at the walls, trying to summon the
strength to move. He couldn't believe it was gone. The last
thing he remembered was the grip on his arms, then nothing -
- until he woke up nearly frozen to death, and without a
The phone rang, and he scrambled up enough energy to reach
"Brian? Hey, did you see the news?" a male voice asked.
"Yeah...yeah, I did, Mark." A sudden anger started to
build in him, one that focused not on the murder, but the
murderer himself. Who, by all rights, should have been him.
The other young man chuckled. "Well, the word on the
street is that the murderer's really whacked out and stuff,
carvin' up the guy and drawing some kind of symbol on him.
Pretty gutsy, I gotta say."
"Yeah," Brian said, hearing the tone of approval in his
friend's voice. "I know."
"This wouldn't be something you'd know about, would it?"
Brian didn't know whether it was a challenge, or an
insult. Either way, he had to prove his worth. "I know
something about it."
"Really, huh? Like what?"
"I know what the symbol was," Brian replied before he
thought over what he was saying. But after a brief pause,
he shrugged and figured that he would have said it, anyway.
"'Cause I did it."
"Whoa, man. You did that? Nah, you're just jokin' with me,
"I'm being real with you, Mark. It's all me."
"Yeah, well...if it's you, why don't you go and get rid of
that trash out on Madison, the one who tried to steal my
Brian didn't recall it happening that way, but he was
probably mistaken. "Yeah, sure."
Mark huffed in approval. "Well, you do this, and you'll be
definitely be in, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, I do." He knew exactly what Mark meant. It was what
he wanted so badly, after all.
The receiver went dead, and he placed it back in its
cradle. He looked at the bookshelf, stocked with dozens of
occult and magic books, some real, some fake. The crowd he
hung with now had shown him the difference. They were the
real thing, not the Wicca chicks he'd seen in high school.
They dabbled in it as a fashion statement, hoping to find
identity in something every other girl was trying.
Well, he'd found his identity. Now he just had to get it
back, however he could.
Cook County Hospital Morgue
Mulder found Scully in the lower depths of the hospital,
where weak fluorescent lighting made the white walls look
grey, giving him the feeling of walking through catacombs.
The chill from the morgue didn't change that a whit. He
paused just past the doorway, taking a handful of seconds
to watch his partner in action before disrupting her work.
"Mulder, look at this," Scully waved him over without even
turning, focused on the corpse in front of her.
"How'd you know it was me?"
"I know how you walk. Now, see this? Where the hole is?"
Mulder ignored her pointing finger. "What do you mean, how
I walk? My walk is the same as anyone else's."
She sighed, the realization that her partner wasn't going
to let this one go settling on her heavily. "You shuffle a
bit whenever you go through a door. It's a little scritch-
scritch sound. Now, if you could just..."
"I don't shuffle, Scully."
"Mulder..." her murderous tone stopped when she saw the
sly smile on his face. So, he was enjoying this, was he?
Well, she didn't defer so easily. She glanced down at him,
then said, "...your fly's open."
"What?" His face blanked in panic as he looked down, where
he promptly found that he'd been fooled, as well.
"Touché," he replied, his mood only slightly dampened. The
sly grin resurfaced. "Though I never thought you'd need an
excuse to look me over. So, you were saying...?"
She closed her mouth from the reply she'd started, and
willed her burning ears to cool off. "If you take a look
here, where the hole is..."
And so she entered into her description of what she'd
found, trying desperately to ignore secondary thoughts and
his presence next to her, rather than on the opposite side
of the table as he usually did. "...it's about the diameter
of a nickel, but it's not round enough to have been made by
a pipe. Also, the flesh around the entry wound looks like
it's been torn, rather than cut."
"A puncture wound?"
"Yes, but it wasn't anything sharp. And there aren't any
fragments or wood splinters to suggest something other than
metal. But it certainly wasn't metal that did this." To
emphasis her point, she poised her index finger over the
hole, then through it. "I think someone did this with their
He frowned. "They'd have to be pretty strong to do that,
"They'd have to be nigh invulnerable, Mulder. This blow
went through the sternum and into the heart. A normal
person's finger would have broken under the stress, and
definitely wouldn't have punctured through ligaments and
muscle. Not this way, at least," she gestured to the hole.
"You have any theories?"
"As to how a person's finger made this hole? No, I don't.
Nothing that science would support, anyway."
Mulder was practically beaming. "You *do* have a theory,
"Well, if what you're saying is right, then the person who
did this was protected -- or strengthened -- by this sigil
he drew. Although why he'd draw it on a person is beyond me."
He shrugged. "Don't know that, yet. It could be any number
of things -- a tag or mark, a ritual gone wrong, or
right...or it could have just appeared on the man's chest."
"Just like that?" Scully couldn't help replying, amused in
spite of herself.
"Maybe," he replied. "I think we should canvas the
streets, see if we can find someone who saw something."
"You think we'll find something the police didn't?" she
replied, already starting to put away her tools.
"Well, the police were looking for information about the
killer. What I'm looking for is a bit more specific than
Scully frowned, hoping he would clarify...but when he
didn't, she only sighed and finished cleaning up, knowing
he would eventually explain himself. The hole in the center
of the sigil was an odd way to kill someone, and a nagging
urgency had grabbed her while she'd done the autopsy. She
shook her confusion and pondering thoughts away as they
left the hospital, hoping some tangible leads would help
them find the killer, before he killed again.
The Rainey Center for the Homeless
The city was well known for its architecture, but Mulder
was sure the Rainey Center didn't qualify for that list. An
aging and stained relic from Chicago's more industrious
days, the plain yellow brick building stood out among the
brown brick and grey concrete of the newer buildings around
it. At one time it had most likely been a business, but now
the rooms inside only held refugees from the cold.
Hence the reason they were at the shelter. It was the
closest to the murder site, plus they were more inclined to
have someone who may have information about the killer.
Unfortunately, the odds that anyone would come forward with
so many people around were pretty lousy, but Mulder had a
different method in mind.
The air inside was stale, processed one too many times by
inferior ventilation systems and heated only to the lowest
comfortable level. A hallway ran the length of the
building, and every fifteen feet there was a doorway
leading to an open dormitory-style sleeping room. The room
immediately to their left was a small office, and the woman
at the desk looked up at the new arrivals. The other side
had a opening leading a largish room that appeared to be
the main entertainment area -- a beat-up pool table, a
couple of threadbare couches, and a TV that looked old
enough to have broadcast the Watergate scandal, live.
Several people were huddled around the TV to watch the
news...and it was covering the murder from last night,
Mulder noted with irony. An older black man stared past
them at the far wall, his clothes just barely presentable
by normal standards. On the street he'd most likely be
considered clean and neat. A few children peeked at the
federal agents from down the hall, and urgent female voices
pulled them back inside their rooms.
The middle-aged woman from the office was now approaching
them warily, probably sensing they were government people,
but not knowing from which agency. Mulder smiled to abate
the woman's anxiety, and he could see her relax somewhat.
Scully pulled out her badge as he did the same.
"I'm Agent Scully, this is Agent Mulder, from the FBI.
We'd like to talk to the people you have sheltered here
about the three recent murders down on Lower Wacker."
Mulder watched silently, letting her take the lead, as he'd
asked her to do. She'd been a little confused at his
insistance, but she hadn't questioned it. She trusted him
enough not to ask.
After a bit of small talk, the woman identified herself as
Janice Kostler. "I share the administrative duties with
another gal, so if you need to know anything about that
night, you'll have to talk to her about it."
"The police already took her statement. We're more
interested in speaking with the people in there," Scully
nodded to the entertainment room.
"Sure. If anyone will talk to you, you're more than
welcome," Janice replied.
Mulder and Scully shared a look; hers was a questioning
one, and his was one of reassurance. A couple of steps took
them into the room, and all heads turned to Janice, who was
introducing the agents.
Scully stepped forwards and showed her badge for good
measure. "We're investigating the three murders that you've
no doubt heard about already," she gestured at the TV, as
the newscast on the murders was just now ending. "We're
hoping that someone here could shed some light on this
case. If any of you knows something, it would be a great
help to us in catching this person."
Mulder glanced nonchalantly around the room, his presence
ignored as he had hoped and expected. A mix of both gender
and ethnicity, most only stared at Scully in blank
comprehension. However, Mulder spied one man giving a
knowing look out the corner of his eye to another man next
to him. A tell-tale look that told Mulder what he needed to
When no one stepped forward, Mulder came alongside Scully
and addressed the group. "I know you're thinking that if
you tell us something, you'll be next. The problem is, this
killer doesn't care. He's killing whoever he runs across,
and he isn't going to stop unless someone stops him. Can
any of you do that? Can anyone stop him from killing again?"
Mulder turned and faced the man who'd gotten the glance
from his friend. "Can you?"
This sent a jolt through the man, and his knowing friend
was wide-eyed. The first man tried to reply. "I -- I
"If you tell me who it is, my partner and I can stop him."
"I don't -- I don't know who it is," the man stammered
out. "I know who would, though. He lives in that area, and
sees everything that goes down. Problem is, he's been
missing as long as the killer's been on the prowl. He's
probably been killed, but they didn't find his body yet."
Scully glanced at Mulder dubiously. "What's his name?"
"Frank. That's all I ever heard anyone call him, anyway."
"Any chance he's the killer?"
"Frank?" The man gave a short laugh. "He's a thief, but
he's no killer. If he's still alive, he'll know. There's
another guy who's in the same area, but he's totally crazy --
he swears he saw the guy who's doing this. Claims it's
the ghost of a Vietnam War soldier, coming for all the
comrades who abandoned him in the jungle."
Mulder's expression was one of intrigue. "Where can we
"He's not here...not yet, anyway. He might be at another
shelter, or if not, he's on the streets." Then the man
laughed darkly. "Not Wacker, though, that's for sure."
Spending a few minutes talking with the man, he loosened
up a bit more and gave a decent description of the possible
eyewitnesses they needed to find, and his usual hangouts.
Their confessor wouldn't give his name for fear of his own
life, but a quick chat with the counselor gave them a
satisfaction that, if they needed to find the man again --
for whatever reason -- they could do so with her help.
"So, what do you think, Scully?" he asked as they headed
down the steps.
"About what?" She stuffed her hands deep into the wool
coat's pockets. "We have a possible witness to a murder to
find, albeit a possibly delusional one. This is just
regular detective work, now."
He had to jog to keep up with her. "Except for the way the
person was murdered."
"Mulder, can we discuss this when we're inside the hotel?
Or at least the car?"
He was about to argue otherwise, but a sudden gust of icy
air persuaded him well enough. Soon they were headed off
back to the hotel, hoping to keep their noses and toes by
the time they got there.
Somewhere along Lower Wacker
What warmth the sun gave during the day had long since
faded, urging those still on the streets to seek shelter.
For a certain young man, this meant his opportunity to find
what had been stolen from him was delayed until tomorrow.
Frustrated, Brian quickened his pace, hoping the movement
would keep his legs from going numb. He had an old school
jacket to wear in place of the one that was taken, but it
wasn't the same. The loss of what was his grated on him
constantly, feeding a deep reservoir of anger.
He'd been stupid to walk along Lower Wacker that late at
night --even if the cold had made it seem unlikely he'd be
mugged. The thieves had made off with his wallet, but to
take the necklace and jacket made no sense. Neither were of
any true value except to him, so he assumed that someone
else had taken them both.
The fact that homeless people had started dying shortly
after made the deduction that much easier. A homeless
person, then, or someone who was around them. The sigil
he'd created had been tailored to his needs, but for anyone
else it was unstable and likely to go out of control. Not
that he felt guilty for creating something that already
caused three murders. If anything, he was almost...jealous.
He walked up the stairs to Upper Wacker, the neon signs of
closed shops painting the streets in bright candy colors.
Pools of blue and red made no ripple as he walked through,
ignoring the bright words that advertised goods in
calculated ways. Amused in a perverse way, he couldn't help
thinking that he and neon signs had much in common -- a
distraction typically ignored and always boasting what they
could never deliver.
Near North Side
The warm air of the hotel lobby caressed her like a
paramour from a cheap, throwaway romance novel...not to say
she was familiar with that particular topic. Mulder
followed, the chill air from outside accompanying him. She
headed straight for the elevator as if hoping to outrun the
draft, and he had to run after her to make it before the
"What's all that about, Scully? Trying to ditch me?" He
grinned, belying the concern in his voice.
"It's nothing -- just wanted to get upstairs so I can
unwind. I'm fine, really," she smiled wanly.
He didn't believe that for a second, but the elevator
stopped to let someone else in, and so the conversation
died for the moment.
They'd managed to get rooms on the same floor, but across
the hall and a few doors down from one another. It wasn't
an ideal arrangement, but the clerk assured them it was the
best they could do, since a convention in town had taken up
the majority of the rooms in their hotel. As such, Scully
ended up getting to her room before he arrived at his, and
made sure her door was closed tightly.
She looked down to find her hands shaking, both from the
cold and from her own agitation. Immediately she started up
the shower in the bathroom, as hot as she could stand, and
unpacked her flannel pajamas. Mulder would be knocking on
her door in a few minutes, so she had to do this fast.
After getting in the shower, she mainly stood there under
the nozzle's spray, soaking up the heat. The suddenness of
the anxiety had nearly stolen her breath away. She'd had
this before, but rarely -- the Donnie Pfaster case, plus a
few incidents in the past, safely hidden from her partner.
She knew the fear was all in her head, but it would take a
while to wind down the normal way; instead, she opted for
the quick method, knowing how Mulder would react if he
knew. He didn't need any more worries, and she didn't want
him to know about this, regardless.
The most frustrating thing was the trigger -- why this?
Why now, when she'd endured so much worse? As a doctor, she
knew what was causing it, but the facts didn't comfort her
or take away the horrid crippling fear.
The air outside the bathroom was warm, but after the
humid, hot air of the bathroom, it felt thin and cold. Her
breath quickened briefly, but soon the fear wore off and
she grabbed the flannel pajamas and put them on. She didn't
get a chance to dry her hair, though --someone was knocking
at the door.
Finding Scully in pajamas and recently showered had been a
surprise. Mulder noted that she'd opted for the towel-dried
look, as he watched her pull away from the door to sit on
the bed. He said nothing about the obvious shower as he
took over the hotel table and chair with his paperwork and
notes. "So, what do you think about this murder, Scully?"
He observed her quietly as she tucked her arms around
herself. "Aside from the odd hole in the chest, I'm not
seeing anything paranormal here. Is that what you wanted to
"I want to know what you think," he replied softly, seeing
how off-balance and uneasy she was. "I'm sure things will
be coming in a bit clearer once we talk to this guy and
find the whereabouts of Frank...but for now, I'd say we're
dealing with someone who has a powerful talisman, possibly
in the shape of the sigil drawn on the three victims'
chests. It might explain why he thought he'd seen a ghost."
"Like a pendant, maybe?"
"Maybe, or it could be a sculpture, a pattern on fabric,
or even a rock with the pattern on it. But you're right --
most of the time, a talisman is a pendant."
"So, who's killing these homeless people? You said it was
someone inexperienced in the occult...a kid?"
"Possibly. The talisman would give him power, so we're not
necessarily looking for a strong person, here."
"But why would he kill homeless people? Convenient
targets? An old grudge?"
Mulder sighed quietly. "If he's trying to exert power over
others, it's a place to start. If so, then the murder
victims will eventually increase in social status -- if
not, then we might assume that the killer has a grudge
against the homeless. However, there's one thing that
"If this *is* a kid, how does he know how to avoid
detection? There's no evidence left at the crime scene, and
the people we saw tonight were afraid of saying anything,
almost as if the killer would know about it and come after
"Sounds like you're saying the killer is also homeless.
Maybe even Frank?"
He shrugged and turned to face out the window, looking at
the rows of ivory lights within tall black boxes in the
distance. "He knows these people very well -- it's someone
who lives in the area, or nearby. The only problem is, what
would he gain by doing this? He's killing people he knows,
but for no apparent reason. Neither of the victims were
known for drug abuse or criminal activity."
"Maybe his reactions aren't his own -- maybe he can't
control what he does."
The comment was so quietly spoken, he wasn't sure he'd
heard it. He turned from the window to look at her,
surprise etched into his features. Her gaze was fixed on
her hands, but when she realized he was watching her, she
glanced up to meet his eyes. She was unable to sustain it,
however, and her gaze shifted to the wall. "It's a
possibility, isn't it?"
"Very possible, yes," he answered, concerned. Her hands
were shaking mildly, but then she tucked them in once more,
out of sight. "Are you cold?"
"I'm fine, thanks," she replied, her voice calm and bland.
Now he knew something was definitely wrong. He moved over
to her and sat on the edge of the bed. "Can I have your
hand for a second?"
"Why? What for?"
"Humor me, please." He held out his hand, and she placed
her right hand in his. He was startled to find it cold to
the touch. Without thinking, Mulder put his other hand over
hers and started to rub warmth into it. "You're freezing.
Do you want me to crank up the heat?"
She grimaced, but didn't pull her hand away. "No, it won't
help. It'll go away, eventually."
"What is this? Was this just from being outside?"
Sighing, she closed her eyes in resignation. "It happens
every once in a while. Usually whenever I'm in a stressful
His gaze softened, and he pulled her hand up to his mouth
so he could blow warm air on her skin. "What triggered it
She looked away again, but he was having none of it. His
right hand released itself from hers and cupped her chin,
guiding her eyes back to meet his.
Her mouth opened, then closed. For a few seconds, he was
afraid she wouldn't tell him, but then the words began
spilling out. "It was the cold, I think. When we were out
there tonight, Mulder, I just...panicked. I couldn't stop
my reaction -- I knew I was all right, but all I wanted to
do was get back to the hotel and get warm." She took a
deep, shuddering breath, trying to reassemble some of her
lost control. "I didn't want you to know, because I didn't
want to upset you."
"Upset me?" He repeated, stunned. He pushed away strands
of hair from her face, the tears in her eyes going unshed.
"Scully, if this ever happens again, I want you to come to
me and let me know, okay? No matter what -- and I'll do my
best to get you warm again, I promise."
Her mouth forced out a smile. "Is that a promise or a
"A little of both," he replied, hoping to lighten the
mood. And maybe hoping she wouldn't be too opposed to the
She gave him a full smile in return, however, and he took
the opportunity to give her a light kiss. When he drew
back, he saw amusement mixed with something darker and more
melancholy than he expected to see. The idea that she might
have wanted more from him bounced around in his head, but
he discarded it. That way led temptation, and he'd be a
fool to think he could do more and escape the presence of a
freshly showered, pajama-wearing Scully while sitting on a
He rose up and wandered back to the table. "Well, I've got
some thinking to do on this. The Vietnam aspect is bugging
me -- maybe this *is* a ghost summoned by someone who
didn't know what they were doing..."
"Except for the fact that the wounds were made by
something very solid."
"Yeah, I know. I'm still working on that." He gathered up
his things as if to leave, and Scully's voice stopped him.
"Where are you going?"
He didn't turn to look at her. "Back to my room. You
should get some rest while I work on this tonight."
She got up off the bed and crossed over to the table. "I'm
okay, Mulder. Really." When he didn't stop piling up his
paperwork and files, she put her hand over his. He
instantly halted, as if afraid the slightest movement would
cause this moment to dissolve like frost on a sunny window.
To his surprise, she took his hand away from the files and
held on as if her strength depended on it. Her hand was
still cold, but was warming ever so gradually while in
contact with his.
He squeezed her hand gently, unwilling to let go for fear
of breaking the moment. Eventually, though, he had to say
something -- and instead of saying what he wanted to say,
he asked, "You're sure?"
"Positive. Now, what's for dinner?"
"What would you like?" he tossed back, noticing the
deflection but letting her get away with it. Lord knew he'd
done the same himself, many times over. "Chinese? I heard
the Greek food around here is really good."
Luckily, Scully was in the mood for spanakopita, and he
hadn't had a good gyro for what seemed like ages; a local
Greek diner had both on the menu, and they delivered.
Mulder almost expected them to tack on a cold weather fee,
but the kid accepted the money and tip graciously. Soon,
the hotel room was filled with the smell of feta cheese,
spiced lamb, cooked spinach and cucumber sauce.
As they were finishing dinner, Scully joked, "You know,
Mulder, after eating all those onions, your chances of
getting kissed are about zero." She didn't realize her
mistake until she heard the words come from her mouth.
True enough, Mulder had picked up on it. "Are you implying
something was going to happen tonight, Scully?" Amusement
danced in his eyes, but his voice had deepened from
something she tried not to think about.
To backpedal now would be horrendous. But flirting with
him would be almost worse, in her emotional state. "No, it
was just a slip of the tongue -- uh, I mean, it was a joke!
Just a joke," she amended hastily, but the damage was done.
The smile he gave her hinted at things best left alone, and
to cover the pause, she took another bite of her spanakopita.
E. Madison St.
Businessmen and women in tasteful long wool coats and
matching accessories brushed up against parka-wearing
students, their only thing in common being the way they
shriveled from the wall of cold wind snaking its way around
buildings and through alleyways.
Some tolerated the cold because they had to -- dressed in
ratty coats and gloves that had seen better days, they held
out cups as they solicited the passers-by, hoping to get
enough change to buy something. If it was for liquor, they
weren't inclined to say. Not many homeless were out this
morning, but those who were collected near the bridge
spanning over the Chicago River, not more than a couple of
blocks from where the Northwestern train station dumped
thousands of well-off suburbanites into downtown Chicago.
Mulder had already called the Rainey Center that morning,
while Scully checked with a couple of others in the area --
no one matched either Frank's description or the
description of the crazy man who'd last seen him. So,
Mulder and Scully had hit the streets, taking advice from
the police foot patrols where to find some of the spots
where the homeless hung out...and found themselves at the
Madison Street bridge.
The homeless men they first approached became defensive
and thought that they meant to arrest them, even though
they neither had the authority nor the inclination to do
so. Once the men were pacified, more with money than
assurances, they eagerly told the two agents that the
particular crazy homeless man they wanted was on the corner
of Clinton and Adams, west of the river.
Once they reached the corner, it wasn't hard to find him --
he was telling anyone passing by that the souls of American
soldiers from Vietnam had come back to take their revenge
on the living.
"You're hoping to get a lucid statement from *him*?"
Scully asked, her feet already numb from the cold. She'd
been fighting her panic for several blocks, although the
rising sun helped to allay those fears.
"Maybe not lucid, but something substantial. He's our
ticket to finding Frank, if Frank's still alive."
Their witness wore his flannel jacket inside out, and sat
on top of what probably held the entirety of what he owned -
- a large duffel bag with a local college emblem on the
side. His baseball cap was tied to his head by a long,
filthy grey knit scarf, and his sneakers' soles hung loose
in the front.
"Are you Tom?" Mulder asked, omitting the 'crazy' part of
the name that the men back on Madison had told them.
Tom looked at them in surprise. "Who are you? Have you
come, at last?"
Mulder turned to Scully, puzzled, then back to the
homeless man. "We're federal agents, Tom. We're here
investigating the deaths that happened over on Lower
Wacker...someone told us you knew a little something about
"Yes, yes...you *have* come for that! Good, good...it's a
bad thing, being killed in Vietnam and all, but that's no
reason to start hacking up your friends." He stood and
grabbed his duffel bag. "Now you're here, and I won't need
to warn the people any longer!"
"Hold on there, Tom. We need to find out what you saw,
exactly," Mulder said, since their link on solving this
case was about to bolt.
He narrowed his eyes in confusion. "Don't you know...?
Wait, that's why you've come to me...of course, of course!
I should have realized that!" He put down the bag but
remained standing, as if waiting for Mulder to proceed.
Mulder took the cue. "Tell me what you saw that night, and
who the soldier was, Tom."
He scratched the side of his face. "Well, I was just
sleeping in a corner, you know, and George woke me up..."
"Wait a second -- who's George?" Scully asked, hoping for
a better eyewitness.
"He's my pet rabbit, see?" Tom pulled out a small rabbit's
foot from his coat. Scully gave Mulder a withering glare,
but Mulder ignored it. Tom continued on, oblivious to the
exchange, "Well, George always knows when bad things are
happening, so he woke me up. And that's when I saw the
soldier. He was hurting Rupert for no reason! Rupert never
was in the war, it didn't make..." Tom started to fade, but
then switched back, "But Frank! Why him? Why..."
"What about Frank, Tom? What happened to him?"
"The soldier got him! Not like it got Rupert, but it still
got its hooks into him. Makes him do things to his friends,
things he would, never ever do..."
"Did he kill them?"
The crazy man grew even more upset. "It wasn't him! It was
the soldier! Don't you see? You have to stop the
soldier...you can do that, or you wouldn't have
come...please, help Frank..." He sank onto the bag in
misery, and let out a sob.
"We need to find Frank. Do you know where he is?"
"Where do you think he is?" Tom replied, exasperated.
"He's hiding from the light. Ghosts don't like the light."
Scully frowned. "Lower Wacker? But the police combed that
"They didn't know they were looking for a homeless man.
Tom, do you recognize this?" Mulder held out a photograph
of the sigil carved on the last victim's chest. "Was he
wearing or carrying anything with that symbol on it?"
Tom stared at it in horror, "I-I don't know. Don't
know..." The grief started to overwhelm him, until he lost
most of coherency. He rocked back and forth, muttering for
someone to save Frank from the soldier.
"Mulder, I hope you got something good out of that,
because I surely didn't."
"I think the soldier is related to whatever is possessing
Frank. Maybe the person who created the sigil was a former
"Or maybe Crazy Tom isn't just a name."
He smiled at his partner's display of wit. "Oh, I don't
doubt that, Scully. But he based his delusions on
something. You saw the rabbit's foot -- he doesn't use his
imagination to create from thin air, only to elaborate on
an event or an object."
"Great. But how does that play into the talisman theory?
He didn't recognize the sigil."
"That doesn't mean Frank didn't have it on him. If he was
wearing a necklace, there's a chance the pendant would have
been under his clothing."
"Maybe," Scully conceded. "Why don't we head over the
bridge and go through South Lower Wacker -- we have Frank's
physical description, and what clothing he wears. We can
call the Chicago PD and have them start on East Lower
Wacker and go from there."
Mulder grinned. "You know, I'm sure they'll be thrilled to
spend a few hours outdoors combing through the urban jungle
for a homeless man we only know as Frank."
"I'm certainly looking forward to it," Scully replied in a
flat tone, her morose demeanor indicating the direct
South Lower Wacker
The young man started at the south end and planned to make
his way north, until the bend in the river forced the
street to curve right and follow along until it ended at
the lake. He now wished he'd made a template for the sigil,
but he never imagined that he'd lose the original. It would
have been simple enough to make another, but he couldn't
remember the exact design, and he would need to borrow a
certain book of Mark's again; it contained the spell that
bound the separate elements together. However, if he did
that, he'd have to admit that the original was gone, and
what little prestige he'd gained in the group would be
lost. They had no patience for fools who got mugged.
He had no idea how he was going to find it, let alone get
it back from whoever took it. Brian hoped he'd know what to
do when the occasion arose.
The chance turned out to be sooner than he expected. As he
passed an alleyway leading to a garage door -- most likely
for an upscale hotel or restaurant above ground -- he found
a ragged man dressed in an Army jacket. He slowed down
enough to read the name lapel, and stopped when he
recognized it. It was *his* last name.
"You thief...!" Brian managed to cry out before grabbing
the man, his anger flaring in a way he knew all too well.
And as always, he didn't mind.
Taken by surprise, the older man pedaled backwards into
the alley, out of sight from passing cars. He stumbled into
a crate and fell over, Brian shadowing him the entire way.
He held out his hands in defense. "I didn't take it from
you, I swear! It was some old geezer..."
A punch to the jaw should have knocked the man out cold,
but the effects of the sigil applied to the homeless man,
and not Brian. His fist felt like it connected with a brick
wall. The homeless man was utterly baffled at why the young
man was clutching his fist in pain, but it only made Brian
even more angry. To be thwarted by your own creation...
He had to use brains instead of brawn, for once. The
homeless man didn't want to die, but he didn't know that
what he was wearing also made him invulnerable. Knowing
this, and hoping the man wasn't quicker than he let on,
Brian pulled out a switchblade from his coat pocket.
"Give me what I want, and I'll let you live."
South Lower Wacker 10:40 a.m.
At Scully's behest, rather than walking to the end of
Wacker and then walking back up, they started from Adams
and headed to the end, while the Chicago PD searched the
rest, broken down into three block lengths. Mulder and
Scully would get the last three blocks of Wacker, and
hopefully find Frank before he killed again.
It didn't take too long, in the end. After peering in a
half dozen doorways and alleys, they found Frank -- and
almost colder than the pavement he was lying on.
Mulder kneeled down carefully next to Scully, making sure
not to disturb the body. "How long has he been dead, Scully?"
"A few hours, I'd say. From the condition of his skin, and
the lack of a coat, he probably died of exposure." A glint
of gold caught Scully's eye, and she pushed the ratty mess
of a beard aside to display what looked to be a chain, with
"Is that...?" Mulder began, but Scully waved her hand in
"It's just a Celtic good luck charm." She held up the
pendant to show him the small round design. "It's not your
sigil -- I doubt it costs more than a buck or two at the
local Irish shop. He also has blood underneath his
fingernails, and there's a bit on the edge of his
He stood up and started to turn, when his cell phone went
off. Mulder answered with a bit more petulance than he
wanted, but the news made him forget all about that, soon
"When? Just now?" he asked, astonished. "Okay. We'll be
right down there."
Scully looked up. "What happened?"
"Chicago PD says there's been another homicide of a
homeless person, only about 20 minutes ago. It's just down
the street from us."
Scully's eyes widened. "Well, it certainly wasn't Frank."
"No, but it might have been the original owner. A witness
says they saw a young Caucasian man fleeing the scene,
wearing an Army jacket," he commented, then an idea struck
him. He turned to face Scully, but she'd made the same
"It's the jacket, isn't it?"
"It would be enough to make Crazy Tom think he was seeing
a soldier," Mulder confirmed.
"And you said it could be on a piece of fabric -- if he
drew it on the jacket somewhere..."
"...it would give anyone the power, not just him," Mulder
finished. "But he didn't intend that to happen, apparently."
"Let's head down there and talk to the witness. We'd
better confirm it before we head off chasing after someone
who's liable to be very dangerous."
The witness was another homeless man who'd had the poor
misfortune to pick that particular alley to huddle in for
the day. Wedged between the dumpster and the back wall,
he'd heard the scuffle and peered around the edge of the
large metal bin.
He told his story colorfully, craving the attention he
didn't normally receive. "The young guy says, 'Gimme what I
want, and I'll let you live', and then the other guy does
it. I couldn't blame him, 'cause the young guy had a shiv
on him, y'know? A switchblade, I think it was. Anyway, he
hands the jacket over, and the young guy takes off his own
coat and puts on the jacket. Now I swear I wasn't drinkin',
but there was this glow, kinda like a lamp or something...I
dunno. But then the kid gets mad, madder than he was
before, and just stabs the guy!" The man shook his head in
sad amazement. "Like he didn't already get what he wanted!
I don't think he'd ever done it before, 'cause he was kinda
surprised, afterwards. Then he took off."
"Did you see his face?" Scully asked him, braced against
the wall in the one spot where the wind couldn't reach her.
"Well enough, I suppose. He was just a kid, though he
looked like a punk. The back of the jacket had one of those
drawings they like to do -- I think it's supposed to stand
Mulder pulled out the photograph and asked in earnest,
"Was this what you saw?"
The man's eyes lit up. "Yeah...yeah! That's it! It was
pretty creepy, but then, this kid killed over a jacket...so
what's the creepier thing, in the end?"
The police were already dusting for prints, so the
officers took the man back with them to the station to get
a sketch artist to draw what the suspect looked like.
Mulder looked at Scully, but he didn't need to say
anything. The witness had confirmed it -- the sigil was on
"Now we just need to find this kid, in a city of millions
of people, wearing an Army jacket with a strange design on
the back," Scully commented sardonically as she fell into
step next to him. "Hopefully this boy has a record."
"I think he will. Considering how deliberate the killings
were, I can't help thinking that Frank was overwhelmed by
the sheer force of will imbued into the sigil...and the
"I smell a theory, Mulder."
"I'll regale you with it later, Scully," he said
distantly, as he heard excited words generating from the
area of the body. He pulled Scully with him gently as he
headed back over to find out what happened.
An officer met him halfway. "They got prints. The coat in
the alleyway must be his -- the size doesn't match our
victim. There are partials on the metal buttons and a
couple on the body itself. Looks like it was struggle."
"Good thing he put up a fight, then," Mulder commented
quietly. "It may end up helping us catch this killer."
South Side 11:25 a.m.
He hadn't expected the silence. The chaos and anger had
driven his need for retribution until his vision focused
only on the homeless man -- he'd wanted to use the knife,
but hadn't thought he possessed the guts to stab anyone.
He'd never been able to follow through, before.
The idea that such a filthy man had worn his jacket
sickened him, but when the bum had dropped the jacket on
the pavement, a dirty stretch of alleyway that made the guy
look clean in comparison -- he saw red. How *dare* he? As
if the jacket were nothing more than cloth, as if he hadn't
spent hours upon hours researching the idea behind the
symbol, and worked for days on the enchantment that made it
what it was...
After putting it on, he'd felt the rage triple-fold.
Sewage. Piece of trash. The audacity of the filth in front
of him was sickening; he had the knife up before any sort
of rational thought took hold, and after the second plunge
he began to reconnect to his own thoughts. The rage
dissipated into a numb cold that made the below-freezing
temperature feel pleasant, and his muscles slackened. The
homeless man, fright etched permanently into his features,
sank to the ground with an understanding of fate that came
only at the moment when it was met.
The silence following had jarred him from the last of the
anger, and fear came in quickly to replace it. From
somewhere deep inside him, an inner voice told him to run.
So he did.
Only when he was near his apartment did he check to see
that no one had come after him. A glance down at his hands
showed blood, but there was no stain on the jacket itself.
The blood stain ended where the jacket began. His black
jeans showed only a few dark specks of the man's blood, not
noticeable enough to draw anyone's attention -- only his
hands betrayed his actions.
His mind flashed back to high school English from his
sophomore year, and a woman from some really old play who
couldn't wash bloodstains from her hands. Might have been
Shakespeare, even. He chuckled darkly at thinking of a long-
dead playwright at a time like this; what would Mark think
Mark. He had to know about this. If he knew, then his
acceptance into the group was assured. The newly anointed
killer thought about cleaning up first, but then realized
he needed his hands and stained jeans as proof -- who would
believe him, without it?
He turned to the north, tucking his hands into the
jacket's pockets and knowing the blood wouldn't rub off
while his hands were inside. And he smiled.
11: 42 a.m.
Crowded more than usual, the precinct was full of ne'er-do-
wells seeking refuge from the cold. Mulder and Scully wound
their way through the assorted collection of felons and
vagrants to the back offices, where the fingerprint
analysis results would be.
One of the detectives from the crime scene met them there,
a youngish Hispanic man who was nicer to them than to his
fellow officers -- most likely hoping to squeeze one or
both of them later for inside tips on becoming a federal
agent. He'd introduced himself as Jorge Avalos, and had
managed to make sure he was the one the agents would call
on for help. As Mulder had shook hands with him, he could
only laugh at the irony of someone trying to court *his*
"Where's Detective Parks?" Mulder asked, hoping to see a
glimmer of something other than charm on the man's face.
He wasn't disappointed. "He'll be along, I'm sure," Avalos
said, suppressing a frown. "He was looking into a lead from
the first three murders when this one was called in."
Mulder was about to taunt the man some more, but a subtle
non-verbal cue from Scully stopped it before it even
started. Baiting was one of his favorite pastimes, but
Scully did have a point -- whatever Avalos' personality, he
was also here to catch this killer, the same as they were.
"The technician's put the latent prints through AFIS, our
database system. We pulled a full thumb and index finger
print off the coat, plus a few other partials from the
buttons. We also have hair and fiber samples, but we'll
need a suspect first for that to mean anything. Right now
our guys are going through that sector of the district,
trying to find out where the suspect fled to...but in the
meantime, we have this," Avalos held out a sketch given
from the homeless eyewitness. The drawing was of a person
more boy than man, longish hair hanging into his eyes and a
sullen expression on his face.
Scully took the sketch from Avalos and stared at their
suspect with no small amount of melancholy. "Care to regale
me with that theory now, Mulder?"
He smiled, grateful that his partner had remembered to
ask. "For the most part, it's a typical pattern. He's
trying to gain power by using the occult, but I don't think
power is the extent of it. He's looking for recognition."
"From who? The police?" Avalos interjected.
"Not public recognition," Mulder shook his head. "At his
age, there's only one kind of recognition he wants."
"From his peers," Scully supplied, and her partner nodded.
"Agent Mulder believes he'll have a record of misconduct.
But if he's a juvenile, those records are sealed."
"I know," Mulder answered, looking disturbed. "Hopefully
those fingerprints will get us an ID on this kid, so we can
act quickly on it."
"Jorge?" A balding man approached the detective, an
urgency to his voice and demeanor. "We've got a match."
"On the Wacker kid?" Avalos smiled. "Ask and ye shall
receive, Agent Mulder. Let's go find out who our murderer
The fingerprint lab, filled with cabinet files and several
computers hooked up to a main network, was quiet and cold
compared to the noise and heat from the outer offices and
holding area. An even younger man than Avalos manned one of
the computer workstations, causing Scully to wonder who had
let the police hire recruits straight from high school.
"John? Mike says you've got an ID on the suspect," Avalos
started, heading over to the computer screen. Even from far
away, Scully could see that the small picture displayed on
the screen matched their suspect perfectly.
"Yep. Brian Powell, age 18. A high school dropout who's
really racked up the numbers as a juvie. His last couple,
however, were tried as an adult. It's small stuff, really --
attempted assault, attempted petty theft..."
"Attempted?" Mulder asked, and Scully could see the wheels
turning in his head.
"Yeah...from what I've been able to pull up on his
juvenile record, it's a lot of attempts but no follow-
throughs. Almost like he wants to get caught."
"Or maybe it's just that he couldn't go farther, until now."
She looked at Mulder, knowing that tone in his voice all
too well. "You think the sigil on the jacket helped push
him past whatever phobia he possessed."
He grinned at her in satisfaction. "That's exactly what
I'm thinking. He needs the power in the sigil almost like a
fix -- it gives him the confidence he doesn't have."
Avalos blew out a frustrated breath, already seeming to
regret his decision to attach himself to the two agents.
"So, what...if we take away the jacket, he turns back into
the punk kid?"
Mulder shook his head grimly. "It's not that simple. The
natural tendency against killing another human being has
been destroyed. Now that he has that power, he won't want
to give it up."
"Does he have any family or relatives?" Scully asked. "If
so, he might try to hide out with one of them."
John scrolled through the information, then shook his
head. "His mother lives in San Jose, and his father died
two years ago. No siblings. Wait a minute, though..."
Mulder's head flew up. "What is it?"
"His father was a veteran who served in Vietnam. The
jacket could've been his father's."
"I'd say it *definitely* was his father's," Mulder
replied, looking meaningfully at Scully. "Maybe Crazy Tom
wasn't so crazy after all."
"Mulder, we don't have any reason to believe that he saw
anything other than Frank in an Army jacket. You said
yourself that his delusions took over from there, like his
pet rabbit being a lucky rabbit's foot."
He ignored Avalos' and the technician's stares to focus on
his partner. "You know as well as I do that feelings and
memories can often be absorbed by inanimate objects -- the
walls of a crime scene, for example."
"But we're talking about the memories and experiences of
Vietnam being imbued in a jacket, aren't we?"
"Which were released or awakened when the sigil was put on
the jacket. With Brian's frustrated desires and his
father's horrific memories of the battlefield, what person
could endure that unscathed?" He leaned forward as if his
urgency could persuade her further.
"Brian could for awhile, apparently. The jacket didn't
work for him at first."
"What if that's what set him off? The fact that the sigil
worked for others and not him?"
Scully shook her head. "That's changed now, though."
"Has it?" Mulder noted darkly. "For all we know, the
jacket and sigil are acting as a placebo. Since it never
affected him before, there's no reason to think it would
suddenly work now."
A hint of a disturbed smile quirked at her lips. "I think
you're arguing my usual end, Mulder."
He gazed at her, amused. "Are you saying the sigil *is*
"I think it's possible, at least. If what you're saying
about the jacket is true, then the recent killings would
have stronger residual qualities than events from thirty
Pleasantly surprised, he nodded in assent, his wonder and
admiration clearly showing on his face. If she allowed
herself to think on it, there was also a hint of something
else beyond admiration...but with the others in the room
she didn't dare pursue that thought.
It was Avalos who broke the moment. "Okay, so what does
this have to do with catching this guy?"
Mulder turned his attention from Scully to the detective.
"It means that we either have a sociopath on our hands, or
a partly-manipulated teenager. If it's the first, we won't
be able to rationalize with him. If it's the second, we
might be able to talk him out of the spell he's in."
"So, what should I tell Parks and the guys out on the beat?"
Mulder blew out a slow breath, puzzling over the proper
response. "I think a show of force would be a bad thing,
especially if he has a hostage or victim within reach. In
his current state, he won't hesitate to kill someone."
"If anyone should encounter him, they should contact us
immediately and call for backup," Scully threw a pointed
glance at Mulder, who looked away guiltily. "We don't know
how powerful or how well-armed he'll be. Hopefully, we'll
be able to talk him down, but if not..."
"I understand," Avalos replied, then turned to speak a few
words to John before heading out the door. John then
printed out the results twice and gave Mulder one of the
copies. As the technician left, Mulder glanced through the
information again before handing the copy to Scully.
"It's times like this that all the old profiling templates
get dusted off and tried out for a fit," Mulder commented
off-handedly as they stayed in the room, not quite willing
to head out into the noisy outer rooms just yet. "And of
course, none of them do."
"What would drive a teenager to see violence as the
answer, Mulder? After seeing and studying so many cases
involving juvenile offenders, you'd think we would have
figured it out by now."
His gaze drifted down to the computer screen. "Maybe it's
genetics. Maybe it was his father, or a friend or
classmate. Or maybe it was even Must See TV," he grinned
slyly, then sobered. "Whatever it was, it's turned him into
Scully thought back to the case of the missing Rachel
Marcussen, and the brother who had tried to kill her. But
where Jacob might have inherited a pathological disorder,
Brian seemed to have made a conscious decision to follow a
dark and dangerous path. Immersed in thought, she almost
didn't notice her partner's hints to leave. Giving one last
look at the boyish face of their suspect, she folded the
paper and tucked it into her coat pocket.
The street was deserted for the most part, with only a
handful of people dashing from one place to the next, heads
bundled up from the cold. Brian's lack of headgear drew
more than one odd look, but he didn't care. A secret smile
stole across his face whenever he saw someone walk a little
faster when he came into view.
He had already called Mark and agreed on a meeting place;
With the police out looking for him, he didn't want to risk
Mark's wrath by drawing the cops straight to him. If the
police knew who he was, then his apartment was also a bad
spot. In the end, they chose an abandoned warehouse not far
from the trainyards, south of downtown and some distance
away from the crime scene.
Mark and his gang had occasionally used the place for
their rites, so to Brian it made perfect sense that this
place would be where his acceptance into the group would be
made official, at last.
A white sedan passed by on a crossroad in the distance,
the sides unmarked but the large radio antenna and its
slower than average speed instantly put his nerves on edge.
An unmarked patrol car. Had they spotted him? If so, would
they turn around or try to circle the block and come up
Unfortunately he had a timetable to keep, and it was cold
enough outside that the thought of trying to take a detour
wasn't a pleasant one. For all he knew, the cops hadn't
seen him. Still, he had to be cautious. The last thing he
needed was to slip up now, after everything he'd gone
through to get to this point.
Ducking his head down to stave off a sudden burst of
freezing air, he walked faster and glanced around for any
evidence of white sedans that drove too slowly.
Huddled in his unmarked car, Detective Parks reached for
his cell phone while keeping his eyes open for a glimpse of
olive green. He hated the fact that he couldn't keep the
engine running so the heat would stay on, but he couldn't
afford to tip off the suspect that he was parked just down
the street, behind a beaten and rusted pick-up truck. In
this weather, the exhaust would be instantly noticeable,
not to mention that with such a quiet street, the sound of
a running engine would carry quite a distance.
He dialed the number that the dispatcher had given him,
hoping that the kid wouldn't spot him.
"Agent Mulder? This is Detective Parks. I think I've found
The young man stared down both ends of the street, looking
for the unmarked police car in an occasional stream of
vehicles. None of them matched the car he'd seen earlier.
His confidence boosted a bit, he walked across the street
at a quicker pace than before, sparing only a glance to the
left and the right to make sure it wasn't being followed.
Soon he was safely on the other side, and his walk turned
into a slow jog as the icy winds picked up pace as well.
An engine started in the distance, but the wind howled
enough that his ears never heard it. The car pulled away
from the curb and headed for a parallel road, and Parks
hoped that the agents would get here before the boy caught
on to the tail.
One thing Mulder hadn't liked was parking the rental car
in one of the exorbitant parking garages in the city. It
didn't help that with the bitter cold weather, more people
were driving and less spaces were to be had. Maybe some
were grateful to pay ten dollars for an hour's worth, but
he was too used to taking the Metro for not much more than
pocket change. And unfortunately, waiting for a bus wasn't
Thankfully they caught a ride with an officer already
heading that way. Avalos had disappeared to parts unknown
after Parks called them, and waiting for him to reappear
wasn't on their timetable. They had to get to Powell before
the cops did, if they had any chance of this ending without
Scully searched on their map for the two crossroads Parks
had given them. "It looks like he's heading towards the
train yards," she said.
"Abandoned warehouses always make for a good hideout,"
Mulder commented, only slightly joking.
"Our experiences with warehouses and trains haven't been
the best, I'd say," she replied, her tone darkly amused.
He turned to look at her, the last of his levity draining
from him. "No. No, they haven't."
The seriousness of the moment made her uncomfortable, he
could tell. At a red light, he glanced over to her hands,
hoping that whatever fear and stress she'd had earlier had
passed. To his relief, her hands were steady as she held
His gaze turned back to the pedestrians crossing in front
of them, most bundled up beyond recognition. A young
student passed by, his black leather jacket covered with
white symbols and letters, most unrecognizable. He meant to
prove his toughness by the lack of headgear and gloves, but
instead he'd pulled himself inward and shivered as he
tugged his backpack to rest better on his shoulders.
It struck him then that there was something missing from
the last victim, something that with the other evidence had
"Scully, did you notice that the fourth victim didn't have
the sigil on his chest, like the first three?"
Her head raised from the map, her expression puzzled. "You
know, you're right. But, what's your point?"
"It's just curious, that's all. If he was being coerced by
the jacket, as you say, wouldn't the M.O. still match?"
"Well, we're still not sure why they were put there in the
first place. Maybe it was nothing more than an elaborate
way to tag the victims."
"But Frank wasn't a willing participant...wait a minute..."
Scully looked at him, the same thought running through her
head. "Maybe it was his way of trying to get caught?"
He blew out a slow breath, the pieces beginning to fall
together. "Could be. Or he might have been trying to lure
out the person who owned the jacket. The sigil was
mentioned on the news, wasn't it?"
"I think so. But does that matter?"
"For my theory, yes." The light turned green, and he
stepped on the gas with a bit more enthusiasm. "His anger
at knowing the murders were done by someone who stole the
jacket from him would have been enough to push him over
that edge. He may not have known that the man he killed
wasn't the original thief."
"We can't assume that. If he's able to be talked to, we
have to give him that chance."
"What if he's another Jacob, Scully?"
Her head bowed for a second, the image of the unlikely
murder suspect coming to mind. "Jacob was a child...Brian
Powell is an adult in the eyes of the law. But even if he
is, we'll know it soon enough, won't we?"
"I just don't want to give this Powell guy a chance to
harm anyone else. If he *is* dangerous, we can't afford to
hold back when the moment comes."
She nodded in agreement, and a tense silence fell between
them. Neither wanted to contemplate on who the young man
might target first.
Brian took a quick look behind him before entering through
a back part of the warehouse that jutted out shallowly,
used primarily as a docking area. Whoever owned the
property hadn't used it in years, so the local kids and
gangs had alternately used the place for meetings, raves,
and gang activity. When Mark and his group had taken over
the spot, no one had come back in fear of whatever might
still linger in the walls and floor. Paint marks still
covered the back door, a ward against trespassing that most
couldn't identify. The power remained somewhat potent, but
for him the only trouble was an uneasy feeling as he'd gone
His footsteps echoed loudly in the vacant space, the
ceiling nothing more than an intertwined mesh of I-beams
and broken light fixtures. Graffiti covered most of the
walls, and the majority were from gangs long since
disbanded. The front of the warehouse was subdivided into
smaller rooms, one being the front entrance and lobby area
to the left of him, which connected both to the main
storage area and a group of offices extending to the right.
All of them had windows facing out to the main area, but
only one had a door facing out to the rest of the warehouse.
Mark appeared from that door, what once had probably been
a foreman or manager's office. Dressed all in black, his
boots scuffed violently against the oil-stained concrete.
His hair spiked and dyed black on one side, the only thing
on him that didn't seem to swallow light were the pendants
that hung on the ends of a long black string of leather.
He'd most likely been keeping tabs on him as he walked up
to the warehouse, to make sure he'd come alone. Since he
was still here, Brian had to assume he'd seen no one.
"You said you had evidence," Mark said, taking another
step closer. He didn't look like he wanted to be there, but
what he had to show Mark wouldn't take long. The idea that
his acceptance into the group was so near made him smile.
"Sure do. You'll have to come a little closer than that to
see it," Brian replied, feeling bolder already. Mark
frowned sourly but did as asked.
With little fanfare, Brian pulled his hands out of his
pockets, along with the knife. As expected, the blood was
still there, although it had darkened and started to crust
over. Mark stared first at the blood, then the bloody
Disbelief battled against surprise on Mark's face, until
at last he realized that Brian wasn't bluffing. "Man, you
did it. You *did* it."
"Told you I would. Didn't think I could, did you?" Brian
replied, grinning even further at the other's amazement.
Shock turned to mild disgust. "No, I didn't. I never
thought you'd actually do it. What are you, crazy?"
"What are you talking about?" Brian asked, confused. Panic
was beginning to well up in his voice. "You said if I did
it, I'd be in. That's what you said!"
"Man, I said that so you'd leave us alone. You never could
finish anything, so I thought..." Mark trailed off,
realizing that revealing his true thoughts might not be a
It came too late, unfortunately. Brian had figured out the
rest. "You thought that if you told me to kill someone, I'd
never get the guts to do it. Well, I did! I killed the
piece of trash that stole my jacket!"
Mark's eyes narrowed, then he laughed with something akin
to relief. "Your jacket..? Oh, man! I don't believe
it...you really had me fooled for a second there, Brian.
You know, for a second I thought you *had* killed those
homeless people on Wacker." He chuckled, then took a closer
look at Brian's bloody hands. "What is that, fake blood? Or
wait--that's right! Rafael gave you his cow's blood 'cause
he knew his parents would freak if they saw it."
That Mark was denying what he'd done was worse than the
initial rejection. Anger already building came to a head,
and caused his temper to snap. His hands grabbed around
Mark's throat, the blood making it hard to get a solid
grip. The would-be friend tried to force his arms apart,
but the sigil's power made the effort futile.
Brian thought about using the knife, but that would be too
quick. Mark gasped and squirmed, managing to utter a couple
of words between stifled breaths.
"Don't do this...It's all...good, I swear! ...You're in!"
"I thought you didn't want me in, Mark." He tightened his
grip. "You don't think I can kill someone? You believe it
now, though, don't you?"
Brian only smiled, not accepting his friend's conversion
in the slightest. And he squeezed ever so slowly on his
Mulder pulled in behind Ron Parks' car, the street
deserted except for them. It was less than ideal, but he
had the feeling that time was of the essence. The detective
was already out of his car and heading over to them,
concern etched into his features.
"He went around back about seven minutes ago. I just
looked into one of the front windows, but there are offices
taking up the space up front. I can't see directly into the
warehouse. I could hear two young men talking, so I guess
this is a rendezvous."
Scully took a deep breath, not liking this at all. "The
person he's meeting doesn't know what he's capable of...we
have to go in."
"We don't have back-up, and we don't know the layout,"
Parks countered. "Going in without knowing what's up could
get more than this other guy killed."
"I think she's right, but we'll need a plan of some sort.
Are there any windows on the side?"
"None at the first level. It's all cinder block until you
get to the top," Parks pointed to the three story
building's grid windows, large but totally inaccessible.
"Then we'll have to go in front and back. Detective Parks,
you go around back while my partner and I go through the
front. Wait until you hear us yell before coming in, okay?"
"Sure, although I'm sure the department's going to have my
hide for disregarding procedure."
Mulder patted the man on the shoulder in mock-comfort.
"You haven't lived until you've disregarded procedure,
Detective. Let's go break some rules."
Parks' eyes widened, and he turned to Scully. "Is he
She shook her head solemnly, a trace of amusement on her
face. "Not even remotely, I'm afraid." Parks turned away
and headed down the alley, more concerned now than ever
about his professional fate.
Scully bit back a comment to Mulder about teasing local
law enforcement, and tightened her collar closer around her
neck. The heat from the car was seeping away, replaced by
the sensation of cold creeping in wherever an opportunity
presented itself. The air was so frigid that she could feel
the moisture freezing in her nose and mouth, reminding her
of a time before...
No! I will not allow this, she scolded herself, although
the panic had already begun. She tried to combat the fear
with logic; Cold is only a lack of heat, and we're in a
major city. This isn't Antarctica, and I'm not going to
freeze to death. If I survived being dunked into a cold
Minnesota river, I can survive this. Her hands continued to
shake, however, and a chill she knew all too well settled
in her hands and feet, and started to climb by icy tendrils
up her arms and legs to her chest.
She took a deep breath, trying to keep the panic down.
Mulder was at the front door and looked back to his
trailing partner, confusion being replaced by concern.
"I'm fine," she answered his silent question softly,
hoping this one time that he wouldn't see through the
bluff. If he did, he never let on -- he waited for her to
join him and picked open the padlock on the front door. The
rusty hinges protested in use, but more in effort than in
sound. Mulder didn't hold out too much hope for catching
Powell off-guard, but hopefully they could drive him over
The dusty interior was a small paneled room that at one
time had been a lobby. A door to the left probably lead to
the offices Parks had mentioned. A solid door straight
ahead opened to the main area, they assumed, and Mulder
tried out the knob to make sure it would turn. It worked
well enough, and Mulder paused in order to give Parks
enough time to get ready in the back. If things went
smoothly, they could have Powell surrender in a matter of
Parks found the dock easily, the shallow extension just
wide enough to have the back door built into the side,
leaving the larger area for the trucks to park against.
Someone had sprayed black paint over the door's narrow
window, leaving him little choice in opening the door. He
had to admit, the markings were odd for gang tags, but his
expertise wasn't in gang-related crime. For all he knew, it
was a new trend.
He turned the knob, surprised to find it open. A tingling
sensation crept over him, but he ignored it as adrenaline.
Seeing that the interior was dark, and that the sound of
bodies moving was from some distance away from his
position, he risked going in.
The tingling increased as he stepped through, then a solid
force slammed into him, sending him flying outside onto the
cold pavement. His head connected with the ground first,
and his vision went black before he even had the chance to
wonder what had hit him.
Her fingers numbed from both the cold and her irrational
panic, Scully's grip on her gun shifted in an attempt to
restore circulation. Mulder glanced at her and whispered,
"Let's go on three."
She nodded, hoping the adrenaline would warm her up. She
heard Mulder softly count to three, his hand twisted the
knob and he flew the door open. "Federal agents!" they
shouted as they trained their guns forward, in anticipation
of any threat.
The scene they came upon was the one they dreaded. Powell
had a man about his own age held above him, his right hand
around the man's bloody neck while his left held a knife.
From the slumped position of his victim, the man was either
dead, or just about to be.
Powell turned towards them, still holding the young man
above him in a way that would quickly tire any normal
person. He paused as if unsure what to do next.
Scully took a quick look towards the back of the
warehouse, wondering where Parks was. "Drop him now, and
step away! Do it!"
Mulder gave her a look, and nodded his head towards the
back of the area. She nodded, understanding what he wanted.
Since Parks hadn't shown, someone had to cover the back.
Wishing against the worst, she turned and ran for the back
entrance, hoping Mulder wouldn't try anything dangerous
before she got into place.
"Step away from him now, and put your hands behind your
head! Do it!"
Brian considered the man with the gun's request, but to do
that would be defeat. He'd done that several times before,
but no longer. He wasn't going to give up anymore. And with
a decision more instinctual than anything else, he raised
his knife to attack.
A shot rang out, and he felt a brief moment of pain in his
hand before it ceased. Looking down, he saw fresh blood
mixing with the old, and realized with slow clarity that
he'd been shot. However, it didn't hurt too badly, and from
looking at the wound he realized it wasn't really much more
than a deep scratch.
The bullet would have likely shattered his hand, but
instead it hadn't done more than slight gouge. The man,
surprised that the bullet hadn't fazed him too badly, now
aimed for Brian's right arm and fired.
To Mulder's amazement, both of the bullets barely seemed
to faze the teen. He contemplated the chances of survival
if the boy decided to rush him with the knife, but it
appeared that the boy's relative inexperience in being a
murderer played in his favor; rather than attacking Mulder,
he was attempting to make a run for it.
Mulder aimed and fired one last time, now aiming for the
young man's right calf, hoping the distance from the sigil
would weaken its effect. The bullet was true, but the shot
didn't even slow him down. The fact that he was heading for
Scully gripped Mulder with horrible dread as he chased
after the boy, hoping to reach him before she did.
Powell went through a door to the left of a large covered
opening, something that reminded Mulder of a big metal
garage door. It probably lead to a docking area, and with
it another door to the outside. The door had already swung
closed by the time Mulder got there, and without
considering anything but Scully's safety, he flew open the
door and aimed his gun to the right.
The darkness was broken only by a sliver of light -- the
door leading to the outside was cracked open slightly, and
he could see there was debris from wooden pallets and piles
of old junk strewn across the way. He gave it little
thought and dashed around the broken pallets and rusted
machinery, not seeing the dark blur until he was on top of
it. A wooden slat connected with his head and he fell
backwards, the blow causing his vision to dim and his
thoughts to scatter.
The young man crept out from his hiding place, lost in the
thrill of the moment, no longer heeding any sense of guilt
or fear. It would be so easy to kill him. The plank he'd
found had broken from the pallet at a sharp angle; it would
go through flesh if it had sufficient force behind it. He
smiled cruelly, knowing very well that he had more than
enough strength for the task.
Scully found Parks first, alive but losing body heat fast
from being spread out on the pavement. The two shots she'd
heard had just been followed by a third one, and she needed
to make sure she was in position before the suspect ended
up running past her.
The door was open slightly, and she could hear the sound
of another door opening on the far side. Bracing herself,
she tried to stifle the shaking in her hands and commanded
her fingers to move against the stiffness. When the suspect
didn't immediately appear, she placed one hand on the
doorjamb and kicked the door open the rest of the way,
pointing her gun into the dark room beyond.
She saw the back of their murderer first, the light
silhouetting him against the dark of the room. Mulder was
on the floor, clutching his head while their suspect raised
a broken plank of wood over the agent. From the jagged
point on the wood and the way he held it...
"Stop or I'll shoot!" She yelled, but as she feared, the
young man didn't stop, didn't even acknowledge her
presence. Her hands steady even as the rest of her felt
colder than ice, she aimed at the man's back and fired.
The young man paused, looked down at his chest in
confusion, then collapsed to his knees and fell over. From
the limp way he landed, Scully was sure that the shot had
been a fatal one, and one that had nearly killed on impact.
Mulder blinked in an effort to focus his eyes, needing to
see what was going on. He felt a gloved hand on his face,
and at last his vision cleared enough that he could see who
The auburn-framed face smiling at him was a happy sight,
and he sighed in relief. He'd heard the gunshot and felt
the floor shake from someone's fall, but he didn't know
what had happened to whom. "Scully, you're okay?"
"Yeah, but it looks like you're not," she said, checking
his scalp for abrasions. "If that had been metal instead of
wood..." She swallowed, covering her sudden emotion with a
flurry of movement, tucking his jacket tighter around him
and forcing him to lie still. "Well, it's over now. He's
"Check on the man inside, he might still be alive. And did
you find Detective Parks?"
"He's out cold, but he should be fine. Back-up should be
arriving any minute now." She stood up to go check on the
other man, while Mulder called the dispatch to tell them to
send for medical assistance. Scully returned quickly,
causing his mood to grow even darker.
She nodded. "He was dead before we showed up. The blood on
his neck isn't his, though. I'd say it was from Brian
Powell's previous victim."
Mulder looked down to the boy, still amazed that while his
three bullets had done little, Scully's only shot had taken
him out. Blood was obscuring the sigil, but he could still
identify the point of entry --right in the middle of the
"How did you know, Scully?"
"Where to shoot him? I'd already shot him three times, and
it had no effect."
She looked at him incredulously, until she saw exactly
where her bullet had landed, then saw the superficial
wounds on the young man's hand and leg. She knew grazing
marks when she saw them, and the fact they weren't made her
even more uncertain.
"I...I didn't, Mulder." Their eyes met for a horrified
instance, before the sound of sirens in the distance drew
their attention away from the somber thought.
Cook County Hospital, E.R. 1:57 p.m.
Mulder sighed at being checked out once again at a
hospital, although he'd been relieved to hear the
concussion wasn't severe enough to keep him there. However,
their return flight would be delayed for the next couple
days due to both Scully's and the E.R. doctor's concern.
Ron Parks was doing well, for the most part -- a few
internal lacerations and concussion kept him bedridden, but
the doctors assured him he would be fine. Any attempt to
get an answer from him about what had happened was met with
a shrug and an assumption that he'd been kicked. The person
supposedly responsible was never found, nor mentioned.
"Ready to go?" His partner asked, appearing from behind a
pale blue curtain. Her mood seemed light, but from her eyes
he could tell she was haunted by the thoughts of what she
almost hadn't done.
"Just about," he patted next to him on the bed, and Scully
joined him with no little amount of curiosity. She hadn't
sat down for a second or two before Mulder's hand engulfed
hers. Confused, she was about to say something when he
smiled unguardedly. "Your hand's warm."
She nodded, having realized it earlier. "It's probably
from the adrenaline. I don't think it kicked in until right
before...before I fired my gun."
His fingers entwined with hers, as Mulder felt her mood
deepen. "You couldn't have done anything differently,
Scully. He was beyond saving at that point."
"Mulder, I doubt the police would believe you. And I'm
sure Brian Powell's mother wouldn't it see it that way,
"What about you, though? Do you think there was anything
else you could have done?"
She exhaled, then closed her eyes. "No, and that's the
frustrating part of it all. I'm sure that if I hadn't
fired, he would have killed you. Maybe I subconsciously
thought of the center of the sigil because that's where
Frank's killing blow was."
"He could have picked up on it from wearing the jacket. If
Brian's thoughts and memories were influencing him, there's
a chance he knew its weakness, too. Maybe it was a clue for
us to find."
She stared out at the curtain, mulling it over in her
mind. Mulder never knew if she accepted the idea or not,
because she finished her original thought. "When I fired my
gun, I couldn't feel the panic or the cold. All I saw was
him trying to kill you, and all I could think was that I
had to stop him. Nothing else mattered." She tried to
smooth out a wrinkle in her slacks, then continued, "I had
someone else to think about, besides myself. And while I
know the panic can come back, I know it won't be caused by
the cold. Now, would you like to get something to eat? I
know I'm starving."
He felt her hand pull away as she stood up, and instantly
missed the contact. Maybe this trigger was dealt with, but
she'd mentioned how this had happened before. He vowed he
would take care of her if it ever happened again.
"Sure, where to? You want to get Greek food again?" He
stood up to join her, but he moved too quickly and almost
collapsed back into the bed for his trouble. Scully caught
him by the arm and stabilized him, then slipped underneath
his arm as support. The move surprised him, but not
unpleasantly. His arm tightened around her shoulders as
they headed off slowly from the area, avoiding nurses and
personnel who tried to steer around them.
"Anything, Mulder, but no onions." He looked down to see
Scully watching him, a slight smile on her face. Unlike
before, her meaning was very clear, and he smiled in
response as his arm dropped to rest around her waist.